it, Your Excellency, the first time I began to shoot again, I missed a bottle four times in succession at twenty paces. Our captain, a witty and amusing fellow, happened to be standing by, and he said to me: 'It is evident, my friend, that your hand will not lift itself against the bottle.' No, Your Excellency, you must not neglect to practise, or your hand will soon lose its cunning. The best shot that I ever met used to shoot at least three times every day before dinner. It was as much his custom to do this as it was to drink his daily glass of brandy."
The Count and Countess seemed pleased that I had begun to talk.
"And what sort of a shot was he?" asked the Count.
"Well, it was this way with him, Your Excellency: if he saw a fly settle on the wall—you smile, Countess, but, before Heaven, it is the truth—if he saw a fly, he would call out: 'Kouzka, my pistol!' Kouzka would bring him a loaded pistol—bang! and the fly would be crushed against the wall."
"Wonderful!" said the Count. "And what was his name?"
"Silvio, Your Excellency."
"Silvio!" exclaimed the Count, starting up. "Did you know Silvio?"
"How could I help knowing him, Your Excellency: we were intimate friends; he was re-