I had no fears myself. The man of honour ought always to be ready to use the sword to defend himself from insult, or to give satisfaction for an insult he has offered. I know that the law of duelling is a prejudice which may be called, and perhaps rightly, barbarous, but it is a prejudice which no man of honour can contend against, and I believed Schmit to be a thorough gentleman.
I called on him at day-break, and found him still in bed. As soon as he saw me, he said,
"I am sure you have come to ask me to fight with d'Ache. I am quite ready to burn powder with him, but he must first pay me the twenty Louis he robbed me of."
"You shall have them to-morrow, and I will attend you. D'Ache will be seconded by M. de Pyene."
"Very good. I shall expect you at day-break."
Two hours after I saw de Pyene, and we fixed the meeting for the next day, at six o'clock in the morning. The arms were to be pistols. We chose a garden, half a league from the town, as the scene of the combat.
At day-break I found the Swiss waiting for me at the door of his lodgings, carolling the 'ranz-des-vaches', so dear to his fellow- countrymen. I thought that a good omen.
"Here you are," said he; "let us be off, then."
On the way, he observed, "I have only fought with men of honour up to now, and I don't much care for killing a rascal; it's hangman's work."
"I know," I replied, "that it's very hard to have to risk one's life against a fellow like that."
"There's no risk," said Schmit, with a laugh. "I am certain that I shall kill him."
"How can you be certain?"
"I shall make him tremble."
He was right. This secret is infallible when it is applied to a coward. We found d'Ache and de Pyene on the field, and five or six others who must have been present from motives of curiosity.
D'Ache took twenty louis from his pocket and gave them to his enemy, saying,
"I may be mistaken, but I hope to make you pay dearly for your brutality." Then turning to me he said,
"I owe you twenty louis also;" but I made no reply.
Schmit put the money in his purse with the calmest air imaginable, and making no reply to the other's boast placed himself between two trees, distant about four paces from one another, and drawing two pistols from his pocket said to d'Ache,
"Place yourself at a distance of ten paces, and fire first. I shall walk to and fro between these two trees, and you may walk as far if you like to do so when my turn comes to fire."
Nothing could be clearer or more calmly delivered than this explanation.
"But we must decide," said I, "who is to have the first shot."
"There is no need," said Schmit. "I never fire first, besides, the gentleman has a right to the first shot."
De Pyene placed his friend at the proper distance and then stepped aside, and d'Ache fired on his antagonist, who was walking slowly to and fro without looking at him. Schmit turned round in the coolest manner possible, and said,
"You have missed me, sir; I knew you would. Try again."
I thought he was mad, and that some arrangement would be come to; but nothing of the kind. D'Ache fired a second time, and again missed; and Schmit, without a word, but as calm as death, fired his first pistol in the air, and then covering d'Ache with his second pistol hit him in the forehead and stretched him dead on the ground. He put back his pistols into his pocket and went off directly by himself, as if he were merely continuing his walk. In two minutes I followed his example, after ascertaining that the unfortunate d'Ache no longer breathed.
I was in a state of amazement. Such a duel was more like a combat of romance than a real fact. I could not understand it; I had watched the Swiss, and had not noticed the slightest change pass over his face.
I breakfasted with Madame d'Urfe, whom I found inconsolable. It was the full moon, and at three minutes past four exactly I ought to perform the mysterious creation of the child in which she was to be born again. But the Lascaris, on whom the work was to be wrought, was twisting and turning in her bed, contorting herself in such a way that it would be impossible for me to accomplish the prolific work.