Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“Prove it,” exclaimed Basil, “and the citizens of Avignon will rid you of their troubling.”

Then they debated long together and the end of it was that Basil departed, saying that he would return again on the morrow and make report as to certain matters.

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Chapter XVII

A Meeting

HUGH, Grey Dick, and David, trudged up and down through the streets of Avignon. All that long day they trudged seeking news and finding little. Again and again they asked at the inns whether a knight who bore the name of Acour or de Noyon, or Cattrina, was or had been a guest there, but none whom they asked seemed to know anything of such a person.

They asked it of citizens, also of holy priests, good men who, careless of their own lives, followed biers or cartloads of dead destined to the plague pit or the river that they might pronounce over them the last blessings of the Church. They asked it of physicians, some few of whom still remained alive, as they hurried from house to house to minister to the sick or dying. But all of these either did not answer at all or else shrugged their shoulders and went on their melancholy business. Only one of them called back that he had no time to waste in replying to foolish questions, and that probably the knight they sought was dead long ago or had fled from the city.

Another man, an officer of customs, who seemed half dazed with misery and fear, said that he remembered the lord Cattrina entering Avignon with a good many followers, since he himself had levied the customary tolls on his company. As for how long it was ago he could not say, his recollection failed him—so much had happened since. So he bade them farewell until they met in heaven, which, he added, doubtless would be soon.

The evening drew on. Wearily enough they had trudged round the great Roche des Doms, looking up at the huge palace of the Pope, where the fires burned night and day and the guards watched at the shut gates, that forbidden palace into which no man might enter. Leaving it, they struck down a street that was new to them, which led toward their borrowed dwelling of the Bride’s Tower. This street was very empty save for a few miserable creatures, some of whom lay dead or dying in the gutters. Others lurked about in doorways or behind the pillars of gates, probably for no good purpose. They heard the footsteps of a man following them who seemed to keep in the shadow, but took no heed, since they set him down as some wretched thief who would never dare to attack three armed men. It did not occur to them that this was none other than the notary Basil, clad in a new robe, who for purposes of his own was spying upon their movements.

They came to a large, ruinous-looking house, of which the gateway attracted Grey Dick’s sharp eyes.

“What does that entrance remind you of, master?” he asked.

Hugh looked at it carelessly and answered:

“Why, of the Preceptory at Dunwich. See, there are the same arms upon the stone shield. Doubtless once the Knights Templar dwelt here. Sir Andrew may have visited this place in his youth.”

As the words left his lips two men came out of the gateway, one of them a physician to judge by his robe and the case of medicines which he carried; the other a very tall person wrapped in a long cloak. The physician was speaking.

“She may live or she may die,” he said. “She seems strong. The pest, you say, has been on her for four days, which is longer than most endure it; she has no swellings, and has not bled from the lungs; though, on the other hand, she is now insensible, which often precedes the end. I can say no more; it is in the hands of God. Yes, I will ask you to pay me the fee now. Who knows if you will be alive to do so to-morrow? If she dies before then I recommend you to throw her into the river, which the Pope has blessed. It is cleaner burial than the plague pit. I presume she is your grand-daughter—a beautiful woman. Pity she should be wasted thus, but many others are in a like case. If she awakes give her good food, and if you cannot get that—wine, of which there is plenty. Five gold pieces—thank you,” and he hurried away.

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider