Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

At length, save for the moaning of those hurt men who still lived, the dreadful tumult sank to silence. Then Murgh turned and spoke in his slow and icy voice:

“You were about to seek me in the fosse of this high tower, were you not, Hugh de Cressi and Richard Archer? A foolish thought, in truth, and a sinful, so sinful that it would have served you well if I had let you come. But your strait was sore and your faith was weak, and I had no such command. Therefore I have come to others whose names were written in my book. Ay, and being half human after all—for does not your creed tell you that I was born of Sin? I rejoice that it is given to me to protect those who would have protected me when I seemed to stand helpless in the hands of cruel men. Nay, thank me not. What need have I of your thanks, which are due to God alone! And question me not, for why should I answer your questions, even if I know those answers? Only do my bidding. This night seek whom you will in Avignon, but to-morrow ere the dawn ride away, for we three must meet again at a place appointed before this winter’s snows are passed.”

“O dread lord of Death, one thing, only one,” began Hugh.

But Murgh held up his white-gloved hand and replied:

“Have I not said that I answer no questions? Now go forth and follow the promptings of your heart till we meet again.”

Then gliding to the head of the stair he vanished in the shadow.

“Say, what shall we do?” asked Hugh in amazed voice.

“It matters little what we do or leave undone, master, seeing that we are fore-fated men whom, as I think, none can harm until a day that will not dawn to-morrow nor yet awhile. Therefore let us wash ourselves and eat and borrow new garments, if we can find any that are not soiled, and then, if the horses are still unharmed, mount and ride from this accursed Avignon for England.”

“Nay, Dick, since first we must learn whether or no we leave friends behind us here.”

“Ay, master, if you will. But since yonder Murgh said nothing of them, it was in my mind that they are either dead or fled.”

“Not dead, I pray, Dick. Oh, I am sure, not dead, and I left living! When Red Eve and I met, Murgh had been with her and promised that she would recover and be strong,” answered Hugh bravely, although there was a note of terror in his voice.

“Red Eve has other foes in Avignon besides the pest,” muttered Grey Dick, adding: “still, let us have faith; it is a good friend to man. Did not yonder Helper chide us for our lack of it?”

They forced a way down the dead-cumbered tower stair, crawling through the darkness over the bodies of the fallen. They crossed the hall that also was full of dead, and of wounded whose pitiful groans echoed from the vaulted roof, and climbed another stair to their chamber in the gateway tower. Here from a spark of fire that still smouldered on the hearth, they lit the lamps of olive-oil and by the light of them washed off the stains of battle, and refreshed themselves with food and wine. These things done, Dick returned to the hall and presently brought thence two suits of armour and some cloaks which he had taken either from the walls or from off the slain. In these they disguised themselves as best they could, as de Noyon had disguised himself at Crecy.

Then, having collected a store of arrows whereof many lay about, they departed by the back entrance. The great front doorway was so choked with corpses that they could not pass it, since here had raged the last fearful struggle to escape. Going to the little stable-yard, where they found their horses unharmed in the stalls, although frightened by the tumult and stiff from lack of exercise, they fed and saddled them and led them out. So presently they looked their last upon the Bride’s Tower that had sheltered them so well.

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider