dently preparing for action. Bullets soon began to hiss past our ears, and several arrows struck into the ground and the palisade near us.
"Vassilissa Yegorovna," said the commandant, "this is no place for women; take Masha away; thou seest the girl is half dead!"
Vassilissa Yegorovna, who had become meek under fire, cast a look at the steppe, on which a great movement was noticeable; then turning to her husband, she said:
"Ivan Kouzmitch, life and death are in God's hands; bless Masha. Masha, come to thy father."
Masha, pale and trembling, approached Ivan Kouzmitch, knelt down before him, and bowed herself to the earth. The old commandant made the sign of the cross over her three times; he then raised and kissed her, saying, in an altered voice:
"Be happy, Masha. Pray to God. He will not abandon thee. If thou should'st find a good man, may God bless your attachment. Live together as thy mother and I have lived. Well, good-bye, Masha; Vassilissa Yegorovna, lead her away quickly."
Masha threw herself on his neck, weeping.
"Kiss me also," said the commandant's wife, bursting into tears; "good-bye, my own Ivan Kouzmitch. Forgive me if ever I have displeased thee in anything."
"Good-bye, good-bye, my little mother!" said the commandant, embracing his old companion. "That will