Open main menu

Page:Complete Works of Count Tolstoy - 02.djvu/126

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
104
THE COSSACKS

the customs of the old Grebéns have been preserved, and the women of this village have ever been famous for their beauty in the whole Caucasus. The Cossacks gain a subsistence from their vineyards and fruit-gardens, from their fields of melons and pumpkins, from fishing and hunting, from their fields of maize and millet, and from rapine.

The village of Novomlín is three versts distant from the Térek, from which it is separated by a dense forest. On one side of the road, which runs through the village, is the river; on the other are the green vineyards and gardens, and may be seen the sand-dunes of the Nogáy steppe. The village is surrounded by an earthen rampart and prickly hedge. One enters into and issues from the village through a tall gate, swinging on posts, with a small, reed-thatched roof, near which is placed, on a wooden gun-carriage, a monstrous cannon which has not been fired for a hundred years, and which had been at one time taken from the enemy by the Cossacks. A Cossack in uniform, sabre, and with his gun, sometimes stands sentinel at the gate, and just as often he is not there; sometimes he presents arms to a passing officer, and sometimes not.

Under the roof of the gate there is a white board with the following inscription in black letters: "Houses, 266; male souls, 897; female souls, 1,012." The houses of the Cossacks are all raised on posts, three feet or more from the ground, are neatly thatched with reeds, and have a ridge-piece. Though they are not all new, they are straight, with high porches of various shapes, and are not attached one to another, but are freely and picturesquely scattered along broad streets and lanes. In front of the bright, large windows of many cabins, tower above them dark green poplars, tender, pale-foliaged acacias with white fragrant flowers, boldly shining sunflowers, and twining pinks and grape-vines.

On the broad square are to be seen three little shops where may be found dry goods, pumpkin seeds, St. John's