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THE BLACK WOLF'S BREED

"If you will but move this way and give me clear passage to Versailles, I will go and say nothing. You can then return and minister to your master."

"Nay, we'll hold the road an hour, which gives him time to come up. An hour gone and you may pursue your journey."

"Then, forsooth, one of you can make his peace with God. I'll shoot your stoutest bully and try blades with the other."

I raised the pistol which had been concealed unknown to Jerome, and to say the truth, it looked formidable enough all a-glitter beneath the rising moon, though I doubted much if I could strike my mark.

As I started resolutely onward I warned them: "Pull your nags off in yonder level space, leave the left fork free, or by the gods, you burly black-haired rascal, I'll take the first shot at you, you make the fairest target. Way there, in the King's name!"

As is ever so with low-born churls, and no gentleman to command, each looked to the other for some act of heroism, and each sought his own safety.

They stood their ground only an instant, then pulled aside as I had bidden them. As soon as I passed them a decent distance as if I had no fear, I put spurs to my good steed, and, breathing more freely than I had done for many days, heard the merry pounding of his hoofs upon the open way to my mission's end.