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The Tavern Knight

On The March
He whom they called the Tavern Knight laughed an evil laugh - such a laugh as might
fall from the lips of Satan in a sardonic moment.
He sat within the halo of yellow light shed by two tallow candles, whose sconces were
two empty bottles, and contemptuously he eyed the youth in black, standing with white
face and quivering lip in a corner of the mean chamber. Then he laughed again, and in a
hoarse voice, sorely suggestive of the bottle, he broke into song. He lay back in his chair,
his long, spare legs outstretched, his spurs jingling to the lilt of his ditty whose burden
ran:
On the lip so red of the wench that's sped
His passionate kiss burns, still-O!
For 'tis April time, and of love and wine
Youth's way is to take its fill-O!
Down, down, derry-do!
So his cup he drains and he shakes his reins,
And rides his rake-helly way-O!
She was sweet to woo and most comely, too,
But that was all yesterday-O!
Down, down, derry-do!
The lad started forward with something akin to a shiver.
"Have done," he cried, in a voice of loathing, "or, if croak you must, choose a ditty less
foul!"
"Eh?" The ruffler shook back the matted hair from his lean, harsh face, and a pair of eyes
that of a sudden seemed ablaze glared at his companion; then the lids drooped until those
eyes became two narrow slits - catlike and cunning - and again he laughed.
"Gad's life, Master Stewart, you have a temerity that should save you from grey hairs!
What is't to you what ditty my fancy seizes on? 'Swounds, man, for three weary months
have I curbed my moods, and worn my throat dry in praising the Lord; for three months
have I been a living monument of Covenanting zeal and godliness; and now that at last I
have shaken the dust of your beggarly Scotland from my heels, you - the veriest milksop
that ever ran tottering from its mother's lap would chide me because, yon bottle being
done, I sing to keep me from waxing sad in the contemplation of its emptiness!"
There was scorn unutterable on the lad's face as he turned aside.
 
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