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A Set of Six by Joseph Conrad

Part 4 out of 6

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but not against the injustice of society. Oh, no!
"'I must be free!' I cried, furiously.
"'Vive la liberté!" yells that ruffian Mafile. 'Mort
aux bourgeois
who send us to Cayenne! They shall
soon know that we are free.'
"The sky, the sea, the whole horizon, seemed to turn
red, blood red all round the boat. My temples were
beating so loud that I wondered they did not hear.
How is it that they did not? How is it they did not
understand?
"I heard Simon ask, 'Have we not pulled far enough
out now?'

"'Yes. Far enough,' I said. I was sorry for him;
it was the other I hated. He hauled in his oar with a
loud sigh, and as he was raising his hand to wipe his
forehead with the air of a man who has done his work, I
pulled the trigger of my revolver and shot him like this
off the knee, right through the heart.
"He tumbled down, with his head hanging over the
side of the boat. I did not give him a second glance.
The other cried out piercingly. Only one shriek of
horror. Then all was still.
"He slipped off the thwart on to his knees and raised
his clasped hands before his face in an attitude of suppli-
cation. 'Mercy,' he whispered, faintly. 'Mercy for
me! -- comrade.'
"'Ah, comrade,' I said, in a low tone. 'Yes, comrade,
of course. Well, then, shout Vive l'anarchie.'
"He flung up his arms, his face up to the sky and
his mouth wide open in a great yell of despair. 'Vive
l'anarchie! Vive
--'
"He collapsed all in a heap, with a bullet through
his head.
"I flung them both overboard. I threw away the

160 AN ANARCHIST

revolver, too. Then I sat down quietly. I was free at
last! At last. I did not even look towards the ship;
I did not care; indeed, I think I must have gone to
sleep, because all of a sudden there were shouts and I
found the ship almost on top of me. They hauled me
on board and secured the boat astern. They were all
blacks, except the captain, who was a mulatto. He
alone knew a few words of French. I could not find
out where they were going nor who they were. They
gave me something to eat every day; but I did not like
the way they used to discuss me in their language.
Perhaps they were deliberating about throwing me over-
board in order to keep possession of the boat. How do
I know? As we were passing this island I asked
whether it was inhabited. I understood from the
mulatto that there was a house on it. A farm, I
fancied, they meant. So I asked them to put me ashore
on the beach and keep the boat for their trouble. This,
I imagine, was just what they wanted. The rest you
know."
After pronouncing these words he lost suddenly all
control over himself. He paced to and fro rapidly, till
at last he broke into a run; his arms went like a windmill
and his ejaculations became very much like raving.
The burden of them was that he "denied nothing,
nothing!" I could only let him go on, and sat out of his
way, repeating, "Calmez vous, calmez vous," at intervals,
till his agitation exhausted itself.
I must confess, too, that I remained there long after
he had crawled under his mosquito-net. He had en-
treated me not to leave him; so, as one sits up with a
nervous child, I sat up with him -- in the name of
humanity -- till he fell asleep.
On the whole, my idea is that he was much more of
an anarchist than he confessed to me or to himself; and

AN ANARCHIST 161

that, the special features of his case apart, he was very
much like many other anarchists. Warm heart and
weak head -- that is the word of the riddle; and it is a
fact that the bitterest contradictions and the deadliest
conflicts of the world are carried on in every individual
breast capable of feeling and passion.
From personal inquiry I can vouch that the story of
the convict mutiny was in every particular as stated by
him.
When I got back to Horta from Cayenne and saw
the "Anarchist" again, he did not look well. He was
more worn, still more frail, and very livid indeed under
the grimy smudges of his calling. Evidently the meat
of the company's main herd (in its unconcentrated
form) did not agree with him at all.
It was on the pontoon in Horta that we met; and I
tried to induce him to leave the launch moored where
she was and follow me to Europe there and then. It
would have been delightful to think of the excellent
manager's surprise and disgust at the poor fellow's
escape. But he refused with unconquerable obstinacy.
"Surely you don't mean to live always here!" I
cried. He shook his head.
"I shall die here," he said. Then added moodily,
"Away from them."
Sometimes I think of him lying open-eyed on his
horseman's gear in the low shed full of tools and scraps
of iron -- the anarchist slave of the Marañon estate,
waiting with resignation for that sleep which "fled"
from him, as he used to say, in such an unaccountable
manner.

[page intentionally blank]

A MILITARY TALE

[page intentionally blank]

THE DUEL

I

NAPOLEON I., whose career had the quality of a
duel against the whole of Europe, disliked duelling
between the officers of his army. The great military
emperor was not a swashbuckler, and had little respect
for tradition.
Nevertheless, a story of duelling, which became a
legend in the army, runs through the epic of imperial
wars. To the surprise and admiration of their fellows,
two officers, like insane artists trying to gild refined gold
or paint the lily, pursued a private contest through the
years of universal carnage. They were officers of
cavalry, and their connection with the high-spirited but
fanciful animal which carries men into battle seems
particularly appropriate. It would be difficult to
imagine for heroes of this legend two officers of infantry
of the line, for example, whose fantasy is tamed by
much walking exercise, and whose valour necessarily
must be of a more plodding kind. As to gunners or
engineers, whose heads are kept cool on a diet of
mathematics, it is simply unthinkable.
The names of the two officers were Feraud and
D'Hubert, and they were both lieutenants in a regiment
of hussars, but not in the same regiment.
Feraud was doing regimental work, but Lieut.
D'Hubert had the good fortune to be attached to the
person of the general commanding the division, as

165

166 THE DUEL

officier d'ordonnance. It was in Strasbourg, and in this
agreeable and important garrison they were enjoying
greatly a short interval of peace. They were enjoying
it, though both intensely warlike, because it was a
sword-sharpening, firelock-cleaning peace, dear to a
military heart and undamaging to military prestige,
inasmuch that no one believed in its sincerity or
duration.
Under those historical circumstances, so favourable
to the proper appreciation of military leisure, Lieut.
D'Hubert, one fine afternoon, made his way along a
quiet street of a cheerful suburb towards Lieut. Feraud's
quarters, which were in a private house with a garden
at the back, belonging to an old maiden lady.
His knock at the door was answered instantly by a
young maid in Alsatian costume. Her fresh complexion
and her long eyelashes, lowered demurely at the sight
of the tall officer, caused Lieut. D'Hubert, who was
accessible to esthetic impressions, to relax the cold,
severe gravity of his face. At the same time he ob-
served that the girl had over her arm a pair of hussar's
breeches, blue with a red stripe.
"Lieut. Feraud in?" he inquired, benevolently.
"Oh, no, sir! He went out at six this morning."
The pretty maid tried to close the door. Lieut.
D'Hubert, opposing this move with gentle firmness,
stepped into the ante-room, jingling his spurs.
"Come, my dear! You don't mean to say he has
not been home since six o'clock this morning?"
Saying these words, Lieut. D'Hubert opened with-
out ceremony the door of a room so comfortably and
neatly ordered that only from internal evidence in the
shape of boots, uniforms, and military accoutrements
did he acquire the conviction that it was Lieut. Feraud's
room. And he saw also that Lieut. Feraud was not at

THE DUEL 167

home. The truthful maid had followed him, and raised
her candid eyes to his face.
"H'm!" said Lieut. D'Hubert, greatly disappointed,
for he had already visited all the haunts where a lieu-
tenant of hussars could be found of a fine afternoon.
"So he's out? And do you happen to know, my dear,
why he went out at six this morning?"
"No," she answered, readily. "He came home late
last night, and snored. I heard him when I got up at
five. Then he dressed himself in his oldest uniform and
went out. Service, I suppose."
"Service? Not a bit of it!" cried Lieut. D'Hubert.
"Learn, my angel, that he went out thus early to fight a
duel with a civilian."
She heard this news without a quiver of her dark
eyelashes. It was very obvious that the actions of
Lieut. Feraud were generally above criticism. She only
looked up for a moment in mute surprise, and Lieut.
D'Hubert concluded from this absence of emotion that
she must have seen Lieut. Feraud since the morning.
He looked around the room.
"Come!" he insisted, with confidential familiarity.
"He's perhaps somewhere in the house now?"
She shook her head.
"So much the worse for him!" continued Lieut.
D'Hubert, in a tone of anxious conviction. "But he
has been home this morning."
This time the pretty maid nodded slightly.
"He has!" cried Lieut. D'Hubert. "And went out
again? What for? Couldn't he keep quietly indoors!
What a lunatic! My dear girl --"
Lieut. D'Hubert's natural kindness of disposition
and strong sense of comradeship helped his powers of
observation. He changed his tone to a most insinuating
softness, and, gazing at the hussar's breeches hanging

168 THE DUEL

over the arm of the girl, he appealed to the interest she
took in Lieut. Feraud's comfort and happiness. He
was pressing and persuasive. He used his eyes, which
were kind and fine, with excellent effect. His anxiety
to get hold at once of Lieut. Feraud, for Lieut. Feraud's
own good, seemed so genuine that at last it overcame
the girl's unwillingness to speak. Unluckily she had
not much to tell. Lieut. Feraud had returned home
shortly before ten, had walked straight into his room,
and had thrown himself on his bed to resume his
slumbers. She had heard him snore rather louder than
before far into the afternoon. Then he got up, put on
his best uniform, and went out. That was all she knew.
She raised her eyes, and Lieut. D'Hubert stared into
them incredulously.
"It's incredible. Gone parading the town in his
best uniform! My dear child, don't you know he ran
that civilian through this morning? Clean through, as
you spit a hare."
The pretty maid heard the gruesome intelligence
without any signs of distress. But she pressed her lips
together thoughtfully.
"He isn't parading the town," she remarked in a low
tone. "Far from it."
"The civilian's family is making an awful row,"
continued Lieut. D'Hubert, pursuing his train of
thought. "And the general is very angry. It's one
of the best families in the town. Feraud ought to have
kept close at least --"
"What will the general do to him?" inquired the girl,
anxiously.
"He won't have his head cut off, to be sure," grum-
bled Lieut. D'Hubert. "His conduct is positively in-
decent. He's making no end of trouble for himself by
this sort of bravado."

THE DUEL 169

"But he isn't parading the town," the maid insisted
in a shy murmur.
"Why, yes! Now I think of it, I haven't seen him
anywhere about. What on earth has he done with
himself?"
"He's gone to pay a call," suggested the maid, after
a moment of silence.
Lieut. D'Hubert started.
"A call! Do you mean a call on a lady? The cheek
of the man! And how do you know this, my dear?"
Without concealing her woman's scorn for the dense-
ness of the masculine mind, the pretty maid reminded
him that Lieut. Feraud had arrayed himself in his best
uniform before going out. He had also put on his
newest dolman, she added, in a tone as if this conver-
sation were getting on her nerves, and turned away
brusquely.
Lieut. D'Hubert, without questioning the accuracy
of the deduction, did not see that it advanced him much
on his official quest. For his quest after Lieut. Feraud
had an official character. He did not know any of the
women this fellow, who had run a man through in the
morning, was likely to visit in the afternoon. The two
young men knew each other but slightly. He bit his
gloved finger in perplexity.
"Call!" he exclaimed. "Call on the devil!"
The girl, with her back to him, and folding the
hussars breeches on a chair, protested with a vexed
little laugh:
"Oh, dear, no! On Madame de Lionne."
Lieut. D'Hubert whistled softly. Madame de Lionne
was the wife of a high official who had a well-known
salon and some pretensions to sensibility and elegance.
The husband was a civilian, and old; but the society of
the salon was young and military. Lieut. D'Hubert

170 THE DUEL

had whistled, not because the idea of pursuing Lieut.
Feraud into that very salon was disagreeable to him, but
because, having arrived in Strasbourg only lately, he
had not had the time as yet to get an introduction to
Madame de Lionne. And what was that swashbuckler
Feraud doing there, he wondered. He did not seem the
sort of man who --
"Are you certain of what you say?" asked Lieut.
D'Hubert.
The girl was perfectly certain. Without turning
round to look at him, she explained that the coachman
of their next door neighbours knew the maître-d'hôtel
of Madame de Lionne. In this way she had her in-
formation. And she was perfectly certain. In giving
this assurance she sighed. Lieut. Feraud called there
nearly every afternoon, she added.
"Ah, bah!" exclaimed D'Hubert, ironically. His
opinion of Madame de Lionne went down several de-
grees. Lieut. Feraud did not seem to him specially
worthy of attention on the part of a woman with a repu-
tation for sensibility and elegance. But there was no
saying. At bottom they were all alike -- very practi-
cal rather than idealistic. Lieut. D'Hubert, however,
did not allow his mind to dwell on these considerations.
"By thunder!" he reflected aloud. "The general
goes there sometimes. If he happens to find the fellow
making eyes at the lady there will be the devil to pay!
Our general is not a very accommodating person, I can
tell you."
"Go quickly, then! Don't stand here now I've told
you where he is!" cried the girl, colouring to the eyes.
"Thanks, my dear! I don't know what I would
have done without you."
After manifesting his gratitude in an aggressive way,
which at first was repulsed violently, and then sub-

THE DUEL 171

mitted to with a sudden and still more repellent in-
difference, Lieut. D'Hubert took his departure.
He clanked and jingled along the streets with a
martial swagger. To run a comrade to earth in a
drawing-room where he was not known did not trouble
him in the least. A uniform is a passport. His
position as officier d'ordonnance of the general added
to his assurance. Moreover, now that he knew where
to find Lieut. Feraud, he had no option. It was a ser-
vice matter.
Madame de Lionne's house had an excellent appear-
ance. A man in livery, opening the door of a large
drawing-room with a waxed floor, shouted his name
and stood aside to let him pass. It was a reception day.
The ladies wore big hats surcharged with a profusion of
feathers; their bodies sheathed in clinging white gowns,
from the armpits to the tips of the low satin shoes,
looked sylph-like and cool in a great display of bare
necks and arms. The men who talked with them, on
the contrary, were arrayed heavily in multi-coloured
garments with collars up to their ears and thick sashes
round their waists. Lieut. D'Hubert made his un-
abashed way across the room and, bowing low before a
sylph-like form reclining on a couch, offered his
apologies for this intrusion, which nothing could excuse
but the extreme urgency of the service order he had to
communicate to his comrade Feraud. He proposed to
himself to return presently in a more regular manner
and beg forgiveness for interrupting the interesting
conversation . . .
A bare arm was extended towards him with gracious
nonchalance even before he had finished speaking. He
pressed the hand respectfully to his lips, and made the
mental remark that it was bony. Madame de Lionne
was a blonde, with too fine a skin and a long face.

172 THE DUEL

"C'est ça!" she said, with an ethereal smile, disclosing
a set of large teeth. "Come this evening to plead for
your forgiveness."
"I will not fail, madame."
Meantime, Lieut. Feraud, splendid in his new dolman
and the extremely polished boots of his calling, sat on a
chair within a foot of the couch, one hand resting on his
thigh, the other twirling his moustache to a point. At
a significant glance from D'Hubert he rose without
alacrity, and followed him into the recess of a window.
"What is it you want with me?" he asked, with
astonishing indifference. Lieut. D'Hubert could not
imagine that in the innocence of his heart and simplicity
of his conscience Lieut. Feraud took a view of his duel
in which neither remorse nor yet a rational apprehension
of consequences had any place. Though he had no
clear recollection how the quarrel had originated (it was
begun in an establishment where beer and wine are
drunk late at night), he had not the slightest doubt of
being himself the outraged party. He had had two
experienced friends for his seconds. Everything had
been done according to the rules governing that sort of
adventures. And a duel is obviously fought for the
purpose of someone being at least hurt, if not killed
outright. The civilian got hurt. That also was in
order. Lieut. Feraud was perfectly tranquil; but
Lieut. D'Hubert took it for affectation, and spoke with
a certain vivacity.
"I am directed by the general to give you the order
to go at once to your quarters, and remain there under
close arrest."
It was now the turn of Lieut. Feraud to be aston-
ished. "What the devil are you telling me there?" he
murmured, faintly, and fell into such profound wonder
that he could only follow mechanically the motions of

THE DUEL 173

Lieut. D'Hubert. The two officers, one tall, with an
interesting face and a moustache the colour of ripe corn,
the other, short and sturdy, with a hooked nose and a
thick crop of black curly hair, approached the mistress
of the house to take their leave. Madame de Lionne,
a woman of eclectic taste, smiled upon these armed
young men with impartial sensibility and an equal share
of interest. Madame de Lionne took her delight in the
infinite variety of the human species. All the other
eyes in the drawing-room followed the departing
officers; and when they had gone out one or two men,
who had already heard of the duel, imparted the in-
formation to the sylph-like ladies, who received it with
faint shrieks of humane concern.
Meantime, the two hussars walked side by side, Lieut.
Feraud trying to master the hidden reason of things
which in this instance eluded the grasp of his intellect,
Lieut. D'Hubert feeling annoyed at the part he had to
play, because the general's instructions were that he
should see personally that Lieut. Feraud carried out his
orders to the letter, and at once.
"The chief seems to know this animal," he thought,
eyeing his companion, whose round face, the round
eyes, and even the twisted-up jet black little moustache
seemed animated by a mental exasperation against the
incomprehensible. And aloud he observed rather re-
proachfully, "The general is in a devilish fury with you!"
Lieut. Feraud stopped short on the edge of the pave-
ment, and cried in accents of unmistakable sincerity,
"What on earth for?" The innocence of the fiery
Gascon soul was depicted in the manner in which he
seized his head in both hands as if to prevent it bursting
with perplexity.
"For the duel," said Lieut. D'Hubert, curtly. He
was annoyed greatly by this sort of perverse fooling.

174 THE DUEL

"The duel! The . . ."

Lieut. Feraud passed from one paroxysm of astonish-
ment into another. He dropped his hands and walked
on slowly, trying to reconcile this information with the
state of his own feelings. It was impossible. He burst
out indignantly, "Was I to let that sauerkraut-eating
civilian wipe his boots on the uniform of the 7th Hus-
sars?"
Lieut. D'Hubert could not remain altogether un-
moved by that simple sentiment. This little fellow was
a lunatic, he thought to himself, but there was some-
thing in what he said.
"Of course, I don't know how far you were justified,"
he began, soothingly. "And the general himself may
not be exactly informed. Those people have been
deafening him with their lamentations."
"Ah! the general is not exactly informed," mumbled
Lieut. Feraud, walking faster and faster as his choler at
the injustice of his fate began to rise. "He is not
exactly . . . And he orders me under close arrest,
with God knows what afterwards!"
"Don't excite yourself like this," remonstrated the
other. "Your adversary's people are very influential,
you know, and it looks bad enough on the face of it.
The general had to take notice of their complaint at
once. I don't think he means to be over-severe with
you. It's the best thing for you to be kept out of sight
for a while."
"I am very much obliged to the general," muttered
Lieut. Feraud through his teeth. "And perhaps you
would say I ought to be grateful to you, too, for the
trouble you have taken to hunt me up in the drawing-
room of a lady who --"
"Frankly," interrupted Lieut. D'Hubert, with an
innocent laugh, "I think you ought to be. I had no

THE DUEL 175

end of trouble to find out where you were. It wasn't
exactly the place for you to disport yourself in under
the circumstances. If the general had caught you
there making eyes at the goddess of the temple . . .
oh, my word! . . . He hates to be bothered with
complaints against his officers, you know. And it
looked uncommonly like sheer bravado."
The two officers had arrived now at the street door of
Lieut. Feraud's lodgings. The latter turned towards
his companion. "Lieut. D'Hubert," he said, "I have
something to say to you, which can't be said very well
in the street. You can't refuse to come up."
The pretty maid had opened the door. Lieut.
Feraud brushed past her brusquely, and she raised her
scared and questioning eyes to Lieut. D'Hubert, who
could do nothing but shrug his shoulders slightly as he
followed with marked reluctance.
In his room Lieut. Feraud unhooked the clasp, flung
his new dolman on the bed, and, folding his arms across
his chest, turned to the other hussar.
"Do you imagine I am a man to submit tamely to
injustice?" he inquired, in a boisterous voice.
"Oh, do be reasonable!" remonstrated Lieut. D'Hu-
bert.
"I am reasonable! I am perfectly reasonable!"
retorted the other with ominous restraint. "I can't
call the general to account for his behaviour, but you are
going to answer me for yours."
"I can't listen to this nonsense," murmured Lieut.
D'Hubert, making a slightly contemptuous grimace.
"You call this nonsense? It seems to me a per-
fectly plain statement. Unless you don't understand
French."
"What on earth do you mean?"
"I mean," screamed suddenly Lieut. Feraud, "to cut

176 THE DUEL

off your ears to teach you to disturb me with the
general's orders when I am talking to a lady!"
A profound silence followed this mad declaration;
and through the open window Lieut. D'Hubert heard
the little birds singing sanely in the garden. He said,
preserving his calm, "Why! If you take that tone, of
course I shall hold myself at your disposition whenever
you are at liberty to attend to this affair; but I don't
think you will cut my ears off."
"I am going to attend to it at once," declared Lieut.
Feraud, with extreme truculence. "If you are thinking
of displaying your airs and graces to-night in Madame
de Lionne's salon you are very much mistaken."
"Really!" said Lieut. D'Hubert, who was beginning
to feel irritated, "you are an impracticable sort of
fellow. The general's orders to me were to put you
under arrest, not to carve you into small pieces. Good-
morning!" And turning his back on the little Gascon,
who, always sober in his potations, was as though born
intoxicated with the sunshine of his vine-ripening coun-
try, the Northman, who could drink hard on occasion,
but was born sober under the watery skies of Picardy,
made for the door. Hearing, however, the unmistak-
able sound behind his back of a sword drawn from the
scabbard, he had no option but to stop.
"Devil take this mad Southerner!" he thought, spin-
ning round and surveying with composure the warlike
posture of Lieut. Feraud, with a bare sword in his hand.
"At once! -- at once!" stuttered Feraud, beside himself.
"You had my answer," said the other, keeping his
temper very well.
At first he had been only vexed, and somewhat
amused; but now his face got clouded. He was asking
himself seriously how he could manage to get away.
It was impossible to run from a man with a sword, and

THE DUEL 177

as to fighting him, it seemed completely out of the
question. He waited awhile, then said exactly what
was in his heart.
"Drop this! I won't fight with you. I won't be
made ridiculous."
"Ah, you won't?" hissed the Gascon. "I suppose
you prefer to be made infamous. Do you hear what I
say? . . . Infamous! Infamous! Infamous!" he
shrieked, rising and falling on his toes and getting very
red in the face.
Lieut. D'Hubert, on the contrary, became very pale at
the sound of the unsavoury word for a moment, then
flushed pink to the roots of his fair hair. "But you
can't go out to fight; you are under arrest, you lunatic!"
he objected, with angry scorn.
"There's the garden: it's big enough to lay out your
long carcass in," spluttered the other with such ardour
that somehow the anger of the cooler man subsided.
"This is perfectly absurd," he said, glad enough to
think he had found a way out of it for the moment.
"We shall never get any of our comrades to serve as
seconds. It's preposterous."
"Seconds! Damn the seconds! We don't want
any seconds. Don't you worry about any seconds. I
shall send word to your friends to come and bury you
when I am done. And if you want any witnesses,
I'll send word to the old girl to put her head out of
a window at the back. Stay! There's the gardener.
He'll do. He's as deaf as a post, but he has two eyes
in his head. Come along! I will teach you, my staff
officer, that the carrying about of a general's orders is
not always child's play."
While thus discoursing he had unbuckled his empty
scabbard. He sent it flying under the bed, and, lower-
ing the point of the sword, brushed past the perplexed

178 THE DUEL

Lieut. D'Hubert, exclaiming, "Follow me!" Directly
he had flung open the door a faint shriek was heard and
the pretty maid, who had been listening at the keyhole,
staggered away, putting the backs of her hands over her
eyes. Feraud did not seem to see her, but she ran after
him and seized his left arm. He shook her off, and
then she rushed towards Lieut. D'Hubert and clawed
at the sleeve of his uniform.
"Wretched man!" she sobbed. "Is this what you
wanted to find him for?"
"Let me go," entreated Lieut. D'Hubert, trying to
disengage himself gently. "It's like being in a mad-
house," he protested, with exasperation. "Do let me
go! I won't do him any harm."
A fiendish laugh from Lieut. Feraud commented that
assurance. "Come along!" he shouted, with a stamp of
his foot.
And Lieut. D'Hubert did follow. He could do noth-
ing else. Yet in vindication of his sanity it must be
recorded that as he passed through the ante-room the
notion of opening the street door and bolting out pre-
sented itself to this brave youth, only of course to be
instantly dismissed, for he felt sure that the other would
pursue him without shame or compunction. And the
prospect of an officer of hussars being chased along the
street by another officer of hussars with a naked sword
could not be for a moment entertained. Therefore
he followed into the garden. Behind them the girl
tottered out, too. With ashy lips and wild, scared
eyes, she surrendered herself to a dreadful curiosity.
She had also the notion of rushing if need be between
Lieut. Feraud and death.
The deaf gardener, utterly unconscious of approach-
ing footsteps, went on watering his flowers till Lieut.
Feraud thumped him on the back. Beholding suddenly

THE DUEL 179

an enraged man flourishing a big sabre, the old chap
trembling in all his limbs dropped the watering-pot. At
once Lieut. Feraud kicked it away with great animosity,
and, seizing the gardener by the throat, backed him
against a tree. He held him there, shouting in his ear,
"Stay here, and look on! You understand? You've
got to look on! Don't dare budge from the spot!"
Lieut. D'Hubert came slowly down the walk, un-
clasping his dolman with unconcealed disgust. Even
then, with his hand already on the hilt of his sword, he
hesitated to draw till a roar, "En garde, fichtre! What
do you think you came here for?" and the rush of his
adversary forced him to put himself as quickly as pos-
sible in a posture of defence.
The clash of arms filled that prim garden, which
hitherto had known no more warlike sound than the
click of clipping shears; and presently the upper part of
an old lady's body was projected out of a window up-
stairs. She tossed her arms above her white cap,
scolding in a cracked voice. The gardener remained
glued to the tree, his toothless mouth open in idiotic
astonishment, and a little farther up the path the pretty
girl, as if spellbound to a small grass plot, ran a few
steps this way and that, wringing her hands and mutter-
ing crazily. She did not rush between the combatants:
the onslaughts of Lieut. Feraud were so fierce that her
heart failed her. Lieut. D'Hubert, his faculties concen-
trated upon defence, needed all his skill and science of
the sword to stop the rushes of his adversary. Twice
already he had to break ground. It bothered him to
feel his foothold made insecure by the round, dry gravel
of the path rolling under the hard soles of his boots.
This was most unsuitable ground, he thought, keeping
a watchful, narrowed gaze, shaded by long eyelashes,
upon the fiery stare of his thick-set adversary. This

180 THE DUEL

absurd affair would ruin his reputation of a sensible,
well-behaved, promising young officer. It would
damage, at any rate, his immediate prospects, and lose
him the good-will of his general. These worldly pre-
occupations were no doubt misplaced in view of the
solemnity of the moment. A duel, whether regarded as
a ceremony in the cult of honour, or even when reduced
in its moral essence to a form of manly sport, demands a
perfect singleness of intention, a homicidal austerity of
mood. On the other hand, this vivid concern for his
future had not a bad effect inasmuch as it began to
rouse the anger of Lieut. D'Hubert. Some seventy
seconds had elapsed since they had crossed blades, and
Lieut. D'Hubert had to break ground again in order to
avoid impaling his reckless adversary like a beetle for a
cabinet of specimens. The result was that misappre-
hending the motive, Lieut. Feraud with a triumphant
sort of snarl pressed his attack.
"This enraged animal will have me against the wall
directly," thought Lieut. D'Hubert. He imagined him-
self much closer to the house than he was, and he dared
not turn his head; it seemed to him that he was keeping
his adversary off with his eyes rather more than with his
point. Lieut. Feraud crouched and bounded with a
fierce tigerish agility fit to trouble the stoutest heart.
But what was more appalling than the fury of a wild
beast, accomplishing in all innocence of heart a natural
function, was the fixity of savage purpose man alone is
capable of displaying. Lieut. D 'Hubert in the midst of
his worldly preoccupations perceived it at last. It was
an absurd and damaging affair to be drawn into, but
whatever silly intention the fellow had started with, it
was clear enough that by this time he meant to kill --
nothing less. He meant it with an intensity of will
utterly beyond the inferior faculties of a tiger.

THE DUEL 181

As is the case with constitutionally brave men, the
full view of the danger interested Lieut. D'Hubert.
And directly he got properly interested, the length of his
arm and the coolness of his head told in his favour. It
was the turn of Lieut. Feraud to recoil, with a blood-
curdling grunt of baffled rage. He made a swift feint,
and then rushed straight forward.
"Ah! you would, would you?" Lieut. D'Hubert
exclaimed, mentally. The combat had lasted nearly
two minutes, time enough for any man to get em-
bittered, apart from the merits of the quarrel. And
all at once it was over. Trying to close breast to breast
under his adversary's guard Lieut. Feraud received a
slash on his shortened arm. He did not feel it in the
least, but it checked his rush, and his feet slipping on
the gravel he fell backwards with great violence. The
shock jarred his boiling brain into the perfect quietude
of insensibility. Simultaneously with his fall the pretty
servant-girl shrieked; but the old maiden lady at the
window ceased her scolding, and began to cross her-
self piously.
Beholding his adversary stretched out perfectly still,
his face to the sky, Lieut. D'Hubert thought he had
killed him outright. The impression of having slashed
hard enough to cut his man clean in two abode with
him for a while in an exaggerated memory of the right
good-will he had put into the blow. He dropped on
his knees hastily by the side of the prostrate body.
Discovering that not even the arm was severed, a
slight sense of disappointment mingled with the feeling
of relief. The fellow deserved the worst. But truly he
did not want the death of that sinner. The affair was
ugly enough as it stood, and Lieut. D'Hubert addressed
himself at once to the task of stopping the bleeding. In
this task it was his fate to be ridiculously impeded by

182 THE DUEL

the pretty maid. Rending the air with screams of
horror, she attacked him from behind and, twining her
fingers in his hair, tugged back at his head. Why she
should choose to hinder him at this precise moment
he could not in the least understand. He did not try.
It was all like a very wicked and harassing dream.
Twice to save himself from being pulled over he had to
rise and fling her off. He did this stoically, without a
word, kneeling down again at once to go on with his
work. But the third time, his work being done, he
seized her and held her arms pinned to her body. Her
cap was half off, her face was red, her eyes blazed with
crazy boldness. He looked mildly into them while she
called him a wretch, a traitor, and a murderer many
times in succession. This did not annoy him so much as
the conviction that she had managed to scratch his face
abundantly. Ridicule would be added to the scandal of
the story. He imagined the adorned tale making its
way through the garrison of the town, through the whole
army on the frontier, with every possible distortion of
motive and sentiment and circumstance, spreading a
doubt upon the sanity of his conduct and the distinction
of his taste even to the very ears of his honourable
family. It was all very well for that fellow Feraud, who
had no connections, no family to speak of, and no
quality but courage, which, anyhow, was a matter of
course, and possessed by every single trooper in the
whole mass of French cavalry. Still holding down the
arms of the girl in a strong grip, Lieut. D'Hubert
glanced over his shoulder. Lieut. Feraud had opened
his eyes. He did not move. Like a man just waking
from a deep sleep he stared without any expression at
the evening sky.
Lieut. D'Hubert's urgent shouts to the old gardener
produced no effect -- not so much as to make him shut

THE DUEL 183

his toothless mouth. Then he remembered that the
man was stone deaf. All that time the girl struggled,
not with maidenly coyness, but like a pretty, dumb fury,
kicking his shins now and then. He continued to hold
her as if in a vice, his instinct telling him that were he
to let her go she would fly at his eyes. But he was
greatly humiliated by his position. At last she gave up.
She was more exhausted than appeased, he feared.
Nevertheless, he attempted to get out of this wicked
dream by way of negotiation.
"Listen to me," he said, as calmly as he could.
"Will you promise to run for a surgeon if I let you go?"
With real affliction he heard her declare that she
would do nothing of the kind. On the contrary, her
sobbed out intention was to remain in the garden, and
fight tooth and nail for the protection of the vanquished
man. This was shocking.
"My dear child!" he cried in despair, "is it possible
that you think me capable of murdering a wounded
adversary? Is it. . . . Be quiet, you little wild
cat, you!"
They struggled. A thick, drowsy voice said behind
him, "What are you after with that girl?"
Lieut. Feraud had raised himself on his good arm.
He was looking sleepily at his other arm, at the mess of
blood on his uniform, at a small red pool on the ground,
at his sabre lying a foot away on the path. Then he
laid himself down gently again to think it all out, as
far as a thundering headache would permit of mental
operations.
Lieut. D'Hubert released the girl who crouched at
once by the side of the other lieutenant. The shades
of night were falling on the little trim garden with this
touching group, whence proceeded low murmurs of
sorrow and compassion, with other feeble sounds of a

184 THE DUEL

different character, as if an imperfectly awake invalid
were trying to swear. Lieut. D'Hubert went away.
He passed through the silent house, and congratu-
lated himself upon the dusk concealing his gory hands
and scratched face from the passers-by. But this story
could by no means be concealed. He dreaded the
discredit and ridicule above everything, and was pain-
fully aware of sneaking through the back streets in
the manner of a murderer. Presently the sounds of
a flute coming out of the open window of a lighted
upstairs room in a modest house interrupted his dismal
reflections. It was being played with a persevering
virtuosity, and through the fioritures of the tune one
could hear the regular thumping of the foot beating
time on the floor.
Lieut. D'Hubert shouted a name, which was that of
an army surgeon whom he knew fairly well. The
sounds of the flute ceased, and the musician appeared at
the window, his instrument still in his hand, peering into
the street.
"Who calls? You, D'Hubert? What brings you
this way?"
He did not like to be disturbed at the hour when he
was playing the flute. He was a man whose hair had
turned grey already in the thankless task of tying up
wounds on battlefields where others reaped advance-
ment and glory.
"I want you to go at once and see Feraud. You
know Lieut. Feraud? He lives down the second street.
It's but a step from here."
"What's the matter with him?"
"Wounded."
"Are you sure?"
"Sure!" cried D'Hubert. "I come from there."
"That's amusing," said the elderly surgeon. Amus-

THE DUEL 185

ing was his favourite word; but the expression of his
face when he pronounced it never corresponded. He
was a stolid man. "Come in," he added. "I'll get
ready in a moment."
"Thanks! I will. I want to wash my hands in
your room."
Lieut. D'Hubert found the surgeon occupied in un-
screwing his flute, and packing the pieces methodically
in a case. He turned his head.
"Water there -- in the corner. Your hands do want
washing."
"I've stopped the bleeding," said Lieut. D'Hubert.
"But you had better make haste. It's rather more
than ten minutes ago, you know."
The surgeon did not hurry his movements.
"What's the matter? Dressing came off? That's
amusing. I've been at work in the hospital all day
but I've been told this morning by somebody that he
had come off without a scratch."
"Not the same duel probably," growled moodily
Lieut. D'Hubert, wiping his hands on a coarse towel.
"Not the same. . . . What? Another. It
would take the very devil to make me go out twice in
one day." The surgeon looked narrowly at Lieut.
D'Hubert. "How did you come by that scratched
face? Both sides, too -- and symmetrical. It's amus-
ing."
"Very!" snarled Lieut. D'Hubert. "And you will
find his slashed arm amusing, too. It will keep both of
you amused for quite a long time."
The doctor was mystified and impressed by the
brusque bitterness of Lieut. D'Hubert's tone. They
left the house together, and in the street he was still
more mystified by his conduct.
"Aren't you coming with me?" he asked.

186 THE DUEL

"No," said Lieut. D'Hubert. "You can find the
house by yourself. The front door will be standing
open very likely."
"All right. Where's his room?"
"Ground floor. But you had better go right through
and look in the garden first."
This astonishing piece of information made the
surgeon go off without further parley. Lieut. D'Hu-
bert regained his quarters nursing a hot and uneasy
indignation. He dreaded the chaff of his comrades al-
most as much as the anger of his superiors. The truth
was confoundedly grotesque and embarrassing, even
putting aside the irregularity of the combat itself, which
made it come abominably near a criminal offence. Like
all men without much imagination, a faculty which
helps the process of reflective thought, Lieut. D'Hubert
became frightfully harassed by the obvious aspects of
his predicament. He was certainly glad that he had not
killed Lieut. Feraud outside all rules, and without the
regular witnesses proper to such a transaction. Un-
commonly glad. At the same time he felt as though he
would have liked to wring his neck for him without
ceremony.
He was still under the sway of these contradictory
sentiments when the surgeon amateur of the flute came
to see him. More than three days had elapsed. Lieut.
D'Hubert was no longer officier d'ordonnance to the
general commanding the division. He had been sent
back to his regiment. And he was resuming his con-
nection with the soldiers' military family by being shut
up in close confinement, not at his own quarters in town,
but in a room in the barracks. Owing to the gravity of
the incident, he was forbidden to see any one. He
did not know what had happened, what was being
said, or what was being thought. The arrival of the

THE DUEL 187

surgeon was a most unexpected thing to the worried
captive. The amateur of the flute began by explaining
that he was there only by a special favour of the colonel.
"I represented to him that it would be only fair to let
you have some authentic news of your adversary," he
continued. "You'll be glad to hear he's getting better
fast."
Lieut. D'Hubert's face exhibited no conventional
signs of gladness. He continued to walk the floor of
the dusty bare room.
"Take this chair, doctor," he mumbled.
The doctor sat down.
"This affair is variously appreciated -- in town and in
the army. In fact, the diversity of opinions is amus-
ing."
"Is it!" mumbled Lieut. D'Hubert, tramping steadily
from wall to wall. But within himself he marvelled
that there could be two opinions on the matter. The
surgeon continued.
"Of course, as the real facts are not known --"
"I should have thought," interrupted D'Hubert, "that
the fellow would have put you in possession of facts."
"He said something," admitted the other, "the first
time I saw him. And, by the by, I did find him in the
garden. The thump on the back of his head had made
him a little incoherent then. Afterwards he was rather
reticent than otherwise."
"Didn't think he would have the grace to be
ashamed!" mumbled D'Hubert, resuming his pacing
while the doctor murmured, "It's very amusing.
Ashamed! Shame was not exactly his frame of mind.
However, you may look at the matter otherwise."
"What are you talking about? What matter?"
asked D'Hubert, with a sidelong look at the heavy-
faced, grey-haired figure seated on a wooden chair.

188 THE DUEL

"Whatever it is," said the surgeon a little im-
patiently, "I don't want to pronounce any opinion on
your conduct --"
"By heavens, you had better not!" burst out D'Hu-
bert.
"There! -- there! Don't be so quick in flourishing
the sword. It doesn't pay in the long run. Under-
stand once for all that I would not carve any of you
youngsters except with the tools of my trade. But my
advice is good. If you go on like this you will make for
yourself an ugly reputation."
"Go on like what?" demanded Lieut. D'Hubert,
stopping short, quite startled. "I! -- I! -- make for my-
self a reputation. . . . What do you imagine?"
"I told you I don't wish to judge of the rights and
wrongs of this incident. It's not my business. Never-
theless --"
"What on earth has he been telling you?" interrupted
Lieut. D'Hubert, in a sort of awed scare.
"I told you already, that at first, when I picked him
up in the garden, he was incoherent. Afterwards he
was naturally reticent. But I gather at least that he
could not help himself."
"He couldn't?" shouted Lieut. D'Hubert in a great
voice. Then, lowering his tone impressively, "And
what about me? Could I help myself?"
The surgeon stood up. His thoughts were running
upon the flute, his constant companion with a consoling
voice. In the vicinity of field ambulances, after twenty-
four hours' hard work, he had been known to trouble
with its sweet sounds the horrible stillness of battle-
fields, given over to silence and the dead. The solacing
hour of his daily life was approaching, and in peace time
he held on to the minutes as a miser to his hoard.
"Of course! -- of course!" he said, perfunctorily.

THE DUEL 189

"You would think so. It's amusing. However, being
perfectly neutral and friendly to you both, I have con-
sented to deliver his message to you. Say that I am
humouring an invalid if you like. He wants you to
know that this affair is by no means at an end. He
intends to send you his seconds directly he has regained
his strength -- providing, of course, the army is not in
the field at that time."
"He intends, does he? Why, certainly," spluttered
Lieut. D'Hubert in a passion.
The secret of his exasperation was not apparent to
the visitor; but this passion confirmed the surgeon in
the belief which was gaining ground outside that some
very serious difference had arisen between these two
young men, something serious enough to wear an air of
mystery, some fact of the utmost gravity. To settle
their urgent difference about that fact, those two young
men had risked being broken and disgraced at the out-
set almost of their career. The surgeon feared that the
forthcoming inquiry would fail to satisfy the public
curiosity. They would not take the public into their
confidence as to that something which had passed
between them of a nature so outrageous as to make
them face a charge of murder -- neither more nor less.
But what could it be?
The surgeon was not very curious by temperament;
but that question haunting his mind caused him twice
that evening to hold the instrument off his lips and
sit silent for a whole minute -- right in the middle of a
tune -- trying to form a plausible conjecture.

II

He succeeded in this object no better than the rest
of the garrison and the whole of society. The two

190 THE DUEL

young officers, of no especial consequence till then, be-
came distinguished by the universal curiosity as to the
origin of their quarrel. Madame de Lionne's salon was
the centre of ingenious surmises; that lady herself was
for a time assailed by inquiries as being the last person
known to have spoken to these unhappy and reckless
young men before they went out together from her
house to a savage encounter with swords, at dusk, in a
private garden. She protested she had not observed
anything unusual in their demeanour. Lieut. Feraud
had been visibly annoyed at being called away. That
was natural enough; no man likes to be disturbed in a
conversation with a lady famed for her elegance and
sensibility. But in truth the subject bored Madame
de Lionne, since her personality could by no stretch of
reckless gossip be connected with this affair. And it
irritated her to hear it advanced that there might have
been some woman in the case. This irritation arose,
not from her elegance or sensibility, but from a more
instinctive side of her nature. It became so great at
last that she peremptorily forbade the subject to be
mentioned under her roof. Near her couch the pro-
hibition was obeyed, but farther off in the salon the pall
of the imposed silence continued to be lifted more or
less. A personage with a long, pale face, resembling
the countenance of a sheep, opined, shaking his head,
that it was a quarrel of long standing envenomed by
time. It was objected to him that the men themselves
were too young for such a theory. They belonged also
to different and distant parts of France. There were
other physical impossibilities, too. A sub-commissary
of the Intendence, an agreeable and cultivated bachelor
in kerseymere breeches, Hessian boots, and a blue coat
embroidered with silver lace, who affected to believe in
the transmigration of souls, suggested that the two had

THE DUEL 191

met perhaps in some previous existence. The feud was
in the forgotten past. It might have been something
quite inconceivable in the present state of their being;
but their souls remembered the animosity, and mani-
fested an instinctive antagonism. He developed this
theme jocularly. Yet the affair was so absurd from the
worldly, the military, the honourable, or the prudential
point of view, that this weird explanation seemed
rather more reasonable than any other.
The two officers had confided nothing definite to
any one. Humiliation at having been worsted arms
in hand, and an uneasy feeling of having been involved
in a scrape by the injustice of fate, kept Lieut. Feraud
savagely dumb. He mistrusted the sympathy of man-
kind. That would, of course, go to that dandified
staff officer. Lying in bed, he raved aloud to the pretty
maid who administered to his needs with devotion, and
listened to his horrible imprecations with alarm. That
Lieut. D'Hubert should be made to "pay for it," seemed
to her just and natural. Her principal care was that
Lieut. Feraud should not excite himself. He appeared
so wholly admirable and fascinating to the humility of
her heart that her only concern was to see him get well
quickly, even if it were only to resume his visits to
Madame de Lionne's salon.
Lieut. D'Hubert kept silent for the immediate reason
that there was no one, except a stupid young soldier
servant, to speak to. Further, he was aware that the
episode, so grave professionally, had its comic side.
When reflecting upon it, he still felt that he would like
to wring Lieut. Feraud's neck for him. But this formula
was figurative rather than precise, and expressed more
a state of mind than an actual physical impulse. At
the same time, there was in that young man a feeling of
comradeship and kindness which made him unwilling to

192 THE DUEL

make the position of Lieut. Feraud worse than it was.
He did not want to talk at large about this wretched
affair. At the inquiry he would have, of course, to speak
the truth in self-defence. This prospect vexed him.
But no inquiry took place. The army took the field
instead. Lieut. D'Hubert, liberated without remark,
took up his regimental duties; and Lieut. Feraud, his
arm just out of the sling, rode unquestioned with his
squadron to complete his convalescence in the smoke of
battlefields and the fresh air of night bivouacs. This
bracing treatment suited him so well, that at the first
rumour of an armistice being signed he could turn with-
out misgivings to the thoughts of his private warfare.
This time it was to be regular warfare. He sent
two friends to Lieut. D'Hubert, whose regiment was
stationed only a few miles away. Those friends had
asked no questions of their principal. "I owe him one,
that pretty staff officer," he had said, grimly, and they
went away quite contentedly on their mission. Lieut.
D'Hubert had no difficulty in finding two friends
equally discreet and devoted to their principal.
"There's a crazy fellow to whom I must give a lesson,"
he had declared curtly; and they asked for no better
reasons.
On these grounds an encounter with duelling-swords
was arranged one early morning in a convenient field.
At the third set-to Lieut. D'Hubert found himself lying
on his back on the dewy grass with a hole in his side.
A serene sun rising over a landscape of meadows and
woods hung on his left. A surgeon -- not the flute
player, but another -- was bending over him, feeling
around the wound.
"Narrow squeak. But it will be nothing," he pro-
nounced.
Lieut. D'Hubert heard these words with pleasure.

THE DUEL 193

One of his seconds, sitting on the wet grass, and sus-
taining his head on his lap, said, "The fortune of war,
mon pauvre vieux. What will you have? You had better
make it up like two good fellows. Do!"
"You don't know what you ask," murmured Lieut.
D'Hubert, in a feeble voice. "However, if he . . ."
In another part of the meadow the seconds of Lieut.
Feraud were urging him to go over and shake hands
with his adversary.
"You have paid him off now -- que diable. It's the
proper thing to do. This D'Hubert is a decent fellow."
"I know the decency of these generals' pets,"
muttered Lieut. Feraud through his teeth, and the
sombre expression of his face discouraged further
efforts at reconciliation. The seconds, bowing from a
distance, took their men off the field. In the afternoon
Lieut. D'Hubert, very popular as a good comrade
uniting great bravery with a frank and equable temper,
had many visitors. It was remarked that Lieut.
Feraud did not, as is customary, show himself much
abroad to receive the felicitations of his friends. They
would not have failed him, because he, too, was liked for
the exuberance of his southern nature and the sim-
plicity of his character. In all the places where officers
were in the habit of assembling at the end of the day the
duel of the morning was talked over from every point
of view. Though Lieut. D'Hubert had got worsted
this time, his sword play was commended. No one
could deny that it was very close, very scientific. It
was even whispered that if he got touched it was be-
cause he wished to spare his adversary. But by many
the vigour and dash of Lieut. Feraud's attack were pro-
nounced irresistible.
The merits of the two officers as combatants were
frankly discussed; but their attitude to each other after

194 THE DUEL

the duel was criticised lightly and with caution. It
was irreconcilable, and that was to be regretted. But
after all they knew best what the care of their honour
dictated. It was not a matter for their comrades
to pry into over-much. As to the origin of the quarrel,
the general impression was that it dated from the time
they were holding garrison in Strasbourg. The musical
surgeon shook his head at that. It went much farther
back, he thought.
"Why, of course! You must know the whole story,"
cried several voices, eager with curiosity. "What
was it?"
He raised his eyes from his glass deliberately. "Even
if I knew ever so well, you can't expect me to tell you,
since both the principals choose to say nothing."
He got up and went out, leaving the sense of mystery
behind him. He could not stay any longer, because the
witching hour of flute-playing was drawing near.
After he had gone a very young officer observed
solemnly, "Obviously, his lips are sealed!"
Nobody questioned the high correctness of that
remark. Somehow it added to the impressiveness of
the affair. Several older officers of both regiments,
prompted by nothing but sheer kindness and love of
harmony, proposed to form a Court of Honour, to
which the two young men would leave the task of their
reconciliation. Unfortunately they began by approach-
ing Lieut. Feraud, on the assumption that, having just
scored heavily, he would be found placable and disposed
to moderation.
The reasoning was sound enough. Nevertheless, the
move turned out unfortunate. In that relaxation of
moral fibre, which is brought about by the ease of
soothed vanity, Lieut. Feraud had condescended in the
secret of his heart to review the case, and even had come

THE DUEL 195

to doubt not the justice of his cause, but the absolute
sagacity of his conduct. This being so, he was dis-
inclined to talk about it. The suggestion of the regi-
mental wise men put him in a difficult position. He
was disgusted at it, and this disgust, by a paradoxical
logic, reawakened his animosity against Lieut. D'Hu-
bert. Was he to be pestered with this fellow for ever --
the fellow who had an infernal knack of getting round
people somehow? And yet it was difficult to refuse
point blank that mediation sanctioned by the code of
honour.
He met the difficulty by an attitude of grim reserve.
He twisted his moustache and used vague words. His
case was perfectly clear. He was not ashamed to
state it before a proper Court of Honour, neither was
he afraid to defend it on the ground. He did not see
any reason to jump at the suggestion before ascertain-
ing how his adversary was likely to take it.
Later in the day, his exasperation growing upon him,
he was heard in a public place saying sardonically, "that
it would be the very luckiest thing for Lieut. D'Hubert,
because the next time of meeting he need not hope to
get off with the mere trifle of three weeks in bed."
This boastful phrase might have been prompted by
the most profound Machiavellism. Southern natures
often hide, under the outward impulsiveness of action
and speech, a certain amount of astuteness.
Lieut. Feraud, mistrusting the justice of men, by no
means desired a Court of Honour; and the above words,
according so well with his temperament, had also the
merit of serving his turn. Whether meant so or not,
they found their way in less than four-and-twenty hours
into Lieut. D'Hubert's bedroom. In consequence
Lieut. D'Hubert, sitting propped up with pillows, re-
ceived the overtures made to him next day by the state-

196 THE DUEL

ment that the affair was of a nature which could not
bear discussion.
The pale face of the wounded officer, his weak voice
which he had yet to use cautiously, and the courteous
dignity of his tone had a great effect on his hearers.
Reported outside all this did more for deepening the
mystery than the vapourings of Lieut. Feraud. This
last was greatly relieved at the issue. He began to
enjoy the state of general wonder, and was pleased to
add to it by assuming an attitude of fierce discretion.
The colonel of Lieut. D'Hubert's regiment was a
grey-haired, weather-beaten warrior, who took a simple
view of his responsibilities. "I can't," he said to him-
self, "let the best of my subalterns get damaged like this
for nothing. I must get to the bottom of this affair
privately. He must speak out if the devil were in it.
The colonel should be more than a father to these
youngsters." And indeed he loved all his men with as
much affection as a father of a large family can feel for
every individual member of it. If human beings by an
oversight of Providence came into the world as mere
civilians, they were born again into a regiment as in-
fants are born into a family, and it was that military
birth alone which counted.
At the sight of Lieut. D'Hubert standing before him
very bleached and hollow-eyed the heart of the old
warrior felt a pang of genuine compassion. All his
affection for the regiment -- that body of men which he
held in his hand to launch forward and draw back, who
ministered to his pride and commanded all his thoughts
-- seemed centred for a moment on the person of the
most promising subaltern. He cleared his throat in a
threatening manner, and frowned terribly. "You must
understand," he began, "that I don't care a rap for the
life of a single man in the regiment. I would send the

THE DUEL 197

eight hundred and forty-three of you men and horses
galloping into the pit of perdition with no more com-
punction than I would kill a fly!"
"Yes, Colonel. You would be riding at our head,"
said Lieut. D'Hubert with a wan smile.
The colonel, who felt the need of being very diplo-
matic, fairly roared at this. "I want you to know,
Lieut. D'Hubert, that I could stand aside and see you
all riding to Hades if need be. I am a man to do even
that if the good of the service and my duty to my
country required it from me. But that's unthinkable,
so don't you even hint at such a thing." He glared
awfully, but his tone softened. "There's some milk
yet about that moustache of yours, my boy. You don't
know what a man like me is capable of. I would hide
behind a haystack if . . . Don't grin at me, sir!
How dare you? If this were not a private conversation
I would . . . Look here! I am responsible for the
proper expenditure of lives under my command for the
glory of our country and the honour of the regiment.
Do you understand that? Well, then, what the devil do
you mean by letting yourself be spitted like this by that
fellow of the 7th Hussars? It's simply disgraceful!"
Lieut. D'Hubert felt vexed beyond measure. His
shoulders moved slightly. He made no other answer.
He could not ignore his responsibility.
The colonel veiled his glance and lowered his voice
still more. "It's deplorable!" he murmured. And
again he changed his tone. "Come!" he went on,
persuasively, but with that note of authority which
dwells in the throat of a good leader of men, "this affair
must be settled. I desire to be told plainly what it is
all about. I demand, as your best friend, to know."
The compelling power of authority, the persuasive
influence of kindness, affected powerfully a man just

198 THE DUEL

risen from a bed of sickness. Lieut. D'Hubert's hand,
which grasped the knob of a stick, trembled slightly.
But his northern temperament, sentimental yet cautious
and clear-sighted, too, in its idealistic way, checked his
impulse to make a clean breast of the whole deadly
absurdity. According to the precept of transcendental
wisdom, he turned his tongue seven times in his mouth
before he spoke. He made then only a speech of
thanks.
The colonel listened, interested at first, then looked
mystified. At last he frowned. "You hesitate? --
mille tonnerres! Haven't I told you that I will con-
descend to argue with you -- as a friend?"
"Yes, Colonel!" answered Lieut. D'Hubert, gently.
"But I am afraid that after you have heard me out as a
friend you will take action as my superior officer."
The attentive colonel snapped his jaws. "Well,
what of that?" he said, frankly. "Is it so damnably
disgraceful?"
"It is not," negatived Lieut. D'Hubert, in a faint but
firm voice.
"Of course, I shall act for the good of the service.
Nothing can prevent me doing that. What do you
think I want to be told for?"
"I know it is not from idle curiosity," protested
Lieut. D'Hubert. "I know you will act wisely. But
what about the good fame of the regiment?"
"It cannot be affected by any youthful folly of a
lieutenant," said the colonel, severely.
"No. It cannot be. But it can be by evil tongues.
It will be said that a lieutenant of the 4th Hussars,
afraid of meeting his adversary, is hiding behind his
colonel. And that would be worse than hiding behind
a haystack -- for the good of the service. I cannot
afford to do that, Colonel."

THE DUEL 199

"Nobody would dare to say anything of the kind,"
began the colonel very fiercely, but ended the phrase on
an uncertain note. The bravery of Lieut. D'Hubert
was well known. But the colonel was well aware that
the duelling courage, the single combat courage, is
rightly or wrongly supposed to be courage of a special
sort. And it was eminently necessary that an officer of
his regiment should possess every kind of courage -- and
prove it, too. The colonel stuck out his lower lip, and
looked far away with a peculiar glazed stare. This was
the expression of his perplexity -- an expression practi-
cally unknown to his regiment; for perplexity is a senti-
ment which is incompatible with the rank of colonel of
cavalry. The colonel himself was overcome by the
unpleasant novelty of the sensation. As he was not
accustomed to think except on professional matters
connected with the welfare of men and horses, and the
proper use thereof on the field of glory, his intellectual
efforts degenerated into mere mental repetitions of pro-
fane language. "Mille tonnerres! . . . Sacré nom
de nom
. . ." he thought.
Lieut. D'Hubert coughed painfully, and added in a
weary voice: "There will be plenty of evil tongues to
say that I've been cowed. And I am sure you will not
expect me to pass that over. I may find myself
suddenly with a dozen duels on my hands instead of
this one affair."
The direct simplicity of this argument came home to
the colonel's understanding. He looked at his subordi-
nate fixedly. "Sit down, Lieutenant!" he said, gruffly.
"This is the very devil of a . . . Sit down!"
"Mon Colonel," D'Hubert began again, "I am not
afraid of evil tongues. There's a way of silencing them.
But there's my peace of mind, too. I wouldn't be able
to shake off the notion that I've ruined a brother officer.

200 THE DUEL

Whatever action you take, it is bound to go farther.
The inquiry has been dropped -- let it rest now. It
would have been absolutely fatal to Feraud."
"Hey! What! Did he behave so badly?"
"Yes. It was pretty bad," muttered Lieut. D'Hubert.
Being still very weak, he felt a disposition to cry.
As the other man did not belong to his own regiment
the colonel had no difficulty in believing this. He began
to pace up and down the room. He was a good chief, a
man capable of discreet sympathy. But he was human
in other ways, too, and this became apparent because he
was not capable of artifice.
"The very devil, Lieutenant," he blurted out, in the
innocence of his heart, "is that I have declared my in-
tention to get to the bottom of this affair. And when a
colonel says something . . . you see . . ."
Lieut. D'Hubert broke in earnestly: "Let me en-
treat you, Colonel, to be satisfied with taking my word
of honour that I was put into a damnable position where
I had no option; I had no choice whatever, consistent
with my dignity as a man and an officer. . . . After
all, Colonel, this fact is the very bottom of this affair.
Here you've got it. The rest is mere detail. . . ."
The colonel stopped short. The reputation of Lieut.
D'Hubert for good sense and good temper weighed in
the balance. A cool head, a warm heart, open as the
day. Always correct in his behaviour. One had to
trust him. The colonel repressed manfully an im-
mense curiosity. "H'm! You affirm that as a man
and an officer. . . . No option? Eh?"
"As an officer -- an officer of the 4th Hussars, too,"
insisted Lieut. D'Hubert, "I had not. And that is the
bottom of the affair, Colonel."
"Yes. But still I don't see why, to one's colonel. . . .
A colonel is a father -- que diable!"

THE DUEL 201

Lieut. D'Hubert ought not to have been allowed out
as yet. He was becoming aware of his physical in-
sufficiency with humiliation and despair. But the
morbid obstinacy of an invalid possessed him, and at
the same time he felt with dismay his eyes filling with
water. This trouble seemed too big to handle. A tear
fell down the thin, pale cheek of Lieut. D'Hubert.
The colonel turned his back on him hastily. You
could have heard a pin drop. "This is some silly
woman story -- is it not?"
Saying these words the chief spun round to seize the
truth, which is not a beautiful shape living in a well, but
a shy bird best caught by stratagem. This was the last
move of the colonel's diplomacy. He saw the truth
shining unmistakably in the gesture of Lieut. D'Hubert
raising his weak arms and his eyes to heaven in supreme
protest.
"Not a woman affair -- eh?" growled the colonel,
staring hard. "I don't ask you who or where. All I
want to know is whether there is a woman in it?"
Lieut. D'Hubert's arms dropped, and his weak voice
was pathetically broken.
"Nothing of the kind, mon Colonel."
"On your honour?" insisted the old warrior.
"On my honour."
"Very well," said the colonel, thoughtfully, and bit
his lip. The arguments of Lieut. D'Hubert, helped by
his liking for the man, had convinced him. On the
other hand, it was highly improper that his intervention,
of which he had made no secret, should produce no
visible effect. He kept Lieut. D'Hubert a few minutes
longer, and dismissed him kindly.
"Take a few days more in bed. Lieutenant. What
the devil does the surgeon mean by reporting you fit for
duty?"

202 THE DUEL

On coming out of the colonel's quarters, Lieut.
D'Hubert said nothing to the friend who was waiting
outside to take him home. He said nothing to anybody.
Lieut. D'Hubert made no confidences. But on the
evening of that day the colonel, strolling under the elms
growing near his quarters, in the company of his second
in command, opened his lips.
"I've got to the bottom of this affair," he remarked.
The lieut.-colonel, a dry, brown chip of a man with
short side-whiskers, pricked up his ears at that without
letting a sign of curiosity escape him.
"It's no trifle," added the colonel, oracularly. The
other waited for a long while before he murmured:
"Indeed, sir!"
"No trifle," repeated the colonel, looking straight
before him. "I've, however, forbidden D'Hubert either
to send to or receive a challenge from Feraud for the
next twelve months."
He had imagined this prohibition to save the prestige
a colonel should have. The result of it was to give an
official seal to the mystery surrounding this deadly
quarrel. Lieut. D'Hubert repelled by an impassive
silence all attempts to worm the truth out of him. Lieut.
Feraud, secretly uneasy at first, regained his assurance
as time went on. He disguised his ignorance of the
meaning of the imposed truce by slight sardonic laughs,
as though he were amused by what he intended to keep
to himself. "But what will you do?" his chums used
to ask him. He contented himself by replying "Qui
vivra verra
" with a little truculent air. And everybody
admired his discretion.
Before the end of the truce Lieut. D'Hubert got his
troop. The promotion was well earned, but somehow
no one seemed to expect the event. When Lieut.
Feraud heard of it at a gathering of officers, he muttered

THE DUEL 203

through his teeth, "Is that so?" At once he unhooked
his sabre from a peg near the door, buckled it on care-
fully, and left the company without another word. He
walked home with measured steps, struck a light with
his flint and steel, and lit his tallow candle. Then
snatching an unlucky glass tumbler off the mantelpiece
he dashed it violently on the floor.
Now that D'Hubert was an officer of superior rank
there could be no question of a duel. Neither of them
could send or receive a challenge without rendering
himself amenable to a court-martial. It was not to be
thought of. Lieut. Feraud, who for many days now had
experienced no real desire to meet Lieut. D'Hubert arms
in hand, chafed again at the systematic injustice of fate.
"Does he think he will escape me in that way?" he
thought, indignantly. He saw in this promotion an
intrigue, a conspiracy, a cowardly manœuvre. That
colonel knew what he was doing. He had hastened to
recommend his favourite for a step. It was outrageous
that a man should be able to avoid the consequences of
his acts in such a dark and tortuous manner.
Of a happy-go-lucky disposition, of a temperament
more pugnacious than military, Lieut. Feraud had been
content to give and receive blows for sheer love of
armed strife, and without much thought of advance-
ment; but now an urgent desire to get on sprang up in
his breast. This fighter by vocation resolved in his
mind to seize showy occasions and to court the favour-
able opinion of his chiefs like a mere worldling. He
knew he was as brave as any one, and never doubted his
personal charm. Nevertheless, neither the bravery nor
the charm seemed to work very swiftly. Lieut. Feraud's
engaging, careless truculence of a beau sabreur under-
went a change. He began to make bitter allusions to
"clever fellows who stick at nothing to get on." The

204 THE DUEL

army was full of them, he would say; you had only to
look round. But all the time he had in view one person
only, his adversary, D'Hubert. Once he confided to an
appreciative friend: "You see, I don't know how to
fawn on the right sort of people. It isn't in my charac-
ter."
He did not get his step till a week after Austerlitz.
The Light Cavalry of the Grand Army had its hands
very full of interesting work for a little while. Directly
the pressure of professional occupation had been eased
Captain Feraud took measures to arrange a meeting
without loss of time. "I know my bird," he observed,
grimly. "If I don't look sharp he will take care to
get himself promoted over the heads of a dozen better
men than himself. He's got the knack for that sort of
thing."
This duel was fought in Silesia. If not fought
to a finish, it was, at any rate, fought to a standstill.
The weapon was the cavalry sabre, and the skill, the
science, the vigour, and the determination displayed by
the adversaries compelled the admiration of the be-
holders. It became the subject of talk on both shores
of the Danube, and as far as the garrisons of Gratz and
Laybach. They crossed blades seven times. Both had
many cuts which bled profusely. Both refused to have
the combat stopped, time after time, with what ap-
peared the most deadly animosity. This appearance was
caused on the part of Captain D'Hubert by a rational
desire to be done once for all with this worry; on the
part of Captain Feraud by a tremendous exaltation of
his pugnacious instincts and the incitement of wounded
vanity. At last, dishevelled, their shirts in rags, covered
with gore and hardly able to stand, they were led away
forcibly by their marvelling and horrified seconds.
Later on, besieged by comrades avid of details, these

THE DUEL 205

gentlemen declared that they could not have allowed
that sort of hacking to go on indefinitely. Asked
whether the quarrel was settled this time, they gave it
out as their conviction that it was a difference which
could only be settled by one of the parties remaining
lifeless on the ground. The sensation spread from army
corps to army corps, and penetrated at last to the
smallest detachments of the troops cantoned be-
tween the Rhine and the Save. In the cafés in Vienna
it was generally estimated, from details to hand,
that the adversaries would be able to meet again in
three weeks' time on the outside. Something really
transcendent in the way of duelling was expected.
These expectations were brought to naught by the
necessities of the service which separated the two
officers. No official notice had been taken of their
quarrel. It was now the property of the army, and not
to be meddled with lightly. But the story of the duel,
or rather their duelling propensities, must have stood
somewhat in the way of their advancement, because
they were still captains when they came together again
during the war with Prussia. Detached north after
Jena, with the army commanded by Marshal Berna-
dotte, Prince of Ponte Corvo, they entered Lübeck
together.
It was only after the occupation of that town that
Captain Feraud found leisure to consider his future con-
duct in view of the fact that Captain D'Hubert had
been given the position of third aide-de-camp to the
marshal. He considered it a great part of a night, and
in the morning summoned two sympathetic friends.
"I've been thinking it over calmly," he said, gazing
at them with blood-shot, tired eyes. "I see that I must
get rid of that intriguing personage. Here he's managed
to sneak on to the personal staff of the marshal. It's a

206 THE DUEL

direct provocation to me. I can't tolerate a situation in
which I am exposed any day to receive an order through
him. And God knows what order, too! That sort of
thing has happened once before -- and that's once too
often. He understands this perfectly, never fear. I
can't tell you any more. Now you know what it is you
have to do."
This encounter took place outside the town of
Lübeck, on very open ground, selected with special
care in deference to the general sentiment of the cavalry
division belonging to the army corps, that this time the
two officers should meet on horseback. After all, this
duel was a cavalry affair, and to persist in fighting on
foot would look like a slight on one's own arm of the
service. The seconds, startled by the unusual nature of
the suggestion, hastened to refer to their principals.
Captain Feraud jumped at it with alacrity. For some
obscure reason, depending, no doubt, on his psychology,
he imagined himself invincible on horseback. All alone
within the four walls of his room he rubbed his hands
and muttered triumphantly, "Aha! my pretty staff
officer, I've got you now."
Captain D'Hubert on his side, after staring hard for
a considerable time at his friends, shrugged his shoulders
slightly. This affair had hopelessly and unreasonably
complicated his existence for him. One absurdity more
or less in the development did not matter -- all absurdity
was distasteful to him; but, urbane as ever, he produced
a faintly ironical smile, and said in his calm voice, "It
certainly will do away to some extent with the monot-
ony of the thing."
When left alone, he sat down at a table and took his
head into his hands. He had not spared himself of late
and the marshal had been working all his aides-de-
camp particularly hard. The last three weeks of

THE DUEL 207

campaigning in horrible weather had affected his health.
When over-tired he suffered from a stitch in his
wounded side, and that uncomfortable sensation always
depressed him. "It's that brute's doing, too," he
thought bitterly.
The day before he had received a letter from home,
announcing that his only sister was going to be married.
He reflected that from the time she was nineteen and he
twenty-six, when he went away to garrison life in Stras-
bourg, he had had but two short glimpses of her. They
had been great friends and confidants; and now she was
going to be given away to a man whom he did not know
-- a very worthy fellow no doubt, but not half good
enough for her. He would never see his old Léonie
again. She had a capable little head, and plenty of
tact; she would know how to manage the fellow, to be
sure. He was easy in his mind about her happiness
but he felt ousted from the first place in her thoughts
which had been his ever since the girl could speak. A
melancholy regret of the days of his childhood settled
upon Captain D'Hubert, third aide-de-camp to the
Prince of Ponte Corvo.
He threw aside the letter of congratulation he had
begun to write as in duty bound, but without enthusi-
asm. He took a fresh piece of paper, and traced on it
the words: "This is my last will and testament." Look-
ing at these words he gave himself up to unpleasant re-
flection; a presentiment that he would never see the
scenes of his childhood weighed down the equable
spirits of Captain D'Hubert. He jumped up, pushing
his chair back, yawned elaborately in sign that he didn't
care anything for presentiments, and throwing himself
on the bed went to sleep. During the night he shivered
from time to time without waking up. In the morning
he rode out of town between his two seconds, talking of

208 THE DUEL

indifferent things, and looking right and left with ap-
parent detachment into the heavy morning mists
shrouding the flat green fields bordered by hedges. He
leaped a ditch, and saw the forms of many mounted men
moving in the fog. "We are to fight before a gallery, it
seems," he muttered to himself, bitterly.
His seconds were rather concerned at the state of
the atmosphere, but presently a pale, sickly sun
struggled out of the low vapours, and Captain D'Hubert
made out, in the distance, three horsemen riding a little
apart from the others. It was Captain Feraud and
his seconds. He drew his sabre, and assured himself
that it was properly fastened to his wrist. And now the
seconds, who had been standing in close group with
the heads of their horses together, separated at an easy
canter, leaving a large, clear field between him and his
adversary. Captain D'Hubert looked at the pale sun,
at the dismal fields, and the imbecility of the impending
fight filled him with desolation. From a distant part of
the field a stentorian voice shouted commands at proper
intervals: Au pas -- Au trot -- Charrrgez! . . . Pre-
sentiments of death don't come to a man for nothing, he
thought at the very moment he put spurs to his horse.
And therefore he was more than surprised when, at
the very first set-to, Captain Feraud laid himself open
to a cut over the forehead, which blinding him with
blood, ended the combat almost before it had fairly
begun. It was impossible to go on. Captain D'Hubert,
leaving his enemy swearing horribly and reeling in the
saddle between his two appalled friends, leaped the
ditch again into the road and trotted home with his two
seconds, who seemed rather awestruck at the speedy
issue of that encounter. In the evening Captain
D'Hubert finished the congratulatory letter on his
sister's marriage.

THE DUEL 209

He finished it late. It was a long letter. Captain
D'Hubert gave reins to his fancy. He told his sister
that he would feel rather lonely after this great change
in her life; but then the day would come for him, too, to
get married. In fact, he was thinking already of the
time when there would be no one left to fight with in
Europe and the epoch of wars would be over. "I
expect then," he wrote, "to be within measurable dis-
tance of a marshal's baton, and you will be an ex-
perienced married woman. You shall look out a wife for
me. I will be, probably, bald by then, and a little
blasé. I shall require a young girl, pretty of course, and
with a large fortune, which should help me to close my
glorious career in the splendour befitting my exalted
rank." He ended with the information that he had
just given a lesson to a worrying, quarrelsome fellow
who imagined he had a grievance against him. "But
if you, in the depths of your province," he continued,
"ever hear it said that your brother is of a quarrelsome
disposition, don't you believe it on any account. There
is no saying what gossip from the army may reach your
innocent ears. Whatever you hear you may rest assured
that your ever-loving brother is not a duellist." Then
Captain D'Hubert crumpled up the blank sheet of paper
headed with the words "This is my last will and testa-
ment," and threw it in the fire with a great laugh at
himself. He didn't care a snap for what that lunatic
could do. He had suddenly acquired the conviction
that his adversary was utterly powerless to affect his
life in any sort of way; except, perhaps, in the way of
putting a special excitement into the delightful, gay
intervals between the campaigns.
From this on there were, however, to be no peaceful
intervals in the career of Captain D'Hubert. He saw
the fields of Eylau and Friedland, marched and counter-

210 THE DUEL

marched in the snow, in the mud, in the dust of Polish
plains, picking up distinction and advancement on all
the roads of North-eastern Europe. Meantime, Cap-
tain Feraud, despatched southwards with his regiment,
made unsatisfactory war in Spain. It was only when
the preparations for the Russian campaign began that
he was ordered north again. He left the country of
mantillas and oranges without regret.
The first signs of a not unbecoming baldness added
to the lofty aspect of Colonel D'Hubert's forehead.
This feature was no longer white and smooth as in the
days of his youth; the kindly open glance of his blue
eyes had grown a little hard as if from much peering
through the smoke of battles. The ebony crop on
Colonel Feraud's head, coarse and crinkly like a cap of
horsehair, showed many silver threads about the
temples. A detestable warfare of ambushes and in-
glorious surprises had not improved his temper. The
beak-like curve of his nose was unpleasantly set off by a
deep fold on each side of his mouth. The round orbits
of his eyes radiated wrinkles. More than ever he re-
called an irritable and staring bird -- something like a
cross between a parrot and an owl. He was still ex-
tremely outspoken in his dislike of "intriguing fellows."
He seized every opportunity to state that he did not
pick up his rank in the ante-rooms of marshals. The
unlucky persons, civil or military, who, with an in-
tention of being pleasant, begged Colonel Feraud to tell
them how he came by that very apparent scar on the
forehead, were astonished to find themselves snubbed
in various ways, some of which were simply rude and
others mysteriously sardonic. Young officers were
warned kindly by their more experienced comrades not
to stare openly at the colonel's scar. But indeed an
officer need have been very young in his profession not

THE DUEL 211

to have heard the legendary tale of that duel originating
in a mysterious, unforgivable offence.

III

The retreat from Moscow submerged all private
feelings in a sea of disaster and misery. Colonels
without regiments, D'Hubert and Feraud carried the
musket in the ranks of the so-called sacred battalion -- a
battalion recruited from officers of all arms who had no
longer any troops to lead.
In that battalion promoted colonels did duty as
sergeants; the generals captained the companies; a
marshal of France, Prince of the Empire, commanded
the whole. All had provided themselves with muskets
picked up on the road, and with cartridges taken from
the dead. In the general destruction of the bonds of
discipline and duty holding together the companies, the
battalions, the regiments, the brigades, and divisions of
an armed host, this body of men put its pride in pre-
serving some semblance of order and formation. The
only stragglers were those who fell out to give up to the
frost their exhausted souls. They plodded on, and
their passage did not disturb the mortal silence of the
plains, shining with the livid light of snows under a sky
the colour of ashes. Whirlwinds ran along the fields,
broke against the dark column, enveloped it in a tur-
moil of flying icicles, and subsided, disclosing it creeping
on its tragic way without the swing and rhythm of
the military pace. It struggled onwards, the men ex-
changing neither words nor looks; whole ranks marched
touching elbow, day after day and never raising their
eyes from the ground, as if lost in despairing reflections.
In the dumb, black forests of pines the cracking of over-
loaded branches was the only sound they heard. Often

212 THE DUEL

from daybreak to dusk no one spoke in the whole
column. It was like a macabre march of struggling
corpses towards a distant grave. Only an alarm of
Cossacks could restore to their eyes a semblance of
martial resolution. The battalion faced about and
deployed, or formed square under the endless fluttering
of snowflakes. A cloud of horsemen with fur caps on
their heads, levelled long lances, and yelled "Hurrah!
Hurrah!" around their menacing immobility whence,
with muffled detonations, hundreds of dark red flames
darted through the air thick with falling snow. In a
very few moments the horsemen would disappear, as
if carried off yelling in the gale, and the sacred battalion
standing still, alone in the blizzard, heard only the
howling of the wind, whose blasts searched their very
hearts. Then, with a cry or two of "Vive l'Empereur!"
it would resume its march, leaving behind a few life-
less bodies lying huddled up, tiny black specks on the
white immensity of the snows.
Though often marching in the ranks, or skirmishing
in the woods side by side, the two officers ignored each
other; this not so much from inimical intention as from
a very real indifference. All their store of moral energy
was expended in resisting the terrific enmity of nature
and the crushing sense of irretrievable disaster. To the
last they counted among the most active, the least
demoralized of the battalion; their vigorous vitality
invested them both with the appearance of an heroic
pair in the eyes of their comrades. And they never
exchanged more than a casual word or two, except one
day, when skirmishing in front of the battalion against
a worrying attack of cavalry, they found themselves cut
off in the woods by a small party of Cossacks. A score
of fur-capped, hairy horsemen rode to and fro, brandish-
ing their lances in ominous silence; but the two officers

THE DUEL 213

had no mind to lay down their arms, and Colonel
Feraud suddenly spoke up in a hoarse, growling voice,
bringing his firelock to the shoulder. "You take the
nearest brute, Colonel D'Hubert; I'll settle the next
one. I am a better shot than you are."
Colonel D'Hubert nodded over his levelled musket.
Their shoulders were pressed against the trunk of a
large tree; on their front enormous snowdrifts protected

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