A Hero of Our Time
M. Y. Lermontov

Part 1 out of 5




THIS novel, known as one of the masterpieces of
Russian Literature, under the title "A Hero
of our Time," and already translated into at least
nine European languages, is now for the first time
placed before the general English Reader.

The work is of exceptional interest to the
student of English Literature, written as it was
under the profound influence of Byron and being
itself a study of the Byronic type of character.

The Translators have taken especial care to
preserve both the atmosphere of the story and the
poetic beauty with which the Poet-novelist imbued
his pages.













I was travelling post from Tiflis.

All the luggage I had in my cart consisted of
one small portmanteau half filled with travelling-
notes on Georgia; of these the greater part has
been lost, fortunately for you; but the port-
manteau itself and the rest of its contents have
remained intact, fortunately for me.

As I entered the Koishaur Valley the sun was
disappearing behind the snow-clad ridge of the
mountains. In order to accomplish the ascent
of Mount Koishaur by nightfall, my driver, an
Ossete, urged on the horses indefatigably, singing
zealously the while at the top of his voice.

What a glorious place that valley is! On every
hand are inaccessible mountains, steep, yellow
slopes scored by water-channels, and reddish
rocks draped with green ivy and crowned with
clusters of plane-trees. Yonder, at an immense
height, is the golden fringe of the snow. Down
below rolls the River Aragva, which, after bursting
noisily forth from the dark and misty depths of
the gorge, with an unnamed stream clasped in its
embrace, stretches out like a thread of silver, its
waters glistening like a snake with flashing

Arrived at the foot of Mount Koishaur, we
stopped at a dukhan.[1] About a score of Georgians
and mountaineers were gathered there in a noisy
crowd, and, close by, a caravan of camels had
halted for the night. I was obliged to hire oxen
to drag my cart up that accursed mountain, as
it was now autumn and the roads were slippery
with ice. Besides, the mountain is about two
versts[2] in length.

[1] A retail shop and tavern combined.

[2] A verst is a measure of length, about 3500 English feet.

There was no help for it, so I hired six oxen and
a few Ossetes. One of the latter shouldered my
portmanteau, and the rest, shouting almost with
one voice, proceeded to help the oxen.

Following mine there came another cart, which
I was surprised to see four oxen pulling with the
greatest ease, notwithstanding that it was loaded
to the top. Behind it walked the owner, smoking
a little, silver-mounted Kabardian pipe. He was
wearing a shaggy Circassian cap and an officer's
overcoat without epaulettes, and he seemed to
be about fifty years of age. The swarthiness of
his complexion showed that his face had long
been acquainted with Transcaucasian suns, and
the premature greyness of his moustache was
out of keeping with his firm gait and robust
appearance. I went up to him and saluted. He
silently returned my greeting and emitted an
immense cloud of smoke.

"We are fellow-travellers, it appears."

Again he bowed silently.

"I suppose you are going to Stavropol?"

"Yes, sir, exactly -- with Government things."

"Can you tell me how it is that that heavily-
laden cart of yours is being drawn without any
difficulty by four oxen, whilst six cattle are
scarcely able to move mine, empty though it is,
and with all those Ossetes helping?"

He smiled slyly and threw me a meaning

"You have not been in the Caucasus long, I
should say?"

"About a year," I answered.

He smiled a second time.


"Just so, sir," he answered. "They're terrible
beasts, these Asiatics! You think that all that
shouting means that they are helping the oxen?
Why, the devil alone can make out what it is
they do shout. The oxen understand, though;
and if you were to yoke as many as twenty they
still wouldn't budge so long as the Ossetes
shouted in that way of theirs. . . . Awful
scoundrels! But what can you make of them?
They love extorting money from people who
happen to be travelling through here. The
rogues have been spoiled! You wait and see:
they will get a tip out of you as well as their hire.
I know them of old, they can't get round

"You have been serving here a long time?"

"Yes, I was here under Aleksei Petrovich,"[1]
he answered, assuming an air of dignity. "I was
a sub-lieutenant when he came to the Line; and
I was promoted twice, during his command, on
account of actions against the mountaineers."

[1] Ermolov, i.e. General Ermolov. Russians have three
names -- Christian name, patronymic and surname. They are
addressed by the first two only. The surname of Maksim
Maksimych (colloquial for Maksimovich) is not mentioned.

"And now --?"

"Now I'm in the third battalion of the Line.
And you yourself?"

I told him.

With this the conversation ended, and we con-
tinued to walk in silence, side by side. On the
summit of the mountain we found snow. The
sun set, and -- as usually is the case in the south --
night followed upon the day without any
interval of twilight. Thanks, however, to the
sheen of the snow, we were able easily to dis-
tinguish the road, which still went up the moun-
tain-side, though not so steeply as before. I
ordered the Ossetes to put my portmanteau into
the cart, and to replace the oxen by horses. Then
for the last time I gazed down upon the valley;
but the thick mist which had gushed in billows
from the gorges veiled it completely, and not a
single sound now floated up to our ears from
below. The Ossetes surrounded me clamor-
ously and demanded tips; but the staff-captain
shouted so menacingly at them that they dis-
persed in a moment.

"What a people they are!" he said. "They
don't even know the Russian for 'bread,' but they
have mastered the phrase 'Officer, give us a tip!'
In my opinion, the very Tartars are better,
they are no drunkards, anyhow." . . .

We were now within a verst or so of the
Station. Around us all was still, so still, indeed,
that it was possible to follow the flight of a gnat
by the buzzing of its wings. On our left loomed
the gorge, deep and black. Behind it and in
front of us rose the dark-blue summits of the
mountains, all trenched with furrows and covered
with layers of snow, and standing out against the
pale horizon, which still retained the last reflec-
tions of the evening glow. The stars twinkled
out in the dark sky, and in some strange way it
seemed to me that they were much higher than
in our own north country. On both sides of the
road bare, black rocks jutted out; here and there
shrubs peeped forth from under the snow; but
not a single withered leaf stirred, and amid that
dead sleep of nature it was cheering to hear the
snorting of the three tired post-horses and the
irregular tinkling of the Russian bell.[1]

[1] The bell on the duga, a wooden arch joining the
shafts of a Russian conveyance over the horse's neck.

"We will have glorious weather to-morrow,"
I said.

The staff-captain answered not a word, but
pointed with his finger to a lofty mountain which
rose directly opposite us.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Mount Gut."

"Well, what then?"

"Don't you see how it is smoking?"

True enough, smoke was rising from Mount
Gut. Over its sides gentle cloud-currents were
creeping, and on the summit rested one cloud of
such dense blackness that it appeared like a blot
upon the dark sky.

By this time we were able to make out the Post
Station and the roofs of the huts surrounding it;
the welcoming lights were twinkling before us,
when suddenly a damp and chilly wind arose, the
gorge rumbled, and a drizzling rain fell. I had
scarcely time to throw my felt cloak round me
when down came the snow. I looked at the
staff-captain with profound respect.

"We shall have to pass the night here," he
said, vexation in his tone. "There's no crossing
the mountains in such a blizzard. -- I say, have
there been any avalanches on Mount Krestov?"
he inquired of the driver.

"No, sir," the Ossete answered; "but there
are a great many threatening to fall -- a great

Owing to the lack of a travellers' room in the
Station, we were assigned a night's lodging in a
smoky hut. I invited my fellow-traveller to
drink a tumbler of tea with me, as I had brought
my cast-iron teapot -- my only solace during my
travels in the Caucasus.

One side of the hut was stuck against the cliff,
and three wet and slippery steps led up to the
door. I groped my way in and stumbled up
against a cow (with these people the cow-house
supplies the place of a servant's room). I did not
know which way to turn -- sheep were bleating
on the one hand and a dog growling on the other.
Fortunately, however, I perceived on one side a
faint glimmer of light, and by its aid I was able
to find another opening by way of a door. And
here a by no means uninteresting picture was
revealed. The wide hut, the roof of which
rested on two smoke-grimed pillars, was full of
people. In the centre of the floor a small fire was
crackling, and the smoke, driven back by the wind
from an opening in the roof, was spreading
around in so thick a shroud that for a long time I
was unable to see about me. Seated by the fire
were two old women, a number of children and a
lank Georgian -- all of them in tatters. There
was no help for it! We took refuge by the fire
and lighted our pipes; and soon the teapot was
singing invitingly.

"Wretched people, these!" I said to the
staff-captain, indicating our dirty hosts, who were
silently gazing at us in a kind of torpor.

"And an utterly stupid people too!" he
replied. "Would you believe it, they are
absolutely ignorant and incapable of the slightest
civilisation! Why even our Kabardians or
Chechenes, robbers and ragamuffins though they
be, are regular dare-devils for all that. Whereas
these others have no liking for arms, and you'll
never see a decent dagger on one of them!
Ossetes all over!"

"You have been a long time in the Chechenes'

"Yes, I was quartered there for about ten
years along with my company in a fortress,
near Kamennyi Brod.[1] Do you know the

[1] Rocky Ford.

"I have heard the name."

"I can tell you, my boy, we had quite enough
of those dare-devil Chechenes. At the present
time, thank goodness, things are quieter; but in
the old days you had only to put a hundred
paces between you and the rampart and wherever
you went you would be sure to find a shaggy devil
lurking in wait for you. You had just to let your
thoughts wander and at any moment a lasso
would be round your neck or a bullet in the back
of your head! Brave fellows, though!" . . .

"You used to have many an adventure, I
dare say?" I said, spurred by curiosity.

"Of course! Many a one." . . .

Hereupon he began to tug at his left moustache,
let his head sink on to his breast, and became lost
in thought. I had a very great mind to extract
some little anecdote out of him -- a desire natural
to all who travel and make notes.

Meanwhile, tea was ready. I took two travel-
ling-tumblers out of my portmanteau, and,
filling one of them, set it before the staff-captain.
He sipped his tea and said, as if speaking to
himself, "Yes, many a one!" This exclamation
gave me great hopes. Your old Caucasian officer
loves, I know, to talk and yarn a bit; he so
rarely succeeds in getting a chance to do so. It
may be his fate to be quartered five years or so
with his company in some out-of-the-way place,
and during the whole of that time he will not
hear "good morning" from a soul (because the
sergeant says "good health"). And, indeed, he
would have good cause to wax loquacious --
with a wild and interesting people all around
him, danger to be faced every day, and many a
marvellous incident happening. It is in circum-
stances like this that we involuntarily complain
that so few of our countrymen take notes.

"Would you care to put some rum in your
tea?" I said to my companion. "I have some
white rum with me -- from Tiflis; and the
weather is cold now."

"No, thank you, sir; I don't drink."


"Just so. I have sworn off drinking. Once,
you know, when I was a sub-lieutenant, some of
us had a drop too much. That very night there
was an alarm, and out we went to the front,
half seas over! We did catch it, I can tell you,
when Aleksei Petrovich came to hear about us!
Heaven save us, what a rage he was in! He was
within an ace of having us court-martialled.
That's just how things happen! You might
easily spend a whole year without seeing a soul;
but just go and have a drop and you're a lost

On hearing this I almost lost hope.

"Take the Circassians, now," he continued;
"once let them drink their fill of buza[1] at a
wedding or a funeral, and out will come their
knives. On one occasion I had some difficulty in
getting away with a whole skin, and yet it was at
the house of a 'friendly'[2] prince, where I was
a guest, that the affair happened."

[1] A kind of beer made from millet.

[2] i.e. acknowledging Russian supremacy.

"How was that?" I asked.

"Here, I'll tell you." . . .

He filled his pipe, drew in the smoke, and began
his story.


"YOU see, sir," said the staff-captain, "I
was quartered, at the time, with a com-
pany in a fortress beyond the Terek -- getting on
for five years ago now. One autumn day, a
transport arrived with provisions, in charge of
an officer, a young man of about twenty-five.
He reported himself to me in full uniform, and
announced that he had been ordered to remain
in the fortress with me. He was so very elegant,
his complexion so nice and white, his uniform so
brand new, that I immediately guessed that he
had not been long with our army in the Caucasus.

"'I suppose you have been transferred from
Russia?' I asked.

"'Exactly, captain,' he answered.

"I took him by the hand and said:

"'I'm delighted to see you -- delighted! It
will be a bit dull for you . . . but there, we will
live together like a couple of friends. But, please,
call me simply "Maksim Maksimych"; and, tell
me, what is this full uniform for? Just wear your
forage-cap whenever you come to me!'

"Quarters were assigned to him and he settled
down in the fortress."

"What was his name?" I asked Maksim

"His name was Grigori Aleksandrovich Pe-
chorin. He was a splendid fellow, I can assure
you, but a little peculiar. Why, to give you an
instance, one time he would stay out hunting
the whole day, in the rain and cold; the others
would all be frozen through and tired out, but he
wouldn't mind either cold or fatigue. Then,
another time, he would be sitting in his own
room, and, if there was a breath of wind, he would
declare that he had caught cold; if the shutters
rattled against the window he would start and
turn pale: yet I myself have seen him attack a
boar single-handed. Often enough you couldn't
drag a word out of him for hours together; but
then, on the other hand, sometimes, when he
started telling stories, you would split your sides
with laughing. Yes, sir, a very eccentric man;
and he must have been wealthy too. What a
lot of expensive trinkets he had!" . . .

"Did he stay there long with you?" I went
on to ask.

"Yes, about a year. And, for that very reason,
it was a memorable year to me. He gave me a
great deal of trouble -- but there, let bygones be
bygones! . . . You see, it is true enough, there
are people like that, fated from birth to have all
sorts of strange things happening to them!"

"Strange?" I exclaimed, with an air of
curiosity, as I poured out some tea.


"WELL, then, I'll tell you," said Maksim
Maksimych. "About six versts from the
fortress there lived a certain 'friendly' prince.
His son, a brat of about fifteen, was accustomed
to ride over to visit us. Not a day passed but
he would come, now for one thing, now for
another. And, indeed, Grigori Aleksandrovich
and I spoiled him. What a dare-devil the boy
was! Up to anything, picking up a cap at full
gallop, or bringing things down with his gun!
He had one bad quality; he was terribly greedy
for money. Once, for the fun of the thing,
Grigori Aleksandrovich promised to give him a
ducat if he would steal the best he-goat from his
father's herd for him; and, what do you think?
The very next night he came lugging it in by the
horns! At times we used to take it into our heads
to tease him, and then his eyes would become
bloodshot and his hand would fly to his dagger

"'You'll be losing your life if you are not
careful, Azamat,' I would say to him. 'That hot
head of yours will get you into trouble.'

"On one occasion, the old prince himself
came to invite us to the wedding of his eldest
daughter; and, as we were guest-friends with
him, it was impossible to decline, Tartar though
he was. We set off. In the village we were met
by a number of dogs, all barking loudly. The
women, when they saw us coming, hid them-
selves, but those whose faces we were able to
get a view of were far from being beauties.

"'I had a much better opinion of the Cir-
cassian women,' remarked Grigori Aleksandrovich.

"'Wait a bit!' I answered, with a smile; I
had my own views on the subject.

"A number of people had already gathered at
the prince's hut. It is the custom of the Asiatics,
you know, to invite all and sundry to a wedding.
We were received with every mark of honour
and conducted to the guest-chamber. All the
same, I did not forget quietly to mark where
our horses were put, in case anything unforeseen
should happen."

"How are weddings celebrated amongst
them?" I asked the staff-captain.

"Oh, in the usual way. First of all, the
Mullah reads them something out of the Koran;
then gifts are bestowed upon the young couple
and all their relations; the next thing is eating
and drinking of buza, then the dance on horse-
back; and there is always some ragamuffin,
bedaubed with grease, bestriding a wretched,
lame jade, and grimacing, buffooning, and making
the worshipful company laugh. Finally, when
darkness falls, they proceed to hold what we
should call a ball in the guest-chamber. A poor,
old greybeard strums on a three-stringed in-
strument -- I forget what they call it, but
anyhow, it is something in the nature of our
balalaika.[1] The girls and young children set
themselves in two ranks, one opposite the other,
and clap their hands and sing. Then a girl and
a man come out into the centre and begin to
chant verses to each other -- whatever comes into
their heads -- and the rest join in as a chorus.
Pechorin and I sat in the place of honour. All
at once up came our host's youngest daughter,
a girl of about sixteen, and chanted to Pechorin
-- how shall I put it? -- something in the nature
of a compliment." . . .

[1] A kind of two-stringed or three-stringed guitar.

"What was it she sang -- do you remember?"

"It went like this, I fancy: 'Handsome, they
say, are our young horsemen, and the tunics they
wear are garnished with silver; but handsomer still
is the young Russian officer, and the lace on his
tunic is wrought of gold. Like a poplar amongst
them he stands, but in gardens of ours such trees
will grow not nor bloom!'

"Pechorin rose, bowed to her, put his hand
to his forehead and heart, and asked me to
answer her. I know their language well, and I
translated his reply.

"When she had left us I whispered to Grigori

"'Well, now, what do you think of her?'

"'Charming!' he replied. 'What is her

"'Her name is Bela,' I answered.

"And a beautiful girl she was indeed; her
figure was tall and slender, her eyes black as those
of a mountain chamois, and they fairly looked
into your soul. Pechorin, deep in thought, kept
his gaze fixed upon her, and she, for her part, stole
glances at him often enough from under her
lashes. Pechorin, however, was not the only
one who was admiring the pretty princess;
another pair of eyes, fixed and fiery, were gazing
at her from the corner of the room. I took
a good look at their owner, and recognised my
old acquaintance Kazbich, who, you must know,
was neither exactly 'friendly' nor yet the other
thing. He was an object of much suspicion,
although he had never actually been caught at
any knavery. He used to bring rams to our
fortress and sell them cheaply; only he never
would haggle; whatever he demanded at first
you had to give. He would have his throat cut
rather than come down in price. He had the
reputation of being fond of roaming on the far
side of the Kuban with the Abreks; and, to tell
the truth, he had a regular thief's visage. A
little, wizened, broad-shouldered fellow he was --
but smart, I can tell you, smart as the very
devil! His tunic was always worn out and
patched, but his weapons were mounted in silver.
His horse was renowned throughout Kabardia --
and, indeed, a better one it would be impossible
to imagine! Not without good reason did all
the other horsemen envy Kazbich, and on more
than one occasion they had attempted to steal
the horse, but they had never succeeded. I
seem to see the animal before me now -- black as
coal, with legs like bow-strings and eyes as fine
as Bela's! How strong he was too! He would
gallop as much as fifty versts at a stretch! And
he was well trained besides -- he would trot
behind his master like a dog, and actually knew
his voice! Kazbich never used to tether him
either -- just the very horse for a robber! . . .

"On that evening Kazbich was more sullen
than ever, and I noticed that he was wearing a
coat of mail under his tunic. 'He hasn't got
that coat of mail on for nothing,' I thought.
'He has some plot in his head, I'll be bound!'

"It grew oppressively hot in the hut, and I
went out into the air to cool myself. Night had
fallen upon the mountains, and a mist was
beginning to creep along the gorges.

"It occurred to me to pop in under the shed
where our horses were standing, to see whether
they had their fodder; and, besides, it is never
any harm to take precautions. My horse was
a splendid one too, and more than one Kabardian
had already cast fond glances at it, repeating at
the same time: 'Yakshi tkhe chok yakshi.'[1]

[1] "Good -- very good."

"I stole along the fence. Suddenly I heard
voices, one of which I immediately recognised.

It was that of the young pickle, Azamat, our
host's son. The other person spoke less and in a
quieter tone.

"'What are they discussing there?' I won-
dered. 'Surely it can't be my horse!' I
squatted down beside the fence and proceeded
to play the eavesdropper, trying not to let slip a
single word. At times the noise of songs and the
buzz of voices, escaping from the hut, drowned
the conversation which I was finding interesting.

"'That's a splendid horse of yours,' Azamat
was saying. 'If I were master of a house of my
own and had a stud of three hundred mares, I
would give half of it for your galloper,

"'Aha! Kazbich!' I said to myself, and I
called to mind the coat of mail.

"'Yes,' replied Kazbich, after an interval of
silence. 'There is not such another to be found
in all Kabardia. Once -- it was on the other side
of the Terek -- I had ridden with the Abreks to
seize the Russian herds. We had no luck, so we
scattered in different directions. Four Cossacks
dashed after me. I could actually hear the cries
of the giaours behind me, and in front of me
there was a dense forest. I crouched down in the
saddle, committed myself to Allah, and, for
the first time in my life, insulted my horse with
a blow of the whip. Like a bird, he plunged
among the branches; the sharp thorns tore my
clothing, the dead boughs of the cork-elms struck
against my face! My horse leaped over tree-
trunks and burst his way through bushes with his
chest! It would have been better for me to
have abandoned him at the outskirts of the
forest and concealed myself in it afoot, but it
was a pity to part with him -- and the Prophet
rewarded me. A few bullets whistled over my
head. I could now hear the Cossacks, who had
dismounted, running upon my tracks. Suddenly
a deep gully opened before me. My galloper
took thought -- and leaped. His hind hoofs
slipped back off the opposite bank, and he re-
mained hanging by his fore-feet. I dropped
the bridle and threw myself into the hollow,
thereby saving my horse, which jumped out.
The Cossacks saw the whole scene, only not one
of them got down to search for me, thinking
probably that I had mortally injured myself;
and I heard them rushing to catch my horse. My
heart bled within me. I crept along the hollow
through the thick grass -- then I looked around:
it was the end of the forest. A few Cossacks were
riding out from it on to the clearing, and there
was my Karagyoz[1] galloping straight towards
them. With a shout they all dashed forward.
For a long, long time they pursued him, and one
of them, in particular, was once or twice almost
successful in throwing a lasso over his neck.

[1] Turkish for "Black-eye."

I trembled, dropped my eyes, and began to pray.
After a few moments I looked up again, and there
was my Karagyoz flying along, his tail waving --
free as the wind; and the giaours, on their jaded
horses, were trailing along far behind, one after
another, across the steppe. Wallah! It is true --
really true! Till late at night I lay in the hollow.
Suddenly -- what do you think, Azamat? I heard
in the darkness a horse trotting along the bank
of the hollow, snorting, neighing, and beating
the ground with his hoofs. I recognised my
Karagyoz's voice; 'twas he, my comrade!" . . .
Since that time we have never been parted!'

