The Nest of the Sparrowhawk HTML version

II. On A July Afternoon
In the meanwhile in a remote corner of the park the quality was assembled round
the skittle-alley.
Imagine Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse standing there, as stiff a Roundhead as
ever upheld my Lord Protector and his Puritanic government in this remote
corner of the county of Kent: dour in manner, harsh-featured and hollow-eyed,
dressed in dark doublet and breeches wholly void of tags, ribands or buttons. His
closely shorn head is flat at the back, square in front, his clean-shaven lips
though somewhat thick are always held tightly pressed together. Not far from him
sits on a rough wooden seat, Mistress Amelia Editha de Chavasse, widow of Sir
Marmaduke's elder brother, a good-looking woman still, save for the look of
discontent, almost of suppressed rebellion, apparent in the perpetual dark frown
between the straight brows, in the downward curve of the well-chiseled mouth,
and in the lowering look which seems to dwell for ever in the handsome dark
Dame Harrison, too, was there: the large and portly dowager, florid of face,
dictatorial in manner, dressed in the supremely unbecoming style prevalent at the
moment, when everything that was beautiful in art as well as in nature was
condemned as sinful and ungodly; she wore the dark kirtle and plain, ungainly
bodice with its hard white kerchief folded over her ample bosom; her hair was
parted down the middle and brushed smoothly and flatly to her ears, where but a
few curls were allowed to escape with well-regulated primness from beneath the
horn-comb, and the whole appearance of her looked almost grotesque,
surmounted as it was by the modish high-peaked beaver hat, a marvel of
hideousness and discomfort, since the small brim afforded no protection against
the sun, and the tall crown was a ready prey to the buffetings of the wind.
Mistress Fairsoul Pyncheon too, was there, the wife of the Squire of Ashe; thin
and small, a contrast to Dame Harrison in her mild and somewhat fussy manner;
her plain petticoat, too, was embellished with paniers, and in spite of the heat of
the day she wore a tippet edged with fur: both of which frivolous adornments had
obviously stirred up the wrath of her more Puritanical neighbor.
Then there were the men: busy at this moment with hurling wooden balls along
the alley, at the further end of which a hollow-eyed scraggy youth, in shirt and
rough linen trousers, was employed in propping up again the fallen nine-pins.
Squire John Boatfield had ridden over from Eastry, Sir Timothy Harrison had
come in his aunt's coach, and young Squire Pyncheon with his doting mother.
And in the midst of all these sober folk, of young men in severe garments, of
portly dames and frowning squires, a girlish figure, young, alert, vigorous,
wearing with the charm of her own youth and freshness the unbecoming attire,
which disfigured her elders yet seemed to set off her own graceful form, her
dainty bosom and pretty arms. Her kirtle, too, was plain, and dull in color, of a
soft dovelike gray, without adornment of any kind, but round her shoulders her