p>The kibitka drew up in front of the Commandant's house. The inhabitants had recognized Pougatcheff's little bell, and came crowding around us. Shvabrin met the impostor at the foot of the steps. He was dressed as a Cossack, and had allowed his beard to grow. The traitor helped Pougatcheff to alight from the kibitka, expressing, in obsequious terms, his joy and zeal. On seeing me, he became confused; but quickly recovering himself, he stretched out his hand to me, saying:
"And are you also one of us? You should have been so long ago!"
I turned away from him and made no reply.
My heart ached when we entered the well-known room, on the wall of which still hung the commission of the late Commandant, as a mournful epitaph of the past. Pougatcheff seated himself upon the same sofa on which Ivan Kouzmitch was accustomed to fall asleep, lulled by the scolding of his wife. Shvabrin himself brought him some brandy. Pougatcheff drank a glass, and said to him, pointing to me:
"Give his lordship a glass."
Shvabrin approached me with his tray, but I turned away from him a second time. He seemed to have become quite another person. With his usual sagacity, he had certainly perceived that Pougatcheff was dissatisfied with him. He cowered before him, and glanced at me with distrust.
Pougatcheff asked some questions concerning the condition of the fortress, the reports referring to the enemy's army, and the like. Then suddenly and unexpectedly he said to him:
"Tell me, my friend, who is this young girl that you hold a prisoner here? Show her to me."
Shvabrin turned as pale as death.
"Czar," said he, in a trembling voice... "Czar, she is not a prisoner ... she is ill ... she is in bed."
"Lead me to her," said the impostor, rising from his seat.
Refusal was impossible. Shvabrin conducted Pougatcheff to Maria Ivanovna's room. I followed behind them.
Shvabrin stopped upon the stairs.
"Czar," said he: "you may demand of me whatever you please; but do not permit a stranger to enter my wife's bedroom."
"So you are married!" I said to Shvabrin, ready to tear him to pieces.
"Silence!" interrupted Pougatcheff: "that is my business. And you," he continued, turning to Shvabrin, "keep your airs and graces to yourself: whether she be your wife or whether she be not, I will take to her whomsoever I please. Your lordship, follow me."
At the door of the room Shvabrin stopped again, and said in a faltering voice:
"Czar, I must inform you that she is in a high fever, and has been raving incessantly for the last three days."
"Open the door!" said Pougatcheff.
Shvabrin began to search in his pockets and then said that he had not brought the key with him. Pougatcheff pushed the door with his foot; the lock gave way, the door opened, and we entered.
I glanced round the room—and nearly fainted away. On the floor, clad in a ragged peasant's dress, sat Maria Ivanovna, pale, thin, and with dishevelled hair. Before her stood a pitcher of water, covered with a piece of bread. Seeing me, she shuddered and uttered a piercing cry. What I felt at that moment I cannot describe.
Pougatcheff looked at Shvabrin and said with a sarcastic smile:
"You have a very nice hospital here!"
Then approaching Maria Ivanovna:
"Tell me, my little dove, why does your husband punish you in this manner?"
"My husband!" repeated she. "He is not my husband. I will never be his wife! I would rather die, and I will die, if I am not set free."
Pougatcheff cast a threatening glance at Shvabrin.
"And you have dared to deceive me!" he said to him. "Do you know, scoundrel, what you deserve?"
Shvabrin fell upon his knees.... At that moment contempt extinguished within me all feelings of hatred and resentment. I looked with disgust at the sight of a nobleman grovelling at the feet of a runaway Cossack.
"I forgive you this time," he said to Shvabrin: "but bear in mind that the next time you are guilty of an offence, I will remember this one also."
Then he turned to Maria Ivanovna and said to her kindly:
"Go, my pretty girl; I give you your liberty. I am the Czar."
