Michael Strogoff HTML version

2. Correspondents In Trouble
IVAN OGAREFF was bringing up the main body of the army of the Emir. The
cavalry and infantry now under him had formed part of the column which had
taken Omsk. Ogareff, not having been able to reduce the high town, in which, it
must be remembered, the governor and garrison had sought refuge, had decided
to pass on, not wishing to delay operations which ought to lead to the conquest
of Eastern Siberia. He therefore left a garrison in Omsk, and, reinforcing himself
en route with the conquerors of Kolyvan, joined Feofar's army.
Ivan Ogareff's soldiers halted at the outposts of the camp. They received no
orders to bivouac. Their chief's plan, doubtless, was not to halt there, but to press
on and reach Tomsk in the shortest possible time, it being an important town,
naturally intended to become the center of future operations.
Besides his soldiers, Ogareff was bringing a convoy of Russian and Siberian
prisoners, captured either at Omsk or Kolyvan. These unhappy creatures were
not led to the enclosure--already too crowded--but were forced to remain at the
outposts without shelter, almost without nourishment. What fate was Feofar-Khan
reserving for these unfortunates? Would he imprison them in Tomsk, or would
some bloody execution, familiar to the Tartar chiefs, remove them when they
were found too inconvenient? This was the secret of the capricious Emir.
This army had not come from Omsk and Kolyvan without bringing in its train the
usual crowd of beggars, freebooters, pedlars, and gypsies, which compose the
rear-guard of an army on the march.
All these people lived on the country traversed, and left little of anything behind
them. There was, therefore, a necessity for pushing forward, if only to secure
provisions for the troops. The whole region between Ichim and the Obi, now
completely devastated, no longer offered any resources. The Tartars left a desert
behind them.
Conspicuous among the gypsies who had hastened from the western provinces
was the Tsigane troop, which had accompanied Michael Strogoff as far as Perm.
Sangarre was there. This fierce spy, the tool of Ivan Ogareff, had not deserted
her master. Ogareff had traveled rapidly to Ichim, whilst Sangarre and her band
had proceeded to Omsk by the southern part of the province.
It may be easily understood how useful this woman was to Ogareff. With her
gypsy-band she could penetrate anywhere. Ivan Ogareff was kept acquainted
with all that was going on in the very heart of the invaded provinces. There were
a hundred eyes, a hundred ears, open in his service. Besides, he paid liberally
for this espionage, from which he derived so much advantage.
Once Sangarre, being implicated in a very serious affair, had been saved by the
Russian officer. She never forgot what she owed him, and had devoted herself to
his service body and soul.
When Ivan Ogareff entered on the path of treason, he saw at once how he might
turn this woman to account. Whatever order he might give her, Sangarre would
execute it. An inexplicable instinct, more powerful still than that of gratitude, had