Simon was a poor shoemaker. He rented a peasant’s hut, and lived with his wife and children. His pay was low, but bread was expensive. He spent the money he earned on food. Simon and his wife had only one sheepskin coat between them for winter wear. And that was torn and old. This was the second year that he had wanted to buy sheepskins for a new coat. Before winter, Simon saved up a little money: a tree ruble note lay hidden in his wife’s box, and five rubles and twenty kopecks were owed to him by customers in the village.

 So one morning, he prepared to go to the village to buy sheepskins for his coat. He put on his shirt, then his wife’s jacket, and over that he put his own cloth coat. He put the three-ruble note in his pocket, and set off after breakfast. “I’ll collect the five rubles that are owed to me,” he thought, “add that to the three I have, and that will be enough to buy sheepskins for the winter coat.”

 He came to the village and visited a peasant’s hut, but the man was not home. The pwasant’s wife promised that the money would be paid next week, but she could not pay it herself. Then Simon called on another peasant, but his one swore he had no money, and could only pay twenty kopecks of what he owed Simon for the pair of boots he had mended. Simon then tried to buy the sheepskins on credit, but the dealer did not trust him.

 “Bring your money,” the dealer said, “then you can pick the best skins we have. We don’t enjoy debt-collecting.” So all the business the shoemaker did was to get twenty kopecks for shoes he had mended, and to take home a pair of felt boots a peasant had given him to repair.

 Simon felt downhearted. He spent the twenty kopecks on vodka, and headed for home without having bought any skins. In the morning he had felt the frost, but now, after drinking vodka, he felt warm, even without a sheepskin coat. He walked slowly, stringing a stink on the frozen earth with one hand, swinging the felt boots with the other, and talking to himself.

 “I’m quite warm,” he said, “though I have no sheepskin coat. I’ve had some vodka, and it runs in my veins. I don’t need a sheepskin. I don’t need anything. That’s the sort of man I am! I can live without sheepskins. I don’t need them. My wife will worry, that’s for sure. And it really is a same-I work all day then don’t get paid. Hang on a minute! If you don’t give my my money, I’ll skin you, not a sheep. I mean it. How’s that? He pays twenty kopecks at a time! What can I do with twenty kopecks? Drink it – that’s all I can do! He says he’s broke! It may be true, but what about me? You have a house and cattle and everything. I’ve only got these clothes I wear. You raise your own corn, but I have to buy every grain. I have to spend three rubles on bread alone every week. I come home and find all the bread used up, and I have to pay out another ruble and a half. So just pay me what you owe, and stop fooling around!”

 By this time, he had nearly reached the chapel. he looked up and noticed something white behind it. The daylight was fading, and the shoemaker peered at the thing, but couldn’t tell what it was. “There was no white stone there before. Can it be an ox? It has a head like a man, but it’s too white. And what would a man be doing here?”

 He came closer, and saw to his surprise that it really was a man. Alive or dead, he was sitting naked, leaning motionless against the chapel. Terror seized the shoemaker. He thought, “Someone has killed him, strpped him, and left him there. If I get involved, I shall surely get into trouble.”

 So the shoemaker went on. He passed in front of the chapel so that he could not see thae man. After Simon had passed, he looked back, and saw that the man was no longer leaning against the chapel, but was looking toward him. The shoemaker felt more frightened than before, and thought, “Shall I go back to him, or shall I go on? If I go near him, something dreadful might happen. Who knows who the fellow is? If I go near him, he may jump up and strangle me. And if he doesn’t attack me, he’ll become a problem for me. What can I do with a naked man? I can’t give him my last clothes. I must get away.”

 So the shoemaker hurried on, leaving the chapel behind him. Suddenly, his conscience struck him, and he stopped in the road.

 “What are you doing, Simon?” he said to himself. “That man may be dying, and you sneak past afraid. Are you so rich that you are afraid of robbers? Ah, Simon, shame on you.”

 So he turned back and went up to the man.

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