THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER
Sweet it was,
0 dear heart,
To meet and learn to love thee.
But sad it was from thee to part—
As though my soul fled from me.
EARLY in the morning I was wakened by the drum. I went to the market-place. Pugatchov's crowds were already forming into ranks by the gallows, where the victims of the day before were still hanging. The Cossacks were on horseback, the soldiers shouldered their rifles. Banners were flying. Several cannon, among which I recognized ours, were placed on their carriages. All the inhabitants were there, too, waiting for the Pretender. A Cossack stood at the steps of the Commandant's house, holding a beautiful white Kirghis horse by the bridle. I searched with my eyes for Vasilissa Yegorovna's body. It had been moved a little to one side and covered with a tarpaulin. At last Pugatchov appeared in the doorway. The people took off their caps'. Pugatchov stood on the steps and greeted them all. One of the elders gave him a bag of coppers and he began throwing them down in handfuls. The crowd rushed to pick them up, shouting; some were hurt in the scramble. Pugatchov was surrounded by his chief confederates. Shvabrin was among them. Our eyes met; he could read contempt in mine, and he turned away with an expression of sincere malice and feigned mockery. Catching sight of me in the crowd, Pugatchov nodded and beckoned to me.
'Listen,' he said to me. 'Go at once to Orenburg and tell the Governor and all his generals from me that they are to expect me in a week. Advise them to meet me with child-like love and obedience, else they will not escape a cruel death. A pleasant journey to you, your honour!'
Then he turned to the people and said, pointing to Shvabrin: 'Here, children, is your new commandant. Obey him in everything, and he will be answerable to me for you and the fortress.'
I heard these words with horror; Shvabrin was put in command of the fortress; Marya Ivanovna would be in his power! My God! what would become of her? Pugatchov came down the steps. His horse was brought to him. He quickly jumped into the saddle without waiting for the Cossacks to help him. At that moment I saw my Savelyitch step out off the crowd and hand Pugatchov a sheet of paper. I could not imagine what this would lead to.
'What is. this ?' Pugatchov asked, with an air of importance.
'Read and you will see,' Savelyitch answered.
Pugatchov took the paper and gazed at it significantly for a few moments.
'Why do you write so illegibly?' he said at last. 'Our bright eyes can make nothing of it. Where is my chief secretary ?'
A young lad in a sergeant's uniform at once ran up to Pugatchov..
'Read it aloud,' said the Pretender, giving him the paper. I was extremely curious to know what Savelyitch could have written to Pugatchov. The chief secretary began reading aloud, syllable by syllable:
'Two dressing-gowns, one cotton and one striped silk, worth six roubles.'
'What does this mean?' Pugatchov asked, with a frown.
'Tell him to read on,' Savelyitch answered calmly.
The chief secretary continued:
'A uniform coat of fine green cloth, worth seven roubles. White cloth trousers, worth five roubles. Twelve fine linen shirts with frills, worth ten roubles. A tea-set worth two and a half roubles. . . .'
'What nonsense is this?' Pugatchov interrupted him. 'What do I care about tea-sets and frills and trousers?'
Savelyitch cleared his throat and began explaining:
'Well, you see, sir, this is a list of my master's goods stolen by the villains. . . .'
'What villains ?' Pugatchov said menacingly.
'I am sorry; it was a slip of the tongue,' Savelyitch answered. 'They are not villains, of course, your men, but they rummaged about and took these things. Don't be angry: a horse has four legs and yet it stumbles. Tell him to read to the end anyway.'
' Read on,' Pugatchov said.
The secretary continued:
'A cotton bedspread, a silk eiderdown, worth four roubles. A foxfur coat, covered with red cloth, worth forty roubles. Also a hareskin jacket given to your honour at the inn, worth fifteen roubles. . . .'
'What next!' Pugatchov shouted, with blazing eyes.
I confess I was alarmed for Savelyitch. He was about to give more explanations, but Pugatchov interrupted him.
'How dare you trouble me with such trifles!' he cried, seizing the paper from the secretary's hands and throwing it in Savelyitch's face. 'Stupid old man! They have been robbed—as though it mattered! Why, you old dodderer, you ought to pray for the rest of your life for me and my men, and thank your stars that you and your master are not swinging here together with my rebels. . . . Hareskin jacket, indeed! I'll give you a hareskin jacket! Why, I'll have you flayed alive and make a jacket of your skin!'
'As you please,' Savelyitch answered. 'But I am a bondman, and have to answer for my master's property.'
Pugatchov was evidently in a generous mood. He turned away and rode off without saying another word. Shvabrin and the Cossack elders followed him. The gang left the fortress in an orderly fashion. The townspeople walked out some distance after Pugatchov. Savelyitch and I were left alone in the market-place. He was holding the paper in his hands, and examining it with an air of deep regret.
Seeing that I was on good terms with Pugatchov, he had decided to take advantage of it; but his wise intention did not meet with success. I tried to scold him for his misplaced zeal. but could not help laughing.
'It 's all very well to laugh, sir,' Savelyitch answered. 'It won't be so amusing when we shall have to buy everything afresh!'
I hastened to the priest's house to see Marya Ivanovna. The priest's wife had bad news for me. In the night Marya Ivanovna had developed a fever. She lay unconscious and delirious. Akulina Pamfilovna took me into her room. I walked quietly to the bedside. The change in her face struck me. She did not know me. I stood beside her for some time without listening to Father Gerasim and his kind wife who were, I think, trying to comfort me. Gloomy thoughts tormented me. The condition of the poor defenceless orphan left among the vindictive rebels, and my own helplessness, terrified me. The thought of Shvabrin tortured my imagination more than anything. Given power by the Pretender, put in charge of the fortress where the unhappy girl—the innocent object of his hatred—remained, he might do anything. What was I to do? How could I help her? How could I free her from the villain's hands? There was only one thing left me: I decided to go to Orenburg that very hour and do my utmost to hasten the relief of the Belogorsky fortress. I said good-bye to the priest and to Akulina Pamfilovna, begging them to take care of Marya Ivanovna, whom I already regarded as my wife. I took the poor girl's hand and kissed it, wetting it with my tears.
'Good-bye,' said the priest's wife, taking leave of me, 'good-bye, Pyotr Andreyitch. I hope we shall meet in better times. Don't forget us and write to us often. Poor Marya Ivanovna has now no one to comfort and defend her but you.'
Coming out into the market-place I stopped for a moment to look at the gallows, bowed down before it, and left the fortress by the Orenburg road, accompanied by Savelyitch who kept pace with me.
I walked on occupied with my thoughts, when I suddenly heard the sound of a horse's hoofs behind me. I turned round and saw a Cossack galloping from the fortress; he was leading a Bashkir horse by the bridle and signalling to me from a distance. I stopped and soon recognized our sergeant. Overtaking me he dismounted and said, giving me the reins of the other horse:
'Your honour, our father presents you with a horse and a fur coat of his own' (a sheepskin coat was tied to the saddle), 'and he also presents you'—Maximitch hesitated—'with fifty copecks in money . . . but I lost it on the way; kindly forgive me.'
Savelyitch looked at him askance and grumbled: 'Lost it on the way! And what is this rattling in the breast of your coat? You 've got no conscience!'
'What is rattling in the breast of my coat?' replied the sergeant, not in the least abashed. 'Why, mercy on us, my good man! that's my bridle and not the fifty copecks!'
'Very well,' I said, interrupting the argument. 'Thank from me him who sent you; and on your way back try to pick up the money you dropped and take it for vodka.'
'Thank you very much, your honour,' he answered, turning his horse;' I shall pray for you as long as I live.'
With these words he galloped back, holding with one hand the breast of his coat, and in another minute was lost to sight. I put on the sheepskin and mounted the horse, making Savelyitch sit behind me.
'You see now, sir,' the old man said, 'it was not for nothing I presented the petition to the rascal; the thief's conscience pricked him. It's true, the long-legged Bashkir nag and the sheepskin coat are not worth half of what they have stolen from us, the rascals, and what you had yourself given him, but it will come in useful; one may as well get a piece of wool off a fierce dog.'