In the short story "Vanka" by Anton Chekhov, a nine-year-old boy named Vanka Zhukov has been apprenticed to a shoemaker. His mother has died, and his only living relative is his grandfather, Konstantin Makaritch, who is a night watchman in Vanka's home village. Vanka writes a letter to his grandfather describing the horrific and demeaning way he is treated and begging his grandfather to come and get him and bring him back home.
The descriptions are from memories that Vanka has as he pauses while writing the letter. At one point, as he looks at an icon reflected in the candlelight, he remembers his grandfather as a "little old man of sixty-five" who is thin, nimble, and lively. His grandfather has a "laughing face and drunken eyes." He sleeps in the servants' kitchen in daytime and at night makes his watchman's rounds wearing "an ample sheepskin" and carrying a "little mallet." Two dogs follow him around while he watches. As he stands at the gate, he jokes with the servants and pinches the housemaid and the cook.
Later Vanka remembers going into the forest with his grandfather to cut down "the Christmas tree for his master's family." His grandfather smokes his pipe, takes snuff, and laughs at "frozen Vanka." When a hare would run over the snow, Vanka's grandfather would shout out, "Hold him!" Grandfather would drag the tree back to the house and then decorate it.
The tragedy of this story is that Vanka's grandfather will never receive his heartfelt plea. At first Vanka simply addresses the letter "to grandfather in the village," and then he remembers to include his grandfather's name. However, he neglects to write the name of the village so that the postman can take it to the right place. He falls asleep in hope and dreams of his grandfather, but the next day he will awaken again to his difficult life of toil.