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The Story of Tim   By: (1859-1937)

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Translated from the Russian BY GEORGE BORROW



The Russians have three grand popular tales, the subjects of which are thievish adventures. One is called the Story of Klim , another is called the Story of Tim , and the third is called the Story of Tom . Below we present a translation of the Story of Tim .

That part of the tale in which Tim inquires of the drowsy Archimandrite as to the person to whom the stolen pelisse is to be awarded, differs in no material point from a portion of a tale narrated in the Turkish story book of the lady and the forty vizirs. The concluding part, however, in which we are told how Tim’s comrades twice stole the pig from him, and how he twice regained it, is essentially Russian, and is original.


In a certain village there lived an old man who had lost almost the whole of his hair, partly from age, and partly from the friction of his fur cap, which he never laid aside, either by day or night. He had a helpmeet as ancient as himself, but who differed from him in having a hump. Our story, however, does not relate to them, but to a son of theirs, called Timoney, who was a sharp lad enough, but who had learnt nothing but to play on the fife. The old man thinking that music, however sweet, would never fill the belly, and that it was quite impossible to live on an empty stomach, determined to have the boy taught some trade, but ere fixing on what it should be, he deemed it expedient to consult his old woman on the subject; and, accordingly, requested her opinion, adding that he would wish to see the boy either a blacksmith, or a tailor.

“No!” cried the old woman. “I’ll have him neither the one nor the other. The blacksmith by always going amidst fire and soot is so begrimed that he looks rather like a devil than a man. Would you make a monster of him? As for a tailor—I don’t deny that tailoring is a rare art, but sitting doubled up, in a little time brings on a consumption.”

“Then what would you make of him?” cried the old man.

“Make of him?” said she; “why a goldsmith or a painter, or something similar.”

“And do you know,” said the old man, “how much money one must lay down to have him bound either to a goldsmith or a painter? Why he would swallow up all we have, or more.”

They disputed so long, that they almost came to blows. The old woman had already armed herself with the fire pan. At last, however, they agreed to bind their son to the first master they should meet, whatever his trade might be. So the old man, taking with him the sum of ten roubles, which he destined for the binding his son out as an apprentice, set out leading Tim by the hand. It happened, that the first people he met were two born brothers, who maintained themselves by levying taxes on the highway, and besides being tax gatherers were expert tailors, using their needles so adroitly, that with a stitch or two they could make for themselves a coat or mantle; in plain language, they were robbers.

The old man, after saluting them, said:

“Are you craftsmen?”

“Oh, yes! and very skilful ones,” replied the highwaymen.

“And what may be your trade?” inquired the old man.

“What is that to you?” they replied.

“Why, I wish to give my son a trade,” said the old man.

“Oh! we will take your son with pleasure,” they cried, “and instruct him in what we understand ourselves. As for our trade, we have particular reasons for not telling you what it is. Know, however, that you will never repent entrusting your son to our hands.”

“But what must I give you for your trouble, good people?” cried the old man... Continue reading book >>

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