The Corsican Brothers, by Alexandre Dumas

Chapter 10.

Contrary to the usual custom with these affairs, the duel made but little noise. The papers even, those loud and false trumpets of publicity, kept silent. A few intimate friends only followed the corpse of the unfortunate young man to Père-Lachaise.

As to Monsieur de Château-Renaud, notwithstanding all the requests made to him, he refused to leave Paris.

For some time I indulged in the idea of following Louis’ letters to his family with one from myself; for, although his object was excellent, this untruth on the occasion of the death of a son and brother was exceedingly repugnant to me. I was convinced that Louis himself had for a long time struggled against it, and that finally he had considered the important reasons which he had given me, necessary to decide him.

I therefore concluded, at the risk even of being accused of indifference and ingratitude, to keep silent on the subject; and I was convinced that Baron Giordano would do the same.

Five days after this occurrence, at about eleven o’clock in the evening, I was sitting at my table writing, near the chimney, alone and in low spirits, when my servant came in, shut the door carefully behind him, and in a very agitated voice told me that Monsieur de Franchi wished to see me.

I turned round and looked at him; he was extremely pale.

“What do you say, Victor?” asked I.

“Yes, indeed, sir,” replied he, “I don’t understand it myself.”

“Of which Monsieur de Franchi do you speak?”

“But of your friend, sir; of the one whom I have seen once or twice coming here to see you.”

“You are insane, fellow! Don’t you know that he has unfortunately been killed five days ago?”

“Yes, sir, I do; and that is just the very reason why you see me so much disturbed. He rang the bell; I was in the antechamber. I opened the door, but recoiled upon seeing him. He then entered and asked if you were in. I was so much troubled that I told him you were; he then said, ‘Go and inform your master that Monsieur de Franchi wishes to speak to him.’ And lo, I am here.”

“You are a fool, my friend. The antechamber was no doubt badly lighted, and you have seen wrong. You were half-asleep and hare not heard well. Return, and ask his name a second time.”

“Oh! sir, that’s useless. I swear to you that I have not been mistaken. I have both seen and heard perfectly well.”

“Well, then, let him come in.”

Victor returned to the door, trembling all over, and opened it, remaining in my room.

“Will the gentleman please to walk in?” said he.

I heard, indeed, in spite of the thick carpet, steps coming through the salon, and approaching my room. Immediately after, I saw in reality Monsieur de Franchi appear at the door.

I confess that my first feeling was that of terror. I rose up and took a step back.

“Excuse me for disturbing you at this hour,” said Monsieur de Franchi, “but I arrived in the city about ten minutes ago, and you will easily understand that I did not wish to delay my conversation with you till to-morrow.”

“Oh! my dear Lucien,” exclaimed I, rushing up to him, and clasping him in my arms. “Is it you? Ah! it is you!”

And in spite of myself some tears escaped from my eyes.

“Yes,” said he, “it is I.”

I calculated the time that had elapsed; the letter could hardly have arrived at Ajaccio, and much less at Sullacaro.

“Good Godl” exclaimed I, “but then you know nothing.”

“I know all!” said he.

“How! all?”

“Yes.”

“Victor,” said I to my servant, who had not yet fully recovered, “leave us alone, or rather come in again in a quarter of an hour with a complete supper. You will sup with me, and stay over night, Lucien?”

“I accept all that,” said Lucien, “I have not eaten since I left Auxerre. After that, as nobody knew me, or rather,” continued he with a smile profoundly sad, “as every body seemed to recognize me at my poor brother’s house, they did not admit me, and I left there after having thrown the whole house into confusion.”

“Indeed, my dear Lucien, your resemblance to your brother Louis is so great, that I myself just now have been struck with it.”

“How!” exclaimed Victor, who could not take his eyes off from him long enough to pet out, “that gentleman is then the brother of —”

“Yes; but go and get our supper.”

Victor went out, and me were left alone. I took Lucien by the hand, led him to an armchair, and sat down beside him.

“But,” continued I, still more and more astonished when I looked at him, “you were then on your way hither when you heard the fatal news?”

“No; I was at Sullacaro.”

“Impossible! Your brother’s letter can hardly have reached there yet.”

“Have you forgotten Burger’s ballad, my dear Alexander? the dead go quick.”

I shuddered.

“What do you mean? explain yourself. I don’t understand you.”

“Have you forgotten what I told you about the apparitions peculiar to our family?”

“You have seen your brother?"— exclaimed I.

“Yes.”

“And when was that?”

“During the night, from the 16th to the 17th.”

“And he has told you all?”

“All!”

“He told you that he had died?”

“No. He told me that he had been killed! The dead never lie.”

“And did he tell you how?”

“In a duel.”

“By whom?”

“By Monsieur de Château-Renaud!”

“No! no! it cannot be,” exclaimed I, “you have heard all this some other way; by some other means?”

“Do you think I am disposed to jest on this subject?”

“Pardon me: but what you now tell me is so strange, and indeed all that happens to you and your brother is so much out of the course of nature —”

“That you don’t want to believe it! I understand. But look here,” said he, opening his shirt and showing me a blue mark imprinted on his skin, above the sixth rib on the right side, “will you believe in that?”

“Indeed,” exclaimed I, “that is exactly the spot where your brother received the fatal bullet!”

“And the bullet went out here,” continued he, putting his finger above the left hip.

“That’s miraculous!” cried I.

“And now,” continued he, “will you permit me to tell you at what hour he died?”

“Speak!”

“At ten minutes past nine.”

“Look here, Lucien, tell me all at once, my mind grows confused with questioning you and listening to your incredible answers. I like a narration better.”

“Ah! that will be very simple. The day on which my brother was killed, I had gone out early in the morning on horseback; I was visiting our shepherds near Carboni; when, after having looked at my watch, and just while I was putting it in my pocket, I received such a violent blow on my side that I fainted. When I opened my eyes, I was lying in Orlandini’s arms, who was bathing my face with water. My horse was standing near, with his nose pointed towards me, blowing and snuffing

“‘Well,’ said he, ‘what has happened to you?’

“Oh!” replied I, “I don’t know myself; but did you not hear the report of fire-arms?

“‘No.’

“It appeared to me as if I had received a bullet here — and I showed him the place where I felt the pain.

“‘First,’ said he, ‘there has not been a gun nor a pistol fired off in this neighborhood; and then you have no hole in your coat.’

“Then,” replied I, “my brother has been killed.”

“‘Oh!’ exclaimed he, ‘that’s another thing.’

“I opened my coat and found the mark which I have shown you awhile ago. Only then it was fresh as if it was bleeding.

“For a moment I was unable to return to Sullacaro, so much had the double moral and physical pain I felt, affected me; I thought of my mother, she expected me home to supper; I would then have had to explain to her a circumstance which I felt unable to do. For I did not wish, without further proof, to announce to her the death of my brother.

“I therefore continued my ride, and did not come home until six o’clock in the evening.

“My poor mother received me as usual; it was evident she did not suspect any thing. Soon after supper I retired to my room.

“In passing through the corridor, which you must recollect, the wind blew my candle out. I was going down stairs to light it again, when through the crevice of the door, I saw a light in my brother’s room.

“I thought Griffo had had some business in that room, and had probably forgotten to take the light away.

“I pushed open the door; a wax taper was burning near my brother’s bed, and on the bed my brother was lying naked and bloody.

“I confess, for a moment I remained struck with terror. I then approached and touched him, he was already cold.

“He had received a bullet through his body, in the same place where I had felt the pain, and a few drops of blood fell from the purple lips of the wound.

“I was now sure that my brother had been killed.

“I threw myself on my knees, and leaning my head on the bed, shut my eyes and murmured a prayer.

“When I opened my eyes again, I was in the most profound obscurity; the wax taper was extinguished, and the vision had disappeared.

“I felt the bed, it was empty.

“I consider myself as brave as any body else, but I must confess that when I left the room, groping in the dark, my hair stood upright and my brow was covered with sweat.

“I went down stairs to procure another light; my mother saw me, and uttered a cry.

“‘What is the matter with you,’ said she, ‘why are you so pale?’

“Nothing, replied I, and taking another light I went up stairs again.

“This time the light did not go out, and I went into my brother’s room. It was empty.

“On the floor I found my first candle, which I lighted.

“Notwithstanding this absence of new proofs, I had enough to convince me that my brother had been killed at ten minutes after nine o’clock.

“I retired to my room, and went to bed.

“As you may easily imagine, it was a long time before I could fall asleep. At length fatigue vanquished my agitation, and sleep overcame me.

“Then, all continued in the form of a dream; I saw the scene as it had occurred. I saw the man who has killed my brother, and heard his name pronounced; it was Mons. de Château-Renaud.”

“Alas! all that is too true,” exclaimed I, “but what is your object in coming to Paris?”

“I come to kill the man who has destroyed my brother.”

“To kill him?”

“Oh! don’t be uneasy; not after the Corsican fashion, from behind a hedge, or over a wall. No, no, but after the French manner, with white gloves, a shirt frill and ruffles.”

“And Madame de Franchi! does she know that you have come here with this intention?”

“Yes.”

“And did she not object to your going?”

“She kissed me on the forehead, and said ‘go!’ My mother is a true Corsican.”

“And then you started?”

“Here I am.”

“But in his lifetime your brother did not wish to be revenged?”

“Well,” said Lucien, smiling bitterly, “he has then changed his mind since he died.”

At this moment the servant came in with the supper. We sat down, Lucien eating like a man whose mind was not at all pre-occupied. After supper I took him to his chamber, he thanked me, pressed my hand, and wished me good night.”

This was the calmness which, in strong souls, follows a resolution firmly taken.

The following morning he came into my room as soon as the servant told him I was visible.

“Will you,” said he, “accompany me to Vincennes? It is a pious pilgrimage I intend to make; if you have not time, I will go alone.”

“How! by yourself, and who would show you the place?”

“Oh! I shall easily recognize it; did I not tell you I had seen it in my dream!”

I was curious to know how far this singular intuition would go.

“Very well, I will accompany you,” said I.

“Get ready, then, while I am writing to Giordano. Will you permit me the use of your servant to carry this note to him?”

“With pleasure.”

“Thank you.”

He then went out, but returned in a few minutes. In the meanwhile I had sent for a cab: we got into it and started for Vincennes.

On arriving at the cross-way,

“We are near the place, are we not?” said Lucien.

“Yes, about twenty steps from here, on the right, we entered the forest.”

“Here it is,” said the young man, stopping the cab.”

It was indeed the very spot.

Lucien entered the woods without any hesitation, as if he had been here twenty times. He walked straight up to the bog; on arriving there he stopped for an instant, and looking round with a sort of instinctive familiarity, advanced directly to the spot where his brother had fallen. He bent his head to the ground; and observing a reddish mark,

“Here it is!” said he.

He then touched the grass with his lips.

Then rising suddenly, his eyes flashing fire, he walked the whole length of the bog, till he came to the spot where Mons. de Château-Renaud had stood when he fired.

“Here he was standing,” exclaimed he, stamping with his foot, and here you’ll see him lie to-morrow.”

“How!” cried I, “to-morrow?”

“Yes, unless he is a coward, he will give me my revenge to-morrow.”

“But, my dear Lucien,” said I, “you know that it is customary in France for a duel to produce no other consequences than those naturally arising from the duel itself. Monsieur de Château-Renaud has fought with your brother, whom he had challenged, but he has nothing to do with you.”

“Ah! indeed! Mons. de Château-Renaud has had the right to challenge my brother because he offered his protection to a lady whom he had cowardly deceived! Mons. de Château-Renaud has killed my brother, who had never touched a pistol; he has killed him with as much security as if he had shot at that roe buck, now looking at us. And I — I — I should not have the right to challenge Mons. de Château-Renaud? Go — go!”

I bent my head without answering.

“Besides,” said he, “you have nothing to do with all this. Be easy, I have written to Giordano this morning, and by the time we get back to Paris, all the arrangements will be made. Do you think that Mons. de Château-Renaud would possibly refuse my proposition?”

“Mons. de Château-Renaud has unfortunately a reputation for courage, which does not admit a doubt on this subject.”

“Then all is for the best,” said Lucien.” “Let us go to breakfast.” We went back to the road, and got into the cab.

“Driver,” said I, “Rue de Rivoli.”

“No,” Said Lucien, “you are my guest. Driver, to the Café de Paris. Is it not there my brother usually took his meals?”

“I believe so.”

“Besides, I have told Giordano to meet us there.”

“Well then, to the Café de Paris.”

In about half an hour we alighted at the door of the Restaurant.

Lucien’s entrée was a new proof of the astonishing resemblance between him and his brother. The circumstance of Louis’ death had become known, not in all its particulars, it is true, but it was known, and Lucien’s appearance here seemed to strike every body with an amazement almost stupefying.

I asked for a private cabinet, and left orders for the Baron Giordano to be shown into it, immediately on his arrival.

We were ushered into a room at the lower end of the salon. Lucien began to read the papers, with a calmness which looked like insensibility. When we were about half through our breakfast, Giordano came in.

The two young men had not seen each other for four or five years, notwithstanding which, a pressure of their hands was the only demonstration of friendship which they gave each other.

“Well, all is arranged!” said Giordano.

“Mons. de Château-Renaud has accepted?”

“Yes, but on condition, that after this he will be left unmolested.”

“Oh! he may rest assured of it. I am the last of the de Franchi! Have you seen him or his seconds?”

“I saw him. He has offered himself to inform Mons. de Boissy as well a, Mons. de Châteaugrand. As for the weapons, time and place, they will all be the same.”

“Excellent! Take that seat and eat your breakfast.”

The baron sat down, and we spoke of other things. After breakfast Lucien requested me to make him known to the commissary of police who had put on the seals, and also to the proprietor of the house where his brother had lived. He wished to pass in Louis’ chamber the last night that separated him from his vengeance.

All these different arrangements took up the greater part of the day; and it was not until five o’clock in the afternoon that Lucien could take possession of the residence of his unfortunate brother.

We left him alone. Grief has a bashfulness, which demands respect.

Lucien gave me a rendezvous for the following morning at eight o’clock; he requested me to try to get the same pistols, and to buy them if they were for sale.

I went immediately to Devisme and the bargain was soon concluded, for six hundred francs.

The following morning, at a quarter before eight, I was at Lucien’s door.

When I came in, he was sitting in the same place, and writing on the same table where I had found his brother similarly engaged.

He had a smile on his lips, though he looked very pale.

“Good morning,” began he; “I am writing to my mother.”

“I hope you will make her a less painful communication, than that which your brother made eight days ago.”

“I inform her that she can now quietly pray for her son, and that he is avenged.”

“How can you speak with so much certainty?”

“Did not my brother announce his death to you, beforehand? I, in advance, now assure you of the death of Mons. de Château-Renaud. Look here!” said he, rising and touching my temple, I shall lodge the bullet there.”

“And you?”

“He will not even touch me!”

“But at least wait till after the duel, before you dispatch this letter.”

“That’s altogether useless.”

He rang the bell. The servant entered.

“Joseph,” said he, “take this letter to the post-office.”

“You have then seen your brother?” cried I.

“Yes,” replied Lucien.

It was a strange thing indeed, these two duels following one after the other, and in both of which, one of the adversaries was beforehand doomed to die.

Meanwhile, Baron Giordano arrived.

It was eight o’clock. We started.

Lucien was so anxious to get there, and hurried the driver on so much, that we arrived at the rendezvous ten minutes before the time. Our opponents came up at nine o’clock precisely. They were all three on horseback, followed by a servant, mounted also. Mons. de Château-Renaud held his hand in the breast of his coat, and I thought at first that he carried his arm in a sling.

At twenty steps from us, the three gentlemen dismounted, leaving their horses to the care of the servant.

Mons. de Château-Renaud staid behind, but remained looking over at Lucien; notwithstanding the distance between us, I saw him grow pale. He turned back, and amused himself with cutting down the small flowers in the grass with his whip, which he carried in his left hand.

“Here we are, gentlemen,” said MM. de Châteaugrand and de Boissy, “but you know our conditions, that is, that this duel shall be the last, and that whatever may be the result, Mons. de Château-Renaud shall not incur any further responsibility.”

“Agreed!” replied we.

Lucien bowed in sign of his approbation.

“You have weapons?” inquired the viscount.

“Yes; the same used the other day.”

“And they are unknown to Mons. de Franchi?”

“Much more so than to Mons. de Château-Renaud, who has used them once. Mons. de Franchi has not even seen them.”

“Very well, gentlemen. Come, Château-Renaud.”

We immediately entered the woods without uttering a single word. Each one felt a painful recollection of the recent scene, upon the theatre of which we mere soon to appear, and where something not less terrible would probably occur.

We arrived at the bog.

Mons. de Château-Renaud, by a great effort of self-control, appeared calm. But it was easy for those who had seen him at both rencontres, to distinguish the difference in his feelings.

From time to time he cast a glance at Lucien, which expressed an uneasiness, that looked very much like fear. Perhaps it was the great likeness of the two brothers which occupied him, or did he see in Lucien the avenging shadow of Louis?

At length, while the pistols were being loaded, I saw him take his hand out of his breast; it was enveloped in a wet handkerchief, in order to subdue its feverish motion.

Lucien was waiting, with his eyes calm and fixed, like one sure of vengeance.

Without being shown to his place, Lucien took his stand on the spot which his brother had occupied, and of course forced M. de Château-Renaud to take again the same place where he had stood before.

Lucien received his pistol with a joyful smile.

When Mons. de Château-Renaud took his, from being pale, he became livid. He then passed his hand between his neck and his cravat, as if the latter had been choking him.

It is impossible to imagine the feeling of involuntary terror with which I regarded this young man: beautiful, rich, elegant, who but the previous morning had seen long years of happiness before him, and who now, the sweat pouring from his forehead and his heart filled with unutterable agony, felt himself fated to die.

“Are you ready?” demanded the Viscount Châteaugrand.

“Yes,” replied Lucien.

Mons. de Château-Renaud merely made a sign in the affirmative.

As for myself, I turned away.

I heard the two claps of the hands given successively, and with the third, the report of the two pistols.

I turned round again. Monsieur de Château-Renaud was lying prostrate up on the ground, quite dead, without having uttered a sigh, or made a movement. I went up to him, impelled by that invincible curiosity which urges us to follow a catastrophe to the end. The bullet had entered the temple, at the very spot predicted by Lucien the day before.

I ran up to him; he had remained calmand motionless. But upon seeing me within his reach, he dropped his pistol and threw himself into my arms.

“Oh! my brother! my poor brother!” exclaimed he.

He broke out into sobs!

These were the first tears the young man had ever shed!

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37