In a word, it could be plainly perceived that the house which once stood there had been pulled down, and its beams and timbers carried away. In the middle of the premises, near the line hedge, stood several high trees, acacias, fig, and plum-trees; scattered among them were gooseberry bushes, rose-trees, and blackthorns, while near the street, just in the place where the window of the house was probably set, stood a high, green fig-tree.
I have seen many vacant lots, yet never before have I given a passing thought as to whom any one of them belonged, or who might have lived there, or indeed where its future possessor might be. But in a peculiar way the sight of this yard called up questions of this sort; and as I looked at it many different thoughts came into my mind. Perhaps, I thought to myself, a childless fellow, who spoiled old age with sighs and complaints, and as his life waned the walls mouldered. Finally, the house was without a master; the doors and windows stood open, and when the dark winter nights came on, the neighbors fell upon it and stripped off its boards, one after another. Yes, various thoughts came into my head. How hard it is to build a house, and how easy to tear it down!
While I stood there lost in thought, an old woman, leaning on a staff, passed me. I did not immediately recognize her, but at a second glance I saw it was Hripsime. Nurse Hripsime was a woman of five-and-seventy, yet, from her steady gait, her lively speech, and her fiery eyes, she appeared to be scarcely fifty. She was vigorous and hearty, expressed her opinions like a man, and was abrupt in her speech. Had she not worn women’s garments one could easily have taken her for a man. Indeed, in conversation she held her own with ten men.
Once, I wot not for what reason, she was summoned to court. She went thither, placed herself before the judge, and spoke so bravely that everyone gaped and stared at her as at a prodigy. Another time thieves tried to get into her house at night, knowing that she was alone like an owl in the house. The thieves began to pry open the door with a crowbar, and when Nurse Hripsime heard it she sprang nimbly out of bed, seized her stick from its corner, and began to shout: “Ho, there! Simon, Gabriel, Matthew, Stephan, Aswadur, get up quickly. Get your axes and sticks. Thieves are here; collar the rascals; bind them, skin them, strike them dead!” The thieves probably did not know with whom they had to deal, and, when at the outcry of the old woman they conceived that a half-dozen stout-handed fellows might be in the house, they took themselves off. Just such a cunning, fearless woman was Aunt Hripsime.
“Good-morning, nurse,” said I.
“God greet thee,” she replied.
“Where have you been?”
“I have been with the sick,” she rejoined.