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03-A LOST OPPORTUNITY

By Sam Hill,2015-03-03 07:15
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03-A LOST OPPORTUNITY A LOST OPPORTUNITY. "THEN CAME PETER TO HIM, AND SAID, LORD, HOW OFT SHALL MY BROTHER ...

     A LOST OPPORTUNITY.

    "Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother

    sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" . . . .

    "So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye

    from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their

trespasses."--ST. MATTHEW xviii., 21-35.

    In a certain village there lived a peasant by the name of Ivan

    Scherbakoff. He was prosperous, strong, and vigorous, and was

    considered the hardest worker in the whole village. He had three

    sons, who supported themselves by their own labor. The eldest

    was married, the second about to be married, and the youngest

    took care of the horses and occasionally attended to the

plowing.

    The peasant's wife, Ivanovna, was intelligent and industrious,

    while her daughter-in-law was a simple, quiet soul, but a hard

worker.

    There was only one idle person in the household, and that was

    Ivan's father, a very old man who for seven years had suffered

    from asthma, and who spent the greater part of his time lying on

the brick oven.

    Ivan had plenty of everything--three horses, with one colt, a cow

    with calf, and fifteen sheep. The women made the men's clothes,

    and in addition to performing all the necessary household labor,

    also worked in the field; while the men's industry was confined

altogether to the farm.

    What was left of the previous year's supply of provisions was

    ample for their needs, and they sold a quantity of oats

sufficient to pay their taxes and other expenses.

Thus life went smoothly for Ivan.

    The peasant's next-door neighbor was a son of Gordey Ivanoff,

    called "Gavryl the Lame." It once happened that Ivan had a

    quarrel with him; but while old man Gordey was yet alive, and

    Ivan's father was the head of the household, the two peasants

    lived as good neighbors should. If the women of one house

    required the use of a sieve or pail, they borrowed it from the

    inmates of the other house. The same condition of affairs

    existed between the men. They lived more like one family, the

    one dividing his possessions with the other, and perfect harmony

reigned between the two families.

    If a stray calf or cow invaded the garden of one of the farmers,

    the other willingly drove it away, saying: "Be careful, neighbor,

    that your stock does not again stray into my garden; we should

    put a fence up." In the same way they had no secrets from each

    other. The doors of their houses and barns had neither bolts nor

    locks, so sure were they of each other's honesty. Not a shadow

of suspicion darkened their daily intercourse.

Thus lived the old people.

    In time the younger members of the two households started

    farming. It soon became apparent that they would not get along

    as peacefully as the old people had done, for they began

quarrelling without the slightest provocation.

    A hen belonging to Ivan's daughter-in-law commenced laying eggs,

    which the young woman collected each morning, intending to keep

    them for the Easter holidays. She made daily visits to the barn,

    where, under an old wagon, she was sure to find the precious egg.

    One day the children frightened the hen and she flew over their

neighbor's fence and laid her egg in their garden.

    Ivan's daughter-in-law heard the hen cackling, but said: "I am

    very busy just at present, for this is the eve of a holy day, and

    I must clean and arrange this room. I will go for the egg later

on."

    When evening came, and she had finished her task, she went to the

    barn, and as usual looked under the old wagon, expecting to find

    an egg. But, alas! no egg was visible in the accustomed place.

    Greatly disappointed, she returned to the house and inquired of

    her mother-in-law and the other members of the family if they had

    taken it. "No," they said, "we know nothing of it."

    Taraska, the youngest brother-in-law, coming in soon after, she

    also inquired of him if he knew anything about the missing egg.

    "Yes," he replied; "your pretty, crested hen laid her egg in our

    neighbors' garden, and after she had finished cackling she flew

back again over the fence."

    The young woman, greatly surprised on hearing this, turned and

    looked long and seriously at the hen, which was sitting with

    closed eyes beside the rooster in the chimney-corner. She asked

    the hen where it laid the egg. At the sound of her voice it

    simply opened and closed its eyes, but could make no answer.

    She then went to the neighbors' house, where she was met by an

    old woman, who said: "What do you want, young woman?"

    Ivan's daughter-in-law replied: "You see, babushka [grandmother],

    my hen flew into your yard this morning. Did she not lay an egg

there?"

    "We did not see any," the old woman replied; "we have our own

    hens--God be praised!--and they have been laying for this long

    time. We hunt only for the eggs our own hens lay, and have no

    use for the eggs other people's hens lay. Another thing I want

    to tell you, young woman: we do not go into other people's yards

to look for eggs."

    Now this speech greatly angered the young woman, and she replied

    in the same spirit in which she had been spoken to, only using

    much stronger language and speaking at greater length.

    The neighbor replied in the same angry manner, and finally the

    women began to abuse each other and call vile names. It happened

    that old Ivan's wife, on her way to the well for water, heard the

    dispute, and joined the others, taking her daughter-in-law's

part.

    Gavryl's housekeeper, hearing the noise, could not resist the

    temptation to join the rest and to make her voice heard. As soon

    as she appeared on the scene, she, too, began to abuse her

    neighbor, reminding her of many disagreeable things which had

    happened (and many which had not happened) between them. She

    became so infuriated during her denunciations that she lost all

    control of herself, and ran around like some mad creature.

    Then all the women began to shout at the same time, each trying

    to say two words to another's one, and using the vilest language

in the quarreller's vocabulary.

    "You are such and such," shouted one of the women. "You are a

    thief, a schlukha [a mean, dirty, low creature]; your

    father-in-law is even now starving, and you have no shame. You

    beggar, you borrowed my sieve and broke it. You made a large

hole in it, and did not buy me another."

    "You have our scale-beam," cried another woman, "and must give it

    back to me;" whereupon she seized the scale-beam and tried to

remove it from the shoulders of Ivan's wife.

    In the melee which followed they upset the pails of water. They

    tore the covering from each other's head, and a general fight

ensued.

    Gavryl's wife had by this time joined in the fracas, and he,

    crossing the field and seeing the trouble, came to her rescue.

    Ivan and his son, seeing that their womenfolk were being badly

    used, jumped into the midst of the fray, and a fearful fight

followed.

    Ivan was the most powerful peasant in all the country round, and

    it did not take him long to disperse the crowd, for they flew in

    all directions. During the progress of the fight Ivan tore out a

large quantity of Gavryl's beard.

    By this time a large crowd of peasants had collected, and it was

    with the greatest difficulty that they persuaded the two families

to stop quarrelling.

This was the beginning.

    Gavryl took the portion of his beard which Ivan had torn out,

    and, wrapping it in a paper, went to the volostnoye (moujiks'

court) and entered a complaint against Ivan.

    Holding up the hair, he said, "I did not grow this for that bear

Ivan to tear out!"

    Gavryl's wife went round among the neighbors, telling them that

    they must not repeat what she told them, but that she and her

    husband were going to get the best of Ivan, and that he was to be

sent to Siberia.

And so the quarrelling went on.

    The poor old grandfather, sick with asthma and lying on the brick

    oven all the time, tried from the first to dissuade them from

    quarrelling, and begged of them to live in peace; but they would

    not listen to his good advice. He said to them: "You children

    are making a great fuss and much trouble about nothing. I beg of

    you to stop and think of what a little thing has caused all this

    trouble. It has arisen from only one egg. If our neighbors'

    children picked it up, it is all right. God bless them! One egg

    is of but little value, and without it God will supply sufficient

for all our needs."

    Ivan's daughter-in-law here interposed and said, "But they called

us vile names."

    The old grandfather again spoke, saying: "Well, even if they did

    call you bad names, it would have been better to return good for

    evil, and by your example show them how to speak better. Such

    conduct on your part would have been best for all concerned." He

    continued: "Well, you had a fight, you wicked people. Such

    things sometimes happen, but it would be better if you went

    afterward and asked forgiveness and buried your grievances out of

    sight. Scatter them to the four winds of heaven, for if you do

    not do so it will be the worse for you in the end."

    The younger members of the family, still obstinate, refused to

    profit by the old man's advice, and declared he was not right,

    and that he only liked to grumble in his old-fashioned way.

    Ivan refused to go to his neighbor, as the grandfather wished,

    saying: "I did not tear out Gavryl's beard. He did it himself,

    and his son tore my shirt and trousers into shreds."

    Ivan entered suit against Gavryl. He first went to the village

    justice, and not getting satisfaction from him he carried his

case to the village court.

    While the neighbors were wrangling over the affair, each suing

    the other, it happened that a perch-bolt from Gavryl's wagon was

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