The Sterley's of Oakland Park

Chapter 14
A duel

It was a misty on the morning of the duel between Captain Aubrey and Sir Benjamin Witling a quite corner of Hampstead heath had been chosen as the field of honor the sun was just touching the horizon when the coaches carrying Captain and Sir Thomas first arrived. Sir Benjamin and his seconds were already waiting for them.

A second of Sir Benjamin approached captain Aubrey with a set of swords allowing him first chose of weapons. Weighing each weapon in his hand he made his choose and stepped back taking but a moment he assumed the position. For dueling, the terms of the duel had been settled the previous evening when the seconds had met to discuss them. It had been agreed that the duel would be to the death, as Sir Benjamin believed that his honor had so been offended by the rash behavior by Captain Aubrey in challenging him to the duel over his remarks about Sir Thomas that nothing but a duel to the death would suffice.

This on a morning when the dew dripped from the trees he now found himself facing Sir Benjamin intent on the restoration of honor. Sir Thomas for his part would have allowed the insult to pass fearing that the young captain might suffer harm on his account he had pleaded with the captain to find some way of withdrawing from the duel. Never the less, James Aubrey was instant that there was nothing. For it but to teach Sir Benjamin a lesson in manners and if the lesson cost Sir Benjamin his life then so be it. For James Aubrey was entirely in a rage having been involved previously in hot action when taking a number of ships a prize he was content that he would be able to come comfortably away from the duel even if Sir Benjamin had the notoriety of been the best swordsman in England.

On guard cried Sir Benjamin as he came forward ready to do his worst the blades crossed and for a moment it seemed as if Sir Benjamin had the captain at a disadvantage. However, Aubrey parried the blow and began to advance Sir Benjamin retreating under the ferocious attack repeatedly the two combatants moved thus retreat and advance neither giving an advantage nor receiving it.

At one point the blades met captain Aubrey stumbled and fell to his knees,  Sir Benjamin immediately believing he had an advantage fought on now with much more vigor. His blade wounding Captain Aubrey in the arm, Aubrey continued the duel upon his knees fighting back the vicious attack of his opponent he was soon able to regain his feet and then began to advance a look of intense concentration upon his countenance. For he began to detect that although Sir Benjamin might be the best swordsmen he had not the stamina to continue over long for it was apparent that Sir Benjamin was tiring. He had come to the duel after a long night of drinking and had assumed that he would quickly and easily dispatch the navel officer to his eternal rest. where as Aubrey had retired at a quarter after nine and had slept soundly waking only when called upon at four o’clock in the morning thus the two unequal combatants continued the clash of swords echoing for quite some distance. This began to alert the residence of the heath that there was a matter of honor been settled.

The matter ended quite suddenly when Sir Benjamin rushed forward and was beaten back by aggravated swordplay by the good captain as he stepped back he found himself almost spent and now against a tree. There was a moment when Captain Aubrey would have considered the matter settled but Sir Benjamin in a moment of supreme stupidity cried out coward sir you could not complete the work. With blood now freely flowing from captain Aubrey’s arm he gave one last thrust, which found its mark in the chest of the nobleman. Who slowly began to sink to the ground for a moment there was a lingering look of utter surprise upon his face before the light began to leave his eyes.  Quickly the seconds hurried forward lifting the wounded man to his feet and carrying him off to the coach returning one of Sir Benjamin’s seconds shook the hand of Captain Aubrey and Sir Thomas before departing with the swords.

Captain Aubrey in the mean time had found a resting spot under an old scared oak here he sat regaining his breath. “Well fought sir,” said Sir Thomas. “I hope the doctors are able to save him,” was all James Aubrey said before rising and walking to the coach.

The streets of London were already busy with early morning traffic carts and carriages filling the roads with people going and coming to there places. After having his arm treated by Lady Ann Captain Aubrey and the Sterley’s begun there breakfast of pheasant, bread and port. They began to think of what they would do for it was not to be to long before the news and the outcome of the duel became public knowledge.

 “I am sure that his lordship the Earl of Waterford will be most put out at loosing a second for his duel tomorrow,” said Lady Ann. “It would seem that he will call upon one of his sons to act in Sir Benjamin’s stead,” replied Sir Thomas.  Later in the morning, the news was spread abroad that Sir Benjamin had died of his wounds and would be buried the following day. At St Marylebone, church yards. It was also rumored that the Earl was extremely angry at the lose of a second and a prospective son in law for it would have been a good family connection. It was further said that Lady Virginia was deeply grieved having taken to her bed in a fit of uncontrollable weeping for the lose of her fiancé “Well there we have it,” said Sir Thomas. “It seems that his lordship of Waterford is not a man to be trifled with,” said Captain Aubrey.


Sir Thomas entered the dining room in his hand he held a letter, “The most extraordinary thing,” he said. “Come dear husband do not keep us in suspense pray tell us what this news is,” said Lady Ann.   “It is a note from Waterford I am unsure as how to proceed for it has a bearing of great significance on our current situation” he replied. “Sir you are beginning to try our patents please be so good as to tell us or let us read for ourselves what that despicable man has written,” his wife said. He handed her the letter before taking his place at the head of the table.

Lady Ann began to read her countenance changing as she read from one of idle interest to the greatest concern


To: Sir Thomas Sterley

The Mews




I regret to inform you that due to the unfortunate incident involving Sir Benjamin Witling I am unable to wait upon you tomorrow as agreed. I would consider it a mark of favor if we put aside this matter until a more fortuitous occasion. Think not that I have withdrawn from settling this matter on any account of cowardly feelings on my part for I am quite ready to settle this matter this instant. However rather because I have the greatest difficulty in obtaining the services of a second to stand for me in this matter I would also beg your indulgence in this matter as It is incumbent upon me to arrange the last officers for the unfortunate Sir Benjamin Witling

Yours regrettably

William Bromley

Earl Waterford

“It would seem that the man cannot find any one who will stand for him. This is I dare say is what happens when hot heads have cooled and men realize that the point of honor upon which they have previously felt so intent has come to see reason,” said Lady Ann

“For my part I believe him to be to cowardly to admit that he is at fault and seeks to find an occasion to extract himself from an obligation” said Captain Aubrey who was been nursed by Sophia. The good captain had not even been able to eat his soap with out her help for she was most attentive feeding him from a spoon.

“Indeed it would seem if the earl has had some time to reflect and has decided to retreat from the field of battle,” said Sir Thomas.

“Sir I would have a word with you in private after dinner upon a certain matter which lies deeply upon my heart,” said Captain Aubrey. “I have no objection to you speaking with me at any point,” replied Sir Thomas.

The conversation turn then to matters of society, of the latest fashions current in London John and William had taken the morning to go to there tailors to have new suits of clothes made for them. While the ladies of the house were content to take tea with Lady Ann Barnard at her home in the afternoon Sophia had plead that she must stay at home and tend to poor captain Aubrey who had not been displeased with the chance to spend an afternoon in her pleasant company.

Thus after dinner Sir Thomas and James Aubrey repaired to the little study, which the old gentleman considered his most private domain while in town.

“I have certain feeling that I am aware of what you are about to ask me,” said Sir Thomas once they had helped themselves to a snifter of old France cognac.

“It would make me the happiest person in the world sir, if you would consider me as a prospective husband for your Sophia, for she has found a place in my heart which no other could fill,” said the captain

“I was sure that it would come to this may I ask have you spoken with my daughter about your feelings,” asked Sir Thomas. “I have sir and it was a pleasurable discussion for she indicated to me that she would if you agreed do me the honor of becoming my wife,” replied the captain. “Allow me to be the first to congratulate you for I give my consent with out hesitancy for I know that you will do your best by her,” said Sir Thomas.

Opening the door Sir Thomas called “Sophia, Ann pray please to come here for I have the best news to give you,” he said.  The sound of female steps approaching the door could be heard come in my dear,” said Sir Thomas as he held open the door for his wife and child to enter.

“My dear daughter the captain has made plain to me certain feelings which he has lead me to believe are reciprocal, if this be true and I am sure the good captain will not lie on this account. Allow me to say that I wish you a long and happy life as husband and wife,” said Sir Thomas

“Papa thank you thank you thank you” said Sophia as she flung her arms around her father. “Well it seems there is to be a wedding,” Lady Ann with a smile upon her face congratulations my dear captain,” said Lady Ann. “Madam I would be obliged if you would call me James,” said Aubrey. “Indeed I shall for you are to be my son in law err long,” said Lady Ann.

The following Saturday the Sterley’s made there way to St. George's, Hanover square where the happy couple we united in holy matrimony. Much to the joy of the gathered congregation who had come to hear of there wedding  through the steadfast and unceasing efforts of Lady Ann who had done much in the preceding week to let every one in the Sterley social circle know of the impending marriage. Upon there leaving the church the bells begun to toll a flock of pigeon’s affrighted rose from the bell tower. As if in blessing of the newly wed couples union.


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