The King's Esquires; Or, The Jewel of France, Page 2George Manville Fenn
A FENCING LESSON.
"Pert--impudent--all over the young courtier," said the doctorthoughtfully; "but I like the boy for his father's sake. Yes, all thatwas good and true. Now then, what will he say to me this time? I movedhim a little yesterday, and I think that his love of adventure will makehim think well of my proposals."
He stood thoughtful for a few moments, bent of form and dreamy of eye.Then with a sudden movement he drew himself up quick and alert, andlooking ten years younger, as he swung back his long gown from hisshoulders, grasped his rapier by the sheath, brought round his righthand to the hilt, and drew forth a glistening blade, to hold it at arm'slength, quivering in the rays of light which came athwart the room fromthe high-up narrow window. Then falling into position, his whole bodyseemed to glide forward following the blade, as he made a thrust in themost effortless way, the point of his weapon passing into the hole madea few minutes earlier by the young esquire; and he was in the act ofdrawing it forth to thrust again, when the arras to his right wasplucked aside and the boy stood before him.
"What, you trying!" he cried.
"Yes.--But the King?"
"Asleep, and he will not awaken for an hour yet. No one can hear us,"continued the lad eagerly. "Do give me a fencing lesson, Master Leoni.I remember how Saint Simon once said that you were the finest swordsmanabout the Court."
"Did he say that?" said the doctor quietly.
"To be sure he did," cried the lad, drawing his sword and puttinghimself on guard.--"Come on."
"Better not now," said the doctor. "We may awaken the King."
"Don't I tell you he's fast asleep?"
"Yes; but the guard may hear."
"Not they; and what matter if they did? Now then; shall I attack you?"
"Yes," said the doctor quietly. "Would you like a place marked-out uponmy chest?"
"There, now you are mocking at me."
"Yes: I was."
"Well, you shall attack. But had I better get some buttoned swords? Ishouldn't like to hurt you, sir."
"I'll take care you do not," said the doctor quietly; "and there will beno need, for I will not hurt you."
The lad coloured slightly as the thought flashed through him that heshould like to humble the other's confidence and pride. The next momenthe was looking on, half astonished, as his adversary slipped off hislong robe-like gown and stood before him in his tight doublet and hose,upright, keen, and active as a man of half his years, ready to fall intoposition the next moment and challenge him to come on.
The lad required no second invitation, for, calling up all he knew offencing, he crossed swords and attacked vigorously, with the sensationthe next moment that he had received a sharp jerk of the wrist as hisrapier described a curve in the air and the doctor leaped up, making asnatch with his left hand, and catching it by the middle of the blade asit fell, to hold it to its owner with a smile.
"Bad," he said. "Don't let me do that again."
"You can't," cried the lad defiantly, as, tingling with annoyance, heattacked once more, to feel his adversary's blade seem as if endowedwith snake-like vitality, and twine round his own, which then twitchedand fell with a sharp jingle upon the oaken boards.
"Oh," cried the lad impatiently, "I can't fence a bit! But tell me,doctor; is there any--no, absurd--stuff! I don't believe in magic. I'dgive anything, though, if you would teach me how to do that."
"You must learn to fence first, my boy, and work hard. I did not learnto do that in one lesson. Now attack again, and keep a good grip ofyour hilt. There, come on."
"No, not now, sir," said the boy huskily. "This has made me hot andangry, and one ought to be cool when handling pointed weapons. Ishouldn't like to hurt you, sir."
"Neither should I, my lad," said the doctor calmly; "but you need notfear doing that. Come on, I tell you. There, I'm not speakingboastingly, Denis, my lad. I am no master of fence, but I can doprecisely what I please with your weapon, disarm you at every encounter,or turn your point whichever way I choose. There: you see." Fornettled by his words, and in a futile effort to prove that they wereuntrue, the lad attacked sharply once again, made about a dozen passes,to find himself perfectly helpless in his adversary's hands, and at laststopped short, lowered his point to the floor, and stood with both handsresting on the hilt.
"You are right, sir," he said. "It's horrible. I thought I could; butI can't fence a bit."
At that moment there was a sharp click of the outer door, and the doctorhurriedly began to sheathe his rapier, but not quickly enough for hisaction to be unseen. The arras was thrown aside, and a tall handsomeyoung cavalier strode into the ante-chamber and stopped short inastonishment.
"Words and wonder!" he cried. "A duel? or young Denis defending hisMajesty from an attempted assassination on the part of Master Leoni witha sword instead of physic?"
"Does it ever occur to you, Saint Simon, that your tongue runs at timessomewhat too fast?" said the doctor coldly.
"Oh yes, often," was the laughing reply; "but it's a habit it has. Whathave I interrupted, though?"
"Master Leoni was giving me a fencing lesson, Saint Simon," cried thelad eagerly.
"Then you are the luckiest fellow at Court," cried the new arrival."Why was I not here? There, pray go on, and let me stand by and learn."