The Tavern Knight
It was with a countenance sadly dejected that Crispin returned to his chamber and sate
himself wearily upon the bed. With elbows on his knees and chin in his palms he stared
straight before him, the usual steely brightness of his grey eyes dulled by the
despondency that sat upon his face and drew deep furrows down his fine brow.
With a sigh he rose at last and idly fingered the papers he had taken from the pocket of
Kenneth's coat. As he did so his glance was arrested by the signature at the foot of one.
"Gregory Ashburn" was the name he read.
Ashen grew his cheeks as his eyes fastened upon that name, whilst the hand, to which no
peril ever brought a tremor, shook now like an aspen. Feverishly he spread the letter on
his knee, and with a glance, from dull that it had been, grown of a sudden fierce and
cruel, he read the contents.
Again I write in the hope that I may prevail upon you to quit Scotland and your
attachment to a king, whose fortunes prosper not, nor can prosper. Cynthia is pining, and
if you tarry longer from Castle Marleigh she must perforce think you but a laggard lover.
Than this I have no more powerful argument wherewith to draw you from Perth to
Sheringham, but this I think should prevail where others have failed me. We await you
then, and whilst we wait we daily drink your health. Cynthia commends herself to your
memory as doth my brother, and soon we hope to welcome you at Castle Marleigh.
Believe, my dear Kenneth, that whilst I am, I am yours in affection.
Twice Crispin read the letter through. Then with set teeth and straining eyes he sat lost in
Here indeed was a strange chance! This boy whom he had met at Perth, and enrolled in
his company, was a friend of Ashburn's - the lover of Cynthia. Who might this Cynthia
Long and deep were his ponderings upon the unfathomable ways of Fate - for Fate he
now believed was here at work to help him, revealing herself by means of this sign even
at the very moment when he decried his luck. In memory he reviewed his meeting with
the lad in the yard of Perth Castle a fortnight ago. Something in the boy's bearing, in his
air, had caught Crispin's eye. He had looked him over, then approached, and bluntly
asked his name and on what business he was come there. The youth had answered him
civilly enough that he was Kenneth Stewart of Bailienochy, and that he was come to offer
his sword to the King. Thereupon he had interested himself in the lad's behalf and had
gained him a lieutenancy in his own company. Why he was attracted to a youth on whom