Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“Little have you told me, physician, that I did not know already,” said the tall, hooded figure, in a deep voice the sound of which thrilled Hugh to his marrow. “Yet you are right; it is in the hands of God. And to those hands I trust—not in vain, I think.”

“Sir,” said Hugh addressing him out of the shadow in which he stood, “be pleased to tell me, if you will, whether you have met in this town a knight of the name of Sir Edmund Acour, for of him I am in search?”

“Sir Edmund Acour?” answered the figure. “No, I have not met him in Avignon, though it is like enough that he is here. Yet I have known of this knight far away in England.”

“Was it at Blythburgh, in Suffolk, perchance?” asked Hugh.

“Ay, at Blythburgh in Suffolk; but who are you that speak in English and know of Blythburgh in Suffolk?”

“Oh!” cried Hugh, “what do you here, Sir Andrew Arnold?”

The old man threw back his hood and stared at him.

“Hugh de Cressi, by Christ’s holy Name!” he exclaimed. “Yes, and Richard the archer, also. The light is bad; I did not see your faces. Welcome, Hugh, thrice welcome,” and he threw his arms about him and embraced him. “Come, enter my lodgings, I have much to say to you.”

“One thing I desire to learn most of all, Father; the rest can wait. Who is the sick lady of whom you spoke to yonder physician—she that, he thought, was your grand-daughter?”

“Who could it be, Hugh, except Eve Clavering.”

“Eve!” gasped Hugh. “Eve dying of the pest?”

“Nay, son: who said so? She is ill, not dying, who, I believe, will live for many years.”

“You believe, Father, you believe! Why this foul plague scarce spares one in ten. Oh! why do you believe?”

“God teaches me to do so,” answered the old knight solemnly. “I only sent for that physician because he has medicines which I lack. But it is not in him and his drugs that I put my trust. Come, let us go in and see her.”

So they went up the stairs and turned down a long passage, into which the light flowed dimly through large open casements.

“Who is that?” asked Hugh suddenly. “I thought that one brushed past me, though I could see nothing.”

“Ay,” broke in the lad David, who was following, “and I felt a cold wind as though some one stirred the air.”

Grey Dick also opened his lips to speak, then changed his mind and was silent, but Sir Andrew said impatiently:

“I saw no one, therefore there was no one to see. Enter!” and he opened the door.

Now they found themselves in a lighted room, beyond which lay another room.

“Bide you here, Richard, with your companion,” said Sir Andrew. “Hugh, follow me, and let us learn whether I have trusted to God in vain.

Then very gently he opened the door, and they passed in together, closing it behind them.

This was what Hugh saw. At the far end of the room was a bed, near to which stood a lamp that showed, sitting up in the bed, a beautiful young woman, whose dark hair fell all about her. Her face was flushed but not wasted or made dreadful by the sickness, as happened to so many. There she sat staring before her with her large dark eyes and a smile upon her sweet lips, like one that muses on happy things.

“See,” whispered Sir Andrew, “she is awakened from her swoon. I think I did not trust in vain, my son.”

She caught the tones of his voice and spoke.

“Is that you, Father?” she asked dreamily. “Draw near, for I have such a strange story to tell you.”

He obeyed, leaving Hugh in the shadow, and she went on:

“Just now I awoke from my sleep and saw a man standing by my bed.”

“Yes, yes,” Sir Andrew said, “the physician whom I sent for to see you.”

“Do physicians in Avignon wear caps of red and yellow and robes of black fur and strings of great black pearls that, to tell truth, I coveted sorely?” she asked, laughing a little. “No, no. If this were a physician, he is of the sort that heals souls. Indeed, now that I think of it, when I asked him his name and business, he answered that the first was the Helper, and the second, to bring peace to those in trouble.”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider