She found her standing in the middle of her hovel, in front of the table--slowly ladling out a bowl of shchi from the bottom of a dirty pot. With her left arm hanging lifelessly by her side, the poor woman fed herself spoonful after spoonful of the soup with her right hand.
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(A tale by Ivan Turgenev that heartbreakingly and ironically sets forth the epic economic divide between master and serf in 19th century Russia)
It happened one day that the son of a widowed peasant woman died--a young fellow of 20 years who had been the best worker in the village.
The lady of the manor, learning of the peasant's sorrow, went to call upon her on the day of the funeral. She found her at home. She found her standing in the middle of her hovel, in front of the table--slowly ladling out a bowl of shchi from the bottom of a dirty pot. With her left arm hanging lifelessly by her side, the poor woman fed herself spoonful after spoonful of the soup with her right hand. The woman's face was dark and slack--her eyes were red and puffy--but she stood straight and carried herself as uprightly as if she were in church.
"Dear heaven," the lady thought to herself, "how can she eat at such a time? What coarse feelings these peasants have." She could not help but think of when she lost her own dear daughter, nine months old, a few years before. She had been inconsolable, unable to eat. She had even refused, out of grief, to rent a beautiful villa near St. Petersburg and had actually spent the entire summer in town!
The peasant woman continued to eat the shchi. Finally, the lady could stand it no longer: "Tatiana!" she said, "Dear heaven, how can you eat at a time like this? Is it possible you didn't love your son? I am amazed--how can you eat that shchi?
The woman replied softly, with tears running down her sunken cheeks, "My Vasya is dead--and, of course, my own death will come soon because my very head has been taken from me while I am still alive. But the shchi must not go to waste. After all, it is salted."
The lady shrugged her shoulders and left. She didn't understand. She got salt cheaply.