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The Tavern Knight by Rafael Sabatini

Part 5 out of 5

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A strange reply he deemed it, yet, pondering, he took her
meaning to be that since Jocelyn had lacked the courage to woo
boldly, she was glad that he had sent an ambassador less timid.

A pause followed, and for a spell they sat silent, he thinking
of how to frame his next words; she happy and content to sit
beside him without speech.

She marvelled somewhat at the strangeness of his wooing, which
was like unto no wooing her romancer's tales had told her of,
but then she reflected how unlike he was to other men, and
therein she saw the explanation.

"I wish," he mused, "that matters were easier; that it might be
mine to boldly sue your hand from your father, but it may not
be. Even had events not fallen out as they have done, it had
been difficult; as it is, it is impossible."

Again his meaning was obscure, and when he spoke of suing for
her hand from her father, he did not think of adding that he
would have sued it for his son.

"I have no father," she replied. "This very day have I
disowned him." And observing the inquiry with which his eyes
were of a sudden charged: "Would you have me own a thief, a
murderer, my father?" she demanded, with a fierceness of
defiant shame.

"You know, then?" he ejaculated.

"Yes," she answered sorrowfully, "I know all there is to be
known. I learnt it all this morning. All day have I pondered
it in my shame to end in the resolve to leave Sheringham. I
had intended going to London to my mother's sister. You are
very opportunely come." She smiled up at him through the tears
that were glistening in her eyes. "You come even as I was
despairing - nay, when already I had despaired."

Sir Crispin was no longer puzzled by the readiness of her
acquiescence. Here was the explanation of it. Forced by the
honesty of her pure soul to abandon the house of a father she
knew at last for what he was, the refuge Crispin now offered
her was very welcome. She had determined before he came to
quit Castle Marleigh, and timely indeed was his offer of the
means of escape from a life that was grown impossible. A great
pity filled his heart. She was selling herself, he thought;
accepting the proposal which, on his son's behalf, he made, and
from which at any other season, he feared, she would have
shrunk in detestation.

That pity was reflected on his countenance now, and noting its
solemnity, and misconstruing it, she laughed outright, despite
herself. He did not ask her why she laughed, he did not notice
it; his thoughts were busy already upon another matter.

When next he spoke, it was to describe to her the hollow of the
road where on the night of his departure from the castle he had
been flung from his horse. She knew the spot, she told him,
and there at dusk upon the following day she would come to him.
Her woman must accompany her, and for all that he feared such
an addition to the party might retard their flight, yet he
could not gainsay her resolution. Her uncle, he learnt from
her, was absent from Sheringham; he had set out four days ago
for London. For her father she would leave a letter, and in
this matter Crispin urged her to observe circumspection, giving
no indication of the direction of her journey.

In all he said, now that matters were arranged he was calm,
practical, and unloverlike, and for all that she would he had
been less self-possessed, her faith in him caused her, upon
reflection, even to admire this which she conceived to be
restraint. Yet, when at parting he did no more than
courteously bend before her, and kiss her hand as any simpering
gallant might have done, she was all but vexed, and not to be
outdone in coldness, she grew frigid. But it was lost upon
him. He had not a lover's discernment, quickened by anxious
eyes that watch for each flitting change upon his mistress's

They parted thus, and into the heart of Mistress Cynthia there
crept that night a doubt that banished sleep. Was she wise in
entrusting herself so utterly to a man of whom she knew but
little, and that learnt from rumours which had not been good?
But scarcely was it because of that that doubts assailed her.
Rather was it because of his cool deliberateness which argued
not the great love wherewith she fain would fancy him inspired.

For consolation she recalled a line that had it great fires
were soon burnt out, and she sought to reassure herself that
the flame of his love, if not all-consuming, would at least
burn bright and steadfastly until the end of life. And so she
fell asleep, betwixt hope and fear, yet no longer with any
hesitancy touching the morrow's course.

In the morning she took her woman into her confidence, and
scared her with it out of what little sense the creature owned.
Yet to such purpose did she talk, that when that evening, as
Crispin waited by the coach he had taken, in the hollow of the
road, he saw approaching him a portly, middle-aged dame with a
valise. This was Cynthia's woman, and Cynthia herself was not
long in following, muffled in a long, black cloak.

He greeted her warmly - affectionately almost yet with none of
the rapture to which she held herself entitled as some little
recompense for all that on his behalf she left behind.

Urbanely he handed her into the coach, and, after her, her
woman. Then seeing that he made shift to close the door:

"How is this?" she cried. "Do you not ride with us?"

He pointed to a saddled horse standing by the roadside, and
which she had not noticed.

"It will be better so. You will be at more comfort in the
carriage without me. Moreover, it will travel the lighter and
the swifter, and speed will prove our best friend."

He closed the door, and stepped back with a word of command to
the driver. The whip cracked, and Cynthia flung herself back
almost in a pet. What manner of lover, she asked herself, was
thin and what manner of woman she, to let herself be borne away
by one who made so little use of the arts and wiles of sweet
persuasion? To carry her off, and yet not so much as sit
beside her, was worthy only of a man who described such a
journey as tedious. She marvelled greatly at it, yet more she
marvelled at herself that she did not abandon this mad

The coach moved on and the flight from Sheringham was begun.



Throughout the night they went rumbling on their way at a pace
whose sluggishness elicited many an oath from Crispin as he
rode a few yards in the rear, ever watchful of the possibility
of pursuit. But there was none, nor none need he have feared,
since whilst he rode through the cold night, Gregory Ashburn
slept as peacefully as a man may with the fever and an evil
conscience, and imagined his dutiful daughter safely abed.

With the first streaks of steely light came a thin rain to
heighten Crispin's discomfort, for of late he had been overmuch
in the saddle, and strong though he was, he was yet flesh and
blood, and subject to its ills. Towards ten o'clock they
passed through Denham. When they were clear of it Cynthia put
her head from the window. She had slept well, and her mood was
lighter and happier. As Crispin rode a yard or so behind, he
caught sight of her fresh, smiling face, and it affected him
curiously. The tenderness that two days ago had been his as he
talked to her upon the cliffs was again upon him, and the
thought that anon she would be linked to him by the ties of
relationship, was pleasurable. She gave him good morrow
prettily, and he, spurring his horse to the carriage door, was
solicitous to know of her comfort. Nor did he again fall
behind until Stafford was reached at noon. Here, at the sign
of the Suffolk Arms, he called a halt, and they broke their
fast on the best the house could give them.

Cynthia was gay, and so indeed was Crispin, yet she noted in
him that coolness which she accounted restraint, and gradually
her spirits sank again before it.

To Crispin's chagrin there were no horses to be had. Someone
in great haste had ridden through before them, and taken what
relays the hostelry could give, leaving four jaded beasts in
the stable. It seemed, indeed, that they must remain there
until the morrow, and in coming to that conclusion, Sir
Crispin's temper suffered sorely.

"Why need it put you so about," cried Cynthia, in arch
reproach, "since I am with you?"

"Blood and fire, madam," roared Galliard, "it is precisely for
that reason that I am exercised. What if your father came upon
us here?"

"My father, sir, is abed with a sword-wound and a fever," she
replied, and he remembered then how Kenneth had spitted Gregory
through the shoulder.

"Still," he returned, "he will have discovered your flight, and
I dare swear we shall have his myrmidons upon our heels.
Should they come up with us we shall hardly find them more
gentle than he would be."

She paled at that, and for a second there was silence. Then
her hand stole forth upon his arm, and she looked at him with
tightened lips and a defiant air.

"What, indeed, if they do? Are you not with me?" A king had
praised his daring, and for his valour had dubbed him knight
upon a field of stricken battle; yet the honour of it had not
brought him the elation those words - expressive of her utter
faith in him and his prowess - begat in his heart. Upon the
instant the delay ceased to fret him.

"Madam," he laughed, "since you put it so, I care not who
comes. The Lord Protector himself shall not drag you from me."

It was the nearest he had gone to a passionate speech since
they had left Sheringham, and it pleased her; yet in uttering
it he had stood a full two yards away, and in that she had
taken no pleasure.

Bidding her remain and get what rest she might, he left her,
and she, following his straight, lank figure - so eloquent of
strength - and the familiar poise of his left hand upon the
pummel of his sword, felt proud indeed that he belonged to her,
and secure in his protection. She sat herself at the window
when he was gone, and whilst she awaited his return, she hummed
a gay measure softly to herself. Her eyes were bright, and
there was a flush upon her cheeks. Not even in the wet, greasy
street could she find any unsightliness that afternoon. But as
she waited, and the minutes grew to hours, that flush faded,
and the sparkle died gradually from her eyes. The measure that
she had hummed was silenced, and her shapely mouth took on a
pout of impatience, which anon grew into a tighter mould, as he
continued absent.

A frown drew her brows together, and Mistress Cynthia's
thoughts were much as they had been the night before she left
Castle Marleigh. Where was he? Why came he not? She took up
a book of plays that lay upon the table, and sought to while
away the time by reading. The afternoon faded into dusk, and
still he did not come. Her woman appeared, to ask whether she
should call for lights and at that Cynthia became almost

"Where is Sir Crispin?" she demanded. And to the dame's
quavering answer that she knew not, she angrily bade her go

In a pet, Cynthia paced the chamber whilst Catherine was gone
upon that errand. Did this man account her a toy to while away
the hours for which he could find no more profitable diversion,
and to leave her to die of ennui when aught else offered? Was
it a small thing that he had asked of her, to go with him into
a strange land, that he should show himself so little sensible
of the honour done him?

With such questions did she plague herself, and finding them
either unanswerable, or answerable only by affirmatives, she
had well-nigh resolved upon leaving the inn, and making her way
back to London to seek out her aunt, when the door opened and
her woman reappeared.

"Well?" cried Cynthia, seeing her alone. "Where is Sir

"Below, madam."

"Below?" echoed she. "And what, pray, doth he below?"

"He is at dice with a gentleman from London."

In the dim light of the October twilight the woman saw not the
sudden pallor of her mistress's cheeks, but she heard the gasp
of pain that was almost a cry. In her mortification, Cynthia
could have wept had she given way to her feelings. The man who
had induced her to elope with him sat at dice with a gentleman
from London! Oh, it was monstrous! At the thought of it she
broke into a laugh that appalled her tiring-woman; then
mastering her hysteria, she took a sudden determination.

"Call me the host," she cried, and the frightened Catherine
obeyed her at a run.

When the landlord came, bearing lights, and bending his aged
back obsequiously:

"Have you a pillion?" she asked abruptly. "Well, fool, why do
you stare? Have you a pillion?"

"I have, madam."

"And a knave to ride with me, and a couple more as escort?"

"I might procure them, but - "

"How soon?"

"Within half an hour, but - "

"Then go see to it," she broke in, her foot beating the ground

"But, madam - "

"Go, go, go!" she cried, her voice rising at each utterance of
that imperative.

"But, madam," the host persisted despairingly, and speaking
quickly so that he might get the words out, "I have no horses
fit to travel ten miles."

"I need to go but five," she retorted quickly, her only thought
being to get the beasts, no matter what their condition. "Now,
go, and come not back until all is ready. Use dispatch and I
will pay you well, and above all, not a word to the gentleman
who came hither with me."

The sorely-puzzled host withdrew to do her bidding, won to it
by her promise of good payment.

Alone she sat for half an hour, vainly fostering the hope that
ere the landlord returned to announce the conclusion of his
preparations, Crispin might have remembered her and come. But
he did not appear, and in her solitude this poor little maid
was very miserable, and shed some tears that had still more of
anger than sorrow in their source. At length the landlord
came. She summoned her woman, and bade her follow by post on
the morrow. The landlord she rewarded with a ring worth twenty
times the value of the service, and was led by him through a
side door into the innyard.

Here she found three horses, one equipped with the pillion on
which she was to ride behind a burly stableboy. The other two
were mounted by a couple of stalwart and well-armed men, one of
whom carried a funnel-mouthed musketoon with a swagger that
promised prodigies of valour.

Wrapped in her cloak, she mounted behind the stable-boy, and
bade him set out and take the road to Denham. Her dream was at
an end.

Master Quinn, the landlord, watched her departure with eyes
that were charged with doubt and concern. As he made fast the
door of the stableyard after she had passed out, he ominously
shook his hoary head and muttered to himself humble,
hostelry-flavoured philosophies touching the strange ways of
men with women, and the stranger ways of women with men. Then,
taking up his lanthorn, he slowly retraced his steps to the
buttery where his wife was awaiting him.

With sleeves rolled high above her pink and deeply-dimpled
elbows stood Mistress Quinn at work upon the fashioning of a
pastry, when her husband entered and set down his lanthorn with
a sigh.

"To be so plagued," he growled. "To be browbeaten by a slip of
a wench - a fine gentleman's baggage with the airs and vapours
of a lady of quality. Am I not a fool to have endured it?"

"Certainly you are a fool," his wife agreed, kneading
diligently, "whatever you may have endured. What now?"

His fat face was puckered into a thousand wrinkles. His little
eyes gazed at her with long-suffering malice.

"You are my wife," he answered pregnantly, as who would say:
Thus is my folly clearly proven! and seeing that the assertion
was not one that admitted of dispute, Mistress Quinn was

"Oh, 'tis ill done!" he broke out a moment later. "Shame on me
for it; it is ill done!"

"If you have done it 'tis sure to be ill done, and shame on you
in good sooth - but for what?" put in his wife.

"For sending those poor jaded beasts upon the road."

"What beasts?"

"What beasts? Do I keep turtles? My horses, woman."

"And whither have you sent them?"

"To Denham with the baggage that came hither this morning in
the company of that very fierce gentleman who was in such a pet
because we had no horses."

"Where is he?" inquired the hostess.

"At dice with those other gallants from town."

"At dice quotha? And she's gone, you say?" asked Mrs. Quinn,
pausing in her labours squarely to face her husband.

"Aye," said he.

"Stupid!" rejoined his docile spouse, vexed by his laconic
assent. "Do you mean she has run away?"

"Tis what anyone might take from what I have told you," he
answered sweetly.

"And you have lent her horses and helped her to get away, and
you leave her husband at play in there?"

"You have seen her marriage lines, I make no doubt," he sneered

"You dolt! If the gentleman horsewhips you, you will have
richly earned it."

"Eh? What?" gasped he, and his rubicund cheeks lost something
of their high colour, for here was a possibility that had not
entered into his calculations. But Mistress Quinn stayed not
to answer him. Already she was making for the door, wiping the
dough from her hands on to her apron as she went. A suspicion
of her purpose flashed through her husband's mind.

"What would you do?" he inquired nervously.

"Tell the gentleman what has taken place."

"Nay," he cried, resolutely barring her way. "Nay. That you
shall not. Would you - would you ruin me?"

She gave him a look of contempt, and dodging his grasp she
gained the door and was half-way down the passage towards the
common room before he had overtaken her and caught her round
the middle.

"Are you mad, woman?" he shouted. "Will you undo me?"

"Do you undo me," she bade him, snatching at his hands. But he
clutched with the tightness of despair.

"You shall not go," he swore. "Come back and leave the
gentleman to make the discovery for himself. I dare swear it
will not afflict him overmuch. He has abandoned her sorely
since they came; not a doubt of it but that he is weary of her.
At least he need not know I lent her horses. Let him think she
fled a-foot, when he discovers her departure."

"I will go," she answered stubbornly, dragging him with her a
yard or two nearer the door. "The gentleman shall be warned.
Is a woman to run away from her husband in my house, and the
husband never be warned of it?"

"I promised her," he began.

"What care I for your promises?" she asked. "I will tell him,
so that he may yet go after her and bring her back."

"You shall not," he insisted, gripping her more closely. But
at that moment a delicately mocking voice greeted their ears.

"Marry, 'tis vastly diverting to hear you," it said. They
looked round, to find one of the party of town sparks that had
halted at the inn standing arms akimbo in the narrow passage,
clearly waiting for them to make room. "A touching sight,
sir," said he sardonically to the landlord. "A wondrous
touching sight to behold a man of your years playing the
turtle-dove to his good wife like the merest fledgeling. It
grieves me to intrude myself so harshly upon your cooing,
though if you'll but let me pass you may resume your chaste
embrace without uneasiness, for I give you my word I'll never
look behind me."

Abashed, the landlord and his dame fell apart. Then, ere the
gentleman could pass her, Mistress Quinn, like a true
opportunist, sped swiftly down the passage and into the common
room before her husband could again detain her.

Now, within the common room of the Suffolk Arms Sir Crispin sat
face to face with a very pretty fellow, all musk and ribbons,
and surrounded by some half-dozen gentlemen on their way to
London who had halted to rest at Stafford.

The pretty gentleman swore lustily, affected a monstrous wicked
look, assured that he was impressing all who stood about with
some conceit of the rakehelly ways he pursued in town.

A game started with crowns to while away the tedium of the
enforced sojourn at the inn had grown to monstrous proportions.
Fortune had favoured the youth at first, but as the stakes grew
her favours to him diminished, and at the moment that Cynthia
rode out of the inn-yard, Mr. Harry Foster flung his last gold
piece with an oath upon the table.

"Rat me," he groaned, "there's the end of a hundred."

He toyed sorrowfully with the red ribbon in his black hair, and
Crispin, seeing that no fresh stake was forthcoming, made shift
to rise. But the coxcomb detained him.

"Tarry, sir," he cried, "I've not yet done. 'Slife, we'll make
a night of it."

He drew a ring from his finger, and with a superb gesture of
disdain pushed it across the board.

"What'll ye stake?" And, in the same breath, "Boy, another
stoup," he cried.

Crispin eyed the gem carelessly.

"Twenty Caroluses," he muttered.

"Rat me, sir, that nose of yours proclaims you a jew, without
more. Say twenty-five, and I'll cast."

With a tolerant smile, and the shrug of a man to whom
twenty-five or a hundred are of like account, Crispin
consented. They threw; Crispin passed and won.

"What'll ye stake?" cried Mr. Foster, and a second ring
followed the first.

Before Crispin could reply, the door leading to the interior of
the inn was flung open, and Mrs. Quinn, breathless with
exertion and excitement, came scurrying across the room. In
the doorway stood the host in hesitancy and fear. Bending to
Crispin's ear, Mrs. Quinn delivered her message in a whisper
that was heard by most of those who were about.

"Gone!" cried Crispin in consternation.

The woman pointed to her husband, and Crispin, understanding
from this that she referred him to the host, called to him.

"What know you, landlord?" he shouted. "Come hither, and tell
me whither is she gone!"

"I know not," replied the quaking host, adding the particulars
of Cynthia's departure, and the information that the lady
seemed in great anger.

"Saddle me a horse," cried Crispin, leaping to his feet, and
pitching Mr. Foster's trinket upon the table as though it were
a thing of no value. "Towards Denham you say they rode?
Quick, man!" And as the host departed he swept the gold and
the ring he had won into his pockets preparing to depart.

"Hoity toity!" cried Mr. Foster. "What sudden haste is this?"

"I am sorry, sir, that Fortune has been unkind to you, but I
must go. Circumstances have arisen which - "

"D -n your circumstances!" roared Foster, get ting on his feet.
"You'll not leave me thus!"

"With your permission, sir, I will."

"But you shall not have my permission!"

"Then I shall be so unfortunate as to go without it. But I
shall return."

"Sir, 'tis an old legend, that!"

Crispin turned about in despair. To be embroiled now might
ruin everything, and by a miracle he kept his temper. He had a
moment to spare while his horse was being saddled.

"Sir," he said, "if you have upon your pretty person trinkets
to half the value of what I have won from you, I'll stake the
whole against them on one throw, after which, no matter what
the result, I take my departure. Are you agreed?"

There was a murmur of admiration from those present at the
recklessness and the generosity of the proposal, and Foster was
forced to accept it. Two more rings he drew forth, a diamond
from the ruffles at his throat, and a pearl that he wore in his
ear. The lot he set upon the board, and Crispin threw the
winning cast as the host entered to say that his horse was

He gathered the trinkets up, and with a polite word of regret
he was gone, leaving Mr. Harry Foster to meditate upon the
pledging of one of his horses to the landlord in discharge of
his lodging.

And so it fell out that before Cynthia had gone six miles along
the road to Denham, one of her attendants caught a rapid beat
of hoofs behind them, and drew her attention to it, suggesting
that they were being followed. Faster Cynthia bade them
travel, but the pursuer gained upon them at every stride.
Again the man drew her attention to it, and proposed that they
should halt and face him who followed. The possession of the
musketoon gave him confidence touching the issue. But Cynthia
shuddered at the thought, and again, with promises of rich
reward, urged them to go faster. Another mile they went, but
every moment brought the pursuing hoof-beats nearer and nearer,
until at last a hoarse challenge rang out behind them, and they
knew that to go farther would be vain; within the next
half-mile, ride as they might, their pursuer would be upon

The night was moonless, yet sufficiently clear for objects to
be perceived against the sky, and presently the black shadow of
him who rode behind loomed up upon the road, not a hundred
paces off.

Despite Cynthia's orders not to fire, he of the musketoon
raised his weapon under cover of the darkness and blazed at the
approaching shadow.

Cynthia cried out - a shriek of dismay it was; the horses
plunged, and Sir Crispin laughed aloud as he bore down upon
them. He of the musketoon heard the swish of a sword being
drawn, and saw the glitter of the blade in the dark. A second
later there was a shock as Crispin's horse dashed into his, and
a crushing blow across the forehead, which Galliard delivered
with the hilt of his rapier, sent him hurtling from the saddle.
His comrade clapped spurs to his horse at that and was running
a race with the night wind in the direction of Denham.

Before Cynthia quite knew what had happened the seat on the
pillion in front of her was empty, and she was riding back to
Stafford with Crispin beside her, his hand upon the bridle of
her horse.

"You little fool!" he said half-angrily, half-gibingly; and
thereafter they rode in silence - she too mortified with shame
and anger to venture upon words.

That journey back to Stafford was a speedy one, and soon they
stood again in the inn-yard out of which she had ridden but an
hour ago. Avoiding the common room, Crispin ushered her
through the side door by which she had quitted the house. The
landlord met them in the passage, and looking at Crispin's face
the pallor and fierceness of it drove him back without a word.

Together they ascended to the chamber where in solitude she had
spent the day. Her feelings were those of a child caught in an
act of disobedience, and she was angry with herself and her
weakness that it should be so. Yet within the room she stood
with bent head, never glancing at her companion, in whose eyes
there was a look of blended anger and amazement as he observed
her. At length in calm, level tones:

"Why did you run away?" he asked.

The question was to her anger as a gust of wind to a
smouldering fire. She threw back her head defiantly, and fixed
him with a glance as fierce as his own.

"I will tell you," she cried, and suddenly stopped short. The
fire died from her eyes, and they grew wide in wonder - in
fascinated wonder - to see a deep stain overspreading one side
of his grey doublet, from the left shoulder downwards. Her
wonder turned to horror as she realized the nature of that
stain and remembered that one of her men had fired upon him.

"You are wounded?" she faltered.

A sickly smile came into his face, and seemed to accentuate its
pallor. He made a deprecatory gesture. Then, as if in that
gesture he had expended his last grain of strength, he swayed
suddenly as he stood. He made as if to reach a chair, but at
the second step he stumbled, and without further warning he
fell prone at her feet, his left hand upon his heart, his right
outstretched straight from the shoulder. The loss of blood he
had sustained, following upon the fatigue and sleeplessness
that had been his of late, had demanded its due from him, man
of iron though he was.

Upon the instant her anger vanished. A great fear that he was
dead descended upon her, and to heighten the horror of it came
the thought that he had received his death-wound through her
agency. With a moan of anguish she went down upon her knees
beside him. She raised his head and pillowed it in her lap,
calling to him by name, as though her voice alone must suffice
to bring him back to life and consciousness. Instinctively she
unfastened his doublet at the neck, and sought to draw it away
that she might see the nature of his hurt and staunch the wound
if possible, but her strength ebbed away from her, and she
abandoned her task, unable to do more than murmur his name.

"Crispin, Crispin, Crispin!"

She stooped and kissed the white, clammy forehead, then his
lips, and as she did so a tremor ran through her, and he opened
his eyes. A moment they looked dull and lifeless, then they
waxed questioning.

A second ago these two had stood in anger with the width of the
room betwixt them; now, in a flash, he found his head on her
lap, her lips on his. How came he there? What meant it?

"Crispin, Crispin," she cried, "thank God you did but swoon!"

Then the awakening of his soul came swift upon the awakening of
his body. He lay there, oblivious of his wound, oblivious of
his mission, oblivious of his son. He lay with senses still
half dormant and comprehension dulled, but with a soul alert he
lay, and was supremely happy with a happiness such as he had
never known in all his ill-starred life.

In a feeble voice he asked:

"Why did you run away?"

"Let us forget it," she answered softly.

"Nay - tell me first."

"I thought - I thought - " she stammered; then, gathering
courage, "I thought you did not really care, that you made a
toy of me," said she. "When they told me that you sat at dice
with a gentleman from London I was angry at your neglect. If
you loved me, I told myself, you would not have used me so, and
left me to mope alone."

For a moment Crispin let his grey eyes devour her blushing
face. Then he closed them and pondered what she had said,
realization breaking upon him now like a great flood. The
light came to him in one blinding yet all-illuming flash. A
hundred things that had puzzled him in the last two days grew
of a sudden clear, and filled him with a joy unspeakable. He
dared scarce believe that he was awake, and Cynthia by him -
that he had indeed heard aright what she had said. How blind
he had been, how nescient of himself!

Then, as his thoughts travelled on to the source of the
misapprehension he remembered his son, and the memory was like
an icy hand upon his temples that chilled him through and
through. Lying there with eyes still closed he groaned.
Happiness was within his grasp at last. Love might be his
again did he but ask it, and the love of as pure and sweet a
creature as ever God sent to chasten a man's life. A great
tenderness possessed him. A burning temptation to cast to the
winds his plighted word, to make a mock of faith, to deride
honour, and to seize this woman for his own. She loved him he
knew it now; he loved her - the knowledge had come as suddenly
upon him. Compared with this what could his faith, his word,
his honour give him? What to him, in the face of this, was
that paltry fellow, his son, who had spurned him!

The hardest fight he ever fought, he fought it there, lying
supine upon the ground, his head in her lap.

Had he fought it out with closed eyes, perchance honour and his
plighted word had won the day; but he opened them, and they met

A while they stayed thus; the hungry glance of his grey eyes
peering into the clear blue depths of hers; and in those depths
his soul was drowned, his honour stifled.

"Cynthia,' he cried, "God pity me, I love you!" And he swooned



That cry, which she but half understood, was still ringing in
her ears, when the door was of a sudden flung open, and across
the threshold a very daintily arrayed young gentleman stepped
briskly, the expostulating landlord following close upon his

"I tell thee, lying dog," he cried, "I saw him ride into the
yard, and, "fore George, he shall give me the chance of mending
my losses. Be off to your father, you Devil's natural."

Cynthia looked up in alarm, whereupon that merry blood catching
sight of her, halted in some confusion at what he saw.

"Rat me, madam," he cried, "I did not know - I had not looked
to - " He stopped, and remembering at last his manners he made
her a low bow.

"Your servant, madam," said he, "your servant Harry Foster."

She gazed at him, her eyes full of inquiry, but said nothing,
whereat the pretty gentleman plucked awkwardly at his ruffles
and wished himself elsewhere.

"I did not know, madam, that your husband was hurt."

"He is not my husband, sir," she answered, scarce knowing what
she said.

"Gadso!" he ejaculated. "Yet you ran away from him?"

Her cheeks grew crimson.

"The door, sir, is behind you."

"So, madam, is that thief the landlord," he made answer, no
whit abashed. "Come hither, you bladder of fat, the gentleman
is hurt."

Thus courteously summoned, the landlord shuffled forward, and
Mr. Foster begged Cynthia to allow him with the fellow's aid to
see to the gentleman's wound. Between them they laid Crispin
on a couch, and the town spark went to work with a dexterity
little to have been expected from his flippant exterior. He
dressed the wound, which was in the shoulder and not in itself
of a dangerous character, the loss of blood it being that had
brought some gravity to the knight's condition. They propped
his head upon a pillow, and presently he sighed and, opening
his eyes, complained of thirst, and was manifestly surprised at
seeing the coxcomb turned leech.

"I came in search of you to pursue our game," Foster explained
when they had ministered to him, "and, 'fore George, I am
vastly grieved to find you in this condition."

"Pish, sir, my condition is none so grievous - a scratch, no
more, and were my heart itself pierced the knowledge that I
have gained - " He stopped short. "But there, sir," he added
presently, "I am grateful beyond words for your timely
ministration, and if to my debt you will add that of leaving me
awhile to rest, I shall appreciate it."

His glance met Cynthia's and he smiled. The host coughed
significantly, and shuffled towards the door. But Master
Foster made no shift to move; but stood instead beside
Galliard, though in apparent hesitation.

"I should like a word with you ere I go," he said at length.
Then turning and perceiving the landlord standing by the door
in an attitude of eloquent waiting: "Take yourself off," he
cried to him. "Crush me, may not one gentleman say a word to
another without being forced to speak into your inquisitive
ears as well? You will forgive my heat, madam, but, God
a"mercy, that greasy rascal tries me sorely."

"Now, sir," he resumed, when the host was gone. "I stand thus:
I have lost to you to-day a sum of money which, though some
might account considerable, is in itself no more than a trifle.

"I am, however, greatly exercised at the loss of certain
trinkets which have to me a peculiar value, and which, to be
frank, I staked in a moment of desperation. I had hoped, sir,
to retrieve my losses o'er a friendly main this evening, for I
have still to stake a coach and four horses - as noble a set of
beasts as you'll find in England, aye rat me. Your wound, sir,
renders it impossible for me to ask you to give yourself the
fatigue of obliging me. I come, then, to propose that you
return me those trinkets against my note of hand for the amount
that was staked on them. I am well known in town, sir," he
added hurriedly, "and you need have no anxiety."

Crispin stopped him with a wave of the hand.

"I have none, sir, in that connexion, and I am willing to do as
you suggest." He thrust his hand into his pocket, and drew
forth the rings, the brooch and the ear-ring he had won.
"Here, sir, are your trinkets."

"Sir," cried Mr. Foster, thrown into some confusion by
Galliard's unquestioning generosity, "I am indebted to you.
Rat me, sir, I am indeed. You shall have my note of hand on
the instant. How much shall we say?"

"One moment, Mr. Foster," said Crispin, an idea suddenly
occurring to him. "You mentioned horses. Are they fresh?"

"As June roses."

"And you are returning to London, are you not?"

"I am."

"When do you wish to proceed?"


"Why, then, sir, I have a proposal to make which will remove
the need of your note of hand. Lend me your horses, sir, to
reach Harwich. I wish to set out at once "

"But your wound?" cried Cynthia. "You are still faint."

"Faint! Not I. I am awake and strong. My wound is no wound,
for a scratch may not be given that name. So there,
sweetheart." He laughed, and drawing down her head, he
whispered the words: "Your father." Then turning again to
Foster. "Now, sir," he continued, "there are four tolerable
posthorses of mine below, on which you can follow tomorrow to
Harwich, there exchanging them again for your own, which you
shall find awaiting you, stabled at the Garter Inn. For this
service, to me of immeasurable value, I will willingly cede
those gewgaws to you."

"But, rat me, sir," cried Foster in bewilderment, "tis too
generous - 'pon honour it is. I can't consent to it. No, rat
me, I can't."

"I have told you how great a boon you will confer. Believe me,
sir, to me it is worth twice, a hundred times the value of
those trinkets."

"You shall have my horses, sir, and my note of hand as well,"
said Foster firmly.

"Your note of hand is of no value to me, sir. I look to leave
England to-morrow, and I know not when I may return."

Thus in the end it came about that the bargain was concluded.
Cynthia's maid was awakened and bidden to rise. The horses
were harnessed to Crispin's coach, and Crispin, leaning upon
Harry Foster's arm, descended and took his place within the

Leaving the London blood at the door of the Suffolk Arms,
crushing, burning, damning and ratting himself at Crispin's
magnificence, they rolled away through the night in the
direction of Ipswich.

Ten o"clock in the morning beheld them at the door of the
Garter Inn at Harwich. But the jolting of the coach had so
hardly used Crispin that he had to be carried into the
hostelry. He was much exercised touching the Lady Jane and his
inability to go down to the quay in quest of her, when he was
accosted by a burly, red-faced individual who bluntly asked him
was he called Sir Crispin Galliard. Ere he could frame an
answer the man had added that he was Thomas Jackson, master of
the Lady Jane - at which piece of good news Crispin felt like
to shout for joy.

But his reflection upon his present position, when at last he
lay in the schooner's cabin, brought him the bitter reverse of
pleasure. He had set out to bring Cynthia to his son; he had
pledged his honour to accomplish it. How was he fulfilling his
trust? In his despondency, during a moment when alone, he
cursed the knave that had wounded him for his clumsiness in not
having taken a lower aim when he fired, and thus solved him
this ugly riddle of life for all time.

Vainly did he strive to console himself and endeavour to
palliate the wrong he had done with the consideration that he
was the man Cynthia loved, and not his son; that his son was
nothing to her, and that she would never have accompanied him
had she dreamt that he wooed her for another.

No. The deed was foul, and rendered fouler still by virtue of
those other wrongs in whose extenuation it had been undertaken.
For a moment he grew almost a coward. He was on the point of
bidding Master Jackson avoid Calais and make some other port
along the coast. But in a moment he had scorned the craven
argument of flight, and determined that come what might he
would face his son, and lay the truth before him, leaving him
to judge how strong fate had been. As he lay feverish and
fretful in the vessel's cabin, he came well-nigh to hating
Kenneth; he remembered him only as a poor, mean creature, now a
bigot, now a fop, now a psalm-monger, now a roysterer, but ever
a hypocrite, ever a coward, and never such a man as he could
have taken pride in presenting as his offspring.

They had a fair wind, and towards evening Cynthia, who had been
absent from his side a little while, came to tell him that the
coast of France grew nigh.

His answer was a sigh, and when she chid him for it, he essayed
a smile that was yet more melancholy. For a second he was
tempted to confide in her; to tell her of the position in which
he found himself and to lighten his load by sharing it with
her. But this he dared not do. Cynthia must never know.



In a room of the first floor of the Auberge du Soleil, at
Calais, the host inquired of Crispin if he were milord
Galliard. At that question Crispin caught his breath in
apprehension, and felt himself turn pale. What it portended,
he guessed; and it stifled the hope that had been rising in him
since his arrival, and because he had not found his son
awaiting him either on the jetty or at the inn. He dared ask
no questions, fearing that the reply would quench that hope,
which rose despite himself, and begotten of a desire of which
he was hardly conscious.

He sighed before replying, and passing his brown, nervous hand
across his brow, he found it moist.

"My name, M. l"hote, is Crispin Galliard. What news have you
for me?"

"A gentleman - a countryman of milord's - has been here these
three days awaiting him."

For a little while Crispin sat quite still, stripped of his
last rag of hope. Then suddenly bracing himself, he sprang up,
despite his weakness.

"Bring him to me. I will see him at once."

"Tout-a-l"heure, monsieur," replied the landlord. "At the
moment he is absent. He went out to take the air a couple of
hours ago, and is not yet returned."

"Heaven send he has walked into the sea!" Crispin broke out
passionately. Then as passionately he checked himself. "No,
no, my God - not that! I meant not that."

"Monsieur will sup?"

"At once, and let me have lights." The host withdrew, to
return a moment later with a couple of lighted tapers, which he
set upon the table.

As he was retiring, a heavy step sounded on the stair,
accompanied by the clank of a scabbard against the baluster.

"Here comes milord's countryman," the landlord announced.

And Crispin, looking up in apprehension, saw framed in the
doorway the burly form of Harry Hogan.

He sat bolt upright, staring as though he beheld an apparition.
With a sad smile, Hogan advanced, and set his hand
affectionately upon Galliard's shoulder.

"Welcome to France, Crispin," said he. "If not him whom you
looked to find, you have at least a loyal friend to greet you."

"Hogan!" gasped the knight. "What make you here? How came you
here? Where is Jocelyn?"

The Irishman looked at him gravely for a moment, then sighed
and sank down upon a chair. "You have brought the lady?" he

"She is here. She will be with us presently."

Hogan groaned and shook his grey head sorrowfully.

"But where is Jocelyn?" cried Galliard again, and his haggard
face looked very wan and white as he turned it inquiringly upon
his companion. "Why is he not here?"

"I have bad news."

"Bad news?" muttered Crispin, as though he understood not the
meaning of the words. "Bad news?" he repeated musingly. Then
bracing himself, "What is this news?"

"And you have brought the lady too!" Hogan complained. "Faith,
I had hoped that you had failed in that at least."

"Sdeath, Harry," Crispin exclaimed. "Will you tell me the

Hogan pondered a moment. Then:

"I will relate the story from the very beginning," said he.
"Some four hours after your departure from Waltham) my men
brought in the malignant we were hunting. I dispatched my
sergeant and the troop forthwith to London with the prisoner,
keeping just two troopers with me. An hour or so later a coach
clattered into the yard, and out of it stepped a short, lean
man in black, with a very evil face and a crooked eye, who
bawled out that he was Joseph Ashburn of Castle Marleigh, a
friend of the Lord General's, and that he must have horses on
the instant to proceed upon his journey to London. I was in
the yard at the time, and hearing the full announcement I
guessed what his business in London was. He entered the inn to
refresh himself and I followed him. In the common room the
first man his eyes lighted on was your son. He gasped at sight
of him, and when he had recovered his breath he let fly as
round a volley of blasphemy as ever I heard from the lips of a
Puritan. When that was over, "Fool," he yells, "what make you
here?" The lad stammered and grew confused. At last - "I was
detained here," says he. "Detained!" thunders the other, "and
by whom?" "By my father, you murdering villain!" was the hot

"At that Master Ashburn grows very white and very evil-looking.
"So," he says, in a playful voice, "you have learnt that, have
you? Well, by God! the lesson shall profit neither you nor
that rascal your father. But I'll begin with you, you cur."
And with that he seizes a jug of ale that stood on the table,
and empties it over the boy's face. Soul of my body! The lad
showed such spirit then as I had never looked to find in him.
"Outside," yells he, tugging at his sword with one hand, and
pointing to the door with the other. "Outside, you hound,
where I can kill you!" Ashburn laughed and cursed him, and
together they flung past me into the yard. The place was empty
at the moment, and there, before the clash of their blades had
drawn interference, the thing was over - and Ashburn had sent
his sword through Jocelyn's heart."

Hogan paused, and Crispin sat very still and white, his soul in

"And Ashburn?" he asked presently, in a voice that was
singularly hoarse and low. "What became of him? Was he not

"No," said Hogan grimly, "he was not arrested. He was buried.
Before he had wiped his blade I had stepped up to him and
accused him of murdering a beardless boy. I remembered the
reckoning he owed you, I remembered that he had sought to send
you to your death; I saw the boy's body still warm and bleeding
upon the ground, and I struck him with my knuckles on the
mouth. Like the cowardly ruffian he was, he made a pass at me
with his sword before I had got mine out. I avoided it
narrowly, and we set to work.

"People rushed in and would have stopped us, but I cursed them
so whilst I fenced, swearing to kill any man that came between
us, that they held off and waited. I didn't keep them
overlong. I was no raw youngster fresh from the hills of
Scotland. I put the point of my sword through Joseph Ashburn's
throat within a minute of our engaging.

"It was then as I stood in that shambles and looked down upon
my handiwork that I recalled in what favour Master Ashburn was
held by the Parliament, and I grew sick to think of what the
consequences might be. To avoid them I got me there and then
to horse, and rode in a straight line for Greenwich, hoping to
find the Lady Jane still there. But my messenger had already
sent her to Harwich for you. I was well ahead of possible
pursuit, and so I pushed on to Dover, and thence I crossed,
arriving here three days ago."

Crispin rose and stepped up to Hogan. "The last time you came
to me after killing a man, Harry, I was of some service to you.
You shall find me no less useful now. You will come to Paris
with me?"

"But the lady?" gasped Hogan, amazed at Crispin's lack of
thought for her.

"I hear her step upon the stairs. Leave me now, Harry, but as
you go, desire the landlord to send for a priest. The lady

One look of utter bewilderment did Hogan bestow upon Sir
Crispin, and for once his glib, Irish tongue could shape no
other words than:

"Soul of my body!"

He wrung Crispin's hand, and in a state of ineffable perplexity
he hurried from the room to do what was required of him.

For a moment Crispin stood by the window, and looking out into
the night he thanked God from his heart for his solution of the
monstrous riddle that had been set him.

Then the rustle of a gown drew his attention, and he swung
round to find Cynthia smiling upon him from the threshold.

He advanced to meet her, and setting his hands upon her
shoulders, he held her at arm's length, looking down into her

"Cynthia, my Cynthia!" he cried. And she, breaking past the
barrier of his grasp, nestled up to him with a sigh of sweet
and unalloyed content.

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