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EUGENE MIHAILOVICH had actually used the coupon to buy firewood from the
peasant Ivan Mironov, who had thought of setting up in business on the
seventeen roubles he possessed. He hoped in this way to earn another
eight roubles, and with the twenty-five roubles thus amassed he intended
to buy a good strong horse, which he would want in the spring for work
in the fields and for driving on the roads, as his old horse was almost
Ivan Mironov's commercial method consisted in buying from the stores a
cord of wood and dividing it into five cartloads, and then driving about
the town, selling each of these at the price the stores charged for
a quarter of a cord. That unfortunate day Ivan Mironov drove out very
early with half a cartload, which he soon sold. He loaded up again with
another cartload which he hoped to sell, but he looked in vain for a
customer; no one would buy it. It was his bad luck all that day to come
across experienced towns-people, who knew all the tricks of the peasants
in selling firewood, and would not believe that he had actually brought
the wood from the country as he assured them. He got hungry, and felt
cold in his ragged woollen coat. It was nearly below zero when evening
came on; his horse which he had treated without mercy, hoping soon to
sell it to the knacker's yard, refused to move a step. So Ivan Mironov
was quite ready to sell his firewood at a loss when he met Eugene
Mihailovich, who was on his way home from the tobacconist.
"Buy my cartload of firewood, sir. I will give it to you cheap. My poor
horse is tired, and can't go any farther."
"Where do you come from?"
"From the country, sir. This firewood is from our place. Good dry wood,
I can assure you."
"Good wood indeed! I know your tricks. Well, what is your price?"
Ivan Mironov began by asking a high price, but reduced it once, and
finished by selling the cartload for just what it had cost him.
"I'm giving it to you cheap, just to please you, sir.--Besides, I am
glad it is not a long way to your house," he added.
Eugene Mihailovich did not bargain very much. He did not mind paying a
little more, because he was delighted to think he could make use of the
coupon and get rid of it. With great difficulty Ivan Mironov managed
at last, by pulling the shafts himself, to drag his cart into the
courtyard, where he was obliged to unload the firewood unaided and pile
it up in the shed. The yard-porter was out. Ivan Mironov hesitated at
first to accept the coupon, but Eugene Mihailovich insisted, and as he
looked a very important person the peasant at last agreed.
He went by the backstairs to the servants' room, crossed himself before
the ikon, wiped his beard which was covered with icicles, turned up the
skirts of his coat, took out of his pocket a leather purse, and out
of the purse eight roubles and fifty kopeks, and handed the change
to Eugene Mihailovich. Carefully folding the coupon, he put it in the
purse. Then, according to custom, he thanked the gentleman for his
kindness, and, using the whip-handle instead of the lash, he belaboured
the half-frozen horse that he had doomed to an early death, and betook
himself to a public-house.
Arriving there, Ivan Mironov called for vodka and tea for which he paid
eight kopeks. Comfortable and warm after the tea, he chatted in the very
best of spirits with a yard-porter who was sitting at his table. Soon
he grew communicative and told his companion all about the conditions
of his life. He told him he came from the village Vassilievsky, twelve
miles from town, and also that he had his allotment of land given to
him by his family, as he wanted to live apart from his father and his
brothers; that he had a wife and two children; the elder boy went to
school, and did not yet help him in his work. He also said he lived in
lodgings and intended going to the horse-fair the next day to look for a
good horse, and, may be, to buy one. He went on to state that he had now
nearly twenty-five roubles--only one rouble short--and that half of it
was a coupon. He took the coupon out of his purse to show to his new
friend. The yard-porter was an illiterate man, but he said he had had
such coupons given him by lodgers to change; that they were good; but
that one might also chance on forged ones; so he advised the peasant,
for the sake of security, to change it at once at the counter. Ivan
Mironov gave the coupon to the waiter and asked for change. The waiter,
however, did not bring the change, but came back with the manager, a
bald-headed man with a shining face, who was holding the coupon in his
"Your money is no good," he said, showing the coupon, but apparently
determined not to give it back.
"The coupon must be all right. I got it from a gentleman."
"It is bad, I tell you. The coupon is forged."
"Forged? Give it back to me."
"I will not. You fellows have got to be punished for such tricks. Of
course, you did it yourself--you and some of your rascally friends."
"Give me the money. What right have you--"
"Sidor! Call a policeman," said the barman to the waiter. Ivan Mironov
was rather drunk, and in that condition was hard to manage. He seized
the manager by the collar and began to shout.
"Give me back my money, I say. I will go to the gentleman who gave it to
me. I know where he lives."
The manager had to struggle with all his force to get loose from Ivan
Mironov, and his shirt was torn,--"Oh, that's the way you behave! Get
hold of him."
The waiter took hold of Ivan Mironov; at that moment the policeman
arrived. Looking very important, he inquired what had happened, and
unhesitatingly gave his orders:
"Take him to the police-station."
As to the coupon, the policeman put it in his pocket; Ivan Mironov,
together with his horse, was brought to the nearest station.
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