Keep a sharp lookout

“The Peasant and the Cucumbers”

by Leo Tolstoy

(trans. by Leo Wiener)


A peasant once went to the gardener’s, to steal cucumbers. He crept up to the cucumbers, and thought:

“I will carry off a bag of cucumbers, which I will sell; with the money I will buy a hen. The hen will lay eggs, hatch them, and raise a lot of chicks. I will feed the chicks and sell them; then I will buy me a young sow, and she will bear a lot of pigs. I will sell the pigs, and buy me a mare; the mare will foal me some colts. I will raise the colts, and sell them. I will buy me a house, and start a garden. In the garden I will sow cucumbers, and will not let them be stolen, but will keep a sharp watch on them. I will hire watchmen, and put them in the cucumber patch, while I myself will come on them, unawares, and shout: ‘Oh, there, keep a sharp lookout!’”

And this he shouted as loud as he could. The watchmen heard it, and they rushed out and beat the peasant.

This entry was posted in Europe, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Keep a sharp lookout

  1. artmoscow says:

    Tolstoy wrote it in the style of folk fables )
    The original line just before the muzhik (peasant) shout out load:

    He got lost so deep in his dream that he forgot completely he was in someone else’s garden and shouted at the top his voice:…

    What’s also interesting is that in the closing sentence Tolstoy doesn’t use “and” between actions: The watchmen heard it, rushed out, beat the peasant – a trick that makes the end an ordinary thing, with less tension – and there is no need to build tension with “and” because it is the expected outcome and the folk narrator hurries to close the story after the climax.

    Thank you for this reminder of some simple but honest stuff from this Russian genius ))

  2. artmoscow says:

    * oops – …before the muzhik shoutS out LOUD!

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