The Nest of the Sparrowhawk
I. The House Of A Kentish Squire
Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy folded his hands before him ere he spoke:
"Nay! but I tell thee, woman, that the Lord hath no love for such frivolities! and
alack! but 'tis a sign of the times that an English Squire should favor such evil
"Evil ways? The Lord love you, Master Hymn-of-Praise, and pray do you call half
an hour at the skittle alley 'evil ways'?"
"Aye, evil it is to indulge our sinful bodies in such recreation as doth not tend to
the glorification of the Lord and the sanctification of our immortal souls."
He who sermonized thus unctuously and with eyes fixed with stern disapproval
on the buxom wench before him, was a man who had passed the meridian of life
not altogether--it may be surmised--without having indulged in some recreations
which had not always the sanctification of his own immortal soul for their primary
object. The bulk of his figure testified that he was not averse to good cheer, and
there was a certain hidden twinkle underlying the severe expression of his eyes
as they rested on the pretty face and round figure of Mistress Charity that did not
necessarily tend to the glorification of the Lord.
Apparently, however, the admonitions of Master Hymn-of-Praise made but a
scanty impression on the young girl's mind, for she regarded him with a mixture
of amusement and contempt as she shrugged her plump shoulders and said with
"Have you had your dinner yet, Master Busy?"
"'Tis sinful to address a single Christian person as if he or she were several,"
retorted the man sharply. "But I'll tell thee in confidence, mistress, that I have not
partaken of a single drop more comforting than cold water the whole of to-day.
Mistress de Chavasse mixed the sack-posset with her own hands this morning,
and locked it in the cellar, of which she hath rigorously held the key. Ten minutes
ago when she placed the bowl on this table, she called my attention to the fact
that the delectable beverage came to within three inches of the brim. Meseems I
shall have to seek for a less suspicious, more Christian-spirited household,
whereon to bestow in the near future my faithful services."
Hardly had Master Hymn-of-Praise finished speaking when he turned very
sharply round and looked with renewed sternness--wholly untempered by a
twinkle this time--in the direction whence he thought a suppressed giggle had just
come to his ears. But what he saw must surely have completely reassured him;
there was no suggestion of unseemly ribaldry about the young lad who had been
busy laying out the table with spoons and mugs, and was at this moment