Doubrovsky by Alexander Pushkin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Doubrovsky – Contents

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Chapter VI > > >


The funeral took place the third day. The body of the poor old man lay in the coffin, covered with a shroud and surrounded by candles. The dining-room was filled with domestics, ready to carry out the corpse. Vladimir and the servants raised the coffin. The priest went in front, followed by the clerk, chanting the prayers for the dead. The master of Kistenevka crossed the threshold of his house for the last time. The coffin was carried through the wood—the church lay just behind it. The day was clear and cold; the autumn leaves were falling from the trees. On emerging from the wood, they saw before them the wooden church of Kistenevka and the cemetery shaded by old lime trees. There reposed the body of Vladimir’s mother; there, beside her tomb, a new grave had been dug the day before. The church was full of the Kistenevka peasantry, come to render the last homage to their master. Young Doubrovsky stood in the chancel; he neither wept nor prayed, but the expression of his face was terrible. The sad ceremony came to an end. Vladimir approached first to take leave of the corpse, after him came the domestics. The lid was brought and nailed upon the coffin. The women wept aloud, and the men frequently wiped away their tears with their fists. Vladimir and three of the servants carried the coffin to the cemetery, accompanied by the whole village. The coffin was lowered into the grave, all present threw upon it a handful of earth, the pit was filled up, the crowd saluted for the last time and then dispersed. Vladimir hastily departed, got ahead of everybody, and disappeared into the Kistenevka wood.

Egorovna, in the name of her master, invited the pope and all the clergy to a funeral dinner, informing them that her young master did not intend being present.

Then Father Anissim, his wife Fedorovna and the clerk took their way to the manor-house, discoursing with Egorovna upon the virtues of the deceased and upon what, in all probability, awaited his heir. The visit of Troekouroff and the reception given to him were already known to the whole neighbourhood, and the local politicians predicted that serious consequences would result from it.

“What is to be, will be,” said the pope’s wife: “but it will be a pity if Vladimir Andreivitch does not become our master. He is a fine young fellow, there is no denying that.”

“And who is to be our master if he is not to be?” interrupted Egorovna. “Kirila Petrovitch need not put himself out—he has;>not got a coward to deal with. My young falcon will know how to defend himself, and with God’s help, he will not lack friends. Kirila Petrovitch is too overweening; and yet he slunk away with his tail between his legs when my Grishka[1] cried out to him: ‘Be off, you old cur! Clear out of the place!’”

“Oh! Egorovna,” said the clerk, “however could he bring his tongue to utter such words? I think I would rather bring myself to face the devil, than look askant at Kirila Petrovitch. As you look at him, you become terrified, and your very backbone seems to curve!”

“Vanity, vanity!” said the priest: “the service for the dead will some day be chanted for Kirila Petrovitch, as today for Andrei Gavrilovitch; the funeral may perhaps be more imposing, and more guests may be invited; but are not all equal in the sight of God?”

“Oh, father, we wanted to invite all the neighbourhood, but Vladimir Andreivitch did not wish it. Don’t be alarmed, we have plenty to entertain people with…. but what would you have had us do? At all events, if there are not many people, I can treat you well, my dear friends.”

This enticing promise and the hope of finding a toothsome pie, caused the talkers to quicken their steps, and they safely reached the manor-house, where the table was already laid and brandy served out.

Meanwhile Vladimir advanced further into the depth of the wood, endeavouring by exercise and fatigue to deaden the affliction of his soul. He walked on without taking any notice of the road; the branches constantly grazed and scratched him, and his feet continually sank into the swamp—he observed nothing. At last he reached a small glade surrounded by trees on every side; a little stream wound silently through the trees, half-stripped of their leaves by the autumn. Vladimir stopped, sat down upon the cold turf, and thoughts, each more gloomy than the other, oppressed his soul…. He felt his loneliness very keenly; the future appeared to him enveloped in terrible clouds. Troekouroff’s enmity foreboded fresh misfortunes for him. His modest heritage might pass from him into the hands of a stranger, in which case beggary awaited him. For a long time he sat quite motionless in the same place, observing the gentle flow of the stream, bearing along on its surface a few withered leaves, and vividly representing to him the analogy of life. At last he observed that it began to grow dark; he arose and sought for the road home, but for a long time he wandered about the unknown wood before he stumbled upon the path which led straight up to the gate of his house.

He had not gone far before he met the priest coming towards him with all his clergy. The thought immediately occurred to him that this foreboded misfortune.[2] He involuntarily turned aside and disappeared behind the trees. The priests had not observed him, and they continued talking very earnestly among themselves.

