Piotr Karpenko

Besides the regular members of the club, I found there my friend Petia from Alexandropol, who had come to Kars on a visit. He was the son of Kerensky, a postal-telegraph inspector who was later one of the officers killed in the Russo-Japanese war. There was also a boy from the Greek quarter of Kars nicknamed Fekhi, whose real name was Korkhanidi, and who later became the author of many school­books. He had brought home­made Greek halva as a present from his aunt to us choir­boys, whose singing had often affected her to the depths of her soul.

We sat, ate the halva, smoked and chatted. Soon after, Piotr Karpenko arrived with his eyes bandaged, accompanied by two other Russian boys, not members of the club. He came up to me demanding an explanation for my having insulted him the day before. Being one of those youths who read a good deal of poetry and love to express themselves in high­faluting language, he delivered a lengthy harangue which he brought to an abrupt close with the following categorical declaration: ‘The earth is too small for both of us; hence one of us must die.’

On hearing his bombastic tirade I wanted to knock this nonsense right out of his head. But when my friends began to reason with me, saying that only people who have not yet been touched at all by contemporary culture, as, for instance, Kurds, square accounts in this manner, and that respectable people have recourse to more civilized methods, my pride began to assert itself; and in order not to be called uneducated or cowardly, I entered into a serious discussion of this incident.

After a lengthy dispute, called by us a debate, during which it turned out that several of the boys present were on my side and several on the side of my rival—and which debate at times developed into a deafening din and brought us perilously near to throwing each other down from the top of the bell-tower—it was decided that we must fight a duel.

Then the question arose, where to obtain weapons? Neither pistols nor swords were to be had anywhere and the situation became very perplexing. All our emotions, which a moment before had reached the limits of excitement, were suddenly concentrated on how to find a way out of the difficulty which had arisen.