The Tavern Knight
Companions In Misfortune
Through the streets of Worcester the Roundheads dragged Sir Crispin, and for all that he
was as hard and callous a man as any that ever buckled on a cuirass, the horrors that in
going he beheld caused him more than once to shudder.
The place was become a shambles, and the very kennels ran with blood. The Royalist
defeat was by now complete, and Cromwell's fanatic butchers overran the town, vying to
outdo one another in savage cruelty and murder. Houses were being broken into and
plundered, and their inmates - resisting or unresisting; armed or unarmed; men, women
and children alike were pitilessly being put to the sword. Charged was the air of
Worcester with the din of that fierce massacre. The crashing of shivered timbers, as doors
were beaten in, mingled with the clatter and grind of sword on sword, the crack of musket
and pistol, the clank of armour, and the stamping of men and horses in that troubled hour.
And above all rang out the fierce, raucous blasphemy of the slayers, and the shrieks of
agony, the groans, the prayers, and curses of their victims.
All this Sir Crispin saw and heard, and in the misery of it all, he for the while forgot his
own sorry condition, and left unheeded the pike-butt wherewith the Puritan at his heels
was urging him along.
They paused at length in a quarter unknown to him before a tolerably large house. Its
doors hung wide, and across the threshold, in and out, moved two continuous streams of
officers and men.
A while Crispin and his captors stood in the spacious hall; then they ushered him roughly
into one of the abutting rooms. Here he was brought face to face with a man of middle
height, red and coarse of countenance and large of nose, who stood fully armed in the
centre of the chamber. His head was uncovered, and on the table at his side stood the
morion he had doffed. He looked up as they entered, and for a few seconds rested his
glance sourly upon the lank, bold-eyed prisoner, who coldly returned his stare.
"Whom have we here?" he inquired at length, his scrutiny having told him nothing.
"One whose offence is too heinous to have earned him a soldier's death, my lord,"
"Therein you lie, you damned rebel!" cried Crispin. "If accuse you must, announce the
truth. Tell Master Cromwell" - for he had guessed the man's identity - "that single-handed
I held my own against you and a score of you curs, and that not until I had cut down
seven of them was I taken. Tell him that, master psalm-singer, and let him judge whether
you lied or not. Tell him, too, that you, who - "