while Denis maneuvered first the door to his room
and then the coverings on his bed.
The hurt man’s eyelids fluttered just as he was
being put down on the bed, and he muttered a few
words. Denis heard something like: “Ben of Purkinje,”
which certainly sounded like a name. That of the
victim himself? No use asking. He was out cold
Soon the mistress was back, with such useful items
as she had been able to lay her hands on quickly,
water and clean cloth. She had also brought along a
couple of medicine jars, but nothing that Denis thought
was likely to help. While Denis went to work washing
and bandaging, the master picked up the sodden
clothing that had been stripped away, and went
quickly through the pockets. But whatever Courtenay
was looking for, he apparently did not find it. With a
sigh he threw the garments back on the floor and
asked: “Well, Denis, what about him?”
“He’s lost a lot of blood, sir. And, where the
wounds are, the bleeding’s going to be hard to stop.
I’ve packed this hole in his side as best I can.”
As he spoke Denis was still pressing a bandage into
place. “We could use spider webs, but I don’t know
where to get a bunch of ’em quickly. His knee isn’t
bleeding so much now, but it looks nasty. If he lives,
he won’t be walking for a while.”
The Old World light had been replaced in its
customary wall niche, and the mistress had now
brought one of the better ordinary lamps into Denis’s
room. By the lamplight she and her husband were
staring at each other with what struck Denis as
“Knife wounds, I think,” said Master Courtenay,
shifting his gaze at last back to Denis.
“Yes sir, I would say that’s what they are.”
“He couldn’t have come very far in that condition.”
“I’d have to agree with that, sir.”
The master nodded, and turned and walked out of
Denis’s room, leaving the door open behind him. He
didn’t say where he was going, and nobody asked.
The mistress lingered. Denis, observing the direction
of her gaze, wondered what it was about the patient’s
arm-stump that she found so fascinating.
Having been a member of the household for a year
and a half now, Denis was-sometimes, almost-treated
like one of the family. Now he made bold to ask, “Do
you recognize him, Mistress?”
“I’ve never seen him before,” the lady answered,
which to Denis sounded like the truth used as an
evasion. She added: “Will he live, do you think?”
Before Denis had to try to make a guess sound
like an expert opinion, there came again the sounds of
someone at the back door of the shop. The sounds
were different this time: demanding shouts,
accompanied by a strong and determined hammering.
Following his mistress out into the shop’s main
room, Denis shut the door of his own room behind
him. The master, Old World light in hand again, was
once more approaching the back door. Even as
Courtenay turned on the light and peered out through
the spy-lens, the pounding came again. This time it
was accompanied by a hoarse voice, somewhat
muffled by the door’s thickness: “Ho, in the house,
open for the Watch! In the Lord Mayor’s name,
The master of the house continued to peer out.
“Three of ’em,” he reported in a low voice. “No lights
of their own. Still, it’s the real Watch-I think.”
“Open!” the smothered roaring voice demanded.
“Open or we break it down!” And there came a
thump thump thump. But they were going to have to
thump harder than that before this door would take
Quietly the mistress said to her husband: “We don’t
want to . . .” She let the statement trail off there, but
Denis listening had the strong impression that her next
words would have been: arouse suspicion.
Whatever meaning the master read into her
halfvoiced thought, he nodded his agreement with it.
Looking at Denis, he ordered: “Say nothing to them
about our visitor. We’ve seen no one tonight.”
“If they want to search?”
“Leave that to me. But pick up your hatchet again,
just in case.”
When all three of the people inside were ready,
Courtenay undid the bars and opened the door again.
In the very next instant he had to demonstrate
extraordinary agility for a man of his weight, by
jumping back out of the way of a blow from a short
The three men who had come bursting in, dressed
though they were in the Lord Mayor’s livery of gray
and green, were plainly not the Watch. Denis with his
hatchet was able to stand off the first rush of one of
them, armed with a long knife in each hand. Another
of the intruders started toward Lady Sophie. But her
right arm rose from her side, drawing into a whirling
blur the sling’s long leather strands. Whatever missile
had been cradled in the leather cup now blasted stone
fragments out of the wall beside the man’s head,
giving him pause, giving her the necessary moment to
reload her weapon.
“Ben of Purkinje!” cried out the third invader,
hacking again at Master Courtenay with his sword.
“Greetings from the Blue Temple!” This attacker was
tall, and looked impressively strong.
Master Courtenay, after advising Denis to be armed,
had himself been caught embarrassingly unarmed on
the side of the room away from the rack of weapons.
He had to improvise, and out of the miscellany of tools
around the forge grabbed up a long, iron-handled
casting .ladle. It was a clumsy thing to try to swing
against a sword, but the master of the house had
awesome strength, and now demonstrated good
nerves as well. For the time being he was holding his
own, managing to protect himself.
The man who had started after the Lady Sophie
now turned back, indecisively, as if to give the
swordsman aid. It was an error. In the next instant the
second stone from the sling hit him in the back of the
head and knocked him down. The sound of the impact
and the way he fell showed that for him the fight was
Denis was distracted by the lady’s
achievementunwisely, for a moment later he felt the
point of one of his opponent’s long knives catch in the
flesh of his forearm. The hatchet fell from Denis’s
grip to the stone floor. Scrambling away from the
knives, clearing a low bench in a somersaulting dive,
Denis the Quick lived up to his nickname well enough
to keep himself alive.
He heard one of the bigger workbenches go over
with a crash, and now he saw that Master Courtenay
had somehow managed to catch his own attacker by
the swordarm-maybe the fellow had also been
distracted, dodging feints of a slung stone. Anyway it
was now going to be a wrestling match-but no, it
really wasn’t. In another instant the swordsman,
bellowing his surprise, had been lifted clean off his
feet, and in the instant after that Denis saw him
slaughtered like a rabbit, his back broken against the
angle of the heavy, tilted table.
The knife-wielder who had wounded Denis had
now changed his strategy and was scrambling after
the lady. Suddenly bereft of friends, he needed a
hostage. Denis, reckless of his own safety, and
wounded as he was, threw himself in the attacker’s
way before the man could come within a knifethrust
of the mistress. Denis had one quick glimpse of the
lady, her white robe half undone, scooting successfully
on hands and knees to get away.
And now Denis was on his back, and the knife was
coming down at him instead-but before it reached
him, the arm that held it was knocked aside by a
giant’s blow from the long ladle. The iron weight
brushed aside the barrier of an arm to mash into
the knifer’s cheekbone, delivering most of its
energy there with an effect of devastation. Denis
rolled aside, paused to look back, and allowed him-
self to slow to a panting halt. The fight was defi-
In the workshop, only three sets of lungs were
The lady, pulling her robe around her properly
once more (even amid surrounding blood, terror,
and danger, that momentary vision of her body was
still with Denis; he thought that it would always
be.) Now she let herself slide down slowly until she
was sitting on the floor with her back against one of
the upset benches. Evidently more angered then
terrified by the experience, she said to her husband
acidly, “You are quite, quite sure, are you, that they
represent the Watch?”
Coutenay, still on his feet, looking stupid, breath-
ing heavily, could only mumble something.
Once more there came the sound of pounding on
a door, accompanied by urgent voices. But this
time the noise was originating within the house.