Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

At the little port of Lowestoft they met a sullen sailorman who stood staring at the beach whereon his fishing boat lay overturned and awash for lack of hands to drag it out of reach of the angry sea. They asked him if he knew of how it fared with Dunwich.

By way of answer he cursed them, adding:

“Must I be forever pestered as to Dunwich? This is the third time of late that I have heard of Dunwich from wandering folk. Begone thither and gather tidings for yourselves, which I hope will please you as well as they do me.”

“Now, if I were not in haste I would stay a while to teach you manners, you foul-mouthed churl,” muttered Grey Dick between his teeth.

“Let the fellow be,” said Hugh wearily; “the men of Lowestoft have ever hated those of Dunwich, and it seems that a common woe does not soften hearts. Soon enough we shall learn the truth.”

“Ay, you’ll learn it soon enough,” shouted the brute after them. “Dunwich boats won’t steal Lowestoft herrings for many a year!”

So they rode on through Kessland, which they reached as night was closing in, through Benacre and Wrentham, also past houses in which none seemed to dwell. “Murgh has been here before us, I think,” said Dick at length.

“Then I hope that we may overtake him,” answered Hugh with a smile, “for I need his tidings—or his rest. Oh! Dick, Dick,” he added, “I wonder has ever man borne a heavier burden for all this weary while? If I were sure, it would not be so bad, for when earthly hope is done we may turn to other comfort. But I’m not sure; Basil may have lied. The priest by the pit could swear only to a red cloak, of which there are many, though few be buried in them. And, Dick, there are worse things than that. Perchance Acour got her after all.”

“And perchance he didn’t,” answered Dick. “Well, fret on if you will; the thing does not trouble me who for my part am sure enough.”

“Of what, man, of what?”

“Of seeing the lady Eve ere long.”

“In this world or the next, Dick?”

“In this. I don’t reckon of the next, mayhap there we shall be blind and not see. Besides, of what use is that world to you where it is written that they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels? You’ll make no good angel, I’m thinking, while as for the lady Eve, she’s too human for it as yet.”

“Why do you think we shall see her on earth?” asked Hugh, ignoring these reflections.

“Because he who is called the Helper said as much, and whatever he may be he is no liar. Do you not remember what Red Eve told you when she awoke from that dream of hers, which was no dream? And do you not remember what Sir Andrew told you as to a certain meeting in the snow—pest upon it!” and he wiped some of the driving flakes from his face—”Sir Andrew, who is a saint, and, therefore, like Murgh, can be no liar?”

“If you think thus,” said Hugh in a new voice, “why did you not say so before?”

“Because I love not argument, master, and if I had, you would ever have reasoned with me from Avignon to Yarmouth town and spoilt my sleep of nights. Oh! where is your faith?”

“What is faith, Dick?”

“The gift of belief, master. A very great gift, seeing what a man believes is and will be true for him, however false it may prove for others. He who believes nothing, sows nothing, and therefore reaps nothing, good or ill.”

“Who taught you these things, Dick?”

“One whom I am not likely to forget, or you, either. One who is my master at archery and whose words, like his arrows, though they be few, yet strike the heart of hidden truth. Oh, fear not, doubtless sorrow waits you yonder,” and he pointed toward Dunwich. “Yet it comes to my lips that there’s joy beyond the sorrows, the joy of battle and of love—for those who care for love, which I think foolishness. There stands a farm, and the farmer is a friend of mine, or used to be. Let us go thither and feed these poor beasts and ourselves, or I think we will never come to Dunwich through this cold and snow. Moreover,” he added thoughtfully, “joy or sorrow or both of them are best met by full men, and I wish to look to your harness and my own, for sword and axe are rusted with the sea. Who knows but that we may need them in Dunwich, or beyond, when we meet with Murgh, as he promised that we should.”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider