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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Challenge to a duel

Back to the East Indiaman Edward Hughes, in the year 1797, on the way to the Cape ...

Cartoon by George Cruikshank
I haven't quite finished the seating at the saloon table in the Edward Hughes, having neglected Major Baynes, who sat at the elbow of Little Miss Mary Mein (the Little Crumb).

Lady Anne did not have much to say about him, apart from the fact that he changed his uniform often -- "he appeared at Dinner in a Scarlet coat, having been in dark blue at breakfast" -- but he featured large in the dramatic events to come.

Remember my mention of Mr. Barnard's illegitimate sons, whom he brought as a kind of dowry to the marriage?  One was ten-year-old Hervey, who traveled with Mr. B. and Lady Ann on the Edward Hughes, and proved both a problem and an entertainment.

Mr. Eastfield, by the way, was the ship's purser.

On March 29, 1797, Lady A wrote about her cousin, Anne Elizabeth, who had sailed as her companion, and who received several unsuitable proposals of marriage during the voyage, passages by sailing ship being so long and boring.  Then:

“Miss Mein in her band Box, the little Crumb, has got a lover too of late she has begun to improve . . . filling out a little . . . talking a little . . . and the trifle has become a little animated without being a "whipped trifle." But what do I say? she has two lovers . . . the first was Hervey . . . he ten years of age . . . she 17 . . . & their little round heads exactly parallel. Never was poor Boy more enamoured, and Jealous as a Turkey Cock, kicking and boxing every one who comes near her, the consequence is that to provoke him all the Men make love to Miss Mein, and the elegant purser whom I have so much extolled as being a Prince fit for a Romance, having began this in play now not only loves but adores the crumb, & knows no longer what he is about.

"That such a young Man as Eastfield my Lady" said the first mate, "so well educated! . . . his Father so rich & so fond of him, sticking him in here for one voyage only, I know not why, should be caught by such a Mouse as this little lady, and ready to marry her, is a thing I never knew the like of, since the day I saw Pompeys Pillar! . . . It is a thousand pities, but Master Hervey here, tells me that Miss Mien has promised to keep herself for him, so may be she will refuse Eastfield."

"What, he think of marrying Miss Mein" cried Hervey disdainfully as he skipped with his Rival on deck to us where we sat . . . "No no Mr. Purser, she is not your mark, mind your beef and mutton Sir and your Pigs and your split pease. Miss Mein has promised to keep herself for me when I shall be a Man and that is not far off, for Girls marry at fifteen and so should boys and five years will soon slip away."

"Hervey" said I, "in the first place that Gentleman's name is Mr Eastfield -- in the second place we will talk over your marriage when the five years have slipped away, mean time be so good as to slip away to your lesson and let me have the writing well done within an hour."

April 2. To Lady Anne’s astonishment, she found that a challenge to a duel had been made on board.

“I found a challenge of the most regular nature had been sent by Hervey not to the Purser (whom he reckoned beneath his notice) but to Major Bayne, whom he desired might instantly give up his pretensions to Miss Mien who "by his squintings" he saw very well he was in love with, or give him satisfaction by pistols at which he believed he was his match, as he "had already shot two Cock Sparrows."

The Major was a good deal annoyed with the prospect of being accused of cowardice by the little love, but as we all thought it best to treat the Challenge as a Gambol it passed over.

And so it did ... as did the voyage.

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