Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Brekhunov has a passion to acquire a grove of oak trees in the nearby village of Gorachkin. He fears that unless he gets there as soon as possible, someone else will buy it before he can. The enterprising Brekhunov intends to have the trees cut down to make into sledge-runners; the leftovers will be sold for firewood. From this deal, he hopes to realize a tidy profit. He figures that the grove of trees is worth more than twenty thousand rubles. The owner is asking only ten thousand but will probably take seven thousand, with three thousand on account. Brekhunov will use seven hundred rubles of his own money for the down payment and make up the rest with some church money that he has in his safekeeping. Brekhunov is a church elder.
It is winter and the ground is covered with snow. It is now past two o’clock in the afternoon, and the day is “windy, dull, and cold,” and twenty degrees below zero. Nevertheless, Brekhunov orders his horse and sledge made ready for the trip. His motto in business is, “Lose an hour and you can’t catch it up in a year.” His wife is apprehensive about his leaving, especially alone, and gets him to take his willing servant, Nikita, with him just in case.
The two men set off together. The going is fairly easy at first, despite the snow-covered roads. However, soon the wind becomes much stronger than either has anticipated, and the blowing snow diminishes visibility. The sledge comes to a fork in the road....
(The entire section is 1244 words.)
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