Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


And his mind, gloomily inclined, recalled the words of Norbert de Varenne. Then he felt thirsty, and having heard the sound of water dropping behind him, found that there was a hydrant serving as a douche bath, and drank from the nozzle of the hose.

Then he began to think again.

It was gloomy in this cellar, as gloomy as a tomb.

The dull and distant rolling of vehicles sounded like the rumblings of a far-off storm.

What o'clock could it be?

The hours passed by there as they must pass in prisons, without anything to indicate or mark them save the visits of the warder.

He waited a long time.

Then all at once he heard footsteps and voices, and Jacques Rival reappeared, accompanied by Boisrenard.

He called out as soon as he saw Duroy: "It's all settled."

The latter thought the matter terminated by a letter of apology, his heart beat, and he stammered: "Ah! thanks."

The descriptive writer continued: "That fellow Langremont is very square; he accepted all our conditions.

Twenty-five paces, one shot, at the word of command raising the pistol.

The hand is much steadier that way than bringing it down.

See here, Boisrenard, what I told you."

And taking a pistol he began to fire, pointed out how much better one kept the line by raising the arm.

Then he said: "Now let's go and lunch; it is past twelve o'clock."

They went to a neighboring restaurant.

Duroy scarcely spoke. He ate in order not to appear afraid, and then, in course of the afternoon, accompanied Boisrenard to the office, where he got through his work in an abstracted and mechanical fashion.

They thought him plucky.

Jacques Rival dropped in in the course of the afternoon, and it was settled that his seconds should call for him in a landau at seven o'clock the next morning, and drive to the Bois de Vesinet, where the meeting was to take place.

All this had been done so unexpectedly, without his taking part in it, without his saying a word, without his giving his opinion, without accepting or refusing, and with such rapidity, too, that he was bewildered, scared, and scarcely able to understand what was going on.

He found himself at home at nine o'clock, after having dined with Boisrenard, who, out of self-devotion, had not left him all day.

As soon as he was alone he strode quickly up and down his room for several minutes.

He was too uneasy to think about anything.

One solitary idea filled his mind, that of a duel on the morrow, without this idea awakening in him anything else save a powerful emotion.

He had been a soldier, he had been engaged with the Arabs, without much danger to himself though, any more than when one hunts a wild boar.

To reckon things up, he had done his duty.

He had shown himself what he should be.

He would be talked of, approved of, and congratulated.

Then he said aloud, as one does under powerful impressions:

"What a brute of a fellow."

He sat down and began to reflect.

He had thrown upon his little table one of his adversary's cards, given him by Rival in order to retain his address.

He read, as he had already done a score of times during the day:

"Louis Langremont, 176 Rue Montmartre."

Nothing more.

He examined these assembled letters, which seemed to him mysterious and full of some disturbing import.

Louis Langremont. Who was this man?

What was his age, his height, his appearance?

Was it not disgusting that a stranger, an unknown, should thus come and suddenly disturb one's existence without cause and from sheer caprice, on account of an old woman who had had a quarrel with her butcher.

He again repeated aloud: "What a brute."

And he stood lost in thought, his eyes fixed on the card.

Anger was aroused in him against this bit of paper, an anger with which was blended a strange sense of uneasiness.

What a stupid business it was.

He took a pair of nail scissors which were lying about, and stuck their points into the printed name, as though he was stabbing someone.

So he was to fight, and with pistols.

Why had he not chosen swords?

He would have got off with a prick in the hand or arm, while with the pistols one never knew the possible result.

He said: "Come, I must keep my pluck up."

The sound of his own voice made him shudder, and he glanced about him.