List Of Contents | Contents of Vaninka, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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only to ask and it is done."

"What! if after having got drunk here to-day, you asked to come back
to-morrow to get drunk again?" said Gregory, who in his challenge to
Ivan did not forget his own interests,--"if you asked that?"

"I should come back again," said Ivan.

"To-morrow?" said Gregory.

"To-morrow, the day after, every day if I liked...."

"The fact is, Ivan is our young lady's favourite," said another of
the count's slaves who was present, profiting by his comrade Ivan's

"It is all the same," said Gregory; "for supposing such permission
were given you, money would soon run short."

"Never!" said Ivan, swallowing another glass of brandy, "never will
Ivan want for money as long as there is a kopeck in my lady's purse."

"I did not find her so liberal," said Gregory bitterly.

"Oh, you forget, my friend; you know well she does not reckon with
her friends: remember the strokes of the knout."

"I have no wish to speak about that," said Gregory.  "I know that she
is generous with blows, but her money is another thing.  I have never
seen the colour of that."

"Well, would you like to see the colour of mine?" said Ivan, getting
more and more drunk. "See here, here are kopecks, sorok-kopecks, blue
notes worth five roubles, red notes worth twenty five roubles, and
to-morrow, if you like, I will show you white notes worth fifty
roubles.  A health to my lady Vaninka!"  And Ivan held out his glass
again, and Gregory filled it to the brim.

"But does money," said Gregory, pressing Ivan more and more,--"does
money make up for scorn?"

"Scorn!" said Ivan,--"scorn!  Who scorns me?  Do you, because you are
free?  Fine freedom!  I would rather be a well-fed slave than a free
man dying of hunger."

"I mean the scorn of our masters," replied Gregory.

"The scorn of our masters!  Ask Alexis, ask Daniel there, if my lady
scorns me."

"The fact is," said the two slaves in reply, who both belonged to the
general's household, "Ivan must certainly have a charm; for everyone
talks to him as if to a master."

"Because he is Annouschka's brother," said Gregory, "and Annouschka
is my lady's foster-sister."

"That may be so," said the two slaves.

"For that reason or for some other," said Ivan; "but, in short, that
is the case."

"Yes; but if your sister should die?" said Gregory.  "Ah!"

"If my sister should die, that would be a pity, for she is a good
girl.  I drink to her health!  But if she should die, that would make
no difference.  I am respected for myself; they respect me because
they fear me."

"Fear my lord Ivan!" said Gregory, with a loud laugh.  "It follows,
then, that if my lord Ivan were tired of receiving orders, and gave
them in his turn, my lord Ivan would be obeyed."

"Perhaps," said Ivan.

"He said 'perhaps,' repeated Gregory, laughing louder than ever,--"he
said 'perhaps.' Did you hear him?"

"Yes," said the slaves, who had drunk so much that they could only
answer in monosyllables.

"Well, I no longer say 'perhaps,' I now say 'for certain.'"

"Oh, I should like to see that," said Gregory; "I would give
something to see that."

"Well, send away these fellows, who are getting drunk like pigs, and
for nothing, you will find."

"For nothing?" said Gregory.  "You are jesting.  Do you think I
should give them drink for nothing?"

"Well, we shall see.  How much would be their score, for your
atrocious brandy, if they drank from now till midnight, when you are
obliged to shut up your tavern?"

"Not less than twenty roubles."

"Here are thirty; turn there out, and let us remain by ourselves."

"Friends," said Gregory, taking out his watch as if to look at the
time, "it is just upon midnight; you know the governor's orders, so
you must go."  The men, habituated like all Russians to passive
obedience, went without a murmur, and Gregory found himself alone
with Ivan and the two other slaves of the general.

"Well, here we are alone," said Gregory.  "What do you mean to do?"

"Well, what would you say," replied Ivan, "if in spite of the late
hour and the cold, and in spite of the fact that we are only slaves,
my lady were to leave her father's house and come to drink our

"I would say that you ought to take advantage of it," said Gregory,
shrugging his shoulders, "and tell her to bring at the same time a
bottle of brandy.  There is probably better brandy in the general's
cellar than in mine."

"There is better," said Ivan, as if he was perfectly sure of it, "and
my lady shall bring you a bottle of it."

"You are mad!" said Gregory.

"He is mad!" repeated the other two slaves mechanically.

"Oh, I am mad?" said Ivan.  "Well, will you take a wager?"

"What will you wager?"

"Two hundred roubles against a year of free drinking in your inn."

"Done!" said Gregory.

"Are your comrades included?" said the two moujiks.

