Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Duel
By Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)
From the ‘Rivals’

Scene: King’s-Mead Fields, Bath.  Enter Sir Lucius O’Trigger and Acres with pistols.

ACRES—By my valor! then, Sir Lucius, forty yards is a good distance. Odds levels and aims! I say it is a good distance.  1
  Sir Lucius—Is it for muskets or small field-pieces? Upon my conscience, Mr. Acres, you must leave those things to me. Stay now—I’ll show you.  [Measures paces along the stage.]  There now, that is a very pretty distance—a pretty gentleman’s distance.  2
  Acres—Zounds! we might as well fight in a sentry-box! I tell you, Sir Lucius, the farther he is off, the cooler I shall take my aim.  3
  Sir Lucius—Faith! then I suppose you would aim at him best of all if he was out of sight!  4
  Acres—No, Sir Lucius; but I should think forty or eight-and-thirty yards—  5
  Sir Lucius—Pho! pho! nonsense! three or four feet between the mouths of your pistols is as good as a mile.  6
  Acres—Odds bullets, no!—by my valor! there is no merit in killing him so near: do, my dear Sir Lucius, let me bring him down at a long shot;—a long shot, Sir Lucius, if you love me!  7
  Sir Lucius—Well, the gentleman’s friend and I must settle that. But tell me now, Mr. Acres, in case of an accident, is there any little will or commission I could execute for you?  8
  Acres—I am much obliged to you, Sir Lucius, but I don’t understand—  9
  Sir Lucius—Why, you may think there’s no being shot at without a little risk; and if an unlucky bullet should carry a quietus with it—I say it will be no time then to be bothering you about family matters.  10
  Acres—A quietus!  11
  Sir Lucius—For instance, now—if that should be the case—would you choose to be pickled and sent home? or would it be the same to you to lie here in the Abbey? I’m told there is very snug lying in the Abbey.  12
  Acres—Pickled! Snug lying in the Abbey! Odds tremors! Sir Lucius, don’t talk so!  13
  Sir Lucius—I suppose, Mr. Acres, you never were engaged in an affair of this kind before?  14
  Acres—No, Sir Lucius, never before.  15
  Sir Lucius—Ah! that’s a pity!—there’s nothing like being used to a thing. Pray now, how would you receive the gentleman’s shot?  16
  Acres—Odds files! I’ve practiced that—there, Sir Lucius—there.  [Puts himself in an attitude.]  A side-front, hey? Odd! I’ll make myself small enough: I’ll stand edgeways.  17
  Sir Lucius—Now you’re quite out; for if you stand so when I take my aim—  [Leveling at him.]  18
  Acres—Zounds! Sir Lucius—are you sure it is not cocked?  19
  Sir Lucius—Never fear.  20
  Acres—But—but—you don’t know—it may go off of its own head!  21
  Sir Lucius—Pho! be easy. Well, now, if I hit you in the body, my bullet has a double chance: for if it misses a vital part of your right side, ’twill be very hard if it don’t succeed on the left!  22
  Acres—A vital part!  23
  Sir Lucius—But there—fix yourself so:  [placing him]  let him see the broad-side of your full front—there—now a ball or two may pass clean through your body, and never do any harm at all.  24
  Acres—Clean through me!—a ball or two clean through me!  25
  Sir Lucius—Ay, may they; and it is much the genteelest attitude into the bargain.  26
  Acres—Look’ee! Sir Lucius—I’d just as lieve be shot in an awkward posture as a genteel one; so, by my valor! I will stand edgeways.  27
  Sir Lucius  [looking at his watch]—Sure they don’t mean to disappoint us—hah!—no, faith, I think I see them coming.  28
  Acres—Hey!—what!—coming!  29
  Sir Lucius—Ay. Who are those yonder getting over the stile?  30
  Acres—There are two of them indeed! Well—let them come—hey, Sir Lucius!—we—we—we—we—won’t run.  31
  Sir Lucius—Run!  32
  Acres—No—I say—we won’t run, by my valor!  33
  Sir Lucius—What the devil’s the matter with you?  34
  Acres—Nothing—nothing—my dear friend—my dear Sir Lucius—but—I—I—I don’t feel quite so bold, somehow, as I did.  35
  Sir Lucius—O fie! Consider your honor.  36
  Acres—Ay—true—my honor. Do, Sir Lucius, edge in a word or two every now and then about my honor.  37
  Sir Lucius—Well, here they’re coming.  [Looking.]  38
  Acres—Sir Lucius—if I wa’n’t with you, I should almost think I was afraid. If my valor should leave me! Valor will come and go.  39
  Sir Lucius—Then pray keep it fast, while you have it.  40
  Acres—Sir Lucius—I doubt it is going—yes—my valor is certainly going! It is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were at the palms of my hands!  41
  Sir Lucius—Your honor—your honor! Here they are.  42
  Acres—O mercy!—now—that I was safe at Clod-Hall! or could be shot before I was aware!  43
Enter Faulkland and Captain Absolute
  Sir Lucius—Gentlemen, your most obedient. Hah!—what, Captain Absolute! So—I suppose, sir, you are come here just like myself: to do a kind office, first for your friend, then to proceed to business on your own account.
  Acres—What—Jack!—my dear Jack!—my dear friend!  45
  Absolute—Hark’ee, Bob, Beverley’s at hand.  46
  Sir Lucius—Well, Mr. Acres—I don’t blame your saluting the gentleman civilly.  [To Faulkland.]  So, Mr. Beverley, if you’ll choose your weapons, the captain and I will measure the ground.  47
  Faulkland—My weapons, sir!  48
  Acres—Odds life! Sir Lucius, I’m not going to fight Mr. Faulkland: these are my particular friends.  49
  Sir Lucius—What, sir, did you not come here to fight Mr. Acres?  50
  Faulkland—Not I, upon my word, sir.  51
  Sir Lucius—Well, now, that’s mighty provoking! But I hope, Mr. Faulkland, as there are three of us come on purpose for the game, you won’t be so cantankerous as to spoil the party by sitting out.  52
  Absolute—Oh pray, Faulkland, fight to oblige Sir Lucius.  53
  Faulkland—Nay, if Mr. Acres is so bent on the matter—  54
  Acres—No, no, Mr. Faulkland: I’ll bear my disappointment like a Christian.—Look’ee, Sir Lucius, there’s no occasion at all for me to fight; and if it is the same to you, I’d as lieve let it alone.  55
  Sir Lucius—Observe me, Mr. Acres—I must not be trifled with. You have certainly challenged somebody, and you came here to fight him. Now, if that gentleman is willing to represent him—I can’t see, for my soul, why it isn’t just the same thing.  56
  Acres—Why, no, Sir Lucius: I tell you ’tis one Beverley I’ve challenged—a fellow, you see, that dare not show his face! If he were here, I’d make him give up his pretensions directly!  57
  Absolute—Hold, Bob—let me set you right: there is no such man as Beverley in the case. The person who assumed that name is before you; and as his pretensions are the same in both characters, he is ready to support them in whatever way you please.  58
  Sir Lucius—Well, this is lucky. Now you have an opportunity—  59
  Acres—What, quarrel with my dear friend Jack Absolute? Not if he were fifty Beverleys! Zounds, Sir Lucius, you would not have me so unnatural!  60
  Sir Lucius—Upon my conscience, Mr. Acres, your valor has oozed away with a vengeance!  61
  Acres—Not in the least! Odds backs and abettors! I’ll be your second with all my heart; and if you should get a quietus, you may command me entirely. I’ll get you snug lying in the Abbey here; or pickle you, and send you over to Blunderbuss Hall, or anything of the kind, with the greatest pleasure.  62
  Sir Lucius—Pho! pho! you are little better than a coward.  63
  Acres—Mind, gentlemen, he calls me a coward; coward was the word, by my valor!  64
  Sir Lucius—Well, sir?  65
  Acres—Look’ee, Sir Lucius, ’tisn’t that I mind the word coward—coward may be said in joke. But if you had called me a poltroon, odds daggers and balls!—  66
  Sir Lucius—Well, sir?  67
  Acres—I should have thought you a very ill-bred man.  68
  Sir Lucius—Pho! you are beneath my notice.  69
  Absolute—Nay, Sir Lucius, you can’t have a better second than my friend Acres. He is a most determined dog—called in the country, Fighting Bob. He generally kills a man a week—don’t you, Bob?  70
  Acres—Ay—at home!  71
  Sir Lucius—Well, then, captain, ’tis we must begin; so come out, my little counselor,  [draws his sword]  and ask the gentleman whether he will resign the lady, without forcing you to proceed against him?  72
  Absolute—Come on then, sir:  [draws]  since you won’t let it be an amicable suit, here’s my reply.  73
Enter Sir Anthony Absolute, David, Mrs. Malaprop, Lydia, and Julia
  David—Knock ’em all down, sweet Sir Anthony: knock down my master in particular, and bind his hands over to their good behavior!
  Sir Anthony—Put up, Jack, put up, or I shall be in a frenzy: how came you in a duel, sir?  75
  Absolute—Faith, sir, that gentleman can tell you better than I: ’twas he called on me,—and you know, sir, I serve his Majesty.  76
  Sir Anthony—Here’s a pretty fellow: I catch him going to cut a man’s throat, and he tells me he serves his Majesty! Zounds, sirrah! then how durst you draw the King’s sword against one of his subjects?  77
  Absolute—Sir, I tell you that gentleman called me out, without explaining his reasons.  78
  Sir Anthony—Gad, sir! how came you to call my son out, without explaining your reasons?  79
  Sir Lucius—Your son, sir, insulted me in a manner which my honor could not brook.  80
  Sir Anthony—Zounds, Jack! how durst you insult the gentleman in a manner which his honor could not brook?  81
  Mrs. Malaprop—Come, come, let’s have no honor before ladies.—Captain Absolute, come here: How could you intimidate us so? Here’s Lydia has been terrified to death for you.  82
  Absolute—For fear I should be killed, or escape, ma’am?  83
  Mrs. Malaprop—Nay, no delusions to the past: Lydia is convinced.—Speak, child.  84
  Sir Lucius—With your leave, ma’am, I must put in a word here: I believe I could interpret the young lady’s silence. Now mark—  85
  Lydia—What is it you mean, sir?  86
  Sir Lucius—Come, come, Delia, we must be serious now: this is no time for trifling.  87
  Lydia—’Tis true, sir; and your reproof bids me offer this gentleman my hand, and solicit the return of his affections.  88
  Absolute—O my little angel, say you so! Sir Lucius, I perceive there must be some mistake here with regard to the affront which you affirm I have given you. I can only say that it could not have been intentional. And as you must be convinced that I should not fear to support a real injury, you shall now see that I am not ashamed to atone for an inadvertency: I ask your pardon. But for this lady, while honored with her approbation, I will support my claim against any man whatever.  89
  Sir Anthony—Well said, Jack, and I’ll stand by you, my boy.  90
  Acres—Mind, I give up all my claim—I make no pretensions to anything in the world; and if I can’t get a wife without fighting for her,—by my valor! I’ll live a bachelor.  91
  Sir Lucius—Captain, give me your hand: an affront handsomely acknowledged becomes an obligation; and as for the lady, if she chooses to deny her own handwriting, here—  [Takes out letters.]  92
  Mrs. Malaprop—Oh, he will dissolve my mystery!—Sir Lucius, perhaps there’s some mistake—perhaps I can illuminate—  93
  Sir Lucius—Pray, old gentlewoman, don’t interfere where you have no business. Miss Languish, are you my Delia or not?  94
  Lydia—Indeed, Sir Lucius, I am not.  [Walks aside with Captain Absolute.]  95
  Mrs. Malaprop—Sir Lucius O’Trigger—ungrateful as you are, I own the soft impeachment—pardon my blushes; I am Delia.  96
  Sir Lucius—You Delia!—pho! pho! be easy.  97
  Mrs. Malaprop—Why, thou barbarous Vandyke! those letters are mine. When you are more sensible of my benignity, perhaps I may be brought to encourage your addresses.  98
  Sir Lucius—Mrs. Malaprop, I am extremely sensible of your condescension; and whether you or Lucy have put this trick on me, I am equally beholden to you. And to show you I am not ungrateful, Captain Absolute, since you have taken that lady from me I’ll give you my Delia into the bargain.  99
  Absolute—I am much obliged to you, Sir Lucius; but here’s my friend Fighting Bob unprovided for.  100
  Sir Lucius—Hah! little Valor—here, will you make your fortune?  101
  Acres—Odds wrinkles! No. But give me your hand, Sir Lucius; forget and forgive: but if ever I give you a chance of pickling me again, say Bob Acres is a dunce, that’s all.  102
  Sir Anthony—Come, Mrs. Malaprop, don’t be cast down: you are in your bloom yet.  103
  Mrs. Malaprop—O Sir Anthony, men are all barbarians.  104

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