"And I could hear him patting his galloper's
sleek neck with his hand, as he called him various
fond names.

"'If I had a stud of a thousand mares,' said
Azamat, 'I would give it all for your Karagyoz!'

"'Yok![1] I would not take it!' said Kazbich

[1] "No!"

"'Listen, Kazbich,' said Azamat, trying to
ingratiate himself with him. 'You are a kind-
hearted man, you are a brave horseman, but my
father is afraid of the Russians and will not
allow me to go on the mountains. Give me
your horse, and I will do anything you wish. I
will steal my father's best rifle for you, or his
sabre -- just as you like -- and his sabre is a genuine
Gurda;[1] you have only to lay the edge against
your hand, and it will cut you; a coat of mail
like yours is nothing against it.'

[1] A particular kind of ancient and valued sabre.

"Kazbich remained silent.

"'The first time I saw your horse,' continued
Azamat, 'when he was wheeling and leaping
under you, his nostrils distended, and the flints
flying in showers from under his hoofs, something
I could not understand took place within my
soul; and since that time I have been weary of
everything. I have looked with disdain on my
father's best gallopers; I have been ashamed
to be seen on them, and yearning has taken pos-
session of me. In my anguish I have spent whole
days on the cliffs, and, every minute, my thoughts
have kept turning to your black galloper with his
graceful gait and his sleek back, straight as an
arrow. With his keen, bright eyes he has looked
into mine as if about to speak! . . . I shall die,
Kazbich, if you will not sell him to me!' said
Azamat, with trembling voice.

"I could hear him burst out weeping, and I
must tell you that Azamat was a very stubborn
lad, and that not for anything could tears be
wrung from him, even when he was a little

"In answer to his tears, I could hear some-
thing like a laugh.

"'Listen,' said Azamat in a firm voice.
'You see, I am making up my mind for anything.
If you like, I will steal my sister for you! How
she dances! How she sings! And the way she
embroiders with gold -- marvellous! Not even a
Turkish Padishah[1] has had a wife like her! . . .
Shall I? Wait for me to-morrow night, yonder,
in the gorge where the torrent flows; I will go
by with her to the neighbouring village -- and she
is yours. Surely Bela is worth your galloper!'

[1] King -- a title of the Sultan of Turkey.

"Kazbich remained silent for a long, long
time. At length, instead of answering, he struck
up in an undertone the ancient song:

"Many a beauty among us dwells

From whose eyes' dark depths the starlight wells,

'Tis an envied lot and sweet, to hold

Their love; but brighter is freedom bold.

Four wives are yours if you pay the gold;

But a mettlesome steed is of price untold;

The whirlwind itself on the steppe is less fleet;

He knows no treachery -- no deceit."[2]

[2] I beg my readers' pardon for having versified Kazbich's
song, which, of course, as I heard it, was in prose; but habit is
second nature. (Author's note.)

"In vain Azamat entreated him to consent.
He wept, coaxed, and swore to him. Finally,
Kazbich interrupted him impatiently:

"'Begone, you crazy brat! How should
you think to ride on my horse? In three steps
you would be thrown and your neck broken on
the stones!'

"'I?' cried Azamat in a fury, and the blade
of the child's dagger rang against the coat of
mail. A powerful arm thrust him away, and he
struck the wattle fence with such violence that
it rocked.

"'Now we'll see some fun!' I thought to

"I rushed into the stable, bridled our horses
and led them out into the back courtyard. In
a couple of minutes there was a terrible uproar
in the hut. What had happened was this:
Azamat had rushed in, with his tunic torn,
saying that Kazbich was going to murder him. All
sprang out, seized their guns, and the fun began!
Noise -- shouts -- shots! But by this time Kazbich
was in the saddle, and, wheeling among the crowd
along the street, defended himself like a madman,
brandishing his sabre.

"'It is a bad thing to interfere in other
people's quarrels,' I said to Grigori Aleksandro-
vich, taking him by the arm. 'Wouldn't it be
better for us to clear off without loss of time?'

"'Wait, though, and see how it will end!'

"'Oh, as to that, it will be sure enough to
end badly; it is always so with these Asiatics.
Once let them get drunk on buza, and there's
certain to be bloodshed.'

"We mounted and galloped home."


"TELL me, what became of Kazbich?"
I asked the staff-captain impatiently.

"Why, what can happen to that sort of a
fellow?" he answered, finishing his tumbler of
tea. "He slipped away, of course."

"And wasn't he wounded?" I asked.

"Goodness only knows! Those scoundrels take
a lot of killing! In action, for instance, I've seen
many a one, sir, stuck all over with bayonets like
a sieve, and still brandishing his sabre."

After an interval of silence the staff-captain
continued, tapping the ground with his foot:

"One thing I'll never forgive myself for.
On our arrival at the fortress the devil put it into
my head to repeat to Grigori Aleksandrovich all
that I had heard when I was eavesdropping
behind the fence. He laughed -- cunning fellow!
-- and thought out a little plan of his own."

"What was that? Tell me, please."

"Well, there's no help for it now, I suppose.
I've begun the story, and so I must continue.

"In about four days' time Azamat rode over
to the fortress. As his usual custom was, he went
to see Grigori Aleksandrovich, who always used
to give him sweetmeats to eat. I was present.
The conversation was on the subject of horses,
and Pechorin began to sound the praises of
Kazbich's Karagyoz. What a mettlesome horse
it was, and how handsome! A perfect chamois!
In fact, judging by his account, there simply
wasn't another like it in the whole world!

"The young Tartar's beady eyes began to
sparkle, but Pechorin didn't seem to notice the
fact. I started to talk about something else,
but immediately, mark you, Pechorin caused the
conversation to strike off on to Kazbich's horse.
Every time that Azamat came it was the same
story. After about three weeks, I began to
observe that Azamat was growing pale and
wasted, just as people in novels do from love,
sir. What wonder either! . . .

"Well, you see, it was not until afterwards
that I learned the whole trick -- Grigori Aleksan-
drovich exasperated Azamat to such an extent
with his teasing that the boy was ready even to
drown himself. One day Pechorin suddenly
broke out with:

"'I see, Azamat, that you have taken a
desperate fancy to that horse of Kazbich's, but
you'll no more see him than you will the back
of your neck! Come, tell me, what would you
give if somebody made you a present of him?'

"'Anything he wanted,' answered Azamat.

"'In that case I will get the horse for you,
only on one condition . . . Swear that you will
fulfil it?'

"'I swear. You swear too!'

"'Very well! I swear that the horse shall
be yours. But, in return, you must deliver your
sister Bela into my hands. Karagyoz shall be her
bridegroom's gift. I hope the transaction will
be a profitable one for you.'

"Azamat remained silent.

"'Won't you? Well, just as you like! I
thought you were a man, but it seems you are
still a child; it is early for you to be riding on

"Azamat fired up.

"'But my father --' he said.

"'Does he never go away, then?'


"'You agree?'

"'I agree,' whispered Azamat, pale as death.
'But when?'

"'The first time Kazbich rides over here.
He has promised to drive in half a score of rams;
the rest is my affair. Look out, then, Azamat!'

"And so they settled the business -- a bad
business, to tell the truth! I said as much to
Pechorin afterwards, but he only answered that
a wild Circassian girl ought to consider herself
fortunate in having such a charming husband as
himself -- because, according to their ideas, he
really was her husband -- and that Kazbich was a
scoundrel, and ought to be punished. Judge for
yourself, what could I say to that? . . . At the
time, however, I knew nothing of their con-
spiracy. Well, one day Kazbich rode up and
asked whether we needed any rams and honey;
and I ordered him to bring some the next

"'Azamat!' said Grigori Aleksandrovich;
'to-morrow Karagyoz will be in my hands; if
Bela is not here to-night you will never see the
horse.' . .

"'Very well,' said Azamat, and galloped to
the village.

"In the evening Grigori Aleksandrovich armed
himself and rode out of the fortress. How they
settled the business I don't know, but at night
they both returned, and the sentry saw that
across Azamat's saddle a woman was lying, bound
hand and foot and with her head wrapped in a

"And the horse?" I asked the staff-captain.

"One minute! One minute! Early next
morning Kazbich rode over, driving in half a
score of rams for sale. Tethering his horse by
the fence, he came in to see me, and I regaled
him with tea, for, robber though he was, he was
none the less my guest-friend.

"We began to chat about one thing and
another. . . Suddenly I saw Kazbich start,
change countenance, and dart to the window;
but unfortunately the window looked on to the
back courtyard.

"'What is the matter with you?' I asked.

"'My horse! . . . My horse!' he cried, all
of a tremble.

"As a matter of fact I heard the clattering of

"'It is probably some Cossack who has
ridden up.'

"'No! Urus -- yaman, yaman!'[1] he roared,
and rushed headlong away like a wild panther.
In two bounds he was in the courtyard; at the
gate of the fortress the sentry barred the way
with his gun; Kazbich jumped over the gun
and dashed off at a run along the road. . .
Dust was whirling in the distance -- Azamat was
galloping away on the mettlesome Karagyoz.
Kazbich, as he ran, tore his gun out of its cover
and fired. For a moment he remained motion-
less, until he had assured himself that he had
missed. Then he uttered a shrill cry, knocked
the gun against a rock, smashed it to splinters,
fell to the ground, and burst out sobbing like
a child. . . The people from the fortress
gathered round him, but he took no notice of
anyone. They stood there talking awhile and
then went back. I ordered the money for the
rams to be placed beside him. He didn't touch
it, but lay with his face to the ground like a
dead man. Would you believe it? He re-
mained lying like that throughout the rest of
that day and the following night! It was only
on the next morning that he came to the fortress
and proceeded to ask that the name of the thief
should be told him. The sentry who had ob-
served Azamat untying the horse and galloping
away on him did not see any necessity for con-
cealment. At the name of Azamat, Kazbich's
eyes flashed, and he set off to the village where
Azamat's father lived."

[1] "No! Russian -- bad, bad!"

"And what about the father?"

"Ah, that was where the trick came in!
Kazbich could not find him; he had gone away
somewhere for five or six days; otherwise, how
could Azamat have succeeded in carrying off

"And, when the father returned, there was
neither daughter nor son to be found. A wily
rogue, Azamat! He understood, you see, that
he would lose his life if he was caught. So, from
that time, he was never seen again; probably
he joined some gang of Abreks and laid down
his turbulent life on the other side of the
Terek or the Kuban. It would have served him
right!" . . .


"I CONFESS that, for my part, I had trouble
enough over the business. So soon as ever
I learned that the Circassian girl was with Grigori
Aleksandrovich, I put on my epaulettes and sword
and went to see him.

"He was lying on the bed in the outer room,
with one hand under his head and the other
holding a pipe which had gone out. The door
leading to the inner room was locked, and there
was no key in the lock. I observed all that in
a moment. . . I coughed and rapped my heels
against the threshold, but he pretended not to

"'Ensign!' I said, as sternly as I could. 'Do
you not see that I have come to you?'

"'Ah, good morning, Maksim Maksimych!
Won't you have a pipe?' he answered, without

"'Excuse me, I am not Maksim Maksimych.
I am the staff-captain.'

"'It's all the same! Won't you have some
tea? If you only knew how I am being tortured
with anxiety.'

"'I know all,' I answered, going up to the

"'So much the better,' he said. 'I am not
in a narrative mood.'

"'Ensign, you have committed an offence for
which I may have to answer as well as you.'

"'Oh, that'll do. What's the harm? You
know, we've gone halves in everything.'

"'What sort of a joke do you think you are
playing? Your sword, please!' . . .

"'Mitka, my sword!'

"'Mitka brought the sword. My duty dis-
charged, I sat down on the bed, facing Pechorin,
and said: 'Listen here, Grigori Aleksandrovich,
you must admit that this is a bad business.'

"'What is?'

"'Why, that you have carried off Bela. . .
Ah, it is that beast Azamat! . . . Come, con-
fess!' I said.

"'But, supposing I am fond of her?' . . .

"Well, what could I say to that? . . . I was
nonplussed. After a short interval of silence,
however, I told him that if Bela's father were
to claim her he would have to give her up.

"'Not at all!'

"'But he will get to know that she is


"Again I was nonplussed.

"'Listen, Maksim Maksimych,' said Pechorin,
rising to his feet. 'You're a kind-hearted man,
you know; but, if we give that savage back his
daughter, he will cut her throat or sell her. The
deed is done, and the only thing we can do now
is not to go out of our way to spoil matters.
Leave Bela with me and keep my sword!'

"'Show her to me, though,' I said.

"'She is behind that door. Only I wanted,
myself, to see her to-day and wasn't able to.
She sits in the corner, muffled in her veil, and
neither speaks nor looks up -- timid as a wild
chamois! I have hired the wife of our dukhan-
keeper: she knows the Tartar language, and will
look after Bela and accustom her to the idea
that she belongs to me -- for she shall belong to
no one else!' he added, banging his fist on the

"I assented to that too. . . What could I
do? There are some people with whom you
absolutely have to agree."

"Well?" I asked Maksim Maksimych. "Did
he really succeed in making her grow accustomed
to him, or did she pine away in captivity from

"Good gracious! how could she pine away
from home-sickness? From the fortress she
could see the very same hills as she could from
the village -- and these savages require nothing
more. Besides, Grigori Aleksandrovich used to
give her a present of some kind every day. At
first she didn't utter a word, but haughtily
thrust away the gifts, which then fell to the lot
of the dukhan-keeper's wife and aroused her
eloquence. Ah, presents! What won't a woman
do for a coloured rag! . . . But that is by the
way. . . For a long time Grigori Aleksandro-
vich persevered with her, and meanwhile he
studied the Tartar language and she began to
understand ours. Little by little she grew
accustomed to looking at him, at first furtively,
askance; but she still pined and crooned her
songs in an undertone, so that even I would feel
heavy at heart when I heard her from the next
room. One scene I shall never forget: I was
walking past, and I looked in at the window;
Bela was sitting on the stove-couch, her head
sunk on her breast, and Grigori Aleksandrovich
was standing, facing her.

"'Listen, my Peri,' he was saying. 'Surely
you know that you will have to be mine sooner
or later -- why, then, do you but torture me?
Is it that you are in love with some Chechene?
If so, I will let you go home at once.'

"She gave a scarcely perceptible start and
shook her head.

"'Or is it,' he continued, 'that I am utterly
hateful to you?'

"She heaved a sigh.

"'Or that your faith prohibits you from
giving me a little of your love?'

"She turned pale and remained silent.

"'Believe me, Allah is one and the same for
all races; and, if he permits me to love you,
why, then, should he prohibit you from requiting
me by returning my love?'

"She gazed fixedly into his face, as though
struck by that new idea. Distrust and a desire to
be convinced were expressed in her eyes. What
eyes they were! They sparkled just like two
glowing coals.

"'Listen, my dear, good Bela!' continued
Pechorin. 'You see how I love you. I am ready
to give up everything to make you cheerful once
more. I want you to be happy, and, if you are
going to be sad again, I shall die. Tell me, you
will be more cheerful?'

"She fell into thought, her black eyes still
fixed upon him. Then she smiled graciously and
nodded her head in token of acquiescence.

"He took her by the hand and tried to induce
her to kiss him. She defended herself feebly, and
only repeated: 'Please! Please! You mustn't,
you mustn't!'

"He went on to insist; she began to tremble
and weep.

"'I am your captive,' she said, 'your slave;
of course, you can compel me.'

"And then, again -- tears.

"Grigori Aleksandrovich struck his forehead
with his fist and sprang into the other room. I
went in to see him, and found him walking
moodily backwards and forwards with folded

"'Well, old man?' I said to him.

"'She is a devil -- not a woman!' he answered.
'But I give you my word of honour that she
shall be mine!'

"I shook my head.

"'Will you bet with me?' he said. 'In a
week's time?'

"'Very well,' I answered.

"We shook hands on it and separated.

"The next day he immediately despatched an
express messenger to Kizlyar to purchase some
things for him. The messenger brought back a
quite innumerable quantity of various Persian

"'What think you, Maksim Maksimych?' he
said to me, showing the presents. 'Will our
Asiatic beauty hold out against such a battery
as this?'

"'You don't know the Circassian women,' I
answered. 'They are not at all the same as the
Georgian or the Transcaucasian Tartar women --
not at all! They have their own principles, they
are brought up differently.'

"Grigori Aleksandrovich smiled and began to
whistle a march to himself."


"AS things fell out, however," continued
Maksim Maksimych, "I was right, you
see. The presents produced only half an effect.
She became more gracious more trustful -- but
that was all. Pechorin accordingly determined
upon a last expedient. One morning he ordered
his horse to be saddled, dressed himself as a Cir-
cassian, armed himself, and went into her room.

"'Bela,' he said. 'You know how I love
you. I decided to carry you off, thinking that
when you grew to know me you would give me
your love. I was mistaken. Farewell! Re-
main absolute mistress of all I possess. Return
to your father if you like -- you are free. I have
acted wrongfully towards you, and I must punish
myself. Farewell! I am going. Whither? --
How should I know? Perchance I shall not
have long to court the bullet or the sabre-stroke.
Then remember me and forgive.'

"He turned away, and stretched out his hand
to her in farewell. She did not take his hand,
but remained silent. But I, standing there
behind the door, was able through a chink to
observe her countenance, and I felt sorry for
her -- such a deathly pallor shrouded that charm-
ing little face! Hearing no answer, Pechorin took
a few steps towards the door. He was trembling,
and -- shall I tell you? -- I think that he was in a
state to perform in very fact what he had been
saying in jest! He was just that sort of man,
Heaven knows!

"He had scarcely touched the door, however,
when Bela sprang to her feet, burst out sobbing,
and threw herself on his neck! Would you believe
it? I, standing there behind the door, fell to
weeping too, that is to say, you know, not exactly
weeping -- but just -- well, something foolish!"

The staff-captain became silent.

"Yes, I confess," he said after a while, tugging
at his moustache, "I felt hurt that not one
woman had ever loved me like that."

"Was their happiness lasting?" I asked.

"Yes, she admitted that, from the day she had
first cast eyes on Pechorin, she had often dreamed
of him, and that no other man had ever pro-
duced such an impression upon her. Yes, they
were happy!"

"How tiresome!" I exclaimed, involuntarily.

In point of fact, I had been expecting a tragic
ending -- when, lo! he must needs disappoint my
hopes in such an unexpected manner! . . .

"Is it possible, though," I continued, "that
her father did not guess that she was with you
in the fortress?"

"Well, you must know, he seems to have had
his suspicions. After a few days, we learned that
the old man had been murdered. This is how
it happened." . . .

My attention was aroused anew.

"I must tell you that Kazbich imagined that
the horse had been stolen by Azamat with his
father's consent; at any rate, that is what I
suppose. So, one day, Kazbich went and waited
by the roadside, about three versts beyond the
village. The old man was returning from one
of his futile searches for his daughter; his re-
tainers were lagging behind. It was dusk.
Deep in thought, he was riding at a walking
pace when, suddenly, Kazbich darted out like a
cat from behind a bush, sprang up behind him
on the horse, flung him to the ground with a
thrust of his dagger, seized the bridle and was
off. A few of the retainers saw the whole affair
from the hill; they dashed off in pursuit of
Kazbich, but failed to overtake him."

"He requited himself for the loss of his
horse, and took his revenge at the same time," I
said, with a view to evoking my companion's

"Of course, from their point of view," said
the staff-captain, "he was perfectly right."

I was involuntarily struck by the aptitude
which the Russian displays for accommodating
himself to the customs of the people in whose
midst he happens to be living. I know not
whether this mental quality is deserving of
censure or commendation, but it proves the
incredible pliancy of his mind and the presence
of that clear common sense which pardons evil
wherever it sees that evil is inevitable or im-
possible of annihilation.


IN the meantime we had finished our tea.
The horses, which had been put to long
before, were freezing in the snow. In the west
the moon was growing pale, and was just on the
point of plunging into the black clouds which
were hanging over the distant summits like the
shreds of a torn curtain. We went out of the
hut. Contrary to my fellow-traveller's pre-
diction, the weather had cleared up, and there
was a promise of a calm morning. The dancing
choirs of the stars were interwoven in wondrous
patterns on the distant horizon, and, one after
another, they flickered out as the wan resplendence
of the east suffused the dark, lilac vault of heaven,
gradually illumining the steep mountain slopes,
covered with the virgin snows. To right and
left loomed grim and mysterious chasms, and
masses of mist, eddying and coiling like snakes,
were creeping thither along the furrows of the
neighbouring cliffs, as though sentient and fear-
ful of the approach of day.

All was calm in heaven and on earth, calm as
within the heart of a man at the moment of
morning prayer; only at intervals a cool wind
rushed in from the east, lifting the horses' manes
which were covered with hoar-frost. We started
off. The five lean jades dragged our wagons
with difficulty along the tortuous road up Mount
Get. We ourselves walked behind, placing stones
under the wheels whenever the horses were spent.
The road seemed to lead into the sky, for, so far
as the eye could discern, it still mounted up and
up, until finally it was lost in the cloud which,
since early evening, had been resting on the sum-
mit of Mount Get, like a kite awaiting its prey.
The snow crunched under our feet. The atmo-
sphere grew so rarefied that to breathe was pain-
ful; ever and anon the blood rushed to my head,
but withal a certain rapturous sensation was
diffused throughout my veins and I felt a species
of delight at being so high up above the world.
A childish feeling, I admit, but, when we retire
from the conventions of society and draw close
to nature, we involuntarily become as children:
each attribute acquired by experience falls away
from the soul, which becomes anew such as it was
once and will surely be again. He whose lot it
has been, as mine has been, to wander over the
desolate mountains, long, long to observe their
fantastic shapes, greedily to gulp down the life-
giving air diffused through their ravines -- he, of
course, will understand my desire to communicate,
to narrate, to sketch those magic pictures.

Well, at length we reached the summit of
Mount Gut and, halting, looked around us.
Upon the mountain a grey cloud was hanging,
and its cold breath threatened the approach of
a storm; but in the east everything was so clear
and golden that we -- that is, the staff-captain
and I -- forgot all about the cloud. . . Yes, the
staff-captain too; in simple hearts the feeling
for the beauty and grandeur of nature is a
hundred-fold stronger and more vivid than in
us, ecstatic composers of narratives in words and
on paper.

"You have grown accustomed, I suppose, to
these magnificent pictures!" I said.

"Yes, sir, you can even grow accustomed to
the whistling of a bullet, that is to say, accus-
tomed to concealing the involuntary thumping
of your heart."

"I have heard, on the contrary, that many an
old warrior actually finds that music agreeable."

"Of course, if it comes to that, it is agree-
able; but only just because the heart beats
more violently. Look!" he added, pointing
towards the east. "What a country!"

And, indeed, such a panorama I can hardly
hope to see elsewhere. Beneath us lay the
Koishaur Valley, intersected by the Aragva and
another stream as if by two silver threads; a
bluish mist was gliding along the valley, fleeing
into the neighbouring defiles from the warm
rays of the morning. To right and left the
mountain crests, towering higher and higher,
intersected each other and stretched out, covered
with snows and thickets; in the distance were
the same mountains, which now, however, had
the appearance of two cliffs, one like to the
other. And all these snows were burning in the
crimson glow so merrily and so brightly that it
seemed as though one could live in such a place
for ever. The sun was scarcely visible behind the
dark-blue mountain, which only a practised eye
could distinguish from a thunder-cloud; but
above the sun was a blood-red streak to which
my companion directed particular attention.

"I told you," he exclaimed, "that there
would be dirty weather to-day! We must make
haste, or perhaps it will catch us on Mount
Krestov. -- Get on!" he shouted to the drivers.

Chains were put under the wheels in place of
drags, so that they should not slide, the drivers
took the horses by the reins, and the descent
began. On the right was a cliff, on the left a
precipice, so deep that an entire village of
Ossetes at the bottom looked like a swallow's
nest. I shuddered, as the thought occurred to
me that often in the depth of night, on that
very road, where two wagons could not pass,
a courier drives some ten times a year without
climbing down from his rickety vehicle. One
of our drivers was a Russian peasant from Yaro-
slavl, the other, an Ossete. The latter took out
the leaders in good time and led the shaft-horse
by the reins, using every possible precaution --
but our heedless compatriot did not even climb
down from his box! When I remarked to him
that he might put himself out a bit, at least in
the interests of my portmanteau, for which I
had not the slightest desire to clamber down into
the abyss, he answered:

"Eh, master, with the help of Heaven we
shall arrive as safe and sound as the others; it's
not our first time, you know."

And he was right. We might just as easily
have failed to arrive at all; but arrive we did,
for all that. And if people would only reason
a little more they would be convinced that life
is not worth taking such a deal of trouble

Perhaps, however, you would like to know the
conclusion of the story of Bela? In the first
place, this is not a novel, but a collection of
travelling-notes, and, consequently, I cannot make
the staff-captain tell the story sooner than he
actually proceeded to tell it. Therefore, you
must wait a bit, or, if you like, turn over a few
pages. Though I do not advise you to do the
latter, because the crossing of Mount Krestov
(or, as the erudite Gamba calls it, le mont St.
Christophe[1]) is worthy of your curiosity.

[1] Krestov is an adjective meaning "of the cross"
(Krest=cross); and, of course, is not the Russian for

Well, then, we descended Mount Gut into the
Chertov Valley. . . There's a romantic desig-
nation for you! Already you have a vision of
the evil spirit's nest amid the inaccessible cliffs --
but you are out of your reckoning there. The
name "Chertov" is derived from the word
cherta (boundary-line) and not from chort (devil),
because, at one time, the valley marked the
boundary of Georgia. We found it choked with
snow-drifts, which reminded us rather vividly
of Saratov, Tambov, and other charming localities
of our fatherland.

"Look, there is Krestov!" said the staff-
captain, when we had descended into the Chertov
Valley, as he pointed out a hill covered with a
shroud of snow. Upon the summit stood out
the black outline of a stone cross, and past it led
an all but imperceptible road which travellers
use only when the side-road is obstructed with
snow. Our drivers, declaring that no avalanches
had yet fallen, spared the horses by conducting
us round the mountain. At a turning we met
four or five Ossetes, who offered us their services;
and, catching hold of the wheels, proceeded, with
a shout, to drag and hold up our cart. And, in-
deed, it is a dangerous road; on the right were
masses of snow hanging above us, and ready, it
seemed, at the first squall of wind to break off
and drop into the ravine; the narrow road was
partly covered with snow, which, in many places,
gave way under our feet and, in others, was
converted into ice by the action of the sun by
day and the frosts by night, so that the horses
kept falling, and it was with difficulty that we
ourselves made our way. On the left yawned a
deep chasm, through which rolled a torrent, now
hiding beneath a crust of ice, now leaping and
foaming over the black rocks. In two hours we
were barely able to double Mount Krestov -- two
versts in two hours! Meanwhile the clouds had
descended, hail and snow fell; the wind, burst-
ing into the ravines, howled and whistled like
Nightingale the Robber.[1] Soon the stone cross
was hidden in the mist, the billows of which, in
ever denser and more compact masses, rushed in
from the east. . .

[1] A legendary Russian hero whose whistling knocked people

Concerning that stone cross, by the way,
there exists the strange, but widespread, tradition
that it had been set up by the Emperor Peter
the First when travelling through the Caucasus.
In the first place, however, the Emperor went no
farther than Daghestan; and, in the second
place, there is an inscription in large letters on the
cross itself, to the effect that it had been erected
by order of General Ermolov, and that too in the
year 1824. Nevertheless, the tradition has taken
such firm root, in spite of the inscription, that
really you do not know what to believe; the more
so, as it is not the custom to believe inscriptions.

To reach the station Kobi, we still had to
descend about five versts, across ice-covered rocks
and plashy snow. The horses were exhausted; we
were freezing; the snowstorm droned with ever-
increasing violence, exactly like the storms of
our own northern land, only its wild melodies
were sadder and more melancholy.

"O Exile," I thought, "thou art weeping
for thy wide, free steppes! There mayest thou
unfold thy cold wings, but here thou art stifled
and confined, like an eagle beating his wings, with
a shriek, against the grating of his iron cage!"

"A bad look out," said the staff-captain.
"Look! There's nothing to be seen all round
but mist and snow. At any moment we may
tumble into an abyss or stick fast in a cleft; and
a little lower down, I dare say, the Baidara has
risen so high that there is no getting across it.
Oh, this Asia, I know it! Like people, like
rivers! There's no trusting them at all!"

The drivers, shouting and cursing, belaboured
the horses, which snorted, resisted obstinately,
and refused to budge on any account, notwith-
standing the eloquence of the whips.

"Your honour," one of the drivers said to me
at length, "you see, we will never reach Kobi
to-day. Won't you give orders to turn to the
left while we can? There is something black
yonder on the slope -- probably huts. Travellers
always stop there in bad weather, sir. They
say," he added, pointing to the Ossetes, "that they
will lead us there if you will give them a tip."

"I know that, my friend, I know that without
your telling me," said the staff-captain. "Oh,
these beasts! They are delighted to seize any
pretext for extorting a tip!"

"You must confess, however," I said, "that
we should be worse off without them."

"Just so, just so," he growled to himself. "I
know them well -- these guides! They scent out
by instinct a chance of taking advantage of
people. As if it was impossible to find the way
without them!"

Accordingly we turned aside to the left, and,
somehow or other, after a good deal of trouble,
made our way to the wretched shelter, which
consisted of two huts built of stone slabs and
rubble, surrounded by a wall of the same
material. Our ragged hosts received us with
alacrity. I learned afterwards that the Govern-
ment supplies them with money and food upon
condition that they put up travellers who are
overtaken by storm.


"ALL is for the best," I said, sitting down
close by the fire. "Now you will finish
telling me your story about Bela. I am certain
that what you have already told me was not the
end of it."

"Why are you so certain?" answered the
staff-captain, winking and smiling slyly.

"Because things don't happen like that. A
story with such an unusual beginning must also
have an unusual ending."

"You have guessed, of course" . . .

"I am very glad to hear it."

"It is all very well for you to be glad, but,
indeed, it makes me sad when I think of it.
Bela was a splendid girl. In the end I grew
accustomed to her just as if she had been my
own daughter, and she loved me. I must tell
you that I have no family. I have had no news
of my father and mother for twelve years or so,
and, in my earlier days, I never thought of
providing myself with a wife -- and now, you
know, it wouldn't do. So I was glad to have
found someone to spoil. She used to sing to us
or dance the Lezginka.[1] . . And what a dancer
she was! I have seen our own ladies in provincial
society; and on one occasion, sir, about twenty
years ago, I was even in the Nobles' Club at
Moscow -- but was there a woman to be com-
pared with her? Not one! Grigori Aleksandro-
vich dressed her up like a doll, petted and
pampered her, and it was simply astonishing to
see how pretty she grew while she lived with us.
The sunburn disappeared from her face and
hands, and a rosy colour came into her cheeks. . .
What a merry girl she was! Always making
fun of me, the little rogue! . . . Heaven forgive

[1] Lezghian dance.

"And when you told her of her father's

"We kept it a secret from her for a long time,
until she had grown accustomed to her position;
and then, when she was told, she cried for a day
or two and forgot all about it.

"For four months or so everything went on
as well as it possibly could. Grigori Aleksandro-
vich, as I think I have already mentioned, was
passionately fond of hunting; he was always
craving to be off into the forest after boars or
wild goats -- but now it would be as much as he
would do to go beyond the fortress rampart.
All at once, however, I saw that he was beginning
again to have fits of abstraction, walking about
his room with his hands clasped behind his back.
One day after that, without telling anyone, he
set off shooting. During the whole morning he
was not to be seen; then the same thing
happened another time, and so on -- oftener and
oftener. . .

"'This looks bad!' I said to myself. 'Some-
thing must have come between them!'

"One morning I paid them a visit -- I can
see it all in my mind's eye, as if it was happening
now. Bela was sitting on the bed, wearing a
black silk jacket, and looking rather pale and
so sad that I was alarmed.

"'Where is Pechorin?' I asked.


"'When did he go -- to-day?'

"'She was silent, as if she found a difficulty in

"'No, he has been gone since yesterday,' she
said at length, with a heavy sigh.

"'Surely nothing has happened to him!'

"'Yesterday I thought and thought the whole
day,' she answered through her tears; 'I
imagined all sorts of misfortunes. At one time
I fancied that he had been wounded by a wild
boar, at another time, that he had been carried
off by a Chechene into the mountains. . . But,
now, I have come to think that he no longer
loves me.'

"'In truth, my dear girl, you could not have
imagined anything worse!'

"She burst out crying; then, proudly raising
her head, she wiped away the tears and con-

"'If he does not love me, then who prevents
him sending me home? I am not putting any
constraint on him. But, if things go on like this,
I will go away myself -- I am not a slave, I am
a prince's daughter!' . . .

"I tried to talk her over.

"'Listen, Bela. You see it is impossible for him
to stop in here with you for ever, as if he was
sewn on to your petticoat. He is a young man
and fond of hunting. Off he'll go, but you will
find that he will come back; and, if you are
going to be unhappy, you will soon make him
tired of you.'

"'True, true!' she said. 'I will be

"And with a burst of laughter, she seized her
tambourine, began to sing, dance, and gambol
around me. But that did not last long either;
she fell upon the bed again and buried her face
in her hands.

"What could I do with her? You know I
have never been accustomed to the society of
women. I thought and thought how to cheer
her up, but couldn't hit on anything. For some
time both of us remained silent. . . A most
unpleasant situation, sir!

"At length I said to her:

"'Would you like us to go and take a walk on
the rampart? The weather is splendid.'

"This was in September, and indeed it was a
wonderful day, bright and not too hot. The
mountains could be seen as clearly as though
they were but a hand's-breadth away. We went,
and walked in silence to and fro along the
rampart of the fortress. At length she sat down
on the sward, and I sat beside her. In truth, now,
it is funny to think of it all! I used to run after
her just like a kind of children's nurse!

"Our fortress was situated in a lofty position,
and the view from the rampart was superb. On
one side, the wide clearing, seamed by a few
clefts, was bounded by the forest which stretched
out to the very ridge of the mountains. Here
and there, on the clearing, villages were to be
seen sending forth their smoke, and there were
droves of horses roaming about. On the other
side flowed a tiny stream, and close to its banks
came the dense undergrowth which covered the
flinty heights joining the principal chain of the
Caucasus. We sat in a corner of the bastion, so
that we could see everything on both sides.
Suddenly I perceived someone on a grey horse
riding out of the forest; nearer and nearer he
approached until finally he stopped on the far
side of the river, about a hundred fathoms from
us, and began to wheel his horse round and round
like one possessed. 'Strange!' I thought.

"'Look, look, Bela,' I said, 'you've got young
eyes -- what sort of a horseman is that? Who is
it he has come to amuse?' . . .

"'It is Kazbich!' she exclaimed after a

"'Ah, the robber! Come to laugh at us,
has he?'

"I looked closely, and sure enough it was
Kazbich, with his swarthy face, and as ragged
and dirty as ever.

"'It is my father's horse!' said Bela, seizing
my arm.

"She was trembling like a leaf and her eyes
were sparkling.

"'Aha!' I said to myself. 'There is robber's
blood in your veins still, my dear!'

"'Come here,' I said to the sentry. 'Look to
your gun and unhorse that gallant for me -- and
you shall have a silver ruble.'

"'Very well, your honour, only he won't keep

"'Tell him to!' I said, with a laugh.

"'Hey, friend!' cried the sentry, waving
his hand. 'Wait a bit. What are you spinning
round like a humming-top for?'

"Kazbich halted and gave ear to the sentry --
probably thinking that we were going to parley
with him. Quite the contrary! . . . My grena-
dier took aim. . . Bang! . . . Missed! . . .
Just as the powder flashed in the pan Kazbich
jogged his horse, which gave a bound to one side.
He stood up in his stirrups, shouted something
in his own language, made a threatening gesture
with his whip -- and was off.

"'Aren't you ashamed of yourself?' I said
to the sentry.

"'He has gone away to die, your honour,' he
answered. 'There's no killing a man of that
cursed race at one stroke.'

"A quarter of an hour later Pechorin returned
from hunting. Bela threw herself on his neck
without a single complaint, without a single
reproach for his lengthy absence! . . . Even I
was angry with him by this time!

"'Good heavens!' I said; 'why, I tell you,
Kazbich was here on the other side of the river
just a moment ago, and we shot at him. How
easily you might have run up against him, you
know! These mountaineers are a vindictive
race! Do you suppose he does not guess that you
gave Azamat some help? And I wager that he
recognised Bela to-day! I know he was desper-
ately fond of her a year ago -- he told me so
himself -- and, if he had had any hope of getting
together a proper bridegroom's gift, he would
certainly have sought her in marriage.'

"At this Pechorin became thoughtful.

"'Yes,' he answered. 'We must be more
cautious -- Bela, from this day forth you mustn't
walk on the rampart any more.'

"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?'


"'Do you want anything?'


Back to Full Books