All at once Pugatchef broke upon my reflections.
“What does your lordship,” said he, “deign to think about?”
“How can you expect me to be thinking?” replied I. “I am an officer and a gentleman; but yesterday I was waging war with you, and now I am travelling with you in the same carriage, and the whole happiness of my life depends on you.”
“What,” said Pugatchef, “are you afraid?”
I made reply that having already received my life at his hands, I trusted not merely in his good nature but in his help.
“And you are right—’fore God, you are right,” resumed the usurper; “you saw that my merry men looked askance at you. Even to-day the little old man wanted to prove indubitably to me that you were a spy, and should be put to the torture and hung. But I would not agree,” added he, lowering his voice, lest Saveliitch and the Tartar should hear him, “because I bore in mind your glass of wine and your ‘touloup.’ You see clearly that I am not bloodthirsty, as your comrades would make out.”
Remembering the taking of Fort Belogorsk, I did not think wise to contradict him, and I said nothing.
“What do they say of me in Orenburg?” asked Pugatchef, after a short silence.
“Well, it is said that you are not easy to get the better of. You will agree we have had our hands full with you.”
The face of the usurper expressed the satisfaction of self-love.
“Yes,” said he, with a glorious air, “I am a great warrior. Do they know in Orenburg of the battle of Jouzeiff? Forty Generals were killed, four armies made prisoners. Do you think the King of Prussia is about my strength?”
This boasting of the robber rather amused me.
“What do you think yourself?” I said to him. “Could you beat Frederick?”
“Fedor Fedorovitch, eh! why not? I can beat your Generals, and your Generals have beaten him. Until now my arms have been victorious. Wait a bit—only wait a bit—you’ll see something when I shall march on Moscow?”
“And you are thinking of marching on Moscow?”
The usurper appeared to reflect. Then he said, half-aloud—
“God knows my way is straight. I have little freedom of action. My fellows don’t obey me—they are marauders. I have to keep a sharp look out—at the first reverse they would save their necks with my head.”
“Well,” I said to Pugatchef, “would it not be better to forsake them yourself, ere it be too late, and throw yourself on the mercy of the Tzarina?”
Pugatchef smiled bitterly.
“No,” said he, “the day of repentance is past and gone; they will not give me grace. I must go on as I have begun. Who knows? It may be. Grischka Otrepieff certainly became Tzar at Moscow.”
“But do you know his end? He was cast out of a window, he was massacred, burnt, and his ashes blown abroad at the cannon’s mouth, to the four winds of heaven.”