A DAY IN THE COUNTRY
BY ANTON CHEKHOV
BETWEEN eight and nine o'clock in the morning.
A dark leaden-colored mass is creeping over the sky toward the
sun. Red zigzags of lightning gleam here and there across it.
There is a sound of far-away rumbling. A warm wind frolics over
the grass, bends the trees, and stirs up the dust. In a minute
there will be a spurt of May rain and a real storm will begin.
Fyokla, a little beggar-girl of six, is running through the
village, looking for Terenty the cobbler. The white-haired,
barefoot child is pale. Her eyes are wide-open, her lips are
"Uncle, where is Terenty?" she asks everyone she meets. No one
answers. They are all preoccupied with the approaching storm and
take refuge in their huts. At last she meets Silanty Silitch, the
sacristan, Terenty's bosom friend. He is coming along, staggering
from the wind.
"Uncle, where is Terenty?"
"At the kitchen gardens," answers Silanty.
The beggar-girl runs behind the huts to the kitchen gardens and
there finds Terenty; the tall old man with a thin, pockmarked
face, very long legs, and bare feet, dressed in a woman's tattered
jacket, is standing near the vegetable plots, looking with drowsy,
drunken eyes at the dark storm-cloud. On his long crane-like legs
he sways in the wind like a starling cote.
"Uncle Terenty!" the white-headed beggar-girl addresses him. "Uncle,
Terenty bends down to Fyokla, and his grim, drunken face is
overspread with a smile, such as come into people's faces when
they look at something little, foolish, and absurd, but warmly
"Ah! servant of God, Fyokla," he says, lisping tenderly, "where
have you come from?"
"Uncle Terenty," says Fyokla, with a sob, tugging at the lapel of
the cobbler's coat. "Brother Danilka has had an accident! Come
"What sort of accident? Ough, what thunder! Holy, holy, holy . . .
What sort of accident?"
"In the count's copse Danilka stuck his hand into a hole in a tree,
and he can't get it out. Come along, Uncle, do be kind and pull his
"How was it he put his hand in? What for?"
"He wanted to get a cuckoo's egg out of the hole for me."
"The day has hardly begun and already you are in trouble . . ."
Terenty shook his head and spat deliberately. "Well, what am I to
do with you now? I must come . . . I must, may the wolf gobble you
up, you naughty children! Come, little orphan!"
Terenty comes out of the kitchen garden and, lifting high his long
legs, begins striding down the village street. He walks quickly
without stopping or looking from side to side, as though he were
shoved from behind or afraid of pursuit. Fyokla can hardly keep up
They come out of the village and turn along the dusty road toward
the count's copse that lies dark blue in the distance. It is about
a mile and a half away. The clouds have by now covered the sun,
and soon afterwards there is not a speck of blue left in the sky.
It grows dark.
"Holy, holy, holy . . ." whispers Fyokla, hurrying after Terenty.
The first raindrops, big and heavy, lie, dark dots on the dusty
road. A big drop falls on Fyokla's cheek and glides like a tear
down her chin.
"The rain has begun," mutters the cobbler, kicking up the dust with
his bare, bony feet. "That's fine, Fyokla, old girl. The grass and
the trees are fed by the rain, as we are by bread. And as for the
thunder, don't you be frightened, little orphan. Why should it kill
a little thing like you?"
As soon as the rain begins, the wind drops. The only sound is the
patter of rain dropping like fine shot on the young rye and the
"We shall get soaked, Fyolka," mutters Terenty. "There won't be a
dry spot left on us. . . . Ho-ho, my girl! It's run down my neck!
But don't be frightened, silly. . . . The grass will be dry again,
the earth will be dry again, and we shall be dry again. There is
the same sun for us all."
A flash of lightning, some fourteen feet long, gleams above their
heads. There is a loud peal of thunder, and it seems to Fyokla that
something big, heavy, and round is rolling over the sky and tearing
it open, exactly over her head.
"Holy, holy, holy . . ." says Terenty, crossing himself. "Don't be
afraid, little orphan! It is not from spite that it thunders."
Terenty's and Fyokla's feet are covered with lumps of heavy, wet
clay. It is slippery and difficult to walk, but Terenty strides on
more and more rapidly. The weak little beggar girl is breathless
and ready to drop.
But at last they go into the count's copse. The washed trees,
stirred by a gust of wind, drop a perfect waterfall upon them.
Terenty stumbles over stumps and begins to slacken his pace.
"Whereabouts is Danilka?" he asks. "Lead me to him."
Fyokla leads him into a thicket, and, after going a quarter of a
mile, points to Danilka. Her brother, a little fellow of eight,
with hair as red as ocher and a pale, sickly face, stands leaning
against a tree, and, with his head on one side, looking sideways
at the sky. In one hand he holds his shabby old cap, the other is
hidden in an old lime tree. The boy is gazing at the stormy sky,
and apparently not thinking of his trouble. Hearing footsteps and
seeing the cobbler he gives a sickly smile and says:
"A terrible lot of thunder, Terenty. . . . I've never heard so
much thunder in all my life."
"And where is your hand?"
"In the hole. . . . Pull it out, please, Terenty!"
The wood had broken at the edge of the hole and jammed Danilka's
hand; he could push it farther in, but could not pull it out.
Terenty snaps off the broken piece, and the boy's hand, red and
crushed, is released.
"It's terrible how it's thundering," the boy says again, rubbing
his hand. "What makes it thunder, Terenty?"
"One cloud runs against the other," answers the cobbler. The party
come out of the copse, and walk along the edge of it toward the
darkened road. The thunder gradually abates, and its rumbling is
heard far away beyond the village.
"The ducks flew by here the other day, Terenty," says Danilka, still
rubbing his hand. "They must be nesting in the Gniliya Zaimishtcha
marshes. . . . Fyolka, would you like me to show you a nightingale's
"Don't touch it, you might disturb them," says Terenty, wringing
the water out of his cap. "The nightingale is a singing bird,
without sin. He has had a voice given him in his throat, to praise
God and gladden the heart of man. It's a sin to disturb him."
"What about the sparrow?"
"The sparrow doesn't matter, he's a bad, spiteful bird. He is like
a pickpocket in his ways. He doesn't like man to be happy. When
Christ was crucified it was the sparrow brought nails to the Jews,
and called 'alive! alive!'"
A bright patch of blue appears in the sky.
"Look!" says Terenty. "An ant heap burst open by the rain! They've
been flooded, the rogues!"
They bend over the ant heap. The downpour has damaged it; the insects
are scurrying to and fro in the mud, agitated, and busily trying
to carry away their drowned companions.
"You needn't be in such a taking, you won't die of it!" says Terenty,
grinning. "As soon as the sun warms you, you'll come to your senses
again. . . . It's a lesson to you, you stupids. You won't settle
on low ground another time."
They go on.
"And here are some bees," cries Danilka, pointing to the branch of
a young oak tree.
The drenched and chilled bees are huddled together on the branch.
There are so many of them that neither bark nor leaf can be seen.
Many of them are settled on one another.
"That's a swarm of bees," Terenty informs them. "They were flying
looking for a home, and when the rain came down upon them they
settled. If a swarm is flying, you need only sprinkle water on them
to make them settle. Now if, say, you wanted to take the swarm, you
would bend the branch with them into a sack and shake it, and they
all fall in."
Little Fyokla suddenly frowns and rubs her neck vigorously. Her
brother looks at her neck, and sees a big swelling on it.
"Hey-hey!" laughs the cobbler. "Do you know where you got that from,
Fyokla, old girl? There are Spanish flies on some tree in the wood.
The rain has trickled off them, and a drop has fallen on your neck
--that's what has made the swelling."
The sun appears from behind the clouds and floods the wood, the
fields, and the three friends with its warm light. The dark menacing
cloud has gone far away and taken the storm with it. The air is
warm and fragrant. There is a scent of bird-cherry, meadowsweet,
"That herb is given when your nose bleeds," says Terenty, pointing
to a woolly-looking flower. "It does good."
They hear a whistle and a rumble, but not such a rumble as the
storm clouds carried away. A goods train races by before the eyes
of Terenty, Danilka, and Fyokla. The engine, panting and puffing
out black smoke, drags more than twenty vans after it. Its power
is tremendous. The children are interested to know how an engine,
not alive and without the help of horses, can move and drag such
weights, and Terenty undertakes to explain it to them:
"It's all the steam's doing, children. . . . The steam does the
work. . . . You see, it shoves under that thing near the wheels,
and it . . . you see . . . it works . . ."
They cross the railway line, and, going down from the embankment,
walk toward the river. They walk not with any object, but just at
random, and talk all the way . . . Danilka asks questions, Terenty
Terenty answers all his questions, and there is no secret in nature
which baffles him. He knows everything. Thus, for example, he knows
the names of all the wild flowers, animals, and stones. He knows
what herbs cure diseases, he has no difficulty in telling the age
of a horse or a cow. Looking at the sunset, at the moon, or the
birds, he can tell what sort of weather it will be next day. And
indeed, it is not only Terenty who is so wise. Silanty Silich, the
innkeeper, the market-gardener, the shepherd, and all the villagers,
generally speaking, know as much as he does. These people have
learned not from books, but in the fields, in the wood, on the
riverbank. Their teachers have been the birds themselves, when
they sang to them, the sun when it left a glow of crimson behind
it at setting, the very trees, and wild herbs.
Danilka looks at Terenty and greedily drinks in every word. In
spring, before one is weary of the warmth and the monotonous green
of the fields, when everything is fresh and full of fragrance,
who would not want to hear about the golden May beetles, about
the cranes, about the gurgling streams, and the corn mounting
The two of them, the cobbler and the orphan, walk about the fields,
talk unceasingly, and are not weary. They could wander about the
world endlessly. They walk, and in their talk of the beauty of the
earth do not notice the frail little beggar girl tripping after
them. She is breathless and moves with a lagging step. There are
tears in her eyes; she would be glad to stop these inexhaustible
wanderers, but to whom and where can she go? She has no home or
people of her own; whether she likes it or not, she must walk and
listen to their talk.
Toward midday, all three sit down on the riverbank. Danilka takes
out of his bag a piece of bread, soaked and reduced to a mash,
and they begin to eat. Terenty says a prayer when he has eaten the
bread, then stretches himself on the sandy bank and falls asleep.
While he is asleep, the boy gazes at the water, pondering. He has
many different things to think of. He has just seen the storm, the
bees, the ants, the train. Now, before his eyes, fishes are whisking
about. Some are two inches long and more, others are no bigger than
one's nail. A viper, with its head held high, is swimming from one
bank to the other.
Only toward the evening our wanderers return to the village. The
children go for the night to a deserted barn, where the corn of the
commune used to be kept, while Terenty, leaving them, goes to the
tavern. The children lie huddled together on the straw, dozing.
The boy does not sleep. He gazes into the darkness, and it seems
to him that he is seeing all that he has seen in the day: the
storm clouds, the bright sunshine, the birds, the fish, lanky
Terenty. The number of his impressions, together with exhaustion
and hunger, are too much for him; he is as hot as though he were
on fire, and tosses from, side to side. He longs to tell someone
all that is haunting him now in the darkness and agitating his
soul, but there is no one to tell. Fyokla is too little and could
"I'll tell Terenty tomorrow," thinks the boy.
The children fall asleep, thinking of the homeless cobbler, and,
in the night, Terenty comes to them, makes the sign of the cross
over them, and puts bread under their heads. And no one sees his
love. It is seen only by the moon which floats in the sky and
peeps caressingly through the holes in the wall of the deserted
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~