Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter XVIII

The second day after the raid, not too early, Butler went out into the street by way of the back door, intending to have a stroll and a breath of fresh air before his morning tea, which he normally took with Petrov. The sun was already clear of the mountains and it was painful to look at the white daub houses where it shone on the right-hand side of the street. It was, though, as cheering and soothing as ever to look left wards at the black tree-clad mountains rising higher and higher in the distance and, visible beyond the ravine, the lusterless chain of snow-capped mountains pretending as always to be clouds.

Butler looked at the mountains, filled his lungs, and felt happy to be alive and to be just who he was, living in this beautiful world. He was quite happy, too, about his conduct the previous day’s action, both during the advance and in particular during the march back when things were quite hot; find he was happy to recall the way Masha, otherwise Marya Dmitrievna (the woman Petrov lived with) had entertained — hem after they had got back from the raid, and the especially unaffected, kindly way she had treated everyone, being particularly nice to him, it had seemed. With her thick plait of hair, her broad shoulders, full bosom, and kindly beaming rice covered with freckles, Marya Dmitrievna could not help attracting Butler who was a young, vigorous, unmarried man, and he even had an idea that she was keen on him. But he thought it would be a shabby way to treat his simple, good-natured comrade and always behaved towards Marya Dmitrievna with the utmost simplicity and respect and it gladdened him that he did so. He was thinking of this just now.

His thoughts were disturbed by the drumming of many horses’ hoofs on the dusty road ahead of him. It sounded like several horsemen galloping. He raised his head and saw at the end of the street a party of riders approaching at a walk. There were a couple of dozen Cossacks with two men riding at their head: one wore a white cherkeska and a tall papakha wound with a turban, the other was a dark, hook-nosed officer in the Russian service, dressed in a blue cherkeska with a lavish amount of silver on his clothing and weapons. The horseman in the turban rode a handsome palomino with a small head and beautiful eyes; the officer was mounted on a tall, rather showy Karabakh. Butler, who was very keen on horses, appreciated at a glance the resilient power of the first rider’s horse and stopped to find out who they were. The officer spoke to him.

‘That house of commandant?’ he asked, pointing with his whip at Ivan Matveevich’s (Petrov’s) house, and betraying by his accent and defective grammar his non-Russian origin.

‘Yes, that’s it,’ said Butler. ‘And who might that be?’ he asked, going closer to the officer and with a glance indicating the man in the turban.

‘That Hadji Murad. He come here and stay with commandant,’ said the officer.

Butler knew about Hadji Murad and that he had surrendered to the Russians, but he had never expected to see him here, in this small fort.

Hadji Murad was looking at him in a friendly fashion.

‘How do you do. KosAkoldy,’ said Butler, using the Tatar greeting he had learnt.

‘Saubul,’ replied Hadji Murad, nodding. He rode across to Butler and offered his hand from which his whip hung on two fingers.

‘Commandant?’ he asked.

‘No, the commandant is inside. I’ll go and fetch him,’ Butler said to the officer, going up the steps and pushing at the door.

But the ‘front door’, as Marya Dmitrievna called it, was locked. Butler knocked, but getting no reply went round by the back way. He called for his batman, but got no answer, and being unable to find either of the two boatman went into the kitchen. Marya Dmitrievna was there, with face flushed, her hair pinned up in a kerchief and sleeves rolled up over her plump, white arms. she was cutting pie-cases from a rolled out layer of dough as white as her arms.

‘Where have the batmen got to?’ asked Butler.

‘Gone off drinking,’ said Marya Dmitrievna. ‘What is it you want?’

‘I want the door opened. You’ve got a whole horde of mountaineers outside. Hadji Murad has come.’

‘Go on, tell me another one,’ said Marya Dmitrievna, smiling.

‘It’s not a joke. It’s true. They are just outside.’

‘What? Really?’ said Marya Dmitricvna.

‘Why should I want to make it up? Go and look — they are just outside. ‘Well, there’s a thing!’ said Marya Dmitrievna, rolling down her sleeves and feeling for the pins in her thick plait of hair. ‘I’ll go and wake up Ivan Matvcovich, then!’

‘No, I’ll go. You, Bondarenko, go and open the door,’ said Butler.

‘That’s all right by me,’ said Marya Dmitrievna and returned to her work.

When he learnt that Hadji Murad had arrived, Petrov, who had heard already that he was in Grozny, was not in the least surprised. He sat up in bed, rolled a cigarette, lit it, and began to get dressed, loudly coughing to clear his throat and grumbling at the higher-ups who had sent ‘that devil’ to him. When he was dressed, he ordered his batman to bring his ‘medicine’, and the batman, knowing what he meant, brought him some vodka.

‘You should never mix your drinks,’ he growled, drinking the vodka and eating a piece of black bread with it. ‘I was drinking chikhir last night and now I’ve got a thick head. All right, I’m ready,’ he said finally and went into the parlor, where Butler had taken Hadji Murad and the escorting officer.

The officer handed Ivan Matveevich the orders from the commander of the Left Flank in which he was instructed to take charge of Hadji Murad and, while allowing him contact with the mountaineers through scouts, to ensure that he never left the fort except with an escort of Cossacks.

Ivan Matveevich read the paper, looked hard at Hadji Murad, and studied the paper again. After several times shifting his gaze from the paper to his visitor, he finally fixed his eyes on Hadji Murad and said:

‘Yakshi, bek-yaksh~. Very well. Let him stay then. But you tell him that my orders are not to let him loose. And orders are orders. As to quarters, what do you think, Butler? We could put him in the office..’

Before Butler could reply, Marya Dmitrievna, who had come from the kitchen and was standing in the doorway, said to Ivan Matveevich: ‘Why in the office? Let him stay here. We can give him the guest-room and the store-room. At least he’ll be where you can keep an eye on him,’ she said. she glanced at Hadji Murad, but meeting his eyes turned hurriedly away.

‘Yes, I think Marya Dmitrievna is right,’ said Butler.

‘Go on, off with you!’ said Ivan Matveevich, frowning ‘Womenfolk have no business here.’

Throughout this conversation Hadji Murad sat with his hand behind the handle of his dagger and a faintly disdainful smile on his lips. He said it mattered nothing where he lived. All he needed was what the sardar had granted — to have contact with the mountaineers, and he wished therefore that they be allowed access to him. Ivan Matveevich said that this would be done and asked Butler to look after their guests while something to eat was brought and the rooms made ready. He would go to the office to fill in the necessary papers and give the necessary instructions.

Hadji Murat’s relations with these new acquaintances immediately became very clearly established. From their first meeting Hadji Murat felt nothing but repugnance and scorn for Ivan Matveevich and was always haughty in his treatment of him. He particularly liked Marya Dn1itrievna, who cooked and served his food. He liked her simple manner, her particular, for him foreign, type of beauty, and the unconsciously conveyed attraction which she felt for him. He tried not to look at her, or to speak to her, but his eyes turned automatically towards her and followed her movements.

With Butler he struck up an immediate friendship and took pleasure in the long talks he had with him, asking Butler about his life and telling him of his own, passing on the news brought by the scouts about the situation of his family and even asking his advice as to what he should do.

The news brought by the scouts was not good. In the four days he had been at the fort they had come twice and on both occasions the news was bad.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01