- Project Runeberg -  In the Land of Tolstoi /
87

(1897) [MARC] Author: Jonas Jonsson Stadling Translator: Will Reason With: Gerda Tirén, Johan Tirén
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one valley we did lose it, and the poor horse struggled helplessly
in the soft snow. Vasutka began to beat the poor animal, who
struggled hard, shivered, and looked piteously round at us.
“Stop that,” I cried to him, and jumped out to unharness the
horse. The cold seemed to me much harder to bear out on
these steppes than the same degree of frost on our own northern
fells; my hands began to freeze as I outspanned the horse, and
it was with the greatest difficulty that I kept my face from
becoming frost-bitten.

We managed with ropes to haul the horse out of the drift on
to some harder tracks, but had to repeat the process several
times. The horse was getting exhausted, and it seemed
probable that we should have to spend a day and night in
a snowstorm out on the steppes. “Vasutka, do you think we
shall get out of this?” “Gospod znajer” (God knows). “Are
you afraid?” “Nitchevo!” This last word is hardly
translatable; it is a kind of vocal shrugging of the shoulders.

However, at last we hit the road again, and by good hap
kept it until we reached our journey’s end.

Birukoff was out, but the peasants, after gaping and
whispering about my outlandish dress and broken Russian, showed
me to his room. It was about 10ft. by 6ft. His box-bedstead
was made of roughly-nailed boards; there were two wooden
stools and a table, on which lay a Russian New Testament, a
French philosophical treatise on Pythagoras, and some lists and
account books belonging to the relief work. In about
half-an-hour he came home, tired and hungry, but cheerful as usual,
and we had a late dinner. Like his master Tolstoi, Birukoff is
a vegetarian, and lived on the same food that he served to the
peasants.

The usual crowding in of applicants took place during the
meal, and after attending to them we went off to a committee
meeting concerning some new eating-rooms. The members of
this committee impressed me very favourably by their bearing
and speech. They clearly felt that they were not in the
presence of officials, whom they hated and feared, but turned to
Birukoff as a friend; he, on his part, met them with unfeigned
cordiality and respect. I was introduced, and the object of my

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