Lord Geste – Chapter XVII
The two men dueled brilliantly. Carlyle pressed the attack, his eyes blazing with hatred. Lord Geste defended, his lip curled in contempt. He sneered, “Is that your best, little man.” Carlyle said nothing and pressed harder. Honor demanded the death of the man before him.
Back and forth they fought, swords flashing. The inevitable happened. Carlyle had passion but Lord Geste was by far the better swordsman. He defended perfectly and waited patiently for the inevitable error. When it came he seized it with impeccable precision and Carlyle’s sword went flying. The point of Lord Geste’s sword rested in the hollow of Carlyle’s throat.
For a moment the two men stood still, a tableau in lace and stocking feet, and then Carlyle grunted, “For God’s Sake, Justin, make it an end to it.” Lord Geste stood perfectly still, the point of his sword still pricking Carlyle’s throat. “What,” he said quietly, “will your death accomplish?”
Carlyle’s brow furrowed as he struggled with the unexpected effort of thought. “Damn you, Justin,” he said, “what do you mean by that?”
Lord Geste remained a figure in the repose of battle, all of his senses alert, with the point ever at Carlyle’s throat. “Carlyle,” he purred, “you are a dead man if I but choose. That is nothing; all men live and all men die. Death is the last great moment in life and Life itself asks of you: What will you accomplish by your death.”
Carlyle grunted, “Nothing, damn your eyes, nothing. You will continue your villainy unchecked.”
Lord Geste dropped the point of his sword. “Precisely. You will achieve nothing by your death. You are a fool who isn’t ready to answer life’s final question, a fool who didn’t even know the question was there. Go. Take your worthless life with you and go.”
Carlyle reddened but he turned to leave.
Lord Geste raised a hand. “Wait,” he said. Carlyle turned back and looked at him expectantly.
Lord Geste jammed the point of his sword into the floor. “Here,” he purred, “I am unarmed and defenseless. Take up your sword and run me through. That is what you came here for, isn’t it, to kill me. Go ahead; this is your chance.”
Carlyle picked up his sword and looked at Lord Geste uncertainly, his face a study in perplexity. Finally he understood. He raised his point and said, “And you, Justin, what will you accomplish by your death?”
Lord Geste smiled with a smile that he never wore in public, a smile that he reserved for moments in his sanctum when he was alone with his evil. “Much,” he purred, “much. By my death I will turn you into a monster. Today you are a fool, a brainless young nobleman who drinks and gambles, who rides to the hunt, and who duels. If you had slain me in an affair of honor that would have been nothing. It would have not weighed on you. If you had not asked that question and had run me through you would have had murder on your head but you could have excused yourself. It is too late for that; I have offered you my evil with my life. Run me through and you accept it.”
Carlyle said, “Justin, you’re too deep for me.”
“Am I, Carlyle? Am I, truly? Come man, this is your opportunity. Think of your sister. Think of Adams, dead by his own hand. There is no end to my villainies that you can avenge. Slay me while you have the chance.”
With that he threw his arms open wide and thrust his chest forward, inviting the stroke that would end his life. Carlyle shifted his weight from one foot to another and then, without a word, he rushed to the door, slammed it behind him, took to his horse, and galloped away.
Lord Geste stood there, silent and still, as he listened to the sound of hoofbeats fading away in the distance. At length, when all was quiet, he gathered himself together. He smiled his private smile and he laughed. The smile was evil but the laugh – the laugh was a sound too terrible to be borne.
This page was last updated January 10, 2001.