ON a clear moonlit night in February, in the year 1821, four literary gentlemen met to settle an affair of honour. All four men were a trifle nervous. They were not used to duelling. Although it was nine o'clock in the evening the field near Chalk Farm in which they met stood out in sharp relief and the bare winter trees gleamed darkly against the sky.
The two seconds fussed nervously round the principals and secretly wished that they had left this question of maintaining one's honour to the dashing gentlemen round the Prince Regent. Now it was too late. This was to be a duel between two literary Magazines. John Scott, the editor of the The London Magazine was meeting Mr. Christie, the friend and representative of John Gibson Lockhart, the editor of Blackwood's Magazine. Years of inveterate enmity had flared up into this meeting--a pathetic farce that was to end in tragedy.
All four gentlemen were determined to behave with the utmost chivalry. Mr. Trail was acting as second for Mr. Christie, and Mr. P. G. Patmore was acting for Mr. Scott.
The moon was shining brightly, and when the principals had been placed, Mr. Christie found that he had an advantage in seeing Mr. Scott's head above the horizon. He chivalrously warned Mr. Scott and caused the position to be changed, and then, the signal being given, fired in the air.
At this point the duel should have ended, but the two seconds lost their heads and, as later evidence testified, the following events took place:
After the pistols were reloaded, and everything ready for a second fire, Mr. Trail called out--'Now, Mr. Christie, take your aim, and do not throw away your advantage as you did