Part 2 out of 2
[Those familiar with the works of Bourget will recognize here again
his well known antipathy for the United States of America. Mark
Twain in the late 1800's felt obliged to rebut some of Bourget's
prejudice: "What Paul Bourget thinks of us." D.W.]
The mixture of blood would there have dissolved the admirable Anglo-Saxon
energy which the struggle against a nature at once very rich and very
mutinous has exalted to such surprising splendor. It is not necessary to
ask those who are the victims of such an instinct to comprehend the legal
injustice. They only feel its ferocity. Napoleon Chapron, rejected in
several offers of marriage, thwarted in his plans, humiliated under
twenty trifling circumstances by the Colonel's former companions, became
a species of misanthrope. He lived, sustained by a twofold desire, on
the one hand to increase his fortune, and on the other to wed a white
woman. It was not until 1857, at the age of thirty-five, that he
realized the second of his two projects. In the course of a trip to
Europe, he became interested on the steamer in a young English governess,
who was returning from Canada, summoned home by family troubles. He met
her again in London. He helped her with such delicacy in her distress,
that he won her heart, and she consented to become his wife. From that
union were born, one year apart, Florent and Lydia.
Lydia had cost her mother her life, at the moment when the War of
Secession jeoparded the fortune of Chapron, who, fortunately for him,
had, in his desire to enrich himself quickly, invested his money a little
on all sides. He was only partly ruined, but that semi-ruin prevented
him from returning to Europe, as he had intended. He was compelled to
remain in Alabama to repair that disaster, and he succeeded, for at his
death, in 1880, his children inherited more than four hundred thousand
dollars each. The incomparable father's devotion had not limited itself
to the building up of a large fortune. He had the courage to deprive
himself of the presence of the two beings whom he adored, to spare them
the humiliation of an American school, and he sent them after their
twelfth year to England, the boy to the Jesuits of Beaumont, the girl to
the convent of the Sacred Heart, at Roehampton. After four years there,
he sent them to Paris, Florent to Vaugirard, Lydia to the Rue de Varenne,
and just at the time that he had realized the amount he considered
requisite, when he was preparing to return to live near them in a country
without prejudices, a stroke of apoplexy took him off suddenly. The
double wear of toil and care had told upon one of those organisms which
the mixture of the black and white races often produces, athletic in
appearance, but of a very keen sensibility, in which the vital resistance
is not in proportion to the muscular vigor.
Whatever care the man, so deeply grieved by the blemish upon his birth,
had taken to preserve his children from a similar experience, he had not
been able to do so, and soon after his son entered Beaumont his trials
began. The few boys with whom Florent was thrown in contact, in the
hotels or in his walks, during his sojourn in America, had already made
him feel that humiliation from which his father had suffered so much.
The youth of twelve, silent and absurdly sensitive, who made his
appearance on the lawn of the peaceful English college on an autumn
morning, brought with him a self-love already bleeding, to whom it was a
delightful surprise to find himself among comrades of his age who did not
even seem to suspect that any difference separated them from him. It
required the perception of a Yankee to discern, beneath the nails of the
handsome boy with the dark complexion, the tiny drops of negro blood, so
far removed. Between an octoroon and a creole a European can never tell
the difference. Florent had been represented as what he really was, the
grandson of one of the Emperor's best officers. His father had taken
particular pains to designate him as French, and his companions only saw
in him a pupil like themselves, coming from Alabama--that is to say, from
a country almost as chimerical as Japan or China.
All who in early youth have known the torture of apprehension will be
able to judge of the poor child's agony when, after four months of a life
amid the warmth of sympathy, one of the Jesuit fathers who directed the
college announced to him, thinking it would afford him pleasure, the
expected arrival of an American, of young Lincoln Maitland. This was
to Florent so violent a shock that he had a fever for forty-eight hours.
In after years he could remember what thoughts possessed him on the day
when he descended from his room to the common refectory, sure that as
soon as he was brought face to face with the new pupil he would have to
sustain the disdainful glance suffered so frequently in the United
States. There was no doubt in his mind that, his origin once discovered,
the atmosphere of kindness in which he moved with so much surprise would
soon be changed to hostility. He could again see himself crossing the
yard; could hear himself called by Father Roberts--the master who had
told him of the expected new arrival--and his surprise when Lincoln
Maitland had given him the hearty handshake of one demi-compatriot who
meets another. He was to learn later that that reception was quite
natural, coming from the son of an Englishman, educated altogether by his
mother, and taken from New York to Europe before his fifth year, there to
live in a circle as little American as possible. Chapron did not reason
in that manner. He had an infinitely tender heart. Gratitude entered
it--gratitude as impassioned as had been his fear. One week later
Lincoln Maitland and he were friends, and friends so intimate that they
The affection, which was merely to the indifferent nature of Maitland a
simple college episode, became to Florent the most serious, most complete
sentiment of his life. Those fraternities of election, the loveliest and
most delicate of the heart of man, usually dawn thus in youth. It is the
ideal age of passionate friendship, that period between ten and sixteen,
when the spirit is so pure, so fresh, still so virtuous, so fertile in
generous projects for the future. One dreams of a companionship almost
mystical with the friend from whom one has no secret, whose character one
sees in such a noble light, on whose esteem one depends as upon the
surest recompense, whom one innocently desires to resemble. Indeed,
they are, between the innocent lads who work side by side on a problem
of geometry or a lesson in history, veritable poems of tenderness at
which the man will smile later, finding so far different from him in all
his tastes, him whom he desired to have for a brother. It happens,
however, in certain natures of a sensibility particularly precocious and
faithful at the same time, that the awakening of effective life is so
strong, so encroaching, that the impassioned friendship persists, first
through the other awakening, that of sensuality, so fatal to all the
senses of delicacy, then through the first tumult of social experience,
not less fatal to our ideal of youth.
That was the case with Florent Chapron, whether his character, at once
somewhat wild and yet submissive, rendered him more qualified for that
renunciation of his personality than friendship demands, whether, far
from his father and his sister and not having any mother, his loving
heart had need of attaching itself to some one who could fill the place
of his relatives, or whether Maitland exercised over him a special
prestige by his opposite qualities. Fragile and somewhat delicate, was
he seduced by the strength and dexterity which his friend exhibited in
all his exercises? Timid and naturally taciturn, was he governed by the
assurance of that athlete with the loud laugh, with the invincible
energy? Did the surprising tendency toward art which the other one
showed conquer him, as well as sympathy for the misfortunes which were
confided to him and which touched him more than they touched him who
Gordon Maitland, Lincoln's father, of an excellent family of New York,
had been killed at the battle of Chancellorsville, during the same war
which had ruined Florent's father in part. Mrs. Maitland, the poor
daughter of a small rector of a Presbyterian church at Newport, and who
had only married her husband for his money, had but one idea, when once a
widow--to go abroad. Whither? To Europe, vague and fascinating spot,
where she fancied she would be distinguished by her intelligence and her
beauty. She was pretty, vain and silly, and that voyage in pursuit of a
part to play in the Old World caused her to pass two years first in one
hotel and then in another, after which she married the second son of a
poor Irish peer, with the new chimera of entering that Olympus of British
aristocracy of which she had dreamed so much. She became a Catholic, and
her son with her, to obtain the result which cost her dear, for not only
was the lord who had given her his name brutal, a drunkard and cruel, but
he added to all those faults that of being one of the greatest gamblers
in the entire United Kingdom. He kept his stepson away from home, beat
his wife, and died toward 1880, after dissipating the poor creature's
fortune and almost all of Lincoln's. At that time the latter, whom his
stepfather had naturally left to develop in his own way, and who, since
leaving Beaumont, had studied painting at Venice, Rome and Paris, was in
the latter city and one of the first pupils in Bonnat's studio. Seeing
his mother ruined, without resources at forty-four years of age,
persuaded himself of his glorious future, he had one of those magnificent
impulses such as one has in youth and which prove much less the
generosity than the pride of life. Of the fifteen thousand francs of
income remaining to him, he gave up to his mother twelve thousand five
hundred. It is expedient to add that in less than a year afterward he
married the sister of his college friend and four hundred thousand
dollars. He had seen poverty and he was afraid of it. His action with
regard to his mother seemed to justify in his own eyes the purely
interested character of the combination which freed his brush forever.
There are, moreover, such artistic consciences. Maitland would not have
pardoned himself a concession of art. He considered rascals the painters
who begged success by compromise in their style, and he thought it quite
natural to take the money of Mademoiselle Chapron, whom he did not love,
and for whom, now that he had grown to manhood and knew several of her
compatriots, he likewise felt the prejudice of race. "The glory of the
colonel of the Empire and friendship for that good Florent," as he said,
Poor and good Florent! That marriage was to him the romance of his youth
realized. He had desired it since the first week that Maitland had given
him the cordial handshake which had bound them. To live in the shadow of
his friend, become at once his brother-in-law and his ideal--he did not
dream of any other solution of his own destiny. The faults of Maitland,
developed by age, fortune, and success--we recall the triumph of his
'Femme en violet et en jeune' in the Salon of 1884--found Florent as
blind as at the epoch when they played cricket together in the fields at
Beaumont. Dorsenne very justly diagnosed there one of those hypnotisms
of admiration such as artists, great or small, often inspire around them.
But the author, who always generalized too quickly, had not comprehended
that the admirer with Florent was grafted on a friend worthy to be
painted by La Fontaine or by Balzac, the two poets of friendship, the one
in his sublime and tragic Cousin Pons, the other in that short but fine
fable, in which is this verse, one of the most tender in the French
Vous metes, en dormant, un peu triste apparu.
Florent did not love Lincoln because he admired him; he admired him
because he loved him. He was not wrong in considering the painter as one
of the most gifted who had appeared for thirty years. But Lincoln would
have had neither the bold elegance of his drawing, nor the vivid strength
of coloring, nor the ingenious finesse of imagination if the other had
lent himself with less ardor to the service of the work and to the glory
of the artist. When Lincoln wanted to travel he found his brother-in-law
the most diligent of couriers. When he had need of a model he had only
to say a word for Florent to set about finding one. Did Lincoln exhibit
at Paris or London, Florent took charge of the entire proceeding--seeing
the journalists and picture dealers, composing letters of thanks for the
articles, in a handwriting so like that of the painter that the latter
had only to sign it. Lincoln desired to return to Rome. Florent had
discovered the house on the Rue Leopardi, and he settled it even before
Maitland, then in Egypt, had finished a large study begun at the moment
of the departure of the other.
Florent had, by virtue of the affection felt for his brother-in-law, come
to comprehend the paintings as well as the painter himself. These words
will be clear to those who have been around artists and who know what a
distance separates them from the most enlightened amateur. The amateur
can judge and feel. The artist only, who has wielded the implements,
knows, before a painting, how it is done, what stroke of the brush has
been given, and why; in short, the trituration of the matter by the
workman. Florent had watched Maitland work so much, he had rendered him
so many effective little services in the studio, that each of his
brother-in-law's canvases became animated to him, even to the slightest
details. When he saw them on the wall of the gallery they told him of an
intimacy which was at once his greatest joy and his greatest pride. In
short, the absorption of his personality in that of his former comrade
was so complete that it had led to this anomaly, that Dorsenne himself,
notwithstanding his indulgence for psychological singularities, had not
been able to prevent himself from finding almost monstrous: Florent was
Lincoln's brother-in-law, and he seemed to find it perfectly natural that
the latter should have adventures outside, if the emotion of those
adventures could be useful to his talent!
Perhaps this long and yet incomplete analysis will permit us the better
to comprehend what emotions agitated the young man as he reascended the
staircase of his house--of their house, Lincoln's and his--after his
unexpected dispute with Boleslas Gorka. It will attenuate, at least with
respect to him, the severity of simple minds. All passion, when
developed in the heart, has the effect of etiolating around it the vigor
of other instincts. Chapron was too fanatical a friend to be a very
equitable brother. It seemed to him very simple and very legitimate that
his sister should be at the service of the genius of Lincoln, as he
himself was. Moreover, if, since the marriage with her brother's friend,
his sister had been stirred by the tempest of a moral tragedy, Florent
did not suspect it. When had he studied Lydia, the silent, reserved
Lydia, of whom he had once for all formed an opinion, as is the almost
invariable custom of relative with relative? Those who have seen us when
young are like those who see us daily. The images which they trace of us
always reproduce what we were at a certain moment--scarcely ever what we
are. Florent considered his sister very good, because he had formerly
found her so; very gentle, because she had never resisted him; not
intelligent, because she did not seem sufficiently interested in the
painter's work; as for the suffering and secret rebellion of the
oppressed creature, crushed between his blind partiality and the
selfishness of a scornful husband, he did not even suspect them, much
less the terrible resolution of which that apparent resignation was
If he had trembled when Madame Steno began to interest herself in
Lincoln, it was solely for the work of the latter, so much the more as
for a year he had perceived not a decline but a disturbance in the
painting of that artist, too voluntary not to be unequal. Then Florent
had seen, on the other hand, the nerve of Maitland reawakened in the
warmth of that little intrigue.
The portrait of Alba promised to be a magnificent study, worthy of being
placed beside the famous 'Femme en violet et en jaune,' which those
envious of Lincoln always remembered. Moreover, the painter had finished
with unparalleled ardor two large compositions partly abandoned. In the
face of that proof of a fever of production more and more active, how
would not Florent have blessed Madame Steno, instead of cursing her, so
much the more that it sufficed him to close his eyes and to know that his
conscience was in repose when opposite his sister? He knew all, however.
The proof of it was in his shudder when Dorsenne announced to him the
clandestine arrival in Rome of Madame Steno's other lover, and one proof
still more certain, the impulse which had precipitated him upon Boleslas,
who was parleying with the servant, and now it was he who had accepted
the duel which an exasperated rival had certainly come to propose to his
dear Lincoln, and he thought only of the latter.
"He must know nothing until afterward. He would take the affair upon
himself, and I have a chance to kill him, that Gorka--to wound him, at
least. In any case, I will arrange it so that a second duel will be
rendered difficult to that lunatic.... But, first of all, let us make
sure that we have not spoken too loudly and that they have not heard
upstairs the ill-bred fellow's loud voice."
It was in such terms that he qualified his adversary of the morrow. For
very little more he would have judged Gorka unpardonable not to thank
Lincoln, who had done him the honor to supplant him in the Countess's
In the meantime, let us cast a glance at the atelier! When the friend,
devoted to complicity, but also to heroism, entered the vast room, he
could see at the first glance that he had been mistaken and that no sound
of voices had reached that peaceful retreat.
The atelier of the American painter was furnished with a harmonious
sumptuousness which real artists know how to gather around them. The
large strip of sky seen through the windows looked down upon a corner
veritably Roman--of the Rome of to-day, which attests an uninterrupted
effort toward forming a new city by the side of the old one. One could
see an angle of the old garden and the fragment of an antique building,
with a church steeple beyond. It was on a background of azure, of
verdure and of ruins, in a horizon larger and more distant, but composed
of the same elements, that was to arise the face of the young girl,
designed after the manner, so sharp and so modelled, of the 'Pier della
Francesca', with whom Maitland had been preoccupied for six months.
All great composers, of an originality more composite than genitive, have
Maitland was at his easel, dressed with that correct elegance which is
the almost certain mark of Anglo-Saxon artists. With his little
varnished shoes, his fine black socks, spotted with red, his coat of
quilted silk, his light cravat and the purity of his linen, he had the
air of a gentleman who applied himself to an amateur effort, and not of
the patient and laborious worker he really was. But his canvases and his
studies, hung on all sides, among tapestries, arms and trinkets, bespoke
patient labor. It was the history of an energy bent upon the,
acquisition of a personality constantly fleeting. Maitland manifested in
a supreme degree the trait common to almost all his compatriots, even
those who came in early youth to Europe, that intense desire not to lack
civilization, which is explained by the fact that the American is a being
entirely new, endowed with an activity incomparable, and deprived of
traditional saturation. He is not born cultivated, matured, already
fashioned virtually, if one may say so, like a child of the Old World.
He can create himself at his will. With superior gifts, but gifts
entirely physical, Maitland was a self-made man of art, as his grand
father had been a self-made man of money, as his father had been a self-
made man of war. He had in his eye and in his hand two marvellous
implements for painting, and in his perseverence in developing a still
more marvellous one. He lacked constantly the something necessary and
local which gives to certain very inferior painters the inexpressible
superiority of a savor of soil. It could not be said that he was not
inventive and new, yet one experienced on seeing no matter which one of
his paintings that he was a creature of culture and of acquisition. The
scattered studies in the atelier first of all displayed the influence of
his first master, of solid and simple Bonnat. Then he had been tempted
by the English pre-Raphaelites, and a fine copy of the famous 'Song of
Love', by Burne-Jones, attested that reaction on the side of an art more
subtle, more impressed by that poetry which professional painters treat
scornfully as literary. But Lincoln was too vigorous for the languors of
such an ideal, and he quickly turned to other teachings. Spain conquered
him, and Velasquez, the colorist of so peculiar a fancy that, after a
visit to the Museum of the Prado, one carries away the idea that one has
just seen the only painting worthy of the name.
The spirit of the great Spaniard, that despotic stroke of the brush which
seems to draw the color in the groundwork of the picture, to make it
stand out in almost solid lights, his absolute absence of abstract
intentions and his newness which affects entirely to ignore the past, all
in that formula of art, suited Maitland's temperament. To him, too, he
owed his masterpiece, the 'Femme en violet et en jaune', but the restless
seeker did not adhere to that style. Italy and the Florentines next
influenced him, just those the most opposed to Velasquez; the Pollajuoli,
Andrea del Castagna, Paolo Uccello and Pier delta Francesca. Never would
one have believed that the same hand which had wielded with so free a
brush the color of the 'Femme en violet...' could be that which sketched
the contour of the portrait of Alba with so severe, so rigid a drawing.
At the moment Florent entered the studio that work so completely absorbed
the attention of the painter that he did not hear the door open any more
than did Madame Steno, who was smoking cigarettes, reclining indolently
and blissfully upon the divan, her half-closed eyes fixed upon the man
she loved. Lincoln only divined another presence by a change in Alba's
face. God! How pale she was, seated in the immobility of her pose in a
large, heraldic armchair, with a back of carved wood, her hands grasping
the arms, her mouth so bitter, her eyes so deep in their fixed glance!...
Did she divine that which she could not, however, know, that her fate was
approaching with the visitor who entered, and who, having left the studio
fifteen minutes before, had to justify his return by an excuse.
"It is I," said he. "I forgot to ask you, Lincoln, if you wish to buy
Ardea's three drawings at the price they offer."
"Why did you not tell me of it yesterday, my little Linco?" interrupted
the Countess. "I saw Peppino again this morning.... I would have from
him his lowest figure."
"That would only be lacking," replied Maitland, laughing his large laugh.
"He does not acknowledge those drawings, dear dogaresse.... They are a
part of the series of trinkets he carefully subtracted from his
creditor's inventory and put in different places. There are some at
seven or eight antiquaries', and we may expect that for the next ten
years all the cockneys of my country will be allured by this phrase,
'This is from the Palais Castagna. I have it by a little arrangement.'"
His eyes sparkled as he imitated one of the most celebrated bric-a-brac
dealers in Rome, with the incomparable art of imitation which
distinguishes all the old habitues of Parisian studios.
"At present these three drawings are at an antiquary's of Babuino, and
"Except when they are represented as Vincis," said Florent, "when
Leonardo was left-handed, and their hatchings are made from left to
"And you think Ardea would not agree with me in it?" resumed the
"Not even with you," said the painter. "He had the assurance last night,
when I mentioned them before him, to ask me the address in order to go to
"How did you learn their production?" questioned Madame Steno.
"Ask him," said Maitland, pointing to Chapron with the end of his brush.
"When there is a question of enriching his old Maitland's collection, he
becomes more of a merchant than the merchants themselves. They tell him
all.... Vinci or no Vinci, it is the pure Lombard style. Buy them.
I want them."
"I will go, then," replied Florent. "Countess. . . . Contessina."
He bowed to Madame Steno and her daughter. The mother bestowed upon him
her pleasantest smile. She was not one of those mistresses to whom their
lovers' intimate friends are always enemies. On the contrary, she
enveloped them in the abundant and blissful sympathy which love awoke in
her. Besides, she was too cunning not to feel that Florent approved of
her love. But, on the other hand, the intense aversion which Alba at
that moment felt toward her mother's suspected intrigues was expressed by
the formality with which she inclined her head in response to the
farewell of the young man, who was too happy to have found that the
dispute had not been heard.
"From now until to-morrow," thought he, on redescending the staircase,
"there will be no one to warn Lincoln.... The purchase of the drawings
was an invention to demonstrate my tranquillity....Now I must find two
Florent was a very deliberate man, and a man who had at his command
perfect evenness of temperament whenever it was not a question of his
enthusiastic attachment to his brother-in-law. He had the power of
observation habitual to persons whose sensitive amour propre has
frequently been wounded. He therefore deferred until later his difficult
choice and went to luncheon, as if nothing had happened, at the
restaurant where he was expected. Certainly the proprietor did not
mistrust, in replying to the questions of his guest relative to the most
recent portraits of Lenbach, that the young man, so calm, so smiling, had
on hand a duel which might cost him his life. It was only on leaving the
restaurant that Florent, after mentally reviewing ten of his older
acquaintances, resolved to make a first attempt upon Dorsenne. He
recalled the mysterious intelligence given him by the novelist, whose
sympathy for Maitland had been publicly manifested by an eloquent
article. Moreover, he believed him to be madly in love with Alba Steno.
That was one probability more in favor of his discretion.
Dorsenne would surely maintain silence with regard to a meeting in
connection with which, if it were known, the cause of the contest would
surely be mentioned. It was only too clear that Gorka and Chapron had no
real reason to quarrel and fight a duel. But at ten-thirty, that is to
say, three hours after the unreasonable altercation in the vestibule,
Florent rang at the door of Julien's apartments. The latter was at home,
busy upon the last correction of the proofs of 'Poussiere d'Idees'. His
visitor's confidence upset him to such a degree that his hands trembled
as he arranged his scattered papers. He remembered the presence of
Boleslas on that same couch, at the same time of the day, forty-eight
hours before. How the drama would progress if that madman went away in
that mood! He knew only too well that Maitland's brother-in-law had not
told him all.
"It is absurd," he cried, "it is madness, it is folly!.... You are not
going to fight about an argument such as you have related to me? You
talked at the corner of the street, you exchanged a few angry words, and
then, suddenly, seconds, a duel.... Ah, it is absurd."
"You forget that I offered him a violent insult in raising my cane to
him," interrupted Florent, "and since he demands satisfaction I must give
it to him."
"Do you believe," said the writer, "that the public will be contented
with those reasons? Do you think they will not look for the secret
motives of the duel? Do I know the story of a woman?.... You see, I ask
no questions. I rely upon what you confide in me. But the world is the
world, and you will not escape its remarks."
"It is precisely for that reason that I ask absolute discretion of you,"
replied Florent, "and for that reason that I have come to ask you to
serve me as a second.... There is no one in whom I trust as implicitly
as I do in you.... It is the only excuse for my step."
"I thank you," said Dorsenne. He hesitated a moment. Then the image of
Alba, which had haunted him since the previous day, suddenly presented
itself to his mind. He recalled the sombre anguish he had surprised in
the young girl's eyes, then her comforted glance when her mother smiled
at once upon Gorka and Maitland. He recalled the anonymous letter and
the mysterious hatred which impended over Madame Steno. If the quarrel
between Boleslas and Florent became known, there was no doubt that it
would be said generally that Florent was fighting for his brother-in-law
on account of the Countess. No doubt, too, that the report would reach
the poor Contessina. It was sufficient to cause the writer to reply:
"Very well! I accept. I will serve you. Do not thank me. We are
losing valuable time. You will require another second. Of whom have you
"Of no one," returned Florent. "I confess I have counted on you to aid
"Let us make a list," said Julien. "It is the best way, and then cross
off the names."
Dorsenne wrote down a number of their acquaintances, and they indeed
crossed them off, according to his expression, so effectually that after
a minute examination they had rejected all of them. They were then as
much perplexed as ever, when suddenly Dorsenne's eyes brightened, he
uttered a slight exclamation, and said brusquely:
"What an idea! But it is an idea!.... Do you know the Marquis de
Montfanon?" he asked Florent.
"He with one arm?" replied the latter. "I saw him once with reference
to a monument I put up at Saint Louis des Francais."
"He told me of it," said Dorsenne. "For one of your relatives, was it
"Oh, a distant cousin," replied Florent; "one Captain Chapron, killed in
'forty-nine in the trenches before Rome."
"Now, to our business," cried Dorsenne, rubbing his hands. "It is
Montfanon who must be your second. First of all, he is an experienced
duellist, while I have never been on the ground. That is very important.
You know the celebrated saying: 'It is neither swords nor pistols which
kill; it is the seconds.'.... And then if the matter has to be arranged,
he will have more prestige than your servant."
"It is impossible," said Florent; "Marquis de Montfanon.... He will
never consent. I do not exist for him."
"That is my affair," cried Dorsenne. "Let me take the necessary steps in
my own name, and then if he agrees you can make it in yours.... Only we
have no time to lose. Do not leave your house until six o'clock. By
that time I shall know upon what to depend."
If, at first, the novelist had felt great confidence in the issue of his
strange attempt with reference to his old friend, that confidence changed
to absolute apprehension when he found himself, half an hour later, at
the house which Marquis Claude Francois occupied in one of the oldest
parts of Rome, from which location he could obtain an admirable view of
the Forum. How many times had Julien come, in the past six months, to
that Marquis who dived constantly in the sentiment of the past, to gaze
upon the tragical and grand panorama of the historical scene! At the
voice of the recluse, the broken columns rose, the ruined temples were
rebuilt, the triumphal view was cleared from its mist. He talked, and
the formidable epopee of the Roman legend was evoked, interpreted by the
fervent Christian in that mystical and providential sense, which all,
indeed, proclaims in that spot, where the Mamertine prison relates the
trial of St. Peter, where the portico of the temple of Faustine serves
as a pediment to the Church of St. Laurent, where Ste.-Marie-Liberatrice
rises upon the site of the Temple of Vesta--'Sancta Maria, libera nos a
poenis inferni'--Montfanon always added when he spoke of it, and he
pointed out the Arch of Titus, which tells of the fulfilment of the
prophecies of Our Lord against Jerusalem, while, opposite, the groves
reveal the out lines of a nunnery upon the ruins of the dwellings of the
Caesars. And, at the extreme end, the Coliseum recalls to mind the
ninety thousand spectators come to see the martyrs suffer.
