What Men Live By - Part II
Simon approached the stranger, looked at him, and saw that he was a young man, fit, with no bruises on his body, only evidently freezing and frightened, and he sat there leaning back without looking up at Simon, as if too faint to lift his eyes. Simon went close to him, and then the man seemed to wake up. Turning his head, he opened his eyes and looked into Simon’s face. That one look was enough to make Simon fond of the man. He threw the felt boots on the ground, undid his sash, laid it on the boots, and took off his cloth coat.
“It’s not a time for talking,” said he. “Come, put this coat on at once!” And Simon took the man by the elbows and helped him to rise. As he stood there, Simon saw that his body was clean and in good condition, his hands and feet shapely, and his face good and kind. He threw his coat over the man’s shoulders, but the latter could not find the sleeves. Simon guided his arms into them, and drawing the coat well on, wrapped it closely about him, tying the sash round the man’s waist.
Simon even took off his torn cap to put it on the man’s head, but then his own head felt cold, and he thought: “I’m quite bald, while he has long curly hair.” So he put his cap on his own head again. “It will be better to give him something for his feet,” thought he; and he made the man sit down, and helped him to put on the felt boots, saying, “There, friend, now move about and warm yourself. Other matters can be settled later on. Can you walk?”
The man stood up and looked kindly at Simon, but could not say a word.
“Why don’t you speak?” said Simon. “It’s too cold to stay here, we must be getting home. There now, take my stick, and if you’re feeling weak, lean on that. Now step out!”
The man started walking, and moved easily, not lagging behind.
As they went along, Simon asked him, “And where do you belong to?” “I’m not from these parts.”
“I thought as much. I know the folks hereabouts. But, how did you come to be there by the shrine?”
“I cannot tell.”
“Has some one been ill-treating you?”
“No one has ill-treated me. God has punished me.”
“Of course God rules all. Still, you’ll have to find food and shelter somewhere. Where do you want to go to?”
“It is all the same to me.”
Simon was amazed. The man did not look like a rogue, and he spoke gently, but yet he gave no account of himself. Still Simon thought, “Who knows what may have happened?” And he said to the stranger: “Well then, come home with me, and at least warm yourself awhile.”
So Simon walked towards his home, and the stranger kept up with him, walking at his side. The wind had risen and Simon felt it cold under his shirt. He was getting over his tipsiness by now, and began to feel the frost. He went along sniffling and wrapping his wife’s coat round him, and he thought to himself: “There now—talk about sheep-skins! I went out for sheep-skins and come home without even a coat to my back, and what is more, I’m bringing a naked man along with me. Matryona won’t be pleased!” And when he thought of his wife he felt sad; but when he looked at the stranger and remembered how he had looked up at him at the shrine, his heart was glad.