Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою > THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER > VII. The Assault

THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER

 

VII. The Assault

 

My head, my dear head,
My head, grown gray in service!
You have served, my head,
Thirty-three years, no more, no less.
Oh, you have not earned by your service
Either fortune or joy,
Or a kind word,
Or any high rank;
All you have earned, my head,
Are two tall posts,
A transom of maple
And a noose of silk.

A FOLK SONG

That night I did not sleep, nor did I undress. At daybreak I intended to go to the gate of the fort through which Maria Ivanovna would be leaving, and say farewell to her for the last time. I felt a great change in myself: my agitated state of mind was much less onerous than the dejection that had overwhelmed me of late. Vague but alluring dreams mingled in my thoughts with the sadness of separation; and I awaited danger impatiently, with a feeling of noble ambition. The night passed imperceptibly. I was just about to leave the house when my door opened and a corporal came in to report that our Cossacks had left the fort during the night, forcibly taking Iulai with them, and that strange men were reconnoitring the area around the fort. The thought that Maria Ivanovna would not be able to get away terrified me; I hastily gave some instructions to the corporal and rushed to the commandant's.
It was already getting light. As I sped along the street I heard someone call me. I stopped. "Where are you running?" asked Ivan Ignatich, catching up with me. "Ivan Kuzmich is on the rampart and has sent me to fetch you. Pugach has arrived."
"Has Maria Ivanovna got away?" I asked with a fluttering heart.
"She couldn't," replied Ivan Ignatich. "The road to Orenburg is cut off, and the fort is surrounded. Things are looking bad, Petr Andreich!"
We went to the rampart, which was a natural elevation reinforced by a palisade. All of the inhabitants of the fort were already crowding there. The garrison stood under arms. The cannon had been hauled here the night before. The commandant paced up and down before his little troop. The approach of danger inspired the old warrior with unusual vigor. Some twenty people were riding about on the steppe, not far from the fort. They appeared to be Cossacks, but there were also some Bashkirs among them, easily distinguishable by their lynx hats and quivers. The commandant inspected his troop, saying to the soldiers, "Well, my lads, we'll stand up today for our Mother the Empress and show the world we're courageous people, true to our oath."
The soldiers loudly voiced their zeal. Shvabrin stood next to me, with his gaze fixed on the enemy. The people riding about on the steppe noticed some movement in the fort; they gathered in a group and began talking among themselves. The commandant ordered Ivan Ignatich to aim the cannon at the group, and he himself applied the fuse. The ball whizzed over their heads, causing no harm to anyone. The horsemen scattered and instantly galloped out of sight: the steppe became empty.
At this moment Vasilisa Egorovna appeared on the rampart, accompanied by Masha, who did not want to be left alone.
"Well," asked the commandant's wife, "how's the battle going? And where's the enemy?"
"The enemy isn't far off," Ivan Kuzmich replied. "With God's help we'll be all right. Well, Masha, are you frightened?"
"No, papa," answered Masha, "it's more frightening to be left alone at home."
She looked at me and made an effort to smile. I involuntarily grasped the hilt of my sword, remembering that I had received it from her hands the evening before, as if for the defence of my beloved. My heart glowed. I imagined myself her knight-protector. I longed to prove that I was worthy of her trust, and waited impatiently for the decisive moment.
At this point new mounted hordes appeared from behind a ridge half a verst from the fort, and soon the whole steppe was covered with multitudes, armed with lances and bows and arrows. Among them, on a white horse, rode a man in a red caftan, with his saber drawn: this was Pugachev himself. He stopped; his men gathered around him; and evidently by his command, four of them peeled off from the group and galloped right up to the fort at full speed. We recognized them as defectors from our own fort. One of them brought a sheet of paper under his hat; another held, stuck on the point of his lance, the head of Iulai, which he swung in a broad arc and hurled to us over the palisade. The poor Kalmyk's head fell at the commandant's feet. The traitors were shouting, "Don't shoot: come out of the fort to greet the Sovereign. The Sovereign is here!"
"I'll teach you who's here!" cried Ivan Kuzmich. "Ready, lads, fire!"
Our soldiers fired a volley. The Cossack holding the letter swayed in his saddle and fell off his horse; the others galloped back. I looked at Maria Ivanovna. Terror-stricken by the sight of Iulai's bloody head and deafened by the volley, she seemed bedazed. The commandant summoned the corporal and ordered him to take the sheet of paper from the dead Cossack's hand. The corporal went out into the field and came back leading the dead man's horse by the bridle. He handed the letter to the commandant. Ivan Kuzmich read it to himself and tore it to pieces. In the meantime the rebels were plainly preparing for action. Soon bullets came whizzing by our ears, and several arrows fell close to us, sticking in the ground or in the palisade.
"Vasilisa Egorovna," said the commandant, "this is no place for women. Take Masha away: as you can see, the poor girl's more dead than alive."
Vasilisa Egorovna, tamed by the bullets, glanced at the steppe, which was all astir, and turned to her husband, saying, "Ivan Kuzmich, life and death are in God's hands: give your blessing to Masha. Masha, go to your father."
Masha, pale and trembling, went up to Ivan Kuzmich, dropped to her knees, and bowed to the ground before him. The old commandant made the sign of the cross over her three times, then raised her up and kissed her, saying in a voice of deep emotion:
"Well, Masha, be happy. Pray to God: he will not forsake you. If a good man should come along, God grant you peace and happiness. Live with him as I have lived with Vasilisa Egorovna. And now, farewell, Masha. Vasilisa Egorovna, do take her away, won't you?"
Masha threw her arms around his neck and burst into sobs.
"Let me kiss you, too," said the commandant's wife, weeping. "Farewell, my dear Ivan Kuzmich! Forgive me if I've ever vexed you in any way!"
"Farewell, farewell, mother dear," said Ivan Kuzmich, embracing his old woman. "But that's enough, now. Go home, please do; and if there's time, dress Masha in a sarafan'''
The commandant's wife and daughter walked away. I followed Maria Ivanovna with my eyes; she glanced back and nodded to me. Then Ivan Kuzmich turned toward us and directed all his attention to the enemy. The rebels gathered around their leader and suddenly began dismounting.
"Steady now," said the commandant, "the assault is coming."
At that moment the rebels burst into terrifying shrieks and screams and rushed toward the fort. Our cannon was loaded with grapeshot. The commandant let the rebels come up close and suddenly fired again. The shot tore into the middle of the crowd. The rebels scattered right and left, and fell back. Their leader alone remained at the front... He brandished his saber and appeared to be fervently exhorting the others... The shrieks and the screams, which had died down for a moment, instantly revived.
"Now, lads," said the commandant, "open the gate and beat the drum! Forward, lads! Charge! Follow me!"
The commandant, Ivan Ignatich, and I were outside the rampart in no time, but the intimidated garrison did not budge. "What's the matter, lads, why are you standing?" shouted Ivan Kuzmich. "We can die but once: it's a soldier's duty."
At that moment the rebels charged and burst into the fort. The drum fell silent; the garrison threw down their weapons; I was hurled to the ground, but I got up and entered the fort with the rebels. The commandant, wounded in the head, stood in the midst of a group of villains, who were demanding the keys from him. I was on the point of rushing to his aid, but some hefty Cossacks seized me and bound me with their belts, repeating, "You'll get your deserts for disobeying His Majesty!" They dragged us through the streets; the inhabitants of the fort came out of their houses offering bread and salt. The church bells rang. Suddenly a shout came from the throng that the Sovereign was in the square awaiting the prisoners and receiving oaths of allegiance. The crowd surged toward the square; we were hustled there too.
Pugachev sat in an armchair on the porch of the commandant's house. He was wearing a red Cossack caftan edged with galloons. His tall sable hat with golden tassels was pulled right down to his flashing eyes. His face seemed familiar to me. He was surrounded by Cossack leaders. Father Gerasim, pale and trembling, stood by the porch with a cross in his hands and appeared to be silently imploring him to spare the lives of the victims who were to be brought before him. Gallows were being hastily erected in the square. The Bashkirs drove the crowd back as we approached, and we were brought before Pugachev. The bells stopped ringing; deep silence enveloped the scene.
"Which one is the commandant?" the pretender asked.
Our sergeant stepped forward and pointed at Ivan Kuzmich. Pugachev looked at the old man menacingly and asked him, "How did you dare oppose me, your Sovereign?"
The commandant, languishing from his wound, gathered his last strength and replied in a firm voice, "You're no sovereign to me, you're a pretender and an impostor, d'ye hear?"
Pugachev sullenly knitted his brows and waved a white handkerchief. Several Cossacks grabbed the old captain and dragged him to the gallows. We saw the mutilated Bashkir we had interrogated the day before astride the transom. He held a rope in his hand, and in another minute I saw poor Ivan Kuzmich hoisted into the air. Then Ivan Ignatich was led before Pugachev, who said to him, "Swear your allegiance to your Sovereign, Petr Feodorovich!"
"You're not our sovereign," replied Ivan Ignatich, repeating his captain's words. "You, fellow, are an impostor and a pretender!"
Pugachev waved his handkerchief once more, and the good lieutenant was soon hanging by his old commander.
It was my turn. I was looking at Pugachev boldly, ready to repeat the answer my noble comrades had given him. At that moment, to my indescribable astonishment, I beheld among the rebel leaders Shvabrin, his hair cropped close around the crown after the Cossack fashion, and wearing a Cossack caftan. He approached Pugachev and whispered a few words in his ear.
"Hang him!" said Pugachev, not even looking at me. They threw the noose around my neck. I prayed silently, offering God sincere repentance for all my sins and imploring Him to save all those dear to my heart. I was dragged under the gallows.
"Don't be scared, don't be scared!" repeated my executioners, wishing, in all truth perhaps, to give me courage.
Suddenly I heard a shout:
"Stop, damn you! Hold it!"
The hangman stopped. I glanced around: Savelich was prostrate at Pugachev's feet.
"Father to us all!" my poor old attendant was saying. "What good'll the death of the noble child do to you? Let 'im go; they'll pay you a ransom for 'im, they will; and for fear and example have me, an old man, hanged."
Pugachev gave a signal; they immediately untied me and set me free.
"The Tsar Our Father has pardoned you," they told me.
I cannot say at that moment I was pleased to be spared; but neither can I say that I regretted it. My feelings were too confused. I was brought to the pretender once more and made to kneel before him. Pugachev held out his sinewy hand to me.
"Kiss his hand! Kiss his hand!" they were saying around me.
But I would have preferred the crudest death to such a foul humiliation.
"Petr Andreich, young master!" whispered Savelich, standing behind me and nudging me. "Don't be obstinate! What does it matter to you? Don't give a damn, just kiss the scound... Whew! Kiss his dear hand."
I did not stir. Pugachev let his hand fall and said mockingly, "His Honor, I see, is dazed with joy. Raise him up!"
They lifted me up and released me. I watched the rest of the horrifying comedy.
The inhabitants of the fort came up to take the oath. One by one they approached, kissed the crucifix, and then bowed to the pretender. The garrison soldiers also stood there. The tailor of the platoon, armed with his blunt scissors, was snipping off their locks. They shook their clipped hair off and went up to kiss the hand of Pugachev, who pronounced them pardoned and accepted them into his band. All this lasted for about three hours. At last Pugachev rose from the armchair and came down from the porch, accompanied by his chiefs. His white horse with its richly ornamented harness was brought to him. Two Cossacks grasped him by the elbows and lifted him into the saddle. He announced to Father Gerasim that he would dine at his house. At this moment a woman's scream was heard. Several brigands had just dragged Vasilisa Egorovna, dishevelled and stripped naked, out on the porch. One of them had already decked himself out in her padded jacket. Others were lugging featherbeds, chests, a tea service, linen, and all manner of other spoils.
"Please, my dear fellows," shouted the poor old woman, "let me be. Dear sirs, take me to Ivan Kuzmich." Suddenly she glanced at the gallows and recognized her husband. "Blackguards!" she screamed in a frenzy. "What have you done to him? Ivan Kuzmich, light of my life, brave soldier heart! You escaped both the Prussians' bayonets and the Turks' bullets unscathed; it was not your lot to lay down your life in honest battle; you had to perish at the hands of an escaped convict!"
"Make the old witch shut up!" said Pugachev.
A young Cossack struck her on the head with his saber, and she fell dead on the steps of the porch. Pugachev rode away; the crowd surged after him.

 

      

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