Maria Ivanovna glanced rapidly at him, and intuitively divined that before her stood the murderer of her parents. She covered her face with both hands and fainted away. I hastened towards her; but at that moment my old acquaintance, Palasha, very boldly entered the room, and began to attend to her young mistress. Pougatcheff quitted the apartment, and we all three entered the parlour.
"Well, your lordship," said Pougatcheff smiling, "we have set the pretty girl free! What do you say to sending for the pope and making him marry his niece to you? If you like, I will act as father, and Shvabrin shall be your best man. We will then smoke and drink and make ourselves merry to our hearts' content!"
What I feared took place. Shvabrin, hearing Pougatcheff's proposal, was beside himself with rage.
"Czar!" he exclaimed, in a transport of passion, "I am guilty; I have lied to you; but Grineff is deceiving you also. This young girl is not the pope's niece: she is the daughter of Ivan Mironoff, who was hanged at the taking of the fortress."
Pougatcheff glanced at me with gleaming eyes.
"What does this mean?" he asked in a gloomy tone.
"Shvabrin has told you the truth," I replied in a firm voice.
"You did not tell me that," replied Pougatcheff, whose face had become clouded.
"Judge of the matter yourself," I replied: "could I, in the presence of your people, declare that she was the daughter of Mironoff? They would have torn her to pieces! Nothing would have saved her!"
"You are right," said Pougatcheff smiling. "My drunkards would not have spared the poor girl; the pope's wife did well to deceive them."
"Listen," I continued, seeing him so well disposed; "I know not what to call you, and I do not wish to know.... But God is my witness that I would willingly repay you with my life for what you have done for me. But do not demand of me anything that is against my honour and my Christian conscience. You are my benefactor. End as you have begun: let me go away with that poor orphan wherever God will direct us. And wherever you may be, and whatever may happen to you, we will pray to God every day for the salvation of your soul...."
Pougatcheff's fierce soul seemed touched.
"Be it as you wish!" said he. "Punish thoroughly or pardon thoroughly: that is my way. Take your beautiful one, take her wherever you like, and may God grant you love and counsel!"
Then he turned to Shvabrin and ordered him to give me a safe conduct for all barriers and fortresses subjected to his authority. Shvabrin, completely dumbfounded, stood as if petrified. Pougatcheff then went off to inspect the fortress. Shvabrin accompanied him, and I remained behind under the pretext of making preparations for my departure.
I hastened to Maria's room. The door was locked. I knocked.
"Who is there?" asked Palasha.
I called out my name. The sweet voice of Maria Ivanovna sounded from behind the door:
"Wait a moment, Peter Andreitch. I am changing my dress. Go to Akoulina Pamphilovna; I shall be there presently."
I obeyed and made my way to the house of Father Jerasim. He and his wife came forward to meet me Savelitch had already informed them of what had happened.
"You are welcome, Peter Andreitch," said the pope's wife. "God has ordained that we should meet again. And how are you? Not a day has passed without our talking about you. And Maria Ivanovna, the poor little dove, what has she not suffered while you have been away! But tell us, little father, how did you manage to arrange matters with Pougatcheff? How was it that he did not put you to death? The villain be thanked for that, at all events!"
"Enough, old woman," interrupted Father Gerasim. "Don't babble about everything that you know. There is; no salvation for chatterers. Come in, Peter Andreitch, I beg of you. It is a long, long time since we saw each other." The pope's wife set before me everything that she had in the house, without ceasing to chatter away for a single moment. She related to me in what manner Shvabrin had compelled them to deliver Maria Ivanovna up to him; how the poor girl wept and did not wish to be parted from them; how she had kept up a constant communication with them; by means of Palashka (a bold girl who compelled the orderly himself to dance to her pipe); how she had advised Maria Ivanovna to write a letter to me, and so forth.
I then, in my turn, briefly related to them my story. The pope and his wife made the sign of the cross on hearing that; Pougatcheff had become acquainted with their deception.
