Page:Taras Bulba. A Tale of the Cossacks. 1916.djvu/283

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277
TARAS BULBA

When the regimental scribe presented the agreement, and the Hetman set his powerful hand to it, Taras drew out his genuine Damascus blade, a rich Turkish sabre of the finest steel, broke it in twain like a reed, and flung the two fragments far away from him on either side, saying: "Farewell! As the two pieces of this sword will never reunite and form one sword again, so, we, comrades, shall never more behold one another in this world. Remember my parting words." (Here his voice rose higher and acquired a hitherto unknown power—and his prophetic utterances troubled them all.) "Before your death-hour you will remember me! Do you think that you have purchased peace and quiet? Do you think you are going to reign like Polish lords? You will reign like Polish lords, but after quite another fashion. They will flay the skin from your head, Hetman, they will stuff it with bran, and long will it be exhibited at all the fairs. And neither will you retain your heads, noble sirs! You will perish in damp dungeons, walled about with stone, if they do not boil you alive in kettles, as they boil sheep!

"And you, my men," he went on, turning to his followers, "which of you wants to die a proper death? not through sorrows and womanish longing, nor drunk under a hedge alongside of the