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When Loris-Melikov entered the drawing room Hadji Murad received him with a bright face.
"Well, shall I continue?" he asked, sitting down comfortably on the divan.
"Yes, certainly," said Loris-Melikov. "I have been in to have a talk with thy henchmen. . . . One is a jolly fellow!" he added.
"Yes, Khan Mahoma is a frivolous fellow," said Hadji Murad.
"I liked the young handsome one."
"Ah, that's Eldar. He's young but firm -- made of iron!"
They were silent for a while.
"So I am to on?"
"I told the how the Khans were killed. . . . Well, having killed them Hamzad rode into Khunzakh and took up his quarters in their palace. The Khansha was the only one of the family left alive. Hamzad sent for her. She reproached him, so he winked to his murid Aseldar, who struck her from behind and killed her."
"Why did he kill her?" asked Loris-Melikov.
"What could he do? . . . Where the forelegs have gone the hind legs must follow! He killed off the whole family. Shamil killed the youngest son -- threw him over a precipice. . . .
"Then the whole of Avaria surrendered to Hamzad. But my brother and I would not surrender. We wanted his blood for the blood of the Khans. We pretended to yield, but our only thought was how to get his blood. We consulted our grandfather and decided to await the time when he would come out of his palace, and then to kill him from an ambush. Someone overheard us and told Hamzad, who sent for grandfather and said, `Mind, if it be true that thy grandsons are planning evil against me, thou and they shall hang from one rafter. I do God's work and cannot be hindered. . . . To, and remember what I have said!'
"Our grandfather came home and told us.
"Then we decided not to wait but to do the deed on the first day of the feast in the mosque. Our comrades would not take part in it but my brother and I remained firm.
"We took two pistols each, put on our burkas, and went to the mosque. Hamzad entered the mosque with thirty murids. They all had drawn swords in their hands. Aseldar, his favorite murid (the one who had cut off Khansha's head), saw us, shouted to us to take off our burkas, and came towards me. I had my dagger in my hand and I killed him with it and rushed at Hamzad; but my brother Osman had already shot him. He was still alive and rushed at my brother dagger in hand, but I have him a finishing blow on the head. There were thirty murids and we were only two. They killed my brother Osman, but I kept them at bay, leapt through the window, and escaped.
"When it was known that Hamzad had been killed all the people rose. The murids fled and those of them who did not flee were killed."
Hadji Murad paused, and breathed heavily.
"That was very good," he continued, "but afterwards everything was spoilt.
"Shamil succeeded Hamzad. He sent envoys to me to say that I should join him in attacking the Russians, and that if I refused he would destroy Kunzakh and kill me.
"I answered that I would not join him and would not let him come to me. . . . "
"Why didst thou not go with him?" asked Loris-Melikov.
Hadji Murad frowned and did not reply at once.
"I could not. The blood of my brother Osman and of Abu Nutsal Khan was on his hands. I did not go to him. General Rosen sent me an officer's commission and ordered me to govern Avaria. All this would have been well, but that Rosen appointed as Khan of Kazi-Kumukh, first Mahomet-Murza, and afterwards Akhmet Khan, who hated me. He had been trying to get the Khansha's daughter, Sultanetta, in marriage for his son, but she would not giver her to him, and he believed me to be the cause of this. . . . Yes, Akhmet Khan hated me and sent his henchmen to kill me, but I escaped from them. Then he spoke ill of me to General Klugenau. He said that I told the Avars not to supply wood to the Russian soldiers, and he also said that I had donned a turban -- this one" (Hadji Murad touched his turban) "and that this meant that I had gone over to Shamil. The general did not believe him and gave orders that I should not be touched. But when the general went to Tiflis, Akhmet Khan did as he pleased. He sent a company of soldiers to seize me, put me in chains, and tied me to a cannon.
"So they kept me six days," he continued. "On the seventh day they untied me and started to take me to Temir-Khan-Shura. Forty soldiers with loaded guns had me in charge. My hands were tied and I knew that they had orders to kill me if I tried to escape.
"As we approached Mansokha the path became narrow, and on the right was an abyss about a hundred and twenty yards deep. I went to the right -- to the very edge. A soldier wanted to stop me, but I jumped down and pulled him with me. He was killed outright but I, as you see, remained alive.
"Ribs, head, arms, and leg -- all were broken! I tried to crawl but grew giddy and fell asleep. I awoke wet with blood. A shepherd saw me and called some people who carried me to an aoul. My ribs and head healed, and my leg too, only it has remained short," and Hadji Murad stretched out his crooked leg. "It still serves me, however, and that is well," said he.
"The people heard the news and began coming to me. I recovered and went to Tselmess. The Avars again called on me to rule over them," he went on, with tranquil, confident pride, "and I agreed."
He rose quickly and taking a portfolio out of a saddlebag, drew out two discolored letters and handed one of them to Loris-Melikov. They were from General Klugenau. Loris-Melikov read the first letter, which was as follows:
"Lieutenant Hadji Murad, thou has served under me and I was satisfied with thee and considered thee a good man.
"Recently Akhmet Khan informed me that thou are a traitor, that thou has donned a turban and has intercourse with Shamil, and that thou has taught the people to disobey the Russian Government. I ordered thee to be arrested and brought before me but thou fledst. I do not know whether this is for thy good or not, as I do not know whether thou art guilty or not.
"Now hear me. If thy conscience is pure, if thou are not guilty in anything towards the great Tsar, come to me, fear no one. I am thy defender. The Khan can do nothing to thee, he is himself under my command, so thou has nothing to fear."
Klugenau added that he always kept his word and was just, and he again exhorted Hadji Murad to appear before him.
When Loris-Melikov had read this letter Hadji Murad, before handing him the second one, told him what he had written in reply to the first.
"I wrote that I wore a turban not for Shamil's sake but for my soul's salvation; that I neither wished nor could go over to Shamil, because he had cause the death of my father, my brothers, and my relations; but that I could not join the Russians because I had been dishonored by them. (In Khunzakh, a scoundrel had spat on me while I was bound, and I could not join your people until that man was killed.) But above all I feared that liar, Akhmet Khan.
"Then the general sent me this letter," said Hadji Murad, handing Loris-Melikov the other discolored paper.
"Thou has answered my first letter and I thank thee," read Loris-Melikov. "Thou writest that thou are not afraid to return but that the insult done thee by a certain giarou prevents it, but I assure thee that the Russian law is just and that thou shalt see him who dared to offend thee punished before thine eyes. I have already given orders to investigate the matter.
"Hear me, Hadji Murad! I have a right to be displeased with thee for not trusting me and my honor, but I forgive thee, for I know how suspicious mountaineers are in general. If thy conscience is pure, if thou hast put on a turban only for they soul's salvation, then thou art right and mayst look me and the Russian Government boldly in the eye. He who dishonored thee shall, I assure thee, be punished and thy property shall be restored to thee, and thou shalt see and know what Russian law is. Moreover we Russians look at things differently, and thou hast not sunk in our eyes because some scoundrel has dishonored thee.
"I myself have consented to the Chimrints wearing turbans, and I regard their actions in the right light, and therefore I repeat that thou hast nothing to fear. Come to me with the man by whom I am sending thee this letter. He is faithful to me and is not the slave of thy enemies, but is the friend of a man who enjoys the special favor of the Government."
Further on Klugenau again tried to persuade Hadji Murad to come over to him.
"I did not believe him," said Hadji Murad when Loris-Melikov had finished reading, "and did not go to Klugenau. The chief thing for me was to revenge myself on Akhmet Khan, and that I could not do through the Russians. Then Akhmet Khan surrounded Tselmess and wanted to take me or kill me. I had too few men and could not drive him off, and just then came an envoy with a letter from Shamil promising to help me to defeat and kill Akhmet Khan and making me ruler over the whole of Avaria. I considered the matter for a long time and then went over to Shamil, and from that time I have fought the Russians continually."
Here Hadji Murad related all his military exploits, of which there were very many and some of which were already familiar to Loris-Melikov. all his campaigns and raids had been remarkable for the extraordinary rapidity of his movements and the boldness of his attacks, which were always crowned with success.
"There never was any friendship between me and Shamil," said Hadji Murad at the end of his story, "but he feared me and needed me. But it so happened that I was asked who should be Imam after Shamil, and I replied: `He will be Imam whose sword is sharpest!'
"This was told to Shamil and he wanted to get rid of me. He sent me into Tabasaran. I went, and captured a thousand sheep and three hundred horses, but he said I had not done the right thing and dismissed me from being Naib, and ordered me to send him all the money. I sent him a thousand gold pieces. He sent his murids and they took from me all my property. He demanded that I should go to him, but I knew he wanted to kill me and I did not go. Then he sent to take me. I resisted and went over to Vorontsov. Only I did not take my family. My mother, my wives, and my son are in his hands. Tell the Sirdar that as long as my family is in Shamil's power I can do nothing."
"I will tell him," said Loris-Melikov.
"Take pains, try hard!. . . . What is mine is thine, only help me with the Prince. I am tied up and the end of the rope is in Shamil's hands," said Hadji Murad concluding his story.
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