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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 ihe can." "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 for thee! v CHAPTER V. THE DUEL. 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 remained unharmed. "By St. Michael, Paul, Moscow does not contain another blade like that. Damascus never saw a bet- ter." 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 like that?" "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 credit it." 1 ^g|^ "How much asked Paul, with a boy's curiosity. "It was a sum equal to about 700 ducats." "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 ^Tf Gunmaker O Moscow & 0 By SYLVANUS COBB. Jr. 'ft '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. aGod keepand'* 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 out. "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 river. 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 in it. "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 his name. "Now for the old boathouse," cried Urzen. "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 coming." "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 head." "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 plied Ruric. "Then take your ground. Are you ready?" "lam!" 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 another effort. 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 man." Damonoff's arms fell to his side, and a deep blush of shame mantled his face. "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 you can." 'Terhaps not," our hero retorted. "But be sure your sword shall be used no more after this day." "Ha! Brag not, but strike. If you can" 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 pommel down. "But will yon not listen one"':4^ "Awav. I saxi. ShallI dve*HD-be- Stt!7 $,M i& 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 ders now!" 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 building. 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 ter" "Peace, babbler!" the excited fool hissed, snatching the weapon and then turning quickly upon the gun maker. Thus far Ruric had remained si lent, but he felt it his duty to speak now. "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 life" "Liar!" ''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 Bah!" 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 the madman. "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 tendants,y ^MFJ1tls 4i Fargo, N. D. /is 4s /f\ 4s 4s 4s i 4s 4s K. J. 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