Very quietly Calvert arose from his place by the fire, and, passing out by a door concealed from the rest of the room by the screen, he made his way through a vestibule, where he put on his coat and hat again and so back into the room he had just left. But this time he entered noisily and by an entrance near the table, at which were seated St. Aulaire and his friends. At sight of St. Aulaire Mr. Calvert affected an extreme surprise. He bowed low, and smiling, but without a word, he advanced to him and, drawing off his heavy glove, struck him with it across his flushed face. The four sprang to their feet, and Bertrand, recognizing Calvert, called out, “Monsieur—Monsieur Calvert!” All his airs of equality and importance fell from him, and he ran toward his former master, but Calvert waved him aside.
“The last time Monsieur de St. Aulaire and I met, gentlemen,” says Calvert, looking around contemptuously at the company, “he insulted me grossly. Unfortunately he was drunk—drunk, I repeat it, and in no condition to answer for himself. I demand satisfaction to-night.”
“And, by God! you shall have it,” cried St. Aulaire, half beside himself. His face was quite white now except for the red mark across it, which Calvert’s blow had furrowed, and his eyes were wild and staring. The suddenness and fierceness of Calvert’s attack had driven every thought out of his mind but the wish to avenge the insult offered him, and almost without a word more the party left the room and went out into one of the allees of the Champs Elysees close beside the cafe. Such affairs were so common in the Champs Elysees and elsewhere in Paris in those days that, though they were but a few feet from the public thoroughfare, they apprehended no interference from the guard or the passers-by. ’Twas the aristocratic mode of helping forward the revolution, and there were almost as many victims by it as by the more republican one of la lanterne and the pike.
Though it was the first affair of honor that Calvert had ever been engaged in, the compelling necessity he was under and that unusual steadiness and calmness of character he possessed rendered him less nervous and more master of himself than was the older man, who had had numberless affairs of the kind.
“Will you choose swords or will you fight in the English mode with pistols?” said Calvert, with another low bow to St. Aulaire.
“Both, by God!” shouted St. Aulaire. “We will follow the lead of Bazencourt and St. Luce!” But here Bertrand and another of his companions interfered (the third and villainous-looking fellow said nothing and seemed indifferent on the subject), and declared they could not be party to murder, and that terrible affair had been no less. It had been known and talked of all over Paris, the shameful conditions being—that the combatants should fight first with swords, and the one who fell, and fell wounded only, was to have his brains blown out by the other.