There are Little People in the low country. I'm not speaking of people of my size who can buy their clothing in the boy's department. The Little People I'm on about here are those tiny folk of Irish legend. I know. I know. You think I'm daft. It's possible I am a bit but you have to listen. They've been here for generations. They came across the ocean in the luggage of our Irish settlers of long ago. Upon landing on our shores they flung themselves from the baggage compartments thrilled to be rid of the rolling and heaving carriage across the rollicking waves. They ran for their lives to the shelter of wood and marsh. Aye. They are here. Their countenance not see due to their size and adept ways of hiding beyond sight. Who would look beneath a toadstool in a downpour? Yet, there they may be standing sheltered from the heavy rains.
I bring this up because I think I may have seen them. Small communities with the same concerns as we bigger ones. Theirs is a closeness born of hiding in shadows and amongst the undergrowth of virgin wooded areas. With all the construction it has become less safe for them but they struggle on. Yet not without tussles among their own. I was witness to one such struggle.
On my early morning constitutional I happened upon a tiny village barely discernible from the woodland around it. I happened to spy movment at the rear of the tiny collection of homes. Hiding behind a tree and being completey still I watched.
The early morning grey almost hid the group of solemn little men trudging purposely toward a large oak stump. A light mist hung lightly across the marsh beyond. NOt a word was spoken until they reached the stump which was a huge landmark to people of such size.
"Alright, gentlemen. Choose your weapons."
The tallest of them held a finely polished deeply stained oaken box which was open displaying two exquisite pistols in miniature. The wooden stocks and polished barrels were aligned butt to barrel in parallel indentations lined with purple velvet. It was presented to the two facing one another.
"I'll have this one," said the man on the right.
"And I this one," said the other.
The tall one stepped back closing the box. He spoke in a deep voice for one so small.
"Well, gentlemen, you have chosen your weapons. These be the rules. You will stand back to back until I say begin. Then you will walk forward ten paces at which time you will turn and prepare to fire. Is this understood?"
Each nodded assent.
The two stood back to back the pistols in their hands pointing skyward. A crow's call was echoed through the still morning air.
Once again the tall one spoke, "Before we begin, does anyone have anything to say?"
A moment's pause was given to avert this activity. No one spoke.
"If not, then, begin your ten paces."
The two moved forward. Each step doubling the distance between them. At ten paces they stopped. Each took a slow deliberate turn. Each held his pistol upright at the ready to be aimed.
"Aim!" The command broke the silence.
"Fire at will!"
In unison they lowered their pistols. When each was level and pointed in the other's direction a moment passed.
Maybe they were considering a halt this deadly activity, I was thinking. But at the next moment.
The morning stillness erupted into the blast of the first pistol shot followed by the second.
Crows took wing shouting insults at the two fools lying in the dew drenched grass.
Those who had stood by the oak stump broke into a run towards the two downed men.
"Over here. Our man is bleeding profusely. Doctor! Bring your kit!"
"No! We need you here. Our man is bleeding from his scalp. Doctor, come quickly."
But the doctor had already reached the one on the left and was kneeling beside him.
"It's your foot. The ball has torn into your foot. It's a poor day for you, laddy. You've seen the last of your dancing days boyo. Those table tops will have to forgo your jig in future. You won't even be able to walk the same much less dance."
He handed a bandage to one of the men stooped over the wounded man.
"Put this on the wound. Press tightly to stop the bleeding while I go check the other fool."
He walked the 20 paces briskly to the second prone figure.
"Let's have a look. It's not a puncture wound. It looks like you have a bit of wood imbedded in your eyelid. What the... Ah. I see. Look up at that branch. Your opponent must have shot high striking that limb chipping this splinter off and it ricocheted into your eyelid. It smashed your eye pretty good, but, at least, it isn't ruptured. I'll patch it for now. In a few weeks your vision should be back to normal."
"Your shot, though, has permanently damaged your opponent's foot. He'll never dance again."
"That'd be good then. I caught him with me wife, dancing, on a table top. It's good that I hit his vulnerable spot. Hit him where it hurts, the scum. He'll never dance with another man's wife again. HAHAHA hahahha.
"Yes, you took away the joy in his life but you were lucky. your eye will heal. You'll be able to look at your wife and dance with her. Perhaps you should celebrate your victory with a night out for you and the missus."
"What? Take that cheatin' low life out. Nuhttin' doin'" I'll keep her under lock and key from now on. She won't be dancin' with anyone again either."
"It's a lesson not learned, I'm fearin'," the doctor said shaking his head. He picked up his bag and returned to his other patient.
"Well, me boy, you'll live, but take my advice and stop dancing on tables with other men's wives. PFFT! What am I sayin'. You won't be dancin' with anyone. I think maybe your opponent hit you where he intended. At first I thought he was just a terrible shot. heheh."
"Did you just chuckle, Doc?"
"Heheheh, no, boyo I didn't." With that the doctor headed back to the village houses.
The man with the bleeding foot was helped to his feet. He hobbled back to his one room hut.
I watched and considered. A duel over a dance. How absurd Little People are. I struck off and onto my path to continue my walk.
'I wonder what that one with the shattered foot will do now,' I thought. "maybe I'll look back in on that little settlement another day and see if I can catch up."