Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Duel

"I must speak with you, Duchess.” Philippe paused wondering how she would handle the impending news about the duel. “Tomorrow at dawn, your husband and I are to meet and settle things once and for all.” He paused for a moment while he studied her face watching for subtle changes in her demeanor.

“Oh, really?” she drawled, with little concern. “Some sort of manly challenge, is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, I’ve challenged him to a duel by pistols. I felt obligated to inform you, Duchess, in case you wish to see your husband beforehand. The outcome might be less than desirable for your future.”

The Price of Deception contains many themes between its pages, and one is the rivalry between two men over the possession of one woman. When I began writing the book, I had not considered a duel between the two. I was more focused on the emotional aspects of breaking up their marriage, but as I continued to develop Philippe's character as a man of absolutes, who lived by a code of honor, it became quite clear there was only one way to bring to a conclusion the fight for Suzette--a duel.

Phillipe, of course, had a military background in the French Navy. Men often settled their differences through dueling in France, so the thought of using that means to rid himself of the blackguard in his life, Robert Holland, was the one course of action that made sense to an angry man. It was a means to gain satisfaction for the dishonor done to his name. Philippe could face his rival and do him in once and for all without being hung for murder.

Of course, there were rules to the game, even if the game was illegal by the time my story was written. Nevertheless, duels continued and not many were prosecuted over the act. Basically, if a man wanted to regain his honor from the offender, the first course of action would be the challenge or what is terms as, "throwing down the gauntlet." Philippe throws his glove at Robert's feet, who kicks it aside rather than immediately accepting the challenge.

Once accepted, the location and weapons were chosen. Each man brought a representative to witness the act and check the pistols beforehand. The challenger set the rules as to location, weapons, and number of steps to pace off. It was his call.

The type of duel could either be any of the following: (1) to first blood, which meant until one was wounded; (2) until severely wounded and unable to continue; or (3) to the death. Each pistol had one shot, and if there were misses the first round, the guns were reloaded and they would continue until one of the above conditions were fulfilled but usually no more than three reloads.

If you wish to read more about dueling and one of my sources for information, Wikipedia has two good articles. Follow the links to:


Dueling Pistols

Needless to say by the end of the pace off between Robert and Philippe, one man leaves in shame. When I read about the practice, one wonders if duels really settled the matter and regained the honor for the individual who suffered the offense. I suppose if you were the winner, you'd feel smugly vindicated. However, I wouldn't think you'd feel that way if you were at the losing end. A wound or death over your need to be satisfied would be devastating to a man who lived by a code of honor. Nevertheless, Philippe suffered offense, and he was determined to find satisfaction.

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