LETTER 536: MR. LOVELACE TO JOHN BELFORD, ESQ.

Trent, Dec. 3-14. 

To-morrow is to be the Day, that will, in all probability, send either one or two ghosts to attend the Manes of my Clarissa .

I arrived here yesterday; and inquiring for an English gentleman of the name of Morden, soon found out the Colonel’s lodgings. He had been in town two days; and left his name at every probable place.

He was gone to ride out; and I left my name, anD where to be found: And in the evening he made me a visit.

He was plaguy gloomy. That was not I. But yet he told me, that I had acted like a man of true spirit in my first letter; and with honour, in giving him so readily this meeting. He wished I had in other respects; and then we might have seen each other upon better terms than now we did.

I said, there was no recalling what was pass’d; and that I wished some things had not been done, as well as he.

To recriminate now, he said, would be as exasperating as unavailable. And as I had so chearfully given him this opportunity, words should give place to business. — Your choice, Mr. Lovelace, of Time, of Place, of Weapon, shall be my choice.

The two latter be yours, Mr. Morden. The Time tomorrow, or next day, as you please.

Next day, then, Mr. Lovelace; and we’ll ride out tomorrow, to fix the place.

Agreed, Sir.

Well; now, Mr. Lovelace, do you choose the Weapon.

I said, I believed we might be upon an equal foot with the Single Rapier; but, if he thought otherwise, I had no objection to a Pistol.

I will only say, replied he, that the chances may be more equal by the Sword, because we can neither of us be to seek in that: And you’d stand, says he, a worse chance, as I apprehend, with a Pistol; and yet I have brought two; that you may take your choice of either: For, added he, I never missed a mark at pistol-distance, since I knew how to hold one.

I told him, that he spoke like himself: That I was expert enough that way, to embrace it, if he chose it; tho’ not so sure of my mark as he pretended to be. Yet the devil’s in’t, Colonel, if I, who have a slit a bullet in two upon a knife’s-edge, hit not my man. So I have no objection to a Pistol, if it beyour choice. No man, I’ll venture to say, has a steadier Hand or Eye than I have.

They may both be of use to you, Sir, at the Sword, as well as at the Pistol: The Sword therefore be the thing, if you please.

With all my heart.

We parted with a solemn sort of ceremonious civility: And this day I called upon Him; and we rode out together to fix upon the place: And both being of one mind, and hating to put off for the morrow what could be done to-day, would have decided it then: But De la Tour, and the Colonel’s valet, who attended us, being unavoidably let into the secret, joined to beg we would have with us a Surgeon from Brixen, whom La Tour had fallen in with there, and who had told him he was to ride next morning to bleed a person in a fever, at a lone cottage, which, by the Surgeon’s description, was not far from the place where we then were, if it were not that very cottage within sight of us.

They undertook so to manage it, that the Surgeon should know nothing of the matter till his assistance was called in. And La Tour being, as I assured the Colonel, a ready-contriving fellow (whom I ordered to obey him as myself were the chance to be in his favour) we both agreed to defer the decision till to-morrow, and to leave the whole about the Surgeon to the management of our two valets; injoining them absolute secrecy: And so rode back again by different ways.

We fixed upon a little lone valley for the Spot—Ten to-morrow morning the Time—And Single Rapier the Word. Yet I repeatedly told him, that I value myself so much upon my skill in that weapon, that I would wish him to choose any other.

He said, It was a gentleman’s weapon; and he who understood it not, wanted a qualification that he ought to suffer for not having: But that, as to him, one weapon was as good as another throughout all the instruments of offence.

So, Jack, you see I take no advantage of him: But my devil must deceive me, if he take not his life, or his death, at my hands, before eleven to-morrow morning.

His valet and mine are to be present; but both strictly injoined to be impartial and inactive: And, in return for my civility of the like nature, he commanded his to be assisting to me, if he fell.

We are to ride thither, and to dismount when at the place; and his footman and mine are to wait at an appointed distance, with a chaise to carry off to the borders of the Venetian territories the survivor, if one drop; or to assist either or both, as occasion may demand.

And thus, Belford, is the matter settled.

A shower of rain has left me nothing else to do: And therefore I write this letter; tho’ I might as well have deferred it till to-morrow twelve o’clock, when I doubt not to be able to write again, to assure you how much I am

Yours, &c.
Lovelace .

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