“Then shoot low,” said the millionaire.
“Your second, Monsieur?” said the Austrian duke, coming to Savage’s side.
“Mr. Quentin will act, Monsieur le Due. We may need a surgeon.”
“Dr. Gassbeck is here.”
It was hurriedly agreed that the men should stand at opposite ends of the room, nearly twenty feet apart, back to back. At the word given by Prince Ugo, they were to turn and fire.
Sallaconi came in with the pistol case and the seconds examined the weapons carefully. A moment later the room was cleared except for the adversaries, the seconds, and Prince Ugo.
There was the stillness of death. On the face of the Russian there was an easy smile, for was not he a noted shot? Had he ever missed an adversary in a duel? Dickey was pale, but he did not tremble as he took the pistol in his hand.
“Good-bye, Phil,” was all he said. Poor Quentin turned his face away as he clasped his hand, and he could only murmur:
“If he hits you, I’ll kill him.”
A moment later the word “fire” came and the two men whirled into position. Dickey’s arm went up like a flash, the other’s more cruelly deliberate. Two loud reports followed in quick succession, the slim American’s nervous finger pressed the trigger first. He had not taken aim. He had located his man’s position before turning away, and the whole force of his will was bent on driving the bullet directly toward the spot he had in mind. Kapolski’s bullet struck the wall above Dickey’s head, his deadly aim spoiled by the quick, reckless shot from the other end of the room.
He lunged forward. Dickey’s bullet had blown away part of the big Russian’s chin and jaw, burying itself in the wall beyond.
APPROACH OF THE CRISIS
Prince Ugo’s face was livid, and his black eyes bulged with horrified amazement. The unscrupulous, daring, infallible duelist whom he had induced to try conclusions with Quentin in a regular and effective way, had been overthrown at the outset by a most peculiar transaction of fate. He had assured the Russian that Quentin was no match for him with the weapons common to dueling, and he had led him to believe that he was in little danger of injury, much less death. Kapolski, reckless, a despiser of all things American, eagerly consented to the plan, and Ugo saw a way to rid himself of a dangerous rival without the taint of suspicion besmirching his cloak. Sallaconi was an accomplished swordsman, but it would have been unwise to send him against Quentin. Ugo himself was a splendid shot and an expert with the blade, and it was not cowardice that kept him from taking the affair in his own hands. It was wisdom, cunning wisdom, that urged him to stand aloof and to go up to his wedding day with no scandal at his back. But the unexpected, the miraculous had happened. His friend, his brother prince, his unwitting tool, had gone down like a log, his vaunted skill surpassed by the marksmanship and courage of an accursed American.