Vaninka HTML version

stroke. Accordingly, when it was Ivan's turn to be stretched upon the fatal plank and to
receive the correction he was in the habit of administering, on his own account, those
who momentarily played his part as executioner adopted the same expedients,
remembering only the strokes spared and not the strokes received. This exchange of
mutual benefits, therefore, was productive of an excellent understanding between Ivan
and his comrades, which was never so firmly knit as at the moment when a fresh
execution was about to take place. It is true that the first hour after the punishment was
generally so full of suffering that the knouted was sometimes unjust to the knouter, but
this feeling seldom out-lasted the evening, and it was rare when it held out after the first
glass of spirits that the operator drank to the health of his patient.
The serf upon whom Ivan was about to exercise his dexterity was a man of five or six-
and-thirty, red of hair and beard, a little above average height. His Greek origin might be
traced in his countenance, which even in its expression of terror had preserved its
habitual characteristics of craft and cunning.
When he arrived at the spot where the punishment was to take place, the culprit stopped
and looked up at the window which had already claimed the young aide-de-camp's
attention; it still remained shut. With a glance round the throng which obstructed the
entrance leading to the street, he ended by gazing, with a horror-stricken shudder upon
the plank on which he was to be stretched. The shudder did not escape his friend Ivan,
who, approaching to remove the striped shirt that covered his shoulders, took the
opportunity to whisper under his breath--
"Come, Gregory, take courage!"
"You remember your promise?" replied the culprit, with an indefinable expression of
"Not for the first lashes, Gregory; do not count on that, for during the first strokes the
aide-de-camp will be watching; but among the later ones be assured I will find means of
cheating him of some of them."
"Beyond everything you will take care of the tip of the lash?"
"I will do my best, Gregory, I will do my best. Do you not know that I will?"
"Alas! yes," replied Gregory.
"Now, then!" said the aide-de-camp.
"We are ready, noble sir," replied Ivan.
"Wait, wait one moment, your high origin," cried poor Gregory, addressing the young
captain as though he had been a colonel, "Vache Vousso Korodie," in order to flatter him.
"I believe that the lady Vaninka's window is about to open!"