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...'Tell us a story, colonel,' we said at last to Nikolai Ilyitch.
The colonel smiled, puffed out a coil of tobacco smoke between his
moustaches, passed his hand over his grey hair, looked at us and
considered. We all had the greatest liking and respect for Nikolai
Ilyitch, for his good-heartedness, common sense, and kindly indulgence
to us young fellows. He was a tall, broad-shouldered, stoutly-built man;
his dark face, 'one of the splendid Russian faces,' [Footnote: Lermontov
in the _Treasurer's Wife_.--AUTHOR'S NOTE.] straight-forward,
clever glance, gentle smile, manly and mellow voice--everything about
him pleased and attracted one.
'All right, listen then,' he began.
It happened in 1813, before Dantzig. I was then in the E---- regiment of
cuirassiers, and had just, I recollect, been promoted to be a cornet. It
is an exhilarating occupation--fighting; and marching too is good enough
in its way, but it is fearfully slow in a besieging army. There one sits
the whole blessed day within some sort of entrenchment, under a tent, on
mud or straw, playing cards from morning till night. Perhaps, from
simple boredom, one goes out to watch the bombs and redhot bullets
At first the French kept us amused with sorties, but they quickly
subsided. We soon got sick of foraging expeditions too; we were
overcome, in fact, by such deadly dulness that we were ready to howl for
sheer _ennui_. I was not more than nineteen then; I was a healthy
young fellow, fresh as a daisy, thought of nothing but getting all the
fun I could out of the French... and in other ways too... you
understand what I mean... and this is what happened. Having nothing to
do, I fell to gambling. All of a sudden, after dreadful losses, my luck
turned, and towards morning (we used to play at night) I had won an
immense amount. Exhausted and sleepy, I came out into the fresh air, and
sat down on a mound. It was a splendid, calm morning; the long lines of
our fortifications were lost in the mist; I gazed till I was weary, and
then began to doze where I was sitting.
A discreet cough waked me: I opened my eyes, and saw standing before me
a Jew, a man of forty, wearing a long-skirted grey wrapper, slippers,
and a black smoking-cap. This Jew, whose name was Girshel, was
continually hanging about our camp, offering his services as an agent,
getting us wine, provisions, and other such trifles. He was a thinnish,
red-haired, little man, marked with smallpox; he blinked incessantly
with his diminutive little eyes, which were reddish too; he had a long
crooked nose, and was always coughing.
He began fidgeting about me, bowing obsequiously.
'Well, what do you want?' I asked him at last.
'Oh, I only--I've only come, sir, to know if I can't be of use to your
honour in some way...'
'I don't want you; you can go.'
'At your honour's service, as you desire.... I thought there might be,
'You bother me; go along, I tell you.'
'Certainly, sir, certainly. But your honour must permit me to
congratulate you on your success....'
'Why, how did you know?'
'Oh, I know, to be sure I do.... An immense sum... immense....Oh! how
Girshel spread out his fingers and wagged his head.
'But what's the use of talking,' I said peevishly; 'what the devil's the
good of money here?'
'Oh! don't say that, your honour; ay, ay, don't say so. Money's a
capital thing; always of use; you can get anything for money, your
honour; anything! anything! Only say the word to the agent, he'll get
you anything, your honour, anything! anything!'
'Don't tell lies, Jew.'
'Ay! ay!' repeated Girshel, shaking his side-locks. 'Your honour doesn't
believe me.... Ay... ay....' The Jew closed his eyes and slowly wagged
his head to right and to left.... 'Oh, I know what his honour the
officer would like.... I know,... to be sure I do!'
The Jew assumed an exceedingly knowing leer.
The Jew glanced round timorously, then bent over to me.
'Such a lovely creature, your honour, lovely!...' Girshel again closed
his eyes and shot out his lips.
'Your honour, you've only to say the word... you shall see for
yourself... whatever I say now, you'll hear... but you won't believe...
better tell me to show you... that's the thing, that's the thing!'
I did not speak; I gazed at the Jew.
'Well, all right then; well then, very good; so I'll show you then....'
Thereupon Girshel laughed and slapped me lightly on the shoulder, but
skipped back at once as though he had been scalded.
'But, your honour, how about a trifle in advance?'
