THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER
Our slender young apple-tree
Has no spreading branch nor top to it,
Our tender young bride to be
Has no father nor mother to care for her,
She has no one to see her off,
No one to bestow a. blessing on her.
A Wedding Song.
THE chaise drove up to the Commandant's house. The people recognized the sound of Pugatchov's bell and ran after us in a crowd. Shvabrin met the Pretender on the steps. He was dressed like a Cossack and had grown a beard. The traitor helped Pugatchov to step out of the chaise, speaking in servile expressions of his delight and devotion. He was confused when he saw me, but soon recovered and gave me his hand, saying:
'So you, too, are one of us? Time you were!'
I turned away and made no answer.
My heart ached when we came into the familiar room; the certificate of the late Commandant still hung on the wall as a sad epitaph of bygone days. Pugatchov sat down on the sofa where Ivan Kuzmitch used to doze, lulled to sleep by his wife's grumbling. Shvabrin brought him some vodka. Pugatchov drank a glass and said, pointing to me:
'Offer some to his honour, too.'
Shvabrin came up to me with the tray, but I turned away again. He was obviously very uneasy. With his usual quickness he guessed, of course, that Pugatchov was displeased with him; he was afraid, and looked at me with distrust. Pugatchov asked about the state of the fortress, the news of the enemy's troops and such like things, and suddenly asked him;
' Tell me, brother, who is the girl you are keeping prisoner in your house? Show her to me.'
Shvabrin turned white as death.
'Sire,' he said in a shaking voice, 'Sire, she is not a prisoner. She is ill ... she is upstairs, in bed.'
'Take me to her,' the Pretender said, getting up.
It was impossible to refuse him. Shvabrin led Pugatchov to Marya Ivanovna's room. I followed them.
Shvabrin stopped on the stairs.
' Sire,' he said, ' you may require of me whatever you wish, but do not allow a stranger to enter my wife's bedroom.'
'So you are married?' I said to Shvabrin, ready to tear him to pieces.
'Keep quiet!' Pugatchov interrupted me. 'It is my affair. And don't you try to be clever,' he went on, addressing Shvabrin, 'or invent excuses; wife or not, I take to her whomsoever I like. Follow me, your honour.'
At Marya Ivanovna's door Shvabrin stopped again and said in a breaking voice:
'Sire, I warn you, she has brain fever and has been raving for the last three days.'
'Open the door!' said Pugatchov.
Shvabrin began searching in his pockets and said he had not brought the key. Pugatchov pushed the door with his foot, the lock fell off, the door opened, and we went in.
I looked—and was aghast. Marya Ivanovna, pale and thin, with dishevelled hair and dressed like a peasant, was sitting on the floor; a jug of water, covered with a piece of bread, stood before her. When she saw me she started and cried out. What I felt then I cannot describe.
Pugatchov looked at Shvabrin and said, with a bitter smile :
'Fine hospital you have here!' Then he went up to Marya Ivanovna and said: 'Tell me, my dear, what is your husband punishing you for? What wrong have you done to him?'
'My husband!' she repeated; 'he is not my husband. I will never be his wife. I would rather die, and I shall die if I am not saved from him.'
Pugatchov looked menacingly at Shvabrin.
'And you dared to deceive me!' he said. 'Do you know what you deserve, you wretch ?'
Shvabrin dropped on his knees. ... At that moment a feeling of contempt outweighed my hatred and anger. I looked with disgust upon a gentleman grovelling at the feet of an escaped convict. Pugatchov was softened.
'I will spare you this time,' he said to Shvabrin, 'but next time you are at fault, this wrong will be remembered against you.'
Then he turned to Marya Ivanovna and said kindly:
'Come away. my pretty maid. I set you free. I am the Tsar!'
Marya Ivanovna glanced at him and understood that her parents' murderer was before her. She buried her face in her hands and fell down senseless. I rushed to her, but at that moment my old friend Palasha very boldly made her way into the room and began attending to her mistress. Pugatchov walked out and the three of us went downstairs.
'Well, your honour,' Pugatchov said, laughing, 'we've delivered the fair maiden! What do you think, hadn't we better send for the priest and tell him to marry you to his niece? I'II give her away if you like, and Shvabrin will be best man; we'll make merry and drink, and give the guests no time to think!'
The very thing that I feared happened. Shvabrin was beside himself when he heard Pugatchov's suggestion.
'Sire!' he cried in a frenzy. 'I am to blame; I have lied to you, but Grinyov, too, is deceiving you. This girl is not the priest's niece; she is the daughter of Captain Mironov who was hanged when the fortress was taken.'
Pugatchov fixed on me his fiery eye.
'What's this?' he asked, in perplexity.
'Shvabrin is right,' I answered firmly.
'You hadn't told me,' remarked Pugatchov, and his face clouded.
'But consider,' I answered him. 'How could I have said in your men's presence that Mironov's daughter was living? They would have torn her to pieces. Nothing would have saved her!'
'That's true enough,' Pugatchov said, laughing. 'My drunkards would not have spared the poor girl. The priest's wife did well to deceive them.'
'Listen,' I said, seeing that he was in a kind mood. 'I do not know what to call you and I don't want to know. . . . But God knows I would gladly pay you with my life for what you have done for me. Only don't ask of me what is against my honour and Christian conscience. You are my benefactor. Finish as you have begun; let me go with the poor orphan whither God may lead us. And whatever happens to you and wherever you may be, we shall pray to Him every day of our lives to save your sinful soul.'
It seemed that Pugatchov's stern heart was touched.
'So be it!' he said. 'I don't believe in stopping half-way, be it in vengeance or in mercy. Take your sweetheart; go with her where you will and God grant you love and concord!'
Then he turned to Shvabrin and told him to give me a pass through all the villages and fortresses subject to his rule.
Shvabrin, utterly overwhelmed, stood like one dumbfounded. Pugatchov went to look at the fortress. Shvabrin accompanied him and I remained behind under the pretext of making ready for the journey.
I ran upstairs. The door was locked. I knocked.
'Who is there ?' Palasha asked.
I gave my name. Marya Ivanovna's sweet voice came from behind the door:
'Wait a little, Pyotr Andreyitch; I am changing my dress. Go to Akulina Pamfilovna's. I shall be there directly.'
I obeyed and went to Father Gerasim's house. Both he and his wife ran out to meet me. Savelyitch had already given them the news.
'How do you do, Pyotr Andreyitch?' the priest's wife said. ' God has brought us together again! How are you? We have talked of you every day. Marya Ivanovna has been through a dreadful time without you, poor darling! . . . But tell me, my dear, how did you hit it off with Pugatchov? How is it he hasn't made an end of you? It's something to the villain's credit!'
'That will do, my dear,' Father Gerasim interrupted her. 'Don't blurt out all you know. There is no salvation in speaking overmuch. Please come in, Pyotr Andreyitch! You are very welcome. We haven't seen you for months!'
The priest's wife offered me what food there was and talked incessantly as she did so. She told me how Shvabrin had forced them to give up Marya Ivanovna; how Marya Ivanovna wept and did not want to part from them; how Marya Ivanovna always kept in touch with her through Palasha (a spirited girl who made the sergeant himself dance to her tune); how she had advised Marya Ivanovna to write a letter to me, and so on. I, in my turn, briefly told her my story. The priest and his wife crossed themselves when they heard that Pugatchov knew of their deception.
'The power of the Holy Cross be with us!' said Akulina Pamfilovna. 'May the Lord let the storm go by! Fancy Alexey Ivanitch betraying us! He is a fine one!'
At that moment the door opened and Marya Ivanovna came in, a smile on her pale face. She had laid aside peasant clothes and was dressed as before, simply and prettily.
I clasped her hand and for some moments could not utter a word. Our hearts were too full for speech. Our hosts felt that we had no thoughts to spare for them and left us. We were alone. All was forgotten. We talked and talked. Marya Ivanovna told me all that had happened to her after the fortress was taken; she described to me the horror of her position, and all that she had had to endure at the hands of her vile pursuer. We recalled the bygone happy days. . . . We were both weeping. ... At last I put my plans before her. It was impossible for her to stay in a fortress subject to Pugatchov and ruled by Shvabrin. It was no use thinking of Orenburg where the inhabitants were suffering all the horrors of the siege. She had no one belonging to her in the world. I offered her to go to my parents' estate. She hesitated at first; she knew my father's animosity towards her and was afraid. I reassured her. I knew that my father would be happy and consider it his duty to welcome the daughter of a veteran soldier who had died for his country.
'Darling Marya Ivanovna,' I said to her, at last. 'I look upon you as my wife. Miraculous circumstances have united us for ever; nothing in the world can part us.'
Marya Ivanovna listened to me without coyness or feigned reluctance. She felt that her fate was united to mine. But she repeated that she would only marry me with my parents' consent. I did not contradict her about it. We kissed each other sincerely and ardently—and all was settled between us.
An hour later, Maximitch brought me a pass signed with Pugatchov's hieroglyphics and said that he wanted to see me. I found him ready for the journey. I cannot express what I felt on parting from this terrible man, a monster of evil to all but me. Why not confess the truth? At that moment I was drawn to him by warm sympathy. I longed to tear him away from the criminals whose leader he was and to save his head before it was too late. Shvabrin and the people who crowded round us prevented me from saying all that was in my heart.
We parted friends. Seeing Akulina Pamfilovna in the crowd Pugatchov shook his finger at her and winked significantly; then lie stepped into the chaise, told the driver to go to Berda, and as the horses moved he put out his head from the chaise once more and shouted to me:
'Good-bye, your honour! We may yet meet again.' We did meet again—but in what circumstances! Pugatchov drove away. I gazed for some time at the white steppe where his troika was galloping. The crowd dispersed. Shvabrin disappeared. I returned to the priest's house. Everything was ready for our departure. I did not want to delay any longer. All our belongings were packed in the old Commandant's chaise. The drivers harnessed the horses in a trice. Marya Ivanovna went to say good-bye to the graves of her parents, who were buried behind the church. I wanted to accompany her, but she asked me to leave her. She returned in a few minutes, silently weeping quiet tears. The chaise was brought before the house. Father Gerasim and his wife came out on to the steps. The three of us— Marya Ivanovna, Palasha, and I — sat inside the carriage and Savelyitch climbed on the box by the driver.
'Good-bye, Marya Ivanovna, my darling! Good-bye, Pyotr Andreyitch, our bright falcon!' kind Akulina Pamfilovna said to us. 'A happy journey to you, and God grant you happiness!'
We set off. I saw Shvabrin standing at the window in tlie Commandant's house. His face was expressive of gloomy malice. I did not want to triumph over a defeated enemy and turned my eyes in another direction. At last we drove out of the fortress gates, and left the Belogorsky fortress for ever.