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“ Be this the spot, sir. I come prepared, if you are not. Here are two swords: choose for yourself.” The Count snatched one of the swords.
Turning aside, Gramont threw off his cloak, and proceeded to strip, preparatory to the engagement.
Meanwhile Valremy, whose face had been partially concealed, followed the example.
Then turning, the moon, in the open spot, now shining brightly on his face, he exclaimed abruptly,
“ We are well met, M. Gramont."
Valremy gazed ferociously on his enemy, seeming to enjoy his bewilderment; and then, a bitter smile curled his lip, as, with withering scorn, he said,
Why must such a contemptible wretch again cross my path ? Must you owe me your despicable life once more? Or must I hinder
for ever from intruding your vile pretensions ?”
Gramont stood before his mortal foe: the man whose early hopes he had blighted, and whom he hated as much for having injured him, as for having been injured by him. Valremy had thwarted him in all his prospects through life ; but kept aloof from direct insult, purposely to prolong the torments of his victim. And now, he found him, as he thought, his successful rival. And a second rival, too. What rancorous agony to his heart was the conviction of this double betrayal! If he was a
coward by nature, rage gave him courage-despair made him bold—his present cause inspired the hope of victory; for the most profligate men are the first to presume on a seemingly righteous cause. He answered firmly,
“ If you have dishonoured that lady—"
“ If, say you ?” interrupted the insinuating miscreant.
“ Then my arm shall conquer. I shall rid the earth of a monster ! Fiend! I defy you once more.”
Fierce and deadly was the struggle. Rancour and revenge substituted impetuous fury for cool dexterity. To kill, to kill quickly was the ravening heart's desire.
Almost instantly, both the combatants were wounded—but slightly; and fresh rage was added to the conflict. Hideous was the distortion of their features, as they gasped in the terrible effort, their eyes flashing implacable hate. For a moment the issue was doubtful, when Valremy's sword snapped at the guard ; he fell to the ground ere Gramont could withdraw the reeking blade.
Meanwhile, the noise of the clashing swords had reached the carriage in waiting for the abduction. The postilion rushed to the scene just as his master fell.
The Count was borne to his carriage and driven to the nearest hotel, where his surgeon immediately attended.
THE WORDS OF DESPAIR.
His wound was pronounced mortal. The Count himself interpreted the surgeon's look, as he inspected the wound ; and with the expression of frantic despair, the wretched man exclaimed,
“Oh God! and must I die!"
It were difficult to say whether Valremy or the reader has the greater reason to be surprised at the “result” just given. Let us consider.
Valremy conceived a satanic scheme. He devised the means of its accomplishment. But the carriage which was to bear away his unconscious victim carried himself off the scene, mortally wounded.
He tempted and deceived his friend into the betrayal of an innocent girl, by whom he was tenderly beloved ; but the beginning of his imagined triumph over woman's virtue was the ending of his criminal stratagems.
He undertook to commit a crime, ostensibly to prove the libertine's maxim about the facility of a woman's virtue, but in reality to gratify his own evil passions. He dies in the place of the friend whom he perverted and deceived.
He dies, too, innocent, so to speak, of the crime,
ARE MADE EASY. 153
a bitter thought to such a man in the first moment of surprisal. Nor must the fact be forgotten, that he falsely insinuated the lady's degradation, in order to harass more deeply his hated foe. Men of his “ profession" think lightly of woman's reputation. Frequently they encourage a belief which they know to be false. The practice gratifies their vanity, and renders their diabolical “ exploits” more easy; for it is a hard thing for woman to stand fast when her good name is blighted, though falsely.
He dies by the hand of the man whom he would have live to be tormented—the man whom he utterly despised; for it is an error to suppose that the human heart does not hate what it despises, if the object of contempt is a fellow-being.
He dies “in the midst of his days,” in the enjoyment of perfect health, immense wealth, and a glorious reputation.
His active mind was full of well-digested schemes, ripe for the “fulfilment;” but to-night he will make no entry in his diary. To-morrow he will record no “ resolution."
Approach slowly: the slightest noise harasses his sinking frame.
It is now the first hour of morning. Nature is waking from her sleep; but this mortal body is about to sleep for ever.
The sod that shall open to receive his mortal remains now weeps with the reeking dews of the night. The moon that shone on the scene of the intended crime, and the accomplished