The Agent by
the Russian By
An Extract from
Twelve miles from my place lives an acquaintance of mine, a landowner
and a retired officer in the Guards—Arkady Pavlitch Pyenotchkin. He
has a great deal of game on his estate, a house built after the design
of a French architect, and servants dressed after the English fashion;
he gives capital dinners, and a cordial reception to visitors, and,
with all that, one goes to see him reluctantly. He is a sensible and
practical man, has received the excellent education now usual, has been
in the service, mixed in the highest society, and is now devoting
himself to his estate with great success. Arkady Pavlitch is, to judge
by his own words, severe but just; he looks after the good of the
peasants under his control and punishes them—for their good. 'One has
to treat them like children,' he says on such occasions; 'their
ignorance, mon cher; il faut prendre cela en considération.' When
this so-called painful necessity arises, he eschews all sharp or
violent gestures, and prefers not to raise his voice, but with a
straight blow in the culprit's face, says calmly, 'I believe I asked
you to do something, my friend?' or 'What is the matter, my boy? what
are you thinking about?' while he sets his teeth a little, and the
corners of his mouth are drawn. He is not tall, but has an elegant
figure, and is very good-looking; his hands and nails are kept
perfectly exquisite; his rosy cheeks and lips are simply the picture of
health. He has a ringing, light-hearted laugh, and there is sometimes a
very genial twinkle in his clear brown eyes. He dresses in excellent
taste; he orders French books, prints, and papers, though he's no great
lover of reading himself: he has hardly as much as waded through the
Wandering Jew. He plays cards in masterly style. Altogether, Arkady
Pavlitch is reckoned one of the most cultivated gentlemen and most
eligible matches in our province; the ladies are perfectly wild over
him, and especially admire his manners. He is wonderfully well
conducted, wary as a cat, and has never from his cradle been mixed up
in any scandal, though he is fond of making his power felt,
intimidating or snubbing a nervous man, when he gets a chance. He has a
positive distaste for doubtful society—he is afraid of compromising
himself; in his lighter moments, however, he will avow himself a
follower of Epicurus, though as a rule he speaks slightingly of
philosophy, calling it the foggy food fit for German brains, or at
times, simply, rot. He is fond of music too; at the card-table he is
given to humming through his teeth, but with feeling; he knows by heart
some snatches from Lucia and Somnambula, but he is always apt to
sing everything a little sharp. The winters he spends in Petersburg.
His house is kept in extraordinarily good order; the very grooms feel
his influence, and every day not only rub the harness and brush their
coats, but even wash their faces. Arkady Pavlitch's house-serfs have,
it is true, something of a hang-dog look; but among us Russians there's
no knowing what is sullenness and what is sleepiness. Arkady Pavlitch
speaks in a soft, agreeable voice, with emphasis and, as it were, with
satisfaction; he brings out each word through his handsome perfumed
moustaches; he uses a good many French expressions too, such as: Mais
c'est impayable! Mais comment donc? and so so. For all that, I, for
one, am never over-eager to visit him, and if it were not for the
grouse and the partridges, I should probably have dropped his
acquaintance altogether. One is possessed by a strange sort of
uneasiness in his house; the very comfort is distasteful to one, and
every evening when a befrizzed valet makes his appearance in a blue
livery with heraldic buttons, and begins, with cringing servility,
drawing off one's boots, one feels that if his pale, lean figure could
suddenly be replaced by the amazingly broad cheeks and incredibly thick
nose of a stalwart young labourer fresh from the plough, who has yet
had time in his ten months of service to tear his new nankin coat open
at every seam, one would be unutterably overjoyed, and would gladly run
the risk of having one's whole leg pulled off with the boot….
In spite of my aversion for Arkady Pavlitch, I once happened to pass a
night in his house. The next day I ordered my carriage to be ready
early in the morning, but he would not let me start without a regular
breakfast in the English style, and conducted me into his study. With
our tea they served us cutlets, boiled eggs, butter, honey, cheese, and
so on. Two footmen in clean white gloves swiftly and silently
anticipated our faintest desires. We sat on a Persian divan. Arkady
Pavlitch was arrayed in loose silk trousers, a black velvet smoking
jacket, a red fez with a blue tassel, and yellow Chinese slippers
without heels. He drank his tea, laughed, scrutinised his finger-nails,
propped himself up with cushions, and was altogether in an excellent
humour. After making a hearty breakfast with obvious satisfaction,
Arkady Pavlitch poured himself out a glass of red wine, lifted it to
his lips, and suddenly frowned.
'Why was not the wine warmed?' he asked rather sharply of one of the
The footman stood stock-still in confusion, and turned white.
'Didn't I ask you a question, my friend?' Arkady Pavlitch resumed
tranquilly, never taking his eyes off the man.
The luckless footman fidgeted in his place, twisted the napkin, and
uttered not a word.
Arkady Pavlitch dropped his head and looked up at him thoughtfully from
under his eyelids.
'Pardon, mon cher', he observed, patting my knee amicably, and again
he stared at the footman. 'You can go,' he added, after a short
silence, raising his eyebrows, and he rang the bell.
A stout, swarthy, black-haired man, with a low forehead, and eyes
positively lost in fat, came into the room.
'About Fyodor … make the necessary arrangements,' said Arkady
Pavlitch in an undertone, and with complete composure.
'Yes, sir,' answered the fat man, and he went out.
'Voilà, mon cher, les désagréments de la campagne,' Arkady Pavlitch
remarked gaily. 'But where are you off to? Stop, you must stay a
'No,' I answered; 'it's time I was off.'
'Nothing but sport! Oh, you sportsmen! And where are you going to shoot
'Thirty-five miles from here, at Ryabovo.'
'Ryabovo? By Jove! now in that case I will come with you. Ryabovo's
only four miles from my village Shipilovka, and it's a long while since
I've been over to Shipilovka; I've never been able to get the time.
Well, this is a piece of luck; you can spend the day shooting in
Ryabovo and come on in the evening to me. We'll have supper together—
we'll take the cook with us, and you'll stay the night with me.
Capital! capital!' he added without waiting for my answer.
'C'est arrangé…. Hey, you there! Have the carriage brought out, and
look sharp. You have never been in Shipilovka? I should be ashamed to
suggest your putting up for the night in my agent's cottage, but you're
not particular, I know, and at Ryabovo you'd have slept in some
hayloft…. We will go, we will go!'
And Arkady Pavlitch hummed some French song.
'You don't know, I dare say,' he pursued, swaying from side to side;
'I've some peasants there who pay rent. It's the custom of the place—
what was I to do? They pay their rent very punctually, though. I
should, I'll own, have put them back to payment in labour, but there's
so little land. I really wonder how they manage to make both ends meet.
However, c'est leur affaire. My agent there's a fine fellow, une
forte tête, a man of real administrative power! You shall see….
Really, how luckily things have turned out!'
There was no help for it. Instead of nine o'clock in the morning, we
started at two in the afternoon. Sportsmen will sympathise with my
impatience. Arkady Pavlitch liked, as he expressed it, to be
comfortable when he had the chance, and he took with him such a supply
of linen, dainties, wearing apparel, perfumes, pillows, and dressing-
cases of all sorts, that a careful and self-denying German would have
found enough to last him for a year. Every time we went down a steep
hill, Arkady Pavlitch addressed some brief but powerful remarks to the
coachman, from which I was able to deduce that my worthy friend was a
thorough coward. The journey was, however, performed in safety, except
that, in crossing a lately-repaired bridge, the trap with the cook in
it broke down, and he got squeezed in the stomach against the hind-
Arkady Pavlitch was alarmed in earnest at the sight of the fall of
Karem, his home-made professor of the culinary art, and he sent at once
to inquire whether his hands were injured. On receiving a reassuring
reply to this query, his mind was set at rest immediately. With all
this, we were rather a long time on the road; I was in the same
carriage as Arkady Pavlitch, and towards the end of the journey I was a
prey to deadly boredom, especially as in a few hours my companion ran
perfectly dry of subjects of conversation, and even fell to expressing
his liberal views on politics. At last we did arrive—not at Ryabovo,
but at Shipilovka; it happened so somehow. I could have got no shooting
now that day in any case, and so, raging inwardly, I submitted to my
The cook had arrived a few minutes before us, and apparently had had
time to arrange things and prepare those whom it concerned, for on our
very entrance within the village boundaries we were met by the village
bailiff (the agent's son), a stalwart, red-haired peasant of seven
feet; he was on horseback, bareheaded, and wearing a new overcoat, not
buttoned up. 'And where's Sofron?' Arkady Pavlitch asked him. The
bailiff first jumped nimbly off his horse, bowed to his master till he
was bent double, and said: 'Good health to you, Arkady Pavlitch, sir!'
then raised his head, shook himself, and announced that Sofron had gone
to Perov, but they had sent after him.
'Well, come along after us,' said Arkady Pavlitch. The bailiff
deferentially led his horse to one side, clambered on to it, and
followed the carriage at a trot, his cap in his hand. We drove through
the village. A few peasants in empty carts happened to meet us; they
were driving from the threshing-floor and singing songs, swaying
backwards and forwards, and swinging their legs in the air; but at the
sight of our carriage and the bailiff they were suddenly silent, took
off their winter caps (it was summer-time) and got up as though waiting
for orders. Arkady Pavlitch nodded to them graciously. A flutter of
excitement had obviously spread through the hamlet. Peasant women in
check petticoats flung splinters of wood at indiscreet or over-zealous
dogs; an old lame man with a beard that began just under his eyes
pulled a horse away from the well before it had drunk, gave it, for
some obscure reason, a blow on the side, and fell to bowing low. Boys
in long smocks ran with a howl to the huts, flung themselves on their
bellies on the high door-sills, with their heads down and legs in the
air, rolled over with the utmost haste into the dark outer rooms, from
which they did not reappear again. Even the hens sped in a hurried
scuttle to the turning; one bold cock with a black throat like a satin
waistcoat and a red tail, rumpled up to his very comb, stood his ground
in the road, and even prepared for a crow, then suddenly took fright
and scuttled off too. The agent's cottage stood apart from the rest in
the middle of a thick green patch of hemp. We stopped at the gates. Mr.
Pyenotchkin got up, flung off his cloak with a picturesque motion, and
got out of the carriage, looking affably about him. The agent's wife
met us with low curtseys, and came up to kiss the master's hand. Arkady
Pavlitch let her kiss it to her heart's content, and mounted the steps.
In the outer room, in a dark corner, stood the bailiff's wife, and she
too curtsied, but did not venture to approach his hand. In the cold
hut, as it is called—to the right of the outer room—two other women
were still busily at work; they were carrying out all the rubbish,
empty tubs, sheepskins stiff as boards, greasy pots, a cradle with a
heap of dish-clouts and a baby covered with spots, and sweeping out the
dirt with bathbrooms. Arkady Pavlitch sent them away, and installed
himself on a bench under the holy pictures. The coachmen began bringing
in the trunks, bags, and other conveniences, trying each time to subdue
the noise of their heavy boots.
Meantime Arkady Pavlitch began questioning the bailiff about the crops,
the sowing, and other agricultural subjects. The bailiff gave
satisfactory answers, but spoke with a sort of heavy awkwardness, as
though he were buttoning up his coat with benumbed fingers. He stood at
the door and kept looking round on the watch to make way for the nimble
footman. Behind his powerful shoulders I managed to get a glimpse of
the agent's wife in the outer room surreptitiously belabouring some
other peasant woman. Suddenly a cart rumbled up and stopped at the
steps; the agent came in.
This man, as Arkady Pavlitch said, of real administrative power, was
short, broad-shouldered, grey, and thick-set, with a red nose, little
blue eyes, and a beard of the shape of a fan. We may observe, by the
way, that ever since Russia has existed, there has never yet been an
instance of a man who has grown rich and prosperous without a big,
bushy beard; sometimes a man may have had a thin, wedge-shape beard all
his life; but then he begins to get one all at once, it is all round
his face like a halo—one wonders where the hair has come from! The
agent must have been making merry at Perov: his face was unmistakably
flushed, and there was a smell of spirits about him.
'Ah, our father, our gracious benefactor!' he began in a sing-song
voice, and with a face of such deep feeling that it seemed every minute
as if he would burst into tears; 'at last you have graciously deigned
to come to us … your hand, your honour's hand,' he added, his lips
protruded in anticipation. Arkady Pavlitch gratified his desire. 'Well,
brother Sofron, how are things going with you?' he asked in a friendly
'Ah, you, our father!' cried Sofron; 'how should they go ill? how
should things go ill, now that you, our father, our benefactor,
graciously deign to lighten our poor village with your presence, to
make us happy till the day of our death? Thank the Lord for thee,
Arkady Pavlitch! thank the Lord for thee! All is right by your gracious
At this point Sofron paused, gazed upon his master, and, as though
carried away by a rush of feeling (tipsiness had its share in it too),
begged once more for his hand, and whined more than before.
'Ah, you, our father, benefactor … and … There, God bless me! I'm a
regular fool with delight…. God bless me! I look and can't believe my
eyes! Ah, our father!'
Arkady Pavlitch glanced at me, smiled, and asked: 'N'est-ce pas que
'But, Arkady Pavlitch, your honour,' resumed the indefatigable agent;
'what are you going to do? You'll break my heart, your honour; your
honour didn't graciously let me know of your visit. Where are you to
put up for the night? You see here it's dirty, nasty.'
'Nonsense, Sofron, nonsense!' Arkady Pavlitch responded, with a smile;
'it's all right here.'
'But, our father, all right—for whom? For peasants like us it's all
right; but for you … oh, our father, our gracious protector! oh, you
… our father!… Pardon an old fool like me; I'm off my head, bless
me! I'm gone clean crazy.'
Meanwhile supper was served; Arkady Pavlitch began to eat. The old man
packed his son off, saying he smelt too strong.
'Well, settled the division of land, old chap, hey?' enquired Mr.
Pyenotchkin, obviously trying to imitate the peasant speech, with a
wink to me.
'We've settled the land shares, your honour; all by your gracious
favour. Day before yesterday the list was made out. The Hlinovsky folks
made themselves disagreeable about it at first … they were
disagreeable about it, certainly. They wanted this … and they wanted
that … and God knows what they didn't want! but they're a set of
fools, your honour!—an ignorant lot. But we, your honour, graciously
please you, gave an earnest of our gratitude, and satisfied Nikolai
Nikolaitch, the mediator; we acted in everything according to your
orders, your honour; as you graciously ordered, so we did, and nothing
did we do unbeknown to Yegor Dmitritch.'
'Yegor reported to me,' Arkady Pavlitch remarked with dignity.
'To be sure, your honour, Yegor Dmitritch, to be sure.'
'Well, then, now I suppose you 're satisfied.'
Sofron had only been waiting for this.
'Ah, you are our father, our benefactor!' he began, in the same sing-
song as before. 'Indeed, now, your honour … why, for you, our father,
we pray day and night to God Almighty…. There's too little land, of
Pyenotchkin cut him short.
'There, that'll do, that'll do, Sofron; I know you're eager in my
service…. Well, and how goes the threshing?'
'Well, our father, the threshing's none too good. But there, your
honour, Arkady Pavlitch, let me tell you about a little matter that
came to pass.' (Here he came closer to Mr. Pyenotchkin, with his arms
apart, bent down, and screwed up one eye.) 'There was a dead body found
on our land.'
'How was that?'
