“Now,” said Grey Dick, “let us go and talk with these foot-soldiers.”
So they went out, all of them, except he who held the horses, and Hugh called aloud that the first man of the Claverings who lifted a bow or drew a sword should die without mercy. And he pointed to Grey Dick, who stood beside him, arrow on string.
The Claverings began to talk together excitedly.
“Throw down your weapons!” commanded Hugh.
Still they hesitated. Then, without further warning Dick sent an artful arrow through the cap of one of them, lifting it from his head, and instantly set another shaft to his string. After this, down went the swords and bows.
“Daggers and knives, too, if it please you, masters!”
Then these followed.
Now Hugh spoke a word to his men, who, going to the dead and dying horses, took from them the stirrup-leathers and bridle-reins and therewith bound the Claverings back to back. But the French knight, in acknowledgment of his rank, they trussed up by himself, having first relieved him of his purse by way of fine. As it chanced, however, Hugh turned and saw them in the act.
“God’s truth! Would you make common thieves of us?” he said angrily. “Their weapons and harness are ours by right of war, but I’ll hunt the man who steals their money out of my company.”
So the purse was restored. When it was safe in the knight’s pouch again Hugh saluted him, begging his pardon that it should have been touched.
“But how are you named, sir?” he added.
“Sir Pierre de la Roche is my name,” replied the knight sadly, and in French.
“Then, Sir Pierre de la Roche,” said Hugh, “here you and your people must bide until some come to set you free, which, as this place is lonely and little crossed in winter, may be to-day or may be to-morrow. When at length you get back to Blythburgh Manor, however, or to Dunwich town, I trust it to your honour to declare that Hugh de Cressi has dealt well with you. For whereas he might have slain you every one, as you would have slain him and his if you could, he has harmed no hair of your heads. As for your horses, these, to his sorrow, he was obliged to kill lest they should be used to ride him down. Will you do this of your courtesy?”
“Ay,” answered the knight, “since to your gentleness we owe our lives. But with your leave I will add that we were overcome not by men, but by a devil”—and he nodded toward Grey Dick—”since no one who is only man can have such hellish skill in archery as we saw yesterday, and now again this morning. Moreover,” he went on, contemplating Dick’s ashen hair and cold eyes set wide apart in the rocky face, like to those of a Suffolk horse, “the man’s air shows that he is in league with Satan.”
“I’ll not render your words into our English talk, Sir Pierre,” replied Hugh, “lest he of whom you speak should take them amiss and send you where you might learn them false. For know, had he been what you say, the arrow that lies in your horse’s heart would have nailed the breastplate to your own. Now take a message from me to your lord, Sir Edmund Acour, the traitor. Tell him that I shall return ere long, and that if he should dare to attempt ill toward the Lady Eve, who is my betrothed, or toward my father and brethren, or any of my House, I promise, in Grey Dick’s name and my own, to kill him or those who may aid him as I would kill a forest wolf that had slunk into my sheepfold. Farewell! There is bracken and furze yonder where you may lie warm till some pass your way. Mount, men!”
So they rode forward, bearing all the Clavering weapons with them, which a mile or two further on Grey Dick hid in an empty fox’s earth where he knew he could find them again. Only he kept the French knight’s beautiful dagger that was made of Spanish steel, inlaid with gold, and used it to his life’s end.
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