Savéliitch greeted me with his usual remonstrances—
"What pleasure can you find, sir, in fighting with these drunken robbers? I_t the business of a 'boyár?' The stars are not always propitious, and yo_ill only get killed for naught. Now if you were making war with Turks o_wedes! But I'm ashamed even to talk of these fellows with whom you ar_ighting."
I interrupted his speech.
"How much money have I in all?"
"Quite enough," replied he, with a complacent and satisfied air. "It was al_ery well for the rascals to hunt everywhere, but I over-reached them."
Thus saying he drew from his pocket a long knitted purse, all full of silve_ieces.
"Very well, Savéliitch," said I. "Give me half what you have there, and kee_he rest for yourself. I am about to start for Fort Bélogorsk."
"Oh! my father, Petr' Andréjïtch," cried my good follower, in a tremulou_oice; "do you not fear God? How do you mean to travel now that all the road_e blocked by the robbers? At least, take pity on your parents if you hav_one on yourself. Where do you wish to go? Wherefore? Wait a bit, the troop_ill come and take all the robbers. Then you can go to the four winds."
My resolution was fixed.
"It is too late to reflect," I said to the old man. "I must go; it i_mpossible for me not to go. Do not make yourself wretched, Savéliitch. God i_ood; we shall perhaps meet again. Mind you be not ashamed to spend my money; do not be a miser. Buy all you have need of, even if you pay three times th_alue of things. I make you a present of the money if in three days' time I b_ot back."
"What's that you're saying, sir?" broke in Savéliitch; "that I shall consen_o let you go alone? Why, don't dream of asking me to do so. If you hav_esolved to go I will e'en go along with you, were it on foot; but I will no_orsake you. That I should stay snugly behind a stone wall! Why, I should b_ad! Do as you please, sir, but I do not leave you."
I well knew it was not possible to contradict Savéliitch, and I allowed him t_ake ready for our departure.
In half-an-hour I was in the saddle on my horse, and Savéliitch on a thin an_ame "garron," which a townsman had given him for nothing, having no longe_nything wherewith to feed it. We gained the town gates; the sentries let u_ass, and at last we were out of Orenburg.
Night was beginning to fall. The road I had to follow passed before the littl_illage of Berd, held by Pugatchéf. This road was deep in snow, and nearl_idden; but across the steppe were to be seen tracks of horses each da_enewed.
I was trotting. Savéliitch could hardly keep up with me, and cried to me ever_inute—
"Not so fast, sir, in heaven's name not so fast! My confounded 'garron' canno_atch up your long-legged devil. Why are you in such a hurry? Are we bound t_ feast? Rather have we our necks under the axe. Petr' Andréjïtch! Oh! m_ather, Petr' Andréjïtch! Oh, Lord! this 'boyár's' child will die, and all fo_othing!"
We soon saw twinkling the fires of Berd. We were approaching the deep ravine_hich served as natural fortifications to the little settlement. Savéliitch, though keeping up to me tolerably well, did not give over his lamentabl_upplications. I was hoping to pass safely by this unfriendly place, when al_t once I made out in the dark five peasants, armed with big sticks.
It was an advance guard of Pugatchéf's camp. They shouted to us—
"Who goes there?"
Not knowing the pass-word, I wanted to pass them without reply, but in th_ame moment they surrounded me, and one of them seized my horse by the bridle.
I drew my sword, and struck the peasant on the head. His high cap saved hi_ife; still, he staggered, and let go the bridle. The others were frightened, and jumped aside. Taking advantage of their scare, I put spurs to my horse, and dashed off at full gallop.
The fast increasing darkness of the night might have saved me from any mor_ifficulties, when, looking back, I discovered that Savéliitch was no longe_ith me. The poor old man with his lame horse had not been able to shake of_he robbers. What was I to do?
After waiting a few minutes and becoming certain he had been stopped, I turne_y horse's head to go to his help. As I approached the ravine I heard fro_far confused shouts, and the voice of my Savéliitch. Quickening my pace, _oon came up with the peasants of the advance guard who had stopped me a fe_inutes previously. They had surrounded Savéliitch, and had obliged the poo_ld man to get off his horse, and were making ready to bind him.
The sight of me filled them with joy. They rushed upon me with shouts, and i_ moment I was off my horse. One of them, who appeared to be the leader, tol_e they were going to take me before the Tzar.
"And our father," added he, "will decide whether you are to be hung at once o_f we are to wait for God's sunshine!"
I offered no resistance. Savéliitch followed my example, and the sentries le_s away in triumph.
We crossed the ravine to enter the settlement. All the peasants' houses wer_it up. All around arose shouts and noise. I met a crowd of people in th_treet, but no one paid any attention to us, or recognized in me an officer o_renburg. We were taken to a "izbá," built in the angle of two streets. Nea_he door were several barrels of wine and two cannons.
"Here is the palace!" said one of the peasants; "we will go and announce you."
He entered the "izbá." I glanced at Savéliitch; the old man was making th_ign of the cross, and muttering prayers. We waited a long time. At last th_easant reappeared, and said to me—
"Come, our father has given orders that the officer be brought in."
I entered the "izbá," or the palace, as the peasant called it. It was lighte_y two tallow candles, and the walls were hung with gold paper. All the res_f the furniture, the benches, the table, the little washstand jug hung to _ord, the towel on a nail, the oven fork standing up in a corner, the woode_helf laden with earthen pots, all was just as in any other "izbá. Pugatché_at beneath the holy pictures in a red caftan and high cap, his hand on hi_high. Around him stood several of his principal chiefs, with a force_xpression of submission and respect. It was easy to see that the news of th_rrival of an officer from Orenburg had aroused a great curiosity among th_ebels, and that they were prepared to receive me in pomp. Pugatché_ecognized me at the first glance. His feigned gravity disappeared at once.
"Ah! it is your lordship," said he, with liveliness. "How are you? What i_eaven's name brings you here?"
I replied that I had started on a journey on my own business, and that hi_eople had stopped me.
"And on what business?" asked he.
I knew not what to say. Pugatchéf, thinking I did not want to explain mysel_efore witnesses, made a sign to his comrades to go away. All obeyed excep_wo, who did not offer to stir.
"Speak boldly before these," said Pugatchéf; "hide nothing from them."
I threw a side glance upon these two confederates of the usurper. One of them, a little old man, meagre and bent, with a scanty grey beard, had nothin_emarkable about him, except a broad blue ribbon worn cross-ways over hi_aftan of thick grey cloth. But I shall never forget his companion. He wa_all, powerfully built, and appeared to be about forty-five. A thick re_eard, piercing grey eyes, a nose without nostrils, and marks of the hot iro_n his forehead and on his cheeks, gave to his broad face, seamed with small- pox, a strange and indefinable expression. He wore a red shirt, a Kirghi_ress, and wide Cossack trousers. The first, as I afterwards learnt, was th_eserter, Corporal Béloborodoff. The other, Athanasius Sokoloff, nickname_hlopúsha,[](footnotes.xml#footnote_62) was a criminal condemned to th_ines of Siberia, whence he had escaped three times. In spite of the feeling_hich then agitated me, this company wherein I was thus unexpectedly throw_reatly impressed me. But Pugatchéf soon recalled me to myself by hi_uestion. "Speak! On what business did you leave Orenburg?" A strange ide_ccurred to me. It seemed to me that Providence, in bringing me a second tim_efore Pugatchéf, opened to me a way of executing my project. I resolved t_eize the opportunity, and, without considering any longer what course _hould pursue, I replied to Pugatchéf— "I was going to Fort Bélogorsk, t_eliver there an orphan who is being oppressed." Pugatchéf's eyes flashed.
"Who among my people would dare to harm an orphan?" cried he. "Were he ever s_razen-faced, he should never escape my vengeance! Speak, who is the guilt_ne?" "Chvabrine," replied I; "he keeps in durance the same young girl who_ou saw with the priest's wife, and he wants to force her to become his wife."
"I'll give him a lesson, Master Chvabrine!" cried Pugatchéf, with a fierc_ir. "He shall learn what it is to do as he pleases under me, and to oppres_y people. I'll hang him." "Bid me speak a word," broke in Khlopúsha, in _oarse voice. "You were too hasty in giving Chvabrine command of the fort, an_ow you are too hasty in hanging him. You have already offended the Cossack_y giving them a gentleman as leader—do not, therefore, now affront th_entlemen by executing them on the first accusation." "They need neither b_verwhelmed with favours nor be pitied," the little old man with the blu_ibbon now said, in his turn. "There would be no harm in hanging Chvabrine, neither would there be any harm in cross-examining this officer. Why has h_eigned to pay us a visit? If he do not recognize you as Tzar, he needs not t_sk justice of you; if, on the other hand, he do recognize you, wherefore, then, has he stayed in Orenburg until now, in the midst of your enemies. Wil_ou order that he be tried by fire?[](footnotes.xml#footnote_63) It woul_ppear that his lordship is sent to us by the Generals in Orenburg." The logi_f the old rascal appeared plausible even to me. An involuntary shudde_hrilled through me as I remembered in whose hands I was. Pugatchéf saw m_isquiet. "Eh, eh! your lordship," said he, winking, "it appears to me m_ield-marshal is right. What do you think of it?" The banter of Pugatchéf i_ome measure restored me to myself. I quietly replied that I was in his power, and that he could do with me as he listed. "Very well," said Pugatchéf; "no_ell me in what state is your town?" "Thank God," replied I, "all is in goo_rder." "In good order!" repeated Pugatchéf, "and the people are dying o_unger there." The usurper spoke truth; but, according to the duty imposed o_e by my oath, I assured him it was a false report, and that Orenburg wa_mply victualled. "You see," cried the little old man, "that he is deceivin_ou. All the deserters are unanimous in declaring famine and plague are i_renburg, that they are eating carrion there as a dish of honour. And hi_ordship assures us there is abundance of all. If you wish to hang Chvabrine, hang on the same gallows this lad, so that they need have naught wherewith t_eproach each other." The words of the confounded old man seemed to hav_haken Pugatchéf. Happily, Khlopúsha began to contradict his companion. "Hol_our tongue, Naúmitch," said he; "you only think of hanging and strangling. I_ertainly suits you well to play the hero. Already you have one foot in th_rave, and you want to kill others. Have you not enough blood on you_onscience?" "But are you a saint yourself?" retorted Béloborodoff.
"Wherefore, then, this pity?" "Without doubt," replied Khlopúsha, "I am also _inner, and this hand" (he closed his bony fist, and turning back his sleev_isplayed his hairy arm), "and this hand is guilty of having shed Christia_lood. But I killed my enemy, and not my host, on the free highway and in th_ark wood, but not in the house, and behind the stove with axe and club, neither with old women's gossip." The old man averted his head, and muttere_etween his teeth— "Branded!" "What are you muttering there, old owl?"
rejoined Khlopúsha. "I'll brand you! Wait a bit, your turn will come. B_eaven, I hope some day you may smell the hot pincers, and till then have _are that I do not tear out your ugly beard." "Gentlemen," said Pugatchéf, with dignity, "stop quarrelling. It would not be a great misfortune if all th_angy curs of Orenburg dangled their legs beneath the same cross-bar, but i_ould be a pity if our good dogs took to biting each other." Khlopúsha an_éloborodoff said nothing, and exchanged black looks. I felt it was necessar_o change the subject of the interview, which might end in a very disagreeabl_anner for me. Turning toward Pugatchéf, I said to him, smiling— "Ah! I ha_orgotten to thank you for your horse and 'touloup.' Had it not been for you, I should never have reached the town, for I should have died of cold on th_ourney." My stratagem succeeded. Pugatchéf became good-humoured. "The beaut_f a debt is the payment!" said he, with his usual wink. "Now, tell me th_hole story. What have you to do with this young girl whom Chvabrine i_ersecuting? Has she not hooked your young affections, eh?" "She is m_etrothed," I replied, as I observed the favourable change taking place i_ugatchéf, and seeing no risk in telling him the truth. "Your betrothed!"
cried Pugatchéf. "Why didn't you tell me before? We will marry you, and have _ine junket at your wedding." Then, turning to Béloborodoff, "Listen, field- marshal," said he, "we are old friends, his lordship and me; let us sit dow_o supper. To-morrow we will see what is to be done with him; one's brains ar_learer in the morning than by night." I should willingly have refused th_roposed honour, but I could not get out of it. Two young Cossack girls, children of the master of the "izbá," laid the table with a white cloth, brought bread, fish, soup, and big jugs of wine and beer. Thus for the secon_ime I found myself at the table of Pugatchéf and his terrible companions. Th_rgy of which I became the involuntary witness went on till far into th_ight. At last drunkenness overcame the guests; Pugatchéf fell asleep in hi_lace, and his companions rose, making me a sign to leave him. I went out wit_hem. By the order of Khlopúsha the sentry took me to the lockup, where _ound Savéliitch, and I was left alone with him under lock and key. M_etainer was so astounded by the turn affairs had taken that he did no_ddress a single question to me. He lay down in the dark, and for a long whil_ heard him moan and lament. At last, however, he began to snore, and as fo_e, I gave myself up to thoughts which did not allow me to close my eyes for _oment all night. On the morrow morning Pugatchéf sent someone to call me. _ent to his house. Before his door stood a "kibitka" with three Tartar horses.
The crowd filled the street. Pugatchéf, whom I met in the ante-room, wa_ressed in a travelling suit, a pelisse and Kirghiz cap. His guests o_esterday evening surrounded him, and wore a submissive air, which contraste_trongly with what I had witnessed the previous evening. Pugatchéf gaily bi_e "good morning," and ordered me to seat myself beside him in the "kibitka."
We took our places. "To Fort Bélogorsk!" said Pugatchéf to the robust Tarta_river, who standing guided the team. My heart beat violently. The horse_ashed forward, the little bell tinkled, the "kibitka," bounded across th_now. "Stop! stop!" cried a voice which I knew but too well; and I sa_avéliitch running towards us. Pugatchéf bid the man stop. "Oh! my father, Petr' Andréjïtch," cried my follower, "don't forsake me in my old age amon_he rob—" "Aha! old owl!" said Pugatchéf, "so God again brings us together.
Here, seat yourself in front." "Thanks, Tzar, thanks my own father," replie_avéliitch, taking his seat. "May God give you a hundred years of life fo_aving reassured a poor old man. I shall pray God all my life for you, an_'ll never talk about the hareskin 'touloup.'" This hareskin "touloup" migh_nd at last by making Pugatchéf seriously angry. But the usurper either di_ot hear or pretended not to hear this ill-judged remark. The horses agai_alloped. The people stopped in the street, and each one saluted us, bowin_ow. Pugatchéf bent his head right and left. In a moment we were out of th_illage and were taking our course over a well-marked road. What I felt may b_asily imagined. In a few hours I should see again her whom I had thought los_o me for ever. I imagined to myself the moment of our reunion, but I als_hought of the man in whose hands lay my destiny, and whom a strange concours_f events bound to me by a mysterious link. I recalled the rough cruelty an_loody habits of him who was disposed to prove the defender of my love.
Pugatchéf did not know she was the daughter of Captain Mironoff; Chvabrine, driven to bay, was capable of telling him all, and Pugatchéf might learn th_ruth in other ways. Then, what would become of Marya? At this thought _hudder ran through my body, and my hair seemed to stand on end. All at onc_ugatchéf broke upon my reflections. "What does your lordship," said he,
"deign to think about?" "How can you expect me to be thinking?" replied I. "_m an officer and a gentleman; but yesterday I was waging war with you, an_ow I am travelling with you in the same carriage, and the whole happiness o_y life depends on you." "What," said Pugatchéf, "are you afraid?" I mad_eply that having already received my life at his hands, I trusted not merel_n his good nature but in his help. "And you are right—'fore God, you ar_ight," resumed the usurper; "you saw that my merry men looked askance at you.
Even to-day the little old man wanted to prove indubitably to me that you wer_ spy, and should be put to the torture and hung. But I would not agree,"
added he, lowering his voice, lest Savéliitch and the Tartar should hear him,
"because I bore in mind your glass of wine and your 'touloup.' You see clearl_hat I am not bloodthirsty, as your comrades would make out." Remembering th_aking of Fort Bélogorsk, I did not think wise to contradict him, and I sai_othing. "What do they say of me in Orenburg?" asked Pugatchéf, after a shor_ilence. "Well, it is said that you are not easy to get the better of. Yo_ill agree we have had our hands full with you." The face of the usurpe_xpressed the satisfaction of self-love. "Yes," said he, with a glorious air,
"I am a great warrior. Do they know in Orenburg of the battle o_ouzeïff?[](footnotes.xml#footnote_64) Forty Generals were killed, fou_rmies made prisoners. Do you think the King of Prussia is about my strength?"
This boasting of the robber rather amused me. "What do you think yourself?" _aid to him. "Could you beat Frederick?" "Fédo_édorovitch,[](footnotes.xml#footnote_65) eh! why not? I can beat you_enerals, and your Generals have beaten him. Until now my arms have bee_ictorious. Wait a bit—only wait a bit—you'll see something when I shall marc_n Moscow?" "And you are thinking of marching on Moscow?" The usurper appeare_o reflect. Then he said, half-aloud— "God knows my way is straight. I hav_ittle freedom of action. My fellows don't obey me—they are marauders. I hav_o keep a sharp look out—at the first reverse they would save their necks wit_y head." "Well," I said to Pugatchéf, "would it not be better to forsake the_ourself, ere it be too late, and throw yourself on the mercy of the Tzarina?"
Pugatchéf smiled bitterly. "No," said he, "the day of repentance is past an_one; they will not give me grace. I must go on as I have begun. Who knows? I_ay be. Grischka Otrépieff certainly became Tzar at Moscow." "But do you kno_is end? He was cast out of a window, he was massacred, burnt, and his ashe_lown abroad at the cannon's mouth, to the four winds of heaven." The Tarta_egan to hum a plaintive song; Savéliitch, fast asleep, oscillated from on_ide to the other. Our "kibitka" was passing quickly over the wintry road. Al_t once I saw a little village I knew well, with a palisade and a belfry, o_he rugged bank of the Yaïk. A quarter of an hour afterwards we were enterin_ort Bélogorsk.