Friday, October 31, 2008

Chapter 1, Part 5

He was in the prime of life, of medium height, with broad shoulders, almost gigantic build of body, and striking features. He had an enormous head, a complexion dried, quite sunburned, eyes black and somewhat aslant like those of a Tartar; and over his thin lips hung a moustache that ended at the tips in two broad bunches. His powerful face indicated courage and pride. There was in it something both attractive and repulsive--the dignity of a hetman with Tartar cunning, kindness and wildness.

After he had sat awhile on the saddle, he rose and beyond all expectation went to look at the bodies instead of returning thanks.

"Simpleton!" muttered the lieutenant.

Meanwhile the stranger examined each face carefully, nodding his head like a man who as seen everything; after which he returned slowly to the lieutenant, slapping himself at his sides and seeking involuntarily his belt, behind which he wished evidently to place his hand.

This dignity in a man just rescued from the halter did not please the young lieutenant, so he said in irony:

"One might say that you are looking for acquaintances among those robbers, or that you a saying a prayer for their souls."

The stranger replied with gravity:

"You are both right and wrong, sir. You are right, for I was looking for acquaintances; and you are wrong, for they are not robbers, but servants of a certain nobleman, my neighbor."

"Then it is evident that you do not drink out of the same well with that neighbor."

A strange smile passed over the thin lips of the stranger.

"And in that you are wrong," he muttered through his teeth.

A moment later he added audibly:

"But pardon, sir, for not having first given thanks for the auxilium and effective succor which freed me from such sudden death. Your lordship's courage has redeemed my carelessness, for I separated from my men; but my gratitude is equal to your good will."

Having said this, he stretched out his hand to the lieutenant.

But the haughty young man did not stir from his place, and was in no hurry to give his hand; instead, he said:

"I should like to know first if I have to do with a nobleman; for though I have no doubt you are one, it does not befit me to accept the thanks of a nameless person."

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