Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою > THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER > VIII. An Uninvited Guest

THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER

 

VIII. An Uninvited Guest

 

An uninvited guest is worse than a Tatar.

A POPULAR SAYING

The square was deserted. I remained standing in the same place and could not gather my thoughts, thrown into disarray by all these horrifying experiences.
Uncertainty about the fate of Maria Ivanovna troubled me most. Where was she? What had happened to her? Had she managed to hide? Was her hiding place safe? My head full of alarming thoughts, I went into the commandant's house. It had been completely laid waste: the chairs, tables, and chests were broken; the crockery smashed; everything ransacked. I ran up the narrow staircase leading to the bedchambers, and for the first time ever entered Maria Ivanovna's room. Her bed had been turned upside down; her wardrobe was broken and plundered; a sanctuary lamp was still burning in front of the empty icon-holder. A mirror on the wall between the windows had also escaped destruction. Where was the inhabitant of this humble virginal cell? A terrible thought passed through my mind: I imagined her in the hands of the marauders. My heart sank. I burst into bitter, bitter tears and loudly called out the name of my beloved. At that moment I heard a slight noise: Palashka, pale and trembling, came out from behind the wardrobe.
"Oh, Petr Andreich!" she said, clasping her hands. "What a day! What horrors!"
"And Maria Ivanovna?" I asked impatiently. "What's happened to Maria Ivanovna?"
"The young mistress is alive," replied Palashka. "She's hiding at Akulina Pamfilovna's."
"With the priest's wife?" I exclaimed in horror. "My God! But Pugachev is there!"
I rushed out of the room, was on the street in a flash, and ran headlong to the priest's house, oblivious to everything around. From inside the house shouts, laughter, and songs could be heard: Pugachev was feasting with his comrades. Palashka ran up behind me. I sent her in to call Akulina Pamfilovna out without attracting attention. In a minute the priest's wife came out to the anteroom with an empty decanter in her hand.
"For heaven's sake, where is Maria Ivanovna?" I asked her with inexpressible agitation.
"She's lying on the bed, my little lamb, right there behind the partition," answered the priest's wife. "We almost had a mishap, Petr Andreich, but thank God it's turned out all right. The villain had just sat down to dinner when my poor darling came to, and gave out a groan! My heart stood still: he heard it!
" 'And who's groaning back there, goodwife?'
"I doubled over before the impostor: "That's my niece, Your Majesty: she's very poorly; she's been lying in bed these two weeks.'
" 'And is your niece young?'
" 'She is, Your Majesty.'
" 'Let me see her, goodwife, this niece of yours.'
"My heart leapt into my throat, but there was nothing I could do.
" 'Just as you wish, Your Majesty: only the poor girl can't get up and come to Your Highness.'
" 'That's all right, goodwife, I'll go and take a look at her myself.'
"And that's just what he did, damnation on him: he went behind the partition and, just imagine, pulling the curtain aside, laid his hawk-eyes on her! But the Lord saved us; nothing happened. My goodman and I, can you believe it, were already preparing for martyrdom, but fortunately Masha, my little lamb, didn't recognize him. God Almighty, what days we've lived to see! I'll never! Poor Ivan Kuzmich! Who would have thought? And Vasilisa Egorovna! And Ivan Ignatich! Why him, too? But how come they spared you? And what do you think of Shvabrin, Aleksei Ivanych? Do you know he's had his hair cut like a Cossack and is sitting right in there with them, feasting? Nimble, ain't he? And when I said that about my sick niece, he looked at me, can you imagine, as if piercing me through with a knife, but he didn't give us away, for which, at least, we should be grateful to him."
At this time we heard the guests' drunken shouts and Father Gerasim's voice. The guests were demanding more wine, and the host was calling his spouse. She fell into a flutter.
"Go home now, Petr Andreich," she said; "I've no time for you: the brigands are on a binge. If you don't watch it, you'll fall into some drunkards' hands. Good-bye, Petr Andreich! What's to be, will be: we're all in God's hands."
The priest's wife left me. Somewhat reassured, I went back to my lodging. As I passed by the square I saw a number of Bashkirs crowding around the gallows and pulling the boots off the hanged men's feet: I could hardly restrain my indignation, but I knew it would be useless to try to interfere. Plunderers were roaming the fort, robbing the houses of the officers. The place resounded with shouts of drunken rebels. I reached home. Savelich met me on the threshold.
"Thank God!" he exclaimed when he saw me. "I was a feared the brigands have laid hands on you agin. Well, young master Petr Andreich! Can you believe it? They've robbed us clean, the scoundrels: clothes, linen, crockery, everything - they've left nothing. But never mind! Thank God they've let you off in one piece. By the way, sir, you recognized the ataman, didn't you?"
"No, I didn't. Who is he?"
"You didn't, young master? Have you forgotten the drunkard who swindled you out of your jacket at the wayside inn? That little hareskin jacket was still quite new, but the bastard ripped it apart, struggling into it."
I was astounded. Indeed, the similarity between Pugachev and my guide was striking. I came to realize that the two were one and the same person, which explained why I had been spared. I could not help marvelling at such a strange coincidence: my childhood jacket, given as a present to a vagabond, saved me from the noose, and the drunkard who had been loafing around wayside inns was now setting siege to forts and shaking an empire to its foundations!
"Would you like to have something to eat?" asked Savelich, unswerving in his habits. "There's nothing at home, but I can hunt up something and cook it for you."
Left alone, I sank into reflections. What was I to do? Both remaining in a fort occupied by the brigand and following after his band were unbecoming to an officer. My duty demanded that I present myself where my service could still be useful to the fatherland under the given critical circumstances ... But love eloquently counselled me to stay close to Maria Ivanovna, to be her defender and protector. Although I anticipated that the course of affairs could not fail to change soon, I could still not help trembling when I thought of the dangers of her present situation.
My reflections were interrupted by the arrival of one of the fort's Cossacks with the announcement that "His Imperial Highness demands your presence."
"Where is he?" I asked, getting ready to obey the command.
"At the commandant's house," answered the Cossack. "After dinner the Tsar Our Father went to the bathhouse, and now he's resting. Well, Your Honor, everything shows that he's a person of distinction: at dinner he was pleased to eat two roast suckling-pigs, and he had his steam bath so hot that even Taras Kurochkin couldn't bear it: he had to hand the besom to Fomka Bikbaev and could just barely revive himself with cold water. All his ways are dignified, there's no denying... In the bathhouse, they say, he was showing his royal marks on his chest: a two-headed eagle the size of a five-kopeck piece on one side, and his own image on the other."
I did not think it necessary to dispute the Cossack's opinions, and proceeded with him to the commandant's house, trying to anticipate what my meeting with Pugachev would be like and to guess how it would end. As the reader can imagine, I was not altogether composed.
It was beginning to get dark when I arrived at the commandant's house. The gallows with its victims loomed dark and terrifying. The body of the commandant's poor wife still lay by the porch, which was guarded by two Cossack sentries. The Cossack who accompanied me went to announce me and, returning immediately, led me into the room where I had taken such tender farewell of Maria Ivanovna the evening before.
An extraordinary picture greeted my eyes: at the table, covered with a cloth and laden with bottles and glasses, sat Pugachev and about ten Cossack chiefs, with their hats on, in colourful shirts, their cheeks flushed with wine and their eyes sparkling. Neither Shvabrin nor our sergeant - newfangled traitors — was there among them.
"Ah, Your Honor!" said Pugachev on seeing me. "Welcome. Please be seated."
His companions moved over to make room for me. I sat down silently at the end of the table. My immediate neighbour, a well-built, handsome young Cossack, poured a glass of ordinary vodka for me, which I did not touch. I surveyed the gathering with curiosity. Pugachev sat in the place of honor, with his elbow on the table, resting his black beard on his broad fist. His features, regular and rather pleasant, had nothing ferocious about them. He often turned to a man of about fifty, calling him Count or Timofeich, and sometimes honouring him with the tide of uncle. All present treated one another as comrades, showing no particular deference to their leader. They talked about that morning's assault, the success of the uprising, and their future operations. Each swaggered, offered his opinions, and freely disputed those of Pugachev. It was at this strange military council that they decided to march on Orenburg - a bold decision, but one that was almost to be crowned with calamitous success! It was declared that the campaign would begin the next morning.
"Well, brothers," said Pugachev, "let's sing my favourite song before we break up for the night. Chumakov, you start!"
My neighbour struck up a doleful barge hauler's song in a high-pitched voice, and the others joined him in chorus:

Do not rustle your leaves, dear oak tree, green mother,
Do not disturb me, brave young lad, in thinking my thoughts.
In the morning I, brave young lad, must go to be questioned,
Before a stern judge, the Tsar himself.
And the Sovereign Tsar will question me:
You tell me, tell me, lad, peasant's son,
With whom you went robbing and plundering,
Did you have many other fellows with you?
I will tell you, Our Hope, Orthodox Tsar,
I will tell you the full truth, and nothing but the truth,
That it was four fellows that I had with me:
My first fellow was the dark night,
My second fellow was a damask steel knife.
My third fellow was my brave horse,
My fourth fellow was a taut bow,
And my errand boys were red-hot arrows.
And the Tsar, Our Hope, will speak:
Well done, young lad, peasant's son,
You knew how to rob and how to answer me,
For which I will reward you, young lad,
With a tall dwelling in the middle of a field,
That will have two posts and a transom.

I cannot describe what effect this folk song about the gallows, sung by people destined for the gallows, had on me. Their stern faces, their harmonious voices, and the doleful intonation they gave to the song's already expressive words - all this inspired me with poetic awe.
The guests drank one more glass, rose from the table, and wished Pugachev good night. I wanted to leave with them, but Pugachev said to me, "Don't go: I want to have a talk with you."
We remained face to face.
For some minutes both of us sat silent. Pugachev fixed his gaze on me, occasionally screwing up his left eye with a wonderfully roguish and mocking expression. At last he burst into laughter with such unaffected merriment that looking at him I started laughing myself, not knowing why.
"Well, Your Honor?" he said to me. "You got scared, didn't you, when my lads threw the rope around your neck? Frightened out of your wits, weren't you? And I vow you would've dangled from the transom if it hadn't been for your servant. I recognized the old devil immediately. Well, Your Honor, did you think that the man who guided you to the wayside inn was your Sovereign Master?" He assumed a solemn and mysterious air. "You'd committed a serious offence against me," he continued, "but I pardoned you for your charity, for doing me a favour at a time when I was forced to hide from my enemies. But that is just the beginning. You'll see how I reward you when I regain my empire! Do you promise to serve me with zeal?"
The rogue's question and boldness seemed so amusing to me that I couldn't restrain a smile.
"What are you smiling at?" he asked, frowning. "Or don't you believe that I am your Sovereign Majesty? Give me a straight answer."
I was perplexed. I could not acknowledge a vagabond as my Sovereign - that would have seemed inexcusable cowardice to me - but to call him an impostor to his face was to invite my own ruin. It seemed to me that to make the gesture now that I had been ready to make under the gallows, in front of the whole crowd, in the first heat of indignation, would be useless braggadocio. I wavered. Pugachev was sullenly waiting for my reply. At length (and to this day I remember the moment with pride) my sense of duty triumphed over my human frailty. I replied to Pugachev:
"Listen, let me tell you the honest truth. Think of it yourself, can I acknowledge you as my sovereign? You're a sharp-witted person: you'd be the first to realize that I was faking."
"And who am I then, in your opinion?"
"God only knows; but whoever you may be, you're playing a dangerous game."
Pugachev cast a quick glance at me.
"So you don't believe," he said, "that I am your Sovereign Petr Fedorovich? All right. But isn't it true that fortune favours the bold? Didn't Grishka Otrepev reign in days of old? Take me for what you wish, but don't desert me. Why should you worry whether I'm this person or that? Whoever's the priest, he's called father. Serve me with faith and truth, and I'll make you a field marshal and a Prince. What do you say?"
"No," I replied firmly. "I was born a nobleman; I swore allegiance to Her Majesty the Empress; I cannot serve you. If you really wish me well, let me go to Orenburg."
Pugachev thought for a while.
"But if I let you go," he asked, "will you promise at least not to fight against me?"
"How could I promise such a thing?" I answered. "You know yourself it doesn't depend on my own wishes: if I'm commanded to go against you, I'll go, there's nothing else I can do. You're a leader now; you demand obedience from your men. Indeed what would it look like if I refused to serve when my services were needed? My life is in your hands: if you let me go, I'll be grateful; if you execute me, God shall be your judge; in any case, I've told you the truth."
My sincerity impressed Pugachev.
"Be it so," he said, slapping me on the shoulder. "Hang him or spare him: don't do things by halves. Go wherever you want, and do what you like. Come and say good-bye tomorrow; and now go to bed: I'm beginning to feel sleepy myself."
I left Pugachev and went out on the street. The night was still and frosty. The moon and the stars shone brightly, illuminating the square and the gallows. In the fort everything was quiet and dark. Only in the tavern was there still a light; shouts of dallying drunkards could be heard from time to time. I looked at the priest's house. The shutters and the gate were closed. Everything seemed to be quiet inside.
Arriving at my lodging, I found Savelich worrying over my absence. He was overjoyed when he heard I was allowed to go free.
"Thank gracious heavens!" he said, crossing himself. "We'll leave the fort at the crack of dawn tomorrow and go where our feet'll carry us. I've prepared a little something for you: eat, young master, and sleep the sleep of the just till morning."
Following his advice, I ate my supper with good appetite and, worn out in both body and mind, fell asleep on the bare floor.

 

      

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).
Про О.С. Пушкіна