A point of honor
All conversation in the newsroom stilled as John McIntyre strode purposefully to Sam Sessa’s desk.
Sessa, absorbed in his work, did not immediately take in the looming figure at his side, but the sudden quiet must have registered. He looked up. “Yes?” he said.
“I am given to understand,” said McIntyre, that you have transmitted to the copy desk a cover article bearing a ‘’Tis the season’ headline.”
“Yes, I have,” said Sessa, “and what of it?”
“It is an intolerable affront, and I must demand satisfaction.”
Sessa stood and, drawing himself to his full height, said, “Indeed. My second will wait on your second for particulars.”
“As you wish,” said McIntyre, turning on his heel and walking away.
Conversation, though muted, resumed throughout the newsroom.
The next morning two small boats made their way through the fog to a low-lying island in the Chesapeake Bay.
Disembarking, McIntyre and Sessa, pale and white-lipped, stood some distance apart as their seconds conferred with the referee.
Beckoning them forward, the referee asked, “Before this matter proceeds further, is it not possible for you two gentlemen to resolve your differences?”
“It is an affront that cannot be excused,” said McIntyre, and Sessa simply shook his head.
“Very well, then,” said the referee. "I believe that, through your seconds, you have determined to exchange two volleys of insults each. Is that so?”
McIntyre and Sessa nodded.
“If you please, then, take ten paces each in opposite directions, turn, and proceed when I drop this handkerchief.”
The combatants took their places, and the referee allowed his white handkerchief to float slowly to the ground.
McIntyre fired first: “Miscreant!” But Sessa was almost as quick: “Pedant!”
The seconds gasped in unison.
Stepping smartly between the two, the referee raised his hands and said, “Gentlemen, gentlemen, can we consider, before there is any further effusion of blood, that the demands of honor have been satisfied?”
McIntyre nodded, reluctantly, and Sessa stepped forward. The two bowed slightly to each other, and then Sessa extended his hand, which McIntyre accepted. The seconds also exchanged handshakes, and the referee shook hands all around.
Honor had been restored.