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  • 1908
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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.

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


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 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 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 them from a direct charge. Two carefully aimed shots rang out in the frosty air, two Cossacks reeled in their saddles. The rest, not thinking the game good enough, closed round their wounded comrades and galloped away out of range. The two officers managed to rejoin their battalion halted for the night. During that after- noon they had leaned upon each other more than once, and towards the end, Colonel D’Hubert, whose long legs gave him an advantage in walking through soft snow, peremptorily took the musket of Colonel Feraud from him and carried it on his shoulder, using his own as a staff.

On the outskirts of a village half buried in the snow an old wooden barn burned with a clear and an im- mense flame. The sacred battalion of skeletons, muffled in rags, crowded greedily the windward side, stretching hundreds of numbed, bony hands to the blaze. Nobody had noted their approach. Before entering the circle of light playing on the sunken, glassy- eyed, starved faces, Colonel D’Hubert spoke in his turn:

“Here’s your musket, Colonel Feraud. I can walk better than you.”

Colonel Feraud nodded, and pushed on towards the warmth of the fierce flames. Colonel D’Hubert was more deliberate, but not the less bent on getting a place in the front rank. Those they shouldered aside tried to greet with a faint cheer the reappearance of the two indomitable companions in activity and endurance. Those manly qualities had never perhaps received a higher tribute than this feeble acclamation.

This is the faithful record of speeches exchanged during the retreat from Moscow by Colonels Feraud and D’Hubert. Colonel Feraud’s taciturnity was the out- come of concentrated rage. Short, hairy, black faced, with layers of grime and the thick sprouting of a wiry beard, a frost-bitten hand wrapped up in filthy rags carried in a sling, he accused fate of unparalleled perfidy towards the sublime Man of Destiny. Colonel D’Hubert, his long moustaches pendent in icicles on each side of his cracked blue lips, his eyelids inflamed with the glare of snows, the principal part of his costume consisting of a sheepskin coat looted with difficulty from the frozen corpse of a camp follower found in an abandoned cart, took a more thoughtful view of events. His regularly handsome features, now reduced to mere bony lines and fleshless hollows, looked out of a woman’s black velvet hood, over which was rammed forcibly a cocked hat picked up under the wheels of an empty army fourgon, which must have contained at one time some general officer’s luggage. The sheepskin coat being short for a man of his inches ended very high up, and the skin of his legs, blue with the cold, showed through the tatters of his nether garments. This under the circumstances provoked neither jeers nor pity. No one cared how the next man felt or looked. Colonel D’Hubert himself, hardened to exposure, suf- fered mainly in his self-respect from the lamentable in- decency of his costume. A thoughtless person may think that with a whole host of inanimate bodies be- strewing the path of retreat there could not have been much difficulty in supplying the deficiency. But to loot a pair of breeches from a frozen corpse is not so easy as it may appear to a mere theorist. It requires time and labour. You must remain behind while your companions march on. Colonel D’Hubert had his scruples as to falling out. Once he had stepped aside he could not be sure of ever rejoining his battalion; and the ghastly intimacy of a wrestling match with the frozen dead opposing the unyielding rigidity of iron to your violence was repugnant to the delicacy of his feelings. Luckily, one day, grubbing in a mound of snow between the huts of a village in the hope of finding there a frozen potato or some vegetable garbage he could put between his long and shaky teeth, Colonel D’Hubert uncovered a couple of mats of the sort Russian peasants use to line the sides of their carts with. These, beaten free of frozen snow, bent about his elegant person and fastened solidly round his waist, made a bell-shaped nether garment, a sort of stiff petti- coat, which rendered Colonel D’Hubert a perfectly decent, but a much more noticeable figure than before.

Thus accoutred, he continued to retreat, never doubt- ing of his personal escape, but full of other misgivings. The early buoyancy of his belief in the future was destroyed. If the road of glory led through such unfore- seen passages, he asked himself — for he was reflective — whether the guide was altogether trustworthy. It was a patriotic sadness, not unmingled with some personal concern, and quite unlike the unreasoning indignation against men and things nursed by Colonel Feraud. Recruiting his strength in a little German town for three weeks, Colonel D’Hubert was surprised to discover within himself a love of repose. His returning vigour was strangely pacific in its aspirations. He meditated silently upon this bizarre change of mood. No doubt many of his brother officers of field rank went through the same moral experience. But these were not the times to talk of it. In one of his letters home Colonel D’Hubert wrote, “All your plans, my dear Leonie, for marrying me to the charming girl you have discovered in your neighbourhood, seem farther off than ever. Peace is not yet. Europe wants another lesson. It will be a hard task for us, but it shall be done, because the Emperor is invincible.”

Thus wrote Colonel D ‘Hubert from Pomerania to his married sister Leonie, settled in the south of France. And so far the sentiments expressed would not have been disowned by Colonel Feraud, who wrote no letters to anybody, whose father had been in life an illiterate blacksmith, who had no sister or brother, and whom no one desired ardently to pair off for a life of peace with a charming young girl. But Colonel D ‘Hubert’s letter contained also some philosophical generalities upon the uncertainty of all personal hopes, when bound up entirely with the prestigious fortune of one incompar- ably great it is true, yet still remaining but a man in his greatness. This view would have appeared rank heresy to Colonel Feraud. Some melancholy fore- bodings of a military kind, expressed cautiously, would have been pronounced as nothing short of high treason by Colonel Feraud. But Leonie, the sister of Colonel D’Hubert, read them with profound satisfaction, and, folding the letter thoughtfully, remarked to herself that “Armand was likely to prove eventually a sensible fellow.” Since her marriage into a Southern family she had become a convinced believer in the return of the legitimate king. Hopeful and anxious she offered prayers night and morning, and burnt candles in churches for the safety and prosperity of her brother.

She had every reason to suppose that her prayers were heard. Colonel D’Hubert passed through Lutzen, Bautzen, and Leipsic losing no limb, and acquiring additional reputation. Adapting his conduct to the needs of that desperate time, he had never voiced his misgivings. He concealed them under a cheerful courtesy of such pleasant character that people were inclined to ask themselves with wonder whether Colonel D’Hubert was aware of any disasters. Not only his manners, but even his glances remained untroubled. The steady amenity of his blue eyes disconcerted all grumblers, and made despair itself pause.

This bearing was remarked favourably by the Emperor himself; for Colonel D’Hubert, attached now to the Major-General’s staff, came on several occasions under the imperial eye. But it exasperated the higher strung nature of Colonel Feraud. Passing through Magdeburg on service, this last allowed himself, while seated gloomily at dinner with the Commandant de Place, to say of his life-long adversary: “This man does not love the Emperor,” and his words were received by the other guests in profound silence. Colonel Feraud, troubled in his conscience at the atrocity of the asper- sion, felt the need to back it up by a good argument. “I ought to know him,” he cried, adding some oaths. “One studies one’s adversary. I have met him on the ground half a dozen times, as all the army knows. What more do you want? If that isn’t opportunity enough for any fool to size up his man, may the devil take me if I can tell what is.” And he looked around the table, obstinate and sombre.

Later on in Paris, while extremely busy reorganizing his regiment, Colonel Feraud learned that Colonel D’Hubert had been made a general. He glared at his informant incredulously, then folded his arms and turned away muttering, “Nothing surprises me on the part of that man.”

And aloud he added, speaking over his shoulder, “You would oblige me greatly by telling General D’Hubert at the first opportunity that his advancement saves him for a time from a pretty hot encounter. I was only waiting for him to turn up here.”

The other officer remonstrated.

“Could you think of it, Colonel Feraud, at this time, when every life should be consecrated to the glory and safety of France?”

But the strain of unhappiness caused by military re- verses had spoiled Colonel Feraud’s character. Like many other men, he was rendered wicked by misfortune.

“I cannot consider General D’Hubert’s existence of any account either for the glory or safety of France,” he snapped viciously. “You don’t pretend, perhaps, to know him better than I do — I who have met him half a dozen times on the ground — do you?”

His interlocutor, a young man, was silenced. Colonel Feraud walked up and down the room.

“This is not the time to mince matters,” he said. “I can’t believe that that man ever loved the Emperor. He picked up his general’s stars under the boots of Marshal Berthier. Very well. I’ll get mine in another fashion, and then we shall settle this business which has been dragging on too long.”

General D’Hubert, informed indirectly of Colonel Feraud’s attitude, made a gesture as if to put aside an importunate person. His thoughts were solicited by graver cares. He had had no time to go and see his family. His sister, whose royalist hopes were rising higher every day, though proud of her brother, re- gretted his recent advancement in a measure, because it put on him a prominent mark of the usurper’s favour, which later on could have an adverse influence upon his career. He wrote to her that no one but an inveterate enemy could say he had got his promotion by favour. As to his career, he assured her that he looked no farther forward into the future than the next battlefield.

Beginning the campaign of France in this dogged spirit, General D’Hubert was wounded on the second day of the battle under Laon. While being carried off the field he heard that Colonel Feraud, promoted this moment to general, had been sent to replace him at the head of his brigade. He cursed his luck impulsively, not being able at the first glance to discern all the ad- vantages of a nasty wound. And yet it was by this heroic method that Providence was shaping his future. Travelling slowly south to his sister’s country home under the care of a trusty old servant, General D’Hu- bert was spared the humiliating contacts and the per- plexities of conduct which assailed the men of Napole- onic empire at the moment of its downfall. Lying in his bed, with the windows of his room open wide to the sunshine of Provence, he perceived the undisguised aspect of the blessing conveyed by that jagged frag- ment of a Prussian shell, which, killing his horse and ripping open his thigh, saved him from an active con- flict with his conscience. After the last fourteen years spent sword in hand in the saddle, and with the sense of his duty done to the very end, General D’Hubert found resignation an easy virtue. His sister was delighted with his reasonableness. “I leave myself altogether in your hands, my dear Leonie,” he had said to her.

He was still laid up when, the credit of his brother- in-law’s family being exerted on his behalf, he received from the royal government not only the confirmation of his rank, but the assurance of being retained on the active list. To this was added an unlimited conva- lescent leave. The unfavourable opinion entertained of him in Bonapartist circles, though it rested on noth- ing more solid than the unsupported pronouncement of General Feraud, was directly responsible for General D’Hubert’s retention on the active list. As to General Feraud, his rank was confirmed, too. It was more than he dared to expect; but Marshal Soult, then Minister of War to the restored king, was partial to officers who had served in Spain. Only not even the marshal’s protection could secure for him active employment. He remained irreconcilable, idle, and sinister. He sought in obscure restaurants the company of other half-pay officers who cherished dingy but glorious old tricolour cockades in their breast-pockets, and buttoned with the forbidden eagle buttons their shabby uniforms, declaring themselves too poor to afford the expense of the prescribed change.

The triumphant return from Elba, an historical fact as marvellous and incredible as the exploits of some mythological demi-god, found General D’Hubert still quite unable to sit a horse. Neither could he walk very well. These disabilities, which Madame Leonie accounted most lucky, helped to keep her brother out of all possible mischief. His frame of mind at that time, she noted with dismay, became very far from reason- able. This general officer, still menaced by the loss of a limb, was discovered one night in the stables of the chateau by a groom, who, seeing a light, raised an alarm of thieves. His crutch was lying half-buried in the straw of the litter, and the general was hopping on one leg in a loose box around a snorting horse he was trying to saddle. Such were the effects of imperial magic upon a calm temperament and a pondered mind. Beset in the light of stable lanterns, by the tears, en- treaties, indignation, remonstrances and reproaches of his family, he got out of the difficult situation by fainting away there and then in the arms of his nearest relatives, and was carried off to bed. Before he got out of it again, the second reign of Napoleon, the Hundred Days of feverish agitation and supreme effort, passed away like a terrifying dream. The tragic year 1815, begun in the trouble and unrest of consciences, was ending in vengeful proscriptions.

How General Feraud escaped the clutches of the Special Commission and the last offices of a firing squad he never knew himself. It was partly due to the subordinate position he was assigned during the Hun- dred Days. The Emperor had never given him active command, but had kept him busy at the cavalry depot in Paris, mounting and despatching hastily drilled troopers into the field. Considering this task as unworthy of his abilities, he had discharged it with no offensively noticeable zeal; but for the greater part he was saved from the excesses of Royalist reaction by the interference of General D’Hubert.

This last, still on convalescent leave, but able now to travel, had been despatched by his sister to Paris to present himself to his legitimate sovereign. As no one in the capital could possibly know anything of the episode in the stable he was received there with distinc- tion. Military to the very bottom of his soul, the pros- pect of rising in his profession consoled him from finding himself the butt of Bonapartist malevolence, which pursued him with a persistence he could not account for. All the rancour of that embittered and persecuted party pointed to him as the man who had never loved the Emperor — a sort of monster essentially worse than a mere betrayer.

General D’Hubert shrugged his shoulders without anger at this ferocious prejudice. Rejected by his old friends, and mistrusting profoundly the advances of Royalist society, the young and handsome general (he was barely forty) adopted a manner of cold, punctilious courtesy, which at the merest shadow of an intended slight passed easily into harsh haughtiness. Thus pre- pared, General D’Hubert went about his affairs in Paris feeling inwardly very happy with the peculiar up- lifting happiness of a man very much in love. The charming girl looked out by his sister had come upon the scene, and had conquered him in the thorough manner in which a young girl by merely existing in his sight can make a man of forty her own. They were go- ing to be married as soon as General D’Hubert had obtained his official nomination to a promised com- mand.

One afternoon, sitting on the terrasse of the Cafe Tortoni, General D’Hubert learned from the con- versation of two strangers occupying a table near his own, that General Feraud, included in the batch of superior officers arrested after the second return of the king, was in danger of passing before the Special Com- mission. Living all his spare moments, as is frequently the case with expectant lovers, a day in advance of reality, and in a state of bestarred hallucination, it required nothing less than the name of his perpetual antagonist pronounced in a loud voice to call the youngest of Napoleon’s generals away from the mental contemplation of his betrothed. He looked round. The strangers wore civilian clothes. Lean and weather-beaten, lolling back in their chairs, they scowled at people with moody and defiant abstraction from under their hats pulled low over their eyes. It was not difficult to recognize them for two of the compulsorily retired officers of the Old Guard. As from bravado or carelessness they chose to speak in loud tones, General D’Hubert, who saw no reason why he should change his seat, heard every word. They did not seem to be the personal friends of General Feraud. His name came up amongst others. Hearing it repeated, General D’Hubert’s tender anticipations of a domestic future adorned with a woman’s grace were traversed by the harsh regret of his warlike past, of that one long, intoxicating clash of arms, unique in the magnitude of its glory and disaster — the marvellous work and the special possession of his own generation. He felt an irrational tenderness towards his old adver- sary and appreciated emotionally the murderous ab- surdity their encounter had introduced into his life. It was like an additional pinch of spice in a hot dish. He remembered the flavour with sudden melancholy. He would never taste it again. It was all over. “I fancy it was being left lying in the garden that had exasperated him so against me from the first,” he thought, indul- gently.

The two strangers at the next table had fallen silent after the third mention of General Feraud’s name. Pres- ently the elder of the two, speaking again in a bitter tone, affirmed that General Feraud’s account was set- tled. And why? Simply because he was not like some bigwigs who loved only themselves. The Royalists knew they could never make anything of him. He loved The Other too well.

The Other was the Man of St. Helena. The two officers nodded and touched glasses before they drank to an impossible return. Then the same who had spoken before, remarked with a sardonic laugh, “His adversary showed more cleverness.”

“What adversary?” asked the younger, as if puzzled.

“Don’t you know? They were two hussars. At each promotion they fought a duel. Haven’t you heard of the duel going on ever since 1801?”

The other had heard of the duel, of course. Now he understood the allusion. General Baron D’Hubert would be able now to enjoy his fat king’s favour in peace.

“Much good may it do to him,” mumbled the elder. “They were both brave men. I never saw this D’Hu- bert — a sort of intriguing dandy, I am told. But I can well believe what I’ve heard Feraud say of him — that he never loved the Emperor.”

They rose and went away.

General D’Hubert experienced the horror of a som- nambulist who wakes up from a complacent dream of activity to find himself walking on a quagmire. A profound disgust of the ground on which he was making his way overcame him. Even the image of the charm- ing girl was swept from his view in the flood of moral distress. Everything he had ever been or hoped to be would taste of bitter ignominy unless he could manage to save General Feraud from the fate which threatened so many braves. Under the impulse of this almost morbid need to attend to the safety of his adversary, General D’Hubert worked so well with hands and feet (as the French saying is), that in less than twenty-four hours he found means of obtaining an extraordinary private audience from the Minister of Police.

General Baron D’Hubert was shown in suddenly without preliminaries. In the dusk of the Minister’s cabinet, behind the forms of writing-desk, chairs, and tables, between two bunches of wax candles blazing in sconces, he beheld a figure in a gorgeous coat posturing before a tall mirror. The old conventionnel Fouche;, Senator of the Empire, traitor to every man, to every principle and motive of human conduct. Duke of Otran- to, and the wily artizan of the second Restoration, was trying the fit of a court suit in which his young and accomplished fiancee had declared her intention to have his portrait painted on porcelain. It was a caprice, a charming fancy which the first Minister of Police of the second Restoration was anxious to gratify. For that man, often compared in wiliness of conduct to a fox, but whose ethical side could be worthily symbolized by nothing less emphatic than a skunk, was as much possessed by his love as General D’Hubert himself.

Startled to be discovered thus by the blunder of a servant, he met this little vexation with the characteris- tic impudence which had served his turn so well in the endless intrigues of his self-seeking career. Without altering his attitude a hair’s-breadth, one leg in a silk stocking advanced, his head twisted over his left shoulder, he called out calmly, “This way, General. Pray approach. Well? I am all attention.”

While General D’Hubert, ill at ease as if one of his own little weaknesses had been exposed, presented his request as shortly as possible, the Duke of Otranto went on feeling the fit of his collar, settling the lapels before the glass, and buckling his back in an effort to behold the set of the gold embroidered coat-skirts behind. His still face, his attentive eyes, could not have expressed a more complete interest in those matters if he had been alone.

“Exclude from the operations of the Special Court a certain Feraud, Gabriel Florian, General of brigade of the promotion of 1814?” he repeated, in a slightly wondering tone, and then turned away from the glass. “Why exclude him precisely?”

“I am surprised that your Excellency, so competent in the evaluation of men of his time, should have thought worth while to have that name put down on the list.”

“A rabid Bonapartist!”

“So is every grenadier and every trooper of the army, as your Excellency well knows. And the individuality of General Feraud can have no more weight than that of any casual grenadier. He is a man of no mental grasp, of no capacity whatever. It is inconceivable that he should ever have any influence.”

“He has a well-hung tongue, though,” interjected Fouche.

“Noisy, I admit, but not dangerous.”

“I will not dispute with you. I know next to noth- ing of him. Hardly his name, in fact.”

“And yet your Excellency has the presidency of the Commission charged by the king to point out those who were to be tried,” said General D’Hubert, with an emphasis which did not miss the minister’s ear.

“Yes, General,” he said, walking away into the dark part of the vast room, and throwing himself into a deep armchair that swallowed him up, all but the soft gleam of gold embroideries and the pallid patch of the face — “yes, General. Take this chair there.”

General D’Hubert sat down.

“Yes, General,” continued the arch-master in the arts of intrigue and betrayals, whose duplicity, as if at times intolerable to his self-knowledge, found relief in bursts of cynical openness. “I did hurry on the forma- tion of the proscribing Commission, and I took its presi- dency. And do you know why? Simply from fear that if I did not take it quickly into my hands my own name would head the list of the proscribed. Such are the times in which we live. But I am minister of the king yet, and I ask you plainly why I should take the name of this obscure Feraud off the list? You wonder how his name got there! Is it possible that you should know men so little? My dear General, at the very first sitting of the Commission names poured on us like rain off the roof of the Tuileries. Names! We had our choice of thousands. How do you know that the name of this Feraud, whose life or death don’t matter to France, does not keep out some other name?”

The voice out of the armchair stopped. Opposite General D’Hubert sat still, shadowy and silent. Only his sabre clinked slightly. The voice in the armchair began again. “And we must try to satisfy the exigencies of the Allied Sovereigns, too. The Prince de Talleyrand told me only yesterday that Nesselrode had informed him officially of His Majesty the Emperor Alexander’s dissatisfaction at the small number of examples the Government of the king intends to make — especially amongst military men. I tell you this confidentially.”

“Upon my word!” broke out General D’Hubert, speaking through his teeth, “if your Excellency deigns to favour me with any more confidential information I don’t know what I will do. It’s enough to break one’s sword over one’s knee, and fling the pieces. . . .”

“What government you imagined yourself to be serving?” interrupted the minister, sharply.

After a short pause the crestfallen voice of General D’Hubert answered, “The Government of France.”

“That’s paying your conscience off with mere words, General. The truth is that you are serving a govern- ment of returned exiles, of men who have been without country for twenty years. Of men also who have just got over a very bad and humiliating fright. . . . Have no illusions on that score.”

The Duke of Otranto ceased. He had relieved him- self, and had attained his object of stripping some self- respect off that man who had inconveniently discovered him posturing in a gold-embroidered court costume before a mirror. But they were a hot-headed lot in the army; it occurred to him that it would be inconvenient if a well-disposed general officer, received in audience on the recommendation of one of the Princes, were to do something rashly scandalous directly after a pri- vate interview with the minister. In a changed tone he put a question to the point: “Your relation — this Feraud?”

“No. No relation at all.”

“Intimate friend?”

“Intimate . . . yes. There is between us an intimate connection of a nature which makes it a point of honour with me to try . . .”

The minister rang a bell without waiting for the end of the phrase. When the servant had gone out, after bringing in a pair of heavy silver candelabra for the writing-desk, the Duke of Otranto rose, his breast glis- tening all over with gold in the strong light, and taking a piece of paper out of a drawer, held it in his hand osten- tatiously while he said with persuasive gentleness: “You must not speak of breaking your sword across your knee, General. Perhaps you would never get another. The Emperor will not return this time. . . . Diable d’homme! There was just a moment, here in Paris, soon after Waterloo, when he frightened me. It looked as though he were ready to begin all over again. Luckily one never does begin all over again, really. You must not think of breaking your sword, General.”

General D’Hubert, looking on the ground, moved slightly his hand in a hopeless gesture of renunciation. The Minister of Police turned his eyes away from him, and scanned deliberately the paper he had been holding up all the time.

“There are only twenty general officers selected to be made an example of. Twenty. A round number. And let’s see, Feraud. . . . Ah, he’s there. Ga- briel Florian. Parfaitement. That’s your man. Well, there will be only nineteen examples made now.”

General D’Hubert stood up feeling as though he had gone through an infectious illness. “I must beg your Excellency to keep my interference a profound secret. I attach the greatest importance to his never learn- ing . . .”

“Who is going to inform him, I should like to know?” said Fouche, raising his eyes curiously to General D’Hubert’s tense, set face. “Take one of these pens, and run it through the name yourself. This is the only list in existence. If you are careful to take up enough ink no one will be able to tell what was the name struck out. But, par exemple, I am not responsi- ble for what Clarke will do with him afterwards. If he persists in being rabid he will be ordered by the Minister of War to reside in some provincial town under the supervision of the police.”

A few days later General D’Hubert was saying to his sister, after the first greetings had been got over: “Ah, my dear Leonie! it seemed to me I couldn’t get away from Paris quick enough.”

“Effect of love,” she suggested, with a malicious smile.

“And horror,” added General D’Hubert, with pro- found seriousness. “I have nearly died there of . . . of nausea.”

His face was contracted with disgust. And as his sister looked at him attentively he continued, “I have had to see Fouche. I have had an audience. I have been in his cabinet. There remains with one, who had the misfortune to breathe the air of the same room with that man, a sense of diminished dignity, an uneasy feel- ing of being not so clean, after all, as one hoped one was. . . . But you can’t understand.”

She nodded quickly several times. She understood very well, on the contrary. She knew her brother thoroughly, and liked him as he was. Moreover, the scorn and loathing of mankind were the lot of the Jacobin Fouche, who, exploiting for his own advantage every weakness, every virtue, every generous illusion of mankind, made dupes of his whole generation, and died obscurely as Duke of Otranto.

“My dear Armand,” she said, compassionately, “what could you want from that man?”

“Nothing less than a life,” answered General D’Hubert. “And I’ve got it. It had to be done. But I feel yet as if I could never forgive the necessity to the man I had to save.”

General Feraud, totally unable (as is the case with most of us) to comprehend what was happening to him, received the Minister of War’s order to proceed at once to a small town of Central France with feelings whose natural expression consisted in a fierce rolling of the eye and savage grinding of the teeth. The passing away of the state of war, the only condition of society he had ever known, the horrible view of a world at peace, frightened him. He went away to his little town firmly convinced that this could not last. There he was in- formed of his retirement from the army, and that his pension (calculated on the scale of a colonel’s rank) was made dependent on the correctness of his conduct, and on the good reports of the police. No longer in the army! He felt suddenly strange to the earth, like a disembodied spirit. It was impossible to exist. But at first he reacted from sheer incredulity. This could not be. He waited for thunder, earthquakes, natural cataclysms; but nothing happened. The leaden weight of an irremediable idleness descended upon General Feraud, who having no resources within himself sank into a state of awe-inspiring hebetude. He haunted the streets of the little town, gazing before him with lack- lustre eyes, disregarding the hats raised on his passage; and people, nudging each other as he went by, whispered, “That’s poor General Feraud. His heart is broken. Behold how he loved the Emperor.”

The other living wreckage of Napoleonic tempest clustered round General Feraud with infinite respect. He, himself, imagined his soul to be crushed by grief. He suffered from quickly succeeding impulses to weep, to howl, to bite his fists till blood came, to spend days on his bed with his head thrust under the pillow; but these arose from sheer ennui, from the anguish of an immense, indescribable, inconceivable boredom. His mental in- ability to grasp the hopeless nature of his case as a whole saved him from suicide. He never even thought of it once. He thought of nothing. But his appetite abandoned him, and the difficulty he experienced to express the overwhelming nature of his feelings (the most furious swearing could do no justice to it) induced gradually a habit of silence — a sort of death to a southern temperament.

Great, therefore, was the sensation amongst the an- ciens militaires frequenting a certain little cafe; full of flies when one stuffy afternoon “that poor General Feraud” let out suddenly a volley of formidable curses.

He had been sitting quietly in his own privileged corner looking through the Paris gazettes with just as much interest as a condemned man on the eve of exe- cution could be expected to show in the news of the day. Aill find out presently that I am alive yet,” he declared, in a dogmatic tone. “However, this is a private affair. An old affair of honour. Bah! Our honour does not matter. Here we are driven off with a split ear like a lot of cast troop horses — good only for a knacker’s yard. But it would be like striking a blow for the Emperor. . . . Messieurs, I shall require the assis- tance of two of you.”

Every man moved forward. General Feraud, deeply touched by this demonstration, called with visible emotion upon the one-eyed veteran cuirassier and the officer of the Chasseurs a Cheval who had left the tip of his nose in Russia. He excused his choice to the others.

“A cavalry affair this — you know.”

He was answered with a varied chorus of “Parfaite- ment, mon General. . . . C’est juste. . . . Par- bleu, c’est connu. . . .” Everybody was satisfied. The three left the cafe together, followed by cries of “Bonne chance.”

Outside they linked arms, the general in the middle. The three rusty cocked hats worn en bataille with a sinister forward slant barred the narrow street nearly right across. The overheated little town of grey stones and red tiles was drowsing away its provincial afternoon under a blue sky. The loud blows of a cooper hooping a cask reverberated regularly between the houses. The general dragged his left foot a little in the shade of the walls.

“This damned winter of 1813 has got into my bones for good. Never mind. We must take pistols, that’s all. A little lumbago. We must have pistols. He’s game for my bag. My eyes are as keen as ever. You should have seen me in Russia picking off the dodging Cossacks with a beastly old infantry musket. I have a natural gift for firearms.”

In this strain General Feraud ran on, holding up his head, with owlish eyes and rapacious beak. A mere fighter all his life, a cavalry man, a sabreur, he conceived war with the utmost simplicity, as, in the main, a massed lot of personal contests, a sort of gregarious duelling. And here he had in hand a war of his own. He revived. The shadow of peace passed away from him like the shadow of death. It was the marvellous resurrection of the named Feraud, Gabriel Florian, engage volontaire of 1793, General of 1814, buried without ceremony by means of a service order signed by the War Minister of the Second Restoration.


No man succeeds in everything he undertakes. In that sense we are all failures. The great point is not to fail in ordering and sustaining the effort of our life. In this matter vanity is what leads us astray. It hurries us into situations from which we must come out dam- aged; whereas pride is our safeguard, by the reserve it imposes on the choice of our endeavour as much as by the virtue of its sustaining power.

General D’Hubert was proud and reserved. He had not been damaged by his casual love affairs, successful or otherwise. In his war-scarred body his heart at forty remained unscratched. Entering with reserve into his sister’s matrimonial plans, he had felt himself falling irremediably in love as one falls off a roof. He was too proud to be frightened. Indeed, the sensation was too delightful to be alarming.

The inexperience of a man of forty is a much more serious thing than the inexperience of a youth of twenty, for it is not helped out by the rashness of hot blood. The girl was mysterious, as young girls are by the mere effect of their guarded ingenuity; and to him the mysteriousness of that young girl appeared exceptional and fascinating. But there was nothing mysterious about the arrangements of the match which Madame Leonie had promoted. There was nothing peculiar, either. It was a very appropriate match, commending itself extremely to the young lady’s mother (the father was dead) and tolerable to the young lady’s uncle — an old emigre lately returned from Germany, and pervad- ing, cane in hand, a lean ghost of the ancien regime, the garden walks of the young lady’s ancestral home.

General D’Hubert was not the man to be satisfied merely with the woman and the fortune — when it came to the point. His pride (and pride aims always at true success) would be satisfied with nothing short of love. But as true pride excludes vanity, he could not imagine any reason why this mysterious creature with deep and brilliant eyes of a violet colour should have any feeling for him warmer than indifference. The young lady (her name was Adele) baffled every attempt at a clear under- standing on that point. It is true that the attempts were clumsy and made timidly, because by then General D’Hubert had become acutely aware of the number of his years, of his wounds, of his many moral imperfec- tions, of his secret unworthiness — and had incidentally learned by experience the meaning of the word funk. As far as he could make out she seemed to imply that, with an unbounded confidence in her mother’s affection and sagacity, she felt no unsurmountable dislike for the person of General D’Hubert; and that this was quite sufficient for a well-brought-up young lady to begin married life upon. This view hurt and tormented the pride of General D’Hubert. And yet he asked himself, with a sort of sweet despair, what more could he expect? She had a quiet and luminous forehead. Her violet eyes laughed while the lines of her lips and chin remained composed in admirable gravity. All this was set off by such a glorious mass of fair hair, by a complexion so marvellous, by such a grace of expression, that General D’Hubert really never found the opportunity to examine with sufficient detachment the lofty exigencies of his pride. In fact, he became shy of that line of inquiry since it had led once or twice to a crisis of solitary pas- sion in which it was borne upon him that he loved her enough to kill her rather than lose her. From such passages, not unknown to men of forty, he would come out broken, exhausted, remorseful, a little dismayed. He derived, however, considerable comfort from the quietist practice of sitting now and then half the night by an open window and meditating upon the wonder of her existence, like a believer lost in the mystic con- templation of his faith.

It must not be supposed that all these variations of his inward state were made manifest to the world. General D ‘Hubert found no difficulty in appearing wreathed in smiles. Because, in fact, he was very happy. He followed the established rules of his condi- tion, sending over flowers (from his sister’s garden and hot-houses) early every morning, and a little later fol- lowing himself to lunch with his intended, her mother, and her emigre uncle. The middle of the day was spent in strolling or sitting in the shade. A watchful defer- ence, trembling on the verge of tenderness was the note of their intercourse on his side — with a playful turn of the phrase concealing the profound trouble of his whole being caused by her inaccessible nearness. Late in the afternoon General D ‘Hubert walked home between the fields of vines, sometimes intensely miserable, some- times supremely happy, sometimes pensively sad; but always feeling a special intensity of existence, that ela- tion common to artists, poets, and lovers — to men haunted by a great passion, a noble thought, or a new vision of plastic beauty.

The outward world at that time did not exist with any special distinctness for General D’Hubert. One evening, however, crossing a ridge from which he could see both houses, General D’Hubert became aware of two figures far down the road. The day had been divine. The festal decoration of the inflamed sky lent a gentle glow to the sober tints of the southern land. The grey rocks, the brown fields, the purple, undulating distances harmonized in luminous accord, exhaled already the scents of the evening. The two figures down the road presented themselves like two rigid and wooden sil- houettes all black on the ribbon of white dust. General D’Hubert made out the long, straight, military capotes buttoned closely right up to the black stocks, the cocked hats, the lean, carven, brown countenances — old soldiers — vieilles moustaches! The taller of the two had a black patch over one eye; the other’s hard, dry coun- tenance presented some bizarre, disquieting peculiarity, which on nearer approach proved to be the absence of the tip of the nose. Lifting their hands with one move- ment to salute the slightly lame civilian walking with a thick stick, they inquired for the house where the Gen- eral Baron D’Hubert lived, and what was the best way to get speech with him quietly.

“If you think this quiet enough,” said General D’Hubert, looking round at the vine-fields, framed in purple lines, and dominated by the nest of grey and drab walls of a village clustering around the top of a conical hill, so that the blunt church tower seemed but the shape of a crowning rock — “if you think this spot quiet enough, you can speak to him at once. And I beg you, comrades, to speak openly, with perfect con- fidence.”

They stepped back at this, and raised again their hands to their hats with marked ceremoniousness. Then the one with the chipped nose, speaking for both, remarked that the matter was confidential enough, and to be arranged discreetly. Their general quarters were established in that village over there, where the infernal clodhoppers — damn their false, Royalist hearts! — looked remarkably cross-eyed at three unassuming military men. For the present he should only ask for the name of General D’Hubert’s friends.

“What friends?” said the astonished General D’Hu- bert, completely off the track. “I am staying with my brother-in-law over there.”

“Well, he will do for one,” said the chipped veteran.

“We’re the friends of General Feraud,” interjected the other, who had kept silent till then, only glowering with his one eye at the man who had never loved the Emperor. That was something to look at. For even the gold-laced Judases who had sold him to the English, the marshals and princes, had loved him at some time or other. But this man had never loved the Emperor. General Feraud had said so distinctly.

General D’Hubert felt an inward blow in his chest. For an infinitesimal fraction of a second it was as if the spinning of the earth had become perceptible with an awful, slight rustle in the eternal stillness of space. But this noise of blood in his ears passed off at once. Involuntarily he murmured, “Feraud! I had forgotten his existence.”

“He’s existing at present, very uncomfortably, it is true, in the infamous inn of that nest of savages up there,” said the one-eyed cuirassier, drily. “We arrived in your parts an hour ago on post horses. He’s awaiting our return with impatience. There is hurry, you know. The General has broken the ministerial order to obtain from you the satisfaction he’s entitled to by the laws of honour, and naturally he’s anxious to have it all over before the gendarmerie gets on his scent.”

The other elucidated the idea a little further. “Get back on the quiet — you understand? Phitt! No one the wiser. We have broken out, too. Your friend the king would be glad to cut off our scurvy pittances at the first chance. It’s a risk. But honour before every- thing.”

General D’Hubert had recovered his powers of speech. “So you come here like this along the road to invite me to a throat-cutting match with that — that . . .” A laughing sort of rage took possession of him. “Ha! ha! ha! ha!”

His fists on his hips, he roared without restraint, while they stood before him lank and straight, as though they had been shot up with a snap through a trap door in the ground. Only four-and-twenty months ago the mas- ters of Europe, they had already the air of antique ghosts, they seemed less substantial in their faded coats than their own narrow shadows falling so black across the white road: the military and grotesque shadows of twenty years of war and conquests. They had an out- landish appearance of two imperturbable bonzes of the religion of the sword. And General D’Hubert, also one of the ex-masters of Europe, laughed at these serious phantoms standing in his way.

Said one, indicating the laughing General with a jerk of the head: “A merry companion, that.”

“There are some of us that haven’t smiled from the day The Other went away,” remarked his comrade.

A violent impulse to set upon and beat those unsub- stantial wraiths to the ground frightened General D’Hubert. He ceased laughing suddenly. His desire now was to get rid of them, to get them away from his sight quickly before he lost control of himself. He wondered at the fury he felt rising in his breast. But he had no time to look into that peculiarity just then.

“I understand your wish to be done with me as quickly as possible. Don’t let us waste time in empty ceremonies. Do you see that wood there at the foot of that slope? Yes, the wood of pines. Let us meet there to-morrow at sunrise. I will bring with me my sword or my pistols, or both if you like.”

The seconds of General Feraud looked at each other.

“Pistols, General,” said the cuirassier.

“So be it. Au revoir — to-morrow morning. Till then let me advise you to keep close if you don’t want the gendarmerie making inquiries about you before it gets dark. Strangers are rare in this part of the coun- try.”

They saluted in silence. General D’Hubert, turning his back on their retreating forms, stood still in the middle of the road for a long time, biting his lower lip and looking on the ground. Then he began to walk straight before him, thus retracing his steps till he found himself before the park gate of his intended’s house. Dusk had fallen. Motionless he stared through the bars at the front of the house, gleaming clear beyond the thickets and trees. Footsteps scrunched on the gravel, and presently a tall stooping shape emerged from the lateral alley following the inner side of the park wall.

Le Chevalier de Valmassigue, uncle of the adorable Adele, ex-brigadier in the army of the Princes, book- binder in Altona, afterwards shoemaker (with a great reputation for elegance in the fit of ladies’ shoes) in another small German town, wore silk stockings on his lean shanks, low shoes with silver buckles, a brocaded waistcoat. A long-skirted coat, a la francaise, covered loosely his thin, bowed back. A small three-cornered hat rested on a lot of powdered hair, tied in a queue.

“Monsieur le Chevalier,” called General D’Hubert, softly.

“What? You here again, mon ami? Have you forgotten something?”

“By heavens! that’s just it. I have forgotten some- thing. I am come to tell you of it. No — outside. Behind this wall. It’s too ghastly a thing to be let in at all where she lives.”

The Chevalier came out at once with that benevolent resignation some old people display towards the fugue of youth. Older by a quarter of a century than General D’Hubert, he looked upon him in the secret of his heart as a rather troublesome youngster in love. He had heard his enigmatical words very well, but attached no undue importance to what a mere man of forty so hard hit was likely to do or say. The turn of mind of the generation of Frenchmen grown up during the years of his exile was almost unintelligible to him. Their senti- ments appeared to him unduly violent, lacking fineness and measure, their language needlessly exaggerated. He joined calmly the General on the road, and they made a few steps in silence, the General trying to master his agitation, and get proper control of his voice.

“It is perfectly true; I forgot something. I forgot till half an hour ago that I had an urgent affair of honour on my hands. It’s incredible, but it is so!”

All was still for a moment. Then in the profound evening silence of the countryside the clear, aged voice of the Chevalier was heard trembling slightly: “Mon- sieur! That’s an indignity.”

It was his first thought. The girl born during his exile, the posthumous daughter of his poor brother mur- dered by a band of Jacobins, had grown since his return very dear to his old heart, which had been starving on mere memories of affection for so many years. “It is an inconceivable thing, I say! A man settles such af- fairs before he thinks of asking for a young girl’s hand. Why! If you had forgotten for ten days longer, you would have been married before your memory returned to you. In my time men did not forget such things — nor yet what is due to the feelings of an innocent young woman. If I did not respect them myself, I would qualify your conduct in a way which you would not like.”

General D’Hubert relieved himself frankly by a groan. “Don’t let that consideration prevent you. You run no risk of offending her mortally.”

But the old man paid no attention to this lover’s nonsense. It’s doubtful whether he even heard. “What is it? “he asked. “What’s the nature of . . . ?” “Call it a youthful folly, Monsieur le Chevalier. An inconceivable, incredible result of . . .” He stopped short. “He will never believe the story,” he thought. “He will only think I am taking him for a fool, and get offended.” General D’Hubert spoke up again: “Yes, originating in youthful folly, it has become . . .”

The Chevalier interrupted: “Well, then it must be arranged.”


“Yes, no matter at what cost to your amour propre. You should have remembered you were engaged. You forgot that, too, I suppose. And then you go and forget your quarrel. It’s the most hopeless exhibition of levity I ever heard of.”

“Good heavens, Monsieur! You don’t imagine I have been picking up this quarrel last time I was in Paris, or anything of the sort, do you?”

“Eh! What matters the precise date of your insane conduct,” exclaimed the Chevalier, testily. “The prin- cipal thing is to arrange it.”

Noticing General D’Hubert getting restive and try- ing to place a word, the old emigre raised his hand, and added with dignity, “I’ve been a soldier, too. I would never dare suggest a doubtful step to the man whose name my niece is to bear. I tell you that entre galants hommes an affair can always be arranged.”

“But saperiotte, Monsieur le Chevalier, it’s fifteen or sixteen years ago. I was a lieutenant of hussars then.”

The old Chevalier seemed confounded by the vehe- mently despairing tone of this information. “You were a lieutenant of hussars sixteen years ago,” he mum- bled in a dazed manner.

“Why, yes! You did not suppose I was made a general in my cradle like a royal prince.”

In the deepening purple twilight of the fields spread with vine leaves, backed by a low band of sombre crim- son in the west, the voice of the old ex-officer in the army of the Princes sounded collected, punctiliously civil.

“Do I dream? Is this a pleasantry? Or am I to understand that you have been hatching an affair of honour for sixteen years?”

“It has clung to me for that length of time. That is my precise meaning. The quarrel itself is not to be explained easily. We met on the ground several times during that time, of course.”

“What manners! What horrible perversion of man- liness! Nothing can account for such inhumanity but the sanguinary madness of the Revolution which has tainted a whole generation,” mused the returned emigre in a low tone. “Who’s your adversary?” he asked a little louder.

“My adversary? His name is Feraud.”

Shadowy in his tricorne and old-fashioned clothes, like a bowed, thin ghost of the ancien regime, the Cheva- lier voiced a ghostly memory. “I can remember the feud about little Sophie Derval, between Monsieur de Brissac, Captain in the Bodyguards, and d’Anjorrant (not the pock-marked one, the other — the Beau d’Anjorrant, as they called him). They met three times in eighteen months in a most gallant manner. It was the fault of that little Sophie, too, who would keep on playing . . .”

“This is nothing of the kind,” interrupted General D’Hubert. He laughed a little sardonically. “Not at all so simple,” he added. “Nor yet half so reasonable,” he finished, inaudibly, between his teeth, and ground them with rage.

After this sound nothing troubled the silence for a long time, till the Chevalier asked, without animation: “What is he — this Feraud?”

“Lieutenant of hussars, too — I mean, he’s a general. A Gascon. Son of a blacksmith, I believe.”

“There! I thought so. That Bonaparte had a special predilection for the canaille. I don’t mean this for you, D’Hubert. You are one of us, though you have served this usurper, who . . .”

“Let’s leave him out of this,” broke in General D’Hu- bert.

The Chevalier shrugged his peaked shoulders. “Fe- raud of sorts. Offspring of a blacksmith and some village troll. See what comes of mixing yourself up with that sort of people.”

“You have made shoes yourself, Chevalier.”

“Yes. But I am not the son of a shoemaker. Neither are you, Monsieur D’Hubert. You and I have some- thing that your Bonaparte’s princes, dukes, and mar- shals have not, because there’s no power on earth that could give it to them,” retorted the emigre, with the rising animation of a man who has got hold of a hopeful argument. “Those people don’t exist — all these Fe- rauds. Feraud! What is Feraud? A va-nu-pieds dis- guised into a general by a Corsican adventurer mas- querading as an emperor. There is no earthly reason for a D’Hubert to s’encanailler by a duel with a person of that sort. You can make your excuses to him per- fectly well. And if the manant takes into his head to decline them, you may simply refuse to meet him.”

“You say I may do that?”

“I do. With the clearest conscience.”

“Monsieur le Chevalier! To what do you think you have returned from your emigration?”

This was said in such a startling tone that the old man raised sharply his bowed head, glimmering silvery white under the points of the little tricorne. For a time he made no sound.

“God knows!” he said at last, pointing with a slow and grave gesture at a tall roadside cross mounted on a block of stone, and stretching its arms of forged iron all black against the darkening red band in the sky — “God knows! If it were not for this emblem, which I remem- ber seeing on this spot as a child, I would wonder to what we who remained faithful to God and our king have returned. The very voices of the people have changed.”

“Yes, it is a changed France,” said General D’Hu- bert. He seemed to have regained his calm. His tone was slightly ironic. “Therefore I cannot take your advice. Besides, how is one to refuse to be bitten by a dog that means to bite? It’s impracticable. Take my word for it — Feraud isn’t a man to be stayed by apolo- gies or refusals. But there are other ways. I could, for instance, send a messenger with a word to the briga- dier of the gendarmerie in Senlac. He and his two friends are liable to arrest on my simple order. It would make some talk in the army, both the organized and the disbanded — especially the disbanded. All canaille! All once upon a time the companions in arms of Armand D’Hubert. But what need a D’Hu- bert care what people that don’t exist may think? Or, better still, I might get my brother-in-law to send for the mayor of the village and give him a hint. No more would be needed to get the three ‘brigands’ set upon with flails and pitchforks and hunted into some nice, deep, wet ditch — and nobody the wiser! It has been done only ten miles from here to three poor devils of the disbanded Red Lancers of the Guard going to their homes. What says your conscience, Chevalier? Can a D’Hubert do that thing to three men who do not exist?”

A few stars had come out on the blue obscurity, clear as crystal, of the sky. The dry, thin voice of the Chevalier spoke harshly: “Why are you telling me all this?”

The General seized the withered old hand with a strong grip. “Because I owe you my fullest confidence. Who could tell Adele but you? You understand why I dare not trust my brother-in-law nor yet my own sister. Chevalier! I have been so near doing these things that I tremble yet. You don’t know how terrible this duel appears to me. And there’s no escape from it.”

He murmured after a pause, “It’s a fatality,” dropped the Chevalier’s passive hand, and said in his ordinary conversational voice, “I shall have to go with- out seconds. If it is my lot to remain on the ground, you at least will know all that can be made known of this affair.”

The shadowy ghost of the ancien regime seemed to have become more bowed during the conversation. “How am I to keep an indifferent face this evening before these two women?” he groaned. “General! I find it very difficult to forgive you.”

General D ‘Hubert made no answer.

“Is your cause good, at least?”

“I am innocent.”

This time he seized the Chevalier’s ghostly arm above the elbow, and gave it a mighty squeeze. “I must kill him!” he hissed, and opening his hand strode away down the road.

The delicate attentions of his adoring sister had secured for the General perfect liberty of movement in the house where he was a guest. He had even his own entrance through a small door in one corner of the orangery. Thus he was not exposed that evening to the necessity of dissembling his agitation before the calm ignorance of the other inmates. He was glad of it. It seemed to him that if he had to open his lips he would break out into horrible and aimless imprecations, start breaking furniture, smashing china and glass. From the moment he opened the private door and while ascending the twenty-eight steps of a winding staircase, giving access to the corridor on which his room opened, he went through a horrible and humiliating scene in which an infuriated madman with blood-shot eyes and a foaming mouth played inconceivable havoc with everything inanimate that may be found in a well- appointed dining-room. When he opened the door of his apartment the fit was over, and his bodily fatigue was so great that he had to catch at the backs of the chairs while crossing the room to reach a low and broad divan on which he let himself fall heavily. His moral prostration was still greater. That brutality of feeling which he had known only when charging the enemy, sabre in hand, amazed this man of forty, who did not recognize in it the instinctive fury of his menaced passion. But in his mental and bodily exhaustion this passion got cleared, distilled, refined into a sentiment of melancholy despair at having, perhaps, to die before he had taught this beautiful girl to love him.

That night, General D’Hubert stretched out on his back with his hands over his eyes, or lying on his breast with his face buried in a cushion, made the full pil- grimage of emotions. Nauseating disgust at the absur- dity of the situation, doubt of his own fitness to conduct his existence, and mistrust of his best sentiments (for what the devil did he want to go to Fouche for?) — he knew them all in turn. “I am an idiot, neither more nor less,” he thought — “A sensitive idiot. Because I overheard two men talking in a cafe. . . . I am an idiot afraid of lies — whereas in life it is only truth that matters.”

Several times he got up and, walking in his socks in order not to be heard by anybody downstairs, drank all the water he could find in the dark. And he tasted the torments of jealousy, too. She would marry somebody else. His very soul writhed. The tenacity of that Feraud, the awful persistence of that imbecile brute, came to him with the tremendous force of a relentless destiny. General D’Hubert trembled as he put down the empty water ewer. “He will have me,” he thought. General D’Hubert was tasting every emotion that life has to give. He had in his dry mouth the faint sickly flavour of fear, not the excusable fear before a young girl’s candid and amused glance, but the fear of death and the honourable man’s fear of cowardice.

But if true courage consists in going out to meet an odious danger from which our body, soul, and heart recoil together, General D’Hubert had the opportunity to practise it for the first time in his life. He had charged exultingly at batteries and at infantry squares, and ridden with messages through a hail of bullets with- out thinking anything about it. His business now was to sneak out unheard, at break of day, to an obscure and revolting death. General D’Hubert never hesi- tated. He carried two pistols in a leather bag which he slung over his shoulder. Before he had crossed the garden his mouth was dry again. He picked two oranges. It was only after shutting the gate after him that he felt a slight faintness.

He staggered on, disregarding it, and after going a few yards regained the command of his legs. In the colourless and pellucid dawn the wood of pines de- tached its columns of trunks and its dark green canopy very clearly against the rocks of the grey hillside. He kept his eyes fixed on it steadily, and sucked at an orange as he walked. That temperamental good- humoured coolness in the face of danger which had made him an officer liked by his men and appreciated by his superiors was gradually asserting itself. It was like going into battle. Arriving at the edge of the wood he sat down on a boulder, holding the other orange in his hand, and reproached himself for coming so ridiculously early on the ground. Before very long, however, he heard the swishing of bushes, footsteps on the hard ground, and the sounds of a disjointed, loud conversation. A voice somewhere behind him said boastfully, “He’s game for my bag.”

He thought to himself, “Here they are. What’s this about game? Are they talking of me?” And becom- ing aware of the other orange in his hand, he thought further, “These are very good oranges. Leonie’s own tree. I may just as well eat this orange now instead of flinging it away.”

Emerging from a wilderness of rocks and bushes, General Feraud and his seconds discovered General D’Hubert engaged in peeling the orange. They stood still, waiting till he looked up. Then the seconds raised their hats, while General Feraud, putting his hands behind his back, walked aside a little way.

“I am compelled to ask one of you, messieurs, to act for me. I have brought no friends. Will you?”

The one-eyed cuirassier said judicially, “That cannot be refused.”

The other veteran remarked, “It’s awkward all the same.”

“Owing to the state of the people’s minds in this part of the country there was no one I could trust safely with the object of your presence here,” explained General D’Hubert, urbanely.

They saluted, looked round, and remarked both together:

“Poor ground.”

“It’s unfit.”

“Why bother about ground, measurements, and so on? Let us simplify matters. Load the two pairs of pistols. I will take those of General Feraud, and let him take mine. Or, better still, let us take a mixed pair. One of each pair. Then let us go into the wood and shoot at sight, while you remain outside. We did not come here for ceremonies, but for war — war to the death. Any ground is good enough for that. If I fall, you must leave me where I lie and clear out. It wouldn’t be healthy for you to be found hanging about here after that.”

It appeared after a short parley that General Feraud was willing to accept these conditions. While the seconds were loading the pistols, he could be heard whistling, and was seen to rub his hands with perfect contentment. He flung off his coat briskly, and General D ‘Hubert took off his own and folded it care- fully on a stone.

“Suppose you take your principal to the other side of the wood and let him enter exactly in ten minutes from now,” suggested General D’Hubert, calmly, but feeling as if he were giving directions for his own execu- tion. This, however, was his last moment of weakness. “Wait. Let us compare watches first.”

He pulled out his own. The officer with the chipped nose went over to borrow the watch of General Feraud. They bent their heads over them for a time.

“That’s it. At four minutes to six by yours. Seven to by mine.”

It was the cuirassier who remained by the side of General D’Hubert, keeping his one eye fixed immovably on the white face of the watch he held in the palm of his hand. He opened his mouth, waiting for the beat of the last second long before he snapped out the word, “Avancez.”

General D’Hubert moved on, passing from the glaring sunshine of the Provencal morning into the cool and aromatic shade of the pines. The ground was clear between the reddish trunks, whose multitude, leaning at slightly different angles, confused his eye at first. It was like going into battle. The commanding quality of confidence in himself woke up in his breast. He was all to his affair. The problem was how to kill the adversary. Nothing short of that would free him from this imbecile nightmare. “It’s no use wounding that brute,” thought General D’Hubert. He was known as a resourceful officer. His comrades years ago used also to call him The Strategist. And it was a fact that he could think in the presence of the enemy. Whereas Feraud had been always a mere fighter — but a dead shot, unluckily.

“I must draw his fire at the greatest possible range,” said General D’Hubert to himself.

At that moment he saw something white moving far off between the trees — the shirt of his adversary. He stepped out at once between the trunks, exposing him- self freely; then, quick as lightning, leaped back. It had been a risky move but it succeeded in its object. Almost simultaneously with the pop of a shot a small piece of bark chipped off by the bullet stung his ear painfully.

General Feraud, with one shot expended, was getting cautious. Peeping round the tree, General D’Hubert could not see him at all. This ignorance of the foe’s whereabouts carried with it a sense of insecurity. General D’Hubert felt himself abominably exposed on his flank and rear. Again something white fluttered in his sight. Ha! The enemy was still on his front, then. He had feared a turning movement. But apparently General Feraud was not thinking of it. General D’Hubert saw him pass without special haste from one tree to another in the straight line of approach. With great firmness of mind General D’Hubert stayed his hand. Too far yet. He knew he was no marksman. His must be a waiting game — to kill.

Wishing to take advantage of the greater thickness of the trunk, he sank down to the ground. Extended at full length, head on to his enemy, he had his person completely protected. Exposing himself would not do now, because the other was too near by this time. A conviction that Feraud would presently do something rash was like balm to General D’Hubert’s soul. But to keep his chin raised off the ground was irksome, and not much use either. He peeped round, exposing a fraction of his head with dread, but really with little risk. His enemy, as a matter of fact, did not expect to see anything of him so far down as that. General D’Hubert caught a fleeting view of General Feraud shifting trees again with deliberate cau- tion. “He despises my shooting,” he thought, dis- playing that insight into the mind of his antagonist which is of such great help in winning battles. He was confirmed in his tactics of immobility. “If I could only watch my rear as well as my front!” he thought anx- iously, longing for the impossible.

It required some force of character to lay his pistols down; but, on a sudden impulse, General D’Hubert did this very gently — one on each side of him. In the army he had been looked upon as a bit of a dandy because he used to shave and put on a clean shirt on the days of battle. As a matter of fact, he had always been very careful of his personal appearance. In a man of nearly forty, in love with a young and charming girl, this praiseworthy self-respect may run to such little weak- nesses as, for instance, being provided with an elegant little leather folding-case containing a small ivory comb, and fitted with a piece of looking-glass on the outside. General D’Hubert, his hands being free, felt in his breeches’ pockets for that implement of innocent vanity excusable in the possessor of long, silky moustaches. He drew it out, and then with the ut- most coolness and promptitude turned himself over on his back. In this new attitude, his head a little raised, holding the little looking-glass just clear of his tree, he squinted into it with his left eye, while the right kept a direct watch on the rear of his position. Thus was proved Napoleon’s saying, that “for a French soldier, the word impossible does not exist.” He had the right tree nearly filling the field of his little mirror.

“If he moves from behind it,” he reflected with satisfaction, “I am bound to see his legs. But in any case he can’t come upon me unawares.”

And sure enough he saw the boots of General Feraud flash in and out, eclipsing for an instant everything else reflected in the little mirror. He shifted its position accordingly. But having to form his judgment of the change from that indirect view he did not realize that now his feet and a portion of his legs were in plain sight of General Feraud.

General Feraud had been getting gradually impressed by the amazing cleverness with which his enemy was keeping cover. He had spotted the right tree with bloodthirsty precision. He was absolutely certain of it. And yet he had not been able to glimpse as much as the tip of an ear. As he had been looking for it at the height of about five feet ten inches from the ground it was no great wonder — but it seemed very wonderful to General Feraud.

The first view of these feet and legs determined a rush of blood to his head. He literally staggered behind his tree, and had to steady himself against it with his hand. The other was lying on the ground, then! On the ground! Perfectly still, too! Exposed! What could it mean? . . . The notion that he had knocked over his adversary at the first shot entered then General Feraud’s head. Once there it grew with every second of attentive gazing, overshadowing every other supposition — irresistible, triumphant, ferocious.

“What an ass I was to think I could have missed him,” he muttered to himself. “He was exposed en plein — the fool! — for quite a couple of seconds.”

General Feraud gazed at the motionless limbs, the last vestiges of surprise fading before an unbounded admiration of his own deadly skill with the pistol.

“Turned up his toes! By the god of war, that was a shot!” he exulted mentally. “Got it through the head, no doubt, just where I aimed, staggered behind that tree, rolled over on his back, and died.”

And he stared! He stared, forgetting to move, almost awed, almost sorry. But for nothing in the world would he have had it undone. Such a shot! — such a shot! Rolled over on his back and died!

For it was this helpless position, lying on the back, that shouted its direct evidence at General Feraud! It never occurred to him that it might have been deliberately assumed by a living man. It was in- conceivable. It was beyond the range of sane sup- position. There was no possibility to guess the reason for it. And it must be said, too, that General D’Hu- bert’s turned-up feet looked thoroughly dead. General Feraud expanded his lungs for a stentorian shout to his seconds, but, from what he felt to be an excessive scrupulousness, refrained for a while.

“I will just go and see first whether he breathes yet,” he mumbled to himself, leaving carelessly the shelter of his tree. This move was immediately per- ceived by the resourceful General D’Hubert. He concluded it to be another shift, but when he lost the boots out of the field of the mirror he became uneasy. General Feraud had only stepped a little out of the line, but his adversary could not possibly have supposed him walking up with perfect unconcern. General D’Hubert, beginning to wonder at what had become of the other, was taken unawares so completely that the first warning of danger consisted in the long, early-morning shadow of his enemy falling aslant on his outstretched legs. He had not even heard a footfall on the soft ground between the trees!

It was too much even for his coolness. He jumped up thoughtlessly, leaving the pistols on the ground. The irresistible instinct of an average man (unless totally paralyzed by discomfiture) would have been to stoop for his weapons, exposing himself to the risk of being shot down in that position. Instinct, of course, is irre- flective. It is its very definition. But it may be an inquiry worth pursuing whether in reflective mankind the mechanical promptings of instinct are not affected by the customary mode of thought. In his young days, Armand D’Hubert, the reflective, promising officer, had emitted the opinion that in warfare one should “never cast back on the lines of a mistake.” This idea, de- fended and developed in many discussions, had settled into one of the stock notions of his brain, had become a part of his mental individuality. Whether it had gone so inconceivably deep as to affect the dictates of his instinct, or simply because, as he himself declared after- wards, he was “too scared to remember the confounded pistols,” the fact is that General D’Hubert never at- tempted to stoop for them. Instead of going back on his mistake, he seized the rough trunk with both hands, and swung himself behind it with such impetuosity that, going right round in the very flash and report of the pistol-shot, he reappeared on the other side of the tree face to face with General Feraud. This last, com- pletely unstrung by such a show of agility on the part of a dead man, was trembling yet. A very faint mist of smoke hung before his face which had an extraordinary aspect, as if the lower jaw had come unhinged.

“Not missed!” he croaked, hoarsely, from the depths of a dry throat.

This sinister sound loosened the spell that had fallen on General D’Hubert’s senses. “Yes, missed — a bout portant,” he heard himself saying, almost before he had recovered the full command of his faculties. The re- vulsion of feeling was accompanied by a gust of homi- cidal fury, resuming in its violence the accumulated resentment of a lifetime. For years General D ‘Hubert had been exasperated and humiliated by an atrocious absurdity imposed upon him by this man’s savage caprice. Besides, General D’Hubert had been in this last instance too unwilling to confront death for the reaction of his anguish not to take the shape of a desire to kill. “And I have my two shots to fire yet,” he added, pitilessly.

General Feraud snapped-to his teeth, and his face assumed an irate, undaunted expression. “Go on!” he said, grimly.

These would have been his last words if General D’Hubert had been holding the pistols in his hands. But the pistols were lying on the ground at the foot of a pine. General D’Hubert had the second of leisure necessary to remember that he had dreaded death not as a man, but as a lover; not as a danger, but as a rival; not as a foe to life, but as an obstacle to marriage. And behold! there was the rival defeated! — utterly defeated, crushed, done for!

He picked up the weapons mechanically, and, instead of firing them into General Feraud’s breast, he gave expression to the thoughts uppermost in his mind, “You will fight no more duels now.”

His tone of leisurely, ineffable satisfaction was too much for General Feraud’s stoicism. “Don’t dawdle, then, damn you for a cold-blooded staff-coxcomb!” he roared out, suddenly, out of an impassive face held erect on a rigidly still body.

General D’Hubert uncocked the pistols carefully. This proceeding was observed with mixed feelings by the other general. “You missed me twice,” the victor said, coolly, shifting both pistols to one hand; “the last time within a foot or so. By every rule of single com- bat your life belongs to me. That does not mean that I want to take it now.”

“I have no use for your forbearance,” muttered General Feraud, gloomily.

“Allow me to point out that this is no concern of mine,” said General D’Hubert, whose every word was dictated by a consummate delicacy of feeling. In anger he could have killed that man, but in cold blood he recoiled from humiliating by a show of generosity this unreasonable being — a fellow-soldier of the Grande Armee, a companion in the wonders and terrors of the great military epic. “You don’t set up the pretension of dictating to me what I am to do with what’s my own.”

General Feraud looked startled, and the other con- tinued, “You’ve forced me on a point of honour to keep my life at your disposal, as it were, for fifteen years. Very well. Now that the matter is decided to my ad- vantage, I am going to do what I like with your life on the same principle. You shall keep it at my dis- posal as long as I choose. Neither more nor less. You are on your honour till I say the word.”

“I am! But, sacrebleu! This is an absurd position for a General of the Empire to be placed in!” cried General Feraud, in accents of profound and dismayed conviction. “It amounts to sitting all the rest of my life with a loaded pistol in a drawer waiting for your word. It’s — it’s idiotic; I shall be an object of — of — derision.”

“Absurd? — idiotic? Do you think so?” queried General D’Hubert with sly gravity. “Perhaps. But I don’t see how that can be helped. However, I am not likely to talk at large of this adventure. Nobody need ever know anything about it. Just as no one to this day, I believe, knows the origin of our quarrel. . . . Not a word more,” he added, hastily. “I can’t really discuss this question with a man who, as far as I am concerned, does not exist.”

When the two duellists came out into the open, Gen- eral Feraud walking a little behind, and rather with the air of walking in a trance, the two seconds hurried towards them, each from his station at the edge of the wood. General D’Hubert addressed them, speaking loud and distinctly, “Messieurs, I make it a point of declaring to you solemnly, in the presence of General Feraud, that our difference is at last settled for good. You may inform all the world of that fact.”

“A reconciliation, after all!” they exclaimed to- gether.

“Reconciliation? Not that exactly. It is some- thing much more binding. Is it not so, General?”

General Feraud only lowered his head in sign of assent. The two veterans looked at each other. Later in the day, when they found themselves alone out of their moody friend’s earshot, the cuirassier remarked suddenly, “Generally speaking, I can see with my one eye as far as most people; but this beats me. He won’t say anything.”

“In this affair of honour I understand there has been from first to last always something that no one in the army could quite make out,” declared the chasseur with the imperfect nose. “In mystery it began, in mystery it went on, in mystery it is to end, apparently.”

General D’Hubert walked home with long, hasty strides, by no means uplifted by a sense of triumph. He had conquered, yet it did not seem to him that he had gained very much by his conquest. The night before he had grudged the risk of his life which appeared to him magnificent, worthy of preservation as an opportunity to win a girl’s love. He had known moments when, by a marvellous illusion, this love seemed to be already his, and his threatened life a still more magnificent opportunity of devotion. Now that his life was safe it had suddenly lost its special mag- nificence. It had acquired instead a specially alarming aspect as a snare for the exposure of unworthiness. As to the marvellous illusion of conquered love that had visited him for a moment in the agitated watches of the