The Tavern Knight
Throughout the night they went rumbling on their way at a pace whose sluggishness
elicited many an oath from Crispin as he rode a few yards in the rear, ever watchful of the
possibility of pursuit. But there was none, nor none need he have feared, since whilst he
rode through the cold night, Gregory Ashburn slept as peacefully as a man may with the
fever and an evil conscience, and imagined his dutiful daughter safely abed.
With the first streaks of steely light came a thin rain to heighten Crispin's discomfort, for
of late he had been overmuch in the saddle, and strong though he was, he was yet flesh
and blood, and subject to its ills. Towards ten o'clock they passed through Denham.
When they were clear of it Cynthia put her head from the window. She had slept well,
and her mood was lighter and happier. As Crispin rode a yard or so behind, he caught
sight of her fresh, smiling face, and it affected him curiously. The tenderness that two
days ago had been his as he talked to her upon the cliffs was again upon him, and the
thought that anon she would be linked to him by the ties of relationship, was pleasurable.
She gave him good morrow prettily, and he, spurring his horse to the carriage door, was
solicitous to know of her comfort. Nor did he again fall behind until Stafford was reached
at noon. Here, at the sign of the Suffolk Arms, he called a halt, and they broke their fast
on the best the house could give them.
Cynthia was gay, and so indeed was Crispin, yet she noted in him that coolness which she
accounted restraint, and gradually her spirits sank again before it.
To Crispin's chagrin there were no horses to be had. Someone in great haste had ridden
through before them, and taken what relays the hostelry could give, leaving four jaded
beasts in the stable. It seemed, indeed, that they must remain there until the morrow, and
in coming to that conclusion, Sir Crispin's temper suffered sorely.
"Why need it put you so about," cried Cynthia, in arch reproach, "since I am with you?"
"Blood and fire, madam," roared Galliard, "it is precisely for that reason that I am
exercised. What if your father came upon us here?"
"My father, sir, is abed with a sword-wound and a fever," she replied, and he remembered
then how Kenneth had spitted Gregory through the shoulder.
"Still," he returned, "he will have discovered your flight, and I dare swear we shall have
his myrmidons upon our heels. Should they come up with us we shall hardly find them
more gentle than he would be."
She paled at that, and for a second there was silence. Then her hand stole forth upon his
arm, and she looked at him with tightened lips and a defiant air.