Part 2 out of 2
On the square itself, a gallows was hastily erected. When we
approached, the Bashkirs opened a passage through the crowd and
presented us to Pougatcheff. The bells ceased; the deepest silence
prevailed. "Which is the Commandant?" asked the usurper. Our Corporal
came out of the crowd and pointed to Mironoff. Pougatcheff looked at
the old man with a terrible expression, and said to him: "How did you
dare to oppose me, your emperor?"
The Commandant, weakened by his wound, collected all his energy, and
said, in a firm but faint voice: "You are not my emperor; you are a
usurper and a brigand."
Pougatcheff frowned and raised his white handkerchief. Immediately the
old Captain was seized by Cossacks and dragged to the gibbet. Astride
the cross-beam of the gallows, sat the mutilated Bashkirs who we had
questioned; he held a rope in his hand, and I saw, an instant after,
poor Ivan Mironoff suspended in the air. Then Ignatius was brought up
"Take the oath to the emperor, Peter Fedorovitch."
"You are not our emperor," replied the Lieutenant, repeating his
Captain's words, "you are a brigand and a usurper."
Pougatcheff again made a signal with his handkerchief, and the kind
Ignatius hung beside his ancient chief. It was my turn. I looked
boldly at Pougatcheff, preparing to repeat the words of my brave
comrades, when to my inexpressible astonishment I saw Alexis amongst
the rebels. He had had time to cut his hair round, and exchange his
uniform for a Cossack cafetan. He approached Pougatcheff and whispered
to him. "Let him be hung," said Pougatcheff, not deigning to look at
me. A rope was put around my neck. I uttered a prayer to God in a low
voice, expressing sincere repentance for my sins, and imploring him to
save all those dear to my heart. I was led beneath the gibbet. A
shout was heard, "Stop! Stop!" The executioners paused. I looked.
Saveliitch was kneeling at Pougatcheff's feet. "O my lord and master,"
said my dear old serf, "what do you want with that nobleman's child?
Set him free, you will get a good ransom for his life; but for an
example, and to frighten the rest, command that I, an old man, shall
Pougatcheff made a sign. They unbound me at once. "Our emperor
pardons you," they said. At the moment I did not know that my
deliverance was a cause for joy or for sorrow. My mind was too
confused. I was taken again before the usurper and made to kneel at
his feet. Pougatcheff offered me his muscular hand. "Kiss his hand!
Kiss his hand!" cried out all around me. But I would have preferred
the most atrocious torture to a degradation so infamous. "My dear
Peter," whispered Saveliitch, who was standing behind me, "do not
play the obstinate; what does it cost? Kiss the brigand's hand."
I did not move. Pougatcheff drew back his hand: "His lordship is
stupefied with joy; raise him up," said he. I was at liberty. Then
I witnessed the continuation of the infamous comedy.
The inhabitants began to take the oath. They went one by one to kiss
the cross and salute the usurper. After them came the garrison
soldiers. The company's tailor, armed with his great blunt-pointed
shears, cut off their queues; they shook their heads and kissed the
hand of Pougatcheff, who declared them pardoned and received into his
troops. This lasted for nearly three hours. At last Pougatcheff rose
from his arm-chair and went down the steps, followed by his chiefs. A
white horse richly caparisoned was led to him; tow Cossacks helped him
into the saddle. He signified to Father Garasim that he would dine
with him. At this moment wild heart-rending shrieks from a woman
filled the air. Basilia, without her mantle, her hair in disorder,
1was dragged out on the steps; one the brigands had on her mantle; the
others were carrying away her chests, her linen, and other household
goods. "O good men," she cried, "let me go, take me to Ivan Mironoff."
Suddenly she saw the gibbet and recognized her husband. "Wretches,"
she cried, "What have you done? O my light, Ivan! Brave soldier! no
Prussian ball, nor Turkish sabre killed thee, but a vile condemned
"Silence that old sorceress," said Pougatcheff.
A young Cossack struck her with his sabre on the head. She fell
dead at the foot of the steps. Pougatcheff rode off, all the
VIII. THE UNEXPECTED VISIT.
I stood in the vacant square, unable to collect my thoughts, disturbed
by so many terrible emotions. Uncertainty about Marie's fate tortured
me. Where is she? Is she concealed? Is her retreat safe? I went to
the Commandant's house. It was in frightful disorder; the chairs,
tables, presses had been burned up and the dishes were in fragments.
I rushed up the little stairs leading to Marie's room, which I entered
for the first time in my life. A lamp still burned before the shrine
which had enclosed the sacred objects revered by all true believers.
The clothes-press was empty, the bed broke up. The robbers had not
taken the little mirror hanging between the door and the window. What
had become of the mistress of this simple, virginal abode? A terrible
thought flashed through my mind. Marie in hands of the brigands!
My heart was torn, and I cried aloud: "Marie! Marie!" I heard a
rustle. Polacca, quite pale, came from her hiding-place behind the
"Ah! Peter," said she, clasping her hands, "what a day! what horrors!"
"Marie?" I asked impatiently, "Marie--where is she?"
"The young lady is alive," said the maid, "concealed at Accoulina's,
at the house of the Greek priest."
"Great God!" I cried, with terror, "Pougatcheff is there!"
I rushed out of the room, made a bound into the street and ran wildly
to the priest's house. It was ringing with songs, shouts and laughter.
Pougatcheff was at table there with his men. Polacca had followed me;
I sent her in to call out Accoulina secretly. Accoulina came into the
waiting-room, an empty bottle in her hand.
"In the name of heaven, where is Marie?" I asked with agitation.
"The little dove is lying on my bed behind the partition. Oh! Peter,
what danger we have just escaped! The rascal had scarcely seated
himself at table than the poor thing moaned. I thought I should die
of fright. He heard her. 'Who is moaning in your room, old woman?'
'My niece, Czar.' 'Let me see your niece, old woman.' I saluted him
humbly; 'My niece, Czar, has not strength to come before your grace.'
'Then I will go and see her.' And will you believe it, he drew the
curtains and looked at our dove, with his hawk's eyes! The child did
not recognize him. Poor Ivan Mironoff! Basilia! Why was Ignatius
taken, and you spared? What do you think of Alexis? He has cut his
hair and now hobnobs with them in there. When I spoke of my sick
niece he looked at me as if he would run me through with his knife.
But he said nothing, and we must be thankful for that."
The drunken shouts of the guests, and the voice of Father Garasim now
resounded together; the brigands wanted more wine, and Accoulina was
needed. "Go back to your house, Peter," said she, "woe to you, if you
fall into his hands!"
She went to serve her guests; I, somewhat quieted, returned to my room.
Crossing the square, I saw some Bashkirs stealing the boots from the
bodies of the dead. I restrained my useless anger. The brigands had
been through the fortress and had pillaged the officers' houses.
I reached my lodging. Saveliitch met me at the threshold. "Thank
God!" he cried. "Ah! master, the rascals have taken everything; but
what matter, since they did not take your life. Did you not recognize
their chief, master?"
"No, I did not; who is he?"
"What, my dear boy, have you forgotten the drunkard who cheated you
out of the touloup the day of the snow-drift--a hare-skin touloup?--
the rascal burst all the seams putting it on."
My eyes were opened. The resemblance between the guide and Pougatcheff
was striking. I now understood the pardon accorded me. I recalled
with gratitude the lucky incident. A youth's touloup given to a
vagabond had saved my neck; and this drunkard, capturing fortress,
had shaken the very empire.
"Will you not deign to eat something?" said Saveliitch, true to his
instincts; "there is nothing in the house, it is true, but I will find
something and prepare it for you."
Left alone, I began to reflect that not to leave the fortress, now
subject to the brigand, or to join his troops, would be unworthy of
an officer. Duty required me to go and present myself where I could
still be useful to my country. But love counseled me, with no less
force, to stay near Marie, to be her protector and champion. Although
I foresaw a near and inevitable change in the march of events, still I
could not, without trembling, contemplate the danger of her position.
My reflections were interrupted by the entrance of a Cossack, who came
to announce that the "great Czar" called me to his presence. "Where is
he?" I asked, preparing to obey. "In the commandant's house," replied
the Cossack. "After dinner the Czar went to the vapor baths. It must
be confessed that all his ways are imperial! He can do more than
others; at dinner he deigned to eat two roast milk-pigs; afterward at
the bath he endured the highest degree of heat; even the attendant
could not stand it; he handed the brush to another and was restored to
consciousness only by the application of cold water. It is said that
in the bath, the marks of the true Czar were plainly seen on his
breast--a picture of his own face and a double-headed eagle."
I did not think it necessary to contradict the Cossack, and I followed
him to the Commandant's, trying to fancy in advance my interview with
Pougatcheff, and its result. The reader may imagine that I was not
quite at ease. Night was falling as I reached the house. The gibbet
with its victims still stood, black and terrible. The poor body of our
good Basilia was lying under the steps, near which two Cossacks mounted
guard. He who had brought me, entered to announce my arrival; he
returned at once, and led me to the room where the evening before I had
taken leave of Marie. At a table covered with a cloth, and laden with
bottles and glasses, sat Pougatcheff, surrounded by some ten Cossack
chiefs in colored caps and shirts, with flushed faces and sparkling
eyes, the effect, no doubt, of the wine-cup.
I saw neither of our traitors, Alexis or the Corporal, amongst them.
"Ah! your lordship, it is you?" said their chief, on seeing me. "Be
welcome! Honor and place at the table!"
The guests drew closer together. I took a place at the end of the
table. My neighbor, a young Cossack of slender form and handsome face,
poured out a bumper of brandy for me. I did not taste it. I was busy
considering the assembly. Pougatcheff was seated in the place of
honor, elbow on table, his heavy, black beard resting upon his muscular
hand. His features, regular and handsome, had no ferocious expression.
He often spoke to a man of some fifty years, calling him now Count,
again Uncle. All treated each other as comrades, showing no very
marked deference for their chief. They talked of the assault that
morning; of the revolt, its success, and of their next operations.
Each one boasted of his prowess, gave his opinions, and freely
contradicted Pougatcheff. In this strange council of war, they
resolved to march upon Orenbourg, a bold move, but justified by
previous successes. The departure was fixed for the next day. Each
one drank another bumper, and rising, took leave of Pougatcheff. I
wished to follow them, but the brigand said: "Wait, I want to speak
Pougatcheff looked at me fixedly in silence for a few seconds, winking
his left eye with the most cunning, mocking expression. At last he
burst into a long peal of laughter, so hearty, that I, just from seeing
him, began to laugh, without knowing why.
"Well, my lord," said he, "confess that you were frightened, when my
boys put the rope around your neck? The sky must have seemed to you
then as big as a sheep-skin. And if not for your servant, you would
have been swinging up there from the cross-beam; but at that very
instant I recognized the old owl. Would you have thought that the man
who led you to a shelter on the steppe was the great Czar himself?"
Saying these words, he assumed a grave and mysterious air. "You have
been very guilty," continued he, "but I have pardoned you, for having
done me a kindness, when I was obliged to hide from my enemies. I
shall load you with favors, when I shall have regained my empire. Do
you promise to serve me with zeal?"
The bandit's question and impudence made me smile.
"Why do you laugh?" said he, frowning, "do you not believe that I am
the great Czar? Answer frankly."
I was troubled. I could not recognize a vagabond as the emperor; to
call him an impostor to his face was to doom myself to death; and the
sacrifice which I was ready to make under the gibbet that morning,
before all the people, in the first flush of indignation, seemed now
a useless bravado. Pougatcheff awaited my answer in fierce silence.
At last (I still remember with satisfaction that duty triumphed over
human weakness) I replied to Pougatcheff.
"I will tell you the truth and let you decide. Should I recognize you
as the Czar, as you are a man of intelligence, you would see that I am
"Then who am I? in your opinion."
"God knows, but whoever you are, you are playing a dangerous game."
Pougatcheff gave me a sharp, quick glance. "You do not believe that I
am the emperor, Peter III? Be it so. Have not bold men succeeded
before me and obtained the crown? Think what you please about me, but
stay with me. What matters it whom you serve? Success is right.
Serve under me, and I will make you a field-marshal, a prince. What
"No," said I. "I am a nobleman. I have taken an oath to her majesty,
the Empress; I can not serve with you. If truly you wish me well, send
me to Orenbourg."
Pougatcheff reflected. "If I send you there, you will, at least,
promise not to bear arms against me?"
"How can I promise that? If I am ordered to march against you, I must
go. You are now a chief; you desire your subordinates to obey you.
No, my life is in your hand; if you give me liberty, thanks; if you
put me to death, may God judge you."
My frankness pleased him. "Be it so," said he, slapping me on the
shoulders, "pardon or punish to the end. You can go the four quarters
of the world, and do as you like. Come tomorrow, and bid me good-bye.
Now go to bed--I require rest myself."
I went out into the street. The night was clear and cold; the moon and
stars shone out in all their brightness, lighting up the square and the
gibbet. All was quiet and dark in the rest of the fortress. At the
inn some lights were visible, and belated drinkers broke the stillness
by their shouts. I glanced at Accoulina's house; the doors and windows
were closed, and all seemed perfectly quiet there. I went to my room,
and found Saveliitch deploring my absence. I told him of my freedom.
"Thanks to thee, O God!" said he, making the sign of the cross;
"tomorrow we shall set out at daybreak. I have prepared something for
you; eat and then sleep till morning, tranquil as if in the bosom of
the Good Shepherd."
I followed his advice, and after having supped, fell asleep on the bare
floor, as fatigued in mind as in body.
IX. THE SEPARATION.
The drum awoke me early the next morning. I went out on the square.
Pougatcheff's troops were there, falling into rank, around the gibbet,
to which still hung the victims of yesterday. The Cossacks were
mounted; the infantry and artillery, with our single gun, were
accoutred ready for the march. The inhabitants were also assembled
there awaiting the usurper. Before the steps of the Commandant's
house a Cossack held by the bridle a magnificent white horse. My
eyes sought the body of our good Basilia. It had been dragged aside
and covered with an old bark mat. At last Pougatcheff came out on
the steps, and saluted the crowd. All heads were bared. One of the
chiefs handed him a bag of copper coin, which he threw by the handful
among the people. Perceiving me in the crowd, he signed to me to
"Listen," said he, "go at once to Orenbourg, and say from me, to the
Governor and all the Generals, that I shall be there in a week.
Counsel them to receive me with submission and filial love, otherwise
they shall not escape the direst torture. A pleasant journey to you."
The principal followers of Pougatcheff surrounded him, Alexis amongst
others. The usurper turned to the people, and pointing to Alexis,
said: "Behold your new Commandant; obey him in every thing; he is
responsible for you and for the fortress."
The words made me shudder. What would become of Marie? Pougatcheff
descended the steps and vaulted quickly into his saddle without the
aid of his attendant Cossacks. At that moment Saveliitch came out of
the crowd, approached the usurper, and presented him a sheet of paper.
"What is this?" asked Pougatcheff, with dignity.
"Read, you will deign to see," replied the serf.
Pougatcheff examined the paper. "You write very illegibly; where is
A boy in corporal's uniform came running to the brigand. "Read aloud,"
said he. I was curious to know for what purpose the old man had
written to Pougatcheff. The Secretary began to spell out in a loud
voice what follows:
"Two dressing-gowns, one in percale, the other in striped silk,
"What does this mean?" said Pougatcheff, frowning.
"Command him to read on," replied Saveliitch, with perfect calmness.
The Secretary continued: "One uniform in fine green cloth, seven
roubles; one pair of white cloth pantaloons, five roubles; twelve
shirts of Holland linen, with cuffs, ten roubles; one case containing
a tea-service, two roubles."
