Here it is you see, flattened by my bone. Allow me to return it to you."
"I am sorry to say I can't return yours, which I suppose remains on the field of battle."
"You seem to be getting better, thank God!"
"The wound is healing painfully. If I had imitated you I should no longer be in the land of the living; I am told you made an excellent dinner?"
"Yes, my lord, I was afraid I might never have another chance of dining again."
"If I had dined, your ball would have pierced my intestines; but being empty it yielded to the bullet, and let it pass by harmlessly."
I heard afterwards that on the day of the duel Branicki had gone to confession and mass, and had communicated. The priest could not refuse him absolution, if he said that honour obliged him to fight; for this was in accordance with the ancient laws of chivalry. As for me I only addressed these words to God:
"Lord, if my enemy kill me, I shall be damned; deign, therefore, to preserve me from death. Amen."
After a long and pleasant conversation I took leave of the hero to visit the high constable, Count Bielinski, brother of Countess Salmor. He was a very old man, but the sovereign administrator of justice in Poland. I had never spoken to him, but he had defended me from Branicki's Uhlans, and had made out my pardon, so I felt bound to go and thank him.
I sent in my name, and the worthy old man greeted me with:
"What can I do for you?"
"I have come to kiss the hand of the kindly man that signed my pardon, and to promise your excellency to be more discreet in future."
"I advise you to be more discreet indeed. As for your pardon, thank the king; for if he had not requested me especially to grant it you, I should have had you beheaded."
"In spite of the extenuating circumstances, my lord?"
"What circumstances? Did you or did you not fight a duel."
"That is not a proper way of putting it; I was obliged to defend myself. You might have charged me with fighting a duel if Branicki had taken me outside the ban, as I requested, but as it was he took me where he willed and made me fight. Under these circumstances I am sure your excellency would have spared my head."
"I really can't say. The king requested that you should be pardoned, and that shews he believes you to be deserving of pardon; I congratulate you on his good will. I shall be pleased if you will dine with me tomorrow."
"My lord, I am delighted to accept your invitation."
The illustrious old constable was a man of great intelligence. He had been a bosom-friend of the celebrated Poniatowski, the king's father. We had a good deal of conversation together at dinner the next day.
"What a comfort it would have been to your excellency's friend," said I, "if he could have lived to see his son crowned King of Poland."
"He would never have consented."
The vehemence with which he pronounced these words gave me a deep insight into his feelings. He was of the Saxon party. The same day, that is on Easter Day, I dined at the palatin's.
"Political reasons," said he, "prevented me from visiting you at the monastery; but you must not think I had forgotten you, for you were constantly in my thoughts. I am going to lodge you here, for my wife is very fond of your society; but the rooms will not be ready for another six weeks."
"I shall take the opportunity, my lord, of paying a visit to the Palatin of Kiowia, who has honoured me with an invitation to come and see him."
"Who gave you the invitation?"
"Count Bruhl, who is at Dresden; his wife is daughter of the palatin."
"This journey is an excellent idea, for this duel of yours has made you innumerable enemies, and I only hope you will have to fight no more duels. I give you fair warning; be on your guard, and never go on foot, especially at night."
I spent a fortnight in going out to dinner and supper every day. I had become the fashion, and wherever I went I had to tell the duel story over again. I was rather tired of it myself, but the wish to please and my own self-love were too strong to be resisted.