**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Master John Horseleigh, Knight
by [?]

‘Od zounds! if ye modden be a stranger here in very truth, goodman. That wer Sir John and his dame, and his children Elizabeth, Mary, and John.’

‘I be from foreign parts. Sir John what d’ye call’n?’

‘Master John Horseleigh, Knight, who had a’most as much lond by inheritance of his mother as ‘a had by his father, and likewise some by his wife. Why, bain’t his arms dree goolden horses’ heads, and idden his lady the daughter of Master Richard Phelipson, of Montislope, in Nether Wessex, known to us all?’

‘It mid be so, and yet it mid not. However, th’ ‘lt miss thy prayers for such an honest knight’s welfare, and I have to traipse seaward many miles.’

He went onward, and as he walked continued saying to himself, ‘Now to that poor wronged fool Edy. The fond thing! I thought it; ’twas too quick–she was ever amorous. What’s to become of her! God wot! How be I going to face her with the news, and how be I to hold it from her? To bring this disgrace on my father’s honoured name, a double-tongued knave!’ He turned and shook his fist at the chapel and all in it, and resumed his way.

Perhaps it was owing to the perplexity of his mind that, instead of returning by the direct road towards his sister’s obscure lodging in the next county, he followed the highway to Casterbridge, some fifteen miles off, where he remained drinking hard all that afternoon and evening, and where he lay that and two or three succeeding nights, wandering thence along the Anglebury road to some village that way, and lying the Friday night after at his native place of Havenpool. The sight of the familiar objects there seems to have stirred him anew to action, and the next morning he was observed pursuing the way to Oozewood that he had followed on the Saturday previous, reckoning, no doubt, that Saturday night would, as before, be a time for finding Sir John with his sister again.

He delayed to reach the place till just before sunset. His sister was walking in the meadows at the foot of the garden, with a nursemaid who carried the baby, and she looked up pensively when he approached. Anxiety as to her position had already told upon her once rosy cheeks and lucid eyes. But concern for herself and child was displaced for the moment by her regard of Roger’s worn and haggard face.

‘Why–you are sick, Roger–you are tired! Where have you been these many days? Why not keep me company a bit–my husband is much away? And we have hardly spoke at all of dear father and of your voyage to the New Land. Why did you go away so suddenly? There is a spare chamber at my lodging.’

‘Come indoors,’ he said. ‘We’ll talk now–talk a good deal. As for him [nodding to the child], better heave him into the river; better for him and you!’

She forced a laugh, as if she tried to see a good joke in the remark, and they went silently indoors.

‘A miserable hole!’ said Roger, looking round the room.

‘Nay, but ’tis very pretty!’

‘Not after what I’ve seen. Did he marry ‘ee at church in orderly fashion?’

‘He did sure–at our church at Havenpool.’

‘But in a privy way?’

‘Ay–because of his friends–it was at night-time.’

‘Ede, ye fond one–for all that he’s not thy husband! Th’ ‘rt not his wife; and the child is a bastard. He hath a wife and children of his own rank, and bearing his name; and that’s Sir John Horseleigh, of Clyfton Horseleigh, and not plain Jack, as you think him, and your lawful husband. The sacrament of marriage is no safeguard nowadays. The King’s new-made headship of the Church hath led men to practise these tricks lightly.’

She had turned white. ‘That’s not true, Roger!’ she said. ‘You are in liquor, my brother, and you know not what you say! Your seafaring years have taught ‘ee bad things!’