Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою > THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER > I. The Sergeant of the Guards

THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER

1833- 1836 


Cherish your honour from a tender age.
A PROVERB  

I. The Sergeant of the Guards

 


"In no time he'll be a captain in the Guards."
"No need for that; I had the ranks in mind."
"Handsomely said: they'll put him through the grind.
"And who's his father?"

KNIAZHNIN

 



My father, Andrei Petrovich Grinev, served under Count Munnich in his youth. He returned with the rank of major in 17—. From then on, he lived on his estate in Simbirsk Province, where he married the maiden Avdotia Vasilevna Iu., daughter of an impecunious local squire. They had nine children, but all my brothers and sisters died in infancy.
I was still in my dear mother's womb when they registered me as a sergeant in the Semenovskii Regiment, thanks to the good offices of Major of the Guards Prince В., а close relative of ours. If against all expectations my mother had delivered a baby girl, my father would have simply informed the appropriate authorities that the sergeant could not report for duty because he had died, and that would have been the end of that. I was considered to be on leave until the completion of my studies. But in those days schooling was not what it is today. At the age of five I was entrusted to the care of the groom Savelich, appointed to be my personal attendant in recognition of his sober conduct. Under his supervision I had learned to read and write Russian by the age of twelve, and acquired a sound judgment of the qualities of chase hounds. Then my dear father hired a Frenchman for me, Monsieur Beaupre, who had been ordered by mail from Moscow along with our annual supply of wine and cooking oil. This man's arrival greatly displeased Savelich.
"Heaven be thanked," he muttered under his breath, "the child's kept clean, well-combed, and fed. What need is there to throw away money hiring this mounseer, as if there weren't enough of our own folk?"
In his homeland Beaupre had been a barber; then he did some soldiering in Prussia; and finally he came to Russia pour etre outchitel, though he did not quite understand the meaning of that title. He was a good-natured fellow, but irresponsible and dissolute in the extreme. His main weakness was a passion for the fair sex; his amorous advances frequently earned him raps and knocks that would make him groan for days. Moreover, he was (as he himself put it) "no enemy of the bottle," that is (in plain Russian), he loved to take a drop too much. In our house, however, wine was served only with dinner, a glass at a time, and they usually forgot to offer even that to the tutor. For this reason he soon grew accustomed to homemade Russian vodka, eventually even preferring it to the wines of his homeland as a drink incomparably better for the stomach. He and I hit it off immediately. Although by his contract he was supposed to teach me "French, German, and all the sciences," in practice he chose to learn Russian from me, soon acquiring enough to prattle after a fashion; and from then on we each went about our own business. We lived in perfect harmony. I could not have wished for a better mentor. Fate, however, soon separated us, due to the following incident.
The washerwoman Palashka, a fat and pockmarked wench, and the one-eyed dairymaid Akulka somehow decided to throw themselves at my mother's feet at the same time, confessing to a reprehensible weakness and complaining in tears against the mounseer, who had seduced their innocence. My mother did not treat such things lightly, and complained to my father. He brought the matter to a fast conclusion. He immediately sent for that rascal of a Frenchman, and when he was told that monsieur was giving me a lesson, he came to my room. Beaupre at this time was sleeping the sleep of the innocent on my bed. I was engrossed in work. It must be mentioned that a map had been obtained for me from Moscow and had been hanging on the wall of my room without being of the slightest use to anyone; it had been tempting me with the width and quality of its paper for a long time. I decided to make it into a kite and, taking advantage of Beaupre's sleep, had set about the task. At the time my father entered the room I was just fixing a bast tail to the Cape of Good Hope. Seeing me thus engaged in the study of geography, my father pulled my ear, then stepped up to Beaupre, woke him none too gently, and showered reproaches on him. Beaupre, all confused, tried to get up but could not: the hapless Frenchman was dead drunk. As well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb: my father lifted him off the bed by the collar, shoved him through the door, and that very day banished him from the house, to Savelich's indescribable joy. Thus ended my education.
I lived the life of a young oaf, chasing pigeons and playing leapfrog with the serving boys. Meanwhile I had turned sixteen. Then the course of my life changed.
One autumn day my mother was making preserves with honey in the parlor, while I, licking my chops, was watching the boiling froth. My father was seated by the window, reading the Court Calendar, which he received each year. This book always had a strong effect on him; he could never leaf through it without getting involved, and reading it never failed to rouse his spleen. My mother, who knew all his habits inside out, always tried to tuck away the unfortunate book in some hidden corner, and therefore the Court Calendar sometimes did not catch his eye for whole months. But if he did chance to come across it, he did not let it out of his hands for hours on end. This time, too, he kept reading it, occasionally shrugging his shoulders and muttering:
"Lieutenant general! He used to be a sergeant in my platoon! Decorated with both Russian crosses! It was only the other day that he and I..."
At length father tossed the Calendar on the sofa, and sank into a reverie that augured little good.
Suddenly he turned to mother. "Avdotia Vasilevna, how old is Petrusha?"
"He's going on seventeen," answered mother. "Petrusha was born the same year that Auntie Nastasia Gerasimovna lost an eye and when..."
"Very well," interrupted father, "it's time for him to enter the service. He's had quite enough of hanging around the maidservants' quarters and climbing up to the pigeon lofts."
The idea of soon having to part with me upset my mother so much that she dropped the spoon into the saucepan, and tears started streaming from her eyes. By contrast, my rapture would be hard to describe. The thought of entering the service was connected in my mind with notions of freedom and the pleasures of Petersburg life. I imagined myself an officer of the Guards — a status that in my opinion was the ultimate in the well-being of men.
Father did not like either to change his mind or to postpone carrying out his decisions. The day for my departure was fixed. The evening before I was to leave, father declared his intention to furnish me with a letter to my future commanding officer, and he asked for pen and paper.
"Don't forget to give my regards to Prince В.," said mother. "Tell him I hope he'll take Petrusha under his protection."
"What nonsense is this?" father answered, frowning. "Why should I be writing to Prince В.?"
"Why, you did say it was your pleasure to write to Petrusha's commander."
"That's right. And what then?"
"Well, isn't Prince B. his commander? He is, after all, registered with the Semenovskii Regiment."
"Registered! What business of mine is it that he's registered? Petrusha is not going to Petersburg. What would he learn if he served there? To squander and to sow wild oats? No, let him serve in the army, let him learn to sweat and get used to the smell of gunpowder, let him become a soldier, not an idler. Registered with the Guards! Where is his passport? Give it here."
Mother searched out my passport, which she kept in a box together with my baptismal shirt, and gave it to father with a trembling hand. He read it carefully, put it on the table in front of him, and began his letter.
Curiosity was tormenting me; where was I being sent if not to Petersburg? I could not take my eyes off father's pen, which was moving rather slowly. At last he finished and sealed the letter in an envelope along with my passport. He took his glasses off, called me over to him, and said, "Here's a letter to Andrei Karlovich R., my old comrade and friend. You're going to Orenburg to serve under his command."
All my brilliant hopes were dashed to the ground! Instead of a merry life in St. Petersburg, boredom awaited me in some remote, godforsaken region. The service, which I had contemplated with such enthusiasm even a minute before, now seemed like a burdensome chore. But there was no arguing with my father. The next morning a covered wagon was brought up to the front porch, and the servants piled into it my trunk, a hamper with a tea service, and bundles with rolls and pies - the last tokens of a pampered domestic life. My parents blessed me. Father said, "Good-bye, Petr. Serve faithfully the Sovereign to whom you swear allegiance; obey your superiors; don't curry favor with them; don't volunteer for duty, but don't shirk it either; and remember the proverb, 'Take care of your clothes while they're still new; cherish your honor from a tender age.'"
My dear mother admonished me in tears to take care of my health and exhorted Savelich to look after her child. They helped me into a hareskin coat and a fox overcoat. I got into the wagon with Savelich and set out on my journey, shedding floods of tears.
That night I arrived in Simbirsk, where I was supposed to stay for a day while various necessary items were procured — that task having been entrusted to Savelich. We put up at an inn. Savelich left for his shopping expedition in the morning. Bored with looking at the muddy side street from my window, I went wandering about the rooms of the inn. Reaching the billiard room, I spied a tall gentleman, about thirty-five years old, with long black mustachios, wearing a dressing gown and holding a cue in his hand and a pipe between his teeth. He was playing against the marker, who received a glass of vodka each time he won and had to crawl under the table on all fours every time he lost. I stopped to watch their game. The longer it lasted the more frequently the marker went crawling, until at last he remained under the table. The gentleman uttered a few pithy phrases over him by way of a funeral oration, and asked me if I would like to have a game. I refused since I did not know how to play. This evidently struck him as rather strange. He cast a pitying look at me; but we nevertheless got into a conversation. He told me that his name was Ivan Ivanovich Zurin, and that he was a captain in the X. Hussar Regiment, had come to Simbirsk to receive new recruits, and was staying at the inn. He invited me to take potluck with him as a fellow soldier. I agreed with pleasure. We sat down to the meal. Zurin drank a great deal and treated me generously too, saying that I had to get used to the service. He told me anecdotes of army life that made me roll with laughter; by the time we got up from the table we were bosom friends. He offered to teach me how to play billiards.
"It's essential for the likes of us in the service," he said. "Suppose you're on the march, you come to a small village: what's there to do? You can't be beating up the Yids all the time. Willynilly you end up at an inn playing billiards: but for that you must know how to play!"
