Having stumbled back to the sledge Vasili Andreevich caught
hold of it and for a long time stood motionless, trying to calm
himself and recover his breath. Nikita was not in his former
place, but something, already covered with snow, was lying in
the sledge and Vasili Andreevich concluded that this was
Nikita. His terror had now quite left him, and if he felt any
fear it was lest the dreadful terror should return that he had
experienced when on the horse and especially when he was left
alone in the snow-drift. At any cost he had to avoid that
terror, and to keep it away he must do something--occupy
himself with something. And the first thing he did was to turn
his back to the wind and open his fur coat. Then, as soon as
he recovered his breath a little, he shook the snow out of his
boots and out of his left-hand glove (the right-hand glove was
hopelessly lost and by this time probably lying somewhere under
a dozen inches of snow); then as was his custom when going out
of his shop to buy grain from the peasants, he pulled his
girdle low down and tightened it and prepared for action. The
first thing that occurred to him was to free Mukhorty's leg
from the rein. Having done that, and tethered him to the iron
cramp at the front of the sledge where he had been before, he
was going round the horse's quarters to put the breechband and
pad straight and cover him with the cloth, but at that moment
he noticed that something was moving in the sledge and Nikita's
head rose up out of the snow that covered it. Nikita, who was
half frozen, rose with great difficulty and sat up, moving his
hand before his nose in a strange manner just as if he were
driving away flies. He waved his hand and said something, and
seemed to Vasili Andreevich to be calling him. Vasili
Andreevich left the cloth unadjusted and went up to the sledge.
'What is it?' he asked. 'What are you saying?'
'I'm dy . . . ing, that's what,' said Nikita brokenly and with
difficulty. 'Give what is owing to me to my lad, or to my
wife, no matter.'
'Why, are you really frozen?' asked Vasili Andreevich.
'I feel it's my death. Forgive me for Christ's sake . . .'
said Nikita in a tearful voice, continuing to wave his hand
before his face as if driving away flies.
Vasili Andreevich stood silent and motionless for half a
minute. Then suddenly, with the same resolution with which he
used to strike hands when making a good purchase, he took a
step back and turning up his sleeves began raking the snow off
Nikita and out of the sledge. Having done this he hurriedly
undid his girdle, opened out his fur coat, and having pushed
Nikita down, lay down on top of him, covering him not only with
his fur coat but with the whole of his body, which glowed with
warmth. After pushing the skirts of his coat between Nikita
and the sides of the sledge, and holding down its hem with his
knees, Vasili Andreevich lay like that face down, with his head
pressed against the front of the sledge. Here he no longer
heard the horse's movements or the whistling of the wind, but
only Nikita's breathing. At first and for a long time Nikita
lay motionless, then he sighed deeply and moved.
'There, and you say you are dying! Lie still and get warm,
that's our way . . .' began Vasili Andreevich.
But to his great surprise he could say no more, for tears came
to his eyes and his lower jaw began to quiver rapidly. He
stopped speaking and only gulped down the risings in his
throat. 'Seems I was badly frightened and have gone quite
weak,' he thought. But this weakness was not only unpleasant,
but gave him a peculiar joy such as he had never felt before.
'That's our way!' he said to himself, experiencing a strange
and solemn tenderness. He lay like that for a long time,
wiping his eyes on the fur of his coat and tucking under his
knee the right skirt, which the wind kept turning up.
But he longed so passionately to tell somebody of his joyful
condition that he said: 'Nikita!'
'It's comfortable, warm!' came a voice from beneath.
'There, you see, friend, I was going to perish. And you would
have been frozen, and I should have . . .'
But again his jaws began to quiver and his eyes to fill with
tears, and he could say no more.
'Well, never mind,' he thought. 'I know about myself what I
He remained silent and lay like that for a long time.
Nikita kept him warm from below and his fur coats from above.
Only his hands, with which he kept his coat-skirts down round
Nikita's sides, and his legs which the wind kept uncovering,
began to freeze, especially his right hand which had no glove.
But he did not think of his legs or of his hands but only of
how to warm the peasant who was lying under him. He looked out
several times at Mukhorty and could see that his back was
uncovered and the drugget and breeching lying on the snow, and
that he ought to get up and cover him, but he could not bring
himself to leave Nikita and disturb even for a moment the
joyous condition he was in. He no longer felt any kind of
'No fear, we shan't lose him this time!' he said to himself,
referring to his getting the peasant warm with the same
boastfulness with which he spoke of his buying and selling.
Vasili Andreevich lay in that way for one hour, another, and a
third, but he was unconscious of the passage of time. At first
impressions of the snow-storm, the sledge-shafts, and the horse
with the shaft-bow shaking before his eyes, kept passing
through his mind, then he remembered Nikita lying under him,
then recollections of the festival, his wife, the
police-officer, and the box of candles, began to mingle with
these; then again Nikita, this time lying under that box, then
the peasants, customers and traders, and the white walls of his
house with its iron roof with Nikita lying underneath,
presented themselves to his imagination. Afterwards all these
impressions blended into one nothingness. As the colours of
the rainbow unite into one white light, so all these different
impressions mingled into one, and he fell asleep.
For a long time he slept without dreaming, but just before dawn
the visions recommenced. It seemed to him that he was standing
by the box of tapers and that Tikhon's wife was asking for a
five kopek taper for the Church fete. He wished to take one out
and give it to her, but his hands would not life, being held
tight in his pockets. He wanted to walk round the box but his
feet would not move and his new clean goloshes had grown to the
stone floor, and he could neither lift them nor get his feet
out of the goloshes. Then the taper-box was no longer a box
but a bed, and suddenly Vasili Andreevich saw himself lying in
his bed at home. He was lying in his bed and could not get up.
Yet it was necessary for him to get up because Ivan Matveich,
the police-officer, would soon call for him and he had to go
with him--either to bargain for the forest or to put
Mukhorty's breeching straight.
He asked his wife: 'Nikolaevna, hasn't he come yet?' 'No, he
hasn't,' she replied. He heard someone drive up to the front
steps. 'It must be him.' 'No, he's gone past.' 'Nikolaevna!
I say, Nikolaevna, isn't he here yet?' 'No.' He was still
lying on his bed and could not get up, but was always waiting.
And this waiting was uncanny and yet joyful. Then suddenly his
joy was completed. He whom he was expecting came; not Ivan
Matveich the police-officer, but someone else--yet it was he
whom he had been waiting for. He came and called him; and it
was he who had called him and told him to lie down on Nikita.
And Vasili Andreevich was glad that that one had come for him.
'I'm coming!' he cried joyfully, and that cry awoke him, but
woke him up not at all the same person he had been when he fell
asleep. He tried to get up but could not, tried to move his
arm and could not, to move his leg and also could not, to turn
his head and could not. He was surprised but not at all
disturbed by this. He understood that this was death, and was
not at all disturbed by that either.
He remembered that Nikita was lying under him and that he had
got warm and was alive, and it seemed to him that he was Nikita
and Nikita was he, and that his life was not in himself but in
Nikita. He strained his ears and heard Nikita breathing and
even slightly snoring. 'Nikita is alive, so I too am alive!'
he said to himself triumphantly.
And he remembered his money, his shop, his house, the buying
and selling, and Mironov's millions, and it was hard for him to
understand why that man, called Vasili Brekhunov, had troubled
himself with all those things with which he had been troubled.
'Well, it was because he did not know what the real thing was,'
he thought, concerning that Vasili Brekhunov. 'He did not
know, but now I know and know for sure. Now I know!' And again
he heard the voice of the one who had called him before. 'I'm
coming! Coming!' he responded gladly, and his whole being was
filled with joyful emotion. He felt himself free and that
nothing could hold him back any longer.
After that Vasili Andreevich neither saw, heard, nor felt
anything more in this world.
All around the snow still eddied. The same whirlwinds of snow
circled about, covering the dead Vasili Andreevich's fur coat,
the shivering Mukhorty, the sledge, now scarcely to be seen,
and Nikita lying at the bottom of it, kept warm beneath his