Pugatchef again gave the handkerchief signal, and good Iwan Ignatiitch swung beside his old chief. It was my turn. Boldly I looked on Pugatchef and made ready to echo the answer of my outspoken comrades.
Then, to my inexpressible surprise, I saw among the rebels Chvabrine, who had found time to cut his hair short and to put on a Cossack caftan. He approached Pugatchef, and whispered a few words in his ear.
“Hang him!” said Pugatchef, without deigning to throw me a look. The rope was passed about my neck. I began saying a prayer in a low voice, offering up to God a sincere repentance for all my sins, imploring Him to save all those who were dear to my heart. I was already at the foot of the gallows.
“Fear nothing! Fear nothing!” the assassins said to me, perhaps to give me courage, when all at once a shout was heard—
“Stop, accursed ones!”
The executioners stayed their hand. I looked up. Saveliitch lay prostrate at the feet of Pugatchef.
“Oh! my own father!” my poor follower was saying. “What need have you of the death of this noble child? Let him go free, and you will get a good ransom; but for an example and to frighten the rest, let them hang me, an old man!”
Pugatchef gave a signal; I was immediately unbound.
“Our father shows you mercy,” they said to me. At this moment I cannot say that I was much overjoyed at my deliverance, but I cannot say either that I regretted it, for my feelings were too upset. I was again brought before the usurper and forced to kneel at his feet. Pugatchef held out to me his muscular hand. “Kiss his hand! kiss his hand!” was shouted around me. But rather would I have preferred the most cruel torture to such an abasement.
“My father, Petr’ Andrejitch,” whispered Saveliitch to me, and nudged me with his elbow, “don’t be obstinate. What does it matter? Spit and kiss the hand of the rob—, kiss his hand!”
I did not stir. Pugatchef withdrew his hand and said, smiling—
“Apparently his lordship is quite idiotic with joy; raise him.”
I was helped up and left free. The infamous drama drew to a close.
The villagers began to swear fidelity. One after another they came near, kissed the cross, and saluted the usurper. Then it came to the turn of the soldiers of the garrison. The tailor of the company, armed with his big blunt scissors, cut off their queues. They shook their heads and touched their lips to Pugatchef’s hand; the latter told them they were pardoned and enrolled amongst his troops.
All this lasted about three hours. At last Pugatchef rose from his armchair and went down the steps, followed by his chiefs. There was brought for him a white horse, richly caparisoned. Two Cossacks held his arms and helped him into the saddle.
He announced to Father Garasim that he would dine at his house. At this moment arose a woman’s heartrending shrieks. Some robbers were dragging to the steps Vassilissa Igorofna, with dishevelled hair and half-dressed. One of them had already appropriated her cloak; the others were carrying off the mattresses, boxes, linen, tea sets, and all manner of things.