"I doubt it not," said the old man; "and I believe me thou wilt come off right well. From what he did say this morning, methinks the Sieur de la Montaigne meaneth only to break three lances with thee, and will content himself therewith, without seeking to unhorse thee. Ne'theless, be thou bold and watchful, and if thou find that he endeavor to cast thee, do thy best to unhorse him. Remember also those things which I have told thee ten thousand times before: hold thy toes well down and grip the stirrup hard, more especially at the moment of meeting; bend thy body forward, and keep thine elbow close to thy side. Bear thy lance point one foot above thine adversary's helm until within two lengths of meeting, and strike thou in the very middle of his shield. So, Myles, thou mayst hold thine own, and come off with glory."
As he ended speaking he drew back, and Gascoyne, mounting upon a stool, covered his friend's head and bascinet with the great jousting helm, making fast the leathern points that held it to the iron collar.
As he was tying the last thong a messenger came from the Herald, saying that the challenger was ready, and then Myles knew the time had come, and reaching down and giving Sir James a grip of the hand, he drew on his gauntlet, took the jousting lance that Wilkes handed him, and turned his horse's head towards his end of the lists.
As Myles took his place at the south end of the lists, he found the Sieur de la Montaigne already at his station. Through the peep-hole in the face of the huge helmet, a transverse slit known as the occularium, he could see, like a strange narrow picture, the farther end of the lists, the spectators upon either side moving and shifting with ceaseless restlessness, and in the centre of all, his opponent, sitting with spear point directed upward, erect, motionless as a statue of iron, the sunlight gleaming and flashing upon his polished plates of steel, and the trappings of his horse swaying and fluttering in the rushing of the fresh breeze.
Upon that motionless figure his sight gradually centred with every faculty of mind and soul. He knew the next moment the signal would be given that was to bring him either glory or shame from that iron statue. He ground his teeth together with stern resolve to do his best in the coming encounter, and murmured a brief prayer in the hallow darkness of his huge helm. Then with a shake he settled himself more firmly in his saddle, slowly raised his spear point until the shaft reached the exact angle, and there suffered it to rest motionless. There was a moment of dead, tense, breathless pause, then he rather felt than saw the Marshal raise his baton. He gathered himself together, and the next moment a bugle sounded loud and clear. In one blinding rush he drove his spurs into the sides of his horse, and in instant answer felt the noble steed spring forward with a bound.
Through all the clashing of his armor reverberating in the hollow depths of his helmet, he saw the mail-clad figure from the other end of the lists rushing towards him, looming larger and larger as they came together. He gripped his saddle with his knees, clutched the stirrup with the soles of his feet, and bent his body still more forward. In the instant of meeting, with almost the blindness of instinct, he dropped the point of his spear against the single red flower-de-luce in the middle of the on-coming shield. There was a thunderous crash that seemed to rack every joint, he heard the crackle of splintered wood, he felt the momentary trembling recoil of the horse beneath him, and in the next instant had passed by. As he checked the onward rush of his horse at the far end of the course, he heard faintly in the dim hollow recess of the helm the loud shout and the clapping of hands of those who looked on, and found himself gripping with nervous intensity the butt of a broken spear, his mouth clammy with excitement, and his heart thumping in his throat.
Then he realized that he had met his opponent, and had borne the meeting well. As he turned his horse's head towards his own end of the lists, he saw the other trotting slowly back towards his station, also holding a broken spear shaft in his hand.
As he passed the iron figure a voice issued from the helmet, "Well done, Sir Myles, nobly done!" and his heart bounded in answer to the words of praise. When he had reached his own end of the lists, he flung away his broken spear, and Gascoyne came forward with another.
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