The Duel

by Norm De Plume

The Fourth Earl of Esterbrook had his opponent, the treacherous Marquis de Scarswood backed up against the cold castle wall. With a deft maneuver, he flipped the Marquis’s rapier from his hand, and then humiliated him with the most devastating bon mot ever uttered by anyone ever, either before or since. He savored the look of complete and utter defeat on the Marquis’s face then drove the point of his own sword home. He had foiled the plot against the king, saved the princess, and restored his own family’s fortune.

But for the rest of his life, he could never remember that one amazing thing he’d said to Scarswood right before he did him in. He didn’t know why he couldn’t remember. Maybe it was the adrenaline. Whatever the reason, it ate at him. He seemed always just about to remember, but he never could.

He never told anyone about the lost quip, because he decided that claiming he’d said something grand that he couldn’t remember sounded suspicious. Better to just keep silent. He took the secret of the missing witticism to his grave.

Centuries later someone made a blockbuster film of the story of Scarswood’s plot. Esterbrook, having merged with the infinite, was aware of the project, and watched its progress with some interest from beyond the grave. He was (in spirit form, of course) at the film’s gala opening night.

Overall, the picture was good if a little maudlin at times. The actor who played Esterbrook was actually much more handsome then he had been, and he was duly flattered. The film worked its way to the climactic duel. Imagine Esterbrook’s surprise when the actor playing him uttered the exact phrase he had himself used, the one that had been missing all those years. After centuries, the question that had haunted him was finally answered; ironically as he himself haunted a movie theater.

The Ghost of the Fourth Earl of Esterbrook had to admit he was a little disappointed in the line, however. “Get the point, Scarswood?” had seemed much more clever at the time.



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