A Hero of Our Time, part 15: What To Do With A Muslim Girl You’ve Kidnapped

After the end of his episode with Princess Mary, Pechorin goes in search of danger and adventure to a fort on the frontier. He kidnaps (nuclear DHV) Bela, a young Chechen girl, and now attempts to seduce her. His game may not be according to the modern textbook, but he has the right idea, and you get forgiven a lot when the girl doesn’t have the option of just leaving.


“‘Listen, Maksim Maksimich,’ said Pechorin, rising, ‘you’re a good soul–if we give the girl to that barbarian he’ll either kill her or sell her. What has been done cannot be undone, and it won’t do to spoil things by being overzealous. You keep my sword, but leave her with me . . .’

“‘Supposing you let me see her,’ said I.

“‘She’s behind that door; I myself have been trying in vain to see her. She sits there in a corner all huddled up in her shawl and will neither speak nor look at you; she’s as timid as a gazelle. I hired the innkeeper’s wife who speaks Tatar to look after her and get her accustomed to the idea that she’s mine–for she will never belong to anyone but myself,’ he added, striking the table with his fist.

“I agreed to this too . . . What would you have had me do? There are some people who always get their own way.”

“What happened in the end?” I asked Maksim Maksimich. “Did he actually win her over or did she pine away in captivity, longing for her native village?”

“Now why should she have longed for her native village? She could see the very same mountains from the fort as she had seen from the village, and that’s all these barbarians want. Moreover, Grigoriy Aleksandrovich gave her some present every day. At first she proudly tossed the gifts aside without a word, whereupon they became the property of the innkeeper’s wife and stimulated her eloquence. Ah, gifts! What wouldn’t a woman do for a little colored cloth! But I’m getting off the subject . . . Pechorin tried long and hard to win her. In the meantime he learned to speak Tatar and she began to understand our language. Little by little she learned to look at him, at first sideways, but she was always melancholy and I too couldn’t help feeling sad when I heard her from the next room singing her native songs in a low voice. I’ll never forget a scene I once witnessed while passing the window: Bela was seated on a couch, her head bowed, and Grigoriy Aleksandrovich stood before her. ‘Listen, baby,’ he was saying, ‘don’t you realize that sooner or later you must be mine–why then do you torment me so? Or perhaps you love some Chechen? If you do, I’ll let you go home at once.’ She shuddered barely perceptibly and shook her head. ‘Or,’ he went on, ‘am I altogether hateful to you?’ She sighed. ‘Perhaps your faith forbids your loving me?’ She grew pale but did not say a word. ‘Believe me, there is only one Allah for all people, and if he permits me to love you why should he forbid you to return my love?’ She looked him straight in the face as if struck by this new thought: her eyes betrayed suspicion and sought reassurance. And what eyes she had! They shone like two coals.

“‘Listen to me, sweet, kind Bela!’ Pechorin continued. ‘You can see how I love you. I am ready to do anything to cheer you: I want you to be happy, and if you keep on grieving, I will die. Tell me, you will be more cheerful?’ She thought for a moment, her black eyes searching his face, then smiled tenderly and nodded in agreement. He took her hand and began to persuade her to kiss him. But she resisted weakly and repeated over and over again:

‘Please, please, no, no.’ He became persistent; she trembled and began to sob. ‘I am your captive, your slave,’ she said, ‘and of course you can force me.’ And again there were tears.

“Pechorin struck his forehead with his fist and ran into the next room. I went in to him: he was gloomily pacing up and down with arms folded. ‘What now, old man?’ I asked him. ‘A she-devil, that’s what she is!’ he replied. ‘But I give you my word that she will be mine!’ I shook my head. ‘But you want to bet?’ he said. ‘Give me a week.’ ‘Done!’ We shook on it and separated.

“The next day he sent off a messenger to Kizlyar to make some purchases, and there was no end to the array of various kinds of Persian cloth that was brought back.

“‘What do you think, Maksim Maksimich,’ he said as he showed me the gifts, ‘will an Asiatic beauty be able to resist a bunch of stuff like this?’ ‘You don’t know these Circassian girls,’ I replied. ‘They’re nothing like Georgian or Transcaucasian Tatar women–nothing like them. They have their own rules of conduct. Different upbringing, you know.’ Grigoriy Aleksandrovich smiled and began whistling a march.

“It turned out that I was right: the gifts did only half the trick; she became more friendly and confiding–but nothing more. So he decided to play his last card. One morning he ordered his horse saddled, dressed in Circassian fashion, armed himself, and went in to her. ‘Bela,’ he said, ‘you know how I love you. I decided to carry you off believing that when you came to know me you would love me too. But I made a mistake. So, farewell, I leave you the mistress of everything I have, and if you want to, you can return to your father–you are free, I have wronged you and must be punished. Farewell, I will ride away: where, I don’t know. Perhaps it will not be long before I am cut down by a bullet or a saber blow; when that happens, remember me and try to forgive me.’ He turned away and extended his hand to her in parting. She didn’t take the hand, nor did she say a word. Standing behind the door I saw her through the crack, and I was sorry for her–such a deathly white had spread over her pretty little face. Hearing no reply, Pechorin took several steps towards the door. He was trembling, and do you know, I quite believe he was capable of actually doing what he threatened. The Lord knows that’s the kind of man he was. But barely had he touched the door when she sprang up, sobbing, and threw her arms around his neck. Believe me, I also wept standing there behind the door, that is, I didn’t exactly weep, but–well, never mind, it was just silliness.’

The captain fell silent.

“I might as well confess,” he said after a while, tugging at his mustache, “I was annoyed because no woman had ever loved me like that.”

“How long did their happiness last?” I asked.

“Well, she admitted that Pechorin had often appeared in her dreams since the day she first saw him and that no other man had ever made such an impression on her. Yes, they were happy!”


About Pechorin

A Hero of Our Time
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2 Responses to A Hero of Our Time, part 15: What To Do With A Muslim Girl You’ve Kidnapped

  1. Pingback: A Hero of Our Time, part 16: How Society Creates Its Pechorins | Pechorin

  2. Pingback: A Hero of Our Time: Introduction | Pechorin

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