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in his chair, "you know the interest I feel in you; the first thing I did this morning after having embraced my daughter, was to speak to her of you. The answer, I confess it to you frankly, was not what I hoped it would have been."
"What did Mad. Piard tell you?" interrupted the substitute, with vivacity, and thrusting through the opening of the door in haste his face, blanched with the unctuous froth of Windsor soap.
M. de Loiselay shrugged his shoulders. "What she told me, you cannot imagine. What a fellow you are-what, do you not understand, that in the position in which my daughter is placed, her first movement on seeing me was the most unreserved confidence. She has told me all. Morbleu! Perhaps she already repents having done it-for she has always been very prudent and discreet, but what is said, is said. I have learnt fine things," continued the old man, gradually growing warm. "What do you say of M. Piard, is not he a pleasant personage, keeping his mistresses? Formerly such things were overlooked in men at Court; this was one of their privileges, and belonged only to them. A gentleman of the provinces, who indulged in such luxuries would have been blamed by every body. As to the financiers, the monkeys of the great lords, it would have been considered ridiculous in the last degree. But M. Piard! it is beyond comprehension. A little citizen, blown out yesterday, and he undertaking to parodise the libertines of the Regency! It is so absurd, that in my eyes the ridicule of the thing almost eclipses the moral odium of it. With all my good will to it however, it is not possible to make me angry with him. I know very well that it is strictly my duty to cut off the ears of the counsellor of state, my son-in-law, though he be. But how one handle seriously either the ears, or the good luck of M.
The old gentleman accompanied these last words with a smile of pity, in which, sheltered in his cabinet, Deslandes allowed himself to share.
"It is better for me to laugh than to trouble myself," replied M. de Loiselay; "but you cannot without treason laugh at my honorable son-in-law. Are you not his confidant ?"
"Is it possible Mad. Piard has any such an idea?" said the substitute, re-entering the chamber.
"Who would not, in her place. On every occasion you take the side of her husband in opposition to her. If the truth would condemn M. Piard, have you not always ready some officious falsehood? Did you not pay assiduous court to Mad. Marmancourt? All this is clear as day, and the motive for such conduct stares one in the face."
"And this supposed motive, may I be informed of it?" demanded Deslandes, with an accent of virtuous indignation.
My dear substitute," said M. de Loiselay, with an air of raillery, "you play the simpleton wonderfully well; but it is not an old sportsman like me that is to be put at fault. Under Louis XV., a man who wanted to rise, sought to draw the attention of Mad. de Pompadour, or more recently, of the Dubarry. If he succeeded with her, his fortune
was made. Though M. Piard has nothing very royal about him, you have treated him a la Louis XV., by paying court to his favorite. I have no doubt you regarded this manœuvre as a master stroke; with your permission, you have made a school boy's mistake. Perhaps the counsels I gave you on your departure may have helped to throw you into the false position, in which I see you placed; but I do not reproach myself; it is not my fault if you misunderstood me. In speaking of the advantage that a man of your age, and in your position, always has of making himself agreeable to the ladies, I established a principle, absolute in theory, but which, in the application, demands great tact, address and prudence. The choice of a patroness is a delicate and serious affair; before making a decision, one must balance the advantage and inconvenience of it, and from what I have learned, I see you have acted from chance, without method, calculation, or foresight; frankly, I expected better things from you."
Deslandes thought that for two months he had been displaying a knowledge of combinations and a superiority of tactics, worthy of a diplomatist of the first order. He did not therefore hear this sweeping condemnation of his conduct, without vexation.
"What should I have done to obtain your approbation ?" asked he, with a bitter smile.
"Just the contrary of what you have done," responded M. de Loiselay, whose success under the consulate gave him a magisterial assurance. "Let us reason on general principles, and let us suppose, for a moment, that Isaura is not my daughter. You arrive in Paris; the man in office to whom you are recommended is a booby of the species of M. Piard; between him and his wife there exists a subject of discord. Neutrality is impossible, you are forced to pronounce for one or the other. In this case, there is no hesitation. It is your calling to take the part of the lady it is the only way to gain every body."
"Even the husband?" said Deslandes, with an incredulous air.
Certainly, if he has you for an auxiliary; he thinks himself sure of you, and neglects you; if he sees in you the ally of his wife, he fears, and is cautious of you. Experto crede Roberto. You then have committed a capital fault in giving my daughter cause to be displeased with you, it was your policy to do all that you could to please her."
"But this is what I have done," interrupted the substitute, with nai
"If this is the case," said the old gentleman, with a sneer, "I must tell you that you have completely lost your trouble. Isaura is very much irritated against you, and you are aware she has some spirit. She takes that from her mother. Besides, any woman in her situation would feel aggrieved. I will not enter upon her grievances in detail, but to mention only one, how was it that a young man of your sense, did not understand that to carry Mad. Marmancourt to this ball, was to throw a direct insult on my daughter. If I thought that this was your intention, I should speak to you a little more severely than I do, but you must confess that you had a very unlucky idea of things."
"If such an idea had come into my mind, it would have been more
than unlucky; it would have been inexcusable," replied the substitute, with warmth. "But there is but one word necessary to convince you of my innocence. Far from upholding Madame Marmancourt in this position, I did every thing within the reach of human possibility to make her understand the impropriety of her conduct, and induce her to leave the ball; if I did not succeed, it was that I had no coercive powers. I was not a manager of the ball, and had no power to do any thing."
"And then," interrupted M. de Loiselay, with an air of irony, "there were perhaps near her, some young men who were not disposed to allow the justness of your reasoning, and whose presence may have cooled your eloquence.'
The substitute smiled with a sort of disdainful pride.
"I see," said he, "that by twisting all the facts, my conduct has received an interpretation which I shall abstain from qualifying out of respect to myself. Permit me only one small correction. There were in fact about Mad. Marmancourt half a dozen men whose hostility to me was pronounced in a very unequivocal manner. My eloquence, if there was any, was not cooled; but I thought that circumstances made conciseness a duty; for I am of the opinion that between man and man, actions, not words, are to be used. I discoursed, therefore, but little with these gentlemen, but I am going to fight one of them to-day, and if I come safely from this first duel, I have made arrangements for two others."
The countenance of M. de Loiselay changed suddenly its expression from irony to the most lively satisfaction. He rose, seized the hand of Deslandes, and pressed it so cordially, that the substitute felt the bones of his fingers crack.
"You cannot think how much pleasure what you say imparts to me," said the old gentleman, with warmth; "I was right in telling my daughter that you were a man of honor, incapable of the conduct which has been attributed to you. After what she told me, I thought you could not dispense with fighting, and on my faith if I had seen you take the thing quietly, I own I should have been grieved on account of the friendship I bear you. You know my frankness; in that case, I should have been the man to say to you- My dear Deslandes, we must not here sing cedant arma toga-You must take arms.' But you do not need my advice, I like this better; notwithstanding your black gown, you are free from the collar. Is this your first affair?”
"Yes," said Deslandes, with a careless air; "in my situation, such fortunate accidents are apt to be rare." "First, or tenth, it is little matter," said the old man, with an accent of encouragement. "The habit is not the essential thing, it is coolness, and I see that you have a great deal. What is the name of your adversary ?"
"M. Blondel de Gustan," replied the substitute, who on another occasion would have called his friend, plain Blondel.
"Is he a soldier ?"
"No, he is a man of the world, a fashionable man."
"It is probable then that he uses the pistol better than the sword. Do you know a little of fencing?"
"I never entered a fencing school."
M. de Loiselay raised his shoulders with an almost imperceptible motion.
This is the way young men are brought up, now-a-days, said he, speaking to himself, with an air of pity. "I should have advised you, if you had the choice of arms, to take the sword; but after what you have told me, it must not be thought of. When do you fight ?"
"Immediately-my opponent is coming to meet me, and I expect him now. When you knocked, I thought it was he."
"And you were asleep?" said the old man, with a smile, flattering to him who was the object of it. "I compliment you on your coolness. Before my first affair I passed forty-eight hours without shutting my eyes. Who is your second?"
"I do not know yet, my opponent took this care on himself; he is to bring two friends."
"Oh! here I stop you," said M. de Loiselay, with the satisfied air of a professional critic, who in a work till then irreproachable, discovers at last a fault; "this is your first affair, you have had no one to guide you, it is not astonishing therefore, that you should have allowed matters to be settled in an irregular way. Happily, nothing is yet done, and we have time to put every thing to rights. You understand, you must have for a second a friend of your own, and not a friend of your adversary. I have no doubt of the good faith of M. de Gustan; but in an affair of this kind, one is not permitted to be imprudent any more than pusillanimous."
"Such an assistance can only be asked of an intimate friend," remarked Deslandes. "I have none in Paris."
"Yesterday you had none, but to-day, am I not here?" replied M. de Loiselay, throwing back his head with a proud motion.
"What, sir!" stammered the substitute, "would youto do me this honor, do you imagine I will suffer—'
-do you think
"No thanks my dear Deslandes," replied the old man, who mistook the nature of the embarrassment which his companion suffered. "On such an occasion I never abandoned a friend, and I certainly will not begin with you. The name of my daughter is mixed up with this affair, and do you think I will allow you to accept the aid of another? It is hard for me to take up with the part of a second, if it were practicable I should rather fight in your place."
"But, sir-at your age-"
"Because I am past sixty, do you take me for a girl," said the emigrant, with a quickness, through which shone the old habits of a soldier. "Be quiet, all shall be done according to rule-and now let your people come on."
A knock at the door responded to the words of the old man. Deslandes having opened it, Blondel entered the room, accompanied by another man of about the same age. At sight of M. de Loiselay, the substitute's friend felt an emotion of surprise, which he dissimulated under an affectation of gravity.
"Sir," said he, addressing Deslandes, "here is M. Barbeyrac, who is
willing to accompany me; we shall find M. de Jessaint at his own house. He lives in the Rue St. Honorè, which will not take us out of our way. I have a carriage below, and we are at your orders, at least if you are not detained here by some more important affair than this of which I am speaking."
The old gentleman gave Deslandes a look, as much as to say—your adversary presents you his second, you must do the same on your part. Deslandes did not seem to comprehend this expressive pantomime. Seeing him remain silent, M. de Loiselay attributed the embarrassment the young magistrate felt, to an emotion excusable in one who was going to use arms for the first time. He therefore presented himself.
"Gentlemen," said he, bowing to the young men, with an easy politeness, "it is needless to go farther to seek the person of whom you are speaking. I am the friend of M. Deslandes; he has informed me of the course of the affair in which you are engaged, and he is willing to accept my services; nothing therefore prevents our going immediately to the Bois de Boulogne.'
The old gentleman consulted the countenances of the three young men, all of whom seemed to be equally astounded. Taking their silence for acquiescence, he took his hat, opened the door, and made the adverse couple a ceremonious bow. Blondel and Barbeyrac bowed at the same time, and refused to take precedence of the old man, who, after having paused a sufficient time to satisfy the most scrupulous politeness, made a slight inclination of the head, and left the apartment first.
"I use the privilege of my age," said he, descending the staircase with a firm step, his youth apparently renewed by the dramatic scene in which he had usurped a part.
"Are you insane?" said Blondel to Deslandes, while the latter was shutting the door. "You have forgotten what we agreed upon."
"Do not talk to me," replied the substitute; "never did an inconvenient bore arrive more mal-a-propos."
"We must get rid of him."
Try to do it, you will be skilful if
Why does he meddle, is he one of your relations?" "Worse than that, he is the father of Mad. Piard; he knows what passed last night, and if he does not see us fight with his own eyes, he will challenge you himself. Notwithstanding his grey hairs, he is a perfect crack-brain."
Without making any reply, Blondel went rapidly down stairs, and touched Barbey rac, who was in front of him, on the shoulder. The two friends exchanged a few words in an under tone.
"Be quiet," said Barbeyrac, in conclusion. "I will juggle away the nutmegs, and the good man shall see nothing but fire there."
M. de Loiselay entered first the carriage which was before the door, and perceived on one of the seats a long flat box, which Barbeyrac took upon his knees, after he had taken his seat. He made no re