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"Ah, be not too confident, my
Bon. Let no such assurance lead you
to forget your God. I have heard of I
(this count. It was he who slew Rut
ger, and Momjako, too, he slew in
the duel. He is an expert swords
man and surely means to kill you if
"I am aware of that, my mother.
But do you know that we are all
prone to overlook our own powers
iwhen pondering upon the feats of
iothers? I may be pardoned for as
suring you that the only man who
pas ever yet overcome the eount at
the sword play was one of my own
scholars. While in Spain I practiced
iwith some of the best swordsmen in
the kingdom. But, listen, I will
Jsend one word. For yourself I can
itell you nothing which you do not
iknow. But yet you may see Rosa
lind. If you do, tell her But you
know my soul. You can tell her as
you please. But I shall not fall."
It was now late, and ere long Ru
ric kissed his mother and then re
tired to his bed.
And the widow was left alone.
With her eyes she followed the re
treating form of her beloved son,
and when he was gone from her
eight she bowed her head and sob
bed aloud. When she reached her
humble couch, she knelt by the side
thereof and poured forth her pent
up soul to God. When her head had
pressed the pillow, she tried to hope,
she tried to fasten one hope in her
mind, but she looked only into the
night. Not one ray of light reached
her struggling soul. She opened her
eyes of promise in vain, for she
looked into a gloom so utter that
out of its depths loomed only the
blackness of despair.
Sleep on, Rune. But, oh, couldst
,thou know how thy fond mother's
fceart is racked there'd be no sleep
1 On the following morning Ruric
was up betimes, and at the break
last table not a word of the one all
absorbing theme was uttered. After
the meal was finished the gunmaker
went out to his shop and took down
from one of the closets along leath
ern case in which were two swords,
both of the same make and finish,
only different in size. They were
Toledo blades and of most exquisite
workmanship and finish- Ruric took
out the heaviest one, which was a
two edged weapon with a cross hilt
of heavily gilded metal. He placed
the point upon the floor, and then,
with all his might, he bent the blade
till" the pommel touched the point.
The lithe steel sprang back to its
place with a sharp clang, and the
texture was not started. Then he
struck the flat of the blade upon the
anvil with great force. The ring
was sharp and clear, and the weapon
"By St. Michael, Paul, Moscow
does not contain another blade like
that. Damascus never saw a bet-
I'hus spoke the gunmaker to his
boy as he balanced the beautiful
weapon in his hand.
"I think you are right, my mas-
ter," the boy returned, who had be
held the trial of the blade with un
bounded admiration. "But," he add
ed, "could you not temper a blade
"Perhaps if I had the steel. But
I have not. The steel of these two
blades came from India and was
originally in one weapon, a ponder
ous two handed affair belonging to
a Bengal chieftain. The metal pos
sesses all the hardness of the finest
razor, with the elasticity of the
most subtle spring. My old master
at Toledo gave me these as a me
mento. Were I to mention the sum
of money he was once offered for
the largest one you would hardly
"How much asked Paul, with a
"It was a sum equal to about 700
"And yet he gave it away."
"Aye, for its price was but imagi
nary, while its worth to him was on
ly commensurate with the good it
did him. If he told the truth, he
loved me, and these he gave me as a
parting gift as the best patterns I
could wish for when making such."
After this Ruric put up the small
sword, and then he gave Paul a few
directions about the work, promis
ing to be back before night. The
faithful boy shook his head dubious
ly as he heard this promise, but he
said nothing, and shortly afterward
Ruric went into the house. Just
then Alaric Orsa drove tip to the
I door. _~fa
O Moscow &
0 By SYLVANUS COBB. Jr.
'Ruric was all ready but putting
on his bonnet and pelisse. His
mother was in the kitchen. He
went to her with a smile upon his
face. He put his arms about her
and drew her to his bosom.
"God bless you, my mother! I
shall come back." He said this and
them kissed her.
It was all she could say.
Ruric gazed a moment into her
face, then he kissed her again, and
again he said:
"God bless you, my mother! I
shall come back."
He dared not stop to speak more.
Gently seating his fond mother up
on a chair, he turned and hurried
from the place. In the hall he
threw on his pelisse and bonnet, and
then he opened the door and passed
"Have you a good weapon ask
ed Orsa as the horse started on.
"I have a fair one. I think it will
not deceive me," returned Ruric.
"I asked," continued Orsa, "be-
cause Damonpff prides himself upon
the weapon he wears. It is a Ger
man blade, and he thinks he can cut
in twain the blade of any other
weapon in Moscow with it."
"I have a good weapon," Ruric
said quietly, "and one which has
stood more tests than most swords
will bear." And after some further
remarks he related the peculiar cir
cumstances attending the making of
the sword and his possession of it.
At length they struck upon the
river, and in half an hour more they
reached the appointed spot. The day
was beautiful. The sun shone bright
ly upon the glistening snow, and the
air was still and calm. The sharp
frost of the atmosphere served only
to brace the system up, and Ruric
threw open his pelisse that he
might breathe more freely. He had
been upon the ground but a few
minutes when- the other party came
in sight around the head of the
As soon as the count and his sec
ond arrived and the horses had been
secured the lieutenant proposed that
they should repair to the building
which was close at hand. This was
a large open boathouse which was
unused and deserted in the winter,
and it was proposed to go in there
because the reflection of the strong
sunlight from the bright snow was
calculated to blind and blur the eye.
"Ha! What means that?" uttered
Orsa as he saw a sledge just turning
the bend of the river with an officer
"It is only a surgeon," replied
Damonoff. "I would not cut a
man's flesh without giving him a
fair chance to survive it."
"And then you may find him
serviceable to yourself, eh?" sug
gested the lieutenant.
"Of course. There is no telling
what may happen."
In a moment more the new sledge
came up, and Ruric recognized its
inmate as an army surgeon whom he
had seen before, though he knew not
"Now for the old boathouse,"
"Aye," added Damonoff. "Let us
have this business done, for I would
be back to dinner. I dine with Olga
today, and a fair maiden awaits my
"Notice him not," whispered Or
sa, who walked close by Ruric's side.
"That is one of his chief points
when engaged in an affair of this
kind. He hopes to get you angry
and so unhinge your nerves."
"Never fear," returned the gun
maker. "Be sure he only brings
new danger to himself, for such ef
forts will find their point in the
muscle of my arm."
The party halted when they
reached the interior ot the rough
structure, and the count threw off
his pelisse and drew his sword. Ru
ric followed his example.
"Sir count," the latter said as he
moved a step forward, "ere we com
mence this work I wish all present
to understand distinctly how I
stand. You have sought this quar
rel from the first. Without the least
provocation from me you have in
sulted me most grossly, and this is
the climax. So, before God and
man, be the result upon your own
"Out, lying knave,,
"Hold," cried the surgeon, laying
his hand heavily upon the count's
arm. "You have no right to speak
thus, fpr you lower yourself when
you do it. If you have come to fight,
do so honorably."
An angry reply was upon Damo
noff's lips. buL.he.did,not sseak it.
He turned to nis antagonist ana
"Will you measure weapons, sir?
Mine may be a mite the longest. I
seek no advantage, and I have one
here of the same length and weight
as my own if you wish it."
"I am well satisfied as it is," re
"Then take your ground. Are you
The two.swords were crossed, in
an instant, with a clear, sharp clang.
There was some contrast between
the two combatants, but not much
apparently. The count was a little
the taller, and Ruric was somewhat
heavier. But to a close observer
there was a peculiar contrast in th(
bearing of the two men. That
breast swelling out so nobly and
those massive shoulders, made for
the seat of physical power, were Ru
ric's alone to possess. Yet Conrad
Damonoff was accounted a strong
man. In the athletic sports of the
court club he had few superiors and
not many equals. But Ruric Nevel
had never shown his strength there.
Now, for the first time, that con
temptuous look passed "from the
count's face. As his eye caught his
antagonist's position, as he notic
ed the calm, dignified, quiet ease
of every limb and as he caught the
deep, mystic fire of those expressive
eyes he knew that he had no com
mon amateur to deal with.
At length Conrad Damonoff start
ed back, and a quick cry escaped his
lips. His antagonist's point hadm
touched his bosom. It had pressed"
against his heart and had not been
driven home. Well he knew that his
life was his no longer, for the gun
maker had gained it and spared it.
"You fence well," he gasped,
struggling to regain his composure.
"You are not a novice," returned
Ruric calmly, at the same time al
lowing his point to drop.
"Come on," the count uttered,
now gathering all his energies for
And again the weapons were
crossed. This' time Damonoff was
more guarded. Before he had been
impelled by his own assurance, but
now he was forced to regard his op
ponent's power. Ruric quickly
found that the other was more care
ful than at first, and he carried his
own point accordingly. At the
twelfth stroke the count made a
feint to the left, then at the throat,
and then, with a quick, lightning
like motion, he brought his point to
his antagonist's heart. But his
meaning had been read from the
first by Ruric. The youth caught
the motion of the eye, and he saw
that his heart was the place looked
to. His own movement was almost
instinctive. He received his antag
onist's sword midway upon his own
blade, then moved his arm quickly
forward and caught the point under,
his cross guard then, with all his
power, he wrenched his arm upward
and backward, and the count's
sword went flying across the build
ing. It struck the opposite wall
with a dull clang, and the next in
stant it was half bu*ied in the snow.
"Fear not, sir," said Ruric as the
count started back, with both hands
raised. "I never strike an unarmed
Damonoff's arms fell to his side,
and a deep blush of shame mantled
"By St. Paul," cried the surgeon,
"your life is forfeited, sir count,
and now you should be satisfied."
"No, no," the discomfited man ex
claimed, starting up with rage and
mortification. "That was but a slip.
'Twas a false step, a cowardly feint.
I am not overcome."
"But, man of mortality, even now
your life is Nevel's. He may run
you through now if he chooses."
"But he has not," the count cried,
springing to where his sword had
fallen and snatching it up.
"Sir count," here spoke Ruric
calmly, but with marked contempt,
"you should not blame me for what
I have done, for thrice have you
tried to break my sword."
"Then try it again!" Damonoff
returned. "Take my sword again if
'Terhaps not," our hero retorted.
"But be sure your sword shall be
used no more after this day."
"Ha! Brag not, but strike. If
The conclusion of the sentence
was drowned by the clash of steel.
At the second stroke the count
made another furious thrust at his
antagonist's heart. Ruric sprang
quickly aside, and with the whole
power of his good right arm he
struck Damonoff's blade close to the
haft and broke it in twain.
"My other sword, my other
sword!" the count shouted, now
blinded by absolute madness. "Oh,
give me my other"
"Hold!" cried both the surgeon
and Stephen Urzen in concert "You
are mad, Conrad."
"Mad? Oh, I shall be mad!
Where is my sword?" the reckless
man yelled, casting the bladeless
"But will yon not listen one"':4^
"Awav. I saxi. ShallI dve*HD-be-
cause my sword is*~broken By the
gods, the weapon deceived me.
Where is the other
"Deceived thee, Conrad repeat
ed the surgeon sarcastically. "By
the Holy Ghost, had thy head but
received a hundredth part of the
blow 'twould not be upon thy shoul
But the count was beyond all rea
son. In his madness he saw not that
his sword had been broken on pur
pose. He did not see that he had
been at his antagonist's mercy. But
his friends saw it all.
"Ha! Whom have we here cried
Alaric, whose eye had caught a dark
form at the entrance of the old
It was Vladimir, the monk.
"How now What seek ye here?"
asked Urzen as the fat, burly monk
waddled toward the party.
"I heard the clash of arms, my
Son, as I rode by, and stopped to
see what it was. Surely where the
work of death is going on a child of
the holy churclkpf God may come."
"Aye," cried the count. "Come in
and welcome, but meddle not. Now,
my sword, where i^ it
Reluctantly Urzen brought for
ward the second sword, but ere he
gave it up he said:
"Beware, Conrad. You had bet
"Peace, babbler!" the excited fool
hissed, snatching the weapon and
then turning quickly upon the gun
Thus far Ruric had remained si
lent, but he felt it his duty to speak
"Sir count," he said in a tone so
stern and authoritative and with a
look so commanding that the other
was held abeyance by it, "I must
speak one word. You have provok
ed a quarrel with me, and you have
challenged me. I have no fear of
death when duty calls for my life,
but I would not die thus, nor would
I slay a fellow being thus. Six sep
arate times today since our swords
first crossed have I spared your
''and twice have I had you be
fore me unarmed," Ruric continued
without noticing the interruption.
"I had hoped this would have shown
you that I sought not harm to you
and, furthermore, that you were no
match for me at this kind of work."
"Out, fool!" yelled Damonoff, now
fairly frothing with rage. "If you
dare not cross swords again, say so,
but do not crawl off like a coward!"
"One word more," uttered Ruric,
paling for an instant beneath the
unmerciful insult of the senseless
tongue that assailed him, and he
stood proudly erect while he spoke,
"before these men here assembled
and before God I swear that thus
far I have spared you, but my own
life may be the forfeit if I trifle with
you more. So now beware. You
have sufficient warning."
Perhaps the count really over
looked the facts of which Ruric had
spoken. In his ungovernable rage
he may have fancied that 'twas only
accident that had worked against
him. However, he started forward
once more and made a furious lunge
at his antagonist.
"Now," he gasped^ "play your
best, for my sword's my own."
But Ruric spoke not. He saw that
the count was stronger than before
for his rage seemed to give him a
maniac's powerand that he was
earnest only for life or death. He
etruck quickly and furiously, and
his movements were strange and un
precedented. He threw up all rules
of exercise and cut and thrust only
in wild madness. Twice Ruric came
nigh being run through. He lost all
run of his opponent's play and
quickly saw that he must put a stop
to the' conflict or run the risk of
leaving a childless mother in his
home to see that day's sun sink.
"Will you give o'er he asked as
he struck the count's point down.
"Never! Submit to such as you
A few moments more the conflict
lasted. One more opportunity he
had at Damonoff's heart, and he
spared him. All present saw it save
"Fool!" uttered the monk, who
trembled from head to foot with ex
citement, his huge belly shaking like
a bag of jelly. "Will you throw
away your own life, Ruric Nevel?
Shall I tell your mother you left her
of your own will?"
This mention of his mother called
the last lingering doubt from Ru
ric's mind. Again he struck the op
posing point down, and then he
pressed his own point upon the
count's bosom. He avoided the
hearthe tried to avoid the vitals
but he threw his arm forward, and
his glittering blade passed through
the fool's body. With an expres
sion of pain upon his features he
started back and rested his reeking
point upon the trodden snow. The
count came furiously on again, but
he struck wildly and at random, Ru
ric merely warding off his blows, un
til finally his arm sank. On the next
moment his sword fell from his
nerveless grasp, and he sank, faint
ing, back into the arms of his at
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