“My friend,” he wrote, “the hatred of you which I nurse in my bosom, and which fills me with the desire to purge you from the sky, is in danger of being transferred to my instructor. Let us therefore meet and renew our enmity.”
Jacques Rissole wrote back to Gaspard.
“My enemy,” he wrote, “there is nobody in the whole of the Roullens Aerodrome whom I do not detest with a detestation beside which my hatred for you seems as maudlin adoration. This is notwithstanding the fact that I make the most marvellous progress in the art of flying. It is merely something in their faces which annoys me. Let me therefore see yours again, in the hope that it will make me think more kindly of theirs.”
They met, poured wine over each other and parted. After another month the need of a further stimulant was felt. They met again, and agreed to insult each other weekly.
On the last day of his training Gaspard spoke seriously to his instructor.
“You see that I make nothing of it,” he said. “My thoughts are ever with the stomach that I leave behind. Not once have I been in a position to take control. How then can I fight? My friend, I arrange it all. You shall take my place.”
“Is that quite fair to Rissole?” asked Blanchaille doubtfully.
“Do not think that I want you to hurt him. That is not necessary. He will hurt himself. Keep out of his way until he has finished with himself, and then fly back here. It is easy.”
It seemed the best way; indeed the only way. Gaspard Volauvent could never get to the rendezvous alone, and it would be fatal to his honour if Jacques arrived there and found nobody to meet him. Reluctantly Blanchaille agreed.
At the appointed hour Gaspard put his head cautiously out of his bedroom window and gazed up into the heavens. He saw two aeroplanes straight above him. At the thought that he might have been in one of them he shuddered violently. Indeed, he felt so unwell that the need for some slight restorative became pressing. He tripped off to the estaminet.
It was empty save for one table. Gaspard walked towards it, hoping for a little conversation. The occupant lowered the newspaper from in front of his face and looked up.
It was too much for Gaspard.
“Coward!” he shrieked.
Jacques, who had been going to say the same thing, hastily substituted “Serpent!”
“I know you,” cried Gaspard. “You send your instructor up in your place. Poltroon!”
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 Jacques’ paper, and leant over him.
“This must be wiped out in blood,” he said slowly. “Name your weapons.”