The next morning Godfrey and Mikail were by the doctor's orders carried to th_ospital and placed in a comfortable and well-arranged ward. "You won't hav_o be here many days," the doctor said when he came round the ward. "I onl_ad you brought here because the air is sweeter and better than it is in tha_oom you were in." An hour later the governor with a clerk came in. Mikail wa_irst called upon for his statement, which was written down by the clerk.
"Had you any reason for supposing that the man had any special enmity agains_ou?" the governor asked.
"Only because of that flogging he had for the row in the ward last week, sir."
"Ah, yes, he was one of those who attacked you then and was flogged; tha_ccounts for it."
Then Godfrey gave his account of what had happened.
"Did you observe anything that made you specially watchful?" the governo_sked.
"I thought perhaps one of them might try to take revenge on Mikail, sir. On_r two of them were very sullen and surly, and would, I thought, do him har_f they had the chance; but I suspected this man more than the others becaus_e seemed so unnaturally pleasant, and as I had heard him boasting about th_hings for which he is here, I thought he was more dangerous than those wh_rumbled and threatened."
The governor nodded. "Yes, he is a thorough-paced villain; you have done ver_ell, young man, and I shall not forget it."
Five days later there was a stir in front of the hospital, and Mikail, whos_ed was by the side of the window, raised himself on his elbow and looked out.
"It is a punishment parade," he said; "I expect they are going to flog Koshki_ith the _plete_. No governor of a prison is allowed to do that until th_ircumstances of the case have been sent to the governor of the province, an_he sentence receives his approval; that is no doubt what has caused th_elay. All the prisoners are mustering."
Godfrey, who was in the next bed, managed to draw himself on to Mikail's, an_hen to sit up so as to look out. The whole of the convicts of that prison, some eight hundred in number, were drawn up forming three sides of a square; in front of them, four paces apart, were a line of soldiers with fixe_ayonets, while behind was another line. Then Koshkin, stripped to the waist, was brought forward and bound to a thick board having an iron leg, so tha_hen laid down the board inclined to an angle of about thirty degrees. On thi_e was so strapped as to be perfectly immovable. Then a man approached wit_he dreaded whip and took his place on one side of the criminal. The governo_hen entered the square. He was attended by all the prison officials. His fac_as very grave and stern, and he walked along the lines, scrutinizing closel_ach man as he passed him. Then he took his place in the centre of the squar_nd held up his hand.
"This man," he said, "has attempted to murder the starosta of his ward, and i_or this sentenced to fifty lashes. Let this be a lesson to all here."
Then he signalled to the executioner, who brought down his lash with grea_orce upon the bare back of the prisoner. A terrible cry broke from Koshkin.
Two more blows were given, and then the executioner moved to the other sid_nd delivered another three blows. In this way the lashes crossed each othe_t an angle. Godfrey could look no more, but crawled back on to his own bed.
Mikail continued looking out until the punishment was over.
"He has not bled," he said; "he will die."
"How do you mean, Mikail?"
"Well, that is how it is, Ivan. It is as the executioner likes, or as he i_rdered. He can, according to the way he strikes, cut the flesh or not eac_troke. If it bleeds the man seldom dies, if it doesn't there is little chanc_or him. There are several ways of flogging the prisoner, and his friend_enerally bribe the executioner; then he strikes with all his strength th_irst blow that is terrible, but it seems to numb the flesh somehow, an_fterwards he does not strike so hard, and the prisoner hardly feels th_lows. The worst is when he hits softly at first and then harder and harder, then the man feels every blow to the end; but they are obliged to hit hard, i_ot they get flogged themselves. I saw a case where the executioner had bee_ell bribed and, therefore, hit gently, and the prisoner was taken down and h_as tied up in his place and got twenty lashes. Years ago they used th_plete_ at all the prisons, now they only use it at three prisons, where th_orst criminals are sent, and this is one of them."
A week later they were both discharged from the hospital and returned to th_ard. The first thing they heard on entering it was that Koshkin had died th_ight before. Godfrey went back to his work in the office. He was doubtful ho_e should be received in the ward, but he found that, except by Kobylin an_our or five others, he was welcomed quite cordially.
"You have done us all a service," Osip said. "There was sure to have bee_rouble sooner or later, and that flogging will cow these fellows for som_ime. This is only the second there has been since I came here—I mean, o_ourse, at this prison. Besides, Mikail is a good fellow, and we all like him, and everyone would have been sorry if he had been killed."
"What is he in for? I never asked before. Of course, I see that he has th_urderer's badge on his back. Do you know how it happened? I never heard hi_peak of it."
"Yes, he told us about it one evening, that was before he became starosta.
Some vodka had been smuggled in and he had more than was good for him, an_hat opened his lips. He had been a charcoal-burner and having had the goo_ortune to escape the conscription he married. She was a pretty girl, and i_eems that the son of a rich proprietor had taken a fancy to her, and when th_ext year's conscription came he managed by some unfair means to get Mikail'_ame put down again on the list. Such things can be done, you know, by a ma_ith influence. Mikail ran away and took to the woods. He was hunted for tw_r three months in vain. Then someone betrayed him, and one morning he woke u_n a hut he had built for himself and saw the place was surrounded b_oldiers.
"With the officers was the man who had injured him. Mikail was mad with fury, and rushing out with a big club he had cut he stretched the fellow dead on th_round—and served him right. However, of course Mikail was taken, tried, an_ondemned. He had killed a noble's son, and three weeks later was on his wa_o Siberia. His wife has followed him, and is living now in a village tw_iles away. Another six months and Mikail will have served his ten years, which is the least time a murderer can serve before he gets leave to liv_utside the prison. He is sure to get it then, his conduct has been alway_ood, and no doubt this affair will count in his favour. His wife came out tw_ears after he was sent here. She keeps herself by spinning and helping at _arm. It has been a good thing for Mikail, for it has kept him straight. If i_ad not been for that he would have taken to the woods long ago."
"I don't call that a murder," Godfrey said indignantly. "If I had been on th_ury I would never have convicted him. He was treated illegally and had th_ight to resist."
"I don't blame him very much myself," Osip said. "Of course it would have bee_iser to have submitted, and then to have tried to get off serving, but _on't suppose anyone would have listened to him. If it hadn't been a noble h_illed I have no doubt he would have got off."
"But you are noble yourself, Osip."
"Yes, but that does not give me any marked advantage at present. Of course i_ill make a difference when I get out. My friends will send me money, and _hall live at Tobolsk and marry some wealthy gold-miner's daughter, and be i_he best society. Oh, yes, it is an advantage being noble born, even i_iberia."
Godfrey was quite touched with the joy that Luka manifested when, on hi_eturn from work, he found him in the ward. "Ah, my master," he exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, "why did you not tell me that you were watching? _ould have kept awake all night and would have thrown myself on that dog; i_ould have made no matter if he had killed me. It would not have hurt me s_uch as it did to see you bleeding."
"You must not call me master," Godfrey said, holding out his hand, which th_artar seized and pressed to his forehead. "You and I are friends, there ar_o masters here."
Godfrey learnt that every effort had been made by the authorities to discove_ow Koshkin had obtained the knife, but without success. He must have bribe_ne of the guards to fetch it in for him, but there was no tracing which ha_een concerned in the matter. All the prisoners had been searched and thei_ags examined, but no other weapons had been discovered. Godfrey did not hea_ single word of pity for Koshkin, or of regret at his death. Indifference fo_thers was one of the leading characteristics of the prisoners. Althoug_iving so long together they seldom appeared to form a friendship of any kind; each man lived for and thought only of his own lot. Godfrey observed that i_as very seldom that a prisoner shared any dainty he had purchased wit_nother, and it was only when three or four had clubbed together to get in _am, a young sucking pig, or some vodka that they were seen to partake of i_ogether.
Some of the prisoners, indeed, scarcely ever exchanged a word with the rest, but moved about in moody silence paying no attention to what was going o_round them. Some again were always quarrelling, and seemed to take a deligh_n stirring up others by giving them unpleasant nicknames, or by turning the_nto ridicule.
"I am glad indeed, Mikail," Godfrey said, as he lay down beside the starost_hat night, "that you were not seriously hurt. I only heard to-day that yo_ad a wife waiting for you outside."
"Yes, it is true," Mikail replied. "I never talk of her. I dare not even le_yself think of her, it seems too great a happiness to be true; and somethin_ay occur, one never knows. Ah, Ivan, if it had not been for you what new_ould have been taken to her! Think of it, after her long journey out here; after waiting ten years for me, to hear that it was useless. I tremble like _eaf when I think of it. That night I lay awake all night and cried like _oung child, not for myself, you know, but for her. She has taken a cottag_lready, and is furnishing it with her savings. She is allowed to write to me, you know, once every month. At first it was every three months. What happines_t was to me when my first five years was up and she could write once a month!
Do you think I shall know her? She will have changed much. I tell myself tha_lways; and I—I have changed much too, but she will know me, I am sure sh_ill know me. I tremble now at the thought of our meeting, Ivan; but I ough_ot to talk so, I ought not to speak to you of my happiness—you, who have n_riend waiting to see you."
"I like to hear you talk of your wife, Mikail. My friends are a long way of_ndeed; but I hope that I shall see them before very long."
"You think that you may be pardoned?" Mikail asked.
"No, I mean to escape."
"Ah, lad," Mikail said kindly, "I don't suppose there is ever a prisoner come_ere who does not say to himself, I will escape. Every spring there ar_housands who take to the woods, and scarce one of these but hopes never t_ee the inside of a prison again, and yet they come back, every one of them."
"But there have been escapes, Mikail, therefore there is nothing impossible i_t."
"There are twenty thousand convicts cross the frontier every year, lad. Ther_s not one man makes his escape in five years."
"Well, I mean to be the man this five years, Mikail."
"I would not try if I were you. Were you in on a life sentence for murder, o_till worse, as a political prisoner, I would say try if you like, for yo_ould have nothing to lose; but you have a good prospect now. I am sure yo_ust have been a political, but now that you have been a wanderer you are s_o longer. You have won the governor's good-will, and as soon as your time i_p, perhaps before, you will be allowed to live outside the prison. If you g_way in the spring you will, when you return as winter comes on, forfeit al_his, and have to begin again. When you come out there will be my little hu_eady for you, and such a welcome from my wife and me that you will forget ho_mall and rough it is, and there you will live with us till your five year_re up, and you can go anywhere you like in Siberia."
"I thank you sincerely, Mikail, and I should, I am sure, be as happy as a_xile could be with you and your faithful wife; but if I have to try afres_very year for twenty years I will break out and strive to escape. You kno_hat I am English by my mother's side. I can tell you now that I am altogethe_nglish, and I will gain England or die. At any rate, if it is to be done _ill do it. I have health and strength and determination. I have learnt al_hat there is to be learnt as to the difficulties of the journey. I have mor_o gain, more to strive for than other prisoners. Even if they escape the_annot return home. They must still be exiled from Russia; must earn thei_read among strangers as they are earning it here. I have a home awaiting me—_ather, mother, and sisters—to whom I shall come back as one from the grave.
Why, man, the difficulties are nothing in comparison to the reward. A journe_cross Asia is as nothing to the journeys many of my countrymen have mad_cross Africa. Here there is no fear of fever, of savage tribes, or savag_easts. It is in comparison a mere pleasure excursion. I may not succeed nex_ime, just as I did not succeed last year, but succeed in the end I will."
"I believe you," Mikail said earnestly, infected by Godfrey's enthusiasm. "Di_ou not overthrow, as if he were a babe, Kobylin, whom everyone else feared?
Yes, if anyone can do it you can."
At last the long winter was over, the thaw came, and the work at the mine wa_enewed. Godfrey was afraid that he might be still kept in the office, and h_poke to Mikail on the subject; the latter spoke to one of the officials, an_old him that the prisoner Ivan Holstoff petitioned that he might be again pu_o work on the mine instead of being kept in the office, as he felt his healt_uffering from the confinement. Two days later Godfrey was called into th_overnor's room.
"I hear that you have asked to go to the mine again, lad."
"Yes, sir; I like active work better than sitting indoors all day."
The colonel looked at him keenly. "You are doing well here, lad; it will be _ity to have to begin over again. I can guess what is in your thoughts. Thin_t over, lad, don't do anything rash; but if—," and he hesitated, "if you ar_eadstrong and foolish, remember you will be better off here than elsewhere, and that I am never very hard on runaways. That will do; you will go out agai_ith the gang to-morrow."
"Thank you, sir," Godfrey said earnestly, and with a bow returned to his wor_t the desk in the next room.
On the following day work at the mine was resumed. Godfrey at once began hi_reparations for his flight, and as a first step managed to conceal under _ump of rock a heavy hammer and a pick used in the work; he had already lai_n a stock of a dozen boxes of matches. The next evening he said to Mikai_hen they had lain down for the night,—
"Now, Mikail, I want you to help me."
"So you really mean to go?"
"Yes, my mind is quite made up. I want you to get me in some things fro_utside."
"I will get you anything if you will tell me what you want."
"I want most of all two long knives."
"Yes, knives are useful," Mikail said; "but they are awkward things to get. _are not ask any of the people who trade here to get such a thing. Ah! I kno_hat I will do; I am losing my head. I will steal you two from the kitchen; but that must be done the last thing, for if knives were missed there would b_ great search for them. What is the next thing?"
"I should like a coil of thirty or forty yards of fine rope, and some string.
They are always useful things to have."
"That is so," the convict assented.
"Then I shall want some thread and needles."
"There is no difficulty about that; I can buy them for you at the gate. _on't know what excuse to make to get you the rope, but I will think o_omething."
"I don't think there is anything else, except that I should like these twent_oubles changed into kopecks."
The man nodded. "When will you try?"
"To-morrow. It is dark now by the time we leave off work; it will be easy t_lip away then. Luka is going with me."
"That is good," Mikail said, "he will be very useful; he is a good littl_ellow, and will be faithful to you. You had best keep steadily west, and giv_ourself up at Irkutsk. It is a rough road working round by the north of Lak_aikal; but you had better take that way, it is safer than by the south. Bu_o doubt if you are careful you might go that way too. Then the summer after, if you can get away again, you can give up at Tomsk. Once fairly away fro_ere there is no fear of your being overtaken; they never take the trouble t_unt the woods far, they know it is of no use. Remember, as long as you don'_o too far from the road, you will light upon cottages and little farm-house_here you can get something to eat; but if you go too far into the woods yo_ay starve. There will be no berries except strawberries yet, and strawberrie_re not much use to keep life together when you are travelling."
"Oh, by the by, there is one more thing I want you to get for me if possible, and that is fish-hooks and line."
"That is difficult," Mikail said; "however, a rouble or two will go a lon_ay. But you must put off your start for another two or three days. The rop_nd the hooks will need time to get."
It was, indeed, the fourth evening before Mikail told Godfrey that he had go_verything except the knives. "I will manage to get these in the morning," h_aid, "when I go into the kitchen and see about breakfast. If I were you, _ould put on those two spare shirts over the one you wear, and take your thre_pare pairs of stockings. Of course you will wind the rope round your waist. _uppose you will buy bread from the others, there are always plenty ready t_ell; you had better take enough for two or three days. Cut it in slices, pu_hem inside your upper shirt with the other things you take, your belt wil_eep them safe. Don't try to slip away unless you see a really goo_pportunity; it is no use being shot at. Besides, with those irons on you_egs, they would soon overtake you. Better put it off for another time than t_un any risk."
Godfrey at once informed Luka that they were to try to escape on the followin_vening, told him to put on his spare shirts at night, gave him the matches, and told him to stow away in the morning as much bread as he could carry. Th_oung Tartar made no reply beyond a pleasant nod; his confidence in hi_ompanion was unbounded. The next morning, while eating their breakfasts b_he dim light of a candle, Mikail passed close to Godfrey and slipped two lon_nives into his hand; these he hid instantly inside his shirt.
"I have got the bread," Mikail said; "it was better for me to buy it than you.
I have put it under your bag."
As it was quite dark in the corner of the room Godfrey had no difficulty i_utting up the hunks of bread, and concealing them without observation. Mikai_trolled up while he was so engaged. Godfrey had already given him money fo_he various purchases, and he now pressed a hundred-rouble note into his hand, and said:
"Now, Mikail, you must take this from me; it is not a present to you, but t_our brave wife. When you get out you will want to do your share toward_aking the house she has got for you comfortable. Till you get your fre_icket you will still be working in the mines like the others; and though yo_ill get the same pay as free labourers then, it will be some time before yo_an lay much by. When your term is over you will want to take up a piece o_and and farm, and you must have money for this until your crops grow."
"I will not take it," the man said huskily; "it is a hundred roubles. I woul_ot rob you; you will want every kopeck you have. The money would be a curs_o me."
"I have five hundred still left, Mikail, which will be ample for me. You wil_rieve me if you refuse to take it. It will be pleasant to me, whether I a_aken again or whether I escape, to think that I have made one home happie_or my stay here, and that you and your brave wife, in your comfortable home, think sometimes of the young fellow you were kind to."
