The Tavern Knight HTML version

The Reckoning
Sir Crispin had heard naught of what was being said as he entered the room wherein the
brothers plotted against him, and he little dreamt that his identity was discovered. He had
but hastened to perform that which, under ordinary circumstances, would have been a
natural enough duty towards the master of the house. He had been actuated also by an
impatience again to behold this Joseph Ashburn - the man who had dealt him that
murderous sword-thrust eighteen years ago. He watched him attentively, and gathering
from his scrutiny that here was a dangerous, subtle man, different, indeed, to his dull-
witted brother, he had determined to act at once.
And so when he appeared in the hall at suppertime, he came armed and booted, and
equipped as for a journey.
Joseph was standing alone by the huge fire-place, his face to the burning logs, and his
foot resting upon one of the andirons. Gregory and his daughter were talking together in
the embrasure of a window. By the other window, across the hall, stood Kenneth, alone
and disconsolate, gazing out at the drizzling rain that had begun to fall.
As Galliard descended, Joseph turned his head, and his eyebrows shot up and wrinkled
his forehead at beholding the knight's equipment.
"How is this, Sir Crispin?" said he. "You are going a journey?"
"Too long already have I imposed myself upon the hospitality of Castle Marleigh,"
Crispin answered politely as he came and stood before the blazing logs. "To-night, Mr.
Ashburn, I go hence."
A curious expression flitted across Joseph's face. The next moment, his brows still knit as
he sought to fathom his sudden action, he was muttering the formal regrets that courtesy
dictated. But Crispin had remarked that singular expression on Joseph's face - fleeting
though it had been - and it flashed across his mind that Joseph knew him. And as he
moved away towards Cynthia and her father, he thanked Heaven that he had taken such
measures as he had thought wise and prudent for the carrying out of his resolve.
Following him with a glance, Joseph asked himself whether Crispin had discovered that
he was recognized, and had determined to withdraw, leaving his vengeance for another
and more propitious season. In answer - little knowing the measure of the man he dealt
with - he told himself it must be so, and having arrived at that conclusion, he there and
then determined that Crispin should not depart free to return and plague them when he
listed. Since Galliard shrank from forcing matters to an issue, he himself would do it that
very night, and thereby settle for all time his business. And so ere he sat down to sup
Joseph looked to it that his sword lay at hand behind his chair at the table-head.