THE TALES OF THE LATE IVAN PETROVICH BELKIN
Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою.>THE TALES OF THE LATE IVAN PETROVICH BELKIN >The Blizzard

 

THE TALES OF THE LATE IVAN PETROVICH BELKIN

(1829-30)

 


The Blizzard

Over hillocks deep in snow
Speeding horses trample,
In a clearing off the road
Winks a lonely temple.
…………………………..
All at once a blizzard flings
Drifts across the way,
And a wheeling raven's wings
Rasp above the sleigh.
Sorrow spell the gusty wails,
And the hasting horses
Scan the darkness, manes and tails
Bristling in their courses ...
ZHUKOVSKII



Toward the end of the year 1811 — a memorable time for us - there lived in his own village of Nenaradovo a good man called Gavrila Gavrilovich R. He was renowned throughout the region for his hospitality and cordiality: neighbors came to his house all the time, some to eat and drink well, others to play Boston for five-kopeck stakes with his wife, Praskovia Petrovna, and still others to see the couple's daughter, Maria Gavrilovna, a slender and pale girl of seventeen. She was considered a good match, and quite a few men marked her out either for themselves or for their sons.
Maria Gavrilovna had been brought up on French novels and was consequently in love. The object she had chosen for her affections was a penniless sublieutenant of infantry, who at the time was staying in his village on a furlough. It goes without saying that the young man was aflame with an equal passion, and that the parents of his beloved, as soon as they noticed the young couple's mutual inclinations, forbade their daughter even to think about him. They began receiving him at their home with less kindness than they would have shown a retired assessor.
Our lovers were engaged in correspondence, and they met alone every day either in the pine grove or by the ancient chapel. There they swore eternal love for each other, lamented their fate, and discussed different possible courses of action. As a result of such correspondence and meetings, they arrived (which was quite natural) at the following consideration: if we cannot breathe without each other, yet the will of cruel parents stands in the way of our happiness, should we not disregard that will? It is easy to guess that this felicitous idea occurred to the young man first and was then heartily embraced by Maria Gavrilovna's romantic imagination.
Winter set in and put a stop to the young couple's meetings; their correspondence, on the other hand, grew all the more lively. Vladimir Nikolaevich entreated Maria Gavrilovna in each letter to give herself to him and wed him in secret; they would remain in hiding for a while, then throw themselves at the feet of her parents, who of course would at last be moved by the lovers' heroic constancy and unhappy state, and would inevitably say, "Children! Come to our bosoms!"
Maria Gavrilovna hesitated for a long while; many a plan for elopement was rejected. At last she gave her consent: on an appointed day she was to miss supper and retire to her room on the pretext of a headache. Her maid was in collusion with her; they were both to go into the garden by way of the back porch, find the sleigh waiting for them behind the garden, get in and ride five versts from Nenaradovo to the village of Zhadrino, and once there, go straight to the church, where Vladimir would be expecting them.
The night before the decisive day Maria Gavrilovna could not sleep a wink; she packed, tied up her linen and clothes into bundles, wrote a long letter to a friend - a sentimental young lady - and another one to her parents. She took leave of them in the most touching terms, excused her act by the irresistible force of her passion, and concluded with the assertion that it would be the happiest moment of her life if she were allowed to throw herself at the feet of her dearest parents. Having sealed both letters with a seal from Tula that showed two flaming hearts with an appropriate inscription, she threw herself on her bed just before dawn and dozed off, but terrible dreams kept waking her even then. At first she fancied that just as she was getting into the sleigh to ride to her wedding, her father stopped her, dragged her across the snow with excruciating speed, and threw her into a bottomless pit... She was falling headlong with indescribable palpitations of the heart... Then she saw Vladimir lying in the grass pale and bloodied. Dying, he begged her in a piercing voice to hurry up and marry him... Still other visions, equally hideous and absurd, flitted before her in quick succession. At last she got up, paler than usual and with a genuine headache. Her father and mother noticed her anxious state; their tender solicitude and never-ending questions - "What's the matter with you, Masha?" "Are you ill, Masha?" - lacerated her heart. She tried to reassure them, tried to appear happy, but could not. Evening came. The thought that she was spending her last day in the midst of her family weighed on her heart. She was more dead than alive; in her mind she was saying good-bye to all the people and objects surrounding her. Supper was served; her heart began to beat violently. She declared in a trembling voice that she did not feel like eating supper, and wished her father and mother good night. They kissed her and, as usual, blessed her, which almost made her cry. On reaching her room, she threw herself in an armchair and burst into a flood of tears. Her maid pleaded with her to calm herself and summon up her courage. Everything was ready. In another half hour Masha was to leave forever her parents' home, the tranquil life of a maiden... Outside a blizzard was whirling; the wind howled, the shutters shook and rattled; all of which seemed a threat and a bad omen to her. The house soon grew quiet: everybody was asleep. Masha wrapped herself in a shawl, put on a warm coat, picked up her bandbox, and went out on the back porch. The maid came after her, carrying two bundles. They descended into the garden. The blizzard was not letting up; the wind met Masha head-on as if trying to stop the young malefactress. They could hardly reach the other end of the garden. The sleigh was waiting for them on the road. The horses, frozen through, could not stand still; Vladimir's coachman walked up and down in front of the shafts of the sleigh trying to restrain the restless animals. He helped the young lady and her maid climb in and find room for the two bundles and the box, then he took the reins, and the horses dashed off. But let us entrust the young lady to her lucky stars and to the skill of Tereshka the coachman, while we turn our attention to our young paramour.
Vladimir had been on the road all day. In the morning he went to see the priest at Zhadrino and could just barely prevail on him; then he went in search of potential witnesses among the landowners of the neighborhood. The first one he called on, a forty-year-old retired cavalry officer by the name of Dravin, consented with pleasure. This adventure, he kept saying, reminded him of his earlier days and his pranks in the hussars. He persuaded Vladimir to stay for dinner, assuring him that finding two more witnesses would be no problem at all. Indeed a land surveyor named Schmitt, wearing mustachios and spurs, and the son of the police superintendent, a boy of sixteen who had recently joined the uhlans, appeared on the scene right after dinner. Not only did they accede to Vladimir's request, but they even swore they would sacrifice their lives for him. Vladimir embraced them with fervor and went home to get ready.
It was already quite dark. He sent his reliable Tereshka to Nenaradovo with his troika and with detailed, thorough instructions. For himself he had a small one-horse sleigh harnessed, and set out alone, without a driver, for Zhadrino, where Maria Gavrilovna was due to arrive in another couple of hours. He knew the road well, and it was only a twenty-minute ride.
But no sooner had he left the village behind and entered the fields than the wind rose, and such a blizzard developed that he could not see anything. In one minute the road was covered over; the surrounding landscape disappeared in a thick yellowish mist driven through with white flakes of snow; the sky merged with the earth. Vladimir found himself in the middle of a field, and his attempts to get back on the road were all in vain. The horse trod at random, now clambering up a pile of snow, now tumbling into a ditch; the sleigh kept turning over; all Vladimir could do was to try not to lose the right direction. It seemed to him, however, that more than half an hour had passed, yet he had still not reached the Zhadrino woods. Another ten minutes or so went by, but the woods still did not come within his view. He rode across a field intersected by deep gullies. The blizzard would not let up; the sky would not clear. The horse began to get tired, and Vladimir perspired profusely, even though he kept sinking into the snow up to his waist.
At last Vladimir realized he was going in the wrong direction. He stopped, began to think, to recollect, to consider, and became convinced that he should have turned to the right. He started off to the right. His horse could hardly move. He had already been on the road for over an hour. Zhadrino should not have been very far. Yet though he rode on and on, there was no end to the open country. Snowdrifts and gullies at every step; the sleigh kept turning over; he had to lift it upright every minute. The time was passing; he began to worry in earnest.
At last something dark came into his view on one side. He turned toward it. Coming closer, he could make out a wood. Thank God, he thought, I am close now. He drove along the edge of the wood, hoping presently to meet the familiar road, or else to go around the wood and find Zhadrino right behind it. He soon found the road and advanced into the darkness under the trees bared by winter. Here the wind could not blow quite so fiercely; the road was even; the horse perked up, and Vladimir felt reassured.
He rode on and on, however, yet there was no sign of Zhadrino; nor was there an end to the woods. He realized with horror that he had driven into an unfamiliar forest. Despair took possession of him. He whipped the horse; the poor animal tried to break into a trot but soon gave in to fatigue, and within a quarter of an hour slowed down to a snail's pace despite every effort on the part of the unfortunate Vladimir.
Gradually the trees thinned out, and Vladimir emerged from the forest, but there was still no sign of Zhadrino. It must have been around midnight. Tears gushed from his eyes; he drove forward haphazardly. The weather had by now grown calm, the clouds were breaking up, and a broad, flat field, covered with a white undulating carpet, stretched out before Vladimir. The night was quite clear. A short distance away Vladimir saw a hamlet consisting of four or five houses. He rode up to it. At the first hut he jumped out of the sleigh, ran up to the window, and started knocking. In a few minutes the wooden shutter opened and an old man thrust his gray beard out of the window.
"What d'ya want?"
"Is Zhadrino far from here?"
"If Zhadrino's far?"
"Yes, yes. Is it far?"
"Not that far; it'll be ten versts or thereabouts."
Hearing this answer, Vladimir clutched his head and remained motionless like a man condemned to die.
"And where would you be coming from?" continued the old man.
Vladimir was not in a state to answer questions.
"Listen, old man," he said, "can you procure some horses that will take me to Zhadrino?"
"Horses, here?"
"Could I at least take a guide with me? I will pay him as much as he wants."
"Wait," said the old man, letting the shutter down. "I'll send my son out. He'll show you the way."
Vladimir waited a little, but scarcely a minute had gone by when he started knocking again. The shutter was raised, and the beard came in view.
"What d'ya want?"
"What about your son?"
"He'll be out in a minute. Tying up his shoes. You're frozen, I trow; come inside to warm up."
"No, thank you, just send your son out as soon as possible."
The gate creaked; a lad came out with a cudgel in his hand; he went ahead of Vladimir, either leading him along the road or searching for it where it was covered by snowdrifts.
"What is the time?" Vladimir asked him. "It'll soon be getting light," answered the young peasant. Vladimir no longer said anything.
The cocks were crowing, and it was already daylight by the time they reached Zhadrino. The church was locked. Vladimir paid his guide and drove to the priest's house. His troika was not in the courtyard. What news awaited him!
But let us return to the good proprietors of Nenaradovo and take a look: what might be happening at their house? Well, nothing.
The old couple woke up and came down to the living room. Gavrila Gavrilovich wore his nightcap and a flannel jacket, Praskovia Petrovna was in her quilted dressing gown. The samovar was lit, and Gavrila Gavrilovich sent a little handmaid to find out how Maria Gavrilovna felt and whether she had slept well. The little girl came back with the answer that the young mistress had slept badly but was by now feeling better and, so please Your Honor, would soon come down to the living room. Indeed, the door opened, and Maria Gavrilovna came up to her papa and mama in turn to wish them good morning.
"How's your head, Masha?" asked Gavrila Gavrilovich.
"It's better, papa," answered Masha.
"It must have been the fumes from the stove that made you feel poorly last night," said Praskovia Petrovna.
"It may have been," answered Masha.
The day passed without any incident, but during the night Masha fell ill. They went to town for the doctor. He arrived toward evening and found the invalid in a state of delirium. A high fever had developed, and the poor girl hovered on the brink of the grave for two weeks.
Nobody in the household knew about the intended elopement. The letters Masha had written the night before were burned, and her maid, fearing the anger of her masters, did not breathe a word to anybody. The priest, the retired officer, the mustachioed land surveyor, and the juvenile uhlan were all discreet, and for good reason. Tereshka the coachman never used an extra word, even in his cups. Thus the secret was kept by more than half a dozen conspirators. It was only Maria Gavrilovna who revealed her secret in her continual state of delirium. Her words, however, were so incongruous that her mother, who never for a moment left her bedside, could make out only that Masha was fatally in love with Vladimir Nikolaevich, and that her love was probably the cause of her illness. She consulted her husband and some neighbors, and they all came to the unanimous conclusion that this was evidently Masha's destiny, that marriages were made in heaven, that poverty was no shame, that you have to live with the man, not with his money, and so forth. Moral maxims are surprisingly useful on occasions when we can invent little else to justify our actions.
In the meanwhile the young lady began to get better. Vladimir had not been seen at Gavrila Gavrilovich's house for a long time. He was afraid of getting the usual reception. They decided to send for him and notify him of his unexpected luck - their consent to his marriage to Masha. How immensely astonished were the proprietors of Nenaradovo, however, when in answer to their invitation they received a half-insane letter from him! He declared he would never set foot in their house again and asked them to forget the unhappy man for whom death was the only remaining hope. In a few days they learned that he had returned to the army. This was in the year 1812.
For a long time they did not dare give the news to the convalescent Masha. She never mentioned Vladimir. She did faint, a few months later, when she saw his name on a list of those who had distinguished themselves and been severely wounded at Borodino, and it was feared that her fever might return, but, thank God, her fainting had no consequences.
Another grief was visited on her; Gavrila Gavrilovich died, leaving his whole fortune to her as his sole heiress. Her inheritance did not console her; she sincerely shared poor Praskovia Petrovna's grief and vowed never to part with her; together they left Nenaradovo, the scene of so many sad memories, and settled on an estate in N. Guberniia.
Here, too, eligible young men came whirling around the charming rich maiden, but she did not give the slightest encouragement to any of them. Her mother would try on occasion to persuade her to make a choice, but Maria Gavrilovna would only shake her head and grow pensive. By this time Vladimir was not among the living: he had died in Moscow on the eve of its occupation by the French. His memory seemed to be sacred to Masha; at least she faithfully kept everything that could remind her of him - books he had read at one time, his drawings, the music or poetry he had copied out for her. The neighbors, hearing all about it, wondered at her constancy and awaited with curiosity the appearance of the hero who would eventually triumph over the sad fidelity of this virginal Artemisia.
Meanwhile, the war had come to a glorious end. Our regiments were returning from abroad. Crowds rushed out to meet them on the way. The bands were playing songs captured in the war: "Vive Henri Quatre," Tyrolean waltzes, and arias from Joconde. Officers who had left for the campaign almost as adolescents were returning as men seasoned in war and decorated with crosses all over their chests. Soldiers chatted gaily, constantly mixing German and French words into their speech. Unforgettable time! A time of glory and ecstasy! How mightily beat the Russian heart at the word Fatherland! How sweet were the tears of reunion! How unanimously did we ally our feeling of national pride with our love for the Emperor! And what a moment it was for him!
The women, Russian women, were inimitable then. Their usual coldness disappeared. Their enthusiasm was truly intoxicating when they met the victors, shouted "hurray!"

