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Page:Complete Works of Count Tolstoy - 02.djvu/332

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THE COSSACKS

is drinking brandy, — that's all right. I am sorry for the fellow. He was a good fellow, a brave, just like myself. I was once on the point of dying, and the women were howling, and howling. My head was hot. They already accounted me a saint. And so I was lying, and right above me, on the oven, tiny little drummers were sounding the reveille. I shouted to them, but they only drummed so much the harder." The old man laughed. "The women brought the chanter to me; they wanted to bury me, and so they said: 'He has led a worldly life, has kept company with women, has ruined souls, has eaten meat on fast-days, has played the balaláyka. Repent,' they said. And so I began to repent. 'I have sinned,' says I. No matter what the pope said, I repeated, 'I have sinned.' He began to ask me about the balaláyka. 'Where is it, that accursed thing?' says he. 'Let me have it, so I may smash it.' And I said I did not have it; but I had myself hidden it away in the dairy in a net. I knew they would not find it. And they gave me up. And I came to. And again I started to scrape the balaláyka — So, what was I saying?" he continued. "Take my advice, and keep away from crowds, or you will be killed. I am sorry for you, truly, I am. You are a toper, I like you. The rest of you fellows are fond of riding out to the mounds. There was one of them living here. He had come from Russia, and he had such a passion for mounds! Every time he saw a mound, he rode out to it. Once he galloped off. He galloped, and was so happy about it! And a Chechén shot at him, and killed him. The Chechéns are such fine shots with forked supports. There are better shots than I am. I do not like to see anybody killed in such a bad manner. I used to look at your soldiers, and wonder. What stupidity! My darlings walk together in a mass, and, besides, wear such red collars. How can one help hitting them? They kill one man, and while he is