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109
THE COSSACKS

opposite, walked up to Mother Ulítka to ask her for fire; she held a rag in her hand.

"Well, mother, are you all done?" she said to her.

"The girl is making a fire in the stove. Do you need some light?" said Mother Ulítka, proud of being able to do her a favour.

The two women went into the cabin. The coarse hands, unaccustomed to small objects, trembled as she tore off the lid from the precious box of matches which are a rarity in the Caucasus. The masculine-looking visitor sat down on the threshold, with the evident intention of chatting.

"Well, motherkin, is your husband in the school?" the visitor asked.

"He is all the time teaching the children, mother. He wrote he would be back for the holidays," said the ensign's wife.

"He is a clever man; and cleverness pays."

"Of course, it does."

"But my Lukáshka is in the cordon, and he can't get any leave to come home," said the visitor, although the ensign's wife knew all that. She could not refrain from mentioning her Lukáshka, whom she had but lately allowed to become a Cossack, and whom she was desirous of marrying off to Maryánka, the ensign's daughter.

"So he is in the cordon?"

"Yes, mother. He has not been here since the holidays. A few days ago I sent him some shirts by Fomúshkin. He says everything is well, and the authorities are satisfied with him. They are looking for abréks, says he. Lukáshka, he says, is happy, and everything is all right."

"The Lord be thanked," said the ensign's wife. "In one word he is a 'saver.'"

Lukáshka was called the "Saver" for the bravery which he had displayed in "saving" a boy from drown-