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  • The Poison Duel 5#: Poison Dominoes in Poland September 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Businessman Touching Domino Pieces Arranged in a Line

    The poison duel is dramatic enough: two men with two glasses before them, one poison, one not. Both swig at the same time. But just imagine now, instead, that you add dominoes into the mix. Yes, dominoes… Perhaps only death by lawn bowling or tiddlewinks could be more exciting. This story dates to 1882 when it appeared in a British newspaper. It allegedly comes from Poland, allegedly because so many poison duel stories (perhaps all) are suspect:

    Not long ago two young fellows, journeymen bronze smiths, were sitting in a small Warsaw cafe playing dominoes. A glass half full liquor stood on the table between them, and one or two of their fellow workmen were looking at the game with evident interest. There was little in the appearance the group to attract special attention, still less to suggest the improbable notion that the four youths composing it were two duelists and their seconds, or that the stake of the domino-match was a human life. Presently, however, the game having come to a conclusion, the younger of the two players, a lad named Stanislaus Julian [rather generic name?], lifted the glass to his lips and drank off its contents in a draught. Five minutes later he was a corpse. The wretched boys had quarrelled and agreed to fight a duel in such sort that the death of one or the other must ensue. Having placed themselves in the hands of two seconds, these latter arranged that their principals should play a ‘set’ three games of dominoes, upon the solemn understanding that the loser should swallow a dose of the deadliest poison procurable. This hideous compact was carried out to the letter , nor did any of the surviving persons concerned it, when interrogated by the police authorities, before whom they were subsequently brought, betray the least remorse for their share in the ghastly transaction. Julian’s adversary, indeed, boldly avowed that, had he lost the match, he would have fulfilled his pledge to drink the poison faithfully as had his dead antagonist; and the seconds protested that they had only ‘done their duty seeing the duel fairly fought out according to the conditions settled beforehand.’

    Poland had a long and glorious duelling history, of course, though this can hardly stand as its finest hour. But again, to repeat the worry above, was the story even true? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beach has his doubts.

    For more from our poison duels tag follow the link.

    27 Sept 2014: Filip writes in ‘Well, a poison duel is not the usual way to sort out quarrels nowadays, here in Poland. The story you quoted is, however, definitely true. The unfortunate duellist name was Julian (or Juljan in the old orthography) Dawert. Here you can find Dawert listed in Warsaw death records (item 56: http://szukajwarchiwach.pl/72/1216/0/-/15/skan/full/cnBpqMB7hM5LN2u4nJIGqA and here is the earliest mention I found in Polish newspapers: http://ebuw.uw.edu.pl/Content/52482/directory.djvu (page 6) More information: – the “winner” was called Aleksy (Aleksander) Borowicz – actually, it was not a quarel, Aleksy and Julian were close friends – the problem was they both fell in love with the same girl – their boss’ daughter – the poison was sulphuric acid – Borowicz was arrested after the duel and brought to trial – he was sentenced to two weeks – counsel for the defence claimed that it was Dawert (as the older of the two) who organised the duel – … and legally, it was not a duel.’ Thanks Filip!