This is the last section of Chapter 4. On Monday, I'll be posting the beginning of Chapter 5, which returns to one of the characters we've already met to begin the final run-up to the war.
Below, you can see some cartridge dueling pistols from the early 1900s, such as Friedrich wanted to use.
Jozef had been standing on the sidewalk just a few moments, blinking in the early morning sunlight, when he heard the growl of an approaching car and Friedrich’s grey Austro-Daimler Prinz Heinrich pulled up in front of him. Friedrich, with motoring goggles providing a stark contrast to his uniform coat and shako, sat in the the front seat next to his driver. The two seconds were sitting in the back and Jozef climbed in next to them. It was a snug fit. The Prinz Heinrich was narrower than other models, and the bullet-shaped back meant that the second row of seats had less legroom as well. However, the two seater version of the same car had set a race track record of ninety-two miles an hour, and Friedrich had immediately determined to have one, whatever inconveniences might come with it.
They attempted no such speeds as they rolled along the cobbled Vienna streets that early morning. They crossed the Danube Canal and drove southeast along tree-lined roads between the canal and the river. The car was forced to slow even further when the driver suddenly turned off the paved road and guided the car gingerly along a dirt track. Large trees loomed on either side of the track, making it a dim tunnel with walls and roof of foliage and shadow. Only small specks of sky were visible through the branches which met overhead. Later in the day, or on a different errand, this might have seemed a cool, woodland shelter from the summer sun, but now it looked a gloomy place from which night had not yet released its grip. As the car jounced slowly over roots and ruts in the track, Jozef had time to wonder in what kind of dark, Wagnerian place the duel would be held. Perhaps an abandoned graveyard. It looked like a proper place for death. Then light appeared at the end of the track and as quickly as darkness had descended they emerged into a clearing where the sun shone down brightly on dewy grass. It was an open space a hundred yards wide and several hundred long, screened in all directions by the surrounding trees.
Another car and a horse-drawn carriage already waited there. Friedrich’s driver pulled the Prinz Heinrich to a stop some distance away from the other two vehicles and turned off the engine.
Rittmeister Granar opened his door and stepped down. “Oberleutnant, let us go meet the other seconds.”
The two seconds walked off, leaving dark footprints in the shimmering dew. A moment later two officers in the distinctive brass helmets of the Dragoons stepped down from the carriage and approached to meet them in the middle of the clearing.
There was the scratch of a match and Jozef turned to see Friedrich lighting a cigar. “Do you want one?” he asked Jozef. “It will take them a while.”
Jozef shook his head. The aftereffects of the previous night had left his head sore and his stomach unsettled.
“You went to sleep. That was your mistake. Stay awake and the body remains in the will’s custody.”
“I’m glad you’re able to. When I woke up this morning, I was worried that you would feel the way that I do.”
Friedrich closed his eyes and blew out a long slow plume of smoke. An automobile could be heard approaching. “Ah, here she comes.” Friedrich opened his eyes and pointed.
Two cars pulled slowly into the clearing. One pulled up a dozen feet from Friedrich’s and stopped. A man in the back seat lifted his hat to them, but Friedrich’s attention was on the other car, which skirted the edge of the clearing and stopped some distance away. It was a dark Mercedes double phaeton with the roof up and the side curtains down, obscuring any view of whoever was sitting in the row behind the driver.
“Minna,” said Friedrich. “I told my father’s driver to come and wait in front of the flat where she could see the car. I thought she’d come.” He turned and gave Jozef a half smile, only the right side of his mouth quircking up under his mustache. “About half concern for my well being, I should think. And half hatred of the idea of someone else coming to tell her if something happened to me.”
9 hours ago