In the middle of a dense wood, on a narrow grass-plot, rose a small earthwork, consisting of a rampart and ditch, behind which were some huts and tents. Within the inclosed space, a crowd of persons who, by their varied garments and by their arms, could at once be recognized as brigands, were having their dinner, seated bareheaded around a large cauldron. On the rampart, by the side of a small cannon, sat a sentinel, with his legs crossed under him. He was sewing a patch upon a certain part of his attire, handling his needle with a dexterity that bespoke the experienced tailor, and every now and then raising his head and glancing found on every side.
Although a certain ladle had passed from hand to hand several times, a strange silence reigned among this crowd. The brigands finished their dinner; one after another rose and said a prayer to God; some dispersed among the huts, others strolled away into the wood or lay down to sleep, according to the Russian habit.
The sentinel finished his work, shook his garment, gazed admiringly at the patch, stuck the needle in his sleeve, sat astride the cannon, and began to sing a melancholy old song with all the power of his lungs.
At that moment the door of one of the huts opened, and an old woman in a white cap, neatly and even pretentiously dressed, appeared upon the threshold.
"Enough of that, Stepka," said she angrily. "The master is sleeping, and yet you must make that frightful noise; you have neither conscience nor pity."
"I beg pardon, Petrovna," replied Stepka. "I won't do it any more. Let our little father sleep on and get well."
The old woman withdrew into the hut, and Stepka began to pace to and fro upon the rampart.
Within the hut, from which the old woman had emerged, lay the wounded Doubrovsky upon a cold bed behind a partition. Before him, upon a small table, lay his pistols, and a sword hung near his head. The mud hut was hung round and covered with rich carpets. In the corner was a lady's silver toilet and mirror. Doubrovsky held in his hand an open book, but his eyes were closed, and the old woman, peeping at him from behind the partition, could not tell whether he was asleep or only thinking.
Suddenly Doubrovsky started. In the fort there was a great commotion, and Stepka came and thrust his head in through the window of the hut.
"Father Vladimir Andreivitch!" he cried; "our men are signalling—they are on our track!"
Doubrovsky leaped from his bed, seized his arms and issued from the hut. The brigands were noisily crowding together in the inclosure, but on the appearance of their chief a deep silence reigned.
"Are all here?" asked Doubrovsky.
"All except the patrols," was the reply.
"To your places!" cried Doubrovsky, and the brigands took up each his appointed place.
At that moment, three of the patrols ran up to the gate of the fort. Doubrovsky went to meet them.
"What is it?" he asked.
"The soldiers are in the wood," was the reply; "they are surrounding us."
Doubrovsky ordered the gate to be locked, and then went himself to examine the cannon. In the wood could be heard the sound of many voices, every moment drawing nearer and nearer. The brigands waited in silence. Suddenly three or four soldiers appeared from the wood, but immediately fell back again, firing their guns as a signal to their comrades.
"Prepare for battle!" cried Doubrovsky. There was a movement among the brigands, then all was silent again.
Then was heard the noise of an approaching column; arms glittered among the trees, and about a hundred and fifty soldiers dashed out of the wood and rushed with a wild shout towards the rampart. Doubrovsky applied the match to the cannon; the shot was successful—one soldier had his head shot off, and two others were wounded. The troops were thrown into confusion, but the officer in command rushed forward, the soldiers followed him and jumped down into the ditch. The brigands fired down at them with muskets and pistols, and then, with axes in their hands, they began to defend the rampart, up which the infuriated soldiers were now climbing, leaving twenty of their comrades wounded in the ditch below. A hand to hand struggle began. The soldiers were already upon the rampart, the brigands were beginning to give way; but Doubrovsky advanced towards the officer in command, presented his pistol at his breast, and fired. The officer fell backwards to the ground. Several soldiers raised him in their arms and hastened to carry him into the wood; the others, having lost their chief, stopped fighting. The emboldened brigands took advantage of this moment of hesitation, and surging forward, hurled their assailants back into the ditch. The besiegers began to run; the brigands with fierce yells started in pursuit of them. The victory was decisive. Doubrovsky, trusting to the complete confusion of the enemy, stopped his followers and shut himself up in the fortress, doubled the sentinels, forbade anyone to absent himself, and ordered the wounded to be collected.
This last event drew the serious attention of the government to the daring exploits of Doubrovsky. Information was obtained of his place of retreat, and a detachment of soldiers was sent to take him, dead or alive. Several of his band were captured, and from these it was ascertained that Doubrovsky was no longer among them. A few days after the battle that we have just described, he collected all his followers and informed them that it was his intention to leave them for ever, and advised them to change their mode of life:
"You have become rich under my command. Each of you has a passport with which he will be able to make his way safely to some distant province, where he can pass the rest of his life in ease and honest labour. But you are all rascals, and probably do not wish to abandon your trade."
After this speech he left them, taking with him only one of his followers. Nobody knew what became of him. At first the truth of this testimony was doubted, for the devotion of the brigands to their chief was well known, and it was supposed that they had concocted the story to secure his safety; but after events confirmed their statement. The terrible visits, burnings, and robberies ceased; the roads again became safe. According to another report, Doubrovsky had fled to some foreign country.
 Diminutive of Stepan (Stephen).