Abbildungen der Seite

roubles, and that your comrade gives you a greeting.”

The whole assembly approved the decision, and the man only grumbled out, as he gave back the money, “I knew I should lose it, if that dog of a Christian meddled with it."

All this respect, however, did not avail to procure any better usage for the unfortunate judge, whose health was suffering severely under his privations. Ivan, however, had recommended himself in the same way as Leo, by his perfections as a cook, and moreover he was a capital buffoon. His fetters were sometimes taken off that he might divert the villagers by his dances and strange antics while his master played the guitar. Sometimes they sang Russian songs together to the instrument, and on these occasions the Major's hands were released that he might play on it; but one day he was unfortunately heard playing in his chains for his own amusement, and from that time he was never released from his fetters.

In the course of a year, three urgent letters had been sent; but no notice was taken of them, and Ivan began to despair of aid from home, and set himself to work. His first step was to profess himself a Mahometan. He durst not tell his master till the deed was done, and then Kascambo was infinitely shocked ; but the act did not procure Ivan so much freedom as he had hoped. He was, indeed, no longer in chains, but he was evidently distrusted, and was so closely watched, that the only way in which he could communicate with his master was when they were set to sing together, when they chanted out question and answer in Russ, unsuspected, to the tune of their national airs. He was taken on an expedition against the Russians, and very nearly killed by the suspicious Tchetchenges on one side, and by the Cossacks on the other, as a deserter. He saved á

young man of the tribe from drowning ; but though he thus earned the friendship of the family, the rest of the villagers hated and dreaded him all the more, since he had not been able to help proving himself a min of courage, instead of the feeble buffoon he had tried to appear.

Three months after this expedition, another took place; but Ivan was not allowed even to know of it. He saw preparations making, but nothing was said to him ; only one morning he found the village entirely deserted by all the younger men, and as he wandered round it, the aged ones would not speak to him. A child told him that his father meant to kill him, and on the roof of her house stood the sister of the man he had saved, making signals of great terror, and pointing towards Russia. Home he went, and found that, besides old Ibrahim, his master was watched by a warrior, who had been prevented by an intermitting fever from joining the expedition. He was convinced that if the tribe returned unsuccessful, the murder of both himself and his master was certain ; but he resolved not to fly alone, and as he busied himself in preparing the meal, he sung the burden of a Russian ballad, intermingled with words of encouragement for his master :

The time is come ;

Hai Luli !
The time is come,

Hai Luli !
Our woe is at end,

Hai Luli !
Or we die at once !

Hai Luli !
To-morrow, to-morrow,

Hai Luli !
We are off for a town,

Hai Luli !

For a fine, fine town,

Hai Luli!
But name no names,

Hai Luli!
Courage, courage, master dear,

Hai Luli !
Never, never, despair,

Hai Luli !
For the God of the Russians is great,

Hai Luli !

Poor Kascambo, broken down, sick, and despairing, only muttered, “Do as you please, only hold your peace.”

Ivan's cookery incited the additional guard to eat so much supper that he brought on a severe attack of his fever, and was obliged to go home ; but old Ibrahim, instead of going to bed, sat down on a log of wood opposite the prisoner, and seemed resolved to watch him all night. The woman and child went to bed in the inner room, and Ivan signed to his master to take the guitar, and began to dance. The old man's axe was in an open cupboard at the other end of the room, and after many gambols and contortions, during which the Major could hardly control his fingers to touch the strings, Ivan succeeded in laying his hand upon it, just when the old man was bending over the fire to mend it. Then, as Ibrahim desired that the music should cease, he cut him down with a single blow, on his own hearth. And the daughter-in-law coming out to see what had happened, he slew her with the same weapon. And then, alas ! in spite of the commands, entreaties, and cries of his master, he dashed into the inner room, and killed the sleeping child, lest it should give the alarm. Kascambo, utterly helpless to save, fell almost fainting upon the bloody floor, and did not cease to reproach Ivan, who was searching the old man's pockets for the key of the fetters, but it was not there, nor anywhere else in the hut, and the irons were so heavy that escape was impossible in them. Ivan at last knocked off the clog and the chains on the wrist with the axe, but he could not break the chains round the legs, and could only fasten them as close as he could to hinder them clanking. Then securing all the provision he could carry, and putting his master into his military cloak, obtaining also a pistol and dagger, they crept out, but not on the direct road. It was February, and the ground was covered with snow. All night they walked easily, but at noon the sun so softened it that they sank in at every step, and the Major's chains rendered each motion terrible labor.

It was only on the second night that Ivan, with his axe, succeeded in breaking through the fastenings, and by that time the Major's legs were so swollen and stiffened that he could not move without extreme pain. However, he was dragged on through the wild mountain paths, and then over the plains for several days more, till they were on the confines of another tribe of Tchetchenges, who were overawed by Russia, and in a sort of unwilling alliance. Here, however, a sharp storm and a fall into the water completely finished Kascambo's strength, and he sank down on the snow, telling Ivan to go home and explain his fate, and give his last message to his mother.

If you perish here,” said Ivan, “trust me, neither your mother nor mine will ever see me.”

Hé covered his master with his cloak, gave him the pistol, and walked on to a hut, where he found a Tchetchenge man, and told him that here was a means of obtaining two hundred roubles. He had only to shelter the Major as a guest for three days, whilst Ivan himself went on to Mosdok, to procure the money, and bring back help for his master. The man was full of suspicion, but Ivan prevailed, and



Kascambo was carried into the village, nearly dying, and was very ill all the time, of his servant's ab

Ivan set off for the nearest Russian station, where he found some of the Cossacks who had been present when the Major was taken. All eagerly subscribed to raise the two hundred roubles, but the Colonel would not let Ivan go back alone, as he had engaged to do, and sent a guard of Cossacks. This had nearly been fatal to the Major, for as soon as his host saw the lances, he suspected treachery, and dragging his poor sick guest to the roof of the house, he tied him up to a stake, and stood over him with a pistol, shouting to Ivan, “ If you come nearer, I shall blow his brains out, and I have fisty cartridges more for my enemies, and the traitor' who leads

" No traitor !” cried Ivan. “Here are the roubles. I have kept my word !”

“ Let the Cossacks go back, or I shall fire.”

Kascambo himself begged the officer to retire, and Ivan went back with the detachment, and returned alone. Even then the suspicious host made him count out the roubles at a hundred paces from the house, and at once ordered him out of sight; but then went up to the roof, and asked the Major's pardon for all this rough usage.

“ I shall only recollect that you were my host, and kept your word,” said Kascambo.

În a few hours more, Kascambo was in safety among his brother-officers. Ivan was made a noncommissioned officer, and some months after was seen by the traveller who told the story, whistling the air of Hai Luli at his former master's weddingfeast. He was even then scarcely twenty years old, and peculiarly quiet and soft in manners.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »