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the young man with an ingenuous || himself, and perceiving no friendly blush, “ I trust that you will have expression in any countenance round reason to be satisfied with me. I him, he bowed and retired. shall endeavour to follow the exam- | Next day, according to the usual ple of my comrades, and I hope that custom, he called upon each of the my efforts to gain their regard will officers. They had expected this obtain for me the benefit of their visit, and they took their measures advice, which I am certain I must, accordingly. He had the mortificafrom my inexperience, have great tion to hear them tell their servants need of.”—“Sir," replied the colonel one after another, in a tone evidently roughly, “ you would have acted meant for his ear, that they were not more wisely if you had acquired the at home. They met him at the paexperience you must be so much in rade with averted or insolent looks; want of before you took upon your- | no one returned his civilities, or even self the command of a company. It answered his questions. If at the is more than indiscreet in a boy who coffee-house he proposed to one of has hardly quitted school, to put them a game at billiards, he was rehimself over the heads of brave and fused, and directly afterwards anexperienced men. Look at your first other was accepted without the slightlieutenant, and judge how painful it est apology being made to him. In must be to him to see himself com- || short, they sent him completely to manded by one of your age, by a Coventry; or rather they did still mere novice in a profession of which more, they evinced the most deterhe is thorough master.”
mined resolution to quarrel with him " I feel all the truth of your ob- | if possible. servations," replied La Croix in a For some time La Croix endured modest but firm tone; “ but do me this treatment in silence, but to judge the justice, sir, to believe that I am from the expression of his eloquent not here by my own choice. I would countenance, not without feeling very gladly have contented myself with severe mortification; particularly an inferior rank, but my patron when one day a stranger, who was thought it beneath him to solicit any playing at billiards with Valmont at thing under a captaincy. If, how- || the coffee-house, asked his opinion ever, colonel, you find my inexpe-on a doubtful point of the game, rience renders me unfit for the du- and just as he was about to give it, ties of my post, I shall certainly re- Valmont interrupted him by exclaimsign it.”
ing, “I protest against that gentleThe colonel turned his back upon man's opinion in any thing that conhim without reply. La Croix then cerns me.”—“And for what reason?" addressed himself to Valmont, the cried a young ensign, who thought first lieutenant, and begged him to that he now saw the moment to force present him to his brother officers. La Croix to fight." Because," re“ You are old enough to introduce plied the lieutenant scornfully, “ I yourself, sir," was the answer de- like him not." At these words La livered in the most disobliging tone. Croix fixed his eyes upon Valmont It brought a blush of anger into the with an expression of fierceness,which young man's face; but recollecting I was almost immediately succeeded
from the ex
A choice that I am
e contentehoice. I would
by a look of sorrow. He was evi- | on whom the charms of Eugenie, dently on the point of breaking out; the second daughter, had made a but constraining himself by a strong very strong impression. He opened effort, he quitted the coffee-house his heart to the general, and had the without speaking, and from that day satisfaction to hear, that if he could he entered it no more.
make himself agreeable to the lady, “ O the poltroon!" said Val- he had nothing to fear from her pamont, looking after him, " there's no rents, the consent of his own being provoking him to draw his sword.” understood. --" It is singular enough,” cried the The notice taken of La Croix by young ensign, who had tried to draw the gentry of the town, and, above him into a quarrel by the insidious all, the consideration which he enquestion he put to Valmont, “ for he joyed in the Bellegarde family, were is certainly no coward.”
a fresh cause of irritation to his ene“ How, no coward! a fellow who mies: he was, however, so punctual puts up with every insult is not a in the discharge of his duties, and coward? You joke.”—“ No, faith, so much upon his guard, that some I do not; and if you had seen his | weeks elapsed without their being look when you told him so plumply able to draw him into a quarrel: at that you did not like him, you would last an opportunity presented itself. agree with me that he must be brave A squadron of hussars, with whom at bottom.” Valmont replied only the regiment had some time before by a look of incredulity, and the con- been in garrison at the frontiers, versation dropped..
came to share their quarters in ProAlthough the amiable manners of vence. The officers of La Croix's La Croix had failed to conciliate the regiment invited the others to a dinminds of his comrades, they gained ner at the mess. La Croix was one him the good-will of all the gentry of the company; and the cavalry ofof the town, to whom his situation ficers, who were not blinded by preand the respectability of his birth judice, were delighted with his frank and connections introduced him. and social manners. The applause Among those who shewed him par- given to his lively sallies, and the ticular marks of attention was Ge- laughter which his bon-mots excited, neral Bellegarde, a veteran officer, provoked some of the most invetewho had known his father, and who rate among his enemies to turn him invited him to consider his house as into ridicule. But he replied with his own. This acquaintance was ex- so much good-humoured drollery, tremely agreeable to the young man: and turned the laugh against them the general had an amiable wife and in a manner at once so clever and so two charming daughters, with whom free from asperity, that they could he soon found himself domesticated;| find no fair pretence to insult him. and they on their part were so pleas- The officers of hussars shook him ed with him, that the veteran said heartily by the hand, and shewed so to him one day with the frankness much admiration of his conduct, that of a soldier, “ We look upon you Valmont's anger was inflamed to the already as one of ourselves.” highest pitch. “ What, St. Maur!"
These words delighted La Croix, cried lie abruptly, addressing one who seemed the most delighted with ed? The most illustrious patriots, La Croix, “ you who have gained the greatest heroes, might then be your epaulettes at the point of your dishonoured by the folly of a drunksword, you who have so many ho-ard, or the infamous language of a nourable wounds as testimonials of blackguard.” your services, can you suffer your “Ah! pshaw! all this sort of abself to be dazzled by the frothy no- stract reasoning does very well in the things of a man who owes his pro- | discussions of philosophers, or the motion to favour alone?”
writings of moralists; but we learn “How!" cried St. Maur, briskly l a different lesson in the school of drawing back his chair, which was honour. In a word, our creed is, close to that of La Croix, “ is it that an insult leaves a stain which really possible that you belong to a can only be effaced by the blood of class which all brave men detest?" the insulter. Such has always been
“ Yes, captain; it is unfortunately || the custom of the army, and he who true, that my commission is neither enters it must conform to its usages." the meed of my services, nor the “I beg your pardon, this customi fruit of the suffrages of my compa- is not so ancient as you suppose: nions. God knows how often I have the Greeks and Romans " regretted that it should be so, and “What the devil have we to do how impatiently I wait for an oppor with them? The customs of France tunity of proving to my comrades, are the only customs that Frenchthat I am not unworthy to march men ought to follow. But what need with them under the banners of my of all this prosing about such a tricountry."
fle? It is clear enough that you " That is all very well for the fu must fight your antagonist, or be ture,” said St. Maur coldly; " but it must apologize to you, or~ " is nothing to the purpose at present. “I apologize?" cried Valmont, inValmont has insulted you, and there terrupting him, “never!" is but one way in which you can an- « Very well, then, M. La Croix, swer him. What!” added he more you must either fight or quit the rewarmly, seeing that La Croix re- . giment." mained silent, “ would you prove "I hope to settle the affair without yourself insensible to the honour of doing either one or the other, by a Frenchman?"-"He is a coward," bringing back my comrade to sencried the lieutenant.
timents more just to me, and more Without noticing this speech, La || honourable to himself.” Croix said to St. Maur, “ I should | He turned to the door; but Valindeed prove myself insensible to mont called to him in an imperious honour were I to commit a base ac- tone, “ Before you go, sir, I expect tion; but I defy the world to prove that you will name the hour and me guilty of 'one."
place where you will meet me to" What, you do not think it base morrow to decide our difference." to suffer yourself to be called a “M. Valmont, I know you to be coward ?"
