The country lad shouted once more to his horses, settled himself more comfortably on the box, slapped his wet cap on his thick cape and, in a carefree voice, started up a gay tune.

“What`s your name, boy?” inquired a fat man bundled up in a wolf-skin coat, who’ sat inside the coach.

The lad continued his song.

“Ho, boy!” cried the man in a loud, harsh voice.

“What?” The boy turned around.

“Name! Your name? What`s your name?”


“Ah, ah, Ondra. Clever lady, you are! All of you have become clever. Sly, you country bumpkins. You only know how to lie and deceive. And how you do put on! I watch `em at court. Sheep—little lambkins—of innocence—but really regular wolves! They play with the judges!”

“We`re just simple folk, sir, and they only slander us. You just think so, but we`re really not bad like that. Our peasant people deceive only out of ignorance. Ignorance and poverty.”

“Ah! So that`s it! Because of poverty! Cursed clods! They complain of ignorance and poverty, and guzzle like fish!”

“You think it`s prosperity they`re suffering from, sir? From being over prosperous? No! Not from prosperity. Drink—guzzle? Yes, they all drink. To feel a bit happier, not because they`re well off. That`s something a man like you can set down in his note-book.”

“Ah! It looks to me as if you, too, had had a drink, friend! You`re still too young for that; your whiskers haven`t sprouted yet. Those peasants of yours—-just write it down—are a lost lot—lost, that`s what!”

“You write it down, sir! We don`t know how to write,” said the boy and turning to his skinny horses, he called “Vyee, vyee, sirs!” and lapsed into deep thought.

The horses hesitated for a moment, as if they, too, were thinking.

The man put up the big collar of his wolf cloak, disappeared inside it and he, too, lost himself in meditation.

Gray reflective mood

A crow with ruffled wings settled on a solitary tree beside the road and swinging on a dry twig croaked mournfully, while it, too, ruminated. Even the somber wintry weather seemed in a gray reflective mood, portending a gloomy Christmas on the morrow. Across the heavens thick scraggly storm-clouds crept and broke heavily beneath a cold blue sky. The earth was submerged in mud and moisture. The vistas of villages, streams, distant forests and mountains darkened, lifeless and distorted, before them. On the plains here and there glistened great pools, all cloudy, cold and glassy like the eyes of a corpse.

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