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Terrible Tales

was very different. It was necessary that I should not interfere with his proceedings. If, however, I would give my word of honour not to mention his former life at Venice, he would look upon the dispute as ended, and we might return to the castle as friends. I, of course, rejected his proposal.

‘Then,’ said he, ‘make your peace with heaven.’

We prepared to fire.

‘You shall have the first chance,’ said he. ‘It is your right, as I am challenger.’

I waived my right, but he insisted. I fired and shot the pistol out of his hand. This seemed to enrage him. He examined the lock, took steady aim, but his rage became ungovernable when, having fired, he found I was uninjured. He insisted that he should have shot me through the heart, yet was obliged to admit that there had not been the slightest movement on my part to which he could ascribe his failure. At his desire the contest was renewed, with precisely the same results, only that, as I took aim again at his pistol, which he held in his left hand, the ball grazed his fingers. After he had missed for the second time I declared I would proceed no further—that is to say, I would not fire at him, but as he had perhaps failed from agitation, he might, for the third time, aim at me if he were so disposed. Before he could answer this question, however, the Count and his attendants appeared upon the scene. He had had some suspicion respecting our absence, and had traced us by the sound of the shots we had fired. He complained very much of our conduct, and as he insisted on an explanation in Marino’s presence, I disclosed all. The Count was much perplexed, but as he was undecided as to what course to pursue, we returned to