The next day the news of the fire spread through all the neighbourhood. Everybody explained it in a different way. Some maintained that Doubrovsky's servants, having got drunk at the funeral, had set fire to the house through carelessness; others blamed the officials, who were drunk also in their new quarters. Some guessed the truth, and affirmed that the author of the terrible calamity was Doubrovsky himself, urged on to the committal of the deed by the promptings of resentment and despair. Many maintained that he had himself perished in the flames with the officials and all his servants.
Troekouroff came the next day to the scene of the conflagration, and conducted the inquest himself. It was stated that the sheriff, the assessor of the land Court, the attorney and his clerk, as well as Vladimir Doubrovsky, the nurse Egorovna, the servant Grisha, the coachman Anton, and the blacksmith Arkhip had disappeared—nobody knew where. All the servants declared that the officials perished at the moment when the roof fell in. Their charred remains in fact were discovered. The women, Vassilissa and Loukeria, said that they had seen Doubrovsky and Arkhip the blacksmith a few minutes before the fire. The blacksmith Arkhip, according to the general showing, was alive, and was probably the principal, if not the sole author of the fire. Strong suspicions fell upon Doubrovsky. Kirila Petrovitch sent to the Governor a detailed account of all that had happened, and a new suit was commenced.
Soon other reports furnished fresh food for curiosity and gossip. Brigands appeared and spread terror throughout the whole neighbourhood. The measures taken against them proved unavailing. Robberies; each more daring than the other, followed one after another. There was no security either on the roads or in the villages. Several troikas, filled with brigands, traversed the whole province in open daylight, stopping travellers and the mail The villages were visited by them, and the manor-houses were attacked and set on fire. The chief of the band had acquired a great reputation for intelligence, daring, and a sort of generosity. Wonders were related of him. The name of Doubrovsky was upon every lip. Everybody was convinced that it was he, and nobody else, who commanded the daring robbers. One thing was remarkable: the domains and property of Troekouroff were spared. The brigands had not attacked a single barn of his, nor stopped a single load belonging to him. With his usual arrogance, Troekouroff attributed this exception to the fear which he had inspired throughout the whole province, as well as to the excellent police which he had organized in his villages. At first the neighbours smiled at the presumption of Troekouroff, and everyone expected that the uninvited guests would visit Pokrovskoe, where they would find something worth having, but at last they were compelled to agree and confess that the brigands showed him unaccountable respect. Troekouroff triumphed, and at the news of each fresh exploit on the part of Doubrovsky, he indulged in ironical remarks at the expense of the Governor, the sheriffs, and the regimental commanders, who always allowed the brigand chief to escape with impunity.
Meanwhile the 1st of October arrived, the day of the annual church festival in Troekouroff's village. But before we proceed to describe further events, we must acquaint the reader with some personages who are new to him, or whom we merely mentioned at the beginning of our story.