They were on the Blythburgh Marshes, travelling thither by the shortest road. The moon was down and the darkness dense, for the snow-clouds hid the stars.
“Let us bide here a while,” said Grey Dick as their horses blundered through the thick reeds. “It will soon be sunrise, and if we go on in this gloom we shall fall into some boghole or into the river, left.”
So they halted their weary horses and sat still, for in his wretchedness Hugh cared not what he did.
At length the east began to lighten, turning the sky to a smoky red. Then the rim of the sun rising out of the white-flecked ocean, threw athwart the desolate marsh a fierce ray that lay upon the snows like a sword of blood. They were standing on the crest of a little mound, and Dick, looking about him, knew the place.
“See,” he said, pointing toward the river that ran near by, “it is just here that you killed young Clavering this day two years ago. Yonder also I shot the French knights, and Red Eve and you leapt into the Blythe and swam it.”
“Ay,” said Hugh, looking up idly, “but did you say two years, Dick? Nay, surely ’tis a score. Why,” he added in a changed voice, “who may that be in the hollow?” and he pointed to a tall figure which stood beneath them at a distance, half-hidden by the dank snow-mists.
“Let us go and see,” said Dick, speaking almost in a whisper, for there was that about this figure which sent the blood to his throat and cheeks.
He drove the spurs into his tired horse’s sides, causing it to leap forward.
Half a minute later they had ridden down the slope of the hollow. A puff of wind that came with the sun drove away the mist. Dick uttered a choking cry and leapt from his saddle. For there, calm, terrible, mighty, clothed in his red and yellow cap and robe of ebon furs, stood he who was named Murgh the Fire, Murgh the Sword, Murgh the Helper, Murgh, Gateway of the Gods!
They knelt before him in the snow, while, screaming in their fright, the horses fled away.
“Knight and Archer,” said Murgh, in his icy voice, counting with the thumb of his white-gloved right hand upon the hidden fingers of his left. “Friends, you keep your tryst, but there are more to come. Have patience, there are more to come.”
Then he became silent, nor dared they ask him any questions. Only at a motion of his arm they rose from their knees and stood before him.
For a long while they stood thus in silence
A long while they stood thus in silence, till under Murgh’s dreadful gaze Hugh’s brain began to swim. He looked about him, seeking some natural thing to feed his eyes. Lo! yonder was that which he might watch, a hare crouching in its form not ten paces distant. See, out of the reeds crept a great red fox. The hare smelt or saw, and leaped away. The fox sprang at it, too late, for the white fangs closed emptily behind its scut. Then with a little snarl of hungry rage it turned and vanished into the brake.
The hare and the fox, the dead reeds, the rising sun, the snow—oh, who had told him of these things?
Ah! he remembered now, and that memory set the blood pulsing in his veins. For where these creatures were should be more besides Grey Dick and himself and the Man of many names.
He looked toward Murgh to see that he had bent himself and with his gloved hand was drawing lines upon the snow. Those lines when they were done enclosed the shape of a grave!
“Archer,” said Murgh, “unsheath your axe and dig.”
As though he understood, Dick obeyed, and began to hollow out a grave in the soft and boggy soil.
Hugh watched him like one who dreams, wondering who was destined to fill that grave. Presently a sound behind caused him to turn his head.
Oh! certainly he was mad, for there over the rise not a dozen yards away came the beautiful ghost of Eve Clavering, clad in her red cloak. With her was another ghost, that of old Sir Andrew Arnold, blood running down the armour beneath his robe and in his hand the hilt of a broken sword.
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