Monday, April 13, 2009

A Duel Nobody Won

In today's Old Bailey Online case, a duelist is charged with murder.

Robert Trimble, a gentleman, was accused of killing Moses Pierce, a carpenter who fancied himself skilled with a sword. Seems ol' Mose always wore a sword and liked to brag of his skill, so much so that his "Behaviour founded upon that Conceit" became "unsupportable."

Trimble and Pierce got into an argument about how to hold a sword, and subsequently dueled, with the result that Pierce lost, dying in what sounds like the "only a flesh wound!" scene in Monty Python and The Holy Grail: "the fatal Wound was given; but they found the Deceas'd holding the Prisoner's Sword very thirsty and desirous of a Dram of Brandy; crying out, he would fight the Prisoner again, he would have his Blood, and presently after fell down dead."

The jury found Trimble guilty of manslaughter. His punishment? To be "burnt in the hand" -- branded.

I can see using this in a romance, by having the hero convicted of manslaughter and being branded in the hand. Scars are interesting, a very visible sign of something significant in the character's past.

Would I use the same excuse for a duel? Perhaps, especially if this happened when the hero was young and/or drunk.

And the heroine? Related to or friends of the dead man would make for plenty of conflict. Perhaps the hero discovers the heroine by accident and wants to make amends, and keep the secret of his scar.

Maybe he seeks her out to make amends -- or maybe he's bitter and feels he didn't deserve to be convicted, that he acted in self-defense.

Maybe he's ashamed and remorseful, and has hidden himself away. The heroine comes to make amends or perhaps find out exactly what happened, only to be rebuffed. I do like a Beauty and the Beast story!

What I'll mainly keep in the ol' memory bank from this case is the brand on the hand. It's interesting and unique, and provides all sorts of seedlings for future use.

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