future career. I proceeded to the general's, at the hour fixed. There I found one of the civil authorities of the town, if I remember aright, the Director of Customs, a stout, red-faced, little old man, in a watered silk caftan. He questioned me regarding the fate of Ivan Kouzmitch, whom he called his koum, and frequently interrupted me with extraneous questions, and moral reflections, which if they did not prove him to be a man versed in military matters, at least evinced his natural intellect and sagacity. The other members soon assembled. After having taken our places, and the tea having been handed round, the general laid before us very distinctly, and in detail, the state of affairs.
"Now, gentlemen," he continued, "we must decide our course of action towards the rebels: the defensive or the offensive? Both modes have their advantages and disadvantages. To act on the offensive offers greater chances for the speedy destruction of the enemy; to remain on the defensive is surer and safer. . . . . Therefore, let us put it to the vote in legal order, that is to say, beginning with the juniors. Ensign!" he continued, turning to me, "pray give us your opinion."
I rose, and after having in a few words described Pougatcheff and his band, confidently affirmed that the Pretender had no means of withstanding regular forces.
My opinion was received by the members with evident dissatisfaction. In their judgment it was the rash and impertinent notion of a young man. In the muttering which ensued, I distinctly overheard the word "green-