On a fine July day I hunted for black grouses in the Chern district of the Tula province. It was already evening when I decided to return home. I climbed the hill and instead of the familiar places I saw a narrow valley, opposite the wall a towering aspen rose. I went along the aspen tree, rounded the hill and found myself in a ravine. It looked like a cauldron with sloping sides, at the bottom of it there were a few large white stones – it seemed they had crept there for a secret meeting. In the valley it was so deaf and dejected that my heart sank.
I realized that I had finally lost my way and decided to follow the stars. Suddenly I saw a huge plain underneath, which was swirled around by a wide river. Directly beneath me in the darkness burned and smoked two bonfires. I realized that I went to Bezhin Meadow. My legs were shaking with fatigue. I went down to the campfires and found the children who took the horses to the night.
I lay down and watched the boys. From
the conversations I realized that they were called Fedya, Pavlusha, Ilyusha, Kostya and Vanya. The oldest of them, Fedya, was 14 years old. It was a slender, handsome boy who, judging by his clothes, belonged to a wealthy family. Pavlusha had an unpleasant appearance, but his eyes were intelligent and direct, and his voice sounded powerful. The eloquent, elongated and furtive face of Ilyusha expressed dull care. And he and Pavlusha were no more than 12 years old. Kostya, a small, frail boy of about 10, struck a thoughtful and sad look. Vanya, who had eaten on the sidelines, was only 7 years old.
I pretended to be asleep, and the boys continued the conversation. Ilyusha began to talk about how he had to spend the night with the company of the guys at a paper mill. Suddenly, someone was stomping up, then he went down the stairs, approached the door. The door flew open, and behind it – no one. And then suddenly someone coughs up. I scared the house boys.
A new story began Kostya. Once the carpenter Gavrila went into the woods for nuts and lost his way. It’s getting dark. Gavrila sat down under
a tree and dozed off. He woke up because someone was calling him. Gavrila watches – and on the tree the mermaid sits, calls him to him and laughs. Gavrila took and crossed himself. The mermaid stopped laughing, she began to cry plaintively. Gavril asked why she was crying. She cries because Gavrila has crossed herself – the mermaid answered. If he had not been baptized, he would have been happy with her, and now he will be crying even to the end of the day. Since then, Gavrila the unhappy is walking.
In the distance there was a long sound, in the forest they responded with a thin laughter. The boys jumped and crossed themselves. Ilyusha told a story that happened on a broken dam, an unclean place. Once upon a time there was buried a drowned man. Once an orderly sent a hacker Ermil to the post office. He returned through the dam late at night. Suddenly sees Ermil: on the grave of a drowned man a white sheep is sitting. I decided to take him with me. The lamb does not break out of his hands, only looks into his eyes. Ermila became terrible, he was ironing lamb and said: “Byasha, byasha!”. A lamb pointed his teeth, and answered him: “Byasha, byasha!”.
Suddenly the dogs barked and rushed away. Pavlusha rushed after them. Soon he returned and said that the dogs smelled the wolf. I was amazed at the courage of the boy. Ilyusha meanwhile told how the deceased master, who was looking for a rift-grass, was greeted in an unclean place-it was a very grave that was pressing him. The next story was about the woman Ulyana, who went to the parental Saturday night at the porch to find out who would die this year. Looks – the woman is coming; I looked closely, and this is herself, Ulyana. Then Ilyusha told a story about the amazing man Trishka, who will come during a solar eclipse.
After a pause, the boys began to discuss how the woodpecker differs from watering. Kostya talked about the boy who was dragged under the water by the water. The children fell asleep just before sunrise. In the same year Paul was killed by falling from a horse.