Part 2 out of 6
residents of the town evidently did not wish to remain idle, but
gathered on the ramparts; in their eyes could be read desperate
resistance. The women too were determined to take part in the fray,
and upon the heads of the Zaporozhians rained down stones, casks of
boiling water, and sacks of lime which blinded them. The Zaporozhtzi
were not fond of having anything to do with fortified places: sieges
were not in their line. The Koschevoi ordered them to retreat, saying,
"It is useless, brother gentles; we will retire: but may I be a
heathen Tatar, and not a Christian, if we do not clear them out of
that town! may they all perish of hunger, the dogs!" The army
retreated, surrounded the town, and, for lack of something to do,
busied themselves with devastating the surrounding country, burning
the neighbouring villages and the ricks of unthreshed grain, and
turning their droves of horses loose in the cornfields, as yet
untouched by the reaping-hook, where the plump ears waved, fruit, as
luck would have it, of an unusually good harvest which should have
liberally rewarded all tillers of the soil that season.
With horror those in the city beheld their means of subsistence
destroyed. Meanwhile the Zaporozhtzi, having formed a double ring of
their waggons around the city, disposed themselves as in the Setch in
kurens, smoked their pipes, bartered their booty for weapons, played
at leapfrog and odd-and-even, and gazed at the city with deadly
cold-bloodedness. At night they lighted their camp fires, and the
cooks boiled the porridge for each kuren in huge copper cauldrons;
whilst an alert sentinel watched all night beside the blazing fire.
But the Zaporozhtzi soon began to tire of inactivity and prolonged
sobriety, unaccompanied by any fighting. The Koschevoi even ordered
the allowance of wine to be doubled, which was sometimes done in the
army when no difficult enterprises or movements were on hand. The
young men, and Taras Bulba's sons in particular, did not like this
life. Andrii was visibly bored. "You silly fellow!" said Taras to him,
"be patient, you will be hetman one day. He is not a good warrior who
loses heart in an important enterprise; but he who is not tired even
of inactivity, who endures all, and who even if he likes a thing can
give it up." But hot youth cannot agree with age; the two have
different natures, and look at the same thing with different eyes.
But in the meantime Taras's band, led by Tovkatch, arrived; with him
were also two osauls, the secretary, and other regimental officers:
the Cossacks numbered over four thousand in all. There were among them
many volunteers, who had risen of their own free will, without any
summons, as soon as they had heard what the matter was. The osauls
brought to Taras's sons the blessing of their aged mother, and to each
a picture in a cypress-wood frame from the Mezhigorski monastery at
Kief. The two brothers hung the pictures round their necks, and
involuntarily grew pensive as they remembered their old mother. What
did this blessing prophecy? Was it a blessing for their victory over
the enemy, and then a joyous return to their home with booty and
glory, to be everlastingly commemorated in the songs of
guitar-players? or was it . . . ? But the future is unknown, and
stands before a man like autumnal fogs rising from the swamps; birds
fly foolishly up and down in it with flapping wings, never recognising
each other, the dove seeing not the vulture, nor the vulture the dove,
and no one knowing how far he may be flying from destruction.
Ostap had long since attended to his duties and gone to the kuren.
Andrii, without knowing why, felt a kind of oppression at his heart.
The Cossacks had finished their evening meal; the wonderful July night
had completely fallen; still he did not go to the kuren, nor lie down
to sleep, but gazed unconsciously at the whole scene before him. In
the sky innumerable stars twinkled brightly. The plain was covered far
and wide with scattered waggons with swinging tar-buckets, smeared
with tar, and loaded with every description of goods and provisions
captured from the foe. Beside the waggons, under the waggons, and far
beyond the waggons, Zaporozhtzi were everywhere visible, stretched
upon the grass. They all slumbered in picturesque attitudes; one had
thrust a sack under his head, another his cap, and another simply made
use of his comrade's side. Swords, guns, matchlocks, short pipe-stems
with copper mountings, iron awls, and a flint and steel were
inseparable from every Cossack. The heavy oxen lay with their feet
doubled under them like huge whitish masses, and at a distance looked
like gray stones scattered on the slopes of the plain. On all sides
the heavy snores of sleeping warriors began to arise from the grass,
and were answered from the plain by the ringing neighs of their
steeds, chafing at their hobbled feet. Meanwhile a certain threatening
magnificence had mingled with the beauty of the July night. It was the
distant glare of the burning district afar. In one place the flames
spread quietly and grandly over the sky; in another, suddenly bursting
into a whirlwind, they hissed and flew upwards to the very stars, and
floating fragments died away in the most distant quarter of the
heavens. Here the black, burned monastery like a grim Carthusian monk
stood threatening, and displaying its dark magnificence at every
flash; there blazed the monastery garden. It seemed as though the
trees could be heard hissing as they stood wrapped in smoke; and when
the fire burst forth, it suddenly lighted up the ripe plums with a
phosphoric lilac-coloured gleam, or turned the yellowing pears here
and there to pure gold. In the midst of them hung black against the
wall of the building, or the trunk of a tree, the body of some poor
Jew or monk who had perished in the flames with the structure. Above
the distant fires hovered a flock of birds, like a cluster of tiny
black crosses upon a fiery field. The town thus laid bare seemed to
sleep; the spires and roofs, and its palisade and walls, gleamed
quietly in the glare of the distant conflagrations. Andrii went the
rounds of the Cossack ranks. The camp-fires, beside which the
sentinels sat, were ready to go out at any moment; and even the
sentinels slept, having devoured oatmeal and dumplings with true
Cossack appetites. He was astonished at such carelessness, thinking,
"It is well that there is no strong enemy at hand and nothing to
fear." Finally he went to one of the waggons, climbed into it, and lay
down upon his back, putting his clasped hands under his head; but he
could not sleep, and gazed long at the sky. It was all open before
him; the air was pure and transparent; the dense clusters of stars in
the Milky Way, crossing the sky like a belt, were flooded with light.
From time to time Andrii in some degree lost consciousness, and a
light mist of dream veiled the heavens from him for a moment; but then
he awoke, and they became visible again.
During one of these intervals it seemed to him that some strange human
figure flitted before him. Thinking it to be merely a vision which
would vanish at once, he opened his eyes, and beheld a withered,
emaciated face bending over him, and gazing straight into his own.
Long coal-black hair, unkempt, dishevelled, fell from beneath a dark
veil which had been thrown over the head; whilst the strange gleam of
the eyes, and the death-like tone of the sharp-cut features, inclined
him to think that it was an apparition. His hand involuntarily grasped
his gun; and he exclaimed almost convulsively: "Who are you? If you
are an evil spirit, avaunt! If you are a living being, you have chosen
an ill time for your jest. I will kill you with one shot."
In answer to this, the apparition laid its finger upon its lips and
seemed to entreat silence. He dropped his hands and began to look more
attentively. He recognised it to be a woman from the long hair, the
brown neck, and the half-concealed bosom. But she was not a native of
those regions: her wide cheek-bones stood out prominently over her
hollow cheeks; her small eyes were obliquely set. The more he gazed at
her features, the more he found them familiar. Finally he could
restrain himself no longer, and said, "Tell me, who are you? It seems
to me that I know you, or have seen you somewhere."
"Two years ago in Kief."
"Two years ago in Kief!" repeated Andrii, endeavouring to collect in
his mind all that lingered in his memory of his former student life.
He looked intently at her once more, and suddenly exclaimed at the top
of his voice, "You are the Tatar! the servant of the lady, the
"Sh!" cried the Tatar, clasping her hands with a supplicating glance,
trembling all over, and turning her head round in order to see whether
any one had been awakened by Andrii's loud exclamation.
"Tell me, tell me, why are you here?" said Andrii almost breathlessly,
in a whisper, interrupted every moment by inward emotion. "Where is
the lady? is she alive?"
"She is now in the city."
"In the city!" he exclaimed, again almost in a shriek, and feeling all
the blood suddenly rush to his heart. "Why is she in the city?"
"Because the old lord himself is in the city: he has been Waiwode of
Dubno for the last year and a half."
"Is she married? How strange you are! Tell me about her."
"She has eaten nothing for two days."
"And not one of the inhabitants has had a morsel of bread for a long
while; all have long been eating earth."
Andrii was astounded.
"The lady saw you from the city wall, among the Zaporozhtzi. She said
to me, 'Go tell the warrior: if he remembers me, let him come to me;
and do not forget to make him give you a bit of bread for my aged
mother, for I do not wish to see my mother die before my very eyes.
Better that I should die first, and she afterwards! Beseech him; clasp
his knees, his feet: he also has an aged mother, let him give you the
bread for her sake!'"
Many feelings awoke in the young Cossack's breast.
"But how came you here? how did you get here?"
"By an underground passage."
"Is there an underground passage?"
"You will not betray it, warrior?"
"I swear it by the holy cross!"
"You descend into a hole, and cross the brook, yonder among the
"And it leads into the city?"
"Straight into the monastery."
"Let us go, let us go at once."
"A bit of bread, in the name of Christ and of His holy mother!"
"Good, so be it. Stand here beside the waggon, or, better still, lie
down in it: no one will see you, all are asleep. I will return at
And he set off for the baggage waggons, which contained the provisions
belonging to their kuren. His heart beat. All the past, all that had
been extinguished by the Cossack bivouacks, and by the stern battle of
life, flamed out at once on the surface and drowned the present in its
turn. Again, as from the dark depths of the sea, the noble lady rose
before him: again there gleamed in his memory her beautiful arms, her
eyes, her laughing mouth, her thick dark-chestnut hair, falling in
curls upon her shoulders, and the firm, well-rounded limbs of her
maiden form. No, they had not been extinguished in his breast, they
had not vanished, they had simply been laid aside, in order, for a
time, to make way for other strong emotions; but often, very often,
the young Cossack's deep slumber had been troubled by them, and often
he had lain sleepless on his couch, without being able to explain the
His heart beat more violently at the thought of seeing her again, and
his young knees shook. On reaching the baggage waggons, he had quite
forgotten what he had come for; he raised his hand to his brow and
rubbed it long, trying to recollect what he was to do. At length he
shuddered, and was filled with terror as the thought suddenly occurred
to him that she was dying of hunger. He jumped upon the waggon and
seized several large loaves of black bread; but then he thought, "Is
this not food, suited to a robust and easily satisfied Zaporozhetz,
too coarse and unfit for her delicate frame?" Then he recollected that
the Koschevoi, on the previous evening, had reproved the cooks for
having cooked up all the oatmeal into porridge at once, when there was
plenty for three times. Sure that he would find plenty of porridge in
the kettles, he drew out his father's travelling kettle and went with
it to the cook of their kuren, who was sleeping beside two big
cauldrons, holding about ten pailfuls, under which the ashes still
glowed. Glancing into them, he was amazed to find them empty. It must
have required supernatural powers to eat it all; the more so, as their
kuren numbered fewer than the others. He looked into the cauldron of
the other kurens--nothing anywhere. Involuntarily the saying recurred
to his mind, "The Zaporozhtzi are like children: if there is little
they eat it, if there is much they leave nothing." What was to be
done? There was, somewhere in the waggon belonging to his father's
band, a sack of white bread, which they had found when they pillaged
the bakery of the monastery. He went straight to his father's waggon,
but it was not there. Ostap had taken it and put it under his head;
and there he lay, stretched out on the ground, snoring so that the
whole plain rang again. Andrii seized the sack abruptly with one hand
and gave it a jerk, so that Ostap's head fell to the ground. The elder
brother sprang up in his sleep, and, sitting there with closed eyes,
shouted at the top of his lungs, "Stop them! Stop the cursed Lyakhs!
Catch the horses! catch the horses!"--"Silence! I'll kill you,"
shouted Andrii in terror, flourishing the sack over him. But Ostap did
not continue his speech, sank down again, and gave such a snore that
the grass on which he lay waved with his breath.
Andrii glanced timidly on all sides to see if Ostap's talking in his
sleep had waked any of the Cossacks. Only one long-locked head was
raised in the adjoining kuren, and after glancing about, was dropped
back on the ground. After waiting a couple of minutes he set out with
his load. The Tatar woman was lying where he had left her, scarcely
breathing. "Come, rise up. Fear not, all are sleeping. Can you take
one of these loaves if I cannot carry all?" So saying, he swung the
sack on to his back, pulled out another sack of millet as he passed
the waggon, took in his hands the loaves he had wanted to give the
Tatar woman to carry, and, bending somewhat under the load, went
boldly through the ranks of sleeping Zaporozhtzi.
"Andrii," said old Bulba, as he passed. His heart died within him. He
halted, trembling, and said softly, "What is it?"
"There's a woman with you. When I get up I'll give you a sound
thrashing. Women will lead you to no good." So saying, he leaned his
hand upon his hand and gazed intently at the muffled form of the
Andrii stood there, more dead than alive, not daring to look in his
father's face. When he did raise his eyes and glance at him, old Bulba
was asleep, with his head still resting in the palm of his hand.
Andrii crossed himself. Fear fled from his heart even more rapidly
than it had assailed it. When he turned to look at the Tatar woman,
she stood before him, muffled in her mantle, like a dark granite
statue, and the gleam of the distant dawn lighted up only her eyes,
dull as those of a corpse. He plucked her by the sleeve, and both went
on together, glancing back continually. At length they descended the
slope of a small ravine, almost a hole, along the bottom of which a
brook flowed lazily, overgrown with sedge, and strewed with mossy
boulders. Descending into this ravine, they were completely concealed
from the view of all the plain occupied by the Zaporovian camp. At
least Andrii, glancing back, saw that the steep slope rose behind him
higher than a man. On its summit appeared a few blades of
steppe-grass; and behind them, in the sky, hung the moon, like a
golden sickle. The breeze rising on the steppe warned them that the
dawn was not far off. But nowhere was the crow of the cock heard.
Neither in the city nor in the devastated neighbourhood had there been
a cock for a long time past. They crossed the brook on a small plank,
beyond which rose the opposite bank, which appeared higher than the
one behind them and rose steeply. It seemed as though this were the
strong point of the citadel upon which the besieged could rely; at all
events, the earthen wall was lower there, and no garrison appeared
behind it. But farther on rose the thick monastery walls. The steep
bank was overgrown with steppe-grass, and in the narrow ravine between
it and the brook grew tall reeds almost as high as a man. At the
summit of the bank were the remains of a wattled fence, which had
formerly surrounded some garden, and in front of it were visible the
wide leaves of the burdock, from among which rose blackthorn, and
sunflowers lifting their heads high above all the rest. Here the Tatar
flung off her slippers and went barefoot, gathering her clothes up
carefully, for the spot was marshy and full of water. Forcing their
way among the reeds, they stopped before a ruined outwork. Skirting
this outwork, they found a sort of earthen arch--an opening not much
larger than the opening of an oven. The Tatar woman bent her head and
went first. Andrii followed, bending low as he could, in order to pass
with his sacks; and both soon found themselves in total darkness.
Andrii could hardly move in the dark and narrow earthen burrow, as he
followed the Tatar, dragging after him his sacks of bread. "It will
soon be light," said his guide: "we are approaching the spot where I
placed a light." And in fact the dark earthen walls began to be
gradually lit up. They reached a widening in the passage where, it
seemed, there had once been a chapel; at least, there was a small
table against the wall, like an altar, and above, the faded, almost
entirely obliterated picture of a Catholic Madonna. A small silver
lamp hanging before it barely illumined it. The Tatar stooped and
picked up from the ground a copper candlestick which she had left
there, a candlestick with a tall, slender stem, and snuffers, pin, and
extinguisher hanging about it on chains. She lighted it at the silver
lamp. The light grew stronger; and as they went on, now illumined by
it, and again enveloped in pitchy shadow, they suggested a picture by
The warrior's fresh, handsome countenance, overflowing with health and
youth, presented a strong contrast to the pale, emaciated face of his
companion. The passage grew a little higher, so that Andrii could hold
himself erect. He gazed with curiosity at the earthen walls. Here and
there, as in the catacombs at Kief, were niches in the walls; and in
some places coffins were standing. Sometimes they came across human
bones which had become softened with the dampness and were crumbling
into dust. It was evident that pious folk had taken refuge here from
the storms, sorrows, and seductions of the world. It was extremely
damp in some places; indeed there was water under their feet at
intervals. Andrii was forced to halt frequently to allow his companion
to rest, for her fatigue kept increasing. The small piece of bread she
had swallowed only caused a pain in her stomach, of late unused to
food; and she often stood motionless for minutes together in one spot.
At length a small iron door appeared before them. "Glory be to God, we
have arrived!" said the Tatar in a faint voice, and tried to lift her
hand to knock, but had no strength to do so. Andrii knocked hard at
the door in her stead. There was an echo as though a large space lay
beyond the door; then the echo changed as if resounding through lofty
arches. In a couple of minutes, keys rattled, and steps were heard
descending some stairs. At length the door opened, and a monk,
standing on the narrow stairs with the key and a light in his hands,
admitted them. Andrii involuntarily halted at the sight of a Catholic
monk--one of those who had aroused such hate and disdain among the
Cossacks that they treated them even more inhumanly than they treated
The monk, on his part, started back on perceiving a Zaporovian
Cossack, but a whisper from the Tatar reassured him. He lighted them
in, fastened the door behind them, and led them up the stairs. They
found themselves beneath the dark and lofty arches of the monastery
church. Before one of the altars, adorned with tall candlesticks and
candles, knelt a priest praying quietly. Near him on each side knelt
two young choristers in lilac cassocks and white lace stoles, with
censers in their hands. He prayed for the performance of a miracle,
that the city might be saved; that their souls might be strengthened;
that patience might be given them; that doubt and timid, weak-spirited
mourning over earthly misfortunes might be banished. A few women,
resembling shadows, knelt supporting themselves against the backs of
the chairs and dark wooden benches before them, and laying their
exhausted heads upon them. A few men stood sadly, leaning against the
columns upon which the wide arches rested. The stained-glass window
above the altar suddenly glowed with the rosy light of dawn; and from
it, on the floor, fell circles of blue, yellow, and other colours,
illuminating the dim church. The whole altar was lighted up; the smoke
from the censers hung a cloudy rainbow in the air. Andrii gazed from
his dark corner, not without surprise, at the wonders worked by the
light. At that moment the magnificent swell of the organ filled the
whole church. It grew deeper and deeper, expanded, swelled into heavy
bursts of thunder; and then all at once, turning into heavenly music,
its ringing tones floated high among the arches, like clear maiden
voices, and again descended into a deep roar and thunder, and then
ceased. The thunderous pulsations echoed long and tremulously among
the arches; and Andrii, with half-open mouth, admired the wondrous
Then he felt some one plucking the shirt of his caftan. "It is time,"
said the Tatar. They traversed the church unperceived, and emerged
upon the square in front. Dawn had long flushed the heavens; all
announced sunrise. The square was empty: in the middle of it still
stood wooden pillars, showing that, perhaps only a week before, there
had been a market here stocked with provisions. The streets, which
were unpaved, were simply a mass of dried mud. The square was
surrounded by small, one-storied stone or mud houses, in the walls of
which were visible wooden stakes and posts obliquely crossed by carved
wooden beams, as was the manner of building in those days. Specimens
of it can still be seen in some parts of Lithuania and Poland. They
were all covered with enormously high roofs, with a multitude of
windows and air-holes. On one side, close to the church, rose a
building quite detached from and taller than the rest, probably the
town-hall or some official structure. It was two stories high, and
above it, on two arches, rose a belvedere where a watchman stood; a
huge clock-face was let into the roof.
The square seemed deserted, but Andrii thought he heard a feeble
groan. Looking about him, he perceived, on the farther side, a group
of two or three men lying motionless upon the ground. He fixed his
eyes more intently on them, to see whether they were asleep or dead;
and, at the same moment, stumbled over something lying at his feet. It
was the dead body of a woman, a Jewess apparently. She appeared to be
young, though it was scarcely discernible in her distorted and
emaciated features. Upon her head was a red silk kerchief; two rows of
pearls or pearl beads adorned the beads of her head-dress, from
beneath which two long curls hung down upon her shrivelled neck, with
its tightly drawn veins. Beside her lay a child, grasping convulsively
at her shrunken breast, and squeezing it with involuntary ferocity at
finding no milk there. He neither wept nor screamed, and only his
gently rising and falling body would have led one to guess that he was
not dead, or at least on the point of breathing his last. They turned
into a street, and were suddenly stopped by a madman, who, catching
sight of Andrii's precious burden, sprang upon him like a tiger, and
clutched him, yelling, "Bread!" But his strength was not equal to his
madness. Andrii repulsed him and he fell to the ground. Moved with
pity, the young Cossack flung him a loaf, which he seized like a mad
dog, gnawing and biting it; but nevertheless he shortly expired in
horrible suffering, there in the street, from the effect of long
abstinence. The ghastly victims of hunger startled them at every step.
Many, apparently unable to endure their torments in their houses,
seemed to run into the streets to see whether some nourishing power
might not possibly descend from the air. At the gate of one house sat
an old woman, and it was impossible to say whether she was asleep or
dead, or only unconscious; at all events, she no longer saw or heard
anything, and sat immovable in one spot, her head drooping on her
breast. From the roof of another house hung a worn and wasted body in
a rope noose. The poor fellow could not endure the tortures of hunger
to the last, and had preferred to hasten his end by a voluntary death.
At the sight of such terrible proofs of famine, Andrii could not
refrain from saying to the Tatar, "Is there really nothing with which
they can prolong life? If a man is driven to extremities, he must feed
on what he has hitherto despised; he can sustain himself with
creatures which are forbidden by the law. Anything can be eaten under
"They have eaten everything," said the Tatar, "all the animals. Not a
horse, nor a dog, nor even a mouse is to be found in the whole city.
We never had any store of provisions in the town: they were all
brought from the villages."
"But how can you, while dying such a fearful death, still dream of
defending the city?"
"Possibly the Waiwode might have surrendered; but yesterday morning
the commander of the troops at Buzhana sent a hawk into the city with
a note saying that it was not to be given up; that he was coming to
its rescue with his forces, and was only waiting for another leader,
that they might march together. And now they are expected every
moment. But we have reached the house."
Andrii had already noticed from a distance this house, unlike the
others, and built apparently by some Italian architect. It was
constructed of thin red bricks, and had two stories. The windows of
the lower story were sheltered under lofty, projecting granite
cornices. The upper story consisted entirely of small arches, forming
a gallery; between the arches were iron gratings enriched with
escutcheons; whilst upon the gables of the house more coats-of-arms
were displayed. The broad external staircase, of tinted bricks,
abutted on the square. At the foot of it sat guards, who with one hand
held their halberds upright, and with the other supported their
drooping heads, and in this attitude more resembled apparitions than
living beings. They neither slept nor dreamed, but seemed quite
insensible to everything; they even paid no attention to who went up
the stairs. At the head of the stairs, they found a richly-dressed
warrior, armed cap-a-pie, and holding a breviary in his hand. He
turned his dim eyes upon them; but the Tatar spoke a word to him, and
he dropped them again upon the open pages of his breviary. They
entered the first chamber, a large one, serving either as a
reception-room, or simply as an ante-room; it was filled with
soldiers, servants, secretaries, huntsmen, cup-bearers, and the other
servitors indispensable to the support of a Polish magnate's estate,
all seated along the walls. The reek of extinguished candles was
perceptible; and two were still burning in two huge candlesticks,
nearly as tall as a man, standing in the middle of the room, although
morning had long since peeped through the wide grated window. Andrii
wanted to go straight on to the large oaken door adorned with a
coat-of-arms and a profusion of carved ornaments, but the Tatar pulled
his sleeve and pointed to a small door in the side wall. Through this
they gained a corridor, and then a room, which he began to examine
attentively. The light which filtered through a crack in the shutter
fell upon several objects--a crimson curtain, a gilded cornice, and a
painting on the wall. Here the Tatar motioned to Andrii to wait, and
opened the door into another room from which flashed the light of a
fire. He heard a whispering, and a soft voice which made him quiver
all over. Through the open door he saw flit rapidly past a tall female
figure, with a long thick braid of hair falling over her uplifted
hands. The Tatar returned and told him to go in.
He could never understand how he entered and how the door was shut
behind him. Two candles burned in the room and a lamp glowed before
the images: beneath the lamp stood a tall table with steps to kneel
upon during prayer, after the Catholic fashion. But his eye did not
seek this. He turned to the other side and perceived a woman, who
appeared to have been frozen or turned to stone in the midst of some
quick movement. It seemed as though her whole body had sought to
spring towards him, and had suddenly paused. And he stood in like
manner amazed before her. Not thus had he pictured to himself that he
should find her. This was not the same being he had formerly known;
nothing about her resembled her former self; but she was twice as
beautiful, twice as enchanting, now than she had been then. Then there
had been something unfinished, incomplete, about her; now here was a
production to which the artist had given the finishing stroke of his
brush. That was a charming, giddy girl; this was a woman in the full
development of her charms. As she raised her eyes, they were full of
feeling, not of mere hints of feeling. The tears were not yet dry in
them, and framed them in a shining dew which penetrated the very soul.
Her bosom, neck, and arms were moulded in the proportions which mark
fully developed loveliness. Her hair, which had in former days waved
in light ringlets about her face, had become a heavy, luxuriant mass,
a part of which was caught up, while part fell in long, slender curls
upon her arms and breast. It seemed as though her every feature had
changed. In vain did he seek to discover in them a single one of those
which were engraved in his memory--a single one. Even her great pallor
did not lessen her wonderful beauty; on the contrary, it conferred
upon it an irresistible, inexpressible charm. Andrii felt in his heart
a noble timidity, and stood motionless before her. She, too, seemed
surprised at the appearance of the Cossack, as he stood before her in
all the beauty and might of his young manhood, and in the very
immovability of his limbs personified the utmost freedom of movement.
His eyes beamed with clear decision; his velvet brows curved in a bold
arch; his sunburnt cheeks glowed with all the ardour of youthful fire;
and his downy black moustache shone like silk.
"No, I have no power to thank you, noble sir," she said, her silvery
voice all in a tremble. "God alone can reward you, not I, a weak
woman." She dropped her eyes, her lids fell over them in beautiful,
snowy semicircles, guarded by lashes long as arrows; her wondrous face
bowed forward, and a delicate flush overspread it from within. Andrii
knew not what to say; he wanted to say everything. He had in his mind
to say it all ardently as it glowed in his heart--and could not. He
felt something confining his mouth; voice and words were lacking; he
felt that it was not for him, bred in the seminary and in the tumult
of a roaming life, to reply fitly to such language, and was angry with
his Cossack nature.
At that moment the Tatar entered the room. She had cut up the bread
which the warrior had brought into small pieces on a golden plate,
which she placed before her mistress. The lady glanced at her, at the
bread, at her again, and then turned her eyes towards Andrii. There
was a great deal in those eyes. That gentle glance, expressive of her
weakness and her inability to give words to the feeling which
overpowered her, was far more comprehensible to Andrii than any words.
His heart suddenly grew light within him, all seemed made smooth. The
mental emotions and the feelings which up to that moment he had
restrained with a heavy curb, as it were, now felt themselves
released, at liberty, and anxious to pour themselves out in a
resistless torrent of words. Suddenly the lady turned to the Tatar,
and said anxiously, "But my mother? you took her some?"
"She is asleep."
"And my father?"
"I carried him some; he said that he would come to thank the young
lord in person."
She took the bread and raised it to her mouth. With inexpressible
delight Andrii watched her break it with her shining fingers and eat
it; but all at once he recalled the man mad with hunger, who had
expired before his eyes on swallowing a morsel of bread. He turned
pale and, seizing her hand, cried, "Enough! eat no more! you have not
eaten for so long that too much bread will be poison to you now." And
she at once dropped her hand, laid her bread upon the plate, and gazed
into his eyes like a submissive child. And if any words could
express-- But neither chisel, nor brush, nor mighty speech is capable
of expressing what is sometimes seen in glances of maidens, nor the
tender feeling which takes possession of him who receives such maiden
"My queen!" exclaimed Andrii, his heart and soul filled with emotion,
"what do you need? what do you wish? command me! Impose on me the most
impossible task in all the world: I fly to fulfil it! Tell me to do
that which it is beyond the power of man to do: I will fulfil it if I
destroy myself. I will ruin myself. And I swear by the holy cross that
ruin for your sake is as sweet--but no, it is impossible to say how
sweet! I have three farms; half my father's droves of horses are mine;
all that my mother brought my father, and which she still conceals
from him--all this is mine! Not one of the Cossacks owns such weapons
as I; for the pommel of my sword alone they would give their best
drove of horses and three thousand sheep. And I renounce all this, I
discard it, I throw it aside, I will burn and drown it, if you will
but say the word, or even move your delicate black brows! But I know
that I am talking madly and wide of the mark; that all this is not
fitting here; that it is not for me, who have passed my life in the
seminary and among the Zaporozhtzi, to speak as they speak where
kings, princes, and all the best of noble knighthood have been. I can
see that you are a different being from the rest of us, and far above
all other boyars' wives and maiden daughters."
With growing amazement the maiden listened, losing no single word, to
the frank, sincere language in which, as in a mirror, the young,
strong spirit reflected itself. Each simple word of this speech,
uttered in a voice which penetrated straight to the depths of her
heart, was clothed in power. She advanced her beautiful face, pushed
back her troublesome hair, opened her mouth, and gazed long, with
parted lips. Then she tried to say something and suddenly stopped,
remembering that the warrior was known by a different name; that his
father, brothers, country, lay beyond, grim avengers; that the
Zaporozhtzi besieging the city were terrible, and that the cruel death
awaited all who were within its walls, and her eyes suddenly filled
with tears. She seized a silk embroidered handkerchief and threw it
over her face. In a moment it was all wet; and she sat for some time
with her beautiful head thrown back, and her snowy teeth set on her
lovely under-lip, as though she suddenly felt the sting of a poisonous
serpent, without removing the handkerchief from her face, lest he
should see her shaken with grief.
"Speak but one word to me," said Andrii, and he took her satin-skinned
hand. A sparkling fire coursed through his veins at the touch, and he
pressed the hand lying motionless in his.
But she still kept silence, never taking the kerchief from her face,
and remaining motionless.
"Why are you so sad? Tell me, why are you so sad?"
She cast away the handkerchief, pushed aside the long hair which fell
over her eyes, and poured out her heart in sad speech, in a quiet
voice, like the breeze which, rising on a beautiful evening, blows
through the thick growth of reeds beside the stream. They rustle,
murmur, and give forth delicately mournful sounds, and the traveller,
pausing in inexplicable sadness, hears them, and heeds not the fading
light, nor the gay songs of the peasants which float in the air as
they return from their labours in meadow and stubble-field, nor the
distant rumble of the passing waggon.
"Am not I worthy of eternal pity? Is not the mother that bore me
unhappy? Is it not a bitter lot which has befallen me? Art not thou a
cruel executioner, fate? Thou has brought all to my feet--the highest
nobles in the land, the richest gentlemen, counts, foreign barons, all
the flower of our knighthood. All loved me, and any one of them would
have counted my love the greatest boon. I had but to beckon, and the
best of them, the handsomest, the first in beauty and birth would have
become my husband. And to none of them didst thou incline my heart, O
bitter fate; but thou didst turn it against the noblest heroes of our
land, and towards a stranger, towards our enemy. O most holy mother of
God! for what sin dost thou so pitilessly, mercilessly, persecute me?
In abundance and superfluity of luxury my days were passed, the
richest dishes and the sweetest wine were my food. And to what end was
it all? What was it all for? In order that I might at last die a death
more cruel than that of the meanest beggar in the kingdom? And it was
not enough that I should be condemned to so horrible a fate; not
enough that before my own end I should behold my father and mother
perish in intolerable torment, when I would have willingly given my
own life twenty times over to save them; all this was not enough, but
before my own death I must hear words of love such as I had never
before dreamed of. It was necessary that he should break my heart with
his words; that my bitter lot should be rendered still more bitter;
that my young life should be made yet more sad; that my death should
seem even more terrible; and that, dying, I should reproach thee still
more, O cruel fate! and thee--forgive my sin--O holy mother of God!"
As she ceased in despair, her feelings were plainly expressed in her
face. Every feature spoke of gnawing sorrow and, from the sadly bowed
brow and downcast eyes to the tears trickling down and drying on her
softly burning cheeks, seemed to say, "There is no happiness in this
"Such a thing was never heard of since the world began. It cannot be,"
said Andrii, "that the best and most beautiful of women should suffer
so bitter a fate, when she was born that all the best there is in the
world should bow before her as before a saint. No, you will not die,
you shall not die! I swear by my birth and by all there is dear to me
in the world that you shall not die. But if it must be so; if nothing,
neither strength, nor prayer, nor heroism, will avail to avert this
cruel fate--then we will die together, and I will die first. I will
die before you, at your beauteous knees, and even in death they shall
not divide us."
"Deceive not yourself and me, noble sir," she said, gently shaking her
beautiful head; "I know, and to my great sorrow I know but too well,
that it is impossible for you to love me. I know what your duty is,
and your faith. Your father calls you, your comrades, your country,
and we are your enemies."
"And what are my father, my comrades, my country to me?" said Andrii,
with a quick movement of his head, and straightening up his figure
like a poplar beside the river. "Be that as it may, I have no one, no
one!" he repeated, with that movement of the hand with which the
Cossack expresses his determination to do some unheard-of deed,
impossible to any other man. "Who says that the Ukraine is my country?
Who gave it to me for my country? Our country is the one our soul
longs for, the one which is dearest of all to us. My country is--you!
That is my native land, and I bear that country in my heart. I will
bear it there all my life, and I will see whether any of the Cossacks
can tear it thence. And I will give everything, barter everything, I
will destroy myself, for that country!"
Astounded, she gazed in his eyes for a space, like a beautiful statue,
and then suddenly burst out sobbing; and with the wonderful feminine
impetuosity which only grand-souled, uncalculating women, created for
fine impulses of the heart, are capable of, threw herself upon his
neck, encircling it with her wondrous snowy arms, and wept. At that
moment indistinct shouts rang through the street, accompanied by the
sound of trumpets and kettledrums; but he heard them not. He was only
conscious of the beauteous mouth bathing him with its warm, sweet
breath, of the tears streaming down his face, and of her long, unbound
perfumed hair, veiling him completely in its dark and shining silk.
At that moment the Tatar ran in with a cry of joy. "Saved, saved!" she
cried, beside herself. "Our troops have entered the city. They have
brought corn, millet, flour, and Zaporozhtzi in chains!" But no one
heard that "our troops" had arrived in the city, or what they had
brought with them, or how they had bound the Zaporozhtzi. Filled with
feelings untasted as yet upon earth, Andrii kissed the sweet mouth
which pressed his cheek, and the sweet mouth did not remain
unresponsive. In this union of kisses they experienced that which it
is given to a man to feel but once on earth.
And the Cossack was ruined. He was lost to Cossack chivalry. Never
again will Zaporozhe, nor his father's house, nor the Church of God,
behold him. The Ukraine will never more see the bravest of the
children who have undertaken to defend her. Old Taras may tear the
grey hair from his scalp-lock, and curse the day and hour in which
such a son was born to dishonour him.
Noise and movement were rife in the Zaporozhian camp. At first, no one
could account for the relieving army having made its way into the
city; but it afterwards appeared that the Pereyaslavsky kuren,
encamped before the wide gate of the town, had been dead drunk. It was
no wonder that half had been killed, and the other half bound, before
they knew what it was all about. Meantime the neighbouring kurens,
aroused by the tumult, succeeded in grasping their weapons; but the
relieving force had already passed through the gate, and its rear
ranks fired upon the sleepy and only half-sober Zaporozhtzi who were
pressing in disorder upon them, and kept them back.
The Koschevoi ordered a general assembly; and when all stood in a ring
and had removed their caps and became quiet, he said: "See what
happened last night, brother gentles! See what drunkenness has led to!
See what shame the enemy has put upon us! It is evident that, if your
allowances are kindly doubled, then you are ready to stretch out at
full length, and the enemies of Christ can not only take your very
trousers off you, but sneeze in your faces without your hearing them!"
The Cossacks all stood with drooping heads, knowing that they were
guilty; only Kukubenko, the hetman of the Nezamisky kuren, answered
back. "Stop, father!" said he; "although it is not lawful to make a
retort when the Koschevoi speaks before the whole army, yet it is
necessary to say that that was not the state of the case. You have not
been quite just in your reprimand. The Cossacks would have been
guilty, and deserving of death, had they got drunk on the march, or
when engaged on heavy toilsome labour during war; but we have been
sitting here unoccupied, loitering in vain before the city. There was
no fast or other Christian restraint; how then could it be otherwise
than that a man should get drunk in idleness? There is no sin in that.
But we had better show them what it is to attack innocent people. They
first beat us well, and now we will beat them so that not half a dozen
of them will ever see home again."
The speech of the hetman of the kuren pleased the Cossacks. They
raised their drooping heads upright and many nodded approvingly,
muttering, "Kukubenko has spoken well!" And Taras Bulba, who stood not
far from the Koschevoi, said: "How now, Koschevoi? Kukubenko has
spoken truth. What have you to say to this?"
"What have I to say? I say, Blessed be the father of such a son! It
does not need much wisdom to utter words of reproof; but much wisdom
is needed to find such words as do not embitter a man's misfortune,
but encourage him, restore to him his spirit, put spurs to the horse
of his soul, refreshed by water. I meant myself to speak words of
comfort to you, but Kukubenko has forestalled me."
"The Koschevoi has also spoken well!" rang through the ranks of the
Zaporozhtzi. "His words are good," repeated others. And even the
greyheads, who stood there like dark blue doves, nodded their heads
and, twitching their grey moustaches, muttered softly, "That was well
"Listen now, gentles," continued the Koschevoi. "To take the city, by
scaling its walls, or undermining them as the foreign engineers do, is
not proper, not Cossack fashion. But, judging from appearances, the
enemy entered the city without many provisions; they had not many
waggons with them. The people in the city are hungry; they will all
eat heartily, and the horses will soon devour the hay. I don't know
whether their saints will fling them down anything from heaven with
hayforks; God only knows that though there are a great many Catholic
priests among them. By one means or another the people will seek to
leave the city. Divide yourselves, therefore, into three divisions,
and take up your posts before the three gates; five kurens before the
principal gate, and three kurens before each of the others. Let the
Dadikivsky and Korsunsky kurens go into ambush and Taras and his men
into ambush too. The Titarevsky and Timoschevsky kurens are to guard
the baggage train on the right flank, the Scherbinovsky and
Steblikivsky on the left, and to select from their ranks the most
daring young men to face the foe. The Lyakhs are of a restless nature
and cannot endure a siege, and perhaps this very day they will sally
forth from the gates. Let each hetman inspect his kuren; those whose
ranks are not full are to be recruited from the remains of the
Pereyaslavsky kuren. Inspect them all anew. Give a loaf and a beaker
to each Cossack to strengthen him. But surely every one must be
satiated from last night; for all stuffed themselves so that, to tell
the truth, I am only surprised that no one burst in the night. And
here is one further command: if any Jew spirit-seller sells a Cossack
so much as a single jug of brandy, I will nail pig's ears to his very
forehead, the dog, and hang him up by his feet. To work, brothers, to
Thus did the Koschevoi give his orders. All bowed to their girdles,
and without putting on their caps set out for their waggons and camps.
It was only when they had gone some distance that they covered
themselves. All began to equip themselves: they tested their swords,
poured powder from the sacks into their powder-flasks, drew up and
arranged the waggons, and looked to their horses.
On his way to his band, Taras wondered what had become of Andrii;
could he have been captured and found while asleep with the others?
But no, Andrii was not the man to go alive into captivity. Yet he was
not to be seen among the slaughtered Cossacks. Taras pondered deeply
and went past his men without hearing that some one had for some time
been calling him by name. "Who wants me?" he said, finally arousing
himself from his reflections. Before him stood the Jew, Yankel. "Lord
colonel! lord colonel!" said the Jew in a hasty and broken voice, as
though desirous of revealing something not utterly useless, "I have
been in the city, lord colonel!"
Taras looked at the Jew, and wondered how he had succeeded in getting
into the city. "What enemy took you there?"
"I will tell you at once," said Yankel. "As soon as I heard the uproar
this morning, when the Cossacks began to fire, I seized my caftan and,
without stopping to put it on, ran at the top of my speed, thrusting
my arms in on the way, because I wanted to know as soon as possible
the cause of the noise and why the Cossacks were firing at dawn. I ran
to the very gate of the city, at the moment when the last of the army
was passing through. I looked, and in command of the rearguard was
Cornet Galyandovitch. He is a man well known to me; he has owed me a
hundred ducats these three years past. I ran after him, as though to
claim the debt of him, and so entered the city with them."
"You entered the city, and wanted him to settle the debt!" said Bulba;
"and he did not order you to be hung like a dog on the spot?"
"By heavens, he did want to hang me," replied the Jew; "his servants
had already seized me and thrown a rope about my neck. But I besought
the noble lord, and said that I would wait for the money as long as
his lordship liked, and promised to lend him more if he would only
help me to collect my debts from the other nobles; for I can tell my
lord that the noble cornet had not a ducat in his pocket, although he
has farms and estates and four castles and steppe-land that extends
clear to Schklof; but he has not a penny, any more than a Cossack. If
the Breslau Jews had not equipped him, he would never have gone on
this campaign. That was the reason he did not go to the Diet."
"What did you do in the city? Did you see any of our people?"
"Certainly, there are many of them there: Itzok, Rachum, Samuel,
Khaivalkh, Evrei the pawnbroker--"
"May they die, the dogs!" shouted Taras in a rage. "Why do you name
your Jewish tribe to me? I ask you about our Zaporozhtzi."
"I saw none of our Zaporozhtzi; I saw only Lord Andrii."
"You saw Andrii!" shouted Bulba. "What is he doing? Where did you see
him? In a dungeon? in a pit? dishonoured? bound?"
"Who would dare to bind Lord Andrii? now he is so grand a knight. I
hardly recognised him. Gold on his shoulders and his belt, gold
everywhere about him; as the sun shines in spring, when every bird
twitters and sings in the orchard, so he shines, all gold. And his
horse, which the Waiwode himself gave him, is the very best; that
horse alone is worth two hundred ducats."
Bulba was petrified. "Why has he put on foreign garments?"
"He put them on because they were finer. And he rides about, and the
others ride about, and he teaches them, and they teach him; like the
very grandest Polish noble."
"Who forced him to do this?"
"I should not say that he had been forced. Does not my lord know that
he went over to them of his own free will?"
"Who went over?"
"Went over to their side; he is now a thorough foreigner."
"You lie, you hog's ear!"
"How is it possible that I should lie? Am I a fool, that I should lie?
Would I lie at the risk of my head? Do not I know that Jews are hung
like dogs if they lie to nobles?"
"Then it means, according to you, he has betrayed his native land and
"I do not say that he has betrayed anything; I merely said that he had
gone over to the other side."
"You lie, you imp of a Jew! Such a deed was never known in a Christian
land. You are making a mistake, dog!"
"May the grass grow upon the threshold of my house if I am mistaken!
May every one spit upon the grave of my father, my mother, my father's
father, and my mother's father, if I am mistaken! If my lord wished I
can even tell him why he went over to them."
"The Waiwode has a beautiful daughter. Holy Father! what a beauty!"
Here the Jew tried his utmost to express beauty by extending his
hands, screwing up his eyes, and twisting his mouth to one side as
though tasting something on trial.
"Well, what of that?"
"He did it all for her, he went there for her sake. When a man is in
love, then all things are the same to him; like the sole of a shoe
which you can bend in any direction if you soak it in water."
Bulba reflected deeply. He remembered the power of weak woman--how she
had ruined many a strong man, and that this was the weak point in
Andrii's nature--and stood for some time in one spot, as though rooted
there. "Listen, my lord, I will tell my lord all," said the Jew. "As
soon as I heard the uproar, and saw them going through the city gate,
I seized a string of pearls, in case of any emergency. For there are
beauties and noble-women there; 'and if there are beauties and
noble-women,' I said to myself, 'they will buy pearls, even if they
have nothing to eat.' And, as soon as ever the cornet's servants had
set me at liberty, I hastened to the Waiwode's residence to sell my
pearls. I asked all manner of questions of the lady's Tatar maid; the
wedding is to take place immediately, as soon as they have driven off
the Zaporozhtzi. Lord Andrii has promised to drive off the
"And you did not kill him on the spot, you devil's brat?" shouted
"Why should I kill him? He went over of his own free will. What is his
crime? He liked it better there, so he went there."
"And you saw him face to face?"
"Face to face, by heavens! such a magnificent warrior! more splendid
than all the rest. God bless him, he knew me, and when I approached
him he said at once--"
"What did he say?"
"He said-- First he beckoned me with his finger, and then he said,
'Yankel!' Lord Andrii said, 'Yankel, tell my father, tell my brother,
tell all the Cossacks, all the Zaporozhtzi, everybody, that my father
is no longer my father, nor my brother my brother, nor my comrades my
comrades; and that I will fight them all, all.'"
"You lie, imp of a Jew!" shouted Taras, beside himself. "You lie, dog!
I will kill you, Satan! Get away from here! if not, death awaits you!"
So saying, Taras drew his sword.
The terrified Jew set off instantly, at the full speed of his thin,
shrunken legs. He ran for a long time, without looking back, through
the Cossack camp, and then far out on the deserted plain, although
Taras did not chase him at all, reasoning that it was foolish to thus
vent his rage on the first person who presented himself.
Then he recollected that he had seen Andrii on the previous night
traversing the camp with some woman, and he bowed his grey head. Still
he would not believe that so disgraceful a thing could have happened,
and that his own son had betrayed his faith and soul.
Finally he placed his men in ambush in a wood--the only one which had
not been burned by the Cossacks--whilst the Zaporozhians, foot and
horse, set out for the three gates by three different roads. One after
another the kurens turned out: Oumansky, Popovichesky, Kanevsky,
Steblikovsky, Nezamaikovsky, Gurgazif, Titarevsky, Tomischevsky. The
Pereyaslavsky kuren alone was wanting. Its Cossacks had smoked and
drank to their destruction. Some awoke to find themselves bound in the
enemy's hands; others never woke at all but passed in their sleep into
the damp earth; and the hetman Khlib himself, minus his trousers and
accoutrements, found himself in the camp of the Lyakhs.
The uproar among the Zaporozhtzi was heard in the city. All the
besieged hastened to the ramparts, and a lively scene was presented to
the Cossacks. The handsome Polish heroes thronged on the wall. The
brazen helmets of some shone like the sun, and were adorned with
feathers white as swans. Others wore pink and blue caps, drooping over
one ear, and caftans with the sleeves thrown back, embroidered with
gold. Their weapons were richly mounted and very costly, as were their
equipments. In the front rank the Budzhakovsky colonel stood proudly
in his red cap ornamented with gold. He was a tall, stout man, and his
rich and ample caftan hardly covered him. Near the side gate stood
another colonel. He was a dried-up little man, but his small, piercing
eyes gleamed sharply from under his thick and shaggy brows, and as he
turned quickly on all sides, motioning boldly with his thin, withered
hand, and giving out his orders, it was evident that, in spite of his
little body, he understood military science thoroughly. Not far from
him stood a very tall cornet, with thick moustaches and a
highly-coloured complexion--a noble fond of strong mead and hearty
revelry. Behind them were many nobles who had equipped themselves,
some with their own ducats, some from the royal treasury, some with
money obtained from the Jews, by pawning everything they found in
their ancestral castles. Many too were parasites, whom the senators
took with them to dinners for show, and who stole silver cups from the
table and the sideboard, and when the day's display was over mounted
some noble's coach-box and drove his horses. There were folk of all
kinds there. Sometimes they had not enough to drink, but all were
equipped for war.
The Cossack ranks stood quietly before the walls. There was no gold
about them, save where it shone on the hilt of a sword or the
mountings of a gun. The Zaporozhtzi were not given to decking
themselves out gaily for battle: their coats-of-mail and garments were
plain, and their black-bordered red-crowned caps showed darkly in the
Two men--Okhrim Nasch and Mikiga Golokopuitenko--advanced from the
Zaporozhian ranks. One was quite young, the other older; both fierce
in words, and not bad specimens of Cossacks in action. They were
followed by Demid Popovitch, a strongly built Cossack who had been
hanging about the Setch for a long time, after having been in
Adrianople and undergoing a great deal in the course of his life. He
had been burned, and had escaped to the Setch with blackened head and
singed moustaches. But Popovitch recovered, let his hair grow, raised
moustaches thick and black as pitch, and was a stout fellow, according
to his own biting speech.
"Red jackets on all the army, but I should like to know what sort of
men are under them," he cried.
"I will show you," shouted the stout colonel from above. "I will
capture the whole of you. Surrender your guns and horses, slaves. Did
you see how I caught your men?--Bring out a Zaporozhetz on the wall
for them to see."
And they let out a Zaporozhetz bound with stout cords.
Before them stood Khlib, the hetman of the Pereyaslavsky kuren,
without his trousers or accoutrements, just as they had captured him
in his drunken sleep. He bowed his head in shame before the Cossacks
at his nakedness, and at having been thus taken like a dog, while
asleep. His hair had turned grey in one night.
"Grieve not, Khlib: we will rescue you," shouted the Cossacks from
"Grieve not, friend," cried the hetman Borodaty. "It is not your fault
that they caught you naked: that misfortune might happen to any man.
But it is a disgrace to them that they should have exposed you to
dishonour, and not covered your nakedness decently."
"You seem to be a brave army when you have people who are asleep to
fight," remarked Golokopuitenko, glancing at the ramparts.
"Wait a bit, we'll singe your top-knots for you!" was the reply.
"I should like to see them singe our scalp locks!" said Popovitch,
prancing about before them on his horse; and then, glancing at his
comrades, he added, "Well, perhaps the Lyakhs speak the truth: if that
fat-bellied fellow leads them, they will all find a good shelter."
"Why do you think they will find a good shelter?" asked the Cossacks,
knowing that Popovitch was probably preparing some repartee.
"Because the whole army will hide behind him; and the devil himself
couldn't help you to reach any one with your spear through that belly
The Cossacks laughed, some of them shaking their heads and saying,
"What a fellow Popovitch is for a joke! but now--" But the Cossacks
had not time to explain what they meant by that "now."
"Fall back, fall back quickly from the wall!" shouted the Koschevoi,
seeing that the Lyakhs could not endure these biting words, and that
the colonel was waving his hand.
The Cossacks had hardly retreated from the wall before the grape-shot
rained down. On the ramparts all was excitement, and the grey-haired
Waiwode himself appeared on horseback. The gates opened and the
garrison sallied forth. In the van came hussars in orderly ranks,
behind them the horsemen in armour, and then the heroes in brazen
helmets; after whom rode singly the highest nobility, each man
accoutred as he pleased. These haughty nobles would not mingle in the
ranks with others, and such of them as had no commands rode apart with
their own immediate following. Next came some more companies, and
after these the cornet, then more files of men, and the stout colonel;
and in the rear of the whole force the little colonel.
"Keep them from forming in line!" shouted the Koschevoi; "let all the
kurens attack them at once! Block the other gate! Titarevsky kuren,
fall on one flank! Dyadovsky kuren, charge on the other! Attack them
in the rear, Kukubenko and Palivod! Check them, break them!" The
Cossacks attacked on all sides, throwing the Lyakhs into confusion and
getting confused themselves. They did not even give the foe time to
fire, it came to swords and spears at once. All fought hand to hand,
and each man had an opportunity to distinguish himself.
Demid Popovitch speared three soldiers, and struck two of the highest
nobles from their saddles, saying, "Good horses! I have long wanted
just such horses." And he drove the horses far afield, shouting to the
Cossacks standing about to catch them. Then he rushed again into the
fray, fell upon the dismounted nobles, slew one, and throwing his
lasso round the neck of the other, tied him to his saddle and dragged
him over the plain, after having taken from him his sword from its
rich hilt and removed from his girdle a whole bag of ducats.
Kobita, a good Cossack, though still very young, attacked one of the
bravest men in the Polish army, and they fought long together. They
grappled, and the Cossack mastering his foe, and throwing him down,
stabbed him in the breast with his sharp Turkish knife. But he did not
look out for himself, and a bullet struck him on the temple. The man
who struck him down was the most distinguished of the nobles, the
handsomest scion of an ancient and princely race. Like a stately
poplar, he bestrode his dun-coloured steed, and many heroic deeds did
he perform. He cut two Cossacks in twain. Fedor Korzh, the brave
Cossack, he overthrew together with his horse, shooting the steed and
picking off the rider with his spear. Many heads and hands did he hew
off; and slew Kobita by sending a bullet through his temple.
"There's a man I should like to measure strength with!" shouted
Kukubenko, the hetman of the Nezamaikovsky kuren. Spurring his horse,
he dashed straight at the Pole's back, shouting loudly, so that all
who stood near shuddered at the unearthly yell. The boyard tried to
wheel his horse suddenly and face him, but his horse would not obey
him; scared by the terrible cry, it bounded aside, and the Lyakh
received Kukubenko's fire. The ball struck him in the shoulder-blade,
and he rolled from his saddle. Even then he did not surrender and
strove to deal his enemy a blow, but his hand was weak. Kukubenko,
taking his heavy sword in both hands, thrust it through his mouth. The
sword, breaking out two teeth, cut the tongue in twain, pierced the
windpipe, and penetrated deep into the earth, nailing him to the
ground. His noble blood, red as viburnum berries beside the river,
welled forth in a stream staining his yellow, gold-embroidered caftan.
But Kukubenko had already left him, and was forcing his way, with his
Nezamaikovsky kuren, towards another group.
"He has left untouched rich plunder," said Borodaty, hetman of the
Oumansky kuren, leaving his men and going to the place where the
nobleman killed by Kukubenko lay. "I have killed seven nobles with my
own hand, but such spoil I never beheld on any one." Prompted by
greed, Borodaty bent down to strip off the rich armour, and had
already secured the Turkish knife set with precious stones, and taken
from the foe's belt a purse of ducats, and from his breast a silver
case containing a maiden's curl, cherished tenderly as a love-token.
But he heeded not how the red-faced cornet, whom he had already once
hurled from the saddle and given a good blow as a remembrance, flew
upon him from behind. The cornet swung his arm with all his might, and
brought his sword down upon Borodaty's bent neck. Greed led to no
good: the head rolled off, and the body fell headless, sprinkling the
earth with blood far and wide; whilst the Cossack soul ascended,
indignant and surprised at having so soon quitted so stout a frame.
The cornet had not succeeded in seizing the hetman's head by its
scalp-lock, and fastening it to his saddle, before an avenger had
As a hawk floating in the sky, sweeping in great circles with his
mighty wings, suddenly remains poised in air, in one spot, and thence
darts down like an arrow upon the shrieking quail, so Taras's son
Ostap darted suddenly upon the cornet and flung a rope about his neck
with one cast. The cornet's red face became a still deeper purple as
the cruel noose compressed his throat, and he tried to use his pistol;
but his convulsively quivering hand could not aim straight, and the
bullet flew wild across the plain. Ostap immediately unfastened a
silken cord which the cornet carried at his saddle bow to bind
prisoners, and having with it bound him hand and foot, attached the
cord to his saddle and dragged him across the field, calling on all
the Cossacks of the Oumansky kuren to come and render the last honours
to their hetman.
When the Oumantzi heard that the hetman of their kuren, Borodaty, was
no longer among the living, they deserted the field of battle, rushed
to secure his body, and consulted at once as to whom they should
select as their leader. At length they said, "But why consult? It is
impossible to find a better leader than Bulba's son, Ostap; he is
younger than all the rest of us, it is true; but his judgment is equal
to that of the eldest."
Ostap, taking off his cap, thanked his comrades for the honour, and
did not decline it on the ground of youth or inexperience, knowing
that war time is no fitting season for that; but instantly ordered
them straight to the fray, and soon showed them that not in vain had
they chosen him as hetman. The Lyakhs felt that the matter was growing
too hot for them, and retreated across the plain in order to form
again at its other end. But the little colonel signalled to the
reserve of four hundred, stationed at the gate, and these rained shot
upon the Cossacks. To little purpose, however, their shot only taking
effect on the Cossack oxen, which were gazing wildly upon the battle.
The frightened oxen, bellowing with fear, dashed into the camp,
breaking the line of waggons and trampling on many. But Taras,
emerging from ambush at the moment with his troops, headed off the
infuriated cattle, which, startled by his yell, swooped down upon the
Polish troops, overthrew the cavalry, and crushed and dispersed them
"Thank you, oxen!" cried the Zaporozhtzi; "you served us on the march,
and now you serve us in war." And they attacked the foe with fresh
vigour killing many of the enemy. Several distinguished
themselves--Metelitza and Schilo, both of the Pisarenki, Vovtuzenko,
and many others. The Lyakhs seeing that matters were going badly for
them flung away their banners and shouted for the city gates to be
opened. With a screeching sound the iron-bound gates swung open and
received the weary and dust-covered riders, flocking like sheep into a
fold. Many of the Zaporozhtzi would have pursued them, but Ostap
stopped his Oumantzi, saying, "Farther, farther from the walls,
brother gentles! it is not well to approach them too closely." He
spoke truly; for from the ramparts the foe rained and poured down
everything which came to hand, and many were struck. At that moment
the Koschevoi came up and congratulated him, saying, "Here is the new
hetman leading the army like an old one!" Old Bulba glanced round to
see the new hetman, and beheld Ostap sitting on his horse at the head
of the Oumantzi, his cap on one side and the hetman's staff in his
hand. "Who ever saw the like!" he exclaimed; and the old man rejoiced,
and began to thank all the Oumantzi for the honour they had conferred
upon his son.
The Cossacks retired, preparing to go into camp; but the Lyakhs showed
themselves again on the city ramparts with tattered mantles. Many rich
caftans were spotted with blood, and dust covered the brazen helmets.
"Have you bound us?" cried the Zaporozhtzi to them from below.
"We will do so!" shouted the big colonel from above, showing them a
rope. The weary, dust-covered warriors ceased not to threaten, nor the
most zealous on both sides to exchange fierce remarks.
At length all dispersed. Some, weary with battle, stretched themselves
out to rest; others sprinkled their wounds with earth, and bound them
with kerchiefs and rich stuffs captured from the enemy. Others, who
were fresher, began to inspect the corpses and to pay them the last
honours. They dug graves with swords and spears, brought earth in
their caps and the skirts of their garments, laid the Cossacks' bodies
out decently, and covered them up in order that the ravens and eagles
might not claw out their eyes. But binding the bodies of the Lyakhs,
as they came to hand, to the tails of horses, they let these loose on
the plain, pursuing them and beating them for some time. The
infuriated horses flew over hill and hollow, through ditch and brook,
dragging the bodies of the Poles, all covered with blood and dust,
along the ground.
All the kurens sat down in circles in the evening, and talked for a
long time of their deeds, and of the achievements which had fallen to
the share of each, for repetition by strangers and posterity. It was
long before they lay down to sleep; and longer still before old Taras,
meditating what it might signify that Andrii was not among the foe,
lay down. Had the Judas been ashamed to come forth against his own
countrymen? or had the Jew been deceiving him, and had he simply gone
into the city against his will? But then he recollected that there
were no bounds to a woman's influence upon Andrii's heart; he felt
ashamed, and swore a mighty oath to himself against the fair Pole who
had bewitched his son. And he would have kept his oath. He would not
have looked at her beauty; he would have dragged her forth by her
thick and splendid hair; he would have trailed her after him over all
the plain, among all the Cossacks. Her beautiful shoulders and bosom,
white as fresh-fallen snow upon the mountain-tops, would have been
crushed to earth and covered with blood and dust. Her lovely body
would have been torn to pieces. But Taras, who did not foresee what
God prepares for man on the morrow, began to grow drowsy, and finally
fell asleep. The Cossacks still talked among themselves; and the sober
sentinel stood all night long beside the fire without blinking and
keeping a good look out on all sides.
