D'Arnot was asleep when Tarzan entered their apartments after leavin_okoff's. Tarzan did not disturb him, but the following morning he narrate_he happenings of the previous evening, omitting not a single detail.
"What a fool I have been," he concluded. "De Coude and his wife were both m_riends. How have I returned their friendship? Barely did I escape murderin_he count. I have cast a stigma on the name of a good woman. It is ver_robable that I have broken up a happy home."
"Do you love Olga de Coude?" asked D'Arnot.
"Were I not positive that she does not love me I could not answer you_uestion, Paul; but without disloyalty to her I tell you that I do not lov_er, nor does she love me. For an instant we were the victims of a sudde_adness—it was not love—and it would have left us, unharmed, as suddenly as i_ad come upon us even though De Coude had not returned. As you know, I hav_ad little experience of women. Olga de Coude is very beautiful; that, and th_im light and the seductive surroundings, and the appeal of the defenseles_or protection, might have been resisted by a more civilized man, but m_ivilization is not even skin deep—it does not go deeper than my clothes.
"Paris is no place for me. I will but continue to stumble into more and mor_erious pitfalls. The man-made restrictions are irksome. I feel always that _m a prisoner. I cannot endure it, my friend, and so I think that I shall g_ack to my own jungle, and lead the life that God intended that I should lea_hen He put me there."
"Do not take it so to heart, Jean," responded D'Arnot. "You have acquitte_ourself much better than most `civilized' men would have under simila_ircumstances. As to leaving Paris at this time, I rather think that Raoul d_oude may be expected to have something to say on that subject before long."
Nor was D'Arnot mistaken. A week later on Monsieur Flaubert was announce_bout eleven in the morning, as D'Arnot and Tarzan were breakfasting. Monsieu_laubert was an impressively polite gentleman. With many low bows he delivere_onsieur le Count de Coude's challenge to Monsieur Tarzan. Would monsieur b_o very kind as to arrange to have a friend meet Monsieur Flaubert at as earl_n hour as convenient, that the details might be arranged to the mutua_atisfaction of all concerned?
Certainly. Monsieur Tarzan would be delighted to place his interest_nreservedly in the hands of his friend, Lieutenant D'Arnot. And so it wa_rranged that D'Arnot was to call on Monsieur Flaubert at two that afternoon, and the polite Monsieur Flaubert, with many bows, left them.
When they were again alone D'Arnot looked quizzically at Tarzan.
"Well?" he said.
"Now to my sins I must add murder, or else myself be killed," said Tarzan. "_m progressing rapidly in the ways of my civilized brothers."
"What weapons shall you select?" asked D'Arnot. "De Coude is accredited wit_eing a master with the sword, and a splendid shot."
"I might then choose poisoned arrows at twenty paces, or spears at the sam_istance," laughed Tarzan. "Make it pistols, Paul."
"He will kill you, Jean."
"I have no doubt of it," replied Tarzan. "I must die some day."
"We had better make it swords," said D'Arnot. "He will be satisfied wit_ounding you, and there is less danger of a mortal wound." "Pistols," sai_arzan, with finality.
D'Arnot tried to argue him out of it, but without avail, so pistols it was.
D'Arnot returned from his conference with Monsieur Flaubert shortly afte_our.
"It is all arranged," he said. "Everything is satisfactory. Tomorrow mornin_t daylight—there is a secluded spot on the road not far from Etamps. For som_ersonal reason Monsieur Flaubert preferred it. I did not demur."
"Good!" was Tarzan's only comment. He did not refer to the matter again eve_ndirectly. That night he wrote several letters before he retired. Afte_ealing and addressing them he placed them all in an envelope addressed t_'Arnot. As he undressed D'Arnot heard him humming a music-hall ditty.
The Frenchman swore under his breath. He was very unhappy, for he was positiv_hat when the sun rose the next morning it would look down upon a dead Tarzan.
It grated upon him to see Tarzan so unconcerned.
"This is a most uncivilized hour for people to kill each other," remarked th_pe-man when he had been routed out of a comfortable bed in the blackness o_he early morning hours. He had slept well, and so it seemed that his hea_carcely touched the pillow ere his man deferentially aroused him. His remar_as addressed to D'Arnot, who stood fully dressed in the doorway of Tarzan'_edroom.
D'Arnot had scarcely slept at all during the night. He was nervous, an_herefore inclined to be irritable.
"I presume you slept like a baby all night," he said.
Tarzan laughed. "From your tone, Paul, I infer that you rather harbor the fac_gainst me. I could not help it, really."
"No, Jean; it is not that," replied D'Arnot, himself smiling. "But you tak_he entire matter with such infernal indifference—it is exasperating. On_ould think that you were going out to shoot at a target, rather than to fac_ne of the best shots in France."
Tarzan shrugged his shoulders. "I am going out to expiate a great wrong, Paul.
A very necessary feature of the expiation is the marksmanship of my opponent.
Wherefore, then, should I be dissatisfied? Have you not yourself told me tha_ount de Coude is a splendid marksman?"
"You mean that you hope to be killed?" exclaimed D'Arnot, in horror.
"I cannot say that I hope to be; but you must admit that there is littl_eason to believe that I shall not be killed."
Had D'Arnot known the thing that was in the ape-man's mind—that had been i_is mind almost from the first intimation that De Coude would call him t_ccount on the field of honor—he would have been even more horrified than h_as.
In silence they entered D'Arnot's great car, and in similar silence they spe_ver the dim road that leads to Etamps. Each man was occupied with his ow_houghts. D'Arnot's were very mournful, for he was genuinely fond of Tarzan.
The great friendship which had sprung up between these two men whose lives an_raining had been so widely different had but been strengthened b_ssociation, for they were both men to whom the same high ideals of manhood, of personal courage, and of honor appealed with equal force. They coul_nderstand one another, and each could be proud of the friendship of th_ther.
Tarzan of the Apes was wrapped in thoughts of the past; pleasant memories o_he happier occasions of his lost jungle life. He recalled the countles_oyhood hours that he had spent cross-legged upon the table in his dea_ather's cabin, his little brown body bent over one of the fascinating pictur_ooks from which, unaided, he had gleaned the secret of the printed languag_ong before the sounds of human speech fell upon his ears. A smile o_ontentment softened his strong face as he thought of that day of days that h_ad had alone with Jane Porter in the heart of his primeval forest.
Presently his reminiscences were broken in upon by the stopping of th_ar—they were at their destination. Tarzan's mind returned to the affairs o_he moment. He knew that he was about to die, but there was no fear of deat_n him. To a denizen of the cruel jungle death is a commonplace. The first la_f nature compels them to cling tenaciously to life—to fight for it; but i_oes not teach them to fear death.
D'Arnot and Tarzan were first upon the field of honor. A moment later D_oude, Monsieur Flaubert, and a third gentleman arrived. The last wa_ntroduced to D'Arnot and Tarzan; he was a physician.
D'Arnot and Monsieur Flaubert spoke together in whispers for a brief time. Th_ount de Coude and Tarzan stood apart at opposite sides of the field.
Presently the seconds summoned them. D'Arnot and Monsieur Flaubert ha_xamined both pistols. The two men who were to face each other a moment late_tood silently while Monsieur Flaubert recited the conditions they were t_bserve.
They were to stand back to back. At a signal from Monsieur Flaubert they wer_o walk in opposite directions, their pistols hanging by their sides. Whe_ach had proceeded ten paces D'Arnot was to give the final signal—then the_ere to turn and fire at will until one fell, or each had expended the thre_hots allowed.
While Monsieur Flaubert spoke Tarzan selected a cigarette from his case, an_ighted it. De Coude was the personification of coolness—was he not the bes_hot in France?
Presently Monsieur Flaubert nodded to D'Arnot, and each man placed hi_rincipal in position.
"Are you quite ready, gentlemen?" asked Monsieur Flaubert.
"Quite," replied De Coude.
Tarzan nodded. Monsieur Flaubert gave the signal. He and D'Arnot stepped bac_ few paces to be out of the line of fire as the men paced slowly apart. Six!
Seven! Eight! There were tears in D'Arnot's eyes. He loved Tarzan very much.
Nine! Another pace, and the poor lieutenant gave the signal he so hated t_ive. To him it sounded the doom of his best friend.
Quickly De Coude wheeled and fired. Tarzan gave a little start. His pisto_till dangled at his side. De Coude hesitated, as though waiting to see hi_ntagonist crumple to the ground. The Frenchman was too experienced a marksma_ot to know that he had scored a hit. Still Tarzan made no move to raise hi_istol. De Coude fired once more, but the attitude of the ape-man—the utte_ndifference that was so apparent in every line of the nonchalant ease of hi_iant figure, and the even unruffled puffing of his cigarette—had disconcerte_he best marksman in France. This time Tarzan did not start, but again D_oude knew that he had hit.
Suddenly the explanation leaped to his mind—his antagonist was coolly takin_hese terrible chances in the hope that he would receive no staggering woun_rom any of De Coude's three shots. Then he would take his own time abou_hooting De Coude down deliberately, coolly, and in cold blood. A littl_hiver ran up the Frenchman's spine. It was fiendish—diabolical. What manne_f creature was this that could stand complacently with two bullets in him, waiting for the third?
And so De Coude took careful aim this time, but his nerve was gone, and h_ade a clean miss. Not once had Tarzan raised his pistol hand from where i_ung beside his leg.
For a moment the two stood looking straight into each other's eyes. O_arzan's face was a pathetic expression of disappointment. On De Coude's _apidly growing expression of horror—yes, of terror.
He could endure it no longer.
"Mother of God! Monsieur—shoot!" he screamed.
But Tarzan did not raise his pistol. Instead, he advanced toward De Coude, an_hen D'Arnot and Monsieur Flaubert, misinterpreting his intention, would hav_ushed between them, he raised his left hand in a sign of remonstrance.
"Do not fear," he said to them, "I shall not harm him."
It was most unusual, but they halted. Tarzan advanced until he was quite clos_o De Coude.
"There must have been something wrong with monsieur's pistol," he said. "O_onsieur is unstrung. Take mine, monsieur, and try again," and Tarzan offere_is pistol, butt foremost, to the astonished De Coude.
"MON DIEU, monsieur!" cried the latter. "Are you mad?"
"No, my friend," replied the ape-man; "but I deserve to die. It is the onl_ay in which I may atone for the wrong I have done a very good woman. Take m_istol and do as I bid."
"It would be murder," replied De Coude. "But what wrong did you do my wife?
She swore to me that—"
"I do not mean that," said Tarzan quickly. "You saw all the wrong that passe_etween us. But that was enough to cast a shadow upon her name, and to rui_he happiness of a man against whom I had no enmity. The fault was all mine, and so I hoped to die for it this morning. I am disappointed that monsieur i_ot so wonderful a marksman as I had been led to believe."
"You say that the fault was all yours?" asked De Coude eagerly.
"All mine, monsieur. Your wife is a very pure woman. She loves only you. Th_ault that you saw was all mine. The thing that brought me there was no faul_f either the Countess de Coude or myself. Here is a paper which will quit_ositively demonstrate that," and Tarzan drew from his pocket the statemen_okoff had written and signed.
De Coude took it and read. D'Arnot and Monsieur Flaubert had drawn near. The_ere interested spectators of this strange ending of a strange duel. Non_poke until De Coude had quite finished, then he looked up at Tarzan.
"You are a very brave and chivalrous gentleman," he said. "I thank God that _id not kill you."
De Coude was a Frenchman. Frenchmen are impulsive. He threw his arms abou_arzan and embraced him. Monsieur Flaubert embraced D'Arnot. There was no on_o embrace the doctor. So possibly it was pique which prompted him t_nterfere, and demand that he be permitted to dress Tarzan's wounds.
"This gentleman was hit once at least," he said. "Possibly thrice."
"Twice," said Tarzan. "Once in the left shoulder, and again in the lef_ide—both flesh wounds, I think." But the doctor insisted upon stretching hi_pon the sward, and tinkering with him until the wounds were cleansed and th_low of blood checked.
One result of the duel was that they all rode back to Paris together i_'Arnot's car, the best of friends. De Coude was so relieved to have had thi_ouble assurance of his wife's loyalty that he felt no rancor at all towar_arzan. It is true that the latter had assumed much more of the fault than wa_ightly his, but if he lied a little he may be excused, for he lied in th_ervice of a woman, and he lied like a gentleman.
The ape-man was confined to his bed for several days. He felt that it wa_oolish and unnecessary, but the doctor and D'Arnot took the matter so t_eart that he gave in to please them, though it made him laugh to think of it.
"It is droll," he said to D'Arnot. "To lie abed because of a pin prick! Why, when Bolgani, the king gorilla, tore me almost to pieces, while I was stil_ut a little boy, did I have a nice soft bed to lie on? No, only the damp, rotting vegetation of the jungle. Hidden beneath some friendly bush I lay fo_ays and weeks with only Kala to nurse me—poor, faithful Kala, who kept th_nsects from my wounds and warned off the beasts of prey.
"When I called for water she brought it to me in her own mouth—the only wa_he knew to carry it. There was no sterilized gauze, there was no antisepti_andage—there was nothing that would not have driven our dear doctor mad t_ave seen. Yet I recovered—recovered to lie in bed because of a tiny scratc_hat one of the jungle folk would scarce realize unless it were upon the en_f his nose."
But the time was soon over, and before he realized it Tarzan found himsel_broad again. Several times De Coude had called, and when he found that Tarza_as anxious for employment of some nature he promised to see what could b_one to find a berth for him.
It was the first day that Tarzan was permitted to go out that he received _essage from De Coude requesting him to call at the count's office tha_fternoon.
He found De Coude awaiting him with a very pleasant welcome, and a sincer_ongratulation that he was once more upon his feet. Neither had ever mentione_he duel or the cause of it since that morning upon the field of honor.
"I think that I have found just the thing for you, Monsieur Tarzan," said th_ount. "It is a position of much trust and responsibility, which also require_onsiderably physical courage and prowess. I cannot imagine a man bette_itted than you, my dear Monsieur Tarzan, for this very position. It wil_ecessitate travel, and later it may lead to a very much better post—possibl_n the diplomatic service.
"At first, for a short time only, you will be a special agent in the servic_f the ministry of war. Come, I will take you to the gentleman who will b_our chief. He can explain the duties better than I, and then you will be in _osition to judge if you wish to accept or no."
De Coude himself escorted Tarzan to the office of General Rochere, the chie_f the bureau to which Tarzan would be attached if he accepted the position.
There the count left him, after a glowing description to the general of th_any attributes possessed by the ape-man which should fit him for the work o_he service.
A half hour later Tarzan walked out of the office the possessor of the firs_osition he had ever held. On the morrow he was to return for furthe_nstructions, though General Rochere had made it quite plain that Tarzan migh_repare to leave Paris for an almost indefinite period, possibly on th_orrow.
It was with feelings of the keenest elation that he hastened home to bear th_ood news to D'Arnot. At last he was to be of some value in the world. He wa_o earn money, and, best of all, to travel and see the world.
He could scarcely wait to get well inside D'Arnot's sitting room before h_urst out with the glad tidings. D'Arnot was not so pleased.
"It seems to delight you to think that you are to leave Paris, and that w_hall not see each other for months, perhaps. Tarzan, you are a mos_ngrateful beast!" and D'Arnot laughed.
"No, Paul; I am a little child. I have a new toy, and I am tickled to death."
And so it came that on the following day Tarzan left Paris en route fo_arseilles and Oran.