spot that my only method of salvation was to demand the
"You are a fool," he said to Grushnitski rather loudly. "You can't understand a thing! . . . Let us be off, then, gentlemen!"
The precipice was approached by a narrow path between bushes, and fragments of rock formed the precarious steps of that natural stair- case. Clinging to the bushes we proceeded to clamber up. Grushnitski went in front, his seconds behind him, and then the doctor and I.
"I am surprised at you," said the doctor, pressing my hand vigorously. "Let me feel your pulse! . . . Oho! Feverish! . . . But nothing noticeable on your countenance . . . only your eyes are gleaming more brightly than usual."
Suddenly small stones rolled noisily right under our feet. What was it? Grushnitski had stumbled; the branch to which he was clinging had broken off, and he would have rolled down on his back if his seconds had not held him up.
"Take care!" I cried. "Do not fall pre- maturely: that is a bad sign. Remember Julius Caesar!"
AND now we had climbed to the summit of the projecting cliff. The ledge was covered with fine sand, as if on purpose for a duel. All around, like an innumerable herd, crowded the mountains, their summits lost to view in the golden mist of the morning; and towards the south rose the white mass of Elbruz, closing the chain of icy peaks, among which fibrous clouds, which had rushed in from the east, were already roaming. I walked to the extremity of the ledge and gazed down. My head nearly swam. At the foot of the precipice all seemed dark and cold as in a tomb; the moss-grown jags of the rocks, hurled down by storm and time, were awaiting their prey.
The ledge on which we were to fight formed an almost regular triangle. Six paces were mea- sured from the projecting corner, and it was de- cided that whichever had first to meet the fire of his opponent should stand in the very corner with his back to the precipice; if he was not killed the adversaries would change places.
I determined to relinquish every advantage to Grushnitski; I wanted to test him. A spark of magnanimity might awake in his soul -- and then all would have been settled for the best. But his vanity and weakness of character had perforce to triumph! . . . I wished to give myself the full right to refrain from sparing him if destiny were to favour me. Who would not have concluded such an agreement with his conscience?