On recovering consciousness I for some time could neither understand nor remember what had happened to me. I was lying in bed in a strange room, and felt very weak. Before me stood Savelitch with a candle in his hand. Someone was carefully unwinding the bandages which were wrapped round my chest and shoulder. Little by little my thoughts became more collected. I remembered my duel and conjectured that I was wounded. At that moment the door creaked.
"Well, how is he?" whispered a voice which sent a thrill through me.
"Still in the same condition," replied Savelitch with a sigh; "still unconscious, and this makes the fifth day that he has been like it."
I wanted to turn round, but I was unable to do so.
"Where am I? Who is here?" said I with an effort. Maria Ivanovna approached my bed and leaned over me. "Well, how do you feel?" said she.
"God be thanked!" replied I in a weak voice. "Is it you, Maria Ivanovna? Tell me——"
I had not the strength to continue and I became silent. Savelitch uttered a shout and his face beamed with delight.
"He has come to himself again! He has come to himself again!" he kept on repeating. "Thanks be to Thee, O Lord! Come, little father, Peter Andreitch! What a fright you have given me! It is no light matter; this is the fifth day——"
Maria Ivanovna interrupted him.
"Do not speak to him too much, Savelitch," said she, "he is still very weak."
She went out of the room and closed the door very quietly after her. My thoughts became agitated. And so I was in the house of the Commandant; Maria Ivanovna had been to see me. I wanted to ask Savelitch a few questions, but the old man shook his head and stopped his ears. Filled with vexation, I closed my eyes and soon fell asleep.
When I awoke I called Savelitch, but instead of him I saw Maria Ivanovna standing before me; she spoke to me in her angelic voice. I cannot describe the delightful sensation which took possession of me at that moment. I seized her hand, pressed it to my lips, and watered it with my tears. Maria did not withdraw it.... and suddenly her lips touched my cheek, and I felt a hot fresh kiss imprinted upon it. A fiery thrill passed through me.
"Dear, good Maria Ivanovna," I said to her, "be my wife, consent to make me happy."
She recovered herself.
"For Heaven's sake, calm yourself," said she, withdrawing her hand from my grasp; "you are not yet out of danger: your wound may re-open. Take care of yourself, if only for my sake."
With these words she left the room, leaving me in a transport of bliss. Happiness saved me. "She will be mine! She loves me!" This thought filled my whole being.
From that moment I grew hourly better. The regimental barber attended to the dressing of my wound, for there was no other doctor in the fortress, and, thank heaven, he did not assume any airs of professional wisdom. Youth and nature accelerated my recovery. The whole family of the Commandant attended upon me. Maria Ivanovna scarcely ever left my side. As will naturally be supposed, I seized the first favourable opportunity for renewing my interrupted declaration of love, and this time Maria Ivanovna listened to me more patiently.
Without the least affectation she confessed that she was favourably disposed towards me, and said that her parents, without doubt, would be pleased at her good fortune.
"But think well," she added; "will there not be opposition on the part of your relations?"
This set me thinking. I was not at all uneasy on the score of my mother's affection; but, knowing my father's disposition and way of thinking, I felt that my love would not move him very much, and that he would look upon it as a mere outcome of youthful folly.
I candidly confessed this to Maria Ivanovna, but I resolved, nevertheless, to write to my father as eloquently as possible, to implore his paternal blessing. I showed the letter to Maria Ivanovna, who found it so convincing and touching, that she entertained no doubts about the success, of it, and abandoned herself to the feelings of her tender heart with all the confidence of youth and love.
With Shvabrin I became reconciled during the first days of my convalescence. Ivan Kouzmitch, reproaching me for,' having engaged in the duel, said to me:
"See now, Peter Andreitch, I ought really to put you under arrest, but you have been punished enough already without that. As for Alexei Ivanitch, he is confined under guard in the corn magazine, and Vassilissa Egorovna has got his sword under lock and key. He will now have plenty of time to reflect and repent."
I was too happy to cherish any unfriendly feeling in my heart. I began to intercede for Shvabrin, and the good Commandant, with the consent of his wife, agreed to restore him to liberty.
Shvabrin came to me; he expressed deep regret for all that had happened, confessed that he alone was to blame, and begged of me to forget the past. Not being by nature of a rancorous disposition, I readily forgave him the quarrel which he had caused between us, and the wound which I had received at his hands. In his slander I saw nothing but the chagrin of wounded vanity and slighted love, and l generously extended pardon to my unhappy rival.
I soon recovered my health and was able to return to my own quarters. I waited impatiently for a reply to my letter, not daring to hope, and endeavouring to stifle the sad presentiment that was ever uppermost within me. To Vassilissa Egorovna and her husband I had not yet given an explanation; but my proposal would certainly not come as a surprise to them. Neither Maria Ivanovna nor I had endeavoured to hide our feelings from them, and we felt assured of their consent beforehand.
At last, one morning, Savelitch came to me carrying a letter in his hand. I seized it with trembling fingers. The address was in the handwriting of my father. This prepared me for something serious, for the letters I received from home were generally written by my mother, my father merely adding a few lines at the end as a postscript. For a long time I could not make up my mind to break the seal, but kept reading again and again the solemn superscription:
"To my son, Peter Andreitch Grineff,
"Government of Orenburg,
"Fortress of Bailogorsk."
I endeavoured to discover from the handwriting the disposition of mind which my father was in when the letter was written. At last I resolved to open it, and I saw at the very first glance that all my hopes were shipwrecked. The letter ran as follows:—
"MY SON PETER,
"Your letter, in which you ask for our paternal blessing and our consent to your marriage with Maria Ivanovna, the daughter of Mironoff, reached us the 15th inst., and not only do I intend to refuse to give you my blessing and my consent, but, furthermore, I intend to come and teach you a lesson for your follies, as I would a child, notwithstanding your officer's rank; for you have shown yourself unworthy to carry the sword which was entrusted to you for the defence of your native country, and not for the' purpose of fighting duels with fools like yourself. I shall write at once to Andrei Karlovitch to ask him to transfer you from the fortress of Bailogorsk to some place farther away, where you will be cured of your folly. Your mother, on hearing of your duel and your wound, was taken ill through grief, and she is now confined to her bed. I pray to God that He may correct you, although I hardly dare to put my trust in His great goodness.
"Your father—A. G."
The reading of this letter excited within me various feelings. The harsh expressions which my father had so unsparingly indulged in afflicted me deeply. The contempt with which he referred to Maria Ivanovna appeared to me as indecent as it was unjust. The thought of my being transferred from the fortress of Bailogorsk to some other military station terrified me, but that which grieved me more than everything else was the' intelligence of my mother's illness. I was very much displeased with Savelitch, not doubting that my parents had obtained information of my duel through him. After pacing up and down my narrow room for some time, I stopped before him and said, as I looked frowningly at him:
"It seems that you are not satisfied that, thanks to you, I should be wounded and for a whole month lie at the door of death, but you wish to kill my mother also."
Savelitch gazed at me as if he were thunderstruck.
"In the name of Heaven, master," said he, almost sobbing, "what do you mean? I the cause of your being wounded! God knows that I was running to screen you with my own breast from the sword of Alexei Ivanovitch! My accursed old age prevented me from doing so. But what have I done to your mother?"
"What have you done?" replied I. "Who asked you to write and denounce me? Have you then been placed near me to act as a spy upon me?"
"I write and denounce you?" replied Savelitch, with tears in his eyes. "O Lord, King of Heaven! Be pleased to read what my master has written to me—you will then see whether I have denounced you or not."
And with these words he took from his pocket a letter and handed it to me.
It ran as follows:—
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, you old hound, for not having—in spite of my strict injunctions to you to do so—written to me and informed me of the conduct of my son, Peter Andreitch, and leaving it to strangers to acquaint me with his follies. Is it thus that you fulfil your duty and your master's will? I will send you to tend the pigs, you old hound, for concealing the truth and for indulging the young man. On receipt of this, I command you to write back to me without delay, and inform me of the present state of his health, of the exact place of his wound, and whether he has been well attended to."
It was evident that Savelitch was perfectly innocent, and that I had insulted him with my reproaches and suspicions for no reason at all. I asked his pardon; but the old man was inconsolable.
"That I should have lived to come to this!" he kept on repeating; "these are the thanks that I receive from my master. I am an old hound, a keeper of pigs, and I am the cause of your being wounded. No, little father, Peter Andreitch, it is not I, but that accursed mossoo who is to blame: it was he who taught you to thrust with those iron spits and to stamp your foot, as if by thrusting and stamping one could protect himself from a bad man. It was very necessary to engage that mossoo and so throw good money to the winds!"
But who then had taken upon himself the trouble to denounce my conduct to my father? The general? But he did not appear to trouble himself in the least about me; and Ivan Kouzmitch had not considered it necessary to report my duel to him. I became lost in conjecture. My suspicions settled upon Shvabrin. He alone could derive any advantage from the denunciation, the result of which might be my removal from the fortress and separation from the Commandant's family. I went to inform Maria Ivanovna of everything. She met me on the steps leading up to the door.
"What has happened, to you?" said she, on seeing me; "how pale you are!"
"It is all over," replied I, and I gave her my father's letter.
She now grew pale in her turn. Having read the letter, she returned it to me with a trembling hand, and said, with a quivering voice:
"Fate ordains that I should not be your wife.... Your parents will not receive me into their family. God's will be done! God knows better than we do, what is good for us. There is nothing to be done, Peter Andreitch; may you be happy——"
"It shall not be!" I exclaimed, seizing hold of her hand. "You love me; I am prepared for everything. Let us go and throw ourselves at the feet of your parents; they are simple people, not hard-hearted and proud. They will give us their blessing; we will get married ... and then, with time, I feel quite certain that we shall succeed in bringing my father round; my mother will be on our side; he will forgive me——"
"No, Peter Andreitch," replied Masha, "I will not marry you without the blessing of your parents. Without their blessing you will not be happy. Let us submit to the will of God. If you meet with somebody else, if you love another God be with you, Peter Andreitch, I will pray for you both——"
Then she burst into tears and left me. I wanted to follow her into her room, but I felt that I was not in a condition to control myself, and I returned home to my quarters.
I was sitting down, absorbed in profound thoughtfulness, when Savelitch interrupted my meditations.
"Here, sir," said he, handing me a written sheet of paper: "see whether I am a spy upon my master, and whether I try to cause trouble between father and son."
I took the paper out of his hand. It was the reply of Savelitch to the letter which he had received. Here it is, word for word:
"LORD ANDREI PETROVITCH, our gracious father,
"I have received your gracious letter, in which you are pleased to be angry with me, your slave, telling me that I ought to be ashamed of myself for not fulfilling my master's orders. I am not an old hound, but your faithful servant, and I do obey my master's orders, and I have always served you zealously till my grey hairs. I did not write anything to you about Peter Andreitch's wound, in order that I might not alarm you without a reason, and now I hear that our lady, our mother, Avdotia Vassilevna, is ill from fright, and I am going to pray to God to restore her to health. Peter Andreitch was wounded under the right shoulder, in the breast, exactly under a rib, to the depth of nearly three inches, and he was put to bed in the Commandant's house, whither we carried him from the bank of the river, and he was healed by Stepan Paramonoff, the barber of this place, and now, thank God, Peter Andreitch is well, and I have nothing but good to write about him. His superior officers, I hear, are satisfied with him; and Vassilissa Egorovna treats him as if he were her own son. And because such an accident occurred to him, the young man ought not to be reproached: the horse has four legs, and yet he stumbles. And if it please you to write that I should go and feed the pigs, let your lordly will be done. Herewith I humbly bow down before you.
"Your faithful slave,
I could not help smiling several times while reading the good old man's letter. I was not in a condition to reply to my father, and Savelitch's letter seemed to me quite sufficient to calm my mother's fears.
From this time my situation changed. Maria Ivanovna scarcely ever spoke to me, nay, she even tried to avoid me. The Commandant's house began to become insupportable to me. Little by little I accustomed myself to remaining at home alone. Vassilissa Egorovna reproached me for it at first, but perceiving my obstinacy, she left me in peace. Ivan Kouzmitch I only saw when the service demanded it; with Shvabrin I rarely came into contact, and then against my will, all the more so because I observed in him a secret enmity towards me, which confirmed me in my suspicions. My life became unbearable to me. I sank into a profound melancholy, which was enhanced by loneliness and inaction. My love grew more intense in my solitude, and became more and more tormenting to me. I lost all pleasure in reading and literature. I grew dejected. I was afraid that I should either go out of my mind or that I should give way to dissipation. But an unexpected event, which exercised an important influence upon my after life, suddenly occurred to give to my soul a powerful and salutary shock.
 For administrative purposes Russia is divided into seventy-two governments, exclusive of Finland, which enjoys a separate administration.