The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories
A Lost Opportunity
"Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I
forgive him? till seven times?" . . . . "So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto
you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."--ST.
MATTHEW xviii., 21-35.
In a certain village there lived a peasant by the name of Ivan Scherbakoff. He was
prosperous, strong, and vigorous, and was considered the hardest worker in the whole
village. He had three sons, who supported themselves by their own labor. The eldest was
married, the second about to be married, and the youngest took care of the horses and
occasionally attended to the plowing.
The peasant's wife, Ivanovna, was intelligent and industrious, while her daughter-in-law
was a simple, quiet soul, but a hard worker.
There was only one idle person in the household, and that was Ivan's father, a very old
man who for seven years had suffered from asthma, and who spent the greater part of his
time lying on the brick oven.
Ivan had plenty of everything--three horses, with one colt, a cow with calf, and fifteen
sheep. The women made the men's clothes, and in addition to performing all the
necessary household labor, also worked in the field; while the men's industry was
confined altogether to the farm.
What was left of the previous year's supply of provisions was ample for their needs, and
they sold a quantity of oats sufficient to pay their taxes and other expenses.
Thus life went smoothly for Ivan.
The peasant's next-door neighbor was a son of Gordey Ivanoff, called "Gavryl the Lame."
It once happened that Ivan had a quarrel with him; but while old man Gordey was yet
alive, and Ivan's father was the head of the household, the two peasants lived as good
neighbors should. If the women of one house required the use of a sieve or pail, they
borrowed it from the inmates of the other house. The same condition of affairs existed
between the men. They lived more like one family, the one dividing his possessions with
the other, and perfect harmony reigned between the two families.
If a stray calf or cow invaded the garden of one of the farmers, the other willingly drove
it away, saying: "Be careful, neighbor, that your stock does not again stray into my
garden; we should put a fence up." In the same way they had no secrets from each other.
The doors of their houses and barns had neither bolts nor locks, so sure were they of each
other's honesty. Not a shadow of suspicion darkened their daily intercourse.
Thus lived the old people.