“Oh, my fathers!” cried the poor old woman. “Let me alone, I pray you; my fathers, my fathers, bring me to Ivan Kouzmitch.” All of a sudden she perceived the gallows and recognized her husband. “Villains!” she exclaimed, beside herself; “what have you done? Oh, my light, my Ivan Kouzmitch! Bold soldier heart, neither Prussian bayonets nor Turkish bullets ever harmed you; and you have died before a vile runaway felon.”
“Silence the old witch,” said Pugatchef.
A young Cossack struck her with his sword on the head, and she fell dead at the foot of the steps. Pugatchef went away, all the people crowding in his train.
THE UNEXPECTED VISIT.
The square remained empty. I stood in the same place, unable to collect my thoughts, disturbed by so many terrible events.
My uncertainty about Marya Ivanofna’s fate tormented me more than I can say. Where was she? What had become of her? Had she had time to hide herself? Was her place of refuge safe and sure? Full of these oppressive thoughts, I went to the Commandant’s house. All was empty. The chairs, the tables, the presses were burned, and the crockery in bits; the place was in dreadful disorder. I quickly ran up the little stair which led to Marya’s room, where I was about to enter for the first time in my life.
Her bed was topsy-turvy, the press open and ransacked. A lamp still burned before the “kivott" equally empty; but a small looking-glass hanging between the door and window had not been taken away. What had become of the inmate of this simple maiden’s cell? A terrible apprehension crossed my mind. I thought of Marya in the hands of the robbers. My heart failed me; I burst into tears and murmured the name of my loved one. At this moment I heard a slight noise, and Polashka, very pale, came out from behind the press.
“Oh, Petr’ Andrejitch,” said she, wringing her hands; “what a day, what horrors!”
“Marya Ivanofna,” cried I, impatiently, “where is Marya Ivanofna?”
“The young lady is alive,” replied Polashka; “she is hidden at Akoulina Pamphilovna’s.”
“In the pope’s house!” I exclaimed, affrighted. “Good God! Pugatchef is there!”
I rushed out of the room, in two jumps I was in the street and running wildly towards the pope’s house. From within there resounded songs, shouts, and bursts of laughter; Pugatchef was at the table with his companions. Polashka had followed me; I sent her secretly to call aside Akoulina Pamphilovna. The next minute the pope’s wife came out into the ante-room, an empty bottle in her hand.
“In heaven’s name where is Marya Ivanofna?” I asked, with indescribable agitation.
“She is in bed, the little dove,” replied the pope’s wife, “in my bed, behind the partition. Ah! Petr’ Andrejitch, a misfortune very nearly happened. But, thank God, all has passed happily over. The villain had scarcely sat down to table before the poor darling began to moan. I nearly died of fright. He heard her.”