In the Surovsky district there was no railway nor service of
post horses, and Levin drove there with his own horses in his
big, old-fashioned carriage.
He stopped halfway at a well-to-do peasant's to feed his horses.
A bald, well-preserved old man, with a broad, red beard, gray on
his cheeks, opened the gate, squeezing against the gatepost to
let the three horses pass. Directing the coachman to a place
under the shed in the big, clean, tidy yard, with charred,
old-fashioned ploughs in it, the old man asked Levin to come into
the parlor. A cleanly dressed young woman, with clogs on her
bare feet, was scrubbing the floor in the new outer room. She
was frightened of the dog, that ran in after Levin, and uttered a
shriek, but began laughing at her own fright at once when she was
told the dog would not hurt her. Pointing Levin with her bare
arm to the door into the parlor, she bent down again, hiding her
handsome face, and went on scrubbing.
"Would you like the samovar?" she asked.
The parlor was a big room, with a Dutch stove, and a screen
dividing it into two. Under the holy pictures stood a table
painted in patterns, a bench, and two chairs. Near the entrance
was a dresser full of crockery. The shutters were closed, there
were few flies, and it was so clean that Levin was anxious that
Laska, who had been running along the road and bathing in
puddles, should not muddy the floor, and ordered her to a place
in the corner by the door. After looking round the parlor, Levin
went out in the back yard. The good-looking young woman in
clogs, swinging the empty pails on the yoke, ran on before him to
the well for water.
"Look sharp, my girl!" the old man shouted after her,
good-humoredly, and he went up to Levin. "Well, sir, are you
going to Nikolay Ivanovitch Sviazhsky? His honor comes to us
too," he began, chatting, leaning his elbows on the railing of
the steps. In the middle of the old man's account of his
acquaintance with Sviazhsky, the gates creaked again, and
laborers came into the yard from the fields, with wooden ploughs
and harrows. The horses harnessed to the ploughs and harrows
were sleek and fat. The laborers were obviously of the
household: two were young men in cotton shirts and caps, the two
others were hired laborers in homespun shirts, one an old man,
the other a young fellow. Moving off from the steps, the old man
went up to the horses and began unharnessing them.