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The Tavern Knight

Joseph Drives A Bargain
A new terror leapt into Joseph's eyes at that movement of Crispin's, and for the third time
that night did he taste the agony that is Death's forerunner. Yet Galliard delayed the
stroke. He held his sword poised, the point aimed at Joseph's breast, and holding, he
watched him, marking each phase of the terror reflected upon his livid countenance. He
was loth to strike, for to strike would mean to end this exquisite torture of horror to which
he was subjecting him.
Broken Joseph had been before and passive; now of a sudden he grew violent again, but
in a different way. He flung himself upon his knees before Sir Crispin, and passionately
he pleaded for the sparing of his miserable life.
Crispin looked on with an eye both of scorn and of cold relish. It was thus he wished to
see him, broken and agonized, suffering thus something of all that which he himself had
suffered through despair in the years that were sped. With satisfaction then he watched
his victim's agony; he watched it too with scorn and some loathing - for a craven was in
his eyes an ugly sight, and Joseph in that moment was truly become as vile a coward as
ever man beheld. His parchment-like face was grey and mottled, his brow bedewed with
sweat; his lips were blue and quivering, his eyes bloodshot and almost threatening tears.
In the silence of one who waits stood Crispin, listening, calm and unmoved, as though he
heard not, until Joseph's whining prayers culminated in an offer to make reparation. Then
Crispin broke in at length with an impatient gesture.
"What reparation can you make, you murderer? Can you restore to me the wife and child
you butchered eighteen years ago?"
"I can restore your child at least," returned the other. "I can and will restore him to you if
you but stay your hand. That and much more will I do to repair the past."
Unconsciously Crispin lowered his sword-arm, and for a full minute he stood and stared
at Joseph. His jaw was fallen and the grim firmness all gone from his face, and replaced
by amazement, then unbelief followed by inquiry; then unbelief again. The pallor of his
cheeks seemed to intensify. At last, however, he broke into a hard laugh.
"What lie is this you offer me? Zounds, man, are you not afraid?"
"It is no lie," Joseph cried, in accents so earnest that some of the unbelief passed again
from Galliard's face. "It is the truth-God's truth. Your son lives."
"Hell-hound, it is a lie! On that fell night, as I swooned under your cowardly thrust, I
heard you calling to your brother to slit the squalling bastard's throat. Those were your
very words, Master Joseph."
 
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