Belkin’s Stories – extract from my translation

From The Shot, chapter 1:

“By now it was first light.  I stood at the designated spot with my three seconds.  With inexpressible impatience I awaited my opponent.  The spring sun rose, and it began to feel hot.  I caught sight of him in the distance.  He came on foot, his tunic slung over his sabre, accompanied by a single second.  We went to meet him.  He approached, holding his peaked cap full of wild cherries.  The seconds measured us out twelve paces.  I was to fire first; but the churning of spite within me was so violent that I could not rely on the steadiness of my arm; so, to give myself time to cool down, I tried to cede the first shot to him.  My opponent would not agree.  It was decided to cast lots: the winning number went to him, Fortune’s perpetual favourite.  He took aim and shot me through the cap.  It was my turn.  His life was now in my hands.  I eyed him avidly, trying to discern the smallest shadow of disquiet.  He stood within pistol range, picking ripe cherries from his cap and spitting the stones out at me.  His nonchalance enraged me.  ‘What good is it to me,’ I thought, ‘to rob him of life, when he sets no value by it at all?’  A malicious thought flashed through my mind.  I lowered my pistol. 

“ ‘You’re evidently not ready to die just yet,’ I said to him; ‘you’re enjoying your breakfast; I should hate to interrupt you.’ 

“ ‘You’re not interrupting me at all,’ he retorted; ‘fire, by all means.  It’s up to you, though. You’ve still your shot left; I’m always at your disposal.’

“I turned to the seconds and announced that I wasn’t minded to fire for now; and with that the duel ended.

“I resigned my commission and came away to this little place.  Since then not a day has passed without my thinking of revenge.  Now my time has come…”

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