Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“Rue St. Benezet,” answered Basil. “Forward, we have no time to lose.”

“Did you tell Sir Andrew where we dwelt, master?” said Dick presently, “for I did not.”

“By my faith, Dick, no; it slipped my mind.”

“Then it will be hard for him to find us if he has need, master, in this rabbit warren of a town. Still that can’t be mended now. I wish we were clear of this business, for it seems to me that yon fellow is not leading us toward the palace. Almost am I minded—” and he looked at Basil, then checked himself.

Presently Dick wished it still more. Taking yet another turn they found themselves in an open square or garden that was surrounded by many mean houses. In this square great pest-fires burned, lighting it luridly. By the flare of them they saw that hundreds of people were gathered there listening to a mad-eyed friar who was preaching to them from the top of a wine-cart. As they drew near to the crowd through which Basil was leading them, Hugh heard the friar shouting:

“Men of Avignon, this pest which kills us is the work not of God, but of the Jew blasphemers and of the sorcerers who are in league with them. I tell you that two such sorcerers who pass as Englishmen are in your city now and have been seen consorting with the Jews, plotting your destruction. One looks like a young knight, but the other has the face of Death himself, and both of them wrought murders in a neighbouring town to protect the Jews. Until you kill the accursed Jews this plague will never pass. You will die, every one of you, with your wives and children if you do not kill the Jews and their familiars.”

Just then the man, rolling his wild eyes about, caught sight of Hugh and Dick.

“See!” he screamed. “There are the wizards who in Venice were seen in the company of the Enemy of Mankind. That good Christian, Basil, has brought them face to face with you, as he promised me that he would.”

As he heard these words Hugh drew his sword and leapt at Basil. But the rogue was watching. With a yell of fear he threw himself among the crowd and there vanished.

“Out weapons and back to back!” cried Hugh, “for we are snared.”

So the three of them ranged themselves together facing outward. In front of them gleamed Grey Dick’s axe, Hugh’s sword and David’s great knife. In a moment the furious mob was surging round them like the sea, howling, “Down with the foreign wizards! Kill the friends of the Jews!” one solid wall of changing white faces.

A man struck at them with a halbert, but the blow fell short, for he was afraid to come too near. Grey Dick leapt forward, and in a moment was back again, leaving that man dead, smitten through from skull to chin. For a while there was silence, since this sudden death gave them pause, and in it Hugh cried out:

“Are blameless men to be murdered thus? Have we no friends in Avignon?”

“Some,” answered a voice from the outer shadow, though who spoke they could not see.

“Save the protectors of the Jews!” cried the voice again.

Then came a rush and a counter-rush. Fighting began around them in which they took no share. When it had passed over them like a gust of wind, David Day was gone, killed or trodden down, as his companions thought.

“Now, master, we are alone,” said Grey Dick. “Set your shoulders against mine and let us die a death that these dogs of Avignon will remember.”

“Ay, ay!” answered Hugh. “But don’t overreach, Dick, ’tis ever the archer’s fault.”

The mob closed in on them, then rolled back like water from a rock, leaving some behind. Again they closed in and again rolled back.

“Bring bows!” they cried, widening out. “Bring bows and shoot them down.”

“Ah!” gasped Dick, “that is a game two can play, now that I have arm room.”

Almost before the words had left his lips the great black bow he bore was out and strung. Next instant the shafts began to rush, piercing all before them, till at the third arrow those in front of him melted away, save such as would stir no more. Only now missiles began to come in answer from this side and from that, although as yet none struck them.

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider