What followed was what Ivanov expected least. One evening, he sat down to eat fish at the old man Vasilyevich's where he was accommodated. Through some mishap, Vasilyevich was out of bread. Neither had he flour. Ivanov ordered Vasilyevich to go to the mill to grind some grain, but the latter explained he couldn't: it was no longer allowed for Zekhnova men to use the mill whenever they needed to, nor maintain it like they did earlier, for there now was a kukhar (dialectal word for "miller") to administer it on behalf of the collective farm.
"Go get ready and take me to the miller," said Ivanov.
Vasilyevich refused. He said the miller was a knowledgeable person and a friend of water spirit and that it wasn't a good idea for someone other than him to break into the mill at nighttime.
The educator got furious when he heard that. He took his briefcase and rushed off into the night. The darkness had to be defeated.
... Miller Ivan Abramov had difficulty falling asleep that night. When he finally dozed off, there was a knock on his door. On the doorstep stood the educator. He told the miller to get him some food and prepare a bed for him. "I'll be staying at your place for a week," he said sternly. Superiors were not to be messed with.
The following few days were hard for the miller. He worked restlessly around the clock with Ivanov breathing down his neck.
"Why do you have to throw bread crumbs under the mill every day, Abramov?" he'd ask the miller time and again.
To gain the favor of the water spirit, was the answer. Such was the custom. If unappeased, the water spirit might cause the mill to break or the water to be rough.
"Come on, Arbamov, you pious, uneducated bore. There is no water spirit. It's people and the collective farm that owns this mill."
But the miller wouldn't listen. One Sunday, when it was a religious holiday, the educator saw the miller pour a glass of vodka over the mill wheel. "To the master," educator Ivanov thought to himself.
When Ivanov caught a huge burbot in the local pond and asked Abramov's wife to bake it, the Abramovs refused.