A Hero of Our Time Part 6

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"ALL is for the best," I said, sitting down close by the fire. "Now you will finish telling me your story about Bela. I am certain that what you have already told me was not the end of it."

"Why are you so certain?" answered the staff-captain, winking and smiling slyly.

"Because things don't happen like that. A story with such an unusual beginning must also have an unusual ending."

"You have guessed, of course"...

"I am very glad to hear it."

"It is all very well for you to be glad, but, indeed, it makes me sad when I think of it. Bela was a splendid girl. In the end I grew accustomed to her just as if she had been my own daughter, and she loved me. I must tell you that I have no family. I have had no news of my father and mother for twelve years or so, and, in my earlier days, I never thought of providing myself with a wife--and now, you know, it wouldn't do. So I was glad to have found someone to spoil. She used to sing to us or dance the Lezginka. [17].. And what a dancer she was! I have seen our own ladies in provincial society; and on one occasion, sir, about twenty years ago, I was even in the n.o.bles' Club at Moscow--but was there a woman to be compared with her? Not one! Grigori Aleksandrovich dressed her up like a doll, petted and pampered her, and it was simply astonis.h.i.+ng to see how pretty she grew while she lived with us. The sunburn disappeared from her face and hands, and a rosy colour came into her cheeks... What a merry girl she was! Always making fun of me, the little rogue!... Heaven forgive her!"

"And when you told her of her father's death?"

"We kept it a secret from her for a long time, until she had grown accustomed to her position; and then, when she was told, she cried for a day or two and forgot all about it.

"For four months or so everything went on as well as it possibly could. Grigori Aleksandrovich, as I think I have already mentioned, was pa.s.sionately fond of hunting; he was always craving to be off into the forest after boars or wild goats--but now it would be as much as he would do to go beyond the fortress rampart. All at once, however, I saw that he was beginning again to have fits of abstraction, walking about his room with his hands clasped behind his back. One day after that, without telling anyone, he set off shooting. During the whole morning he was not to be seen; then the same thing happened another time, and so on--oftener and oftener...

"'This looks bad!' I said to myself. 'Something must have come between them!'

"One morning I paid them a visit--I can see it all in my mind's eye, as if it was happening now. Bela was sitting on the bed, wearing a black silk jacket, and looking rather pale and so sad that I was alarmed.

"'Where is Pechorin?' I asked.


"'When did he go--to-day?'

"'She was silent, as if she found a difficulty in answering.

"'No, he has been gone since yesterday,' she said at length, with a heavy sigh.

"'Surely nothing has happened to him!'

"'Yesterday I thought and thought the whole day,' she answered through her tears; 'I imagined all sorts of misfortunes. At one time I fancied that he had been wounded by a wild boar, at another time, that he had been carried off by a Chechene into the mountains... But, now, I have come to think that he no longer loves me.'

"'In truth, my dear girl, you could not have imagined anything worse!'

"She burst out crying; then, proudly raising her head, she wiped away the tears and continued:

"'If he does not love me, then who prevents him sending me home? I am not putting any constraint on him. But, if things go on like this, I will go away myself--I am not a slave, I am a prince's daughter!'...

"I tried to talk her over.

"'Listen, Bela. You see it is impossible for him to stop in here with you for ever, as if he was sewn on to your petticoat. He is a young man and fond of hunting. Off he'll go, but you will find that he will come back; and, if you are going to be unhappy, you will soon make him tired of you.'

"'True, true!' she said. 'I will be merry.'

"And with a burst of laughter, she seized her tambourine, began to sing, dance, and gambol around me. But that did not last long either; she fell upon the bed again and buried her face in her hands.

"What could I do with her? You know I have never been accustomed to the society of women. I thought and thought how to cheer her up, but couldn't hit on anything. For some time both of us remained silent... A most unpleasant situation, sir!

"At length I said to her:

"'Would you like us to go and take a walk on the rampart? The weather is splendid.'

"This was in September, and indeed it was a wonderful day, bright and not too hot. The mountains could be seen as clearly as though they were but a hand's-breadth away. We went, and walked in silence to and fro along the rampart of the fortress. At length she sat down on the sward, and I sat beside her. In truth, now, it is funny to think of it all! I used to run after her just like a kind of children's nurse!

"Our fortress was situated in a lofty position, and the view from the rampart was superb. On one side, the wide clearing, seamed by a few clefts, was bounded by the forest which stretched out to the very ridge of the mountains. Here and there, on the clearing, villages were to be seen sending forth their smoke, and there were droves of horses roaming about. On the other side flowed a tiny stream, and close to its banks came the dense undergrowth which covered the flinty heights joining the princ.i.p.al chain of the Caucasus. We sat in a corner of the bastion, so that we could see everything on both sides. Suddenly I perceived someone on a grey horse riding out of the forest; nearer and nearer he approached until finally he stopped on the far side of the river, about a hundred fathoms from us, and began to wheel his horse round and round like one possessed. 'Strange!' I thought.

"'Look, look, Bela,' I said, 'you've got young eyes--what sort of a horseman is that? Who is it he has come to amuse?'...

"'It is Kazb.i.+.c.h!' she exclaimed after a glance.

"'Ah, the robber! Come to laugh at us, has he?'

"I looked closely, and sure enough it was Kazb.i.+.c.h, with his swarthy face, and as ragged and dirty as ever.

"'It is my father's horse!' said Bela, seizing my arm.

"She was trembling like a leaf and her eyes were sparkling.

"'Aha!' I said to myself. 'There is robber's blood in your veins still, my dear!'

"'Come here,' I said to the sentry. 'Look to your gun and unhorse that gallant for me--and you shall have a silver ruble.'

"'Very well, your honour, only he won't keep still.'

"'Tell him to!' I said, with a laugh.

"'Hey, friend!' cried the sentry, waving his hand. 'Wait a bit. What are you spinning round like a humming-top for?'

"Kazb.i.+.c.h halted and gave ear to the sentry--probably thinking that we were going to parley with him. Quite the contrary!... My grenadier took aim... Bang!... Missed!... Just as the powder flashed in the pan Kazb.i.+.c.h jogged his horse, which gave a bound to one side. He stood up in his stirrups, shouted something in his own language, made a threatening gesture with his whip--and was off.

"'Aren't you ashamed of yourself?' I said to the sentry.

"'He has gone away to die, your honour,' he answered. 'There's no killing a man of that cursed race at one stroke.'

"A quarter of an hour later Pechorin returned from hunting. Bela threw herself on his neck without a single complaint, without a single reproach for his lengthy absence!... Even I was angry with him by this time!

"'Good heavens!' I said; 'why, I tell you, Kazb.i.+.c.h was here on the other side of the river just a moment ago, and we shot at him. How easily you might have run up against him, you know! These mountaineers are a vindictive race! Do you suppose he does not guess that you gave Azamat some help? And I wager that he recognised Bela to-day! I know he was desperately fond of her a year ago--he told me so himself--and, if he had had any hope of getting together a proper bridegroom's gift, he would certainly have sought her in marriage.'

"At this Pechorin became thoughtful.

"'Yes,' he answered. 'We must be more cautious--Bela, from this day forth you mustn't walk on the rampart any more.'

A Hero of Our Time Part 6

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A Hero of Our Time Part 6 summary

You're reading A Hero of Our Time Part 6. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov already has 210 views.

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