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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll


Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman


The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller


The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


Hadji Murad

by Leo Tolstoy (graf)

Excerpt:

"But what energy and tenacity! With what determination it defended itself, and how dearly it sold its life!" thought I to myself, recollecting the effort it had cost me to pluck the flower. The way home led across blackearth fields that had just been ploughed up. I ascended the dusty path. The ploughed field belonged to a landed proprietor, and was so large that on both sides and before me to the top of the hill nothing was visible but evenly furrowed and moist earth. The land was well tilled, and nowhere was there a blade of grass or any kind of plant to be seen; it was all black. "Ah, what a destructive creature is man. . * . How many different plant-lives he destroys to support his own existence!" thought I, involuntarily looking round for some living thing in this lifeless black field. In front of me, to the right of the road, I saw some kind of little clump, and drawing nearer I found it was the same kind of thistle as that which I had vainly plucked and thrown away. This "Tartar" plant had three branches. One was broken, and stuck out like the stump of a mutilated arm. Each of the other two bore a

flower, once red but now blackened. One stalk was broken and half of it hung down with a soiled flower at its tip. The other, though also soiled with black mud, still stood erect. Evidently a cartwheel had passed over the plant, but it had risen again and that was why, though erect, it stood twisted to one side, as if a piece of its body had been torn from it, its bowels had been drawn out, an arm torn off, and one of its eyes plucked out; and yet it stood firm and did not surrender to man, who had destroyed all its brothers around it. ...

"What energy!" I thought. "Man has conquered everything, and destroyed millions of plants, yet this one won't submit." And I remembered a Caucasian episode of years ago, which I had partly seen myself, partly heard of from eye-witnesses, and in part imagined.

The episode, as it has taken shape in my memory and imagination, was as follows.

* * • * *

This happened towards the end of 1851. On a cold November evening Hadji Murad rode into Makhmet, a hostile Chechen aoul? that was filled with the scented smoke of burning kizydk,3 and that lay some fifteen miles from Russian territory. The strained chant of the muezzin had just ceased, and through the clear mountain air, impregnated with kizydk smoke, above the lowing of the cattle and the bleating of the sheep that were dispersing among the sdklyas * (which were crowded together like the cells of a honeycomb), could be clearly heard the guttural voices of disputing men, and sounds of women's and children's voices rising from near the fountain below.

2 Aoul, Tartar village.

This was Hadji Murad, Shamil's na'ib,5 famous for his exploits, who used never to ride out without his banner, and was always accompanied by some dozens of murids, who caracoled and showed off before him. Now, with one murid only, wrapped in hood and burkaf from under which protruded a rifle, he rode, a fugitive, trying to attract as little attention as possible, and peering with his quick black eyes into the faces of those he met on his way.

8 Kisydk, fuel made of straw and manure. * Sdklya, a Caucasian house, clay plastered and often built of earth.

t-Na'ib, lieutenant or governor. «BurIca, a long, round felt cape. i Beshmet, a Tartar undergarment with sleeves.

When he entered the aoul, Hadji Murad did not ride up the road leading to the open square, but turned to the left into a narrow side street; and on reaching the second sdklya, which was cut into the hillside, he stopped and looked round. There was no one under the penthouse in front; but on the roof of the sdklya itself, behind the freshly-plastered clay chimney, lay a man covered with a sheepskin. Hadji Murad touched him with the handle of his leatherplaited whip, and clicked his tongue. An old man rose from under the sheepskin. He had on a greasy old beshmet7 and a nightcap. His moist red eyelids had no lashes, and he blinked to get them unstuck. Hadji Murad, repeating the customary "Selaam aleikum!" uncovered his face. "Aleikum, selaam!" said the old man, recognising Hadji Murad and smiling with his toothless mouth; and rising up on his thin legs, he began thrusting his feet into the wooden-heeled slippers that stood by the chimney. Then he leisurely slipped his arms into the sleeves of his crumpled sheepskin, and going to the ladder that leant against the roof, he


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