“To divide two millions!” cried one. “That will clear my debts, with a little for Dieppe.”
“Two hundred and fifty thousand francs! Princely!”
And then the voice of the master-spirit, pitiless, ironical; Picard’s. “Was there ever such a dupe? And not to laugh in his face is penance for my sins. A Dutchman, a bullet-headed clod from Bavaria, the land of sausage, beer, and daschunds; and this shall be written Napoleon IV! Ye gods, what farce, comedy, vaudeville! But, there was always that hope: if he found the money he would divide it. So, kowtow, kowtow! Opera bouffe!”
Breitmann shuddered. M. Ferraud, feeling that shudder under his hand, relaxed his shoulders. He had won!
“An empire! Will you believe it?”
“I suggest the eagle rampant on a sausage!”
“No, no; the lily on the beer-pot!”
The scene went on. The butt of it heard jest and ridicule. They were pillorying him with the light and matchless cruelty of wits. And he, poor fool, had believed them to be his dupes, whereas he was theirs! Gently he disengaged himself from M. Ferraud’s grasp.
“What are you going to do?” whispered the hunter of butterflies.
“Watch and see.”
Breitmann walked noiselessly round to the entrance, and M. Ferraud lost sight of him for a few moments. Picard was on his feet, mimicking his dupe by assuming a Napoleonic pose. The door opened and Breitmann stood quietly on the threshold. A hush fell on the revelers. There was something kingly in the contempt with which Breitmann swept the startled faces. He stepped up to the table, took up a full glass of wine and threw it into Picard’s face.
“Only one of us shall leave Corsica,” said the dupe.
“Certainly it will not be your majesty,” replied Picard, wiping his face with a serviette. “His majesty will waive his rights to meet me. To-morrow morning I shall have the pleasure of writing finis to this Napoleonic phase. You fool, you shall die for that!”
“That,” returned Breitmann, still unruffled as he went to the door, “remains to be seen. Gentlemen, I regret to say that your monetary difficulties must continue unchanged.”
“Oh, for fifty years ago!” murmured the little scene-shifter from the dark of his shelter.
THE END OF THE DREAM
It took place on the road which runs from Ajaccio to the Cap de la Parata, not far from Iles Sanguinaires; not a main-traveled road. The sun had not yet crossed the mountains, but a crisp gray light lay over land and sea. They fired at the same time. The duke lowered his pistol, and through the smoke he saw Breitmann pitch headforemost into the thick white dust. Presently, nay almost instantly, the dust at the left side of the stricken man became a creeping blackness. The surgeon sprang forward.