'But you 're taking me in, and will show me some scarecrow?'
'Ay, ay, what a thing to say!' the Jew pronounced with unusual warmth,
waving his hands about. 'How can you! Why... if so, your honour, you
order me to be given five hundred... four hundred and fifty lashes,' he
added hurriedly....' You give orders--'
At that moment one of my comrades lifted the edge of his tent and called
me by name. I got up hurriedly and flung the Jew a gold coin.
'This evening, this evening,' he muttered after me.
I must confess, my friends, I looked forward to the evening with some
impatience. That very day the French made a sortie; our regiment marched
to the attack. The evening came on; we sat round the fires... the
soldiers cooked porridge. My comrades talked. I lay on my cloak, drank
tea, and listened to my comrades' stories. They suggested a game of
cards--I refused to take part in it. I felt excited. Gradually the
officers dispersed to their tents; the fires began to die down; the
soldiers too dispersed, or went to sleep on the spot; everything was
still. I did not get up. My orderly squatted on his heels before the
fire, and was beginning to nod. I sent him away. Soon the whole camp was
hushed. The sentries were relieved. I still lay there, as it were
waiting for something. The stars peeped out. The night came on. A long
while I watched the dying flame.... The last fire went out. 'The damned
Jew was taking me in,' I thought angrily, and was just going to get up.
'Your honour,'... a trembling voice whispered close to my ear.
I looked round: Girshel. He was very pale, he stammered, and whispered
'Let's go to your tent, sir.' I got up and followed him. The Jew shrank
into himself, and stepped warily over the short, damp grass. I observed
on one side a motionless, muffled-up figure. The Jew beckoned to
her--she went up to him. He whispered to her, turned to me, nodded his
head several times, and we all three went into the tent. Ridiculous to
relate, I was breathless.
'You see, your honour,' the Jew whispered with an effort, 'you see.
She's a little frightened at the moment, she's frightened; but I've told
her his honour the officer's a good man, a splendid man.... Don't be
frightened, don't be frightened,' he went on--'don't be frightened....'
The muffled-up figure did not stir. I was myself in a state of dreadful
confusion, and didn't know what to say. Girshel too was fidgeting
restlessly, and gesticulating in a strange way....
'Any way,' I said to him, 'you get out....' Unwillingly, as it seemed,
I went up to the muffled-up figure, and gently took the dark hood off
her head. There was a conflagration in Dantzig: by the faint, reddish,
flickering glow of the distant fire I saw the pale face of a young
Jewess. Her beauty astounded me. I stood facing her, and gazed at her in
silence. She did not raise her eyes. A slight rustle made me look round.
Girshel was cautiously poking his head in under the edge of the tent. I
waved my hand at him angrily,... he vanished.
'What's your name?' I said at last.
'Sara,' she answered, and for one instant I caught in the darkness the
gleam of the whites of her large, long-shaped eyes and little, even,
I snatched up two leather cushions, flung them on the ground, and asked
her to sit down. She slipped off her shawl, and sat down. She was
wearing a short Cossack jacket, open in front, with round, chased silver
buttons, and full sleeves. Her thick black hair was coiled twice round
her little head. I sat down beside her and took her dark, slender hand.
She resisted a little, but seemed afraid to look at me, and there was a
catch in her breath. I admired her Oriental profile, and timidly pressed
her cold, shaking fingers.
'Do you know Russian?'
'Yes... a little.'
'And do you like Russians?'
'Yes, I like them.'
'Then, you like me too?'
'Yes, I like you.'
I tried to put my arm round her, but she moved away quickly....
'No, no, please, sir, please...'
'Oh, all right; look at me, any way.'
She let her black, piercing eyes rest upon me, and at once turned away
with a smile, and blushed.
I kissed her hand ardently. She peeped at me from under her eyelids and
'What is it?'
She hid her face in her sleeve and laughed more than before.
Girshel showed himself at the entrance of the tent and shook his finger
at her. She ceased laughing.
'Go away!' I whispered to him through my teeth; 'you make me sick!'
Girshel did not go away.
I took a handful of gold pieces out of my trunk, stuffed them in his
hand and pushed him out.
'Your honour, me too....' she said.
I dropped several gold coins on her lap; she pounced on them like a cat.
