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Page:Pushkin - Russian Romance (King, 1875).djvu/126

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sneer, "the field-marshal is, I fancy, stating the truth. What dost thou think?"

At Pougatcheff's sneer, my courage returned. I answered quietly, that I was in his power, and that he might do with me as he thought proper.

"Very well," said Pougatcheff. "Now, tell me; in what condition is your town?"

"Thank God," I answered, "all is well."

"Well!" repeated Pougatcheff; "and the people dying of starvation?"

The pretender was speaking the truth; but, bound by my allegiance, I kept assuring him that all such were empty rumours, and that Orenburg was well supplied with all sorts of provisions.

"Thou seest," quickly observed the little old man, "that he deceives thee to thy face. All the deserters affirm unanimously that hunger and the plague are at Orenburg, that the people eat carrion, and even that is an honoured dish; and his grace assures thee that they have enough of everything. If thou wilt hang Shvabrine, thou mayest as well hang this fellow on the same gallows, to prevent either of them from feeling envious."

The cursed old man's words seemed to shake Pougatcheff. Fortunately Hlopousha began to cavil with his companion.

"Be quiet, Naoumitch," said he; "thou only thinkest of strangling and stabbing. What sort of a hero art thou? One has but to look at thee to wonder what holds thy soul and body together! Thou art with a foot