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The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories

An Adventure
(A Driver's Story)
IT was in that wood yonder, behind the creek, that it happened, sir. My father, the
kingdom of Heaven be his, was taking five hundred roubles to the master; in those days
our fellows and the Shepelevsky peasants used to rent land from the master, so father was
taking money for the half-year. He was a God-fearing man, he used to read the scriptures,
and as for cheating or wronging anyone, or defrauding --God forbid, and the peasants
honoured him greatly, and when someone had to be sent to the town about taxes or such-
like, or with money, they used to send him. He was a man above the ordinary, but, not
that I'd speak ill of him, he had a weakness. He was fond of a drop. There was no getting
him past a tavern: he would go in, drink a glass, and be completely done for! He was
aware of this weakness in himself, and when he was carrying public money, that he might
not fall asleep or lose it by some chance, he always took me or my sister Anyutka with
To tell the truth, all our family have a great taste for vodka. I can read and write, I served
for six years at a tobacconist's in the town, and I can talk to any educated gentleman, and
can use very fine language, but, it is perfectly true, sir, as I read in a book, that vodka is
the blood of Satan. Through vodka my face has darkened. And there is nothing seemly
about me, and here, as you may see, sir, I am a cab-driver like an ignorant, uneducated
And so, as I was telling you, father was taking the money to the master, Anyutka was
going with him, and at that time Anyutka was seven or maybe eight--a silly chit, not that
high. He got as far as Kalantchiko successfully, he was sober, but when he reached
Kalantchiko and went into Moiseika's tavern, this same weakness of his came upon him.
He drank three glasses and set to bragging before people:
"I am a plain humble man," he says, "but I have five hundred roubles in my pocket; if I
like," says he, "I could buy up the tavern and all the crockery and Moiseika and his
Jewess and his little Jews. I can buy it all out and out," he said. That was his way of
joking, to be sure, but then he began complaining: "It's a worry, good Christian people,"
said he, "to be a rich man, a merchant, or anything of that kind. If you have no money
you have no care, if you have money you must watch over your pocket the whole time
that wicked men may not rob you. It's a terror to live in the world for a man who has a lot
of money."
The drunken people listened of course, took it in, and made a note of it. And in those
days they were making a railway line at Kalantchiko, and there were swarms and swarms
of tramps and vagabonds of all sorts like locusts. Father pulled himself up afterwards, but
it was too late. A word is not a sparrow, if it flies out you can't catch it. They drove, sir,
by the wood, and all at once there was someone galloping on horseback behind them.
Father was not of the chicken-hearted brigade--that I couldn't say--but he felt uneasy;