The Nest of the Sparrowhawk HTML version

IV. Grinding Poverty
It was about an hour later. Sir Marmaduke's guests had departed, Dame Harrison
in her rickety coach, Mistress Pyncheon in her chaise, whilst Squire Boatfield
was riding his well-known ancient cob.
Everyone had drunk sack-posset, had eaten turkey pasties, and enjoyed the
luscious fruit: the men had striven to be agreeable to the heiress, the old ladies to
be encouraging to their protégés. Sir Marmaduke had tried to be equally amiable
to all, whilst favoring none. He was an unpopular man in East Kent and he knew
it, doing nothing to counterbalance the unpleasing impression caused invariably
by his surly manner, and his sarcastic, often violent, temper.
Mistress Amelia Editha de Chavasse was now alone with her brother-in-law in
the great bare hall of the Court, Lady Sue having retired to her room under
pretext of the vapors, and young Lambert been finally dismissed from work for
the day.
"You are passing kind to the youth, Marmaduke," said Mistress de Chavasse
meditatively when the young man's darkly-clad figure had disappeared up the
She was sitting in a high-backed chair, her head resting against the carved
woodwork. The folds of her simple gown hung primly round her well-shaped
figure. Undoubtedly she was still a very good-looking woman, though past the
hey-day of her youth and beauty. The half-light caused by the depth of the
window embrasure, and the smallness of the glass panes through which the
summer sun hardly succeeded in gaining admittance, added a certain softness to
her chiseled features, and to the usually hard expression of her large dark eyes.
She was gazing out of the tall window, wherein the several broken panes were
roughly patched with scraps of paper, out into the garden and the distance
beyond, where the sea could be always guessed at, even when not seen. Sir
Marmaduke had his back to the light: he was sitting astride a low chair, his high-
booted foot tapping the ground impatiently, his fingers drumming a devil's tattoo
against the back of the chair.
"Lambert would starve if I did not provide for him," he said with a sneer. "Adam,
his brother, could do naught for him: he is poor as a church-mouse, poorer even
than I--but nathless," he added with a violent oath, "it strikes everyone as
madness that I should keep a secretary when I scarce can pay the wages of a
serving maid."
"'Twere better you paid your servants' wages, Marmaduke," she retorted harshly,
"they were insolent to me just now. Why do you not pay the girl's arrears to-day?"
"Why do I not climb up to the moon, my dear Editha, and bring down a few stars
with me in my descent," he replied with a shrug of his broad shoulders. "I have
come to my last shilling."
"The Earl of Northallerton cannot live for ever."