|Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою.>Dubrovskii|
A few years back, there lived on one of his feudal estates a Russian landowner of the old type, Kirila Petrovich Troekurov. Owing to his wealth, distinguished birth, and connections, he carried great weight in the guberniias where his estates lay. His neighbors were ready to cater to his slightest whim; civil officials of those guberniias trembled at the mere mention of his name; he himself accepted all gestures of servility as his due. His house was always full of guests, willing to provide diversion for their lordly host's idle days and participating in his noisy, sometimes even riotous, amusements. No one dared to refuse an invitation from him or to not pay his respects at the manor house in Pokrovskoe on certain days. In his domestic circle Kirila Petrovich displayed all the vices of an uncultivated man. Spoiled by his surroundings, he was accustomed to give free rein to every impulse of his ardent nature and to every caprice of his rather limited mind. Despite his exceptionally strong constitution, he suffered from the effects of gluttony once or twice a week, and was drunk every evening. In one wing of his house, there lived sixteen chambermaids, engaged in handicrafts appropriate to their sex. The windows in that wing were protected by wooden bars, and the doors padlocked, with the keys in Kirila Petrovich's safekeeping. The young recluses came down into the garden at appointed hours to walk under the eyes of two old women. Every so often Kirila Petrovich married some of them off and new ones took their places. He was severe and arbitrary with his peasants and house serfs; yet they were devoted to him: they were proud of their master's wealth and reputation, and in their turn took many a liberty with their neighbors, trusting in their master's powerful protection.
Troekurov usually spent his time riding about his extensive estates, feasting at length, and playing pranks, newly invented by the day, whose victims as a rule were new acquaintances, though even old friends were not always soared — with the one exception of Andrei Gavrilovich Dubrovskii. The latter, a retired lieutenant of the Guards, was Troekurov's nearest neighbor, and the owner of seventy serfs. Troekurov, haughty in his relations with people of the highest rank, treated Dubrovskii with respect despite the latter's humble circumstances. They had at one time been together in the service, and Troekurov knew from experience how impetuous and determined his friend was. They had been separated by circumstances for a long time. Dubrovskii, with his property in disarray, had been forced to retire from the service and settle in his last remaining village. Having heard of this, Kirila Petrovich offered him his good offices, but Dubrovskii, though expressing his gratitude, preferred to remain poor and independent. A few years later Troekurov, retiring with the rank of General of the Army, came to live on his estate; they met again and were delighted with each other. From that time on they became daily companions; and Kirila Petrovich, who had never in his life condescended to visit anyone else, frequently called at his old friend's cottage unannounced. Of the same age, born of the same social class, and educated the same way, they were to some extent similar in character and disposition. In certain respects, even fate had treated them similarly: both had married for love and soon lost their wives; and each was left with a child. Dubrovskii's son was being educated in St. Petersburg, while Kirila Petrovich's daughter was growing up under her father's eyes. Kirila Petrovich often said to Dubrovskii, "Listen, brother Andrei Gavrilovich: if your Volodka grows into a sensible lad, I'll let him marry Masha; never mind if he's poor as a churchmouse."
Andrei Gavrilovich usually shook his head and answered, No, Kirila Petrovich: my Volodka is no match for your Maria Kirilovna. A poor nobleman like him should marry a poor noblewoman and be the head of his household, rather than become the steward of a spoiled female."
Everybody envied the accord reigning between the haughty Troekurov and his poor neighbor, and everybody marveled at the latter's boldness when he unceremoniously announced his opinions at Kirila Petrovich's table, not caring whether they contradicted those of his host. Some attempted to imitate him, stepping over the boundaries of required subservience, but Kirila Petrovich put them in such fear that they lost forever the desire for any such attempts; and thus Dubrovskii alone remained outside the general law. An unexpected occurrence unsettled and changed all this.
One time, early in the fall, Kirila Petrovich was preparing to ride out for a hunt. On the eve of the occasion the kennel-men and grooms were given orders to be ready by five o'clock in the morning. A tent and a field kitchen were sent ahead to the place where Kirila Petrovich intended to dine. The host and his guests came out to the kennels, where over five hundred harriers and borzois lived in comfort and contentment, lauding Kirila Petrovich's generosity in their canine tongue. The kennels included a hospital for dogs, supervised by the chief of the veterinary staff, Timoshka, and a maternity ward, where noble bitches whelped and suckled their puppies. Kirila Petrovich was proud of this fine establishment and never omitted an opportunity to show it off to his guests, each of whom had already inspected it at least twenty times. He walked about the kennels, surrounded by his guests and escorted by Timoshka and the chief kennelmen; he stopped in front of some of the doghouses, now inquiring after the condition of the sick, now handing out reprimands, more or less strict and just, now calling to him some dogs by name and fondly talking to them. The guests considered it their duty to be enthusiastic about Kirila Petrovich's kennels. Dubrovskii alone kept silent, frowning. He was a passionate hunter; and since his circumstances allowed him to keep only two harriers and one pack of borzois, he could not help feeling a certain envy at the sight of this magnificent establishment.
"Why are you frowning, brother?" Kirila Petrovich asked him. "Don't you like my kennels?"
"I do indeed," he answered morosely. "Your kennels are marvelous; I doubt whether your servants live as well as your dogs.''
One of the kennelmen felt insulted.
"Thanks to God and our master," he said, "we have no complaints; but if the truth be told, there's many a gentleman who'd be better off if he exchanged his homestead for any one of these doghouses. He'd be both fed better and kept warmer."
Kirila Petrovich burst into loud laughter at his serf's insolent remark, and his guests followed suit, even though they felt that the hounds keeper's joke might well have applied to them. Dubrovskii blanched and did not say a word. At this moment some newborn pups were brought to Kirila Petrovich in a basket, and he turned his attention to them, choosing two to keep and ordering the rest to be drowned. In the meantime Andrei Gavrilovich disappeared, unnoticed by anyone.
On returning with his guests from the kennels, Kirila Petrovich sat down to supper, and only then, not seeing Dubrovskii, did he realize that his friend was missing. The servants reported that Andrei Gavrilovich had gone home. Troekurov gave orders to go after him immediately and bring him back without fail. Never had he ridden out on a hunt without Dubrovskii, who was an experienced and acute judge of canine virtues and an unerring arbiter of all manner of huntsmen's disputes. The servant sent after him came back while the company was still at table, and reported to his master that Andrei Gavrilovich, defying orders, had refused to return. Kirila Petrovich, flushed with liquor as usual, grew angry and sent the same servant off for a second time to tell Andrei Gavrilovich that if the latter did not come at once to spend the night at Pokrovskoe, he would break off all relations with him forever. The servant galloped off once more, while Kirila Petrovich rose from the table, dismissed his guests, and went to bed.
The next morning his first question was whether Andrei Gavrilovich was there. Instead of an answer, they handed him a letter folded into a triangle; he ordered his scribe to read it, and heard the following:
Most gracious sir,
I do not intend to come to Pokrovskoe until you send me your kennelman Paramoshka with an admission of his guilt; and it will be my pleasure to punish him or spare him; and I do not intend to tolerate jests from your serfs, nor will I tolerate them from you, for I am not a buffoon but a nobleman of ancient lineage. I remain your humble servant.
By today's code of etiquette this letter would be considered extremely boorish; what angered Kirila Petrovich, however, was not its strange style and composition, but simply its substance.
"What's this?" thundered Troekurov, jumping out of bed on his bare feet. "That I should send him my men with an admission of guilt, and that it should be his pleasure to punish them or spare them! What the devil's got into him? Who does he think he's locking horns with? I'll show him... I'll make him cry himself blind; I'll teach him what it's like to affront Troekurov!"
Kirila Petrovich got dressed and rode out in his usual splendor, but the hunt did not turn out well. They saw only one hare the whole day, and let even that one escape. The dinner under the tent in a field was unsuccessful, or at least it was not to the taste of Kirila Petrovich, who beat up his cook, tongue-lashed his guests, and on his way home deliberately rode over Dubrovskii's fields with his whole cavalcade.
Several days passed, but the hostility between the two neighbors did not abate. Andrei Gavrilovich continued to stay away from Pokrovskoe; and Kirila Petrovich, bored without him, poured out his annoyance in the most insulting expressions, which thanks to the diligence of the local gentry, reached Dubrovskii's ears with amendments and supplements. Any hope that might have still remained for reconciliation was extinguished by a new incident.
One day Dubrovskii was driving about his small estate. Approaching a copse of birches, he heard the sound of an ax and, a minute later, the crash of a falling tree. He rushed into the copse and came upon some peasants from Pokrovskoe, who were calmly stealing his timber. Seeing him, they tried to run away, but he and his coachman caught two of them and brought them back to his house in bonds. Three enemy horses were also among the spoils of the victor. Dubrovskii was exceedingly angry: never before had Troekurov's men, brigands as everyone knew, dared to play their pranks within the boundaries of his property, since they were aware of his friendly relations with their master. Dubrovskii realized that they were now taking advantage of the breach of friendship that had recently occurred, and he decided, against all military conventions, to teach his prisoners of war a lesson with the same switches that they themselves had cut in his copse, and to set the horses to work, adding them to his own livestock.
A report about this incident reached Kirila Petrovich that same day. He flew into a rage, and in the first moment of anger wanted to gather all his men and fall upon Kistenevka (as his neighbor's village was called), raze it to the ground, and besiege the landlord in his manor house. Such exploits were not unusual with him. But his thoughts were soon drawn in a different direction.
Pacing up and down the hall with heavy steps, he accidentally glanced through the window and caught sight of a troika stopped by the gate. A small man in a leather cap and a frieze coat climbed out of the wagon and went to see the steward in a wing of the house: Troekurov recognized the assessor Shabashkin and sent for him. In another minute Shabashkin stood before Kirila Petrovich, scraping and bowing and reverently awaiting his orders.
"Hullo, my man, what's-your-name," said Troekurov. "What brought you to us?"
"I was driving to town, Your Excellency," answered Shabashkin, "and dropped by Ivan Demianov's to see if Your Excellency had any instructions for me."
"You came just at the right time, what's-your-name; I need you. Have a glass of vodka and listen to me."
The assessor was pleasantly surprised by such a warm welcome. He refused the vodka and listened to Kirila Petrovich with all his attention.
"I have a neighbor," said Kirila Petrovich. "He's a boor of a smallholder. I want to take away his estate. What do you think?"
"Well, Your Excellency, if there are some documents, or..."
"Nonsense, brother; what documents do you want? What are court orders for? The crux of the matter is precisely to take away his estate without any rights. Wait a minute, though. That estate used to belong to us at one time; it was bought from somebody called Spitsyn and then sold to Dubrovskii's father. Couldn't we make a case out of that?"
"It'd be difficult, Your Excellency: that sale was probably effected in a legal manner."
"Think about it, brother; search around a little." "If, for instance, Your Excellency could somehow obtain from your neighbor the record or deed that entitles him to his estate, then, of course..."
"I understand, but the trouble is that all his documents were burned in a fire."
"What, Your Excellency, were his documents burned? You couldn't wish for anything better! In that case you may proceed according to the law, and you will without any doubt find complete satisfaction."
"Do you think so? Well, take good care of the matter. I rely on your zeal, and you can rest assured of my gratitude."
Shabashkin bowed almost to the floor and left. That same day he busied himself with the concocted case, and thanks to his dexterity, in exactly two weeks Dubrovskii received from town an order to present at once an appropriate clarification with regard to his possession of the village of Kistenevka.
Astonished by the unexpected request, Andrei Gavrilovich wrote a rather rude reply the same day, declaring that the village of Kistenevka had come into his possession after his father's death, that he held it by right of inheritance, that Troekurov had nothing to do with it, and that any other party's claims to his property amounted to chicanery and fraud.
This letter made a highly agreeable impression on the assessor Shabashkin. He could see, first, that Dubrovskii had little comprehension of legal matters, and, second, that it would not be difficult to get such a hot-tempered and incautious man into a very disadvantageous situation. Andrei Gavrilovich, when he had considered the assessor's request with a cool head, did see the need to reply in greater detail and did write quite a businesslike communication, but subsequently even this turned out to be insufficient.
The business dragged on. Convinced of the rightness of his case, Andrei Gavrilovich paid little further attention to it. He had neither the desire nor the means to throw money about, and although he had always been the first to crack jokes about the venality of the tribe of scriveners, it never occurred to him that he might become a victim of chicanery. Troekurov, on his part, cared just as little about winning the case he had initiated. It was Shabashkin who kept busy on his behalf, acting in his name, intimidating and bribing judges, and interpreting every possible edict every which way.
In any case, on February 9, 18.., Dubrovskii received through the town police a summons to appear before the N. district judge to hear his ruling with regard to the estate contested between him (Lieutenant Dubrovskii) and General of the Army Troekurov, and to sign it, indicating either his concurrence or his exception. Dubrovskii left for town that same day; on the road he was overtaken by Troekurov. They glanced at each other haughtily, and Dubrovskii noticed a malicious smile on his adversary's face.
On his arrival in town Andrei Gavrilovich stopped at the house of a merchant he knew and spent the night there, and the next morning he presented himself at the district courthouse. No one paid any attention to him. Right after him Kirila Petrovich arrived. The clerks rose and stuck their pens behind their ears. The panel of judges welcomed Troekurov with abject subservience, pulling up an armchair for him in consideration of his rank, years, and portliness; he sat down close to the door, which was left open. Andrei Gavrilovich stood, leaning against the wall. Profound silence ensued, and the secretary began to read the court's ruling in a ringing voice. We will cite that ruling in full, assuming that it will be gratifying to every reader to be apprised of one of the means whereby we in Holy Russia can lose property to which we have an indisputable right:
On the 27th day of October in the year 18.., the N. District Court examined the case of the adverse possession by Lieutenant of the Guards Andrei Dubrovskii, son of Gavrila Dubrovskii, of an estate belonging to General of the Army Kirila Troekurov, son of Petr Troekurov, which comprises the village of Kistenevka situated in P. Guberniia, with X number of serfs of the male sex and Y desiatinas of land, including meadows and appurtenances. From which case it is evident that: on the 19th day of June in the past year of 18.., said General of the Army Troekurov instituted at this Court a possessory action setting forth that on the 14th day of August, 17.., his father, Collegiate Assessor and Cavalier Petr Troekurov, son of Efim Troekurov, deceased, who was at that time serving as provincial secretary in the chancery of the governor-general of S., purchased by an act of sale from the clerk Fadei Spitsyn, son of Egor Spitsyn, of the nobility, an estate, comprising, in said village of Kistenevka of R. region (which village, according to census No. X, was called Kistenevo Settlements), a total of Y number of male serfs registered in census No. 4, with all the peasants' chattels, with a farmstead, with arable and nonarable land, woods, meadows, fishing rights in the Kistenevka River, with all appurtenances attached to the estate, and with a wooden manor house — in other words everything without exclusion that Fadei Spitsyn had inherited from his father, Sergeant Egor Spitsyn, son of Terentii Spitsyn, of the nobility, and which he held in his possession, excluding not one of his serfs nor any measure of land — for a price of 2,500 rubles, for which a deed of sale was validated the same day at N. courthouse, and after which, on the 26th day of the same month of August, Troekurov's father was duly placed in possession of said estate by the N. District Court, and a livery of seizin was executed. And at last on the 6th day of September in the year 17.., his father by God's will deceased, while he, said Plaintiff, General of the Army Troekurov, from the year 17.., almost from infancy, had been in military service, mostly participating in campaigns abroad, for which reason he received no intelligence either of his father's death or about the estate left after him. Having now finally retired from the service and returned to his father's estates, comprising a total of 3,000 serfs in different villages situate in R. and S. districts of N. and P. guberniias, he finds that one of said estates with the above-mentioned number of serfs according to census No. X (of whom, according to the current census, Y number belong to this one estate) is being held, together with its land and all appurtenances, without any legal proof of possession by the aforementioned Lieutenant of the Guards Andrei Dubrovskii; for which reason he, Troekurov, attaching to his petition the original deed of sale given to his father by the vendor Spitsyn, petitions that the aforementioned estate be removed from Dubrovskii's wrongful possession and placed, according to its proper pertinence, at his, Troekurov's, disposal in full. As for Dubrovskii's wrongfully entering upon said estate, from which he has enjoyed revenues, petitioner prays the Court that, the appropriate interrogatories having been processed, lawful damages be assessed against Dubrovskii, wherewith restitution to Troekurov be effected.
The investigations conducted by N. District Court with regard to the above cause of action have revealed that: aforementioned current possessor of the disputed estate, Lieutenant of the Guards Dubrovskii, has deposed before the assessor in charge of affairs of the nobility that the estate currently in his possession, comprising said village of Kistenevka, with X number of serfs, land, and appurtenances, had been conveyed to him as inheritance after the death of his father, Second Lieutenant of the artillery Gavrila Dubrovskii, son of Evgraf Dubrovskii; that his father had acquired it through purchase from said plaintiff's father, Troekurov, who had earlier been a provincial secretary and later a collegiate assessor; and that said purchase had been effected through the services of Titular Councillor Grigorii Sobolev, son of Vasilii Sobolev, to whom plaintiff's father had given power of attorney on 30 August 17.., notarized at the N. District Court, according to which a deed of sale was to be issued to his, Dubrovskii's, father, because in said power of attorney it is stated that he, Troekurov's father, had sold to Dubrovskii's father the whole estate, comprising X number of serfs and land, bought earlier from the chancery clerk Spitsyn; and that Troekurov's father had received in full from Dubrovskii's father and had not returned the 3,200 rubles that were due to him according to the sales agreement; and that he wished the aforementioned agent, Sobolev, to convey to Dubrovskii's father the title to the property. Moreover, according to the same power of attorney, Dubrovskii's father, by virtue of having paid the whole sum, was to take possession of the estate bought by him and was to be in charge of it as its full owner even before the transference to him of said tide, and neither the vendor Troekurov nor anyone else was henceforth to interfere with it. But when exactly and at which court of law the aforesaid deed of sale was issued by the agent Sobolev to his father, this he, Andrei Dubrovskii, did not know, because at that time he was a small child, and because after his father's death he could not find the title; for which reason he supposes that it might have burned along with other documents and property in a fire that occurred in their house in the year 17.., about which the inhabitants of said village also knew. As for the Dubrovskiis' undisputed possession of said estate from the day of its sale by Troekurov or from the day of the issuance of a power of attorney to Sobolev - that is, from the year 17.. till the death of his father in 17.. and thereafter - he calls to witness inhabitants of the neighborhood, who, fifty-two in number, have testified under oath that indeed, as far as they could remember, the said noblemen Dubrovskii came into possession of the aforementioned disputed estate without any dispute about seventy years ago, but that they could not tell by exactly what deed or tide. As for the aforementioned previous vendee of said estate, former Provincial Secretary Petr Troekurov, they could not remember whether he had owned it. The house of the noblemen Dubrovskii did burn down about thirty years ago in a fire that had started in the village at night; and the witnesses confirmed the assumption that the estate sued for could produce revenue, counting from that time on, of no less than 2,000 rubles a year.
In response, on з January of the current year General of the Army Kirila Troekurov, son of Petr Troekurov, filed at this Court the pleading that although aforementioned Lieutenant of the Guards Andrei Dubrovskii had, in the course of the investigation of the present action, adduced as evidence the power of attorney given by his, plaintiff's, father to Titular Councillor Sobolev for effecting the purchase of said estate, he had not, by this document, shown clear proof - as required by Chapter 19 of the General Regulations and by the edict of 19 November 1752 – either of the actual deed of sale or of its execution at any time. Therefore this power of attorney today, after the death of its issuer, his father, is, according to the decree of the Nth day of May, 1818, completely null and void. Moreover: it has been decreed that properties sued for shall be restored to their proprietors — those with deeds under titles, according to the tides, and those without deeds, according to the results of an investigation.
For said estate, which had belonged to his father, he, Troekurov, has already shown the deed of sale as proof, and therefore it should, on the basis of aforementioned laws, be recovered from said Dubrovskii's wrongful possession and restored to him by right of inheritance. And since said landowners, having in their possession, without color of title, an estate that did not belong to them, have also wrongfully enjoyed revenues from it to which they have not been entitled, it should be established according to the law to what sum said revenues amount, and damages should be assessed against the landowner Dubrovskii, wherewith restitution to him, Troekurov, be effected.
Having investigated said cause of action and having cited plaintiff's and defendant's averments as well as the relevant statutes of law, the N. District Court orders, adjudges, and decrees that:
It is evident from said action that with regard to the aforementioned estate sued for, which is currently in the possession of Lieutenant of the Guards Andrei Dubrovskii, son of Gavrila Dubrovskii, and which comprises the village of Kistenevka with X number of male serfs according to the latest census, and with land and appurtenances, General of the Army Kirila Troekurov, son of Petr Troekurov, has shown a valid deed of sale, proving that said estate was conveyed in the year 17.. to his late father, provincial secretary and subsequently collegiate assessor, from chancery clerk Fadei Spitsyn, of noble birth; and that, furthermore, said vendee of the estate, Troekurov, was, as can be seen from a notation entered on the deed of sale, placed in possession of said estate by the N. District Court the same year, with a livery of seizin executed. Lieutenant of the Guards Andrei Dubrovskii, on the other hand, has adduced as evidence a power of attorney given by said vendee Troekurov, deceased, to Titular Councillor Sobolev, authorizing him to issue a deed of sale to his, Dubrovskii's, father, but it is forbidden by edict No. X not only to I confirm proprietorship of immovable property, but even to permit temporary possession thereof on the basis of such transactions; moreover, the death of its issuer has rendered said power of attorney completely null and void. Furthermore Dubrovskii has failed, from the commencement of the present action in 18.. to date, to present clear evidence about when and where a deed of sale for said disputed estate, in accordance with the power of attorney, was actually issued. Therefore this Court orders, adjudges, and decrees: that said estate, with X number of serfs, land, and appurtenances, in whatever condition it may now be, shall be confirmed, on the basis of the deed of sale presented by him, as the property of General of the Army Troekurov; that Lieutenant of the Guards Dubrovskii shall be removed from the management of said estate; and that P. local court shall be instructed duly to place Mr. Troekurov, by virtue of his having inherited the estate, in possession thereof, and to execute a livery of seizin. General of the Army Troekurov has furthermore sued for damages from Lieutenant of the Guards Dubrovskii for having enjoyed revenues from his inherited estate, wrongfully in the possession of Dubrovskii; but since said estate, according to the testimony of inhabitants of long standing, has been in the undisputed possession of the noblemen Dubrovskii for several years; since the evidence as presented does not show that Mr. Troekurov had before now sued Dubrovskii in any way for his wrongful possession of said estate; and since it has been decreed that
if anyone should sow a crop in a track of land or enclose a farmstead that does not belong to him, and an action be brought, with pretension to direct damages, against him for his wrongfully having taken possession, then the party adjudged right shall have that land with the crop sown in it, and the enclosure, and other improvements;
therefore General of the Army Troekurov shall be denied the damages for which he has sued Lieutenant of the Guards Dubrovskii in view of the circumstances that the estate belonging to him is being restored to his possession without any diminution. At the time said estate is being taken into possession, no part thereof may be found missing; if, on the other hand, General of the Army Troekurov should have clear and legitimate cause for claims in that regard, he shall have the right to sue separately at the appropriate court. This decision is to be communicated in advance both to plaintiff and to defendant in a legal manner, and with opportunity for appeal; said plaintiff and defendant shall furthermore be summoned through the police to this Court in order to hear the decision and sign it, respectively indicating either their concurrence or their exception.
The aforegoing decision has been signed by all members of this Court.
The secretary grew silent; the assessor rose and turned to Troekurov with a low bow, offering him the document to sign. Troekurov, triumphant, took the pen from him and signed the Court's "decision," indicating his complete concurrence.
It was Dubrovskii's turn. The secretary brought the document to him. But Dubrovskii remained motionless, with his head lowered.
The secretary repeated to him his invitation to sign, indicating either his full and complete concurrence or his explicit exception in case he should feel with a clear conscience, against the court's expectations, that his case was just, and should wish to file an appeal at the appropriate court within the legally allotted time. Dubrovskii remained silent... Then suddenly he raised his head with eyes flashing, stomped his foot, shoved the secretary aside with such force that the man fell to the ground, and seizing an inkpot, hurled it at the assessor. Everyone was terrified.
"What! To defile the church of God! Away with you, band of flunkies!" Then he turned to Kirila Petrovich and continued: "What infamy, Your Excellency: the kennelmen are bringing dogs into God's church! Dogs are running all over the church. Just wait, I'll teach you..."
The guards, who had run in on hearing the noise, were just barely able to overpower him. They led him out and put him in his sleigh. Troekurov came out after him, accompanied by the whole court. Dubrovskii's sudden fit of insanity made a powerful impression on him and poisoned his triumph.
The judges, who had been hoping for an expression of his gratitude, were not favored with as much as one word of appreciation. He left for Pokrovskoe the same day. Dubrovskii, meanwhile, was lying in bed: the district doctor, who was fortunately not a complete ignoramus, had successfully let his blood and applied leeches and Spanish flies to him. By the evening the patient's condition improved, and he regained consciousness. The next day he was driven back to Kistenevka - hardly his own property any more.
Some time passed, but poor Dubrovskii's state of health was still bad. Although no more fits of madness recurred, he was visibly losing his strength. He began to forget his earlier occupations, rarely left his room, and fell into reverie for days at a time. The good-hearted old woman Egorovna, who had it one time looked after his son, now became his nurse too. She took care of him as if he were a child: reminded him of mealtimes and bedtime, fed him, and put him to bed. Andrei Gavrilovich obeyed her quietly, and had no contact with anyone except her. Since he was in no shape to take care of his affairs or manage his estate, Egorovna thought it necessary to write about it all to the young Dubrovskii, who was in St. Petersburg at the time, serving in one of the regiments of the Foot Guards. Tearing a page out of a housekeeping book she dictated a letter to the cook Khariton, who was the only literate person in Kistenevka, and sent it off to town the same day for mailing.
It is time, however, to acquaint the reader with the actual hero of our narrative.
Vladimir Dubrovskii had been educated at a military academy, and after graduation appointed an officer in the Guards. His father spared nothing to support him in proper style, and the young man received more from home than he had a right to expect. Prodigal and ambitious, he indulged himself in extravagant habits, played at cards, got into debt, and gave no thought to the future, anticipating that sooner or later he would find a rich bride - the usual dream of poor youths.
One evening, as several officers sat in his apartment, sprawled on sofas and smoking his amber pipes, his valet Grisha handed him a letter, whose address and seal immediately struck the young man. He broke the seal hurriedly and read the following:
Our gracious master, Vladimir Andreevich,
I, your old nurse, have decided to inform you of your dear father's state of health. He is very poorly, sometimes he drivels, and sits all day like an idiot child - but life and death are in the hands of the Lord. Come home to us, my dearest, we'll even send horses for you to Pesochnoe. They say the local court is going to put us under the mastership of Kirila Petrovich Troekurov, because, they say, we are his, but we have always been yours, and I have never even heard such a thing since the day I was born. Living in Petersburg, you could report it to the Tsar our father, and he would not let us be wronged. I remain your faithful slave and nurse,
Orina Egorovna Buzyreva
I send my motherly blessing to Grisha; is he serving you well? Here, it has been two weeks already as the rains would not stop, and the shepherd Rodia died close upon St. Mikola's Day.
Vladimir Dubrovskii read these rather incoherent lines several times with extreme agitation. He had lost his mother in infancy and, scarcely knowing his father, had been sent to Petersburg in his eighth year. Nevertheless he had a romantic attachment to him, and he loved family life all the more for having never enjoyed its quiet pleasures.
The thought of losing his father lacerated his heart, and the state of the poor sick man, which he could picture to himself from his nurse's letter, appalled him. He imagined his father, forsaken in a remote village, under the care of a foolish old woman and his other domestics, threatened by some calamity and languishing without succor in the midst of both physical and mental torments. Vladimir reproached himself for his criminal neglect. He had not heard from his father for a long time, yet he had not thought of inquiring after him, supposing him to be either traveling about or engrossed in the care of his estate.
He decided to go and see him, and even to retire in case his father's condition should require his presence. His friends noticed his agitation and departed. Left by himself, Vladimir wrote an application for leave of absence, lit his pipe, and sank into deep thought.
He handed in his application that same evening, and in another three days was already on the highway.
He was approaching the station at which he had to turn off the highway toward Kistenevka. His heart was full of sad forebodings: he feared his father might be dead by the time he reached home; and he imagined the dreary life awaiting him in the country - backwoods, loneliness, poverty, and troubles over business, about which he did not know the first thing. When he arrived at the station, he went to ask the station-master if there were private horses available for hire. The stationmaster, learning his destination, told him that a team of horses sent from Kistenevka had been waiting for him for more than three days. Soon the old coachman Anton, who used to take Vladimir around the stables and look after his pony, presented himself to him. Tears welled up in Anton's eyes on seeing him; he bowed to the ground and reported that his old master was still alive. He hurried off to harness the horses. Vladimir Andreevich refused the breakfast offered him and hastened to depart. Anton drove him along the country lanes, and conversation began between them.
"Please tell me, Anton, what's this business between my father and Troekurov?"
"Heaven only knows, young master Vladimir Andreevich ... The master, they say, fell foul of Kirila Petrovich, who then took him to court, as if he weren't his own judge anyway! It's not for us serfs to remark on what our masters wish to do, but, by God, your dear father shouldn't have set himself against Kirila Petrovich; whether the pitcher strikes the stone or the stone the pitcher, it's bad for the pitcher."
"So evidently this Kirila Petrovich does just what he likes in these parts?"
"Aye, so he does, young master: he snaps his fingers at the assessor, and the police superintendent is his errand boy. As for the gentlefolks hereabout, they gather at his house to pay their respect: verily I say, he that hath a full purse never wanted a friend."
"Is it true that he's taking away our property?"
"Even so, young master, that's what we hear tell. Just the other day the sacristan from Pokrovskoe said at a christening held at our elder's house: 'The good times are over: you'll see what it's like when Kirila Petrovich takes you in hand.' Mikita the blacksmith answered him. 'Enough of that, Savelich,' he says, 'don't sadden the godfather, don't upset the guests. Kirila Petrovich is one master, Andrei Gavrilovich another; and we're all in the hands of God and the Tsar.' But people will talk."
"You don't wish, then, to pass into Troekurov's possession?"
"To pass into Kirila Petrovich's possession! The Lord save and preserve us from that! His own people have a rough enough deal at times: if he gets his hand on strangers, he'll not only skin them, but tear their very flesh off. Nay, God grant a long life to Andrei Gavrilovich, and if it's His will to gather him to his fathers, then we wish for no other master but you, our provider. Don't abandon us, and we'll stand up for you." With these words, Anton brandished his whip and shook the reins; the horses broke into a brisk trot.
Touched by the old coachman's loyalty, Dubrovskii fell silent and once more gave himself up to reflections. More than an hour passed. Suddenly Grisha awakened him with the exclamation, "Here's Pokrovskoe!"
Dubrovskii raised his head. They were riding along the shore of a wide lake, drained by a stream that flowed meandering among hills at a distance; on one of these hills there arose, above the dense great foliage of a grove, the green roof and belvedere of an enormous stone house; on another one, there stood a five-domed church and an ancient bell tower; and all around were scattered peasant cottages with their vegetable gardens and wells. Dubrovskii recognized all these landmarks: he recalled that on that hill he used to play with the little Masha Troekurova, two years his junior, who was already then promising to grow into a beauty. He wanted to ask Anton about her, but a sense of reserve held him back.
As he drew closer to the manor house, he saw a white dress flitting among the trees of the park. At this moment Anton lashed at the horses and, obeying a vanity common to both country coachmen and city drivers, dashed across the bridge, past the village. Leaving the village behind, they climbed a slope. Vladimir soon caught sight of a birch wood and, in a clearing to its left, a little gray house with a red roof. His heart pounded: he saw before him Kistenevka and his father's humble house.
In ten minutes he drove into the courtyard. He looked about him with indescribable emotion: he had not seen his home for twelve years. The little birches that had only just been planted along the fence when he was still living there had grown into tall trees with branches spread wide. The yard, which used to be ornamented with three neat flower beds, a well-swept broad path running among them had by now turned into an unmowed pasture, on which a hobbled horse was grazing. The dogs began to bark but, recognizing Anton, grew quiet, wagging their shaggy tails. The domestics all poured out of the servants' quarters and surrounded their young master with loud manifestations of joy. He was barely able to push his way through their eager crowd in order to ascend the dilapidated porch; in the anteroom Egorovna met him, embracing her former charge with sobs.
"How are you, nurse? It's so good to see you," he kept repeating while pressing the good old woman to his heart. "But what about father? Where is he? How is he?"
At this moment a tall old man, pale and thin, wearing a dressing gown and a nightcap, entered the room, though hardly able to drag his feet one after the other.
"Hullo, Volodka!" he said in a weak voice, and Vladimir warmly embraced his father. The joy of seeing his son was too much of a shock for the sick man: he grew faint, his legs gave way under him, and he would have collapsed had his son not caught him up.
"Why did you get out of bed?" Egorovna said to him. "He can't stand on his legs, yet he's itching to go where other people go."
The old man was carried off to his bedroom. He tried to talk to his son, but his thoughts became confused and his words were incoherent. He fell silent and soon dozed off. Vladimir was dismayed by his condition. He installed himself in his father's bedroom and asked to be left alone with him. The domestics obeyed and now turned to Grisha, whom they carried off to the servants' quarters, giving him a hearty welcome, feasting him in a rustic manner, and exhausting him with questions and greetings.
On the table once laden with victuals
now stands a coffin.
A few days after his arrival, the young Dubrovskii wanted to turn to business matters, but his father was in no state to provide the necessary explanations, nor did he have an attorney. Going over his father's papers, Vladimir found only the assessor's first letter and a draft of Andrei Gavrilovich's answer, from which he could not derive a clear idea of the lawsuit. He decided to await further developments, placing his hopes in the rightness of his family's cause.
In the meantime, Andrei Gavrilovich's condition worsened by the hour. Vladimir saw that his end was not far off, and he never left the side of the old man, now fallen into a state of complete infancy.
Meanwhile, the deadline for an appeal lapsed, with none filed. Kistenevka now belonged to Troekurov. Shabashkin came to him with bows and congratulations; and to ask when it would suit His Excellency to be placed in possession of his newly acquired estate, and whether he would wish to participate in the transaction in person or would prefer to give power of attorney to someone else. Kirila Petrovich felt embarrassed. He was not avaricious by nature: his desire for vengeance had carried him too far, and now he had pangs of conscience. He knew about the condition of his adversary - the old comrade of his youth - and his victory brought no joy to his heart. He glanced at Shabashkin menacingly, searching for some reason to heap curses on him, but finding no sufficient pretext, angrily said: "Go away, I'm not in the mood for you."
Seeing that he was indeed not in a good mood, Shabashkin bowed and hastily withdrew. Left by himself, Kirila Petrovich started pacing up and down, whistling "May thou, thunder of victory, rumble," which, with him, was always a sign of extraordinary agitation.
At last he gave orders to have the racing droshky harnessed, dressed warmly (it was already the end of September), and rode out, driving himself.
He soon beheld Andrei Gavrilovich's little house, and contradictory feelings filled his heart. Satisfied vengeance and a love of power had smothered his more noble sentiments up to a point, but at long last these latter triumphed. He resolved to make it up with his old neighbor, erasing all traces of the quarrel and returning his property to him. His feelings alleviated by this commendable decision, he approached his neighbor's house at a trot and drove straight into the courtyard.
At this time the sick man was seated by his bedroom window. He recognized Kirila Petrovich, and his face assumed an expression of terrible confusion: a purple flush suffused his usually pale cheeks, his eyes flashed, and he uttered some incomprehensible sounds. His son, seated in the same room over some ledgers, raised his head and was struck by the old man's condition. The patient pointed at the courtyard with a look of horror and anger. He hastily gathered the skirts of his dressing gown, preparing to get up from his armchair; he rose... and suddenly collapsed. His son rushed to him. The old man had lost consciousness and was not breathing; he had suffered a stroke.
"Quick, quick, send to the city for the doctor!" Vladimir cried.
"Kirila Petrovich is asking for you," said a servant, entering.
Vladimir threw a terrifying glance at him.
"Tell Kirila Petrovich to clear out of here before I have him thrown out... Off you go!"
The servant gladly rushed from the room to fulfill his master's command. Egorovna clasped her hands.
"Young master," she said in a squeaky voice, "you're bringing ruin on your head! Kirila Petrovich will swallow us аll up!"
"Be quiet, nurse," said Vladimir angrily. "Send Anton to the city for the doctor at once."
There was nobody in the entrance hall: all the servants had gathered in the courtyard to look at Kirila Petrovich. Egorovna, going out on the porch, heard the servant deliver his young master's reply to the visitor. The latter heard him out, seated in his droshky. His face turned darker than night, then a contemptuous smile came over it; he glanced at the servants menacingly and slowly drove past the house. He also glanced at the window where Andrei Gavrilovich had been seated but could no longer be seen. The nurse stood on the porch, forgetting her master's order. The servants started a noisy discussion of what had happened. Suddenly Vladimir appeared among his servants and abruptly declared, "There's no need for a doctor; father has died."
There was general confusion. The servants rushed into their old master's room. He lay in the armchair where Vladimir had placed him; his right arm dangled over the floor and his head hung over his chest; there was not the least sign of life left in his body, still warm but already disfigured by death. Egorovna burst into sobs, and the servants crowded around the corpse left to their care; they washed it, dressed it in a uniform made back in 1797; and laid it out on the same table at which they had served their master for so many years.
The funeral was held three days later. The poor old man's body lay on the table wrapped in a shroud and surrounded by candles. The dining room was full of servants. They were getting ready for the funeral procession. Vladimir and three servants lifted the coffin. The priest went first, accompanied by the sexton, singing dirges. The master of Kistenevka passed over the threshold of his house for the last time. They carried the coffin through the woods to where the church stood. It was a clear, cold day. The autumn leaves were falling from the trees.
Past the wood, the Kistenevka village church and the cemetery, shaded by old lime trees, came into view. The body of Vladimir's mother lay there, and next to her tomb a new grave had been dug the day before.
The church was full of Kistenevka peasants who had come to pay their last respects to their master. The young Dubrovskii stood in the chancel; he neither wept nor prayed, but his face looked frightening. The somber service came to an end. Vladimir went up first to take leave of the corpse; all the servants followed after him. The lid was brought in, and the coffin nailed shut. The village women wailed loudly, and the men once in a while wiped away their tears with their fists. Vladimir and the same three servants, accompanied by the whole village, carried the coffin to the cemetery. The coffin was lowered into the grave; each person present threw a handful of soil on it; they filled the pit, bowed down, and dispersed. Vladimir left hastily, before anybody else, and disappeared into the Kistenevka wood.
Egorovna, in the name of the young master, invited the priest and all the clergy to a funeral dinner, at the same time informing them that he himself would not be present. Father Anton, his wife Fedotovna, and the sexton walked back to the house, talking with Egorovna about the virtues of the departed and discussing what was likely to happen to his heir. The whole neighborhood already knew about Troekurov's visit and the reception he got, and every local know-it-all was predicting that the incident would have grave consequences.
"What is to be, will be," said the priest's wife. "It would be a pity, though, if Vladimir Andreevich weren't to be our landlord. Such a fine fellow, I declare!"
"Who else could be our landlord, if not he?" interrupted Egorovna. "It's no use Kirila Petrovich getting all worked up. He's not dealing with a child: my precious one can stand up for himself, and, God helping, his protectors won't turn their backs upon him neither. He's uncommon high and mighty, ain't he, Kirila Petrovich! But I'll be sworn he stuck his tail between his legs when my Grishka yelled at him: 'Out with you, old dog! Out of this yard!'"
"Mercy on us, Egorovna," said the sexton, "it's a wonder Grigorii's tongue didn't refuse to obey him. For my part I'd sooner affront the bishop than look askance at Kirila Petrovich. You only have to catch sight of him, and you're already cringing with fear and trembling; before you know it, your back is bending on its own hook."
"Vanity of vanities," said the priest. "One day the burial service will be read over Kirila Petrovich, just as it was over Andrei Gavrilovich this morning; only perhaps the funeral will be more sumptuous and more people will be invited, but isn't it all the same to God?"
"Aye, truly, Father, we too wanted to invite the whole neighborhood, but Vladimir Andreevich refused to. I'll be sworn we have plenty to do the honors with, but what can you say if he doesn't want to? Even if there's no other people, though, I'll have a nice spread at least for you, dear guests."
This cordial invitation and the hope of laying their fingers on some delectable pies helped quicken the steps of the conversing party; they soon arrived at the house, where the table was already laid and the vodka served.
In the meanwhile Vladimir, trying to muffle the voice of sorrow in his heart by physical exertion and tiredness, had gotten himself deep into the thickets. He walked at random, off the beaten path, brushing against branches and getting scratched, while his feet kept sinking into bogs, to none of which did he pay any attention. At length he came on a little hollow, surrounded by woods on all sides, and a brook that meandered silently under the trees, half-stripped of their leaves by the autumn. He stopped and sat down on the cold turf. His mind was full of thoughts, one gloomier than the other. He keenly felt his loneliness. Storm clouds seemed to be gathering over his future. The feud with Troekurov foretokened new misfortunes. His modest property might pass into another's hands, in which case poverty awaited him. For a long time he sat motionless in the same place, watching the brook's quiet flow as it carried away some withered leaves — a faithful, all too familiar likeness of life. At last he noticed it was getting dark: he rose and set out to find the way home, but it took him a great deal of straggling about unfamiliar woods before he stumbled on the path that led straight to the gates of his house.
It so happened that the priest and his retinue were just then coming up the path. The idea that this was a bad omen crossed Vladimir's mind. He could not help turning aside and hiding behind a tree. Not noticing him, they talked excitedly among themselves as they passed by.
"Depart from evil, and do good," the priest was saying to his wife. "There's no reason for us to tarry here. Whatever transpires is not our business."
His wife said something in answer, which Vladimir could not make out.
As he approached his house he saw a great many people: peasants and servants were crowding in the courtyard. Loud voices and much noise could be heard even at a distance. Two carriages stood by the barn. On the porch several strangers in uniform seemed to be discussing something.
"What does all this mean?" he crossly asked Anton, who was running to meet him. "Who are these people and what do they want?"
"Alas the day, young master Vladimir Andreevich," answered the old man, catching his breath. "The court's come. They're giving us over to Troekurov, taking us away from Your Honor!"
Vladimir hung his head; the servants crowded around their unfortunate master.
"Father and benefactor," they cried, kissing his hands, "we don't want no master but you; just give us the word and we'll take care of the court. We'd sooner die than betray you."
Vladimir looked at them with strange feelings stirring in his soul. "Just stand quietly," he told them. "I'll talk the matter over with the officials."
"Do, young master, do talk it over," they shouted to him from the crowd. "Awaken their conscience, the damned rascals!"
Vladimir went up to the officials. Shabashkin, his cap on his head, stood with his arms akimbo and haughtily looked about him. The police superintendent, a tall, corpulent man of about fifty with a red face and mustachios, cleared his throat as he saw Dubrovskii approach, and called out in a hoarse voice:
"And so I repeat what I've already told you: by the decision of the district court, from now on you belong to Kirila Petrovich Troekurov, whose person is represented here by Mr. Shabashkin. Obey all his commands; and you, women, love him and respect him, for he's got a great fondness for you."
The superintendent burst into laughter over his witty joke; Shabashkin and the other officials followed his example. Vladimir seethed with indignation.
"Allow me to ask," he addressed the merry superintendent with pretended calmness, "what all this means."
"What all this means," answered the resourceful official, "is that we have come to place Kirila Petrovich Troekurov in possession of this estate, and to request all other parties to clear out of here while the going is good."
"It seems to me, though, that you might have turned to me before my peasants, and announced to a landowner that he has been deprived of his possessions."
"And who might you be?" asked Shabashkin with an insolent look. "The former landowner, Andrei Dubrovskii, son of Gavrila Dubrovskii, has passed away by the will of God, and as for you, we neither know you nor desire to."
"Vladimir Andreevich is our young master," said a voice from the crowd.
"Who was it dared open his mouth over there?" asked the superintendent menacingly. "What master? What Vladimir Andreevich? Your master is Kirila Petrovich Troekurov, d'ye hear, you blockheads?"
"Not likely," said the same voice.
"But this is a riot!" shouted the superintendent. "Hey, elder, come here!"
The village elder stepped forward.
"Find the man at once who dared talk back to me. I'll teach him!"
The elder turned to the crowd, asking who had spoken, but everyone kept quiet. Soon, however, a murmur began to rise from the back of the crowd, and in one minute it had grown into a horrendous uproar. The superintendent lowered his voice and tried to calm the crowd down.
"What are we looking at him for?" shouted the servants. "Throw him out, fellows!"
The whole crowd lurched forward. Shabashkin and the others lost no time in dashing into the anteroom and locking the door behind them. "Tie them up, fellows," shouted the voice previously heard, and the crowd began to press on the house.
"Stop!" yelled Dubrovskii. "Idiots! What are you up to? You'll ruin yourselves, and me too. Go back to your cottages and leave me in peace. Don't be afraid: the Sovereign has a kind heart; I will appeal to him. He will not let us be harmed. We're all his children. But how can he protect you if you're rioting and housebreaking?"
The young Dubrovskii's speech, his ringing voice and majestic air, produced the desired effect. The people calmed down and dispersed; the courtyard became empty. The officials sat in the anteroom. At last Shabashkin cautiously unlocked the door, came out on the porch, and, bowing and scraping, thanked Dubrovskii profusely for his kind intervention. Vladimir listened with contempt and made no answer.
"We have decided," continued the assessor, "to spend the night here if you'll allow us: it's already dark, and your peasants might fall upon us on the highway. Do us a great favor: give orders to spread at least some hay on the drawing-room floor for us to sleep on; as soon as the day breaks, we'll be on our way."
"Do what you like," answered Dubrovskii dryly. "I'm no longer master here." With these words he retired to his father's room and locked the door behind him.
"All is finished, then," said Vladimir to himself. "This morning I still had a roof over my head and a piece of bread; tomorrow I shall have to leave the house where I was born and my father died - and leave it to the man who caused his death and made me a pauper." He fixed his eyes on his mother's portrait. The painter had depicted her with her elbow resting on a balustrade, in a white morning dress, and with a scarlet rose in her hair. "This portrait, too, will fall into the hands of my family's foe," he thought further. "It will be tossed into a storeroom among broken chairs, or else will be hung in the entrance hall, to be ridiculed and commented on by his kennelmen. In her bedroom, where father died, his steward will take up residence, or his harem will be installed. No, and a thousand times no! He shall not have the woeful house from which he is evicting me." Vladimir clenched his teeth: terrible thoughts came to his mind. He could hear the voices of the officials: they were behaving like masters of the house, demanding now this, now that, and unpleasantly distracting his mind from his melancholy reflections. At last all grew quiet.
Vladimir unlocked the chests and cabinets, and began to sort out his late father's papers. They consisted mostly of accounts and business correspondence. Vladimir tore them up without reading them. Among them, however, he found a package with the inscription "Letters from my wife." His feelings deeply stirred, Vladimir set to reading these: they were written during the Turkish campaign and addressed from Kistenevka to the army. She described to her husband her lonely life and domestic occupations, gently lamenting their separation and urging him to come home, into the arms of a loving wife. In one letter she voiced her anxiety over little Vladimir's health; in another, expressed her joy over early signs of his abilities, predicting a bright and happy future for him. Vladimir read on and on, letting his memory plunge into a world of family happiness and oblivious to everything else; he did not notice how time passed. The grandfather clock struck eleven. Vladimir put the letters in his pocket, took the candle, and left the study. The officials were sleeping on the floor in the drawing room. Their empty glasses stood on the table, and the whole room smelled strongly of rum. Walking past them with disgust, Vladimir went out into the entrance hall. The outside door was locked. Not finding the key, he returned to the drawing room: it lay on the table. He opened the door and stumbled on a man crouching in the corner; an ax glinted in his hand. Turning the candle toward him, Vladimir recognized Arkhip the blacksmith.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Oh, it's you, Vladimir Andreevich," whispered Arkhip. "Thank gracious goodness heavens! It's a good thing you came with a candle!"
Vladimir looked at him in astonishment.
"Why are you hiding here?" he asked.
"I wanted... I came to... to see if they're all inside," answered Arkhip in a low, faltering voice.
"And why are you carrying an ax?"
"An ax? Why, these days a body can't stir abroad without one. These officials, you see, are into such mischief - a man can never tell..."
"You must be drunk. Put away that ax and go sleep it off."
"Me drunk? Vladimir Andreevich, young master, God is my witness I haven't had one drop in my mouth. Nay, how could one think of liquor when the officials want to lay their hands on us; have you ever seen such infamy, chasing our masters off their property?... Snoring in there, aren't they, the damned rascals: I'd put them all away at once, and none would be the wiser."
"Listen, Arkhip," he said after a short pause, "you're barking up the wrong tree. It's not the officials' fault. light a lantern and follow me."
Arkhip took the candle from his master's hand, found a lantern behind the stove, and lit it; both quietly descended the steps and proceeded down the courtyard. A guard began to beat an iron plate, and the dogs started barking.
"Who is on watch?" asked Dubrovskii.
"It's us, young master," answered a thin voice, "Vasilisa and Lukeria."
"Go home," he said; "we don't need you."
"That'll do," added Arkhip.
"Thank you, kind sir," replied the women and went home immediately.
Dubrovskii proceeded farther. Two men approached him and called to him. He recognized the voices of Anton and Grisha.
"Why aren't you sleeping?" he asked them.
"How could we sleep?" answered Anton. "What we've lived to see... Who would have thought?"
"Quietly," said Dubrovskii. "Where is Egorovna?"
"She's at the manor house, in her little corner," replied Grisha.
"Go and bring her here, and get all our people out of the house, leaving not a soul in it except the officials. And you, Anton, get a cart ready."
Grisha left and soon reappeared with his mother. The old woman had not undressed for the night; except for the officials, nobody in the house had closed an eye.
"Is everybody here?" asked Dubrovskii. "Is there no one left in the house?"
"No one except the officials," answered Grisha.
"Bring some hay or straw," said Dubrovskii.
The servants ran to the stables and returned with their arms full of hay.
"Pile it under the porch. That's right. And now, fellows, give me a light!"
Arkhip opened the lantern, and Dubrovskii lit a splinter. "Wait a minute," he said to Arkhip; "I think in my hurry I locked the door of the entrance hall: go and unlock it quickly."
Arkhip ran up to the entrance hall and found the door unlocked. He locked it with the key, murmuring under his breath, "Unlock it! Not likely!" And he returned to Dubrovskii.
Dubrovskii put the splinter to the hay, which flared up; the flames soared high, illuminating the whole courtyard.
"Mercy on us," cried Egorovna in a plaintive voice. "Vladimir Andreevich, what are you doing?"
"Be quiet," said Dubrovskii. "Farewell, my good people: I'm going where God will guide me. Be happy with your new master."
"Father and provider," answered the servants, "we'd sooner die than leave you: we're coming with you."
The cart drew up; Dubrovskii climbed into it with Grisha, and to the others assigned the Kistenevka wood as a meeting place. Anton lashed the horses, and they left the courtyard.
A wind blew up. In one minute the flames engulfed the whole house. Red smoke rose writhing over the roof. The window panes cracked and shattered; flaming beams were falling; and plaintive cries and howls could be heard:
"Help, we're burning, help!"
"Not likely," said Arkhip, eyeing the fire with a malicious smile.
"Arkhipushka," called out Egorovna, "save them, the damned rascals; God will reward you."
"Not likely," answered the blacksmith.
At this moment the officials appeared in the windows, trying to break the double frames. But the roof caved in with a crash just then, and the howls died away.
Soon all the servants poured out into the courtyard. The women, crying, rushed to save their pitiable belongings, while little boys and girls jumped up and down, enjoying the fire. The sparks flew in a blazing blizzard, and the cottages caught fire.
"All set, now," said Arkhip. "It's burning nicely, ain't it? A fine sight from Pokrovskoe, I'll vow."
At this moment, however, something new attracted his attention: a cat was running about on the roof of the blazing barn, not knowing where to jump; flames surrounded it on all sides. The poor animal was calling for help with pitiful meows. Some little boys rolled with laughter, watching her despair.
"You devils, what are you laughing at?" said the blacksmith angrily. "Don't you fear the Lord: God's creature's a-perishing, and you're glad, you blockheads."
With these words he placed a ladder against the burning roof and climbed up to rescue the cat. The animal understood his intention and clutched his sleeve with a look of eager gratitude. The blacksmith, half-burned, climbed down with his catch.
"Fare you well, good people," he said to the bewildered servants. "There's nothing else for me to do here. Live happily and remember me kindly."
The blacksmith left; the fire raged for some time longer. At last it abated; only heaps of embers glowed flameless but bright in the dark of the night, with Kistenevka's burnt-out inhabitants wandering around them.
News of the fire spread throughout the neighborhood the next day. Everybody talked about it, offering different guesses and suppositions. Some claimed that Dubrovskii's servants, having got drunk at the funeral feast, had set the house on fire through carelessness; others blamed the officials, who must have had a drop too much as they took possession of the house; still others maintained that Dubrovskii, too, had perished in the flames, together with the officials and all the servants. There were some, however, who guessed the truth, asserting that Dubrovskii himself, driven by spite and despair, was the instigator of the awful calamity. Troekurov came the very next day to the site of the conflagration and conducted an investigation. It was established that the police superintendent and the assessor, scribe, and clerk of the district court, as well as Vladimir Dubrovskii, the nurse Egorovna, the house serf Grigorii, the coachman Anton and the blacksmith Arkhip were all missing. Further the servants testified that the officials had burned at the time the roof caved in; and their charred bones were indeed found in the ashes. The serving women Vasilisa and Lukeria also declared that they had seen Dubrovskii and the blacksmith Arkhip just a few minutes before the fire started. The latter according to the general testimony, was alive and had been the chief, if not the only, instigator of the fire. But strong suspicion fell on Dubrovskii too. Kirila Petrovich sent the governor a detailed account of the incident, and new legal proceedings started.
Soon other reports aroused curiosity and gave rise to gossip. Robbers cropped up in the N. District, spreading terror throughout the environs. The measures the authorities took against them proved ineffective. Robberies, each more spectacular than the last, followed in succession. There was no safety either along the highways or in the villages. Carts filled with robbers crisscrossed the whole guberniia in broad daylight, waylaying travelers and the mail, coming into villages, pillaging landowners' houses and consigning them to flames. The band's chief gained a reputation for intelligence, daring, and a certain magnanimity. Wondrous tales circulated about him; the name of Dubrovskii was on everybody's lips, all being convinced that it was he and no other who commanded the daring brigands. One circumstance that amazed everybody was that Troekurov's estates were spared: the robbers did not plunder one single barn or waylay one single cart that belonged to him. With his usual arrogance, Troekurov ascribed this exceptional treatment to the fear he inspired throughout the guberniia, and also to the exceptionally good police force that he had organized in his villages. At first the neighbors chuckled among themselves over Troekurov's loftiness and daily expected the uninvited guests to arrive in Pokrovskoe, where there was plenty to plunder, but at last they had to come around to his interpretation of the matter and admit that even robbers, inexplicably, showed him respect. Troekurov was triumphant, and every time he heard about a new robbery by Dubrovskii he showered witticisms on the heads of the governor, the police superintendents, and the platoon commanders from whom Dubrovskii invariably got away unharmed.
In the meanwhile October І, which was celebrated in Troekurov's village as the patron saint's day, arrived. But before we embark on a description of this celebration or relate the ensuing events, we must acquaint the reader with certain personages who are either new to him or have been mentioned only passingly at the beginning of our narrative.
In all likelihood the reader has already guessed that Kirila Petrovich's daughter, about whom we have so far said only a few words, is the heroine of our tale. At the time we are describing she was seventeen years old, in the full bloom of her beauty. Her father loved her to distraction but treated her with his usual capriciousness, now trying to cater to all her wishes, now frightening her with his stern, sometimes even cruel, ways. Although sure of her affections, he could never gain her confidence. She developed the habit of concealing her feelings and thoughts from him, because she could never be sure how he would receive them. Growing up in solitude, she had no girl friends. The neighbors' wives and daughters rarely came to Kirila Petrovich's house, because his usual conversation and amusements called more for male company than for the presence of ladies. Seldom did our young beauty appear among guests feasting with Kirila Petrovich. The huge library, consisting mostly of French authors of the eighteenth century, was placed at her disposal. Her father, who never read anything except The Complete Art of Cookery, could not guide her in her choice of books, and Masha, having sampled works of all kinds, naturally gave her preference to novels. It was with their aid that she completed her education, begun at one time under the guidance of Mlle. Mimi, whom Kirila Petrovich completely trusted and favored, and whom he was obliged in the end to transfer surreptitiously to another of his estates, since the consequences of his friendship had become all too apparent. Mademoiselle Mimi left behind a rather pleasant memory. She was a good-hearted girl who never abused the influence she obviously had over Kirila Petrovich in which respect she greatly differed from his other mistresses, who had replaced each other in quick succession. It seemed that Kirila Petrovich himself loved her more than the others, for a black-eyed naughty little boy of nine, whose face bore the traces of Mademoiselle Mimi's southern features, was being brought up in the house as his son, even though a great many other barefooted little children, all the spit and image of Kirila Petrovich, were running about under his windows, regarded as house serfs. Kirila Petrovich had a French tutor sent down from Moscow for his little Sasha; and this tutor arrived in Pokrovskoe just at the time of the events we are describing.
Kirila Petrovich was favorably impressed with the tutor's pleasant appearance and simple conduct. The Frenchman presented him his credentials and a letter from a relative of the Troekurovs at whose house he had served as a tutor for four years. Kirila Petrovich looked at all this carefully, and was dissatisfied only with the Frenchman's youth: not because he thought this enviable shortcoming indicated that the young man would lack the patience and experience so very necessary in a tutor's unfortunate profession, but because he had his own doubts in this connection, which he decided to voice at once. To this end, he sent for Masha. (Since he himself did not speak French, she served as an interpreter for him.)
"Come here, Masha: tell this monsieur that, all right, I'll take him on, but only under the condition that he doesn't start running after my girls, or else I'll teach him, the son of a bitch... Translate this for him, Masha."
Masha blushed and, turning to the tutor, said to him in French that her father counted on his modest and proper behavior.
The Frenchman bowed and answered that he hoped he would deserve respect, even if he did not win favor.
Masha translated his answer word for word.
"Very well, very well," said Kirila Petrovich. "He needn't bother about either favor or respect. His business is to look after Sasha, and teach him grammar and geography. Translate this for him."
Maria Kirilovna softened her father's rude expressions in her translation, and Kirila Petrovich let his tutor proceed to the wing of the house where a room had been assigned to him.
Masha paid no attention to the young Frenchman: brought up with aristocratic prejudices, she regarded a tutor as a kind of servant or artisan, who were not men in her eyes. She noticed neither the impression she made on Monsieur Desforges, nor his embarrassment, nor his trembling, nor his changed voice. During the days following his arrival she met him quite frequently, but did not bestow any greater attention on him. As a result of an unexpected incident, however, she formed an entirely new idea of him.
Several bear cubs were usually being raised at Kirila Petrovich's house, serving as one of the chief sources of amusement for the master of Pokrovskoe. When still little, they were brought into the living room daily, where Kirila Petrovich played with them for hours at a time, setting them at cats and puppies. When they grew up, they were put on a chain, awaiting the real baitings they were destined for. From time to time they were led out in front of the windows of the manor house, where an empty wine barrel studded with nails was rolled out toward them: the bear would sniff at the barrel, then gently touch it, which would hurt its paw; angered, it would push the barrel with greater force, and the pain would become greater. It would get into a blind rage and keep throwing itself on the barrel with growls until at last they separated the poor beast from the target of its futile frenzy. At other times a pair of bears would be harnessed to a cart and some guests, put in the cart against their will, would be driven off heaven knows where. But the joke Kirila Petrovich considered best was the following.
They would lock a hungry bear in an empty room, tying it with a rope to a ring screwed into the wall. The rope would be long enough to reach to any point in the room except the opposite corner, which would be the only place safe from the ferocious beast's attack. They would lead some novice up to the door of this room, suddenly push him in, and lock the door behind him, leaving the hapless victim alone with the shaggy hermit. The poor guest, with the skirt of his coat torn and he himself bleeding from scratches, would soon find the safe corner, but would be compelled, sometimes for as long as three hours, to stand there, two steps from the bear, flattening himself against the wall, and from this position to watch the frenzied beast growl, leap, and rear up, tearing at its rope and straining to reach him. Such were the noble pastimes of a Russian gentleman! Some days after the tutor's arrival it occurred to Troekurov to entertain him, too, with a visit to the bear's room. With this purpose in mind, he summoned the Frenchman one morning, and led him along some dark corridors; suddenly a side door opened, two servants pushed the Frenchman in, and locked the door after him. Recovering his senses, the tutor caught sight of the tied-up bear, which began to snort and sniff at its visitor from a distance, then suddenly reared up and advanced on him. The Frenchman, unruffled, did not flee, but awaited the attack. When the bear came close, he pulled a small pistol from his pocket, held it to the hungry beast's ear, and fired. The bear rolled over. People came running to open the door; Kirila Petrovich appeared, astonished by the outcome of his joke. He demanded a full explanation of the whole business, ranting to know if someone had alerted Desforges to the practical joke set up for him, and if not, why he was carrying a loaded pistol in his pocket. Masha was sent for. She came running, and translated her father's questions to the French-man.
"I had not heard of the bear," answered Desforges, "but I always carry a pistol on me because I do not intend to tolerate offenses for which, in view of my position, I cannot demand satisfaction."
Masha looked at him in amazement and translated his words for Kirila Petrovich. The latter made no answer. He gave orders to have the bear removed and skinned, and then, turning to his men, said, "Quite a character, isn't he! He didn't funk, did he, I'll be sworn."
From that time on he took a liking to Desforges and never thought of testing him again.
The incident made an even deeper impression on Maria Kirilovna. It stirred her imagination: she kept seeing in her mind's eye the dead bear, and Desforges, as he calmly stood over it and calmly conversed with her. She came to realize that courage and proud self-respect were not the exclusive attributes of one social class; and from that time on she began to show the young tutor her esteem, which was fast turning into favor. A certain relationship was established between them. Masha had a beautiful voice and great musical talent; Desforges offered to give her lessons. The reader will easily guess that after this Masha fell in love with the Frenchman, though for the time being she did not confess it even to herself.
The guests began to arrive the day before the holiday. Some stayed at the manor house or in one of its wings; others were put up at the steward's, or at the priest's, or at the houses of well-to-do peasants. The stables were full of horses, the yards and barns crowded with carriages of different shapes and sizes. At nine o'clock in the morning the bells rang for mass: everyone streamed toward the new stone church, built by Kirila Petrovich and annually improved by his new gifts. It was filled with such a large crowd of the honorable faithful that the simple peasants could not get in and had to stand either on the porch or in the churchyard. The mass had still not begun: they were waiting for Kirila Petrovich. At length he arrived in a coach-and-six and solemnly took his place, accompanied by Maria Kirilovna. The eyes of both men and women turned on her, the former marveling at her beauty, the latter carefully examining her dress. The mass commenced; the landlord's private singers sang in the choir, reinforced by his own voice now and then. Kirila Petrovich prayed, looking neither to the right nor to the left, and bowing to the ground with proud humility when the deacon referred, in a thunderous voice, to the founder of this house of God.
The mass was over. Kirila Petrovich went up to kiss the crucifix first. Everyone lined up after him; then all the neighbors filed by him to pay their respects. The ladies surrounded Masha. On leaving the church, Kirila Petrovich invited everybody to dine at his house, got into his carriage, and drove home. The whole crowd followed him. The rooms were soon filled with guests. New people arrived every minute and could hardly push their way through to the master of the house. The ladies, dressed according to yesterday's fashion, in expensive but worn garments, and bedecked with pearls and diamonds, sat decorously in a semicircle, while the men crowded around the caviar and the vodka, talking in loud, discordant tones. In the hall the table was laid for eighty. The servants were busily rushing about, arranging bottles and decanters and smoothing out tablecloths. At last the butler announced, "Dinner is served," and Kirila Petrovich went to take his place at the table first. The ladies followed after him, the matrons solemnly taking their places according to a system of seniority, while the unmarried girls huddled together like a flock of timid kids, and chose places next to one another. The men seated themselves on the opposite side. The tutor sat at the end of the table, next to little Sasha.
The waiters began to serve the dishes according to rank, resorting, in case of doubt, to guesses based on Lavater's system, and almost always hitting the mark. The clinking of plates and spoons mingled with the guests' loud conversation. Kirila Petrovich looked merrily round the table, fully enjoying his happy role as a generous host. At this time a coach-and-six drove into the courtyard.
"Who is that?" asked the host.
"It's Anton Pafnutich," answered several voices.
The door opened and Anton Pafnutich Spitsyn, a fat man of fifty with a round, pockmarked face adorned with a triple chin, burst into the room, bowing and smiling, and ready to offer his apologies.
"Set a place right here," cried Kirila Petrovich. "Welcome, Anton Pafnutich; sit down and tell us what the meaning of all this is: you didn't come to my mass and are late for dinner. This is most unlike you, for you're both pious and fond of your stomach."
