The Tavern Knight
So soon as Sir Crispin had taken his departure, and whilst yet the beat of his horse's hoofs
was to be distinguished above the driving storm of rain and wind without, Joseph
hastened across the hall to the servants' quarters. There he found his four grooms
slumbering deeply, their faces white and clammy, and their limbs twisted into odd,
helpless attitudes. Vainly did he rain down upon them kicks and curses; arouse them he
could not from the stupor in whose thrall they lay.
And so, seizing a lanthorn, he passed out to the stables, whence Crispin had lately taken
his best nag, and with his own hands he saddled a horse. His lips were screwed into a
curious smile - a smile that still lingered upon them when presently he retraced his steps
to the room where his brother sat with Kenneth.
In his absence the lad had dressed Gregory's wound; he had induced him to take a little
wine, and had set him upon a chair, in which he now lay back, white and exhausted.
"The quarter of an hour is passed, sir," said Joseph coldly, as he entered.
Kenneth made no sign that he heard. He sat on like a man in a dream. His eyes that saw
nothing were bent upon Gregory's pale, flabby face.
"The quarter of an hour is passed, sir," Joseph repeated in a louder voice.
Kenneth looked up, then rose and sighed, passing his hand wearily across his forehead.
"I understand, sir," he replied in a low voice. "You mean that I must go?"
Joseph waited a moment before replying. Then:
"It is past midnight," he said slowly, "and the weather is wild. You may lie here until
morning, if you are so minded. But go you must then," he added sternly. "I need scarce
say, sir, that you must have no speech with Mistress Cynthia, nor that never again must
you set foot within Castle Marleigh."
"I understand, sir; I understand. But you deal hardly with me."
Joseph raised his eyebrows in questioning surprise.
"I was the victim of my oath, given when I knew not against whom my hand was to be
lifted. Oh, sir, am I to suffer all my life for a fault that was not my own? You, Master
Gregory," he cried, turning passionately to Cynthia's father, "you are perchance more
merciful? You understand my position - how I was forced into it."
Gregory opened his heavy eyes.