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The Cornet of Horse A Tale of Marlborough's Wars   By: (1832-1902)

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E text prepared by Martin Robb


A Tale of Marlborough's Wars





Chapter 1: Windthorpe Chace. Chapter 2: Rupert to the Rescue. Chapter 3: A Kiss and its Consequences. Chapter 4: The Sedan Chair. Chapter 5: The Fencing School. Chapter 6: The War Of Succession. Chapter 7: Venloo. Chapter 8: The Old Mill. Chapter 9: The Duel. Chapter 10: The Battle Of The Dykes. Chapter 11: A Death Trap. Chapter 12: The Sad Side Of War. Chapter 13: Blenheim. Chapter 14: The Riot at Dort. Chapter 15: The End of a Feud. Chapter 16: Ramilies. Chapter 17: A Prisoner of War. Chapter 18: The Court of Versailles. Chapter 19: The Evasion. Chapter 20: Loches. Chapter 21: Back in Harness. Chapter 22: Oudenarde. Chapter 23: The Siege of Lille. Chapter 24: Adele. Chapter 25: Flight and Pursuit. Chapter 26: The Siege of Tournai. Chapter 27: Malplaquet, and the End of the War.

Chapter 1: Windthorpe Chace.

"One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four turn to your lady; one, two, three, four now deep reverence. Now you take her hand; no, not her whole hand the tips of her fingers; now you lead her to her seat; now a deep bow, so. That will do. You are improving, but you must be more light, more graceful, more courtly in your air; still you will do.

"Now run away, Mignon, to the garden; you have madam's permission to gather fruit.

"Now, Monsieur Rupert, we will take our lesson in fencing."

The above speech was in the French language, and the speaker was a tall, slightly built man of about fifty years of age. The scene was a long low room, in a mansion situated some two miles from Derby. The month was January, 1702, and King William the Third sat upon the throne. In the room, in addition to the dancing master, were the lad he was teaching, an active, healthy looking boy between fifteen and sixteen; his partner, a bright faced French girl of some twelve years of age; and an old man, nearer eighty than seventy, but still erect and active, who sat in a large armchair, looking on.

By the alacrity with which the lad went to an armoire and took out the foils, and steel caps with visors which served as fencing masks, it was clear that he preferred the fencing lesson to the dancing. He threw off his coat, buttoned a padded guard across his chest, and handing a foil to his instructor, took his place before him.

"Now let us practise that thrust in tierce after the feint and disengage. You were not quite so close as you might have been, yesterday. Ha! ha! that is better. I think that monsieur your grandfather has been giving you a lesson, and poaching on my manor. Is it not so?"

"Yes," said the old man, "I gave him ten minutes yesterday evening; but I must give it up. My sword begins to fail me, and your pupil gets more skillful, and stronger in the wrist, every day. In the days when I was at Saint Germains with the king, when the cropheads lorded it here, I could hold my own with the best of your young blades. But even allowing fully for the stiffness of age, I think I can still gauge the strength of an opponent, and I think the boy promises to be of premiere force."

"It is as you say, monsieur le colonel. My pupil is born to be a fencer; he learns it with all his heart; he has had two good teachers for three years; he has worked with all his energy at it; and he has one of those supple strong wrists that seem made for the sword. He presses me hard.

"Now, Monsieur Rupert, open play, and do your best."

Then began a struggle which would have done credit to any fencing school in Europe. Rupert Holliday was as active as a cat, and was ever on the move, constantly shifting his ground, advancing and retreating with astonishing lightness and activity. At first he was too eager, and his instructor touched him twice over his guard... Continue reading book >>

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