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he entered into no particulars, and it was "My dear sir, have the goodness to evident that such questions were not to withdraw, and thank God that this has his liking. We came to the conclusion happened in my house." that he had upon his conscience the None of us entertained the slightest memory of some unhappy victim of his doubt as to what the result would be, terrible skill. Moreover, it never en- and we already looked upon our new tered into the head of any of us to suspect comrade as a dead man. The officer him of anything like cowardice. There withdrew, saying that he was ready to are persons whose mere look is sufficient answer for his offence in whatever way to repel such a suspicion. But an unex- the banker liked. The play went on for pected incident occurred which astounded a few minutes longer, but feeling that us all.

our host was no longer interested in the One day, about ten of our officers dined game, we withdrew one after the other, with Silvio. They drank as usual, that and repaired to our respective quarters, is to say, a great deal. After dinner we after having exchanged a few words upon asked our host to hold the bank for a the probability of there soon being a vagame at faro. For a long time he re- cancy in the regiment. fused, for he hardly ever played, but at The next day, at the riding-school, we last he ordered cards to be brought, were already asking each other if the placed half a hundred ducats upon the poor lieutenant was still alive, when he table, and sat down to deal. We took himself appeared among us. We put the our places round him, and the play began. same question to him, and he replied that It was Silvio's custom to preserve a com- he had not yet heard from Silvio. This plete silence when playing. He never dis- astonished us. We went to Silvio's house puted, and never entered into explana- and found him in the courtyard shooting tions. If the punter made a mistake in bullet after bullet into an ace pasted calculating, he immediately paid him the upon the gate. He received us as usual, difference or noted down the surplus. We but did not utter a word about the event were acquainted with this habit of his, of the previous evening. Three days and we always allowed him to have his passed, and the lieutenant was still alive. own way; but among us on this occasion We asked each other in astonishment: was an officer who had only recently been "Can it be possible that Silvio is not gotransferred to our regiment. During the ing to fight?”. course of the game, the officer absently Silvio did not fight. He was satisscored one point too many. Silvio took fied with a very lame explanation, and the chalk and noted down the correct ac- became reconciled to his assailant. count according to his usual custom. The This lowered him very much in the officer, thinking that he had made a mis- opinion of all our young fellows. Want take, began to enter into explanations of courage is the last thing to be pardoned Silvio continued dealing in silence. The by young men, who usually look upon officer, losing patience, took the brush bravery as the chief of all human virand rubbed out what he considered was tues, and the excuse for every possible wrong. Silvio took the chalk and cor- fault. But, by degrees, everything berected the

score again. The officer, came forgotten, and Silvio regained his heated with wine, play, and the laughter former influence. of his comrades, considered himself I alone could not approach him on the grossly insulted, and in his rage he seized old footing. Being endowed by nature a brass candlestick from the table, and with a romantic imagination, I had behurled it at Silvio, who barely succeeded come attached more than all the others in avoiding the missile. We were filled to the man whose life was an enigma, and with consternation. Silvio rose, white who seemed to me the hero of some with rage, and with gleaming eyes, said: | mysterious drama. He was fond of me;

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at least, with me alone did he drop his and we, after agreeing to meet at Silcustomary sarcastic tone, and converse vio's, dispersed to our various quarters. on different subjects in a simple and un- I arrived at Silvio's house at the apusually agreeable manner. But after this pointed time, and found nearly the whole unlucky evening, the thought that his regiment there. All his things were alhonor had been tarnished, and that the ready packed; nothing remained but the stain had been allowed to remain upon bare, bullet-riddled walls. We sat down it in accordance with his own wish, was to table. Our host was in an excellent ever present in my mind, and prevented humor, and his gayety was quickly comme treating him as before. I was municated to the rest. Corks popped ashamed to look at him. Silvio was too every moment, glasses foamed incessantly, intelligent and experienced not to ob- and, with the utmost warmth, we wished serve this and guess the cause of it. This our departing friend a pleasant journey seemed to vex him; at least I observed and every happiness. When we rose once or twice a desire on his part to enter from the table it was already late in the into an explanation with me, but I evening. After having wished everybody avoided such opportunities, and Silvio good-bye, Silvio took me by the hand and gave up the attempt. From that time detained me just at the moment when I forward I saw him only in the presence was preparing to depart. of my comrades, and our confidential "I want to speak to you," he said in conversations came to an end.

a low voice. The inhabitants of the capital, with I stopped behind. minds occupied by so many matters of The guests had departed, and we two business and pleasure, have no idea of were left alone. Sitting down opposite the many sensations so familiar to the in- each other, we silently lit our pipes. habitants of villages and small towns, as, Silvio seemed greatly troubled; not a for instance, the awaiting the arrival of trace remained of his former convulsive the post. On Tuesdays and Fridays our gayety. The intense pallor of his face, regimental bureau used to be filled with his sparkling eyes, and the thick smoke officers: some expecting money, some let- issuing from his mouth, gave him a truly ters, and others newspapers. The pack- diabolical appearance. Several minutes ets were usually opened on the spot, elapsed, and then Silvio broke the silence. items of news were communicated from "Perhaps we shall never see each other one to another, and the bureau used to again," said he; "before we part, I should present a very animated picture. Silvio like to have an explanation with you. used to have his letters addressed to our You may have observed that I care very regiment, and he was generally there to little for the opinion of other people, but receive them.

I like you, and I feel that it would be One day he received a letter, the seal painful to me to leave you with a wrong of which he broke with a look of great impression upon your mind." impatience. As he read the contents, his He paused, and began to knock the eyes sparkled. The officers, each occu- ashes out of his pipe. I sat gazing sipied with his own letters, did not observe lently at the ground. anything.

"You thought it strange,” he contin“Gentlemen," said Silvio, “circum- ued, “that I did not demand satisfaction stances demand my immediate departure; | from that drunken idiot R- You I leave to-night. I hope that you will will admit, however, that having the not refuse to dine with me for the last choice of weapons, his life was in my time. I shall expect you, too,” he added, hands, while my own was in no great turning towards me. “I shall expect you danger. I could ascribe my forbearance without fail."

to generosity alone, but I will not tell With these words he hastily departed, a lie. If I could have chastised R


I re

without the least risk to my own life, I without the least regret he held aloof should never have pardoned him.” from me. I took a hatred to him. His

I looked at Silvio with astonishment. success in the regiment and in the society Such a confession completely astounded of ladies brought me to the verge of Silvio continued :

despair. I began to seek a quarrel with "Exactly so: I have no right to expose him; to my epigrams he replied with epimyself to death. Six years ago grams which always seemed to me more ceived a slap in the face, and my enemy spontaneous and more cutting than mine, still lives."

and which were decidedly more amusing, My curiosity was greatly excited. for he joked while I fumed.' At last, at “Did you not fight with him?" I asked. a ball given by a Polish landed proprietor, “Circumstances probably separated you.” seeing him the object of the attention of all

“I did fight with him," replied Sil- the ladies, and especially of the mistress vio; "and here is a souvenir of our of the house, with whom I was upon very duel."

good terms, I whispered some grossly inSilvio rose and took from a cardboard sulting remark in his ear. He Alamed box a red cap with a gold tassel and em- up and gave me a slap in the face. We broidery (what the French call a bon- grasped our swords; the ladies fainted; net de police); he put it on-a bullet we were separated; and that same night had passed through it about an inch above we set out to fight. the forehead.

“The dawn was just breaking. I was “You know,” continued Silvio, "that I standing at the appointed place with my served in one of the Hussar regiments. three seconds. With inexplicable impaMy character is well known to you: I tience I awaited my opponent. The am accustomed to taking the lead. From spring sun rose, and it was already growmy youth this has been my passion. In ing hot. I saw him coming in the our time dissoluteness was the fashion, distance. He

walking, accomand I was the most outrageous man in panied by one second.

panied by one second. We advanced the army. We used to boast of our to meet him. He approached, holding drunkenness; I beat in a drinking bout his cap filled with black cherries. The the famous Bourtsoff, of whom Denis seconds measured twelve paces for us. Davidoff has sung. Duels in our regi- I had to fire first, but my agitation was ment were constantly taking place, and so great, that I could not depend upon in all of them I was either second or prin- the steadiness of my hand; and in order cipal. My comrades adored me, while to give myself time to become calm, I the regimental commanders, who were ceded to him the first shot. My adverconstantly being changed, looked upon me sary would not agree to this. It was deas a necessary evil.

cided that we should cast lots. The first “I was calmly enjoying my reputation, number fell to him, the constant favorite when a young man belonging to a wealthy of fortune. He took aim, and his bullet and distinguished family-I will not men- went through my cap. It was now my tion his name-joined our regiment. turn. His life at last was in my hands; Never in my life have I met with such a I looked at him eagerly, endeavoring to fortunate fellow! Imagine to yourself detect if only the faintest shadow of unyouth, wit, beauty, unbounded gayety, the easiness. But he stood in front of my most reckless bravery, a famous name, pistol, picking out the ripest cherries untold wealth-imagine all these, and from his cap and spitting out the stones, you can form some idea of the effect that which flew almost as far as my feet. His he would be sure to produce among us. indifference annoyed me beyond measure. My supremacy was shaken. Dazzled by 'What is the use,' thought I, 'of deprivmy reputation, he began to seek my ing him of life, when he attaches no value friendship, but I received him coldly, and whatever to it?' A malicious thought


lashed through my mind. I lowered my to sigh in secret for my former noisy and istol.

careless life. The most difficult thing of “ You don't seem to be ready for all was having to accustom myself to leath just at present,' I said to him: 'you passing the spring and winter evenings in vish to have your breakfast; I do not perfect solitude. Until the hour for dinwish to hinder you.'

ner I managed to pass away the time “ 'You are not hindering me in the somehow or other, talking with the baileast,' replied he. 'Have the goodness to iff, riding about to inspect the work, or fire, or just as you please the shot re- going round to look at the new buildings; mains yours; I shall always be ready at but as soon as it began to get dark, I your service.'

positively did not know what to do with “I turned to the seconds, informing myself. The few books that I had found them that I had no intentions of firing in the cupboards and storerooms I already that day, and with that the duel came to knew by heart. All the stories that my an end.

housekeeper Kirilovna could remember I I resigned my commission and retired had heard over and over again. The to this little place. Since then not a day songs of the peasant women made me feel has passed that I have not thought of re- depressed. I tried drinking spirits, but venge. And now my hour has arrived." it made my head ache; and moreover, I

Silvio took from his pocket the letter confess I was afraid of becoming a drunkthat he had received that morning, and ard from mere chagrin, that is to say, the gave it to me to read. Some one (it saddest kind of drunkard, of which I had seemed to be his business agent) wrote seen many examples in our district. to him from Moscow, that a certain per- I had no near neighbors, except two or son was going to be married to a young three topers, whose conversation conand beautiful girl.

sisted for the most part of hiccups and "You can guess,” said Silvio, "who the sighs. Solitude was preferable to their certain person is. I am going to Mos- society. At last I decided to go to bed cow. We shall see if he will look death as early as possible, and to dine as late in the face with as much indifference now, as possible; in this way I shortened the when he is on the eve of being married, evening and lengthened out the day, and as he did once with his cherries!"

I found that the plan answered very well. With these words, Silvio rose, threw Four versts from my house was a rich his cap upon the floor, and began pacing estate belonging to the Countess B-; up and down the room like a tiger in his but nobody lived there except the stew

I had listened to him in silence; ard. The Countess had only visited her strange conflicting feelings agitated me. estate once, in the first year of her mar

The servant entered and announced ried life, and then she had remained that the horses were ready. Silvio grasped there no longer than a month. But in my hand tightly, and we embraced each the second spring of my hermitical life a other. He seated himself in his telega, report was circulated that the Countess, in which lay two trunks, one containing with her husband, was coming to spend his pistols, the other his effects. We said the summer on her estate.

The report good-bye once more, and the horses gal- turned out to be true, for they arrived at loped off.

the beginning of June.

The arrival of a rich neighbor is an CHAPTER II

important event in the lives of country

people. The landed proprietors and the Several years passed, and family cir- people of their households talk about it cumstances compelled me to settle in the for two months beforehand and for three poor little village of M- Occupied years afterwards. As for me, I must with agricultural pursuits, I ceased not confess that the news of the arrival of a


young and beautiful neighbor affected me “A good shot that!” said I, turning to strongly. I burned with impatience to the Count. see her, and the first Sunday after her “Yes," replied he, "a very remarkable arrival I set out after dinner for the vil- | shot... Do you shoot well?" he lage of A-, to pay my respects to the continued. Countess and her husband, as their

“Tolerably," replied I, rejoicing that nearest neighbor and most humble ser- the conversation had turned at last upon vant.

a subject that was familiar to me. “At A lackey conducted me into the Count's thirty paces I can manage to hit a card study, and then went to announce me. without fail-I mean, of course, with a

The spacious apartment was furnished pistol that I am used to.” with every possible luxury. Around the "Really?" said the Countess, with a walls were cases filled with books and look of the greatest interest. “And you, surmounted by bronze busts; over the my dear, could you hit a card at thirty marble mantelpiece was a large mirror; paces ?” on the floor was a green cloth covered “Some day,” replied the Count, "we with carpets. Unaccustomed to luxury will try. In my time I did not shoot in my own poor corner, and not having badly, but it is now four years since I seen the wealth of other people for a long touched a pistol." time, I awaited the appearance of the "Oh!” I observed, “in that case, I don't Count with some little trepidation, as a mind laying a wager that Your Excelsuppliant from the provinces awaits the lency will not hit the card at twenty arrival of the minister. The door opened, paces; the pistol demands practice every and handsome-looking man, of about day. I know that from experience. In thirty-two years of age, entered the room. our regiment I was reckoned one of the The Count approached me with a frank best shots. It once happened that I di and friendly air; I endeavored to be self- not touch a pistol for a whole month, as possessed and began to introduce myself, I had sent mine to be mended; and would but he anticipated me. We sat down. you believe it, Your Excellency, the first His conversation, which was easy and time I began to shoot again, I missed a agreeable, soon dissipated my awkward bottle four times in succession at twenty bashfulness; and I was already beginning paces. Our captain, a witty and amusto recover my usual composure, when the ing fellow, happened to be standing by, Countess suddenly entered, and I became and he said to me: 'It is evident, my more confused than ever. She was in- | friend, that your hand will not lift itself deed beautiful. The Count presented against the bottle.' No, Your Excelme. I wished to appear at ease, but the lency, you must not neglect to practise, or more I tried to assume an air of uncon- your hand will soon lose its cunning. straint, the more awkward I felt. They, The best shot that I ever met used to in order to give me time to recover myself shoot at least three times every day beand to become accustomed to my new ac- fore dinner. It was as much his custom quaintances, began to talk to each other, to do this as it was to drink his daily glass treating me as a good neighbor, and with- of brandy." out ceremony. Meanwhile, I walked The Count and Countess seemed about the room, examining the books and pleased that I had begun to talk. pictures. I am no judge of pictures, but “And what sort of a shot was he?" one of them attracted my attention. It asked the Count. represented some view in Switzerland, "Well, it was this way with him, Your but it was not the painting that struck Excellency: if he saw a fly settle on the me, but the circumstance that the canvas wall-you smile, Countess, but, before was shot through by two bullets, one Heaven, it is the truth-if he saw a fly, planted just above the other.

he would call out: 'Kouzka, my pistol!

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