Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“Not so, Father,” answered Hugh uneasily, for in truth some such thoughts were passing through his mind. “Only—only the thing is very strange, and it happened so long ago, before Eve and I were born, before those that begot us were born either, perchance.”

“Yes; more than fifty years ago—it may be sixty—I forget. In sixty years the memory plays strange tricks with men, no doubt, so how can I blame you if you believe—what you do believe? And yet, Hugh,” he went on after a pause, and speaking with passion, “this was no dream of which I tell you. Why do you suppose that among all those that have grown up about me I have chosen you out to love, you and your Eve? Not because a chance made me your godsire and her my pupil. I say that from your infancy your faces haunted me. Ay, and when you had turned childhood’s corner and once I met the pair of you walking hand in hand, then of a sudden I knew that it was you two and no others whom that god or devil had showed to me standing by the open grave upon the banks of Blythe. I knew it of Dick the Archer also, and can I be mistaken of such a man as that who has no fellow in England? But you think I dreamed it all, and perhaps I should not have spoken, though something made me speak. Well, in a day to come you may change your mind, since whatever dangers threaten you will not die yet, Hugh. Tell me now, what is this Frenchman like who would marry Eve? I have never seen him.”

Hugh, who was glad to get back to the things of earth, described Acour as best he could.

“Ah!” said Sir Andrew. “Much such a man as stood face to face with you by the grave while Murgh watched; and you are not likely to be friends, are you? But I forgot. You have determined that it was but a dream and now you are wondering how he who is called Gate of the Gods in Cathay could come to Blythburgh. Well, I think that all the world is his garden, given to him by God, but doubtless that’s only another face of my dream whereof we’ll speak no more—at present. Now for your troubles, which are no dream. Lie you down to sleep on the skin of that striped beast. I killed it in Cathay—in my day of dreams, and now it shall serve for yours, from which may the dead eyes of John Clavering be absent! I go forth to seek your father and to arrange certain matters. With Grey Dick at the door you’ll be safe for a while, I think. If not, here’s a cupboard where you may hide.” And, drawing aside the arras, he showed him a certain secret place large enough to hold a man, then left the room.

Hugh laid himself down upon the skin of the beast, which had been a tiger, though he did not know it by that name. So weary was he that not all he had gone through that day or even the old warrior-priest’s marvellous tale, in which he and Eve played so wonderful a part, could keep his eyes from closing. Presently he was fast asleep, and so remained until, four hours later, something disturbed him, and he awoke to see Sir Andrew writing at a desk.

“Rise, my son,” said the old priest without looking up from his paper. “Early as it is you must be stirring if you would be clear of Dunwich by daybreak and keep a whole skin. I have set a taper in my sleeping-closet yonder, and there you’ll find water to wash with and a stool to kneel on for your prayers, neither of which neglect, since you have blood on your hands and great need for Heaven’s help.”

So Hugh arose, yawning, and stumbled heavily to the chamber, for he was still faint with sleep, which would not leave him till he had plunged his head into a basin of icy water. This done, he knelt and prayed as he had been bidden, with a very earnest heart, and afterward came back to the guest-hall.

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider