Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov (Penguin Classics) by Robert Chandler

Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov (Penguin Classics) by Robert Chandler

Author:Robert Chandler
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780141392547
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Published: 2012-12-06T00:00:00+00:00

The Stone Flower

Mramorskoye was not the only place renowned for its stoneworkers. They say that our towns too had their share of craftsmen. The only difference being that our men worked mostly with malachite, as it was plentiful enough, and scarce a higher grade to be found. Now, out of this malachite they produced some beautiful pieces. Such rare trinkets that you’d be struck with wonder: how ever did they manage that?

There was at that time a master craftsman called Prokopich. The best in the trade; no one could surpass him. But he was getting on in years.

And so the squire went and ordered his steward to send some young lads to train with this Prokopich: ‘Let him hand them down his art, to the finest detail.’

Only Prokopich – perhaps loath to share his skills, perhaps for some other reason – taught poorly indeed. He was nothing but roughness and wallops. He would plaster a lad’s head with bumps, he’d fair rip off his ears, and then he’d say to the steward, ‘This one’s no good … His eye is poor, he has a clumsy hand. He’s not got it in him.’

The steward evidently had orders to keep Prokopich happy.

‘If he’s no good, then he’s no good … We’ll give you another.’ And he’d send him a new boy.

The kids got to hear about Prokopich’s teaching methods. Early in the morning they’d start wailing away, desperate to avoid being sent to him. Nor did the fathers and mothers much like handing over their beloved children to such vain torment, and they began to cover for them as best they could. And besides, this malachite craft was an unhealthy business. The malachite was sheer poison. It was no surprise that people tried to shield their kids.

The steward, nevertheless, minded the squire’s instructions and kept on sending apprentices to Prokopich. And Prokopich would torture the lads in his usual way, then send them back to the steward: ‘This one’s no good …’

The steward started to get mad at him: ‘How much longer is this going to go on? This one’s no good, that one’s no good, when will you find one who is any good? Take the lad on!’

Prokopich stuck to his guns: ‘What’s it to me? Were I to teach the kid for ten years, nothing would come of it.’

‘Look, which lad do you want?’

‘I wouldn’t complain if you sent me none at all, I wouldn’t miss them.’

And so Prokopich and the steward got through one kid after another, all with the same result: their heads were covered in bumps, and all they thought about was escape. Some even spoiled their work on purpose so that Prokopich would send them away.

And then it was the turn of Danilko the Scrawny. An outright orphan was this little lad. Twelve years old he would have been, perhaps more. He stood tall and thin as can be; it was a wonder he kept body and soul together. Well, he had a pleasant face. His hair was lovely and curly, his eyes sparkled blue.


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