Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“Well, daughter, and what else did the man say?” asked Sir Andrew, soothingly.

“You think I wander,” she said, interpreting the tone of his voice and not his words, “but indeed it is not so. Well, he said little; only that I had been very ill, near to death, in truth, much nearer than I thought, but that now I should recover and within a day or two be quite well and strong again. I asked him why he had come to tell me this. He replied, because he thought that I should like to know that he had met one whom I loved in the city of Venice in Italy; one who was named Hugh de Cressi. Yes, Father, he said Hugh de Cressi, who, with his squire, an archer, had befriended him there—and that this Hugh was well and would remain so, and that soon I should see him again. Also he added that he had met one whom I hated, who was named the lord of Cattrina, and that if this Cattrina threatened me I should do wisely to fly back to England, since there I” should find peace and safety. Then, suddenly, just before you came in he was gone.”

“You have strange dreams, Eve,” said Sir Andrew, “yet there is truth in their madness. Now be strong lest joy should kill you, as it has done by many a one before.”

Then he turned to the shadow behind him and said, “Come.” Next instant Hugh was kneeling at Eve’s bedside and pressing his lips upon her hand.

Oh! they had much to say to each other, so much that the half of it remained unsaid. Still Hugh learned that she and Sir Andrew had come to Avignon upon the Pope’s summons to lay this matter of her alleged marriage before him in person. When they reached the town they found it already in the grip of the great plague, and that to see his Holiness was almost impossible, since he had shut himself up in his palace and would admit no one. Yet an interview was promised through Sir Andrew’s high-placed friends, only then the sickness struck Eve and she could not go, nor was Sir Andrew allowed to do so, since he was nursing one who lay ill.

Then Hugh began to tell his tale, to which Eve and Sir Andrew Arnold listened greedily. Of Murgh, for sundry reasons, he said nothing, and of the fight from which Acour had fled in Venice before the earthquake but little. He told them, however, that he had heard that this Acour had been or was in Avignon and that he had learned from a notary named Basil, whom he, Hugh, had retained, that Acour had won from the Pope a confirmation of his marriage.

“A lie!” interrupted Sir Andrew. “His Holiness caused me to be informed expressly that he would give no decision in this cause until all the case was before him.”

As he said the words a disturbance arose in the outer room, and the harsh voice of Grey Dick was heard saying:

“Back, you dog! Would you thrust yourself into the chamber of the lady of Clavering? Back, or I will cast you through the window-place.”

Sir Andrew went to see what was the matter, and Hugh, breaking off his tale, followed him, to find the notary, Basil, on his knees with Grey Dick gripping him by the collar of his robe.

“Sir Knight,” said Basil, recognizing Hugh, “should I, your faithful agent, be treated thus by this fierce-faced squire of yours?”

“That depends what you have done, Sir Lawyer,” answered Hugh, motioning to Dick to loose the man.

“All I have done, Sir Knight, is to follow you into a house where I chanced to see you enter, in order to give you some good tidings. Then this fellow caught me by the throat and said that if I dared to break in upon the privacy of one whom he called Red Eve and Lady Clavering, he would kill me.”

“He had his orders, lawyer.”

“Then, Sir Knight, he might have executed them less roughly. Had he but told me that you were alone with some lady, I should have understood and withdrawn for a while, although to do so would have been to let precious moments slip,” and the lean-faced knave leered horribly.

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider