Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

Now Hugh and Eve rose and vanished into the darkness. When they had gone the priest celebrated a short mass, but two or three prayers and a blessing, which done, all of them returned to the Preceptory as they had come.

Here food was waiting for them, prepared by the old Sister Agnes. It was a somewhat silent meal of which no one ate very much except Grey Dick, who remarked aloud that as this might be his last breakfast it should be plentiful, since, shriven or unshriven, it was better to die upon a full stomach.

Master de Cressi called him an impious knave. Then he asked him if he had plenty of arrows, because if not he would find four dozen of the best that could be made in Norwich done up in a cloak on the grey horse he was to ride, and a spare bow also.

“I thank you for the arrows, Master, but as for the bow, I use none but my own, the black bow which the sea brought to me and death alone shall part from me. Perchance both will be wanted, since the Claverings will scarcely let us out of sanctuary if they can help it. Still, it is true they may not know where we lie hid, and that is our best chance of eating more good breakfasts this side the grave.”

“A pest on your evil talk,” said de Cressi with an uneasy laugh, for he loved Hugh best of all his sons and was afraid for him. “Get through safely, man, and though I like not your grim face and bloody ways you shall lose little by it. I promise you,” he added in a whisper, “that if you bring my boy safe home again, you shall not want for all your life; ay, and if there is need, I’ll pay your blood-scot for you.”

“Thank you, master, thank you. I’ll remember, and for my part promise you this, that if he does not return safe, Dick the Archer never will. But I think I’ll live to shoot more than your four dozen of arrows.”

As he spoke there came a knock upon the outer door and every one sprang up.

“Fear not,” said Sir Andrew; “doubtless it will be the men with the horses. I’ll go look. Come you with me, Richard.”

Presently he returned, saying that it was so, and that Master de Cressi’s servants were waiting with the beasts in the courtyard. Also that they brought tidings that some of the Clavering party were now at the Mayor’s house, rousing him from his sleep, doubtless to lay information of the slayings and ask for warrant to take those who wrought them, should they be in the borough.

“Then we had best be going,” said Hugh, “since soon they will be here with or without their warrant.”

“Ay,” answered Sir Andrew. “Here are the papers. Take them, Hugh, and hide them well; and if any accident should befall you, try to pass them on to Richard that they may be delivered into the King’s hands at Westminster. Say that Sir Andrew Arnold sends you on business that has to do with his Grace’s safety, and neither of you will be refused a hearing. Then act as he may command you, and maybe ere long we shall see you back at Dunwich pardoned.”

“I think it is the Claverings and their French lord who need pardon, not I,” said Hugh. “But be that as it may, what of Eve?”

“Fear not for Eve, son, for here she bides in sanctuary until the Frenchman is out of England, or perchance,” he added grimly, “under English soil.”

“Ay, ay, we’ll guard the maid,” broke in Master de Cressi. “Come! to saddle ere you be trapped.”

So they descended to a back entrance, and through it into the courtyard, where the four armed men waited with six good horses, one of them Hugh’s own. Here he bade farewell to his brothers, to his father, who kissed him on the brow, and to Sir Andrew, who stretched his hand above his head in blessing. Then he turned to Eve and was about to embrace her even before that company, when Sir Andrew looked at him, and, remembering the penance that had been laid upon him, he but pressed her hand, whispering:

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider