A Hero of Our Time Part 7

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"In the evening I had a lengthy explanation with him. I was vexed that his feelings towards the poor girl had changed; to say nothing of his spending half the day hunting, his manner towards her had become cold.

He rarely caressed her, and she was beginning perceptibly to pine away; her little face was becoming drawn, her large eyes growing dim.

"'What are you sighing for, Bela?' I would ask her. 'Are you sad?'

"'No!'

"'Do you want anything?'

"'No!'

"'You are pining for your kinsfolk?'

"'I have none!'

"Sometimes for whole days not a word could be drawn from her but 'Yes'

and 'No.'

"So I straightway proceeded to talk to Pechorin about her."

CHAPTER IX

"'LISTEN, Maksim Maksimych,' said Pechorin. 'Mine is an unfortunate disposition; whether it is the result of my upbringing or whether it is innate--I know not. I only know this, that if I am the cause of unhappiness in others I myself am no less unhappy. Of course, that is a poor consolation to them--only the fact remains that such is the case.

In my early youth, from the moment I ceased to be under the guardians.h.i.+p of my relations, I began madly to enjoy all the pleasures which money could buy--and, of course, such pleasures became irksome to me. Then I launched out into the world of fas.h.i.+on--and that, too, soon palled upon me. I fell in love with fas.h.i.+onable beauties and was loved by them, but my imagination and egoism alone were aroused; my heart remained empty...

I began to read, to study--but sciences also became utterly wearisome to me. I saw that neither fame nor happiness depends on them in the least, because the happiest people are the uneducated, and fame is good fortune, to attain which you have only to be smart. Then I grew bored...

Soon afterwards I was transferred to the Caucasus; and that was the happiest time of my life. I hoped that under the bullets of the Chechenes boredom could not exist--a vain hope! In a month I grew so accustomed to the buzzing of the bullets and to the proximity of death that, to tell the truth, I paid more attention to the gnats--and I became more bored than ever, because I had lost what was almost my last hope. When I saw Bela in my own house; when, for the first time, I held her on my knee and kissed her black locks, I, fool that I was, thought that she was an angel sent to me by sympathetic fate... Again I was mistaken; the love of a savage is little better than that of your lady of quality, the barbaric ignorance and simplicity of the one weary you as much as the coquetry of the other. I am not saying that I do not love her still; I am grateful to her for a few fairly sweet moments; I would give my life for her--only I am bored with her... Whether I am a fool or a villain I know not; but this is certain, I am also most deserving of pity--perhaps more than she. My soul has been spoiled by the world, my imagination is unquiet, my heart insatiate. To me everything is of little moment. I become as easily accustomed to grief as to joy, and my life grows emptier day by day. One expedient only is left to me--travel.

"'As soon as I can, I shall set off--but not to Europe. Heaven forfend!

I shall go to America, to Arabia, to India--perchance I shall die somewhere on the way. At any rate, I am convinced that, thanks to storms and bad roads, that last consolation will not quickly be exhausted!'

"For a long time he went on speaking thus, and his words have remained stamped upon my memory, because it was the first time that I had heard such things from a man of five-and-twenty--and Heaven grant it may be the last. Isn't it astonis.h.i.+ng? Tell me, please," continued the staff-captain, appealing to me. "You used to live in the Capital, I think, and that not so very long ago. Is it possible that the young men there are all like that?"

I replied that there were a good many people who used the same sort of language, that, probably, there might even be some who spoke in all sincerity; that disillusionment, moreover, like all other vogues, having had its beginning in the higher strata of society, had descended to the lower, where it was being worn threadbare, and that, now, those who were really and truly bored strove to conceal their misfortune as if it were a vice. The staff-captain did not understand these subtleties, shook his head, and smiled slyly.

"Anyhow, I suppose it was the French who introduced the fas.h.i.+on?"

"No, the English."

"Aha, there you are!" he answered. "They always have been arrant drunkards, you know!"

Involuntarily I recalled to mind a certain lady, living in Moscow, who used to maintain that Byron was nothing more nor less than a drunkard.

However, the staff-captain's observation was more excusable; in order to abstain from strong drink, he naturally endeavoured to convince himself that all the misfortunes in the world are the result of drunkenness.

CHAPTER X

MEANWHILE the staff-captain continued his story.

"Kazb.i.+.c.h never put in an appearance again; but somehow--I don't know why--I could not get the idea out of my head that he had had a reason for coming, and that some mischievous scheme was in his mind.

"Well, one day Pechorin tried to persuade me to go boar-hunting with him. For a long time I refused. What novelty was a wild boar to me?

"However, off he dragged me, all the same. We took four or five soldiers and set out early in the morning. Up till ten o'clock we scurried about the reeds and the forest--there wasn't a wild beast to be found!

"'I say, oughtn't we to be going back?' I said. 'What's the use of sticking at it? It is evident enough that we have happened on an unlucky day!'

"But, in spite of heat and fatigue, Pechorin didn't like to return empty-handed... That is just the kind of man he was; whatever he set his heart on he had to have--evidently, in his childhood, he had been spoiled by an indulgent mother. At last, at midday, we discovered one of those cursed wild boars--Bang! Bang!--No good!--Off it went into the reeds. That was an unlucky day, to be sure!... So, after a short rest, we set off homeward...

"We rode in silence, side by side, giving the horses their head. We had almost reached the fortress, and only the brushwood concealed it from view. Suddenly a shot rang out... We glanced at each other, both struck with the selfsame suspicion... We galloped headlong in the direction of the shot, looked, and saw the soldiers cl.u.s.tered together on the rampart and pointing towards a field, along which a rider was flying at full speed, holding something white across his saddle. Grigori Aleksandrovich yelled like any Chechene, whipped his gun from its cover, and gave chase--I after him.

"Luckily, thanks to our unsuccessful hunt, our horses were not jaded; they strained under the saddle, and with every moment we drew nearer and nearer... At length I recognised Kazb.i.+.c.h, only I could not make out what it was that he was holding in front of him.

"Then I drew level with Pechorin and shouted to him:

"'It is Kazb.i.+.c.h!'

"He looked at me, nodded, and struck his horse with his whip.

"At last we were within gunshot of Kazb.i.+.c.h. Whether it was that his horse was jaded or not so good as ours, I don't know, but, in spite of all his efforts, it did not get along very fast. I fancy at that moment he remembered his Karagyoz!

"I looked at Pechorin. He was taking aim as he galloped...

"'Don't shoot,' I cried. 'Save the shot! We will catch up with him as it is.'

"Oh, these young men! Always taking fire at the wrong moment! The shot rang out and the bullet broke one of the horse's hind legs. It gave a few fiery leaps forward, stumbled, and fell to its knees. Kazb.i.+.c.h sprang off, and then we perceived that it was a woman he was holding in his arms--a woman wrapped in a veil. It was Bela--poor Bela! He shouted something to us in his own language and raised his dagger over her...

Delay was useless; I fired in my turn, at haphazard. Probably the bullet struck him in the shoulder, because he dropped his hand suddenly. When the smoke cleared off, we could see the wounded horse lying on the ground and Bela beside it; but Kazb.i.+.c.h, his gun flung away, was clambering like a cat up the cliff, through the brushwood. I should have liked to have brought him down from there--but I hadn't a charge ready.

We jumped off our horses and rushed to Bela. Poor girl! She was lying motionless, and the blood was pouring in streams from her wound. The villain! If he had struck her to the heart--well and good, everything would at least have been finished there and then; but to stab her in the back like that--the scoundrel! She was unconscious. We tore the veil into strips and bound up the wound as tightly as we could. In vain Pechorin kissed her cold lips--it was impossible to bring her to.

"Pechorin mounted; I lifted Bela from the ground and somehow managed to place her before him on his saddle; he put his arm round her and we rode back.

"'Look here, Maksim Maksimych,' said Grigori Aleksandrovich, after a few moments of silence. 'We will never bring her in alive like this.'

"'True!' I said, and we put our horses to a full gallop."

CHAPTER XI

"A CROWD was awaiting us at the fortress gate. Carefully we carried the wounded girl to Pechorin's quarters, and then we sent for the doctor.

The latter was drunk, but he came, examined the wound, and announced that she could not live more than a day. He was mistaken, though."

"She recovered?" I asked the staff-captain, seizing him by the arm, and involuntarily rejoicing.

"No," he replied, "but the doctor was so far mistaken that she lived two days longer."

"Explain, though, how Kazb.i.+.c.h made off with her!"

A Hero of Our Time Part 7

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A Hero of Our Time Part 7 summary

You're reading A Hero of Our Time Part 7. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov already has 255 views.

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