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The Tavern Knight

At The Sign Of The Mitre
For a week after the coming of the King to Worcester, Crispin's relations with Kenneth
steadily improved. By an evil chance, however, there befell on the eve of the battle that
which renewed with heightened intensity the enmity which the lad had fostered for him,
but which lately he had almost overcome.
The scene of this happening - leastways of that which led to it - was The Mitre Inn, in the
High Street of Worcester.
In the common-room one day sat as merry a company of carousers as ever gladdened the
soul of an old tantivy boy. Youthful ensigns of Lesley's Scottish horse - caring never a fig
for the Solemn League and Covenant - rubbed shoulders with beribboned Cavaliers of
Lord Talbot's company; gay young lairds of Pitscottie's Highlanders, unmindful of the
Kirk's harsh commandments of sobriety, sat cheek by jowl with rakehelly officers of
Dalzell's Brigade, and pledged the King in many a stoup of canary and many a can of
stout March ale.
On every hand spirits ran high and laughter filled the chamber, the mirth of some having
its source in a neighbour's quip, that of others having no source at all save in the wine
they had taken.
At one table sat a gentleman of the name of Faversham, who had ridden on the previous
night in that ill-fated camisado that should have resulted in the capture of Cromwell at
Spetchley, but which, owing to a betrayal - when was a Stuart not betrayed and sold? -
miscarried. He was relating to the group about him the details of that disaster.
"Oddslife, gentlemen," he was exclaiming, "I tell you that, but for that roaring dog, Sir
Crispin Galliard, the whole of Middleton's regiment had been cut to pieces. There we
stood on Red Hill, trapped as ever fish in a net, with the whole of Lilburne's men rising
out of the ground to enclose and destroy us. A living wall of steel it was, and on every
hand the call to surrender. There was dismay in my heart, as I'll swear there was dismay
in the heart of every man of us, and I make little doubt, gentlemen, that with but scant
pressing we had thrown down our arms, so disheartened were we by that ambush. Then
of a sudden there arose above the clatter of steel and Puritan cries, a loud, clear, defiant
shout of "Hey for Cavaliers!"
"I turned, and there in his stirrups stood that madman Galliard, waving his sword and
holding his company together with the power of his will, his courage, and his voice. The
sight of him was like wine to our blood. "Into them, gentlemen; follow me!" he roared.
And then, with a hurricane of oaths, he hurled his company against the pike-men. The
blow was irresistible, and above the din of it came that voice of his again: "Up, Cavaliers!
Slash the cuckolds to ribbons, gentlemen!" The cropears gave way, and like a river that
has burst its dam, we poured through the opening in their ranks and headed back for
Worcester."
 
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