War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book VIII: Chapters 6–22

"Do help me out, Theodore Ivanych, sir," or"your excellency," he would say."I am quite out of horses. Let me have what you can to go to the fair."

And Anatole and Dolokhov, when they had money, would give him a thousand or a couple of thousand rubles.

Balaga was a fair-haired, short, and snub-nosed peasant of about twenty-seven; red-faced, with a particularly red thick neck, glittering little eyes, and a small beard. He wore a fine, dark-blue, silk-lined cloth coat over a sheepskin.

On entering the room now he crossed himself, turning toward the front corner of the room, and went up to Dolokhov, holding out a small, black hand.

"Theodore Ivanych!" he said, bowing.

"How d'you do, friend? Well, here he is!"

"Good day, your excellency!" he said, again holding out his hand to Anatole who had just come in.

"I say, Balaga," said Anatole, putting his hands on the man's shoulders,"do you care for me or not? Eh? Now, do me a service . . . . What horses have you come with? Eh?"

"As your messenger ordered, your special beasts," replied Balaga.

"Well, listen, Balaga! Drive all three to death but get me there in three hours. Eh?"

"When they are dead, what shall I drive?" said Balaga with a wink.

"Mind, I'll smash your face in! Don't make jokes!" cried Anatole, suddenly rolling his eyes.

"Why joke?" said the driver, laughing."As if I'd grudge my gentlemen anything! As fast as ever the horses can gallop, so fast we'll go!"

"Ah!" said Anatole."Well, sit down."

"Yes, sit down!" said Dolokhov.

"I'll stand, Theodore Ivanych."

"Sit down; nonsense! Have a drink!" said Anatole, and filled a large glass of Madeira for him.

The driver's eyes sparkled at the sight of the wine. After refusing it for manners' sake, he drank it and wiped his mouth with a red silk handkerchief he took out of his cap.

"And when are we to start, your excellency?"

"Well . . ." Anatole looked at his watch."We'll start at once. Mind, Balaga! You'll get there in time? Eh?"

"That depends on our luck in starting, else why shouldn't we be there in time?" replied Balaga."Didn't we get you to Tver in seven hours? I think you remember that, your excellency?"

"Do you know, one Christmas I drove from Tver," said Anatole, smilingly at the recollection and turning to Makarin who gazed rapturously at him with wide-open eyes."Will you believe it, Makarka, it took one's breath away, the rate we flew. We came across a train of loaded sleighs and drove right over two of them. Eh?"

"Those were horses!" Balaga continued the tale."That time I'd harnessed two young side horses with the bay in the shafts," he went on, turning to Dolokhov."Will you believe it, Theodore Ivanych, those animals flew forty miles? I couldn't hold them in, my hands grew numb in the sharp frost so that I threw down the reins — 'Catch hold yourself, your excellency!' says I, and I just tumbled on the bottom of the sleigh and sprawled there. It wasn't a case of urging them on, there was no holding them in till we reached the place. The devils took us there in three hours! Only the near one died of it."

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