by Alexander Pushkin
Translated by Natalie Duddington
I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII XIII XIV XV XVI XVII XVIII XIX
SEVERAL years ago an old-fashioned Russian landowner, Kiril Petrovitch Troekurov, was living on one of his estates. His wealth, lineage, and connections gave him great weight in the province where the estate was situated. Spoiled by his surroundings, he was used to giving full rein to every impulse of his passionate temperament, and every idea of his somewhat limited intellect. His neighbours were glad to humour his smallest whim; the officials of the province trembled at his very name. Kiril Petrovitch accepted expressions of obsequiousness as his rightful tribute. His house was always full of guests, ready to amuse him in his lordly idleness, and to share his noisy and sometimes riotous pleasures. No one dared refuse his invitations or fail to appear on certain days at Pokrovskoe to pay their respects to him. Kiril Petrovitch was extremely hospitable. In spite of his wonderful constitution, twice a week he suffered from over-eating, and every evening he was slightly tipsy. Few of the serf girls in his household escaped the amorous attentions of this fifty-year-old satyr. In one of the lodges of the house lived sixteen maid-servants engaged in needlework, as befitted their sex. The lodge windows had wooden gratings, the doors were padlocked, and the keys were in Kiril Petrovitch's keeping. At appointed hours the young recluses came out into the garden and walked there under the supervision of two old women. From time to time Kiril Petrovitch found husbands for some of them, and new ones took the place of those who married. He was harsh and arbitrary with his peasants and house-serfs, but they were loyal to him: they took a pride in their master's renown and wealth and, in their turn, often took advantage of their neighbours, trusting to his powerful protection.
Troekurov spent his time in driving about his extensive lands, in festive eating and drinking, and in playing practical jokes, freshly invented every day, generally at the expense of some new acquaintance; his old friends were not spared either, with the exception of a certain Andrey Gavrilovitch Dubrovsky. This Dubrovsky, a retired lieutenant in the Guards, was Troekurov's nearest neighbour, and the owner of seventy serfs. Haughty in his dealings with men of the highest rank, Troekurov respected Dubrovsky in spite of his humble position. They had once served in the same regiment, and Troekurov knew by experience what a short-tempered and resolute man Dubrovsky was. The year 1762 of glorious memory (Accession of Catherine II to the throne.—TRANSLATOR'S NOTE) parted them for long. Troekurov, a relative of Princess Dashkov's, climbed up; Dubrovsky, having lost most of his property, had to retire and settle on the one estate that remained to him. Hearing of this, Kiril Petrovitch offered him his patronage; but Dubrovsky thanked him and remained poor and independent. A few years later, Troekurov, retired with the rank of general, came to his country seat; the friends met and were glad to see each other. Since then they had met every day, and Kiril Petrovitch, who had never deigned to visit any one, came without ceremony to his old comrade's humble little house. They were of the same age, belonged to the same class by birth, had had the same bringing up, and were to some extent alike in their tastes and temperaments; in some respects their fate was alike too: both had married for love, both had early been left widowers, and each had a child. Dubrovsky's son was being educated in Petersburg, Troekurov's daughter was being brought up under her father's supervision, and Kiril Petrovitch often said to his friend: ' You know, brother Andrey Gavrilovitch, if your Volodya turns out well, I'll marry Maslia to him— even though he is poor as a church mouse.' Andrey Petrovitch shook his head and generally said:' No, Kiril Petrovitch, my Volodya is not a match for Marya Kirilovna. A poor nobleman like him had much better marry a poor girl of good family, and be master in his own house, than be the bailiff of a spoilt young woman.'
Every one envied the harmony that reigned between the haughty Troekurov and his poor neighbour, and marvelled at the latter's courage when at Kiril Petrovitch's table he said just what he thought, without troubling whether his opinion was opposed to that of his host. Some tried to follow his example and assert their independence, but Kiril Petrovitch gave them such a lesson that they lost all inclination to try it again; Dubrovsky remained the only exception to the general rule. An accident upset and changed everything.
One day in the early autumn Kiril Petrovitch prepared to go hunting. The kennel-boys and huntsmen were told to be ready by five o'clock the next morning. The kitchen and a tent were sent beforehand to the place where Kiril Petrovitch was to have dinner. He went with his visitors to look at his kennels, where more than five hundred hounds lived in warmth and comfort, singing praises in the canine tongue to Kiril Petrovitch's generosity. There was a hospital for sick dogs supervised by Timoshka, who acted as staff-doctor, and a place set apart for the bitches to have their young and suckle them. Kiril Petrovitch was proud of his beautiful kennels, and never missed an opportunity to boast of them to his friends, each of whom had seen them at least twenty times before. He walked about surrounded by his guests, and accompanied by Timoshka and the chief huntsmen. He stopped in front of certain kennels, inquiring about the sick dogs, making more or less stern and just reprimands or calling to him the dogs he knew, and talking kindly to them His guests considered it their duty to admire Kiril Petrovitch's kennels; Dubrovsky alone frowned and said nothing. He was a passionate sportsman, but he could only afford to keep two hounds and one borzoi bitch. He could not help feeling a certain envy at the sight of this magnificent establishment. 'Why do you frown, brother?' Kiril Petrovitch asked him; 'don't you like my kennels?'
'Yes, they are beautiful kennels,' Dubrovsky answered gloomily; 'I don't suppose your servants are as comfortable as your dogs.'
One of-the huntsmen was nettled. 'We don't complain of our lot, thanks to God and our master,' he said,' but it's true enough that many a gentleman might well exchange his house for any of these kennels; he would be warmer here and better fed.'
Kiril Petrovitch laughed aloud at his serf's impudent remark, and his guests laughed too, though they felt that the huntsman's joke might refer to them as well. Dubrovsky turned pale and did not say a word. At that moment Kiril Petrovitch had some newbom puppies brought to him in a basket, and he gave his attention to them; he picked out two and gave word that the others were to be drowned. Meanwhile Andrey Gavrilovitch had disappeared unnoticed.
On coming home from the kennels with his guests, Kiril Petrovitch sat down to supper, and only then missed Dubrovsky. The servants informed him that Andrey Gavrilovitch had gone home. Troekurov told them to catch him up at once, and bring him back. He never rode to hounds without Dubrovsky, a subtle and experienced judge of a dog's points, and an unerring arbiter in sportsmen's disputes. The servant dispatched after him returned while the company were still at table, and reported to his master that Andrey Gavrilovitch would not obey and refused to return. Kiril Petrovitch, heated as usual with home-made brandy, lost his temper, and sent the same servant to tell Andrey Gavrilovitch that if he did not come at once to spend the night at Pokrovskoe, he, Troekurov, would have nothing more to do with him. The servant galloped off again. Kiril Petrovitch got up from the table, and, dismissing his visitors, went to bed.
The first thing he asked in the morning was whether Andrey Gavrilovitch had come. He was given a letter folded in a triangle. Kiril Petrovitch told his secretary to read it aloud, and heard the following:
MY DEAR SIR,
According to the present-day standards of etiquette this letter would have seemed highly improper; Kiril Petrovitch, however, was angered not by its peculiar style and its rudeness, but merely by its subject-matter. 'What!' he cried, jumping off his bed barefoot. 'To send my servants to ask his pardon! It's for him to forgive or to punish them! What is he thinking of! He doesn't know his man it strikes me! I'll give it him! I'II make him smart! I'll teach him what crossing Troekurov means!'
Nevertheless, Kiril Petrovitch dressed and rode out to the hunt with all his customary splendour. But the hunt was not a success: they saw only one hare all that day, and missed it; the dinner in the fields under the tent was not a success, or, anyway, was not to Kiril Petrovitch's taste. He beat the cook, swore at his guests, and on the way back rode on purpose with all his party across Dubrovsky's fields.
SEVERAL days had passed, and the hostility between the two neighbours continued. Andrey Gavrilovitch did not return to Pokrovskoe; Kiril Petrovitch was bored without him and vented his vexation by saying the most offensive things which, thanks to the zeal of the local gentry, reached Dubrovsky's ears improved and amplified. A new event destroyed the last hope of peace.
One day Dubrovsky was driving round his small estate; as he neared the birch copse he heard strokes of the axe and, a minute later, the crash of a falling tree. Hastening there, he came upon Troekurov's peasants, who were calmly stealing his wood. Seeing him they set off running; Dubrovsky and his coachman caught two of them and, tying their arms, brought them home with three of the enemy's horses as booty. Dubrovsky was extremely angry; hitherto Troekurov's serfs, notorious rascals, had never dared to do mischief on his estate, knowing of his friendship with their master. Dubrovsky saw that now they were taking advantage of the breach and, contrary to all the conventions of war, decided to punish his prisoners with the twigs they had secured in his own copse, and to send the horses to work in his fields along with his own.
The rumour of this incident reached Kiril Petrovitch the same day. He was beside himself with fury and at first wanted to attack Kistenyovka (that was the name of his neighbour's village) with all his serfs, and, razing it to the ground, besiege the owner in his house; such exploits were not new to him; but soon his thoughts took another turn. Pacing up and down the drawing-room with heavy steps, he happened to glance at the window and see a troika draw up at the front gate; a little man in a leather cap and a woolly coat stepped out of the cart and walked to the steward's lodge. Troekurov recognized Shabashkin, the assessor of the district court, and sent for him. A minute later Shabashkin stood before Kiril Petrovitch, bowing and reverently awaiting his orders.
'Good day ... let me see, what's your name ?' Troekurov said. 'What have you come for?'
'I was going to town, your Excellency,' Shabashkin answered, 'and I called at Ivan Demyanov's to see if there were any orders from your Excellency.'
'You've come in the nick of time. . . . What's your name? I forget. I have something to ask you: have a drink of vodka and listen.'
Such a friendly reception pleasantly surprised the lawyer; he refused the vodka and listened to Kiril Petrovitch with every mark of attention.
'I have a neighbour,' Troekurov said, 'a petty landowner, an impudent man; I want to take his estate from him . . . what do you think about it?'
'Your Excellency, if there are any documents or . . .' 'Nonsense, brother, what do you want with documents? There are ukases for dealing with them. The point is to take away his estate without any regard to law and leave him a beggar. Wait a minute, though! That estate did once belong to us; it was bought from a certain Spitsyn and sold afterwards to Dubrovsky's father. Can we make use of that?'
'It's difficult, your Excellency; probably the sale was in order.'
'Think well, brother, try to find some way.' 'If, for instance, your Excellency could somehow get from your neighbour the deeds in virtue of which he holds his estate, then, of course . . .'
'Yes, I know, but the trouble is, all his papers were burned during the fire.'
'What, your Excellency? His papers were burned? Nothing could be better! In that case, you have simply to abide by the law and everything will certainly be settled to your complete satisfaction.'
'You think so ? Well, mind then, I rely on you to do your best, and you may be sure I'll thank you well.'
Bowing almost down to the ground, Shabashkin left the room, and that very day set about the business. Thanks to his promptitude, exactly a fortnight later Dubrovsky received a paper from the town asking him to furnish forthwith the necessary explanations in view of a petition filed by his Excellency General Troekurov, alleging that Dubrovsky had no right to the ownership of the village Kistenyovka.
Surprised by this unexpected query, Andrey Gavrilovitch wrote that very day a rather rude reply, saying that he had inherited Kistenyovka from his late father, that he owned it by the right of legacy, that it was none of Troekurov's business, and that any outsider's claim on his property was a fraud and a swindle.
This letter made a very pleasant impression on Shabashkin: he saw, in the first place, that Dubrovsky had little knowledge of legal business, and, in the second, that it would be no difficult matter to put so incautious and hot-tempered a man in a most disadvantageous position.
When Audrey Gavrilovitch considered in cold blood the question that had been put to him, he pondered and saw that it ought to be answered in more detail; he wrote a Statement that was very much to the point, but it proved to be insufficient.
Dubrovsky had no experience of litigation. He followed for the most part the dictates of common sense, which is seldom a correct and hardly ever a sufficient guide.
The lawsuit went on. Convinced of the justice of his cause, Andrey Gavrilovitch troubled himself very little about it; he was neither able nor inclined to squander money on bribes, -and, though he had often joked about the mercenary conscience of the attorneys, it never occurred to him that he might become the victim of a legal swindle. Troekurov on his side thought equally little about winning his case:
Shabashkin was acting for him, using his name, threatening and bribing the judges, and misinterpreting in every possible way all kinds of ukases. In any case, on 9th February 18 — Dubrovsky received a summons to appear before the district court to hear the verdict on the dispute between him, Lieutenant Dubrovsky, and General Troekurov about the estate, and to sign his agreement or disagreement with it. Dubrovsky went to the town that very day: on the way he was overtaken by Troekurov; they looked at each other proudly, and Dubrovsky noticed a malignant smile on his adversary's face.
Arriving at the town, Andrey Gavrilovitch put up at the house of a merchant of his acquaintance, spent the night at his house, and the following morning went to the district court. No one took any notice of him. Kiril Petrovitch arrived after him; the clerks stood up, putting their quills behind their ears; the lawyers met him with the greatest obsequiousness and moved up an arm-chair for him out of consideration for his rank, his years, and his corpulence; he sat down. Standing in the open doorway, Audrey Gavrilovitch leaned against the wall. There was a profound stillness in the room, and the secretary began in a high-pitched voice to read the court's decision. We quote it in full, believing that every one will be pleased to learn one of the methods whereby in Russia a man can lose an estate to which he has incontestable rights.
(As can be seen from the rough draft of Dubrovsky, Pushkin had intended to insert here an exact copy of the decision of the Kozlov district court which in 1832 by an act of glaring injustice deprived a poor landowner of his property in favour of a rich one.—TRANSLATOR'S NOTE.)
The secretary finished; Shabashkin stood up and with a low bow turned to Troekurov, inviting him to sign the paper; the triumphant Troekurov, taking the pen from him, wrote under the decision of the court that he was completely satisfied with it.
It was Dubrovsky's turn. The secretary handed him the paper, but Dubrovsky stood motionless, hanging his head. The secretary invited him once more 'to sign, expressing his complete and perfect satisfaction or his clear dissatisfaction, should he, by any chance, be honestly convinced that his cause was right and intend to appeal against the court's decision within the appointed time'.
Dubrovsky said nothing. . . . Suddenly he raised his head, his eyes flashed, he stamped, and pushing the secretary so violently that the man fell, he. seized the inkpot and threw it at Shabashkin. Every one was horror-stricken. Dubrovsky shouted wildly: 'What, to have no respect for the Church of God! Away with you, you offspring of Ham!'—then turning to Kiril Petrovitch he continued: ' It's unheard of, your Excellency! Huntsmen bring dogs into the church of God! Dogs are running about in the church! I'll give it you!'
Hearing the noise the ushers ran in and with some difficulty overpowered Dubrovsky. They took him out and put him in his sledge. Troekurov walked out after him, accompanied by all the officials. Dubrovsky's sudden madness was a great shock to him; it spoiled his triumph. Not deigning to say a kind word to the laywers who had hoped he would thank them, he went straight back to Pokrovskoe, smitten with secret remorse and not altogether satisfied with his vengeance.
Dubrovsky meanwhile was in bed; the district doctor (luckily not quite an ignoramus) bled him, applied leeches and a Spanish fly-blister; towards evening he felt better, and the following day he was taken to Kistenyovka, which now scarcely belonged to him.
SOME months had passed, but poor Dubrovsky was still far from well. True, he had had no more attacks of madnes,, but his strength was obviously failing. He gave up his former occupations, seldom left his room, and sat lost n thought for days togetlier. Yegorovna, a good old woman, who had once nursed his son, now became his nurse too. She looked after him as though he were a child, reminded him about meals and bed-time, gave him food, and put him to sleep. Andrey Gavrilovitch obeyed her, and had notliing to do with any one else. He was not in a fit state to think of his affairs or of estate management, and Yegorovna decided to lay the whole situation before young Dubrovsky, who was an officer in the Foot Guards, and lived in Petersburg. Tearing a leaf out of the account book, she dictated a letter to the cook Hariton, the only man in Kistenyovka who could write, and sent it that same day to be posted in the town.
But it is time to introduce the reader to the real hero of our story. Vladimir Dubrovsky had been brought up in the Cadet Corps, and joined the Guards with the rank of cornet. His father spared nothing to keep him as befitted his position, and the young man received more money from home than he ought to have expected. Careless and ambitious, he indulged in extravagance, played cards, made debts and, little troubling about the future, vaguely thought sometimes that sooner or later he would have to marry a rich wife.
One day, when several fellow-officers sat in his room lounging on the sofas and smoking his amber pipes, his valet Grisha handed him a letter. The seal and the handwriting on the address at once attracted the young man's attention. He opened it hastily and read as follows:
OUR DEAR MASTER VLADIMIR ANDREYEVITCH,
NURSE ARINA YEGOROVNA BUZYREV.
Vladimir Dubrovsky read this rather confused letter over and over with profound emotion. He had lost his mother in early childhood, and knew his father but little, having been brought to Petersburg at the age of eight. Nevertheless he had a romantic affection for him, and loved family life all the more for having had so little time to enjoy its peaceful happiness.
The thought of losing his father pained him deeply, and the condition of the poor invalid, which he guessed from his old nurse's letter, horrified him. He pictured his father left helpless in an out-of-the-way village in the hands of a foolish old woman and the servants, threatened with some misfortune, and gradually sinking in physical and mental agony. Vladimir reproached himself for criminal neglect. He had had no news of his father for months, but had never thought of inquiring after him, imagining he was away somewhere or busy about the estate. He decided to go to him and to retire from the army, if his father's illness required his presence at home.
Seeing that he was perturbed, his friends went away. Left alone, Vladimir wrote a petition for leave of absence, lighted his pipe, and sank into deep thought. That very day he sent in his petition, and two days later set out for home by stage-coach with his faithful Grisha.
Vladimir was drawing near the station where he had to turn off to Kistenyovka. His heart was full of sad forebodings : he was afraid of finding his father dead; he imagined the melancholy existence awaiting him in the country: a desolate village, no neighbours, poverty, and business responsibilities to which he was an utter stranger. Arriving at the station he went to the station-master and asked if there were any horses for hire. Inquiring where he was going, the station-master said that horses from Kistenyovka had been waiting for him for four days. The old coachman, Anton, who had once looked after his pony, and piloted him round the stables, soon appeared. Tears came into his eyes when he saw Vladimir; he bowed down to the ground before him and, saying that the old master was still alive, ran to harness the horses. Vladimir refused the offer of lunch, anxious to leave at once. Anton drove him along the by-roads, and they fell into conversation.
'Tell me please, Anton, what is this lawsuit between my father and Troekurov ?'
'Heaven only knows, Vladimir Andreyevitch, sir. It appears master didn't hit it off with Kiril Petrovitch, and he went to law about it—though often enough he is a law unto himself. It's not the business of us servants to judge our betters, but really it was a pity your father crossed Kiril Petrovitch: it's no use kicking against the pricks.'
'It would seem then this Kiril Petrovitch can do just as he likes with you all ?'
'Of course, sir: the Governor hob-nobs with him, he doesn't care a rap for the assessor, they say the police-captain is his errand-boy; the gentry dance attendance on him—but indeed, as the saying is, 'provide a trough and pigs will be sure to come'.
'Is it true that he is taking our estate from us ?'
'That 's what we have heard, sir, worse luck. The other day the Pokrovskoe sexton was at the christening in our foreman's house and said: 'Your good time is over! Kiril Petrovitch will take you in hand presently!' And Nikita the blacksmith said to him: 'Come, Savelyitch, don't grieve our host and upset the guests! Kiril Petrovitch has his place, Andrey Gavrilovitch has his—and we are all God's and the Tsar's. But you can't shut other people's mouths.'
'So then you don't want Troekurov to take you over?'
'Kiril Petrovitch? God save us and spare us! His own serfs have a bad time of it, and if he gets hold of other people's, he'll not merely fleece but skin them. No, God grant long life to Andrey Gavrilovitch; but if he is taken, we don't want any master but you, my dear. Don't you give us up, and we'll stick up for you.'
With these words Anton brandished his whip, pulled at the reins, and the horses broke into a sharp trot.
Touched by the old coachman's devotion, Dubrovsky was silent and sank into thought. More than an hour passed in this way; suddenly Grisha roused him by exclaiming:
'There's Pokrovskoe!' Dubrovsky raised his head. They were driving along the bank of a wide lake, from which flowed a river winding among the low hills and disappearing in the distance. On one of the hills above the thick verdure of the trees could be seen the green roof and the belvedere of a huge brick house; on another, a church with five cupolas and an ancient belfry; peasant huts, with their wells and kitchen-gardens, were scattered around. Dubrovsky recognized the place; he remembered that he used to play on that very hill with little Masha Troekurov, who was two years younger than he and already at that time promised to be a beauty. He wanted to ask Anton about her, but a kind of shyness restrained him.
As they were driving past the house he saw a white frock flitting between the trees of the garden. At that moment Anton struck the horses with the whip and, inspired by the ambition common both to town cab-drivers and country coachmen, dashed headlong across the bridge and past the garden. Leaving the village behind, they drove up a hill, and Vladimir saw a birch copse, and in an open field to the left of it a small grey house with a grey roof; his heart beat faster: Kistenyovka and his father's poor house were before him.
Ten minutes later he drove into the courtyard. He looked about him with indescribable emotion: it was twelve years since he had seen his birthplace. The birch-trees by the fence that had only just been planted in his time had grown into big spreading trees. The courtyard, that had once been adorned by three symmetrical fluwer-beds with a wide, carefully swept path between them, had now turned into a meadow with long grass where a horse was grazing. The dogs began barking, but, recognizing Anton, subsided and wagged their shaggy tails. The servants rushed out of their cottages, and with loud expressions of joy surrounded their master. Making with some difficulty his way through the eager crowd, he ran up the rickety steps; Yegorovna met him in the porch and threw herself weeping on his neck. 'How do you do, how are you, nurse?' he repeated, pressing the good old woman to his heart. 'How is my father? Where is he?' At that moment a tall old man in a dressinggown and a night-cap, thin and pale, came into the room, walking with obvious difficulty. 'Where is Volodya?' he said in a weak voice, and Vladimir warmly embraced his father. The joy was too great a shock to the invalid; he felt weak, his legs gave way under him, and he would have fallen had not his son supported him. ' What ever did you get-up for?' Yegorovna said to him. 'He can hardly keep on his feet, and yet he must try and do the same as other people'
The old man was carried to his bedroom. He wanted to talk to his son, but his thoughts were confused and there was no coherence in his words. He subsided into silence and gradually dropped asleep. Vladimir was shocked by his condition. He had his things brought into his father's room and asked to be left alone with him. The servants obeyed, and turned their attentions to Grisha. They took him to the servants' hall and treated him to a good homely meal with every show of hospitality, overwhelming him with questions and greetings.
A coffin stands on the festive board.
A FEW days after his arrival young Dubrovsky wanted to see how matters stood with regard to the estate, but his father was not able to give him the necessary explanations;
and Andrey Gavrilovitch had no agent. Sorting out his papers, Vladimir found only the lawyer's first letter and the rough draft of an answer to it. This was not enough to give him a clear idea of the case, and he decided to await developments, trusting to the justice of his cause.
Meanwhile Andrey Gavrilovitch was hourly getting worse. Vladimir saw that the end was not far off, and spent all his time with the old man, who had sunk into complete senility.
Meanwhile the time for lodging an appeal had passed and nothing had been done about it. Kistenyovka belonged to Troekurov. Shabashkin came to him to present his respects and congratulations and to ask when would his Excellency be pleased to take possession of the new estate—and would he do so in person or give someone the power of attorney? Kiril Petrovitch was confused. He was not grasping by nature; his desire for vengeance had carried him too far; his conscience reproached him. He knew what condition his adversary, the old comrade of his youth, was in, and victory did not gladden his heart. He glanced at Shabashkin menacingly, looking for a pretext to abuse him, but finding none said angrily:'Be off! I have no time for you!' Seeing that he was in a bad humour, Shabashkin bowed and hastened to withdraw. Left alone, Kiril Petrovitch began walking up and down the room, whistling 'Thunder of victory, resound!' wliich always was with him a sign of extreme mental agitation.
At last he ordered a droshky, put on a warm coat (it was already the end of September), and drove out, taking no coachman with him.
He soon caught sight of Andrey Gavrilovitch's house; conflicting emotions filled his heart. Satisfied vengeance and love of power stifled to some extent his nobler feelings, but the latter triumphed at last. He decided to make peace with his old neighbour and, wiping out every trace of their quarrel, restore his estate to him. Comforting himself by this good intention, Kiril Petrovitch set out at a trot towards his neighbour's house and drove straight into the courtyard.
At that time the sick man was sitting at his bedroom window. He recognized Kiril Petrovitch, and a look of violent agitation came into his face: a flush overspread his pale cheeks, his eyes flashed, he uttered unintelligible sounds. His son, who was sitting in the same room poring over account-books, raised his head and was alarmed at his condition. The invalid was pointing to the courtyard with an expression of horror and anger. At that moment Yegorovna's heavy steps were heard, and she said: 'Master, master! Kiril Petrovitvh has come, Kiril Petrovitch is at the front door!' Suddenly she cried out: 'Good heavens! What is it ? What's the matter with him ?' The invalid, intending to get up, hurriedly picked up the skirts of his dressing-gown, raised himself a little and suddenly fell down. His son rushed to him: the old man lay senseless, hardly breathing: he had had a stroke.
'Make haste, go to the town for a doctor! Quick!' Vladimir cried.
'Kiril Petrovitch is asking for you,' said a servant, coming in. Vladimir gave him a dreadful look.
'Tell Kiril Petrovitch to be off quick, before I give orders to turn him out—go!' he said.
The servant ran joyfully to carry out his master's bidding. Yegoroyna clasped her hands in despair.
'My dear!' she shrieked. 'You've done for yourself! Kiril Petrovitch will be the death of us!'
'Be quiet, nurse!' Vladimir said angrily. 'Make haste and send Anton for the doctor.'
Yegorovna went out. There was no one in the hall: all the servants had run out into the yard to look at Kiril Petrovitch. She came out on to the steps and heard Grisha give the young master's answer. Kiril Petrovitch heard it sitting in the droshky; his face turned black as night: he smiled contemptuously, gave a menacing look at the servants, and slowly drove along the courtyard. He glanced at the window where Andrey Gavrilovitch had been sitting a moment before, but he was no longer there. The nurse stood on the steps, forgetting the young master's orders. The servants were noisily discussing what had happened. Suddenly Vladimir appeared among them and said sharply:
'No need for a doctor—my father is dead'.
Confusion followed. The servants rushed into the old master's room. He lay in the arm-chair to which Vladimir had carried him; his right arm hung down to the ground, his head was bowed—there was no sign of life in the body, which had not yet grown cold, but was already disfigured by death. Yegorovna set up a wail; the servants surrounded the corpse left to their care; they washed it, and dressing it in the uniform made in 1797, laid it on the very table at which for so many years they had waited on their master.
THE funeral took place three days later. The poor old man's body, covered with a shroud and surrounded with lighted candles, lay on the table. The dining-room was full of serfs ready to follow the funeral procession. Vladimir and some of the men lifted the coffin. The priest walked in front, the clerk followed him, singing the burial prayers. The master of Kistenyovka crossed the threshold of his house for the last time. The coffin was carried through the copse—the church was on the other side of it. It was a bright, cold day; autumn leaves were falling. Coming out of the copse they saw the wooden church, and the churchyard overshadowed with old lime-trees. The body of Vladimir's mother rested there;
next to her tomb a new grave had been dug the day before. The church was full of the Kistenyovka peasants who had come to render the last homage to their master. Young Dubrovsky stood in a corner in front; he did not weep or pray, but there was a dreadful look on his face. The sad ceremony came to an end. Vladimir was the first to give the farewell kiss to the dead; members of the household followed him. The women wailed loudly, the men occasionally wiped their eyes with their fists. Vladimir and the same three servants as before carried the coffin to the churchyard, accompanied by the whole village. The coffin was lowered into the grave; each of those present threw a handful of sand into it; the grave was filled up, they bowed before it, and went home. Vladimir walked away hastily and, leaving the others behind, disappeared in the Kistenyovka copse.
Yegorovna, on his behalf, invited the priest and the other clerics to the funeral dinner, saying that the young master did not intend to be present. Father Anton, his wife, and the clerk set out on foot to the house, discussing with Yegorovna the dead man's virtues, and the future that in all probability awaited his heir. (Troekurov's visit and the reception he had had were already known to the whole neighbourhood, and the local politicians deduced important conclusions therefrom.)
'What must be, will be,' the priest's wife said, 'but I shall be sorry if Vladimir Andreyevitch is not our master. There 's no denying it, he is a fine fellow.'
'But who else can be our master?' Yegorovna interrupted her. 'Kiril Petrovitch may be as angry as he please, but he 's got a tough one to deal with! My young falcon can stand up for himself, and he has friends in high places too. Kiril Petrovitch is much too stuck-up, that's what he is. He did draw in his horns, though, when my Grisha shouted to him:' Go away, you old cur! Be off!'
'Dear me, Yegorovna!' said the clerk. 'How could Grisha bring himself to say such a thing ? I think I 'd sooner venture to complain of the bishop than look askance at Kiril Petrovitch. I 'm all of a tremble at the very sight of him! And my back bends double of itself before I know where I am.'
'Vanity of vanities!' the priest said; 'they'll sing "eternal memory " to Kiril Petrovitch the same as to Andrey Gavrilovitch to-day; perhaps the funeral will be grander and there will be more visitors—but it's all one to God.'
'Oh, Father, we too wanted to invite all the neighbourhood, but Vladimir Andreyevitch wouldn't have it. We have plenty of everything, no fear, we could have had a good spread . . . but there was nothing for it. At any rate, since there are no other people here, I'II do my best for you, dear guests.'
This kind promise and the hope of a savoury pie made the guests hasten their steps. They arrived safely at the house, where the table was already set and the vodka served.
Meanwhile Vladimir walked on among the thickets of trees so as to tire himself out, and thus deaden his sorrow. He went on without thinking of the road; branches caught and scratched him every moment, his feet kept sinking in the bog—he noticed nothing. At last he reached a ravine surrounded on all sides by the forest; a brook wound quietly among the trees half bared by the autumn. Vladimir stopped, sat down on the cold grass, and thoughts, each one gloomier than the last, swarmed in his mind. ... He was painfully conscious of being alone in the world; his future was obscured by menacing storm clouds. His quarrel with Troekurov held the promise of new misfortunes for him. His small property might be taken from him; in that case he would be completely destitute. He sat still for a long time in the same spot, watching the slow motion of the brook carrying away a few faded leaves, and it seemed to him a vivid image of life—such a very true and homely image. He noticed at last that it was growing dusk; getting up he went to look for the road home; after wandering for some time through the unfamiliar wood, he came upon a path that brought him straight to his courtyard gates.
The priest and his party were coming towards him. The thought that it was a bad omen crossed Dubrovsky's mind. Unconsciously he turned aside and hid behind the trees. Engaged in a heated conversation, they failed to notice him.
'Avoid evil and do good,' the priest was saying to his wife. "We have nothing to fear; it's nothing to do with you, whatever the end may be.' His wife answered something, but Vladimir could not hear what.
Nearing the house he saw a number of people: peasants and house-serfs were crowding in the yard. Vladimir heard from a distance extraordinary noises and a hubbub of voices.
Two troikas stood by the barn. On the front steps several strangers in official uniforms seemed to be talking together. 'What does it mean ?' he asked angrily, seeing Anton who was running towards him. 'Who are those people, and what do they want?'
'Ah, Vladimir Andreyevitch, my dear,' the old man answered breathlessly, 'it's the police. They are taking us from you and giving us to Troekurov!'
Vladimir hung his head, his serfs surrounded their luckless master. 'You are our father,' they cried, kissing his hands;
'we don't want any master but you. Give the word, sir, and we'll settle them. We'll stand up for you if we have to die for it.'
Vladimir gazed at them in gloomy agitation. 'Keep quiet,' he said; 'I'll talk to the officers.'
'Do talk to them, sir,' people shouted to him from the crowd; 'bring them to reason, the wretches.'
Vladimir went up to the officials. Shabashkin with his cap on his head stood, arms akimbo, staring haughtily around him. The police-captain, a tall stout man of about fifty, with a red face and a moustache, cleared his throat when he saw Dubrovsky, and said in a hoarse voice:
'And so I repeat what I 've said to you already: by the decision of the district court, from this day you belong to Kiril Petrovitch Troekurov, who is represented here by Mr. Shabashkin. Obey him in all things, whatever he may order you; and you, women, love and honour him, for he is very fond of you.'
The police-captain burst out laughing at this witty joke, and Shabashkin and others followed his example. Vladimir was boiling with indignation. 'Allow me to ask, what does this mean ?' he asked the merry police-captain, with a show of indifference.
'Why, it means this,' the resourceful official answered, 'that we have come to put Kiril Petrovitch Troekurov in possession of this estate, and to ask other people to get out.'
'But you might, I should have thought, communicate with me and not with my peasants—and tell the owner that his estate no longer belonged to him. . . .'
'The former owner, Audrey, son of Gavril Dubrovsky, please God, is dead; and who are you?' said Shabashkin with an insolent stare. 'We don't know you and have no wish to do so.'
'Your honour, that's Vladimir Andreyevitch, our young master,' said a voice in the crowd.
'Who is it dares speak ?' the police-captain said menacingly. 'What master? What Vladimir Andreyevitch? Your master is Kiril Petrovitch Troekurov ... do you hear, you fools?'
'Not likely,' said the same voice.
'Why, they are in revolt!' the police-captain shouted. 'Hey, foreman, come here!'
The foreman came forward.
'Find at once the man who dared to speak to me; I 'II give it him!'
The foreman turned to the crowd, asking who it was had spoken. But every one was silent. Soon there was a murmur among those standing farthest away; it grew louder, and in a minute turned into fearful yells. The policecaptain lowered his voice and thought of persuading them. . . . 'Don't you mind him!' the peasants cried; 'seize them, lads!' and the crowd moved forward. Shabashkin and his companions hastily rushed into the entry and shut the door behind them. 'Push on, lads,' the same voice shouted, and the crowd pressed against the door.
'Stop!' Dubrovsky shouted. 'Idiots! What are you doing? You are ruining both yourselves and me; go home and leave me in peace. Don't be afraid, the Tsar is merciful. I will appeal to him—he '11 not wrong us—we are all his children, but how is he to help you if you behave like brigands?'
Young Dubrovsky's speech, his resounding voice, and impressive appearance had the desired effect. The crowd calmed down and dispersed; the yard grew empty, the officials remained within doors. Vladimir sadly walked up the steps. Shabashkin opened the door and began thanking Dubrovsky for his kind defence, bowing obsequiously.
Vladimir heard him with contempt and made no answer.
'We have decided,' Shabashkin went on, 'to stay the night here, with your permission; it 's already dark and your peasants might attack us on the way. Do be so kind, tell them to spread some hay for us in the drawing-room; we'll go home as soon as it is light.'
'Do what you like,' Dubrovsky answered dryly; 'I am no longer master here.'
With these words he went into his father's room and shut himself in.
'AND so all is over!' Vladimir said to himself. 'Only this morning I liad a home and was provided for; to-morrow I shall have to leave the house where I was born. The ground in which my father is resting will belong to tlie hateful man who caused his death and beggared me!' Vladimir clenched his teeth; his eyes rested on his mother's portrait. She was painted leaning against the banisters, in a white morning dress and a rose in her hair. 'This portrait, too, will fall into our enemy's hands,' Vladimir thought. ' It will be flung into a lumber room together with some broken chairs or hang in the hall for his huntsmen to laugh at and comment upon; and her bedroom, the room where my father died, will be given to his steward or to the women of his harem. No, no! He shall not have this house of sad memories from which he is driving me!' Vladimir clenched his teeth; terrible thoughts arose in his mind. He heard the officials' voices; they had made themselves at home and were asking for this and that, intruding unpleasantly upon his melancholy reflections. At last all was quiet.
Vladimir opened the chests and drawers and started sorting out his father's papers. They consisted for the most part of, accounts and business correspondence. He tore them up without reading them. Among them he found a packet inscribed: 'My wife's letters'. Vladimir began reading them with profound emotion: written during the Turkish campaign, they had been sent from Kistenyovka to the army. She described to her husband her solitary life and household occupations, tenderly complained of the separation, and called him home to the embraces of his devoted wife. In one of the letters she expressed anxiety about little Vladimir's health; in another she pictured a happy and brilliant future for him. He read on, carried away into the world of family happiness, and forgot everything on earth; he did not notice the time passing. The clock on the wall struck eleven. Putting the letters into his pocket, he lighted a candle and came out of the study. The officials were asleep on tlie drawing-room floor. Empty glasses stood on the table and there was a strong smell of rum in the room. Disgusted, Vladimir walked past them into the entry. It was dark there. Seeing a light, someone dashed into a corner. Turning towards him with a candle, Vladimir recognized Arhip the blacksmith.
'What are you doing here ?' he asked in surprise.
'I wanted to ... I came to see if every one was at home,' Arhip said hesitatingly, in a low voice.
'And what is this axe for ?'
'What for? One can't go about without an axe nowadays. Those attorneys are such bullies. They might any moment . . .'
'You are drunk; throw down the axe and go to bed.'
'Drunk? Vladimir Andreyevitch, sir, God is my witness I haven't had a drop ... is it likely, at a time like this? It's unheard of, attorneys taking possession of us, driving our master out of the house. . . . There they snore, the brutes! Make an end of them, and have done.'
'Look here, Arhip, don't you do anything of the kind,' he said after a pause. ' It's not the attorneys' fault. Light the lantern and follow me.'
Taking the candle out of his master's hand, Arhip found a lantern behind the stove and lit it; both went quietly down the steps and walked along the yard. The watchman's rattle sounded; a dog barked.
'Who is on the watch?' Dubrovsky asked.
'We, sir,' a high-pitched voice answered. 'Vasilissa and Lukerya.'
'Go home,' Dubrovsky said; ' there 's no need for you to stay.'
'You 've done enough,' Arhip added.
'Thank you, sir,' the women answered, and went home at once.
Dubrovsky walked on. Two men came up to him; they called him; he recognized Anton's and Grisha's voices.
'Why aren't you asleep?' he asked them.
'How could we sleep?' Anton answered. 'To think we have lived to see this! . . .'
'Hush! Dubrovsky interrupted him. ' Where is Yegorovna ?'
'In the house, in her room upstairs,' Grisha answered.
'Go and fetch her, and bring all our people out of the house so that not a soul is left there except the lawyers; and you, Anton, have a cart ready.'
Grisha went away, and a minute later appeared with his mother. The old woman had not undressed; no one in the house slept that night except the officials.
'Are you all here?' Dubrovsky asked; 'is there no one left in the house?'
'No one except the attorneys,' Grisha answered.
'Give me some hay or straw,' Dubrovsky said.
The men ran to the stables and returned bringing bundles of hay.
'Put it under the steps. That's right. Now give me a light, lads.'
Arhip opened the lantern, Dubrovsky lighted a splinter.
'Wait a minute,' he said to Arhip. 'I believe in my hurry I shut the door into the entry; run along and open it quick.'
Arhip ran into the entry—the inner door was open. Arhip locked it, muttering to himself: 'Open it, indeed! Not likely!' and returned to Dubrovsky.
Dubrovsky thrust the lighted splinter into the hay; it caught fire and the leaping flames lit the whole courtyard.
'Dear me!' Yegorovna cried pitifully. ' Vladimir Andreyevitch ! what are you doing!'
'Be quiet!' Dubrovsky said. 'Well, children, good-bye! I go where God may lead me; be happy with your new owner.'
'Dear master, you are our father,' the men cried. 'We 'd rather die than leave you! We'll go with you.'
The horses were ready. Dubrovsky and Grisha stepped into the cart; Anton struck the horses and they drove out of the yard.
In a minute the whole house was in flames. The door cracked and gave way; burning beams began to fall; a red smoke rose above the roof; a pitiful scream and cries of 'Help! help!' were heard.
'Not likely,' said Arhip, watching the fire with a malignant smile.
'Arhip dear, save them, the brutes,' Yegorovna said to him; 'God will reward you.'
'Not I,' the blacksmith answered. At that moment the officials appeared at the windows, trying to break the double window-frames. But the roof crashed down—and the screams stopped.
Soon all the house-serfs rushed out into the yard. The women wailed, hastening to save their belongings; the children skipped about admiring the fire. The sparks flew in a fiery whirl; the cottages caught fire.
'Now all is as it should be,' said Arhip; 'it burns well, eh? I expect it looks fine from Pokrovskoe.' At that moment something new attracted his attention: a cat was running about on the roof of the burning bam, not knowing where to jump. Flames were on all sides of it. The poor animal mewed pitifully for help; the little boys screamed with laughter, watching its despair.
'What are you laughing at, you little imps ?' the blacksmith said to them angrily. 'You have no fear of God: God's creature is perishing, and you are glad, you sillies!'—and putting a ladder against the burning roof, he climbed up to save the cat. It understood his intention, and with evident gratitude hastily caught at his sleeve. The blacksmith, half scorched, descended with his burden. 'Well, lads, good-bye,' he said to the crowd, which was somewhat abashed, 'there 's nothing for me to do here. Good luck to you; don't remember evil against me.'
The blacksmith went away. The fire raged for some time, but subsided at last. Heaps of red-hot embers glowed brightly in the darkness, and the burnt-out inhabitants of Kistenyovka wandered among them.
THE next day the news of the fire spread throughout the neighbourhood. Every one talked of it, making various guesses and surmises. Some said that Dubrovsky's servants, getting drunk at the funeral, set the house on fire through carelessness, others accused the officials, who had had a drop too much in their new home. Some guessed the truth, asserting that Dubrovsky himself, moved by anger and despair, was the cause of the dreadful event; many were certain that he and his servants were burnt also. Troekurov came to the place of the fire the following day, and himself conducted the inquiry. It appeared that the police-captain, the assessor of the district court, and the two clerks, as well as Vladimir Dubrovsky, his nurse Yegorovna, his valet Gregory, the coachman Anton, and the blacksmith Arhip, had disappeared no one knew where. All the servants certified that the officials were burnt when the roof fell on them; their charred bones were found. The women Vasilissa and Lukerya said that they had seen Dubrovsky and Arhip tlie blacksmith a few minutes before the fire. The blacksmith, according to the general testimony, was still alive, and was probably the chief, if not the only person responsible for the fire. Grave suspicions rested on Dubrovsky. Kiril Petrovitch sent the Governor a detailed description of the events, and again appealed to the law.
Soon there were fresh events to give food to gossip and curiosity. Brigands appeared, spreading terror throughout the neighbourhood. Measures taken against them by the district authorities proved to be insufficient. Robberies, each more daring than the last, followed in rapid succession. There was no safety either in the villages or on the high road. Brigands drove about in broad daylight in troikas all over the province, stopping travellers and the post, coming into villages, robbing the landowners' houses, and setting them on fire. Their chieftain was renowned for his intelligence, courage, and a kind of generosity. People told marvels about him. Dubrovsky's name was on every tongue: all were convinced that he and no other was the leader of the daring villains. The only wonder was that Troekurov's estates had been spared: the robbers had not broken into a single bam, or stopped a single cart belonging to him. With tlis usual arrogance Troekurov ascribed this chiefly to the fear which he inspired throughout the province, and also to the excellent police he kept in his villages. At first Troekurov's neighbours laughed at his conceit, and expected the uninvited guests to visit Pokrovskoe, where there was plenty for them to loot; but at last they had to agree with him and admit that even robbers treated him with inexplicable respect. Troekurov was triumphant, and at the news of every fresh robbery indulged in reflections upon the Governor, police-captains, and company commanders from whom Dubrovsky always managed to escape unhurt.
Meanwhile, the first of October, the dedication feast of Troekurov's church, was drawing near. But before going on to describe the events that followed, we must introduce the reader to characters that are new to him, or at any rate that have only been briefly mentioned at the beginning of our story.
THE reader has probably already guessed that Kiril Petrovitch's daughter, of whom so far only a few words have been said, is the heroine of our story. At the period we are describing she was seventeen, and her beauty was in full bloom. Her father loved her excessively, but treated her in his usual arbitrary way, sometimes trying to satisfy her smallest whim, and sometimes frightening her by stern and even cruel treatment. Convinced-of her affection, he could never win her confidence; she was used to concealing from him her thoughts and feelings, for she could never be certain of how he would respond to them. She had no friends, and had grown up in solitude. Their neighbours' wives and daughters seldom visited Kiril Petrovitch, whose amusements and conversation usually called for the company of men rather than ladies. Our young beauty seldom appeared among the guests feasting at Kiril Petrovitch's. The huge library, consisting for the most part of the works of the French writers of the eighteenth century, was put at her disposal. Her father, who never read anything except the Perfect Cook, could not direct her choice of books, and, having looked through all kinds of works, Masha naturally selected the novels. She was thus completing her education that had begun under the guidance of Mademoiselle Mimi. Kiril Petrovitch had had great confidence in that lady, and had shown her much goodwill; he was obliged at tast to send her in secret to another estate when the consequences of their friendship had become too apparent. Mademoiselle Mimi left a rather pleasant memory behind her. She was a kindhearted girl, and never made a bad use of her influence on Kiril Petrovitch; she differed in that from the other favourites who were constantly superseding one another in his affections. Kiril Petrovitch, too, seemed to be more fond of her than of the others; a black-eyed, lively little boy of about nine, whose face recalled Mademoiselle Mimi's southern features, was being brought up in his house as his son, in spite of the fact that a number of little boys who were the image of Kiril Petrovitch ran about barefoot before his windows, and were regarded as house-serfs. Kiril Petrovitch sent to Moscow tor a French tutor for his little Sasha; the tutor arrived at Pokrovskoe during the events we are describing now.
Kiril Petrovitch liked his pleasant appearance and simple manner. He showed Kiril Petrovitch his certificates and a letter from a relative of Troekurov's in whose house he had been tutor for four years. Kiril Petrovitch looked through it all, and the only tiling that displeased him was the Frenchman's youth—not because he thought this amiable defect to be incompatible with patience and experience, so necessary in the wretched calling of a tutor, but for reasons of his own which he decided to put before the young man at once. He sent for Masha (Kiril Petrovitch did not speak French, and she acted as interpreter for him).
'Come here, Masha. Tell this mossoo that, so be it, I'll engage him, only he mustn't dare make love to my maids or I'll give it him, the puppy! . . . translate it to him, Masha.' Masha blushed, and turning to the teacher, said to him in French that her father trusted to his modesty and good behaviour.
The Frenchman bowed, and said that he hoped to deserve their respect even if they refused him their favour. Masha translated his answer word for word.
'Very well, very well!' Kiril Petrovitch said. 'He needn't trouble about either respect or favour. His business is to look after Sasha and to teach him grammar and geography . . translate it to him.'
Masha softened her father's rude expressions in her translation, and Kiril Petrovitch dismissed his Frenchman to the lodge, where a room had been allotted to him.
Masha, brought up in aristocratic prejudices, did not pay the slightest attention to the young Frenchman; a tutor was to her mind a kind of servant or artisan, and a servant or an artisan was not a man in her eyes. She failed to observe the impression she had produced on M. Deforge — his confusion, his agitation, the change in his voice. For a few days in succession she met him fairly often without taking particular notice of him. An unexpected incident gave her quite a new idea of him.
Several bear cubs were generally kept in Kiril Petrovitch's courtyard, providing him with one of his chief amusements. In their early youth the cubs were brought every day to the drawing-room, where Kiril Petrovitch played with them for hours, making tliem fight cats and puppies. When they grew up they were put on a chain in expectation of a real fight. Sometimes a bear was brought before the manorhouse windows, and an empty wine-barrel studded with nails was rolled towards it; the bear sniffed it, then gently touched it, pricked his paws and, getting angry, pushed it more violently—and the pain grew more violent too. Driven to absolute fury, it rushed at the barrel with a roar, until the object of the poor beast's vain fury was taken away from it. Sometimes a couple of bears were harnessed to a cart, visitors—willing and unwilling—were put into it and sent off at a gallop whither chance would take them. But the joke Kiril Petrovitch loved best was as follows.
A hungry bear used to be locked up in an empty room, tied by a rope to a ring in the wall. The rope was almost the length of the room, so that only the opposite cornel was safe from the terrible beast's attack. An unsuspecting person was brought to the door of the room and, as if by accident, pushed into it; the door was locked, and the luckless victim was left alone with the shaggy hermit. The poor visitor, with the skirts of his coat torn off and a scratch on his arm, soon discovered the safe corner, but had to stand sometimes for three hours on end, squeezing himself against the wall while the fierce beast, two steps away from him, jumped, reared itself on its hind legs, and growled, striving to reach him. Such were the noble amusements of a Russian country gentleman! A few days after the tutor's arrival Troekurov thought of him and decided to give him a treat in the bear's room. Sending for him one morning, he led him along some dark passages; suddenly a side door opened, and two servants pushed the Frenchman through it, locking it after him. Recovering from his surprise, the tutor saw a bear tied to the wall; the brute began to snort, sniffing his visitor from a distance, and suddenly rearing on its hind legs went straight for him. . . . The Frenchman was not scared, did not run, but waited for the attack. The bear drew near; Deforge took a small pistol out of his pocket and, thrusting it into the ravening beast's ear, let it off. The bear fell. Every one ran up, the door was opened, and Kiril Petrovitch came in, surprised at the result of his joke.
Kiril Petrovitch was determined to get to the bottom of it. Who had warned Deforge about the practical joke that was to be played on him, and why did he carry a loaded pistol in his pocket? He sent for Masha. Masha came running and translated to the Frenchman her father's questions.
'I hadn't heard of the bear,' Deforge answered; 'but I always carry a pistol, for I don't intend to put up with insults for which, in my calling, I cannot demand satisfaction.'
Masha looked at him in amazement and translated his words to Kiril Petrovitch. Kiril Petrovitch made no answer, and gave orders for the bear to be carried out and skinned; then turning to his men he said: 'That 's a fine fellow! He wasn't scared, upon my word he wasn't!' From that time he took a fancy to Deforge and never again thought of putting him to the test.
But the incident produced a still greater impression upon Marya Kirilovna. Her imagination was struck by the sight of the dead bear and of Deforge calmly standing beside its body and calmly talking to her. She saw that courage and a proud sense of personal dignity are not the exclusive privilege of one class, and from that day began treating the tutor with a consideration that grew more and more marked as time went on. They were brought into closer relations. Masha had a lovely voice and was very musical; Deforge volunteered to give her lessons. After this, the reader will not find it difficult to guess that Masha fell in love with him without being aware of it.
VISITORS began to arrive on the eve of the festival; some stayed at the manor-house and the lodges, others put up at the bailiff's, at the priest's, and at the richer peasants'; the stables were full of the visitors' horses, the coach-houses and barns were blocked up with carriages of all sorts. At nine o'clock the bells began to ring for Mass, and all set out towards the new brick church that Kiril Petrovitch had built, adding something every year to its decoration. Such a number of gentry had come to Mass that there was no room for the peasants and they had to stand in the porch and outside. Mass had not begun: the priest was waiting for Kiril Petrovitch. He arrived in a carriage drawn by six horses and solemnly walked to his place accompanied by Marya Kiriluvna. The eyes of both men and women were turned on her: the first were admiring her beauty, the second scrutinizing her dress. Mass began; a home-trained choir was singing. Kiril Petrovitch, absorbed in prayer and looking neither to the right nor to the left, joined in the singing, and bowed down with proud humility when the deacon prayed in the litany 'for the builder of this temple'.
The Mass was over. Kiril Petrovitch went first to kiss the cross (At the end of Mass the congregation go up to kiss the crucifix which the priest holds in his hand.—TRANSLATOR'S Note); every one followed him; the neighbours came up to him to pay their respects, the ladies surrounded Masha. As he was leaving the church, Kiril Petrovitch invited every one to dinner, and stepping into his carriage drove home. They all followed him.
The rooms were filled with guests; every minute new visitors appeared, and could hardly make their way to their host. The ladies, in pearls and diamonds and old-fashioned costly dresses that had seen better days, sat sedately in a semicircle; the men crowded round the vodka and the caviare, talking loudly to one another. In the dining-hall the table was being set for eighty; the servants bustled about placing bottles and decanters and arranging the table-cloths. At last the butler announced that dinner was ready; Kiril Petrovitch led the way to the table and took his seat; the married ladies followed him and sat down with dignity, observing a certain seniority; the young ladies clung together like a flock of timid gazelles and chose their places next to one another; the men settled opposite; the tutor sat at the end of the table next to little Sasha.
The servants served the guests according to their rank; in cases of uncertainty they acted on Lavater's principles and hardly ever made a mistake. The clatter of plates and jingle of spoons mingled with the noise of conversation. Kiril Petrovitch looked gaily round the table, fully enjoying the part of the hospitable host. At that moment a carriage drawn by six horses drove into the yard. 'Who is that?' Troekurov asked. 'Anton Pafnutyevitch,' several people answered. The doors were opened and Anton Pafnutyevitch Spitsyn, a stout man of about fifty with a round, pock-marked face adorned by a triple chin, came into the dining-room, bowing, smiling, and apologetic.
'Put another cover here!' Kiril Petrovitch called. 'You are welcome, Anton Pafnutyevitch! Sit down and tell us what it means you weren't at my Mass and are late for dinner? It isn't, like you: you are a pious man and you like good fare.'
'I am sorry,' Anton Pafnutyevitch answered, tying a napkin to the buttonhole of his pea-coloured coat, 'I am sorry, Kiril Petrovitch, sir; I left home early this morning, but before I had gone seven miles the tyre of the front wheel broke in two—so what was I to do? Fortunately we weren't far from a village, but by the time we had crawled there and found a blacksmith, and patched up the tyre somehow, three hours had gone—there was nothing for it. I did not venture to go the nearest way, across the Kistenyovka forest, but drove round it.'
'Aha!' Kiril Petrovitch interrupted him, 'you are not over brave, I see. What are you afraid of?'
'What am I afraid of, Kiril Petrovitch, sir? Why, of Dubrovsky: I might fall into his hands any day. He knows what he is about, and no one is safe with him; and me he would fleece doubly.'
'Why should he show you such preference, brother?'
'Why, sir, because of his father, Andrey Gavrilovitch, to be sure. Don't you remember it was I who for your pleasure —that is, in all justice and conscience—testified that the Dubrovskys had no right to Kistenyovka, but owned it solely through your kindness ? The dead man, God rest his soul, promised to pay me out, and the son may keep his father's word, perhaps. So far God has spared me. They 've only broken into a barn of mine, but they may get at the house any day.'
'And they'll have a fine time of it in the house,' Kiril Petrovitch remarked. ' I expect the red cash-box is cram-full.
'Indeed it isn't, Kiril Petrovitch, sir! It was full once, but now it's quite empty.'
'Don't you tell lies, Anton Pafnutyevitch. I know you. You are not one for spending. You live like a pig, you never entertain, and you fleece yor peasants—so you are saving all the time.'
'You are pleased to joke, Kiril Petrovitch,' Anton Pafnutyevitch muttered with a smile, 'but we are ruined, we really are'—and he took a piece of rich pie to take away the taste of his host's gentlemanly joke.
Kiril Petrovitch left him in peace and turned to the new police-captain, who had come to his house for the first time and was sitting at the other end of the table next to the tutor.
'Well, Mr. Police-captain, will you be long catching Dubrovsky?'
The police-captain, all in a flutter, bowed, smiled, and brought out, stammering: 'We'll do our best, your Excellency'.
'Hm! Do your best! You have long been doing your best, but it doesn't come to anything. And, indeed, why should you catch him ? Dubrovsky's robberies are a perfect godsend to police-captains: you have to go about, conduct inquiries, have travelling expenses—and the money is in your pocket. How could you make an end of your benefactor? Isn't that true, sir?'
'Perfectly true, your Excellency,' the police-captain answered in utter confusion.
The visitors laughed.
'I like this young man's candour!' Kiril Petrovitch said. 'I see I shall have to tackle the business myself without waiting for help from the police. But I regret the loss of our old police-captain, Taras Alexeyevitch: if they hadn't burnt him there would have been less trouble about in the district. And what news of Dubrovsky? Where was he seen last?'
'At my house, Kiril Petrovitch,' a deep feminine voice replied. 'He had dinner with me last Tuesday.'
All eyes were turned on Anna Savvishna Globov, a widow, rather a homely person, loved by every one for her kind and cheerful disposition. All prepared to listen to her story with interest.
'I must tell you that three weeks ago I sent my bailiff to the post with a letter for my Vanyusha. I don't spoil my son, and indeed haven't the means to do so even if I wanted to, but of course an officer in the Guards has to keep up appearances, and I share my income with Vanyusha as best I can. So I sent him two thousand roubles; I did think of Dubrovsky more than once, but I thought it's only five miles to the town, and we might just do it, God willing. And behold, in the evening my bailiff comes home on foot, pale, and his clothes torn! I simply gasped. "What's the matter? What has happened to you?" And he said:
"Anna Savvishna dear, highwaymen robbed me and very nearly killed me, too. Dubrovsky himself was there and wanted to hang me, but took pity and let me go; but he robbed me of all I had and took the horse and the cart." I was simply overwhelmed. King of Heaven, what will become of my Vanyusha! There was nothing for it; I wrote another letter to him, told him the wliole story, and sent him my blessing without enclosing a penny.
'A week or two passed. Suddenly a carriage drove up to my house. A general I did not know asked to see me; I said he was welcome. A dark-haired, dark-skinned man with a moustache and beard, a regular portrait of Kulnev, came in. He introduced himself as my husband's friend and colleague, and said that he was passing by and could not resist calling on his comrade's widow, knowing that I lived here. I offered him what food I had in the house, we talked of this and of that and, finally, of Dubrovsky. I told him of my trouble. The general frowned. "That's strange," he said; "I have heard that Dubrovsky doesn't attack every one, but only those who are known to be rich, and even then he doesn't rob them completely, but leaves them half their money. And no one has accused him of murder yet; I wonder if there 's some trickery about it. Send for your bailiff, please." They went to fetch the bailiff. He came. When he saw the general he was dumbfounded. " Tell me, brother, how it was Dubrovsky robbed you and wanted to hang you?" My bailiff trembled and fell at the general's feet. "I 'm sorry, sir, I did wrong ... I told a lie." "If so," the general answered, " tell your mistress what happened and I'll listen." The bailiff tried in vain to collect his wits. "Well," the general went on, "tell her, where did you meet Dubrovsky?" "By the two pine-trees, sir, by the two pinetrees." "And what did he say to you?" "He asked me whose servant I was, where I was going, and on what errand." "Well, and then?" "And then he asked me for the letter and the money, and I gave him both." "And he?" "And he ... sir, I am sorry!" "Well, what did he do?" "He returned me the money and the letter, and said ' Go in peace, take it to the post.'" "Well?" "I am sorry, sir!" "I'll settle you, my man," tlie general said menacingly. "And you, madam, have that rascal's box searched and give him to me, I'll teach him a lesson. Let me tell you that Dubrovsky has himself been an officer in the Guards and he wouldn't take advantage of a comrade." I guessed who his Excellency was: it was no use my arguing with him. The coachmen tied the bailiff to the box of his carriage. The money was found; the general had dinner with me, and went off immediately after, taking the bailiff with him. The bailiff was found next day in the forest tied to an oak-tree and stripped.'
All listened to Anna Savvishna's story in silence, the young ladies in particular. Many of them secretly sympathized with Dubrovsky, seeing a romantic hero in him, especially Marya Kirilovna, an ardent dreamer, nourished on the mysterious horrors of Mrs. Radcliffe.
'And you think, Anna Savvishna, it was Dubrovsky himself came to see you?' Kiril Petrovitch asked. 'You are very much mistaken. I don't know who your visitor was, but he was certainly not Dubrovsky.'
'How do you mean, not Dubrovsky? Who else would come out on the high road to stop and search passers-by?'
'I can't tell that, but it was not Dubrovsky. I remember him as a child; I don't know if his hair has turned dark— as a boy he had a head of fair, curly hair; but I do know for certain that Dubrovsky is five years older than my Masha, and that means he is not thirty-five but three-and-twenty.'
'Quite so, your Excellency,' the police-captain declared. 'I have in my pocket a description of Vladimir Dubrovsky. It says in it definitely that he is twenty-three.'
'Oh!' Kiril Petrovitch said; 'by the way, read it to us; we'll listen. It's not a bad thing for us to know what he's like: we may come across him, and then he won't escape.'
The police-captain took out of his pocket a rather dirty piece of paper, solemnly unfolded it, and read in a sing-song voice:
'The description of Vladimir Dubrovsky, made from the testimony of his former serfs.
'Age twenty-three, of medium height, a clear skin, no beard, hazel eyes, brown hair, a straight nose. As to special marks, he has none.'
'So that's all!' Kiril Petrovitch said.
'That's all,' the police-captain answered, folding the paper.
'I congratulate you, sir! That's a fine document! You'll have no difficulty in discovering Dubrovsky from this description! As though most people weren't of medium height and hadn't brown hair, hazel eyes, and a straight nose! I bet anything you might be talking for three hours to Dubrovsky himself and not guess who he was. A clever lot you officials are, I must say!'
Humbly putting the document in his pocket, the policecaptain tackled in silence the roast goose and cabbage. Meanwhile the servants had gone round the table more than once filling the guests' wine-glasses. Several bottles of Caucasian and Crimean wine were opened with a loud report and favourably received under the name of champagne; cheeks began to glow, conversation grew louder, gayer, and more inconsequent.
'No,'Kiril Petrovitch went on,'we shall never see another police-captain like Taras Alexeyevitch! He was no woolgatherer, he knew what he was about. It's a pity he was burned, or not a single man of their band would have escaped him. He would have caught every one of them, and Dubrovsky himself couldn't have dodged him. Taras Alexeyevitch would have taken a bribe from him right enough, but wouldn't have let him off all the same. That was his way. There 's nothing for it, it seems I'll have to see to it myself and go for the brigands with my men. To begin with, I'll send a score of them to clear the robbers" wood; they are no cowards, each of them tackles a bear single-handed, and is not likely to turn tail at the sight of brigands.'
'Is your bear well, Kiril Petrovitch?' asked Anton Pafnutyevitch, recalling at these words his shaggy acquaintance, and certain practical jokes of which he had once been victim.
'Misha has departed this life,' answered Kiril Petrovitch; 'he died an honourable death at the hand of an enemy.
There is his victor!' Kiril Petrovitch pointed to Deforge 'Get yourself an ikon of my Frenchman's patron saint. He has avenged your ... if I may say so ... do you remember?'
'I should think I did!' Anton Pafnutyevitch replied, scratching his head. 'Very much so! So Misha is dead— I am sorry to hear it, I really am! Such an amusing creature he was! So clever! You wouldn't find another like him. But why did mossoo kill him?'
Kiril Petrovitch began telling of his Frenchman's exploit with the greatest pleasure, for he had a happy faculty of priding himself on all that in any sense belonged to him. His guests listened attentively to the story of the bear's death, glancing in amazement at Deforge, who calmly sat in his place, occasionally admonishing his lively pupil, and utterly unaware of the fact that his courage was the subject of the conversation.
The dinner, which had lasted about three hours, came to an end; the host put his napkin on the table, every one got up and went to the drawing-room, where coffee and cards were awaiting them, and the drinking, so well begun at dinner, was to continue.
ABOUT seven o'clock in the evening some of the guests thought of going home, but Kiril Petrovitch, exhilarated by punch, gave orders to lock the gates, and declared that he would allow no one to go till the morning. Soon the loud strains of a band were heard, the doors into the big hall were thrown open, and dancing began. Troekurov and his cronies sat in a corner drinking glass after glass, watching the young people enjoy themselves. The old ladies were playing cards. There was a shortage of men, as generally happens unless some cavalry brigade is quartered in the neighbourhood; all the men who could dance were recruited for the job. The tutor shone among them; he danced more than any one; all the young ladies chose him by preference and said that he was very easy to waltz with. Several times he danced with Marya Kirilovna, and the young ladies watched them ironically. At last, about midnight, Troekurov felt tired and, stopping the dancing, gave orders for supper to be served while he went to bed.
In Kiril Petrovitch's absence the company felt more lively and at ease; gentlemen ventured to take places next to the ladies; the girls laughed and whispered with their neighbours; the ladies talked loudly across the table. The men drank, argued, and laughed; in short, the supper was extremely pleasant and left many pleasant memories.
One man only took no part in the general enjoyment. Anton Pafnutyevitch sat there gloomy and silent, ate absent-mindedly, and seemed very ill at ease. The conversation about the robbers disturbed his imagination. We shall soon see that he had a good reason to fear them.
In calling God to witness that the red cash-box was empty Anton Pafnutyevitch committed no sin and told no lie; the red cash-box really was empty: the money that had once been kept in it had been transferred to a leather bag which lie wore round his neck under his shirt. It was only this precaution that appeased to some extent his continual fear and distrust of every one. Compelled to spend the night in a strange house, he was afraid of being put into some distant room which thieves could enter easily; he looked round for a reliable companion and at last selected Deforge. His strong build and, still more, his courage in tackling the bear, whom poor Anton Pafnutyevitch could not recall without a shudder, decided his choice. When they got up from the table Anton Pafnutyevitch kept close to the young Frenchman, and after some preliminary coughing and clearing his throat, addressed him directly.
'Hm, hm! May I spend the night in your room, mossoo, because, you see . . .'
'Que desire monsieur?' asked Deforge with a courteous bow. 'What a nuisance you haven't learnt Russian yet, mossoo ( Je veux, moi, chez vous coucher, do you understand?'
'Monsieur, tres volontiers,' Deforge answered; 'veuillez donner des ordres en consequence.'
Very much pleased with his knowledge of the French language, Anton Pafnutyevitch went at once to make the necessary arrangements.
The guests wished each other good night, and each retired to the room appointed to him; Anton Pafnutyevitch went with the tutor to the lodge. The night was dark. The tutor lighted the way with a lantern; Anton Pafnutyevitch followed with a fair amount of confidence, occasionally touching the bag concealed in his bosom to make sure that the money was still in his possession.
When they had come to the lodge, the tutor lit a candle and they both began to undress; meanwhile Anton Pafnutyevitch walked about the room examining the doors and the windows, and shaking his head at the unsatisfactory state of things. The doors had no lock, but only a latch, and there were no double frames to the windows. He tried to complain of this to Deforge, but his knowledge of French was too limited for so complicated an explanation. The Frenchman failed to understand him, and Anton Pafnutyevitch had to desist from complaining. Their beds were opposite each other; both lay down, and the Frenchman blew out the candle.
'Pourquoi vous blowez, pourquoi vous blowez?' cried Anton Pafnutyevitch struggling to conjugate the verb 'to blow' in the French manner. 'I cannot dormir in the dark.'
Apparently not understanding his exclamation, Deforge wished him good night.
'The wretched infidel!' Spitsyn grumbled, wrapping himself up in the blanket. 'The idea of his blowing out the candle! So much the worse for him, though. I cannot sleep without a light. Mossoo! Mossoo!' he went on, 'je veux avec vous parler'.
But the Frenchman made no answer, and soon began to snore.
"He is snoring, the brute,' Anton Pafnutyevitch thought; 'but there 's not much chance of sleep for me: the thieves may come in any moment at the open door or climb in at the window; a cannon wouldn't wake that brute. Mossoo! Mossoo!—the devil take you!'
Anton Pafnutyevitch grew silent; weariness and the wine he had drunk gradually overcame his fears; he began to doze, and soon sank into a profound sleep.
A strange awakening was in store for him. He felt through his sleep that someone was tugging gently at his shirt collar. Anton Pafnutyevitch opened his eyes, and in the pale light of the autumn morning saw Deforge. The Frenchman held a pistol in one hand, and with the other was unfastening the precious bag. Anton Pafnutyevitch turned cold with terror. 'Qu'est-ce que c'est, mossoo, qu'est-ce que c'est?' he brought out in a shaking voice.
'Hush! Be quiet!' the tutor answered in pure Russian. 'Be quiet or you are lost. I am Dubrovsky.'
Now we will ask the reader's permission to explain the last incidents of our story by referring to circumstances which we have not yet had time to relate.
In the house of the station-master, whom we have mentioned once before, a traveller sat in a corner with a mild and patient air that showed him to be a man of humble origin, or a foreigner—that is, a man who had no rights at posting stations. His trap stood in the courtyard waiting to be oiled. It contained a small suit-case—its meagre dimensions a proof of his lack of means. The traveller ordered neither tea nor coffee, and kept looking out of the window and whistling, to the great annoyance of the stationmaster's wife who sat behind the partition.
'A regular infliction, that whistler!' she said in an undertone. ' The way he goes on! Plague take him, the cursed infidel!'
'Why ?' the station-master asked. 'What does it matter? Let him whistle.'
'What does it matter?' his wife retorted angrily; 'don't you know the saying ?'
'What saying? That whistling drives money away? Nonsense, Pahomovna! Whistling makes no difference to us—we never have any money anyway.'
'Do let him go, Sidoritch. What's the good of keeping him here? Give him the horses and let him go to the devil.'
'He can wait, Pahomovna; there are only three troikas in readiness, the fourth one is resting. Good travellers may turn up any minute: I don't want to answer for the Frenchman with my own back. Hush! I thought so! There 's somebody driving here! Aha! and how fast! I wonder if it's some general ?'
A carriage drove up to the front steps. The servant jumped off the box, opened the carriage door, and a minute later a young man in a military cloak and a white cap came into the station-master's house; the servant followed, carrying a box which he put in the window.
'Horses!' the officer said peremptorily.
'Yes, sir,' the station-master answered. 'May I have your pass?'
'I haven't one. I am going off the main track. . . . Don't you know me ?'
The station-master, all in a flurry, dashed out of the room to hurry the drivers. The young man paced up and down the room and, going behind the partition, quietly asked the station-master's wife who the other traveller was.
'Heaven only knows,' she answered. 'Some Frenchman; he 's been waiting for the horses and whistling for the last five hours. I am dead sick of him, curse him!'
The young man spoke to the traveller in French.
'Where are you going ?' he asked him.
'To the nearest town,' the Frenchman answered, 'and from there to a landowner in the district who has engaged me by letter as tutor. I thought I would be there to-day, but Mr. Station-master seems to have decided otherwise. In this country it isn't easy to get horses, Mr. Officer.'
'And which of the local landowners has engaged you?' the officer asked.
'Mr.Troekurov,' the Frenchman answered.
'Troekurov ? Who is this Troekurov ?'
'Ma foi, monsieur, I haven't heard much good about him. They say he is a proud, headstrong man, cruel to his dependants; nobody can get on with him, and all tremble at his very name; he does not stand on ceremony with tutors, and has already flogged two of them to death.'
'Good heavens! And you venture to enter the service of such a monster ?'
'But what am I to do, Mr. Officer? He offers me a good salary, three thousand roubles a year and all found. I may be luckier than the others. I have a mother who is no longer young: I'll send her half my salary for her keep, and with the remainder I can save up in five years a small capital — enough to secure my independence—and then bon soir, I go to Paris and start a business of my own.'
'Does any one in Troekurov's house know you?' the officer asked.
'No one,' answered the tutor; 'he heard of me through a friend of his in Moscow, whose cook, my fellow-countryman, recommended me. I must tell you that I have been trained as a pastry-cook and not as a teacher, but I was told that in your country being a teacher is far more profitable.'
Tlie officer pondered. 'Look here,' he said, interrupting the Frenchman. 'What if you were offered ten thousand roubles in cash on condition that you went back to Paris at once?'
The Frenchman looked at the officer in surprise, and shook his head with a smile.
'The horses are ready,' the station-master said, coming in. The servant confirmed his words.
'I'm coming,' the officer answered. 'Leave the room for a minute.' The station-master and the servant went out.
'I am not joking,' he went on in French. 'I can give you 10,000 roubles; all I want is your absence and your papers.'
With these words he opened the box and took out several bundles of notes.
The Frenchman stared at him. He did not know what to think.
'My absence . . . my papers . . .' he repeated in surprise. 'Here they are, but surely you are joking? What do you want with my papers ?'
'That's nothing to do with you. I ask you, do you agree or not?'
Not believing his own ears, the Frenchman handed his papers to the young officer, who quickly looked them over.
'Your passport . . . good; a letter of introduction . . . let's look at it; your birth certificate . . . excellent. Well, here is your money, go back. Good-bye.'
The Frenchman was dumbfounded. The officer turned to him once more.
'I nearly forgot the most important part of it: give me your word of honour that it will all remain between ourselves . . . your word of honour.'
'Yes, certainly,' the Frenchman answered. 'But my papers? What shall I do without them?'
'Say in the first town you come to that you have been robbed by Dubrovsky. They'll believe you and give you the necessary certificate. Good-bye; I hope you will soon be in Paris and find your mother in good health.'
Dubrovsky left the room and, stepping into the carriage, drove off at a gallop.
The station-master was looking out of the window, and when the carriage had gone he turned to his wife and said:
'Pahomovna! do you know what? That was Dubrovsky.'
His wife rushed headlong to the window, but it was too late: Dubrovsky was far away. She began scolding her husband:
'You have no fear of God, Sidoritch! Why didn't you tell me before? I might have had a look at Dubrovsky, and now Heaven only knows when he'll call here again. You have no conscience, that's a fact!'
The Frenchman stood as though rooted to the spot. The money, the pact with the officer — it all seemed to him a dream. But the bundles of notes were there, in his pocket, eloquently confirming the reality of the wonderful event.
He decided to hire horses to take him to the town. The driver went at a snail's pace, and it was night when they arrived.
Before they reached the town-gates, where instead of a sentry there was a tumbledown sentry-box, the Frenchman told the driver to stop. Stepping out of the trap he walked away, explaining to the driver by signs that he gave him the trap and the suit-case by way of a tip. The driver was as much surprised by his generosity as the Frenchman himself had been by Dubrovsky's offer. But concluding that the foreign gentleman had gone mad, the driver thanked him with a deep bow and thought it wiser not to go into the town. He drove to a certain place of amusement, the owner of which was a friend of his, and spent the whole night there, going home the following morning with his three horses but no trap and no suit-case, his face swollen and his eyes red.
Having gained possession of the Frenchman's papers, Dubrovsky, as we have seen already, boldly appeared before Troekurov and settled at his house. Whatever his secret intentions may have been (we shall learn about them later), there was nothing reprehensible in his conduct. True, he did not occupy himself much with little Sasha's education; he let the boy do what he liked in his spare time and was not very strict about lessons, which were set to the child merely as a matter of form. On the other hand, however, he followed with much attention Marya Kirilovna's progress in music and often spent hours with her at the piano. Every one liked the young tutor: Kiril Petrovitch for his courage and quickness in the hunting field, Marya Kirilovna for his boundless devotion and deferential attentiveness, Sasha for his leniency, the servants for his kindness and a generosity which seemed out of keeping with his position. He appeared to be fond of the whole family and regarded himself as a member of it.
Nearly a month had passed between the time that he became a tutor and the memorable festival, and no one suspected that the modest young Frenchman was the terrible brigand whose name inspired all the neighbouring landowners with terror. During all tliat time Dubrovsky had not left Pokrovskoe, but rumours of his robberies never ceased to spread, thanks to the country people's fertile imagination; indeed, his confederates may have gone on with their exploits in their chieftain's absence.
Spending the night in the same room with a man whom he could rightly regard as a personal enemy, largely responsible for his misfortune, Dubrovsky could not resist the temptation. He knew of the precious wallet and decided to gain possession of it. We have seen how greatly he surprised poor Anton Pafnutyevitch by his sudden transformation from a tutor into a brigand.
AT nine o'clock in the morning the visitors who had spent the night at Pokrovskoe gathered, one after another, in the drawing-room, where a samovar was already boiling. Marya Kirilovna in a morning gown was sitting before it, and Kiril Petrovitch in a blanket-cloth coat and slippers was drinking tea out of his big cup that looked like a slop-basin. Anton Pafnutyevitch was the last to come in; he looked so pale and distressed that every one was struck by his appearance, and Kiril Petrovitch inquired about his health. Spitsyn answered quite at random, glancing with terror at the tutor, who sat at the table with the others, perfectly unconcerned. A few minutes later a servant came in and told Spitsyn that his carriage was ready. Anton Pafnutyevitch hastily left the room and drove away at once. Troekurov and the visitors could not think what had happened to him; Kiril Petrovitch decided that he had overeaten himself. After the morning tea and a farewell lunch the other visitors left also; soon Pokrovskoe was quiet again and everything went on as usual.
Several days passed and nothing worthy of note happened. Life at Pokrovskoe was uneventful. Kiril Petrovitch rode out hunting every day; reading, walks, and music lessons occupied Marya Kirilovna's time—especially music lessons. She was beginning to understand her own heart, and confessed to herself with vexation that it was not indifferent to the young Frenchman's fine qualities. For his part he never transgressed the bounds of respect and strict decorum, and this soothed her pride and timid doubts. She gave herself up more and more trustfully to the pleasant habit of being with him. She felt dull without him, and, when he was with her, turned to him every minute, wanting to know his opinion on every subject and agreeing with him in everything. Perhaps she was not in love as yet; but at the first obstacle or misfortune that fate might throw in her way the flame of passion was bound to flare up in her heart.
Coming one day into the drawing-room where the tutor was waiting for her, Marya Kirilovna observed with surprise a look of confusion on his pale face. She opened the piano and sang a few notes; but Dubrovsky excused himself, saying that he had a headache and could not go on with the lesson. Closing the book of music, he handed her a note. Marya Kirilovna took it before she had had time to think, and instantly repented; but Dubrovsky was no longer in the room. Marya Kirilovna went to her own room and unfolding the note read as follows:
'Come at seven o'clock to-night to the arbour by the brook; I must speak to you.'
Her curiosity was thoroughly roused. She had long been expecting a declaration, both wishing and fearing it. It pleased her to have a confirmation of what she guessed; but she felt that it would be unseemly for her to hear such an avowal from a man who, owing to his station in life, ought not to hope ever to obtain her hand in marriage. She decided to keep the tryst, but she could not make up her mind whethel she ought to receive the tutor's declaration with aristocratic indignation, friendly advice, gay jokes, or silent sympathy. Meanwhile she kept glancing at the clock. It grew dark; candles were brought in. Kiril Petrovitch sat down to play boston with some visitors; the clock in the dining-room struck a quarter to seven; Marya Kirilovna quietly went out on to the steps, looked about her, and ran into the garden.
The night was dark, the sky was covered with clouds, one could not see at a distance of two paces, but Marya Kirilovna walked in the dark along the familiar paths, and was at the arbour in a minute; she stopped to take breath, so as to appear before Deforge with a cool and indifferent air. But Deforge was there already.
'Thank you for not refusing my request,' he said to her in a low and melancholy voice. ' I would have been in despair if you hadn't come.'
Marya Kirilovna answered with a phrase she had prepared:
'I hope you will not make me regret it'.
He said nothing, and seemed to be mustering his courage.
'Circumstances require ... I have to leave you,' he said at last. 'Soon maybe you'll hear . . . but I must explain myself before we part.'
Marya Kirilovna did not answer. She thought his words were a prelude to the declaration she had been expecting.
'I am not what you suppose,' he went on, bowing his head. 'I am not a Frenchman, and my name is not Deforge—I am Dubrovsky.'
Marya Kirilovna cried out.
'Don't be afraid, for God's sake! You must not fear my name. Yes, I am the unfortunate man whom your father ruined. He drove me out of my parental home and sent me plundering on the highways. But you need not fear me, either for yourself or for him. It's all over ... I have forgiven him; listen: you have saved him. His was the first blood I meant to have shed. I walked round his house deciding where the fire was to begin, where I was to enter his bedroom, how I was to cut off all means of escape for him. At that moment you went past me like a heavenly vision— and my heart was conquered. I understood that the house where you lived was sacred, that not a single being related to you by blood could be the victim of my curse. I renounced vengeance as madness. For days together I wandered round the Pokrovskoe gardens, hoping to catch a glimpse of your white dress. I followed you in your incautious walks, stealing from bush to bush, happy in the thought that there could be no danger for you where I was secretly present. At last an opportunity offered itself. ... I settled in your house. These three weeks were days of happiness for me; the memory of them will brighten my melancholy existence. . . . This morning I received news that makes it impossible for me to stay here longer. I am leaving you at once, this very evening. But before going I had to open my heart to you so that you should not curse me or despise me. Think of Dubrovsky sometimes. Believe me that he was born for a different kind of life, that his soul knew how to love you, that never . . .'
At that moment a loud whistle was heard, and Dubrovsky paused. Seizing her hand he pressed it to his burning lips. The whistle was repeated.
'Good-bye,' Dubrovsky said, 'I am being called. A moment's delay may ruin me. . . .'
He walked away. . . . Marya Kirilovna did not move. Dubrovsky came back and took her hand.
'If ever,' said he in a tender and moving voice—'if ever a misfortune befalls you, and there is none to protect and help you, will you promise to appeal to me and ask me to do all in my power to save you? Will you promise not to spurn my devotion?'
Marya Petrovna was weeping in silence. The whistle sounded for the third time.
'You are destroying me!' cried Dubrovsky. 'I will not leave you till you give me an answer: will you promise or not?'
'I promise,' the beautiful creature whispered in distress.
Agitated by her meeting with Dubrovsky, Marya Kirilovna was returning from the garden. It seemed to her that there were many people in the yard; a troika stood at the front steps, the servants were running about, the whole house was in commotion. From some distance she heard Kiril Petrovitch's voice and hastened indoors, afraid lest her absence should be noticed. Kiril Petrovitch met her in the drawingroom; his guests were crowding round the police-captain, pelting him with questions. The police-captain, dressed as for travelling and armed to the teeth, answered them with a
mysterious and preoccupied air.
'Where have you been, Masha?' Kiril Petrovitch asked. 'Did you meet Mr. Deforge?'
Masha managed to answer in the negative.
'Would you believe it?' Kiril Petrovitch went on, 'the police-captain has come to arrest him, and assures me that he is Dubrovsky.'
'The description tallies exactly, your Excellency,' the police-captain interrupted respectfully.
'Go to the devil with your description, my dear man. I won't give you my Frenchman till I've seen into the matter myself. One can't take Anton Pafnutyevitch's word for it —he is a liar and a coward: he dreamt that the tutor wanted to rob him. Why didn't he say a word to me about it that morning?'
'The Frenchman threatened him, your Excellency,' the police-captain answered, 'and made him swear he would say nothing.'
'Rubbish!' Kiril Petrovitch decided; 'I'll clear it all up in a minute. Well, where is the tutor ?' he asked of a servant who had come into the room.
'He is nowhere to be found, sir,' the servant answered.
'Search for him, then!' shouted Troekurov, beginning to feel doubtful. 'Show me that description you are so proud of,' he said to the police-captain, who handed him the paper at once. 'Hm! Hm! twenty-three years old, and so on. It's all very well, but it proves nothing. Well, where is the tutor?'
'He is not to be found, sir,' was the answer again.
Kiril Petrovitch was growing uneasy; Masha was more dead than alive.
'You are pale, Masha,' her father remarked. 'Did it give you a fright ?'
'No, papa,' Masha answered; 'I have a headache.'
'Go to your room, Masha, and don't you worry.'
Masha kissed his hand, and hastened to her room; there she threw herself on her bed and broke into hysterical sobs. The maids ran in, undressed her, and succeeded at last in soothing her with cold water, and all sorts of smelling-salts; they put her to bed, and she went off to sleep.
The Frenchman, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen. Kiril Petrovitch paced up and down the room, whistling menacingly: 'Thunder of victory, resound!' The visitors whispered among themselves; the police-captain had evidently been fooled: the Frenchman was not to be found. He had probably succeeded in escaping, after being warned. But by whom? How? It remained a mystery.
The clock struck eleven, but no one thought of sleep. At last Kiril Petrovitch said to the police-captain angrily:
'Well? You can't stay here till daylight, my house isn't an inn. You are not quick enough, brother, to catch Dubrovsky —if he really is Dubrovsky. You go home and try to be a bit smarter in the future. And it's time for you to go home too,' he went on, turning to his visitors. 'Order your carriages, I am sleepy.'
Thus ungraciously did Troekurov part with his guests.
SOME time passed without anything of interest happening. But at the beginning of the following summer many changes took place in Kiril Petrovitch's family life.
Twenty miles from him there was a rich estate belonging to Prince Vereisky. The Prince had lived for many years in foreign parts; his estate was managed by a retired major, and there was no communication whatever between Pokrovskoe and Arbatovo. But at the end of May the Prince returned from abroad, and came to his country-seat which he had never yet seen. Accustomed to dissipation, he could not endure solitude, and on the third day of his arrival went to dine with Troekurov, whom he had known years before.
The Prince was about fifty, but he looked much older. Excesses'of all kinds had undermined his health and left their indelible stamp upon him. He was perpetually bored and was in perpetual need of amusement. In spite of that, he had an attractive and distinguished appearance, and the habit of always being in society made his manners amiable, especially with women. Kiril Petrovitch was extremely gratified by his visit, regarding it as a mark of respect from a man who knew the world. True to his habit, he entertained the Prince by showing him various things on the estate and taking him to the kennels. The Prince was nearly choked by the smell of the dogs and hastened to walk out, pressing a scented handkerchief to his nose. The old-fashioned garden with its clipped lime-trees, square pond, and formal avenues did not please him; he liked English parks and so-called nature; but he praised everything and appeared delighted. The servant came to tell them that dinner was on the table. They went in. The Prince was limping slightly, tired with the walk, and was already regretting his visit.
But in the dining-room Marya Kirilovna met them—and the old rake was struck by her beauty. Troekurov put his visitor next to her. Excited by her presence, the Prince was gay, and several times succeeded in attracting her attention by his interesting stories. After dinner Kiril Petrovitch invited him to go for a ride, but the Prince apologized, pointing to his velvet boots and joking about his gout. He suggested going for a drive, so that he need not part from his charming neighbour. The carriage was ordered. The old men and the beautiful girl stepped in and drove along. The conversation never flagged. Marya Kirilovna listened with pleasure to the gay and flattering remarks of a man of the world; suddenly Vereisky asked, turning to Kiril Petrovitch, what were those charred ruins, and did they belong to him? Kiril Petrovitch frowned: the memories that the burnt-down building roused in him were distasteful to him. He answered that the land was his now, but had belonged to Dubrovsky before.
'To Dubrovsky?' Vereisky repeated. 'What, to that famous brigand?'
'To his father,' Troekurov answered. 'And his father was a bit of a brigand too.'
'What has become of our Rinaldo? Has he been caught? Is he living ?'
'He is living and is still at large, and so long as we have thieves and villains for police-captains he is not likely to be caught. By the way. Prince, Dubrovsky did pay you a visit at your Arbatovo, didn't he?'
'Yes, I believe last year he burnt something down or broke into some building. Don't you think, Marya Kirilovna, it would be interesting to make a closer acquaintance with this romantic hero ?'
