Franz Kafka

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

St. John's Eve (Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka) by Nikolai Gogol, Full Text English Version, English Translation. Nikolai Gogol, Saint John's Eve (Russian: Вечер накануне Ивана Купала)

Nikolai Wassiljewitsch Gogol (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь), a portrait by Alexander Andrejewitsch Iwanow (Александр Андреевич Иванов)

"St. John's Eve" (Russian: Вечер накануне Ивана Купала) is the second tale in the collection "Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka," by Nikolai Gogol, first published in 1830 in the literary Russian periodical Otechestvennye Zapiski.



Thoma Grigroovitch had one very strange eccentricity: to the day of
his death he never liked to tell the same thing twice. There were times
when, if you asked him to relate a thing afresh, he would interpolate
new matter, or alter it so that it was impossible to recognise it. Once
upon a time, one of those gentlemen who, like the usurers at our yearly
fairs, clutch and beg and steal every sort of frippery, and issue mean
little volumes, no thicker than an A B C book, every month, or even
every week, wormed this same story out of Thoma Grigorovitch, and the
latter completely forgot about it. But that same young gentleman, in the
pea-green caftan, came from Poltava, bringing with him a little book,
and, opening it in the middle, showed it to us. Thoma Grigorovitch
was on the point of setting his spectacles astride of his nose, but
recollected that he had forgotten to wind thread about them and stick
them together with wax, so he passed it over to me. As I understand
nothing about reading and writing, and do not wear spectacles, I
undertook to read it. I had not turned two leaves when all at once he
caught me by the hand and stopped me.

"Stop! tell me first what you are reading."

I confess that I was a trifle stunned by such a question.

"What! what am I reading, Thoma Grigorovitch? Why, your own words."

"Who told you that they were my words?"

"Why, what more would you have? Here it is printed: 'Related by such and
such a sacristan.'"

"Spit on the head of the man who printed that! he lies, the dog of a
Moscow pedlar! Did I say that? ''Twas just the same as though one hadn't
his wits about him!' Listen. I'll tell the tale to you on the spot."

We moved up to the table, and he began.


My grandfather (the kingdom of heaven be his! may he eat only wheaten
rolls and poppy-seed cakes with honey in the other world!) could tell a
story wonderfully well. When he used to begin a tale you could not
stir from the spot all day, but kept on listening. He was not like the
story-teller of the present day, when he begins to lie, with a tongue as
though he had had nothing to eat for three days, so that you snatch your
cap and flee from the house. I remember my old mother was alive then,
and in the long winter evenings when the frost was crackling out of
doors, and had sealed up hermetically the narrow panes of our cottage,
she used to sit at her wheel, drawing out a long thread in her hand,
rocking the cradle with her foot, and humming a song, which I seem to
hear even now.

The lamp, quivering and flaring up as though in fear of something,
lighted up our cottage; the spindle hummed; and all of us children,
collected in a cluster, listened to grandfather, who had not crawled
off the stove for more than five years, owing to his great age. But the
wondrous tales of the incursions of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and the
Poles, the bold deeds of Podkova, of Poltar-Kozhukh, and Sagaidatchnii,
did not interest us so much as the stories about some deed of old which
always sent a shiver through our frames and made our hair rise upright
on our heads. Sometimes such terror took possession of us in consequence
of them, that, from that evening forward, Heaven knows how wonderful
everything seemed to us. If one chanced to go out of the cottage after
nightfall for anything, one fancied that a visitor from the other world
had lain down to sleep in one's bed; and I have often taken my own
smock, at a distance, as it lay at the head of the bed, for the Evil One
rolled up into a ball! But the chief thing about grandfather's stories
was, that he never lied in all his life; and whatever he said was so,
was so.

I will now tell you one of his wonderful tales. I know that there are a
great many wise people who copy in the courts, and can even read
civil documents, but who, if you were to put into their hand a simple
prayer-book, could not make out the first letter in it, and would show
all their teeth in derision. These people laugh at everything you tell
them. Along comes one of them--and doesn't believe in witches! Yes,
glory to God that I have lived so long in the world! I have seen
heretics to whom it would be easier to lie in confession than it would
be to our brothers and equals to take snuff, and these folk would deny
the existence of witches! But let them just dream about something, and
they won't even tell what it was! There, it is no use talking about

No one could have recognised the village of ours a little over a hundred
years ago; it was a hamlet, the poorest kind of a hamlet. Half a score
of miserable farmhouses, unplastered and badly thatched, were scattered
here and there about the fields. There was not a yard or a decent shed
to shelter animals or waggons. That was the way the wealthy lived:
and if you had looked for our brothers, the poor--why, a hole in the
ground--that was a cabin for you! Only by the smoke could you tell that
a God-created man lived there. You ask why they lived so? It was not
entirely through poverty: almost every one led a raiding Cossack life,
and gathered not a little plunder in foreign lands; it was rather
because it was little use building up a good wooden house. Many
folk were engaged in raids all over the country--Crimeans, Poles,
Lithuanians! It was quite possible that their own countrymen might make
a descent and plunder everything. Anything was possible.

In this hamlet a man, or rather a devil in human form, often made his
appearance. Why he came, and whence, no one knew. He prowled about, got
drunk, and suddenly disappeared as if into the air, leaving no trace
of his existence. Then, behold, he seemed to have dropped from the sky
again, and went flying about the street of the village, of which no
trace now remains, and which was not more than a hundred paces from
Dikanka. He would collect together all the Cossacks he met; then
there were songs, laughter, and cash in plenty, and vodka flowed like
water.... He would address the pretty girls, and give them ribbons,
earrings, strings of beads--more than they knew what to do with. It
is true that the pretty girls rather hesitated about accepting his
presents: God knows, perhaps, what unclean hands they had passed
through. My grandfather's aunt, who kept at that time a tavern, in which
Basavriuk (as they called this devil-man) often caroused, said that no
consideration on the earth would have induced her to accept a gift from
him. But then, again, how avoid accepting? Fear seized on every one when
he knit his shaggy brows, and gave a sidelong glance which might send
your feet God knows whither: whilst if you did accept, then the next
night some fiend from the swamp, with horns on his head, came and began
to squeeze your neck, if there was a string of beads upon it; or bite
your finger, if there was a ring upon it; or drag you by the hair, if
ribbons were braided in it. God have mercy, then, on those who held
such gifts! But here was the difficulty: it was impossible to get rid of
them; if you threw them into the water, the diabolical ring or necklace
would skim along the surface and into your hand.

There was a church in the village--St. Pantelei, if I remember rightly.
There lived there a priest, Father Athanasii of blessed memory.
Observing that Basavriuk did not come to church, even at Easter, he
determined to reprove him and impose penance upon him. Well, he hardly
escaped with his life. "Hark ye, sir!" he thundered in reply, "learn
to mind your own business instead of meddling in other people's, if you
don't want that throat of yours stuck with boiling kutya (1)." What was
to be done with this unrepentant man? Father Athanasii contented
himself with announcing that any one who should make the acquaintance
of Basavriuk would be counted a Catholic, an enemy of Christ's orthodox
church, not a member of the human race.

 (1) A dish of rice or wheat flour, with honey and raisins, which is
    brought to the church on the celebration of memorial masses.

In this village there was a Cossack named Korzh, who had a labourer whom
people called Peter the Orphan--perhaps because no one remembered either
his father or mother. The church elder, it is true, said that they had
died of the pest in his second year; but my grandfather's aunt would not
hear of that, and tried with all her might to furnish him with parents,
although poor Peter needed them about as much as we need last year's
snow. She said that his father had been in Zaporozhe, and had been taken
prisoner by the Turks, amongst whom he underwent God only knows what
tortures, until having, by some miracle, disguised himself as a eunuch,
he made his escape. Little cared the black-browed youths and maidens
about Peter's parents. They merely remarked, that if he only had a new
coat, a red sash, a black lambskin cap with a smart blue crown on his
head, a Turkish sabre by his side, a whip in one hand and a pipe with
handsome mountings in the other, he would surpass all the young men. But
the pity was, that the only thing poor Peter had was a grey gaberdine
with more holes in it than there are gold pieces in a Jew's pocket. But
that was not the worst of it. Korzh had a daughter, such a beauty as I
think you can hardly have chanced to see. My grandfather's aunt used
to say--and you know that it is easier for a woman to kiss the Evil One
than to call any one else a beauty--that this Cossack maiden's cheeks
were as plump and fresh as the pinkest poppy when, bathed in God's dew,
it unfolds its petals, and coquets with the rising sun; that her brows
were evenly arched over her bright eyes like black cords, such as our
maidens buy nowadays, for their crosses and ducats, off the Moscow
pedlars who visit the villages with their baskets; that her little
mouth, at sight of which the youths smacked their lips, seemed made to
warble the songs of nightingales; that her hair, black as the raven's
wing, and soft as young flax, fell in curls over her shoulders, for
our maidens did not then plait their hair in pigtails interwoven with
pretty, bright-hued ribbons. Eh! may I never intone another alleluia in
the choir, if I would not have kissed her, in spite of the grey which is
making its way through the old wool which covers my pate, and of the old
woman beside me, like a thorn in my side! Well, you know what happens
when young men and maidens live side by side. In the twilight the heels
of red boots were always visible in the place where Pidorka chatted with
her Peter. But Korzh would never have suspected anything out of the
way, only one day--it is evident that none but the Evil One could have
inspired him--Peter took into his head to kiss the maiden's rosy lips
with all his heart, without first looking well about him; and that same
Evil One--may the son of a dog dream of the holy cross!--caused the old
grey-beard, like a fool, to open the cottage door at that same moment.
Korzh was petrified, dropped his jaw, and clutched at the door for
support. Those unlucky kisses completely stunned him.

Recovering himself, he took his grandfather's hunting whip from the
wall, and was about to belabour Peter's back with it, when Pidorka's
little six-year-old brother Ivas rushed up from somewhere or other, and,
grasping his father's legs with his little hands, screamed out, "Daddy,
daddy! don't beat Peter!" What was to be done? A father's heart is not
made of stone. Hanging the whip again on the wall, he led Peter quietly
from the house. "If you ever show yourself in my cottage again, or even
under the windows, look out, Peter, for, by heaven, your black moustache
will disappear; and your black locks, though wound twice about your
ears, will take leave of your pate, or my name is not Terentiy Korzh."
So saying, he gave him such a taste of his fist in the nape of his neck,
that all grew dark before Peter, and he flew headlong out of the place.

So there was an end of their kissing. Sorrow fell upon our turtle
doves; and a rumour grew rife in the village that a certain Pole,
all embroidered with gold, with moustaches, sabre, spurs, and pockets
jingling like the bells of the bag with which our sacristan Taras goes
through the church every day, had begun to frequent Korzh's house. Now,
it is well known why a father has visitors when there is a black-browed
daughter about. So, one day, Pidorka burst into tears, and caught the
hand of her brother Ivas. "Ivas, my dear! Ivas, my love! fly to Peter,
my child of gold, like an arrow from a bow. Tell him all: I would have
loved his brown eyes, I would have kissed his fair face, but my fate
decrees otherwise. More than one handkerchief have I wet with burning
tears. I am sad and heavy at heart. And my own father is my enemy. I
will not marry the Pole, whom I do not love. Tell him they are making
ready for a wedding, but there will be no music at our wedding:
priests will sing instead of pipes and viols. I shall not dance with my
bridegroom: they will carry me out. Dark, dark will be my dwelling of
maple wood; and, instead of chimneys, a cross will stand upon the roof."

Peter stood petrified, without moving from the spot, when the innocent
child lisped out Pidorka's words to him. "And I, wretched man, had
thought to go to the Crimea and Turkey, to win gold and return to thee,
my beauty! But it may not be. We have been overlooked by the evil eye. I
too shall have a wedding, dear one; but no ecclesiastics will be present
at that wedding. The black crow instead of the pope will caw over me;
the bare plain will be my dwelling; the dark blue cloud my roof-tree.
The eagle will claw out my brown eyes: the rain will wash my Cossack
bones, and the whirlwinds dry them. But what am I? Of what should I
complain? 'Tis clear God willed it so. If I am to be lost, then so be
it!" and he went straight to the tavern.

My late grandfather's aunt was somewhat surprised at seeing Peter at the
tavern, at an hour when good men go to morning mass; and stared at him
as though in a dream when he called for a jug of brandy, about half a
pailful. But the poor fellow tried in vain to drown his woe. The vodka
stung his tongue like nettles, and tasted more bitter than wormwood. He
flung the jug from him upon the ground.

"You have sorrowed enough, Cossack," growled a bass voice behind him.
He looked round--it was Basavriuk! Ugh, what a face! His hair was like
a brush, his eyes like those of a bull. "I know what you lack: here it
is." As he spoke he jingled a leather purse which hung from his girdle
and smiled diabolically. Peter shuddered. "Ha, ha, ha! how it shines!"
he roared, shaking out ducats into his hands: "ha, ha, ha! how it
jingles! And I only ask one thing for a whole pile of such shiners."

"It is the Evil One!" exclaimed Peter. "Give me them! I'm ready for

They struck hands upon it, and Basavriuk said, "You are just in time,
Peter: to-morrow is St. John the Baptist's day. Only on this one night
in the year does the fern blossom. I will await you at midnight in the
Bear's ravine."

I do not believe that chickens await the hour when the housewife brings
their corn with as much anxiety as Peter awaited the evening. He kept
looking to see whether the shadows of the trees were not lengthening,
whether the sun was not turning red towards setting; and, the longer he
watched, the more impatient he grew. How long it was! Evidently, God's
day had lost its end somewhere. But now the sun has set. The sky is red
only on one side, and it is already growing dark. It grows colder in the
fields. It gets gloomier and gloomier, and at last quite dark. At last!
With heart almost bursting from his bosom, he set out and cautiously
made his way down through the thick woods into the deep hollow called
the Bear's ravine. Basavriuk was already waiting there. It was so dark
that you could not see a yard before you. Hand in hand they entered
the ravine, pushing through the luxuriant thorn-bushes and stumbling at
almost every step. At last they reached an open spot. Peter looked about
him: he had never chanced to come there before. Here Basavriuk halted.

"Do you see before you three hillocks? There are a great many kinds of
flowers upon them. May some power keep you from plucking even one of
them. But as soon as the fern blossoms, seize it, and look not round, no
matter what may seem to be going on behind thee."

Peter wanted to ask some questions, but behold Basavriuk was no longer
there. He approached the three hillocks--where were the flowers? He saw
none. The wild steppe-grass grew all around, and hid everything in its
luxuriance. But the lightning flashed; and before him was a whole bed of
flowers, all wonderful, all strange: whilst amongst them there were
also the simple fronds of fern. Peter doubted his senses, and stood
thoughtfully before them, arms akimbo.

"What manner of prodigy is this? why, one can see these weeds ten times
a day. What is there marvellous about them? Devil's face must be mocking

But behold! the tiny flower-bud of the fern reddened and moved as though
alive. It was a marvel in truth. It grew larger and larger, and glowed
like a burning coal. The tiny stars of light flashed up, something burst
softly, and the flower opened before his eyes like a flame, lighting the
others about it.

"Now is the time," thought Peter, and extended his hand. He saw hundreds
of hairy hands reach also for the flower from behind him, and there was
a sound of scampering in his rear. He half closed his eyes, and plucked
sharply at the stalk, and the flower remained in his hand.

All became still.

Upon a stump sat Basavriuk, quite blue like a corpse. He did not move so
much as a finger. Hi eyes were immovably fixed on something visible
to him alone; his mouth was half open and speechless. Nothing stirred
around. Ugh! it was horrible! But then a whistle was heard which made
Peter's heart grow cold within him; and it seemed to him that the grass
whispered, and the flowers began to talk among themselves in delicate
voices, like little silver bells, while the trees rustled in murmuring
contention;--Basavriuk's face suddenly became full of life, and his eyes
sparkled. "The witch has just returned," he muttered between his
teeth. "Hearken, Peter: a charmer will stand before you in a moment; do
whatever she commands; if not--you are lost forever."

Then he parted the thorn-bushes with a knotty stick and before him
stood a tiny farmhouse. Basavriuk smote it with his fist, and the wall
trembled. A large black dog ran out to meet them, and with a whine
transformed itself into a cat and flew straight at his eyes.

"Don't be angry, don't be angry, you old Satan!" said Basavriuk,
employing such words as would have made a good man stop his ears.
Behold, instead of a cat, an old woman all bent into a bow, with a
face wrinkled like a baked apple, and a nose and chin like a pair of

"A fine charmer!" thought Peter; and cold chills ran down his back. The
witch tore the flower from his hand, stooped and muttered over it for a
long time, sprinkling it with some kind of water. Sparks flew from her
mouth, and foam appeared on her lips.

"Throw it away," she said, giving it back to Peter.

Peter threw it, but what wonder was this? The flower did not fall
straight to the earth, but for a long while twinkled like a fiery ball
through the darkness, and swam through the air like a boat. At last
it began to sink lower and lower, and fell so far away that the little
star, hardly larger than a poppy-seed, was barely visible. "There!"
croaked the old woman, in a dull voice: and Basavriuk, giving him a
spade, said, "Dig here, Peter: you will find more gold than you or Korzh
ever dreamed of."

Peter spat on his hands, seized the spade, pressed his foot on it, and
turned up the earth, a second, a third, a fourth time. The spade clinked
against something hard, and would go no further. Then his eyes began to
distinguish a small, iron-bound coffer. He tried to seize it; but the
chest began to sink into the earth, deeper, farther, and deeper still:
whilst behind him he heard a laugh like a serpent's hiss.

"No, you shall not have the gold until you shed human blood," said the
witch, and she led up to him a child of six, covered with a white sheet,
and indicated by a sign that he was to cut off his head.

Peter was stunned. A trifle, indeed, to cut off a man's, or even an
innocent child's, head for no reason whatever! In wrath he tore off the
sheet enveloping the victim's head, and behold! before him stood Ivas.
The poor child crossed his little hands, and hung his head. Peter flew
at the witch with the knife like a madman, and was on the point of
laying hands on her.

"What did you promise for the girl?" thundered Basavriuk; and like
a shot he was on his back. The witch stamped her foot: a blue flame
flashed from the earth and illumined all within it. The earth became
transparent as if moulded of crystal; and all that was within it became
visible, as if in the palm of the hand. Ducats, precious stones in
chests and pots, were piled in heaps beneath the very spot they stood
on. Peter's eyes flashed, his mind grew troubled.... He grasped the
knife like a madman, and the innocent blood spurted into his eyes.
Diabolical laughter resounded on all sides. Misshapen monsters flew past
him in flocks. The witch, fastening her hands in the headless trunk,
like a wolf, drank its blood. His head whirled. Collecting all his
strength, he set out to run. Everything grew red before him. The trees
seemed steeped in blood, and burned and groaned. The sky glowed and
threatened. Burning points, like lightning, flickered before his eyes.
Utterly exhausted, he rushed into his miserable hovel and fell to the
ground like a log. A death-like sleep overpowered him.

Two days and two nights did Peter sleep, without once awakening. When he
came to himself, on the third day, he looked long at all the corners of
his hut, but in vain did he endeavour to recollect what had taken place;
his memory was like a miser's pocket, from which you cannot entice a
quarter of a kopek. Stretching himself, he heard something clash at
his feet. He looked, there were two bags of gold. Then only, as if in
a dream, he recollected that he had been seeking for treasure, and that
something had frightened him in the woods.

Korzh saw the sacks--and was mollified. "A fine fellow, Peter, quite
unequalled! yes, and did I not love him? Was he not to me as my own
son?" And the old fellow repeated this fiction until he wept over it
himself. Pidorka began to tell Peter how some passing gipsies had stolen
Ivas; but he could not even recall him--to such a degree had the Devil's
influence darkened his mind! There was no reason for delay. The Pole was
dismissed, and the wedding-feast prepared; rolls were baked, towels and
handkerchiefs embroidered; the young people were seated at table;
the wedding-loaf was cut; guitars, cymbals, pipes, viols sounded, and
pleasure was rife.

A wedding in the olden times was not like one of the present day. My
grandfather's aunt used to tell how the maidens--in festive head-dresses
of yellow, blue, and pink ribbons, above which they bound gold braid; in
thin chemisettes embroidered on all the seams with red silk, and strewn
with tiny silver flowers; in morocco shoes, with high iron heels--danced
the gorlitza as swimmingly as peacocks, and as wildly as the whirlwind;
how the youths--with their ship-shaped caps upon their heads, the crowns
of gold brocade, and two horns projecting, one in front and another
behind, of the very finest black lambskin; in tunics of the finest blue
silk with red borders--stepped forward one by one, their arms akimbo
in stately form, and executed the gopak; how the lads--in tall Cossack
caps, and light cloth gaberdines, girt with silver embroidered belts,
their short pipes in their teeth--skipped before them and talked
nonsense. Even Korzh as he gazed at the young people could not help
getting gay in his old age. Guitar in hand, alternately puffing at his
pipe and singing, a brandy-glass upon his head, the greybeard began the
national dance amid loud shouts from the merry-makers.

What will not people devise in merry mood? They even began to disguise
their faces till they did not look like human beings. On such occasions
one would dress himself as a Jew, another as the Devil: they would begin
by kissing each other, and end by seizing each other by the hair. God be
with them! you laughed till you held your sides. They dressed
themselves in Turkish and Tatar garments. All upon them glowed like a
conflagration, and then they began to joke and play pranks....

An amusing thing happened to my grandfather's aunt, who was at this
wedding. She was wearing an ample Tatar robe, and, wine-glass in hand,
was entertaining the company. The Evil One instigated one man to pour
vodka over her from behind. Another, at the same moment, evidently not
by accident, struck a light, and held it to her. The flame flashed up,
and poor aunt, in terror, flung her dress off, before them all. Screams,
laughter, jests, arose as if at a fair. In a word, the old folks could
not recall so merry a wedding.

Pidorka and Peter began to live like a gentleman and lady. There was
plenty of everything and everything was fine.... But honest folk shook
their heads when they marked their way of living. "From the Devil
no good can come," they unanimously agreed. "Whence, except from the
tempter of orthodox people, came this wealth? Where else could he have
got such a lot of gold from? Why, on the very day that he got rich, did
Basavriuk vanish as if into thin air?"

Say, if you can, that people only imagine things! A month had not
passed, and no one would have recognised Peter. He sat in one spot,
saying no word to any one; but continually thinking and seemingly trying
to recall something. When Pidorka succeeded in getting him to speak, he
appeared to forget himself, and would carry on a conversation, and even
grow cheerful; but if he inadvertently glanced at the sacks, "Stop,
stop! I have forgotten," he would cry, and again plunge into reverie and
strive to recall something. Sometimes when he sat still a long time in
one place, it seemed to him as though it were coming, just coming back
to mind, but again all would fade away. It seemed as if he was sitting
in the tavern: they brought him vodka; vodka stung him; vodka was
repulsive to him. Some one came along and struck him on the shoulder;
but beyond that everything was veiled in darkness before him. The
perspiration would stream down his face, and he would sit exhausted in
the same place.

What did not Pirdorka do? She consulted the sorceresses; and they poured
out fear, and brewed stomach ache (2)--but all to no avail. And so the
summer passed. Many a Cossack had mowed and reaped; many a Cossack, more
enterprising than the rest, had set off upon an expedition. Flocks of
ducks were already crowding the marshes, but there was not even a hint
of improvement.

 (2) "To pour out fear" refers to a practice resorted to in case of
    fear. When it is desired to know what caused this, melted lead or
    wax is poured into water, and the object whose form it assumes is
    the one which frightened the sick person; after this, the fear
    departs. Sonyashnitza is brewed for giddiness and pain in the
    bowels. To this end, a bit of stump is burned, thrown into a jug,
    and turned upside down into a bowl filled with water, which is
    placed on the patient's stomach: after an incantation, he is given
    a spoonful of this water to drink.

It was red upon the steppes. Ricks of grain, like Cossack's caps, dotted
the fields here and there. On the highway were to be encountered waggons
loaded with brushwood and logs. The ground had become more solid, and
in places was touched with frost. Already had the snow begun to fall
and the branches of the trees were covered with rime like rabbit-skin.
Already on frosty days the robin redbreast hopped about on the
snow-heaps like a foppish Polish nobleman, and picked out grains of
corn; and children, with huge sticks, played hockey upon the ice; while
their fathers lay quietly on the stove, issuing forth at intervals
with lighted pipes in their lips, to growl, in regular fashion, at the
orthodox frost, or to take the air, and thresh the grain spread out in
the barn. At last the snow began to melt, and the ice slipped away: but
Peter remained the same; and, the more time went on, the more morose he
grew. He sat in the cottage as though nailed to the spot, with the sacks
of gold at his feet. He grew averse to companionship, his hair grew
long, he became terrible to look at; and still he thought of but
one thing, still he tried to recall something, and got angry and
ill-tempered because he could not. Often, rising wildly from his seat,
he gesticulated violently and fixed his eyes on something as though
desirous of catching it: his lips moving as though desirous of uttering
some long-forgotten word, but remaining speechless. Fury would take
possession of him: he would gnaw and bite his hands like a man half
crazy, and in his vexation would tear out his hair by the handful,
until, calming down, he would relapse into forgetfulness, as it were,
and then would again strive to recall the past and be again seized with
fury and fresh tortures. What visitation of God was this?

Pidorka was neither dead not alive. At first it was horrible for her to
remain alone with him in the cottage; but, in course of time, the poor
woman grew accustomed to her sorrow. But it was impossible to recognise
the Pidorka of former days. No blushes, no smiles: she was thin and worn
with grief, and had wept her bright eyes away. Once some one who took
pity on her advised her to go to the witch who dwelt in the Bear's
ravine, and enjoyed the reputation of being able to cure every disease
in the world. She determined to try that last remedy: and finally
persuaded the old woman to come to her. This was on St. John's Eve, as
it chanced. Peter lay insensible on the bench, and did not observe the
newcomer. Slowly he rose, and looked about him. Suddenly he trembled in
every limb, as though he were on the scaffold: his hair rose upon his
head, and he laughed a laugh that filled Pidorka's heart with fear.

"I have remembered, remembered!" he cried, in terrible joy; and,
swinging a hatchet round his head, he struck at the old woman with all
his might. The hatchet penetrated the oaken door nearly four inches. The
old woman disappeared; and a child of seven, covered in a white sheet,
stood in the middle of the cottage.... The sheet flew off. "Ivas!" cried
Pidorka, and ran to him; but the apparition became covered from head to
foot with blood, and illumined the whole room with red light....

She ran into the passage in her terror, but, on recovering herself a
little, wished to help Peter. In vain! the door had slammed to behind
her, so that she could not open it. People ran up, and began to knock:
they broke in the door, as though there were but one mind among them.
The whole cottage was full of smoke; and just in the middle, where Peter
had stood, was a heap of ashes whence smoke was still rising. They flung
themselves upon the sacks: only broken potsherds lay there instead of
ducats. The Cossacks stood with staring eyes and open mouths, as if
rooted to the earth, not daring to move a hair, such terror did this
wonder inspire in them.

I do not remember what happened next. Pidorka made a vow to go upon a
pilgrimage, collected the property left her by her father, and in a few
days it was as if she had never been in the village. Whither she had
gone, no one could tell. Officious old women would have despatched
her to the same place whither Peter had gone; but a Cossack from Kief
reported that he had seen, in a cloister, a nun withered to a mere
skeleton who prayed unceasingly. Her fellow-villagers recognised her as
Pidorka by the tokens--that no one heard her utter a word; and that
she had come on foot, and had brought a frame for the picture of God's
mother, set with such brilliant stones that all were dazzled at the

But this was not the end, if you please. On the same day that the Evil
One made away with Peter, Basavriuk appeared again; but all fled from
him. They knew what sort of a being he was--none else than Satan,
who had assumed human form in order to unearth treasures; and, since
treasures do not yield to unclean hands, he seduced the young. That same
year, all deserted their earthen huts and collected in a village; but
even there there was no peace on account of that accursed Basavriuk.

My late grandfather's aunt said that he was particularly angry with
her because she had abandoned her former tavern, and tried with all
his might to revenge himself upon her. Once the village elders were
assembled in the tavern, and, as the saying goes, were arranging the
precedence at the table, in the middle of which was placed a small
roasted lamb, shame to say. They chattered about this, that, and the
other--among the rest about various marvels and strange things. Well,
they saw something; it would have been nothing if only one had seen it,
but all saw it, and it was this: the sheep raised his head, his goggling
eyes became alive and sparkled; and the black, bristling moustache,
which appeared for one instant, made a significant gesture at those
present. All at once recognised Basavriuk's countenance in the sheep's
head; my grandfather's aunt thought it was on the point of asking for
vodka. The worthy elders seized their hats and hastened home.

Another time, the church elder himself, who was fond of an occasional
private interview with my grandfather's brandy-glass, had not succeeded
in getting to the bottom twice, when he beheld the glass bowing very
low to him. "Satan take you, let us make the sign of the cross over
you!"--And the same marvel happened to his better half. She had just
begun to mix the dough in a huge kneading-trough when suddenly the
trough sprang up. "Stop, stop! where are you going?" Putting its arms
akimbo, with dignity, it went skipping all about the cottage--you may
laugh, but it was no laughing matter to our grandfathers. And in vain
did Father Athanasii go through all the village with holy water,
and chase the Devil through all the streets with his brush. My late
grandfather's aunt long complained that, as soon as it was dark, some
one came knocking at her door and scratching at the wall.

Well! All appears to be quiet now in the place where our village stands;
but it was not so very long ago--my father was still alive--that
I remember how a good man could not pass the ruined tavern which
a dishonest race had long managed for their own interest. From the
smoke-blackened chimneys smoke poured out in a pillar, and rising high
in the air, rolled off like a cap, scattering burning coals over the
steppe; and Satan (the son of a dog should not be mentioned) sobbed so
pitifully in his lair that the startled ravens rose in flocks from the
neighbouring oak-wood and flew through the air with wild cries.

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