Captain Ribnikov by Alexander Kuprin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – Captain Ribnikov – Contents

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Ribnikov woke suddenly as though an imperative voice within him had said ‘Wake up.’ An hour and a half of sleep had completely refreshed him. First of all he stared suspiciously at the door: it seemed to him that some one was watching him from there with a fixed stare. Then he looked round. The shutter was half open so that every little thing in the room could be seen. The woman was sitting by the table opposite the bed, silent and pale, regarding him with big, bright eyes.

‘What’s happened?’ Ribnikov asked in alarm. ‘Tell me, what’s been happening here?’

She did not answer, but her chin began to tremble and her teeth chattered.

A suspicious, cruel light came into the officer’s eyes. He bent his whole body from the bed with his ear to the door. The noise of many feet, of men evidently unused to moving cautiously, approached along the corridor, and suddenly was quiet before the door.

Ribnikov with a quick, soft movement leapt from the bed and twice turned the key. There was an instant knock at the door. With a cry the woman turned her face to the table and buried her head in her hands.

In a few seconds the captain was dressed. Again they knocked at the door. He had only his cap with him; he had left his sword and overcoat below. He was pale but perfectly calm. Even his hands did not tremble while he dressed himself, and all his movements were quite unhurried and adroit. Doing up the last button of his tunic, he went over to the woman, and suddenly squeezed her arm above the wrist with such terrible strength that her face purpled with the blood that rushed to her head.

‘You!’ he said quietly, in an angry whisper, without moving his jaws. ‘If you move or make a sound, I’ll kill you….’

Again they knocked at the door, and a dull voice came: ‘Open the door, if you please.’

The captain now no longer limped. Quickly and silently he ran to the window, jumped on to the window-ledge with the soft spring of a cat, opened the shutters and with one sweep flung wide the window frames. Below him the paved yard showed white with scanty grass between the stones, and the branches of a few thin trees pointed upwards. He did not hesitate for a second; but at the very moment that he sat sideways on the iron frame of the window-sill, resting on it with his left hand, with one foot already hanging down, and prepared to leap with his whole body, the woman threw herself upon him with a piercing cry and caught him by the left arm. Tearing himself away, he made a false movement and suddenly, with a faint cry as though of surprise, fell in an awkward heap straight down on the stones.

Almost at the very second the old door fell flat into the room. First Leonka ran in, out of breath, showing his teeth; his eyes were aflame. After him came huge policemen, stamping and holding their swords in their left hands. When he saw the open window and the woman holding on the frame and screaming without pause, Leonka quickly understood what had happened. He was really a brave man, and without a thought or a word, as though he had already planned it, he took a running leap through the window.

He landed two steps away from Ribnikov, who lay motionless on his side. In spite of the drumming in his head, and the intense pain in his belly and his heels from the fall, he kept his head, and instantly threw himself heavily with the full weight of his body on the captain.

‘A-ah. I’ve got you now,’ he uttered hoarsely, crushing his victim in mad exasperation.

The captain did not resist. His eyes burned with an implacable hatred. But he was pale as death, and a pink froth stood in bubbles on his lips.

‘Don’t crush me,’ he whispered. ‘My leg’s broken.’

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Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – Captain Ribnikov – Contents

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

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