What did Aksionov do just before he left the first inn?
Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov is a prosperous merchant from the Russian town of Vladimir. As the story begins, he's on his way to the Nizhny Fair, where he hopes to sell his goods and maybe bring back some presents for the family. However, Ivan's wife doesn't want him to go; she's had a nightmare in which he returns from the town with his head covered in gray hair. Ivan laughs off his wife's premonition and sets off to the fair as planned.
On the road, Ivan meets another merchant whom he knows and they put up at an inn for the night. Ever the early riser, Ivan gets up the following day at the crack of dawn. Just before he leaves the inn he walks over to the innkeeper's cottage and settles his bill. This simple action is somewhat ironic, because doing the right thing—waking up bright and early and paying the bill—is what leads Ivan to be sent to a Siberian prison camp for a crime he didn't commit. Had he not woken up early and continued with his journey, it's likely that the finger of suspicion would not have been pointed at Ivan for the murder of his merchant companion.
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