Page:Taras Bulba. A Tale of the Cossacks. 1916.djvu/22

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served the memory of Marfa Durov (or Durova) as a famous brigand. Few men can have rivalled—or even equalled—her. She flourished in the reign of the Empress Anna Ivannovna (1730–1740). The family was influential; Marfa was wealthy and extraordinarily cantankerous. On being left a widow, she recruited her lovers from her own peasants and neighbouring residents; and she occupied her abundant leisure with highway robbery. Recruiting her band from her peasants, she made raids upon her neighbours. Mounted cross-saddle, man-fashion, with a gun slung across her shoulder, a pistol in her pocket, and a sword girt at her side, she galloped at the head of her horde, and behind followed with carts, to transport the booty, more peasants. She ordered them not to sow or reap, telling them it was not worth while to sweat and bake in the hot sun: they could obtain all they needed gratis, provided by the labours of other people. Marfa was in the habit of making her raids in July and August, chiefly, and her slaves, at her bidding, carried home ricks of freshly-reaped grain, stacks of hay, and droves of horned cattle, sheep and pigs—whatever they encountered, in short. She went shares with them when the plunder reached her estate. The shepherds dared offer no resistance. Sometimes, by way of variety, Marfa would make a raid on a