The Tartar began to hum a plaintive song; Saveliitch, fast asleep, oscillated from one side to the other. Our “kibitka” was passing quickly over the wintry road. All at once I saw a little village I knew well, with a palisade and a belfry, on the rugged bank of the Yaik. A quarter of an hour afterwards we were entering Fort Belogorsk.
The “kibitka" stopped before the door of the Commandant’s house. The inhabitants had recognized the little bell of Pugatchef’s team, and had assembled in a crowd. Chvabrine came to meet the usurper; he was dressed as a Cossack, and had allowed his beard to grow.
The traitor helped Pugatchef to get out of the carriage, expressing by obsequious words his zeal and joy.
Seeing me he became uneasy, but soon recovered himself.
“You are one of us,” said he; “it should have been long ago.”
I turned away my head without answering him. My heart failed me when we entered the little room I knew so well, where could still be seen on the wall the commission of the late deceased Commandant, as a sad memorial.
Pugatchef sat down on the same sofa where ofttimes Ivan Kouzmitch had dozed to the sound of his wife’s scolding.
Chvabrine himself brought brandy to his chief. Pugatchef drank a glass of it, and said to him, pointing to me—
“Offer one to his lordship.”
Chvabrine approached me with his tray. I turned away my head for the second time. He seemed beside himself. With his usual sharpness he had doubtless guessed that Pugatchef was not pleased with me. He regarded him with alarm and me with mistrust. Pugatchef asked him some questions on the condition of the fort, on what was said concerning the Tzarina’s troops, and other similar subjects. Then suddenly and in an unexpected manner—
“Tell me, brother,” asked he, “who is this young girl you are keeping under watch and ward? Show me her.”
Chvabrine became pale as death.
“Tzar,” he said, in a trembling voice, “Tzar, she is not under restraint; she is in bed in her room.”
“Take me to her,” said the usurper, rising.
It was impossible to hesitate. Chvabrine led Pugatchef to Marya Ivanofna’s room. I followed them. Chvabrine stopped on the stairs.
“Tzar,” said he, “you can constrain me to do as you list, but do not permit a stranger to enter my wife’s room.”
“You are married!” cried I, ready to tear him in pieces.
“Hush!” interrupted Pugatchef, “it is my concern. And you,” continued he, turning towards Chvabrine, “do not swagger; whether she be your wife or no, I take whomsoever I please to see her. Your lordship, follow me.”
At the door of the room Chvabrine again stopped, and said, in a broken voice—
“Tzar, I warn you she is feverish, and for three days she has been delirious.”