Hadji Murad/18


On the morning after the raid, not very early, Butler left the house by the back porch meaning to take a stroll and a breath of fresh air before breakfast, which he usually had with Petrov. The sun had already risen above the hills and it was painful to look at the brightly lit-up white walls of the houses on the right side of the street. But then as always it was cheerful and soothing to look to the left, at the dark receding and ascending forest-clad hills and at the dim line of snow peaks, which as usual pretended to be clouds. Butler looked at these mountains, inhaling deep breaths and rejoicing that he was alive, that it was just he that was alive, and that he lived in this beautiful place.

He was also rather pleased that he had behaved so well in yesterday's affair both during the advance and especially during the retreat when things were pretty hot; he was also pleased to remember how Masha (or Marya Dmitrievna), Petrov's mistress, had treated them at dinner on their return after the raid, and how she had been particularly nice and simple with everybody, but specially kind -- as he thought -- to him.

Marya Dmitrievna with her thick plait of hair, her broad shoulders, her high bosom, and the radiant smile on her kindly freckled face, involuntarily attracted Butler, who was a healthy young bachelor. It sometimes even seemed to him that she wanted him, but he considered that that would be doing his good-natured simple-hearted comrade a wrong, and he maintained a simple, respectful attitude towards her and was pleased with himself for doing so.

He was thinking of this when his meditations were disturbed by the tramp of many horses' hoofs along the dusty road in front of him, as if several men were riding that way. He looked up and saw at the end of the street a group of horsemen coming towards him at a walk. In front of a score of Cossacks rode two men: one in a white Circassian coat with a tall turban on his head, the other an officer in the Russian service, dark, with an aquiline nose, and much silver on his uniform and weapons. The man with the turban rode a fine chestnut horse with mane and tail of a lighter shade, a small head, and beautiful eyes. The officer's was a large, handsome Karabakh horse. Butler, a lover of horses, immediately recognized the great strength of the first horse and stopped to learn who these people were.

The officer addressed him. "this the house of commanding officer?" he asked, his foreign accent and his words betraying his foreign origin.

Butler replied that it was. "And who is that?" he added, coming nearer to the officer and indicating the man with the turban.

"That Hadji Murad. He come here to stay with the commander," said the officer.

Butler knew about Hadji Murad and about his having come over to the Russians, but he had not at all expected to see him here in this little fort. Hadji Murad gave him a friendly look.

"Good day, Kotkildy," said Butler, repeating the Tartar greeting he had learnt.

"Saubul!" ("Be well!") replied Hadji Murad, nodding. He rode up to Butler and held out his hand, from two fingers of which hung his whip.

"Are you the chief?" he asked.

"No, the chief is in here. I will go and call him," said Butler addressing the officer, and he went up the steps and pushed the door. But the door of the visitors' entrance, as Marya Dmitrievna called it, was locked, and as it still remained closed after he had knocked, Butler went round to the back door. He called his orderly but received no reply, and finding neither of the two orderlies he went into the kitchen, where Marya Dmitrievna -- flushed with a kerchief tied round her head and her sleeves rolled up on her plump white arms -- was rolling pastry, white as her hands, and cutting it into small pieces to make pies of.

"Where have the orderlies gone to?" asked Butler.

"Gone to drink," replied Marya Dmitrievna. "What do you want?"

"To have the front door opened. You have a whole horde of mountaineers in front of your house. Hadji Murad has come!"

"Invent something else!" said Marya Dmitrievna, smiling.

"I am not joking, he is really waiting by the porch!"

"Is it really true?" said she.

"Why should I wish to deceive you? Go and see, he's just at the porch!"

"Dear me, here's a go!" said Marya Dmitrievna pulling down her sleeves and putting up her hand to feel whether the hairpins in her thick plait were all in order. "Then I will go and wake Ivan Matveich."

"No, I'll go myself. and you Bondarenko, go and open the door," said he to Petrov's orderly who had just appeared.

"Well, so much the better!" said Marya Dmitrievna and returned to her work.

When he heard that Hadji Murad had come to his house, Ivan Matveich Petrov, the major, who had already heard that Hadji Murad was in Grozny, was not at all surprised. Sitting up in bed he rolled a cigarette, lit it, and began to dress, loudly clearing his throat and grumbling at the authorities who had sent "that devil" to him.

When he was ready he told his orderly to bring him some medicine. The orderly knew that "medicine" meant vodka, and brought some.

"There is nothing so bad as mixing," muttered the major when he had drunk the vodka and taken a bite of rye bread. "Yesterday I drank a little chikhir and now I have a headache. ... Well, I'm ready," he added, and went to the parlor, into which Butler had already shown Hadji Murad and the officer who accompanied him.

The officer handed the major orders from the commander of the left flank to the effect that he should receive Hadji Murad and should allow him to have intercourse with the mountaineers through spies, but was on no account to allow him to leave the fort without a convoy of Cossacks.

Having read the order the major looked intently at Hadji Murad and again scrutinized the paper. After passing his eyes several times from one to the other in this manner, he at last fixed them on Hadji Murad and said:

"Yakshi, Bek; yakshi! ("very well, sir, very well!") Let him stay here, and tell him I have orders not to let him out -- and what is commanded is sacred! Well, Butler, where do you think we'd better lodge him? Shall we put him in the office?"

Butler had not time to answer before Marya Dmitrievna -- who had come from the kitchen and was standing in the doorway -- said to the major:

"Why? Keep him here! We will give him the guest chamber and the storeroom. Then at any rate he will be within sight," said she, glancing at Hadji Murad; but meeting his eyes she turned quickly away.

"do you know, I think marya Dmitrievna is right," said Butler.

"Now then, now then, get away! Women have no business here," said the major frowning.

During the whole of this discussion Hadji Murad sat with his hand on the hilt of his dagger and a faint smile of contempt on his lips. He said it was all the same to him where he lodged, and that he wanted nothing but what the Sirdar had permitted -- namely, to have communication with the mountaineers, and that he therefore wished they should be allowed to come to him.

The major said this should be done, and asked Butler to entertain the visitors till something could be got for them to eat and their rooms prepared. Meanwhile he himself would go across to the office to write what was necessary and to give some orders.

Hadji Murad's relations with his new acquaintances were at once very clearly defined. From the first he was repelled by and contemptuous of the major, to whom he always behaved very haughtily. Marya Dmitrievna, who prepared and served up his food, pleased him particularly. He liked her simplicity and especially the -- to him -- foreign type of her beauty, and he was influenced by the attraction she felt towards him and unconsciously conveyed. He tried not to look at her or speak to her, but his eyes involuntarily turned towards her and followed her movements. With butler, from their first acquaintance, he immediately made friends and talked much and willingly with him, questioning him about his life, telling him of his own, communicating to him the news the spies brought him of his family's condition, and even consulting him as to how he ought to act.

The news he received through the spies was not good. During the first four days of his stay in the fort they came to see him twice and both times brought bad news.