"What nonsense is this?" said Pougatcheff.
"What have I to do with tea-sets and Holland cuffs?"
Saveliitch coughed to clear his voice, and began to explain: "That, my
lord, deign to understand, is the bill of my master's goods carried off
by the thieves."
"What thieves?" asked Pougatcheff, with a terrible air.
"Pardon me," said Saveliitch. "Thieves? No, they were not thieves; my
tongue slipped; yet your boys went through everything and carried off
plenty. That can not be denied. Do not be angry. The horse has four
legs and yet he stumbles. Command that he read to the end."
"Well, read," said Pougatcheff.
"One Persian blanket, one quilt of wadded silk, four roubles; one
pelisse of fox-skin, covered with red ratine, forty roubles; one small
touloup of hare-skin left with your grace, on the steppe, fifteen
"What?" cried Pougatcheff, with flashing eyes.
I must say I feared for the old man, who was beginning new explanations,
when the brigand interrupted him:
"How dare you annoy me with these trifles?" said he, snatching the
paper from the Secretary and throwing it in the old man's face. "You
have been despoiled! old fool! great harm! You ought to thank God
that you are not hanging up there, with the other rebels, both you
and your master. I'll give you a hare-skin touloup! Do you know
that I will have you flayed alive, that touloups may be made of you?"
"As you please," replied Saveliitch; "but I am not a free man, and I
am responsible for my master's goods."
Pougatcheff, who was evidently playing the magnanimous, turned his head
and set off without a word. Alexis and the other chiefs followed him.
The whole army left the fortress in good order, the people forming an
escort. I stayed alone on the square with Saveliitch, who held in his
hand the bill and considered it with deep regret. I could not help
"Laugh, my lord, laugh, but when the household is to be furnished
again, we shall see if it be a laughing matter."
I went to learn of Marie Mironoff. Accoulina met me and told me a sad
piece of news. During the night a burning fever had seized the poor
girl. Accoulina took me into her chamber. The invalid was delirious
and did not recognize me. I was shocked by the change in her
countenance. The position of this sorrowing orphan, without defenders,
alarmed me as much as my inability to protect grieved me. Alexis,
above all, was to be feared. Chief, invested with the usurper's
authority, in the fortress with this unhappy girl, he was capable of
any crime. What ought I to do to deliver her? To set out at once for
Orenbourg, to hasten the deliverance of Belogorsk, and to co-operate
in it, if possible. I took leave of Father Garasim and Accoulina,
recommending to them Marie, who I already looked upon as my wife. I
kissed the young girl's hand, and left the room.
"Adieu, Peter Grineff," said Accoulina. "Do not forget us. Except
you, Marie has no support or consolation." Choked by emotion, I did
not reply. Out on the square, I stopped an instant before the gibbet.
With bare head I reverently saluted the loyal dead, and took the road
to Orenbourg, accompanied by Saveliitch, who would not abandon me.
Thus plunged in thought, I walked on. Hearing horses galloping behind
me, I turned my head and saw a Cossack from the fortress leading a
horse, and making signs to me that I should wait. I recognized our
Corporal. Having caught up with us, he dismounted from his own horse,
and giving me the bridle of the other, said: "Our Czar makes you a
gift of a horse, and a pelisse from his own shoulder." To the saddle
was tied a sheep-skin touloup. I put it on, mounted the horse, taking
Saveliitch up behind me. "You see, my lord," said my serf, "that my
petition to the bandit was not useless! And although this old hack and
this peasant's touloup are not worth half what the rascals stole, yet
they are better than nothing. 'A worthless dog yields even a handful
X. THE SIEGE.
Approaching Orenbourg, we saw a crowd of convicts, with shaved heads
and faces disfigured by the pincers of the public executioner. At
that time red-hot irons were applied to tear out the nostrils of the
condemned. They were working at the fortifications of the place under
the supervision of the garrison pensioners. Some carried away in
wheel-barrows the rubbish that filled the ditch, others threw up the
earth, while masons were examining and repairing the walls. The sentry
stopped us at the gate and asked for our passports. When the sergeant
heard that we were from Belogorsk he took me at once to the General,
who was in his garden. I found him examining the apple trees, which
autumnal winds had already despoiled of their leaves; assisted by an
old gardener, he covered them carefully with straw. His face expressed
calmness, good humor and health. He seemed very glad to see me, and
questioned me about the terrible events I had witnessed. The old man
heard me attentively, and whilst listening, cut off the dead branches.
"Poor Mironoff!" said he, when I had finished my story; "it is a pity;
he was a brave officer; and Madame Mironoff a kind lady, an expert in
pickling mushrooms. What has become of Marie, the Captain's daughter?"
"She is in the fortress, at the house of the Greek priest."
"Aye! aye! aye!" exclaimed the General. "That's bad, very bad; for it
is impossible to depend upon the discipline of brigands."
I observed that the fortress of Belogorsk was not far off, and that
probably his Excellency would send a detachment of troops to deliver
the poor inhabitants.
The General shook his head, doubtfully. "We shall see! we shall see!
there is plenty of time to talk about it; come, I beg you, to take tea
with me. Tonight there will be a council of war; you can give us some
precise information regarding this Pougatcheff and his army. Meantime,
go and rest."
I went to my allotted quarters, where I found Saveliitch already
installed. I awaited impatiently the hour indicated, and the reader
may believe that I did not fail to be present at this council, which
was to influence my whole life. I found at the General's a custom-
house officer, the Director, as well as I can remember a little old
man, red-faced and fat, wearing a robe of black watered silk. He
questioned me about the fate of the Captain Mironoff, whom he called
his chum, and often interrupted me by sententious remarks, which, if
they did not prove him to be a man well versed in war, showed his
natural intelligence and shrewdness. During this time other guests
arrived. When all had taken their places, and to each had been
offered a cup of tea, the General carefully stated the questions to
"Now, gentlemen," said he, "we must decide what action is to be taken
against the rebels. Shall we act offensively, or defensively? Each
of these ways has its advantages and disadvantages. Offensive war
presents more hope of a rapid extermination of the enemy, but defensive
war is safer and offers fewer dangers. Let us then take the vote in
legal order; that is, consult first the youngest in rank. Ensign,"
continued he, addressing me, "deign to give your opinion."
I rose, and in a few words depicted Pougatcheff and his army. I
affirmed that the usurper was not in a condition to resist disciplined
forces. My opinion was received by the civil service employes with
visible discontent. They saw nothing in it but the levity of a young
man. A murmur arose, and I heard distinctly the word "hare-brained"
murmured in a low voice. The General turned to me smiling, and said:
"Ensign, the first votes (the youngest) in war councils, are for
offensive measures. Now let us continue to collect the votes. The
College Director will give us his opinion."
The little old man in black silk, a College Director, as well as a
customs officer, swallowed his third cup of tea, well dashed with a
strong dose of rum, and hastened to speak:
"Your Excellency," said he, "I think that we ought to act neither
offensively nor defensively."
"What's that, sir?" said the General, stupefied; "military tactics
present no other means; we must act either offensively or defensively."
"Your Excellency, act _subornatively_."
"Eh! eh! Your opinion is judicious," said the General; "subornative
acts--that is to say, indirect acts--are also admitted by the science
of tactics, and we will profit by your counsel. We might offer for the
rascal's head seventy or even a hundred roubles, to be taken out of the
"And then," interrupted the man in silk, "may I be a Kirghis ram,
instead of a College Director, if the thieves do not bring their chief
to you, chained hand and foot."
"We can think about it," said the General. "But let us, in any case,
take some military measures. Gentlemen, give your votes in legal
All the opinions were contrary to mine. All agreed, that it was better
to stay behind a strong stone wall, protected by cannon, than to tempt
fortune in the open field. Finally, when all the opinions were known,
the General shook the ashes from his pipe and pronounced the following
"Gentlemen, I am of the Ensign's opinion, for it is according to the
science of military tactics, which always prefers offensive movements
to defensive." He stopped and stuffed the tobacco into his pipe. I
glanced exultingly at the civil service employes, who, with
discontented looks, were whispering to each other.
"But, gentlemen," continued he, giving out with a sigh a long puff of
smoke, "I dare not assume the responsibility. I go with the majority,
which has decided that we await in this city the threatened siege, and
repulse the enemy by the power of artillery, and if possible, by well-
The council broke up. I could not but deplore the weakness of the
worthy soldier, who, contrary to his own convictions, decided to follow
the opinion of ignorant inexperience.
Some days after this famous council of war, Pougatcheff, true to his
word, approached Orenbourg. From the top of the city walls I made a
reconnaissance of the rebel army. It seemed to me that their number
had increased ten-fold. They had more artillery, taken from the small
forts captured by Pougatcheff. Remembering our council, I foresaw a
long captivity behind the walls of Orenbourg, and I was ready to cry
with chagrin. Far from me the intention of describing the siege of
Orenbourg, which belongs to history and not to family memoirs. Suffice
it to say, that this siege was disastrous to the inhabitants, who had
to suffer hunger and privations of every kind. Life at Orenbourg
became insupportable. The decision of fate was awaited with anguish.
Food was scarce; bombshells fell upon the defenseless houses of
citizens. The attacks of Pougatcheff made very little excitement. I
was dying of _ennui_. I had promised Accoulina that I would correspond
with her, but communication was cut off, and I could not send or
receive a letter from Belogorsk. My only pastime consisted in military
sorties. Thanks to Pougatcheff I had an excellent horse, and I shared
my meager pittance with it. I went out every day beyond the ramparts
to skirmish with Pougatcheff's advance guards. The rebels had the best
of it; they had plenty of food and were well mounted. Our poor cavalry
were in no condition to oppose them. Sometimes our half-starved
infantry went into the field; but the depth of the snow hindered them
from acting successfully against the flying cavalry of the enemy. The
artillery vainly thundered from the ramparts, and in the field it could
not advance, because of the weakness of our attenuated horses. This
was our way of making war; this is what the civil service employes of
Orenbourg called prudence and foresight.
One day when we had routed and driven before us quite a large troop, I
overtook a straggling Cossack; my Turkish sabre was uplifted to strike
him when he doffed his cap and cried out: "Good day, Peter, how fares
I recognized our Corporal. I was delighted to see him.
"Good day, Maxim. How long since you left Belogorsk?"
"Not long, Peter. I came yesterday. I have a letter for you."
"Where is it?" I cried, delighted.
"Here," replied Maxim, putting his hand in his bosom. "I promised
Polacca to try and give it to you." He gave me a folded paper, and
set off on a gallop. I read with agitation the following lines:
"By the will of God I am deprived of my parents, and except you, Peter,
I know of no one who can protect me; Alexis commands in place of my
late father. He so terrified Father Garasim that I was obliged to go
and live at our house, where I am cruelly treated by Alexis. He will
force me to become his wife. He says he saved my life by not betraying
the trick of passing for the niece of Accoulina. I could rather die
than be his wife. I have three days to accept his offer; after that I
need expect no mercy from him. O, Peter! entreat your General to send
us help, and if possible, come yourself. MARIE MIRONOFF."
This letter nearly crazed me. I rushed back to the city, not sparing
the spur to my poor horse. A thousand projects flashed through my mind
to rescue her. Arrived in the city, I hurried to the General's and ran
into his room. He was walking up and down smoking his meerschaum.
Seeing me he stopped, alarmed at my abrupt entrance.
"Your Excellency, I come to you, as to my own father; do not refuse me;
the happiness of my life depends upon it."
"But what is it?" said the General; "what can I do for you?"
"Your Excellency, permit me to take a battalion of soldiers and half a
hundred Cossacks, to go and storm the fortress of Belogorsk."
"Storm the fortress?" said the General.
"I answer for the success of the attack, only let me go."
"No, young man," said he; "at so great a distance the enemy would
easily cut off all communication with the principal strategic point."
I was frightened by his military wisdom, and hastened to interrupt him:
"Captain Mironoff's daughter has written me, begging for relief.
Alexis threatens to compel her to be his wife!"
"Ah! Alexis, traitor! If he fall into my hands I shall try him in
twenty-four hours, and he shall be shot on the glacis of the fortress!
"Patience!" I cried; "in the interval Marie will be compelled to
"Oh," said the General, "that would not be a misfortune--it is better
that she should become the wife of Alexis, who can protect her. When
we shall have shot the traitor, then she will find a better husband."
"I would rather die," I said with fury, "than yield her to Alexis."
"I understand it all now," said the old man. "You are, no doubt, in
love yourself with Marie Mironoff. That's another thing. Poor boy!
Still, I can not give you a battalion and fifty Cossacks. The thing is
unreasonable." I hung my head in despair. But I had a plan of my own.
XI. THE REBEL CAMP.
I left the General and hastened to my quarters. Saveliitch received me
with his usual remonstrance: "What pleasure, my lord, is there in
fighting these drunken brigands? If they were Turks or Swedes, all
right; but these sons of dogs--"
I interrupted him: "How much money have I in all?"
"You have plenty," said he with a satisfied air. "I knew how to whisk
it out of sight of the rogues." He drew from his pocket a long knitted
purse full of silver coin.
"Saveliitch, give me half of what you have there, and keep the rest
for yourself. I am off for the fortress of Belogorsk."
"Oh, Peter!" said the old serf, "do you not fear God? The roads are
cut off. Have pity on your parents; wait a little; our troops will
come and disperse the brigands, and then you can go to the four
quarters of the world."
"It is too late to reflect. I must go. Do not grieve, Saveliitch; I
make you a present of that money. Buy what you need. If I do not
return in three days--"
"My dear," said the old man, "I will go with you, were it on foot. If
you go, I must first lose my senses before I will stay crouching behind
There was never any use disputing with the old man. In half an hour
I was in the saddle, Saveliitch on an old, half-starved, limping
rosinante, which a citizen, not having fodder, had given for nothing
to the serf. We reached the city gates; the sentinels let us pass,
and we were finally out of Orenbourg. Night was falling. My road lay
before the town of Berd, the headquarters of Pougatcheff. This road
was blocked up and hidden by snow; but across the steppe were traces
of horses, renewed from day to day, apparently, and clearly visible.
I was going at a gallop, Saveliitch could scarcely keep up and shouted,
"Not so fast! My nag can not follow yours." Very soon we saw the
lights of Berd. We were approaching deep ravines, which served as
natural fortifications to the town. Saveliitch, without however being
left behind, never ceased his lamentations. I was in hopes of passing
safely the enemy's place, when I saw through the darkness five peasants
armed with big sticks--Pougatcheff's extreme outpost.
"_Qui vive_! Who goes there?"
Not knowing the watchword, I was for going on without answering. But
one of them seized my horse's bridle. I drew my sabre and struck the
peasant of the head. His cap saved his life; he staggered and fell;
the others, frightened, let me pass. The darkness, which was
deepening, might have saved me from further hindrance; when, looking
back, I saw that Saveliitch was not with me. What was I to do? The
poor old man, with his lame horse, could not escape from the rascals.
I waited a minute; then, sure that they must have seized him, I turned
my horse's head to go and aid him. Approaching the ravine I heard
voices, and recognized that of Saveliitch. Hastening my steps, was
soon within sight of the peasants. They had dismounted the old man,
and were about to garrote him. They rushed upon me; in an instant I
was on foot. Their chief said I should be conducted to the Czar. I
made no resistance. We crossed the ravine to enter the town, which was
illuminated. The streets were crowded and noisy. We were taken to a
hut on the corner of two streets. There were some barrels of wine and
a cannon near the door. One of the peasants said: "Here is the
palace; we will announce you." I glanced at Saveliitch; he was making
signs of the cross, and praying. We waited a long time. At last
the peasant re-appeared and said: "The Czar orders the officers to
The palace, as the peasant called it, was lighted by two tallow
candles. The walls were hung with gold paper. But every thing else,
the benches, the table, the basin hung up by a cord, the towel on a
nail in the wall, the shelf laden with earthen vessels, were exactly
the same as in any other cabin. Pougatcheff, wearing his scarlet
cafetan and high Cossack cap, with his hand on his hip, sat beneath
the sacred pictures common to every Russian abode. Around him stood
several of his chiefs. I could see that the arrival of an officer
from Orenbourg had awakened some curiosity, and that they had prepared
to receive me with pomp. Pougatcheff recognized me at once, and his
assumed gravity disappeared.
"Ah! it is your lordship! how are you? What brings you here?"
I replied that I was traveling about my private business, when his
people arrested me.
"What business?" asked he. I did not know what to answer. Pougatcheff
thinking that I would not speak before witnesses gave a sign to his
comrades to leave. All obeyed except two. "Speak before these," said
he; "conceal nothing from them."
I glanced at these intimates of the usurper. One was an old man frail
and bent, remarkable for nothing but a blue riband crossed over his
coarse gray cloth cafetan; but I shall never forget his companion. He
was tall, of powerful build, and seemed about forty-five. A thick red
beard, piercing gray eyes, a nose without nostrils, marks of the
searing irons on his forehead and cheeks, gave to his broad face,
pitted by small-pox a most fierce expression. He wore a red shirt,
a Kirghis robe, and wide Cossack pantaloons. Although wholly pre-
occupied by my own feelings, yet this company deeply impressed me.
Pougatcheff recalled me to myself quickly.
"What business brought you from Orenbourg?"
A bold idea suggested itself to my mind. It seemed to me that
Providence, leading me a second time before this robber, gave me the
means of accomplishing my work. I decided to seize the chance, and
without reflecting on the step, I replied:
"I am on the way to the fortress of Belogorsk to liberate an oppressed
Pougatcheff's eyes flashed. "Who dares to oppress an orphan? Were he
seven feet high, he shall not escape my vengeance. Speak, who is the
"Alexis; he holds in slavery that same young girl whom you saw at
Father Garasim's, and wants to force her to marry him."
"I shall give Alexis a lesson! I'll teach him to oppress my subjects.
I shall hang him."
"Permit me a word," said the man without nostrils. "You were too hasty
giving the command to Alexis. You offended the Cossacks by giving them
a noble as chief; do not offend the gentlemen by hanging one of them on
the first accusation."
"There is no need to pardon nor pity," said the man with the blue
riband. "It would be no harm to hang Alexis, nor to question this
gentleman. Why does he visit us? If he does not acknowledge you as
Czar he has no justice to get at your hands; if he acknowledge you,
why did he stay at Orenbourg with your enemies? Will you not order
him to prison, and have a fire lighted there?"
The old rascal's logic seemed plausible even to myself. I shuddered
when I remembered into whose hands I had fallen. Pougatcheff saw my
"Eh! eh! your lordship," said he, winking, "it seems my field-marshal
is right. What do you think?"
The jesting tone of the chief restored my courage. I replied calmly
that I was in his power.
"Well," said Pougatcheff, "tell me now the condition of your city?"
"It is, thank God, in a good state."
"A good condition," repeated the brigand, "when the people are dying
The usurper was right, but according to the duty imposed by my oath, I
affirmed that it was a false report, and that the fort was sufficiently
"You see he deceives you," interrupted the man with the riband. "All
the deserters are unanimous in saying that famine and pestilence are at
Orenbourg; that thistles are eaten as dainties there. If you wish to
hang Alexis, hang on the same gibbet this young fellow, that they may
These words seemed to shake the chief. Happily the other wretch
opposed this view.
"Silence," said this powerful fellow. "You think of nothing but
hanging and strangling. It becomes _you_ to play the hero. To look
at you, no one knows where your soul is."
"And which of the saints are you?" replied the old man.
"Generals," said Pougatcheff, with dignity, "an end to your quarrels.
It would be no great loss if all the mangy dogs from Orenbourg were
dangling their legs under the same cross-beam; but it would be a
misfortune if our own good dogs should bite each other."
Feeling the necessity of changing the conversation, I turned to
Pougatcheff with a smile, and said:
"Ah! I forgot to thank you for the horse and touloup. Without your aid
I should not have reached the city. I would have died from cold on the
journey." My trick succeeded. Pougatcheff regained his good humor.
"The beauty of debt is the payment thereof," said he, winking. "Tell
me your story. What have you to do with the young girl that Alexis
persecutes? Has she caught your heart, too?"
"She is my promised bride" said I, seeing no risk in speaking
"Your promised bride! Why did you not tell me sooner? We'll marry
you, and be at your wedding. Listen, Field-marshal," said he. "We are
old friends, his lordship and I. Lets us go to supper. Tomorrow we
shall see what is to be done with him. Night brings wisdom, and the
morning is better than the evening."
I would gladly have excused myself from proposed honor, but it was
impossible. Two Cossacks girls covered the table with a white cloth,
and brought bread, soup made of fish, and pitchers of wine and beer.
Thus, for the second time, I was at table with Pougatcheff and his
terrible companions. The orgie lasted far into the night. Drunkenness
at last triumphed. Pougatcheff fell asleep in his place, and his
companions signed to me to leave him. I went out with them. The
sentry locked me up in a dark hole, where I found Saveliitch. He was
so surprised by all that he saw and heard, that he asked no questions.
Lying in darkness, he soon fell asleep.
The next morning Pougatcheff sent for me. Before his door stood
a kibitka, with three horses abreast. The street was crowded.
Pougatcheff, whom I met in the entry of his hut, was dressed for a
journey, in a pelisse and Kirghis cap. His guests of the previous
night surrounded him, and wore a look of submission which contrasted
strongly with what I had seen on the preceding evening. Pougatcheff
bade me good-morning gaily, and ordered me to sit beside him in the
kibitka. We took our places.
"To the fortress of Belogorsk," said Pougatcheff to the robust Tartar,
who, standing, drove his horses. My heart beat violently. The Tartar
horses shot off, the bells tinkled, the kibitka flew over the snow.
"Stop! stop!" cried a voice I knew too well. "O Peter! do not abandon
me in my old age, in the midst of the rob--"
"Ah, you old owl!" said Pougatcheff, "sit up there in front."
"Thanks, Czar, may God give you a long life."
The horses set off again. The people in the streets stopped and bowed
low, as the usurper passed. Pougatcheff saluted right and left. In an
instant we were out of the town, taking our way over a well-defined
road. I was silent. Pougatcheff broke in upon my reverie. "Why
so silent, my lord?" said he.
"I can not help thinking," said I, "of the chain of events. I am an
officer, noble, yesterday at war with you; today I ride in the same
carriage with you, and all the happiness of my life depends on you."
"Are you afraid?"
"You have already given me my life!"
"You say truly. You know how my fellows looked upon you; only today
they wanted to try you as a spy. The old one wanted to torture and
then hang you; but I would not, because I remembered your glass of
wine and your touloup. I am not bloodthirsty, as your friends say."
I remembered the taking of our fortress, but I did not contradict him.
"What do they say of me at Orenbourg?"
"It is said there, that you will not be easily vanquished. It must
be confessed that you have given us some work."
"Yes; I am a great warrior. Do you think the King Prussia is as strong
"What do you think yourself? Can you beat Frederick?"
"Frederick the Great? Why not? Wait till I march to Moscow!"
"You really intend to march on Moscow?"
"God knows," said he, reflecting; "my road is narrow--my boys do not
obey--they are thieves--I must listen--keep my ears open; at the first
reverse they would save their own necks by my head."
"Would it not be better," I said, "to abandon them now, before it is
too late, and have recourse to the clemency of the Empress?"
He smiled bitterly. "No; the time is passed. I shall end as I began.
Our Tartar was humming a plaintive air; Saveliitch, sound asleep,
swayed from side to side; our kibitka was gliding rapidly over the
winter road. I saw in the distance a village well known to my eyes,
with its palisade and church spire on the steep bank of the river Iaik.
A quarter of an hour after we entered the fortress of Belogorsk.
The kibitka stopped before the Commandant's house. The inhabitants had
recognized the usurper's bells and equipage, and had come out in crowds
to meet him. Alexis, dressed like a Cossack, and bearded like one,
helped the brigand to descend from his kibitka. The sight of me
troubled him, but soon recovering himself, he said: "You are one of
us?" I turned my head away without replying. My heart was wrung when
we entered the room that I know so well, where still upon the wall
hung, like an epitaph, the diploma of the deceased Commandant.
Pougatcheff seated himself upon the same sofa where many a time Ivan
Mironoff had dozed to the hum of his wife's voice. Alexis' own hand
presented the brandy to his chief. Pougatcheff drank a glass and said,
pointing to me: "Offer a glass to his lordship." Alexis approached
me, and again I turned my back upon him. Pougatcheff asked him a
few questions about the condition of the fortress, and then, in an
unpremeditated manner, said: "Tell me, who is this young girl that
you have under guard?"
Alexis became pale as death. "Czar," said he, a tremor in his voice,
"she is in her own room; she is not locked up."
"Take me to her room," said the usurper, rising.
Hesitation was impossible. Alexis led the way to Marie's room. I
followed. On the stairs Alexis stopped: "Czar, demand of me what
you will, but do not permit a stranger to enter my wife's room."
"You are married?" I shouted, ready to tear him to pieces.
"Silence!" interrupted the brigand, "this is my business. And you,"
said he, turning to Alexis, "do not be too officious. Whether she
be your wife or not, I shall take whom I please into her room. Your
lordship, follow me."
At the door of the room Alexis stopped again: "Czar, she has had a
fever these three days; she is delirious."
"Open," said Pougatcheff.
Alexis fumbled in his pockets, and at last said that he had forgotten
the key. Pougatcheff kicked the door; the lock yielded, the door
opened and we entered.
I glanced into the room, and nearly fainted. On the floor, in the
coarse dress of a peasant, Marie was seated, pale, thin, her hair
in disorder; before her on the floor stood a pitcher of water covered
by a piece of bread. Upon seeing me, she started, and uttered a
piercing shriek. Pougatcheff glanced at Alexis, smiled bitterly,
and said: "Your hospital is in nice order?"
"Tell me, my little dove, why does your husband punish you in
"My husband! he is not my husband. I am resolved to die rather than
marry him; and I shall die, if not soon released."
Pougatcheff gave a furious look at Alexis, and said: "Do you dare to
deceive me, knave?"
Alexis fell on his knees. Contempt stifled all my feelings of hatred
and vengeance. I saw with disgust, a gentleman kneeling at the feet
of a Cossack deserter.
"I pardon you, this time," said the brigand, "but remember, your next
fault will recall this one." He turned to Marie, and said, gently:
"Come out, my pretty girl, you are free. I am the Czar!"
Marie looked at him, hid her face in her hands and fell on the floor
unconscious. She had no doubt divined that he had caused her parents'
death. I rushed to aid her, when my old acquaintance, Polacca, boldly
entered, and hastened to revive her mistress. Pougatcheff, Alexis and
I went down to the reception room.
"Now, your lordship, we have released the pretty girl, what say you?
Shall we not send for Father Garasim, and have him perform the marriage
ceremony for his niece? If you like, I will be your father by proxy,
Alexis your groomsman; then we'll shut the gates and make merry!"
As I anticipated, Alexis, hearing this speech, lost his self-control.
"Czar," said he, in a fury, "I am guilty; I have lied to you, but
Grineff also deceives you. This young girl is not Father Garasim's
niece. She is Ivan Mironoff's daughter."
Pougatcheff glared at me. "What does that mean?" said he to me.
"Alexis says truly," I replied, firmly.
"You did not tell me that," said the usurper, whose face darkened.
"Judge of it yourself. Could I declare before your people that Marie
was Captain Mironoff's daughter? They would have torn her to pieces.
No one could have saved her."
"You are right," said Pougatcheff, "my drunkards would not have spared
the child. Accoulina did well to deceive them."
"Listen," I said, seeing his good humor, "I do not know your real name,
and I do not want to know it. But before God, I am ready to pay you
with my life, for what you have done for me. Only, ask me nothing
contrary to honor, and my conscience as a Christian. You are my
benefactor. Let me go with this orphan, and we, whatever happens to
you, wherever you may be, we shall pray God to save your soul."
"Be it as you desire," said he, "punish to the end, or pardon
completely, that's my way. Take your promised bride wherever you
choose, and may God give you love and happiness." He turned to Alexis,
and ordered him to write me a passport for all the forts subject to his
power. Alexis was petrified with astonishment. Pougatcheff went off
to inspect the fortress; Alexis followed him; I remained.
I ran up to Marie's room. The door was closed. I knocked.
"Who is there?" asked Polacca.
I gave my name. I heard Marie say: "In an instant, Peter, I shall
join you at Accoulina's."
Father Garasim and Accoulina came out to welcome me. I was honored
with everything at the command of the hostess, whose voluble tongue
never ceased. It was not long before Marie entered, quite pale; she
had laid aside the peasant's dress, and was, as usual, clad in
simplicity, but with neatness and taste. I seized her hand, unable to
utter a word. We were both silent from full hearts. Our hosts left
us, and I could now speak of plans for her safety. It was impossible
that she should stay in a fortress subject to Pougatcheff, and
commanded by the infamous Alexis. Neither could she find refuge at
Orenbourg, suffering all the horrors of siege. I proposed that she
should go to my father's country-seat. This surprised her. But I
assured her that my father would hold it a duty and an honor to receive
the daughter of a veteran who had died for his country. In conclusion,
I said: "My dear Marie; I consider thee as my wife; these strange
events have bound us for ever to each other."
Marie listened with dignity; she felt as I did, but repeated that
without my parents' consent she would never be my wife. I could not
reply to this objection. I folded her to my heart, and my project
became our mutual resolve.
An hour after, the Corporal brought me my passport, having the scratch
which served as Pougatcheff's sign-manual, and told me that the Czar
awaited me. I found him ready for his journey. To this man--why not
tell the truth?--cruel and terrible to all but me, I was drawn by
strong sympathy. I wanted to snatch him from the horde of robbers,
whose chief he was; but the presence of Alexis and the crowd around
him prevented any expression of these feelings. Our parting was that
of friends. As the horses were moving, he leaned out of the kibitka
and said to me: "Adieu, again, your lordship; perhaps we may meet
We did meet again, but under what circumstances!
I returned to Father Garasim's, where our preparations were soon
completed. Our baggage was put into the Commandant's old equipage.
The horses were harnessed. Marie went, before setting off, to visit
once more the tomb in the church-yard, and soon returned, having wept
in silence over all that remained to her of her parents. Father
Garasim and Accoulina stood on the steps. Marie, Polacca, and I
sat in the interior of the kibitka. Saveliitch perched himself up
"Adieu, Marie, sweet little dove! Adieu, Peter, our handsome falcon!"
exclaimed the kind Accoulina.
Passing the Commandant's house, I saw Alexis, whose face expressed
XIII. THE ARREST.
In two hours we reached the neighboring fortress, which also belonged
to Pougatcheff. We there changed horses. By the celerity with which
they served us, and the eager zeal of the bearded Cossack, whom
Pougatcheff had made Commandant, I perceived that, thanks to the talk
of our postilion, I was supposed to be a favorite with their master.
When we started off again, it was dusk; we were drawing near a town
where, according to the bearded Commandant, there ought to be a very
strong detachment of Pougatcheff's forces. The sentinels stopped us
and to the demand: "Who goes there?" our postilion answered in a loud
voice: "A friend of the Czar, traveling with his wife."
