Guy de Maupassant Fullscreen Dear friend (1885)


Duroy ended by understanding him, and sank down beside the doctor.

The two seconds got in in their turn, and the driver started.

He knew where to go.

But the pistol case was in the way of everyone, above all of Duroy, who would have preferred it out of sight.

They tried to put it at the back of the seat and it hurt their own; they stuck it upright between Rival and Boisrenard, and it kept falling all the time.

They finished by stowing it away under their feet.

Conversation languished, although the doctor related some anecdotes.

Rival alone replied to him.

Duroy would have liked to have given a proof of presence of mind, but he was afraid of losing the thread of his ideas, of showing the troubled state of his mind, and was haunted, too, by the disturbing fear of beginning to tremble.

The carriage was soon right out in the country.

It was about nine o'clock.

It was one of those sharp winter mornings when everything is as bright and brittle as glass.

The trees, coated with hoar frost, seemed to have been sweating ice; the earth rang under a footstep, the dry air carried the slightest sound to a distance, the blue sky seemed to shine like a mirror, and the sun, dazzling and cold itself, shed upon the frozen universe rays which did not warm anything.

Rival observed to Duroy: "I got the pistols at Gastine Renette's.

He loaded them himself.

The box is sealed.

We shall toss up, besides, whether we use them or those of our adversary."

Duroy mechanically replied: "I am very much obliged to you."

Then Rival gave him a series of circumstantial recommendations, for he was anxious that his principal should not make any mistake.

He emphasized each point several times, saying:

"When they say,

'Are you ready, gentlemen?' you must answer 'Yes' in a loud tone.

When they give the word

'Fire!' you must raise your arm quickly, and you must fire before they have finished counting

'One, two, three.'"

And Duroy kept on repeating to himself: "When they give the word to fire, I must raise my arm. When they give the word to fire, I must raise my arm."

He learnt it as children learn their lessons, by murmuring them to satiety in order to fix them on their minds.

"When they give the word to fire, I must raise my arm."

The carriage entered a wood, turned down an avenue on the right, and then to the right again.

Rival suddenly opened the door to cry to the driver:

"That way, down the narrow road."

The carriage turned into a rutty road between two copses, in which dead leaves fringed with ice were quivering.

Duroy was still murmuring:

"When they give the word to fire, I must raise my arm."

And he thought how a carriage accident would settle the whole affair.

"Oh! if they could only upset, what luck; if he could only break a leg."

But he caught sight, at the further side of a clearing, of another carriage drawn up, and four gentlemen stamping to keep their feet warm, and he was obliged to open his mouth, so difficult did his breathing become.

The seconds got out first, and then the doctor and the principal.

Rival had taken the pistol-case and walked away with Boisrenard to meet two of the strangers who came towards them.

Duroy watched them salute one another ceremoniously, and then walk up and down the clearing, looking now on the ground and now at the trees, as though they were looking for something that had fallen down or might fly away.

Then they measured off a certain number of paces, and with great difficulty stuck two walking sticks into the frozen ground.

They then reassembled in a group and went through the action of tossing, like children playing heads or tails.

Doctor Le Brument said to Duroy: "Do you feel all right?

Do you want anything?"

"No, nothing, thanks."

It seemed to him that he was mad, that he was asleep, that he was dreaming, that supernatural influences enveloped him.

Was he afraid?


But he did not know.

Everything about him had altered.