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The Servant

S.T. Semyonov

Overview I II III IV


The next evening Gerasim came again and asked:

"Well, could you do anything for me?"

"Something, I believe. First let's have some tea. Then we'll go see my

Even tea had no allurements for Gerasim. He was eager for a decision;
but under the compulsion of politeness to his host, he gulped down two
glasses of tea, and then they betook themselves to Sharov.

Sharov asked Gerasim where he had lived before end what work he could
do. Then he told him he was prepared to engage him as man of all work,
and he should come back the next day ready to take the place.

Gerasim was fairly stunned by the great stroke of fortune. So
overwhelming was his joy that his legs would scarcely carry him. He
went to the coachman's room, and Yegor said to him:

"Well, my lad, see to it that you do your work right, so that I shan't
have to be ashamed of you. You know what masters are like. If you go
wrong once, they'll be at you forever after with their fault-finding,
and never give you peace."

"Don't worry about that, Yegor Danilych."


Gerasim took leave, crossing the yard to go out by the gate.
Polikarpych's rooms gave on the yard, and a broad beam of light from
the window fell across Gerasim's way. He was curio as to get a glimpse
of his future home, but the panes were all frosted over, and it was
impossible to peep through. However, he could hear what the people
inside were saying.

"What will we do now?" was said in a woman's voice.

"I don't know, I don't know," a man, undoubtedly Polikarpych, replied.
"Go begging, I suppose."

"That's all we can do. There's nothing else left," said the woman.
"Oh, we poor people, what a miserable life we lead. We work and work
from early morning till late at night, day after day, and when we get
old, then it's, 'Away with you!'"

"What can we do? Our master is not one of us. It wouldn't be worth the
while to say much to him about it. He cares only for his own

"All the masters are so mean. They don't think of any one but
themselves. It doesn't occur to them that we work for them honestly
and faithfully for years, and use up our best strength in their
service. They're afraid to keep us a year longer, even though we've
got all the strength we need to do their work. If we weren't strong
enough, we'd go of our own accord."

"The master's not so much to blame as his coachman. Yegor Danilych
wants to get a good position for his friend."

"Yes, he's a serpent. He knows how to wag his tongue. You wait, you
foul-mouthed beast, I'll get even with you. I'll go straight to the
master and tell him how the fellow deceives him, how he steals the hay
and fodder. I'll put it down in writing, and he can convince himself
how the fellow lies about us all."

"Don't, old woman. Don't sin."

"Sin? Isn't what I said all true? I know to a dot what I'm saying, and
I mean to tell it straight out to the master. He should see with his
own eyes. Why not? What can we do now anyhow? Where shall we go? He's
ruined us, ruined us."

The old woman burst out sobbing.

Gerasim heard all that, and it stabbed him like a dagger. He realised
what misfortune he would be bringing the old people, and it made him
sick at heart. He stood there a long while, saddened, lost in thought,
then he turned and went back into the coachman's room.

"Ah, you forgot something?"

"No, Yegor Danilych." Gerasim stammered out, "I've come—listen—I
want to thank you ever and ever so much—for the way you received
me—and—and all the trouble you took for me—but—I can't take the

"What! What does that mean?"

"Nothing. I don't want the place. I will look for another one for

Yegor flew into a rage.

"Did you mean to make a fool of me, did you, you idiot? You come here
so meek—'Try for me, do try for me'—and then you refuse to take the
place. You rascal, you have disgraced me!"

Gerasim found nothing to say in reply. He reddened, and lowered his
eyes. Yegor turned his back scornfully and said nothing more.

Then Gerasim quietly picked up his cap and left the coachman's room.
He crossed the yard rapidly, went out by the gate, and hurried off
down the street. He felt happy and lighthearted.