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THE DUEL - A Military Tale
Napoleon I., whose career had the quality of a duel against the whole of Europe, disliked
duelling between the officers of his army. The great military emperor was not a
swashbuckler, and had little respect for tradition.
Nevertheless, a story of duelling, which became a legend in the army, runs through the
epic of imperial wars. To the surprise and admiration of their fellows, two officers, like
insane artists trying to gild refined gold or paint the lily, pursued a private contest through
the years of universal carnage. They were officers of cavalry, and their connection with
the high-spirited but fanciful animal which carries men into battle seems particularly
appropriate. It would be difficult to imagine for heroes of this legend two officers of
infantry of the line, for example, whose fantasy is tamed by much walking exercise, and
whose valour necessarily must be of a more plodding kind. As to gunners or engineers,
whose heads are kept cool on a diet of mathematics, it is simply unthinkable.
The names of the two officers were Feraud and D'Hubert, and they were both lieutenants
in a regiment of hussars, but not in the same regiment.
Feraud was doing regimental work, but Lieut. D'Hubert had the good fortune to be
attached to the person of the general commanding the division, as officier d'ordonnance.
It was in Strasbourg, and in this agreeable and important garrison they were enjoying
greatly a short interval of peace. They were enjoying it, though both intensely warlike,
because it was a sword-sharpening, firelock-cleaning peace, dear to a military heart and
undamaging to military prestige, inasmuch that no one believed in its sincerity or
Under those historical circumstances, so favourable to the proper appreciation of military
leisure, Lieut. D'Hubert, one fine afternoon, made his way along a quiet street of a
cheerful suburb towards Lieut. Feraud's quarters, which were in a private house with a
garden at the back, belonging to an old maiden lady.
His knock at the door was answered instantly by a young maid in Alsatian costume. Her
fresh complexion and her long eyelashes, lowered demurely at the sight of the tall officer,
caused Lieut. D'Hubert, who was accessible to esthetic impressions, to relax the cold,
severe gravity of his face. At the same time he observed that the girl had over her arm a
pair of hussar's breeches, blue with a red stripe.
"Lieut. Feraud in?" he inquired, benevolently.
"Oh, no, sir! He went out at six this morning."