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'Are they far?' was all Lukashka said.
Just then they heard a sharp shot some thirty paces off. The
corporal smiled slightly.
'Our Gurka is having shots at them,' he said, nodding in the
direction of the shot.
Having gone a few paces farther they saw Gurka sitting behind a
sand-hillock and loading his gun. To while away the time he was
exchanging shots with the ABREKS, who were behind another sand-
heap. A bullet came whistling from their side.
The cornet was pale and grew confused. Lukashka dismounted from
his horse, threw the reins to one of the other Cossacks, and went
up to Gurka. Olenin also dismounted and, bending down, followed
Lukashka. They had hardly reached Gurka when two bullets whistled
Lukashka looked around laughing at Olenin and stooped a little.
'Look out or they will kill you, Dmitri Andreich,' he said. 'You'd
better go away--you have no business here.' But Olenin wanted
absolutely to see the ABREKS.
From behind the mound he saw caps and muskets some two hundred
paces off. Suddenly a little cloud of smoke appeared from thence,
and again a bullet whistled past. The ABREKS were hiding in a
marsh at the foot of the hill. Olenin was much impressed by the
place in which they sat. In reality it was very much like the rest
of the steppe, but because the ABREKS sat there it seemed to
detach itself from all the rest and to have become distinguished.
Indeed it appeared to Olenin that it was the very spot for ABREKS
to occupy. Lukashka went back to his horse and Olenin followed
'We must get a hay-cart,' said Lukashka, 'or they will be killing
some of us. There behind that mound is a Nogay cart with a load of
The cornet listened to him and the corporal agreed. The cart of
hay was fetched, and the Cossacks, hiding behind it, pushed it
forward. Olenin rode up a hillock from whence he could see
everything. The hay-cart moved on and the Cossacks crowded
together behind it. The Cossacks advanced, but the Chechens, of
whom there were nine, sat with their knees in a row and did not
All was quiet. Suddenly from the Chechens arose the sound of a
mournful song, something like Daddy Eroshka's 'Ay day, dalalay.'
The Chechens knew that they could not escape, and to prevent
themselves from being tempted to take to flight they had strapped
themselves together, knee to knee, had got their guns ready, and
were singing their death-song.
The Cossacks with their hay-cart drew closer and closer, and
Olenin expected the firing to begin at any moment, but the silence
was only broken by the abreks' mournful song. Suddenly the song
ceased; there was a sharp report, a bullet struck the front of the
cart, and Chechen curses and yells broke the silence and shot
followed on shot and one bullet after another struck the cart. The
Cossacks did not fire and were now only five paces distant.
Another moment passed and the Cossacks with a whoop rushed out on
both sides from behind the cart--Lukashka in front of them. Olenin
heard only a few shots, then shouting and moans. He thought he saw
smoke and blood, and abandoning his horse and quite beside himself
he ran towards the Cossacks. Horror seemed to blind him. He could
not make out anything, but understood that all was over. Lukashka,
pale as death, was holding a wounded Chechen by the arms and
shouting, 'Don't kill him. I'll take him alive!' The Chechen was
the red-haired man who had fetched his brother's body away after
Lukashka had killed him. Lukashka was twisting his arms. Suddenly
the Chechen wrenched himself free and fired his pistol. Lukashka
fell, and blood began to flow from his stomach. He jumped up, but
fell again, swearing in Russian and in Tartar. More and more blood
appeared on his clothes and under him. Some Cossacks approached
him and began loosening his girdle. One of them, Nazarka, before
beginning to help, fumbled for some time, unable to put his sword
in its sheath: it would not go the right way. The blade of the
sword was blood-stained.
The Chechens with their red hair and clipped moustaches lay dead
and hacked about. Only the one we know of, who had fired at
Lukashka, though wounded in many places was still alive. Like a
wounded hawk all covered with blood (blood was flowing from a
wound under his right eye), pale and gloomy, he looked about him
with wide--open excited eyes and clenched teeth as he crouched,
dagger in hand, still prepared to defend himself. The cornet went
up to him as if intending to pass by, and with a quick movement
shot him in the ear. The Chechen started up, but it was too late,
and he fell.
The Cossacks, quite out of breath, dragged the bodies aside and
took the weapons from them. Each of the red-haired Chechens had
been a man, and each one had his own individual expression.
Lukashka was carried to the cart. He continued to swear in Russian
and in Tartar.
'No fear, I'll strangle him with my hands. ANNA SENI!' he cried,
struggling. But he soon became quiet from weakness.
Olenin rode home. In the evening he was told that Lukashka was at
death's door, but that a Tartar from beyond the river had
undertaken to cure him with herbs.
The bodies were brought to the village office. The women and the
little boys hastened to look at them.
It was growing dark when Olenin returned, and he could not collect
himself after what he had seen. But towards night memories of the
evening before came rushing to his mind. He looked out of the
window, Maryanka was passing to and fro from the house to the
cowshed, putting things straight. Her mother had gone to the
vineyard and her father to the office. Olenin could not wait till
she had quite finished her work, but went out to meet her. She was
in the hut standing with her back towards him. Olenin thought she
'Maryanka,' said he, 'I say, Maryanka! May I come in?'
She suddenly turned. There was a scarcely perceptible trace of
tears in her eyes and her face was beautiful in its sadness. She
looked at him in silent dignity.
Olenin again said:
'Maryanka, I have come--'
'Leave me alone!' she said. Her face did not change but the tears
ran down her cheeks.
'What are you crying for? What is it?'
'What?' she repeated in a rough voice. 'Cossacks have been killed,
that's what for.'
'Lukashka?' said Olenin.
'Go away! What do you want?'
'Maryanka!' said Olenin, approaching her.
'You will never get anything from me!'
'Maryanka, don't speak like that,' Olenin entreated.
'Get away. I'm sick of you!' shouted the girl, stamping her foot,
and moved threateningly towards him. And her face expressed such
abhorrence, such contempt, and such anger that Olenin suddenly
understood that there was no hope for him, and that his first
impression of this woman's inaccessibility had been perfectly
Olenin said nothing more, but ran out of the hut.
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