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37
THE DECADENCE OF VERSAILLES

him down. He sprang up instantly, and, furious, drew his sword. I felt my own wrath rise at sight of cold steel—it was ever a way of mine beyond control—and asked him hotly:

"How is it affair of thine what manner of coat I wear?"

He made no reply, but, raising his arm, said, menacingly;

"Now, clown, show thy coat, or I'll spit thee like a dog."

I glanced around the circle at the blanched faces of the ladies, seeing such a serious turn to their jest, and would not even then have drawn, but the men made no effort to interfere, so I only answered him, "Nay, I'll wear my cloak," when he made a quick lunge at me. I know not that he meant me serious injury, but taking no risk my blade came readily, and catching his slenderer weapon broke it short off, leaving him raging and defenceless—a simple trick, yet not learned in a day. It was a dainty little jewel-hilted toy, and I hated to spoil it.

"Now, sir, thank the King's uniform for thy life," my blood was up, and I ached to teach him a lesson, "I can not turn the King's sword against one of his servants."

The ladies laughed now, and the hot flush mounted to my cheeks, for I feared a woman, but their merriment quickly died away at sound of an imperious voice saying:

"For shame de Brienne, brawler!" "And thou, my