We were at once surrounded by a detachment of Russian hussars, who
"Come out," said a Russian officer, heavily mustached; "We'll give you
I requested to be taken before the authorities. Perceiving that I was
an officer, the soldiers ceased swearing, and the officer took me to
the Major's. Saveliitch followed, growling out: "We fall from the fire
into the flame!"
The kibitka came slowly after us. In five minutes we reached a small
house, all lighted up. The officer left me under a strong guard, and
entered to announce my capture. He returned almost instantly, saying
that I was ordered to prison, and her ladyship to the presence of the
"Is he mad?" I cried.
"I can not tell, your lordship."
I jumped up the steps--the sentinels had not time to stop me--and burst
into the room where six hussar officers were playing faro. The Major
kept the bank. I instantly recognized the Major as Ivan Zourine, who
had so thoroughly emptied my purse at Simbirsk. "Is it possible? is
this you Ivan Zourine?"
"Halloo! Peter; what luck? where are you from? will you take a chance?"
"Thanks; I would rather have some apartments assigned me."
"No need of apartments, stay with me."
"I can not; I am not alone."
"Bring your comrade with you."
"I am not with a comrade; I am with--a lady."
"A lady! where did you fish her out?" and he whistled in so rollicking
a manner, that the rest burst out laughing.
"Well," said Zourine, "then you must have a house in the town. Here,
boy! why do you not bring in Pougatcheff's friend?"
"What are you about," said I. "It is Captain Mironoff's daughter. I
have just obtained her liberty, and I am taking her to my father's,
where I shall leave her."
"In the name of Heaven, what are _you_ talking about? Are _you_
"I will tell you everything later; first go and see this poor girl,
whom your soldiers have horribly frightened."
Zourine went out into the street to excuse himself to Marie, and
explain the mistake, and ordered the officer to place her and her maid
in the best house in the city. I stayed with him. After supper, as
soon as we were alone, I gave him the story of my adventures.
He shook his head. "That's all very well; but why will you marry? As
an officer and a comrade, I tell you marriage is folly! Now listen to
me. The road to Simbirsk has been swept clean by our soldiers; you can
therefore send the Captain's daughter to your parents tomorrow, and
remain yourself in my detachment. No need to return to Orenbourg; you
might fall again into the hands of the rebels."
I resolved to follow, in part, Zourine's advice. Saveliitch came to
prepare my room for the night. I told him to be ready to set out in
the morning with Marie.
"Who will attend you, my lord?"
"My old friend," said I, trying to soften him, "I do not need a servant
here, and in serving Marie, you serve me, for I shall marry her as soon
as the war is over."
"Marry!" repeated he, with his hands crossed, and a look of
inexpressible blankness, "the child wants to marry! What will your
"They will, no doubt, consent as soon as they know Marie. You will
intercede for us, will you not?"
I had touched the old man's heart. "O Peter!" said he, "you are too
young to marry, but the young lady is an angel, and it would be a sin
to let the chance slip. I will do as you desire."
The next day I made known my plans to Marie. As Zourine's detachment
was to leave the city that same day, delay was impossible. I confided
Marie to my dear old Saveliitch, and gave him a letter for my father.
Marie, in tears, took leave of me. I did not dare to speak, lest the
bystanders should observe my feelings.
It was the end of the February; Winter, which had rendered manoeuvering
difficult was now at a close, and our generals were preparing for a
combined campaign. At the approach of our troops, revolted villages
returned to their duty, while Prince Galitzin defeated the usurper,
and raised the siege of Orenbourg, which was the death-blow to the
rebellion. We heard of Pougatcheff in the Ural regions, and on the way
to Moscow. But he was captured. The war was over. Zourine received
orders to return his troops to their posts. I jumped about the room
like a boy. Zourine shrugged his shoulders, and said: "Wait till you
are married, and see how foolish you are!"
I had leave of absence. In a few days I would be at home and united
to Marie. One day Zourine came into my room with a paper in his hand,
and sent away the servant.
"What's the matter?" said I.
"A slight annoyance," he answered, handing me the paper. "Read."
It was confidential order addressed to all the chiefs of detachments
to arrest me, and send me under guard to Khasan before the Commission
of Inquiry, created to give information against Pougatcheff and his
accomplices. The paper fell from my hands.
"Do not be cast down," said Zourine, "but set out at once."
My conscience was easy, but the delay! It would be months, perhaps,
before I could get through the Commission. Zourine bade me an
affectionate adieu. I mounted the telega (Summer carriage), two
hussars withdrawn swords beside, and took the road to Khasan.
XIV. THE SENTENCE.
I had no doubt that I was arrested for having left the fortress of
Orenbourg without leave, and felt sure that I could exculpate myself.
Not only were we not forbidden, but on the contrary, we were encouraged
to make forays against the enemy. My friendly relations with
Pougatcheff, however, wore a suspicious look.
Arriving at Khasan, I found the city almost reduced to ashes. Along
the streets there were heaps of calcined material of unroofed walls of
houses--a proof that Pougatcheff had been there. The fortress was
intact. I was taken there and delivered to the officer on duty. He
ordered the blacksmith to rivet securely iron shackles on my feet. I
was then consigned to a small, dark dungeon, lighted only by a loop-
hole, barred with iron. This did not presage anything good, yet I did
not lose courage; for, having tasted the delight of prayer, offered by
a heart full of anguish, I fell asleep, without a thought for the
morrow. The next morning I was taken before the Commission. Two
soldiers crossed the yard with me, to the Commandant's dwelling.
Stopping in the ante-chamber, they let me proceed alone to the
I entered quite a spacious room. At a table, covered with papers, sat
tow personages,--a General advanced in years, of stern aspect, and a
young officer of the Guards, of easy and agreeable manners. Near the
window, at another table, a secretary, pen on ear, bending over a
paper, was ready to take my deposition.
The interrogation began: "Your name and profession?" The General
asked if I was the son of Andrew Grineff, and upon my replying in the
affirmative, exclaimed: "It is a pity so honorable a man should have
a son so unworthy of him!"
I replied that I hoped to refute all charges against me, by a sincere
avowal of the truth. My assurance displeased him.
"You are a bold fellow," said he, frowning; "but we have seen others
The young officer asked how, and for what purpose I had entered the
I replied indignantly, that being an officer and a noble, I was
incapable of enlisting in the usurper's army, and had never served
him in any way.
"How is it," said my judge, "that the 'officer and noble' is the only
one spared by Pougatcheff? How is it that the 'officer and noble'
received presents from the chief rebel, of a horse and a pelisse?
Upon what is this intimacy founded, if not on treason, or at least
The words wounded me, and I undertook with warmth my own defense,
finally invoking the name of my General who could testify to my zeal
during the siege of Orenbourg. The severe old man took from the table
an open letter, and read:
* * * "With regard to Ensign Griness, I have the honor to declare,
that he was in the service at Orenbourg from the month of October,
1773, till the following February. Since then, he has not presented
himself." * * *
Here the General said harshly: "What can you say now to justify
My judges had listened with interest and even kindness, to the recital
of my acquaintance with the usurper, from the meeting in the snowdrift
to the taking of Belogorsk, where he gave me my life through gratitude.
I was going to continue my defense, by relating frankly my relations
with Marie, and her rescue. But if I spoke of her the Commission would
force her to appear, and her name would become the theme of no very
delicate remarks by the interrogated witnesses. These thoughts so
troubled me that I stammered, and at last was silent.
The judges were prejudiced against me by my evident confusion. The
young Guardsman asked that I should be confronted by my chief accuser.
Some minutes later the clank of iron fetters resounded, and Alexis
He was pale and thin. His hair, formerly black as a raven's wing, was
turning gray. He repeated his accusation in a weak but decided tone.
According to him, I was Pougatcheff's spy. I heard him to the end
in silence, and rejoiced at one thing: he never pronounced the name
of Marie Mironoff. Was it that his self-love smarted from her
contemptuous rejection of him? or was there in his heart a spark
of that same feeling which made me also silent on that point? This
confirmed me in my resolution, and when asked what I had to answer
to the charges of Alexis, I merely said that I held to my first
declaration, and had nothing more to add.
