This man interested me. Something in him was special, original. He spoke simply, quietly, holding himself modestly, not ingratiatingly. We talked together. He told me many things about his life, and the more that he told me, the more sympathetic I became. I saw before me a primitive hunter, who his whole life had traveled in the taiga and who was free from those vices that the civilization of towns brings. From his words I knew that he obtained his funds to live with his gun and then exchanged the objects of his hunt for tobacco, lead, and powder. And that he had obtained his rifle as a legacy from his father. Then he told me that he was now fifty-three years old, that he had never had a house, that he always lived under the open sky and only in winter put up a temporary shelter of brush or birch bark. The first glimmerings of his childhood memories were: a river, a crude hut and a fire, a father, mother, and little sister.
“Everybody die long ago,” he finished his tale and was lost in thought. He was silent for awhile and then continued again: “Earlier I also had a wife, a son and daughter. Smallpox finish all these people. Now me alone remain…”
His face became sad from the recollection of his sufferings. I tried to comfort him, but what was my consolation to his lonely man, from whom death took his family, his sole consolation in old age? He made no answer to me and only hung his head even more. I wanted somehow to express my sympathy to him, to do something for him, but didn’t know exactly what to do. Finally I thought of something: I offered to him to exchange his old gun for a new one. But he refused, saying that the berdanka was dear to him because of the memory of his father, that he was used to it and that it shoots very well. He reached over to the tree, took up his gun and began to stroke on the stock with his hand.