Page:Taras Bulba. A Tale of the Cossacks. 1916.djvu/23

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17
INTRODUCTION

settlement, or the manor of a land-owner—and if resistance was difficult, the victims submitted. Then Marfa would order them to give her minions food and drink and would content herself with tribute. She frequently broke into the chests and store-houses of the nobility, and selected for her own use whatever she required; after which she compelled the sufferers to take a solemn oath (and confirm it by kissing a holy picture), that they would not proceed against her for robbery. If they refused, she threatened to call again and ruin them completely, or "let loose the red cock"— that is to say, set fire to their buildings. A good many were wise enough to keep their oath, and them Marfa, as a rule, troubled no further. But those who violated their oath and complained of her suffered for it. The authorities were greedy for bribes, and Marfa Durov was lavish when occasion demanded. All the rural police of the county gave her a free hand, as they did to other insubordinate persons of noble rank, because they grew rich thereby. When complaints were lodged against Marfa, they were generally reported "not proved," because of the impossibility of discovering that the robbery had been perpetrated by none other than Marfa in person. She, like several others in the county, paid regular graft to the police. So the petitioner gained nothing by his