"If you wish it I will take it," Mikail said. "Feodora and I will pray befor_he _ikon_ to the saints morning and night to protect you wherever you ma_e."
"Pray for me as Godfrey Bullen, Mikail; that is my real name. I am English, and it is to England I shall make my way."
"Godfrey Bullen," the man repeated four or five times over. "I shall no_orget it. Feodora and I will teach it to our children if the good God shoul_end us any."
"I should like to let you know if I get safely home," Godfrey said; "how can _rite to you?"
"I can receive letters when I am out of prison," Mikail said. "You know m_ame, Mikail Stomoff; put Karoff, that is the name of the village my wif_ives at—Karoff, near Kara. If the letter does not come until my term is over, and I have left, I will leave word there where it can be forwarded to me."
"I hope that you will get it long before that, Mikail. The journey is too lon_o do in one summer. I shall winter somewhere in the north, and I hope to b_n England by the following autumn; therefore, if I have got safely away, yo_ay look for a letter before the Christmas after next. If it does not come b_hat time, you will know that I have failed in my first attempt, and then yo_ill, I hope, get one a year later. I shall, of course, be careful what I say; in case it should be opened and read, there will be nothing in it about you_nowing that I intended to escape."
"We shall look for it, Godfrey Bullen, we shall look for it always, and pra_he good God to send it to us."
The next morning when Godfrey rose he wrung Mikail's hand warmly.
"God bless you," the starosta said with tears in his eyes. "I shall not com_ear you again; they would see that something was strange with me, and whe_ou were missing, would guess that I knew you were going. May all the saint_reserve you."
Before they formed up to march to their work, Godfrey shook hands with hi_riend Osip. "I am going to try on our way back to-night," he said.
"Good-bye, and good luck to you," Osip replied. "I would go with you if I wa_n for life; but I have lost two years already by running away, and I dare no_ry again."
During the day Godfrey observed very carefully the spot where he had hidde_he tools, so that he might be able to find it in the dark, piling three smal_tones one on the top of the other by the roadside at the point nearest to it.
When work was over, he managed to fall in with Luka at the rear of the line. _ossack marched alongside of him.
"Five roubles," Godfrey whispered, "if you will let us drop behind."
Five roubles was a large sum to the soldier. The life of the guards was reall_arder than that of the prisoners, except that they did no work, for they ha_o mount guard at night when the convicts slept, and their rations were muc_ore scanty than those given to the working convicts, and they were accustome_o eke out their scanty pay by taking small bribes for winking at variou_nfractions of the prison rules. The Cossack at once held out his hand.
Godfrey slipped five rouble notes into it. They kept on till they reached _ood, where beneath the shadow of the trees it was already perfectly dark.
The Cossack had stepped forward two or three paces and was walking by the nex_ouple.
"Now, Luka," Godfrey said, and the two sprang off the path among the trees.
They waited two or three minutes, then returned to the road and hurried bac_o the mine. They had been the last party to start for the prison, and th_lace was quite deserted. It took them fully half an hour to find the tools.
The rings round their ankles were sufficiently loose to enable the pick to b_nserted between them and the leg; thrusting it in as far as it would go unde_he rivet, it was comparatively easy work to break off the head with th_ammer. In ten minutes both were free. Leaving the chains and tools behin_hem, they made their way out of the cutting and struck across the country, and in an hour entered the forest. It was too dark here to permit them t_roceed farther; they lay down and slept until day began to break, and the_ontinued their way up the rising ground until, after four hours' walking, they were well among the mountains. They found an open space by the side of _ivulet where the wild strawberries grew thickly, and here they sat down an_njoyed a hearty meal of bread and strawberries.
"Now we have got to keep along on this side of that range of mountains i_ront of us till we get to Lake Baikal," Godfrey said. "We will push on for _ay or two, and then we must find some cottages, and get rid of these clothes.
What we want above all things, Luka, are guns."
"Yes, or bows and arrows," Luka said.
"It would be as difficult to get them as guns. They don't use them in thes_arts, Luka."
"I can make them," Luka said; "not as good as the Ostjaks' bows, but goo_nough to kill with."
"That is satisfactory, Luka. If I can get hold of a gun and you can make a bo_nd arrows we shall do very well."
For four days they continued their journey through the forest, gathering muc_ruit, chiefly strawberries and raspberries, and eating sparingly of thei_read. At night they lit fires, for the evenings were still cold, and slep_oundly beside them. On the fifth morning Godfrey said, "We must turn sout_ow, Luka, our bread won't last more than two days at the outside, and we mus_ay in a fresh supply. We have kept as near west as we could, and we know b_he mountains that we cannot be far wrong, still it may take us some time t_ind a village." To Godfrey's satisfaction they arrived at the edge of th_orest early in the afternoon.
"We cannot be very far from Nertchinsk," he said. "We must be careful here, for there are lots of mines in the neighbourhood."
After walking for another three or four hours several large buildings wer_een among the trees in the valley, and these it was certain belonged to on_r other of the mines. When it became dark they descended still farther, an_ept down until they came upon a road. This they followed until about midnigh_hey came upon a small village. They found, as they had hoped, bread and othe_rovisions upon several of the window-sills, and thankfully stowing these awa_gain struck off to the hills.
"This is capital," Godfrey said, as after getting well into the forest the_ighted a fire, threw themselves down beside it, and made a hearty meal. "I_e could rely upon doing as well as this always I should not mind how long ou_ourney lasted. It is glorious to be out in these woods after that clos_rison."
The Tartar nodded. The closeness of the air in the prison never troubled him, but he was quite ready to agree to anything that Godfrey might say. "Good i_ummer," he said, "but not very good in winter."
"No, I expect not; but we shall have to make the best of it, Luka, for it i_uite certain that we shall have to spend the winter out somewhere."
"We will make skin coats and keep ourselves warm," Luka said confidently.
"Make a good hut."
"Yes, that part of the thing seems simple enough," Godfrey agreed; "th_ifficulty will be in feeding ourselves. But we need not bother about tha_ow. Well, we had better go off to sleep, Luka; we have been tramping full_ighteen hours, and I feel as tired as a dog."
In a few minutes they were fast asleep, but they were on their feet again a_aybreak and journeyed steadily for the next three days, always keeping nea_he edge of the forest. On the fourth day they saw a small farm-house lyin_ot far from the edge of the wood.
"Here is the place that we have been looking for for the last week," Godfre_aid. "This is where we must manage to get clothes. The question is, how man_en are there there? Not above two or three, I should say. But anyhow we mus_isk it."
They waited until they saw lights in the cottage, and guessed that the famil_ad all returned from their work.
"Now then, Luka, come along. You must look fierce, you know, and try t_righten them a bit. But mind, if they refuse and show fight we must go awa_ithout hurting them."
Luka looked up in surprise. "Why that?" he asked. "You could beat that pi_obylin as if he were a child, why not beat them and make them give?"
"Because I am not going to turn robber, Luka. I know some of the runaways d_urn robbers, and murder peasants and travellers. You know some of the men i_he prison boasted of what they had done, but that is not our way. We ar_onest men though we have been shut up in prison. I am willing to pay for wha_ want as long as I have money, after that we shall see about it. If thes_eople won't sell we shall find others that will."
They went quietly up to the house, lifted the latch and walked in, holdin_heir long knives in their hands. Two men were seated at table, three wome_nd several children were near the fire. There was a general exclamation o_larm as the two convicts entered.
"Do not fear," Godfrey said loudly; "we do not wish to rob anyone. We are no_andits, we are ready to pay for what we require, but that we must have."
The men were both convicts who had long since served out their time. "What d_ou want?" one of them asked.
"We want clothes. You need not be afraid of selling them to us. If we wer_aptured to-morrow, which we don't mean to be, we will swear to you that w_ill not say where we obtained them. We are ready to pay the full value. Wh_hould you not make an honest deal instead of forcing us to take life?"
"We will sell them to you," one of the men said after speaking a few words i_ low tone to the other, and then rising to his feet.
"Sit down," Godfrey said sternly. "We want no tricks. Tell the women to fetc_n the clothes."
The man, seeing that Godfrey was determined, abandoned his intention o_eizing a club and making a fight for it, and told one of the women to fetc_ome clothes down. She returned in a minute or two with a large bundle.
"Pick out two suits, Luka, one for you and one for me." Luka was making _areful choice when Godfrey said, "Don't pick out the best, Luka, I don't wan_unday clothes, but just strong serviceable suits; they will be none the wors_or a patch or two. Now," he said to the men, "name a fair price for thos_lothes and I will pay you."
The peasants had not in the slightest degree believed that the convicts wer_oing to pay them, and their faces lighted up. They hesitated as to the price.
"Come, I will give you ten roubles. I am sure that is more than they are wort_o you now."
"Very well," the man said, "I am contented."
Godfrey placed a ten-rouble note upon the table. "Now," he said, "we want _ouple of hats." Two fairly good ones were brought down.
"Is there nothing else?" the man asked, ready enough to sell now that he sa_hat he was to be paid fair prices.
"We want some meat and bread, ten pounds of each if you have got it."
"We have a pig we salted down the other day," the man said. "We have n_read—we are going to bake to-morrow morning but you can have ten pounds o_lour."
"That will do. We want a small frying-pan, a kettle, and two tin mugs. Hav_ou got any tea in the house?"
"I have got about a pound."
"We will take it all. We can't bother ourselves about sugar, Luka, we must d_ithout that; every pound tells. We have brought plenty of tobacco with us t_ast some time. Have you got a gun?" he asked the man suddenly.
"Yes," he said, "we have got two. The wolves are troublesome sometimes i_inter. Fetch the guns, Elizabeth."
The guns were brought down. One was a double-barrel of German make, the othe_ long single-barrel. "How much do you want for this?" he asked, taking up th_ormer.
"I don't use it much," the man said, "one will be enough for me, I will tak_ifty roubles."
"No, no," Godfrey said. "You value your goods too high; money is not a_lentiful with me as all that. I can't go higher than twenty roubles," and h_aid the gun down again.
"I will take thirty," the man said.
After a good deal of bargaining Godfrey obtained the gun, a flask of powder, and a bag of bullets and shot for twenty-five roubles. Then he paid for th_ther goods he had purchased. Luka made them into a bundle and lifted them al_n to his shoulder. Then saying good-bye to the peasants they again starte_or the forest.
"We are set up now, Luka."
"Yes indeed," the Tartar replied. "We could journey anywhere now; we want bu_wo or three blankets and some furs and we could travel to Moscow."
"Yes, if we had one more thing, Luka."
"What is that?"
"Yes, we should want those; but I daresay we could do without them."
They enjoyed their suppers greatly that night, frying some pork and then som_ough-cakes in the fat, and washing it down with numerous cups of tea.
"The next thing will be for you to make a bow and arrows, Luka. I did not bu_he other gun for two reasons: in the first place because we could not affor_t, and in the second because you said you liked a bow best."
Luka nodded. "I never shot with a gun," he said. "A bow is just as good, an_akes no noise."
"That is true enough, Luka. Well, I shall be a good deal more comfortable whe_e leave those convict clothes behind us. Of course we shall be just as liabl_o be seized and shut up as vagabonds when we cannot produce papers as if w_ere in our convict suits, but there is something disgusting in being dresse_p in clothing that tells every one you are a murderer or a robber, and t_now there is that patch between one's shoulders."
Luka was quite indifferent to any sentimental considerations. Still h_dmitted that it was an advantage to get rid of the convict garb. In th_orning they put on the peasants' clothes. As Godfrey was about the same siz_s the man whose garments he had got, the things fitted him fairly. Luka'_ere a good deal too large for him, but as the Russian peasants' clothe_lways fit them loosely, this mattered little. The other things were divide_nto two bundles of equal weight.
Luka would willingly have carried the whole, pointing out that Godfrey had th_un and ammunition, but the latter said:
"If you take the frying-pan and kettle and the two tin mugs that will mak_atters even, Luka."
The two convict suits were left at the foot of the tree where they had slept.
Godfrey first thought of throwing them on to the fire, but changed his mind, saying:
"Some poor beggar whose clothes are worn out may come upon them, and be gla_f them, some time during the summer; we may just as well let them lie here.
Now, Luka, we must walk in good earnest. We ought to be able to make five-and- thirty miles a day over a tolerably level country, and at that rate we shal_e a long way off before winter."
The forests abounded with squirrels. Although Luka assured him that they wer_xcellent eating, Godfrey could not bring himself to shoot at the prett_reatures. "It would be a waste of powder and shot, Luka," he said. "We hav_lenty of meat to go on with at present, when it is gone it will be tim_nough to begin to think of shooting game; besides, there are numbers of mine_bout this country, and the sound of a gun might bring out the Cossacks."