Such were the sights where lived the former pontifical zouave, and, on
ringing the bell of the third etage, Julien said to himself: "I am a
simpleton to come to propose to such a man what I have to propose. Yet
it is not to be a second in an ordinary duel, but simply to prevent an
adventure which might cost the lives of two men in the first place, then
the honor of Madame Steno, and, lastly, the peace of mind of three
innocent persons, Madame Gorka, Madame Maitland and my little friend
Alba.... He alone has sufficient authority to arrange all. It will be
an act of charity, like any other.... I hope he is at home," he
concluded, hearing the footstep of the servant, who recognized the
visitor and who anticipated all questions.
"The Marquis went out this morning before eight o'clock. He will not
return until dinner-time."
"Do you know where he has gone?"
"To hear mass in a catacomb, and to be present at a procession," replied
the footman, who took Dorsenne's card, adding: "The Trappists of Saint
Calixtus certainly know where the Marquis is.... He lunched with them."
"We shall see," said the young man to himself, somewhat disappointed.
His carriage rolled in the direction of Porte St. Sebastien, near which
was the catacomb and the humble dwelling contiguous to it--the last
morsel of the Papal domains kept by the poor monks. "Montfanon will have
taken communion this morning," thought he, "and at the very word duel he
will listen to nothing more. However, the matter must be arranged; it
must be.... What would I not give to know the truth of the scene between
Gorka and Florent? By what strange and diabolical ricochet did the
Palatine hit upon the latter when his business was with the brother-in-
law?.... Will he be angry that I am his adversary's second?.... Bah!...
After our conversation of the other day our friendship is ended....
Good, I am already at the little church of 'Domine, quo vadis.'--[Lord,
whither art thou going?"]-- I might say to myself: 'Juliane, quo vadis?'
'To perform an act a little better than the majority of my actions,' I
That impressionable soul which vibrated at the slightest contact was
touched by the souvenir of one of the innumerable pious legends which
nineteen centuries of Catholicism have suspended at all the corners of
Rome and its surrounding districts. He recalled the touching story of
St. Peter flying from persecution and meeting our Lord: "Lord, whither
art thou going?" asked the apostle. "To be crucified a second time,"
replied the Saviour, and Peter was ashamed of his weakness and returned
to martyrdom. Montfanon himself had related that episode to the
novelist, who again began to reflect upon the Marquis's character and the
best means of approaching him. He forgot to glance at the vast solitude
of the Roman suburbs before him, and so deep was his reverie that he
almost passed unheeded the object of his search. Another disappointment
awaited him at the first point in his voyage of exploration.
The monk who came at his ring to open the door of the inclosure
contiguous to St. Calixtus, informed him that he of whom he was in
search had left half an hour before.
"You will find him at the Basilica of Saint Neree and Saint Achilles,"
added the Trappist; "it is the fete of those two saints, and at five
o'clock there will be a procession in their catacombs.... It is a
fifteen minutes' ride from here, near the tower Marancia, on the Via
"Shall I miss him a third time?" thought Dorsenne, alighting from the
carriage finally, and proceeding on foot to the opening which leads to
the subterranean Necropolis dedicated to the two saints who were the
eunuchs of Domitilla, the niece of Emperor Vespasian. A few ruins and a
dilapidated house alone mark the spot where once stood the pious
Princess's magnificent villa. The gate was open, and, meeting no one who
could direct him, the young man took several steps in the subterranean
passage. He perceived that the long gallery was lighted. He entered
there, saying to himself that the row of tapers, lighted every ten paces,
assuredly marked the line which the procession would follow, and which
led to the central basilica. Although his anxiety as to the issue of his
undertaking was extreme, he could not help being impressed by the
grandeur of the sight presented by the catacomb thus illuminated. The
uneven niches reserved for the dead, asleep in the peace of the Lord for
so many centuries, made recesses in the corridors and gave them a solemn
and tragical aspect. Inscriptions were to be seen there, traced on the
stone, and all spoke of the great hope which those first Christians had
cherished, the same which believers of our day cherish.
Julien knew enough of symbols to understand the significance of the
images between which the persecuted of the primitive church had laid
their fathers. They are so touching and so simple! The anchor
represents safety in the storm; the gentle dove and the ewe, symbols of
the soul, which flies away and seeks its shepherd; the phoenix, whose
wings announce the resurrection. Then there were the bread and the wine,
the branches of the olive and the palm. The silent cemetery was filled
with a faint aroma of incense, noticed by Dorsenne on entering. High
mass, celebrated in the morning, left the sacred perfume diffused among
those bones, once the forms of human beings who kneeled there amid the
same holy aroma. The contrast was strong between that spot, where
everything spoke of things eternal, and the drama of passion, worldly and
culpable, the progress of which agitated even Dorsenne. At that moment
he appeared to himself in the light of a profaner, although he was
obeying generous and humane instincts. He experienced a sense of relief
when, at a bend in one of the corridors which he had selected from among
many others, he found himself face to face with a priest, who held in his
hand a basket filled with the petals of flowers, destined, no doubt, for
the procession. Dorsenne inquired of him the way to the Basilica in
Italian, while the reply was given in perfect French.
"Perhaps you know the Marquis de Montfanon, father?" asked the novelist.
"I am one of the chaplains of Saint Louis," said the priest, with a
smile, adding: "You will find him in the Basilica."
"Now, the moment has come," thought Dorsenne, "I must be subtle....
After all, it is charity I am about to ask him to do.... Here I am.
I recognize the staircase and the opening above."
A corner of the sky, indeed, was to be seen, and a ray of light entered
which permitted the writer to distinguish him whom he was seeking among
the few persons assembled in the ruined chapel, the most venerable of all
those which encircle Rome with a hidden girdle of sanctuaries.
Montfanon, too recognizable, alas! by the empty sleeve of his black
redingote, was seated on a chair, not very far from the altar, on which
burned enormous tapers. Priests and monks were arranging baskets filled
with petals, like those of the chaplain, whom Dorsenne had just met. A
group of three curious visitors commented in whispers upon the paintings,
scarcely visible on the discolored stucco of the ceiling. Montfanon was
entirely absorbed in the book which he held in his one hand. The large
features of his face, ennobled and almost transfigured by the ardor of
devotion, gave him the admirable expression of an old Christian soldier.
'Bonus miles Christi'--a good soldier of Christ--had been inscribed upon
the tomb of the chief under whom he had been wounded at Patay. One would
have taken him for a guardian layman of the tombs of the martyrs, capable
of confessing his faith like them, even to the death. And when Julien
determined to approach and to touch him lightly on the shoulder, he saw
that, in the nobleman's clear, blue eyes, ordinarily so gay, and
sometimes so choleric, sparkled unshed tears. His voice, too, naturally
sharp, was softened by the emotion of the thought which his reading, the
place, the time, the occupation of his day had awakened within him.
"Ah, you here?" said he to his young friend, without any astonishment.
"You have come for the procession. That is well. You will hear sung the
lovely lines: 'Hi sunt quos fatue mundus abhorruit." He pronounced ou as
u, 'a l'Italienne'; for his liturgic training had been received in Rome.
"The season is favorable for the ceremonies. The tourists have gone.
There will only be people here who pray and who feel, like you.... And
to feel is half of prayer. The other half is to believe. You will
become one of us. I have always predicted it. There is no peace but
"I would gladly have come only for the procession," replied Dorsenne,
"but my visit has another motive, dear friend," said he, in a still lower
tone. "I have been seeking for you for more than an hour, that you might
aid me in rendering a great service to several people, in preventing a
very great misfortune, perhaps."
"I can help you to prevent a very great misfortune?" repeated Montfanon.
"Yes," replied Dorsenne, "but this is not the place in which to explain
to you the details of the long and terrible adventure.... At what hour
is the ceremony? I will wait for you, and tell it to you on leaving
"It does not begin until five o'clock-five-thirty," said Montfanon,
looking at his watch, "and it is now fifteen minutes past four. Let us
leave the catacomb, if you wish, and you can repeat your story to me up
above. A very great misfortune? Well," he added, pressing the hand of
the young man whom, personally, he liked as much as he detested his
views, "rest assured, my dear child, we will prevent it!"
There was in the manner in which he uttered those words the tranquillity
of a mind which knows not uneasiness, that of a believer who feels sure
of always accomplishing all that he wishes to do. It would not have been
Montfanon, that is to say, a species of visionary, who loved to argue
with Dorsenne, because he knew that in spite of all he was understood,
if he had not continued, as they walked along the lighted corridor,
while remounting toward daylight:
"If it is all the same to you, sir apologist of the modern world, I
should like to pause here and ask you frankly: Do you not feel yourself
more contemporary with all the dead who slumber within these walls than
with a radical elector or a free-mason deputy? Do you not feel that if
these martyrs had not come to pray beneath these vaults eighteen hundred
years ago, the best part of your soul would not exist? Where will you
find a poetry more touching than that of these symbols and of these
epitaphs? That admirable De Rossi showed me one at Saint Calixtus last
year. My tears flow as I recall it. 'Pete pro Phoebe et pro virginio
ejus'. Pray for Phoebus and for--How do you translate the word
'virginius', the husband who has known only one wife, the virgin husband
of a virgin spouse? Your youth will pass, Dorsenne. You will one day
feel what I feel, the happiness which is wanting on account of bygone
errors, and you will comprehend that it is only to be found in Christian
marriage, whose entire sublimity is summed up in thus prayer: 'Pro
virginio ejus'.... You will be like me then, and you will find in this
book," he held up 'l'Eucologe', which he clasped in his hand, "something
through which to offer up to God your remorse and your regrets. Do you
know the hymn of the Holy Sacrament, 'Adoro te, devote'? No. Yet you
are capable of feeling what is contained in these lines. Listen. It is
this idea: That on the cross one sees only the man, not the God; that in
the host one does not even see the man, and that yet one believes in the
In cruce latebat sola Deitas.
