Suddenly, acting on a common impulse, they fled away, every one, only leaving behind them those who had fallen beneath the arrows and the sword. But some who were so full of wine that they could not run, tumbled headlong and lay there helpless.
“Woman,” said Hugh when they had departed, “your husband is lost, but you and your children are saved. Now go your ways and thank whatever God you worship for His small mercies.”
“Alas! Sir Knight,” the poor creature, a still young and not unhandsome Jewess, wailed in answer, “whither shall I go? If I return to that town those Christian men will surely murder me and my children as they have already murdered my husband. Kill us now by the sword or the bow—it will be a kindness—but leave us not here to be tortured by the Christian men according to their fashion with us poor Jews.”
“Are you willing to go to Avignon?” asked Hugh, after thinking awhile.
“Ay, Sir Knight, or anywhere away from these Christians. Indeed, at Avignon I have a brother who perchance will protect us.”
“Then mount my horse,” said Hugh. “Dick and David, draw those two youngsters from the tubs and set them on your beasts; we can walk.”
So the children, two comely little girls of eight and six years of age, or thereabout, were dragged out of their dreadful prisons and lifted to the saddle. The wretched widow, running to the bonfire, snatched from it her husband’s burnt-off hand and hid it in the bosom of her filthy robe. Then she took some of the white ashes and threw them toward that city, muttering curses as she did so.
“What do you?” asked Hugh curiously.
“I pray, sir, to Jehovah, the God of the Jews, that for every grain of these ashes He may take a life in payment for that of my murdered husband, and I think that He will listen.”
“Like enough,” answered Hugh, crossing himself, “but, woman, can you wonder that we Christians hold you sorcerers when we hear such prayers from your lips?”
She turned with a tragic motion, and, pointing to the bones of her husband smouldering in the fire, answered:
“And can you wonder, sir, that we wretched creatures utter such prayers when you, our masters, do such deeds as this?”
“No,” answered Hugh, “I cannot. Let us be going from this shambles.”
So they went, a melancholy procession if ever one was seen upon this earth. As the three Englishmen marched behind the horses with their weeping burdens Grey Dick reflected aloud after his fashion.
“Jew and Christian!” he said. “The Jews killed one Man who chanced to be a God, though they knew it not, and ever since the Christians have killed thousands of the Jews. Now, which is the most wicked, those Jews who killed the Man Who was a God, because He said He was a God, or those Christians who throw a man into a fire to burn before his wife’s and children’s eyes? A man who never said that he was a god, but who, they said, put poison into their wells, which he did not do, but which they believed he did because he was one of the race that thirteen hundred years ago killed their God? Ah, well! Jew and Christian, I think the same devil dwells in them all, but Murgh alone knows the truth of the matter. If ever we meet again, I’ll ask him of it. Meanwhile, we go to Avignon in strange company, whereof all the holy priests yonder, if any of them still live, to say nothing of the people, may demand an account of us.”
So spoke Dick as one who seeks an answer, but neither of his companions gave him any.
On they went through the ruined land unpursued, although they had just brought sundry men to their deaths. For now neither law nor justice was left and those killed who could and those died who must, unwept and unavenged. Only certain travellers, flying they knew not whither, flying from doom to doom, eyed them with hate and loathing because of their companions. Those who consorted with Jews must, they thought, be the enemies of every Christian soul.
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