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Chapter 32

The Commodore sends a Challenge to Gamaliel, and is imposed upon by a waggish invention of the Lieutenant, Peregrine, and Gauntlet.

This affront Trunnion could by no means digest: he advised with the lieutenant upon the subject; and the result of their consultation was a defiance which the old commander sent to Pickle, demanding that he would meet him at such a place on horseback with a brace of pistols, and give satisfaction for the slight he had put upon him. Nothing could have afforded more pleasure to Jack than the acceptance of this challenge, which he delivered verbally to Mr. Gamaliel, who was called out from the club at Tunley’s for that purpose. The nature of this message had an instantaneous effect upon the constitution of the pacific Pickle, whose bowels yearned with apprehension, and underwent such violent agitation on the spot, that one would have thought the operation proceeded from some severe joke of the apothecary which he had swallowed in his beer.

The messenger, despairing of a satisfactory answer, left him in this woeful condition; and being loath to lose any opportunity of raising the laugh against the commodore, went immediately and communicated the whole affair to the young gentlemen, entreating them, for the love of God, to concert some means of bringing old Hannibal into the field. The two friends relished the proposal; and after some deliberation, it was resolved that Hatchway should tell Trunnion his invitation was accepted by Gamaliel, who would meet him at the place appointed, with his second, to-morrow in the twilight, because, if either should fall, the other would have the chance of escaping in the dark; that Godfrey should personate old Pickle’s friend, and Peregrine represent his own father; while the lieutenant should take care in loading the pistols to keep out the shot, so that no damage might be done in the rencounter.

These circumstances being adjusted, the lieutenant returned to his principal with a most thundering reply from his antagonist, whose courageous behaviour, though it could not intimidate, did not fail to astonish the commodore, who ascribed it to the spirit of his wife, which had inspired him. Trunnion that instant desired his counsellor to prepare his cartridge-box, and order the quietest horse in the stable to be kept ready saddled for the occasion; his eye seemed to lighten with alacrity and pleasure at the prospect of smelling gunpowder once more before his death; and when Jack advised him to make his will, in case of accident, he rejected his counsel with disdain, saying, “What! dost thou think that Hawser Trunnion, who has stood the fire of so many floating batteries, runs any risk from the lousy pops of a landman? Thou shalt see, thou shalt see, how I’ll make him lower his topsails.”

Next day Peregrine and the soldier provided themselves with horses at the public-house, from whence, at the destined hour, they rode to the field of battle, each of them being muffed in a great coat, which, with the dimness of the light, effectually shielded them from the knowledge of the one-eyed commander, who, having taken horse, on pretence of enjoying the fresh air, soon appeared with Hatchway in his rear. When they came within sight of each other, the seconds advanced, in order to divide the ground, and regulate the measures of the combat; when it was determined by mutual consent, that two pistols should be discharged on each side, and that if neither should prove decisive, recourse must be had to the broad-swords, in order to ascertain the victory. These articles being settled, the opponents rode forward to their respective stations, when Peregrine, cocking his pistol, and presenting, counterfeited his father’s voice, bidding Trunnion take care of his remaining eye.

The commodore took his advice, being unwilling to hazard his daylight, and very deliberately opposed the patched side of his face to the muzzle of his antagonist’s piece, desiring him to do his duty without farther jaw. The young man accordingly fired; and the distance being small, the wad of his pistol took place with a smart stroke on the forehead of Trunnion. Mistaking it for a ball, which he thought lodged in his brain, spurred up his steed in a state of desperation towards his antagonist, and holding his piece within two yards of his bo............

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