At this point the police noticed that the public had massed
themselves together on the right and left of the field;
they therefore begged a delay, while they should put
these poor people in a place of safety.
The request was granted.
The police having ordered the two multitudes to take
positions behind the duelists, we were once more ready.
The weather growing still more opaque, it was agreed between
myself and the other second that before giving the fatal
signal we should each deliver a loud whoop to enable
the combatants to ascertain each other's whereabouts.
I now returned to my principal, and was distressed
to observe that he had lost a good deal of his spirit.
I tried my best to hearten him. I said, "Indeed, sir,
things are not as bad as they seem. Considering the character
of the weapons, the limited number of shots allowed,
the generous distance, the impenetrable solidity of the fog,
and the added fact that one of the combatants is one-eyed
and the other cross-eyed and near-sighted, it seems to me
that this conflict need not necessarily be fatal. There are
chances that both of you may survive. Therefore, cheer up;
do not be downhearted."
This speech had so good an effect that my principal
immediately stretched forth his hand and said, "I am
myself again; give me the weapon."
I laid it, all lonely and forlorn, in the center of the vast
solitude of his palm. He gazed at it and shuddered.
And still mournfully contemplating it, he murmured in a
"Alas, it is not death I dread, but mutilation."
I heartened him once more, and with such success that he
presently said, "Let the tragedy begin. Stand at my back;
do not desert me in this solemn hour, my friend."
I gave him my promise. I now assisted him to point
his pistol toward the spot where I judged his adversary
to be standing, and cautioned him to listen well and
further guide himself by my fellow-second's whoop.
Then I propped myself against M. Gambetta's back,
and raised a rousing "Whoop-ee!" This was answered from
out the far distances of the fog, and I immediately shouted:
"One - two - three - FIRE!"
Two little sounds like SPIT! SPIT! broke upon my ear,
and in the same instant I was crushed to the earth under
a mountain of flesh. Bruised as I was, I was still able
to catch a faint accent from above, to this effect:
"I die for... for ... perdition take it,
what IS it I die for? ... oh, yes - FRANCE! I die
that France may live!"
The surgeons swarmed around with their probes in
their hands, and applied their microscopes to the whole
area of M. Gambetta's person, with the happy result of
finding nothing in the nature of a wound. Then a scene
ensued which was in every way gratifying and inspiriting.
The two gladiators fell upon each other's neck, with floods
of proud and happy tears; that other second embraced me;
the surgeons, the orators, the undertakers, the police,
everybody embraced, everybody congratulated, everybody cried,
and the whole atmosphere was filled with praise and with
It seems to me then that I would rather be a hero
of a French duel than a crowned and sceptered monarch.
When the commotion had somewhat subsided, the body
of surgeons held a consultation, and after a good deal
of debate decided that with proper care and nursing there
was reason to believe that I would survive my injuries.
My internal hurts were deemed the most serious, since it
was apparent that a broken rib had penetrated my left lung,
and that many of my organs had been pressed out so far
to one side or the other of where they belonged, that it
was doubtful if they would ever learn to perform their
functions in such remote and unaccustomed localities.
They then set my left arm in two places, pulled my right
hip into its socket again, and re-elevated my nose.
I was an object of great interest, and even admiration;
and many sincere and warm-hearted persons had themselves
introduced to me, and said they were proud to know
the only man who had been hurt in a French duel in
I was placed in an ambulance at the very head of the procession;
and thus with gratifying 'ECLAT I was marched into Paris,
the most conspicuous figure in that great spectacle,
and deposited at the hospital.
The cross of the Legion of Honor has been conferred
upon me. However, few escape that distinction.
Such is the true version of the most memorable private
conflict of the age.
I have no complaints to make against any one. I acted
for myself, and I can stand the consequences.
Without boasting, I think I may say I am not afraid
to stand before a modern French duelist, but as long
as I keep in my right mind I will never consent to stand
behind one again.
[What the Beautiful Maiden Said]
One day we took the train and went down to Mannheim
to see "King Lear" played in German. It was a mistake.
We sat in our seats three whole hours and never understood
anything but the thunder and lightning; and even that
was reversed to suit German ideas, for the thunder came
first and the lightning followed after.
The behavior of the audience was perfect. There were
no rustlings, or whisperings, or other little disturbances;
each act was listened to in silence, and the applauding
was done after the curtain was down. The doors opened at
half past four, the play began promptly at half past five,
and within two minutes afterward all who were coming were
in their seats, and quiet reigned.