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The Duel and Other Stories

The Duel
I
It was eight o'clock in the morning--the time when the officers, the local officials, and the
visitors usually took their morning dip in the sea after the hot, stifling night, and then
went into the pavilion to drink tea or coffee. Ivan Andreitch Laevsky, a thin, fair young
man of twenty-eight, wearing the cap of a clerk in the Ministry of Finance and with
slippers on his feet, coming down to bathe, found a number of acquaintances on the
beach, and among them his friend Samoylenko, the army doctor.
With his big cropped head, short neck, his red face, his big nose, his shaggy black
eyebrows and grey whiskers, his stout puffy figure and his hoarse military bass, this
Samoylenko made on every newcomer the unpleasant impression of a gruff bully; but
two or three days after making his acquaintance, one began to think his face
extraordinarily good-natured, kind, and even handsome. In spite of his clumsiness and
rough manner, he was a peaceable man, of infinite kindliness and goodness of heart,
always ready to be of use. He was on familiar terms with every one in the town, lent
every one money, doctored every one, made matches, patched up quarrels, arranged
picnics at which he cooked _shashlik_ and an awfully good soup of grey mullets. He was
always looking after other people's affairs and trying to interest some one on their behalf,
and was always delighted about something. The general opinion about him was that he
was without faults of character. He had only two weaknesses: he was ashamed of his own
good nature, and tried to disguise it by a surly expression and an assumed gruffness; and
he liked his assistants and his soldiers to call him "Your Excellency," although he was
only a civil councillor.
"Answer one question for me, Alexandr Daviditch," Laevsky began, when both he and
Samoylenko were in the water up to their shoulders. "Suppose you had loved a woman
and had been living with her for two or three years, and then left off caring for her, as one
does, and began to feel that you had nothing in common with her. How would you
behave in that case?"
"It's very simple. 'You go where you please, madam'--and that would be the end of it."
"It's easy to say that! But if she has nowhere to go? A woman with no friends or relations,
without a farthing, who can't work . . ."
"Well? Five hundred roubles down or an allowance of twenty-five roubles a month--and
nothing more. It's very simple."
 
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