Mitouflet returned with foils and masks.
“Now, then, let us see what you can do.”
The pair put themselves on guard. Mitouflet, with his former prowess as grenadier of the guard, made sixty-two passes at Gaudissart, pushed him about right and left, and finally pinned him up against the wall.
“The deuce! you are strong,” said Gaudissart, out of breath.
“Monsieur Vernier is stronger than I am.”
“The devil! Damn it, I shall fight with pistols.”
“I advise you to do so; because, if you take large holster pistols and load them up to their muzzles, you can’t risk anything. They are sure to fire wide of the mark, and both parties can retire from the field with honor. Let me manage all that. Hein! ‘sapristi,’ two brave men would be arrant fools to kill each other for a joke.”
“Are you sure the pistols will carry wide enough? I should be sorry to kill the man, after all,” said Gaudissart.
“Sleep in peace,” answered Mitouflet, departing.
The next morning the two adversaries, more or less pale, met beside the bridge of La Cise. The brave Vernier came near shooting a cow which was peaceably feeding by the roadside.
“Ah, you fired in the air!” cried Gaudissart.
At these words the enemies embraced.
“Monsieur,” said the traveller, “your joke was rather rough, but it was a good one for all that. I am sorry I apostrophized you: I was excited. I regard you as a man of honor.”
“Monsieur, we take twenty subscriptions to the ‘Children’s Journal,’” replied the dyer, still pale.
“That being so,” said Gaudissart, “why shouldn’t we all breakfast together? Men who fight are always the ones to come to a good understanding.”
“Monsieur Mitouflet,” said Gaudissart on his return to the inn, “of course you have got a sheriff’s officer here?”
“I want to send a summons to my good friend Margaritis to deliver the two casks of wine.”
“But he has not got them,” said Vernier.
“No matter for that; the affair can be arranged by the payment of an indemnity. I won’t have it said that Vouvray outwitted the illustrious Gaudissart.”
Madame Margaritis, alarmed at the prospect of a suit in which the plaintiff would certainly win his case, brought thirty francs to the placable traveller, who thereupon considered himself quits with the happiest region of sunny France,—a region which is also, we must add, the most recalcitrant to new and progressive ideas.
On returning from his trip through the southern departments, the illustrious Gaudissart occupied the coupe of a diligence, where he met a young man to whom, as they journeyed between Angouleme and Paris, he deigned to explain the enigmas of life, taking him, apparently, for an infant.
As they passed Vouvray the young man exclaimed, “What a fine site!”