"Exactly so: I have no right to expose myself to death. Six years ago I received a slap in the face, and my enemy still lives."
My curiosity was greatly excited.
"Did you not fight with him?" I asked. "Circumstances probably separated you."
"I did fight with him," replied Silvio; "and here is a souvenir of our duel."
Silvio rose and took from a cardboard box a red cap with a gold tassel and embroidery (what the French call a bonnet de police); he put it on—a bullet had passed through it about an inch above the forehead.
"You know," continued Silvio, "that I served in one of the Hussar regiments. My character is well known to you: I am accustomed to taking the lead. From my youth this has been my passion. In our time dissoluteness was the fashion, and I was the most outrageous man in the army. We used to boast of our drunkenness; I beat in a drinking bout the famous Bourtsoff, of whom Denis Davidoff has sung. Duels in our regiment were constantly taking place, and in all of them I was either second or principal. My comrades adored me, while the regimental commanders, who were constantly being changed, looked upon me as a necessary evil.
"I was calmly enjoying my reputation, when
- A cavalry officer, notorious for his drunken escapades.
- A military poet who flourished in the reign of Alexander I.