Gustave Flaubert.

Sentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 online

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out. Then boldly make a lunge on him! and, above all, no malice, no
strokes of the La Fougère kind.[C] No! a simple one-two, and some
disengagements. Look here! do you see? while you turn your wrist as if
opening a lock. Père Vauthier, give me your cane. Ha! that will do."

He grasped the rod which was used for lighting the gas, rounded his left
arm, bent his right, and began to make some thrusts against the
partition. He stamped with his foot, got animated, and pretended to be
encountering difficulties, while he exclaimed: "Are you there? Is that
it? Are you there?" and his enormous silhouette projected itself on the
wall with his hat apparently touching the ceiling. The owner of the café
shouted from time to time: "Bravo! very good!" His wife, though a little
unnerved, was likewise filled with admiration; and Théodore, who had
been in the army, remained riveted to the spot with amazement, the fact
being, however, that he regarded M. Regimbart with a species of
hero-worship.

Next morning, at an early hour, Frederick hurried to the establishment
in which Dussardier was employed. After having passed through a
succession of departments all full of clothing-materials, either
adorning shelves or lying on tables, while here and there shawls were
fixed on wooden racks shaped like toadstools, he saw the young man, in a
sort of railed cage, surrounded by account-books, and standing in front
of a desk at which he was writing. The honest fellow left his work.


[C] In 1828, a certain La Fougère brought out a work entitled _L'Art de
n'être jamais tué ni blessé en Duel sans avons pris aucune leçon d'armes
et lors même qu'on aurait affaire au premier Tireur de l'Univers._
- TRANSLATOR.


The seconds arrived before twelve o'clock.

Frederick, as a matter of good taste, thought he ought not to be present
at the conference.

The Baron and M. Joseph declared that they would be satisfied with the
simplest excuses. But Regimbart's principle being never to yield, and
his contention being that Arnoux's honour should be vindicated
(Frederick had not spoken to him about anything else), he asked that the
Vicomte should apologise. M. de Comaing was indignant at this
presumption. The Citizen would not abate an inch. As all conciliation
proved impracticable, there was nothing for it but to fight.

Other difficulties arose, for the choice of weapons lay with Cisy, as
the person to whom the insult had been offered. But Regimbart maintained
that by sending the challenge he had constituted himself the offending
party. His seconds loudly protested that a buffet was the most cruel of
offences. The Citizen carped at the words, pointing out that a buffet
was not a blow. Finally, they decided to refer the matter to a military
man; and the four seconds went off to consult the officers in some of
the barracks.

They drew up at the barracks on the Quai d'Orsay. M. de Comaing, having
accosted two captains, explained to them the question in dispute.

The captains did not understand a word of what he was saying, owing to
the confusion caused by the Citizen's incidental remarks. In short,
they advised the gentlemen who consulted them to draw up a minute of the
proceedings; after which they would give their decision. Thereupon, they
repaired to a café; and they even, in order to do things with more
circumspection, referred to Cisy as H, and Frederick as K.

Then they returned to the barracks. The officers had gone out. They
reappeared, and declared that the choice of arms manifestly belonged to
H.

They all returned to Cisy's abode. Regimbart and Dussardier remained on
the footpath outside.

The Vicomte, when he was informed of the solution of the case, was
seized with such extreme agitation that they had to repeat for him
several times the decision of the officers; and, when M. de Comaing came
to deal with Regimbart's contention, he murmured "Nevertheless," not
being very reluctant himself to yield to it. Then he let himself sink
into an armchair, and declared that he would not fight.

"Eh? What?" said the Baron. Then Cisy indulged in a confused flood of
mouthings. He wished to fight with firearms - to discharge a single
pistol at close quarters.

"Or else we will put arsenic into a glass, and draw lots to see who must
drink it. That's sometimes done. I've read of it!"

The Baron, naturally rather impatient, addressed him in a harsh tone:

"These gentlemen are waiting for your answer. This is indecent, to put
it shortly. What weapons are you going to take? Come! is it the sword?"

The Vicomte gave an affirmative reply by merely nodding his head; and it
was arranged that the meeting should take place next morning at seven
o'clock sharp at the Maillot gate.

Dussardier, being compelled to go back to his business, Regimbart went
to inform Frederick about the arrangement. He had been left all day
without any news, and his impatience was becoming intolerable.

"So much the better!" he exclaimed.

The Citizen was satisfied with his deportment.

"Would you believe it? They wanted an apology from us. It was nothing - a
mere word! But I knocked them off their beam-ends nicely. The right
thing to do, wasn't it?"

"Undoubtedly," said Frederick, thinking that it would have been better
to choose another second.

Then, when he was alone, he repeated several times in a very loud tone:

"I am going to fight! Hold on, I am going to fight! 'Tis funny!"

And, as he walked up and down his room, while passing in front of the
mirror, he noticed that he was pale.

"Have I any reason to be afraid?"

He was seized with a feeling of intolerable misery at the prospect of
exhibiting fear on the ground.

"And yet, suppose I happen to be killed? My father met his death the
same way. Yes, I shall be killed!"

And, suddenly, his mother rose up before him in a black dress;
incoherent images floated before his mind. His own cowardice exasperated
him. A paroxysm of courage, a thirst for human blood, took possession of
him. A battalion could not have made him retreat. When this feverish
excitement had cooled down, he was overjoyed to feel that his nerves
were perfectly steady. In order to divert his thoughts, he went to the
opera, where a ballet was being performed. He listened to the music,
looked at the _danseuses_ through his opera-glass, and drank a glass of
punch between the acts. But when he got home again, the sight of his
study, of his furniture, in the midst of which he found himself for the
last time, made him feel ready to swoon.

He went down to the garden. The stars were shining; he gazed up at them.
The idea of fighting about a woman gave him a greater importance in his
own eyes, and surrounded him with a halo of nobility. Then he went to
bed in a tranquil frame of mind.

It was not so with Cisy. After the Baron's departure, Joseph had tried
to revive his drooping spirits, and, as the Vicomte remained in the same
dull mood:

"However, old boy, if you prefer to remain at home, I'll go and say so."

Cisy durst not answer "Certainly;" but he would have liked his cousin to
do him this service without speaking about it.

He wished that Frederick would die during the night of an attack of
apoplexy, or that a riot would break out so that next morning there
would be enough of barricades to shut up all the approaches to the Bois
de Boulogne, or that some emergency might prevent one of the seconds
from being present; for in the absence of seconds the duel would fall
through. He felt a longing to save himself by taking an express
train - no matter where. He regretted that he did not understand medicine
so as to be able to take something which, without endangering his life,
would cause it to be believed that he was dead. He finally wished to be
ill in earnest.

In order to get advice and assistance from someone, he sent for M. des
Aulnays. That worthy man had gone back to Saintonge on receiving a
letter informing him of the illness of one of his daughters. This
appeared an ominous circumstance to Cisy. Luckily, M. Vezou, his tutor,
came to see him. Then he unbosomed himself.

"What am I to do? my God! what am I do?"

"If I were in your place, Monsieur, I should pay some strapping fellow
from the market-place to go and give him a drubbing."

"He would still know who brought it about," replied Cisy.

And from time to time he uttered a groan; then:

"But is a man bound to fight a duel?"

"'Tis a relic of barbarism! What are you to do?"

Out of complaisance the pedagogue invited himself to dinner. His pupil
did not eat anything, but, after the meal, felt the necessity of taking
a short walk.

As they were passing a church, he said:

"Suppose we go in for a little while - to look?"

M. Vezou asked nothing better, and even offered him holy water.

It was the month of May. The altar was covered with flowers; voices were
chanting; the organ was resounding through the church. But he found it
impossible to pray, as the pomps of religion inspired him merely with
thoughts of funerals. He fancied that he could hear the murmurs of the
_De Profundis_.

"Let us go away. I don't feel well."

They spent the whole night playing cards. The Vicomte made an effort to
lose in order to exorcise ill-luck, a thing which M. Vezou turned to his
own advantage. At last, at the first streak of dawn, Cisy, who could
stand it no longer, sank down on the green cloth, and was soon plunged
in sleep, which was disturbed by unpleasant dreams.

If courage, however, consists in wishing to get the better of one's own
weakness, the Vicomte was courageous, for in the presence of his
seconds, who came to seek him, he stiffened himself up with all the
strength he could command, vanity making him realise that to attempt to
draw back now would destroy him. M. de Comaing congratulated him on his
good appearance.

But, on the way, the jolting of the cab and the heat of the morning sun
made him languish. His energy gave way again. He could not even
distinguish any longer where they were. The Baron amused himself by
increasing his terror, talking about the "corpse," and of the way they
meant to get back clandestinely to the city. Joseph gave the rejoinder;
both, considering the affair ridiculous, were certain that it would be
settled.

Cisy kept his head on his breast; he lifted it up slowly, and drew
attention to the fact that they had not taken a doctor with them.

"'Tis needless," said the Baron.

"Then there's no danger?"

Joseph answered in a grave tone:

"Let us hope so!"

And nobody in the carriage made any further remark.

At ten minutes past seven they arrived in front of the Maillot gate.
Frederick and his seconds were there, the entire group being dressed
all in black. Regimbart, instead of a cravat, wore a stiff horsehair
collar, like a trooper; and he carried a long violin-case adapted for
adventures of this kind. They exchanged frigid bows. Then they all
plunged into the Bois de Boulogne, taking the Madrid road, in order to
find a suitable place.

Regimbart said to Frederick, who was walking between him and Dussardier:

"Well, and this scare - what do we care about it? If you want anything,
don't annoy yourself about it; I know what to do. Fear is natural to
man!"

Then, in a low tone:

"Don't smoke any more; in this case it has a weakening effect."

Frederick threw away his cigar, which had only a disturbing effect on
his brain, and went on with a firm step. The Vicomte advanced behind,
leaning on the arms of his two seconds. Occasional wayfarers crossed
their path. The sky was blue, and from time to time they heard rabbits
skipping about. At the turn of a path, a woman in a Madras neckerchief
was chatting with a man in a blouse; and in the large avenue under the
chestnut-trees some grooms in vests of linen-cloth were walking horses
up and down.

Cisy recalled the happy days when, mounted on his own chestnut horse,
and with his glass stuck in his eye, he rode up to carriage-doors. These
recollections intensified his wretchedness. An intolerable thirst
parched his throat. The buzzing of flies mingled with the throbbing of
his arteries. His feet sank into the sand. It seemed to him as if he had
been walking during a period which had neither beginning nor end.

The seconds, without stopping, examined with keen glances each side of
the path they were traversing. They hesitated as to whether they would
go to the Catelan Cross or under the walls of the Bagatelle. At last
they took a turn to the right; and they drew up in a kind of quincunx in
the midst of the pine-trees.

The spot was chosen in such a way that the level ground was cut equally
into two divisions. The two places at which the principals in the duel
were to take their stand were marked out. Then Regimbart opened his
case. It was lined with red sheep's-leather, and contained four charming
swords hollowed in the centre, with handles which were adorned with
filigree. A ray of light, passing through the leaves, fell on them, and
they appeared to Cisy to glitter like silver vipers on a sea of blood.

The Citizen showed that they were of equal length. He took one himself,
in order to separate the combatants in case of necessity. M. de Comaing
held a walking-stick. There was an interval of silence. They looked at
each other. All the faces had in them something fierce or cruel.

Frederick had taken off his coat and his waistcoat. Joseph aided Cisy to
do the same. When his cravat was removed a blessed medal could be seen
on his neck. This made Regimbart smile contemptuously.

Then M. de Comaing (in order to allow Frederick another moment for
reflection) tried to raise some quibbles. He demanded the right to put
on a glove, and to catch hold of his adversary's sword with the left
hand. Regimbart, who was in a hurry, made no objection to this. At last
the Baron, addressing Frederick:

"Everything depends on you, Monsieur! There is never any dishonour in
acknowledging one's faults."

Dussardier made a gesture of approval. The Citizen gave vent to his
indignation:

"Do you think we came here as a mere sham, damn it! Be on your guard,
each of you!"

The combatants were facing one another, with their seconds by their
sides.

He uttered the single word:

"Come!"

Cisy became dreadfully pale. The end of his blade was quivering like a
horsewhip. His head fell back, his hands dropped down helplessly, and he
sank unconscious on the ground. Joseph raised him up and while holding a
scent-bottle to his nose, gave him a good shaking.

The Vicomte reopened his eyes, then suddenly grasped at his sword like a
madman. Frederick had held his in readiness, and now awaited him with
steady eye and uplifted hand.

"Stop! stop!" cried a voice, which came from the road simultaneously
with the sound of a horse at full gallop, and the hood of a cab broke
the branches. A man bending out his head waved a handkerchief, still
exclaiming:

"Stop! stop!"

M. de Comaing, believing that this meant the intervention of the police,
lifted up his walking-stick.

"Make an end of it. The Vicomte is bleeding!"

"I?" said Cisy.

In fact, he had in his fall taken off the skin of his left thumb.

"But this was by falling," observed the Citizen.

The Baron pretended not to understand.

Arnoux had jumped out of the cab.

"I have arrived too late? No! Thanks be to God!"

He threw his arms around Frederick, felt him, and covered his face with
kisses.

"I am the cause of it. You wanted to defend your old friend! That's
right - that's right! Never shall I forget it! How good you are! Ah! my
own dear boy!"

He gazed at Frederick and shed tears, while he chuckled with delight.
The Baron turned towards Joseph:

"I believe we are in the way at this little family party. It is over,
messieurs, is it not? Vicomte, put your arm into a sling. Hold on! here
is my silk handkerchief."

Then, with an imperious gesture: "Come! no spite! This is as it should
be!"

The two adversaries shook hands in a very lukewarm fashion. The Vicomte,
M. de Comaing, and Joseph disappeared in one direction, and Frederick
left with his friends in the opposite direction.

As the Madrid Restaurant was not far off, Arnoux proposed that they
should go and drink a glass of beer there.

"We might even have breakfast."

But, as Dussardier had no time to lose, they confined themselves to
taking some refreshment in the garden.

They all experienced that sense of satisfaction which follows happy
_dénouements_. The Citizen, nevertheless, was annoyed at the duel having
been interrupted at the most critical stage.

Arnoux had been apprised of it by a person named Compain, a friend of
Regimbart; and with an irrepressible outburst of emotion he had rushed
to the spot to prevent it, under the impression, however, that he was
the occasion of it. He begged of Frederick to furnish him with some
details about it. Frederick, touched by these proofs of affection, felt
some scruples at the idea of increasing his misapprehension of the
facts.

"For mercy's sake, don't say any more about it!"

Arnoux thought that this reserve showed great delicacy. Then, with his
habitual levity, he passed on to some fresh subject.

"What news, Citizen?"

And they began talking about banking transactions, and the number of
bills that were falling due. In order to be more undisturbed, they went
to another table, where they exchanged whispered confidences.

Frederick could overhear the following words: "You are going to back me
up with your signature." "Yes, but you, mind!" "I have negotiated it at
last for three hundred!" "A nice commission, faith!"

In short, it was clear that Arnoux was mixed up in a great many shady
transactions with the Citizen.

Frederick thought of reminding him about the fifteen thousand francs.
But his last step forbade the utterance of any reproachful words even of
the mildest description. Besides, he felt tired himself, and this was
not a convenient place for talking about such a thing. He put it off
till some future day.

Arnoux, seated in the shade of an evergreen, was smoking, with a look of
joviality in his face. He raised his eyes towards the doors of private
rooms looking out on the garden, and said he had often paid visits to
the house in former days.

"Probably not by yourself?" returned the Citizen.

"Faith, you're right there!"

"What blackguardism you do carry on! you, a married man!"

"Well, and what about yourself?" retorted Arnoux; and, with an indulgent
smile: "I am even sure that this rascal here has a room of his own
somewhere into which he takes his friends."

The Citizen confessed that this was true by simply shrugging his
shoulders. Then these two gentlemen entered into their respective tastes
with regard to the sex: Arnoux now preferred youth, work-girls;
Regimbart hated affected women, and went in for the genuine article
before anything else. The conclusion which the earthenware-dealer laid
down at the close of this discussion was that women were not to be taken
seriously.

"Nevertheless, he is fond of his own wife," thought Frederick, as he
made his way home; and he looked on Arnoux as a coarse-grained man. He
had a grudge against him on account of the duel, as if it had been for
the sake of this individual that he risked his life a little while
before.

But he felt grateful to Dussardier for his devotedness. Ere long the
book-keeper came at his invitation to pay him a visit every day.

Frederick lent him books - Thiers, Dulaure, Barante, and Lamartine's
_Girondins_.

The honest fellow listened to everything the other said with a
thoughtful air, and accepted his opinions as those of a master.

One evening he arrived looking quite scared.

That morning, on the boulevard, a man who was running so quickly that he
had got out of breath, had jostled against him, and having recognised
in him a friend of Sénécal, had said to him:

"He has just been taken! I am making my escape!"

There was no doubt about it. Dussardier had spent the day making
enquiries. Sénécal was in jail charged with an attempted crime of a
political nature.

The son of an overseer, he was born at Lyons, and having had as his
teacher a former disciple of Chalier, he had, on his arrival in Paris,
obtained admission into the "Society of Families." His ways were known,
and the police kept a watch on him. He was one of those who fought in
the outbreak of May, 1839, and since then he had remained in the shade;
but, his self-importance increasing more and more, he became a fanatical
follower of Alibaud, mixing up his own grievances against society with
those of the people against monarchy, and waking up every morning in the
hope of a revolution which in a fortnight or a month would turn the
world upside down. At last, disgusted at the inactivity of his brethren,
enraged at the obstacles that retarded the realisation of his dreams,
and despairing of the country, he entered in his capacity of chemist
into the conspiracy for the use of incendiary bombs; and he had been
caught carrying gunpowder, of which he was going to make a trial at
Montmartre - a supreme effort to establish the Republic.

Dussardier was no less attached to the Republican idea, for, from his
point of view, it meant enfranchisement and universal happiness. One
day - at the age of fifteen - in the Rue Transnonain, in front of a
grocer's shop, he had seen soldiers' bayonets reddened with blood and
exhibiting human hairs pasted to the butt-ends of their guns. Since
that time, the Government had filled him with feelings of rage as the
very incarnation of injustice. He frequently confused the assassins with
the gendarmes; and in his eyes a police-spy was just as bad as a
parricide. All the evil scattered over the earth he ingenuously
attributed to Power; and he hated it with a deep-rooted, undying hatred
that held possession of his heart and made his sensibility all the more
acute. He had been dazzled by Sénécal's declamations. It was of little
consequence whether he happened to be guilty or not, or whether the
attempt with which he was charged could be characterised as an odious
proceeding! Since he was the victim of Authority, it was only right to
help him.

"The Peers will condemn him, certainly! Then he will be conveyed in a
prison-van, like a convict, and will be shut up in Mont Saint-Michel,
where the Government lets people die! Austen had gone mad! Steuben had
killed himself! In order to transfer Barbès into a dungeon, they had
dragged him by the legs and by the hair. They trampled on his body, and
his head rebounded along the staircase at every step they took. What
abominable treatment! The wretches!"

He was choking with angry sobs, and he walked about the apartment in a
very excited frame of mind.

"In the meantime, something must be done! Come, for my part, I don't
know what to do! Suppose we tried to rescue him, eh? While they are
bringing him to the Luxembourg, we could throw ourselves on the escort
in the passage! A dozen resolute men - that sometimes is enough to
accomplish it!"

There was so much fire in his eyes that Frederick was a little startled
by his look. He recalled to mind Sénécal's sufferings and his austere
life. Without feeling the same enthusiasm about him as Dussardier, he
experienced nevertheless that admiration which is inspired by every man
who sacrifices himself for an idea. He said to himself that, if he had
helped this man, he would not be in his present position; and the two
friends anxiously sought to devise some contrivance whereby they could
set him free.

It was impossible for them to get access to him.

Frederick examined the newspapers to try to find out what had become of
him, and for three weeks he was a constant visitor at the reading-rooms.

One day several numbers of the _Flambard_ fell into his hands. The
leading article was invariably devoted to cutting up some distinguished
man. After that came some society gossip and some scandals. Then there
were some chaffing observations about the Odéon Carpentras,
pisciculture, and prisoners under sentence of death, when there happened
to be any. The disappearance of a packet-boat furnished materials for a
whole year's jokes. In the third column a picture-canvasser, under the
form of anecdotes or advice, gave some tailors' announcements, together
with accounts of evening parties, advertisements as to auctions, and
analysis of artistic productions, writing in the same strain about a
volume of verse and a pair of boots. The only serious portion of it was
the criticism of the small theatres, in which fierce attacks were made


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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 2 of 21)