And tossed their caps into the air.

Who, among the officers of the time, will deny that he was indebted to Russian womanhood for the best, most precious reward he had ever received?
Maria Gavrilovna and her mother lived through these glorious days in N. Guberniia and did not witness how the two capitals celebrated the return of the troops. But the general enthusiasm was possibly even greater in the provincial towns and villages. Arriving in one of these places was a veritable triumph for an officer; and a lover in a frock coat fared poorly in his vicinity.
We have already mentioned that her coldness notwithstanding, Maria Gavrilovna was surrounded by suitors as before. All had to give up, however, when a wounded hussar colonel called Burmin - with the St. George Cross in his buttonhole and an interesting pallor on his face, as young ladies of the time used to say - presented himself at the manor house. He was about twenty-six. He came to spend his furlough on his estate, adjacent to Maria Gavrilovna's village. Maria Gavnlovna bestowed special attention on him. In his presence her mood, usually pensive, grew lively. You could not say she was flirting with him, but a poet observing her demeanor with him would have said:

Se amor non e, che dunque?


Burmin was indeed a very appealing young man. His mind was just the kind women like: it was a mind at once delicate and observant, without the slightest pretensions, and with a penchant for light-hearted banter. His mien with Maria Gavrilovna was simple and free; he followed with his eyes and all his feelings whatever she said or did. He seemed to be of a quiet and modest disposition, but the gossips insisted that in his earlier days he had been a frightful rake, which actually did not lower him in Maria Gavrilovna's opinion because she (like almost all young ladies) readily excused mischiefs that revealed a daring and ardent nature.
But the aspect of the young hussar's behavior that piqued her curiosity and imagination more than anything else (more than his tenderness, his pleasant conversation, his interesting pallor and bandaged arm) was his failure to declare himself. She could not help recognizing that he liked her very much; it was likely that he too, with his intelligence and experience, had noticed the special attention she was giving him: why then had she still not seen him at her feet, why had she still not heard his confession? What held him back? Was it shyness, inseparable from true love, or pride, or the flirtatiousness of a wily skirt chaser? It was a puzzle to her. Having thoroughly considered the matter, she decided that shyness was the sole cause of his silence, and she resolved to encourage him by more attention and - if circumstances so demanded - perhaps even by tenderness. She was setting the stage for the most unexpected denouement and impatiently awaited the moment of romantic explanation. A secret, of whatever kind it might be, is always hard for a female heart to bear. Her maneuvers achieved the desired effect: at least Burmin fell into such reveries and his dark eyes came to rest on Maria Gavrilovna with such ardency that the decisive moment seemed to be near. The neighbors talked about the wedding as a matter already settled, and the good Praskovia Petrovna rejoiced over her daughter's having at last found a worthy suitor.
One day the old lady was sitting in the living room playing solitaire when Burmin came in and immediately asked after Maria Gavrilovna.
"She is in the garden," answered the old lady. "Go and join her; I'll wait for you here."
Burmin went out, and the old lady made the sign of the cross, saying to herself: God willing the matter will be settled today!
Burmin found Maria Gavrilovna by the pond, under a willow tree, with a book in her hands and in a white dress -a veritable heroine out of a novel. After the initial exchange of questions, Maria Gavrilovna deliberately failed to keep up the conversation, thereby heightening the mutual embarrassment from which the only escape was a sudden and decisive declaration. And indeed Burmin, feeling the awkwardness of his situation, announced that he had long been seeking an opportunity to open his heart to her, and requested a moment's attention. Maria Gavrilovna closed her book and cast her eyes down as a sign of consent.
