“Oh! my little father, Petr’ Andrejitch,” he replied, with a deep sigh, “I am angry with myself; it is I who am to blame for everything. What possessed me to leave you alone in the inn? But what could I do; the devil would have it so, else why did it occur to me to go and see my gossip the deacon’s wife, and thus it happened, as the proverb says, ’I left the house and was taken to prison.’ What ill-luck! What ill-luck! How shall I appear again before my master and mistress? What will they say when they hear that their child is a drunkard and a gamester?”
To comfort poor Saveliitch, I gave him my word of honour that in future I would not spend a single kopek without his consent. Gradually he calmed down, though he still grumbled from time to time, shaking his head—
“A hundred roubles, it is easy to talk!”
I was approaching my destination. Around me stretched a wild and dreary desert, intersected by little hills and deep ravines. All was covered with snow. The sun was setting. My kibitka was following the narrow road, or rather the track, left by the sledges of the peasants. All at once my driver looked round, and addressing himself to me—
“Sir,” said he, taking off his cap, “will you not order me to turn back?”
“The weather is uncertain. There is already a little wind. Do you not see how it is blowing about the surface snow.”
“Well, what does that matter?”
“And do you see what there is yonder?”
The driver pointed east with his whip.
“I see nothing more than the white steppe and the clear sky.”
“There, there; look, that little cloud!”
I did, in fact, perceive on the horizon a little white cloud which I had at first taken for a distant hill. My driver explained to me that this little cloud portended a “bourane." I had heard of the snowstorms peculiar to these regions, and I knew of whole caravans having been sometimes buried in the tremendous drifts of snow. Saveliitch was of the same opinion as the driver, and advised me to turn back, but the wind did not seem to me very violent, and hoping to reach in time the next posting station, I bid him try and get on quickly. He put his horses to a gallop, continually looking, however, towards the east. But the wind increased in force, the little cloud rose rapidly, became larger and thicker, at last covering the whole sky. The snow began to fall lightly at first, but soon in large flakes. The wind whistled and howled; in a moment the grey sky was lost in the whirlwind of snow which the wind raised from the earth, hiding everything around us.
“How unlucky we are, excellency,” cried the driver; “it is the bourane.”
I put my head out of the kibitka; all was darkness and confusion. The wind blew with such ferocity that it was difficult not to think it an animated being.
The snow drifted round and covered us. The horses went at a walk, and soon stopped altogether.