Chapter 13

 Having thus dismissed the secondary man, he called in his servant Teague, and accosted him as follows. Teague, said he, you have heretofore discovered an ambition to be employed in some way that would advance your reputation. There is now a case fallen out, to which you are fully competent. It is not a matter that requires the head to contrive, but the hand to execute. The greatest fool is as fit for it as a wise man. It is indeed your greatest blockheads that chiefly undertake it. The knowledge of law, physick, or divinity is out of the question. Literature and political understanding is useless. Nothing more is necessary than a little resolution of the heart. Yet it is an undertaking which is of much estimation with the rabble, and has a great many on its side to approve and praise it. The females of the world, especially, admire the act, and call it valour. I know you wish to stand well with the ladies. Here is an opportunity of advancing your credit. I have had what is called a challenge sent me this morning. It is from a certain Jacko, who is a suitor to a Miss Vapour, and has taken offence at an expression of mine, respecting him, to this female. I wish you to accept the challenge, and fight him for me.

At this proposition, Teague looked wild, and made apology that he was not much used to boxing. Boxing, said the Captain, you are to fight what is called a duel. --You are to encounter him with pistols, and put a bullet through him if you can. It is true, he will have the chance of putting one through you; but in that consists the honour; for where there is no danger, there is no glory. You will provide yourself a second. There is an hostler here at the public house, that is a brave fellow, and will answer the purpose. Being furnished with a second, you will provide yourself with a pair of pistols, powder and ball of course. In the mean time your adversary notified of your intentions, will do the like. --Thus equipped, you will advance to the place agreed upon. The ground will be measured out; ten, seven or five steps; back to back, and coming round to your place, fire. Or taking your ground, stand still and fire; or it may be, advance and fire as you meet, at what distance you think proper. The rules in this respect are not fixed, but as the parties can agree, or the seconds point out. When you come to fire, be sure you keep a steady hand, and take good aim. Remember that the pistol barrel being short, the powder is apt to throw the bullet up. Your sight, therefore, ought to be about the waist-band of his breeches, so that you have the whole length of his body, and his head in the bargain, to come and go upon. It is true, he in the mean time, will take the same advantage of you. He may hit you about the groin, or the belly. I have known some shot in the thigh, or the leg. The throat also, and the head are in themselves vulnerable. It is no uncommon thing to have an arm broke, or a splinter struck off the nose, or an eye shot out, but as in that case the ball mostly passes through the brain, and the man being dead at any rate, the loss of sight is not greatly felt.

As the Captain spoke, Teague seemed to feel in himself every wound which was described, the ball hitting him, now in one part, and now in another. At the last words, it seemed to pass through his head, and he was half dead, in imagination. Making a shift to express himself, he gave the Captain to understand, that he could by no means undertake the office. What! said the Captain; you whom nothing would serve, some time ago, but to be a legislator, or philosopher, or preacher, in order to gain fame, will now decline a business for which you are qualified! This requires no knowledge of finances, no reading of natural history, or any study of the fathers. You have nothing more to do than keep a steady hand and a good eye.

In the early practice of this exercise, I mean the combat of the duel, it was customary to exact an oath of the combatants, before they entered the lists, that they had no enchantments, or power of witchcraft, about them. --Whether you should think it necessary to put him to his voire dire, on this point, I shall not say; but I am persuaded, that on your part, you have too much honour, to make use of spells, or undue means, to take away his life or save your own. You will leave all to the chance of fair shooting. One thing you will observe, and which is allowable in this battle; you will take care not to present yourself to him with a full breast, but angularly, and your head turned round over the left shoulder, like a weather-cock. For thus a smaller surface being presented to an adversary, he will be less likely to hit you. You must throw your legs into lines parallel, and keep them one directly behind the other. Thus you will stand like a sail hauled close to the wind. Keep a good countenance, a sharp eye, and a sour look; and if you feel any thing like a cholic or a palpitation of the heart, make no noise about it. If the ball should take you in the gills, or the gizzard, fall down as decently as you can, and die like a man of honour.

It was of no use to urge the matter; the Irishman was but the more opposed to the proposition, and utterly refused to be after fighting in any such manner. The Captain, finding this to be the case, dismissed him to clean his boots and spurs, and rub down his horse in the stable.

On reflection, it seemed adviseable to the Captain to write an answer to the card which Colonel or Major Jacko, or whatever his title may have been, had sent him this morning. It was as follows:

Sir,

I have two objections to this duel matter. The one is, lest I should hurt you; and the other is, lest you should hurt me. I do not see any good it would do me to put a bullet thro' any part of your body. I could make no use of you when dead for any culinary purpose, as I would a rabbit or a turkey. I am no cannibal to feed on the flesh of men. Why then shoot down a human creature, of which I could make no use? A buffaloe would be better meat. For though your flesh might be delicate and tender; yet it wants that firmness and consistency which takes and retains salt. At any rate, it would not be fit for long sea voyages. You might make a good barbacue, it is true, being of the nature of a raccoon or an opossum; but people are not in the habit of barbacuing any thing human now. As to your hide, it is not worth taking off, being little better than that of a year old colt.

It would seem to me a strange thing to shoot at a man that would stand still to be shot at; in as much as I have been heretofore used to shoot at things flying, or running, or jumping. --Were you on a tree now, like a squirrel, endeavouring to hide yourself in the branches, or like a raccoon, that after much eyeing and spying, I observe at length in the crutch of a tall oak, with boughs and leaves intervening, so that I could just get a sight of his hinder parts, I should think it pleasurable enough to take a shot at you. But as it is, there is no skill or judgment requisite either to discover or take you down.

As to myself, I do not much like to stand in the way of any thing harmful. I am under apprehensions you might hit me. That being the case, I think it most adviseable to stay at a distance. If you want to try your pistols, take some object, a tree or a barn door, about my dimensions. If you hit that, send me word, and I shall acknowledge that if I had been in the same place you might also have hit me.

J.F.