Doubrovsky by Alexander Pushkin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Doubrovsky – Contents

< < < Chapter IX
Chapter XI > > >


About seven o’clock in the evening, some of the guests wished to depart, but the host, merry with punch, ordered the gates to be locked, and declared that nobody should leave the house until the next morning. Music soon resounded, the doors of the saloon were thrown open and the ball began. The host and his familiar acquaintances sat in a corner, draining glass after glass, and admiring the gaiety of the young people. The old ladies played at cards. The gentlemen, as is always the case, except where a brigade of uhlans is stationed, were less in number than the ladies, and all the men, suitable for partners, were soon engaged for the dance. The tutor particularly distinguished himself among them; all the ladies wanted to have him as a partner, as they found it so exceedingly easy to waltz with him. He danced several times with Maria Kirilovna, and the ladies observed them with great interest. At last, about midnight, the tired host stopped the dancing, ordered supper to be served, and then betook himself off to bed.

The retirement of Kirila Petrovitch gave to the company more freedom and animation. The gentlemen ventured to sit near the ladies; the girls laughed and spoke in whispers to their neighbours; the ladies spoke in loud voices across the table; the gentlemen drank, disputed, and laughed boisterously. In a word, the supper was exceedingly merry, and left behind it a very agreeable impression.

One man only did not share in the general joy. Anton Pafnoutitch sat gloomy and silent in his place, ate absently, and seemed extremely uneasy. The conversation about the brigands had worked upon his imagination. We shall soon see that he had good cause to fear them.

Anton Pafnoutitch, in invoking God as a witness that the little red cash-box was empty, had not lied and sinned. The little red cash-box was really empty. The bank notes, which had at one time been in it, had been transferred to a leather pouch, which he carried on his breast under his shirt. This precaution alone quieted his distrust of everybody and his constant fear. Being compelled to spend the night in a strange house, he was afraid that he might be lodged in some solitary room, where thieves could easily break in. He looked round in search of a trustworthy companion, and at last his choice fell upon Desforges. His appearance,—indicative of strength,—but especially the bravery shown by him in his encounter with the bear, which poor Anton Pafnoutitch could never think of without a shudder, decided his choice. When they rose from the table, Anton Pafnoutitch began moving round the young Frenchman, clearing his throat and coughing, and at last he turned to him and addressed him:

“Hm! hm! Couldn’t I spend the night in your room, mossoo, because you see——”

“Que desire monsieur?” asked Desforges, with a polite bow.

“Ah! what a pity, mossoo, that you have not yet learnt Russian. Je vais moa chez vous coucher. Do you understand?”

“Monsieur, très volontiers,” replied Desforges, “veuillez donner des ordres en conséquence.”

Anton Pafnoutitch, well satisfied with his knowledge of the French language, went off at once to make the necessary arrangements.

The guests began to wish each other good night, and each retired to the room assigned to him, while Anton Pafnoutitch accompanied the tutor to the wing. The night was dark. Desforges lighted the way with a lantern. Anton Pafnoutitch followed him boldly enough, pressing the hidden treasure occasionally against his breast, in order to convince himself that his money was still there.

On arriving at the wing, the tutor lit a candle and both began to undress; in the meantime Anton Pafnoutitch was walking about the room, examining the locks and windows, and shaking his head at the unassuring inspection. The doors fastened with only one bolt, and the windows had not yet their double frames.[1] He tried to complain to Desforges, but his knowledge of the French language was too limited to enable him to express himself with sufficient clearness. The Frenchman did not understand him, and Anton Pafnoutitch was obliged to cease his complaints. Their beds stood opposite each other; they both lay down, and the tutor extinguished the light.

“Pourquoi vous toucher; pourquoi vous toucher?” cried Anton Pafnoutitch, conjugating the Russian verb to extinguish, after the French manner. “I cannot dormir in the dark.”

Desforges did not understand his exclamations, and wished him good night.

“Accursed pagan!” muttered Spitsin, wrapping himself up in the bedclothes: “he couldn’t do without extinguishing the light. So much the worse for him. I cannot sleep without a light—Mossoo, mossoo,” he continued: “Je ve avec vous parler.”

But the Frenchman did not reply, and soon began to snore.

“He is snoring, the French brute,” thought Anton Pafnoutitch, “while I can’t even think of going to sleep. Thieves might walk in at any moment through the open doors or climb in through the window, and the firing of a cannon would not wake him, the beast!”

“Mossoo! mossoo!—the devil take you!”

Anton Pafnoutitch became silent. Fatigue and the effects of wine gradually overcame his fear. He began to doze, and soon fell into a deep sleep. A strange sensation aroused him. He felt in his sleep that someone was gently pulling him by the collar of his shirt. Anton Pafnoutitch opened his eyes and, by the pale light of an autumn morning, he saw Desforges standing before him. In one hand the Frenchman held a pocket pistol, and with the other he was unfastening the strings of the precious leather pouch. Anton Pafnoutitch felt faint.

“Qu’est ce que c’est, Mossoo, qu’est ce que c’est?” said he, in a trembling voice.

“Hush! Silence!” replied the tutor in pure Russian.

“Silence! or you are lost. I am Doubrovsky.”

[1]The Russians put double frames to their windows in winter.

< < < Chapter IX
Chapter XI > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Doubrovsky – Contents

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

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