The Nest of the Sparrowhawk
XXVI. The Outcast
It took Mistress Charity some little time to recover her breath.
She had thrown herself into a chair, with her pinner over her face, in an
uncontrollable fit of laughter.
When this outburst of hilarity had subsided, she sat up, and looked round her
with eyes still streaming with merry tears.
But the laughter suddenly died on her lips and the merriment out of her eyes. A
dull, tired voice had just said feebly:
"Is Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse within?"
Charity jumped up from the chair and stared stupidly at the speaker.
"The Lord love you, Master Richard Lambert," she murmured. "I thought you
were your ghost!"
"Forgive me, mistress, if I have frightened you," he said. "It is mine own self, I
give you assurance of that, and I, fain would have speech with Sir Marmaduke."
Mistress Charity was visibly embarrassed. She began mechanically to rub the
black stain on her cheek.
"Sir Marmaduke is without just at present, Master Lambert," she stammered
shyly, "... and ..."
"Yes? ... and? ..." he asked, "what is it, wench? ... speak out? ..."
"Sir Marmaduke gave orders, Master Lambert," she began with obvious
reluctance, "that ..."
She paused, and he concluded the sentence for her:
"That I was not to be allowed inside his house.... Was that it?"
"Alas! yes, good master."
"Never mind, girl," he rejoined as he deliberately crossed the hall and sat down in
the chair which she had just vacated. "You have done your duty: but you could
not help admitting me, could you? since I walked in of mine own accord ... and
now that I am here I will remain until I have seen Sir Marmaduke...."
"Well! of a truth, good master," she said with a smile, for 'twas but natural that her
feminine sympathies should be on the side of a young and good-looking man,
somewhat in her own sphere of life, as against the ill-humored, parsimonious
master whom she served, "an you sit there so determinedly, I cannot prevent
you, can I? ..."
Then as she perceived the look of misery on the young man's face, his pale
cheeks, his otherwise vigorous frame obviously attenuated by fear, the motherly
instinct present in every good woman's heart caused her to go up to him and to
address him timidly, offering such humble solace as her simple heart could
"Lud preserve you, good master, I pray you do not take on so.... You know
Master Courage and I, now, never believed all those stories about ye. Of a truth
Master Busy, he had his own views, but then ... you see, good master, he and I
do not always agree, even though I own that he is vastly clever with his