Dream Tales and Prose Poems/Poems in Prose/Cabbage Soup
A peasant woman, a widow, had an only son, a young man of twenty, the best workman in the village, and he died.
The lady who was the owner of the village, hearing of the woman's trouble, went to visit her on the very day of the burial.
She found her at home.
Standing in the middle of her hut, before the table, she was, without haste, with a regular movement of the right arm (the left hung listless at her side), scooping up weak cabbage soup from the bottom of a blackened pot, and swallowing it spoonful by spoonful.
The woman's face was sunken and dark; her eyes were red and swollen . . . but she held herself as rigid and upright as in church.
'Heavens!' thought the lady, 'she can eat at such a moment . . . what coarse feelings they have really, all of them!'
And at that point the lady recollected that when, a few years before, she had lost her little daughter, nine months old, she had refused, in her grief, a lovely country villa near Petersburg, and had spent the whole summer in town! Meanwhile the woman went on swallowing cabbage soup.
The lady could not contain herself, at last. 'Tatiana!' she said . . . 'Really! I'm surprised! Is it possible you didn't care for your son? How is it you've not lost your appetite? How can you eat that soup!'
'My Vasia's dead,' said the woman quietly, and tears of anguish ran once more down her hollow cheeks. 'It's the end of me too, of course; it's tearing the heart out of me alive. But the soup's not to be wasted; there's salt in it.'
The lady only shrugged her shoulders and went away. Salt did not cost her much.