By Leo Tolstoy
Adapted for Reader's Theatre
By Kella Klinker Simonin, PhD
Narrator One: Pakhom and the old chief stood at the top of the hill. They looked out at the
rich land. It all belonged to the Bashkirs.
Pakhom: How much do you want for your land?
Chief: We have only one price. A thousand dollars a day.
Narrator Two: Pakhom did not understand. He had come to buy land by the acre.
Pakhom: How can you measure land by the day?
Chief: You may have as much land as you can walk around in a day.
Pakhom: Look, a day's walking is a lot of land.
Chief: (laughing) It's all yours! There is just one condition.
You must leave from this hill at
sunrise. If you are not back at sunset, your money is lost.
Pakhom: How will you know where I walk?
Chief: Well, we stand on this hill and wait while you walk around
the land. You take a shovel
with you and dig holes to show where you have walked. Pile the dirt high. All the land you
walk around is yours, as long as you're back here on the hill at sunset.
Narrator One: Pakhom was very happy. This land would be the best
that he had ever
owned. That night Pakhom stayed in the tent of the old chief. But Pakhom was so excited that
he could hardly sleep. He had traveled 500 miles to see the land of the Bashkirs. Tomorrow
he would own a large part of it. He stayed awake planning what he would do with it. And
finally, just before dawn, he drifted off to sleep.
Narrator Two: When he awoke, he saw the dawn through the open
door of the tent. The sky
was already turning white.
Pakhom: I must wake up the people. It's time to go.
Narrator Two: Pakhom got up and woke his hired hand, who was
asleep in the wagon
outside. Then they woke the old chief.
Pakhom: If we're going, let's go.
Narrator One: The Bashkirs got together, climbed on horseback
and into wagons, and went
to the hill. Meanwhile, Pakhom took a shovel and set off with his hired hand in his own wagon.
They arrived at the hill just as day was breaking.
Narrator Two: The Bashkirs climbed out of their wagons, slid
down from their horses, and
got together in a group. The old chief came up to Pakhom and pointed to the land.
Chief: There. Everything the eye can see is ours. Take your pick.
Narrator One: Pakhom's eyes glowed. It was all grassland, level
as the palm of the hand.
The elder took off his cap and put it on the ground.
Chief: That will be the marker. Leave from here; return here.
Whatever you walk around will
Narrator Two: Pakhom drew out his money and placed it on the
cap of the old chief. Then
he took off his cap and his outer coat, put a bag of bread inside his jacket, and took the shovel
from his hired hand, and got set to go.
Narrator One: He thought and thought over which way to take. It was good everywhere.
Pakhom: It's all the same. I'll head toward the sunrise.
Narrator Two: He turned to face the sun and waited for it to come up.
Pakhom: I must lose no time. And walking's easier while it's still cold.
Narrator One: As soon as the sun's rays came up, Pakhom put the
shovel over his shoulder
and started off across the land.
Narrator Two: He walked neither quickly nor slowly. He covered
a mile, stopped, dug a
hole, and piled the dirt up so it could be seen. He walked further. He covered still more
ground, dug still another pit.
Narrator One: Pakhom looked back. He could see the hill and the
people standing there.
He guessed that he had covered about three miles. It was getting warmer; he took off his
jacket, flung it over his shoulder, and went on. He covered another three miles. It was warm.
He looked at the sun-already breakfast time.
Pakhom: One leg finished. But there are three more to go; it's
too early to turn around yet.
I'll just take my boots off.
Narrator Two: He sat down, took them off, stuck them in his belt,
and went on. Walking
Pakhom: I'll cover just about three more miles, then start turning
left. This is a very nice spot,
too good to leave out. The farther away it is the better it gets.
Narrator One: He walked straight on. When he looked around, he
could hardly see the hill.
The people looked like black ants.
Packhom: Well, I've taken enough on this side; I must turn. Besides,
I've been sweating-
Narrator Two: He stopped, dug a bigger hole, and stacked the
earth. He had a drink from
his water flask. Then he turned sharply to the left.
Narrator One: On and on he went; the grass grew taller and the
day became hot. Pakhom
began to feel tired; he looked at the sun-it was already lunchtime.
Narrator Two: He stopped, sat on the ground, ate bread and drank
water, but he did not lie
Pakhom: If I lie down, I'll fall asleep.
Narrator One: After a while, he walked on. Walking was easy at
first. Eating had increased
his strength. But it had become very hot and he was becoming sleepy. Still he went on.
Pakhom: An hour of suffering for lifetime of living.
Narrator Two: He walked a long way in this direction, too. Then,
after digging a hole and
turning a second corner, Pakhom looked back at the hill. It was hardly visible-12 miles away.
Pakhom: Well, I've taken long sides; I must take this one shorter.
Narrator One: As he walked the third side, he walked faster.
He looked at the sun-it was
late afternoon, and he had only covered a mile on the third side of the square. Ant it was 12
miles to the starting point.
Pakhom: No, I'll have a lopsided place, but I must go straight
back so I'll arrive in time. I'll
not take any more. There's lots of land already.
Narrator Two: Pakhom shoveled out a hole as quickly as he could
and turned straight toward
Narrator One: As Pakhom walked toward the hill, he began having
difficulties. He was
perspiring, and his bare legs were cut and bruised and were beginning to fail him. He wanted to
rest but could not-otherwise he would not arrive before sunset. The sun would not wait; it
continued sinking, sinking,
Pakhom: Ah, if only I haven't made a mistake and taken too much! What if I don't make it?
Narrator Two: He looked ahead at the hill and looked at the sun.
The starting point was far
away, and the sun was getting close to the horizon.
Narrator One: So Pakhom went on with difficulty; he kept walking
faster and faster. He
walked, walked-and was still far away; he broke into a run. He threw off his jacket, dropped
his boots and water flask; he kept only his shovel to lean on.
Pakhom: Ah, I've been too greedy; I've ruined the whole thing;
I won't get there by
Narrator One: Fear shortened his breath even more. Pakhom ran;
his shirt and trousers clung
to his body with sweat; his mouth was dry. A hammer beat in his heart, and his legs no longer
seemed to belong to his body-they were collapsing under him. Pakhom was afraid of dying,
but unable to stop.
Pakhom: I've run so far. I'd be a fool to stop now.
[Bashkirs begin shrieking]
Narrator Two: He ran and ran, and was very close when he heard
Bashkirs were shrieking at him-and his heart became even more inflamed by their cries.
Pakhom pressed forward with his remaining strength, but the sun was already reaching the
horizon; and, slipping behind a cloud, it became large, red, and bloody.
Narrator One: Pakhom was not far from the starting point. He
could see the people waving
at him, urging him on. He saw the cap on the ground and the money on it; and he saw the old
chief sitting on the ground, laughing, holding his sides with his hands.
Pakhom: There's plenty of land if it please God to let me live
on it. Oh, I've ruined myself. I
won't make it.
Narrator Two: The sun had touched the earth and began to slip
behind the horizon, which cut
it into an arc. Pakhom used all of his remaining strength, driving his body forward so that his
legs could barely move fast enough to keep him from falling. Just as Pakhom ran up to the base
of the hill, it suddenly became dark. The sun had set.
Pakhom: (sighing) My work has fallen through.
[Bahkirs begin shrieking again]
Narrator One: He was about to stop when he heard the Bashkirs
still shrieking. And he remembered that
though it looked from below as if the sun had set, it would still be shining on top of the hill. It was still light
Narrator Two: As Pakhom reached the top, he saw the old chief
sitting in front of the cap,
laughing, holding his sides with his hands.
Narrator One: Pakhom groaned; his legs gave way, and he fell, his hands touching the cap.
Chief: Aiee, good man! You have gotten plenty of land!
Narrator One: Pakhom's hired hand ran to lift him, but the blood
was flowing from Pakhom's
mouth and he lay dead.
Narrator Two: The hired hand took the shovel and dug Pakhom's
grave just long enough to
reach from his feet to his head-six feet in all-and buried him
Copyright © 2001