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The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, April 02, 1911, Image 2

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(Copyright. 1911, by the New York Herald Co. All rifhts reserved.-
MURGH THE DEATH
THEY knew nothing of it in England or all the
western lands in those days before Crecy was
fought, when the third Edward sat upon the
throne. There was none to tell them of the
doom that • the east, whence comes light and life,
death and the decrees of God, had loosed upon the
world. Not one in a multitude in Europe had ever
heard of those vast countries of far Cathay, peopled
with hundreds of millions of cold faced, yellow men,
lands which had grown very old before our own fa
miliar states and empires were carved out of moun
tain, of forest and of savage haunted plain. Yet, if
their eyes had been opened so that they could see
well might they have trembled. King, prince, priest,
merchant, captain, citizen and poor laboring hind—
well might they have all trembled when the east sent
forth her gifts!
Look across the world beyond that curtain of thick
darkness. Behold! A vast city of fantastic houses
half buried in the winter snows, reddened by the lurid
sunset breaking through a saw toothed canopy of
cloud. Everywhere upon the temple squares and open
spaces great fires burning a strange fuel—the bodies
of thousands of mankind. Pestilence was king of that
city, a pestilence hitherto unknown. Innumerable
hordes had died and were dying, yet innumerable
fiordes remained. All the patient east bore forth
those still shapes that had been theirs to love or hate,
and, their task done, turned to the banks of the mighty
river and watched.
Down the broad street which ran between the fan
iiouses advanced a procession toward the brown,
ice flecked river. First marched a company of priests
clad in plain black robes and carrying on poles lan
terns of black paper, lighted, although the sun still
shone. Behind marched another company of priests
clad in white robes and bearing white lanterns, also
lighted. But at these none looked, nor did they listen
to the dirges that they sang, for all eyes were fixed
upon him who filled the center space and upon his two
companions.
The first companion was a lovely woman, jewel
hung, wearing false flowers in her streaming hair and
beneath her bared breasts a kirtle of white silk. Life
and love embodied in radiance and beauty, she danced
in front, looking about her with alluring eyes and scat
tering petals of dead roses from a basket which she
bore. Different was the second companion, who
stalked behind, so thin, so sexless that none could say
if the s^hape were that of man or woman. Dry,
streaming locks of iron gray, an ashen countenance,
deep set, hollow eyes, a beetling, parchment cowred
br6w; lean shanks half hidden with a rotting rag,
clawlikc hands which clutched miserably at the air.
This was its awful fashion, that of new death in all
-ror.
i een them, touched of neither, went a man,
naked >aye for a red girdle and a long red cloak that
was fastened round his throat and Hung down from
his broad shoulders. There was nothing strange about
this man, unless it were, perhaps, the strength that
seemed to flow from him and the glance of his icy
eyes. He was just a burly yellow man whose age
none could tell, for the hood of the red cloak hid his
hair; one who seemed to be far removed from youth
and yet untouched by time. He walked on steadily
igh of set purpose, his face immovable, taking
no heed Only now and again he turned those long
upon one of the multitude who watched
him pass crouched upon their knees in solemn silence,
always upon one, whether it were man, woman or
child, with a glance meant for that one and no other.
And always the one upon whom it fell rose from the
knee, made obeisance, and, turning, departed as though
filled with some inspired purpose.
Down to the quay went the black priests, the white
priests, the red cloaked man, preceded by rosy life and
followed by ashen death. Through the funeral fires
they wended and the lurid sunset shone upon them all.
To the pillars of this quay was fastened a strange,
high pooped ship, with crimson sails set upon her
The white priests and the black priests formed
lines upon cither side of the broad gangway of that
ship and bowed as the red cloaked man walked over
it between them Quite alone, for now she with the
dead roses and she with the ashen countenance had
fallen back. As the sun sank he turned, and, standing
on the lofty stern, cried aloud:
•'Hrre the work is Gone. Now I, the Eating Fire,
I the Messenger, turn me to the west. Among you
for a while 1 cease to burn, yet forget me not, for I
return again."
As he spoke the ropes of the ship were loosened,
the wind caught her crimson sails and she departed
into the night, one blood red spot against its black
ness.
The multitude watched until they could see her no
longer and then flamed up with mingled joy and rage.
They laughed madly. They cursed him who had de
parted.
"We live, we live, we live!" they cried. "Murgh is
gone! Murgh is gone! Kill his priests! Make sac
rifice of his shadow?! Murgh is gone bearing the
curse of the east into the bosom of the west. Look!
it follows him," and they pointed to a cloud of smoke
or vapor, in which terrible shapes seemed to move
dimly, that trailed after the departing, red-sailed ship.
