The Witch and other stories
AN exceedingly lean little peasant, in a striped hempen shirt and patched drawers, stands
facing the investigating magistrate. His face overgrown with hair and pitted with
smallpox, and his eyes scarcely visible under thick, overhanging eyebrows have an
expression of sullen moroseness. On his head there is a perfect mop of tangled, unkempt
hair, which gives him an even more spider-like air of moroseness. He is barefooted.
"Denis Grigoryev!" the magistrate begins. "Come nearer, and answer my questions. On
the seventh of this July the railway watchman, Ivan Semyonovitch Akinfov, going along
the line in the morning, found you at the hundred-and-forty-first mile engaged in
unscrewing a nut by which the rails are made fast to the sleepers. Here it is, the nut! . . .
With the aforesaid nut he detained you. Was that so?"
"Was this all as Akinfov states?"
"To be sure, it was."
"Very good; well, what were you unscrewing the nut for?"
"Drop that 'wha-at' and answer the question; what were you unscrewing the nut for?"
"If I hadn't wanted it I shouldn't have unscrewed it," croaks Denis, looking at the ceiling.
"What did you want that nut for?"
"The nut? We make weights out of those nuts for our lines."
"Who is 'we'?"
"We, people. . . . The Klimovo peasants, that is."
"Listen, my man; don't play the idiot to me, but speak sensibly. It's no use telling lies here
"I've never been a liar from a child, and now I'm telling lies . . ." mutters Denis, blinking.
"But can you do without a weight, your honour? If you put live bait or maggots on a
hook, would it go to the bottom without a w eight? . . . I am telling lies," grins Denis. . . .
"What the devil is the use of the worm if it swims on the surface! The perch and the pike
and the eel-pout always go to the bottom, and a bait on the surface is only taken by a