CONTRARY to custom, the duel was very little talked about; even the papers were silent on the subject.
A few intimate friends followed the body to Père la Chaise. Chateau Renaud refused to quit Paris, although pressed to do so.
At one time I thought of following Louis’ letter to Corsica with one from myself, but although my intentions were good, the misleading statements I should have to make were so repugnant to me that I did not do so. Besides, I was quite convinced that Louis himself had fully weighed before he had decided upon his course of action.
So at the risk of being thought indifferent, or even ungrateful, I kept silence, and I was sure that the Baron Giordano had done as much.
Five days after the duel, at about eleven o’clock in the evening, I was seated by my table in a rather melancholy frame of mind, when my servant entered and shutting the door quickly behind him said, in an agitated whisper, that M. de Franchi desired to speak with me.
I looked at him steadily; he was quite pale.
“Whom did you say, Victor?” I asked.
“Oh, monsieur, in truth I hardly know myself.”
“What M. de Franchi wishes to speak to me?”
“Monsieur’s friend. The gentleman who was here two or three times.”
“You are mad, my good man. Do you not know that I had the misfortune to lose my friend five days ago?”
“Yes, sir; and that is the reason I am so upset. He rang, I was in the ante-chamber, and opened the door, but recoiled at his appearance. However, he entered, and asked if you were at home. I replied that you were, and then he said, ‘Go and announce M. de Franchi, who wishes to speak with your master,’ and so I came.”
“You are stupid, Victor, the ante-chamber is not properly lighted. You were asleep, no doubt, and did not hear correctly. Go, and ask the gentleman his name.”
“It would be useless, sir. I swear to you I am not deceived. I heard him, and saw him, distinctly.”
“Then go and show him in.”
Victor turned tremblingly to the door, opened it, and then standing still in the room, said—
“Will monsieur be kind enough to come in?”
I immediately heard the footsteps of my visitor crossing the ante-chamber, and sure enough, at the door there appeared M. de Franchi.
I confess that I was terrified, and took a step backwards as he approached.
“I trust you will excuse my appearance so late,” said my visitor; “I only arrived ten minutes ago, and you will understand that I could not wait till tomorrow without seeing you.”
“Oh, my dear Lucien,” I exclaimed, advancing quickly, and embracing him. “Then it is really you.” And, in spite of myself, tears really came into my eyes.
“Yes,” he said, “it is I.”
I made a calculation of the time that had elapsed, and could scarcely imagine that he had received the letter—it could hardly have reached Ajaccio yet.
“Good Heavens! then you do not know what has happened?” I exclaimed.
“I know all,” was his reply.
“Victor,” I said, turning towards my servant, who was still rather embarrassed, “leave us, and return in a quarter of an hour with some supper. You will have something to eat, and will sleep here of course.”
“With great pleasure,” he replied. “I have eaten nothing since we left Auxerre. Then, as to lodgings, as nobody knew me in the Rue de Helder, or rather,” he added, with a sad smile, “as everybody recognized me there, they declined to let me in, so I left the whole house in a state of alarm.”
“In fact, my dear Lucien, your resemblance to Louis is so very striking that even I myself was just now taken aback.”
“How,” exclaimed Victor, who had not yet ventured to leave us. “Is monsieur the brother——”
“Yes,” I replied, “go and get supper.”
Victor went out, and we found ourselves alone.
I took Lucien by the hand, and leading him to an easy chair seated myself near him.
“I suppose (I began) you were on your way to Paris when the fatal news met you?”
“No, I was at Sullacaro!”
“Impossible! Why your brother’s letter could not have reached you.”
“You forget the ballad of Burger, my dear Alexander—the dead travel fast!”
I shuddered! “I do not understand,” I said.
“Have you forgotten what I told you about the apparitions familiar to our family?”
“Do you mean to say that you have seen your dead brother?”—“Yes.”—“When?”
“On the night of the 16th inst.”
“And he told you everything?”—“All!”
“That he was dead?”
“He told me that he had been killed. The dead never lie!”
“And he said in what way?”
“In a duel.”
“By M. de Chateau Renaud.”
“Oh no, Lucien, that cannot be,” I exclaimed, “you have obtained your information in some other way.”
“Do you think I am likely to joke at such a time?”
“I beg your pardon. But truly what you tell me is so strange, and everything that relates to you and your brother so out of ordinary nature, that——”
“That you hesitate to believe it. Well, I can understand the feeling. But wait. My brother was hit here,” he continued, as he opened his shirt and showed me the blue mark of the bullet on his flesh, “he was wounded above the sixth rib on the right side—do you believe that?”
“As a matter of fact,” I replied, “that is the very spot where he was hit.”
“And the bullet went out here,” continued Lucien, putting his finger just above his left hip.
“It is miraculous,” I exclaimed.
“And now,” he went on, “do you wish me to tell you the time he died?”
“At ten minutes past nine.”
“That will do, Lucien;” I said, “but I lose myself in questions. Give me a connected narrative of the events. I should prefer it.”