Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter VI

Young Vorontsov was much pleased that it was he, and no one else, who had succeeded in winning over and receiving Hadji Murad — next to Shamil Russia’s chief and most active enemy. There was only one unpleasant thing about it: General Meller- Zakomelsky was in command of the army at Vozdvizhenski, and the whole affair ought to have been carried out through him. As Vorontsov had done everything himself without reporting it there might be some unpleasantness, and this thought rather interfered with his satisfaction. On reaching his house he entrusted Hadji Murad’s henchmen to the regimental adjutant and himself showed Hadji Murad into the house.

Princess Marya Vasilevna, elegantly dressed and smiling, and her little son, a handsome curly-headed child of six, met Hadji Murad in the drawing room. The latter placed his hands on his heart, and through the interpreter — who had entered with him — said with solemnity that he regarded himself as the prince’s kunak, since the prince had brought him into his own house; and that a kunak’s whole family was as sacred as the kunak himself.

Hadji Murad’s appearance and manners pleased Marya Vasilevna, and the fact that he flushed when she held out her large white hand to him inclined her still more in his favor. She invited him to sit down, and having asked him whether he drank coffee, had some served. He, however, declined it when it came. He understood a little Russian but could not speak it. When something was said which he could not understand he smiled, and his smile pleased Marya Vasilevna just as it had pleased Poltoratsky. The curly-haired, keen-eyed little boy (whom his mother called Bulka) standing beside her did not take his eyes off Hadji Murad, whom he had always heard spoken of as a great warrior.

Leaving Hadji Murad with his wife, Vorontsov went to his office to do what was necessary about reporting the fact of Hadji Murad’s having cove over to the Russians. When he had written a report to the general in command of the left flank — General Kozlovsky — at Grozny, and a letter to his father, Vorontsov hurried home, afraid that his wife might be vexed with him for forcing on her this terrible stranger, who had to be treated in such a way that he should not take offense, and yet not too kindly. But his fears were needless. Hadji Murad was sitting in an armchair with little Bulka, Vorontsov’s stepson, on his knee, and with bent head was listening attentively to the interpreter who was translating to him the words of the laughing marya Vasilevna. Marya Vasilevna was telling him that if every time a kunak admired anything of his he made him a present of it, he would soon have to go about like Adam. . . .

When the prince entered, Hadji Murad rose at once and, surprising and offending Bulka by putting him off his knee, changed the playful expression of his face to a stern and serious one. He only sat down again when Vorontsov had himself taken a seat.

Continuing the conversation he answered Marya Vasilevna by telling her that it was a law among his people that anything your kunak admired must be presented to him.

“Thy son, kunak?” he said in Russian, patting the curly head of the boy who had again climbed on his knee.

“He is delightful, your brigand!” said Marya Vasilevna to her husband in french. “Bulka has been admiring his dagger, and he has given it to him.”

Bulka showed the dagger to his father. “C’est un objet de prix!” added she.

“Il faudra trouver l’occasion de lui faire cadeau,” said Vorontsov.

Hadji Murad, his eyes turned down, sat stroking the boy’s curly hair and saying: “Dzhigit, dzhigit!”

“A beautiful, beautiful dagger,” said Vorontsov, half drawing out the sharpened blade which had a ridge down the center. “I thank thee!”

“Ask him what I can do for him,” he said to the interpreter.

The interpreter translated, and Hadji Murad at once replied that he wanted nothing but that he begged to be taken to a place where he could say his prayers.

Vorontsov called his valet and told him to do what Hadji Murad desired.

As soon as Hadji Murad was alone in the room allotted to him his face altered. The pleased expression, now kindly and now stately, vanished, and a look of anxiety showed itself. Vorontsov had received him far better than Hadji Murad had expected. But the better the reception the less did Hadji Murad trust Vorontsov and his officers. He feared everything: that he might be seized, chained, and sent to Siberia, or simply killed; and therefore he was on his guard. He asked Eldar, when the latter entered his room, where his murids had been put and whether their arms had been taken from them, and where the horses were. Eldar reported that the horses were in the prince’s stables; that the men had been placed in a barn; that they retained their arms, and that the interpreter was giving them food and tea.

Hadji Murad shook his head in doubt, and after undressing said his prayers and told Eldar to bring him his silver dagger. He then dressed, and having fastened his belt, sat down on the divan with his legs tucked under him, to await what might befall him.

At four in the afternoon the interpreter came to call him to dine with the prince.

At dinner he hardly ate anything except some pilau, to which he helped himself from the very part of the dish from which Marya Vasilevna had helped herself.

“He is afraid we shall poison him,” Marya Vasilevna remarked to her husband. “He has helped himself from the place where I took my helping.” Then instantly turning to Hadji Murad she asked him through the interpreter when he would pray again. Hadji Murad lifted five fingers and pointed to the sun. “Then it will soon be time,” and Vorontsov drew out his watch and pressed a spring. The watch struck four and one quarter. This evidently surprised Hadji Murad, and he asked to hear it again and to be allowed to look at the watch.

“Voila l’occasion! Donnez-lui la montre,” said the princess to her husband.

Vorontsov at once offered the watch to Hadji Murad.

The latter placed his hand on his breast and took the watch. He touched the spring several times, listened, and nodded his head approvingly.

After dinner, Meller-Zakomelsky’s aide-de-camp was announced.

The aide-de-camp informed the prince that the general, having heard of Hadji Murad’s arrival, was highly displeased that this had not been reported to him, and required Hadji Murad to be brought to him without delay. Vorontsov replied that the general’s command should be obeyed, and through the interpreter informed Hadji Murad of these orders and asked him to go to Meller with him.

When Marya Vasilevna heard what the aide-de-camp had come about, she at once understood that unpleasantness might arise between her husband and the general, and in spite of all her husband’s attempts to dissuade her, decided to go with him and Hadji Murad.

“Vous feriez blen mieux de rester — c’est mon affaire, non pas la votre. . . . ”

“Vous ne pouvez pas m’empecher d’aller voir madame la generale!”

“You could go some other time.”

“But I wish to go now!”

There was no help for it, so Vorontsov agreed, and they all three went.

When they entered, Meller with somber politeness conducted Marya Vasilevna to his wife and told his aide-de-camp to show Hadji Murad to the waiting room and not let him out till further orders.

“Please . . . ” he said to Vorontsov, opening the door of his study and letting the prince enter before him.

Having entered the study he stopped in front of Vorontsov and, without offering him a seat, said:

“I am in command here and therefore all negotiations with the enemy have to be carried on through me! Why did you not report to me that Hadji Murad had come over?”

“An emissary came to me and announced his wish to capitulate only to me,” replied Vorontsov growing pale with excitement, expecting some rude expression from the angry general and at the same time becoming infected with his anger.

“I ask you why was I not informed?”

“I intended to inform you, Baron, but . . . ”

“You are not to address me as ‘Baron,’ but as ‘Your Excellency’!” And here the baron’s pent-up irritation suddenly broke out and he uttered all that had long been boiling in his soul.

“I have not served my sovereign twenty-seven years in order that men who began their service yesterday, relying on family connections, should give orders under my very nose about matters that do not concern them!”

“Your Excellency, I request you not to say things that are incorrect!” interrupted Vorontsov.

“I am saying what is correct, and I won’t allow . . . ” said the general, still more irritably.

But at that moment Marya Vasilevna entered, rustling with her skirts and followed by a model-looking little lady, Meller- Zakomelsky’s wife.

“Come, come, Baron! Simon did not wish to displease you,” began Marya Vasilevna.

“I am not speaking about that, Princess. . . . ”

“Well, well, let’s forget it all! . . . You know, ‘A bad peace is better than a good quarrel!’ . . . Oh dear, what am I saying?” and she laughed.

The angry general capitulated to the enchanting laugh of the beauty. A smile hovered under his moustache.

“I confess I was wrong,” said Vorontsov, “but —”

“And I too got rather carried away,” said Meller, and held out his hand to the prince.

Peace was re-established, and it was decided to leave Hadji Murad with the general for the present, and then to send him to the commander of the left flank.

Hadji Murad sat in the next room and though he did not understand what was said, he understood what it was necessary for him to understand — namely, that they were quarrelling about him, that his desertion of Shamil was a matter of immense importance to the Russians, and that therefore not only would they not exile or kill him, but that he would be able to demand much from them. He also understood that though Meller-Zakomelsky was the commanding officer, he had not as much influence as his subordinate Vorontsov, and that Vorontsov was important and Meller-Zakomelsky unimportant; and therefore when Meller- Zakomelsky sent for him and began to question him, Hadji Murad bore himself proudly and ceremoniously, saying that he had come from the mountains to serve the White Tsar and would give account only to his Sirdar, meaning the commander-in-chief, Prince Vorontsov senior, in Tiflis.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04