The Tavern Knight
The Tavern Knight's Story
Sir Crispin walked from the window by which he had been standing, to the rough bed,
and flung himself full length upon it. The only chair that dismal room contained was
occupied by Kenneth. Galliard heaved a sigh of physical satisfaction.
"Fore George, I knew not I was so tired," he murmured. And with that he lapsed for some
moments into silence, his brows contracted in the frown of one who collects his thoughts.
At length he began, speaking in calm, unemotional tones that held perchance deeper
pathos than a more passionate utterance could have endowed them with:
"Long ago - twenty years ago - I was, as I have said, an honourable lad, to whom the
world was a fair garden, a place of rosebuds, fragrant with hope. Those, Kenneth, were
my illusions. They are the illusions of youth; they are youth itself, for when our illusions
are gone we are no longer young no matter what years we count. Keep your illusions,
Kenneth; treasure them, hoard them jealously for as long as you may."
"I dare swear, sir," answered the lad, with bitter humour, "that such illusions as I have I
shall treasure all my life. You forget, Sir Crispin."
"'Slife, I had indeed forgotten. For the moment I had gone back twenty years, and to-
morrow was none so near." He laughed softly, as though his lapse of memory amused
him. Then he resumed:
"I was the only son, Kenneth, of the noblest gentleman that ever lived - the heir to an
ancient, honoured name, and to a castle as proud and lands as fair and broad as any in
"They lie who say that from the dawn we may foretell the day. Never was there a brighter
dawn than that of my life; never a day so wasted; never an evening so dark. But let that
"Our lands were touched upon the northern side by those of a house with which we had
been at feud for two hundred years and more. Puritans they were, stern and haughty in
their ungodly righteousness. They held us dissolute because we enjoyed the life that God
had given us, and there I am told the hatred first began.
"When I was a lad of your years, Kenneth, the hall - ours was the castle, theirs the hall -
was occupied by two young sparks who made little shift to keep up the pious reputation
of their house. They dwelt there with their mother - a woman too weak to check their
ways, and holding, mayhap, herself, views not altogether puritanical. They discarded the
sober black their forbears had worn for generations, and donned gay Cavalier garments.
They let their love-locks grow; set plumes in their castors and jewels in their ears; they
drank deep, ruffled it with the boldest and decked their utterance with great oaths - for to