Ivan Ivanovitch and Burkin stopped in hesitation; the dogs, already drenched, stood with their tails between their legs gazing at them feelingly. "Let us go to Alehin's; it's close by." "Come along." They turned aside and walked through mown fields, sometimes going straight forward, sometimes turning to the right, till they came out on the road.
Soon they saw poplars, a garden, then the red roofs of barns; there was a gleam of the river, and the view opened on to a broad expanse of water with a windmill and a white bath-house: this was Sofino, where Alehin lived.
He had on a white shirt that badly needed washing, a rope for a belt, drawers instead of trousers, and his boots, too, were plastered up with mud and straw. He recognized Ivan Ivanovitch and Burkin, and was apparently much delighted to see them.
"Go into the house, gentlemen," he said, smiling; "I'll come directly, this minute." It was a big two-storeyed house. And only when the lamp was lighted in the big drawing-room upstairs, and Burkin and Ivan Ivanovitch, attired in silk dressing-gowns and warm slippers, were sitting in arm-chairs; and Alehin, washed and combed, in a new coat, was walking about the drawing-room, evidently enjoying the feeling of warmth, cleanliness, dry clothes, and light shoes; and when lovely Pelagea, stepping noiselessly on the carpet and smiling softly, handed tea and jam on a tray -- only then Ivan Ivanovitch began on his story, and it seemed as though not only Burkin and Alehin were listening, but also the ladies, young and old, and the officers who looked down upon them sternly and calmly from their gold frames.
The watermill was at work, drowning the sound of the rain; the dam was shaking.
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Here wet horses with drooping heads were standing near their carts, and men were walking about covered with sacks.In one of the barns there was the sound of a winnowing machine, the door was open, and clouds of dust were coming from it.In the doorway was standing Alehin himself, a man of forty, tall and stout, with long hair, more like a professor or an artist than a landowner."Last time we were in Prokofy's barn," said Burkin, "you were about to tell me a story." "Yes; I meant to tell you about my brother." Ivan Ivanovitch heaved a deep sigh and lighted a pipe to begin to tell his story, but just at that moment the rain began.And five minutes later heavy rain came down, covering the sky, and it was hard to tell when it would be over.While I was inspecting cattle at a railway-station, a cattle-dealer fell under an engine and had his leg cut off.We carried him into the waiting-room, the blood was flowing -- it was a horrible thing -- and he kept asking them to look for his leg and was very much worried about it; there were twenty roubles in the boot on the leg that had been cut off, and he was afraid they would be lost." "That's a story from a different opera," said Burkin.Gardening books and the agricultural hints in calendars were his delight, his favourite spiritual sustenance; he enjoyed reading newspapers, too, but the only things he read in them were the advertisements of so many acres of arable land and a grass meadow with farm-houses and buildings, a river, a garden, a mill and millponds, for sale.And his imagination pictured the garden-paths, flowers and fruit, starling cotes, the carp in the pond, and all that sort of thing, you know.Ivan Ivanovitch and Burkin were met in the house by a maid-servant, a young woman so beautiful that they both stood still and looked at one another. Our father, Tchimsha-Himalaisky, was a kantonist, but he rose to be an officer and left us a little estate and the rank of nobility. And, you know, whoever has once in his life caught perch or has seen the migrating of the thrushes in autumn, watched how they float in flocks over the village on bright, cool days, he will never be a real townsman, and will have a yearning for freedom to the day of his death. Years passed by, and he went on sitting in the same place, went on writing the same papers and thinking of one and the same thing -- how to get into the country."You can't imagine how delighted I am to see you, my friends," said Alehin, going into the hall with them. Pelagea," he said, addressing the girl, "give our visitors something to change into. Only I must first go and wash, for I almost think I have not washed since spring. and meanwhile they will get things ready here." Beautiful Pelagea, looking so refined and soft, brought them towels and soap, and Alehin went to the bath-house with his guests. After his death the little estate went in debts and legal expenses; but, anyway, we had spent our childhood running wild in the country. And this yearning by degrees passed into a definite desire, into a dream of buying himself a little farm somewhere on the banks of a river or a lake.