It is not the first time that you have thought proper to make very offensive remarks, Mr. Biggs; and as you appear to consider yourself ill-treated in the affair of the trousers, for I tell you at once that it was I who brought them on board, I can only say, continued our hero, with a very polite bow, that I shall be most happy to give you satisfaction.
Yes, Mr. Heasy, quite as good a gentleman as yourself, although I ave ad misfortunes. I ham of as hold a family as hany in the country, replied Mr. Easthupp, now backed by the boatswain. Many the year did I valk Bond Street, and I ave as good blood in my weins as you, Mr. Heasy, although I ave been misfortunate. Ive had hadmirals in my family.
You have grossly insulted this gentleman, said Mr. Biggs, in continuation; and, notwithstanding all your talk of equality, you are afraid to give him satisfaction: you shelter yourself under your quarter-deck.
Mr. Biggs, replied our hero, who was now very wroth, I shall go on shore directly we arrive at Malta. Let you, and this fellow, put on plain clothes, and I will meet you both; and then Ill show you whether I am afraid to give satisfaction.
No, sir, not one at a time, but both at the same time. I will fight both or none. If you are my superior officer, you must descend, replied Jack, with an ironical sneer, to meet me, or I will not descend to meet that fellow, whom I believe to have been little better than a pickpocket.
Mr. Biggs, having declared that he would fight, of course had to look out for a second, and he fixed upon Mr. Tallboys, the gunner, and requested him to be his friend. Mr. Tallboys, who had been latterly very much annoyed by Jacks victories over him in the science of navigation, and therefore felt ill-will toward him, consented; but he was very much puzzled how to arrange that three were to fight at the same time, for he had no idea of there being two duels; so he went to his cabin and commenced reading. Jack, on the other hand, dared not say a word to Jolliffe on the subject; indeed, there was no one in the ship to whom he could confide but Gascoigne; he therefore went to him, and, although Gascoigne thought it was excessively infra dig. of Jack to meet even the boatswain, as the challenge had been given there was no retracting; he therefore consented, like all midshipmen, anticipating fun, and quite thoughtless of the consequences .
Mr. Gascoigne, said the gunner, I have been very much puzzled how this duel should be fought, but I have at last found out. You see that there are three parties to fight; had there been two or four there would have been no difficulty, as the right line or square might guide us in that instance; but we must arrange it upon the triangle in this.
Everything, Mr. Gascoigne, replied the gunner; it has resolved the great difficulty; indeed, the duel between three can only be fought upon that principle. You observe, said the gunner, taking a piece of chalk out of his pocket and making a triangle on the table, in this figure we have three points, each equidistant from each other; and we have three combatants; so that placing one at each point, it is all fair play for the three: Mr. Easy, for instance, stands here, the boatswain here, and the pursers steward at the third corner. Now, if the distance is fairly measured, it will be all right.
It certainly is not of much consequence, replied the gunner; but still, as sailors, it appears to me that they should fire with the sun; that is, Mr. Easy fires at Mr. Biggs, Mr. Biggs fires at Mr. Easthupp, and Mr. Easthupp fires at Mr. Easy, so that you perceive that each party has his shot at one, and at the same time receives the fire of another.
Upon my word, Mr. Tallboys, I give you great credit; you have a profound mathematical head, and I am delighted with your arrangement. Of course in these affairs the principals are bound to comply with the arrangements of the seconds, and I shall insist upon Mr. Easy consenting to your excellent and scientific proposal.
The parties then repaired to the spot with two pairs of ships pistols, which Mr. Tallboys had smuggled on shore; and as soon as they were on the ground the gunner called Mr. Easthupp out of the cooperage. In the meantime Gascoigne had been measuring an equilateral triangle of twelve paces, and marked it out. Mr. Tallboys, on his return with the pursers steward, went over the ground, and, finding that it was equal angles subtended by equal sides, declared that it was all right. Easy took his station, the boatswain was put into his, and Mr. Easthupp, who was quite in a mystery, was led by the gunner to the third position.
You ear those words, Mr. Biggs? Pretty language to use to a gentleman! You shall ear from me, sir, as soon as the ship is paid off. I purtest no longer, Mr. Tallboys. Death before dishonour! Im a gentleman, damme!
The only one of the combatants who appeared to comply with the latter supplementary order was Mr. Easthupp, who clapped his hand to his trousers behind, gave a loud yell, and then dropped down, the bullet having passed clean through his seat of honour, from his having presented his broadside as a target to the boatswain as he faced toward our hero. Jacks shot had also taken effect, having passed through both the boatswains cheeks, without further mischief than extracting two of his best upper double teeth and forcing through the hole of the further cheek the boatswains own quid of tobacco. As for Mr. Easthupps ball, as he was very unsettled, and shut his eyes before he fired, it had gone the Lord knows where.
Whereupon Mr. Tallboys commenced cuffing the poor wretch right and left, who received so many swingeing boxes of the ear that he was soon reduced to merely pitiful plaints of Oh, dear! such inhumanity! I purtest! Oh, dear! must I get up? I cant, indeed.
The gunner went down to the cooperage to call the men. Mr. Biggs, who had bound up his face as if he had a toothache, for the bleeding had been very slight, came up to the pursers steward, exclaiming:
What the hell are you making such a howling about? Look at me, with two shot-holes through my figurehead, while you have only got one in your stern. I wish I could change with you, by heavens! for I could use my whistle then. Now, if I attempt to pipe, there will be such a wasteful expenditure of his Majestys stores of wind that I never shall get out a note. A wicked shot of yours, Mr. Easy.