Open main menu

Page:Pushkin - Russian Romance (King, 1875).djvu/232

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

the master's handiwork, which consisted of coffins of all sizes and colours, and the cupboards were filled with mourning cloaks and torches. Over the gate appeared a sign-board, representing a corpulent Cupid holding a reversed torch, with the inscription: Here are sold and ornamented plain and painted Coffins; Coffins also let out on hire, and old ones repaired. The girls retired to their room, and Adrian having inspected his dwelling, sat down by the window, and ordered the samovar to be got ready.

The enlightened reader is aware that both Shakespeare and Walter Scott represented their grave-diggers as cheerful and jocose persons, in order to strike our imagination more forcibly by the contrast. Out of regard to truth, however, we cannot follow their example, and are compelled to admit that the disposition of our undertaker fully corresponded with his mournful calling. Adrian Próhoroff was habitually sullen and thoughtful. His silence might occasionally be broken for the sole purpose of scolding his daughters when he chanced to find them idle, gazing out of the window at the passers-by, or asking an exorbitant price for his goods, of those who had the misfortune (and sometimes also the good fortune) to require them. Thus it happened that Adrian, now sipping his seventh cup of tea, was as usual sunk in melancholy reflections. He thought of the pouring rain which fell at the very outset of the retired Brigadier's funeral the previous week. Many mourning cloaks had shrunk in consequence, and many hats had been spoiled. He foresaw unavoidable expenditure, for his old stock of mourn-