Page:Harris Dickson--The black wolf's breed.djvu/85

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
65
AT THE AUSTRIAN ARMS

reeled back against the wall, drawing his weapon as he fell. He recovered his feet, my blade met his, yet each paused, well knowing the deadly lottery of such a duel in the dark.

The lady ran up as nearly between us as she dared, and besought:

"Oh, Messires, Messires," she plucked me by the sleeve, "do not fight; there is no need of it."

"Get out of the way you impudent hussy," he commanded, "I'll kill your meddling lover, like the varlet hound he is."

I went at him in earnest. His further insult to her made every muscle a cord of steel. I soon found this no mere sport, for the fellow was a thorough master of his weapon. I was a trifle the taller and had a longer reach; this, with my heavier blade, gave me well the vantage. Besides I had touched no wine, and my nerves were steady.

However, I had the light full in my face, and he was not slow to see the annoyance it caused me. I knew I could not maintain such a fight for long, so I pressed him sternly and the bright sparks flew. Backwards, step by step he retreated, until he had almost reached the door out of which he came. I durst not withdraw my eyes from his, yet I had seen the lady run swiftly up the inner stairs, whether for help or for other assassins I could not guess.

Still back, ever pressing him desperately back, the fight went, and he stood again inside the door, at the very foot of the stair. Now every advantage was mine,