|| a brave, and I would willingly think .“ No; for if abuse dishonoured a you an honourable, man: take then, man, whose name would be unstain- I request you, three days to reflect on this subject; to ask yourself coolly i preserve that approbation so preand dispassionately, how far this thirst | cious to my heart? how long shall for the blood of a man who never I be able to defend myself against injured you is consistent with true the commission of a crime at which, honour. I hope at the end of that I shudder?" time to find you in a more just way! When the three days were exof thinking, and that you will assist pired, he entered the coffee-house me to convince these gentlemen, that at the moment that all the officers it is not necessary to shed blood be- || were assembled. " M. Valmont," cause a word has been dropped in- | said he, addressing his antagonist, considerately.". At these words cries " I hope that I now find you in a of indignation resounded from all pre- disposition to appreciate more justly sent, and La Croix left the room, i the motives of my conduct. I am while they were swearing that he satisfied that in your heart you acshould fight or quit the regiment. quit me of cowardice; but I frankly
The slights with which they had | avow, that a duel inspires me with before treated him were nothing to horror, and never will I willingly raise the insolent contempt they shewed my arm but against the enemies of for him during the three following | my country. I do not ask you for days, and the patience with which any apology. I am willing to bury he supported it appeared in their the past in oblivion; accept my hand, eyes a meanness that nothing could and let us be friends." justify. The general had been im- " I shall never be friends with a mediately informed of what had pass- man who acts like a poltroon." ed, and full of the prejudices of the “Then I must fight?" military profession, he remonstrated | “ To be sure you must,” cried all with him in the strongest terms upon the officers at once. his conduct, and ended by forbid- || “Very well then, let our differding him his house till he had wipedence be decided to-morrow morning out the stain upon his honour. Eu- || at six o'clock, in presence of three genie was forbidden to see or write | officers of our corps and three of the to him; but for the first and only hussars. As the party challenged, time the gentle girl disobeyed the I ought to have the choice of weawill of her parent, by conveying all pons; but I wave it." line to La Croix expressive of her “ If I am to name them, I say approbation of his conduct, and of swords." her hope that heaven would give Valmont smiled with a peculiar exhim strength of mind to persevere pression in his countenance, and rein it. His heart swelled with a min- tired without making any observation. gled sensation of pleasure and pain “So then," cried St. Maur,“ we as he read this letter. “Yes, dear- have at last provoked this pretty est Eugenie," cried he, “ you and gentleman to run the chance of being you alone understand me, and in | let blood.”—" I think;" cried ano-. your approbation of my conduct 1 | ther of the officers, “it is doubtful could find a balm for the unjust | after all."--" No," cried Valmont, scorn with which I am treated; but, l. “ whatever strange notions the fellow alas! how long shall I be able to ll has got in his head, I do firmly be-, lieve he is no coward. The tone | Pistols were produced; they tossed of his voice, the firmness of his look, up for the first fire; the chance fell assure me of his courage; and I to Valmont; he fired, and missed. should be almost sorry to have used La Croix turned round, and taking him as I have done, if I did not con- | direct aim at a tree thirty paces dissider that after all he will have an | tant, lodged the bullet in it breast equal chance with myself for his life.” || high.
-“ Provided,” cried one of the offi 1 A cry of mingled astonishment and cers drily, “he is as good a swords- | admiration burst from all the officers: man." Valmont reddened, but made “ 'Sdeath,” cried Valmont, “ this is no reply.
|| not to be borne! I will not receive The following morning the lieu- my life at your hands; I insist upon tenant and the other officers were is your firing." on the ground exactly at the appoint- | “Be satisfied, M. Valmont; you ed time; where in less than two mi- have gained one point; you have sucnutes they were joined by La Croix, ceeded in bringing me into the field, who took a letter from his pocket, heaven knows sorely against my will; and presented it to St. Maur, re- | but I entered it with a firm determiquesting that, if he fell, it might be nation not to raise my hand against given to General Bellegarde. The your life: insult me as you please, combat then began; Valmont was an you shall not provoke me to break excellent swordsman, but he soon | my resolution.” found that he had to do with his Overcome by these words, Valmaster. At first he fought with mont stammered out, “ I am to great temper; but soon abandoning blame."-"But I am more so," cried himself to the fury of his resentment, La Croix, interrupting him;“I ought he made the most desperate passes, not to have suffered any provocation and left himself so open to his ad to draw me into an action so contrary versary, that La Croix might repeat- | to my principles. Thus you have edly have taken his life; but it was lowered me in my own eyes, and I evident, that he acted merely on the am determined to have my revenge; defensive, and avoided even wound- || for I swear to you, that, from this ing him..
moment, I shall not cease to seek “Let us have done with this child's || your friendship till I compel you to play,” said the enraged Valmont at
aragea Valmont at I grant it me." last: "you knew what you were about || " It is yours already," said tlie when you agreed to fight with swords; || subdued Valmont; " yes, La Croix, but if you are not dead to every sen- | the promise of your friendship is the timent of true honour, give me a fair only thing that could reconcile me chance, and let us take pistols." to myself; that could give me courage
La Croix looked at him with hor- to avow the injustice, the barbarity ror. “ O my God!” cried he, “ how of my conduct to you-conduct which much more barbarous is man, under I now publicly declare to have been the influence of blind rage, than the | unworthy of a gentleman and a solmost savage of animals! You still | dier, and for which I sincerely ask thirst for my blood. Well then, un- | your pardon." just man, satisfy yourself if you can." || It was granted with a hearty shake