“Dog!” I muttered softly, “your knowledge shall be the death of you.”
He drew away from me at last, and during the moments that I spent in readjusting my visor he sallied, and charged me again. His blustering was gone and his face grown pale, for such blows as mine could not have been without effect. Not a doubt of it but he was taken with amazement to find such fighting qualities in a Fool—an amazement that must have eclipsed even that of finding Boccadoro in the armour of Giovanni Sforza.
Again he swung his sword in that favourite stroke of his; but this time I caught the edge upon my mace, and ere he could recover I aimed a blow straight at his face. He lowered his head, like a bull on the point of charging, and so my blow descended again upon his morion, but with a force that rolled him, senseless, from the saddle.
Before I could take a breathing space I was beset by, at least, a dozen of his followers who had stood at hand during the encounter, never doubting that victory must be ultimately with their invincible captain. They drove me back foot by foot, fighting lustily, and performing—it was said afterwards by the anxious ones that watched us from the Castle, among whom was Madonna Paola—such deeds of strength and prowess as never romancer sang of in his wildest flight of fancy.
My men had suffered sorely, but the brave Giacomo still held them together, fired by the example that I set him, until in the end the day was ours. Discouraged by the disabling of their captain, so soon as they had gathered him up our opponents thought of nothing but retreat; and retreat they did, hotly pursued by us, and never allowed to pause or slacken rein until we had hurled them out of the town of Pesaro, to get them back to Cesare Borgia with the tale of their ignominious discomfiture.
THE FALL OF PESARO
As we rode back through the town of Pesaro, some fifty men of the six score that had sallied from the Castle a half-hour ago, we found the streets well-nigh deserted, the rebellious citizens having fled back to the shelter of their homes, like rats to their burrows in time of peril.
As we advanced through the shambles that we had left about the Castle gates, it occurred to me that within the courtyard a crowd would be waiting to receive and welcome me, and it became necessary to devise some means of avoiding this reception. I beckoned Giacomo to my side.
“Let it be given out that I will speak to no man until I have rendered thanks to Heaven for this signal victory,” I muttered to the unsuspecting Albanian. “Do you clear a way for me so soon a we are within.”
He obeyed me so well that when the bridge had been let down, he preceded me with a couple of his men and gently but firmly pressed back those that would have approached—among the first of whom were Madonna Paola and her brother.