Then they all slunk back and vanished, or seemed to vanish, down the mouths of the dark streets that ran into the open place in front of the dwelling which Hugh had named the Bride’s Tower.
“Now,” said Dick, wiping the sweat from his brow as they barred the massive door of the house, “we are safe for this night at least, and can eat and sleep in peace. See you, master, I have taken stock of this old place, which must have been built in rough times, for scarce a wall of it is less than five feet thick. The moat is deep all round. Fire cannot harm it, and it is loop-holed for arrows and not commanded by any other building, having the open place in front and below the wide fosse of the ancient wall, upon which it stands. Therefore, even with this poor garrison of two, it can be taken only by storm. This, while we have bows and arrows, will cost them something, seeing that we could hold the tower from stair to stair.”
“Ay, Dick,” answered Hugh sadly, “doubtless we can make a fight for it and take some with us to a quieter world, if they are foolish enough to give us a chance. But what did that fellow shout as to starving us out? How stand we for provisions?”
“Foreseeing something of the sort, I have reckoned that up, master. There’s good water in the courtyard well and those who owned this tower, whoever they may have been, laid in great store, perchance for the marriage feast, or perchance when the plague began, knowing that it would bring scarcity. The cupboards and the butteries are filled with flour, dried flesh, wine, olives and oil for burning. Even if these should fail us there are the horses in the stable, which we can kill and cook, for of forage and of fuel I have found enough.”
“Then the Pope should not be more safe than we, Dick,” said Hugh with a weary smile, “if any are safe in Avignon to-day. Well, let us go and eat of all this plenty, but oh! I wish I had told Sir Andrew where we dwelt, or could be sure in which of that maze of streets he and Red Eve are lodged. Dick Dick, that knave Basil has fooled us finely.”
“Ay, master,” said Dick, setting his grim lips, “but let him pray his Saint that before all is done I do not fool him.”
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The Plague Pit
SEVEN long days had gone by and still Hugh and Grey Dick held out in their Tower fortress. Though as yet unhurt, they were weary indeed, since they must watch all night and could only sleep by snatches in the daytime, one lying down to rest while the other kept guard.
As they had foreseen, except by direct assault, the place proved impregnable, its moat protecting it upon three sides and the sheer wall of the old city terminating in the deep fosse upon the fourth. In its little armoury, among other weapons they had found a great store of arrows and some good bows, whereof Hugh took the best and longest. Thus armed with these they placed themselves behind the loopholes of the embattled gateway, whence they could sweep the space before them. Or if danger threatened them elsewhere, there were embrasures whence they could command the bases of the walls. Lastly, also, there was the central tower, whereof they could hold each landing with the sword.
Thrice they had been attacked, since there seemed to be hundreds of folk in Avignon bent upon their destruction, but each time their bitter arrows, that rarely seemed to miss, had repulsed the foe with loss. Even when an onslaught was delivered on the main gateway at night, they had beaten their assailants by letting fall upon them through the machicoulis or overhanging apertures, great stones that had been piled up there, perhaps generations before, when the place was built.
Still the attacks did not slacken. Indeed the hate of the citizens of Avignon against these two bold Englishmen, whose courage and resource they attributed to help given to them by the powers of evil, seemed to grow from day to day, even as the plague grew in the streets of that sore-afflicted city. From their walls they could see friars preaching a kind of crusade against them. They pointed toward the tower with crucifixes, invoking their hearers to pull it stone from stone and slay the wizards within, the wizards who conspired with the accursed Jews even beneath the eyes of his Holiness the Pope, to bring doom on Avignon.
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