The Monday Poem – That of a Duel in France by G. E. Farrow


Oh, Fa-la-la! likewise Hélas!
A shocking thing has come to pass,
For Monsieur Henri Delapaire
Has fallen out,—a sad affair,—
With Monsieur Jacques Mallette.
La femme?” Of course! They both declare
They love la belle Nannette.
Ma foi! They’ll surely come to blows,
For one has tweaked the other’s nose,
Who quickly snaps, with fierce grimace,
His fingers in the other’s face.
A duel must result.
A Frenchman’s honour ‘twould disgrace
To bear with such insult.

“Pistols for two!”—in French,—they cry.
Nannette to come between doth fly:
Messieurs! Messieurs! pray, pray be calm!
You fill your Nannette with alarm.”
Parole d’honneur! No.
Revenge!” they cry. The big gendarme,
Nannette to call, doth go.
Quickly a crowd has gathered round,
Pistols are brought, and seconds found;
A grassy space beneath the trees,
Where gentlemen may fight at ease;
Then, each takes off his coat—
Glaring meanwhile as though he’d seize
The other by the throat.
The seconds shrug, gesticulate,
And pace the ground with step sedate;
Then anxious consultation hold
O’er pistols, for the rivals bold
Who now stand white and stern;
Their arms across their chests they fold,
And sideways each doth turn.

The seconds place them vis-à-vis,
And give them word to fire at “three”;
Brave Monsieur Mallette shuts his eyes,
And points his pistol to the skies;
Brave Monsieur Delapaire
His hand to steady vainly tries,
It trembles in the air.
A deadly silence: “Un—deux—trois!
Two shots are ringing through the Bois.
Two shots,—and then two awful calms;
As, senseless, in their seconds’ arms
The duellists both lay.
(Their faces pale the crowd alarms,
And fills them with dismay.)
“Killed?” Goodness gracious—oh, dear no!
This couldn’t be,—in France,—you know,
For pistols there they never load.
But caps were they which did explode:
They’ve only swooned with fright.
See! one some signs of life has showed;
The crowd claps with delight.
They both revive. They both embrace.
Twice kiss each other on the face.
* * *

“Stay! Hold!” you cry. “You said, I thought,
La belle Nannette the gendarme sought?”
She did,—la belle Nannette,—
She sought, and found him—charming quite.
She stays there with him yet.
She “never cared for Delapaire,”
She says with most dégagé air;
And “as for Monsieur Mallette,—well,
He may discover—who can tell?—
Someone to marry yet.”
Meanwhile le gendarme pour la belle,
The fickle, fair Nannette.

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