"Forgive me, please," answered Anton Pafnutich, tucking his napkin into a buttonhole of his pea-colored coat. "Excuse me, dear sir Kirila Petrovich: I did set out early for the journey, but I'd scarcely traveled ten versts when the rim on one of my front wheels broke into two: what was there to do? Fortunately, we weren't too far from a village, but even so, by the time we dragged the carriage there, sought out the blacksmith, and made repairs as best we could, full three hours had passed, there was no helping it. Not daring to drive straight across Kistenevka wood, I made a detour..."
"Aha!" interrupted Kirila Petrovich, "I see you're not a valiant knight. What are you afraid of?"
"What indeed, dear sir Kirila Petrovich! Dubrovskii, that's what! You can never tell when you might fall into his clutches. He's nobody's fool: he doesn't let people off lightly; and especially me, heaven help me, he would skin twice."
"Why, brother, such a distinction?"
"Why indeed, dear sir Kirila Petrovich! For the lawsuit, of course, against the late Andrei Gavrilovich. Wasn't I the one who, in order to please you, that is, according to my conscience and the truth, testified that the Dubrovskiis held possession of Kistenevka without any rights, thanks merely to your generosity? Already the late Andrei Gavrilovich (may he rest in peace) promised to have a word with me in his own fashion; do you think his son won't keep his father's promise? By God's grace I've been spared until now. So far they've plundered only one of my granaries, but you can never tell when they might find their way to the manor house."
"And when they do, they'll have a merry time," remarked Kirila Petrovich. "The little red coffer, methinks, is full to the brim."
"How could it be, my dear sir Kirila Petrovich? It used to be full, but by now it's entirely empty."
"Enough of fibbing, Anton Pafnutich. We know you all too well: what would you be spending money on? You live at home like a pig in a sty, never inviting anybody and fleecing your peasants; you do nothing but scrape and save, I'll vow."
"Surely, most worthy sir Kirila Petrovich, you are but jesting," muttered Anton Pafnutich with a smile. "God is my witness, I've been ruined."
Anton Pafnutich proceeded to swallow down his host's high-handed joke with a greasy mouthful of fishpie. Kirila Petrovich let him be, and turned to the new police superintendent, a guest at his house for the first time, and seated at the far end of the table, next to the tutor.
"Well, Mr. Superintendent, will you at last catch Dubrovskii?"
The superintendent winced, bowed, smiled, and said at length in a faltering voice, "We will do our best, Your Excellency."
"Hm, do your best. All of you have been doing your best for a long time, yet we've seen no results. And why should you wish to catch him, come to think of it? His robberies are sheer blessings for police superintendents: journeys, investigations, expeditions, all of it bringing grist to the mill. Why snuff out such a benefactor? Isn't that true, Mr. Superintendent?"
"That is the plain truth, Your Excellency," answered the superintendent, totally confused.
The guests burst into laughter.
"I like the lad for his sincerity," said Kirila Petrovich. "It's a pity they burned our late superintendent, Taras Alekseevich: the neighborhood would be more peaceful with him around. By the way, what do you hear about Dubrovskii? Where was he seen last?"
"At my house, Kirila Petrovich," resounded a lady's booming voice. "He dined at my house last Tuesday."
All eyes turned toward Anna Savishna Globova, a simple-hearted widow whom everybody loved for her kind and cheerful disposition. Everyone waited for her story with interest.
"I should mention that three months ago I sent my steward to the post office to forward some money to my Vaniusha. I don't indulge my son, and wouldn't have the means for it even if I wanted to; but as you all know, an officer of the Guards must live decently, and so I try to share with my Vaniusha what little income I have. This time I sent him two thousand rubles. Dubrovskii did cross my mind more than once, but I say to myself: the town's close by, a mere seven versts; the money'll get through with God's help. But, come evening, I see my steward returning pale, all tattered, and on foot. 'Souse!' I cry. "What's the matter? What's happened to you?' 'Dear ma'am Anna Savishna,' says he, 'the bandits robbed me; they all but killed me; Dubrovskii himself was there; he wanted to hang me, but took pity on me and let me go, but not before robbing me clean, and taking away even the horse and the cart.' My heart stood still: gracious goodness heavens, what'll my Vaniusha do? But there was no helping it: I wrote my son a letter, telling him all about it and sending him my blessing without as much as half a kopeck.
"A week went by, then another - suddenly a carriage drives into my yard. Some general's asking if he could see me: welcome, show him in. A man enters, aged about thirty-five, swarthy, with black hair, mustachios, and beard, just like a portrait of Kulnev; introduces himself as a friend and former comrade of my late husband Ivan Andreevich. He was riding by, says he, and couldn't miss visiting his friend's widow, knowing that I live here. I treated him to whatever was in the house, and we talked about this and that, mentioning at last Dubrovskii, too. I told him about my misfortune. My general frowned. 'That's strange,' says he. 'What I've heard is that Dubrovskii attacks, not just anybody, but only men known for their riches; and even with them he divides the spoils, not robbing them clean; and as for murder, he's never been accused of that. Isn't there some mischief in this? Pray send for your steward.' We sent for the steward; he appeared; seeing the general he just stood rooted to the ground. 'Would you mind telling me, brother, just how it was Dubrovskii robbed you and wanted to hang you?' My steward went all a-tremble and threw himself at the general's feet. 'Gracious sir, I am guilty: it was the devil's work - I lied.' 'If that's so,' replied the general, 'then please be good enough to tell your lady how the whole thing happened, while I listen.' The steward could not recover his senses. 'Well,' continued the general, 'do tell us: where was it you met Dubrovskii?' 'At the two pines, my gracious sir, at the two pines.' 'And what did he say to you?' 'He asked me, whose man are you, where are you going, and what for?' 'Very well, and then?' 'And then he demanded the letter and the money.' 'Well?' 'I gave him the letter and the money.' 'And he? Well, and what did he do?' 'Gracious sir, I am guilty.' 'But what did he do?' 'He returned the money and letter to me, saying, move on, and God be with you; take them to the post office.' 'And what did you do?' 'Gracious sir, I am guilty.' ‘I’ll settle with you, friend,' said the general menacingly. 'And you, madam, be so good as to give orders to have this rascal's trunk searched; as for him, give him to me, I'll teach him a lesson. I want you to know that Dubrovskii used to be an officer of the Guards himself, and he would do no wrong to a former comrade.' I guessed who His Excellency was, but I wasn't going to enter into a discussion on that score. His coachmen tied the steward to his carriage box. The money was found; the general stayed to dine with me, and left right after dinner, taking the steward with him. They found the steward the next day in the woods, tied to an oak and stripped like a lime sapling."
Everybody, especially the young ladies, listened to Anna Savishna's story with bated breath. Many of them wished Dubrovskii well, seeing a romantic hero in him; this was especially true of Maria Kirilovna, an ardent dreamer, brought up on Radcliffe's mysterious horrors.
"And you suppose, Anna Savishna, that it was Dubrovskii himself who visited you?" asked Kirila Petrovich. "You couldn't be further from the truth. I don't know who visited you, but it certainly wasn't Dubrovskii."
"How now, my dear sir? Who else if not Dubrovskii would take to the highways, stopping and searching travelers?"
"I don't know, but surely not Dubrovskii. I remember him as a child: he may have become dark haired since, though at that time he was a little boy with curly blond hair. But this I do know, that he was five years older than my Masha: consequently, he's not thirty-five, but about twenty-three."
"Exactly so, Your Excellency," declared the superintendent of police. "I have in my pocket Vladimir Dubrovskii's description, and it says precisely that he's in his twenty-third year."
"Ah!" said Kirila Petrovich. "Would you read that description while we listen: it wouldn't be amiss to know his distinctive marks, in case we run into him; we wouldn't want to let him slip away, would we?"
The superintendent drew from his pocket a rather soiled sheet of paper, solemnly unfolded it, and read in a singsong voice:
"Vladimir Dubrovskii's distinctive marks, taken down from the words of his former house serfs: He is in his twenty-third year of life, of medium height, with a clear complexion; he shaves his beard, his eyes are brown, his hair dark blond, and his nose straight. Special distinctive marks: said to have none."
"And that's all," said Kirila Petrovich.
"That is all," replied the superintendent, folding up the paper.
"Congratulations, Mr. Superintendent. What a splendid document! It'll indeed be a simple matter to find Dubrovskii by these distinctive marks. Who else, after all, is of medium height, with dark blond hair, straight nose, and brown eyes! I'll bet you could talk with Dubrovskii himself for three full hours, and not guess with whom fate has thrown you together. Verily I say, these officials are cunning fellows."
The superintendent meekly put the document in his pocket and silently turned to his goose with cabbage. The servants, in the meanwhile, had gone around the table several times, filling up glasses. Several bottles of Caucasian and Tsimlianskoe wines had been popped open and graciously accepted under the name of champagne; the faces began to glow, and the conversation grew more and more noisy, disconnected, and merry.
"Nay," continued Kirila Petrovich, "we'll never see another superintendent like the late Taras Alekseevich! He was nobody's fool, nor an idiot. It's a pity they burned the lad: he wouldn't let a single one get away from the whole band. He would catch them to a man; even Dubrovskii himself couldn't slip away from him, or bribe his way out. Taras Alekseevich would take the money from him all right, but still wouldn't let him go: such was the character of the deceased. There's no other way, it seems: I'll have to take the matter into my own hands and go after the robbers with my servants. I'll dispatch twenty men to begin with; they'll clean up the robbers' woods, for they're not what you might call timid fellows: each will take on a bear single-handed, so they're not likely to turn tail on some robbers."
"How is your bear, dear sir Kirila Petrovich?" asked Anton Pafnutich, reminded of a shaggy acquaintance and a certain practical joke of which he had once been the victim.
"Misha has succumbed," replied Kirila Petrovich. "He died an honorable death, at the hands of an adversary. And there sits his vanquisher." Kirila Petrovich pointed at Desforges. "You should buy a holy picture of the Frenchman's saint, for he's avenged your... craving your pardon... Do you remember?"
"How could I not remember?" said Anton Pafnutich, scratching himself. "I do, only too well. So Misha's dead. I'm sorry for him, upon my word I am. What a jester he was! and what a clever fellow! You'll never find another bear like him. And why did the monsieur kill him?"
Kirila Petrovich launched with great pleasure into the story of his Frenchman's exploit, for he had the happy faculty of priding himself on everything that surrounded him. The guests listened attentively to the tale of Misha's demise, and looked with surprise at Desforges, who, not suspecting that the subject of the conversation was his courage, calmly sat in his place, handing out admonitions to his restive charge.
The dinner, which had lasted about three hours, came to an end; the host put his napkin on the table; everyone rose and repaired to the drawing room, where coffee and cards were waiting for them, and where the drinking, so gloriously begun in the dining hall, continued.
About seven o'clock in the evening some of the guests wanted to leave, but the host, merry with drink, gave orders to lock the gates, letting nobody leave the house till morning. Soon, thunderous notes of music were heard; the doors were opened into the hall, and the dancing commenced. The host and his intimate circle sat in a corner, drinking glass after glass and watching with delight the gaiety of the young. The old ladies played cards. As usual, except where a brigade of uhlans is quartered, there were fewer cavaliers than ladies, and therefore every man at all fit to dance was recruited. The tutor distinguished himself above everybody, dancing more than anybody else; the young ladies kept choosing him, and found him an adroit waltzing partner. He whirled around with Maria Kirilovna several times, so much so that the other young ladies began to make derisive comments about them. At length, about midnight, the tired host stopped the dancing, giving orders to serve supper, while he himself retired to bed.
Kirila Petrovich's absence lent a freer and livelier spirit to the company. The cavaliers took the liberty of sitting next to their ladies; the girls laughed and whispered comments to their neighbors; and the married women loudly conversed across the table. The men drank, argued, and roared with laughter - in other words, the supper turned out to be exceedingly joyous, leaving behind many pleasant memories.
There was only one person who did not take part in the general merriment: this was Anton Pafnutich, sitting in his place, gloomy and silent, eating absently and looking extremely worried. All that talk about robbers had stirred up his imagination. As we shall soon see, he had plenty of reason to fear them.
He had not sworn falsely in invoking God as his witness that his little red coffer was empty: it indeed was empty, because the money he used to keep in it had been transferred to a leather pouch, which he was wearing under his shirt around his neck. Only by this precaution was he able to still his suspicions and constant fear. Compelled to spend the night in a strange house, he was afraid that he might be assigned a bed somewhere in a remote room, easily accessible to thieves. He looked around for a roommate to protect him, and his choice fell on Desforges. The Frenchman's appearance, exuding strength, and, even more, the courage he had displayed in his encounter with the bear - a creature that Anton Pafnutich could not recall without trembling – were the decisive factors in his choice. When everybody rose from the table, Anton Pafnutich started circling around the young Frenchman, coughing and clearing his throat, until at last he turned to him with his request:
"Hm, hm, couldn't I, monsieur, spend the night in your little room, because, you see..."
"Que desire monsieur?" asked Desforges with a polite bow.
"Alack, it's a pity you haven't learned Russian yet, brother monsieur. Je veux, mois, chez vous coucher, do you understand?"
"Monsieur, tees volontiers," replied Desforges. "Veuillez donner des ordres en consequence."
Anton Pafnutich, highly satisfied with his ability to communicate in French, immediately went off to make the necessary arrangements.
The guests wished one another good night, each going to the room assigned to him. Anton Pafnutich proceeded with the tutor to his wing. It was a dark night. Desforges lit the way with a lantern, and Anton Pafnutich followed behind him quite cheerfully, occasionally pressing the secret sum against his chest in order to be sure that the money was still there.
Arriving at the room, the tutor lit a candle, and both started undressing. In the meantime, Anton Pafnutich walked about the room to check on the door locks and the windows, and shaking his head at the disheartening results of his inspection. The only lock on the door was a latch, and the windows had not yet been fitted with double frames. He tried to complain about it to Desforges, but his knowledge of French was insufficient to convey such a complex matter; since the Frenchman did not understand him, he was compelled to stop complaining. Their beds stood opposite each other; both men lay down; and the tutor blew out the candle.
'Pourquois vous touchez, pourquois vous touchez," cried Anton Pafnutich, trying somehow to conjugate the Russian verb tushu in a French manner. "I can't dormir in the dark."
But Desforges did not understand his exclamations and wished him good night.
"The damned infidel," grumbled Spitsyn, wrapping himself in his blanket. "Why did he have to blow out that candle? So much the worse for him. I can't sleep without a light. Monsieur, monsieur," he went on, "je veux avec vous parler."
But the Frenchman did not answer and soon started snoring.
"Snoring, isn't he, the French beast," said Anton Pafnutich to himself. "And I can't even think of sleep. Thieves might come in through the unlocked door or climb through the window, and this beast couldn't be waked with a cannon."
"Monsieur! Monsieur! The deuce take you!"
At last Anton Pafnutich fell silent: fatigue and the effects of alcohol gradually overcame his fear; he dozed off and soon fell into a deep slumber.
A strange awakening came upon him. He felt, still in sleep, that someone was gently pulling at the collar of his shirt. Opening his eyes, he saw Desforges before him in the pale light of the autumn dawn: the Frenchman was holding a pocket pistol in one hand and unfastening the cherished treasure with the other. Anton Pafnutich's heart stood still.
"Qu'est-ce que c'est, monsieur, qu'est-ce que c'est?" he uttered in a trembling voice.
"Hush, be quiet," answered the tutor in pure Russian. "Be quiet, or you're done for. I am Dubrovskii."
We shall now ask the reader for permission to explain the last events of our tale by certain previous occurrences that we have not yet had occasion to relate.
One day at the P. station, inside the house of the station-master whom we have mentioned earlier, there sat in a corner a traveler with a meek and patient air, which betrayed either a member of the third estate or a foreigner - in any case a person unable to assert his rights on the mail route. His carriage stood in the yard, waiting to be greased. A small suitcase - a meager token of less-than-comfortable circumstances - reposed in the carriage. The traveler did not ask for either tea or coffee; he just looked through the window and whistled - an action that greatly annoyed the stationmaster's wife, who was sitting behind the partition.
"The Lord blessed us with a whistler," she muttered. "Ugh, he does whistle, may he be struck dumb, the damned infidel."
"Surely, now," said the stationmaster, "it's no great matter: let him whistle."
"No great matter?" rejoined his wife crossly. "And don't you know what they say?"
"What do they say? That whistling drives money away? Nay, Pakhomovna, where there's no money, there's nobody'll drive it away. Where there isn't, there isn't."
"But let him go anyway, Sidorych. What makes you keep him here? Give him some horses and let him go to the devil!"
"He can wait, Pakhomovna: I've only three teams of horses in the stables, the fourth is resting. You can never tell, some better sort of traveler may turn up: I don't want to stick my neck out for a Frenchman. Ha! Just as I said! Here they come galloping. And how fast, too! As I live, it's a general!"
A carriage stopped by the porch. A footman jumped off the box and opened the door: soon a young man in a military coat and white cap came in to see the stationmaster; the footman brought in a traveling box after him and put it on the windowsill.
"Horses!" said the officer in an imperious voice.
"In just one moment," answered the stationmaster. "May I have your order?"
"I don't carry an order. I'm going to take a byroad. Don't you recognize me?"
The stationmaster began to bustle about and ran to hurry the coachmen. The young man paced up and down the room, then went behind the partition and softly asked the station-master's wife who the other traveler was.
"Heaven knows," she answered. "Some sort of Frenchman. He's been waiting for horses these five hours, whistling. I'm sick to death of the damned fool."
The young man addressed the traveler in French.
"May I ask where you are going?" he inquired.
"To the town nearby," replied the Frenchman, "and from there to a landowner who's hired me unseen as a tutor. I thought I'd reach my destination today, but evidently monsieur the stationmaster has decided otherwise. It's hard to find horses in this country, officer."
"And who among the local landowners has hired you?" asked the officer.
"Mr. Troekurov," replied the Frenchman.
"Mr. Troekurov? What sort of man is this Troekurov?"
"Ma foi, mon officier...l've heard little good about him. They say he's a proud and willful gentleman, cruel in his treatment of those in his service; apparently no one can get along with him; everyone trembles at the very sound of his name; and he's reported not to stand on ceremony with his tutors (avec les outchitels), having already flogged two of them to death."
"Heaven help me! And you've decided to accept a position at the house of such a monster?"
"What else can I do, officer? He's offering me a good salary: three thousand rubles a year, plus room and board. Perhaps I'll be luckier than the others. I have an aged mother, for whose keep I shall be sending off half of my salary; from the rest I can accumulate in five years sufficient capital to secure my independence; and then, bonsoir, I'm going to Paris and set up in business."
"Does anybody know you at Troekurov's house?" asked the officer.
"Nobody," the tutor answered. "He had me sent down from Moscow through the good offices of an acquaintance, whose cook, a compatriot of mine, recommended me. I should mention that I had intended to become a confectioner, not a tutor, but I was told that in your country the calling of tutor is far more lucrative..."
The officer was lost in deep thought.
"Listen," he interrupted the Frenchman, "what would you say if instead of this prospective position someone offered you ten thousand rubles ready cash on condition that you immediately return to Paris?"
The Frenchman looked at the officer in astonishment, broke into a smile, and shook his head.
"The horses are ready," said the stationmaster, entering. The footman came in to confirm the same.
"Presently," said the officer. "Leave the room for a minute." The stationmaster and the footman both left. "I'm not joking," he continued in French. "I can pay you ten thousand rubles; all I ask in exchange are your absence and your papers." With these words he opened the traveling box and drew out several bundles of bank notes.
The Frenchman's eyes bulged. He did not know what to think.
"My absence and my papers..." he repeated in amazement. "Here are my papers ... But you must be joking. What would you want my papers for?"
"That is my own business. I ask you: do you agree, or don't you?"
The Frenchman, still not believing his ears, handed his papers to the young officer, who examined them quickly.
"Your passport... That's good. A letter of recommendation. Let's see. Birth certificate: that's splendid. Well, here's your money; return home. Good-bye."
The Frenchman stood as if rooted to the ground.
The officer returned.
"I almost forgot the most important thing. Give me your word of honor that all this will remain between us. Your word of honor."
"I give you my word of honor," replied the Frenchman, "but what about my papers? How do I get by without them?"
"Report in the first town you come to that you were robbed by Dubrovskii. They will believe you and give you the necessary attestation. Farewell; may God grant you a safe and speedy journey to Paris, and may you find your mother in good health."
Dubrovskii left the room, got into his carriage, and galloped away.
The stationmaster looked out of the window, and when the carriage drove away, he turned to his wife with the exclamation, "What do you know, Pakhomovna! That was Dubrovskii!"
The postmistress dashed to the window, but it was already too late: Dubrovskii was far away. She started scolding her husband. "Don't you fear the Lord, Sidorych? Why didn't you tell me before, so I could've taken a good look at Dubrovskii? Now you can wait until kingdom come, he'll never drop in again. You have no conscience, have you?"
The Frenchman still stood as if rooted to the ground. The agreement with the officer, the money, and all the rest still seemed like a dream to him. But the bundles of bank notes were there, in his pocket, eloquently confirming that the amazing incident was real.
He decided to hire horses to the nearest town. The coachman drove him at a snail's pace, and it was night by the time they got there.
Before reaching the town gate, at which a broken sentry box stood instead of a guard, the Frenchman ordered the driver to stop, got out of the carriage, and set out to go the rest of the way on foot, explaining to the coachman by hand signs that he was giving him both the carriage and the suitcase as a tip. The driver was as much astounded by the Frenchman's generosity as the Frenchman had been by Dubrovskii's offer. He came to the conclusion, however, that the German had gone out of his mind; he thanked him with a profound bow and, not thinking it wise to ride into town, preceded to a house of entertainment he knew, whose landlord was an intimate friend of his. There he spent the night; the next morning he went on his way with his team of horses, without the carriage or the suitcase, but with swollen cheeks and red eyes.
Dubrovskii, having obtained the Frenchman's papers, boldly presented himself, as we have seen, at Troekurov's house and settled there. Whatever his secret intentions might have been (we shall learn them later), his conduct was blameless. It is true that he did not pay much attention to little Sasha's education, giving free rein to the boy's pranks and leniently listening to recitations of lessons that had been assigned only for appearances' sake, but he followed with particular attention his female pupil's progress in music, sitting with her by the piano for hours at a time. Everyone liked the young tutor: Kirila Petrovich for his daring agility in hunting; Maria Kirilovna for his boundless zeal and timid attentiveness; Sasha for his lenience toward his pranks; and the servants for his good nature and a generosity that seemed incompatible with his station. He himself appeared to have grown attached to the whole family and regarded himself as one of its members.
About a month had passed between the time he had taken up the calling of tutor and the memorable holiday feast; yet no one suspected that the modest young Frenchman was in fact the dreaded robber whose name alone was enough to strike terror in the hearts of all the landowners of the neighborhood. All through that month Dubrovskii had not left Pokrovskoe, yet rumors about his robberies did not stop circulating, thanks perhaps to the inventive imagination of local people, or perhaps because his band continued its exploits even in the absence of its chief.
When, however, he found himself spending the night in the same room with a man whom he had every reason to regard as a personal enemy and one of the chief architects of his misfortune, Dubrovskii could not resist the temptation: he knew about the existence of the pouch and resolved to lay his hands on it. We have seen how he astounded poor Anton Pafnutich by his unexpected metamorphosis from tutor into robber.
At nine o'clock in the morning the guests who had spent the night at Pokrovskoe began to gather in the drawing room, where a samovar was already boiling; seated before it were Maria Kirilovna, in her morning dress, and Kirila Petrovich, in a flannel jacket and slippers, drinking his tea from a cup as wide as a slopbasin. The last to appear was Anton Pafnutich; he looked so pale and seemed so downcast that everybody was struck by his appearance, and Kirila Petrovich even inquired after his health. Spitsyn gave an incoherent answer and kept glancing with horror at the tutor, who sat there as if nothing had happened. In a few minutes a servant came in to announce that Spitsyn's carriage was ready; Anton Pafnutich hastened to make his farewell bows and, despite his host's protestations, hurried from the room in order to drive off immediately. Nobody could understand what had happened to him; Kirila Petrovich eventually decided that he must have overeaten. After tea and a farewell breakfast, the other guests began to take their leave, and Pokrovskoe became deserted, everything returning to normal.
Nothing remarkable happened for several days. Life at Pokrovskoe had its routine. Kirila Petrovich rode out to hunt every day; and Maria Kirilovna was occupied with reading, walks, and above all, music lessons. She was beginning to understand her own heart, confessing to herself with involuntary vexation that she was by no means indifferent to the young Frenchman's good qualities. On his part he never allowed himself to step beyond the limits of respect and strict propriety, which both flattered her pride and reassured her, beset as she was with alarming doubts. She gave herself over to her days' absorbing routine with more and more confidence. She felt listless when Desforges was not there; and in his presence gave him her full attention, wishing to know his opinion about everything, and always agreeing with him. Maybe she was not yet in love, but her passion was ready to flare up at the first sign of an accidental obstacle or an unexpected twist of fate.
One day, as she entered the room where the tutor waited for her, she was surprised to see signs of confusion on his pale face. She lifted the lid of the piano and sang a few notes, but Dubrovskii, excusing himself with a headache, interrupted the lesson; and as he folded over the sheet of music he surreptitiously slipped a letter into her hand. Maria Kirilovna, given no time to refuse it, took the letter; she immediately regretted it, but by that time Dubrovskii had left the room. She went to her room, opened the letter, and read the following: "Come to the arbor by the brook at seven o'clock this evening. I must speak to you."
Her curiosity was strongly piqued. She had long expected a confession, both wishing for it and fearing it. She would have enjoyed hearing a confirmation of what she had suspected, but she was conscious that it would be improper for her to listen to such a declaration on the part of a man who, due to his station, could never hope to gain her hand. She resolved to go to the rendezvous, but was not sure how to receive the tutor's confession: whether to respond with aristocratic indignation, friendly remonstrances, light banter, or silent sympathy. In the meanwhile she kept looking at the clock every minute. It grew dark; the candles were lit; Kirila Petrovich sat down to play Boston with some neighbors who had driven over. The clock on the table struck a quarter to seven. Maria Kirilovna inconspicuously stepped out on the porch, looked around her in all directions, and ran into the garden.
The night was dark, the sky covered with clouds, and one could not see two steps ahead, but Maria Kirilovna could make her way along familiar paths even in the dark. It took her only a minute to reach the arbor. Here she stopped to catch her breath so as to be able to meet Desforges with an indifferent and unhurried air. But Desforges was already standing before her.
"I am grateful to you," he said in a low and sad tone, "for not refusing my request. I would have fallen into despair if you had decided not to come."
Maria Kirilovna answered with the ready phrase, "I hope you will not make me regret my compliance."
He stood in silence, as if to gather his thoughts.
"Circumstances demand... I must leave you," he said at last. "Soon, you will probably learn the reason yourself... But before we part I owe you an explanation."
Maria Kirilovna made no answer. She took these words as an introduction to the confession she had expected.
"I am not who you think I am," he confessed, lowering his head. "I am not the Frenchman Desforges: I am Dubrovskii."
She let out a shriek.
"Don't be afraid, for heaven's sake: you need not fear my name. Yes, I am the unfortunate person whom your father has deprived of his last piece of bread, driven from his parental home, and sent on the highways to rob. But you need not fear me, either for yourself or for him. The matter is closed. I have forgiven him, and mark you, it was you who saved him. My first bloody act ought to have been directed against him. I prowled around his house, determining where the fire should start, which way to get into his bedroom, and how to cut off all his routes of escape, but at that moment you passed by me like a heavenly vision, and forgiveness filled my heart. I understood that the house where you lived was sacred, and that no being related to you by the bond of blood could be subject to my curse. I renounced vengeance as madness. For days I roamed near the Pokrovskoe gardens in the hope of catching sight of your white dress at a distance. I followed you on your incautious walks, stealing from bush to bush and feeling elated at the thought that I was guarding you, that there could be no danger for you where I was secretly present. At last an opportunity presented itself. I came to live in your house. These three weeks have been a period of happiness for me. Recalling them will always be a consolation amid my sad days ... News that I have received today makes it impossible for me to stay here any longer. I take leave of you today... at this very moment... But first I had to reveal my thoughts to you, so that you might not curse or despise me. Think of Dubrovskii sometimes; be assured that he was born for a different destiny, that his soul was capable of loving you, that he would never..."
Just then a low whistle was heard, and Dubrovskii fell silent. He seized her hand and pressed it to his burning lips. The whistle was repeated.
"Farewell," said Dubrovskii; "they're calling me, and a minute's delay may bring my downfall."
He walked away, while Maria Kirilovna stood motionless. Then he came back and took her hand again.
"If any time in the future," he said to her in a gentle, touching voice, "if at any time misfortune befalls you and you cannot expect help or protection from anyone, will you promise me that in such a case you will turn to me and demand all that I am capable of, in order to rescue you? Will you promise not to scorn my devotion?"
Maria Kirilovna wept in silence. The whistle was heard a third time.
"You're bringing my downfall on me!" cried Dubrovskii. "I will not leave you until you give me an answer. Will you, or will you not, promise?"
"I promise," whispered the poor beauty.
Maria Kirilovna, agitated by her meeting with Dubrovskii, walked back toward the house. She realized that the servants were all running about; the whole house was in a commotion; there were a lot of people in the courtyard; and a carriage stood by the porch. She could hear Kirila Petrovich's voice at a distance, and she hurried inside, fearing that her absence might be noticed. She was met by Kirila Petrovich in the hall. His guests stood around the superintendent of police - our acquaintance - and showered him with questions. The super-intendent, dressed for the road and armed to the teeth, gave his answers with a mysterious and preoccupied air.
"Where've you been, Masha?" asked Kirila Petrovich. "Did you happen to see Monsieur Desforges?"
Masha could just barely utter a negative reply.
"Just imagine," continued Kirila Petrovich, "the superintendent's come to capture him, and he's trying to convince me that the man is Dubrovskii himself."
"He fits the description exactly, Your Excellency," said the superintendent respectfully.
"Pooh, friend!" interrupted Kirila Petrovich. "I'll tell you where to go with your descriptions! I'm not going to hand my Frenchman over to you until I've sorted this matter out myself. You can't take on trust what Anton Pafnutich says, for he's a coward and a liar: he must have just dreamed that the tutor wanted to rob him. Why didn't he say a single word about it to me that morning?"
"The Frenchman scared the life out of him, Your Excellency," answered the superintendent, "and made him swear to keep mum..."
"A pack of lies," declared Kirila Petrovich. "I'll clear up the matter this minute. Where's that tutor?" he said, turning to a servant who was just entering.
"He can't be found anywhere, sir," answered the servant.
"Then go and search for him," shouted Troekurov, beginning to entertain some doubts. "Show me your touted description," he said to the superintendent, who immediately produced the paper. "Hm, hm. Twenty-three years ... Well, that's correct, but it doesn't prove anything by itself. Well, where is that tutor?"
"They can't find him," was the answer once more.
Kirila Petrovich began to grow anxious. Maria Kirilovna looked more dead than alive.
"You're pale, Masha," remarked her father. "You've been frightened."
"No, papa," replied Masha, "I just have a headache."
"Go to your room, Masha, and don't be alarmed."
Masha kissed his hand and retired to her room, where she threw herself on the bed and burst into hysterical sobs. The maidservants came running; they undressed her, and with difficulty managed to calm her by means of cold water and all kinds of spirits. They put her to bed, and she finally settled into sleep.
The Frenchman had still not been found during all this time. Kirila Petrovich paced up and down the hall, dourly whistling "May thou, thunder of victory, rumble." The guests whispered among themselves; the superintendent looked foolish; and the Frenchman was still not to be found. Evidently he had managed to escape, having been warned. But by whom and how — that remained a mystery.
The clock struck eleven, but nobody even thought of going to bed. At length Kirila Petrovich angrily said to the superintendent, "Surely now, you can't stay here till morning. My house is not a tavern. It'd take a smarter man than you, lad, to catch Dubrovskii, if he is indeed Dubrovskii. Off with you now, and be a little quicker in the future. And it's time for you, too, to go home," he continued, turning to his guests. "Give orders to have your horses hitched up: I want to go to bed."
It was in this ungracious manner that Troekurov parted with his guests.
Some time went by without anything remarkable happening. At the beginning of the following summer, however, some great changes occurred in Kirila Petrovich's family life.
At a distance of thirty versts from Pokrovskoe there was a prosperous estate owned by Prince Vereiskii. The Prince had spent a long time abroad, leaving the management of his estate to a retired major, and thus there had been no commerce between Pokrovskoe and Arbatovo. At the end of May, however, the Prince returned from abroad and came to live on his estate, which he had never seen before. Used to a life full of distractions, he could not bear solitude, and on the third day after his arrival he came over to dine with Troekurov, whom he used to know at one time.
