“No, Vassilissa Igorofna,” resumed the Commandant, who remarked that his words had made a great impression on his wife, perhaps for the first time in her life; “it is not proper for Masha to stay here. Let us send her to Orenburg to her godmother. There are enough soldiers and cannons there, and the walls are stone. And I should even advise you to go away thither, for though you be old yet think on what will befall you if the fort be taken by assault.”
“Well! well!” said the wife, “we will send away Masha; but don’t ask me to go away, and don’t think to persuade me, for I will do no such thing. It will not suit me either in my old age to part from you and go to seek a lonely grave in a strange land. We have lived together; we will die together.”
“And you are right,” said the Commandant. “Let us see, there is no time to lose. Go and get Masha ready for her journey; to-morrow we will start her off at daybreak, and we will even give her an escort, though, to tell the truth, we have none too many people here. But where is she?”
“At Akoulina Pamphilovna’s,” answered his wife. “She turned sick when she heard of the taking of Nijneosern; I dread lest she should fall ill. Oh! God in heaven! that we should have lived to see this!”
Vassilissa Igorofna went away to make ready for her daughter’s departure.
The council at the Commandant’s still continued, but I no longer took any part in it. Marya Ivanofna reappeared for supper, pale and her eyes red. We supped in silence, and we rose from table earlier than usual. Each of us returned to his quarters after bidding good-bye to the whole family. I purposely forgot my sword, and came back to fetch it. I felt I should find Marya alone; in fact, she met me in the porch, and handed me my sword.
“Good-bye, Petr’ Andrejitch,” she said to me, crying; “they are sending me to Orenburg. Keep well and happy. Mayhap God will allow us to see one another again, if not—”
She began to sob. I pressed her in my arms.
“God be with you, my angel,” I said to her. “My darling, my loved one, whatever befall me, rest assured that my last thought and my last prayer will be for you.”
Masha still wept, sheltered on my breast. I kissed her passionately, and abruptly went out.
All the night I could not sleep, and I did not even take off my clothes. I had meant in the early morning to gain the gate of the fort, by which Marya Ivanofna was to leave, to bid her a last good-bye. I felt that a complete change had come over me. The agitation of my mind seemed less hard to bear than the dark melancholy in which I had been previously plunged. Blended with the sorrow of parting, I felt within me vague, but sweet, hopes, an eager expectation of coming dangers, and a feeling of noble ambition.
The night passed quickly. I was going out, when my door opened and the corporal came in to tell me that our Cossacks had left the fort during the night, taking away with them by force Joulai, and that around our ramparts unknown people were galloping. The thought that Marya Ivanofna had not been able to get away terrified me to death. I hastily gave some orders to the corporal, and I ran to the Commandant’s house.