In two hours we reached the neighboring fortress, which also belonged to Pougatcheff. We there changed horses. By the celerity with which they served us, and the eager zeal of the bearded Cossack, whom Pougatcheff had made Commandant, I perceived that, thanks to the talk of our postilion, I was supposed to be a favorite with their master. When we started off again, it was dusk; we were drawing near a town where, according to the bearded Commandant, there ought to be a very strong detachment of Pougatcheff’s forces. The sentinels stopped us and to the demand: “Who goes there?” our postilion answered in a loud voice: “A friend of the Czar, traveling with his wife.”
We were at once surrounded by a detachment of Russian hussars, who swore frightfully.
“Come out,” said a Russian officer, heavily mustached; “We’ll give you a bath!”
I requested to be taken before the authorities. Perceiving that I was an officer, the soldiers ceased swearing, and the officer took me to the Major’s. Saveliitch followed, growling out: “We fall from the fire into the flame!”
The kibitka came slowly after us. In five minutes we reached a small house, all lighted up. The officer left me under a strong guard, and entered to announce my capture. He returned almost instantly, saying that I was ordered to prison, and her ladyship to the presence of the Major.
“Is he mad?” I cried.
“I can not tell, your lordship.”
I jumped up the steps — the sentinels had not time to stop me — and burst into the room where six hussar officers were playing faro. The Major kept the bank. I instantly recognized the Major as Ivan Zourine, who had so thoroughly emptied my purse at Simbirsk. “Is it possible? is this you Ivan Zourine?”
“Halloo! Peter; what luck? where are you from? will you take a chance?”
“Thanks; I would rather have some apartments assigned me.”
“No need of apartments, stay with me.”
“I can not; I am not alone.”
“Bring your comrade with you.”
“I am not with a comrade; I am with — a lady.”
“A lady! where did you fish her out?” and he whistled in so rollicking a manner, that the rest burst out laughing.
“Well,” said Zourine, “then you must have a house in the town. Here, boy! why do you not bring in Pougatcheff’s friend?”
“What are you about,” said I. “It is Captain Mironoff’s daughter. I have just obtained her liberty, and I am taking her to my father’s, where I shall leave her.”
“In the name of Heaven, what are you talking about? Are you Pougatcheff’s chum?”
“I will tell you everything later; first go and see this poor girl, whom your soldiers have horribly frightened.”
Zourine went out into the street to excuse himself to Marie, and explain the mistake, and ordered the officer to place her and her maid in the best house in the city. I stayed with him. After supper, as soon as we were alone, I gave him the story of my adventures.
He shook his head. “That’s all very well; but why will you marry? As an officer and a comrade, I tell you marriage is folly! Now listen to me. The road to Simbirsk has been swept clean by our soldiers; you can therefore send the Captain’s daughter to your parents tomorrow, and remain yourself in my detachment. No need to return to Orenbourg; you might fall again into the hands of the rebels.”
I resolved to follow, in part, Zourine’s advice. Saveliitch came to prepare my room for the night. I told him to be ready to set out in the morning with Marie.
“Who will attend you, my lord?”
“My old friend,” said I, trying to soften him, “I do not need a servant here, and in serving Marie, you serve me, for I shall marry her as soon as the war is over.”
“Marry!” repeated he, with his hands crossed, and a look of inexpressible blankness, “the child wants to marry! What will your parents say?”
“They will, no doubt, consent as soon as they know Marie. You will intercede for us, will you not?”
I had touched the old man’s heart. “O Peter!” said he, “you are too young to marry, but the young lady is an angel, and it would be a sin to let the chance slip. I will do as you desire.”
The next day I made known my plans to Marie. As Zourine’s detachment was to leave the city that same day, delay was impossible. I confided Marie to my dear old Saveliitch, and gave him a letter for my father. Marie, in tears, took leave of me. I did not dare to speak, lest the bystanders should observe my feelings.
It was the end of the February; Winter, which had rendered manoeuvering difficult was now at a close, and our generals were preparing for a combined campaign. At the approach of our troops, revolted villages returned to their duty, while Prince Galitzin defeated the usurper, and raised the siege of Orenbourg, which was the death-blow to the rebellion. We heard of Pougatcheff in the Ural regions, and on the way to Moscow. But he was captured. The war was over. Zourine received orders to return his troops to their posts. I jumped about the room like a boy. Zourine shrugged his shoulders, and said: “Wait till you are married, and see how foolish you are!”
I had leave of absence. In a few days I would be at home and united to Marie. One day Zourine came into my room with a paper in his hand, and sent away the servant.
“What’s the matter?” said I.
“A slight annoyance,” he answered, handing me the paper. “Read.”
It was confidential order addressed to all the chiefs of detachments to arrest me, and send me under guard to Khasan before the Commission of Inquiry, created to give information against Pougatcheff and his accomplices. The paper fell from my hands.
“Do not be cast down,” said Zourine, “but set out at once.”
My conscience was easy, but the delay! It would be months, perhaps, before I could get through the Commission. Zourine bade me an affectionate adieu. I mounted the telega (Summer carriage), two hussars withdrawn swords beside, and took the road to Khasan.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:12