The Prince was about fifty but looked much older. Excesses of all kinds had undermined his health and left on him their indelible mark. His outward appearance was nevertheless pleasant, even remarkable; and having spent his whole life in society, he had acquired a certain charm, especially in his dealings with women. He had a constant need for distractions and was constantly bored. Kirila Petrovich was highly gratified by his visit, taking it as a mark of respect from a man who mingled in high society; and he treated him, as was his habit, to a tour of his various establishments, including his dog kennels. But the Prince almost suffocated in the canine atmosphere and hastened to quit it, holding a scented handkerchief to his nose. The old-fashioned garden with its pruned lime trees, square-shaped pond, and symmetrical paths did not please him, since he was fond of English gardens and so-called nature; but he nonetheless handed out compliments and showed enthusiasm. A servant came to announce that the meal was served. They went to dine. Exhausted by his walk, the Prince limped along, already regretting his visit.
In the dining hall, however, Maria Kirilovna met them, and the old skirt chaser was struck by her beauty. Troekurov seated his guest next to her. Her presence revived the Prince: he was cheerful company and managed to capture her attention several times with interesting anecdotes. After dinner Kirila Petrovich suggested a ride on horseback, but the Prince excused himself, pointing at his velvet boots and half-jokingly complaining of gout; in fact he preferred a pleasure ride in a carriage, which would not separate him from his charming neighbor. The horses were hitched to the carriage. The two old men and the young beauty got in and rode off. The conversation never flagged. Maria Kirilovna was listening with pleasure to the flattering and humorous compliments this man of the world was offering her, when suddenly Vereiskii turned to Kirila Petrovich and asked him what that burned-down building was and to whom it belonged. Kirila Petrovich frowned: the recollections evoked by the burned-down homestead were unpleasant to him. He answered that the land was now his, but earlier it used to belong to Dubrovskii.
"To Dubrovskii?" repeated Vereiskii. "To the famous robber?"
"To the robber's father," answered Troekurov, "who was pretty much of a robber himself."
"Incidentally, what's become of our Rinaldo? Is he alive? Has he been captured?"
"Both alive and at large; and won't be caught either, whilst we have police superintendents who are in collusion with brigands. By the way, Prince, Dubrovskii has paid a visit to your Arbatovo, hasn't he?"
"Yes, last year, if I'm not mistaken, he burned down something or plundered something. Wouldn't it be interesting, though, Maria Kirilovna, to make the acquaintance of this romantic hero?"
"Wouldn't it, indeed!" said Troekurov. "She is acquainted with him: he gave her music lessons for three weeks, without, thanks to God, taking any wages."
Kirila Petrovich launched into his story about the French tutor. Maria Kirilovna sat on pins and needles. Vereiskii listened to it all with great interest, found it all very strange, and changed the topic. On their return to the house, he gave orders to have his carriage made ready and, despite Kirila Petrovich's earnest entreaties to stay the night, left right after tea. Before he did so, however, he had asked Kirila Petrovich to pay him a visit with Maria Kirilovna; and the haughty Troekurov had accepted the invitation because, considering the Prince's tide, two stars, and ancestral estate with 3,000 serfs, he regarded him to some degree as his equal.
Two days after this occasion Kirila Petrovich set out with his daughter to repay the visit. Approaching Arbatovo, he could not help admiring the peasants' clean and cheerful cottages and the landlord's stone house, built in the style of an English castle. Before the house there stretched a rich green meadow, on which Swiss cows grazed, tinkling their bells. An extensive park surrounded his house on all sides. The host came out on the porch to greet his guests, and shook hands with the beautiful young girl. They entered the magnificent dining hall, where the table was set for three. The host led his guests up to a window, from which they beheld a charming view. The Volga flowed below; heavily loaded barges under full sail floated on it; and here and there small fishing vessels, aptly called smack boats, could be glimpsed fleetingly. Hills and fields stretched beyond the river, with some villages enlivening the landscape. Then the host and his guests went to look at the gallery of paintings the Prince had bought abroad. The Prince explained to Maria Kirilovna what the different pictures signified; told her the life stories of the painters; and pointed out the merits and shortcomings of their canvases. He spoke about the paintings, not in the pedant's abstract language, but with feeling and imagination. Maria Kirilovna listened to him with pleasure. They went in to dine. Troekurov fully appreciated both the wines of this Amphitryon and the artistry of his cook; and Maria Kirilovna did not feel the slightest embarrassment or constraint in conversing with a man whom she had seen only once before. After dinner the host proposed that they repair to the garden. They drank coffee in an arbor on the shore of a wide lake, which was strewn with islands. Suddenly the sound of a wind ensemble could be heard, and a six-oared boat drew up to moor right by the arbor. They went boating on the lake, passing by some islands and landing on others. On one they found a marble statue, on another a secluded cave, and on a third a monument with a mysterious inscription that piqued Maria Kirilovna's curiosity, but she was left to wonder by the Prince's polite half-explanations. Time passed imperceptibly; it began to grow dark. The Prince, under the pretext of chill and damp air, urged them to return home, where the samovar was waiting for them. He asked Maria Kirilovna to assume the role of hostess in the house of an old bachelor. She poured the tea, listening to the amiable chatterer's endless stories; suddenly a shot was heard and a rocket illuminated the sky. The Prince handed Maria Kirilovna her shawl, inviting her and her father to come out on the balcony. In the dark, in front of the house, fireworks of different colors flared up, began to spin, rose upward in the shape of ears of grain, palm trees, fountains, then scattered like drops of rain or falling stars, now extinguished, now flaring up anew. Maria Kirilovna enjoyed herself like a child. Prince Vereiskii was pleased with her delight; and Troekurov felt no less satisfied, for he took tous les frais of the Prince as gestures of respect and homage paid to him.
The quality of the supper was in no way inferior to that of the dinner. The guests retired to the rooms assigned to them, and in the morning took leave of their amiable host amidst mutual promises to meet again.
Maria Kirilovna was sitting over her embroidery by the open window of her room. Unlike Konrad's mistress, who in her amorous distraction embroidered a rose in green, Maria did not get her silk mixed up. Under her needle, the canvas unerringly reproduced the features of the original, even though her thoughts were far away.
Suddenly a hand was thrust through the window, quietly depositing a letter on her embroidery frame and disappearing again, before Maria Kirilovna realized what was happening. At the same moment a servant entered to call her to Kirila Petrovich. She hid the letter under her kerchief with a trembling hand and hurried to her father's study.
Kirila Petrovich was not by himself. Prince Vereiskii sat with him. When Maria Kirilovna appeared, the Prince stood up and silently bowed to her with an air of embarrassment that was unusual for him.
"Come here, Masha," said Kirila Petrovich. "I have some news, which, I hope, will gladden you. Here is a suitor for you; the Prince is asking for your hand."
Masha stood rooted to the ground; a deathly pallor spread over her face. She kept her silence. The Prince went up to her, took her hand, and asked in a touched tone whether she would consent to make him happy. Masha kept her silence.
"Consent? Of course, she'll consent," said Kirila Petrovich. "But you know, Prince, how difficult it is for a girl to pronounce that word. Well, children, kiss each other and be happy."
Masha stood motionless; the old Prince kissed her hand; then suddenly tears coursed down her pale cheeks. The Prince frowned slightly.
"Go to your room, go to your room," said Kirila Petrovich; "wipe your tears and join us again all happy. They all cry when they get engaged," he continued, turning to Vereiskii. "This is a custom with them. And now, Prince, let's talk business, that is, let's discuss the dowry."
Maria Kirilovna eagerly availed herself of the opportunity to retire. She ran to her room, locked herself in, and let her tears flow freely as she imagined herself in the position of the old Prince's wife: he had suddenly become repugnant and hateful to her, and the thought of marrying him was as terrifying as the executioner's block or the grave...
"No, and a thousand times no," she repeated to herself in despair. "I'd sooner die, I'd sooner retire to a convent, I'd sooner marry Dubrovskii."
This reminded her of the letter, and she eagerly started reading it, sensing that it must be from him. It was indeed written by him and consisted only of the following words:
"Ten o'clock this evening at the same place."
The moon was shining. It was a still July night. The wind rose now and then, and a light rustle ran over the entire garden.
Like a light shadow, the young beauty drew near the appointed meeting place. Nobody was yet in sight. Suddenly Dubrovskii, coming out from behind the arbor, appeared in front of her.
"I know all about it," he said to her in a soft, sad voice. "Do remember your promise."
"You are offering me your protection," answered Masha. "Don't feel offended, but that frightens me. In what way can you help me?"
"I could rid you of the hateful man."
"For heaven's sake, don't touch him, don't dare touch him if you love me. I don't want to be the cause of some horrible deed..."
"I will not touch him: your wish is sacred to me. He owes his life to you. No evil deed will ever be committed in your name. You must remain blameless, whatever my crimes are. But how can I save you from a cruel father?"
"There is still some hope. Perhaps I can touch him with my tears and despair. He is obstinate, but he loves me so much."
"Do not hope in vain: in your tears he will see only me usual timidity and revulsion common to young girls when they marry not from love but from careful calculation. What if he takes it into his head to make you happy despite yourself? What if they lead you to the altar by force, putting your life forever into the hands of an old husband?"
"Then... then there is nothing else we can do: come for me, and I will be your wife."
Dubrovskii trembled. A crimson flush spread across his pale face, which, in the next moment, became even paler than before. He remained silent for a long time, with his head bent.
"Summon up all your spiritual strength, beseech your father, throw yourself at his feet, depict for him the full horror of the future, your youth fading by the side of a decrepit and corrupt old man; bring yourself even to a cruel explanation: tell him that if he remains unbending, then... then you will find a terrible deliverance; tell him that riches will not bring you one moment of happiness; that luxury gladdens only the poor, and even them for only a short time while they are still not used to it; don't stop pestering him, don't be afraid of his anger or threats while there is still a faint glimmer of hope, for heaven's sake, don't stop pestering him. But if there is really no other way..."
Here Dubrovskii covered his face with his hands and seemed to be gasping for air. Masha wept...
"My unhappy, unhappy destiny," he said with a bitter sigh. "I would give my life for you; just to see you from a distance, to touch your hand used to be ecstasy for me. And now, when there might be an opportunity for me to clasp you to my agitated heart and say, 'Angel! Let us die together!' - now I have to beware of happiness, have to avoid it, unlucky creature that I am, by every means possible. I dare not throw myself at your feet and thank heaven for an inexplicable, undeserved reward. Oh, how I ought to hate the man who... but I feel that at this moment there can be no room for hatred in my heart."
He gently put his arm around her slender waist and gently drew her to his heart. She leaned her head trustingly on the young robber's shoulder. Both were silent.
"I must go," said Masha at last.
Dubrovskii seemed to be waking from a trance. He took her hand and slipped a ring on her finger.
"If you decide to resort to my help," he said, "bring this ring here and drop it into the hollow of this oak. Then I shall know what to do."
Dubrovskii kissed her hand and disappeared among the trees.
Prince Vereiskii's marriage proposal was no longer a secret in the neighborhood. Kirila Petrovich received congratulations, and preparations for the wedding were going forward. Day after day Masha postponed making a decisive declaration. In the meanwhile her manner with her old suitor was cold and strained. The Prince did not seem to mind. He made no effort to inspire love: all he wished for was her tacit consent.
But time was passing. At length Masha decided to act, and wrote a letter to Prince Vereiskii: she tried to awaken magnanimity in his heart, openly confessing that she had not the least inclination toward him, and beseeching him to give her up himself and thereby protect her from the tyranny of her father. She surreptitiously handed the letter to Prince Vereiskii. He read it in private and was not in the least touched by his fiancee's frankness. On the contrary, he realized that it was necessary to hold the wedding earlier, and for that reason thought it advisable to show the letter to his future father-in-law.
Kirila Petrovich flew into a rage; the Prince had great difficulty persuading him not to let on to Masha that he had been informed of the letter. Eventually Kirila Petrovich agreed not to speak about it to her, but he resolved not to waste time and fixed the wedding for the next day. The Prince found the idea well-advised. He came to see his fiancee and told her that her letter had greatly saddened him, but that he was hoping to win her affections with time; that the thought of losing her would be too much for him to bear; and that he simply did not have the strength to sign his own death warrant. After this he respectfully kissed her hand and left for home, not saying a word to her about her father's decision.
He was scarcely past the gate, however, when her father entered her room and commanded her without further ado to be ready for the next day. Maria Kirilovna, already agitated by Prince Vereiskii's explanation, burst into tears and threw herself at her father's feet.
"Papa," she cried in a plaintive voice, "papa, don't ruin me; I don't love the Prince and don't want to be his wife."
"What is the meaning of this?" said Kirila Petrovich sternly. "Until now you've kept silent and been in agreement, but now, when everything is decided, you take it into your head to behave capriciously and start refusing him. Don't play the fool: it'll get you nowhere with me."
"Don't ruin me," repeated poor Masha. "Why are you driving me from you, handing me over to a man I don't love? Have you grown so tired of me? I want to remain with you as before. Papa, it'll be sad for you without me, and sadder still when you remember that I'm unhappy, papa; don't force me, I don't want to get married..."
Kirila Petrovich was touched, but concealed his feelings and pushed her away, saying severely, "All this is nonsense, do you hear? I know better than you what you need for happiness. Your tears won't help: your wedding will be the day after tomorrow."
"The day after tomorrow!" exclaimed Masha. "My dear God! No, no, that's impossible, it cannot be. Papa, listen to me, if you are resolved to ruin me, I will find a protector, one you can't even think of, and you will see, you will be horrified to see, what you have driven me to."
"What? What is this?" said Troekurov. "Threats? Are you threatening me, insolent wench? Well, let me tell you, I'm going to do something with you that you haven't even dreamed of. You dare try to scare me with a protector? We will see who this protector will be."
"Vladimir Dubrovskii," replied Masha in her despair.
Kirila Petrovich thought she must have lost her mind and stared at her in astonishment.
"Very well," he said to her after a pause. "Wait for whoever you think will deliver you; but in the meanwhile sit in this room, which you're not going to leave until the very moment of your wedding."
With these words Kirila Petrovich left and locked the door behind him.
The poor girl wept for a long time, imagining the fate awaiting her. The tempestuous exchange with her father had, however, lightened her heart; she could now view her situation more calmly and consider what she needed to do. The main thing was to escape the odious wedding: the life of a robber's wife seemed like paradise to her in comparison with the fate they were preparing for her. She glanced at the ring Dubrovskii had left with her. She fervently wished to see him alone and consult with him once more before the decisive moment. A presentiment told her that she could find him in the garden near the arbor that evening, and she resolved to wait for him there as soon as it became dark. It grew dark. Masha got ready to go, but her door was locked. The chambermaid answered from behind it that Kirila Petrovich had given orders not to let her out. She was under arrest. Deeply insulted, she sat down by her window and stayed there late into the night without undressing, with her eyes fixed on the dark sky. At dawn she dozed off, but her light sleep was troubled by melancholy visions, and the rays of the rising sun soon awakened her.
Her first waking thought brought back to mind the full horror of her situation. She rang for her maid, who came in and told her in response to her questions that last night Kirila Petrovich had driven over to Arbatovo and returned late; that he had given strict instructions not to let her out of her room and not to let her speak with anyone; and that, incidentally, no particular preparations for the wedding were evident except for an order given to the priest not to leave the village under any circumstances. After communicating these pieces of information the maid left Maria Kirilovna, once more locking the door on her.
The maid's words embittered the young prisoner. Her brain seething and her blood boiling, she resolved to let Dubrovskii know about everything, and began to look for some means of conveying the ring into the secret hollow of the oak. At that moment a pebble hit her window, clinking against the pane. Looking out into the yard, Maria Kirilovna saw little Sasha making furtive signs at her. Sure of his attachment to her, she was glad to see him and opened the window.
"Hello, Sasha," she said. "Why are you calling me?"
"I came to find out, sister, if you need anything. Papa is cross and forbade the whole household to take orders from you, but you just tell me what you want, and I'll do anything."
"Thank you, my dear Sashenka. Listen: do you know the old hollow oak close to the arbor?"
"Yes, sister, I do."
"Well, then, if you love me, run down there and put this ring in the hollow. Take care, though, not to let anybody see you."
With these words she threw the ring to him and closed the window.
The boy picked up the ring, dashed off with all his might, and in three minutes reached the secret tree. Once there, he stopped, caught his breath, looked around on every side, and placed the ring in the hollow. Having safely accomplished his task, he was about to report back to Maria Kirilovna, but suddenly a little red-haired, cross-eyed boy, in tattered clothes, darted out from behind the arbor, dashed to the oak, and thrust his hand into the hollow. Sasha, faster than a squirrel, pounced on him and dug his nails into him.
"What are you doing here?" he asked menacingly.
"None of your business," answered the boy, trying to get away from him.
"Leave that ring alone, ginger-head," shouted Sasha, "or else I'll show you who you've picked a fight with."
Instead of answering him, the boy struck him in the face, but Sasha did not let go and started yelling with all his might, "Help, thief! Help, thief!"
The boy struggled to free himself. He was, apparently, a couple of years older and much stronger than Sasha, but Sasha was more agile. They fought for several minutes, until at last the red-haired boy gained the upper hand. He threw Sasha on the ground and seized him by the throat.
At this moment, however, a strong hand grabbed the boy by his frizzy red hair, and the gardener Stepan lifted him off the ground by half an arshin.
"You red-haired devil," said the gardener. "How dare you beat the young master?"
By this time, Sasha had jumped to his feet and recovered himself.
"You got me under my arms," he said; "otherwise you'd never have thrown me down. Give me the ring at once and get out of here."
"Not likely," answered the redhead and, suddenly twisting himself around, he freed his frizzy locks from Stepan's hand. He tried to run away, but Sasha caught up with him and pushed him in the back so that the boy fell flat on his face. The gardener seized him once more and tied him up with his belt.
"Give me the ring!" shouted Sasha.
"Wait, young master," said Stepan. "Let's take him to the steward for him to sort this matter out."
The gardener led the prisoner into the courtyard, accompanied by Sasha, who kept anxiously looking at his trousers, torn and stained by grass. Suddenly all three found themselves face to face with Kirila Petrovich, who was on his way to inspect the stables.
"What's going on?" he asked Stepan.
Stepan described the incident in a few words. Kirila Petrovich listened attentively.
"You scapegrace," he turned to Sasha. "Why did you get into a fight with him?"
"He stole the ring from the hollow of the tree, papa; tell him to give it back to me."
"What ring, from what hollow?"
"Well, the one Maria Kirilovna... the ring that..."
Sasha became confused, and stammered. Kirila Petrovich frowned and said, shaking his head, "So Maria Kirilovna is mixed up in this. Confess everything, or else I'll give you such a thrashing that your own mother won't recognize you."
"I swear by God, papa, I, papa... Maria Kirilovna didn't send me on any errands, papa."
"Stepan, go and cut me some good fresh birch switches."
"Wait, papa, I'll tell you everything. As I was running about the yard today, Sis Maria Kirilovna opened her window, and I ran under it, and she accidentally dropped a ring, and I hid it in the hollow of the tree, and... and... this redhead wanted to steal it..."
"She dropped it accidentally, did she? And you wanted to hide it? Stepan, go and get those switches."
"Wait, papa, I'll tell you everything. Sis Maria Kirilovna told me to run down to the oak and put the ring in the hollow, and I ran and put it in, but this horrid boy..."
Kirila Petrovich turned to the horrid boy and asked menacingly, "Whose are you?"
"I am a house serf of the masters Dubrovskii," answered the red-haired boy.
A cloud came over Kirila Petrovich's face.
"So you don't acknowledge me as your master. Very well. And what were you doing in my garden?"
"I was stealing raspberries," answered the boy with perfect equanimity.
"Aha, like master, like servant; like priest, like people. And do you find raspberries growing on oak trees in my garden?"
The boy made no reply.
"Papa, tell him to give me the ring," said Sasha.
"Be quiet, Aleksandr," answered Kirila Petrovich, "and don't forget I'm still planning to settle accounts with you. Go to your room. And you, squint-eyes, it seems to me you're nobody's fool. Give me the ring and go home."
The boy opened his fist to show that there was nothing in his hand.
"If you confess everything to me, I will not thrash you; I shall even give you a five-kopeck piece to buy some nuts with. But if you don't, I'll do something to you that you've never even imagined. Well?"
The boy made no reply; just stood with his head inclined and with the air of a perfect simpleton.
"Very well," said Kirila Petrovich, "lock him up somewhere, but watch out, don't let him run away, or else I'll skin every one of you."
Stepan led the boy off to the dovecote, locked him up there, and posted the old poultry woman Agafia to watch over him.
"And now we must send to town for the superintendent," said Kirila Petrovich as he followed the boy with his eyes, "and do it as fast as possible."
"There can be no doubt. She has kept in touch with that damned Dubrovskii. But was she really trying to call for his help?" mused Kirila Petrovich, pacing up and down his room and angrily whistling "May thou, thunder of victory..." "But perhaps I am at last hot on his track, and from us he won't slip away. We'll seize the opportunity. Ha! A bell! Thank God, this must be the superintendent. - Hey, bring that captured boy in here!"
In the meanwhile a cart had driven into the courtyard, and our acquaintance the superintendent, all covered with dust, came into the room.
"Wonderful news," said Kirila Petrovich to him. "I've caught Dubrovskii."
"Praises be to God, Your Excellency," said the superintendent, overjoyed. "Where is he?"
"Well, not exactly Dubrovskii, but one of his band. They'll bring him in presently. He'll help me catch the robber chief himself. Here he is."
The superintendent, who had expected a ferocious brigand, was astonished to see a thirteen-year-old boy of rather puny appearance. He turned to Kirila Petrovich in bewilderment, waiting for an explanation. Kirila Petrovich related what had happened in the morning, without any mention, however, of Maria Kirilovna.
The superintendent listened to him attentively, casting frequent glances at the little miscreant, who, pretending to be a simpleton, seemed to be paying no attention to what was going on around him.
"Allow me, Your Excellency, to speak with you in private," said the superintendent at last.
Kirila Petrovich led him into an adjacent room and locked the door.
Half an hour later they came back to the hall, where the captive was waiting for his fate to be decided.
"The master wanted you to be put in the city jail, lashed with the whip, and then deported," said the superintendent, "but I've interceded on your behalf and persuaded him to pardon you. - You can untie him."
They untied the boy.
"Well, thank your master, won't you?" asked the superintendent.
The boy went up to Kirila Petrovich and kissed his hand.
"Very well, go home," said Kirila Petrovich to him, "and in the future don't steal raspberries from hollow trees."
The boy went outside, joyfully jumped off the porch, and without looking back, set out at a gallop across the field toward Kistenevka. When he reached it, he stopped by a little tumbledown hut at the edge of the village and knocked at the window. The window was raised, and an old woman appeared in it.
"Granny, some bread," said the boy. "I haven't eaten since the morning; I'm starving."
"Oh, it's you, Mitia. Where did you vanish to, you little devil?"
"I'll tell you later, granny; but give me some bread for God's sake."
"Well, come inside, won't you?"
"I haven't got time, granny; I must still run to another place. Bread, for Christ's sake, bread!"
"Always itching to go," grumbled the old woman. "Here, take this hunk," and she handed him a piece of black bread through the window.
The boy eagerly bit into it and, chewing, immediately set out on his further errand.
It was beginning to grow dark. Mitia made his way to the Kistenevka wood, stealing past barns and vegetable gardens. Reaching two pine trees that stood at the edge of the wood like sentries at an outpost, he stopped, looked about him on every side, let out a brief, shrill whistle, and started to listen. A long, soft whistle answered him; someone came out of the wood and approached him.
Kirila Petrovich paced up and down the hall, whistling his march more loudly than usual; the whole house was in commotion, the servants dashing to and fro, the maids bustling about, the coachmen getting the carriage ready in the shed. A crowd gathered in the courtyard. In the young mistress's boudoir, a lady surrounded by maids stood before the mirror, and dressed the pale, motionless Maria Kirilovna. Masha's head bent languidly under the weight of diamonds; she started slightly each time a careless hand pricked her, but otherwise silently and absently stared at herself in the mirror.
"How much longer?" sounded Kirila Petrovich's voice from behind the door.
"Just one minute," answered the lady. "Maria Kirilovna, stand up and take a look: is everything right?"
Maria Kirilovna rose and made no answer. The door opened.
"The bride is ready," said the lady to Kirila Petrovich. "Please order the carriage."
"With God's grace," answered Kirila Petrovich, and took an icon from the table. "Come here, Masha," he said to her with emotion, "and receive my blessing."
The poor girl collapsed at his feet and burst into sobs.
"Papa... papa," she repeated in tears, and her voice died away. Kirila Petrovich hastened to bless her; she was lifted up and almost borne to the carriage. Her mother by proxy and a maid sat with her. They drove to the church. The bridegroom was already waiting there. He came out to greet his bride and was struck by her paleness and strange look. They entered the cold empty church together, and the doors were locked behind them. The priest emerged from the sanctuary and began the ceremony without delay. Maria Kirilovna neither saw nor heard anything. Her mind was fixed on one idea: she had been waiting for Dubrovskii ever since the morning, not giving up hope for one minute. When the priest turned to her with the customary questions, she shuddered and froze with fear, but she still hesitated, still did not give up hope. However, the priest, not waiting for her reply, pronounced the irrevocable words.
The ceremony was over. She felt her unloved husband's cold kiss and heard those present joyfully congratulating her, but she still could not believe that her life was fettered forever, and that Dubrovskii had not come flying to deliver her. The Prince turned to her with tender words, which she did not comprehend. They came out on the porch, where the peasants of Pokrovskoe were crowding. Her glance quickly ran over them, then she resumed her air of indifference. The newly-weds got into the carriage together and drove off to Arbatovo; Kirila Petrovich had set out ahead of them in order to greet the young couple there. Left alone with his young wife, the Prince did not in the least feel discomfited by her cold look. He did not importune her with unctuous explanations or ludicrous raptures: his words were simple and required no reply. They covered about ten versts this way; the horses ran fast over the bumps of the country lanes, but the carriage hardly rocked on its English springs. Suddenly the shouts of a pursuing party could be heard; the carriage stopped; a band of armed men surrounded it; and a man in a half-mask, opening the door on the young Princess' side, said to her, "You are free: alight."
"What does this mean?" shouted the Prince. "Who the devil are you?"
"It is Dubrovskii," said the Princess.
The Prince did not lose his presence of mind, but drew from his side pocket a traveling pistol and shot at the masked bandit. The Princess screamed and, horror-stricken, covered her face with both hands. Dubrovskii was wounded in the shoulder, and the blood was beginning to show through. The Prince, losing no time, drew another pistol, but he was given no opportunity to fire it: the door on his side opened and several strong hands pulled him out of the carriage and took the pistol from him. Knives flashed above him.
"Don't touch him!" shouted Dubrovskii, and his fearsome companions drew back.
"You are free," resumed Dubrovskii, turning to the pale Princess.
"No," she answered. "It's too late. I am already married. I am the wife of Prince Vereiskii."
"What are you saying?" cried Dubrovskii in despair. "No, you are not his wife, you were coerced, you could never give your consent..."
"I did consent. I made my vow," she rejoined resolutely. "The Prince is my husband; please give orders to let him go, and leave me with him. I did not deceive you. I waited for you till the last moment... But now, I am telling you, it's too late. Let us go free."
Dubrovskii could no longer hear her: the pain of his wound and the violent agitation of his soul had taken away his strength. He collapsed by the wheel; his bandits gathered around him. He had managed to say a few words to them, and they put him on his horse, two of them supporting him, while a third led the animal by the bridle. They all rode off across the fields, leaving the carriage in the middle of the road, with the men tied up and the horses unharnessed, but without plundering anything or shedding one drop of blood in revenge for the blood of their chief.
In a narrow clearing in the middle of a dense forest there was a small earthwork, consisting of a rampart and a trench, behind which a few huts and dugouts could be seen.
In the enclosure a large number of people, readily identifiable by their varied dress and uniform weaponry as bandits, were eating their dinner, with their heads bare, seated around a shared cauldron. On the rampart a sentry sat cross-legged at a small cannon. He was sewing a patch on his garment, plying his needle with the skill of an experienced tailor; at the same time he kept glancing around on every side.
Although a dipper had gone around from hand to hand several times, a strange silence reigned over the crowd; the bandits finished their dinner, rose to their feet, and said their prayers one after the other; some dispersed among the huts, while others straggled into the woods or lay down for a nap according to the Russian custom.
The sentry finished his work and shook his tattered garment, admiring the patch on it; then stuck his needle into his sleeve, sat astride the cannon, and burst into a sad old song at the top of his voice:
Do not rustle your leaves, dear oak tree, green mother,
Do not disturb me, brave young lad, in thinking my thoughts.
On the instance the door of one of the huts opened, and an old woman in a white cap, dressed neatly and properly, appeared on the threshold.
"Enough of that, Stepka," she said angrily. "The master's asleep, but you must bawl: have you no conscience or pity?"
"I beg pardon, Egorovna," answered Stepka. "I won't any more. Let the young master sleep and get better."
The old woman withdrew, and Stepka started pacing to and fro on the rampart.
In the hut from which the old woman had emerged, on a camp bed behind a partition, lay the wounded Dubrovskii. His pistols sat on a small table next to him and his saber hung on the wall at the head of the bed. The mud hut was covered and hung all over with luxurious carpets; and in the corner there was a woman's silver wash basin with a cheval glass. Dubrovskii held an open book in his hands, but his eyes were closed. The old woman, who kept peeping at him from behind the partition, could not be sure whether he was asleep or just lost in thought.
Suddenly Dubrovskii started: an alarm was sounded in the fortification, and Stepka poked his head through the window.
"Vladimir Andreevich, young master," he shouted, "our men have given the signal: a search party is coming."
Dubrovskii jumped off his bed, seized his weapons, and stepped outside the hut. The bandits were noisily gathering in the enclosure; but as soon as he appeared among them deep silence set in.
"Is everyone here?" asked Dubrovskii.
"Everyone except the sentries," was the answer.
"Take up your positions!" shouted Dubrovskii.
Each bandit took up his assigned position. At this moment the three sentries came running to the gates. Dubrovskii went forward to meet them.
"What is it?" he asked them.
"There are soldiers in the woods," they replied. "They're encircling us."
Dubrovskii gave orders to lock the gates and went to check the small cannon. Several voices could be heard in the woods; they came closer; the bandits waited silently. Suddenly three or four soldiers emerged from the woods, but they immediately withdrew, signaling to their comrades by shots.
"Prepare for combat!" said Dubrovskii, and a murmur passed through the bandits' ranks, after which all grew quiet again.
Then the noise of an approaching detachment could be heard; weapons flashed among the trees; some one hundred and fifty soldiers poured out of the woods and dashed for the rampart with shouts. Dubrovskii held the fuse to the cannon, and fired successfully: one soldier's head was torn off, and two others were wounded. The soldiers were thrown into confusion, but when their officer dashed forward, they followed, and jumped into the trench. The bandits shot at them with rifles and pistols, and were ready with axes in hand to defend the rampart, which the frenzied soldiers stormed, leaving behind some twenty comrades in the trench, wounded. A hand-to-hand battle ensued. The soldiers were already on the rampart, forcing the bandits to retreat, but Dubrovskii went right up to their officer and shot him point-blank in the chest. The officer fell over backward. Some soldiers picked him up in their arms, hastening to carry him off into the woods, while the others, deprived of their commander, stopped. The emboldened bandits took advantage of this moment of confusion and crushed the soldiers' ranks, forcing them back into the trench. The besiegers took flight, and the bandits pursued them with shouts. The battle was won. Trusting that the enemy had been thrown into complete disorder, Dubrovskii stopped his men and withdrew behind the locked gates of the fort, giving orders to gather up the wounded, to double the guard, and not to leave the fort.
These last developments drew the government's serious attention to Dubrovskii's bold robberies. Intelligence was gathered concerning his whereabouts. A company of soldiers was dispatched to capture him dead or alive. It was learned, however, from some of his followers who had been caught, that he was no longer with the band. And indeed, a few days after the last battle, he had gathered all his followers, declaring to them that he would leave them for good, and advising them that they, too, should change their way of life.
"You've grown rich under my command and each of you has a false passport with which you can make your way to some remote guberniia and live for the rest of your life in honest work and prosperity. But you are all ruffians and will probably not want to give up your trade."
After this speech he left them, taking with him only R. Nobody knew where he had disappeared to. The authorities at first doubted the truth of these depositions, for the bandits' attachment to their chief was well known. It was supposed that they were only trying to save him. But subsequent events proved the depositions right. The awesome raids, burnings, and plunders ceased. The highways became safe again. From other reports it was learned that Dubrovskii had escaped abroad.
|Бібліотека ім. О. С. Пушкіна (м. Київ).