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Title: For the Right
Author: Franzos, Karl Emil
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/forright00suttgoog



                             FOR THE RIGHT



                             FOR THE RIGHT



                                   BY

                           KARL EMIL FRANZOS



                            GIVEN IN ENGLISH

                            By JULIE SUTTER



                             With a Preface

                       By GEORGE MACDONALD, LLD.



                                NEW YORK

                   HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE

                                  1888



                                PREFACE.


Not having even been asked to do so, I write this preface from
admiration of the book. The translation I have not yet seen, but
knowing previous work by the same hand, have confidence in it.

How much the story is founded on fact I cannot tell; a substratum of
fact there must be. To know that such a man once lived as is
represented in it, might well wake a new feeling of both strength and
obligation: here is one who, with absolutely no help from what is
commonly meant by _education_, lived heroically. But be the tale as
much a product of the imagination as the wildest romance, it remains a
significant fact that the generation has produced a man capable of such
an ideal.

For the more evident tendency of art has for some time been to an
infinite degeneracy. The cry of "Art for art's sake," as a protest
against the pursuit of art for the sake of money or fame, one can
recognize in its half wisdom, knowing the right cry to be, "Art for
truth's sake!" But when certain writers tell us that the true aim of
the author of fiction is to give the people what they want, namely, a
reflection, as in a mirror, of themselves--a mirror not such as will
show them to themselves as they are, but as they seem to each other,
some of us feel that we stand on the verge of an abyss of falsehood.
The people--in whose favour they seem to live and move and have their
being--desire, they say, no admixture of further object, nothing to
indicate they ought not to be what they are, or show them what they
ought to be: they acknowledge no relations with the ideal, only with
that which is--themselves, namely, and what they think and do. Such
writers do not understand that nothing does or can exist except the
ideal; nor is their art-philosophy other than "procuress to the lords
of hell." Whoever has an ideal and is making no struggle toward it, is
sinking into the outer darkness. The ideal is the end, and must be the
object of life. Attained, or but truly conceived, we must think of it
as the indispensable.

It is, then, a great fact of the age that, such low ends being
advocated, and men everywhere insisting on a miserable origin and
miserable prospects for humanity, there should yet appear in it a man
with artistic conception of a lofty ideal, and such artistic expression
of the same as makes it to us not conceivable only, but humanly
credible. For an ideal that is impossible is no ideal; it is a fancy,
no imagination. Our author keeps his narrative entirely consistent with
human nature--not, indeed, human nature as degraded, disjointed, and
unworthy, neither human nature as ideally perfect, but human nature as
reaching after the perfection of doing the duty that is plainly
perceived. In none of its details is the story unlikely. We may doubt
if such a man as Taras ever lived; but alas for him who has no hope
that such a man will ever be!

The reader must not suppose I would have everything the man did
regarded as _right_. On the contrary, the man becomes bitterly aware of
his errors--errors of knowledge, however, of judgment and of belief, be
it understood--not of conduct as required by that belief, knowledge,
and judgment. His head is at a loss rather than in fault; heart and
will are pure. A good man may do the most mistaken things with such
conviction of their rectitude as to be even bound to do them. How far
he might be to blame for not knowing or judging better, God only could
tell. If he could not have known better or judged better, he may have
to bear some of the consequences of his mistakes, but he will not have
to bear any blame; while his doing of what he believed to be right will
result in his both being and knowing what is right. The rare thing is
not the man who knows what is right, but the man who actually, with all
the power in him, with his very being, sets himself to _do_ that right
thing, however unpleasant or painful, irksome or heartrending to him.
Such a man, and such only, is a hero.

At the same time, the deepest instruction lies in the very mistakes of
the man. The purity of his motive and object confessed, not merely were
the means he took to reach his end beyond his administration, but the
end itself was imperfect. There are multitudes who imagine they hate
injustice when they but hate injury to themselves. They will boil with
rage at that, but hear of wrong even to a friend with much equanimity.
How many would not rather do a small wrong than endure a great one! Do
such men love justice? No man is a lover of justice who would not
rather endure the greatest wrong than commit the least. Here we have a
man who, to revenge no wrong done to himself, but out of pure reverence
for justice, feeling bound in his very being to do what in him lies for
justice, gives up everything, wife even and children, and openly
defying the emperor, betakes himself an outlaw to the hills, to serve
that Justice whose ministers have forsaken her. He will do with what
power he has, the thing so many fancy they would do if they had the
power they have not--put down injustice with the strong hand. There is
a place for this in the order of things; but were the judges of the
earth absolutely righteous, the world would never thus be cleansed of
injustice. The justest judge will do more for the coming of the kingdom
of righteousness by being himself a true man, than by innumerable
righteous judgments. The first and longest step a man can take toward
redress of all wrong, is _to be righteous_, not in the avenging of
wrong, but in the doing of the right thing, in the working of
righteousness. He who could have put down evil with the strong hand had
he so pleased, was he who less than any cared to do so. He saw that men
might be kept from injustice and be not a whit the more just, or the
more ready to do justice when the hand was withdrawn. What alone he
thought worth his labour was that a man should love justice as he loved
it, and be ready to die for it as he himself died. This man in his
ignorance set out to do the thing his Master had declined to do; his
end itself was inadequate.

Nor was the man himself adequate to the end. The very means he
possessed he was unable to control; and wrong followed as terrible as
unavoidable. Vengeance must be left with the Most High; for the
administration of punishment, to be just, demands not merely an
unselfishness perfect as God's, but an insight and knowledge equal to
his. Besides all this, to administer justice a man must have power
beyond his own, and must, therefore, largely depend on others, while
yet he can with no certainty determine who are fit for his purpose and
who are not. In brief, the justest man cannot but fail in executing
justice. He may be pure, but his work will not.

One thing I must beg of the reader--not to come to a conclusion before
he has come to the end; not to imagine that now or now he may condemn,
but to wait until the drama is played out.

It was indeed a bold undertaking when our author chose for his hero a
man who could not read or write, who had no special inclination, no
personal aptitude for social or public affairs, and would present him
attempting the noblest impossibility, from a divine sense of wrong done
to others than himself, and duty owed by him to all men and to God--a
duty become his because he alone was left to do it.

I have seldom, if ever, read a work of fiction that moved me with so
much admiration.

The failures of some will be found eternities beyond the successes of
others.

                                          George Mac Donald.



                               CONTENTS.


CHAPTER

       I. To the Front.

      II. The Stuff he was Made of.

     III. The Right Wronged.

      IV. Taking up the Battle.

       V. The Wrong Victorious.

      VI. Appealing unto Cæsar.

     VII. Put not your Trust in Princes.

     VIII. Despair.

      IX. The Passion of Justice.

       X. To the Mountains.

      XI. Outlawed.

     XII. Flourishing like a Bay-Tree.

    XIII. The Banner Unfurled.

     XIV. Gathering Strength.

      XV. An Eye for an Eye.

     XVI. The Avenger to the Rescue.

    XVII. Signs of Failure.

   XVIII. The Approaching Doom

     XIX. For the Right--In the Wrong.

      XX. The Banner Soiled.

     XXI. "Vengeance is Mine".

    XXII. Paying the Penalty.



                             FOR THE RIGHT.



                               CHAPTER I.

                             TO THE FRONT.


Let the reader's imagination carry him eastward. Let him suppose he
were travelling at railway speed between Lemberg and Czernowitz, in a
south-easterly direction, towards the sedgy shores of the river Pruth
and the beech forests of the Bukowina, and the scenery to his left will
appear changeless. His eye for miles will rest on a boundless plain, of
which the seasons can influence the colouring only, but never a feature
of the landscape. White and dazzling in the winter, it rises to
something of a yellow brightness in the summer, wearing a neutral tint
both in the autumn and spring. But on his right-hand each turn of the
wheel will disclose a new picture to his eyes. He is fast approaching
the towering heights of the Carpathians. Mere phantoms at first, they
assume shape and substance like gathering clouds on the horizon, the
mountain chain with deepening contours advancing through the violet and
purple vapours of distance. And if the traveller now were able to fix
his gaze a while on the monotonous plain, with its grey cottages, its
poverty-stricken fields, and dreary heathlands, his would be a grand
surprise in turning once more to the right. The heights have closed
in--giants they, proud and solemn in fir-clad majesty. The wind,
sweeping along the mountain-sides, is laden with the odours of
pinewood; the air is filled with the roar of cataracts dashing through
the gullies and foaming along the rocky channel by the side of the
railway cutting; and athwart the narrow bands of azure, which seem the
bluer for the deep-rent glens beneath, may be seen wheeling the
bloodthirsty kite of the Carpathians. The very heart of the mountain
chain, silent and beautiful, lies open to view. A moment only, and it
will have vanished. The railroad, starting off in a sharp curve to the
east, leaves nothing to the beholder but to the right and to the left
the self-same monotonous plain. A sudden bend of the lawless Pruth had
rendered it necessary for the line to cut the landscape at the very
point where mountain and plain stand facing each other--abrupt and
unblending--like hatred and love in the heart of man.

The spot in question--half-way between Colomea, the hill-crowned
capital of the district, and Zablotow, a poor Jewish townlet of the
plain--is within the parish boundary of Zulawce, a village not,
however, visible from the railway, its cottages, a couple of miles
beyond, covering an eastern slope of the magnificent mountain range.
The thatched dwellings are as poor as anywhere in that part of Galicia,
not even the church or the manor house commanding any attention. But
all the more charming is the neighbourhood. Approaching the village
from the Pruth, you reach its first outlying cottages without the
effort of climbing, but by the time you have ascended to the
farthermost dwellings you have a splendid lowland landscape at your
feet--spreading fields of gold, verdant woods and heath-covered tracts,
skirted by the Pruth as with a broad silver ribbon, the glittering
rivulet of the Czerniawa winding between. And your eye will carry you
farther still, to the natural horizon, northward. But the eastern view
is altogether different, and incomparably bewitching, the gloriously
wooded hill-country of the Bukowina rising gradually, terrace upon
terrace, from the deep-sunk valley of the Czeremosz. Indeed, this
prospect, as seen from the village, is wondrously grand, a succession
of gigantic steps, as it were, leading from earth toward heaven, the
highest mountain-tops melting away in the ethereal blue. To the west
and south the view is bounded by the "Welyki Lys," a gigantic mountain
forest which separates Galicia from Hungary--dark and dreary, and
unutterably monotonous. Nowhere in the lower Carpathians is there a
spot to equal Zulawce for Nature's variety, looking upon the village as
a centre.

But this is not all for which the place is noteworthy. Life there, on
the whole, is regulated after the ways of the lowlands; but the people
themselves approach the Huzul type--a peculiar race, inhabiting the
mountains, and which, on account of the common language, is generally
classed with the Ruthens, but being of a different origin and of
different conditions of life is distinct from them, as in appearance so
in habit and in character. The Huzul is a hybrid, uniting the Slavonic
blood of the Ruthen with the Mongolian blood of the Uzen, his speech
betraying the former while his name testifies to the latter; so also
does the defiant dauntlessness of his bearing, hidden beneath an
appearance of proud restraint, but apt to burst out suddenly, like a
hot spring through the covering snow. The Ruthens of the lowlands, on
the contrary, are purely Slavonic; industrious therefore, enduring and
very patient, not easily roused, but once the fire is kindled it will
go on burning with a steady glow. These virtues, however, have sad
vices for a reverse--a bluntness which is both dull and coarse, and an
abject humility, bending the neck of the conquered man even lower than
need be. An unfair load of hardships may be pleaded in their excuse.
The Ruthen for centuries bore the chains of serfdom, and these broken
he continued the subject of some Polish nobleman, no law protecting his
body, still less his goods, no mental culture reaching him whose soul
received the barest crumbs of spiritual teaching. In this respect
things, to be sure, went as ill with the Huzuls, but for the rest
theirs was a life of liberty on the mountains, acknowledging no
nobleman and no officer of the crown. Poorly enough they lived in the
forest wilds, their sheep yielding milk and cheese, the barren soil a
few oats for scarcely eatable bread, while meat was within reach of him
only who would stake his own life in killing a bear. To this day there
are glens where no money has ever been seen; for which reason it has
never been thought worth while to levy taxes, the great lords remaining
in the lowlands where the soil was fruitful and he who tilled it a
slave. "Within those mountains there are but bears to be found and a
wild people called Uzels," thus wrote a German explorer in the
seventeenth century. He might have written it yesterday, for with the
bear only does the Huzul share the sovereignty of the mountains, and
his very freedom is no better than the liberty of the bear--yet liberty
it is! Thus the difference between the Ruthens of the uplands and the
Ruthens of the plain is immense, and scarcely to be bridged over--free
huntsmen up yonder, yoke-bearing bondmen below.

"No falcon can lived caged, no Huzul in bondage," says the proverb. The
village of Zulawce appeared to give the lie to this saying, but only at
first sight. The people there tilled the soil; they went to church,
paid tithes, and yielded forced labour; but for the rest they were
Huzuls, and cousins-german to the bear-hunters of the Welyki Lys. They
never forgot that they were _men_; they chose to govern themselves, and
did not hesitate to meet injustice with a bullet or a blow of the axe.
The lord of the manor, old Count Henryk Borecki, knew this well enough,
and though he might groan he never attempted to treat the peasants of
Zulawce as he would treat the churls on his lowland property. Not that
he was a gracious lord, but he was prudent; and being a passionate
huntsman himself, he loved to spend the season on that borderland of
the great forest, which led to many a scuffle, but open rupture there
was none while he lived.

When he had departed, matters grew worse. His son, Count George, never
troubled the people with his presence, for he lived in Paris. He was a
famous cavalier, devoting himself to the rising generation, so far as
it was of the feminine gender, and given to dancing at Mabille. His
far-off estates he only bore in mind when his purse was low; for which
reason, indeed, he thought of them as often and as anxiously as any
pattern landlord, keeping up a lively correspondence with his stewards
in Podolia--money they must send him, or dismissed his service they
should be. These unfortunate "mandatars" had a hard time of it; but
they did their best, fleecing the peasants to the utmost, and keeping
their stewardships. Now, the mandatar of Zulawce also, Mr. Severin
Gonta, for all that can be told to the contrary, might have wished to
adopt this plan; but having lived for twenty years in the village, and
knowing the people and their knock-down propensities, he preferred
having recourse to the cutting of my lord's timber instead, sending the
proceeds to Paris. Count George, however, in the pursuit of his noble
passions, enlarged his friendships, admitting even usurers to the
benefit of his private acquaintance.

Thus it came about that Mr. Severin one day received the youthful
landlord's ultimatum: "Send me another thousand florins a year, or go
to the devil." Mr. Severin was soon resolved. He knew he had cut the
timber till never a tree remained, and he preferred his bodily safety
to the stewardship he held. So he quitted his post, being succeeded by
the young Count's private secretary, a certain Mr. Wenceslas Hajek.

Mr. Wenceslas at the time--it was in the year of Grace 1835--was a
young man of eight-and-twenty, with an experience far beyond his years.
A Bohemian by birth, he soon rose to the dignity of an imperial
detective, and in recognition of his peculiar talents was sent to Italy
as a spy. He had acquired a knowledge of French, and was known to have
committed a daring robbery upon a privy councillor of Milan, for which
achievement he was not, like an ordinary mortal, sent to prison as a
thief, but to Paris on a secret mission for Prince Metternich. He duly
reported to his government; but his was a sympathetic temperament, and,
pitying the refugees, he failed not to report to them as well. For a
while he flourished, receiving pay from both sides; but being found out
he was dismissed ignominiously. Thereupon he took a distaste for
politics, establishing a private agency for nondescript transactions,
the least doubtful of which were the arrangements he brought about
between spendthrift nobles and their friends who lent upon usury. In
this capacity he came to be introduced to Count George, who found him
simply invaluable, appointing him his private secretary before long.
Now, Mr. Wenceslas might thus have lived happily ever after, had his
natural disposition not again played him the fool. He loved money, and
took of his master's what he could. Count George was helpless, since
the rascal knew his every secret; it was plain he could not dismiss
him, but he promoted him to the stewardship of Zulawce. "I don't care
how much of a blackguard he is, so long as he forwards my revenues,"
this distinguished nobleman thought within himself, continuing his
pursuits in Paris.

It was in the month of May, 1835, that Wenceslas Hajek made his entry
at Zulawce. He had scarcely an eye for the vernal splendour of the
grand scenery which surrounded him; but he certainly felt impressed on
seeing the peasantry on horseback ready to receive him into their
village. It was with a queer look of surprise that he gazed upon those
giant figures with their piercing eagle eyes. They were clothed in
their best, wearing brown woollen riding-coats, dark red breeches,
black sandals, and high felt hats with waving plumes, sitting their
small spirited steeds as though they had grown together with them.
Among mountaineers the Huzuls are the only equestrian people, and none
of their Slavonic neighbours go armed, as they do, with the gun slung
behind them, the pistol in the belt, and the battle-axe to hand. Mr.
Wenceslas knew he trembled when these well-accoutred peasants
approached his vehicle. He had intended to treat them to his most
gracious smile, and smile he did, but it cost him an effort ending in a
grin.

Only one of the peasants bared his head--an old man, white-haired and
of commanding stature, who lifted a proud face to the newcomer. He had
pulled up by the carriage door, and his clear, undaunted eyes examined
the features of the steward. That was Stephen Woronka, the village
judge. "Newly-appointed mandatar," he said, "you are sent by our lord;
therefore we greet you. You come from afar, and we are not known to
you; therefore, I say, we men of Zulawce do our duty by the Count,
expecting him to do the same by us. Neither more nor less! We greet
you."

Mr. Hajek understood the import, for a Slavonic dialect had been the
language of his childhood, and on the long journey through Galicia he
had had opportunity to pickup some of the country's speech. But, more
than the words, it was the spirit which impressed him, and he framed
his answer accordingly. "I shall be just," he said; "neither more nor
less! I greet you."

The old judge waved his hat, and "Urrahah!" cried the peasants, the
shrill; crisp sound rising from two hundred throats. They discharged
their pistols, and once more an exultant "Urrahah!" filled the air. It
sounded like a war cry; but peacefully they turned their horses' heads,
and, together with the travelling carriage, proceeded to the village
inn.

There, on an open space beneath a mighty linden tree, the rest of the
people stood waiting--old folk and lads, women and children--all
wearing their Sunday best. When the carriage had stopped, and Mr.
Hajek, still smiling, had alighted, he was met by the village priest,
or pope, with a bow. The Reverend Martin Sustenkowicz was loyally
inclined, and anxious to express his feelings in a proper speech, but
somehow his intention often was beyond him; and in the present
instance, attempting his salutation with unsteady feet, he bowed lower
than he meant to, and speech there was none. Hajek took the will for
the deed, and turned to an aged woman who offered bread and salt. He
affably swallowed a mouthful, and thereupon ordered the innkeeper,
Avrumko, in a stage whisper, to tap two casks of his schnaps.

He fully believed thereby to please the people, and was not a little
surprised at the judge's deprecating gesture. "With your leave, new
mandatar, we decline it," said the latter. "It may be all very well in
the lowlands, but not with us. We men of Zulawce do not object to
schnaps, but only when we have paid for it ourselves!"

There was something akin to scorn in the mandatar's face, though he
smiled again, saying: "But my good people, I am here to represent Count
George, your gracious lord. Is not he your little father? and you are
the children who may well receive his bounty."

The old judge shook his head. "It may be so in the lowlands," he
repeated, "but we are no children, with your leave, and the Count is
nowise our father. We are peasants, and he is lord of the manor; we
expect justice, and will do our duty, that is all!"

"But my good judge, Mr. Stephen----"

"Begging your pardon," interrupted the latter yet again. "This also is
of the lowlands, where they 'Mister' one another. I am plain Stephen[1]
up here. And how should you know that I am good? We would rather not be
beholden to you. We will drink the Count's health, paying for it
ourselves."

He beckoned to the innkeeper; great cans full of the beverage were
brought speedily, and the people sitting or standing about were nowise
loth to fall to. Hajek felt posed, but once more he recovered himself,
and went about among the villagers, smiling right and left. But the
more he smiled, the darker he grew within. He really began to feel
afraid of these proud, gaunt creatures, with their undaunted eyes. And
he did _not_ like the look of their arms. Why, every one of these
'subjects,' as the Galician peasant in those days was styled in
official language, carried a small arsenal on his body.

"Why do you go about with pistols?" he inquired of the judge.

"We like it, and may require it," was the curt reply.

"Require it!" said the mandatar, with the smile of innocence. "Why,
what for?"

"You may find that out for yourself some day," said old Stephen, and
turned away.

Hajek shivered, but overcame the feeling, passing a benevolent look
over the assembly. They were engaged with their schnaps now and heeded
him not. One of them only--a tall, lean fellow with shaggy red
hair--stared at him with an expression of unmitigated dislike.

The mandatar went up to him, inquiring mildly, "Who are you, my
friend?"

"The devil may be your friend," retorted the man grimly. "I am Schymko
Trudak--'Red Schymko;' but what is that to you?"

"Well, am I not one of yourselves now?" returned Hajek still anxious to
conciliate. But he began to see it was no easy matter, and he cast a
disconcerted look about him.

His eye alighted on a man who carried no arms, and otherwise appeared
of a different stamp. Tall and powerful like the rest of them, his
expression was gentle; he was fair-haired, and his eyes were blue. He
wore a white fur coat with gay-coloured broidered facings, a black fur
cap, and high boots--the holiday garb of the Podolian peasant. Hajek
went up to him. The man took off his cap and bowed.

"What is your name?"

"Taras Barabola."

"Do you live in this village?"

"Yes, sir."

"Not in service, surely?"

"No!" and as modestly as though he were but a farm labourer, the young
peasant added: "I own the largest farm but one of the place."

"But you are from the lowlands?"

"Yes; I came from Ridowa."

"Then what made you settle here?"

"I--I--loved--I mean, I married into the farm," he said with a blush.

"Do you approve of these people?"

The young man reddened again, but replied: "They are different from
those we are used to in the plain, but not therefore bad."

"I wish they were more like you!" said the mandatar fervently, and
passed on. He would, indeed, have liked them to be different; more
humble, and not carrying arms for possible requirements--more like this
Taras in short!

And presently, looking from the window of his comfortable room in the
manor house, he examined with a queer smile the thickness of its walls.
"A stout building," he muttered; "who knows what it may be good for?
Still, this were but poor comfort if things came to the worst. As for
playing the hero, I have never done it; but the son of my mother is no
fool! I must act warily, I see; but I'll teach these blockheads what a
'subject' is, and I shall take care of myself!"



                              CHAPTER II.

                       THE STUFF HE WAS MADE OF.


The ensuing weeks passed quietly. The people gave their turns of
work[2] for the Count as they had always done, but the mandatar did not
appear to take much notice. For days he would be absent in the district
town, or in the villages round about, amusing himself with the officers
of the Imperial service. The peasants hardly ever saw him, but they
spoke of him the more frequently. On the day of his entry they had made
up their minds that the new bailiff was a sneak, "but we shall be up to
his tricks;" yet, somehow he rose in their estimation. True, there were
those--the old judge to begin with--who continued in their distrust,
but a more generous spirit prevailed with many as the days wore on.
"Let us be just," they said; "he has done us no harm so far." And being
laughed at by the less confident they would add: "Well, Taras thinks so
too, so we cannot be far wrong!" This appeared to be a vantage ground
of defence which the opponents knew not how to assail; old Stephen only
would retort, angrily, "It is past understanding how this lamb of the
lowlands should have got the better of every bear among us up here. But
you will be the worse for it one of these days, you will see!"

The judge spoke truth; it was a marvellous influence which the young
stranger had acquired in the village, and well-nigh incredible
considering the people he had to deal with. But if a miracle it was, it
had come about by means of the rarest of charms, by the spell emanating
from a heart, the wondrous honesty of which was equalled only by its
wondrous strength--a heart which had but grown in goodness and true
courage because its lot had been cast amid sorrows which would have
brought most men to ruin or despair.

Taras Barabola was born at Ridowa, a village near Barnow, the son of a
poor servant girl whose lover had been carried off as a recruit and
remained in the army, preferring the gay life of a soldier to hard
labour at home. Amid the hot tears of affliction the deserted mother
brought up her child, and not only trouble, but shame, stood by his
cradle. For the Podolian peasant does not judge lightly of the erring
one, and his sense of wrong can be such that Mercy herself would plead
with him in vain. It was long before the unhappy girl found shelter for
pity's sake, and little Taras, from his earliest days, had to suffer
for no other reason but that his father was a scoundrel. It appeared to
be meritorious with the people of Ridowa to scold and buffet the
frightened child, as though that were indeed a means of proving their
own respectability and combating the growth of sin. None but themselves
would have been to blame if, by such treatment of the boy, they had
reared a criminal in him, to be the disgrace and scourge of the
village. But it was not so with Taras, because amid all his trouble a
rare good fortune had been given him. The poor servant girl that bore
him was possessed of a heroic spirit. And when the little boy followed
his mother to church, she standing humbly in the porch, whilst he,
childlike, would steal forward till the sexton flung him back as though
his very breath defiled the sacred precincts; or when attempting to
join other children in their play about the streets he was kicked away
like a rabid dog, and nothing seemed left but to take his grief to the
one heart beating for him in a cruel world;--that heart would grew
strong in the suffering woman, lending her words so generous, so wise,
that one could have believed in inspiration were not a mother's love in
itself grand enough to be the fount of things noble and true. Many a
one in her position would have bewailed her child--would have taught
him to lay the blame upon others, sowing the seeds of cowardliness and
revenge. But she--well, she did cry; no child ever was more bitterly
wept over; but this is what she said: "Taras, grow up good! Do not hate
them because of their unkindness, for it is deserved! Nay, my child, if
you suffer, it is because your father and I have wronged them; they
think ill of you for fear you should become what we were! Yet you are
but a child, knowing neither good nor evil, and all they can say
against you is that you are the child of your parents; that is why they
ill-treat you! But one day you will show them what you are yourself,
and they will then treat you accordingly, after your own deserts! And,
therefore, oh, my child, do not repay them with evil: be good and do
the right, and they will love you!"

Thus she wept, thus she entreated him, and, young as he was, her words
were engraven on his brain and sunk deep into his soul. It was not in
vain that, in order to save her child, she had staked the one thing
left to her in life--the love of that child. Her own great love for him
was her safeguard that his hatred for others, which she strove against,
should not fall back upon her, who owned herself guilty, and for whom
she said he suffered. Taras continued to love his mother; and when he
inquired what it could have been whereby she had wronged all the
righteous people, and she told him he was too young to understand, he
was satisfied. But her words lived in his heart, laying the foundation
of a marvellous development of character, teaching him, at an age when
other children think but of eating and playing, that he must believe
the world to be just, and that his own act must be the umpire of reward
or punishment to follow. Thus he suffered ill-will without bitterness,
but also, knowing he had not himself deserved it, without humiliation;
and when, having reached his tenth year, he was chosen to be the
gooseherd of the village--not, indeed, with the goodwill of all, but
simply because no other serviceable lad had offered--he burned with a
desire to gain for himself commendation and approval. And he did gain
it, because he worked for it bravely, but also because of a fearful
experience which happened to him about a twelvemonth later, shaking his
young soul to its inmost depth.

It was an autumnal morning; he had driven forth his geese with the grey
dawn as usual. They fed on a lonely common; a cross stood there by the
side of a pond, but not a cottage within hail, and the foot-path which
traversed it was rarely used. The boy had his favourite seat on a stone
by the water, at the foot of the cross; he was sitting there now
contentedly eating some of the bread which his mother had given him,
and whistling between whiles on a reed-pipe he had made for himself.

He was startled by a heavy footfall, and, turning, grew pale, for he
that approached him was a spiteful, wicked old man, Waleri Kostarenko
by name, one of the worst of those who delighted in bullying him. "You
are but a cur!" he would call out when the lad passed his farm, and
more than once he had set his dogs at him. And one day, finding him at
play with his own grandchildren, he beat him so mercilessly that the
little fellow could scarcely limp home for bruises. Nor was it any
regard for morality he could plead in wretched excuse. Taras's mother
had been a servant on his farm, and had been proof against his wiles,
so he was the first to cry shame when trouble overtook her, and like a
fiend he delighted in ill-using her child. Taras got out of his way
whenever he could, and on the present occasion took to his sturdy
little legs, as though pursued by the caitiff's dogs. It was not merely
the loneliness of the place which made it advisable to seek refuge in
flight, but the fact that the old man, as the boy had seen in spite of
his terror, was in a worse condition than usual. There had been a
merry-making the day before in a neighbouring village, and his unsteady
feet showed plainly that the power of drink was upon him.

"Is it you, little toad?" he roared, "I'll catch you!" But the boy was
too fleet for him, and he knew pursuit was vain. "Lord's sake," he
cried, suddenly, "I have sprained my foot! Taras, for pity's sake, help
me to yon stone!"

The boy turned and looked; the old man had sunk to his knee, a picture
of suffering, and the boy did pity him, coming back accordingly. "What
is it?" he said, "what can I do for you?" At which Waleri, bursting upon
him, caught him exultingly. "Have I got you?" he shrieked, clutching
his hair and treating him mercilessly.

"For heaven's sake," cried Taras, "spare me!" But pity there was none
with the old wretch; beside himself with hatred, he held the boy with
one arm, ill-using him with the other wherever his fist could fall.
Taras struggled vainly for awhile, but with a wrench of despair he got
free at last. He escaped. Waleri ran after him for a step or two. The
geese were wild with terror, and one of the creatures had got between
the man's feet; he fell heavily, knocking his head against the stone by
the cross. The boy heard a piercing cry; he saw that his enemy was on
the ground, but not till he had reached the further end of the common
did he turn once more to look back. The old man lay motionless by the
stone, the geese pressed about him, stretching their necks with a noisy
cackle. He felt tolerably safe now from his enemy, for even if it were
but another trick of his meanness he could scarcely overtake him at
that distance; but as he stood and gazed a wild fear fell upon the boy,
his heart beating violently.

"He is dead!" The thought flashed through him as a shock of lightning,
and he felt dragged back to the scene helplessly. He retraced his steps
towards the cross, and stood still within ten yards or so. A cry burst
from him of pure horror--he saw the blood trickling over the upturned
face. He pressed together his lips, and went close--slowly,
tremblingly--quite close. The man was evidently unconscious, his face
corpse-like and fearful to look at; there was a deep cut on the
forehead, and the purple blood flowed copiously over the distorted
face, trickling to the ground.

The boy stood still with labouring breath, as though spellbound. Horror
and disgust, joy, scorn, revenge, and yet again compassion, went
through him, the good rising uppermost in the great conflict that shook
his soul. He thought of his mother, and bending down to the water he
bathed the forehead of the unconscious man. The blood kept flowing. He
tore off the sleeve of his shirt, and, making a bandage, pressed it
upon the wound. Walen groaned, but did not open his eyes. "He is
dying!" thought Taras, but strove as best he could to stop the
bleeding, crying for help at the same time with all his might.

A young peasant, the son-in-law of the village judge, riding by at some
distance, heard his calling--the wind lengthening out the sound. He
came dashing up, and what he saw might well fill him with surprise.
"And you, Taras--you trying to save him!" he cried, when the boy had
told his story simply and truthfully. It was more than he could
understand. But he turned to the sufferer, sending Taras to the village
for assistance. The boy returned with the judge himself, together with
Waleri's son and some of his servants.

They took up the wounded man and carried him to his home, the judge
looking at the boy repeatedly with unfeigned wonder. "Taras," he said
at last, "I think if He whom they call the Christ were alive, He would
just be proud of you, I do indeed! That is to say, we are told He _is_
alive, and I daresay He will repay you for this!" At which the boy
blushed crimson, remembering what a struggle it had cost him; he did
not deserve any praise, he thought.

But from this hour the people thought well of him in the village; all
were anxious to show their approval, and those that had spoken kindly
of him before were quite proud of their discriminating wisdom. Waleri
recovered, continuing to hate him; but this utter ingratitude made
others the more anxious to befriend him. The judge especially,
henceforth, stood by the lad, giving him a place as under-servant on
his own farm; and, he being looked upon as the chief authority of the
village, his example told naturally. But of far more consequence than
these things was the influence of that occurrence upon the inner growth
of the boy. So far, he had simply believed his mother, that one must
deserve kindness by being good; now he knew it by his own experience.
"Yes," he said to himself, "justice is the foundation of things;" and
more than ever he tried to fulfil his every duty to the utmost. But the
golden opinions he gathered were his gain in a double sense; for there
is no greater help toward well-doing than the knowledge that one is
believed in, and all the clearer grew that fair creed within him which
his mother had taught him concerning the world and its retribution.
What at first had been only a sort of childish self-interest, grew to
be the very backbone of his character: he could not but try and be
good, just, and helpful. It could be said of him, without a shade of
flattery, that no servant-lad ever had been so well behaved as he; and
when his mother died, the fifteen-year-old youth had as many comforters
and friends as there were people in the village. The stain on his birth
even grew to be cause of praise. "Why, look you," the judge would say,
"this boy is really no proper child at all; anyhow he is quite
unfathered, and could be as rascally as he pleased, for there's none to
cast it up to him. I might give him a box on the ear at times, but that
could not make up for a father's thrashing. And, in the face of all
this, this Taras is just the best boy in the village. He will be a
great man one of these days, I tell you! My prophecies always come
true--you will find out what stuff he is made of before you have done
with him, and then please remember I said so."

And the time came when the young man gave evidence of the stuff
within him, but that which brought it out was a sore trial to the
brave-hearted youth. He was barely eighteen, and had come to be a
ploughman on the judge's farm, when one day the Imperial constables
brought an old soldier into the village, Hritzko Stankiewicz by name, a
wretched creature with a worn-out body and a rotten soul. Begging and
stealing, he had found his way from Italy to Galicia, where the police
had picked him up, and now he was being delivered over to his own
parish of Ridowa. It wad Taras's father. The judge, in well-meant pity,
was for concealing this from the young man, but the latter had heard
the name often enough from his mother, and he went at once to the gaol
where the vagabond had been located. The wretched man quaked when his
son stood before him, and fearing he had come to take vengeance for his
mother, the miserable coward took refuge in denial, insulting the woman
he had ruined in her grave. Pale as death, and trembling, Taras went
out from him, and for several days he went about the village mute and
like one demented.

The following Sunday after church the men of the parish gathered
beneath the linden tree in front of the village inn, after the usage of
times immemorial, the day's question being what had best be done with
the returned vagabond. "It seems plain," said the judge, "that we
cannot keep the thieving beggar in our midst. Let us send him to
Lemberg, paying for his maintenance. He won't like it; but it is a
great deal more than he has deserved. It is the best device, I
warrant." The men agreed. "It is," they cried, lifting their right hand
in token of assent.

At this moment Taras stepped forth. His face was ghastly, as though he
had risen from a sickbed. "Ye men," he cried, with choked voice,
folding his hands, "pity me; listen to me!" But tears drowned what
further he had to say, and he sank to his knees.

"Don't, don't!" they all cried, full of compassion, "you need not mind,
we all know what a good fellow you are."

But Taras shook his head, and with a great effort stood upright among
them. "I have to mind," he cried, "and in my mother's behalf I am here,
speaking because she no longer can speak! He is my father though he
denies it! Only him she trusted, because he was her affianced lover,
and never another! If I were silent in this matter, it might be thought
of her that after all she was a bad woman, and her son does not know
his own father. Therefore, I say, listen to me: I do know! and as my
mother's son I take it upon me to provide for my father. Do not put him
into the workhouse, he cannot work. And if I take care of him, he will
not be a burden to the village. For God's sake, then, have pity on
me--and leave him here!"

There was a long pause of silence, and then the judge said, addressing
the men: "We should be worse than hard-hearted if we refused him. But
we will not be gainers thereby; the parish shall pay for Hritzko what
it would cost us did we send him to Lemberg. It shall be as this good
son desires; and God's blessing be upon him!"

For eight years after, the miserable wretch lived in the village. It
was a time of continued suffering for Taras. Every joy of youth he
renounced, striving day and night to meet the old man's exactions; and
all the reward he ever had was hatred and scorn: but he never tired of
his voluntary work of love. "My mother has borne more than that for
me," he would say, when others praised him. "One could not have
believed how good a fellow can be!" said the people of Ridowa, some
adding in coarse, if real pity, "'Twere a kindness if some one killed
the old beggar!" But the suggested "kindness" came about by his own
doing--he drank himself to death. At the age of six-and-twenty Taras
was free.

"Now you must get yourself into a snug farm by marriage," advised the
judge. "You understand your business, you are a well-favoured fellow,
and, concerning your character, my Lord Golochowski himself might say
to you: 'Here is my daughter, Taras, and if you take her it will be an
honour to the family!' There is that buxom Marinia, for instance, the
sexton's girl; or that pretty creature, Kasia----"

But Taras shook his head, and his blue eyes looked gloomy. "Life here
has gone too hard with me," he said, "for me to seek happiness in this
place! A thousand thanks for all your kindness; but go I must!" And
they could not get him to change his mind; he looked about for a
situation elsewhere.

Two places offered--the one with the peasant, Iwan Woronka, at Zulawce,
the brother of Judge Stephen; the other with a parish priest on the
frontier. Pay and work in both places was the same. He would be
head-servant in both, and pretty independent; the latter for the same
sad reason--that both the peasant and the priest were given to drink.
Nor could he come to any decision in the matter by a personal
inspection of the farms, for really there was no preference either way.
So he resolved to submit his fate to that most innocent kind of
guidance which, with those people, decides many a step in life. He
would take the priest's offer if it rained on the following Sunday, and
he would go to Iwan if it were fine. But the day of his fate poured
such floods of sunshine about him that doubt there could be none, and
he went to Zulawce.

It was no easy beginning for the stranger. The people laughed at him
freely, his garb and his ways differing so entirely from their own;
they even called him a coward because he carried no arms and spoke
respectfully of Count Borecki as the lord of the manor. The fact was
that Taras just continued to be the man he had always been, taking
their sneers quietly, and the management of the farm entrusted to him
was his only care. Iwan Woronka was old and enfeebled, his tottering
steps carrying him a little way only, to the village inn, his constant
resort. It was natural, therefore, that the farm had been doing badly.
His only son had died, and Anusia, his daughter, had striven vainly
to save the property from ruin. She blessed the day when the new
head-servant took matters in hand, if no one else did; for not many
weeks passed before the traces of his honest diligence grew apparent
everywhere. "He understands his business," even Iwan must own, though
over his tipple he kept muttering that the sneaking stranger was too
much for him. But that Taras was neither a coward nor a sneak all the
village soon had proof of, when on a bear hunt, with not a little
danger to himself, he saved the old judge's life, killing a maddened
brute by a splendid shot in close encounter. This and his evident
ability in the fulfilment of his duties gained him most hearts before
long. "You are a good fellow, Podolian," the people would say; and not
a year had passed before they swore behind his back that there was no
mistake about his being a real acquisition to the village.

Anusia said nothing. She was a handsome girl of the true Huzul type,
tall, shapely, lissom, with dark, fiery eyes. High-spirited and
passionate in all things, her partiality for the silent stranger made
her shy and diffident. She went out of his way, addressing him only
when business required. He saw it, could not understand, and felt sad.
Now, strange to say--at least it took him by surprise--by reason of
this very sadness he discovered that Anusia was pleasant to behold. It
quite startled him, and it made him shy in his turn when he had to
speak to her. But one day, riding about the farm, he without any
palpable reason caught himself whispering her name. That was more
startling still, and he felt inclined to box his own ears, calling
himself a fool for his pains. "You idiot!" he said, "your master's
daughter, and she hating you moreover!" And having mused awhile, he
added philosophically--"Love is only a sort of feeling for folk that
have nothing to do. Some drink by way of a pastime, and some fall in
love." He really believed it; his life had been so sunless hitherto,
that no flower for him could grow.

Well, love may be a sort of feeling, but Taras found that he could do
nothing but just give in. Then it happened, one bright spring morning,
that he was walking on a narrow footpath over the sprouting cornfields,
Anusia coming along from the other end.

"How shall I turn aside?" they both thought; et neither quite liked to
strike off through the budding grain.

"'Twere a pity to trample upon the growing blades," murmured he, and
proceeded slowly.

"It is father's cornfield," whispered she, and her feet carried her
toward him.

Presently they came to a standstill, face to face.

"Why don't you move out of my way?" she said, angrily.

He felt taken aback, and was silent.

"I have been looking over the fields--the wheat by the river might be
better," continued the damsel.

"It might," owned he, "but it is not my fault."

"Is it mine?" cried she.

"No, the field was flooded."

"That is your excuse!" retorted the maiden. "I think the seed was bad.
You are growing careless!"

"Oh!" said he, standing erect, "I can look for another place, if that
is all." He quite trembled. "I believe I hate her," he said to himself.

"Yes, go! go!" she cried, her bosom heaving, and the hot tears starting
to her eyes. Another moment, and they had caught one another, heart to
heart and lip to lip. How it could happen so quickly they never knew.
But the occurrence is not supposed to be unprecedented in the history
of this planet.

It was a happy hour amid the sun-flooded fields. They both believed
they had to make up for no end of past unkindness. But, being sensible,
they soon took a matter-of-fact view.

"You will just have to marry me, now," said Anusia; "it is the one
thing to be done. I will at once tell my father."

And so she did; but Iwan Woronka unfortunately did not consider her
marrying his head-servant the one thing to be done. She was his only
child and his heiress to boot, and he had long decided she should marry
his nephew Harasim, Judge Stephen's son--a young man who might have
been well enough but for his repellent countenance and his love for
drink. But Iwan argued, "Good looks are no merit, and drinking no harm;"
and therewith he turned Taras off his farm.

The poor fellow went his way without venturing to say good-bye to
Anusia, or letting her know where he could be heard of. It cost him a
hard battle with himself; but he knew the girl's passionate temper, and
he wanted to act honestly by his master. But the victory was not thus
easily got.

It was some two months later, a splendid summer night. The moon was
weaving her mellow charm about the heathlands, lighting up the old
tin-plated tower of the castle at Hankowce with a mysterious light,
till it sparkled and shone like a silver column. It was the abode of
Baron Alfred Zborowski, and Taras had found service there as coachman
and groom. He did not sleep in the stables at this time of the year,
but on the open heath, where the remains of a watchfire glowed like a
heap of gold amid the silvery sheen. A number of horses were at large
about him.

The night was pleasantly cool, but the poor fellow had a terrible
burning at the heart as he lay wakeful by the glowing embers, thinking
of her who was far away. There was a sound of hoofs suddenly breaking
upon the night, and a figure on horseback appeared with long hair
streaming on the wind. "Good heavens!" cried the young man trembling;
"is it you, Anusia?"

"Taras!" was the answer, and no more.

She glided from her horse, and his arms were about her.

"Here I am, and here I shall stay," she said at last. "I have scarcely
left the saddle since yesterday. It was Jacek, the fiddler, that told
me where I should find you. I shall not return to my father--not
without you. And if you will not go back with me you must just keep me
here. I cannot live without you, and I will not--do you hear? I will
not! I want to be happy!"

She talked madly--laughing, crying on his neck. And then she slid to
the ground, clasping his knees. But he stood trembling. He felt as
though he were surrounded by a flood of waters, the ground being taken
from under his feet. His fingers closed convulsively, till the nails
entered the quick--he shut his eyes and set his teeth. Thus he stood
silent, but breathing heavily, and then a shiver went through him; he
opened his eyes and lifted up the girl at his feet. "Anusia," he said,
gently but firmly, "I love you more than I love myself! and therefore I
say I shall take you back to-morrow as far as the Pruth, where we can
see your father's house, and then I shall leave you. But till then"--he
drew a deep breath, and continued with sinking voice, "till then you
must stay with an old widow I know in this village. I will show you the
way now; she will see to your wants."

The girl gazed at him helplessly, passing her hand across her forehead
once, twice; and then she groaned, "It is beyond me--do you despise
me?--turn me from you?"

"No!" he cried; "but I will not drag you down to misery and disgrace.
If you stayed here, Anusia, you could only be a servant-girl in the
village where I work. We should suffer--but that is nothing! Marry one
another we cannot; not while your father lives, for the Church requires
his consent. You could only be my--my----. Anusia, I dare not!"

Whereupon she drew herself tip proudly, looking him full in the face.
"I am a girl of unblemished name," she said. "If I am satisfied to be
near you----"

"You! you!" he gasped, "what do you know about it? You are an honest
girl! But I--good God, my mother----. Go! go!" And there was a cry of
despair; then he recovered himself "God help me, Anusia, it must be.
The woman that will take care of you now lives next door to the church,
the old sexton's widow, Anna Paulicz--this way!"

The girl probably but half understood him. As in a dream she moved
toward her horse, seized the bridle, and turned back to Taras
mechanically.

She stood before him. Her face was white as death; she opened her
colourless lips once, twice, as though to speak, but sound there was
none. At last, with an effort, a hoarse whisper broke from her, "I hate
you!"

"Anusia!" he cried, staggering. But answer there was none--the
thundering footfall of a horse only dying away in the night.


Harvest had come and the harvest-home. The Jewish fiddlers played their
merry tunes in the courtyard of the castle at Hankowce, and far into
the evening continued the dancing and jumping and huzzaing of the
reapers. The baron and his coachman were perhaps the only two of all
the village who took no pleasure in the revelry--the one because he had
to provide the schnaps and mead that were being consumed, the other
because his heart was nowise attuned to it.

Dreary weeks had passed since that impassioned meeting on the heath,
but the girl's parting words kept ringing in poor Taras's ear. "It is
all at an end," he said, "and no use in worrying." But he kept
worrying, and that she should hate him was an undying grief to his
heart. It was little comfort that he could say to himself, "You have
done well, Taras; it is better to be unhappy than to be a villain."

Comfort? nay, there was none! for what self-conscious approval could
lessen the wild longings, the deep grief of his love? And so he went
his way sadly, doing his duty and feeling more lonely than ever. He did
not grudge others their merry-heartedness, but the noisy expression of
it hurt him. For this reason he kept aloof on that day, busying himself
about his horses, plaiting their manes with coloured ribands, but
anxious to take no personal part in the feast. But the shouts of
delight would reach him, clashing sorely with his sorrowing heart. Then
the poor fellow shut the stables, and, going up to his favourite horse,
a fine chestnut, he pressed his forehead against the creature's neck,
sobbing like a forsaken child.

He was yet standing in this position when a well-known voice reached
his ear--a man's voice, but it sent the blood to his face. Could he be
dreaming? but no, there it was again, and a ponderous knocking against
the door, which he had locked. He made haste to open--it was Stephen
Woronka, the judge.

Taras was unable to speak, and the old man on his part could only nod.
He looked mournful. "Come!" he said, after a brief pause that seemed
filled with pain.

"Where to?" faltered Taras.

The judge appeared to consider explanation needless. "I have already
spoken with your master; he allows you to go on the spot. Your things
can come after you. My horses are ready to start."

"I cannot," murmured Taras, turning a step aside.

Old Stephen nodded, as though this were just the answer he expected.
"But you must," he said, "we cannot let the girl die, Iwan and me. It
is no light thing for us, to let her marry you, for you have just
nothing--a poor stranger--and," he added, with a sigh, "my Harasim
might be saved by a good wife. However, we have no choice now and
neither have you!"

"Then she is ill?" shrieked Taras.

"Yes--very; come at once." And such was Stephen's hurry that he barely
allowed Taras to take his leave of the baron. The judge drove, and so
little he spared his horses, that the vehicle shot along the moon-lit
roads like a thing demented.

"Let me take the reins," said Taras, after a while.

"No!" returned the judge sharply, adding more gently, as though in
excuse: "Anxiety would kill me if I were at leisure."

"Then she is dying!" groaned the young man in despair.

"The Lord knows!" replied old Stephen huskily. "We can but do our duty
in fetching you. Though she will not see you, she says, raving
continually that she will kill you or kill herself if ever you come
near her.... What is it that took place between you?" he cried, raising
his voice suddenly and turning a menacing countenance upon Taras.

"That I must not tell," returned the latter firmly.

The judge gazed at him angrily, but nodded again, "I am a fool to ask
you," he murmured. "You have either been a great villain to her,
or--or--just very good.... Whatever it was, it is between you two, and
you must settle it with her."

Nothing more was spoken that night. In the early morning, when the
horses where having a most needful rest, they only exchanged some
indifferent remarks. And starting once more, they hastened towards the
purple hills, as fast as the panting creatures could carry them. But it
was evening before they crossed the Pruth and approached the village.
The air was sultry; clouds hung low in the heavens, hiding the moon.

The judge pulled up before they reached Iwan's farm. Taras dismounted.
"I thank you!" he cried, seeking to grasp the old man's hand.

But Stephen withdrew it, shaking his head. "I cannot be wroth with
you," he said, "but there are things that go hard with a man.... You
don't owe me any thanks, however. I have now repaid you for that shot
of yours which saved my life. We are quits."

"But I shall thank you while I live," cried Taras, walking away quickly
in the direction of Iwan's farm. He stood by the door with bated
breath; it was opened for him before he could put his hand on the
latch, by Iwan Woronka.

"She--she is alive?" faltered Taras.

"Yes, but only that. Step in softly, she knows nothing of your coming."

He did step in softly, but his heart laboured wildly. The room was lit
with a subdued light, and he could barely distinguish the figure of the
stricken girl.

"Who is coming?" she cried, with trembling accents. "Who is it?" once
more, with awe-burdened voice.

But answer she needed none. A terrible cry burst from her, and darting
like a wraith from her couch she flew past him, vanishing in the night.

He followed her; but the hiding darkness without was such that he could
scarcely keep in sight the white glimmer of her figure, although she
was but a few yards ahead of him, on her way to the river. His hair
stood on end when he knew the direction she took, and his every limb
felt paralysed. It was but a few seconds, but she gained on him, and he
saw he could not reach her in time.

"For God's sake, stop!" he cried, with the voice of horror; "you shall
never see me again."

But it was too late. He saw the white figure sink, and rise again
mid-stream. He was in after her, and reaching her, caught her by a
tress of her floating hair. She struggled violently to free herself
from his hand, and it could only have been the maddest despair that
gave her the power. But he kept fast his hold--it was all he could do;
and thus they were carried awhile, side by side, on the bosom of the
icy mountain stream. Taras felt his grasp grow weaker in his two-fold
struggle against the river and against the girl. A fearful picture
flashed through his brain; he saw himself and his loved one two corpses
washed ashore, old Stephen bending over them in sorrow. The pangs of
death seemed upon him, but he held fast the tress of hair, and with his
arm strove to keep himself and her afloat.

She yielded at last, her body floating as he pulled her; the power of
life seemed to have left her, and with a mighty effort he brought her
to land.

They were fearful days that followed. A burning fever ran its course in
the girl's body, but the sickness of her soul seemed more devouring
still. "I am dying--dying for shame!" she kept crying. "I love him--I
hate him!" But as the fever spent itself, the struggle of her heart
grew weaker. And at last she lay still, weary unto death, but saved,
and her mind was clear. She wept blessed tears, and suffered him to
touch her.

She suffered it, but did not return his caresses. "Taras!" she sobbed,
"do you despise me?"

"Despise you? Good God!" he cried, covering her hand with kisses.

"Ah, yes--but you might--you ought!" she wept. "No only, because----,"
a burning blush overspread her pallor. "But do you know why I struggled
so desperately when your hand was upon me in the river? I knew you
would hold fast, and I wanted to drag you down with me in death. Can
you forgive it?"

"Yes!" he cried, and his face shone.

"As sure as you wish your mother to be at peace in her grave?"

"Yes, Anusia!" he cried again.

"Then I may kiss you," she said, twining her arms about him.

That was their troth plight; and soon after they were married.

Thus the stranger had become the owner of the largest farm but one in
the village. Yet no one grudged him his good fortune; even Harasim
appeared to have submitted to his fate. And but rarely was there an
attempt at making fun of his garb; he had acquired their mode of
address, saying "thou" to young and old, but he could not be prevailed
upon to adopt the Huzul's dress. But no one disliked him for it, the
people had ample proof apart from this how faithfully he had adopted
the interests of his new home, and even if they did not openly confess
as much to themselves it was very evident he was benefiting them
largely. Without in the least thrusting himself upon them, or pushing
his views, this blue-eyed, quiet stranger in the course of a few years
had become the most influential man, even a reformer of the parish; in
the first place because of his ever helpful goodness, in the second
place because of the rare wisdom governing his every act.

But it was not without a struggle with himself that he came to feel at
home in his adopted village; everything here seemed strange at first,
and some things unheard of--their dress, their speech, their mode of
life, their food, the way they reared the cattle and tilled their
fields; nay, every domestic arrangement. A farmer should be able
to move his limbs freely; but these men did their ploughing and
threshing in tight-fitting breeches, in doublets that were the veriest
straight-waistcoats; and the breeches, moreover, were scarlet--perhaps
to delight the bulls they ploughed with. They wore their hair flowing,
and their beards were long; and no man of them was ever seen without
his array of arms. It quite frightened him to see them go tending the
cattle with the gun on their backs, or discourse with a next-door
neighbour axe in hand. "What on earth is this dangerous nonsense for,
with a passionate, easily-roused people?" Taras would ask himself. And
that such was their temper was shown by their very speech. In the
lowlands people, as a rule, speak measuredly, in well-ordered
sentences; but these men flung their notions at each other as though
every statement must leave a bump or cut upon the other's head.

Nor was this all: their ways in some things appeared to him past
conception. They seemed like grown children for carelessness, sending
their sheep or cattle into the mountains miles away, with only a lad or
two to mind them--was it in consideration of the prowling wolf and
bear? These visitors, indeed, were not slow in carrying off what
pleased them, whilst others of the scared cattle strayed into hopeless
wilds or came to grief in some rocky solitude. Less startling than this
manner of cattle-keeping was their agriculture; yet even this raised
Taras's wonder. Their ploughs were peculiar, and their seasons of
sowing, harvesting, threshing, all differed from his every experience.

A man of poorer quality would simply have shrugged his shoulders,
saying it was no concern of his. But Taras began to consider and to
compare, and it was quite a relief to his mind--nay, a joy to his
heart--to discover that, though much with them was peculiar, his new
neighbours must not just be looked down upon as fools. He understood
that the people of Zulawce had a good reason for setting about their
various field labours at other times than did the farmers of the plain.
It was because their seasons differed. And he perceived that the
Podolian plough, broad and shovel-like, was fit for the rich, soft
earth of the lowlands, but not for the stony, upland soil of Zulawce.
The people there, then, were right in substituting a strong, digging
wedge of a ploughshare, being unreasonable only in this--that they
would use this same plough for their low-lying fields by the Pruth,
where the earth was rich and yielding. It was much the same with their
manner of feeding. The Podolians have rye and beef; the Huzuls up in
their mountain haunts must be satisfied with oats and sheep. Now the
people of Zulawce just followed the Huzuls' example, although they
reared cattle, and could grow both wheat and rye. And, again, their
clothing was ill-adapted to their needs, and their carrying arms
uncalled-for and foolish, but it was neither more nor less with them
than simply preserving the habit of their upland neighbours. The Huzul
must carry his gun, for his life is a constant warfare with bears or
bandits. Now, at Zulawce things went more peaceably, but the
belligerent habit remained. This mixture of the reasonable and
unreasonable was most apparent in their ways with the cattle. It was
natural that they should keep their live stock on the hills, utilising
the land round about their village to its utmost agricultural
possibilities; but it was stupidly careless to provide neither fold nor
capable herdsmen. The Huzuls had no choice but to leave their flocks at
large for want of hands, an excuse which could not be pleaded at
Zulawce.

Now Taras was fully aware that these things could, and must, be mended,
but he also knew it would be hopeless to attempt convincing his new
neighbours of anything by the power of speech. On the contrary, advice,
however excellent, which cast a slur on their habits would be the
surest means of rousing both their anger and their opposition. So he
strove to teach them by the force of example, letting his fields be a
sort of model farm in their midst. And his strongest ally in this
silent labour of love was their own self-interest waking a desire of
emulating his gain. They watched him in the spring, they came to borrow
his plough in the autumn, and by the next season they had provided
themselves with a ploughshare like his. It was the same with other
things. They began to perceive it might be an advantage to see to the
safety of their grazing cattle, without much inquiring into their own
reasons for adopting a plan they had neglected or despised so far. And
Taras was the very last to remind them that they owed him any thanks,
it being to this man the fairest of rewards that his silent endeavour
should bear fruit.

But the recompense he coveted was not his in all things; he would find
himself baffled, yet he renewed his quiet conflict unwearyingly,
seeking to overcome that savage spirit of contention, that love of
avenging themselves, prevailing with the men of Zulawce. If two had
cause of quarrel it was a rare proof of moderation to allow the village
judge a voice in the matter. And whatever the object of contest might
be, a strip of land or a fowl, the stronger took possession. If the
other succeeded in ousting him, or if the judge managed to arbitrate,
it was well; if not, the stronger just kept his booty, and that, too,
was considered well. As for appealing to law, it appeared out of the
question; the far-off Emperor was welcome to his crown, but that any
appointed authority in his name should dispense justice at Colomea they
simply ignored. They would, indeed, have thought it an insult to have
to do with any magistrate--their very thieves were too good for that;
they would thrash the rascals and let them go. And as for their
relations with their count, it was a natural state of warfare, if not
with him personally, then with his steward or mandatar, old Gonta; and
shouts, of victory filled the air whenever they succeeded in wresting
from him the smallest tittle of his claims. That any mandatar ever
should attempt to worst them they had little fear, for did they not
carry axe and gun? But this state of things seemed utterly horrible to
Taras, whose course of life had taught him to look upon Justice as the
lode-star and centre of all things. He could not understand these men,
till he perceived that concerning their personal character also he must
seek explanation in the fact that they clung to the peculiarities of
the mountain tribe, be it in virtue or in vice.

The more he grew acquainted with the upland forest, and the more he saw
of the Huzuls, the better he learned to judge of his neighbours in the
village. Neither wealth, nor extreme poverty are known in those
pine-covered haunts; envy, therefore, in these solitudes has no power
to separate the hearts of men. Life goes hard with each and all
alike--privation, the inclemency of the weather, the wild beast, being
the common foes of all. The individual man makes a mark only in so far
as he has power to overcome these foes; hence a feeling of equality and
oneness, based upon the similarity of all. And whereas the people of
the lowlands once a week only, on Sundays and in their churches, are
taught to look upon men as equals in the sight of God, these
highlanders know of no other church but their own wide forest, in which
they bow the knee to no man, if ever they bow it to Him of whom they
vaguely believe that He dwelleth above. It is natural, therefore, that
they know of no difference of rank in men, using the simple "thou" to
each and all alike. Now the men of Zulawce were not so circumstanced;
some of them were masters, and some of them were serving-men; some knew
poverty and some knew wealth; but the spirit of the tribe continued
with them. A little envy, a little respect for riches, had found a
footing with them; but, nevertheless, a strong feeling of equality
survived, and they were too proud to cringe before any man; the rich
peasant was addressed as familiarly as the beggar. Their speech was
rough; but the feeling whence such roughness sprang was not in itself
despicable. And it was the one point in which Taras yielded his habit
to theirs, adopting their ways in this, at least, that he also said
"thou" to everybody, and was satisfied that from the judge to the
meanest of his own farm labourers all should say "thou" to him.

But it was not merely the pride of freedom, it was that inveterate
habit of avenging themselves in matters of right and wrong which had
come to them from the parent tribe. The Huzul is bound to fight for
himself. A man who any moment may meet some desperate outlaw in the
mountain wilds must be prepared to defend himself or perish. And not
merely in such cases the Huzul must be his own protector. Supposing two
men far up in the mountains, a hundred or more miles away from the
nearest magistrate, fall a-quarrelling over a strip of pasture-ground,
shall he who is wronged appeal to law? Granted he were willing to
undertake the tedious journey, it might be a year or more before some
law officer could put in an appearance up there for taking evidence on
the spot. Justice from her appointed centres cannot easily reach such
outlying regions. But supposing even a magistrate's verdict had been
obtained, what power on earth can force the loser to abide by it? The
Emperor's authority?--he barely knows his name, and the far-off majesty
is little enough to him--or coercion? But who is to take a body of
armed constables on impossible roads to the very heart of the
mountain-range, merely to make sure that a slip of pasture-ground for
the feeding of a score of sheep shall belong to Sfasko and not to
Wasko! Why, even if it could be done what were the gain? Sfasko,
indeed, might rejoice if the servants of the law had got there, for
Wasko would have the keeping of them, and Wasko must give up the
contested land. But no sooner than their backs were turned, Wasko, by
right of the stronger, would pay him out for it, turning Sfasko's
victory to defeat. Under such circumstances, then, and because no law
can be enforced there, it is natural that the children of the forest
should manage their own justice, each man for himself. But to Taras it
appeared a deplorable state of things that the more civilised peasants
of Zulawce should also require to fight for themselves. So he set about
an all but forlorn hope of reforming their minds, striving earnestly,
and making little impression save on his own suffering soul. Twice he
succeeded in persuading the quarrellers to submit their suit to Judge
Stephen's decision, and this only because the men in question had
benefited by his generous kindness and did not like to lose it. In most
cases he failed entirely; the people still anxious, perhaps, of
retaining his goodwill, would listen to him with some show of patience,
but took matters into their own hands nevertheless, calling him an
innocent lamb of the lowlands for not knowing that a bear had his paws
to use them.

But for all that, these contentious creatures had found out that the
"innocent lamb" was nowise wanting in manliness. They liked to take his
advice on general things, and elected him to the civil eldership as
years went on, which greatly added to his influence; and with might and
main he continued to strive for love of peace in the parish. Somehow or
other, the men by degrees did not fly to arms quite so readily,
perceiving that in most cases they did better to submit to Judge
Stephen, abiding by his decision, or rather by that of Taras; for the
judge, himself prone to wrath, would pass them over to the younger man
in order to save his own temper.

"You have introduced this nonsense here," he would say; "it is meet,
therefore, you should have the bother of it. 'Twere easier to settle if
they had come to blows first."

But Taras was only too glad to be thus "bothered," sparing neither
time, nor trouble, nor patience; and at such cost it was given him more
and more to convince the contending parties of the justness of his
judgments.

But so far he had succeeded only in little things. In matters of more
importance he was unable to prevent the shedding of blood--as, for
instance, when he that went by the name of Red Schymko fell out with
his brother Waleri concerning the right of pasturage on a certain
field. That was considered a great matter; and not till Schymko had
been maimed by a blow from Waleri's axe, in return for which he lodged
a bullet in his brother's thigh, did they permit the judge and elders
to have any voice in the matter. Judge Stephen and his coadjutors were
most anxious to pass righteous judgment, examining matters carefully;
but as their verdict could not otherwise than be in favour of the said
Waleri, it resulted in Schymko's marching his armed labourers to the
contested field by way of maintaining his claim. And the matter ended
in Waleri's yielding, leaving Red Schymko in possession after all.

It was concerning this business that Taras very nearly lost his
eldership by reason of a word of sensible advice. It was just before
the yearly election, when Schymko, with his labourers, had taken
possession of the field, that Taras said to him, "If you will not abide
by the judge's verdict, you can but appeal to the magistrates of the
district." "Go to law!" roared Schymko. "Go to law!" echoed the people,
as though Taras had advised the direst folly ever heard of. But they
took it seriously, and when, a few days later, it was a question of
readmitting him to the eldership, the general opinion was to the effect
that being honest and good was a recommendation certainly, but an elder
had need to be no fool! He was chosen, nevertheless; but even his
friend Simeon, to whose strenuous exertions his re-election was partly
due, could only say, "You see, he _is_ a lowlander--how should he know
any better?"

Such experiences made Taras more careful, but they could not discourage
him. He saw that even at best it would take the work of a lifetime to
lay a foundation of better things with these people. They must be
taught in the first place that the authority of their own judge should
be unquestioned. He took great care never again to hint at the
existence of law-courts, but to educate them up to the lesser point. He
gained ground, though very slowly. He could work for it patiently, for
had not good fortune smiled on him in all things besides, making his
own life pleasant at last and happy beyond many! His homestead seemed a
cradle of success, and the children his wife had borne him grew like
olive branches round about his table. There was not a cloud in his
heavens, and every good seed he had sown was like the grain on his own
fields, bearing fruit, some thirty, some sixty fold; surely this one
thing for which he laboured would yet come to be added to his golden
sheaf!

Returning home in the evening he would rest by the side of his faithful
wife, his little boy Wassilj upon his knee, and there was no greater
joy to him at such times than to glance back to his own early years and
to follow with the inward eye the growth of his life's happiness--a
struggling thing at first, but a strong tree now with spreading
branches, beneath which he and his might safely dwell. "It is no puny
seedling," he would say, looking about him with happy pride, "but even
like the strong pine that strikes root the deeper for having chanced
upon the hard and rocky soil where no man's favour helped to rear it,
and the sun of God's justice only yielded the light towards which it
grew!" And his prayer in those days was something after this fashion:
"Thou righteous One in the heavens who hast given me many things, if so
be that Thou wilt let me keep them, I have just nothing left to ask for
but this one thing: that I might teach these people, whom I have come
to look upon as my brothers, that Thy will is very beautiful because it
is just. There is this foolish old priest of ours always telling them
of Thy grace and never a word of Thy justice--how should they
understand their duties aright!" ... For himself in those days Taras
had nothing to ask for.

Such was Taras Barabola at the time when Mr. Wenceslas Hajek made his
entry at Zulawce--one of the happiest and most upright of men.



                              CHAPTER III.

                           THE RIGHT WRONGED.


It is often asserted that on meeting any one for the first time a voice
within will warn us of the good or evil to be the outcome of such
meeting. Now Taras had no such foreboding. The new mandatar had
impressed him rather favourably; but apart from this, his sense of
justice would oppose Judge Stephen's disparagement of the new bailiff.
"Our Count," he would say, "has come into his possessions by
inheritance, just as the Emperor has got his crown: and it is God who
gave them power, for there must be rulers upon earth. It is hard that
we should have to yield forced labour, but such is our lot, and it were
wrong of us to hate the mandatar because he looks after his master's
interest in claiming that portion of our work. He is but doing his
duty; let us do ours." The peasants did not gainsay him, especially as
Hajek on the coming round of the harvest expected neither more nor less
of them than his predecessor, Gonta, had done. The judge had gone to
him misgivingly, fully determined to fight his exactions; but there was
no need, and to his own surprise matters were arranged in a moment.

Not till the autumn, six months after Hajek's arrival, did a cause of
conflict present itself, when the tribute of the live stock fell due,
the arrangement being that on the day of St. Mary the Virgin each
peasant, according to his wealth, had to bring a foal, or a calf, or a
goose. Now the former steward had never exacted this tax to the day,
but was willing to receive it when the cattle had increase. The judge
and the elders would go to him and state when each villager might hope
to bring his due, and therewith the mandatar was satisfied. In
accordance with this, old Stephen, with Taras, and Simeon Pomenko, his
fellow elder, repaired to the manor house, the judge making his
statement.

Mr. Hajek listened quietly and blandly, and then he said, "On St.
Mary's day the tribute is due; if there were any arrears I should be
constrained to levy them forcibly."

"Mandatar," cried Stephen, flushing, "have a care how you interfere
with old usage!"

"It is an ill-usage."

"Ill-usage to go by the times of nature?"

"You should see that you are prepared."

"I see _you_ are prepared to give good advice," retorted the judge with
wrathful sarcasm; "perhaps you speak from experience! In your country
the cows may calve at a mandatar's pleasure, they don't do so here!"

Hajek changed colour, but not his mind. "It behoves me to watch over
the Count's interests," he said, slipping away to the safety of his
inner chamber.

The men went home in a state of excitement, the ill news spreading
rapidly through the village. Before long all the community had gathered
beneath the linden, angry speeches flying while old Stephen delivered
his report. "We must stand up for the time-honoured usage," he cried;
"and as to any forcible interference, let him try it! We have guns, and
bullets too, thank God!"

"Urrahah!" cried the men, brandishing their weapons. One only remained
quiet, one of the elders--Taras. He allowed the commotion to subside,
and then he begged for the word. "It comes hard upon us I own," he
said, "for it finds us unprepared! The old usage was reasonable and
fair, no doubt; but whatever of hardship any change may involve, we
must consider which way the right inclines--the written right I mean,
and I fear in this case it will speak for the Count."

"And who has settled that right," cried Stephen, hotly, "but the
Emperor's law-makers. What do they understand about cattle!"

"Little enough, no doubt," owned Taras, "but these same law-makers have
also made it a matter of writ that serfdom with us is abolished, and
that we peasants have rights which the Count shall not touch. If we
would enjoy the law's benefits, we must put up with its hardships."

"But where shall we get foals and calves all of a sudden?"

"Well, that we must see. I can provide some, and perhaps others of the
larger farmers are willing to do the same. Or I will lend the money to
any respectable man of ours that may need it if he can buy his foal or
calf elsewhere. This can be managed. The chief point is the right, and
that must be upheld for our own sakes, even where it goes against us."

He spoke quietly, firmly, and failed not to make an impression. The men
began to weigh the question more soberly, Taras's offer of assistance
going a long way with the less wealthy. There was none but Judge
Stephen holding out in the end. "You are sheep, all of you," he cried,
"following this great lamb, and you will be shorn, I tell you!" But
since the majority outvoted him even the judge had to yield.

And thus the tribute was delivered on the very day, at a heavy tax to
Taras's generosity; for while many could not have made it possible
without his proffered help, there were others who improved the
opportunity gratuitously, since he was so willing to step into the
breach. It was simply his doing, then, that by St. Mary's Day not a man
was in arrears.

Mr. Hajek was prepared to own this when Taras appeared with a foal on
his own behalf. "That was good of you, Podolian; I see it is you who
brought them to reason," said the mandatar, adding approvingly, "I
liked the look of you on our first meeting. I am glad I was not
mistaken!" Whereupon Taras bowed, but his answer was anything but a
humble acknowledgment of praise. "The right must be upheld," he said,
solemnly.

That was in September. About a month later Hajek sent for the judge and
elders, receiving them with his blandest smile. "After All Souls', and
throughout the winter, you owe me eight labourers a day for forest
work, do you not?" he said. "Well, then, make your arrangements and let
me have a list of the men I am to expect. On the morning after All
Souls' I shall look for the first eight to make their appearance."

"The forest labour certainly is due," replied the judge, "that is to
say, it was; but since all the timber has been cut, the obligation
dropped. Or are we expected to make new plantations now that winter is
upon us?"

"Certainly not," said Hajek, "but if the men are due to me, I may
employ them as I think fit. I have sold their labour to the forester of
Prinkowce."

"That is unjust!" exclaimed Stephen. "We owe forest labour to our own
count, and in his own forests only!"

Mr. Wenceslas pretended not to hear, picking up his papers and
preparing to retire. "So I shall look for the men on the morning after
All Souls'," he said and vanished.

"There will be bloodshed if you insist," cried Stephen after him, but
the mandatar was gone.

The men went their way perturbed.

"Well, Judge," said Taras, as they walked along, "this is hard. We must
try and advise the people justly, but to do so we must first examine
the documents in your keeping--I dare say his reverence will help us."

"Podolian!" cried Stephen, angrily, "leave us alone with your
suggestions! We want no documents to be looked into. It is a glaring
wrong, and if proof be needed"--he snatched at his pistol--"here it
is!"

Taras mused sadly. "Will you take any bloodshed upon your conscience?"
he asked quietly.

"Will your conscience answer for the wrong?" retorted the judge.

"Certainly not!" exclaimed Taras. "But in the first place there is but
one just means of redress if we suffer--the authority of the appointed
magistrates; and in the second place we must make sure which way the
right lies--we shall find out by examining the papers."

Stephen resisted to his utmost, but as Simeon also agreed with Taras he
was obliged to yield; he fetched the deeds, and the men called upon
their parish priest.

Now Father Martin was an amiable man, glad to leave things alone in
life--his favourite schnaps always excepted, with which he meddled
freely. And he was always ready to express his views, but his opinion
was apt to be that of his latest interlocutor. For both these reasons
he could after all throw no great light upon the matter, which was the
more to be regretted as the question left room for doubt, the
information contained in the documents amounting to this only: "The men
of Zulawce owe forest labour to their count."

"There you see!" cried Stephen, triumphantly, "to their count. What
could be plainer--and not to the forester of Prinkowce!"

"Of course not," assented his reverence, "how could the mandatar think
of selling your labour?--ridiculous!"

"Owe forest labour to their count," said Taras, meditatively. "If there
is no clause to limit the place, the Count _may_ be within the law if
he says: 'Having no forest at Zulawce of my own now, I sell the labour
which is due to me.'"

"Of course," cried the pope, "he has lost his forest, poor man, shall
he lose his profit besides?--ridiculous!"

"If he has no forest, he cannot expect us to work in it," objected
Stephen, doggedly.

"Naturally not," affirmed his reverence; "even a child can see that!
Where is the forest you are to work in?--ridiculous!"

"There is no lack of forest at Prinkowce," said Taras.

"No, no, plenty of it," declared the pope; "why, the place is covered
with woods, partly beech, partly pine. And, after all, I suppose it may
be pretty equal to you whether you do the work here or----"

"All honour to your reverence," broke in the judge, angrily; "but this
is just nonsense; your judgment, I fear, is awry with your schnaps."

And the amiable man adopted even this opinion, owning humbly "it was
Avrumko, that miserable Jew, with his tempting supply ..."

But the men went their way none the wiser for their shepherd's
willingness to solve their difficulty. Simeon upon this attempted to
reason with the judge, suggesting their applying to the magistrates for
decision. It was not without a real struggle with himself that old
Stephen at last gave in.

"To stand up for his right, and knock down the man who wrongs him, this
is the true Huzul way," he cried, passionately, "but if you will try
the law, like a coward, see what you get by it."

But here Taras held out. "No man can appeal to the law," he said, "but
he who is sure of his right. I am not! I cannot tell whether the right
in this case is on our side or not. And, therefore--God forgive me if
it is wrong, but I cannot otherwise--I shall propose to the people to
yield the forest labour at Prinkowce."

"You shall not, brother!" cried Simeon, urgently. "You shall not!
Remember that you are no longer a man of the lowlands. We men of
Zulawce love not to bend our necks."

Taras flushed. "Your taunt is not altogether just," he said, gently,
yet firmly. "True, we of Podolia are more peace-loving, even more
humble than you. It is because we have borne the yoke. But the feeling
of right and wrong is as strong with us as with most men, perhaps all
the stronger for the wrong we have suffered. You determine between
right and wrong with your reason only, we feel it with the heart. And
the right is very sacred to us."

"Then why not stand up for it now?"

"I would if I saw it. But my understanding is at a loss, and the voice
of my heart is silent. Therefore I cannot appeal to a decision by law,
but must counsel a giving in."

And so he did on the following Sunday, when the community assembled
beneath the linden. The men listened to him in silence, none dissenting
nor assenting. After him Simeon arose to propound his views; but when
the word "magistrate" had fallen from his lips their scornful shouting
interrupted him. "No lawsuit for us!" cried the men of Zulawce. At this
point the judge made up his mind to come forward with his opinion,
battling down his resentment at having been defeated before. Some
applauded, but most shook their heads. "Taras," they cried, "tell us
yet again _why_ you would have us give in." He repeated his reasons
slowly and distinctly. Again there was silence. It appeared uncertain
what decision the men would arrive at.

The judge prepared to put the question to the vote. "Men of Zulawce,"
he said, "it is your first duty to reject anything that must be to the
disadvantage of the community. Whoever of you agrees with Taras, let
him lift his hand." The majority did so. The judge did not believe his
eyes. This result was indeed surprising; not only had these men voted
against their own interest, but they denied the very character they
bore. The fact was that Taras's opinion had come to be gospel truth to
the village ever since his stepping so generously into the breach on
St. Mary's Day.

The old judge positively shed tears of vexation when he had to pass the
resolution arrived at, and at once declared his intention to retire
from office. It was the men's united entreaty only that prevailed with
him not to do so; but as for that rascally mandatar, he would not cross
his threshold again, he swore.

For this reason it fell to Taras to arrange with Mr. Wenceslas, and
give him a list of the men. Hajek made it an opportunity of patting
Taras on the back, saying approvingly, "Once again you have shown
yourself a capital subject." But this time Taras forbore bowing. He
retreated a step, fixing the mandatar with a look, and said, slowly,
"We are keeping our conscience clean; I hope you can say as much for
yourself, sir."

Winter wore on, and the forest labour at Prinkowce was yielded quietly
day after day; but the good understanding between old Stephen and Taras
seemed at an end. Their relations had steadily improved in those eight
years, since Taras had lived in the village as the husband of Anusia.
The old man by degrees had conquered his offended pride and the
disappointment of his dearest wishes. He had even learned to entertain
as warm a regard for the stranger as did most of the villagers. But his
friendship yielded to a renewed feeling of coldness after that public
voting. He never spoke to him now except on matters of business, and
then in the most cutting way he could command; it seemed hopeless to
attempt a reconciliation. "Taras is a good man," he would say, "and I
myself am answerable for his being among us. But he is wrong if he
expects us, bears as we are, to be as lamb-like as he is--very wrong,
for it is against our nature."

And the old man stuck to his opinion. Taras actually was not invited
when, about the middle of December, the men of Zulawce, headed by their
old judge, went hunting the bear in order to procure their Christmas
dinners. "Either he or I," Stephen had said, and Taras was excluded.
That hunting expedition is a regular high day and festival with the
Huzuls, in spite of, or rather on account of the danger it involves. It
generally spreads over three days, but on the present occasion the men
returned on the second day, sad and silent. They brought two giant
bears with them, it is true, but also a dying man. Judge Stephen, with
his wonted impetuosity, had pushed ahead too recklessly, his gun had
missed fire, and an infuriated brute had grappled with him. The bear
was shot, but not till the brave old man had received his death wound
in the bear's embrace, and it was a question whether he would reach the
village alive. "Make haste," he was heard moaning, as they carried him
home; "I must hot die on the road; I have yet a duty to perform in the
village."

They knew not what he meant, but understood when he begged them to stop
before the house of Taras, who came rushing from his door, and sank to
his knees, sobbing.

"Weep not," whispered the dying man; "but listen to me. You once saved
my life, you are the most upright man in the village, you have been the
best of husbands to my brother's child, and yet I have been wroth with
you. Not because you supplanted my hopes, I swear it; but because I
have at heart the welfare of this village. In this sacred cause I now
would speak to you. You will be made judge when I am gone--I cannot
hinder it, or indeed I would! Not because I hate you, but for love of
the village, and, ay, for your own sake, Taras! For it must end ill if
the judge, the leader of all, is of another caste than the men he
rules. It cannot be helped now. They will choose you, and you will
accept. But let me tell you one thing--be sure that among men in this
world it is exactly the same as with the beasts of the forest. The
stronger will eat up the weaker, the evil one will destroy him that is
good, the only question being that of strength. Whoever cannot fight
for himself is lost.... But you--you _will_ not understand--you cannot
believe it! I must be satisfied with that which you can understand, and
one thing you can promise. Hold fast by our rights; guard them against
the oppressor, and suffer not that the necks of free men be bowed to
the yoke. Give me your word that you will yield up peace rather than
the right, if it must be fought for."

He lifted his hand with a great effort, and Taras clasped it in his
own.

"It is well," said the dying man. "You will keep your word."

With a burst of wailing they earned the dead judge into his house. On
his face rested an expression of great assurance, born of the good
faith in which he had died. For never has promise been kept more truly
than that which was pledged to him as the shadows fell.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                         TAKING UP THE BATTLE.


Spring had returned upon the mountains. Some of the higher summits, it
is true, still wore their crown of snow, glittering now in the sunshine
of April; but the little village gardens of Zulawce were looking bright
with early flowers, and on the slope toward Prinkowce the graveyard had
burst into bloom where they had laid Judge Stephen to his rest. The
spot was carefully tended, and marked with a well-wrought stone cross,
as Taras had ordered, who was judge in his stead; for Harasim,
Stephen's only son, had not troubled himself about it: drink was doing
its work with him, and if his farm was kept in tolerable order it was
due simply to the care of his cousins, Anusia and her husband. Taras
had taken this burden also upon himself, though life pressed heavily on
his shoulders; for it grew more evident to him, day after day, that it
was no light thing to be judge of Zulawce while Wenceslas Hajek, as
Count Borecki's land steward, had power in the village. Again and again
the dying speech of Stephen rang in his ears.

As for the mandatar, he had rejoiced on learning that Taras had
succeeded the old judge; this gentle Podolian, who had always been on
the yielding side, seemed the very man for his plans. His fury
naturally was all the greater on discovering his mistake. The 'capital
subject' certainly never lost his temper or threatened violence, but
every unfair demand he opposed with an inflexible "No," which was all
the more effective for being given calmly, almost humbly, and fully
substantiated with good reasons. On one occasion, however, his
imperturbation was in imminent danger; Hajek had patted him on the
shoulder, saying, with a knowing wink: "Well, my good fellow, suppose
you allow me two labourers more; it shall not be your loss." Taras upon
this gave the rascal a look which took the colour out of his face, and
made him turn back a step, trembling.

From that hour there seemed enmity between the two, and the more the
one strove to encroach, the more the other met him with refusal. But
while Taras succeeded in maintaining a stern calm, the mandatar again
and again was seen foaming with rage. It was so upon a certain occasion
early in April, and for a trivial cause. Hajek was making a plantation,
and wanted the villagers to allow him a quantity of young trees from
their forest.

"We are not bound to yield that," said Taras, quietly.

The mandatar paced his floor, apparently beyond himself; but a
discriminating observer might have doubted the sincerity of his rage.

"Don't force me to take high measures," he roared. "Why should you
refuse me a few wretched saplings? I shall just take them, if you hold
out."

"You will do no such thing," returned Taras, as quietly as before.

"Do you think I am afraid of your guns and axes?" Hajek's words rose to
a shriek, as though he were half-suffocated with passion, but his eye
was fixed on the peasant's face with a watchful glance.

"No," said the latter, "I am thinking that there are magistrates in the
district. We shall never have recourse to violence, even if you should
make the beginning."

"This is palaver."

"I mean what I say," said Taras, drawing himself up proudly. "While I
am judge here, the men of Zulawce shall not take the law into their own
hands on whatever provocation.... But why speak of such things? The
trees you cannot have, so let me take my leave, sir."

"Go!" growled the mandatar, but a queer light transformed his features
no sooner than Taras's back was turned. "That is useful to know," he
said to himself with an approving smile. "This man is quite a jewel of
a judge.... No, there is no need to be wroth with you, my good Taras!
So, after all, my first impression of you was the right one!... Old
Stephen could never have had a better successor!"

But Taras, the judge, went home with a heavy heart. He had no thanks
for his battling, save in his own conscience; the men of Zulawce had
scarcely a word of acknowledgment. On the contrary, they considered him
far too yielding on many points; and, as they viewed matters, there was
truth in their charge. Severin Gonta and the late Count, for the sake
of peace, had not made good every claim to the very letter; but Hajek
demanded every tittle that was his by right of institution, granting
not an hour of respite, and foregoing not a peck of wheat; and Taras as
a matter of duty never opposed him in this. It was quite correct, then,
if the people said that the new judge insisted on their yielding all
dues far more strictly than any of his predecessors ever had done.
Indeed, it was only the love and respect he had won for himself in the
village that kept under any real distrust or open accusation. For he
was all alone in his work, no one helped him by explaining things to
the people, not even that shepherd of his flock whose duty it fairly
might have been. The reverend Martin sat on his glebe as on an isle of
content, all because of that strange man, Avrumko, who kept supplying
him so freely; and any sympathy he might have given was thus drowned.

But Taras continued bravely and hopefully, comforting his wife when her
courage failed. "The right must conquer," he would tell her; "and for
the rest, have we not an Emperor at Vienna, and God above?"

"But Vienna is far, and God in heaven seems further," said she,
disheartened.

"Not so far," cried he, "but that both will hear us if we must call for
redress. But things will not come to such a pass; even a mandatar will
scarcely dare to subvert the right and do violence."

He was mistaken. Hajek dared both. It was about a month after that
conversation concerning the trees. Taras in the early morning was in
his yard, giving orders to his two servants, Sefko and Jemilian,
concerning the sowing of the wheat, when he was startled by a dull
report, which quivered through the air, a second and a third clap
succeeding.

"Gunshots!" he gasped.

"Some one out hunting," said Sefko.

"No!" cried Jemilian; "it is near the river. Could it be 'Green Giorgi'
with his band?" referring to a notorious outlaw of those days, a
deserter, George Czumaka by name, who wore a green jerkin.

"No!" cried Taras, in his turn, and making for the road. "In broad
daylight he would never dare.... What has happened?" he interrupted
himself, changing colour. A young farm labourer, Wassilj Soklewicz,
came dashing along wild with terror.

"Help! help!" he shrieked. His clothes were torn, and he looked white
as death.

"What is it?" repeated Taras, seizing him by the arm.

"Help!" groaned the poor fellow. "They have just killed my brother
Dimitri!"

"Where? Who?"

"The mandatar ... on the parish field!" said Wassilj; continuing
brokenly: "We had gone there early this morning, my brother and I,
together with the two sons of Dubko, to work on the field as you told
us. We had taken our guns with us, intending to have a shot in the
afternoon. We had just put the oxen to the ploughs when the mandatar
arrived with a number of men, all armed. 'Get ye gone,' he cried; 'you
are trespassing on the Count's property.'"

"'Begone yourselves!' returned my brother Dimitri, seizing hold of his
gun, which he had laid down, we doing likewise. 'This field has been
parish ground time out of mind; I shall shoot any one that says the
contrary.'

"The mandatar at this fell back, but urged on his men from behind, and
they attacked us with guns and scythes. We sent our bullets amongst
them, and the foremost of the party, Red Hritzko, turned a somersault
and lay still on his face. One of us had hit him. But they also fired
their guns, and my brother fell, shot through the heart!... They were
too many for us, and they turned upon as with their butt ends. But we
got away!..."

The poor youth told his tale amid gasps and sobs, and before he had
finished a crowd of villagers had gathered. From their houses, from
their fields round about, the men came running, gathering about their
judge. Most were fully armed, and all were wildly excited; for the
parish field is sacred ground with every Slavonic community; he who
dares touch it is not merely an offender against their property, but
against their very affections; it is all but sacrilege in the eyes of
these men.

Taras also felt his soul upheave, but he conquered his wrath, knowing
the people. "If I lose self-possession," he said to himself, "blood
will flow in streams to-day!" So he faced the men, who were for
pressing on to the scene of the outrage. "Stop!" he cried, "we shall go
in a body! Call the elders and the rest of the men."

The command was scarcely needed, for they were coming, every man of
them, and the wives and the children. Wrathful cries filled the air,
the women wailed, and children shrieked with an unknown fear. The
mother of the young man who had been shot, a widow named Xenia, came
rushing along; she had torn the kerchief from her head, and her grey
hair fell in tangled masses round her grief-filled face. "Avenge my
child!" she implored the judge, clasping his knees.

He lifted her, speaking to her gently; and turning to Simeon and his
fellow-elder he ordered them to let the men fall in. "The heads of
families only," he said; "let the women and young men stay here!"

"Stay here!" shrieked Xenia.

"Yes, why?" shouted the excited people. "Let every one follow who is
able to lift a gun."

"My orders shall be obeyed," cried Taras, drawing himself up in their
midst. "I pledge my head that I shall do my duty!" These words of his
were like magic, the people yielded, and the procession formed.

But at this juncture Anusia pressed through the crowd, her youngest
child on her left arm, her right hand brandishing a musket. "Take it!"
she cried, offering it to her husband; "it is my father's gun and never
yet missed fire!"

"Go home, wife," said Taras, "this is not woman's business, I go
unarmed."

"Why? why?" yelled the people; but she caught him by the shoulder in
wildest excitement. "Taras!" she screamed, "let me not regret that I
was saved from the river! It is a man to whom I yielded, and not to a
coward!"

"For heaven's sake, woman," cried Simeon, aghast, "you know not what
you are saying!"

But she continued: "He who would have peace, since blood has been shed,
disgraces his manhood. Will you allow yourself to be killed without
striking a blow, lamb that you are?"

Taras stood proudly upright, but his face was livid, his eyes were
sunk. His breast heaved with the tumult within, but not a word passed
his lips. Thus silently he held out his hand, motioning the woman
aside, and she obeyed, confounded.

"Men of Zulawce," he said at last, slowly and distinctly, but with a
voice which, from its strange huskiness, no one would have recognised
as his, "I speak not now of the dishonour my wife has put upon me; I
shall do that by-and-by, in your presence likewise. But now I ask you,
will you obey me as your judge, or will you not? Once again, I pledge
my head that I shall do my duty!"

"We will," they cried unanimously.

"Then let us go." And the procession started, some sixty men, heads of
families, following Taras, who led the way with the two elders, Simeon
and Alexa Sembrow, his own successor.

The field in question, the common property of the community, was an
irregular square, sloping towards the river, its upper boundary being a
coppice which also belonged to the parish. A large black cross rose in
the centre.

On stepping from the coppice, through which their road lay, the
peasants could overlook the field at a glance. The mandatar with his
men had established himself by the cross; he evidently had hired
reinforcements, for they numbered some forty. At the lower end of the
field, by the river, two of his labourers were seen ploughing with a
yoke of oxen; another team stood ready for use by the cross. On the
upper part, near the coppice, lay the body of the slain youth,
evidently dragged thither by Hajek's men. But when the peasants beheld
the corpse, and the armed band below, their fury knew no bounds; a
thundering "Urrahah!" burst from them, and they pressed forward.

But Taras was before them, snatching at Simeon's pistol and turning it
against his own forehead. "Stop!" he cried with a voice that could not
but be listened to. "Another step, and I shall kill myself before your
eyes."

They fell back, hesitating; but they obeyed.

The mandatar's men meanwhile prepared for fight, Mr. Wenceslas himself
hiding behind them. He let his under-steward be spokesman in his stead,
a huge fellow from Bochnia, Boleslaw Stipinski, by name.

"What do you want?" roared this giant; "are you for fighting or for
peaceful speech?"

"We have come to defend our right," shouted Taras.

"Your wrong, you mean," retained Boleslaw. "But no matter, we stand on
our master's soil, and shall yield it only with our lives. Mr. Hajek is
prepared to affirm this to the judge and elders, if they will step
forward."

Taras was ready to parley, being followed by Simeon and Alexa. They
found the mandatar crouching on a stone, some of his men lifting their
guns behind him.

"Tell them to put away their firelocks," said Taras, quietly; "you need
not tremble like that; if it were for fight, we had been here sooner."

"Then you are peaceably inclined?" inquired Hajek.

"If you will own yourself in the wrong, offering some atonement for the
crime committed."

"And if not?"

"Then we must refer the matter to the court of the district."

The mandatar recovered himself; he even smiled. "Perhaps that will not
be necessary," he said. "You are a sensible law-abiding man, Taras, and
I daresay you will understand my view of the case quickly enough. You
know that in the days of the Emperor Joseph a survey of the property
was taken. I have the papers, and therein it is plainly put down: 'The
boundary of the parish field is marked by the coppice on the one side,
by the black cross on the other; beyond the cross as far as the river
the soil belongs to the Count.' So you see I am entitled to claim for
my master that part of this field which beyond a doubt is his."

"No," cried Taras; "for when the survey was taken, and until fifteen
years ago, the black cross stood close by the river, leaving a footpath
for the Count who has always had the fishing in the Pruth. When the old
cross was weatherworn the parish erected a new one in the centre of the
field. That, sir, is the plain truth."

"May be," returned Hajek, smiling. "I suppose that would be a question
for the magistrates to look into; in the meantime, I shall act upon the
evidence of my own eyes. It was natural that I should request the men I
found ploughing here to take themselves off. They fired their guns and
killed one of my men; what could we do but fire ours? and I shall keep
the two yoke of oxen to indemnify the Count for his loss. There, I have
done."

"But we have not," said Taras, solemnly, baring his head. "I call the
Almighty to witness that we are grievously wronged! And I protest that
we could never own you in the right! It is in obedience to our Lord the
Emperor, and in obedience to the law of God that we have refrained from
violence. But both the Emperor and the Almighty will see us righted!"

"Well done!" said the mandatar, with a sneer. "This is a finer flourish
than ever fell from the lips of Father Martin; the pope might fairly be
jealous of you!"

Taras felt outraged; but he repressed the reproof that rose to his
lips, and moved away in silence.

"Well!" cried the peasants when their leaders returned to them; "does
he yield? or will you permit us now to offer him proof of our right
after our own fashion?"

"No!" said Taras, "you shall follow me back to the village; we must
convene a public meeting. But, first, we must carry the dead man into
his mother's house, and you, Simeon, meanwhile, ask his reverence to
join us with the Host."

"But what if I find him incapable?" objected the elder.

"No matter, it will not affect that which is holy."

Within an hour the community had assembled under the shade of the lime
tree, outside the village inn. Father Martin, too, had arrived in full
vestments, carrying the pix. It being yet early in the day, the elder
was fortunate in finding him in his right mind.

But before Taras opened the meeting he had a domestic matter to settle.
His wife lay at his feet, and her repentance was as passionate as her
wrath had been.

"Trample upon me," she wept; "cast me from you, I have fully deserved
it!"

But Taras lifted her up--kissed her. "I forgive it," he said, "but not
again!"

And then he went to speak to the people: "There is not a shadow of a
doubt as to our right," he said, "and therefore the district court will
be on our side. Self-avenging yields tears and bloodshed only, and is
likely to leave us in the wrong. I shall start this very day for
Colomea to demand justice against the mandatar, and you shall swear to
me now that you will keep the peace while I am gone."

Father Martin elevated the Host, and the men, kneeling, took the oath.

By noon Taras had set out on his way. He had taken his best horse and
borrowed another on the road, but the distance being a good fifty miles
he could not reach the town before noon the following day. A courier
from the mandatar had forestalled him.

The district governor, therefore, Herr Ferdinand von Bauer, a
comfortable elderly gentleman, was not exactly pleased to see the
village judge, and would have none of his statements. "I know all about
it already," he said, "there is no need to repeat it." But Taras
insisted on substantiating his charge with fall particulars, which
appeared to differ from the account that had been rendered to the
governor. Anyhow this comfortable gentleman began to shake his head,
and to pace the floor of his office. At last he pulled up in front of
the peasant, examining his face. "Is this the truth you are giving me?"
he demanded gruffly.

Taras met his glance fully. "It is the truth," he said solemnly, "so
help me God!"

"Humph! humph!" was all the answer vouchsafed, and the governor again
fell to pacing the floor, till after a while he once more stood still
in front of Taras. "Be hanged, both of you!" he said amiably. "I mean
both lord of the manor and peasantry. Can't you ever keep the peace! A
nice thing to have to arbitrate between you by way of resting one's old
bones!" To be a district governor in Galicia, to his idea, plainly was
not a bed of roses. "Go back to your people," he continued more gently,
"I am unable to decide from a distance, but will send a commissioner to
take evidence on the spot. Meanwhile, you can bury your dead, since we
cannot bring them back to life, whatever we finally decide."

The judge returned quieted. The peace of the village had been kept, in
spite of the towering rage of the peasants at having to stand by and
let the mandatar till the field that was not his. The part beyond the
cross, which Hajek left to the villagers, was ploughed and sown
presently by Taras's men. "A man of the law will soon be here," he
comforted himself and others, "and then we shall be righted."

A fortnight had elapsed when the expected official made his appearance;
but this, unfortunately, did not mend matters. It was a certain
district commissioner, Mr. Ladislas Kapronski, called the "snake" by
his colleagues, which appellation fitted both his character and his
gait, for in the presence of a superior this man never did anything but
wriggle. He may have owed his advancement either to this peculiarity or
to the number of his years, since preferment went by seniority, but
never to his merits; for, whatever might be said of his cringing and
deceitful nature, it was impossible to say aught for his capability, or
even his desire of doing well. And having, moreover, a reputation for
being frightened at the shadow of a hen, not to say at the sight of an
infuriated peasantry, this commissioner plainly was the man for his
mission!

And he did not belie his fame. The question of murder he disposed of in
an off-hand way. "Both sides have had a man killed,"  he said, "let us
suppose that they are quits. I may presume they killed each other, and
since they are dead we cannot punish them; so that is settled." After a
similar fashion he decided the question concerning the field. "I find
the mandatar in possession for the Count," he said, "and he can prove
his claim from the title-deeds. I must, therefore, give judgment in his
favour."

"And if we had ejected him forcibly," cried Taras, bitterly; "if we had
not refrained from righting ourselves by means of bloodshed, _we_
should have found that possession is law?"

"Well, well," said Mr. Kapronski, trembling at this outburst, "I am
sure it is very praiseworthy that you did not have recourse to
violence. And I did not say that possession was law; indeed, it is not
always. The field may really be yours; in that case, you must just file
a suit and fight it out against the lord of the manor, leaving him in
possession meanwhile."

The peasants demurred, but Taras urged silence. "Is that all you have
come to tell us?" he inquired of the commissioner.

"Well, yes--certainly.... No, stop; there is something else. You shall
see how anxious I am to judge fairly. The two yoke of oxen which the
mandatar has seized shall be returned to you this very day. I have so
ordered it, for justice shall be done. But be sure and leave the Count
in possession; now do, or you will offend grievously."

He had jumped back into his vehicle, in a great hurry to be gone. He
considered he had done his duty, and drove away, greatly relieved to
see the last of these people with their battle-axes and guns.

Taras for some hours was disconsolate, but his faith in justice
restored him. He called together the people. "The right will right
itself," he cried. "I trust in God and believe in the Emperor. We must
go to law!"

But his influence seemed gone. "It is your fault," they exclaimed, "and
you must bear the consequence! We men of Zulawce carry a cause with gun
and axe, and not pen-and-inkwise. It is just your tardiness that lost
us half the field, we will not lose the other half by a law-suit. Or,
at least, if you will try the law, do so at your own expense."

"I am ready for that," said Taras. "A man standing up for the right
must not stop short of victory, even though he should be ruined in the
attempt."

Again he went to Colomea and called upon the district governor. But
Herr von Bauer turned on his heel. "We have done our part," he said
curtly; "if you are not satisfied there is an attorney in the place."

"I do not understand," replied Taras, modestly but firmly. "I want the
law to see us righted and is it not you who, in the Emperor's stead,
are here to dispense it?"

"You great baby!" snorted the governor. But good nature supervened; he
came close to Taras, laying a hand upon his shoulder. "Let me make it
plain to you," he said. "If you go and kill the mandatar, or if he
kills you, it will be my business to come down upon you with the law,
even if no complaint has been urged, for that is a crime. But if you
and your peasants assert that a field is yours, which the steward of
the manor has possession of we can only interfere if you bring an
action, preferring your complaint through an attorney, for that is a
matter in dispute. Now do you understand? if so, go and instruct your
lawyer. Do you take it in?"

"No," said Taras; "the right surely must be upheld, whether life or
property be touched; and to the men of Zulawce that field is as sacred
as my life is to me. Is not justice in all things the world's
foundation? and does not he who disregards it wrong the very law of
life! Can it be the Emperor's will that such wrongdoing is not your
business?"

"Dear! dear!" groaned the magistrate; "have I not always said, it's a
precious business to be a district governor in Galicia? Why, you are
just savages here--no notion of how the law works! But you don't seem a
man to be angry with, so begone in peace."

Taras quitted the office, standing still outside. Disappointment and a
sense of personal injury surged up within him with a pain so vivid,
that he had to wrestle with it for fear he should burst into a shriek
like some wounded animal.

But he recovered himself and went to seek the lawyer. He soon found
him--Dr. Eugene Starkowski--a sharp-witted attorney, who at once caught
the gist of the matter. He shook his head. "It was foolish," he said,
"to move a landmark! But I will see what I can do for you."

"How soon can we expect a decision?"

"Some time in the autumn."

"Not before!" exclaimed Taras.

"No, and you will be lucky if more of your patience is not required. It
will not be my fault, but you see the gentlemen of the court like to
take it easy."

"Take it easy!" echoed Taras, as one in a dream, staring at the lawyer
in helpless wonder. "Take it easy!" he repeated wildly. "Oh, sir, this
is not right! Justice should flow like a well which all can reach, for
it is hard to be athirst for it."

Starkowski looked at the peasant, first with a kind of professional
interest only, but with human sympathy before long. He smiled--"I will
really do my best for you," he said, and his voice was that of a man
comforting a grieving child.

And he did his best, using his every influence to expedite the matter.
In most lawsuits at that time in Galicia six months would slip away
before even a writ was served upon the defendant, but Mr. Hajek, in the
present case, received his within a week. To be sure, he was entitled
to a three months' delay to get up his defence, and he availed himself
of it to the day--for what purpose, the poor peasants presently had
reason to suspect. On the very last day of the term allowed to him he
sent in his reply, pleading in exculpation the reasons he had given to
Taras, and demanding in his turn that a commission should be appointed
for the examining of witnesses on the spot.

Taras's counsel was not a little surprised. To examine the peasants
upon their oath was the one means within the reach of the law for
arriving at the truth concerning the alleged removing of the cross
which marked the boundary. It plainly was in the mandatar's interest to
prevent this if possible, and to take his stand on the ocular evidence
in his favour, as given in the title deeds. Strange that he should
propose the very means of settling the contest which of all was most
likely to go against him! Dr. Starkowski could not make it out. "He is
a fool," he thought, "unless, after all, he is sure of his claim, or,
indeed, has bribed his witnesses." And both conjectures appeared to him
equally unlikely, the former because of the solemn soul-stirring manner
with which Taras had invoked his help; the latter because of the good
opinion Mr. Wenceslas enjoyed in the district town. For his Parisian
antecedents were not known there, and society had admitted him to its
bosom as an amiable gentleman of irreproachable character.

But since both parties were ready to be put upon their oath, there was
nothing else to be done. And the same genius of justice who in the
spring had so capably decided that there was no one to be accused of
murder, was despatched in the autumn to act for the civil law.

"Examine matters carefully, Mr. Kapronski," said the district governor;
"take the depositions of every individual witness, impressing them with
the sanctity of the oath. Go into the case thoroughly--there is no
danger to yourself--and be sure not to hurry it over."

The commissioner, with an obsequious wriggle, departed on his mission.
"The old fool," he said, when seated in his vehicle, "as though it did
not depend on a man's sagacity much more than on his taking time! I'll
see through the business in less than two hours, I will."

He was expected at Zulawce, and all the community had turned out to
receive him--men, women, children, not to forget Father Martin, who,
let it be said of him, for once had eschewed his favourite solace, and
was perfectly sober. Mr. Hajek, too, had arrived, followed by the
gigantic Boleslaw and a number of labourers on the estate. The
commissioner drew up amongst them, and alighting beneath the village
linden, called for a table from the inn.

"That is the first of my requirements," he said to the mandatar; "the
second I have brought with me," pointing at a puffing clerk, who was
seen descending from his seat by the coachman, with a huge parcel of
red-taped foolscap and an inkstand large enough to bespeak the
importance of the proceedings. "The third requisite," continued the
commissioner, "a crucifix, no doubt these good people can provide."

They procured one from the nearest house. It was placed upon the table.

"To add to the solemnity," whispered the clerk, "two burning candles
..."

"No need," interrupted the commissioner. "I myself will be a light to
their understanding." But his voice, as he turned to the people,
quivered with anxiety. "I have come," he said, "to find out where the
black cross, now in the centre of the so-called parish field, may have
stood sixteen years ago. This is all the evidence I care for. So
whoever of you has no testimony to offer on this head may take himself
off--have the goodness to retire, I mean!"

A few labourers from the lowlands only obeyed this injunction, no one
else moving. All eyes were fixed on him, such proceedings, indeed, not
being an every-day spectacle.

"It is alleged," resumed Mr. Kapronski, "that the cross in question was
removed from its formed position fifteen years ago. Now, those only can
affirm or deny this who were not children at the time. I will listen to
no one, therefore, who has not passed his thirtieth year. I mean, all
that are younger, I will ask them kindly to retire."

No one stirred. Kapronski looked about with an uncertain gaze. Happily,
Taras came to the rescue.

"Have you not understood?" he cried, with far-reaching voice. "Whoever
has not reached his thirtieth year is not wanted."

It sufficed. First the girls ran away, followed by the women and
children, the young men leaving reluctantly. Some two hundred of the
villagers were left, forming a dense crowd round the table.

"And now, listen," continued the commissioner. "Whoever has no clear
personal recollection where the cross stood sixteen years ago, let him
lift his right hand."

Only two hands were lifted--those of the leaders of the contending
parties. "I came to the village eighteen months ago," said the
mandatar. "And I ten years ago," said the judge.

"Never mind!" cried Kapronski, hastily. "Please stay; these men
might----" he surveyed the stalwart assembly with evident
embarrassment, and then added, "you have a right to watch the
proceedings! Please, Mr. Mandatar, step to the right of the table; and
you, Mr. Taras, to the left."

"Now then, listen!" he repeated, addressing himself once more to the
people. "Whoever of you remembers for a certainty that sixteen years
ago the black cross stood where it now stands, in the centre of the
field, let him step to the right, taking his place beside Mr. Hajek.
But whoever, on the contrary, is sure of recollecting that the cross
sixteen years ago stood by the river and was removed thence to its
present place a twelvemonth later, let him step to the left side,
joining your judge."

The division took place amid ominous growls, which broke into
exclamations of unbounded wrath and indignant imprecations when the
opposing parties stood facing each other. "You curs!" cried the
peasants, brandishing their axes. For not only was the mandatar
supported by the labourers and farmers of the manorial estate, but,
contrary to all expectation, some of the villagers had gone to his
side--drunkards and others of low character. Now, whatever these might
be thought capable of, no one had given them credit for such open
treason against the community--the very worst of crimes in the eyes of
those people, to whom no bond is more sacred than that between man and
man for the common weal. And what carried their disgust to its height
was the fact that the son of their own old judge had joined the enemy.
Harasim Woronka, too, had taken his place beside the mandatar, not won
over by bribery like the rest of them, but by his own thirst for
revenge: it seemed an opportunity for crushing the hated stranger.
Harasim was fast going to ruin, and in his fuddled brain the thought
kept burning: "If it were not for Taras I might be judge this day,
besides being Anusia's husband and the richest man of the village." And
whatever benefit he had received at the hands of the noble-hearted
stranger had been like oil to the fire of his hatred. Too cowardly for
an open act of revenge, he had lent a willing ear to the tempter coming
to him in the guise of Boleslaw; but what little good was left in his
degraded soul must have pleaded with his conscience even now, for he
stood trembling visibly.

"You miserable woman of a man!" roared the insulted peasants; "you
disgrace your father in his very grave!" Harasim grew white, his hands
clutching the air like a drowning man, for not a more terrible reproach
can be offered to a child of that race. Indeed, he would have owned his
wickedness there and then by returning to the ranks of those to whom he
belonged by kinship and destiny, had not Boleslaw interfered, seizing
the wavering object with his huge hand and holding him tight.

"Murder!" roared the peasants, making an onslaught against the giant.
It seemed as though the fury of bloodshed were let loose.

The three men by the table looked upon this scene with greatly
differing sensations. The commissioner had grown ashy, being ready to
swoon. Mr. Hajek, on the contrary, quivered with elation, but strove to
hide his sense of victory beneath a mask of aggrieved consternation,
saying to the representative of the law: "There, now, is it not almost
impossible to maintain one's right with such people?" The virtuous
creature would have felt doubly elated had one of the uplifted axes
silenced Harasim for ever.

But that, to his disappointment, was prevented by the resolute and
magnanimous courage of Taras, the judge. The treachery of Harasim had
hurt him more than any of the others; but for a moment only did he
yield to his feelings, duty coming to his rescue and making him strong.
"Forbear!" he cried, with powerful voice. "Forbear," echoed the elders,
and with them he faced the enraged peasants. They fell back, leaving a
space between the two parties.

Kapronski kept shaking and quaking; his blanched lips opened and shut,
but they framed not a sound. Luckily for him, an incident--partly
ludicrous, but in truth most sad--at this juncture diverted attention
from his own miserable self; for, when the parties once more stood
facing each other, they perceived what had escaped their infuriated
senses before, that one man had not joined either side, but was left
standing in the middle--the village pope, Martin Sustenkowicz. Nor did
the shepherd of Zulawce at this moment look like the happy peacemaker
between his belligerent parishioners, being too plainly of a divided
mind, and dolefully unsettled.

"Why, your reverence," cried the under-steward, "what are you about!
Did you not swear to me yesterday that the mandatar was in the right?"

"Ah--hm--yes--yesterday!" stammered the pope, with a dazed look at the
peasants, and taking an uncertain step to the other side.

"Stop! not this way, little father!" broke in Alexa, seizing him by his
caftan; "did not you tell me this very morning: 'The field is yours
most certainly, for with my own hands I consecrated the new cross
fifteen years ago'?"

"Hm--ah--yes--consecrated!" groaned the poor man helplessly, a
distracted figure in their midst. The mandatar took pity on him.

"Move this way," he said, with wicked sarcasm, "there is room behind
the table right away from the contending parties. We have no candles to
solemnise the scene, let the light of your countenance make up for it,
illumining this crowd of witnesses."

The commissioner meanwhile had partly recovered, and had found his
voice, though a husky one. "I must administer the oath," he said, "for
you have given evidence by taking your position either on this side or
on that. Let any one who cannot swear to his deposition show it by
lifting his hand."

Not a finger moved.

Kapronski gasped. He was anxious to get over the business, but this
state of things seemed to force from him some kind of exhortation. "My
good people," he cried, "why, perjury is no joke! There's a Judge in
heaven you know, and--hm--I mean--_we_ punish any one convicted of
swearing falsely. And--it seems plain--only one of the parties can take
their oath honestly. So do consider, I entreat you! Now then--which of
you cannot--hm--ought not, to swear?"

But his well-meant speech fell flat. The only witness whose hand seemed
to make an upward movement, Harasim Woronka, let drop his arm when the
overpowering Boleslaw whispered in his ear: "Wretched coward, shall
Taras rejoice after all?"

The commissioner wiped his brow--this was more than he dared report to
his superiors. "Unheard of case!" he groaned, turning to the mandatar.
"Hadn't we better get the priest to speak to the people?"

"By all means," replied Mr. Hajek, with his most pious mien; "I have no
doubt he will vastly influence the sleeping conscience."

But Taras shook his head. "Mr. Kapronski," he said, "it is a sad thing
for people to be shepherded as we are. You see with your own eyes what
manner of man he is. But we poor peasants have no voice in the matter,
we can only strive to reverence the holy things, if we cannot reverence
him who dispenses them. Therefore we try to avoid anything that must
lower him in our eyes, for it is not well when the people are given
cause of mockery. Nay, it is not well, God knows! Judge for yourself,
sir, would it be fit to let him speak to the people at this solemn
moment? For is not an oath an awful thing, terribly awful?"

Kapronski breathed, relieved. Were not the peasants the accusers in
this matter? If they, then, were satisfied to have no further
exhortation, he was not accountable for any consequences. He stepped
forward. "I put you all upon your oath," he said, baring his head, and
every one present followed his example. And having once again stated
the matter to be sworn, the peasants, one after another, passed in
front of the crucifix, giving their names and lifting three fingers of
their right hand, saying: "I swear." But the mandatar's party after
them, to a man, took the oath likewise. It was done quietly and
quickly.

The commissioner pulled out his watch. "An hour and forty minutes," he
said, triumphantly. His vehicle had stood by in readiness. He mounted
at once, and quitted the village with all possible speed.



                               CHAPTER V.

                         THE WRONG VICTORIOUS.


Autumn, as a rule, is by far the most pleasant season in the Galician
highlands. The winter there is long, dreary, and trying; the spring
cool, and all too short; the summer exceedingly hot, and liable to
thunderstorms almost daily. But in the autumn Nature wears a genial
face in the uplands, with a delicious continuance of sunshine, when the
airy dome is scarcely ruffled by the breeze, and wondrously clear; day
succeeding day of this gentle splendour till late in November
sometimes. Not so, however, in the year we are speaking of. In that
season the birds had left early for their southern haunts, the earth
looking bare and cheerless all of a sudden; the sun had hidden within
heavy clouds, and the whirling snowflakes were at their chill play
before September was well out. Brighter days once more supervened, but
they were bitterly cold, ushering in a fresh fall of snow and a dismal
twilight of the heavens, which seemed determined to last.

The people sat gloomily by their firesides, growing the more alarmed at
this early show of winter as they listened to the tales of the old folk
among them, who remembered a similar season in their youth--the winter
of 1792--which was a terrible visitation in that country, beginning as
early as the present one. In that year the cold grew so intense that
men scarcely ventured outside their cottages, because every breath they
drew went like daggers to their lungs, and their limbs were benumbed in
the space of a few minutes, so that even in trying to get from one end
of the village to the other some had been frozen to death. And the snow
drifted in such masses that the dwellers in the glens were hopelessly
shut up, some actually dying of starvation. Thus ran the terrible tale;
but the old folk at Zulawce were like old people everywhere, and the
dread experience of their youth grew in horror with the receding years.
The spectres of fear roused by these memories kept glaring at men and
women within the lowly cottages.

Distress and suffering seemed at hand; and the poor were the poorer for
the loss of the common field, the produce of which would have yielded
them a welcome share. But more than this, the harvest had failed in
part, and the cold overtaking the land so early threatened to destroy
the winter crop. Thus the future was as clouded as the present, and
want might be looked for. Had such trouble befallen the men of the
lowlands they would have borne it sadly and meekly, bowing their heads
before the Lord of the seasons. But not so the defiant natures at
Zulawce, questioning their fate indignantly, and looking about for one
who might bear the brunt of their anger; for, with the strong,
affliction is apt to blaze forth in wrath. Their scapegoat was easily
found; for who else should be to blame for the loss of that field if
not Taras, their long-suffering judge!

Grievous days had come to him, and he would not have known how to bear
his burden, but for the conviction upholding him that the decision of
the court could not long be delayed now. This alone gave him the
strength to continue his sorrowful duty day after day. The mandatar
pitilessly went on grasping at every pound of flesh he might claim; the
community either could or would not yield it. If Taras tried to reason
with them to submit to the forest labour, which again had been sold,
they retorted it was not their duty, and even he might know now what
came of being too docile towards a rascally land-steward! Besides they
had not the strength for it now, they said, half-starving as they were;
and but for him the produce of that field by the river might now be
safely stored in their granaries. And on his replying that, in that
case, he must discontinue his office, they said scornfully their little
father Stephen had been a judge for fair days as well as foul; it was a
pity that he was gone, since his successor evidently was not like him
in this. And Taras felt this taunt far more deeply than even the
passionate appeals of his wife. He resolved to see the matter to its
end; and, since there seemed no other means, he had the required forest
labour done by his own men, or by others willing to work for his pay.

"We can afford it," he consoled his more prudent wife, "and if I thus
step into the breach for the parish it is not as though I took it from
the property which you have brought to me, since I have added to it
honestly by my own diligence. And I shall have a right to expect
indemnification when better days shall have come round. God surely will
see to our being righted, and He will lessen the burden we now have to
bear. Besides, a verdict must reach us before long, and there cannot be
any doubt but that the court will see that the village has been
wronged."

The verdict, however, was still delayed. Week after week passed amid
suffering and dejection, and Christmas to the villagers brought nothing
of its own good cheer. For the grim snowstorms continued, and if at
intervals the skies would brighten, it was only to usher in still
sharper frosts.

It was on the Epiphany of 1837 that the rigorous cold unexpectedly came
to an end. Quite early on that day the people had been waked from their
sleep by strange noises in the air, and rushing from their houses, were
met by an unwonted warmth. It was the south wind so ardently longed
for. It did not blow long enough to bring about any melting of the
snow, folding its merciful wings all too soon; but the terrible cold
nevertheless appeared to have received its death blow, the temperature
not again sinking much below freezing point.

And in happy mood old and young that morning went to church; men even
who had been sworn enemies for years would look at each other
pleasantly at the welcome change. Taras also beheld brighter faces, and
heard kinder words than had fallen on his ear since the sorrowful
springtime. Indeed, so strong and general was the feeling of relief and
of gratitude due to the Almighty, that even the pope was seized by the
wave and carried to a shore of contrition he had not reached for many a
year. Mass had been read, and the people were about to depart, quite
accustomed to the fact that Father Martin, on account of his own sad
failing, would excuse the sermon; but they were startled by his request
to resume their seats, and he actually mounted his pulpit. Poor man, he
could not give them much of a discourse, but such as it was it lent
expression to their own feelings, and could not fail to touch their
hearts.

The people, who were in a good frame of mind, after church gathered in
groups outside. There was the weather to be talked about, and the
sermon, and the lawsuit; concerning the latter, some of those even who
bore Taras the deepest grudge were heard to say, "Who can tell but that
it may end well after all."

And the most cheerful was Taras himself. He moved about from group to
group, kindly words passing to and fro. "Let us trust God," he kept
saying; "He has dispelled the fearful cold; at His touch the wrong,
too, will vanish. My heart tells me so! The verdict cannot be delayed
much longer, we may even hear of it before the day is out."

These words had scarcely fallen from his lips, when that happened
which, however frequent in fiction, is rare enough in actual life--his
expectation was realised there and then. Up the road from the river a
sledge was seen advancing, driven by a peasant and carrying, it
appeared, a large bundle of fur-rugs. No human occupant was visible
when the vehicle stopped amid the staring peasantry, but the rug-bundle
began to move, throwing off its outer covering, a bear-skin; a
good-sized sheep-skin peeling off next, revealing as its kernel a funny
little hunchbacked figure, an elderly townsman rather shabbily clad. He
rose to his feet, inquiring, with a great deal of condescension: "My
good people, is the judge of this village anywhere among you?"

The stalwart peasants laughed at the puny creature, and even Taras,
moving up to the sledge, could not repress a smile. "And what do you
want with him?"

The stranger pursed his mouth; his hand dived into his pocket and
produced an alarming pair of spectacles, which he put upon his
shrivelled nose, plainly desirous of adding dignity to that feature,
and then he said slowly, almost solemnly, "A man like you should say
'your worship' to me! I am Mr. Michael Stupka, head clerk of Dr. Eugene
Starkowski."

Taras shook from head to foot, and clutching the man, he stammered,
"You have come to tell as the verdict! you have got a letter for me!"

And all the peasants pressed round them. "Ah!" they cried, "we have got
the field back, no doubt!... Long live Taras, the judge; he was right
after all.... But do read us your letter."

The terrified clerk all this time endeavoured to free himself from the
iron grasp that held him as in a vice. "Stand off!" he groaned. "I have
brought you the verdict--yes; but ..." He faltered.

Taras grew white. Hardly knowing what he did, he, with his strong arm,
lifted the little man right out of the sledge, putting him down on the
ground before him. "No," he said hoarsely, "it cannot be! The verdict
surely is in our favour?"

"Why, dear me, can _I_ help it?" wailed the dwarfish creature. "Are you
savages here, or what! Ah, you are strangling me ... it is not _my_
fault, I am only a clerk and of no consequence whatever ... I assure
you! And Dr. Starkowski tried his best. Moreover, the matter need not
rest here; don't you know that there is such a thing as an appeal?"

But Taras evidently did not take in this hint any more than he had
understood the preceding words. One thought only had laid hold of him,
and he reeled like a stricken man. "Lost!" he groaned hoarsely, the
ominous syllable being taken up more shrilly by the peasants, who
pressed closer still.

The clerk, meanwhile, had produced the documents of which he was the
bearer, the one being a writ of the court, the other a letter of Dr.
Starkowski's. "There!" he cried, thrusting them under Taras's nose.

Taras was striving to regain his composure. "We are usable to read
writing," he said, gasping. "You must tell us what the lawyers have got
to say. To whom have they adjudged the field?"

But Mr. Stupka did not feel it prudent to answer this question right
out. He broke the official seal, putting on a look of the greatest
importance. "With pleasure, good people," he said condescendingly,
"with pleasure! I'll read it to you, and translate it presently into
plain language. The legal style, you know ..."

But Taras interrupted him. "To _whom_?" he repeated, more emphatically.

"Well, I should say," stammered the luckless clerk, "I should say ...
to the lord of the manor, so to speak."

"It is a lie," shrieked Taras; "it cannot be!" But the peasantry
veering round, cried scornfully: "Did we not tell you that going to law
is a folly? You have done it now!"

Utterly beside himself with the passion of his disappointment, the
judge clenched his fists and set his teeth in the face of the mocking
crowd, but the two elders laid their hands on him gently. "Do not give
way," begged the faithful Simeon, "try and bear the blow; let us hear
the verdict first, and then we will consider what next can be done."

The clerk spread out the document. "In the name of the Emperor!" he
began, translating the somewhat lengthy preamble. The villagers loyally
had pulled off their caps; Taras only thought not of baring his head.
Simeon endeavoured to remind him, but the judge shook him off. The
honest man looked at him doubtfully, and receded a step. The others did
not notice it, too intent upon the verdict.

It was a long piece of legal rhetoric, substantiating every statement
with a flourish of evidential reasoning, in the German language, which
in those days was the medium for judicial transactions throughout that
conglomerate of Babel-tongued countries going by the name of Austria.
It was no easy undertaking to translate the strangely intricate periods
of official verbosity into the simple vernacular of the listeners; but
Mr. Stupka, being as clever as he was small, contrived to make himself
understood. The verdict amounted to a dismissal of the case, because
the plaintiffs could not bring forward sufficient proof to uphold their
claim. The description of the field in the title deeds, it said, was in
favour of the party in present possession, and if a number of witnesses
upon their oath had given contrary evidence, their testimony was
invalidated by counter-evidence upon oath likewise. It was not the
court's business in civil cases to start an inquiry whether false
witness possibly had been tendered; it was rather the duty of the court
to decide which evidence weighed heavier in the scale, and the balance
had inclined in favour of manorial rights. It seemed strange, also,
that the village judge, as had been reported, should have opposed the
exhortation of the witnesses by means of the pope....

Up to this point Taras had listened in silence and motionless, but now
a shudder ran through his body, and he clenched his fists. "Ye adders,"
he panted; "ye deceitful adders!"

"Bear it," whispered Simeon, entreatingly, putting his arm round his
reeling friend. But Taras scarcely needed the admonition as far as
keeping silence was concerned, for his eyes closed; he seemed on the
point of swooning.

And moreover, the clerk continued, it was a fact that among those who
had given their oath in favour of the manorial claim had been several
heads of families of the village, men, therefore, who tendered witness
against their own interest. Such evidence could not easily be set
aside. Considering all these points, therefore, the case was dismissed,
the plaintiffs to bear the costs, as was meet and just.

"Just!" echoed the men in savage scorn, Taras alone keeping silence.
His hand went to his heart suddenly, he staggered and fell heavily, as
a man struck by lightning.

For hours he lay in a swoon. They had carried him into his house; but
neither the lamentations of his wife, nor their united endeavours to
restore animation seemed to penetrate the dead darkness that had fallen
on his soul. And when at last he opened his eyes his words appeared to
them so utterly strange that they were more frightened still. "The very
foundations are giving," he kept crying, "the holiest is being dragged
low!" And he, in whose eyes no one ever had seen a tear, was seized
with a paroxysm of weeping. He bemoaned his terrible fate, and between
his sobs he called for his children, to take leave of them, he said.
And he repeated this request so urgently that they could but humour
him. It was a pitiful scene, and one after another the neighbours went
away shudderingly, Simeon Pomenko only watching through the night by
the sufferer's couch. But in the village the news spread that the
judge, for sorrow, had gone out of his mind.

Not till the following morning did this piece of information come to
the ears of the mandatar, Mr. Hajek having spent the night at Zablotow,
playing at cards with the officers of the hussars. His under-steward,
Boleslaw, impatiently lay in wait against his return, never doubting
but that the news would fall on delighted ears, and he was not a little
surprised at the mandatar's evident dismay, Nor was this put on; for
the Count, still enlarging his acquaintances at Paris, had, through his
friends the usurers, got introduced to their solicitors, and Hajek knew
he must send him the wherewithal to stem the scandal of a prosecution,
whatever he might wish to keep back for himself. So money, more than
ever, was the need of the moment; and having succeeded in one
villainous trick, he might hope to develop his talents for the further
fleecing of the peasantry, and it was highly important, therefore, that
the community should be represented by a judge who, at the risk of
whatever loss to himself, was bent on keeping the people from offering
violence.

"Gone out of his mind? Dear me, I _am_ sorry," he said, honestly too.
"But I daresay report has exaggerated the fact. He may have had a blow,
but I do not believe he is the man to go mad. Go to his wife and tell
her, with my compliments, that I shall be pleased to send for the best
doctor at Colomea at my own expense."

The man hung back. "I am no coward," he said presently, "and I think I
could face any dozen of the peasants, if you wished it. But as for this
woman--sir, do you know she is a regular Huzul, quite a spitfire of a
temper--and a man after all has only one pair of eyes to lose!"

The mandatar did not care what risk these optics might run; the man had
to carry his message. He was relieved, however, on entering the judge's
house. The two elders, Simeon and Alexa were with the sufferer, and he
appeared to be listening to their words. The storm had not yet subsided
which tore his soul, and threatened to change the very drift of his
being. He who his life long had stood like a rock against the surges of
trouble, who had won happiness and prosperity through steadfast
endurance, was sobbing and wailing like a child, and his friends could
not but tremble for his reason as they heard his pitiful plaints. "I
have striven to pass my life in honour," he would moan, "and now it
must end in shame! And what of my poor children, since I have no choice
but to follow the dictate of my heart?"

He saw the under-steward enter cautiously, and his pale face grew
crimson at the sight. Simeon rose hastily to send away the unwelcome
visitor, but Taras interfered. "Glad to see you, friend Boleslaw!" he
cried, cuttingly. "What good news has brought you hither?"

The giant delivered his errand, stammeringly.

"Send for a doctor--indeed--at his own expense!" repeated Taras. "Well,
I did not require this proof to tell me that the mandatar is an honest
man!" And therewith he closed his eyes, lying still like a sleeping
babe.

Boleslaw paused. "Shall I----" he began presently, addressing the
elders. But at the sound Taras opened his eyes. "Leave this house!" he
cried, with a voice of thunder, and the powerful man quaked, making
good his escape.

Taras watched his retreat, smiling strangely. "This message is
something to be thankful for! You, my friends, could not help me, but
this insult brings me back to myself. I shall fight against my ghastly
destiny while yet I may!"

"What destiny?" said Simeon, soothingly. "Do look at it calmly. You
have, in a just cause, done your utmost to see us righted; and you have
failed honourably. What else could there be said?"

"What else?" reiterated Taras. "And since it is a just cause--but what
use in talking!... I daresay you thought I had lost my reason, because
I have cried and wailed like a woman--did you?" His friends endeavoured
to look unconcerned. "But, I tell you," he continued, with trembling
voice, "it will be well if you never have occasion to find out that,
though reeling, my mind was terribly clear!... I will try to spare you
the discovery. I want to see that clerk again."

"He has left," returned Simeon; "he thrust his papers into my hand when
you had fainted, and turning his horses' heads he made the utmost speed
to leave us. The poor creature was really quite frightened; never in
his life again would he carry a verdict to savages, he said."

Taras could not help smiling. "Then I must ask the pope to read me that
letter," he said. "Leave the room, I shall be ready to join you in a
few minutes."

"Do not exert yourself just yet," entreated Simeon.

But Taras looked up sternly. "Do not hinder me, man," he cried, "cannot
you see that my very fate is at stake!"

The men left him misgivingly.

"What do you think of it?" said Alexa, as they stood waiting in the
yard.

"God knows!" replied Simeon, troubled. "But I cannot forget how he
refused to uncover when the verdict was being read."

The voice of Anusia was heard, who would not let her husband go from
the house. "You will be fainting again!" she lamented. But Taras,
though white as death, stepped forth, treading firmly.

The three men walked away to call on Father Martin; but on entering the
manse his housekeeper, Praxenia, met them with a tearful face. She was
an elderly spinster from the village who had presided over his domestic
concerns since the popadja had departed this life, leaving the pope a
widower.

"God o' mercy," she sobbed, looking at Taras, "it's a blessing that
you, at least, have got back your wits. They said in the village that
you had lost them. But you are all right, I see--would I could say as
much for the poor little father. _He_ is quite off his head, I assure
you; regular mad if ever man was!"

"He will come round again, no doubt," said Taras. "I daresay he has had
a glass too much."

"Ah, no," wept the good spinster; "that were nothing since we are used
to it! He has not had a drop since yesterday, poor old man, who never
could do without his tipple; it is that which frightens me! He is lying
quite still now, staring blankly, and talking a heap of nonsense
between whiles."

"Humph," grunted Simeon, "that certainly looks alarming. I have known
him these twenty years, he never showed such symptoms."

"Didn't I say so--a very bad sign, surely! And all on account of that
sermon, would you believe it? But let me tell you how it happened. I
had gone to his room quite early yesterday morning--would I had bitten
my tongue off first! though my going in was quite innocent-like.
'Little Father,' I said, 'there's a thaw setting in, and the parish is
just beside itself with joy.' 'Beside itself? dear! dear!' he said, 'I
must go and see,' and off he trotted. But very soon he came back again,
his eyes positively shining. 'Naughty, naughty, little father,' I said,
'you have gone and been at Avrumko's--very naughty, so early in the
day, and before reading mass!' But he insisted that he had not been
near the inn, and that nothing but the common delight had so excited
him. 'Ah! Praxenia,' he said, 'what a day to have seen--all the village
is praising the Lord for His goodness. I must give them a sermon
to-day, I must, indeed!' 'Little Father,' I said, severely, 'you had
better not attempt it; you know it is beyond you now, and the people
will only laugh at you; don't you remember how it was five years ago?'
'I do,' he said, ruefully, 'but I shall do better to-day.' There was no
convincing him, he locked himself into his study, and through the door
I could hear him at his sermon--pacing his floor I mean--vigorously,
till the bells began ringing for service. I went to church, not a
little anxious, you will believe me, and when he mounted his pulpit, as
he had threatened, I said to myself: 'You'll stick fast, little father,
and be sorry that you ever went up.' But not he--well you were there
yourselves, and you know how beautifully he got through it, never once
blowing his nose or scratching his ears--the beautifullest sermon ever
spoken, though I say it, and moving all the parish to tears! I walked
home proudly to look after his dinner, poor man, and said to myself he
should have as many glasses now as he liked. But what was my surprise
on going to his room presently, to find him weeping there, shedding the
biggest tears. I ever saw. 'Ah, Praxenia,' he sobbed, 'to think of the
Lord's goodness in giving me this day. I have not deserved it,
miserable old tippler that I am!' What was I to answer? I got his
dinner ready, putting his bottle beside it; and he sat down at my
bidding, but never a morsel he touched, his eyes looking brighter and
queerer than ever. 'Have a drop, little father.' I said, 'I'm afraid
you are faint-like.' 'No,' he said, sharply, pushing the bottle from
him. Then I knew that something was wrong. And all the rest of the day,
till late in the evening, he kept walking about his room, muttering the
beautifullest words--preparing his sermon, he said, when I asked him.
Not till late at night could I get a spoonful of soup down his throat,
making him take to his bed--no great battle, for although he is hardly
more than sixty, he is just a child for weakness when the schnaps is
out of him. 'Now you must go to sleep,' I said, sternly. But not he! He
folded his hands, lying still, with his shining eyes, muttering at
times. He is going to die, I tell you!"

The men were endeavouring to dissuade her from this mournful view, but
were less certain of their own opinion when they stood by the bedside.
The poor pope's appearance had changed alarmingly since yesterday. The
face was worn and white, the wrinkles had deepened, and there was a
strange light in his eyes.

But he knew Taras. "Ah--is it you?" he murmured.... "'And he judged
Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.' ... The bells are
ringing.... I must preach to the people.... What is it you want?"

"I came to ask you to read a letter to me, but I am afraid you are not
well, and it is rather a closely-written epistle."

"Epistle? yes," returned the pope, catching at the word. "The first of
the Corinthians.... 'Though I speak with the tongues of angels, and
have not charity.... believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth
all things.... Charity never faileth.' ..." And on he wandered.

The men saw it was hopeless, and left him. "It is strange," said
Simeon; "our pope never spoke such edifying words while he had his wits
about him. It does seem alarming."

But Taras's thoughts ran on a different track. He started. "I must go
to Colomea," he said. "There could not be much in a mere letter, after
all. I must see the lawyer myself as soon as possible."

He appeared so fully determined that his friends could but listen in
silence, and even Anusia saw he must have his way, though she demurred.
"It were far better to leave the thing alone," she said. "If you are
bent on making a sacrifice for the parish, give them the field we
bought two years ago, it will make up for their loss, and it were
better than losing everything through the lawyers."

"You are the best of wives," he said, "but you do not understand. It is
not merely about the field which is lost: but my fate, and yours, and
the children's is at stake."

"What is this you are saying?" she cried, alarmed; but he had touched
his horse, and the sledge was flying along the road towards the
district town.

He entered the outer office of Starkowski's the following day, but no
sooner had Mr. Stupka caught sight of him than he flew from his chair,
disappearing in an inner chamber with the startled cry: "Heaven help
us! a ghost ... the dead judge!"

But the attorney came forth undaunted. "I am pleased to see you," he
said, shaking hands. "I felt pretty sure my clerk had been exaggerating
in reporting you dead. I suppose it was the painful disappointment
which stunned you?"

"More than this," said Taras, "it was the bitter consciousness that
this verdict must change all the future current of my life, unless,
indeed, it can be annulled. I have come to find out whether this is
possible. Maybe your letter said something about it--I cannot read."

"No, the letter was only to tell you the costs," explained Dr.
Starkowski, "one hundred and twelve florins. But there is no hurry
whatever, you may pay me at your convenience. I had nothing further to
tell you, for I never advise carrying a suit into a higher court unless
there be some hope of a successful----"

"Sir," interrupted Taras, speaking slowly, and his voice was hollow,
"think well before you tell me--you do not know how much there is at
stake."

The man's manner, and still more his distorted face, staggered the
lawyer. "Of course, I may be mistaken," he said; "but the examination
of the witnesses, from which I hoped everything, has proved a bad
business for us, and yet it appears the commissioner tried every
conscientious means for arriving at----"

"Conscientious means!" cried Taras; but conquering his rising anger he
described the scene which had taken place outside the village inn,
Kapronski not so much as putting up his horses; and how the peasants
had their own shrewd guesses how much had been paid by the mandatar to
every rascal who had forsworn himself. "Sir, I hope you will help me in
this trouble!" he said, in conclusion.

These simple words, breathing their own truth and sadness, went further
with the lawyer than the most urgent entreaty. He had followed the
legal profession for many a year, but the sense of the utter sacredness
of his calling had perhaps never been so strong with him, nor his
desire to see justice done more earnest, than at this present moment
when that peasant had told him his tale. He promised to forward an
appeal to the higher court at once. "There is yet another way we could
try," he said; "you could inform against the perjurers. But if we
failed in bringing the charge home to them, you would be in danger of
imprisonment for libel yourself. I do not like to risk that, so we had
better try the appeal."

"Do what seems best to you," said Taras. "I trust you implicitly. But
what a world is this if a man can be put into prison for making known
the truth! Is not truth the foundation of justice? Can the world
continue, if falsehood and wrong carry the day?"

The lawyer no doubt could have given an answer to this question--a sad,
painful answer--but somehow he felt he had better be silent. He
contented himself with assuring this man, who seemed a very child in
the ways of the world, that he would not fail in his most faithful
endeavour, and set about the matter at once, moved by a feeling he
scarcely could analyse. The appeal was on its way to the upper court at
Lemberg before Taras and his servant had reached their upland home.

They were nearing the Pruth in the evening of the following day when
the sound of bells came floating towards them, and a red glow appeared
through the dusk where the ground sloped away in the direction of
Prinkowce. "Something on fire!" cried the man, pulling up the horses.

Taras peered through the twilight, and, bowing his head, he crossed
himself piously. "Drive on," he said; "it is the torches at the
cemetery. They are burying the pope."

And it was so. Father Martin had died that morning, and they were
laying him to his rest already, as they are wont in the mountains.
There was no great show of mourning, poor Praxenia's sorrow, perhaps,
being the only honest sadness evoked. "Ah!" she kept sobbing, "if it
were not for that sermon, he might be here to conduct his own funeral!
It is the sermon he died of, and not old age, as the apothecary said."
But the peasants had their own idea concerning the cause of his death.
"It is the wretched schnaps Avrumko has introduced," they said. "If the
rascal gave us unwatered stuff, we might live a hundred years, like our
fathers before us."

Slight as the feeling of mourning was, it ye sufficed to turn the
people's thoughts into a different channel, the loss of the pope thus
acting as a palliative to the loss of the law-suit; and the question
who should be Father Martin's successor was discussed with real
interest. It was not mere curiosity which stirred them, for in the
person of the pope a good deal of a parish's fate is bound up in those
parts, and the congregation has no voice in the matter. They can but
wait and see. But the men of Zulawce were soon relieved of any anxiety,
and had every reason to be satisfied.

Not a mouth had passed when the desolate manse once more was inhabited,
and it was a young pope who had come to pitch his pastoral tent in the
upland parish, having till then been curate-in-charge of Borkowka, a
village in the plain. Leo Woronczuk was his name, and it spoke well for
him that his late parishioners accompanied him in procession as far as
the wooden bridge over the Pruth, where Taras, at the head of the
peasants, stood waiting to receive him. But what pleased his new flock
more than anything was the fact that the stalwart young shepherd did
not arrive singly, but with a blooming wife--the most good-natured of
popadjas, to all appearance--and three round-cheeked, chubby little
boys. For the Galician peasants are apt to be prejudiced against a pope
who is either a bachelor or a widower, or, worse still, a monk of the
Order of St. Basil, thinking it impossible for such a one to enter into
the every-day joys and sorrows of his people, or to understand their
more earthly needs.

Now, Father Leo had a heart for these things, and this not only because
he himself was blessed with a wife and three jolly little boys! He was
no brilliant star in the theological heavens, no paragon of superhuman
virtues; he was a simple village priest--a man among men--with
warm-hearted sympathies; and if his intellectual horizon did not extend
immeasurably beyond that of his peasants, he at any rate had a
clear-headed perception of all ordinary points and bearings within that
sphere. It was not without diffidence that he accepted his new charge,
influenced chiefly by the peremptory need of income, his late curacy
having been sadly inadequate in this respect, considering the growing
wants of his family; and, if the truth must be told, the bad reputation
of that upland parish, which might have tempted a priestly soul of more
enthusiastic ambition, only tended to discourage him; he, poor man, not
feeling himself divinely commissioned to make up for the many years'
failings of his predecessor. He would far rather have been called to
shepherd a people of a less demoralised kind than appeared to be the
case here, where a number of men, on the very face of things, were
guilty of wilful perjury. But once having accepted the charge devolved
upon him by his superiors, he had made up his mind, like a brave man,
to do his duty as best he could, be it pleasant or otherwise.

And he made it his first aim to look into the apparent want of
integrity among the people; to discover, if possible, who might be
trusted and who not. He set about it quietly, without thrusting himself
into people's confidence; nor did he think it necessary to frighten
them into a higher state of morality by firing their imagination with
grievous accounts of the punishment to come. His sermons were
peculiarly simple, suitable in every way to the hearers' daily life--"a
peasant almost could preach like that," said the people when he had
dismissed them without once thumping the pulpit. But they discovered by
degrees that, if his eloquence did not come down upon them
thunderously, there was that in his words which might cling to them
like good and sensible advice; while, on the other hand, he, not a
little to his joy, could see that these people, after all, were not so
black as they had been painted. Leaving the one vice out of the
question, which in that country is as common as air and water--the
wretched tendency to drunkenness--the worst these highlanders could be
accused of was their defiant spirit so apt to break out into violence.

The pope soon found that they were not without a conscience, and that
they had a true feeling of right and wrong, though it might be somewhat
dulled by the unpruned egotistical instincts of human nature left to
its own luxuriance. Not many weeks had passed before Father Leo was
sure in his own mind which had been the perjured party on that fatal
day in September, but he avoided individual accusation. Nor was it more
than a moral certainty with him, as though he could take his oath that
the black cross had not always stood in the centre of the contested
field. But however strongly he felt in his honest mind that a vile
wrong had been committed--robbing a poor, untaught, and easily
misguided people not only of their property but, what was worse, of
their good conscience--he yet repressed his wrath, and never by word or
look showed the mandatar how entirely he abhorred him. Nor was this
reserve the outcome of mere selfish prudence, but rather of a wise
perception that he could do more for the furthering of right and
justice and the peace of his people in thus forcing the miscreant at
the manor house to observe a show of good will.

Hajek, indeed, was deceived. He thought he had taken the measure of the
new pope in believing him to be an honest but rather blockheaded
parson, whom he treated accordingly with a certain amount of flattery,
and even of deference. The mandatar would graciously yield a point
whenever Father Leo, on behalf of the people, petitioned for a respite,
or even for the lessening of an irksome tribute, assuring him that he
was quite as anxious as himself to maintain the peace of the parish.
The fact was, that while the suit yet hung in the balance, and a
further examining of witnesses was a prospect to be dreaded, it was
important that the village priest should think of him as an honourable
man, not prone to harsh dealings, far less to open violence, or such a
thing as an instigation to perjury.

Thus Taras by degrees found an unexpected ally in the pope, nay more, a
true-hearted friend. The saddened man would not have looked for such
happiness, and when the unsought gift had come to him he met it almost
timorously. It was a good honest friendship which sprang up between
these two equally honourable, yet entirely different natures; but a
friendship which, for all its truth, left the last word unspoken,
because neither of them, whatever their mutual sympathy, was able to
enter into, the inmost depth of the other's being.

But the more the pope saw of the judge, the greater was his joy at
having met such a man upon earth, a man so guileless and spotless, in
whom selfishness was not, who seemed guided only by his own sense of
justice and duty, and whose strength was the outcome of his great faith
in the moral equity upholding this structure of a world. "A true, godly
man," the pope would say to himself; but somehow the heretical thought
would follow, "Why, this man does not even need the Christian's belief
in a future life in order to be what he is." This feeling could not but
breed certain doubts, but it did not lessen his hearty admiration of
his friend's purity of nature, nor his longing to help him. He did what
he could to ease the heavy burden of his dealings with the mandatar,
coming forward as a mediator whenever it was possible; and he never
lost an opportunity of proving to the villagers that their judge had
acted righteously throughout. Taras was Father Leo's senior, but there
was something of a parent's tenderness for his child in the pope's
constant readiness to stand by his friend. Indeed, Taras would often
appear to him in the light of a grown boy whom no evil thing had come
nigh to corrupt.

"I could understand him," the pope would say, "if he were fourteen
instead of nearly forty." And greater than his delight in the man was
his surprise sometimes that he should understand so little of human
nature and the way of the world. He took this for granted, but he was
mistaken. Taras was not wanting in the power of seeing things as they
are, but only in the capability of turning such perception to any use.
He was one of those rare beings who must ever follow their own inward
prompting, who cannot be bent in this or that direction by any outward
compulsion; but who, for this very reason, are so easily broken and
bowed to the dust. There is much sadness in life, though little of real
tragedy; but what of it the world has known has ever had for its heroes
such natures.

But neither did Taras fully understand his friend. He would have
blessed the day which brought Father Leo to the village, even if the
latter had remained a comparative stranger to him; for the late pope's
unworthy conduct had touched him far more deeply than any one else in
the village, because his instincts for everything good and holy were so
much keener. He knew well enough that many a village pope was no better
than Father Martin had been; but he had felt to the depth of his true
soul that it was a terrible perversion of what ought to be, if a
village judge out of reverence for the sanctity of the oath sees it
laid upon him to oppose an exhortation of the people by their own
priest. It was an unspeakable relief to him that things had changed in
this respect, and that the man who had come to represent the spiritual
interests in the parish was of good report and fit to be an example;
his gratitude rising to boundless devotion on perceiving that in word
and deed the honest pope was bent on sharing his burden--yet he could
not always understand his friend.

The pope, to give an instance, might endeavour to correct some black
sheep by saying: "You are not a bad man on the whole, it's just the
drink which is ruining you; it were a great thing if you could overcome
that failing!" At which Taras would think that this was an untruth,
because the man was bad in other respects besides the drink; that the
pope was quite aware of this, and how could it be right to depart from
the full truth, even with a good object in view? Or, if Father Leo
endeavoured to arbitrate between two quarrelling parishioners, he would
tell them: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the
children of God!" endeavouring to bring about a compromise even if the
one, whether erroneously or feloniously, had been coveting the other's
property; but can it be right, thought Taras, to connive even in part
at a wrongful intention for the love of peace? And if the pope was
anxious to obtain some benefit for the people, he would not only listen
patiently to the richest self-praise of the miserable mandatar, but
might even enhance it by some word of his own; yet, shall a man fawn on
an evildoer for the sake of mercy? These questions occupied the judge
seriously, and one day, when they had been at the mandatar's together,
he could not but unburden his heart to his friend.

The pope smiled, saying: "It is written, Be ye therefore wise as
serpents."

"Yes," cried Taras, "and harmless as doves!"

"Certainly," returned the pope. "It would be wrong to meet any one with
the serpent's wisdom in order to overreach him. I never do that, and to
the best of my knowledge I strive to advance the good and to fight what
is evil. But since I have to do with sinful men and not with angels, I
must be content very often to fight with human weapons."

Taras shook his head. "How could deception ever be right in order to
further a good cause?" he exclaimed.

"Nor is it," returned the pope. "But if I can keep back the wicked man
from further wickedness by speaking civilly to him, and not
contemptuously, I am not wronging nor deceiving him, but on the
contrary doing well by him."

The judge walked on in silence, saying at last, gently but firmly, "I
cannot see this; deception can never be right. I do not understand
you."

At which the pope might look up at the towering figure by his side,
saying tenderly within himself, "He is simple as a child!" But what
shadows even then were overlying Taras's soul not even Leo could know,
though a strange fear at times stole over him that this soul, so
childlike and so pure, was undergoing a conflict with the powers of
evil, and was being worsted. There were outward signs of such battling:
Taras hardly ever now smiled; he would sit for hours in moody silence,
with a stony look in his eyes, and his healthy countenance was being
marred by the furrows of anxious care. Anusia, too, would come to the
manse with her trouble, saying sorrowfully, "He hardly sleeps now, for
day and night this worry is upon him, making an old man of him before
his time."

"But what is it?" said the pope; "I am at a loss to know."

"Why, what should it be but this cursed lawsuit," sobbed the passionate
woman, clenching her fists. "Would I could strangle the mandatar and
all the tribe of lawyers along with him!"

The pope rebuked her, nor did her explanation satisfy him. "It cannot
be the lawsuit that so weighs on him," he said; "for he speaks about it
calmly, hoping for a favourable verdict from the court of appeal. I do
not see what can thus oppress him, unless it be his troubled relations
both with the mandatar and with the people, which are improving daily
though, for I am doing my best to heal the breach," he added, with some
complacency.

The honest man had not the faintest idea that, however successful he
might be, he was only lessening his friend's outward burden, that which
lay on his shoulders so to speak, and which he had strength enough to
bear, whereas there was a burden crushing his heart and leaving him
utterly helpless in his silent despair; for Taras kept his deep trouble
hidden even from the eyes of the priest, his spiritual guide, feeling,
perhaps, that the fundamental difference of their natures must keep
them apart on the soul's deepest issues. "I should only sadden him," he
said, "and make him angry; but I could never convince him, nor could he
talk me out of it. No one could, for the matter of that, not the
Almighty Himself, I fear; for if He can look on quietly when wrong is
being done here below, I do not see that even He could do away with the
consequences!"

Matters had come to an ill pass with Taras even then. He had grown calm
outwardly, but the fearful thought which had overpowered him so utterly
on his first learning that the court's decision had gone against the
parish had not left him. If it was not added to in these months of
weary waiting, while the verdict was being reconsidered, neither did it
lessen. And as he went on with his duties day after day, waiting for an
answer from the court of appeal, he was like some traveller traversing
an endless desert beneath an angry sky. The air is heavy, and the
thunderous clouds sink lower, he hastening onward through the
friendless waste; onward, though the storm will break and the flashes
of heaven are charged with death. No shelter for him anywhere; on, on,
he hastens, though his doom await him--no hope, unless a strong wind
from the healthy east be sent to drive the dark clouds asunder ... But
how should he hope for such kindly blast while the hot air is heavy
about him, and cloud draws cloud athwart the heavens? He can but bear
up and continue, a weary traveller, utterly hopeless, and conscious of
great trouble ahead!



                              CHAPTER VI.

                         APPEALING UNTO CÆSAR.


Autumn had come; again the season was cold and gloomy. Taras had waited
patiently, but he had not the courage to face the long, dull twilight
of winter if he must pass it nursing the one desperate thought. So he
went to the pope and begged him to indite an inquiry to the lawyer.

Father Leo looked him in the face anxiously. The man appeared calm.
"You are thinking too much of the law-suit!" he said, nevertheless.

"Not more than need be," replied Taras. "I have long settled in my mind
all concerning that question."

The pope wrote the desired letter. The reply came at the end of a week.
He had done what he could, said the lawyer, to urge the case forward,
praying especially for a re-examination of the witnesses; but he had
received no answer so far.

Taras heaved a sigh when the pope had communicated this letter to him.
"It will go hard with me in the winter," he said sadly.

But the pope could not know the full import of these words. "You have
done your duty," he said, "and that will comfort you."

"There is no comfort in that," said Taras, "though it may help one to
be strong. A man who has laid his hand on the plough of any duty must
go on till the work is done."

The winter proved hard, indeed, for the waiting man, but the heavier
the burden weighed on his soul the more anxious he seemed to hide it.

"He has ceased groaning as he used to do," Anusia said to her friend,
the warm-hearted, fat little popadja; "and he seems to take pleasure in
a pastime, rather unusual with him; he has become a hunter for
hunting's sake."

Taras, in that winter, would be absent for weeks at a time, pursuing
the bear. But his three companions, who were devotedly attached to
him--Hritzko and Giorgi Pomenko, the two sons of his friend Simeon, and
the young man, Wassilj Soklewicz, whose brother had been shot on the
contested field--could tell little of the judge's cheer. "He is even
more silent in the forest than at home," they said; "and if he takes
any delight in the hunt it is only because he is such a good shot. He
cares nothing for the happy freedom of life up yonder, nothing for the
excitement of driving the bear; but his face will always light up when
he has well-lodged his bullet."

The winter was not yet over, and Taras was again absent hunting, when
one day--it was in March, 1838--the pope received a large letter from
the district town. The lawyer had addressed the decision of the upper
court to him, giving as his reason that he had understood from Father
Leo's inquiry in the autumn, that he also sympathised with the judge,
Barabola. "I pray you, reverend sir," wrote the lawyer, "to make known
to him the enclosed verdict as best you can; for I am afraid the poor
man will be crushed and not easily lift up his head again. The legal
means are exhausted, the lawyer can do nothing more; let the pastor,
then, come in and heal the wound."

The good pope was troubled, his apprehension nowise lessening on
hearing how the first verdict had overpowered his friend. "Poor man,"
he said; "poor dear child! how will he take it?"

With not a little trepidation, therefore, he went to see Taras upon his
return from the mountains, endeavouring to prepare him for the bad news
by a rather lengthy and well-considered speech. Taras however, behaved
otherwise than the pope had anticipated. He grew white, and the deep
furrow between his brows appeared more threatening, but his voice was
firm as he asked, "Then the upper court has upheld the first verdict?"

"Yes," said Father Leo, gently. "But you must not take it too much to
heart, you have tried honestly."

"Let me know what they say," interrupted Taras, as calm as before, but
it might have been noticed that he leant heavily on the table beside
which he was standing.

The pope produced the writ, reading and explaining. The court dismissed
the appeal, seeing no reason why the trial should be repeated, it being
fully evident that the former examination had satisfied the demands of
justice. The lower court's verdict, therefore, must be upheld.

Taras had listened to the end with the same rigid mien. "Thank you," he
said, when Father Leo had done. "But now leave me alone. You too,
Anusia; I must think it over."

"What use in farther troubling?" demurred the pope. "Dr. Starkowski
says especially that the legal means are exhausted; which means that
there is nothing further to be done. You must submit to the will of
God."

"We will come back to that presently," said Taras, with a ghastly
smile, which quite frightened the pope. "You shall not be cheated out
of your sermon, but not now ... not now!" He repeated the words almost
passionately.

Father Leo still hesitated; but Anusia interfered. She had been sitting
in a corner, weeping; but now she rose. "Stay, pope," she entreated,
taking hold of Taras's hand. "Husband," she cried, shrilly, "fly into
whatever rage you like, thrash the rascal at the manor house till he
cannot move a limb, if it will ease you; but do not hide your wrath
within yourself. Do not look so stony; it kills me, husband. I am
maddened with fear! I know why you would have us leave you--you are
going to lay hands on yourself!"

"No!" cried Taras, solemnly. "God knows, I have no such thought." But
again the smile played about his mouth. "Be at peace, wife," he added;
"I have never stood in more grievous need of health and life than now.
Leave me."

They saw they must obey, but they remained standing outside the closed
door, listening anxiously. They hoped the terrible tension of his heart
might be lessened now by the pouring forth of his sorrow, but they
heard nothing save his measured step. It ceased at length, and all was
still.

"Come!" said the poor wife, dragging the pope to a small window which
gave them a peep into the room. They saw Taras, sitting still, resting
his elbows on his knees, and his face buried in his hands. He sat
motionless.

"We had better leave him to fight it out," said Father Leo, "his is a
strong heart, and he will get over it."

But Anusia could not conquer her fears. "I must watch him," she moaned,
the hot tears trickling down her face. "It is more than you think! Why,
he is like a child at other times, never hiding the thoughts that move
him; and now he cannot even speak to me or you!"

The pope endeavoured to comfort her, but it was ill trying when he was
anxious enough himself. He left her presently to visit a sick
parishioner who was waiting for him, returning in about an hour.

Anusia had not stirred from the little window. "He only moved once,"
she whispered, hoarsely, "and it was awful to behold. I watched him,
hardly daring to breathe, and saw him rise slowly and lift the fingers
of his right hand to heaven. His face was stony, never a muscle he
moved, but his eyes could not hold back the tears, and they ran heavily
down his death-like cheeks--ah, Father Leo, it must have been an awful
oath he swore to himself--and now he sits rigid as before, staring
hopelessly."

"That won't do," murmured the pope, opening the door rather noisily and
entering. He was resolved not to leave the room again, even if Taras
should dismiss him peremptorily. But there was no fear of that.

The judge rose, and met him quietly, almost serenely. "You are right,
Father Leo," he said, "it is no use to keep on troubling! I have
well-nigh worn out my brains, and am not a bit further than before!...
There is just one thing though I want to know: you told me the lawyer
had written that all the legal means were now exhausted--are you sure?
are these his very words?"

"Yes; it is quite plain."

"But I am not certain. For I remember that our own judge, at Ridowa,
when I was a boy, had a protracted law-suit with a cousin of his about
some will that was questioned. The district court decided in his
favour; but the cousin appealed, and the court at Lemberg was on his
side. The judge thereupon took the case to a supreme court at Vienna,
and there he obtained his right. So you see there must be judges at
Vienna, who are over the court at Lemberg."

"Taras," cried Anusia, "surely you are not thinking of going to law at
Vienna? Whoever could pay the costs?"

"Wife," he said solemnly, "if you knew what is at stake, you would ask
me on your knees to plead the cause at Vienna if we were beggars ever
after. However, I must first find out about it. Not that I doubt Dr.
Starkowski, for he is honest, and will have written nothing but the
truth; but I must have it from his own lips."

He was not able to set out for Colomea on the spot, having to arrange
with the mandatar first concerning the spring labour due by the
peasantry. And matters were not so easily settled as in the autumn, for
Mr. Hajek was relieved of his fears as to a possible re-examination of
witnesses, and showed his true colours. He would no longer heed Father
Leo's suggestions, but set him aside as a meddling priest who had
better not poke into mundane concerns. It was, therefore, not without
much yielding to unfair demands that Taras could come to an
understanding with the rapacious steward, after which he was free to
depart on his journey, carrying with him in a leather belt all the
ready money in his possession--the silver thalers and golden ducats he
had inherited of old Iwan, or gained by his own industry.

On his entering the lawyer's office, the enlightened Stupka no longer
took alarm; but all the more frightened was the kind-hearted attorney
himself.

"Why, man!" he cried, aghast, "you look ten years older than when last
I saw you. Is it the lawsuit which so worries you? You must not give
way like that. Remember that you have a wife and children, and not only
a parish, to live for."

"It was an evil year," said Taras; "but I have not come to make
complaints to you, sir, but only to settle two points. Firstly, what is
it I owe you?"

The lawyer brought down his ledger and named the sum--close upon two
hundred and fifty florins. "We have to bear the costs, you see," he
said in excuse.

"Never mind," said Taras, undoing his belt and counting out the money.
"Now for the second point. You have written to our Father Leo that
nothing more can be done. But are there not higher judges at Vienna?"

"Not for this matter," returned Starkowski; "there certainly is a high
court of justice at Vienna, but cases can only be taken thither when
the district court and the provincial court of appeal have differed in
their verdicts!"

"That is bad," said Taras. "But you spoke to me of another way last
year--a prosecution for perjury."

"Yes, but I did not advise it, and would not advise it now," cried the
lawyer, eagerly. "Can you not see that none of these witnesses will own
to being perjured, and you will hardly succeed in bringing the crime
home to them--for where is your evidence? And even if you had evidence,
in the case of some who may have betrayed themselves by their own
foolish talk, and could get them convicted, you will hardly escape
going to prison with them. For those whom you failed to convict would
be all the more spiteful, and would have you up for libel. And for what
good in the end?--the field would remain Count Borecki's after all!"

"It is not that I am thinking of now," replied Taras. "I do not seek
restitution, but simply the right." It was evident that he strove hard
to speak calmly. But when he opened his mouth again the words fell
stammeringly from his lips: "You tell me, then--there is--no help
left--none?"

"None whatever," said the lawyer, "unless the Emperor----"

"The Emperor!" interrupted the peasant, almost with a shriek. And
exultation broke from his eyes; he stood erect, transformed in every
feature as by magic. So sudden was the change, from dire despair to
uplifting hope, that he staggered and reeled as under a blow. "The
Emperor!" he repeated, exultingly.

"Well, yes--but in fact--you see, the Emperor----" said the lawyer,
taken aback.

But Taras paid no attention. "Oh, sir," he cried, and was not ashamed
of the tears that flowed down his face, "what a fool I have been!
People looking to me, and calling me their judge, and I never thinking
of this! And how I racked my poor brain, and suffered, and strove with
the awful future, and all for nothing! Why, of course, there is the
Emperor; but I only thought of him while there was happiness; and when
trouble came and the clouds hid the light of heaven, I forgot that the
sun is behind them. I was even angry not to see it shining, and was
wroth with the Emperor, because the men of the law, who are but his
servants, could not help me! But I know better now. I know the Emperor
will make it all right, let him but hear of it--why, it is his very
duty, laid upon him by God himself! His servants may go wrong, but he
will see the truth; they may judge ill, but he will be righteous, being
above them all.... Ah, sir, forgive my being thus beside myself and
weeping like a child! But if you knew what thoughts went through me but
a moment ago, when you told me there was no farther help!... But, thank
God, you have remembered the Emperor, while yet it was time--while yet
it was time! For even a week hence, if I had gone away in my
hopelessness, it might have been too late!"

"Too late!" repeated the lawyer, astonished. "What do you mean?"

"Ah! do not ask me, sir," cried Taras, brushing the tears from his
face. "I would rather forget all about it; it was a nightmare, an evil
dream. How foolish of me! The very darkest plans I could think of, but
never of this simple help, as simple as prayer itself. For who are our
helpers in this life but God and the Emperor? God paramount and hearing
our cry, but not reaching down with His own arm from heaven in every
instance, because He has appointed the crowned one in His stead, who is
to judge men and rule them in His name. But the Emperor is not
omniscient, like God. One must go to him and tell him one's trouble,
which I shall do now. And for his understanding me the better, I will
ask you, sir, to put it into writing, that he may have it all down on
paper what I have to tell him."

Thus sobbed and talked the peasant, running on, positively beside
himself, as though heaven had opened with a great vision of help; and,
fall of gratitude, he seized the lawyer's hand, bowing low to kiss it.
But Starkowski drew back hastily, stepping to the window. He was
startled, and almost dismayed. His mentioning the Emperor had been
rather accidental, and he could never have dreamt of thus rousing the
man. He felt morally certain that it would be quite useless to petition
the Emperor, not that _he_ doubted that the peasants really had been
wronged in the suit. But how was the Emperor to see this, in the face
of two verdicts? Every groat the judge would spend on that errand,
every effort and particle of time, would be just thrown away. "It must
not be," he said to himself. "I must get him to see it." But then the
thought would rise whether it were not a wicked thing to destroy the
poor man's hope--his last hope, to which he clung so pitifully. He
remembered the words Taras had spoken a year ago, and these were
strange hints which had fallen from his lips just now. Yet the lawyer
had not an idea what awful resolve had ripened in the despairing soul
of this man; he only perceived that he would leave no means untried, no
violence even, to get back the field the parish had been robbed of--and
this was bad enough to be prevented, if possible.

He believed he saw a way out of the difficulty. "Well, then, Taras," he
said, "we will try the Emperor. I will draw up a memorial for you, and
we can send it to Vienna. You, meanwhile, go quietly back to your
people. There is no need to leave your family and your farm and your
public duties on that account. The Emperor will see what it is all
about from the document; there is no need to plead in person." At any
rate, we shall thus gain time, the good man was hoping; he will calm
down meanwhile, and will be able to bear his disappointment when it
does come, perhaps a year hence.

But in laying this pretty plan, he had not considered the man he had to
do with.

"No," replied Taras, with his own inflexible firmness. "I will gladly
take your advice, but not on this point. My whole future is at stake,
and the welfare of my wife and children. How could I trust to a happy
chance? I shall go to Vienna myself, to see the Emperor and present the
petition."

"Do stop to consider!" urged the lawyer. "And what chance is it you are
talking of? I shall forward the memorial by post safely, and shall get
it presented by a trustworthy man--a friend of mine----"

"Why, this is a whole string of chances," interrupted Taras. "The
letter may be lost, or tampered with--one has heard of postbags being
robbed. And your friend may fall ill, or die, before he can do what you
request. But even if he were able to do it, and had the best of
intentions, how should he speak for me, as I would myself? He would say
a pleasant word, perhaps, thinking of you, his friend, or because he is
in the presence of the Emperor; but he cannot possibly be anxious about
_my_ case. I must speak for myself!"

"But how should the Emperor understand you, not knowing a word of the
Ruthenese?" inquired the lawyer, a little exasperated.

"Now, that can never be true!" cried Taras. "That is, I beg your
pardon, some one must have told you a tale. It stands to reason that
the Emperor can speak our language. Is he not the father of all his
subjects, and are not we of them? And you would have me believe a
father will not understand his children? No, no; that can never be! It
is settled, then, that I shall go to Vienna, and I beg you to write out
the petition for me; I will call for it this day week. I shall hardly
get away before that, for I must set things in order before I leave."

There was no dissuading him. He returned to Zulawce, and neither his
wife's entreaties nor the pope's remonstrance made the slightest
impression on him. They both felt grateful on perceiving that a change
had taken place in him; but both were equally set against his
intention, though for different reasons. Anusia, for her part, did not
doubt the likelihood of the Emperor's effective interference; but a
journey to the far-off capital appeared to her as dangerous and
venturesome as an expedition to the moon.

"Who can tell what might not happen on the road?" she said to the
popadja, into whose sympathetic ear she poured her fears. "He may fall
among thieves; or he may starve in some wilderness; or sorcerers may
catch him with their wicked spells, and I shall never see him again.
And even if he were likely to get through all these dangers, how is a
man to find his way on _such_ a journey and not be lost?"

Father Leo's apprehensions were not quite so desperate, although even
he considered the journey a venture; but his chief fear was this--that
it would be useless.

"The Emperor cannot possibly come back with you in person," he argued
with his friend; "and how is he to know, without personal inspection,
where the black cross stood these years ago? He can only inquire of the
local authorities, our friends at Colomea; and how should they tell him
anything different from what they have already decided? They must stick
to the verdict to escape censure, if for no other reason."

But Taras had an answer to every objection. To his wife he said, "It is
not the sorcerers you fear, but the sorceresses." And to Father Leo he
said, "You know most things better than we do, no doubt; but even you
have had no experience with emperors." It was plain he was bent on
going.

The following Sunday he called a meeting of the men. "My own farm," he
said, "I have entrusted to the care of my friend Simeon. He has offered
to act as my representative also in parish affairs. But I cannot accept
that; the parish must not be without a judge for so many weeks, perhaps
months. I therefore resign my office, but I advise you to choose him in
my place."

His friends opposed him, none more eagerly than Simeon himself. But
Taras was not to be moved, and since his enemies failed not to second
him, the resolution was carried, Simeon being chosen by a majority of
votes. He accepted the office, declaring that he would hold it until
his friend returned.

A few days later Taras again stood in Starkowski's chambers. The lawyer
gave him the memorial to the Emperor, and a private letter addressed to
a friend of his. "Go by this man's advice in everything," he said; "he
is a man of high standing at Vienna, and will counsel you well, being
himself of this country."

"Very well," said Taras; "I will do as you wish me; otherwise I should
have gone straight to the Emperor's. No doubt every child at Vienna
could show me his house."

"But you don't expect the children at Vienna to understand your
Ruthenese!" cried the lawyer; adding, with a sigh, "God knows what will
become of you!"

"I have no fear," said Taras, solemnly. "How should a man fail to gain
his end who tries to do what is right?"



                              CHAPTER VII.

                     PUT NOT YOUR TRUST IN PRINCES.


This had happened early in April. Taras had taken leave of his wife
with the promise of letting her hear as often as possible, and he kept
his word faithfully during the first stages of his absence. As early as
the third week a letter arrived, dated from Lemberg, and written for
Taras by a fellow-villager, a certain Constantino Turenko, who, as a
soldier, had had the rare luck, in the estimation of the Zulawce folk,
of rising to the dignity of a corporal. "Since my friend Taras is
unable to send you a letter of his own contriving," this military
genius wrote, "and since I am as clever at it as the colonel of the
regiment himself, I send you word that he hopes you are well, as this
leaves him at present. I have shown him all over the place; he never
saw such a town in his life. You had better tell my people and Kasia,
who used to be sweet on me, that they may expect me home in the summer
on furlough. I shall bring my regimentals--won't they just be proud of
me! Everybody says I am a fine soldier." Poor Anusia was thankful for
even that much of news of her husband. In May another letter arrived
from Cracow, indited by a musical hero of some church choir, also
stating that Taras was well, but adding he was running short of money,
and that he desired a remittance under his, the singer's, address.
Father Leo, however, knew better than to carry out this injunction. It
was the last news of the absent traveller which reached the village.

They waited, but the summer came and not a word of Taras. "It is a long
day's journey to Vienna," the pope would say to Anusia, "and he might
not easily come across a man there who understands the Ruthenese, and
is not too grand to write a letter for him, so we must not be anxious."

But when even the harvest was over without bringing a sign of life,
Father Leo himself grew uneasy, and was less confident in calming
Anusia. And the poor thing, besides her waking fears, was harassed by
nightly dreams of the most vivid apprehension, the least appalling of
her visions being those in which she beheld her Taras captivated by
some pretty Hungarian, but alive at least; but more often she would see
him dragging along the weary roads utterly starving, and sometimes her
dreams showed him dead in a ditch. With these tales of woe she came to
the manse almost daily, and Father Leo did his best to console her. The
pretty Hungarian he found it easiest to dispose of, assuring the
distracted wife that Taras's way did not lead him through Hungary at
all; and, as for the starving, he believed it unlikely, considering the
two hundred florins the traveller had taken with him, but death
certainly was a contingency against which no hapless mortal was proof.
And when this latter vision mournfully overbore the previous ones, the
poor woman lost all her youthful energy, fading away with her grief,
and Father Leo, for very pity of her, wrote to Dr. Starkowski,
imploring him to procure some news. The good-natured man readily
promised to make inquiries at Vienna, but week after week passed and
nothing was heard, nor did the lost one himself return.

It was autumn, the first frost was felt, and it was Saint Simon and
Saint Jude's. Everywhere within sight of the stern mountains the people
look upon this day as the herald of winter; the women see to their
larders, and the men assemble to fix each household's share of firewood
from the common forest. This being done, Simeon, the new judge, had
gone to the manse to arrange with Father Leo concerning the pope's due.
That was soon settled, but the two men continued in mournful
conversation, and Father Leo scarcely had the heart to dissent from the
judge's doleful remark that the miserable field had cost the village
not only one of its stalwart youths, but another and more precious life
as well, inasmuch as it seemed beyond a doubt that poor Taras had
perished. Sympathy with his fate thus kept them talking, the dusk of
evening descending with its own stillness, broken at times by the
wailings of Anusia, who once again had come with her troubles to the
kind-hearted popadja.

There was a knock at the outer door, and almost simultaneously they
heard the poor wife's shriek--: "Taras!" They flew from the room.

It was a mystery how Anusia had recognised her husband without seeing
him or hearing his voice, or even his footfall; but it was himself.
"Are you quite well?" he cried, as he caught her to his heart. "I have
seen the children already!"

The friends fell back reverently to leave the husband and wife to each
other; but then they also pressed round him to shake hands joyfully,
and the popadja hastened to light her lamp. But when Taras entered the
lighted apartment a heartrending shriek broke from Anusia, and the
friends also stood horrified. Poor Taras looked sadly worn--old and
grey, and life's hope, as it were, crashed out of him. His powerful
frame was emaciated; the sunny hair showed colourless streaks; the
furrow between the brows had grown deeper still, and the eyes looked
hollow in the haggard face.

"You bring ill news, brother!" cried Simeon, aghast.

"Ill news!" repeated Taras. He endeavoured to smile, but failed sadly;
and when the tears sprang to every eye about him, he, too, sat down and
let his own trouble flow unhindered.

"My poor, dear darling!" sobbed Anusia, covering his head with her
kisses and her tears--"come back to us a grey-haired man!"

But her grief helped Taras to recover himself, and now he did smile. He
drew down his wife beside him, stroking her own brown hair gently. "Is
not that like a woman," he said, striving to appear light-hearted, "to
make a fuss because the man she wedded must turn grey in his time! The
glory of youth is treacherous, my dear!... But tell me about yourselves
now, and about the village."

"Tell us about _yourself_," they cried. "We have died with anxiety
these months past. Where have you been all this time?"

"It was not possible to come back sooner," said he. "It is a long
journey to Vienna, and I had to wait many a day before I could see
him----"

"The Emperor! Did you actually speak to him?"

"Well--yes--after a fashion! They call it having an audience," said he,
with a strangely gloomy smile. "And I would not come away without an
answer...."

"Have you got it then? The Emperor's own answer?"

"No; but I know what it is going to be.... However, let us wait and
see. I want to know how you have been getting on--and what about friend
Hajek?"

"He is not over-anxious to show himself," said Simeon, making haste to
add: "I am sure you will see that your farm meanwhile has done well.
Your live stock is in the best condition, and the harvest was most
plentiful. Your granaries are well filled, and I have eighty florins to
give you for corn sold, and thirty for oats. But do tell us; did not
the Emperor promise to see to the matter?"

"Promise!" said Taras bitterly, "to be sure he did!... But excuse me,"
he added, turning to the popadja, "I am quite faint with hunger. I was
so anxious to reach home, that I put up nowhere today."

The little woman blushed, and ran to produce an enormous ham, with no
end of excuses for her negligence; and, trotting to and fro, she set on
the table whatever of hidden treasures her larder contained. But her
hospitable intent was ill-requited; Taras swallowed a few mouthfuls,
drank a glass of the pope's Moldavian, and then pushed from him the
plate which the kind hostess had filled for him in her zeal.

"Why, you have not eaten enough for a sparrow," expostulated the
popadja. "Do eat, judge--" correcting herself--"Taras!" But, again
blushing, she added: "Why should I not call you 'judge,' for I daresay
you will resume office pretty soon."

"No!" he said sharply. "I shall not, and never will"

"Of course you will," interrupted Simeon, eagerly. "You know I only
accepted during your absence. I could never be to the village what you
have been, and no one else could!"

"I shall _not_!" repeated Taras solemnly, lifting his right hand; "God
knows I cannot!"

They looked at him surprised; there was something in his tone which
startled his friends. But Anusia cried joyfully: "I am glad of it,
husband. We will live for ourselves now, and be happy again. You must
make haste to get back your own bright looks. You shall go hunting this
winter as often as you like, it will do you good!"

"Yes," he said; "it will be well," adding, after a while, "and most
necessary--most necessary!"

"How so?" inquired the pope; "there cannot be many bears this winter,
considering how you hunted them down last season."

Taras had opened his lips, but closed them again sharply, as though he
must keep in the word that might have escaped him. And there was one of
those sudden pauses of silence, burdened with unspoken thought.

The popadja broke it. "Now tell us all about the journey," she said. "I
am sure we are all curious as to your adventures. Tell us about the
Emperor--does he really live in a house made of gold?"

"I am afraid I shall have to disappoint you," replied Taras, with a
smile. "His house is of brick and stone, and he himself a poor, sickly
creature. And, indeed, I had no very wonderful adventures--I did not
even fall in with a single sorceress, Anusia, but that may have been
because I did not look for any, having eyes and ears for nothing beyond
the one aim of my journey. I had no peace or rest anywhere, and would
have liked to take post-horses, but could not afford it. So I looked
out for coaches and waggons going that way, and took to my own feet
when opportunity was wanting. It is slow travelling, either way, but I
fell in with other travellers, who told me their troubles, as I told
them mine. It is passing strange: the earth seems fair enough, but I
have not met a single being who told me he was happy. Men seem to carry
their burden everywhere, some more of it, some less, but there is none
without sorrow; one finds that out if one goes a-travelling, folks
talking to you as to a brother. And I must say, most of those I fell in
with approved of my journey, one man only endeavouring to dissuade me.
I had better go home again, he said. He was a Jewish wine trader from
Czernowitz, who gave me a lift as far as Lemberg. He was most friendly,
and would not hear of my paying him; he listened to my story, full of
sympathy, but he thought going to Vienna was quite useless. 'There
might be some hope,' he said, 'if these were the days of the good
Emperor Joseph.' I, however, was not to be frightened from my purpose.
'It is not as though I wanted to petition for a favour,' I said; 'if I
did I could understand that much depended on the kind of emperor we
have. But I am not going to plead for anything save our right, and that
he surely will grant, because it is his duty. A man must see his own
duty, be he emperor or peasant.' He was silent after that, and we
reached Lemberg."

"There, anyhow, you fell in with a happy individual," said the pope,
interrupting him. "You met Constantino Turenko! I, at least, never knew
a man to equal him in self-satisfaction."

Taras could not help laughing. "And yet he was not quite happy," he
said, "since I found him sorely distressed for money. I had to lend him
a florin. Is he here?"

"To be sure!" cried Anusia; "what a braggart he is! Why, he assured me
how handsomely he stood treat for you at all the best inns of Lemberg.
Of course I did not believe him, but the villagers somehow take his
every word for gospel truth. He is quite a hero here, basking in his
own glory. You should hear him--'I, a corporal of the Imperial army!
Bassama!'"--she endeavoured to imitate the man. "He is a braggart!"

"Yes, his tongue wagged plentifully in my hearing also," said Taras,
"especially after he had borrowed my florin! But I was glad,
nevertheless, to come across him. It was the first large town I had
seen, and I felt lost. You have no idea of such a town, and yet Lemberg
is nothing compared to Vienna! He would have liked to detain me; but
having rested a day, I proceeded towards Cracow. It was cheerless
travelling now, for I could not understand the people any longer--at
least not freely; the folk there have a queer way of talking, a kind of
lisping it seemed to me, which does not come from the heart at all. I
was silent and grew sad, feeling doubly pleased, therefore, in coming
across a fellow-countryman, a 'diak'[3] from somewhere near Czortkow,
who had run away from his wife because she boxed his ears rather too
freely. That is what he told me. He was a mite of a fellow, and
informed me he would like to seek his fortune in Russia, if only he
could get a little money; but I found presently he was telling me
stories, and would do no more than frank him as far as Cracow. That
city is not Austrian at all, the Poles there having a little free state
of their own. It was a marvel to me how a number of men could live
together owning no emperor as the head of all justice; but I have come
to see now----" He interrupted himself, again pressing together his
lips to keep in the word he would have spoken, and continuing after a
pause:--"I was going to say, it is sad to be in a strange country; and
hungering for a companion I could understand, I took the little
story-teller with me as far as Cracow where I dismissed him."

"How clever of you to see through him," cried Anusia, proud of her
husband's penetration. And she told him of the man's letter.

"The little rascal!" said Taras. "But, indeed, my two hundred florins
were not such a fortune as you would have believed. Things grew
enormously expensive, and there was other trouble besides. I was
thankful at seeing again the black and yellow posts by the road--the
Austrian colours. It was a poor enough country, on the Polish frontier;
but if the people there were to work their hands as they work their
talkative jaws, I have no doubt it might be better. I got to richer
districts presently; but matters did not therefore improve. I was among
the Moravians now, and to hear them speak sounded like a continuous
quarrelling, till I perceived that their language still had some words
like our own, especially such as bread, meat, and wine, things
referring to eating, and the figures also--which was well. It was when
I came among the Germans that my heart failed me. A fine people, no
doubt, with villages more flourishing than our towns, and fields and
farms to rejoice a man's soul; but what a language! Understanding was
hopeless. I was driven to signs, moving my jaws when I was hungry and
lapping with my tongue when I wanted to drink. But when I would have
liked bread they brought me salad, and when I longed for a glass of
water they offered me wine. However, I bore it all, anxious only to get
along. Towards the end of my journey I fell in with a good-natured
waggoner, who was carrying woollen cloths to Vienna, and he gave me a
seat. He was a most kindly old man, to judge from his pleasant face;
and I think he took a fancy to me, for he kept smiling and nodding as
he walked by the side of his horses, I nodding back to him from my seat
between the bales. By and by he climbed up beside me; but then we
thought it a poor business to be nodding only, and began to talk, he in
his language and I in mine, exchanging some of our tobacco between
whiles in token of mutual regard. I wished sorely I could understand
what he was saying. It seems hard that God should have made men with
different tongues, to add to their troubles, when their life on earth
is sad enough without it!"

"Why, it is the Tower of Babel which brought it on, don't you know?"
broke in the popadja, blushing violently at her presumption.

Taras continued: "I was taken along by this good man for two days--slow
travelling, for the waggon was heavily loaded. On the third morning he
resumed his smiling and nodding more vigorously than ever, pointing
with his whip in front of him, and saying, 'Vienna, Vienna!' I
understood, of course, and my heart leapt within me! but I could see
nothing as yet except a thick grey haze in the distance, and behind it
a ridge of clouds, with domes and peaks sharply defined. I thought
it strange, for the air was clear and cool, there having been a
thunder-storm in the night. But as we went on, hour after hour, and the
cloudy picture continued unaltered, I perceived my error. It was not
clouds, but a range of mountains on the horizon. And that haze, as I
discovered by and by, was nothing but the dust and vapour for ever
rising heavenward from a gigantic city, like the hot breath of a
monstrous dragon."

The women gasped and crossed themselves.

"The waggoner hurried on his horses a bit, and kept repeating 'Vienna!
Vienna!' getting me to understand by all sorts of dumb show that he had
his wife and children there--happy man! I thought of you all, and my
heart sank within me at the sight of the great city where no one would
understand me. But I repressed these feelings and began to look about.
We were crossing a splendid stone bridge, long and wide, beneath which
the river was rolling its yellow waves--that was the Danube. Beyond the
bridge rose the first houses. They were cheerful to look at, not larger
than what we can see at Colomea, with pleasant gardens round about; but
I knew we were in the suburbs only. 'I shall soon see the real town,' I
thought, 'with the market place: and on it, I daresay, the Emperor's
house.' But minutes passed, and an hour had gone, and we were still
driving along an interminable street with little gardens on either
side, one like the other, though getting fewer, I observed, as we
proceeded, while the number of human beings and of vehicles increased
steadily. It was a crowd as at Lemberg on market days, and there was a
roar in the distance which rather puzzled me, growing louder and louder
as we advanced. There were no more gardens now, and the houses were
larger, some towering three, even four storeys high, with windows
innumerable. I was utterly bewildered to think of all the human beings
that must dwell there; and the street appeared endless, men and women
jostling each other between the vehicles. And I saw that other streets
opened out of this main thoroughfare, with horses and men and
conveyances past counting. I clutched the bales between which I was
sitting, utterly overpowered with the sight...."

"Ah," said Anusia, sympathetically.

"That street must be miles long; but we were through it at last, and
there the city seemed at an end, and, not a little surprised, I saw
large tracts of grass all around. At some distance I beheld a rampart,
and behind it another city of houses, shining steeples, and a gigantic
cupola. The crowd about us increased astonishingly, heaving in and out
of the gates. It was a riddle to me, for had we not been driving
through the city all along? I looked at my companion and he pointed
ahead, saying 'Vienna!' 'Dear me,' I thought, 'then I have only come
through a suburb as yet; what, then, will the town be like?' By that
rampart they levy custom, and even victuals are taxed! I could not
think what those green-coats were after in diving into my wallet, but
they found only a loaf of bread and a piece of cheese, which they put
back, laughing.

"I felt more and more bewildered, and do not know how to describe to
you my sensation on entering that city; it was like venturing into a
bee-hive. Yet this will scarcely give you an idea. Imagine how it would
be if all the needles in the fir-wood up yonder were suddenly changed
into human beings, whirling about madly like flakes in a snowstorm!
Fancy if all the trees and shrubs were towering houses, closely packed,
so that a ray of sunlight could scarcely get through! or how it would
be if a thunder-storm were fixed for ever in the heavens above us, the
booming commotion never ceasing, day and night!... But I am a fool for
trying to show you by word of mouth what Vienna is like; how should you
conceive it who have never been there! And I cannot tell you how
utterly forlorn I felt. It must have been written on my face, for the
honest waggoner took hold of my hand, asking me a question. From his
kindly look I seemed to understand that he inquired whether I felt ill,
so I shook my head and smiled. But evidently this was not the answer he
wanted; he kept repeating his question, and pointed to the houses, and
at last he rested his head on my shoulder, closing his eyes and drawing
his breath slowly. Then I perceived that he wanted to find out where I
intended to put up for the night. The thought had actually escaped me
in my great bewilderment. Before I knew what Vienna was, I had believed
the matter to be quite simple, intending to look for that Mr. Broza,
Dr. Starkowski's friend, to whom I had an introduction, and no doubt he
would take charge of me. But somehow I understood now that I could not
well be carried all over the city in a great waggon full of bales; and
as for setting out to seek the gentleman on foot by myself, I did not
think that I should ever have the courage. So I shrugged my shoulders,
making eyes of entreaty at my companion. He appeared to understand that
I was friendless, and, having recourse to a dumb show of working his
jaws, he brought home the question to me whether I desired to be taken
to an eating-house. I assented, and, turning from the main
thoroughfare, he drove up some quieter streets, stopping at last before
an unpretentious building, which had a signboard, and on it a tree with
bright green leaves. He cracked his whip, and a man appeared--a servant
by the look of him, to whom my good friend explained my need. The man
grinned, and, turning to me, inquired in Polish whether I wished for a
room. Now, as for the Poles, no one could love them or their language
either, but I could have cried for joy on hearing the man, although he
spoke but brokenly. He had been to Galicia as a soldier, being himself
a Czech."

"A fellow-countryman of our respected mandatar!" cried Simeon.

"Yes; but with this difference, that Frantisek proved himself to be
honest. And when I had explained to him who I was and why I had come to
Vienna, he assisted me as much as he could, his first good office
consisting in this, that he prevailed with his master to board and
lodge me for a florin daily. Why, Anusia, there is no occasion to make
such eyes, for it was cheap, considering I was in Vienna. And he
offered to show me the way to Mr. Broza's the following morning. 'It is
too late to-day,' he said, having looked at the letter, 'for the
gentleman, I see, lives in the city, and that is a long way off.' 'In
the city!' I cried, aghast; 'why, what is this?' 'This is Leopoldstadt,
one of the suburbs,' he explained, calmly; and then I learned that the
place with the interminable street we had passed before was
Floridsdorf. Would you believe it, there are six such places forming
the outer precincts of Vienna, and nine regular suburbs--that is
fifteen cities enclosing a city! And their inhabitants are almost
beyond counting--as many, they told me, as in all the Bukowina and
Pokutia together."

"That, no doubt, was a story," interposed Simeon, who was not going to
be taken in. But the pope confirmed the remarkable tale. "I have read
it in books," he said.

"Well, I leave you to conjecture what the real town was like to which
Frantisek took me the following morning. It is worse there at all times
than on a market day at Colomea or the most crowded fair; and what
seemed to me most horrible, men and beasts--I mean vehicles--go
jostling one another in a gloomy twilight, for the streets are so
narrow and the houses so high that you have need almost to lie flat on
the ground, face upward, before you can see a bit of sky or the dear
light of the sun; but no one could lie down, or stand still suddenly,
without being run over. Even as it was, I was knocked hither and
thither constantly, till Frantisek took me by the arm and helped me
along as though I had been a child. Through numberless streets, and
past St. Stephen's--a church about twenty times as large as our own--he
brought me to a place called the Jew's Square; for what reason I could
not make out, for not a single caftan or curl did I see. Mr. Victor
Broza lived there in a stately house; but, dear me, the stairs I had to
climb till I reached his flat! No beggar with us would thank you for
rooms so toilsome of access! Mr. Broza's servant at first treated me
superciliously; but when I had sent in my letter I was admitted at
once. The man I had come to see was a fine-looking old gentleman, with
silvery hair, and wearing gold spectacles. Very noble he looked, but he
was not at all proud. And what a comfort to me to speak in my own
tongue again without being stared at as a curiosity! But when he began,
though all he said was kind and reasonable and well-meaning, my joy was
gone. He warned me not to rest too great hopes on the Emperor. 'He is a
good man, to be sure,' he said, 'and if your object were to obtain some
money-help for your parish, either to build you a church or to
alleviate some special distress, he no doubt would listen to you
graciously. But he cannot enter into legal questions with his
infirmity, poor man. His crown is a heavy burden to him as it is!' 'I
do not understand that,' said I; 'if he can be gracious, how should he
refuse to be just?' 'Well,' said Mr. Broza, 'matters of law are seen to
by his lawyers. That is what they are for.' 'But if they pervert the
right?' 'Then it is not his fault.' 'But, surely he will interfere!'
'The Emperor?' 'Yes; who else?' 'Indeed, who else? you may well ask!'
he said. 'Your tale is a sad one, I grant, and if ever a case should be
looked into I should say it is yours! Ah, if his uncle Joseph were
reigning still, or even his father Francis ... the more you tell me,
the more I fancy yours is a case for imperial interference; but----' He
stopped embarrassed. 'Tell me,' I said; 'is he not able to do it?' I
could hardly frame the words, and the blood ran cold at my heart. But
Mr. Broza appeared to consider his answer, looking from the window, and
saying presently: 'He is troubled with headaches; he is fond of working
at his lathe, and he makes little boxes of cardboard.' I stared,
open-mouthed, Mr. Broza adding: 'Why should he not, poor man; it is an
innocent pastime, and helps him to get through his days....' After that
I could not well disbelieve it."

"But he is the Emperor! how is it possible?" cried Simeon and the
women.

Taras smiled bitterly. "How is it possible?" he repeated. "I also asked
this question, and many another besides, till good Mr. Broza looked
aghast at me, and spoke soothingly. 'I understand your feelings,' he
said, passing his hand over my hair as though he were trying to calm an
excited child. 'You are a fine fellow, Taras, but I daresay the world
looks different to you at Zulawce from what it really is.' 'May be,
much honoured sir,' I said; 'but I am sure of this, that human beings
should act differently to one another than the wild beasts of the
Welyki Lys, of which the stronger will always devour the weaker. Every
man must see this, be he a poor peasant of Zulawce only, or the Emperor
at Vienna.' 'He does see it, no doubt,' cried Mr. Broza, 'and he is
always kind. But he can hardly know about every case of individual
trouble, can he?' 'No, but that is the very reason why I want to tell
him my own sorrow myself.' 'But he would not understand you, you only
speak the Ruthenese!' That was a blow! I had refused to believe Dr.
Starkowski, and here was Mr. Broza telling me the same thing! 'A father
unable to understand his children,' I said; 'it does seem strange; but
I daresay he knows Polish?' 'I am sorry to say he does not; he was
weakly from a child, and his studies had to be curtailed.' 'Then, does
he understand Czechish?' 'Yes, that he knows.' 'That will do, then,' I
said joyfully, 'I managed to get along with Frantisek, so I daresay I
shall with the Emperor.' But that was not by any means the end of
difficulties. 'I must warn you,' said Mr. Broza, 'he gives audience but
rarely, the petitions mostly are received by one of his cousins or
generals.' That was another blow, but I recovered it quickly, saying:
'Well, then, I shall just keep calling at his house till I _can_ see
him.' Mr. Broza at this broke into a smile. 'Do you think you can go to
the Castle as you would to the house of your parish priest? There is a
time set apart for audience once a week, though they are not very
regular about it, and in order to be received at all you must first
apply for admission in writing!' 'And I could come every week then,
till I saw the Emperor in person?' 'Dear me, what obstinacy! What is
the use of your spending your time and money here on such a chance?
Give me your memorial, and I will take care to have it presented.'
'Sir,' I cried, 'I thank you; I see you mean well by me, but you cannot
possibly know how much there is at stake. I must see the Emperor
myself.' And this I maintained in spite of all his reasoning. But he,
good man, took no offence; on the contrary, he promised to obtain
admission for me at the very next audience. He wanted to know my
address, but I did not even know it myself, so Frantisek had to be
called to give the name of the inn. Mr. Broza wrote it in a little
book, promising I should hear. But I wanted to have some idea how soon
I might hope to see the Emperor. 'I cannot tell,' he said; 'it may be
some days, it may be weeks hence.' I left him sadly...."

"Well, I should not have waited like that," cried Anusia, hotly;
"surely the Emperor goes for an airing once a day like any other
Christian! I should have waited outside his house till I caught sight
of him, and, going up to him, I should have asked his leave politely to
walk beside him a bit, and then I would have told him the whole story.
That would have been my plan!"

"And a very stupid one," said Taras, smiling grimly, "though you are my
wife. Nor should I blame you, since that same stupidity was mine till I
knew better. My heart quaked at the long prospect of waiting, and I
knew from sad experience that it was no use to look for much in answer
to writing. I said to Frantisek, therefore, 'Do show me the house of
the Emperor,' and he went out with me the following afternoon. Once
more we went far into the town, past the great church, and through
endless noisy streets, till at last we stood before a large building.
'This is it,' he said. 'Nonsense!' I cried; 'why there is not a bit of
gold about it anywhere that I can see!' He, however, insisted it was
the Emperor's house. When I saw he was in earnest, I looked at the
place closely; it was large, but not otherwise imposing, and quite
blackened with smoke. 'I'd go in for some house-painting, at any rate,
if I were the Emperor; surely he can afford it,' I said to myself,
adding aloud to Frantisek, 'Well, then, show me where the Emperor
lives!' Whereupon he took me round a square surrounded with tall
buildings, and through a gateway into another square, also overlooked
by high houses, with sentries on duty at every corner. 'All this is the
Emperor's,' he said; 'here he lives with his relations and a great many
attendants.' Imagine my surprise. But then I said, 'I cannot but think
that he sleeps in one room and feeds in another--so please point out to
me where _he_ lives.' Frantisek now appeared to understand, and took me
to an open place, in the centre of which rose an equestrian statue in
cast-iron; and he showed me a row of windows. 'Very well,' I said; 'now
let us take our stand by that entrance door.' 'What for?' said he. 'To
watch for the Emperor when he goes abroad.' 'You innocent!' he cried,
laughing; 'don't you know that the Emperor never walks out? You may see
his carriage, if you are lucky, bursting from the inner court, and
dashing through the town as far as a copse on the banks of the river,
returning thence at the same quick pace.' He had hardly done speaking
when there was a deafening roar, quite startling me. It was the sentry
calling out the guard frantically. 'Look! look!' cried Frantisek, 'they
are presenting--it's the Emperor returning from his drive!' And while
he yet spoke a closed carriage with six horses swept past us and
disappeared in the inner court. But for all their fast driving I could
see who sat inside--two officers, the elder of them in a plain grey
coat, and the younger wearing a whole array of stars and ribands on his
breast. 'That will be him!' I thought, but I heard Frantisek say: 'Poor
Emperor, to think of his wrapping up in his cloak at this season like
an old man in the depth of winter--they say he is always shivering with
cold!'"

"I could not doubt that he knew, having lived at Vienna these five
years, and I went home sadder still; for he who was wrapt in his cloak
looked weary and worn."

"And was that really the Emperor?" inquired the popadja.

"It was; but it was long before I could see him close. For a whole week
I waited for a message from Mr. Broza, but nothing reached me. Ah,
friends, those were grievous days! I sat for hours in the dull little
damp room they had assigned to me, staring at the wall. I had composed
such a beautiful speech on my journey, and had learnt it by heart, to
address the Emperor, but all that was useless now since he knew not the
Ruthenese; so I put together a few words which might serve my purpose.
But perhaps he could not even understand that much, and all would be
useless and things must go as they would!... Frantisek, I saw, pitied
me, for he would give me every spare moment of his time, hoping to
cheer me; but how should he have succeeded? although he did his best,
taking me all about the great city to divert my thoughts. It was but
little pleasure to me, for the noise and bustle was dreadful, and the
people stared because of my dress; there was quite a crowd sometimes
following me, full of laughter and ill-disguised wonder, as though I
were some monstrosity of a bullock. I soon grew tired of sight-seeing,
and preferred my own little room, where at least I was unmolested."

"Did Mr. Broza forget his promise?" cried Simeon.

"By no means; he was doing his very best. He told me so when, at the
end of a week, I ventured to call again, and I am sure he spoke the
truth. 'Your name is down,' he said, 'you will be admitted to the next
audience, but the day is not yet fixed. Next week, let us hope!' I
continued waiting, growing more heavy-hearted day after day. And then I
had even money cares to face! A hundred florins I had spent on my
journey, and there was a florin a day of present expenses; how, then,
should I return home if I must use up my little hoard waiting and
waiting? I began to blame myself for not having followed your advice,
and Dr. Starkowski's; and yet, God knows, I had not come to Vienna to
please myself. I could not have acted differently. Was it not for the
sake of all that is most sacred--my honour, and the good of my soul?
Was it not----"

He stopped short, having caught a look from the pope's eye, searching
his face intently.

"Well then," he continued, "I went on waiting ten weary days, when at
last Mr. Broza sent his servant, announcing that the next audience
stood fixed for the following Tuesday week; that was yet twelve days,
but I breathed more freely, knowing the day now when the uncertainty
must end. Thus humble a man becomes who is being taught by
disappointment. I counted the days and hours, and on the Sunday
previous to the longed-for audience I went to Mr. Broza, begging him to
tell me how I was to behave. 'You mean in the Emperor's presence?' said
he. 'Why, yes,' said I. 'But did I not tell you that although there be
an audience you must not count on seeing the Emperor himself? The
petitions, most likely, will be received in his name by one of the
princes.' I had to sit down, for the room went round with me, and it
was some time before I could answer. 'You did tell me, sir,' I said,
when I was able to speak; 'but I fully trusted the Emperor would be
receiving in person this once at any rate; why but for this should I
have been kept waiting so long?' But Mr. Broza shrugged his shoulders.
'Let us hope so,' he said; 'but if you do not see him, be sure and hand
your petition to the Archduke--he probably will hold the audience.
Your conscience may be at ease, for you have done your duty to the
utmost--better, I daresay, than any other village judge in Austria.'
'Thank you,' I said; 'but I can do no such thing. I shall give my
petition into no hand but the Emperor's own. And if he does not appear
this Tuesday, I must wait for another audience, and another, till I see
him.' 'But, man, will you not listen to reason? Who is to procure you a
standing admission? Such a thing was never heard of!' 'If it is really
impossible,' I replied--'and of course I believe you, for you have
acted honestly by me--if it is impossible, I shall know what to do.'
'And what may that be?' 'I shall throw myself into the way of his
carriage when he drives out. If his coachman is able to pull up in
time, I shall then present my petition; if the horses go over me, then
it will have been my fate.' He looked at me aghast. 'And you would do
that?' 'Certainly.' 'Well,' he said, 'there is no saying what one of
you peasants is capable of in fighting for his right.' Presently he
added, 'I shall have you conveyed to the Castle on Tuesday, and
fetched away again. You must come to me directly after the audience,
directly--do you hear?' I promised; but my mind was made up."

"Taras," cried Anusia, "how could you have such thoughts!"

His eyes burned darkly, and he shook the grief-streaked hair from off
his forehead. "I may have had worse thoughts," he murmured; but the
others hardly understood him. He paused, and went on quietly: "Well,
then, the audience. I dressed for it quite early, as a bridegroom on
his wedding day, putting on my top boots, and the long brown tunic with
the leather belt, and over it my best sheepskin--all white, the one
with the broidered facings, you know, Anusia. It was rather hot for
fur, suggested Frantisek, who had made my boots shine like a mirror,
anxious to do his part; but I knew what was due to the Emperor, and
took my fur cap of lambskin as well. The people stared worse than ever
when, thus arrayed, I walked from the house to the open carriage kind
Mr. Broza had sent for me, and as I drove along folk everywhere stood
open-mouthed. I did not much care, for I knew by this time that the
Viennese, whatever they may be besides, are the most curious people
under the sun. We reached the Castle, and stopped by the entrance
opposite the iron statue. A lackey helped me to dismount, bowing to the
ground. I knew that the rascal meant it for mockery, and took no
notice. At the top of the stair two red-coated halberdiers pretended to
start at the sight of me; but I showed my order for admittance,
whereupon they directed me to a door opposite. I opened it, and came
upon some more lackeys, who affected the same amazement. One of them
tried to take from me my stick of carved oak; but I did not part with
it. They laughed and pointed me to another door.

"I had reached the audience chamber at last: a long, spacious hall, all
white and gold, and full of looking-glasses as tall as a man. I should
never have believed such splendour possible--it was dazzling. Some
fifty petitioners were assembled there already--old and young, men and
women, soldiers and civilians, priests and laymen--some looking anxious
and some hopeful. One thing we had in common--we all carried memorials
in our hands; but for the rest of it every age was represented, every
station of life, and, perhaps, every people of this great Austria.
There was a poor tattered gipsy, and beside him a comfortable-looking
lady in a silk dress; an old gentleman in threadbare garments, and a
young handsome officer wearing the Emperor's uniform; a Jew in his
black caftan, a sleek Catholic priest, and many others. They moved
about whispering, and behind them stood motionless some of the
red-coated halberdiers. I could not but groan at the sight of so
many seeking redress. 'Alas!' I sighed, 'it would take the Emperor
half-a-day to listen to them all; and of course he cannot do that, weak
and sickly as he is,' Yet there was some comfort, too, in there being
so many. Some of these people, no doubt, had come a long way, as I had,
spending their money for the hope that brought them; and surely, I
thought, they would not do it if the Emperor were not known to help
readily. And it comforted my weary heart that rich and poor stood there
side by side, all waiting for redress. 'We are all alike in the sight
of God,' I thought, 'and so we are in the Emperor's, who is His viceroy
upon earth--how, then, should he not uphold the right?' This cheered
me; I looked up boldly, gazing at the people as they gazed at me.

"We were directed to stand in a half-circle, a man in a green
dress-coat assigning to each his place; and I perceived that there were
degrees of dignity. I stood at the lower end, furthest from the
entrance we were facing, together with two other peasants, by the look
of them, also wearing their national costume. The one was rather stout,
his dress consisting of light blue breeches, a tight-fitting jerkin,
and a cloth cap with a plume; the other, tall and gaunt, wore baggy red
trousers, and a long yellowish jacket, holding in his hands a felt hat
with a high pointed crown. We had to wait a long time, and I did as the
others did, endeavouring to draw my neighbours into conversation. They
answered civilly, each in his own tongue, neither of us understanding
the other. That was disappointing; but I thought I would at least find
out their nationality, and that by the only means I could think of. You
know that our soldiers, if they bring home nothing else, return to us
with a sad habit of swearing, picking up the country's oaths wherever
they go. 'Psie sobaczy!' I said; but there was no response. So my
friends could not be of the Slavonic race. 'Kreuzelement Donnerwetter!'
they never moved; so they were not German. 'Bassama teremtete!' upon
this my stout neighbour in the tight breeches gave a jump, jabbering
away at me delightedly; that settled it, he was a Hungarian! But now
for the other one in the yellow jacket. 'Merge le Dracul!' no response;
he could not be a Roumanian then. I was nearly exhausted, but luckily
remembered one more chance. 'Corpo di bacco!' I cried, at which he also
flew at me, embracing me wildly--an Italian! But I wished I had been
less curious; for they went on talking at me eagerly, to the great
amusement of all the company, and I could only nod my head, keeping on
with 'Corpo di bacco!' and 'Bassama teremtete!' But why tell you all
this nonsense?--There was a hush of silence suddenly, for the great
entrance door had opened."

Taras paused, evidently not in order to impress his hearers, but
because he was himself overcome with the recollection of that moment.

"The Emperor!" cried Anusia, with a gasp.

He shook his head. "There appeared in the doorway," he continued
quietly, but with a tremor in his voice, "a man in the uniform of a
general, rather short and white-haired, and some officers of different
regiments behind him. My heart all but stood still and sight failed
me--I think I should have fallen but for the steadying arm of the
Hungarian. It was _not_ the Emperor; for although I had had but a
passing glimpse of him, I knew his features from a portrait of his at
the inn where I was lodging. That little white-haired general with the
pouting under-lip--though he looked right pleasant otherwise--was a
relation of his no doubt, being like him in feature; but it was not the
Emperor! Ah, beloved! I cannot tell you what disappointment surged up
within me, I could not put it in words if I tried for ever! I looked
on, half stunned, watching him as he received the memorials. With most
of the petitioners he could speak in their own tongue, and if there was
one he was unable to understand, one or other of the officers acted as
interpreter; but with no individual case was he occupied longer than
about a minute, passing on with a gracious word. Some looked relieved,
some rather woebegone, as they made their exit, a lackey directing them
to a side door. I watched it all through a haze as it were, and
perceived that at that rate my turn would be in about an hour's time,
counting from his beginning at the other end of the half-circle. I
tried to collect my thoughts, but think as I would nothing could alter
the resolution with which I had come--to plead with the Emperor and not
with his representative. And with a beating heart, but firm of purpose,
I watched the prince's approach."

"Ye saints!" gasped the popadja, and Anusia crossed herself.

"At last he stood before me! I bowed low, he nodded and put out his
hand for my petition. But I bowed lower still, saying: 'All powerful
and gracious Mr. Prince! I know who you are, and that you are here for
the Emperor; but to him only can I make my request.' He looked at me
surprised, and turned for an interpreter. One of the officers, a
captain, with ash-coloured facings, being of the Duke of Parma's
regiment, which I knew was drawn from Podolia, stepped up, translating
what I said. 'Peasant,' added the officer thereupon, turning to me with
a kindly face, 'the Emperor is not to be seen, but it will be all right
if you hand your petition to this gentleman, who is the Emperor's
uncle, His Most Serene Highness the Archduke Ludwig.' Again I bowed,
saying, 'Have the goodness to translate this to the prince. He who
stands before you is Taras Barabola, peasant and landowner, lately
judge of Zulawce, sometime a happy man, but now despairing. He may be
nobody in the eyes of the great ones, but he is a human being in the
sight of God, and therefore of His viceroy, the Emperor. He is here
praying for his right, thirsting for it as the hart panteth after the
waterbrooks. You, sir, are a fellow-countryman of ours, have pity on me
and tell him this, word for word.' And the officer turned to the
prince, interpreting my speech; whereupon the latter looked at me
searchingly, putting a question. 'What is your trouble?' translated the
officer. 'Robbery of the parish field,' I replied, adding, 'Tell him it
is not merely a question of earthly justice, but that the future
welfare of a soul is at stake. He is an old man I see, and will soon
himself stand at the judgment bar of God; beg him, as he would desire
the Almighty to be merciful to him, to obtain for me an audience with
the Emperor.' 'My good man,' replied the captain, 'I am a Podolian
myself and have grown up among peasants, being the son of a village
priest, so you may believe that I wish you well; but I am not going to
translate this speech of yours literally, or this is not the way to
address a prince!' 'But you must!' I urged. 'It were taking an awful
responsibility on your soul if you refused me; and see, the prince
appears to expect it!' So he had to translate it, and never a feature
changed in the Archduke's face, but his eyes were fixed on me
piercingly. I did not quake--why should I?--but gazed at him
fearlessly, my conscience not reproaching me any way. Turning to the
captain presently, he spoke a single word. 'Wait!' translated the
officer. And the Archduke went on, taking the rest of the petitions and
passing from the hall; whereupon the captain came up to me, saying,
'Follow me; the Archduke wishes to hear your story.'"

"What rare good fortune!" cried Father Leo.

"Yes; I suppose so," assented Taras. "We went along a corridor, and up
and down some stairs, till we reached the Archduke's room. It was a
simple apartment, full of books, and not in any way more princely than
Mr. Broza's. He was sitting at a table covered with papers. We were
ushered into his presence, I telling my tale and the captain
translating. The Archduke's countenance remained as immovable as
before; no matter what I was saying his eyes only showed his interest.
He put a question or two: how we lived in the village, whether we
reared cattle and such like. By and by he addressed a few words to the
officer, who then led me away. 'Well?' I said, trembling with hope and
fear, when the door had closed behind us. 'Your wish is granted,'
replied he. 'Be by the iron statue yonder at four to-morrow afternoon,
where I shall join you to act as your interpreter with the Emperor.
"Why the man is of another planet," the Archduke said to me, "his
confidence must not be shamed!" And he thinks the Emperor will like to
see you, and that your Podolian garb will amuse him. He wishes you,
therefore, to come in these same clothes to-morrow, and if you have
anything in the way of weapons belonging to your dress to add it
likewise.' 'For God's sake, captain,' I cried; 'I am coming to plead
for the right, and not to show my clothes!' 'Yes, yes,' he said; 'but
do as you are told,' adding kindly, 'you may thank your stars for this
chance; and even if to-morrow's audience will avail you nothing, you
may find it useful to have obtained the Archduke's interest.' 'I cannot
understand that!' I cried. 'Well, and I could scarcely explain it to
you,' said he, with a smile; 'but it _is_ so.' And so said Mr. Broza,
to whom I now went as I had promised; so also said the innkeeper, to
whom, with the aid of Frantisek, I had to give a minute account. They
all agreed that I was fortunate."

"Why, a child could understand that," interposed Simeon. "The Emperor,
no doubt, values his old uncle's opinion."

"May be," said Taras, with a painful smile; "but they did not take it
in that way, as I came to understand the following afternoon. You may
imagine that I arrived by the iron statue a good while before the
appointed time--it is a figure of the good Emperor Joseph. The officer
walked up to me by the stroke of four, conducting me through the inner
court to a splendid marble staircase, and through many passages to a
door blazing with gold and guarded by some of the redcoated
halberdiers. We passed a large ante-room, and entered a smaller one,
where we were told to wait. The chamberlain in attendance, who looked
vastly stupid, kept watching me with furtive sneers, but I did not
care; my heart felt more solemnly uplifted than if I had been in a
church. There was the sound of a little bell presently; the chamberlain
glided in, and returning, he beckoned us to enter." Taras paused and
drew a breath. "I think," he continued, slowly, "the look of that room,
and of the two gentlemen in it, will be present with me to my dying
hour: it was a large, splendid apartment, darkened with curtains, which
left a half-light only, shutting out the sun; and at the table sat
two officers--generals by their uniform. The one was that same old
Ludwig, and in the other I recognised, when he rose, the Emperor! A
feeble-bodied man of middle height, slightly stooping, with a
good-natured face and blue eyes. He motioned me to come nearer, but I
took a few steps only, and fell on my knees, holding up my petition.
Oh! I did not kneel merely because it might be the custom, but urged by
my own deepest need. For at that moment all the trouble I had battled
with for months past surged up within me, and, do what I would, the
tears rose from my heart...."

"And he?" cried Anusia.

"He came close to me, seemingly concerned at my emotion. Taking the
petition I held out to him, he gave it to the Archduke, and then he
addressed a few hasty words to me. 'He tells you to rise and dry your
tears,' the captain whispered to me. But I remained on my knees, not to
move his feelings, but simply because it was the natural position for
mine. 'Thou Emperor,' I cried, 'have pity on me!' He plainly did not
know what to say, and putting his hand into his pocket, drew forth a
ducat, which he offered to me. 'I want no money; I want justice,' I
cried. The Archduke stepped up now, whispering a few words to the
Emperor, and then told the captain I was to rise, and that the Emperor
would be sure to examine into my case carefully. I obeyed with an
effort, but then I begged the captain to say that I would not hold
myself assured till I had the Emperor's promise from his own lips. 'I
cannot say that,' whispered the captain, alarmed; 'it would be most
rude to the Archduke.' Whereupon I repeated the words myself, looking
intently in the Emperor's face. Now the captain was obliged to
translate, and thereupon the Emperor nodded to me, but burst out
laughing at the same time, as though it were quite a joke. I am sure he
did not mean to hurt me, for he looked kindness itself, and would not
kill a fly if it annoyed him, but his laughter cut me to the heart; I
keep hearing it still in my dreams.... No doubt the anguish of my soul
was written in my face, but he took no notice. He walked round me,
examining me curiously, and putting several questions--who had
embroidered this fur of mine? whether I had many furs like that? and
several pairs of these boots? did I polish them myself? and so forth. I
answered his inquiries, but good God! they stunned my heart.... I think
I would have given my life for his asking me a single question which
did not refer to my clothes. But not he! And I daresay my fur and my
boots would have interested him awhile yet, had not the Archduke again
whispered some words to him. He left off questioning, and smiled at me
once more with his good-natured smile, again offering me his ducat--not
as a charity, as the captain had to tell me, but in memory of having
seen him. Thereupon, I took it--this is it, bearing his likeness."

He drew the coin from his belt. They all were anxious to see it, and
agreed that the Emperor had a pleasant, good-natured face. "And now you
were ready to start for home?" they said.

"Oh, no," said Taras, with a sigh; "for though my object was
accomplished, my heart was no wise at ease. I wanted to wait for the
Emperor's answer. My petition prayed for a re-examination of the
witnesses, and thus much the Emperor might command on the spot, I
thought. Mr. Broza tried to dissuade me--it might be months before I
should hear, he said, and it would be a waste of time and money. But I
clung to my desire, entreating him till he pitied my distress and
promised to inquire at the Imperial Chancery whether the Emperor's
decision had been received. It was a week after the private audience.
The reply was hopeless--not even the petition itself had as yet been
filed. 'I must look up that Uncle Ludwig,' I cried in my despair, and
had some trouble in finding the captain who had acted as my
interpreter--his name is Eugene Stanczuk, and his home is at Kossow, a
few miles from Ridowa. I wanted him to take me once more to the
Emperor's uncle. 'That is quite impossible,' he said, 'and moreover the
Archduke has departed for his residence in Styria; he will not return
here for months.' When I heard this I knew that further waiting was
vain. I strapped my bundle--honest Frantisek brushing my boots for the
last time sadly, and I went to Mr. Broza to thank him for all his
kindness and--should he trust me--to borrow some money of him, for I
had only ten florins left. 'That shall not trouble you,' he said,
counting out a hundred florins to me without even a witness, as though
I were his brother. 'Let us hope for a favourable answer in time,' he
added, 'but if I have any claim on your gratitude, as you say, promise
me one thing--do not let it break your heart if it turns out a denial!'
Much as I owed him, this was more than I could promise; I had gone to
Vienna with a hopeful mind, and was coming away now broken-hearted."

He ceased, the sadness gathering in his face.

"I do not see that!" cried Father Leo, "there is every room for hope
since you have the Emperor's own promise!"

"Have _you_ seen him?" said Taras, rising. "Have you been to Vienna?
You have heard my tale, but you have not been there to see!... It is
getting late--it must be near midnight. Kind thanks to you, friends.
Come, wife, let us be gone!"



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                                DESPAIR.


The days followed one another, and winter was at hand; Taras, in
silence, had taken up the old, changeless village life. He found plenty
to do on his own farm in spite of the care bestowed upon it by Simeon
during his absence; and, labouring with his men, the most diligent of
them all, he could forget at times that one thought which kept
burrowing in his brain. But for other reasons, too, it was well he was
thoroughly occupied, for intercourse with the villagers could have
comforted him little.

Ill-humour against him had risen to its height, since his journey to
Vienna also had proved a fruitless errand. He had but two friends left
besides the priest--his former colleagues, Simeon and Alexa. The others
either openly hated him, or treated him with unkind pity as the fallen
village king. As for his re-election to the judgeship, it was not so
much as thought of. Simeon, true to his word, had resigned his
vicarious honours at All Saints', rather expecting, however, the public
confidence would turn to him; yet not even he was elected, but a
certain Jewgeni Turenko.

The man thus chosen was a harmless individual, rather poor, who never
could have aspired to such luck had the freaks of fortune not singled
out his younger brother, Constantine, lifting him to the giddy height
of a corporal in the Imperial army. It had never been dreamt of in the
village, that any peasant lad of theirs could be more than a private,
and now this hero of Zulawce had actually returned as a corporal, a
live corporal, sporting the two white stars on his crimson collar. All
the village felt itself honoured in this favoured soldier, entertaining
the wildest hopes for his future. He has two years of service yet to
come, they said; who knows but that he may be a sergeant before he has
done? The young hero was ready enough to avail himself of the good
opinions thus showered upon him. By his own account, he was one of the
bravest of the brave, and as he could scarcely invent a great war as a
background to his exploits, he devised some minor fancies, laying the
scene in rebellious Lombardy--"Corpo di Bacco! where the heat of the
weather is such that an ox in the fields is roasted alive in two
hours." How could the good people of Zulawce have thought little of a
man who, in such a temperature, had saved a province to the Emperor?
And more especially, how should their womankind not have admired a
soldier who, to say nothing of his splendid moustache, had by his own
showing been proof against the allurements of the very countesses in
those parts--"devilishly handsome creatures, to be sure, but with the
enemy's females I have nothing to do!" It was a fact, then, that within
a few weeks, Constantine Turenko had the upper hand in the village; and
as he could not be judge himself, being only on furlough, he managed
that his brother Jewgeni should be elected, while two other friends of
his, equally humble as regarded their wealth and wit, were chosen as
elders. Thus aristocracy was laid low, the middle class rising.

Taras had not striven against it; he had voted for Simeon, but for the
rest he let matters take their course. "The beggars will be the ruin of
the village!" cried Anusia, in whom the pride of blood was strong. "It
is atrocious that men like my Uncle Stephen, and you, and Simeon,
should be succeeded by the rabble!"

But Taras took it quietly. "They are making their own bed," he said,
"let them try it!"

"I wish you would not pretend such callousness," exclaimed Anusia,
"there is no one who loves the village better than you do!"

"Perhaps not," said he, "but I cannot alter the state of things;
besides, I have other cares now."

"Cares? What are they?" she cried. "Is not the farm as flourishing as
ever?" To this he had no answer.

He did his work in those days with diligence and perseverance, as
though he were not the richest peasant in the village, but a poor
labourer merely, who had to gain his next day's bread. And whereas
formerly he had always been guided by his own opinion, he would consult
his wife's now, soliciting her advice. Anusia felt proud at this mark
of confidence, till she discovered that he desired to hear her views in
order to correct them. And as the question mostly referred to matters
concerning which, capable as she was, she knew nothing, since, by the
nature of them, they rather belonged to the husband's sphere, she lost
patience at last. "What have I to do with assessments and taxes?" she
exclaimed.

"You must get to know about them," he replied, gently.

"But why? Is it not enough that you should know?"

"Yes, now; but the time may come when you will have to do without me."

These words did not frighten her, appearing too ludicrous. A strong,
healthy man, not forty years old--how should she take alarm? "You
croaker!" she said, "we'll think about that fifty years hence."

"It is all as God may will," returned he solemnly; adding, "Do it to
please me."

"Well, if it tends to your happiness, certainly," she said,
good-naturedly, and did her best to understand what he explained to her
concerning the taxes and imposts.

In the presence of his friend, the village priest, Taras never let fall
such hints, meeting the good pope, on the contrary, with great reserve.
But Father Leo took no umbrage, redoubling his affection for the
saddened man, and doing all in his power to counteract the low spirits
to which evidently he was a prey. He even proposed to teach him reading
and writing. "It is useful anyhow," he said, "and you could amuse
yourself with entertaining books."

But Taras declined. "It is no use to me now," he said, "and will be
still less presently. Besides, that which would rejoice my heart is not
written in your books. Nor have I the needful leisure; these are busy
days on the farm, and after Epiphany I mean to go hunting. I shall be
gone a good while I think."

"Do, by all means," said good Father Leo approvingly, "it will cheer
you. And there is the general hunt before Christmas. You will not miss
that."

"I shall not take part," replied Taras, quietly, "even if they ask me,
which I do not expect."

"Not ask you!" said Father Leo. "You the best bear-hunter born!"

But events proved that Taras had judged right. Constantine objected to
his presence, so the people did without him. That warrior had
contracted a real hatred of Taras for various reasons, mostly foolish,
but in part spiteful. To begin with, the dethroned judge was the
natural leader of the more wealthy of the community, which was bad; he
was an "enemy of the Emperor," and that was worse; worse still, the
community had suffered loss "through him, and him alone;" the worst of
all being that Constantine still owed a certain florin to "this bastard
who had sneaked his way into the affections of an heiress."

Anusia felt it a personal insult, shedding passionate tears when the
hunting party passed the farm; but Taras did not move a feature,
continuing quietly to fill the sacks of corn that were to be sold. One
thing, however, he did when the last sound of the noisy party had died
away. He entered the common sitting-room, calling upon his eldest boy
Wassilj. "My child," he said, "you are eight years old, and our little
father Leo is instructing you well--do you know what an oath is?"

"Yes," said the little boy.

"And you understand what is being a judge?"

"Yes, it is what you were!"

"Well then, lift up your right hand and swear to me that never in your
life you will offer yourself for the judgeship, nor accept it if they
ask you. Will you do that, and never forget?"

"I will, and will not forget it," cried the little boy, earnestly
lifting up his childish hand.

And Taras kissed him and returned to his work.

But Father Leo, on learning of the new insult offered to his friend,
expressed his hearty sympathy.

"There is no need to trouble about it," said Taras; "you see I am
quiet."

"And so you have every right to be!" cried the pope, warmly. "Have you
not always done your duty, ay, and a great deal more! If sorrow is your
part now, you can accept it with a strong heart, as of God Himself. He
has been gracious to you, bringing you to this village and blessing you
abundantly; and if He now chastises you, it surely is for your good in
the end. The ways of God sometimes are dark."

Taras shook his head. "I don't believe that," he said, curtly.

"Not believe in God?" cried the honest pope, aghast.

"I do believe in Him," said Taras, solemnly, "and I believe that He is
all just, but that He brought me into this village, and that all this
bitter grief has come upon me by His will, I do not believe. For if He
guided every step and action of ours, if our fate were all His doing,
no wrong could be done on earth. Nor does He, and we are not mere
puppets in His hand!"

"Puppets! what an expression!" cried the pope, rather perplexed and
therefore doubly vehement. "Nay, we are His children!"

Taras nodded. "His children, yes," he said; "if we may use an earthly
simile to describe our relation to Him, that is the word. But what does
it mean? we owe to our natural parents life and the training they give
us; beyond this they cannot influence us; and so some of us are good,
some are bad, some are happy, and some unhappy, whereas every one
surely would be good and happy if the will of our parents could bring
it about. And it seems to me we stand in a similar relation to Him
above. He has made this world and the men that live therein, revealing
to them His will: '_Be righteous!_' He does give us a training by the
very fact that the circumstances of our birth and childhood are as He
wills them. But what we make of it, and what steps we take in life,
that plainly is our doing. I own that we cannot go to the right or to
the left in unbiassed liberty, for we choose according to our nature,
following our heart and mind, such as they have become."

"I do not seem to understand," owned the pope, hesitatingly; "but it
would appear you believe in a blind sort of predestined fate, like any
old crone of the village."

"No," cried Taras, sharply. "Let me try and explain. During the years
of my happiness, when blessings were about me, full and rich, like the
summer sun ripening the harvest, with no shadowing cloud overhead, I
did believe the goodness of God had thus ordered my day, and in my
heart I thanked him. But when darkness overtook me with sorrow
unspeakable, I grew sore at heart and hopeless as the lonely wanderer
in the storm-tossed wilderness, seeking for shelter in the driving
snow, and not a star to guide him in the night; before him and behind
no voice but that of howling wolves.... No, said I, _this_ is not the
will of God; it is fate! Let me go the way that is destined--happiness
and blessings were to be, and the misery is to be, and the end is not
mine to choose! Of what avail that I should strive thus wearily,
seeking the path in darkness and battling to escape the wolves, since
it is destined that either I be victorious, or fall their helpless
prey? It was foolish, nay, maddening, while I thought so, but now I see
differently: Nothing is predestined, our fate is here and here"--he
pointed to his head and heart--"our virtues and vices are our guides in
life, and besides this there is but one guidance to those that will
listen to it, that all-encompassing will of God--'Thou child of man,
act righteously!' That is it."

"This is not a faith I can hold," said the pope, "but I am glad, at
least, that you do not believe either in a blind fate or in mere
chance. For my part," he added, solemnly, "I shall always believe in
the overruling of a Divine Providence that numbers the very hairs of
our head."

"That faith has been taken from me," replied Taras. "His heaping sorrow
upon sorrow on me could be compensated for in the world to come; but I
see the right trampled under foot, and the wrong victorious, and this
cannot be by the dispensation of God. No; it is just the outcome of the
folly or the wickedness of man. As to chance, I certainly believe in
it--who could live on this earth for well-nigh forty years and deny it,
having eyes to see! There surely is such a thing as chance. Have you
forgotten what I told you as to my coming hither, or do you think it
was God's special providence to let that Sunday morning be fine? Did He
order His sun to shine, merely that a poor man, Taras Barabola, should
become head servant of Iwan Woronka's at Zulawce, and not of that
priest to whom I might have gone? Is it not sheer presumption to
suggest as much? I say, there is a chance, but it does not make a
plaything of us, we rather play with it, making it subservient to our
destiny. The bright sunshine that Sunday morning certainly brought me
hither; but do you think it made me the husband of Anusia, or brought
about my becoming the people's judge? Do I owe to that sunshine the
good that has come to me since, and the great load of evil? Surely not,
that was all my own doing, and nothing else. Chance, then, is nothing;
but what we make of it can be little or much."

He drew himself up, looking proudly at the pope. "And this," he cried,
"must explain my every act hitherto, and my future actions. If I could
believe that Providence has mapped out my fate, I would follow blindly.
Could I believe in chance or destiny, I should abide quietly what
further they will make of me. But I believe no such thing--I hold that
every man must follow the voice within, ay, the voice of God speaking
to him in the highest law: 'Be righteous! Do no wrong, and permit no
wrong!' And these two commandments, equally sacred, I will obey while
life is mine!"

He turned abruptly and went away.

Christmas had come. It is not a day of the children in the Carpathians;
they have no presents given them, and the Christmas-tree is unknown;
the one thing marking it out from other days being a certain dish of
millet, poppy seed and honey, with mead as a beverage. In Taras's
family, too, the day hitherto had thus been kept; but now he sent one
of his men to Zablotow, ordering him to get various little presents for
his own children and those of Father Leo. "It is a way they have at
Vienna," he said to his wife; "it seems a pleasant custom. And I would
wish that the children should remember this Christmas Day."

"Why so, what is there about it?"

"Well, for one thing, I have been away so long this year," said he
hastily, turning to some occupation.

Christmas over, he had two large sledges laden with corn, taking them
with his servant, Jemilian, to the New Year's market at Colomea, as was
his habit.

But on the second of January the man returned alone. "The master has
business with the lawyer," he said; "he will be home in three days."
Anusia grew frightened, and ran to her friend, the popadja. "He is not
going to come back," she wailed. "Now I understand his strange
speeches, and why he insisted on making presents to the children that
they should remember this Christmas. It was his way of taking leave of
them!"

But the pope reproved her. "If you do not know your husband better than
this," he said; "I, at least, know my friend. It grieves me, to be
sure, that he should re-open matters with the lawyer. But he has sent
you a truthful message, there is no doubt about that."

Nor was he mistaken. Taras returned even sooner, on the second day. "I
guessed as much," said he, when Anusia clasped him, sobbing
passionately; "you took alarm because I had business with the lawyer;
so I made what haste I could and travelled through the night."

"But what is it?" she asked.

He drew a little packet from his belt, unfolding it carefully, and
producing a large sheet of paper.

"The Emperor's decision!" she cried, exultingly; "there is an eagle
upon it!"

At which he laughed bitterly. "No, my dear. That eagle merely shows the
Government stamp for which I paid five florins. The decision, that is,
the refusal of my petition, need not be looked for for months. What
need of hurry is there concerning a mere peasant!" But suddenly growing
serious, he said: "Listen, my wife! This paper affirms that I have made
over all I possess to the children, but to be yours while you live. I
have kept back nothing for myself, except some money and my guns."

"Wherefore?" she cried, trembling, "what can be the meaning of it?"

"Because--because--" he hesitated, the honest man could ill
prevaricate--"because I might be fined heavily for the lawsuit...."

"It is an untruth!" she exclaimed. "You think of taking away your
life!"

"No, indeed," he asserted with a solemn oath. But she could not take
comfort, despatching little Wassilj with a message to the pope. Father
Leo came at once, expressing unfeigned wonder on being shown the
document.

"Why, it's a deed of gift, in due form and legally attested. But what
for, my friend; what for?"

"You must not ask me."

The pope looked at him; his gloomy face wore an expression of
unbendable resolve. And Father Leo, thereupon, was silent, knowing it
would be useless to inquire. After awhile, however, he began again: "I
will not press you, Taras; but tell me one thing: Did you inform Dr.
Starkowski of your reasons?"

"No," replied Taras. "And that was why he refused to make out the deed.
'I require to know your intention,' he said. But fortunately there is
another solicitor at Colomea now--a young man who did not trouble about
my reasons."

"Fortunately?" echoed the pope, with marked emphasis.

"Yes, fortunately," returned Taras, equally pointedly. "I have fully
considered it."

Again the pope was silent; and then he spoke of everyday subjects in
order to inquire presently with all the indifference he could command.
"And what are your plans for the present?"

"I have told you some time ago," said Taras. "To-morrow is Epiphany;
after to-morrow I shall start for a several weeks' hunting."

"Not by yourself?"

"Oh, no. I shall have Wassilj Soklewicz with me, and my two men,
Jemilian and Sefko--that is, if I may take them, Anusia," he added,
with a smile, "for you are mistress now."

"Do not jest," she said. "I am well content you should take them. There
is little to be done on the farm now, and they are faithful souls. But
I hope you will let the two boys and Simeon go with you as well, they
are just longing for it."

"No," said Taras, "that is impossible." Nor did he alter his mind when,
the following day, Hritzko and Giorgi pleaded their own suit. "Have we
in any way offended you?" they vehemently inquired.

"Certainly not," he assured them kindly. "You are fine fellows, both of
you, but I cannot possibly take you. Your father is a true friend to
me, and he is getting old. I--I must not let his sons risk their life."

"Risk! Why, what risk should there be? We did so enjoy it last year."

"All sorts of things may happen on a bear hunt; and, indeed, I will not
take the responsibility, on account of your father. It is different
with those others who will accompany me; they have no special family
ties, either of them. It is really impossible, my good fellows, much as
I would like to have you."

He took leave of them affectionately, as he did of their father, of
Alexa, and of the pope's family. They all felt concerned at his
going, but none of them could have given any reason. Anusia alone was
brave-hearted. "You will recover your spirits," said the faithful wife,
"and, therefore, I am pleased you should go. When shall I expect you
back?"

"In six weeks at the latest."

And thus they parted. Anusia once again ruled the farm, and did so with
a strong hand, equal to any man's for determination. The new judge,
Jewgeni Turenko, before long found occasion to testify to her firmness.

The mandatar, for reasons known to himself, had been keeping at a
distance lately; but whenever he was present at the village Jewgeni had
no easy time of it. For Mr. Hajek continued in the path he had begun,
and his claims were many, the new judge being nowise equal to his
predecessor in distinguishing the just ones from the unjust. And being
something of a coward besides, he made all sorts of concessions which
clashed with his duty to the village. So, hoping to conciliate his own
party, he sought to lay the burden on their opponents. And, since
Anusia for the time being was unprotected, she seemed a fit person in
his eyes to try the experiment upon. Consequently, he showed himself on
her premises one day, informing her that she must tell off two extra
hands for the forest labour about to fall due. "There is no such claim
on me," she said, curtly, "it will be no use wasting any words about
it." He ventured to remonstrate, showing his fist; but the judge of
Zulawce had the worst of it--he retired rather hastily, bearing away on
his face some visible tokens of her prowess.

The sixth week had not elapsed when old Jemilian presented himself
before his mistress with a splendid bearskin, and delivered his
message: Taras sent his love, and prayed for further leave of absence;
he would return for Palm Sunday.

"Is he well?" inquired she.

"Yes, quite well."

"And of a cheerful heart?"

"Yes," averred the man. His eyes sought the ground, but Anusia did not
notice that; she trusted the honest servant, who for upwards of twenty
years had lived on the farm. "Then I am quite satisfied," she said;
"let him stay as long as it gives him pleasure. It is five weeks more,
to be sure; but let him have it."

And thereupon Jemilian went over to the pope's. "My master has sent
me," he said, "he is anxious to know whether the imperial decision has
arrived, he gave directions to have it transmitted to you.

"Nothing has come," said Leo; "but how is your master?"

Jemilian repeated his statements, but Father Leo was not taken in,
although he had trouble of his own, and sympathy with others might
have been in abeyance--his youngest child was grievously ill of the
small-pox. But he was a true friend of Taras's, and could turn away
from his own grief. "Look me in the face," he said, sternly; "it is not
meet to offer an untruth to the priest. Tell me what you are after up
there."

"Well, we hunt," Jemilian replied, hesitatingly. But the pope was not
thus turned off, and after a little more of prevarication the man was
obliged to confess. "Ah, your reverence," he said, "such hunting as
Taras's the Carpathians have never seen. The Almighty must have clouded
his reason; He must, indeed! On first starting we all took it for
granted he would lead us to the Red Hollow, the best hunting ground far
and wide. But he took us on--on, far away into the mountains. He never
notices the track of the bear, and if we call his attention to it
he shrugs his shoulders. On--on, we go. He seems to have but one
object--to get to know his way in the mountains. If we pass a dense
forest he takes his axe, making his mark upon the trees. If we come
across a herdsman he does not inquire what life the bears have led him,
but is anxious to learn the character of the neighbourhood and its
bearings. It is the same if we put up with any cottager. He makes
friends with the people, giving them cartridges for their guns, and
asking them for nothing but directions to find his way. On we go,
westward chiefly, but exploring right and left--from mountain to
mountain, from glen to glen. Denser grows the forest, more ragged the
clefts; we seek a path through the rimy brushwood, our hands torn with
the brambles.... Ah, your reverence, I am a bear hunter of thirty
years' standing; but what the Carpathians are I found out but lately."

"And have you asked him what is the object of all this?"

"Indeed I have--again and again, but to no purpose. How often have I
said to him: 'What is the good of roaming through the wintry waste like
this? Your servants would be well content if they could see you enjoyed
it; but you push on, sad unto death--what is the good?' His reply being
always the same: 'It must be, my men, and if you love me you will
follow.' Love him?--of course we do. Your reverence knows as much as
that yourself, that to know him is to be ready to go to the death for
him.... Well, we followed him like sheep their shepherd, chiefly
westward, for the space of twenty days, when we reached a cottage, and
the people there were Huzuls still, but of different ways from ours.
'We are of the Marmaros,' they said. We spent the night with them, and
it was the same as everywhere. Let Taras but begin to speak with
people, telling them of his life and inquiring into theirs, and his
charm is upon them; they look up to him and are glad to serve him.
Indeed, your reverence, he has a wonderful influence over men, if he
chooses to use it; this has been very plain in our roamings. From that
cottage he led us back again towards Pokutia. 'It was useful to have
seen something of Hungary,' he said; 'but now we will turn our steps
homeward again.' That was both sensible and pleasant, and for sheer
satisfaction I forgot to ask him why it should have been useful to seek
a weary way through brambles and riven rocks to have a look at the
Marmaros. Nor could I feel satisfied long, for he soon turned from the
rising sun, striking off northward, over mount and dale, as we had done
before. Never a shot he fired, though we met the finest deer; he only
kept noticing the country. At last we stopped far beyond Delatyn; he
gave us a day's rest, and then in quick marches he brought us back to
these parts, stopping near the Red Hollow. We arrived two days ago,
putting up for the night in the dell of old Michalko, and yesterday we
had some hunting at last. We were fortunate too, for not two hours
passed before we sighted a splendid bear, and Taras killed him, rather
carelessly, but the bullet hit clean between the eyes. It was the first
time these six weeks that I saw him smile--he was pleased with his good
shot. And when Lazarko and I had drawn the creature he sent me home
with the skin."

"Lazarko," interrupted Father Leo, "who is he?"

Jemilian had tripped evidently. He grew red and stammered: "Oh!... some
fellow.... who joined us...."

"Don't attempt what you have so little talent for," returned the pope;
"your lies are transparent. Why do you depart from the truth?"

"I cannot help it," said the man, apologetically; "Taras has enjoined
me so very sternly not to mention Lazarko, for fear of harming the poor
youth...."

"Lazarko?" repeated the pope, rubbing his forehead, and exclaiming
suddenly: "You don't mean Lazarko Rodakowicz, of Zolince, surely!"

"Yes I do," confessed Jemilian.

Father Leo was dismayed: "And this man our Taras suffers near him! Is
he not aware that Lazarko is a murderer? Why the fellow shot the
mandatar of his village!"

"He did. But only because the mandatar dishonoured the girl he loved."

"That is true. I knew the parties, Zolince being but a couple of miles
from my late cure. The mandatar was a wretch, the girl honest, and the
youth had borne a good name. But to commit murder is an awful thing
nevertheless, and Lazarko, so far from in any way expiating his guilt,
made it worse by escaping into the mountains, where he joined the band
of Green Giorgi, thus becoming a brigand--a 'hajdamak.' I trust Taras
was not aware of that!"

"He was," said Jemilian, "for Lazarko came to us straight from the
outlaws. And since the matter has escaped me, I may as well tell your
reverence the plain facts of it, for you are Taras's friend. We knew
well enough, on going beyond the Red Hollow into the heart of the
mountains, that we must fall in with some 'hajdamaks'; for the
Carpathians are their natural haunt, and not all the Whitecoats[4] of
the empire will be able to say a word against it. We had no fear; four
of us, and carrying arms, we were a match for the devil if need be.
Besides, it is well known that the hajdamaks hardly ever attack a
peasant or a Jew; they are the sworn enemies of the Polish nobles only,
and of the Whitecoats if driven to it. So we went ahead fearlessly, and
our first encounter with one of their kind was not calculated to
terrify us--a beardless milksop, half-starved and frozen. Our
watch-fire brought him near, and he begged humbly for leave to stay.
But Taras stepped up to him: 'Let us first see if you deserve it!' he
said sternly. 'Is your mother alive?' 'She is dead.' 'Then answer me
truly, as you would wish her to be at rest in her grave. I presume even
a fellow like you will own the sanctity of that oath! Why did you take
to the mountains?' 'Well, just because of my mother's death; my father
married again, and the step-mother turned him against me. I, the heir
to the farm, had to do the meanest labour, and was treated like a dog
besides. So I ran away!' 'This is no reason for taking to the
mountains! Why did you not try life in another village, eating your
bread honestly, as the servant of some respectable peasant?' The fellow
looked abashed. 'I had heard of the merry life up here,' he said at
last. 'Away with you!' cried Taras, 'it is mere laziness and greed of
enjoyment that made you a hajdamak! Away!' And his look was such that
the fellow made the greatest haste to escape. A few days later we had a
more serious encounter. We were deep in the heart of the mountains, not
far from the Marmaros, resting one night in a forsaken cattlefold. Our
fire was lit, when suddenly an armed band appeared, headed by a
handsome young man, with a finely-twisted moustache, carrying the white
bunda[5] carelessly on his shoulders, with the green, silver-broidered
jerkin beneath...."

"Green Giorgi himself," cried the pope, crossing himself involuntarily.

"Yes, himself! Your reverence will be aware of the stories concerning
him--that he has power to show himself in different places
simultaneously, and that he knows men and all about them, though he has
never set eyes on them before. How that should be I cannot tell, but he
certainly knew us. 'I make you welcome, Taras!' he said,
condescendingly. 'I intend to start a-hunting tomorrow, and rejoice to
fall in with the best bear-hunter of the country!' But Taras did not
accept the proffered hand. 'If you know me so well, Giorgi,' he said,
'then you must be aware, also, that I never shrink from saying the
truth. We are but four of us, and you about three times the number; we
have but our guns, and you, I see, carry pistols besides. If you wish
to attack us, we are lost. But nevertheless, I tell you, I shall
neither hunt with you to-morrow, nor suffer your company a moment
longer than I can help it this night. A man like you must poison the
very air I breathe,' Giorgi grew white. 'Why?' he hissed, snatching at
his girdle, where a pair of silver-mounted pistols were to be seen. 'I
am not bound further to explain my opinion,' replied Taras; 'to be a
hajdamak is a miserable trade, yet there are reasons which may force an
honest man to take to it. You have no such excuse. You are a mere
deserter from the ranks of the Whitecoats. And you carry on this sad
trade after a cruel and shameful fashion besides. When the peasants
of Roskow, last autumn, called upon you to help them against their
hard-hearted lord of the manor, you were not satisfied with plundering
this Polish tyrant's property, but you committed robbery in the village
besides; you not merely killed the tyrant, who deserved it, but you
killed the innkeeper, a poor Jew, whose only crime consisted in having
saved up a little money, which roused your cupidity. I could lay many
similar charges at your door, but I daresay this will suffice.' But, so
far from sufficing, it was more than the ruffian could brook. He drew
his pistol, foaming with rage. But we three--Sefko, Wassilj, and I--had
cocked our guns at him, his own people standing by gloomily. He would
have discharged his pistol, nevertheless, had not one of his party made
a dash at him, whispering something we did not understand. He gave a
scowling look at his followers and turned to go. 'You coward!' cried
Taras, 'an honest man's bullet is too good for you!' At daybreak
we learned the reason of his yielding, and, indeed, had guessed as
much--he could not rely on his men. They had joined him, believing him
to be an honest hajdamak, and not a murdering brigand...."

"No hajdamak can be honest!" interrupted Father Leo, sharply.

"Well, honest, as the saying is," continued Jemilian, a little abashed.
"I was going on to say that at daybreak two of his men, Lazarko and
Iwan, came to us, assuring us they had thus believed in him, and
entreating Taras to take them under his protection, as they were tired
of the wicked life. He listened to Lazarko but not to Iwan, although
the latter swore by his mother's grave that he also had intended to be
an honest hajdamak...."

"Honest! honest!" broke in the pope once more. "I wish you would not
thus use the word."

"Well, honest, as people take it," rejoined Jemilian. "I meant to say
that Iwan had become a hajdamak only because he had shot a tax-gatherer
who was unlawfully going to distrain the goods of his mother, a poor
widow."

"And that is an honest reason?"

"Taras admitted it as such. But he nevertheless refused the young man's
request, because he had assisted Green Giorgi in a deed of cowardly
violence. He gave this account of it himself, crestfallen enough: 'Some
weeks ago,' he said, 'while scouring the lower Bukowina, we received
information that a Jewish wine-merchant from Czernowitz was travelling
by himself along the mountain road to Transylvania. On learning this,
the captain disguised himself as a peasant, requesting me to do
likewise. We lay in waiting by the roadside. The Jew arrived presently,
driving his car, and Green Giorgi begged him to give us a lift. He
good-naturedly agreed, although his vehicle was small, and, taking our
places beside him, we drove on for about a couple of hours, engaging
him in conversation. But on entering the dark, narrow valley of the
Putna, the captain stunned him with a sudden blow, ordering me to fire,
which I did, yet with so trembling a hand that the bullet merely grazed
his arm. Thereupon Green Giorgi drew his pistol and despatched him.'
Thus Iwan, amid sobs and groans; we listened horror-struck, but no one
was more moved than Taras himself.

"'Was not the Jew a broad-built man, with a reddish beard, and blue,
kindly eyes?' he inquired presently, with husky voice. 'Yes, yes,'
groaned Iwan; 'ah, it is those eyes I cannot get rid of....' 'Villain!'
cried Taras, 'I knew the man; he showed me a similar kindness. But even
if I had never seen him I could have nothing to do with an assassin!'
'Have pity on me,' pleaded Iwan, 'I could not gainsay the captain, and
it was but a Jew!' 'Away, villain!' repeated Taras furiously; 'is a Jew
not a man? And you need obey no one for the committing of murder!' Iwan
fell on his knees. 'If you reject me, I can but shoot myself,' he
cried. 'There will be no harm done if you do,' said Taras, 'for it is
what you have deserved!' We turned from him, going our way. And he did
as he had threatened, the lads of old Michalko telling us only
yesterday that they found him dead in the forest, the discharged pistol
in his stiffened hand. We were sorry, but Taras never altered a
look...."

The priest paced his room excitedly while this report was being given,
and now he stood still. "These, then, are your hunting pleasures!" he
cried, wringing his hands. "Is this the pastime by which Taras hopes
to regain his spirits? And the worst of it is, it seems to delight
him--he will return for Palm Sunday only! How do we know he will return
then?"

"He will keep his word," said the man, confidently. "I was no less
alarmed than you, and would not have come hither with his message had
he not sworn faithfully to return by Palm Sunday."

Father Leo took comfort, asking presently: "And did he tell you what he
means to do now?"

"Not in so many words, but I am pretty sure he will now take us through
the Bukowina...."

Leo stared at the man, horror-struck, his whole figure trembling. His
plump, honest face was livid with the thought that had come to him. He
grew purple and white again, and big drops stood on his forehead.
"Jemilian...." he groaned.

The man had watched him, his own appearance as it were reflecting the
pope's emotion. But now he stretched forth his hands as though
combating an unworthy suspicion. "No, no!" he cried, "do not--do not
insult the pure-hearted man!"

The pope drew a deep breath, and fell again to pacing his room.

Some time passed in silence; the labouring man seemed lost in gloomy
thought. When he looked up presently, Leo started as out of a dream.
"Go," he said with trembling voice, "and God be with you! Tell him our
conversation, and that I shall look for him by Palm Sunday without
fail. If we were not in trouble ourselves, I would think nothing of the
twenty miles' distance, but would go with you to urge his return even
now."

"Do you know him so little?" said the man with a smile. "'Twere easier
to make the Pruth flow backwards than to turn him from his purpose. But
he will keep his promise." He drew a breath. "Doubt him not! And pray
for him," added the faithful soul, "he sorely needs it."

Jemilian departed, and Father Leo returned to the bedside of his
youngest child. The little boy lay in high fever, tossing the more
wildly as his hands were tied up for fear of his scratching the painful
pustules.

The apothecary who had seen him a couple of days ago had judged that
the illness would run its course favourably, but that it had not yet
reached its height. And it was so; twelve weary days had to pass before
the danger was over. And even then the poor parents could not lift
their heads, for when the little one recovered, both the elder boys
sickened with the same terrible disease, and all their anxiety began
afresh. No one could have blamed Father Leo if in this season of sorrow
he had thought little of the absent friend, all the more as the daily
visits of Anusia had ceased; she was obliged, for her own children's
sake, to hold aloof. But on the contrary, he thought much and pitifully
of the roving man and his strange hunting-time. It scarcely needed the
sad news which reached him on the last Sunday in Lent to rouse his
sympathy afresh.

For on that day a messenger from the district town brought over the
long-expected imperial rescript. Leo knew what the contents would be,
and yet he hesitated to break the seal. Those thoughts that had come to
him as he listened to Jemilian's report--thoughts of a suspicion which
he had striven to combat--surged up in him afresh. And he felt as if
that red seal in his hands were dyed with the heart's blood of the most
righteous man he had known. He almost felt forbidden to break it, and
when he did so at last it was with a sigh. He was not mistaken; the
writ contained not merely a denial, but also a reproof for having
wantonly troubled the ear of His Majesty. Father Leo groaned. "Taras
must never know that," he murmured. "I shall not give him the literal
contents."

But not four-and-twenty hours had passed before all the villagers
knew that the Emperor had written a letter to Taras, saying: "You
good-for-nothing subject, if ever you trouble me again about your law
suits, I shall have you shut up in prison!" It was the corporal who
thus paraphrased the imperial decision, having it direct from Harasim
Woronka, who was a common labourer now, thanks to his drink, working
for the mandatar. It was Mr. Hajek's doing that this version was thus
carried to the people; he had learned at Colomea that the decision had
arrived, and had instructed his under-steward accordingly. Father Leo
was greatly incensed, and saw he had no choice now but to inform Taras
of the full contents, there being no mention of prison at any rate. And
he made up his mind to get an insight into Taras's heart if possible,
hoping the confessional in Passion Week would yield the opportunity.

Palm Sunday was at hand. Early spring had made its appearance, the snow
was fast melting, the south wind blew, and the hearts of men were
happy. Father Leo especially had reason to bless this early spring, the
vivifying influence of which made itself felt in the sick-room, helping
to conquer the dread disease. But the parents yet took turns in sitting
up at night.

And thus the night before Palm Sunday found Father Leo awake in the
dimly-lit chamber; the boys were asleep, he, with stockinged feet,
walking up and down between them and the window. Again and again he
stood still by their little beds, looking down wistfully at the pale
faces of his children, on which the illness happily had left no
ravages, and, turning back to the window, he would gaze out into the
moonlit night. The village street was bright as day, but solemn in
silence. The trees, just breaking into tiny buds, stretched forth their
branches into the glimmering air, and there were quivering sounds as of
the whispering winds of spring. From a copsewood near, the call of the
screech owl was heard; it is counted a death omen in most places, but
Father Leo scarcely noticed the dismal notes for the kindly light
pouring down upon the world. And the pious man lifted a full heart to
the Giver of all goodness, who had brought back his little ones from
the arms of death. "If I could but tell them," he murmured, resuming
his walk, and seeking words for the holy things that moved him. The
good man was making his sermon for the morrow.

He was startled by a sound from the window, a finger tapping the pane
gently. A dark figure stood without, and, looking close, he recognised
Taras.

He hastened to open the sash a couple of inches. "Welcome! welcome!" he
said warmly, "I am glad you have made good your promise."

"I returned an hour ago," replied Taras. "My wife and children are
well; but you have seen trouble?"

At which the pope made haste to add that the Lord's goodness was being
shown to him even now. "Come in," he concluded.

"It is late," said Taras; "I only wanted to have a look at you. Though,
let me say, I know what you are keeping for me, happening to fall in
with the two lads of Simeon by the Czeremosz yesterday, and they told
me the imperial decision had arrived."

"But I daresay they have not told you correctly," said Father Leo,
anxiously. "We will put off everything till to-morrow, but no false
report in this respect shall grieve your heart; a minute longer than I
can help. The rescript consists of a few lines only, and I have read
them so often that I know them by heart. It is true that your petition
is refused, because the verdicts of the local courts had plainly shown
you in the wrong. And you are warned from again appealing to the
Emperor needlessly; it is condoned this once, because of your evident
zeal for the good of the parish. These are the very words: 'The subject
Taras Barabola is herewith instructed to refrain from again troubling
His Apostolic Majesty or the Imperial magistrates, and to submit to
justice.' That is all, I assure you; never a word of prison. And it is
bad enough as it is."

"Bad enough," repeated Taras slowly. "What were the last words?"

Father Leo looked at him, he could see his face plainly in the
moonlight; it was quite calm. So he repeated the final clause.

"To submit to justice," said Taras after him, slowly. "Good-night."

The pope would have wished to detain him, but the clock had struck one
some time ago, and it was the hour for giving the children their
medicine. So he shook hands with him through the window and returned
to the little patients, where the phial stood by the side of a
night-light.

He was just taking up the bottle, when suddenly--fearfully--a cry rang
through the stillness without, half lost in the distance, but so
terrible, so death-inspired that he shook violently, sending forth a
cry in return. The children sat up in their beds sobbing, but he flew
back to the window, trembling, and listened. Deep silence had settled
without, and not again was it broken; yet he gazed out anxiously,
prepared for the very worst.

But all seemed at peace; the little cottage gardens, and the street,
and the fields beyond, lay swathed in moonlight, but deserted and
still. Nowhere a trace of living soul, not a sound to be heard, save
the whispering of the branches bending to the night air. Was it Taras?
Did ever human breast send forth such a shriek of mortal agony? The
priest could not tell, but he remembered the screech owl. "The bird of
night may have flown past the house," he reflected, straining his ear
to catch a repetition of the sound. But all was still; only the wind
kept swaying the branches.

He crossed himself and returned to his children, endeavouring to calm
them; and having given them their medicine, he strove to take up the
thread of his sermon. But that was well-nigh impossible. Again and
again he stood still, listening; but only the gentle voices of the
night reached his ear, no sound of alarm--the screech owl was
silent....

The small hours passed slowly, gloomily. With the dawn the popadja
entered to take his place. "Little father," she said, "have I been
dreaming, or did I hear it? A terrible cry broke upon my sleep, as of a
man being strangled and crying for help...."

"I daresay you dreamt it," returned he, huskily, making haste to gain
his study; there was early service at eight o'clock, and he really must
collect his thoughts for his sermon.

But it was impossible, for while he was yet dressing he was suddenly
seized with a burning desire to see his friend, and nothing was to be
done but follow the inward compulsion. He snatched up his cloak and
hurried from the house.

Entering Taras's farmyard, he found his two eldest boys in their Sunday
garments, with bright plumes in their brand-new caps. They were making
a desperate noise with toy trumpets. On seeing the pope they ran up to
him and kissed his hand.

"Father returned last night," they cried, "and see what he brought
us--a trumpet each and these beautiful caps."

"Is he at home?" inquired the priest.

"No. He is gone to see Jewgeni."

"The judge?"

"Yes--that judge," returned little Wassilj, with all the contempt he
was capable of. "He has business with him. He would never go and see
him for the pleasure of it."

"And where is your mother?"

"Getting ready for church."

"Well, tell your father to come to me in the vestry directly after
service. Do you understand?"

Wassilj promised to deliver the message. "And I know what for," he
added, with childish importance, "the Emperor's answer has arrived."

Full of disquietude the priest retraced his steps. "What business can
he have with the judge?" he wondered.

Explanation was at hand. He came upon the judge at his own threshold.

"Glad to meet your reverence," said Jewgeni. "I have called for your
advice. My brother is against it, but all the people are for it."

"For what?"

"It is Taras's proposal. He came to me this morning saying: 'I want you
to call together the general meeting directly after service--not merely
the heads of families, you know, but all the community. You are aware
that the final decision has arrived from Vienna. I want to render an
account to the people. Now whether you are my enemy or my friend is
nothing. You are the judge, and I claim this as a matter of right,' I
need not tell your reverence that his friend I certainly am not. For,
firstly, he is against the Emperor; secondly, he is a bastard; thirdly,
he is only a lowlander who has sneaked into our village; and, fourthly,
that wife of his----"

The man involuntarily put his hand to his face. Father Leo understood
the gesture, but his heart was too heavy for a smile.

"I know," he said quickly, "you are not exactly his friend, good man
though he is. But what answer did you give him?"

"None at all," replied the judge, rather bashfully. "How could I
without first consulting my brother Constantine, and he is against it.
'Do you want him to talk the people over?' he said. 'What have we to do
with his petition to the Emperor? If he has lost his case it serves him
right,' said Constantine."

"For shame!" cried the honest pope. "But what of the people? You said
they are for hearing him. I hope they are."

"Well," returned Jewgeni, "my brother ought to know, being a corporal!
But the elders and others of the men who heard of it think differently.
'He shall have the meeting,' they said; 'it is due to him in simple
justice.' And what may be your reverence's opinion?"

"Call the meeting, by all means!" cried Father Leo, warmly. "Shall this
man, who has sacrificed so much of his time, his money, his powers, for
the good of the people, not be permitted to render his account, because
he has stood up for your right, even beyond his duty? Of course you
must hear him!"

"Very well, then," said the judge, meekly, kissing the priest's hand,
"the meeting shall be called. The people can be informed after the
service, but I will send a message to Taras at once. Yet I am not sure
my brother, the corporal----" he scratched his head and went his way.

It was high time for Father Leo to repair to church for early mass. He
hastened to his vestry, where the sacristan stood waiting to assist him
with the vestments. And Father Leo began his duties.

The church was one of the United Greek community, in which mass was
read according to the Roman Catholic rite, but in the language of the
people, consequently the worshippers were able to follow intelligently.
It was a good congregation, and they appeared to listen prayerfully
whilst Father Leo with his choristers chanted the antiphony. But the
good father himself had trouble in centering his thoughts on his
sacred occupation. His eyes had scanned the people, and he knew that
neither Taras nor Anusia were present. But Taras's companions had
come--Jemilian, Sefko, and Wassilj Soklewicz, looking haggard and worn.

Mass over, the priest returned to his vestry to put off the heavy
garments before mounting the pulpit. He was on the point of re-entering
the church, when the outer door leading to his sanctum was torn open,
little Wassilj bursting in, sobbing.

"What is it?" cried the priest, white with apprehension.

"Little father," sobbed the child, lifting his hands beseechingly,
"mother entreats you to come to us at once--at once! It is a matter of
life and death, she says."

"Good God--what is it?"

"Alas!" cried the boy, "I cannot tell you! I only know that mother is
in despair."

"Is your father at home?"

"Yes! We were just starting for church, when a messenger from Jewgeni
arrived, saying, 'The judge will comply with your desire, and the
general meeting shall be called,' Thereupon father turned to mother,
saying, 'Then we cannot go to church, for I owe it to you to tell you
before telling the others.' And to us he said, 'Run into the yard,
children.' But we remained in the hall ... and ... we never did it
before!" sobbed the child.

"Did you listen?"

"Yes! We heard father's voice, he spoke lowly and we could not
understand. But presently mother gave a sharp cry, as though she were
suffering some fearful pain. I could not help bursting in, Fedko and
Tereska after me. Mother was on her knees before father. 'Don't do
it--oh!' she sobbed. 'But I _must_!' he said, 'not even pity for you
and the children must prevent me!' And we began to cry, and mother
said, 'Yes, children ... come and kneel to him! Perhaps he will listen
to your tears, if he will not to mine!' Ah, little father, her face was
streaming...."

"Go on; what else?"

"We knelt, we lifted up our hands, and we cried, 'Don't do it, father,
for pity's sake!' But he shook his head, big tears running down his own
face. And then mother sent me to fetch you. Do come, little father!"
said the child, weeping.

Father Leo's chest heaved. "How can I?" he said, "the people are
waiting for the sermon! It would be wrong to disappoint them."

"It would, your reverence," remarked the sacristan. But the child had
got a hold of his gown, repeating anxiously, "Come; oh, do come!"

"It is the lesser wrong," said Father Leo, with a sudden resolve. "Run
home, Wassilj, and say I am coming directly."

And hastily he entered the church. "I beg your leave, good people," he
cried. "I cannot give you a sermon to-day. God will forgive me, there
is a holier duty waiting," and he vanished into his vestry.

There was a loud murmur in the congregation, surprise being uppermost.
And then there was a flocking forth from the building. But outside
Jewgeni and his elders kept crying: "Go to the linden, all of you! We
call the general meeting for the hearing of Taras."

The corporal stood by, smiling an evil smile. "Let us go and hear the
joke!" he said, following the stream of the people.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                        THE PASSION OF JUSTICE.


The pope, meanwhile, made what haste he could to Taras's house; it was
barely a ten minutes' walk, but it appeared to him fearfully long.

Having reached the farm, he rushed into the house--it was silent as a
churchyard; after much looking and shouting he discovered only little
Tereska near the hen-roost. The child had a tear-stained face, but
seemed to have recovered her spirits, taking evident pleasure in
chasing a hen. "Where is your father?" inquired Leo, anxiously.

"Gone!" said the child, and began to cry again.

"Gone?"--Father Leo crossed himself--"where to?"

"Don't know--he and mother----"

"To the meeting?"

"Don't know," repeated the little one, sobbing more violently. "Mother
was crying, and father was crying!" But the hen appeared to make its
escape, and the child was after it.

"They can only have gone to the meeting," said the pope to himself,
retracing his steps speedily.

The inn with the linden in front of it was a little way beyond the
church. The village seemed deserted; only a tottering old man in
front of a cottage sat basking in the sun. "I wish you would send my
grand-daughter back," he called out, querulously, "Taras will have
plenty of listeners without her."

Father Leo, indeed, found the place crowded; the very oldest and
youngest excepted, none of the village were missing. For the "general
meeting" is an event, and duly appreciated. The faces of the people
reflected its importance as they thronged in a circle about the linden,
where a table had been placed by way of a platform for the speaker.

Taras was just mounting it when Father Leo arrived; a murmur of
expectation ran through the people, of pity, too, with most, and of
spite with some. But surely this latter sensation was smitten with
shame at the sight of the unhappy man about to address them. His hair
had become grey, his face was worn, and his eyes burned with a piteous
fire deep in their sockets.

"Ye men of the village," he began, with trembling, yet far-sounding
voice, "and all of you who are members of this parish, I thank you for
coming here, and I thank the judge for having called this meeting. For
although it is but a duty on your part, and on his, to hear me, yet a
man who has lived to see what I have seen, is grateful even for that
much!

"Jewgeni will have told you why you are here: I want to render an
account--yet not concerning the past, as he seems to think, but
concerning that which is at hand. Listen, then, to what a man has to
tell you who has been happy and has become unhappy, because justice is
what he has loved and striven for most. Some of you love me, others
hate me, and I daresay I have grown indifferent to many. But I pray you
listen to me without love or hatred, as you would listen to a stranger
whom death overtakes in your village, and who is anxious to unburden
his soul before he goes hence. You would have no personal sympathy with
such a one, but you would believe him because he is a dying man. Well
then, believe me likewise, for I am a dying for your sakes!"

A shrill cry interrupted him, and a wave of excitement passed over the
closely-pressed people. In vain the pope endeavoured to force his way;
this wall of human beings stood firm as a rock. But on the other side
of the linden, towards the inn, some of the men were seen moving. "They
are taking away his wife!" was whispered from mouth to mouth. "She has
fainted!"

Taras had not stirred from his place. An agony of grief quivered in his
features, but he stood motionless. They saw him lift his hand, the
commotion subsided, and in silence they hung on his lips.

"Men and women," he resumed, "you have just witnessed that which is
enough to move any heart! Give her your tenderest pity! She needs it
doubly, not understanding that what I am about to do I _must_ do. Love
to me and to the children makes it impossible for her to follow my
meaning. But you will see more clearly; you will perceive it is not
wantonness and wickedness that forces me to separate from those that
dwell in peace. The guilt of it will not fall on my head, and I need
not fear the wrath of God. When the day of His reckoning comes I shall
be able to answer. But I also shall have a question to ask of Him in
that day, and I shall look for _His_ answer. Let me hope it will not
differ from what meanwhile I have said to myself in His name!

"Listen, then, to my confession. There is both good and bad to be said
of me, in accordance with the truth. For a man should not be unjust to
himself, any more than to others. And if in most cases it is but a
false shame that would conceal one's vices or one's virtues, it were a
crime in mine. My heart, therefore, of which I have not yet been able
entirely to root out pity for myself, shall not influence my speaking.
And what were the use of complaints? Am I not like a man whose fields
have been wasted, whose dwelling has been destroyed by the flood from
the mountains? Shall such a one sit down by his ruined home crying:
'Why should God have sent this to me? why should the flood find its way
just to my house?' Why, indeed! Surely it was not mere accident that
the pent-up waters should have broken through just in this direction;
and if he is wise he will not sit still, but will ascend the torrent
till he find the cause of his trouble. And I will not have you stand
about me lamenting, but you shall follow me up the stream to see why
the roaring waters have burst on my happiness, singling me out for
destruction.

"You are acquainted with my past, as though I had grown up among you.
You know I am a bastard, and that I had to suffer greatly on this
account; but you also know that, thanks to my mother, the wrong I
endured became a blessing. She had been brought to see that the heart
is poisoned which ceases to believe in justice on earth; so she
regarded not herself in order to teach me that faith. And when I had
been able to overcome a terrible temptation, when I had gained for
myself the goodwill of men, this faith of hers appeared to me also the
very bulwark of life. Yes, my friends, I had learned to look upon this
earth of ours as upon a well-ordered place where each man has his own
share of labour, and is rewarded according to his work: for equity and
justice seemed to be the foundation of things.

"He who has once admitted this belief into his heart and mind can never
be really unhappy, even if misfortune should overtake him like a
thunderstorm in summer. Trouble did come upon me. I bore it--first the
illness and death of my mother, and then the return of my father. The
first trial was the sorest, but my soul could rise from it with less
effort than from the intercourse with the vagabond, just as the body
will recover more easily from some painful gunshot wound than from a
lingering fever. You all know how I strove to do what was right by my
father, and you also praised me for it; but it was only a rendering of
justice, the paying back of the debt I owed to my mother. He denied
being my father, the memory of her that was gone was being sullied, and
that made me willing for any sacrifice, ready to bear any burden
without murmuring or sinking under the load. It made me serious, but
not sad. For did I not suffer for the sake of justice, which grew all
the dearer to my heart!

"The old man died. I did not rejoice; I felt like those men who all
their life long carry salt in heavy loads from here to Hungary,
bringing back packages of Hungarian tobacco instead. The poor slave
wipes his forehead and is glad to have arrived at his destination with
his burden of salt, but he is not therefore jubilant, for he knows that
he will set out with his bundles of tobacco to-morrow, which are just
as heavy, though otherwise different from the salt. Yes, my friends,
young as I was, I had already learned the lesson that this life of ours
is a mere changing of burdens, and I was content it should be so. For
did not everything depend on how we carried our load! But mine hitherto
had been heavy, and I longed for a change, longed for another burden
elsewhere. I believed that at Ridowa I should never cease hearing the
unkind and evil speeches of him for whom I had borne so much; the very
air, I believed, must be full of them. You know that even the wild
beasts can be driven forth from their haunts; destroy their home and
they will repair it, but if you befoul it they go. So I looked for a
place elsewhere, and chance brought me to Zulawce.

"Looking back on those days, how should I not be filled with the pity
of it all? You know how I came to you--a man loving diligence and
understanding his business, thoroughly capable of managing a farm,
honest in all things, and trustworthy. Of the pleasures of life I knew
nothing. I had never yielded to drink, had never conquered a man in
fight, never kissed a girl for love. But I did not regret it, enjoying
in those days what I believed to be the greatest satisfaction of
all, a real content with myself. And why should I not? Was I not doing
my duty? Was I not endeavouring to be just--yes, and had suffered
for righteousness' sake! Added to this, I had complete power of
self-control as far as that may be said of sinful man. I knew that this
Taras, a self-made man, who from a despised bastard had risen to a
position of respect among his fellows, would all his life long be noted
for integrity, for helpfulness and justice; that he would never permit
any wrong, nor ever intentionally repay evil with evil. Thus I believed
myself strong and safe, come what might; for I could never be false to
myself, and the world could not fail me, since, to the best of my
knowledge, it was so firmly grounded on justice."

He drew a deep breath, a sad smile hovering on his lips. "Bear with me,
my friends; did I not warn you there were some good things to be said
of me? But be very sure there is cause for blame as well, nay, I must
bring an accusation against myself concerning the very days I speak of.
My self-reliance was far stronger than could be justified by any virtue
or success of mine. I not only believed myself to be a good man--which
no doubt I was--but the very best man of my age and condition. This
ugly delusion, like my virtues, was the natural outcome of my history,
of my every experience. If a man has to climb a very steep mountain, he
must believe in himself, considering himself stronger and more capable
than perchance he is, else he would never set out on his journey, at
any rate he would fail by the way. And how much more so if he is all
alone! 'The thumb thinks more of itself than all the four fingers put
together,' our much-lamented Father Martin used to say--one of the few
sensible sayings he could boast of.

"You may wonder that I should accuse myself just of _this_ vice! If I
were to put the question to you to bring home to me any proud saying or
act of conceit, I dare say none of you could do it. Have I, then,
deceived you--shown myself different from what I am? Do I stand here a
hypocrite, self-convicted? Nay, God knows it is not so, and this will
not explain the apparent discrepance. It was no trouble to me to be
gentle and good and kind to every one, first at Ridowa and then at
Zulawce--helpful to all, and ready to serve them. I did but follow my
own inmost nature, and to be different would have cost me trouble.
Indeed, that pride of mine which possessed me was of a peculiar kind.
I, at least, never knew a man who was lorded over by a similar
taskmaster. The consciousness was ever present with me--'This Taras
Barabola is a good man, and righteous and just. I am glad I am he!' But
it were a mistake on your part to suppose that for this reason I was
happy, wrapped up in my own esteem. No, indeed--that pride of mine,
again and again, was the cause of shame to me, when I examined my deeds
and those of others. 'No man is a church-door,' says the proverb with
us. And I, too, was of flesh and blood; I, too, must fail and sin where
I would not. Little sins mostly, at which another might have laughed
without therefore being counted wicked or specially hardened. But to
me, they were grievous beyond words. And no effort, no honest will of
mine was a defence against them; for man is but human, and walking
along the dusty road of this life he can scarcely keep his skirt
entirely pure. The careless man will not be troubled by a little more
or less of dust on his garment; but he who, so to speak, has a habit of
frequently looking at himself in the glass, cannot but feel the
smallest speck a burden. And thus, just because of my pride, my little
sins have weighed on me far more than many a man can say of his
grievous ill-doings, and to atone for them seemed almost impossible.

"But more than this, even the ill habits of others would be a burden to
me in the same way. For instance, to exemplify it by the most frequent
occurrence, it was a real pain to me to see any neighbour of mine yield
to drink, carrying not only his earthly gains but his very manhood into
the public house, there to lose them. Others would find it best to mind
their own business, but that pride of mine left me no peace. 'What is
the use of your being so good, Taras,' it would say, 'unless you strive
to help and save? What is the use of your being so sensible, so sober
and self-denying, except that you should be an example to these
besotted fools?' I was just driven to do what I could to rescue the
man; my pride would have torn me to pieces had I forborne; and if I
failed in my endeavour, as in most cases I could not but fail, it made
me sad at heart, and I believed myself bad and useless because of it.
It was the same regarding the laziness or unfitness of any in their
daily work. I would try to get hold of such men gently, teaching them
without hurting their vanity. In these things I mostly succeeded, for a
man will more readily take your advice concerning the ploughing of his
field or the management of his cattle, than he will take it in matters
of drink or ill-usage to some poor girl. Moreover, I could always fall
back on myself--I mean, if some idle or besotted neighbour would let
his farm go to ruin I could come to his assistance; for the diligent
man is never short of time, and my own farm need not suffer because of
my helping another. Indeed, I have often thus helped a neighbour,
sometimes because compassion was strong in me, but more often it was
just that same pride that made me do it."

"You should not say so!" broke in a voice, quivering with emotion. "You
should not, indeed! How dare you call it pride--how dare you make a
vice of what is the rarest of virtues?"

It was Father Leo. With a troubled heart, shaken to its depth with pity
and with grief, he had listened to his friend. He alone had understood
what Taras meant in saying he must "separate from those that dwell in
peace," and he knew that the terrible forebodings which had come to him
during the interview with Jemilian were about to be fulfilled. But how
to prevent it--ah, how, indeed? Every fibre of his honest soul trembled
with the apprehension of it; every faculty of his brain was bent on
finding a means of averting the great sorrow at hand. "I am unable to
hold back ruin," he murmured, pressing closer to the table, longing to
be nearer his friend when the terrible word would be spoken. And
standing there with a beating heart, the whole history of the strangest
of men once more passed before his soul--all the shaping of so dread a
fate--since first he beheld Taras, the leader of the community gathered
by the Pruth to receive him on making his entry into the parish; all he
had known of him since, until the interview by the window in the past
night, until that cry of despair still ringing in his ears but far
distant already, for God only could tell how much of the terrible
history had been woven even since that cry....

"It is all as it must be," sighed he, bowing his head; "there is no
help for it!" But his impassioned heart could not surrender without a
struggle. If he could do nothing else for his friend, he at least would
not allow that best of men to accuse himself unjustly before this crowd
of listeners, of whom few indeed were fit to look upon so noble a soul
thus laid bare to their gaze. It was for this reason he had interrupted
him at the risk of a sharp rebuke from the highly-wrought speaker.

But Taras was calm, smiling even as he made answer: "Nay, your
reverence, I must distinctly contradict you--I know it was pride. But I
will own to you that the only man to whom I ever opened my heart before
this hour, speaking to him about this vice, shared your error. The man
I mean was that honest compatriot of ours at Vienna, Mr. Broza, and he
spoke words to me which I should not repeat if I were not a dying man.
'This is sheer blasphemy,' he said, 'do you not see whom you accuse of
sin, if you call that kind of disposition pride? None other, let me say
it reverently, than the Saviour Himself--Christ Jesus, the Lord! In
this sense He also was proud--ay, a thousand times prouder than
you--the very proudest man that ever lived.... But happily,' he added,
'happily we call it by another name--the beneficence of him who being a
law to himself is filled with tenderest love to his neighbours.... I do
not mean thereby to compare you with our Lord, Taras,' he concluded,
'but you are a rare man nevertheless--a Christ-like man.' Bear with me,
men and women, for let me say it over again, it is a dying man that
dares repeat such words to you. And surely I know my own heart better
than another can know it. It was pride that moved me; it was sin.

"But having now laid bare my inmost heart to you, showing you the good
and the bad within me, you may judge for yourselves how I must have
felt when first I came among you. It was as though I had entered a
strange world, it was all so different from the lowlands--different
and, as I was ready to say, worse. But my pride did not permit me to
look down upon you on that account, or to rejoice in finding you
wanting; on the contrary, it urged me at all hazards to correct your
ill habits. It was no easy matter for me to understand you, and find a
reason for your doings; but I set about it and perceived where to make
a beginning, and to what length I could go. My task grew plain. There
was need to improve your agriculture, giving you for your low-lying
fields the ploughshare of the plain. There was need to show you how to
benefit your live stock by increasing the number of herdsmen and
providing the cattle with shelter. There was need to accustom you to a
garb more suitable to your labour, need to teach you the advantage of
adding rye-bread and beef to your staple food. There was need, above
all things, to break you from that wildest of your habits, so full of
danger to yourselves, the constant wearing of arms...."

He stood erect, stretching forth his hand, as he scanned the people
proudly. His eyes shone, and his voice increased in fervour.

"For twelve years I have lived in this village. As a poor serving man I
came hither, and for years I bore the scorn of many. I have never
boasted of what you owe me; no word or look of mine ever called your
attention to what I have done for you. Nor would I do so now. What,
indeed, were the gain of your thanks to a man in my position? But I
will have you know the _truth_ about me, and justly you shall judge me;
it is therefore I ask you--Have I done these things, and were they for
your good? Have I benefited you, and is it my doing--mine alone?"

His voice swelled like thunder: "Speak the truth, men of Zulawce--yes
or no!"

There was a breathless silence, broken after a minute or two, as the
forest silence is broken by a gust of wind when the branches whistle,
the stems bend and creak, and every creature starts up affrighted, the
many voices blending in one mighty sound; and thus to the pale, proud
man but a single answer was given, bursting simultaneously from these
hundreds of men.

"Yes, Taras, yes--it was all your doing!"

And then only the excited answers of individuals were heard.

"Yes, indeed," exclaimed an old man, "just eight years ago Taras built
us the first cattle-fold, and the gain since has been double!"

"Long live Taras!" cried Simeon, half choking with sobs.

"Yes! yes!" broke in Wassilj, the butcher, "if we feed better, it is
because he showed us how!"

"And it is all true concerning the plough--I ought to know!" chimed a
voice like that of a little boy. It was Marko, the smith, a giant to
look at, who owned this queer little voice.

"Long live Taras!" repeated Simeon; one after another joining in the
cry--"Yes, Taras for ever!"

But the unhappy man stood trembling, his bosom heaved, and tears ran
down his haggard face. He tried to speak, but the words would not rise
to his lips, nor could he have made himself heard for the people's wild
acclamation. At last he succeeded, and, holding out his folded hands to
them, he cried with a voice so rent with agony that his listeners grew
white with dread.

"Stop! stop! for pity's sake, stop! Let not your thanks overwhelm me,
lest your reproaches presently be the harder to bear. For pure and
honest as my intention was, you will come to see I have lived to be a
curse to myself and my family; a curse, also, to you!..."

There was a deep silence when he had thus spoken, a solemn pause, and
all the harsher sounded the spiteful voice of the corporal which broke
it: "A curse? ah, you own it! but you took care it should fall lightly
on yourself, you who fooled an heiress and sneaked into the judgeship!"

"Hold your tongue, you villain!" burst from a hundred voices; and when
Simeon added, indignantly, "Be off, wretch that you are!" the echo went
round, "Be off!" The worthy hero grew pale, continuing, however, to
smile and to twist his moustache, that finest of moustaches in all
Pokutia. But ere long his smile forsook him, for he beheld a little
armed band that had pressed up to the speaker, endeavouring now, with
cries of resentment, to make their way to him. There were six of
them--Hritzko and Giorgi Pomenko, the sons of Simeon; Sefko and
Jemilian, Taras's men; Wassilj Soklewicz, and with him a stranger--that
same Lazarko Rodakowicz, whom Taras had admitted to his own followers,
although he had come to him from Green Giorgi, the outlaw. They were in
a towering rage, and evidently bent on punishing the corporal.

Constantino trembled visibly, offering not the slightest resistance
when two of his comrades--like him, on furlough--took hold, one of his
right arm and one of his left, to drag him away towards the inn. The
people made room, but the words which fell from their lips were
anything but complimentary. "You cur!" cried the men, "you heartless
scoundrel, how dare you insult that man in his sorrow? ... Cannot you
see that he has resolved upon an awful thing, even his own death? ...
And besides this, are you not one of ourselves, you beggar? Do you not
know that respect is due to the general meeting?"

The crestfallen warrior saw fit to hold his peace, making what haste he
could towards the safety of the inn. Not till he had gained the
threshold did he find courage to bethink himself of some witty remark,
but it shrank back within his own soul on his entering the parlour; he
stood still, abashed.

They had laid down the wife of Taras on one of the broad wooden benches
of the deserted place. The heart-broken woman was a sight to move any
man; some of the women were striving to comfort her, especially the
good little popadja and a kindhearted Jewess, the innkeeper's wife.
Poor Anusia had recovered from her swoon; she lay with wide-open eyes,
moving her lips, and burying her hands wildly in the black masses of
her hair, which hung about the death-like face. But her mind seemed
wandering, she gazed absently; and no words--a moaning only fell from
her lips, rising to a smothered cry at times, and dying away. The women
who tended her felt their blood run cold with the pity of it--no
impassioned speech, no flood of tears, could have moved them like that
stifled cry, as of a wild creature in an agony of pain. Once only she
found the power of words when the corporal had just entered the
room--"Away, whitecoat!" she cried.

But the next moment she raised herself on the bench, clasping her hands
and holding them out to him with piteous entreaty: "No--stop--hear me!
Make him a prisoner--don't let him go--for the merciful Christ's sake,
make him a prisoner!"

She sought to gain her feet, but the women held her back gently: "She
is going out of her mind!" they whispered, awe-struck, making signs to
the corporal to be gone. He was only too glad to obey, quaking with
horror, and retreating to the open air. Silence had fallen without, and
the crowd once more prepared to listen to the haggard, grief-maddened
man, who had once been the gentlest and most peace-loving of them all,
and whose wife could but entreat his meanest enemy now to hold him back
from lawless deeds....

"To come to the point," Taras was saying, "the most painful part of it
all--how did I come to be a curse to you, to myself, to all in this
place? It is the consequence of an awful mistake; yet it was not my
belief itself that was at fault, nor my trust in you, but my confidence
in others!

"To this day it is my deepest, holiest conviction, and I will maintain
it with my dying breath, that this world is founded on justice. To each
of us, I hold, God has given a duty to perform, but we have our rights
also, which others must not infringe. This indeed is the staff which
the Almighty has given us to enable us to bear up under our load. For a
burden each one has to carry. And for this reason no one shall dare to
touch his neighbour's staff, or to add unrighteously to his load. For
He that dwelleth above has ordered all things wisely, adjusting the
burden of each man, and weighing it in the scales of His equity. The
man who dares to interfere with this highest justice, sins against
God's rule upon earth, and he shall not do so with impunity. But the
Almighty does not visit every deed of wrong with His own arm; for He
will not have us look upon justice, or atonement for its violation, as
on something supernatural, but as on a thing essential to this life
of ours, like the air we breathe. For this reason He has portioned
out the earth into countries, calling a man to the rulership of each,
to be judge in His stead, to protect the well-doer and to punish the
evil-doer. This God-appointed man--it is the Emperor with us--has a
great burden laid on him by the Almighty, but also a stronger staff to
uphold him than any of ours, the Imperial power. Yet the most powerful
man is but human, and even an emperor has but two eyes to see; and,
like the poorest of his subjects, he can only be in one place at a
time. So he, again, follows the divine example, portioning out his
great empire into districts, appointing a man in each to be judge
in his stead, and investing him for that purpose with some of his
power--for since he is to bear part of the Emperor's burden, it is but
fair he should have part of the Emperor's staff to strengthen him.
These men are the magistrates; and in their turn they follow out the
example of their master, the Emperor, and the higher example of Him
above--they see that every parish is administered by its own judge,
yielding to him part of their power to guard the right. In like manner
every village judge behaves to the heads of families. I look upon it as
a glorious ladder, replete with comfort, uniting earth with heaven, and
bringing us poor sinful men nearer to Him who made us. I say it is
glorious, because the proudest intellect could not add anything to its
perfect goodness; and I say it is replete with comfort, because the
very lowest step of this ladder is under the same law as the highest.
For no matter whether I be a shepherd or a king, he who wrongs me is
committing equal sin, and it is the duty of those to whom God has
entrusted the power to protect the shepherd as though he were a king.
My duty is to do what is right, and not suffer any wrong silently, but
to report it to those whom God has appointed to protect me. All further
responsibility must rest with them!

"Such being to this day my holiest conviction, I am unable to swerve
from my former opinion concerning you. You appeared to me like wild
beasts, your love of avenging yourselves filled me with horror until I
perceived whence it came; it was because you had not yet been taught to
wean yourselves from the ways of your ancestors, who, descending from
the mountains, settled here. They did well to look upon their firelocks
as the best argument in maintaining their rights. For God will have the
right respected, and the ladder I have spoken of is subservient to it;
but where the influence of that ladder cannot make itself felt, as in
the far-off mountain districts, the power of watching over his own
right must return to the individual man. God Himself must have so
willed it, otherwise He would not have peopled those outlying haunts.
But you, who are within reach of the law, continued to act as though
God had never made the provision I have spoken of! It filled me with
horror unspeakable; and if your lesser shortcomings had power to rouse
that pride of mine, how much more so this offence!...

"Many of you will remember my wedding-day, and how I was laughed at for
being so serious; but I was not sad, only full of thought. I knew that
I was about to enter upon an entirely new life, a life beset with the
most difficult duties. For when I stood before the altar I not only
married the girl I loved, but, if I may so express it, I married this
village; and not only to her, but to you also, ay, and to Justice
herself, I promised with a sacred oath to be faithful unto death. No
words of mine could ever express what I felt on that day, how my
thoughts from my own newly-granted happiness would roam away to a
solemn future. For I knew that all my life in this place would be a
falsehood if I did not strive with might and main to bring you to
accept that will of God for yourselves also.... On my wedding-day! such
a terrible taskmaster was that pride of mine!...

"I set about it. I soon perceived that I could do little unless I had
power vested in me--unless I were elected to the eldership. But I
scorned the idea of bringing about that end by despicable means. I
could only leave it with God--whose kingdom I strove to uphold--to
guide your minds. And when I had been chosen, I directed my every
effort to the furthering of the glorious end I had in view.

"That same end was still my desire when the new mandatar arrived four
years ago. You there and then turned against him; I spoke for him.
Events have since shown that you were right in your antipathy, for he
is a wicked man; but you were wrong nevertheless, hating him only
because he was the mandatar. This dislike of yours came to be the test
of my influence with you; for those of you whom I could convince that
it was wrong to hate him because it was his business to claim the
labour we owed to his master, could learn to understand also about that
will of God. I did succeed with many of you, and the day was at hand
that should prove it; for when the mandatar came down upon as with his
demand, expecting us to render the tribute of our live stock to the
very day, you accepted my view of the question. It was the same in the
more difficult matter concerning the forest labour. I shall never
forget what I felt after those meetings. 'Thou God of Justice'
my heart kept crying, 'these people are learning to accept Thy will!'
Old Stephen turned from me--a real grief--but it could not lessen
the holy joy I felt. Indeed, that same joy would have been mine if
those meetings had cost me"--he said it slowly, and with marked
emphasis--"the love of my wife, or the welfare of my children! The
rupture between me and him was irretrievable; there could be no
agreement between the village as it had been and the village as it
should be according to my hopes, and, therefore, none between Stephen
and me. Even his dying words, greatly as they touched me, offered
abundant proof that his thoughts and mine concerning the most sacred
things in life had ever been widely apart. I did not understand him
when he said to me, 'It cannot but end ill when the judge is of another
caste than the people he is called to rule.' ... I believed, on the
contrary, that it would be an ill thing for Zulawce if the judge, like
the rest of the people, were given to violence. Now if there had been
among you a man of a like mind with myself, and better than I, I would
have thought it wrong to seek the judgeship; but as it was, my very
conscience laid it upon me to do so. I was chosen unanimously, as never
a judge before me or since. I was glad for myself, and more glad for
your sakes. There was little danger now, I thought, that you should
ever fail in your duty to the Count, or try to right yourselves by
force of arms. That the new mandatar was a miserable scoundrel I knew
soon enough; it caused me vexation and disgust--the kind of disgust one
feels in touching a toad--but I never for a moment considered it a
cause of alarm. How should the righteous come to suffer in a country
where justice prevails? So I never even threatened him; ay, more than
this----"

He paused as though he had to brace himself up for pronouncing the
words that must follow. But presently he added, "I have to say that
which hitherto has been utterly unknown to you. Let your wrath be upon
me, for it furnished the root whence all this trouble has sprung. Yet I
could not have acted differently. It was myself who assured the rascal,
on his hypocritical inquiry, that we should never meet violence with
violence; and it was this assurance of mine that gave him the courage
to wrong us, coward that he is!"

A cry of rage, not unmixed with surprise, burst from the assembled men,
followed once more by a deep silence, when nothing was heard but their
excited breathing; they were anxious to hear more, and he continued:
"You have a right to be angry! But I also was right in thus speaking to
him. And the proud confidence whence those words of mine had sprung did
not forsake me when he dared violence. I was more deeply roused than
any of you, because I loved the right more deeply. But we had need to
keep our hands pure, both for our own sakes and for the dear sake of
justice, for the guilt of it all must be left with him entirely;
therefore, I staked my very life to prevent your having recourse to
violence on your side. I thanked God that I succeeded; and for the rest
of it, it no longer was concern of ours, but of the imperial law court.
I waited for the verdict as never before did human soul wait and hunger
for the word of man! and when at last it was given--well, if you will
take into account my life and the man I am, you will understand that no
human tongue can describe the indignation which possessed me. I was
utterly broken, yet not with impotent rage, nor yet with my just
resentment against those miserable weaklings that should have righted
us--but only with an utter pity for myself. For at the very moment when
that hunchback creature of a clerk made known to us their decision, the
conviction darted through me: 'Poor Taras! if right and justice are not
to be trampled under foot, you will have to become a law-breaker in the
sight of men!'--I, the happy husband and father, the good, peace-loving
judge--a _law-breaker_! ... _That_ was what smote me down, making me
swoon like a woman, and for _this_ reason I cried and moaned like a
child when I returned to consciousness. Still, it was at that time only
a thought, brooking no gainsaying it is true, but there was no resolve
about it, still less any planning. My mind was overshadowed with the
thunder-cloud that hung heavy on the inward horizon. I had not yet come
to consider the ruin that lurked in its blackness, and as yet I gazed
upon it with horror and dismay as upon a thing within the range of
vision only, but outside the circle of my soul. And once again
confidence lifted her head. What though the court of the district had
failed to do right, there were other steps of the ladder beyond! I
carried our complaint to the court of appeal at Lemberg, hoping and
waiting yet again. But not with the strong hope of the former waiting!
The mind yet clung to it, but my heart had lost its assurance. And the
cloud remained. It spread more and more, forcing me to consider how it
would break. And then,"--his voice sank to a hoarse whisper--"and then
I felt an inward compulsion to go hunting in the mountains ... it was
there I came to see how it would end....

"On returning--it was about this season last year--I found the superior
court's verdict. The plea was declared to be groundless. I did not
burst into a rage, I did not even lament; but I saw that the cloud must
break. It was due, however, not only to me and mine, but even to
humanity, once again to consult my legal adviser. He mentioned the
Emperor; it was only by way of saying something, for the poor man,
himself helpless in the matter, pitied my distress. But that remark lit
up my night, comforting me greatly; it sent its radiance across the
dreary wild in which the straying wanderer had vainly been seeking his
home. The darkness, the terrors were forgotten, for the light of his
own hearth had shone forth to guide him. I had forgotten that there was
one on earth whom the matter concerned even more than myself, because
God had laid it upon him as a great and holy duty; and I knew now it
was my duty to go to that man--to appeal to the Emperor. I went to
Vienna, upborne by a boundless hope! it gave me courage to face the
strange country, to face every difficulty in my way to reach the ear of
Majesty....

"But when I had seen him--it required no word of his--I knew that my
hope was vain. Now, I will not have it said of me that I speak unjustly
of any man; let me say, therefore, I do not look upon the Emperor of
Austria as on one who loves wickedness or unrighteousness. He is a
poor, sickly creature, fond of his lathe they say, and he seemed very
anxious to know about my boots and breeches. That is all; for he is my
enemy now, whom I shall have to oppose as long as there is breath in
this body, and it behoves a man to speak more generously of his enemy
than of his dearest friend....

"I returned home as a man who knows what is before him, and,
recognising his duty, determines that the inevitable shall not find him
unprepared. I acted accordingly with a sadness unspeakable, abiding the
imperial decision. Not that I was foolish enough to hope it might turn
out favourably; but what I meditated grew to be right only when the
Emperor's refusal had reached me. It would have been sin before! But
the time of waiting must not be lost.... Once again I retired into the
mountains, endeavouring to make myself at home there more and more....

"Last night Father Leo transmitted to me the final decision. It is
unfavourable. I have it much at heart that you should understand it is
the denial in itself and nothing else in the writ that has ripened my
intention. Some foolish clerk has clothed the refusal in unkind words,
talking of prison unless I submitted. But I know better than to imagine
that he did so by order of that harmless man, the Emperor, who is too
good-natured to think of hurting a fly. It is not that which moves me.
Nay, if he had penned it with his own hand I would not care a straw
about it, any more than I should be influenced to the contrary if he
were to write: 'My dear Taras, it grieves me sorely to deny your
request; but I am anxious to reward your honest zeal by sending you the
golden cross with which I decorate great heroes.' I should send back
his cross, and would proceed with the duty which is before me."

As these words were falling from his lips his armed companions--Sefko
and Jemilian, Wassilj Soklewicz and Lazarko Rodakowicz--had approached
him more closely, standing quite near to him now. Their faces were
white and quivering with emotion, most of all Jemilian's, who could not
restrain his tears as he turned to his master, handing him his gun.

"Not yet," said Taras gently; but he took the weapon, leaning upon it
as he continued, distinctly, slowly, and solemnly: "Now listen to me,
ye men, and all that have come to hear me! Listen attentively, that you
may be able to repeat my words to any that should ask you. A fearful
wrong has been committed in this village--there has been robbery and
perjury. I have used every means provided by the law to undo it. It has
been of no avail. The perjured witnesses remain unpunished, and the
wrongdoer enjoys the benefit of his robbery. Nay more--not only have I
vainly appealed to the constituted authorities, the guardians of our
right, but I have done so to your hurt and mine. I have been a curse to
the village, because I strove for justice. He who loves the right must
suffer, and the evildoer flourishes!

"It is incredible, and how should one understand it? Is that fair faith
of mine falsehood and deception? Is it not true that God has put an
Emperor over the land, giving him much power, that he should see to the
right? Is there no such ladder as I have spoken of binding earth to the
high courts of heaven?

"Yes--yes, and yes again! It is so, it must be so everywhere where men
would dwell in safety; but it is not so with us. In this unhappy place
the arbitrariness, the unfitness, the carelessness of men has
counteracted the holy will of God, making the wrong victorious!

"What, then, is the consequence for every right-seeking man? I have
shown that wherever the divine institution is powerless, as for
instance in distant mountain haunts, it is not incompatible with the
will of God that every man should be the guardian of his own right. And
how should it be otherwise in an unhappy place, where the wicked man's
violence is left to trample down the right with impunity? In such a
place also the power of protecting his life and goods must return to
the individual man. If there is no Emperor to help me, I must help
myself!

"Hear, then, these three things. Let them he repeated from mouth to
mouth, that all men shall know them who dwell in this unhappy land in
which justice is not to be found!

"Firstly! Since the Emperor is not doing his duty towards me, I am not
bound by my duty towards him. And therefore I, Taras Barabola, declare
before Almighty God and these human witnesses that I can no longer
honour and obey this Emperor Ferdinand of Austria. His will in future
is nothing to me, I disown and disregard it; and in all things in which
hitherto I have acted according to his laws I shall henceforth be
guided by my own conscience solely. Should he cause me to be summoned I
shall pay no heed; should he despatch his soldiers to catch me, I shall
defend myself. And since his magistrates abuse their power to the
furtherance of wrong, and he takes no steps to prevent it, I shall
strive to lessen that power as much as possible, waging war upon it
wherever I can! I shall do this anywhere, everywhere, while I can lift
a hand! Yes, I, Taras Barabola, in the name of Almighty God, herewith
declare war against the Emperor of Austria!--War!--War!"

A shriek rose from the people, surprise, horror, approval and disgust
blending together in a single cry, which died away as suddenly and
completely as though it had been wrung from these hundreds of
listeners--an involuntary outburst of their mute dismay.

"Secondly! Because justice is withheld from us, I shall take it by
force. I shall oblige the mandatar to indemnify the village. Yet this
will not be the extent of my duty, but only a beginning. If the name of
Almighty God is not to be dishonoured in this country, there is need of
a judge, of an avenger, before whom the evil-doer shall tremble and
whom all good men can trust. And since there appears to be no one else
for this holy office, I shall undertake it, looking upon it as a sacred
duty while life shall last. I will be a protector to the oppressed in
the Emperor's stead, since he is not. And because his power is with the
wrong-doer, I shall require a strong arm to oppose it. I shall unfurl
my banner up yonder in the mountains; let each and all come to me that
will serve the right. The wild forest which hitherto has been the haunt
of lawbreakers only, must now be a gathering-place for those that
honour the law, but to whom justice is dearer. There I shall dwell,
beyond the reach of any of their hirelings. I shall swoop down upon the
dwellings of men whenever the high calling I have accepted requires me
to do so, and I shall return thither having avenged the wrong."

"A hajdamak!" cried Simeon, despairingly. "Our Taras a hajdamak!"

"Taras a hajdamak!" echoed the people, some scornfully, some in utter
dismay, according to the hatred or pity that rose uppermost.

"No!" cried Taras, a deep flush overspreading the pallor of his face.
"God forgive you for insulting me at this time. A hajdamak is a
brigand, but I shall be the leader of a band of avengers, and we shall
fight against every evil-doer--against those scoundrels also who go by
that name. Let me add, now, what in the third and last place I have to
say. Within a week from this, by Easter Sunday, my banner will be
unfurled up yonder. Whoever can come to me with pure hands, either to
inform me of a wrong committed, or to join my band, will be able to
learn my whereabouts from any honest herdsman or bear-hunter of the
forest. But let him consider it well before he becomes a follower of
mine. If he seek pleasure or lawlessness let him not come near me, for
our living will be of the poorest, and I shall maintain the strictest
discipline. If he hope for booty let him keep away; for no plundering
will be allowed, and with my own hand shall shoot the man who, while
following my banner, shall dare to touch any man's goods. Let none come
to me who can testify to being happy, for he that follows me must know
that there is no returning, that he has separated himself for ever from
all men dwelling in peace; he must be ready to meet death any day,
either in open combat, which is a death to be courted, or on the
gallows, as though he were an evil-doer indeed. It would not be thus if
men were different, if generosity and self-denial were not so rare in
the world; for then my banner could be that of open insurrection,
enlisting all good men against the common foe--the wrong to be put
down. But this cannot be; I must be satisfied with the possible.

"And now I pray you to make this known, not forgetting to add that
Taras Barabola will continue this war until he has gained the great end
he strives for, until that glorious, divine institution is visibly
established in this land. If I can but succeed, let happen to me what
may, and though I should have to pay for it with my own life, I should
meet even the felon's death a victor indeed."

He paused, his breast heaving, and then he added, with faltering
voice:--

"And now ... fare ye well! Accept my best wishes, individually and as a
community .... I am grateful to those who ever did me a kindness, and
forgive those who have done me any wrong ... Be good to my unhappy
wife, to my poor little children.... I leave them here--ah, forsaken
indeed.... Pity them, don't pity me.... If you will but believe I am
not wantonly becoming an outlaw that is all I look for.... It may be
the last time you see me.... May your life be happier than mine....
Farewell!"

These broken words fell upon so deep a silence that they were heard
plainly by all that crowd of listeners, although his voice had sunk to
a whisper, quivering with tears. And none dared break the silence when
he had finished, until, with a sudden leap from the table, and
surrounded by his companions, he strove to make a way for himself
towards the church.

Then only the sacred awe which held them spellbound was lifted from the
souls of these men, yielding to a commotion unheard of, even among that
savage people--in their 'general assembly' at least. Every man seemed
ready to attack his neighbour; it was a tumult unspeakable, and some
time passed before one voice succeeded in making itself heard above the
rest. It was that of the corporal. "Stop him!" he roared. "He is a
rebel, I will make him a prisoner in the Emperor's name. You must help
me, all of you. Jewgeni, what is the good of your being judge?" He was
not left alone this time, some dozen of old soldiers rallying round
him.

But the rest of the men indignantly opposed him. "We are no policemen!"
chirped the infant voice of the herculean smith. "No policemen!" echoed
the people.... "Let him go in peace!... He has addressed the general
meeting, and has a right to go free."

"In the name of the Emperor!" reiterated the corporal, white with rage,
and, snatching a pistol from the belt of his nearest neighbour, he
pointed it at the men, "Let me do my duty, or woe to your lives!"

"Woe to yourself!" cried Wassilj, the butcher, brandishing his axe in
the would-be hero's face; and blood would certainly have flowed had not
the judge interfered, an unwonted courage coming to him from the
urgency of the situation.

"Do you know this sign?" he cried, thrusting his staff of office
between them. "There is power vested in it; this is the general
meeting, and I command you, desist!" And the combatants owned his
authority, Wassilj dropping his axe and the corporal his pistol.

Taras, meanwhile, surrounded by his little band, attempted to break
through the ranks; it was not so easy, for the people pressed round
him, endeavouring to hold him, and discoursing wildly. But far harder
to the parting man was the sorrowful entreaty of his friends. Alexa
Sembrow, the late elder, had fallen on his knees before him, his white
hair framing an agonised face. "Don't Taras, for God's sake, don't do
it!" he kept repeating, while old Simeon bethought himself of another
means, haply, to stop him. He was pressing to the inn to bring hither
poor Anusia. Father Leo alone looked on with folded arms, his face
quivering, his lips unable to move.

He was the only one for whom Taras yet had a word; turning to him with
deep emotion, he said: "Forgive me, thou best of friends, forgive my
silence, and my grieving thee now so sorely. Thou hast loved me truly,
I know!"

That was too much for Leo; he lay weeping in the arms of his friend.

"Alas," he sobbed, "what a man is lost in you!"

"Not so!" replied Taras, disengaging himself gently. "He who obeys the
dictates of his own true heart cannot be lost, happen what may--at
least not in the eyes of the just ones...." He turned away, stopping
once again: "Father Leo," he said, below his breath, so that the priest
only could understand him, "Father Leo, will you promise me one thing?"

"Surely. What is it? About your wife?"

"Nay; I require no promise on her account, for I know your heart. It is
about--myself--when one day--my last hour shall have come--may I send
for you? Will you come to me--to any place?--no matter how terrible it
be?"

"I shall come," faltered the pope.

"Do you pledge me your word ... to any place?"

"Wherever it be."

"Thank you for all your friendship--for this last proof most of
all...."

He turned away hastily, whispering to Jemilian, "Are the horses ready?"

"Yes; behind the church, as you commanded. Young Halko has saddled
them, and is waiting your orders."

"Then let us be gone."

But one more wrench before he could be free. The sons of Simeon,
Hritzko, and Giorgi, had caught his knees.

"Take us with you," they cried; "we cannot--we will not let you go
without us!"

"Get up!" he cried, sharply; and there was no gainsaying his voice,
hoarse though it was with emotion. "Do you think I am villain enough to
ruin the sons of my friend?" Adding, with a quivering smile: "You are
quite incorrigible. What was the use of my resisting your importunity
before? But love me always, and remember me when I am gone. You are
dear to me. Good-bye!"

He walked away, and none stopped him. Having mounted, he was about to
spur his horse, when once again his name was called with a shriek so
heartrending that he shuddered and paused.

He knew who was calling him. His unhappy wife was standing outside the
inn, looking after him with despairing eyes. She would have fallen to
the ground had not old Simeon supported her trembling figure.

"Farewell!" faltered Taras; but the sound did not reach her, falling
dead at his own feet as it were.

He could but wave his hand, and, spurring his horse mercilessly, the
creature dashed away in a maddened gallop, his men following; and the
little band vanished in the mysterious shadows of the fir-covered
uplands.



                               CHAPTER X.

                           TO THE MOUNTAINS.


There is a strange legend concerning the origin of the Carpathians,
which, now towering abruptly, now rising in gentler lines, form a
mighty wall of separation between the rich lowlands where the Theiss
flows and that vast plain, of heath-country diversified with fertile
tracts, stretching away southward beyond the Pruth into Roumania. To
those blue-green domes cling the gathering clouds, and sailing away
thence they burst in storms of rain upon the Magyar or upon the Ruthen,
as the capricious winds may list; and in those forest-haunts the rivers
rise which come down from the heights, headlong at first and wondrously
clear, but flowing wearily as they reach the plain. The dwellers round
about differ in race and tongue; but they look to the mountains as to a
common centre, where the weather is born, and whence the water is given
for the lowlands; and common to all is that quaintest of legends,
whether Slav, or Magyar, or Roumanian--a legend crudely imagined, but
not without a meaning of its own, however fancifully expressed.

There was a good old time, the people will tell you, at the beginning
of things, when the earth was a fair garden, a fertile plain, with
pleasant groves here and there, and gentle hills. There were no
mountains, no ravenous beasts, no thunder storms, no bursting waters,
and the people were of one race and tongue. Men were happy in those
far-off times--tilling the soil, and living on the fruits of this
beautiful plain. And God would visit the garden He had made, and bless
the children of men. But these foolish people were not content, and,
uniting in their pride, they clamoured for golden harvests without
previous toil; in punishment whereof the Lord God ceased to visit them,
confounding their language so that they could no longer clamour in
common, and permitting, moreover, a mighty barrier to be raised between
them--the great Carpathians--to separate them into different tribes.

For the enemy of men was sent to raise the mountains, and to make them
terrible withal. The heaving earth burst upward, and there were peaks
and crags to frown at the discontented race. The evil one took seven
days to shape the Carpathians, beginning on a Sunday, on which he
heaped up the most towering parts, and finishing off with the lesser
Carpathians on the seventh day when his power was nearly spent; that
was Saturday, for which reason no doubt this part has always been a
dwelling-place of Jews.

The mountain range of seven divisions, as is plainly to be seen, was of
awful aspect, since the evil had the making of them: not a tree or
green thing would grow to clothe the riven rocks and the peaks he had
raised to spread terror upon the once smiling plain. For the Lord God
had been wroth with men.

But there was One in heaven, the good Saviour, who prayed His Father
not to be angry for ever, but to let Him add beauty to the mountains
which the evil one had made for the punishment of men.

He went, and at His touch the whole range was changed, not losing its
dread gloominess, yet gaining a wondrous beauty over and above. For the
Saviour with His pitiful hand covered the bare mountains with the
grandest forests ever seen, surrounding the rocks with spreading
verdure, and planting flowers at their feet. He made waters to spring
in every glen, and cascades leap from the crags; and though wolves and
bears went prowling, He created sheep and the dappled deer to browse in
the sylvan haunts. And ever since, the people will tell you, the
Carpathians have had a beauty of their own, but with terror combined.

It is hardly to be imagined how a man would feel who, by some magic,
were to find himself suddenly transplanted into the heart of these
mountains. For unmoved he could not be, were his perceptions never so
blunted; a sensation of awe would steal upon him with something of
wonder and dismay. Nay, such a feeling must come upon any wanderer
ascending step by step from the lowlands, though the gradual rise would
prepare him in a measure for the weird grandeur and stern beauty
unrolling before his eyes.

To such a one the range at first would appear as a gigantic ridge of
clouds heaped up on the horizon, but differing in hue according to the
time of day; of a bluish black in the morning, they fade into shades of
grey, transparently pale in the full daylight, till the sinking sun
suffuses them with a crimson blush, and they continue shining through
the long twilight like a wall of fire at the far end of the dusky
plain. But the following morning those same shapes are black again, and
all the darker if the air be clear--a wall of towering density jutting
its pinnacles into the ethereal blue.

They seem approaching, but the vast plain is delusive; they are yet
miles away. The landscape, however, has left monotony behind, growing
more changeful at every turn. The moorland has disappeared, with its
sedgy pools, instead of which there is an abundance of rivulets,
growing more limpid and more headlong as you proceed; for you are
ascending steadily, your horizon enlarging. Cornfields are few and far
between, wheat making room for the more hardy oats; while all about you
there are great tracts of brownish uplands, where juniper bushes are
plentiful and the heather will burst into sheets of bloom. Villages
are becoming scarce--mere hamlets, too poor for a manor house,
too poor almost for a church, and with cottages of the humblest, the
public-house alone retaining its undesirable dimensions. Orchards are
no longer to be seen, but beech woods increase; the forest encloses
you, and soon even the beech is crowded out by the fir. The sky,
wherever it appears through the jagged branches, is of a deeper blue,
for there are no misty vapours here as in the lowlands; but the air is
filled with a strange, crisp perfume, the resinous exhalations of pine
wood. Every sense thus is alive to the change of scenery, and if you
are a lover of your lowland home, despite its dreariness, you will be
overtaken by a haunting sensation of fear of the unknown world you have
entered.

But emerging from the pine wood presently, and looking back from the
height you have gained, the very plain behind you has assumed another
aspect, a strange loveliness enwrapping it. The old homely expanse is
aglow with an emerald hue--a giant meadow seemingly--streaked with the
silver of its flowing waters; a shining greensward, the brighter for
its cottages; and far yonder, where the blue of the heavens seems
mingling with the green of the earth, your own dwelling perchance, a
fair jewel in a radiant setting.

But the far-off wall, with its towering blackness? It has resolved
itself magically. To your right and to your left, and above you, there
are round-domed mountains and bolder peaks rising atop of one another
to an immeasurable height. That path up the pine wood has brought you
into the heart of the Carpathians, and their strange beauty, weird and
wild and unspeakably mysterious, is upon you suddenly.

Yet monotony is even here; the world seems a sea of swaying pines, and
the eye has nothing to rest it from the gloomy green save the sky, vast
and blue. The heart grows lonely and wistful, but scarcely attuned to
tender thoughts as amid the voices of the plain. The spell of the
forest wilds is upon it, bracing it up to its own sterner kind.
Resistless and tossing, each torrent dashes through its rocky glen,
breaking into clouds of spray about the boulders, and mantling the
young pines in a shower of shining drops. And from the forest deeps
strange music is heard of groaning branches and whispering tree tops,
now wild and solemn, now murmuring as in dreams, never ceasing, but
going on for ever like the song of the sea. And as you listen you are
caught in a trance, and drawn deeper still into the witching region.
Nature here does not captivate by little gifts and graces; but, having
looked at you once with eyes of kindling beauty, wild, weird, and
awful, you worship at her feet.

It is a charm both chaste and powerful, and, having known it once, you
seek to know more. But not many are admitted to that delight, which is
still reserved for the few--even as in the days when Taras Barabola
repaired up yonder to unfurl his banner. Yet occasionally some lover of
the wilder aspects of nature will quit the shores of the Theiss or the
Fruth to seek entrance into the enchanted regions of that unknown
world. The forest wilds of the Welyki Lys to this day are given over to
bears, hajdamaks, and Huzuls, and the lowland folk aver that there is
little to chose between either. But that is a libel.

Even a bear up yonder is as good-natured as a bear can be, not having
made the closer acquaintance of man. A hunter by nature, he hates being
hunted, and grows surly in consequence; nay, it must be owned that in
the more inhabited parts he has quite lost his native _bonhomie_,
growing cunning and spiteful, robbing more than his need, and killing
for mere blood-thirstiness. Not so, however, up among the wilds. He is
lord in possession there; behaving, accordingly, with a pride of his
own, and not without generosity. Of course he will have his daily
tribute, and fetches it too--now from this fold, now from that; but the
shepherds and herdsmen quite understand this. There is no help against
the lord of the soil, they say; but the bear, on the whole, is at least
a convenient landlord, fetching himself what he wants, and not
expecting you to carry it after him. Not fiercely as a robber,
therefore, nor stealthily as a thief; but leisurely and with dignity,
Master Bruin arrives at the pen, picks out his victim--the sheep, goat,
or calf which takes his fancy--and walks away with it as quietly and
unconcernedly as he came. And he behaves most fairly, not oppressing
one unfortunate subject more than another, but visiting in succession
all the pens and folds within a certain radius of his lair; so that he
may be looked for at pretty regular intervals. The herdsmen have an
idea that he acts from a positive sense of justice; while others, less
credulous, are of opinion that the bear of the Carpathians is a great
walker, and thus naturally finds himself now in this quarter, now in
that, turning to the nearest sheep-fold when it is time for his dinner.
That the queer biped he meets occasionally might also serve him for a
meal, he generously ignores. If he falls in with a herdsman, he gives a
growl: "With your leave, brother, there is room for us both." He growls
too, though more angrily, on meeting any stranger, but rarely thinks it
worth while to attack him; and if he comes across any one asleep he
will have a sniff at him, but without a thought of hurting.

While the wolf, that low, ugly creature, is hated and hunted down
everywhere, a strange feeling of respect prevents any native of the
upper mountains from killing a bear. "The poor little father has none
too easy a life of it," they say, "and it is not well to murder an
honest fellow." There is a tale preserved in the forest of an
Englishman who once arrived there with the notion of bear-hunting. But
although he had muskets of wrought silver, and held them out as
presents to any who would help him, not many were found wicked enough
to join in the chase. "Indeed," say the people, "all who went were
frozen to death, the bad Englishman first and foremost. It served him
right for wishing to hunt the poor little father." The very outlaw, the
homeless hajdamak, shares this feeling; and hunting for the pleasure of
it, whatever he falls in with in the lower forest regions, he acts
peaceably in the upper haunts. "We go shares with the bear up here," he
says, "and he behaves well to us."

The Huzul also, that hybrid of Slavonic and Mongolian blood, who lives
up yonder as a herdsman, hunting the wolf and the deer, and tilling
such bits of ground as he can, is not nearly so bad as he is believed
to be by his betters in the lowlands. His one great vice is an
ingrained want of morality, his own share, handed down from his
fathers, of original sin.

His ancestors, drifting away from the great wave of migration, unused
to a settled home and personal property, knew neither Christianity nor
the wedded estate. Their descendant has accepted all these fetters of
lawlessness, but he wears them lightly, according to his nature. He has
submitted to a settled dwelling, having a hut of his own, but he will
not live in it except when he cannot help himself. From the time the
snow begins to melt, until it lies again mountains deep for seven
months in the year, the Huzul moves about with his cattle from pasture
to pasture, from glen to glen, as though driven, not only by outward
necessity, but also by a mysterious inward need. While the world is
green--winter to him being the black time--he is never long on the soil
of his own property. He must return at times to till his field, to sow
and reap his oats--the hardest and most unwelcome of labour; he _must_
do it, else he would die for want of food, but he never thinks of
adding to his wealth by means of agriculture. Every lamb rejoices his
heart, and he is proud of his foals; but if he enlarges his oat-field,
it is only because of the downright necessity of meeting his wants, and
nothing beyond.

Neither is he greatly advanced in his notions of personal property. To
be sure there are certain fields, and pastures, and flocks, belonging
to certain settlements, these consisting of three or four, sometimes
even of ten or twelve families of the same kindred, and united under
one head who rules by birthright. This chief appoints the sowing of the
fields and the management of the sheep, but not a grain of oats, nor
solitary lambkin belongs to him any more than to another. It is all
common property. Indeed, there are even pastures and flocks which are
the joint property of several settlements, so that a single lamb may
happen to belong to several hundred owners. Such property is managed,
and the proceeds are allotted at the meeting of the married men, who,
though of different settlements, are yet related to one another; for
such common ownership always springs from the fact that their
forefathers formed one family, which, growing too large, had divided
for want of space. There is no personal property then, save wearing
apparel and arms; everything else belongs to the family, which means to
the clan. The student of political economy, it will be seen, could
enrich his knowledge among the Huzuls!

They are no favourites with the clergy. They are Catholics to be sure,
of the Greek Church, but a good deal of their ancestors' heathenism has
survived, and their lowland neighbours say of them that a cat is as
good a Christian as they when she crosses her paws. They take care to
have their children christened in the name of some saint, and they know
that there is a God Almighty living up yonder with the Virgin Mary and
their Son, and that there are lots of angels and devils, and of saints
no end. This is the extent of their catechism, except, perhaps, that
some few can repeat the Lord's Prayer after a fashion. There is no
helpful pastor to feed these poor sheep, showing them the comfort they
require as much as any. For they also are part of the groaning creation
struggling with the sore riddle of existence, and their sense of
helplessness is the greater because their lot is cast amid supremest
hardships, leaving them too often the prey of the blind forces of
nature. As much, then, as any of the striving children of men they are
in need of the assurance that there is a Compassion more than human;
but who is there to tell them the good news?

There are popes in the distant villages whose nominal parishioners they
are. "Why do they not come to church, then?" Innocent question! The
journey would take several days, even if they remembered they would be
welcome. But since there is nothing to remind them of the far-off
church and pope, how should they remember? And so Christianity to them
has resolved itself into the legendary knowledge of the heavenly
household, a poor, useless knowledge, although the Huzul does his best
to grasp the idea of the Godhead, clothing it in his own image. The
Almighty to his perception is a just Huzulean patriarch, something like
Hilarion Rosenko dwelling by the "Black Water;" the Virgin Mary a
kindly housewife; and Christ, the Saviour, a great, noble hunter, whom
the spiteful hajdamaks killed for entering their domain. They don't
quite understand why the popes should keep talking about this Saviour
as though He were alive still; for if He is, why does He not show
Himself among the mountains? But besides this "Christian" belief, they
keep up the institution of those shining divinities worshipped by their
ancestors of old--the sun, the moon, and the host of stars. These,
happily, can be seen, and their blessings felt--the light and the
warmth they shed upon the darksome wilds. But who shall save them from
the powers of evil about them; from the stormy whirlwind rushing
through the forests, uprooting the strongest trees and sweeping away
the sheltering roof of their homestead? Who shall help them against the
wicked sprites whose gambols produce snowdrifts, burying men and
cattle? or who protect them from the evil witch stealing about in the
gloaming with sickness in her train? For they are surrounded with
uncanny beings of whom they know nothing save the ill-effects they
feel, and they know but one means of pacifying them--as one pacifies an
ill-natured neighbour, by occasional bribery.

These strangest of Christians and dwellers of the mountain wilds even
manage to die without the pope's assistance. When some aged pilgrim
lies at the point of death on the couch of bear and sheepskins they
have spread for him, neither he nor his people give a thought to the
ghostly shepherd of the nearest manse. What would be the use, indeed,
if they did think of him, since it would take him at least nine days to
come and return? so it is out of the question, and it is as well that
neither the dying man nor his weeping relatives miss the spiritual
comfort. One of them says the Lord's Prayer, adding some other mystic
charm with which these poor people strive to pacify the divinities they
believe in, the sufferer repeats the words with his dying breath and
expires without anxiety on that score. When the corpse has stiffened,
they bury it beneath some forest tree, cutting a great cross into the
bole, not forgetting some mysterious signs to its right and left "for
the other gods."

If, then, they manage even to die without the aid of a parish priest,
it is scarcely to be wondered at if they do not need him to tie the
nuptial knot. When any man and woman among them, generally of riper
years, have agreed to spend their future days in common, this is a
matter, they think, which concerns no one beyond themselves except the
heads of their settlements, who never withhold their blessing unless
the bridal pair should happen to be of different settlements at
variance at the time about some bit of property or act of violence. If
such is not the case the wedding is fixed upon forthwith, and word is
sent over the mountains: "Come to the homestead of Marko, on such and
such a day, when long-legged Sefko will take curly Magdusia to wife."
And everybody is sure to come, bringing little gifts of kindness, and
taking their fill of the schnaps which the heads of the settlements
have procured in exchange for some sheep in honour of the guests. And
when the last drop has been consumed, Sefko and Magdusia are looked
upon as married, which does not always imply a change in the place of
abode of either of them.

As for the pope's blessing, it is not disregarded on principle, since
even the other gods are remembered; only there is no hurry. Sefko has
no idea that Magdusia, in order to be his really, must be given to him
by the pope, and so he takes his time about it, presenting himself for
the blessing when opportunity offers, maybe the christening of their
first offspring. If the pope be at all zealous he will, of course,
lecture them on their want of morality, the pair listening
submissively, but never understanding what should have roused the good
man's ire, or displeased the Almighty, as he tells them. As for the
infant, it is considered to belong to its mother's settlement, growing
up to the same rights as any other youth.

For the rest, the Huzul shares in all the virtues and vices of
uncivilised humanity: he is free from envy, candid, brave, and
hospitable, but also coarse in his tastes and cruel. The Emperor's
magistrates are nothing to him, he does not need their protection; and
of his free-will he is not likely to pay any tax. Let his cousins of
the lowlands do that, whom he pities and despises accordingly.

Of a similar kind are his feelings concerning the homeless hajdamaks;
he, the native of the mountains, looking upon the outlaws much as the
bear is supposed to look upon man; and, in consequence, actual enmity
between them is rare. Not unless he were really starving with hunger or
cold would a hajdamak ever think of attacking even a single herdsman up
yonder, a last remnant of generosity preventing him from wronging those
on whose soil he dwells, and who, as he but too well knows, could take
grievous revenge any moment. Not in the memory of men, therefore--which
is the only source of authentic history within the mountains--has it
ever happened that a band of outlaws dared an attack upon any
settlement.

But if the Huzul has little to fear from the hajdamaks, he may yet get
into trouble on account of them, that is, by means of the Whitecoats
who are after those ruffians. The Huzul considers it incumbent on him
to hate the soldiers; for are they not the servants of a power he
refuses to recognise? But that power will lay hold of him if it can.
There is no help for the Emperor--he must just put up with it--if the
Huzul refuses to consider himself a taxpayer; some Imperial exciseman,
however, may see his opportunity of paying the Huzuls a visit under
cover of the military. "Hang the hajdamaks!" groans the Huzul, "but for
them no confounded exciseman would have ventured up hither;" and,
overpowered with the thought of his loss in lambs and sheep, he is sure
to add: "Hang the Whitecoats! I wish the hajdamaks could teach them a
lesson and make them keep clear of the mountains for ever." He is so
wrathful, indeed, that he could scarcely tell which of the two he would
like to see hanged first.

A strict neutrality, however, is the outcome. He would rather die than
betray to the Whitecoats the hiding place of "Green Giorgi"; at the
same time he has no idea of warning the outlaw of his enemy's approach,
or of rendering him any assistance whatever. He just looks on; and
nothing would please him better than that the belligerent parties, like
the fighting lions of the fable, should devour each other bodily. And
there are other considerations, besides, inviting him to neutrality. He
knows that there are ruffians among the hajdamaks whom, even with his
notions of honour and justice, he cannot possibly approve of; but they
are a mixed lot, and there are others among them who have done nothing
a Huzul would despise. And since it is not written in a man's face why
he has become an outlaw, the Huzul behaves alike to them all, neither
loving them nor hating them, but holding aloof strictly.

The Imperial authorities, then, cannot expect the Huzuls' help against
the bandits, and need not fear their making common cause with them; but
that is all, since no one ever lifts a finger to raise the poor
dwellers of the mountains and teach them a higher standard of right and
wrong. It were quite useless to expect any better; and if regiment upon
regiment were let loose upon the Carpathians no lasting result could be
looked for; for to give chase to any outlaw in the vast forests is as
hopeless as to seek for a particular insect in a cornfield. The lawless
trade will not die out till Civilisation takes up her abode in the
mountain wilds, taming the dwellers therein; and, if unable to make
better men of them, preparing the way at least for her nobler sister,
even Justice herself, in whose fair sight men are equals, and
oppression shall not stand.

It would be a mistake, however, to imagine that all hajdamaks are
criminals and cut-throats; a distinction must be made. There is no
exact rendering for the word itself in any of the western tongues, and,
fortunately, the thing also lies beyond the experience of happier
nations. The Bulgarians only have a similar word, denoting a similar
existence, the "hajdamak" of the Carpathians and the "hajduk" of the
Balkan being akin, both revealing in strangest blending some of the
best and some of the very worst impulses of a suffering people. It is
not easy, therefore, to judge fairly.

There are three distinct types among these outlaws, or "free men" as
they call themselves. Firstly, there are those who have escaped from
the arm of justice, having committed some crime, and who are not only
guilty in the sight of the law, but of ill repute even among their
kind. These men never unite in great numbers, their own wickedness
rendering them distrustful of one another. Singly, or at most by twos
and threes, they will pursue their villainous trade of waylaying
travellers, or perpetrating what robbery they can. They avoid open
fight, being best protected by their cunning.

Secondly, and far more numerous, are those who are criminals indeed in
the eye of the law, but are looked upon by the people as martyrs to
their cause. Some may have fought the tax-gatherers in bitter despair
when they were about to be sold up; they may have been good and
peaceful men, who thus suddenly took up the evil life. But, terrible as
existence may be in the forest wilds, it is better than prison, and the
unhappy man flies thither from the wrong he has committed almost in
spite of himself. "He is gone after the sun," say his neighbours, glad
to know him safe when the constables seek him--gone westward, that is,
from lowland Podolia into the Carpathians. And others there are,
martyrs to the sad relation between the Polish landlord and the Ruthen
peasant; the landlord oppressing, till at some dark moment of wrath or
drunkenness the peasant snatches up his gun or hatchet. There are
deserters, too, from the Emperor's colours, sympathised with cordially;
for what right should the Emperor have, argue these people, to levy the
life-tax among them!

"Come join us, ye men, for life here is sweet!" are the words of a
hajdamak song. But in truth it is an awful existence, although the
miserable fellows do their best to make it bearable to one another.
They will gather in bands of a score or more, plighting their troth,
each sharing with the other the good things which are of the fewest and
the ill things that abound. The Huzul will leave them alone, and the
Whitecoats they need scarcely fear. But it is nowise easy to be an
"honest hajdamak" when hunger and cold pursue them--for they have
notions of honesty of their own, as old Jemilian suggested in his
report to Father Leo. It is "honest" in an outlaw not to commit mere
vulgar robbery, or take life save in self-defence or for revenge. He
may rob a Polish landlord or the men of the law, but he would be
disgraced by robbing a peasant or a village pope. It is quite "honest"
to stop a stage-coach, empty the postbags, and rob any Polish or
Austrian passenger; but it would be disgraceful to inquire what money a
pope might carry with him, travelling by the same coach. There was a
time when no stage-coach in those parts could be safe from an attack of
hajdamaks, unless accompanied by a strong escort of soldiers. "Great
deeds," however, grew more and more impossible, and indeed they were
never easy. It was always a miserable life in the dreary wilds, without
shelter in the rigorous winter-time, and often without food. And it
would entirely depend on what manner of man the 'hetman' (captain) was,
as to how a band would bear up through such a season of distress;
whether "dishonesty" would be had recourse to, when for the gaining of
a mere livelihood they would sink to the level of the despised
criminal, or whether their spirit would rise to some "great deed" of
despair, even if it must bring them to close quarters with the
Whitecoats. But this second alternative, as a rule, might only be
looked for if the 'hetman' was a hajdamak by deliberate choice, driven
to the life for an idea rather than as the outcome of some crime.

Men of this kind form the third class; they have always been rare, and
the history of one adopting the awful trade of his own free will has
ever made a stir. Mere love of pillage could never be an adequate
reason; for a man of this description is aware that he can rob his
neighbours with less trouble in the plain. No, there are nobler
motives--a wild passionate manliness rising against oppression, or a
yearning indignation and pitiful sympathy with the helpless despair of
the people, will urge some few to "go after the sun." These few are the
last representatives of the true hajdamak, who is fast becoming a
legend of the past. The Ruthens, now the most peaceful and the most
oppressed of Slavonic tribes, at one time were the boldest and most
belligerent of the race, the terror of their neighbours, Poles,
Russians, and Roumanians. But to-day one could only wonder why these
people in song and story should always be designated as "falcon-faced,"
if indeed such a face were not met with among them occasionally even
now--bold and clear-cut, full of energy and passion, with dark daring
eyes. And as the type is found still, so are the old dauntless courage,
and the ardent love of liberty. But he who preserves the true nature is
lonely among his kind, and the misery about him will fill his soul with
a bitter yearning for the times that are gone, the times surviving only
in their songs--wild passionate outbursts, full of bravery and
fortitude, sounding strangely enough on the lips of the humbled,
labouring peasants. And such a one by his own inward necessity is
driven forth from the plain; he takes to the mountains, and henceforth
it is his one desire to make war upon the Polish oppressors, the
murderers of his race. It is his one idea, his one resolve; and being a
man of energy and power, he will naturally rise to the leadership of a
band. He is an "honest hajdamak" at first, but does not always end so;
for it is an evil trade, hurtful to body and soul. And whether they
remain "honest," or fall away from the higher aspiration, they are sure
to end ill--they and their followers.

Truly an evil trade, and few taking to it ever reach old age; the
pitiless cold, or hunger and hardships of grimmest kind decimating the
band, while the more hardy ones fall a prey to the wild beasts, if not
brought to the gallows instead. And whatever their end may be, their
people are anxious that their memory should be wiped out--anxious it
should be forgotten that one of theirs took to the mountains. A
hajdamak while he lives is held in some respect, inasmuch as he has
gained the liberty sighed for by others--the dead man is nowhere.

But among the numbers living and dying thus sadly, there are three
whose names are not forgotten, whose memory lives in song and tale,
though dimmed with the haze of receding years; three who are famous,
moreover, as being the only "hetmen" who moved the Huzuls to take part
for or against them.

The first of these was one Alexander Dobosch, called the Black, or the
Iron-framed, a Ruthen from the Bukowina who arose towards the end of
the eighteenth century, and for several years was far more powerful
throughout Pokutia than the Emperor. He had been a well-to-do peasant,
and a boundless ambition only appears to have led him to his strange
and fearful adventures. The Huzuls adored him, and he behaved like a
king of the mountains, issuing manifestos to the "fellow at Vienna,"
making laws and levying taxes. But this was his ruin; the Huzuls were
not going to condone in the iron-framed hajdamak what they had never
approved of in the "fellow at Vienna." Their devotion gave way to
wrath, but the man was so powerful that they dared not oppose him
openly. He was poisoned by some of his followers at a drinking bout.

Of a different type was "Wild Wassilj," or, as song has it, the "great
hajdamak," a Podolian peasant youth, lithe as a sapling pine, strong as
a bear, and daring as a falcon. He had been in the personal service of
a young noble, the brother-in-law of the lord of the manor, both of
whom were the terror and detestation of every father and husband in the
neighbourhood. But Wassilj suddenly set his face against the lawless
life, growing strangely silent and anxious to be good; the fact was he
loved an honest maiden of the village. But, unhappily, his master
himself had set eyes upon the girl, and, finding her proof against his
advances, he carried her off with the help of some menials. Wassilj
thereupon waylaid and shot him, forming a band there and then, and
becoming the scourge of the nobility for miles around, his thirst for
revenge being unappeasable. It was found in those days how little it
availed to send out soldiers with a hope of crushing the bandits in
their mountains. The "great hajdamak" was not vanquished by anything
the authorities could devise against him; but the innate spark of
goodness in his wild and wayward heart overcame him in the end. For he
was not a bad man by nature, and the remorse that would seize upon him
was as poignant as it was true; but he quieted his conscience with the
delusion that he was doing these terrible things for the sake of the
suffering people. One day, however, when he had overpowered some nobles
in the castle of his native village, and had called upon the judge to
assist him in bringing them to their just doom, the latter refused,
saying he was an honest man, and could not join in the evil work of a
cut-throat. That word struck Wassilj to the heart, and the same night,
with a bullet from his own gun, he stilled that misguided heart for
ever.

But the third one, whom the Huzuls assisted--he whom in song they
called "the good judge" and "the great avenger"--was Taras Barabola.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                                OUTLAWED.


THE "good judge!" ... the "great avenger!" ...

It was not only after his death, not in commemorating song only, that
Taras was first so designated. These appellations dated from the
spring-time of 1839. When Palm Sunday had come and gone they were
echoed from mouth to mouth, while the strange declaration of war that
had been uttered beneath the linden of Zulawce was fresh in the minds
of all. His mission was believed in, though as yet unaccredited by
deed. As on the wings of a mighty wind the news sped from village to
village, from district to district. Not a week passed before all the
people had heard it--in Pokutia, in the Marmaros, in Podolia, and in
the Bukowina; and gathering in groups after the morning service on
Easter Sunday, it was the one topic with them everywhere: "To-day Taras
will be unfurling his banner.... Could there be a surer proof of our
misery? He, a Christ-like man, and yet driven to turn hajdamak!... But
it is well for us--Taras has ever been a good judge, and he will prove
a mighty avenger!"

This opinion had formed rapidly. A whole people stirred to its depth is
almost always a righteous judge, a true prophet. Every man and woman
understood that unheard-of things were passing. True, it was within the
experience of most of them that some one or other had taken to the
mountains; but such volunteers to the desperate trade had been young
fellows without home ties, or men of a turbulent character breaking
away from the restraints of the law. But how different with this
peace-loving peasant, who had everything to make his home attractive,
this man who once pointed a pistol at his own forehead to prevent
violence from being met with violence! That phrase of Mr. Broza's which
Taras himself had repeated reluctantly, and only because he was a
"dying man," had taken hold of the people's imagination--_a Christ-like
man_. And truly there was a breath of the Divine sweeping the senses of
the oppressed peasantry as they strove to understand his motives. It
could not be the love of revenge with him, for he had not been wronged
personally; it could not be that he sought to defend his own property,
for it had not been touched. He must be doing it, then, simply because
"in this unhappy country justice was not to be found," and "because the
people had sore need of one to avenge them." And if there is anything
that will move the heart of man to its inmost depth, filling it with
holy reverence, it is the unselfish deed done for love of a cause which
is sacred to all and believed in by each.

With similar enthusiasm Taras was greeted in the mountains. The rude
men who dwell there had been gained so thoroughly during his former
sojourn, that one and all they welcomed the news of his returning to be
among them for good. Was he not a victim of the oppression they hated?
its sworn enemy, who henceforth would live to oppose it? Every glen on
either side of the Black Water was alive with sympathy, and Taras had a
staunch ally in every man far and wide in the forest.

In his own village, too, opinion had rallied round him entirely, though
it would have been difficult to say whether this was due chiefly to the
impression he had made upon his hearers on that Sunday, or to the
selfish vanity of the people. The hearts of some had certainly been
touched, and a natural pity for his forsaken wife roused others; while
others, again, were merely glad that Taras had come to see the folly of
trusting in the law, and it flattered their pride that from among
themselves an avenger should rise who would make the country ring with
his valour. A man of Zulawce in those days was welcome wherever he
went, because he could tell of the hero of the hour. The people round
about seemed to be insatiable of news concerning this Taras, and were
ready to stand any amount of drink to him who could gratify them, for
which reason the men of Zulawce, nothing loth, invented story upon
story to glorify the pure-hearted man whose life they had embittered
all along. Yes, the outlaw once more had risen to be the great
favourite of his adopted village.

Yet there were few, even in his own village, who felt for him truly or
mourned his loss, and the one man whose sorrow was most deeply sincere
carefully avoided the very mention of his name. The good pope had not
breathed a word concerning Taras since that saddest of partings beneath
the linden. His wife only guessed how he suffered, but even she was
mistaken in believing that his heart ached for the loss of his friend
alone. He was battling with another sorrow, a deeper trouble
overshadowing his pious mind. And the moment came when the popadja
understood it.

It was on the evening of Good Friday. Not till nine o'clock, and weary
with the many services of the day, had the priest returned home, eating
a mouthful of supper, and retiring to his study. Thither his wife
followed him presently, establishing herself with her needlework in
silence. He was pacing the room, murmuring to himself, as was his wont
in preparing his sermon, and she refrained from speaking, but gave a
furtive glance at him now and then. She had often thus watched him
occupied in holy meditation, and the inward peace radiating from his
countenance at such times would sink into her own heart with a loving
content. Not so now, for an unspeakable grief was reflected in the face
she gazed upon, and the bitterness seemed overflowing till she trembled
and took courage to interrupt him.

"Husband," she said, with a beating heart, "are you now busy with the
sermon for Easter Day?"

He started, looking before him gloomily. "I am utterly unfit!" he
whispered hoarsely, as though speaking to himself ... "utterly unfit!"
He groaned aloud, covering his face with his hands.

The good wife was by his side in a moment. "Leo," she sobbed, "what is
it? ... Ah, yes, I know; but you must not thus give way to your grief.
You could not prevent it!"

He shook his head, and then caught her hand like a drowning man. "No,
wife," he groaned, "it is not merely grief for his loss! But since
that man has gone to ruin, I seem a hypocrite whenever I turn to my
prayers ..."

"Good God!" she cried, aghast.

"I seem such, indeed," he continued, hastily; "it is more than I can
bear, and I cannot help it! Have I not been teaching and preaching the
justice of God? And now to see this man gone to ruin--this man!"

"But, husband, dear," she cried, anxiously, "have you not often tried
to make us see that the true recompense is in the life to come? Will
you doubt it yourself now?"

"In the life to come; yes, yes," he repeated in the same husky voice;
"it is the one thing to hold by.... But why should it all go wrong in
this world? I mean, so terribly wrong? This man!... his wife gone out
of her mind, his children orphaned, and he himself making straight for
the gallows, just because, in a wicked, self-seeking world, he has
within him the heart of a child that will trust his God and believe in
justice ... oh, it is awful ... awful!"

She clung to him, but he freed himself from her embrace, and once more
walked to and fro excitedly. The faithful wife could but retire to her
corner, sharing his trouble apart.

Some minutes passed.

And presently he stood still before her, lifting her tearful face, and
stroking her hair gently. "Fruzia," he said, with quivering voice, "I
promise you to try and bear it. I shall battle it out; but it is a sore
thing, and needs time.... Go to bed now and be comforted.... I shall
battle it out."

The wife obeyed, but found little sleep, and her soul kept crying
through the darkness of that night: "Oh, God, pity my husband--he, the
priest, to lose faith in Thee!" Many a wiser prayer may rise to the ear
of the Giver of all things; yet none, perhaps, ever was more touching.

When daylight returned she felt comforted, and drew courage from her
husband's quiet face on his bidding her good-bye for early service.
She, too, left the house, but not to go to church, for a duty no less
sacred directed her steps to Anusia's house.

Poor Anusia, indeed! It was not without reason that her friends
sorrowed for her, for she was doubly stricken. The last articulate
sound that had crossed her lips had been her husband's name--that cry
of despair wrung from her as he departed. Her grief since then had
found vent in wild ravings only, night and day, day and night. Not a
prayer, not a complaint had she uttered, and her eyes were tearless;
but she would give a shriek and continue moaning with parched lips.
Those that watched her believed her out of her mind, and no hope seemed
left, save with Father Leo, who clung to it. "It will pass away," he
said, well-nigh despairing himself; "hers is a more passionate nature
than ours, and her grief is the wilder." Her ravings, indeed, appeared
to lessen, the feverish agony grew calmer, and she began to take food;
but to her friends the supervening apathy seemed worse than what had
gone before. There she lay in a kind of living death, uttering not a
sound, large-eyed and white-faced, wearing the expression of a helpless
agony. But when her friends or the children attempted to rouse her, she
waved them off, or cried huskily: "Leave me alone, I must think it
over." And Father Leo would say: "No one can help her, she must battle
through it; but the children must be seen to, having lost both father
and mother." And he arranged with his wife that twice a day she should
go over to the farm to see to the needs of the household; while outdoor
matters found a willing helper in Hritzko Pomenko, the eldest of
Simeon's lads. "If I work for Taras I shall perhaps bear it that he
left me behind," said the honest youth.

That had been on the Thursday. Anusia appeared to take no notice that
things were seen to by friends and neighbours, and she continued the
whole of Good Friday in the same dull stupor. But when the popadja
entered the sick-chamber early on the Saturday a happy change,
evidently, had taken place. The bed was vacated, and a servant-girl
came running in explaining: "The mistress is looking after the dairy,
she is scolding poor Hritzko grievously because he brought over his
father's new churn."

And, indeed, the startled popadja even now could hear the so-called
scolding. "I know you meant kindly, Hritzko," Anusia was saying, in a
voice both firm and clear; "but just take your things home with you, I
can manage my own business." And the priest's lady herself presently
received a similar greeting. "It is most kind of you"--Anusia made
haste to address her friend as soon as she beheld her--"I am pleased to
see you any time; but leave me now. And this kerchief must be yours, I
think; I found my Tereska wearing it. But my children are no poor
orphans, thank God, requiring friends to clothe them."

The good lady was only too willing to be reproved. "Say what you like,"
she cried, "I am happy to find you up again!"

"Yes," said Anusia, with perfect composure, "I know you all thought I
had gone mad. But my mind was right enough; only, you see, I had to
satisfy my own judgment that my husband had done well. I had always
looked upon him as the most perfect man on earth, so that the need was
great to find an answer to my questioning, and everything besides had
to give way."

"Then you arrived at the conclusion that nothing else was left for
him?" broke in Hritzko, vehemently.

"I have," she assented. "I saw it was his heart that laid it upon him
to act as he has done, and he is a man that cannot go against the
behest of his own heart. I know that, and it must be enough for me. As
to whether he is otherwise in the right or not, I, a woman, am unable
to decide. My mind says 'Yes,' but the heart keeps crying 'No.' I can
but wait and see. If he is in the right the Almighty will own him and
let him be a helper to many. But if he is on the path of wrong, God
will turn from him, and his end will be the gallows. Be that as it may;
he is lost to us, my children are fatherless, and henceforth I must be
to them father and mother in one."

"And we all will help you!" cried the popadja, warmly.

"As far as I may need your help," returned Anusia, "I shall accept it
gratefully." And therewith she resumed issuing orders to the servants
about the place.

Father Leo did not learn the good news till about noon, when he
returned from the parish, and, not waiting to eat his dinner, he
hastened to the farm to see with his own eyes that Anusia indeed had
recovered. He found her very quiet and self-possessed, and there was
nothing to make him doubt the soundness of her mind, save the
occupation he found her engaged upon. She had had the great barn
cleared and the floor was being spread with straw. "What for?" he
inquired, wonderingly.

"To sleep the soldiers," she replied, with a bitter smile.

"The soldiers! What soldiers?"

"I am surprised your reverence should require me to explain," she said.
"Is it unknown to you that he who but lately was master here has
declared war against his Emperor, and that the wife and children of
that man are here unprotected? Will it not be the most natural thing to
take possession of this farm in order to make it impossible for him to
visit his family secretly? And, moreover, it might be supposed that his
wife could be so questioned that from her his whereabouts could be
learned; at any rate, it might be useful to make sure of her and her
children as hostages, in case ..."

"No, no!" cried Leo, "this latter, most certainly not. The Emperor will
never wage war upon women and children."

"Well, we shall see," she continued; "thus much is certain, that we
shall have the Whitecoats quartered here before long; that coward of a
mandatar will take care we shall, if no one else will. Did not Taras
inform him plainly that with him the beginning should be made? I am
only sorry for the village. It is hard that the neighbours should
suffer, and it will turn them against us. It will be but natural if
they do, and I cannot help it."

"They shall not, if I can prevent it," cried the pope, eagerly. "Now I
know what to preach about to-morrow!"

"Well, I shall be grateful to you, whether you succeed or not, but one
thing you must promise me"--she held out her hand, drawing herself up
proudly. "You shall not ask them to pity me or my children. We do not
need it, please God, while I have health and am able to keep house and
home together."

He gave her his word, and kept it as far as his own compassion would
let him. But his wife, in her own heart, was proudly happy, for never
had she heard him preach with a fervour more tender and soul-stirring;
not noticing in her wifely gladness that this sermon of his differed
somewhat from his usual discourses, inasmuch as he never mentioned
either the wisdom or the justice of the Almighty, being taken up
entirely with the one message to his hearers, the one exhortation of
"loving our neighbour as ourselves!" And as he strove in his simple,
yet impressive way to make it plain that an act of true love to one's
neighbours, mistaken, even, though it might be, was none the less
worthy of grateful acknowledgment, and that at all events it could
never deserve the ill-will of those for whose sake it had been done,
even though they might have to suffer in consequence--they all knew
whom and what he meant, and felt moved accordingly. And emotion
deepened when he spoke of the common sorrow making all men as brethren,
since none was fully happy here below, and that there was no surer
salvation from our own misery than being loving and good to other
sufferers, especially to the weak and forsaken, the widows and orphans
about us. And taking up an example to hand, he spoke of the sad lot of
a poor woman, named Josephka, whose husband they had lately buried. "Do
not let us imagine," he cried, "that we are doing more than our bounden
duty if we remember her trouble, aiding her with our alms, which she
hath need of sorely. Yet, poor as Josephka is, it is not she that is
the most sorrow-stricken widow among us; there being a balm to her
grief in the blessed thought that the husband she mourns has gained
that rest to which we ourselves are journeying, that he has attained
beyond the sorrow which remains with us still. There is another one
among us, widowed, I say, and more grief-bowed than she, to whom this
consolation is denied, and our most sacred duty is to her! Our alms
then to Josephka, for she has need of them, but give ye your tenderest
love, your most helpful sympathy, to that other most sorrowful widow in
this village, whose children in their father's lifetime are as orphans
in our midst!"

There was a great sobbing among the women, and a stirring among the
men. One only in all that congregation sat unmoved, even shaking her
head in disapproval--Anusia herself; and when the service was ended she
quitted the building composedly. They all made room, and none dared
address her, the popadja only joined her in silence and saw her home.

And when the men had gathered in groups without, the one topic was
Taras, as, indeed, was the case all over the country that morning. Some
had heard that already more than a hundred men had joined his banner;
others had been told that his native parish of Ridowa had sent him word
how, one and all, they were ready to rise in rebellion at his command;
others again had certain information that the district governor at
Colomea had fainted right away on hearing of Taras's now famous
declaration of war ... all of which tidings were believed in as
faithfully as though the pope himself had announced them as gospel
truth from the pulpit. And not a soul present doubted but that Taras
would swoop down on the arch-villain in their midst to judge him.

What difference of opinion there was concerned the time only when the
avenger might be expected.

"I say he will come to-night," said Wassilj, the butcher; "for to-day
he unfurls his banner, and he told us it would be his first deed."

But others opposed this opinion. "Taras is a God-fearing man," said the
sexton, "I'll never believe he will thus spend the blessed Easter."

"Nor should I think he would act foolishly," added Red Schymko; "why
the mandatar is safe away at Zablotow, hiding with the military. I know
it for certain."

"You know it for a falsehood then," retorted Giorgi Pomenko, "the
coward is hiding in the iron closet he has had built for himself at the
manor house. I rather think, therefore, we shall hear of Taras this
very night."

"So do I," chimed in Marko the smith, the giant with the infant voice;
"what should he be waiting for? Has he not men enough with the hundred
about him, being sure also of every honest, brave one among us?"

"Ho! ho!" rejoined Wassilj, the butcher, "am I not honest, or as brave
as any? yet, would I lend a hand to the deed? I doubt if many will
assist him!"

"Do you?" snarled the corporal. "Can it be a matter of doubt, indeed,
when it is a question of aiding your own great hero?"

"Hold your wicked tongue," burst in the sons of Pomenko. "The time is
gone when Taras could be insulted with impunity. Whoever would do so is
a scoundrel--and a scoundrel is every one that will not stand by him
against the mandatar!"

At which Jewgeni, the judge, grew alarmed. "Hear me," he cried.

"A scoundrel?" interrupted the butcher. "You had better hold your
tongues, youngsters; this axe of mine has silenced many a bullock!"

"Hear me," pleaded Jewgeni "A hajdamak----" and there he stopped.

"Nay, hear _me_," broke in Red Schymko; "I know what is best to do. I
make no promises either way, but shall just wait and see! If the
mandatar offers resistance, to the shedding of blood even, I were a
fool to risk life in opposing him. Is it my quarrel? Have I prevented
the parish from getting back the field by force? It was Taras's doing.
Have I lost the law suit? No, but Taras has. Have I turned outlaw,
calling myself an avenger, and having my praises sung by all the land?
No, not I; but Taras. Then, I say, let him bear the brunt. But when the
mandatar and his men are worsted, and there is a chance of repaying
ourselves, let us not be such fools as to stand by and look on. As he
robbed us, so let us rob him--that is what I think..."

"For shame!" cried Giorgi Pomenko; and Wassilj, the butcher, added:
"Yes, for shame! Are you addressing a parcel of thieves?"

"Well, hear me then--a hajdamak--and I your judge----" But Jewgeni
again stopped short, the butcher being bent on a further hearing.

"Listen to me, you men, and I will show you that I am no scoundrel," he
cried, lifting up his powerful voice, "I am all for Taras, and whoever
speaks ill of him shall answer for it to me. He is a grand hero, and
far from being a hajdamak. He has undertaken the sacred duty of being
an avenger, of righting the wrong. But in this great work we may not
help him, because we have wife and child to consider. If he has risen
above any such consideration it is in virtue of his own magnanimity.
For my part, I am unable to equal it. Whoever joins Taras openly has to
choose between going to prison or taking refuge in the mountains. I
shall keep the peace, therefore, and so will every conscientious man
here, for the sake of his family."

"Yes! yes!" cried the men, one after another, "Wassilj has said well,
Taras has our best wishes. More is the pity that we cannot openly join
him."

"Pity!" sneered the corporal; "but you may look on, at a safe
distance!"

"Yes, indeed, and we will," was the unanimous retort. "It is you and
Schymko that disgrace the village. No honest man will go to sleep
to-night."

And therewith the consultation ended.

Not long after, Halko, the servant lad of Anusia's farm, rushed into
his mistress's presence. "Is it true"--he cried, "it is being spoken of
all over the village--that Taras, with a hundred men, will attack the
manor to-night? The people mean to watch for it, but will not join him
for fear of the law. Is it true?"

Anusia stood trembling violently, a burning glow and a death-like
pallor succeeding one another rapidly in her face.

"How should I know?" she said presently, with a stony look. "I and my
family belong to the village, and have nothing to do with the
'avenger.' And just because he has been the master of this house there
is henceforth no communion between him and us! Let the others watch for
him; we shall retire as usual. Let no one dare to disregard my orders!"



                              CHAPTER XII.

                      FLOURISHING LIKE A BAY-TREE.


"While the inhabitants of Zulawce thus excitedly waited for the events
of the coming night, their busy imagination beguiling the slow hours
with various visions of the hapless mandatar, beholding him either
hanged, or shot, or burnt alive, this gentleman himself was similarly
engaged. That is to say, he also was waiting excitedly for the night,
endeavouring to shorten the agony of delay by picturing to himself the
approaching crisis. But the images he had in view were of a vastly
different nature. For he was nowise hiding in an iron closet at
Zulawce, which, even if he had desired it, would have been impossible,
for the simple reason that there was no such stronghold; but he was at
that moment comfortably established in the snug little smoking-room of
his chambers at Colomea--his refuge, both for his pleasures and,
perchance now, in trouble. He had just returned from a dinner which the
district governor at this season was in the habit of giving to the
officials of the place; and between the blue circles ascending from his
expensive cheroot he now beheld visions--imagining the impending scenes
at an evening party to which the richest man of the neighbourhood, Herr
Bogdan von Antoniewicz, an Armenian, had invited a small but select
company. These scenes presumably would be of a pleasant nature, for Mr.
Hajek kept smiling--nay, he even skipped about his room the while he
puffed his fragrant cloudlets with a sort of irrepressible delight. But
if he was expecting some happy event it appeared to be a critical one
also, to judge from the nervous action with which he kept pulling out
his watch, and there was even an occasional shadow of seriousness
gliding over his finely-cut but dissipated features. But this was like
a noonday cloud, only darkening for a moment the brilliant sky, and the
mandatar returned to his smiles.

"Pshaw," he said, stopping before his looking-glass and twirling his
moustache, "as if I had not made sure of her virtues myself!... three
of them! And for the rest of it----" he paused, bowing profoundly to
his image in the glass; "for the rest of it, Mr. Hajek, please to bear
in mind your history and your present dilemma. Ha! ha!" He appeared
immensely tickled with this pretence at honesty; it seemed quite a joke
to ruminate over a bit of self-knowledge, and it kept him in the best
of humour till the clock struck eight, when he rang for his valet, and,
having completed his toilet, he drove to the villa of the Armenian.

It was early for an evening party of distinction, and Mr. Hajek, who
had lived in Paris, and therefore was looked upon as an oracle of good
style by all who pretended to be fashionable at Colomea, would under
ordinary circumstances never have sinned so grievously against the laws
he himself had established. But in the present case it was incumbent on
him to be the first of the guests. For these were not ordinary
circumstances, but, on the contrary, an event which as a rule comes but
once in life; he was driving to the villa in order to celebrate his
betrothal with the widowed Countess Wanda Koninski, the Armenian's only
daughter. It was indeed an event! and the several actors in the little
comedy had even drawn up a programme for the most suitable expression
of their feelings.

It has been maintained by people of experience that it is not so much
fiery love which ensures the happiest marriages--since the flame too
often is sadly transient--but rather an even share of mutual
understanding and a certain sympathetic perception of each other's aims
in life. If it be so, the mandatar and the young widow might fairly be
congratulated. And again, if it be true that a man's relations with his
parents-in-law, in order to be satisfactory, must preclude the
possibility of a delusion on either side concerning each other's moral
worth, not a shadow of a doubt could be entertained but that the
mandatar and the parents of his bride elect would yield a spectacle of
the most charming friendship--quite hand in glove, in fact. For,
excepting Mr. Hajek himself, Herr Bogdan von Antoniewicz certainly was
the greatest rascal of the district.

This prosperous man did not like to be reminded of his earlier years,
nor was he ever heard to refer to his ancestors, although they had been
honest cattle-drovers in Moldavia. He himself had pursued this
occupation in his youth: but possessing a kind of prudence which
rendered his conscience easy and his money-bag close, he managed to
make a little capital, establishing cattle trading on his own account.

Then it happened, as he would describe it, that a sore blow was
experienced by the death of the best of uncles, a merchant at
Constantinople, who had made him his heir. The chief facts were
correct, and the deceased had left his money to his nephew, only it was
not Bogdan who was that nephew, but a poor man of the name of Mikita,
who was in Bogdan's service. The latter had received a ponderous
document with seals and flourishes, announcing to him his uncle's
bequest; and, being unable to read, he had taken it to his master.
Bogdan read it--there was a legacy of ten thousand ducats--and he was
seized with a feeling of vast sympathy with the humble man. He
remembered that Mikita had nine ragged children, and that a shower of
riches coming thus suddenly could be no blessing, since, no doubt, it
would teach him to be thriftless. He said, therefore, to his labourer,
"You're a lucky dog, to be sure, there's your uncle dead and left you
ten ducats!" This, of course, was to try the man, to see if he were
worthy of a great fortune; for what would become of his poor children,
mused the philanthropic Bogdan, if he made away with his ten thousand
ducats, leading a riotous life and turning his back upon work! Let him
prove first how he will take the lesser luck. The poor man but ill
stood the test. He had never known such wealth, and simply cried with
delight, begging his master to lend him a ducat on the strength of his
inheritance. Bogdan did so, hoping the man would not waste so great a
sum, but put it out at interest discreetly. But Mikita, that
spendthrift, knew no better investment than some new clothes for his
little ones, also giving them a regular good meal for once. After
awhile he presented himself again to his master, who, sadly grieving,
handed him a second ducat; and so on till, after six months or so,
the wretched father had actually spent the ten of them. And now the
well-intentioned Bogdan went through a severe conflict with himself,
ending with the renewed conviction that it were an unpardonable want of
foresight to let those children be ruined. So having given to Mikita
ten ill-spent ducats, he got him to put his mark to a receipt that the
full amount of the legacy had been made over to him, and thereupon he
went and presented himself as the required heir.

Thus Bogdan, acting for the best for his humble neighbour, had laid the
foundation of his fortune. But it is well known that one's noblest
actions are often cruelly misjudged, and this matter somehow leaking
out, made it impossible for the tenderhearted cattle-trader to continue
in the neighbourhood. He resolved to shake off from his feet the very
dust of his old life, departing stealthily, and making his way into
Austria, where, with his newly-acquired capital, he bought a large
property, ostensibly bent on farming his land. The property, however,
happened to be situated in the Bukowina, a very central position, where
Austria, Russia, and Moldavia join. Now the import duties in those days
were particularly heavy, and a man of resources living on the frontiers
could not but direct his faculties to studying their results. Mr.
Bogdan was too clever not to see that free commerce naturally must
spring from an overdone system of protection, and, experimenting upon
his theory, he ended in siding with free trade altogether. His property
was delightfully situated for smuggling purposes, and he flattered
himself he would best serve his generation by introducing large
quantities of tobacco from Bessarabia into Austria, to the detriment of
the Imperial monopoly, which was disgracefully selfish, he argued. He
throve for awhile, but the eyes of the customs authorities were upon
him. He escaped conviction just in time, selling his property
advantageously and acquiring a larger one in Eastern Galicia.

He was now forty years of age, rich and prosperous, but alone in his
glory. His heart, such as it was, longed for a distinguished passion,
and his buttonhole gaped for a decoration. He would marry into the
aristocracy, and become the founder of a noble house. As for marrying a
person of title, that is almost easier in those parts than insisting on
the contrary; but on what grounds he could become ennobled, even his
fertile brain was at a loss to suggest. Fortune, however, had always
smiled on him; and it so happened that the mysterious power which rules
our hearts and destinies introduced to him a lady well qualified for
becoming the stepping-stone of his aspirations. In the present instance
that world-famed power elected to show itself in the person of a
certain Jew, who made his living by acting as go-between in the
matrimonial market. This herald appeared one day, proposing to Mr.
Bogdan a union with a certain aristocratic spinster, Antonia von
Kulczika. There was no doubt as to her good birth, but she was not
_very_ young, and not rich--possessed of influence, however, through
having enjoyed the protection, hitherto, of one of the most powerful
magnates of the land. Wicked tongues, of course, delighted in a tale,
for which reason Aaron Moses, in stating the lady's virtues, kept his
hand cautiously on the door-handle. To his agreeable surprise, however,
Mr. Bogdan listened quietly, owning even to a sort of partiality for
the lady he had never seen, and that nothing was required but certain
easily-defined conditions in order to rouse his ardent love, which
conditions being stated, Aaron Moses entered them in his notebook.

Within a month the Jew returned with a deed of gift, whereby the
above-mentioned magnate, with brotherly generosity, settled on the lady
the landed property of Rossow. Mr. Bogdan, on making sure of this, laid
his hand upon his heart, confessing to the Jew his unmistakable
devotion to the lady, to whom he was ready now to be introduced. But
there was no talk of betrothal as yet. True love mostly is of the
shyest, and Mr. Bogdan found no words for his feelings until Aaron
Moses had brought him a letter wherein the magnate, under his own hand,
had given his word of honour that he would procure a patent of nobility
for Mr. Bogdan Antoniewicz within a year of his marriage with Miss
Antonia von Kulczika. This settled, there was nothing left to hinder
the flow of his feelings, and in due course the nuptials were
solemnised.

They were a pattern pair; and if those only can be happy in married
life whose mutual love is equalled by their mutual respect, their
happiness was assured, for the love of this couple could not easily
have been less than the esteem they bore one another. The happy husband
in due time found himself Herr _von_ Antoniewicz, his wife presenting
him, moreover, with a fair-haired little girl. There appeared nothing
to prevent their being received into society, for the lady was
handsome, Bogdan rich and prosperous. The officers of the neighbouring
garrison were the first to get over their qualms, the rest of society
following suit. As years went on the lady, of course, could not be said
to grow in grace or beauty; but Bogdan gained riches steadily,
possessing three large estates now and plenty of money, which he
continued to put to usury advantageously.

Such were the future parents-in-law of Mr. Hajek. Those who knew them
could not but own that all three were worthy of each other, and the
same might be said of the bridal couple itself. Bogdan von Antoniewicz
had his daughter educated after the style most approved of by the
Polish aristocracy. She had a Parisian governess, who taught her French
and the piano, the rest of the 'branches' being confided to a refugee
from Warsaw, in whose estimation there wad no science equal to Polish
patriotism, and in this he instructed her. Wanda should be a true Pole.
It was not pleasant, therefore, when her parents one day made a
sorrowful discovery, proving her Austrian predilections. She had a
lover in the Imperial army, who, on being moved with his regiment, left
it expedient for her father to find her a husband. It had better not be
a rogue, if a fool was to be had, thought the latter; and a suitable
youth was found in the person of one Count Agenor Koninski. Very
suitable he was, being, in the first place, of the bluest aristocracy;
moreover, in the second place, of such doubtful finances that Bogdan's
offer was a godsend to him; and, thirdly, he was an easy-going fellow,
whose wife might be what she pleased. "Koninski" might be correctly
rendered by "horseman"--it was just the name for him. He spent his life
with horses, and even came by his death through them, being thrown on a
racecourse.

The widowed Wanda knew what she owed to her position; her sympathies
were no longer with the Imperial army, but no Polish nobleman therefore
cared for her hand. She and her belongings had thoroughly disgusted
even that lenient body; and, at the time when Mr. Hajek was making
friends at Colomea, the Armenian, in spite of his great wealth, was
reduced to a select circle of visitors--respectable people refused his
invitations. He and his wife had reached their threescore and ten, the
Countess Wanda was thirty, and her boy eleven years old. It was high
time to put an end to the scandal, and gain an able man who could
manage the property. This state of things explains why Bogdan, in spite
of the pride of his acquired nobility, as well as the widowed Countess
herself, had turned their thoughts to the low-born mandatar,
instructing their willing emissary, Mr. Thaddeus de Bazanski,
accordingly--he being no other than that refugee who, in her youth,
had educated Wanda in Polish patriotism, and who still awaited the day
when Russia should suffer, glad meanwhile to act as the Armenian's
hanger-on. He had to take his time in making overtures to the mandatar,
who did not seem open to his hints; but he was able at last to inform
the countess that Mr. Hajek had discovered he loved her; and it was
agreed to celebrate the betrothal forthwith, even on Easter Sunday.

It had been no easy resolve on the part of the mandatar. To be sure,
the widowed Countess possessed three first-rate charms, nay, virtues,
in his eyes, being heiress to the broad lands of Rossow, Horkowka, and
Drinkowce, and he himself was not a man given to prejudice. Still he
had managed somehow to acquire the position of a man of honour in the
district, and was loth to part with this pleasant sensation, all the
more valued, perhaps, for its novelty. But while he yet felt divided,
the news reached him of Taras's declaration, and the cowardly wretch
was seized with a perfect frenzy of fear. Indeed, the real match-maker,
bringing together this pair of worthies, was not so much Thaddeus as
Taras Barabola.

Mr. Hajek had not been in the village, and knew nothing of the great
meeting. He had gone to a mess breakfast at Zablotow, Captain Mihaly,
of the Palffy hussars, in garrison there, having invited him over. It
was a merry gathering, comprising, besides the officers, several young
nobles of the neighbourhood. But none so merry as Hajek himself; and he
kept up his spirits when, breakfast over, he was invited to preside at
the gaming table. He was winning largely, and was a very fountain of
fun to the dissipated party. They went on gambling for the best part of
the day.

But there was a strange interruption, the captain's man announcing,
with a queer expression, that the under-steward, Boleslaw, had arrived,
bearing an important message to the mandatar--a certain peasant named
Barabola having that day declared war against the Emperor.

The news produced the greatest hilarity; the officers roared with
laughter. But Wenceslas Hajek grew deadly pale, and, dropping the cards
from his hands, he jumped from his seat shaking from head to foot.
"Gentlemen," he gasped, "you would not laugh if you knew the man ...
this is a matter of life and death ... excuse me, I must have
particulars...."

He moved to the door, but the captain was before him. "No!" he cried,
facetiously, "you shall not monopolise this declaration of war. _We_
are His Majesty's officers, and ought to have our share--let the man
enter!"

The under-steward appeared, his gigantic frame positively limp with
dismay, as he reported the chief contents of Taras's speech. "You know
what sort of man you have to deal with, sir," he said, in conclusion,
turning to the mandatar. "This day week he means to make his
beginning--make it upon you, sir! He has retired for the present in the
direction of the Red Hollow. Four men are with him to-day; there will
be fifty before the week is out."

The gentlemen ceased to be amused; somehow the giant's consternation
had affected them. But when he had done, their laughter returned.
"War!" they cried, "what fun! Double pay and promotion for all of us!"
The captain adding: "But he has given us a week's grace, so let us
finish our rubber. Mr. Hajek, I think you were meditating a trump ...
but, good heavens, man!" he interrupted himself, evidently alarmed,
"what is the matter? ... He is fainting!"

And, indeed, the mandatar's appearance was enough to startle his
companions. He had sunk down on the nearest chair, the bloodless face
distorted with terror; and as they gazed at him his head sank lower,
till it rested on the table.

"Belshazzar!" cried a youthful lieutenant, "Mene, Tekel, Upharsin! Yes,
yes, my dear Mr. Hajek, your conscience seems ill at ease concerning
these peasants! Why, you are crying!"

The mandatar actually had begun to sob. "Ah!" he moaned, "I must be
off to the town...." He attempted to rise, but fell back on his chair.
"No ... I must go back to the manor first ... my papers.... Captain!"
he shrieked, imploringly, "I entreat you, let your troop be mounted,
and escort me to Zulawce--I mean, stay with me till you can bring me
away again in safety. I'm a dead man, and the manor will be in ruins,
if you refuse!"

"Nonsense!" cried the captain, in disgust. "I should not have believed
it of you! This sudden news has made a coward of you! Don't you know
that I am not at liberty to order my men about in that fashion?"

"Then you shall answer for the consequences!" screamed Hajek, wildly.
"But I shall not go home by myself!" And again he sobbed, but recovered
himself presently. "I must take refuge at Colomea. We are but three of
us--the under-steward, myself, and the coachman, and those cut-throats
are four or five! I trust you will, at least, set us up with arms,
captain, and lend me some of your men to see us safely on our way."

"Certainly," replied Captain Mihaly, coldly. "I am quite able to grant
you an escort."

And within an hour Mr. Hajek was on the road to Colomea, a hussar on
either side of his vehicle, the under-steward besides having provided
himself with a perfect arsenal of weapons. Nevertheless, the mandatar
was dying with fright at every turn, crying aloud with terror as often
as a sound rose in the distance or some horseman appeared in view. In
vain Boleslaw tried to comfort him; all he could do was to remind him
that Taras had said with, his own lips another week would lapse before
he should make his beginning, "and you know he always is true to his
word!"

The mandatar's answer to this was, perhaps, the finest praise ever
awarded to Taras. "Ah!" he groaned, "you may not have heard it
correctly"--for that Taras should ever deviate from his word, in great
things or little, even he did not doubt; but just this made all the
rest so fearful!...

The news had come to him quite unexpectedly, although he had been fully
informed concerning Taras's doings, his prolonged visits to the
mountains, his growing despair, and lastly his cession of property. But
he had misjudged these signs, believing in his own evil soul that Taras
intended to make away with himself, and would probably do so upon the
Emperor's refusal; indeed, he had even pitied the man, after a fashion,
as a butcher may feel pity for a fine bullock whose carcase he intends
to sell well. Now that he had learned Taras's intentions, he seemed
suddenly to be aware what stuff the man was made of, and though but the
barest outline of that memorable speech could have been reported to
him, he had a clearer perception of its drift, no doubt, than most of
those who had heard it with their own ears. "Yes, yes," he groaned,
"the angel has become a fiend, and none so black as those that were all
light before!"

At last the morning dawned. The mandatar ventured to dismiss his
escort, and towards nine o'clock he reached the town, where he parted
also from Boleslaw, sending him back to Zulawce.

"Do you believe the manor is endangered by my absence?"

"No," said the giant, "only by your presence, sir. What Taras wants is
to punish _you_ in life and limb; he does not care for your property,
save as far as it may serve to indemnify the people for their supposed
loss. But I should say he will not touch anything till he has got hold
of yourself."

The mandatar shook. "I daresay you are right," he said. "Nevertheless,
I want you to bring me, without delay, the black casket you will find
in my bedroom cupboard--this is the key. I shall not leave this place
for the present, and shall do my best to have the wretch hanged,
else----"

"He will see you hanged," concluded Boleslaw. "I am afraid you are
right, sir."

And with this parting benediction ringing in his ears, Mr. Hajek
repaired at once to the district governor, to whom he represented the
matter as a rebellion of gigantic dimensions, endangering the lives and
property of thousands of helpless subjects, if a price were not set on
Taras's head forthwith and half a dozen regiments despatched against
him.

Herr von Bauer took refuge in his favourite growling. "Pleasant! most
pleasant!" he muttered, and took to pacing his office like a caged
lion. "Who on earth has to face such bothers but me? Defend your enemy,
not to say your friend, from being a district governor in Galicia! I
hoped we had done with these cut-throats since 'Wild Wassilj' had the
good sense to shoot himself--now there is another of these rascals! But
who would have believed it of Taras Barabola! I would have taken my
oath that he was an honest man. To be sure, he understands nothing of
justice--came to me once expecting _we_ should prosecute for the
recovery of that field. He positively believed it was our duty--to
prosecute, you understand! A man who has such notions may as well turn
hajdamak! They are just savages here--I have always said so ... not a
notion of how the law works!... Well, I am much obliged for your news,
sir, but it is not for us to proceed on it. Things must be done in
order. Kindly send in your information in writing; it will cost you
nothing. Good morning!"

"And may I ask how soon the matter will then be attended to?"

"In due course--first come, first served!"

"Sir! Why this is a most pressing case! I would propose, as a first
step, to send for the hussars from Zablotow----"

"Hussars? Good gracious!" and the district governor grew as red as a
turkey-cock. "Who do you take me for, sir? Am I a general to order
about the military? I am governor of the district, sir--worse luck that
I am!"

The mandatar was abashed, but made another attempt. "Sir," he said,
rather pathetically, "my life is at stake, and what is more, the
property of the Count, my master. I venture to ask how the matter will
be dealt with!"

"In due course, to be sure! When your statement has been filed we shall
despatch a commissary to Zulawce to report to us; and if it is as you
tell me, we have quite a complicated charge of felony: the man has
insulted the Emperor, not to say the Almighty Himself; he has libelled
Government, and is guilty of seditious proceedings. It will be an
interesting case, to be sure; he'll have ten years of penal servitude
for that speech alone. And if he should lay hands on you, as he seems
fully to intend, we will have him hanged! Will that satisfy you?"

But strange to say, the mandatar was not satisfied. "Sir," he
stammered, "delay is most dangerous. Will that commissary be starting
to-morrow?"

"To-morrow?" gasped the governor. "Why not, rather, to-day? Perhaps we
ought to ask your pardon for not having sent him as early as
yesterday!... _To-morrow!_ Are you in your senses, sir?" And he paced
his office more violently than ever. It took him some time to get over,
this unheard-of suggestion, and then he said: "A commissioner will be
sent as soon as feasible; in about a month's time, I should say; things
must be done in due course! And now I have the honour of making my bow
to you."

The mandatar could but take his leave, standing still a moment outside.
It was the very spot where his unhappy victim, and now his implacable
enemy, had first felt the sore pain of disappointed hope and helpless
wrath--these same sensations now having him for their prey. The fear of
death, which he had been able to hold at bay awhile with the vain
expectation that the all-powerful State would hedge him round with
safety, seized upon him afresh, tearing his cowardly heart to pieces.
With tottering knees, and almost beside himself with rage and terror,
he slunk away.

In one of the streets his eye was caught by a shop window exhibiting
fire-arms. He entered and bought a double-barrelled pistol. "If I
should have the misfortune of falling into his hands," he murmured, "I
will at least save myself the worst of ignominy." But a voice in his
heart gave him the lie directly. "Coward!" it said; "you would never
dare it--never!"

Retribution for this man's crimes had begun before Taras lifted a
finger against him, and his just terrors continued--nay, were added to
hourly. The mandatar, even in his least cowardly moments, felt the
situation to be most critical. While Taras lived, his returning to
Zulawce was a movement in the direction of death; and there appeared to
be every likelihood of Taras's continuing in life, while the
authorities were bent on dealing with him "in due course," as the
district governor had taken pains to point out. It seemed highly
advisable, then, for Mr. Hajek to keep at a safe distance from Zulawce,
and this was tantamount to his retiring from his stewardship, since the
peasants, he knew, would never dream of rendering the slightest of
their dues, be it tribute or labour, unless the mandatar were bodily
present to make them. And if he got into arrears with the monthly
payments to the Count, in Paris, this gentleman would not be long in
dismissing him, without the least pity for his difficulties. It was
preferable, then, to anticipate a dismissal. But how to make a living
for the future? To be sure, he had improved the stewardship he was
about to quit, putting by in that little black box of his a neat sum of
several thousand florins in good Austrian securities, although he had
never stinted himself of any personal luxury. Should he fall back upon
these savings, leaving the country altogether and seeking a berth
elsewhere? But in that case, not only this little capital would be
endangered, but another and more precious one would also be lost, even
the good name he had managed to acquire, and which he hoped to turn
into a bait with which to land a fortune one of these days. Nor was
this a mere illusion. Mr. Hajek was too sharp-witted to fool himself,
and he really had come to enjoy a certain position at Colomea; for he
was a man of the world and knew how to ingratiate himself with society,
while even his worst enemy must admit he was an adept in the management
of landed property. He knew, therefore, to what port he ought to run:
he must look out for an heiress and become a landed proprietor himself.
There were several eligible maidens, presumably willing to further his
aims, with handsome sums in their pockets, if not Polish coronets on
their brows. But all these hopes had vanished now; the successful
mandatar might have proffered his suit in such quarters, but never the
luckless culprit whose misdeeds had found him out. The one question for
him was how to gain time, in order to make the best of his miserable
fate.

Thus, by a strange coincidence of circumstances, the mere announcement
of Taras's intentions had sufficed to ruin his enemy effectively; and
the under-steward, returning on Tuesday with the precious black casket,
found his master deeply dejected. Nor was his news calculated to rouse
better hopes. "To tell the truth," said Boleslaw, "I brought away the
worst impressions concerning the peasantry. Not an hour's further
labour will they yield, and no tribute of any kind. Taras is a hero and
a liberator in their eyes; and as for you, sir--I beg your pardon, but
it is a fact--they are all delighted at the bare idea that he is going
to hang you. I spoke with several of the villagers, and they all said
the same thing."

"That will do," said the mandatar, faintly, and motioned him to go.
Left alone, he sank into a chair, and involuntarily put his fingers
round his throat. "There must be an end to this!" he cried. "I must
shake off this business; I will have nothing more to do with these
wretches."

And, going to his desk, he wrote a letter to the Count--it was his
resignation. He folded the sheet, and put it into an envelope, which he
sealed. But there he stopped, dipping his pen again and again without
addressing the missive. "It might be premature after all," he murmured
at last, throwing down the quill and snatching up his hat. "I ought not
to act rashly, at least not before finding out the opinion of the
town."

But if any one wished to know what the world thought at Colomea, he
could not do better than repair to a certain wine-cellar, where the
"daily news" of the place was almost sure to be present, gossipping
away from early morning sometimes till the closing hour at midnight.
This worthy was none other than Mr. Thaddeus de Bazanski, whose
vicissitudes in life were a prolific source of entertainment to all the
tipplers of the place. Mr. Thaddeus, by his own showing, was a man of
consequence; but the jovial company listening to his tales somehow had
agreed to call him Thaddy. Now Thaddy's history--of which he was most
liberal--was of a curious kind, and never the same for two days
running. On a Sunday he would have large possessions in Volhynia; and,
being the last of an honourable name, he had fought the Russians
gallantly, but was left for dead on the field of battle, after which he
made his escape into Galicia. On Mondays he was the son of a Polish
officer in French service, who had enjoyed the close friendship of
Napoleon, and he had been a cadet at Vincennes; but, turning his back
upon his brilliant prospects, he had entered the Polish army for love
of his country--the rest being the same as on Sunday. On a Tuesday his
name, de Bazanski, was merely an alias for prudence' sake, and he was
really the scion of a princely house of Lithuania; but, having
quarrelled with his family, who were of Russian tendencies, he had
entered the Polish army--the rest the same as on Monday. On Wednesdays
he had large possessions in the Ukraine, and in fact all the revolution
of 1831 had been carried on with his money. Having been obliged to
flee, he joined the Carbonari in Piedmont, and now lived in Galicia in
order to be at hand when the great day of revenge should have dawned.
On Thursdays, when the cellars would be specially well filled after the
weekly meeting of the local board, Thaddy's history had quite a
romantic origin. He was a natural son of Alexander I. and a Polish
countess, spending his youth at the Court of St. Petersburg, petted by
all, until he did his duty as the son of his mother, standing up boldly
before his half-brother Nicolas and demanding of him a grant of liberty
for poor Poland. He was refused, and then--the same as on Wednesday. On
Fridays, when the place was but indifferently visited, he was just a
poor brave nobleman, who had spent the best years of his life for the
good of his country, and was ready to do so again; while on the
Saturday his tale had an anti-semitic tinge. His father, on those days,
having been one of the richest landowners of Masovia, had been so
foolish as to allow his Jewish tenants to drop into arrears with their
rents, till the family was nearly beggared. It was then that Thaddeus
showed the stuff he was made of, evicting "those rascally Jews," and
making front against the Russians at the same time; and he was now at
Colomea endeavouring to work up those sad arrears. To be sure, he never
had any success to tell of, but that might be because of his constantly
changing his lawyer, who, it was observed, was mentioned by a different
name every Saturday. For the rest, if any visitor of the cellars ever
had forgotten what day of the week it might be, he had but to listen
for a moment to Thaddy's tale in order to recover the lost thread of
his time.

These varying accounts were calculated to lend an air of distinction to
the narrator, but there were some whose shrewdness believed his fame to
be spurious, and one or two wicked tongues had even asserted that his
features bore a suspicious likeness to a loquacious barber they had
known at Warsaw. Thaddy denounced this as a libel, boldly; but it was
not so easy to accuse people of calumny when they added that his
appearance, somehow, was not of the aristocratic military type! That
was true enough, for there was nothing of the heroic about his mean
little figure, and those greenish eyes, half cunning, half cowardly,
peering away over a coppery nose for any good luck in his way. Of
course he always appeared in the national costume; but the 'kantouche'
was peculiarly long and ill-fitting, not because of any eccentric taste
of his, but simply because nature had endowed Mr. Bogdan with a figure
so utterly different from Thaddy's. His 'confederatka,' however, was
his own--one of the strangest head-gears ever worn by mortal man. It
probably had been high, stiff, and square originally, but it had
collapsed to utter flabbiness, and it could not now be said to be of
any colour, having faded to a mixture of all. Thaddy kept assuring his
listeners that he wore this article on great anniversaries for the most
patriotic of reasons, since it had covered his head at the famous
battle of Ostrolenka. It certainly looked ancient enough to have seen
even the Napoleonic wars; and if it had many holes, that no doubt was a
proof of the many bullets which had threatened the head of its gallant
wearer. As for the anniversaries, there were those who pretended to
observe that the famous confederatka was seen rather often, in fact
quite habitually, on Thaddy's head--but then, the history of Poland is
so rich in events, that the year of the piously inclined is one long
anniversary naturally.

As for the present employment of this national martyr, it was twofold;
he ostensibly waited for the better days of Poland, gaining his
livelihood meanwhile by entertaining the customers at the cellars with
his gossip, and holding himself in readiness for any business in which
an agent might be wanted who was not over squeamish in his views.

When Mr. Hajek, on that Tuesday afternoon, entered the cellars he found
Thaddy alone, in his usual corner, sadly occupied with counting the
flies on the various pictures adorning the room. He looked up, a gleam
of satisfaction shooting across his countenance, and held out his hand,
which cordiality, however, the new comer appeared not to observe. "Ha!"
he cried, "what a strange coincidence; here I was just thinking of you,
actually! There is a curious likeness between this excellent young
man's fate--meaning yourself--and mine, I was saying."

"Indeed!" replied the mandatar, coldly, taking a seat and ordering a
bottle of wine. "Between you and me?"

"Yes, unmistakably," cried Mr. de Bazanski, coming nearer and taking
his place opposite the mandatar. "A striking likeness in fact. It so
occupied my mind that I quite forgot I was thirsty, and, indeed, for
the matter of that, I am of too sociable a turn to have a glass by
myself." This was true enough, for Thaddy never had any drink except in
company. They knew better at the cellars than to give him anything that
was not ordered and paid for by his friends.

Mr. Hajek smiled, requesting the waiter to bring a second glass. "A
striking likeness, you were saying?"

"Most striking, sir, and unmistakable! Just look at me--what is it I
have come to? I am an old officer, to be sure, who will give proof yet
of the stuff he is made of. But what of this? I was thinking of my
happy youth, and how from the battlements of our princely castle in
Lithuania I, with a telescope, would scan our broad domain; forty-nine
villages I could count, and they all were situated on our lands. Yes,
ours was a princely family, and now, alas, I may not even confess to
the name I was born to, I----"

"Yes, yes, I know," interrupted the mandatar; "besides, I was aware
that this is Tuesday."

But Thaddy was not the man to be disconcerted. "Of course, this is
Tuesday," he assented, smilingly. "I was going to add--who is to blame
that I am a stranger now to my princely heritage, if not my wicked
relatives? And who is it that, at the present moment, is a sore trouble
to you, if not this wicked peasantry of Zulawce? Is it not a strange
and striking similarity?"

"Very striking," said Hajek. "Then you have heard about affairs at
Zulawce?"

"Of course I have," cried Bazanski; "why the town is full of it."
And the ex-officer waxed hot with excitement. "You would scarcely
believe it," he cried, "but there are those, actually, who take this
cut-throat's part against you--respectable people--nay, even Poles, I
am ashamed to say!"

"Who, for instance?" inquired the mandatar, apparently unconcerned, but
his heart was beating in spite of him.

"Well, there is that old demagogue, who ought to know better, being a
lawyer--Dr. Starkowski, I mean--to begin with. This very morning we
were sitting here, some twenty of us, and some one started the matter.
My stars, you should have heard him! 'Gentlemen,' he said, quite
solemnly, as though he were on his oath, 'I know this Taras; he is the
most unselfish, the noblest man I have ever met, and filled with a
passion for justice which would grace a king. And that this man, with
the views he holds, had nothing left but to turn hajdamak, must make
every honest man blush for our country. It is my opinion that this
noble-hearted fellow has been morally murdered, and his murderer is the
mandatar of Zulawce.' And the others, so far from contradicting him,
clamoured for more. 'Tell us, Doctor, tell us all about it,' they
cried. And he gave them a long rigmarole of a story about a field, and
perjury, and what not; and when he had finished--'Humph,' said the
others, 'why, if it is so, Mr. Hajek is just a blackguard.' 'He is,'
affirmed the brazen-faced lawyer. Such is the world!"

"Such--is--- the world!" repeated Hajek, absently, and white as a
ghost. It was plain there was nothing left for him now but to make his
speedy escape. The laborious edifice of his wickedness was tottering,
and threatening to bury him in its ruins. But whither should he turn?
He gazed into his future helplessly....

"Such, indeed, is the world," repeated Bazanski, eagerly; "and there
were those present who said--'Dear, dear, it is a mercy to learn that
before it is too late!' Those, you understand, who hitherto would have
considered you an eligible son-in-law--conceited fools!--as if you ever
would have looked at any of their daughters--you, whose heart is
adamant even to a countess."

Hajek turned to him with a start, his face flushing crimson. He had
racked his brain for a way out of his plight, but had forgotten all
about this possibility, in his very grasp if he chose! Three different
estates in the lowlands, beyond the reach of Taras--what a splendid
match to be sure! If he married the countess he need not give another
thought to his master in Paris, nor to that wretch of an "avenger," nor
yet to all the respectable folk at Colomea. And this grandest of
chances had almost escaped him!

"Well," cried the wily Thaddeus, "I do like your pretending to be taken
by surprise; as if you did not know how desperately the amiable
Countess Wanda is in love with you." And he began to describe the
secret passion of that lady with such glowing colours, that any writer
of love sonnets might have envied him. "And there is her great fortune
besides," he said, in conclusion; "but that is a mere accessory. First
love, and then the practical advantages."

Mr. Hajek had recovered himself. "Don't talk rubbish," he said,
sharply. "The countess is not likely to love me, being too--too
experienced to make a fool of herself; and, besides, I am an utter
stranger to her. If she intends to marry me it is simply because she is
in want of a husband, and if I take her it will be because it happens
to suit me. So it is a clear case of the practical advantage first and
foremost; that settled, there may be love, for all I care. What about
the property and the settlement? I daresay you have been instructed....
I don't want any flourishes; just let me know the facts."

Thaddeus de Bazanski was of an adaptable nature. "Just the facts! Yes,
certainly," he said. "There are three estates, as you know--Horkowka,
Drinkowce, and Rossow--quite unencumbered--will fetch in the market
half a million florins any day; the personal property, besides,
amounting to one hundred thousand florins in first-rate securities."

"Very well; and now for the conditions."

"The Rossow estate, on your marriage, will be settled on the countess,
of course, but you will have equal rights to the revenues for your
life; Horkowka, in reversion, on the countess alone; while Drinkowce
and the floating capital will be settled on--on---" Bazanski stammered
and blushed.

"On the lady's child by her first marriage--I understand," said Hajek
quietly. "But now for my conditions! I am quite agreed concerning
Rossow and Horkowka; but the boy has to be provided for out of the
personal property solely, while Drinkowce must be settled on me
absolutely. It shall be mine, whether there be any offspring of the
marriage or not; and it is to remain mine even in the event of a
dissolution."

"Humph! old Bogdan is no fool!"

"Quite sure of that; but neither am I! When shall I look for an
answer?"

"To-morrow at noon. Shall we have another bottle now on the strength of
the prospects?"

"No, not now; go and make sure of the prospects. Good evening to you."

Bazanski gazed after the retreating figure with positive awe. "Ugh!" he
said at length, with a deep breath of admiration, "they were not far
wrong this morning. What a villain! what an incomparable villain!"
And, having thus unburdened his mind, he hastened away to the Villa
Antoniewicz....

At noon punctually the following day he presented himself again to Mr.
Hajek. "I have come to congratulate you!" he cried on the threshold.

"Well, has your patron accepted my conditions?"

"Entirely--excepting only Drinkowce. He is very sorry, but his little
grandson----"

"Very well, that settles it. Excuse me, but I am busy, intending to
start to-night."

"Start! whereto?"

"To--anywhere, so long as it is far enough from here."

"Then do not be in such a hurry! Let me have another word with the
family."

"Very well. I will give you till to-morrow, but I cannot be detained
beyond that."

Thaddy departed on his errand sadly, there was little hope of earning
his pay. He was almost certain that Herr von Antoniewicz would prove
unyielding; but it turned out differently. The Countess, in the first
place, chose to pronounce in the intended bridegroom's favour. "He is
good-looking; tolerably young, of good manners, and sufficiently a man
of the world not to annoy me with any prejudice!" Her father arrived at
a similar conclusion. "The fellow is of suitable stuff to manage the
estates; whether Drinkowce be his or not, it will be his interest to
pull along with us. I am old now, and cannot wait till as great a booby
as your first husband may chance to turn up as a suitor for your hand.
I would prefer an honest booby, of course; but a clever villain
meanwhile must not be despised. He shall not do _me_. I'll take care of
that!"

And the following morning, Thaddeus, with a beaming face, burst into
the mandatar's presence. "Now I may congratulate you really," he cried.
"Drinkowce is yours!"

"Very well," responded Hajek. "I am off on the spot to pay my respects
to my future father-in-law, and to my bride-elect. One thing, though,
before I leave, you will hold your tongue for the present. I might find
it useful to be believed in as a man of honour by some of the folk here
yet awhile!"

"What a delightful joke!" cried Thaddy, full of laughter, and
brandishing the famous confederatka as he made his bow. But when the
door had closed upon him, an expression of admiring awe once more
settled on his features. "What a villain!" he murmured, "what an
incomparable villain!"

Mr. Hajek's visit at the villa proved highly touching; that supreme
moment especially, when, in his capacity of accepted lover, he
imprinted a delicate kiss on the fair one's brow, a proceeding at which
Herr and Frau von Antoniewicz tossed their handkerchiefs before their
tearless eyes, whimpering affectedly, "Be happy, children; as happy as
we ourselves have been!"

When the mandatar returned to his chambers he found on his table a note
from the district governor. "Favour me with a call at my private
residence at once," it said; "I have a communication of importance to
make to you." Hajek was surprised, and slightly fluttered. The die was
cast, his future secured, and if he stayed prudently at Colomea he had
scarcely anything to fear from Taras. And yet he trembled. What if
Taras had been caught, and he had sacrificed himself in vain--allowing
a lady of the countess's antecedents to address him as her promised
husband? Well, never mind, it was impossible to go back now,
considering the manner of his courting. He had cast in his lot with
these creatures and must abide by it.

With a sense of expectation he went his way to the governor's. Herr von
Bauer received him politely. He was one of those officials, rather
numerous at that time, who considered abruptness a sort of armour to be
worn during office hours, but not required when off duty. The district
governor was quite genial within the precincts of his own fireside, and
all the more courteous now for remembering that he had put forth some
special bristles along with that armour in his previous interview with
the mandatar. "A pleasure to see you," he assured Mr. Hajek, shaking
hands vigorously. "I have some important news which will please you,"
he said, winking mysteriously--"please you particularly."

"Has Taras been caught?" inquired the mandatar.

"Caught? Dear me, no! Why, who should have caught him? ... This is what
I wanted to tell you: You know the court sat to-day. We had an unusual
influx of landed proprietors and mandatars, and there was much talking
concerning Taras; in fact he seems the one topic all over the country.
They all agreed that his rising was most dangerous, because the
peasantry everywhere are devoted to him. There could be no doubt, they
assured me, but that the manor house at Zulawce would be attacked on
Sunday, and if he got hold of you, your life was not worth two
straws--not two straws, they said!"

"Well," said the mandatar, with affected composure, "this may be
important to know, but I fail to see why it should please me."

"No, no, of course, the pleasant part is coming--for yourself I mean,
not for me. I hate having things done in an irregular way. But I
suppose this is an exception." A groan escaped him. "Well, sir, I
called a meeting of the board--a special meeting, and it was resolved
to treat the case as a matter of unusual importance, attending to it,
therefore, on the spot--an example of despatch quite unprecedented in
my experience, I assure you. A commissioner will be sent to Zulawce as
early as next Tuesday--we must, if possible, have an exact report of
that speech--and a courier went off this very afternoon to inform the
brigadier-general at Stanislaw of the state of affairs, submitting to
him the necessity of ordering a company of infantry to Zulawce. This I
am sure----"

"Is pleasant to know! so it is," interrupted the mandatar. "But might I
suggest----"

"Yes, certainly; suggest away, sir," said the governor, waxing
impatient. There had been a sound of teacups from the adjoining
apartment.

"It appears to be a general conviction that the manor house at Zulawce
is to be attacked on the night of Easter Sunday. In that case the
military, in order to be of any use should arrive at the place on
Sunday afternoon. But this is scarcely possible if it be infantry. This
is Thursday. The courier, at the earliest, will reach Stanislaw at
daybreak to-morrow. Now, supposing even the general attended to the
matter at once, and made out his order to the soldiers by ten----"

"Or a quarter past," interrupted the governor, rushing into his office
armour evidently. "What are you driving at, sir?"

"You will see presently," retorted the mandatar, nettled in his
turn. "Supposing the general made out his order to the nearest regiment
of infantry by ten o'clock, a detachment could not be off under
four-and-twenty hours, for they are quartered at Czortkow, and it will
be a two days' march for them to reach their destination--by Monday
morning at the earliest, that is. So, you see, the village could only
be protected against Sunday by means of the Palffy hussars, who are at
Zablotow, close at hand."

"Sir," growled the governor, "are you fooling me? Am I the
brigadier-general? I am governor of this district, and my business is
to apply for military intervention if need be, but not to ask for
cavalry or artillery when there are no means of stabling the horses.
There are no large stables at Zulawce, so it must be infantry. They
shall be there when they can; or do you expect us to introduce new
regulations into the country just to suit _your_ need? What do you mean
by directing my attention to the distance, or to the length of time a
detachment will be on the march? Am I supposed to know that? Am I in
the general's coat to give his orders?"

"No--in your own smoking cap and slippers," replied the mandatar
quietly, the words acting like magic. The old growler suddenly
remembered that he was not in his office, but at home, where civility
was due to a caller. And he put off his armour hastily.

"Well--a case of unusual importance, I was saying...." The poor old
gentleman felt guilty, however, and was anxious to make reparation. "It
is a trouble altogether--this Taras--but I was going to add, I have
invited some of our people to dine with us on Sunday, and if you will
do me the honour, we shall be charmed, sir."

He held out his hand to Mr. Hajek who put his fingers into it eagerly.
An invitation to the district governor's annual dinner when all the
elite of the place was assembled would have flattered him at any time;
but to a man who had just become engaged to a lady of the Countess
Wanda's reputation this was simply invaluable....

"So far he has not heard of it, evidently," the bridegroom elect said
to himself as he descended the stairs. "I daresay it will be no secret
by Sunday, and it will be as well for me to be seen then at the
governor's dinner! However, I need not care now for anybody's opinion,
any more than I need for Taras himself. It was foolish of me to excite
myself at all about the military movements. What does it matter to me
whether the Count's manor house be burnt or not, so long as myself and
my cash-box are safe out of it?"

He was still pursuing this high-minded strain of thought, when, at the
end of the street, he came into collision with a figure rushing round
the corner in the opposite direction. But he saw at a glance that
apologies were needless, for it was only Thaddy whom he had sent flying
against the wall.

"Oh, to be sure," cried the latter, rubbing his shoulder, "what
eagerness in a lover! Romeo going to visit Juliet, I'll be bound."

"Oh no, I am going home; but you, I daresay, are making for the
cellars?"

"Alas! I am not in the vein. I was lost in meditation, remembering a
certain conversation I once had with my illustrious half-brother,
Nicolas I., and how my life since----"

"Nicolas I.! You don't mean to say that this is Thursday? I really was
forgetting.... But let me tell you, if you _do_ go to the cellars and
should not find any of your friends in the mood to treat you to a glass
of Moldavian for your story about Nicolas, I'll not have you try your
luck by publishing my engagement with the countess! If you breathe a
word of it, I shall deduct fifty florins from your expected pay. Just
bear that in mind. Good morning!"

The Czar's half-brother stood stock still, overtaken by an evident
conflict. For Bogdan had just told him, "If by this time to-morrow the
whole town is not aware of the engagement, I'll have you kicked
downstairs when next you show your face here." A sore dilemma for the
nobly-born Thaddy--to be kicked downstairs or forego fifty of his
hard-earned florins! He would have submitted to the kicking willingly,
so long as it left him at liberty to remount those stairs after the
performance....

In a distracted state of mind, Thaddy entered the cellars, but the
company there was in good humour, greeting him uproariously. "Good
heavens," they cried, "are we to stand treat for hearing your romances
about Nicolas--this is Thursday!" He could not, of course, submit to
this taunt, and resolved, therefore, for once to keep to realities,
giving them an account of the mandatar's latest achievement, the plain
truth of it, with some exceedingly daring interpolations. But when he
added: "This Mr. Hajek is a villain ingrained, sirs!" there was not one
to dissent from the statement.

Towards noon the following day the mandatar set out to repeat his call
at the villa, saying to himself as he crossed his threshold: "I shall
know within ten minutes whether Thaddy has kept the matter close or
not." And he did know before he had gone the length of the street! The
secretary of the local board, Mr. Wroblewski, was the first
acquaintance he met; but this gentleman appeared to have made a sudden
discovery upon the roof of the town hall, which required his intentest
gaze in that direction, whilst the chief postmaster, Nossek, another of
his acquaintances coming along, was lost in a contemplation of the
paving-stones, quite overlooking the mandatar in consequence. This was
a cut to the heart; but Hajek recovered himself very soon, holding his
head erect and stepping out courageously. "Once settled at Drinkowce,"
he consoled himself, "these things will show in a different light."

He was met in the Armenian's ante-chamber by the chosen bride herself;
she walked slowly, not for sweet modesty's sake, but only because she
was rather fat. That was a drawback to her charms; for the rest she had
sparkling eyes and a rare wig of golden hair, slightly reddish though.
She was in her ripest prime, like a cabbage-rose in September, when the
perfume of spring has fled and the petals have expanded, the season of
sweetness being gone.

He kissed her hands, she offered him her face. "Come," she whispered,
"my parents await you, to settle the programme for Sunday."

They were soon agreed that since the engagement was certain not to
remain a secret even till then, it behoved them to act a little drama
of innocence before the eyes of their guests. "We shall not ask many
people; just a select few," said Frau von Antoniewicz, Mr. Hajek
agreeing to this fervently, well knowing that not a dozen visitors
would be found forthcoming, if pressed ever so hard.

"And now the programme for the evening," resumed the lady--"a select
few; we shall talk and have some music, but no dancing. When the clock
strikes ten my daughter will take her place by the piano to give us an
air of Cherubini's, after which you move up to her, complimenting her
on her exquisite voice; and, giving her your arm, you will lead her
into the smaller drawing-room, where the illumination will be
appropriately subdued. I shall have some things up from the
conservatory--palms and things, to represent a bower; a fauteuil will
be placed conveniently, and a low stool beside it. Wanda will sink
gracefully into the fauteuil; you will be at her feet on the stool--it
will be quite a picture, and there will be a whispering among the
company. This will be the moment when you must kneel, gazing at her
adoringly; she will start up, endeavouring to escape.--It will be
pretty if you can manage a blush, my dear; it is easy, you know, if you
hold your breath.--I shall be crossing the room accidentally, and shall
give a startled cry; whereupon you will take my daughter by the hand,
leading her up to me, saying, 'Best of mothers, give us your blessing,'
or some such suitable words. I shall be greatly touched, and shall say
something appropriate. So will Bogdan. Then we shall have supper; a few
toasts will have to be managed: long life to the lovers, and you must
reply, lifting your glass to Bogdan and me."

"And then the curtain will fall," said Hajek, at which the wrinkled
dame lifted her finger saucily. "My dear Mr. Hajek," she said, "the
whole of life is but a comedy; who thinks differently is a fool. Then
why should I not arrange this little scene before the closing act of my
own life as merrily as I please, and you just be satisfied!"

"Certainly," he said; "but I will stipulate for a comfortable hassock
to kneel upon."

They laughed and went to the dining-room....

Considering how he was being cut by every one in the streets, the
mandatar would not have been in the least surprised to receive some
excuse from the district governor cancelling the invitation to his
dinner. But no message came, for the simple reason that Herr von Bauer
had quite forgotten he had asked the mandatar, and had not even told
his wife. The governor, therefore, was disagreeably surprised when, at
the appointed hour, Mr. Hajek presented himself among his guests, while
the 'district governess'--as his wife, on account of her overbearing
ways, was often called by her jocose acquaintances--flared up crimson
with annoyance. It seemed to her as if the eyes of all present were
filled with angry reproaches. The fact was, the mandatar had arrived at
the very moment when the company was enjoying the newest bit of
scandal, having learned by this time how he and the Countess Wanda,
with the help of Thaddy, had discovered their secret flame. It was an
awkward interruption; not the least so for Hajek himself. But he was
the only one who showed any presence of mind. He made his bow to the
company, some staring back at him utterly surprised, some completely
disgusted; and having kissed the unwilling hand of the lady of the
house, he seized the paralysed fingers of her lord, shaking hands with
a fine pretence of unconcern. Herr von Bauer, of course, submitted,
greeting him with a smile even--"a smile, upon my word," said the witty
Wroblewski, "like that of a convict being tickled." The governor was
endeavouring to do his duty. "Ah," he said, "I am surprised.... ahem,
delighted to see you.... very.... ah!"

And then he recovered himself, perceiving that he owed it to his wife
to take upon himself the onus of this man's presence, and that he could
not expect any of his guests to entertain him. "Dearest Cornelia," he
was heard to say, "I am sure it slipped my memory, but I invited Mr.
Hajek--I asked him on Thursday--on _Thursday_, you know," he added,
pointedly, "and I am afraid I am going to monopolise him on account of
important business"--the mandatar keeping up his most amiable smile.

He drew him into a corner. "I have heard this morning from the
brigadier-general by special messenger. A detachment of infantry has
been despatched to Zulawce, and will arrive there on Monday as you
calculated. But the general, besides this, has thought well to order
the hussars to be there by this evening, just as you proposed. He
thinks it is as well to be on the safe side."

"Very commendable prudence, no doubt, since Taras seems determined----"

"Determined? What is that to us! Who ever heard of cavalry being
ordered to a place where they find no stabling! It is no joke to
disregard established rules--none whatever! But I wash my hands of any
consequences--I do, indeed!"

"And may I ask who will be sent on Tuesday, as you said, as your
commissioner?"

"Kapronski. Well! what is that grimace for? We do things in proper
order. He conducted the inquiry there on the former occasion, he
may therefore be expected to be the man for it now. But--a happy
thought!--I am sure you could give him a hint or two."

The governor rubbed his hands; it seemed a bright idea to set the two
least welcome of his guests at each other, thus rendering them harmless
for the rest of the company. And he gave a sign to Kapronski, who
obeyed with alacrity; for if it was an honour to be invited to the
governor's official dinner, it had, so far, not yielded him any
pleasure. The company was apt to overlook him, and people would appear
to labour under deafness when he addressed them. But being called upon
to enter into conversation with Mr. Hajek was like being lifted on to a
pedestal; for certainly this man stood lower now in the public
estimation than even Kapronski himself. So he approached him
accordingly, drawing up his fawning figure and assuming an expression
of patronage ludicrous to behold.

"You have a favour to ask of me?" he began pompously.

The mandatar gave him a look of cutting sarcasm. "You are mistaken,
sir!"

"I--I misunderstood--a request to make?" Kapronski could not stand
being looked at boldly, and was slipping down from his pedestal
rapidly.

"Nor yet a request, that I am aware," returned Hajek. "The governor
asked my opinion, or any advice I could give, concerning the personal
safety of the commissioner about to be despatched to Zulawce, and I am
ready to advise you." The mandatar had some trouble in keeping serious,
for Kapronski's features, besides recovering their wonted humility at a
stroke as it were, presented a ludicrous picture of most doleful
dismay.

"Personal safety," lie stammered, "why, is there any danger?"

"A great deal," said Hajek, confidently.

Kapronski's face turned white, and red, and ashy grey. "I shall have an
escort," he faltered; "but if Taras should attack us on the road, I am
a dead man! There is no help----"

His voice positively failed him.

"None whatever," assented the mandatar. "Stop--yes, there is," he
added, a sudden thought having flashed through him--indeed a capital
thought, so simple and so clever withal that he was surprised it should
not have presented itself before. "There is!" he said.

"Is there?" returned Kapronski, eagerly.

"Yes, indeed! a sure means of saving yourself and me, and all honest
folks from this cut-throat. Let me remind you that his wife and
children are still at his farm. It will be natural, then, to billet
most of the soldiers upon her. But this is not enough! You must tell
her that she will have to answer for it on the gallows if her husband
hurts a hair of the mandatar's head--be sure and say the mandatar's!
She is in communication with him, no doubt, and----"

"But this would be illegal!"

"Well, that is for you to judge. I only give you a hint or two, out of
kindness. It is you who have to go to Zulawce, not I!"

"Ah!" groaned Kapronski, "if it should get known, it would cost me my
place."

"Well, tell her without witnesses, then you can give her the lie, if
need be. For the rest do as you please--_I_ am safe enough here."

The conversation was interrupted! the governor inviting his guests to
move to the dining-room. "I have thought," he said, addressing the
pair, "it might be most agreeable for each of you if we put you
together."

Kapronski bowed more humbly than ever, Hajek smiling blandly. He had
made up his mind to let everybody feel mortified, but not himself--he
was not going to be annoyed, not he! And he carried out his resolution;
easier for him, no doubt, than for a man of higher mettle.

He drove home in the best of humours, and how he whiled away the rest
of his time, attuning his mind for the events of the evening, we have
had a glimpse of already. We need not describe the solemnities at the
villa, touching as they were, for we know the programme, which was
minutely followed. There were not many to witness the scene; but the
old dame had set her heart on the play-acting, and the mandatar, to
please her, fell in with her fancy. The manner of his kneeling to Wanda
was quite classical, and supper was consumed amid charming hilarity,
not forgetting some wonderful verses with which Thaddy astonished the
company.

But when the guests had departed, a final and real surprise was in
store for the happy bridegroom. He was cooling his brow at the open
window, when suddenly he perceived his coachman, Jasko, in conversation
with a horseman a little way up the road. He could see that the
stranger wore the Huzul garb. The night was dark, and a faint gleam
only from the lighted house fell on the road, but Hajek nevertheless
recognised the horseman. "Good heavens!" he shrieked, "stop him! Seize
him!"

Bogdan and the countess rushed up terrified; but the stranger also had
heard the alarm, and spurring his horse, he dashed away and was lost to
sight.

"My coachman! I entreat you send for my coachman!" cried Hajek, beside
himself. Jasko was called in. "That was Wassilj Soklewicz you were
talking with just now?" said the mandatar, quaking.

"Yes, sir," replied the man, wonderingly.

"Don't you know he is one of the outlaws--one of Taras's band?"

"Mercy on us!" cried the coachman, aghast. "He assured me he had taken
service with the mandatar at Prinkowce, and I believed him, telling him
all about ourselves on Tuesday and Thursday and this evening. I told
him: 'We need not fear Taras now, for we are going to marry a rich
lady, and shall live at Drinkowce. In the meantime, we are quite safe
at Colomea.' At which he laughed, telling me there was no saying what
might happen between now and the wedding; indeed soon----"

"Soon! soon!" groaned the mandatar, falling back on a chair. It chanced
to be the fauteuil near the palms and things. The comedy was being
changed into tragedy.

Bogdan recovered himself first. "I do not believe," he said, "that
Taras is in the neighbourhood and likely to attack you in your chambers
or on your way back to the town; but we will hold ourselves prepared
for the worst. Stay here for the night. I'll have the gates closed, my
men can be armed, and I will send for assistance to the main
guardhouse."

And so he did, but the protection he was able to hold out to his worthy
son-in-law proved of the poorest nevertheless. The officer on duty sent
back orders not to trouble him with idle tales; and, concerning his own
servants, Bogdan knew that they would throw down their arms at the
first sight of danger.

"If Taras indeed were to come, _I_ cannot protect you," he confessed to
the mandatar. "We are not without neighbours, but none of them would
stir to help us."

And with this agreeable assurance they kept watching through the night.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                          THE BANNER UNFURLED.


The excitement of the people of Zulawce rose steadily as the Easter sun
was sinking to its rest. The cottages stood forsaken; the community had
gathered beneath the linden. The men were fully armed and many a fierce
threat was uttered against the "villain in the iron closet"; but the
peasants seemed fully resolved to take no part whatever in the coming
work of revenge. None of the inmates or dependents of the manor-house
were present. The under-steward, Boleslaw, had ordered the gates to be
closed, addressing his men in the courtyard. "Let us not act
foolishly," he said. "There is no doubt but that Taras will come, since
the report of the iron closet is so fully believed in; but he will not
harm us, if we open the doors to him to let him see that there is no
such thing as an iron closet in the place, and that the mandatar is not
with us. Our only fear is that the peasantry may grow revengeful, and
attack us when he is gone. Let us be ready to resist them, but we will
not fight Taras."

Nor had any of Anusia's people joined the public gathering; her orders
had been sufficient. She herself was sitting in the large family-room,
holding little Tereska on her lap, while her boys pressed close to her
with an indefinable fear. The children dared not speak, for the mother
seemed sunk in that strange stupor which had kept her to the bed of
sickness but lately.

Father Leo and the little popadja found her thus. A greeting was
exchanged, but conversation would not flow. It was impossible to talk
of indifferent matters, and they shrank from touching upon that which
filled their hearts. So they sat silent, a red light streaming in
through the windows; for the sun, like a glowing ball of fire, was
sinking behind the fir-covered uplands.

"How red it looks," whispered little Wassilj, pointing to the parting
glory.

"It forbodes blood," said Halko, under his breath.

"Blood," echoed the poor mother with staring eyes, pressing her
children closer.

Father Leo could bear it no longer. He went near to her, taking her
hand gently. "Anusia," he said, "do _you_ believe----?"

"What do I know," she interrupted him, sharply. "Am I of the avenger's
band? I am a widow, anxious to keep the peace for my children's sake."

Leo paced the room. "That is well," he said, presently. "I wish all the
people were like you. They say they will not join him, but I fear their
own wild disposition will be too much for them."

Anusia made no answer, and he sat down again in silence. Thus they
continued, amid the sinking shadows, in the darkening room.

But suddenly they started, and the children gave a cry of alarm. There
had been a tapping at the window which overlooked the garden. It was
the window to the west catching the last glimmer of light; no one
outside was visible, but as they gazed a hand was lifted cautiously
from below, once more tapping the pane.

"It is father!" cried the children, and the pope rose.

"Hush, children," said Anusia, in a whisper, but so impressively that
they forthwith obeyed. "Please keep quiet, Father Leo. It is not Taras,
but his messenger ... sit still ... I am his wife and must answer when
he calls."

Another tap, and Anusia glided from the room. They heard the outer door
creak on its hinges, and knew she was in the garden.

The children fell to sobbing, but the popadja put her arms round them,
beginning to say her prayers, good soul. Leo had risen, listening
intently; but not a sound was heard till the firm footstep of the
returning woman fell on their ear. She entered, carrying a lamp in her
hand. They could see her face; the old look of icy calm had once more
settled on it.

"Is it good news?" questioned Leo, eagerly.

"Yes--that is to say in some respects." She smiled bitterly. "Anyhow,
pope, you will be able to do a good service to your parishioners."

"I am most willing--what is it?"

"Go and tell them to go home quietly, for their own sakes."

"I have told them, and tried my best already. Will you tell me what
Taras----?"

"No," she said, fiercely; "I must have intercourse with him--I am his
wife; but no one else shall, if I can prevent it. Try yet again, pope;
for God's sake, do!"

Father Leo saw his wife home, and hastened to join his expectant
parishioners. But the people insisted they must see Taras storm the
castle; he was doing it as their own avenger; how should they forbear?
The long hours of waiting, and the quantity of spirits which had been
consumed, had but added to their excitement; exhortation availed not,
and with a sigh the pope desisted.

It was between ten and eleven in the evening. Away in the district town
the mandatar was about to undergo the graceful process of kneeling to
the Countess Wanda. The night lay deep and still on mountain and plain.

A strange sound broke on the stillness, indistinct at first, but
gaining in force. It was as though a mighty waterfall somewhere in the
distance had suddenly begun to roar.

"Hark!" cried a hundred voices, "what is it?" "He is coming!" exclaimed
the butcher. "No; listen!" said another.

The noise grew perceptibly, as though volumes of water were being added
to that far-off cataract. The upland echoes awoke in response, and it
was difficult to say whence the sound proceeded.

"A host of them coming from the mountains!" decided one, presently.
"No, from the plains--listen!" cried another.

It was like a low rumble of thunder, in the direction of the river
unmistakably. The very ground began to vibrate, and the dull noise ever
and anon was broken by the quick, sharp sound of a trumpet.

"Horsemen!" a voice cried suddenly. "The hussars! Save yourselves."
"No, stay," burst in another; "who should forbid our standing here
quietly? Save yourselves!" and the cry was taken up repeatedly; "these
hussars are worse than the devil!"

But the people seemed nailed to the spot, some pushing this way, some
that; the enclosing darkness, the state of semi-drunkenness most were
in, and a knowledge that a squadron of soldiers was bursting upon them,
robbed them of all self-possession.

"Go to your homes," the pope kept crying, despairingly. He had caught
hold of the torch which served to illumine the inn, and wildly urged
the people. But it seemed too late. Already the first of the soldiers,
four horsemen in advance of the troop, had reached the place, pulling
up their steeds at the near sight of the heaving, howling mass of
villagers. Two of the hussars lifted their pistols, firing into the
air.

The shots hit no one, but took full effect on the excited minds,
producing a wild panic in some, rousing rage and defiance in others.
"Save yourselves," was heard again. "We are not going to be killed like
sheep; take to your guns, men!" roared others, and bloodshed appeared
unavoidable.

The imminent danger inspired Father Leo with an unwonted power. He
forced a way through the people with his right arm, some falling back
before the blazing torch in his left, and thus he got to the head of
the crowd just as the body of soldiers galloped up the street, led by
an officer, sword in hand. It was Captain Mihaly; and at the sight of
the pale man in priestly dress, standing with a flaring torch between
the approaching horse and the overtaken crowd, he called to his men to
stop. The troop halted almost face to face with the people.
"Surrender!" exclaimed the officer.

But Father Leo lifted his hands. "Sir captain," he cried in German, his
voice rising above the turmoil behind him, "this is not the band of
Taras, but only the people of this village; they will disperse at
once."

"Then the bandit is not among you?"

"No!"

"But your people seem to be waiting for him--to assist him, I daresay."

"No; it is their curiosity only."

"I'll teach them better, then! Tell them I give them five minutes'
grace, after which time my men will have leave to cut down any one
about the streets at this late hour."

The pope repeated the orders in the people's own language; shrieks and
curses were the answer. But, even though they might have been willing,
most of the people could not at once free themselves from the
struggling crowd, and some refused to stir, in sheer defiance if not
for love of fight. The pope kept urging, but in vain. A few only
escaped; the confusion was no wise diminished.

The captain's patience appeared exhausted. The word was given, the
trumpet sounded, and, brandishing their sabres, the hussars charged the
crowd, which fell back amid a deafening tumult of shrieks and groans
and efforts of resistance. Father Leo was flung against the inn, his
head striking the door-post so violently that he staggered bleeding and
stunned with the blow. He was unable to see what happened, for the
darkness seemed denser than before, but the sounds which fell on his
ear filled him with dismay. He had suffered much of late, but trouble
seemed culminating now.

He could not quite tell how long it lasted; the noise decreased, the
hussars making their way towards the farms; presently there was
silence, save for the groans of some who evidently had been hurt in the
fray. His own head was bleeding and his limbs felt heavy, but he shook
off the lethargy, and pushing open the door of the inn called for help.

There was no answer. Some few had taken refuge in the parlour, and the
innkeeper's family were hiding in corners; the pope had to repeat his
calling, and then only a lad appeared with a rushlight in his trembling
hand.

The pope made his way into the house, conjuring the frightened people
to lend him their assistance. A couple of torches were lighted and
reluctant help was given. Matters outside were not quite so bad as
Father Leo had anticipated. Five only were lying there, more or less
severely wounded: four villagers and one of the hussars. The latter
evidently was in the worst plight, a bullet, in an almost hand-to-hand
encounter, had gone through his shoulder. Father Leo saw to him first,
ordering him to be moved into the inn. An old man was attended to next,
he had a sabre-cut on his forehead. The other three were women who had
fallen beneath the hoofs of the horses, but were not badly hurt.

Leo set himself to bind up the wounds as well as he could, aided by
Avrumko and Maxym Bobra, a soldier on furlough; and while they were
thus occupied the troop of horsemen were heard returning. A trumpet
sounded. "The signal for dismounting," whispered Maxym to the pope, and
almost immediately the door of the inn parlour was flung open. The
officer entered, followed by some half-dozen of his men.

"Bring out torches and some faggots!" he cried to the innkeeper,
turning to give a look at the wounded.

The pope met him. "Captain," he said modestly, "it might be well to
send a messenger to Zablotow, the doctor is badly needed."

"Got our own surgeon," was the gruff reply; and, having given orders
for the military Esculapius to attend, the officer stood over the
wounded soldier.

"Nice sort of 'curiosity' this on the part of your peaceful sheep," he
said, presently. But Father Leo forbore answering, busying himself
about the sufferers.

The surgeon entered, examined the wounds, and prepared to dress them.
"The peasant will get over it," he said; "but this man of ours will
hardly do so, a bullet having pierced his lung."

"Then the churls shall pay for it, by Jove!" returned the officer with
rising passion; "and so shall you, sir pope--you have deceived me!"

Leo looked him in the face quietly. "I shall be ready to answer
for anything to-morrow," he said; "I will now go along the village
street--there may be other sufferers."

The captain somehow felt disarmed. "You are bleeding yourself, your
reverence," he said more gently, almost abashed.

But Father Leo turned away in silence, leaving the inn with Maxym Bobra
and one or two other men.

The village, which but lately had been the scene of so wild an uproar,
lay still as death; a number of soldiers had settled round a watch fire
outside the inn, a similar guard being stationed in front of the manor
house. The lurid flames rising from these two spots were the only
lights visible. The sentries patrolling the village with cocked pistols
found no cause of alarm. Neither did good Father Leo, for no one seemed
to require his aid except a woman lying terror-stricken at her own
cottage door.

He went home, poor Fruzia receiving him with a cry of horror at the
sight of his pale, blood-stained countenance. But she, whom lesser
troubles would readily overpower, now recovered herself, courageously.
"I will not murmur," the faithful wife was saying, with trembling lips,
hastening to dress his wound, "you have but done your duty." Nor did
she raise the slightest objection on his declaring he would sit up
through the night. "I must indeed," he added, "I sadly fear we shell
hear of farther trouble; some wounded or dying man may send for me."

And so it proved. In the small hours of the morning a messenger arrived
begging him to take the sacrament to the smithy, since Marko had not
many minutes to live. He made all possible speed, but death was before
him; the towering giant who but a few hours before had spoken so
manfully, would never lift his chirping voice again. He had been
foremost among those who opposed the soldiers, a sabre-cut had disabled
him, and as he endeavoured to drag himself home after the fray a bullet
caught him in the back, inflicting his death-wound. He reached the
smithy, but only to die. Father Leo offered what consolation he could
to the bereaved widow, who in tearless grief held fast the dead man's
hand. "Peace!" she replied, gloomily: "there is but one comfort left; I
shall know how to use his gun, and the hour of reckoning will come."

Such, indeed, was the frame of mind of most of the people when the good
pope in the early morning went his round of the cottages. Few of the
villagers had been wounded or hurt, but one and all were burning with
resentment. And the strange quiet, blending with their wrath, appeared
to him more alarming than the turbulent anger he was accustomed to. "We
have suffered wrong," they said, "and we shall pay it back. We cannot
do so without a leader, but we may trust Taras. If we waited for him in
vain last night, it was no doubt because the mandatar evidently is not
at the house--he would have shown his cowardly face under the
protection of the military if he were hiding in the place! But no
matter, Taras will now be coming for our sakes."

On the afternoon of Easter Monday a body of infantry relieved the
hussars, the officer in command proving himself both judicious and
kind. On learning from the pope how matters stood, he readily promised
to spare the villagers as much as possible; and since the manor house,
the protection of which was the main object, offered plenty of room, he
would have the men quartered there--all but a few, at least, he added,
whom, according to special instructions, he would have to billet on
Taras's farm. "I am sorry," he said, "to make acquaintance of this
man's family in so unpleasant a way, for it went to one's heart to hear
him speak of them."

"Do you know Taras?" inquired Father Leo, wonderingly.

"Yes. I am Captain Stanczuk, and acted as interpreter when he was
admitted to the Emperor's presence at Vienna."

The peasants looked on with a savage gloom as the "Whitecoats" made
themselves at home in the village, their anger blazing forth when they
learned that the officer actually was the son of a Podolian pope.
Anusia received her uninvited guests after a similar fashion, treating
the officer, first to a withering look, and then to her utmost
contempt. The captain had come in person, hoping to smooth matters, but
the woman seemed beyond conciliation.

Yet she trembled visibly when Father Leo whispered to her that her
visitor was the same captain who had assisted Taras at Vienna, and a
deep flush overspread her face.

"What is it?" inquired the pope, surprised. "He is not likely to harm
you, seeing he was kind to Taras."

"Yes, yes," she groaned; "I am all the more sorry for him." But her
lips closed, and the old stony expression settled on her face.

That same evening the two who on the previous day had opposed each
other so strenuously concerning the attitude to be adopted by the
village--Wassilj, the butcher, and Hritzko Pomenko--went from farm to
farm, from cottage to cottage, evidently of one mind. "On account of
the Whitecoats there can be no general meeting," they said; "but we ask
you individually, Are you satisfied that tomorrow morning we should
start for the mountains, to call hither Taras in the name of the
community, for the avenging of this wrong? And do you pledge yourselves
to help him?" Every one of the peasants assented, most of them readily,
and some for very fear of the prevailing opinion. The horizon hung
heavy with bursting clouds.

But the pope only heard of it when the two had started on the Tuesday,
and the good man found himself in a painful plight. Should he inform
the captain, causing more stringent measures to be adopted against the
village, besides being the means of bringing two honest men to grievous
punishment? Should he keep silence and let the mischief be done? He
came to see that, of the two evils, this latter certainly was the
worst, and therefore imparted to the officer what was brewing, but
without mentioning names.

The captain smiled. "I know all about it," he said, "and more than you
tell me. That corporal, Constantino Turenko, has been before you,
embellishing his report, no doubt, with even more than the truth. But
let me assure your reverence that my measures have been taken with the
utmost circumspection; I hardly needed such information to be prepared
for any exigency. I shall not have recourse to harsh treatment; and
though that corporal has taken it upon himself so to advise me, I shall
not prohibit the public funeral of the smith to-day."

But this mournful occasion brought no cause of disturbance. Nearly all
the village attended, and Father Leo would fain have poured out his
heart had the widow not begged him to forego the usual discourse. "My
husband shall indeed have a funeral sermon by and by," she said, "not
in words, but in gun-shots."

On the evening of this day, also, two men went the round of the
village, Alexa Sembrow and Wilko Sembratowicz. "It has been announced,"
they said, "that to-morrow we have to expect a man of the law to take
our deposition with regard to Taras's speech. Now Taras himself has
desired us to make it known, but we consider the transactions of the
general assembly are no lawyer's business, and we propose to refuse
information. Do you agree?" which they all did, none having the
slightest compunction on this point.

Whilst the inhabitants of Zulawce were thus preparing to circumvent the
law after their own fashion, Mr. Ladislas Kapronski, the district
commissioner, with his office-clerk behind him, was being driven
towards the contumacious parish. He was seated in an open car, an armed
constable on either side of him, but nowise at his ease; indeed, so
harassed was his appearance, that the simple country folk by the
roadside, unable to guess at his position by his looks, kept wondering
what so respectable an individual could have done to be taken to prison
for! A coward every inch of him, he certainly did not show to advantage
with an escort of constables about him.

Nor did the rising sun of another day enhance his spirits; for was he
not approaching that desperate village? his craven imagination
conjuring up the most lively scenes of the regiment being murdered to a
man by that awful Taras. He quite gasped with relief on beholding some
of the soldiers patrolling by the Pruth, and their leader, a sergeant,
assured him, somewhat surprised, that the regiment, so far, was alive
and the people tolerably quiet.

This account seemed cheering, and he fell to determining his mode of
action. He would try, in the first place, to bully Anusia; for if the
mandatar's advice in this respect was illegal, it was nevertheless
useful, and this was not a case to stickle for technical correctness,
when positively one's life was in danger, the amiable man said to
himself. He instructed his driver, therefore, to put him down near
Taras's farm; and, to the astonishment of the constables, he went on
his errand alone. The beating of his heart was known to himself only.
"No doubt she is a termagant of a woman," he murmured, but face her he
must.

He was fortunate in finding her alone in the common sitting-room. She
gave a searching look at the man, who entered her presence with an
uncertain step.

"I am the district commissioner," Kapronski stammered.

"I am aware of the fact," said Anusia. "What may be your pleasure?"

Her manner was not exactly calculated to rouse any latent courage;
nevertheless he gathered himself up with an effort, saying hastily: "I
am the bearer of a message from the Board of magistrates. Your husband
is a miscreant. Unfortunately we cannot just lay our hands on him; but
you and your children and this farm are within our reach. If Taras
dares hurt a hair of my head--of my head, do you hear?--or anybody
else's, your property will be confiscated, and you shall answer for him
to the law. We know you have communication with him; so just send him
word!"

The woman had listened quietly--almost with indifference. "Yes, yes,"
she muttered, when he had finished, "I understand you! All right," she
added aloud, "your message shall be delivered."

"Soon?"

"At once."

With this comfortable assurance Kapronski made all possible speed to
regain his car. "So far, so good," he said, rejoicing, "a reasonable
woman after all! I wonder if I had better have the place watched to
find out how Taras is being communicated with; it might be an easy mode
of discovering his whereabouts, and a feather in my cap with the Board.
But perhaps I had better not disturb the woman in sending so sensible a
message!" And therewith he ordered his driver to take him to the
judge's next.

But Jewgeni, unequal to the mental conflict of deciding whether his
valiant brother or the will of the parish should prevail, had settled
the question by beating his retreat to the public house at Zablotow.
Constantine, however, was at home, and readily dictated to the
commissioner's clerk a towering heap of invectives against all
authority, whether in heaven or on earth, declaring such to be a
faithful report of Taras's speech. But he was the only witness
forthcoming; what further deposition Kapronski could procure was more
amusing than valuable. Red Schymko, for instance, invited him politely
to be seated, and then harangued him for an hour concerning Taras's
personal appearance; but when desired to give his version of the speech
in question, he protested with voluble regrets that his memory had
failed him from the day he was born, and never a word could he
remember. Most of the peasants, however, spurned the idea of thus
humbugging the commissioner, flatly declaring they were no tell-tales.

The day passed, and although Kapronski had obtained nothing beyond the
corporal's deposition, he decided, with the approach of evening, that
he had better return now to those who had sent him. There was no time
to be lost, if he meant to pass the most dangerous part of the way
before nightfall.

The road from Zulawce to Zablotow runs at first along the Pruth, in a
northerly direction, making a sudden bend eastward and traversing the
plain. The commissioner's car had reached this bend, and daylight was
fast vanishing, when one of the constables suddenly rose from his seat,
giving a searching look across the river.

"What is it?" cried Kapronski, clutching the man's arm; he was
short-sighted, and could not see for himself.

"Some dozen horsemen," replied the constable, "Huzuls by the look of
them--just bursting from yonder cover and making for the ford."

The commissioner could now distinguish the dark figures approaching.
"Let us return," he gasped.

"Impossible," declared the constables. "They will have crossed the
river before we could out-flank them." Then to the driver: "Make what
speed you can to Zablotow."

And the car shot on quick as lightning, passing the fields of
Debeslawce. But the sound of hoofs was carried after them; the horsemen
had crossed the ford and were coming on in a quick gallop. The distance
between them was fast lessening, and voices could be distinguished. The
commissioner had closed his eyes, well-nigh swooning.

"Stop!" cried the men in pursuit. "Stop, or we shall fire!"

"Drive on!" urged the constables. But the car stopped, the coachman
dropping the reins. "I have not undertaken to be killed like a dog," he
muttered. "Besides, there is no escaping this Taras!"

Another moment and the horsemen were on the spot, surrounding the
commissioner's party with pointed pistols. A dark-complexioned fellow,
lithe and graceful, with the look of an eagle, appeared to be the
leader. "Hand over your muskets," he ordered the constables, and they
obeyed.

"You may take yourselves off, then; it is not you we want, only this
gentleman of the quill. Be so good as to descend, Mr. Commissioner."

"For pity's sake," whined Kapronski.

"We are not going to kill you," said the eagle-eyed leader, with a look
of disdain. "Our orders are to take you to our captain, Taras, who
wishes to speak to you. He would have come himself had it been worth
his while. Have the goodness, then, to descend."

Seeing a pistol pointed at him, the commissioner could not but rise,
yet his feet would not carry him, and he had to be lifted to the
ground.

"Are you able to ride?" inquired the leader of the troop, beckoning at
the same time to one of his men, who was holding a small, shaggy horse
by the bridle. "Taras is sure to regret that he cannot place a carriage
at your disposal, but this animal won't throw you."

The commissioner groaned.

"Lift him into the saddle," commanded the leader, "and strap him fast.
Two of you take him between you."

It was done. The eagle-eyed chief nodded approvingly, and, turning to
the constables and the clerk, he wished them good evening and a happy
journey.

They drove on gladly enough, and, looking back presently, could see the
mounted Huzuls disappearing in the shadows, the wretched commissioner
in their midst.



                              CHAPTER XIV.

                          GATHERING STRENGTH.


The steep, narrow path which from Zulawce winds westward into the
uplands, is not without danger to the pedestrian, but safe enough to
the small, sure-footed mountain pony of the Huzuls. Here and there it
takes you into one of those cool, dusky clefts which separate the
terraced heights, leading for the most part straight across the
mountains, so that each sudden rise is succeeded by an equally
precipitous descent, and the traveller would hardly imagine he were
nearing the very top of the chain, if every successive ridge he gained
did not show him a wider and more glorious expanse of the plain left
behind. For the view is open from every summit where the growing copse
wood is swept away or kept low by the terrific eastern gales which
burst upon these elevated regions from the broad level between the
Dniester and the Don; tall bracken and giant trees closing in the path
elsewhere, one particular spot excepted, where it winds between bare
rocks of a brownish yellow and strangely shaped.

This is the Red Hollow, some half-day's journey from Zulawce.
Traversing it, you would most likely follow the main path, westward
still, to the Black Water and into the Marmaros beyond; indeed, few
travellers, on reaching the centre of this rocky glen, where beneath a
stunted fir a small red cross is to be seen, would strike off at right
angles on what could scarcely be called a path. It is the poorest of
tracks, now ascending boldly, now descending abruptly amid boulders and
crumbling stones; and the traveller who loves his life, having ventured
so far, would do well to surrender himself to the safer instincts of
his pony. It is a desperate attempt at best; but whoever has dared it
will remember it with rapture. For having traversed a wilderness of
nature's _débris_, you pass a rocky entrance overlooking a valley, the
very home of beauty bright and still, wondrously fair, and its like
hardly to be found even amid the glories of the Carpathians.

Lovely beech woods enclose a small lake of clearest blue; the sheltered
slopes around are covered with wild flowers, in a profusion which is
rare even in the lower valleys; and between bright leaves, in due
season, the luscious, deep-coloured strawberries abound. Eastward the
lake has an outlet, a tumbling brook making its way through a narrow
cleft towards the Pruth, while all around from the slopes silvery rills
come down, just ruffling the blue mirror which receives them. Above and
beyond, this gem of mountain scenery is overhung with rugged peaks and
solemn fir woods, looking down in proud protection upon this most
favoured spot. The people round about have learned to call it again by
its ancient name, "The Crystal Springs;" but in the days we write of it
came to be known as "The Waters of Taras."

Here was his camp--hither he brought his men on that Palm Sunday of
1839.

The place was well chosen, secluded enough for safety, except in case
of treason; a natural fastness, too, which could be held against almost
any attack, and yet not far from the lowlands, for in following that
outlet of the lake the sedgy banks of the Pruth might be reached in
three hours. Moreover, the Red Hollow and its neighbourhood is the
best-stocked hunting ground in these game-haunts; a fact not to be
overlooked by a captain of outlaws, determined to make honest provision
for his men.

For the matter of that, however, it seemed at first as though Taras,
apart from this, need never be at a loss how to feed his men. The news
of his arrival by the Crystal Springs had scarcely had time to spread
before the dwellers in the glens round about arrived with a friendly
greeting of bread, sheep's flesh, butter, and milk for the new
neighbour. Taras knew what such hospitality cost these people, and he
had money enough and to spare; but he could not refuse their gifts,
well aware that they would look upon it as an insult to be resented.
Nor was he pleased that their young men should offer to join him, bold
and fearless as they were, huntsmen and shepherds of the mountain
wilds, accustomed to any hardship, and seasoned to any storm. Their
sympathy with the avenger was more the love of fighting than anything
else; but they were honest, and Taras knew they would not forsake him
in any plight, still less play him false in trouble. Nevertheless, to
most of them he turned a deaf ear. He knew that these half-savage
hordes were strangers to common obedience; he could never have trained
them to the discipline he intended to uphold, and though he might
perchance have taught them to respect property, he knew there was no
trusting them with defenceless women anywhere.

Three of them, however, he admitted, because he believed himself
certain of their inmost souls. These were a couple of huntsmen who had
acted as his guides on his former visits, and the "Royal Eagle," Julko
Rosenko, youngest son of Hilarion the Just, who dwelt by the Black
Water. His handsome presence, rare strength and activity, together with
a courage so dauntless and daring that it was conspicuous even among
that reckless tribe, had gained him the proud name he bore. And of the
Huzuls who offered themselves to Taras he was the only one actuated not
solely by a spirit of defiant adventurousness, but by a deep longing to
take vengeance for violence he had suffered. When a mere youth, he had,
by order of a military captain, been dragged from a fair to the
barracks at Wiznitz, and declared fit for service, against all show of
right. His fine figure had thus brought him to grief. In vain he
remonstrated, assuring his captors he was not even near the legal age
for conscription; their answer was: "We have no wings, young eagle, to
fetch you from your eyry when you may have reached the age. You had
better submit; be reasonable, and you will enjoy the life." But the
young man refused to be "reasonable;" no punishment, no bullying, could
force him to take the military oath. For eight months he held out, when
the visit of a higher officer brought sharp censure to the captain and
liberation to the youth. He returned to the mountains thirsting for
revenge; but Julko loved his father, Hilarion the Just, too dearly to
grieve him by joining those who were looked upon as the refuse of the
plains; he did not become a hajdamak, the repressed fury eating the
deeper into his passionate heart. Now, at last, the longed-for hour of
retribution seemed to have come: to join the avenger was no shame, but
a glory.

At first then Taras's band consisted of seven in all--the three Huzuls,
his own two men, and the youths, Lazarko and Wassilj, the latter of
whom was almost always absent reconnoitring. Old Jemilian would shake
his faithful head sadly, because the expected reinforcements were slow
in appearing; and when Wassilj, after his first day's scouting, made a
glowing description of the enthusiasm he had met with, the old man
laughed grimly, saying: "I doubt not but they will find us worthy of
song, even when we have come to the gallows." Taras was unmoved; his
heart having gone through the heaving waters, seemed to have gained the
shore of a mysterious calm. He was silent, solemn, and though a rare
smile might come to his lips, it never reached his eyes; but that
expression of brooding thought, of agonised conflict, had left him.
When the news was brought that Anusia had gone out of her mind he shook
his head. "I do not believe it," he said to Jemilian; "I know what one
can bear and not go mad. I know it from my own experience, but now the
worst is over. I have lost much, but I have recovered myself." And he
would cheer his followers: "Never fear, we shall lack neither work, nor
fit hands to do it." Whereupon he ordered the construction of a
storehouse, a shelter for horses, and barracks to lodge thirty men.

Nor was his confidence mistaken; not a week passed before helpers
poured in, one of the very first being a man whom neither Taras nor any
one else in that country would have expected to volunteer for such
service.

It was early in the morning, the rocky heights and the firs above them
stood forth against a background of brilliant light; but the lake below
and the meadows on the gentle slopes had just caught the first rosy
glimmer of day. Taras had relieved the "Royal Eagle," who had done
sentry duty through the night, and was sitting with his gun between his
knees on the solitary rock against which the barracks were to be
erected. He sat motionless, his eye commanding the fair valley from the
rocky entrance on the one side to the shrubby cleft on the other,
through which the lake found its outlet. The dewy stillness of early
morning hung on bush and brae. But suddenly he bent forward, listening.
There were steps approaching from the Red Hollow, distant yet, but
falling heavily on the rocky soil, as of a traveller unused to such
rough descent. The dark outline of a human figure grew visible
presently amid the yellowish rocks, and Taras scanned the new comer.

"A Jew!" he exclaimed, with great surprise; "and he carries a firelock!
what on earth can he want?"

Well might Taras wonder, for a Jew bearing arms had never crossed his
vision. Men of that persuasion in the East have a horror of weapons of
any kind, and any humble Israelite who may be met with occasionally in
the mountain-wilds is but a pedlar, trudging with his bundle of stuffs
from homestead to homestead with no ground of safety but the goodness
of the God of Abraham or the knowledge of his own abject poverty. But
the son of Jacob now coming hither carried his head high, and his
back was bowed by no other burden than the musket, the barrel of
which caught sparkles from the rising sun. He was young, tall, and
broad-shouldered; and if his ample caftan gave sorry proof of the
difficult path he had come by, there was no weariness in his movements.
With undaunted step he approached the hetman.

"I greet you, Taras." he said. "I recognised you at first sight,
although I daresay you have forgotten me; you used to be kind to me
when I was a boy."

Taras gave a searching glance at the face before him, sharp-featured,
gloomy, and furrowed as with terrible experience. "Nashko!" he cried,
"is it you? Little Nashko, the son of the innkeeper at Ridowa?"

He held out both his hands, and the Jew caught them, his face trembling
with delight. "I could hardly be sure of such a welcome," he said. "It
is I indeed--your old friend Nashko, son of Berish!"

"But how is it?" cried Taras, making him sit beside him. "When I left
my own village, twelve years ago, I cut you a reed-pipe to console you,
and now----"

"Now," continued the Jew, with a dark smile, "it is a wonder I am not
grey-haired, to judge from this face of mine. I am but four-and-twenty,
Taras, but an old man through sorrow and despair."

"Things have gone ill with you? You have suffered wrong, and come to me
to redress it?"

Nashko shook his head, yet added quickly, with a scrutinising look in
Taras's face. "And if it were so, would you help me, though I am a
Jew?"

"Can you doubt it?" exclaimed Taras, warmly. "Does the wrong-doer
inquire into his victim's faith? How, then, should I? As they inflict
wrong where they list, it is for me to right it wherever I find it. And
I would help you, even if I hated the Jews. But I do not hate you,
because, from a child upward, I have striven to be just. And whenever I
heard people speak ill of them, I thought of you, Nashko, and of your
father. Old Berish lived among us honestly and like one of ourselves.
He drew a modest livelihood from his tavern, and tilled his fields with
diligence. The people of Ridowa respected him, therefore, as they would
any other good man among them. And were not you as merry-hearted and
plucky a boy as any in the village? The only difference was that you
wore no cross, but the Jewish fringe.[6] And I always thought, it is
not the difference of race; but the Jews behave to us just as we behave
to them. Say on, then; what can I do for you?"

"Thank you, heartily," said the Jew, again seizing his hand. "But I
have not come to beg for your help. It is too late for that, both as
regards myself and my sister. And if there were a chance of revenge I
would do the deed alone! I have come with another prayer, and the words
you have just spoken give me courage to ask it. Let me join your band,
Taras!"

"You!" cried the outlaw, starting from his seat in sheer amazement. "A
Jew fighting for the right in the mountains. This has never been heard
of since the beginning of days. To be sure, you have grown up like one
of ourselves, as I have just been saying; still it is unheard-of. Poor
fellow, what grievous wrong you must have suffered!"

"Grievous, indeed; but after all it is only what has happened to others
before and will happen again," replied the Jew, his voice quivering
with the deep trouble of his soul. "But while some can rise from their
shame and forget it, others are undone for ever.... You will scarcely
remember my sister Jutta?"

"O! yes," returned Taras, eagerly, "a dear little golden-haired
thing--the prettiest child of the village."

"Well, she grew but the fairer as she grew in years. My father and I
guarded her as the apple of our eye; my mother having died early, he
and I brought her up, and she was the joy and pride of our life.
Several respectable men had asked her in marriage, although we were
poor, but my father would not give her to any of them; none seemed good
enough for our sweet girl. He regretted it sorely in his dying hour,
and could only take comfort in the sacred promise I made him,
henceforth to watch over her with double care and let my own happiness
in life be subordinate to hers. I kept my promise. Our farm brought in
little, and the tavern still less, because the lord of the manor
increased the rent from year to year; nevertheless, I remained at
Ridowa, because my going forth to look for a living elsewhere would
have obliged Jutta to seek service with strangers. For her sake also I
remained unmarried, that she might remain mistress of the house and my
only care. For both these reasons the Jews of Barnow were dissatisfied
with me, for, in the judgment of my people, it is well-nigh a wrong to
remain unwedded, and nearly as bad to live apart from one's fellows in
the faith without forcible reason. But I had other trouble to think of
than the displeasure of the Jews of Barnow! A young nephew of our
Count, a certain Baron Kaminski, was visiting at the manor. He saw my
sister, and fell in love with her--after the fashion, Taras, in which a
young Polish noble will play at love with a poor Jewish maiden! He
often came riding by, annoying her with his addresses whenever he knew
I was out of the way. She kept it from me as long as she could, knowing
my passionate temper, but the poor child at last could not help telling
me. She had judged me aright--I was furious; and had I met the
youngster in that hour, with these hands of mine I would have strangled
him. But, growing calmer, I judged it best to appeal to our Count,
begging him to interfere. He promised to speak to his nephew, and we
seemed to be left at peace, the young baron never coming near the
place, and even condescending to make some sort of apology on meeting
me accidentally elsewhere."

"I know their tricks," said Taras, darkly; "it was his cunning to throw
you off your guard."

"Yes," cried Nashko, drawing himself up and pacing to and fro wildly;
"it was! I had business at the distillery one day, which kept me away
over night. On returning, I found that the baron had been with his
lackeys and creatures. I barely listened to the poor girl's piteous
story, but snatched up my gun and forced my way into the manor-house.
The wretch had left the place, thinking himself safer in Poland. My
unhappy sister was seized with a burning fever, and, lest she should
die without help, there being no doctor near us, I took her to Barnow.
The people there had nursed their anger against us, and perhaps not
without some reason, as they viewed matters; but pity was strong, and
they stood by us in that time of sorrow. My sister was kindly taken
care of, and when she had recovered I made over to her all I possessed,
and went my way to seek the baron. I knew what awaited me if I did the
deed my heart demanded, but go I must. Again I missed him; he had left
for Paris. Thither I could not follow. I returned to Barnow, but my
sister was gone ..." He covered his face, his bosom heaving.

"Gone after him?" cried Taras, wondering.

"What do you mean!" retorted poor Nashko, with a proud look of disdain.
"Was she not an honest Jewish maiden? No; but the Sereth is a deep
river and holds fast its prey. I never learned why she did it; whether
for maidenly shame only, or because of any evil scorn, repressed while
she was ill, but flung at her when she was about again--I cannot tell.
But what is now left for me I know; and therefore your call to every
wronged one has found an echo in my heart I shook off the lethargy of
grief and despair, and I have come to ask you, judge and avenger as you
claim to be, will you let me join your band?"

Taras went up to him, laying his hand upon his shoulder. "Nashko," he
said, solemnly, "if I still hesitate, it is not because of your being a
Jew. A man who has gone through what I have gone through would not
deserve a ray of sunlight on his path if he could make any difference
between his brethren. And who is my brother but he who has suffered
wrong? My doubts, therefore, do not concern your faith, but yourself.
Let me ask you, have you really lost all hope that your heart can ever
grow still again and capable of being happy?"

"Certainly not," replied the Jew, firmly, and the fire of his eye spoke
of terrible possibilities; "such hope, on the contrary, is ever present
with me. My heart will grow calm again, and I shall be happy on the day
when I shall cleave the head of him who ruined my sister.... Spare
yourself any further trouble, Taras; the men of my race are wont to
consider before they act. And I have considered. Will you accept me as
one of yours?"

"Yes," said Taras, briefly, and called his men, who were not a little
taken aback on beholding their new comrade, a scornful remark hovering
on the lips of the "Royal Eagle," and shrinking back only at the
captain's look of command.

Julko Rosenko, the first volunteer of the mountain wilds, and the Jew,
the first one from the lowlands--or as, to this day, they are known in
song, the "Royal Eagle" and "Black Nashko"--are the only two of Taras's
band who strike the imagination either by their originality or by the
motives inspiring their action. All the others, whom a lawless or
revengeful disposition brought to his standard, may have been the
victims of tyranny, indeed, but they were men of a lower type, and
their history is but the outcome of the troublous confusion of
oppressors and oppressed struggling for mastery.

Thus there was with him a peasant from the Bukowina, one Thodika
Synkow, who to his fortieth year had lived quietly on his bit of land,
till the harshness of a tax-gatherer selling the very pillow from under
the head of his sick wife drove him to a deed of murder. There was an
under-steward from near the frontier, Stas Barilko, who after years of
faithful service had been cruelly flogged for having shot a hare
without his master's leave. There was a certain Sophron Hlinkowski, the
leader of a church choir, who in a dispute between the priest and the
parish concerning tithes had sided with the people, and, when the angry
pastor, with the approval of his superiors, suspended the church
services, had yielded to the entreaty of the peasants, reading prayers
when there was a funeral. That was his crime; the priest denounced him,
and the unfortunate precentor was sent to prison, finding himself a
beggar when his two years had expired. His only child had died, and his
wife had gone off with another man. So he joined Taras to "lift his
voice now after another fashion, and make the ears tingle of those who
used him so cruelly;" and Taras admitted him, as, indeed, he admitted
any one whom honest resentment brought to his standard, and who,
having nothing to lose, was possessed of the three requisites he looked
for--obedience, courage, and frugality. For Taras held strictly by the
words he had spoken beneath the linden: "Let none come to me who seeks
for pleasure in life, and no happy man shall join me." Many offered
themselves, setting aside this primary condition, but the hetman
subjected every one to the most rigid examination; and any one hoping
to find refuge with him from just punishment was rejected as
mercilessly as were the mere ruffians looking for booty. Yet, in spite
of such strict investigation, Taras's band on Easter morning consisted
of thirty well-armed and resolute men.

But he had to give audience to a host of people besides, peaceful men
coming to tell him of their troubles, or delegates pleading for a
wronged community. Some of their complaints were worthless enough, but
the greater number were well founded, strengthening him in his
conviction that this "unhappy land in which justice is not to be found"
was sorely in need of an "avenger." The wisdom he had gained at the
cost of his life's happiness made him sufficiently cautious not to
believe blindly any reports that might reach him, and the only promise
any of his suppliants got out of him was to the effect that he would
make inquiry, and "woe to you if you have lied to me, but woe to your
oppressors if you speak the truth!" And if they grew urgent, protesting
their honesty, and entreating for speedy redress, he would answer: "You
may look for me soon, but the hour shall not be fixed; for how can I be
sure there are no tell-tales among you, enabling the Whitecoats to meet
me? And, moreover, I have undertaken, first of all, to settle accounts
with the mandatar of Zulawce. Not that I long for his punishment before
that of any other evil-doer in the land, but a man must be true to his
word."

But, to judge from the intelligence brought to him by Wassilj, who on
the Saturday had returned from a reconnoitring expedition to Colomea,
it promised to be a desperate venture to get hold of the mandatar,
and Taras shrank from the risk of leading his faithful men to the
well-garrisoned district town merely to carry out to the letter an
assurance given. If, however, his spirits failed him for a moment, his
energy and confidence soon rose uppermost. Wassilj was ordered back to
Colomea to procure farther information, whilst Sefko and the Royal
Eagle were despatched to inquire into the complaints made by two
parishes on the plain, and Jemilian was sent off to announce to Anusia,
and through her to the village, the impending arrival of the
Whitecoats.

"Master," said the faithful old servant, hesitatingly, "have you
forgotten that the mistress----"

"Is gone out of her mind?" interrupted Taras. "She never did, and by
this time is as collected as you or I, Jemilian. She was stunned for a
moment, but she knows what is laid upon her, and will never flinch."

"Have you had farther news?" inquired the man, wondering.

"No, but I know my wife. My own heart tells me."

And Taras continued making his preparations. "I have promised to be
ready by Easter Day; that much, at least, I will keep." He assigned to
each man his place in the barracks, which, a light wooden structure,
had been run up already; he gave orders concerning the daily rations
and appointed the regulation of sentries. He also divided his band into
two distinct companies, setting a sub-captain over each. The Royal
Eagle should command the one, Black Nashko the other.

In naming the latter, Taras, with an imperious look, scanned the faces
of his followers as they were drawn up before him. A flush of anger was
plainly evident, and one of them, Stas Barilko, was about to speak. But
that look of the hetman's silenced him, Taras repeating, "Our brother
Nashko shall command these." Not a sound of dissent--and the sign for
dispersing was given.

The Jew then came forward. "Taras," he exclaimed, "why did you not take
me into your counsel? I fear this will be neither to your advantage,
nor to mine. As for me it matters little, but you and your cause must
not suffer. You should not have braved needlessly the prejudice in
which they have grown up, and which is next to religion with them."

"Needlessly?" exclaimed Taras. "I have appointed you, because after due
consideration I take you to be the most earnest and best qualified of
my followers. These others--well they will soon see for themselves that
you are worthy of my confidence; till then they will just obey."

"Yes, resentfully and under protest," urged the Jew, "and you should
avoid that, unless the most sacred principle were at stake. Remember
that your influence rests upon their free will alone."

"No!" cried Taras. "They could come to me or stay away of their own
free will. But having come, they are what I am, instruments towards the
gaining of a common and most holy end."

... The following morning--it was Easter Sunday--rose with all the
wondrous fragrance of spring. Taras had caused a plain wooden cross to
be erected, and the wild outlaws, bareheaded, gathered beneath the
sacred sign. Nashko only held aloof.

And, taking his place beside the cross, Taras spoke to his men. "My
brothers," he said, "we have neither priest nor altar to help us to
keep this day. But God is to be found wherever the heart of man will
turn to Him, and He will listen to the humble prayer we would offer
up--a homeless flock, having left all that men count dear for the sake
of His own holy justice."

He crossed himself and repeated the Lord's Prayer slowly and solemnly,
the men saying it after him; and after that Sophron, of the church
choir, stood up beside him, once more to do his duty in leading the
ancient Easter Hymn; and all their voices joined in the fine old
chorale:--

"Christ, the Lord, is risen to-day!"

Thus the homeless ones kept Easter in the mountains.

They were yet singing when Jemilian returned; and, service over, he
informed his master he had found Anusia exactly as Taras had predicted.
"She has even made ready for the soldiers," the man said. "The rest of
the people seem utterly confident, firmly believing that this night you
will storm the manor-house; and they are all preparing to witness it,
for Anusia refused to give them your message."

"What!" cried Taras, staggering.

"Refused point-blank," repeated Jemilian. "This is her answer--I took
care to remember it: 'Tell him,' she said, 'I shall be grateful for any
news of my lord and master, but I entreat him to send me word about
himself only, not concerning his plans or the movements of those
against him; for I will not speak an untruth when the men of the law
ask me, and I will keep a clean heart. That is my prayer, let him grant
it or not, as he pleases; but one thing I will never do, however
urgently he may demand it--I refuse to be the go-between, carrying his
messages to the village. I shall not do so in the present instance,
although his news is for the good of the people entirely, and I will
not do it in any case whatever. I will not share his guilt, nor his
punishment in the end--tell him so, he will understand. He has made our
children fatherless, he shall not make them motherless as well.' This
is her message!"

Taras grew white as death; but before he could answer another messenger
arrived, a lad whom the Royal Eagle had despatched from Zablotow, his
news being that the hussars were due at Zulawce by nightfall, to
anticipate Taras's expected attempt on the manor.

The hetman looked anxious, Jemilian lending words to his fear. "There
will be trouble," he said "if the soldiers come upon the excited
villagers in the night."

"There will!" cried Taras, "they must be warned at any risk. You must
go back directly, as fast as your horse will carry you. And if my wife
still refuses, you must get Father Leo to tell them."

Jemilian promised his best, but Taras continued anxious, growing even
more so with the setting sun, "All the misery of my life, so far, has
struck me unawares," he said to his friend Nashko, "and I doubt whether
a presaging voice is given to the heart of man; yet there is something
within me making me sore afraid for my wife and children this night."

On waking in the morning from restless slumbers, he found Jemilian by
his side. The old man looked wan, and his brow was clouded.

"They have been killed?" cried Taras, starting up.

"Not the mistress or the children," said Jemilian; "but blood has
flowed." He was already on his way back when the tumult arose, and,
returning cautiously, he learned what had happened, and that the smith
had received his death-wound.

"Do not take it to heart so much, dear master," said the man,
interrupting his report, for Taras was groaning pitifully. "The blood
which has been shed lies neither at your door nor at your wife's. She
did manage to have the people warned through Father Leo."

"At _my_ door!" cried Taras, wildly. But, checking himself, he
requested to be left alone. It was some time before he showed himself
to his men, and then, with a silent nod only to their greeting, he
departed into the lonely wood.

The rough men were at a loss to understand him. "Why, this is excellent
news," they said. "Such butchery would rouse the most law-abiding
people in the land!" The Jew alone guessed what moved the captain's
heart, and took courage to go after him. He found him lying beneath a
fir-tree, with a gloomy face and evidently suffering.

"Taras!" he said, taking his hand, "I understand your grief; but the
comfort remains that you did your best to avert this trouble."

But the captain shook his head. "A man must reap what he sows," he
said.

"Do you repent of the step you have taken?"

"No!" he cried, vehemently. "Oh! how little you understand me! If I had
not done so already, I would this day declare war against those that
are in power. I have but done what I _must_ do. But _what_ that
means--all the fearful scope of my undertaking--has only now grown
plain to me.... And more," he added, hoarsely ... "there is another
thing! I used to think at times that possibly I might come to an evil
end through this work of mine. Now I know it; I see now that my end can
not, must not, be a good one...."

"What has come to you, Taras?" cried the Jew, alarmed.

"I cannot explain it," said the captain, with a wistful look; "it is a
voice within me, not of the mind, but of the heart. I know it now!"

The following morning the deputies of the village, Wassilj, the
butcher, and Hritzko Pomenko, appeared before Taras, delivering their
message.

"We are convinced that you will stand by us," they said, "and only wish
to know what time you fix for the revenge."

He had listened quietly, but then made answer with a terrible
sternness: "Hearken!" he said, "if you had asked me to help you in
attacking the hussars, I would have refused, both for your sakes, since
it would harm you in the end, and for the sake of justice itself; for
these soldiers have only obeyed those they are bound to obey. I would
have reasoned with you, advising you to keep quiet, and if nevertheless
you had suffered wrong I would have made those responsible who ordered
it. But now you actually ask me to lift the arm of murder against the
Whitecoats, who have done you no injury. I have but one answer,
therefore--'Get ye gone from the camp of the avenger!' How could I have
anything to do with men capable of the thought even of assassination?"

"Taras!" exclaimed Wassilj, staggering as though he had received a
blow; but young Hritzko stood rooted to the ground, his eyes wide open
with amazement. Taras's men, on the contrary, looked sullenly before
them in plain disapproval.

"Yes," continued Taras; "let me repeat it. What you are thinking of is
not an act of sacred vengeance, but of revengeful murder. If I were not
sure you would never dare an attack without me, God knows I would send
word of your intention to the officer on the spot."

"Taras," now cried Hritzko, in his turn. "How is it? Have we not heard
your solemn declaration of war against the Emperor, and now you will
not rid us of his soldiers, the instruments of tyranny?"

"No," replied Taras, firmly, "I will not, because I am not an assassin,
but a champion of justice."

"A champion afraid of shedding blood?" interposed the butcher,
scornfully.

"A champion who will not shed innocent blood, unless it be the only way
of making justice victorious," returned Taras, solemnly. "If the
mandatar were at Zablotow under the protection of these soldiers, and I
had a force sufficient to risk an attack, I would do so this very
night. For he has sinned against the law of God, and must be brought to
judgment; and since Right is the most sacred thing upon earth, it is
better to shed blood than let this holy thing be dragged low. But
except for such reason, I will never consent to endanger an innocent
life, lest the deed rise against me and mine in the day of judgment."

"But, Taras," pleaded Hritzko, "this is all very well as regards
ourselves or the soldiers, but what of yourself? Do you think they
would have the slightest compunction in slaying you, wherever they find
you?"

"We will take care of ourselves," said Taras, quietly.

"I trust you may," rejoined the butcher. "Come, Hritzko, let us be
gone."

But the young man went up closer to Taras. "What answer would you have
us take back to our people?" said he, clasping Taras's hand. "They are
in the worst of moods, bitterly resenting the military interference,
but they have full confidence in your coming. All their fury will be
turned against you if we tell them how you judge of their purpose. Have
you no other message, Taras, which we might take back to them?"

"No," replied the captain, sternly. "Thank you for your good
intentions; but I have put off the fear of man, since I serve God. Tell
them the plain truth."

This happened about noon on the Tuesday. Towards evening Taras
assembled his men, some forty in number by this time, to hold his first
council of war, laying before them the two most important points of his
latest information. Wassilj Soklewicz had come back with the news of
the mandatar's matrimonial intentions, and that he was in the habit of
spending his evenings at the Armenian's villa. The Royal Eagle also had
returned from Kossowince, reporting that the complaints of that parish
against their avaricious and hard-hearted priest were but too well
founded; he had suspended all church functions, and was distraining for
tithes pitilessly.

"The measure of iniquity, both of the mandatar and of the priest, is
full to overflowing," Taras said. "Let us, then, hesitate no longer to
do the work, ridding the fair earth of these scoundrels. There is
danger in both undertakings, for soldiers are quartered at the manse of
Kossowince, and the villa which harbours the mandatar of an evening is
near the well-garrisoned district town. But we will rest our courage in
the Almighty, and do the deed. To-morrow, Wednesday, afternoon we
start, reaching Kossowince by night, to bring the evil-doer there to
his doom, and before the midnight of Thursday we must be ready for
passing judgment on the mandatar. Will you follow me?"

"Urrahah!" was the wild answer of delight, and as the men gathered
round their watch-fires the excitement of action was among them. Nashko
only had retired by himself, musing sadly.

"Poor Taras!" he said, sighing. "These fellows understand his meaning
no better than any brute cattle could follow a Sunday's sermon. They
think him a misguided fool for trusting me, and they resented his
refusal to the people of Zulawce. But for his resolve to fall to work
he might have found himself obliged to begin his judgments upon his own
followers in the first place. Their meanness is forced back now within
their own hearts, but it will break out again sooner or later. He will
hold his own against the men of the law, but who shall keep his soul
undefiled from the breath of these lawless ones?"

With the earliest dawn the men began getting themselves ready for the
intended raid, polishing their arms and grooming their horses, whilst
Taras held farther counsel with Nashko and the Royal Eagle, giving to
each his special orders. The morning passed in high excitement.

But suddenly--the sun was just nearing the zenith--the alarm was given
from the direction of the Red Hollow, and all eyes turned thither; the
figure of a horseman was seen coming at full speed down the steep
declivity. "The fellow is mad," was the general outcry, "he will break
his neck in a moment."

Taras also was straining his eyes, and grew white with apprehension,
having recognised his young servant, Halko. "There is trouble at home!"
he cried, rushing to meet the messenger.

But in spite of the headlong career to which the bold rider forced his
helpless steed, he reached the rocky entrance of the valley safely, and
then, just at the last reckless plunge, the poor animal rolled over,
the young man, in a flying leap, coming to the ground. A cry of horror
burst from the expectant band, but the horse only lay gasping; the
youth jumping up from his fall like a wild-cat, hastened onward with
quickening steps, stopping in front of Taras.

"The chestnut is done for," he panted, "but I have kept my promise, to
reach you by noon. This is the mistress's message!" And he reported how
the commissioner had threatened Anusia. All the band had assembled
round him, listening eagerly. "The cowards!" they cried when he had
done, "being afraid of us, they are going to wage war upon women!"

Taras alone seemed calm. "It is well," he said to the youth; "did you
not say the commissioner intends to return in the evening? We will have
a word with him, then. Julko, I will ask you to bring him hither, not
harming him, but blindfolding his eyes.... You, Halko, go back to my
wife, and tell her to be of good cheer."

The Royal Eagle forthwith led off his men in the direction of the
Pruth, Taras quietly setting himself to inspect the preparations of the
others, seeing to the needful ammunition, the necessary rations, and
holding everything in readiness for the night's expedition. Watching
him thus calmly engaged, one would scarcely have guessed that such a
message had just reached him, and that he was expecting a meeting that
must stir his troubled heart to its depth. At dusk all was in
readiness, the men standing by their horses, listening impatiently for
any sign of Julko's return. But the last glimmer of daylight faded, the
stars shone forth, and night spread her mantle over the mountains; not
a sound yet, save the murmuring whispers in the tall firs and, far off,
the hooting of an owl.

"The bird of ill omen!" said the men, with bated breath; "who can tell
what may have happened to Julko?"

But Taras heeded them not, lost in thought. The bird's dismal cry had
wakened another voice within him; or, rather, it appeared like an echo
of his own inner consciousness, which, rising from the depths of his
being, quivered through him in awful agony. And then it seemed as
though the bird kept crying: "You are about to shed the blood of
man--you! you!"

Jemilian went up to him. "They keep us waiting here rather long!" he
said anxiously. Taras shivered and stared at him. The man had to repeat
his remark.

"Never mind," he now made answer, his voice rising as though to silence
that other voice within; and he drew himself up. "Julko may have had to
wait before catching him, and the way up the ravine is difficult even
in daylight.... But is it that you are afraid of the dark, children
that you are! Well, then, light a fire; it will serve at the same time
to show off that coward of a commissioner when he does arrive."

The captain's words acted like magic, freeing the souls of these men as
from a nightmare; and when, a few minutes later, a great pile of
firwood sent up shoots of ruddy flame, spreading light and warmth,
their spirits rose mightily. They formed a circle round the welcome
fire, and one of their number produced a bagpipe, to the plaintive
droning of which they fell to dancing that strangest of reels known
throughout the Carpathians, and which, executed by these men and in
such circumstances, once more assumed what was, no doubt, its original
character--that of a war-dance.

Taras did not interfere, but looked for Nashko, who once more kept
aloof with his own saddened thoughts.

"What is the time?" he inquired.

The Jew was the only one of all these men who possessed a watch, and
only Taras and Sophron, besides himself, understood the art of telling
the hour by such means.

"Eleven. Are you beginning to be anxious?"

"No! What should have happened? But hark! listen!"

"I hear nothing."

"But I do.... Hark!" and Taras turned to the merrymakers with an
imperious "Silence!" They stood still like statues, and the bagpipe
ceased wailing.

They could all hear it now--a peculiar, whirring sound, not unlike that
of an arrow cutting the air. It came from afar, through the stillness
of the night. "It is Julko signalling," the men cried, delightedly; and
Taras, taking his own whistle, signalled back. A moment's silence, and
again the sound reached them--longdrawn, and thrice repeated.

"You understand its meaning," said Taras to his men. "They have missed
the track in the dark. Away with you, Stas and Jemilian; take torches
and go to meet them, and keep signalling as you go." The two obeyed,
while the rest of the men, at his word, took their places by their
horses.

But the minutes passed, and nothing was heard save the signalling and
counter-signalling in the wood, till at last the sounds seemed
blending, and presently the sign was given that the seekers and the
sought had met. Ere long their voices could be distinguished, together
with the tramping of their steeds.

First of all the Royal Eagle burst upon the waiting band. "We were
sadly detained," he reported to the captain; "two full hours we had to
lie in ambush by the Pruth, and when the night overtook us we missed
our way. But we have caught him all right."

"Not injuring him, I hope!"

"No--that is to say, he suffered no harm at our hands, but fear may
have killed him, for all I know."

And, indeed, there was no saying whether it was a living man or a dead
body that was being brought before the captain. Julko, not satisfied
with lashing the commissioner to the saddle, had ordered a man to mount
behind him that he might be supported and saved from striking his head
against the low-hanging branches, blindfolded as he was. A cloak also
had been thrown round his shivering shoulders. Thus the poor wretch
clung helplessly to the neck of the horse that carried him, the men
shouting with laughter on beholding his abject figure; but a look of
Taras's silenced them.

"Has he fainted?" inquired he of the man whose brawny arm enfolded the
commissioner.

"No, captain," was the answer, "it is just his pretence; only a few
minutes ago he implored me to let him make his escape, promising me a
hundred florins if he got away safely. I felt sorely tempted to pitch
into him, but I remembered your injunctions." And the man looked so
disappointed, that even Taras could not but smile. "Untie him," he
said.

It was done. When the bandage was taken from his eyes Kapronski
staggered and fell, his head striking the ground. That was no
play-acting, for the scene thus suddenly presented to his vision might
well have confounded a more courageous and less guilty man: first and
foremost the towering figure of Taras, and behind him the band of
outlaws armed to the teeth and leaning against their horses, all of
them lit up by the lurid glare of their watchfire.

"Put him on his feet," exclaimed the captain, impatiently, two men
endeavouring to do so, but they only got him to his knees. "For pity's
sake," he whimpered, lifting his folded hands to Taras.

The latter came a step nearer. "Ah!" he cried scornfully, "is it you,
friend Ladislas Kapronski? Get up, man; you need not shake like that."

The commissioner now managed to stand on his legs, but his head hung on
his bosom, and his clasped hands continued in entreaty.

"I am not going to say a word concerning the matter at issue," began
Taras, "you men of the law will just go on murdering justice--well,
continue in your ways, but...."

At the mention of justice, Kapronski gasped, apparently recovering
himself. "Yes," he said, with an obsequious bow, "I always told them at
the Board it was no use arraigning _you_, who are as daring as you are
just; and you have got the people to back you, honoured--much honoured,
Mr. Taras."

"Be silent," cried the latter, "I am ashamed of you, for after all you
are a man!... It is not on account of these matters, or concerning
myself, that I wanted to see you, but because of your having threatened
my wife."

"For pity's sake! I did but as I was told!"

"Indeed," said Taras, with so searching a look that the commissioner,
unable to meet it, shook afresh. "Indeed! Then why are you trembling
like that? Was it not rather an invention of your own cowardly brain?"

"No!" exclaimed Kapronski, "I swear by all the saints----"

"I will take your word for what it may be worth. I might well doubt
you; you are fully capable of a lie--but the thing in itself is
preposterous. That you, who call yourselves guardians of the law,
should think even of such a glaring wrong! And how cowardly--how
cowardly it is! You, with all the military at your command, are you not
able to protect yourselves against me save by attacking my wife and
children?"

"Oh, indeed," pleaded Kapronski, "did I not do my best to warn them?
But my advice was not taken. I assure you----"

"No need of farther words; but listen to what I have to say, and take
back my message to the Board.... No amount of threatening will prevent
my carrying out the sacred duty I have undertaken. And if my wife and
my poor children were indeed at your mercy, and I knew they would meet
death at your hands for any act of mine, laid upon me by that duty, I
would carry out such act unflinchingly. Do you take that in?"

"Ah!--yes--oh!"

"Well, then, listen again. I cannot hinder you from taking my wife and
my children to prison, or even from taking their lives. But I tell you
this: on the day you make good those threats, it will become my first
and highest and most sacred duty to rid the land of the worst of
evil-doers--of you, the so-called guardians of the law. Woe to any of
you, then, who may fall into my hands! I shall have you hanged, every
one, on these trees of ours...."

"Oh, no, not me--for pity's sake! I was always trying----"

"Well, hanging might be too good for you," said Taras, sternly. "I knew
you were an abject coward, but this is worse even than the name you
bear.... I regret to send you with an honest man's message. For there
is yet another matter to speak about--and you shall tell them I have
sworn to you a sacred oath that there is no deceit nor cunning in my
request, but pity for the people alone. I earnestly pray the
authorities to withdraw the soldiers from Zulawce. The hussars have
done mischief enough already, and the infantry may do worse if they
stay. There is no need of military occupation, for I give you my word
that I shall not enter the village, not even if I knew the mandatar to
be at the manor. I should bide my time to get hold of him elsewhere.
Let me repeat it. I shall never set foot within the parish of Zulawce
if my request be granted; and since the man lives not who could say
that Taras ever broke his word, perhaps even you will believe me."

"Oh!--certainly--yes. I myself----"

"Stop your talking! This, then, is the message you shall bear; but I
have a word for yourself also. See that you keep from lying in
delivering my message, for the truth sooner or later will come to be
known; and if ever I find that you altered one single word of what I
have told you, I shall----"

"For pity's sake! I'll never alter a single letter!"

"Well, we shall see. I said I would not harm you in limb or life; but
since you have shown yourself such a mean, craven coward, it is meet
you should suffer punishment--that punishment which within these
mountains is reserved for such meanness;" and, turning to his men, "Cut
off his hair!" he said.

"Ah--pity!" groaned Kapronski, but it availed him not. He found himself
held fast with a merciless grip, while Sophron made short work of the
commissioner's well-oiled locks, leaving his head like a field of
stubble in the dreary autumn.

"Now tie him to his horse again," said Taras, "blindfolding him as
before."

It was done.

"Light the torches! Mount, and let us be off! By the Pruth we will
leave him to his own devices."

The signals sounded, the procession formed, vanishing in the deeper
shadows of the cleft which leads to the river in the direction of
Kossowince....



                              CHAPTER XV.

                           AN EYE FOR AN EYE.


Starting from the little wooden bridge which spans the Pruth near
Zulawce, and following the river, about an hour's ride will bring you
to the village of Kossowince. It is a well-favoured spot, the fertile
wheat-fields of the plain spreading round about; yet the village is
near enough to the rich green slopes of the rising uplands to obtain
considerable returns from cattle-rearing as well. This flourishing
place in our own days is known again as the "rich village," its
much-envied inhabitants going by the name of the "wheat lords," but
there have been times when the poorest cottager of the heath-country
would not have exchanged his miserable cabin for the finest homestead
at Kossowince. For rivers of tears and streams of blood have flowed
here for religion's sake. In the days when Poland held sway, nearly all
the inhabitants of the district had forsaken the Byzantine orthodox
creed, turning Catholics, if not of their own free will, yet under the
combined influence of Romish Jesuits and tyrannical waywodes; very few
of the peasantry had courage enough to withstand such persuasion, but
of these few were the people of Kossowince. Trusting in their numbers
and wealth, the "wheat lords" clung to their ancient faith, although
every decade brought them a bitter experience of persecution. The
Austrian supremacy eventually put an end to these troubles, and in the
days of the good Emperor Joseph the people of Kossowince might cross
themselves from the right to the left, or from the left to the right,
as they pleased. But when that monarch had been gathered to his
fathers, this important difference once more appeared to trouble the
ruling powers, most of all his Grace of Lemberg, and the villagers soon
had proof that their heresy was being dealt with. Doubtfully they
looked into the threatening future, and their horizon grew darker still
when they learned that all of a sudden they had fallen under spiritual
sway. The lady of the manor, a widowed countess, had seen fit to
bequeath the "rich village" for purposes of Romish endowment, and their
new mandatar proved to be a secular priest, a certain Victor von
Sanecki, sent thither to collect the revenues. He was received with
unbounded hatred; yet within the space of a few months he had known how
to gain the confidence, even the goodwill, of the people. For this
ghostly steward was thoroughly conversant with agriculture; he proved a
good counsellor, and appeared not to take the slightest notice of the
heretical tendency of the village. So tolerant was he, that when the
elders one day uttered complaints against their pope, Miron Aganowicz,
describing him as a worse drunkard than need be, he did his best to
find excuses for his reverend brother, the result, of course, being
that Miron, who so far had stood in some awe of spiritual censure,
drank worse than ever, providing the means by various methods of
extortion. But the parish was possessed of some spirit, and the sheep
turned against the shepherd; whereupon the pope complained to the civil
authorities and was victorious in the contest. The aggrieved peasantry
carried their trouble to the ghostly mandatar, but he pointed out to
them that the courtesy of his sacred calling did not permit him to
interfere, making a similar statement to his brother Miron, who, on the
strength of it, oppressed the people more than ever. Matters grew to
such a pass that the parish petitioned for another pope, and, being
refused, declared themselves willing to be rid of Miron at any price,
assuring the authorities that they had come to see how foolishly
prejudiced they had been in opposing the ruling faith, and that they
were quite ready now to profess themselves Roman Catholics, provided
that the reverend Sanecki, that excellent man, might be their priest
and mandatar in one. This offer was accepted speedily, and on Easter
Sunday, in the year of grace 1837, the Greek church of Kosso wince was
solemnly dedicated to the Romish rite, Sanecki entering on his
functions as the pastor of this converted people.

The event made a stir far and wide; it was evident that the benign
wisdom of an amiable priest, within the space of two short years, had
succeeded in overcoming the stubborn resistance which had braved the
tyranny of centuries. Not many had the clear-headed judgment, or,
indeed, sufficient acquaintance with Sanecki himself, to temper their
surprise, seeing he was as unprincipled as he was clever. Victor von
Sanecki was the scion of a decayed family of rank, a native of Posen.
As a mere youth, iron-willed and indefatigable, sharp-witted and full
of ambition, he had striven hard to reclaim his hopelessly mortgaged
inheritance. But no saving and no diligence of his could make up for
the failings of his spendthrift ancestry. He gave it up, and, entering
the Prussian civil service, turned Protestant for the sake of
advancement; nor was he without prospect of gaining his end, and he
might have risen to power had not his over-zealous chase after
prosperity overstepped the lines of rectitude marked out in that
country for a servant of the State. He was dismissed; upon which,
repairing to Cracow, he resolved to read for holy orders. He was barely
thirty when he thus entered the Church, and upon his consecration was
appointed to the somewhat anomalous charge at Kossowince. His wondrous
success there failed not to strike the Archbishop, who meditated work
for him at Lemberg itself, but Sanecki submitted his earnest request
"that he might be left to lead the converted flock in the way they
should go"; for he believed that he could gather wealth while so
engaged. His ambition sated, he was anxious now to satisfy that other
craving of his debased soul, the love of riches.

And success appeared to attend his efforts; but the means he had
recourse to were appalling. Not many weeks passed before the people of
Kossowince discovered that the shepherd they had chosen was not nearly
so gentle as they supposed, and before the year was out they had come
to the conviction that a very fiend was addressing them from the pulpit
and lording it over them at the manor. For it is a fact that the
fate of every Galician village in those days was in the hands of two
men--viz.: the mandatar and the parish priest. And here this power was
vested in one and the same--Victor von Sanecki literally could do what
he pleased. If a peasant refused an unjust tithe he as mandatar could
send to prison; if he refused an oppressive tribute to the mandatar it
was the priest that could inflict the lash of ecclesiastical
punishment. The people naturally struggled hard against the injustice,
appealing to the law; but it was no less in the nature of things that
they found no redress, since before the civil authorities Sanecki
claimed the privileges of the clergy, while to his spiritual superiors
he pleaded his position as mandatar and steward of the revenues.
Moreover, the stubborn character borne previously by the converted
parish was remembered, and Sanecki was not slow to point out that
having adopted the Catholic faith for outward reasons merely, they
naturally were unwilling to meet the demands of the Church. So
everything went against them, for the Romish creed was in the
ascendant, and fines were imposed to teach them submission. A military
detachment was quartered upon the refractory parish to enforce payment,
and when the uttermost farthing had been wrested from them their goods
were seized; not till a man had been brought to hopeless penury was he
left alone by the priest. It seemed as though Sanecki could commit the
vilest wrongs with impunity; but he cared to inflict punishment on
those only who could offer money or money's worth to evade it, and his
direst means of extortion, the refusal of Church burial, always fell on
the wealthy.

Such was the man against whom Taras in the first instance lifted the
avenger's arm. As it was close upon midnight when he with his followers
started from the Crystal Springs, the Pruth was not reached till after
two o'clock. And when the river had been forded, and the shivering
Kapronski left to himself, the band in headlong gallop dashed onward
through the plain. Kossowince was reached, and in spite of the
surrounding darkness Taras perceived a horseman stationed at the
entrance. He was appointed by the villagers to act as the avenger's
guide.

Taras and his men drew up. "How many soldiers are there in the place?"
he inquired; "and how are they quartered?"

"There is an officer with fifty men," reported the peasant; "Whitecoats
from Lombardy with green facings. Thirty of them are at the parsonage,
for the fiend himself lives at the manor, allowing the manse to be used
as a barracks, for which we must pay him a rental of five hundred
florins....."

"And where are the others?"

"Here and there about the cottages, one or two in each, all over the
village. The officer and his man only are lodged at the manor. There
are five or six retainers there besides, that is all. But have a care;
the parsonage is not a hundred yards distant."

"Any sentries?"

"Yes, one--outside the manse. But these fellows feel the cold here;
they are generally found cuddled up in their cloaks."

"And the villagers understand that they keep quiet?"

"Yes, much as they long to take part. But they see it is best so. It is
different with me, who have nothing to lose. I am Jacek Borodenko, and
the fiend has beggared me and mine entirely. What better can I do but
join you for good?"

"We shall see," said Taras, and turned to his men. "The soldiery about
the village need not troublous; it is the parsonage and the manse that
require our attention. We will divide our force I shall want the Royal
Eagle, Jemilian and Sefko, Wassilj and Sophron, Stas Barilko and Karol
Wygoda, to come with me; we shall carry out the avenger's part at the
manor. You others, all of you, shall follow Nashko. And to you," he
added, turning to the Jew, "I leave it to deal with the sentry and make
sure that no Whitecoat shall leave the manse. I rely on it that I shall
not be hindered in my business while there is breath left in any of
you!... But let every man here remember my injunction: he that shads
blood for the mere thirst of it shall meet with his deserts in due
time; but if any of you lay his hand on any property whatsoever, I
shall shoot him on the spot.... Now let us be gone, keeping silence."

And cautiously they moved toward the scene of their ghastly labour. The
night yet curtained the plain, but on the eastern horizon a faint
streak betokened the approach of day.

By the church they separated. Taras and his seven men, led by Jacek,
proceeded towards the manor, the others halting by the church, while
some of their number slid from their horses and moved away stealthily
to seize the sentry.

"Do you know the ins and outs of the house?" Taras inquired of the
guide.

"Yes; as well as of my own pocket," replied the man. "I was in service
there in the days of the late countess."

"Then I daresay you can show us some back door that will yield
readily."

"Hardly," said the guide, "for the fiend is on his guard; he has
iron-barred every door of the place. But Michalko, the groom, has a
sweetheart in the village, and if we are lucky we may find the postern
ajar."

Their very horses trod with noiseless footfall, carrying them to their
destination unobserved. Jacek tried the latch, the door moved on its
hinges, and the little band dismounted. Wassilj was left to guard the
entrance, while the rest of the men followed their stern captain
through a vaulted passage into the building. It was their first aim to
make sure of the half-dozen retainers who slept in a large room in the
basement. Jacek approached on tiptoe. "The key is in the lock," he
whispered, and turned it forthwith. Nothing was heard from within but
the snoring of the occupants.

"It is as well to be prudent," said Taras; "they are sure to wake up
with the commotion, and, forcing the door, might give us trouble. This
is your place, then, Sophron and Karol," and the two men took their
position accordingly. "Now for the officer. Where shall we find him?"

"On the first floor," reported the guide; "not far from the fiend's
lair." The man, in common with all the villagers, thus habitually
designated their shepherd, as though Victor von Sanecki had never been
known by any other name. They ascended the stairs. On reaching the
landing the report of a firelock was heard, a second, and a third in
quick succession; a din of voices rose in the distance; the garrison at
the manse evidently was showing fight.

At this moment a door opened, the officer bursting upon the scene, his
pistol in one hand and his sword in the other. But quick as lightning
Taras had closed with him, disarming him, and with powerful grasp
holding him helpless on the ground, his servant and a lackey or two
speedily sharing the same fate at the hands of the others.

"There is no time to be lost," said Taras. One of the bedrooms was
standing open, its window was iron-barred, and there was no other
outlet. "Push them in!" The door was locked upon the overpowered men,
Sefko being ordered to guard it while the others now made for the
priest's chamber.

They found it secured, but Taras, with the weight of his gigantic
frame, had no trouble in making the door yield, his men, with the
butt-ends of their muskets finishing the operation. They entered a
spacious apartment, modestly furnished; a lamp expired, not at the
breath of any man, but in consequence of a sharp draught from an open
window, as the invaders perceived by the light of their torches. The
room was empty, the bed to all appearance recently forsaken, and the
casement wide open.

Julko rushed to the window. "Look here!" he cried, pulling up a sheet
that was tied to the sash; "the wretch has escaped us!"

"Impossible!" exclaimed Jacek; "the moat is at its deepest below; he
would have broken every limb in the attempt."

"But the room has no other exit."

"It has, though! I know there is a secret closet joined to this room by
an invisible door. In the countess's time it used to be connected with
the back-stairs as well; but the fiend, thinking it a good hiding-place
for his ill-gotten gains, had that communication walled up. I have not
a doubt but that he is within, caught in his own trap and no escaping."

"Then have you an idea where to look for the invisible door?"

"Yes, in this wall," he pointed to the side where the bed stood. The
broad surface was covered with an antique hanging which, quaintly
enough, appeared fastened to the wall at regular intervals with large
metal buttons, forming a kind of pattern. "It is one of these buttons
that opens the door," said Jacek, "if you press down the right one. I
have seen it done once; but there are many, and I cannot tell which it
is."

"That is a pity," said Taras. He stood listening to the confused voices
of the fighting without. "Well, if it is the only way, we must just
find the button. Are you sure the other outlet is walled up?"

"Quite certain."

"Then let us try."

Several minutes passed while the men were thus endeavouring to discover
the secret spring by which to move the hidden door, the din outside
continuing unabated. Julko gave an exultant cry. He was kneeling on the
bed, passing his fingers over the buttons in the centre when one of
them yielding discovered a narrow chink in the wall. The door as yet
did not open, but its outline was plainly marked; it was evidently made
fast from within.

Taras snatched at Jemilian's axe, and, pushing aside the bed, he
belaboured the wall with all his might. The door had begun to split,
when a bolt was withdrawn inside, and before them stood the man they
were seeking.

So sudden was his appearance that those without fell back a step. The
"fiend" in person seemed utterly different from the name he bore--a
well-grown, still youthful man, in the black robe of a priest, with a
face both grave and handsome, and singularly dignified. The pallor of
his countenance only showed his inward disturbance, his features
wearing an expression of proudest self-confidence, and his eyes flashed
imperiously.

"What is this?" he demanded. "Who are you?"

"I am Taras, the avenger," replied the latter, facing him. "Your time
of reckoning has come! Your stronghold could not protect you; and
neither the bold front of courage nor any cowardly whimpering will
avail you now."

"Do I look like one given to whimpering?" said Sanecki, drawing himself
up. "I am not a coward, though I endeavoured to hide from you. What
else is there left for a peaceful priest when a horde of murderers
enter his dwelling at night and he hears the tumult of bloodshed
without? ... Your name and your purpose, Taras, are known to me, but I
should scarcely have thought that you could think it needful to visit
me. My conscience accuses me of nothing."

"Hold your lying tongue, you blackest of fiends," cried Jacek, beside
himself, and he would have fallen upon the priest had not Taras held
him back, continuing calmly: "Then you absolutely deny the charge of
having committed the most inhuman wrongs against the villagers, robbing
them of their property, and of the peace of their souls as well?"

"It is they who speak falsely in accusing me. I have taken from them
what belongs to the Church and to me by right--not a whit beyond. In my
case, Taras, you cannot be an avenger, but only a murderer, if your
conscience will let you. But I think better of you, and I demand that
you shall confront me with my accusers, with respectable, trustworthy
men, not with a good-for-nothing like this Jacek, and I shall know how
to answer them."

There appeared to be a lull in the fighting without--the firing had
ceased, and the general tumult was hushed. But within the manor at that
moment bloodshed was imminent. Jacek, quite unable to master his fury,
had snatched a pistol from his belt, and was pointing it at the priest.

"Stop, Jacek," commanded Taras, wresting the weapon from him. "And you,
priest, utter no slander!... Say on Jacek in what has this man offended
against you and yours. Say it with the fewest words, and speak the
truth."

The peasant strove to conquer his feelings. "My father," he began,
speaking with difficulty, "was obliged last year to remain on the
upland pasture late into the spring. It was an unavoidable necessity,
for the live stock was all we possessed. When he returned, this fiend
of a man fined him a hundred florins, because he had been absent from
confession and from the sacrament at Easter. It was our ruin, and
brought us to beggary."

A voice was heard through the open window. "Hetman! hetman!" was the
cry.

Taras stepped to the casement.

"It is I, Milko, the hunter. The Jew sends you word that we have done
our part. The Whitecoats have laid down their arms."

An exultant cry broke from the men, but Sanecki grew ashy. However, he
recovered himself quickly. "It is a lie," he cried, reverting to the
charge against him, "a false accusation. I call the Almighty to witness
who is my only refuge in this hour of need, unless you deal righteous
judgment!"

Again Jacek was making a plunge at him, and once more Taras interfered.
"I am ready to prove to you that I judge righteously," he said. "So far
everything is against you save your own statement; the character you
bear, the complaints which have reached me, and this man's solemn oath
are your accusers. But you shall not be judged without being fully
convicted. You shall choose for yourself two inhabitants of this
village to speak for you."

Sanecki considered a moment. "Well, then," he said, "let it be Hawrilo
Bumbak and Iwon Serecki."

"Captain," broke in Jacek, "do not be outwitted by this scoundrel. He
has named these men because they live at the furthest end of the
parish. He hopes to gain time."

"Never mind, we are in no such hurry. You also shall name two men to be
called as witnesses against him."

"Let it be those whom you know already," decided Jacek, without a
moment's hesitation. "Harassim, the judge, and Stephen, one of the
elders, since they carried our complaints to you."

"Very well," said Taras. "These four witnesses shall be called. Follow
him, Julko, Stas, and Jemilian; mount your horses below, and get some
of Nashko's men, if possible, in case of any hindrance from the
soldiers about the village; I want those four witnesses with the least
delay."

"And will you stay here by yourself?" inquired the Royal Eagle,
doubtfully.

"Yes; he shall not escape me." And drawing his pistol he took his
position in front of the priest.

The men went on their errand.

"Now listen," said Taras, when left alone with the culprit. "The
slightest movement on your part, and I shall lodge this bullet in your
brain. For the rest you may spend the time as you please. It might be
as well to say your prayers, since I may not be able to allow you much
time presently. I have little hope that you will see the rising sun
yonder in his full-day glory."

Sanecki gazed in the direction pointed at with unsteady eyes. The
window opened upon the vast plain, a ridge of cloud in the far east
burning with a crimson glow. But somehow he appeared to draw strength
from the sight, the growing light kindling his courage. "It is well I
should offer up prayer," he said; "less for myself than for you, who
are in danger of dipping your hands into innocent blood."

Taras made no answer, continuing motionless with uplifted pistol. The
priest folded his hands, saying prayers with a loud voice. For the
space of about ten minutes they were thus left alone, after which Stas
returned with Stephen, the elder, and almost immediately after Jemilian
with Harassim, the judge.

"Take your oath that you will speak the truth," said Taras; and the
aged witnesses lifted their right hands, swearing.

"Speak, judge; what is your accusation against this man?"

"I went to him at All Saints'," said the old man, trembling with the
memory of it, "to arrange with him for the rendering of the tithes we
owe him. He demanded more than his due, I refused and left him; no
unbecoming word had been spoken. But that same evening I was taken up
by his orders and cast into a miserable dungeon, where I spent a week
in complete darkness, and all the food he allowed me was mouldy bread
and rank water. My sons implored him to release me, but he said in his
capacity as mandatar he must punish me because I had offended the
priest. For a fine of two hundred florins, however, he would release
me. Now considering my age--I am more than seventy--and because I
should have perished in the damp prison, they raised the money; he took
it, charging me an extra twenty florins, to refund his expenses of
keeping me for a week."

"And you, Stephen?"

"My wife lay dying at the Epiphany," said the elder. "I called upon the
priest to prepare her for the great change, by administering the
blessed sacrament. He refused until I should have atoned for a grave
offence with the payment of a hundred florins. I could not find the
sum, and my poor wife had to die unaneled, and was buried like a dog
outside the churchyard ... my poor wife!" sobbed the old man, hiding
his face in his bands, "my good, pious wife!"

"What was the offence he charged you with?"

"I had crossed myself inadvertently after the old style, and he
happened to see it."

The hetman flushed purple with indignation. "Is this the truth, old
man?"

"The truth indeed, the Almighty is my witness."

"Have you anything to say for yourself?" he now inquired of the priest.

"Only this, that they speak falsely," returned Sanecki, with choking
voice.

"Falsely!" cried Stephen, horrified. "Man, think of the Judge above!"

"Yes," said Taras quietly, "it were well he did so. However, let us
hear his own witnesses."

There was a pause of silence in the chamber, the twilight of which was
slowly but steadily yielding to the ruddy glow from the east, a broad
stream of light flowing in through the window when Julko and Jacek
returned with the other two witnesses, whom the priest had called for
himself.

The men in question entered diffidently--they had not been told why
they were wanted--looking aghast on learning that the priest had seen
fit to appeal to them. "To us," they cried, "what could we say in his
favour?"

Taras put them on their oath. "Now," he said, "what have you to affirm
concerning this man?"

They were silent for a moment, but then Iwon burst out with--"Just
this, that he _is_ a fiend!"

"Yes, a very fiend," reiterated Hawrilo.

"Have you anything to say for yourself?" Taras once more inquired of
Sanecki.

"No, nothing," he made answer calmly. The self-command of this
man was astounding. His face was corpse-like, but his lips, even
at this extremity, had a smile, though it was an appalling, a
ghastly smile. "I have miscalculated my chances," he said, half to
himself--"miscalculated, it is a pity!"

Taras now addressed the men present. "It is my opinion that this man
has forfeited his life. Is there any here to say I am wrong?"

Not a sound in the chamber--Death seemed counting the grains. But in
the fair world without the beauty of morning had conquered the shadows,
the larks meeting the sun with a jubilant song.

There was a clock in the room, the hands pointing to six minutes before
five. "These minutes I will give you," said Taras, addressing the
doomed priest, "that you may recommend your sinful soul to its Maker."

Even now the man quaked not, standing proud and erect. "Miscalculated!"
he repeated. With a quick movement his hand dived into his ample
garment, and withdrawing it as quickly, he carried a phial to his lips.
The men caught his arm, but it was too late, they were in time only to
support the dead man's frame.

"What a pity," cried Jacek; "I would have given anything to see him
swing."

"For shame!" returned Taras, sternly. "He was an evil-doer, but he had
the courage of a man! Lay him on his bed!... He has at least shown us
that a man can die, if need be."

There was a solemn pause, after which he addressed the judge. "One
thing yet before our work is complete. The village has suffered at the
hands of this man. You shall take what money there is found here, to be
divided justly among the people.... Stas and Jemilian, search the
place."

"May we not offer you a part for yourself?" returned the judge; "it
were but right and fair."

"No," said Taras, curtly.

"But you will let us give some of it to your men?"

"No, they are no paid assassins, but serving justice."

"But you must live!"

"I have enough for the present to provide for our needs, and when my
own means fail, others, no doubt, will be forthcoming."

Stas and Jemilian at this moment returned from the adjoining apartment.
"This appears to be money," said the former, placing a cash box upon
the table.

"Force the lid," said Taras to the judge, "I would rather not touch
it."

But the old man could not succeed with his trembling fingers, until
Jacek came to his assistance. The box burst open with a jerk,
revealing, however, only a moderate bundle of banknotes, beneath which
lay a number of securities of considerable value. "The notes only are
of use to us," said the judge, counting them. "Not much over a thousand
florins," he stated presently; "the loss we have suffered is about
twenty-fold."

Old Jemilian was standing aside, pale and trembling, and trying to come
to a conclusion. Now he stepped up to his master, saying, with
faltering voice, "I hoped to tell you some other time, but I see now
you must know at once. There was more where we found the casket--a
purse, I saw it plainly, which Stas put into his own pocket."

Taras grew deadly white, staggering as though he had received a blow.
"Is--is it--true?" he said, stammering with the shock of it.

But Stas fell to the ground at his feet. "Forgive it--this once," he
faltered. "The money tempted me. Ah, mercy!"

Taras passed his hand across his brow. "Where is the purse?" he said,
hollow-voiced.

The man, still kneeling, produced it.

"Take it, judge ... count it."

"Seventeen florins," reported the old man.

"Well, put it with the rest." He spoke hoarsely, a fearful agitation
convulsing his frame. "Stas," he said, presently, with the same choking
voice, "I grieve for you with all my heart. You have known much
trouble, it is hard to see you end so ignominiously. But I cannot save
you--say your prayers, Stas!"

"Ah, mercy!" groaned the unhappy man, the others joining: "Yes, hetman,
forgive him this once!"

"I cannot--dare not," said Taras, breathing hard and wiping the dews
from his forehead. "I would--ah, how gladly would I forgive him!--but
this sacred cause!... Say your prayers, man."

"Mercy!" moaned Stas once more, and fell in a swoon. Taras stepped
back, and, pointing his pistol, lodged a bullet in the motionless head.
The man was dead on the spot. A cry of horror went round the room, and
silence settled, the larks outside continuing their song of praise.

"He was unable to commend his soul to God, let us do so for him," said
Taras, with the same husky voice. He crossed himself, and with
quivering lips spoke a prayer for the dead, the others repeating it
after him, awe-struck.

"Let us be gone now!"

They left the chamber of death, calling together their men, and mounted
their horses. But the captain's face continued white and fearfully
rigid.

"How shall we thank you!" said the judge.

"Not at all," returned Taras, sternly. "For if I had done it for your
own sakes merely, I could but turn the pistol against myself now!" He
spurred his horse, making for the manse, where Nashko and his men stood
ready to mount.

"Three of us have fallen," reported the Jew, "and we killed fourteen of
the soldiers. I used every precaution, but----"

"Have we any wounded?" interrupted the captain.

"No--that is, one man is slightly hurt; but able to mount horse."

"Let us start, then; the people here will see to our dead."

And away they went in a sharp gallop in the direction of Colomea. They
followed the high-road at first, but, turning off at right angles,
presently plunged into the pathless heath which they traversed at a
furious pace, reaching the village Nazurna just as the thin-voiced
church bell was tinkling out the hour of noon.

It is but a poor place, amid all the characteristics of heath-country;
there are a few farms at great distances one from another, and not
greatly thriving, for the soil is unproductive, forming part of the
sterile table-land between the valleys of the Pruth and the Czerniawa.
A couple of miles beyond the village there is a large moor called the
Wallachian Bog, where, according to tradition, in the frontier wars
between Poland and Roumania a regiment on the march was sucked down and
suffocated in broad daylight. And nothing is more likely, for it is
treacherous ground indeed, and even the experienced eye is at a loss to
distinguish where the firm land ceases and marshy soil begins, since
not only the latter, but the safe earth as well, is covered with sedge
grass and willows far and wide. The waters nowhere rise to the surface,
and tall trees growing on little islets complete the deception; a
larger island covered with beech wood forms the centre of the moor, and
is to be reached only by a narrow strip of solid soil which connects it
with the firmer land.

Thither Taras led his band; he was acquainted with the bog and the
island, with its overgrown and all but secret entrance, from the days
when he had been in service at Hankowce, not far distant. It was an
admirable place for his purpose, and not the most experienced military
engineer could easily have secured a better position for a troop of
horsemen in constant danger of being attacked by numerically superior
forces, and in need of a safe resting-place to which they might retire
after their raids, than this spot formed, not by the art of man, but by
a freak of nature. The extreme loneliness of the neighbourhood lessened
every chance of discovery; while even a body of men under hot pursuit
could vanish thither as though disappearing by magic, and the narrow
entrance at the worst could be held against almost any odds. It was
natural then that the "avenger" should have taken his men to this place
of refuge on many an occasion, so that to this day it goes by the
popular name of "Taras's Retreat."

Cautiously, and not without trouble could the men in the first instance
take the horses across the shrub-grown neck of land to the island,
where they might rest and take food after that grim night and the hard
ride since. Yet sleep came to very few of them, an unusual agitation
counteracting even the inviting shade of the kindly beeches. A strange
humour, something between the madness of utter recklessness and the
dejection of inward disapproval, filled the minds of some. For there
were those among them that had never shed blood, nor stood in danger of
death themselves, and who seemed to understand all at once that the
outlaw's business was desperate work; they grew thoughtful and somewhat
penitent, endeavouring to conquer these sensations by breaking into
noisy song, or by assuring each other that no doubt the coming night
would be "jollier" still. But others, whose past experience had
fortified them against the proceedings at Kossowince, felt regretful on
a different score. It had not surprised them that Taras should have
forbidden plunder under pain of death, for that was the way of every
new hetman forming a band of hajdamaks; but that he should go to the
length of refusing an offering of gratitude for service rendered, and
that he should have found it necessary to shoot that poor devil of a
Stas for the sake of a handful of florins, was beyond their
comprehension. And thus they came to inquire what bound them to this
man, who by sheer strength of will had forced them to acknowledge a
wretched Jew as one fit to lead them; whose foolish notions had
offended the people of Zulawce, and who actually appeared to expect his
followers to risk their lives for his ideas, and for no earthly gain
beyond the barest daily bread. But the power which Taras exercised even
over these low natures was such that they hardly dared breathe these
thoughts to themselves, far less to each other. They lay, gloomy and
silent, in the tall sedge-grass, till one of them, suddenly jumping up,
started a request for Karol Wygoda's bagpipe, at the squeaks and
screams of which their darker thoughts receded. One apprehension,
however, that might or might not yield to their merriment, was common
to all--the near prospect of death. The band which had started so full
of spirits from the Crystal Springs had already lost every tenth man of
its numbers, and if the attack of a mere ill-defended country place
required such sacrifice, what might not be the result of the coming
night, when they would enter the well-garrisoned district town? It was
for this reason that more than one among them, now joining madly in the
dance, would turn aside suddenly with a strange tremor, to conquer
which they would halloo the more wildly on resuming the measured pace.

Taras alone appeared unmoved. With the greatest composure he made his
arrangements for the night, his bearing and his voice showing as little
of emotion as if he had stood in his own farmyard giving orders for the
cutting of the wheat. It quite distressed Nashko, for he felt certain
that the carnage of the past night had left a fearful burden on the
heart of his friend. He was anxious to lessen it, and when Taras
beckoned to him to receive his instructions he did his utmost to show
that neither the orders given nor their execution could be blamed for
the sad results.

"Seventeen lives," he said, regretfully; "it is terrible, indeed! But I
think I may say I did my very best to carry out your desire that
bloodshed if possible should be avoided. It was the watchfulness of the
sentry that frustrated our intention; the man gave the alarm at once,
rousing the others, and since I could not leave them time to arm
themselves fully, I was obliged to dash into action within the manse
itself, in order to overpower them before they had a chance of
benefiting by their numbers and superior equipment. It was the close
encounter in rooms and passages--in all but darkness, moreover--which
resulted in so many slain. There were no wounded, simply because in
this desperate fray neither they nor we could have offered or accepted
quarter. It was only when the torches were lit--and you may be sure
this was done as quickly as possible--only when the soldiers could see
that further resistance was madness, the sparing of life became
possible; and you may believe me that from that moment not a single
life----"

"All right," interrupted Taras, preparing to move away.

The Jew looked at him bewildered. "You are impatient of listening!" he
said. "I thought your heart was breaking because of----"

"All right," repeated Taras, quietly. "You have done your duty. And for
the rest--what does it matter? Ten lives more or less--what can it
matter, since things are what they are?"

But the smile playing about his lips alarmed Nashko even more than the
calm he understood not. "Taras," he cried, "this is not your own true
feeling!"

"Do you think so?" returned the hetman coldly, the same terrible smile
distorting the solemn and yet gentle beauty of his face. "I am not so
sure."

He turned away abruptly to appoint the order of sentries until
nightfall; when all was settled he expressed his desire to be left
undisturbed. "I am going to have a few hours' sleep now," he said, and
retiring to the other side of the island, he threw himself into the
waving grass, where he lay motionless.

A good many eyes followed him enviously. "Humph!" said one of the men,
"one would think he is as little used to butchering as ourselves, and
he has set this business going, with his own hand even killing a man
who could not defend himself; yet look at him, sleeping like an
innocent babe, while conscience with us is a wakeful trouble!"

Only Nashko and old Jemilian knew how it was ...

Not till towards eight o'clock, when night was falling, did Taras once
more mingle with his men. The command was given, and cautiously as
before the horses were led through the tangled growth of the slip of
land. On reaching the other side the procession formed. Their way would
shortly bring them into more densely-peopled districts, and there was
every likelihood that the news from Kossowince by this time had reached
the district town, so that caution was doubly needful. Taras divided
his men into three separate troops, himself heading the vanguard; to
the Royal Eagle he entrusted the leadership of the second and strongest
division, while Nashko should bring up the rear. They were to keep
within earshot of each other. The signal was given, and the vanguard
set off at a quick trot, followed in due order by Julko and the Jew.

They rode on well through the dark and silent night, due west at first
over the desolate heath, till they reached the track between Nazurna
and Kornicz, which they took. The heavens were veiled with low-hanging
clouds; the air was heavy and sultry; the darkness appeared to grow
deeper, and the path at length could hardly be distinguished. Taras
kept whistling distrustfully at short intervals; the counter-signals
from the two other leaders at first were given in return almost
immediately and in due order, but one of the whistlers behind appeared
to fall back, and presently his signal showed him in a wrong direction
altogether.

Much as delay was undesirable, Taras had to stop, and even to turn
back. He soon came upon the main body, but not without trouble could
the straying rear guard be brought up. Nashko had missed the path on
the heath, following a northerly track, and when the captain's signals
sounded more and more faintly, he believed the divisions in front to
have quickened their pace, and ordered his men to spur on their horses,
thus, of course, falling away all the further.

Upon this Taras resolved to keep his forces together, as the least
dangerous plan in the circumstances. Recovering their direction, they
passed several homesteads, and presently heard the roaring of the
Wilchowec, which carries the waters of the Dobrowa Forest in a
succession of cataracts to the Pruth. There a new mishap awaited them.
They had missed the only bridge spanning the turbulent stream, and were
at a loss to decide whether they ought to seek it above or below them.

"Let some of us ride up the river and some down, and those that find
the bridge can signal for the others," proposed Julko.

"No," said Taras, "that were losing time. The Wilchowec must be
fordable somewhere. I saw a light burning in the cottage we just
passed. I will go for a guide."

And, followed by two or three of his men, he galloped back and halted
in front of a lighted window. In a low-ceiled room a peasant was seen
sitting beside his wife, showing her delightedly a handful of silver
coin. It was an elderly man, white-haired, and with a rubicund
countenance. "Hail, old fellow!" cried Taras, tapping at the window.

The peasant started, extinguishing the torchlight inside the room,
while the woman screamed, and then all was still.

"There is no cause for alarm!" cried Taras, "we beg a kindness of you,
that is all."

"What, so late at night," said the peasant within. "Have the goodness
to let us sleep in peace."

"You have not been asleep yet," Taras called back, growing impatient.
"You were counting your earnings. There is no fear of our robbing you;
indeed, I will add to your gains if you show us the place where the
river can be forded."

"Why should you want to ford it, when there is a bridge not more than a
mile distant, down stream? You cannot miss it, since the hussars there
are keeping a good watch fire."

"The hussars!" cried Taras, startled.

"Yes, the hussars," repeated the peasant. "You don't seem to like it.
And I must say it would not be advisable for highwaymen to try to cross
the bridge to-night."

"Listen," said Taras, who had recovered himself. "I am not a
highwayman, and I take you to be an honest peasant. So I will ask you
to guide us. I want you--I am Taras, the avenger."

"Taras!" exclaimed the man, with a tone of the greatest surprise.
"Taras!" he repeated, leaning out from his window as far as he could.
"Is it you, indeed? Ah! it is too much almost to believe. What
happiness--what honour!... Light the torch, wife, quickly, that I may
see his face!... But no, you want me to come"--and he drew back his
head; "I am coming--coming at once."

"No, stay. Tell me first--are you sure there is a body of hussars by
the bridge?"

"Yes, certainly; some thirty of them. Are you in ignorance of their
resolves against you at Colomea? I know all about it, having been to
market to-day. And there is no need to hide it now, I made fifteen
florins--out of my sheep, that is. And I have not told you my name--I
am Stenko Worobka."

"Yes, yes, Stenko; tell me quickly."

"Ah, yes; I am an old fool! It is just this: with the early morning
to-day the car returned, and the two constables safe enough, but no
commissioner. The town was aghast; that is, the people said it was no
great loss if Taras had a fancy for keeping Mr. Kapronski; but it
seemed certain that if he meant to carry out his threats at all he
would come first to Colomea to strangle the mandatar. And so they
dispatched a courier to Zablotow to call the hussars that brought such
trouble to your own village, and I saw them arrive before night. But
the magistrates did not approve that you and the soldiers should fight
it out beneath their own eyes--dear me, that I should be able to tell
you all this; what happiness! what rare good luck! What was I going to
say?--yes, they resolved to catch you on the road, and so they ordered
the hussars and such Whitecoats as were quartered in the city to
station themselves in a half-circle between the town and the mountains,
making sure thus to cut off your approach. The soldiers are all at
their posts by this time; a body of hussars, as I told you, keeping the
bridge yonder."

"And where are the rest of them?"

"Well, some guard the road towards Horodenka, others keeping a look-out
in the direction of Cieniawa; others again are by St. Mary's Cross.
They think not a mouse could thus pass their vigilance, for they keep
patrolling diligently."

"Well, we have not met a soul so far."

"I daresay--ha! ha! what a joke!--don't you see, this is just the one
loophole in their net. They make sure that so long as they hold the
bridge no one could cross this boisterous river."

"_Is_ it fordable?"

"Yes, to be sure--not very comfortably, but we can manage it--close
by here.... So you are really bent on going to Colomea? There is no
reason why you should not do so; why, they did not--ha! ha! how
delightful!--they did not keep back a dozen soldiers."

Taras was revolving the situation in his mind. "We will do it," he
said, after some cogitation; "it is a venture for life and death, but
we will risk it. But there is not a moment to be lost."

The peasant was ready to guide them, and mounting behind one of the
men, they dashed back to the others. Taras reported to them what he had
just learned, "Let us venture," he said. "Yes, yes, let us try it,"
cried Julko and Nashko, in high spirits, all the others assenting.

Under the peasant's guidance they forthwith set about fording the
river; the current was wild and strong, the deep darkness of the night
adding to the danger; but they crossed in safety. "We have managed it,
thanks to you," said Taras to the peasant; "and here is your florin."

But Stenko refused, quite hurt at the offer. "Do you think I should
take pay," he cried; "are you not our own avenger? Nay, I am more than
rewarded, and you must let me come with you, for this night is darker
than the inside of a cow--you would scarcely reach the town; besides,
you will want to ford the river again as you return."

"But you have a wife and your property to think of. I must warn you,"
said Taras, "it would go ill with you if they caught you thus aiding
us."

"They won't then," decided the peasant, confidently. "And don't you
know that a man cannot escape his destiny? If it is my fate to come by
an evil end I shall have to face it whether I guide you or not."

After which philosophical remark two of Taras's men had to be satisfied
with being mounted one behind the other, leaving a horse free for the
peasant who rode beside Taras at the head of the band. At a sharp pace
they traversed the fields and meadows of Korolowka, and presently found
themselves on the high road leading to the district town. The country
appeared desolate; but close by the town they met some peasants who so
late in the night had set out to return from their week's marketing.
Not that important business had detained them to this hour, but the
public-house had, as might be judged by their unsteady gait. Yet the
vapours of drink were at once dispelled when they found themselves
suddenly surrounded and questioned by an armed band on horseback; and
though trembling with fright they were able to confirm the news that
all the garrison of the place as well as the hussars had been sent to
waylay the Avenger, and only a handful of soldiers now were within, at
the main guard-house, for the sake of sentry duty in the prisons.

They left the high road, Wassilj Soklewicz now acting as guide, for he
alone knew the villa where they hoped to find Hajek. It lay on the road
towards St. Mary's Cross, a German colony; it was a spacious building,
but low, situated in its own grounds, which were guarded in front by a
strong iron railing. Orchards stretched away at the back of it, and
meadows on both sides. The nearest habitation was a quarter of a mile
distant, the town fully a mile. Just as they came in sight of the
place, a clear sound cut the air, the clock in the little belfry was
announcing the first hour after midnight. And close upon it--already
they could see the lighted windows of the house--a sharp whistle was
given, followed by another....

The men started. "An ambush!" they cried. "Fall back!"

"No; forward," ordered Taras, spurring his horse. "The wretch has set
spies to be warned of our approach.... He is here! There, look!..."

He was pointing towards the house, the lighted windows of which one
after another were darkening rapidly. The gate, just as they reached
it, closed with a bang, and retreating footsteps were heard.

"Try your axes!" cried Taras; and some of the men, jumping from their
horses, belaboured the gate with powerful blows. The strong bars were
bending, and some already giving way.

But suddenly the door of the villa opened, and between two torchbearers
an aged man came forth, bareheaded, and carrying a key--it was Herr von
Antoniewicz.

"My good people," he began, "why are you ruining my gate like this? Was
there no better way of asking for admittance? There is no reason why
you should not come in, if you tell me who you are and what brings you
hither at this late hour."

"You know that well enough!" cried Taras; "the wretch is in hiding
here."

"Yes," said the old man, continuing slowly and distinctly, "I am afraid
we know that he cannot escape you, and I am ready to let you in, on
your word of honour that you will harm no one else, and that you will
not kill him here, but take him away with you. You see I am anxious to
spare my daughter's feelings, who was going to be his wife."

"He seems to have found a worthy father-in-law, anyhow," said Taras,
scornfully. "However, you have my word; now open on the spot."

The Armenian did so unhesitatingly. Julko and Nashko with the main body
taking up their position by the gate, while Taras and some dozen of the
men entered the grounds. About half of them were ordered to watch the
exits of the house, the others following their captain inside.

"Where is the mandatar?" inquired Taras of Antoniewicz.

"Somewhere about the sitting-rooms," replied that worthy man, as
quietly as though he were directing a casual visitor to his guest. "At
least I left him there. He fell in a dead faint when I explained to him
that I had no intention, nor indeed the power, to save him from your
hands. I daresay he has recovered by this time, and is hiding in some
corner."

Taras traversed the ante-hall, where Frau von Antoniewicz and the
Countess Wanda awaited him kneeling. They were in floods of tears,
trembling with emotion as they caught hold of his feet to stop his
progress. "Mercy!" they moaned. "For pity's sake forgive him!" Taras
endeavoured to free himself from their grasp, but they clung to him,
and he was too much of a man to use force with women.

"Let me go," he said; "it is quite useless to waste a word about him."

But they clung all the faster, "What, shall I have to see it with my
own eyes?" cried the amiable Wanda with dishevelled locks and rolling
her eyes--a very picture of despair.

"You need not--you are free to leave the house. I have nothing to do
with women."

"Alas!" whined the mother, "how should we, helpless women, venture to
face all your men?"

"They won't harm you. Moreover, your husband is welcome to go with you.
Of course you will keep in the grounds for the present."

He sent an order to this effect to the men keeping the front door, and
thereupon, with Jemilian, Sefko, Wassilj, and one or two others of his
most trustworthy followers, he set himself to search the rooms. Their
torches flared brightly, but the spacious apartments appeared
untenanted. They looked into every chimney, beneath every couch, and
behind the hangings with rising impatience, making such careful
examination that not a kitten could have escaped, far less a man. But
not a creature did they find. They had reached the last room on this
floor--the dining room.

It was locked. "Ah!" said Taras, with a sigh of relief. The door soon
yielded. The table showed the remains of dessert, empty champagne
bottles and glasses half filled. There appeared to have been five
covers.

"Who may have been the fifth at this feast?" said Jemilian, wondering.

"Caught him!" cried Wassilj at this moment from the further corner of
the room. "Here he is!" And sure enough something like a man it seemed,
but in the strangest hiding place. The large fuel basket had been
turned upside down, and emptied of its contents of firewood, and some
one had squeezed himself in as best he might. But success was not equal
to the effort, a pair of coattails showing treacherously; on Wassilj
giving the basket a kick it capsized, but the man inside stuck fast,
yelling, however, vociferously.

"That is not Hajek's voice!" cried Taras, Wassilj and Sefko dragging
its owner from the basket. And, indeed, it was not the mandatar, but
only the fifth at the late banquet, the ere-while champion of Poland's
honour--Mr. Thaddeus de Bazanski. But how little he that was
half-brother of Nicolas I. at this moment showed worthy of his august
descent! His head and shoulders covered with wood chips, his garments
torn, his knees trembling, and his face so white with terror that the
nose itself had only the faintest flush left of its usual redness. Thus
he stood before them, clutching the immortal confederatka to his bosom,
and so overpowered with fear that he could only shiver and quake in
speechless agony.

"Who on earth are you?" inquired Taras, peremptorily.

"I ... oh!... a visitor ... mercy! I could not help it!"

"Where is the mandatar?"

"He got away--made his escape while old Bogdan kept you talking ..."
Taras stamped furiously. "Ah, mercy, I will tell you everything!"
faltered the whilom conqueror of Ostrolenka, sinking to his knees.
"They did not think there was much fear of your coming, on account of
the soldiers, but Mr. Hajek insisted on setting spies, that he might be
warned of any possible danger. We were still at table--and a fine
banquet it was--when suddenly the signal was given; there was barely
time left to lock the outer gate and drag the mandatar from the house.
He could not stand on his own legs for fear of meeting you; but since
there was a chance of his getting away safely through the orchards, and
gaining the town, old Bogdan and his womenfolk undertook to lead you
off the scent. They expected me to take a part also, but I stoutly
refused. 'How should I deceive this Taras, this noble avenger,' I said;
'I shall do no such thing; for Taras is a brave man, an honourable man,
a generous----'"

Which eulogy was not even heard by Taras. "Follow me!" he called out to
his men, bursting from the house. "I want to have a word with that pack
of deceivers; where are they?"

"Made their escape, hetman," reported the men at the door.

"Their escape? I will hold every one of you answerable!"

The two men in charge of the grounds now came up. "Hetman," they said;
"we can hardly be blamed. These three deceitful serpents would have got
round an archangel, not to say the devil himself. We had asked them to
keep near the house, and there they stood awhile, when the old woman
suddenly gave a cry with all the antics of swooning; upon which the
young one implored us to assist in carrying her mother into the arbour
yonder. And then she fell a-shrieking, 'Water! water! for pity's sake,
get some water!' Well, as they were women after all, and the old man,
who kept wringing his hands, assured us she would die unless we
complied, what else could we do? We went for water, and returning
quickly enough, we found they had gone--disappeared in the darkness. We
searched the orchard, but they have escaped us, much to our disgust."

Taras looked gloomy.

"I may come back to that presently," he said, sternly; "the next thing
to be done is this--the house which has given shelter to the mandatar,
and whose owners have deceived me so shamefully, shall disappear from
the earth.... Set fire to it, in the basement, beneath the roof,
everywhere--let it flare up quickly ... but "--and he drew his
pistol--"if any of you value his life, let him beware of plundering!"

The men gave a wild halloo, brandishing their torches, and burst into
the house.

"And what is to be done with this man?" said Wassilj, dragging the
Polish champion behind him.

"Who are you, then?" now asked Taras. "What is your name?"

"Thaddeus Bazanski, and--and----"

"I can tell you all about him," interrupted Wassilj; "one of the
mandatar's men has just told me. He is a miserable wretch, living on
his betters, and making money in all sorts of mean ways. It is he that
brought about the engagement between the mandatar and that fair, fat
creature of a countess!"

"I don't deny it," cried the would-be nobleman, eagerly. "But I am
sure, if you knew all about her, and what bliss awaits your enemy in
wedlock, you would say 'Thank you' to me!"

Taras could not repress a smile, the man spoke with such utter
assurance; but his brow clouded again as Wassilj continued: "He is a
Polish nobleman by his own showing. True, he is nothing but a beggar
now; but he keeps telling his listeners how _he_ got money out of his
peasants before he lost his vast possessions."

"Indeed?" said Taras, frowningly.

"Ah, no," whined Thaddy; "I never owned any possessions. How, indeed,
should I have come by any land?"

"Well, captain, these are his tales whenever he can get a man to drink
with."

"That much is true," said the imperial offspring, with woe-begone
countenance. "A man must live--I mean, one gets thirsty and is bound to
drink. And no one will stand me a glass unless I give him a fine story
in return. They don't mind the lying, so I go on inventing. But I am
not noble at all--never was, or fought any battles either. My father
was a poor cobbler, and I--I----"

"Well, out with it!"

"I am nothing particular, at present. How I manage to live, most
honoured avenger, I have just confessed to you--this young man in that
has spoken the truth. In my younger days I was a--a--well, something of
an artist."

"Indeed! what sort of an artist?"

Thaddy smiled bashfully, and since the word was not forthcoming, he
took refuge in signs, passing his hands over his jaws and under his
chin, at which he blushed and smiled afresh.

"What, a cut-throat?"

"Oh, dear, no; only a barber!" cried Thaddy. "As sure as I hope for
better days, you may believe me--just nothing but a barber! And I think
I could give you proof of my craft still. Might I perhaps have the
honour----"

"No, thank you," said Taras, and turning to Wassilj, he added, "Let him
off!"

The hero of Ostrolenka bowed to the ground in gratitude, and still
clasping the famous confederatka, he vanished into the night as quickly
as his legs would carry him.

The men returned. "We have done it, hetman," they reported. "We have
set fire to all the rooms not facing the town, so that it may not be
perceived there too soon."

The signal to mount was given; and the band was ready to start. "We
will yet gain our end," cried Taras. "We will seek the wretch in his
own dwelling within the town."

But he had scarcely done speaking, when the tocsin broke upon the night
with its own lugubrious notes of warning. Taras looked at the villa,
smoke was rising, but no flame as yet. "This is not the alarm of fire,"
he exclaimed, "but rather in warning of our coming! They must have
received information. Well, never mind! The townsfolk will not harm us,
and the few soldiers we shall get the better of. I suppose we must make
straight for the main guard-house, and I should not wonder if we found
our man there--he will not feel safe in his own dwelling. Are you
ready?"

"Urrahah!" responded the men, and away they went.

The rest of it happened more quickly than it can be told.

The band made for the town at full gallop, every moment swelling the
tumult ahead of them. All the bells of the place by this time had
joined with the tocsin, filling the air with dismal, deafening sound.
The citizens had all awaked. "Fire!" cried some; "The avenger--save
yourselves!" shouted others.

Meanwhile the night was lit up suddenly behind the riders, volumes of
lurid flames rising to the heavens. The villa in a moment stood lapt in
fire.

The band of horsemen was nearing the marketplace, the streets were
heaving. Everywhere the people burst from their dwellings, some barely
clad; and from hundreds of horror-struck voices the news rang through
the air, "The avenger is upon us!" Some returned to their houses,
endeavouring to barricade the doors, others in senseless terror rushed
to the market-place.

"Urrahah!" was the war-cry resounding ever and anon through all the
wild commotion. Like a mountain stream the cavalcade dashed onward,
over the heads and limbs of any in their way. They reached the
market-place. The main guardhouse was full of light, torches
everywhere. In front of it the handful of soldiers drawn up with their
corporal, muskets levelled.

Taras and his men burst upon the scene. The people, shrieking, ran
hither and thither. The corporal gave the word, "Fire!" Milko fell from
his horse, shot to the heart, and Nashko reeled in his saddle. Another
moment and the soldiers were disarmed and cut down to a man.

Some of the band were left to guard the door, the others, following
Taras, rushed into the building to seek the mandatar. The first-floor
was utterly deserted, but at the top of the stairs two venerable
figures awaited them, the burgomaster and the senior priest, falling on
their knees. "Have mercy!" they pleaded, "the mandatar is not in the
place."

"Where is he, then?"

"We cannot tell. If we knew, we would give him up to you, that other
lives might be spared. He fainted in the fields, and maybe is lying
there still. The groom who was to accompany him ran on alone to warn us
of your coming."

"Can you swear it is so?"

They affirmed it on their oath.

"Then all the night's work has been for nothing!" cried Taras. "To seek
him in the open fields would be useless, and the hussars may be back at
any moment."

The signal was given, the outlaws mounted and dashed away with the same
amazing rapidity with which they had come.



                              CHAPTER XVI.

                       THE AVENGER TO THE RESCUE.


The terrible night was over, the garrison had returned; but an agony of
fear was uppermost in the district town. What Taras had dared seemed
well-nigh incredible, and greater than the horror of what was past was
the direful apprehension of what the future might bring. He might
return any night; nay, in broad daylight even.

Thoughts like these also occupied the magistrates, who held a special
meeting the following morning at the District Board office. The captain
of the hussars, and one or two other officers had been invited to
attend, but they had no comfort to offer; it seemed nothing short of a
miracle that the raid should have succeeded, and more incomprehensible
still that the band should have made good its retreat. As to its
numbers, opinions differed greatly. The commotion raised by their
flying entrance into the town, and the rapidity with which they had
overpowered the soldiers, tended naturally to an over-estimation of
their strength. There was one witness, however, who swore that Taras
had fully a thousand men under his command. "A thousand, I tell you,
for a certainty, on the honour of a nobleman!" It was Thaddeus de
Bazanski who averred this. For having got over his fright, the
experience he had undergone appeared to him rather lucky than
otherwise. And well it might, considering the bottles of fine Moldavian
the tale would be worth, not to mention the halo of importance it cast
around him!

"A thousand men, I say, at the very least," he reiterated. "You will
believe an old officer, who for years has ridden at the head of a
regiment, and allow his fitness for estimating numbers. But concerning
this avenger, if I may judge by my own experience, I should say a manly
denunciation would suffice to cow him. If you show pluck, he knocks
under--he did so, at least, with me. 'Where is the mandatar?' he
stormed, as we met. 'Taras,' said I, undaunted, 'I am a guest under
this roof, and a nobleman born. I am not going to turn informer!' I
said this quietly, with all the sang-froid I am in the habit of
preserving in a desperate situation, and, for the matter of that, I
have known worse dangers in my time. As for him--well he bit his lip,
and, turning on his heel, said to his men, 'Comrades, it is no use to
think of intimidating an officer of such standing----'"

But the Board never learned what further the frightened Taras had to
say concerning that officer, for a loud tumult was rising in the
market-place, coming nearer and nearer. The magistrates jumped from
their seats, crowding the windows, and an unlooked-for spectacle met
their eyes below. In the centre of a moving crowd there appeared an
open car, and upon it the lost Kapronski. He seemed unhurt, and even in
good spirits, for he kept smiling to the right and to the left in
acknowledgment of the people's salutation; but he waved his hands only,
never touching his travelling cap, which was pulled low over his ears.

The excitement of the Board was such that it passed unnoticed when the
commissioner did not even bare his head on entering their presence.
They grew aware of it only when, having bowed low, he began with
somewhat uncertain accents: "I venture to crave permission of the
worshipful Board to keep my head covered. I am anxious to save your
feelings, for I--I got wounded--a bad cut."

"Wounded!" cried the old town surgeon, who served on the Board, and
unable to restrain his professional eagerness, he caught at the cap.
But the sight of Kapronski, minus his head-gear, was so tragi-comical
that, with all their anxieties, the magistrates could not but smile.

"What on earth is the meaning of this," cried the district governor.

"It is the punishment which, among the Huzuls, is reserved for
cowards," Mr. Wroblewski, the secretary of the Board, hastened to
explain.

Kapronski rewarded him with a vicious glance. "The secretary speaks the
truth," said he, putting on a bold front; "but it is not more than is
reserved for himself and all this worshipful Board if you have the
misfortune of falling into Taras's hands. He has inflicted this infamy
on me for no other reason but that I did my duty in carrying out your
orders."

The smiles had vanished. "Tell us all about it," cried the magistrates,
eagerly.

The commissioner bowed, and began with a minute description of how he
was carried to the Crystal Springs, and of what he saw there.

"How many men should you say he has with him?" interrupted the captain
of the hussars, who naturally considered this the most important point.

"Well, I should say about a thousand," replied the commissioner,
unblushingly.

"Then this seems to be a fact," murmured the captain, with evident
concern; "that looks bad!"

"I have not a doubt," Kapronski continued, "that his one reason for
waylaying me was his desire to make an example, just to show what
awaited any servant of the law who dared lift a finger against him. In
fact, he was going to hang me, and said so plainly. But, fortunately, I
had prepared an answer. 'So you may,' I said, 'if you dare, for I am
one against your thousand. But know that if you touch me your wife and
your children will rue it.'"

"Why, that was illegal," broke in the district governor. "I wonder what
paragraph of the penal code warrants this!"

Kapronski bowed deeply. He had expected this objection, and, indeed,
had shaped his story so far with the one intention of bringing his
dastardly falsehood, which had caused him plenty of trouble already, in
the best possible guise to the knowledge of his superiors. "Illegal,"
he replied, humbly, "no doubt; but I venture to think I was justified
by the extremity of the situation." A murmur, not altogether of
disapproval, went round the Board, and even the district governor could
only shake his old head, grumbling to himself as the commissioner
continued.

"The words I had spoken produced an immediate effect. Taras looked
concerned. 'Stuff!' he said, pretending to be careless; 'it is no use
trying to frighten me with that sort of thing; _your_ hands are bound
by the law,' However, he gave up the idea of hanging me, saying he
would use me as his messenger instead. Two things he charged me to
bring to your knowledge, most worshipful governor of this district;
firstly, that he expects you on the spot to withdraw the soldiers from
the parishes of Zablotow and Zulawce, and to forbear instituting
against him any action whatsoever. And he wishes you to understand that
you are not to dream of stopping his intentions by military
interference."

"Well, I never!" cried the governor.

"What impudence!" echoed the Board.

"Secondly, that within four-and-twenty hours you are to deliver up the
mandatar to his men at that particular spot where the Pruth is fordable
between Zulawce and Debeslawce. He will let you know who else is to be
given up to him."

The Board sat mute with indignant consternation. "And suppose I don't?"
gasped the governor.

"In that case," returned Kapronski, with his deepest bow, "in that
case--I can hardly frame my lips to the rest of his message, but he
said: 'Tell him, if he does not comply, I shall set fire to the
district town and give it up to my men to plunder; and the magistrates,
nay, every servant of the law, shall be hanged on these trees of
ours--the governor first and foremost. I look upon them as a set of
infamous cowards, and to show them how we deal with such, I'll visit on
your head the ignominy which I consider is theirs.' And having treated
me as you see, he had me put down by the river that I might find my way
back as best I could."

A series of groans went round the room, Captain Mihaly recovering
himself first. "Well, gentlemen, it's no use to hang our heads," he
cried. "Orders for reinforcements must be despatched at once."

"Certainly," assented the burgomaster, "it is best to declare war
against this man on the spot. But," he added cautiously, "I suppose the
town itself is sufficiently protected by the garrison; you, captain, I
daresay, will guarantee its safety?"

"We shall fight to the last man if need be," replied the gallant
soldier; "but I can guarantee nothing beyond. If this bandit has really
a thousand cut-throats to do his bidding, my squadron and the handful
of infantry stationed here cannot make any stand against him."

The old man fell back in his chair white as death. "Then," he groaned,
"the mandatar must leave this town at once, even if we must get rid of
him by force; and it might be well to let it be known as widely as
possible, perhaps send a messenger to Taras."

But the brave governor by this time had recovered himself. Rising, he
put forth his hand, as if to silence the burgomaster. "This shall not
be while I live," he said earnestly. "It is indeed a terrible matter we
have to face, but let us face it like men; let us rather die than act
meanly--let no act of ours cast a slur upon the dignity of legal
justice! This Mr. Wenceslas Hajek has done nothing, so far as I am
aware, to justify us in refusing him protection; let him stay here as
long as he pleases. If he will leave us of his own accord, all the
better; but if he chooses to stay, beware of annoying him."

"Well, and will you undertake the fearful responsibility of it all?"
cried the burgomaster, excitedly.

"I will," said the governor, solemnly; "I will be answerable both to
the Emperor and to God."

"But I daresay it would need only a hint to Hajek," interposed the
captain. "I know what stuff the man is made of. If he is told that all
of us are in danger of our lives here, he'll be ready to leave us with
post-horses even."

"Well, and where is he to be found, if that is the case?" inquired the
governor, open to this reasoning.

"I can tell you," cried Dr. Starkowski, "in no less a place than the
town gaol. On my way hither I was told so by the chief constable.
Hajek, it appears, came to him at daybreak this morning, imploring him
to have him shut up, since prison was the only place of safety. He is
quite beside himself with terror, I hear--an object to behold."

"Well, the mandatar may consider his movements by and by," said the
governor. "Our chief care for the present is the question of
reinforcements, as the captain has pointed out. And considering the
urgency of the case, I will forthwith despatch letters to the nearest
military stations at Stanislaw and Czernowitz. And I will also have
matters reported to the Provincial governor--I mean I will not do so by
writing only, but will despatch one of the commissioners to Lemberg, to
add every information by word of mouth."

At which Kapronski gave a jerk, craning his neck eagerly.

"Wait till you are asked!" cried the irritated governor. "On
consideration I have hardly any choice but to send you! It will be as
well to get rid of that cropped head of yours for a while--the people
here are frightened enough already, without keeping before their eyes
such a lively reminder of Taras's visit as you present. Besides, I
daresay you will prove an interesting sight to the gentlemen at
Lemberg. I shall expect you to be ready within half-an-hour."

Kapronski bowed as deeply as before, hardly knowing how to hide his
satisfaction. He had succeeded in making his own confession of the
falsehood he had been guilty of; and had not only, as he believed,
revenged himself on Taras, but on his colleagues as well. He had paid
them out, he thought, for the slights with which they were apt to treat
him, and it delighted him to see them all afraid for their lives.
Moreover, his falsified report resulted in one thing his cowardly soul
approved of--the prospect of military reinforcement--for he could not
have foreseen his being sent away from the menaced city. But since the
governor's decision now promised to place him personally out of danger,
a really malicious thought presented itself to his dastardly mind--he
remembered what Taras actually _did_ say. "Your worship," he began, and
his voice quivered with the consciousness of his meanness. "I venture
to submit ... my own impression ... fully alive to the importance of
the case...."

"Well, and what have you to say?"

"Only just this. Would it not be well to anticipate any trouble this
bandit is likely to give; to make it impossible, and, perchance, even
force him to sue for peace? I know how easily he is cowed...."

"It would seem so," cried the burgomaster; "at least, he has thus been
described to us already."

"Yes, and by whom?" growled the governor, with a contemptuous glance at
the victor of Ostrolenka, who, after having given his evidence, had
retired to the wall, where he still stood, grinning and smirking. "What
is it you were going to say, Mr. Commissioner?"

"Only this, your worship. I have stated how I was able to save my life
from the hands of this man. Now, supposing this most honourable Board
could see its way, in consideration of the imminent danger wherewith
the town is threatened, to issue an order for the arrest of the wife
and children...."

"We might, indeed, be driven to it," said the burgomaster, half under
his breath.

"What!" roared the governor, white and trembling with passion. "Oh, the
shameful disgrace, that an official of this district dares make such a
proposal! Coward, that you are!"

Kapronski felt the withering contempt, and shrunk back. "I meant it for
the best," he stammered, "and I am sure I will not breathe a word of it
at Lemberg if it is disapproved of."

"You are likely to be sent now!" muttered the governor, pacing the room
furiously. "Is this the man to be sent in the present emergency, when
so much----" The rest was lost in an angry mumbling. The man's whole
nature seemed in an uproar. At last he subsided, and, standing still
before the frightened Kapronski, he said, "You shall go; but I shall
take care that the letter you carry be sufficiently explicit. You may
come for it in an hour."

The commissioner heaved a breath of relief, and turned to go, but not
without experiencing another shock, for the governor called after him,
"Stop a moment; if the mandatar chooses to leave you might as well
travel together. I shall allow you a couple of constables."

Kapronski stood rooted to the ground, his eyes starting with terror.
If he had been offered old Death itself as a travelling companion he
could not have trembled more at the prospect. "And what if we are
attacked?--Taras----" he groaned.

"In that case you would be lost either way;" with which comfort the
wretched man had to be satisfied. The governor now addressed himself to
Starkowski, begging him to visit Hajek in his voluntary confinement. "I
know I can trust you with this delicate business," he said; "you will
represent matters correctly to him, without exercising any pressure."

The lawyer agreed readily, and went on his errand at once. But the
abject creature lying on a couch in a private apartment in the city
gaol did not strike him as likely to come to any resolve. He was
positively delirious with fear, and the warder had not a little trouble
to keep him quiet.

So after all Mr. Kapronski started on his journey without the mandatar;
not, however, without a numerous retinue. For no sooner had it become
known that Captain Mihaly had not considered it possible to guarantee
the safety of the town, than every citizen that had a chance of horses
prepared for flight. And those who could not get away themselves were
anxious to send, at least, wife and child and the best of their
movables out of the town, which seemed doomed. The streets for some
hours presented a picture of distress and unspeakable confusion, since
the poor folk were hard driven for time if they wished to set out with
the commissioner and his escort. At noon the sorrowful procession was
ready to start, in the very centre of them all the commissioner on his
car; but instead of two constables there were twenty of the hussars,
which escort the governor had been prevailed upon to grant upon the
sore entreaties of the fugitives.

But this was the only concession he made to the craven fear that had
possessed the populace. Herr von Bauer proved in those days that,
with all his comical weaknesses, he was a man indeed. He called
together the citizens, suggesting that they should organise themselves
into a body of special constables for the safety of the town. But that
chicken-hearted population met his well-meant proposal with positive
indignation. "We are not going to be brought to ruin," they cried. "We
shall endeavour to conciliate Taras if he returns; maybe he will be
satisfied with the heads of those who have offended him." Nay, worse
than this. "We are not going to be butchered for the sake of a
blackguard land-steward; if you do not rid the town of his presence we
shall do it ourselves, and so thoroughly, we warrant, as will please
even Taras." The district governor was by himself, facing the seething
crowd; but his reply was as plucky and curt as possible. "You idiots!
you cowards!" he cried; "I can't make men of you, of course, nor force
you to defend yourselves; but be sure of this, I'll have every man of
you shot that lifts a finger against the mandatar." In the
consternation which followed he walked away quietly. But the very next
hour showed that he was likely to be as good as his word, when, amid
the beating of drums and the pealing of bells, martial law was
proclaimed in the city and district of Colomea. The citizens were
informed that they must keep within doors, that every gathering of mobs
would be treated as open rebellion, and any attempt upon life or
property punished with the gallows. The worst was thus staved off, and
disorder within was not likely to join hands with any horrors from
without.

At the same time couriers were despatched in all directions, not merely
to the neighbouring military stations, but even to some of the larger
villages of the plain, where the peasantry, eight years before, when
the great Polish insurrection threatened to spread into Galicia, had
volunteered their services for the safety of the town. And at sundown
Herr von Bauer, worn out with the day's anxiety, had at least the
comfort of knowing that he had done what was possible for the averting
of trouble; if the night passed peaceably the town was saved.

And there was no disturbance, but the morning brought one batch of
ill-news after another. The messengers came flocking back from the
plain stating that the peasantry everywhere repudiated the idea of
yielding assistance. "We are not going to turn against our own flesh
and blood," they had said, "and we advise the men of the law to make
their peace with Taras, for he is just." And more, it seemed as if the
peasants round about, not satisfied with keeping neutral, were ready to
side openly with the avenger. Every hour swelled the reports coming in
from the mandatars, landlords, and parish priests of the district, all
concurring that the peasantry were at the highest pitch of excitement;
that the success which had accompanied Taras's first deed of vengeance
had roused the spirit of opposition everywhere, and that the worst
might happen unless Government carried matters with a high hand. But
the most appalling news was this, coming in about noon, that in the
past night the avenger had dealt justice elsewhere; that he had
appeared about midnight in the village of Zadubrowce, setting free a
number of peasants who were kept in gaol because of arrears of forced
labour; that he had called upon the mandatar of the place to answer for
his doings in the presence of all the people; and that after a careful
trial he had decided to let him off a disgraced man with his head
shorn, warning him at the same time that he would forfeit his life if
he continued oppressing the people. But strangely enough--so ran the
report--he gave the peasantry a similar warning, in case they should
attempt any plundering of the manor. But if this latter piece of
information contained any comfort, there was the fact to be set against
it that the village in question was far out in the plain, bordering
upon the Bukowina. It was beyond anything to be conceived that these
outlaws had dared the distance, there was not a shadow of an
explanation how they got thither, and no one knew whither they had
vanished. It seemed but poor consolation that by the evening a troop of
dragoons arrived from Stanislaw, especially as their captain brought
the information along with him that further reinforcements must not be
expected under a week. About midnight, however, the infantry returned
from Zulawce, Captain Stanczuk having led back his men on his own
responsibility, in consequence of what appeared to him certain
information of a meditated attack upon the district town. Now this
officer was a man whose judgment might be trusted, it being known that,
having grown up among them, he understood the peasantry; and when he
also reported an ominous excitement about the country, giving it as his
opinion that the danger was not to be trifled with, it was resolved to
keep together what forces so far were available--about five hundred men
in all--for the protection of the town itself, and to deal with the
disturbed state of the country only when further reinforcements could
be obtained.

April merged into May, but there was no further attack upon the town,
although nightly expected, and the remainder of the garrison at
Kossowince arrived safely at Colomea; but there was a constant feeling
of the proximity of Taras's band, and the reports pouring in proved
that this man, for good or for evil, swayed the minds of the peasantry
throughout that part of the province. For, incredible as it seemed, it
had to be accepted as a fact that Taras, whatever might be thought of
his 'judgments,' exercised his influence in a marked degree for actual
good. The governor, with a grim smile, had entered that account of
events at Zadubrowce along with the "charges against Taras and
followers"; but almost every day since had brought fresh proof that
Taras really had forbidden the peasantry under pain of death to have
recourse to plunder, or even to seek their rights for themselves, and,
more remarkable still, that he insisted on their yielding every just
tribute. And this information did not proceed from any of his
adherents, but from the mandatars, the landlords, and the parish
priests, who hated this "avenger" as their natural enemy, and would
have been only too glad to see him taken up as a malefactor. For if the
influence of this strangest of bandits for good could not be denied,
neither was there any gainsaying that he exercised it in a terrible
degree for ill almost daily. That steward of Kossowince had found some
companions in his grief, who with the loss of their hair had been
"disgraced" and obliged to make amends to the people they had wronged;
while two landlords of the plain, not far from Horodenko, had fared
worse: Taras had ordered them to be shot, and their dwellings levelled
with the ground. But the man whom these accounts might well have
dismayed first and foremost knew nothing about them. Wenceslas Hajek,
lying in a raging fever, was mercifully saved from the shock of such
news. Taras's "judgments," indeed, were appalling, and within three
weeks no less than ten distinct cases were registered against him. And
they resembled each other closely. He arrived suddenly with his band,
cut off every retreat, took up the accused, tried him, and if he denied
the charges, called witnesses, had him convicted, and the sentence was
carried out on the spot. It was a remarkable fact that he carried out
his judgments with the bullet only, none of his victims coming by their
death by means of the rope; another feature was that any money that was
found he invariably made over to the community for whose sake the deed
was done. In short the cases were so like each other, and followed one
another so rapidly, that the district governor quite got into a routine
of filing charges against Taras.

Not till the end of May was the pressure on the minds of the
citizens somewhat relieved. A battalion of infantry had been sent
from Stanislaw, a regiment of dragoons from the Bukowina, and a
regiment of hussars besides. With these troops there arrived also a
lieutenant-general to take the entire command, and he forthwith called
a council of war, to which, besides the military chiefs, were admitted
the district governor, the burgomaster, and Dr. Starkowski as legal
adviser.

Now while this council was sitting round the green baize table of the
district court, a special messenger arrived with a letter from
Hankowce, addressed to the Governor. "From Hankowce," exclaimed Herr
von Bauer dismayed, "alas, poor Zborowski!... but no, he can't be
killed," he corrected himself, "for it is his own handwriting!"

He tore open the missive, read it, and, pushing the letter from him, he
burst from his seat with a crimson countenance, striking both his fists
on the table.

"Gentlemen," he cried, "this is beyond anything ever heard of; enough
to madden the Chief Justice himself. There, read for yourselves, and
tell me if it is not simply maddening!"

The gentlemen made haste to comply, and what they read in that letter
certainly was startling. The lord of the manor of Hankowce, Baron
Alfred Zborowski, one of the most respected noblemen of the district,
had written to his friend, the governor, with all the haste of one
reporting a most unusual occurrence, for Starkowski had some trouble in
making out the shaky handwriting. The letter ran as follows:


"We have just been saved as by a miracle from almost certain death. You
know that I have never been a hard landlord; my peasants are kindly
treated, and there has never been a point of contention between us till
within these last weeks. But after the rising of Taras my people
appeared entirely changed. They no longer touched their caps to me
refused the labour they owed me, and there was a good deal of seditious
speaking and of getting drunk at the public-house. I did what I could
to prevent worse things, yielding one point and another, but to no
purpose. They grew only the more refractory, and it ended in their
sending a deputation to me, a lot of young fellows armed with scythes
and firelocks, demanding a loan of fifty florins. I refused it. They
returned in the evening, about double the number, all more or less in
drink, and not merely young men, but a great many of the older ones as
well. There seemed nothing left but to yield, for how could I oppose
them with a handful of retainers, and I dared not risk the safety of my
wife and children. So I paid them the money. They went off brawling,
spending it in drink forthwith. The day before yesterday they returned,
some of my most trusted peasants among them, grievously drunk. 'We want
one hundred florins of the money you have stolen from us, you robber,
you tyrant,' cried their spokesman, a certain labourer of the name of
Juzef Supan, 'pay it at once, or we shall call Taras.' 'Well, call
him,' I said. 'I know him, and he knows me, for he was in my service
twelve years ago; he knows I am no unjust man.' But they had only abuse
in return, concluding, 'We don't even want Taras, we can help
ourselves. Either you give us a hundred florins here on the spot or
we'll make you rue it!' What could I do? I paid the money and off they
went.

"My poor wife and I were left to consider the horrors of the situation.
There was little doubt of how it would end--they would return with
increased demands, or, more probably, would fall to plunder. Life
itself was in jeopardy, and no help to be had. Even flight was
impossible; for how could we risk it when rebellion is up everywhere?
We could only look at one another in mute despair. Some hours passed,
when suddenly my wife started from the couch on which she had buried
her tearful face, looking at me with luminous eyes, as though she had
had an inspiration. 'Husband!' she cried, 'you call Taras!' I stared at
her, aghast, believing her demented with the agony of our fears. 'My
dear,' I said, 'you know not what you are saying! My referring to him
so confidently in the presence of these rebels was like a drowning
man's snatching at a straw--nay, not even that! True, I have not been a
hard landlord--the Almighty is my witness--but how should Taras care?
Don't you know that he is no better than a cut-throat now; up in arms
against the noble and wealthy of the land? If I called him we were
lost, if we are not so already!' 'No, we should be saved,' cried she,
warmly. 'Why, you know yourself we never had a more honest fellow in
our service. I well remember his driving me once over to Colomea. I was
struck with a peculiar sadness in his face; and on my inquiring what
ailed him, he, in the most simple, straightforward fashion, told me it
was about a girl. Now, it was just a tale of troubled love, nothing at
all particular, but a man who could thus sorrow about a girl, and speak
as he did, has a heart, I say, to pity us and our children.' I thought
she was imagining a good deal; but, as she clung to her fancy, I no
longer tried to contradict her, but set my face to the doing of a
desperate duty. I did not send for Taras--for where, indeed, could I
have looked for him?--but I gave orders to barricade the doors; and,
arming my men, I placed wife and child in the strong room of the tower,
prepared for the worst, and resolved to meet it.

"The day passed quietly, but with the approach of night we heard them
coming--a mob of several hundred--the very women among them. They
roared for admittance. 'We'll have it all back what you have robbed us
of!" they cried, and forthwith prepared to force an entrance. The
strong portal was groaning beneath the blows of their axes--it must
yield, and we are lost! At this terrible moment a thunderous noise
filled the air, the echoing hoof-treads of a body of horse bursting
upon us. 'The hussars!' cried my steward; but no, for the mob was
shrieking, 'Urrahah, the avenger!' When I heard that I knew the hour of
death had come. There was an ominous silence, when a mighty voice fell
upon my anxious ear: 'You are lying, you wretches, I know the man!' and
presently, 'Up, comrades, make sure of this murderous lot; let none
escape!' It was Taras himself. My men gave a cry of hope, but I felt
stunned. There was a knocking at the gate presently, and a voice
saying, 'Open, sir; I have come to save you!' My men let him in.

"Taras, indeed, stood before me, but I should not have known him again,
so old, so worn he looked. 'My poor master,' he said, taking my hand,
'what must you have suffered, and the dear lady and the children! But
fear nothing now, come with me and we will settle matters.' I followed
him speechless. 'Nay, stop,' he said, with the sweetest smile, 'had we
not better send word to the lady first, she will be anxious, and I
would not have her be troubled a minute longer than I can help!' I
called one of my men, sending him to her with a message, but then--I am
not ashamed of owning it, I have not shed a tear these thirty years,
but there was no fighting against it now.... 'Poor master,' he said,
'be comforted.' He spoke to me gently, as to a child, and drew me along
with him to face the peasantry. A strange sight indeed--they stood like
a flock of sheep when a storm is bursting, pressing against each other
for very fear, and surrounded by a number of Taras's men armed to the
teeth, every third man carrying a blazing torch besides. By the outer
gate I perceived a further number, motionless on their horses, and
drawn up like a body of cavalry, their leader a man in peasant garb
with marked Jewish features. 'Now,' cried Taras, looking sternly at the
mob, 'here is the man you have accused to me; let me hear, then, what
he has been guilty of to justify your murderous attack. But I will have
the truth--and woe to the man that dares a falsehood!' Upon which most
of them fell on their knees, crying for mercy; a few only remained
stubbornly on their feet, and there was but one who had the courage to
make answer--it was Juzef Supan who said: 'We did not think that you,
the people's avenger, would take the part of a Polish noble--a
landlord--is not that enough in your eyes? He did, however, oppress us,
like all of them!' 'You are not much of a witness,' said Taras, 'I
happen to remember you. Your heart is a swamp, and your words like its
poisonous exhalations. Is there any one here who can come forward with
proof of the baron's oppression?' Juzef scowled, but the peasants
cried: 'Forgive us, he led us on, saying, This is the time when poor
folk can enjoy themselves for once, and the rich men must pay! And so
we----' ... 'Turned rogues and all but assassins,' interrupted Taras,
and his eye shot fire; 'do you think these are the people that have any
claim on me? You have deserved death every one of you for thus dragging
low the sacred cause I have espoused; for making the holy right an
excuse for the doing of meanest wrong. Yes, you have forfeited your
lives; but, believing that you have been misled, and that you are
willing to repent, I will grant you forgiveness, unless the baron
himself would have you punished.' 'Surely, I forgive them heartily,' I
cried. 'In that case,' he continued, 'I have but three things to see
to. Firstly, you shall begin to-morrow with rendering whatever labour
you owe to the baron; and you will behave reverently, as he deserves at
your hands. If any of you, after this, dares offer him any slight, or
withholds any just tribute, be it but a sheaf of wheat or an hour of
your time, I shall have him shot, as sure as there is a God above us.'
'We will render our every due,' they cried. 'Secondly'--and he
turned to me--'do they owe any arrears?' 'No,' 'But they have refused
labour--for how long?' 'About three weeks.' 'That is eighteen working
days. And how much in money did they force you to give them?' 'One
hundred and fifty florins; but I acquit them of it.' 'Ah, but that is
not justice,' he exclaimed, with a look that brooked no contradiction;
and, addressing himself again to the peasantry, he called upon their
judge to step forth. But that good man was not of the rioters; only one
of the elders, Grigori Borsak, had joined the mob, and shamefacedly he
presented himself. 'The eighteen days' labour,' said Taras, 'shall be
doubled, and are due to the baron whenever he chooses to call on you
within six weeks from this day. But as for the money, or at least
its value, I'll see it paid back this very hour. You must raise
it on the spot; some of my men will go with you about the village,
and you had better not keep us waiting. And now for the third matter.'
His voice swelled like thunder, and at a sign from him Juzef was
dragged forth. 'Ah! forgive him!' I cried; but he shook his head.
Another sign--two shots--and Juzef fell a corpse at our feet. The
peasantry, horror-struck, rushed back to the village. 'Well, then, this
is settled,' said Taras, turning to me. 'I have but to wait now to see
them make amends for what they robbed you of.' But I stood mute, the
awfulness and the generosity of this man seemed overpowering. He, too,
was silent awhile, and then he said softly, almost humbly, 'I would
like to see the lady and the dear children, but I dare hardly ask it.'
'Certainly,' I cried; 'forgive my neglect. Besides, she will want to
thank you. It was she who insisted that you would save us if I would
but send for you.' 'No! did she, indeed?' he exclaimed, blushing for
very pleasure; yet he followed me bashfully, almost reluctantly.

"But my wife was coming to meet us, bathed in tears and holding our
youngest child in her arms. She flung herself on her knees before him,
but he, with a gesture of dismay, lifted her gently, and, bowing
reverently, kissed the hem of her garment. 'Dear lady,' he said, 'I am
told that you still think kindly of your former servant; and be sure he
has never forgotten either the baron or yourself. I heard of your
plight two days ago, but could not come sooner--not till I saw judgment
done upon the mandatar at Rossow,' 'Bawinski!' she cried, dismayed,
'ah, his poor wife!' 'I could not help it, his life was forfeited!'
'Terrible man,' she sobbed, 'how long shall this shedding of blood
continue?' It must continue while wrong remains unpunished,' said he,
solemnly, 'and I have the power of righting it.' I thought it best to
change the subject, inquiring after his wife and children; and my wife,
recovering herself, invited him to our sitting-room. He followed her
shyly and with the utmost respect, nor could he be prevailed upon to
take a seat, but, hat in hand, remained standing, listening
deferentially to all I told him about ourselves and the things that had
occurred since his leaving. In fact, he was just the old servant
happening to pay a visit to his former master, unconsciously falling
back into the ways of service with the humble interest of grateful
attachment. But no sooner was he told that the elder had returned with
some money and a few heads of cattle, than he was the captain of his
band again, self-confident and imperious. I endeavoured once more to
have the people excused from making amends, but he would not hear of
it, turning upon me almost fiercely: 'It is right, sir, to accept it!'
and there seemed nothing else to be done. He took his leave with
evident emotion, and burst away with his band, like a whirlwind, as he
had come. I have written this in the early glimmer of morning, hardly
myself as yet, but I longed to tell you; nay, conscience urged me not
to delay my report. I am ready to swear to this statement if required,
remaining, meanwhile,

                                    "Ever yours,

                                                 "Zborowski."


The lawyer had read the letter aloud, but with a voice growing husky
and tremulous, and having finished he sat down silent. Nor could any
one else find speech, except the governor, who once again struck his
fists on the table, exclaiming with a quaint petulance:--

"Perhaps you will tell me now, sirs, what I am to think of this? I say
it is maddening, it is distracting, if even the law cannot decide
whether a man is a wicked scoundrel or a noble-hearted, valorous
defender of his kind. Now without this Taras, my good friend Zborowski
were a corpse by this time, every manor in the district, but for him,
were in rains, and rebellion stalking the land! It is so, indeed. I
have little chance of upholding martial law though I proclaimed it, but
every word of his is regarded like an edict of the crown. But what do I
say?--why, without him we had never seen this confusion, and the wretch
has men shot like sparrows! Do _you_ understand him? then do help me to
see straight!"

"He is a remarkable outlaw, that much I perceive," said the general,
drily.

"It does not seem so baffling after all," broke in the burgomaster, "it
is just this, methinks--an honest law-abiding man, as he was
originally, has been worsted in a lawsuit--wronged, he thinks--and it
has driven him to seek for himself the right which he fancies is denied
him. He wants to destroy the man who has thus ill-used him, and he
thinks he must punish the unjust judges; that is, he seeks to kill
Hajek, and to--to--I beg your pardon, but the unjust judges in his
opinion are evidently the magistrates of this district. All his
enemies, then, are enjoying the shelter of this town, and this is why I
always urged making special provision for its safety."

"Supposing it is so, then why does he hold his 'judgments' all over the
country? returned the general.

"By way of practice, I should say," rejoined the burgomaster. "So far
he has not seen his way to attack us, because of the reinforcements,
which I am thankful to say are sufficiently large now; yet he must do
something to keep together his band. Besides, such men require
diversion!"

"Diversion!" broke in the governor, wrathfully, flourishing the baron's
letter in the burgomaster's face. "Do you dare maintain that such a man
kills his neighbours by way of a pastime?"

"Gently--gently, sirs," interrupted the general, amused at the
governor's fury; and turning to Starkowski, he said: "Now you have had
some opportunity of knowing this man, doctor; are you also of opinion
that this town is in danger of an attack?"

"Yes, certainly, so long as Hajek is within its gates. But Colomea is
in exactly the same position to him as any manor, any place whatever
sheltering an evil-doer. Taras's doings do not proceed from any
personal sense of injury; in short, they are not dictated by revenge.
There have been such instances in the history of the law, but his
motive, so far as I know, is unprecedented. Hajek has not robbed him of
anything, not wronged him in any way; the very lawsuit, which he
carried on with a pertinacity quite unexampled, was never any fighting
for _his_ right, but for the right of others--in fact, for _the_ right
pure and simple, for the 'holiest thing on earth,' as he once
designated it to me. He failed in fighting for it with peaceful means,
so he continues his battle by force of arms. He does not hate the
mandatar--or, rather, he hates him as he would hate any wrong-doer; his
fighting is a fight for the right--for the right, as such, against
wrong. Therefore I say he would not now be satisfied if you delivered
up the mandatar into his hands--you have heard what answer he made to
the baroness! And, therefore, what I should counsel is this: Protect
this city by all means, but do what you can to withdraw the district
from his power."

Captain Stanczuk fully concurred in this view, and a resolution was
passed to commence active operations against Taras immediately. The
town should be held, as hitherto, by its own garrison, while the rest
of the troops, as flying columns, should scour the country, the hussars
acting as scouts between them.

The mode of action settled, and everything arranged, the council was
breaking up, when the governor requested a further hearing. "Sirs," he
said, producing a writ, to which a large seal was appended, "I am
extremely sorry to have to detain you with this--one moment, I pray
you. It is not for me to question any of the Provincial Governor's
orders--but--humph! it is a pity sometimes---- However, I can but make
it known to you that, by this writ, I am instructed, firstly, to place
a price of five hundred florins upon Taras's head. Now, leaving all
other considerations out of the question, I should say this measure is
utterly useless, and will only enrage the peasantry. And I am
instructed, secondly--but no!..." Herr von Bauer was heaving with
passion, and his face was purple.

"Well, secondly?" inquired the general.

"I think, perhaps, on the whole, I had better keep this point to
myself--for the present, at least, till I hear what the Provincial
Governor may think of my urgent appeal to reconsider the matter. And
I'll just see," he added, with rising anger, "if there is any coward to
be found, any mean----" The rest was lost in his own furious growl.
However, he recovered sufficiently to say, "I wish you good evening,
gentlemen! I have the honour to wish you a very good evening. As for
me, if I had never known it before, I know it now, that it is
desperately pleasant work in one's old age to reach the dignity of a
district governor in Galicia...."



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                           SIGNS OF FAILURE.


About the very time when the authorities at Colomea were holding their
war council, a remarkable occurrence took place at Zulawce. It was
Ascension Day, and a general meeting had been called.

The men of Zulawce were in a difficulty of their own; for, while all
the rest of the parishes within the disturbed district were at least
free to side either with the Government or with the avenger, as seemed
best to suit their temper or their interests, the people of Zulawce
could do neither. They considered they had done with Taras; for had he
not insulted them beyond forgiveness by refusing to rid them of the
soldiers? But no less implacable was their resentment against the
authorities who had inflicted the soldiers upon them; and even after
the company had withdrawn its hateful presence, they continued in a
high state of ill-humour and uncertainty of mind, which rendered them
unfit for any united action. It was this very want of decision,
however, which proved helpful to Father Leo in his strenuous efforts to
prevent any deed of violence; for though there were few among them that
would not have loved to see the manor plundered or set on fire, now
that it was left at their mercy, none quite dared to assume the
responsibility of taking the lead in such an act. Still, this, or any
similar outrage, might any day be looked for; and since the helpless
Jewgeni did nothing for the maintenance of order, Father Leo, assisted
by some of the more steady-going of his parishioners, succeeded in
bringing together a sort of committee, which was to take in hand the
settlement of affairs in the distracted village. The six men, however,
upon whom this office devolved did not at first seem more likely to
arrive at a united opinion with whom to cast in their sympathy than the
parish at large had been; but they managed by degrees to sink
differences in a sort of compromise of a peculiar kind, and quite
unprecedented even in the history of that remarkable people. The
resolution arrived at ran as follows:--

"This is to give notice that since Taras has left us in the lurch, and
the men of the law have wronged us, we repudiate them both now and
evermore! It is their fault if we men of Zulawce, in this time of
trouble, have come to the conclusion that we had better in future be
our own administrators, recognising no one in authority over us, save
the judge of our own choosing. We intend henceforth to pay neither tax
nor tribute to any outsider, and we shall render forced labour to no
man; but we will live justly and peaceably, wronging none either in
life or property. We insist on taking back the field which belongs to
us; but we will guard the manor as carefully as though it were left to
the parish in trust by one of ourselves absent for a time." So then the
committee of affairs at Zulawce, after this fashion, and quite ignorant
of its classical prototypes, had arrived at the idea of the republic,
proposing Simeon Pomenko as the fittest man to preside as "free judge"
over the parish interests.

The announcement was received enthusiastically, and on the day in
question all the community once more had gathered beneath the linden,
where the new order of things was to be promulgated. The place was as
crowded as on the Palm Sunday when Taras had made his memorable speech.
Two only were absent--Father Leo, who of course could not officially
acknowledge this change of government, although he would not deny that
for the present it seemed the likeliest arrangement for arriving at
anything like order in the parish; and she whom he had termed the most
unhappy widow of the place, poor Anusia, who since that service on
Easter Sunday had left the house only when her presence was absolutely
necessary about the farm. She continued an object of interest, and was
talked about daily; but, with natural tact, the villagers forebore
troubling her with calls, and passed her in silence when they met on
the rare occasions of her being about the fields; for even the roughest
of them felt that her sorrow, and the silent dignity with which she
bore it, commanded their reverence. And it redounds not a little to the
honour of that wild community, that even on the day when their fury ran
highest, when Wassilj and Hritzko had returned with Taras's answer,
none had thought of casting it up to the widow, or of offering her any
insult whatever.

The bearing of the assembly was grave and even solemn. "Men and
brothers," said Simeon, "it would be a disgrace if we could not rule
ourselves and re-establish order in this village of ours! The country
is full of uproar and sedition; let peace and honest labour have their
place here--so be it!" On account of the intended independence of the
community, and because of the pressure of the times, there would
naturally be an increase of parish business; and it was resolved
therefore that three elders henceforth would be required, and they were
nominated. Alexa Sembrow was to act as "home minister,"--the common
field and the fair distribution of its produce should be his especial
care; while Wassilj, the butcher, should see to the external safety of
the place; Wilko Sembratowicz, the third of the number, serving as
treasurer.

This arranged, the assembly fell into a procession, and with bared
heads proceeded to the field of strife, amid the ringing of bells and
the solemn strains of the _Te Deum_. The "free judge" and his elders
led the march, and with their own hands, while the singing continued,
they pulled the black cross from its present place, replanting it where
it had stood formerly, at three feet distance from the river. This
done, the four white-haired men fell on their knees, and, spreading
forth their arms, thrice kissed the recovered soil, all the people
doing likewise, amid sobs and tears.

After which Simeon stepped forth, saying: "I require every one here to
witness, as I also ask Him above, that we have only taken back that
which belongs to us by right, and which was taken from us by a wicked
fraud.... We pray Thee, Thou Ruler above, to prevent such fraud in the
future, and we will fight to the death rather than permit it again.
This is our solemn oath!"

"Our solemn oath!" repeated the men in chorus, lifting their right
hands. And with faces beaming with satisfaction the people returned to
the village.

Nor was their confidence at all lowered for some little time. The word
of the free judge seemed being fulfilled, peace and diligence
continuing here, while bloodshed and misery spread over the land.
Neither was the village interfered with for changing its constitution,
the authorities and the troops having more than enough on their hands
already. No illusion had prevailed at that war council at Colomea
concerning the difficulty of dealing with the bandits; but the utter
failure of all operations hitherto exceeded even the worst
anticipations. In fact, the chance had never yet offered for having
even a brush with the enemy; and although the flying columns continued
to scour the land, never a hajdamak did they set eyes upon. They
somehow always arrived just too late, or they sought for them on the
banks of the Dniester while they did their work by the Pruth; or strove
to protect the east of the province, where the avenger had just been
heard of, while Taras quietly, but surely, carried out his judgments in
the west. It seemed altogether useless that the number of soldiers out
against him was doubled, and even trebled, by the arrival of further
troops; and nothing seemed to come of spending large sums of money upon
private spies, when the mandatars and others grew shy of giving their
information, lest they should suffer for it sooner or later. Taras,
with all the machinery of Government against him, continued his awful
work, utterly undisturbed, all through May and June; nor did the
presence of soldiers throughout the troubled districts hinder him in
the least from extending his raids far and wide, and making his power
felt in every direction. And, in spite of the almost appalling
penetration he showed in singling out his victims, never mistaking the
innocent for the guilty--in spite of his repeated injunctions to the
peasantry to forbear from acts of violence themselves, and to render
every just tribute conscientiously--the terror at the jurisdiction he
had established, as it were, in the face of the law, and which one
would scarcely have conceived possible within the boundaries of a
powerful, well-ordered State, grew and spread till nothing short of a
panic filled the length and breadth of the land. The authorities had to
listen to the wildest reproaches of the excited people, although they
strained every nerve in the execution of their duty. But with all their
honest efforts they could not even suggest an explanation of the means
by which this strange bandit was holding his ground against them. With
their erroneous notions concerning his numbers, their absolute
ignorance of his hiding-places--of which the bog-island near Nazurna
was the most important--and not in the least aware to what extent the
peasantry aided and abetted him as his willing informers, the speed and
temerity of his movements could not but be a mystery. He seemed
everywhere and nowhere, and did his work with impunity. By the middle
of July four thousand soldiers were out against him, and yet it
appeared hopeless to look for an ending of this reign of terror.

Now the men of Zulawce watched this state of affairs rather with
satisfaction than otherwise. For the more useless military intervention
appeared, the greater was their confidence in being able to maintain
their self-constituted liberty unmolested. But all of a sudden the day
dawned that should teach them it was not so easy to break away from the
leading-strings of sovereignty.

It was a dull, grey morning in July; rain was pouring in endless
streams. The sodden roads were deserted, and so were the fields. The
two fellows whom Wassilj, the butcher, had placed by the toll-booth
near the river, did stay at their post, it is true, for the place was
dry and comfortable enough, but instead of keeping a careful look-out,
they had retired to their pallets and were snoring blissfully. These
somnolent youths started suddenly, rubbing their eyes, for heavy
footfalls on the wooden bridge had broken on their slumbers; they
stared, wondering if they could be dreaming; but no, it was flat
reality--they even recognised the face of the officer who was leading
hither his men, Captain Stanczuk. They rushed from the booth, fired off
their muskets by way of giving the alarm, and, racing towards the
village, they kept shouting at the top of their voices. The soldiers
had to slacken their pace on account of the fearful state of the roads,
so that the youths reached the village a good while before them.

And when Captain Stanczuk brought up his men in sight of the inn, he
found the road barricaded by some overturned waggons, while bundles of
faggots were being heaped up hastily, and some fifty men stood with
muskets levelled, ready to defend the place. Now Stanczuk had special
orders to avoid bloodshed, if possible; but his kindly prudence hardly
required such instruction. He stopped the advance of his men within a
hundred yards of the villagers, and, riding on by himself fearlessly,
requested to parley with the judge.

"My father is not here yet," replied Hritzko. "But there will be no
parleying, save by means of bullets."

"Well," replied the captain, quietly, "if you set so little store by
your lives, I cannot help it. But not being such a foolhardy idiot
myself I think I will just wait for your father's pleasure." And
turning his horse, he rode back to his men.

He had to wait a considerable while, but not in vain. The number of men
holding the barricade had, indeed, increased till almost every man of
the village was present, and nearly all were in a belligerent mood; but
behind them their wives were lamenting, preparing the way for the
pope's and the judge's influence. It would be no more than good sense,
these urged, to hear first what the officer might have to say; and
after some altercation it was agreed that Simeon, with his son and the
three elders, should accompany Father Leo to the soldiers.

The captain rode forth to meet them. "Good day to your reverence, and
good day to you all!" he said, smiling pleasantly. "I have been waiting
patiently for an explanation of this nonsense! Don't you think you are
rather foolish, considering the times?"

The half-bantering tone of his address somewhat disconcerted them, but
after a pause the judge returned: "Then what are you here for, captain?
If you have any idea of calling us to order after your fashion, we'll
just defend ourselves. And as for the field we have taken back----"

"Your fields are no business of mine," said the officer, as blandly as
before, "and you may continue King of Zulawce yet awhile, my good
friend. My present orders concern no one but Anusia Barabola and her
children. I have to arrest them, and take them to Colomea."

"That shall never be!" cried Hritzko furiously, and even Father Leo
flushed crimson with indignation.

"It would be nothing short of a dastardly wrong, captain!" he
exclaimed. "I pledge my life that the poor woman has no share whatever
in her husband's doings."

The honest officer winced. "Your reverence is aware," he said, lowering
his voice, "that the soldier's duty is to obey his orders, and not to
question them."

"And the poor children, are they to be held accountable for their
father?"

"I have to obey my instructions," repeated Stanczuk; "and if your
reverence will use your influence and prevent any interference with my
duty, you will but act in accordance with the sacred office you bear."

The pope was silent; but even if he had shared the officer's views and
fallen in with his suggestion as to his influence, he would have had
little chance of exercising it. For the peasants had decided for
themselves, old Simeon stepping forth, saying as he crossed himself:
"Sir captain, while there is a man alive here to defend her, you shall
not lay hands on this unhappy woman and her children. We are fully
aware that we endanger our own wives and children in opposing you, but
we cannot help it. Why, we should deserve to be struck dead on the spot
if we suffered such wickedness against the widow and her orphans.
There, you may do your duty--we shall do ours!"

He turned to go, but the captain touched his arm, almost pleadingly.
"Have you really considered," he cried, "what misery your refusal may
bring on this village? There is bloodshed enough in these days; do not
add to it, I pray you. Go and consult the people--I will wait."

But Simeon shook his head and turned away without another word,
followed by the rest of them, Father Leo included. When they had
reached the barricade and informed the people of the demand made upon
them, there was but one voice of indignant refusal. Anusia's servant,
Halko, rushed off towards the farm, but all the rest of the men stood
like a wall, crying: "You have spoken well, judge, we will never permit
it!" And the women ceased wailing, but Father Leo, with speechless
agony, folded his hands, looking on.

Hritzko took the command, and the peasants, besides holding several of
the cottages near, stationed themselves all about the raised ground on
which the church stood, where they found ample cover. They knelt with
muskets levelled, prepared to fire.

"Let them approach within thirty paces," cried Hritzko, "and, at a sign
from my whistle, receive them with a volley. Be ready!"

The captain waited for twenty minutes, and then, sorely against his
will, drew his sword, and heading his men, gave the word to advance.
The drums beat, the men started at the double, with bayonets fixed.

The peasants, in accordance with the orders received, allowed them to
approach without firing. The soldiers had reached Wilko's cottage, when
Hritzko lifted the whistle to his mouth. But before he could give the
sign, a hand was laid on his arm, pressing it down with a good deal of
force. "You shall not fire!" a loud voice was heard to say
peremptorily; "I will not have it!"

The young man started amazed. Before him, tall and commanding, stood
the wife of Taras, with little Tereska on her arm; an old woman-servant
followed with the little boys, sobbing piteously. The children, too,
were crying. But Anusia, though pale, was calm as death; she stood
erect, and her face bore that expression of stony composure which, ever
since that terrible Palm Sunday, appeared to have taken the place of
her naturally passionate disposition. "I will not have a shot fired,"
she said; "I shall go with the soldiers."

"Anusia!" exclaimed Simeon, "will you deliver up yourself and your poor
children to certain death?"

"We are all in God's hand," she said. "For my sake no wife shall be
made a widow, no child fatherless." ... And, turning to the servant,
she added, "Come!"

But Captain Stanczuk had understood the strange scene, and ordered his
men to halt. The peasants, too, were standing motionless with surprise.
Anusia deliberately went up to the officer. "Here I am," she said, "and
here are my children."

But the gallant soldier, on looking into the tearless, grief-bound face
of that poor peasant woman, was filled with a sensation of awe the like
of which he had never known before. He felt as though he must bend the
knee as to a queen or empress. "Come," he said, reverently, "we brought
a carriage for you."

She nodded, and forthwith would have moved towards the vehicle, which
followed in the rear; but the villagers had recovered themselves, and
were pressing round her. The officer nowise interfered, for he could
see in their faces that they intended no further enmity. They
surrounded her, deeply moved, some even sobbing when she lifted her
children into the carriage as it drew up, and others kissed her
garment, crying, "Farewell, Anusia! we shall never forget it!" Father
Leo breaking out passionately, "You are a brave woman; no saint ever
did a greater thing for her people--it shall not be forgotten,
indeed.... And your farm shall be cared for, we shall be proud to do
it!"

"Thank you," she said, gently, and could no longer forbid her tears,
the big drops running down her face: but soon the rigid calm returned.
"I am quite ready," she said to the officer.

The drums beat, and the procession started, down to the river and
across the bridge, towards the distant town.

At dusk the following day they arrived at Colomea, and that same
evening Anusia was ushered into the presence of the governor.

That honest, stout-hearted gentleman had looked forward to this hour as
to the bitterest trial of his life, and had indeed resisted it as long
as he could; but his remonstrances with the governor of the province
had been fruitless, though seconded by every magistrate of the
district; and even their united request to be dismissed rather than
forced to obey in this matter availed not. The Lemberg authorities had
returned word that no doubt the question of their dismissal might be
considered in due time, but for the present they must keep to their
posts, obeying their superiors. And thus the high-minded old governor
had been obliged with his own hand to draw up the order for an arrest,
which in his eyes was the worst act of violence yet committed; but
having done this, he insisted on conducting the inquiry himself, lest
the wrong he could not help should be carried out harshly. Mr.
Wenceslas Hajek by this time had recovered his sprits sufficiently to
quit his voluntary retreat in the city gaol for his own chambers, and
the apartment he had occupied--not really a cell, but a private room of
the chief warder's--had been made ready for Anusia, the governor
himself superintending the arrangements and giving various directions
for her comfort. This done, he returned to his office, awaiting her
coming with a beating heart.

She entered, but he scarcely found courage to look up, busying himself
with a sheet of paper to hide his emotion.

"Are you cognisant of your husband's crimes, or aiding him in any way?"

"No, sir."

"I am forced, nevertheless, to keep you in custody; but I will have you
well treated. I shall daily inquire after your own and your children's
well-being."

He waved his hand, and Anusia was taken back to her place of
confinement. The old man remained by himself, pacing his office for the
best part of an hoar, deeply agitated; now gesticulating with his
hands, now talking wildly. Having calmed down a little, he returned to
his desk to make his report to the Provincial Governor, adorning it
with all the flourishes approved of by the profession of the period;
but he took care that his dutiful letter should end with these words:
"Never again may a representative of the law within this realm of
Austria feel himself thus lowered in the eyes of the accused brought to
his bar, and may his excellency, the Governor-Provincial, not find
cause to lament the consequences of this measure!"

But even before his note of warning could reach the ears it was meant
for, the thunderbolt of vengeance had fallen--fearfully, terribly
indeed! On the second night after Anusia's arrival at the city gaol the
district governor was roused from sleep--a certain clerk, Joseph Dorn
by name, had arrived with news that brooked no delay.

The poor governor positively shook with apprehension; for that clerk
had been ordered to accompany one of the stipendiary magistrates, who
in the morning had set out to the village of Jablonow, where a certain
matter had to be settled by local evidence. The gentleman's name was
Hohenau, he being a worthy German from the Rhine, advanced in years,
and universally respected for his integrity. Now, although, after the
attack upon Kapronski, Taras had not again laid hands on any officer of
the law, the governor decided, nevertheless, that Hohenau, whom he
loved as a friend, should not undertake the journey, short as it was,
without a special escort of forty dragoons. He was expected to return
late at night; what if the clerk had come back without him!... The
governor tried to battle with this thought as with an apparition.
"Nonsense!" he said; "what should have happened?" and he stepped boldly
into his ante-room. But one look into the man's face showed him that
his fears were only too well founded. That clerk, who had served half
his life as a sergeant of the constabulary, till pensioned off to his
present post, and who was not likely to grow faint at the sight of a
shadow, was leaning against the wall, white as death, and trembling in
every limb.

"He has been killed?" gasped the governor.

"He has!" groaned the clerk.

Herr von Bauer, too, grew faint, catching at a chair-back for support.
At that moment he experienced that most painful of all bodily
sensations, which, though common enough as a figure of speech, is rare
in actual fact, and not likely to be forgotten by the luckless mortal
that ever underwent it! The poor old governor felt his scalp contract
with an icy coldness, every single root of hair pricking into it like a
red-hot needle--_his hair standing on end!_

For a while these two men continued facing each other, terror-struck
and unable to speak, till the governor's lady came rushing in to
inquire into the reason of this late disturbance. Her coming was
opportune, for the governor was obliged to rouse himself to bid her
retire; and turning to the clerk, he said, "Tell me."

At which the latter drew himself up straight and saluted his superior.
And then followed his tale: "There was much to be done at Jablonow," he
said, "and it was eight o'clock before we could set out on the journey
back. Both in front and behind us the dragoons were trotting, quite
carelessly, and Herr von Hohenau was even merry-hearted, conversing
pleasantly to pass the time. And he fell talking about Taras,
saying--'Do you know, Dorn, I should rather like to see him; one would
like to have a talk with the man--he is quite a colleague of ours, a
criminal judge if ever there was one; and I will even maintain he is
possessed of all the true instincts of the profession, knowing how to
discriminate between a rascal and an honest man--between right and
wrong. I am sure of it!' 'Begging your pardon, sir,' I replied, 'but he
is just a black-dyed villain, and God Almighty keep us from falling in
with him.' 'Well,' owned he, 'I don't say I am anxious to meet him,
say, on this journey, although I should not give him credit for any
desire of harming us. You misjudge the fellow, Dorn; I have carefully
followed his so-called judgments, and I will say this for him, he is a
man still and no fiend.' The word was scarcely out of his mouth--we had
just arrived by the little bridge leading over the Krasnik--when all of
a sudden the reeds on both sides of the brook seemed alive with
highwaymen. I am an old soldier, sir, and it is a dead mystery to me
how it could happen so quickly, but in less than three minutes all our
men were clean overpowered. I should think the bandits were at least
five to one of ourselves, but I will say this for them, they did behave
decently, and whoever was willing to accept quarter, was merely
disarmed and pinioned; they killed only those who stubbornly resisted.
Herr von Hohenau remarked it also, and whispered to me: 'Never fear,
Dorn, he won't harm us,' And for a while it seemed so. For the bandits
who had surrounded the vehicle, levelling their pistols at our faces,
now drew off, and one of their number--a Jew, by the face of him--said
almost politely: 'Please to get out, sirs, and speak to the avenger.'
We stepped to the ground, they closed in a circle, and Taras himself
stood before us. Now I had often seen him--why, it is barely two years
since--when he used to call here on account of that law-suit of his, a
fair-haired, strong-built, ruddy man, with a glow of health about him;
but I certainly should not have known him again, hollow-cheeked, worn,
and grey as he is now, with deep furrows about his face, and almost
trembling as he looked at us. He kept silent rather long, I thought,
and there seemed more pity than wrath in his eyes, and he spoke gently
when he began, turning to me first. 'It is not you I require, you are
but a clerk of theirs, and are bound to write whatever they tell you.
You had better go your way at once--that is, if this man here has not
some last message he would like to entrust to you.' I shook from head
to foot at this announcement, and the gentleman, too, grew white,
catching hold of my arm as if to steady himself; yet he was able to
say--'I am Carl von Hohenau, a magistrate; every man in this
neighbourhood knows me, and can tell you that no crime lies at my door.
What is it you accuse me of, Taras?' 'Unheard-of violence and cowardly
wrong,' he said. 'My wife and my children are detained in your gaol.'
At which Herr von Hohenau drew himself up, saying solemnly: 'Taras, you
will believe my word of honour, that they have not been arrested at our
instigation, but against our every protest. The governor has been
forced to yield to the authorities at Lemberg, our superiors,' At which
Taras scanned his face attentively, saying, after a pause: 'I am
unwilling to believe you are speaking falsely; but I have had
information on solemn oath. Was it not by your orders that Kapronski,
on the Wednesday after Easter, threatened my wife with arrest?'
'No--certainly not! Did he? Oh--the rascal! Why, he came back assuring
us that only by means of his taking it upon himself thus to threaten
you had you been prevailed upon to spare his life,' 'He lied,' said
Taras. 'I charged him to tell you that I should consider your lives
forfeited if you countenanced such wrong--did he tell you that?' 'No,
on the contrary, he advised it as the only expedient; and the
Provincial Governor, in issuing his orders to us, has acted on his
suggestions without a doubt.' The poor gentleman was not a little
excited, but had sufficient power over himself to state plainly that
repeated efforts were made by the magistrates of this district to
reason with the authorities at Lemberg, and that they obeyed orders in
the end under protest only, because there was no help for it. Taras
listened quietly, and then, bending his head, he stood motionless, like
one lost in thought, a shudder ever and anon quivering through his
limbs.... And I believed there was ground for hope; but, alas, I was
mistaken. Pulling himself up suddenly, he said: 'I will accept your
account, every word as you have told it. But how is it that you yielded
in the end, knowing that which was demanded of you was an act of
violence?' 'We were driven to it,' 'I do not understand that,' said
Taras, slowly; 'a soldier has no will of his own, and must obey his
superiors, or he will be shot; but I never heard it is so with the
Emperor's magistrates!' 'It is not; and yet we should have been
punished--ignominiously dismissed in all probability, which is no light
thing for a man to face. Some of us have wives and children,' 'So it is
just this: you preferred your position, and perhaps daily bread for
yourselves and your families, to the integrity of your conscience! And
you are judges, who have sworn an oath before the Almighty, to further
the right!' The terrible man said this in the same quiet tone and very
slowly, but his passion now broke forth: 'No,' he cried, 'judges who
are capable of that, who have yielded to the wrong, have forfeited
their lives! Prepare yourself for death.... I cannot spare you!' But I
fell on my knees. 'Taras!' I cried, 'for mercy's sake, forbear killing
this man!' Herr von Hohenau, however, ordered me to rise, preserving
his composure like a hero to the end. 'I have nearly reached my three
score and ten,' he said, 'and have striven after righteousness all my
days, to the best of my knowledge. I am ready to give up my account to
Him who is Judge over all, and my days at best are numbered. And I
leave neither wife nor child behind me. It is, therefore, not the fear
of death, man, which prompts me to say that you must not kill me,
unless you would burden your conscience with a deed of common murder,
in the blind fury of revenge. So far as your deeds are known to me,
this would be the first act of yours that must be called criminal and
nothing else,' The bandits growled, but Taras, beckoning them to be
quiet, stood motionless, with bowed head, and lost in thought, as
before. Those were terrible moments, I cannot tell how long it lasted,
but it seemed an eternity. At last one of Taras's men--that Jew--went
up to him, addressing him gently. I could not understand his words, but
saw from the expression of his face that he was pleading for mercy.
That it was so grew evident from Taras's answer, who, lifting up his
hand, said hoarsely, and trembling as though it went hard with him:
'God help me and him, and if I am judging wrongfully I may suffer for
it on the gallows, but there is no help for it--he must die! He and his
fellow magistrates have set aside their sacred oath for the sake of
earthly advantage, and in the fear of man; theirs is the power to
protect the holiest of causes, to see the Right carried out, and they
have misused the power entrusted to them. That is a fearful evil; and
where shall wrong end if it begins with them? Hitherto I have tried to
believe that it was their mistake, or at worst their carelessness, at
times, which rendered them liable to judge falsely; and though
combating the wrong I have so far not declared war against the men of
the law themselves. But now I have proof that these judges, these
guardians of the Right, have actually been able, against their own
better knowledge, to concur in a wrongful deed! I can no longer, then,
be satisfied with merely stopping the course of this or that muddy
stream, as it were, but am bound to close up the spring-head itself. I
grieve, indeed, that I must make the beginning with this old man, who I
daresay is one of the best of them, but there is no help for it--may
God be merciful to him and to me!' Herr von Hohenau was going to speak
yet again, but Taras cut him short, saying: 'It is useless, you must
see I cannot help you!' and when I clasped his feet, he freed himself,
and fell back behind some of his men. But Herr von Hohenau stood erect,
saying with a loud voice, 'Get up, Dorn, it is not meet for honest men
to kneel to such a one! Get me a piece of paper and a pencil!' He wrote
a few lines, commended himself to the Almighty, and--and----"

The old clerk was shaken with sobs, his eyes were tearless, but the
lips quivered, and his breast heaved convulsively.

"They--shot--him?"

The man nodded, and, fumbling in his pocket with trembling hand,
produced a scrap of paper. But the governor saw nothing; he, too, was
leaning against the wall now, unable to stand. His eyes were closed,
but two large drops hung quivering at his lashes, and fell over the
furrowed face. "Peace, peace be with thee!" he murmured, "thou best of
friends!"

There was a long silence, but the clerk at last ventured to break it:
"This bit of writing," he said, falteringly. The governor took it and
read:--


"Farewell, my Ferdinand, we have been friends this many a year; do not
grieve for me, but have a care for yourself and the others. Let
Kapronski meet with his deserts if you can! What money I leave behind
me I want your eldest boy to have; just take it, with my love. I do not
die willingly, but with an easy mind.--Yours in death,

                                   "Carl von Hohenau."


Herr von Bauer folded the letter, placing it in his note-book. "Where
is the body, Dorn?" he inquired, presently.

"Lying by the bridge; and so are the shackled dragoons. The monster
himself cried after me, 'You had better send for them,' He had ordered
some of his men to take me within sight of the town, where they left
me."

Before daybreak even, the brave old governor, together with the general
and a sufficient body of men, had started for the scene of death. It
was an unspeakably sad journey through the mellow summer night. About
half-way they came upon the greater number of the dragoons. None of
these had been hurt, they had only been overpowered and bound with
ropes. One of them had succeeded in slipping his fetters, and had thus
been enabled to set the others free. They confirmed the statement that
the band appeared to have no other object than to compass the
magistrate's death, vanishing almost directly after he had fallen,
pierced by their bullets.

They reached the bridge in the grey of the morning, and found only a
few wounded soldiers and the corpse. And the men, bending over it, were
filled with a holy awe on beholding the expression of a restful, even
proud calm, that had settled on the dead man's face; never had the
majesty of death spoken louder than here. And even the old general felt
an unwonted pricking about his eyelids when the governor knelt by the
dead body of his friend. He insisted on lifting it himself, barely
allowing Dorn to lend him a helping hand.

When the mournful procession had returned to the town, the district
governor lost no time in calling at the prison, in order to see Anusia.
But only a single question he asked of her--"Did Kapronski offer you
any threats?"--"Yes," she replied, unhesitatingly, repeating his words.

The governor nodded, as though it were just the information he had
expected; and not wasting another word he went his way to the
district-board office. As he entered the building the secretary came
rushing down to meet him---a messenger had just arrived from Lemberg
with a writ from the Provincial Governor, and was to wait for an
answer. "Let him wait," said the district governor, bitterly. "I
daresay they have come to see the propriety of our remonstrances and
rescind their orders."

The contents of the writ, indeed, somewhat verified these surmises,
stating that, having referred the matter to Vienna, instructions had
been received to take no measures against the family of Taras; to which
the Provincial Governor nevertheless added, as his own opinion, that,
had the arrest been effected already, he should not deem it advisable
to countermand it, lest the dangerous bandit should draw strength from
their yielding. But more than this, the Viennese Government requested
that every authentic information concerning Taras, beginning with the
records of his law-suit in behalf of the community of Zulawce, should
be forwarded without delay. And the attention of the Provincial
authorities was directed to the advisability of endeavouring to
reclaim, the rebel by peaceful means, since both his character and his
history, so far as known in Vienna, appeared to warrant this as the
best solution of the difficulty. Not that his submission should be
bargained for under promise of absolute immunity, or any other
inexpedient concession, but rather by rectifying certain unfortunate
mistakes, which no doubt might be done without lowering the dignity of
the law or that of its guardians. With regard to this, however, the
opinion of the local authorities was invited. In the meantime, and
until further notice, all action against Taras should be strictly on
the defensive, certain contingencies excepted.

This official communication was accompanied by a private note of the
Provincial Governor's, which said: "I have certain information that His
Imperial Highness, the Archduke Ludwig, is at the bottom of these
instructions. Send me your records at once, and it is to be hoped
everything is in plain order. For you know that if the Archduke once
inquires into a cause, he will have it thoroughly sifted. It is a
positive riddle to me how this wretched cut-throat, Taras, should have
come to rouse interest in such high quarters. Concerning the 'peaceful
means,' however, about which we are to give our opinion, I desire
nowise to influence your own ideas, but it seems to me we should be
handed down to posterity as fools if we recommended them. The
commissioner, Kapronski, whom I have every reason to believe a
thoroughly honest and trustworthy man, quite shares my view,
deprecating the proposal in the strongest terms, and I should say he is
not without experience of his own. He assures me, and I daresay he is
right, that any leniency shown to Taras would rouse his insolent
opposition to the fullest. I wish to suggest this view to you, but of
course you should judge for yourself."

Having read this, the district governor at once issued notices for a
meeting of the Board, submitting to the magistrates not only the
official document, but the private communication as well. "His
excellency, the Provincial Governor, and myself, are not in the habit
of having secrets with each other," he said, grimly. The Board, after a
short debate, was unanimous in its opinion that peaceful means were not
likely to avail in the present extremity, and the following despatch
was drawn up: "We fully agree that Taras, terrible as his crimes are,
cannot be designated as a bandit and cut-throat in the ordinary sense;
it might seem a natural hope, therefore, to lead him back to paths of
rectitude by appealing to his sense of honour and justice. Nor do we
fear that such an attempt would increase his temerity. But we feel
bound to deprecate such a plan, not only because of its utter
uselessness as regards the man himself, but even more on account of the
hurtful effect it would certainly produce on the people, who would see
in it a confession of weakness. As for Taras himself, it is evident
that he is acting under the pressure of a belief stronger than his
will, imagining that the duty has devolved on him to exterminate every
'wrong' he obtains cognisance of, to punish every deed of injustice,
nay, the very omission of doing right. And this idea has so eaten
itself into his heart, that no concession to any lawful, or for the
matter of that even to unlawful demands, or any other 'peaceful means'
will dissuade him from it. He will continue his 'judgments' till they
are rendered impossible by force." The Board, however, strongly
recommended the setting at liberty of his innocent family; "not for
fear of his revenge, but as a matter of conscience, and in the fear of
the Judge above." And in conclusion, having reported the murder of
their colleague, Hohenau, and Anusia's declaration, they requested that
the commissioner Kapronski should be sent back without delay, that he
might be brought to the bar of his immediate superiors. With which
reply, and a bulky bundle of papers, the messenger returned to Lemberg.

Upon this the Provincial Government wrapped itself in silence save on
one point; they had been loth, these authorities stated, to set full
value on the commissioner's complaints concerning the ill-will of his
colleagues, much as they trusted his veracity on all other heads. But
now the Board of Colomea had given tangible proof of its unworthy
animosity, actually suggesting proceedings against a respectable
servant of the law upon no evidence whatever, save the declaration of a
bandit and his imprisoned wife. This appeared unjustifiable spite, and
the Provincial Government not only must refuse to give up the innocent
commissioner, but felt obliged to censure the magistracy sharply. In
answer to which the whole Board of Colomea once more, and in stronger
terms, submitted their request for dismissal, but neither on this
matter nor concerning Taras did anything farther reach them. There was
a dead silence for several weeks.

Thus the district governor's position had come to be no bed of roses,
when suddenly it seemed as though having reached the worst, matters
would mend. It had been observed that Taras's 'judgments' grew fewer,
and during the first fortnight in August not a single act of his was
heard of at Colomea. It was as though the 'avenger' and his band had
suddenly disappeared from the earth. This silence was as mysterious as
his terrible doings had been. It could not be any fear of punishment
which bound his hands; for if the General now kept his forces together
in stockades between Kossowince and Zulawce, this centre of defence,
however formidable, could not prevent the bandits from carrying on
their work wherever they pleased, any more than the flying columns had
been able to stop it. And since no other explanation offered, the Board
lent a willing ear to the report which arose, dimly at first, though it
soon gained ground, that by far the larger number of the hajdamaks had
fallen out with their leader, and that it was inward dissension which
had stopped the activity of the band.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.

                         THE APPROACHING DOOM.


The valley of the "black Czeremosz"!... When the great Emperor Joseph,
a hundred years ago, put forth his hand to lay hold of the lonely
tracts overlooked by the Carpathians, he sent thither a brave old
colonel, George Wetzler by name, a man reared on the sunny banks of the
Neckar, to take possession of the district in the monarch's name, and
to make suggestions for the improvement of the newly-acquired
territory. No easy matter! but the old colonel was a Swabian
born--stout of heart and tenacious of purpose--and, moreover, he was
honest. So his efforts prospered, and some of the good institutions of
his planting are growing still. Never at a loss to make the best of
things, he was the very man for his work; but after inspecting this
valley the old colonel's patience appears to have been fairly
exhausted, as may be gathered from his report to Vienna--a witness of
his disappointment to this day. "This valley of the black 'Tshermosh',"
he bluntly declared, "must be Old Nick's own presence chamber, and what
human creatures are to be found here, are a pack of senseless knaves.
There is nothing to be got out of them, nor into them, and this
wretched valley will always belong to him of the cloven foot, and never
to the Emperor's Majesty."

In one point this judgment proved true, for the people or Zabie and
Reza to this day own the supremacy of the State only in a loose and
distant sort of way; but in other respects the plain-spoken colonel's
picture certainly is overdrawn. It cannot be said that the inhabitants
of the valley in question are either more senseless or more knavish
than the rest of the Huzuls, though they may be even more shy of the
world, more rude of habit--creatures of the forest, both hardy and
daring, as men will become whose life is a constant warfare with the
sterner forces of nature. But "Old Nick's presence chamber" itself, in
sooth, is one of the most glorious, if wildest regions of this mountain
chain, "raised by the devil and beautified by the Christ." It would
seem as if this valley, which forces its way eastward in a zigzag line
between the towering peaks in the southern-most part of Galicia, had
indeed been something like an apple of contention for evil or for good.
But if it was the devil who made the frowning mountains and strewed the
valley with weird-shaped rocks, the imagination may fitly dwell on the
redeeming fancy that the gracious Christ has clothed the heights with
those splendid firwoods, and called forth flowers and shrubs about the
boulders, sweeter and fairer than one would look for at such a height;
and if it was the great adversary who made of the Czeremosz a roaring
and dangerous torrent, it must have been the Friend of man who formed
its banks, so rich and lovely, to hold in the turbulent stream. It fact
the traveller, once acquainted with the fanciful legend, will remember
it at every turn; and the higher he climbs, up towards the giant-keeper
of the Hungarian frontier, the towering Black Mountain (the
Czernahora), the more it will appear to him as though a contest between
opposing forces had verily taken place; the upper valley certainly is
one of the wildest and fairest spots on earth. It narrows perceptibly
to the west, ending in a circular hollow, in the centre of which there
is a small deep lake, whose waters appear black, partly on account of
the dark-coloured strata of rock which form the sides of the basin, and
partly because of its lying within the far-stretching shadow of that
great frontier peak. At noon only is the silent mirror of the Black
Water smiled upon by a passing sunbeam.

On the shore of this lake there is one of the largest settlements
within the mountains--cottages, sheepfolds, barns in great number, and
closed in with a thorn-hedge; it is the home of Clan Rosenko, numbering
about three hundred souls, dwelling here and ruled over by no man save
their own patriarch, feared for their valour and duly respected as the
wealthiest tribe of the Carpathians. The patriarch of this settlement,
in peace or war, is lord paramount within a territory as large as any
English county, and wields an influence the strength of which rests in
its tradition rather than upon any personal qualities. But never had
the clan possessed greater power than when ruled over by the friend and
ally of the avenger, the venerable Hilarion, surnamed the Just. There
was not a man of Pokutia or the Bukowina who did not bow to him, and
none so great nor yet so humble but he would obey his warning and
accept his will.

In this man's close proximity Taras had arrived early in August, 1839,
encamping with his much-lessened band on an open space within the
Dembronia forest, about a mile from the Black Water. Not for fear of
the military operations had he withdrawn from the plain and broken up
his camp by the Crystal Springs; still less had he done so of his free
choice, but yielding to necessity, and hoping thereby to avert worse
things. For the report which had reached Colomea was only too well
founded. Taras no longer had absolute power over the minds of his men,
whose dissatisfaction had grown to bitterness and resentment, breaking
out into open rebellion at last. Just that had happened which Nashko,
with the clear discernment of his race, had foreseen and foretold, the
catastrophe occurring in the last days of July.

"There are too many of them," Taras had said, sorrowfully, to the Jew.
"I cannot now, as I used to, impress every individual man with the
sacredness of the cause he is serving." But he was mistaken; the band
never numbered more than about two hundred, and Taras knew each and all
personally; the men, in their turn, being fully aware of his ideas
concerning the work they were engaged in. Nor could explanation be
sought in the suggestion that even his rigorous care could not suffice
for keeping the band pure, and that some ill-disposed fellows, no
doubt, were leavening the rest. No; the true reason was this, which
Nashko and Jemilian failed not to point out to their beloved leader,
saying, "You could never hope for anything better, unless the Almighty
had lent you his own avenging angels for the work. These men are but
human, and unwilling to stake their lives day after day for no
advantage they can see; they look for some reward, some personal gain,
for the constant danger they run. You think that the sacred cause of
justice should be as dear to them as it is to you; perhaps it should,
but for a fact it is not. And if you expect of these men to understand
your way of thinking, you should, in your turn, try to enter into their
views, less elevated though they be."

But, in truth, neither party could comprehend the other; and with a
great number of the men the good-will even was wanting. Their wonderful
success, and the fame attending it, had intoxicated them at first; but
the novelty wore off, and they began to resent their hetman's folly
which forbade plundering and expected them to do the work merely for
the benefit of others. It was unheard-of severity, and most unjust,
they considered. Among the Huzuls, too, a spirit of discontent was
abroad. These wild, lawless men had joined the avenger because they
hated the authorities, together with the Polish landlords and the
thriving inhabitants of the plains, feeling attracted, moreover,
by the prospect of plenty of fighting. It was not reward or booty they
craved; but, unused to obedience or self-restraint of any kind, they
writhed under the consciousness of being mere instruments of another
man's will. They wished to have a voice in the matter before being
ordered to this or that work, and did not see by what right they
should be interfered with if at any time they preferred to please
themselves after their own fashion. But there was yet another and an
equally-numerous set of discontented ones, whose spokesman was the
whilom choir leader, Sophron Hlinkowski--men of honest and respectable
antecedents, who had gathered to Taras's standard either for pure love
of his cause, or had been driven to it by cruel oppression.

But the scenes of bloodshed almost daily enacted, and in which they
must take their part, filled them with horror and disgust. They
trembled at the thought of what punishment they incurred at the hands,
even, of earthly law, and they feared the judgment of God. Hitherto,
though with a sore conscience, they had obeyed every behest of their
leader, whom at first they so fondly adored; but their helpless regret,
ending in despair, looked upon Taras now in the light of a cut-throat
who forced them on to every fresh deed of iniquity. That his own soul
suffered and bled more than theirs they never suspected; for the
iron-willed man, worn and wan though he looked, never once quailed
before his terrible purpose. They had come to look upon him as the
destroyer, not only of their earthly, but even of their eternal hopes,
and they were the first of his followers to unburden their minds.

The band had been on a raid as far as the river Sereth, and was
returning in forced rides under cover of the night, taking their rest
during the day in their various hiding-places, and once more was
encamped now by the Crystal Springs.

But before the first day was out Taras reassembled his men, announcing
that they must be ready to start at sundown for Ispas, and thence to
the southern Bukowina, because several Roumanian communities had sent
him their grievous complaints.

The information was received with a growl of disapproval, and a voice
was heard, "What, already, before we are half rested?" Another
following it up with a plain "We refuse!" While yet another added, "We
sha'n't move a step, unless we see what we shall gain by it!" But these
cries were half smothered in the swelling surf of a general discontent.

Taras's friends pressed round him--those few in number who in life or
death would be true to him--Nashko, the faithful Jemilian and his
fellow-servant Sefko, the youths Wassilj and Lazarko, and several
others. They had caught up their muskets in real alarm, prepared to
stand by him to the end; and to judge from the increasing uproar,
violence indeed seemed imminent. The mutinous band pressed closer and
closer to the captain.

But he stood motionless, with eyes bent on the ground, and his face
wore the expression of stern, unflinching resolve, which had grown
habitual with him. "Speak to them," whispered Jemilian, hoarsely.
"Speak, or you are lost!" But he shook his head. Presently, however, he
drew himself up, fixing a penetrating glance upon the foremost of the
heaving crowd, and such was the power of his eye that they fell back
cowed and confounded.

He lifted his hand. "Silence!" he cried, continuing, with a voice not
over loud, but wonderfully impressive, "If you have aught to say, or to
ask of me, here I am! But I will not brook disorder! Who is to be
spokesman for the rest? Let him step forth."

There was but a low murmuring now, like rumbling thunder, ceasing
gradually as the men fell to debating more quietly among themselves.
The Huzuls gathered round the Royal Eagle, urging him evidently to
inform the hetman of their wishes. Others again, the worst of the lot,
pressed round a herculean fellow of the name of Iwon Pistak, who had
been in the service of one of the victims of Taras's judgments, and had
joined the band but recently. A third body in the background was seen
clustering round Sophron, the former choir-leader; and while the others
kept muttering with wrathful or threatening faces, these latter seemed
to cling together for mutual support, requiring no words in their
trouble.

An expression of disappointment, deep and bitter, passed over Taras's
features. He had refused to believe what Nashko and Jemilian had told
him concerning the splitting up of the band into factions--he could see
it now distinctly for himself. Alas! how far matters must have gone
already, how often the men must have consulted among themselves, and
how fully their minds must have been made up, if at this moment of
excitement the division could take place thus easily and naturally.

"Who is to be spokesman?" he repeated, expecting Iwon Pistak to step
forth with an insolent demand. But he was mistaken--this man of might
shrugged his shoulders, refusing the honour. Taras could hear him say
with a loud whisper, "You see, he is sure to shoot down the first that
dares tell him. Of course he will then be shot in his turn; still I
decline to be that first one!"

Taras was on the point of yielding to his indignation, when his
attention was diverted from that miserable wretch; for suddenly there
stood before him, pale and trembling, one of those from whom he
scarcely would have expected the spirit of resistance--it was the late
choir-leader, Sophron.

"You may kill us, hetman," he cried passionately, "but we shall not
again follow you: we will never again lift hand at your bidding. We
cannot bear it any longer, to spill the blood of men who are unable to
resist us. We fear the judgment of God!"

Taras was not utterly unprepared for this terrible accusation,
Jemilian, more than once, having reported to him remarks he had
overheard among the men. Sophron's words, at the same time, struck to
his heart; and he who had not quailed when all the band seemed ready to
turn upon him now leant on his musket, for he trembled, and his voice
quivered as he made answer, "God is with those who love justice! This
is, and has been, my stand-by; I require none other, and it ought to
hold good for you."

"Then how do you know that that which is just in your sight is just
also in the sight of God?" cried Sophron ... "Tell me," he continued
excitedly, taking hold of the hetman's hand, "speak, Taras, and prove
it, that God has shown you His will better and plainer than to others.
Prove it, and show us that you have a right to judge men in His
name--that the power you claim is given you by Him above!"

An ugly peal of laughter burst from Iwon and his party, but the Royal
Eagle indignantly ordered them to hold their peace. Taras looked
fixedly before him.

"Tell us!" Sophron repeated.

"What I have to say, you have known from the beginning," Taras made
answer at length, but his voice was hollow. "I claim no power beyond
that which every honest man is called to in this unhappy land, where
right is not otherwise to be found."

"This is nonsense!" cried Sophron wildly, "I have suffered greater
wrong than you. I have lost all, my property, my wife, my child, I have
myself been imprisoned, and with no earthly show of justice. Yes, I
have been wronged, cruelly, and so have you--I will admit it--and many
another, no doubt! But for all that, can you prove that there is
nothing left for honest men but to turn murderers themselves? What
would become of mankind, I ask you--what of this country, if every man
who has suffered innocently felt called upon to do as you have done?...
Taras, you have misled us--you are grievously mistaken. And as for us,
our latter ruin is likely to be worse that our former! Say, what answer
shall we make to the Judge above, when He inquires of us, saying: 'What
hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto Me from
the ground!'"

"Listen to him! that comes of having been a choir leader!" cried Iwon,
with a sneer. But again the Huzul chief silenced him peremptorily.

"What is it you want?" said Taras, hoarsely.

"We want to leave you!" cried Sophron. "Let us go--we cannot bear it
any longer.... We will try to live honestly and peacefully again; we
will go away from this country which we have defiled with so much
blood-shedding--far, far away. We will try to expiate the great wrong
we have committed. And if our deep sorrow avails not, if the Almighty
cannot again turn His face upon us, and we must fall into the hands of
earthly judges, be it so, we have deserved it."

"You are at liberty to go," said Taras.

And wild excitement filled the air. The men of Sophron's party seemed
beside themselves with the sudden prospect of quitting their present
mode of life. "Would that we had spoken sooner!" they, kept crying.

"Any one is at liberty," repeated Taras; "let all those whose
conscience forbids them to continue with me, lift up their right hand."
Some forty men gave the required token; and, as Taras could see at a
glance, he was losing the most trustworthy of his followers--not
counting his own few personal adherents.

He heaved a sigh. "Step aside to yonder fir-tree," he said, "I will
settle with you presently; you shall have your share of the common
property. But I must arrange with these others first," He drew himself
up proudly, and his eyes shot fire. "Now for you, Iwon Pistak!" he
cried.

The giant hung back, but his fellows pushed him forward. "Why should I
bear the brunt of it," he muttered; but gathering courage, he
continued: "Well, you know our meaning, hetman, and I daresay you find
it natural; for after all, why should we go and help those fellows in
the Bukowina, utter strangers to us? and don't you think we owe
something to ourselves? Supposing now, we did your bidding, we might
find the manor garrisoned and soldiers in the cottages, some of their
bullets might hit, and we lose life or limb--that is looking at the
worst side. But at best--well, we kill the landlord or his steward, men
who never have done us any harm, we help these wretched Bukowinians to
get their money back, and then we return on our steps poor as church
mice, even as we went. Is that fair, we ask? You call yourself an
avenger, and we grant you are just, but in justice to ourselves you
ought to allow us something for our pains, now, oughtn't you? Where
would be the harm if you allowed us to go shares with the peasants in
any money found, for after all it is our doing if they get any at all!
And moreover, Taras, we do think it is ridiculous to expect of us
fighting-men to live like a parcel of monks! We want to enjoy life,
we----"

"That will do," interrupted Taras, "and what if I deny your requests?"

"In that case, Taras," declared the giant, with a foolish grin, "you
couldn't be offended if we gave you the slip; we might carry on a
warfare against rich wrong-doers on our own account, mightn't we?"

"That will do!" and Taras turned to the fellows of this man. "Whoever
of you is of his way of thinking, let him signify it by lifting up his
right hand." In a moment some fifty hands went up in the air. Taras
would not have believed it possible, but he looked neither surprised
nor mortified. "Very well," he said, "take your place by this rock, you
shall have your due."

He stepped up to Julko. "And what about you?" he said, "do you also
want to leave me?"

"It is not for me alone to decide," replied the Royal Eagle, gloomily,
"else we should have left weeks ago. It is neither your fault nor ours!
But the Huzuls have ever been free--we are not a submissive race. Of
course we should always obey the hetman of our choosing, but I also
must say that men who are willing to be hajdamaks do not expect to live
like monks. We should, indeed, have given up long ago but for my
father, who would not hear of it. This was his message when I sent him
word of our desire: 'It is not I who commanded you to join Taras's
banner; but neither did I forbid it, for I lay down no law unless I see
absolute need of it; moreover, I consider Taras to be an honest man,
who knows what he is about, and I approve of his warfare. If you think
differently, the question is whether he has ever expected anything of
you beyond that which you knew he would expect when you joined him. If
this is the case you may break with him; but if not, you must stay!'
This is my father's opinion, Taras!"

"And what is yours? Do you think, as he puts it, you ought to leave
me?"

"No; else we should not be here still. But I say this, that we did not
much consider what might be your real meaning when we came to you, or
perhaps we misunderstood you entirely. So what we propose now is this:
Take us back to the Black Water and we will submit the case to my
father in person. He shall hear you and hear us, and we will leave him
time to think it over; if after that he still will have us continue as
your followers, we shall do so, whatever our own feelings may be."

"And if I do not agree to this proposal?"

"Then we leave you this very day," said the Royal Eagle, curtly. "I
will answer for it to my father."

"In that case," said Taras, after a pause, "I must accept your
proposal; you will see for yourself, Julko, that I have no other
choice. If I had began this work for any advantage of my own, or merely
to satisfy private revenge, I should have no need to appeal to you for
your services any longer. For in that case I should turn the pistol
against my own head at once, if I had not done so long ago!... But I
have undertaken to fight for a holy cause, and I must not, I dare not,
give it up till all means have failed me. I could not continue the work
with the handful of faithful followers I have left; I must hope,
therefore, that your father will be on my side. But at the present
moment I have something else to ask of you, and you will do it, for it
is a duty, Julko--the duty of an honest man!"

The Royal Eagle bent closer. "I guess your meaning," he said, under his
breath; "it concerns Iwon and his fellows. You want to pass sentence on
them."

"No, not that; for, evil as their intentions are, they have as yet
committed no crime to be atoned for with their lives. But I must not
permit these men to use their weapons, which have served a holy cause,
for murder and robbery in the future. I will disarm them. Will you help
me?"

"Of course we will!"

Thereupon Taras went over to Sophron and his party, asking their
assistance also, which was readily granted.

But Iwon and his fellows little guessed what was in store for them.
Standing or lying about, they talked noisily of the merry life they now
hoped to lead, when suddenly to the right and to the left ranks were
forming against them. They flew to arms, but it was too late; they saw
themselves surrounded, and a circle of muskets levelled at their heads.

Taras fearlessly went up to them. "Lay down your arms," he commanded.

"Not before I have made a last use of mine," cried Iwon, enraged, and,
snatching up his pistol, he discharged it at Taras.

The bullet missed its mark, striking a tree close beside the captain;
but another bullet proved true to its aim. Lazarko, quick as lightning,
had fired back at the assailant of his beloved master. The giant's hand
went up to his head, he staggered, and fell heavily to the ground.

The sudden death of their ringleader so terrified the mutinous men that
they obeyed helplessly, laying down their arms and entreating Taras to
forgive them this once, and they would do his bidding for ever.

But he shook his head. "I know you now," he said, sternly, "men of your
sort are no fit champions of a holy cause. Go your ways, and seek a
better occupation than you intended. Green Giorgi and the rest of the
hajdamaks have disappeared, for they are afraid of me; should you
make common cause with them they might venture forth from their
hiding-places and once more be the pest of the land. Take warning,
then, for I shall hold you answerable. If any crimes are committed I
shall know that you are the scoundrels whom I shall have to deal with
next. And be very certain I shall find you, if need be."

"We will seek an honest livelihood, indeed we will!" they asserted,
trembling.

"So much the better," he returned, coldly. "I charge you to do as you
promise, lest I should have to make good my word."

Thereupon Jemilian, by his orders, gave to every man who was ready to
go food for three days and his fair share of the common purse, the
disarmed number starting first, abashed and silent. And then the word
was given for a general departure.

"Say a kind word to us before leaving," said Sophron, with honest
entreaty, and all the rest of that party pressed round the captain,
begging him to forgive them. "We are sorry, but we must do it," they
pleaded.

"I know," said Taras: "I bear you no grudge; but you also shall believe
that it is laid upon me to act as I have done. Farewell, and God grant
that we may not meet again!"

"Oh!" cried Sophron, "then you do bear us ill-will?"

"No," said Taras, and his voice was low with inward emotion; "indeed I
wish you well, and that is why I said, God grant that we may not meet
again on the road--that road which is marked out for me. Fare ye well!"

He spurred his horse, and, followed by his own friends and the Huzuls,
he led the way towards the Red Hollow. The night fell, and the stars
looked down upon the deserted camp by the Crystal Springs. Taras never
returned to it.

They reached the Black Water, after four days of desperate riding
through the pathless forest wilds. Their coming was entirely
unexpected; but all the greater was the delight of the tribe at the
return of the clansmen. Taras, too, was received with a hearty welcome.
Those savage natures are not prone to show affection; but having made
friends, they are fast and true. They had received the unhappy man with
real sympathy on his first seeking their alliance. His dauntless
courage struck a kindred chord, not to mention an undercurrent of
_naïve_ gratitude in their minds, as though they were indeed beholden
to him for being such a thorn in the flesh of the powers they hated.
And when the aged Hilarion had clasped hands with Taras, in token of
mutual friendship, the wild shouts of "Urrahah" that filled the air, if
an expression of savage delight, promised faithful adherence as
well....

This being the case, the returning champions were loth to disclose the
real reason of their arrival, and with tacit consent deferred matters
to the following morning, when Julko and Taras together sought the
presence of Hilarion, informing him of the state of affairs calmly and
without bitterness.

The aged man listened quietly, the proud head uplifted, and with
thoughtful, unperturbed brow. At times only his hand, passing with a
quick movement over the silvery expanse of his mighty beard, betrayed
his deep interest in the recital. "It is the old story," he said at
last, after a long pause of silence, when they had finished. "I have
watched the course of this world for eighty years, and it is ever the
same. It is the wicked only who know how to traffic with the hearts of
men, and to do so for their own advantage; but the good man is
unsuspecting, judging others by his own honest nature, and it is sure
to bring him to grief. It is nothing new, Taras, and I am only
surprised that you have no worse tale to tell; for you are good and
honest to the core, and trustful as a child, in spite of the rivers of
blood you have set flowing; and you are as a stranger on the face of
this earth, despite the fearful experience of your life."

"I do not understand you, my father," said Taras, with modest
deference.

"Nor would it avail you if I tried to explain my meaning," replied the
old man, smiling sadly. "You would never understand it, and still less
could you alter your nature.... As for your rupture, I cannot take
sides with either of you; for you are both in the right, each acting
after his nature. This is not a case to be influenced by any man's
opinion."

"Then you do think that our ways henceforth lie apart?" said Julko; "I
and every one of our men thought so."

"It would be the simplest solution, and perhaps the most prudent," said
Hilarion, slowly, "but I do not say it would be the best and most noble
... Let me tell you, Taras, when I first heard of the work you had set
yourself to do, and of the way in which you did it, striving to carry
out justice without fail or wrong, as far as mortal man is able, I said
within myself, 'Thanks be to those up yonder, whatever their names may
be--and if the popes are right in maintaining there is but One, well,
then, thanks be to Him that I have lived to see this day; for truly it
is a shame what oppression the inhabitants of the plain have to suffer,
what wrongs untold, and no champion, no avenger, has ever stood up for
them. But now such a one is given them, in token, as it were, that they
are men still, and not mere cattle born for the yoke.' These were my
thoughts, Taras, and I think so still. But I also knew that your work
could not continue. Not that you had anything to fear from the
Whitecoats, for a man who has the mountain-haunts of the Welyki Lys to
fall back upon, and as many helpers as there are sufferers in the land,
need fear no soldiers. No, the only danger threatening you would come
from your own people, for you judged others by yourself, taking for
granted their willingness to share the burden to which you have bowed
your own shoulders. It could not end well, and to tell the truth it was
a relief to me to see you arrive yesterday, for the news would never
have taken me by surprise that you had fallen a victim to your mutinous
band. Or if they dared not shoot you they might have delivered you up
to the magistrates, gaining thereby their own safety and filthy reward
besides. Yes, these were my fears; and it was chiefly with the hope of
protecting you that I insisted on our men remaining true to your
banner!"

"It may be so," said Taras, gloomily. "A week ago I would have taken my
oath in contradicting you, but now I have not a word to say. But the
question is, What is now to be done?"

"What, indeed?" repeated the old man. "I have thought about it a great
deal, and especially this last night. I could not sleep for anxiety
concerning you, for I love you as though you were a son of mine ... If
prudence alone could guide you, I should invite you to remain with us
and live in peace henceforth as a shepherd and huntsman in the
mountains. I doubt not but that your wife and children would be
released on your word of honour, and you could live happily. But it is
useless talking, for you will listen--you can listen--only to that
inward voice which prompts you to continue this work! So the question
remains how to make it possible. If you raise your standard anywhere
within these mountains your name and fame will attract numbers of men,
there is no doubt about that; and they will be neither better nor worse
than those with whom you have lately parted. How, then, will you
anticipate such danger as you have just escaped?--do you think you
might permit them some enjoyment of life and a share in the booty?

"Never!" cried Taras, passionately. The aged Huzul nodded. "I knew it,"
he said. "It would be wronging your inmost nature, and I could scarcely
advise you to attempt it. For in that case the devil, not you, would be
ruling the band before a month were out. Nothing remains, therefore,
but to govern your men in the future as you did in the past. A band
will gather round you, but what will be the end? You must be prepared
for worse things than these late experiences; you may end any day as I
have hinted. Or do you think I am mistaken?"

"No! But there is no other way."

"There is," rejoined the old man; "I have thought it over, and it seems
to me the one plan to be adopted. You must not collect another band; at
the same time you must carry on your work, which I deem both sacred and
necessary. Do it in this way: Encamp with your faithful adherents in
our vicinity, and wait and see what complaints reach you here. If any
wrong requires you to redress it, I shall order this son of mine and as
many of our men as you may ask for, to place themselves at your
disposal. From the moment of their going forth with you, and until they
return, your word shall be their law, but at other times they shall be
free to live within the mountains as they are wont. That will suit all
parties: you will not be short of men when you require them for any
work that may be before you; the sufferers in the lowlands will not be
crying in vain for their avenger, and my own people need not forego the
pleasure of having a hand in punishing the Polish nobles, the
Whitecoats, and all those that would lord it over us by means of the
law, whom they hate cordially. This is what I offer to you:
straightforward and honest alliance; will you accept it?"

"I am grateful to you," said Taras, "but it concerns a matter far
dearer to me than life. I pray you, therefore, let me consider it, and
hear my answer to-morrow."

Taras gathered his friends about him, and informed them of the
proposal. Opinions differed.

"This will be no lasting alliance, dear master," said Jemilian,
anxiously. "We know the Huzuls! We grant that they are honest and
brave, and if for the rest of it they are dissolute rascals, that is no
business of ours; but we also know that they have a devilish temper of
their own, and are ready to pick quarrels out of nothing."

"Well, if we know that, they cannot take us unawares," suggested
Nashko. "We shall have to treat them accordingly, and if the alliance
does come to grief sooner or later, we shall be no worse off than we
are now. It seems to me there is no reason why we should not accept the
offer as matters now stand."

Taras himself inclined to this opinion, and the result was that on the
following day the alliance between him and Hilarion was solemnly
ratified in accordance with the ancient usage of the tribe, a usage
found to this day among Mongolian races. They filled two goblets with
mare's milk, and each of the two about to pledge his friendship mixed a
drop of his blood with the cup he was holding; thereupon they exchanged
the vessels, and turning their faces sunward, they rested their left
hands upon their heads, while drinking each of the other's life blood.

About a week passed quietly. Taras repeatedly went to commune with
Hilarion, and the old man in his turn visited him in his little camp in
the Dembronia Forest. But their people had no intercourse with each
other. No news arrived from the lowlands, and no prayer for redress.
The peasants believed the band to have dispersed, and the avenger to be
either dead or somehow silenced.

But there was a poor mother far away in a village of the Bukowina who
refused to believe that the man was dead, or no longer to be found, of
whom alone she could hope that he would be the saviour of her unhappy
child. Her neighbours laughed at her for setting out to seek him in the
mountains; but she went and found him after a five days' anxious
search. And the story she had to tell was so heartrending, that both
Taras and Hilarion decided on the spot that her prayer must be granted,
although the undertaking was fraught with more than usual danger, and
even the bravest of the brave might well shrink back.

The victim in this case was a Ruthen maiden of rarest beauty, Tatiana
Bodenko by name, who, in the district gaol of Czernowitz, was awaiting
the Emperor's decision concerning the sentence of death which had been
passed on her, following upon the verdict found by the local jury in
fulfilment of their duty. That fair-haired, gentle creature, with the
eyes of a fawn, had indeed committed murder; but it was one of those
pitiful cases which the law must condemn, while the heart's sympathy
will plead for the culprit.

Tatiana, who had only just reached her eighteenth year, was the eldest
daughter of a poor gamekeeper, and had grown up amid all the hardships
of poverty. The mother often was ailing, and the father absent on duty,
so that at an early age the responsibility of rearing the younger
children upon the humblest of means devolved on her. It was indeed a
wonder that the flower of her beauty unfolded in spite of such nipping
cares; but she fought hunger bravely and kept out the cold. There is a
saying among her people that if God sees reason to punish a mother He
gives beauty to the daughter, and that lightning loves to descend on
the tallest trees. Poor Tatiana also had to learn that a girl's beauty
may be her ruin. She was modest and sweet as a violet, but she could
not help being seen; and all eyes that beheld her seemed spell-bound.
But silent worship not being a virtue much known in those parts, she
had much ado in keeping at a distance her rude admirers, and would
often sigh at the thought that, with all her other burdens, she should
have the special trouble of such beauty as well. But the day also was
given her when she found that it was not altogether amiss to be lovely;
she had made the acquaintance of a young peasant at a neighbouring
village, and came to be grateful for her sweet face, since thereby she
had gained his love. The young man was honest and fairly well off, her
parents gave their blessing gladly, and that saying need never have
come true as far as Tatiana was concerned had not an evil hour brought
Mr. Eugene de Kotinski, the owner of the forest, to her father's
cottage.

He was not a fast man of the worst type, and his morals hitherto had
escaped the world's censure, but no sooner had he seen the girl than he
was seized with a frenzied passion for her. Day after day he returned,
like a moth to the candle, trying to win her with the most dazzling
promises, and these failing, with cruel threats. Her prayers and tears
availed not, and she withdrew into the silence of contempt. Suddenly
his visits ceased; he had left the neighbourhood, hoping to master his
folly. But the promptings of his nature, perhaps of his heart even,
were too strong for such honest intentions; he returned to ask the
keeper for the hand of his daughter. It was an unheard-of resolve for a
man of his standing, making the gossips gape with wonder for miles
around; but still more startling was the further news that Tatiana had
rejected her noble suitor. She did not care to be his wife, and neither
her mother's entreaty nor her father's abuse could move her; she
remained true to her humble lover. But passion fed on rebuff, and the
maddened nobleman now sought to gain his end by a baseness which many
another of his kind, no doubt, would have had recourse to much sooner.
He exerted his influence, and the young peasant was levied as a recruit
and carried off into a distant province. But this villainous trick
brought him not a step further, the girl repulsing him more firmly
still, whereupon he played his last card, discharging the keeper and
evicting him and his family from their humble cottage, though it was in
the depth of winter and the poor wife sick and suffering.

But if Tatiana was the cause of all this trouble, she also was the
unconscious means of help. A forest ranger in the neighbourhood,
pitying the poor girl, took her father into his service, appointing him
even to a better post than the one he had quitted. This man was a
German of the name of Huber, of known respectability, and a widower
beyond the heyday of life. But he succumbed nevertheless, offering the
girl his honest love, and was more fortunate than the nobleman had
been. Tatiana agreed to wean her heart from the young peasant, separated
from her by cruel interference, and to secure a home and bread for her
family by marrying the kind-hearted ranger. Her father's sudden illness
only strengthened her resolve; he could die in peace, for the widow and
orphans would thus be cared for. The wedding was postponed for the
usual time of mourning, and this delay left room for evil slander. The
ranger was informed that his wife that was to be had allowed herself to
be visited secretly by Kotinski's valet. Of such baseness had that
man's revenge been capable! And he must have paid his servant
handsomely, for the wretch added oath upon oath when Huber interrogated
him concerning the truth of the report. Calumny carried the day. He
broke with the girl, and once more Tatiana, with her mother and the
little ones, were homeless. Again pity held out a helping hand, a
well-to-do widow in their own village receiving them into her house.
But even here they were not safe from Kotinski's low-minded vengeance.
That charitable widow was fined for giving shelter to a girl of bad
character. When Tatiana heard this she took hold of the one possession
they had left, her father's musket, and waylaying Kotinski as he rode
about his property, she killed him by a shot through the heart; and
going to the nearest magistrate she gave herself up on the spot.

The case against her was so plain that sentence could be passed almost
immediately; according to the law, she had forfeited her young life and
must atone for her deed on the gallows. When asked whether she had
anything to say for herself, she made answer quietly: "You will not
deny, sirs, that he deserved to die; and since my father is dead, and
my eldest brother but nine years old, I had to do it myself." But in
spite of this open confession, the jury unanimously agreed that the
verdict should be accompanied by a strong recommendation to mercy. She
was told of it, but all she said was: "Mere life is nothing to me. I
suppose the Emperor would not let me go back to work for my mother and
the children; so I do not care whether I die now, or some years hence
in prison." And her whole bearing showed that she spoke as she felt.
She returned to her cell, awaiting the imperial decision without a
shade of disquietude. She considered she had done her duty--an evil
duty, to be sure--and must take the consequences. Her fortitude was not
the outcome of heroism, but simply that submissive yielding to the
inevitable which is so strong a characteristic of Slavonic races; but
in a case like this, and surrounded with the halo of so tragic a fate,
it reflects the lustre of the higher virtue.

But while the girl thus awaited her fate calmly, Taras was coming to
avert it. The hill country between the rivers Czeremosz, Pruth, and
Sereth was almost bare of troops, and he knew the neighbourhood
sufficiently; nevertheless this enterprise was the most daring of his
ventures. There was the General with his concentrated forces not far to
the left of him, and he was moving towards a city of some ten thousand
inhabitants--not to mention its garrison, the strength of which he had
not been able to learn. True, he had sent on Nashko and the Royal Eagle
to procure information and to reconnoitre the situation of the prison;
but these spies of his could scarcely rejoin him before he, at the head
of his band, would have arrived in the vicinity of the town; and the
least suspicion of their approach would bring almost certain failure,
for the General could effectively cut off their retreat. No precaution,
therefore, was omitted to avert discovery. They carried food for
themselves and provender for their horses, in order to obviate
intercourse with the peasantry. They rode by night only, and in small
detachments, taking their rest and hiding in lonely places from the
early dawn till late in the evening. They avoided villages--and
solitary homesteads even--choosing the rocky woodland paths as much as
possible, where the horses' hoofs left no traces behind them. Still, a
hundred horsemen could not traverse the country as quietly as mice;
and, apart from all this, everything depended on whether the attack
could be carried out successfully within the space of an hour: if there
were anything like a fight, the band was lost. Most of Taras's feats
hitherto had been ventures for life or death; but the chances of utter
failure never seemed more certain than this time. The Huzuls hardly
realised it, or if they did, their great temerity despised the danger;
but all the deeper was Taras's sense of responsibility.

With the first streak of dawn on the fourth day they reached that
uninhabited forest region, rent with numberless ravines, between the
village of Dracinetz and the Swabian settlement of Rosch, which forms
the western suburb of Czernowitz. In the midst of this wild waste rises
broadly and grandly the Cecina mountain, the brow of which, in times
gone by, bore the ramparts and bastions of a considerable stronghold.
In one of the hollows on the western slope, between rocks and
brushwood, the band was halting; to this spot the spies had been
ordered to return. They arrived in the course of the day, but their
news was even less hopeful than Taras had anticipated. The prison
itself was favourably situated in the outskirts of the city, but within
a stone's throw of barracks containing some five hundred soldiers.

But Taras nevertheless resolved to venture, and the attack was not only
successful, but was achieved without the loss even of a single life.
The enterprise, which bordered on the impossible, was carried
victoriously through by a series of happy chances.

A storm had broken at sunset, the rain descending in torrents for hours
through the night. Under cover of this tempest the band succeeded in
gaining the level between the gaol and the Catholic cemetery, without
letting the sentry in the barracks close by, or any one else, become
aware of their arrival. Taras dismounted with about half his men,
cautiously advancing to the entrance of the prison. The sentinel, most
fortunately, had retired from the pelting rain, and was comfortably
asleep, well wrapped up in his overcoat. He was gagged and pinioned
before he had half opened his drowsy eyes.

And now Taras rang the bell, but there was no sound in response--the
wind only howled and the rain splashed wildly. After the bell had been
rung a second time, approaching footsteps were heard and keys rattled,
a sleepy voice growling, "What is it at this time of night?"
"Government inspection!" returned Taras, peremptorily. At which the
gates flew open, revealing an old turnkey with a lantern in his hand.
He staggered back horrified.

"Lead the way to Tatiana Bodenko," said Taras, lifting his pistol. "You
are a dead man if you raise the alarm; but you have nothing to fear if
you show me to her cell. I am the avenger, and you may trust my word."

The man grew livid, but did as he was told, tremblingly unlocking the
cell of the condemned maiden. Taras took hold of the lantern and
entered, leaving the warder to his men. Tatiana was fast asleep, her
rest being as peaceful as though she had sought it in her father's
cottage, the sweet earnings of toil. A gleam of light fell on her face,
and a tall man, grey-haired and wan, was bending over her. She woke
with a start, and gave a little scream, but he laid his hand on her
mouth, saying, "Rise; I am the avenger. I have come to take you back to
your mother; it is she who has sent me. Be quick!"

He turned away, and she rose as in a dream; but her limbs shook and she
was scarcely able to put on her clothes. Taras knew that not a moment
was to be lost; divesting himself of his "bunda," he wrapped it about
her and lifting the quivering figure in his strong arms, he carried her
away through the night and the rain, followed by his men, to where the
others were waiting. He placed her upon a horse, tying her fast in the
saddle and joining the bridle to that of his own steed. And the band
dashed away quick as lightning through the storm-tossed night.

But success was scarcely yet complete. Unless the authorities at
Czernowitz had utterly lost their heads they would send a courier to
inform the General of what had happened; and if the latter moved
forward to the banks of the Czeremosz, quite at his leisure, he could
cut off the band's retreat to the mountains. Taras was fully aware of
this and resolved to make a dash for it straight across country, taxing
his men and horses to their utmost. And it was well he did so, for on
the evening of the second day he fell in with the vanguard of the
approaching troops, a handful of hussars. But these, not strong enough
to venture upon an attack, turned tail after having exchanged some
shots with the bandits. Only one of their bullets hit, wounding one of
Taras's truest helpers, and his own inmost heart as well; his oldest,
most faithful companion, Jemilian, fell bleeding by his side. They
lifted him up, taking him away with them back to the mountains. The old
man's iron nature fought for life, but Taras knew that the sore parting
was at hand....

Words utterly fail to describe the excitement which filled the land
when that night's exploit became known. The consternation was all the
greater because men had clung to the belief that Taras's day was over
and no further attack need be feared. It had been asserted he had laid
hands on himself in despair; others declaring his band had mutinied and
that he had fled for his life to Hungary. But here he was, bold as
ever, daring unheard-of things, and heading a swarm of outlaws which
the terrified hussars who had fallen in with them estimated at five
hundred at least.

Helplessly the authorities met at the Board, couriers flying from
Czernowitz to Colomea, and thence to Lemberg, and away to Vienna. The
poor district governor, who had begun to breathe more freely, hung his
head again in utter dismay. "Would to God," he cried bitterly, "our
superiors at Lemberg had turned their venom against this Taras, instead
of spluttering it over us. But as for those at Vienna----" he heaved a
sigh and sat mute. The poor old man was so deeply troubled that even
his favourite resort of growling began to fail him.

But "those at Vienna," meanwhile, did not quite deserve his disgust.
Before a week was over he could once more call the Board to inform them
that a special writ had arrived from the Provincial Governor, and his
eyes shone with a curious moisture. "Gentlemen," he said, "after all it
was not in vain that we stood up for what is fair and right. Our
superiors at Lemberg have just informed me that by express orders from
Vienna Anusia Barabola and her children are to be set at liberty at
once, and that, considering the very special circumstances of the case,
she is to be indemnified for any loss she may have suffered through
having been detained here. This is fine, I say! But, on the other
hand," he added, with a queer smile, "we seem to be told that, in part
at least, our views are open to amendment. Listen to this," and he read
as follows:--"'It appears to be thought highly desirable at Vienna that
an effort should be made to bring Taras to his senses by personal
remonstrance, it being left to the district authorities to name fit
persons for this office. These, in company with the outlaw's wife if
possible, are to repair to Taras's camp, and to inform him that the
Imperial Government, having learned that he, formerly a well-behaved
and even exemplary subject, had been driven to his desperate crimes by
an alleged wrong done to his parish in the matter of a law-suit against
the lord of the manor concerning a field of theirs--that Government, as
in duty bound to rectify any miscarriage of justice, had ordered a
careful revision of the judicial records referring to that suit; and
although there seemed nothing irregular in the judgment of the local
court, yet nevertheless it appeared that certain pleas might be urged
in Taras's favour, for which reason it was deemed well to annul that
judgment by an act of imperial prerogative, and to order the case to be
tried over again; that the district governor was instructed to repeat
the process of collecting evidence, and especially to inquire into the
possibility of perjury in the former trial--these matters to be taken
in hand with all possible speed; and Taras to be given to understand
that the case was to be re-tried for the sake of justice itself, and
not with the mere idea of pacifying him. At the same time he shall be
informed of this decision, in the hope that it may enable him to see
his way all the more plainly to turn from his present evil life, and by
an unconditional surrender to make amends to the law he has so
grievously wronged. And though it would not be just to hold out
positive impunity to him and his accomplices, he is to be assured that
his and their lives shall in that case be spared. The district governor
is herewith requested to take note of these instructions, and to act
accordingly.'"

Herr von Bauer looked up from his paper, and, allowing the excitement
of the Board to subside, he added presently, "And now, gentlemen, who
is to be sent--to Taras, I mean; for I shall myself repair to Zulawce
to re-examine the witnesses."

"If I might be allowed to suggest," said Wroblewski, the secretary,
looking wicked, "surely we could find no better delegates than our
friend Kapronski, who sooner or later will have to show his face here,
and the amiable hero of all this business himself, Mr. Wenceslas Hajek,
who, I am told, intends this very week to enter the blessed estate of
matrimony."

"None of your chaff," broke in the governor, "we are not gathered here
for joking; moreover, I want to be off to inform the poor woman of her
liberty. I'll see her myself! So, to come to business, suppose we
appoint Dr. Starkowski, who not only knows Taras, but always had a good
word for him. And I should say he could not have a better companion
than the parish-priest of Zulawce, Father Leo Woronczuk. Let these two
go and come to an understanding with Taras."

The Board unanimously agreed to this proposal, and the governor was
soon free to repair to the city gaol, his heart brimming with the good
news for Anusia.



                              CHAPTER XIX.

                      FOR THE RIGHT--IN THE WRONG.


It was a lovely morning, fair and still, with the glow of autumn upon
the mountains. More golden seemed the light and bluer the heavens than
summer had known them. Though but early as yet in September, the high
peaks of the Czernahora were white with the first sparkling snow; but
the air was mellow in the valley, and there being no foliage which by
its turning colour might have told of the waning year, but only firs
and pines of sombre green, there was nothing to remind one of nature's
gentle decay, save the peculiar clearness of the atmosphere, and at
times a whirring sound high overhead--the first flights of birds going
South. A deep silence lay brooding over the wild splendour of the
valley; not a sign of life anywhere. The Czeremosz even, ever restless
and rushing as described in song, had grown calm with the hot days of
summer, and was flowing quite steadily along.

A strange shrill call suddenly rent the air. Any one who had never
heard it would naturally have looked up to see whether a hawk or falcon
might be discerned in the shining blue; but the sound was followed by
others, falling on the ear more gently, now at intervals, now in
succession, a monotonous mournful melody, rising and sinking, and
ebbing away through the stilly landscape. And even the unaccustomed
listener would have found out by this time that it was some shepherd's
pipe sending its voice through the valley. But ere long, the sorrowful
strain was broken into by that same shrill call, only it now came from
a different direction, another pipe silencing the first one, as it
were, and carrying on its dolorous song; which again in its turn was
taken up by another, more distant, starting with that peculiar note,
and continuing the strain. Thus the plaintive melody went sobbing along
from pasture to pasture, and those that heard it crossed themselves,
murmuring a prayer, and then hastened to their homestead to put on
suitable attire, that they might assist in burying the dead. For such
is the way within the mountains: if a man dies in any of the valleys
the event is made known by a blast of the horn--the death-horn they
call it--and its voice is hollow and dismal, as befits the first
outburst of mourning; and later on the subdued dirge of the shepherd's
pipe invites the neighbours to render the last kindly tribute to him
who is gone.

It was from the largest settlement that the call had come, and the
far-off listeners had been seized with apprehension, lest the
death-horn should announce the passing away of the patriarch of the
valley, Hilarion the Just; but by the time the pipes were heard it was
known that it was for the burial of a stranger only, who in a sheltering
homestead of Clan Rosenko had breathed his last. Old Jemilian was gone.

For more than a week he had lain wrestling with death, fighting his
last battle bravely, with manly courage and resignation. Hilarion, not
merely the ruler and guide of his people, but their adviser in sickness
as well, had vainly endeavoured to succour the sinking life with
healing herbs, and to tend the wound with practised skill. In vain,
too, had been the almost passionate care of the maiden Tatiana, who
watched by the sick man day and night. The poor girl, feeling shy at
first, and disconsolate among strangers, had been glad of the
opportunity of showing her gratitude to the hetman by soothing the
sick-bed of his servant and friend.

Jemilian himself was almost impatient of so much solicitude. "I know
that I am going to die," he kept repeating; "and it is well. One duty
only I have yet to perform, and the good God will give me the needful
strength before I go."

What this one thing might be which yet bound him to life he was in no
hurry to disclose, not even to Taras, whose devotion and loving care
for the wounded man were only equalled by Tatiana's. Once only, when
the hetman had to leave him for a couple of days at the call of duty,
the well-kept secret seemed about to be told. For Taras had learned
that Green Giorgi, reinforced by several of his own late followers, had
dared to resume his predatory life, and he at once resolved to bring
those scoundrels to justice, Jemilian himself urging him not to delay.
And when the fearless band was mounted, and Taras once more returned to
the sick-bed to take leave of his friend, the wounded man suddenly grew
restless, looking doubtfully at the girl. Tatiana understood, and left
the two by themselves. "Dear master," said Jemilian; "you may be absent
for several days, and I may be gone when you return; yet I must not die
without telling you one thing!"

"I shall find you alive, and, please God, getting better," said Taras,
cheeringly. "But if it is any comfort to you----"

The old man shook his head. "No," he said, falteringly; "I think I will
wait till death tightens its hold; for if, after all, I should recover
by some miracle it were terrible ... terrible ... to have told you! No!
go your way, dear master, and God bless you.... I will wait!"

And as Taras rode along at the head of his followers he kept thinking
of these strange words; but explanation there seemed none, and his
attention presently was otherwise engaged. The enterprise was
successful as usual, if not fully, for Green Giorgi himself was not
among the hajdamaks he waylaid and caught, and Taras had to be
satisfied with punishing his accomplices. The two most guilty he
ordered to be shot, while the rest were disarmed and shorn of their
hair.

Returning to the settlement, he found his faithful old servant alive
still, but his last hour evidently at hand. But not yet did he refer to
his secret, and Taras cared not to inquire. Not till the last sands
were running through did the old man open his lips. It was near
midnight; he had been lying still with closed lids, but, suddenly
endeavouring to raise himself, he gazed anxiously at the pale,
beautiful girl who sat by his side. "Tatiana," he whispered; "for God's
sake, where is my master? Call him--I am going!"

She hastened away, and in another minute Taras was by the side of the
dying man, taking hold of his hand tenderly. And Jemilian having
satisfied himself that they were alone, began with laboured breath:--

"I have to make a confession to you, and to ask a promise. Hear me--a
dying man cannot use many words. Do you know what, after all, will be
your end?"

Taras kept silence, a stony look stealing over his face.

"The gallows!" whispered the old man, and shuddered. "It is an evil
death, Taras--a horror to yourself and a lasting disgrace for your
children! And therefore I have been resolved fully and firmly to save
you from such a death, my poor, dear, dear master! I have sworn to
myself, if ever we should fall into their hands, and there were no hope
of escape, to shoot you myself with these hands of mine."

"Jemilian!"

"Do not hate me; for never man loved you more truly than I did when
binding myself with that oath. You know what it would have cost me to
do the deed! But you are the noblest soul, the best and most lovable
man that ever lived, and such a one shall not be tortured to death on
the gallows...."

Taras, quite unable to speak, had fallen on his knees by the side of
the bed, and was hiding his face in the rough bearskin which covered
the limbs of the dying man.

Jemilian continued: "The Almighty is calling me hence, and I am not
able to show you that love! But I cannot die in peace without
endeavouring to save you from so horrible a death, for your own sake
and for the sake of your little ones whom I have helped you to rear.
Promise me, therefore, Taras--I entreat you promise me--that you will
do yourself what I had intended."

"I cannot," groaned the unhappy man.

"Why not? Poor, dear master! Ah! I know how you dread the
gallows!--not the dying, but the rope! The mere thought of it fills you
with horror and loathing unspeakable. I know it, for who knows you
better than I do? For this and no other reason you have granted the
bullet to even the blackest rascal we ever brought to his doom. And to
yourself you refuse it--why should you?"

"Because it were cowardly and a sin against God!"

"Nay, surely the Almighty will judge your soul with the same justice
and mercy whether you appear before His judgment-seat a month sooner or
later. I cannot doubt that!... And cowardly? I do not understand
you...."

"Yes, cowardly!" cried Taras, passionately, and rising to his feet. "It
is my appointed lot to be a guardian of the Right, and to strive to
carry out the will of God concerning it, as far as may be possible to
mortal man. I must not, I dare not renounce that sacred duty. If ever I
fall into their hands I shall hope and endeavour to make good my
escape, and continue fulfilling the duty which is laid upon me. Yes! in
the very sight of the gallows I shall cling to the hope that the Judge
above will set me free, though it be by a miracle, to carry on His
work."

The dying man was silent; he fell back on his bed and closed his eyes.
Taras bent over him. And once again those faithful eyes opened on him
fully, and the old servant whispered, scarcely audibly: "Farewell, dear
master, and may God in His mercy be with you in death." A deep breath,
and Jemilian was gone.

They laid him out in the morning after their way in the mountains, with
a crucifix at his head, but with a jug of water at his right hand,
bread and salt at his left, and the skin of a newly-killed kid at his
feet, "for the other gods." And after that they buried him beneath a
mighty fir-tree in the Dembronia Forest. No priest prayed over the
dead, the aged Hilarion only whispered his ancient spells handed down
from generation to generation, believed in by all, and understood by
none. They filled up the grave, discharging their muskets over it, and
finally cut a cross into the bark of the tree, not forgetting some
mysterious signs by the side of it "for the other gods."

Then they returned to the settlement to partake of the funeral meal.
But as they entered the enclosure Taras perceived a youth standing by
the hedge, at the sight of whom he gave a stifled cry.

It was young Halko, the farm-servant, who, with glistening eyes, now
burst upon his master and kissed his hand. "Thanks be to God," he
cried, struggling with tears, "we shall all be happy again! The
mistress and the children have been set free! They are waiting to see
you at the hamlet of Magura, at the lower end of the valley."

"My horse!" cried Taras, turning to his men. "And why have they not
come all the way?"

"Because of the two gentlemen. It was they who refused to come further,
lest you might think they wished to discover your encampment--our
little Father Leo, I mean, and that old lawyer of Colomea who was your
counsel in the suit."

"And what have they come for?"

"To bring you good news, master--really. The men of Zulawce are to have
their field back, and the wrong is to be righted."

Taras grew white and then crimson, and again the glow yielded to a
deadly pallor. But he asked no farther question, and, mounting his
horse, he raced down the valley at a pace which left Halko fax behind
him.

The meeting between husband and wife was deeply affecting. Taras flew
towards her without giving a glance at the men, and Anusia, with a wild
cry, buried her face on his shoulder. And they stood clasping each
other speechless, only their tears kept flowing. At length Taras freed
himself from her arms, and turned to his children, little Tereska
beginning to cry with fear when that strange-looking grey-haired man
caught her up, kissing her wildly; the little girl did not recognise
her father, nor did the younger boy. Wassilj only clung to him sobbing,
"Oh, father dear, you look so ill--so ill!"

Taras made no answer, he took the boy on his knee, fondling him and
closing his month with kisses when he would have spoken. It was as
though he feared human words might destroy the blessedness of this
meeting. And almost anxiously he avoided the eye of either the pope or
the lawyer; still less could he have offered them greeting. He kept
lifting, now this child to his knee, now that, pressing them to his
heart closely; and drawing his wife down beside him, he passed his hand
tenderly over her grief-worn face. "Do not speak," he whispered, and
she nodded, hiding her head in his bosom, to weep her sorrows away.

Father Leo and Dr. Starkowski had withdrawn modestly, watching that
most touching scene from a distance only. "There is every hope of his
yielding," whispered the lawyer. "God grant that it be so," returned
the priest, less confident, evidently.

Half-an-hour might have passed, when Taras roused himself, once more
clasping his wife and kissing the children with a passionate fervour,
as though separation once more were at hand. And now he went up to the
men, expressing his pleasure at seeing them, but his voice trembled as
with apprehension, "What is it you have to tell me?" he inquired.

"We are sent hither by order of the Government," said Starkowski,
producing a written document and explaining its contents. It was a
paper drawn up by the district governor, instructing the present
bearers, and containing, in full, the resolutions come to in Vienna.
"To-morrow," concluded the lawyer, "the governor himself will repair to
Zulawce to re-examine the witnesses in person. And, since he is fully
determined to get at the bottom of the matter, there is no doubt but
that the contested field will be adjudged to the parish, and that the
perjured witnesses, together with the scoundrel who led them on, will
meet with their fullest deserts. And this is resolved upon, as you
understand from this communication, for the sake of justice itself, and
quite irrespective of what decision you may arrive at concerning
yourself. But we ask you, whether there be any just reason left why you
should refuse submission to the Emperor, the guardian of justice in
this realm."

Taras drew one deep breath after another, but answer there was none.

"Husband!" cried Anusia, wildly, "tell them you are satisfied."

"Do not press him," interposed Father Leo. "Let us consider the matter
calmly.... Taras," he continued, "I do not want to urge upon you the
claims of ordinary wisdom, which might well prevail with you, in order
to preserve your life, not only from ignominious death, but for your
children's sake and their future welfare; for I know that no such
consideration has influenced your actions hitherto and that you follow
the voice of your conscience only; but this I will ask of you--does
your conscience permit you to continue striving in your own might, and
with fearful means, to bring about a result which will be attained
peaceably by the faithful endeavour of those who are called to this
duty?"

"This is the very point," said Taras, slowly. "I do not know that these
endeavours are faithful! Look back on all this sad experience. Grievous
crimes have been perpetrated at Zolawce--robbery and perjury. I
appealed to the law, considering no personal sacrifice too great to
obtain relief; but every effort proved vain. The robber was left to
enjoy the benefit of his deed, and the perjurers could mock honest men!
Three years nearly have passed since this happened, and the matter was
not likely ever to be taken up again. Now you tell me that the men of
the law nave suddenly remembered their duty. Why so? What is the reason
that, all of a sudden, they feel called upon to try the case over
again?--why are they willing to do so? Because these months past they
have stood in terror of me, and I have left them no peace!... I ask
you, doctor, as an honest man--would the case ever have come to be
tried over again if I had followed your advice, and lived down my
disappointment as a peaceable subject on my farm?"

"Yes, possibly," returned the lawyer. "I mean it is just as likely that
some other chance had made it advisable----"

"That will do!" interrupted Taras. "By your own showing, then, it was a
mere matter of chance, and you were brought to seek for the right in
the present instance only because of my forcing you on to it through
dire warfare. But for this, I repeat, you would not have lifted a
finger to right the wrong! This is an evil state of things, and must
not continue, for it opposes the beautiful will of God. The case does
but lend force, then, to my belief that a judge and avenger is
grievously needed in this country. This, however, is not the only, not
even the chief, thing I must strive to rectify. I found greater wrongs
left unpunished elsewhere; and, knowing that the men of Zulawce would
not miss their opportunity of getting back their field for themselves,
there was no need for me to see to it. I soon perceived there were
other evil-doers in the land, not greater scoundrels, perhaps, than
Hajek, but with greater scope for wrong; and therefore I judged well to
punish and remove them first, and to bring him to his doom when I can
do so without too great an effort or loss of life. But to come to those
other cases, or to take one only as an example--who, I ask you, would
ever have thought of ridding the people of Kossowince from that vilest
of oppressors if I had not done it? And how, then, can I be sure that
such things shall not happen again--not once, but in scores of cases?
Can you pledge yourselves that such wrongs shall never again be
possible? Will you yourselves be the surety that in future no man shall
be oppressed in this country, or his cry for redress die away unheard?"

"This is more than we can promise," said the lawyer; "but----"

"It needs no further word! I maintain that a judge and avenger
was required in this country, and will still be required; and
therefore----"

"Taras!" cried Anusia, with a shriek of despair, and clutching his arm,
"forbear! Speak not lightly; it concerns our deepest welfare--it is a
question of life or death!"

Once more the pope interfered. "Hear me, Taras," he said, speaking with
a forced calm; "I do not condemn your answer so far, for it is no more
than must be expected from your nature and your way of thinking, such
as I have known them these years. And as a tree could not change the
colour of its leaves at any man's bidding, you also could not have
spoken differently, for your words are the outcome of your very being.
But I should have to condemn you if you were to disregard that which I
will point out to you now, and which no doubt has escaped you hitherto.
Listen to me! You are grievously mistaken if you imagine that the law
in itself is to blame, or that the Emperor wishes his judges to close
an eye when poor peasants are ill-used by rich and powerful oppressors.
The law is all right, and those that are appointed to dispense it are
required to take a solemn oath that in all cases they will be just and
impartial. And again, you are mistaken if you think that our
magistrates sometimes pass an unjust verdict wilfully." Taras broke in
with a passionate exclamation, but the pope stopped him. "I know what
you are going to say," he cried; "you want to remind me that your wife
and your children were arrested. I shall come to that presently. Let me
urge upon you that, taking all in all, the intentions of the
magistrates are good, and the laws are good. Just call to mind your
experience as a whole, and tell me, speaking honestly, as before the
face of Almighty God, Is it the just or the unjust verdicts which are
the exception?"

"I have considered this point often," said Taras, quietly; "it is true
that I have heard of far more just than unjust sentences. But what of
it, what _can_ it prove?"

"Just this," rejoined Father Leo, warmly, "that an occasional
miscarriage of justice is not to be explained by imputing it to the
ill-will of magistrates. What else, then, is to blame? you inquire. I
remind you that for one thing there is that unfortunate survival of
feudal times, whereby the lord of the manor is vested with judicial
authority over the peasantry on his lands; this is fully acknowledged
to be an evil, not only by you and me, but by Government as well. But
it cannot be done away with all of a sudden, nor by violent means, for
the landlords exercise their jurisdiction in virtue of Imperial grants
acquired by purchase in times long gone by. It is this deplorable state
of things which is to blame chiefly, if oppression and injustice go
more easily unpunished in this country than elsewhere. But do not
imagine, Taras, that we are the only people who ever suffer wrong; nay,
that beautiful ladder which has appeared to you in happy vision is not
anywhere on earth so firmly planted, so utterly to be relied on, as you
dreamed. For the guardianship of Justice in this world is not given to
God's angels, but to poor sinful men like you and me. God alone is
all-knowing, all-wise, and all-just, and it is man's inheritance to
judge of things not as they are, but rather as they appear. I do not
deny that there may be unjust judges here and there; yet it is not this
fact which is to blame for the continuance of wrong upon earth, but the
imperfection of human nature. For everything human falls short of its
highest aim, and perfect justice is with God alone; if, therefore, you
are bent on continuing your warfare, it will not be against the Emperor
and his magistrates, nor against the wrong upon earth, but against
human nature and human failings."

Taras had bent his eyes on the ground thoughtfully; but after a pause
of silence he shook his head. "I have followed you," he said, "and I
grant the truth of your points. But of one thing, the most important of
all, you cannot convince me. I will never believe that a man endowed
with good sense, provided he is honest, could pass an unjust sentence
as it were against himself. And therefore I must continue in my sacred
undertaking, for it is nothing to the point _why_ any wrong goes
unpunished--whether the human weakness, or stupidity, or the ill-will
of the magistrates be at fault. It is enough for me that the wrong is
there and requires to be rooted out."

"This is sheer infatuation!" cried Father Leo. "And have you ever
considered which is the greater wrong, either as regards your fellows
or the will of God--whether some peasant is taxed with more labour than
he owes, or whether you fill all the land with horror and bloodshed?
Nay, has not a harvest of wrong sprung from your very work? Have we not
heard of villages rising against their lords, refusing their just
claims, and threatening their lives? Have you forgotten what happened
at Hankowce? and what at Zulawce? Does not the blood of many a
soldier--nay, of your own men--cry for vengeance unto God?"

"I am not afraid to be answerable for this," responded Taras, "for the
Right is more to be valued than any man's life. Both my conscience and
my reason tell me that, for the world itself is founded on justice."

"The world founded on justice!" reiterated the pope, hotly. "And how do
you know, then, that your judgment is always just? Are not you a man
like others, and liable to err?"

"I follow conscience, and rely on the grace of God, which will be with
him who seeks what is right. You know my deeds; do you accuse me of any
injustice?"

"What of that poor man Hohenau!"

"He was one of those magistrates who used the power entrusted to them
for a deed of violence, for fear of earthly punishment."

"Taras," cried the pope, with a vain attempt to speak calmly, "there is
no excuse for you, or rather your only excuse is this, that you did not
know the true state of things----"

"I knew all about it," rejoined Taras. "I was aware that the Board of
Colomea had prayed to be dismissed the service rather than be obliged
to do this deed. But what of it? You will tell me that their request
was refused by their superiors, and that their oath required them to
stay at their post and obey the higher authority. But I tell you no
oath binds a man to iniquity--and therefore the judgment I carried out
was a just one!"

Starkowski interposed: "It is quite useless to reason with you on these
points, or to expect you to retract anything of the past. But tell me,
what of the future? Do you really consider yourself infallible? Do you
imagine that you alone will never be in danger of passing sentence
unjustly? This is awful presumption!"

"No," said Taras, solemnly; "it is an assurance resting on the grace of
God. He sees and probes my heart. He knows that I have undertaken this
warfare for His sake alone, and He will not let me fall so grievously.
But even apart from this, I do think that an honest, right-minded, and
judicious man will always be able to distinguish right from wrong."

"Then you really believe that an unjust sentence on your part is
utterly impossible? Well, let this pass; but supposing the hour ever
came that would convince you that you also, in striving after justice,
had done wrong--what then?"

"It were the most fearful hour of my life," said Taras, hoarsely; "and
I do not speak lightly!... I have never considered what in that case I
should have to do, but it is quite plain. If God ever suffers me to
commit the wrong, then I shall acknowledge that He never was with me,
that the blessed ladder joining earth to heaven is a dream, and I shall
no longer call myself an avenger, but an evildoer who has deserved
every punishment he has ever inflicted on others. If ever such terrible
conviction does come to me, be very sure I shall give myself up to you
on the spot. Till then, I have nothing to do with you. Take back this
message to those that sent you."

Deep silence followed.

"Is this your final decision?" These words fell on the stillness
with stifled sobs. It was Anusia--white as death, bending forward,
hollow-eyed and shaking in every limb--who now faced her husband.

The two men were dismayed, and even Taras staggered. "Anusia," he
began, "you know----"

"Nothing else; just this one answer!" She looked straight into his
eyes, and continued with that same ghastly voice: "But let me tell you
first what is at stake.... Hitherto I have clung to this one
conviction, that all your deeds were done in obedience to the dictates
of your conscience; and because I have known you as a man more noble
and more just than your neighbours, I would not permit myself to doubt
for one moment that you continued noble and acted justly even where I
could not see it. I took it upon myself to be both father and mother to
our children, to rule the farm in your absence--the loss to my heart I
could not make good. But in my sorest hours I strove to encourage
myself. 'Hold up thy head proudly,' a voice within me kept crying, 'for
thou art wife to one who is not like common men! Thou hast loved him
for it, and prided thyself on it, bear thou the deep sorrow which comes
because of it. He never was like other men; he cannot be now. He has
set his great heart on winning back that field for his people, for it
is theirs by right, and since he was foiled when he sought to gain his
end by lawful means he is now trying what force will do. Since justice
is on his side, he will succeed in the end, and will come back to you,
and happiness once more will return.' This was my one hope through it
all, and I believed in its fulfilment and fed upon the longed-for
blessing. When the governor came to tell me what message had been
received from Vienna, ah! then indeed, my heart beat with the rapture
of its gratitude! I learned at the same time, however, that they could
not let you go unpunished, and that you might very likely have to atone
for your deeds with a long imprisonment; but even this my love and
pride were ready to bear. 'He will not be a whit less great and noble,'
I said to myself, 'and prison cannot degrade him! And far better to
know him in prison, and making up for these months, than to think of
him continuing this fearful life.' For, Taras, no human tongue can tell
what it means to be the avenger's wife! God knows, and I do!... And
will you now crown it all--will you heap up a burden of grief and shame
beneath which I and the children must break down entirely?"

"Anusia!"

"Be silent, and listen! I have borne the utmost; now let me speak. I
say this, that unless you return, now that the wrong is about to be
made good, and the field given back to its rightful owners, you will
cease to be believed in as noble and good, not only by me, but by all
upright and sensible men; you will no longer be a champion of the
oppressed and an avenger for conscience' sake, but a mere common
assassin, a bloodthirsty----"

"Anusia, wife, for God's sake----"

"Do not call me wife! I will not acknowledge an assassin as my husband,
nor let the children call him father. Now tell me--are you willing to
follow these gentlemen or not?"

"I cannot!"

"Then go your ways ... but in your dying hour you shall call me in
vain ... I will not----"

She could not finish the terrible sentence, breaking down, not in
unconsciousness, but overpowered with the boundless passion of her
resentment....

The unhappy man hid his face in his hands, and then slowly, with a
faltering step, but not again lifting his eye to her he was leaving, he
returned to his horse, and, mounting it with evident effort, he rode
swiftly away towards the Black Water, nor once looked behind him.



                              CHAPTER XX.

                           THE BANNER SOILED.


The following day the district governor arrived at Zulawce. He had been
careful to let the villagers have full assurance beforehand that he was
coming with truly peaceful intentions, but he considered it prudent,
nevertheless, to provide himself with a considerable escort of hussars,
since besides sifting the evidence concerning the field, there was that
republic to be overthrown, and a new mandatar to be introduced. For
Count George Borecki had succeeded at last in finding a man who
expressed himself willing to unravel the complication left by Wenceslas
Hajek, this man of enterprise fortunately being an old acquaintance of
the villagers, Mr. Severin Gonta; and there was some hope of his
succeeding, for he was thoroughly acquainted with local affairs and
enjoyed the good will of the peasantry besides. But Herr von Bauer was
not so certain that hostility was entirely out of the question, and
apart from the consciousness of doing his duty in a matter of justice;
he very gladly relied on the sharp sabres of his body-guard as well.

But his apprehensions happily proved unfounded. On his reaching the
wooden bridge leading over the Pruth, the whole parish, to be sure, was
there awaiting him, but peacefully inclined, thanks to Simeon Pomenki,
who had addressed the republicans on the previous evening to this
effect: "There now, you see, we get all we ever could ask for--the
field which is ours, our own old mandatar, who is no fiend, and
exemption from punishment for what is passed. If we are not satisfied
with this, but insist on carrying on the conflict, we had better apply
for admission into the madhouse at once. But I am no fool, and prefer
the chances offered me of continuing on my farm." This harangue did not
miss its aim, and Simeon was able to receive the district governor in
the name of the community respectfully.

Herr von Bauer was ready to be conciliated, and replied with his
customary bluntness: "It is a satisfaction to see you, rascals though
you are; but you are poor wretches after all, and have had to suffer
for the life you have led us, so we'll forget all about it and be
friends again. As for you, old Simeon, I'll not even inquire into your
private feelings as King of Zulawce. You'll hand me over that crown
now, and if ever you men here are going to play the fools again, send
us word first, and we'll say be hanged to all the parish. So that is
settled; and in the meantime we shall expect better things of you."

After which impressive statement old Gonta addressed the peasantry on
behalf of the Count, and if he was less outspoken, his kindliness was
quite as apparent, winning over the villagers entirely when he assured
them in conclusion that he was prepared himself to plead their rights
concerning that field, and that he felt sure of Count George's
readiness to withdraw any claims that might have been urged in his
name, without waiting to see what decision the authorities might form.

In these circumstances it was easy for the district governor to arrive
at the truth concerning the field, though he experienced some
difficulty in eliciting a confession from the perjured witnesses. The
experienced magistrate perceived well enough--and was ready to make
allowance for it--that these persons would think it hard to be excluded
from the general pardon; but he went through with his duty bravely,
assuring them that, although the instigators could expect little mercy,
those who had been led on by them might hope to be treated leniently,
if a point of the law could possibly be stretched in their favour. And
he succeeded at last in making out several cases in which the mandatar,
either personally or by means of his under-steward, Boleslaw, had
corrupted the witnesses and led them on to perjury. He had the true
charity not to inquire more closely than was absolutely necessary, and
allowed the crest-fallen sinners to return to their homes, the judge
going bail on their behalf.

His object accomplished, he returned to Zablotow, where Dr. Starkowski
and Father Leo were to await him with the results of their mission. He
was fully prepared to hear of their failure, and not surprised,
therefore, at their tale.

"We shall have to proceed now against the misguided man," he said,
quietly. "Let him do his worst. We can breathe more freely now than we
could before, for our own conscience is at ease! To be sure, all we can
do for the present is to protect the lowlands against him as best we
can; an expedition to the Black Water, in the hope of catching him,
would be sheer madness, for the whole of the Carpathians would rise in
an uproar. I know those Huzuls! But he will be brought to book somehow.
It is well he believes that God is with those who seek what is
right--he will find it so sooner or later!"

September verged upon October, and though almost daily expected, no
farther violence transpired, the reason being that no complaints had
reached Taras which appeared to him worthy of redress. But before the
month was out he received information which roused him to action. A
certain nobleman, Baron Stephen Zukowski, of Borsowka, in the district
of Czortkow, was accused to him by Karol Wygoda, the piper, who had
continued with Taras, and in whom the latter rested full confidence.
"Your work is but half done, hetman," the man exclaimed, "while that
fiend is allowed to suck the very blood from the people of Borsowka!"
and he enumerated a whole string of iniquities to be brought home to
that nobleman.

Taras was indignant. "We will put an end to his doings!" he cried. "But
how do you come to know of them?"

"I knew the wretch long ago; for though my own home is miles away from
that village, I was in service there in my younger days, and could see
for myself--indeed, his unblushing crimes were done in the light of
day. Not a head of cattle was safe from his cupidity, and not a girl
from his wickedness--but these are old tales, it is well nigh twenty
years ago, and I believed the old sinner had gone to his account long
since. But he is alive still, and carrying on his evil doings, as I
learned yesterday, quite accidentally. You had given me leave, as you
know, to join the merrymaking at Zabie and pick up a few coppers with
my bagpipe. I met an old fiddler there who had just come from Borsowka.
Ah, hetman, the iniquity done in that place keeps crying to heaven--it
is worse than any we ever heard of elsewhere! 'Why don't the injured
people call upon Taras to help them?' I inquired of the fiddler.
'Indeed,' he said, 'it is strange they do not think of it, but the
horrors of their existence are enough to kill even hope in their
hearts.' So the fiddler said, and I can well believe it; at the same
time, I agree it is well to be careful. And I propose that you should
send me to Borsowka to make inquiry. I know some folk there whom I can
trust, and they will tell me the truth no doubt. I feel I must do this
for conscience' sake, and out of compassion for those villagers among
whom I lived."

"This is good of you," said Taras. "Go, and the Almighty speed you. It
is a solace to my soul that some few honest men will cleave to me,
knowing the sacredness of our common duty."

These words rose from the depth of his heart! and indeed, he needed
some comfort--something to cling to--lest he should break down and
fail. He had informed his men on returning from the hamlet of Magura
what answer he had given to the messengers of the Board; but what a
wrench it had been to his dearest affections, and the sore cost of his
final parting from wife and child, they never learned from his lips.

As compared with this deepest sorrow, no other trouble befalling the
unhappy man might be thought to affect him, yet his burden seemed to be
added to daily; and in spite of the honest desire to avoid all
contention, in spite of the real friendship Hilarion entertained for
him, there were constant bickerings between his own followers and the
clansmen. It was Nashko especially, who, on account of his faith,
appeared to be a convenient butt for the mockery of the Huzuls. Now
Taras could not allow this to continue, if only for this reason: the
Jew had acquitted himself splendidly, fully justifying the confidence
reported in him, and would, in any future enterprise, naturally have to
retain his position of a leader; so the Huzuls must be taught to
respect him, and Taras begged Hilarion to explain to his people that a
man should not be derided for worshipping the Almighty in one way and
not in another.

The patriarch fixed his eyes on the ground, keeping a long silence, as
was his wont before answering, and when he began to speak he appeared
to have forgotten the matter in hand. "Taras," he said, "have you ever
ridden an ox?" and receiving a rather surprised "No" in return, he
said, with a half smile, "Well, neither have I, and I don't know that
any one else ever did. But why not? Might there not be found an animal
among the species, well-grown and nimble enough to serve as a mount? In
fact, I should say it is quite possible. At the same time, neither you
nor I ever thought of trying it. And why? simply because, for a fact,
God who made the ox, did not intend it for a steed, and because every
man who used an ox for such a purpose against its nature would look a
fine fool on its back. You will allow that?"

"I daresay, but I don't admit the simile; a Jew is as good a man as you
or I."

"Certainly," said Hilarion. "The ox and the horse are equally useful,
only in different ways; and a Jew is as good a man as ourselves, but
differently endowed. Say what you like, but a Jew is ill-fitted for the
bearing of arms, or to lead men in warfare; they are considered to be
cowardly and servile, and no doubt are so."

"Nashko is a brave man, and has acquitted himself like a hero."

"I am sure he has," rejoined the old man, "but I maintain we do not
ride an ox, even though we should know of one exceptionally well fitted
to carry us. And we do not do so for the one reason that oxen as a rule
are not considered to be first-rate steeds. And if a man insists on
making the experiment, though it should turn out to his own
satisfaction, he must not quarrel with his neighbours for laughing at
him, nor scold his horses if they toss their heads at the queer
creature he is stabling along with them. No, Taras," he added more
seriously, "it is never satisfactory to fight established opinion, and
you seem determined to run that head of yours right through the
thickest walls; and not content with overthrowing injustice wherever
you see it, you would actually have the world make friends with the
Jews. Taras, have you considered that sometimes it is not the walls
which go to pieces, but----"

"The head may dash out its brains against them, I know that," said
Taras, quietly, "and it does not deter me for one moment. I entreat you
to lay it upon your people not to sin against the laws of hospitality
with regard to Nashko. He who offends him offends me."

"I am sorry for that," replied Hilarion, "but I cannot help it. He who
receives hospitality must consider the ways of his hosts."

So the conversation served not to heal the jar, as Taras had hoped, but
rather widened it, and the Huzuls annoyed Nashko even more than before.
Taras was grievously disappointed, and resolved to avoid further
altercation, but something happened which forced him against his will
to appeal a second time to the patriarch's sense of justice. It
concerned Tatiana.

The poor maiden once more had reason to bewail her bewitching beauty.
Hilarion had offered her the shelter of his house, and she had
gratefully accepted it, endeavouring to repay her benefactors by
faithful service. She could not have lived many days among the tribe to
whom her strange fate had brought her without perceiving that their
moral sense was of the bluntest; but she endeavoured to keep out of
harm's way by attending to her work, and to nothing else. The impudent
youths, moreover, soon discovered that the youngest son of the house,
the Royal Eagle, was not inclined to have her molested; and, indeed, he
interfered with any intended liberty of theirs so effectually, that
they dared not offer it, for even the boldest of them could ill stand
his ground against that young hero. The girl was glad of his
protection, her natural light-heartedness returning, till one day, when
gone a-milking to a distant pasture, she grew aware, to her intense
dismay, that Julko had defended her for no very lofty motive. She broke
away from her ungenerous admirer, and like a hunted deer fled to
Taras's camp, falling on her knees before him with the bitter cry: "If
you cannot save me from shame, it had been better for me to die on the
gallows!"

Taras endeavoured to calm her, and was going to set out immediately for
Hilarion's dwelling. But Nashko laid hold of his arm, excitedly. The
Jew, who had kept his composure so admirably through all the petty
insults offered to himself, was shaking with rage, and his eyes flashed
fire.

"Do not humble yourself in vain!" he cried. "You are going to ask these
men for manly generosity--_these_ men, Taras! Why, they will never even
understand your meaning; and if they did they are too savage, too low,
to grant it!"

"You smart at the recollection of their insults," said Taras; "but this
is unjust."

"I do not!" cried the Jew, passionately.

"What is it, then, that moves you like this?"

Nashko grew white, and again the crimson glow flushed his clear-cut
face. "Go," he murmured, "and judge for yourself."

Taras went, and was hardly able to believe his ears, for Hilarion's
reply was of the shortest and driest. "There is no help for it," he
said.

"What?" cried Taras, utterly amazed. "Do you mean to say that we have
saved the girl from her ignominious fate only to hand her over as a
plaything to that son of yours? For shame!"

"Moderate your feelings," returned the aged man, quietly. "If the Royal
Eagle has cast his eye on a maiden, and would have her, she has every
reason to be proud of it."

"In honourable wedlock, then?"

"Oh dear, no! he is promised in marriage to the only granddaughter of
my cousin Stanko, on the other side of the Czernahora, and she will be
his wife as soon as she attains her sixteenth year. Stanko and myself
arranged this more than ten years ago, for she is his heiress and must
marry into the family."

"Then I was right in concluding that he desires the girl for his
pleasure merely?"

"Yes, certainly; and why should he not? she is fair enough to behold.
Why on earth do you look as if he meant to eat her? You cannot expect
him to consider her more unattainable than any of our own girls. I give
you leave to ask any Huzul maiden you please whether she would not feel
honoured by his attentions."

"That is nothing to me," cried Taras. "Tatiana considers it shame, and
I call it vilest disgrace! I entreat you to hold her safe from your
son."

"I cannot interfere; I said so before," said the old man; "and there
would be little use endeavouring. If the maiden indeed is so coy as you
tell me, I can only advise her to leave the settlement."

Furiously indignant, Taras went back to the camp. Karol Wygoda had
returned in his absence, bringing with him two peasants from Borsowka.
But Taras waved them aside; he was going to consult with Nashko first,
who rushed out to meet him anxiously.

"You were right," said Taras, grinding his teeth, "and I know not where
we can hope to protect her."

"But I do," cried the Jew, eagerly. "She dare not leave the mountains,
because prison still awaits her in the lowlands; but we must place her
where Julko's power is not acknowledged. I have thought it might be
best to take her to Zabie; I have acquaintances there, an old Jewish
innkeeper and his wife, who I doubt not will give her shelter. They
have no children of their own, and I know they can be trusted. I
mentioned the girl's sad history there the other day, and the good wife
shed tears, assuring me she would love to show kindness to one in such
trouble."

"But if Julko should follow me thither?" interposed the girl,
anxiously.

"Even if he should, he will not dare to use violence," said the Jew.
"But I do not think him capable of that. He is not a scoundrel, but
only a lawless youth whose nature at times is too strong for him,
and who never learned to keep it under. Moreover, it is true Huzul
fashion--out of sight, out of mind. You will be safe there, I think."

"Let us hope so," said Taras, deciding for this plan; "for, indeed, we
have no other choice. Make ready, poor girl, to ride with us!"

And turning to Karol now, he required his report.

"Captain, it is just fearful!" asserted this man, "If that priest at
Kossowince was a fiend, this baron is one double-dyed." And therewith
he proceeded to give instances of his atrocious cruelty and oppression.

"Have the people appealed to the law?" inquired Taras.

"Indeed, they have; but he is not only the greatest scoundrel, but the
vilest liar under the sun. He has given the lie to every accusation,
and the magistrates have believed the nobleman rather than the poor,
ignorant peasants. Ah! captain, you should have seen their grateful
tears when I told them I was one of your men, and that you had sent me.
They are waiting and hoping for you now, as for their only saviour; but
hear their own messengers."

And his companions came nearer--a poorly-clad elderly man of dignified
bearing, who introduced himself as Harassim Perko, the judge of
Borsowka, and a younger peasant wearing a fine sheepskin. He called
himself Wassilj Bertulak, and his voice was husky, as with suppressed
tears, in giving his tale of woe; indeed, he could hardly speak.

"Our people have sent me because the monster's most recent crime has
laid low the pride of my life. Ah! my poor daughter!" and he turned
away, overcome with sobs. But all the more minute was the judge's
account, and it did not require his final entreaty to confirm Taras's
resolve that he must start on the spot for Borsowka.

The assistance of the Huzuls was not needed in the present instance,
for although Taras's men numbered less than a score now, they would
suffice for overpowering the baron, who, with a few old servants, lived
in the quiet manor house of Borsowka. Taras therefore returned to
Hilarion only to take his leave.

"The Almighty speed you," said Hilarion. "Let us part friends. You are
a welcome guest here whenever you please to return, and the flower of
the clan is ever at your service. I have partaken of your blood and you
of mine; this is a tie which can never be severed. Remember it always."

"I shall remember it," said Taras, bending over the old man's hand.

He mounted with his men, and the little troop followed the Czeremosz
till they reached Zabie. There he handed over Tatiana to the old Jewish
couple, requiring their solemn assurance that they would watch over her
as though she were a child of their own, and after the fashion of their
race they gave the promise with many oaths. This settled, the band
dashed away towards the plain, the two men of Borsowka in their midst.

Early on the fourth day, riding under cover of the night only, they
reached the chalky cliffs on the left bank of the Dniester. There they
rested for the last time, being within a few miles of the quiet manor
house they were about to enter. Late in the afternoon a pale faced
girl, looking troubled and shy, appeared in the glen where they halted.
Wassilj Bertulak going to meet her, greeted her with a father's
affection, and taking her by the hand brought her to Taras. "My poor
girl," he said, "she has come to see the scoundrel meet with his
reward."

"Oh! no! no!" cried the girl, alarmed.

"Yes, yes, it is necessary," urged the father, "for he might deny it
all."

Taras looked compassionately at the troubled girl. "Stay with us," he
said, tenderly. "Poor child! I daresay it is a sore effort to you to
tell of your grievous sorrow in the presence of so many strange men.
But let the thought comfort you that you do it in order to save others
from similar harm."

And then he made his disposition for the night. The manor house was in
a lonely place, inhabited only by the baron, his old body-servant,
Stephen, and Peter, the coachman; the steward and the rest of the men
sleeping in the farm-buildings near the village. Resistance, therefore,
need not be expected, and Taras satisfied himself with appointing
Nashko and the greater part of his men to guard the grounds, whilst he,
with the others, would bring the accused nobleman to his doom.

About eleven they started, reaching the modest building soon after
midnight. The outer door was not even locked. "No doubt that coachman
has attractions in the village," whispered the judge, who was of
Taras's party. But when they entered the basement, in order to make
sure of Stephen, that conjecture proved to be erroneous. They found but
one man, the coachman, who started aghast and prayed for his life
pitifully. "I am no assassin," said Taras, and inquired about Stephen.
"His dying sister sent for him this morning," stammered the terrified
Peter; "and the baron gave him leave to go."

Taras thereupon ordered Sefko to guard the man; he, with the others,
mounting the stairs. The baron seemed to have been roused, for a door
opened, a streak of light appearing, a voice weak with age calling out,
"Peter, what is the matter?"

"We have come to tell you," the strong voice of Taras made answer. "I
am the avenger."

There was a cry in response, and a sound as of breaking glass; sudden
darkness enveloped the scene, for the lamp had fallen from the
trembling hands. But power to attempt an escape seemed wanting. And
when Taras, torch in hand, reached the upper landing, he found the aged
nobleman leaning against his open bedroom door, simply petrified with
dismay.

Lazarko, at a sign of the captain's, pushed him back into the room. It
was a spacious chamber, but poorly furnished, and serving evidently as
a library besides, for the walls all round were covered with
bookshelves, and a large table in the middle was littered with volumes
and papers. The whole aspect of the room seemed to deny that it was
inhabited by a man of low pursuits. And so did the baron's own
appearance. Taras looked at him surprised, for the man he had come to
judge was bowed with age, and of a venerable countenance. But for a
moment only he hesitated, his inflexible sternness returning. He knew
that appearances were deceptive: did not that monster at Kossowince
gaze at him like an angel of light?

"I have come to judge you," said Taras, austerely. "You have wronged
your peasants with unheard-of oppression."

"I?" groaned the poor old man, sinking into a chair. "By the blessed
Lord and His saints, some one must have lied to you!"

"Do not call upon the holy names!" returned Taras, with lowering brow.
"I am prepared to hear you deny the charge, but witnesses are at hand.
Is it true, or not, that you have acted like a tyrant by your people,
robbing and wronging them fearfully?"

"I call God to witness that this is false!" cried Zukowski, solemnly,
lifting his hand. "Ask the judge, he will tell you; his name his
Harassim Perko, and his is the first house this side of the village. He
can be here within an hour if you send for him."

"He is nearer than you suppose," said Taras, turning to the door; and
the elder of his two guides entered. "Here he is," continued Taras, "do
you call upon him as a witness?"

"This is not the judge of Borsowka," exclaimed the baron, and rose to
his feet. "Why this is Dimitri Buliga, an old good-for-nothing whom no
one respects here, and he left the village some time ago."

These words were spoken with such a show of simple truth and honest
indignation that Taras looked at the peasant doubtfully. But the man
never winced; answering the charge with a smile almost. "I must say,
Baron, this beats all we ever knew of you as a liar! It is natural that
you should seek for a loop-hole, but I suppose I know that I am I! This
is preposterous ... After this it will seem useless, hetman, to ask
this wretch another question. Let that man of yours speak for my
identity whom you sent to us, he knows me--that is one comfort."

And Karol Wygoda cried out: "Yes, hetman, certainly, I have known him
these twenty years; his name his Harassim Perko, and he is the judge of
this village."

"It is false," groaned the baron, and, stepping closer, he looked into
Wygoda's face. "You also seem known to me ... Yes, I remember--your
Christian, name is Karol, and you were in my service as a farm labourer
years ago. I remember you because you are the only man I ever had to
hand over to the law."

Karol listened with an unperturbed air, looking at the baron with an
amused sort of wonder, as one might examine a natural curiosity; and,
turning to the hetman, he said: "There now, this is as fine a proof as
we could expect of this man's capacity of wronging a poor fellow. I
daresay he may remember having seen me since I lived in the village;
but I never set foot on his property, and still less did I give him any
chance of handing me over to the law, as he says."

"Have you no fear of God, man?" broke in the baron. "I----"

"Stop," said Taras; "answer me one more question. Do you think that
your own servants are likely to betray you, or tell a lie in order to
have you killed?"

"God forbid!" exclaimed the baron, eagerly. "Honest old Stephen, I
fear, cannot have returned, but my coachman sleeps in the house, and he
can tell you that this man is not Harassim, the judge."

"Have him in," ordered Taras, and the coachman appeared; his hands had
been tied on his back, he was pale as death, and shook from head to
foot.

"You have nothing to fear," said Taras; "we only want you to tell the
truth; but woe to you if you prevaricate. Who is this man?"

"Harassim Perko, the judge," stammered the fellow.

"Peter!" cried the baron, "you have lost your senses. Why, you know the
judge as well as I do."

"This is sufficient," said Taras. "Be silent now, till I require you to
speak. Say, judge, has this man taken unlawful possession of part of
the common field?"

"He has," replied the man, adding a minute statement.

"What have you to say to this, Baron?" inquired Taras, of the nobleman,
when the accuser had finished.

"It is false," reiterated Zukowski--"a whole web of falsehood. I have
told you that this man is not the judge, but that good-for-nothing
Dimitri. If you, indeed, are bent on justice, Taras, I pray you send to
the village for the real judge. Do not soil your hands with innocent
blood."

"It is you that are bent on lying," said Taras, scornfully. "Other
scoundrels have endeavoured to deceive me, and to stay me in the
performance of my sacred duty; but a man of such brazen face I have
never yet set eyes upon. It is a pity that you seem willing to die as
you have lived.... But we have yet other witnesses--bring them in."

The peasant Wassilj entered, followed by the reluctant girl; her father
had almost to drag her in.

"Do you know these two?" said Taras.

"The man is a stranger to me," replied the baron, unhesitatingly; "I
have never set eyes on him. But that girl was in my house this morning,
with a message from my poor Stephen's dying sister, entreating him to
come.... Taras!" he added, excitedly; "now I see all this wretched
plot. They have made up this tale of the dying sister to decoy my good
old Stephen away, who would rather have died than betray me, and I
suppose they have bribed my coachman. They are deceiving you, so that
you should order me to be murdered!"

"This is cleverly put together," said Taras, coldly, "it is lamentable,
indeed, that, gifted as you seem to be, you did not make better use of
your life; it might have saved you from this hour. Answer me, Marinia,
as in the presence of God Almighty. Is it true that you were in this
house this morning for the first time in your life?"

"No!" she faltered.

"But you were here three weeks ago when this wretch wronged you?"

"Yes!"

"How dare you!" cried the baron, with flashing eyes. "Oh, God! how
should I--look at my grey hairs, man!"

"Silence!" returned Taras. "What have you to say, Peter--does this girl
speak the truth?"

"She does--old Stephen told me."

"The Lord have mercy on me!" groaned the doomed man. "Taras, have pity
on my age. I have but little money in the house, but what there is,
take it all--only spare me!"

"I am not a robber, but an instrument of God's justice," replied Taras,
solemnly. "It is very evident that you have deserved death amply. If
you would recommend your soul to the Judge above, I will give you ten
minutes."

"Spare me, for mercy's sake! Call any of the peasants, there is not a
man in the village but would stand by me."

"We have had sufficient witness. Say your prayers."

"Assassin!" cried the aged baron, and with the strength of despair he
flew at Taras. But a bullet from Lazarko's pistol laid him dead at
their feet.

The girl shrieked and fainted, her father carrying her from the room.
The others remained till they had found the cash-box. It contained, as
the baron had said, but a moderate sum.

Taras avoided touching the money. "Take it," he said to the judge, "and
divide it justly among those that have suffered most."

Before the day broke the manor house of Borsowka lay wrapped in silence
as before, and utterly lonely, for Peter the coachman had gone off with
the two villagers, Taras and his little band speeding back to the
mountains.

The following day, after a sharp ride, they reached the low-lying,
water-intersected waste between Kotzman and Zastawna, where they
resolved to halt till the evening. The place being within easy distance
of Karol Wygoda's home, the latter begged to be allowed to look up his
relations. "I have no objection," said Taras, "only be careful not to
fall in with any traitors. I shall expect you back by sundown."

Karol promised and went.

But he did not return. Taras, growing anxious, kept waiting for him,
gazing into the deepening night, but not a sound broke on the
stillness.

"We had better start without him," said Nashko, at last. "Either he has
been caught, and in that case it were folly for us to tarry; or else he
has made up his mind to remain with his own people, in which case we
cannot force him to come back to us."

"I cannot believe that," said Taras; "for he has ever proved himself a
trustworthy man; he would certainly have told me if he had any idea of
leaving us. And I cannot bear to think that the faithful soul has come
to grief. Some accident may have detained him; indeed, I feel sure he
will return. Let us wait till midnight, at least."

But midnight came and no Karol. With a troubled heart Taras at last
gave orders to mount.

On the third day, which they spent under the shelter of the forest by
the Czeremosz, Taras consulted his men, whether they had better return
to the camp in the Dembronia Forest, trusting to the Huzuls for further
assistance in any considerable enterprise, or move northward to the
Welyki Lys and gather a new band to their banner. But they would not
decide. "We follow you whichever way you lead us," they said.

"Well, then," said Taras; "I am for taking you back to the Dembronia
Forest. The Huzuls, certainly, are troublesome confederates, but we
must not consult our feelings, we must do what seems best for the cause
we serve. While Hilarion is inclined to back us we are strong, whereas
without him we might not always be able to fight great wrongs
effectively."

It was late in the evening of this day that they rode into Zabie. The
village lay hushed in sleep, the cottages standing dark and silent, the
inn excepted, whence a pale light gleamed, though the place was closed
for the night. Taras rode up to one of the uncurtained windows, and
peered in. The large bar-room was empty, save for a bowed figure
sitting by the hearth, motionless.

"It is Froïm, the innkeeper," cried Nashko, who was looking in at
another window. "For God's sake--I trust nothing has happened!" And,
trembling violently, he tapped at the pane.

The old Jew started, turning to the table as if to extinguish the
flickering lamp. But recognising Nashko's voice, he came to the window
instead, opening it, and saying with a hoarse whisper: "I suppose you
would like to have a last look at her!"

"Tatiana!" cried Taras. "Man, say, what is it?"

"We could not have her laid out here," continued the innkeeper, slowly
and shaking with emotion. "Poor lamb! we would have loved to show her
that last honour, but we are Jews. She is in the little chapel of the
cemetery, and to-morrow they are going to bury her."

"She is dead!" cried Nashko, with anguished voice.

"Did you not know? I thought you might have returned so speedily
for this sad reason," cried Froïm. "We got her out of the water
yesterday--the good pope here, and myself, and some of the villagers;
but it was hard work, for the Czeremosz is a cruel river, holding fast
its prey."

"Tell us," cried Taras, "who has dared to take her life?"

"It was her own brave doing," cried the old Jew. "She would rather die
than be dishonoured. Ah! how fair and sweet she was, and how good; and
to come by such an end!" The honest innkeeper struggled with his tears,
continuing, amid sobs, "We have known her these few days only, my wife
and I, but we grieve for her as for a child of our own."

"But how did it happen?" cried Taras, vehemently.

"Cannot you see?" returned the old Jew. "Two days ago, toward midnight,
that Huzul came----"

"The Royal Eagle?"

"Yes; but Vulture were a truer name! He came with a hundred of his
men--or two hundred for aught I can tell--and, knocking at this very
window, insisted that I should let him in. 'What do you want?' said I.
'Open the door,' says he, 'or I shall force it open.' 'I am a poor old
Jew,' I replied, 'and there are but three women in the house besides
me--my wife, and her servant, and Tatiana. Of course we cannot resist
you, but I ask you whether it is fit for a son of Hilarion, whom they
call the Just, to turn house-breaker, and worse!' 'Open,' he retorted,
'or you shall rue it.' 'So please the God of Abraham,' said I, 'but I
shall never let you in with my own hand, for I have sworn to keep the
girl safe, and God Almighty will punish him who breaks his oath. I am
afraid of you, of course I am, for I am but a poor old Jew, but much
more do I fear God, and I will not let you in.' So he kicked open the
door and carried off the girl. On to his own horse he lifted her,
holding her in the saddle before him, and was off to the Black Water.
But she was a jewel of a maid, and her honour was dearer to her than
life. She slipped from the horse as they rode by the river and leapt
into the roaring water. They tried to save her, but in vain. I heard of
it early in the morning, and went to seek for the body with some of our
men, the good pope himself coming with us. And, as I said, they'll bury
her to-morrow morning. Go to the chapel if you like to have a last look
at her."

The piteous tale had been interrupted with many an indignant
exclamation from the men, Nashko and Taras only listening speechless,
nor could they find words at once.

"Come to the chapel!" said Taras, after a sorrowful pause.

In deep silence and slowly the band rode through the village, reaching
the cemetery at the other end. There they dismounted, casting the
bridles over the railings, and one after another they entered the
chapel, baring their heads.

It was a modest place, damp and bare, lit up with a couple of torches.
And there, at the foot of a large, crude crucifix, stood the open
coffin in which they had laid the body. No one was watching by the
dead, those to whom the pope had delegated that pious duty no doubt
preferring to spend the blustering night in more congenial quarters.

With bowed heads and murmuring a prayer the outlaws stood by the humble
coffin and gazed at the marble features, lovely even in death. The fair
face, but for its pallor, seemed bound in sleep only, and the green
wreath, the crown of virginity, rested lovingly on the maiden's brow.
The hearts of these rough men were stirred to their depths, but one
only was unable to keep silence, and with a smothered cry the maiden's
name burst from his lips. He broke down utterly.

That was Nashko. Taras went up to him gently and led him out into the
night, making him sit down on the steps of the chapel. And bending over
him, he passed his hand tenderly over his face.

"I know ..." he murmured, "I have seen it for some time ... and if I
cannot avenge her, you will do it!..."



                              CHAPTER XXI.

                          "VENGEANCE IS MINE."


It was a sad, humble funeral. The blasts of October moaned in the
valley, and the rain hissed and wept. For which reason the villagers
preferred to remain indoors when the little bell called them early in
the morning to attend the body to its resting-place, the charitable
among them murmuring a prayer for the dead. "She needs it," they said,
"having laid hands on herself!" For which reason, also, the judge and
the elders had insisted that she must be buried by the outer wall of
the cemetery, although the honest pope had tried his utmost to show
them that the girl deserved their pity, even their admiration, rather
than their contempt. But the villagers clung to their opinion, and all
the priest could do was to take care that she should be buried with
full church honours. If no one else were willing he, at least, would
consign her to her grave reverently. He appeared at the mortuary chapel
soon after eight o'clock, followed by some half-dozen mourners, and
started back dismayed on beholding a band of armed and wild-looking
men, evidently waiting for the funeral. But he proceeded with his
sacred duly bravely, and felt touched not a little on perceiving how
fervently these ill-famed outlaws joined in the prayer he offered up by
the grave.

Having ended, Taras came forward, begging him to read three masses for
the maiden they had buried. He promised, but refused the money the
captain was offering him.

"You may take it without fear," said Taras, smiling sadly, "it is
honestly acquired--we rob no man."

The priest gave a searching glance in the face before him, which looked
old and anguished with the burden of sorrow this man had borne. "I
believe you," he said, "but permit me to do a good work for this poor
girl without taking reward."

Taras made no answer, but bowing low, he kissed the priest's hand
reverently. The good man, seeing him so deeply moved, took courage to
whisper a word urged by his deepest heart. "You poor, misguided man,"
he said, gently, "how long will you go on like this?"

"As long as there is need for it," said Taras, in a tone equally low,
but none the less firm and decided. "I have been kept from wrong so
far, but I see much of it about me."

The pope could but shake his head mournfully, and went his way. Taras
and his men remaining yet a while in the cemetery to say their prayers
by the newly-made grave. Nashko only stood aside, gazing at them
fixedly, and his eyes glowed with a terrible fire.

But a pitiful scene awaited these men on leaving the graveyard--the old
innkeeper and his wife standing without, weeping and sobbing; forbidden
by the strictness of their faith to pass within an enclosure at the
entrance of which there was a crucifix, they had abstained from coming
nearer, but from a distance had endeavoured to do honour to the dead
after their own fashion.

Taras went up to the old Jew. "You have done what you could," he said,
"and we thank you."

"What is the use of making words," cried Froïm, passionately. "I know I
have done what I could, but I could not save her! I'm a poor old Jew,
but you are a strong, hale Christian, and if I were you I'd make the
rascal rue it dearly."

"This is the very thing I am going to do," returned Taras, quietly. "I
shall go straight to the Black Water to accuse him to his father. And
if Hilarion will not bring him to due punishment, I shall do so."

And the band mounted, turning their horses' heads westwards, towards
the towering peaks of the Czernahora. They stopped for the night at the
hamlet of Magura, reaching the settlement early the following day.

The patriarch appeared to have expected them, for his eldest son made
haste to invite Taras into his sire's presence, Hilarion receiving him
with the same dignified complacency with which he had parted from him
the week before. "You have come to call for justice against that young
son of mine; but I have anticipated it, and punished him as he
deserves."

"And what is his punishment?" inquired Taras.

"I have sent him to a distant pasture, where he will have to stay till
I give him leave to return, and I shall take good care not to do so
before the spring. This will furnish him with leisure to consider his
folly."

"Folly!" exclaimed Taras, bitterly.

"Yes, folly!" repeated the patriarch, pointedly. "Was she the only
pretty girl to be had? He ought to have seen that Tatiana had no taste
for him, but his vanity blinded him; it was sheer folly."

"But I call it a crime," cried Taras, hotly; "a mean, dastardly crime!"

The old man nodded. "I expected to hear you say this," he said calmly;
"but you are wronging the youth. You must bear in mind that he is a
Huzul. And, besides, how should he have foreseen that the girl would
drown herself? I suppose that even in the lowlands suicide for such a
reason is rarely heard of; but up here, I swear to you, such
desperation in a girl is utterly unknown. If you will bear this in
mind, you cannot accuse him of anything worse than folly."

"It was a dastardly crime," repeated Taras. "A man acting thus by a
poor defenceless girl dishonours himself, and ought to be dealt with
accordingly."

"Do you expect me to understand that I should order my son to have his
hair cut off as a sign that he is no longer fit for the society of the
brave and honourable of his kind?"

"I do," replied Taras, fiercely; "I even demand it. And if you refuse,
I must carry out the punishment myself."

There was a long pause of silence. Taras stood erect, fully expecting
to meet with the old man's indignant denial. But Hilarion preserved an
unperturbed calm, closing his eyes as one in deep thought. Now and then
he would nod his head like one arriving at a conclusion, and presently
he touched a small gong by his side. His eldest son entered. "Call
hither the clansmen, young and old, as many of them as are about the
settlement, and request the followers of this man also to enter my
house. Let all hear my decision."

The spacious room presently began to fill, the Huzuls thronging in
first, Taras's men following. And when silence had settled the aged
patriarch again nodded to himself, and thereupon he rose from his seat,
holding in his hand an intertwining twig of willow--for Taras had
interrupted some quiet occupation of his--and with solemn voice he
began:

"Listen to me, ye men of my people, for I, Hilarion, called the Just,
to whom you look for guidance, have cause to speak to you. Mark it
well, and tell others if need be ... You all were present when this man
of the lowlands, Taras, whom they call the avenger, first came to me;
and you know how I received him. You witnessed our solemn covenant; how
we swore friendship to one another, not only for to-day or to-morrow,
but partaking of each other's blood as a sign that it shall never be
broken while the red life-stream pulses through our veins. I have kept
this sacred vow; but he just now has wronged it grievously, casting
insult, nay, shame, on me by insisting that a member of my own house
shall be punished, not because I say so, but because he wills it, and
threatening that he himself will carry out such punishment if I fail to
do so. It is my own flesh and blood, even my youngest son Julko, whom
he will have dishonoured."

A cry of indignation burst from the Huzuls, and they turned upon Taras.

"Silence!" commanded the old man. "I have called you to hear what I
have to say, and for nothing else.... But what I say is this: a man who
can thus insult me no longer can be my friend and brother." He held up
the twig in his hand. "He and I have been as this branch of willow,
closely intertwined; but henceforth we are severed, and there is nought
to heal the disruption!" He broke the twig, casting the parts from him,
one to his right and one to his left.

"Urrahah!" shouted the Huzuls; but again the patriarch enforced
silence, and, turning to Taras, he said:

"You are no longer my friend, but a man who has offered me deadly
insult; yet the sacred law of our fathers lays it upon me never to
forget that we partook of one another's blood! I therefore may not, and
will not, have recourse to active enmity beyond what you yourself will
force me to by further affront. It were sufficient affront, however, if
a man who has acted as you have done should continue to insult me by
his presence! For which reason I banish you from this settlement, and
from these mountains, to the extent of my authority. You will leave the
settlement at once, withdrawing from my reach within these mountains in
three days. And let me warn you that none of you shall ever see the
lowlands again if, after this, you dare brave the presence of my
people. It is not on my son's account that I thus threaten you, for I
shall take care to inform him of your intentions, putting him on his
guard, and the Huzul lives not who fears his enemy when once he knows
him! It is not in order to protect him, therefore, that I have said
this, but simply because you have so deserved it. And now be gone!"

"I go," replied Taras; "but I call God and all here present to witness
that you are disgracing yourself and me. I will not avenge it, for I
also will remember the friendship we had sworn. But as for your son
Julko, I shall know how to find him and visit his wrong on him, like
any other evildoer."

The fury of the Huzuls knew no bounds, and Taras would have been lost
had the aged Hilarion himself not stepped between him and the indignant
clansmen, enabling him and his followers to leave the house and mount
their horses, the wild cries of their hitherto confederates pursuing
them as they rode away.

It was a sad departure, and with heavy hearts the little band returned
through the dreary landscape to the hamlet of Magura. What should they
do now, and whither turn their steps? Dark and gloomy lay the future
before them, but none of the men uttered a word of complaint.

Having reached the hamlet and seen to their horses' needs, Taras
gathered his men about him.

"I would not for a moment delude you with fair speeches," he said; "you
know for yourselves how matters stand. Just answer me one question:
Will you stay with me, or go your way? I could not upbraid any one
whose courage failed him to continue this life of ours. It has been
full of hardships hitherto; it will be almost unendurable now that the
Huzuls also are against us."

"Tell us about yourself, hetman," said Wassilj Soklewicz; "what are you
going to do?"

"I must continue to the end," replied Taras; "it is not for me to fail
in my duty, even if you all forsake me. I shall endeavour to win other
followers."

"Is it thus?" cried the faithful youth; "then we will share your fate!"
All the rest of them crying in chorus, "We will not forsake you!"

"I dare not dissuade you," said Taras, "it is not I, but the cause
which claims your fealty!... Now the next question is, where shall we
encamp ourselves? In the lowlands the military are on the look-out for
us, and here we are in danger of the Huzuls. I propose we retire to our
island fortress in the Wallachian bog. By the Crystal Springs, or
indeed anywhere within the mountains the Huzuls would rout us out; I
know them better even than you can know them. They were true to us
while they were friends, they will be intense in their hatred now they
are our enemies. But we are safe from them on that island, where we
have the advantage, moreover, of being in the very midst of the country
we would rid from oppression, and in a hiding-place we could hold
against almost any odds. I do not deceive myself concerning the danger
even there, but I know no better place."

They resolved, then, to venture into the lowlands the following
morning, after which these homeless outcasts lay down by their horses,
sleeping as calmly as though they had found rest by their own firesides
knowing nothing of the dread burdens of life.

Two only were awake--Nashko, keeping watch outside the hamlet, and
Taras, tossing on the bundle of straw that formed his couch. Sleep was
far from the unhappy man, much as he longed for it; indeed it had but
rarely come to him since that terrible hour, that last meeting in this
very place, separating him for ever from wife and child. Alas! and what
nameless agony tortured him in those hours that seemed an eternity to
the sore heart within! It was then he heard those voices that would not
be silenced, of regret not only concerning the lost happiness of his
life, but of a far more terrible regret--of awful accusation, much as
he fought against it when daylight and activity returned. The night
winds moaned, sounding to him like the blending curses of a hundred
voices, the never-silent reproaches of all those whom he had brought to
their doom. And when he succeeded for a moment in turning his back upon
the irredeemable past, fixing his relentless gaze on the life before
him, the life he would have to tread, what was it but a glaring
reality, a fearful outcome of the shadows behind?

He was glad of the first streak of daylight stealing into the barn,
and, rising from his troubled rest, he went out into the cold grey
morning, seeking the Jew, who walked to and fro at his post looking
pale and wan like a belated ghost. He nodded sadly on beholding his
friend.

"We shall not be able to mount for a couple of hours yet," said Taras.
"Turn in now, and have a rest."

"I could not sleep," replied Nashko, "but I am stiff with the cold, and
could scarcely ride without first stretching my limbs on the straw."
And, handing him his gun, he went away.

Taras walked up and down, slowly at first, till the nipping cold forced
him to a quicker pace. It was as dismal a morning of late autumn as
could well be imagined. Cutting gusts of east wind kept hissing through
the narrow valley, rattling in the gloomy fir-wood, and having their
own cold play with the whirling snow-flakes. The sun must have risen by
that time, but it was nowhere to be seen; a pale, cheerless light only,
descending from the snow-capped mountains, showed the muddy road and
its windings, with a look of hopelessness about it. Not a living
creature anywhere, not a sound of animated being beyond the croaking of
a solitary raven on a fir-tree near.

The unhappy man cast a listless glance at the dismal prophet. The raven
is looked upon as a bird of ill-omen, but what of trouble yet untasted
could its call forebode? Death? Nay, for would he not have welcomed it
gladly! And yet, though he seemed to know the very sum of human
suffering laid upon him by a terrible fate, even by his own awful will,
there was an agony approaching him that very morning, the direst
possibility of grief for his heart and soul, and that cheerless day was
to be the saddest of all his sad life....

An hour might have passed, but daylight seemed as far off as ever, and
the wind continued its play with the whirling snow-flakes, so that
Taras did not perceive the approach of a horseman, who was fighting his
way hither from Zabie, till he pulled up close by the hamlet. It was a
puny, elderly figure, ill-at-ease evidently on his miserable horse, and
shivering with the cold; for though his garment was bedizened
abundantly with gaudy ribands and glittering tinsel, there was not a
scrap of fur to yield comfort, his queer head-gear, a tricoloured
fool's cap, being fully in keeping with his tawdry appearance. On his
back, by a leathern strap, he carried--not a gun to betoken the
mountaineer--but a wooden case, from which protruded the neck of a
violin. Taras examined this strange horseman with not a little wonder,
concluding presently that it was some sort of a mountebank seen about
the village fairs in the lowlands, where they pick up a scanty living,
now playing the fiddle, now performing some jugglery. But what gain
might this artist be seeking in the wintry mountains?

"What a mercy," cried the horseman, "to fall in with a living creature
at last! How long shall I have to struggle on, tell me, before reaching
the Dembronia Forest?"

"What on earth do you want there?" asked Taras, surprised. "You would
find only wolves to make merry at your bidding, if that is it--why, the
forest is utterly uninhabited!"

"Then I am better informed than you," retorted the fiddler; "the
avenger and his band are in the forest, if no one else is."

"Do you want him?"

"To be sure, and badly! The poor wretch of a girl, I believe, would
claw my eyes out if I did not fetch him as I promised."

"What girl? But you may save yourself farther trouble--I am the
avenger."

"You!" cried the man, crossing himself quickly. But coming a little
closer, he peered with a half-fearful curiosity into the hetman's
sorrowful face. "You might be he, certainly," he muttered; "you look
exactly as they told me, and poor Kasia said I could not possibly
mistake the terrible gloom on your face. I suppose I had better believe
you, and you must come with me, else that wretched girl will die of her
remorse."

"What girl? what is it? Where am I wanted? Do speak plainly!"

"At the inn at Zabie. She'd have come to you instead of asking you to
come to her--I mean Kasia, my sister's daughter--she says it is killing
her, and she must not die without telling you."

"Telling me what? Has she any complaints to make against any
wrong-doer?"

"No; she has done that once too often already, and is grievously sorry
for it now. It is not you, though, who are to blame--nor in fact, is
she, poor thing--but her sweetheart, Jacek, that good-for-nothing
rascal; if you can pay him out for it, 'twere well if you did. For it
was a damned lie, all that story at Borsowka----"

"At Borsowka?'" exclaimed Taras, staggering. "At Borsowka!" he repeated
hoarsely. And clutching the fiddler with his strong hand, he dragged
him from the saddle and shook him till the poor creature gasped for
breath. "Speak the truth!... Is it that Marinia who sent you?"

"You are strangling me! Help!" groaned the fiddler. "It is not my fault
... help!... murder!"

At this moment Nashko, who had heard the cry, came out, followed by the
others.

"What is it?" they inquired, and the Jew, taking in the situation,
endeavoured to free the agonised messenger from the captain's powerful
grasp.

"Aren't you rather hard on him?" he whispered to his friend. "What has
he come for?"

But Taras, letting go his hold, stared about him like one demented, and
a shriek burst from him--"A horse! for God's sake, a horse!" His men
moved not, utterly confounded. But he broke away, dragging a horse from
the barn, the first he could lay hold on, and mounting it without
saddle or bridle dashed away in the direction of Zabie as fast as the
frightened animal could carry him.

Two hours later he stopped by the inn. The horse was done for. He cared
not, but rushed up to old Froïm, who came to meet him. "Where is she?"
he cried, wildly.

"Who? the sick woman?" inquired the innkeeper. "We made up a bed for
her in the little lean-to."

Another minute and Taras stood by the couch. The girl had greatly
changed since that terrible night. She looked as though she had passed
through an illness, and her eyes were deep in their sockets. "Ah," she
moaned, "you have come, and I may tell you. It has left me no peace day
or night. I ran away from Jacek to look for my uncle Gregori, that he
might try and find you, for he was always...."

"Be quick about it," interrupted Taras. "I want to know the truth!"

"Ah! do not look at me with those eyes," cried the unhappy girl, hiding
her face in her hands, and indeed the man bending over her was fearful
to behold. "I want to tell you ... I wish I had never done it, but they
made me!"

"Be quick about it!" repeated Taras, hoarsely. "You are not Marinia
Bertulak, and no peasant girl from Borsowka. Your name is Kasia, and
you keep company with jugglers?"

"Yes, yes! I am Kasia Wywolow."

"And you lied to me in that night, all of you?"

"Yes, we did; the old baron only spoke the truth. The man who pretended
to be my father was Jacek, with whom I have been going about to fairs;
and the other one was a farm labourer, Dimitri Buliga, and not the
village judge...."

"And why did you deceive me?"

"It was all Karol's doing. We, Jacek and I, fell in with him at the
merry-making here at Zabie, and he talked us over; after which he went
to Borsowka, where he bribed the coachman and prevailed on Dimitri to
play the judge. He said he knew exactly how to set about it to make you
believe the story ... he had an old grudge against the poor baron, who
years ago brought him to punishment for theft. He stole away from you
as soon as the deed was done, dividing the spoils with Jacek and
Dimitri, who waited for him at Kotzman. But I suffered agony with
remorse, and it brought me here."

"That will do," said Taras, faintly; "thank you." And he staggered from
the room. The old innkeeper came upon him presently where he lay in a
merciful swoon.

It was late in the afternoon when his men came after him, and with them
the fiddler Gregori. They had not been able to gather the full truth
from the bewildered messenger, but they had understood sufficiently to
know that Karol Wygoda had deceived them shamefully, and it had filled
their honest hearts with indignant grief. But pity for their unhappy
leader was uppermost, for they felt rather than knew how fearfully the
discovery must affect him; and since he had left no orders, they waited
hour after hour, with growing anxiety, thinking he might return; and as
he did not, they now came to seek him.

"Yes, he is here," said old Froïm, sorrowfully, in answer to Nashko's
inquiry, "and I think he is seriously ill. I do not know what that
young woman may have told him," he added under his breath, "but it must
have been something very awful; for he fainted right out, and when I
had managed to bring him to again, he just said: 'I must go my way to
the gallows now,' and never another word has crossed his lips. I have
tried to rouse him, but he is like a stone, staring blankly; it could
not be worse if he had buried wife and child. I have spoken to him, I
have implored him, but not a sign is to be got from him. Will you try
it?--he may yield to your words."

Nashko told his companions what the old Jew had said, and they all
agreed. "Try and rouse him," they said, "tell him that to us he is as
noble and just as before. How should he, how should we, in God's eyes,
be guilty of this blackguard Karol's wickedness!"

Nashko took heart and entered the little room, where Froïm had prepared
a couch for the stricken hetman, but he was unable to deliver the men's
message. For no sooner had he closed the door than Taras turned to him,
saying huskily, but firmly: "Please leave me to myself till to-morrow
morning; I must think it over; not for my own sake, for I know what I
have to do, but for yours--I would like to counsel each of you for the
best I can hardly collect my thoughts as yet, it is as though I had
been struck with lightning. Let me come to myself first. I daresay
Froïm will find a night's lodging for you; and to-morrow--yes,
to-morrow morning when the day has risen, I will see you." Taras seemed
fully determined, and Nashko could but yield.

The following day early, when the men had gathered in the great empty
bar-room, Taras came among them. They had not seen him for a space of
four-and-twenty hours, but the havoc wrought in his appearance seemed
the work of years. He was fearfully altered, looking like an old man
now, overcome with life's distress.

"Dear friends," he said, speaking very calmly and kindly, "I pray you
listen to me, but do not try to turn me from my firm resolve. I release
you one and all from the fealty you have sworn to me. I am your leader
no longer. Please God, this will be the last time that you will see me;
I have prayed to Him earnestly to let my life and the yielding up of
its every hope be sufficient atonement. Yes, I have pleaded with Him in
mercy to let your ways be far from mine; for the path I have to tread
will now take me to Colomea, to prison, and thence to the final doom."

A cry of horror interrupted him. "For God's sake," they cried, "what is
it that has come to you?"

"Not thus, if you love me," he said, gently, warding them off. "I have
followed the voice of my own heart so far, let me follow it still. That
voice has deceived me hitherto, leading me to misery and crime; it is
speaking well this day for the first time! Yet, be very sure, I was not
wrong in saying that the plain will of God required Right and Justice
to be upheld in this world; not wrong in accusing those of their
shortcomings whose sacred duty it is to see that justice rules here
below, but who do not carry out this duty to its fullest, holiest
meaning. My mistake was this, that I fancied this unfulfilled duty
could by the will of God devolve upon me or any other individual man.
To be sure I who sacrificed all earthly happiness at the shrine of
justice, who became a murderer in blind love of the right, and now go
to the gallows--I most not be unjust, not even against myself, and
therefore I say it was a natural mistake. For what more natural than to
argue: Since they will not guard the right whose bounden duty it is, I
will do so, who am strong at heart and pure of purpose! But,
nevertheless, it was a grievous mistake. I see it now. I still believe
in that grand, holy ladder of His making which is intended to join
earth to heaven; but plainly it is not His will, even if some of its
steps at times be rotten, that any single man should take upon himself
to make up in his own poor strength for any failings in that glorious
institution for working out the divine will. It were proud, sinful
presumption in any man, and I have done evil in His sight, not merely
in disregarding what mischief must accrue if others followed my
example, but chiefly on account of the awful delusion that _I_ was
above erring, and that _my_ judgments must needs be just! And how
did I come to imagine this? Because I chose to believe that the
Almighty _must_ keep me from foiling--me, His servant, the righteous,
justice-loving Taras. It was just my pride! The magistrates, the
courts, might err, but I never! And yet how great is the danger if the
carrying out of justice be vested in any individual man!--the work I
have undertaken could not but end like this! I believed I was doing
right, and I have been utterly confounded. The Baron of Borsowka was a
righteous man, and I, who presumed to judge him, have been his
murderer."

"But that was not your fault; you were deceived by Karol!" they cried.

"I was," replied Taras; "yet the guilt rests with me for not examining
into the charge more carefully. Why did I refuse his urgent request to
send for witnesses to the village? I am his murderer. I, and no one
else; and since I have judged falsely in his case, how can I be sure
that I have not done so in others? But, be that as it may, I am an
assassin, and it behoves me to expiate my crime, submitting to those
whom God has called to judge any evildoer in the land. I am going to
Colomea to give myself up."

Vainly they strove to turn him from his resolve. He kept repeating: "I
follow the voice within, and it has begun to speak truth." With heavy
hearts they perceived it was utterly useless to plead with him, and
listened to his last farewell. He enjoined them to separate at once and
to begin a new life each for himself in different parts of the country.
He had a word of sympathy, of advice for each. "Forty florins are still
in my possession," he added, producing the sum; "it is all I have left
of the money contributed by honest peasants towards my work. Take it
and divide it fairly. Let it be the same with the proceeds of your arms
and horses."

And he took leave of them, of each man separately, the Jew being last.
"Nashko," he said, "I have yet a request to make of you. You love me, I
know, and I am about to die. Will you grant it?"

"Surely," said the Jew, with tear-stifled voice.

"I know your intentions with regard to Julko," said Taras, "and I know
the reason.... But I ask you to forbear, and to leave these mountains
without bringing him to his due."

"The thought of revenge was sweet," said the Jew, "but I will do your
desire."

"Whither will you betake yourself?" asked Taras. "I was able to advise
them all, but I know not what to say to you; besides, your judgment is
better than mine."

"I shall go away--far, far away," said Nashko. "I have heard that in
following the sun through many lands you reach the wide sea at last,
and crossing the sea you reach a country where a man is a man, and no
one inquires into his creed. I shall try for that country, and if so be
that I get there----"

"God speed you!" said Taras, deeply moved, "for your heart is honest
and you have been true to me. So have you all: the Almighty watch over
your lives!"

He left the room and, seeking his horse, he sped away from his friends
towards the lowlands, vanishing from their gaze.



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                          PAYING THE PENALTY.


A few days later the district governor and Dr. Starkowski were having a
quiet talk in the dusk of the evening. They were sitting in Herr von
Bauer's private office, and the latter had just confided to the lawyer
that it was officially settled now--and the requisite document a
visible fact--that the contested field on the Pruth was formally
adjudged as belonging, not to the lord of the manor, but to the parish
of Zulawce.

"I am simply thankful it _is_ settled!" the governor was saying,
rubbing his honest old hands. "I always suspected foul play, but since
I had proof of it, the former judgment has weighed on me like a
nightmare. It is more of a relief than I can tell you!"

"And yet that judgment was legally correct," said the lawyer, somewhat
sadly; "the case had been investigated, and witnesses on both sides
were examined, the evidence appearing unquestionable!"

"Is this intended for a covert reproach?"

"Certainly not," returned Starkowski; "and yet I cannot think of this
tragic affair without a sad reflection on the short-sightedness of all
human justice."

"You are right there," said the governor, sighing in his turn. "My only
comfort is, that we, the authorities of this district, have done our
human best; even that coward Kapronski, cannot be accused of wilful
injustice. The peasants had been so foolish as to move the landmark,
and the mandatar, rascal that he is, saw his opportunity for taking
possession. It was quite correct that our commissioner should have told
the peasants that their only remedy was the law; and the suit began.
Both parties were ready to swear, and, indeed, there was no other means
for eliciting the truth, except by putting them on their oath. I admit
that Kapronski set about it somewhat summarily and offhandedly, but I
doubt whether, in all conscientiousness I could have arrived at a
better result myself. If witnesses are open to bribery, perjuring
themselves, how should the most careful of judges get at the truth?
There was oath against oath, a considerable number of the peasantry
yielding evidence in favour of the manor against their own interests,
and the lord of the manor, moreover, was in possession--how then, I
ask, should even the court's judgment have been different? There is
some comfort in this, I assure you; at the same time it is better
comfort that the wrongful judgment with its sad consequences has been
reversed--as far as possible at least."

"As far as possible," repeated the lawyer, thoughtfully. "Poor
Taras----"

"Don't talk to me about that man," interrupted the governor, waxing
hot; "or would you have me tax the short-sightedness of human justice
with his history also?"

"Certainly, I should say."

"Certainly not, you mean! What, have you forgotten poor Hohenau? And
what of his latest murder at Borsowka?"

"There I am staggered, I own," said the lawyer.

"Of course you are, because you insist on judging the man by the rules
of your ethics," cried the governor, as though the deeper bearings of
the soul were utterly beneath the legal mind; "but I, who am no
psychologist, but a wretched district governor in this province of
Galicia---worse luck!--I who have had plenty of opportunity of getting
acquainted with any number of hajdamaks, I tell you he is no better
than the rest of them! It is all very well to start the business with a
fine pretence, a pretty cloak to cover one's rags; he has discarded it
now, you see, and shows himself as he is--a mere wretched assassin. Let
us change the subject; I have something more pleasant yet to tell you.
What should you say to those poor wretches at Zulawce, in mortal terror
of their lives on account of their perjury?--of course, they must bear
the consequences!--they are going to be duly sentenced, and then----"
the kind-hearted man could not go on for smiles.

"They are going to have a free pardon," added Starkowski; "are you
sure?"

"I have got it in my desk, which is more, and I am highly delighted for
once that the law should be circumvented. Of course, the line will be
drawn between the instigators of these precious plans and those who
were merely led on. There is Mr. Wenceslas Hajek, for instance, whom we
shall have the honour of lodging in safe quarters within this city for
a couple of years--I'd give him five, Willingly--and no expense to
himself. Come in!"

There had been a knock at the door repeatedly, but the gentlemen had
not heard it in the warmth of their discussion till it struck the
governor at the tail end of his information. "Come in!"

The door opened showing a tall visitor, who stood still.

"A peasant by the look of him," said the governor, peering into the
dusk. "This is beyond office hours, my friend; come again to-morrow."

There was a pause of silence, and then the man by the door came a step
forward, saying, with trembling voice, "Excuse me, sirs, for disturbing
you, but I would rather not go away again----"

"Taras!" exclaimed the lawyer, and the governor, bursting from his
seat, stood still a moment, paralysed with the discovery; but then he
flew to the window, flinging open the sash, and sent one terrified cry
after another into the street below.

Taras never moved. "Do not be frightened," he said, sadly. "Look here,
I am quite unarmed, and have come with peaceful intentions."

But the sentry outside and some of the clerks yet at work had heard the
alarm; assistance already was pressing in at the door.

"Bind him!" cried the governor. And, nothing loth, the men clutched the
prisoner.

But Starkowski interfered. "Stop!" he said. "You are five against one,
and you see he offers no resistance." He walked up to Taras and looked
him in the face. "You have not come with any evil intention?"

"No, sir."

Starkowski seemed quite satisfied; turning to the governor, "Leave your
men in the room," he said, "but there is no need to bind him, I'll go
bail."

But the poor governor was not so easily quieted, and his voice
positively shook when he addressed the man of whom all the district had
stood in mortal fear these months past. "Step closer," he said, "we are
ready to hear you."

And Taras came nearer, looking pale and wan, a stricken figure, resting
his worn frame against the table. "I have come to give myself up," he
said, "and I pray to be dealt with according to my deserts."

"And where are your people?"

"I have disbanded them; there is no fear of their committing further
violence."

"_Where_ are they?"

"They have gone different ways; but I have not come to betray them, and
shall not do so. Concerning myself I will answer any question, and that
must suffice. But before interrogating me, please have a clerk here to
write it all down, for I should like those at Vienna to have the truth
in my own words. I would especially wish the Emperor to know it, and
his kind uncle, Ludwig."

The governor was going to retort sharply, but he restrained himself;
the man after all had not desired anything improper. But the shock had
been too great to enable him to open proceedings on the spot. "You will
be interrogated to-morrow morning," he said, "and, whatever your
misdeeds, it shall be set over against them that you have given
yourself up of your own free will. I will not have you put in irons,
and no one shall dare to insult you; but I shall have you well
guarded."

"Do whatever the law requires," replied Taras. "But there is no fear of
my escaping again, even if never a door were locked upon me. It is my
conscience which brought me hither, and it will keep me here. Indeed,
if any one attempted to set me free against my will, I should oppose
him as an enemy."

The governor had nothing more to say, beyond ordering the prisoner's
removal to the city gaol. But Taras looked at him. "There is yet one
thing," and his voice quivered; "may I speak to this gentleman--it is
something I have deeply at heart."

The governor nodded assent, and Starkowski went up to the prisoner.
"Ah, sir," said Taras, "I pray you not to believe that after all I
turned a robber and murderer! I daresay you heard that I have had
Zukowski killed, the poor old baron at Borsowka. I have; but I have
been grievously deceived by evil men, on whose honesty I relied. I was
fully persuaded I had judged righteously in this case also. I appeal to
you--you know that I never yet told a lie--will you believe me?"

"I will--I do," said the lawyer, holding out his hand.

But Taras did not take it, there was a strange agitation in his face,
he shook, and before the lawyer could prevent it, he had fallen on his
knees, covering Starkowski's hand with kisses and tears. "Ah, sir," he
sobbed, "this is the most merciful word you have spoken in your life!"

He rose and followed his keepers.

An hour later special messengers were speeding in all directions to
announce to the magistrates and military authorities that the great
trouble was at an end, that the avenger was in safe keeping of his own
free will. At Colomea itself the news was flying from house to house,
being received everywhere with exultant satisfaction. Two men only,
whose interest in Taras's fate, because a personal one, was of the
liveliest, were rather aghast at the news, calling their mortal enemy a
fool for his pains, because he had put his head into the noose.

One of these worthies was Mr. Ladislas Kapronski, who had been obliged
after all to return from Lemberg, not of his own choice, but because of
the importunity of his immediate superiors, which left but two ways
open to him, either to accept their pressing invitation or to quit the
service. So he had arrived, hoping to escape with a sharp reproof; but
the very first meeting of the Board showed he was not likely to be
dealt with in a spirit of leniency, the district governor being
especially vicious in the virtuous Kapronski's opinion. Nevertheless,
he clang to his hope, giving the lie unblushingly to all accusations,
since the one witness to be dreaded, even Taras, could not so easily
be confronted with him; and who else should know whether he had
perverted his message or not? So he carried his head high, and his
collapse was sad to behold when, at a late hour that evening, the news
reached him, "Taras is in safe keeping!" He jumped from his seat as
though an adder had stung him; but, alas! there was no use in his
rushing abroad to inquire whether it could really be true, since the
strange rudeness--or, perhaps, deafness only--of his closer
acquaintances had appeared of late to affect most people at Colomea,
and now Kapronski in addressing any honest citizen could never be sure
of a hearing! So he did not go forth from his chamber, but fell to
chewing the bitter cud of retribution, listening intently for what
terrible affirmation might come flying in to him through his open
windows from the excited streets. The news plainly was a fact!

But if his cogitations were misery, what then must be said of that
other one who deprecated Taras's act of surrender, Mr. Wenceslas Hajek,
the ex-mandatar of Zulawce? This gentleman quite lately, at the
invitation of two constables, had exchanged his princely residence at
the castle of Drinkowce for the more modest abode of a prison cell, and
this quite in spite of--or, in fact, rather because of--his sudden
desire for a change of air in distant parts. It had transpired that he
was quietly on to Paris. He had been admitted to bail, when proceedings
were commenced against him on account of the discovered perjury, and
the constables caught him in the very act of strapping his travelling
bag. He was naturally annoyed at being thus overreached; but the
virtuous Wanda, who had not intended to accompany him on his travels,
most heroically witnessed his discomfiture, watching his being carried
off with truly stoical calmness--she might even have been a Spartan
matron! "Good riddance," she said quietly, "if they would but keep you
in prison; it's the one place for you!" Whereupon he, gathering
together the shreds of masculine courage, retorted: "Hell itself would
be delightful if I had a chance of going thither without you!" from
which amiable passage of arms the reader may infer that this marriage,
founded on a love just about equalled by the mutual respect of the
contracting couple, had turned out as happily as might have been
foreseen, the actual result being that Herr Bogdan von Antoniewicz even
now was taking measures to bring his daughter's case into the divorce
court. But Mr. Hajek, who, it will be remembered, had prepared against
such a contingency, felt no sorrows on this head; and indeed a husband
blessed with a wife of the Countess Wanda's description might be
tolerably certain that any inquiry into her character would bring to
light ample mitigation of any blots in his. But if his domestic
concerns sat easy on him, all the greater was his anxiety concerning
that other trial, since there was no saying where a close inquiry might
not land him, especially as his under-steward, Boleslaw Stipinski, had
been so very foolish as to allow himself to be caught. Still, while
Boleslaw had a tongue left wherewith to deny all charges as
unblushingly as Hajek himself, the mandatar need not give himself up
for lost--not while the only man who could witness to most of his
crimes was far away, and not likely to be got hold of. What, then, must
have been the feelings of the brazen-faced prisoner that evening when a
call from the echoing corridor resounded in his cell, and he understood
the words: "Look sharp, boys, they are bringing the avenger!"
It was the chief warder calling upon his fellow gaolers. There was a
running to and fro and a confusion of voices, followed presently by the
usual silence of the place. And when the death-like stillness had again
settled down the wretched man tried to persuade himself that he had
been dreaming; but the early morning dispelled this delusion, his
inquiry eliciting a gruff reply from the warder going his rounds.
"Taras? Yes, he is on this very floor, more's the pity you cannot
communicate with him," said the surly attendant, never perceiving the
irony of his speech.

Early in the forenoon the new prisoner was brought to his preliminary
examination, Herr von Bauer conducting it in person; and in accordance
with his stated intention Taras yielded the fullest information
concerning himself and his late doings, but refused persistently
whatever might tend to incriminate his followers. He readily mentioned
those who had led him into the murder at Borsowka; but not a fact, not
a name besides, was to be got out of him. Nor could he be brought to
give the slightest clue towards inculpating such of the peasants as had
assisted his work by their contributions for the maintenance of his
men. "They have aided and abetted a criminal course," he said; "but
they did it with the best of intentions for the love of their suffering
neighbours, and believing it to be the will of God."

"It might be better for you to give their names," said the governor,
not unkindly, "for if you do not, how is it to be proved that you are
speaking the truth? These contributions might be a myth, and you be
taken for a common bandit after all, who committed murder for the sake
of gain. Are you prepared to face this?"

"If the Almighty will thus punish me, I shall bear it," said he, sadly.
"He knows I have spoken the truth."

The trial concluded with those questions laid as a duty upon the judge,
even with the worst of criminals, ever since the great Empress left her
womanly influence upon the Austrian law. "Do you desire spiritual
assistance?" inquired the governor.

"Not now," said Taras; "I need no one to come between me and the
Almighty. When death is at hand I will thankfully receive the holy
sacrament, and I would ask you then to send for the parish priest of
Zulawce, Father Leo, who on Palm Sunday gave me his promise to come to
me whenever I should need him. He will do so."

"And have you any message to be transmitted to your wife?"

The extreme pallor of his face yielded to a flush which rose to the
very roots of his hair. "No," he said faintly. "My wife was right in
saying I had forfeited my claims on her and the children. It were sheer
goodness and mercy on her part to remember me now. But since it is so,
I must not ask for it; I can only wait."

But waiting for the prompting of her love seemed vain. Throughout the
dreary tune of the legal proceedings, which lasted nearly four months,
neither the pope nor Anusia visited the prisoner. The only human being
who during all this sad time requested permission for occasional
intercourse with the accused was Dr. Starkowski, who could not visit
him in his capacity as legal defender till after the protracted
inquiry, but prayed to be admitted as a friend. And he was allowed to
see the prisoner occasionally in the presence of the chief warder,
finding the unhappy man, for whom he had a truehearted sympathy,
strangely quiet. "I have nothing to complain of," Taras would say; "I
could not have expected anything else. And, calling to mind the
terrible hour when that girl in her agony of remorse confessed to me
how I had been deceived, this present time seems happiness in
comparison. I am bearing the just punishment for my deeds even on this
side of the grave--it is all I must ask for at the hand of man."

"All?" repeated the lawyer, with a peculiar stress on the word, and it
seemed to him a very duty of Christian charity to offer to the unhappy
man his willingness to plead with Anusia. "It will be no trouble," he
added, rather awkwardly; "I have business at Zulawce, and might as well
go and see her."

"I pray you not to do so," said Taras, earnestly. "It would be a bitter
trial to her to have to speak about me to a stranger, and I have
brought on her so much suffering already that it is not for me to add
to it."

Starkowski nevertheless endeavoured to mediate, but in vain. Father Leo
himself dissuaded him from his well-meant purpose. "Believe me, sir,"
said the honest priest, sadly, "there is nothing to be done. If human
pleading availed anything, my entreaty would have done so! But no
prayer and no exhortation will bend the iron purpose of that woman.
This is the reason why I have refrained hitherto from going to Colomea:
I have not the heart to meet him with no better news than this."

"Well, perhaps a stranger may be more successful," said Starkowski, and
went over to Taras's farm. But he was met in the yard by Halko, with a
message from his mistress. She did not desire to see him, the young man
said wistfully, unless he were sent on business of the trial.

Towards the close of January, 1840, the inquiry was concluded; but,
after all, not much more had come to light than had been known with
more or less of exactness before. And if, on the one hand, it was
beyond a doubt that Taras was guilty of the death of a great number of
men, having brought loss and suffering to others, so also it proved a
matter of certainty that in every case he had granted to the victim a
kind of judicial inquiry, punishing them upon conviction. Also there
was a considerable amount of actual evidence in his favour, Baron
Zborowski, of Hankowce, especially doing his utmost in his behalf. On
the whole a fairly just estimate of the man's activity during those
seven months of the reign of terror in the land had been arrived at,
but not a clue had been obtained concerning his fellows and helpers,
who appeared simply to have vanished. One of his late followers only
was caught--Karol Wygoda, whose whereabouts Taras himself had
suggested. This wretch denied the charge persistently, until confronted
with his former hetman, a look of whose eye sufficed to crush the man,
whereupon he made a full confession, including the crime he had
instigated at Borsowka.

But not only in this case was it apparent that Taras had in no wise
lost his strange power over men; none of the perjured witnesses of
Zulawce could hold out against him at the bar. But the most flagrant
proof of the awe he still inspired, perhaps, was this, that Mr. Hajek,
on the mere announcement of the governor's "I shall confront you with
Taras to-morrow," fainted outright, and upon recovering his senses
declared himself ready to confess on the spot. No doubt he acted from
the consciousness that conviction was unavoidable, and that it would be
useless to harass his feelings by so painful an interview.

Kapronski, on the contrary, felt that all his future career depended on
the ordeal of a meeting with Taras, and, fortifying his flunkey spirit
with this consideration, he tried hard to strike terror into the soul
of the convicted bandit; but he collapsed woefully, and blow upon blow
the righteous wrath of Taras came down upon his head. It was a strange
sight these two--the one covered with the blood of his fellows, the
other legally guilty at worst of a breach of discipline--but no one
could doubt for a moment which of them was the nobler and better man.

On the last day of the inquiry the governor put the question to Taras
who should be his advocate.

"Ah!" said Taras, "am I permitted to choose? I would have Dr.
Starkowski in that case, for he will do his best for me."

"Certainly," replied the governor, continuing with some surprise; "have
not you assured me again and again you had done with life? Yet you seem
to rest confidence in the success of your advocate."

"Oh," returned Taras, "I never doubted the justice of my having to die;
that is settled, and I would not have him or any one else endeavour to
get me off. But there is another important matter in which I sorely
need counsel."

What this might be Starkowski learned on his first professional visit
to the prisoner. "They will not believe me," said Taras sadly; "they
doubt the truth of my having maintained the band honestly, partly out
of my own means, partly with the freewill contributions of well-meaning
folks. And yet I cannot name any of those who helped me, for fear of
their having to suffer for it. Is there no help, but that the suspicion
most rest on me and mine, that I committed murder for vulgar gain's
sake?"

The lawyer endeavoured to comfort him, saying he hoped to dispel this
charge, proving it at variance with the character of his client, which
was plainly apparent in the evidence. "But let us speak of something
else now," he added, "which is more important--your own fate."

"Why, that is settled," replied Taras, quietly; "I have shed blood and
must atone for it with my own. Please do not try to overthrow that!"

"Now, listen to me," said the lawyer, "there is such a thing as common
sense. You have given yourself up of your own free will to satisfy
justice; this is enough for your conscience, and it would be simply
wicked in you to clamour to be hanged. Try to judge calmly in this
respect. Looking at facts, of course I cannot doubt that the jury will
find you guilty, because the law must have its course, but I have hopes
that the Emperor may pardon you. There are strong reasons for a
recommendation to mercy. Moreover, it is plain that the old Archduke
Ludwig is interested in you, and he will not fail to plead in your
favour."

"Will you listen to me now?" said Taras, quietly, when his counsel had
finished. "I can have no other wish in this matter than to see that
carried out which I have been striving for all my life--that is
justice; and a sentence of death alone would be just! I can not prevent
the Emperor pardoning me if he is so minded, but I will not have you
petition him in my name. There is one favour only I would ask, if it
comes to the dying ..." he paused, a shudder running through his frame.

"I know," said the lawyer, deeply affected, "you would like to be shot
and not hung. Father Leo told me; old Jemilian come to him once
secretly for confession ... Take comfort, I think I can promise you
that much, if indeed it must come to the worst."

Towards the end of February, Taras was sentenced to death--"to be hung
by the neck"--there could not have been any other verdict. But he was
informed at the same time that the parishes of Ridowa and Zulawce, as
well as Baron Zborowski, had petitioned the Emperor for mercy.

That same day Starkowski addressed a letter to Father Leo, acquainting
him also with the sentence, and imploring him once again to try his
influence with Anusia. The pope was deeply grieved. "Alas," he said to
his wife, "even this news will not move the woman, and what else could
I tell her? Have I not striven with her to the utmost?"

"You must try yet again," said the good little popadja; "it is the most
sacred duty in all this life of yours."

"I am sure of that," he said, sorrowfully; "and my heart bleeds at the
thought that once more I must plead in vain for her poor husband! I am
truly sorry for Anusia herself, and shall never cease befriending her,
but this hard-heartedness, this horrible power of vindictiveness in a
woman fills me with loathing."

With a heavy heart he set out on his mission, finding Anusia in her
sitting-room, her eldest boy, Wassilj, at her feet, reading to her with
a clear voice from some book of spiritual comfort. On beholding her
visitor, she gave a nod and ordered the little boy to leave them alone,
but the child hesitated, obeying her repeated command reluctantly. She
rose and went up to the pope with the icy quiet which had grown
habitual with her; but her face was fearfully worn, and she looked
quite an old woman now. There was scarcely a tremor in her voice. "I
know what you have come for," she said "He has been sentenced to
death."

"Yes," he replied. "But if ever----"

"Stop!" she interrupted; "would you have me and the children be present
at----"

"Anusia!" he cried; "it is awful--fearful; do you know that your
life-long repentance will never atone for this cruelty of heart?"

"Is that what you think?" she said, hoarsely; "and do you know how I
loved him? do you know the depth of my suffering? God knows----"

"Do not call on Him," cried the pope, passionately; "He is holy and
pitiful, and has nothing in common with the hardness of men."

"Priest," she said, confronting him wildly; "how dare you come between
Him and me? His understanding me is the one hope which keeps me from
madness----" and a cry burst from her; she fell at his feet, clinging
to his knees, moaning: "Ah, turn not away from me! Try and consider the
agony of my heart!"

He lifted her gently, making her sit down on a chair. "I do consider
it," he said; "and I have borne this sorrow with you throughout. But do
not think you can lessen it by being unforgiving and hard.... Come with
me and see him," he added, folding his hands with his heart's entreaty;
"it is his dying wish, will you not grant it? I will not plead his
right to look for his wife and children."

"No, certainly," she interrupted him, and he shuddered at the cold
denial glistening in her eyes; "he gave up his rights when he left us
with no better excuse than his mad longing to obtain justice for any
stranger. He could not have complained of me if I had told him as early
as Palm Sunday, 'I cannot prevent your going, but you cease to be my
husband,' I did not say that, I did not upbraid him, but I knelt to him
and wept at his feet. He saw the agony of my soul, and went his way. I
did not cease loving him, I only strove to save the children from his
ruin. He would not have hesitated to make me the recipient of his
plans, the go-between transmitting his messages to the village. He only
thought of his work, never of what might come to us! And when we were
taken to prison for his sake, he only said, 'And though they kill them
I must go on with this cause!' Can a husband, a father, nay, a human
being act thus? And when we were set free, and you and I went to see
him, to entreat him to forego this life of bloodshed and murder lest
his wife and children should have to bear the last fearful disgrace,
did he listen to us? 'I cannot help it, I must go on,' he said. And
neither can I help it now," she added, with a bitter moan; "he has
brought me to it, and must bear the consequences!"

"And do you think this will help you to bear it?" said the pope. "Can
it in any way lessen your sorrow?"

"No!" she cried; "but it is just! just! I am treating him as he treated
me!"

"And is it justice you look for from your Saviour?" said he; "is it
your deserts you will plead when you hope for His mercy in that day?"
He paused solemnly, but once again he strove with her entreatingly,
pleading for love and for pity. She moved not, and he could not see her
face, for she had covered it with her hands; but when a sob burst from
her ice-bound heart, and the tears welled through her fingers, hope
rose within him, and, continuing to speak to her gently, he lifted his
soul to God that the words might be given him which could touch her and
carry light into the darkness of her fearful despair.

Neither of them heard the door open, both starting when suddenly the
voice of little Wassilj was heard sobbing amid his tears. "Let me help
you, Father Leo," faltered the child, "mother will listen to us,
surely. And if she will not go with you, take me, please, for I love
father dearly!"

At these words an agonised cry burst from the woman's heart; she caught
up the boy and covered him with tears and kisses, crying: "I will go--I
will go!"

Two days later Starkowski, with a flush on his face, entered the
convict's cell. "Taras," he cried, "I am glad to tell you--your
wife----"

"Is she coming?" faltered Taras. "O God, is it possible?"

He had risen, but staggered back to his chair--it was too much for him.
Starkowski left him quietly; in his stead Anusia had entered the cell.

And husband and wife once more stood clasped to each other's heart.

The governor allowed Anusia to spend many hours with the prisoner. They
spoke of the past, of the children's future, of the village, and
everything they had in common--one subject only they both avoided, the
ghastly event which soon would separate them for this life. Taras took
leave of her and the children every evening as tenderly as though it
were the eve of his final doom, but he never referred to it, and Anusia
in her secret heart took it as a sign that after all he hoped for a
pardon.

On the 15th of May, 1840, the decision arrived from Vienna. The Emperor
had confirmed the sentence; a pardon could not be granted because "the
notoriety of the case required the law to have its course." But it was
left with the district governor to make all further arrangements and
decide the mode of execution.

It so happened that Father Leo was with the governor early in the day
when the decree arrived; he had come to beg for an interview with the
convict, and Dr. Starkowski having been sent for, the three entered the
cell together. Taras knew at once what they had come for, his face grew
white, but he could stand erect, requiring no support, while the
sentence was being imparted to him.

"You will be shot to-morrow morning," said the district governor.
"Father Leo will go with you. Your execution shall not be a spectacle
for the curious, for which reason I have fixed an early hour, and
chosen a place at some distance--a quiet glen on the way to Zablotow,
where a deserter was shot some time ago. None but myself and another
magistrate will be present, and the fact will be kept secret to-day.
Would you desire your wife to accompany you?"

"No," said Taras, "and I pray you not to tell her anything. We have
settled everything, and I shall take leave of her and the children this
evening just in the usual way, as though we were to meet again
to-morrow. I think this will be the best course for her."

And he carried out this pious deception with a wondrous strength of
purpose, passing the day in quiet intercourse with her and their
children. When she had left in the evening, utterly unconscious of the
final parting, he was removed to another cell, lit up and provided with
altar and crucifix, to spend his last night in the customary way.
Father Leo took his confession, Taras's voice being low and earnest,
but he was very calm; and having received absolution and the sacrament
at the hands of his friend, he passed the rest of the night in silent
prayer.

At daybreak the following morning, when the town yet lay buried in
sleep, three carriages drove away in the direction of Zablotow, the
governor and a brother magistrate occupying the first, the condemned
man, Father Leo, and a couple of soldiers the second, some more
soldiers in the third bringing up the rear.

It was a perfect morning of spring. Taras drew deep breaths of the
fragrant air, and his eye rested on the blossoming fruit-trees by the
way. "God is kind to me," he said, turning to the pope, "letting His
sun rise brightly on my dying hour."

"Yes, God is good," said the pope, "He is always kinder than men ..."
The poor priest spoke his inmost feeling, but he regretted it almost
immediately--was it for him to drop bitterness into the heart of the
dying man?

But Taras only shook his head. "It is your grief for me which makes you
unjust, Father Leo," he said, quietly. "I have thought deeply these
last days, and I see there is much to be thankful for! I may be at
rest, too, concerning my poor wife; and as for my children, I am
certain you and Anusia will bring them up rightly, and they will live
to be good."

"I will not fail in my duty by them; I shall look upon it as a holy
vow," said the pope solemnly. And he kept it faithfully. The children
of Taras are alive to this day, honoured and loved by their neighbours,
richly blessed, too, in outward circumstances; and Wassilj Barabola
would long ago have been made judge of his village had he not declined
the distinction, remembering the promise he gave to his father.

"And even as regards myself!" said Taras. "All my life long I have
endeavoured to farther the Right and promote justice, and if I have
done grievous wrong myself, yet I have not failed entirely. But for
this strife of mine, oppression would be more rampant than it is now;
my own parish would not have received back the field of which we were
defrauded, and the wicked mandatar would not have been replaced by a
man who means well by the peasants. So you see, dear friend, the grace
of God has been with me after all! I have not lived in vain; as for my
evil deeds, I now pay the penalty, as is right and meet. Why should I
complain!"

"Oh, Taras!" cried Leo, "what a heart was yours, and to come to such an
end!"

"Nay," said Taras, "I am poor and sinful, and my pride was great; yet I
always longed for the Right, and to see it done was my heart's desire.
The Judge of men, I trust, will be merciful to me."

"Amen!" said Leo, with stifled voice, and he began to say the prayers,
Taras repeating the words after him fervently. They reached the glen.
The sentence was read, and the priest resumed prayers.

Taras stood up. The soldiers fired, and he was struck to the heart. He
lay still in death, and his face bore an expression of deep content.

They buried him where he fell. There is no cross to show his grave, but
the place to this day is known to the people as "the Glen of Taras."



                               FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: These mountaineers, like the Tirolese, know but one
pronoun in addressing high or low, the "Thou" being used throughout the
story in the original; but their straightforward simplicity may be
sufficiently apparent, though substituting the English "You."]

[Footnote 2: Forced labour, a reminiscence of villanage, surviving in
Slavonic countries.]

[Footnote 3: One of a church choir.]

[Footnote 4: Soldiers.]

[Footnote 5: The fur mantle.]

[Footnote 6: Orthodox Jews wear on their chest a short garment with
fringes according to the rabinical tradition; _vide_ Numbers xv. 38.]



                                THE END.





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