"I love you," said Burmin. "I love you passionately." Maria Gavrilovna blushed and lowered her head even further. "It has been imprudent of me to indulge in the enchanting habit of seeing you and listening to you daily..." Maria Gavrilovna remembered St. Preux's first letter. "It is now too late to struggle against my fate; your memory, your dear incomparable image, will remain both the torment and the joy of my life; but I must still perform my painful duty of revealing a horrible secret to you and placing an insurmountable barrier between us."
"It has always been there," interrupted Maria Gavrilovna intensely; "I could never be your wife..."
"I know," he answered softly, "I know you loved at one time, but death and three years of grieving... Dear, kind Maria Gavrilovna, don't try to deprive me of my last solace, the thought that you would have agreed to make me happy, if... Keep silent, for heaven's sake, keep silent. You are lacerating my heart. Yes, I know, I sense, that you would have been mine, but I am the most unhappy creature... I am married!"
Maria Gavrilovna looked at him in astonishment.
"I am married," continued Burmin. "I have been married for close to four years and I don't know who my wife is, where she is, and whether I am ever to meet her!"
"What are you saying?" exclaimed Maria Gavrilovna. "How strange this is! But continue; I'll tell you afterwards ... please continue."
"At the beginning of 1812," related Burmin, "I was hurrying to Vilno, where my regiment was stationed. Late one evening I came to a post station and was about to have fresh horses harnessed when a terrific blizzard blew up; both the stationmaster and the drivers advised me to stay until it passed over. I followed their advice, but an inexplicable restlessness took hold of me; it was almost as if somebody was pressing me forward. Although the blizzard had not abated, I could not wait any longer: I had the horses harnessed again and rode off straight into the storm. The driver took it into his head to go on the ice of a river, which was supposed to shorten our route by three versts. The banks were piled high with snow, and the driver missed the point where one could get back on the road; we ended up in an unfamiliar place. The storm was not letting up; I saw a faint light and ordered the driver to head for it. We entered a village; the light came from the wooden church. The church was open; several sleighs stood behind the fence; people were going up and down the porch.
" 'Here! Here!' shouted several voices. I told the driver to drive up to them.
" 'For God's sake, where have you been?' somebody said to me. "Your bride has fainted, the priest doesn't know what to do; we were just about ready to go back home. Get out quickly.'
"I jumped out of the sleigh without a word and entered the church, which was dimly lit by two or three candles. A girl was sitting on a bench in a dark corner of the church; another one was rubbing her temples.
'' 'Thank God,' said the second one, 'you have at last arrived. You've nearly killed the young mistress.'
"The old priest came up to me with the question, 'Do you wish me to begin?'
" 'Yes, do, Father, by all means do,' I answered absently.
"They lifted up the girl. She seemed quite pretty to me ... Inexplicable, unexcusable recklessness... I stood by her before the lectern; the priest was in a hurry; the three men and the maid supported the bride and were busy only with her. We were married.
" 'Kiss each other,' we were told.
"My wife turned her pale face toward me. I wanted to kiss her... She shrieked, 'Oh, that's not him! It's not him,' and collapsed unconscious.
"The witnesses fixed their frightened eyes on me. I turned around, left the church without the slightest hindrance, flung myself into the sleigh and yelled out 'Go!'"
"Good heavens!" exclaimed Maria Gavrilovna, "and you don't know what's become of your poor wife?"
"No, I don't," answered Burmin. "I don't know the name of the village where I was married, I don't remember which post station I had been coming from. At the time I attached so little importance to my wicked prank that, since I left the church, I fell asleep and didn't wake up until the morning, when we were already at the third station. The orderly who was with me then died later in the war, and therefore I have no hope of finding her on whom I played such a cruel joke and who is now so cruelly avenged."
"Oh my God, oh my God," said Maria Gavrilovna, seizing his hand, "so it was you? And you don't recognize me?"
Burmin blanched and threw himself at her feet...




 

Оригінал твору

Бібліотека ім. О. С. Пушкіна (м. Київ).
А.С. Пушкин. Полное собрание сочинений в десяти томах