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Page:Pushkin - Russian Romance (King, 1875).djvu/233

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THE UNDERTAKER.

ing attire had fallen into a pitiful condition. He hoped to charge a good round sum at the funeral of the merchant Truhin's old wife, who had now been nearly a year at death's door. But the old woman lay dying at Rasgoulaï, and Próhoroff feared lest her heirs, notwithstanding their promise, would neglect to send for him all that distance, and would come to terms with the nearest undertaker.

These meditations were unexpectedly disturbed by three freemason-like taps at the door.

"Who is there?" asked Próhoroff.

The door opened, and a man in whom the German artisan was recognized at a glance, walked in, and cheerfully approached the undertaker.

"Pardon me, my dear neighbour," said he, in that Russian dialect which we cannot listen to without a smile. "Pardon my intruding upon you—I was anxious to make your acquaintance. I am a bootmaker, my name is Gottlieb Schulz, and I live across the street, in the little house facing your windows. To-morrow I celebrate my silver wedding, and I came to ask you and your daughters to dine with us in a friendly way."

The invitation was accepted with good-will. The undertaker asked the bootmaker to sit down and take a cup of tea, and thanks to the cordial disposition of Gottlieb Schulz, their conversation soon became friendly.

"How does your trade prosper?" asked Adrian.

"Ah—he—he!" answered Schulz, "so, so, I cannot complain, although my goods are of course different from yours: a live man can do without boots, but a dead man cannot do without a coffin."