The sun had not ascended midway in the heavens when all the army
assembled in a group. News had come from the Setch that during the
Cossacks' absence the Tatars had plundered it completely, unearthed
the treasures which were kept concealed in the ground, killed or
carried into captivity all who had remained behind, and straightway
set out, with all the flocks and droves of horses they had collected,
for Perekop. One Cossack only, Maksin Galodukha, had broken loose from
the Tatars' hands, stabbed the Mirza, seized his bag of sequins, and
on a Tatar horse, in Tatar garments, had fled from his pursuers for
two nights and a day and a half, ridden his horse to death, obtained
another, killed that one too, and arrived at the Zaporozhian camp upon
a third, having learned upon the road that the Zaporozhtzi were before
Dubno. He could only manage to tell them that this misfortune had
taken place; but as to how it happened--whether the remaining
Zaporozhtzi had been carousing after Cossack fashion, and had been
carried drunk into captivity, and how the Tatars were aware of the
spot where the treasures of the army were concealed--he was too
exhausted to say. Extremely fatigued, his body swollen, and his face
scorched and weatherbeaten, he had fallen down, and a deep sleep had
In such cases it was customary for the Cossacks to pursue the robbers
at once, endeavouring to overtake them on the road; for, let the
prisoners once be got to the bazaars of Asia Minor, Smyrna, or the
island of Crete, and God knows in what places the tufted heads of
Zaporozhtzi might not be seen. This was the occasion of the Cossacks'
assembling. They all stood to a man with their caps on; for they had
not met to listen to the commands of their hetman, but to take counsel
together as equals among equals. "Let the old men first advise," was
shouted to the crowd. "Let the Koschevoi give his opinion," cried
The Koschevoi, taking off his cap and speaking not as commander, but
as a comrade among comrades, thanked all the Cossacks for the honour,
and said, "There are among us many experienced men and much wisdom;
but since you have thought me worthy, my counsel is not to lose time
in pursuing the Tatars, for you know yourselves what the Tatar is. He
will not pause with his stolen booty to await our coming, but will
vanish in a twinkling, so that you can find no trace of him. Therefore
my advice is to go. We have had good sport here. The Lyakhs now know
what Cossacks are. We have avenged our faith to the extent of our
ability; there is not much to satisfy greed in the famished city, and
so my advice is to go."
"To go," rang heavily through the Zaporozhian kurens. But such words
did not suit Taras Bulba at all; and he brought his frowning,
iron-grey brows still lower down over his eyes, brows like bushes
growing on dark mountain heights, whose crowns are suddenly covered
with sharp northern frost.
"No, Koschevoi, your counsel is not good," said he. "You cannot say
that. You have evidently forgotten that those of our men captured by
the Lyakhs will remain prisoners. You evidently wish that we should
not heed the first holy law of comradeship; that we should leave our
brethren to be flayed alive, or carried about through the towns and
villages after their Cossack bodies have been quartered, as was done
with the hetman and the bravest Russian warriors in the Ukraine. Have
the enemy not desecrated the holy things sufficiently without that?
What are we? I ask you all what sort of a Cossack is he who would
desert his comrade in misfortune, and let him perish like a dog in a
foreign land? If it has come to such a pass that no one has any
confidence in Cossack honour, permitting men to spit upon his grey
moustache, and upbraid him with offensive words, then let no one blame
me; I will remain here alone."
All the Zaporozhtzi who were there wavered.
"And have you forgotten, brave comrades," said the Koschevoi, "that
the Tatars also have comrades of ours in their hands; that if we do
not rescue them now their lives will be sacrificed in eternal
imprisonment among the infidels, which is worse than the most cruel
death? Have you forgotten that they now hold all our treasure, won by
The Cossacks reflected, not knowing what to say. None of them wished
to deserve ill repute. Then there stepped out in front of them the
oldest in years of all the Zaporozhian army, Kasyan Bovdug. He was
respected by all the Cossacks. Twice had he been chosen Koschevoi, and
had also been a stout warrior; but he had long been old, and had
ceased to go upon raids. Neither did the old man like to give advice
to any one; but loved to lie upon his side in the circle of Cossacks,
listening to tales of every occurrence on the Cossack marches. He
never joined in the conversation, but only listened, and pressed the
ashes with his finger in his short pipe, which never left his mouth;
and would sit so long with his eyes half open, that the Cossacks never
knew whether he were asleep or still listening. He always stayed at
home during their raids, but this time the old man had joined the
army. He had waved his hand in Cossack fashion, and said, "Wherever
you go, I am going too; perhaps I may be of some service to the
Cossack nation." All the Cossacks became silent when he now stepped
forward before the assembly, for it was long since any speech from him
had been heard. Every one wanted to know what Bovdug had to say.
"It is my turn to speak a word, brother gentles," he began: "listen,
my children, to an old man. The Koschevoi spoke well as the head of
the Cossack army; being bound to protect it, and in respect to the
treasures of the army he could say nothing wiser. That is so! Let that
be my first remark; but now listen to my second. And this is my second
remark: Taras spoke even more truly. God grant him many years, and
that such leaders may be plentiful in the Ukraine! A Cossack's first
duty and honour is to guard comradeship. Never in all my life, brother
gentles, have I heard of any Cossack deserting or betraying any of his
comrades. Both those made captive at the Setch and these taken here
are our comrades. Whether they be few or many, it makes no difference;
all are our comrades, and all are dear to us. So this is my speech:
Let those to whom the prisoners captured by the Tatars are dear set
out after the Tatars; and let those to whom the captives of the Poles
are dear, and who do not care to desert a righteous cause, stay
behind. The Koschevoi, in accordance with his duty, will accompany one
half in pursuit of the Tatars, and the other half can choose a hetman
to lead them. But if you will heed the words of an old man, there is
no man fitter to be the commanding hetman than Taras Bulba. Not one of
us is his equal in heroism."
Thus spoke Bovdug, and paused; and all the Cossacks rejoiced that the
old man had in this manner brought them to an agreement. All flung up
their caps and shouted, "Thanks, father! He kept silence for a long,
long time, but he has spoken at last. Not in vain did he say, when we
prepared for this expedition, that he might be useful to the Cossack
nation: even so it has come to pass!"
"Well, are you agreed upon anything?" asked the Koschevoi.
"We are all agreed!" cried the Cossacks.
"Then the council is at an end?"
"At an end!" cried the Cossacks.
"Then listen to the military command, children," said the Koschevoi,
stepping forward, and putting on his cap; whilst all the Cossacks took
off theirs, and stood with uncovered heads, and with eyes fixed upon
the earth, as was always the custom among them when the leader
prepared to speak. "Now divide yourselves, brother gentles! Let those
who wish to go stand on the right, and those who wish to stay, on the
left. Where the majority of a kuren goes there its officers are to go:
if the minority of a kuren goes over, it must be added to another
Then they began to take up their positions, some to the right and some
to the left. Whither the majority of a kuren went thither the hetman
went also; and the minority attached itself to another kuren. It came
out pretty even on both sides. Those who wished to remain were nearly
the whole of the Nezamaikovsky kuren, the entire Oumansky kuren, the
entire Kanevsky kuren, and the larger half of the Popovitchsky, the
Timoschevsky and the Steblikivsky kurens. All the rest preferred to go
in pursuit of the Tatars. On both sides there were many stout and
brave Cossacks. Among those who decided to follow the Tatars were
Tcherevaty, and those good old Cossacks Pokotipole, Lemisch, and
Prokopovitch Koma. Demid Popovitch also went with that party, because
he could not sit long in one place: he had tried his hand on the
Lyakhs and wanted to try it on the Tatars also. The hetmans of kurens
were Nostiugan, Pokruischka, Nevnimsky, and numerous brave and
renowned Cossacks who wished to test their swords and muscles in an
encounter with the Tatars. There were likewise many brave Cossacks
among those who preferred to remain, including the kuren hetmans,
Demitrovitch, Kukubenko, Vertikhvist, Balan, and Ostap Bulba. Besides
these there were plenty of stout and distinguished warriors:
Vovtuzenko, Tcherevitchenko, Stepan Guska, Okhrim Guska, Vikola
Gonstiy, Zadorozhniy, Metelitza, Ivan Zakrutiguba, Mosiy Pisarenko,
and still another Pisarenko, and many others. They were all great
travellers; they had visited the shores of Anatolia, the salt marshes
and steppes of the Crimea, all the rivers great and small which empty
into the Dnieper, and all the fords and islands of the Dnieper; they
had been in Moldavia, Wallachia, and Turkey; they had sailed all over
the Black Sea, in their double-ruddered Cossack boats; they had
attacked with fifty skiffs in line the tallest and richest ships; they
had sunk many a Turkish galley, and had burnt much, very much powder
in their day; more than once they had made foot-bandages from velvets
and rich stuffs; more than once they had beaten buckles for their
girdles out of sequins. Every one of them had drunk and revelled away
what would have sufficed any other for a whole lifetime, and had
nothing to show for it. They spent it all, like Cossacks, in treating
all the world, and in hiring music that every one might be merry. Even
now few of them had amassed any property: some caskets, cups, and
bracelets were hidden beneath the reeds on the islands of the Dnieper
in order that the Tatars might not find them if by mishap they should
succeed in falling suddenly on the Setch; but it would have been
difficult for the Tatars to find them, for the owners themselves had
forgotten where they had buried them. Such were the Cossacks who
wished to remain and take vengeance on the Lyakhs for their trusty
comrades and the faith of Christ. The old Cossack Bovdug wished also
to remain with them, saying, "I am not of an age to pursue the Tatars,
but this is a place to meet a good Cossack death. I have long prayed
God that when my life was to end I might end it in battle for a holy
and Christian cause. And so it has come to pass. There can be no more
glorious end in any other place for the aged Cossack."
When they had all separated, and were ranged in two lines on opposite
sides, the Koschevoi passed through the ranks, and said, "Well,
brother gentles, are the two parties satisfied with each other?"
"All satisfied, father!" replied the Cossacks.
"Then kiss each other, and bid each other farewell; for God knows
whether you will ever see each other alive again. Obey your hetman,
but you know yourselves what you have to do: you know yourselves what
Cossack honour requires."
And all the Cossacks kissed each other. The hetmans first began it.
Stroking down their grey moustaches, they kissed each other, making
the sign of the cross, and then, grasping hands firmly, wanted to ask
of each other, "Well, brother, shall we see one another again or not?"
But they did not ask the question: they kept silence, and both
grey-heads were lost in thought. Then the Cossacks took leave of each
other to the last man, knowing that there was a great deal of work
before them all. Yet they were not obliged to part at once: they would
have to wait until night in order not to let the Lyakhs perceive the
diminution in the Cossack army. Then all went off, by kurens, to dine.
After dinner, all who had the prospect of the journey before them lay
down to rest, and fell into a deep and long sleep, as though
foreseeing that it was the last sleep they should enjoy in such
security. They slept even until sunset; and when the sun had gone down
and it had grown somewhat dusky, began to tar the waggons. All being
in readiness, they sent the waggons ahead, and having pulled off their
caps once more to their comrades, quietly followed the baggage train.
The cavalry, without shouts or whistles to the horses, tramped lightly
after the foot-soldiers, and all soon vanished in the darkness. The
only sound was the dull thud of horses' hoofs, or the squeak of some
wheel which had not got into working order, or had not been properly
tarred amid the darkness.
Their comrades stood for some time waving their hands, though nothing
was visible. But when they returned to their camping places and saw by
the light of the gleaming stars that half the waggons were gone, and
many of their comrades, each man's heart grew sad; all became
involuntarily pensive, and drooped their heads towards the earth.
Taras saw how troubled were the Cossack ranks, and that sadness,
unsuited to brave men, had begun to quietly master the Cossack hearts;
but he remained silent. He wished to give them time to become
accustomed to the melancholy caused by their parting from their
comrades; but, meanwhile, he was preparing to rouse them at one blow,
by a loud battle-cry in Cossack fashion, in order that good cheer
might return to the soul of each with greater strength than before. Of
this only the Slav nature, a broad, powerful nature, which is to
others what the sea is to small rivulets, is capable. In stormy times
it roars and thunders, raging, and raising such waves as weak rivers
cannot throw up; but when it is windless and quiet, it spreads its
boundless glassy surface, clearer than any river, a constant delight
to the eye.
