AS Louis was speaking, the servant announced the Baron Giordano Martelli.
He was a young Corsican from Sartène. He had served in the 11th Regiment, in which his gallantry had secured him promotion at the age of twenty-three.
“Well,” he said, after having bowed to me, “so things have come to a crisis, and no doubt you will soon have a visit from the seconds of Monsieur de Chateau Renaud.”
“They have been here already.”
“I suppose they have left their names and addresses?”
“Here are their cards.”
“Well, your servant has just told me that breakfast is waiting. Suppose we sit down, and after breakfast we can return their visit.”
We entered the salle à manger, and put aside all business for the present.
During the meal Louis questioned me closely concerning my journey in Corsica, and I told him all the incidents with which the reader is acquainted. He made me repeat, over and over again, all that his mother and brother had said. He was quite touched, knowing the true Corsican instincts of Lucien, with the care he had to taken to reconcile the Orlandi and the Colona.
The clock struck twelve.
“I do not wish to hurry you, gentlemen,” said Louis, “but I think you should return the visit of those gentlemen. It will not do to put ourselves in the wrong.”
“Oh, you may be quite easy on that point,” I said, “we have plenty of time before us.”
“No matter,” said the Baron Giordano, “Louis is right.”
“Now,” said I, “we must know whether you prefer to fight with sword or pistol?”
“Ah,” he replied, “it is all the same to me; I know as little about one as the other. Besides, Monsieur de Chateau Renaud will save me all trouble in choosing; he looks upon himself, no doubt, as the offended party, and as such will retain the choice of weapons.”
“However, the offence is doubtful, you only offered your arm, as you were asked to do.”
“My opinion is,” said Louis, “that all discussion should tend towards a peaceable arrangement of this matter. My tastes are not warlike, as you know. Far from being a duellist, this is the first affair of the kind I have had, and just for this very reason I wish to come well out of it.”
“That is very easy to say, my friend, but you have to play for your life, and you leave to us and before your family the responsibility of the result.”
“Ah, as to that you may make your mind quite easy, I know my mother and brother well enough; they would only ask whether I had conducted myself as a brave man, and if you replied in the affirmative they would be satisfied.”
“But, hang it, we must know which arm you prefer.”
“Well, if they propose pistols, accept them at once.”
“That is my advice, also,” said the Baron.
“Very well, then, the pistol be it,” I replied, “since that is the advice of both of you, but the pistol is a horrible weapon.”
“Have I time to learn to fence between this and to-morrow?”
“No, unless, perhaps, you studied Grissier, and then you might learn enough to defend yourself.”
“Believe me,” said he, “that what will happen tomorrow is already written on high, and whatever we may do we cannot alter that.”
We then shook hands with him and went downstairs.
Our first visit was naturally to the nearer of the two gentlemen who had called on behalf of our adversary.
We, therefore, visited Monsieur René de Chateaugrand, who lived, as we have said, at 12, Rue de la Paix.
Any other visitors were forbidden while we were calling, and we were at once introduced to his presence.
We found Monsieur de Chateaugrand a perfect man of the world—he would not for one moment give us the trouble of calling upon Monsieur de Boissy—he sent his own servant for him.
While we were waiting his appearance, we spoke of everything but the subject which had brought us thither, and in about ten minutes Monsieur de Boissy arrived.
The two gentlemen did not advance any pretensions to the choice of arms, the sword or pistol was equally familiar to M. de Chateau Renaud. They were quite willing to leave the selection to M. de Franchi, or to toss up. A louis was thrown into the air, face for sword, reverse for pistols. The coin came down reverse.
So it was decided. The combat was arranged to take place next morning at nine o’clock, in the wood of Vincennes, where the adversaries would be placed at twenty paces, and after the third signal given by clapping the hands they were to fire.
We returned to convey this decision to Louis de Franchi.
On my return home the same evening, I found the cards of MM. de Chateaugrand and de Boissy.