'Interesting, indeed!' Troekurov said; 'she knows him already. He taught her music for three weeks, but, thank Heaven, he did not take anything for his lessons.' Kiril Petrovitch began telling the story of the supposed French tutor. Marya Kirilovna felt extremely uncomfortable. Vereisky listened with profound attention and, saying that it all was very strange, changed the subject. When they returned to Pokrovskoe he ordered his carriage and, though Kiril Petrovitch begged him to stay the night, he went home immediately after tea. Before going, however, he asked Kiril Petrovitch to pay him a visit with Marya Kirilovna, and the proud Troekurov promised: for, taking into consideration the princely title, two stars, and three thousand hereditary serfs, he regarded Vereisky as in a sense his equal.
Two days after Prince Vereisky's visit Kiril Petrovitch and his daughter went to see him. As they neared Arbatovo he could not sufficiently admire the clean and cheerful peasant cottages and the brick manor-house built after the style of an English mansion. In front of the house there was an oval meadow with lush green grass, on which Swiss cows with tinkling bells round their necks were grazing. A large park surrounded the house. Vereisky met his visitors at the steps and offered his arm to the young beauty. They came into a magnificent dining-room where the table had been set for three. The Prince led his visitors to the window, and a lovely view presented itself to them. The Volga flowed in front of the house; loaded barges in full sail glided along it, and the small fishing-boats, so expressively called ' wreckers', flitted to and fro. Hills and meadows stretched beyond the river; several villages added life to the neighbourhood.
Then they went to look at a collection of pictures which the Prince had purchased abroad. He explained to Marya Kirilovna the subject of each picture, told the history of the painters, pointed out the merits and the defects of their work. He spoke of pictures, not in the conventional language of a pedantic connoisseur, but with feeling and imagination. Marya Kirilovna listened to him with pleasure. They went in to dinner. Troekurov did full justice to his host's wines and to the art of his cook, and Marya Kirilovna did not feel the slightest confusion or constraint in talking to a man whom she was seeing for the second time in her life. After dinner the Prince invited his visitors into the garden. They drank coffee in an arbour on the bank of a broad lake dotted with islands. Suddenly instrumental music was heard, and a six-oared boat pulled up by the arbour. They were rowed along the lake, past the islands, visiting some of them: on one they found a marble statue, on another a solitary cave, on a third a monument with a mysterious inscription that aroused Marya Kirilovna's girlish curiosity, which was not altogether satisfied by the Prince's courteous but incomplete explanations. The time passed imperceptibly. It began to grow dusk. The Prince hurried home because of the dew and evening chill; a samovar was waiting for them. The Prince asked Marya Kirilovna to play the part of hostess in an old bachelor's house. She poured out the tea, listening to the amiable talker's endless stories. Suddenly there was a shot—and a rocket lighted up the sky. . . . The Prince handed Marya Kirilovna a shawl and called her and Troekurov to the balcony. In the darkness many-coloured lights flared up in front of the house, rising up in sheaves, pouring down in streams, falling like rain or like shooting stars, going out and flaring up again. Marya Kirilovna was as happy as a child. Vereisky enjoyed her delight, and Troekurov was extremely pleased with the Prince, for he regarded tous ces frais as signs of respect for himself and of a desire to give him pleasure.
The supper was in no way inferior to the dinner in excellence. The guests retired to the bedrooms allotted to them, and the following morning parted from their amiable host, promising to see each other again in the near future.
MARYA KIRILOVNA sat in her room at an embroidery frame by an open window. She did not mix up her silks like Conrad's mistress, who in the absent-mindedness of love embroidered a rose in green silk. Her needle faultlessly reproduced on canvas the design she was copying; but in spite of this, her thoughts did not follow her work—they were far away.
Suddenly a hand was gently thrust in at the window; someone put a letter on the embroidery frame and disappeared before Marya Kirilovna had recovered from her surprise. At that moment a servant came in to her to call her to Kiril Petrovitch. Trembling, she thrust the letter under her fichu and hastened to her father's study.
Kiril Petrovitch was not alone. Prince Vereisky was with him. When Marya Kirilovna came in he got up and bowed to her in silence, with a confusion most unusual for him.
'Come here, Masha,' Kiril Petrovitch said; 'I'll tell you a piece of news which I hope will please you. Here is your future husband: the Prince makes you an offer of marriage.'
Masha was dumbfounded; a deathly pallor overspread her face. She was silent. The Prince went up to her, and taking her hand, asked in a voice full of feeling whether she would consent to make him a happy man. Masha said nothing.
'Of course she consents,' Kiril Petrovitch said; 'but you know, Prince, a girl finds it hard to say the word. Well, children, kiss each other and may you be happy.'
Masha stood stock-still; the old Prince kissed her hand. Suddenly tears ran down her pale face. The Prince frowned slightly.
'Off with you, off with you!' Kiril Petrovitch said; 'dry your tears and come back to us gay as a lark. They all weep when they are betrothed,' he went on, turning to Vereisky: 'it's the tradition, you know. Now, Prince, let 'g talk of business—that is, of the dowry.'
Marya Kirilovna eagerly took advantage of the permission to withdraw. Running to her room she locked herself in, and gave way to her tears, imagining herself as the old Prince's wife; he suddenly seemed to her hateful, disgusting. . . . To be married to him terrified her like the executioner's axe, like the grave! 'No, no!' she repeated in despair; 'I'd rather die, rather go into a convent, rather marry Dubrovsky. . . .' At this point she recalled the letter and took it out eagerly, guessing that it was from him. And indeed it was written by him, and contained only the following words:
'This evening, at ten o'clock, in the same place.'
The moon was shining; the country night was still; a slight breeze blew up from time to time, raising a rustle in the garden.
Like a fleeting shadow the young beauty drew near the trysting place. She could not see any one; suddenly emerging from behind the arbour, Dubrovsky stood before her.
'I know everything,' he said in a sad and low voice. 'Remember your promise.'
'You offer me your protection?' Masha answered. 'But don't be angry: it frightens me. How could you help me?'
' I could free you from the man you hate.'
' For God's sake don't touch him, don't dare to touch him, if you love me! I don't want to be the cause of anything horrible. . . .'
'I won't touch him: your will is law to me. He owes his life to you. Never shall a murder be committed in your name. You must be pure even in my crimes. But how can I save you from a cruel father?'
'There is still hope: I may touch him by my tears and despair. He is obstinate, but he loves me.'
'Don't hope in vain: he will see in your tears simply the fear and disgust usual in all young girls who marry not for love, but for considerations of prudence. What if he is determined to arrange for your happiness in spite of yourself? What if you are led to the altar by force and given into the power of that old man ?'
'Then . . . then there is nothing for it—come for me— I'll be your wife.'
Dubrovsky shuddered; his pale face flushed crimson and then grew paler than before. He paused for a few minutes, hanging his head.
'Muster all your courage, implore your father, throw yourself at his feet; depict to him all the horror of your future, your youth fading beside a decrepit old rake; tell him that riches will not give you even a minute's happiness; luxury comforts only the poor, and even then only for a moment, because they are not used to it; keep on entreating him, don't be afraid of his anger and his threats so long as there is a shadow of hope; for God's sake go on imploring him! But if there is no other means—venture on a cruel explanation: tell him that if he will not give in, you . . . you will find a terrible defender. . . .'
Dubrovsky covered his face with his hands; he seemed to be choking. Masha was weeping.
'My wretched, wretched fate!' he said with a bitter sigh. 'I would give my life for you; to see you from a distance, to touch your hand was a delight to me; and now when I have a chance of pressing you to my throbbing heart and saying, " My angel, let us die together!"—poor me, I have to guard myself from bliss, I must ward it off with all my power! I dare not fall at your feet and thank Heaven for an incredible, undeserved happiness! Oh, how I ought to hate him who . . . but I feel there is now no room for hatred in my heart.'
He put his arm round her slim waist, and gently drew her to his heart. Trustfully she rested her head on the young brigand's shoulder—both were silent. . . .
Time flew. 'I must be going,' Masha said at last. Dubrovsky seemed to wake up from a dream. He took her hand and put a ring on her finger.
'If you decide to ask my help,' he said, 'put the ring into the hollow of this oak-tree; I shall know what to do.'
Dubrovsky kissed her hand and disappeared among the trees.
PRINCE VEREISKY'S suit was not a secret to the neighbourhood. Kiril Petrovitch was receiving congratulations; preparations for the wedding were going on. Masha put off the decisive explanation from day to day. Meanwhile her manner towards her elderly suitor was cold and constrained. The Prince did not worry about that: he troubled little about her love, satisfied with her silent consent.
But time was going on. Masha decided to act at last and wrote a letter to Prince Vereisky. She tried to rouse a feeling of generosity in his heart; candidly confessing that she had not the slightest affection for him, she begged him to renounce her hand, and to defend her from her father's power. She slipped the letter into the Prince's hand. He read it when he was alone—and was not in the least moved by his betrothed's candour. On the contrary, he saw that it was necessary to hasten the wedding, and thought it best to show the letter to his future father-in-law.
Kiril Petrovitch was enraged; the Prince had the greatest difficulty in persuading him not to let Masha guess that he knew about her letter. Kiril Petrovitch agreed not to tell her about it, but decided to waste no time, and fixed the wedding for the next day but one. The Prince found this very sensible; he went to Masha and told her that her letter grieved him very much, but that he hoped to win her affection in time; that the thought of losing her was too painful to him, and that he had not the strength to agree to his own death sentence. Then he respectfully kissed her hand and went away, not saying a word to her about Kiril Petrovitch's decision.
But he had no sooner left the house than her father came in to her and told her straight out to be ready the day after next. Marya Kirilovna, agitated by her explanation with Prince Vereisky, burst into tears, and threw herself at her father's feet. 'Papa!' she cried pitifully, 'papa! don't ruin me! I don't love the Prince, I don't want to be his wife!'
'What's the meaning of this?' Kiril Petrovitch said menacingly. ' You 've said nothing all this time, and been quite agreeable, and now, when everything is settled, you suddenly take it into your head to be tiresome and go back on it! Don't be a fool, please; you won't prevail on me in that way.'
'Don't ruin me!' poor Masha repeated; 'why do you drive me away from you and give me to a man I don't love ? Have you grown tired of me? I want to stay with you as before. Papa, you'll be sad without me, and still more sad when you know that I am unhappy. Don't force me, papa, I don't want to be married!'
Kiril Petrovitch was touched, but he concealed his emotion, and pushing her away said sternly:
'It's all nonsense; do you hear ? I know better than you do what is necessary for your happiness. Tears won't help you; your wedding will be the day after to-morrow.'
'The day after to-morrow!' Masha cried. ' Good heavens! No, no, it's impossible, it shall not be! Papa, listen: if you 've decided to ruin me, I'll find a defender of whom you little think: you shall see, you'll be horrified at what you have driven me to!'
'What? What?'Troekurov said. 'You're threatening? Threatening me ? Impudent girl! You'll find I'll do to you something you little imagine! You dare threaten me with your defender! We'll see who that defender is going to be!'
'Vladimir Dubrovsky,' Masha answered in despair.
Kiril Petrovitch thought that she had gone out of her mind, and looked at her in amazement.
'Very well,' he said to her after a pause, 'wait for any defender you like, but meanwhile stay in this room—you shall not leave it till your wedding.' With these words Kiril Petrovitch went out and locked the door after him.
The poor girl wept for some time, picturing to herself all that awaited her; but the stormy explanation had lightened her heart and she could reflect more calmly on her future and on what she was to do. The chief thing was to escape the hateful marriage; the fate of a brigand's wife seemed to her a paradise by comparison with the lot that was being prepared for her. She glanced at the ring that Dubrovsky had left her. She passionately longed to see him alone and to talk things over with him before the decisive moment.
Her heart told her that in the evening she would find Dubrovsky in the garden by the arbour; she decided to go and wait for him there as soon as it grew dusk. Evening came. Masha prepared to go out, but her door was locked. From behind it the maid told her that Kiril Petrovitch had given orders not to let her out. She was under arrest. Deeply injured, she sat down by the window, and without undressing, remained there motionless till the small hours of the morning, gazing at the dark sky. At daybreak she dozed off; but her light sleep was disturbed by sad visions—and the rays of the rising sun wakened her.
SHE woke up—and at once the horror of her position rose before her mind. She rang the bell; the maid came in and said in answer to her question that in the evening Kiril Petrovitch had been to X. and came home late; that he had given strict orders not to let her out of the room and to see that no one spoke to her; but that no special preparations for the wedding were being made, except that the priest had been ordered not to leave the village under any pretext whatsoever. After telling her this, the maid left Marya Kirilovna and locked the door once more.
Her words hardened the young prisoner's heart. Her head was on fire, her blood was in a turmoil; she decided to let Dubrovsky know, and began thinking of a way to put the ring into the hollow of the oak-tree. At that moment a pebble struck her window, the glass jingled, and looking out into the yard she saw little Sasha signalling to her. She knew his affection for her and was glad to see him. She opened the window.
'Good morning, Sasha. Why did you call me ?'
'I came to ask if you wanted anything. Papa is angry and has forbidden every one to do what you tell them; but give me any order you like and I 'II do it for you.'
'Thank you, my dear Sashenka. Look here, do you know the hollow oak-tree by the arbour?'
'Yes, I know.'
'Well, if you love me, make haste and run there and put this ring into the hollow, but mind that nobody sees you.' With these words she threw the ring to him and shut the window.
The boy picked up the ring and ran with all his might to the oak-tree, which he reached in three minutes. He stopped there, breathless, and looking about him put the ring into the hollow. Having safely accomplished his task he wanted to report it to Marya Kirilovna at once, when suddenly a ragged red-haired boy darted from behind the arbour, and rushing to the oak-tree put his hand into the hollow. Sasha flew at him quicker than a squirrel and seized him with both hands.
'What are you doing here ?' he said menacingly.
'It's none of your business,' the boy answered, trying to wrench himself free.
'Let go that ring, you red fox,' Sasha shouted, 'or I'll give you a hiding.'
For answer the boy struck him in the face with his fist;
Sasha did not let go, however, but shouted with all his might: 'Thieves! thieves! help!'
The boy tried to free himself. He looked a couple of years older than Sasha and was much stronger; but Sasha was quicker. They struggled for a few minutes. At last the red-haired boy had the better of it. He knocked Sasha down and grasped him by the throat. But at that moment a strong hand seized him by his red bristly hair, and Stepan, the gardener, lifted him a foot from the ground.
'Ah, you red-haired brute,' the gardener said, 'hor* dare you hit the little gentleman? ...'
Sasha had had time to jump up and recover.
'You got me under the arms,' he said,' or else you 'd never have forced me down. Give me back the ring at once and clear out.'
'Not likely,' the red-haired boy answered, and suddenly turning round, freed his hair from Stepan's hand. He then started to run, but Sasha overtook him and pushed him in the back; the boy fell headlong on the ground. The gardener seized him again and tied his arms with his belt.
