The Outlaw of Torn

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 22

long-rotted rushes that crumbled beneath their feet. A huge
bat circled wildly with loud fluttering wings in evident remonstrance at
this rude intrusion. Strange creatures of the night scurried or wriggled
across wall and floor.

But the child was unafraid. Fear had not been a part of the old woman's
curriculum. The boy did not know the meaning of the word, nor was
he ever in his after-life to experience the sensation. With childish
eagerness, he followed his companion as she inspected the interior of
the chamber. It was still an imposing room. The boy clapped his hands
in delight at the beauties of the carved and panelled walls and the oak
beamed ceiling, stained almost black from the smoke of torches and oil
cressets that had lighted it in bygone days, aided, no doubt, by the
wood fires which had burned in its two immense fireplaces to cheer the
merry throng of noble revellers that had so often sat about the great
table into the morning hours.

Here they took up their abode. But the bent, old woman was no longer an
old woman--she had become a straight, wiry, active old man.

The little boy's education went on--French, swordsmanship and hatred
of the English--the same thing year after year with the addition of
horsemanship after he was ten years old. At this time the old man
commenced teaching him to speak English, but with a studied and very
marked French accent. During all his life now, he could not remember of
having spoken to any living being other than his guardian, whom he had
been taught to address as father. Nor did the boy have any name--he was
just "my son."

His life in the Derby hills was so filled with the hard, exacting
duties of his education that he had little time to think of the strange
loneliness of his existence; nor is it probable that he missed that
companionship of others of his own age of which, never having had
experience in it, he could scarce be expected to regret or yearn for.

At fifteen, the youth was a magnificent swordsman and horseman, and with
an utter contempt for pain or danger--a contempt which was the result of
the heroic methods adopted by the little old man in the training of him.
Often the two practiced with razor-sharp swords, and without armor or
other protection of any description.

"Thus only," the old man was wont to say, "mayst thou become the
absolute master of thy blade. Of such a nicety must be thy handling of
the weapon that thou mayst touch an antagonist at

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