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Master and Man

Master and Man
It happened in the 'seventies in winter, on the day after St. Nicholas's Day. There was a
fete in the parish and the innkeeper, Vasili Andreevich Brekhunov, a Second Guild
merchant, being a church elder had to go to church, and had also to entertain his relatives
and friends at home.
But when the last of them had gone he at once began to prepare to drive over to see a
neighbouring proprietor about a grove which he had been bargaining over for a long time.
He was now in a hurry to start, lest buyers from the town might forestall him in making a
profitable purchase.
The youthful landowner was asking ten thousand rubles for the grove simply because
Vasili Andreevich was offering seven thousand. Seven thousand was, however, only a
third of its real value. Vasili Andreevich might perhaps have got it down to his own price,
for the woods were in his district and he had a long-standing agreement with the other
village dealers that no one should run up the price in another's district, but he had now
learnt that some timber-dealers from town meant to bid for the Goryachkin grove, and he
resolved to go at once and get the matter settled. So as soon as the feast was over, he took
seven hundred rubles from his strong box, added to them two thousand three hundred
rubles of church money he had in his keeping, so as to make up the sum to three
thousand; carefully counted the notes, and having put them into his pocket-book made
haste to start.
Nikita, the only one of Vasili Andreevich's labourers who was not drunk that day, ran to
harness the horse. Nikita, though an habitual drunkard, was not drunk that day because
since the last day before the fast, when he had drunk his coat and leather boots, he had
sworn off drink and had kept his vow for two months, and was still keeping it despite the
temptation of the vodka that had been drunk everywhere during the first two days of the
Nikita was a peasant of about fifty from a neighbouring village, 'not a manager' as the
peasants said of him, meaning that he was not the thrifty head of a household but lived
most of his time away from home as a labourer. He was valued everywhere for his
industry, dexterity, and strength at work, and still more for his kindly and pleasant
temper. But he never settled down anywhere for long because about twice a year, or even
oftener, he had a drinking bout, and then besides spending all his clothes on drink he
became turbulent and quarrelsome. Vasili Andreevich himself had turned him away
several times, but had afterwards taken him back again--valuing his honesty, his kindness
to animals, and especially his cheapness. Vasili Andreevich did not pay Nikita the eighty