'I can't think myself, your honour; it seems like the doing of the evil
one. But, luckily, it was found near the boundary; on our side of it,
to tell the truth. I ordered them to drag it on to the neighbour's
strip of land at once, while it was still possible, and set a watch
there, and sent word round to our folks. "Mum's the word," says I. But
I explained how it was to the police officer in case of the worst. "You
see how it was," says I; and of course I had to treat him and slip some
notes into his hand…. Well, what do you say, your honour? We shifted
the burden on to other shoulders; you see a dead body's a matter of two
hundred roubles, as sure as ninepence.'
Mr. Pyenotchkin laughed heartily at his agent's cunning, and said
several times to me, indicating him with a nod, 'Quel gaillard, eh!'
Meantime it was quite dark out of doors; Arkady Pavlitch ordered the
table to be cleared, and hay to be brought in. The valet spread out
sheets for us, and arranged pillows; we lay down. Sofron retired after
receiving his instructions for the next day. Arkady Pavlitch, before
falling asleep, talked a little more about the first-rate qualities of
the Russian peasant, and at that point made the observation that since
Sofron had had the management of the place, the Shipilovka peasants had
never been one farthing in arrears…. The watchman struck his board; a
baby, who apparently had not yet had time to be imbued with a sentiment
of dutiful self-abnegation, began crying somewhere in the cottage …
we fell asleep.
The next morning we got up rather early; I was getting ready to start
for Ryabovo, but Arkady Pavlitch was anxious to show me his estate, and
begged me to remain. I was not averse myself to seeing more of the
first-rate qualities of that man of administrative power—Sofron—in
their practical working. The agent made his appearance. He wore a blue
loose coat, tied round the waist with a red handkerchief. He talked
much less than on the previous evening, kept an alert, intent eye on
his master's face, and gave connected and sensible answers. We set off
with him to the threshing-floor. Sofron's son, the seven-foot bailiff,
by every external sign a very slow-witted fellow, walked after us also,
and we were joined farther on by the village constable, Fedosyitch, a
retired soldier, with immense moustaches, and an extraordinary
expression of face; he looked as though he had had some startling shock
of astonishment a very long while ago, and had never quite got over it.
We took a look at the threshing-floor, the barn, the corn-stacks, the
outhouses, the windmill, the cattle-shed, the vegetables, and the
hempfields; everything was, as a fact, in excellent order; only the
dejected faces of the peasants rather puzzled me. Sofron had had an eye
to the ornamental as well as the useful; he had planted all the ditches
with willows, between the stacks he had made little paths to the
threshing-floor and strewn them with fine sand; on the windmill he had
constructed a weathercock of the shape of a bear with his jaws open and
a red tongue sticking out; he had attached to the brick cattle-shed
something of the nature of a Greek facade, and on it inscribed in white
letters: 'Construt in the village Shipilovky 1 thousand eight Hunderd
farthieth year. This cattle-shed.' Arkady Pavlitch was quite touched,
and fell to expatiating in French to me upon the advantages of the
system of rent-payment, adding, however, that labour-dues came more
profitable to the owner—'but, after all, that wasn't everything.' He
began giving the agent advice how to plant his potatoes, how to prepare
cattle-food, and so on. Sofron heard his master's remarks out with
attention, sometimes replied, but did not now address Arkady Pavlitch
as his father, or his benefactor, and kept insisting that there was too
little land; that it would be a good thing to buy more. 'Well, buy some
then,' said Arkady Pavlitch; 'I've no objection; in my name, of
course.' To this Sofron made no reply; he merely stroked his beard.
'And now it would be as well to ride down to the copse,' observed Mr.
Pyenotchkin. Saddle-horses were led out to us at once; we went off to
the copse, or, as they call it about us, the 'enclosure.' In this
'enclosure' we found thick undergrowth and abundance of wild game, for
which Arkady Pavlitch applauded Sofron and clapped him on the shoulder.
In regard to forestry, Arkady Pavlitch clung to the Russian ideas, and
told me on that subject an amusing—in his words—anecdote, of how a
jocose landowner had given his forester a good lesson by pulling out
nearly half his beard, by way of a proof that growth is none the
thicker for being cut back. In other matters, however, neither Sofron
nor Arkady Pavlitch objected to innovations. On our return to the
village, the agent took us to look at a winnowing machine he had
recently ordered from Moscow. The winnowing machine did certainly work
beautifully, but if Sofron had known what a disagreeable incident was
in store for him and his master on this last excursion, he would
doubtless have stopped at home with us.
This was what happened. As we came out of the barn the following
spectacle confronted us. A few paces from the door, near a filthy pool,
in which three ducks were splashing unconcernedly, there stood two
peasants—one an old man of sixty, the other, a lad of twenty—both in
patched homespun shirts, barefoot, and with cord tied round their
waists for belts. The village constable Fedosyitch was busily engaged
with them, and would probably have succeeded in inducing them to retire
if we had lingered a little longer in the barn, but catching sight of
us, he grew stiff all over, and seemed bereft of all sensation on the
spot. Close by stood the bailiff gaping, his fists hanging irresolute.
Arkady Pavlitch frowned, bit his lip, and went up to the suppliants.
They both prostrated themselves at his feet in silence.
'What do you want? What are you asking about?' he inquired in a stern
voice, a little through his nose. (The peasants glanced at one another,
and did not utter a syllable, only blinked a little as if the sun were
in their faces, and their breathing came quicker.)
'Well, what is it?' Arkady Pavlitch said again; and turning at once to
Sofron, 'Of what family?'
'The Tobolyev family,' the agent answered slowly.
'Well, what do you want?' Mr. Pyenotchkin said again; 'have you lost
your tongues, or what? Tell me, you, what is it you want?' he added,
with a nod at the old man. 'And don't be afraid, stupid.'
The old man craned forward his dark brown, wrinkled neck, opened his
bluish twitching lips, and in a hoarse voice uttered the words,
'Protect us, lord!' and again he bent his forehead to the earth. The
young peasant prostrated himself too. Arkady Pavlitch looked at their
bent necks with an air of dignity, threw back his head, and stood with
his legs rather wide apart. 'What is it? Whom do you complain of?'
'Have mercy, lord! Let us breathe…. We are crushed, worried,
tormented to death quite. (The old man spoke with difficulty.)
'Who worries you?'
'Sofron Yakovlitch, your honour.'
Arkady Pavlitch was silent a minute.
'What's your name?'
'Antip, your honour.'
'And who's this?'
'My boy, your honour.'
Arkady Pavlitch was silent again; he pulled his moustaches.
'Well! and how has he tormented you?' he began again, looking over his
moustaches at the old man.
'Your honour, he has ruined us utterly. Two sons, your honour, he's
sent for recruits out of turn, and now he is taking the third also.
Yesterday, your honour, our last cow was taken from the yard, and my
old wife was beaten by his worship here: that is all the pity he has
for us!' (He pointed to the bailiff.)
'Hm!' commented Arkady Pavlitch.
'Let him not destroy us to the end, gracious protector!'
Mr. Pyenotchkin scowled, 'What's the meaning of this?' he asked the
agent, in a low voice, with an air of displeasure.
'He's a drunken fellow, sir,' answered the agent, for the first time
using this deferential address, 'and lazy too. He's never been out of
arrears this five years back, sir.'
'Sofron Yakovlitch paid the arrears for me, your honour,' the old man
went on; 'it's the fifth year's come that he's paid it, he's paid it—
and he's brought me into slavery to him, your honour, and here—'
'And why did you get into arrears?' Mr. Pyenotchkin asked
threateningly. (The old man's head sank.) 'You're fond of drinking,
hanging about the taverns, I dare say.' (The old man opened his mouth
to speak.) 'I know you,' Arkady Pavlitch went on emphatically; 'you
think you've nothing to do but drink, and lie on the stove, and let
steady peasants answer for you.'
'And he's an impudent fellow, too,' the agent threw in.
'That's sure to be so; it's always the way; I've noticed it more than
once. The whole year round, he's drinking and abusive, and then he
falls at one's feet.'
