However, I was not angry with him, for I had just made it come to “three cows.” It is a cow short, but it is nearer than I have ever been before, and I think I shall leave it at that. Indeed, both the doctor and the nurse say that I had better leave it at that.
TO THE DEATH
(In the Twentieth Century manner)
“Cauliflower!” shrieked Gaspard Volauvent across the little table in the estaminet. His face bristled with rage.
“Serpent!” replied Jacques Rissole, bristling with equal dexterity.
The two stout little men glared ferociously at each other. Then Jacques picked up his glass and poured the wine of the country over his friend’s head.
“Drown, serpent!” he said magnificently. He beckoned to the waiter. “Another bottle,” he said. “My friend has drunk all this.”
Gaspard removed the wine from his whiskers with the local paper and leant over the table towards Jacques.
“This must be wiped out in blood,” he said slowly. “You understand?”
“Perfectly,” replied the other. “The only question is whose.”
“Name your weapons,” said Gaspard Volauvent grandly.
“Aeroplanes,” replied Jacques Rissole after a moment’s thought.
“Bah! I cannot fly.”
“Then I win,” said Jacques simply.
The other looked at him in astonishment.
“What! You fly?”
“No; but I can learn.”
“Then I will learn too,” said Gaspard with dignity. “We meet—in six months?”
“Good.” Jacques pointed to the ceiling. “Say three thousand feet up.”
“Three thousand four hundred,” said Gaspard for the sake of disagreeing.
“After all, that is for our seconds to arrange. My friend Epinard of the Roullens Aerodrome will act for me. He will also instruct me how to bring serpents to the ground.”
“With the idea of cleansing the sky of cauliflowers,” said Gaspard, “I shall proceed to the flying-ground at Dormancourt; Blanchaille, the instructor there, will receive your friend.”
He bowed and walked out.
Details were soon settled. On a date six months ahead the two combatants would meet three thousand two hundred feet above the little town in which they lived, and fight to the death. In the event of both crashing, the one who crashed last would be deemed the victor. It was Gaspard’s second who insisted on this clause; Gaspard himself felt that it did not matter greatly.
The first month of instruction went by. At the end of it Jacques Rissole had only one hope. It was that when he crashed he should crash on some of Gaspard’s family. Gaspard had no hope, but one consolation. It was that no crash could involve his stomach, which he invariably left behind him as soon as the aeroplane rose.
At the end of the second month Gaspard wrote to Jacques.