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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1163

Alexandre Dumas, père, the story’s narrator, explains that he has spent part of 1841 traveling on horseback in Corsica. One evening in March, he arrives at the top of a hill overlooking the towns of Olmeto and Sullacaro and surveys the scene in search of a house at which to seek hospitality for the night. The customs of the island guarantee that he will not be refused, and they specify that he must not offer any monetary recompense. He selects a home in Sullacaro that promises to be the most comfortable, taking note that all of the houses are fortified and many scarred by bullets. His guide informs him that the house is the property of Madame Savilia de Franchi.

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Dumas is given the room of one of Madame de Franchi’s twin sons, Louis, who has gone to Paris to study law. The other twin, Lucien, is determined to remain in Corsica and live as his forefathers had lived, although he regrets the gradual decline of ancient traditions, which he regards as an inexorable process of degeneration. Lucien even regrets the decline in the tradition of the vendetta, although such long-standing feuds are the principal factor requiring all the houses in Olmeto and Sullacaro to be fortified.

Although Lucien and Louis have chosen very different paths in life, according to their aptitudes—the bookish Louis has never handled a gun, while Lucien, a keen huntsman, is an expert marksman—they are very devoted to one other. While waiting for dinner to be served, Lucien shows Dumas his own room, furnished in a much more archaic manner then that of the absent Louis and decorated with weapons of various sorts, several of which have histories attached to them; they include matching rifles belonging to his father and his mother.

At dinner, Madame de Franchi asks Lucien, anxiously, if he has any news of Louis. Lucien explains to Dumas that he and his brother, having been born conjoined and having required surgical intervention to separate them, still “share the same body” and are thus aware of one another’s sensations. He has felt sad for the past few days, so he knows that his brother must be in distress—but he can, at least, be certain that Louis is not dead.

Lucien also explains that he has a mission to undertake, as he has been appointed—rather reluctantly—to serve as a mediator in the vendetta between the Orlandi and Colona families. Lucien invites Dumas to accompany him, and they go to meet the present head of the Orlandi family at a remote spot to negotiate the terms for a formal agreement to be completed the following day. They visit the ruins of a house that once belonged to an ancestor of the Franchis, who had become involved some four hundred years before in a feud with the Guidices, which had only ended when the matching rifles in Lucien’s room had simultaneously killed the two brothers who were the last survivors of the Guidices.

Lucien explains that the feud between the Orlandis and the Colonas began over a stray chicken, and the agreement that he has brokered between the present heads of the Orlandis and Colonas—which they are as reluctant to sign as he is to mediate—involves the symbolic return of a live chicken as well as the signing of a notarized document and the attendance of both families at a special mass. Dumas witnesses the conciliation; although he makes no explicit comment, it is obvious to him that the agreement will not hold for long and that hostilities will be resumed in response to the slightest excuse.

Dumas has to leave later in the day to return to Paris. After a symbolic exchange of gifts, he sets off, bearing a letter that Lucien has given him to deliver to Louis. He attempts to do so immediately after arriving in Paris, but Louis is not at home. In response to the note he leaves, Louis calls on him the next day, surprising Dumas with the...

(The entire section contains 1163 words.)

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