Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

Then there was Grey Dick, whose garments seemed to consist of a sack with holes in it tied round him with a rope, his quiver of arrows slung over it for ornament. He sat by the fire on a stool, oiling his black bow with a rind of the fat bacon that he had been eating.

All the tale had been told, and Father Arnold looked very grave indeed.

“I have known strange and dreadful stories in my time,” he said, “but never, I think, one stranger or more dreadful. What would you do now, godson?”

“Take sanctuary for myself and Grey Dick because of the slaying of John Clavering and others, and afterward be married by you to Eve.”

“Be married to the sister with the brother’s blood upon your hands without absolution from the Church or pardon from the King; and you but a merchant’s younger son and she to-night one of the greatest heiresses in East Anglia! Why, how may that be?”

“I blame him not,” broke in Eve. “John, whom I never loved, strove to smoke us out like rats because he was in the pay of the Norman, my Lord of Acour. John struck Hugh in the face with his hand and slandered him with his tongue. John was given his life once, and afterward slain in fair fight. Oh, I say, I blame him not, nor shall John’s blood rise between him and me!”

“Yet the world will blame him, and you, too, Eve; yes, even those who love you both. A while must go by, say a year. At least I’ll not marry you at once, and cannot, if I would, with both your fathers living and unadvised, and the sheriff waiting at the gate. Tell me now, do any know that you have entered here?”

“Nay,” said Dick, looking up from his bow. “The hunt came after us, but I hid these two in a bush and led it away past Hinton to the Ipswich road, keeping but just ahead in the snow and talking in three voices. Then I gave them the slip and returned. They’ll not guess that we have come to Dunwich for a while;”

“And when they do even the boldest will not enter this holy sanctuary while the Church has terrors for men’s souls. Yet, here you must not stay for long, lest in this way or in that your lives pay the price of it, or a bloody feud break out between the Claverings of Blythburgh and the de Cressis of Dunwich. Daughter Eve, get you to bed with old Agnes. You are so weary that you will not mind her snores. Tomorrow ere the dawn I’ll talk with you, and, meanwhile, I have words for Hugh. Nay, have no fear, the windows are all barred, and Archer Dick shall watch the door.”

Eve went, unwillingly enough, although she could scarcely walk, flashing a good-night to her lover with her fine eyes. Presently Grey Dick also went to sleep, like a dog with one eye open, in the little ante-chamber, near to the great door.

“Now, Hugh,” said Father Arnold, when they were left alone, “your case is desperate, for if you stay here certainly these Claverings will have your blood. Yet, if you can be got away safely, there is still a shaft that you may shoot more deadly than any that ever left Grey Dick’s quiver. But yesterday I told you for your comfort—when we spoke of his wooing of Red Eve—that this Norman, for such he is, although his mother was English and he was English born, is a traitor to King Edward, whom he pretends to serve.”

“Ay, and I said as much to him this afternoon when he prated to me of his knightly honour, and, though I had no time to take note of faces, I thought he liked it little who answered hotly that I was a liar.”

“I am sorry, Hugh; it may put him on his guard, or perhaps he’ll pay no heed. At least the words are said, and there’s an end. Now hearken. I told neither you nor any one all the blackness of his treachery. Have you guessed what this Acour is here to do?”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider