LUCIEN’S appearance created quite a sensation in consequence of his remarkable likeness to his brother.
The news of Louis’ death had gone abroad—not, perhaps, in all its details, but it was known, and Lucien’s appearance astonished many.
I requested a private room, saying that we were expecting the Baron Giordano, and we got a room at the end.
Lucien began to read the papers carelessly, as if he were oblivious of everything.
While we were seated at breakfast Giordano arrived.
The two young men had not met for four or five years, nevertheless, a firm clasp of the hand was the only demonstration they permitted themselves.
“Well, everything is settled,” he said.
“Then M. de Chateau Renaud has accepted?”
“Yes, on condition, however, that after he has fought you he shall be left in peace.”
“Oh, he may be quite easy; I am the last of the de Franchi. Have you seen him, or his seconds?”
“I saw him; he will notify MM. de Boissy and de Chateaugrand. The weapons, the hour and the place will be the same.”
“Capital, sit down and have some breakfast.”
The Baron seated himself, and we spoke on indifferent topics.
After breakfast Lucien begged us to introduce him to the Commissioner of Police, who had sealed up his brother’s property, and to the proprietors of the house at which his brother had lived, for he wished to sleep that night, the last night that separated him from his vengeance, in Louis’ room.
All these arrangements took up time, so it was not till five o’clock that Lucien entered his brother’s apartment. Respecting his grief, we left him there alone.
We had arranged to meet him again next morning at eight o’clock, and he begged me to bring the same pistols, and to buy them if they were for sale.
I went to Devismes and purchased the weapons. Next morning, at eight o’clock I was with Lucien.
When I entered, he was seated writing at the same table, where his brother had sat writing. He smiled when he saw me, but he was very pale.
“Good morning,” he said, “I am writing to my mother.”
“I hope you will be able to write her a less doleful letter than poor Louis wrote eight days ago.”
“I have told her that she may rest happy, for her son is avenged.”
“How are you able to speak with such certainty?”
“Did not my brother announce to you his own approaching death? Well, then, I announce to you the death of M. de Chateau Renaud.”
He rose as he spoke, and touching me on the temple, said—
“There, that’s where I shall put my bullet.”
“I shall not be touched.”
“But, at least, wait for the issue of the duel, before you send your letter.”
“It would be perfectly useless.”
He rang, the servant appeared.
“Joseph,” said he, “take this letter to the post.”
“But have you seen your dead brother?”
“Yes,” he answered.
It is a very strange thing the occurrence of these two duels so close together, and in each of which one of the two combatants was doomed. While we were talking the Baron Giordano arrived. It was eight o’clock, so we started.
Lucien was very anxious to arrive first, so we were on the field ten minutes before the hour.
Our adversaries arrived at nine o’clock punctually. They came on horseback, followed by a groom also on horseback.
M. de Chateau Renaud had his hand in the breast of his coat. I at first thought he was carrying his arm in a sling.
The gentlemen dismounted twenty paces from us, and gave their bridles to the groom.
Monsieur de Chateau Renaud remained apart, but looked steadfastly at Lucien, and I thought he became paler. He turned aside and amused himself knocking off the little flowers with his riding whip.
“Well, gentlemen, here we are!” said MM. de Chateaugrand and de Boissy, “but you know our conditions. This duel is to be the last, and no matter what the issue may be, M. de Chateau Renaud shall not have to answer to any one for the double result.”
“That is understood,” we replied. Then Lucien bowed assent.
“You have the weapons, gentlemen?” said the Viscount.
“Here are the same pistols.”
“And they are unknown to M. de Franchi?”
“Less known to him than to M. de Chateau Renaud who has already used them once. M. de Franchi has not even seen them.”
“That is sufficient, gentlemen. Come, Chateau Renaud!”
We immediately entered the wood, and each one felt, as he revisited the fatal spot, that a tragedy more terrible still was about to be enacted.
We soon arrived in the little dell.
M. de Chateau Renaud, thanks to his great self-command, appeared quite calm, but those who had seen both encounters could appreciate the difference.
From time to time he glanced under his lids at Lucien, and his furtive looks denoted a disquietude approaching to fear.
Perhaps it was the great resemblance between the brothers that struck him, and he thought he saw in Lucien the avenging shade of Louis.
While they were loading the pistols I saw him draw his hand from the breast of his coat. The fingers were enveloped in a handkerchief as if to prevent their twitching.
Lucien waited calmly, like a man who was sure of his vengeance.
Without being told, Lucien walked to the place his brother had occupied, which compelled Chateau Renaud to take up his position as before.
Lucien received his weapon with a joyous smile.
When Chateau Renaud took his pistol he became deadly pale. Then he passed his hand between his cravat and his neck as if he were suffocating.
No one can conceive with what feelings of terror I regarded this young man, handsome, rich, and elegant, who but yesterday believed he had many years still before him, and who to-day, with the sweat on his brow and agony at his heart, felt he was condemned.
“Are you ready, gentlemen?” asked M. de Chateaugrand.
“Yes,” replied Lucien.
M. de Chateau Renaud made a sign in the affirmative.
As for me I was obliged to turn away, not daring to look upon the scene.
I heard the two successive clappings of the hands, and at the third the simultaneous reports of the pistols. I turned round.
Chateau Renaud was lying on the ground, stark dead; he had not uttered a sound nor made a movement.
I approached the body, impelled by that invincible curiosity which compels one to see the end of a catastrophe.
The bullet had entered the dead man’s temple, at the very spot that Lucien had indicated to me previously.
I ran to him, he was calm and motionless, but seeing me coming towards him he let fall the pistol, and threw himself into my arms.
“Ah, my brother, my poor brother!” he cried as he burst into a passion of sobs.
These were the first tears that the young man had shed.