'Well, now I must have a kiss.'
'No, please, please,' she faltered in a frightened and beseeching voice.
'What are you frightened of?'
She looked timidly at me, put her head a little on one side and clasped
her hands. I let her alone.
'If you like... here,' she said after a brief silence, and she raised
her hand to my lips. With no great eagerness, I kissed it. Sara laughed
My blood was boiling. I was annoyed with myself and did not know what to
do. Really, I thought at last, what a fool I am.
I turned to her again.
'Sara, listen, I'm in love with you.'
'You know? And you're not angry? And do you like me too?'
Sara shook her head.
'No, answer me properly.'
'Well, show yourself,' she said.
I bent down to her. Sara laid her hands on my shoulders, began
scrutinising my face, frowned, smiled.... I could not contain myself,
and gave her a rapid kiss on her cheek. She jumped up and in one bound
was at the entrance of the tent.
'Come, what a shy thing you are!'
She did not speak and did not stir.
'Come here to me....'
'No, sir, good-bye. Another time.'
Girshel again thrust in his curly head, and said a couple of words to
her; she bent down and glided away, like a snake.
I ran out of the tent in pursuit of her, but could not get another
glimpse of her nor of Girshel.
The whole night long I could not sleep a wink.
The next night we were sitting in the tent of our captain; I was
playing, but with no great zest. My orderly came in.
'Some one's asking for you, your honour.'
'Who is it?'
'Can it be Girshel?' I wondered. I waited till the end of the rubber,
got up and went out. Yes, it was so; I saw Girshel.
'Well,' he questioned me with an ingratiating smile, 'your honour, are
'Ah, you------!' (Here the colonel glanced round. 'No ladies present, I
believe.... Well, never mind, any way.') 'Ah, bless you!' I responded,
'so you're making fun of me, are you?'
'How so, indeed! What a question!'
'Ay, ay, your honour, you 're too bad,' Girshel said reproachfully, but
never ceasing smiling. 'The girl is young and modest.... You frightened
her, indeed, you did.'
'Queer sort of modesty! why did she take money, then?'
'Why, what then? If one's given money, why not take it, sir?'
'I say, Girshel, let her come again, and I '11 let you off... only,
please, don't show your stupid phiz inside my tent, and leave us in
peace; do you hear?'
Girshel's eyes sparkled.
'What do you say? You like her?'
'She's a lovely creature! there's not another such anywhere. And have
you something for me now?'
'Yes, here, only listen; fair play is better than gold. Bring her and
then go to the devil. I'll escort her home myself.'
'Oh, no, sir, no, that's impossible, sir,' the Jew rejoined hurriedly.
'Ay, ay, that's impossible. I'll walk about near the tent, your honour,
if you like; I'll... I'll go away, your honour, if you like, a
little.... I'm ready to do your honour a service.... I'll move away...
to be sure, I will.'
'Well, mind you do.... And bring her, do you hear?'
'Eh, but she's a beauty, your honour, eh? your honour, a beauty, eh?'
Girshel bent down and peeped into my eyes.
'Well, then, give me another gold piece.'
I threw him a coin; we parted.
The day passed at last. The night came on. I had been sitting for a long
while alone in my tent. It was dark outside. It struck two in the town.
I was beginning to curse the Jew.... Suddenly Sara came in, alone. I
jumped up took her in my arms... put my lips to her face.... It was cold
as ice. I could scarcely distinguish her features.... I made her sit
down, knelt down before her, took her hands, touched her waist.... She
did not speak, did not stir, and suddenly she broke into loud,
convulsive sobbing. I tried in vain to soothe her, to persuade her....
She wept in torrents.... I caressed her, wiped her tears; as before, she
did not resist, made no answer to my questions and wept--wept, like a
waterfall. I felt a pang at my heart; I got up and went out of the tent.
Girshel seemed to pop up out of the earth before me.
'Girshel,' I said to him, 'here's the money I promised you. Take Sara
The Jew at once rushed up to her. She left off weeping, and clutched
hold of him.
'Good-bye, Sara,'I said to her. 'God bless you, good-bye. We'll see each
other again some other time.'
Girshel was silent and bowed humbly. Sara bent down, took my hand and
pressed it to her lips; I turned away....
For five or six days, my friends, I kept thinking of my Jewess. Girshel
did not make his appearance, and no one had seen him in the camp. I
slept rather badly at nights; I was continually haunted by wet, black
eyes, and long eyelashes; my lips could not forget the touch of her
cheek, smooth and fresh as a downy plum. I was sent out with a foraging
party to a village some distance away. While my soldiers were ransacking
the houses, I remained in the street, and did not dismount from my
horse. Suddenly some one caught hold of my foot....
'Mercy on us, Sara!'
She was pale and excited.
'Your honour... help us, save us, your soldiers are insulting us....
She recognised me and flushed red.
'Why, do you live here?'
Sara pointed to a little, old house. I set spurs to my horse and
galloped up. In the yard of the little house an ugly and tattered Jewess
was trying to tear out of the hands of my long sergeant, Siliavka, three
hens and a duck. He was holding his booty above his head, laughing; the
hens clucked and the duck quacked.... Two other cuirassiers were loading
their horses with hay, straw, and sacks of flour. Inside the house I
heard shouts and oaths in Little-Russian.... I called to my men and told
them to leave the Jews alone, not to take anything from them. The
soldiers obeyed, the sergeant got on his grey mare, Proserpina, or, as
he called her, 'Prozherpila,' and rode after me into the street.
'Well,' I said to Sara, 'are you pleased with me?'
She looked at me with a smile.
'What has become of you all this time?'
She dropped her eyes.
'I will come to you to-morrow.'
'In the evening?'
'No, sir, in the morning.'
'Mind you do, don't deceive me.'
'No... no, I won't.'
I looked greedily at her. By daylight she seemed to me handsomer than
ever. I remember I was particularly struck by the even, amber tint of
her face and the bluish lights in her black hair.... I bent down from my
horse and warmly pressed her little hand.
'Good-bye, Sara... mind you come.'
She went home; I told the sergeant to follow me with the party, and
The next day I got up very early, dressed, and went out of the tent. It
was a glorious morning; the sun had just risen and every blade of grass
was sparkling in the dew and the crimson glow. I clambered on to a high
breastwork, and sat down on the edge of an embrasure. Below me a stout,
cast-iron cannon stuck out its black muzzle towards the open country. I
looked carelessly about me... and all at once caught sight of a bent
figure in a grey wrapper, a hundred paces from me. I recognised Girshel.
He stood without moving for a long while in one place, then suddenly ran
a little on one side, looked hurriedly and furtively round... uttered a
cry, squatted down, cautiously craned his neck and began looking round
again and listening. I could see all his actions very clearly. He put
his hand into his bosom, took out a scrap of paper and a pencil, and
began writing or drawing something. Girshel continually stopped, started
like a hare, attentively scrutinised everything around him, and seemed
to be sketching our camp. More than once he hid his scrap of paper, half
closed his eyes, sniffed at the air, and again set to work. At last, the
Jew squatted down on the grass, took off his slipper, and stuffed the
paper in it; but he had not time to regain his legs, when suddenly, ten
steps from him, there appeared from behind the slope of an earthwork the
whiskered countenance of the sergeant Siliavka, and gradually the whole
of his long clumsy figure rose up from the ground. The Jew stood with
his back to him. Siliavka went quickly up to him and laid his heavy paw
on his shoulder. Girshel seemed to shrink into himself. He shook like a
leaf and uttered a feeble cry, like a hare's. Siliavka addressed him
threateningly, and seized him by the collar. I could not hear their
conversation, but from the despairing gestures of the Jew, and his
supplicating appearance, I began to guess what it was. The Jew twice
flung himself at the sergeant's feet, put his hand in his pocket, pulled
out a torn check handkerchief, untied a knot, and took out gold
coins.... Siliavka took his offering with great dignity, but did not
leave off dragging the Jew by the collar. Girshel made a sudden bound
and rushed away; the sergeant sped after him in pursuit. The Jew ran
exceedingly well; his legs, clad in blue stockings, flashed by, really
very rapidly; but Siliavka after a short run caught the crouching Jew,
made him stand up, and carried him in his arms straight to the camp. I
got up and went to meet him.
'Ah! your honour!' bawled Siliavka,--'it's a spy I'm bringing you--a
spy!...' The sturdy Little-Russian was streaming with perspiration.
'Stop that wriggling, devilish Jew--now then... you wretch! you'd better
look out, I'll throttle you!'
The luckless Girshel was feebly prodding his elbows into Siliavka's
chest, and feebly kicking.... His eyes were rolling convulsively....
'What's the matter?' I questioned Siliavka.
'If your honour'll be so good as to take the slipper off his right
foot,--I can't get at it.' He was still holding the Jew in his arms.
I took off the slipper, took out of it a carefully folded piece of
paper, unfolded it, and found an accurate map of our camp. On the margin
were a number of notes written in a fine hand in the Jews' language.
Meanwhile Siliavka had set Girshel on his legs. The Jew opened his eyes,
saw me, and flung himself on his knees before me.
Without speaking, I showed him the paper.
'It's---nothing, your honour. I was only....' His voice broke.
'Are you a spy?'
He did not understand me, muttered disconnected words, pressed my knees
'Are you a spy?'
'I!' he cried faintly, and shook his head. 'How could I? I never did;
I'm not at all. It's not possible; utterly impossible. I'm
ready--I'll--this minute--I've money to give... I'll pay for it,' he
whispered, and closed his eyes.
The smoking-cap had slipped back on to his neck; his reddish hair was
soaked with cold sweat, and hung in tails; his lips were blue, and
working convulsively; his brows were contracted painfully; his face was
Soldiers came up round us. I had at first meant to give Girshel a good
fright, and to tell Siliavka to hold his tongue, but now the affair had
become public, and could not escape 'the cognisance of the authorities.'
'Take him to the general,' I said to the sergeant.
'Your honour, your honour!' the Jew shrieked in a voice of despair. 'I
am not guilty... not guilty.... Tell him to let me go, tell him...'
'His Excellency will decide about that,' said Siliavka. 'Come along.'
'Your honour!' the Jew shrieked after me--'tell him! have mercy!'
His shriek tortured me; I hastened my pace. Our general was a man of
German extraction, honest and good-hearted, but strict in his adherence
to military discipline. I went into the little house that had been
hastily put up for him, and in a few words explained the reason of my
visit. I knew the severity of the military regulations, and so I did not
even pronounce the word 'spy,' but tried to put the whole affair before
him as something quite trifling and not worth attention. But, unhappily
for Girshel, the general put doing his duty higher than pity.
'You, young man,' he said to me in his broken Russian, 'inexperienced
are. You in military matters yet inexperienced are. The matter, of which
you to me reported have, is important, very important.... And where is
this man who taken was? this Jew? where is he?'
I went out and told them to bring in the Jew. They brought in the Jew.
The wretched creature could scarcely stand up.
'Yes,' pronounced the general, turning to me; 'and where's the plan
which on this man found was?'
I handed him the paper. The general opened it, turned away again,
screwed up his eyes, frowned....
'This is most as-ton-ish-ing...' he said slowly. 'Who arrested him?'
'I, your Excellency!' Siliavka jerked out sharply.
'Ah! good! good!... Well, my good man, what do you say in your defence?'
'Your... your... your Excellency,' stammered Girshel, 'I... indeed,...
your Excellency... I'm not guilty... your Excellency; ask his honour the
officer.... I'm an agent, your Excellency, an honest agent.'
'He ought to be cross-examined,' the general murmured in an undertone,
wagging his head gravely. 'Come, how do you explain this, my friend?'
'I'm not guilty, your Excellency, I'm not guilty.'
'That is not probable, however. You were--how is it said in
Russian?--taken on the fact, that is, in the very facts!'
'Hear me, your Excellency; I am not guilty.'
'You drew the plan? you are a spy of the enemy?'
'It wasn't me!' Girshel shrieked suddenly; 'not I, your Excellency!'
The general looked at Siliavka.
'Why, he's raving, your Excellency. His honour the officer here took the
plan out of his slipper.'
The general looked at me. I was obliged to nod assent.
'You are a spy from the enemy, my good man....'
'Not I... not I...' whispered the distracted Jew.
'You have the enemy with similar information before provided?
'How could I?'
'You will not deceive me, my good man. Are you a spy?'
The Jew closed his eyes, shook his head, and lifted the skirts of his
'Hang him,' the general pronounced expressively after a brief
silence,'according to the law. Where is Mr. Fiodor Schliekelmann?'
They ran to fetch Schliekelmann, the general's adjutant. Girshel began
to turn greenish, his mouth fell open, his eyes seemed starting out of
his head. The adjutant came in. The general gave him the requisite
instructions. The secretary showed his sickly, pock-marked face for an
instant. Two or three officers peeped into the room inquisitively.
'Have pity, your Excellency,' I said to the general in German as best I
could; 'let him off....'
'You, young man,' he answered me in Russian, 'I was saying to you, are
inexperienced, and therefore I beg you silent to be, and me no more to
Girshel with a shriek dropped at the general's feet.
'Your Excellency, have mercy; I will never again, I will not, your
Excellency; I have a wife... your Excellency, a daughter... have
'It's no use!'
'Truly, your Excellency, I am guilty... it's the first time, your
Excellency, the first time, believe me!'
'You furnished no other documents?'
'The first time, your Excellency,... my wife... my children... have
'But you are a spy.'
'My wife... your Excellency... my children....'
The general felt a twinge, but there was no getting out of it.
'According to the law, hang the Hebrew,' he said constrainedly, with the
air of a man forced to do violence to his heart, and sacrifice his
better feelings to inexorable duty--'hang him! Fiodor Karlitch, I beg
you to draw up a report of the occurrence....'
A horrible change suddenly came over Girshel. Instead of the ordinary
timorous alarm peculiar to the Jewish nature, in his face was reflected
the horrible agony that comes before death. He writhed like a wild beast
trapped, his mouth stood open, there was a hoarse rattle in his throat,
he positively leapt up and down, convulsively moving his elbows. He had
on only one slipper; they had forgotten to put the other on again... his
gown fell open... his cap had fallen off....
We all shuddered; the general stopped speaking.
'Your Excellency,' I began again, 'pardon this wretched creature.'
'Impossible! It is the law,' the general replied abruptly, and not
without emotion, 'for a warning to others.'
'For pity's sake....'
'Mr. Cornet, be so good as to return to your post,' said the general,
and he motioned me imperiously to the door.
I bowed and went out. But seeing that in reality I had no post anywhere,
I remained at no great distance from the general's house.
Two minutes later Girshel made his appearance, conducted by Siliavka and
three soldiers. The poor Jew was in a state of stupefaction, and could
hardly move his legs. Siliavka went by me to the camp, and soon returned
with a rope in his hands. His coarse but not ill-natured face wore a
look of strange, exasperated commiseration. At the sight of the rope the
Jew flung up his arms, sat down, and burst into sobs. The soldiers stood
silently about him, and stared grimly at the earth. I went up to
Girshel, addressed him; he sobbed like a baby, and did not even look at
me. With a hopeless gesture I went to my tent, flung myself on a rug,
and closed my eyes....
Suddenly some one ran hastily and noisily into my tent. I raised my head
and saw Sara; she looked beside herself. She rushed up to me, and
clutched at my hands.
'Come along, come along,' she insisted breathlessly.
'Where? what for? let us stop here.'
'To father, to father, quick... save him... save him!'
'To what father?'
'My father; they are going to hang him....'
'What! is Girshel...?'
'My father... I '11 tell you all about it later,' she added, wringing
her hands in despair: 'only come... come....'
We ran out of the tent. In the open ground, on the way to a solitary
birch-tree, we could see a group of soldiers.... Sara pointed to them
'Stop,' I said to her suddenly: 'where are we running to? The soldiers
won't obey me.'
Sara still pulled me after her.... I must confess, my head was going
'But listen, Sara,' I said to her; 'what sense is there in running here?
It would be better for me to go to the general again; let's go together;
who knows, we may persuade him.'
Sara suddenly stood still and gazed at me, as though she were crazy.
'Understand me, Sara, for God's sake. I can't do anything for your
father, but the general can. Let's go to him.'
'But meanwhile they'll hang him,' she moaned....
I looked round. The secretary was standing not far off.
'Ivanov,' I called to him; 'run, please, over there to them, tell them
to wait a little, say I've gone to petition the general.'
Ivanov ran off.
We were not admitted to the general's presence. In vain I begged,
persuaded, swore even, at last... in vain, poor Sara tore her hair and
rushed at the sentinels; they would not let us pass.
Sara looked wildly round, clutched her head in both hands, and ran at
breakneck pace towards the open country, to her father. I followed her.
Every one stared at us, wondering.
We ran up to the soldiers. They were standing in a ring, and picture it,
gentlemen! they were laughing, laughing at poor Girshel. I flew into a
rage and shouted at them. The Jew saw us and fell on his daughter's
neck. Sara clung to him passionately.
The poor wretch imagined he was pardoned.... He was just beginning to
thank me... I turned away.
'Your honour,' he shrieked and wrung his hands; 'I'm not pardoned?'
I did not speak.
'Your honour,' he began muttering; 'look, your honour, look... she, this
girl, see--you know--she's my daughter.'
'I know,' I answered, and turned away again.
'Your honour,' he shrieked, 'I never went away from the tent! I wouldn't
He stopped, and closed his eyes for an instant.... 'I wanted your money,
your honour, I must own... but not for anything....'
I was silent. Girshel was loathsome to me, and she too, his
'But now, if you save me,' the Jew articulated in a whisper, 'I'll
command her... I... do you understand?... everything... I'll go to every
He was trembling like a leaf, and looking about him hurriedly. Sara
silently and passionately embraced him.
The adjutant came up to us.
'Cornet,' he said to me; 'his Excellency has given me orders to place
you under arrest. And you...' he motioned the soldiers to the Jew...
Siliavka went up to the Jew.
'Fiodor Karlitch,' I said to the adjutant (five soldiers had come with
him); 'tell them, at least, to take away that poor girl....'
'Of course. Certainly.'
The unhappy girl was scarcely conscious. Girshel was muttering something
to her in Yiddish....
The soldiers with difficulty freed Sara from her father's arms, and
carefully carried her twenty steps away. But all at once she broke from
their arms and rushed towards Girshel.... Siliavka stopped her. Sara
pushed him away; her face was covered with a faint flush, her eyes
flashed, she stretched out her arms.
'So may you be accursed,' she screamed in German; 'accursed, thrice
accursed, you and all the hateful breed of you, with the curse of Dathan
and Abiram, the curse of poverty and sterility and violent, shameful
death! May the earth open under your feet, godless, pitiless,
Her head dropped back... she fell to the ground.... They lifted her up
and carried her away.
The soldiers took Girshel under his arms. I saw then why it was they had
been laughing at the Jew when I ran up from the camp with Sara. He was
really ludicrous, in spite of all the horror of his position. The
intense anguish of parting with life, his daughter, his family, showed
itself in the Jew in such strange and grotesque gesticulations, shrieks,
and wriggles that we all could not help smiling, though it was
horrible--intensely horrible to us too. The poor wretch was half dead
'Oy! oy! oy!' he shrieked: 'oy... wait! I've something to tell you... a
lot to tell you. Mr. Under-sergeant, you know me. I'm an agent, an
honest agent. Don't hold me; wait a minute, a little minute, a tiny
minute--wait! Let me go; I'm a poor Hebrew. Sara... where is Sara? Oh, I
know, she's at his honour the quarter-lieutenant's.' (God knows why he
bestowed such an unheard-of grade upon me.) 'Your honour the
quarter-lieutenant, I'm not going away from the tent.' (The soldiers
were taking hold of Girshel... he uttered a deafening shriek, and
wriggled out of their hands.) 'Your Excellency, have pity on the unhappy
father of a family. I'll give you ten golden pieces, fifteen I'll give,
your Excellency!...' (They dragged him to the birch-tree.) 'Spare me!
have mercy! your honour the quarter-lieutenant! your Excellency, the
general and commander-in-chief!'
They put the noose on the Jew.... I shut my eyes and rushed away.
I remained for a fortnight under arrest. I was told that the widow of
the luckless Girshel came to fetch away the clothes of the deceased. The
general ordered a hundred roubles to be given to her. Sara I never saw
again. I was wounded; I was taken to the hospital, and by the time I was
well again, Dantzig had surrendered, and I joined my regiment on the
banks of the Rhine.
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