It was the end of the February; Winter, which had rendered manoeuvering difficult was now at a close, and our generals were preparing for a combined campaign. At the approach of our troops, revolted villages returned to their duty, while Prince Galitzin defeated the usurper, and raised the siege of Orenbourg, which was the death-blow to the rebellion. We heard of Pougatcheff in the Ural regions, and on the way to Moscow. But he was captured. The war was over. Zourine received orders to return his troops to their posts. I jumped about the room like a boy. Zourine shrugged his shoulders, and said: “Wait till you are married, and see how foolish you are!”
I had leave of absence. In a few days I would be at home and united to Marie. One day Zourine came into my room with a paper in his hand, and sent away the servant.
“What’s the matter?” said I.
“A slight annoyance,” he answered, handing me the paper. “Read.”
It was confidential order addressed to all the chiefs of detachments to arrest me, and send me under guard to Khasan before the Commission of Inquiry, created to give information against Pougatcheff and his accomplices. The paper fell from my hands.
“Do not be cast down,” said Zourine, “but set out at once.”
My conscience was easy, but the delay! It would be months, perhaps, before I could get through the Commission. Zourine bade me an affectionate adieu. I mounted the telega (Summer carriage), two hussars withdrawn swords beside, and took the road to Khasan.
XIV. THE SENTENCE.
I had no doubt that I was arrested for having left the fortress of Orenbourg without leave, and felt sure that I could exculpate myself. Not only were we not forbidden, but on the contrary, we were encouraged to make forays against the enemy. My friendly relations with Pougatcheff, however, wore a suspicious look.
Arriving at Khasan, I found the city almost reduced to ashes. Along the streets there were heaps of calcined material of unroofed walls of houses—a proof that Pougatcheff had been there. The fortress was intact. I was taken there and delivered to the officer on duty. He ordered the blacksmith to rivet securely iron shackles on my feet. I was then consigned to a small, dark dungeon, lighted only by a loop-hole, barred with iron. This did not presage anything good, yet I did not lose courage; for, having tasted the delight of prayer, offered by a heart full of anguish, I fell asleep, without a thought for the morrow. The next morning I was taken before the Commission. Two soldiers crossed the yard with me, to the Commandant’s dwelling. Stopping in the ante-chamber, they let me proceed alone to the interior.
I entered quite a spacious room. At a table, covered with papers, sat tow personages,—a General advanced in years, of stern aspect, and a young officer of the Guards, of easy and agreeable manners. Near the window, at another table, a secretary, pen on ear, bending over a paper, was ready to take my deposition.