Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“That remains to be seen,” muttered the King.

“Sire, Sir Edmund Acour, who has lands here in Suffolk, Count de Noyon in Normandy, and Seigneur of Cattrina in Italy—”

“I know the man,” exclaimed Edward to the Queen, “and so do you. A handsome knight and a pleasant, but one of whom I have always misdoubted me.”

“—Is also enamoured of Eve Clavering, and with her father’s will seeks to make her his wife, though she hates him, and by the charter of Dunwich, of which she is a citizen, has the right to wed whom she will.'”

“It is well there are not many such charters. The old story—brave men done to death for the sake of a woman who is rightly named Red Eve,” mused the King.

“My Liege, I pray that you will read the letter herein enclosed. Hugh de Cressi will tell you how it came to my hand, since I lack time to write all the story. If it seems good to your Grace, I pray you scotch this snake while he is in your garden, lest he should live to sting you when you walk abroad. If it please you to give your royal warrant to the bearer of this letter, and to address the same to such of your subjects in Dunwich as you may think good, I doubt not but that men can be found to execute the same. Thus would a great and traitorous plot be brought to nothing, to your own glory and the discomfiture of your foes in France, who hope to lay their murderous hands upon the throne of England.

“Your humble servant and subject,


“What’s this?” exclaimed the King starting from his seat. “To lay hands upon the throne of England! Quick with the other letter, man!”

“I was charged that it is for your Grace’s eye alone,” said Hugh as he unfolded the paper. “Is it your pleasure that I read it aloud, if I can, for it is writ in French?”

“Give it me,” said the King. “Philippa, come help me with this crabbed stuff.”

Then they withdrew to the side of the dais, and, standing under a lantern, spelled out Sir Edmund Acour’s letter to the Duke of Normandy, word by word.

The King finished the letter, and, still holding it in his hand, stood for a minute silent. Then his rage broke out.

“‘He of England,'” he quoted. “That’s your husband, Edward, Lady, who is to be overthrown and killed ‘that Philip’s son may take his seat and be crowned King at Westminster,’ which God is to bring about before this year is out. Yes; and my cities are to be sacked and my people slain, and this French dog, Edmund Acour, who has sworn fealty to me, is to be rewarded with wide English lands and high English titles. Well, by God’s blood I swear that, dead or living, he shall be lifted higher than he hopes, though not by Normandy or my brother of France! Let me think! Let me think! If I send men-at-arms he’ll hear of it and slip away. Did not good old Sir Andrew call him a snake? Now, where’s this girl, Red Eve?”

“In sanctuary, Sire, at the Temple Church in Dunwich,” answered Hugh.

“Ah, and she’s a great heiress now, for you killed her brother, and Acour, although he has wide possessions in sundry lands, was ever a spendthrift and deep in debt. No, he’ll not leave unless he can get the girl; and old Sir Andrew will guard her well with the power of the Church, and his own right arm if need be, for he’s still more knight than priest. So there’s no hurry. Tell me all you know of this story, Hugh de Cressi, omitting nothing, however small. Nay, have no fear, if you can vouch for your fellow there, all of us in this chamber are loyal to England. Speak out, man.”

So Hugh began and told of the de Cressis and the Claverings and their feud, and of how he and Eve had always loved each other. He told of their meeting in the reeds of Blythburgh Fen, and of the death of John de Clavering at his hand and of the others at the hand of Grey Dick, and of the escape of Acour from the fourth arrow. He told how he and Eve had swum the Blyth in flood though the ice cut them, and hid on the moor while Grey Dick led the Claverings astray, and came at last safe to sanctuary. He told how Acour’s letter had been won from his messenger by Sir Andrew’s loyal guile. He told of the penance that Sir Andrew had laid upon them because of the new-shed blood of John Clavering, of the flight from Dunwich and the shooting of the horses of the Clavering men, and of their ride to London and to Windsor. He told everything, save only the tale of what Sir Andrew had seen in the House of Murgh in far Cathay.

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider