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Russian Romance (Pushkin)/The Captain's Daughter/Chapter XIII



I was so unexpectedly united to the dear girl regarding whose safety I had been even that very morning so anxiously concerned, that I could not believe my senses, and fancied that all that was occurring was an empty dream. Maria Ivanovna looked pensively, now at me, now at the road, and seemed unable to realize her position. We were silent, our hearts had been too severely tried. Time passed away imperceptibly, and in two hours we were already entering the nearest fortress, also in Pougatcheff's power. Here we changed horses. I saw by the haste with which they were put to by the eager officiousness of the bearded Cossack raised to the post of commandant by Pougatcheff, that, thanks to the loquaciousness of our yemstchick, I was taken for a court favourite!

We continued our journey, night began to close around us. We approached a small town, where, according to the statement of the Cossack, we should find a detachment, about to join the pretender. We were stopped by the sentry. To the challenge, "Who goes there?" the yemstchick answered in a loud voice: "The emperor's koum, with his lady." In an instant, a troop of Hussars surrounded us, using fearfully abusive language. "Get out, thou devil's koum!" said a moustachoed sergeant-major. "Thou shalt catch it presently, thou and thy lady!"

I alighted and demanded to be taken to the officer in command. On perceiving my uniform, the soldiers desisted from abusing us. The sergeant-major conducted me to the major. Savelitch followed close after me, muttering to himself, "There is the emperor's koum for you. Out of the frying pan into the fire. . . . Good God! how is it all to end?" The kibitka came after us, at a slow pace.

A five minutes' walk brought us to a small house, brightly lit up. The sergeant-major put a sentry over me, and went to report me. He immediately returned, and stated that his lordship had no time to receive me, but that he had ordered that I should be conveyed to the prison, and the lady to his house.

"What does this mean?" I cried beside myself. "Has he lost his senses?"

"I cannot say, your lordship," answered the sergeant-major. "Only his high lordship has ordered your lordship to be taken to the prison, and her ladyship is to be taken to his high lordship, your lordship."

I rushed into the porch. The sentries did not attempt to hold me back, and I ran straight into a room where six Hussar officers were playing at cards. The major was dealing. What was my astonishment, when on looking at him I recognized Ivan Ivanovitch Zourine, who had once cheated me at the inn in Simbirsk.

"Is it possible?" I exclaimed, "Ivan Ivanovitch? is it thou?"

"But! ha! ha! Piotr Andrevitch? What brings thee here? Where art thou from? How art thou? Wilt thou take a card?"

"Thank you, no. Give directions that I should be taken to lodgings somewhere."

"What lodgings? Stay here."

"I cannot; I am not alone."

"Well, then, let thy comrade come also."

"I am not with a comrade; I am . . . . with a lady."

"With a lady! Where didst thou hook her? Aha! sir!"

With these words, Zourine whistled in such an extraordinary manner, that all burst out laughing. I got quite confused.

"Very well," continued Zourine, "thou shalt have a lodging. But it is a pity . . . . We should have feasted as in old times . . . . I say, boy! why don't they bring Pougatcheff's kouma here? Or is she capricious? Tell her not to be afraid; the master is a kind man, he will not offend her—lead her in by the shoulders."

"What art thou talking about?" said I to Zourine. "What kouma of Pougatcheff? It is the daughter of the late Captain Mironoff. I delivered her out of captivity, and am now taking her to my father's house, where I shall leave her."

"What? then it was thee they reported just now? Gracious! what is the meaning of it all?"

"I shall tell thee by-and-by; but at present, for God's sake, come and reassure the poor girl, whom thy hussars have frightened."

Zourine immediately made the necessary arrangements. He went out himself to apologise to Maria Ivanovna for the involuntary misunderstanding, and ordered the sergeant-major to take her to the best lodgings in the town. I remained his guest for the night.

We supped, and when we were left alone I related to him my adventures. Zourine listened very attentively. When I had concluded, he shook his head and said:—

"All well enough; one thing only is not well; why the devil dost thou want to marry? I am an honest man, I do not wish to deceive thee; believe me when I tell thee that marriage is all nonsense. What dost thou want to drag a wife about for, and nurse brats? Spit upon such a notion. Listen to me: break with the captain's daughter. The road to Simbirsk has been cleared by me, and is now safe. Send her alone to-morrow to thy parents; and remain in my detachment. There is no necessity for thee to return to Orenburg. If thou wert to fall again into the hands of the rebels, thou wouldst hardly get away. Thus this amorous trash will wear itself out, and all will be well."

Although I did not quite agree with all he said, still I felt that honour and duty required my presence in her majesty's army. I decided upon following Zourine's advice; to send Maria Ivanovna to my parents, and to remain with the detachment.

Savelitch came to assist me to undress. I desired him to be prepared the next day to accompany Maria Ivanovna. He was about to rebel.

"What dost thou say, sir? How am I to leave thee? Who is to look after thee? What will thy parents say?"

Well aware of his obstinate disposition, I resolved upon winning him over with kind and confidential words.

"My good friend, Arhipp Savelitch!" said I, "do not refuse to be a benefactor to me; I shall not need a servant, but I shall be uneasy if Maria Ivanovna were to leave without thee. In serving her, thou shalt serve me because I have made up my mind to marry her so soon as circumstances will permit."

Here Savelitch clasped his hands in indescribable amazement.

"Marry!" he repeated. "The child wants to marry! What will his father say? What will his mother think of it?"

"They will consent, they will certainly consent," I replied, "when they know Maria Ivanovna. I also rely upon thee. My father and mother have faith in thee; thou wilt speak in our behalf, wilt thou not?"

The old man was moved.

"Oh! my little father, Piotr Andrevitch!" answered he. "Although thou hast taken it into thy head to marry too early, still Maria Ivanovna is such a dear young lady that it would be a sin to miss such an opportunity. Then let it be as thou sayest. I shall accompany the angel of God, and shall humbly submit that such a bride need not have a dowry."

I thanked Savelitch, and laid me down in the same room with Zourine. Being very excited, I grew talkative. At first Zourine conversed readily, but by degrees his speech became indistinct, and he finally answered me with a snore. I ceased talking, and soon followed his example.

The next morning I went to Maria Ivanovna. I communicated to her my plans. She admitted that they were wise, and at once agreed with me. Zourine's detachment was to quit that same day. No time was to be lost. I bid Maria Ivanovna "good-bye" on the instant, entrusting her to Savelitch, and giving her a letter to my parents. Maria Ivanovna burst out crying:—

"Good-bye, Piotr Andrevitch," said she in a low voice. "God alone knows whether we shall meet again, but I shall never forget you; thou alone shalt live in my heart to my dying hour."

I was not able to say anything. We were surrounded by people. I wished to avoid giving way, in their presence, to the feelings by which I was agitated. At last she was gone. I returned to Zourine, sad and silent. He tried to cheer me up, and I endeavoured to divert my thoughts. We spent the day noisily and in feasting, and in the evening we marched out.

We had got to the end of February. Winter, which had impeded military movements, was drawing to its close, and our generals were preparing for concerted action. Pougatcheff was still under the walls of Orenburg. But our forces were uniting and drawing near the robber's lair on all sides. Insurgent villages surrendered upon sight of our troops; the villain's bands were everywhere flying before us, and everything foretold a speedy and successful termination of the revolt.

Shortly after this, Prince Galitzin beat Pougatcheff, who had advanced upon the fortress of Tatishscheff, dispersed his troops, relieved Orenburg, and to all appearances struck the final and decisive blow. Zourine had been detached and sent against a band of rebel Bashkirs, who had however dispersed before we got up with them. Spring overtook us whilst we were in a small Tartar village. The rivers overflowed, and the roads became impracticable. We consoled ourselves during our inactivity with the thought of a speedy termination to this tiresome and petty warfare with robbers and savages.

But Pougatcheff had not been captured. He made his appearance at the mines of Siberia, where he assembled fresh bands, and renewed his ravages. Rumours of his successes again spread about. We learnt of the destruction of several Siberian fortresses. Soon the news of the taking of Kazan and of the advance of the pretender on Moscow, alarmed the commanders of the military forces, who were listlessly enjoying repose in the fond hope that the despised rebel had been reduced to subjection. Zourine received orders to cross the Volga.

I shall not describe our march and the termination of the war. I shall briefly observe that wretchedness had reached its climax. All authority was at an end; landed proprietors were hiding in the woods. Insurgent bands pillaged in every direction. The officers in command of detached forces, punished and remitted at will; the condition of this large territory which had become a prey to the flames, was dreadful to contemplate! . . . . May Heaven spare us from witnessing a Russian rebellion; it is senseless and pitiless!

Pougatcheff had fled, and was pursued by Ivan Ivanovitch Mihelson. We soon heard of his complete annihilation. At length Zourine received intelligence of the capture of the pretender, and at the same time orders to halt. The war was at an end. I should now be able to go to my parents. The prospect before me, that I should embrace them, that I should see Maria Ivanovna, of whom I had had no news, filled me with delight. I danced about like a child. Zourine laughed and said, shrugging his shoulders:

"No, no; no good will come of it! Thou shalt marry—and thou shalt be lost!"

But a strange feeling envenomed my joy: I thought of the wretch whose hands had been steeped in the blood of so many innocent victims, and of the execution that awaited him, and felt disturbed in spite of myself. "Why," thought I with vexation, "why didst thou not run up against a bayonet, or fall under a shower of grape? Thou could'st not have done better." How was I to feel otherwise? I never should forget his merciful consideration towards me at one of the most terrible moments of my life, and to him I owed the deliverance of my betrothed out of the hands of the hateful Shvabrine.

Zourine granted me leave of absence. In a few days I was again to be in the bosom of my family. I was again to see my bride. An unexpected storm burst over me.

On the appointed day of my departure, at the very moment that I was about to start on my journey, Zourine entered my hut, holding a paper and looking much disturbed. Something pricked me at the heart. I feared I knew not what. He sent my servant out of the room, and said that he had some business to transact with me.

"What is it?" I asked, alarmed.

"An unpleasant matter," said he, giving me the paper. "Read what I have just received."

I read it: it was a confidential order, directing all officers in command of detachments to arrest me wherever I should be found, and to send me without delay under an armed escort to Kazan, before the commission appointed to investigate the charges laid against Pougatcheff.

The paper almost dropped out of my hands. "I can do nothing," said Zourine. "My duty is to carry out the order. The rumours of thy friendly journeys with Pougatcheff have somehow reached the ears of the authorities. I hope there will be no evil consequences and that thou wilt justify thyself before the commission. Do not be downhearted, and go."

My conscience was clear. I did not fear a court-martial; but I was alarmed at the prospect of the probability of a delay, for months to come, in the happy meeting I had anticipated. The telega[1] was ready. Zourine bid me a friendly adieu. I mounted the telega. Two hussars with drawn sabres sat upon either side of me, and I soon found myself on the high road.

  1. A cart.—Tr.