Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

They turned the corner and rode down another street, till presently David said:

“Halt! yonder is the house. See the cognizance above the gateway!”

Hugh and Dick leapt from their horses, the latter bidding David lead them into the courtyard and hold them there. Then they entered the house, of which the door was ajar, and by the shine of the moon that struggled through the window-places, crept up the stairs and passages till they reached those rooms where Sir Andrew and Eve had lodged.

“Hist!” said Dick, and he pointed to a line of light that showed beneath the closed door.

Hugh pushed it gently and it opened a little. They looked through the crack, and within saw a man in a dark robe who was seated at a table counting out gold by the light of a lamp. Just then he lifted his head, having felt the draught of air from the open door. It was the notary Basil!

Without a word they entered the room, closing and bolting the door behind them. Then Dick leapt on Basil as a wolf leaps, and held him fast, while Hugh ran past him and threw wide the door of that chamber in which Eve had lain sick. It was empty. Back he came again and in a terrible voice, said:

“Now, Sir Notary, where are the lady Eve and Sir Andrew her guardian?”

“Alas, Sir Knight,” began the knave in a quavering voice, “both of them are dead.”

“What!” cried Hugh supporting himself against the wall, for at this terrible news his knees trembled beneath him, “have you or your patron Cattrina murdered them?”

“Murdered them, Sir Knight! I do murder? I, a Christian and a man of peace! Never! And the noble lord of Cattrina, Count de Noyon! Why, he wished to marry the lady, not to murder her. Indeed he swore that she was his wife.”

“So you know all these things, do you, villain?” said Grey Dick, shaking him as a terrier shakes a rat.

“Sir Knight,” went on the frightened fellow, “blame me not for the acts of God. He slew these noble persons, not I; I myself saw the lovely lady carried from this house wrapped in a red cloak.”

“So you were in the house, were you?” said Grey Dick, shaking him again. “Well, whither did they carry her, thief of the night?”

“To the plague pit, good sir; where else in these times?”

Now Hugh groaned aloud, his eyes closed, and he seemed as though he were about to fall. Grey Dick, noting it, for a moment let go of the notary and turned as though to help his master. Like a flash Basil drew a dagger from under his dirty robe and struck at Dick’s back. The blow was well aimed, nor could an unprotected man on whom it fell have escaped death. But although Basil did not see it because of Dick’s long cloak, beneath this cloak he wore the best of mail, and on that mail the slender dagger broke, its point falling harmless to the ground. Next instant Dick had him again in his iron grip. Paying no further heed to Hugh, who had sunk to the floor a huddled heap, he began to speak into the lawyer’s ear in his slow, hissing voice.

“Devil,” he said, “whether or no you murdered Red Eve and Sir Andrew Arnold the saint, I cannot say for certain, though doubtless I shall learn in time. At least a while ago you who had taken our money, strove to murder both of us, or to cause us to be torn in pieces upon yonder square where the fires burned. Now, too, you have striven to murder me with that bodkin of yours, not knowing, fool, that I am safe from all men. Well, say your prayers, since you too journey to the plague pit, for so the gatherers of the dead will think you died.”

“Sir,” gasped the terrified wretch, “spare me and I will speak—”

“More lies,” hissed Dick into his ear. “Nay, go tell them to the father of lies, for I have no time to waste in hearkening to them. Take your pay, traitor!”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider