Melnik Alexei Biryukov, a huge, middle-aged man with a clumsy figure and face, smoking a pipe at the threshold of his house. Despite the cold and damp weather, he was dressed easily – apparently, his thick-skinned, “stale as a corn” body did not feel cold. Small, swollen eyes on his red, fleshy face looked sullenly sideways.
Near the mill two monks worked – they unloaded from the cart bags of rye brought for grinding. A completely drunk worker Biryukov was sitting nearby and pretended to fix the network.
After observing the work of the monks for a while, Biryukov began to quarrel with them. At first he grumbled for a long time that the monks were fishing in “his river”.
I’m in the village and you took the river from me, I pay you money, so my fish and no one has the full right to catch it. God pray, but you do not consider stealing for sin.
The monks objected that the miller paid only for the right to set up nets on
the monastery shore, and the river – it’s God’s and someone’s can not be. Biryukov did not stop, threatened to complain to the justice of the peace, showered monks with black swearing, promised to catch them for catching his fish and beat him. His hand on the ministers of God raised the miller more than once, that’s why the monks took the swearing in silence.
Having exhausted the “fish issue”, Biryukov switched to a drunken worker and began to honor him with such ugly words that one of the monks could not stand it and said that going to the mill was the most painful work in the monastery. You come to Biryukov – as if you fall into hell. And you can not go: there are no more mills in the district. Miller continued to swear.
It was evident that the grumbling and swearing constituted for him the same habit as the suction of a tube.
The miller was silent only when a small, round-eyed old woman appeared in a striped straw woman from a strange shoulder on the dam. It was the miller’s mother. She missed her son, whom she had not seen for a long time, but
Biryukov did not show much joy and declared that it was time for him to leave.
The old woman started complaining about poverty. She lived with her younger son, a bitter drunk, six in one room. There are not enough grants for food, the children are starving, and there she is, too, old, sitting on her neck. And Aleshenka, her eldest son, still single, does not care about him. So can it really help his brother and four nephews?
Biryukov listened to his mother, was silent and looked away. Realizing that the son does not give money, the old woman began to ask for a neighbor, whom Biryukov took rye for grinding, but did not give it. Miller advised his mother not to interfere in other people’s affairs. The old woman sighed: her son is all good to everyone – both handsome and rich, but he has no heart. Forever gloomy, unfriendly, “like some kind of beast.” And the rumors about him are bad, as if he robbed his passports at night and steals horses. Biryukov’s mill is considered a damned place, “the girls and the boys are close to being afraid” and call the miller Cain and Herod.
Wherever you set foot – the grass does not grow, where you can not breathe – the fly does not fly.
These speeches did not work for the miller, he was going to leave and began to harness the drogs, and his mother walked around looking at his son in the face. Biryukov was already pulling on the caftan, when his mother remembered that he had brought him a hotel – a small peppermint gingerbread that she had been treated to from a deaconess. Miller pushed his mother’s hand away, the carrot fell into the dust, and the old woman “silently trudged to the dam.”
The monks in horror shook their hands, and even the worker sobered up. Maybe the miller noticed the painful impression he had made, or maybe “a feeling that had long since fallen asleep in his chest,” but his face reflected a sort of fright. He overtook his mother, dug for a long time in a purse full of bills and silver, found the smallest coin – a twenty-penny one – and, turning purple, handed it to the old woman.