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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)

Bob Acres Sends a Challenge

From “The Rivals”


Sir Luc.Mr. Acres, I am delighted to embrace you!

Acres.My dear Sir Lucius, I kiss your hands.

Sir Luc.Pray, my friend, what has brought you so suddenly to Bath?

Acres.Faith, I have followed Cupid’s Jack-a-lantern, and find myself in a quagmire at last. In short, I have been very ill-used, Sir Lucius. I don’t choose to mention names, but look on me as on a very ill-used gentleman.

Sir Luc.Pray, what is the case? I ask no names.

Acres.Mark me, Sir Lucius: I fall as deep as need be in love with a young lady; her friends take my part; I follow her to Bath; send word of my arrival; and receive answer that the lady is to be otherwise disposed of. This, Sir Lucius, I call being ill-used.

Sir Luc.Very ill, upon my conscience. Pray, can you divine the cause of it?

Acres.Why, there’s the matter: she has another lover, one Beverley, who, I am told, is now in Bath. Odds slanders and lies! he must be at the bottom of it.

Sir Luc.A rival in the case, is there? And you think he has supplanted you unfairly?

Acres.Unfairly! To be sure he has. He never could have done it fairly.

Sir Luc.Then sure you know what is to be done!

Acres.Not I, upon my soul!

Sir Luc.We wear no swords here, but you understand me.

Acres.What! fight him?

Sir Luc.Aye, to be sure. What can I mean else?

Acres.But he has given me no provocation.

Sir Luc.Now, I think he has given you the greatest provocation in the world. Can a man commit a more heinous offence against another than to fall in love with the same woman? Oh, by my soul! it is the most unpardonable breach of friendship.

Acres.Breach of friendship! Aye, aye; but I have no acquaintance with this man. I never saw him in my life.

Sir Luc.That’s no argument at all; he has the less right, then, to take such a liberty.

Acres.Gad, that’s true! I grow full of anger, Sir Lucius! I fire apace! Odds hilts and blades! I find a man may have a deal of valour in him, and not know it. But couldn’t I contrive to have a little right on my side?

Sir Luc.What the devil signifies right, when your honour is concerned? Do you think Achilles, or my little Alexander the Great ever inquired where the right lay? No, by my soul, they drew their broad-swords, and left the lazy sons of peace to settle the justice of it.

Acres.Your words are a grenadier’s march to my heart. I believe courage must be catching. I certainly do feel a kind of valour rising, as it were—a kind of courage, as I may say. Odds flints, pans, and triggers! I’ll challenge him directly.

Sir Luc.Ah, my little friend, if I had Blunderbuss Hall here, I could show you a range of ancestry, in the O’Trigger line, that would furnish the new room; every one of whom had killed his man! For, though the mansion-house and dirty acres have slipped through my fingers, I thank Heaven our honour and the family pictures are as fresh as ever.

Acres.Oh, Sir Lucius! I have had ancestors, too—every man of ’em colonel or captain in the militia! Odds balls and barrels! Say no more; I’m braced for it. The thunder of your words has soured the milk of human kindness in my breast. Zounds! as the man in the play says, “I could do such deeds.”

Sir Luc.Come, come, there must be no passion at all in the case; these things should always be done civilly.

Acres.I must be in a passion, Sir Lucius—I must be in a rage. Dear Sir Lucius, let me be in a rage, if you love me. Come, here’s pen and paper.(Sits down to write.)I would the ink were red! Indite, I say, indite! How shall I begin? Odds bullets and blades! I’ll write a good bold hand, however.

Sir Luc.Pray, compose yourself.

Acres.Come, now, shall I begin with an oath? Do, Sir Lucius, let me begin with a damme.

Sir Luc.Pho! pho! do the thing decently, and like a Christian. Begin now: Sir——

Acres.That’s too civil by half.

Sir Luc.To prevent the confusion that might arise——


Sir Luc.From our both addressing the same lady——

Acres.Aye, there’s the reason—same lady. Well——

Sir Luc.I shall expect the honour of your company——

Acres.Zounds! I’m not asking him to dinner!

Sir Luc.Pray, be easy.

Acres.Well, then, honour of your company——

Sir Luc.To settle our pretensions——


Sir Luc.Let me see—aye, King’s-Mead Fields will do—in King’s-Mead Fields.

Acres.So, that’s done. Well, I’ll fold it up presently; my own crest—a hand and a dagger—shall be the seal.

Sir Luc.You see, now, this little explanation will put a stop at once to all confusion or misunderstanding that might arise between you.

Acres.Aye, we fight to prevent any misunderstanding.

Sir Luc.Now, I’ll leave you to fix your own time. Take my advice, and you’ll decide it this evening, if you can; then let the worst come of it, ’twill be off your mind to-morrow.

Acres.Very true.

Sir Luc.So I shall see nothing more of you, unless it be by letter, till the evening. I would do myself the honour to carry your message; but, to tell you a secret, I believe I shall have just such another affair on my own hands. There is a gay captain here, who put a jest on me lately, at the expense of my country, and I only want to fall in with the gentleman to call him out.

Acres.By my valour, I should like to see you fight first! Odds life! I should like to see you kill him, if it was only to get a little lesson.

Sir Luc.I shall be very proud of instructing you. Well, for the present— But remember, now, when you meet your antagonist, do everything in a mild and agreeable manner. Let your courage be as keen, but at the same time as polished, as your sword.


Dav.Then, by the mass, sir, I would do no such thing! Ne’er a Sir Lucius O’Trigger in the kingdom should make me fight when I wa’n’t so minded. Oons! what will the old lady say when she hears o’t?

Acres.Ah, David, if you had heard Sir Lucius! Odds sparks and flames! he would have roused your valour.

Dav.Not he, indeed. I hate such bloodthirsty cormorants. Look’ee, master, if you’d wanted a bout at boxing, quarter-staff, or short-staff, I should never be the man to bid you cry off; but for your curst sharps and snaps, I never knew any good come of ’em.

Acres.But my honour, David, my honour! I must be very careful of my honour.

Dav.Aye, by the mass! And I would be very careful of it; and I think in return my honour couldn’t do less than to be very careful of me.

Acres.Odd blades! David, no gentleman will ever risk the loss of his honour!

Dav.I say, then, it would be but civil in honour never to risk the loss of a gentleman. Look’ee, master, this honour seems to me to be a marvellous false friend—aye, truly a very courtier-like servant. Put the case, I was a gentleman (which, thank God, no one can say of me); well, my honour makes me quarrel with another gentleman of my acquaintance. So we fight. Pleasant enough, that! Boh! I kill him—the more’s my luck! Now, pray, who gets the profit of it? Why, my honour. But put the case that he kills me! By the mass! I go to the worms, and my honour whips over to my enemy!

Acres.No, David; in that case—odds crowns and laurels!—your honour follows you to the grave.

Dav.Now, that’s just the place where I could make a shift to do without it.

Acres.Zounds! David, you are a coward! It doesn’t become my valour to listen to you. What! shall I disgrace my ancestors? Think of that, David—think what it would be to disgrace my ancestors!

Dav.Under favour, the surest way of not disgracing them is to keep as long as you can out of their company. Look’ee now, master; to go to them in such haste—with an ounce of lead in your brains—I should think might as well be let alone. Our ancestors are very good kind of folks; but they are the last people I should choose to have a visiting acquaintance with.

Acres.But, David, now, you don’t think there is such very, very, very great danger, hey? Odds life! people often fight without any mischief done.

Dav.By the mass, I think ’tis ten to one against you! Oons! here to meet some lion-headed fellow, I warrant, with his damned double-barrelled swords and cut-and-thrust pistols! Lord bless us! it makes me tremble to think o’t! Those be such desperate, bloody-minded weapons! Well, I never could abide ’em—from a child I never could fancy ’em! I suppose there a’n’t been so merciless a beast in the world as your loaded pistol!

Acres.Zounds! I won’t be afraid! Odds fire and fury! you sha’n’t make me afraid. Here is the challenge, and I have sent for my dear friend Jack Absolute to carry it for me.

Dav.Aye, i’ the name of mischief, let him be the messenger. For my part, I wouldn’t lend a hand to it for the best horse in your stable. By the mass! it don’t look like another letter! It is, as I may say, a designing and malicious-looking letter; and I warrant smells of gunpowder, like a soldier’s pouch! Oons! I wouldn’t swear it mayn’t go off!

Acres.Out, you poltroon! you ha’n’t the valour of a grasshopper.

Dav.Well, I say no more. ’Twill be sad news, to be sure, at Clod-Hall! But I ha’ done. How Phillis will howl when she hears of it! Aye, poor creature, she little thinks what shooting her master’s going after! And I warrant old Crop, who has carried your honour, field and road, these ten years, will curse the hour he was born.

Acres.It won’t do, David; I am determined to fight! So get along, you coward, while I’m in the mind.