Gentlemen, please! Put down your duelling pistols – I swear I am not worth it!

Ah, gentlemen, please – allow me to nervously twist the billet in my slender white hands before rushing between you and declaring that I am not worth sacrificing your safety, your honor, your good names as sensible, upstanding men! Think on your long-standing friendship – the promises you offered your poor mothers when you left home – think of your drooping, upright sisters – think on your futures, sirs! Think of England, not this poor cowslip of a girl-boy not worth a toss of your forelock, or foreskin, should it come to that. Pull up your foreskins, dear sirs, and set aside your quarrel.

Stop, if you will forgive my feminine impertinence, loading black powder into your matching pistolet modèles 1763! Think of the aristocratic smoothness of your hands – your mothers did not spend years toiling away in the duke-making kilns only for their sons to spoil the perfection of their cuticles with gunshot and soot! Someday, when the sullen perfection of my unlined face is spoiled with irritation and the care of years, you will look at the unblemished perfection of your throbbing friendship and smile with relief, that you did not spread the jam of my unworthiness across the freshly-toasted bread of your camaraderie!

How wretched a creature am I – the beauty of my features is matched only by their unhappiness, sorrow and elegance mingled in equal parts, blended deftly across the lovely, mellow plane of my face – to be the cause of such masculine, snorting anguish! I cannot imagine a worse fate than to be the sole focus of your attention and the sole cause of your sexual rage. My lords, I implore you, to set down your jawlines and becalm yourselves. If you would only allow me to dash a saucerful of tea against your splendid brows, which might then drip down your noble throats and into your billowing linen necklines, cooling and soothing your patrician veins along the way, I am sure you would both be cured of your unsuitable, ungovernable, twinned passion for me in an instant.

And your foils too, my lords! Your swords, your halfswords, your clubs and cudgels, your bastoncellos, your ghiavarina and your panting stallions, your mustachioed Italian swordmasters calling out encouragement from the sidelines, your grim Russian wrestlers, your silk-suited doctors; lay them all by! Such a cabinet of arms is the bloodiest compliment two neck-strewn peers could possibly pay a street-grub and gender-rascal as myself, the lowliest of all sex garbages. I implore you to leave off this dreadful rivalry! How could I live with myself, knowing I had brought to ruin twin flowers of chivalry, twin houses of commerce, twin pillars of breeding? No gallows could hold me; my neck would snap itself in two from the heaviness of shame. How I long only to return to the simple flower-markets of my delicate fathers and my slim-throated uncles, delicately arranging posies and thinking of my dear friends the cows, and my even dearer friends the goose-herders. I beg of you to forget your weapons, to take to wife one another’s sister and prop her up against your kitchen-hearths until their spines are regenerated through marriage-strength – but let me go, and forget me, while also remembering me forever and commissioning the tallest oil painting in the world of my person, consecrated and cherished by every man, woman, child, curate, ambassador, and non-binary sales associate in the land. Adieu, gentlemen – adieu!