During the few minutes while the seconds were busy pacing the course and arranging for the signal, I had no cognizance of the world around me. I stood with abstracted eyes watching a grey squirrel in one of the branches, and trying to recall a line I had forgotten in a song. There seemed to be two Andrew Garvalds that morning, one filled with an immense careless peace, and the other a weak creature who had lived so long ago as to be forgotten. I started when Faulkner came to place me, and followed him without a word. But as I stood up and saw Grey twenty paces off, turning up his wristbands and tossing his coat to a friend, I realized the business I had come on. A great flood of light was rolling down the forest aisles, but it was so clear and pure that it did not dazzle. I remember thinking in that moment how intolerable had become the singing of birds.
I deadened my heart to memories, took my courage in both hands, and forced myself to the ordeal. For it is an ordeal to face powder if you have not a dreg of passion in you, and are resolved to make no return. I am left-handed, and so, in fronting my opponent, I exposed my heart. If Grey were the marksman I thought him, now was his chance for revenge.
My wits were calm now, and my senses very clear. I heard a man say slowly that he would count three and then drop his kerchief, and at the dropping we should fire. Our eyes were on him as he lifted his hand and slowly began,—“One—two—”
Then I looked away, for the signal mattered nothing to me. I suddenly caught Grey’s eyes, and something whistled past my ear, cutting the lobe and shearing off a lock of hair. I did not heed it. What filled my mind was the sight of my enemy, very white and drawn in the face, holding a smoking pistol and staring at me.
I emptied my pistol among the tree-tops.
No one moved. Grey continued to stare, leaning a little forward, with his lips working.
Then I took from Faulkner my second pistol. My voice came out of my throat, funnily cracked as if from long disuse.
“Mr. Grey,” I cried, “I would not have you think that I cannot shoot.”
Forty yards from me on the edge of the covert a turkey stood, with its foolish, inquisitive head. The sound of the shots had brought the bird out to see what was going on. It stood motionless, blinking its eyes, the very mark I desired.
I pointed to it with my right hand, flung forward my pistol, and fired. It rolled over as dead as stone, and Faulkner walked to pick it up. He put back my pistols in the box, and we turned to seek the horses....
Then Grey came up to me. His mouth was hard-set, but the lines were not of pride. I saw that he too had been desperately afraid, and I rejoiced that others beside me had been at breaking-point.
“Our quarrel is at an end, sir?” he said, and his voice was hesitating.
“Why, yes,” I said. “It was never my seeking, though I gave the offence.”