Bogachevsky

This time one of these spirits had appeared in the body of a Tartar who had been buried the day before, the son of Mariam Batchi.

I knew about the death and burial of this man, as his house was next to our old house, where our family had lived before our departure for Kars and where I had gone the day before to collect the rent from the tenants. I had also called on several Tartar neighbours and had seen the body of the dead man being carried out.

He was a young man who had recently joined the police guard, and he used to visit us. I had known him very well.

Several days before, during a dzhigitovka contest, he had fallen from his horse and, as they said, had twisted his intestines. Although a military doctor, named Koulchevsky, had given him a full glass of mercury to ‘readjust his intestines’, the poor man had died and, according to the Tartar custom, was buried very soon.

Then this evil spirit, it seems, entered his body and tried to drag it back home, but someone, happening to see this, raised an outcry and rang the alarm, and to prevent the spirit from doing any great harm the good neighbours quickly cut the throat of the body and carried it back to the cemetery.

It is believed there among the followers of the Christian religion that these spirits enter exclusively the bodies of Tartars because, according to the Tartar custom, the coffin is not deeply buried at first but only lightly covered with earth, and food is often put inside. It is difficult for spirits to go off with the bodies of Christians buried deep in the earth, and that is why they prefer Tartars.

This incident completely stupefied me. How could I explain it to myself? What did I know? I looked round me. Gathered at the corner were my uncle, the esteemed Giorgi Mercourov, and his son, who had nearly finished school, and a police official, all talking about this. All were generally respected; all had lived much longer than I and surely knew many things that I had not even dreamed of. Did I see in their faces indignation, grief or astonishment? No: they even seemed to be glad that somebody had succeeded this time in punishing the evil spirit and warding off its mischief.

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