The Tavern Knight
Gregory Ashburn pushed back his chair and made shift to rise from the table at which he
and his brother had but dined.
He was a tall, heavily built man, with a coarse, florid countenance set in a frame of
reddish hair that hung straight and limp. In the colour of their hair lay the only point of
resemblance between the brothers. For the rest Joseph was spare and of middle weight,
pale of face, thin-lipped, and owning a cunning expression that was rendered very evil by
virtue of the slight cast in his colourless eyes.
In earlier life Gregory had not been unhandsome; debauchery and sloth had puffed and
coarsened him. Joseph, on the other hand, had never been aught but ill-favoured.
"Tis a week since Worcester field was fought," grumbled Gregory, looking lazily
sideways at the mullioned windows as he spoke, "and never a word from the lad."
Joseph shrugged his narrow shoulders and sneered. It was Joseph's habit to sneer when he
spoke, and his words were wont to fit the sneer.
"Doth the lack of news trouble you?" he asked, glancing across the table at his brother.
Gregory rose without meeting that glance.
"Truth to tell it does trouble me," he muttered.
"And yet," quoth Joseph, "tis a natural thing enough. When battles are fought it is not
uncommon for men to die."
Gregory crossed slowly to the window, and stared out at the trees of the park which
autumn was fast stripping.
"If he were among the fallen - if he were dead then indeed the matter would be at an
"Aye, and well ended."
"You forget Cynthia," Gregory reproved him.
"Forget her? Not I, man. Listen." And he jerked his thumb in the direction of the
To the two men in that rich chamber of Castle Marleigh was borne the sound - softened
by distance of a girlish voice merrily singing.