What Men Live By and Other Tales
How Much Land Does a Man Need?
An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country. The elder was married to a
tradesman in town, the younger to a peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea
talking, the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying how comfortably
they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine clothes her children wore, what good
things they ate and drank, and how she went to the theatre, promenades, and
The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparaged the life of a tradesman, and stood
up for that of a peasant.
"I would not change my way of life for yours," said she. "We may live roughly, but at
least we are free from anxiety. You live in better style than we do, but though you often
earn more than you need, you are very likely to lose all you have. You know the proverb,
'Loss and gain are brothers twain.' It often happens that people who are wealthy one day
are begging their bread the next. Our way is safer. Though a peasant's life is not a fat one,
it is a long one. We shall never grow rich, but we shall always have enough to eat."
The elder sister said sneeringly:
"Enough? Yes, if you like to share with the pigs and the calves! What do you know of
elegance or manners! However much your good man may slave, you will die as you are
living-on a dung heap-and your children the same."
"Well, what of that?" replied the younger. "Of course our work is rough and coarse. But,
on the other hand, it is sure; and we need not bow to any one. But you, in your towns, are
surrounded by temptations; today all may be right, but tomorrow the Evil One may tempt
your husband with cards, wine, or women, and all will go to ruin. Don't such things
happen often enough?"
Pahom, the master of the house, was lying on the top of the oven, and he listened to the
"It is perfectly true," thought he. "Busy as we are from childhood tilling Mother Earth, we
peasants have no time to let any nonsense settle in our heads. Our only trouble is that we
haven't land enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear the Devil himself!"
The women finished their tea, chatted a while about dress, and then cleared away the tea-
things and lay down to sleep.