The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories HTML version
"Polikushka;" Or, The Lot Of A Wicked Court Servant
Polikey was a court man--one of the staff of servants belonging to the court household of
a boyarinia (lady of the nobility).
He held a very insignificant position on the estate, and lived in a rather poor, small house
with his wife and children.
The house was built by the deceased nobleman whose widow he still continued to serve,
and may be described as follows: The four walls surrounding the one izba (room) were
built of stone, and the interior was ten yards square. A Russian stove stood in the centre,
around which was a free passage. Each corner was fenced off as a separate inclosure to
the extent of several feet, and the one nearest to the door (the smallest of all) was known
as "Polikey's corner." Elsewhere in the room stood the bed (with quilt, sheet, and cotton
pillows), the cradle (with a baby lying therein), and the three-legged table, on which the
meals were prepared and the family washing was done. At the latter also Polikey was at
work on the preparation of some materials for use in his profession--that of an amateur
veterinary surgeon. A calf, some hens, the family clothes and household utensils, together
with seven persons, filled the little home to the utmost of its capacity. It would indeed
have been almost impossible for them to move around had it not been for the
convenience of the stove, on which some of them slept at night, and which served as a
table in the day-time.
It seemed hard to realize how so many persons managed to live in such close quarters.
Polikey's wife, Akulina, did the washing, spun and wove, bleached her linen, cooked and
baked, and found time also to quarrel and gossip with her neighbors.
The monthly allowance of food which they received from the noblewoman's house was
amply sufficient for the whole family, and there was always enough meal left to make
mash for the cow. Their fuel they got free, and likewise the food for the cattle. In addition
they were given a small piece of land on which to raise vegetables. They had a cow, a
calf, and a number of chickens to care for.
Polikey was employed in the stables to take care of two stallions, and, when necessary, to
bleed the horses and cattle and clean their hoofs.
In his treatment of the animals he used syringes, plasters, and various other remedies and
appliances of his own invention. For these services he received whatever provisions were
required by his family, and a certain sum of money--all of which would have been
sufficient to enable them to live comfortably and even happily, if their hearts had not
been filled with the shadow of a great sorrow.