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Chapter 63

Peregrine artfully foments a Quarrel between Pallet and the Physician, who fight a Duel on the Ramparts.

The painter betook himself to the house of the Flemish Raphael, and the rest of the company went back to their lodgings; where the young gentleman, taking the advantage of being alone with the physician, recapitulated all the affronts he had sustained from the painter’s petulance, aggravating every circumstance of the disgrace, and advising him, in the capacity of a friend, to take care of his honour, which could not fail to suffer in the opinion of the world, if he allowed himself to be insulted with impunity, by one so much his inferior in every degree of consideration.

The physician assured him, that Pallet had hitherto escaped chastisement, by being deemed an object unworthy his resentment, and in consideration of the wretch’s family, for which his compassion was interested; but that repeated injuries would inflame the most benevolent disposition. And, though he could find no precedent of duelling among the Greeks and Romans, whom he considered as the patterns of demeanour, Pallet should no longer avail himself of his veneration for the ancients, but be punished for the very next offence he should commit.

Having thus spirited up the doctor to a resolution from which he could not decently swerve, our adventurer acted the incendiary with the other party also; giving him to understand, that the physician treated his character with such contempt, and behaved to him with such insolence, as no gentleman ought to bear: that, for his own part, he was every day put out of countenance by their mutual animosity, which appeared in nothing but vulgar expressions, more becoming shoe-boys and oyster-women than men of honour and education; and therefore he should be obliged, contrary to his inclination, to break off all correspondence with them both, if they would not fall upon some method to retrieve the dignity of their characters.

These representations would have had little effect upon the timidity of the painter, who was likewise too much of a Grecian to approve of single combat, in any other way than that of boxing, an exercise in which he was well skilled, had they not been accompanied with an insinuation, that his antagonist was no Hector, and that he might humble him into any concession, without running the least personal risk. Animated by this assurance, our second Rubens set the trumpet of defiance to his mouth, swore he valued not his life a rush, when his honour was concerned, and entreated Mr. Pickle to be the bearer of a challenge, which he would instantly commit to writing.

The mischievous fomenter highly applauded this manifestation of courage, by which he was at liberty to cultivate his friendship and society, but declined the office of carrying the billet, that his tenderness of Pallet’s reputation might not be misinterpreted into an officious desire of promoting quarrels. At the same time, he recommended Tom Pipes, not only as a very proper messenger on this occasion, but also as a trusty second in the field. The magnanimous painter took his advice, and, retiring to his chamber, penned a challenge in these terms:—

“Sir,— When I am heartily provoked, I fear not the devil himself; much less — I will not call you a pedantic coxcomb, nor an unmannerly fellow, because these are the hippethets of the vulgar; but, remember, such as you are, I nyther love you nor fear you; but, on the contrary, expect satisfaction for your audacious behaviour to me on divers occasions; and will, this evening, in the twilight, meet you on the ramparts with sword and pistol, where the Lord have mercy on the soul of one of us, for your body shall find no favour with your incensed defier till death,
“Layman Pallet.”

This resolute defiance, after having been submitted to the perusal, and honoured with the approbation of our youth, was committed to the charge of Pipes, who, according to his orders, delivered it in the afternoon; and brought for answer, that the physician would attend him at the appointed time and place. The challenger was evidently discomposed at the unexpected news of this acceptance, and ran about the house in great disorder, in quest of Peregrine, to beg his further advice and assistance; but understanding that the youth was engaged in private with his adversary, he began to suspect some collusion, and cursed himself for his folly and precipitation. He even entertained some thoughts of retracting his invitation, and submitting to the triumph of his antagonist: but before he would stoop to this opprobrious condescension, he resolved to try another expedient, which might be the means of saving both his character and person. In this hope he visited Mr. Jolter, and very gravely desired he would be so good as to undertake the office of his second in a duel which he was to fight that evening with the physician.

The governor, instead of answering his expectation, in expressing fear and concern, and breaking forth into exclamations of “Good God! gentlemen, what d’ye mean? You shall not murder one another while it is in my power to prevent your purpose. I will go directly to the governor of the place, who shall interpose his authority”;— I say, instead of these and other friendly menaces of prevention, Jolter heard the proposal with the most phlegmatic tranquility, and excused himself from accepting the honour he intended for him, on account of his character and situation, which would not permit him to be concerned in any such rencontres. Indeed, this mortifying reception was owing to a previous hint from Peregrine, who, dreading some sort of interruption from his governor, had made him acquainted with his design, and assured him, that the affair should not be brought to any dangerous issue.

Thus disappointed, the dejected challenger was overwhelmed with perplexity and dismay; and, in the terrors of death or mutilation, resolved to deprecate the wrath of his enemy, and conform to any submission he should propose, when he was accidentally encountered by our adventurer, who, with demonstrations of infinite satisfaction, told him in confidence, that the billet had thrown the doctor into an agony of consternation; that his acceptance of his challenge was a mere effort of despair, calculated to confound the ferocity of the sender, and dispose him to listen to terms of accommodation; that he had imparted the letter to him with fear and trembling, on pretence of engaging him as a second, but, in reality, with a view of obtaining his good offices in promoting a reconciliation; “but, perceiving the situation of his mind,” added our hero, “I thought it would be more for your honour to baffle his expectation, and therefore I readily undertook the task of attending him to the field, in full assurance that he will there humble himself before you, even to prostration. In this security, you may go and prepare your arms, and bespeak the assistance of Pipes, who will squire you in the field, while I keep myself up, that our correspondence may not be suspected by the physician.” Pallet’s spirits, that were sunk to dejection, rose at this encouragement to all the insolence of triumph; he again declared his contempt of danger, and his pistols being loaded and accommodated with new flints, by his trusty armour-bearer, he waited, without flinching, for the hour of battle.

On the first approach of twilight, somebody knocked at his door, and Pipes having opened it at his desire, he heard the voice of his antagonist pronounce, “Tell Mr. Pallet that I am going to the place of appointment.” The painter was not a little surprised at this anticipation, which so ill agreed with the information he had received from Pickle; and his concern beginning to recur, he fortified himself with a large bumper of brandy, which, however, did not overcome the anxiety of his thoughts. Nevertheless, he set out on the expedition with his second, betwixt whom and himself the following dialogue passed, in their way to the ramparts.

“Mr. Pipes,” said the painter, with disordered accent, “methinks the doctor was in a pestilent hurry with that message of his.”—“Ey, ey,” answered Tom, “I do suppose he longs to be foul of you.”—“What,” replied the other, “d’ye think he thirsts after my blood?”—“To be sure a does,” said Pipes, thrusting a large quid of tobacco in his check, with great deliberation. “If that be the case,” cried Pallet, beginning to shake, “he is no better than a cannibal, and no Christian ought to fight him on equal footing.” Tom observing his emotio............

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