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The Tavern Knight

Gregory's Attrition
Joseph's journey to London was occasioned by his very natural anxiety to assure himself
that Crispin was caught in the toils of the net he had so cunningly baited for him, and that
at Castle Marleigh he would trouble them no more. To this end he quitted Sheringham on
the day after Crispin's departure.
Not a little perplexed was Cynthia at the topsy-turvydom in which that morning she had
found her father's house. Kenneth was gone; he had left in the dead of night, and
seemingly in haste and suddenness, since on the previous evening there had been no talk
of his departing. Her father was abed with a wound that made him feverish. Their grooms
were all sick, and wandered in a dazed and witless fashion about the castle, their faces
deadly pale and their eyes lustreless. In the hall she had found a chaotic disorder upon
descending, and one of the panels of the wainscot she saw was freshly cracked.
Slowly the idea forced itself upon her mind that there had been brawling the night before,
yet was she far from surmising the motives that could have led to it. The conclusion she
came to in the end was that the men had drunk deep, that in their cups they had waxed
quarrelsome, and that swords had been drawn.
Of Joseph then she sought enlightenment, and Joseph lied right handsomely, like the
ready-witted knave he was. A wondrously plausible story had he for her ear; a story that
played cunningly upon her knowledge of the compact that existed between Kenneth and
Sir Crispin.
"You may not know,' said he - full well aware that she did know - "that when Galliard
saved Kenneth's life at Worcester he exacted from the lad the promise that in return
Kenneth should aid him in some vengeful business he had on hand."
Cynthia nodded that she understood or that she knew, and glibly Joseph pursued:
"Last night, when on the point of departing, Crispin, who had drunk over-freely, as is his
custom, reminded Kenneth of his plighted word, and demanded of the boy that he should
upon the instant go forth with him. Kenneth replied that the hour was overlate to be
setting out upon a journey, and he requested Galliard to wait until to-day, when he would
be ready to fulfil what he had promised. But Crispin retorted that Kenneth was bound by
his oath to go with him when he should require it, and again he bade the boy make ready
at once. Words ensued between them, the boy insisting upon waiting until to-day, and
Crispin insisting upon his getting his boots and cloak and coming with him there and
then. More heated grew the argument, till in the end Galliard, being put out of temper,
snatched at his sword, and would assuredly have spitted the boy had not your father
interposed, thereby getting himself wounded. Thereafter, in his drunken lust Sir Crispin
went the length of wantonly cracking that panel with his sword by way of showing
Kenneth what he had to expect unless he obeyed him. At that I intervened, and using my
 
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