"A Pretty Flim-flam"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Little French Lawyer takes its title from one of the characters of the play, a lawyer who is a coward till he is forced to fight a duel; his success in his first engagement of honor turns him into a swashbuckling and ready duellist. The action of the play really turns, however, on Dinant, who still loves the beautiful Lamira, even though she marries a lame old gentleman named Champernel. Dinant and his friend Cleremont intercept the wedding party on the way to the church to insult both the bridegroom and the bride. As a result of their rudeness, the two men are challenged to a duel by Beaupré, Lamira's brother, and Verdone, the bridegroom's nephew. Lamira, learning of the duel, sends Dinant off on a false errand, supposedly to protect her honor, thus keeping him from the duel. In Dinant's absence Cleremont has to seek help from a passerby, the cowardly lawyer named La-Writ, who, through his success in disarming the two men who oppose him and Cleremont, finds courage. La-Writ a while later meets Dinant, who believes La-Writ to be the man Lamira sent him to fight. They are about to cross swords when they are interrupted by Cleremont. Cleremont upbraids Dinant for failing to appear for the earlier duel with Beaupré and Verdone. When Dinant tells his excuse for not being there, Cleremont calls the story "a pretty flim-flam," meaning that it is a contemptible trick that has been played on him.

Why were you absent?
You know I am no coward, you have seen that,
And therefore out of fear forsook you not;
You know I am not false, of a treacherous nature,
Apt to betray my friend; I have fought for you too:
You know no business that concern'd my state,
My kindred, or my life–
Where was the fault then?
The honour of that lady I adore,
Her credit, and her name: ye know she sent for me,
And with what haste.
What was he that traduc'd?
The man i' th' moon, I think; hither was I sent,
But to what end–
This is a pretty flim-flam!