Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“To the son of the King! To the son of the King!”

He struck down a knight with the pole of his standard. Hugh sprang like a wild-cat at Louis of Flanders and drove his sword through his throat. Richard de Beaumont flung the great banner of Wales over the Prince, hiding him till more help came to beat back the foe. Then the Prince struggled from the ground, gasping:

“I thank you, friends,” and once more the French retreated. The Welsh banner rose again and that danger was over.

The Earl of Warwick ran up. Hugh noted that his armour was covered with blood.

“John of Norwich,” he cried to an aged knight who stood leaning on his sword, “take one with you, away to the King and pray him for aid. The French gather again; we are outworn with blows; the young Prince is in danger of his life or liberty. Begone!”

Old John’s eyes fell on Hugh.

“Come with me, you Suffolk man,” he said, and away they went.

“Now what would you give,” he gasped as they ran, “to be drinking a stoup of ale with me in my tower of Mettingham as you have done before this red day dawned? What would you give, young Hugh de Cressi?”

“Nothing at all,” answered Hugh. “Rather would I die upon this field in glory than drink all the ale in Suffolk for a hundred years.”

“Well said, young man,” grunted John. “So do I think would I, though I have never longed for a quart of liquor more.”

They came to a windmill and climbed its steep stairs. On the top stage, amid the corn sacks stood Edward of England looking through the window-place.

“Your business, Sir John?” he said, scarcely turning his head.

The old knight told it shortly.

“My son is not dead and is not wounded,” replied the King, “and I have none to send to his aid. Bid him win his spurs; the day shall yet be his. Look,” he added, pointing through the window-place, “our banners have not given back a spear’s throw, and in front of them the field is paved with dead. I tell you the French break. Back, de Norwich! Back, de Cressi, and bid the Prince to charge!”

Some one thrust a cup of wine into Hugh’s hand. He swallowed it, glancing at the wild scene below, and presently was running with Sir John toward the spot where they saw the Prince’s banner flying. They came to Warwick and told him the King’s answer.

“My father speaks well,” said the Prince. “Let none share our glory this day! My lord, form up the lines, and when my banner is lifted thrice, give the word to charge. Linger not, the dark is near, and either France or England must go down ere night.”

Forward rolled the French in their last desperate onset; horse and foot mingled together. Forward they rolled almost in silence, the arrows playing on their dense host, but not as they did at first, for many a quiver was empty. Once, twice, thrice the Prince’s banner bowed and lifted, and as it rose for the third time there rang out a shout of:

“Charge for St. George and Edward!”

Then England, that all these long hours had stood still, suddenly hurled herself upon the foe. Hugh, leaping over a heap of dead and dying, saw in front of him a knight who wore a helmet shaped like a wolf’s head and had a wolf painted upon his shield. The wolf knight charged at him as though he sought him alone. An arrow from behind—it was Grey Dick’s—sank up to the feathers in the horse’s neck, and down it came. The rider shook himself clear and they began to fight. Hugh was beaten to his knee beneath a heavy blow that his helm turned. He rose unhurt and rushed at the knight, who, in avoiding his onset, caught his spur on the body of a dead man and fell backward.

Hugh leapt on to him, striving to thrust his sword up beneath his gorget and make an end of him.

“Grace!” said the knight in French, “I yield me.”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider