His hands and feet getting numbed, grew painful, especially the tips of his fingers, and he began to trot round the glazed kiosque in which the newspaper seller, squatting over her foot warmer, only showed through the little window a red nose and a pair of cheeks to match in a woolen hood.
At length the newspaper porter passed the expected parcel through the opening, and the woman held out to Duroy an unfolded copy of the _Plume_.
He glanced through it in search of his name, and at first saw nothing.
He was breathing again, when he saw between two dashes:
"Monsieur Duroy, of the _Vie Francaise_, contradicts us, and in contradicting us, lies.
He admits, however, that there is a Madame Aubert, and that an agent took her before the commissary of police.
It only remains, therefore, to add two words, '_des moeurs_,' after the word 'agent,' and he is right.
But the conscience of certain journalists is on a level with their talent.
And I sign,
George's heart began to beat violently, and he went home to dress without being too well aware of what he was doing.
So he had been insulted, and in such a way that no hesitation was possible.
For nothing at all.
On account of an old woman who had quarreled with her butcher.
He dressed quickly and went to see Monsieur Walter, although it was barely eight o'clock.
Monsieur Walter, already up, was reading the _Plume_.
"Well," said he, with a grave face, on seeing Duroy, "you cannot draw back now."
The young fellow did not answer, and the other went on: "Go at once and see Rival, who will act for you."
Duroy stammered a few vague words, and went out in quest of the descriptive writer, who was still asleep.
He jumped out of bed, and, having read the paragraph, said: "By Jove, you must go out.
Whom do you think of for the other second?"
"I really don't know."
What do you think?"
"Are you a good swordsman?"
"Not at all."
And with the pistol?"
"I can shoot a little."
You shall practice while I look after everything else.
Wait for me a moment."
He went into his dressing-room, and soon reappeared washed, shaved, correct-looking.
"Come with me," said he.
He lived on the ground floor of a small house, and he led Duroy to the cellar, an enormous cellar, converted into a fencing-room and shooting gallery, all the openings on the street being closed.
After having lit a row of gas jets running the whole length of a second cellar, at the end of which was an iron man painted red and blue; he placed on a table two pairs of breech-loading pistols, and began to give the word of command in a sharp tone, as though on the ground:
Duroy, dumbfounded, obeyed, raising his arm, aiming and firing, and as he often hit the mark fair on the body, having frequently made use of an old horse pistol of his father's when a boy, against the birds, Jacques Rival, well satisfied, exclaimed:
"Good--very good--very good--you will do--you will do."
Then he left George, saying:
"Go on shooting till noon; here is plenty of ammunition, don't be afraid to use it.
I will come back to take you to lunch and tell you how things are going."
Left to himself, Duroy fired a few more shots, and then sat down and began to reflect.
How absurd these things were, all the same!
What did a duel prove?
Was a rascal less of a rascal after going out?
What did an honest man, who had been insulted, gain by risking his life against a scoundrel?