Now, according to custom, Ranuzi drew near the baron to make a last attempt at reconciliation. He answered sternly: "You know that I am not to blame, and therefore will take no step in this matter. I suppose, Count Belleville is as little disposed as myself to make apologies."
"I intend to prove to you, sir baron, that I am a nobleman and a brave one; and as to the nuts which I cracked behind the queen, my only regret is, that they, like every thing else in your detested Berlin, were hollow--"
"No, sir, they were not at all hollow," said Baron Marshal, drawing up the cock of his pistol; "in one of those nuts I saw a death-worm, which will soon bore into your flesh."
He bowed to Belleville and took the place pointed out by his second. The second of Belleville then drew near, and led him to the outermost point of the line.
The Frenchman laughed aloud. "How," said he, "you will take me to the end of the world to secure me from the ball of my enemy?"
"Sir," said the grave and solemn voice of the baron, "you will still be too near me."
"Well, sir baron, I give you precedence," said Belleville, laughing, "though, I believe, I have the right; but age must have the precedence--fire, sir."
"No, young man," said Marshal, sadly; "I will grant you one more glance at the glad sun and the fresh, green earth; you shall fire first, and I council you to lay aside your levity; let your hand be firm and your aim steady; if you fail, you are lost. I am a good shot, and I am without mercy."