Leo Tolstoy.

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On the 24th of July, Captain Khlopof in epaulets and cap - a style
of dress in which I had not seen him since my arrival in the
Caucasus - entered the low door of my earth-hut.

"I'm just from the colonel's," he said in reply to my questioning look;
"to-morrow our battalion is to move."

"Where?" I asked.

"To N - - . The troops have been ordered to muster at that place."

"And probably some expedition will be made from there?"

"Of course."

"In what direction, think you?"

"I don't think. I tell you all I know. Last night a Tatar from the
general came galloping up, - brought orders for the battalion to march,
taking two days' rations. But whither, why, how long, isn't for them to
ask. Orders are to go - that's enough."

"Still, if they are going to take only two days' rations, it's likely
the army will not stay longer."

"That's no argument at all."

"And how is that?" I asked with astonishment.

"This is the way of it: When they went against Dargi they took a week's
rations, but they spent almost a month."

"And can I go with you?" I asked, after a short silence.

"Yes, you _can_ go; but my advice is - better not. Why run the risk?"

"No, allow me to disregard your advice. I have been spending a
whole month here for this very purpose, - of having a chance to see
action, - and you want me to let it have the go-by!"

"All right, come with us; only isn't it true that it would be better
for you to stay behind? You could wait for us here, you could go
hunting. But as to us, - God knows what will become of us!... And
that would be first-rate," he said in such a convincing tone that it
seemed to me at the first moment that it would actually be first-rate.
Nevertheless, I said resolutely that I wouldn't stay behind for any

"And what have you to see there?" said the captain, still trying
to dissuade me. "If you want to learn how battles are fought, read
Mikhaïlovski Danilevski's 'Description of War,' a charming book; there
it's all admirably described, - where every corps stands, and how
battles are fought."

"On the contrary, that does not interest me," I replied.

"Well, now, how is this? It simply means that you want to see how men
kill each other, doesn't it?... Here in 1832 there was a man like
yourself, not in the regular service, - a Spaniard, I think he was. He
went on two expeditions with us,... in a blue mantle or something of
the sort, and so the young fellow was killed. Here, _bátiushka,_ one is
not surprised at any thing."

Ashamed as I was at the captain's manifest disapprobation of my
project, I did not attempt to argue him down.

"Well, he was brave, wasn't he?"

"God knows as to that. He always used to ride at the front. Wherever
there was firing, there he was."

"So he must have been brave, then," said I.

"No, that doesn't signify bravery, - his putting himself where he wasn't

"What do you call bravery, then?"

"Bravery, bravery?" repeated the captain with the expression of a man
to whom such a question presents itself for the first time. "A brave
man is one who conducts himself as he ought," said he after a brief

I remembered that Plato defined bravery as the knowledge of what one
ought and what one ought not to fear; and in spite of the triteness and
obscurity in the terminology of the captain's definition, I thought
that the fundamental conception of both was not so unlike as might at
first sight appear, and that the captain's definition was even more
correct than the Greek philosopher's, for the reason, that, if he could
have expressed himself as Plato did, he would in all probability have
said that that man is brave who fears only what he ought to fear and
not what there is no need of fearing.

I was anxious to explain my thought to the captain.

"Yes," I said, "it seems to me that in every peril there is an
alternative, and the alternative adopted under the influence of,
say, the sentiment of duty, is bravery, but the alternative adopted
under the influence of a lower sentiment is cowardice; therefore it
is impossible to call a man brave who risks his life out of vanity
or curiosity or greediness, and, _vice versa,_ the man who under the
influence of the virtuous sentiment of family obligation, or simply
from conviction, avoids peril, cannot be called a coward."

The captain looked at me with a queer sort of expression while I was

"Well, now, I don't know how to reason this out with you," said he,
filling his pipe, "but we have with us a junker, and he likes to
philosophize. You talk with him. He also writes poetry."

I had only become intimate with the captain in the Caucasus, but I had
known him before in Russia. His mother, Marya Ivanovna Khlopova, the
owner of a small landed estate, lives about two _versts_[2] from my
home. Before I went to the Caucasus I visited her. The old lady was
greatly delighted that I was going to see her Páshenka[3] (thus she
called the old gray-haired captain), and, like a living letter, could
tell him about her circumstances and give him a little message. Having
made me eat my fill of a glorious pie and roast chicken, Marya Ivanovna
went to her sleeping-room and came back with a rather large black
relic-bag,[4] to which was attached some kind of silken ribbon.

"Here is this image of our Mother-Intercessor from the September
festival," she said, kissing the picture of the divine Mother attached
to the cross, and putting it into my hand. "Please give it to him,
_bátiushka._ You see, when he went to the Kaikaz, I had a Te Deum
sung, and made a vow, that if he should be safe and sound, I would
order this image of the divine Mother. And here it is seventeen years
that the _Mátushka_ and the saints have had him in their keeping;
not once has he been wounded, and what battles he has been in, as it
seems!... When Mikhailo, who was with him, told me about it, my hair
actually stood on end. You see, all that I know about him I have to
hear from others; he never writes me any thing about his doings, my
dove,[5] - he is afraid of frightening me."

(I had already heard in the Caucasus, but not from the captain himself,
that he had been severely wounded four times; and, as was to be
expected, he had not written his mother about his wounds any more than
about his campaigns.)

"Now let him wear this holy image," she continued. "I bless him with
it. The most holy Intercessor protect him, especially in battle may she
always look after him! And so tell him, my dear, friend,[6] that thy
mother gave thee this message."

I promised faithfully to fulfil her commission.

"I know you will be fond of him, of my Páshenka," the old lady
continued, - "he is such a splendid fellow! Would you believe me, not a
year goes by without his sending me money, and he also helps Annushka
my daughter, and all from his wages alone. Truly I shall always thank
God," she concluded with tears in her eyes, "that he has given me such
a child."

"Does he write you often?" I asked.

"Rarely, _bátiushka,_ - not more than once a year; and sometimes when
he sends money he writes a little word, and sometimes he doesn't. 'If
I don't write you, _mámenka,_' he says, 'it means that I'm alive and
well; but if any thing should happen, - which God forbid, - then they
will write you for me.'"

When I gave the captain his mother's gift (it was in my room), he asked
me for some wrapping-paper, carefully tied it up, and put it away. I
gave him many details of his mother's life: the captain was silent.
When I had finished, he went into a corner, and took a very long time
in filling his pipe.

"Yes, she's a fine old lady," said he from the corner, in a rather
choked voice: "God grant that we may meet again!"

Great love and grief were expressed in these simple words.

"Why do you serve here?" I asked.

"Have to serve," he replied with decision. "And double pay means a good
deal for our brother, who is a poor man."

The captain lived economically; he did not play cards, he rarely drank
to excess, and he smoked ordinary tobacco, which from some inexplicable
reason he did not call by its usual name,[7] but _sambrotalicheski
tabák._ The captain had pleased me even before this. He had one of
those simple, calm Russian faces, and looked you straight in the eye
agreeably and easily. But after this conversation I felt a genuine
respect for him.

[Footnote 1: _Nabég_ (pronounced Na-be-ukh), the Invasion or Raid.]

[Footnote 2: One and a third miles.]

[Footnote 3: An affectionate diminished diminutive: Pavel (Paul),
Pasha, Pashenka.]

[Footnote 4: _ládanka,_ the bag containing sacred things worn by the
pious, together with the baptismal cross.]

[Footnote 5: _golubchik._]

[Footnote 6: _moï bátiushka._]

[Footnote 7: _tiutiún._]


At four o'clock on the morning of the next day, the captain came riding
up to my door. He had on an old well-worn coat without epaulets, wide
Lesghian trousers, a round white Circassian cap, with drooping lambskin
dyed yellow, and an ugly-looking Asiatic sabre across his shoulder. The
little white horse[8] on which he rode came with head down, and mincing
gait, and kept switching his slender tail. In spite of the fact that
the good captain's figure was neither very warlike nor very handsome,
yet there was in it such an expression of good-will toward every one
around him, that it inspired involuntary respect.

I did not keep him waiting a minute, but immediately mounted, and we
rode off together from the gate of the fortress.

The battalion was already two hundred _sazhens_[9] ahead of us, and had
the appearance of some black, solid body in motion. It was possible to
make out that it was infantry, only from the circumstance that while
the bayonets appeared like long, dense needles, occasionally there came
to the ear the sounds of a soldier's song, the drum, and a charming
tenor, the leader of the sixth company, - a song which I had more than
once enjoyed at the fort.

The road ran through the midst of a deep, wide ravine, or _balka_ as it
is called in the Caucasian dialect, along the banks of a small river,
which at this time _was playing,_ that is, was having a freshet. Flocks
of wild pigeons hovered around it, now settling on the rocky shore, now
wheeling about in mid-air in swift circles and disappearing from sight.

The sun was not yet visible, but the summit of the balka on the
right began to grow luminous. The gray and white colored crags, the
greenish-yellow moss wet with dew, the clumps of different kinds of
wild thorn,[10] stood out extraordinarily distinct and rotund in the
pellucid golden light of the sunrise.

On the other hand, the ravine, hidden in thick mist which rolled
up like smoke in varying volumes, was damp, and dark, and gave the
impression of an indistinguishable mixture of colors - pale lilac,
almost purple, dark green, and white.

Directly in front of us, against the dark blue of the horizon, with
startling distinctness appeared the dazzling white, silent masses of
the snow-capped mountains with their marvellous shadows and outlines
exquisite even in the smallest details. Crickets, grasshoppers, and
a thousand other insects, were awake in the tall grass, and filled
the air with their sharp, incessant clatter: it seemed as though a
numberless multitude of tiny bells were jingling in our very ears. The
atmosphere was alive with waters, with foliage, with mist; in a word,
had all the life of a beautiful early summer morning.

The captain struck a light, and began to puff at his pipe; the
fragrance of _sambrotalicheski tabák_ and of the punk struck me as
extremely pleasant.

We rode along the side of the road so as to overtake the infantry as
quickly as possible. The captain seemed more serious than usual; he
did not take his Daghestan pipe from his mouth, and at every step he
dug his heels into his horse's legs as the little beast, capering
from one side to the other, laid out a scarcely noticeable dark green
track through the damp, tall grass. Up from under his very feet, with
its shrill cry,[11] and that drumming of the wings that is so sure to
startle the huntsman in spite of himself, flew the pheasant, and slowly
winged its flight on high. The captain paid him not the slightest

"We had almost overtaken the battalion, when behind us was heard the
sound of a galloping horse, and in an instant there rode by us a very
handsome young fellow in an officer's coat, and a tall white Circassian
cap.[12] As he caught up with us he smiled, bowed to the captain, and
waved his whip.... I only had time to notice that he sat in the saddle
and held the bridle with peculiar grace, and that he had beautiful dark
eyes, a finely cut nose, and a mustache just beginning to grow. I was
particularly attracted by the way in which he could not help smiling,
as if to impress it upon us that we were friends of his. If by nothing
else than his smile, one would have known that he was still very young.

"And now where is he going?" grumbled the captain with a look of
dissatisfaction, not taking his pipe from his mouth.

"Who is that?" I asked.

"Ensign Alánin, a subaltern officer of my company.... Only last month
he came from the School of Cadets."

"This is the first time that he is going into action, I suppose?" said

"And so he is overjoyed," replied the captain thoughtfully, shaking his
head; "it's youth."

"And why shouldn't he be glad? I can see that for a young officer this
must be very interesting."

The captain said nothing for two minutes.

"And that's why I say 'it's youth,'" he continued in a deep tone. "What
is there to rejoice in, when there's nothing to see? Here when one goes
often, one doesn't find any pleasure in it. Here, let us suppose there
are twenty of us officers going: some of us will be either killed or
wounded; that's likely. To-day my turn, to-morrow his, the next day
somebody else's. So what is there to rejoice in?"

[Footnote 8: _mashtak_ in the Caucasian dialect.]

[Footnote 9: Fourteen hundred feet.]

[Footnote 10: Paliurus, box-thorn, and _karachag._]

[Footnote 11: _tordoka'yé._]

[Footnote 12: _papákha._]


Scarcely had the bright sun risen above the mountains, and begun
to shine into the valley where we were riding, when the undulating
clouds of mist scattered, and it grew warm. The soldiers with guns and
knapsacks on their backs marched slowly along the dusty road. In the
ranks were frequently heard Malo-Russian dialogues and laughter. A few
old soldiers in white linen coats - for the most part non-commissioned
officers - marched along the roadside with their pipes, engaged in
earnest conversation. The triple rows of heavily laden wagons advanced
step by step, and raised a thick dust, which hung motionless.

The mounted officers rode in advance; a few _jiggited,_ as they say
in the Caucasus;[13] that is, applying the whip to their horses, they
spurred them on to make four or five leaps, and then reined them in
suddenly, pulling the head back. Others listened to the song-singers,
who notwithstanding the heat and the oppressive air indefatigably tuned
up one song after another.

A hundred _sazhens_ in advance of the infantry, on a great white horse,
surrounded by mounted Tatars, rode a tall, handsome officer in Asiatic
costume, known to the regiment as a man of reckless valor, one who cuts
_any one straight in the eyes!_[14] He wore a black Tatar half-coat or
_beshmét_ trimmed with silver braid, similar trousers, new leggings[15]
closely laced with _chirazui_ as they call galloons in the Caucasus,
and a tall, yellow Cherkessian cap worn jauntily on the back of his
head. On his breast and back were silver lacings. His powder-flask and
pistol were hung at his back; another pistol, and a dagger in a silver
sheath, depended from his belt. Besides all this was buckled on a sabre
in a red morocco sheath adorned with silver; and over the shoulder hung
his musket in a black case.

By his garb, his carriage, his manner, and indeed by every motion,
it was manifest that his ambition was to ape the Tatars. He was just
saying something, in a language that I did not understand, to the
Tatars who rode with him; but from the doubtful, mocking glances which
these latter gave each other, I came to the conclusion that they did
not understand him either.

This was one of our young officers of the dare-devil, _jigit_ order,
who get themselves up à la Marlinski and Lermontof. These men look
upon the Caucasus, as it were, through the prism of the "Heroes of our
Time," Mulla-Nurof[16] and others, and in all their activities are I
directed not by their own inclinations but by the example of these

This lieutenant, for instance, was very likely fond of the society
of well-bred women and men of importance, generals, colonels,
adjutants, - I may even go so far as to believe that he was very fond of
this society, because he was in the highest degree vainglorious, - but
he considered it his unfailing duty to show his rough side to all
important people, although he offended them always more or less; and
when any lady made her appearance at the fortress, then he considered
it his duty to ride by her windows with his cronies, or _kunaki_ as
they are called in the dialect of the Caucasus, dressed in a red shirt
and nothing but _chuviaki_ on his bare legs, and shouting and swearing
at the top of his voice - but all this not only with the desire to
insult her, but also to show her what handsome white legs he had, and
how easy it would be to fall in love with him if only he himself were
willing. Or he often went by at night with two or three friendly Tatars
to the mountains into ambush by the road so as to take by surprise and
kill hostile Tatars coming along; and though more than once his heart
told him that there was nothing brave in such a deed, yet he felt
himself under obligations to inflict suffering upon people in whom he
thought that he was disappointed, and whom he affected to hate and
despise. He always carried two things, - an immense holy image around
his neck, and a dagger above his shirt. He never took them off, but
even went to bed with them. He firmly believed that enemies surrounded
him. It was his greatest delight to argue that he was under obligations
to wreak vengeance on some one and wash out insults in blood. He was
persuaded that spite, vengeance, and hatred of the human race were the
highest and most poetical of feelings. But his mistress, - a Circassian
girl course, - whom I happened afterwards to meet, said that he was
the mildest and gentlest of men, and that every evening he wrote in
his gloomy diary, cast up his accounts on ruled paper, and got on his
knees to say his prayers. And how much suffering he endured, to seem
to himself only what he desired to be, because his comrades and the
soldiers could not comprehend him as he desired!

Once, in one of his nocturnal expeditions with his Tatar friends, it
happened that he put a bullet into the leg of a hostile Tchetchenets,
and took him prisoner. This Tchetchenets for seven weeks thereafter
lived with the lieutenant; the lieutenant dressed his wound, waited
on him as though he were his nearest friend, and when he was cured
sent him home with gifts. Afterwards, during an expedition when the
lieutenant was retreating from the post, having been repulsed by the
enemy, he heard some one call him by name, and his wounded _kunák_
strode out from among the hostile Tatars, and by signs asked him to do
the same. The lieutenant went to meet his _kunák,_ and shook hands with
him. The mountaineers stood at some little distance, and refrained from
firing; but, as soon as the lieutenant turned his horse to go back,
several shot at him, and one bullet grazed the small of his back.

Another time I myself saw a fire break out by night in the fortress,
and two companies of soldiers were detailed to put it out. Amid the
crowd, lighted up by the ruddy glare of the fire, suddenly appeared the
tall form of the man on a coal-black horse. He forced his way through
the crowd, and rode straight to the fire. As soon as he came near, the
lieutenant leaped from his horse, and hastened into the house, which
was all in flames on one side. At the end of five minutes he emerged
with singed hair and burned sleeves, carrying in his arms two doves
which he had rescued from the flames.

His name was Rosenkranz; but he often spoke of his ancestry, traced it
back to the Varangians, and clearly showed that he and his forefathers
were genuine Russians.

[Footnote 13: _jigit_ or _djigit_ in the Kumuits dialect signifies
valiant. The Russians make from it the verb _jigitovat._]

[Footnote 14: That is, known for telling the plain truth.]

[Footnote 15: _chuviaki._]

[Footnote 16: The name of a character In one of Marlinski's novels.]


The sun had travelled half its course, and was pouring down through
the glowing atmosphere its fierce rays upon the parched earth. The
dark blue sky was absolutely clear; only the bases of the snow-capped
mountains began to clothe themselves in pale lilac clouds. The
motionless atmosphere seemed to be full of some impalpable dust; it
became intolerably hot.

When the army came to a small brook that had overflowed half the road,
a halt was called. The soldiers, stacking their arms, plunged into
the stream. The commander of the battalion sat down in the shade,
on a drum, and, showing by his broad countenance the degree of his
rank, made ready, in company with a few officers, to take lunch. The
captain lay on the grass under the company's transport-wagon; the
gallant lieutenant Rosenkranz and some other young officers, spreading
out their Caucasian mantles, or _burki,_ threw themselves down, and
began to carouse as was manifest by the flasks and bottles scattered
around them and by the extraordinary liveliness of their singers, who,
standing in a half-circle behind them, gave an accompaniment to the
Caucasian dance-song sung by a Lesghian girl: -

Shamyl resolved to make a league
In the years gone by,
Traï-raï, rattat-taï,
In the years gone by.

Among these officers was also the young ensign who had passed us in the
morning. He was very entertaining: his eyes gleamed, his tongue never
grew weary. He wanted to greet every one, and show his good-will to
them all. Poor lad! he did not know that in acting this way he might be
ridiculous, that his frankness and the gentleness which he showed to
every one might win for him, not the love which he so much desired, but
ridicule; he did not know this either, that when at last, thoroughly
heated, he threw himself down on his _burka,_ and leaned his head
on his hand, letting his thick black curls fall over, he was a very
picture of beauty.

Two officers crouched under a wagon, and were playing cards on a hamper.

I listened with curiosity to the talk of the soldiers and officers,
and attentively watched the expression of their faces; but, to tell
the truth, in not one could I discover a shadow of that anxiety which
I myself felt; jokes, laughter, anecdotes, expressed the universal
carelessness, and indifference to the coming peril. How impossible to
suppose that it was not fated for some never again to pass that road!


At seven o'clock in the evening, dusty and weary, we entered the wide,
fortified gate of Fort N - - . The sun was setting, and shed oblique
rosy rays over the picturesque batteries and lofty-walled gardens
that surrounded the fortress, over the fields yellow for the harvest,
and over the white clouds which, gathering around the snow-capped
mountains, simulated their shapes, and formed a chain no less wonderful
and beauteous. A young half moon, like a translucent cloud, shone above
the horizon. In the native village or _aul,_ situated near the gate,
a Tatar on the roof of a hut was calling the faithful to prayer. The

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Online LibraryLeo TolstoyThe invaders and other stories → online text (page 1 of 21)