Master and Man
rubles a year such a man was worth, but only about forty, which he gave him haphazard,
in small sums, and even that mostly not in cash but in goods from his own shop and at
Nikita's wife Martha, who had once been a handsome vigorous woman, managed the
homestead with the help of her son and two daughters, and did not urge Nikita to live at
home: first because she had been living for some twenty years already with a cooper, a
peasant from another village who lodged in their house; and secondly because though she
managed her husband as she pleased when he was sober, she feared him like fire when he
was drunk. Once when he had got drunk at home, Nikita, probably to make up for his
submissiveness when sober, broke open her box, took out her best clothes, snatched up an
axe, and chopped all her undergarments and dresses to bits. All the wages Nikita earned
went to his wife, and he raised no objection to that. So now, two days before the holiday,
Martha had been twice to see Vasili Andreevich and had got from him wheat flour, tea,
sugar, and a quart of vodka, the lot costing three rubles, and also five rubles in cash, for
which she thanked him as for a special favour, though he owed Nikita at least twenty
'What agreement did we ever draw up with you?' said Vasili Andreevich to Nikita. 'If you
need anything, take it; you will work it off. I'm not like others to keep you waiting, and
making up accounts and reckoning fines. We deal straight-forwardly. You serve me and I
don't neglect you.'
And when saying this Vasili Andreevich was honestly convinced that he was Nikita's
benefactor, and he knew how to put it so plausibly that all those who depended on him
for their money, beginning with Nikita, confirmed him in the conviction that he was their
benefactor and did not overreach them.
'Yes, I understand, Vasili Andreevich. You know that I serve you and take as much pains
as I would for my own father. I understand very well!' Nikita would reply. He was quite
aware that Vasili Andreevich was cheating him, but at the same time he felt that it was
useless to try to clear up his accounts with him or explain his side of the matter, and that
as long as he had nowhere to go he must accept what he could get.
Now, having heard his master's order to harness, he went as usual cheerfully and
willingly to the shed, stepping briskly and easily on his rather turned-in feet; took down
from a nail the heavy tasselled leather bridle, and jingling the rings of the bit went to the
closed stable where the horse he was to harness was standing by himself.
'What, feeling lonely, feeling lonely, little silly?' said Nikita in answer to the low whinny
with which he was greeted by the good-tempered, medium-sized bay stallion, with a
rather slanting crupper, who stood alone in the shed. 'Now then, now then, there's time
enough. Let me water you first,' he went on, speaking to the horse just as to someone who
understood the words he was using, and having whisked the dusty, grooved back of the
well-fed young stallion with the skirt of his coat, he put a bridle on his handsome head,
straightened his ears and forelock, and having taken off his halter led him out to water.