A Hero of Our Time Part 12

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"Well, what then? On Sunday you won't have a new ribbon to go to church in."

An interval of silence followed. One thing, however, struck me--in talking to me the blind boy spoke in the Little Russian dialect, but now he was expressing himself in pure Russian.

"You see, I am right!" the blind boy went on, clapping his hands. "Yanko is not afraid of sea, nor winds, nor mist, nor coastguards! Just listen!

That is not the water plas.h.i.+ng, you can't deceive me--it is his long oars."

The woman sprang up and began anxiously to gaze into the distance.

"You are raving!" she said. "I cannot see anything."

I confess that, much as I tried to make out in the distance something resembling a boat, my efforts were unsuccessful. About ten minutes pa.s.sed thus, when a black speck appeared between the mountains of the waves! At one time it grew larger, at another smaller. Slowly rising upon the crests of the waves and swiftly descending from them, the boat drew near to the sh.o.r.e.

"He must be a brave sailor," I thought, "to have determined to cross the twenty versts of strait on a night like this, and he must have had a weighty reason for doing so."

Reflecting thus, I gazed with an involuntary beating of the heart at the poor boat. It dived like a duck, and then, with rapidly swinging oars--like wings--it sprang forth from the abyss amid the splashes of the foam. "Ah!" I thought, "it will be dashed against the sh.o.r.e with all its force and broken to pieces!" But it turned aside adroitly and leaped unharmed into a little creek. Out of it stepped a man of medium height, wearing a Tartar sheepskin cap. He waved his hand, and all three set to work to drag something out of the boat. The cargo was so large that, to this day, I cannot understand how it was that the boat did not sink.

Each of them shouldered a bundle, and they set off along the sh.o.r.e, and I soon lost sight of them. I had to return home; but I confess I was rendered uneasy by all these strange happenings, and I found it hard to await the morning.

My Cossack was very much astonished when, on waking up, he saw me fully dressed. I did not, however, tell him the reason. For some time I stood at the window, gazing admiringly at the blue sky all studded with wisps of cloud, and at the distant sh.o.r.e of the Crimea, stretching out in a lilac-coloured streak and ending in a cliff, on the summit of which the white tower of the lighthouse was gleaming. Then I betook myself to the fortress, Phanagoriya, in order to ascertain from the Commandant at what hour I should depart for Gelenjik.

But the Commandant, alas! could not give me any definite information.

The vessels lying in the harbour were all either guard-s.h.i.+ps or merchant-vessels which had not yet even begun to take in lading.

"Maybe in about three or four days' time a mail-boat will come in," said the Commandant, "and then we shall see."

I returned home sulky and wrathful. My Cossack met me at the door with a frightened countenance.

"Things are looking bad, sir!" he said.

"Yes, my friend; goodness only knows when we shall get away!"

Hereupon he became still more uneasy, and, bending towards me, he said in a whisper:

"It is uncanny here! I met an under-officer from the Black Sea to-day--he's an acquaintance of mine--he was in my detachment last year.

When I told him where we were staying, he said, 'That place is uncanny, old fellow; they're wicked people there!'... And, indeed, what sort of a blind boy is that? He goes everywhere alone, to fetch water and to buy bread at the bazaar. It is evident they have become accustomed to that sort of thing here."

"Well, what then? Tell me, though, has the mistress of the place put in an appearance?"

"During your absence to-day, an old woman and her daughter arrived."

"What daughter? She has no daughter!"

"Goodness knows who it can be if it isn't her daughter; but the old woman is sitting over there in the hut now."

I entered the hovel. A blazing fire was burning in the stove, and they were cooking a dinner which struck me as being a rather luxurious one for poor people. To all my questions the old woman replied that she was deaf and could not hear me. There was nothing to be got out of her. I turned to the blind boy who was sitting in front of the stove, putting twigs into the fire.

"Now, then, you little blind devil," I said, taking him by the ear.

"Tell me, where were you roaming with the bundle last night, eh?"

The blind boy suddenly burst out weeping, shrieking and wailing.

"Where did I go? I did not go anywhere... With the bundle?... What bundle?"

This time the old woman heard, and she began to mutter:

"Hark at them plotting, and against a poor boy too! What are you touching him for? What has he done to you?"

I had enough of it, and went out, firmly resolved to find the key to the riddle.

I wrapped myself up in my felt cloak and, sitting down on a rock by the fence, gazed into the distance. Before me stretched the sea, agitated by the storm of the previous night, and its monotonous roar, like the murmur of a town over which slumber is beginning to creep, recalled bygone years to my mind, and transported my thoughts northward to our cold Capital. Agitated by my recollections, I became oblivious of my surroundings.

About an hour pa.s.sed thus, perhaps even longer. Suddenly something resembling a song struck upon my ear. It was a song, and the voice was a woman's, young and fresh--but, where was it coming from?... I listened; it was a harmonious melody--now long-drawnout and plaintive, now swift and lively. I looked around me--there was n.o.body to be seen. I listened again--the sounds seemed to be falling from the sky. I raised my eyes.

On the roof of my cabin was standing a young girl in a striped dress and with her hair hanging loose--a regular water-nymph. Shading her eyes from the sun's rays with the palm of her hand, she was gazing intently into the distance. At one time, she would laugh and talk to herself, at another, she would strike up her song anew.

I have retained that song in my memory, word for word:

At their own free will

They seem to wander

O'er the green sea yonder,

Those s.h.i.+ps, as still

They are onward going,

With white sails flowing.

And among those s.h.i.+ps

My eye can mark

My own dear barque:

By two oars guided

(All unprovided

With sails) it slips.

The storm-wind raves:

And the old s.h.i.+ps--see!

With wings spread free,

A Hero of Our Time Part 12

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A Hero of Our Time Part 12 summary

You're reading A Hero of Our Time Part 12. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov already has 206 views.

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