“Oh, have done!” she broke in. “They come to take me, and I’ll not be taken! They come to kill you, and I’ll not see you slain and live. I had words with my father this morning about the Frenchman and, I fear, let out the truth. He told me then that ere the Dunwich roses bloomed again she who loved you would have naught but bones to kiss. Dick, you know the fen; where can we hide till nightfall?”
“Follow me,” said the man, “and keep low!”
Plunging into the dense brake of reeds, through which he glided like a polecat, Dick led them over ground whereon, save in times of hard frost, no man could tread, heading toward the river bank. For two hundred paces or more they went thus, till, quite near to the lip of the stream, they came to a patch of reeds higher and thicker than the rest, in the centre of which was a little mound hid in a tangle of scrub and rushes. Once, perhaps a hundred or a thousand years before, some old marsh dweller had lived upon this mound, or been buried in it. At any rate, on its southern side, hidden by reeds and a withered willow, was a cavity of which the mouth could not be seen that might have been a chamber for the living or the dead.
Thrusting aside the growths that masked it, Dick bade them enter and lie still.
“None will find us here,” he said as he lifted up the reeds behind them, “unless they chance to have hounds, which I did not see. Hist! be still; they come!”
THE FIGHT BY THE RIVER
For a while Hugh and Eve heard nothing, but Grey Dick’s ears were sharper than theirs, quick as these might be. About half a minute later, however, they caught the sound of horses’ hoofs ringing on the hard earth, followed by that of voices and the crackle of breaking reeds.
Two of the speakers appeared and pulled up their horses near by in a dry hollow that lay between them and the river bank. Peeping between the reeds that grew about the mouth of the earth-dwelling, Eve saw them.
“My father and the Frenchman,” she whispered. “Look!” And she slid back a little so that Hugh might see.
Peering through the stems of the undergrowth, set as it were in a little frame against the red and ominous sky, the eyes of Hugh de Cressi fell upon Sir Edmund Acour, a gallant, even a splendid-looking knight—that was his first impression of him. Broad shouldered, graceful, in age neither young nor old, clean featured, quick eyed, with a mobile mouth and a little, square-cut beard, soft and languid voiced, black haired, richly dressed in a fur robe, and mounted on a fine black horse, such was the man.