You may reckon on my discretion, and I hope the affair may be ended honourably and prosperously for you. But take a piece of friendly advice--don't spare your opponent, were it the king himself, for it might cost you your life. I know that by experience."
"I will not forget. Farewell."
We kissed each other, and I ordered an excellent dinner, for I had no mind to be sent to Pluto fasting. Campioni came in to dinner at one o'clock, and at dessert I had a visit from two young counts, with their tutor, Bertrand, a kindly Swiss. They were witnesses to my cheerfulness and the excellent appetite with which I ate. At half- past two I dismissed my company, and stood at the window to be ready to go down directly Branicki's carriage appeared. He drove up in a travelling carriage and six; two grooms, leading saddle-horses, went in front, followed by his two aide-de-camps and two hussars. Behind his carriage stood four servants. I hastened to descend, and found my enemy was accompanied by a lieutenant-general and an armed footman. The door was opened, the general gave me his place, and I ordered my servants not to follow me but to await my orders at the house.
"You might want them," said Branicki; "they had better come along."
"If I had as many as you, I would certainly agree to your proposition; but as it is I shall do still better without any at all. If need be, your excellency will see that I am tended by your own servants."
He gave me his hand, and assured me they should wait on me before himself.
I sat down, and we went off.
It would have been absurd if I had asked where we were going, so I held my tongue, for at such moments a man should take heed to his words. Branicki was silent, and I thought the best thing I could do would be to engage him in a trivial conversation.
"Does your excellency intend spending the spring at Warsaw?"
"I had thought of doing so, but you may possibly send me to pass the spring somewhere else."
"Oh, I hope not!"
"Have you seen any military service?"
"Yes; but may I ask why your excellency asks me the question, for--"
"I had no particular reason; it was only for the sake of saying something."
We had driven about half an hour when the carriage stopped at the door of a large garden. We got down and, following the postoli, reached a green arbour which, by the way, was not at all green on that 5th of March. In it was a stone table on which the footman placed two pistols, a foot and half long, with a powder flask and scales. He weighed the powder, loaded them equally, and laid them down crosswise on the table.
This done, Branicki said boldly,
"Choose your weapon, sir."
At this the general called out,
"Is this a duel, sir?"
"You cannot fight here; you are within the ban."
"It does matter; and I, at all events, refuse to be a witness. I am on guard at the castle, and you have taken me by surprise."
"Be quiet; I will answer for everything. I owe this gentleman satisfaction, and I mean to give it him here."
"M. Casanova," said the general, "you cannot fight here."
"Then why have I been brought here? I shall defend myself wherever I am attacked."
"Lay the whole matter before the king, and you shall have my voice in your favour."
"I am quite willing to do so, general, if his excellency will say that he regrets what passed between us last night."
Branicki looked fiercely at me, and said wrathfully that he had come to fight and not to parley.
"General," said I, "you can bear witness that I have done all in my power to avoid this duel."
The general went away with his head between his hands, and throwing off my cloak I took the first pistol that came to my hand. Branicki took the other, and said that he would guarantee upon his honour that my weapon was a good one.
"I am going to try its goodness on your head," I answered.
He turned pale at this, threw his sword to one of his servants, and bared his throat, and I was obliged, to my sorrow, to follow his example, for my sword was the only weapon I had, with the exception of the pistol.