I am moving right along on An Eternity of Four Years, Book 2 of the series. Took three days vacation from work. Since we are real close on The Last Day of Forever, I thought I might start teasing you with Book 2. This is from the first chapter titled The Duel. I also made some changes to the cover.
The sun was just peeking over the eastern horizon. Its feeble rays stabbed fitfully through the dense morning fog to give the gray monotones of dawn an ethereal glow. The chilling mist that hid the features of the so-called “Dueling Oaks” along Bayou St John restricted my visibility to but one hundred paces or so. The oak’s massive branches, touching the ground in places, had the appearance of being overly burdened and unable to lift up to reach the sun. Spanish moss dripped from those branches like ghostly fingers probing towards the earth.
As I stood upon the Field of Honor and awaited the arrival of my opponent, my clothing was damp from the fog, and my head throbbed from the copious amounts of absinthe I had consumed the previous night and well into the morning.
My Second, Jean DuBassey, having arrived only a few moments before, seemed irritated that I had sent for him to act in that capacity. He arrived in a bit of a huff.
“Forgive me, Ethan, for I’m a bit confused. The last time I saw you was five years ago at your father’s plantation in Catahoula Parish . . .”
I interrupted him, “More or less, and the plantation is also called Catahoula.”
He shook his head, frustrated at my response. “No matter! And now, five years later, you want me to act as your second in a duel? And you do realize dueling is illegal in New Orleans?”
“As I recall, Jean, five years ago you said if I needed anything just ask, or words to that effect. Besides, you are the only person I could think of.”
I dismissed that accusation with a wave of my hand. “Maybe a little.”
“Maybe a lot! How do you expect to fight a duel while drunk?”
“Actually, I was hoping you might help with that. You did claim you were an accomplished duelist, did you not? And don’t you teach the use of the sword and pistol?”
“You want me to teach you how to kill someone in ten minutes?”
I nodded. “Personally, I have not found killing someone anymore complicated than that?”
“Who have you killed?”
“Just a few renegade Indians out west when I was in the Army.”
He leaned in and smelled my breath. “What have you been drinking?”
“Absinthe. Say, did you know there is a saloon on Bourbon Street—oh wait, you call them ‘coffeehouses’—and it sells mostly absinthe, and you drip water from these marvelous little marble fountains over lumps of sugar…?” I paused and considered what I had said. “Well, I guess you do know; you live here, don’t you?”
Jean shook his head again. He was becoming quite exasperated with me. “You dragged me from my bed, which I was sharing with a beautiful lady, by the way, to help you fight a duel? Who did you insult?”
“An arrogant fellow by the name of Toutant.”
“Emile Justin Toutant?”
“The same. Friend of yours?”
“Not hardly. There are two people in this city you do not want to get into a duel with. I am one, and he is the other. What did you say that caused him to take offense?”
“He called me a coward, so I punched him.”
“And why did he call you a coward?”
“Because I said the South is likely to lose this war.”
“And he took offense at that?”
“That—and maybe I called him a name.”
“This is like pulling teeth! What did you call him?”
“An ignorant buffoon.”
Jean sighed in resignation. “What is the choice of weapons?”
“Not ten pound mauls in five feet of water on a sandbar in the Red River?” he said sarcastically to remind me of our “almost” duel five years before.
“That worked for you because you are only just over five feet tall, but the buffoon is as tall as I am.”
Jean looked past me and said, “The buffoon here.”
I turned and saw nothing at first but heard the trod of the horses, the rattle of the harness, and rumble of the carriage wheels. It appeared like a specter drifting out of the swirling fog and came to a stop under a gnarled and sagging oak thirty paces or so from where my second and I stood.
A gaudily dressed black man of immense size drove the rig. He was well over six feet tall and weighed 250 pounds or more. He was dressed in sky-blue, silken, knee-length pantaloons and matching swallow-tailed coat, vest and cravat, with a ruffled shirt, white silk stockings and black pumps. He wore a matching blue ostrich-plumed turban on his head. Costumed so, he looked like some eunuch from the Arabian Nights. He jumped down from the driver’s seat with a grace that seemed in stark contrast to his huge size and opened the door for his master.
A man I assumed correctly to be my opponent’s second stepped out of the carriage. The surgeon followed, identified by his black bag.
Then Monsieur Toutant stepped arrogantly up to the carriage door and stood there for a moment smiling sardonically before dropping to the ground, alighting like some bird of prey. He drew a dainty, lace-trimmed handkerchief from his sleeve and dabbed his lips, and with a flourish, returned it to its place. He was handsomely dressed in a very fine, white linen suit and a ruffled shirt, a white silk brocade vest, and maroon, silk cravat. He carried a silver handle cane, using it more as an extension of his arm and part of his costume rather than for any assistance while walking.
He stabbed the ground with his cane, and with his other hand upon his hip, struck an arrogant pose. His head thrown back, he looked down his long slender nose at me and said, “Good morning, Monsieur Davis.” He took a deep breath and pursed his lips before saying, “A good day to die, is it not?”
I suppose that statement was meant to unnerve me. It did not, because I was in an absinthe-induced daze. Quite frankly I was so distressed as the result of other matters, matters of the heart that is, that I really didn’t much give a damn if I lived or died. As a result, I stood upon this so-called Field of Honor to answer my insult to this finely dressed, pompous ass, and I was totally unafraid of the outcome. In retrospect that attitude likely saved my life that morning. Events that had brought me to this state of depression were out of my control. I was, therefore, forced to place the whole miserable affair into the hands of the Lord—along with my life. As it were, He had plans for me but had not seen a need to take me into His confidence concerning them.