The General remanded us to prison. I looked at Alexis. He smiled with
satisfied hate, raised up his shackles to hasten his pace and pass
before me. I had no further examination. I was not an eye-witness of
what remains to be told the reader; but I have so often heard the
story, that the minutest particulars are engraved on my memory.
Marie was received by my parents with the cordial courtesy which
distinguished the preceding generation. They became very much attached
to her, and my father no longer considered my love a folly. The news
of my arrest was a fearful blow; but Marie and Saveliitch had so
frankly told the origin of my connection with Pougatcheff, that the
news did not seem grave. My father could not be persuaded that I would
take part in an infamous revolt, whose object was the subversion of the
throne and the extinction of the nobility. So better news was
expected, and several weeks passed, when at last a letter came from our
relative Prince B---. After the usual compliments, he told my father
that the suspicions of my complicity in the rebel plots were only too
well founded, as had been proved,--that an exemplary execution might
have been my fate, were it not that the Empress, out of consideration
for the father's white hair and loyal services, had commuted the
sentence of the criminal son. She had exiled him for life to the
depths of Siberia!
The blow nearly killed my father. his firmness gave way, and his
usually silent sorrow burst into bitter plaints: "What! my son plotting
with Pougatcheff! The Empress gives him his life! Execution not the
worst thing in the world! My grandfather died on the scaffold in
defense of his convictions! But, that a noble should betray his oath,
unite with bandits, knaves and revolted slaves! shame! shame forever
on our face!"
Frightened by his despair, my mother did not dare to show her grief,
and Marie was more desolate than they. Persuaded that I could justify
myself if I chose, she divined the motive of my silence, and believed
that she was the cause of my suffering.
One evening, seated on his sofa, my father was turning over the leaves
of the "_Court Almanac_," but his thoughts were far away, and the book
did not produce its usual effect upon him. My mother was knitting in
silence, and from time to time a furtive tear dropped upon her work.
Marie, who was sewing in the same room, without any prelude declared
to my parents that she was obliged to go to St. Petersburg, and begged
them to furnish her the means.
My mother said: "Why will you leave us?"
Marie replied that her fate depended on this journey; that she was
going to claim the protection of those in favor at Court, as the
daughter of a man who had perished a victim to his loyalty.
My father bowed his head. A word which recalled the supposed crime of
his son, seemed a sharp reproach.
"Go," said he, at last, with a sigh; "we will not place an obstacle
to your happiness. May God give you an honorable husband and not a
He rose and left the room. Alone with my mother, Marie confided to
her, in part, the object of her journey. My mother, in tears, kissed
her and prayed for the success of the project. A few days after,
Marie, Polacca and Saveliitch left home.
When Marie reached Sofia, she learned that the Court was at that moment
in residence at the summer palace of Tzarskoie-Selo. She decided to
stop there, and obtained a small room at the post-house. The post
mistress came to chat with the new-comer. She told Marie, pompously,
that she was the niece of an official attached to the Court--her uncle
having the honor of attending to the fires in her Majesty's abode!
Marie soon knew at what hour the Empress rose, took her coffee, and
went on the promenade; in brief, the conversation of Anna was like a
page from the memoirs of the times, and would be very precious in our
days. The two women went together to the Imperial gardens, where Anna
told Marie the romance of each pathway and the history of every bridge
over the artificial streams. Next day very early Marie returned alone
to the Imperial gardens. The weather was superb. The sun gilded the
linden tops, already seared by the Autumn frosts. The broad lake
sparkled, the swans, just aroused, came out gravely from the shore.
Marie was going to a charming green sward, when a little dog, of
English blood, came running to her barking. She was startled; but
a voice of rare refinement said: "He will not bite you; do not be
A lady about fifty years of age was seated on a rustic bench. She
was dressed in a white morning-dress, a light cap and a mantilla.
Her face, full and florid, was expressive of calmness and seriousness.
She was the first to speak: "You are evidently a stranger here?"
"That is true, madam. I arrived from the country yesterday."
"You are with your parents?"
"No, madam, alone."
"You are too young to travel alone. Are you here on business?"
"My parents are dead. I came to present a petition to the Empress."
"You are an orphan; you have to complain of injustice, or injury?"
"Madam, I came to ask for a pardon, not justice."
"Permit me a question: Who are you?"
"I am the daughter of Captain Mironoff."
"Of Captain Mironoff? of him who commanded one of the fortresses in the
province of Orenbourg?"
"The same, madam."
The lady seemed touched. "Pardon me, I am going to Court. Explain the
object of your petition; perhaps I can aid you." Marie took from her
pocket a paper which she handed to the lady, who read it attentively.
Marie, whose eyes followed every movement of her countenance, was
alarmed by the severe expression of face so calm and gracious a moment
"You intercede for Grineff?" said the lady, in an icy tone. "The
Empress can not pardon him. He went over to the usurper, not as an
ignorant believer, but as a depraved and dangerous good-for-nothing."
"It is not true!" exclaimed Marie.
"What! not true?" said the lady, flushing to the eyes.
"Before God, it is not true. I know all. I will tell you all. It was
for me only that exposed himself to all these misfortunes. If he did
not clear himself before his judges, it was because he would not drag
me before the authorities." Marie then related with warmth all that
the reader knows.
"Where do you lodge?" asked the lady, when the young girl had finished
her recital. Upon hearing that she was staying with the postmaster's
wife, she nodded, and said with a smile: "Ah! I know her. Adieu! tell
no one of our meeting. I hope you will not have long to wait for the
answer to your petition."
She rose and went away by a covered path. Marie went back to Anna's,
full of fair hope. The postmaster's wife was surprised that Marie took
so early a promenade, which might in Autumn, prove injurious to a young
girl's health. She brought the _Somovar_, and with her cup of tea was
going to relate one of her interminable stories, when a carriage with
the imperial escutcheon stopped before the door. A lackey, wearing the
imperial livery, entered and announced that her Majesty deigned to
order to her presence the daughter of Captain Mironoff!
"Ah!" exclaimed Anna, "the Empress orders you to Court! How did she
know you were with me? You can not present yourself--you do not know
how to walk in courtly fashion! I ought to go with you. Shall I not
send to the doctor's wife and get her yellow dress with flounces, for
The lackey declared that he had orders to take Marie alone, just as she
was. Anna did not dare to disobey, and Marie set out. She had a
presentiment that her destiny was now to be decided. Her heart beat
violently. In a few minutes the carriage was at the palace, and Marie,
having crossed a long suite of apartments, vacant and sumptuous,
entered the _boudoir_ of the Empress. The nobles who surrounded their
sovereign respectfully made way for the young girl.
The Empress, in whom Marie recognized the lady of the garden, said,
graciously: "I am pleased to be able to grant your prayer. Convinced
of the innocence of your betrothed, I have arranged everything. Here
is a letter for your future father-in-law."
Marie, in tears, fell at the feet of the Empress, who raised her up and
kissed her, saying:
"I know that you are not rich; but I have to acquit myself of a debt to
the daughter of a brave man, Captain Mironoff." Treating Marie with
tenderness, the Empress dismissed her. That day Marie set out for my
father's country-seat, not having even glanced at Saint Petersburg.
Here terminate the memoirs of Peter Grineff. We know by family
tradition that he was set free about the end of the year 1774. We
know too, that he was present at the execution of Pougatcheff, who,
recognizing him in the crowd, gave him one last sign with the head
which, a moment after, was shown to the people, bleeding and inanimate.
Peter Grineff became the husband of Marie Mironoff. Their descendents
still live, in the Province of Simbirsk, and in the hereditary manor
is still shown the autograph letter of the Empress Catherine II. It
is addressed to Andrew Grineff, and contains, with his son's
justification, a touching and beautiful eulogium of Marie, the