Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“Ah, well, Master Hugh,” said the King, “that’s a right spirit. After the battle perhaps, if it should please God that we live to meet again in honour. De Cressi,” he added musingly, “why this place is called Crecy, and here, I think, is another good omen. At Crecy shall de Cressi gain great honour for himself and for St. George of England. You are luck bringers, you two. Let them not be separated in the battle, lest the luck should leave them. See to it, if it please you, my lord of Warwick. Young de Cressi can draw a bow; let him fight amongst the archers and have liberty to join the men-at-arms when the time comes. Or stay; set them near my son the Prince, for there surely the fight will be hottest.

“And now, you men of England, whatever your degree, my brothers of England, gentle and simple, Philip rolls down upon us with all the might of France, our heritage which he has stolen, our heritage and yours. Well, well, show him to-day, or to-morrow, or whenever it may be, that Englishmen put not their faith in numbers, but in justice and their own great hearts. Oh, my brothers and my friends, let not Edward, whom you are pleased to serve as your lawful

King, be whipped off the field of Crecy and out of France! Stand to your banners, stand to your King, stand to St. George and God! Die where you are if need be, as I will. Never threaten and then show your backs like that knave the archer shot but now. Look, I give my son into your keeping,” and he pointed to the young Prince, who all this while sat upon his horse upright and silent. “The Hope of England shall be your leader, but if he flies, why then, cut him down, and fight without him. But he’ll not fly and you’ll not fly; no, you and he together will this day earn a name that shall be told of when the world is gray with age. Great is the chance that life has given you; pluck it, pluck it from the hand of opportunity and, dead or living, become a song forever in the mouths of men unborn. Think not of prisoners; think not of ransoms and of wealth. Think not of me or of yourselves, but think of England’s honour, and for that strike home, for England watches you to-day.”

“We will, we will! Fear not, King, we will,” shouted the host in answer.

With a glad smile, Edward took his young son’s hand and shook it; then rode away followed by his marshals.

“De Cressi,” he said, as he passed Hugh, “the knave Acour, your foe and mine, is with Philip of France. He has done me much damage, de Cressi, more than I can stop to tell. Avenge it if you can. Your luck is great, you may find the chance. God be with you and all. My lords, farewell. You have your orders. Son Edward, fare you well, also. Meet me again with honour, or never more.”

It was not yet noon when King Edward spoke these words, and long hours were to go by before the battle joined. Indeed, most thought that no blow would be struck that day, since it was known that Philip had slept at Abbeville, whence for a great army the march was somewhat long. Still, when all was made ready, the English sat them down in their ranks, bows and helmets at side, ate their mid-day meal with appetite, and waited whatever fate might send them.

In obedience to the King’s command Hugh and Grey Dick had been attached to the immediate person of the Prince of Wales, who had about him, besides his own knights, a small band of chosen archers and another band of men-at-arms picked for their strength and courage. These soldiers were all dismounted, since the order had gone forth that knight and squire must fight afoot, every horse having been sent to the rear, for that day the English expected to receive charges, not to make them. This, indeed, would have been impossible, seeing that all along their front the wild Welsh had laboured for hours digging pits into which horses might plunge and fall.

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider