A Hero of Our Time Part 2

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"Pechorin rose, bowed to her, put his hand to his forehead and heart, and asked me to answer her. I know their language well, and I translated his reply.

"When she had left us I whispered to Grigori Aleksandrovich:

"'Well, now, what do you think of her?'

"'Charming!' he replied. 'What is her name?'

"'Her name is Bela,' I answered.

"And a beautiful girl she was indeed; her figure was tall and slender, her eyes black as those of a mountain chamois, and they fairly looked into your soul. Pechorin, deep in thought, kept his gaze fixed upon her, and she, for her part, stole glances at him often enough from under her lashes. Pechorin, however, was not the only one who was admiring the pretty princess; another pair of eyes, fixed and fiery, were gazing at her from the corner of the room. I took a good look at their owner, and recognised my old acquaintance Kazb.i.+.c.h, who, you must know, was neither exactly 'friendly' nor yet the other thing. He was an object of much suspicion, although he had never actually been caught at any knavery. He used to bring rams to our fortress and sell them cheaply; only he never would haggle; whatever he demanded at first you had to give. He would have his throat cut rather than come down in price. He had the reputation of being fond of roaming on the far side of the Kuban with the Abreks; and, to tell the truth, he had a regular thief's visage. A little, wizened, broad-shouldered fellow he was--but smart, I can tell you, smart as the very devil! His tunic was always worn out and patched, but his weapons were mounted in silver. His horse was renowned throughout Kabardia--and, indeed, a better one it would be impossible to imagine! Not without good reason did all the other hors.e.m.e.n envy Kazb.i.+.c.h, and on more than one occasion they had attempted to steal the horse, but they had never succeeded. I seem to see the animal before me now--black as coal, with legs like bow-strings and eyes as fine as Bela's! How strong he was too! He would gallop as much as fifty versts at a stretch! And he was well trained besides--he would trot behind his master like a dog, and actually knew his voice! Kazb.i.+.c.h never used to tether him either--just the very horse for a robber!...

"On that evening Kazb.i.+.c.h was more sullen than ever, and I noticed that he was wearing a coat of mail under his tunic. 'He hasn't got that coat of mail on for nothing,' I thought. 'He has some plot in his head, I'll be bound!'

"It grew oppressively hot in the hut, and I went out into the air to cool myself. Night had fallen upon the mountains, and a mist was beginning to creep along the gorges.

"It occurred to me to pop in under the shed where our horses were standing, to see whether they had their fodder; and, besides, it is never any harm to take precautions. My horse was a splendid one too, and more than one Kabardian had already cast fond glances at it, repeating at the same time: 'Yaks.h.i.+ tkhe chok yaks.h.i.+.' [9]

"I stole along the fence. Suddenly I heard voices, one of which I immediately recognised.

"It was that of the young pickle, Azamat, our host's son. The other person spoke less and in a quieter tone.

"'What are they discussing there?' I wondered. 'Surely it can't be my horse!' I squatted down beside the fence and proceeded to play the eavesdropper, trying not to let slip a single word. At times the noise of songs and the buzz of voices, escaping from the hut, drowned the conversation which I was finding interesting.

"'That's a splendid horse of yours,' Azamat was saying. 'If I were master of a house of my own and had a stud of three hundred mares, I would give half of it for your galloper, Kazb.i.+.c.h!'

"'Aha! Kazb.i.+.c.h!' I said to myself, and I called to mind the coat of mail.

"'Yes,' replied Kazb.i.+.c.h, after an interval of silence. 'There is not such another to be found in all Kabardia. Once--it was on the other side of the Terek--I had ridden with the Abreks to seize the Russian herds.

We had no luck, so we scattered in different directions. Four Cossacks dashed after me. I could actually hear the cries of the giaours behind me, and in front of me there was a dense forest. I crouched down in the saddle, committed myself to Allah, and, for the first time in my life, insulted my horse with a blow of the whip. Like a bird, he plunged among the branches; the sharp thorns tore my clothing, the dead boughs of the cork-elms struck against my face! My horse leaped over tree-trunks and burst his way through bushes with his chest! It would have been better for me to have abandoned him at the outskirts of the forest and concealed myself in it afoot, but it was a pity to part with him--and the Prophet rewarded me. A few bullets whistled over my head. I could now hear the Cossacks, who had dismounted, running upon my tracks.

Suddenly a deep gully opened before me. My galloper took thought--and leaped. His hind hoofs slipped back off the opposite bank, and he remained hanging by his fore-feet. I dropped the bridle and threw myself into the hollow, thereby saving my horse, which jumped out. The Cossacks saw the whole scene, only not one of them got down to search for me, thinking probably that I had mortally injured myself; and I heard them rus.h.i.+ng to catch my horse. My heart bled within me. I crept along the hollow through the thick gra.s.s--then I looked around: it was the end of the forest. A few Cossacks were riding out from it on to the clearing, and there was my Karagyoz [10] galloping straight towards them. With a shout they all dashed forward. For a long, long time they pursued him, and one of them, in particular, was once or twice almost successful in throwing a la.s.so over his neck.

"I trembled, dropped my eyes, and began to pray. After a few moments I looked up again, and there was my Karagyoz flying along, his tail waving--free as the wind; and the giaours, on their jaded horses, were trailing along far behind, one after another, across the steppe.

Wallah! It is true--really true! Till late at night I lay in the hollow.

Suddenly--what do you think, Azamat? I heard in the darkness a horse trotting along the bank of the hollow, snorting, neighing, and beating the ground with his hoofs. I recognised my Karagyoz's voice; 'twas he, my comrade!"... Since that time we have never been parted!'

"And I could hear him patting his galloper's sleek neck with his hand, as he called him various fond names.

"'If I had a stud of a thousand mares,' said Azamat, 'I would give it all for your Karagyoz!'

"'Yok! [11] I would not take it!' said Kazb.i.+.c.h indifferently.

"'Listen, Kazb.i.+.c.h,' said Azamat, trying to ingratiate himself with him.

'You are a kindhearted man, you are a brave horseman, but my father is afraid of the Russians and will not allow me to go on the mountains.

Give me your horse, and I will do anything you wish. I will steal my father's best rifle for you, or his sabre--just as you like--and his sabre is a genuine Gurda; [12] you have only to lay the edge against your hand, and it will cut you; a coat of mail like yours is nothing against it.'

"Kazb.i.+.c.h remained silent.

"'The first time I saw your horse,' continued Azamat, 'when he was wheeling and leaping under you, his nostrils distended, and the flints flying in showers from under his hoofs, something I could not understand took place within my soul; and since that time I have been weary of everything. I have looked with disdain on my father's best gallopers; I have been ashamed to be seen on them, and yearning has taken possession of me. In my anguish I have spent whole days on the cliffs, and, every minute, my thoughts have kept turning to your black galloper with his graceful gait and his sleek back, straight as an arrow. With his keen, bright eyes he has looked into mine as if about to speak!... I shall die, Kazb.i.+.c.h, if you will not sell him to me!' said Azamat, with trembling voice.

"I could hear him burst out weeping, and I must tell you that Azamat was a very stubborn lad, and that not for anything could tears be wrung from him, even when he was a little younger.

"In answer to his tears, I could hear something like a laugh.

"'Listen,' said Azamat in a firm voice. 'You see, I am making up my mind for anything. If you like, I will steal my sister for you! How she dances! How she sings! And the way she embroiders with gold--marvellous!

Not even a Turkish Padishah [13] has had a wife like her!... Shall I?

Wait for me to-morrow night, yonder, in the gorge where the torrent flows; I will go by with her to the neighbouring village--and she is yours. Surely Bela is worth your galloper!'

"Kazb.i.+.c.h remained silent for a long, long time. At length, instead of answering, he struck up in an undertone the ancient song:

"Many a beauty among us dwells

From whose eyes' dark depths the starlight wells,

'Tis an envied lot and sweet, to hold

Their love; but brighter is freedom bold.

Four wives are yours if you pay the gold;

But a mettlesome steed is of price untold;

The whirlwind itself on the steppe is less fleet;

He knows no treachery--no deceit." [14]

"In vain Azamat entreated him to consent. He wept, coaxed, and swore to him. Finally, Kazb.i.+.c.h interrupted him impatiently:

"'Begone, you crazy brat! How should you think to ride on my horse? In three steps you would be thrown and your neck broken on the stones!'

"'I?' cried Azamat in a fury, and the blade of the child's dagger rang against the coat of mail. A powerful arm thrust him away, and he struck the wattle fence with such violence that it rocked.

"'Now we'll see some fun!' I thought to myself.

"I rushed into the stable, bridled our horses and led them out into the back courtyard. In a couple of minutes there was a terrible uproar in the hut. What had happened was this: Azamat had rushed in, with his tunic torn, saying that Kazb.i.+.c.h was going to murder him. All sprang out, seized their guns, and the fun began! Noise--shouts--shots! But by this time Kazb.i.+.c.h was in the saddle, and, wheeling among the crowd along the street, defended himself like a madman, brandis.h.i.+ng his sabre.

"'It is a bad thing to interfere in other people's quarrels,' I said to Grigori Aleksandrovich, taking him by the arm. 'Wouldn't it be better for us to clear off without loss of time?'

"'Wait, though, and see how it will end!'

"'Oh, as to that, it will be sure enough to end badly; it is always so with these Asiatics. Once let them get drunk on buza, and there's certain to be bloodshed.'

"We mounted and galloped home."

CHAPTER IV

A Hero of Our Time Part 2

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A Hero of Our Time Part 2 summary

You're reading A Hero of Our Time Part 2. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov already has 232 views.

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