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Page:Pushkin - Russian Romance (King, 1875).djvu/32

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RUSSIAN ROMANCE.

his black beard; his large, lustrous eyes were ever restless. The expression of his face was pleasant enough, but it was roguish. His hair was evenly cut all round; he wore a ragged armyak and capacious Tartar trousers. I handed him a cup of tea; he tasted it and made a grimace. "Your honour, do oblige me . . . order a glass of wine to be given me; tea is not a drink for us Cossacks."

I readily acceded to his wish. The host produced a bottle and tumbler from the cupboard, approached him, and looking him in the face:

"Oho!" said he, "thou art again in our neighbourhood! Where dost thou come from?"

My guide winked significantly and answered with a parable:

"I flew about the kitchen-garden, picked hempseed, the old woman threw a pebble at me, but missed. Well, how are all your people?"

"What, how are our people!" replied the landlord, continuing the parabolical dialogue; "they were about to ring for vespers, but the priest's wife forbid them: the priest is absent on a visit, the devils are in the parish."

"Be quiet, uncle," said the vagabond; "when the rain falls mushrooms will be there; when there are mushrooms there will also be baskets but at present" [here he winked again] "hide thy axe behind thy back; the forester is walking about. Your honour, your health!"

With these words he took the tumbler, made the sign of the cross, and drained it at a draught; he then bowed to me and returned to the loft.

I could make nothing of this cut-throat conversation at