Jacques Rival returned, and announced in low tones of satisfaction:
"It is all ready.
Luck has favored us as regards the pistols."
That, so far as Duroy was concerned, was a matter of profound indifference.
They took off his overcoat, which he let them do mechanically.
They felt the breast-pocket of his frock-coat to make certain that he had no pocketbook or papers likely to deaden a ball.
He kept repeating to himself like a prayer: "When the word is given to fire, I must raise my arm."
They led him up to one of the sticks stuck in the ground and handed him his pistol.
Then he saw a man standing just in front of him--a short, stout, bald-headed man, wearing spectacles.
It was his adversary.
He saw him very plainly, but he could only think:
"When the word to fire is given, I must raise my arm and fire at once."
A voice rang out in the deep silence, a voice that seemed to come from a great distance, saying:
"Are you ready, gentlemen?" George exclaimed
The same voice gave the word "Fire!"
He heard nothing more, he saw nothing more, he took note of nothing more, he only knew that he raised his arm, pressing strongly on the trigger.
And he heard nothing.
But he saw all at once a little smoke at the end of his pistol barrel, and as the man in front of him still stood in the same position, he perceived, too, a little cloud of smoke drifting off over his head.
They had both fired.
It was over.
His seconds and the doctor touched him, felt him and unbuttoned his clothes, asking, anxiously:
"Are you hit?"
He replied at haphazard: "No, I do not think so."
Langremont, too, was as unhurt as his enemy, and Jacques Rival murmured in a discontented tone: "It is always so with those damned pistols; you either miss or kill.
What a filthy weapon."
Duroy did not move, paralyzed by surprise and joy.
It was over.
They had to take away his weapon, which he still had clenched in his hand.
It seemed to him now that he could have done battle with the whole world.
It was over.
He felt suddenly brave enough to defy no matter whom.
The whole of the seconds conversed together for a few moments, making an appointment to draw up their report of the proceedings in the course of the day. Then they got into the carriage again, and the driver, who was laughing on the box, started off, cracking his whip.
They breakfasted together on the boulevards, and in chatting over the event, Duroy narrated his impressions.
"I felt quite unconcerned, quite.
You must, besides, have seen it yourself."
Rival replied: "Yes, you bore yourself very well."
When the report was drawn up it was handed to Duroy, who was to insert it in the paper.
He was astonished to read that he had exchanged a couple of shots with Monsieur Louis Langremont, and rather uneasily interrogated Rival, saying:
"But we only fired once."
The other smiled.
"Yes, one shot apiece, that makes a couple of shots."
Duroy, deeming the explanation satisfactory, did not persist.
Daddy Walter embraced him, saying:
"Bravo, bravo, you have defended the colors of _Vie Francaise_; bravo!"
George showed himself in the course of the evening at the principal newspaper offices, and at the chief _cafes_ on the boulevards.
He twice encountered his adversary, who was also showing himself.
They did not bow to one another.
If one of them had been wounded they would have shaken hands.