Hadji Murad/20


Hadji Murad had been a week in the major's house at the fort. Although Marya Dmitrievna quarrelled with the shaggy Khanefi (Hadji Murad had only brought two of his murids, Khanefi and Eldar, with him) and had turned him out of her kitchen -- for which he nearly killed her -- she evidently felt a particular respect and sympathy for Hadji Murad. She now no longer served him his dinner, having handed that duty over to Eldar, but she seized every opportunity of seeing him and rendering him service. She always took the liveliest interest in the negotiations about his family, knew how many wives and children he had, and their ages, and each time a spy came to see him she inquired as best she could into the results of the negotiations.

Butler during that week had become quite friendly with Hadji Murad. Sometimes the latter came to Butler's room, sometimes Butler went to Hadji Murad's: sometimes they conversed by the help of the interpreter, and sometimes they got on as best they could with signs and especially with smiles.

Hadji Murad had evidently taken a fancy to Butler, as could be gathered from Eldar's relations with the latter. When Butler entered Hadji Murad's room Eldar met him with a pleased smile showing his glittering teeth, and hurried to put down a cushion for him to sit on and to relieve him of his sword if he was wearing one.

Butler also got to know, and became friendly with, the shaggy Khanefi, Hadji Murad's sworn brother. Khanefi knew many mountain songs and sang them well, and to please Butler, Hadji Murad often made Khanefi sing, choosing the songs he considered best. Khanefi had a high tenor voice and sang with extraordinary clearness and expression. One of the songs Hadji Murad specially liked impressed Butler by its solemnly mournful tone and he asked the interpreter to translate it.

The subject of the song was the very blood-feud that had existed between Khanefi and Hadji Murad. It ran as follows:

The earth will dry on my grave,

Mother, my Mother!

And thou wilt forget me!

And over me rank grass will wave,

Father, my Father!

Nor wilt thou regret me

When tears cease thy dark eyes to lave,

Sister, dear Sister

 No more will grief fret thee!


But thou, my Brother the elder, wilt never forget,

With vengeance denied me!

And thou, my Brother the younger, wilt ever regret,

Till thou liest beside me!


Hotly thou camest, O death-bearing ball that I spurned,

For thou wast my slave!

And thou, black earth, that battle-steed trampled and churned

Wilt cover my grave!


Cold art Thou, O Death, yet I was thy Lord and thy Master!

My body sinks fast to the earth, my soul to Heaven flies

faster.


Hadji Murad always listened to this song with closed eyes and when it ended on a long gradually dying note he always remarked in Russian --

"Good song! Wise song!"

After Hadji Murad's arrival and his intimacy with him and his murids, the poetry of the stirring mountain life took a still stronger hold on Butler. He procured for himself a beshmet and a Circassian coat and leggings, and imagined himself a mountaineer living the life those people lived.

On the day of Hadji Murad's departure the major invited several officers to see him off. They were sitting, some at the table where Marya Dmitrievna was pouring out tea, some at another table on which stood vodka, chekhir, and light refreshments, when Hadji Murad dressed for the journey came limping into the room with soft, rapid footsteps.

They all rose and shook hands with him. the major offered him a seat on the divan, but Hadji Murad thanked him and sat down on a chair by the window.

The silence that followed his entrance did not at all abash him. He looked attentively at all the faces and fixed an indifferent gaze on the tea-table with the samovar and refreshments. Petrovsky, a lively officer who now met Hadji Murad for the first time, asked him through the interpreter whether he liked Tiflis.

"Alya!" he replied.

"He says 'Yes'," translated the interpreter.

"What did he like there?"

Hadji Murad said something in reply.

"He liked the theater best of all."

"And how did he like the ball at the house of the commander- in-chief?"

Hadji Murad frowned. "Every nation has its own customs! Our women do not dress in such a way," said he, glancing at Marya Dmitrievna.

"Well, didn't he like it?"

"We have a proverb," said Hadji Murad to the interpreter, "'The dog gave meat to the ass and the ass gave hay to the dog, and both went hungry,'" and he smiled. "Its own customs seem good to each nation."

the conversation went no farther. Some of the officers took tea, some other refreshments. Hadji Murad accepted the tumbler of tea offered him and put it down before him.

"Won't you have cream and a bun?" asked Marya Dmitrievna, offering them to him.

Hadji Murad bowed his head.

"Well, I suppose it is good-bye!" said Butler, touching his knee. "When shall we meet again?"

"Good-bye, good-bye!" said Hadji Murad, in Russian, with a smile. "Kunak bulug. Strong kunak to thee! Time -- ayda -- go!" and he jerked his head in the direction in which he had to go.

Eldar appeared in the doorway carrying something large and white across his shoulder and a sword in his hand. Hadji Murad beckoned to him and he crossed the room with big strides and handed him a white burka and the sword. Hadji Murad rose, took the burka, threw it over his arm, and saying something to the interpreter handed it to Marya Dmitrievna.

"He says thou has praised the burka, so accept it," said the interpreter.

"Oh, why?" said Marya Dmitrievna blushing.

"It is necessary. Like Adam," said Hadji Murad.

"Well, thank you," said Marya Dmitrievna, taking the burka. "God grant that you rescue your son," she added. "Ulan yakshi. Tell him that I wish him success in releasing his son."

Hadji Murad glanced at Marya Dmitrievna and nodded his head approvingly. Then he took the sword from Eldar and handed it to the major. The major took it and said to the interpreter, "Tell him to take my chestnut gelding. I have nothing else to give him."

Hadji Murad waved his hand in front of his face to show that he did not want anything and would not accept it. Then, pointing first to the mountains and then to his heart, he went out.

All the household followed him as far as the door, while the officers who remained inside the room drew the sword from its scabbard, examined its blade, and decided that it was a real Gurda.

Butler accompanied Hadji Murad to the porch, and then came a very unexpected incident which might have ended fatally for Hadji Murad had it not been for his quick observation, determination, and agility.

the inhabitants of the Kumukh aoul, Tash-Kichu, which was friendly to the Russians, respected Hadji Murad greatly and had often come to the fort merely to look at the famous naib. They had sent messengers to him three days previously to ask him to visit their mosque on the Friday. But the Kumukh princes who lived in Tash-Kichu hated Hadji Murad because there was a blood- feud between them, and on hearing of this invitation they announced to the people that they would not allow him to enter the mosque. The people became excited and a fight occurred between them and the princes' supporters. The Russian authorities pacified the mountaineers and sent word to Hadji Murad not to go to the mosque.

Hadji Murad did not go and everyone supposed that the matter was settled.

But at the very moment of his departure, when he came out into the porch before which the horses stood waiting, Arslan Khan, one of the Kumukh princes and an acquaintance of Butler and the major, rode up to the house.

When he saw Hadji Murad he snatched a pistol from his belt and took aim, but before he could fire, Hadji Murad in spite of his lameness rushed down from the porch like a cat towards Arslan Khan who missed him.

Seizing Arslan Khan's horse by the bridle with one hand, Hadji Murad drew his dagger with the other and shouted something to him in Tartar.

Butler and Eldar both ran at once towards the enemies and caught them by the arms. The major, who had heard the shot, also came out.

"What do you mean by it, Arslan -- starting such a nasty business on my premises?" said he, when he heard what had happened. "It's not right, friend! 'To the foe in the field you need not yield!' -- but to start this kind of slaughter in front of my house -- '

Arslan Khan, a little man with black mustaches, got off his horse pale and trembling, looked angrily at Hadji Murad, and went into the house with the major. Hadji Murad, breathing heavily and smiling, returned to the horses.

"Why did he want to kill him?" Butler asked the interpreter.

"He says it is a law of theirs," the interpreter translated Hadji Murad's reply. "Arslan must avenge a relation's blood and so he tried to kill him."

"and supposing he overtakes him on the road?" asked Butler.

Hadji Murad smiled.

"Well, if he kills me it will prove that such is Allah's will. ... Good-bye," he said again in Russian, taking his horse by the withers. Glancing round at everybody who had come out to see him off, his eyes rested kindly on Marya Dmitrievna.

"Good-bye, my lass," said he to her. "I thank you."

"God help you -- Gold help you to rescue your family!" repeated Marya Dmitrievna.

He did not understand her words, but felt her sympathy for him and nodded to her.

"Mind, don't forget your kunak," said Butler.

"Tell him I am his true friend and will never forget him," answered Hadji Murad to the interpreter, and in spite of his short leg he swung himself lightly and quickly into the high saddle, barely touching the stirrup, and automatically feeling for his dagger and adjusting his sword. Then, with that peculiarly proud look with which only a Caucasian hill-man sits his horse -- as though he were one with it -- he rode away from the major's house. Khanefi and Eldar also mounted and having taken a friendly leave of their hosts and of the officers, rode off at a trot, following their murshid.

As usual after a departure, those who remained behind began to discuss those who had left.

"Plucky fellow! He rushed at Arslan Khan like a wolf! His face quite changed!"

"But he'll be up to tricks -- he's a terrible rogue, I should say," remarked Petrovsky.

"It's a pity there aren't more Russian rogues of such a kind!" suddenly put in Marya Dmitrievna with vexation. "He has lived a week with us and we have seen nothing but good from him. He is courteous, wise, and just," she added.

"How did you find that out?"

"No matter, I did find it out!"

"She's quite smitten, and that's a fact!" said the major, who had just entered the room.

"Well, and if I am smitten? What's that to you? Why run him down if he's a good man? Though he's a Tartar he's still a good man!"

"Quite true, Marya Dmitrievna," said Butler, "and you're quite right to take his part!"