At hic latet simul et humanitas.
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens....
"And now this last verse:
Peto quod petivit latro poenitens!
[I ask that which the penitent thief asked.]
"What a cry! Ah, but it is beautiful! It is beautiful! What words to
say in dying! And what did the poor thief ask, that Dixmas of whom the
church has made a saint for that one appeal: 'Remember me, Lord, in Thy
kingdom!' But we have arrived. Stoop, that you may not spoil your hat.
Now, what do you want with me? You know the motto of the Montfanons:
'Excelsior et firmior'--Always higher and always firmer.... One can never
do too many good deeds. If it be possible, 'present', as we said to the
A singular mixture of fervor and of good-nature, of enthusiastic
eloquence and of political or religious fanaticism, was Montfanon. But
the good-nature rapidly vanished from his face, at once so haughty and so
simple, in proportion as Dorsenne's story proceeded. The writer, indeed,
did not make the error of at once formulating his proposition. He felt
that he could not argue with the pontifical zouave of bygone days.
Either the latter would look upon it as monstrous and absurd, or he would
see in it a charitable duty to be accomplished, and then, whatever
annoyance the matter might occasion him, he would accept it, as he would
bestow alms. It was that chord of generosity which Julien, diplomatic
for once in his life, essayed to touch by his confidence. Gaining
authority by their conversation of a few days before, he related all he
could of Gorka's visit, concealing the fact of that word of honor so
falsely given, which still oppressed him with a mortal weight. He told
how he had soothed the madman, how he conducted him to the station, then
he described the meeting of the two rivals twenty-four hours later. He
dwelt upon Alba's manner that evening and the infamy of the anonymous
letters written to Madame Steno's discarded lover and to her daughter.
And after he had reported the mysterious quarrel which had suddenly
arisen between Gorka and Chapron:
"I, therefore, promised to be his second," he concluded, "because I
believe it my absolute duty to do all I can to prevent the duel from
taking place. Only think of it. If it should take place, and if one of
them is killed or wounded, how can the affair be kept secret in this
gossiping city of Rome? And what remarks it will call forth! It is
evident that these two boys have quarrelled only on account of the
relations between Madame Steno and Maitland. By what strange
coincidence? Of that I know nothing.
"But there will not be a doubt in public opinion. And can you not see
additional anonymous letters written to Alba, Madame Gorka, Madame
Maitland?.... The men I do not care for.... Two out of three merit all
that comes to them. But those innocent creatures--is it not frightful?"
"Frightful, indeed," replied Montfanon; "it is that which renders those
adulterous adventures so hideous. There are many people who are affected
by it besides the guilty ones.... You see that, you who thought that
society so pleasant, so refined, so interesting, the day before
yesterday? But it does no good to recriminate. I understand. You have
come to ask me to advise you in your role of second. My follies of youth
will enable me to direct you.... Correctness in the slightest detail and
no nerves, when one has to arrange a duel. Oh! You will have trouble.
Gorka is mad. I know the Poles. They have great faults, but they are
brave. Lord, but they are brave! And little Chapron, I know him, too;
he has one of those stubborn natures, which would allow their breasts to
be pierced without saying 'Ouf!' And 'amour propre'. He has good
soldier's blood in his veins, that child, notwithstanding the mixture.
And with that mixture, do you not see what a hero the first of the three
Dumas, the mulatto general, has been?.... Yes. You have there a hard
job, my good Dorsenne.... You will need another second to assist you,
who will have the same views as you and--pardon me--more experience,
"Marquis," replied Julien, whose voice trembled with anxiety, "there is
only one person in Rome who would be respected enough, venerated by all,
so that his intervention in that delicate and dangerous matter be
decisive, one person who could suggest excuses to Chapron, or obtain them
from the other.... In short, there is only one person who has the
authority of a hero before whom they will remain silent when he speaks of
honor, and that person is you."
"I," exclaimed Montfanon, "I, you wish me to be--"
"One of Chapron's seconds," interrupted Dorsenne. "Yes. It is true. I
come on his part and for that. Do not tell me what I already know, that
your position will not allow of such a step. It is because it is what it
is, that I thought of coming to you. Do not tell me that your religious
principles are opposed to duels. It is that there may be no duel that I
conjure you to accept.... It is essential that it does not take place.
I swear to you, that the peace of too many innocent persons is
And he continued, calling into service at that moment all the
intelligence and all the eloquence of which he was capable. He could
follow on the face of the former duellist, who had become the most ardent
of Catholics and the most monomaniacal of old bachelors, twenty diverse
expressions. At length Montfanon laid his hand with veritable solemnity
on his interlocutor's arm and said to him:
"Listen, Dorsenne, do not tell me any more.... I consent to what you ask
of me, but on two conditions. They are these: The first is that Monsieur
Chapron will trust absolutely to my judgment, whatsoever it may be; the
second is that you will retire with me if these gentlemen persist in
their childishness.... I promise to aid you in fulfilling a mission of
charity, and not anything else; I repeat, not anything else. Before
bringing Monsieur Chapron to me you will repeat to him what I have said,
word for word."
"Word for word," replied the other, adding: "He is at home awaiting the
result of my undertaking."
"Then," said the Marquis, "I will return to Rome with you at once. He
has probably already received Gorka's seconds, and if they really wish to
arrange a duel the rule is not to put it off.... I shall not see my
procession, but to prevent misfortune is to do a good deed, and it is one
way of praying to God."
"Let me press your hand, my noble friend," said Dorsenne; "never have I
better understood what a truly brave man is."
When the writer alighted, three-quarters of an hour later, at the house
on the Rue Leopardi, after having seen Montfanon home, he felt sustained
by such moral support that was almost joyous. He found Florent in his
species of salon-smoking-room, arranging his papers with methodical
"He accepts," were the first words the young men uttered, almost
simultaneously, while Dorsenne repeated Montfanon's words.
"I depend absolutely on you two," replied the other. "I have no thirst
for Monsieur de Gorka's blood.... But that gentleman must not accuse the
grandson of Colonel Chapron of cowardice.... For that I rely upon the
relative of General Dorsenne and on the old soldier of Charette."
As he spoke, Florent handed a letter to Julien, who asked: "From whom is
"This," said Florent, "is a letter addressed to you, on this very table
half an hour ago by Baron Hafner.... There is some news. I have
received my adversary's seconds. The Baron is one, Ardea the other."
"Baron Hafner!" exclaimed Dorsenne. "What a singular choice!" He
paused, and he and Florent exchanged glances. They understood one
another without speaking. Boleslas could not have found a surer means of
informing Madame Steno as to the plan he intended to employ in his
vengeance. On the other hand, the known devotion of the Baron for the
Countess gave one chance more for a pacific solution, at the same time
that the fanaticism of Montfanon would be confronted with Fanny's father,
an episode of comedy suddenly cast across Gorka's drama of jealousy.
Julien resumed with a smile: "You must watch Montfanon's face when we
inform him of those two witnesses. He is a man of the fifteenth century,
you know, a Montluc, a Duc d'Alba, a Philippe II. I do not know which he
detests the most, the Freemasons, the Free-thinkers, the Protestants, the
Jews, or the Germans. And as this obscure and tortuous Hafner is a
little of everything, he has vowed hatred against him!.... Leaving that
out of the question, he suspects him of being a secret agent in the
service of the Triple Alliance! But let us see the letter."
He opened and glanced through it. "This craftiness serves for something,
it is equivalent almost to kindness. He, too, has felt that it is
necessary to end our affair, were it only to avoid scandal. He appoints
a meeting at his house between six and seven o'clock with me and your
second. Come, time is flying. You must come to the Marquis to make your
request officially. Begin this way. Obtain his promise before
mentioning Hafner's name. I know him. He will not retract his word.
But it is just."
The two friends found Montfanon awaiting them in his office, a large room
filled with books, from which could be obtained a fine view of the
panorama of the Forum, more majestic still on that afternoon when the
shadows of the columns and arches grew longer on the sidewalk. The room
with its brick floor had no other comfort than a carpet under the large
desk littered with papers--no doubt fragments of the famous work on the
relations of the French nobility and the Church. A crucifix stood upon
the desk. On the wall were two engravings, that of Monseigneur Pie, the
holy Bishop of Poitiers, and that of General de Sonis, on foot, with his
wooden leg, and a painting representing St. Francois, the patron of the
house. Those were the only artistic decorations of the modest
habitation. The nobleman often said: "I have freed myself from the
tyranny of objects." But with that marvellous background of grandiose
ruins and that sky, the simple spot was an incomparable retreat in which
to end in meditation and renouncement a life already shaken by the
tempests of the senses and of the world.
The hermit of that Thebaide rose to greet his two visitors, and pointing
out to Chapron an open volume on his table, he said to him:
"I was thinking of you. It is Chateauvillars's book on duelling. It
contains a code which is not very complete. I recommend it to you,
however, if ever you have to fulfil a mission like ours," and he pointed
to Dorsenne and himself, with a gesture which constituted the most
amicable of acceptations. "It seems you had too hasty a hand.... Ha!
ha! Do not defend yourself. Such as you see me, at twenty-one I threw
a plate in the face of a gentleman who bantered Comte de Chambord before
a number of Jacobins at a table d'hote in the provinces. See," continued
he, raising his white moustache and disclosing a scar, "this is the
souvenir. The fellow was once a dragoon; he proposed the sabre. I
accepted, and this is what I got, while he lost two fingers.... That
will not happen to us this time at least.... Dorsenne has told you our
"And I replied that I was sure I could not intrust my honor to better
hands," replied Florent.
"Cease!" replied Montfanon, with a gesture of satisfaction. "No more
phrases. It is well. Moreover, I judged you, sir, from the day on which
you spoke to me at Saint Louis. You honor your dead. That is why I
shall be happy, very happy, to be useful to you."
"Now tell me very clearly the recital you made to Dorsenne."
Then Florent related concisely that which had taken place between him and
Gorka--that is to say, their argument and his passion, carefully omitting
the details in which the name of his brother-in-law would be mixed.
"The deuce!" said Montfanon, familiarly, "the affair looks bad, very
bad.... You see, a second is a confessor. You have had a discussion in
the street with Monsieur Gorka, but about what? You can not reply? What
did he say to you to provoke you to the point of wishing to strike him?
That is the first key to the position."
"I can not reply," said Florent.
"Then," resumed the Marquis, after a silence, "there only remains to
assert that the gesture on your part was--how shall I say? Unmeditated
and unfinished. That is the second key to the position.... You have no
special grudge against Monsieur Gorka?"
"Nor he against you?"
"The affair looks better," said Montfanon, who was silent for a time, to
resume, in the voice of a man who is talking to himself, "Count Gorka
considers himself offended? But is there any offence? It is that which
we should discuss.... An assault or the threat of an assault would
afford occasion for an arrangement.... But a gesture restrained, since
it was not carried into effect.... Do not interrupt me," he continued.
"I am trying to understand it clearly.... We must arrive at a solution.
We shall have to express our regret, leaving the field open to another
reparation, if Gorka requires it.... And he will not require it. The
entire problem now rests on the choice of his seconds.... Whom will he
"I have already received visits from them," said Florent. "Half an hour
ago. One is Prince d'Ardea."
"He is a gentleman," replied Montfanon. "I shall not be sorry to see him
to tell him my feelings with regard to the public sale of his palace, to
which he should never have allowed himself to be driven.... And the
"The other?" interrupted Dorsenne. "Prepare yourself for a blow....
I swear to you I did not know his name when I went in search of you at
the catacomb. It is--in short--it is Baron Hafner."
"Baron Hafner!" exclaimed Montfanon. "Boleslas Gorka, the descendant of
the Gorkas, of that grand Luc Gorka who was Palatine of Posen and Bishop
of Cujavie, has chosen for his second Monsieur Justus Hafner, the thief,
the scoundrel, who had the disgraceful suit!.... No, Dorsenne, do not
tell me that; it is not possible." Then, with the air of a combatant:
"We will challenge him; that is all, for his lack of honor. I take it
upon myself, as well as to tell of his deeds to Boleslas. We will spend
an enjoyable quarter of an hour there, I promise you."
"You will not do that," said Dorsenne, quickly. "First, with regard to
official honor, there is only one law, is there not? Hafner was
acquitted and his adversaries condemned. You told me so the other
day.... And then, you forget the conversation we just had."
"Pardon," interrupted Florent, in his turn. "Monsieur de Montfanon, in
promising to assist me, has done me a great honor, which I shall never
forget. If there should result from it any annoyance to him I should be
deeply grieved, and I am ready to release him from his promise."
"No," said the Marquis, after another silence. "I will not take it
back.".... He was so magnanimous when his two or three hobbies were not
involved that the slightest delicacy awoke an echo in him. He again
extended his hand to Chapron and continued, but with an accent which
betrayed suppressed irritation: "After all, it does not concern us if
Monsieur Gorka has chosen to be represented in an affair of honor by one
whom he should not even salute.... You will, then, give our two names to
those two gentlemen.... and Dorsenne and I will await them, as is the
rule.... It is their place to come, since they are the proxies of the
"They have already arranged a meeting for this evening," replied
"What's arranged? With whom? For whom?" exclaimed Montfanon, a prey to
a fresh access of choler. "With you?.... For us?.... Ah, I do not like
such conduct where such grave matters are concerned.... The code is
absolute on that subject.... Their challenge once made, to which you,
Monsieur Chapron, have to reply by yes or no, these gentlemen should
withdraw immediately.... It is not your fault, it is Ardea's, who has
allowed that dabbler in spurious dividends to perform his part of
intriguer.... But we will rectify all in the right way, which is the
French.... And where is the rendezvous?"
"I will read to you the letter which the Baron left for me with Florent,"
said Dorsenne, who indeed read the very courteous note Hafner had written
to him, in which he excused himself for choosing his own house as a
rendezvous for the four witnesses. "One can not ignore so polite a
"There are too many dear sirs, and too many compliments," said
Montfanon, brusquely. "Sit here," he continued, relinquishing his
armchair to Florent, "and inform the two men of our names and address,
adding that we are at their service and ignoring the first inaccuracy on
their part. Let them return!.... And you, Dorsenne, since you are
afraid of wounding that gentleman, I will not prevent you from going to
his house--personally, do you hear--to warn him that Monsieur Chapron,
here present, has chosen for his first second a disagreeable person, an
old duellist, anything you like, but who desires strict form, and, first
of all, a correct call made upon us by them, in order to settle
officially upon a rendezvous."
"What did I tell you?" asked Dorsenne, when he with Florent descended
Montfanon's staircase. "He is a different man since you mentioned the
Baron to him. The discussion between them will be a hot one. I hope he
will not spoil all by his folly. On my honor, if I had guessed whom
Gorka would choose I should not have suggested to you the old leaguer,
as I call him."
"And I, if Monsieur de Montfanon should make me fight at five paces,"
replied Chapron, with a laugh, "would be grateful to you for having
brought me into relations with him. He is a whole-souled man, as was my
poor father, as is Maitland. I adore such people."
"Is there no means of having at once heart and head?" said Julien to
himself, on reaching the Palais Savorelli, where Hafner lived, and
recalling the Marquis's choler on the one hand, and on the other the
egotism of Maitland, of which Florent's last words reminded him. His
apprehension of the afternoon returned in a greater degree, for he knew
Montfanon to be very sensitive on certain points, and it was one of those
points which would be wounded to the quick by the forced relations with
Gorka's witnesses. "I do not trust Hafner," thought he; "if the cunning
fellow has accepted the mission utterly contrary to his tastes, his
habits, almost to his age, it must be to connive with his future son-in-
law and to conciliate all. Perhaps even the marriage had been already
settled? I hope not. The Marquis would be so furious he would require
the duel to a letter."
The young man had guessed aright. Chance, which often brings one event
upon another, decreed that Ardea, at the very moment that he was
deliberating with Gorka as to the choice of another second, received a
note from Madame Steno containing simply these words: "Your proposal has
been made, and the answer is yes. May I be the first to embrace you,
An ingenious idea occurred to him; to have arranged by his future father-
in-law the quarrel which he considered at once absurd, useless, and
dangerous. The eagerness with which Gorka had accepted Hafner's name,
proved, as Dorsenne and Florent had divined, his desire that his
perfidious mistress should be informed of his doings. As for the Baron,
he consented--oh, irony of coincidences!--by saying to Peppino Ardea
words almost identical with those which Montfanon had uttered to
"We will draw up, in advance, an official plan of conciliation, and, if
the matter can not be arranged, we will withdraw."
It was in such terms that the memorable conversation was concluded, a
conversation truly worthy of the combinazione which poor Fanny's marriage
represented. There had been less question of the marriage itself than
that of the services to be rendered to the infidelity of the woman who
presided over the sorry traffic! Is it necessary to add that neither
Ardea nor his future father-in-law had made the shadow of an allusion to
the true side of the affair? Perhaps at any other time the excessive
prudence innate to the Baron and his care never to compromise himself
would have deterred him from the possible annoyances which might arise
from an interference in the adventure of an exasperated and discarded
lover. But his joy at the thought that his daughter was to become a
Roman princess--and with what a name!--had really turned his brain.
He had, however, the good sense to say to the stunned Ardea: "Madame
Steno must know nothing of it, at least beforehand. She would not fail
to inform Madame Gorka, and God knows of what the latter would be
In reality, the two men were convinced that it was essential, directly or
indirectly, to beware of warning Maitland. They employed the remainder
of the afternoon in paying their visit to Florent, then in sending
telegram after telegram to announce the betrothal, with which charming
Fanny seemed more satisfied since Cardinal Guerillot had consented, at
simply a word from her, to preside at her baptism. The Baron, in the
face of that consent, could not restrain his joy. He loved his daughter,
strange man, somewhat in the manner in which a breeder loves a favorite
horse which has won the Grand Prix for him. When Dorsenne arrived,
bearing Chapron's note and Montfanon's message, he was received with a
cordiality and a complaisance which at once enlightened him upon the
result of the matrimonial intrigue of which Alba had spoken to him.
"Anything that your friend wishes, my dear sir.... Is it not so,
Peppino?" said the Baron, seating himself at his table. "Will you
dictate the letter yourself, Dorsenne?.... See, is this all right? You
will understand with what sentiments we have accepted this mission when
you learn that Fanny is betrothed to Prince Ardea, here present. The
news dates from three o'clock. So you are the first to know it, is he
not, Peppino?" He had drawn up not less than two hundred despatches.
"Return whenever you like with the Marquis.... I simply ask, under the
circumstances, that the interview take place, if it be possible, between
six and seven, or between nine and ten, in order not to interfere with
our little family dinner."
"Let us say nine o'clock," said Dorsenne. "Monsieur de Montfanon is
somewhat formal. He would like to have your reply by letter."
"Prince Ardea to marry Mademoiselle Hafner!" That cry which the news
brought by Julien wrested from Montfanon was so dolorous that the young
man did not think of laughing. He had thought it wiser to prepare his
irascible friend, lest the Baron might make some allusion to the grand
event during the course of the conversation, and that the other might not
make some impulsive remark.
"Did I not tell you that the girl's Catholicism was a farce? Did I not
tell Monseigneur Guerillot? This was what she aimed at all those years,
with such perfect hypocrisy? It was the Palais Castagna. And she will
enter there as mistress!.... She will bring there the dishonor of that
pirated gold on which there are stains of blood! Warn them, that they do
not speak to me of it, or I will not answer for myself.... The second of
a Gorka, the father-in-law of an Ardea, he triumphs, the thief who should
by rights be a convict!.... But we shall see. Will not all the other
Roman princes who have no blots upon their escutcheons, the Orsinis, the
Colonnas, the Odeschalchis, the Borgheses, the Rospigliosis, not combine
to prevent this monstrosity? Nobility is like love, those who buy those
sacred things degrade them in paying for them, and those to whom they are
given are no better than mire.... Princess d'Ardea! That creature!
Ah, what a disgrace!.... But we must remember our engagement relative to
that brave young Chapron. The boy pleases me; first, because very
probably he is going to fight for some one else and out of a devotion
which I can not very well understand! It is devotion all the same, and
it is chivalry!.... He desires to prevent that miserable Gorka from
calling forth a scandal which would have warned his sister.... And then,
as I told him, he respects the dead.... Let us.... I have my wits no
longer about me, that intelligence has so greatly disturbed me....
Princess d'Ardea!.... Well, write that we will be at Monsieur Hafner's
at nine o'clock.... I do not want any of those people at my house....
At yours it would not be proper; you are too young. And I prefer going
to the father-in-law's rather than to the son-inlaw's. The rascal has
made a good bargain in buying what he has bought with his stolen
millions. But the other.... And his great-great-uncle might have been
Jules Second, Pie Fifth, Hildebrand; he would have sold all just the
same!.... He can not deceive himself! He has heard the suit against
that man spoken of! He knows whence come those millions! He has heard
their family, their lives spoken of! And he has not been inspired with
too great a horror to accept the gold of that adventurer. Does he not
know what a name is? Our name! It is ourselves, our honor, in the
mouths, in the thoughts, of others! How happy I am, Dorsenne, to have
been fifty-two years of age last month. I shall be gone before having
seen what you will see, the agony of all the aristocrats and royalties.
It was only in blood that they fell! But they do not fall. Alas! They
fix themselves upon the ground, which is the saddest of all. Still, what
matters it? The monarchy, the nobility, and the Church are everlasting.
The people who disregard them will die, that is all. Come, write your
letter, which I will sign. Send it away, and you will dine with me. We
must go into the den provided with an argument which will prevent this
duel, and sustaining our part toward our client. There must be an
arrangement which I would accept myself. I like him, I repeat."
The excitement which began to startle Dorsenne was only augmented during
dinner, so much the more so as, on discussing the conditions of that
arrangement he hoped to bring about, the recollection of his terrible
youth filled the thoughts and the discourse of the former duellist. Was
it, indeed, the same personage who recited the verses of a hymn in the
catacombs a few hours before? It only required the feudal in him to be
reawakened to transform him. The fire in his eyes and the color in his
face betrayed that the duel in which he had thought best to engage, out
of charity, intoxicated him on his own statement. It was the old
amateur, the epicure of the sword, very ungovernable, which stirred
within that man of faith, in whom passion had burned and who had loved
all excitement, including that of danger, as to-day he loved his ideas,
as he loved his flagi mmoderately. He no longer thought of the three
women to be spared suspicion, nor of the good deed to be accomplished.
He saw all his old friends and their talent for fighting, the thrusts of
this one, the way another had of striking, the composure of a third, and
then this refrain interrupted constantly his warlike anecdotes: "But why
the deuce has Gorka chosen that Hafner for his second?.... It is
incomprehensible.".... On entering the carriage which was to bear them
to their interview, he heard Dorsenne say to the coachman: "Palais
"That is the final blow," said he, raising his arm and clenching his
fist. "The adventurer occupies the Pretender's house, the house of the
Stuarts.".... He repeated: "The house of the Stuarts!" and then lapsed
into a silence which the writer felt to be laden with more storminess
than his last denunciation. He did not emerge from his meditations until
ushered into the salon of the ci-devant jeweller, now a grand seigneur--
into one of the salons, rather, for there were five. There Montfanon
began to examine everything around him, with an air of such contempt and
pride that, notwithstanding his anxiety, Dorsenne could not resist
laughing and teasing him by saying:
"You will not pretend to say that there are no pretty things here? These
two paintings by Moroni, for example?"
"Nothing that is appropriate," replied Montfanon. "Yes, they are two
magnificent portraits of ancestors, and this man has no ancestors!....
There are some weapons in that cupboard, and he has never touched a
sword! And there is a piece of tapestry representing the miracles of the
loaves, which is a piece of audacity! You may not believe me, Dorsenne,
but it is making me ill to be here.... I am reminded of the human toil,
of the human soul in all these objects, and to end here, paid for how?
Owned by whom? Close your eyes and think of Schroeder and of the others
whom you do not know. Look into the hovels where there is neither
furniture, fire, nor bread. Then, open your eyes and look at this."
"And you, my dear friend," replied the novelist, "I conjure you to think
of our conversation in the catacombs, to think of the three ladies in
whose names I besought you to aid Florent."
"Thank you," said Montfanon, passing his hand over his brow, "I promise
you to be calm."
He had scarcely uttered those words when the door opened, disclosing to
view another room, lighted also, and which, to judge by the sound of
voices, contained several persons. No doubt Madame Steno and Alba,
thought Julien; and the Baron entered, accompanied by Peppino Ardea.
While going through the introductions, the writer was struck by the
contrast offered between his three companions. Hafner and Ardea in
evening dress, with buttonhole bouquets, had the open and happy faces of
two citizens who had clear consciences. The usually sallow complexion of
the business man was tinged with excitement, his eyes, as a rule so hard,
were gentler. As for the Prince, the same childish carelessness lighted
up his jovial face, while the hero of Patay, with his coarse boots, his
immense form enveloped in a somewhat shabby redingote, exhibited a face
so contracted that one would have thought him devoured by remorse.
A dishonest intendant, forced to expose his accounts to generous and
confiding masters, could not have had a face more gloomy or more anxious.
He had, moreover, put his one arm behind his back in a manner so formal
that neither of the two men who entered offered him their hands. That
appearance was without doubt little in keeping with what the father and
the fiance of Fanny had expected; for there was, when the four men were
seated, a pause which the Baron was the first to break. He began in his
measured tones, in a voice which handles words as the weight of a usurer
weighs gold pieces to the milligramme:
"Gentlemen, I believe I shall express our common sentiment in first of
all establishing a point which shall govern our meeting.... We are here,
it is understood, to bring about the work of reconciliation between two
men, two gentlemen whom we know, whom we esteem--I might better say, whom
we all love.".... He turned, in pronouncing those words, successively to
each of his three listeners, who all bowed, with the exception of the
Marquis. Hafner examined the nobleman, with his glance accustomed to
read the depths of the mind in order to divine the intentions. He saw
that Chapron's first witness was a troublesome customer, and he
continued: "That done, I beg to read to you this little paper." He drew
from his pocket a sheet of folded paper and placed upon the end of his
nose his famous gold 'lorgnon': "It is very trifling, one of those
directives, as Monsieur de Moltke says, which serve to guide operations,
a plan of action which we will modify after discussion. In short, it is
a landmark that we may not launch into space."
"Pardon, sir," interrupted Montfanon, whose brows contracted still more
at the mention of the celebrated field-marshal, and, stopping by a
gesture the reader, who, in his surprise, dropped his lorgnon upon the
table on which his elbow rested. "I regret very much," he continued, "to
be obliged to tell you that Monsieur Dorsenne and I"--here he turned to
Dorsenne, who made an equivocal gesture of vexation"--can not admit the
point of view in which you place yourself.... You claim that we are here
to arrange a reconciliation. That is possible.... I concede that it is
desirable.... But I know nothing of it and, permit me to say, you do not
know any more. I am here--we are here, Monsieur Dorsenne and I, to
listen to the complaints which Count Gorka has commissioned you to
formulate to Monsieur Florent Chapron's proxies. Formulate those
complaints, and we will discuss them. Formulate the reparation you claim
in the name of your client and we will discuss it. The papers will
follow, if they follow at all, and, once more, neither you nor we know
what will be the issue of this conversation, nor should we know it,
before establishing the facts."
"There is some misunderstanding, sir," said Ardea, whom Montfanon's words
had irritated somewhat. He could not, any more than Hafner, understand
the very simple, but very singular, character of the Marquis, and he
added: "I have been concerned in several 'rencontres'--four times as
second, and once as principal--and I have seen employed without
discussion the proceeding which Baron Hafner has just proposed to you,
and which of itself is, perhaps, only a more expeditious means of
arriving at what you very properly call the establishment of facts."
"I was not aware of the number of your affairs, sir," replied Montfanon,
still more nervous since Hafner's future son-in-law joined in the
conversation; "but since it has pleased you to tell us I will take the
liberty of saying to you that I have fought seven times, and that I have
been a second fourteen.... It is true that it was at an epoch when the
head of your house was your father, if I remember right, the deceased
Prince Urban, whom I had the honor of knowing when I served in the
zouaves. He was a fine Roman nobleman, and did honor to his name. What
I have told you is proof that I have some competence in the matter of a
duel.... Well, we have always held that seconds were constituted to
arrange affairs that could be arranged, but also to settle affairs, as
well as they can, that seem incapable of being arranged. Let us now
inquire into the matter; we are here for that, and for nothing else."
"Are these gentlemen of that opinion?" asked Hafner in a conciliatory
voice, turning first to Dorsenne, then to Ardea: "I do not adhere to my
method," he continued, again folding his paper. He slipped it into his
vest-pocket and continued: "Let us establish the facts, as you say.
Count Gorka, our friend, considers himself seriously, very seriously,
offended by Monsieur Florent Chapron in the course of the discussion in a
public street. Monsieur Chapron was carried away, as you know, sirs,
almost to--what shall I say?--hastiness, which, however, was not followed
by consequences, thanks to the presence of mind of Monsieur Gorka....
But, accomplished or not, the act remains. Monsieur Gorka was insulted,
and he requires satisfaction.... I do not believe there is any doubt
upon that point which is the cause of the affair, or, rather, the whole
"I again ask your pardon, sir," said Montfanon, dryly, who no longer took
pains to conceal his anger, "Monsieur Dorsenne and I can not accept your
manner of putting the question.... You say that Monsieur Chapron's
hastiness was not followed by consequences by reason of Monsieur Gorka's
presence of mind. We claim that there was only on the part of Monsieur
Chapron a scarcely indicated gesture, which he himself restrained. In
consequence you attribute to Monsieur Gorka the quality of the insulted
party; you are over-hasty. He is merely the plaintiff, up to this time.
It is very different."
"But by rights he is the insulted party," interrupted Ardea. "Restrained
or not, it constitutes a threat of assault. I did not wish to claim to
be a duellist by telling you of my engagements. But this is the A B C of
the 'codice cavalleresco', if the insult be followed by an assault, he
who receives the blow is the offended party, and the threat of an assault
is equivalent to an actual assault. The offended party has the choice of
a duel, weapons and conditions. Consult your authors and ours:
Chateauvillars, Du Verger, Angelini and Gelli, all agree."
"I am sorry for their sakes," said Montfanon, and he looked at the Prince
with a contraction of the brows almost menacing, "but it is an opinion
which does not hold good generally, nor in this particular case. The
proof is that a duellist, as you have just said," his voice trembled as
he emphasized the insolence offered by the other, "a bravo, to use the
expression of your country, would only have to commit a justifiable
murder by first insulting him at whom he aims with rude words. The
insulted person replies by a voluntary gesture, on the signification of
which one may be mistaken, and you will admit that the bravo is the
offended party, and that he has the choice of weapons."
"But, Marquis," resumed Hafner, with evident disgust, so greatly did the
cavilling and the ill-will of the nobleman irritate him, "where are you
wandering to? What do you mean by bringing up chicanery of this sort?"
"Chicanery!" exclaimed Montfanon, half rising.
"Montfanon!" besought Dorsenne, rising in his turn and forcing the
terrible man to be seated.
"I retract the word," said the Baron, "if it has insulted you. Nothing
was farther from my thoughts.... I repeat that I apologize, Marquis....
But, come, tell us what you want for your client, that is very simple....
And then we will do all we can to make your demands agree with those of
our client.... It is a trifling matter to be adjusted."
"No, sir," said Montfanon, with insolent severity, "it is justice to be
rendered, which is very different. What we, Monsieur Dorsenne and I,
desire," he continued in a severe voice, "is this: Count Gorka has
gravely insulted Monsieur Chapron. Let me finish," he added upon a
simultaneous gesture on the part of Ardea and of Hafner. "Yes, sirs,
Monsieur Chapron, known to us all for his perfect courtesy, must have
been very gravely insulted, even to make the improper gesture of which
you just spoke. But it was agreed upon between these two gentlemen, for
reasons of delicacy which we had to accept--it was agreed, I say, that
the nature of the insult offered by Monsieur Gorka to Monsieur Chapron
should not be divulged.... We have the right, however, and I may add the
duty devolves upon us, to measure the gravity of that insult by the
excess of anger aroused in Monsieur Chapron.... I conclude from it that,
to be just, the plan of reconciliation, if we draw it up, should contain
reciprocal concessions. Count Gorka will retract his words and Monsieur
Chapron apologize for his hastiness."
"It is impossible," exclaimed the Prince; "Gorka will never accept that."
"You, then, wish to have them fight the duel?" groaned Hafner.
"And why not?" said Montfanon, exasperated. "It would be better than
for the one to nurse his insults and the other his blow."
"Well, sirs," replied the Baron, rising after the silence which followed
that imprudent whim of a man beside himself, "we will confer again with
our client. If you wish, we will resume this conversation tomorrow at
ten o'clock, say here or in any place convenient to you.... You will
excuse me, Marquis. Dorsenne has no doubt told you under what
"Yes, he has told me," interrupted Montfanon, who again glanced at the
Prince, and in a manner so mournful that the latter felt himself blush
beneath the strange glance, at which, however, it was impossible to feel
angry. Dorsenne had only time to cut short all other explanations by
replying to Justus Hafner himself.
"Would you like the meeting at my house? We shall have more chance to
"You have done well to change the place," said Montfanon, five minutes
later, on entering the carriage with his young friend.
They had descended the staircase without speaking, for the brave and
unreasonable Marquis regretted his strangely provoking attitude of the
"What would you have?" he added. "The profaned palace, the insolent
luxury of that thief, the Prince who has sold his family, the Baron whose
part is so sinister. I could no longer contain myself! That Baron,
above all, with his directives! Words to repeat when one is German,
to a French soldier who fought in 1870, like those words of Monsieur de
Moltke! His terms, too, applied to honor and that abominable politeness
in which there is servility and insolence!.... Still, I am not satisfied
with myself. I am not at all satisfied."
There was in his voice so much good-nature, such evident remorse at not
having controlled himself in so grave a situation, that Dorsenne pressed
his hand instead of reproaching him, as he said:
"It will do to-morrow.... We will arrange all; it has only been
"You say that to console me," said the Marquis, "but I know it was very
badly managed. And it is my fault! Perhaps we shall have no other
service to render our brave Chapron than to arrange a duel for him under
the most dangerous conditions. Ah, but I became inopportunely angry!....
But why the deuce did Gorka select such a second? It is
incomprehensible!.... Did you see what the cabalistic word gentleman
means to those rascals: Steal, cheat, assassinate, but have carriages
perfectly appointed, a magnificent mansion, well-served dinners, and fine
clothes!.... No, I have suffered too much! Ah, it is not right; and on
what a day, too? God! That the old man might die!".... he added, in a
voice so low that his companion did not hear his words.
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