Off-Hand Sketches, a Little Dashed with Humour
Part 4 out of 4
"You'll hear from me, sir." And as the officer said this,
menacingly, he turned and walked away with a military air.
"There's trouble for you now, Blake; he'll challenge you," said two
or three friends who instantly gathered around him.
"Do you think so?"
"Certainly; he is an officer--fighting is his trade."
"Well, let him."
"What'll you do?"
"Accept the challenge, of course."
"He'll shoot you."
"I'm not afraid."
Blake returned with his friend to his lodgings, where he found a
billet already from Redmond, who was all eagerness to wing his
On the next morning, two friends of the bellige-rents were closeted
for the purpose of arranging the preliminaries for the fight.
"The weapon?" asked the friend of the military man. "Your principal,
by the laws of honour, has the choice; as, also, to name time and
"Yes, I understand. All is settled."
"He will fight, then?"
"Fight? Oh, certainly; Blake is no coward."
"Well, then, name the weapons."
"A pair of goose-quills."
"Sir!" in profound astonishment.
"The weapons are to be a pair of good Russia quills, opaque,
manufactured into pens of approved quality. The place of meeting,
the--mdash; Gazette; the time, to-morrow morning, bright and early."
"Do you mean to insult me?"
"By no means."
"You cannot be serious."
"Never was more serious in my life. By the code of honour, the
challenged party has the right to choose weapons, place of meeting,
and time. Is it not so?"
"Very well. Your principal has challenged mine. All these rights are
of course his; and he is justified in choosing those weapons with
which he is most familiar. The weapon he can use best is the pen,
and he chooses that. If Lieut. Redmond had been the challenged
party, he would, of course, have named pistols, with which he is
familiar, and Mr. Blake would have been called a coward, poltroon,
or something as bad, if, after sending a challenge, he had objected
to the weapons. Will your principal find himself in a different
position if he decline this meeting on like grounds? I think not.
Pens are as good as pistols at any time, and will do as much."
"Fighting with pens! Preposterous!"
"Not quite so preposterous as you may think. Mr. B. has more than
insinuated that Mr. Redmond is no gentleman. For this he is
challenged to a single combat that is to prove him to be a gentleman
or not one. Surely the most sensible weapon with which to do this is
the pen. Pistols won't demonstrate the matter; only the pen can do
it, so the pen is chosen. In the--Gazette of to-morrow morning my
friend stands ready to prove that he is a gentleman; and your friend
that he is one, and that a gentleman has a right to insult publicly
and without provocation whomsoever he pleases. Depend upon it, you
will find this quite as serious an affair as if pistols were used."
"I did not come here, sir, to be trifled with."
"No trifling in the matter at all; I am in sober earnest. Pens are
the weapons; the--Gazette, the battle-ground; time, early as you
please to-morrow morning. Are you prepared for the meeting?"
"Do you understand the consequences?"
"Your principal will be posted as a coward before night."
"Are you mad?"
"No, cool and earnest. We fully understand what we are about."
The officer's second was nonplussed; he did not know what to say or
think. He was unprepared for such a position of affairs.
"I'll see you in the course of an hour," he at length said, rising.
"Very well; you will find me here."
"Is all settled?" asked the valiant lieutenant, as his second came
into his room at the hotel, where he was pacing the floor.
"Settled? No; nor likely to be. I objected to the weapons, and,
indeed, the whole proposed arrangement."
"Objected to the weapons! And, pray, what did he name? A
"No; nor a duck gun, with trumpet muzzle; but an infernal pen!"
"Why, curse the fellow, a pen! You are to use pens--the place of
meeting, the--Gazette--time, to-morrow morning. He is to prove you
are no gentleman, and you are to prove you are one, and that a
gentleman is at all times privileged to insult whomsoever he pleases
"He's a cowardly fool!"
"If his terms are not accepted, he threatens to post you for a
coward before night."
"You must accept or be posted. Think of that!"
The precise terms in which the principal swore, and the manner in
which he fumed for the next five minutes, need not be told. He was
called back to more sober feelings by the question--"Do you accept
the terms of the meeting?"
"No, of course not; the fellow's a fool."
"Then you consent to be posted. How will that sound?"
"I'll cut off the rascal's ears if he dare do such a thing."
"That won't secure Mary Clinton, the cause of this contest."
"Hang it, no!"
"With pens for weapons he will wing you a little too quick."
"No doubt. But the public won't bear him out such an outrage--such a
violation of all the rules of honour."
"By the code of honour, the challenged party has the right to choose
the weapons, &c."
"And you are afraid to meet the man you have challenged upon the
terms he proposes. That is all plain and simple enough. The world
will understand it all."
"But what is to be done?"
"You must fight, apologize, or be posted; there is no alternative.
To be posted won't do; the laugh would be too strongly against you."
"It will be as bad, and even worse, to fight as he proposes."
"True. What then?"
"It must be made up somehow or other."
"So I think. Will you write an apology?"
"I don't know; that's too humiliating."
"It's the least of the three evils."
So, at last, thought the valiant Lieut. Redmond. When the seconds
again met, it was to arrange a settlement of differences. This could
only be done by a very humbly written apology, which was made. On
the next day the young officer left the city, a little wiser than he
came. Blake and his second said but little about the matter. A few
choice friends were let into the secret, which afforded many a
hearty laugh. Among these friends was Mary Clinton, who not long
after gave her heart and hand to the redoubtable author.
As for the lieutenant, he declares that he had as lief come in
contact with a Paixhan gun as an author with his "infernal pen." He
understands pistols, small swords, rifles, and even cannons, but he
can't stand up when pen-work is the order of the day. The odds would
be too much against him.
TREATING A CASE ACTIVELY.
A PHYSICIAN'S STORY.
I WAS once sent for, in great haste, to attend a gentleman of
respectability, whose wife, a lady of intelligence and refinement,
had discovered him in his room lying senseless upon the floor. On
arriving at the house, I found Mrs. H--in great distress of mind.
"What is the matter with Mr. H--?" I asked, on meeting his lady,
who was in tears and looking the picture of distress.
"I'm afraid it is apoplexy," she replied. "I found him lying upon
the floor, where he had, to all appearance, fallen suddenly from his
chair. His face is purple, and though he breathes, it is with great
I went up to see my patient. He had been lifted from the floor, and
was now lying upon the bed. Sure enough, his face was purple and his
breathing laboured, but somehow the symptoms did not indicate
apoplexy. Every vein in his head and face was turgid, and he lay
perfectly stupid, but still I saw no clear indications of an actual
or approaching congestion of the brain.
"Hadn't he better be bled, doctor?" asked the anxious wife.
"I don't know that it is necessary," I replied. "I think, if we let
him alone, it will pass off in the course of a few hours."
"A few hours! He may die in half an hour."
"I don't think the case is so dangerous, madam."
"Apoplexy not dangerous?"
"I hardly think it apoplexy," I replied.
"Pray, what do you think it is, doctor?"
Mrs. H--looked anxiously into my face.
I delicately hinted that he might, possibly, have been drinking too
much brandy; but to this she positively and almost indignantly
"No, doctor; _I_ ought to know about that," she said. "Depend upon
it, the disease is more deeply seated. I am sure he had better be
bled. Won't you bleed him, doctor? A few ounces of blood taken from
his arm may give life to the now stagnant circulation of the blood
in his veins."
Thus urged, I, after some reflection, ordered a bowl and bandage,
and opening a vein, from which the blood flowed freely, relieved him
of about eight ounces of his circulating medium. But he still lay as
insensible as before, much to the distress of his poor wife.
"Something else must be done, doctor," she urged, seeing that
bleeding had accomplished nothing. "If my husband is not quickly
relieved, he must die."
By this time, several friends and relatives, who had been sent for,
arrived, and urged upon me the adoption of some more active means
for restoring the sick man to consciousness. One proposed mustard
plasters all over his body; another a blister on the head; another
his immersion in hot water. I suggested that it might be well to use
"Why, doctor?" asked one of the friends.
"Perhaps he has taken some drug," I replied.
"Impossible, doctor," said the wife. "He has not been from home
to-day, and there is no drug of any kind in the house."
"No brandy?" I ventured this suggestion again.
"No, doctor, no spirits of any kind, nor even wine, in the house,"
returned Mrs. H--, in an offended tone.
I was not the regular family physician, and had been called in to
meet the alarming emergency, because my office happened to be
nearest to the dwelling of Mr. H--. Feeling my position to be a
difficult one, I suggested that the family physician had better be
"But the delay, doctor," urged the friends. "No harm will result
from it, be assured," I replied.
But my words did not assure them. However, as I was firm in my
resolution not to do any thing more for the patient until Dr.
S--came, they had to submit. I wished to make a call of importance
in the neighbourhood, and proposed going, to be back by the time Dr.
S--arrived; but the friends of the sick man would not suffer me to
leave the room.
When Dr. S--came, we conversed aside for a few minutes, and I gave
him my views of the case, and stated what I had done and why I had
done it. We then proceeded to the bedside of our patient; there were
still no signs of approaching consciousness.
"Don't you think his head ought to be shaved and blistered?" asked
the wife, anxiously. Dr. S--thought a moment, and then said--"Yes,
by all means. Send for a barber; and also for a fresh fly-blister,
four inches by nine."
I looked into the face of Dr. S--with surprise; it was perfectly
grave and earnest. I hinted to him my doubt of the good that mode of
treatment would do; but he spoke confidently of the result, and said
that it would not only cure the disease, but, he believed, take away
the predisposition thereto, with which Mr. H--was affected in a
The barber came. The head of H--was shaved, and Dr. S--applied
the blister with his own hands, which completely covered the scalp
from forehead to occiput.
"Let it remain on for two hours, and then make use of the ordinary
dressing," said Dr. S--. "If he should not recover during the
action of the blister, don't feel uneasy; sensibility will be
restored soon after."
I did not call again, but I heard from Dr. S--the result.
After we left, the friends stood anxiously around the bed upon which
the sick man lay; but though the blister began to draw, no signs of
returning consciousness showed themselves, further than an
occasional low moan, or an uneasy tossing of the arms. For full two
hours the burning plaster parched the tender skin of H--'s shorn
head, and was then removed; it had done good service. Dressings were
then applied; repeated and repeated again; but still the sick man
lay in a deep stupor.
"It has done no good; hadn't we better send for the doctor?"
suggested the wife.
Just then the eyes of H--opened, and he looked with half-stupid
surprise from face to face of the anxious group that surrounded the
"What in the mischief's the matter?" he at length said. At the same
time, feeling a strange sensation about his head, he placed his hand
rather heavily thereon.
"Heavens and earth!" He was now fully in his senses. "Heavens and
earth! what ails my head?"
"For mercy's sake, keep quiet," said the wife, the glad tears
gushing over her face. "You have been very ill; there, there, now!"
And she spoke soothingly. "Don't say a word, but lie very still."
"But my head! What's the matter with my head? It feels as if
scalded. Where's my hair? Heavens and earth! Sarah, I don't
understand this. And my arm? What's my arm tied up in this way for?"
"Be quiet, my dear husband, and I'll explain it all. Oh, be very
quiet; your life depends upon it." Mr. H--sank back upon the
pillow from which he had arisen, and closed his eyes to think. He
put his hand to his head, and felt it, tenderly, all over, from
temple to temple, and from nape to forehead.
"Is it a blister?" he at length asked.
"Yes, dear. You have been very ill; we feared for your life," said
Mrs. H--, affectionately; "there have been two physicians in
H--closed his eyes again; his lips moved. Those nearest were not
much edified by the whispered words that issued therefrom. They
would have sounded very strangely in a church, or to ears polite and
refined. After this, he lay for some time quiet.
"Threatened with apoplexy, I suppose?" he then said,
"Yes, dear," replied his wife. "I found you lying insensible upon
the floor, on happening to come into your room. It was most
providential that I discovered you when I did, or you would
certainly have died."
H--shut his eyes and muttered something, with an air of
impatience; but its meaning was not understood. Finding him out of
danger, friends and relatives retired, and the sick man was left
alone with his family.
"Sarah," he said, "why, in the name of goodness, did you permit the
doctors to butcher me in this way? I'm laid up for a week or two,
and all for nothing."
"It was to save your life, dear."
"H-u-s-h! There! do, for mercy's sake, be quiet; every thing depends
With a gesture of impatience, H--shut his eyes, teeth, and hands,
and lay perfectly still for some minutes. Then he turned his face to
the wall, muttering in a low, petulant voice--"Too bad! too bad! too
I had not erred in my first and my last impressions of H--'s
disease, neither had Dr. S--although he used a very extraordinary
mode of treatment. The facts of the case were these:
H--had a weakness; he could not taste wine nor strong drink
without being tempted into excess. Both himself and friends were
mortified and grieved at this; and they, by admonition, and he, by
good resolutions, tried to bring about a reform; but to see was to
taste, to taste was to fall. At last, his friends urged him to shut
himself up at home for a certain time, and see if total abstinence
would not give him strength. He got on pretty well for a few days,
particularly so, as his coachman kept a well-filled bottle for him
in the carriage-house, to which he not unfrequently resorted; but a
too ardent devotion to this bottle brought on the supposed apoplexy.
Dr. S--was right in his mode of treating the disease after all,
and did not err in supposing that it would reach the predisposition.
The cure was effectual. H--kept quiet on the subject, and bore his
shaved head upon his shoulders with as much philosophy as he could
muster. A wig, after the sores made by the blister had disappeared,
concealed the barber's work until his own hair grew again. He never
ventured upon wine or brandy again for fear of apoplexy.
When the truth leaked out, as leak out such things always will, the
friends of H--had many a hearty laugh; but they wisely concealed
from the object of their merriment the fact that they knew any thing
more than appeared of the cause of his supposed illness.
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