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The new Northwest. [volume] (Portland, Or.) 1871-188?, November 18, 1880, Image 6

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I iv them last night in a box nt the ntty,
Old age HndVoung youth slilo by slilo;
.You might kmjjv by tho gln.ss.es that pointed that vwy
That they were a groom ami a bride;
Ami you mlghulmve known, too, by the face of the groom,
Ami the tilt of his heiul mill the grim
IJUle smile of Ills Hp, he whs proud to presume
Tlmt we men "Were all envying him.
"Vell, she whs superlt an Elaine In the face,
A Godlva In fitrure mid mien,
AVUh the arm and the wrbt of a Parian "Greoe"
And the high-lifted brow of a queen ;
But I thought, in the splendor of wealth and of pride,
And in all her youine beauty might prise,
I Should hardly be clad if site t by my side
With that fAr-away look in ber eye.
! 4.
fThc mir of Piodorskow, in the government of
guwalki, is a dull hole. We lay there. A monot
onous life of it we led about as full of emotion as
that of a tortoise in a state of hybernation. This
was the daily routine: Morning, drill and the
riding-echool; midday, dinner at the command
ant's or the Jewish restaurant ; evening, punch
and card-playing. There was not a house in the
jilaee worth visiting, nor a girl worth falling in
love with. AVe pasted our abundant time in go
ing from Peter to Paul, and from Paul to Peter and
hack again the same perpetual round and in
driticising the buttons on each other's uniforms.
Nevertheless, there was just one in our little so
ciety who was not a military man. He might lie
about five-and-thirty years old, consequently we
toung fellows" looked upon him with something
in to veneration. His experience gave him an
ascendancy over us; and his taciturnity, his
lnuighty bearing, ami the sarcastic manner in
which he spoke, added to the impression and
Strengthened the sujeriority of age. It was often
s& puzzle to me what mysterious destiny over
shadowed him. He appeared to be Russian, but
He had a foreign name. He had formerly served
in a Hussar regiment, and had even built himself
up some reputation in it ; but he handed in his
papers abruptly one morning noliody could tell
why and he established himself in this miserable
village, where he lived very roughly, but managed
all the same to spend a great deal of money. He
kept oirjii house for every otlicer in our regiment.
Nobody knew what was his fortune, or whether
he was married or single, and nobody iiired to ask
him. He looked too stern to answer'iuterrogatory
Of that tyiie. He had a tolerably large library,
particularly strong in military tiooks and in ro
mances, which he freely lent and never asked
back. On the other hand, he never thought of re
turning a book once lent to him. His absorbing
occupation it was more than pastime was pistol
practice. The walls of his dining-room, riddled
with bullet-dents, looked like a honey-comb. A
splendid collection of pistols, of every make and
age, was the one vanity of the wretched gazebo he
called his mansion. The dexterity he had acquired
by his practice was something incredible ; if In
laid a bet that he would knock the tuft oil' a for
aging cap with a shot, I do not think there was a
fellow in the regiment who would have hesitated
tp put the cap on his head. Sometimes amongst
us the conversation turned iton duelling. Silvio
that is what I mean to call him ) never took part
in it. If he were asked if he had ever been out,
he drily answered "yes," but entered into no de
tails, and it was easy to see that the question did
not gratify him. We came to the conclusion that
some victim of his terrible skill had left a burden
on his conscience. None of us for a moment had
the slightest suspicion that there was any element
of feebleness in his composition. There are men
whose exterior is enough to scout suppositions of
the kind. He was one of them. Notwithstand
ing, an event which unexpectedly turned up sin
gularly astonished us.
One day a dozen of us ofiicers dined at Silvio's.
We drank as it was the custom, that is to say, too
much champagne. As soon as the dinner was
over, we asked the master of the house to make a
bank at faro. After refusing for a long time, for
he seldom played, he called for the cards, placed
fifty ducats before him on the table, and sat down
to deal. We made a ring around him, and the
Slay began. When he played, it was Silvio's
abit to preserve an absolute silence; lie never
made any objections and never gave any explana
tions. If a punter won or lost, he paid him exact
ly what was coming to him or marked down to
his own credit what he had gained. We all knew
his peculiarity, and we let him arrange the mat
ter after his own fashion ; but there was with us
on that occasion an ollicer newly joined, who in a
moment of distraction made a false double. Silvio
took np the chalk and made his mark in his usual
manner. The oilicer, persuaded that there was a
mistake, expostulated. Silvio, never breaking
silence,, continued to deal. The ollicer, losing jm
tience, took the brush and rubbed out what he
thought to Ik the wrong mark. Silvio quietly
made the mark again. l'ion this, the officer
heated by the wine, the play, and the laughter of
his comrades took serious offense, and, seizing a
copper chandelier, in his fury hurled it at the head
of Silvio, who just contrived to avoid being hit,
Silvio started up, jmle with anger, and said, with
lire in his eyes:
"My good sir, have the kindness to leave the
room, and thank your God that this has lmssed
under my roof."
Not one of us had the slightest doubt as to what
would be the sequel of the affair. We already
looked upon our comrade as a dead man. The
officer left, saying he was ready to give satisfac
tion to the banker at his convenience.
The gambling continued for a few minutes
more ; but as we saw that the master of the house
paid no further Interest to the piav, we left one bv
one, and as we strolled back to our quarters we
chatted about the vacancy we were soon to have
111 our regiment.
The following flay, in the riding-school, we were
asking if the jioor Lieutenant was dead or merely
wounded, when who should walk in but himself
We 0i-. him with questions. He simply nn
Swerod tlmt lie hud not heard from Silvio' We
waretmiished. We went to visit Silvio We
me upon him in his court-yard, (sending bullet
after bullet into an ace of hearts nailed to a door.
He received us in his usual way, and said not a
word about the transaction of the night before.
Three days passed, and the Lieutenant still lived.
No message had come. We began to ask one
another in amazement, "Is it possible that Silvio
won't light?" Silvio did not light. He was sat
isfied with a very lame explanation, and all was
over. This magnanimity did him a lot ot harm
among us young fellows. Want of hardihood is
the fault that youth pardons the least. Courage
is the greatest of all merits, the excuse for every
Nevertheless, little by little all was forgotten,
and Silvio resumed his former influence in our
circle. I alone found it hard to reconcile myself
to him. Thanks to a romantic imagination, 1 had
grown more attached than any of my comrades to
the man whose life was such an enigma. I had
made of him the hero of a mysterious drama. He
had a preference for me at least, I was the only
one with whom he abandoned his harshness of
tone and cynicism of language, and conversed on
different subjects with ease, and sometimes with
a very happy grace; Since that unfortunate even
ing, the thought that his honor was soiled that
there was a blot on his escutcheon, and that, of
his own free will, he had d-clincd to wipe it out
tormented me without ceasing and drove away
my self-jHwession when I was in his society. I
was no longer on the same terms with him. I
made it a matter of conscience to watch his every
movement. He had too much penetration not to
perceive what I was doing, and to gmfrs the mo
tive of my conduct. He appeared more hurt than
vexed at it. Twice I thought I could detect a de
sire on his part to come to an explanation with
me; but 1 avoided him, ami he did not press the
matter. From that time i only saw him in com
pany with my comrades. Our intimate chats were
The lucky dwellers in the cities tossed about by
distracting pleasures, are ignorant of many sensa
tions familiar to thor-e who live in remote villages
or small towns; for example, waiting for mail
day. On Tuesdays and Fridays the post ollice of
our regiment Was full of olli'eers. One exjerted
money, another letters, a third newspajvers. Ordi
narily the packets were unsealed upon the spot;
news was jmsMil from mouth to mouth, and the
scene in the ohlce was of the most animated de
scription. Silvio's letters were addressed to him
at our quarters, ami he came to look for them with
the rest of us. One day when he was handed a
letter he broke the seal with great eagerness. As
he ran over its contents, his eves positively burned
with a strange fire. Our officers, occupied over
their own correnndence, took no notice of him.
"Gentlemen," exclaimed Silvio, "urgent affairs
compel me to leave immediately. As I shall be
on the road to-night, 1 hoe yoii won't refuse to
dine with me for the last time. I count upon
you," he added, turning to me. "I wish you par
ticularly to come."
Thereutoii he retired hastily, and after we had
all agreed to make rendezvous at his place, we
separated, each going his own way.
I got to Silvio's at the appointed hour, and
found there every -officer off duty. His luggage
was already packed up. Nothing was to he seen
on the naked walls but the network of bullet
holes. We sat down. Our host was in the best
of humors, and his high spirit- soon spread to the
cotnNiny. Corks popped brisk as skirmishing
tire. The heady froth mounted in the glasses,
which were filled and emptied without interrup
tion. Yk' grew tender-hearted maudlin, if you
like amF wished God speed, safe journey, joy, and
ail kinds of prosperity to our departing host.
It was late when we quitted the festive board.
When we were looking for our caps, Silvio bade
each of us adieu ; but lie caught me by the'hand
and held me as I was on the point of going out.
"Stay," he said, in an undertone. "I want to
have a few words with you."
I stopped behind.
The others had departed, and we were left alone,
seated face to face, smoking our pipes in silence.
Silvio had a careworn air. There was not the
slightest trace on his features of his convulsive
rayety. His sinister pallor, his blazing eyes, the
oug curls of smoke which he pulled from his
mouth, gave him the aspect of a veritable demon.
At tht-end of a few minutes he broke the silence.
"It is iwssible," he said to me, "that we may
never see each other again, Pefore separating,!
wish to have a few words with you. You may
have remarked that I care little for the opinion of
the indifferent; but I have a liking for you, and I
feel that it would cost me a jang to leave you
with an unfavorable opinion of me."
He jwused to knock the ashes otf the top of his
pipe. I said nothing, but turned my gaze to the
floor and waited.
"It must have appeared singular to you," he
continued, "that I did not exnet fuller satisfaction
from that drunken fool of a Lieutenant. You will
agree that, having the choice of weapons, the
idiot's life was in my power, and that I ran no
very great risk. I might speak of my moderation
as generosity, but T do not wish to lie. If I could
have administered a correction to the fellow with
out hazarding my life mark me, without hazard
ing it in the least he would not have got out of
my clutches so easily."
I looked at Silvio with surprise. An avowal
like this mystified and pained me. He resumed:
"Unfortunately, I have not the right to expose
myself to death. Six years ago I got a box on the
ear, and 1113' enemy is still living."
My curiosity was vividly stirred.
"And you did not fight him?" I demanded.
"Assuredly, some extraordinary circumstance
must have prevented the affair from coming oil!"
"I did fight him," said Silvio, quietly; "and
here is a souvenir of our meeting."
He rose and drew from a box a cap of red cloth
with a gold stripe mid gland a cap of the make of
those worn in cavalry undress, such as the French
call bonnet de police. He put it on his head. It
was penetrated by a bullet about an inch above
his temple.
"You know," said Silvio, "that I served in the
Hussars. You can see the sort of a man I am a
trifle overbearing. I have the habit of command;
to dominate is an instinct of my nature. In my
earlier days it was a Mission with me. In my
time the roysterers were the mode. I was the
greatest roysterer and rowdy in the Jinny. All
bragged then about getting drunk. I put under
the table the famous P. mentioned in the song by
I). I)., that used to le sung lit tho mess of the
Preobrajcnski Guards. Every day there wero
duels in our corps; every day I played my part as
second or principal. My comrades venerated me;
the sujMTior officers, who changed every other
month, regarded me as a scourge that they could
not get rid of. For my own part, I pursued my
career of glory tranquilly, or rather tumultously,
until thev sent to the regiment a rich young fel
low who'belongcd to a distinguished family. I
shall not tell you his name. Never did I meet a
luckier dog; his luck was almost insolent. Pic
ture to yourself youth, wit, a line figure, sprightly
spirits, bravery reckless of danger, an honored
name, as much money as he wished, and more
than he could ever possibly spend ; and now try
and bring before your mind tho effect that his ar
rival produced amongst us. I was nowhere. Mj
scepter was broken. At the outset, dazzled by
my reputation, he sought to make me his friend.
Put I received his advances coldly, and he paid
nie off in my own coin. AVithout appearing in
the least mortified, he left me to myself. I con
ceived a mortal grudge against him. His success
in the regiment and amongst the women drove
me to desperation. I swore I'd pick a quarrel
with him. To my epigrams he retorted with epi
grams that always struck me as more piquant and
original than mine, and which, I must admit, in
any case, were much more lively. He jested ; t
hated; that made the difference. At last, one
day, at a ball at a Polish landed proprietor's, see
ing that he was the object of attention from sev
eral ladies, especially from the mistress of the
house, with whom I had been a pet, I went over
to him and whispered some gross and stupid im
IHTtinence. He burst into a passion and gave .me
a box on the ear. AVe flew to our sabers, the la
dies fainted, the guests artcd us, and, on the spot,
we quitted the chateau to make our preparations
for mortal combat.
"Day was breaking. I was at the trysting
ground with my three witnesses, waiting my ad
versary with a mad impatience. The Summer's
sun rose, and the heat already began to grill us.
I saw him in the distance. He was on foot, in his
shirt sleeves, carrying his jacket over his saber
hilt, anil aecomiMinied by a single second. AVe
set out to meet them. As he came nearer to ine,
I could jierceive that in one hand he held his cap,
which was full of cherries. Our seconds placed us
at twelve paces ajwrt. It was my privilege to fire
first ; but jiassiou and hatred got so much the bet
ter of me that I was afraid I should not be able to
keen my wrist stead v. In order to gain time to
cool down, I conceded the first fire to him. He
refused it. AVe their determined to settle it by
drawing lots. He won, this eternally spoiled
child of fortune. He pulled trigger, and pierced
my Isinnet de police. It was my turn now. At
last I hail his life in my hands. 1 scrutinized him
with a fierce aviditytrying to catch, in the ex
pression of his features, at least a shade of emo
tion. No! There he was, under cover of my
pistol, and not a twitch in brows or Him, not the
symptom of a change of color in his cheeks. He
was quietly picking the ripest cherries out of his
cap and blowing the stones from his mouth, like a
schoolboy, until they almost fell at my feet. This
cold-blooded couiiiosure made me feel like a devil.
" 'What is to be gained,' said I to myself, 'by
taking this man's life, seeing that he sets such
small store by -it?'
"An atrocious idea shot across my brain. T let
down the hammer of my pistol.
"'It seems,' said 1, 'that you're hardly in a
mood to die at present. A'ou prefer to breakfast.
Take it easy; 1 have no wish to disturb you.'
'"Don't mix yourself up in my concerns,' he
answered, 'but take the trouble of firing, pray.
For the matter of that, do as you please. A'ou
have always that pistol-shot to your credit ; and I
shall 5e at your service whenever you wish to
discharge it.'
"I left it with my friends, to whom I said that
I did not intend to effect the exchange of shots for
the moment. And thus the affair terminated.
"I sent in my resignation, ami withdrew to this
village. Not a day has passed since then that I
have not dreamt of revenge. Now the hour has
Silvio drew from his pocket the letter he had
received in the morning and gave it to me to read.
Somebody his lawyer, presumably wrote to him
from Moscow that the person in question was on
the eve of marrying a youugaud beautiful lady.
"A'ou divine, said Silvio, "who is the person in
question. I am starting for Moscow. AVe'Il see
if he'll face death in the middle of a wedding with
the same composure that he did in front of a
pound of cherries !"
At these words lie rose, threw his cap on the
floor, and began striding to and fro like a tiger in
a cage. I had listened to him, outwardly jmssive,
but rucked by a thousand contending sentiments.
A servant, entering, announced that the horses
had arrived. Silvio shook me warmly by the
hand, and we embraced. He jumped into a
caleclie, in which there were two boxes, one con
taining his collection of pistols, the other his lug
gage. AVe said adieu once more, and the horses
wjent off at a canter.
Several years passed, when family affairs
obliged me to exile myself in a wretched petty
hamlet of the volosta of Podjaritzki. Busy though
I was with my property, I could not help sighing
whenever I thought of the noisy life, gay and
careless, I had led up to that period. In Podjaritzki
one did not live did not exist even; one vege
tated. The greatest trouble I had was to accustom
myself to jmss the evenings of Spring and Winter
in complete solitude. Until dinner hour, I suc
ceeded in killing time more or less effectually by
talking to the starosta, superintending my work
men, inspecting new buildings and overlooking
improvements. Put as soon as dusk came on, I
was at a perfect loss to know what to do with mv
self. I could almost repeat by rote the few books
I hud unearthed in the drawers and in a cockloft.
I made my housekeeper, Kirilovna, tell me over
and over again all the old country tales she recol
lected. The songs of the peasant girls made me
melancholy. I took to drinking, but that gave
me the headache. A'es, I will own it; for an in
stant I was afraid I should become a drunkard
through pure spite the worst of all drunkards, as
my own district alforded me only too ninny proofs.
As near neighbors there were but two or three of
these distinguished topers, whose conversation
consisted principally of yawns and hiccoughs.
Solitude was a lesser evil than their companion
ship. At last I made up my mind to get to bed as
early as Hssble, and to dine as late as possible;
so that I solved the problem of shortening the
evenings and prolonging the days, and I found the
plan to jmy best of any.
Four versts from my place was a very fine do
main, belonging to the Countess 15 ; but there
was nobody there savehersteward. The Countess
had resided in her chateau but once the first
year of her wedded life and then she would not
remain there beyond a month. One day, during
the second Spring of my hermit's existence, 1 was
told that the Countess meant to pass the Summer
with her husband in the chateau. The report was
correct. They took up their quarters- there in the
beginning of June. ,
The arrival of a rich neighbor is an event in ru
ral life. The landed proprietors and their people
speak of it for two months beforehand, and threo
years afterward. As for myself, I candidly avow
that the announcement of the coming of a young
and handsome lady neighbor threw me into con
siderable agitation. I was impatient to see her,,
and the first Sunday after their arrival I set out,
after dinner, for her chateau, to present my
homage to Madame la Comtesse, in the character
of her nearest neighbor and very humble servant.
A lackey ushered me into the Count's study and.
went to acquaint his master with my visit. This
study was spacious and furnished in a very rich
style. Along the walls were ranged massive
presses full of books, and on the top of each a bust
in bronze. Over the marble chimney-piece there
was an immense mirror. The iloor was hidden by
a green cloth, on which were spread Persian car
pets. I had been divorced from comfort so long in
1113- ilen that I was overcome at the spectacle of alL
this suniptuousness was positively seized with
timidity, and waited for the Count very much in
the frame of being of a petitioner from the prov
inces who has obtained audience of some powerful
Minister, and sits in an ante-chamber. The door
ojiened, and gave admission to a young man about
thirty, of a charming countenance. lie received
me in the frankest and most amiable manner. I
made an effort to recover my calmness, and was
commencing my compliments as a neighbor,
when he anticipated me by gracefully telling me
that I should lie always welcome to his house
while he was there. AVe seated ourselves. The
conversation, full of naturalness and affability,
soon soothed my savage timidity, and I began to
feel myself in my ordinary groove, when suddenly
the Countess apjieaml, and threw me into an em
barrassment greater than before. She was truly a
beauty. The Count presented me. I endeavored,
to assume a free and easy manner, but the more I
tried the more awkward I became. My hosts, in
order to give me an opportunity to collect myself
and get accustomed to my new acquaintances, be
gan chatting to one another, as if to show me they
treated me without ceremony, as an estimable
neighbor. Meanwhile, I walked about the study,
looking at the isroks and pictures. I am not much
of a connoisseur, as far as pictures go, but there was
one which riveted my attention. It was a sketch
of a valley in Switzerland ; but it wa, not the
merit of the landscape which struck me most. I
remarket! that the canvas was pierced by two bul
lets, one evidently aimed at the other.
"Ha ! that was something like a shot," I cried,
turning toward the Count.
"A'es," he said ; "rather a singular shot Are
yon a good hand at the pistol ?" he continued.
"Well, yes so-so," I answered, delighted at the
chance of speaking on a subject I was not totally
ignorant of. "At thirty paces I warrant myself
never to miss a card, always provided I know the
"Heally !" said the Countess, with an air of pro
found interest. Then, addressing her husband,
she added : "And you, dearest, do yon think yon
could hit a card at thirty paces ?"
"We shall see," replied the Count. "I used not
to be a bad shot in my day; but it is quite four
years since I had a pistol in my hand."
"In that case, Count, I don't mind bettimr that,
even at twenty paces, you're not able to hit the
spot. The pistol insists on constant practice. I
know it by experience. In my regiment I passed
for one of the best marksmen. It happened onee
that 1 was a month without taking up a pistol.
Mine were at the armorer's. AVe went out for
target practice. AA'hat do you think came to pass,
Count? I missed a bottle at ftve-and-tweuty
paces four consecutive times. AVe had a squadron
leader in ours a jolly fellow, but a terrible joker.
Phew ! comrade,' he said, 'you're altogether too
sober. A'ou have too much respect for the bottles.'
Relieve me, Count, if you don't practice you must
rust. The best shot I ever met kept his hand in
by tiring his pistol every day, if it was only three
shots More dinner. He would a soon fall to
have his three shot' as to take his nip of brandy
before soup."
The Count and Countess seemed to take a pleas
ure i;i hearing me rattle on thus.
"And what sort of shots used he to make?" de
manded the Count.
"AVhat sort? AVait till you hear. Sunnose he
i;ivviii; uiuiiK me Willi. 1 Oil IHUgtl,
Countess? I swear to you it's true. 'Eh, Kouxa,.
a pistol.' Kouza brought him a loaded pistol.
Ping ! There was the fly flattened upon the wall.'r
"What skill !" exclaimed the Count, springing
to his feet. "A'ou knew Silvio?"
1 lilt 111-i.ntillt.. I.A.K.- .....11
"Did 1 know him ? AVe were the best of friends.
He used to mix with our corps as if he wero of
ourselves. Put it is a good five years since I
heard any tidings of him. So, as it appears, ho
had the honor to be known to you, Count."
"A'es, known very well known."
"f wonder did he ever tell you a curious story of
an adventure that occurred to him onee ? A storv
about a box on the ear he got one evening from an
animal "
"Did he not tell you the name of the animal?"
"No, lie never mentioned it. Pardon, Count,"
I cried, suspecting the fact, "I was not awaro
Am I right in thinking it was you ?"
"I am the person in question." answered the
Count, confused in his turn ; "ami the hole in that;
picture is a souvenir of our last interview."
"For the love of God, dear, don't speak of it!"
cried the Countess; "it makes me shudder."
"No," said the Count, "I must tell the story to
tilts gentleman. He knows I had the misfortune
to offend his friend. It is only right he should
know his friend avenged himself."
The Count motioned me to an arm-chair, and X
listened with great interest to the followingreeitalr
"Five years ago I got married. I spent the
honeymoon here in this chAteau. To this old
building are attached recollections of the happiest
hours of my life, and likewise of one of the most
fearful and aillicting. One evening we went out
riding. My wife's horse began to shy and rear;
she was somewhat alarmed, and dismounted, ask
ing me to lead him home. by the bridle, while she
regained the chateau on foot. At the gate I found
a post caleche. I was informed there was a strange
gentleman in my study, who had refused to give
Ids name, but said he wanted to see me on very
serious private business. I came into this very
room, and in tiie twilight I could distinguish a
man, dust-covered, and with a long beard, stand
ing before the chimney. I went tin to him. vainlv
jogging my memory as to where I had seen the
nice oeiore.
" 'A'ou do not recognize me, Count?' he mid, lit
a tremulous voice.
" 'Silvio V I cried ; and I confess T could almost

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