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Title: Cossack Tales
Author: Gogol, Nicholas
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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COSSACK TALES,

BY

NICHOLAS GOGOL.

TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN

BY

GEORGE TOLSTOY.

LONDON

JAMES BLACKWOOD, PATERNOSTER ROW.



INTRODUCTION.


A historical sketch placed before a work of fiction must seem, to many,
a very inconsistent thing, and yet the title of the present volume,
"COSSACK TALES," obliges the translator to give a short account of this
sometime warlike race. Such an account is the more wanted, as not only
in England, but in all Europe, the notion exists that the Cossacks were
something like a _Deus ex machinâ_, emerging from space at the moment
requisite to put a stop to the triumphs if Napoleon I., to drive back
to their respective homes the motley array of the twenty nations he
brought into Russia, to pitch their tents in the _Champs Élysées_,
to put all things right in Paris, and then to vanish once more into
space, where, for more than four centuries, Europe had never so much as
perceived their existence.

The invasion of the Tartars in the middle of the thirteenth century
took place when Russia was torn asunder by two kindred and yet hostile
branches of the house of Rurick: the younger branch had settled in the
northern (at the present time the middle) part of the country; the
elder, after many struggles and reverses, had succeeded in regaining
its inheritance, the ancient metropolis Kieff, and the whole of the
southern principalities. Both branches bore a revengeful remembrance
of their mutual feuds, and while the elder viewed with jealousy the
gradual rise of the northern princes, the latter envied the firm
grasp with which the southern princes clutched their long disputed
sway. Hence it came that, when hordes of Tartars overran the northern
principalities, the princes of the South lent no ear to the entreaties
of their northern brethren for help. Hence, also, the reason of these
latter remaining inert and submissive to their recent conquerors, the
Tartars, when those conquerors laid waste the fertile territories which
extended along the south of Russia.

Soon afterwards, the trans-Carpathian parts of Russia, _Red Russia_,
i.e., Galicia, Lodomeria, &c., ceased to be any longer accounted as
forming part of Russia. The marshy tracts of land to the east of
Poland, _White Russia_, formed a new and distinct power, Lithuania,
soon destined to merge into Poland. The north of Russia, _Great
Russia_, had yet two centuries more to endure the yoke of the Tartars.
At this time Southern or _Little Russia_, called also _Ukraine_ (i.e.,
the borders), gave birth to a new race, the _Cossacks_.

The princes of Southern Russia had forsaken their subjects, and gone
into Lithuania to seek for a less disturbed dominion than that over a
country exposed to the incessant depredations of the Crimean Tartars,
and converted into the battle-field of these Tartars with the Russians
and the Poles. Their subjects were thus left behind without anybody to
look to for protection, or for guidance, in defence of their homes,
and revenge for their country being annually wasted by fire and sword
by their Crimean neighbours. Reduced to despair at seeing their homes
burnt to ashes, their wives and children carried away by those savage
invaders, to suffer all the consequences of their rude slavery, these
men, to speak in the words of Gogol, "Left orphans, and seeing their
country left like a widow after the loss of a mighty husband, held out
their hands to one another to be brothers," and this brotherhood gave
rise to the _Cossacks_, whose name for a Russian, even to this day,
embodies every idea of the utmost freedom,[1] and who ever since have
been ready to fight at the first notice of their country or of their
faith being in danger.

At first, they sought a refuge in the wooded islands of the Dnieper,
amidst the rapids of this river, and, no doubt, first dwelt under the
canopy of heaven amidst the trunks of the trees which they felled for
building their huts. This may, perhaps, account for the community
assuming the name of _Zaporoghian Ssiecha_,[2] a name which has
become inseparable from the idea of fight and slaughter, of deeds
of valour and of cruelty. Having no means of livelihood, they, of
course, resolved to procure them at the expense of those by whom they
were brought to this desperate situation. They had learnt from their
own experience that a good sabre was more to be depended upon than a
plough, and that labour and industry were of no avail at such times
when everything at any moment might be taken by him who dealt the
heavier blow. As all who have seen the worst of miseries, and have
nothing to lose in the world, whose life is one of incessant peril,
they knew no fear--for them death had lost its horrors. No women were
permitted to dwell amongst them; no tears were shed in memory of those
who fell in battle or were led away captive; but their exploits were
repeatedly sung in the Cossacks' circles, and excited revenge in the
hearts of the older, emulation in the hearts of the younger.

In a community thus formed, no laws could be enforced, no regular
partition into regiments, companies, &c., could take place. They chose
for their chief some one amongst themselves, whose hand had been seen
to deal the heaviest blows in battle, whose hair had blanched amidst
warlike exploits, and who had become remarkable for his daring and his
cunning in their unsophisticated mode of warfare. To this chief they
gave the title of _Ataman_.[3] Eventually with the increase in numbers
of their community, they divided themselves into _koorens_,[4] each
of which chose for itself a _koorennoï ataman_,[5] subordinate to
the Ataman of the Ssiecha, who was called _Koschevoï Ataman_;[6] to
the latter (very often an illiterate man) a _writer_ or secretary, a
judge, and some other officers for transacting the public business of
the Ssiecha, were appointed. But these dignitaries held their offices
only as long as it pleased their electors; at the first summons of
any drunken fellow who chose to beat the kettle-drum in the public
square of the Ssiecha, and bring a complaint against the Ataman before
the _Rada_ (i.e., the whole assembled Ssiecha), the Ataman and his
colleagues were sure to be deposed and new ones elected in their stead.
Not so during a campaign: then the Koschevoï Ataman assumed dictatorial
power, decreed death and granted life at his pleasure, and nobody,
under pain of death, might resist his commands or bring a complaint
against him till the return to the Ssiecha.

When the Ssiecha had attained this degree of development, the kings of
Poland, who, at the instigation of the Jesuits, had endeavoured to
enforce upon Little Russia the tenets of Popery under the disguise
of the so-called _Union_, had already, under show of protection,
garrisoned the most important cities of this country with Polish
troops, and sought (though always unavailingly) to make its elective
chief or prince, the _hetman_, a delegate of their power and a mere
tool of their pleasure. Consequently, the jealousy of the Cossacks
(for this name had been assumed by the inhabitants of all Ukraine) was
already aroused against the Poles, but when they saw the haughty Polish
lords treat their religion with contempt, shut up their churches, and
give the keys to Jews, who levied taxes on each baptism, marriage, or
burial: then was it that the whole of the Little Russians, summoning
their brethren of the Zaporoghian Ssiecha to their help, began those
wars with Poland which continued uninterrupted till the middle of the
seventeenth century. The history of those wars, on the part of the
Poles, is but a repetition of the horrors perpetrated by the Spaniards
in the New World, by the Inquisition in Spain, &c., in a word, by
savage fanaticism everywhere when led by the priests of Rome. On the
part of the Cossacks the reprisals were not less terrible, although
the latter, while exterminating every Pole, male or female, young or
old, put them to immediate death by the sword, fire, or water, and
never attained the Popish refinements of torturing their prisoners, of
flaying them alive, boiling them in oil, roasting them in brazen oxen,
&c.

The Zaporoghians, who had parted from their brethren, when these latter
had submitted to the Poles, united themselves again to those brethren,
now once more free, now once more Cossacks, and from this time the
existence of the Ssiecha as a separate community seems to have ceased;
it became incorporated in Little Russia and remained nothing more than
a standing encampment of Cossacks, ever ready at the command of the
hetman of Little Russia. With Little Russia, it submitted itself to its
co-religionary Russian Czar Alexis (1654), and, with Little Russia,
it remained true to the Emperor Peter I. when on the field of Poltava
(1709). Hetman Mazeppa proved traitor to him. But by degrees, as the
civilization of Western Europe spread in Russia, and a more regular
mode of administration was enforced in Little Russia, the Zaporoghian
Cossacks began to grow disaffected. At last, when Catherine II. annexed
to her empire the kingdom of Poland, and achieved the conquest of the
Crimea and all the north-western part of the sea-board of the Black
Sea, the Ssiecha had no longer any reason to prolong its existence, as
it lost its position of an outpost against the foes of the country, and
became surrounded by Russian possessions. Some of the Zaporoghians were
loth to submit to the legislature and administration which the Czarina
framed for her empire. Headed by their Ataman _Nekrassoff_, they fled
to Turkey, and the existence of the Ssiecha ceased with the sound of
their horsehoofs dying away in the distance.

This brief sketch sufficiently proves that the Zaporoghian Cossacks
had nothing in common with the Cossacks of the present day. The latter
form a standing militia, living on their own lands situated oh the
southern and eastern borders of Russia. They are bound to maintain at
their own cost a fixed number of regiments of horse and foot, and are
governed by their respective atamans. The principal of these Cossacks
are, those of the _Don_, whose ataman was the renowned Platoff; those
of the _Black Sea_ (_Czernomortzy_); of the _Caucasus_; of _Astrakhan_;
of _Orenburg_; and of the _Ural_, one of whom was Poogachoff, the
pseudo-Peter III.; of _Siberia_; and a recently formed corps of the
_Trans-Baikalian Cossacks_, having the guardianship of the Russian
frontier towards China.


"THE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS EYE," is a series of comic scenes taken from
the life of the peasants in Little Russia in the last century.

"TARASS BOOLBA," is a graphic, lively, and, what is more, a
historically true picture of the state of the Zaporoghian Ssiecha at
the beginning of the religious wars with Poland.

The original tales were written in Russian, mixed up, especially in
the conversations, with the native idiom of the author, who was a
Little Russian. Now, although, as Sir Jerome Horsey[7] reports, Queen
Elizabeth boasted, when speaking of the Russian language, that "she
could quicklie lern it," yet it has always proved a stumbling block
to foreigners, and few, if any, Englishmen can appreciate at its full
value the peculiarities of "this famoust and most copius language
in the worlde," especially in conjunction with the Little Russian
idiom, which even some Russians do not understand. In a translation,
of course, many of the beauties of the original must disappear,
particularly those which depend upon elegance of style, and this was
one of the qualities of Gogol. But Gogol had one quality besides, that
gave him a prominent place amongst authors, makes him till now the most
popular writer in Russia, and caused his death to be lamented as an
irretrievable loss to Russian literature: it was his art of making his
reader join him in laughter whenever he laughs, in sorrow whenever he
weeps, and to influence the feelings of his reader with every feeling
he feels himself, and, above all, with that one which predominates in
his heart-enthousiastic love of his native country.

The translator will be happy if, in remaining faithful to the original,
he has been so fortunate as to give even a faint outline of its
beauties.


[Footnote 1: "_Free as a Cossack_" is a common phrase in Russia.]

[Footnote 2: _Zaporoghian_ means "beyond the rapids." _Ssiecha_ has two
meanings: first, a place in a forest where trees have be en cut down;
secondly, a slaughter, the thickest of a fight.]

[Footnote 3: _Ataman_ (a rank still preserved amongst the Russian
irregular troops and signifying _chief_) is a title quite different
from that of _hetman_, who was the elective prince of Little Russia.
The last who bore the title of _hetman_ was the favourite and supposed
husband of the Empress Elizabeth, Count Razumoffsky. Count Platoff, who
led the Cossacks in the war against Napoleon I. is miscalled _hetman_
by foreigners: he was in fact only _ataman_.]

[Footnote 4: _Kooren_ is derived from a word signifying "to smoke." It
designated the abode of a company whose fires smoked in common, and who
had one common store of provisions.]

[Footnote 5: A _koorennoï ataman_ was the chief of a kooren, and had to
superintend the distribution of the victuals, and the division of the
spoil taken by his kooren.]

[Footnote 6: Literally, "Chief of the encampment."]

[Footnote 7: _Sir Jerome Horsey_, originally a clerk of the "Company
of English Merchants Adventurers," trading with Muscovy, had been
occasionally employed as diplomatic messenger by Queen Elizabeth and
by Czar Ivan (the Terrible), and his son Czar Theodore. His travels,
published some years ago, contain much highly interesting information
about the commercial intercourse between England and Russia in the
latter part of the sixteenth century.]



COSSACK TALES.



THE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS EVE:


A LEGEND OF LITTLE RUSSIA.


BY NICHOLAS GOGOL.


The last day before Christmas had just closed. A bright winter night
had come on, stars had appeared, and the moon rose majestically in the
heavens to shine upon good men and the whole of the world, so that they
might gaily sing carols and hymns in praise of the nativity of Christ.
The frost had grown more severe than during the day; but, to make up
for this, everything had become so still that the crisping of the snow
under foot might be heard nearly half a verst round. As yet there was
not a single group of young peasants to be seen under the windows
of the cottages; the moon alone peeped stealthily in at them, as if
inviting the maidens, who were decking themselves, to make haste and
have a run on the crisp snow. Suddenly, out of the chimney of one of
the cottages, volumes of smoke ascended in clouds towards the heavens,
and in the midst of those clouds rose, on a besom, a witch.

If at that time the magistrate of Sorochinsk[1] had happened to pass
in his carriage, drawn by three horses, his head covered by a lancer
cap with sheepskin trimming, and wrapped in his great cloak, covered
with blue cloth and lined with black sheepskin, and with his tightly
plaited lash, which he uses for making the driver drive faster--if
this worthy gentleman had happened to pass at that time, no doubt he
would have seen the witch, because there is no witch who could glide
away without his seeing her. He knows to a certainty how many sucking
pigs each swine brings forth in each cottage, how much linen lies in
each box, and what each one has pawned in the brandy-shop out of his
clothes or his household furniture. But the magistrate of Sorochinsk
happened _not_ to pass; and then, what has he to do with those out of
his jurisdiction? he has his own circuit. And the witch by this time
had risen so high that she only looked like a little dark spot up
above; but wherever that spot went, one star after another disappeared
from heaven. In a short time the witch had got a whole sleeveful of
them. Some three or four only remained shining. On a sudden, from the
opposite side, appeared another spot, which went on growing, spreading,
and soon became no longer a spot. A short-sighted man, had he put,
not only spectacles, but even the wheels of a britzka on his nose,
would never have been able to make out what it was. In front, it was
just like a German;[2] a narrow snout, incessantly turning on every
side, and smelling about, ended like those of our pigs, in a small,
round, flattened end; its legs were so thin, that had the village
elder got no better, he would have broken them to pieces in the first
squatting-dance. But, as if to make amends for these deficiencies, it
might have been taken, viewed from behind, for the provincial advocate,
so much was its long pointed tail like the skirt of our dress-coats.
And yet, a look at the goat's beard under its snout, at the small
horns sticking out of its head, and at the whole of its figure, which
was no whiter than that of a chimney sweeper, would have sufficed
to make any one guess that it was neither a German nor a provincial
advocate, but the Devil in person, to whom only one night more was
left for walking about the world and tempting good men to sin. On the
morrow, at the first stroke of the church bell, he was to run, with
his tail between his legs, back to his quarters. The devil then, as
the devil it was, stole warily to the moon, and stretched out his hand
to get hold of it; but at the very same moment he drew it hastily back
again, as if he had burnt it, shook his foot, sucked his fingers, ran
round on the other side, sprang at the moon once more, and once more
drew his hand away. Still, notwithstanding his being baffled, the
cunning devil did not desist from his mischievous designs. Dashing
desperately forwards, he grasped the moon with both hands, and, making
wry faces and blowing hard, he threw it from one hand to the other,
like a peasant who has taken a live coal in his hand to light his
pipe. At last, he hastily hid it in his pocket, and went on his way
as if nothing had happened. At Dikanka,[3] nobody suspected that the
devil had stolen the moon. It is true that the village scribe, coming
out of the brandy-shop on all fours, saw how the moon, without any
apparent reason, danced in the sky, and took his oath of it before the
whole village, but the distrustful villagers shook their heads, and
even laughed at him. And now, what was the reason that the devil had
decided on such an unlawful step? Simply this: he knew very well that
the rich Cossack[4] Choop[5] was invited to an evening party at the
parish clerk's, where he was to meet the elder, also a relation of the
clerk, who was in the archbishop's chapel, and who wore a blue coat
and had a most sonorous _basso profondo_, the Cossack Sverbygooze, and
some other acquaintances; where there would be for supper, not only the
kootia,[6] but also a varenookha,[7] as well as corn-brandy, flavoured
with saffron, and divers other dainties. He knew that in the mean time
Choop's daughter, the belle of the village, would remain at home; and
he knew, moreover, that to this daughter would come the blacksmith,
a lad of athletic strength, whom the devil held in greater aversion
than even the sermons of Father Kondrat. When the blacksmith had
no work on hand, he used to practise painting, and had acquired the
reputation of being the best painter in the whole district. Even the
Centurion[8] had expressly sent for him to Poltava, for the purpose of
painting the wooden palisade round his house. All the tureens out of
which the Cossacks of Dikanka ate their borsch,[9] were adorned with
the paintings of the blacksmith. He was a man of great piety, and often
painted images of the saints; even now, some of them may be seen in the
village church; but his masterpiece was a painting on the right side
of the church-door; in it he had represented the Apostle Peter, at the
Day of Judgment, with the keys in his hand, driving the evil spirit
out of hell; the terrified devil, apprehending his ruin, rushed hither
and thither, and the sinners, freed from their imprisonment, pursued
and thrashed him with scourges, logs of wood, and anything that came
to hand. All the time that the blacksmith was busy with this picture,
and was painting it on a great board, the devil used all his endeavours
to spoil it; he pushed his hand, raised the ashes out of the forge,
and spread them over the painting; but, notwithstanding all this, the
work was finished, the board was brought to the church, and fixed in
the wall of the porch. From that time the devil vowed vengeance on
the blacksmith. He had only one night left to roam about the world,
but even in that night he sought to play some evil trick upon the
blacksmith. For this reason he, had resolved to steal the moon, for
he knew that old Choop was lazy above all things, not quick to stir
his feet; that the road to the clerk's was long, and went across back
lanes, next to mills, along the churchyard, and over the top of a
precipice; and though the varenookha and the saffron brandy might have
got the better of Choop's laziness on a moonlight night, yet, in such
darkness, it would be difficult to suppose that anything could prevail
on him to get down from his oven[10] and quit his cottage. And the
blacksmith, who had long been at variance with Choop, would not on
any account, in spite even of his strength, visit his daughter in his
presence.

So stood events: hardly had the devil hidden the moon in his pocket,
when all at once it grew so dark that many could not have found their
way to the brandy-shop, still less to the clerk's. The witch, finding
herself suddenly in darkness, shrieked aloud. The devil coming near
her, took her hand, and began to whisper to her those same things which
are usually whispered to all womankind.

How oddly things go on in this world of ours! Every one who lives
in it endeavours to copy and ape his neighbour. Of yore there was
nobody at Mirgorod[11] but the judge and the mayor, who in winter wore
fur cloaks covered with cloth; all their subordinates went in plain
uncovered too-loops;[12] and now, only see, the deputy, as well as
the under-cashier, wear new cloaks of black sheep fur covered with
cloth. Two years ago, the village-scribe and the town-clerk bought
blue nankeen, for which they paid full sixty copecks the arsheen.[13]
The sexton, too, has found it necessary to have nankeen trousers for
the summer, and a striped woollen waistcoat. In short, there is no one
who does not try to cut a figure. When will the time come when men
will desist from vanity? One may wager that many will be astonished at
finding the devil making love. The most provoking part of it is, to
think that really he fancies himself a beau, when the fact is, that he
has such a phiz, that one is ashamed to look at it--such a phiz, that,
as one of my friends says, it is the abomination of abominations; and
yet, he, too, ventures to make love!

But it grew so dark in the sky, and under the sky, that there was no
possibility of further seeing what passed between the devil and the
witch.

"So thou sayest, kinsman, that thou hast not yet been in the clerk's
new abode?" said the Cossack Choop, stepping out of his cottage, to a
tall meagre peasant in a short tooloop, with a well grown beard, which
it was evident had remained at least a fortnight untouched by the piece
of scythe, which the peasants use instead of a razor,[14] "There will
be a good drinking party," continued Choop, endeavouring to smile at
these words, "only we must not be too late;" and with this Choop drew
still closer his belt, which was tightly girded round his tooloop,
pulled his cap over his eyes, and grasped more firmly his whip, the
terror of importunate dogs; but looking up, remained fixed to the spot.
"What the devil! look, kinsman!"

"What now?" uttered the kinsman, also lifting up his head.

"What now? Why, where is the moon gone?"

"Ah! sure enough, gone she is."

"Yes, that she is!" said Choop, somewhat cross at the equanimity of the
kinsman, "and it's all the same to thee."

"And how could I help it?"

"That must be the trick of some evil spirit," continued Choop, rubbing
his mustachios with his sleeve. "Wretched dog, may he find no glass
of brandy in the morning! Just as if it were to laugh at us; and I
was purposely looking out of window as I was sitting in the room;
such a splendid night; so light, the snow shining so brightly in the
moonlight; everything to be seen as if by day; and now we have hardly
crossed the threshold, and behold it is as dark as blindness!"

And Choop continued a long time in the same strain, moaning and
groaning, and thinking all the while what was to be done. He greatly
wished to have a gossip about all sorts of nonsense at the clerk's
lodgings, where, he felt quite sure, were already assembled the elder,
the newly arrived _basso profondo_, as well as the tar-maker Nikita,
who went every fortnight to Poltava on business, and who told such
funny stories that his hearers used to laugh till they were obliged to
hold their belts. Choop even saw, in his mind's eye, the varenookha
brought forth upon the table. All this was most enticing, it is true;
but then the darkness of the night put him in mind of the laziness
which is so very dear to every Cossack. Would it not be well now
to lie upon the oven, with his feet drawn up to his body, quietly
enjoying a pipe, and listening through a delightful drowsiness to the
songs and carols of the gay lads and maidens who would come in crowds
under the windows? Were Choop alone, there is no doubt he would have
preferred the latter; but to go in company would not be so tedious or
so frightful after all, be the night ever so dark; besides, he did not
choose to appear to another either lazy or timorous; so, putting an end
to his grumbling, he once more turned to the kinsman. "Well, kinsman;
so the moon is gone?"

"She is."

"Really, it is very strange! Give me a pinch of thy snuff. Beautiful
snuff it is; where dost thou buy it, kinsman?"

"I should like to know what is so beautiful in it;" answered the
kinsman, shutting his snuff-box, made of birch bark and adorned with
different designs pricked on it; "it would not make an old hen sneeze."

"I remember," continued Choop in the same strain, "the defunct
pot-house keeper, Zoozooha, once brought me some snuff from Niegin.[15]
That was what I call snuff--capital snuff! Well, kinsman, what are we
to do? The night is dark."

"Well, I am ready to remain at home," answered the kinsman taking hold
of the handle of the door.

Had not the kinsman spoken thus, Choop would have decidedly remained
at home; but now, there was something which prompted him to do quite
the contrary. "No, kinsman; we will go; go we must;" and whilst saying
this, he was already cross with himself for having thus spoken. He was
much displeased at having to walk so far on such a night, and yet he
felt gratified at having had his own way, and having gone contrary to
the advice he had received. The kinsman, without the least expression
of discontent on his face, like a man perfectly indifferent to sitting
at home or to taking a walk, looked round, scratched his shoulder with
the handle of his cudgel, and away went the two kinsmen.

Let us now take a glance at what Choop's beautiful daughter was about
when left alone. Oxana has not yet completed her seventeenth year, and
already all the people of Dikanka, nay, even the people beyond it,
talk of nothing but her beauty. The young men are unanimous in their
decision, and have proclaimed her the most beautiful girl that ever
was, or ever can be, in the village. Oxana knows this well, and hears
everything that is said about her, and she is, of course, as capricious
as a beauty knows how to be. Had she been born to wear a lady's elegant
dress, instead of a simple peasant's petticoat and apron, she would
doubtless have proved so fine a lady that no maid could have remained
in her service. The lads followed her in crowds; but she used to put
their patience to such trials, that they all ended by leaving her to
herself, and taking up with other girls, not so spoiled as she was. The
blacksmith was the only one who did not desist from his love suit, but
continued it, notwithstanding her ill-treatment, in which he had no
less share than the others.

When her father was gone, Oxana remained for a long time decking
herself, and coquetting before a small looking-glass, framed in tin.
She could not tire of admiring her own likeness in the glass. "Why do
men talk so much about my being so pretty?" said she, absently, merely
for the sake of gossiping aloud. "Nonsense; there is nothing pretty in
me." But the mirror, reflecting her fresh, animated, childish features,
with brilliant dark eyes, and a smile most inexpressibly bewitching,
proved quite the contrary. "Unless," continued the beauty, holding up
the mirror, "may be, my black eyebrows and my dark eyes are so pretty
that no prettier are to be found in the world; as for this little snub
nose of mine, and my cheeks and my lips, what is there pretty in them?
or, are my tresses so very beautiful? Oh! one might be frightened at
them in the dark; they seem like so many serpents twining round my
head. No, I see very well that I am not at all beautiful!" And then,
on a sudden, holding the looking-glass a little further off, "No," she
exclaimed, exultingly, "No, I really am pretty! and how pretty! how
beautiful! What joy shall I bring to him whose wife I am to be! How
delighted will my husband be to look at me! He will forget all other
thoughts in his love for me! He will smother me with kisses."

"A strange girl, indeed," muttered the blacksmith who had in the mean
time entered the room, "and no small share of vanity has she got! There
she stands for the last hour, looking at herself in the glass, and
cannot leave off, and moreover praises herself aloud."

"Yes, indeed lads! is any one of you a match for me?" went on the
pretty flirt; "look at me, how gracefully I walk; my bodice is
embroidered with red silk, and what ribbons I have got for my hair!
You have never seen any to be compared to them! All this my father has
bought on purpose for me, that I may marry the smartest fellow that
ever was born!" and so saying, she laughingly turned round and saw
the blacksmith. She uttered a cry and put on a severe look, standing
straight before him. The blacksmith stood quite abashed. It would
be difficult to specify the meaning of the strange girl's somewhat
sunburnt face; there was a degree of severity in it, and, in this same
severity, somewhat of raillery at the blacksmith's bashfulness, as well
as a little vexation, which spread an almost imperceptible blush over
her features. All this was so complicated, and became her so admirably
Well, that the best thing to have done would have been to give her
thousands and thousands of kisses.

"Why didst thou come hither?" she began. "Dost thou wish me to take up
the shovel and drive thee from the house? Oh! you, all of you, know
well how to insinuate yourselves into our company! You scent out in no
time when the father has turned his back on the house. Oh! I know you
well! Is my box finished?"

"It will be ready, dear heart of mine--it will be ready after the
festival. Couldst thou but know how much trouble it has cost me--two
nights did I never leave my smithy. Sure enough, thou wilt find no
such box anywhere, not even belonging to a priest's wife. The iron I
used for binding it! I did not use the like even for the centurion's
tarataika,[16] when I went to Poltava. And then, the painting of it.
Wert thou to go on thy white feet round all the district, thou wouldst
not find such another painting. The whole of the box will sparkle with
red and blue flowers. It will be a delight to look upon it. Be not
angry with me. Allow me--be it only to speak to thee--nay, even to look
at thee."

"Who means to forbid it? speak and look," and she sat down on the
bench, threw one more glance at the glass, and began to adjust the
plaits on her head, looked at her neck, at her new bodice, embroidered
with silk, and a scarcely visible expression of self-content played
over her lips and cheeks and brightened her eyes.

"Allow me to sit down beside thee," said the blacksmith.

"Be seated," answered Oxana, preserving the same expression about her
mouth and in her looks.

"Beautiful Oxana! nobody will ever have done looking at thee--let me
kiss thee!" exclaimed the blacksmith recovering his presence of mind,
and drawing her towards him, endeavoured to snatch a kiss; her cheek
was already at an imperceptible distance from the blacksmith's lips,
when Oxana sprang aside and pushed him back. "What wilt thou want next?
When one has got honey, he wants a spoon too. Away with thee! thy hands
are harder than iron, and thou smellest of smoke thyself; I really
think thou hast besmeared me with thy soot." She then took the mirror
and once more began to adorn herself.

"She does not care for me," thought the blacksmith, hanging down
his head. "Everything is but play to her, and I am here like a fool
standing before her and never taking my eyes off her. Charming girl.
What would I not do only to know what is passing in her heart. Whom
does she love? But no, she cares for no one, she is fond only of
herself, she delights in the sufferings she causes to my own poor self,
and my grief prevents me from thinking of anything else, and I love her
as nobody in the world ever loved or is likely to love."

"Is it true that thy mother is a witch?" asked Oxana laughing; and the
blacksmith felt as if everything within him laughed too, as if that
laugh had found an echo in his heart and in all his veins; and at the
same time he felt provoked at having no right to cover with kisses that
pretty laughing face.

"What do I care about my mother! Thou art my mother, my father--all
that I hold precious in the world! Should the Czar send for me to his
presence and say to me, 'Blacksmith Vakoola,' ask of me whatever I have
best in my realm--I'll give it all to thee; I'll order to have made
for thee a golden smithy, where thou shalt forge with silver hammers.'
'I'll none of it,' would I answer the Czar. 'I'll have no precious
stones, no golden smithy, no, not even the whole of thy realm--give me
only my Oxana!'"

"Now, only see what a man thou art! But my father has got another idea
in his head; thou'lt see if he does not marry thy mother!"[17] said
Oxana with an arch smile. "But what can it mean? the maidens are not
yet come--it is high time for carolling. I am getting dull."

"Never mind about them, my beauty!"

"But, of course, I do mind; they will doubtless bring some lads with
them, and then, how merry we shall be! I fancy all the droll stories
that will be told!"

"So thou feelest merry with them?"

"Of course merrier than with thee. Ah! there is somebody knocking at
the door; it must be the maidens and the lads!"

"Why need I stay any longer?" thought the blacksmith. "She laughs at
me; she cares no more about me than about a rust-eaten horseshoe. But,
be it so. I will at least give no one an opportunity to laugh at me.
Let me only mark who it is she prefers to me. I'll teach him how to"--

His meditation was cut short by a loud knocking at the door, and a
harsh "Open the door," rendered still harsher by the frost.

"Be quiet, I'll go and open it myself," said the blacksmith, stepping
into the passage with the firm intention of giving vent to his wrath by
breaking the bones of the first man who should come in his way.

The frost increased, and it became so cold that the devil went hopping
from one hoof to the other, and blowing his fingers to warm his
benumbed hands. And, of course, he could not feel otherwise than quite
frozen: all day long he did nothing but saunter about hell, where,
as everybody knows, it is by no means so cold as in our winter air;
and where, with his cap on his head, and standing before a furnace
as if really a cook, he felt as much pleasure in roasting sinners as
a peasant's wife feels at frying sausages for Christmas. The witch,
though warmly clad, felt cold too, so lifting up her arms, and putting
one foot before the other, just as if she were skating, without moving
a limb, she slid down as if from a sloping ice mountain right into
the chimney. The devil followed her example; but as this creature is
swifter than any boot-wearing beau, it is not at all astonishing that
at the very entrance of the chimney, he went down upon the shoulders
of the witch and both slipped down together into a wide oven, with
pots all round it. The lady traveller first of all noiselessly opened
the oven-door a little, to see if her son Vakoola had not brought home
some party of friends; but there being nobody in the room, and only
some sacks lying in the middle of it on the floor, she crept out of the
oven, took off her warm coat, put her dress in order, and was quite
tidy in no time, so that nobody could ever possibly have suspected her
of having ridden on a besom a minute before.

The mother of the blacksmith Vakoola was not more than forty; she was
neither handsome nor plain; indeed it is difficult to be handsome at
that age. Yet, she knew well how to make herself pleasant to the aged
Cossacks (who, by-the-bye, did not care much about a handsome face);
many went to call upon her, the elder, Assip Nikiphorovitch the clerk
(of course when his wife was from home), the Cossack Kornius Choop,
the Cossack Kassian Sverbygooze. At all events this must be said for
her, she perfectly well understood how to manage with them; none of
them ever suspected for a moment that he had a rival. Was a pious
peasant going home from church on some holiday; or was a Cossack, in
bad weather, on his way to the brandy-shop; what should prevent him
from paying Solokha a visit, to eat some greasy curd dumplings with
sour cream, and to have a gossip with the talkative and good-natured
mistress of the cottage? And the Cossack made a long circuit on his way
to the brandy-shop, and called it "just looking in as he passed." When
Solokha went to church on a holiday, she always wore a gay-coloured
petticoat, with another short blue one over it, adorned with two gold
braids, sewed on behind it in the shape of two curly mustachios. When
she took her place at the right side of the church, the clerk was sure
to cough and twinkle his eyes at her; the elder twirled his mustachios,
twisted his crown-lock of hair round his ear, and said to his
neighbour, "A splendid woman! a devilish fine woman!" Solokha nodded
to every one, and every one thought that Solokha nodded to him alone.
But those who liked to pry into other people's business, noticed that
Solokha exerted the utmost of her civility towards the Cossack Choop.

Choop was a widower; eight ricks of corn stood always before his
cottage: two strong bulls used to put their heads out of their wattled
shed, gaze up and down the street, and bellow every time they caught
a glimpse of their cousin a cow, or their uncle the stout ox; the
bearded goat climbed up to the very roof, and bleated from thence in a
key as shrill as that of the mayor, and teased the turkeys which were
proudly walking in the yard, and turned his back as soon as he saw his
inveterate enemies, the urchins, who used to laugh at his beard. In
Choop's boxes there was plenty of linen, plenty of warm coats, and many
old-fashioned dresses bound with gold braid; for his late wife had been
a dashing woman. Every year, there was a couple of beds planted with
tobacco in his kitchen-garden, which was, besides, well provided with
poppies, cabbages, and sunflowers. All this, Solokha thought, would
suit very well if united to her own household; she was already mentally
regulating the management of this property when it should pass into
her hands; and so she went on increasing in kindness towards old Choop.
At the same time, to prevent her son Vakoola from making an impression
on Choop's daughter, and getting the whole of the property (in which
case she was sure of not being allowed to interfere with anything),
she had recourse to the usual means of all women of her age--she took
every opportunity to make Choop quarrel with the blacksmith. These very
artifices were perhaps the cause that it came to be rumoured amongst
the old women (particularly when they happened to take a drop too much
at some gay party) that Solokha was positively a witch; that young
Kiziakaloopenko had seen on her back a tail no bigger than a common
spindle; that on the last Thursday but one she ran across the road in
the shape of a black kitten; that once there had come to the priest a
hog, which crowed like a cock, put on Father Kondrat's hat, and then
ran away. It so happened that as the old women were discussing this
point, there came by Tymish Korostiavoi, the herdsman. He could not
help telling how, last summer, just before St. Peter's fast, as he laid
himself down for sleep in his shed, and had put some straw under his
head, with his own eyes he beheld the witch, with her hair unplaited
and nothing on but her shift, come and milk her cows; how he was so
bewitched that he could not move any of his limbs; how she came to him
and greased his lips with some nasty stuff, so that he could not help
spitting all the next day. And yet all these stories seem of a somewhat
doubtful character, because there is nobody but the magistrate of
Sorochinsk who can distinguish a witch. This was the reason why all
the chief Cossacks waved their hands on hearing such stories. "Mere
nonsense, stupid hags!" was their usual answer.

Having come out of the oven and put herself to rights, Solokha, like a
good housewife, began to arrange and put everything in its place; but
she did not touch the sacks: "Vakoola had brought them in--he might
take them out again." In the mean time the devil, as he was coming
down the chimney, caught a glimpse of Choop, who, arm in arm with his
kinsman, was already a long way off from his cottage. Instantly, the
devil flew out of the chimney, ran across the way, and began to break
asunder the heaps of frozen snow which were lying all around. Then
began a snow-storm. The air was all whitened with snow-flakes. The
snow went rushing backwards and forwards, and threatened to cover, as
it were with a net, the eyes, mouth, and ears of the pedestrians. Then
the devil flew into the chimney once more, quite sure that both kinsmen
would retrace their steps to Choop's house, who would find there the
blacksmith, and give him so sound a thrashing that the latter would
never again have the strength to take a brush in his hand and paint
offensive caricatures.

As soon as the snow-storm began, and the wind blew sharply in his eyes,
Choop felt some remorse, and, pulling his cap over his very eyes,
he began to abuse himself, the devil, and his own kinsman. Yet his
vexation was but assumed; the snow-storm was rather welcome to Choop.
The distance they had still to go before reaching the dwelling of the
clerk was eight times as long as that which they had already gone; so
they turned back. They now had the wind behind them; but nothing could
be seen through the whirling snow.

"Stop, kinsman, it seems to me that we have lost our way," said Choop,
after having gone a little distance. "There is not a single cottage to
be seen! Ah! what a storm it is! Go a little on that side, kinsman, and
see if thou canst not find the road; and I will seek it on this side.
Who but the devil would ever have persuaded any one to leave the house
in such a storm! Don't forget, kinsman, to call me when thou findest
the road. Eh! what a lot of snow the devil has sent into my eyes!"

But the road was not to be found. The kinsman, in his long boots,
started off on one side, and, after having rambled backwards and
forwards, ended by finding his way right into the brandy-shop. He was
so glad of it that he forgot everything else, and, after shaking off
the snow, stepped into the passage without once thinking about his
kinsman who had remained in the snow. Choop in the mean time fancied
he had found out the road; he stopped and began to shout with all the
strength of his lungs, but seeing that his kinsman did not come, he
decided on proceeding alone.

In a short time he saw his cottage. Great heaps of snow lay around
it and covered its roof. Rubbing his hands, which were numbed by the
frost, he began to knock at the door, and in a loud tone ordered his
daughter to open it.

"What dost thou want?" roughly demanded the blacksmith, stepping out.

Choop, on recognising the blacksmith's voice, stepped a little
aside. "No, surely this is not my cottage," said he to himself; "the
blacksmith would not come to my cottage. And yet--now I look at it
again, it cannot be his. Whose then, can it be? Ah! how came I not to
know it at once! it is the cottage of lame Levchenko, who has lately
married a young wife; his is the only one like mine. That is the reason
why it seemed so strange to me that I got home so soon. But, let me
see, why is the blacksmith here? Levchenko, as far as I know, is now
sitting at the clerk's. Eh! he! he! he! the blacksmith comes to see his
young wife! That's what it is! Well, now I see it all!"

"Who art thou? and what hast thou to do lurking about this door?" asked
the blacksmith, in a still harsher voice, and coming nearer.

"No," thought Choop, "I'll not tell him who I am; he might beat me, the
cursed fellow!" and then, changing his voice, answered, "My good man, I
come here in order to amuse you, by singing carols beneath your window."

"Go to the devil with thy carols!" angrily cried Vakoola. "What dost
thou wait for? didst thou hear me? be gone, directly."

Choop himself had already the same prudent intention; but he felt cross
at being obliged to obey the blacksmith's command. Some evil spirit
seemed to prompt him to say something contrary to Vakoola.

"What makes thee shout in that way?" asked he in the same assumed
voice; "my intention is to sing a carol, and that is all."

"Ah! words are not sufficient for thee!" and immediately after, Choop
felt a heavy stroke fall upon his shoulders.

"Now, I see, thou art getting quarrelsome!" said he, retreating a few
paces.

"Begone, begone!" exclaimed the blacksmith, striking again.

"What now!" exclaimed Choop, in a voice which expressed at the same
time pain, anger, and fear. "I see thou quarrelest in good earnest, and
strikest hard."

"Begone, begone!" again exclaimed the blacksmith, and violently shut
the door.

"Look, what a bully!" said Choop, once more alone in the street. "But
thou hadst better not come near me! There's a man for you! giving
thyself such airs, too! Dost thou think there is no one to bring thee
to reason? I _will_ go, my dear fellow, and to the police-officer will
I go. I'll teach thee who I am! I care not for thy being blacksmith
and painter. However, I must see to my back and shoulders: I think
there are bruises on them. The devil's son strikes hard, it seems. It
is a pity it's so cold, I cannot take off my fur coat. Stay a while,
confounded blacksmith; may the devil break thy bones and thy smithy
too! Take thy time--I will make thee dance, cursed squabbler! But,
now I think of it, if he is not at home, Solokha must be alone. Hem!
her dwelling is not far from here; shall I go? At this time nobody
will trouble us. Perhaps I may. Ah! that cursed blacksmith, how he has
beaten me!"

And Choop, rubbing his back, went in another direction. The pleasure
which was in store for him in meeting Solokha, diverted his thoughts
from his pain, and made him quite insensible to the snow and ice,
which, notwithstanding the whistling of the wind, might be heard
cracking all around. Sometimes a half-benignant smile brightened his
face, whose beard and mustachios were whitened over by snow with the
same rapidity as that displayed by a barber who has tyrannically got,
hold of the nose of his victim. But for the snow which danced backwards
and forwards before the eyes, Choop might have been seen a long time,
stopping now and then to rub his back, muttering, "How painfully that
cursed blacksmith has beaten me!" and then proceeding on his way.

At the time when the dashing gentleman, with a tail and a goat's beard,
flew out of the chimney, and then into, the chimney again, the pouch
which hung by a shoulder-belt at his side, and in which he had hidden
the stolen moon, in some way or other caught in something in the oven,
flew open, and the moon, availing herself of the opportunity, mounted
through the chimney of Solokha's cottage and rose majestically in the
sky. It grew light all at once; the storm subsided; the snow-covered
fields seemed all over with silver, set with crystal stars; even the
frost seemed to have grown milder; crowds of lads and lasses made their
appearance with sacks upon their shoulders; songs resounded, and but
few cottagers were without a band of carollers. How beautifully the
moon shines! It would be difficult to describe the charm one feels in
sauntering on such a night among the troops of maidens who laugh and
sing, and of lads who are ready to adopt every trick and invention
suggested by the gay and smiling night. The tightly-belted fur coat
is warm; the frost makes one's cheeks tingle more sharply; and the
Cunning One, himself, seems, from behind your back, to urge you to all
kinds of frolics. A crowd of maidens, with sacks, pushed their way into
Choop's cottage, surrounded Oxana, and bewildered the blacksmith by
their shouts, their laughter, and their stories. Every one was in haste
to tell something new to the beauty; softie unloaded their sacks, and
boasted of the quantity of loaves, sausages, and curd dumplings which
they had already received in reward for their carolling. Oxana seemed
to be all pleasure and joy, went on chattering, first with one, then
with another, and never for a moment ceased laughing. The blacksmith
looked with anger and envy at her joy, and cursed the carolling,
notwithstanding his having been mad about it himself in former times.

"Odarka," said the joyful beauty, turning to one of the girls, "thou
hast got on new boots! Ah! how beautiful they are! all ornamented with
gold too! Thou art happy, Odarka, to have a suitor who can make thee
such presents; I have nobody who would give me such pretty boots!"

"Don't grieve about boots, my incomparable Oxana!" chimed in the
blacksmith; "I will bring thee such boots as few ladies wear."

"Thou?" said Oxana, throwing a quick disdainful glance at him. "We
shall see where thou wilt get such boots as will suit my foot, unless
thou bringest me the very boots which the Czarina wears!"

"Just see what she has taken a fancy to now!" shouted the group of
laughing girls.

"Yes!" haughtily continued the beauty, "I call all of you to witness,
that if the blacksmith Vakoola brings me the very boots which the
Czarina wears, I pledge him my word instantly to marry him."

The maidens led away the capricious belle.

"Laugh on, laugh on!" said the blacksmith, stepping out after them.
"I myself laugh at my own folly. It is in vain that I think, over and
over again, where have I left my wits? She does not love me--well,
God be with her! Is Oxana the only woman in all the world? Thanks be
to God! there are many handsome maidens in the village besides Oxana.
Yes, indeed, what is Oxana? No good housewife will ever be made out of
her; she only understands how to deck herself. No, truly, it is high
time for me to leave off making a fool of myself." And yet at the very
moment when he came to this resolution, the blacksmith saw before his
eyes the laughing face of Oxana, teasing him with the words--"Bring me,
blacksmith, the Czarina's own boots, and I will marry thee!" He was all
agitation, and his every thought was bent on Oxana alone.

The carolling groups of lads on one side, of maidens on the other,
passed rapidly from street to street. But the blacksmith went on his
way without noticing anything, and without taking any part in the
rejoicings, in which, till now, he had delighted above all others.

The devil had, in the meanwhile, quickly reached the utmost limits of
tenderness in his conversation with Solokha; he kissed her hand with
nearly the same faces as the magistrate used when making love to the
priest's wife; he pressed his hand upon his heart, sighed, and told
her that if she did not choose to consider his passion, and meet it
with due return, he had made up his mind to throw himself into the
water, and send his soul right down to hell. But Solokha was not so
cruel--the more so, as the devil, it is well known, was in league with
her. Moreover, she liked to have some one to flirt with, and rarely
remained alone. This evening she expected to be without any visitor,
on account of all the chief inhabitants of the village being invited
to the clerk's house. And yet quite the contrary happened. Hardly had
the devil set forth his demand, when the voice of the stout elder
was heard. Solokha ran to open the door, and the quick devil crept
into one of the sacks that were lying on the floor. The elder, after
having shaken off the snow from his cap, and drunk a cup of brandy
which Solokha presented to him, told her that he had not gone to the
clerk's on account of the snow-storm, and that, having seen a light in
her cottage, he had come to pass the evening with her. The elder had
just done speaking when there was a knock at the door, and the clerk's
voice was heard from without. "Hide me wherever thou wilt," whispered
the elder; "I should not like to meet the clerk." Solokha could not
at first conceive where so stout a visitor might possibly be hidden;
at last she thought the biggest charcoal sack would be fit for the
purpose; she threw the charcoal into a tub, and the sack being empty,
in went the stout elder, mustachios, head, cap, and all. Presently the
clerk made his appearance, giving way to a short dry cough, and rubbing
his hands together. He told her how none of his guests had come, and
how he was heartily glad of it, as it had given him the opportunity of
taking a walk to her abode, in spite of the snow-storm. After this he
came a step nearer to her, coughed once more, laughed, touched her bare
plump arm with his fingers, and said with a sly, and at the same time
a pleased voice, "What have you got here, most magnificent Solokha?"
after which words he jumped back a few steps.

"How, what? Assip Nikiphorovitch! it is my arm!" answered Solokha.

"Hem! your arm! he! he! he!" smirked the clerk, greatly rejoiced at his
beginning, and he took a turn in the room.

"And what is this, dearest Solokha?" said he, with the same expression,
again coming to her, gently touching her throat, and once more
springing back.

"As if you cannot see for yourself, Assip Nikiphorovitch!" answered
Solokha, "it is my throat and my necklace on it."

"Hem! your necklace upon your throat! he! he! he!" and again did the
clerk take a walk, rubbing his hands.

"And what have you here, unequalled Solokha?"

We know not what the clerk's long fingers would now have touched, if
just at that moment he had not heard a knock at the door, and, at the
same time, the voice of the Cossack Choop.

"Heavens! what an unwelcome visitor!" said the clerk in a fright,
"whatever will happen if a person of my character is met here! If
it should reach the ears of Father Kondrat!" But, in fact, the
apprehension of the clerk was of quite a different description;
above all things he dreaded lest his wife should be acquainted with
his visit to Solokha; and he had good reason to dread her, for her
powerful hand had already made his thick plait[18] a very thin one.
"In Heaven's name, most virtuous Solokha!" said he, trembling all
over; "your goodness, as the Scripture saith, in St. Luke, chapter the
thir--thir--there _is_ somebody knocking, decidedly there is somebody
knocking at the door! In Heaven's name let me hide somewhere!"

Solokha threw the charcoal out of another sack into the tub, and in
crept the clerk, who, being by no means corpulent, sat down at the very
bottom of it, so that there would have been room enough to put more
than half a sackful of charcoal on top of him.

"Good evening, Solokha," said Choop, stepping into the room, "Thou
didst not perhaps expect me? didst thou? certainly not; may be I
hindered thee," continued Choop, putting on a gay meaning face, which
expressed at once that his lazy head laboured, and that he was on the
point of saying some sharp and sportive witticism. "May be thou wert
already engaged in flirting with somebody! May be thou hast already
some one hidden? Is it so?" said he; and delighted at his own wit,
Choop gave way to a hearty laugh, inwardly exulting at the thought
that he was the only one who enjoyed the favours of Solokha. "Well
now, Solokha, give me a glass of brandy; I think the abominable frost
has frozen my throat! What a night for a Christmas eve! As it began
snowing, Solokha---just listen, Solokha--as it began snowing--eh! I
cannot move my hands; impossible to unbutton my coat! Well, as it began
snowing"--

"Open!" cried some one in the street, at the same time giving a thump
at the door.

"Somebody is knocking at the door!" said Choop, stopping in his speech.

"Open!" cried the voice, still louder.

"'Tis the blacksmith!" said Choop, taking his cap; "listen,
Solokha!--put me wherever thou wilt! on no account in the world would I
meet that confounded lad! Devil's son! I wish he had a blister as big
as a haycock under each eye."

Solokha was so frightened that she rushed backwards and forwards in
the room, and quite unconscious of what she did, showed Choop into
the same sack where the clerk was already sitting. The poor clerk had
to restrain his cough and his sighs when the weighty Cossack sat down
almost on his head, and placed his boots, covered with frozen snow,
just on his temples.

The blacksmith came in, without saying a word, without taking off his
cap, and threw himself on the bench. It was easy to see that he was
in a very bad temper. Just as Solokha shut the door after him, she
heard another tap under the window. It was the Cossack Sverbygooze.
As to this one, he decidedly could never have been hidden in a sack,
for no sack large enough could ever have been found. In person, he was
even stouter than the elder, and as to height, he was even taller than
Choop's kinsman. So Solokha went with him into the kitchen garden, in
order to hear whatever he had to say to her.

The blacksmith looked vacantly round the room, listening at times to
the songs of the carolling parties. His eyes rested at last on the
sacks:

"Why do these sacks lie here? They ought to have been taken away
long ago. This stupid love has made quite a fool of me; to-morrow
is a festival, and the room is still full of rubbish. I will clear
it away into the smithy!" And the blacksmith went to the enormous
sacks, tied them as tightly as he could, and would have lifted them
on his shoulders; but it was evident that his thoughts were far away,
otherwise he could not have helped hearing how Choop hissed when the
cord with which the sack was tied, twisted his hair, and how the stout
elder began to hiccup very distinctly. "Shall I never get this silly
Oxana out of my head?" mused the blacksmith; "I will not think of her;
and yet, in spite of myself I think of her, and of her alone. How is it
that thoughts come into one's head against one's own will? What, the
devil! Why the sacks appear to have grown heavier than they were; it
seems as if there was something else besides charcoal! What a fool I
am! have I forgotten that everything seems to me heavier than it used
to be. Some time ago, with one hand I could bend and unbend a copper
coin, or a horse-shoe; and now, I cannot lift a few sacks of charcoal;
soon every breath of wind will blow me off my legs. No," cried he,
after having remained silent for a while, and coming to himself again,
"shall it be said that I am a woman? No one shall have the laugh
against me; had I ten such sacks, I would lift them all at once." And,
accordingly, he threw the sacks upon his shoulders, although two strong
men could hardly have lifted them. "I will take this little one, too,"
continued he, taking hold of the little one, at the bottom of which
was coiled up the devil. "I think I put my instruments into it;" and
thus saying, he went out of the cottage, whistling the tune:

    "No wife I'll have to bother me."

Songs and shouts grew louder and louder in the streets; the crowds
of strolling people were increased by those who came in from the
neighbouring villages; the lads gave way to their frolics and sports.
Often amongst the Christmas carols might be heard a gay song, just
improvised by some young Cossack. Hearty laughter rewarded the
improviser. The little windows of the cottages flew open, and from
them was thrown a sausage or a piece of pie, by the thin hand of some
old woman or some aged peasant, who alone remained in-doors. The booty
was eagerly caught in the sacks of the young people. In one place, the
lads formed a ring to surround a group of maidens; nothing was heard
but shouts and screams; one was throwing a snow-ball, another was
endeavouring to get hold of a sack crammed with Christmas donations. In
another place, the girls caught hold of some youth, or put something in
his way, and down he fell with his sack. It seemed as if the whole of
the night would pass away in these festivities. And the night, as if on
purpose, shone so brilliantly; the gleam of the snow made the beams of
the moon still whiter.

The blacksmith with his sacks stopped suddenly. He fancied he heard the
voice and the sonorous laughter of Oxana in the midst of a group of
maidens. It thrilled through his whole frame; he threw the sacks on
the ground with so much force that the clerk, sitting at the bottom of
one of them, groaned with pain, and the elder hiccupped aloud; then,
keeping only the little sack upon his shoulders, the blacksmith joined
a company of lads who followed close after a group of maidens, amongst
whom he thought he had heard Oxana's voice.

"Yes, indeed; there she is! standing like a queen, her dark eyes
sparkling with pleasure! There is a handsome youth speaking with her;
his speech seems very amusing, for she is laughing; but does she not
always laugh?" Without knowing why he did it and as if against his
will, the blacksmith pushed his way through the crowd, and stood beside
her.

"Ah! Vakoola, here art thou; a good evening to thee!" said the belle,
with the very smile which drove Vakoola quite mad. "Well, hast thou
received much? Eh! what a small sack! And didst thou get the boots that
the Czarina wears? Get those boots and I'll marry thee!" and away she
ran laughing with the crowd.

The blacksmith remained riveted to the spot. "No, I cannot; I have not
the strength to endure it any longer," said he at last. "But, Heavens!
why is she so beautiful? Her looks, her voice, all, all about her makes
my blood boil! No, I cannot get the better of it; it is time to put an
end to this. Let my soul perish! I'll go and drown myself, and then
all will be over." He dashed forwards with hurried steps, overtook
the group, approached Oxana, and said to her in a resolute voice:
"Farewell, Oxana! Take whatever bridegroom thou pleasest; make a fool
of whom thou wilt; as for me, thou shalt never more meet me in this
world!" The beauty seemed astonished, and was about to speak, but the
blacksmith waved his hand and ran away.

"Whither away, Vakoola?" cried the lads, seeing him run. "Farewell,
brothers," answered the blacksmith. "God grant that we may meet in
another world; but in this we meet no more! Fare you well! keep a kind
remembrance of me. Pray Father Kondrat to say a mass for my sinful
soul. Ask him forgiveness that I did not, on account of worldly cares,
paint the tapers for the church. Everything that is found in my big box
I give to the Church; farewell!"--and thus saying, the blacksmith went
on running, with his sack on his back.

"He has gone mad!" said the lads. "Poor lost soul!" piously ejaculated
an old woman who happened to pass by; "I'll go and tell about the
blacksmith having hanged himself."


Vakoola, after having run for some time along the streets, stopped
to take breath. "Well, where am I running?" thought he; "is really
all lost?--I'll try one thing more; I'll go to the fat Patzuck, the
Zaporoghian. They say he knows every devil, and has the power of
doing everything he wishes; I'll go to him; 'tis the same thing for
the perdition of my soul." At this, the devil, who had long remained
quiet and motionless, could not refrain from giving vent to his joy
by leaping in the sack. But the blacksmith thinking he had caught the
sack with his hand, and thus occasioned the movement himself, gave a
hard blow on the sack with his fist, and after shaking it about on his
shoulders, went off to the fat Patzuck.

This fat Patzuck had indeed once been a Zaporoghian. Nobody, however,
knew whether he had been turned out of the warlike community, or
whether he had fled from it of his own accord.

He had already been for some ten, nay, it might even be for some
fifteen years, settled at Dikanka. At first, he had lived as best
suited a Zaporoghian; working at nothing, sleeping three-quarters
of the day, eating not less than would satisfy six harvest-men, and
drinking almost a whole pailful at once. It must be allowed that there
was plenty of room for food and drink in Patzuck; for, though he was
not very tall, he tolerably made up for it in bulk. Moreover, the
trousers he wore were so wide, that long as might be the strides he
took in walking, his feet were never seen at all, and he might have
been taken t for a wine cask moving along the streets. This, may have
been the reason for giving him the nick-name of "Fatty." A few weeks
had hardly passed since his arrival in the village, when it came to
be known that he was a wizard. If any one happened to fall ill, he
called Patzuck directly; and Patzuck had only to mutter a few words to
put an end to the illness at once. Had any hungry Cossack swallowed a
fish-bone, Patzuck knew how to give him right skilfully a slap on the
back, so that the fish-bone went where it ought to go without causing
any pain to the Cossack's throat. Latterly, Patzuck was scarcely ever
seen out of doors. This was perhaps caused by laziness, and perhaps,
also, because to get through the door was a task which with every year
grew more and more difficult for him. So the villagers were obliged
to repair to his own lodgings whenever they wanted to consult him.
The blacksmith opened the door, not without some fear. He saw Patzuck
sitting on the floor after the Turkish fashion. Before him was a tub
on which stood a tureen full of lumps of dough cooked in grease. The
tureen was put, as if intentionally, on a level with his mouth. Without
moving a single finger, he bent his head a little towards the tureen,
and sipped the gravy, catching the lumps of dough with his teeth.
"Well," thought Vakoola to himself, "this fellow is still lazier than
Choop; Choop at least eats with a spoon, but this one does not even
raise his hand!" Patzuck seemed to be busily engaged with his meal, for
he took not the slightest notice of the entrance of the blacksmith,
who, as soon as he crossed the threshold, made a low bow.

"I am come to thy worship, Patzuck!" said Vakoola, bowing once more.
The fat Patzuck lifted his head and went on eating the lumps of dough.

"They say that thou art--I beg thy pardon," said the blacksmith,
endeavouring to compose himself, "I do not say it to offend thee--that
thou hast the devil among thy friends;" and in saying these words
Vakoola was already afraid he had spoken too much to the point, and had
not sufficiently softened the hard words he had used, and that Patzuck
would throw at his head both the tub and the tureen; he even stepped a
little on one side and covered his face with his sleeve, to prevent it
from being sprinkled by the gravy.

But Patzuck looked up and continued sipping.

The encouraged blacksmith resolved to proceed--"I am come to thee,
Patzuck; God grant thee plenty of everything, and bread in good
_proportion_!" The blacksmith knew how to put in a fashionable word
sometimes; it was a talent he had acquired during his stay at Poltava,
when he painted the centurion's palisade. "I am on the point of
endangering the salvation of my sinful soul! nothing in this world can
serve me! Come what will, I am resolved to seek the help of the devil.
Well, Patzuck," said he, seeing that the other remained silent, "what
am I to do?"

"If thou wantest the devil, go to the devil!" answered Patzuck, not
giving him a single look, and going on with his meal.

"I am come to thee for this very reason," returned the blacksmith with
a bow; "besides thyself, methinks there is hardly anybody in the world
who knows how to go to the devil."

Patzuck, without saying a word, ate up all that remained on the dish.
"Please, good man, do not refuse me!" urged the blacksmith. "And if
there be any want of pork, or sausages, or buckwheat, or even linen or
millet, or anything else--why, we know how honest folk manage these
things. I shall not be stingy. Only do tell me, if it be only by a
hint, how to find the way to the devil."

"He who has got the devil on his back has no great way to go to him,"
said Patzuck quietly, without changing his position.

Vakoola fixed his eyes upon him as if searching for the meaning of
these words on his face. "What does he mean?" thought he, and opened
his mouth as if to swallow his first word. But Patzuck kept silence.
Here Vakoola noticed that there was no longer either tub or tureen
before him, but instead of them there stood upon the floor two wooden
pots, the one full of curd dumplings, the other full of sour cream.
Involuntarily his thoughts and his eyes became riveted to these pots.
"Well, now," thought he, "how will Patzuck eat the dumplings? He will
not bend down to catch them like the bits of dough, and moreover, it
is impossible; for they ought to be first dipped into the cream." This
thought had hardly crossed the mind of Vakoola, when Patzuck opened
his mouth, looked at the dumplings, and then opened it still wider.
Immediately, a dumpling jumped out of the pot, dipped itself into the
cream, turned over on the other side, and went right into Patzuck's
mouth. Patzuck ate it, once more opened his mouth, and in went another
dumpling in the same way. All Patzuck had to do was to chew and to
swallow them. "That is wondrous indeed," thought the blacksmith, and
astonishment made him also open his mouth; but he felt directly, that
a dumpling jumped into it also, and that his lips were already smeared
with cream; he pushed it away, and after having wiped his lips, began
to think about the marvels that happen in the world and the wonders one
may work with the help of the devil; at the same time he felt more than
ever convinced that Patzuck alone could help him. "I will beg of him
still more earnestly to explain to me--but, what do I see? to-day is a
fast, and he is eating dumplings, and dumplings are not food for fast
days![19] What a fool I am! staying here and giving way to temptation!
Away, away!" and the pious blacksmith ran with all speed out of the
cottage. The devil, who remained all the while sitting in the sack, and
already rejoiced at the glorious victim he had entrapped, could not
endure to see him get free from his clutches. As soon as the blacksmith
left the sack a little loose, he sprang out of it and sat upon the
blacksmith's neck.

Vakoola felt a cold shudder run through all his frame; his courage gave
way, his face grew pale, he knew not what to do; he was already on the
point of making the sign of the cross; but the devil bending his dog's
muzzle to his right ear, whispered: "Here I am, I, thy friend; I will
do everything for a comrade and a friend such as thou! I'll give thee
as much money as thou canst wish for!" squeaked he in his left ear. "No
later than this very day Oxana shall be ours!" continued he, turning
his muzzle once more to the right ear.

The blacksmith stood considering. "Well," said he, at length, "on this
condition I am ready to be thine."

The devil clapped his hand and began to indulge his joy in springing
about on the blacksmith's neck. "Now, I've caught him!" thought he to
himself, "Now, I'll take my revenge upon thee, my dear fellow, for all
thy paintings and all thy tales about devils! What will my fellows say
when they come to know that the most pious man in the village is in my
power?" and the devil laughed heartily at the thought of how he would
tease all the long-tailed breed in hell, and how the lame devil, who
was reputed the most cunning of them all for his tricks, would feel
provoked.

"Well, Vakoola!" squeaked he, while he continued sitting on Vakoola's
neck, as if fearing the blacksmith should escape; "thou knowest well
that nothing can be done without contract."

"I am ready," said the blacksmith. "I've heard that it is the custom
with you to write it in blood; well, stop, let me take a nail out of my
pocket"--and putting his hand behind him, he suddenly seized the devil
by his tail.

"Look, what fun!" cried the devil, laughing; "well, let me alone now,
there's enough of play!"

"Stop, my dear fellow!" cried the blacksmith, "what wilt thou say now?"
and he made the sign of the cross. The devil grew as docile as a lamb.
"Stop," continued the blacksmith, drawing him by the tail down to the
ground; "I will teach thee how to make good men and upright Christians
sin;" and the blacksmith sprang on his back, and once more raised his
hand to make the sign of the cross.

"Have mercy upon me, Vakoola!" groaned the devil in a lamentable voice;
"I am ready to do whatever thou wilt, only do not make the dread, sign
of the cross on me!"

"Ah! that is the strain thou singest now, cursed German that thou art!
I know now what to do! Take me a ride on thy back directly, and harkee!
a pretty ride must I have!"

"Whither?" gasped the mournful devil.

"To St. Petersburgh, straightway to the Czarina!" and the blacksmith
thought he should faint with terror as he felt himself rising up in
the air.

Oxana remained a long time pondering over the strange speech of the
blacksmith. Something within her told her that she had behaved with
too much cruelty towards him. "What if he should indeed resort to some
frightful decision? May not such a thing be expected! He may, perhaps,
fall in love with some other girl, and, out of spite, proclaim _her_
to be the belle of the village! No, that he would not do, he is too
much in love with me! I am so handsome! For none will he ever leave
me. He is only joking; he only feigns. Ten minutes will not pass, ere
he returns to look at me. I am indeed too harsh towards him. Why not
let him have a kiss? just as if it were against my will; that, to a
certainty would make him quite delighted!" and the flighty belle began
once more to sport with her friends. "Stop," said one of them, "the
blacksmith has left his sacks behind; just see what enormous sacks too!
His luck has been better than ours; methinks he has got whole quarters
of mutton, and sausages, and loaves without number. Plenty indeed; one
might feed upon the whole of next fortnight."

"Are these the blacksmith's sacks?" asked Oxana; "let us take them into
my cottage just to see what he has got in them." All laughingly agreed
to her proposal.

"But we shall never be able to lift them!" cried the girls trying to
move the sacks.

"Stay a bit," said Oxana; "come with me to fetch a sledge, and we'll
drag them home on it."

The whole party ran to fetch a sledge.

The prisoners were far from pleased at sitting in the sacks,
notwithstanding that the clerk had succeeded in poking a great hole
with his finger. Had there been nobody near, he would perhaps have
found the means of making his escape; but he could not endure the
thought of creeping out of the' sack before a whole crowd, and of
being laughed at by every one, so he resolved to await the event,
giving only now and then a suppressed groan under the impolite boots of
Choop. Choop had no less a desire to be set free, feeling that there
was something lying under him, which was excessively inconvenient to
sit upon. But on hearing his daughter's decision he remained quiet
and no longer felt inclined to creep out, considering that he would
have certainly some hundred, or perhaps even two hundred steps to walk
to get to his dwelling; that upon creeping out, he would have his
sheepskin coat to button, his belt to buckle--what a trouble! and last
of all, that he had left his cap behind him at Solokha's. So he thought
it better to wait till the maidens drew him home on a sledge.

The event, however, proved to be quite contrary to his expectations; at
the same time that the maidens ran to bring the sledge, Choop's kinsman
left the brandy shop, very cross and dejected. The mistress of the shop
would on no account give him credit; he had resolved to wait until some
kind-hearted Cossack should step in and offer him a glass of brandy;
but, as if purposely, all the Cossacks remained at home, and as became
good Christians, ate _kootia_ with their families. Thinking about the
corruption of manners, and about the Jewish mistress of the shop having
a wooden heart, the kinsman went straight to the sacks and stopped in
amazement. "What sacks are these? somebody has left them on the road,"
said he, looking round. "There must be pork for a certainty in them!
Who can it be? who has had the good luck to get so many donations? Were
there nothing more than buckwheat cakes and millet-biscuits--why, that
would be well enough! But supposing there were only loaves, well, they
are welcome too! The Jewess gives a glass of brandy for every loaf. I
had better bring them out of the way at once, lest anybody should see
them!" and he lifted on his shoulders the sack in which sate Choop and
the clerk, but feeling it to be too heavy, "No," said he, "I could not
carry it home alone. Now, here comes, as if purposely, the weaver,
Shapoovalenko! Good evening, Ostap!"

"Good evening," said the weaver, stopping.

"Where art thou going?"

"I am walking without any purpose, just where my legs carry me."

"Well, my good man, help me to carry off these sacks; some caroller
has left them here in the midst of the road. We will divide the booty
between us."

"And what is there in the sacks? rolls or loaves?"

"Plenty of everything, I should think." And both hastily snatched
sticks out of a palisade, laid one of the sacks upon them, and carried
it away on their shoulders.

"Where shall we carry it? to the brandy shop?" asked the weaver,
leading the way.

"I thought, too, of carrying it there; but the vile Jewess will not
give us credit; she will think we have stolen it somewhere, the more so
that I have just left her shop. We had better carry it to my cottage.
Nobody will interfere with us; my wife is not at home."

"Art thou sure that she is not at home?" asked the weaver warily.

"Thank Heaven, I am not yet out of my mind," answered the kinsman;
"what should I do there if she were at home? I expect she will ramble
about all night with the women."

"Who is there!" cried the kinsman's wife, hearing the noise which the
two friends made in coming into the passage with the sack.

The kinsman was quite aghast.

"What now?" muttered the weaver, letting his arms drop.

The kinsman's wife was one of those treasures which are often found in
this good world of ours. Like her husband, she scarcely ever remained
at home, but went all day long fawning among wealthy, gossiping old
women; paid them different compliments, ate their donations with great
appetite, and beat her husband only in the morning, because it was
the only time that she saw him. Their cottage was even older than
the trowsers of the village scribe. Many holes in the roof remained
uncovered and without thatch; of the palisade round the house, few
remnants existed, for no one who was going out, ever took with him
a stick to drive away the dogs, but went round by the kinsman's
kitchen garden, and got one out of his palisade. Sometimes no fire was
lighted in the cottage for three days together. Everything which the
affectionate wife succeeded in obtaining from kind people, was hidden
by her as far as possible out of the reach of her husband; and if he
had got anything which he had not had the time to sell at the brandy
shop, she invariably snatched it from him. However meek the kinsman's
temper might be, he did not like to yield to her at once; for which
reason, he generally left the house with black eyes, and his dear
better-half went moaning to tell stories to the old women about the ill
conduct of her husband, and the blows she had received at his hands.

Now, it is easy to understand the displeasure of the weaver and the
kinsman at her sudden appearance. Putting the sack on the ground, they
took up a position of defence in front of it, and covered it with the
wide skirts of their coats; but it was already too late. The kinsman's
wife, although her old eyes had grown dim, saw the sack at once.
"That's good," she said, with the countenance of a hawk at the sight
of its prey! "that's good of you to have collected so much; That's the
way good people always behave! But it cannot be! I think you must have
stolen it somewhere; show me directly what you have got there!--show me
the sack directly! Do you hear me?"

"May the bald devil show it to thee! we will not," answered the
kinsman, assuming an air of dogged resolution.

"Why should we?" said the weaver--"the sack is ours, not thine."

"Thou shalt show it to me, thou good-for-nothing drunkard," said she,
giving the tall kinsman a blow under his chin, and pushing her way
to the sack. The kinsman and the weaver, however, stood her attack
courageously, and drove her back; but had hardly time to recover
themselves, when the woman darted once more into the passage, this time
with a poker in her hand. In no time she gave a cut over her husband's
fingers, another on the weaver's hand, and stood beside the sack.

"Why did we let her go?" said the weaver, coming to his senses.

"Why did we indeed? and why didst thou?" said the kinsman.

"Your poker seems to be an iron one!" said the weaver, after keeping
silent for a while, and scratching his back. "My wife bought one at the
fair last year; well, hers is not to be compared--does not hurt at all."

The triumphant dame, in the meanwhile, set her candle on the floor,
opened the sack, and looked into it.

But her old eyes, which had so quickly caught sight of the sack, for
this time deceived her. "Why, here lies a whole boar!" cried she,
clapping her hands with delight.

"A boar, a whole boar! dost hear?" said the weaver, giving the kinsman
a push. "And thou alone art to blame?"

"What's to be done?" muttered the kinsman, shrugging his shoulders.

"How, what? why are we standing here quietly? we must have the sack
back again! Come!"

"Away, away with thee! it is our boar!" cried the weaver, advancing.

"Away, away with thee, she devil! it is not thy property," said the
kinsman.

The old hag once more took up the poker, but at the same moment Choop
stepped out of the sack, and stood in the middle of the passage
stretching his limbs like a man just awake from a long sleep.

The kinsman's wife shrieked in terror, while the others opened their
mouths in amazement.

"What did she say, then, the old fool--that it was a boar?"

"It's not a boar!" said the kinsman, straining his eyes.

"Just see, what a man some one has thrown into the sack," said the
weaver, stepping back in a fright. "They may say what they will--the
evil spirit must have lent his hand to the work; the man could never
have gone through a window."

"'Tis my kinsman," cried the kinsman, after having looked at Choop.

"And who else should it be, then?" said Choop, laughing. "Was it not a
capital trick of mine? And you thought of eating me like pork? Well,
I'll give you good news: there is something lying at the bottom of the
sack; if it be not a boar, it must be a sucking-pig, or something of
the sort. All the time there was something moving under me."

The weaver and the kinsman rushed to the sack, the wife caught hold of
it on the other side, and the fight would have been renewed, had not
the clerk, who saw no escape left, crept out of the sack.

The kinsman's wife, quite stupified, let go the clerk's leg, which she
had taken hold of, in order to drag him out of the sack.

"There's another one!" cried the weaver with terror; "the devil knows
what happens now in the world--it's enough to send one mad. No more
sausages or loaves--men are thrown into the sacks."

"'Tis the devil!" muttered Choop, more astonished than any one. "Well
now, Solokha!--and to put the clerk in a sack too! That is why I saw
her room all full of sacks. Now, I have it: she has got two men in each
of them; and I thought that I was the only one. Well now, Solokha!"


The maidens were somewhat astonished at finding only one sack left.
"There is nothing to be done; we must content ourselves with this one,"
said Oxana. They all went at once to the sack, and succeeded in lifting
it upon the sledge. The elder resolved to keep quiet, considering that
if he cried out, and asked them to undo the sack, and let him out,
the stupid girls would run away, fearing they had got the devil in
the sack, and he would be left in the street till the next morning.
Meanwhile, the maidens, with one accord, taking one another by the
hand, flew like the wind with the sledge over the crisp snow. Many
of them, for fun, sat down upon the sledge; some went right upon the
elder's head. But he was determined to bear everything. At last they
reached Oxana's house, opened the doors of the passage and of the room,
and with shouts of laughter brought in the sack. "Let us see what we
have got here," cried they, and hastily began to undo the sack. At
this juncture, the hiccups of the elder (which had not ceased for a
moment all the time he had been sitting in the sack), increased to such
a degree that he could not refrain from giving vent to them in the
loudest key. "Ah! there is somebody in the sack!" shrieked the maidens,
and they darted in a fright towards the door.

"What does this mean?" said Choop, stepping in. "Where are you rushing,
like mad things?"

"Ah! father," answered Oxana, "there is somebody sitting in the sack!"

"In what sack? Where did you get this sack from?"

"The blacksmith threw it down in the middle of the road," was the
answer.

"I thought as much!" muttered Choop. "Well, what are you afraid of,
then? Let us see. Well, my good man (excuse me for not calling thee by
thy Christian and surname), please to make thy way out of the sack."

The elder came out.

"Lord have mercy upon us!" cried the maidens.

"The elder was in, too!" thought Choop to himself, looking at him
from head to foot, as if not trusting his eyes. "There now! Eh!" and
he could say no more. The elder felt no less confused, and he knew
not what to say. "It seems to be rather cold out of doors?" asked he,
turning to Choop.

"Yes! the frost is rather severe," answered Choop. "Do tell me, what
dost thou use to black thy boots with: tallow or tar?"[20] He did not
at all wish to put this question; he intended to ask--How didst thou
come to be in this sack? but he knew not himself how it was that his
tongue asked quite another question.

"I prefer tar," answered the elder. "Well, good-bye, Choop," said he,
and putting his cap on, he stepped out of the room.

"What a fool I was to ask him what he uses to black his boots with,"
muttered Choop, looking at the door out of which the elder had just
gone.

"Well, Solokha! To put such a man into a sack! May the devil take her;
and I, fool that I was--but where is that infernal sack?"

"I threw it into the corner," said Oxana, "there is nothing more in it."

"I know these tricks well! Nothing in it, indeed! Give it me directly;
there must be one more! Shake it well. Is there nobody? Abominable
woman! And yet to look at her one would think she must be a saint, that
she never had a sin"--

But let us leave Choop giving vent to his anger, and return to the
blacksmith; the more so as time is running away, and by the clock it
must be near nine.


At first, Vakoola could not help feeling afraid at rising to such a
height, that he could distinguish nothing upon the earth, and at coming
so near the moon, that if he had not bent down, he would certainly
have touched it with his cap. Yet, after a time, he recovered his
presence of mind, and began to laugh at the devil. All was bright in
the sky. A light silvery mist covered the transparent air. Everything
was distinctly visible; and the blacksmith even noticed how a wizard
flew past him, sitting in a pot; how some stars, gathered in a group,
played at blind man's buff; how a whole swarm of spirits were whirling
about in the distance; how a devil who danced in the moonbeam, seeing
him riding, took off his cap and made him a bow; how there was a besom
flying, on which, apparently, a witch had just taken a ride. They met
many other things; and all, on seeing the blacksmith, stopped for a
moment to look at him, and then continued their flight far away. The
blacksmith went on flying, and suddenly he saw Petersburgh all in a
blaze. (There must have been an illumination that day.) Flying past
the town gate, the devil changed into a horse, and the blacksmith saw
himself riding a high stepping steed, in the middle of the street.
"Good Heavens! What a noise, what a clatter, what a blaze!" On either
side rose houses, several stories high; from every quarter the clatter
of horses' hoofs, and of wheels, arose like thunder; at every step
arose tall houses, as if starting from beneath the ground; bridges
quivered under flying carriages; the coachmen shouted; the snow crisped
under thousands of sledges rushing in every direction; pedestrians kept
the wall of the houses along the footpath, all studded with flaring
pots of fire, and their gigantic shadows danced upon the walls, losing
themselves amongst the chimneys and on the roofs. The blacksmith looked
with amazement on every side. It seamed to him as if all the houses
looked at him with their innumerable fire-eyes. He saw such a number
of gentlemen wearing fur cloaks covered with cloth, that he no longer
knew to which of them he ought to take off his cap. "Gracious Lord!
What a number of nobility one sees here!" thought the blacksmith; "I
suppose every one here, who goes in a fur cloak, can be no less than
a magistrate! and as for the persons who sit in those wonderful carts
with glasses, they must be, if not the chiefs of the town, certainly
commissaries, and, may be, of a still higher rank!"

Here, the devil put an end to his reflections, by asking if he was to
bring him right before the Czarina? "No, I should be too afraid to go
at once," answered the blacksmith; "but I know there must be some
Zaporoghians here, who passed through Dikanka last autumn on their
way to Petersburgh. They were going on business to the Czarina. Let
us have their advice. Now, devil, get into my pocket, and bring me to
those Zaporoghians." In less than a minute, the devil grew so thin and
so small, that he had no trouble in getting into the pocket, and in
the twinkling of an eye, Vakoola, (himself, he knew not how) ascended
a staircase, opened a door and fell a little back, struck by the rich
furniture of a spacious room. Yet, he felt a little more at ease, when
he recognised the same Zaporoghians, who had passed through Dikanka.
They were sitting upon silk covered sofas, with their tar besmeared
boots tucked under them, and were smoking the strongest tobacco fibres.

"Good evening, God help you, your worships!" said the blacksmith coming
nearer, and he made a low bow, almost touching the ground with his
forehead.

"Who is that?" asked a Zaporoghian, who sat near Vakoola, of another
who was sitting farther off.

"Do you not recognise me at once?" said Vakoola; "I am the blacksmith,
Vakoola! Last autumn, as you passed through Dikanka, you remained
nearly two days at my cottage. God grant you good health, and many
happy years! It was I who put a new iron tire round one of the fore
wheels of your vehicle."

"Ah!" said the same Zaporoghian, "it is the blacksmith who paints so
well. Good evening, countryman, what didst thou come for?"

"Only just to look about. They say"--

"Well, my good fellow," said the Zaporoghian, assuming a grand air, and
trying to speak with the high Russian accent, "what dost thou think of
the town! Is it large?"

The blacksmith was no less desirous to show that he also understood
good manners. We have already seen that he knew something of
fashionable language. "The site is quite considerable," answered he
very composedly. "The houses are enormously big, the paintings they are
adorned with, are thoroughly important. Some of the houses are to an
extremity ornamented with gold letters. No one can say a word to the
contrary: the proportion is marvellous!" The Zaporoghians, hearing the
blacksmith so familiar with fine language, drew a conclusion very much
to his advantage.

"We will have a chat with thee presently, my dear fellow. Now, we must
go at once to the Czarina."

"To the Czarina? Be kind, your worships, take me with you!"

"Take thee with us?" said the Zaporoghian, with an expression such as a
tutor would assume towards a boy four years old, who begs to ride on a
real, live, great horse.

"What hast thou to do there? No, it cannot be," and his features took
an important look. "My dear fellow, we have to speak to the Czarina on
business."

"Do take me," urged the blacksmith. "Beg!" whispered he to the devil,
striking his pocket with his fist. Scarcely had he done so, when
another Zaporoghian said, "Well, come, comrades, we will take him."

"Well, then, let him come!" said the others. "Put on such a dress as
ours, then."

The blacksmith hastily donned a green dress, when the door opened, and
a man, in a coat all ornamented with silver braid, came in and said it
was time to start.

Once more was the blacksmith overwhelmed with astonishment, as he
rolled along in an enormous carriage, hung on springs, lofty houses
seeming to run away on both sides of him, and the pavement to roll of
its own accord under the feet of the horses.

"Gracious Lord! what a glare," thought the blacksmith to himself. "We
have no such light at Dikanka, even during the day." The Zaporoghians
entered, stepped into a magnificent hall, and went up a brilliantly
lighted staircase. "What a staircase!" thought the blacksmith; "it is a
pity to walk upon it. What ornaments! And they say that fairy-tales are
so many lies; they are plain truth! My heavens! what a balustrade! what
workmanship! The iron alone must have cost not less than some fifty
roubles!"

Having ascended the staircase, the Zaporoghians passed through the
first hall. Warily did the blacksmith follow them, fearing at every
step to slip on the waxed floor. They passed three more saloons, and
the blacksmith had not yet recovered from his astonishment. Coming into
a fourth, he could not refrain from stopping before a picture which
hung on the wall. It represented the Holy Virgin, with the Infant Jesus
in her arms. "What a picture! what beautiful painting!" thought he.
"She seems to speak, she seems to be alive! And the Holy Infant! there,
he stretches out his little hands! there, it laughs, the poor babe! And
what colours! Good heavens! what colours! I should think there was
no ochre used in the painting, certainly nothing but ultramarine and
lake! And what a brilliant blue! Capital workmanship! The back-ground
must have been done with white lead! And yet," he continued, stepping
to the door and taking the handle in his hand, "however beautiful
these paintings may be, this brass handle is still more worthy of
admiration; what neat work! I should think all this must have been
made by German blacksmiths at the most exorbitant prices." ... The
blacksmith might have gone on for a long time with his reflections, had
not the attendant in the braid-covered dress given him a push, telling
him not to remain behind the others. The Zaporoghians passed two rooms
more, and stopped. Some generals, in gold-embroidered uniforms, were
waiting there. The Zaporoghians bowed in every direction, and stood
in a group. A minute afterwards there entered, attended by a numerous
suite, a man of majestic stature, rather stout, dressed in the hetman's
uniform and yellow boots. His hair was uncombed; one of his eyes had
a small cataract on it; his face wore an expression of stately pride;
his every movement gave proof that he was accustomed to command. All
the generals, who before his arrival were strutting about somewhat
haughtily in their gold-embroidered uniforms, came bustling towards
him with profound bows, seeming to watch every one of his words, nay,
of his movements, that they might run and see his desires fulfilled.
The hetman did not pay any attention to all this, scarcely nodding his
head, and went straight to the Zaporoghians.

They bowed to him with one accord till their brows touched the ground.

"Are all of you here?" asked he, in a somewhat drawling voice, with a
slight nasal twang.

"Yes, father, every one of us is here," answered the Zaporoghians,
bowing once more.

"Remember to speak just as I taught you."

"We will, father, we will!"

"Is it the Czar?" asked the blacksmith of one of the Zaporoghians.

"The Czar! a great deal more; it is Potemkin himself!" was the answer.

Voices were heard in the adjoining room, and the blacksmith knew
not where to turn his eyes, when he saw a multitude of ladies
enter, dressed in silk gowns with long trains, and courtiers in
gold-embroidered coats and bag wigs. He was dazzled with the glitter
of gold, silver, and precious stones. The Zaporoghians fell with one
accord on their knees, and cried with one voice, "Mother, have mercy
upon us!" The blacksmith, too, followed their example, and stretched
himself full length on the floor.

"Rise up!" was heard above their heads, in a commanding yet soft voice.
Some of the courtiers officiously hastened to push the Zaporoghians.

"We will not arise, mother; we will die rather than arise!" cried the
Zaporoghians.

Potemkin bit his lips. At last he came himself, and whispered
imperatively to one of them. They arose. Then only did the blacksmith
venture to raise his eyes, and saw before him a lady, not tall,
somewhat stout, with powdered hair, blue eyes, and that majestic,
smiling air, which conquered every one, and could be the attribute only
of a reigning woman.

"His Highness[21] promised to make me acquainted to-day with a people
under my dominion, whom I have not yet seen," said the blue-eyed lady,
looking with curiosity at the Zaporoghians. "Are you satisfied with the
manner in which you are provided for here?" asked she, coming nearer.

"Thank thee, mother! Provisions are good, though mutton is not quite so
fine here as at home; but why should one be so very particular about
it?"

Potemkin frowned at hearing them speak in quite a different manner to
what he had told them to do.

One of the Zaporoghians stepped out from the group, and, in a dignified
manner, began the following speech:--"Mother, have mercy upon us! What
have we, thy faithful people, done to deserve thine anger? Have we
ever given assistance to the miscreant Tartars? Did we ever help the
Turks in anything? Have we betrayed thee in our acts, nay, even in our
thoughts? Wherefore, then, art thou ungracious towards us? At first
they told us thou hadst ordered fortresses to be raised against us;
then we were told thou wouldst make regular regiments of us; now, we
hear of new evils coming on us. In what were the Zaporoghians ever in
fault with regard to thee? Was it in bringing thy army across Perekop?
or in helping thy generals to get the better of the Crimean Tartars?"

Potemkin remained silent, and, with an unconcerned air, was brushing
the diamonds which sparkled on his fingers.

"What do you ask for, then?" demanded Catherine, in a solicitous tone
of voice.

The Zaporoghians looked knowingly at one another.

"Now's the time! the Czarina asks what we want!" thought the
blacksmith, and suddenly down he went on his knees. "Imperial Majesty!
Do not show me thy anger, show me thy mercy! Let me know (and let not
my question bring the wrath of thy Majesty's worship upon me!) of what
stuff are made the boots that thou wearest on thy feet? I think there
is no bootmaker in any country in the world who ever will be able to
make such pretty ones. Gracious Lord! if ever my wife had such boots to
wear!"

The empress laughed; the courtiers laughed too. Potemkin frowned and
smiled at the same time. The Zaporoghians pushed the blacksmith,
thinking he had gone mad.

"Stand up!" said the empress, kindly. "If thou wishest to have such
shoes, thy wish may be easily fulfilled. Let him have directly
my richest gold embroidered shoes. This artlessness pleases me
exceedingly." Then, turning towards a gentleman with a round pale face,
who stood a little apart from the rest, and whose plain dress, with
mother-of-pearl buttons, showed at once that he was not a courtier[22]:
"There you have," continued she, "a subject worthy of your witty pen."

"Your Imperial Majesty is too gracious! It would require a pen no less
able than that of a Lafontaine!" answered with a bow, the gentleman in
the plain dress.

"Upon my honour! I tell you I am still under the impression of your
'_Brigadier_.'[1] You read exceedingly well!" Then, speaking once more
to the Zaporoghians, she said, "I was told that you never married at
your Ssiecha?"

"How could that be, mother? Thou knowest well, by thyself, that no
man could ever do without a woman," answered the same Zaporoghian who
had conversed with the blacksmith; and the blacksmith was astonished
to hear one so well acquainted with polished language speak to the
Czarina, as if on purpose, in the coarsest accent used among peasants.

"A cunning people," thought he to himself; "he does it certainly for
some reason."

"We are no monks," continued the speaker, "we are sinful men. Every one
of us is as much inclined to forbidden fruit as a good Christian can
be. There are not a few among us who have wives, only their wives do
not live in the Ssiecha. Many have their wives in Poland; others have
wives in Ukraine;[23] there are some, too, who have wives in Turkey."

At this moment the shoes were brought to the blacksmith.

"Gracious Lord! what ornaments!" cried he, overpowered with joy,
grasping the shoes. "Imperial Majesty! if thou dost wear such shoes
upon thy feet (and thy Honour, I dare say, does use them even for
walking in the snow and the mud), what, then, must thy feet be
like?--whiter than sugar, at the least, I should think!"

The empress, who really had charming feet of an exquisite shape, could
not refrain from smiling at such a compliment from a simple-minded
blacksmith, who, notwithstanding his sunburnt features must have been
accounted a handsome lad in his Zaporoghian dress.

The blacksmith, encouraged by the condescension of the Czarina, was
already on the point of asking her some questions about all sorts of
things, whether it was true that sovereigns fed upon nothing but honey
and lard, and so on; but feeling the Zaporoghians pull the skirts of
his coat, he resolved to keep silent; and when the empress turned to
the older Cossacks, and began to ask them about their way of living,
and their manners in the Ssiecha, he stepped a little back, bent his
head towards his pocket, and said in a low voice: "Quick, carry me
hence, away!" and in no time he had left the town gate far behind.


"He is drowned! I'll swear to it, he's drowned! May I never leave this
spot alive, if he is not drowned!" said the fat weaver's wife, standing
in the middle of the street, amidst a group of the villagers' wives.

"Then I am a liar? Did I ever steal anything? Did I ever cast an
evil-eye upon any one? that I am no longer worthy of belief?" shrieked
a hag wearing a Cossack's dress, and with a violet-coloured nose,
brandishing her hands in the most violent manner: "May I never have
another drink of water if old Pereperchenko's wife did not see with her
own eyes, how that the blacksmith has hanged himself!"

"The blacksmith hanged himself? what is this I hear?" said the elder,
stepping out of Choop's cottage; and he pushed his way nearer to the
talking women.

"Say rather, mayest thou never wish to drink brandy again, old
drunkard!" answered the weaver's wife. "One must be as mad as thou art
to hang one's self. He is drowned! drowned in the ice hole! This I know
as well as that thou just now didst come from the brandy-shop!"

"Shameless creature! what meanest thou to reproach me with?" angrily
retorted the hag with the violet-coloured nose, "thou hadst better hold
thy tongue, good-for-nothing woman! Don't I know that the clerk comes
every evening to thee?"

The weaver's wife became red in the face. "What does the clerk do? to
whom does the clerk come? What lie art thou telling?"

"The clerk?" cried, in shrill voice, the clerk's wife, who, dressed in
a hare-skin cloak covered with blue nankeen, pushed her way towards the
quarrelling ones; "I will let you know about the clerk! Who is talking
here about the clerk?

"There is she to whom the clerk pays his visits!" said the violet-nosed
woman, pointing to the weaver's wife.

"So, thou art the witch," continued the clerk's wife stepping nearer
the weaver's wife; "thou art the witch who sends him out of his senses
and gives him a charmed beverage in order to bewitch him?"

"Wilt thou leave me alone, she-devil!" cried the weaver's wife, drawing
back.

"Cursed witch! Mayest thou never see thy children again,
good-for-nothing woman!" and the clerk's wife spat right into the eyes
of the weaver's wife.

The weaver's wife wished to return her the same compliment, but instead
of that, spat on the unshaven beard of the elder, who had come near the
squabblers in order to hear what was going on. "Ah! nasty creature!"
cried the elder, wiping his face with his skirt, and lifting his whip.
This motion made them all fly in different directions, scolding the
whole time. "The abominable creature" continued the elder, still wiping
his beard. "So the blacksmith is drowned! Gracious Heaven! and such a
capital painter! and what strong knives, and sickles, and ploughshares
he used to forge! How strong he was himself!"

"Yes," continued he, meditatively, "there are few such men in our
village! That was the reason of the poor fellow's ill-temper, which I
noticed while I was sitting in that confounded sack! So much for the
blacksmith! He was here, and now nothing is left of him! And I was
thinking of letting him shoe my speckled mare,".... and, full of such
Christian thoughts, the elder slowly went to his cottage.

Oxana was very downcast at hearing the news; she did not put any
faith in the evidence of Pereperchenko's wife, or in the gossiping
of the women. She knew the blacksmith to be too pious to venture on
letting his soul perish. But what if indeed he had left the village
with the resolve never to return? And scarcely could there be found
anywhere such an accomplished lad as the blacksmith. And he loved her
so intensely! He had endured her caprices longer than any one else.
All the night long, the belle turned beneath her coverlet, from right
to left, and from left to right, and could not go to sleep. Now she
scolded herself almost aloud, throwing herself into the most bewitching
attitudes, which the darkness of the night hid even from herself;
then, in silence, she resolved to think no more of anything, and still
continued thinking, and was burning with fever; and in the morning she
was quite in love with the blacksmith.

Choop was neither grieved nor rejoiced at the fate of Vakoola; all his
ideas had concentrated themselves into one: he could not for a moment
forget Solokha's want of faith; and even when asleep, ceased not to
abuse her.

The morning came; the church was crowded even before daylight. The
elderly women, in their white linen veils, their flowing robes, and
long jackets made of white cloth, piously made the sign of the cross,
standing close to the entrance of the church. The Cossacks' wives,
in green and yellow bodices, and some of them even in blue dresses,
with gold braidings behind, stood a little before them. The girls
endeavoured to get still nearer to the altar, and displayed whole
shopfuls of ribbons on their heads, and of necklaces, little crosses,
and silver coins on their necks. But right in front stood the Cossacks
and the peasants, with their mustachios, their crown-tufts, their thick
necks and their freshly-shaven chins, dressed for the most part in
cloaks with hoods, from beneath which were seen white, and sometimes
blue coats. On every face, wherever one looked, one might see it was
a holiday. The elder already licked his lips at the idea of breaking
his fast with a sausage. The girls were thinking about the pleasure of
running about with the lads, and skating upon the ice. The old women
muttered their prayers more zealously than ever. The whole church
resounded with the thumps which the Cossack Sverbygooze gave with his
forehead against the ground.

Oxana alone was out of sorts. She said her prayers, and yet could not
pray. Her heart was besieged by so many different feelings, one more
mournful than the other, one more perplexing than the other, that the
greatest dejection appeared upon her features, and tears moistened
her eyes. None of the girls could understand the reason of her state,
and none would have suspected its being occasioned by the blacksmith.
And yet Oxana was not the only one who noticed his absence; the whole
congregation remarked that there lacked something to the fulness of the
festival. Moreover, the clerk, during his journey in the sack, had got
a bad cold, and his cracked voice was hardly audible. The newly arrived
chanter had a deep bass indeed. But at all events, it would have been
much better if the blacksmith had been there, as he had so fine a
voice, and knew how to chant the tunes which were used at Poltava; and
besides, he was churchwarden.

The matins were said. The liturgy had also been brought to a close.
Well, what had indeed happened to the blacksmith?


The devil, with the blacksmith on his back, had flown with still
greater speed during the remainder of the night. Vakoola soon reached
his cottage. At the very moment he heard the crow of a cock. "Whither
away?" cried he, seeing the devil in the act of sneaking off; and he
caught him by his tail. "Wait a bit my dear fellow; I have not done
with thee; thou must get thy reward!" and, taking a stick, he gave him
three blows across his back, so that the poor devil took to his heels,
exactly as a peasant might do who had just been punished by a police
officer. So, the enemy of mankind, instead of cheating, seducing, or
leading anybody into foolishness, was made a fool of himself. After
this, Vakoola went into the passage, buried himself in the hay, and
slept till noon.

When he awoke, he was alarmed at seeing the sun high in the heavens:
"I have missed matins and liturgy!" and the pious blacksmith fell into
mournful thoughts, and decided that the sleep which had prevented him
from going to church on such a festival was certainly a punishment
inflicted by God for his sinful intention of killing himself. But he
soon quieted his mind by resolving to confess no later than next week,
and from that very day to make fifty genuflexions during his prayers
for a whole year. Then he went into the room, but nobody was there;
Solokha had not yet returned home. He cautiously drew the shoes from
his breast pocket, and once more admired their beautiful workmanship,
and marvelled at the events of the preceding night. Then he washed,
and dressed himself as fine as he could, putting on the same suit of
clothes which he had got from the Zaporoghians, took out of his box a
new cap with a blue crown and a trimming of black sheepskin, which had
never been worn since he bought it at Poltava; he took out also a new
belt, of divers brilliant colours; wrapped up these with a scourge, in
a handkerchief, and went straight to Choop's cottage.

Choop opened wide his eyes as he saw the blacksmith enter his room. He
knew not at what most to marvel, whether at the blacksmith being once
more alive, or at his having ventured to come into his house, or at
his being dressed so finely, like a Zaporoghian; but he was still more
astonished when he saw Vakoola undo his handkerchief, and set before
him an entirely new cap, and such a belt as had never before been
seen in the village; and when Vakoola fell at his knees, saying in a
deprecating voice: "Father, have mercy on me! do not be angry with me!
There, take this scourge, whip me as much as thou wilt! I give myself
up. I acknowledge all my trespasses. Whip me, but put away thine anger!
The more so that thou and my late father were like two brothers, and
shared bread, and salt, and brandy together."

Choop could not help feeling inwardly pleased at seeing at his feet the
blacksmith, the very same blacksmith who would not concede a step to
any one in the village, and who bent copper coins between his fingers,
as if they were so many buckwheat fritters. To make himself still more
important, Choop took the scourge, gave three strokes with it upon the
blacksmith's back, and then said: "Well, that will do! Stand up! Attend
to men older than thyself. I forget all that has taken place between
us. Now, speak out, what dost thou want?"

"Father, let me have Oxana!"

Choop remained thinking for a while; he looked at the cap--he looked at
the belt; the cap was beautiful--the belt not less so; he remembered
the bad faith of Solokha, and said, in a resolute voice, "Well, send me
thy marriage brokers."

"Ah!" shrieked Oxana, stepping across the threshold; and she stared at
him, with a look of joy and astonishment.

"Look at the boots I have brought thee!" said Vakoola; "they are the
very boots which the Czarina wears."

"No, no, I do not want the boots!" said Oxana, and she waved her hands,
never taking her eyes off him; "it will do without the boots." She
could speak no more, and her face turned all crimson.

The blacksmith came nearer, and took her hand. The belle cast down her
eyes. Never yet had she been so marvellously handsome; the exulting
blacksmith gently stole a kiss, and her face flushed still redder, and
she looked still prettier.

       *       *       *       *       *

As the late archbishop happened to pass on a journey through Dikanka,
he greatly commended the spot on which that village stands, and driving
down the street, stopped his carriage before a new cottage. "Whose
cottage is this, so highly painted?" asked his Eminence of a handsome
woman who was standing before the gate, with an infant in her arms.

"It is the blacksmith Vakoola's cottage!" answered Oxana, for she it
was, making him a deep curtesy.

"Very good painting, indeed! Capital painting!" said the Right Eminent,
looking at the door and the windows. And, in truth, every window was
surrounded by a stripe of red paint; and the door was painted all
over with Cossacks on horseback, with pipes in their mouths. But the
archbishop bestowed still more praises on Vakoola, when he was made
acquainted with the blacksmith's having performed public penance, and
with his having painted, at his own expense, the whole of the church
choir, green, with red flowers running over it. But Vakoola had done
still more: he had painted the devil in hell, upon the wall which is
to your left when you step into the church. This devil had such an
odious face that no one could refrain from spitting, as they passed
by. The women, as soon as their children began to cry, brought them to
this picture and said, "Look! is he not an odious creature?" and the
children stopped their tears, looked sideways at the picture, and clung
more closely to their mother's bosom.


[Footnote 1: Chief town of a district in the government of Poltava.]

[Footnote 2: Every foreigner, whatever may be his station, is called a
German by Russian peasants. A dress coat is often sufficient to procure
this name for its wearer.]

[Footnote 3: A village in the government of Poltava, in which the
author places the scene of most of his stories.]

[Footnote 4: The free burghers of Little Russia, even to this day,
pride themselves on being called _Cossacks_.]

[Footnote 5: Almost every family name in Little Russia has some
meaning; the name of _Choop_ means the tuft of hair growing on the
crown of the head, which is alone left to grow by the Little Russians;
they uniformly shave the occiput and temples; in Great or Middle
Russia, peasants, on the contrary, let the hair grow on these parts,
and shave or cut it away from the crown.]

[Footnote 6: Kootia is a dish of boiled rice and plums, eaten by
Russians on Christmas Eve.]

[Footnote 7: Varenookha is corn brandy boiled with fruit and spice.]

[Footnote 8: A rank in irregular troops, corresponding to that of
captain in the army.]

[Footnote 9: Borsch is a soup made of meat, sausages, and thin slices
of beet-root and cabbage steeped in vinegar.]

[Footnote 10: Chief town of a district in the government of Poltava.]

[Footnote 11: Long coats made of sheepskins, with the fur worn inside.
They are used in Russia by common people.]

[Footnote 12: The ovens of the peasants' cottages are built in the
shape of furnaces, with a place on the top which is reserved for
sleeping.]

[Footnote 13: About eightpence a yard.]

[Footnote 14: Little Russians shave beard and whiskers, leaving only
their mustachios.]

[Footnote 15: Chief town of a district in the government of Chernigoff.]

[Footnote 16: A carriage something between a dog-cart and a tilbury.]

[Footnote 17: This, according to the laws of the Greek Church, would
prevent their children from intermarrying.]

[Footnote 18: Village clerks in Russia had their hair plaited; a
practice which still continues in some remote provinces. Many priests,
not allowed by the custom of the land to cut their hair short, wear it,
for convenience' sake, plaited when at home and only loosen it during
the performance of the duties of their office.]

[Footnote 19: Russians are much more strict in their fasts than
Papists, eating no milk or eggs. Some even go so far as to eat no fish
and no hot dishes, restricting their food to cold boiled vegetables
and bread. The author has here very happily seized a trait of the
inconsistency of a Little Russian peasant's character--swallowing a
camel in asking for communication with the devil, and straining at a
gnat in the shape of a curd dumpling in fast-time.]

[Footnote 20: This touch very characteristically exemplifies the
cunning _naïveté_ of the Little Russians, who, when deeply interested
in anything, will never come to the point at once.]

[Footnote 21: Potemkin was created by Catherine II. Prince of Tauride,
with the title of Highness, an honour rarely bestowed in Russia, and
which he had fully deserved by his exertions in rendering Russian the
provinces which, only a few years before, were under the dominion of
the Crimean Tartars. All South, or New Russia, offers at every step
records of the administrative genius of Potemkin, who, if at the outset
of his career he was indebted for the favours of his sovereign to his
personal appearance (which was remarkably handsome, notwithstanding
a cataract in one eye), succeeded in justifying those favours by his
talents, which give him an undoubted right to rank amongst the greatest
statesmen of Catherine's reign--a reign which abounded in great
statesmen.]

[Footnote 22: The author alluded to is _Von Wiessen_, who, in his
writings (particularly in two comedies, the "Brigadier," and the
"Young Nobleman without Employment,") ridiculed the then prevailing
fashion amongst the Russian nobility of despising national and blindly
following foreign (particularly French) customs.]

[Footnote 23: Ukraine, i.e., the Borders, an appellation which was of
of yore given to the country now called Little Russia, which formed,
in fact, the border between the territories of the Czar of Muscovy and
those of Poland, the Sclavonic provinces under the dominion of Austria,
of the Sultan of Turkey, of the Khans of the Tartars of the Crimea and
of the Golden Horde (residing along the Volga). The name of Ukraine
is, down to this time given to Little Russia by its natives, they
considering it derogatory to acknowledge their country to be smaller
than Great (Middle) Russia.]



TARASS BOOLBA:


FROM THE RUSSIAN OF


NICHOLAS GOGOL.



I.


"Well, son, turn round! let me see thy back! What a queer figure thou
art! What priest's cassocks have you got on? And do all of you at the
College dress like that?" These were the words with which old Boolba
greeted his two sons, who, after completing their education at Kieff,
had just returned to their father's house.

His sons had just dismounted from their horses. They were two strong
lads, who still looked from beneath their brows as young collegians are
apt to do. Their manly healthy features were covered with the first
down of hair, unacquainted as yet with the razor. Such a greeting on
the part of the father, put them to great confusion, and they stood
motionless, with their eyes bent down on the ground.

"Stay, stay a bit; give me leisure to look at you," he went on, turning
them round; "what long coats! what coats, indeed! Never in the world
were such coats! Here, let one of you just try to run! We shall soon
see if he does not fall, and get his legs entangled in his skirts."

"Don't laugh at us, father, don't laugh," said at last the elder son.

"Look at the haughty fellow! and why should I not laugh?"

"For this reason: that though thou art my father, if thou goest on
laughing, by Heavens, I'll give thee a thrashing."

"Ah, wretch of a son! thrash thy father!" exclaimed Tarass Boolba,
falling back a few steps in astonishment.

"It matters not that thou art my father. I pay regard to nobody, and
will permit nobody to insult me."

"And how are we to fight? with our fists?"

"In whatever manner it may chance."

"Well, with fists be it!" said Tarass Boolba, tucking up his sleeves;
"I will see what kind of a man thou art at fisticuffs!" And father and
son, instead of embracing after a long separation, began to give one
another blows on the ribs, on the loins, and on the chest, now falling
back and taking aim, and now stepping forward again.

"Only see, good people! the old man has gone mad! he has decidedly lost
his senses!" Thus spoke the good mother, a thin, pale-faced woman,
who stood at the threshold, and had not even had time to embrace her
cherished sons.

"The children are but just come home; for more than a year we have not
seen them, and what has he got into his head that he should fight with
them?"

"He fights pretty well," said Boolba, stopping. "Very well, indeed!"
continued he, taking breath; "so that I'd better not have tried it.
A good Cossack will he make! Well, son! good day! let me embrace
thee!" And father and son began kissing one another. "Well, my son, as
thou didst strike me, so strike every one--give quarter to none! And
nevertheless, thy dress is very funny! What cord is that hanging about
thy loins? And thou, sluggard!" said he, turning to his younger son,
"why dost thou remain there with thy hands hanging idle? why, son of a
dog that thou art, why dost thou not give me a beating?"

"What hast thou hit upon now!" said the mother, embracing her younger
son; "how couldst thou get into thy brain that a son should beat his
father? And is this the proper time, too? The child is yet young; he
has undergone such a long journey, and is quite tired" (the child was
twenty years old, and seven feet high); "he ought to take a meal and
some rest; and thou wishest to make him fight!"

"Ah, I have it! thou art a pet!" said Boolba; "do not, my son, give
heed to what thy mother is saying; she is but a woman, and what can
she know? As for thy coddling--the open field and a swift horse--these
must be thy coddling! And look at this sabre--this is to be thy mother!
It is all nonsense that they have been putting into your heads at the
college: books, grammars, and philosophy, yes, the whole lot of them--I
spit upon them all." Here Boolba used words such as are not to be met
with in books. "I had better send you, not later than next week, to the
Zaporoghian Ssiecha. There you will have something to learn! that will
be a good school for you; there you will get brains!"

"And are they not to remain at home more than a week?" mournfully asked
the old mother, with tears in her eyes. "Poor souls, they will have
no time even to rest a little, no time to get acquainted with their
father's roof; and I shall not have time to have a good look at them!"

"Have done, old woman! no howling! A Cossack is not made to spend his
life with women. Hadst thou the power, thou wouldst put both of them
under thy petticoat, and sit upon them as a hen does upon her eggs.
Go, go, and have everything in the house put upon the table. We do
not want pastry, honey-cakes, poppyseed cakes, and all those sweet
nonsenses. Bring us a whole roasted sheep, give us a buck, let us have
some mead[1] that is twenty years old, and above all things, plenty of
brandy; and let it not be the brandy with raisins and various spices,
but plain, clean, corn brandy, that hisses and simmers."

Boolba conducted his sons into the parlour, from which hastily rushed
two pretty maid servants, with red necklaces, who were putting the
rooms in order. They might have been scared by the arrival of the young
masters, who never let any woman pass by quietly; or, perhaps, they did
it only in accordance with the custom of all women, which is to shriek
aloud, and run away with the utmost speed at the sight of a man; and
then afterwards stand and gaze at him, covering their faces with their
sleeves, as if vastly ashamed. The great room was arranged according
to the taste of those times, of which there are nowhere such vivid
pictures to be found as in songs and popular legends;--these, too, are
no longer, as of yore, sung in Ukraine by blind, long-bearded old men,
who used to sing them in the hearing of assembled crowds, and with the
accompaniment of the soft music of the _bandora_[2]

The furniture was also in the taste of those warlike, sturdy times,
when the _Union_[3] began to provoke struggles and battles in Ukraine.
The walls were all neatly plastered with coloured clay. Upon them
hung sabres, scourges, nets for catching birds and for fishing, guns,
a powder-horn of exquisite workmanship, a golden snaffle-bit, and
horse-shackles with silver plates. The windows were small, with dim,
round panes, such as are now found only in old churches, and through
which one could only see by lifting the moveable glass. The windows and
doors were surrounded with stripes of red paint. In the corners there
stood, upon shelves, an array of jugs, bottles, and flagons of green
and blue glass, chased silver cups, and gilded dram-cups of Venetian,
Turkish, and Circassian workmanship. They had come into Boolba's hands
by various means, he being the third or fourth possessor of them, an
occurrence very usual in those warlike days. Wooden benches ran all
round the room; an immense table stood in the front corner, under the
holy images; a large stove, which had many projecting and receding
corners, was covered with variegated, varnished tiles. All this was
familiar to our two youths, who had every year come home for the
vacations. They had always until now come home on foot, because they
had no horses, for collegians are not permitted to ride on horseback.
The long tufts on the crown of their heads were the only mark of
manhood allowed them, and even these, every Cossack wearing arms had
the right to pull. It was not till the conclusion of their studies that
Boolba had sent them a pair of young horses, which he had selected for
them out of his herd.

Boolba, to celebrate the arrival of his sons, had sent invitations to
all the centurions and all the officers of his regiment; and as soon
as he saw two of them coming with his old comrade the _essaool_[4]
Dmitro Tovkach, he introduced his sons to them, saying, "Look at them,
are they not pretty lads? I shall send them soon to the Ssiecha!" The
guests congratulated both Boolba and the two youths, saying that that
was a capital thing, and that there was no better school for young men
than the Zaporoghian Ssiecha.

"Well, gentlemen brothers, sit down to table, every one where he
pleases. Now, sons, before anything else, let's take some brandy!"
so spoke Boolba. "God's blessing be upon us! May God give you health,
my sons; to thee, Ostap, and to thee, Andrew! May he ever grant you
success in war! that you may get the better of all misbelievers,
Tartars, and Turks, or Poles--if Poles attempt anything against our
faith. Well, give me your cup; is the brandy good? And what is the
Latin for brandy? Well, son, the Romans were only so many fools; they
did not even know so much as that there's brandy in the world. How do
you call the fellow that wrote Latin verses? I am no great scholar, so
I do not know his name; but let me see, wasn't it Horace?"

"Just see my father!" thought the elder son, Ostap, to himself; "he
knows all about it, and yet feigns ignorance, the old dog!"

"I think the Abbot didn't so much as let you smell brandy,"[5]
continued Tarass Boolba. "Now, own, sons, they famously thrashed your
back, and whatever else a Cossack possesses, with fresh birch rods? or,
perhaps, as you grew cleverer, you were flogged with scourges? and I
should think not only on Saturdays, but on Wednesdays and Thursdays[6]
too, you got your allowance."

"What is the use of talking about what is past?" answered Ostap; "what
is past can never come back."

"Let any one try it now," said Andrew; "let any one touch us now! If a
Tartar were to come within our reach, now, we would soon let him know
what sort of a thing a Cossack's sabre is."

"Well said, son, well said indeed! If things stand so, I will go with
you! By Heavens, I'll do it! What the devil have I to wait here for? Am
I then to turn sower or farmer, or to pasture sheep or swine, and make
love to my wife? Let them all perish! I am a Cossack, and will not be
anything else but a Cossack! There is no war? Well, what then? I'll go
with you just to have a look at the Zaporoghians! By Heavens, I will!"
and old Boolba grew warmer and warmer in his speech, and at last,
becoming quite fierce, rose from the table, drew himself up to his full
height and stamped with his foot. "Why should it be put off? Let us
ride there to-morrow! Of what use would it be for us to wait? What is
this house to us? Of what use is all this furniture? Of what use this
crockery?" and with these words he began knocking about and dashing on
the ground jugs and dishes.

His poor old wife, seated on a bench, mournfully watched these
proceedings of her husband, to which she was accustomed. She dared
not interfere, but could not restrain her tears at hearing a decision
so awful to her; she looked at her sons, from whom she was threatened
to part so soon, and none could describe the extent of the silent
intensity of sorrow which seemed to quiver in her eyes and in her
convulsively compressed lips.

Boolba was stubborn to an excess. His was one of those characters,
which could only take their rise in the gloomy fifteenth century, in
a semi-nomad corner of Europe, at a time when the whole of primitive
Southern Russia was left by its sovereign princes a prey to the fire
and sword of the unconquerable Mogul invaders; when the natives of
that country grew daring, after having lost hearth and roof; when
they settled upon the sites of their former dwellings, within view
of their terrible neighbours and of incessant danger, and learned to
forget that there was any such thing in the world as fear; when after
having remained dormant for centuries, the Slavonic spirit was inflamed
with the love of war. Then it was that the _Cossacks_ broke forth,
that powerful sinew of Russian nature, and then the banks of all the
rivers and the valleys and rich pasturages were covered with Cossacks.
Nobody could number them, and rightly did their bold comrades give
answer to the Sultan, who inquired their number, "Who can tell it?
all the steppe over; for every mound there is a Cossack!" In truth it
was an extraordinary outburst of Russian strength; calamity struck it
out of the breast of the Russian people, just as steel strikes fire
out of flint. Ancient principalities had disappeared; small towns,
with prickers and huntsmen, were no more; petty sovereigns exchanging
their possessions had had their time. Instead of these, there arose
formidable hamlets, villages and communities bound together by common
danger from, and common hatred to, the foes of the Cross. History makes
us acquainted how it was that their incessant struggles, and restless
life, prevented Europe from falling a prey to the irresistible flood of
Tartar invaders, and from being overthrown by them. The Polish kings,
who had superseded the Russian princes in the possession of their wide
expanse of land, although far from these their possessions, and without
the means of enforcing their rule over them, understood the mission of
the Cossacks and the advantages derivable from their warlike, lawless
mode of life. They gave encouragement to their pursuits, nay, they even
flattered them. It was under their remote sway, that Hetmans, chosen
from among the Cossacks themselves, transformed hamlets and communities
into regiments and regular military circuits. There was no regular
standing army; not a soldier was to be seen; but in case of war or any
general movement, every one, before eight days were over, appeared on
horseback armed from head to foot, but receiving only a ducat from
the king, and thus in a fortnight was gathered such a militia as no
regular enlistments could ever have produced. The campaign once over,
the warrior returned to his fields and pastures, or to the ferries over
the Dnieper, betook himself to fishing, trading and brewing beer, and
he became once more a _free Cossack_. Well might foreign writers of
this period express their astonishment at the manifold accomplishments
of a Cossack. No trade, no business, was unknown to him; he knew how
to distil brandy out of corn, how to mend a carriage, how to grind
powder; he was acquainted with blacksmith's as well as with locksmith's
work; and besides all this he knew how to plunge into the vortex of the
most riotous life, to drink and to carouse--as none but a Russian can.
Besides the registered Cossacks, who were by duty bound to come forth
in case of war, there were, at every period of great emergency, whole
troops of mounted volunteers. The _essaools_ had nothing to do but to
go through the squares and market-places of every city and village,
and there, mounting on some carriage, cry aloud: "Ho! you brewers and
coopers! enough of brewing your beer, lolling on your ovens, and
feeding flies with the fat of your bodies! Come and seek the glory and
honour of knights! And you, ploughmen, sowers, shepherds, loiterers,
have done with going behind the plough and daubing your yellow boots
with mud, with running after girls and destroying your knightly
strength. The time is come to win a Cossack's glory!"

And these words fell like so many sparks upon dry wood. Ploughmen broke
their ploughs, brewers and coopers destroyed their tubs and casks,
mechanics and tradesmen sent handicraft and trade to the devil, broke
the furniture in their houses, and every one, be he who he might, set
off on horseback. In a word, here it was that the Russian character
showed itself in its boldest and most striking outlines, and received
its most powerful development.

Tarass Boolba was one of the old colonels, and a colonel of the old
school too. In him seemed combined everything which makes a warrior,
and his character was stamped by a stern uprightness. In those times
the influence of Poland already began to be felt amongst the nobility
of South Russia; many of the nobles began to adopt Polish fashions,
to indulge in luxury, to keep a magnificent revenue, hawks, and
huntsmen, to give banquets and entertainments. All this was displeasing
to Tarass; he liked the simple manner of life of the Cossacks, and
quarrelled with those of his comrades who inclined towards the
Warsaw party, nicknaming them the servants of Polish lords. Ever
unconquerable, he took it for granted that he was the rightful defender
of orthodoxy. He went, of his own accord, into every village where
the tenants complained of oppression or of additional taxes laid on
the cottages, and constituting himself judge of these grievances, he
made it a rule that the sword was to be used on three occasions, viz.,
when the Polish commissaries did not pay due respect to the Elders,
and stood covered before them; when they insulted orthodoxy, and did
not observe the faith of their forefathers; and lastly, when the foes
were misbelievers or Turks, against whom, according to his notions, a
Christian was in every case allowed to raise his sword.

Now Tarass pictured to himself, beforehand, the pleasure he should have
in bringing his sons to the Ssiecha, and in saying, "Look at them,
are not these fine fellows that I have brought you!" how he would
introduce them to all his old comrades, hardened in so many combats;
how he would behold their first deeds in war and in carousing, which
was also accounted one of the great accomplishments of a knight. At
first, he had thought of sending them by themselves; but, on seeing
the freshness of their manly beauty, the height and strength of their
frames, his warlike spirit kindled, and he resolved to go with them
himself, although nothing but the stubbornness of his own will made it
requisite. He was already busy giving orders, making choice of horses
and trappings for his young sons, going into the stables and barns,
and indicating; the servants who were to start on the morrow with him.
He deputed his authority to the Essaool Tovkach, giving him strict
orders to come with his regiment at his first summons, were he to send
from the Ssiecha for it. He forgot nothing, though he was rather tipsy,
and his head was not yet quite clear. He even gave orders to water
the horses, and to put the best and largest grained wheat into their
mangers. At last he returned, tired out with his work. "Well, children,
let us go to sleep, and to-morrow we shall do what God wills. No beds!
we don't want beds; we will sleep in the yard."

Night had scarcely crept over the sky, but Boolba always went to rest
early. He lay down upon a carpet and rolled himself up in a sheepskin
cloak, because the night was rather fresh, and because he always liked
when at home to be warmly covered. He was soon snoring, and every one
in the yard followed his example. All who were lying about in different
corners of the yard set off snoring; first of all the watchman fell
asleep, for he had got more tipsy than any one on the occasion of the
young masters' arrival. The poor mother alone could not sleep; she
reclined on the pillow of her dear sons, who were lying side by side;
she smoothed their young negligently intermingled curls, moistening
them with tears. She was gazing at them, ay, gazing at them with all
her soul; her whole being seemed absorbed in sight, and she could not
cease gazing. With her own milk she had fed them--she had watched them
grow--she had tended them--and now, she sees them near her only for a
moment. "Sons, my own dear sons, what will happen to you? What is in
store for you?" and tears ran down on the wrinkles which disfigured her
once handsome face.

And, indeed, she was to be pitied, as were nil the women of those
warlike times. For one moment only had she enjoyed love, which wits
during the first impulse merely of youth and passion; and then her
stern lover had quitted her for his sabre, for his comrades, and for
carousing. During the whole course of the year, she saw her husband
but for two or three days, and then years passed away without hearing
anything about him. And, even when she happened to see him, and live
with him, what a life was hers; she received nothing from him but
insults, and often even blows. The caresses bestowed upon her were
nothing but charity, she saw it. Strange was her existence among that
mob of heartless warriors, whose features bore the bronzed colouring
peculiar to the Zaporoghians. She had seen her youth glide away without
enjoyment, and her beautiful fresh cheeks fade without kisses and
shrivel into wrinkles before due time. All her love, all her feelings,
all that is tender and passionate in a woman, all was concentrated for
her in one feeling--that of a mother. And like a bird of the steppe,
she feverishly, passionately, and tearfully hovered over her children.
Her sons, her dear sons, are to be taken away from her; to be taken
where she may never see them again. Who knows? may be in the first
battle a Tartar will cut off their heads, and she will not even know
where to find their corpses; perhaps those corpses, for each morsel of
which, for each drop of whose blood she would give everything in the
world, those very corpses may be thrown aside, and the wild birds of
prey may tear them to pieces. Sobbing, she looked in their eyes, which
sleep already began to close, and she thought--"Who knows but that
Boolba, on awaking, may put off the departure for some two or three
days; may be he resolved to start so soon, merely from having drunk too
much."

The moon had long ago risen in the heavens, and from their height shone
down on the yard, covered with sleeping Cossacks, on the thick sallows,
and on the high grass which had overgrown the palisade surrounding the
yard. Still the mother remained sitting beside her dear sons, never
taking her eyes off them for a moment, and never caring for sleep.
The horses, feeling the approach of the dawn, lay down and ceased to
feed; the upper leaves of the sallows began to move, and, by degrees,
the murmuring current descended to the branches beneath. The mother
remained sitting till dawn. She felt no weariness, and inwardly wished
that the night might last still longer. Already the sonorous neighing
of the foals was heard from the steppe; red streaks brightly illumined
the sky. All at once Boolba awoke and sprang to his feet; he was
perfectly aware of the orders he had given on the preceding day....

"Up lads, away with sleep! it is time, it is time. Give the horses
their drink. Where is the old woman (so he usually called his wife)?
Quick, old woman! prepare our meal--we have a long journey before us!"

The poor old woman, deprived of her last hopes, went mournfully to the
house. While tearfully she was preparing everything for breakfast,
Boolba issued his orders: he bustled about in the stable and himself
chose the best equipment for his sons. The collegians were suddenly
metamorphosed: instead of their dirty boots and shabby dresses,
they appeared in red boots with silver heels; their trousers, of a
tremendous width with thousands of folds, were tightly girded with a
gilded belt; long leather thongs, with tassels and different requisites
for the pipe, hung from their belts. Their _cossackins_,[7] of a fiery
red cloth, were girded by brilliantly-coloured sashes, in which were
stuck pistols of Turkish embossed workmanship, and sabres were dangling
about their heels. Their faces, not yet sunburnt, seemed to have grown
still more handsome and still fairer. Their young dark mustachios gave
still more brilliancy to the healthy, robust bloom of their youth;
their black sheepskin caps, with the crowns of cloth of gold, became
them excellently. Poor mother! when she saw them she could not utter a
word, and tears rushed into her eyes.

"Now, sons, all is ready, don't waste time," said Boolba at last. "Now,
we must all, like Christians, sit down before the journey."[8]

Every one sat down, including even the servants, who had respectfully
stood at the door.

"Now, mother, bless thy children!" said Boolba. "Pray God that they may
be brave in war, that they may ever preserve their knightly honour,
that they may ever hold fast the faith of Christ. Otherwise, 'twere
better they should die, better nothing remained of them in the world.
Go to your mother, children; the prayer of a mother preserves one by
sea and land."

The tender mother embraced them, took two small holy images, and
sobbing, hung them round their necks:--

"May the Holy Virgin--preserve you--don't forget your mother, my
sons--send me word about you." She could say no more!

"Let us be gone now, children!" said Boolba. Saddled horses stood
near the door of the house. Boolba sprang on his own, named "Devil,"
who furiously bounded aside as he felt on his back the weight of his
rider, who was very stout and heavy. When the mother saw that her
sons had also mounted, she rushed to the younger, whose features wore
a somewhat more tender expression; she caught his stirrup, clung to
his saddle, and, a picture of utter despair, would not let him loose.
Two strong Cossacks gently dragged her away and carried her into the
room. But when she saw them cross the gateway, in spite of her age she
flew through the yard with the swiftness of a wild goat, and, with
incredible strength, stopped the horse and embraced one of her sons,
with a mad, rapturous feverishness. Once more was she brought home.

Mournfully rode the young Cossacks, restraining their tears lest
their father should be angry; but he, too, was agitated, although
he endeavoured not to show it. The day was gray; the verdure was of
a bright green; the birds seemed to sing discordantly. After having
ridden for some time, they turned to look back: the farm seemed to have
sunk into the earth; they could only see the two chimneys of their
modest mansion and the tops of the surrounding trees--those trees,
whose branches they used to climb like squirrels; but before them
lay expanded the wide plain--that same plain, which might bring back
to their minds the whole history of their lives, from the years when
they rolled in its dew-covered grass, down to the years when they were
reclining in it, awaiting some dark-browed girl, who timidly ran across
it with her pretty little feet. Already--nothing is to be seen, but
the pulley over the well, with the wheel tied to its top. Already the
plain, across which they rode but just now, has covered all behind and
looks like a hill. Farewell, childhood! Farewell, youthful sports! all
of you, farewell!



II.


The three riders all proceeded in silence. Old Boolba thought of former
times; he saw pass before him his youth, his bygone years, those years
which are always regretted by a Cossack, who would wish that his whole
life were youth only; he thought of the comrades he should meet with at
the Ssiecha; he remembered who those were who had died, and those who
yet remained alive. A tear might have been seen trembling in his eye,
and mournfully did he droop his gray head.

Other thoughts occupied his sons. But more should be said about the
sons. At twelve years old they were sent to the College of Kieff,
because all' the important nobles of that time found it necessary
to give an education to their sons, although it was apparently done
merely for the purpose of their entirely forgetting it afterwards.
Like all the collegians, they had something wild about them, having
been brought up in perfect freedom. At the college, however, they
got something of that external polish, which, being common to all
collegians, made them so resemble one another. Ostap, the elder of
the two, began his career by running away the very first year; he was
brought back, mercilessly flogged, and once more set to his book. Four
times did he bury his grammar in the ground, and four times, after
having him horsewhipped without pity, a new one was bought for him.
Yet he would no doubt have repeated the same attempt a fifth time,
had not his father pledged him his word that he would have him shut
up in a cloister for twenty years, and sworn that he should never see
the Zaporoghian Ssiecha till he had been through the whole course of
academic learning. It is worth notice that this was said by that same
Tarass Boolba, who, as we have seen, laughed at all learning, and
advised his children never to trouble themselves about it. From that
time Ostap grew intensely assiduous, and was soon ranked among the best
pupils.

The education and the practical life of those times afforded the most
striking contrast. All the scholastic, grammatical, and rhetorical
subtleties were decidedly inappropriate to the epoch, inapplicable to
anything, and of no use in after life. Even had the studies been much
less scholastic, those who studied would have found nothing to which
they could have been adapted. The first rate scholars of that time
were the most ignorant people in practice, because they, more than
others, were removed from the experience of life. The republican form
of the academical administration, as well as the great concourse of
full-grown, healthy young men, could not fail to give the pupils' minds
a direction quite alien to their studies. At one time bad food, at
others oft-repeated punishments by hunger, then, those impulses which
arise in fresh, healthy, strong youths--all this combined to give them
that enterprising spirit which afterwards attained its full expansion
in the Zaporoghian Ssiecha. Hungry collegians rambled about the streets
of Kieff, and rendered every one cautious. The market-women who sat in
the market, as soon as they saw a collegian coming, quickly covered
with their hands their pies, rolls, and pumpkin seeds, just as eagles
cover their young with their wings. The _consuls_, whose duty it was to
watch over such of their comrades as were placed under their orders,
themselves wore trouser pockets of such frightful dimensions that they
could hide in them the whole contents of a tray if the market-woman
happened to look aside. These collegians formed a world apart; they
were not allowed to mix in the higher circles, which consisted
of Polish and Russian nobles. Even the Voevoda,[9] Adam Kissel,
notwithstanding the protection which he showed to the college, did not
allow the collegians admittance into society, and ordered them to be
treated with the greatest severity. This last injunction was, however,
quite superfluous, for neither the rector nor the professors spared
the rods and whips, and often at their commands the _lictors_[10] gave
their consuls such a sound flogging, that the latter rubbed their
trousers many weeks after. Many of them became indifferent to it, and
thought it only a little stronger than good brandy and pepper; some
found such frictions too frequent and too unpleasant, and at last took
flight to the Ssiecha, if they could but find the way to it, and if
they happened not to be caught during the journey.

Ostap Boolba, notwithstanding his assiduity in learning logic, and
even theology, could by no means escape the inexorable rod. Of
course, all this hardened his character, and gave him that firmness
which is so peculiar to the Cossacks. Ostap was always reputed the
best of comrades. He was not often a leader of the others in daring
enterprises, such as to lay waste some orchard or kitchen-garden, but
he was always among the first who joined the colours of the daring
collegian who was to lead, and never on any occasion did he betray his
comrades; no whip, no rods, could make him do so. Nothing but fighting
and carousing had any attraction for him; never, at least, did he think
of anything else. With his equals he was always open-hearted. He was
good, so far as goodness was possible with such a character and at
such an epoch. The tears of his poor mother had strongly impressed his
mind, and might account for his depressed spirits, and the thoughtful
drooping of his head.

The feelings of his younger brother, Andrew, were quicker, and in some
degree, more sharpened. He showed more inclination and less difficulty
for study than is usually the case with a heavy, robust character. He
had more contrivance than his brother, and more frequently became the
leader in expeditions of danger, and oftener, thanks to his ready wit,
found means to escape punishment; while his brother Ostap, setting
aside every subterfuge, took off his coat and laid himself down on the
floor, without ever thinking of begging forgiveness. Andrew was as
eager as his brother for warlike feats, but his heart was also open to
other feelings. When he was scarcely eighteen, he felt to the quick
the want of love; thoughts of women would often visit his over-heated
fancy; whilst listening to philosophical disputes, he saw every moment
a fresh, dark-eyed, tender face; continually there glimmered before
him her round smooth bosom, her delicate, beautifully moulded bare
arm; even her dress, clinging to her maidenly yet powerful form,
his fancy would depict as something indescribably voluptuous. These
inspirations of his passionate youthful soul, Andrew carefully hid from
his comrades, for in those times it was reputed a shame and a dishonour
to a Cossack to think about women, and love, before having gone through
a battle. And yet, during the later years, he was no longer so often
the leader of collegian parties, but was more frequently to be seen
strolling about one of the lonely lanes of Kieff, overshadowed by
cherry-tree gardens, which surrounded some low cottages. He also went
sometimes into the aristocratic street in that part of Kieff which is
now-a-days called the Old Town, where the nobility of Little Russia and
Poland used to live, and where the buildings in their appearance showed
more refinement.

Once, as he was gazing about the street, he was nearly caught by the
wheels of the carriage of some Polish lord, and received a well-aimed
cut of the whip from the frightfully mustachioed figure, who sat on
the box of the carriage. The young collegian took fire at once; with
inconsiderate audacity he grasped with his powerful hand the rear
wheel, and stopped the carriage. But the coachman, fearing the result,
whipped the horses; they started forward, and Andrew, who fortunately
had time to withdraw his arm, fell flat on the ground, with his face
in the mud. The most sonorous and harmonious laughter resounded above
him. He lifted up his eyes, and saw, standing at a window, a beauty,
the like of whom he had never seen before. Her eyes were dark, and
the whiteness of her complexion was like the snow, lighted by the
rosy-coloured rays of the morning sun; she laughed with all her heart,
and laughter gave additional splendour to her beauty. He remained
riveted to the spot. Unconscious of everything around him, he looked
at her, and, absent in mind, wiped the mud from his face, soiling it
still more. Who could that lovely girl be? He tried to learn her name
of the servants, who, in rich dresses, were assembled in a crowd at
the gate, round a young musician, playing on the _bandora_[11] But
the servants burst out laughing on seeing his dirty face, and no one
condescended to answer him. He succeeded at last in ascertaining that
the young lady was the daughter of the Voevoda of Kovno, who had come
to Kieff for a certain time. Next night, with an audacity peculiar to
collegians, he crept through a palisade into the garden, climbed a tree
whose branches were widely spread, and leaned on the very roof of the
house; from the tree he got on to the roof, and gliding down a chimney,
came straight into the room of the beauty, who was just then sitting
before a light, and taking her costly ear-rings out of her ears. The
beautiful girl was so terrified at seeing before her a strange man,
that she could not utter a word; but when she saw that the collegian
remained standing, his eyes bent on the ground, and not daring, from
bashfulness, to move even his hand; when she recognised him to be
the same person who had fallen in the street beneath her eyes, she
once more gave vent to her laughter. Besides, Andrew's features had
nothing alarming in them; he was very handsome. She laughed with all
her heart, and continued a long time amusing herself at his expense.
The beauty was as flighty as only a Polish woman can be; but her eyes,
her beautiful, her piercingly bright eyes, threw glances as lasting as
constancy. The collegian remained motionless, and seemed as if all his
limbs were tied up in a sack, when the Voevoda's daughter came boldly
up to him, put her brilliant diadem upon his head, hung her ear-rings
on his lips, and threw on his shoulders a transparent muslin chemisette
with gold embroidered festoons. She dressed him out in different ways,
and played with him a thousand silly tricks with the childish ease
so characteristic of the giddy Poles, and which added still more to
the confusion of the poor collegian. His mouth wide open, his looks
riveted on her brilliant eyes, he made the most laughable figure. A
noise which was heard at the door, aroused her fears. She ordered him
to hide himself under the bed, and as soon as the noise was over, she
called for her maid, a Tartar prisoner, and ordered her to conduct him
cautiously into the garden, and thence to see him over the palisade.
But this time our collegian was not so fortunate in getting over the
palisade. The watchman awaking, gave him a vigorous blow over the legs,
and the servants assembled by the noise, beat him in the street, long
before his swift feet carried him out of their reach. After this, it
was very dangerous to pass near the house of the Voevoda, the more so
as his servants were numerous. Andrew saw his beauty once more in a
Latin Church; she noticed him, and gave him a pleasant smile as to an
old acquaintance. Once more, but only _en passant,_ did he see her, and
then the Voevoda left Kieff, and after that, instead of the beautiful
dark-eyed Polish girl, a broad, coarse face looked out of her windows.

This is what Andrew was thinking about, with his head bent down, and
his eyes fixed on the mane of his horse.

Meanwhile, the steppe had long ago received them in its green embrace,
and its high grass, encircling them, had hidden them so that only their
black Cossack's caps were now and then to be seen above it.

"Eh! eh! eh! What are you about, lads? Why so silent?" said Boolba,
recovering from his meditation. "Just like monks! Come now, all at the
same time! All sad thoughts to the devil! Take your pipes between your
teeth, light them, set spurs to your horses, and let us take such a
gallop, that no bird shall get the better of us!"

And the Cossacks slightly bending towards the manes of their horses,
disappeared in the high grass. Not even their black caps were now to e
seen; their course could only be followed by looking at the furrow in
the grass, which they crushed with the rapidity of lightning.

The sun had long since appeared in the sky, and poured its vivifying
warm rays over the steppe. All that was perplexed or dreamy about the
souls of the Cossacks fled at once, and their hearts bounded within
them like birds.

The farther the steppe went the grander it became. At that time the
whole tract of land which now forms New Russia, even as far as the
coast of the Black Sea, was but one green uninhabited waste. No plough
ever furrowed its immense wavy plains of wild plants; the wild horses,
which herded there, alone trampled them down. Nothing in nature could
afford a more beautiful scene. The whole extent of the steppe was
nothing but a green-gold ocean, whose surface seemed besprinkled
with millions of different coloured flowers. Here, through the thin
tall blades of the grass, were to be seen purple, blue, and violet
corn-flowers; there, the pyramidal top of a yellow genistella shot up
suddenly; the umbrella-shaped heads of the clover shone like so many
white spots; some ears of wheat, brought heaven knows whence, were
slowly ripening amongst the grass. Under their thin stems partridges
were fluttering with outstretched necks. The air was filled with the
calls of thousands of different birds. Goshawks remained stationary
in the sky, with wings wide spread, and eyes fixed on the grass. The
screams of a flock of wild geese, which like a cloud was seen moving
on one side of the horizon, were re-echoed by the murmurs from some
distant lake. A gull might be seen, with measured flapping of its wing,
rising in the clouds, and luxuriously bathing in the blue waves of the
air: behold, now it disappears in the skies, and only at times shows
like a dark spot on them; there again, it turns round, and its wings
gleam in the sunshine.

"The deuce take ye, O steppes! how beautiful you are!"


Our travellers stopped only a few minutes for dinner. On this occasion,
the ten Cossacks who formed their escort alighted, and brought forward
the barrels of corn-brandy, and the hollow pumpkins, which supplied the
place of plates. The dinner consisted of nothing but bread, lard, and
wheaten biscuits; one cup of brandy, and no more, was allowed to every
one, just to keep up his strength, for Tarass Boolba never permitted
any one to get tipsy whilst travelling. Then the journey was resumed.

As evening came on, the whole scenery of the steppe underwent a
change. The last bright reflection of the sun encircled once more its
variegated expanse, which gradually grew darker, so that the shades of
evening might be seen coming step by step over it, making its green hue
more and more black; the exhalations arose more densely; every flower,
every herb sent forth sweet perfumes, and a cloud of fragant smells
seemed to hang over the whole of the steppe. Over the blue-tinted
sombre skies a gigantic brush seemed to have drawn broad stripes of
red gold; at times were to be seen gliding like so many white flocks,
light transparent clouds; the most refreshing breeze, pleasant as the
sea-waves, gently ruffled the surface of the grass, and softly touched
the cheek. The harmony which had filled the steppe during the day died
away, and gave place to other sounds. Animals which had remained in
their holes under ground during the day, came out, and made the steppe
resound with their cries and hisses. The chirp of the crickets grew
louder and louder. Sometimes from a distant pond was heard the cry of a
swan, which rang silvery through the air.

The travellers, after choosing their halting-place, stopped under the
canopy of heaven, made a fire, and warmed the kettle in which they
boiled their gruel; the curling smoke floated up above in a curved
line. After supper, the Cossacks lay down for sleep, after having tied
the legs of their horses, which were left to feed in the grass. The
Cossacks stretched themselves on their cloaks; they could see right
above them the stars of the night; they could hear the numberless
myriads of insects which filled the grass, whose chirping, whose
whistling, whose shrill notes resounded sharply through the stillness
of that hour and the freshness of the night air, and formed together
a delightful harmony. If any one happened to lift his head, or to
arise, he saw all the steppe covered with the sparkling light of the
glowworms. Sometimes, at different places, the sky seemed glaring with
fire, which had been set to the dry reeds in some distant fields, or
along the banks of some river, and then a dark line of swans, flying
towards the north, suddenly lighted up a pink-silvered streak, and
it seemed as if rosy scarfs were fluttering in the sombre skies. Our
travellers journeyed on without any adventure. No trees met their view;
on every side expanded the same endless, free, beautiful steppe.

At times only might be seen the remote blue tops of the forests
growing along the banks of the Dnieper. Once only, Tarass pointed out
to his sons a small black spot at a great distance in the grass, and
exclaimed, "Look, children, there is a Tartar!" A small mustachioed
face peered at them with its narrow eyes, sniffed the air like a
harrier, and disappeared at once, seeing there were thirteen Cossacks.
"Well, lads, will you try to catch the Tartar? You had better not;
you will never overtake him; his steed is swifter than my 'Devil.'"
Yet, fearing some hidden mischief, he took his precautions. Coming to
a narrow stream, which fell into a river, he ordered his followers to
enter the water on horseback, and they did not continue their journey
till they had swum a long way, to hide their track. Three days later,
they were near the end of their journey. The air grew colder; they
felt the proximity of the Dnieper. Behold! there it sparkles in the
sun, and forms a wide dark streak beneath the sky; its cold waves come
nearer and nearer, and on a sudden, surround half the horizon. It was
at this part of the Dnieper that, after being compressed in its course
by the rapids, it reconquered its liberty, and spreading out freely,
roared like the ocean; the islands thrown in its centre made it rush
still more vehemently towards the banks, and its waves rolled on the
even ground without having to dash over any rocks or elevations. The
Cossacks dismounted, got into a ferry-boat, and after a passage of
three hours, they reached the island Khortitza, where, for the time
being, was the camp of the Ssiecha, which so often changed its seat.

A crowd of people stood on the bank of the river quarrelling with the
ferryman. The Cossacks adjusted their horses for mounting; Tarass
assumed a dignified air, tightened his belt, and proudly twirled
his mustachios. His young sons, too, looked at themselves from head
to foot, with some unaccountable terror, and no less unaccountable
pleasure. Then they all rode together into the suburb, which was
about half a verst[12] from the Ssiecha. On entering it, they were
deafened by the sound of fifty blacksmith's hammers, which fell with
heavy strokes in five-and-twenty forges, dug in the ground and covered
with grass. Strong tanners sat in the street at their own doors, and
scutched ox-hides with their powerful hands; tradespeople sat under
tents, loaded with flints, steels, and gunpowder; here, an Armenian
has hung up costly handkerchiefs for sale; there, a Tartar is roasting
pieces of mutton rolled in dough; there, a Jew, his head stretched
forward, is drawing off corn-brandy from a cask. But the first man they
saw was a Zaporoghian lying asleep in the very middle of the road,
his arms and legs stretched far apart. Tarass Boolba could not help
stopping to admire him.

"Now, is not this a glorious sight? Ah! what a fine sight!" said he,
stopping his horse; and the sight was certainly a striking one. There
lay the Zaporoghian, like a lion, full length on the road; his crown
tuft, proudly thrown back, was fully a foot in length; his trousers
were smeared with tar, in order to show his utter contempt for the
costly scarlet cloth of which they were made. After remaining for a
while looking at him, Boolba continued to thread his way through a
narrow street, crowded by workmen, who, in the street itself, were
working at their trade, and by people of every nation, who filled this
suburb of the Ssiecha, which wore the appearance of a fair, and whence
the Ssiecha derived its food and clothes; for the Ssiecha itself knew
nothing beyond carousing and fighting.

At last, they left the suburb and saw some _koorens_[13] scattered
about and covered with grass, or according to the Tartar fashion
with cow-hair felt. About some of the koorens stood cannons. Nowhere
could be seen any palisade, or any of the low cottages with sheds on
short wooden columns, like those of the suburb. A small mound with a
ditch, guarded by no living soul, was only a proof of the greatest
carelessness. Some strongly-built Zaporoghians, who were lying on the
very road, with their pipes between their teeth, coolly surveyed the
riders, but did not even move. Tarass rode cautiously through the midst
of them with his sons, and said, "Health be with you, gentlemen!"

"And with you, too;" answered the Zaporoghians.

In every direction the field was covered with motley groups of people.
Their brown faces bespoke them at once to be hardened in war and inured
to every privation.

So here is the _Ssiecha_! Here is that nest, whence take their flight
all those men, as proud and strong as lions! Hence pour freedom and
Cossackdom over all Ukraine!

The riders came to an extensive square, where the _Rada_[14] was
accustomed to assemble. The first person they saw was a Zaporoghian,
seated on a tub, who, having taken off his shirt, was holding it in his
hand, slowly mending the holes in it. Then they were stopped in their
progress by a troop of musicians, in the midst of whom was dancing a
young Zaporoghian, his cap carelessly thrown on one ear and his hands
wildly tossed in the air. He cried incessantly, "Quicker, quicker,
musicians! and thou, Thomas, don't spare brandy for the Christians."
And Thomas, with a black eye, was busily engaged in pouring out brandy
for every new-comer. Near the young Zaporoghian four old ones were
also dancing, sometimes with quick, tiny steps, then again with the
rapidity of the wind, throwing themselves on one side, almost on the
heads of the musicians, then on a sudden, bending their knees till
they were almost in a sitting posture, and rushing thus from side to
side, making the hard-beaten earth ring with the heavy sonorous strokes
of their silver-rimmed heels. The ground gave back a rumbling sound
through all the vicinity, and the air at a great distance re-echoed the
noisy trampling of their boots. But there was one among the dancers who
shouted still louder, and rushed about still more impetuously than the
others. His long crown-lock floated in the wind, his sinewy breast was
naked; he had on his warm sheepskin coat, and the perspiration poured
down his brow, as from out of a jug. "Well, now, take thy coat off,"
said Tarass at last; "dost thou not feel the heat?"

"No, I cannot," answered the Zaporoghian.

"And why not?"

"I cannot; such is my habit, that what is once off, I give up for
brandy."

And long since, indeed, had the lad had no cap, no belt to his coat, no
embroidered handkerchief; they had all gone the way one might expect.
The farther the crowd extended, the denser it grew; new dancers came
every moment; and strange were the feelings excited at watching the
freest and most furious dance the world ever beheld, and which, from
the name of its mighty inventors is called the "Cossack."

"Ah, were it not for my horse!" cried Tarass, "I would, by Heavens I
would, go into the dance too."

And meanwhile, amongst other people, they met some of the elderly
Cossacks, with old gray crown-locks, who were held in great respect
by all the Ssiecha, and had been many times chosen Elders. Tarass
was not long without meeting many well-known faces. Ostap and Andrew
heard nothing but greetings such as these:--"Ah, here thou art,
Petcheritza!" "Good day, Kozoloop!" "In Heaven's name, whence comest
thou, Tarass?" "Why art thou here, Doloto?" "Good day, Kirdiaga!"
"Good day, Gostoi!" "Who would have thought to see thee, Remen!" And
warriors, assembled from the whole of the loose world of Western
Russia, embraced one another. Next came the questions:--"And what of
Kassian? where is Borodavka? where Koloper? where Pidsyschok?" But
Tarass Boolba only got for answer that Borodavka had been hanged by
the Poles, that Koloper had been flayed alive by the Tartars, that
Pidsyschok's head had been salted and sent in a tub to Constantinople.
Old Tarass bent his head and thoughtfully muttered, "Good Cossacks were
they!"


III.

Tarass Boolba and his sons had remained already more than a week at
the Ssiecha. Ostap and Andrew had not yet much profited by warlike
exercises. The Zaporoghians did not like spending their time in the
mimicry of war; the education and martial accomplishments of the young
were acquired by experience alone, during the raging of battles which,
for the same reason, were almost incessant. The Cossacks found it dull
work to employ their leisure in learning discipline, and if they ever
studied anything it was shooting at a target, and sometimes pursuing
on horseback the wild animals of the steppes; the whole remaining time
was given up to carousing--the proof of a widely diffused freedom.
The whole Ssiecha presented a strange scene; it was like an unceasing
festival, a banquet which had begun noisily and forgotten to end. Some
Zaporoghians were occupied in different handicrafts; others had shops
and busied themselves with trade; but the greater part feasted from
morning till night, as long as the possibility of feasting jingled in
their pockets, and as long as the conquered booty had not found its way
into the hands of the tradesmen and the proprietors of brandy-shops.
This universal festival had something seductive about it; it was not
an assembly of men who had been driven to drunkenness by grief; it
was nothing but the maddest expression of mirth. Every one who had
found his way thither, forgot and at once cast off everything which
had till then occupied his mind. He seemed to drive away all his past
life, and to give himself up, soul and body, with the fanaticism
of a new convert, to freedom and to comradeship, with men who, like
himself, had no relations, nor home, nor family, and to whom nothing
was left but the canopy of Heaven, and the unintermittent festival of
their hearts. This gave rise to that mad gaiety, which could never
have found any other source. The tales and narratives which might be
heard among the groups lazily reclining upon the ground, were often so
droll and breathed such lively animation, that one must needs have had
the immoveable features of a Zaporoghian to have kept an indifferent
countenance and never so much as curled the lip; and this, indeed,
is one of the most striking features which distinguish the Southern
Russian from the rest of the Russians. The mirth was provoked by wine,
was attended by noise, but yet there were none of those disfigured
outlines of a caricatured gaiety, which one finds in the dirty brandy
shop. It was the friendly circle of schoolfellows. The only difference
consisted in this, that instead of poring over books, and listening to
the stupid lessons of professors, these schoolfellows made invasions,
mounted on about five thousand horses; that instead of the field in
which they had formerly played at ball, they now had, unguarded and
uncared for, boundaries beyond which might be seen the swift head of
the Tartar, and the Turk haughtily glancing from beneath his green
turban. The difference was this, that instead of the forced will which
had brought them together at school, they had, of their own free
choice, left their fathers and mothers and fled from the parental roof.
Here were to be found those who had already felt the halter dangling
about their necks, and who, instead of pale-faced death, had found
life, and life in its utmost gaiety. Here were those who followed
the noble principle of never retaining a farthing about them. Here
were those, who, thanks to the Jews, tenants of Polish lords, could
always have their pockets turned inside out without the fear of losing
anything. Here were all the collegians, who had not had the patience
to endure the college rods, and who, of all their school learning, had
not retained so much as the alphabet. But besides these, here were
to be found some who knew who Horace was, who Cicero, and what the
Roman Republic. Here were many who afterwards acquired distinction as
officers in the army of the King of Poland. Here were many experienced
volunteers who felt the noble conviction that it was quite the same
thing where and why the war took place so that wars were made, and
that no man of noble feelings could remain without fighting. Many more
were here who had come into the Ssiecha for no other purpose, but that
they might say afterwards that they had been there, and that they were
hardened warriors. But what, indeed, were the characters that could
not be found here? Those who liked warfare, who liked gilded cups, who
liked rich stuffs, or gold and silver coins, could at all times find
employment here. Those only who worshipped womankind could find nothing
to suit their taste; for no woman was allowed so much as to show her
face even in the suburb of the Ssiecha.

During their abode in the Ssiecha, Ostap and Andrew were much
astonished at seeing that crowds of people came, without so much as
any one asking whence they came, or what were their names. They came
thither as if they were returning to their own homes which they
had but recently quitted. The new-comer only went to the Koschevoï
Ataman,[15] who addressed him in these terms:--

"Good day! dost thou believe in Christ?

"I do;" answered the new-comer.

"And dost thou believe in the Holy Trinity?"

"I do."

"And dost thou go to church?"

"I do."

"Make the sign of the cross!"

The new-comer made it.

"Well," said the Koschevoï, "thou mayest go into whichever kooren thou
pleasest."

And thus the ceremony ended.

The whole population of the Ssiecha went to the same church, which
they were ready to defend to the last drop of their blood; and yet the
Cossacks would never attend to fasts and abstinence. The suburb was
chiefly inhabited by Jews, Armenians, and Tartars, who, incited by the
love of gain, dared to live and to have shops there, knowing that the
Zaporoghians never bargained, but paid as much money as their hands
took out of their pockets. But the fate of these greedy tradespeople
was much to be pitied; they were like those who build their houses at
the foot of Vesuvius: as soon as the Zaporoghians had no money left,
the most desperate among them pillaged the shops, and carried away
everything without payment.

The Ssiecha consisted of upwards of sixty koorens, which were very
like so many independent republics, and still more like so many
boarding-schools. No one provided any furniture or food for himself;
the Koorennoï Ataman[16] had charge of everything, and was called on
this account "father." He kept the money, the clothes, the furniture,
the flour, the oats, and even the fuel; all money was deposited with
him. It was no rare occurrence that one kooren quarrelled with another;
on such occasions, fighting immediately ensued. The rival koorens
rushed into the field, and fought till one of them got the upper hand,
and then all ended in a general carouse.

Such was this Ssiecha, which had so many attractions for young men.

Ostap and Andrew plunged at once with the heedlessness of youth into
this sea of pleasure, forgetting in no time their father's roof, the
college, and all that had till then occupied their thoughts, and they
gave themselves entirely up to this new mode of life. Everything was
strange to them; the loose habits of the Ssiecha, its unsophisticated
laws and administration, which even then seemed to them too severe in
such a self-willed community. If a Cossack had committed theft, were
it but of the most insignificant rubbish, his fault was reputed to be
a shame to the whole community; he was, as a dishonourable person,
tied to a pillory, and beside him was placed a club, with which every
one who passed by might give him a blow, until the criminal expired.
An insolvent debtor was fastened to a cannon, and remained there till
some of his comrades ransomed him and paid his debts. But the greatest
impression made on Andrew was produced by the terrible penalty
prescribed for murder. Before his eyes, a hole was dug in the ground,
the murderer was put into it alive, and over him was placed the coffin
containing the corpse of the man whom he had murdered; then both were
covered with earth, and the hole was filled up. For a long time the
dreadful ceremony of this punishment haunted Andrew, and he thought he
saw again and again the man buried alive with the terrible coffin.

Both youths soon gained the best repute among the Cossacks. Often did
they go together with some comrades of their kooren, sometimes with the
whole kooren, and with other koorens too, to shoot in the steppes an
innumerable quantity of wild birds, stags, and goats; or they resorted
to the lakes, rivers, and arms of the Dnieper, assigned to every kooren
by lot, to throw their fishing nets and bring to land a rich booty of
fish, sufficient to feed the whole kooren. It was not as yet a trial
of true Cossack life, but still they succeeded in distinguishing
themselves from among other youths by their audacity and their
dexterity in everything. They never missed their aim when shooting, and
they swam across the Dnieper against the current, an exploit for which
every new-comer was triumphantly admitted into the assemblies of the
Cossacks.

But Tarass was preparing a new scene of action for them; he did not
like this idle mode of life; he desired real activity for them.
After ruminating for a while how to raise the Ssiecha on some daring
enterprise, where one might find true knightly exploits to perform, he,
at last, went one day to the Koschevoï, and said to him, abruptly:

"Koschevoï, it is high time for the Zaporoghians to take the air in the
field."

"There is nowhere to take it," answered the Koschevoï, taking his pipe
out of his mouth, and spitting-on one side.

"How so? Nowhere? There are the Turks; there are the Tartars!"

"We cannot go either against Turks or against Tartars," answered the
Koschevoï, coolly resuming his pipe.

"And why not?"

"So it is; we have promised peace to the Sultan."

"But is he not an unbeliever? Well, do not the Scriptures order us to
combat all unbelievers?"

"We have no right to do it; had we not sworn by our faith, well, maybe
we might have done it; but now, no, we cannot."

"Why can we not? Why dost thou say we have no right? Here have I two
sons, both of them young men. Neither the one nor the other have ever
seen war, and thou sayest, 'we have no right;' and thou sayest, 'the
Zaporoghians cannot go to war.'"

"So it must be."

"So then, the Cossack's strength must run to seed? So men must end
their lives like so many dogs, without having been of any use to their
country, or to Christendom? What do we live for, then? What the devil
is the use of our life; tell me that? Thou art a sensible man; there
was some reason for electing thee Koschevoï; tell me, what do we live
for?"

The Koschevoï left the question unanswered. He was a stubborn Cossack;
he remained silent for a while, and then said, "Nevertheless, there can
be no war."

"So there will be no war?" once more asked Tarass.

"No."

"So it is of no use to think of it?"

"It is of no use."

"Well, wait a little, thou--devil's fist!" said Boolba to himself.
"I'll teach thee to know me!" And he resolved on the spot to take his
revenge of the Koschevoï.

After having talked first with one and then another, he made up a
drinking party, and a number of tipsy Cossacks rushed to the public
square; here, tied to a pole, were the kettle-drums, which were used
for summoning the _rada_[17] but not finding the sticks, which were
in charge of an official called _doobish_, they caught up logs of
wood, and began beating the drums with them. The first who appeared on
hearing the sound of the drums was the doobish, a tall one-eyed man,
whose only eye was still very sleepy.

"Who dares to beat the drum?" cried he.

"Be silent; take thy sticks, and beat the drum when thou art ordered to
do so," answered the tipsy elders.

The doobish complied at once, and took out the sticks, which he had
brought in his pocket, being well acquainted with the usual end of
such occurrences. The kettle-drums resounded, and soon dark crowds
of Zaporoghians were seen swarming like bees into the square. All
assembled in a circle, and after the third beating of the drum, came
at last the chiefs: the Koschevoï with the mace, token of his dignity;
the judge, with the seal of the Ssiecha; the secretary, with his
inkstand, and the essaool with the staff. The Koschevoï, and the
other dignitaries, took off their caps, and bowed on every side to the
Cossacks, who stood haughtily holding their arms a-kimbo.

"What means this assembly? What do you wish, gentlemen?" said the
Koschevoï.

Clamours and scolding words put a stop to his speech.

"Lay down thy mace, lay it down directly, devil's son!--we do not want
thee any more!" shrieked some Cossacks from the crowd. Some of the
sober koorens seemed to resist, but tipsy and sober koorens came to
blows. The shouts and noise became general.

The Koschevoï tried to speak, but knowing that the infuriated
self-willed crowd might perhaps beat him to death for it, and that such
was almost always the end of such riots, he bowed very low, laid down
the mace, and disappeared among the people.

"Do you order, gentlemen, that we too lay down the tokens of our rank?"
said the judge, the secretary, and the essaool, ready to resign the
seal, the inkstand, and the staff.

"Not you; you may remain; we only wanted to drive away the Koschevoï,
because he is an old woman, and we need a man for a Koschevoï!"

"Whom will you choose for your Koschevoï?" asked the dignitaries.

"Choose Kookoobenko!" cried one side.

"We will not have Kookoobenko!" cried the other. "'Tis early for him;
his mother's milk is yet wet upon his lips!"

"Let Shilo be the Ataman," cried some. "Shilo must be Koschevoï!"

"Away with Shilo!" shouted the angry crowd.

"Is he a Cossack, to have thieved like a Tartar, the dog's son I To the
devil with the drunkard Shilo!"

"Let us choose Borodaty--Borodaty!"

"We will not have Borodaty; a curse upon Borodaty!"

"Shout for Kirdiaga," whispered Tarass Boolba.

"Kirdiaga, Kirdiaga," shouted the crowd. "Borodaty!
Borodaty!"--"Kirdiaga! Kirdiaga!"

"Shilo!"--"The devil take Shilo!"--"Kirdiaga!"

Each of the proposed candidates, on hearing his name shouted, instantly
quitted the crowd, to leave no room for suspecting his personal
influence in the election.

"Kirdiaga! Kirdiaga!" was heard above all.

"Borodaty!"

Blows succeeded to words, and Kirdiaga's party got the better.

"Go and fetch Kirdiaga!" was now the cry.

Some ten Cossacks directly stepped out of the crowd; many of them
hardly stood upon their legs, such was the strength of the spirits they
had swallowed; they went straight to Kirdiaga, to notify to him his
election.

Kirdiaga, a clever old Cossack, had already been some time seated in
his kooren, and looked as if quite unconscious of what had just taken
place. "What do you want, gentlemen?" asked he.

"Go; thou art elected to be the Koschevoï."

"Be merciful, gentlemen!" said Kirdiaga. "I am by no means worthy of
such an honour; I have not sense enough for a rank like that; is there
no one better than I to be found in the whole Ssiecha?"

"Go, when thou art told to go!" cried the Zaporoghians. Two of them
took hold of his arms, and in vain did he endeavour to stay his feet.
He was at last brought into the square, pushed from behind by blows and
pokes, receiving such scoldings and admonitions as--"Don't draw back,
thou devil's son!" "Take the honour, dog, when they give it to thee!"

In such a manner Kirdiaga was brought into the midst of the Cossack
circle.

"Gentlemen!" cried those who had brought him, "are you willing to have
this Cossack for your Koschevoï?"

"We are, all of us!" shouted the crowd; and the field resounded far and
wide with the cry.

One of the elders took up the mace, and offered it to the newly-elected
Koschevoï. Kirdiaga refused it, according to custom. The elder offered
it a second time; Kirdiaga refused it again; and only after the third
invitation, did he take up the mace. A clamour of approval arose
from the crowd, and again far and wide the field resounded with the
Cossacks' shout. Now stepped out from the midst of the people four of
the oldest Cossacks, with gray crown-locks, and gray mustachios (no
very old folks were to be found in the Ssiecha, for no Zaporoghian
ever died a natural death); each of them took a handful of earth,
which recent rain had turned to mud, and put it upon Kirdiaga's head.
Down from his head ran the wet earth, which flowed over his mustachios
and cheeks, and soiled all his face with mud. But Kirdiaga remained
standing upright, and returned thanks to the Cossacks for the honour
they had bestowed upon him.

So ended the clamorous election. It remains unknown whether others
rejoiced in it as much as Boolba: first, for having taken his revenge
on the late Koschevoï; and secondly, because Kirdiaga was his old
comrade, who had been with him in the same campaigns, over sea and
land, and had shared the same hardships and labours of warfare. The
crowd dispersed immediately, in order to rejoice over the election;
and a revel ensued such as Ostap and Andrew had not yet seen. The
brandy-shops were ransacked; mead, brandy, and beer were carried off
without any payment being made; the masters of the shops were glad
to be suffered to escape untouched. The whole of the night passed in
noise and songs, and the moon, rising in the sky, shone for a long time
over the hands of musicians walking about the streets with bandooras,
torbans, and round balalaikas,[18] and over the group of the singers
who were kept in the Ssiecha to chant in the church, and to sing the
praises of the feats of the Zaporoghians.

At last, tipsiness and fatigue began to get the better of the strong
heads; and now began to be seen here and there a Cossack rolling on
the ground. Here, two comrades, embracing one another, have grown
sentimental, and both roll down weeping. There, a whole crowd has lain
down together. There is one, who after fidgetting very much about the
most commodious manner of lying down, has stretched himself full length
on a log. The last, whose head was somewhat stronger, remained still
uttering incoherent sentences; but he, too, finished by submitting to
the effects of brandy, and when he fell like the rest, the whole of the
Ssiecha was asleep.


IV.


The very next day, Tarass Boolba was already in consultation with the
new Koschevoï how to raise the Zaporoghians on some war business. The
Koschevoï was a clever, cunning Cossack; he knew the Zaporoghians
from top to toe, and at once said, "We cannot infringe our oath--we
cannot, on any account." But after having kept silence for some time
he added, "Never mind, we can; we will keep our oath, but we will find
out something or other. Manage somehow to get the people together, not,
however, in my name, but as if of their own free will. You understand
how to do it; and we, with the other dignitaries, will rush into the
square as if we knew nothing of the matter."

Scarcely an hour had passed since this conversation, when on a sudden
the kettle-drums were beaten. All the Cossacks, the slightly tipsy
as well as those who had not yet recovered their senses, appeared at
once. Thousands of Cossack caps all at once covered the square. A
rumour arose, "What's the matter? why did they beat the call? on what
account?" At last, here and there were to be heard sentences, "Why is
the Cossack's strength to be lost? Why is there no war? The officials
only think of fattening themselves! Righteousness seems to have left
the world!" Other Cossacks began by listening and then joined in also,
"Truly, there is no righteousness in the world."

The officials seemed astonished at hearing such things. At last the
Koschevoï stepped forward and said, "Gentlemen Zaporoghians! will you
let me make a speech?

"My speech will be, gentlemen, about this,--but may be you know it
better yourselves;--that many Zaporoghians have gone into debt in the
brandy-shops, to Jews as well as to their comrades, and into such debt
that no devil will now give credit to any one. Then, again, my speech
is about this, that there are many lads who have never so much as seen
what war is; whereas you know, gentlemen, that no young man can ever
remain without war. What kind of Zaporoghian is he who has never, not
even once, vanquished an unbeliever?"

"He speaks well," thought Boolba.

"But do not think, gentlemen, that I am now speaking for the purpose
of breaking peace! God forbid! I am only just mentioning facts. Now,
with respect to God's temple, it is sinful to tell in what a state it
is. Thanks be to God, the Ssiecha has now stood for so many years, and
yet till now--I do not speak of the exterior of the church---but even
the images inside have no decorations. No one has ever thought to have
even a silver cloth put upon any one of them;[19] the church has only
received that which was bequeathed to it by certain Cossacks; but even
these donations were very poor, for the donors during their lifetime
had spent everything they had in brandy. But all this I do not tell you
to induce you to begin war against the misbelievers; we have promised
peace to the Sultan, and it would be a great sin not to keep it,
because we have sworn by our faith."

"What does he mean by all this nonsense?" said Boolba to himself.

"So, gentlemen, you see that we cannot begin war; knightly honour
forbids it. But, according to my poor understanding, what I should say
is this--let us send the young people in our boats; let them take a run
on the coasts of Anatolia. What do you think of that, gentlemen?"

"Let us all go!" cried the crowd on every side. "Every one of us is
ready to die for our faith!"

The Koschevoï was alarmed; he had not at all meant to have raised
the whole Ssiecha; he thought it unfair to break the peace. "Let me,
gentlemen, say a few words more."

"Enough!" shouted the Zaporoghians; "thou wilt say nothing better!"

"If such be your will, well you must have it. I am but the servant
of your will. It is well known that the voice of the people is the
voice of God. Nothing better can be settled than what the whole of the
Ssiecha has settled. I consider only this. You know, gentlemen, that
the Sultan will not fail to take his revenge for the pleasure that the
lads will have. And in the meanwhile we should have kept ourselves in
readiness; our forces should have been fresh, and we should have feared
nobody--while now, during our absence, the Tartars may fall on the
Ssiecha. Tartars are nothing but Turkish dogs; they do not fall on you
face to face, and will not come into the house so long as the master is
at home; but they may bite our heels from behind and painfully may they
bite us. And, as we are now about this matter--to speak the truth, we
have not enough boats, and the store of powder is not sufficient if all
of us are to go. However, I am ready. I am happy to be the servant of
your will."

The cunning Ataman stopped. Groups began to confer together; the
atamans of the koorens held council; and, as luckily few remained
tipsy, all agreed to follow the prudent course.

Immediately some of the men crossed the Dnieper to fetch the treasure
of the Ssiecha, and part of the arms taken from their enemies; they
were kept in inaccessible hiding-places, in the reeds along the banks
of the river. All the other Cossacks rushed to the boats to inspect
them, and to put them in readiness for use. In a minute the banks
of the river were covered with people; carpenters came with axes in
their hands; young Zaporoghians as well as elderly ones; the latter,
sunburnt, broad-shouldered, thick-footed, with gray hair in their
mustachios, stood knee deep in the water, and dragged the boats into
the river by means of strong cords. Others were bringing timber and
balks ready dried. Here some were nailing planks on a boat; there a
boat, keel upwards, was being caulked and pitched; in another place,
according to the Cossack custom, long bundles of reeds were bound to
the sides of the boats, to prevent them from being capsized by the sea
waves; and still farther all along the river fires were kindled and
tar boiled in copper kettles for tarring the boats. The experienced
and elderly Cossacks gave their advice to the young ones. Noise and
clamours arose from every side. The banks of the river were all alive
with the stir and bustle.

At this moment a great ferry-boat came near the island. The men who
were standing in it had already, at a distance, begun to wave their
arms. They were Cossacks and dressed in coats falling to rags. The
miserable dress which they wore (some of them had nothing about them
but their shirt and a short pipe in their mouth) showed at once that
they had recently escaped from misfortune, or that they had been
feasting until they had spent all that they had about their persons.
From among them came forward, a short, thickset, broad-shouldered
Cossack, some fifty years old. He shrieked louder than any, and waved
his arms in the most discordant manner. But the cries and the talking
of the workmen prevented him from being heard.

"What brings you here?" asked the Koschevoï, while the ferry-boat was
landing. All the workmen, stopping in their work with raised axes and
other instruments, looked on in expectation.

"Misfortune!" shouted the thickset Cossack from the ferry-boat.

"What misfortune?"

"Gentlemen Zaporoghians, let me address you?"

"Speak on!"

"Or, may be, you wish to convoke a _rada_?"

"Speak, we are all here!" cried the people with one accord.

"Have you, then, heard nothing about what has happened in the hetman's
dominions?"[20]

"And what is the matter there?" asked the ataman of one of the koorens.

"What is the matter! It seems the Tartars must have well boxed your
ears that you heard nothing!"

"Tell, then, what _did_ happen there!"

"Such things have happened that, since you were born and christened,
you never saw the like of them!"

"Speak, then, at once; and say what has happened, thou son of a dog!"
cried one among the crowd, losing patience.

"Such times are come that even the holy churches are no longer ours!"

"How so?"

"Jews are made landlords thereof.[21] If one does not pay the toll to
the Jew no mass can be performed."

"What nonsense art thou saying?"

"And if the cursed Jew does not put, with his damned finger, a mark
upon the holy passover, the passover cannot be consecrated!"

"He lies, gentlemen brothers! This cannot be, that an unclean Jew
should put a sign upon the holy passover!"

"Listen, only! I have more to tell you. The Latin priests now drive
over all Ukraine in chariots. But the evil is not in their driving in
chariots: the evil is in the chariots being no longer drawn by horses
but by orthodox Christians. Hear me! I have more to tell you:--They say
that Jewesses are now making themselves petticoats out of our priests'
vestments. These are the things that happen in Ukraine, gentlemen! And
you are here resting and carousing in your Ssiecha! Truly, it seems the
Tartars have put you into such a fright, that you have no eyes left to
see, no ears to hear what passes in the world!"

"Stop! Stop!" interfered the Koschevoï, who had remained standing with
his eyes fixed upon the ground, as well as all the Zaporoghians, who in
important business never obeyed the first impulse, but kept silent, and
in their silence gathered the stern force of indignation. "Stop! let me
say _my_ word, too! And what did you do? you--may your father be beaten
by the devil! Had you no sabres, then? Had you none? How did you let
such profanations happen?"

"How did we let such profanations happen? I should like to have seen
you try to stop them when there were fifty thousand Poles, and--there
is no use to conceal it--when there were some among us, the cursed
dogs, who went over to the Polish faith, too!"

"And your hetman and your colonels? what did they do?"

"Our colonels did such doings, that God forbid any one else should do
the same!"

"How so?"

"Why, so that the hetman now lies roasted in a copper ox at Warsaw,
and the arms and heads of our colonels are carried to the fairs to be
shown to the people.[22] Such were the doings of our colonels!"

A shudder of horror ran through the whole crowd. A moment's silence
reigned among it, like that which immediately precedes a terrible
storm, then all at once a murmur arose and every one gave vent to his
indignation.

"Jews renting Christian churches! Popish priests to be driving about on
orthodox Christians! Such torments to be suffered on Russian soil from
accursed Papists! So to treat the hetman and the colonels! This must
not be--this shall not be!" Speeches of this kind were heard on all
sides.

The Zaporoghians went on shouting and felt their strength. It was no
longer the hum of a giddy people; strong and heavy characters were now
aroused, who, if they were long before turning red-hot, yet, when once
red-hot, kept their internal heat a long time.

"Let us hang all the Jews!" cried a voice from the crowd; "let them not
make petticoats for their Jewesses out of our priests' robes! Let them
not put signs on holy passovers! We will drown all the accursed race in
the Dnieper."

These words, uttered by some one from the crowd, flew like lightning
from one to another and the people rushed to the suburb with the
intention of putting all the Jews to death. The poor sons of Israel,
losing the last remains of their almost always diminutive spirit,
hid themselves in empty brandy casks, in ovens, and even crept under
the petticoats of their Jewesses. But the Cossacks found them out
everywhere.

"Most illustrious gentlemen!" shouted a Jew, as tall and as long as a
hop-pole, thrusting forth his miserable face, all contorted by fright,
from amidst a group of his comrades, "most illustrious gentlemen! let
us tell you only one word! We will tell you such a thing as you never
heard of before! Such an important thing, that words cannot say how
important it is!"

"Let them say it!" said Boolba, who always liked to give a hearing to
the accused party.

"Most serene gentlemen!" said the Jew; "such gentlemen nobody ever saw
before, by Heavens! never! Such good, such kind, such brave gentlemen
never were before in the world!" His voice was choked and trembling
with fear. "How could it be that we should ever have thought anything
bad about the Zaporoghians! Those that are renting churches in Ukraine
are not our people at all! by Heavens, they are not ours! They are
no Jews! The devil knows what they are! They are people worthy to be
spit at, and nothing more. Here are witnesses for me. Say I not true,
Shlema? or thou, Shmool?"

"By Heavens, so it is!" answered Shlema and Shmool, both in ragged
caps,[23] and both pale as chalk from fright.

"We have never yet been on the side of your enemies," continued the
tall Jew; "and as for the Papists, we do not even wish to know them;
may the devil haunt their sleep! We are for the Zaporoghians, like
bosom-brothers!"

"You, the brother of the Zaporoghians!" said one from the crowd. "That
will never be, cursed Jews! Gentlemen, into the Dnieper with them all!
Let us drown every one of the accursed race."

"These words were the signal for seizing the Jews and throwing them
into the river. Pitiful shrieks resounded on every side; but the stern
Zaporoghians only laughed as they saw the Jews' slippered feet beating
the air. The poor orator, who had called down this storm upon his own
head, jumped out of his coat, which some one had already laid hold of,
and left in a dirty tight waistcoat, grasped the feet of Boolba, and
in a whining voice entreated him: 'Mighty lord! Most illustrious lord!
I knew your brother, the late lamented Dorosh! He was a warrior who
was an ornament to all chivalry! It was I who gave him eight hundred
sequins, when he stood in need of his ransom from the Turks.'"

"Didst thou know my brother?" asked Tarass.

"By Heavens, I knew him! a generous lord was he!"

"What is thy name?"

"Yankel."

"Very well," said Tarass; then, after thinking for a while, he turned
towards the Cossacks and said, "If we want to do it, we shall always
find time to hang the Jew; but, for the present let me have him." After
which Tarass took him to his chariots, which were guarded by his own
Cossacks, "Crawl under that waggon, lie there and do not move, and
you, my lads, keep watch over the Jew."

Having said this, he repaired to the square where the crowd had been
for some time assembling. They had all with one accord left off mending
the boats, as the campaign now impending was to be led over land; and,
instead of boats, chariots and steeds were now required. Now all, both
young and old, were to take the field, and by a decision of the elders,
of the atamans of all the koorens, and of the Koschevoï, as well as by
the common assent of all the Zaporoghian Ssiecha, it was resolved to
push straight into Poland, and to avenge the sufferings and humiliation
of the Cossack's religion and glory; to pillage every town, set fire
to every hamlet and every corn-field, and make the Cossack name once
more renowned over all the steppes. Every one donned his war dress
and armour. The Koschevoï seemed suddenly to have grown to double
his former size; he was no longer the flattering accomplisher of the
giddy wishes of a free people; he was now the commander with unlimited
authority; he was a despot who knew but to command. All the knights,
lately so self-willed and idle, now stood arrayed in ranks, with their
heads respectfully bent, not daring so much as to lift their eyes while
he was giving his orders without any noise or haste, but slowly and
composedly as an old and experienced master of his art, who had more
than once accomplished feats cleverly devised.

"Look, look well about you!" Thus he spoke. "Put to rights the waggons
and the tar-pail for pitching the wheels. Try your arms. Don't take
much clothing: a shirt and two pairs of trowsers for each Cossack, a
pot of dried oatmeal, another of pounded millet--more than this no one
must have. There will be plenty of provisions in the baggage waggons.
Every Cossack must have a couple of horses. Then we must take some
two hundred bullocks; because bullocks will be required for passing
fords and marshy places. And above all, gentlemen, keep order. I know
there are some of you who, directly any booty falls into their hands,
are quite ready to seize every rag of nankeen, just as well as costly
stuffs, were it but to wrap up their feet.[24] Leave off such devilish
habits; throw away all the petticoats, and keep nothing but arms (if
good ones come in your way) and gold and silver coins, because these
are easy to carry and may be wanted when the time comes. And now,
gentlemen, I tell you beforehand if any one is found to be tipsy during
the march, no trial will be allowed him: I will have him dragged to the
waggons, and--whoever he may be, were he the bravest of the brave--he
shall be shot on the spot and thrown without interment to the birds of
prey--for a drunkard on march is not worthy of Christian burial. Young
men! obey in everything the older ones. If any one is touched by a
bullet, or gets a sabre wound in the head or anywhere else, don't pay
too much attention to such trifles; mix up a charge of powder in a dram
of brandy, swallow it all at once, and all will be over--no fever will
ensue. On a wound, if it be not too large, only put some earth, which
ought to be first kneaded with spittle in the palm of the hand: the
wound will dry at once. Now, to business! my lads; to business, and no
hurry!"

So spoke the Koschevoï; and as soon as he had done all the Cossacks
went to their business. The whole of the Ssiecha had all at once grown
sober, and nowhere could have been found even one tipsy man, as if no
such thing had ever existed among the Cossacks. Some mended the hoops
of the wheels and put new axle-trees to the carts; others brought sacks
of provisions to the waggons; some stowed away the arms; others drove
horses and bullocks. On all sides was heard the trampling of horses,
the experimental firing of guns, the jingling of sabres, the bellowing
of bullocks, the creaking of carts, the talk, the clamours, the shouts
of the drivers. Presently the whole of the Cossack army drew up in line
along the field, and he who attempted to run from its head to its tail
would have had a long run before him.

A priest was saying mass in the small wooden chapel. He sprinkled all
the people with holy water: they all kissed the cross; and, as the army
set in motion, and was leaving the Ssiecha, all the Zaporoghians turned
back their heads and said, almost in the same words, "Farewell, our
mother! may God preserve thee from every impending evil!"

As Tarass Boolba rode through the suburb, he saw that his Jew, Yankel,
had already set up a tent and was selling flints, turnscrews, powder,
and various other requisites of war likely to be needed on the
way--even rolls and loaves.

"What a devil of a Jew!" thought Tarass, and riding up to him said,
"Fool! why art thou sitting here? dost thou wish to be shot like a
sparrow?"

Yankel, instead of answering, drew nearer to him and making a gesture
with both his hands, as if he were about to disclose some mystery,
said, "Let my lord only hold his peace and not tell it to any one.
Among the Cossack waggons there is one which is mine. I bring every
requisite provision for the Cossacks, and during the march I will sell
everything at such reduced prices that no Jew has ever sold at such
before! By Heavens, I will! by Heavens!"

Tarass Boolba shrugged his shoulders, astonished at the Jewish nature,
and rode away to the army.



V.


In a short time the whole of the south-east of Poland became a
prey to terror. Everywhere the news had spread, "The Zaporoghians!
the Zaporoghians are coming!" All those who could save themselves
by flight, used to run away in those times, so disordered, so
astonishingly careless, when no fortresses, no castles were built, but
when men set up some temporary thatched dwelling, thinking it useless
to lose either money or labour on what was doomed to be destroyed in
the next Tartar invasion! The alarm was general: one changed his oxen
and his plough for a horse and a gun, and repaired to the regiments;
another hid himself, driving away his cattle and carrying off
everything possible. Now and then were to be found some who encountered
the strangers with armed hands, but always with a bad result; the
greater part hurriedly took flight. Every one knew how hard it was
to contend with the Zaporoghians, warriors hardened in warfare, and
who, even in their self-willed licence, kept a pre-concerted order in
battle. The mounted Cossacks rode without encumbering or over-exerting
the horses; the infantry steadily followed the waggons, and the whole
army moved only during the night, taking rest by day in open places,
uninhabited tracts and forests, of which there were then plenty.
Spies were sent in advance to gather information and to reconnoitre.
And oftentimes the Zaporoghians appeared where they were the least
expected; then the only thing was to bid farewell to life; the hamlets
became the prey of flames; the cattle and horses, which could not be
carried off by the Cossacks, were slaughtered on the spot. They seemed
rather to be carousing than carrying on a campaign. But the hair
would stand on end at the relation of the terrible feats of cruelty
of those half-savage times which were everywhere accomplished by the
Zaporoghians. Children were put to the sword; women's breasts cut away;
the skin torn from the leg as far as the knee of those who were left
free--such was the terrible payment of the Cossacks for past debts.

The abbot of a monastery, hearing of their approach, sent two monks
to them to say they had no right to act thus, as the Zaporoghians and
Poland were at peace; that they were infringing their duty towards the
king, and at the same time violating the law of nations.

"Tell the reverend father from me and from all the Zaporoghians,"
answered the Koschevoï, "that he has nothing to fear; the Cossacks are
as yet only just lighting their pipes."

And soon after, the majestic abbey was enshrouded in devastating
flames, and its gigantic Gothic windows looked with severe aspect
through the occasionally disunited waves of the conflagration. Crowds
of flying monks, Jews and women, soon found those towns where there
was any hope to find any protection in the number of the garrison and
in the thickness of the walls. At times the government sent help; but
these few detachments, coming too late, either could no longer find
the Cossacks or took fright, turned back at the first encounter and
fled away on their swift horses. It happened, however, that some of
the king's captains, who had been victorious in previous battles,
resolved to unite their strength and put a stop to the progress of the
Zaporoghians. It was on such occasions that our young Cossacks were put
to the trial: they were strangers to pillage, careless about booty, or
about fighting a weak foe; but they were inflamed with the desire of
exhibiting their prowess before their older comrades--of fighting hand
to hand with the brisk and boastful Pole, who came dashing upon his
fiery steed, the flowing sleeves of his cloak flying behind him in the
wind. The school was amusing to them. They had already taken a great
many horse-trappings, costly swords and guns. One month ago they were
but half-fledged nestlings; their nature was now quite changed; they
were grown men; even their features, which till then had the meekness
of youth, now bore a menacing and strongly marked expression.

Old Tarass was delighted to see both his sons always among the
foremost. Ostap seemed to have been born to tread the path of war, and
to accomplish difficult feats of arms. Never losing his presence of
mind--on no occasion alarmed; but with a coolness quite unnatural in
a young man of twenty-two, he understood at the first glance the whole
of the danger and the position of things, and on the spot found the
means of avoiding difficulty, but avoided it only to be the more sure
of surmounting it. His movements were now stamped with the certainty of
experience, and the propensities of the future captain might unerringly
be traced in him. His body breathed forth strength--his knightly
qualities already made him like the mighty lion.

"Oh! that fellow will make in time a good colonel!" said old Tarass;
"by Heavens, he will be a good colonel, and such a one, that he will
excel his father!"

Andrew gave himself up to the bewitching music of bullets and swords.
He understood not what it is to consider, or to calculate, or to
measure the strength on one side and on the other. In battle he saw
but a frantic luxury and delight; he found something festive in
those moments when his brain was on fire--when everything glimmered
confusedly before his eyes--when heads flew about--when horses fell
with a crash on the ground, and he himself went galloping amidst the
whistling of bullets and the clashing of swords, striking on every
side and never feeling the strokes which he received. And old Tarass
more than once was amazed at seeing Andrew, induced only by his own
vehemence, rush on such deeds as no cool-minded and reflective man
would have ever undertaken, and achieve solely by the madness of the
attack, which could not but astonish the oldest warriors. Old Tarass
wondered at Andrew and said, "This one, too, is a good warrior--may the
fiend not take him! Not such a one as Ostap; but still a good--yes, a
very good warrior."

It was decided that the army should push its march straight to the city
of Doobno, where, as the rumour went, there was much money and many
rich inhabitants. The march was accomplished in a day and a half, and
the Zaporoghians appeared under the walls of the town. The citizens
resolved to defend it to the last, and preferred dying in the squares
and in the streets before their houses to letting the foe enter their
city. A high earthen rampart surrounded it; where the rampart was lower
there projected a stone wall, or a house converted into a battery, or
at least a strong wooden palisade. The garrison was strong, and felt
the importance of its duty. The Zaporoghians at first rushed at the
ramparts, but were stopped by murderous volleys of grape-shot. The
burghers and citizens of the town seemed also not to wish to remain
idle, and stood in crowds on the town wall. Their looks expressed the
desperation of resistance. Even women took part in the contest; and
stones, casks, and pots flew down on the Zaporoghians; pitch and sacks
of sand blinded their eyes.

The Zaporoghians did not like fighting against fortresses; sieges were
not their business. The Koschevoï gave orders for a retreat, and said,
"Never mind, gentlemen brothers, let us withdraw; but may I be rather a
cursed Tartar, and not a Christian, if we allow any one to escape from
the town. Let them, the dogs, perish Dy hunger!"

The army after retreating surrounded the town, and, having nothing
to do, began to lay waste the country around; setting fire to the
neighbouring hamlets and corn-ricks; driving herds of horses into the
unreaped corn-fields, where, as if on purpose, stood the full waving
ears, the produce of an abundant crop which this year had brought
to all labourers. The besieged watched with horror the destruction
of their means of subsistence. The Zaporoghians, in the mean time,
drew up their waggons into two files all round the town, and, after
dividing their encampment into koorens, as in the Ssiecha, played at
leap-frog, at pitch and toss, and looked with killing coolness at the
town. Bonfires were lighted at night; the cooks of each kooren boiled
buckwheat in enormous copper kettles; sleepless sentinels stood all
night long by the bonfires.

The Zaporoghians, however, soon began to grow weary of inactivity,
principally from the tediousness of sobriety unconnected with any
exertion. The Koschevoï found it even necessary to double the
proportion of brandy--a practice sometimes used with the Cossacks when
they were not engaged in any difficult enterprise. The young Cossacks,
especially the sons of Tarass Boolba, were displeased with this mode of
life. Andrew evidently was overpowered by its dulness.

"Stupid boy," said Tarass to him, "the Cossack who knows how to wait,
becomes an Ataman.[25] He is not a good warrior who merely does not
lose his presence of mind in danger; but he is a good warrior who
does not become dull even in inactivity, and who, notwithstanding all
impediments, will end by attaining his aim."

But fiery youth is no match to an old man. Both have different
natures, and both look with different eyes at the same thing.

While the siege was going on, the regiment of Tarass came to join the
besiegers. The Essaool Tovkach brought it; two more essaools, the
secretary, and the other officials of the regiment, also came with
it; the whole of this reinforcement numbered more than four thousand
Cossacks. Many of them were volunteers who had come of their own accord
without being summoned, as soon as they had heard of the impending
business. The essaools had been intrusted by the wife of Tarass to
bring her blessing to her sons, and to forward to each of them a
cypress image brought from one of the monasteries of Kieff. The two
brothers hung the holy images round their necks, and involuntarily
gave way to their fancy at this remembrance of their old mother. What
omen did this blessing bring them? Was it a blessing for vanquishing
the foe, and a pledge of their gay return to their native country with
booty and glory, which should be the subject of eternal songs for the
players of the bandoora? or was it.... But unknown is the future! and
it stands before man like the autumn fog which rises over marshes:
birds are flying in it upwards and downwards, flapping their wings and
seeing not one another--the dove without seeing the hawk, the hawk
without seeing the dove--and every one without knowing how near he may
be to death.

Ostap had long since resumed his occupations, and was going to his
kooren; but Andrew, without being able to account for it, felt a
heaviness at his heart. The Cossacks had already finished their
supper; evening had long closed in, and a beautiful July night had
encircled the earth in its embrace. Still, Andrew did not return to his
kooren--did not go to sleep--but stood gazing at the picture before
him. Numberless stars glimmered with a bright translucent twinkling
over the skies. The field was covered with carts, placed without order,
from which hung tar-pots all dripping with tar; the carts were loaded
with all the booty and provisions taken from the enemy. Near the carts,
beneath the carts, and at a great distance from the carts, might be
seen Zaporoghians sleeping on the grass in different picturesque
attitudes; one had laid his head on a corn sack, another on his cap, a
third had simply chosen the ribs of his comrade for his pillow. Almost
every one wore, suspended to his belt, a sabre, a matchlock and a short
pipe with brass plates, wires for cleaning it, and a steel for kindling
fire. The massive bullocks were reclining with their feet under their
bodies; and the great white spots which they formed looked at a
distance like so many grey stones thrown about the acclivities of the
field. From every spot in the grass the noisy snoring of the sleeping
army had begun to rise, and it was answered from the field by the
sonorous neighing of the horses, indignant at having their feet tied.

A magnificent and terrific sight was now added to the beauty of the
summer night. It was the blaze of the conflagration of the neighbouring
country. At one place the flames went slowly and majestically along the
sky; at another, meeting with something combustible in their progress,
they whirled suddenly round, hissed and flew up to the very stars,
and their fiery tongues disappeared in the most distant clouds. Here
a burnt cloister, blackened by the fire, stood like a hard-featured
Carthusian monk, showing its stern gloomy outlines at every blaze;
next to it a garden was burning. It seemed as if one might hear how
the trees hissed wrapt in smoke; and as the fire happened to catch
some new place its phosphoric violet light shone suddenly on the ripe
bunches of plums, or threw a brilliant golden hue on the yellow pears;
and in the midst of all this was to be seen, dangling from the wall
of the building or from the bough of a tree, the corpse of some poor
Jew or monk, doomed, like the building itself, to become the prey of
the flames. Over the conflagration, hovering far away, were to be seen
birds looking like so many dark diminutive crosses on a fiery field.
The city seemed to be slumbering; its spires, its roofs, its palisades
and its walls were sometimes illuminated by the reflection of the
distant conflagration.

Andrew walked round the Cossacks' encampment. The bonfires at which
the sentries were sitting were going out, and the sentries had fallen
asleep; having, it would seem, too much indulged their Cossack
appetites. Andrew marvelled at such carelessness, and thought it lucky
that no strong forces of the enemy were at hand, and that there was
nothing to fear. At last, he went to one of the carts, climbed into
it and lay down on his back, bending his arms backwards and putting
them under his head. He could not yet sleep, and remained a long time
looking at the sky. It appeared all open to him; the air was pure and
transparent; the compact mass of stars forming the milky way seemed
to be all overflowing with light. At times, Andrew felt a sort of
oblivion, and slumber, like a light fog, hid for a minute the sky from
his sight; but the next moment it cleared away, and again he saw the
heavens.

At this time, it seemed to him that a strange human face had passed
before him. Thinking that it was nothing but an illusion of sleep,
which would disappear, he opened his eyes wider, and saw that really
an emaciated dried-up face bent over him and looked straight into his
eyes. Long and coal-black locks of hair, uncombed and dishevelled,
stole from beneath a veil thrown over the head. The strange brightness
of the eyes, and the deathlike swarthiness of the strongly marked
features, would almost have led to the supposition that it was a
phantom. Andrew convulsively seized a matchlock and exclaimed, "Who
art thou? If thou be an evil spirit--disappear; if thou be a human
creature, thy joke is out of place. I'll kill thee at once!"

The figure answered only by putting its finger to its lips, and seemed
to be imploring silence. Andrew let go his hold, and began to look
attentively at it. The long hair, the neck, and brown half-naked bosom
showed it to be a woman, but she was not a native of the country; her
face was sunburnt, and bespoke suffering; her wide cheekbones stuck out
over her shrunken cheeks; her narrow eyes were cut obliquely, with the
outer corner raised. The more Andrew looked at her features, the more
he found in them something which he knew. At last he could not refrain
from asking, "Tell me, who art thou? It seems to me that I know thee,
or have seen thee somewhere."

"Two years ago, in Kieff."

"Two years ago--in Kieff!" repeated Andrew, endeavouring to bring to
mind all that his memory had retained of his collegian's life. He
took once more an attentive survey of her, and suddenly exclaimed
aloud, "Thou art the Tartar! the servant of that lady! of the voevoda's
daughter!"

"Hush!" said the Tartar, imploringly, folding her hands, shuddering in
all her frame, and at the same time turning her head to see that no one
had been awakened by the shriek of Andrew.

"Tell me--tell me--why--wherefore art thou here?" said Andrew in a
whisper almost choked, and interrupted at every moment by his internal
agitation; "where is the lady? is she alive?"

"She is now in the town."

"In the town?" exclaimed he, again almost shrieking aloud, and he felt
that all his blood rushed at once to his heart. "Why is she in the
town?"

"Because the lord, her father, is there; it is now more than a year
that he has been voevoda[26] in Doobno."

"Well--is she married? Speak! how strange thou art! Say--what is she
now?"

"She has not eaten for two days."

"How is that?"

"For a long time not one of the citizens has had a piece of bread; it
is long since they were all eating earth."

Andrew remained speechless.

"The lady saw thee among the Zaporoghians from the town wall. She said
to me, 'Go, tell the knight that if he recollects me he will come to
me; and if not, that he will give thee a morsel of bread for my old
mother, for I cannot see my mother die before my eyes. Let me rather
die first and she afterwards. Entreat him--embrace his knees and his
feet. He, too, may have an old mother, for her sake he must give a bit
of bread.'"

Many and different were the feelings that awakened and stirred in the
young Cossack's breast.

"But how art thou here? How didst thou come?"

"By a subterranean passage."

"Is there any subterranean passage, then?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"Thou wilt not betray me, knight?"

"No; I swear by the holy cross!"

"Behind the ravine, after crossing the rivulet, where there are some
reeds growing."

"And it leads straight into the city?"

"Straight into the cloister of the city."

"Let us go! let us go directly!"

"But, in the name of Christ and of his holy mother, a loaf of bread?"

"Thou shalt have it. Stay here by this cart, or rather lie down in it;
nobody will see thee--all are sleeping. I'll be back directly."

And he went to the waggons where the provisions of his kooren were
kept. His heart beat high. All the past which had been hidden, stifled
by his present Cossack life and by the hardships of warfare, rose
once more to the surface, drowning in return all the present. Again
he saw emerging before him, as if from the depths of some ocean
cavern, the form of the glorious lady; again his memory brought back
the recollection of her fine arms, of her eyes, of her smiling lips,
of her thick dark chestnut hair (whose locks hung curling over her
bosom), and of all those elastic limbs which so well harmonised with
her maidenly figure. No; these recollections were never extinguished
in his breast; they had, only for a time, given place to other mighty
impressions. But often--often had they disturbed the young Cossack's
slumber, and often did he long lie sleepless on his bed without knowing
how to explain the cause of his sleeplessness.

He went on, and his heart beat higher and higher, and his young knees
shook at the mere thought of seeing her again. When he reached the
waggons he had entirely forgotten why he had come, and, raising his
hand to his brow, remained some time trying to recollect what he had
to do. At last he shuddered, and felt terror-stricken: the thought
flashed across his mind that she might be dying from hunger. He rushed
to one of the waggons, and took some great rye loaves under his arm;
but then he thought that this food, which suits the unspoiled taste
of the strong Zaporoghians, would be too coarse and unsuited to her
tender person. He remembered that, the day before, the Koschevoï had
scolded the cooks for taking the whole of the buckwheat flour to make
_salamata_[27], when the quantity would have been quite sufficient
for more than three days. Certain of finding enough salamata left
in the coppers, Andrew took the travelling kettle of his father and
went with it to the cook of his kooren, who was sleeping beside two
enormous cauldrons, under which the ashes were not yet extinguished.
Looking into the cauldrons, he was astonished to find both of them
empty. It ought to have required more than human exertions to eat up
all their contents; the more so as their kooren was not so numerous
as the others. He peeped into the kettles of the other koorens--there
was nowhere anything left. Involuntarily he recollected the saying
that Zaporoghians are like children:--Is there but little food? they
will eat it; is there much? they will still leave nothing. What was to
be done? There was yet somewhere, he thought, in the waggons of his
father's regiment a sack of white bread, which the Cossacks had found
while pillaging the cloister kitchen. Andrew went straight to his
father's waggon: the sack was not there! Ostap had taken it to rest
his head upon, and, stretched on the ground, he made the whole field
resound with his snoring. Andrew with one hand seized the sack and
pulled it away with a jerk, so that Ostap's head fell on the ground,
and he himself started up in his sleep, and sitting with his eyes shut,
shouted, "Hold! hold! the devil of a Pole! catch his horse! catch it!"

"Be silent! or thou art a dead man," cried the terrified Andrew,
raising the sack on his head. But Ostap did not proceed with his
speech, for he was already asleep, and snored with such violence that
his breath waved the grass on which he was tying.

Andrew looked warily round, to ascertain if the ravings of Ostap had
awakened any of the Cossacks. In fact, a crown-tufted head was seen
rising in the nearest kooren; but, after looking around, it soon
dropped on the ground. After waiting some two or three minutes, Andrew
departed with his sack; the Tartar woman was crouching in the waggon,
hardly daring to breathe.

"Arise! let us begone! every one sleeps; do not be afraid! Canst thou
take but one of these loaves, if I cannot carry them all?" Saying this,
he lifted the sacks upon his back, drew another sack with millet from
a cart on his way, took even in his hands those loaves which he had
wished the Tartar to carry, and bending a little went boldly through
the ranks of the sleeping Zaporoghians.

"Andrew!" said old Boolba, as Andrew was passing near him.

Andrew's heart sank within him; he stopped trembling, and slowly
uttered, "What?"

"There is a lass with thee! I'll give thee a famous thrashing
to-morrow! The lasses will bring thee to no good!" and thus saying he
reclined his head upon his elbow, and began to scrutinize the veiled
form of the Tartar.

Andrew stood riveted to the spot, without daring to lift his eyes upon
his father; but at last he raised them and looked at old Boolba: he saw
him already sleeping, with his head resting on the palm of his hand.

He made the sign of the cross. Fear quitted his heart still faster than
it had overpowered it; and as he turned round to look at the Tartar, he
saw her standing behind him like a dark granite statue all muffled in
her veil, and the glare of the distant conflagration, brightening into
a sudden flash, lighted only her eyes, dull as those of a corpse. He
pulled her sleeve and both proceeded together, looking back at every
step. Descending a declivity, they came at last to a ravine, at the
bottom of winch there rolled heavily along a rivulet overgrown with
sedge, whose banks were all uneven. The field on which the Zaporoghian
encampment stood was now entirely hidden from them. At least, as Andrew
looked back, he saw an eminence, as high as a man's head, which rose
behind him; on it were waving some blades of grass, over which the
moon rose in the sky in the shape of a curved sickle of bright red
gold. A light wind, which blew from the steppe, foreboded the approach
of dawn; but nowhere was to be heard the distant crowing of the cock,
for neither in the town nor in the surrounding country had a cock for
a long time been left. They passed the rivulet on a log thrown across
it; beyond it rose the opposite shore, which seemed to be higher than
that which they had left, and had a steep ascent. The wall was here
lower: yet the spot seemed a sure stronghold, for behind it rose the
cloister wall. The steep hill was covered with long grass, and in the
narrow ravine between it and the rivulet grew reeds nearly as tall as a
man; on the summit of the hill might be seen the remains of a palisade,
which formerly enclosed a kitchen garden; before it grew the large
leaves of the butter burr, from behind which stuck out the goosefoot,
wild prickly plants, and the sunflower, which reared its top above
them. Here the Tartar took off her shoes and went barefoot, carefully
lifting her dress, for the place was marshy and covered with water.
Making their way through the reeds, they stopped before a heap of
brushwood, which formed a fascine; they removed it and found a sort of
arch made of earth, whose opening was not wider than the opening of a
fireplace. The Tartar, bending her head, went in first; then followed
Andrew, stooping as much as he could, to be able to carry his sacks.
They were soon quite in the dark.



VI.


Andrew could hardly move with his sacks in the dark and narrow
subterranean passage, through which he closely followed the Tartar.
"_We_ shall soon see our way," said the guide; "we are near the place
where I left my lamp." A ray of light soon stole over the dark earthen
wall. They reached a small square, which seemed to have been a chapel;
at least a narrow table, like an altar, stood against the wall, and
over it hung a Latin image of the Madonna, the painting of which had
faded away and could hardly be traced. A email silver lamp, which hung
before it, threw over it an uncertain light. The Tartar bent down and
took up from the floor a brass candlestick, on a high thin foot, with
snuffers, a nail for trimming the wick, and an extinguisher hung round
it on chains. Taking up the candlestick, she lighted the candle at
the lamp. The light grew brighter and they proceeded, lighted at one
time by a blaze of the candle, at others enshrouded in a coal-black
shadow, like the figures to be seen in the paintings of Girardo della
Nette. The robust, fine features of Andrew, beaming with health and
youth, offered a strong contrast to the emaciated pallid face of his
companion. The passage had grown wider, so that Andrew could now hold
himself erect. He looked with curiosity at the earthen walls. As in
those of Kieff,[28] there were excavations, and coffins stood in them
from distance to distance; at some places, even human bones were to
be met with, grown soft by the dampness of the air and mouldered into
powder. Here, too, seemed to have lived holy men, who had sought a
refuge from the tempests of the world, from pain and temptation. At
times the dampness was very perceptible, and sometimes they even had
their feet in water. Andrew was often obliged to stop to give rest to
his companion, whose lassitude immediately returned. A little morsel of
bread which she had swallowed only caused pain to her stomach, which
had become unaccustomed to food, and she often remained motionless for
some minutes. At last they saw before them a small iron door. "Thanks
be to Heaven! we are there!" said the Tartar in a fainting voice; she
tried to raise her hand to knock and had not the strength to do it.
Andrew, in her stead, gave a heavy blow on the door; it resounded with
a rumbling noise, which indicated that there was a wide empty space
behind the door, the sound changing its tones as if met by high arches.
At length the door was opened; they were admitted by a monk, who stood
on a narrow staircase with the key and a light in his hand. Andrew
involuntarily stopped at the sight of a Latin monk, whose garb aroused
the most bitter feelings of hatred and contempt in the Cossacks, who
behaved towards them with still greater cruelty than towards the Jews.
The monk also drew back a step at seeing a Zaporoghian Cossack. But
a word indistinctly muttered by the Tartar quieted his fear. He shut
the door after them, lighted them up the staircase, and they found
themselves under the dark vaulted roof of the cloister church.

At one of the altars, decked with tapers in high candlesticks, knelt
a priest in the attitude of prayer; on either side of him, also
kneeling, were two young choristers, clad in violet mantles, with white
lace capes, holding censers in their hands. The priest was imploring
a miracle from Heaven: he prayed that God would preserve the city,
strengthen the failing courage, send down patience and resignation to
the hearts of the timid and pusillanimous, to support them under the
misery He had sent. Some women, like so many phantoms, were on their
knees, reclining and even drooping their heads on the backs of the
stools and of the dark wooden benches before them. Some men, leaning
against the columns which sustained the side arches, mournfully knelt
also. A window with coloured glass, which was over the altar, was now
lighted by the pink hue of morning, and from it fell, down upon the
floor, blue, yellow, and variegated circles of light, which suddenly
brightened the darkness of the church. The whole of the altar in its
distant niche, seem drowned in light; the smoke of the incense hung in
the air like a cloud beaming with all the hues of the rainbow. Andrew
was fain to look from the dark corner where he was standing, on this
remarkable phenomenon produced by light. At this moment the sublime
pealing of the organ suddenly filled the whole of the church; it grew
deeper and deeper, increased by degrees into the heavy rollings of
thunder, and then, all at once, turning into a heavenly melody, sent
up, higher and higher beneath the vaulted roof, its warbling notes,
which recalled the delicate voices of maidens; then once more it
changed into the deep bellow of thunder, and then it was silent; but
the rollings of the thunder long after tremulously vibrated along the
aisles, and Andrew with open mouth stood marvelling at the sublime
music.

And now he felt somebody pull the skirt of his coat. "It is time,"
said the Tartar. They went across the church without any one paying
attention to them, and came out on the square which was in front of it.
The dawn had long ago spread its rosy tint over the sky; everything
showed that the sun was about to rise. There was nobody in the square;
in the middle of it remained some tables, which showed that, not longer
than perhaps a week before, there had here been a market of victuals.
As pavements were not used in those times, the ground was nothing but
dried mud. The square was surrounded by small stone and clay houses,
one story high, with walls, in which might be seen from top to bottom,
the wooden piles and pillars, across which projected the wooden beams:
houses such as used to be built then, may till now be seen in some
towns of Lithuania and Poland. Almost all of them were covered by
disproportionately high roofs, pierced all over with numbers of dormer
windows. On one side, almost next to the church, rising above the other
buildings, was an edifice quite distinct from the others, which seemed
to be the town-hall of the city, or some other public establishment. It
was two stories high, and above it rose a two-arched belvidere, where
stood a sentry; a large sun-dial was fixed in the roof. The square
seemed dead; but Andrew thought he heard a faint moaning. Looking on
the other side, he saw a group of two or three men, who were lying
quite motionless on the ground. He looked more attentively, to see
if they were asleep or dead, and at the same time his foot stumbled
against something which lay in his way. It was the corpse of a woman,
who seemed to have been a Jewess. Her figure bespoke her to have been
still young, though the macerated disfigured outlines of her face did
not show it. Her head was covered with a red silk handkerchief; a
double row of pearls or beads adorned the coverings of her ears;[29]
two or three curling locks fell from under them on her shrivelled neck,
on which the tightly drawn veins showed like sinews. Beside her lay a
child, whose hand convulsively grasped her lank breast and twisted it
with his fingers, in vain anger at finding there no milk. The child
had ceased weeping and crying, and the slow heaving of its chest alone
showed that it was not yet dead or, at least, that its last breath
was yet to be drawn. Andrew and his companion turned into a street,
and were suddenly stopped by a frantic man, who, seeing the precious
burthen of Andrew, flew at him like a tiger and grasped him in his
arms, shrieking aloud for bread; but his strength was not equal to his
frenzy. Andrew shook off his grasp, and he fell on the ground. Moved
by compassion, he threw him a loaf; the other darted like a mad dog
upon it, gnawed and bit it, and, at the same moment and on the very
spot, died in horrible convulsions from long disuse of taking food.
Almost at every step they were shocked by the sight of hideous victims
of hunger. It seemed that many could not endure their sufferings in
their houses, and had run out into the streets, as if in hope to find
something strengthening in the open air. At the doorway of a house sat
an old woman, and one could not tell whether she were dead, asleep, or
swooning; at least, she neither heard nor saw anything, but, with her
head bent down over her chest, sat motionless on the same spot. From
the roof of another house there was hanging from a rope a stretched and
dried corpse. The miserable man had not been able to endure to the last
the sufferings of hunger, and had chosen rather to quicken his end by
voluntary suicide.

At seeing such horrifying evidences of the famine, Andrew could not
refrain from asking the Tartar, "Had they, indeed, found nothing to
lengthen their lives? When man comes to the last extremity, when
nothing more remains, well, then he must feed upon what, till then, had
appeared disgusting to him; he may even feed upon animals forbidden by
the law--everything is then to be used for food."

"All is eaten up," answered the Tartar; "thou wilt not find a horse,
a dog--no, not even a mouse left in the town. We never kept any
provisions in town; everything was brought from the country."

"How, then, dying such fearful deaths, can they think of defending the
town?"

"May be the voevoda would have surrendered it; but yesterday the
colonel who garrisons Boodjiang sent a hawk into the town with a
note saying not to surrender, as he is coming with his regiment to
relieve it, and is only waiting for another colonel that they may come
together. Now, we are expecting them every minute--but here we have
reached the house."

Andrew had already noticed from a distance a house unlike the others,
and which seemed to have been built by an Italian architect; it was two
stories high and constructed of fine thin bricks. The windows of the
lower story were encompassed in lofty granite projections; the whole of
the upper story consisted of arches, which formed a gallery; between
the arches were to be seen gratings with armorial bearings; the corners
of the house were also adorned with coats of arms. An external wide
staircase, built with painted bricks, came down to the very square.
Beneath the staircase were sitting two sentries, who picturesquely and
symmetrically held with one hand a halberd, and leaned their heads on
the other, more like statues than living beings. They neither slept nor
slumbered, but seemed to have lost all feeling; they did not even pay
any attention to those who went upstairs. At the top of the staircase
Andrew and the Tartar found a soldier, clad from head to foot in a rich
dress, who held a prayer-book in his hand. He raised his heavy eyes
on them; but the Tartar whispered a word to him and he dropped them
again on the open pages of his prayer-book. They entered the first
room, which was tolerably spacious and seemed to be the hall for the
reception of petitioners, or, perhaps, simply the ante-room; it was
crowded with soldiers, servants, huntsmen, cup-bearers, and other
officials whose presence was necessary to denote the rank of a high
nobleman, and who were sitting in different postures along the walls.
There was the smell of a candle which had burned down in its socket,
and, although the morning light had long since peeped in at the railed
windows, two more candles were burning in enormous candelabras almost
the size of a man.

Andrew was already in the act of going towards a wide oaken door,
adorned with a coat of arms and much carved work, when the Tartar
pulled him by the sleeve and showed him a small door in the lateral
wall. This door admitted them into a passage through which they
passed into a room, which Andrew began to examine with attention. The
daylight, coming through a hole in the window-shutter, fell upon a
crimson drapery, upon a gilded cornice, and upon the wall covered with
pictures. The Tartar made a sign to him to remain here, and went into
an adjoining room from which came a ray of candlelight. He heard a
whisper and a subdued voice which made him shudder. Through the door
which now opened he caught a glimpse of a finely-shaped female figure
with long luxuriant hair, which fell upon an uplifted arm. The Tartar
returned and bade him enter. He could not account for how he entered or
how the door closed behind him.

Two candles burned in the room, a lamp was lighted before an image,
under which stood a high-backed chair (like those used by Papists),
with steps for kneeling during prayer. But this was not what his eyes
were in search of. He turned to another side, and saw a woman who
seemed to have been suddenly petrified whilst in some rapid motion.
All her figure appeared to betoken that she had been throwing herself
forward towards him and had then suddenly stopped. He, too, stopped
astonished; he could not have expected to meet her such as she now was;
she was no longer the girl he had formerly known. Nothing remained
of what she was before; but still she was twice as beautiful and
handsome as she had been then. _Then_, there was something unfinished,
something to be completed in her; now, she was like a picture to which
the painter had given the last stroke of his brush. _Then_, she was a
pretty giddy girl; _now_, she was a beauty, a woman who had attained
the utmost development of her loveliness. Every feeling of her being
was now expressed in her uplifted eyes--not one particular feeling
or another--but all her feelings at once. Tears had not yet dried in
her eyes, but covered them with a glittering moisture which it made
the heart ache to behold. Her bust, her neck, and her shoulders now
filled those splendid limits which are the dowry of a perfect beauty;
her hair, which formerly curled in light ringlets round her face, now
formed a thick luxuriant plait, part of which remained plaited, while
the remainder hung down the whole length of her arm and fell over her
bosom in long, thin, beautifully waving locks. Every outline of her
features seemed to have undergone a change. Andrew tried in vain to
find some of those which were pressing on his recollection; not one was
to be found. Notwithstanding the extreme pallor of her face, her beauty
was not lessened by it; but, on the contrary, seemed to gain something
intrepid, and unconquerably victorious from it. Andrew felt his heart
overflow with the tremor of adoration, and stood motionless before
her. She seemed also to be astonished at the appearance of the Cossack,
who stood before her in all the beauty and vigour of youthful manhood;
even motionless, as they were, his limbs betrayed the freedom and
elasticity of their action; his eyes shone with firmness; his velvet
eyebrows made a bold curve; his sunburnt cheeks were covered with the
brightness of fiery youth, and his young black mustachios had the gloss
of silk.

"No, I cannot, by any means, thank thee enough, generous knight," said
she, and her silvery voice seemed to waver. "God in Heaven alone can
repay thee! Not I, a weak woman!"

She cast her eyes down, hiding them beneath beautiful, snowy,
semicircular eyelids, fringed with long arrow-like eyelashes; she bent
her lovely face, and a fine rosy hue spread over it. Andrew knew not
what to answer; he wished to tell her at once all that he had in his
heart, to tell it as warmly as he felt it--but he could not. Something
stopped his lips; even his voice failed him; he felt that he could not
answer her words--he who had been brought up in the college and in
migratory warfare; and he cursed his being a Cossack!

At this moment the Tartar came into the room. She had already cut the
loaf brought by Andrew into slices, which she brought on a golden
dish and set before her mistress. The lovely girl looked at her, at
the bread, and lifted her eyes on Andrew: and much did those eyes
express! That affecting look, which betrayed her sufferings and the
impossibility of telling all the feelings which filled her bosom, was
more easily understood by Andrew than any speech. He felt his heart
lightened at once; he seemed to have at once lost all confusion,
the motions and feelings of his soul which had till then appeared
held in subjection by some heavy hand, now seemed to be set free, and
uncontrollable streams of words ready to flow forth. But the young
beauty turned abruptly towards the Tartar, and hastily asked, "And my
mother? hast thou taken it to her?"

"She is asleep."

"And to my father?"

"I have; he said that he would come himself to thank the knight."

She took a piece of bread and raised it to her lips. Andrew looked at
her with inexpressible delight as she broke it with her white fingers
and began eating; but suddenly he remembered the man, driven to frenzy
by hunger, who died before his eyes from swallowing a morsel of bread.
He turned pale, and seizing her hand, shrieked, "Enough! eat no more!
Thou hast not eaten for so long a time, bread may bring death to thee!"
She let her hand fall directly, put the bread upon the dish and, like
an obedient child, looked into his eyes. And could any words describe
-but no; neither chisel, nor brush, nor even the loftiest and most
powerful language can express what may sometimes be seen in the eyes of
a maiden, or the delightful sensation of him who looks into such eyes.

"Queen!" cried Andrew, overwhelmed by his feelings; "what dost thou
want? what dost thou wish? order me to it! Set me the task--the most
impossible that ever was in the world. I will fly to accomplish it!
Tell me to do what no man can do--I will do it! I will perish myself!
Yes, that I will! And to perish for thee--I swear by the holy
cross--will be sweet to me. No--but I shall never be able to say it--I
have three farms, half of my father's horses are mine; all the dowry
of my mother; all that she has kept hidden even from him--all is mine!
None of our Cossacks has now such arms as I have; for the hilt alone of
my sabre they will give me the best herd of horses and three thousand
sheep. All this I will renounce: I will throw it away: I will burn
it: drown it if thou sayest but a word; nay, if thou only movest thy
fine dark eyebrow! I know that my speech is foolish, that it is out of
time, out of place; that I, who was brought up in the college and in
the Ssiecha, shall never be able to speak like kings, like princes and
like the best man among the noble knights. I see that thou art another
creature of God unlike us, and that far below thee are all other noble
maidens!"

With increasing astonishment, all ears, but not understanding a single
word, did the maiden listen to the frank hearty speech which, like a
mirror, reflected the young powerful soul, every word of which, spoken
in a voice bounding straight from the bottom of the heart, was invested
with power. She bent her beautiful face forward, threw over her back
the troublesome locks, opened her lips, and remained looking at him
a long time, then was about to speak; but she suddenly stopped, and
recollected that another path had to be followed by the knight; that
behind him stood his father and his kin, like so many harsh avengers;
that terrible were the Zaporoghians who were besieging the city, every
inhabitant of which was doomed to a cruel death--then suddenly her
eyes filled with tears. She took her silk-embroidered handkerchief,
threw it over her face, and in an instant it was moistened all over;
and she remained a long time sitting with her beautiful head thrown
back, with her pretty underlip compressed, as if she had felt the bite
of some venomous reptile; and she kept her handkerchief over her face,
so that he should not behold her overwhelming grief.

"Say but one word to me!" said Andrew, and he took hold of her
satin-like arm. The touch made fire run through his veins, and he
pressed her hand which lay insensible in his.

But she was silent; did not withdraw her handkerchief from her face,
and remained motionless.

"Why art thou so sorrowful? tell me, why art thou so sorrowful?"

She flung away her handkerchief, threw back the locks which fell over
her eyes and gave way to a burst of plaintive words, uttering them in
a low voice. Thus, rising on a beautiful evening, does the breeze run
through the dense stems of the water-weeds, and soft plaintive tones
quiver, thrill, and melt away in the air, and the passing traveller,
in unaccountable sadness, pauses without noticing either the evening
which is fading away, or the gay songs of the people returning from the
fields and their harvest labours.

"Do not I, then, deserve everlasting pity? Is not the mother who
brought me into the world, unhappy? Is not the lot which has fallen
to me sad? Art thou not merciless, my cruel fate? All men hast thou
brought to my feet, the greatest of our nobility, the wealthiest lords,
counts and foreign barons, and the very flower of our knighthood! All
these sought my hand, and as a great boon, would any one of them have
received my love. I had but to wave my hand, and the choicest of them
all, the handsomest in person and the best in lineage, would have been
my husband! But for none of them hast thou warmed my heart, merciless
fate! in spite of the most accomplished knights of my country, thou
hast given it to a foreigner, to one of our foes! Why, most holy Mother
of God, for what sins of mine, for what heavy crimes dost thou subject
me to such relentless, to such unsparing persecutions? My life was
passed amidst affluence and luxury; the costliest viands, the richest
wines were my food and my drink; and for what? to what result has it
brought me? Is it, that I must die the most cruel death which even the
poorest beggar in the kingdom is spared? Alas! it is not enough for me
to be doomed to this most horrible fate; to see, before my end, how my
father and my mother will die in insupportable sufferings--they, for
whose welfare I would readily give up twenty times my own life--all
this is not enough, but I must previously to my death hear words and
see love such as I have never heard or seen before; my heart must be
torn to pieces by his speech: that my bitter fate may be still bitterer
to me: that I may regret still more my young life: that death may
appear to me still more frightful: and that I may before dying still
utter more reproaches to thee, my cruel fate, and thee (forgive my sin)
most holy Mother of God!"

As she ceased speaking, an expression of hopelessness, of the most
utter despair, spread over her features; every outline of them
betokened sadness, and the brow bent down in sorrow, the downcast cast
eyes, the tears which had remained and dried on her glowing cheeks, all
appeared to tell that no happiness was there!

"Such a thing was never heard of: it cannot be: it shall not be,"
exclaimed Andrew, "that the loveliest and best of women should be
doomed to so bitter a lot, when she was born to see all that is best
in the world worship her like a goddess. No--thou shalt not die; it is
not thy lot to die; I swear, by my birth and by all that I love in the
world, thou shalt not die! And if it should happen, if nothing, neither
strength, nor prayer, nor courage can avert the dreadful fate, we will
die together, and I will die first; I will die beneath thine eyes, at
thy dear feet, and only when dead will I part with thee!"

"Do not deceive me and thyself, knight!" answered she, slowly shaking
her fine head; "I know, and to my greatest sorrow do I know but too
well, that thou canst not love me; I know, what thy duty, what thy
covenant is: thy father, thy comrades, thy country call thee--and we
are thy foes!"

"And what to me, are father, comrades, country?" said Andrew, tossing
his head, and drawing up his stature to his full height, straight as
the black poplar growing on the banks of a river: "if so--not one of
them will I know! not one! not one!" repeated he with that voice, and
peculiar motion of the hand, with which the mighty dauntless Cossack
expresses his decision about something unheard of, and impossible for
any one but himself. "Who has told me that Ukraine is my country? Who
gave it to me for my country? Our native country is that for which our
soul longs, which is dear to us above all other tilings! My native
country--thou art it! This is my country! And I will carry this country
in my heart as long as I live, and I shall see who of all the Cossacks
will ever tear it thence! And all that I have, will I sell, resign,
destroy, for this, my native country!"

At first she remained stupified and motionless, and, like a fine
statue, gazed into his eyes; then, on a sudden, bursting into tears,
she flung herself on his neck, caught him in her snow-white delicate
arms, and sobbed aloud; all this she did with that marvellous womanly
impetuosity, of which none is capable but inconsiderate generous woman,
created for magnanimous impulses of the heart. At this moment, confused
shouts, together with the sound of trumpets and kettle-drums were heard
in the street. But Andrew heard them not, he only felt how her pretty
lips diffused over his face the aromatic warmth of their breath, how
her tears flowed in streams over his cheeks, and how, falling down from
her head, her fragrant hair wrapped him in its dark and glossy silk.

At the same moment the Tartar ran into the room with the joyful
exclamation, "Rescued! rescued!" cried she, beside herself with joy:
"_our own_ have come into the town; they have brought with them,
bread, millet, flour, and Zaporoghian prisoners!" But neither of the
two understood who "_our own_" were who had come into the town, what
they had brought, or what they had to do with the Zaporoghians. Full
of feelings not to be enjoyed on earth, Andrew impressed a kiss on her
fragrant lips; they returned the kiss, and in that mutual, melting
embrace each of them felt all that man can feel but once in his
lifetime.

Then lost was the Cossack for ever! lost to all Cossack knighthood!
Never again will he see the Ssiecha: the farms of his father: the
church of God. Ukraine will never again see the bravest of her children
who went forth for its defence. Old Tarass will tear from his head a
lock of his grey hair, and curse the day and the hour when such a son
was born to bring shame upon him!



VII.


The whole of the Zaporoghian camp was in an uproar. At first nobody
could ascertain how it had come to pass that the Polish reinforcement
had entered the city. It was afterwards found out that all the Cossacks
of the kooren of Percaslavl, encamped before one of the side gates of
the city, were dead drunk; so no wonder if half of them were killed,
and the remainder bound and made prisoners, before any one could
discover what was the matter. While the other koorens, awakened by the
noise, had but time to snatch up their arms, the Poles had already
made their way through the gate, and their rear-ranks alone fired on
the Zaporoghians who, not yet wholly recovered from their slumbers and
their tipsiness, had in disorder rushed upon them. The Koschevoï gave
the order for all to assemble, and when all stood in a circle and kept
silence, their caps off, he spoke thus:--

"Do you see, gentlemen brothers, what has happened this night? You see
now the result of drunkenness? You see the shame that the foe has
brought upon us? It seems to be part of your habits, that, if your
allowance is doubled, you think yourselves entitled to go on drinking
till you bring yourselves into such a state that the foe of Christian
soldiers may not only pull off your trowsers, but even spit in your
face before you are aware of it!"

The Cossacks stood with their heads bent down, as if to acknowledge
their fault. The ataman of the kooreen of Neezamaitzy, Kookoobenko,
alone retorted. "Stop, father," said he, "although it is not according
to the rules that one should reply when the Koschevoï is speaking
before the army, yet as the matter was not thus, I must say so. Thou
art not quite right in thy reproach. The Cossacks would have been in
fault, and would have deserved death if they had got drunk on march,
on the field of battle, or during some hard or difficult labour; but
we remained without any business at all, sauntering round the city. No
fast, nor any other Christian penance was at hand; how, then, could it
be expected that a man should not get drunk when he had nothing to do?
There is no sin in that. Let us rather show now what it is to fall upon
innocent men. We have till now struck hard--let us now strike so that
they may not even be able to take to their heels to fly back to their
homes!"

The speech of the koorennoï ataman greatly pleased the Cossacks. They
raised their eyes which had, till then, remained bent down, and many of
them approvingly tossed their heads, saying, "Well said, Kookoobenko!"
Tarass Boolba, who was standing not far from the Koschevo, said, "How
now, Koschevoï? Kookoobenko seems to be right; what wilt thou say-now?"

"What will I say? I will say that happy is the father that has brought
such a son. It is no difficult matter to find upbraiding words, but
it is a difficult matter to speak such words as, aggravating a man's
misfortunes by reproach, may coax him and stir up his fallen spirit as
spurs incite the spirit of a steed refreshed by drink. I had, myself,
the intention of adding some encouraging words; but Kookoobenko has
outstripped me."

"Well, also, has the Koschevoï spoken!" was heard in the ranks of the
Zaporoghians. "Well spoken!" repeated others; and even the oldest,
those with ash-coloured locks, nodded their heads, and twirling their
mustachios, said, "Well spoken!"

"Now, hear me, gentlemen!" continued the Koschevoï; "it is neither
proper for a Cossack, nor is it his business to take fortresses as
German mercenaries do (may the fiend seize them!), climbing the walls
and digging the ground. But, after all, what may be guessed is, that
the enemy entered the town with no great store of provisions; there
were not many waggons with them, the people in the fortress are
starving, so all will be eaten up in no time; as for the horses--I
do not know, unless some of their saints throw them hay from heaven;
but this seems not highly probable, the more so, as their parsons are
men of mere words. So, happen what will, not one of them must ever
come out of the town. Divide yourselves into three parties, and take
the three roads which lead to the three gates. Five koorens must take
the high road before the main gate; before each of the others three
koorens must stand. The Diadnivsky and the Korsoonsky koorens must lie
in ambush. Colonel Tarass, with his regiment, must lie in ambush, also!
The Tytarevskoï and the Toonnoshevsko? koorens in reserve, on the right
flank of the baggage! The Stcherbinovskoï and the Upper Steblikovskoï
on its left flank. Now, come forward those who are clever at teasing,
and tease the enemy! Poles are empty-headed people and cannot bear
jeering, and may be, even to-day, they will sally forth out of the
gates. Let the atamans pass each kooren in review: those that have not
their full complement must be filled up with the Cossacks remaining
from the Percaslavskoï kooren. Then, review them once more I Let every
Cossack have a loaf and a dram of brandy, to drive away the tipsiness
out of his head. But, surely, every one got enough yesterday; for, to
say the truth, you all had so much drink that I wonder nobody burst
asunder in the night. One order more:--If any Jew, brandy-shop keeper,
or any one else sell, were it but a single dram of brandy to a Cossack,
I'll have a hog's ear nailed to his face, and I'll have him, the cursed
dog, hung with his head downwards! Well, now to business, brothers!"

Thus ordered the Koschevoï, and all bowed to him, and with uncovered
heads went to their waggons and to their camps, and only when they were
at a distance did they put on their caps. They all made preparations;
every one tried his sabre or his broadsword, poured powder from the
bags into powder-horns, removed and placed the carts, and selected the
horses.

On his way to his regiment Tarass thought, but could not imagine, what
had happened to Andrew. Had he been made prisoner with the others, and
had he been bound during his sleep?--but no, it could not be; Andrew
was not the man to be made prisoner whilst alive. He was not, moreover,
to be found among the slain Cossacks. Tarass was lost in thought, and
went before his regiment without noticing that somebody had been for
a long time calling him by his name. "Who wants me?" said he, at last
recovering from his reverie. Yankel, the Jew, was standing before him.

"My lord colonel! My lord colonel!" said the Jew in a hasty and choked
voice, as if he had some matter of no small importance to impart to
him. "I have been in the town, my lord colonel!"

Tarass looked at the Jew, marvelling how he could have managed to find
time already to go into the town. "And what devil took thee there?"

"I will tell you directly," said Yankel. "As soon as I heard the noise
in the morning, and heard the Cossacks fire their guns, I caught up
my coat and, without waiting to put it on, ran with all speed to the
spot; by the way only I slipped on the sleeves, for I was in a hurry to
know what the noise was, and why the Cossacks fired their guns so early
in the morning. I got to the town gate just as the last of the troops
entered the town. And, behold! before the soldiers, I saw the Ensign
Galiandovitch. He is an acquaintance of mine; he has owed me, for more
than two years now, a hundred ducats; so I came to him as if for the
purpose of settling our accounts, and I went with him into the town."

"How so? thou wentest into the town, and still more, for the purpose of
settling accounts!" said Boolba, "and he did not have thee hanged like
a dog?"

"By Heavens, he wished to have me hanged," answered the Jew; "his
servants had already got hold of me and thrown a rope round my neck;
but I implored him to have mercy, said that I would wait for the debt
as long as he might choose, and even promised to lend him more money as
soon as he helps me to have my accounts settled with the other knights.
Because that gentleman ensign--I'll tell the whole truth to the lord
colonel--has not a single ducat in his pocket, although he has farms,
and manors, and castles, and plenty of pasture land; but as for coins,
he has no more of them than a Cossack. Even now, had not the Jews of
Breslau equipped him, he could not have gone to the war. That was the
very reason of his not having been at the _Ssiem_."[30] "What didst
thou, then, in the town; hast thou seen any of ours?"

"Of course I did; there are many of ours:--Itska, Rakhoom, Ssamuïlo,
Khaïvalkh, the Jew-farmer"--

"Curses on them, unbelieving dogs!" shrieked Tarass, growing angry;
"why art thou calling over to me thy Jewish stock! I ask thee about our
Zaporoghians."

"I've not seen our Zaporoghians. I've only seen my lord Andrew."

"Thou hast seen Andrew?" cried Tarass; "what of him? where didst thou
see him? in some dungeon? in some cave? dishonoured? fettered?"

"Who would ever dare to fetter my lord Andrew? he is now such a
knight--by Heavens, I hardly recognised him! His coat all over gold,
his belt all gold--yes, all over gold and everywhere gold; just like
the sun, as it shines in spring when every bird is chirping and singing
in the gardens, and every blade of grass is fragrant, thus is he all
shining bright with gold; and the steed that the voevoda has given him,
is the best riding horse one ever saw: the steed alone is worth two
hundred ducats!"

Boolba was astounded. "Why did he put on this strange dress?"

"Because it was better than his own; that's why he put it on. And he is
riding about, and others are riding about, and he is teaching others,
and others are teaching him--just like the most important Polish lord."

"And who constrained him to do this?"

"I am not saying that anybody put any constraint on him. Does not your
lordship know, then, that he went over to them of his own free will?"

"Who went over?"

"My lord Andrew."

"To whom is he gone over?"

"To the other side; he is now quite theirs."

"Thou liest, hog!"

"How can it be that I should lie? Am I a fool to lie? Will I lie at the
risk of my own head? Do I not know that if a Jew happen to lie to a
lord, he will be hanged like a dog?"

"So thou sayest that he has sold his native country and his faith?"

"I did not say that he had sold anything; I am only saying that he has
passed over to the other side."

"Thou liest, cursed Jew! such a thing never happened in a Christian
land! Thou mockest me, cursed dog!"

"May grass grow on the threshold of my house if I lie! May every one
spit on the tomb of my father, on that of my mother, on those of my
father-in-law, of the father of my father, of the father of my mother,
if I lie! If your lordship wishes, I'll even say why he went over to
them."

"Why, then?"

"The voevoda's daughter is a beauty. Heavens! what a beauty!" and the
Jew endeavoured as well as he could to express her beauty in his face,
stretching his hands asunder, twinkling one of his eyes, and writhing
his mouth on one side, as if he had tasted something good.

"Well, then, what of that?"

"That is the reason of all his doings and of his passing over. Because
if a man becomes enamoured he is just like the sole of a boot, which,
if it becomes once soaked in water, may be stretched and bent as much
as one wishes."

Boolba fell into a deep reverie. He remembered that such is the power
of a weak woman that many mighty men perish by it, that Andrew was very
vulnerable on that point--and long did he remain as if riveted to the
same spot.

"Hear me, your lordship, I'll tell your lordship all," proceeded the
Jew; "just as I heard the noise and saw the troops entering the town
gate, I caught up, at all events, a string of pearls, because in the
town there are many beauties and noble ladies; and wherever there are
beauties and noble ladies, said I to myself, even if they have nothing
to eat, they will nevertheless buy finery. And as soon as the servants
of the ensign had let me go, I ran to the voevoda's courtyard to
sell my pearls. I learned everything from a Tartar servant-maid: the
marriage will take place as soon as the Zaporoghians are driven away.
My lord Andrew has promised to drive the Zaporoghians away."

"And thou didst not kill him on the spot, the devil's son?" shrieked
Boolba.

"Why should I have killed him? He went to the Poles of his own good
will. What harm is there? He found himself better off there, so there
he went."

"And didst thou see him in person?"

"By Heaven, I did! Such a fine warrior! The best of all. May Heaven
grant health to him! He knew me in a moment, and as I passed near him
he at once said to me"--

"What did he say?"

"He said--no, he first beckoned to me, and then afterwards said to me,
'Yankel!' and I said, 'My lord Andrew!' 'Yankel, tell my father, tell
my brother, tell the Cossacks, tell the Zaporoghians, tell every one,
that my father is no more a father to me, that my brother is no more my
brother, my comrades no more my comrades; and that I will fight against
them: against every one of them will I fight!'"

"Thou liest, Judas!" shrieked Tarass, beside himself with rage; "Thou
liest, dog I Thou hast crucified Christ--man accursed by Heaven! I will
kill thee, Satan! Away with thee, or thou art a dead man!" and with
these words Tarass unsheathed his sabre. The Jew took to his heels, and
ran with all the speed of his thin shrivelled legs, he ran a long time
through the tents of the Cossacks, and then in the open field, before
he ventured to look back; but Tarass thought not of pursuing him, after
reflecting that his anger ought not to be wreaked upon the first who
fell into his hands.

Now he remembered having, only last night, seen Andrew going about the
encampment with a woman, and his gray head drooped; and yet he would
not believe that such an odious event had taken place, and that his own
son had betrayed his faith and his soul.

At last he conducted his regiment into ambush, and was soon out of
sight with it, behind the only forest which had not been burned by the
Cossacks. In the mean time the Zaporoghians, on foot and on horseback,
occupied the three roads which led to the three gates. One kooren
followed another; that of Perecaslav alone was missing. Deep had been
the carousing of its Cossacks, and there carouse had sealed their doom.
Some awoke in irons in the power of the enemy--some without awakening
had passed to their eternal sleep, and their ataman, Khleeb, without
trowsers or any other garment, had found himself in the Polish camp.

The movement of the Cossacks had attracted attention in the city. All
its inhabitants rushed to the battlements, and a curious sight appeared
before the Cossacks. The brass helmets shone like so many suns, adorned
with snow-white feathers.[31] Some warriors wore light caps, pink or
sky-blue, with the tops bent on one side.

Their coats, with sleeves falling behind the shoulders,[32] were either
embroidered with gold or ornamented with lace. There were many swords
and guns with costly handles, which had been dearly paid for by their
masters, and much more finery was to be seen there. In front of all
stood, with a haughty demeanour and with a red cap ornamented with
gold on his head, the newly-arrived colonel of Boodjang. Stout was
the colonel, stouter and taller than all others, and his wide costly
overcoat hardly met round his figure. On the other side, close to the
side gate, stood another colonel, a diminutive man, who seemed to have
been dried up; but his small piercing eyes looked briskly from under
his thick eyebrows, and he turned about sharply on all sides, pointing
with his thin dry hand, and giving orders; one might see that,
notwithstanding his small size, he was well acquainted with warfare.
At some distance from him stood a tall, very tall ensign, with thick
mustachios; there was no lack of colour in his face; he was fond of
strong mead and gay revelling. And many were the gentlemen to be seen
behind these, who had taken arms either for the king's money, or on
their own ducats, or on money borrowed from Jews, to whom they had
pawned everything they could find in the castles of their grandfathers;
many, also, who were mere hangers-on of senators (whom these latter
kept to be able to boast of the number of their retinue at dinners),
who stole silver cups from the tables and cupboards, and who, after
having made a figure one day, sat the next on the coachbox of some
lord. Many were the different persons assembled on the walls. Some of
them had not a penny to drink with, and yet all had made themselves
fine for fighting. Silently stood the ranks of the Cossacks before the
walls. None of them wore any gold on their coats; only now and then
some of it might be seen on the handles of their swords or of their
guns. The Cossacks did not like to make themselves fine for fighting;
their mail coats and dresses were plain, and stretching far away might
be seen the black tops of their sheepskin caps.

Two Cossacks rode in front of the Zaporoghian ranks, one of them quite
young, the other somewhat elderly; both biting in words, and not bad
Cossacks in deeds also: Okhreim Nash and Nikita Golokopytenko. Close
behind them rode Demid Popovich, a thorough Cossack, who for a long
time had rambled about the Ssiecha, had been before Adrianople, and
had had much to endure in his lifetime: he had been burned in fire,
and had run back to the Ssiecha with his head covered with tar and
blackened by the flames and his mustachios singed off.[33] But once
more had Popovich regained his health, his crown-lock curled once more
behind his ear, his mustachios had grown again, thick and black as
pitch, and biting were his caustic speeches.

"The dresses of the army are fine enough, but I should like to know if
the courage of the army is as fine?"

"I'll have you all tied up!" cried the stout colonel from the walls;
"give up your guns and horses, ye boors! Have ye seen how I have bound
your comrades? Let the Zaporoghian prisoners be brought upon the
battlements!"

And the Zaporoghians, tied with ropes, were brought upon the walls;
in front of all was to be seen the koorennoï ataman Khleeb, without
trowsers or any other dress, in the same state as that in which he
had been made prisoner in his sleep. And downwards he bent his head,
ashamed of being seen naked by the Cossacks, and of having been made
prisoner while sleeping, like a dog. In one night his strong head had
turned gray.

"Cheer up, Khleeb! we'll set thee free!" cried the Cossacks from below.

"Cheer up, friend!" cried the koorennoï ataman Borodatyi: "no fault of
thine if they took thee naked; misfortune may happen to any one; but
shame be upon them that they make a show of thee without so much as
hiding thy nakedness!"

"Ye seem to be brave warriors against sleeping men?" said
Golokopytenko, looking towards the wall.

"Let us take our time, and we'll shave your crown-locks for you!" cried
those from above.

"I should like to see you shave our crown-locks!" said Popovich, making
curvets with his steed; then, looking at the Cossacks, he resumed:
"After all, the Poles may be right; should the big-bellied one there
bring them out of the town, they would have a good defence!"

"And why dost thou think they would have a good defence?" said the
Cossacks, guessing that Popovitch meant some fun.

"Simply, because behind his back the whole of the army might remain
concealed, and no spear on earth could ever reach them across his
belly."

The Cossacks roared with laughter, and many nodded their heads,
saying, "Well! Popovich, when he chances to say something funny, why,
then"--but they did not add what happened _then_.

"Away, quickly away from the walls;" cried the Koschevoï; for the
Poles seemed not to relish such bitter fun, and the colonel had waved
his hand. Hardly had the Cossacks rushed away, when a volley of
grape-shot flew from the walls. Tumult arose on the battlements, the
gray-haired voevoda himself made his appearance on horseback. The gate
flew open, and the army issued forth. In front rode, in regular ranks,
the hussars; after them came the chain-mailed regiment; behind these,
the cuirassiers with spears; then those in brass helmets; and after
all, apart from the rest, the _élite_ of the officers--each dressed
according to his own fashion. They chose not, haughty gentlemen,
to mix with the other ranks; and those who had no commission went
alone with their servants. After them came soldiers again; then the
standard-bearer; then, again, ranks of soldiers; then the stout
colonel, and, behind them all, rode the diminutive colonel.

"Let them not take up their position! let them not set their troops in
order!" cried the Koschevoï. "All koorens! up and at them! Leave the
other gates! The Titarevskoï kooren attack one flank! The Diadkovskoï
kooren attack the other. Kookoobenko and Palyvoda, push on the rear!
Mix! confuse! and drive them asunder!"

And the Cossacks struck on every side; the Poles were driven asunder
and mingled in confusion, and the Cossacks were mixed with them. Even
firing was out of the question; swords and spears were alone useful.

The _melée_ became general, and every one could show his personal
skill. Demid Popovich had already speared two soldiers and thrown two
officers from their steeds, saying, "Those are good horses; I have long
wished to have such horses!" And he drove the horses a long way out
into the field, calling to the Cossacks standing there to catch them.
He again went into the crowd; once more attacked the officers thrown
down; killed one of them, and throwing his _arkan_ round the neck of
the other,[34] tied it to his saddle and dragged him over the field,
after possessing himself of his costly sword and the purse full of
ducats, which hung at his belt.

Kobita, a good Cossack and a young one, too, fought with one of the
bravest Polish warriors, and long was their fight. They were already
hand to hand: the Cossack got the uppermost, and, after throwing down
his adversary, plunged his sharp Turkish knife into his breast; but
he took no heed of himself, and on the very spot a hot bullet struck
him on the temple. He who killed him was one of the most notable among
the lords; a handsome knight of ancient and princely descent. Slim as
a poplar, he rode on his chestnut steed. Many were the noble knightly
feats he had already accomplished; two Zaporoghians had he hewn in
twain; Theodore Korj, a good Cossack, had he thrown on the dust with
his horse; he shot the horse, and pierced the Cossack under it with
his spear; many heads, many hands had he hewn down; he had killed the
Cossack Kobita by sending a bullet through his temple.

"This is the man with whom I should wish to try my strength!" cried
Kookoobenko, the ataman of the Nezamaikovskoï kooren; and spurring
his horse, he rushed up close behind him and gave a fearful howl,
which made all around shudder. The Pole tried to turn his horse round
to confront his foe; but the horse would not turn: terrified by the
fearful shriek, it dashed aside, and Kookoobenko fired his gun at
the rider. The bullet entered his shoulder-blade, and down went the
Pole on the ground; still, even then, he yielded not, but tried to
strike once more at his foe; but his weakened arm fell beneath the
weight of his sabre, and Kookoobenko taking, with both his hands, his
heavy sword, drove it right into the Pole's blanched mouth: the blade
knocked out two white teeth, cut the tongue in two, ran through the
throat, and went far into the ground, nailing the knight for ever to
the dank earth. Like a fountain spirted forth the high-descended noble
blood, red as the berries of the water elder, and dyed the yellow
gold-embroidered jacket.

And Kookoobenko had already left him, and, along with the Cossacks of
his kooren, cut his way into another crowd. "Eh! why did he leave on
the ground such costly finery!" said Borodatyi, the Omanskoï ataman,
riding from his kooren to the spot where lay the officer killed by
Kookoobenko. "I have killed with my own hand seven officers, and have
not yet seen such finery on any one." And giving way to cupidity,
Borodatyi bent down in order to take possession of the costly arms; he
had already seized a Turkish knife, with a handle set with precious
stones: had untied from the belt a purse full of ducats: had taken from
the neck a pouch of fine linen and costly silver, containing a girl's
ringlet, which had been carefully kept as a souvenir; but he did not
hear how, behind his back, there had rushed upon him the red-nosed
ensign, who had already been thrown from his saddle by Borodatyi,
and had received a good deep slash at his hands. The ensign lifted
his sword, and struck it with all his might on the bended neck of
Borodatyi. No good had come of cupidity! Away sprang the mighty head,
and down fell the beheaded body, making a large pool of blood on the
ground. Up to the skies flew the hard Cossack's soul, frowning and
filled with indignation, and, at the same time, astonished at departing
so quickly from so strong a body. Hardly had the ensign taken hold of
the ataman's crown-lock, in order to tie it to his saddle, when a stern
avenger was there.

As a goshawk, who seems to swim in the sky, and who, after having made
many circles with his strong wings, suddenly remains stationary in the
air, and then darts with arrow-like speed on some quail chirping by
the highway side, so Ostap, the son of Tarass, suddenly darted on the
ensign, and threw the arkan round his neck. Still redder grew the red
face of the ensign, as the fatal knot tightened round his throat; he
tried to use his pistol, but his cramped hand could not take aim, and
the bullet flew harmlessly through the field. Ostap detached from the
ensign's saddle a silken rope, which the latter kept for the purpose
of tying his prisoners, and bound him hand and foot with his own
rope, hooked its end to his saddle, and dragged him across the field,
shouting to the Cossacks of the Omanskoï kooren to go and render the
last honours to their ataman.

As soon as the Cossacks heard that their ataman Borodatyi was killed,
they left the battle-field, rushed to take away his body, and began on
the spot to deliberate as to whom they should choose for their ataman.
At last they said, "What is the use of deliberating? no one would do
better as a koorennoïataman than young Boolba, Ostap; true, he is the
youngest among us, but he has as much sense as the oldest." Ostap,
taking off his cap, thanked his brother Cossacks for the honour, did
not refuse it, either on account of youth or of inexperience, knowing
that it was of no use to do so now in battle time. Instead of this, he
led them into the thickest of the fray, and showed them that he well
deserved to be their ataman.

In the meanwhile, the Poles felt that the fight had grown too hot for
them; they retired and ran across the field, in order to form their
ranks at the other end of it. The diminutive colonel gave a signal
to four fresh companies who stood near the gate, and grape-shot flew
thence into the crowd of Cossacks; but the volley did but little
mischief: it flew into the herd of the Cossacks' bullocks, who were
stupidly gazing on the fight. The terrified bullocks roared, turned
on the Cossack encampment, broke the waggons to pieces, and trampled
some men under their feet. But Tarass, rushing at this moment from his
ambuscade, with loud cries threw himself with his regiment across their
way. The whole of the maddened herd of one accord turned round, and,
dashing into the Polish regiments, threw confusion into the cavalry,
mixed, crushed, and broke asunder the ranks.

"Thanks to ye, bullocks!" cried the Zaporoghians. "Campaign service
have ye borne hitherto, and now war service have ye rendered also!" and
with fresh strength they pressed on the enemy. Many were the foes who
were slaughtered there. Many were those who distinguished themselves
--Metelitza, Shilo, Pissarenkos, Vovtoozenko, and many more. The Poles
saw that no good could come of it; the ensign was hoisted, and the
signal was given to open the gate. Creaking went the iron-nailed gate,
and in went the exhausted and dust-covered riders, like sheep into the
sheep-fold. Many of the Zaporoghians wished to pursue them; but Ostap
detained his Cossacks, saying, "Farther, farther away, brothers, from
the walls! it is not well to draw too near them." And he was right; for
a volley of grape-shot came from the walls, and did much mischief. At
this moment the Koschevoï rode up to Ostap, and praised him, saying,
"Though thou art but a new ataman, yet thou leadest thy Cossacks like
an old one!" And old Tarass turned round to see who the new ataman was,
and beheld his Ostap in front of the Omansko? kooren, his cap stuck on
one side and the ataman's mace in his hand. "There, just look at that
one!" said he, gazing at him; and joyful felt old Boolba, and began to
thank the Cossacks for the honour bestowed on his son.

The Cossacks retired, preparing to return to their encampment, when
the Poles reappeared on the walls; but their dresses were now torn to
pieces, many costly coats were besmeared with gore, and dust covered
the fine brass helmets.

"Did you tie us with your ropes?" cried the Zaporoghians from below.

"Take heed!" cried from above the stout colonel, showing a rope; and
still the dust-covered exhausted warriors continued to abuse one
another, and on both sides the hot-headed exchanged scolding words.

At last all withdrew. Some, tired by the fight, retired to rest; some
applied earth to their wounds, and tore into bandages kerchiefs and
costly dresses, taken from the slain enemies. Those who were less tired
went to remove the corpses of their dead comrades, and to render the
last duty to them. Graves were dug with sabres and spears, the earth
was carried away in caps and in the skirts of coats; then the corpses
of the Cossacks were reverently laid in the ground and covered with
fresh earth, so that the carrion ravens and eagles might not tear
out their eyes. And the corpses of the Poles, several together, as
they came to hand, were tied to the tails of wild horses and sent to
be dragged over the plain, and for a long time after were the horses
lashed on the sides and driven about. The maddened animals flew across
furrows and hillocks, ditches and rivulets, and the Polish corpses,
covered with gore and dust, were kicked about the ground.

As the evening came on, the Cossacks assembled in circles, and sat for
a long time talking about the feats which it had fallen to every one to
perform, feats to be told for ever to new-comers and to posterity. Long
did they remain before going to sleep; but longer than all, old Tarass
lay awake, thinking all the time what it could mean that Andrew had
not been among the enemy's warriors. Had the Judas scrupled to fight
against his countrymen? or, had the Jew belied him, and had he simply
been made prisoner? But then he remembered that Andrew's heart was not
proof against woman's words. Tarass felt a deep pang in his heart, and
vowed vengeance against the Polish girl, who had bewitched his son.
And assuredly he would have fulfilled his vow; he would have taken no
heed of her beauty; he would have trailed her by her thick luxuriant
hair; he would have dragged her across the whole field, amidst all the
Cossacks; he would have kicked on the ground, covered with gore and
blackened with dust, her beautiful bosom and shoulders, white as the
eternal snows that lie on the crests of mountains; he would have torn
her fine graceful form into fragments. But Boolba knew not what God
reserved for the morrow, and falling into forgetfulness, he at last
went to sleep. In the mean time, the Cossacks continued talking among
themselves, and all night long, close to the fires, stood the sober
vigilant sentinels, carefully looking on every side.



VIII.


The sun was not yet high in the heavens when all the Zaporoghians
assembled in a crowd. News had come from the Ssiecha, that the Tartars,
during the absence of the Cossacks, had pillaged it, and dug up the
treasures which the Cossacks kept concealed underground, had killed or
made prisoners all those who were left behind, and had directed their
course straight to Perekop, with all the herds of cattle and horses
which they had taken. One Cossack only, Maxim Gotodookha, had escaped
on the way, from the hands of the Tartars, had killed one of their
Mirzas,[35] had taken away his purse of sequins, and had, on a Tartar
horse, in a Tartar dress, for one day and a half and two nights, fled
from their hue and cry; had ridden his horse to death, had taken a
second, which sank also under hard riding, and had only on the third
found his way to the Zaporoghian encampment, which, he ascertained
on the road, was under the walls of Doobno. He scarcely found time
to declare the misfortune that had happened; but as to how it had
happened, whether the remaining Cossacks had caroused too deeply,
according to Cossack fashion, and had been made prisoners whilst tipsy;
and how had the Tartars been apprised of the spot where the treasures
lay hidden--nothing could he tell about all this. He was too exhausted,
the whole of his body was swollen, his face was scorched by the sun and
beaten by the wind; he fell on the spot fast asleep.

In such emergencies, the Zaporoghians were accustomed to proceed
without the least delay, in pursuit of the invaders, and endeavour to
catch them on the way, because the prisoners might be sent in no time
to the slave markets of Asia Minor, to Smyrna, to the island of Crete,
and wherever else the crown-locked heads of the Zaporoghians might
not be expected to make their appearance. It was for this reason that
the Zaporoghians had now assembled. They stood now with their heads
covered, because they had come together, not by command to hear an
order from their chief, but to deliberate as equals among themselves.
"Let the elders give their advice first," was the cry heard from the
crowd. "Let the Koschevoï give his advice," exclaimed some. And the
Koschevoï, cap in hand, no longer as a chief but as a comrade, thanked
all the Cossacks for the honour, and spoke thus: "There are many among
us who are older than I, and who have more wisdom in their counsels,
but as you have honoured me, my advice is this. Do not waste your time,
comrades, go in pursuit of the Tartars at once; they are not likely to
wait for our arrival with the stolen goods; they will quickly spend
them and leave no trace. So this is my advice, go at once. We have
done our duty here. The Poles know at present what the Cossacks are; we
have avenged our faith as much as lay in our power; no great booty can
be found in a famished city; so, this is our advice, go!"

"Let us go!" was the shout throughout the Zaporoghian koorens. But the
speech was not welcome to Tarass Boolba, and still deeper over his eyes
did he bend his contracted eyebrows, whose grayish white made them
resemble bushes which grow on the high crest of mountains, and whose
tops are ever covered with the sharp points of the Boreal sleet.

"Not so; thy advice is not good, Ivoschevoï!" said he, "thy speech is
all wrong. Thou seemest to forget that our comrades taken by the Poles,
are still prisoners? Thou seemest to wish that we should not fulfil the
first holy rule of comradeship, that we should leave our brothers that
they may be flayed alive, or that their Cossack bodies may be quartered
and dragged about through towns and villages, as they have already done
with the Hetman and the best Russian knights. Has our faith not yet
sustained sufficient insults? Who are we then? I ask all of you, what
sort of Cossack is he who leaves his comrade in misfortune--who leaves
him to die the death of a dog in a foreign country? If it has come to
such a pitch that nobody any longer values the Cossack's honour, that
every one allows his gray mustachios to be spit upon, and bears the
insult of shameful words, I, for one, will not bear it! Alone will I
remain!"

The Zaporoghians wavered.

"And dost thou forget, brave colonel," replied the Koschevoï, "that
those who are now in the hands of the Tartars are our comrades too,
and that if we do not release them now, they will be sold into
life-long slavery to infidels; and that slavery is more bitter than the
most cruel death? Dost thou forget that all our treasures, acquired
with Christian blood, are now in their hands?"

The Cossacks remained thoughtful, and did not know what to say. None of
them were desirous of acquiring a disgraceful character. Then Kassian
Bovdug, the oldest in all the Zaporoghian army, stepped forward. He
was held in reverence by all the Cossacks; twice had he been elected
Koschevoï Ataman, and a good Cossack had he proved in war; but he had
long ago grown old, and ceased to take part in campaigns; he did not
like to give advice, but the old fellow liked to remain lying in the
Cossack circles listening to stories about events which had come to
pass, and Cossack exploits in war. He never joined in their talk, but
remained constantly listening, pressing with his fingers the ashes in
his short pipe, which he never took out of his mouth; and long would he
remain with his eyes closed, so that the Cossacks knew not whether he
was asleep or listening. During all the late campaigns he had remained
at home; but on this occasion he had come too, after waving his hand
in the Cossack fashion, and saying, "Happen what will, I'll go, and
perhaps be of some Use to my fellow-Cossacks!"

All the Cossacks kept silence as he now appeared before the assembly,
because for a long time none had heard him say a single word. Every
one was anxious to know what Bovdug would say. "My turn is now come
to speak, gentlemen brothers," he began, "listen to the old Cossack's
saying, children. Wise were the Koschevoï's words, and, as the chief
of the Cossacks, who is bound to preserve the treasures of the army,
and to care for them, nothing more wise could he have said. Let this be
my first saying; listen now to my second. This is what I will tell you
now; great was the truth of what the Colonel Tarass said; may Heaven
lengthen his life, and may it send more such colonels to Ukraine!
The Cossack's first duty and first glory is to fulfil the duty of
comradeship. Long as I have lived in this world, gentlemen brothers,
I never happened to hear that a Cossack ever left his comrade, or
betrayed him in any emergency. These and those are both our comrades;
be their numbers great or small, it is the same thing--both are our
comrades, both are dear to us; so this is my saying: let the men to
whom those who have been made prisoners by the Tartars are dearer,
pursue the Tartars; let the others to whom those who have been made
prisoners by the Poles are dearer, and who do not choose to desist from
a righteous undertaking, remain here. The Koschevoï, according to his
duty, may, with the one party, give chase to the Tartars, and the other
party may choose a Nakaznoï Ataman.[36] And should you like to listen
to my old mind's advice, none is better entitled to be the Nakaznoï
Ataman than Tarass Boolba; none of us is equal in valour to him!"

Thus spake Bovdug, and then remained silent; and the Cossacks were
rejoiced at his having settled their minds. They threw their caps up
in the air, and cried "Thanks to thee, father! thou kept silent--for a
long time hast thou kept silent--and now at last thou hast spoken thy
mind; truly saidst thou when joining the campaign, that thou mightest
be of use to the Cossacks, so has it proved to be!"

"Well, do you approve this?" asked the Koschevoï.

"Yes, all of us approve it!" cried the Cossacks.

"So, then, the Rada is ended?"

"Yes, it is!" cried the Cossacks.

"Well then, children, listen to my orders now!" said the Koschevoï;
and stepping forward, he put on his cap, while all the Zaporoghians,
from first to last, took off theirs, and remained uncovered with their
eyes bent on the ground, according to the Cossack custom when their
chief was about to address them. "Now, gentlemen brothers, separate
yourselves! whoever wishes to go, step to the right; whoever remains,
go to the left; wherever the greater part of a kooren goes, thither the
ataman follows; if the lesser part goes on one side, it may join the
other koorens."

And now they began to pass, some to the right, some to the left.
Whither the greater went thither followed the ataman, the lesser
part always joining with the other koorens. In the end, the two sides
proved nearly equal. Among those who chose to remain were not a few of
the very very excellent Cossacks.[37] All off them had seen war and
campaigns; had sailed to the Anatolian coasts, traversed the Crimean
salt-marshes and steppes, knew all the rivers and streams that flow
into the Dnieper, all the banks and islands of that river; had been
in Moldavia, "Wallachia, and Turkey; had crossed the Black Sea in
all directions in their two-helmed Cossack boats--fifty such boats
in ranks had attacked the richest and the tallest ships; had sent to
the bottom of the sea not a few Turkish galleys, and had fired away
much, very much powder in their lives; more than once had they torn
to rags costly stuffs and silks to wrap up their feet; more than once
had their pockets been full of bright sequins. And it would have been
impossible to reckon how much property, which would have lasted others
for a whole life, each of them had spent in feasting and drinking.
They had spent it all like righteous Cossacks, treating every one and
hiring musicians, in order that every one around them might enjoy
himself. Even now, there were but few of them who had not treasure
hidden underground; cups, silver goblets, and ornaments hidden in the
reeds on the islands of the Dnieper, in order that the Tartars should
not discover them, if by mischance they should fall upon the Ssiecha
unawares; but it was scarcely possible that the Tartars could have
found them, for even the owners had begun to forget where they had
hidden them.

Such were the Cossacks who resolved to remain, and take their revenge
on the Poles for the sake of their beloved comrades and the Christian
faith. The old Cossack Bovdug resolved also to abide with them, saying
"My years are no longer those in which I could give chase to the
Tartars; here is the place where I may find a Cossack's death. For a
long time I have prayed God, that I might, when I close my life, end it
in war for some holy and Christian reason. Thus it now happens; the old
Cossack could not find a more glorious end, or in a more fitting place."

When all were separated and stood in two rows, in koorens on both
sides, the Koschevoï went through the ranks and said, "Well now,
gentlemen brothers, is one side pleased with the other?"

"All are pleased, father," answered the Cossacks.

"Well then, embrace one another, and give one another a farewell shake
of the hand, for Heaven knows if we are to meet again in this life.
Obey your Ataman, do what you know must be done; you know yourselves
what a Cossack's honour bids you to do!"

And all the Cossacks, as many as were there, embraced one another.
First of all began the atamans, and wiping their gray mustachios with
their hands, kissed one another's cheeks, and then as they took one
another's hands and held them tight, they wished to ask, "Gentleman
brother, shall we ever meet again, or shall we not?" However, they
put not the question, but kept silence, and both gray heads remained
thoughtful. The Cossacks, too, bade farewell to one another, well
knowing that both sides would have hard work; still they decided not
to separate at once, but to await the darkness of night, in order that
the foe should not perceive the diminution of their forces. They all
repaired to their koorens for dinner. After dinner, those who had to
go on march laid themselves down for repose, and had a long sound
sleep, as if conscious that this would perhaps be their last sleep in
such freedom. They slept till the sun set; as it went down and darkness
came on, they began to put their carts in order. This done, they made
them advance, and themselves bidding once more farewell to their
comrades, slowly followed; behind the infantry tramped the cavalry in
silence, without crying to their horses or urging them on, and soon,
nothing could be seen of them in the darkness of the night. The hollow
trampling of the horses alone resounded, and at times was heard the
creaking of some wheel, which had not been properly greased on account
of the darkness.

The comrades who were left behind, stood a long time waving their
hands to them, although nothing could be seen. But when they ceased at
last, and came back to their places, when they saw by the light of the
stars, which now shone brightly, that half the waggons were gone, and
that many, many friends were there no longer, sorrow crept into their
hearts, and all became thoughtful and bent down their heads.

Tarass saw how mournful the ranks of the Cossacks had become, and
that sadness, unbecoming to brave men, had found its way into the
heads of the Cossacks; but he kept silence, wishing to leave time for
everything, time to grieve over their parting with their comrades;
but while silent, he prepared himself to awaken them all at once by
suddenly speaking to them like a Cossack, so that courage might again
and with still greater power return to their hearts. The Slavonic race,
that wide spreading, that mighty race, is the only one capable of
this--a race which, is to others what the sea is to shallow rivulets;
when the weather is tempestuous it roars and thunders, rises in
mountain-like waves, such as feeble streams can never exhibit; but when
there is no storm and all is quiet, it spreads out its immeasurable
glassy expanse, clearer than any stream, and soothing to the sight of
the beholder.

Tar ass ordered one of his servants to unload one of the carts which
stood apart. This cart was the biggest and the strongest in the whole
Cossack camp; a double iron hoop encircled its strong wheels; it
was heavily loaded, covered with horse-cloths, strong ox-hides, and
corded with tarred ropes. It was filled with casks and barrels of
old wine which had long lain in Tarass's cellars. He had brought it
in preparation for any solemn occasion, when some great event might
occur, when some mighty feat, worthy to be recorded for posterity,
should be at hand; that then every Cossack, to the very least, might
drink some of the precious wine, in order that in a solemn moment, a
deep impression might be made on every man. On hearing the colonel's
command, his servants rushed to the cart, severed the ropes with their
sabres, tore away the thick ox-hides and horse-cloths, and took down
the casks and barrels.

"Take, all of you," said Boolba, "all, as many as are here, whatever
every one has got; a cup, or the scoop with which you water your
horses, or a gauntlet, or a cap--or if you have none of these, why
then, hold out the hollow of your hands."

And all the Cossacks, as many as were there, took some of them cups,
others scoops with which they gave drink to their horses, others
gauntlets, or caps, and some held out the hollow of their hands. To
every one of them did the servants of Tarass, as they passed through
their ranks, pour out wine from the casks and barrels. But Tarass
ordered that none should drink till he gave the signal, in order that
all might drink at the same time. One could see that he was about to
speak. Tarass knew, excellent as the good old wine might be of itself,
and well adapted to raise a man's spirits, that when a well-suited
harangue should be joined to its effect, double would be the strength
both of wine and of courage.

"I treat you now, gentlemen brothers," so spoke Tarass, "not to
celebrate my being elected by you as your ataman, however great that
honour be, not to solemnize our parting with our comrades; another time
would better suit for both matters. But now we have another more solemn
occasion before us. A deed of much labour, of great Cossack valour,
now awaits us! So let us drink together, comrades, let us drink first
to the holy faith, that the time may at last come when everywhere over
the whole world one holy faith may be diffused, and all misbelievers,
as many as they are, may become Christians! Let us drink together also
to the Ssiecha, that it may long stand for the destruction of all
unbelievers, that every year it may send forth warriors, each stronger
and better than their predecessors! Let us drink also to our own
renown, that our grandchildren, and the sons of those grandchildren,
may say that there once were those who did not betray comradeship
and did not leave their brothers in need! So to the faith, gentlemen
brothers, to the faith!"

"To the faith!" shouted the deep voices of those whose ranks stood
nearest. "To the faith!" joined in the more remote, and every one of
them, old and young, drank to the faith.

"To the Ssiecha!" said Tarass, and lifted his arm high above his head.

"To the Ssiecha!" deeply resounded amidst the foremost ranks. "To the
Ssiecha!" slowly said the old ones, twitching their gray mustachios;
and excited, like young hawks fluttering their wings, the young
Cossacks shouted, "To the Ssiecha!" And far away the field resounded
with the shouts of the Cossacks, "To the Ssiecha!"

"And now, a last dram, comrades: To renown and to all Christians in the
world!" And all the Cossacks there present drained the last drop to
renown, and to all the Christians who are spread all over the world.
And long amidst all the ranks, among the koorens, resounded the words,
"To all Christians, all over the world!"

The cups were already empty, and still the Cossacks remained standing
with uplifted arms; gay were the glances of all eyes, glistening with
wine, but profound were their thoughts. They thought not of booty or
profit, they thought not of the ducats they might succeed in taking,
or of the costly arms, rich dresses, and Circassian steeds. They were
thoughtful as eagles sitting on the crests of rocky cliffs, steep and
high, from which may be seen the far-expanding sea, all covered with
galleys and ships like so many small birds, and bordered by narrow
scarcely visible coasts, with towns no bigger than flies, and woods as
diminutive as grass. Like eagles did the Cossacks cast their glances
over the field, foreboding their fate which darkened far away before
them. Thus indeed shall it be! The field shall be strewn with their
whitening bones, it shall be richly bathed in their Cossack blood;
and broken chariots, broken swords, and spears, shall be scattered
all over it; from a long distance off shall be seen mouldering
crown-tufted heads with curling and gore-clotted locks, and downward
twisted mustachios; and eagles swooping down from the skies shall tear
out and feast on their cossack eyes! But great also is the boon of
such a widely and freely-scattered repose in death! No feat of valour
shall perish, and the Cossack's fame shall no more be cast away than
the grain of powder on the gun-lock. The time shall come when some
bard with gray beard flowing down on his breast, or peradventure some
white-haired man, old in years but full of manly vigour, shall with
soothsaying words tell of them with mighty utterance. And all over the
world shall their renown extend, and even those who are yet unborn
shall speak of them. For widely does the mightily-uttered word spread,
like the resonance of bell-metal into which the founder has thrown much
pure and precious silver, that its solemn tone may echo far away in
city and hamlet, palace and hovel, summoning all equally to holy prayer.



IX.


Nobody in the town knew that one-half of the Zaporoghians had gone in
pursuit of the Tartars. The sentries on the tower of the town hall
had indeed noticed that part of the waggons had been drawn behind the
forest, but they thought that the Cossacks had prepared an ambuscade:
the French engineer was of the same opinion. Meanwhile, the words of
the Ivoschevoï proved true, and victuals began to be scarce in the
town. As was usual in old times, they had not calculated the number
of troops and the allowance to be made to them. A sally was tried,
but one-half of the daring fellows were killed on the spot by the
Cossacks, and the other was driven back into the town with no result.
The Jews however, profited by this sally, and ferreted out everything,
whither and wherefore the Zaporoghians were gone, and with which of
the chiefs, also which of the koorens, in what number, and how many
were left behind, and what they intended to do; in a word, some minutes
had hardly elapsed when everything was known in the town. The colonels
took courage, and prepared to give battle. Tarass perceived this by
the movement and noise in the town, and, accordingly, busily occupied
himself in forming the troops and giving orders; he divided the koorens
into three encampments, which he surrounded with waggons by way of
fortification, a mode of entrenchment in which the Zaporoghians were
never conquered. He sent two koorens into ambuscade, ordered sharp
stakes, broken weapons, and stumps of spears to be scattered over part
of the field, intending to drive the enemy's cavalry to that locality
when the opportunity should present itself. And when all his orders had
been executed, he harangued the Cossacks, not in order to encourage
them, or to heighten their spirits, for he knew them to be spirited
enough, but simply because he wished to say what weighed on his own
heart.

"I wish to tell you, gentlemen, what our comradeship is. You have heard
from your fathers and grandfathers how highly esteemed our country
has been, how it caused itself to be honoured by the Greeks, how the
city of the Caesars[38] paid ducats to it, how rich its towns were,
how beautiful its churches, what men were its sovereigns--sovereigns
of Russian pedigree, its own bosom sovereigns, and no Popish heretics.
All this have the misbelievers destroyed; everything have they laid
waste. We remained orphans, and our country like ourselves has been
bereft too, like a widow after the loss of a mighty husband! This was
the time, comrades, when we held out our hands to one another to be
brothers! This is the foundation of our brotherhood! No ties are more
holy than those of comradeship. The father loves his child, the mother
loves her child, the child loves its father and mother; but this is no
wonder. The brute loves its cub, too! but man alone can make to himself
relations by the relationship of the heart, without that of blood!
There have been comrades in other countries, but such comrades as are
in our Russian country, such, I say, have never existed elsewhere. More
than one of you have been dragged away into foreign countries; there,
too, you have seen men! They also are God's creatures; with them also
did you speak as with your own countrymen; but when you had to tell
them what you felt in the inmost recesses of your hearts, then you
saw the difference! Clever men are they, but not like our countrymen!
men, also, but not like us! No, brothers, to love as a Russian heart
loves--not to love with your mind, or anything else, but to love with
all that God has given us, with all your being, with all, all," said
Tarass; and he waved his arm, and shook his gray head, and jerked his
mustachios, and then went on: "To love in such a manner, nobody but
Russians can love. I know that baseness has found its way into our
country; many think only about having heaps of corn and hay, herds of
horses, and of preserving untouched in their cellars their sealed casks
of mead; many ape the devil knows what customs of misbelievers, and are
ashamed of their native speech, they avoid meeting their countrymen,
they sell them, as one sells brutes in the market. Higher than any
brotherhood do they value the favour of a foreign king, no, not merely
of a king, but even the base favour of a Polish magnate, who tramples
on their faces with his yellow boots. But yet the basest of them, be he
base as man can be, be he all besmeared with dirt and flattery, even
he, brothers, has some grain of Russian feeling in his breast; he will
wake up at some time, and the poor fellow will wring his hands, he
will tear his hair and curse his base life, and be ready by torments
of every description to redeem it. Let every one of them know what
comradeship means in our Russian country. If it has come to that point,
that we must die, well then, let us die as none of them may ever die!
no, not one! their mouse-like nature would not dare to confront such
death!"

Thus spoke the ataman, and as he ended his speech, he still shook his
head, grown silver-gray in Cossack feats; strongly did the speech
impress all who stood there, and straight to their hearts did it go;
even the oldest stood motionless in their ranks, their gray heads bent
down towards the ground, and a tear slowly rolled from their old eyes;
slowly did they brush it away with their sleeves, and then all, as with
one accord, waved their hands at once and shook their heads.

Old Tarass, it would seem, had struck upon many recollections of those
best feelings which throng into the hearts of men whose spirits have
been tried by sorrow, by hard labour, by valour, and by every possible
misfortune; or of men, who, if even unacquainted with hardships,
anticipate them in their pure pearl-like souls, and afford promise of
perpetual joy to the old parents who gave them life.

Meanwhile, the enemy's army was already emerging from the town,
drums were beating, trumpets sounding, and the officers, surrounded
by numberless servants, were already riding out of the gate, their
hands haughtily resting on their hips. The stout colonel was giving
his orders. Now, they briskly attacked the Cossacks' encampment,
threatening, aiming their guns, rolling their eyes, and glittering in
their brass armour. As soon as the Cossacks saw they had come within
gunshot, they sent all at once a volley of bullets, and without any
interruption poured forth shot after shot from their long barrelled
guns. Far away, in all the surrounding fields and pastures, did the
thundering crash resound, forming a continuous roar; smoke spread over
all the field, and the Zaporoghians went on firing without ever pausing
to take breath; the rear-ranks did nothing but load the guns, which
they passed to the foremost ranks; and the enemy marvelled, and could
not understand how the Cossacks managed to shoot without loading their
guns. Already the denseness of the smoke prevented them from seeing how
one here, another there, fell in the ranks; but the Poles felt that the
volleys of bullets were thick, and that the fight would prove serious;
and as they drew back to get out of the smoke, and looked at their
ranks, many were those whom they found missing; while the Cossacks had
not lost more than some two or three men out of every hundred. And
still the Cossacks went on firing, giving not a moment of respite. Even
the foreign engineer marvelled at their tactics, which he had never
witnessed before, and said, before all who stood near him, "They are
clever fellows, these Zaporoghians! that is a way of fighting which
ought to be followed in other countries!" and he advised that no time
should be lost in turning the cannon against their encampment. Heavy
was the roar of the wide-throated iron guns; far did the ground tremble
and resound; and smoke, still more dense, spread over all the field.
In the squares and streets of cities far and near, could the smell of
powder be perceived. But the gunners had taken their aim at too great
an elevation, and too high did the red-hot balls fly; after giving a
fearful whizz in the air, they flew over the heads of the Zaporoghians
and buried themselves deep in the ground, tearing up and tossing the
black earth high in the air. The French engineer tore his hair at
seeing such want of skill, and began to point the cannons himself,
without taking heed of the Cossacks' bullets, which flew unceasingly.
Tarass saw at once that evil was in store for two of the koorens, and
shouted at the top of his voice: "Quickly away out of the camp, and
on horseback every one of you!" But hardly would the Cossacks have had
the time to do either, had not Ostap rushed into the very midst of the
enemy; he tore the matches out of the hands of six of the gunners, but
he failed to do the same to the remaining four, being driven back by
the Poles. Meanwhile, the French engineer took the match with his own
hand, to fire the biggest of the cannons, the like of which none of the
Cossacks had ever seen before. Fearfully did its wide mouth gape, and a
thousand deaths seemed to look out of it. And as it went off, and the
three others followed it, while the dull resounding ground re-echoed
their roar--much harm did they accomplish! More than one Cossack shall
be bewailed by his old mother, who shall beat her withered bosom with
her bony hands; more than one woman shall be widowed in Glookhov,
Nemeerov, Chernigov, and other towns! Poor widows will every day run to
the market, stop every passer-by, to have a peep at his face, to see if
he be not the one dearest above all; but many Cossacks shall pass the
city, and yet the one dearest above all, shall not be among them.

Half of the Nezamaikovskoï kooren seemed never to have been there! As
hail strikes down a whole corn field, where every ear is heavy as a
full weighing ducat, so were they stricken down and laid on the ground.

How infuriate grew the Cossacks! how all of them rushed forward! how
did the blood boil in the heart of Ivookoobenko, the koorennoï ataman,
when he saw that the best part of his kooren was no more! He took
the remainder of his Cossacks, threw himself with them into the very
midst of the battle; in his fury, hacked to pieces the first whom he
reached, threw many off their horses, spearing both riders and horses,
cut his way to the gunners, and had already taken one of the guns--but
there he beholds the ataman of the Omanskoï kooren busily engaged
about the cannons, and that Stephen Gooska has already taken the big
one. Kookoobenko left them to do their business there, and led his
Cossacks into another crowd of enemies; wherever the Nezamaikovskoï
kooren has passed, a street is opened there, wherever they have turned
there is a lane![39] Everywhere the ranks of the foe were seen to grow
thinner, and Poles were seen falling like sheaves of corn! Next to the
waggons fought Vovtoozenko; in front of them Cherivichenko; farther off
Degtiarenko, and still farther, the koorennoï Vertykhoist. Two officers
had Degtiarenko picked up on his spear, a third proved to be more
obstinate. Stalwart and strong was the Polish officer, rich was his
armour, and no fewer than fifty servants had he brought in his train.
Strongly did he attack Degtiarenko; he had already brought him down on
the ground, and brandishing his sword over his head, crying: "None of
you, Cossack dogs, no, not one, will ever dare to confront me!"

"Not so, there are some left still," said Mossy Sheelo, stepping
forward. A strong Cossack was he; more than once had he been ataman in
sea campaigns, and many had been the sufferings he had endured. He had
been made prisoner by the Turks near Trebizond, and all his Cossacks
had been brought prisoners on the Turkish galleys, with their hands
and feet fettered in iron chains; whole weeks they had had no millet
for food, and nothing but disgusting sea-water for drink. All this
had the poor prisoners endured rather than forfeit the faith of their
fathers. Not so their ataman, Mossy Sheelo; he trampled the holy faith
under foot, put the accursed turban on his sinful head, acquired the
confidence of the Pacha, was made gaoler in the galley, and overseer of
the prisoners. Greatly were the poor prisoners aggrieved by this; for
they knew that no tyranny can be heavier and more bitter than that of
a man who has betrayed his faith and passed over to the persecutors.
So it proved; Mossy Sheelo put them all into new triple chains, bound
them with hard ropes, which cut through to their white bones. At his
hands every one of them received strokes and blows. But when the Turks,
glad to have acquired so good a servant, and unmindful of their law,
all got drunk, Sheelo brought all the sixty-four keys, and gave them
to the prisoners that they might unlock their fetters, throw them into
the sea, and take in their stead sabres, with which to cut the Turks
in pieces. Much booty did the Cossacks take then, with glory did they
return home, and long afterwards did the musicians sing the praises
of Mossy Sheelo. He might have been elected Koschevoï, but he was a
strange Cossack; at one time he did such deeds as the wisest could
never have planned, at others, he seemed possessed by madness. So he
spent everything in drinking and feasting, went in debt to every one
in the Ssiecha, and at last betook himself to robbing; one night he
stole from another kooren a complete Cossack's equipment, and pawned it
to the brandy-shop. For so base a deed he was tied to the pillory in
the market, and a bludgeon placed beside him, in order that every one,
according to his strength, might give him a blow; but not one was found
among the Zaporoghians to raise the bludgeon against him, so highly did
they value his past services. Such was the Cossack Mossy Sheelo.

"Yes, there are still some to beat you dogs!" exclaimed he, attacking
the officer. Then how they fought! Both had their breastplates and
shoulder-pieces bent by the weight of their blows. The cursed Pole cut
through his foe's coat of mail, and his blade penetrated to the very
flesh; the Cossack's mail-coat was reddened with blood, but Sheelo paid
no attention to it; down went his sinewy arm (heavy was that mighty
arm!), and its blow stunned his foe, and Sheelo went on hacking and
hewing to pieces his insensible foe. "Do not hack him thus, Cossack;
'twere better to turn round!" The Cossack did not turn round, and on
the spot one of the dead officer's servants plunged his knife into
Sheelo's throat. Sheelo turned, and would have caught his murderer, but
he was already lost in the smoke. From every quarter the guns were now
firing. Sheelo staggered, and felt that his wound was mortal; he fell
on the ground, put his hand on his wound, and turning to his comrades,
said: "Fare ye well, gentlemen brother-comrades! May the orthodox
Russian country for ever last, and may its glory endure for ever!" And
he closed his weakened eyes, and away flew the Cossack's soul out of
his hard body. Meantime Zadorojni led his Cossacks into the fight;
the koorennoï ataman Vertykhoist was breaking the enemy's ranks, and
Balaban was advancing.

"How now, gentlemen!" said Tarass, summoning the atamans of the
koorens, "is there still powder in the horns? is not the Cossack's
strength yet faint? do not the Cossacks give way?"

"There is still powder in the horns, father; the Cossacks' strength is
not yet faint; the Cossacks do not yet give way."

Vigorously did the Cossacks attack; they broke through all the ranks.
The diminutive colonel ordered the retreat to be beaten, and eight
coloured standards to be hoisted, in order to gather together the Poles
dispersed far away over all the field. The Poles rushed towards the
standards; but they had not time to rally before Kookoobenko again
fell into their very centre with the Cossacks of his kooren, and went
straight at the stout colonel; the colonel could not stand his attack,
turned his horse and fled at its utmost speed; and Kookoobenko chased
him over all the field, giving him no time to join his regiment. Seeing
this from one of the koorens on the flank, Stephen Gooska joined in the
pursuit, his arkan in hand, his head bent down to his horse's neck, and
choosing his time, threw the arkan suddenly round the colonel's throat;
deep red grew the colonel's face, with both hands he seized the cord,
endeavouring to break it; but a strong blow had already sent a spear
through his body, and there he remained nailed to the spot. But Gooska,
too, must meet his fate! Hardly had the Cossacks had time to look back,
when they saw Stephen Gooska pierced with four spears. The poor fellow
had only time to say: "Let all our enemies perish, and may the Russian
land exult for ever!" when he breathed his last. The Cossacks looked
back, and there, on the one side is Metelitza, treating the Poles with
blows, first one and then another; there, on the other side, the ataman
Revelichki falls on with his kooren; there, near the waggons, the foe
is driven back and beaten down by Zakrootygooba; and farther off, the
third Pissarenko has put to flight a whole crowd; and still farther,
round the remotest waggons, the fight is still hotter, and they fight
on the very waggons.

"Gentlemen," cried the Ataman Tarass, riding in front, "is there still
powder in the horns? is the Cossack's strength still strong? have not
the Cossacks already given way?"

"There is still powder in the horns, father! still is the Cossack's
strength entire, nor have the Cossacks yet given way!"

Bovdug fell down from his waggon; a bullet had struck him just beneath
his heart; but the old man gathered up his strength and said, "I do not
regret leaving the world; may God grant such a death to you all; and
to the last may the Russian land be glorious!" and Bovdug's soul flew
up to heaven to tell old men, long since departed, that Russians know
how to fight, and still better, that Russians know how to die for their
holy faith!

Soon after him, the koorennoï ataman Balaban fell also. Three deadly
wounds from spear, from bullet, and from sabre, had fallen to his lot.
He had been one of the bravest Cossacks; many times had he led the
Cossacks over sea; but most glorious of all had been his campaign to
the Anatolian coast. Many sequins had they then taken, much costly
Turkish goods, stuffs, and ornaments. But grief was in store for them
on their return; they fell in, poor fellows, with Turkish cannon. As
the ship fired her broadside, half of their boats went wheeling round
and upset, and many Cossacks were drowned in the sea; but the boats did
not sink, thanks to the bundles of reeds tied to their edges. Balaban
fled at the utmost speed of his oars, took his stand straight under the
sun, so as not to be seen by the Turkish ship. All night long after
this did the Cossacks bale out the water from the boats with their
scoops and caps, and mend the rent planks; of their Cossack trowsers
they made sails, caught the wind, and escaped from the swiftest of all
the Turkish ships. And not only did they safely return to the Ssiecha,
but brought a gold embroidered dress to the abbot of the monastery of
Kieff, and a plate of pure silver for the church of the Ssiecha. And
long afterwards was the Cossacks' feat the theme of the musician's
praises. But Balaban bent down his head, and feeling the approach
of death, slowly said, "It seems to me, gentlemen brothers, that my
death is a good death! Seven have I cut down with my sword, nine have
I pierced with my spear, many have I trampled under my steed's feet,
and so many have I hit with my bullets, that I cannot recollect their
number. So then, may the Russian land flourish for ever!" and away his
soul took its flight.

Cossacks, Cossacks! do not let the best flower of your army be taken
from you! Already is Kookoobenko surrounded; already seven men are all
that remain of the Nezamaikovskoï kooren, already they are nearly
overpowered, and bloody are Kookoobenko's garments! Tarass himself,
seeing his danger, hastened to his rescue. But the Cossacks were too
late; a spear had already gone deep beneath his heart, before the foes
who surrounded him were driven away. Slowly he drooped on the Cossacks
who caught him in their arms, and his young blood streamed forth,
like costly wine which careless servants bringing in a crystal flask
from the cellar, and slipping at the entrance, have spilled on the
ground; the precious flask is broken to pieces, the wine flows over the
floor, and the master comes running and tearing his hair; he who had
preserved that wine for the best occasion of his life, in order that
if in his old days he ever happened to meet a comrade of his youth, he
might remember with him bygone times, when different and better were
the joys of men! Kookoobenko looked around him, and said, "Thank God,
comrades, that I happen to die beneath your eyes! May those after us
live better than we have done, and may everlasting felicity be the lot
of the Christ-beloved Russian land!" And away flew the young soul.
Angels raised it in their hands, and carried it to Heaven. "Sit down on
my right hand, Kookoobenko," will Christ say to him, "thou didst not
betray thy comrades, didst no dishonest deed, didst not forsake a man
in distress, and didst preserve and defend my faith!"

All were grieved by Kookoobenko's death; thinner and thinner grew the
Cossacks' ranks, yet still they kept their ground.

"How now, gentlemen?" cried Tarass to the remaining koorens, "is there
still powder in the horns? are not the sabres grown blunt? is not the
Cossack's strength tired? are not the Cossacks giving way?"

"There is still powder enough, father! the sabres are still good! the
Cossacks' strength fails not, nor have they given way!"

And again the Cossacks rushed on, as if they had sustained no loss. Of
the koorennoï atamans, three alone remained alive. Crimson streams of
blood flowed in every direction, and the corpses of Cossacks and foes
were piled in heaps. Tarass looked up to the sky, and behold, long
lines of birds of prey were already there! A glorious feast will be
theirs!

And now, behold, Metelitza is pierced by a spear! and there falls the
head of the second Pissarenko, rolling and quivering its eyelids; there
falls heavily Okhrim Gooska, brought down and hewn into four pieces.
"'Tis well!" said Tarass, and waved his handkerchief. Ostap understood
the signal, and darting out of his ambuscade, furiously attacked the
cavalry. The Poles could not withstand his impetuous attack, gave way;
and were driven straight towards the spot where the ground was strewn
with broken spears and stakes. The horses stumbled and fell at every
step, and their riders were thrown over their heads. Just then, the
Korsoonskoï kooren which stood behind the remotest waggons, seeing the
enemy within gunshot, sent them a volley of musketry.

The Poles lost all presence of mind--the Cossacks regained courage.
"The victory is ours!" shouted the Zaporoghians on all sides; the
trumpets sounded; the victory banner was hoisted. Everywhere the
discomfited Poles were to be seen flying and concealing themselves.
"_Not_ yet! the victory is not yet ours!" said Tarass, looking towards
the town gate; and truly did he say so. The gate was thrown open, and
out flew the hussar regiment, the choicest of all the Polish cavalry.
All the riders were mounted on chestnut steeds, all equally fine. In
front rode a knight, the finest and most spirited of them all; black
curls waved from beneath his brass helmet; a costly scarf, embroidered
by the fairest beauty, fluttered round his arm. Tarass was astounded
at recognising in him Andrew! Meanwhile, Andrew, entirely given up to
the heat and excitement of the battle, and fervently anxious to deserve
the token tied upon his arm, flew like a young greyhound, the finest,
swiftest, and youngest of all the pack; the experienced huntsman has
hallooed to, and there it flies, its legs stretched in a straight line
through the air, its body drawn a little on one side, puffing up the
snow, and in the heat of its race, ten times outstripping the hare.
Old Tarass remained standing and watching how he cleared his way,
drove back those before him, cutting and hewing on each side. Tarass
could refrain no longer, and exclaimed, "How? thine own comrades? thy
brothers? devil's son, dost thou hew them?" But Andrew saw not who
was before him, whether his comrades or others. He saw nothing but
ringlets, long, long ringlets, a bosom white as a swan's, a snow-like
neck and shoulders, and all that is created for frantic kisses.

"Children! lure him to the wood, lure him towards me!" shouted Tarass.
Immediately some thirty Cossacks started for the purpose. Pulling their
tall caps over their brows, they rode at the utmost speed of their
horses to cut their way to the hussars. They attacked the foremost
in flank, confused their ranks, cut them off from those behind, and
wounded some of them; Golokopytenko struck Andrew on the back with his
sabre, and then, all betook themselves to flight at the utmost speed
of their horses. How incensed was Andrew! how intensely did his young
blood boil in all his veins! Striking his sharp spurs into the sides
of his horse, he set off at full speed in pursuit of the Cossacks,
without looking back, and without seeing that not more than twenty men
followed him; the Cossacks continued to ride at full gallop, and turned
straight towards the wood. Andrew had already reached Golokopytenko,
when a strong arm seized his bridle. Andrew turned round; Tarass stood
before him! A shudder ran through all his body and he turned pale.
Like a schoolboy, who, after having unwittingly offended his comrade,
and received a stroke on the head with his ruler, fires up at once,
furiously rushes from his bench, darts after his terrified comrade,
wishes to tear him to pieces, then suddenly encounters the master,
entering the schoolroom; at once the frantic impulse is calmed, and the
powerless fury vanishes. Even so, in one instant did Andrew's wrath
vanish, as if he had never felt it. And he saw before him nothing but
the terrific figure of his father.

"Well, what are we to do now?" said Tarass, looking him full in the
face. But Andrew could find nothing to answer, and remained with his
eyes cast down upon the ground.

"Well, son, of what avail were thy Poles to thee?"

Andrew continued speechless.

"To betray--to betray thy faith? to betray thy brothers? Well, dismount
from thy horse!"

Obedient as a child, he dismounted, and, unconscious of what he did,
remained standing before Tarass.

"Stand, and do not move! I gave thee life: I kill thee!" said Tarass;
and, falling back a step, he took his gun from his shoulder. Andrew was
deadly pale; his lips moved slowly, muttering some name; but it was
not the name of his country, nor that of his mother or brother: it was
the name of the beautiful Polish girl. Tarass fired. As an ear of corn
cut down by the sickle--as a young lamb when it feels the deadly steel
beneath its heart, so did he droop his head, and fell on the grass
without uttering a word.

The slayer of his son stood and gazed long upon the breathless corpse.
Even in death he was still beautiful; his manly face, but a minute
before full of power and fascination, irresistible for women, still
showed marvellous beauty; his black eyebrows seemed, like mourning
velvet, to heighten the pallor of his features. "What a Cossack he
might have been!" said Tarass; "so tall his stature, so black his
eyebrows, with the countenance of a gentleman, and an arm strong in
battle. He perished, and perished ignominiously, like a vile dog!"

"Father! what hast thou done? Didst thou kill him?" cried Ostap, who
had ridden to the spot by this time.

Tarass nodded his head.

Ostap looked steadfastly into the eyes of the dead. He pitied the fate
of his brother, and said, "Well, father, let us bury him decently, that
the foe may not insult his corpse, and that it may not be torn to
pieces by birds of prey."

"Others will bury him without us," answered Tarass. "There will be
mourners and waiters enough!"

For a few seconds he considered: was the corpse to be left a prey to
wolves, or was it to be spared on account of Andrew's knightly valour,
which the brave should ever respect, it signifies not in whom it may be
found? But see! there comes Golokopytenko galloping towards him. "Woe
to us, Ataman! the Poles grow stronger; new reinforcements have come to
them."

Hardly had Golokopytenko done speaking, when Yovtoozenko came riding
up, at full speed. "Woe to us, Ataman! new forces come unceasingly!"
Hardly had Vovtoozenko done speaking, when Pissarenko runs up on foot.
"Where art thou, father? the Cossacks are seeking for thee. Already
is the koorennoï ataman Nevelichki killed; Zadorojni is killed;
Cherevichenko killed too! but the Cossacks keep their stand, and will
not die before looking into thy face; they wish that thou shouldst see
them at the hour of death!"

"To horse, Ostap!" said Tarass, and hastened to join the Cossacks, to
behold them once more, and to give them a last sight of their ataman
before death. But they had not yet extricated themselves from the wood,
as it was surrounded by the enemy's forces on all sides; and everywhere
among the trees were riders with sabres and spears. "Ostap, Ostap, do
not yield," cried Tarass, and then he himself, unsheathing hit sabre,
began to deal blows on all sides to those whom he first met with.
Meanwhile, six men had already sprung upon Ostap; but they found it no
lucky moment. The head of one flew off at once; another wheeled round
and turned back; the spear entered the ribs of a third; the fourth,
more daring, threw his head on one side to avoid a bullet. The bullet
entered his steed's breast, the infuriated animal threw itself back,
fell on the ground, and crushed its rider beneath its weight. "Well,
done, my boy; well done, Ostap!" shouted Tarass; "I am coming!" and
then himself repelled the assailants. Tarass fights and deals heavy
blows, first on one, then on the head of another, and all the while
looks forward at Ostap, and now sees that no less than eight are again
attacking him at once. "Ostap! Ostap! do not yield!" But Ostap is
already conquered; already an enemy has thrown the arkan round Ostap's
neck; already is Ostap bound; already is Ostap dragged away. "Ostap,
Ostap!" shouted Tarass, clearing his way towards him, and hewing away
at every one who crossed his path. "Ostap, Ostap!" But at the same
moment he seemed stunned by some heavy stone; everything wheeled and
turned round before his eyes. For a moment things glimmered confusedly
in his sight--heads, spears, smoke, flashes of fire, boughs of trees
with leaves. And down he went on the ground, like an oak hewn at its
root, and a cloud spread over his eyes.



X.


"How long I have slept!" said Tarass, awakening, as if after a heavy
drunken sleep, and endeavouring to make out the surrounding objects.
He felt a fearful weakness in all his limbs. Scarcely could his eyes
follow the outlines of the walls and corners of an unknown room. At
last he recognised Tovkach, who was sitting beside him, and seemed to
watch his every breath.

"Yes," thought Tovkach to himself, "thou hast all but had thy last
sleep!" He, however, said nothing, and held up his finger, to make
Tarass understand that he was to be silent.

"Tell me, where am I now?" asked Tarass, collecting his thoughts, and
endeavouring to bring back his recollection of the past.

"Hold thy tongue," said his comrade, sternly rebuking him. "What
wouldst thou know more? Dost thou not feel that thou art all mangled?
For the last fortnight we have been riding hard with thee, without ever
stopping, and thou all the time with fever and delirium. 'Tis now the
first time that thou hast had a quiet sleep. Hold thy tongue, if thou
wilt not bring woe upon thy head."

But Tarass still endeavoured to gather his thoughts, and to recollect
the past. "But how is it? I was quite taken and surrounded by the
Poles. I had no possibility of cutting my way through the crowd?"

"Hold thy tongue, I tell thee, devil's son!" angrily cried Tovkach,
as a nurse out of temper cries to a naughty child. "Of what use is it
for thee to know _how_ thou didst escape? Thou _hast_ escaped, that's
enough. There were men at hand who did not forsake thee; well, that is
all thou needest know. We have still many nights to ride hard together.
Dost thou think thou art worth no more than a common Cossack? Not so;
they have set a price of two thousand ducats on thy head."

"And what of Ostap?" suddenly cried Tarass, endeavouring to rise,
for he remembered all at once how Ostap had been caught and bound
before his eyes, and how he must now be in the hands of the Poles. And
grief rushed into his old head. He tore the bandages from his wounds,
threw them far away, and wished to say something aloud; but his mind
began to wander. Fever and delirium once more fell on him, and he
ejaculated raving sentences without any sense or connection. Meanwhile
his faithful comrade stood before him, grumbling and uttering without
interruption, scolding words, and gruff reproaches. At last he took
hold of his feet and hands, swaddled him round like a baby, set all the
bandages in order, packed him up in an ox-hide? bound him round with
sheets of bark, and then, tying him with a rope to his saddle, once
more galloped away.

"I'll bring thee home, shouldst thou even die by the way. I will not
let the Poles deride thy Cossack birth, tear thy body to pieces, and
cast them into the river. And if an eagle is to peck thine eyes out
of thy skull, it shall, at all events, be the eagle of our steppes,
and not the Polish eagle--no, not the one that comes from Poland!
Shouldst thou not be alive, it's the same thing. I'll bring thee over
to Ukraine."

Thus spoke the faithful comrade, and riding day and night, without
ever taking repose, he brought the still unconscious Tarass to the
Zaporoghian Ssiecha. There he untiringly treated him with simples
and poultices; he found a knowing Jewess, who, during a whole month,
administered different medicines to Tarass; and at last Tarass
improved. Perhaps the medicines took effect, and perhaps simply his
own iron strength saved him; but in six weeks he was on his feet again,
his wounds healed, and the sabre scars alone showed how deep they had
been. However, he had grown evidently sullen and sorrowful. Three deep
furrows crossed his brow, and never again left it. He looked about
him, all were new in the Ssiecha; the old comrades had all died away.
Not one remained of those who had stood up for the good cause, for
faith and brotherhood. Those who went with the Koschevoï to pursue the
Tartars, they, too, were long since no more--every one had perished,
every one had met his end; some were killed in glorious fight, some
had died in the Crimean salt-marshes of hunger and thirst, some had
pined to death, not being able to endure the shame of captivity; the
Koschevoï was also long ago no more of this world, like all the old
comrades, and the grass was already growing over the bodies of those in
whose veins once boiled the Cossack's valour.

In vain were attempts made to divert and enliven Tarass; in vain
bearded gray-haired bards came in bands of two or three at a time to
sing the praises of his Cossack feats; his features retained a harsh
indifferent expression, and an unquenchable sorrow was seen on them,
as, with his head bent down he murmured in a subdued voice, "My son! My
Ostap!"

The Zaporoghians prepared for a sea campaign. Two hundred boats sailed
down the Dnieper, and Asia Minor saw their shaven and crown-tufted
heads, while they put everything on its blooming coast to fire and
sword; it saw the turbans of its Mahometan inhabitants, like numberless
flowers, strewn about on its fields soaked in blood, or floating near
its shores. It saw not a few tar-besmeared Zaporoghian trowsers, and
sinewy arms with black nagaïkas.[40] The Zaporoghians devoured and
destroyed all the vineyards; left heaps of dirt in the Mosques; used
costly Persian shawls instead of belts, and girded their dirty coats
with them. Long afterwards, were the short Zaporoghian pipes to be
found in these places. The Zaporoghians started gaily on their return;
a ten-gun Turkish brig gave chase to them, and with a volley from its
broadside dispersed their boats like birds; one-third of the Cossacks
were drowned in the deep sea; but the remainder joined once more
together and came into the mouth of the Dnieper, bringing with them
twelve barrels full of sequins.

But all this no longer diverted Tarass. He went into the fields and
into the steppes as if to hunt, but his gun remained unfired, and
with a sorrowful heart he laid it down, and sat by the sea-shore. He
remained there long with drooping head, saying all the time, "My Ostap!
My Ostap!" Bright and wide was the Black Sea before him, the gull
shrieked in the distant reeds, his white mustachios glistened like
silver, and one tear rolled after another.

At last Tarass could bear it no longer: "Happen what will! I'll go and
ascertain what has befallen him. Is he still alive? is he in his tomb?
or is nothing left of him even in his tomb? I'll ascertain it at all
events!"

And a week had hardly passed when he made his appearance in the town
of Ooman, armed from head to foot, on horseback, with spear, with
sabre, with a traveller's cask tied to his saddle, a pot of flour,
cartridge box, horse shackles, and all other travelling implements.
He rode straight towards a dirty cottage whose small smutty windows
could hardly be distinguished, a rug was stuck into the chimney, and
the dilapidated roof was covered with sparrows; a heap of all sorts
of filth lay close to the entrance door. The head of a Jewess, in a
head-dress with tarnished false pearls, was seen looking out of one of
the windows.

"Is thy husband at home?" said Boolba, dismounting, and tying his
horse's bridle to an iron hook beside the door.

"Yes," answered the Jewess, hastily coming out, with a scoop of wheat
for the horse and a cup of beer for the rider.

"Where is thy Jew, then?"

"He is in the further room, praying," said the Jewess, bowing and
wishing health to Boolba, as he carried the cup to his lips.

"Remain here, feed my horse, and give him some drink. I'll go and have
a talk with your husband alone, I have business with him."

The Jew was our acquaintance Yankel. He had become a farmer and
a brandy-shop keeper, had by degrees got into his power all the
neighbouring lords and gentlemen, had by degrees sucked out almost all
the money in the district, and had left strong marks of his Jewish
presence in the country. For three hours' journey all around, no
cottage remained which was not falling into ruins, everything went
wrong, every one looked older, all had become drunkards, and all had
become beggars clad in rags. The whole district seemed to have suffered
from a fire or a plague. And had Yankel remained there but some ten
years longer, the whole voevodship would certainly have undergone the
same fate.

Tarass stepped into the room; the Jew was praying, his head covered
with a tolerably dirty piece of linen, and he had just turned, in order
to spit for the last time, according to the Jewish ritual, when his
eyes suddenly met the figure of Boolba, who stood behind him. The two
thousand ducats offered for Boolba's head rushed at once into the Jew's
remembrance, but he felt ashamed of the thought, and endeavoured to get
the better of this love of gold, which, like a worm, is always twining
itself round every Jew's heart.

"Harkee, Yankel!" said Tarass to the Jew, who began bowing to him, and
warily shut the door behind him, in order that nobody should see them.
"I saved thy life; the Zaporoghians would have torn thee to pieces like
a dog--now thy turn is come, now thou must render me a service!"

The Jew's face expressed some uneasiness: "What service? If it be such
a service as one may render, why not render it?"

"_No_ talking! Take me to Warsaw!"

"To Warsaw? How so, to Warsaw?" said Yankel, with eyebrows and
shoulders elevated in amazement.

"No talking! Take me to Warsaw. Come what will, I must see him once
more! I must say, be it but one word to him."

"One word to whom?"

"To him, to Ostap, to my son!"

"Does not my lord know, then, that"--

"I know it, I know all. They have set a price of two thousand ducats
upon my head. The fools, they did not even know its worth! I'll give
five thousand ducats to thee. Here thou hast two thousand on the spot,"
and Boolba produced from his leathern bag two thousand ducats. "The
rest when I come back."

The Jew took at once a piece of linen and covered the ducats with it.
"Fine coins, these! beautiful coins!" said he, turning a ducat in his
fingers and trying it with his teeth. "Methinks the man from whom my
lord took such fine ducats, did not live an hour more, but just leaped
into the water and drowned himself, after having lost these magnificent
ducats."

"I would not have asked thee--I might perhaps have found my way to
Warsaw by myself; but the cursed Poles may chance to recognise and
seize me; I have no turn for contrivances, and you, Jews, you seem to
have been made for them. You could cheat the devil himself; you know
all kinds of such tricks, and this is the reason why I came to thee.
The more so, as I could do nothing in Warsaw by myself. Go at once, put
the horse to thy cart, and take me."

"And does my lord think there is nothing more to be done than to put
the horse to the cart and cry, 'Gee up,' and away? Does my lord think
that he can be taken just as he is, without concealing his lordship?"

"Well, then, conceal me, conceal me as thou knowest how; put me into an
empty cask, if thou think it best."

"And does my lord think that he can be concealed in an empty cask? Does
my lord not consider that every one will think that there is brandy in
the cask?"

"Well, let them think so!"

"How so--let them think that there is brandy?" said the Jew, pulling
his curls, and then lifting his hands above his head.

"Well, what frightens thee now?"

"And does my lord not know that brandy is made on purpose that every
one may taste it? There are all along the road men fond of dainties and
of drink; there is not one Polish gentleman who would not run for hours
behind the cask, in order to make a hole in it, and if he sees that no
brandy flows out of it, he will directly say, c A Jew would not bring
an empty cask; there must be something in it! Let the Jew be arrested,
let the Jew be bound, let the Jew give up all his money, let the Jew be
thrown into prison!' Because everything disagreeable is done to a Jew,
because every one takes a Jew for nothing better than a dog, because
nobody holds a Jew to be even a man!"

"Well, then, put me into a cart with fish."

"It is impossible, my lord, by Heaven it is; all over Poland men are
now as hungry as dogs; they will steal the fish and discover my lord."

"Well, then, put me anywhere, be it even on the devil's back--only
bring me to Warsaw."

"Hear me, hear me, my lord!" said the Jew, pulling up the cuffs of
his sleeves, and stepping nearer to Boolba, with his arms thrown wide
open: "We will do thus: they are now everywhere building fortresses
and castles; French engineers are come from foreign lands, and for
this reason many bricks and stones are carried along the highways. My
lord may lie down at the bottom of the cart, and I will cover him with
bricks. My lord seems strong and healthy, so he will be able to bear
it, even if it does prove somewhat heavy. And I will make a hole in the
cart from underneath, and will feed my lord through it."

"Do as thou wilt, only get me there."

In an hour's time a cart loaded with bricks and drawn by a pair of
miserable-looking horses, was seen on its way out of Ooman. On the
back of one of the horses rode the tall Yankel, the jolting of his
horse causing his long side-ringlets to wave from beneath his Jewish
skull-cap, and his lanky figure making him look like the signposts
which stood by the way-side.



XI.


At the time when the events which are now described took place, there
were no custom officers or horse patrols on the frontiers--so that
men of enterprising spirit had nothing to dread, and every one could
bring with him what he chose. Even if anybody happened to search the
travellers, or to inspect their luggage, he did so chiefly for his own
pleasure, particularly when some part of the luggage had attractions
for his eyes, and when his own arm was strong and heavy.

But the sight of bricks had attractions for none, and they passed
without impediment through the great town-gate. Boolba in his narrow
place of concealment could hear nothing but the noise and shouts of the
coachmen. Yankel, bumping up and down on his diminutive dust-covered
steed, after many turnings, went at last into a dark narrow lane, which
was called the Dirty or Jewish street, because in fact it was inhabited
by all the Jews of Warsaw. This lane was very much like a back yard
turned inside out. The sun never seemed to come there. Wooden houses,
quite black from age, with a number of poles sticking out of the
windows, made the lane look still darker. At rare intervals, red brick
walls might be observed here and there, but even they in many places
had turned quite black. Still more rarely did a portion of some high
plastered wall glimmer in the sun with a white gleam intolerable to
the eyes. Everything here bore the most striking appearance--chimneys,
rags, scales, broken tubs. Every one threw into the street whatever was
of no use to him, and the passers-by had every opportunity of finding
employment for all their senses in the midst of this rubbish. The rider
on his horse could often almost reach with his hand the poles which
stuck across the street from one house to the other, and on which hung
Jewish stockings, short trowsers, or a smoked goose. At times might
be seen at some decayed window the face of a pretty Jewess, her head
adorned with discoloured false pearls; a crowd of curly-headed Jewish
boys, dirty and ragged, screamed and rolled in the mud. A redhaired
Jew, with a face all covered with freckles, which made it resemble a
sparrow's egg, looked out of a window, and began at once to talk with
Yankel in his unintelligible gibberish, and Yankel presently drove into
a yard. Another Jew going along the street, stopped and also entered
into the conversation, and when Boolba at last crawled from under the
bricks, he saw three Jews who were talking with great vehemence.

Yankel addressed him, saying that everything should be done, that his
Ostap was now lying in prison, and that, though it would be difficult
to prevail upon the sentries, yet he hoped to obtain an interview for
him.

Boolba entered the room together with the three Jews. They began again
to speak in their unintelligible language. Tarass looked by turns at
each of them. He seemed to labour under some strong excitement; his
hard indifferent features seemed to light up with some unusual flame
of hope, of that hope which sometimes enters the heart of him who is
reduced to the lowest degree of despair. His old heart beat high, like
that of a young man.

"Hear me, Jews!" said he, and his voice had something enthusiastic in
it, "you can do everything, you can find anything, be it from under
the bottom of the sea; and even the proverb has long ago told us that
a Jew can steal his own self, if he only chooses to steal. Set me my
Ostap free! give him the opportunity of escaping from the hands of
these incarnate devils. Here is the man to whom I have promised twelve
thousand ducats--twelve thousand more do I give now; I will give you
all the costly cups, all the gold that I have hidden underground, my
own house, my coat from my back--all do I give unto you; and I will
make a covenant with you for all my life long that you shall have half
of whatever I acquire in war!"

"Oh! impossible, my dear lord! 'tis impossible!" said Yankel, with a
sigh.

"No, no, it is impossible!" said the other Jews.

The three Jews looked at each other.

"Let us, nevertheless, try it," said the third, timorously peering into
the faces of the others; "may be Heaven will help us."

The three Jews again began talking in the Jewish tongue. Boolba in vain
endeavoured to catch the meaning of their speech, he could only hear
the word "Mardokhaï" often repeated, but could make out nothing more.

"Hear me, my lord!" said Yankel; "we must have the advice of a man the
like of whom has never yet been in the world. Oh! oh! he is as wise
as Solomon; and if he can do nothing, nobody on earth can. Stay here!
there's the key, and let none enter."

The Jews went out into the street.

Tarass shut the door, and looked through the window into the dirty
Jewish lane. The three Jews stopped in the very middle of the street,
and began talking with great vehemence. They were soon joined by a
fourth, then by a fifth. Tarass heard them again repeat "Mardokhaï!
Mardokhaï!" The Jews every moment looked towards one end of the
street; at last there was seen emerging from a decayed house a foot
in a Jewish slipper; then came fluttering the skirts of a coat. "Ah,
Mardokhaï, Mardokhaï!" A thin Jew, a little shorter than Yankel, but
with many more wrinkles on his face, with an enormous upper lip, came
near the impatient group; and every one of the Jews hastened to give
him information. During the narrative, Mardokhaï looked repeatedly up
towards the small window, and Tarass guessed that they were speaking
about him. Mardokhaï waved his hands in the most violent manner,
listened to what others said, stopped them in their speech, frequently
spat aside, and lifting up the skirts of his long coat, thrust his hand
into his pocket, and produced from it some rubbish, in doing which he
exposed to view his disgustingly dirty trowsers. At last, all the Jews
got to screaming so loudly that the Jew who stood on the watch had to
give them repeated signals to be quieter, and Tarass began to fear for
his safety; but he was soon tranquillised by the thought that Jews can
nowhere hold their discourse but in the open street, and that the Devil
himself could not understand their gibberish.

About two minutes later all the Jews came up together into his room.
Mardokhaï approached Tarass, gently slapped him on the shoulder, and
said, "If we are willing to do a thing, well then, that thing shall be
done as we wish it to be done."

Tarass looked at the Solomon, the like of whom had never yet been in
the world, and felt some hope. In fact, the appearance of the Jew
was calculated to inspire confidence. His upper lip was of frightful
dimensions, there could be no doubt that its thickness had been
increased by particular reasons. The Solomon's beard boasted no more
than some fifteen hairs, and those were on the left side only. The
Solomon's features bore such numerous traces of blows received for his
tricks, that he certainly had long ceased counting them, and had grown
accustomed to take them for moles.

Mardokhaï left the room with his comrades, who were full of
astonishment at his wisdom. Boolba remained alone, he felt a strange
sensation, till then unknown to him; for the first time in his life
he experienced anxiety. His heart beat feverishly--he was no more the
Boolba of old, undaunted, steady, and strong as an oak; he had grown
pusillanimous, he had grown weak. He shuddered at every noise, at the
sight of every new Jewish figure, making its appearance at the end
of the street. Thus did he feel all the day long, he neither ate nor
drank, and not for one minute did he remove his eyes from the small
window which looked into the street. At last at a late hour in the
evening, came Mardokhaï and Yankel. Tarass felt his heart sink within
him.

"What now? did you succeed?" asked he, with the impatience of a wild
horse.

But even before the Jews had collected their senses to give him
an answer, Tarass noticed that Mardokhaï had no longer his last
temple-lock, which, though dirty, had yet before curled in ringlets
from beneath his cap. It was to be seen that he had something to
communicate, but he talked so incoherently that Tarass could not
understand a word. Yankel, too, was every moment pressing his hand to
his mouth, as if suffering from a bad cold.

"Oh? my dear lord," said Yankel, "now it is impossible; by Heavens,
impossible! The people there are so very bad, that one ought to spit
upon their very heads. Here, I take Mardokhaï to witness: Mardokhaï did
what no man has yet done in this world; but Heaven forbids it to be as
we wish. There are three thousand soldiers Under arms, and to-morrow
the execution is to take place."

Tarass gazed steadfastly into the faces of the Jews; but no anger, no
impatience was any--longer in his look.

"If my lord still wishes to see his son, the interview must take place
to-morrow, early in the morning, before sunrise; the sentries have
given their assent, and one of the officers has agreed to it. But may
they know no happiness in the next world! Woe is me! what grasping
people they are! there are none such, even among us! To every one of
the sentries have I given fifty ducats, and to the officer"--

"Be it so; take me to him;" said Tarass, resolutely, and all his
firmness at once returned to his heart. He assented to Yankel's
proposal of assuming the dress of a German count; the dress being
already brought by the far-seeing Jew.

It was now night. The master of the house--the above-mentioned
red-haired freckly-faced Jew--produced a thin mattress, covered with
a mat, and stretched it for Boolba on a bench. Yankel lay on the
floor on a similar mattress. The redhaired Jew drank a small cup of
some infusion, took off his coat, and, after having presented in his
stockings and slippers an appearance something like that of a chicken,
went with his Jewess into a kind of closet. Two Jewish boys lay down
on the floor near the closet, as if they had been puppies. But Tarass
slept not; he remained motionless, drumming on the table with his
fingers. He had his pipe in his mouth, and puffed away the smoke,
which made the Jew sneeze in his slumbers, and bury his nose under his
coverlet. Scarcely was the sky tinted by the first pale gleam of the
morning dawn, when Tarass pushed Yankel with his foot.

"Up, Jew! give me thy count's dress!"

He was dressed in no time; he blackened his mustachios and eyebrows,
put a small dark-coloured cap on his head--and none of his most
intimate Cossacks could have recognised him. To look at him, he seemed
to be not more than thirty-five years old. The flush of health was
on his cheeks, and even the scars on his face gave an expression of
authority to his features. The dress, adorned with gold, became him
greatly.

The city still slept. No trading chapman, basket in hand, had yet made
his appearance in the town. Boolba and Yankel came to a building which
bore great resemblance to a sitting heron. It was low, wide, bulky,
black; and on one side rose, like a stork's neck, a long narrow turret,
beyond the top of which the roof projected. This building served many
and various purposes. Here were the barracks, the prison, and even the
criminal courts. Our travellers entered the gate, and found themselves
in a large hall, or, rather, in a covered yard. There were nearly a
thousand men sleeping here together. Straight on, was a low door,
before which were sitting two sentries, who were playing at a game
which consisted in one of them slapping the other with two fingers on
the palm of the hand. The sentries paid no attention to the new-comers,
and only turned their heads when Yankel said to them, "It's we, your
worships! you hear, it's we!"

"Go!" said one of the sentries, opening the door with one hand, while
he presented the other to receive the strokes of his comrade.

They stepped into a dark narrow passage, which brought them to another
hall like the first, receiving its light from a small window in the
roof. "Who goes there?" cried several voices at once; and Tarass beheld
a great number of soldiers, armed cap-a-pie. "We cannot let any one
pass."

"It's we!" cried Yank el; "by Heavens, your worships, it's we!" But
nobody would listen to him. Fortunately, at this moment, a fat man
approached, who, by his appearance, seemed to be the chief, for he used
the most abusive language to the others.

"My lord, it's we; you already know all about us; and his lordship, the
count, will thank you still more."

"Let them go; and a hundred devils to the fiend's mother! Let no one
else pass, do not take off your swords, and do not, any of you, dare to
roll on the floor like dogs."

The continuation of the eloquent order was lost to our travellers.
"It's we; it's I; we are yours!" said Yankel to every one whom he met.

"May we go in?" he asked, of one of the sentries, as they came at last
to the end of the passage.

"Yes, you may; but I do not know if you are allowed to pass into the
gaol. Jan is no longer on duty, there is another one there now,"
answered the sentry.

"Ah! ah!" muttered the Jew; "this looks bad, my dear lord!"

"Go on," said Tarass, in a stubborn voice. The Jew obeyed.

At the door of a dungeon stood a heyduke,[41] with mustachios,
separated into three different stories: the upper story went backwards,
the middle one straight forwards, and the last downwards, which gave
the heyduke very nearly the appearance of a cat.

The Jew bent his back as much as he could, and came near him, stealing
along sideways. "Your lordship! my gracious lord!"

"Dost thou speak to me, Jew?"

"To you, gracious lord!"

"Ahem!--and I am nothing but a heyduke," said the thrice-mustachioed
face, with eyes glittering with delight.

"By Heavens! I took you for the Voevoda himself! really now, I did."
And the Jew began to shake his head and to stretch out his fingers.
"Ah! what an air of importance! By Heavens! the air of a colonel, quite
a colonel! A hair's breadth more, and it would be a colonel's. Your
worship ought only to mount a horse as swift as a fly, and command
regiments!"

The heyduke curled the nether story of his mustachios, and his eye
assumed quite an expression of gaiety.

"What a set of men you military men are," continued the Jew. "Oh dear
me! what a good set of men. And the braidings and the facings--all
these make them glitter like the sun! The girls, as soon as they behold
a military man--ah! ah!" And the Jew again shook his head.

The heyduke curled his upper mustachios, and gave vent to a sound
something like the neighing of a horse.

"Will my lord grant me a favour?" said the Jew. "Here is a prince, come
from foreign lands, who wishes to look at the Cossacks. He has never
yet, as long as he has lived, seen what kind of men these Cossacks are."

The arrival of foreign counts and barons was no uncommon thing in
Poland. They were frequently attracted, merely by curiosity, to see
this almost half-Asiatic corner of Europe--Muscovy and Ukraine being
then reputed to form part of Asia. So the heyduke, after making a
respectful bow, thought fit to add some words of his own accord.

"I do not know, your grace, what you want to look at them for," said
he; "they are not men, but dogs. Their creed, even, is such a one that
nobody respects it."

"Thou liest! devil's son!" exclaimed Boolba. "Thou art a dog thyself'!
How darest thou say that no one respects our creed? It is your
heretical creed that nobody respects!"

"Eh! my friend!" said the heyduke: "I see what thou art; thou art
thyself one of those that I have under my charge. Wait a bit; I'll just
call my comrades."

Tarass now saw his imprudence; but, stubborn and angry as he felt,
he did not think about the manner of correcting it. Happily, Yank el
interposed at this juncture.

"Most gracious lord! how is it possible that a count can be a Cossack?
and were he a Cossack, how could he have procured such a dress, and
have such a count's appearance?"

"Have done with thy tales!" And already had the heyduke opened his
wide mouth in order to give the alarm.

"Your kingly majesty, be silent! in God's name be silent!" cried
Yankel. "Be silent, and we will pay you as you have never yet thought
of being paid: we will give you two golden ducats!"

"Hem! two ducats! Two ducats are nothing to me. I give as much as that
to my barber for shaving only half my beard. A hundred ducats must thou
give me, Jew!" and the heyduke curled his upper mustachios. "And if
thou givest them not, I will call at once."

"So much as that, indeed?" said the trembling Jew, sorrowfully, untying
his leathern purse. He was fortunate in not having more in his purse,
and in the heyduke not being able to count beyond a hundred.

"Come, my lord, let us be gone quickly. You see what a bad set of men
they are here," said Yankel, seeing the heyduke was turning the money
over in his hand, as if regretting he had not asked more.

"How now? devil's heyduke!" said Boolba. "Thou hast taken the money,
and dost not think to let us in? Thou _must_ do it now; if thou hast
once received the money, thou canst no longer give us a refusal."

"Begone, begone to the devil! or I will at once make thee known, and
then, beware! Away with you, I tell you!"

"Come, my lord, in Heaven's name come. Woe to them! May they have such
dreams as shall make them spit!" urged poor Yankel.

Slowly, with drooping head, did Boolba turn back and retrace his steps,
with Yankel worrying him with reproaches at the sorrowful recollection
of the uselessly spent ducats.

"What need had you to answer them? Why not let the dog bark? They are
people who cannot remain without scolding! Oh, woe is me! how lucky
some men are! A hundred ducats, merely for driving us away! And look
at us, we may have our temple-locks torn off, we may have our faces so
disfigured that none will look at us, and nobody will give us a hundred
ducats! Heavens! merciful Heavens!"

But the miscarriage of his design had a much greater influence on
Boolba: a devouring flame streamed from his eyes.

"Come," said he, suddenly, as if recollecting himself, "let us go to
the execution; I will see how they torture him."

"What is the use of going, my lord? we cannot help him."

"Let us go," said Boolba, stubbornly, and the Jew, like a nurse,
reluctantly followed him.

The square, on which the execution was to take place could easily be
found; crowds were flocking there from all parts. At that rude epoch
an execution was one of the most attractive sights, not only for the
rabble, but also for the highest classes of society. Many of the most
pious old women, many of the most timid young girls and ladies, would
never let an execution take place without indulging their curiosity,
although they might afterwards, all night long, dream of nothing but
bloody corpses, and shriek in their slumbers as loudly as a tipsy
hussar. "Ah! what torments!" cried many in hysterics, hiding their
eyes and turning away, but, nevertheless, remaining a long time. Some
with mouth wide open and outstretched arms, would have jumped on the
heads of the rest in order to have a better view. Amongst the crowd
of small narrow ordinary heads, might be noticed the fat features
of a butcher, who looked at all the proceedings with the air of a
_dilettante_, and conversed in monosyllables with an armourer whom he
called his kinsman, because he used to get tipsy with him on feast
days at the same brandy-shop. Some vehemently debated the matter, some
even betted, but the greater part was composed of those who stare at
the world and at everything that happens in the world, picking their
noses with their fingers. In the foreground, next to the mustachioed
soldiers who formed the town guard, stood a young gentleman--or one
who gave himself the airs of a gentleman--in a military dress; he had
put on everything which he possessed, so as to leave at his lodgings
nothing but a ragged shirt and a pair of worn-out boots. Two chains,
one above the other, hung round his neck, supporting a locket. He stood
next to his sweetheart, Youzyssa, and every moment turned round to see
that nobody soiled her silk dress. He had explained to her absolutely
everything, so that there was decidedly nothing more left to explain.
"There, my soul, Youzyssa," he said, "the people that you see here are
come to look at the execution of the criminals. And there, my soul, the
man whom you see holding a hatchet and other implements in his hand,
is the executioner, and he will perform the execution. And as long as
he shall break the criminal upon the wheel and otherwise torture him,
the criminal will still be alive; but as soon as he shall behead him,
the criminal will be alive no longer. At first, my soul, he will cry
out and move, but as soon as he shall be beheaded, he will no longer be
able either to cry, or to eat, or to drink, because, my soul, he will
no longer have his head, my soul." And Youzyssa listened to all, with
awe and curiosity. The roofs of the houses were crowded with people.
Strange faces with mustachios, and with something like bonnets on
their heads, looked out from dormer windows. On the balconies, under
shades, were sitting the aristocracy. The pretty hand of some laughing
dashing lady was leaning on the balustrade. Stout lords were looking
very important. A lackey, richly attired, with sleeves thrown over his
back, was carrying about refreshments. Often did some black-eyed lively
damsel take in her white hand some dainties and fruits, and throw them
among the people beneath. A crowd of hungry gentlemen lifted their
caps to catch them, and some tall officer, with his head rising above
his neighbours', in a faded red coat and worn-out trimming, succeeded,
thanks to his long arms, in catching the booty, kissed it, pressed it
to his heart, and put it into his mouth. A falcon in a gilded cage,
hanging under the balcony, was also one of the spectators; with head
bent on one side and one leg raised, he, too, was engaged in looking
at the people. On a sudden a rumour ran through the crowd, and on all
sides voices were heard, "They are coming, the Cossacks are coming!"

Their heads, with long crown-locks, were bare, their beards were
unshaven. They walked neither timorously nor sorrowfully, but with an
air of haughty calmness; their dresses, made of fine cloth, were worn
out and falling to rags; they did not look round, and did not bow to
the people. In front of all came Ostap. What were the feelings of old
Tarass as he saw his Ostap? What was passing in his heart? He looked at
him from among the crowd, and watched his every movement. The Cossacks
came near the scaffold. Ostap stopped. He was to be the first to drink
the bitter cup. He looked at his comrades, raised his arm, and said,
in a loud voice, "God grant that none of the heretics here present may
hear, miscreants as they are, the sufferings of Christians! May none of
us utter a single word!" and he mounted the scaffold.

"Well done, my son, well done!" slowly muttered Boolba, and cast down
his gray head.

The executioner tore away from Ostap the old rags that covered him;
he tied his hands and feet to stocks made on purpose--but why should
the reader be distressed by a description, which would make his hair
stand on end, of the hellish tortures? They were the creation of those
hard cruel times when man knew no other life but the bloody life of
warlike feats, which hardened his heart and drove from it every human
feeling. In vain some men, the few exceptions of that epoch, opposed
those dreadful measures. In vain did the king and several knights,
enlightened both in mind and heart, remonstrate that this cruelty in
punishment would but aggravate the revengefulness of the Cossacks. The
royal power and the authority of wise counsels were not proof against
the anarchy and the audacious self-will of the state magnates who,
with their recklessness, their inconceivable want of foresight, their
childish vanity, and their absurd ostentation, made the Sseim[42] a
mere satire on self-government.

Ostap bore the torments and the tortures like a giant. Not a cry, not
a groan was heard; even when they began to break the bones in his
hands and feet, when their dreadful crunching was heard amidst the
dead silence of the crowd by the remotest spectators, when the ladies
averted their eyes, even then nothing like a moan escaped his lips; no
feature of his face moved. Tarass stood in the crowd, with bowed head,
and from time to time, proudly raising his eyes, said approvingly,
"Well done, son, well done!"

But when Ostap was brought to the last torments of death, his strength
seemed to give way. He looked round. Gracious God! All unknown! all
strangers' faces! Had there been but one of his kin present! He wished
not to listen to the wailings and the sorrow of a weak mother, or to
the insane sobs of a wife, tearing her hair and beating her bosom; he
wished to have looked now at a firm man, whose wise word might have
brought him fresh strength and solace before death. And his strength
failed him, and he cried in the agony of his heart, "Father, where art
thou? couldst thou but hear me!"

"I hear!" resounded through the general stillness, and all the
thousands of people shuddered at the voice. A party of cavalry-soldiers
rushed to make search among the crowds of people. Yankel turned pale
as death, and when the riders had ridden past him, he looked back in
amazement to see Tarass, but Tarass was no longer near him, no trace of
him was left!


XII.


Traces of Tarass were soon found. A hundred and twenty thousand
Cossacks made their appearance on the frontiers of Ukraine. It was
no longer a small marauding party come in search of booty, or a
detachment in pursuit of Tartars. Not so: it was the whole of the
nation which had risen at once, because its patience was at an end.
It had risen to avenge the derision of its rights, the shameful
humiliation of its customs, the insults inflicted upon the creed of
its fathers, and upon the holy rites, the disgrace of its church, the
licentiousness of foreign lords, the Union,[43] the shameful dominion
of Jews in a Christian country, and all that had so long consolidated
and ripened the stern hatred of the Cossacks. The young but spirited
hetman, Astranitza, was the leader of the whole Cossack army. He
was accompanied by his old and experienced comrade and councillor
Ploonia. Eight colonels led regiments, each twelve thousand strong. Two
general _essaools_ and the general _boonchook_[44] bearer followed the
hetman. The general banner bearer escorted the great banner; many more
banners and standards floated in the distance behind; the lieutenants
of the boonchook bearer escorted the boonchooks. There were many
other officials, leaders of waggons, lieutenants of regiments, and
secretaries, and with them infantry and cavalry regiments; moreover,
the number of volunteers was nearly as great as that of the registered
Cossacks. From every side had the Cossacks risen, from all the towns of
Little Russia, from the western as well as from the eastern part of the
Dnieper, and from all its islands. Horses and waggons without number
crossed the plains. And among all these Cossacks, among all these
eight regiments, one regiment was the choicest--this regiment was led
by Tarass Boolba. Everything gave him precedence over the others--his
old age, his experience, his skill in leading his troops, and his
inveterate hatred of the foe. Even the Cossacks thought his unsparing
cruelty and ferocity too excessive. His gray head adjudged nothing but
fire and gallows, and nothing but destruction did he advise in the
councils of war.

It would he useless to relate all the battles where the Cossacks gained
distinction, or the gradual progress of the war; all this has found its
place in the pages of our annals. It is well known what, in Russia, a
war begun for the Faith signifies. No power is stronger than that of
the Faith. Unconquerable and terrible, it is like the rock in the midst
of a stormy ever-changing sea. Formed of one single massive stone, it
raises to the sky its indestructible walls from the very centre of
the bottom of the sea. From every point it may be seen looking full
on the passing waves. And woe to the ship that is cast upon it! Its
fragile masts will fly to splinters, all those upon it are crushed
and precipitated into the depths of the ocean, and far away the air
resounds with the shrieks of its drowning sailors!

The annals minutely record how the Polish garrisons fled from the
towns liberated by the Cossacks; how the rapacious Jew farmers were
hanged; how weak the opposition was of the Polish hetman, Nicholas
Potozki, with his numerous army against the unconquerable forces of
the Cossacks; how, after being defeated and pursued, he let the best
part of his army perish in a small stream; how he was surrounded by the
dreaded Cossack regiments in the small borough of Polonnoie; and how,
brought to extremity, he took his oath to the complete redress of all
grievances, and the surrender of all former rights and privileges, in
the name of the king and of the ministers of state. But the Cossacks
were not men to be deceived, they knew what the oath of a Pole is
worth; and never again would Potozki have ridden on his costly steed,
attracting the looks of illustrious ladies, and making himself the envy
of the nobility--never again would he have set the Sseim in an uproar,
and have given rich feasts to the senators--had not the Russian clergy
of the borough interposed on his behalf. As the priests came forward
in the brilliant cassocks of cloth of gold, bearing crosses and holy
images, and as the bishop himself appeared in front of them in his
pontifical mitre, holding a crucifix in his hand, all the Cossacks
bowed their heads and took off their caps. Nobody, no, not even the
king would they have spared at that moment, but they dared not oppose
the dignitaries of the Christian church, so they obeyed the summons of
the clergy. The hetman and the colonels consented to let Potozki go
free, having made him promise upon oath that freedom should be granted
to all the Christian churches, that the old enmity should be brought to
an end, and that no offence should be offered to the Cossack army. One
colonel alone did not give his assent to such a peace as this. Tarass
was that one. He tore a lock of hair from his head and cried aloud:--

"Eh! hetman and colonels! Do not do such a woman's act! Do not give
credence to the Poles. The cursed dogs will betray you!"

But when the army secretary presented the act of treaty, and the
hetman put his sign-manual to it, Tarass took off his rich Turkish
sabre, a fine blade of highly-tempered steel, broke it in two pieces
like a reed, and throwing far away both fragments, one on each side,
exclaimed, "Fare ye well, then! As these two fragments shall never
meet and form one single blade any more, so shall we, comrades, never
meet again in this world! Remember ye my parting words!" and his voice
grew stronger, rose higher, assumed an unknown power, and all felt
perplexed at the prophetic words. "You will remember me at the hour of
your death! You think to have purchased quietness and peace; you think
you may now play the lords. There is another lordship in store for you;
hetman, thou shalt have the skin torn from thy head, thou shalt have
it stuffed with groats, and long shall it be made a show in fairs! And
you, gentlemen, neither will you keep your heads on your shoulders. In
damp dungeons, behind stone walls will you perish, if you are not, like
sheep, boiled alive in cauldrons.[45] And you, children," continued
he, turning round to his Cossacks, "Which of you wishes to die a
natural death--not on stoves and on women's beds, not lying drunk under
a hedge near the brandy-shop like carrion, but to die the honourable
death of Cossacks, all of us on one bed, like bride and bridegroom? Or,
may be you wish to return home to turn heretics and carry about Polish
parsons on your backs?"

"We follow thee, our lord and colonel, we follow thee!" cried all who
were in Tarass's regiment, and many more went over to them.

"If so, then be it so," said Tarass, and he pulled his cap over his
brow, menacingly looked at those he left behind, settled himself in
his saddle, and cried to his followers: "Let nobody offend us with
insulting words. And now, children, let us go and pay our visit to
the Papists!" and he slashed his horse. A train of a hundred waggons
followed him, and numerous were the Cossacks, both on horseback and
on foot, who went after him. Turning back his head, he looked with
threatening and with anger at those who remained behind. None dared to
stop him. In sight of the whole army, his regiment marched away, and
many times did Tarass turn back and menace with his looks.

The hetman and the colonels stood perplexed; all were thoughtful, and
long did they remain silent, oppressed by some gloomy foreboding.
The words of Tarass did not pass away: everything happened as he had
foretold. In a short time the hetman and the chief dignitaries fell
victims to the treachery of the Poles, and their heads were stuck on
pikes.

And what did Tarass in the mean time? Tarass crossed all Poland in
every direction with his regiment, gave to the flames eighteen
boroughs, nearly forty Popish churches, and had even come near Kracow.
Many were the nobles whom he put to the sword; the richest and finest
castles were plundered by him; his Cossacks found out and poured on the
ground wines and meads which had been for centuries preserved in the
cellars of the Polish lords; they chopped to pieces and burnt the rich
stuffs, dresses, and furniture which they found in the storehouses.
"No mercy!" repeated Tarass. And no mercy did the Cossacks show to the
dark-eyebrowed ladies, to the white-bosomed pretty-faced girls, even
at the altar could they find no safety; Tarass burned them with the
altars. Many snow-white hands were seen raised to the sky from out of
the midst of the flames, and many were the shrieks which would have
made the ground tremble and the very grass bend down to the earth in
compassion. But nothing softened the cruelty of the Cossacks, and,
lifting on their spears the infants whom they found in the streets,
they cast them also into the flames. "This is my revenge for Ostap,
cursed Poles!" said Tarass, and he took his revenge in every borough:
so that the Polish government saw at length that the exploits of Tarass
were not merely the acts of a robber, and the same Potozki with five
regiments was intrusted with the task of taking him.

For six days did the Cossacks escape by bye-ways from the pursuit.
Their horses could hardly bear the rapidity of their flight and save
them from their pursuers, but Potozki this time proved worthy of his
charge; unweariedly did he pursue them, and he overtook them at last
on the banks of the Dniester, where Boolba had paused for rest in
an abandoned ruined fortress. The dismantled walls of this fortress
and its crumbling keep, stood on a steep cliff above the Dniester.
Its platform, paved with stones and fragments of bricks, seemed to be
ready at any moment to tumble down and roll into the river. Here it
was that the hetman Potozki, encamping on the two sides which were
adjacent to fields, surrounded the Cossacks. For four days did the
Cossacks keep their stand, fighting and rolling down stones and bricks
on the assailants. At last, their strength and their provisions were
exhausted, and Tarass resolved to cut his way through the ranks of the
enemy. Already had the Cossacks traversed the ranks, and they might
perhaps once more have owed their escape to the swiftness of their
horses, when on a sudden, in the very heat of their flight, Tarass
stopped and cried out, "Stay, I have dropped my pipe, not even my pipe
shall the cursed Poles have!" and the old Ataman stooped and began to
seek in the grass for his pipe, his never-failing companion over sea
and land, in his campaigns and in his home. Meanwhile a whole crowd
rushed at once upon him and took him by his shoulders. He endeavoured
to shake all his limbs, but no longer as of old did the heydukes fall
down around him. "Eh, old age, old age!" said he, and the stout old
Cossack began to weep. But his age was not the cause of it, strength
had got the better of strength. Nearly thirty soldiers hung about
his arms and legs. "The crow is caught," shrieked the Poles, "let us
find out the best mode of paying homage to the dog!" And with the
hetman's assent they decided on burning him alive, in sight of all.
There stood near at hand a dry tree, whose top had been struck by
lightning. Tarass was bound with iron chains to the trunk of this tree,
his hands were nailed to it, and he was raised on high, in order that
from everywhere around the Cossack might be seen. Beneath they made a
pile of faggots. But Tarass paid no attention to the pile, he did not
think about the fire that was to burn him, he looked, poor old fellow,
to where the Cossacks were seen fighting; from the height to which he
had been lifted he could distinctly see everything. "Lads," cried he,
"quick, reach the hill behind the wood, they will not overtake you
there!" But the wind blew his words away. "They will perish, perish for
nothing!" exclaimed he, in despair; and he gazed down on the Dniester,
glittering below. Delight flashed in his eyes. He saw the prows of four
boats, projecting out of the bushes, and gathering all the strength of
his lungs, he shouted at the top of his voice, "To the shore, lads, to
the shore! take the cliff path on your left. Near the shore are boats,
take them all to prevent pursuit." The wind this time blew from another
quarter, and every word was heard by the Cossacks. But this advice cost
Boolba a stroke on his head, which made everything swim before his eyes.

The Cossacks galloped at the utmost speed of their horses to the cliff
path, the pursuers were close at hand; and behold, there lies the
cliff path curling round in zig-zags. "Well, comrades, let us take our
chance," said they; then they stopped for a moment, lifted their whips,
gave a whistle, and their Tartar horses, springing from the ground,
stretched themselves like snakes in the air, flew over the abyss, and
leaped straight into the Dniester. Only two riders missed the river,
fell on the rocks and remained there for ever with their steeds, not
having had even time to utter a shriek. And the Cossacks were already
swimming with their horses and loosening the boats. The Poles stopped
before the precipice, astounded at the unheard-of Cossack feat, and
arguing whether they would jump or not? One young colonel, with hot
boiling blood in his veins, the brother of the Polish beauty who had
bewitched poor Andrew, did not remain long thinking, he leaped at once
after the Cossacks. Thrice did he wheel round and round in the air
with his horse, and fell upon the rocks. Tom to pieces by their sharp
points, he disappeared in the abyss, and his brains, mingled with
blood, splashed the bushes which grew on the uneven sides of the chasm.

When Tarass Boolba recovered from the blow, and looked on the Dniester,
the Cossacks were already in the boats and rowing; bullets after
bullets flew from above, but did not reach them. And the eyes of the
old Ataman gleamed with joy.

"Fare ye well, comrades!" cried he to them; "Remember me and fail not
to return here next spring and enjoy yourselves. How now, devil's
Poles? do you think there is anything in the world than can affright a
Cossack? Wait a bit; the time is coming when you shall know what the
Russian faith is! Already do nations far and near forebode it. There
shall arise a Czar in Russia, and there shall be no power on earth that
shall not yield to his power"--

Meanwhile the flames rose from the pile and scorched his feet, and
spread over the tree--but here in the world such flames, such
torments, power as can overcome the strength of a Russian?

No small river is the Dniester, many are its inlets, its thick grown
reeds, its shallows, and its gulfs. Its mirror-like surface glitters,
re-echoing the ringing screams of the swans which proudly swim on its
stream. Many are the divers coloured birds that dwell in its reeds and
on its banks.

The Cossacks sailed fast in their two-ruddered boats, the oars splashed
with measured stroke; they warily avoided the shoals, scaring the
birds, and talked of their Ataman.



[Footnote 1: The meads of Little Russia, Lithuania, and Poland are
renowned for their flavour, which, like that of some wines, increases
with being kept. They are very strong and act especially on the
legs, so that sometimes a glass of mead is sufficient to deprive the
most experienced drinker of the use of his legs, although his head
may remain perfectly clear. Some ascribe the fact of so many Poles
suffering from gout to nothing more than the immoderate use of mead.]

[Footnote 2: A sort of guitar peculiar to Little Russia.]

[Footnote 3: _Union_, in the Russian acceptation of the term, means
the mixed religion, uniting the rites of the Greek Church with the
dogmas of Popery, which was enforced by Poland upon Little Russia
and Lithuania, and which gave the Poles occasion to commit the most
abominable cruelties on the adherents of the Greek Church, and roused
the vengeance of the latter. A correct and most strictly true picture
of those struggles is to be found in this tale.]

[Footnote 4: A rank in Russian irregular troops corresponding to that
of captain or commander of a company.]

[Footnote 5: The above-mentioned college was placed under the orders of
an abbot, and the professors and tutors in it were monks.]

[Footnote 6: Formerly Saturday was a dreaded day in Russian schools.
Every pupil received on the evening of that day a severe flogging--the
bad pupils as a punishment for their past misdeeds and laziness,
the good ones as a foretaste of what awaited them in case of their
altering their conduct. Some strange notion existed of accustoming the
pupils to endure bodily pain, and of giving a periodical impulse to
the circulation of their blood, and this had some connection with the
barbarous system.]

[Footnote 7: A _cossackin_ means a Cossack's dress, which is a coat
fastened by hooks down the middle of the breast, and fitting closely to
the figure. It is furnished with skirts which never descend lower than
the knee.]

[Footnote 8: This is a Russian custom still observed. Before a
departure every one present sits down for a minute or two in silence;
then all rise at once, making the sign of the cross, and invoking the
protection of Heaven on the intended travellers.]

[Footnote 9: _Voevoda_, governor of a city or province.]

[Footnote 10: The pupils intrusted to the care of the _consuls_ (or
elder pupils).]

[Footnote 11: A species of guitar.]

[Footnote 12:: A verst is about two-thirds of an English mile.]

[Footnote 13: Dwellings.]

[Footnote 14: _Rada_, general assembly of the Cossacks, in which every
one had a voice, and which was summoned on important occasions, such
as declaration of war, conclusion of peace, or the election of the
_koschevoï ataman_, supreme head of the Zaporoghian commonwealth.]

[Footnote 15: Supreme chief of the Zaporoghian Ssiecha.]

[Footnote 16: The elective chief of the kooren, subordinate to the
Koschevoï Ataman.]

[Footnote 17: General assembly or council.]

[Footnote 18: Different sorts of guitars, common in Little Russia.]

[Footnote 19: The Russians adorn their church images with metallic
(_i.e_., copper, silver, and golden) covers, which reproduce, in
basso-relievo, the painting which is placed under them, and of which
nothing but the flesh parts of the painted saint (_i.e_. the face, the
arms, hands, and sometimes the feet) are left visible. Some of the
metallic cloths, as they are called, are very heavy and costly; upon
some of them may be seen precious stones of great value.]

[Footnote 20: That is, in the western part of Little Russia, subjected
to Poland and governed by an elective prince _(hetman_), confirmed in
his office by the King of Poland.]

[Footnote 21: These statements, as well as the subsequent, are strictly
historical. The vexations inflicted by Polish lords upon persons
professing the Russian-Greek faith--not only at the times spoken of in
this tale, but even within the present century--account sufficiently
for the inveterate and indelible hatred with which Russians look upon
Poles.]

[Footnote 22: Truly historical.]

[Footnote 23: The costume of the Polish Jews consists of a coat which
goes down to the heels. On their feet they usually wear slippers. Their
head is covered with a closely fitting skull cap, from beneath which on
either side hands a long lock of hair which, together with their beard
and mustachios, form the _sanctum sanctorum_ of their persona.]

[Footnote 24: Common people in Russia, even now, use no socks or
stockings; but strips of linen, in which they wrap their feet.]

[Footnote 25: A proverbial expression still used by Russians.]

[Footnote 26: _Voevoda_--governor of a city or province.]

[Footnote 27: A dish somewhat like starch, much used in Russia by the
common people.]

[Footnote 28: The catacombs of the _Peckerskoï_ (_i.e_., of the
caverns) cloister at Kieff, were, like those of Rome, the places of
worship and of burial of cenobites, whose relics are still preserved
there by the Russians.]

[Footnote 29: The Polish Jewesses, when married, follow very strictly
the prescription of their law to hide their hair and their ears; but,
as a compensation for not showing their beautiful hair, and wearing no
earrings, they wear wigs on their head, and pieces of cloth adorned
with jewels over their ears.]

[Footnote 30: The _Ssiem_ was one of the most incongruous phenomena of
the Polish administration. Every landed proprietor had a voice in this
assembly, which was convoked on every important occasion: such as the
election of a king, the declaration of war, the conclusion of peace,
&c., &c. The _veto_ of a single member was, _de jure_, sufficient to
put a stop to any political or administrative measure proposed to
these assemblies; _de facto_, however, the king availed himself of the
support of some powerful magnates to enforce the execution of his will;
but as this was only an infringement of the law, so it never failed
to excite the opposition (very often, armed) of the malcontents. No
wonder, then, if the _Ssiems_, forming the supreme constituent power
in the state, brought upon Poland the miseries of which the history of
that country is one long and uninterrupted story.]

[Footnote 31: Polish cuirassiers wore brass helmets adorned on each
side with small wings, like those allotted by mythology to the
travelling cap of the Greek Hermes. Some of them, also, wore large
wings fastened to their cuirass behind their shoulders.]

[Footnote 32: The ancient fashioned Polish overcoats were put on over
a sleeve coat, from Which they were distinguished by their colour, and
had sleeves hanging behind the shoulders, and sometimes hooked together
on the back for convenience' sake.]

[Footnote 33: A very frequent practice of the Turks with their
Zaporoghian prisoners was, to cover them with tar and then burn them
alive.]

[Footnote 34: The _arkan_ of the Cossacks is like the lasso of the
Mexicans--a rope with a running slip-knot, which is thrown over the
object of the Cossack's chase (a wild horse or an enemy). The Caucasian
mountaineers make use of the same instrument, and, like the Cossacks of
yore, often drag their prisoners at their horses' heels with the knot
round their neck or their waist--the other end of the _arkan_ being
tied to the saddle. This practice involuntarily reminds one of Achilles
dragging the body of Hector tied to his chariot.]

[Footnote 35: Gentlemen Officers.]

[Footnote 36: The Nakaznoï or temporary Ataman was elected for ope
single campaign, during which he had the full power of the Koschevoï,
and at the conclusion he resigned it to the latter.]

[Footnote 37: In the original, there follows here a list of Cossacks'
names, perfectly uninteresting: and almost unpronounceable to an
English reader. In several other places they have also been omitted.]

[Footnote 38: Constantinople.]

[Footnote 39: This is a usual phrase in Russian tales of olden times,
when recording the deeds of knights fighting (for the most part singly)
against swarms of infidels.]

[Footnote 40: The Zaporoghians had their trowsers made (when they had
the means to do so) of the most costly cloth, especially red, and
to express their contempt of luxury, besmeared them with tar. The
_nagaïkas_ is the Cossack whip, a weapon the impression of which many
a Frenchman bore on his back, after the invasion of Russia by Napoleon
the Great. Its handle is not more than half a yard long, the lash,
of the same length, consists of an iron wire, plaited all round with
leathern thongs, terminating in a square piece of leather, about an
inch in width. A blow of the nagaïka may break a bone, and a well-aimed
stroke of its square end may cut out a piece of flesh.]

[Footnote 41: Heydukes (properly haydooks) formed a select body in the
Polish army, and were recruited among the tallest and strongest men.]

[Footnote 42: For an account of the Sseim, see the note at page 163.]

[Footnote 43: The introduction of Popish rites into the Greek Church.]

[Footnote 44: _Boonchook_ is the name of a Turkish standard, consisting
of a horse-tail nailed to a pole. The Cossacks also used them besides
banners, which bore the image of the Saviour or the Virgin.]

[Footnote 45: All this is truly historical, and will be readily
believed by any one in the least acquainted with the national character
of the Poles.]

FINIS.





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