“May the power of the cross be with us!” Akoulina Pamphilovna said. “May God turn aside this cloud. Very well, Alexey Ivanytch, we shall see! Oh! the sly fox!”
At this moment the door opened, and Marya Ivanofna appeared, with a smile on her pale face. She had changed her peasant dress, and was dressed as usual, simply and suitably. I seized her hand, and could not for a while say a single word. We were both silent, our hearts were too full.
Our hosts felt we had other things to do than to talk to them; they left us. We remained alone. Marya told me all that had befallen her since the taking of the fort; painted me the horrors of her position, all the torment the infamous Chvabrine had made her suffer. We recalled to each other the happy past, both of us shedding tears the while.
At last I could tell her my plans. It was impossible for her to stay in a fort which had submitted to Pugatchef, and where Chvabrine was in command. Neither could I dream of taking refuge with her in Orenburg, where at this juncture all the miseries of a siege were being undergone. Marya had no longer a single relation in the world. Therefore I proposed to her that she should go to my parents’ country house.
She was very much surprised at such a proposal. The displeasure my father had shown on her account frightened her. But I soothed her. I knew my father would deem it a duty and an honour to shelter in his house the daughter of a veteran who had died for his country.
“Dear Marya,” I said, at last, “I look upon you as my wife. These strange events have irrevocably united us. Nothing in the whole world can part us any more.”
Marya heard me in dignified silence, without misplaced affectation. She felt as I did, that her destiny was irrevocably linked with mine; still, she repeated that she would only be my wife with my parents’ consent. I had nothing to answer. We fell in each other’s arms, and my project became our mutual decision.
An hour afterwards the “ouriadnik” brought me my safe-conduct pass, with the scrawl which did duty as Pugatchef’s signature, and told me the Tzar awaited me in his house.
I found him ready to start.
How express what I felt in the presence of this man, awful and cruel for all, myself only excepted? And why not tell the whole truth? At this moment I felt a strong sympathy with him. I wished earnestly to draw him from the band of robbers of which he was the chief, and save his head ere it should be too late.
The presence of Chvabrine and of the crowd around us prevented me from expressing to him all the feelings which filled my heart.
We parted friends.
Pugatchef saw in the crowd Akoulina Pamphilovna, and amicably threatened her with his finger, with a meaning wink. Then he seated himself in his "kibitka" and gave the word to return to Berd. When the horses started, he leaned out of his carriage and shouted to me—