The Captain's Daughter

by Alexsander Pushkin

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Chapter IX - The Parting

Early next morning I was awakened by the drum. I went to the place of assembly. There Pougatcheff's followers were already drawn up round the gibbet, where the victims of the day before were still hanging. The Cossacks were on horseback, the soldiers were under arms. Flags were waving. Several cannon, among which I recognized our own, were mounted on travelling gun-carriages. All the inhabitants were gathered together there, awaiting the usurper. Before the steps of the Commandant's house a Cossack stood holding by the bridle a magnificent white horse of Kirghis breed. I looked about for the corpse of the Commandant's wife. It had been pushed a little on one side and covered with a mat. At length Pougatcheff came out of the house. The crowd took off their caps. Pougatcheff stood still upon the steps and greeted his followers. One of the chiefs gave him a bag filled with copper coins, and he began to scatter them by handfuls. The crowd commenced scrambling for them with eager cries, and there was no lack of pushing and scuffling in the attempts to get possession of them. Pougatcheff's chief followers assembled round him. Among them stood Shvabrin. Our eyes met; in mine he could read contempt, and he turned away with an expression of genuine hate and affected scorn. Pougatcheff, seeing me among the crowd, nodded his head to me and called me to him.

"Listen," said he to me, "set off at once for Orenburg and tell the governor and all the generals from me, that they may expect me in about a week. Advise them to receive me with filial love and submission; otherwise they shall not escape a terrible punishment. A pleasant journey, your lordship!"

Then turning round to the crowd and pointing to Shvabrin, he said:

"There, children, is your new Commandant. Obey him in everything; he is answerable to me for you and for the fortress."

I heard these words with alarm: Shvabrin being made governor of the fortress, Maria Ivanovna remained in his power! Great God! what would become of her!

Pougatcheff descended the steps. His horse was brought to him. He vaulted nimbly into the saddle, without waiting for the Cossacks, who were going to help him to mount.

At that moment I saw my Savelitch emerge from the midst of the crowd; he approached Pougatcheff and gave him a sheet of paper. I could not imagine what was the meaning of this proceeding on his part.

"What is this?" asked Pougatcheff, with an air of importance.

"Read it, then you will see," replied Savelitch. Pougatcheff took the paper and examined it for a long time with a consequential look.

"Why do you write so illegibly?" said he at last. "Our lucid eyes[1] cannot decipher a word. Where is my chief secretary?"

A young man, in the uniform of a corporal, immediately ran up to Pougatcheff.

"Read it aloud," said the usurper, giving him the paper.

I was exceedingly curious to know what my follower could have written to Pougatcheff about. The chief secretary, in a loud voice, began to spell out as follows:

"Two dressing-gowns, one of linen and one of striped silk, six roubles."

"What does this mean?" said Pougatcheff, frowning.

"Order him to read on," replied Savelitch coolly.

The chief secretary continued:

"One uniform coat of fine green cloth, seven roubles.

"One pair of white cloth breeches, five roubles.

"Twelve Holland linen shirts with ruffles, ten roubles.

"A chest and tea-service, two roubles and a half...."

"What is all this nonsense?" exclaimed Pougatcheff. "What are these chests and breeches with ruffles to do with me?"

Savelitch cleared his throat and began to explain.

"This, my father, you will please to understand is a list of my master's goods that have been stolen by those scoundrels——"

"What scoundrels?" said Pougatcheff, threateningly.

"I beg your pardon, that was a slip on my part," replied Savelitch. "They were not scoundrels, but your fellows, who have rummaged and plundered everything. Do not be angry: the horse has got four legs, and yet he stumbles. Order him to read to the end."

"Read on to the end," said Pougatcheff.

The secretary continued:

"One chintz counterpane, another of taffety quilted with cotton wool, four roubles.

"A fox-skin pelisse, covered with red flannel, forty roubles.

"Likewise a hare-skin morning-gown, presented to your Grace at the inn on the steppe, fifteen roubles."

"What's that'!" exclaimed Pougatcheff, his eyes flashing fire.

I confess that I began to feel alarmed for my poor servant. He was about to enter again into explanations, but Pougatcheff interrupted him.

"How dare you pester me with such nonsense!" he cried, snatching the paper out of the secretary's hands and flinging it in Savelitch's face. "Stupid old man! You have been robbed; what a misfortune! Why, old greybeard, you ought to be eternally praying to God for me and my lads, that you and your master are not hanging yonder along with the other traitors to me.... A hare-skin morning-gown! Do you know that I could order you to be flayed alive and have your skin made into a morning-gown?"

"As you please," replied Savelitch; "but I am not a free man, and must be answerable for my lord's goods."

Pougatcheff was evidently in a magnanimous humour. He turned round and rode off without saying another word. Shvabrin and the chiefs followed him. The troops marched out of the fortress in order. The crowd pressed forward to accompany Pougatcheff. I remained in the square alone with Savelitch. My servant held in his hand the list of my things and stood looking at it with an air of deep regret.

Seeing me on such good terms with Pougatcheff, he thought that he might take advantage of the circumstance; but his sage scheme did not succeed. I was on the point of scolding him for his misplaced zeal, but I could not restrain myself from laughing.

"Laugh away, my lord," replied Savelitch: "laugh away; but when the time comes for you to procure a new outfit, we shall see if you will laugh then."

I hastened to the priest's house to see Maria Ivanovna. The priest's wife met me with sad news. During the night Maria Ivanovna had been seized with a violent attack of fever. She lay unconscious and in a delirium. The priest's wife conducted me into her room. I softly approached her bed. The change in her face startled me. She did not recognize me. For a long time I stood beside her without paying any heed either to Father Gerasim or to his good wife, who endeavoured to console me. Gloomy thoughts took possession of me. The condition of the poor defenceless orphan, left alone in the midst of the lawless rebels, as well as my own powerlessness, terrified me. But it was the thought of Shvabrin more than anything else that filled my imagination with alarm. Invested with power by the usurper, and entrusted with the command of the fortress, in which the unhappy girl—the innocent object of his hatred—remained, he was capable of any villainous act. What was I to do? How should I help her? How could I rescue her out of the hands of the brigands? There remained only one way. I resolved to set out immediately for Orenburg, in order to hasten the deliverance of Bailogorsk, and, as far as possible, to co-operate in the undertaking. I took leave of the priest and of Akoulina Pamphilovna, recommending to their care her whom I already considered as my wife. I seized the hand of the poor girl and kissed it, bedewing it with my tears.

"Farewell," said the pope's wife to me, accompanying me to the door "farewell, Peter Andreitch. Perhaps we shall see each other again in happier times. Do not forget us, and write to us often. Poor Maria Ivanovna has nobody now, except you, to console and protect her."

On reaching the square, I stopped for a moment and looked at the gibbet, then, bowing my head before it, I quitted the fortress and took the road to Orenburg, accompanied by Savelitch, who had not left my side.

I was walking on, occupied with my reflections, when suddenly I heard behind me the trampling of horses' feet. Looking round, I saw, galloping out of the fortress, a Cossack, holding a Bashkir horse by the rein and making signs to me from afar. I stopped and soon recognized our orderly. Galloping up to us, he dismounted from his own horse, and giving me the rein of the other, said:

"Your lordship! our father sends you a horse, and a pelisse from his own shoulders." (To the saddle was attached a sheepskin pelisse.) "Moreover," continued the orderly with some hesitation, "he sends you—half-a-rouble—but I have lost it on the road; be generous and pardon me."

Savelitch eyed him askance and growled out:

"You lost it on the road! What is that chinking in your pocket, then, you shameless rascal!"

"What is that chinking in my pocket?" replied the orderly, without being in the least confused. "God be with you, old man! It is a horse's bit, and not half-a-rouble."

"Very well," said I, putting an end to the dispute. "Give my thanks to him who sent you; and as you go back, try and find the lost half-rouble and keep it for drink-money."

"Many thanks, your lordship," replied he, turning his horse round; "I will pray to God for you without ceasing." With these words he galloped back again, holding one hand to his pocket, and in about a minute he was hidden from sight.

I put on the pelisse and mounted the horse, taking Savelitch up behind me.

"Now do you see, my lord," said the old man, "that I did not give the petition to the rascal in vain? The robber felt ashamed of himself. Although this lean-looking Bashkir jade and this sheepskin pelisse are not worth half of what the rascals stole from us, and what you chose to give him yourself, they may yet be of some use to us; from a vicious dog, even a tuft of hair."


[1] An allusion to the customary form of speech on presenting a petition to the Czar: "I strike the earth with my forehead, and present my petition to your lucid eyes."


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