The Nest of the Sparrowhawk
V. The Legal Aspect
Mistress de Chavasse sat musing, in that high-backed chair, for some
considerable time. Anon Sir Marmaduke once more traversed the hall, taking no
heed of her as he went out into the garden. She watched his broad figure moving
along the path and then crossing the rustic bridge until it disappeared among the
trees of the park.
There was something about his attitude of awhile ago which puzzled her. And
with puzzlement came an inexplicable fear: she had known Marmaduke in all his
moods, but never in such an one as he had displayed before her just now. There
had been a note almost of triumph in the laughter with which he had greeted her
last reproach. The cry of the sparrowhawk when it seizes its prey.
Triumph in Sir Marmaduke filled her with dread. No one knew better than she did
the hopeless condition of his financial status. Debt--prison perhaps--was waiting
for him at every turn. Yet he seemed triumphant! She knew him to have reached
those confines of irritability and rebellion against poverty which would cause him
to shrink from nothing for the sake of gaining money. Yet he seemed triumphant!
Instinctively she shuddered as she thought of Sue. She had no cause to like the
girl, yet would she not wish to see her come to harm.
She did not dare avow even to herself the conviction which she had, that if Sir
Marmaduke could gain anything by the young girl's death, he would not hesitate
to ... Nay! she would not even frame that thought. Marmaduke had been kind to
her; she could but hope that temptation such as that, would never come his way.
Hymn-of-Praise Busy broke in on her meditations. His nasal tones--which had a
singular knack of irritating her as a rule--struck quite pleasingly on her ear, as a
welcome interruption to the conflict of her thoughts.
"Master Skyffington, ma'am," he said in his usual drawly voice, "he is on his way
to Dover, and desired his respects, an you wish to see him."
"Yes! yes! I'll see Master Skyffington," she said with alacrity, rising from her chair,
"go apprise Sir Marmaduke, and ask Master Skyffington to come within."
She was all agitation now, eager, excited, and herself went forward to meet the
quaint, little wizened figure which appeared in the doorway.
Master Skyffington, attorney-at-law, was small and thin--looked doubly so, in fact,
in the black clothes which he wore. His eyes were blue and watery, his manner
peculiarly diffident. He seemed to present a perpetual apology to the world for his
own existence therein.
Even now as Mistress de Chavasse seemed really overjoyed to see him, he
backed his meager person out of the doorway as she approached, whereupon
she--impatiently--clutched his arm and dragged him forward into the hall.
"Sit down there, master," she said, speaking with obvious agitation, and almost
pushing the poor little man off his feet whilst dragging him to a chair. "Sir
Marmaduke will see you anon, but 'twas a kind thought to come and bring me