that to act in that way would have been almost impossible, for only after I have faced his shot at the distance of twelve paces could my words have any significance for him, and if I had spoken before, he would have said he is a coward, the sight of the pistols had frightened him, no use to listen to him. Gentlemen, I cried suddenly, speaking straight from my heart, look around you at the gifts of God, the clear sky, the pure air, the tender grass, the birds; nature is beautiful and sinless, and we, only we, are sinful and foolish, and we dont understand that life is heaven, for we have only to understand that and it will at once be fulfilled in all its beauty, we shall embrace each other and weep.
I would have said more but I could not; my voice broke with the sweetness and youthful gladness of it, and there was such bliss in my heart as I had never known before in my life.
All this is rational and edifying, said my antagonist, and in any case you are an original person.
You may laugh, I said to him, laughing too, but afterwards you will approve of me.
Oh, I am ready to approve of you now, said he; will you shake hands, for I believe you are genuinely sincere.
No, I said, not now, later on when I have grown worthier and deserve your esteem, then shake hands and you will do well.
We went home, my second upbraiding me all the way, while I kissed him. All my comrades heard of the affair at once and gathered together to pass judgment on me the same day.
He has disgraced the uniform, they said; let him resign his commission.
Some stood up for me: He faced the shot, they said.
Yes, but he was afraid of being shot, he would have shot his own pistol first before asking forgiveness, while he flung it loaded into the forest. No, theres something else in this, something original.
I enjoyed listening and looking at them. My dear friends and comrades, said I, dont worry about my resigning my commission, for I have done so already. I have sent in my papers this morning and as soon as I get my discharge I shall go into a monasteryits with that object I am leaving the regiment.
When I had said this every one of them burst out laughing.
You should have told us of that first, that explains everything, we cant judge a monk.
They laughed and could not stop themselves, and not scornfully, but kindly and merrily. They all felt friendly to me at once, even those who had been sternest in their censure, and all the following month, before my discharge came, they could not make enough of me. Ah, you monk, they would say. And every one said something kind to me, they began trying to dissuade me, even to pity me: What are you doing to yourself?
No, they would say, he is a brave fellow, he faced fire and could have fired his own pistol too, but he had a dream the night before that he should become a monk, thats why he did it.
It was the same thing with the society of the town. Till then I had been kindly received, but had not been the object of special attention, and now all came to know me at once and invited me; they laughed at me, but they loved me. I may mention that although everybody talked openly of our duel, the authorities took no notice of it, because my antagonist was a near relation of our general, and as there had been no bloodshed and no serious consequences, and as I resigned my commission, they took it as a joke. And I began then to speak aloud and fearlessly, regardless of their laughter, for it was always kindly and not spiteful laughter. These conversations mostly took place in the evenings, in the company of ladies; women particularly liked listening to me then and they made the men listen.
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