Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою > THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER > XI. The Rebel Village

THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER

 

XI. The Rebel Village

 

The lion, though by nature fierce, was sated then.
"What prompted your resolve to seek me in my den?"
he mildly asked.

A. SUMAROKOV.

I left the general and hurried back to my lodging. Savelich met me with his usual remonstrances.
"Law, dear sir, what is it makes you jostle with drunken brigands? Is that worthy of a gentleman? You'll be done for, before you know it, without no use. It'd be something else if you were marching against 'em Turks or Swedes, but one's ashamed even to say who you're tussling with."
I interrupted his discourse with a question: how much money did I have, all told?
"There'll be enough," he answered with a look of satisfaction. "Much as the rascals rummaged, I managed to hide some."
With these words he drew from his pocket a long knitted purse full of silver.
"Well, Savelich," I said to him, "give me half now and keep the other half for yourself. I am going to Fort Belogorsk."
"Petr Andreich, young master!" said my good-natured attendant in a trembling voice. "Don't tempt the Lord! How could you set out now, when all the roads are cut off by the brigands? Pity at least your parents, if you don't pity yourself. Where would you go? What for? Wait a spell: troops'll be coming a-catching the rascals, and then you can go where your feet'll carry you."
But I was firm in my resolve.
"It's too late to discuss it," I said to the old man. "I must go: I simply cannot do otherwise. Don't be upset, Savelich: God is merciful, perhaps we'll meet again. But listen, don't have scruples now, don't be sparing. Buy yourself what you need, even if the price is three times what it should be. I'm giving you the money. In case I don't return in three days..."
"What's that you're saying, sir?" Savelich interrupted me. "That I should let you go by yourself? Don't even dream of it! If you're so set on going, I'll follow after you on foot if need be, but I won't desert you. That I should sit here, behind 'em stone walls without you! I haven't yet gone off my head, have I? Say what you will, sir, I'm not budging from your side."
Knowing well that I could not out argue Savelich, I let him get ready for the journey. In half an hour I mounted my good horse, while Savelich got on an emaciated, lame jade, which a citizen had given him free, having nothing to feed it with. We rode to the city gates; the sentries let us through; we left Orenburg behind.
It was beginning to get dark. We had to pass by the village of Berda, Pugachev's den. The road there was buried under snow, but one could see tracks made by horses, renewed daily, all over the steppe. I rode at a full trot. Savelich could just barely follow me at a distance, and kept shouting after me every minute, "Easy, sir, for God's sake, easy! My damned nag can't keep up with your long-legged devil. Where you hurrying to? It'd be something else if we were rushing to a feast, but hark my word, we're going to put our heads in a noose... Petr Andreich! Young master, Petr Andreich! Don't ruin us!... God Almighty, the noble child's going to perish!"
We could soon see the lights of Berda twinkle. We approached the ravines - natural lines of defence for the village. Savelich would not be left behind and did not cease his plaintive entreaties. I had hoped to skirt the village unnoticed, but suddenly I beheld, right in front of me in the dusk, five or so peasants armed with cudgels: these were sentries at the outer edge of Pugachev's camp. They challenged us. Not knowing the password, I wanted to ride by them in silence, but they immediately surrounded me, and one of them caught my horse by the bridle. I drew my saber and struck the peasant on the head: his hat saved his life, but he staggered and let go of the bridle. The others fell back in confusion: I took advantage of this moment and galloped off spurring my horse.
The darkness of the descending night might have saved me from any further danger, but looking back I suddenly noticed that Savelich was not following me. On his lame horse the poor old man had not been able to get away from the brigands. What was I to do? Having waited a few minutes and ascertained that he had been held up, I turned my horse around and went to try to rescue him.
As I approached the ravine, I could hear in the distance some noise, shouts, and the voice of my Savelich. I rode on faster and soon found myself in the midst of the peasant sentries who had stopped me a few minutes before. They had Savelich with them. They had dragged the old man off his jade and were getting ready to tie him up. My arrival greatly pleased them. They threw themselves on me with shouts and pulled me off my horse in no time. One of them, evidently their leader, declared that he would take us directly to the Sovereign.
"It's up to Our Father the Tsar," he added, "whether he'll order you to be hanged now or upon the morn."
I did not resist; Savelich followed my example; and the sentries led us away in triumph.
We crossed the ravine and entered the village. There were lights in every cottage. Noise and shouts could be heard everywhere. We came across many people on the streets, but in the dark nobody paid any attention to us, and nobody realized I was an officer from Orenburg. We were led straight to a cottage situated at the crossroads. There were several barrels of liquor and two cannon by the gate.
"Here's the palace," said one of the peasants. "We'll announce you at once."
He went inside. I glanced at Savelich: the old man was crossing himself and muttering a prayer. We waited for a long time; at last the peasant returned and said to me, "Follow me: Our Father has said to let the officer in."
I entered the cottage - or palace, as the peasants called it. It was lit by two tallow candles, and its walls were hung with golden paper; otherwise, the benches, the table, the washbasin hanging on a rope, the towel on a nail, the oven-fork in the corner, and the board hearth covered with pots - everything was just as it would be in an ordinary cottage. Pugachev, dressed in a red caftan and a tall hat, sat under the icons, with his arms akimbo in a self-important manner. Some of his chief associates stood by him with a feigned look of servility. It was evident that the news of the arrival of an officer from Orenburg had aroused great curiosity in the rebels, and they had prepared to receive me with pomp. Pugachev recognized me at first glance. His assumed self-importance disappeared immediately.
"Ah, Your Honor," he said to me gaily, "how do you do? What brought you to these parts?"
I replied that I had been travelling on my own business but his men had stopped me.
"And what business is that?" he asked me.
I did not know what to reply. Assuming that I did not want to enter into explanations before witnesses, Pugachev turned to his comrades, telling them to leave. All of them obeyed except for two, who did not stir from their places.
"You can safely talk in their presence," Pugachev told me; "I hide nothing from them."
I threw a sidelong glance at the pretender's confidants. One of them, a frail, hunched-over little old man with a meager gray beard, had nothing noteworthy about him except for a blue ribbon draped across his shoulder, over his gray tunic. But I shall never forget his companion. He was tall, burly, and broad-shouldered, and appeared to be about forty-five years of age. His thick red beard, his gleaming gray eyes, his nose with the nostrils slit, and the red marks on his forehead and cheeks lent an indescribable expression to his broad pockmarked face. He wore a red shirt, a Kirgiz robe, and Cossack trousers. The former (as I was to learn) was the runaway corporal Beloborodov, and the latter Afanasii Sokolov (nicknamed Khlopusha), a criminal sentenced to penal servitude who had escaped from Siberian mines three times.
Despite the worries that had an almost exclusive claim on my attention, the company in which I unexpectedly found myself profoundly stirred my imagination. But Pugachev soon roused me with a question: "Tell us then: what business brought you out of Orenburg?"
A strange thought entered my mind: it seemed to me that providence, bringing me face to face with Pugachev for the second time, was presenting me with an opportunity to execute my plans. I resolved to take advantage of it, and, with no time to reflect on what I was getting into, replied to Pugachev, "I was going to Fort Belogorsk to rescue a mistreated orphan."
Pugachev's eyes flashed.
"Who among my men dares mistreat an orphan?" he cried. "Be he as shrewd as a fox, he won't escape my judgment! Speak: who's the culprit?"
"Shvabrin is the culprit," was my answer. "He's keeping as his prisoner the maiden you saw lying ill at the priest's house. He wants to force her to marry him."
"I'll teach Shvabrin a lesson or two," Pugachev said menacingly. "He'll learn what rewards arbitrary mistreatment of the people earns under my rule. I'm going to hang him."
"Allow me to put in a word," Khlopusha said in a hoarse voice. "You were in a hurry to appoint Shvabrin commander of a fort; now you're in a hurry to hang him. You already offended the Cossacks when you put a nobleman over them; now you want to frighten the nobles by executing them at the first accusation."
"No need either to pity or to favour them!" said the little old man with the blue ribbon. "There'll be no harm in hanging Shvabrin; and it wouldn't be amiss, either, to question this here officer thoroughly: why he's honoured us with his visit. If he doesn't recognize you as his sovereign, why's he seeking justice from you, and if he does recognize you, what's he been doing sitting in Orenburg with your foes till the present day? Wouldn't you like to have him taken down to the chancery and get a good fire going in the furnace? His Grace, I suspect, has been sent by the commanders of Orenburg to spy on us."
The old villain's logic seemed quite convincing to me. A shiver ran down my spine when I reflected in whose hands I was. Pugachev noticed my confusion.
"How about that, Your Honor?" he asked, winking at me. "My field marshal, it seems to me, is talking sense. What do you think?"
Pugachev's taunting manner restored my courage. I answered calmly that I was in his power and he was free to deal with me in whatever way he thought fit.
"All right," said Pugachev. "Now tell us, in what condition is your city?"
"Thank God," I answered, "all is well."
"All is well!" repeated Pugachev. "And what about the people dying of hunger?"
The pretender spoke the truth, but I felt duty-bound to assert that all that was just empty rumour, and that in fact there was enough of all kinds of supplies in Orenburg.
"You can see," the little old man chimed in, "that he's lying right to your face. All the fugitives have consistently reported that there is famine and death in Orenburg, that they're feeding on carrion, thinking themselves lucky for it, yet His Grace asserts that there's enough of everything. If you want to hang Shvabrin, hang this pretty young man, too, on the same gallows, so that neither of them could feel envious of the other."
The words of the accursed old man seemed to be swaying Pugachev. Fortunately, Khlopusha contradicted his companion.
"That's enough, Naumych," he said. "All you ever want is to strangle and slaughter. A great hero, aren't you? Look at you, your body and soul are scarcely held together. One foot's already in the grave, but you still cut other people's throats. Haven't you already got enough blood on your conscience?"
"And since when have you become a saint?" retorted Beloborodov. "Whence this sudden compassion?"
"Of course," answered Khlopusha, "I'm also a sinner. This hand," here he clenched his bony fist and, rolling up his sleeve, bared his hairy arm, "this hand, too, is guilty of shedding Christian blood. But I've slain foes, not guests; at the crossroads and in the dark forest, not at home while sitting by the stove; with bludgeon and ax, not with slander like an old woman."
The old man turned away and muttered the words, "slit nostrils!"
"What are you whispering there, old devil?" yelled Khlopusha. "I'll give you slit nostrils; just wait, your time's coming too: God willing, you will yet feel the kiss of the executioner's tongs... And in the meanwhile take care lest I pluck your scraggly beard!"
"Generals!" exclaimed Pugachev solemnly. "That's enough of your quarrels. There'd be no harm in it if all the Orenburg dogs dangled from the same transom, but we'll come to a bad end if our own hounds start snapping and snarling at one another. Please make up."
Khlopusha and Beloborodov did not say a word, just glared at each other sullenly. I felt the necessity of changing the topic of the conversation, which could have ended in a way very unfavourable to me, and I turned to Pugachev, saying with a cheerful expression, "Oh, I almost forgot to thank you for the horse and the coat. Without your help I would've never reached the city and would've frozen on the highway."
My ruse worked. Pugachev cheered up.
"One good turn deserves another," he said with a wink and a twinkle in his eyes. "Tell me now, why are you so concerned about the girl Shvabrin is mistreating? Has she kindled a flame in your young heart? Has she?"
"She's my fiancee," I answered Pugachev, seeing a favourable change in the weather and having no reason to conceal the truth.
"Your fiancee!" cried Pugachev. "Why didn't you tell me before? We'll have you married and feast at your wedding!" Then he turned to Beloborodov: "Listen, field marshal, His Honor and I are old friends: let's sit down to supper and then sleep on the matter. We'll see in the morning what we should do with him."
I would have been glad to decline the honor, but there was no way to get out of it. Two young Cossack girls, daughters of the owner of the cottage, laid the table with a white cloth, bringing in some bread and fish soup and several bottles of vodka and beer: once more I found myself sharing a table with Pugachev and his terrifying comrades.
The orgy to which I became an involuntary witness lasted well into the night. At length befuddlement began to get the better of the members of the party. Pugachev fell asleep in his chair; his comrades rose and signalled to me to leave him. I went out with them. By Khlopusha's order the sentry led me to the cottage of the chancery, where I found Savelich and where they locked us in. My attendant was so confounded by all that had happened that he did not even ask me any questions. He lay down in the dark, sighing and moaning for a long time; at last he started snoring, while I gave myself over to musings, which did not allow me a wink of sleep all night.
The next morning Pugachev sent for me. As I approached his quarters, I saw at the gate a covered wagon, with a troika of Tatar horses harnessed to it. There was a crowd in the street. I met Pugachev at the entrance: he was dressed for the road, in a fur coat and a Kirgiz hat. His companions of the night before surrounded him, assuming an air of submission that was in sharp contrast with all I had witnessed the previous evening. Pugachev greeted me merrily and ordered me to get into the wagon with him.
We took our seats.
"To Fort Belogorsk!" said Pugachev to the broad-shouldered Tatar driver standing at the front of the wagon. My heart pounded. The horses hurtled forward, the bells jingled, the wagon dashed forth...
"Stop! Stop!" I heard an all-too-familiar voice, and I caught sight of Savelich running toward us in the street. Pugachev gave orders to stop.
"Petr Andreich, young master!" cried my attendant. "Don't forget me in my old age among these scoundr..."
"Oh, the old devil!" said Pugachev. "Fate's brought us together again. All right, sit on the box."
"Thank you, My Sovereign, thank you, Father," said Savelich taking his seat. "May the Lord keep you in good health for a hundred years for taking pity on an old man and comforting him. I'll pray for you all my life, and I'll never even mention the hareskin coat again."
That hareskin coat might have at last made Pugachev angry in earnest. But happily he either did not hear the unfortunate allusion or chose to ignore it. The horses set off at a gallop; the people in the street stopped and bowed from the waist. Pugachev nodded to them right and left. In another minute we left the village behind and went whizzing over the smooth surface of the highway.
The reader can easily imagine what I felt at that moment. In a few hours I was to see her whom I had already considered lost to me forever. I imagined the moment of our reunion... I also thought about the man in whose hands my fate rested and with whom, by a series of strange coincidences, I was mysteriously linked. I remembered the wanton cruelty and bloodthirsty ways of this same man - who was now volunteering to deliver my beloved one! Pugachev did not know that she was the daughter of Captain Mironov; an exasperated Shvabrin could reveal it all to him; or he might find out the truth in some other way... What would then become of Maria Ivanovna? A shiver ran down my spine, and my hair stood on end at the very thought...
Suddenly Pugachev interrupted my thoughts, turning to me to ask, "What is Your Honor brooding over?"
"How could I not be brooding?" I answered. "I am an officer and a nobleman; only yesterday I was fighting against you; yet today I'm riding in the same wagon with you, and the happiness of my whole life depends on you."
"And what about it?" asked Pugachev. "Are you scared?"
I answered that having already been spared by him once, I was hoping not only for his mercy but even for his help.
"And you're right, by God, you're right!" said the pretender. "You saw how my fellows scowled at you; even this morning the old man insisted that you were a spy and should be tortured and hanged; but I wouldn't consent," he added, lowering his voice so that Savelich and the Tatar would not be able to hear, "because I remembered your glass of vodka and hareskin coat. You can see I'm not as bloodthirsty as your people claim."
I remembered the taking of Fort Belogorsk, but I did not think it necessary to contradict him, and made no answer.
"What do they say about me in Orenburg?" asked Pugachev, after a pause.
"Well, they say that coping with you is no easy matter; you've certainly made your mark."
The pretender's face showed that his vanity was gratified.
"Yes!" he said with a cheerful expression. "I fight with skill, don't I? Have your people in Orenburg heard about the battle at Iuzeeva? Forty generals killed, four armies taken captive. What do you think: could the Prussian King stand up to me?"
The impostor's bragging amused me.
"What do you think yourself?" I said. "Could you get the better of Frederick?"
"Of Fedor Fedorovich? And why not? After all, I'm getting the better of your generals, and they've beaten him more than once. Fortune has favoured my arms so far; but it's been nothing yet: just wait and see how I'll march on Moscow."
"So you're proposing to march on Moscow?"
The pretender pondered a little and said in an undertone, "Heaven only knows. My path is narrow: I've little freedom. My fellows are always trying to be clever. They're crooks. I've got to keep my ears pricked: at the first sign of failure they'll try to save their necks in exchange for my head."
"Exactly so!" I told him. "Wouldn't it be better if you yourself left them before it was too late, and threw yourself on the Empress's mercy?"
Pugachev's face broke into a bitter smile.
"No," he answered. "It's too late for me to repent. There'll be no mercy for me. I'm going to continue as I began. You can never be sure: perhaps I'll succeed! After all, Grishka Otrepev reigned over Moscow, didn't he?"
"And do you know how he ended up? He was thrown out of a window, slaughtered, and burned, and his ashes were fired from a cannon!"
"Listen," said Pugachev with frenzied inspiration. "I'll tell you a tale that I heard from an old Kalmyk woman when I was a child. Once the eagle asked the raven, 'Tell me, raven-bird, why is it that you live three hundred years in this bright world, and I am allotted only three and thirty?' 'It's for this reason, my friend,' answered the raven, 'that you drink live blood while I feed on carrion.' Thought the eagle, 'Let me try to feed on the same.' Very well. Off flew the eagle and the raven. Suddenly they saw a fallen horse; they descended and alighted on it. The raven started tearing at it, praising it. The eagle pecked at it once, pecked at it twice, then flapped its wings and said to the raven, 'No, friend raven: rather than live on carrion for three hundred years, I'll choose one good drink of blood, and then what'll come will come.' How do you like this Kalmyk tale?"
"Clever," I replied. "But in my opinion, to live by murder and plunder is the same as pecking carrion."
Pugachev looked at me with surprise and did not answer. We both fell silent, each engrossed in his thoughts. The Tatar struck up a melancholy tune; Savelich swayed from side to side on the box, asleep. The wagon dashed along the smooth, snow-covered highway... Then I caught sight of a little village on the steep bank of the Iaik, with its palisade and bell tower - and in another quarter of an hour we rode into Fort Belogorsk.

 

      

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