Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Captain's Daughter (excerpts) - Alexander Pushkin

The robber’s question and his impudence appeared to be so absurd that I could not restrain a smile.
“Why do you laugh?” he asked, frowning. “Do you not believe me to be the great Tzar? Answer me frankly.”
I did not know what to do. I could not recognize a vagabond as Emperor; such conduct was to me unpardonably base. To call him an impostor to his face was to devote myself to death; and the sacrifice for which I was prepared on the gallows, before all the world, and in the first heat of my indignation, appeared to me a useless piece of bravado. I knew not what to say.
Pugatchéf awaited my reply in fierce silence. At last (and I yet recall that moment with satisfaction) the feeling of duty triumphed in me over human weakness, and I made reply to Pugatchéf —
“Just listen, and I will tell you the whole truth. You shall be judge. Can I recognize in you a Tzar? You are a clever man; you would see directly that I was lying.”
“Who, then, am I, according to you?”
“God alone knows; but whoever you be, you are playing a dangerous game.”
Pugatchéf cast at me a quick, keen glance.
“You do not then think that I am the Tzar Peter? Well, so let it be. Is there no chance of success for the bold? In former times did not Grischka Otrépieff reign? Think of me as you please, but do not leave me. What does it matter to you whether it be one or the other? He who is pope is father. Serve me faithfully, and I will make you a field-marshal and a prince. What do you say to this?”
“No,” I replied, firmly. “I am a gentleman. I have sworn fidelity to Her Majesty the Tzarina; I cannot serve you. If you really wish me well, send me back to Orenburg.”
Pugatchéf reflected.
“But if I send you away,” said he, “will you promise me at least not to bear arms against me?”
“How can you expect me to promise you that?” replied I. “You know yourself that that does not depend upon me. If I be ordered to march against you I must submit. You are a chief now — you wish your subordinates to obey you. How can I refuse to serve if I am wanted? My head is at your disposal; if you let me go free, I thank you; if you cause me to die, may God judge you. Howbeit, I have told you the truth.”

From an evil dog be glad of a handful of hairs.

God save us from seeing a Russian revolt, senseless and merciless. Those who plot impossible upheavals among us, are either young and do not know our people or are hardhearted men who do not care a straw either about their own lives or those of other people.

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