Red Eve by H. Rider Haggard

“A knight’s helm,” answered David, “which stood in the window of your room at the ambassador’s house—a knight’s helmet that had a swan for its crest.”

“You hear?” said Dick to Hugh; “now come, both of you, and see. What is that which hangs upon the bed-post? Answer you, David, for perchance my sight is bewitched.”

“A knight’s helm,” answered David, “bearing the crest of a floating swan and held there by an arrow which has pierced it through.”

“What was the arrow like which I gave this night to one Murgh, master?” asked Dick again.

“It was a war shaft having two black feathers and the third white but chequered with four black spots and a smear of brown,” answered Hugh.

“Then is that the same arrow, master, which this Murgh loosed from more than a mile away?”

Hugh examined it with care. Thrice he examined it, point and shaft and feathers. Then in a low voice he answered:


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Chapter XIV

At the Place of Arms

NOTWITHSTANDING all that has been told, Hugh and Dick never slept more soundly than they did that night, nor was their rest broken by any dreams. At half past five in the morning—for they must be stirring early—David came to call them. He too, it seemed, had slept well. Also in the light of day the worst of his fear had left him. “I am wondering, Sir Hugh,” he said, looking at him curiously, “whether I saw certain things last night down yonder at the Place of Arms and in the boat, or whether I thought I saw them.”

“Doubtless you thought you saw them, David,” answered Hugh, adding with meaning, “and it is not always well to talk of things we think that we have seen.”

The lad, who was sharp enough, nodded. But as he turned to hand Hugh some garment his eye fell upon the swan-crested helm that was still nailed by the long war-shaft with two black feathers and one white to the carved olivewood post of the bed.

“It must have been a mighty arm that shot this arrow, Sir Hugh,” he said reflectively, “which could pierce a casque of Milan steel from side to side and a hardwood post beyond. Well for the owner of the helm that his head was not inside of it.”

“Very well, and a very mighty arm, David. So mighty that I should say nothing about it for fear lest it should set another arrow upon another string and shoot again.”

“God’s truth, not I!” exclaimed David, “and for your comfort sir, know that none saw us leave this house or reenter it last night.”

Then Hugh and Dick clothed themselves and saw to their weapons and mail, but this they did not don as yet, fearing lest the weight of it should weary them in that great heat. Although the day was so young, this heat was terrible, more oppressive indeed than any they had yet known in Venice.

When they were ready David left them to see to the horse which de Cressi would ride in his combat with Cattrina. Hugh, as became a God-fearing knight whom Sir Andrew Arnold had instructed from childhood, crossed himself, knelt down and said his prayers, which that morning were long and earnest. Indeed he would have confessed himself also if he could, only there was no priest at hand who knew his language, Sir Geoffrey’s chaplain being away. After watching him a while even Grey Dick, whose prayers were few, followed his example, kneeling in front of his bow as though it were an image that he worshipped. When they had risen again, he said:

“You grieve that there is none to shrive us, master, but I hold otherwise, since when it was told what company we kept last night absolution might be lacking. This would weigh on you if not on me, who, after what I have learned of Father Nicholas and others, love but one priest, and he far away.”

“Yet it is well to have the blessing of Holy Church ere such a business as ours, Dick; that is, if it can be come by.”

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Categories: Haggard, H. Rider