The Outlaw of Torn

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 23

will and so lightly,
shouldst thou desire, that thy point, wholly under the control of a
master hand, mayst be stopped before it inflicts so much as a scratch."

But in practice, there were many accidents, and then one or both of them
would nurse a punctured skin for a few days. So, while blood was often
let on both sides, the training produced a fearless swordsman who was
so truly the master of his point that he could stop a thrust within a
fraction of an inch of the spot he sought.

At fifteen, he was a very strong and straight and handsome lad. Bronzed
and hardy from his outdoor life; of few words, for there was none that
he might talk with save the taciturn old man; hating the English, for
that he was taught as thoroughly as swordsmanship; speaking French
fluently and English poorly--and waiting impatiently for the day when
the old man should send him out into the world with clanking armor and
lance and shield to do battle with the knights of England.

It was about this time that there occurred the first important break in
the monotony of his existence. Far down the rocky trail that led from
the valley below through the Derby hills to the ruined castle, three
armored knights urged their tired horses late one afternoon of a chill
autumn day. Off the main road and far from any habitation, they had
espied the castle's towers through a rift in the hills, and now they
spurred toward it in search of food and shelter.

As the road led them winding higher into the hills, they suddenly
emerged upon the downs below the castle where a sight met their eyes
which caused them to draw rein and watch in admiration. There, before
them upon the downs, a boy battled with a lunging, rearing horse--a
perfect demon of a black horse. Striking and biting in a frenzy of
rage, it sought ever to escape or injure the lithe figure which clung
leech-like to its shoulder.

The boy was on the ground. His left hand grasped the heavy mane;
his right arm lay across the beast's withers and his right hand drew
steadily in upon a halter rope with which he had taken a half hitch
about the horse's muzzle. Now the black reared and wheeled, striking
and biting, full upon the youth, but the active figure swung with
him--always just behind the giant shoulder--and ever and ever he drew
the great arched neck farther and farther to the right.

As the animal plunged hither and thither in great leaps,

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