The Nest of the Sparrowhawk HTML version
IX. Avowed Enmity
The pavilion had been built some fifty years ago, by one of the Spantons of Acol
who had a taste for fanciful architecture.
It had been proudly held by several deceased representatives of the family to be
the reproduction of a Greek temple. It certainly had columns supporting the
portico, and steps leading thence to the ground. It was also circular in shape and
was innocent of windows, deriving its sole light from the door, when it was open.
The late Sir Jeremy, I believe, had been very fond of the place. Being of a
somewhat morose and taciturn disposition, he liked the seclusion of this lonely
corner of the park. He had a chair or two put into the pavilion and 'twas said that
he indulged there in the smoking of that fragrant weed which of late had been
more generously imported into this country.
After Sir Jeremy's death, the pavilion fell into disuse. Sir Marmaduke openly
expressed his dislike of the forlorn hole, as he was wont to call it. He caused the
door to be locked, and since then no one had entered the little building. The key,
it was presumed, had been lost; the lock certainly looked rusty. The roof, too,
soon fell into disrepair, and no doubt within, the place soon became the prey of
damp and mildew, the nest of homing birds, or the lair of timid beasts. Very soon
the proud copy of an archaic temple took on that miserable and forlorn look
peculiar to uninhabited spots.
From an air of abandonment to that of eeriness was but a step, and now the
building towered in splendid isolation, in this remote corner of the park, at the
confines of the wood, with a reputation for being the abode of ghosts, of bats and
witches, and other evil things.
When Master Busy sought for tracks of imaginary criminals bent on abducting the
heiress he naturally drifted to this lonely spot; when Master Courage was bent on
whispering sweet nothings into the ear of the other man's betrothed, he enticed
her to that corner of the park where he was least like to meet the heavy-booted
Thus it was that these three met on the one spot where as a rule at a late hour of
the evening Prince Amédé d'Orléans was wont to commence his wanderings,
sure of being undisturbed, and with the final disappearance of Master Busy and
Mistress Charity the place was once more deserted.
The bats once more found delight in this loneliness and from all around came
that subdued murmur, that creaking of twigs, that silence so full of subtle sounds,
which betrays the presence of animal life on the prowl.
Anon there came the harsh noise of a key grating in a rusty lock. The door of the
pavilion was cautiously opened from within and the mysterious French prince,
bewigged, booted and hatted, emerged into the open. The night had drawn a
singularly dark mantle over the woods. Banks of cloud obscured the sky; the tall
elm trees with their ivy-covered branches, and their impenetrable shadows
beneath, formed a dense wall which the sight of human creatures was not keen