“Who is howling?”
“I am frightened, grandfather, do you hear?”
The coachman listened.
“It’s their crying,” he said. “Come! there, little silly! They are sad, so they are crying.”
“I want to go home,...” his grandson went on sobbing and trembling all over. “Grandfather, let us go back to the village, to mammy; come, grandfather dear, God will give you the heavenly kingdom for it....”
“What a silly, ah! Come, be quiet, be quiet! Be quiet, I will light the lantern,... silly!”
The coachman fumbled for the matches and lighted the lantern. But the light did not comfort Alyoshka.
“Grandfather Stepan, let’s go to the village!” he besought him, weeping. “I am frightened here; oh, oh, how frightened I am! And why did you bring me from the village, accursed man?”
“Who’s an accursed man? You mustn’t use such disrespectable words to your lawful grandfather. I shall whip you.”
“Do whip me, grandfather, do; beat me like Sidor’s goat, but only take me to mammy, for God’s mercy!...”
“Come, come, grandson, come!” the coachman said kindly. “It’s all right, don’t be frightened....I am frightened myself.... Say your prayers!”
The door creaked and the porter’s head appeared. “Aren’t you asleep, Stepan?” he asked. “I shan’t get any sleep all night,” he said, coming in. “I shall be opening and shutting the gates all night.... What are you crying for, Alyoshka?”
“He is frightened,” the coachman answered for his grandson.
Again there was the sound of a wailing voice in the air. The porter said:
“They are crying. The mother can’t believe her eyes.... It’s dreadful how upset she is.”
“And is the father there?”
“Yes.... The father is all right. He sits in the corner and says nothing. They have taken the children to relations.... Well, Stepan, shall we have a game of trumps?”
“Yes,” the coachman agreed, scratching himself, “and you, Alyoshka, go to sleep. Almost big enough to be married, and blubbering, you rascal. Come, go along, grandson, go along....”
The presence of the porter reassured Alyoshka. He went, not very resolutely, towards the sledge and lay down. And while he was falling asleep he heard a half-whisper.
“I beat and cover,” said his grandfather.
“I beat and cover,” repeated the porter.
The bell rang in the yard, the door creaked and seemed also saying: “I beat and cover.” When Alyoshka dreamed of the gentleman and, frightened by his eyes, jumped up and burst out crying, it was morning, his grandfather was snoring, and the coach-house no longer seemed terrible.
DURING all the years I have been living in this world I have only three times been terrified.