Sir Daniel and his men lay in and about Kettley that night, warmly
quartered and well patrolled. But the Knight of Tunstall was one who
never rested from money-getting; and even now, when he was on the brink
of an adventure which should make or mar him, he was up an hour after
midnight to squeeze poor neighbours. He was one who trafficked greatly
in disputed inheritances; it was his way to buy out the most unlikely
claimant, and then, by the favour he curried with great lords about the
king, procure unjust decisions in his favour; or, if that was too
roundabout, to seize the disputed manor by force of arms, and rely on his
influence and Sir Oliver's cunning in the law to hold what he had
snatched. Kettley was one such place; it had come very lately into his
clutches; he still met with opposition from the tenants; and it was to
overawe discontent that he had led his troops that way.
By two in the morning, Sir Daniel sat in the inn room, close by the
fireside, for it was cold at that hour among the fens of Kettley. By his
elbow stood a pottle of spiced ale. He had taken off his visored
headpiece, and sat with his bald head and thin, dark visage resting on
one hand, wrapped warmly in a sanguine-coloured cloak. At the lower end
of the room about a dozen of his men stood sentry over the door or lay
asleep on benches; and somewhat nearer hand, a young lad, apparently of
twelve or thirteen, was stretched in a mantle on the floor. The host of
the Sun stood before the great man.
"Now, mark me, mine host," Sir Daniel said, "follow but mine orders, and
I shall be your good lord ever. I must have good men for head boroughs,
and I will have Adam-a-More high constable; see to it narrowly. If other
men be chosen, it shall avail you nothing; rather it shall be found to
your sore cost. For those that have paid rent to Walsingham I shall take
good measure--you among the rest, mine host."
"Good knight," said the host, "I will swear upon the cross of Holywood I
did but pay to Walsingham upon compulsion. Nay, bully knight, I love not
the rogue Walsinghams; they were as poor as thieves, bully knight. Give
me a great lord like you. Nay; ask me among the neighbours, I am stout
"It may be," said Sir Daniel, dryly. "Ye shall then pay twice."
The innkeeper made a horrid grimace; but this was a piece of bad luck
that might readily befall a tenant in these unruly times, and he was
perhaps glad to make his peace so easily.
"Bring up yon fellow, Selden!" cried the knight.
And one of his retainers led up a poor, cringing old man, as pale as a
candle, and all shaking with the fen fever.
"Sirrah," said Sir Daniel, "your name?"
"An't please your worship," replied the man, "my name is Condall--Condall
of Shoreby, at your good worship's pleasure."
"I have heard you ill reported on," returned the knight. "Ye deal in
treason, rogue; ye trudge the country leasing; y' are heavily suspicioned
of the death of severals. How, fellow, are ye so bold? But I will bring
"Right honourable and my reverend lord," the man cried, "here is some
hodge-podge, saving your good presence. I am but a poor private man, and
have hurt none."
"The under-sheriff did report of you most vilely," said the knight.
"'Seize me,' saith he, 'that Tyndal of Shoreby.'"
"Condall, my good lord; Condall is my poor name," said the unfortunate.
"Condall or Tyndal, it is all one," replied Sir Daniel, coolly. "For, by
my sooth, y' are here and I do mightily suspect your honesty. If ye
would save your neck, write me swiftly an obligation for twenty pound."
"For twenty pound, my good lord!" cried Condall. "Here is midsummer
madness! My whole estate amounteth not to seventy shillings."
"Condall or Tyndal," returned Sir Daniel, grinning, "I will run my peril
of that loss. Write me down twenty, and when I have recovered all I may,
I will be good lord to you, and pardon you the rest."