The Old Horse
In our village there was an old, old man, Pímen Timoféich. He was ninety years old. He was living at the house of his grandson, doing no work. His back was bent: he walked with a cane and moved his feet slowly.
He had no teeth at all, and his face was wrinkled. His nether lip trembled; when he walked and when he talked, his lips smacked, and one could not understand what he was saying.
We were four brothers, and we were fond of riding. But we had no gentle riding-horses. We were allowed to ride only on one horse,—the name of that horse was Raven.
One day mamma allowed us to ride, and all of us went with the valet to the stable. The coachman saddled Raven for us, and my eldest brother was the first to take a ride. He rode for a long time; he rode to the threshing-floor and around the garden, and when he came back, we shouted:
“Now gallop past us!”
My elder brother began to strike Raven with his feet and with the whip, and Raven galloped past us.
After him, my second brother mounted the horse. He, too, rode for quite awhile, and he, too, urged Raven on with the whip and galloped up the hill. He wanted to ride longer, but my third brother begged him to let him ride at once.
My third brother rode to the threshing-floor, and around the garden, and down the village, and raced up-hill to the stable. When he rode up to us Raven was panting, and his neck and shoulders were dark from sweat.
When my turn came, I wanted to surprise my brothers and to show them how well I could ride, so I began to drive Raven with all my might, but he did not want to get away from the stable. And no matter how much I beat him, he would not run, but only shied and turned back. I grew angry at the horse, and struck him as hard as I could with my feet and with the whip. I tried to strike him in places where it would hurt most; I broke the whip and began to strike his head with what was left of the whip. But Raven would not run. Then I turned back, rode up to the valet, and asked him for a stout switch. But the valet said to me:
“Don’t ride any more, sir! Get down! What use is there in torturing the horse?”
I felt offended, and said:
“But I have not had a ride yet. Just watch me gallop! Please, give me a good-sized switch! I will heat him up.”
Then the valet shook his head, and said:
“Oh, sir, you have no pity; why should you heat him up? He is twenty years old. The horse is worn out; he can barely breathe, and is old. He is so very old! Just like Pímen Timoféich. You might just as well sit down on Timoféich’s back and urge him on with a switch. Well, would you not pity him?”
I thought of Pímen, and listened to the valet’s words. I climbed down from the horse and, when I saw how his sweaty sides hung down, how he breathed heavily through his nostrils, and how he switched his bald tail, I understood that it was hard for the horse. Before that I used to think that it was as much fun for him as for me. I felt so sorry for Raven that I began to kiss his sweaty neck and to beg his forgiveness for having beaten him.
Since then I have grown to be a big man, and I always am careful with the horses, and always think of Raven and of Pímen Timoféich whenever I see anybody torture a horse.
From The Complete Works of Count Tolstóy, by Count Lev N. Tolstóy
Boston: Dana Estes & Company, 1904.