Marcellin reeled backward, reflexively placing his shaking palm over the wound. Seized by a fit of spastic coughing, he struggled to maintain his
balance. Panic set in as he used his free hand to fish an embroidered handkerchief from his coat pocket, his hand still covering the place where the point of the blade had entered his abdomen. The warm trickle he felt flowing over his fingers told him it was bad. The handkerchief had been a gift from his mother. He wondered how she would react to the news and the cold tendrils of shame crept over his heart.
He placed the small white cloth to his mouth and was caught again in a series of spasms that sent him stumbling backwards, his eyes finally settling on the broken form of a man in front of him. The son of the Duke de la Force lay face down in the grass. Marcellinís best of friends since his childhood in the streets Paris now lay silent. Petals from the nearby apple orchard floated daintily on the breeze, the tranquility of the grove betrayed by the purpose with which it was put to that day.
The doctors and seconds rushed to aid the fallen figure. His strength fading, Marcellin sank to his knees and finally worked up the courage to pull the cloth from over his mouth. He looked down and saw there no telltale crimson stain portending imminent death, a sign he regarded with mixed feelings. He watched with anticipation as they turned the body, its cold lifeless eyes staring up at the heavens. The doctor looked briefly at the man, little more than a boy, and then turned his glance up, a sad weight borne in his countenance.
Marcellin followed the glance of the doctor and saw her. She was standing in the shade of a nearby tree, from where she had watched the grim events of the day transpire. Holding her hat against the breeze, she was the very form of elegance, as beautiful as ever. For a second she caught him looking and their eyes locked. He felt his stomach turn;
there was nothing in her look, nothing which suggested anger, or sadness. It was the look of someone who thought they saw someone at a distance that they believed they recognized, and after closing the distance, realized they were mistaken. It was to be on these terms where they parted, never would Marcellin be afforded the chance to hear her voice again.
Two men fought that day because they couldnít bear to live without her, Marcellin, alive and envious of the dead. He had won the battle, but lost the prize. They had quarreled before, maybe even stopped talking with each other for a few days at a time, but nothing like this. The full realization was dawning on Marcellin, his best friend was dead, and he killed him. Killed, and for not even as much as to say goodbye to the woman he loved.
For the last time that evening, in a fever and laudanum induced hysteria, Marcellin would weep. He would cry out to heaven and beg for death. He who became the imposter Marinus Marchand, the twice damned traitor. The boy who laughed and loved that spring, became the man who would see burned the home and family of the mercenary Coilean Rowe for his particular failure. The man who fled to the Caribbean because running was all that was left to him.