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By A. H Keane

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And they look at me askance, sometimes, because I ride the pony of Ayub— the one he had used for a pack animal—that the Cossack gave me when he rode away to the wars that same night. Sayanski himself never uttered a word concerning what happened at the manor house, because he left Rusk to live in Moscow—going off in a closed carriage. And it is true that our village is the gainer by his leaving. Only once did my uncle speak of the sword. This was one noon, when we were sitting on the stools that had been Ayub’s and Ima’s, in the days when the Cossack was one of us and the girl had brought us all a bite at midday.

But the baryshina looked only at Demid, who came forward and gripped Ayub’s arm. Fierce anger was fast overmastering the big Zaporogian. Taking the silence of the Cossacks for submission, Yaris shortened the reins in her hand and the brown mare pranced. “We need no vagabonds to defend Nitek,” she cried. “We have good men and weapons of our own. ” She whirled away, scattering the watching villagers. A tall man in a white coat who accompanied her paused to speak briefly to the captain of musketeers, pointing at the Cossacks the while.

The stranger was from the river Don, where the Cossacks were wild folk living hard lives in the forests beyond the frontier. They were kin to the Gypsies and Tatars; it was said that the blood of princes ran in their veins. Certainly Demid, in wandering to the Dnieper, seemed to have gathered unto himself rare spoil from the tribes—a good sword, and Turkish mail. ” Ayub asked thoughtfully. ” Demid, who never used two words when one would do, or spoke at all when a sign would answer, pointed to his trophies, the scimitar and shield.

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