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Page:Pushkin - Russian Romance (King, 1875).djvu/133

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"Listen," said Pougatcheff, with a sort of wild inspiration. "I shall narrate to thee a tale which was told me by an old Kalmuck woman in my childhood. Once upon a time, an eagle inquired of a raven: 'Tell me, raven, why dost thou live three hundred years in this bright world, and I only thirty-three years in all?' 'Because, my little father,' answered the raven, 'thou drinkest living blood, and I feed off carrion.' The eagle thought: 'Well, let us try to feed upon the same.' So the eagle and the raven flew away. Suddenly they spied the carcass of a horse. They let themselves down upon it. The raven began to peck and to extol it. The eagle pecked once, pecked twice, flapped his wings, and said to the raven: 'No, brother raven, 'tis better to drink the living blood once, than to feed for three hundred years upon carrion; and trust to God for the rest!' What sayest thou to the Kalmuck tale?"

"It is ingenious," I answered. "But to live by murder and plunder is, according to my views, to peck at carrion."

Pougatcheff looked at me with astonishment, and made no reply. We became silent, each absorbed in his own meditations. The Tartar struck up a doleful song. Savelitch was nodding sleepily in the rumble. The kibitka, flew over the smooth wintry road. . . . Of a sudden I perceived a small village on the steep banks of the Yaïk, encircled by a palisade, and showing a church steeple; a quarter of an hour later, we drove into the fortress of Byĕlogorsk.