Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 5/The Russian as a shopkeeper

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The Russian as a Shopkeeper.—Trade is the proper element of the Russian; it is his favourite pursuit, and should his trade even be confined to hazel nuts, he will devote his time and energy to it, with the same zeal as if he were engaged in commerce on a large scale. He is indefatigable in displaying all his goods before his customers, and is never offended even at the lowest offer. I once entered a hatter’s shop at St. Petersburg, and asked the master to show me a hat. He took up one, turned it round and round on his hand, ejaculating: “Votibi sladitshka na twoya galovitshka,” (here is a pretty neat hat for your pretty neat head), “and you would not mind to give 20 roubles banco (about 16s.) for it.” I offered him 5 roubles, and was about to leave, when he detained me, saying: “Do not run away, we are not so very far asunder. Take a seat, and say really what you mean to give.” I bought it at last, after much amicable bargaining, for half the price asked for. When the Dutch Jews once asked of Peter the Great permission to carry on their trade in Russia, for which privilege they offered him a considerable sum of money, he refused, saying, smilingly: “Keep your money, my friends, you won’t find your account in Russia. One Russian is as cunning as four Jews.”