“Dick, Dick!” broke in Hugh in an agony of shame. Taking no heed, Dick went on imperturbably: “And is the best man with a sword in Suffolk, as the ghost of John Clavering knows to-day. Lastly, Sire, you send this master of mine upon a certain business where straight arrows may be wanted as well as sharp swords, and yet you’d keep me here whittling them out of ashwood, who, if I could have had my will, would have been on the road these two hours gone. Is that a king’s wisdom?”
“By St. George!” exclaimed Edward, “I think that I should make you councillor as well as fletcher, since without doubt, man, you have a bitter wit, and, what is more rare, do not fear to speak the truth as you see it. Moreover, in this matter, you see it well. Go with Hugh de Cressi on the business which I have given him to do, and, when it is finished, should both or either of you live, neglect not our command to rejoin us here, or—if we have crossed the sea—in France. Edward of England needs the service of such a sword and such a bow.”
“You shall have them both, Sire,” broke in Hugh, “for what they are worth. Moreover, I pray your Grace be not angry with Grey Dick’s words, for if God gave him a quick eye, He also gave him a rough tongue.”
“Not I, Hugh de Cressi, for know, we love what is rough if it be also honest. It is smooth, false words of treachery that we hate, such words as are ever on the lips of one whom we send you forth to bring to his account. Now to your duty. Farewell till we meet again, whether it be here or where all men, true or traitors, must foot their bill at last.”
About noon of the day on which Hugh and his company had ridden for London, another company entered Dunwich—namely, Sir John Clavering and many of his folk, though with him were neither Sir Edmund Acour nor any of his French train. Sir John’s temper had never been of the best, for he was a man who, whatever his prosperity, found life hard and made it harder for all those about him. But seldom had he been angrier than he was this day, when his rage was mingled with real sorrow for the loss of his only son, slain in a fight brought about by the daughter of one of them and the sister of the other and urged for honour’s sake by himself, the father of them both.
Moreover, the marriage on which he had set his heart between Eve and the glittering French lord whose future seemed so great had been brought to naught, and this turbulent, hot-hearted Eve had fled into sanctuary. Her lover, too, the youngest son of a merchant, had ridden away to London, doubtless upon some mission which boded no good to him or his, leaving a blood feud behind him between the wealthy de Cressis and all the Clavering kin.
There was but one drop of comfort in his cup. By now, as he hoped, Hugh and his death’s-head, Grey Dick, a spawn of Satan that all the country feared, and who, men said, was a de Cressi bastard by a witch, were surely slain or taken by those who followed upon their heels.