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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"I beg your pardon, but you forgot one circumstance."

"What is that?"

"That in your duel with Follivent you advanced towards each other on
foot, your swords between your teeth, and your pistols in your hands."

"True."

"While now, on the contrary, as you cannot walk, you yourself admit that
we shall have to mount our horses again, and charge; and the first who
wishes to fire will do so."

"That is the best course, no doubt; but it is quite dark; we must make
allowances for more missed
shots than would be the case in the daytime."

"Very well; each will fire three times; the pair of pistols already
loaded, and one reload."

"Excellent!  Where shall our engagement take place?"

"Have you any preference?"

"No."

"You see that small wood which lies before us?"

"The wood which is called Rochin?"

"Exactly."

"You know it?"

"Perfectly."

"You know that there is an open glade in the center?"

"Yes."

"Well, this glade is admirably adapted for such a purpose, with a variety
of roads, by-places, paths, ditches, windings, and avenues.  We could not
find a better spot."

"I am perfectly satisfied, if you are so.  We are at our destination, if
I am not mistaken."

"Yes.  Look at the beautiful open space in the center.  The faint light
which the stars afford seems concentrated in this spot; the woods which
surround it seem, with their barriers, to form its natural limits."

"Very good.  Do as you say."

"Let us first settle the conditions."

"These are mine; if you have any objection to make you will state it."

"I am listening."

"If the horse be killed, its rider will be obliged to fight on foot."

"That is a matter of course, since we have no change of horses here."

"But that does not oblige his adversary to dismount."

"His adversary will, in fact, be free to act as he likes."

"The adversaries, having once met in close contact, cannot quit each
other under any circumstances, and may, consequently, fire muzzle to
muzzle."

"Agreed."

"Three shots and no more will do, I suppose?"

"Quite sufficient, I think.  Here are powder and balls for your pistols;
measure out three charges, take three balls, I will do the same; then we
will throw the rest of the powder and balls away."

"And we will solemnly swear," said De Wardes, "that we have neither balls
nor powder about us?"

"Agreed; and I swear it," said De Guiche, holding his hand towards
heaven, a gesture which De Wardes imitated.

"And now, my dear comte," said De Wardes, "allow me to tell you that I am
in no way your dupe.  You already are, or soon will be, the accepted
lover of Madame.  I have detected your secret, and you are afraid I shall
tell others of it.  You wish to kill me, to insure my silence; that is
very clear; and in your place, I should do the same."  De Guiche hung
down his head.  "Only," continued De Wardes, triumphantly, "was it really
worth while, tell me, to throw this affair of Bragelonne's on my
shoulders?  But, take care, my dear fellow; in bringing the wild boar to
bay, you enrage him to madness; in running down the fox, you endow him
with the ferocity of the jaguar.  The consequence is, that brought to bay
by you, I shall defend myself to the very last."

"You will be quite right to do so."

"Yes; but take care; I shall work more harm than you think.  In the first
place, as a beginning, you will readily suppose that I have not been
absurd enough to lock up my secret, or your secret rather, in my own
breast.  There is a friend of mine, who resembles me in every way, a man
whom you know very well, who shares my secret with me; so, pray
understand, that if you kill me, my death will not have been of much
service to you; whilst, on the contrary, if I kill you - and everything
is possible, you know - you understand?"  De Guiche shuddered.  "If I
kill you," continued De Wardes, "you will have secured two mortal enemies
to Madame, who will do their very utmost to ruin her."

"Oh! monsieur," exclaimed De Guiche, furiously, "do not reckon upon my
death so easily.  Of the two enemies you speak of, I trust most heartily
to dispose of one immediately, and the other at the earliest opportunity."

The only reply De Wardes made was a burst of laughter, so diabolical in
its sound, that a superstitious man would have been terrified.  But De
Guiche was not so impressionable as that.  "I think," he said, "that
everything is now settled, Monsieur de Wardes; so have the goodness to
take your place first, unless you would prefer me to do so."

"By no means," said De Wardes.  "I shall be delighted to save you the
slightest trouble."  And spurring his horse to a gallop, he crossed the
wide open space, and took his stand at that point of the circumference of
the cross-road immediately opposite to where De Guiche was stationed.  De
Guiche remained motionless.  At this distance of a hundred paces, the two
adversaries were absolutely invisible to each other, being completely
concealed by the thick shade of elms and chestnuts.  A minute elapsed
amidst the profoundest silence.  At the end of the minute, each of them,
in the deep shade in which he was concealed, heard the double click of
the trigger, as they put the pistols on full cock.  De Guiche, adopting
the usual tactics, put his horse to a gallop, persuaded that he should
render his safety doubly sure by the movement, as well as by the speed of
the animal.  He directed his course in a straight line towards the point
where, in his opinion, De Wardes would be stationed; and he expected to
meet De Wardes about half-way; but in this he was mistaken.  He continued
his course, presuming that his adversary was impatiently awaiting his
approach.  When, however, he had gone about two-thirds of the distance,
he beheld the trees suddenly illuminated and a ball flew by, cutting the
plume of his hat in two.  Nearly at the same moment, and as if the flash
of the first shot had served to indicate the direction of the other, a
second report was heard, and a second ball passed through the head of De
Guiche's horse, a little below the ear.  The animal fell.  These two
reports, proceeding from the very opposite direction in which he expected
to find De Wardes, surprised him a great deal; but as he was a man of
amazing self-possession, he prepared himself for his horse falling, but
not so completely, however, that the toe of his boot escaped being caught
under the animal as it fell.  Very fortunately the horse in its dying
agonies moved so as to enable him to release the leg which was less
entangled than the other.  De Guiche rose, felt himself all over, and
found that he was not wounded.  At the very moment he had felt the horse
tottering under him, he placed his pistols in the holsters, afraid that
the force of the fall might explode one at least, if not both of them, by
which he would have been disarmed, and left utterly without defense.
Once on his feet, he took the pistols out of the holsters, and advanced
towards the spot where, by the light of the flash, he had seen De Wardes
appear.  De Wardes had, at the first shot, accounted for the maneuver,
than which nothing could have been simpler.  Instead of advancing to meet
De Guiche, or remaining in his place to await his approach, De Wardes
had, for about fifteen paces, followed the circle of the shadow which hid
him from his adversary's observation, and at the very moment when the
latter presented his flank in his career, he had fired from the place
where he stood, carefully taking aim, and assisted instead of being
inconvenienced by the horse's gallop.  It has been seen that,
notwithstanding the darkness, the first ball passed hardly more than an
inch above De Guiche's head.  De Wardes had so confidently relied upon
his aim, that he thought he had seen De Guiche fall; his astonishment was
extreme when he saw he still remained erect in his saddle.  He hastened
to fire his second shot, but his hand trembled, and he killed the horse
instead.  It would be a most fortunate chance for him if De Guiche were
to remain held fast under the animal.  Before he could have freed
himself, De Wardes would have loaded his pistol and had De Guiche at his
mercy.  But De Guiche, on the contrary, was up, and had three shots to
fire.  De Guiche immediately understood the position of affairs.  It
would be necessary to exceed De Wardes in rapidity of execution.  He
advanced, therefore, so as to reach him before he should have had time to
reload his pistol.  De Wardes saw him approaching like a tempest.  The
ball was rather tight, and offered some resistance to the ramrod.  To
load carelessly would be simply to lose his last chance; to take the
proper care in loading meant fatal loss of time, or rather, throwing away
his life.  He made his horse bound on one side.  De Guiche turned round
also, and, at the moment the horse was quiet again, fired, and the ball
carried off De Wardes's hat from his head.  De Wardes now knew that he
had a moment's time at his own disposal; he availed himself of it in
order to finish loading his pistol.  De Guiche, noticing that his
adversary did not fall, threw the pistol he had just discharged aside,
and walked straight towards De Wardes, elevating the second pistol as he
did so.  He had hardly proceeded more than two or three paces, when De
Wardes took aim at him as he was walking, and fired.  An exclamation of
anger was De Guiche's answer; the comte's arm contracted and dropped
motionless by his side, and the pistol fell from his grasp.  His anxiety
was excessive.  "I am lost," murmured De Wardes, "he is not mortally
wounded."  At the very moment, however, De Guiche was about to raise his
pistol against De Wardes, the head, shoulders, and limbs of the comte
seemed to collapse.  He heaved a deep-drawn sigh, tottered, and fell at
the feet of De Wardes's horse.

"That is all right," said De Wardes, and gathering up the reins, he
struck his spurs into the horse's sides.  The horse cleared the comte's
motionless body, and bore De Wardes rapidly back to the chateau.  When he
arrived there, he remained a quarter of an hour deliberating within

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