“No, my lord,” answered the fox-faced Nicholas.
“The Church is great because the Church is one, and what the priest does the Pope upholds, especially when that priest is no mean man. This holy monk, Sir Andrew Arnold, has reputation throughout Europe, and, though he seems so humble, because of his wisdom is in the counsel of many great men whose fathers or grandfathers were guided by him long ago. Commit what crime you will, dip yourself to the lips in blood, and you may find forgiveness, but touch not an ancient and acknowledged sanctuary of the Church, since for this offence there will be none.”
“What then, Nicholas? Must I give up the chase and fly? To speak truth, things seem to threaten me. Why has that Hugh twice called me traitor? Have any of my letters fallen into strange hands, think you? I have written several, and you know my mission here.”
“It is possible, lord; all things are possible, but I think not. I think that he only draws the bow at a hazard, which is more than Grey Dick does,” he added with a chuckle. “These brute English hate us French, whom they know to be their masters in all that makes a man, and traitor to their fool king is the least of the words they throw at us.”
“Well, priest, my mother was English, as my wife will be. Therefore stay your tongue on that matter and tell me how I am to make her my wife,” answered Acour haughtily.
The chaplain cringed and bowed, rubbing his thin hands together.
“I thought you wished to speak of the English, my lord, otherwise I should not have ventured—but as to the lady Eve, something comes to me. Why does she stay in sanctuary who herself has committed no crime? Is it not, such is her madness, because she would be out of reach of you and your endearments? Now if she believed you gone far enough away, let us say to France, and knew that her father lay ill, why then—” and he paused.
“You mean that she might come out of sanctuary of her own accord?
“Yes, lord, and we might set a springe to catch this bird so rare and shy, and though she’d flutter, flutter, flutter, and peck, peck, peck, what could she do when you smoothed her plumage with your loving hand, and a priest was waiting to say the word which should cause her to forget her doubts and that merchant bumpkin?”
“Ah, Nicholas, you have a good wit, and if all goes well you shall certainly be an abbot. But would her father, do you think—”
“Lord, that beef-eating knight is in such a rage that he would do anything. What did he say just before the stroke took him? That you were to marry her by fair means or by foul. Yes, and he told me an hour ago that if only he knew she was your wife, he would die happy. Oh, you have his warrant for anything you do to bring about this end. Still there is no need to tell him too much lest it should cause his good name to be aspersed by the vulgar. Many, it seems, love this Red Eve for her high spirit, and are friends to the de Cressis, an open-handed race who know how to bind folk to them. Listen how it must be done.”
That day it was given out that Sir Edmund Acour, those of his knights who remained alive and all his following were about to leave for London and lay their cause before the King, having learned that Hugh de Cressi had gone thither to prejudice his Grace on his own behalf. It was added, moreover, that they would not return to Suffolk, but proposed when they had found justice or the promise of it, to take ship at Dover for France. Next morning, accordingly, they rode away from Blythburgh Manor and passed through Dunwich with much pomp, where the citizens of that town, who were friends of the de Cressis, stared at them with no kind eyes. Indeed, one of these as they crossed the market-place called to them to be careful not to meet Hugh de Cressi and Grey Dick upon their journey, lest there should be more midnight burials and men-at-arms turned into foot-soldiers, whereat all about him laughed rudely.
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