Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

Soon I hope to write to you again, who at present have no more to say, save that notwithstanding my years I am well and strong, and would that I sat with you before the walls of Calais. God’s blessing and mine be on you, and to Richard the archer, greetings. Dunwich has heard how he shot the foul-tongued Frenchman before the great battle closed, and the townsfolk lit a bonfire on the walls and feasted all the archers in his honour.


“I have found another letter,” said Master de Cressi, when Hugh had finished reading, “which I remember Sir Andrew charged me to give to you also,” and he handed him a paper addressed in a large, childish hand.

Hugh broke its silk eagerly, for he knew that writing.

“Hugh,” it began simply, “Clement the Pope will not void my false marriage unless I appear before him, and this as yet I cannot do because of the French wars. Moreover, he sets the curse of the Church upon me and any man with whom I shall dare to re-marry until this be done. For myself I would defy the Church, but not for you or for children that might come to us. Moreover, the holy father, Sir Andrew, forbids it, saying that God will right all in His season and that we must not make Him wroth. Therefore, Hugh, lover you are, but husband you may not be while de Noyon lives or until the Pope gives his dispensation of divorce, which latter may be long in winning, for the knave de Noyon has been whispering in his ear. Hugh, this is my counsel: Get you to the King again and crave his leave to follow de Noyon, for if once you twain can come face to face I know well how the fray will end. Then, when he is dead, return to one who waits for you through this world and the next. “Hugh, I am proud of your great deeds. No longer can they mock you as ‘the merchant’s son,’ Sir Hugh. God be with you, as are my prayers and love.


“I forgot to tell you that Sir Andrew is disturbed in heart. He looks into a crystal which he says he brought with him from the East, and swears he sees strange sights there, pictures of woe such as have not been since the beginning of the world. Of this woe he preaches to the folk of Dunwich, warning them of judgment to come, and they listen affrighted because they know him to be a holy man who has a gift from God. Yet he says that you and I, Eve, need fear nothing. May it be so, Hugh.—E.”

Now when he had thought awhile and hidden up Eve’s letter, Hugh turned to his father and asked him what were these sermons that Sir Andrew preached.

“I heard but one of them, son,” answered Master de Cressi, “though there have been three. By the Holy Mother! it frightened me so much that I needed no more of that medicine. Nor, to tell truth, when I got home again could I remember all he said, save that it was of some frightful ill which comes upon the world from the East and will leave it desolate.”

“And what think folk of such talk, father?”

“Indeed, son, they know not what to think. Most say that he is mad; others say that he is inspired of God. Yet others declare that he is a wizard and that his familiar brings him tidings from Cathay, where once he dwelt, or perchance, from hell itself. These went to the bishop, who summoned Sir Andrew and was closeted with him for three hours. Afterward he called in the complainers and bade them cease their scandal of wizardry, since he was sure that what the holy Father said came from above and not from below. He added that they would do well to mend their lives and prepare to render their account, as for his part he should also, since the air was thick with doom. Then he gave his benediction to the old knight and turned away weeping, and since that hour none talk of wizardry but all of judgment. Men in Dunwich who have quarrelled from boyhood, forgive each other and sing psalms instead of swearing oaths, and I have been paid debts that have been owing to me for years, all because of these sermons.”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider