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Page:Pushkin - Russian Romance (King, 1875).djvu/42

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ing, when my door was opened, and in walked a young officer of middle stature with a dark and unmistakably plain, but lively face.

"Pardon me," said he, in French; "that I should come to make your acquaintance with so little ceremony. I heard yesterday of your arrival. The desire to see at last a new face, was so strong in me, that I could not hold out any longer. You will understand the feeling when you will have been here a little while."

I guessed that this was the officer who had been dismissed from the Guards for his share in the duel. We soon got acquainted. Shvabrine was a clever fellow. His conversation was witty and engaging. He gave me an amusing account of the commandant's family, his friends, and of the country to which fate had consigned me. I was laughing heartily, when the invalid, whom I had seen cleaning some uniform in the commandant's hall, came in with an invitation to dinner from Vassilissa Yegorovna. Shvabrine offered to accompany me.

As we approached the commandant's house, we saw on the small parade ground some twenty little old invalids with long pig-tails and cocked hats. They were standing in single file. In front of them was the commandant, a tall hale old man, in a night-cap and nankin dressing-gown. He approached upon perceiving us, addressed a few kind words to me, and resumed the drill. We proposed remaining to see the exercise, but he invited, us to go to Vassilissa Yegorovna, promising to follow shortly.

"Here," added he; "there is nothing for you to look at."