“It is gathered this night,” he continued, “to avenge the death of Lord Ronley, a friend of his Majesty, and of many here present, and an honored member of this order. For his death you, and you alone, are responsible, and, we suspect, under circumstances of no credit to your sword. Many of our people have been cut off from their comrades and slain by cowardly stealth, have been led into ambush and cruelly cut to pieces by an overwhelming number, have been shut in prison and done to death by starvation or by stabs of a knife there in your country. Not content with the weapons of a soldier, you have even resorted to the barbarity of the poison-wasp. Pardon me, but you Yankees do not seem to have any mercy or fairness for a foe. We shall give you better treatment. You shall not be killed like a rat in a trap. You shall have a chance for your life. Had you halted, had you been a coward, you would not have been worthy to fight in this arena. You would not have come where you are standing, and possibly even now your grave would have been filled. If you survive the ordeal that is to come, I hope it will prove an example to you of the honor that is due to bravery, of the fairness due a foe.”
Many voices spoke the word “Amen” as he stopped, turning to beckon into the gloom about us. I was now quite over my confusion. I began to look about me and get my bearings. I could hear a stir in the crowd beyond the lights, and a murmur of voices. Reflecting lanterns from many pillars near by shot their rays upon me. I stood on a platform, some thirty feet square, in the middle of a large room. Its floor was on a level with the faces of the many who stood pressing to the row of lights, Here, I took it, I was to fight for my life, I was looking at the yawning grave in the corner of this arena, when four men ascended with swords and pistols. One of them removed the shackles, letting my hands free. I thanked him as he tossed them aside. I was thinking of D’ri, and, shading my eyes, looked off in the gloom to see if I could discover him. I called his name, but heard no answer. His Lordship came over to me, bringing a new sword. He held the glittering blade before me, its hilt in his right hand, its point resting on the fingers of his left. “It’s good,” said he, quietly; “try it.”
It was a beautiful weapon, its guard and pommel and quillons sparkling with wrought-silver, its grip of yellow leather laced with blue silk. The glow and the feel of it filled me with a joy I had not known since my father gave me the sword of my childhood. It drove the despair out of me, and I was a new man. I tried the blade, its point upon my toe. It was good metal, and the grip fitted me.
“Well, how do you find it?” said he, impatiently.
“I am satisfied,” was my reply.
He helped me take off my blouse and waistcoat, and then I rolled my sleeves to the elbow. The hum of voices had grown louder. I could hear men offering to bet and others bantering for odds.