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Chapter 29

Chapter XXIX:
Le Terrain de Dieu.

During the progress of these events Buckingham and De Wardes traveled in
excellent companionship, and made the journey from Paris to Calais in
undisturbed harmony together. Buckingham had hurried his departure, so
that the greater part of his _adieux_ were very hastily made. His visit
to Monsieur and Madame, to the young queen, and to the queen-dowager, had
been paid collectively - a precaution on the part of the queen-mother
which saved him the distress of any private conversation with Monsieur,
and also the danger of seeing Madame again. The carriages containing the
luggage had already been sent on beforehand, and in the evening he set
off in his traveling carriage with his attendants.

De Wardes, irritated at finding himself dragged away in so abrupt a
manner by this Englishman, had sought in his subtle mind for some means
of escaping from his fetters; but no one having rendered him any
assistance in this respect, he was absolutely obliged, therefore, to
submit to the burden of his own evil thoughts and caustic spirit.

Such of his friends in whom he had been able to confide, had, in their
character of wits, rallied him upon the duke's superiority. Others, less
brilliant, but more sensible, had reminded him of the king's orders
prohibiting dueling. Others, again, and they the larger number, who, in
virtue of charity, or national vanity, might have rendered him
assistance, did not care to run the risk of incurring disgrace, and
would, at the best, have informed the ministers of a departure which
might end in a massacre on a small scale. The result was, that, after
having fully deliberated upon the matter, De Wardes packed up his
luggage, took a couple of horses, and, followed only by one servant, made
his way towards the barrier, where Buckingham's carriage was to await him.

The duke received his adversary as he would have done an intimate
acquaintance, made room beside him on the same seat with himself, offered
him refreshments, and spread over his knees the sable cloak that had been
thrown on the front seat. They then conversed of the court, without
alluding to Madame; of Monsieur, without speaking of domestic affairs; of
the king, without speaking of his brother's wife; of the queen-mother,
without alluding to her daughter-in-law; of the king of England, without
alluding to his sister; of the state of the affections of either of the
travelers, without pronouncing any name that might be dangerous. In this
way the journey, which was performed by short stages, was most agreeable,
and Buckingham, almost a Frenchman from wit and education, was delighted
at having so admirably selected his traveling companion. Elegant repasts
were served, of which they partook but lightly; trials of horses made in
the beautiful meadows that skirted the road; coursing indulged in, for
Buckingham had his greyhounds with him; and in such ways did they pass
away the pleasant time. The duke somewhat resembled the beautiful river
Seine, which folds France a thousand times in its loving embrace, before
deciding upon joining its waters with the ocean. In quitting France, it
was her recently adopted daughter he had brought to Paris whom he chiefly
regretted; his every thought was a remembrance of her - his every memory
a regret. Therefore, whenever, now and then, despite his command over
himself, he was lost in thought, De Wardes left him entirely to his
musings. This delicacy might have touched Buckingham, and changed his
feelings towards De Wardes, if the latter, while preserving silence, had
shown a glance less full of malice, and a smile less false. Instinctive
dislikes, however, are relentless; nothing appeases them; a few ashes
may, sometimes, apparently, extinguish them; but beneath those ashes the
smothered embers rage more furiously. Having exhausted every means of
amusement the route offered, they arrived, as we have said, at Calais
towards the end of the sixth day. The duke's attendants, since the
previous evening, had traveled in advance, and now chartered a boat, for
the purpose of joining the yacht, which had been tacking about in sight,
or bore broadside on, whenever it felt its white wings wearied, within
cannon-shot of the jetty.

The boat was destined for the transport of the duke's equipages from the
shore to the yacht. The horses had been embarked, having been hoisted
from the boat upon the deck in baskets, expressly made for the purpose,
and wadded in such a manner that their limbs, even in the most violent
fits of terror or impatience, were always protected by the soft support
which the sides afforded, and their coats not even turned. Eight of
these baskets, placed side by side, filled the ship's hold. It is well
known that, in short voyages horses refuse to eat, but remain trembling
all the while, with the best of food before them, such as they would have
greatly coveted on land. By degrees, the duke's entire equipage was
transported on board the yacht; he was then informed that everything was
in readiness, and that they only waited for him, whenever he would be
disposed to embark with the French gentleman; for no one could possibly
imagine that the French gentleman would have any other accounts to settle
with his Grace other than those of friendship. Buckingham desired the
captain to be told to hold himself in readiness, but that, as the sea was
beautiful, and as the day promised a splendid sunset, he did not intend
to go on board until nightfall, and would avail himself of the evening to
enjoy a walk on the strand. He added also, that, finding himself in such
excellent company, he had not the least desire to hasten his embarkation.

As he said this he pointed out to those who surrounded him the
magnificent spectacle which the sky presented, of deepest azure in the
horizon, the amphitheatre of fleecy clouds ascending from the sun's disc
to the zenith, assuming the appearance of a range of snowy mountains,
whose summits were heaped one upon another. The dome of clouds was
tinged at its base with, as it were, the foam of rubies, fading away into
opal and pearly tints, in proportion as the gaze was carried from base to
summit. The sea was gilded with the same reflection, and upon the crest
of every sparkling wave danced a point of light, like a diamond by
lamplight. The mildness of the evening, the sea breezes, so dear to
contemplative minds, setting in from the east and blowing in delicious
gusts; then, in the distance, the black outline of the yacht with its
rigging traced upon the empurpled background of the sky - while, dotting
the horizon, might be seen, here and there, vessels with their trimmed
sails, like the wings of a seagull about to plunge; such a spectacle
indeed well merited admiration. A crowd of curious idlers followed the
richly dressed attendants, amongst whom they mistook the steward and the
secretary for the master and his friend. As for Buckingham, who was
dressed very simply, in a gray satin vest, and doublet of violet-colored
velvet, wearing his hat thrust over his eyes, and without orders or
embroidery, he was taken no more notice of than De Wardes, who was in
black, like an attorney.

The duke's attendants had received directions to have a boat in
readiness at the jetty head, and to watch the embarkation of their
master, without approaching him until either he or his friend should
summon them, - "whatever may happen," he had added, laying a stress upon
these words, so that they might not be misunderstood. Having walked a
few paces upon the strand, Buckingham said to De Wardes, "I think it is
now time to take leave of each other. The tide, you perceive, is rising;
ten minutes hence it will have soaked the sands where we are now walking
in such a manner that we shall not be able to keep our footing."

"I await your orders, my lord, but - "

"But, you mean, we are still upon soil which is part of the king's
territory."

"Exactly."

"Well, do you see yonder a kind of little island surrounded by a circle of
water? The pool is increasing every minute, and the isle is gradually
disappearing. This island, indeed, belongs to Heaven, for it is situated
between two seas, and is not shown on the king's charts. Do you observe
it?"

"Yes; but we can hardly reach it now, without getting our feet wet."

"Yes; but observe that it forms an eminence tolerably high, and that the
tide rises up on every side, leaving the top free. We shall be admirably
placed upon that little theatre. What do you think of it?"

"I shall be perfectly happy wherever I may have the honor of crossing my
sword with your lordship's."

"Very well, then, I am distressed to be the cause of your wetting your
feet, M. de Wardes, but it is most essential you should be able to say to
the king: 'Sire, I did not fight upon your majesty's territory.' Perhaps
the distinction is somewhat subtle, but, since Port-Royal, your nation
delights in subtleties of expression. Do not let us complain of this,
however, for it makes your wit very brilliant, and of a style peculiarly
your own. If you do not object, we will hurry ourselves, for the sea, I
perceive, is rising fast, and night is setting in."

"My reason for not walking faster was, that I did not wish to precede
your Grace. Are you still on dry land, my lord?"

"Yes, at present I am. Look yonder! My servants are afraid we shall be
drowned, and have converted the boat into a cruiser. Do you remark how
curiously it dances upon the crests of the waves? But, as it makes me
feel sea-sick, would you permit me to turn my back towards them?"

"You will observe, my lord, that in turning your back to them, you will
have the sun full in your face."

"Oh, its rays are very feeble at this hour and it will soon disappear; do
not be uneasy on that score."

"As you please, my lord; it was out of consideration for your lordship
that I made the remark."

"I am aware of that, M. de Wardes, and I fully appreciate your kindness.
Shall we take off our doublets?"

"As you please, my lord."

"Do not hesitate to tell me, M. de Wardes, if you do not feel comfortable
upon the wet sand, or if you think yourself a little too close to French
territory. We could fight in England, or even upon my yacht."

"We are exceedingly well placed here, my lord; only I have the honor to
remark that, as the sea is rising fast, we have hardly time - "

Buckingham made a sign of assent, took off his doublet and threw it on
the ground, a proceeding which De Wardes imitated. Both their bodies,
which seemed like phantoms to those who were looking at them from the
shore, were thrown strongly into relief by a dark red violet-colored
shadow with which the sky became overspread.

"Upon my word, your Grace," said De Wardes, "we shall hardly have time to
begin. Do you not perceive how our feet are sinking into the sand?"

"I have sunk up to the ankles," said Buckingham, "without reckoning that
the water is even now breaking in upon us."

"It has already reached me. As soon as you please, therefore, your
Grace," said De Wardes, who drew his sword, a movement imitated by the
duke.

"M. de Wardes," said Buckingham, "one final word. I am about to fight
you because I do not like you, - because you have wounded me in
ridiculing a certain devotional regard I have entertained, and one which
I acknowledge that, at this moment, I still retain, and for which I would
very willingly die. You are a bad and heartless man, M. de Wardes, and I
will do my very utmost to take your life; for I feel assured that, if you
survive this engagement, you will, in the future, work great mischief
towards my friends. That is all I have to remark, M. de Wardes,"
concluded Buckingham as he saluted him.

"And I, my lord, have only this to reply to you: I have not disliked you
hitherto, but, since you give me such a character, I hate you, and will
do all I possibly can to kill you;" and De Wardes saluted Buckingham.

Their swords crossed at the same moment, like two flashes of lightning on
a dark night. The swords seemed to seek each other, guessed their
position, and met. Both were practiced swordsmen, and the earlier passes
were without any result. The night was fast closing in, and it was so
dark that they attacked and defended themselves almost instinctively.
Suddenly De Wardes felt his word arrested, - he had just touched
Buckingham's shoulder. The duke's sword sunk, as his arm was lowered.

"You are wounded, my lord," said De Wardes, drawing back a step or two.

"Yes, monsieur, but only slightly."

"Yet you quitted your guard."

"Only from the first effect of the cold steel, but I have recovered. Let
us go on, if you please." And disengaging his sword with a sinister
clashing of the blade, the duke wounded the marquis in the breast.

"A hit?" he said.

"No," cried De Wardes, not moving from his place.

"I beg your pardon, but observing that your shirt was stained - " said
Buckingham.

"Well," said De Wardes furiously, "it is now your turn."

And with a terrible lunge, he pierced Buckingham's arm, the sword passing
between the two bones. Buckingham feeling his right arm paralyzed,
stretched out his left, seized his sword, which was about falling from
his nerveless grasp, and before De Wardes could resume his guard, he
thrust him through the breast. De Wardes tottered, his knees gave way
beneath him, and leaving his sword still fixed in the duke's arm, he fell
into the water, which was soon crimsoned with a more genuine reflection
than that which it had borrowed from the clouds. De Wardes was not dead;
he felt the terrible danger that menaced him, for the sea rose fast. The
duke, too, perceived the danger. With an effort and an exclamation of
pain he tore out the blade which remained in his arm, and turning towards
De Wardes said, "Are you dead, marquis?"

"No," replied De Wardes, in a voice choked by the blood which rushed from
his lungs to his throat, "but very near it."

"Well, what is to be done; can you walk?" said Buckingham, supporting him
on his knee.

"Impossible," he replied. Then falling down again, said, "call to your
people, or I shall be drowned."

"Halloa! boat there! quick, quick!"

The boat flew over the waves, but the sea rose faster than the boat could
approach. Buckingham saw that De Wardes was on the point of being again
covered by a wave; he passed his left arm, safe and unwounded, round his
body and raised him up. The wave ascended to his waist, but did not move
him. The duke immediately began to carry his late antagonist towards the
shore. He had hardly gone ten paces, when a second wave, rushing onwards
higher, more furious and menacing than the former, struck him at the
height of his chest, threw him over and buried him beneath the water. At
the reflux, however, the duke and De Wardes were discovered lying on the
strand. De Wardes had fainted. At this moment four of the duke's
sailors, who comprehended the danger, threw themselves into the sea, and
in a moment were close beside him. Their terror was extreme when they
observed how their master became covered with blood, in proportion to the
water, with which it was impregnated, flowed towards his knees and feet;
they wished to carry him.

"No, no," exclaimed the duke, "take the marquis on shore first."

"Death to the Frenchman!" cried the English sullenly.

"Wretched knaves!" exclaimed the duke, drawing himself up with a haughty
gesture, which sprinkled them with blood, "obey directly! M. de Wardes
on shore! M. de Wardes's safety to be looked to first, or I will have
you all hanged!"

The boat had by this time reached them; the secretary and steward leaped
into the sea, and approached the marquis, who no longer showed any sign
of life.

"I commit him to your care, as you value your lives," said the duke.
"Take M. de Wardes on shore." They took him in their arms, and carried
him to the dry sand, where the tide never rose so high. A few idlers and
five or six fishermen had gathered on the shore, attracted by the strange
spectacle of two men fighting with the water up to their knees. The
fishermen, observing a group of men approaching carrying a wounded man,
entered the sea until the water was up to their waists. The English
transferred the wounded man to them, at the very moment the latter began
to open his eyes again. The salt water and the fine sand had got into
his wounds, and caused him the acutest pain. The duke's secretary drew
out a purse filled with gold from his pocket, and handed it to the one
among those present who appeared of most importance, saying: "From my
master, his Grace the Duke of Buckingham, in order that every possible
care may be taken of the Marquis de Wardes."

Then, followed by those who had accompanied him, he returned to the boat,
which Buckingham had been enabled to reach with the greatest difficulty,
but only after he had seen De Wardes out of danger. By this time it was
high tide; embroidered coats, and silk sashes were lost; many hats, too,
had been carried away by the waves. The flow of the tide had borne the
duke's and De Wardes's clothes to the shore, and De Wardes was wrapped in
the duke's doublet, under the belief that it was his own, when the
fishermen carried him in their arms towards the town.

Alexandre Dumas pere