'Your honour, Arkady Pavlitch,' the old man began despairingly, 'have
pity, protect us; when have I been impudent? Before God Almighty, I
swear it was beyond my strength. Sofron Yakovlitch has taken a dislike
to me; for some reason he dislikes me—God be his judge! He will ruin
me utterly, your honour…. The last … here … the last boy … and
him he….' (A tear glistened in the old man's wrinkled yellow eyes).
'Have pity, gracious lord, defend us!'
'And it's not us only,' the young peasant began….
Arkady Pavlitch flew into a rage at once.
'And who asked your opinion, hey? Till you're spoken to, hold your
tongue…. What's the meaning of it? Silence, I tell you, silence!…
Why, upon my word, this is simply mutiny! No, my friend, I don't advise
you to mutiny on my domain … on my … (Arkady Pavlitch stepped
forward, but probably recollected my presence, turned round, and put
his hands in his pockets …) 'Je vous demande bien pardon, mon
cher,' he said, with a forced smile, dropping his voice significantly.
'C'est le mauvais côté de la médaille … There, that'll do, that'll
do,' he went on, not looking at the peasants: 'I say … that'll do,
you can go.' (The peasants did not rise.) 'Well, haven't I told you …
that'll do. You can go, I tell you.'
Arkady Pavlitch turned his back on them. 'Nothing but vexation,' he
muttered between his teeth, and strode with long steps homewards.
Sofron followed him. The village constable opened his eyes wide,
looking as if he were just about to take a tremendous leap into space.
The bailiff drove a duck away from the puddle. The suppliants remained
as they were a little, then looked at each other, and, without turning
their heads, went on their way.
Two hours later I was at Ryabovo, and making ready to begin shooting,
accompanied by Anpadist, a peasant I knew well. Pyenotchkin had been
out of humour with Sofron up to the time I left. I began talking to
Anpadist about the Shipilovka peasants, and Mr. Pyenotchkin, and asked
him whether he knew the agent there.
'Sofron Yakovlitch? … ugh!'
'What sort of man is he?'
'He's not a man; he's a dog; you couldn't find another brute like him
between here and Kursk.'
'Why, Shipilovka's hardly reckoned as—what's his name?—Mr.
Pyenotchkin's at all; he's not the master there; Sofron's the master.'
'You don't say so!'
'He's master, just as if it were his own. The peasants all about are in
debt to him; they work for him like slaves; he'll send one off with the
waggons; another, another way…. He harries them out of their lives.'
'They haven't much land, I suppose?'
'Not much land! He rents two hundred acres from the Hlinovsky peasants
alone, and two hundred and eighty from our folks; there's more than
three hundred and seventy-five acres he's got. And he doesn't only
traffic in land; he does a trade in horses and stock, and pitch, and
butter, and hemp, and one thing and the other…. He's sharp, awfully
sharp, and rich too, the beast! But what's bad—he beats them. He's a
brute, not a man; a dog, I tell you; a cur, a regular cur; that's
what he is!'
'How is it they don't make complaints of him?'
'I dare say, the master'd be pleased! There's no arrears; so what does
he care? Yes, you'd better,' he added, after a brief pause; 'I should
advise you to complain! No, he'd let you know … yes, you'd better try
it on…. No, he'd let you know….'
I thought of Antip, and told him what I had seen.
'There,' commented Anpadist, 'he will eat him up now; he'll simply eat
the man up. The bailiff will beat him now. Such a poor, unlucky chap,
come to think of it! And what's his offence?… He had some wrangle in
meeting with him, the agent, and he lost all patience, I suppose, and
of course he wouldn't stand it…. A great matter, truly, to make so
much of! So he began pecking at him, Antip. Now he'll eat him up
altogether. You see, he's such a dog. Such a cur—God forgive my
transgressions!—he knows whom to fall upon. The old men that are a
bit richer, or've more children, he doesn't touch, the red-headed
devil! but there's all the difference here! Why he's sent Antip's sons
for recruits out of turn, the heartless ruffian, the cur! God forgive
We went on our way.