Now Hugh leapt after her, and presently the pair of them were swimming side by side to the river’s further shore. Then, as now, it was but a narrow stream. Yet they did not reach it easily, for, cumbered as they were with clothes, and numbed by the ice-cold water, the fierce tide caught them and carried them beyond the bend. There they were lost in the gathering darkness, so that most of those who watched believed that they had sunk and drowned. But it was not so, for after a long struggle they came safe to shore near to a clump of willows, and clambered over the frozen mud to the heath beyond.
“First fire, then water,” said Hugh, in a mazed voice.
“You have missed out love and death,” answered the girl—“a full feast for a day that is not done. But whither now?”
“To take sanctuary at the Preceptory and raise my kin. Forward, Eve, ere you freeze.”
“I think there is that in me which will not freeze,” she answered; and broke into a run.
Now night closed in, and the snow which had been threatening all day began to fall, making their path over the heath difficult.
“We need Grey Dick to guide us; but alack, I fear he is dead!” muttered Hugh.
“I think others will be dead, not Dick,” she answered.
Just then they heard a footstep behind them.
Hugh wheeled round and drew his sword, but almost before it had left the scabbard a long figure glided out of the snow, and said:
“More to the left, master, more to the left, unless you would make your peace on Blythburgh bridge, where some would be glad to meet you.”
“How went it?” asked Hugh shortly.
“Not well. I shot thrice and slew three men, two of the French knights, and Thomas of Kessland, against whom I had a score that now is settled. But the fourth time I missed.”
“Who?” asked Eve between her teeth as she ran beside him.
“The Frenchman who means to marry you. When the others fell back he came at me on his horse as I was setting a fresh arrow, thinking to get me. I had to shoot quick, and aimed low for his heart, because in that light I could not make certain of his face. He saw, and jerked up the horses head, so that the shaft took it in the throat and killed the beast without hurting its rider. He was off in an instant and at me, with others, before I could draw again. So I thought it time to go, which I did, backward, as he thrust. Perhaps he thinks he killed me, as I meant he should, only when he looks at his sword he’ll find it clean. That’s all.”
And again Grey Dick chuckled.
None were abroad in the streets of Dunwich on that bitter winter night when these three trudged wearily down Middlegate Street through the driving snow to the door of the grey Preceptory of the Knights Templar. In a window above the porch a light burned dimly, the only one to be seen in any of the houses round about, for by now all men were abed.