I was entirely won over, and embarked on the course of instruction with great diligence. Zurin encouraged me vociferously, marveled at the fast progress I was making, and after a few lessons suggested that we play for money, just for half a kopeck at a time, not with gain in mind, but simply to avoid playing for nothing — which, in his words, was the nastiest of habits. I agreed to this proposition, too. Zurin ordered some rum punch and persuaded me to give it a try, saying once more that I had to get used to the service: what sort of service would it be without punch! I obeyed him. In the meantime we continued our game. Every sip from my glass made me bolder. I sent the balls flying over the edge every minute; all excited, I cursed the marker who was keeping the score in heaven knows what outlandish fashion; and I kept increasing the stake: in other words, I behaved like a young whelp who had broken loose for the first time. The hours passed imperceptibly. Zurin looked at his watch, put down his cue, and declared that I had lost a hundred rubles. This embarrassed me a little because my money was in Savelich's hands. I started apologizing, but Zurin interrupted me:
"For pity's sake! Don't give it a thought. I can wait. And now let's go to Arinushka's."
What can I say? I concluded the day just as dissolutely as I had begun it. We ate supper at Arinushka's. Zurin kept filling my glass, repeating that I had to get used to the service. I could hardly stand on my feet when we got up from the table; it was midnight when Zurin drove me back to the inn.
Savelich was waiting for us on the porch. He groaned on seeing the unmistakable signs of my zeal for the service.
"What's happened to you, my dear sir?" he said in a pathetic tone. "Where did you get fuddled like that? My goodness gracious! I've never seen such infamy in my whole life."
"Shut up, old sot!" I replied, stammering. "You must be drunk, go to bed... put me to bed."
The next morning I woke with a headache and could only dimly recall what had happened the day before. My reflections were interrupted by Savelich, who came in with a cup of tea.
"You're beginning early, Petr Andreich," he said, shaking his head. "You're beginning to play your pranks early. Who are you taking after? Neither your father nor your grandfather was a drunkard, I daresay; not to mention your dear mother, who's never touched anything but kvass since the day she was born. And who's to blame for it all? That damned mounseer, that's who. How many's the times, I remember, as he'd run to Antipevna: 'Madame, je vous prie vottka!' Well, here's the result of je vous prie! He set you a good example, didn't he, the son of a bitch! Did they really need to hire an infidel to look after the child, as if the master didn't have enough of his own folk!"
Ashamed of myself, I turned away from him and said, "Go away, Savelich: I don't want any tea."
But it was not easy to silence Savelich once he had started on a sermon.
"Now you can see, Petr Andreich, what it's like when you go on a spree. An aching head and no appetite. A drinking man's no good for nothing... Drink a glass of pickle juice with honey, or better yet, take a hair of the dog that bit you: have half a glass of vodka. What do you say?"
At this moment a boy came in with a note from I.I. Zurin. I opened it and read the following lines:
My dear Petr Andreevich,
Be so good as to send me by my serving boy the hundred rubles I won from you yesterday. I am in extremely straitened circumstances.
Ever at your service,
Ivan Zurin
There was no way out of it. Assuming an air of equanimity, I turned to Savelich - that "zealous guardian of all my cash and linen, indeed of all my business" - and ordered him to hand the boy a hundred rubles.
"Why? What for?" asked the astonished Savelich.
"I owe it to the gentleman," I countered with utmost coolness.
"Owe it to him?" asked Savelich, more and more amazed by the minute. "And when was it, sir, you found the time to get into this debt? Something's got to be fishy about this business. Say what you will, sir, I'm not paying a kopeck."
I thought that if at this decisive moment I did not gain the upper hand over the obstinate old man, it would be difficult to free myself from his tutelage later on, and therefore I said, casting a haughty glance at him, "I am your master, you are my servant. The money is mine. I lost it at billiards because that was my pleasure. As for you, I advise you not to try to be clever, but to do what you're told to."
Savelich was so struck by my words that he just threw up his hands and stood rooted to the ground.
"What are you waiting for?" I bawled at him angrily. He burst into tears. "Petr Andreich, young master," he uttered in a trembling voice, "don't break my heart. Light of my life, listen to me, an old man: write to this brigand that you were only joking, and we just don't have that kind of money. A hundred rubles! Gracious Lord! Tell him that your parents strictly forbade you to play for anything but nuts..."
"Enough of this nonsense," I interrupted sternly. "Bring the money here, or else I'll throw you out by the scruff of your neck."
Savelich looked at me in deep sorrow and went to fetch my debt. I felt sorry for the poor old man, but I wanted to shake myself loose and prove that I was no longer a child. The money was delivered to Zurin. Savelich hurried to get me out of the accursed inn. He came to report that the horses were ready. I left Simbirsk with a troubled conscience and silent remorse, without saying good-bye to my mentor, nor imagining that I would ever see him again.

      

I. The Sergeant of the Guards || II. The Guide|| III. The Fort || IV. The Duel|| V. Love || VI. The Pugachev Rebellion|| VII. The Assault || VIII. An Uninvited Guest|| IX. Separation || X.The Siege of a City|| XI. The Rebel Village|| XII. The Orphan || XIII. The Arrest || XIV. The Trial


 

Бібліотека ім. О. С. Пушкіна (м. Київ).
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