Author : Leo Tolstoy
Zhilin crept down into his hole, and widened it so that Kostuilin also could get through, and then they sat and waited till all should be quiet in the aul.
As soon as the people were quiet in the aul, Zhilin crept under the wall, and came out on the other side. He whispers to Kostuilin, "Crawl under."
Kostuilin also crept under, but in doing so he hit a stone with his leg, and it made a noise.
Now, the master had a brindled dog as a watch,—a most ferocious animal; they called him Ulyashin.
Zhilin had been in the habit of feeding him. Ulyashin heard the noise, and began to bark and jump about, and the other dogs joined in.
Zhilin gave a little whistle, threw him a piece of cake. Ulyashin recognized him, began to wag his tail, and ceased barking.
Abdul had heard the disturbance, and cried from within the hut:—
"Háït! háït! Ulyashin."
But Zhilin scratched the dog behind the ears. The dog makes no more sound, rubs against his legs, and wags his tail.
They wait behind the corner.
All became silent again; the only sound was the bleating of a sheep in the fold, and far below them the water roaring over the pebbles.
It is dark, but the sky is studded with stars. Over the mountain the young moon hung red, with its horns turned upward.
In the valleys a mist was rising, white as milk. Zhilin started up, and said to his comrade in Tatar, "Well, brother, aï-da!"
They set out again.
But as they get under way, they hear the call of the mulla on the minaret:—
"Allah! Bis'm Allah! el Rakhman!"
"That means, the people will be going to the mosque."
Again they sat down and hid under the wall.
They sat there long, waiting until the people should pass. Again it grew still.
"Now for our fate!"
They crossed themselves, and started.
They went across the dvor, and down the steep bank to the stream, crossed the stream, proceeded along the valley. The mist was thick, and closed in all around them, but above their heads the stars could still be seen.
Zhilin used the stars to guide him which way to go. It was cool in the mist, it was easy walking, only their boots were troublesome,—they were worn at the heels. Zhilin took his off, threw them away, and walked barefoot. He sprang from stone to stone, and kept glancing at the stars.
Kostuilin began to grow weary. "Go slower," says he; "my boots chafe me, my whole foot is raw."
"Then take them off, it will be easier."
Kostuilin began to go barefoot, but that was still worse; he kept scraping his feet on the stones and having to stop.
Zhilin said to him, "You may cut your feet, but you will save your life; but if you are caught they will kill you, which would be worse."
Kostuilin said nothing, but crept along, groaning. For a long time they went down the valley. Suddenly they hear dogs barking at the right. Zhilin halted, looked around, climbed up the bank, and felt about with his hands.
"Ekh!" says he, "we have made a mistake; we have gone too far to the right. Here is one of the enemy's villages. I could see it from the hill. We must go back to the left, up the mountain. There must be a forest there."
But Kostuilin objected. "Just wait a little while, let us get breath. My feet are all blood."
"Eh, brother! they will get well. You should walk more lightly. This way."
And Zhilin turned back toward the left, and up hill toward the forest.
Kostuilin kept halting and groaning. Zhilin tried to hush him up, and still hastened on.
They climbed the mountain. And there they found the forest. They entered it; their clothes were all torn to pieces on the thorns. They found a little path through the woods. They walked along it.
There was the sound of hoofs on the path. They stopped to listen. It sounded like the tramping of a horse: then it also stopped. They set out once more; again the tramping hoofs. When they stopped, it stopped.
Zhilin crept ahead, and investigated a light spot on the path.
Something is standing there. It may be a horse, or it may not, but on it there is something strange, not at all like a man.
It snorted—plainly! "What a strange thing!"
Zhilin gave a slight whistle. There was a dash of feet from the path into the forest, a crackling in the underbrush, and something rushed along like a hurricane, with a crashing of dry boughs.
Kostuilin almost fell to the ground in fright. But Zhilin laughed, and said,—
"That was a stag. Do you hear how it crashes through the woods with its horns? We frightened him, and he frightened us."
They went on their way. Already the Great Bear was beginning to set; the dawn was not distant. And they were in doubt whether they should come out right or not. Zhilin was inclined to think that they were on the right track, and that it would be about ten versts farther before they reached the Russian fortress, but there is no certain guide; you could not tell in the night.
They came to a little clearing. Kostuilin sat down and said,—
"Do as you please, but I will not go any farther; my legs won't carry me."
Zhilin tried to persuade him.
"No," says he, "I won't go, I can't go."
Zhilin grew angry; he threatens him, he scolds him.
"Then I will go on without you. Good-by!"
Kostuilin jumped up and followed. They went four versts farther. The fog began to grow thicker in the forest. Nothing could be seen before them; the stars were barely visible.
Suddenly they hear the tramping of a horse just in front of them; they can hear his shoes striking on the stones.
Zhilin threw himself down on his belly, and tried to listen by laying his ear to the ground.
"Yes, it is,—it is some one on horseback coming in our direction."
They slipped off to one side of the road, crouched down in the bushes, and waited. Zhilin crept close to the path, and looked.
He sees a mounted Tatar riding along, driving a cow. The man is muttering to himself. When the Tatar had ridden by, Zhilin returned to Kostuilin.
"Well, God has saved us. Up with you! Come along!"
Kostuilin tried to rise, and fell back.
"I can't; by God, I can't. My strength is all gone."
The man was as though he were drunk. He was all of a sweat; and as they were surrounded by the cold fog, and his feet were torn, he was quite used up. Zhilin tried to lift him by main force. Then Kostuilin cried, "Aï! it hurt."
Zhilin was frightened to death.
"What are you screaming for? Don't you know that Tatar is near? He will hear you." But he said to himself, "Now he is really played out, what can I do with him? I can't abandon a comrade. Now," says he, "get up; climb on my back. I will carry you if you can't walk any longer." He took Kostuilin on his shoulders, holding him by the thighs, and went along the path with his burden. "Only," says he, "don't put your hands on my throat, for Christ's sake! Lean on my shoulders."
It was hard for Zhilin. His feet were also bloody, and he was weary. He stopped, and made it a little easier for himself by setting Kostuilin down, and getting him better mounted. Then he went on again.
Evidently the Tatar had heard them when Kostuilin screamed. Zhilin caught the sound of some one following them and shouting in his language. Zhilin put into the bushes. The Tatar aimed his gun; he fired it off, but missed; began to whine in his native tongue, and galloped up the path.
"Well," says Zhilin, "we are lost, brother. The dog,—he will be right back with a band of Tatars on our track.... If we don't succeed in putting three versts between us, we are lost." And he thinks to himself, "The devil take it, that I had to bring this clod along with me! Alone, I should have got there long ago."
Kostuilin said, "Go alone. Why should you be lost on my account?"
"No, I will not go; it would not do to abandon a comrade." He lifted him again on his shoulder, and started on. Thus he made a verst. It was forest all the way, and no sign of outlet. But the fog was now beginning to lift, and seemed to be floating away in little clouds: not a star could be seen. Zhilin was tired out.
A little spring gushed out by the road: it was walled in with stones. There he stopped, and dropped Kostuilin.
"Let me rest a little," says he, "and get a drink. We will eat our cakes. It can't be very far now."
He had just stretched himself out to drink, when the sound of hoofs was heard behind them. Again they hid in the bushes at the right under the crest, and crouched down.
They heard Tatar voices. The Tatars stopped at the very spot where they had turned in from the road. After discussing a while, they seemed to be setting dogs on the scent.
The refugees hear the sound of a crashing through the bushes: a strange dog comes directly to them. He stops and barks.
The Tatars followed on their track. They are also strangers.
They seized them, bound them, lifted them on horses, and carried them off.
After they had ridden three versts, Abdul, with two Tatars, met them. He said something to their new captors. They were transferred to Abdul's horses, and were brought back to the aul.
Abdul was no longer grinning, and he said not a word to them.
They reached the village at daybreak; the prisoners were left in the street. The children gathered around them, tormenting them with stones and whips, and howling.
The Tatars gathered around them in a circle, and the old man from the mountain was among them. They began to discuss. Zhilin made out that they were deciding on what should be done with them. Some said that they ought to be sent farther into the mountains, but the old man declared that they must be killed. Abdul argued against it. Says he, "I have paid out money for them, I shall get a ransom for them."
But the old man said, "They won't pay any thing; it will only be an injury to us. And it is a sin to keep Russians alive. Kill them, and that is the end of it."
They separated. Abdul came to Zhilin, and reported the decision.
"If," says he, "the ransom is not sent in two weeks, you will be flogged. And if you try to run away again, I will kill you like a dog. Write your letter, and write it good!"
Paper was brought them; they wrote their letters. Clogs were put on their feet again; they were taken behind the mosque.... There was a pit twelve feet deep, and they were thrust down into this pit.
From : Gutenberg.org.
December 05, 1887 : Part 06, Chapter 05 -- Publication.
February 18, 2017 : Part 06, Chapter 05 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.
March 19, 2019 : Part 06, Chapter 05 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.
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