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16. Swords!
La Fosse led the way with me, his arm through mine, swearing that he would be
my second. He had such a stomach for a fight, had this irresponsible,
irrepressible rhymester, that it mounted to the heights of passion with him, and
when I mentioned, in answer to a hint dropped in connection with the edict, that I
had the King's sanction for this combat, he was nearly mad with joy.
"Blood of La Fosse!" was his oath. "The honour to stand by you shall be mine,
my Bardelys! You owe it me, for am I not in part to blame for all this ado? Nay,
you'll not deny me. That gentleman yonder, with the wild-cat moustaches and a
name like a Gascon oath --that cousin of Mironsac's, I mean - has the flair of a
fight in his nostrils, and a craving to be in it. But you'll grant me the honour, will
you not? Pardieu! It will earn me a place in history."
"Or the graveyard," quoth I, by way of cooling his ardour.
"Peste! What an augury!" Then, with a laugh: "But," he added, indicating Saint-
Eustache, "that long, lean saint - I forget of what he is patron - hardly wears a
murderous air."
To win peace from him, I promised that he should stand by me. But the favour
lost much of its value in his eyes when presently I added that I did not wish the
seconds to engage, since the matter was of so very personal a character.
Mironsac and Castelroux, assisted by Saint-Eustache, closed the heavy
portecochere, and so shut us in from the observation of passers-by. The clanging
of those gates brought the landlord and a couple of his knaves, and we were
subjected to the prayers and intercessions, to the stormings and ravings that are
ever the prelude of a stable-yard fight, but which invariably end, as these ended,
in the landlord's withdrawal to run for help to the nearest corps-de-garde.
"Now, my myrmillones," cried La Fosse in bloodthirsty jubilation, "to work before
the host returns."
"Po' Cap de Dieu!" growled Castelroux, "is this a time for jests, master joker?"
"Jests?" I heard him retorting, as he assisted me to doff my doublet. "Do I jest?
Diable! you Gascons are a slow-witted folk! I have a taste for allegory, my friend,
but that never yet was accounted so low a thing as jesting."
At last we were ready, and I shifted the whole of my attention to the short,
powerful figure of Chatellerault as he advanced upon me, stripped to the waist,