Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“Prayer to the devil, I think,” said his master looking after him with a shrug of his shoulders. “God’s truth! if any one had told me three months gone that de Noyon would live to seek the aid of priests and potions to win a woman’s favour, I’d have named him liar to his face. What would those who have gone before her think of this story, I wonder?”

Then with a bitter laugh he turned and went about his business, which was to lie to the father as he had lied to the daughter. Only in this second case he found one more willing to listen and easier to deceive.

On the following morning, as it chanced, Eve had no relish for the food that was brought to her, for confinement in that narrow place had robbed her of her appetite. Also she suffered much from grievous fear and doubt, for whatever she might say to Acour, how could she be sure that his story was not true? How could she be sure that her lover did not, in fact, now lie dead at the headsman’s hands? Such things often happened when kings were wroth and would not listen. Or perhaps Acour himself had found and murdered him, or hired others to do the deed. She did not know, and, imprisoned here without a friend, what means had she of coming at the truth? Oh! if only she could escape! If only she could speak with Sir Andrew for one brief minute, she, poor fool, who had walked into this trap of her own will.

She sent away the food and bade the woman Mell bring her milk, for that would be easy to swallow and give her sustenance. After some hours it came, Mell explaining that she had been obliged to send for it to the farmsteading, as none drank milk in the manor-house. Being thirsty, Eve took the pitcher and drained it to the last drop, then threw it down, saying that the vessel was foul and made the milk taste ill.

The woman did not answer, only smiled a little as she left the chamber, and Eve wondered why she smiled.

A while later she grew very sleepy, and, as it seemed to her, had strange dreams in her sleep. She dreamed of her childhood, when she and Hugh played together upon the Dunwich shore. She dreamed of her mother, and thought dimly that she was warning her of something. She heard voices about her and thought that they were calling her to be free. Yes, and followed them readily enough, or so it seemed in her dream, followed them out of that hateful prison, for the bolts clanged behind her, down stairs and into the courtyard, where the sun’s light almost blinded her and the fresh air struck her hot brow like ice. Then there were more voices, and people moving to and fro and the drone of a priest praying and a touch upon her hand from which she shrank. And oh! she wished that dream were done, for it was long, long. It wearied her, and grasped her heart with a cold clutch of fear.

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Chapter VIII

Too Late

IT WAS past three o’clock on this same day when Eve had drunk the milk and some hours after she began to dream, that Hugh de Cressi and his men, safe and sound but weary, halted their tired horses at the door of the Preceptory of the Templars in Dunwich.

“Best go on to his worship the Mayor and serve the King’s writ upon him, master,” grumbled Grey Dick as they rode up Middlegate Street. “You wasted good time in a shooting bout at Windsor against my will, and now you’ll waste more in a talking match at Dunwich. And the sun grows low, and the Frenchmen may have heard and be on the wing, and who can see to lay a shaft at night?”

“Nay, man,” answered Hugh testily, “first I must know how she fares.”

“The lady Eve will fare neither better nor worse for your knowing about her, but one with whom you should talk may fare further, for doubtless his spies are out. But have your way and leave me to thank God that no woman ever found a chance to clog my leg, perhaps because I was not born an ass.”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider