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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Zell the Would Be Spadassinicide

Last night when I watched Zell Miller threaten his opponent with a duel it brought to mind this passage of Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini:

Le Chapelier waved him into silence, and proceeded.

"Anyhow, the matter has been more than enough, added to all the rest, to set us by the ears again in the Assembly. It is open war between the Third Estate and the Privileged."

"Was it ever anything else?"

"Perhaps not; but it has assumed a new character. You'll have heard of the duel between Lameth and the Duc de Castries?"

"A trifling affair."

"In its results. But it might have been far other. Mirabeau is challenged and insulted now at every sitting. But he goes his way, cold-bloodedly wise. Others are not so circumspect; they meet insult with insult, blow with blow, and blood is being shed in private duels. The thing is reduced by these swordsmen of the nobility to a system."

Andre-Louis nodded. He was thinking of Philippe de Vilmorin. "Yes," he said, "it is an old trick of theirs. It is so simple and direct - like themselves. I wonder only that they didn't hit upon this system sooner. In the early days of the States General, at Versailles, it might have had a better effect. Now, it comes a little late."

"But they mean to make up for lost time - sacred name!" cried Danton. "Challenges are flying right and left between these bully-swordsmen, these spadassinicides, and poor devils of the robe who have never learnt to fence with anything but a quill. It's just -- murder. Yet if I were to go amongst messieurs les nobles and crunch an addled head or two with this stick of mine, snap a few aristocratic necks between these fingers which the good God has given me for the purpose, the law would send me to atone upon the gallows. This in a land that is striving after liberty. Why, Dieu me damne! I am not even allowed to keep my hat on in the theatre. But they - these --s!"

"He is right," said Le Chapelier. "The thing has become unendurable, insufferable. Two days ago M. d'Ambly threatened Mirabeau with his cane before the whole Assembly. Yesterday M. de Faussigny leapt up and harangued his order by inviting murder. 'Why don't we fall on these scoundrels, sword in hand?' he asked. Those were his very words: 'Why don't we fall on these scoundrels, sword in hand.'"

"It is so much simpler than lawmaking," said Andre-Louis.

Ah yes, dueling is so much simpler...