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Love-at-Arms   By: (1875-1950)

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LOVE AT ARMS

Being a narrative excerpted from the chronicles of Urbino during the dominion of the High and Mighty Messer Guidobaldo da Montefeltro

By Raphael Sabatini

"Le donne, i cavalier', l'arme, gli amori, Le cortesie, l'audace imprese io canto."

ARIOSTO

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. VOX POPULI

II. ON A MOUNTAIN PATH

III. SACKCLOTH AND MOTLEY

IV. MONNA VALENTINA

V. GIAN MARIA

VI. THE AMOROUS DUKE

VII. GONZAGA THE INSIDIOUS

VIII. AMONG THE DREGS OF WINE

IX. THE "TRATTA DI CORDE"

X. THE BRAYING OF AN ASS

XI. WANDERING KNIGHTS

XII. THE FOOL'S INQUISITIVENESS

XIII. GIAN MARIA MAKES A VOW

XIV. FORTEMANI DRINKS WATER

XV. THE MERCY OF FRANCESCO

XVI. GONZAGA UNMASKS

XVII. THE ENEMY

XVIII. TREACHERY

XIX. PLOT AND COUNTERPLOT

XX. THE LOVERS

XXI. THE PENITENT

XXII. A REVELATION

XXIII. IN THE ARMOURY TOWER

XXIV. THE INTERRUPTED MASS

XXV. THE CAPITULATION OF ROCCALEONE

CHAPTER I. VOX POPULI

From the valley, borne aloft on the wings of the evening breeze, rose faintly the tolling of an Angelus bell, and in a goat herd's hut on the heights above stood six men with heads uncovered and bowed, obeying its summons to evening prayer. A brass lamp, equipped with three beaks, swung from the grimy ceiling, and, with more smoke than flame, shed an indifferent light, and yet a more indifferent smell, throughout the darkening hovel. But it sufficed at least to reveal in the accoutrements and trappings of that company a richness that was the more striking by contrast with the surrounding squalor.

As the last stroke of the Ave Maria faded on the wind that murmured plaintively through the larches of the hillside, they piously crossed themselves, and leisurely resuming their head gear, they looked at one another with questioning glances. Yet before any could voice the inquiry that was in the minds of all, a knock fell upon the rotten timbers of the door.

"At last!" exclaimed old Fabrizio da Lodi, in a voice charged with relief, whilst a younger man of good shape and gay garments strode to the door in obedience to Fabrizio's glance, and set it wide.

Across the threshold stepped a tall figure under a wide, featherless hat, and wrapped in a cloak which he loosened as he entered, revealing the very plainest of raiment beneath. A leather hacketon was tightened at the waist by a girdle of hammered steel, from which depended on his left a long sword with ringed, steel quillons, whilst from behind his right hip peeped the hilt of a stout Pistoja dagger. His hose of red cloth vanished into boots of untanned leather, laced in front and turned down at the knees, and completed in him the general appearance of a mercenary in time of peace, in spite of which the six nobles, in that place of paradoxes, bared their heads anew, and stood in attitudes of deferential attention.

He paused a moment to throw off his cloak, of which the young man who had admitted him hastened to relieve him as readily as if he had been born a servitor. He next removed his hat, and allowed it to remain slung from his shoulders, displaying, together with a still youthful countenance of surpassing strength and nobility, a mane of jet black hair coiffed in a broad net of gold thread the only article of apparel that might have suggested his station to be higher than at first had seemed.

He stepped briskly to the coarse and grease stained table, about which the company was standing, and his black eyes ran swiftly over the faces that confronted him.

"Sirs," he said at last, "I am here. My horse went lame a half league beyond Sant' Angelo, and I was constrained to end the journey on foot."

"Your Excellency will be tired," cried Fabrizio, with that ready solicitude which is ever at the orders of the great. "A cup of Puglia wine, my lord. Here, Fanfulla," he called, to the young nobleman who had acted as usher. But the new comer silenced him and put the matter aside with a gesture... Continue reading book >>




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