Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

When this had gone on for two or three minutes, Grey Dick stumbled and fell. The Swiss, who was following fast, likewise tripped and fell over him heavily, whereon the multitude shouted:

“Foul play! A dirty, foreign trick!”

In an instant Dick was up again, and had leapt upon the prostrate Swiss, as all thought, to kill him. But instead the only thing he did was to get behind him and kick him with his foot until he also rose. Thereat some laughed, but others, who had bets upon their champion, groaned.

Now the Swiss, having lost his shield in his fall, rushed at Dick, grasping his axe with both hands. As before, the Englishman avoided the blow, but for the first time he struck back, catching the giant on the shoulder though not very heavily. Then with a shout of “St. George and England!” he went in at him.

Hither and thither sprang Dick, now out of reach of the axe of the Swiss and now beneath his guard. But ever as he sprang he delivered blow upon blow, each harder than the last, till there appeared scars and rents in the fine white mail. Soon it became clear that the great Swiss was overmatched and spent. He breathed heavily, his strokes grew wild, he overbalanced, recovered himself, and at last in his turn began to fly in good earnest.

Now after him went Dick, battering at his back, but, as all might see, with the flat of his axe, not with its edge. Yes, he was beating him as a man might beat a carpet, beating him till he roared with pain.

“Fight, Ambrosio, fight! Don’t fly!” shouted the crowd, and he tried to wheel round, only to be knocked prostrate by a single stroke upon the head which the Englishman delivered with the hammer-like back of his axe.

Then Dick was seen to kneel upon him and cut the lashings of his helmet with his dagger, doubtless to give the coup de grâce, or so they thought.

“Our man is murdered!” yelled the common people, while those of the better sort remained shamed and silent.

Dick rose, and they groaned, thinking that all was done. But lo! stooping down he helped the breathless Swiss, whom he had disarmed, to his feet. Then, taking him by the nape of the neck, which was easy, as his helmet was off, with one hand, while in the other he held his bared knife, Dick thrust him before him till they reached the tribune of the Doge.

“Be pleased to tell the Illustrious,” he said, to Sir Geoffrey, “that this braggart having surrendered, I spared his life and now return him to his brother the Page quite unharmed, since I did not wish to wound one who was in my power from the first. Only when he gets home I pray that he will look at his back in a glass and judge which of us it is that has been’ beaten to a pulp.’ Let him return thanks also to his patron saint, who put pity in my heart, so that I did not cut him into collops, as I promised. For know, sir, that when I walked out yonder it was my purpose to hew off his hands and shorten him at the knees. Stay-one word more. If yonder boaster has more brothers who really wish to fight, I’ll take them one by one and swear to them that this time I’ll not give back a step unless I’m carried.”

“Do you indeed yield and accept the Englishman’s mercy?” asked the Doge in a stern voice.

The poor Ambrosio, making no answer, blundered forward among the crowd and there vanished, and this was the last that Dick ever saw or heard of him. But, although he waited there a while, feeling the edge of his axe and glaring about him, none of the captain’s companions came forward to accept his challenge.

At length, with a shrug of his shoulders, Dick turned. Having taken his bow and quiver from David, who could not conceal his indecent joy at the utter humiliation of Ambrosio, whom he hated with a truly British hate, he walked slowly to where Hugh sat upon his horse.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133

Categories: Haggard, H. Rider