“Fly from evil and do good,” said the priest to his wife. “There is no need for us to remain here; it does not concern us, however the business may end.”

The priest’s wife made some reply, but Vladimir could not hear what she said.

Approaching the house, he saw a crowd of people; peasants and servants of the household were flocking into the courtyard. In the distance Vladimir could hear an unusual noise and murmur of voices. Near the coach-house stood two troikas. On the steps several unknown men in uniform were seemingly engaged in conversation.

“What does this mean?” he asked angrily of Anton, who ran forward to meet him. “Who are these people, and what do they want?”

“Oh, father Vladimir Andreivitch,” replied Anton, out of breath, “the Court has come. They are giving us over to Troekouroff, they are taking us from your Honour!…”

Vladimir hung down his head; his people surrounded their unhappy master.

“You are our father,” they cried, kissing his hands.

“We want no other master but you. We will die, but we will not leave you. Give us the order, Your Lordship, and we will soon settle matters with the Court.”

Vladimir looked at them, and dark thoughts rose within him.

“Keep quiet,” he said to them: “I will speak to the officers.”

“That’s it—speak to them, father,” shouted the crowd: “put the accursed wretches to shame!”

Vladimir, approached the officials. Shabashkin, with his cap on his head, stood with his arms akimbo, looking proudly around him. The sheriff, a tall stout man, of about fifty years of age, with a red face and a moustache, seeing Doubrovsky approach, cleared his throat and called out in a hoarse voice:

“And therefore I repeat to you what I have already said: by the decision of the district Court, you now belong to Kirila Petrovitch Troekouroff, who is here represented by M. Shabashkin. Obey him in everything that he orders you; and you, women, love and honour him, as he loves you.”

At this witty joke the sheriff began to laugh. Shabashkin and the other officials followed his example. Vladimir boiled over with indignation.

“Allow me to ask, what does all this mean?” he inquired, with pretended calmness, of the jocular sheriff.

“It means,” replied the witty official, “that we have come to place Kirila Petrovitch Troekouroff in possession of this property, and to request certain others to take themselves off for good and all!”

“But I think that you could have communicated all this to me first, rather than to my peasants, and announced to the landholder the decision of the authorities——”

“The former landowner, Andrei Gavrilovitch, is dead according to the will of God; but who are you?” said Shabashkin, with an insolent look. “We do not know you, and we don’t want to know you.”

“Your Honour, that is our young master,” said a voice in the crowd.

“Who dared to open his mouth?” said the sheriff, in a terrible tone. “That your master? Your master is Kirila Petrovitch Troekouroff…. do you hear, idiots?”

“Nothing of the kind!” said the same voice.

“But this is a revolt!” shrieked the sheriff. “Hi, bailiff, this way!”

The bailiff stepped forward.

“Find out immediately who it was that dared to answer me. I’ll teach him a lesson!”

The bailiff turned towards the crowd and asked who had spoken. But all remained silent. Soon a murmur was beard at the back; it gradually grew louder, and in a minute it broke out into a terrible wail. The sheriff lowered his voice and was about to try to persuade them to be calm.

“Why do you stand looking at him?” cried the servants: “Come on, lads, forward!” And the crowd began to move.

Shabashkin and the other members of the Court rushed into the vestibule, and closed the door behind them.

“Seize them, lads!” cried the same voice, and the crowd pressed forward.

“Hold!” cried Doubrovsky: “idiots! what are you doing? You will ruin yourselves and me, too. Go home all of you, and leave me to myself. Don’t fear, the Czar is merciful: I will present a petition to him—he will not let us be made the victims of an injustice. We are all his children. But how can he take your part, if you begin rebelling and plundering?”

This speech of young Doubrovsky’s, his sonorous voice and imposing appearance, produced the desired effect. The crowd became quiet and dispersed; the courtyard became empty, the officials of the Court still remained inside the house. Vladimir sadly ascended the steps. Shabashkin opened the door, and with obsequious bows began to thank Doubrovsky for his generous intervention.

Vladimir listened to him with contempt and made no reply.

“We have resolved,” continued the assessor, “with your permission, to remain here for the night, as it is already dark, and your peasants might attack us on the road. Be kind enough to order some hay to be put down for us on the parlour floor, as soon as it is daylight, we will take our departure.”

“Do what you please,” replied Doubrovsky drily: “I am no longer master here.”

With these words he entered into his fathers room and locked the door behind him.

[1]Diminutive of Gregory.

[2]To meet a priest is considered a bad omen in Russia.

< < < Chapter IV
Chapter VI > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Doubrovsky – Contents

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