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Czas Baltimorski. (Baltimore, Md.) 1940-194?, December 26, 1940, Image 6

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“Czas Baltimorski,” Czwartek, 20-go Grudnia,

CHAPTER 111 After the police arrive Hik- j
Kins, who actively dislikes David, informs him
that he is fired. David, still waiting for a
newspaper job, is alarmed. Then he is cal
led to the Paget apartment.
CHAPTER IV —David Is thunderstruck
when ho arrives at the apartment. There he
finds elderly, prim-appearing Agatha Paget
sipping a cocktail and smoking a cigarette.
She offers him a job helping write her family
history—which will unearth a few familly
skeletons. He accepts the offer. Meanwhile,
police suspect Lyon Ferriter of the murder.
Kc broke off. A man came, walk
ing stiffly, from the barroom. He
said, “Hi, Jerry,” to Cochrane,
started to pass on and then stopped,
staring at me. It was Duke of the
Sphere. I found myself disliking
him again.
“Hello, Larry,” Cochrane said and
his face was guileless. “Have a
“Thanks,” Duke answered. “I’ve
had mine.”
He had. He swayed as he spoke
and kept on looking at me. We
watched each other like hostile dogs.
Cochrane said quietly:
“This is David Mallory. He—■**
“We’ve met before,” I broke in.
Duke sat down with a long sigh.
Drink had turned him pale and
sweating. I knew he was trouble
hunting and felt my own temper rise
to meet his. He asked carefully, for
his tongue was thick;
“Private conspiracy, or can I
horn in?”
Cochrane grinned.
“I knew Dave in Omaha,” he said
so smoothly that the lie sounded
like truth. “I’ve been trying to ,
pump him. Help yourself.”
“Thanks,” Duke replied and
looked at me briefly. “Turned in i
your copy, Jerry?”
“Still trying to find something to
write about.”
Duke mopped his glistening face.
“You had no trouble yesterday.
Why don’t you let your stool loose
on young Paget’s affair with lone?”
Cochrane glanced at me and I
held fast to myself. He said easily,
“Just one of Shannon’s ‘theories.’
There’s nothing in it.”
“Isn’t there?” Duke asked. “The
reason this thing is locked up so
tight is because the Pagets are in
it up to their necks. The Pagets
; are people in this town. They’ve
got the immunity of cash and posi
tion. If we could tear* the lid off
this thing, we’d find a Grove-lone
tie-up and probably Allegra mixed
up in it.”
I got up.
“I hope,” Duke said, fumbling
with his words, “that I’m not offend
ing you.”
I said to Cochrane;
“I don’t care for your friend’s
manners, or his mind or his smell.
Unless he cares to argue it, I’ll be
on my way.”
; My voice must have been loud for
men at other tables looked at me,
and Gene, the waiter, came hurry
ing across the room. Breath went
from Duke with a hiss. He lurched J
and tried to rise but Cochrane threw
himself sidewise and held him down.
“Easy, Larry,” he soothed,
“you’re drunk,” and to me, “Make
it fast.”
| I obeyed. He overtook me at the
Broadway corner.
i “Young Lochinvar!” he said,
i “I don’t like that guy,” I told him
He grinned.
“So I gathered. It was a fool
play to bring you there. We better
meet in your room hereafter, ac
He left me at the subway station.
I walked on uptown and wished that
I had thrown his job after him. And
then I was sorry that I had not told
Cochrane all I had learned of Gros
venor. I knew that I could not do
that either. Loyalties pulled me two
I stood aside on the stair to let
my landlady descend. She stopped
and peered down severely.
“If anyone calls when I’m away,
Mrs. Shaw,” I told her, “you can
let him in my room.”
“ ‘Him’?” said Mrs. Shaw and
sniffed. “I’ve no objection to ‘hims,’
Mr. Mallory, but you simply cannot
receive well—ladies here.”
She glared at me with the sour
air of morality that fat women so
often wear.
■ Good God,” I answered, “what
put that into your mind?”
“I’m not,” she told me, “more
suspicious than most, Mr. Mallory,
but a lady called to see you an
hour ago.”
“A lady?” I asked with what
breath I had. “Did she have blue
eyes and blond hair?”
Mrs. Shaw might have looked so ,
at Brigham Young.
“This,” said she, “was a dark
lady. Anxious to see you she was,
I’m sure. But she would leave no
message or name.”
I watched her go on down the
stairs. At the landing, she flung
“Very good-looking—if you like
that type.”
It was long before I got to sleep.
There were too many things in the
room with me. The visit of the
woman who had roused Mrs. Shaw’s
morality joined the procession of
puzzles that marched endlessly
round my bed. It made no sense.
Neither did my conclusion that the
caller must have been seeking some
other David Mallory. Neither did
anything else.
When slumber caught me at last,
I overslept and again reached the
Paget apartment breathless and just
on time. Annie led me to the work
room. The sanity of winter sun
light, streaming in through the win
dow, the stacked papers on the desk,
the typewriter, the very couch on
which Grosvenor had sat glowering
the evening before, all were solid,
normal things that tangled further
my suspicions. I looked through the
window. Beyond the casement
across the air shaft, I had seen the
boy at his furtive mission. As I
watched, a dim figure drew up the
shade. The Ferriters had come
home. I turned and faced Miss
•'truou morning, David,’ she said
briskly. “You and I are among the
few punctual people in this world.
Mr. Ferriter hasn’t arrived?”
“I haven’t seen him,” I replied.
“Perhaps he is next door. The apart
She bit through an invisible thread
and nodded.
“Yes. They have come back. I’ve
invited them all to lunch. Perhaps
my precious genealogist thinks he
is not to report till then.”
She peered at me and pursued;
“You needn’t look shocked, Da
vid. I’ve broken bread during a long
life with many more disreputable
people than probable perpetrators of
a murder.”
Her mind was straight and merci
less as a bayonet thrust. I stam
“You think then that—that—”
“Never mind boggling,” Miss Aga
tha ordered. “I think that, any
where but in detective fiction, the
persons nearest to a crime are those
most likely to have been involved.
That need not prevent my asking
them to lunch. You forget that a
spectator of life must have her vi
carious thrills.”
“I never said a word,” I told her.
“With a face like yours,” she re
plied, “you didn’t have to. Of course
I suspect the Ferriters. So do you.”
She rolled her chair to the desk
side and jumped upon her project.
For a half-hour w r e talked. Or rath
“You may. when you see my
♦copy,” I told her.
er, I listened while she elaborated
her purpose to me and outlined the
scope and set the tone for the first
chapter. At last, she paused and
“A"y questions?”
l spook my head.
“Let me do a few pages and see
whether I’ve caught your idea.”
“Excellent,” Miss Agatha said
with a jerk of her head. “Everett
would have spent the next half-hour
in qualms and objections.”
“You may, when you see my
copy,” I told her.
She chuckled again as she rolled
toward the door.
“What ho!” he said in response
to my greeting and waved a plump
I thought of Allegra, standing pro
vocatively beside him. I thought of
Duke's slander and bent again to
my work. Everett had a softness
that shook instead of hardened un
der stress but, even in his agitation,
he had not forgotten his cologne. 1
don’t like cologne. With the reck of
it in my nose, I found him standing
beside me. He smiled and picked
up the two pages I had completed.
“Do you mind?” he asked and
read them without waiting. The
points of the waxed mustache
twitched and color came to his i
pudgy cheeks. It isn’t pleasant to i
have another recast your own work.
I understood his irritation. He
dropped the sheets on the desk and
dusted his hands together before he j
lit a cigarette.
“Of course,” he said with a ges
ture of resignation, “if that’s the j
sort of thing she wants —”
“So what?” I asked, but his faint
ly popped eyes slid away from mine.
his cigarette on an ash tray
and shrugged.
“No offense, my dear chap. I
mean—well, isn’t it a bit ghoulish
and horrible, this—er, exhumation
of all the family skeletons? I mean— ;
it’s really not m3 7 sort of work.”
He stood quite still a minute be
fore he said, in a voice that tried
hard to be careless:
“Anything new?”
“Don’t you read the papers,” I
asked, “or is journalism too—ghoul- j
ish and horrible?”
He didn’t resent that but an
swered, quite humbly:
“Of course. I just meant, have
you—has anyone, I mean—found out
anything else?”
I shouldn’t have deviled him fur
ther, but he asked for it. I shrugged
and put a fresh sheet of paper in the
“I’m a rewrite man,” I told him.
“Not a detective.”
I heard breath go through his
nose. He mopped his face with a
plaid-bordered silk handkerchief.
The smell of cologne drove away
my pity.
“But,” he faltered, “you do know
something, eh?”
“Plenty.” I answered. .
“What?” he asked as though the
word hurt him.”
I shook my head.
“You’re nervous enough already.”
He made a desperate gesture with
both hands as though trying to push
something away.
“Nervous! Why shouldn’t I be
nervous? I’ve been humiliated by a
lot of foul police. Asses that have
no respect for the commonest de
cency. We’ve all been hounded by
them, because they’re too ignorant j
ever to find out who did that dread
ful thing.”
Something clicked inside me and j
I looked at him hard. It might be
only the indignation of the innocent
that rode him. It might be some
thing more. I couldn’t picture Ev
erett Ferriter as a murderer, but
I had been fooled too often in the
last two days to trust my own senses.
So I said:
“Don’t underestimate the cops.
They are unrefined, but the Homi
cide Bureau in this town ranks pret
ty high. I’ve been a newspaper man
long enough to know that when a de
tective seems dumbest he’s proba
bly being smartest. I’ll bet you,
even money, that they clear up this
case in a week.”
I knew I had hit him. He gagged
a little and gave a sick smile.
“I hope you’re right,” he told me.
“It can’t be a minute too soon for
me—for all of us.”
He left so quickly and silently that
I heard the front door shut before
I knew he was gone.
I sat and scowled at the wall
while I tried to pull that jittery fig
ure into a pose of guilt. Then I
remembered his alibi. It had been
the nature of this alibi, and Alleg
ra’s part in it, that had made me
I thrust my mind away
from current crime and into the an
nals of Miss Agatha’s forebears.
When I looked up from my work
again, Allegra stood in the doorway.
“Good morning.” I scrambled to
my feet and speech left me again.
I saw the quick rise and fall of her
breast beneath the Hweed cloak.
There was something in the silence
that disturbed both of us. She broke
“Is there soot on my nose?” she
asked a little wildly.
“No,” I said and cleared my
throat. “I was just—l was just real
izing what a beautiful person your
aunt must have been.”
She came in and sat down, with
a ghost of Miss Agatha’s chuckle.
“Thanks,” she told me. “That is,
if I follow you. I can believe that
your sister-in-law is very, very love
ly, too. Is she also a good liar?”.
Her mouth was merry but her
eyes were grave. I managed to
meet them.
“You heard the first time. You
can drop the pose of deafness—or
is it dumbness?”
Her voice sank. Little gloved
hands were locked in her lap.
“Grove,” Allegra said, “has told
me everything.”
I kept my face.
“I see.”
“Grove,” she said, “is in love
•with lone Ferriter.”
That opened up new avenues of
surmise. I did not turn toward them.
I asked:
“And you don’t like it?”
“It, or her. She’s older.”
“That,” I said, “isn’t necessarily
fatal. So was Mrs. Browning and
Mrs. Disraeli and Mrs. Mary of
Scotland and Mrs. Oedipus and—”
“Skip the Phi Bete erudition,” she
broke in, but her eyes were less
tragic. “Grove is an infant and al
ways will be. He’s all the family
I’ve got. I don’t want him hurt but
he will be. Grove won’t listen to
me. He doesn’t care what I think
any more.”
“It's just possible, isn’t it, that
lone loves him? Does your aunt
She smiled and shock her head.
“She knows, I think. But Grove
is supposed to be adult and Agatha’s
religion is minding her own business.
I can’t speak to her about it. I
promised Grove I wouldn’t, but he
said last night I could explain to you
why he was in lone’s flat.”
“And, sooner or later, you’re go
ing to?”
The girl looked at me and smiled.
“Meaning,” she interpreted, “that
I talk too much. Grove's had a
Ferriter latchkey for a month. He’s
been meeting lone there.”
She stopped and looked at the win
dow and the smile had left her face.
I waited.
“I wish,” she said slowly, “that
I could like her. Up to now, we’ve
always liked the same things, Grove
and I. I’m not jealous. I know what
they’re doing. They’re keeping this
thing under cover until after Grove’s
birthday, next week. You see, if
Grove marries without Agatha’s and
my Uncle Stanley’s consent, they
could hold up his inheritance That’s
in my father’s will.”
I told her: “You haven’t yet ex
plained why he was in—”
She said impatiently: “Oh, he had
the idea that maybe he could find
some clue the police had ignored—
something that would clear the Fer
riters. That’s the sort of a mind he
I said;
“One doesn’t love a person for
his brains.”
“All the aphorisms are edifying,”
she told me with a flash of her
aunt’s spirit, “but they don’t solve
“You could have saved yourself a
lot of wear and tear,” I answered,
“by telling me in the first place
what you wanted solved.”
Allegra looked at me hard and
then smiled.
“All right, Admiral Crichton. Fin’d
out who killed that man.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I told her, “it’s as
good as done.”
She held out her hand toward me.
Then she turned.
Neither of us knew how long Miss
Agatha had been on the threshold.
Nothing in her face gave us a clue.
She rolled into the room and spoke
“It’s bad enough to be a refuge
for all my family’s grief-smitten,
without posing as aunt to the New
York City police. Captain Shannon
has been telephoning. Lyon Ferri
ter escaped from the Babylon last
“How long,” I asked suddenly,
“did he stay after I left?”
There was a glitter in her eyes.
“About a quarter-hour,” she in
formed me, “and I’d be quite con
tent, David, if you’d confine your
criminal investigations for the pres
ent to my own ancestry.”
“Yes, Miss Paget,” I said with
meekness that made her chuckle.
I know now she had heard at least
the conclusion of my talk with her
niece. She turned to Allegra.
“Lunch in a half-hour, my dear,”
she said, and the girl left the room.
The old lady started to ,follow and
“David,” said she, “I hope your
head is stronger than I’ve any rea
son to think it is.”
“I hope it’s stronger than I think
it is,” I answered.
She lingered an instant and then
“Perhaps,” she comforted, “it’s
better than either of us thinks,” and
trundled herself away.
The door opened. Allegra looked
“A message from Miss Paget,”
she said with mock gravity. “There
is an extra place at the table this
noon that she wishes you would oc
cupy. Mr. Everett Ferriter is in
disposed again.”
Linen’s frosty glow, the cool glit
ter of silver china were like
friends long absent. They lifted my
morale. I caught Allegra’s glance
as Lyon helped her into the chair
beside his, and grinned. I sat be
tween lone and Miss Agatha with
Ferriter opposite,' on her right hand,
and I selected the bouillon spoon
boldly, because I thought they might
wonder if I could.
I found myself disliking the scent
lone w 7 ore and her as well, for no
clear reason other than that I ob
jected to sultry brunettes.
My neighbor said in her husky
“I haven’t thanked you, Mr. Mal
lory, for what you did that—awful
I wondered if it were only the
shock of that evening that harried
her now.
“Thank me,” I asked, “for treat
ing you rough?”
“Exactly. I needed it. I don’t
usually—fall apart like that.”
Lyon spoke with the odd devo
tion in his eyes he reserved for his
“She really doesn’t. She wintered
with me in Alaska, but that, after
all, isn’t preparation for finding—”
He checked himself and turned to
Miss Agatha with an apologetic
movement of his hands.
“I beg pardon. There is no ex
cuse for dragging—”
“Nonsense,” the old lady cut in.
“My dear man, closets are the worst
possible places for skeletons. It’s
far more wholesome to leave them
out in the air. If you can stand it.”
“We have to,” he said a little
grimly. “Until the police get the
idea that people who weren’t there
could not have done it.”
I had wished, a half-hour earlier,
that I might be included among Miss
Paget’s guests. Now I was unhap
py. I knew too much and suspected
too much more. I was tense and
saw portents in actions outwardly
(Thursday, Doeomher 2Gth), 1040.
innocent. For a moment, I had
thought lone’s seizure had concealed
terror. Now the sanity of the well
ordered lunch, the calm beauty of
the room, the decorous speech of its
occupants jeered at my suspicions.
The talk veered away to less in
tense matters. The meal was clos
ing when Miss Agatha said sudden
“Allegra, Grove called up while
you were dressing. He won’t be
home till late. You will have to
find another escort for the opera to
The girl nodded without expression
and for an instant her eyes strayed
to lone who asked the old lady;
“You don’t go, Miss Paget?”
The composure in her rich voice
once more mocked my suspicion.
Miss Agatha shook her head.
“My dear,” said she, “I was
reared in the Paget tradition. I
went to the opera as regularly as I
went to church. Being a cripple, I
had no conflicting engagements. I
went. I still have my father’s seats.
Allegra and Grove pretend to like
it. I grew tired long ago of hearing
nonsense sung in one language by
folks who speak another, to people
who don’t understand either.”
“As a rule,” Lyon said, “operas
could stand a deal of editing.”
“Extermination,” Miss Agatha
told him, the better word.”
I laughed and so did he, and catch
ing my eye, he asked:
“By the way, were you coming
out of the cellar last night when I
Once more my spine prickled— l
thought that a hidden something
lurked beneath that easy question.
Out of the murk a new theory sud
denly jumped at me. Perhaps the
prostrated Everett after all had been
my basement antagonist. I gath
ered my wits and tried to drive
into the open whatever fear hid be
hind Lyon’s query.
He smiled.
“After I passed, I thought it had
been you. At the moment I imag
ined that it was just another de
tective following me around. I
haven’t dared look under the table
this noon, Miss Paget, for fear of
finding one.”
“I can vouch for this company,”
Miss Agatha said dryly, “unless Da
“He seemed pleased,” I replied
“ —to see me and my bag
spread all over the floor.”
vid is one in disguise.” I wondered
what she meant but Allegra asked,
“Just a social call on Casanova?”
Out of an eye corner, I saw that
lone held her fork motionless above
her salad.
“No,” I said. “I went to get my
suitcase. I didn’t see Higgins till
“Later?” lone repeated.
I looked at her, but her make-up
might have been a mask.
“You see,” I told her, “the help
ful Higgins had left the suitcase in
the basement hall. I fell over it,
which pleased him, I think.”
“The swine,” said Lyon and his
calm disappointed me. “That’s how
you hurt yourself, eh?”
He nodded at my trampled left
hand. I shook my head, weighing
the merits of reticence and complete
exposure. I chose the former and
merely said:
“No. Someone else gave me that.”
“I hope,” said Miss Agatha and
bit that invisible thread, “that you
skinned it on Timothy’s jaw.”
“He seemed pleased,” I replied,
“when he came out and turned on
the lights, to see me and my bag
spread all over the floor.”
With the others, I followed Miss
Agatha’s chair into the living room
and looked at my watch.
“It's time,” I told the old lady,
“that I stopped being a guest and
became an employee.”
lone, bright and exotic as a tropic
bird, smiled at me as I backed to
ward the hall door. Lyon’s right
hand went through the movements
of the sword salute.
“Oh, I say,” he checked me as
I turned to leave, “why not stop in
when you leave this afternoon? I’d
really like to have you see my col
lection of blades, if you’d be inter
“Thanks,” I said, finding no way
to tefuse without seeming churlish,
“I’d be glad to.”
“Splendid. At what time?”
“Between five and six?”
“Right. I’ll be looking for you. I
wish there were room for us to fence
a bit. but I’m afraid that’s impos
“I’m glad there isn’t,” I told him;
“I’m very rusty,” and went back
to the workroom.
It was five when I finished and,
under Annie’s convoy, took the com
pleted copy to my employer. She
sat in the living room at her version
of afternoon tea—solitaire, a ciga
rette and a highball.
I waited while she read the script
slowly and without expression. When
she had laid the last page aside, she
“You’re very able as well as will
ful. You’ve done it exactly as I
should—if I had your gift. Will you
take Allegra to the opera this eve- i
The question, flung at me while I
ivas a little unsettled by her approv
al—l had not had much praise in
the last few weeks—was like a punch
in the stomach. I gasped. She chose
to misread my confusion.
“A purely business proposition.
Allegra was going with Grove. All
the other young men she knows have
engagements. She can’t very well
go by herself and if you’ll escort
“I can send in my bill tomor
row?” I asked. “No, Miss Paget.
I'm busy this evening.”
“There are times, David Mallory,
when I could slap you,” Miss Aga
tha said and sat very straight in
her wheel chair.
“That goes double,” I answered.
She chuckled. She liked defiance.
“If,” I went on, “you’ll let me
keep my amateur standing, I’ll be
very glad to escort your niece.
Otherwise, as I told you, I’m busy.”
“ ‘Pride goeth before destruc
tion,’ ” she informed me.
“Why don’t you finish it?” I asked.
“ ‘And a haughty spirit before a
fall.’ ”
She stared at me for a long mo
ment. Then she nodded.
“Yes,” she told me, “I suppose
you’re right. Will you be here at
eight, David?”
“With pleasure,” I said and, gath
ering up my copy, went back to the
If Lyon had not opened the door
of his apartment as I left Miss Aga
tha’s, I should have forgotten him
“Hello,” said he. “I’d just about
given you up and was on my way out
for a paper. Come in.”
His flat was bright with lights but |
it had a feeling of emptiness. He
explained as he took my hat and
coat that lone and Everett had gone
for a walk.
“He’s a lazy dog,” Lyon said eas
ily; “takes no exercise, whatever,
and of course when there’s a strain,
it simply pulls him all apart. Here
we are.”
He had led me into the living
room and pointed to the trophy
above the mantelpiece. I admired it
and with an effort kept from looking
behind the couch where the black
bearded body had lain.
Lyon ran through his collection
with the engaging pride of a child,
taking down sabers, claymores, ra
piers, thrusting them upon me to
swing and balance while he chat
ted of their history and where and
how he acquired them. It was pleas
ant to see a middle-aged man so
openly gleeful.
“Here,” he said at last, his leath
ery face glowing, “are my best be
loveds,” and opened a long rose
wood box.
From chamois casing, he drew
one forth, an epee de combat, and
handed it to me tenderly. It was a
beautiful weapon, a little longer than
the French dueling sword—a full
yard I judged from the etched steel
shell of the guard to the button of
waxed thread that blunted the point,
yet sweetly balanced and easy to
my hand.
“Like it?” Lyon asked artlessly.
“Very much,” 1 told him. “It
would be a joy to use.”
He looked wistfully about the
“I don’t suppose,” he mused, “that
we could. I say! Let’s shove the
sofa aside and try. Oh come,” he
urged as I hesitated. “Here are
masks”—he lifted them from the |
wall—“and we shan’t need gloves.
Indulge an old man whose fencing
days are over, Mallory. Just for a
minute or so. It will be all I can
stand, I assure you.”
He had stripped off his jacket as
he talked. His enthusiasm and the
pleading of the sword in my hand
impelled me to follow him. We
thrust the sofa against the wall, put
on our masks, and faced each other.
“En garde,” he cried in an odd
voice. His blade darted for my
throat. Instinct alone prompted my
parry. He caught my thrust on his
guard and the shell uttered a high
clear note. His riposte grazed my
arm. The fury of his attack startled
me. I shifted so that light fell upon
his weapon. The button that made
mine harmless was missing from his.
The blunt, nail-head point had bro
ken off. The new steel of the frac
ture was a flickering spark before
I cried a warning and lowered
my blade. Lyon Ferriter laughed
harshly and lunged.
Body, not mind, saved me. The
reflex centers that keep half-forgot- f
ten training helped my sword to en
gage and delay his. 1 leaped back
ward barely in time and he had me
in a corner. I could retreat no far
Our blades bound. There was no
sound but our breathing and the
whisper of steel on steel. In that
odd instant of delay, neither of us
spoke. I knew it was useless to
repeat' my warning and lie, em
barked on his purpose, had no need
for words. I parried the deadly
spark of that unguarded point. As
tonishment’s half-palsy had van
ished. Understanding came in that
split second, as lightning bares a
s landscape.
His face was blurred by the mask
but I could see purpose in the pose
of his body; could feel it in the vigi
lant movement of his blade along
my own. I felt little fear. It was
j hard to recognize death in a famil
iar and heretofore safe sport. Shame
was uppermost in my mind, and
i shame sired anger.
Thought of my own stupidity row
, eled me. By a pose of mystery, by
fatuous hints to Everett and Lyon
I had asked for this. I had stuck
my neck out. While his brother and
sister found an alibi elsewhere, Lyon
would silence me so deftly that, no
matter what others might suspect,
he would be safe. I wondered what
he thought I knew that made my
I murder necessary and then had
time for no further thought.
His sword had felt and tested and
tapped mine. Automatically, I had
responded. He feinted now to lift
my guard and followed with a lunge
that I barely turned. He caught
my riposte. For an instant we faced
each other.
A strange calm held me. I had
fathomed his purpose and now I
1 understood how he would perform
it. He was a trained fencer, strong
j er if no quicker than I. He held
j his weapon delicately in the French
fashion. He could have run me
through before now, if he had wiped
| away his instinctive regard for my
utterly harmless sword. But he could
not—or would not. The zest of con
test had him. Eventually he would
kill me, foully if necessary, but
first he would match his skill against
mine, seeking a fair opening through
i which to drive his point.
Steels sibilance broke no'r and
5 then in the high th'm cwmie of blade
i upon resonant shell guard, an inno-
I cent, mocking sound. I fought care
fully, knowing that my first mis
: take would be my last and, in the
| fascination of contest, he tolerated
Defense would not serve me. He
could at any minute catch my harm
less blade in. his free hand and drive
his own point home. My sole, frag
ile chance lay in a trick. It could
be attempted only once. It must be
j tried before the already aching mus
cles of my sword arm grew weary.
The blades engaged and parted
with clicks and brief sharp sigh
ings. The shell guards rang bright
ly. We moved against each other,
cat-footed, sharp-witted, tight-bod
ied. And I felt myself tiring.
I forced all myself into desperate
assault. My purpose needed the deft
ness of long practice, which I lacked.
Strength it demanded too, and I
doubted if I had enough, but it was
my only chance.
The apparent wildness of my at
tack pleased Lyon. He must have
seen in it the flurry before the end,
and so he contented himself merely
with parrying my w T eapon, wait
ing until my vain fury should flag.
I thought I heard him chuckle as
he turned aside my thrust. And
then, for a flash, his blade was where
I wanted it. I threw my life into
the trick d’Armhaillac had taught
me. My sword whipped about his
in clumsy imitation of the French
man’s deadly cutover. I heard
him gasp. I saw the epee half torn
from his hand.
He was quick in recovering, but
I was swifter. I leaped forward to
pass him and, in the leap, brought
my own weapon down like a whip
across the knuckles of his sword
He grunted. Behind me, I heard
the ringing clatter of the dropped
epee. I reached the table and tore
off the mask with my left hand. My
right gripped the ornate hilt of a
sixteenth-century Italian rapier.
With the long blade ready, I whirled.
Lyon had made no effort to re
trieve his fallen sword. He had tak
en off his mask and was sucking
with a slight frown the hand I had
struck. His calm was more shock
ing than fury. It saved his life for,
: at the instant, I should have run
him through right gladly. Lyon
looked up from his injury with a
rueful smile and his words made me
feel that I had reached in dark
! ness for a step that was not there.
“Effective,” he said quietly,
“though perhaps not quite ortho
He seemed for the first time to
see the long sword in my hand and
lifted his eyebrows. He was still
breathing fast but was quite unruf
fled. I wondered, for a wild in
stant, which one of us was mad. His
dignity, the normal furnishings of
the room, mocked my recent ter
ror. Yet I kept the rapier ready.
“Entirely unorthodox,” I agreed,
striving to match his sc’Ti-p’Pssession,
“but necessary. And now that we’ve
—enlightened each other, I’lj be go
His bewilderment, as I bracked
toward the door, gathering my
outer clothing, made me feel siHy.
“I don’t understand,” said
slowly. \
“Neither,” I told him, “do I.V
With the table between him Lnd
me and the door behind me, I \Jet
go of the rapier and laying aside
, overcoat and hat, thrust myself infLa
my jacket. I kept my eyes on himv
His expression was so perfectly asA
tonished that it quickened a doubt.l
This made me angry at myself and
I snapped:
“You can stop registering purity
of heart. Look at your epee.”
He stared at the weapon on the
floor before him. glanced at me in
something like fright and. bending,
picked it up. He reached out his
left hand and tried the broken point
with his thumb.
“My God!” he said at last.
“Exactly,” I answered.

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