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Farina - Pennsylvania State University

Farina - Pennsylvania State University

silken chamber. It was

silken chamber. It was well that a woman’s heart was there to mark the grace and glory of manhood in upright foot-to-foot encounter. For the others, it was a mere calculation of lucky hits. Even Farina, in his anxiety for her, saw but the brightening and darkening of the prospect of escape in every attitude and hard-ringing blow. Margarita was possessed with a painful exaltation. In her eyes the bestial Baron now took a nobler form and countenance; but the Goshawk assumed the sovereign aspect of old heroes, who, whether persecuted or favoured of heaven, still maintained their stand, remembering of what stuff they were, and who made them. ‘Never,’ say the old writers, with a fervour honourable to their knowledge of the elements that compose our being, ‘never may this bright privilege of fair fight depart from us, nor advantage of it fail to be taken! Man against man, or beast, singly keeping his ground, is as fine rapture to the breast as Beauty in her softest hour affordeth. For if woman taketh loveliness to her when she languisheth, so surely doth man in these fierce moods, when steel and iron sparkle opposed, and their breath is fire, and their lips white with the lock of resolution; all their Farina 82 faculties knotted to a point, and their energies alive as the daylight to prove themselves superior, according to the laws and under the blessing of chivalry.’ ‘For all,’ they go on to improve the comparison, ‘may admire and delight in fair blossoming dales under the blue dome of peace; but ’tis the rare lofty heart alone comprehendeth, and is heightened by, terrific splendours of tempest, when cloud meets cloud in skies black as the sepulchre, and Glory sits like a flame on the helm of Ruin’ For a while the combatants aired their dexterity, contenting themselves with cunning cuts and flicks of the swordedge, in which Werner first drew blood by a keen sweep along the forehead of the Goshawk. Guy had allowed him to keep his position on the board, and still fought at his face and neck. He now jerked back his body from the hip, and swung a round stroke at Werner’s knee, sending him in retreat with a snort of pain. Before the Baron could make good his ground, Guy was level with him on the board. Werner turned an upbraiding howl at his men. They were not disposed to second him yet. They one and all approved his personal battle with Fate, and never more admired him

and felt his power; but the affair was exciting, and they were not the pillars to prop a falling house. Werner clenched his two hands to his ponderous glaive, and fell upon Guy with heavier fury. He was becoming not unworth the little womanly appreciation Margarita was brought to bestow on him. The voice of the Water-Lady whispered at her heart that the Baron warred on his destiny, and that ennobles all living souls. Bare-headed the combatants engaged, and the headpiece was the chief point of attack. No swerving from blows was possible for either: ward, or take; a false step would have ensured defeat. This also induced caution. Many a double stamp of the foot was heard, as each had to retire in turn. ‘Not at his head so much, he’ll bear battering there all night long,’ said Henker Rothhals in a breathing interval. Knocks had been pretty equally exchanged, but the Baron’s head certainly looked the least vulnerable, whereas Guy exhibited several dints that streamed freely. Yet he looked, eye and bearing, as fresh as when they began, and the calm, regular heave of his chest contrasted with Werner’s quick gasps. His smile, too, renewed each time the Baron paused for breath, gave George Meredith 83 Margarita heart. It was not a taunting smile, but one of entire confidence, and told all the more on his adversary. As Werner led off again, and the choice was always left him, every expression of the Goshawk’s face passed to full light in his broad eyes. The Baron’s play was a reckless fury. There was nothing to study in it. Guy became the chief object of speculation. He was evidently trying to wind his man. He struck wildly, some thought. Others judged that he was a random hitter, and had no mortal point in aim. Schwartz Thier’s opinion was frequently vented. ‘Too round a stroke—down on him! Chop-not slice!’ Guy persevered in his own fashion. According to Schwartz Thier, he brought down by his wilfulness the blow that took him on the left shoulder, and nigh broke him. It was a weighty blow, followed by a thump of sound. The sword-edge swerved on his shoulder-blade, or he must have been disabled. But Werner’s crow was short, and he had no time to push success. One of the Goshawk’s swooping under-hits half severed his right wrist, and the blood spirted across the board. He gasped and seemed to succumb, but held to it still, though

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