The Nest of the Sparrowhawk HTML version

XXXI. The Assignation
He had recovered his outward composure at any rate, and the next moment was
busy re-adjusting his doublet and bands before the mirror over the hearth.
"Yes! my violent friend!" he said coolly, speaking over his shoulder, "of a truth it is
mine own self! Your landlord you see, to whom that worthy woman upstairs owes
this nice cottage which she has had rent free for over ten years ... not the foreign
vermin, you see," he added with a pleasant laugh, "which maketh your actions of
just now, somewhat unpleasant to explain. Is that not so?"
"Nay! but by the Lord!" quoth Adam Lambert, still somewhat dazed, vaguely
frightened himself now at the magnitude, the importance of what he had done,
"meseems that 'tis thine actions, friend, which will be unpleasant to explain. Thou
didst not put on these play-actor's robes for a good purpose, I'll warrant! ... I
cannot guess what is thy game, but methinks her young ladyship would wish to
know something of its rules ... or mayhap, my brother Richard who is no friend of
thine, forsooth."
Gradually his voice had become steadier, his manner more assured. A glimmer
of light on the Squire's strange doings had begun to penetrate his simple, dull
brain. Vaguely he guessed the purport of the disguise and of the lies, and the
mention of Lady Sue's name was not an arrow shot thoughtlessly into the air. At
the same time he had not perceived the slightest quiver of fear or even of anxiety
on Sir Marmaduke's face.
The latter had in the meanwhile put his crumpled toilet in order and now turned
with an urbane smile to his glowering antagonist.
"I will not deny, kind master," he said pleasantly, "that you might cause me a vast
amount of unpleasantness just now ... although of a truth, I do not perceive that
you would benefit yourself overmuch thereby. On the contrary, you would vastly
lose. Your worthy aunt, Mistress Lambert, would lose a pleasant home, and you
would never know what you and your brother Richard have vainly striven to find
out these past ten years."
"What may that be, pray?" queried the smith sullenly.
"Who you both are," rejoined Sir Marmaduke blandly, as he calmly sat down in
one of the stiff-backed elm chairs beside the hearth, "and why worthy Mistress
Lambert never speaks to you of your parentage."
"Who we both are?" retorted Lambert with obvious bitterness, "two poor
castaways, who, but for the old woman would have been left to starve, and who
have tried, therefore, to be a bit grateful to her, and to earn an honest livelihood.
That is what we are, Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse; and now prithee tell me, who
the devil art thou?"
"You are overfond of swearing, worthy master," quoth Sir Marmaduke lightly, "'tis
sinful so I'm told, for one of your creed. But that is no matter to me. You are,
believe me, somewhat more interesting than you imagine. Though I doubt if to a
Quaker, being heir to title and vast estates hath more than a fleeting interest."