'Give me the ring!' Sasha cried.
'Wait a minute, master,' Stepan said, 'we'll take him to the bailiff — he'll deal with him.'
The gardener took the prisoner into the courtyard and Sasha followed, glancing uneasily at his knickers, which were torn and stained with grass. Suddenly all the three found themselves before Kiril Petrovitch, who was going to inspect the stables.
'What's this?' he asked Stepan.
Stepan shortly described all that had happened. Kiril Petrovitch listened to him attentively.
'Now, you rascal,' he said, turning to Sasha, 'what did you fight him for?'
'He stole the ring from the hollow, papa; tell him to give me back the ring.'
'What ring ? From what hollow ?'
'Why, Marya Kirilovna asked . . . that ring . . .' Sasha was confused and did not know what to say. Kiril Petrovitch frowned and said, shaking his head:
'It's something to do with Marya Kirilovna. Confess it all, or I'll give you such a birching that you won't know where you are.'
'But really, papa, I ... papa . . . Marya Kirilovna did not ask me anything, papa.'
'Stepan! go and cut me a good birch switch.'
' Wait a minute, papa, I'll tell you everything. I was running about in the yard, and Marya Kirilovna opened her window and I ran up to it, and she dropped a ring, not on purpose, and I hid it in the hollow, and . . . and . . . this red-haired boy wanted to steal the ring.'
'Dropped it not on purpose, you wanted to hide it ... Stepan, fetch me the switch.'
'Papa, wait a minute, I'll tell you everything. Marya Kirilovna told me to run to the oak and put the ring into the hollow, so I ran and put it there, and this horrid boy . . .'
Kiril Petrovitch turned to the horrid boy and asked him menacingly: 'Whom do you belong to?'
'I am a house-serf of Mr. Dubrovsky's,' he answered. Kiril Petrovitch's face darkened.
'You don't seem to acknowledge me as master—very well. And what were you doing in my garden ?'
'Stealing raspberries,' the boy answered with great indifference.
'Aha! Like master, like man; and do raspberries grow on my oak-trees ? Have you ever heard of that ?'
The boy made no answer.
'Papa, tell him to give back the ring,' Sasha said.
'Be quiet, my boy!' Kiril Petrovitch answered. 'Don't forget that I mean to deal with you presently. Go to your room. You seem a sharp lad, you squint-eye; if you make a clean breast of it, I won't whip you, but will give you five copecks. Give back the ring and go.' The boy opened his fist, showing that there was nothing in his hand. 'Or else I'll do to you something you don't expect. Well?'
The boy did not answer a word, and stood with his head bowed, looking a perfect fool.
'Very good,' Kiril Petrovitch said. 'Lock him up somewhere, and see he doesn't run away, or I'll flay the lot of you.'
Stepan took the boy to the dovecot and, locking him in there, told the old poultry maid Agafya to keep watch on him.
'There's no doubt whatever: she has kept in touch with that cursed Dubrovsky. Can she really have asked his help?' thought Kiril Petrovitch, pacing up and down the room and angrily whistling 'Thunder of victory, resound!' 'Perhaps I am on his track and he won't escape us. We 'll take advantage of this opportunity. . . . Hark! a bell! Thank heaven, it's the police-captain. Fetch here the boy who's been caught!'
Meanwhile the trap drove into the courtyard, and the police-captain, whom we have already met, came into the room, covered with dust.
'Good news!' Kiril Petrovitch said; ' I've caught Dubrovsky.'
'Thank Heaven, your Excellency!' said the police-captain with a joyful air. 'Where is he?'
'That is, it isn't Dubrovsky himself, but one of his gang. He'll be brought in directly. He'll help us to catch the chieftain. Here he is.'
The police-captain, was expecting a formidable brigand, was surprised to see a puny boy of thirteen. He turned to Kiril Petrovitch in perplexity, waiting for an explanation. Kiril Petrovitch told him what had happened in the morning, without mentioning Marya Kirilovna, however.
The police-captain listened to him attentively, glancing every minute at the little rascal, who pretended to be a perfect idiot, and seemed not to take the slightest notice of what was happening around him.
'Allow me to speak to you alone, your Excellency,' the police-captain said at last.
Kiril Petrovitch took him into the next room, shutting the door after him.
In half an hour they came once more into the room where the little prisoner was waiting for his fate to be decided.
'The gentleman wanted to send you to prison, have you whipped, and then deported,' the police-captain said to him; 'but I have interceded for you, and persuaded him to let you off. Untie him!'
The boy was untied.
'Thank the gentleman,' the police-captain said.
The boy went up to Kiril Petrovitch and kissed his hand.
'Go home in peace,' Kiril Petrovitch said to him, 'and don't steal raspberries from oak-trees any more.'
The boy left the room, cheerfully jumped down the front steps, and without looking round ran across the fields to Kistenyovka. Reaching the village he stopped by a tumbledown hut, the first one in the row, and tapped at the window. The pane was lifted, and an old woman looked out.
'Granny, bread!' the boy said. 'I've had nothing to eat all day, and am simply starving.'
'Ah, it's you, Mitya! But where have you been, you little imp?'
'I'll tell you presently, granny; for Heaven's sake, give me some bread.'
'But come indoors.'
'I haven't time, granny; I must run somewhere else first. Give me some bread, for Christ's sake!'
'What a fidget!' the old woman grumbled. 'Well, here's a piece for you,' and she thrust a slice of black bread through the window.
The boy bit into it greedily and, munching, walked farther on.
It was beginning to grow dusk. Mitya was making his way between barns and kitchen gardens to the Kistenyovka wood. When he reached the two pine-trees that stood like sentinels at the entrance to it he stopped, looked about him, and, giving a short and piercing whistle, stood listening. A faint and prolonged whistling could be heard in answer; someone came out of the wood and walked towards him.
KIRIL PETROVITCH walked up and down the drawing-room whistling his favourite tune louder than usual. The whole house was in commotion: the men-servants ran to and fro, the maids bustled about; the carriage was being got ready. There was a crowd of people in the yard. In Marya Kirilovna's room, a lady surrounded by maid-servants was dressing the pale and listless bride; her head drooped languidly under the weight of diamonds; she started slightly when a careless pin pricked her, but said nothing, gazing into the mirror with unseeing eyes.
'Will you be long?' Kiril Petrovitch's voice asked at the door.
'One minute,' the lady answered. ' Marya Kirilovna, stand up and see if everything is right.'
Marya Kirilovna stood up, but made no answer. The door was opened. 'The bride is ready,' the lady sail! to Kiril Petrovitch. 'Tell them to take their seats in the carriage.'
'In God's name!' Kiril Petrovitch answered. 'Come closer, Masha,' he said to her in a tone of feeling, taking up the ikon from the table. 'I bless you . . .'
The poor girl fell at his feet and broke into sobs. ' Papa ... papa . . .' she said through her tears in a failing voice.
Kiril Petrovitch hastened to bless her; she was lifted from the floor, and almost carried to the coach. A lady and a maid-servant took their seats beside her. They drove to the church. The bridegroom was waiting for them there. He came out to meet the bride, and was struck by her pallor and strange expression. Together they entered the cold, empty church; the doors were locked behind them. The priest came towards them and began the ceremony at once. Marya Kirilovna saw and heard nothing; she had had but one thought since the morning: she was waiting for Dubrovsky. She did not abandon hope for an instant. When the priest turned to her with the usual question she shuddered and turned cold with horror, but still she delayed, still she was expectant. After waiting in vain for her answer the priest pronounced the irretrievable words.
The ceremony was over. She felt the cold kiss of the husband she did not love; she heard the obsequious congratulations of those present, and yet she could not believe that her life was fettered for ever, that Dubrovsky had not come to rescue her. The Prince addressed some kind words to her—she did not understand them; they left the cliurch;
peasants from Pokrovskoe were crowding on the steps. She threw a rapid glance round them and her eyes assumed their former apathetic expression. The bride and bridegroom stepped into a carriage and drove to X.; Kiril Petrovitch had gone earlier so as to meet them there. Left alone with his young wife, the Prince was not in the least disconcerted by her coldness. He did not worry her with mawkish declarations and ridiculous ecstasies; his remarks were ordinary and required no answer. They drove in this way for about seven miles; the horses dashed along the by-roads and the carriage scarcely jolted on its English springs. Suddenly shouts of pursuit were heard; the carriage stopped, and a crowd of armed men surrounded it. A man in a mask opened the door on the side where the young Princess was sitting and said to her: ' You are free! Come out!'
'What's the meaning of this ?' the Prince shouted. ' Who are you ?'
'It is Dubrovsky,' the Princess said.
Without losing his presence of mind the Prince drew a travelling pistol out of his side-pocket and shot at the masked brigand. The Princess screamed and covered her face with her hands in horror. Dubrovsky was wounded in the shoulder; the blood flowed. Not losing a moment, the Prince drew out another pistol. But he was not allowed to shoot: the carriage doors were opened, several strong arms pulled him out and seized his pistol. Knives glittered over him.
'Don't touch him!' Dubrovsky cried, and his gloomy confederates drew back. 'You are free,' he continued, turning to the poor Princess.
'No!' she answered. 'It's too late! I am married, I am Prince Vereisky's wife.'
'What are you saying ?' Dubrovsky cried in despair. 'No! you are not his wife, you were forced, you could never have given your consent . . .'
'I gave it, I made the vow,' she answered firmly. 'The Prince is my husband. Tell your men to set him free and leave me with him. I haven't deceived you, I was expecting you up to the last moment . . . but now, I tell you, it's too late. Set us free.'
But Dubrovsky heard her no longer; the pain of his wound and his violent emotions overpowered him. He fell down by the wheel; the brigands surrounded him. He succeeded in saying a few words to them; they put him into the saddle. Two men supported him, a third led his horse by the bridle, and they all went off by a side-track, leaving the carriage in the middle of the road, with the horses unharnessed and the servants bound, but not shedding a drop of blood in revenge for their chieftain's wound.
IN a narrow clearing in the midst of a thick forest there was a small fort consisting of a rampart and a ditch that enclosed several huts and cabins. A number of men, who could at once be recognized as brigands from the way they were dressed and armed, sat on the grass, bareheaded, round a big cauldron, eating their dinner. A sentry squatted on the rampart beside a small cannon. He was patting a patch into a certain garment of his, plying the needle with an art that proved him to be an experienced tailor; at the same time he kept a sharp look out in every direction.
Though the drinking-cup had been passed round several times, a strange silence reigned in the crowd. The brigands finished their dinner; one after another they got up, offering a silent prayer. Some went to their huts, others wandered off into the forest or lay down to have a nap, after the Russian custom.
The sentry finished his job and, shaking out his patched-up garment, admired his handiwork; then he stuck the needle into his sleeve and sitting astride the cannon sang at the top of his voice the melancholy old song:
Murmur not, mother-forest of rustling green leaves, Hinder not a brave lad thinking his thoughts.
At that moment the door of one of the huts opened and an old woman in a white cap, neatly and carefully dressed, appeared at the door.
'Be quiet, Styopka!' she said angrily. 'Master is resting, and you go on bawling like this! You people have no conscience or pity.'
'I am sorry, Petrovna,' Styopka answered; 'very well, I won't do it any more; let him sleep and get better, bless him.'
The old woman went away, and Styopka began pacing up and down the rampart.
Dubrovsky lay, wounded, on a camp-bed behind a partition in the hut out of which the old woman had appeared His pistols were on a table in front of him, and his sword hung at the head of the bed. The floor and the walls were covered with rich carpets; a lady's silver dressing-table and a large mirror stood in the corner. Dubrovsky held an open book in his hand, but his eyes were closed. The old woman, who kept glancing at him from behind the partition, could not tell whether he was asleep or merely lost in thought.
Suddenly Dubrovsky started. There was a commotion in the fortress, and Styopka thrust his head in at the window.
'Vladimir Andrevitch. sir!' he shouted, 'our men have signalled: 'we're being tracked.'
Dubrovsky jumped off his bed, seized his sword and the pistols, and came out. The brigands crowded noisily in the yard; when they saw him there was a deep silence.
'Are you all here?' Dubrovsky asked.
'All except those on the road,' they answered.
'Fall in!' Dubrovsky cried, and every one of the brigands went to his appointed place.
At that moment three men who had been stationed on the road ran up to the gate. Dubrovsky went to meet them.
'What is it?' he asked.
'Soldiers are in the forest,' they answered. 'They are surrounding us.'
Dubrovsky ordered them to shut tlie gate and went to examine the cannon. Voices could be heard in the forest, drawing closer and closer. The brigands waited in silence. Suddenly three or four soldiers appeared out of the forest and immediately drew back again, letting off their muskets as a signal to their comrades.
'Prepare for battle!' Dubrovsky said.
There was a rustle among the crowd; then all was still again. They heard the noise of the approaching enemy; arms glittered among the trees; some hundred and fifty soldiers poured out of the forest and rushed at the rampart with a shout. Dubrovsky lit the fuse; the shot was successful: one soldier had his head blown off, two were wounded. There was a confusion among the troops; but the officer dashed forward, the soldiers followed him and ran down into the ditch. The brigands shot at them out of muskets and pistols, and, with axes in their hands, defended the rampart against the infuriated soldiers who tried to climb it, leaving some twenty wounded comrades in the ditch. A hand-tohand fight began. The soldiers were on the rampart already, the brigands were losing ground, but Dubrovsky came up to the officer and, thrusting his pistol against the man's breast, shot him. The officer fell on his back; a few soldiers picked him up and hastened to carry him into the forest; having lost their commander, the others stood still. Encouraged by their momentary confusion, the brigands pressed them back into the ditch; the soldiers took to their heels; with loud cries the brigands ran after them. The victory was decisive. Assured tliat the enemy was completely routed, Dubrovsky called back his men and, giving orders to pick up the wounded, shut himself up in his fortress, doubling the number of the sentries and forbidding any one to leave the place.
These last events drew the attention of the Government to Dubrovsky's daring robberies. Inquiry was made into his whereabouts. A detachment of soldiers was sent to capture him dead or alive. Several men of his band were caught, but they said that Dubrovsky was no longer among them. Several days after the battle he had called together all his confederates, told them that he was leaving them for ever, and advised them too to change their way of living. 'You have grown rich under my command, every one of you has a passport with which he can safely make his way into some distant province, and spend the rest of his life there in prosperity doing honest work. But you are all rascals and will probably not wish to leave your trade.' After that speech he left them, taking one man with him. No one knew what became of him.
At first the truth of these statements seemed doubtful— the brigands' devotion to their chieftain was well known, and it was thought that they were trying to shield him; but subsequent events justified their words. The terrible raids, incendiarism, and robberies ceased; the roads were safe once more. From other sources it appeared that Dubrovsky had left Russia.