Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“And what is this lord’s name?”

“God’s truth, he has several,” she answered. “Sir Edmund Acour in England, and in France the high and puissant Count of Noyon, and in Italy, near to the city of Venice—for there, too, he has possessions which came to him through his grandmother—the Seigneur of Cattrina.”

“And having so much, does he want you, too, as I have heard, Eve? And if so, why?”

“So he swears,” she answered slowly; “and as for the reason, why, I suppose you must seek it in my face, which by ill-fortune has pleased his lordship since first he saw it a month ago. At the least he has asked me in marriage of my father, who jumped at him like a winter pike, and so I’m betrothed.”

“And do you want him, Eve?”

“Ay, I want him as far as the sun is from the moon or the world from either. I want him in heaven or beneath the earth, or anywhere away from me.”

At these words a light shone in Hugh’s keen grey eyes.

“I’m glad of that, Eve, for I’ve been told much of this fine fellow—amongst other things that he is a traitor come here to spy on England. But should I be a match for him, man to man, Eve?” he asked after a little pause.

She looked him up and down; then answered:

“I think so, though he is no weakling; but not for him and the five knights and the ten squires, and my noble father, and my brother, and the rest. Oh, Hugh, Hugh!” she added bitterly, “cannot you understand that you are but a merchant’s lad, though your blood be as noble as any in this realm—a merchant’s lad, the last of five brothers? Why were you not born the first of them if you wished for Eve Clavering, for then your red gold might have bought me.”

“Ask that of those who begot me,” said Hugh. “Come now, what’s in your mind? You’re not one to be sold like a heifer at a faring and go whimpering to the altar, and I am not one to see you led there while I stand upon my feet. We are made of a clay too stiff for a French lord’s fingers, Eve, though it is true that they may drag you whither you would not walk.”

“No,” she answered, “I think I shall take some marrying against my wish. Moreover, I am Dunwich born.”

“What of that, Eve?”

“Go ask your godsire and my friend, Sir Andrew Arnold, the old priest. In the library of the Temple there he showed me an ancient roll, a copy of the charter granted by John and other kings of England to the citizens of Dunwich.”

“What said this writing, Eve?”

“It said, among other things, that no man or maid of Dunwich can be forced to marry against their will, even in the lifetime of their parents.”

“But will it hold to-day?”

“Ay, I think so. I think that is why the holy Sir Andrew showed it to me, knowing something of our case, for he is my confessor when I can get to him.”

“Then, sweet, you are safe!” exclaimed Hugh, with a sigh of relief.

“Ay, so safe that to-morrow Father Nicholas, the French chaplain in his train, has been warned to wed me to my lord Acour—that is, if I’m there to wed.”

“And if this Acour is there, I’ll seek him out to-night and challenge him, Eve,” and Hugh laid hand upon his sword.

“Doubtless,” she replied sarcastically, “Sir Edmund Acour, Count of Noyon, Seigneur of Cattrina, will find it honour to accept the challenge of Hugh de Cressi, the merchant’s youngest son. Oh, Hugh, Hugh! are your wits frozen like this winter marsh? Not thus can you save me.”

The young man thought a while, staring at the ground and biting his lips. Then he looked up suddenly and said:

“How much do you love me, Eve?”

With a slow smile, she opened her arms, and next moment they were kissing each other as heartily as ever man and maid have kissed since the world began, so heartily, indeed, that when at length she pushed him from her, her lovely face was as red as the cloak she wore.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133

Categories: Haggard, H. Rider