'The other party, and a surgeon, I suppose,' said Mr. Snodgrass; 'take a drop of brandy.' Mr. Winkle seized the wicker bottle which his friend proffered, and took a lengthened pull at the exhilarating liquid.
'My friend, Sir, Mr. Snodgrass,' said Mr. Winkle, as the officer approached. Doctor Slammer's friend bowed, and produced a case similar to that which Mr. Snodgrass carried.
'We have nothing further to say, Sir, I think,' he coldly remarked, as he opened the case; 'an apology has been resolutely declined.'
'Nothing, Sir,' said Mr. Snodgrass, who began to feel rather uncomfortable himself.
'Will you step forward?' said the officer.
'Certainly,' replied Mr. Snodgrass. The ground was measured, and preliminaries arranged. 'You will find these better than your own,' said the opposite second, producing his pistols. 'You saw me load them. Do you object to use them?'
'Certainly not,' replied Mr. Snodgrass. The offer relieved him from considerable embarrassment, for his previous notions of loading a pistol were rather vague and undefined.
'We may place our men, then, I think,' observed the officer, with as much indifference as if the principals were chess-men, and the seconds players.
'I think we may,' replied Mr. Snodgrass; who would have assented to any proposition, because he knew nothing about the matter. The officer crossed to Doctor Slammer, and Mr. Snodgrass went up to Mr. Winkle.
'It's all ready,' said he, offering the pistol. 'Give me your cloak.'
'You have got the packet, my dear fellow,' said poor Winkle. 'All right,' said Mr. Snodgrass. 'Be steady, and wing him.'
It occurred to Mr. Winkle that this advice was very like that which bystanders invariably give to the smallest boy in a street fight, namely, 'Go in, and win'--an admirable thing to recommend, if you only know how to do it. He took off his cloak, however, in silence--it always took a long time to undo that cloak --and accepted the pistol. The seconds retired, the gentleman on the camp-stool did the same, and the belligerents approached each other.
Mr. Winkle was always remarkable for extreme humanity. It is conjectured that his unwillingness to hurt a fellow-creature intentionally was the cause of his shutting his eyes when he arrived at the fatal spot; and that the circumstance of his eyes being closed, prevented his observing the very extraordinary and unaccountable demeanour of Doctor Slammer. That gentleman started, stared, retreated, rubbed his eyes, stared again, and, finally, shouted, 'Stop, stop!'
'What's all this?' said Doctor Slammer, as his friend and Mr. Snodgrass came running up; 'that's not the man.'
'Not the man!' said Doctor Slammer's second.
'Not the man!' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'Not the man!' said the gentleman with the camp-stool in his hand.
'Certainly not,' replied the little doctor. 'That's not the person who insulted me last night.'
'Very extraordinary!' exclaimed the officer.
'Very,' said the gentleman with the camp-stool. 'The only question is, whether the gentleman, being on the ground, must not be considered, as a matter of form, to be the individual who insulted our friend, Doctor Slammer, yesterday evening, whether he is really that individual or not;' and having delivered this suggestion, with a very sage and mysterious air, the man with the camp-stool took a large pinch of snuff, and looked profoundly round, with the air of an authority in such matters.
Now Mr. Winkle had opened his eyes, and his ears too, when he heard his adversary call out for a cessation of hostilities; and perceiving by what he had afterwards said that there was, beyond all question, some mistake in the matter, he at once foresaw the increase of reputation he should inevitably acquire by concealing the real motive of his coming out; he therefore stepped boldly forward, and said--
'I am not the person. I know it.'
'Then, that,' said the man with the camp-stool, 'is an affront to Doctor Slammer, and a sufficient reason for proceeding immediately.'
'Pray be quiet, Payne,' said the doctor's second.