Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“You have missed out love and death,” answered the girl—”a full feast for a day that is not done. But whither now?”

“To take sanctuary at the Preceptory and raise my kin. Forward, Eve, ere you freeze.”

“I think there is that in me which will not freeze,” she answered; and broke into a run.

Now night closed in, and the snow which had been threatening all day began to fall, making their path over the heath difficult.

“We need Grey Dick to guide us; but alack, I fear he is dead!” muttered Hugh.

“I think others will be dead, not Dick,” she answered.

Just then they heard a footstep behind them.

Hugh wheeled round and drew his sword, but almost before it had left the scabbard a long figure glided out of the snow, and said:

“More to the left, master, more to the left, unless you would make your peace on Blythburgh bridge, where some would be glad to meet you.”

“How went it?” asked Hugh shortly.

“Not well. I shot thrice and slew three men, two of the French knights, and Thomas of Kessland, against whom I had a score that now is settled. But the fourth time I missed.”

“Who?” asked Eve between her teeth as she ran beside him.

“The Frenchman who means to marry you. When the others fell back he came at me on his horse as I was setting a fresh arrow, thinking to get me. I had to shoot quick, and aimed low for his heart, because in that light I could not make certain of his face. He saw, and jerked up the horse’s head, so that the shaft took it in the throat and killed the beast without hurting its rider. He was off in an instant and at me, with others, before I could draw again. So I thought it time to go, which I did, backward, as he thrust. Perhaps he thinks he killed me, as I meant he should, only when he looks at his sword he’ll find it clean. That’s all.”

And again Grey Dick chuckled.

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Chapter III

Father Andrew

NONE were abroad in the streets of Dunwich on that bitter winter night when these three trudged wearily down Middlegate Street through the driving snow to the door of the grey Preceptory of the Knights Templar. In a window above the porch a light burned dimly, the only one to be seen in any of the houses round about, for by now all men were abed.

“‘Tis Father Arnold’s room,” said Eve. “He sits there at his books. I’ll knock and call him, but do you two go lay hold of the ring of the church door,” and she nodded toward a grey pile that stood near by. “Then none can touch you, and how know we who may be in this house?”

“I’ll go no step further,” answered Hugh sullenly. “All this Temple ground is sanctuary, or at least we will risk it.” And, seizing the knocker, he hammered at the door.

The light in the window vanished, and presently they heard a sound of creaking bolts. Then the door opened, revealing a tall man, white-bearded, ancient, and clad in a frayed, furred robe worn over a priest’s cassock, who held a lantern in his hand.

“Who knocks?” he asked. “Does some soul pass that you disturb me after curfew?”

“Ay, Father Andrew,” answered Hugh, “souls have passed, and souls are near to passing. Let us in, and we will tell you all.”

Without waiting for an answer he entered with the others, pushed to the massive door and bolted it again.

“What’s this? A woman?” said the old priest. “Eve of Clavering, by the Saints!”

“Yes,” she answered calmly, though her teeth chattered; “Eve of Clavering, Eve the Red, this time with the blood of men, soaked with the waters of the Blythe, frozen with the snows of Dunwich Heath, where she has lain hid for hours with a furze bush for shelter. Eve who seeks shriving, a dry rag for her back, a morsel for her lips, and fire to warm her, which in the Name of Christ and of charity she prays you will not refuse to her.”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider