WE left the ruins on the side opposite to that on which we had entered, Lucien going first.
As soon as we had got into the brushwood a pheasant once more loudly announced his presence.
He was about eighty paces from us, roosting in the branches of the chestnut tree, the approach to which was prevented on all sides by the undergrowth.
“I do not quite see how you are going to get him,” I said to Lucien; “it does not appear a very easy shot.”
“No,” he replied; “but if I could just see him, I would fire from here.”
“You do not mean to say that your gun will kill a pheasant at eighty yards?”
“Not with shot,” he replied; “it will with a bullet.”
“Ah! that is a different thing altogether. I did not know you were loaded with ball. You were right to undertake the shot.”
“Would you like to see the pheasant?” asked Orlandi.
“Yes,” said Lucien, “I confess that I should.”
“Wait a moment, then;” and Orlandi began to imitate the clucking of the hen pheasant.
Then, without our being able to see the bird, we perceived a movement in the leaves of the chestnut-tree. The pheasant was evidently mounting branch by branch as he replied to the call of the hen imitated by Orlandi.
At length he arrived at the end of a branch, and was quite visible in the moonlight.
Orlandi ceased, and the pheasant remained motionless.
At the same moment Lucien levelled his gun, and, with a quick aim, fired.
The pheasant fell like a stone.
“Fetch it!” said Lucien to Diamond.
The dog rushed into the brushwood, and soon returned with the bird, pierced by the bullet, in his mouth.
“That is a good shot,” I said. “I congratulate you upon it, particularly with a fowling-piece.”
“Oh,” said Lucien, “I do not deserve your praise, for one barrel is rifled, and carries a ball like a carbine.”
“Never mind, such a shot with a carbine deserves honourable mention.”
“Bah!” said Orlandi; “why, with a carbine, Monsieur Lucien could hit a five-franc piece at three hundred paces.”
“And can you shoot with a pistol as well as with a gun?”
“Yes,” said Lucien, “very nearly. At twenty-five paces I can always divide six balls out of twelve on the blade of a knife.”
I took off my hat and saluted the speaker, saying,
“Is your brother an equally good shot?”
“My brother?” he replied. “Poor Louis! he has never handled gun nor pistol in his life. My great fear is that he will get mixed up in some affair in Paris, and, brave as he undoubtedly is, he will be killed to sustain the honour of the country.”
Lucien, as he spoke, thrust the pheasant into the great pocket of his velveteen coat.
“Now,” he said, “my dear Orlandi, till to-morrow farewell.”
“Till to-morrow, Monsieur Lucien?”
“I count upon your punctuality. At ten o’clock your friends and relatives will be at the end of the street. On the opposite side Colona, with his friends, will be likewise present, and we shall be on the steps of the church.”
“That is agreed, Monsieur Lucien. Many thanks for your trouble; and to you, monsieur,” he added, turning to me, “I am obliged for the honour you have done me.”
After this exchange of compliments we separated, Orlandi disappearing in the brushwood, while we took our way back to the village.
As for Diamond, he was puzzled which to follow, and he stood looking right and left at the Orlandi and ourselves alternately. After hesitating for about five minutes, he did us the honour to accompany Lucien and me.
I must confess that while I had been scaling the ruined walls I had had my misgivings as to how I should descend, for the descent is usually more difficult, under such circumstances, than the ascent.
But I was glad to see that Lucien, apparently divining my thoughts, took another route home. This road, also, was advantageous in another respect, for it was not so rough, and conversation was easier.
At length, finding the path quite smooth, I continued my questions to my companion, in accordance with my usual custom, and said—
“Now peace is made, I suppose?”
“Yes, and as you see, it has not been concluded without some trouble. I have been obliged to represent all the advances as having been made by the Colona; for, you see, they have had five men killed, while the Orlandi have lost but four. The former consented to the arrangement yesterday, and the latter to-day. The upshot of it all is that the Colona have agreed to hand over a live hen to the Orlandi, a concession which will prove them in the wrong. This last consideration has settled the matter.”
“And to-morrow this touching reconciliation will be effected?”
“Yes, to-morrow, at ten o’clock. You are still unfortunate; you hoped to see a Vendetta?”
The young man smiled bitterly as he continued—“But this is a finer thing than a Vendetta! isn’t it? For four hundred years, in Corsica, they have been talking of nothing else. Now you will see a reconciliation. I assure you it is a much rarer sight than a Vendetta!”
I could not help laughing.
“There, you see, you are laughing at us,” he said. “And you are right, after all. We are really a very droll people.”
“No,” I replied, “I was laughing at another strange thing, and that is, to see that you are annoyed with yourself because you have succeeded so well in bringing about a reconciliation.”
“Ah!” he replied. “If you had understood what we said you would have admired my eloquence. But come back in ten years’ time, and you will find us all speaking French.”
“You would make a first-rate pleader.”
“No, no—I am a referee—an arbitrator. What the deuce do you expect? Must not an arbitrator reconcile opposing factions? They might nominate me the arbiter between Heaven and Hell, that I might teach them to be reconciled, although, in my own heart, I should feel that I was a fool for my pains.”
I perceived that this conversation was only irritating to my new acquaintance, so I let it drop, and as he did not attempt to resume it, we proceeded in silence, and did not speak again until we had reached his house.