This letter he put into his pocket with the purpose of asking Preston to deliver it if circumstances should drive him out of England or into prison.
Captain Preston went with Solomon Binkus next day to the address on the card of Lieutenant Clarke. It was the house of the General, who was waiting with his son in the reception room. They walked together to the Almack Club. The General was self-contained. It would seem that his bad opinion of Yankees was not quite so comprehensive as it had been. The whole proceeding went forward with the utmost politeness.
“General, Mr. Binkus and John Irons, Jr., are my friends,” said Captain Preston.
“Indeed!” the General answered.
“Yes, and they are friends of England. They saved my neck in America. I have assured young Irons that your words, if they were correctly reported to me, were spoken in haste, and that they do not express your real opinion.”
“And what, sir, were the words reported to you?” the General asked.
Preston repeated them.
“That is my opinion.”
“It is mine also,” young Clarke declared.
Solomon’s face changed quickly. He took deliberate aim at the enemy and drawled:
“Can’t be yer opinion is wuth more than the lives o’ these young fellers that’s goin’ to fight.”
“Gentlemen, you will save time by dropping all thought of apologies,” said the General.
“Then it only remains for you to choose your weapons and agree with us as to time and place,” said Preston.
“I choose pistols,” said the young Britisher. “The time and place may suit your convenience, so it be soon and not too far away,”
“Let us say the cow wallow on Shooter’s Hill, near the oaks, at sunrise to-morrow,” Preston proposed.
“I agree,” the Lieutenant answered.
“Whatever comes of it, let us have secrecy and all possible protection from each side to the other when the affair is ended,” said Preston.
“I agree to that also,” was the answer of young Clarke.
When they were leaving, Solomon said to Preston:
“That ’ere Gin’ral is as big as Goliar.”
Solomon, Jack and their friend left London that afternoon in the saddle and took lodgings at The Rose and Garter, less than a mile from the scene appointed for the encounter. That morning the Americans had sent a friend of Preston by post chaise to Deal, with Solomon’s luggage. Preston had also engaged the celebrated surgeon, Doctor Brooks, to spend the night with them so that he would be sure to be on hand in the morning. The doctor had officiated at no less than a dozen duels and enjoyed these affairs so keenly that he was glad to give his help without a fee. The party had gone out in the saddle because Preston had said that the horses might be useful.