The whole of the Zaporoghian camp was in an uproar. At first nobody could ascertain how it had come to pass that the Polish reinforcement had entered the city. It was afterwards found out that all the Cossacks of the kooren of Percaslavl, encamped before one of the side gates of the city, were dead drunk; so no wonder if half of them were killed, and the remainder bound and made prisoners, before any one could discover what was the matter. While the other koorens, awakened by the noise, had but time to snatch up their arms, the Poles had already made their way through the gate, and their rear-ranks alone fired on the Zaporoghians who, not yet wholly recovered from their slumbers and their tipsiness, had in disorder rushed upon them. The Koschevoï gave the order for all to assemble, and when all stood in a circle and kept silence, their caps off, he spoke thus:—
“Do you see, gentlemen brothers, what has happened this night? You see now the result of drunkenness? You see the shame that the foe has brought upon us? It seems to be part of your habits, that, if your allowance is doubled, you think yourselves entitled to go on drinking till you bring yourselves into such a state that the foe of Christian soldiers may not only pull off your trowsers, but even spit in your face before you are aware of it!”
The Cossacks stood with their heads bent down, as if to acknowledge their fault. The ataman of the kooreen of Neezamaitzy, Kookoobenko, alone retorted. “Stop, father,” said he, “although it is not according to the rules that one should reply when the Koschevoï is speaking before the army, yet as the matter was not thus, I must say so. Thou art not quite right in thy reproach. The Cossacks would have been in fault, and would have deserved death if they had got drunk on march, on the field of battle, or during some hard or difficult labour; but we remained without any business at all, sauntering round the city. No fast, nor any other Christian penance was at hand; how, then, could it be expected that a man should not get drunk when he had nothing to do? There is no sin in that. Let us rather show now what it is to fall upon innocent men. We have till now struck hard—let us now strike so that they may not even be able to take to their heels to fly back to their homes!”
The speech of the koorennoï ataman greatly pleased the Cossacks. They raised their eyes which had, till then, remained bent down, and many of them approvingly tossed their heads, saying, “Well said, Kookoobenko!” Tarass Boolba, who was standing not far from the Koschevo, said, “How now, Koschevoï? Kookoobenko seems to be right; what wilt thou say-now?”
“What will I say? I will say that happy is the father that has brought such a son. It is no difficult matter to find upbraiding words, but it is a difficult matter to speak such words as, aggravating a man’s misfortunes by reproach, may coax him and stir up his fallen spirit as spurs incite the spirit of a steed refreshed by drink. I had, myself, the intention of adding some encouraging words; but Kookoobenko has outstripped me.”
“Well, also, has the Koschevoï spoken!” was heard in the ranks of the Zaporoghians. “Well spoken!” repeated others; and even the oldest, those with ash-coloured locks, nodded their heads, and twirling their mustachios, said, “Well spoken!”
“Now, hear me, gentlemen!” continued the Koschevoï; “it is neither proper for a Cossack, nor is it his business to take fortresses as German mercenaries do (may the fiend seize them!), climbing the walls and digging the ground. But, after all, what may be guessed is, that the enemy entered the town with no great store of provisions; there were not many waggons with them, the people in the fortress are starving, so all will be eaten up in no time; as for the horses —I do not know, unless some of their saints throw them hay from heaven; but this seems not highly probable, the more so, as their parsons are men of mere words. So, happen what will, not one of them must ever come out of the town. Divide yourselves into three parties, and take the three roads which lead to the three gates. Five koorens must take the high road before the main gate; before each of the others three koorens must stand. The Diadnivsky and the Korsoonsky koorens must lie in ambush. Colonel Tarass, with his regiment, must lie in ambush, also! The Tytarevskoï and the Toonnoshevsko? koorens in reserve, on the right flank of the baggage! The Stcherbinovskoï and the Upper Steblikovskoï on its left flank. Now, come forward those who are clever at teasing, and tease the enemy! Poles are empty-headed people and cannot bear jeering, and may be, even to-day, they will sally forth out of the gates. Let the atamans pass each kooren in review: those that have not their full complement must be filled up with the Cossacks remaining from the Percaslavskoï kooren. Then, review them once more I Let every Cossack have a loaf and a dram of brandy, to drive away the tipsiness out of his head. But, surely, every one got enough yesterday; for, to say the truth, you all had so much drink that I wonder nobody burst asunder in the night. One order more:—If any Jew, brandy-shop keeper, or any one else sell, were it but a single dram of brandy to a Cossack, I’ll have a hog’s ear nailed to his face, and I’ll have him, the cursed dog, hung with his head downwards! Well, now to business, brothers!”
Thus ordered the Koschevoï, and all bowed to him, and with uncovered heads went to their waggons and to their camps, and only when they were at a distance did they put on their caps. They all made preparations; every one tried his sabre or his broadsword, poured powder from the bags into powder-horns, removed and placed the carts, and selected the horses.
On his way to his regiment Tarass thought, but could not imagine, what had happened to Andrew. Had he been made prisoner with the others, and had he been bound during his sleep?—but no, it could not be; Andrew was not the man to be made prisoner whilst alive. He was not, moreover, to be found among the slain Cossacks. Tarass was lost in thought, and went before his regiment without noticing that somebody had been for a long time calling him by his name. “Who wants me?” said he, at last recovering from his reverie. Yankel, the Jew, was standing before him.
“My lord colonel! My lord colonel!” said the Jew in a hasty and choked voice, as if he had some matter of no small importance to impart to him. “I have been in the town, my lord colonel!”
Tarass looked at the Jew, marvelling how he could have managed to find time already to go into the town. “And what devil took thee there?”
“I will tell you directly,” said Yankel. “As soon as I heard the noise in the morning, and heard the Cossacks fire their guns, I caught up my coat and, without waiting to put it on, ran with all speed to the spot; by the way only I slipped on the sleeves, for I was in a hurry to know what the noise was, and why the Cossacks fired their guns so early in the morning. I got to the town gate just as the last of the troops entered the town. And, behold! before the soldiers, I saw the Ensign Galiandovitch. He is an acquaintance of mine; he has owed me, for more than two years now, a hundred ducats; so I came to him as if for the purpose of settling our accounts, and I went with him into the town.”
“How so? thou wentest into the town, and still more, for the purpose of settling accounts!” said Boolba, “and he did not have thee hanged like a dog?”
“By Heavens, he wished to have me hanged,” answered the Jew; “his servants had already got hold of me and thrown a rope round my neck; but I implored him to have mercy, said that I would wait for the debt as long as he might choose, and even promised to lend him more money as soon as he helps me to have my accounts settled with the other knights. Because that gentleman ensign—I’ll tell the whole truth to the lord colonel—has not a single ducat in his pocket, although he has farms, and manors, and castles, and plenty of pasture land; but as for coins, he has no more of them than a Cossack. Even now, had not the Jews of Breslau equipped him, he could not have gone to the war. That was the very reason of his not having been at the Ssiem.”1 “What didst thou, then, in the town; hast thou seen any of ours?”
“Of course I did; there are many of ours:— Itska, Rakhoom, Ssamuïlo, Khaïvalkh, the Jew-farmer”—
“Curses on them, unbelieving dogs!” shrieked Tarass, growing angry; “why art thou calling over to me thy Jewish stock! I ask thee about our Zaporoghians.”
“I’ve not seen our Zaporoghians. I’ve only seen my lord Andrew.”
“Thou hast seen Andrew?” cried Tarass; “what of him? where didst thou see him? in some dungeon? in some cave? dishonoured? fettered?”
“Who would ever dare to fetter my lord Andrew? he is now such a knight—by Heavens, I hardly recognised him! His coat all over gold, his belt all gold—yes, all over gold and everywhere gold; just like the sun, as it shines in spring when every bird is chirping and singing in the gardens, and every blade of grass is fragrant, thus is he all shining bright with gold; and the steed that the voevoda has given him, is the best riding horse one ever saw: the steed alone is worth two hundred ducats!”
Boolba was astounded. “Why did he put on this strange dress?”
“Because it was better than his own; that’s why he put it on. And he is riding about, and others are riding about, and he is teaching others, and others are teaching him—just like the most important Polish lord.”
“And who constrained him to do this?”
“I am not saying that anybody put any constraint on him. Does not your lordship know, then, that he went over to them of his own free will?”
“Who went over?”
“My lord Andrew.”
“To whom is he gone over?”
“To the other side; he is now quite theirs.”
“Thou liest, hog!”
“How can it be that I should lie? Am I a fool to lie? Will I lie at the risk of my own head? Do I not know that if a Jew happen to lie to a lord, he will be hanged like a dog?”
“So thou sayest that he has sold his native country and his faith?”
“I did not say that he had sold anything; I am only saying that he has passed over to the other side.”
“Thou liest, cursed Jew! such a thing never happened in a Christian land! Thou mockest me, cursed dog!”
“May grass grow on the threshold of my house if I lie! May every one spit on the tomb of my father, on that of my mother, on those of my father-in-law, of the father of my father, of the father of my mother, if I lie! If your lordship wishes, I’ll even say why he went over to them.”
“The voevoda’s daughter is a beauty. Heavens! what a beauty!” and the Jew endeavoured as well as he could to express her beauty in his face, stretching his hands asunder, twinkling one of his eyes, and writhing his mouth on one side, as if he had tasted something good.
“Well, then, what of that?”
“That is the reason of all his doings and of his passing over. Because if a man becomes enamoured he is just like the sole of a boot, which, if it becomes once soaked in water, may be stretched and bent as much as one wishes.”
Boolba fell into a deep reverie. He remembered that such is the power of a weak woman that many mighty men perish by it, that Andrew was very vulnerable on that point—and long did he remain as if riveted to the same spot.
“Hear me, your lordship, I’ll tell your lordship all,” proceeded the Jew; “just as I heard the noise and saw the troops entering the town gate, I caught up, at all events, a string of pearls, because in the town there are many beauties and noble ladies; and wherever there are beauties and noble ladies, said I to myself, even if they have nothing to eat, they will nevertheless buy finery. And as soon as the servants of the ensign had let me go, I ran to the voevoda’s courtyard to sell my pearls. I learned everything from a Tartar servant-maid: the marriage will take place as soon as the Zaporoghians are driven away. My lord Andrew has promised to drive the Zaporoghians away.”
“And thou didst not kill him on the spot, the devil’s son?” shrieked Boolba.
“Why should I have killed him? He went to the Poles of his own good will. What harm is there? He found himself better off there, so there he went.”
“And didst thou see him in person?”
“By Heaven, I did! Such a fine warrior! The best of all. May Heaven grant health to him! He knew me in a moment, and as I passed near him he at once said to me”—
“What did he say?”
“He said—no, he first beckoned to me, and then afterwards said to me, ‘Yankel!’ and I said, ‘My lord Andrew!’ ‘Yankel, tell my father, tell my brother, tell the Cossacks, tell the Zaporoghians, tell every one, that my father is no more a father to me, that my brother is no more my brother, my comrades no more my comrades; and that I will fight against them: against every one of them will I fight!'”
“Thou liest, Judas!” shrieked Tarass, beside himself with rage; “Thou liest, dog I Thou hast crucified Christ—man accursed by Heaven! I will kill thee, Satan! Away with thee, or thou art a dead man!” and with these words Tarass unsheathed his sabre. The Jew took to his heels, and ran with all the speed of his thin shrivelled legs, he ran a long time through the tents of the Cossacks, and then in the open field, before he ventured to look back; but Tarass thought not of pursuing him, after reflecting that his anger ought not to be wreaked upon the first who fell into his hands.
Now he remembered having, only last night, seen Andrew going about the encampment with a woman, and his gray head drooped; and yet he would not believe that such an odious event had taken place, and that his own son had betrayed his faith and his soul.
At last he conducted his regiment into ambush, and was soon out of sight with it, behind the only forest which had not been burned by the Cossacks. In the mean time the Zaporoghians, on foot and on horseback, occupied the three roads which led to the three gates. One kooren followed another; that of Perecaslav alone was missing. Deep had been the carousing of its Cossacks, and there carouse had sealed their doom. Some awoke in irons in the power of the enemy—some without awakening had passed to their eternal sleep, and their ataman, Khleeb, without trowsers or any other garment, had found himself in the Polish camp.
The movement of the Cossacks had attracted attention in the city. All its inhabitants rushed to the battlements, and a curious sight appeared before the Cossacks. The brass helmets shone like so many suns, adorned with snow-white feathers.2 Some warriors wore light caps, pink or sky-blue, with the tops bent on one side.
Their coats, with sleeves falling behind the shoulders,3 were either embroidered with gold or ornamented with lace. There were many swords and guns with costly handles, which had been dearly paid for by their masters, and much more finery was to be seen there. In front of all stood, with a haughty demeanour and with a red cap ornamented with gold on his head, the newly-arrived colonel of Boodjang. Stout was the colonel, stouter and taller than all others, and his wide costly overcoat hardly met round his figure. On the other side, close to the side gate, stood another colonel, a diminutive man, who seemed to have been dried up; but his small piercing eyes looked briskly from under his thick eyebrows, and he turned about sharply on all sides, pointing with his thin dry hand, and giving orders; one might see that, notwithstanding his small size, he was well acquainted with warfare. At some distance from him stood a tall, very tall ensign, with thick mustachios; there was no lack of colour in his face; he was fond of strong mead and gay revelling. And many were the gentlemen to be seen behind these, who had taken arms either for the king’s money, or on their own ducats, or on money borrowed from Jews, to whom they had pawned everything they could find in the castles of their grandfathers; many, also, who were mere hangers-on of senators (whom these latter kept to be able to boast of the number of their retinue at dinners), who stole silver cups from the tables and cupboards, and who, after having made a figure one day, sat the next on the coachbox of some lord. Many were the different persons assembled on the walls. Some of them had not a penny to drink with, and yet all had made themselves fine for fighting. Silently stood the ranks of the Cossacks before the walls. None of them wore any gold on their coats; only now and then some of it might be seen on the handles of their swords or of their guns. The Cossacks did not like to make themselves fine for fighting; their mail coats and dresses were plain, and stretching far away might be seen the black tops of their sheepskin caps.
Two Cossacks rode in front of the Zaporoghian ranks, one of them quite young, the other somewhat elderly; both biting in words, and not bad Cossacks in deeds also: Okhreim Nash and Nikita Golokopytenko. Close behind them rode Demid Popovich, a thorough Cossack, who for a long time had rambled about the Ssiecha, had been before Adrianople, and had had much to endure in his lifetime: he had been burned in fire, and had run back to the Ssiecha with his head covered with tar and blackened by the flames and his mustachios singed off.4 But once more had Popovich regained his health, his crown-lock curled once more behind his ear, his mustachios had grown again, thick and black as pitch, and biting were his caustic speeches.
“The dresses of the army are fine enough, but I should like to know if the courage of the army is as fine?”
“I’ll have you all tied up!” cried the stout colonel from the walls; “give up your guns and horses, ye boors! Have ye seen how I have bound your comrades? Let the Zaporoghian prisoners be brought upon the battlements!”
And the Zaporoghians, tied with ropes, were brought upon the walls; in front of all was to be seen the koorennoï ataman Khleeb, without trowsers or any other dress, in the same state as that in which he had been made prisoner in his sleep. And downwards he bent his head, ashamed of being seen naked by the Cossacks, and of having been made prisoner while sleeping, like a dog. In one night his strong head had turned gray.
“Cheer up, Khleeb! we’ll set thee free!” cried the Cossacks from below.
“Cheer up, friend!” cried the koorennoï ataman Borodatyi: “no fault of thine if they took thee naked; misfortune may happen to any one; but shame be upon them that they make a show of thee without so much as hiding thy nakedness!”
“Ye seem to be brave warriors against sleeping men?” said Golokopytenko, looking towards the wall.
“Let us take our time, and we’ll shave your crown-locks for you!” cried those from above.
“I should like to see you shave our crown-locks!” said Popovich, making curvets with his steed; then, looking at the Cossacks, he resumed: “After all, the Poles may be right; should the big-bellied one there bring them out of the town, they would have a good defence!”
“And why dost thou think they would have a good defence?” said the Cossacks, guessing that Popovitch meant some fun.
“Simply, because behind his back the whole of the army might remain concealed, and no spear on earth could ever reach them across his belly.”
The Cossacks roared with laughter, and many nodded their heads, saying, “Well! Popovich, when he chances to say something funny, why, then”—but they did not add what happened then.
“Away, quickly away from the walls;” cried the Koschevoï; for the Poles seemed not to relish such bitter fun, and the colonel had waved his hand. Hardly had the Cossacks rushed away, when a volley of grape-shot flew from the walls. Tumult arose on the battlements, the gray-haired voevoda himself made his appearance on horseback. The gate flew open, and the army issued forth. In front rode, in regular ranks, the hussars; after them came the chain-mailed regiment; behind these, the cuirassiers with spears; then those in brass helmets; and after all, apart from the rest, the élite of the officers—each dressed according to his own fashion. They chose not, haughty gentlemen, to mix with the other ranks; and those who had no commission went alone with their servants. After them came soldiers again; then the standard-bearer; then, again, ranks of soldiers; then the stout colonel, and, behind them all, rode the diminutive colonel.
“Let them not take up their position! let them not set their troops in order!” cried the Koschevoï. “All koorens! up and at them! Leave the other gates! The Titarevskoï kooren attack one flank! The Diadkovskoï kooren attack the other. Kookoobenko and Palyvoda, push on the rear! Mix! confuse! and drive them asunder!”
And the Cossacks struck on every side; the Poles were driven asunder and mingled in confusion, and the Cossacks were mixed with them. Even firing was out of the question; swords and spears were alone useful.
The melée became general, and every one could show his personal skill. Demid Popovich had already speared two soldiers and thrown two officers from their steeds, saying, “Those are good horses; I have long wished to have such horses!” And he drove the horses a long way out into the field, calling to the Cossacks standing there to catch them. He again went into the crowd; once more attacked the officers thrown down; killed one of them, and throwing his arkan round the neck of the other,5 tied it to his saddle and dragged him over the field, after possessing himself of his costly sword and the purse full of ducats, which hung at his belt.
Kobita, a good Cossack and a young one, too, fought with one of the bravest Polish warriors, and long was their fight. They were already hand to hand: the Cossack got the uppermost, and, after throwing down his adversary, plunged his sharp Turkish knife into his breast; but he took no heed of himself, and on the very spot a hot bullet struck him on the temple. He who killed him was one of the most notable among the lords; a handsome knight of ancient and princely descent. Slim as a poplar, he rode on his chestnut steed. Many were the noble knightly feats he had already accomplished; two Zaporoghians had he hewn in twain; Theodore Korj, a good Cossack, had he thrown on the dust with his horse; he shot the horse, and pierced the Cossack under it with his spear; many heads, many hands had he hewn down; he had killed the Cossack Kobita by sending a bullet through his temple.
“This is the man with whom I should wish to try my strength!” cried Kookoobenko, the ataman of the Nezamaikovskoï kooren; and spurring his horse, he rushed up close behind him and gave a fearful howl, which made all around shudder. The Pole tried to turn his horse round to confront his foe; but the horse would not turn: terrified by the fearful shriek, it dashed aside, and Kookoobenko fired his gun at the rider. The bullet entered his shoulder-blade, and down went the Pole on the ground; still, even then, he yielded not, but tried to strike once more at his foe; but his weakened arm fell beneath the weight of his sabre, and Kookoobenko taking, with both his hands, his heavy sword, drove it right into the Pole’s blanched mouth: the blade knocked out two white teeth, cut the tongue in two, ran through the throat, and went far into the ground, nailing the knight for ever to the dank earth. Like a fountain spirted forth the high-descended noble blood, red as the berries of the water elder, and dyed the yellow gold-embroidered jacket.
And Kookoobenko had already left him, and, along with the Cossacks of his kooren, cut his way into another crowd. “Eh! why did he leave on the ground such costly finery!” said Borodatyi, the Omanskoï ataman, riding from his kooren to the spot where lay the officer killed by Kookoobenko. “I have killed with my own hand seven officers, and have not yet seen such finery on any one.” And giving way to cupidity, Borodatyi bent down in order to take possession of the costly arms; he had already seized a Turkish knife, with a handle set with precious stones: had untied from the belt a purse full of ducats: had taken from the neck a pouch of fine linen and costly silver, containing a girl’s ringlet, which had been carefully kept as a souvenir; but he did not hear how, behind his back, there had rushed upon him the red-nosed ensign, who had already been thrown from his saddle by Borodatyi, and had received a good deep slash at his hands. The ensign lifted his sword, and struck it with all his might on the bended neck of Borodatyi. No good had come of cupidity! Away sprang the mighty head, and down fell the beheaded body, making a large pool of blood on the ground. Up to the skies flew the hard Cossack’s soul, frowning and filled with indignation, and, at the same time, astonished at departing so quickly from so strong a body. Hardly had the ensign taken hold of the ataman’s crown-lock, in order to tie it to his saddle, when a stern avenger was there.
As a goshawk, who seems to swim in the sky, and who, after having made many circles with his strong wings, suddenly remains stationary in the air, and then darts with arrow-like speed on some quail chirping by the highway side, so Ostap, the son of Tarass, suddenly darted on the ensign, and threw the arkan round his neck. Still redder grew the red face of the ensign, as the fatal knot tightened round his throat; he tried to use his pistol, but his cramped hand could not take aim, and the bullet flew harmlessly through the field. Ostap detached from the ensign’s saddle a silken rope, which the latter kept for the purpose of tying his prisoners, and bound him hand and foot with his own rope, hooked its end to his saddle, and dragged him across the field, shouting to the Cossacks of the Omanskoï kooren to go and render the last honours to their ataman.
As soon as the Cossacks heard that their ataman Borodatyi was killed, they left the battle-field, rushed to take away his body, and began on the spot to deliberate as to whom they should choose for their ataman. At last they said, “What is the use of deliberating? no one would do better as a koorennoïataman than young Boolba, Ostap; true, he is the youngest among us, but he has as much sense as the oldest.” Ostap, taking off his cap, thanked his brother Cossacks for the honour, did not refuse it, either on account of youth or of inexperience, knowing that it was of no use to do so now in battle time. Instead of this, he led them into the thickest of the fray, and showed them that he well deserved to be their ataman.
In the meanwhile, the Poles felt that the fight had grown too hot for them; they retired and ran across the field, in order to form their ranks at the other end of it. The diminutive colonel gave a signal to four fresh companies who stood near the gate, and grape-shot flew thence into the crowd of Cossacks; but the volley did but little mischief: it flew into the herd of the Cossacks’ bullocks, who were stupidly gazing on the fight. The terrified bullocks roared, turned on the Cossack encampment, broke the waggons to pieces, and trampled some men under their feet. But Tarass, rushing at this moment from his ambuscade, with loud cries threw himself with his regiment across their way. The whole of the maddened herd of one accord turned round, and, dashing into the Polish regiments, threw confusion into the cavalry, mixed, crushed, and broke asunder the ranks.
“Thanks to ye, bullocks!” cried the Zaporoghians. “Campaign service have ye borne hitherto, and now war service have ye rendered also!” and with fresh strength they pressed on the enemy. Many were the foes who were slaughtered there. Many were those who distinguished themselves —Metelitza, Shilo, Pissarenkos, Vovtoozenko, and many more. The Poles saw that no good could come of it; the ensign was hoisted, and the signal was given to open the gate. Creaking went the iron-nailed gate, and in went the exhausted and dust-covered riders, like sheep into the sheep-fold. Many of the Zaporoghians wished to pursue them; but Ostap detained his Cossacks, saying, “Farther, farther away, brothers, from the walls! it is not well to draw too near them.” And he was right; for a volley of grape-shot came from the walls, and did much mischief. At this moment the Koschevoï rode up to Ostap, and praised him, saying, “Though thou art but a new ataman, yet thou leadest thy Cossacks like an old one!” And old Tarass turned round to see who the new ataman was, and beheld his Ostap in front of the Omansko? kooren, his cap stuck on one side and the ataman’s mace in his hand. “There, just look at that one!” said he, gazing at him; and joyful felt old Boolba, and began to thank the Cossacks for the honour bestowed on his son.
The Cossacks retired, preparing to return to their encampment, when the Poles reappeared on the walls; but their dresses were now torn to pieces, many costly coats were besmeared with gore, and dust covered the fine brass helmets.
“Did you tie us with your ropes?” cried the Zaporoghians from below.
“Take heed!” cried from above the stout colonel, showing a rope; and still the dust-covered exhausted warriors continued to abuse one another, and on both sides the hot-headed exchanged scolding words.
At last all withdrew. Some, tired by the fight, retired to rest; some applied earth to their wounds, and tore into bandages kerchiefs and costly dresses, taken from the slain enemies. Those who were less tired went to remove the corpses of their dead comrades, and to render the last duty to them. Graves were dug with sabres and spears, the earth was carried away in caps and in the skirts of coats; then the corpses of the Cossacks were reverently laid in the ground and covered with fresh earth, so that the carrion ravens and eagles might not tear out their eyes. And the corpses of the Poles, several together, as they came to hand, were tied to the tails of wild horses and sent to be dragged over the plain, and for a long time after were the horses lashed on the sides and driven about. The maddened animals flew across furrows and hillocks, ditches and rivulets, and the Polish corpses, covered with gore and dust, were kicked about the ground.
As the evening came on, the Cossacks assembled in circles, and sat for a long time talking about the feats which it had fallen to every one to perform, feats to be told for ever to new-comers and to posterity. Long did they remain before going to sleep; but longer than all, old Tarass lay awake, thinking all the time what it could mean that Andrew had not been among the enemy’s warriors. Had the Judas scrupled to fight against his countrymen? or, had the Jew belied him, and had he simply been made prisoner? But then he remembered that Andrew’s heart was not proof against woman’s words. Tarass felt a deep pang in his heart, and vowed vengeance against the Polish girl, who had bewitched his son. And assuredly he would have fulfilled his vow; he would have taken no heed of her beauty; he would have trailed her by her thick luxuriant hair; he would have dragged her across the whole field, amidst all the Cossacks; he would have kicked on the ground, covered with gore and blackened with dust, her beautiful bosom and shoulders, white as the eternal snows that lie on the crests of mountains; he would have torn her fine graceful form into fragments. But Boolba knew not what God reserved for the morrow, and falling into forgetfulness, he at last went to sleep. In the mean time, the Cossacks continued talking among themselves, and all night long, close to the fires, stood the sober vigilant sentinels, carefully looking on every side.
- The Ssiem was one of the most incongruous phenomena of the Polish administration. Every landed proprietor had a voice in this assembly, which was convoked on every important occasion: such as the election of a king, the declaration of war, the conclusion of peace, &c., &c. The veto of a single member was, de jure, sufficient to put a stop to any political or administrative measure proposed to these assemblies; de facto, however, the king availed himself of the support of some powerful magnates to enforce the execution of his will; but as this was only an infringement of the law, so it never failed to excite the opposition (very often, armed) of the malcontents. No wonder, then, if the Ssiems, forming the supreme constituent power in the state, brought upon Poland the miseries of which the history of that country is one long and uninterrupted story.
- Polish cuirassiers wore brass helmets adorned on each side with small wings, like those allotted by mythology to the travelling cap of the Greek Hermes. Some of them, also, wore large wings fastened to their cuirass behind their shoulders.
- The ancient fashioned Polish overcoats were put on over a sleeve coat, from Which they were distinguished by their colour, and had sleeves hanging behind the shoulders, and sometimes hooked together on the back for convenience’ sake.
- A very frequent practice of the Turks with their Zaporoghian prisoners was, to cover them with tar and then burn them alive.
- The arkan of the Cossacks is like the lasso of the Mexicans—a rope with a running slip-knot, which is thrown over the object of the Cossack’s chase (a wild horse or an enemy). The Caucasian mountaineers make use of the same instrument, and, like the Cossacks of yore, often drag their prisoners at their horses’ heels with the knot round their neck or their waist—the other end of the arkan being tied to the saddle. This practice involuntarily reminds one of Achilles dragging the body of Hector tied to his chariot.