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THE BLACK WOLF'S BREED

sake or duty's. My cheek paled in spite of me, at sight of the men who now came on. Three others with blades half drawn pressed close behind Yvard. How many more there were I had no knowledge.

It was a sore test to my courage thus to meet the ugly chill of death in a Parisian gambling hell—in a place of such ill-repute. But there was no escape, and even if I fell in fight, they would brand me as a thief. Should the papers be found on my body, then honourable men would execrate my memory as a traitor to country and to King, for had not Serigny told me he could not avow my connection with him? The lust of life still surging strong within me, I drew my sword. Its point effectually guarded the narrow space in front from post to post. They parleyed a time, and I rested firm against the door.

"Come, fellow, thou art trapped; give me up my purse."

"Spit the thief, run him through," came from one of those behind—for the rear guard, beyond the reach of steel, was ever loud and brave. But Yvard, being in front, was more cautious. He well knew the first man who came against me would be badly hurt. And, I rather fancied, he respected my blade.

As they took counsel together, dozens of voices from the hall swelled the din, yet above it all I caught a light step without. My heart bounded to my throat; I felt the door give way at my back, and before they understood what had happened, I was safe on the other side, with the stout oaken boards well locked between.