Along the ravine, on one side are neat little storehouses, and buildings with tightly-closed doors; on the other side are five or six pine-log cottages with board roofs. Over each roof rises a tall pole with a starling house; over each tiny porch is an openwork iron horse’s head with a stiff mane. The uneven window-panes sparkle with the hues of the rainbow. Jugs holding bouquets are painted on the shutters. In front of each cottage stands sedately a precise little bench; on the earthen banks around the foundations of the house cats lie curled in balls, with their transparent ears pricked up on the alert; behind the lofty thresholds the anterooms look dark and cool.
I am lying on the very brink of the ravine, on an outspread horse-cloth; round about are whole heaps of new-mown hay, which is fragrant to the point of inducing faintness. The sagacious householders have spread out the hay in front of their cottages: let it dry a little more in the hot sun, and then away with it to the barn! It will be a glorious place for a nap!
The curly heads of children project from each haycock; crested hens are searching in the hay for gnats and small beetles; a white-toothed puppy is sprawling among the tangled blades of grass.
Ruddy-curled youths in clean, low-girt shirts, and heavy boots with borders, are bandying lively remarks as they stand with their breasts resting on the unhitched carts, and display their teeth in a grin.
From a window a round-faced lass peeps out; she laughs, partly at their words, and partly at the pranks of the children in the heaped-up hay.
Another lass with her sturdy arms is drawing a huge, dripping bucket from the well.... The bucket trembles and rocks on the rope, scattering long, fiery drops.
In front of me stands an aged housewife in a new-checked petticoat of homespun and new peasant-shoes.
Large inflated beads in three rows encircle her thin, swarthy neck; her grey hair is bound about with a yellow kerchief with red dots; it droops low over her dimmed eyes.
But her aged eyes smile in cordial wise; her whole wrinkled face smiles. The old woman must be in her seventh decade ... and even now it can be seen that she was a beauty in her day!
With the sunburned fingers of her right hand widely spread apart, she holds a pot of cool, unskimmed milk, straight from the cellar; the sides of the pot are covered with dewdrops, like small pearl beads. On the palm of her left hand the old woman offers me a big slice of bread still warm from the oven. As much as to say: “Eat, and may health be thine, thou passing guest!”
A cock suddenly crows and busily flaps his wings; an imprisoned calf lows without haste, in reply.
“Hey, what fine oats!” the voice of my coachman makes itself heard....
O Russian contentment, repose, plenty! O free village! O tranquillity and abundance!
And I thought to myself: “What care we for the cross on the dome of Saint Sophia in Constantinople, and all the other things for which we strive, we people of the town?”