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Page:Complete Works of Count Tolstoy - 02.djvu/26

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8
A MORNING OF A LANDED PROPRIETOR

women with their suckling babes, in gala attire, were scattering to their huts, bowing low to their master, and making a circuit around him. When Nekhlyúdov reached the street, he stopped, drew his note-book from his pocket, and on the last page, which was covered with a childish handwriting, read several peasant names, with notes. "Ivan Churís asked for fork posts," he read, and, proceeding in the street, walked up to the gate of the second hut on the right.

Churís's dwelling consisted of a half-rotten log square, musty at the corners, bending to one side, and so sunken in the ground that one broken, red, sliding window, with its battered shutter, and another smaller window, stopped up with a bundle of flax, were to be seen right over the dung-heap. A plank vestibule, with a decayed threshold and low door; another smaller square, more rickety and lower than the vestibule; a gate, and a wicker shed clung to the main hut. All that had at one time been covered by one uneven thatch; but now the black, rotting straw hung only over the eaves, so that in places the framework and the rafters could be seen. In front of the yard was a well, with a dilapidated box, with a remnant of a post and wheel, and a dirty puddle made by the tramping of the cattle, in which some ducks were splashing. Near the well stood two ancient, cracked, and broken willows, with scanty, pale green leaves. Under one of these willows, which witnessed to the fact that at some time in the past some one had tried to beautify the spot, sat an eight-year-old blonde little maiden, with another two-year-old girl crawling on the ground. A pup, which was wagging his tail near them, ran headlong under the gate, the moment he noticed the master, and from there burst into a frightened, quivering bark.

"Is Iván at home?" asked Nekhlyúdov.

The older girl was almost petrified at this question, and was opening her eyes wider and wider, but did not