Taras ordered his servants to unload one of the waggons which stood
apart. It was larger and stronger than any other in the Cossack camp;
two stout tires encircled its mighty wheels. It was heavily laden,
covered with horsecloths and strong wolf-skins, and firmly bound with
tightly drawn tarred ropes. In the waggon were flasks and casks of
good old wine, which had long lain in Taras's cellar. He had brought
it along, in case a moment should arrive when some deed awaited them
worthy of being handed down to posterity, so that each Cossack, to the
very last man, might quaff it, and be inspired with sentiments fitting
to the occasion. On receiving his command, the servants hastened to
the waggon, hewed asunder the stout ropes with their swords, removed
the thick wolf-skins and horsecloths, and drew forth the flasks and
"Take them all," said Bulba, "all there are; take them, that every one
may be supplied. Take jugs, or the pails for watering the horses; take
sleeve or cap; but if you have nothing else, then hold your two hands
All the Cossacks seized something: one took a jug, another a pail,
another a sleeve, another a cap, and another held both hands. Taras's
servants, making their way among the ranks, poured out for all from
the casks and flasks. But Taras ordered them not to drink until he
should give the signal for all to drink together. It was evident that
he wished to say something. He knew that however good in itself the
wine might be and however fitted to strengthen the spirit of man, yet,
if a suitable speech were linked with it, then the strength of the
wine and of the spirit would be doubled.
"I treat you, brother gentles," thus spoke Bulba, "not in honour of
your having made me hetman, however great such an honour may be, nor
in honour of our parting from our comrades. To do both would be
fitting at a fitting time; but the moment before us is not such a
time. The work before us is great both in labour and in glory for the
Cossacks. Therefore let us drink all together, let us drink before all
else to the holy orthodox faith, that the day may finally come when it
may be spread over all the world, and that everywhere there may be but
one faith, and that all Mussulmans may become Christians. And let us
also drink together to the Setch, that it may stand long for the ruin
of the Mussulmans, and that every year there may issue forth from it
young men, each better, each handsomer than the other. And let us
drink to our own glory, that our grandsons and their sons may say that
there were once men who were not ashamed of comradeship, and who never
betrayed each other. Now to the faith, brother gentles, to the faith!"
"To the faith!" cried those standing in the ranks hard by, with thick
voices. "To the faith!" those more distant took up the cry; and all,
both young and old, drank to the faith.
"To the Setch!" said Taras, raising his hand high above his head.
"To the Setch!" echoed the foremost ranks. "To the Setch!" said the
old men, softly, twitching their grey moustaches; and eagerly as young
hawks, the youths repeated, "To the Setch!" And the distant plain
heard how the Cossacks mentioned their Setch.
"Now a last draught, comrades, to the glory of all Christians now
living in the world!"
And every Cossack drank a last draught to the glory of all Christians
in the world. And among all the ranks in the kurens they long
repeated, "To all the Christians in the world!"
The pails were empty, but the Cossacks still stood with their hands
uplifted. Although the eyes of all gleamed brightly with the wine,
they were thinking deeply. Not of greed or the spoils of war were they
thinking now, nor of who would be lucky enough to get ducats, fine
weapons, embroidered caftans, and Tcherkessian horses; but they
meditated like eagles perched upon the rocky crests of mountains, from
which the distant sea is visible, dotted, as with tiny birds, with
galleys, ships, and every sort of vessel, bounded only by the scarcely
visible lines of shore, with their ports like gnats and their forests
like fine grass. Like eagles they gazed out on all the plain, with
their fate darkling in the distance. All the plain, with its slopes
and roads, will be covered with their white projecting bones, lavishly
washed with their Cossack blood, and strewn with shattered waggons and
with broken swords and spears; the eagles will swoop down and tear out
their Cossack eyes. But there is one grand advantage: not a single
noble deed will be lost, and the Cossack glory will not vanish like
the tiniest grain of powder from a gun-barrel. The guitar-player with
grey beard falling upon his breast, and perhaps a white-headed old man
still full of ripe, manly strength will come, and will speak his low,
strong words of them. And their glory will resound through all the
world, and all who are born thereafter will speak of them; for the
word of power is carried afar, ringing like a booming brazen bell, in
which the maker has mingled much rich, pure silver, that is beautiful
sound may be borne far and wide through the cities, villages, huts,
and palaces, summoning all betimes to holy prayer.
In the city, no one knew that one-half of the Cossacks had gone in
pursuit of the Tatars. From the tower of the town hall the sentinel
only perceived that a part of the waggons had been dragged into the
forest; but it was thought that the Cossacks were preparing an
ambush--a view taken by the French engineer also. Meanwhile, the
Koschevoi's words proved not unfounded, for a scarcity of provisions
arose in the city. According to a custom of past centuries, the army
did not separate as much as was necessary. They tried to make a
sortie; but half of those who did so were instantly killed by the
Cossacks, and the other half driven back into the city with no
results. But the Jews availed themselves of the opportunity to find
out everything; whither and why the Zaporozhtzi had departed, and with
what leaders, and which particular kurens, and their number, and how
many had remained on the spot, and what they intended to do; in short,
within a few minutes all was known in the city.
The besieged took courage, and prepared to offer battle. Taras had
already divined it from the noise and movement in the city, and
hastened about, making his arrangements, forming his men, and giving
orders and instructions. He ranged the kurens in three camps,
surrounding them with the waggons as bulwarks--a formation in which
the Zaporozhtzi were invincible--ordered two kurens into ambush, and
drove sharp stakes, broken guns, and fragments of spears into a part
of the plain, with a view to forcing the enemy's cavalry upon it if an
opportunity should present itself. When all was done which was
necessary, he made a speech to the Cossacks, not for the purpose of
encouraging and freshening up their spirits--he knew their souls were
strong without that--but simply because he wished to tell them all he
had upon his heart.
"I want to tell you, brother gentles, what our brotherhood is. You
have heard from your fathers and grandfathers in what honour our land
has always been held by all. We made ourselves known to the Greeks,
and we took gold from Constantinople, and our cities were luxurious,
and we had, too, our temples, and our princes--the princes of the
Russian people, our own princes, not Catholic unbelievers. But the
Mussulmans took all; all vanished, and we remained defenceless; yea,
like a widow after the death of a powerful husband: defenceless was
our land as well as ourselves! Such was the time, comrades, when we
joined hands in a brotherhood: that is what our fellowship consists
in. There is no more sacred brotherhood. The father loves his
children, the mother loves her children, the children love their
father and mother; but this is not like that, brothers. The wild beast
also loves its young. But a man can be related only by similarity of
mind and not of blood. There have been brotherhoods in other lands,
but never any such brotherhoods as on our Russian soil. It has
happened to many of you to be in foreign lands. You look: there are
people there also, God's creatures, too; and you talk with them as
with the men of your own country. But when it comes to saying a hearty
word--you will see. No! they are sensible people, but not the same;
the same kind of people, and yet not the same! No, brothers, to love
as the Russian soul loves, is to love not with the mind or anything
else, but with all that God has given, all that is within you. Ah!"
said Taras, and waved his hand, and wiped his grey head, and twitched
his moustache, and then went on: "No, no one else can love in that
way! I know that baseness has now made its way into our land. Men care
only to have their ricks of grain and hay, and their droves of horses,
and that their mead may be safe in their cellars; they adopt, the
devil only knows what Mussulman customs. They speak scornfully with
their tongues. They care not to speak their real thoughts with their
own countrymen. They sell their own things to their own comrades, like
soulless creatures in the market-place. The favour of a foreign king,
and not even a king, but the poor favour of a Polish magnate, who
beats them on the mouth with his yellow shoe, is dearer to them than
all brotherhood. But the very meanest of these vile men, whoever he
may be, given over though he be to vileness and slavishness, even he,
brothers, has some grains of Russian feeling; and they will assert
themselves some day. And then the wretched man will beat his breast
with his hands; and will tear his hair, cursing his vile life loudly,
and ready to expiate his disgraceful deeds with torture. Let them know
what brotherhood means on Russian soil! And if it has come to the
point that a man must die for his brotherhood, it is not fit that any
of them should die so. No! none of them. It is not a fit thing for
their mouse-like natures."
Thus spoke the hetman; and after he had finished his speech he still
continued to shake his head, which had grown grey in Cossack service.
All who stood there were deeply affected by his speech, which went to
their very hearts. The oldest in the ranks stood motionless, their
grey heads drooping. Tears trickled quietly from their aged eyes; they
wiped them slowly away with their sleeves, and then all, as if with
one consent, waved their hands in the air at the same moment, and
shook their experienced heads. For it was evident that old Taras
recalled to them many of the best-known and finest traits of the heart
in a man who has become wise through suffering, toil, daring, and
every earthly misfortune, or, though unknown to them, of many things
felt by young, pure spirits, to the eternal joy of the parents who
But the army of the enemy was already marching out of the city,
sounding drums and trumpets; and the nobles, with their arms akimbo,
were riding forth too, surrounded by innumerable servants. The stout
colonel gave his orders, and they began to advance briskly on the
Cossack camps, pointing their matchlocks threateningly. Their eyes
flashed, and they were brilliant with brass armour. As soon as the
Cossacks saw that they had come within gunshot, their matchlocks
thundered all together, and they continued to fire without cessation.
The detonations resounded through the distant fields and meadows,
merging into one continuous roar. The whole plain was shrouded in
smoke, but the Zaporozhtzi continued to fire without drawing
breath--the rear ranks doing nothing but loading the guns and handing
them to those in front, thus creating amazement among the enemy, who
could not understand how the Cossacks fired without reloading. Amid
the dense smoke which enveloped both armies, it could not be seen how
first one and then another dropped: but the Lyakhs felt that the balls
flew thickly, and that the affair was growing hot; and when they
retreated to escape from the smoke and see how matters stood, many
were missing from their ranks, but only two or three out of a hundred
were killed on the Cossack side. Still the Cossacks went on firing off
their matchlocks without a moment's intermission. Even the foreign
engineers were amazed at tactics heretofore unknown to them, and said
then and there, in the presence of all, "These Zaporozhtzi are brave
fellows. That is the way men in other lands ought to fight." And they
advised that the cannons should at once be turned on the camps.
Heavily roared the iron cannons with their wide throats; the earth
hummed and trembled far and wide, and the smoke lay twice as heavy
over the plain. They smelt the reek of the powder among the squares
and streets in the most distant as well as the nearest quarters of the
city. But those who laid the cannons pointed them too high, and the
shot describing too wide a curve flew over the heads of the camps, and
buried themselves deep in the earth at a distance, tearing the ground,
and throwing the black soil high in the air. At the sight of such lack
of skill the French engineer tore his hair, and undertook to lay the
cannons himself, heeding not the Cossack bullets which showered round
Taras saw from afar that destruction menaced the whole Nezamaikovsky
and Steblikivsky kurens, and gave a ringing shout, "Get away from the
waggons instantly, and mount your horses!" But the Cossacks would not
have succeeded in effecting both these movements if Ostap had not
dashed into the middle of the foe and wrenched the linstocks from six
cannoneers. But he could not wrench them from the other four, for the
Lyakhs drove him back. Meanwhile the foreign captain had taken the
lunt in his own hand to fire the largest cannon, such a cannon as none
of the Cossacks had ever beheld before. It looked horrible with its
wide mouth, and a thousand deaths poured forth from it. And as it
thundered, the three others followed, shaking in fourfold earthquake
the dully responsive earth. Much woe did they cause. For more than one
Cossack wailed the aged mother, beating with bony hands her feeble
breast; more than one widow was left in Glukhof, Nemirof, Chernigof,
and other cities. The loving woman will hasten forth every day to the
bazaar, grasping at all passers-by, scanning the face of each to see
if there be not among them one dearer than all; but though many an
army will pass through the city, never among them will a single one of
all their dearest be.
Half the Nezamaikovsky kuren was as if it had never been. As the hail
suddenly beats down a field where every ear of grain shines like
purest gold, so were they beaten down.
How the Cossacks hastened thither! How they all started up! How raged
Kukubenko, the hetman, when he saw that the best half of his kuren was
no more! He fought his way with his remaining Nezamaikovtzi to the
very midst of the fray, cut down in his wrath, like a cabbage, the
first man he met, hurled many a rider from his steed, piercing both
horse and man with his lance; and making his way to the gunners,
captured some of the cannons. Here he found the hetman of the Oumansky
kuren, and Stepan Guska, hard at work, having already seized the
largest cannon. He left those Cossacks there, and plunged with his own
into another mass of the foe, making a lane through it. Where the
Nezamaikovtzi passed there was a street; where they turned about there
was a square as where streets meet. The foemen's ranks were visibly
thinning, and the Lyakhs falling in sheaves. Beside the waggons stood
Vovtuzenko, and in front Tcherevitchenko, and by the more distant ones
Degtyarenko; and behind them the kuren hetman, Vertikhvist.
Degtyarenko had pierced two Lyakhs with his spear, and now attacked a
third, a stout antagonist. Agile and strong was the Lyakh, with
glittering arms, and accompanied by fifty followers. He fell fiercely
upon Degtyarenko, struck him to the earth, and, flourishing his sword
above him, cried, "There is not one of you Cossack dogs who has dared
to oppose me."
"Here is one," said Mosiy Schilo, and stepped forward. He was a
muscular Cossack, who had often commanded at sea, and undergone many
vicissitudes. The Turks had once seized him and his men at Trebizond,
and borne them captives to the galleys, where they bound them hand and
foot with iron chains, gave them no food for a week at a time, and
made them drink sea-water. The poor prisoners endured and suffered
all, but would not renounce their orthodox faith. Their hetman, Mosiy
Schilo, could not bear it: he trampled the Holy Scriptures under foot,
wound the vile turban about his sinful head, and became the favourite
of a pasha, steward of a ship, and ruler over all the galley slaves.
The poor slaves sorrowed greatly thereat, for they knew that if he had
renounced his faith he would be a tyrant, and his hand would be the
more heavy and severe upon them. So it turned out. Mosiy Schilo had
them put in new chains, three to an oar. The cruel fetters cut to the
very bone; and he beat them upon the back. But when the Turks,
rejoicing at having obtained such a servant, began to carouse, and,
forgetful of their law, got all drunk, he distributed all the
sixty-four keys among the prisoners, in order that they might free
themselves, fling their chains and manacles into the sea, and,
seizing their swords, in turn kill the Turks. Then the Cossacks
collected great booty, and returned with glory to their country; and
the guitar-players celebrated Mosiy Schilo's exploits for a long time.
They would have elected him Koschevoi, but he was a very eccentric
Cossack. At one time he would perform some feat which the most
sagacious would never have dreamed of. At another, folly simply took
possession of him, and he drank and squandered everything away, was in
debt to every one in the Setch, and, in addition to that, stole like a
street thief. He carried off a whole Cossack equipment from a strange
kuren by night and pawned it to the tavern-keeper. For this
dishonourable act they bound him to a post in the bazaar, and laid a
club beside him, in order that every one who passed should, according
to the measure of his strength, deal him a blow. But there was not one
Zaporozhetz out of them all to be found who would raise the club
against him, remembering his former services. Such was the Cossack,
"Here is one who will kill you, dog!" he said, springing upon the
Lyakh. How they hacked away! their shoulder-plates and breast-plates
bent under their blows. The hostile Lyakh cut through Schilo's shirt
of mail, reaching the body itself with his blade. The Cossack's shirt
was dyed purple: but Schilo heeded it not. He brandished his brawny
hand, heavy indeed was that mighty fist, and brought the pommel of his
sword down unexpectedly upon his foeman's head. The brazen helmet flew
into pieces and the Lyakh staggered and fell; but Schilo went on
hacking and cutting gashes in the body of the stunned man. Kill not
utterly thine enemy, Cossack: look back rather! The Cossack did not
turn, and one of the dead man's servants plunged a knife into his
neck. Schilo turned and tried to seize him, but he disappeared amid
the smoke of the powder. On all sides rose the roar of matchlocks.
Schilo knew that his wound was mortal. He fell with his hand upon his
wound, and said, turning to his comrades, "Farewell, brother gentles,
my comrades! may the holy Russian land stand forever, and may it be
eternally honoured!" And as he closed his failing eyes, the Cossack
soul fled from his grim body. Then Zadorozhniy came forward with his
men, Vertikhvist issued from the ranks, and Balaban stepped forth.
"What now, gentles?" said Taras, calling to the hetmans by name:
"there is yet powder in the power-flasks? The Cossack force is not
weakened? the Cossacks do not yield?"
"There is yet powder in the flasks, father; the Cossack force is not
weakened yet: the Cossacks yield not!"
And the Cossacks pressed vigorously on: the foemen's ranks were
disordered. The short colonel beat the assembly, and ordered eight
painted standards to be displayed to collect his men, who were
scattered over all the plain. All the Lyakhs hastened to the
standards. But they had not yet succeeded in ranging themselves in
order, when the hetman Kukubenko attacked their centre again with his
Nezamaikovtzi and fell straight upon the stout colonel. The colonel
could not resist the attack, and, wheeling his horse about, set out at
a gallop; but Kukubenko pursued him for a considerable distance cross
the plain and prevented him from joining his regiment.
Perceiving this from the kuren on the flank, Stepan Guska set out
after him, lasso in hand, bending his head to his horse's neck. Taking
advantage of an opportunity, he cast his lasso about his neck at the
first attempt. The colonel turned purple in the face, grasped the cord
with both hands, and tried to break it; but with a powerful thrust
Stepan drove his lance through his body, and there he remained pinned
to the earth. But Guska did not escape his fate. The Cossacks had but
time to look round when they beheld Stepan Guska elevated on four
spears. All the poor fellow succeeded in saying was, "May all our
enemies perish, and may the Russian land rejoice forever!" and then he
yielded up his soul.
The Cossacks glanced around, and there was Metelitza on one side,
entertaining the Lyakhs by dealing blows on the head to one and
another; on the other side, the hetman Nevelitchkiy was attacking with
his men; and Zakrutibuga was repulsing and slaying the enemy by the
waggons. The third Pisarenko had repulsed a whole squadron from the
more distant waggons; and they were still fighting and killing amongst
the other waggons, and even upon them.
"How now, gentles?" cried Taras, stepping forward before them all: "is
there still powder in your flasks? Is the Cossack force still strong?
do the Cossacks yield?"
"There is still powder in the flasks, father; the Cossack force is
still strong: the Cossacks yield not!"
But Bovdug had already fallen from the waggons; a bullet had struck
him just below the heart. The old man collected all his strength, and
said, "I sorrow not to part from the world. God grant every man such
an end! May the Russian land be forever glorious!" And Bovdug's spirit
flew above, to tell the old men who had gone on long before that men
still knew how to fight on Russian soil, and better still, that they
knew how to die for it and the holy faith.
Balaban, hetman of a kuren, soon after fell to the ground also from a
waggon. Three mortal wounds had he received from a lance, a bullet,
and a sword. He had been one of the very best of Cossacks, and had
accomplished a great deal as a commander on naval expeditions; but
more glorious than all the rest was his raid on the shores of
Anatolia. They collected many sequins, much valuable Turkish plunder,
caftans, and adornments of every description. But misfortune awaited
them on their way back. They came across the Turkish fleet, and were
fired on by the ships. Half the boats were crushed and overturned,
drowning more than one; but the bundles of reeds bound to the sides,
Cossack fashion, saved the boats from completely sinking. Balaban
rowed off at full speed, and steered straight in the face of the sun,
thus rendering himself invisible to the Turkish ships. All the
following night they spent in baling out the water with pails and
their caps, and in repairing the damaged places. They made sails out
of their Cossack trousers, and, sailing off, escaped from the fastest
Turkish vessels. And not only did they arrive unharmed at the Setch,
but they brought a gold-embroidered vesture for the archimandrite at
the Mezhigorsky Monastery in Kief, and an ikon frame of pure silver
for the church in honour of the Intercession of the Virgin Mary, which
is in Zaporozhe. The guitar-players celebrated the daring of Balaban
and his Cossacks for a long time afterwards. Now he bowed his head,
feeling the pains which precede death, and said quietly, "I am
permitted, brother gentles, to die a fine death. Seven have I hewn in
pieces, nine have I pierced with my lance, many have I trampled upon
with my horse's hoofs; and I no longer remember how many my bullets
have slain. May our Russian land flourish forever!" and his spirit
Cossacks, Cossacks! abandon not the flower of your army. Already was
Kukubenko surrounded, and seven men only remained of all the
Nezamaikovsky kuren, exhausted and with garments already stained with
their blood. Taras himself, perceiving their straits, hastened to
their rescue; but the Cossacks arrived too late. Before the enemies
who surrounded him could be driven off, a spear was buried just below
Kukubenko's heart. He sank into the arms of the Cossacks who caught
him, and his young blood flowed in a stream, like precious wine
brought from the cellar in a glass vessel by careless servants, who,
stumbling at the entrance, break the rich flask. The wine streams over
the ground, and the master, hastening up, tears his hair, having
reserved it, in order that if God should grant him, in his old age, to
meet again the comrade of his youth, they might over it recall
together former days, when a man enjoyed himself otherwise and better
than now. Kukubenko cast his eyes around, and said, "I thank God that
it has been my lot to die before your eyes, comrades. May they live
better who come after us than we have lived; and may our Russian land,
beloved by Christ, flourish forever!" and his young spirit fled. The
angels took it in their arms and bore it to heaven: it will be well
with him there. "Sit down at my right hand, Kukubenko," Christ will
say to him: "you never betrayed your comrades, you never committed a
dishonourable act, you never sold a man into misery, you preserved and
defended my church." The death of Kukubenko saddened them all. The
Cossack ranks were terribly thinned. Many brave men were missing, but
the Cossacks still stood their ground.
"How now, gentles," cried Taras to the remaining kurens: "is there
still powder in your flasks? Are your swords blunted? Are the Cossack
forces wearied? Have the Cossacks given way?"
"There is still an abundance of powder; our swords are still sharp;
the Cossack forces are not wearied, and the Cossacks have not yet
And the Cossacks again strained every nerve, as though they had
suffered no loss. Only three kuren hetmans still remained alive. Red
blood flowed in streams everywhere; heaps of their bodies and of those
of the enemy were piled high. Taras looked up to heaven, and there
already hovered a flock of vultures. Well, there would be prey for
some one. And there the foe were raising Metelitza on their lances,
and the head of the second Pisarenko was dizzily opening and shutting
its eyes; and the mangled body of Okhrim Guska fell upon the ground.
"Now," said Taras, and waved a cloth on high. Ostap understood this
signal and springing quickly from his ambush attacked sharply. The
Lyakhs could not withstand this onslaught; and he drove them back, and
chased them straight to the spot where the stakes and fragments of
spears were driven into the earth. The horses began to stumble and
fall and the Lyakhs to fly over their heads. At that moment the
Korsuntzi, who had stood till the last by the baggage waggons,
perceived that they still had some bullets left, and suddenly fired a
volley from their matchlocks. The Lyakhs became confused, and lost
their presence of mind; and the Cossacks took courage. "The victory is
ours!" rang Cossack voices on all sides; the trumpets sounded and the
banner of victory was unfurled. The beaten Lyakhs ran in all
directions and hid themselves. "No, the victory is not yet complete,"
said Taras, glancing at the city gate; and he was right.
The gates opened, and out dashed a hussar band, the flower of all the
cavalry. Every rider was mounted on a matched brown horse from the
Kabardei; and in front rode the handsomest, the most heroic of them
all. His black hair streamed from beneath his brazen helmet; and from
his arm floated a rich scarf, embroidered by the hands of a peerless
beauty. Taras sprang back in horror when he saw that it was Andrii.
And the latter meanwhile, enveloped in the dust and heat of battle,
eager to deserve the scarf which had been bound as a gift upon his
arm, flew on like a greyhound; the handsomest, most agile, and
youngest of all the band. The experienced huntsman urges on the
greyhound, and he springs forward, tossing up the snow, and a score of
times outrunning the hare, in the ardour of his course. And so it was
with Andrii. Old Taras paused and observed how he cleared a path
before him, hewing away and dealing blows to the right and the left.
Taras could not restrain himself, but shouted: "Your comrades! your
comrades! you devil's brat, would you kill your own comrades?" But
Andrii distinguished not who stood before him, comrades or strangers;
he saw nothing. Curls, long curls, were what he saw; and a bosom like