We are in Russia.On the high road from Tscherkask to Togarog, and not far from the latter village, there stood, in the year 1850, a large and inhospitable-looking inn. Its shingled walls, whose rough surface no paint-brush had touched for long genera-tions, seemed decaying from sheer old age. Its tiled roof was in a most dilapidated state, displaying large gaps imperfectly stuffed with straw, and serving rather to collect the rain and snow for the more thorough inundation of the rooms below than to protect them from the elements. The grounds about the house were in keeping with it in point of picturesque neglect, and were as innocent of cultivation as the building was of paint. A roughly paved path led from the highway to the tavern door. Two old and sickly poplar trees cast a poor and half-hearted shade upon the parched ground, and mournfully shook their leaves over the scene of desolation. The herbage grew in isolated patches on a black and uncultivated soil. Nature might have originally been friendly to the place, but generations of poverty and neglect had reduced it to a condition of wretched misery.
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