"The power of the Cross defend us!" ejaculated Akoulina Pamphilovna. "May God grant that the cloud will pass over. Well, well, Alexei Ivanitch, you are a very nice fellow: there is no denying that!"
At that moment the door opened, and Maria Ivanovna entered the room with a smile upon her pale face. She had doffed her peasant's dress, and was attired as before, plainly and becomingly.
I grasped her hand and for some time could not utter a single word. We were both silent from fulness of heart. Our hosts felt that their presence was unnecessary to us, and so they withdrew. We were left by ourselves. Everything else was forgotten. We talked and talked and could not say enough to each other. Maria related to me all that had happened to her since the capture of the fortress; she described to me all the horror of her situation, all the trials which she had experienced at the hands of the detestable Shvabrin. We recalled to mind the happy days of the past, and we could not prevent the tears coming into our eyes. At last I began to explain to her my project. For her to remain in the fortress, subjected to Pougatcheff and commanded by Shvabrin, was impossible. Neither could I think of taking her to Orenburg, just then undergoing all the calamities of a siege. She had not a single relative in the whole world. I proposed to her that she should seek shelter with my parents. She hesitated at first: my father's unfriendly disposition towards her frightened her. I made her mind easy on that score. I knew that my father would consider himself bound in honour to receive into his house the daughter of a brave and deserving soldier who had lost his life in the service of his country.
"Dear Maria Ivanovna," I said at last: "I look upon you as my wife. Strange circumstances have united us together indissolubly; nothing in the world can separate us."
Maria Ivanovna listened to me without any assumption of affectation. She felt that her fate was linked with mine. But she repeated that she would never be my wife, except with the consent of my parents. I did not contradict her. We kissed each other fervently and passionately, and in this manner everything was resolved upon between us.
About an hour afterwards, the orderly brought me my safe conduct, inscribed with Pougatcheff's scrawl, and informed me that his master wished to see me. I found him ready to st out on his road. I cannot describe what I felt on taking leave of this terrible man, this outcast, so villainously cruel to all except myself alone. But why should I not tell the truth? At that moment I felt drawn towards him by a powerful sympathy. I ardently wished to tear him away! from the midst of the scoundrels, whom he commanded, and save his head while there was yet time. Shvabrin, and the crowd gathered around us, prevented me from giving expression to all that filled my heart.
We parted as friends. Pougatcheff, catching sight of Akoulina Pamphilovna among the crowd, threatened her with his finger and winked significantly; then he seated himself in his kibitka and gave orders to return to Berd; and when the horses started off, he leaned once out of the carriage, and cried out to me: "Farewell, your lordship! Perhaps we shall see each other again!"
We did indeed see each other again, but under what circumstances!
Pougatcheff was gone. I stood for a long time gazing across the white steppe, over which his troika went gliding rapidly. The crowd dispersed. Shvabrin disappeared. I returned to the pope's house. Everything was ready for our departure; I did not wish to delay any longer. Our luggage had already been deposited in the Commandant's old travelling carriage. The horses were harnessed in a twinkling. Maria Ivanovna went to pay a farewell visit to the graves of her parents, who were buried behind the church. I wished to accompany her, but she begged of me to let her go alone. After a few minutes she returned silently weeping. The carriage was ready. Father Gerasim and his wife came out upon the steps. Maria Ivanovna, Palasha and I took our places inside the kibitka, while Savelitch seated himself in the front.
"Farewell, Maria Ivanovna, my little dove; farewell, Peter Andreitch, my fine falcon!" said the pope's good wife. "A safe journey, and may God bless you both and make you happy!"
We drove off. At the window of the Commandant's house I perceived Shvabrin standing. His face wore an expression of gloomy malignity. I did not wish to triumph over a defeated enemy, so I turned my eyes the other way.
At last we passed out of the gate, and left the fortress of Bailogorsk behind us for ever.
 Diminutive of Palasha.
 An open vehicle drawn by three horses yoked abreast.