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Master John Horseleigh, Knight
by [?]

‘Was he older than my sister?’ Roger asked.

‘Ay–much older; from a dozen to a score of years older. A man of some position, maybe, playing an amorous game for the pleasure of the hour. Who knoweth but that he have a wife already? Many have done the thing hereabouts of late.’

Having paid a visit to the graves of his relatives, the sailor next day went along the straight road which, then a lane, now a highway, conducted to the curious little inland town named by the Havenpool man. It is unnecessary to describe Oozewood on the South-Avon. It has a railway at the present day; but thirty years of steam traffic past its precincts have hardly modified its original features. Surrounded by a sort of fresh-water lagoon, dividing it from meadows and coppice, its ancient thatch and timber houses have barely made way even in the front street for the ubiquitous modern brick and slate. It neither increases nor diminishes in size; it is difficult to say what the inhabitants find to do, for, though trades in woodware are still carried on, there cannot be enough of this class of work nowadays to maintain all the householders, the forests around having been so greatly thinned and curtailed. At the time of this tradition the forests were dense, artificers in wood abounded, and the timber trade was brisk. Every house in the town, without exception, was of oak framework, filled in with plaster, and covered with thatch, the chimney being the only brick portion of the structure. Inquiry soon brought Roger the sailor to the door of Wall, the timber-dealer referred to, but it was some time before he was able to gain admission to the lodging of his sister, the people having plainly received directions not to welcome strangers.

She was sitting in an upper room on one of the lath-backed, willow-bottomed ‘shepherd’s’ chairs, made on the spot then as to this day, and as they were probably made there in the days of the Heptarchy. In her lap was an infant, which she had been suckling, though now it had fallen asleep; so had the young mother herself for a few minutes, under the drowsing effects of solitude. Hearing footsteps on the stairs, she awoke, started up with a glad cry, and ran to the door, opening which she met her brother on the threshold.

‘O, this is merry; I didn’t expect ‘ee!’ she said. ‘Ah, Roger–I thought it was John.’ Her tones fell to disappointment.

The sailor kissed her, looked at her sternly for a few moments, and pointing to the infant, said, ‘You mean the father of this?’

‘Yes, my husband,’ said Edith.

‘I hope so,’ he answered.

‘Why, Roger, I’m married–of a truth am I!’ she cried.

‘Shame upon ‘ee, if true! If not true, worse. Master Stocker was an honest man, and ye should have respected his memory longer. Where is thy husband?’

‘He comes often. I thought it was he now. Our marriage has to be kept secret for a while–it was done privily for certain reasons; but we was married at church like honest folk–afore God we were, Roger, six months after poor Stocker’s death.’

”Twas too soon,’ said Roger.

‘I was living in a house alone; I had nowhere to go to. You were far over sea in the New Found Land, and John took me and brought me here.’

‘How often doth he come?’ says Roger again.

‘Once or twice weekly,’ says she.

‘I wish th’ ‘dst waited till I returned, dear Edy,’ he said. ‘It mid be you are a wife–I hope so. But, if so, why this mystery? Why this mean and cramped lodging in this lonely copse-circled town? Of what standing is your husband, and of where?’

‘He is of gentle breeding–his name is John. I am not free to tell his family-name. He is said to be of London, for safety’ sake; but he really lives in the county next adjoining this.’