“What? Get into the calash?”
“Get in, get in!” I repeated. “I want to make thee a proposition. Get in!... Drive on with me.”
“Well, you command.”—He got in.—“Come, and as for you, my dear friends, respected comrades,” he added to the beggars: “good-bye! Until we meet again!”—Misha took off his kazak cap and made a low bow.—The beggars all seemed to be dumbfounded.... I ordered the coachman to whip up the horses, and the calash rolled on.
This is what I wished to propose to Misha: the idea had suddenly occurred to me to take him into my establishment, into my country-house, which was situated about thirty versts from that posting-station,—to save him, or, at least, to make an effort to save him.
“Hearken, Misha,” said I; “wilt thou settle down with me?... Thou shalt have everything provided for thee, clothes and under-linen shall be made for thee, thou shalt be properly fitted out, and thou shalt receive money for tobacco and so forth, only on one condition: not to drink liquor!... Dost thou accept?”
Misha was even frightened with joy. He opened his eyes very wide, turned crimson, and suddenly falling on my shoulder, he began to kiss me and to repeat in a spasmodic voice:—“Uncle ... benefactor.... May God reward you!...” He melted into tears at last, and doffing his kazak cap, began to wipe his eyes, his nose, and his lips with it.
“Look out,” I said to him. “Remember the condition—not to drink liquor!”
“Why, damn it!” he exclaimed, flourishing both hands, and as a result of that energetic movement I was still more strongly flooded with that spirituous odour wherewith he was thoroughly impregnated.... “You see, dear uncle, if you only knew my life.... If it were not for grief, cruel Fate, you know.... But now I swear,—I swear that I will reform, and will prove.... Uncle, I have never lied—ask any one you like if I have.... I am an honourable, but an unhappy man, uncle; I have never known kindness from any one....”
At this point he finally dissolved in sobs. I tried to soothe him and succeeded, for when we drove up to my house Misha had long been sleeping the sleep of the dead, with his head resting on my knees.
He was immediately allotted a special room, and also immediately, as the first measure, taken to the bath, which was absolutely indispensable. All his garments, and his dagger and tall kazak cap and hole-ridden shoes, were carefully laid away in the storehouse; clean linen was put on him, slippers, and some of my clothing, which, as is always the case with paupers, exactly fitted his build and stature. When he came to the table, washed, neat, fresh, he seemed so much touched, and so happy, he was beaming all over with such joyful gratitude, that I felt emotion and joy.... His face was completely transfigured. Little boys of twelve wear such faces at Easter, after the Communion, when, thickly pomaded, clad in new round-jackets and starched collars, they go to exchange the Easter greeting with their parents. Misha kept feeling of himself cautiously and incredulously, and repeating:—“What is this?... Am not I in heaven?”—And on the following day he announced that he had not been able to sleep all night for rapture!