LUCIEN settled himself comfortably in his arm-chair and looking at me fixedly, resumed:--
"It is very simple. The day my brother was killed I was riding very early, and went out to visit the shepherds, when soon after I had looked at my watch and replaced it in my pocket, I received a blow in the side, so violent that I fainted. When I recovered I found myself lying on the ground in the arms of the Orlandini, who was bathing my face with water. My horse was close by.
"'Well,' said Orlandini, 'what has happened?'
"'I know no more about it than you do. Did you not hear a gun fired?'
"'It appears to me that I have received a ball in the side,' and I put my hand upon the place where I felt pain.
"'In the first place,' replied he 'there has been no shot fired, and besides, there is no mark of a bullet on your clothes.'
"'Then,' I replied, 'it must be my brother who is killed.'
"'Ah, indeed,' he replied, 'that is a different thing.' I opened my coat and I found a mark, only at first it was quite red and not blue as I showed you just now.
"For an instant I was tempted to return to Sullacaro, feeling so upset both mentally and bodily, but I thought of my mother, who did not expect me before supper time, and I should be obliged to give her a reason for my return, and I had no reason to give.
"On the other hand, I did not wish to announce my brother's death to her until I was absolutely certain of it. So I continued my way, and returned home about six o'clock in the evening.
"My poor mother received me as usual. She evidently had no suspicion that anything was wrong.
"Immediately after supper, I went upstairs, and as I passed through the corridor the wind blew my candle out.
"I was going downstairs to get a light when, passing my brother's room, I noticed a gleam within.
"I thought that Griffo had been there and left a lamp burning.
"I pushed open the door; I saw a taper burning near my brother's bed, and on the bed my brother lay extended, naked and bleeding.
"I remained for an instant, I confess, motionless with terror, then I approached.
"I touched the body, he was already dead.
"He had received a ball through the body, which had struck in the same place where I had felt the blow, and some drops of blood were still falling from the wound.
"It was evident to me that my brother had been shot.
"I fell on my knees, and leaning my head against the bed, I prayed fervently.
"When I opened my eyes again the room was in total darkness, the taper had been extinguished, the vision had disappeared.
"I felt all over the bed, it was empty.
"Now I believe I am as brave as most people, but when I tottered out of that room I declare to you my hair was standing on end and the perspiration pouring from my forehead.
"I went downstairs for another candle. My mother noticed me, and uttered a cry of surprise.
"'What is the matter with you,' she said, 'and why are you so pale?'
"'There is nothing the matter,' I replied, as I returned upstairs.
"This time the candle was not extinguished. I looked into my brother's room; it was empty.
"The taper had completely disappeared, nor was there any trace of the body on the bed.
"On the ground was my first candle, which I now relighted.
"Notwithstanding this absence of proof, I had seen enough to be convinced that at ten minutes past nine that morning my brother had been killed. I went to bed in a very agitated frame of mind.
"As you may imagine, I did not sleep very well, but at length fatigue conquered my agitation and I got a little rest.
"Then all the circumstances came before me in the form of a dream. I saw the scene as it had passed. I saw the man who had killed him. I heard his name. He is called M. de Chateau Renaud."
"Alas! that is all too true," I replied; "but what have you come to Paris for?"
"I have come to kill the man who has killed my brother."
"To kill him?"
"Oh, you may rest assured, not in the Corsican fashion from behind a wall or through a hedge, but in the French manner, with white gloves on, a frilled shirt, and white cuffs."
"And does Madame de Franchi know you have come to Paris with this intention?"
"And she has let you come?"
"She kissed me, and said, 'Go.' My mother is a true Corsican."
"And so you came."
"Here I am."
"But your brother would not wish to be avenged were he alive."
"Well, then," replied Lucien, smiling bitterly, "he must have changed his mind since he died."
At this moment the valet entered, carrying the supper tray.
Lucien ate like a man without a care in the world.
After supper I showed him to his room. He thanked me, shook me by the hand, and wished me good-night.
Next morning he came into my room as soon as the servant told him I was up.
"Will you accompany me to Vincennes?" he said. "If you are engaged I will go alone."
"Alone!" I replied. "How will you be able to find the spot?"
"Oh, I shall easily recognize it. Do you not remember that I saw it in my dream?"
I was curious to know how far he was correct in this. "Very well," I said, "I will go with you."
"Get ready, then, while I write to Giordano. You will let Victor take the note for me, will you not?"
"He is at your disposal."
Ten minutes afterwards the letter was despatched. I then sent for a cabriolet and we drove to Vincennes.
When we reached the cross-paths Lucien said, "We are not far off now, I think."
"No; twenty paces further on we shall be at the spot where we entered the forest."
"Here we are," said the young man, as he stopped the carriage.
It was, indeed, the very spot!
Lucien entered the wood without the least hesitation, and as if he had known the place for years. He walked straight to the dell, and when there turned to the eastward, and then advancing he stopped at the place where his brother had fallen: stooping down he perceived the grass wore the red tinge of blood.
"This is the place," he said.
Then he lightly kissed the spot where his brother had lain.
Rising with flashing eyes he paced the dell to the spot whence Chateau Renaud had fired.
"This is where he stood," he said, stamping his foot, "and here he shall lie to-morrow."
"How!" I exclaimed. "To-morrow!"
"Yes, unless he is a coward. For to-morrow he shall give me my revenge."
"But, my dear Lucien," I said, "the custom in France is, as you are aware, that a duel cannot take place without a certain reason. Chateau Renaud called out your brother who had provoked him, but he has had nothing to do with you."
"Ah, really! So Chateau Renaud had the right to quarrel with my brother because he offered his arm to a woman whom Chateau Renaud had scandalously deceived, and according to you he had the right to challenge my brother. M. de Chateau Renaud killed my brother, who had never handled a pistol: he shot him with the same sense of security that a man would shoot a hare; and yet you say I have no right to challenge Chateau Renaud. Nonsense!"
I bowed without speaking.
"Besides," he continued, "you have nothing to do with it. You may be quite easy. I wrote to Giordano this morning, and when we return to Paris all will have been arranged. Do you think that M. de Chateau Renaud will refuse?"
"M. de Chateau Renaud has unfortunately a reputation for courage which may serve to remove any doubt you may entertain on that score."
"All the better," said Lucien. "Let us go to breakfast."
We returned to the road, and entering the cabriolet, I told the man to drive to the Rue Rivoli.
"No," said Lucien, "you shall breakfast with me. Coachman, the _Café de Paris;_ is not that the place where my brother usually dined?"
"I believe so," I replied.
"Well, that is where I requested Giordano to meet us."
"To the Café de Paris, then."
In half an hour we were set down at the restaurant.