Chapter 196706106

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Chapter NumberX
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196706106
Full Date1882-02-25
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count3470
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleLeader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)
Trove TitleThe Brigadier
article text

THE BRIGADIER.

By.Ivan ToonoDEHKPF, in Temple Bar.

Chapter X.

The glass of brandy had, as we say, unscrowed Cucumber. He began to lavish his consolations on the brigadier, who hastened to walk in front irith his short steps, tremulous and stiff. 'Oh! your Grace, my little father, why are jrou not giy ? Why do you let your noso hang -down ? Permit me to sing you a little song. You will have great satisfaction with it, at once.

_No doubt of it, resumed ho, turning to my side, ' oucmaster is a great laugher. Oh ! Great God ! what a laugher; Yesterday I saw a peasant qroman washing her husband's breeches in the .pool. . Such a big peasant woman it was. And ?our master, who kept bohind, died of laughing at .her, lawear toyou. But permit me ... do yon know the song of the hare ? Never mind my appearance. We have in the town a Bohemian woman,, a regular guy. She begins to sing : 'Quick ! u coffin . ... lie down in it and die of pleasure.' ' Cucumber opened wide Ma thick wet lips, and with head thrown back and eyes half-closed, chanted the following song : — Tho bare in crouching under a biuh ; some sportsmen cross the fields ; the hard hardly breathes ; he ia con tent to raise one ear, (or he looks lor death. 'How, nave I vexed you, my dear sportsmen ? What troublo bavo I caused you » It is true I visit the cabbies, but I eat only nno leaf at a time, and thai is -in thi- pope'd kitcucnganleii, alas .'' - Cucumber's voice rose higher and higher : — The hare leaped in the sombro forest and showed in - 4eriBion his toil to the gportsmea. Adieu, dear UjiorUmen, contomplate my Ull, as to -myself i am free. . Cucumber no longer sang — he howle 1 : The sportsmen wandered all day on the plain. ' Thoy dljcusjei] the haro's .ictlons. They ondod byiu julting each other and naming. 'The hare will not be ?.?aui'ht ; the squint-eyed vil *in has made fuu of us.' Cucumber sang. the two first verses of each .stanza in a drawling voice ; the three last, on the ..contrary, with anility, skipping and pushing his ? Jeg8 one before tho other. At tho end of each ? stanza he made hisfu-riturc,thzt is to say he struck . himself . behind with his heels. After having screamed out the last verse, he did a wheel. His iope. was realised. The brigadier burst out sud -denly into a roar of laughter trembling and fear /.ial : it was so strong that he could go no further, . And bent forward, striking his knees with his . 'feeble. hands. ? I regarded his faco become purple . and convulsively twisted, and in that moment, .?more than before, I was seized with a great com . (passion for the poor old man. Animated by sue ?tess, Cucumber began to dance like a Cossack, --.and ended by falling with his face to tho ground. The brigadier brusquely ceased laughing and re ?munedTiis walk. ' CuapikivXI. We passed over a quarter of a versto more. A hamlet appeared at last at the border of a ravine ?f no great depth. In a by.place was a cottage with a thatch roof, hah' uncovered, and a single «himnoy. In ono of tho two chambers of this wretched is'A lived the brigadier. Tho lady of ihe hamlet was the wife of a councillor of state, Hadame Lomoff, who resided constantly at St. Petersburg. It was sh3, I learned later, who had .given this corner to the brigadier. She had also assigned for his nourishment a monthly allow ance of a pood of dour, with a little salt and oil, and finally had allowed him as a servant a young idiot girl, taken from the Berfs of the hamlet, — who, ' though she hardly understood human language, yet sufficed in the judgment of Madame Lomdff to sweep the floor and cook a cabbage soup. On tho threshold of this cottage tho briga dier turned towards mo, and making me enter before him with his smile of the time of the Em press Catherino, he asked me if I would deign to -TiBit his apartment. ' We entered this apartment. Everything was so dirty, so destitute, so miser able,* that the brigadier, having probably caught ?on my faco the impression produced upon me by ihe sight of his abode, said to me suddenly in French, shrugging hiashouldera : 'Ce n'est pas _ . .ceil de pordriz.' I could not make clear what he had wished to say by these words be cause, I having addressed him in French, he no longer answored in' that language. Two objects ? had struck mo especially and from the first in the brigadier's chamber : .the cross of an officer of St. Qeorge nndef glass in a black frame, which hung -on 'the wall, and bore in old characters the fol lowing inscription: ' Received by the colonel of the.regiment of Tchernigof, Vassili Qousskof, for ? the taking of Praga by assault in 1794 ;' and i also a portrait in oils, the bust of a young woman, ? Tory beautiful, ? with black ojes, brown com - flexion, long face, ahigh powdered head of hair, and patches at the temple and chin, dressed in a full robo of large design, bordered with bluo fringe, as- wasworn about 1780. \ This portrait wag, no doubt, ili-paintod ; but jt must have - been a likeness, so much one felt in it an indi vidual and indubitable life. Tha faco did not look at tho spectator, it soemed to turn away, and -did not smile. In the strict, close curve of tho (nose;- in tho lips regular, but flat and thin, in the -nearly straight line of the thick eyebrows, might ?lie 'read a character,' imperious, proud and pas sionate. ' No etfort of tho imagination was needed ?*- represent to oneself how this faco might sud -?denly become inflamed with pa33ion and fury. : flJndertho portrait, on a little pedestal, was a \'3)uiich of half-withered wilil flowers in a common ?iglasajug. Thebrigadiorapproaohedthepedcstal, vjplaced carefully with the other flowors tho pink3 vlo had gathered, ami raising his hand in the ?^direction of the portrait, ho said in a respectful ?t-roiee: ' Agrippina TiSldghino, nee Loraotf !' Tho , arorfls of Narlciz came back to my mind, and it ; - rwas with twofold attention that I oxamined tho features, expressive but dry and hard, of tbo /woman to whom tbo brigadier had sacrificed all \hia fortune. 'I soo you assisted at tho assault of Praga, If onseur ~lo . Brigadier,' I began, pointing out to him the croas of St. George. ' You have merited ??±0 reao'ivo.a diatlnation rare at all times, and still rarer then. Do you remember Suvorov?' '''Alexander Vassilitch ?' answered the briga

dier, aftei moment oF silence, during which he had appearo, to muster his ideas ; 'yes, yes, remember him— a littlo old man, very alert You stand upright beforo him, you hardly breathe ; and be, he skips hero and there.' The brigadier burst out laughing. ' He entered Warsaw on a Cossack's jade, and himself all covered with diamonds ; and ho said to tho Poles, 'I have got no watch ; I have for gotten it at St. Petersburg;' and thoy to say ? Vivat ! vivat ! rogues ! what ! rogues ! ' Eh 1 Cucumber lad,' added ho suddonly, changing and raising his voice (the merry sub-deacon had romainod outside), ' whore then are these rolls? and tell Grounka to bring some kvass.' ' Hero ! your Qraco, here !' said Cucumber, entering and banding to the brigadier tho Btring of rolls. And leaving tho cottage, he approached a being

in rags, with rough hair, who was probably tho idiot girl, Grounka. In fact, as soon as I could distinguish through tho dusty glass, he began to aBk her for drink by raising to his Iip3 one of his hands, which he gave tho form of a funnel, while with the other ho made signs in the direction of the chamber we had entered. Chapter XII. I tried again to resume conversation with the brigadier, but he was visibly fatigued ; he let himself fall groaning on a sort of truckle bed and, after having said in a doleful voice : 'Oh 1 my poor bones, my poor dear bonos !' he began to unfasten his garters. I remember being much surprised at a man wearing garters, but I had forgotten that in his timo it was tho general cus tom. The brigadier began to gape lengthily and naively, without taking from me his eyes, which were become troubled ; very little children do so. The poorold man seemed no longer to comprehend my questions. And ho had taken Praga 1 It was he who, sword in hand, through the smoke and dust, a flag riddled with balls about his head, mutilated corpses under his feet, had led the soldiers of Suvaror ! It was he, he ! Is it not strange ? But it seemed to me that in tho life of the brigadier there must have passed something stranger still. Cucumber brought some bad white kvaea in an iron pitcher. The brigadier drank with avidity. His hands trembled ; Cucumber supported tho bottom of the pitcher. The old man carefully wiped his toothless mouth with the palm of bis band, and after having looked fixedly, he began to mumble with his lips, I understood that he wished to sleep, so made him a bow and left. ' His Grace will go to rest now,' said Cucum ber, who had come out after me. 'He is very fatigued to-day ; ho has made his pilgrimage.' ' \Vhat pilgrimage ?' ' Oh 1 to the tomb of Agrafena Ivanovna, five verstes away, in tho parish burying-ground. Vassili Fomitch goes there every week without fail.' ' Has she been dead long?' ' It will soon be twenty years at least.' ' Then she was his mistress ?' ' Don't you know she passed all her lifo with him ? To tell the truth, I never knew tho lady ; but it appears there were between them, things . . . things ? Sir,' said he precipitately, seeing that I was fioing away, ' won't you give me something more to drink your valuable health?' I gave Cucumber another piece of twonty kopecka and roturned to the house. Chapter XIII. Upon my arrival I went to Narkiz for informa tion. Naturally he assumed an air of difficulty and importance.) He was surprised that such trifles could interest mo. However, he finished by relating to mo what he knew. This is what I learned : — Yassili Foiaitch Gousskof had mado tho acquaintance of Agrafdna Ivanovna Te'ldghine at Moscow, shortly after the last disaster of Poland. Agrafena's husband served in the suite of the general who was governor of the province, and Gousskof had como to the town on leave. He was smitten with her immediately, but still did not quit tlie service. He was forty years of age, was unmarried, and possessed a respectablo for tune. Agrafena's husband died Boon after and left his widow childless and in debt. Gousskof heard of this situation, quitted tho service imme diately, retiring on a pension, and after having rediscovered tho doarly-belovod widow, who was then twenty^five years old, ho paid all her debts and redeemed her property. After that they never left each other, and Qousskof finished by oven establishing himself at her house. Agra Una seemed also to love him ; but bIio nover con sented to become bis wife. The deceased,' said Narku, ' was crazy, she was a regular lunatic. She maintained that her liberty was more dear to her than all the rest. But as to profiting by him, she did that extensively. All the money ho could get he brought to her like an ant. But the madness of Agrafdna increased, and took great proportions. Sho was of an ungovernable cha racter, oven so far that sho could not stay her hands. Ono day sho threw down Btairs a littlo Cossack lackey who had brought hor somo sour milk, and this littlo lackey fell so unfortunately that ho broke a log and two ribs. Agrafdna was frightoned beyond measure ; she soon had tho wounded lad enclosed in an obscure closet, never left the house herself, and gave to no one tho koy of this closet until tho groans that woro heard there had completely ceased. Tho littlo Cossack was buried secretly,' 'And if this,' added Narkiz, inn low tane, leaning towards my ear, ' had tnkon place in the time of the Empress, nothing would have fol owed. Many such things have romaine I secret. But then,' hero Narkiz drew himself up and raised bis voico, ' tho juBt Czar, Alexander the Blessed of Heaven, had just ascondod the throne, and the affair was inquired into. Justice came to tho pluco, tho corpse was disinterred, traces of violence wero discovered, and so forth. Well ! would you believe it ? Vassili Fomitch took all on himself. ' It is I,' he said, ' who mislio 1 him. I buried him.' Naturally, tho officers of justice —magistrates, notaries, policemen— all rushed on llm !lkj ?? pack of ll0Unll8- anJ sh°°k him and knocked him about until hin last penny was jerked out of Mb pookot. They releaaod him for some time, and then, pop ! again the hand on tho collar. Until the coming of the French into Inusia in 1812, they did not ccaao to worry him. Thoy would not have abandoned him until this moment liko an old bone without marrow. But truly he bad saved Agrafdna Ivanovnu ; and af terwards he continued to live with hor until sho died, and they say that ahe mode a such a catB

paw of this brigadier that slio sent him on foot I lrom Moscow to got tho rents from her peasant?. ? I swear to you before Hod it is true. For this Agrafena ho fought at long-sword with tho Eng lish lord Goussd-Gouse. Now tho brigadier U no longer to be reckoned Among men. He is nn old horse without hoofs.' ' And who is that Alexis Ivanitch tho .Tew, who is also tbo cause of his ruin ?' ' That was a brother of Agrafena's. A groedy soul, a thorough Helirow, a usurer. He lent to his sister by the week, and the brigadier was surety. Oh ! they skinned him well, like a lime tree of its bark.' ' And Theodulio tho plundress, who was she ?' ' Another sister, and as cunning as tho brother. A true lance always ready to pierce.' Chapter XIV. ' Behold, then, Werter has re-appcarod,' said I to myself tho next day, again taking the road to tbo brigadier's house. I was very younj then, and precisely hecauso of my extreme youth I made it a rule to disbelieve in the omlnrancc of lovo. Still, very much impressed by nil I had heard, I had the greatest desiro to oxcite the old man to speak. 'I will bring up Suvarov again, ' thought I, 'oven now some spark of warlike fire must sur vivo in him. Having once warmel him I wilt lead him to this . . . what do they call her ? . . . Agrafdna ; odd name for a Charlotte !' I found Werter Gousskof somo paces from his cottage in a small kitchen-girdon near tho remains of an old ijM destroyed and already covered with nettles. Along the worm-eaten beams, a family of Bkinny young turkeys marched, squalling, stumbling and agitating their wings. Some Bickly veco tables Bproutcd in two or tbreo borders. The brigadier had just pulled from tlie earth a young carrot, and after having wiped it under his ann he bogan to chew it from the point. I saluted him, and inquired about his health. Doubtless ho did not recognise mo, but he carried his hand to his cap, while continuing to bite Ilia carrot. ' You did not come to-day to catch somo fish,' I began, in the hopo of bringing myself to bis memory. ' To-day, 'repeated ho, and ho be^an to muse, while the carrot diminished betwoen* his lips. ' But it is Cucumber that catches the fish. And I too— I am permitted.' ' Certainly, respectable Vassili Fomitch— no question of that. But aren't you very hot in tho son, like that?' The brigadier wore nn old and thickly wadded dressing-gown. ''Really! it is warm.' And havingnt last finished his carrot, he began . to look around him in a scared manner. ' Will you condescend to enter my apartment?' said he suddenly. The poor old man had little but this phrase at his disposal. Wo wont out of the kitchen garden, but hero I stopped involuntarily. An enormous bull Blood between us and the cottage. With head lowered to the ground, he rolled his wild angry eyes, blew with forco through hisquivering nostrils, and plied brusquely ono of his feot in front, casting into the air with his largo cloven hoof hnndfuls of dust. Seeing us he recoiled a little, struck his flanks with his tail, obstinately shook his powerful shaggy neck, and gave out dull bellows, plaintive and threatening. I con fess I was quite disconcerted. Tho brigadier ad vanced with tho greatest phloem, and having said in a tone of authority, ' What now, lout, ill bred !' he struck it with his handkerchief be tween the horns. The bull retired still further then flung himself on one side and set out at a gallop, throwing bis head from right to loft. 'Ho did indeed take Praga,' thought I, fol lowing tbo brigadier into his chamber. . He pulled his cap from his Inir in perspiration, gave a prolonged ' ouf !' nnd dropped on tho edge of n chair. ' I have como to-day, Vassili Fomitch,' said I, beginning diplomatically, ' first, for tho plea sure of seeing you ; and then, as you hare served under the orders of the great Suvarov, and have taken part in events of the highest importance, I wished to know ? ' The brigadier suddenly raised bis eyes to me ; a strange animation was pictured on his faco. Already I expected, if not a story, at least some words of encouragement. ' I shall probably .,oon die, sir,' B.iid he in a low voice. , ? * ' Why such a supposition ?' Tho brigadier moved his arms together up and down as do little children at the breast. 'This is why, Bir. I often seo in dreams ? ? ? . perlmp3 you know. Agrafdna Ivonovna iho deceased, may tho kingdom of heaven be icrs I nnd I can never catch her. I run after her, and I can never catch her. But last night I saw her. Sho stood half turned towards me and smiled ; I rim immediately towards her and I catch her. Thon sho turns right round to mo and says to mo : ' Ah ! well ! my littlo Vasaili, then you have caught mo at lost.' ' ' And what do you concludo from that. Vassili Fomitch ?' ' From that I conclude, sir, that henceforth wo shall be together. And glory bo to God, may I venture to add glory to the Lord God, tbo Father, the Son, and tho Holy Ghost' (here tho brigadier bogan to cbant). ' to-day, and alwayB for over and ever, amen I Ho began to make hasty Bigns of tho cross. I could not draw from him another word, and could only retire. CnAPTER XV. Several years later I n?ain visited my friend's domain. The brigadier had long since coasod to exist ; ho died soon after I had known him. Cucumber was BtiJl flourishing. He conducted mo to tho tomb of Agrafdna Ivanovo. An iron rail surrounded a large slab bearing nn epitaph in trifling and pompons words : anil ther-s quite near, as it were, at tho foot of tho deceased, was n little mound surmountoi by a wooden cross al ready decaying and bearing tbo inscription, ' tha servant of God, VasBili Gouishof, brigadier uml chevalier, rosts beneath.' His remains had at lost found a final shelter near those of tbo beis-? he had loved with a lovo beyond tho loveToi mortals. (Concluded.)