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Gooseberries - Anton Chekhov

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THE WIFE

I

I RECEIVED the following letter:

"DEAR SIR, PAVEL ANDREITCH!

"Not far from you -- that is to say, in the village of Pestrovo
-- very distressing incidents are taking place, concerning which
I feel it my duty to write to you. All the peasants of that
village sold their cottages and all their belongings, and set off
for the province of Tomsk, but did not succeed in getting there,
and have come back. Here, of course, they have nothing now;
everything belongs to other people. They have settled three or
four families in a hut, so that there are no less than fifteen
persons of both sexes in each hut, not counting the young
children; and the long and the short of it is, there is nothing
to eat. There is famine and there is a terrible pestilence of
hunger, or spotted, typhus; literally every one is stricken. The
doctor's assistant says one goes into a cottage and what does one
see? Every one is sick, every one delirious, some laughing,
others frantic; the huts are filthy; there is no one to fetch
them water, no one to give them a drink, and nothing to eat but
frozen potatoes. What can Sobol (our Zemstvo doctor) and his lady
assistant do when more than medicine the peasants need bread
which they have not? The District Zemstvo refuses to assist them,
on the ground that their names have been taken off the register
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