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lean, fierce-faced, long-armed, a terrible man to see in the fiery light
that broke upon him from beneath the edge of a black cloud; the Spaniard
tall also, and agile, but to all appearance as unconcerned as though
this were but a pleasure bout, and not a duel to the death with a
woman's fate hanging on the hazard. D'Aguilar wore a breastplate of
gold-inlaid black steel and a helmet, while Peter had but his tunic of
bull's hide and iron-lined cap, though his straight cut-and-thrust sword
was heavier and mayhap half an inch longer than that of his foe.
Thus, then, they stood while Castell and all the ship's company, save
the helmsman who steered her to the harbour's mouth, clung to the
bulwarks and the cordage of the mainmast, and, forgetful of their own
peril, watched in utter silence.
It was Peter who thrust the first, straight at the throat, but d'Aguilar
parried deftly, so that the sword point went past his neck, and before
it could be drawn back again, struck at Peter. The blow fell upon the
side of his steel cap, and glanced thence to his left shoulder, but,
being light, did him no harm. Swiftly came the answer, which was not
light, for it fell so heavily upon d'Aguilar's breastplate, that he
staggered back. After him sprang Peter, thinking that the game was his,
but at that moment the ship, which had entered the breakers of the
harbour bar, rolled terribly, and sent them both reeling to the
bulwarks. Nor did she cease her rolling, so that, smiting and thrusting
wildly, they staggered backwards and forwards across the deck, gripping
with their left hands at anything they could find to steady them, till
at length, bruised and breathless, they fell apart unwounded, and
"An ill field this to fight on, Senor," gasped d'Aguilar.
"I think that it will serve our turn," said Peter grimly, and rushed at
him like a bull. It was just then that a great sea came aboard the ship,
a mass of green water which struck them both and washed them like straws
into the scuppers, where they rolled half drowned. Peter rose the first,
coughing out salt water, and rubbing it from his eyes, to see d'Aguilar
still upon the deck, his sword lying beside him, and holding his right
wrist with his left hand.
"Who gave you the hurt?" he asked, "I or your fall?"
"The fall, Senor," answered d'Aguilar; "I think that it has broken my
wrist. But I have still my left hand. Suffer me to arise, and we will
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