Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“Would you know, Father? Then I’ll tell you. Because I wish to see my daughter set high among lords and princes and not the wife of a merchant’s lad, who by law may wear cloth only and rabbit fur. Because, also, I hate him and all his kin, and if this is true of yesterday, how much more true is it now that he has killed my son, and by the arrows of that wolf-man who dogs his heels, slain my guests and my grieve. Think not I’ll rest till I have vengeance of him and all his cursed House. I’ll appeal to the King, and if he will not give me justice I’ll take it for myself. Ay, though you are old, I tell you you shall live to see the de Cressi vault crowded with the de Cressi dead.”

Sir Andrew hid his eyes for a moment with his hand, then let it fall and spoke in a changed voice.

“It comes upon me that you speak truth, Sir John, for since I met a certain great Master in the East, at times I have a gift of foresight. I think that much sorrow draws near this land; ay, and others. I think that many vaults and many churchyards, too, will ere long be filled with dead; also that the tomb of the Claverings at Blythburgh will soon be opened. Mayhap the end of this world draws near to all men, as surely it draws near to you and me. I know not—yet truth was in your lips just now, and in mine as well, I think. Oh, man, man!” he went on after a pause, “appeal not unto the world’s Cæsar lest Cæsar render different judgment to that which you desire. Get you home, and on your knees appeal unto God to forgive you your proud, vengeance-seeking heart. Sickness draws near to you; death draws near to you, and after death hell or—heaven. I have finished.”

As he heard these words Sir John’s swarthy face grew pale and for a little while his rage died down. Then it flared up again.

“Don’t dream to frighten me with your spells, old wizard,” he said. “I’m a hale man yet, though I do lose my breath at times when my mind is vexed with wrongs, and I’ll square my own account with God without your help or counsel. So you’ll not give me my daughter?”

“Nay, here she bides in sanctuary for so long as it shall please her.”

“Does she in truth? Perhaps you married her to this merchant fellow ere he rode this morning.”

“Nay, Sir John, they betrothed themselves before the altar and in presence of his kin, no more. Moreover, if you would know, because of your son’s blood which runs between them I, after thought and prayer, speaking in the name of the Church, swore them to this penance—that for a year from yesterday they should not wed nor play the part of lovers.”

“I thank you, priest, for this small grace,” answered Sir John, with a bitter laugh, “and in my turn I swear this, that after the year they shall not wed, since the one of them will be clay and the other the wife of the man whom I have chosen. Now, play no tricks on me, lest I burn this sanctuary of yours about your head and throw your old carcass to roast amongst the flames.”

Sir Andrew made no reply, only, resting his long sword on the threshold, he leant upon its hilt, and fixed his clear grey eyes upon Clavering’s face. What Sir John saw in those eyes he never told, but it was something which scared him. At least that shortening of the breath of which he had spoken seemed to take a hold of him, for he swayed upon his horse as though he were about to fall, then, recovering, turned and rode straight for Blythburgh.

It was the second night after that day when Sir Andrew had looked John Clavering in the eyes.

Secretly and in darkness those three whom Grey Dick had killed were borne into the nave of Blythburgh church and there laid in the grave which had been made ready for them. Till now their corpses had been kept above ground in the hope that the body of John Clavering the younger might be added to their number. But search as they would upon seashore and river-bank, nothing of him was ever seen again. This funeral was celebrated in the darkness, since neither Sir John nor Acour desired that all men should see three bodies that had been slain by one archer, aided by a merchant’s lad, standing alone against a score, and know, to say naught of the wounded, that there was yet another to be added to the tale. Therefore they interred them by night with no notice of the ceremony.

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider