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‘To a proper champion--yes. To you--no,’ returned Sir
Mulberry, taking the reins in his hand. ‘Stand out of the way, dog.
William, let go her head.’
‘You had better not,’ cried Nicholas, springing on the step as Sir
Mulberry jumped in, and catching at the reins. ‘He has no
command over the horse, mind. You shall not go--you shall not, I
swear--till you have told me who you are.’
The groom hesitated, for the mare, who was a high-spirited
animal and thorough-bred, plunged so violently that he could
scarcely hold her.
‘Leave go, I tell you!’ thundered his master.
The man obeyed. The animal reared and plunged as though it
would dash the carriage into a thousand pieces, but Nicholas,
blind to all sense of danger, and conscious of nothing but his fury,
still maintained his place and his hold upon the reins.
‘Will you unclasp your hand?’
‘Will you tell me who you are?’
In less time than the quickest tongue could tell it, these words
were exchanged, and Sir Mulberry shortening his whip, applied it
furiously to the head and shoulders of Nicholas. It was broken in
the struggle; Nicholas gained the heavy handle, and with it laid
open one side of his antagonist’s face from the eye to the lip. He
saw the gash; knew that the mare had darted off at a wild mad
gallop; a hundred lights danced in his eyes, and he felt himself
flung violently upon the ground.
He was giddy and sick, but staggered to his feet directly, roused