The black priests and the white priests heard, and
without struggle, without complaint, as though they
were but taking part in some set ceremony, kneeled
down in lines upon the snow. Naked from the waist
up executioners with great swords appeared. They
advanced upon the kneeling lines without haste, with
out wrath, and letting fall the heavy swords upon
the patient, outstretched necks, did their grim office
till all were dead. Then they turned to find her of
the flowers who had danced before and her of the
tattered weeds who had followed after, purposing to
cast them to the funeral flames. But these were gone,
though none had seen them go. Only out of the gath
ering darkness from some temple or pagoda top a
voice spoke like a moaning wind.
"Fools," vailed the voice, "still with y<ju is Murgh,
RED EVE
H. RIDER HAGGARD
the second thing create; Murgh, who was made to be
man's minister. Murgh the Messenger shall reappear
from beyond the setting sun. Ye can not kill, ye can
not spare. Those priests you seemed to slay he had
summoned to be his officers afar. Fools! Ye do but
serve as serves Murgh, gateway of the gods. Life
and death are not in your hands or in his. They are
in the hands of the Master of Murgh. Helper of man,
of that Lord whom no eye hath seen but whose be
quests all who are born obey, yea, even the mighty
Murgh, Looser of burdens, whom in your foolishness
you fear."
So spoke this voice out of the darkness, but that
night the sword of the great pestilence was lifted
from the eastern land and there the funeral fires
flared no more.
CHAPTER I.
The Trysting Place.
ON the very day that Murgh the Messenger sailed
forth into that uttermost sea a young man and
a maiden met together in the Blythburgh marshes
near to Dunwich, on the eastern coast of England.
In this, the month of February of the year 1346, hard
and bitter frost held Suffolk in its grip. The muddy
stream of Blyth, it is true, was frozen only in places,
since the tide, flowing up from the Southwold harbor,
where it runs into the sea between that ancient town
and the hamlet of .Walberswick, had broken up the
ice. But all else was set hard and fast, and now
toward sunset the cold was bitter. Stark and naked
stood the tall dry reeds. The blackbirds and star
lings perched upon the willows seemed swollen into
feathery balls, the fur started on the backs of hares
and a four horse wain could travel in safety over
swamps where at any other time a schoolboy dared
not set his foot.
On such an eve, with the snow threatening, the
great marsh was utterly desolate, and this was why
these two had chosen it far their meeting place To
look on they were a goodly pair—the girl, who was
clothed in the red she always wore, tall, dark, well
shaped, with large black eyes and a determined' face,
one who would make a very stately wpman; the man,
broad shouldered, with gray eyes that were quick and
almost tierce, long limbed, hard, agile and healthy,
one who had never known sickness, who looked as
though the world were made for him to master. He
was young, but one and twenty that day, and his
simple dress, a tunic of thick wool, fastened around
him with a leather belt, to which hung a short sword,
showed that his degree was modest.
The girl, although she looked his elder.'in fact was
only in her twentieth year, though from her who had
b?en reared in the nard school of that cruel age, child
hood had long departed, leaving her a ripened woman
before her time.
The pair stood looking at each other.
"Well, cousin Eva Clavering," said tht man, in his
Next moment they were kissing each other.
clear voice, "why did your message bid me meet you
in this cold place?"
"Because I had a word to say to you, cousin Hugh
de Cressi," she answered boldly, "and the marsh being
co cold and so lonesome I thought it suited to my
purpose. Does Gray Dick watch yonder?"
"Aye, behind those willows, arrow on string, and
God help him on whom Dick draws. But what was
that word, Eve?"
"One easy to understand," she replied, looking him
in the eyes, "Farewell!"
He shivered as though with the cold and his face
changed.
'An ill birthday greeting, yet I feared it," he mut
tered huskily, "but why more now than at any other
time?"
"Would you know, Hugh? Well, the story is short,
so I'll let it out. Our great-grandmother, the heiress
of the de Cheneys, married twice, did she not, and
from the first husband came the'de Cressis and from
the second the Claverings. But in this way or in that
we Claverings $*ot the lands, or most of them, and you
de Crenis, the nobler stock, took to merchandise.
Now, since those days you have grown rich with your
fishing fleets, your wool mart and your ferry dues at
Walberswick and Southwold. We, too, are. rich in
manors ajid in land, counting our acres by the thou
sand, but yet poor, lacking your gold, though yonder
manor," and she pointed to some towers which rose
far away above the trees upon the high land, "has
many mouths to feed. Also the sea has robbed us at
Dunwich, where I was born, taking our great house
and many a street that paid us rent, and your market
of Southwold has starved out ours at Blythburgh."
"Well, what has all this to do with you and me,
Eve?"
"Much, Hugh, as you should know, who have been
bred to trade," and she glanced at his merchant's
dress. "Between de Cre.ssi and Clavering there have
been rivalry and feud for three long generations.
When we were children it abated for a while, since
your father lent money to mine, and that is why they
suffered us to grow up side by side. But then they
quarreled about the ferry that we had set in pawn,
and your father asked his gold back again and, not
getting it, took the ferry, which I have always held
a foolish and strife breeding deed, since from that
rward the war was open. Therefore, Hugh, if
we meet at all it must be in these frozen reeds or
behind the cover of a thicket, like a village slut and
her man."
"I know that well enough, Eve, who have spoken
with you but twice in nine months," and he devoured
her beautiful face with hungry eyes. "But of that
word 'farewell'—"
"Of that ill word, this, Hugh. I have a new suitor
up yonder, a fine French suitor, a very great lord, in
deed, whose wealth, I am told, none can number.
From his mother he has the Valley of the Waveney
up tv Bungay town —aye, and beyond—and from his
father a whole county in Normandy. Five French
knights ride behind his banner, and with them 10
squires and I know not how many men at arms.
There is feasting yonder at the castle, I can tell you.
Ere his train leaves us our winter provender will be
done and we'll have to drink small beer till the wine
ships come in from France in spring."
"And what is this lord's name?"
"God's truth! he has several," she answered. "Sir
Edmund Acour in England, and in France the high
and puissant Count of Noyon, and in Italy, near to
the city of Venice—for there, too, he has possessions
which came to him through his grandmother—the
Seigneur of Cattrina."
"And having so much, does he want you, too, Eve?
And if so, why?"
"So he swears," she answered slowly, "and as for
the reason, why, I suppose you must seek it in my face,
which by ill fortune has pleased his lordship since first
he saw it a month ago. At the least he has asked me
in marriage of my father, who jumped at him like a
winter pike, and so I am betrothed."
"And do you want him, Eve?"
"Aye, I want him as far as the sun is from the
moon or the world from eitheT. I want him in heaven
or beneath the earth or anywhere away from me."
At the words a light shone in Hugh's keen gray
eyes.
"I'm glad of that, Eve, for I have heard much of
this fine fellow—among other things that he is a
traitor come here to spy on England. But, should I
be a match for him, man to man, Eve?" he asked
after a little pause.
She looked him up and down, then answered:
"I think so, though he is no weakling; but not for
him and the five knights and the 10 squires, and my
noble father and my brother anrf the rest. Oh, Hugh!
Hugh!" she added, bitterly, "can not you understand
that you are but a merchant's lad, though your blood
be as noble as any in this realm—a merchant's lad,
the last of five brothers. Why were you not born the
first of them if you wished for Eve Clavering, for then
your red gold might have bought me?"
"Ask that of those who begot me," said Hugh.
"Come, now, what's in your mind? You're not one
to be sold like a heifer at a faring and go whimpering
to the altar, and I am not one to see you led there
while I stand upon my feet. We are made of a clay
too stiff for a French lord's fingers, Eve, though it is
true that they may drag you whither you would not
walk."
"No," she answered, "I think I shall take some
marrying against my wish. Moreover, I am Dunwich
born."
"What of that, Eve 5"
"Go. ask your godsire and my friend Sir Andrew
Arnold, the old priest. In the library of the temple '
there he showed me an ancient roll, a copy of the '
charter granted by John and other kings of England
to the citizens of Dunwich."
The San Francisco Sunday Gall
"What' said this writing, Eve?"
"It said, among many other things, that no man or
maid of Dunwjch can be forced to marry against their
will, even in the lifetime of their parents."
"But, will it hold today?"
"Aye, I think so. I think that is why the holy Sir
Andrew showed it to me, knowing something of ou>
case, for he is my confessor when I can get to him."
"Then, Sweet, you are safe!" exclaimed Hugh, -with
a sigh of relief.
"Ay«. so safe that tomorrow Father Nicholas* the
French chaplain in his train, has been warned to wed
me to my lord Acour—that is, if I am there to wed."
"And if this Acour is there I'll seek him out tonight
and challenge him, Eve," and Hugh laid hand upnn
his sword.
"Doubtless," she replied, sarcastically. "Sir Edmund
Acour, Count of Noyon, Seigneur of Cattrina, will
find it honor to accept the challanpe of Hugh dc
Cressi, the merchant's youngest s^n. Oh, Huph'
Hugh! Are your wits frozen like this winter marsh?
Not thus can you save me."
The young man.thought a while, starin? at the
ground and biting his lips. Then he looked up sud
denly and said:
"How much do you love me. Eve?"
With a slow smile she opened her arms, and next
moment they were kissing each other as hearti'
ever man and maid have kissed since the world began;
so heartily, indeed, that when at length she pushed
him from her, her lovely face was as red as the cloak
she wore.
"You know well that I love you, to my sorrow and
undoing," she said in a broken voice. "From child
hood it has been so between us and till the grave
takes one or both it will be so, and for my part be
yond it if the priests speak true. For whatever may
be your case, I am not one to change my fancy.
When I give I give all, though it be of little worth.
In truth, Hugh, if I could I would marry you tonight.
though you are naught but a merchant's lad, or even"
—and she paused, wiping her eyes with the back of
her slim, strong hand.
"I thank you," he answered, trembling with joy.
"So it is with me. For you and no other woman I
Jive and die, and though I am so humble I'll be worthy
of you yet. If God keeps me in breath you shall not
blush for your man, Eve. Well, I am not great at
words, »o let us come to deeds. Will you away with
me now? J think that Father Arnold would find you
lodging for the tlifht and an altar to be wed at, and
tomorrow our ship sails for Flanders and for France."
"Yei, but would your father give us passage in it,
Hugh?"
"Why not? It could not deepen the feud between
our houses, which already has no bottom, and if he
refused we would take one, for the captain is my
friend. Also I have some little store set by; it came
to me from my mother."
"You ask much," she said; "all a woman has, my
life, perchance, as well. Yet there it is; I'll go because
I am a fool, Hugh, and as it chances you are more
to me than either, and I hate this fine French lord,
I tell you, I sicken at his glance and shiver when he
touches me. I'll go, though God alone knows the end
of It."
"Our purpose being honest, the end will be good.
Eve, though, perhaps, before all is done we may often
think it evil. And now let's away, though I wish
that you were dressed in another color."
"Red Eve they name me and red is my badge, be
cause it sujts my dark face best. Cavil not at my
robe, Hugh, for it is the only dowry you will get with
Eve Clavering. How shall we go? By the Walbers
wick ferry? You have no horses."
"Nay, I have a skiff hidden in the reeds five furlongs
off. We must keep to the heath above Walberswick,
i for there they know your red cloak even after dark,
and I would not have you seen till we are safe with
Sir Arnold in the preceptory. Mother of Heaven!
what is that?"
"A peewit, no more," she answered indifferently.
"Nay, it is my man Dick, calling like a peewit.
That's his sign when trouble is afoot. Ah! here he
comes."
As he spoke a tall, gaunt man appeared, advancing
toward them. His gait was a shambling trot that
seemed slow, although in truth he was covering the
ground with extraordinary swiftness. Moreover, he
moved so silently that even on the frostheld soil his
steps could not be heard, and so carefully that not a
reed stirred as he threaded in and out among their
clumps like an otter, his head crouched down and his
long bow pointed before him as though it'were a
spear. Half a minute more and he was before them,
a very strange man to see. His years were not so
many, 30 perhaps, and yet his face looked quite
old because of its lack of coloring, its thinness and
the hard lines that marked where the muscles ran
down to,the tight, straight mouth and up to the big
forehead, over which hung hair so light that at a lit
tle distance he seemed ashen gray. Only in this cold,
rocky face, set very far part, were two pale blue
eyes, which, just now when, he chose to lift their
lids that generally kept near together, as though he
were half asleep, were full of fire and quick cunning.
Reaching the pair this strange fellow dropped to
his knee and raited his cap to Eve, the great lady of
the Claverings—-Red Eve, as they called her through
that countryside. Then he spoke in a low, husky
voice:
"They're coming, master! You and your mistress
must to earth unless you mean to face them in the
open," and the pale eyes glittered as he tapped his
great black bow.
"Who are coming, Richard? Be plain, man."
"Sir John CJavering, my lady's father; young John,
my lady's brother; the fine French lord who wears a
white swan for a crest; three of the knights of his
command and six—no, seven—men at arms. Also
from the other side the grieve; Thomas of Kes^and,
and with him his marshmen and verderers."
"And what are they coming for?" he asked again.
"Have they hounds, and hawk on wrist?"
"Nay, but they have swords and knife on thi&V*
and he let his pale eyes fall on Eve.
"Oh, have done!" she broke in. "They come to
take me and PH not be taken. They come to kill you
and I'll not see you slain aog 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 must
keep us hidden until nightfall."
"Follow me," said the man, "and keep low."
(To be continued.)

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