'"Ver-r-ry good," said he. "For that I shall have much pleasure to kill you now and here. Monsieur Gamm,"--another bow to Jerry--"you will please lend him your pistol, or he shall have mine. I give you my word I know not which is best; and if he will choose a second from his friends over there"--another bow to our drunken yokels at the gate--"we will commence."

'"That's fair enough," said Jerry. "Tom Dunch, you owe it to the Doctor to be his second. Place your man." '"No," said Tom. "No mixin' in gentry's quarrels for me." And he shook his head and went out, and the others followed him.

This is from "The Marklake witches " in "Rewards and Fairies" by Kipling. http://pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/digi300.pdf

I thik this is about a duel. What does "Place your man" mean?

I am glad if some one kindly teach me.

1 Answer 1


When the custom was to settle serious conflicts among men by a duel with pistols, as during the era of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) in which Kipling's story takes place, the accepted etiquette was that each of the combatants was represented by a second (see definition 15 at Dictionary.com) who was the duellist's representative in assuring that the duel was fought in conditions that were fair to both parties.

The Code Duello or "laws of the duel", as it was interpreted when pistols superseded swords as the weapons of choice, required that each second position his deullist at a position determined in advance for each party, and the usual command uttered at this stage was:

Place your man.

This is attested in numerous fictional accounts of duels in the period, as here, and also in later factual accounts, as here.

  • P.E.Dant--Thank you so much for your detailed answer. Now I understand about duel and the system of second so well. Oct 16, 2016 at 6:23
  • @HiroshiInagaki Your gratitude is appreciated and we are happy to be of assistance. Oct 16, 2016 at 6:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .