Excerpt of Wedlock by Wendy Moore
(Page 5 of 6)
Printer Friendly Excerpt
Still Bate blustered and equivocated. In the flurry of letters that flew back and forth across the city that weekend, all faithfully reproduced in the jointly agreed record, the mens accusations and counter- accusations grew more and more heated. When finally he was denounced as a coward and a scoundrel, Bate had little alternative but to accept Stoneys challenge. On Monday, January 13, therefore, Bate had consulted his own old army buddy, the rather dubious Captain John Donellan, who had recently been dismissed from ser vice in India. Already accused of various financial irregularities while serving with the East India Company, Donellan would eventually be hanged for poisoning his wifes brother to get his hands on her familys riches. Agreeing to stand as Bates second, Donellan had lent the parson his sword, which Bate hid under his greatcoat. That afternoon Bate had sent Stoney a final letter, which ended resignedly: I find myself compelled to go so far armed, in the event at least, as to be able to defend myself, and since nothing can move you from your sanguinary purposesas you seemed resolved, that either my life or my gown shall be the sacrifice of your groundless revengein the name of God pursue it!
Having dined out on Monday afternoon, Bate set off apprehensively just after 6 p.m., his friends sword held ready beneath his coat, to walk the dimly lit streets to his home, one of the new Adelphi houses in Robert Street. Turning off the bustling Strand onto Adam
Street, he was passing the doorway of the Adelphi Tavern when the towering figure of Stoney loomed toward him, seized him by the shoulder, and forced him inside. Still protesting that he did not wish to come to blows, the Fighting Parson had reluctantly accompanied the Irishman into the ground- floor parlor, where Stoney once more demanded he reveal the names of the writers of the offending articles. On Bates insistence that he did not know, the soldier declared: Then, Sir, you must give me immediate satisfaction!
In the sputtering light of candles, Stoneys valet brought in a case containing a pair of pistols that had been purchased that day from the shop of Robert Wogdon, Londons most celebrated gunsmith whose exquisitely crafted dueling pistols were renowned for their lightness, speed, andabove alldeadly accuracy. A duel being now unavoidable, and the death of one or both duelists probable, both men sent word to summon their seconds. Stoney dispatched his valet to locate Captain Magra, while Bate sent a hurried note to find his friend Donellan. When neither of these fellows had appeared after some considerable delay, and with Bate becoming increasingly anxious to escape, Stoney abruptly locked the parlor door, stuffed the keyhole with paper, and placed a screen in front of it. Opening the case of Wogdons pistols, he had ordered Bate to choose his weapon. When the parson refused first fire, Stoney immediately snatched up a pistol and took aim. But for all his military training, the proximity of his target, and the superiority of Wogdons guns, his bullet had merely pierced the parsons hat and cracked the mirror behind. In returning fire, according to dueling procedure, Bates aim was equally askewor equally well- judgedfor his bullet apparently ripped through Stoneys coat and waistcoat without so much as grazing his opponents skin.
Still thirsty for blood, Stoney insisted that they now draw swords. Only when blood had been spilled, according to dueling law, could honor be said to have been satisfied. As Stoney charged toward him with his sword outstretched, Bate deflected the weapon and speared his opponent right through the chest. So fierce was the ensuing combat in the expiring candlelight that Bates borrowed sword was bent almost in half, at which point Stoney decently allowed him to straighten it. And although he was bleeding profusely and was severely weakened by his injuries, Stoney insisted on continuing the fight until the door finally burst open and Hull tumbled into the room. Quickly taking in the scene dimly reflected in the broken mirror, Hull and the other rescuers had little doubt that they had only just prevented a catastrophe.
Excerpted from Wedlock by Wendy Moore Copyright © 2009 by Wendy Moore. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.