When the King, with his gentlemen, entered the armory he was still smarting from the humiliation of De Montfort's reproaches, and as he laid aside his surcoat and plumed hat to take the foils with De Fulm his eyes alighted on the master of fence, Sir Jules de Vac, who was advancing with the King's foil and helmet.
De Vac he knew to be too jealous of his fame as a swordsman to permit himself to be overcome by aught but superior skill, and this day Henry felt that he could best the devil himself.
In charge of it was the lean, grizzled, leatherskinned Sir Jules de Vac, and it was he whom Henry commanded to face him in mimic combat with the foils, for the King wished to go with hammer and tongs at someone to vent his suppressed rage.
So he let De Vac assume to his mind's eye the person of the hated De Montfort, and it followed that De Vac was nearly surprised into an early and mortifying defeat by the King's sudden and clever attack.
For this fell purpose he had backed the astounded De Vac twice around the hall when, with a clever feint, and backward step, the master of fence drew the King into the position he wanted him, and with the suddenness of lightning, a little twist of his foil sent Henry's weapon clanging across the floor of the armory.
The episode meant more to him than being bested in play by the best swordsman in England--for that surely was no disgrace--to Henry it seemed prophetic of the outcome of a future struggle when he should stand face to face with the real De Montfort; and then, seeing in De Vac only the creature of his imagination with which he had vested the likeness of his powerful brother-in-law, Henry did what he should like to have done to the real Leicester.
De Vac had grown old in the service of the kings of England, but he hated all things English and all Englishmen.
During the years he had served as master of fence at the English Court the sons of royalty had learned to thrust and parry and cut as only De Vac could teach the art; and he had been as conscientious in the discharge of his duties as he had been in his unswerving hatred and contempt for his pupils.
Had a French king struck him De Vac would have struck back, and gloried in the fate which permitted him to die for the honor of France; but an English King --pooh
De Vac had been born in Paris, the son of a French officer reputed the best swordsman in France.