"They are included," said Ivan, "and in consideration of them we will
reduce the time to six months.  Is that agreed?"

"It is agreed," said Gregory.

The two who were making the wager shook hands, and the agreement was
perfected.  Then, with an air of confidence, assumed to confound the
witnesses of this strange scene, Ivan wrapped himself in the fur coat
which, like a cautious man, he had spread on the stove, and went out.

At the end of half an hour he reappeared.

"Well!" cried Gregory and the two slaves together.

"She is following," said Ivan.

The three tipplers looked at one another in amazement, but Ivan
quietly returned to his place in the middle of them, poured out a new
bumper, and raising his glass, cried--

"To my lady's health!  It is the least we can do when she is kind
enough to come and join us on so cold a night, when the snow is
falling fast."

"Annouschka," said a voice outside, "knock at this door and ask
Gregory if he has not some of our servants with him."

Gregory and the two other slaves looked at one another, stupefied:
they had recognised Vaninka's voice.  As for Ivan, he flung himself
back in his chair, balancing himself with marvellous impertinence.

Annouschka opened the door, and they could see, as Ivan had said,
that the snow was falling heavily.

"Yes, madam," said the girl; "my brother is there, with Daniel and

Vaninka entered.

"My friends," said she, with a strange smile, "I am told that you
were drinking my health, and I have come to bring you something to
drink it again.  Here is a bottle of old French brandy which I have
chosen for you from my father's cellar.  Hold out your glasses."

Gregory and the slaves obeyed with the slowness and hesitation of
astonishment, while Ivan held out his glass with the utmost

Vaninka filled them to the brim herself, and then, as they hesitated
to drink, "Come, drink to my health, friends," said she.

"Hurrah!" cried the drinkers, reassured by the kind and familiar tone
of their noble visitor, as they emptied their glasses at a draught.

Vaninka at once poured them out another glass; then putting the
bottle on the table, "Empty the bottle, my friends," said she, "and
do not trouble about me.  Annouschka and I, with the permission 2668
of the master of the house, will sit near the stove till the storm is

Gregory tried to rise and place stools near the stove, but whether he
was quite drunk or whether some narcotic had been mixed with the
brandy, he fell back on his seat, trying to stammer out an excuse.

"It is all right," said Vaninka: "do not disturb yourselves; drink,
my friends, drink."

The revellers profited by this permission, and each emptied the glass
before him.  Scarcely had Gregory emptied his before he fell forward
on the table.

"Good!" said Vaninka to her maid in a low voice: "the opium is taking

"What do you mean to do?" said Annouschka.

"You will soon see," was the answer.

The two moujiks followed the example of the master of the house, and
fell down side by side on the ground.  Ivan was left struggling
against sleep, and trying to sing a drinking song; but soon his
tongue refused to obey him, his eyes closed in spite of him, and
seeking the tune that escaped him, and muttering words he was unable
to pronounce, he fell fast asleep near his companions.

Immediately Vaninka rose, fixed them with flashing eyes, and called
them by name one after another.  There was no response.

Then she clapped her hands and cried joyfully, "The moment has come!"
Going to the back of the room, she brought thence an armful of straw,
placed it in a corner of the room, and did the same in the other
corners.  She then took a flaming brand from the stove and set fire
in succession to the four corners of the room.

"What are you doing?" said Annouschka, wild with terror, trying to
stop her.

"I am going to bury our secret in the ashes of this house," answered

"But my brother, my poor brother!" said the girl.

"Your brother is a wretch who has betrayed me, and we are lost if we
do not destroy him."

"Oh, my brother, my poor brother!"

"You can die with him if you like," said Vaninka, accompanying the
proposal with a smile which showed she would not have been sorry if
Annouschka had carried sisterly affection to that length.

"But look at the fire, madam--the fire!"

"Let us go, then," said Vaninka; and, dragging out the heart-broken
girl, she locked the door behind her and threw the key far away into
the snow.

"In the name of Heaven," said Annouschka, "let us go home quickly: I
cannot gaze upon this awful sight!"

"No, let us stay here!" said Vaninka, holding her back with a grasp
of almost masculine strength.  "Let us stay until the house falls in
on them, so that we may be certain that not one of them escapes."

"Oh, my God!" cried Annouschka, falling on her knees, "have mercy
upon my poor brother, for death will hurry him unprepared into Thy

"Yes, yes, pray; that is right," said Vaninka.  "I wish to destroy
their bodies, not their souls."

Vaninka stood motionless, her arms crossed, brilliantly lit up by the
flames, while her attendant prayed.  The fire did not last long: the

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