Hadji Murad/22

Not having attained his aim in Chechnya, Hadji Murad returned to Tiflis and went every day to Vorontsov's, and whenever he could obtain audience he implored the Viceroy to gather together the mountaineer prisoners and exchange them for his family. He said that unless that were done his hands were tied and he could not serve the Russians and destroy Shamil as he desired to do. Vorontsov vaguely promised to do what he could, but put it off, saying that he would decide when General Argutinski reached Tiflis and he could talk the matter over with him.

Then Hadji Murad asked Vorontsov to allow him to go to live for a while in Nukha, a small town in Transcaucasia where he thought he could better carry on negotiations about his family with Shamil and with the people who were attached to himself. Moreover Nukha, being a Mohammedan town, had a mosque where he could more conveniently perform the rites of prayer demanded by the Mohammedan law. Vorontsov wrote to Petersburg about it but meanwhile gave Hadji Murad permission to go to Nukha.

For Vorontsov and the authorities in Petersburg, as well as for most Russians acquainted with Hadji Murad's history, the whole episode presented itself as a lucky turn in the Caucasian war, or simply as an interesting event. For Hadji Murad it was a terrible crisis in his life -- especially laterally. He had escaped from the mountains partly to save himself and partly out of hatred of Shamil, and difficult as this flight had been he had attained his object, and for a time was glad of his success and really devised a plan to attack Shamil, but the rescue of his family -- which he had thought would be easy to arrange -- had proved more difficult than he expected.

Shamil had seized the family and kept them prisoners, threatening to hand the women over to the different aouls and to blind or kill the son. Now Hadji Murad had gone to Nukha intending to try by the aid of his adherents in Daghestan to rescue his family from Shamil by force or by cunning. The last spy who had come to see him in Nukha informed him that the Avars, who were devoted to him, were preparing to capture his family and themselves bring them over to the Russians, but that there were not enough of them and they could not risk making the attempt in Vedeno, where the family was at present imprisoned, but could do so only if the family were moved from Vedeno to some other place -- in which case they promised to rescue them on the way.

Hadji Murad sent word to his friends that he would give three thousand rubles for the liberation of his family.

At Nukha a small house of five rooms was assigned to Hadji Murad near the mosque and the Khan's palace. The officers in charge of him, his interpreter, and his henchmen, stayed in the same house. Hadji Murad's life was spent in the expectation and reception of messengers from the mountains and in rides he was allowed to take in the neighborhood.

On 24th April, returning from one of these rides, Hadji Murad learnt that during his absence an official sent by Vorontsov had arrived from Tiflis. In spite of his longing to know what message the official had brought him he went to his bedroom and repeated his noonday prayer before going into the room where the officer in charge and the official were waiting. This room served him both as drawing room and reception room. The official who had come from Tiflis, Councillor Kirillov, informed Hadji Murad of Vorontsov's wish that he should come to Tiflis on the 12th to meet General Argutinski.

"Yakshi!" said Hadji Murad angrily. The councillor did not please him. "Have you brought money?"

"I have," answered Kirillov.

"For two weeks now," said Hadji Murad, holding up first both hands and then four fingers. "Give here!"

"We'll give it you at once," said the official, getting his purse out of his traveling bag. "What does he want with the money?" he sent on in Russian, thinking that Hadji Murad would not understand. But Hadji Murad had understood, and glanced angrily at him. While getting out the money the councillor, wishing to begin a conversation with Hadji Murad in order to have something to tell Prince Vorontsov on his return, asked through the interpreter whether he was not feeling dull there. Hadji Murad glanced contemptuously out of the corner of his eye at the fat, unarmed little man dressed as a civilian, and did not reply. The interpreter repeated the question.

"Tell him that I cannot talk with him! Let him give me the money!" and having said this, Hadji Murad sat down at the table ready to count it.

Hadji Murad had an allowance of five gold pieced a day, and when Kirillov had got out the money and arranged it in seven piles of ten gold pieces each and pushed them towards Hadji Murad, the latter poured the gold into the sleeve of his Circassian coat, rose, quite unexpectedly smacked Councillor Kirillov on his bald pate, and turned to go.

The councillor jumped up and ordered the interpreter to tell Hadji Murad that he must not dare to behave like that to him who held a rank equal to that of colonel! The officer in charge confirmed this, but Hadji Murad only nodded to signify that he knew, and left the room.

"What is one to do with him?" said the officer in charge. "He'll stick his dagger into you, that's all! One cannot talk with those devils! I see that he is getting exasperated."

As soon as it began to grow dusk two spies with hoods covering their faces up to their eyes, came to him from the hills. The officer in charge led them to Hadji Murad's room. One of them was a fleshy, swarthy Tavlinian, the other a thin old man. The news they brought was not cheering. Hadji Murad's friends who had undertaken to rescue his family now definitely refused to do so, being afraid of Shamil, who threatened to punish with most terrible tortures anyone who helped Hadji Murad. Having heard the messengers he sat with his elbows on his crossed legs, and bowing his turbaned head remained silent a long time.

He was thinking and thinking resolutely. He knew that he was now considering the matter for the last time and that it was necessary to come to a decision. At last he raised his head, gave each of the messengers a gold piece, and said: "Go!"

"What answer will there be?"

"The answer will be as God pleases. ... Go!"

The messengers rose and went away, and Hadji Murad continued to sit on the carpet leaning his elbows on his knees. He sat thus a long time and pondered.

"What am I to do? To take Shamil at his word and return to him?" he thought. "He is a fox and will deceive me. Even if he did not deceive me it would still be impossible to submit to that red liar. It is impossible ... because now that I have been with the Russians he will not trust me," thought Hadji Murad; and he remembered a Tavlinian fable about a falcon who had been caught and lived among men and afterwards returned to his own kind in the hills. He returned, wearing jesses with bells, and the other falcons would not receive him. "Fly back to where they hung those silver bells on thee!" said they. "We have no bells and no jesses." The falcon did not want to leave his home and remained, but the other falcons did not wish to let him stay there and pecked him to death.

"And they would peck me to death in the same way," thought Hadji Murad. "Shall I remain here and conquer Caucasia for the Russian Tsar and earn renown, titles, riches?"

"That could be done," thought he, recalling his interviews with Vorontsov and the flattering things the prince had said; "but I must decide at once, or Shamil will destroy my family."

That night he remained awake thinking.