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   Chapter 4 No.4

Further Foolishness By Stephen Leacock Characters: 6627

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Now when Serge had been six months in the house of Madame Vasselitch, Ivan Ivanovitch, his father, sent Itch, the serving man, and Yump, the cook, his wife, to Moscow to see how Serge fared. And Ivan first counted out rubles into a bag, "ten, and ten and still ten," till Itch said, "It is enough. I will carry that."

Then they made ready to go. Itch took a duck from the pond and put a fish in his pocket, together with a fragrant cheese and a bundle of sweet garlic. And Yump took oil and dough and mixed it with tar and beat it with an iron bar so as to shape it into a pudding.

So they went forth on foot, walking till they came to

Moscow.

"It is a large place," said Itch, and he looked about him at the lights and the people.

"Defend us," said Yump. "It is no place for a woman."

"Fear nothing," said Itch, looking at her.

So they went on, looking for the house of Madame Vasselitch.

"How bright the lights are!" said Itch, and he stood still and looked about him. Then he pointed at a burleski, or theatre. "Let us go in there and rest," he said.

"No," said Yump, "let us hurry on."

"You are tired," said Itch. "Give me the pudding and hurry forward, so that you may sleep. I will come later, bringing the pudding and the fish."

"I am not tired," said Yump.

So they came at last to the house of Madame Vasselitch.

And when they saw Serge they said, "How tall he is and

how well grown!" But they thought, "He is pale. Ivan

Ivanoviteh must know."

And Itch said, "Here are the rubles sent by Ivan Ivanovitch.

Count them, little son, and see that they are right."

"How many should there be?" said Serge.

"I know not," said Itch. "You must count them and see."

Then Yump said, "Here is a pudding, little son, and a fish, and a duck and a cheese and garlic."

So that night Itch and Yump stayed in the house of Madame

Vasselitch.

"You are tired," said Itch. "You must sleep."

"I am not tired," said Yump. "It is only that my head aches and my face burns from the wind and the sun."

"I will go forth," said Itch, "and find a fisski, or drug-store, and get something for your face."

"Stay where you are," said Yump. And Itch stayed.

Meantime Serge had gone upstairs with the fish and the duck and the cheese and the pudding. As he went up he thought. "It is selfish to eat alone. I will give part of the fish to the others." And when he got a little further up the steps he thought, "I will give them all of the fish." And when he got higher still he thought, "They shall have everything."

Then he opened the door and came into the big room where the students were playing with matches at the big table and drinking golgol out of cups. "Here is food, brothers," he said. "Take it. I need none."

The students took the food and they cried, "Rah, Rah," and beat the fish against the table. But the pudding they would not take. "We have no axe," they said. "Keep it."

Then they poured out golgol for Serge and said, "Drink it."

But Serge would not.

"I must work," he said, and all the students laughed.

"He wants to work!" they cried. "Rah, Rah."

But Serge went up to his room and lighted his taper, made of string dipped in fat, and set himself to study. "I must work," he repeated.

So Serge sat at his books. It g

ot later and the house grew still. The noise of the students below ceased and then everything was quiet.

Serge sat working through the night. Then presently it grew morning and the dark changed to twilight and Serge could see from his window the great building with the barred windows across the street standing out in the grey mist of the morning.

Serge had often studied thus through the night and when it was morning he would say, "It is morning," and would go down and help Madame Vasselitch unbar the iron shutters and unchain the door, and remove the bolts from the window casement.

But on this morning as Serge looked from his window his eyes saw a figure behind the barred window opposite to him. It was the figure of a girl, and she was kneeling on the floor and she was in prayer, for Serge could see that her hands were before her face. And as he looked all his blood ran warm to his head, and his limbs trembled even though he could not see the girl's face. Then the girl rose from her knees and turned her face towards the bars, and Serge knew that it was Olga Ileyitch and that she had seen and known him.

Then he came down the stairs and Madame Vasselitch was there undoing the shutters and removing the nails from the window casing.

"What have you seen, little son?" she asked, and her voice was gentle, for the face of Serge was pale and his eyes were wide.

But Serge did not answer the question.

"What is that house?" he said. "The great building with the bars that you call the house of the dead?"

"Shall I tell you, little son," said Madame Vasselitch, and she looked at him, still thinking. "Yes," she said, "he shall know.

"It is the prison of the condemned, and from there they go forth only to die. Listen, little son," she went on, and she gripped Serge by the wrist till he could feel the bones of her fingers against his flesh. "There lay my husband, Vangorod Vasselitch, waiting for his death. Months long he was there behind the bars and no one might see him or know when he was to die. I took this tall house that I might at least be near him till the end. But to those who lie there waiting for their death it is allowed once and once only that they may look out upon the world. And this is allowed to them the day before they die. So I took this house and waited, and each day I looked forth at dawn across the street and he was not there. Then at last he came. I saw him at the window and his face was pale and set and I could see the marks of the iron on his wrists as he held them to the bars. But I could see that his spirit was unbroken. There was no power in them to break that. Then he saw me at the window, and thus across the narrow street we said good-bye. It was only a moment. 'Sonia Vasselitch,' he said, 'do not forget,' and he was gone. I have not forgotten. I have lived on here in this dark house, and I have not forgotten. My sons-yes, little brother, my sons, I say-have not forgotten. Now tell me, Sergius Ivanovitch, what you have seen."

"I have seen the woman that I love," said Serge, "kneeling behind the bars in prayer. I have seen Olga Ileyitch."

"Her name," said Madame Vasselitch, and there were no tears in her eyes and her voice was calm, "her name is Olga Vasselitch. She is my daughter, and to-morrow she is to die."

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