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Page:Pushkin - Russian Romance (King, 1875).djvu/239

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THE UNDERTAKER.

was full of dead people. The moon shining through the windows, lit up their yellow and blue faces, sunken mouths, dull half-closed eyes, and thin protruding noses. Adrian recognized in them, with dread, people who had been buried with his aid; and in the guest whom he had preceded, the brigadier who had been interred during the pouring rain. All the women and men assembled, surrounded the undertaker, bowing, and greeting him; all except one poor fellow, who had quite recently been buried gratis, and who, shy and ashamed of his tatters, did not venture to come forward, but stood retiredly in a corner. The rest were respectably dressed: the women wore caps with ribbons; those men who had served the State, were in uniform, but their faces were unshaven; merchants wore their holiday caftans. "Seest thou, Próhoroff," said the brigadier, in the name of this select company, "how we have all risen at thy invitation. Those alone have remained at home who could not possibly come, who had quite crumbled to pieces, or who had no skin, but only their bare bones left; but even thus, one of them could not rest—so anxious was he to see thee!"

At that moment a small skeleton pushed his way through the crowd, and approached Adrian. His skull smiled affectionately at the undertaker. Bits of light green and red cloth, and of old linen, hung here and there about him, as upon a pole, whilst the bones of his feet rattled in his Hessian boots, like a pestle in a mortar. "Thou dost not recognize me, Próhoroff," said the skeleton. "Dost thou remember the retired sergeant of the