I heard these words with horror. Once in command of the fortress, Maria Ivanovna was in his power! My God! what would become of her? Pougatcheff descended the steps. The horse was led to him. He flung himself quickly into the saddle, before the Cossacks who were in attendance had time to assist him.
Of a sudden, my Savelitch stepped out of the crowd, approached Pougatcheff, and handed to him a sheet of paper. I could not conceive what it was all about.
"What is this?" asked Pougatcheff, with dignity.
"If thou wilt but read, thou shalt know," replied Savelitch.
Pougatcheff took the paper and examined it for a long time, with a significant air.
"Why dost thou write so elaborately?" he inquired at last. "Our bright eyes are able to decipher nothing of this. Where is my chief secretary?"
A young man, in a corporal's uniform, was quickly at Pougatcheff's side. "Read aloud," said the Pretender, giving him the paper. I felt very curious to know what my servant had found to write to Pougatcheff about. The chief secretary spelled out in a stentorian voice, the following:—
"'Two dressing gowns, one of cotton, the other of striped silk; value six roubles.'"
"What does this mean?" said Pougatcheff, frowning.
"Order him to read on," replied Savelitch, quietly.
The chief secretary proceeded:—
- Il ne sait ni lire, ni ecrire, mais c'est un homme extrêmement hardi et determiné.—Catherine II. to Voltaire, 22 October, 1774.