Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“By the Saints!” he said presently in a startled voice,” if this be Sir Edmund Acour he has strangely changed.”

“I am not Acour, lord of Noyon,” said the dying man in a hollow voice. “Had you given me time I would have told you so.”

“Then, in Christ’s name, who are you?” asked Hugh, “that wear de Noyon’s cognizance?”

“I am Pierre de la Roche, one of his knights. You have seen me in England. I was with him there, and you made me prisoner on Dunwich heath. He bade me change arms with him before the battle, promising me great reward, because he knew that if he were taken, Edward of England would hang him as a traitor, whereas me they might ransom. Also, he feared your vengeance.”

“Well, of a truth, you have the reward,” said Dick looking at his ghastly wound.

“Where then is Acour?” gasped Hugh.

“I know not. He fled from the battle an hour ago with the King of France, but I who was doomed would not fly. Oh, that I could find a priest to shrive me!”

“Whither does he fly?” asked Hugh again.

“I know not. He said that if the battle went against us he would seek his castle in Italy, where Edward cannot reach him.”

“What armour did he wear?” asked Dick.

“Mine, mine—a wolf upon his shield, a wolf’s head for crest.”

Hugh reeled as though an arrow had passed through him.

“The wolf knight, Acour!” he groaned. “And I spared his life.”

“A very foolish deed, for which you now pay the price,” said Dick, as though to himself.

“We met in the battle and he told me,” said de la Roche, speaking very slowly, for he grew weak. “Yes, he told me and laughed. Truly we are Fate’s fools, all of us,” and he smiled a ghastly smile and died.

Hugh hid his face in his hands and sobbed in his helpless rage.

“The innocent slain,” he said, “by me, and the guilty spared—by me. Oh, God! my cup is full. Take his arms, man, that one day I may show them to Acour, and let us be going ere we share this poor knight’s fate. Ah! who could have guessed it was thus that I and Sir Pierre should meet and part again.”

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Chapter X

The King’s Champion

BACK over that fearful field, whereof the silence was broken only by the groans of the wounded and the dying, walked Hugh and Grey Dick.

They came to the great rampart of dead men and horses that surrounded the English line, and climbed it as though it were a wall. On the further side bonfires had been lit to lighten the darkness, and by the flare of them they saw Edward of England embracing and blessing his son, the Black Prince, who, unhelmeted bowed low before him in his bloodstained mail.

“Who were they besides, Sir Robert Fitzsimmon and Richard de Beaumont who helped you when you were down, my son?” asked the King.

The Prince looked about him.

“I know not, Sire. Many, but here is one of them,” and he pointed to Hugh, who just then appeared within the circle of the firelight. “I think that he slew the Count Louis of Flanders.”

“Ah!” said the King, “our young merchant of Dunwich—a gallant man. Kneel you down, merchant of Dunwich.”

Hugh knelt, and the King, taking the red sword from his hand, struck him with it on the shoulder, saying:

“Rise, Sir Hugh de Cressi, for now I give you that boon which your deathfaced servant asked before the battle. You have served us, or rather England well, both of you. But whose armour is that the archer carries, Sir Hugh?”

“Sir Edmund Acour’s, lord de Noyon, Sire, only, alack! another man was within the armour.”

“Your meaning?” said the King briefly, and in few words Hugh told the tale.

“A strange story, Sir Hugh. It would seem that God fought against you in this matter. Also I am wroth; my orders were that none of my men should sally out, though I fear me that you are not the only one who has broken them, and for your great deeds I forgive you.”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider