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CHAPTER XIII (Continued).
Murgh's Arrow. TN a moment Day had stripped himself of his light IN hooded had stripped himself his was silk hooded gown, and in another moment it was I on the person of Murgh. though how it got there, when they came to think of it afterward, none could remember. Still, the fellow and red head dress, 'the coal black silky furs, the yellow skirt, the gleam ing pearls, all vanished beneath it. Nothing remained visible except the white fingcrless gloves—why they • were fingerless and what lay beneath them Hugh won dered—and the white shoes. . * • ' ' Forward they went across the Place of Arms, past the timber stand ornamented with banners, which Murgh stayed to contemplate for an instant, until they came to the mouth of the street, up which men had followed them, apparently with evil intentions. . . "Sir Murgh," said Hugh, stepping forward, "you had best let me and my companion, Gray Dick, walk first down this place lest you should come to harm. When we passed it a while ago we thought that we heard robbers behind us, and in Venice, as we are told, such men use knives." "Thank you for your kind warning, Sir Hugh," and even beneath the shadow of the silk hood Hugh thought that he saw his eyes smile, and seeing remem- i bered all the folly of his talk. "Yet I'll risk these robbers. Do you two and the lad keep behind me." he added in a sterner voice. So they advanced down the narrow street, the man called Murgh going first, Hugh, Gray Dick and the lad following meekly behind him. As they entered its shadows a low whistle sounded, but nothing happened for a while. When they had traversed about half its length, however, men, five or six of them in all, darted out of the gloom of a gateway and rushed at them. The faint light showed that they were masked and gleamed upon the blue steel of the daggers in their hands. Two of these men struck at Murgh with their knives, while the others tried to pass him, doubtless to attack his companions, but failed. Why they failed Hugh and Dick never knew. All they saw was that Murgh stretched out his white gloved hands and they fell back. ' The men who had struck at him fell back also, their daggers dropping to the ground, and fled away, fol lowed by their companions, all except one, whom Murgh had seized. Hugh noted that he was a tall, thin fellow and that, unlike the rest, he had drawn no weapon, although it. was at his signal that the other bravos rushed in. This man Murgh seemed to hold with one hand while with the other he ripped the ' mask off his face, turning him so that the light shone on him. Hugh and Dick saw the face and knew it for that of the priest who had accompanied Acour to England, he who had drugged Red Eve and read the mass of marriage over her while she was drugged. "Who are you?" asked Murgh, in his light, cold voice. "By your face a priest, I think, one who serves * some God of love and mercy. And yet you come upon this ill errand as a captain of assassins. Why do you seek to do murder, O priest of the God of mercy?" .' Now some power seemed to drag the answer from Father Nicholas. -"Because I must," he said. "I have sold myself and must pay the price. Step leads to step, and he who runs may not stop upon them," "No, Priest Nicholas, since ever they grow more narrow and more steep. Yet at the foot of them is the dark abyss, and, Murderer Nicholas, you have reached the last of all your steps. Look at me!" and with one hand he threw back his hood. Next instant they saw Nicholas rush staggering down the street, screaming with terror as he went. Then, as all the bravoes had gone, they continued their march, filled with reflections, till they came to the little landing stage where they had left the boat. It was still there, though the boatman was not. "Let us borrow this boat." said Murgh. "As from my study of the map I know these water paths, I will be steersman and that tongue tied lad shall row and tell me if I go* wrong. First I will take you to the house where I think you said you lodged, and thence go to seek friends of my own in this citywho will show me hospitality." They glided on down the long canals in utter silence that was broken only by the soft dipping of the oars. The night was somewhat cooler now, for the bursting of the great meteor seemed to have cleared the.air, or perhaps the gentle breeze that had sprung up, blow ing from the open sea, tempered its stifling heat. So it came about that although grew late many people were gathered on the rivas or on the balconies of the fine houses which they passed, for the most part doubtless discussing the traveling star that had been seen in the sky. Or, perhaps they had already heard rumors of the strange visitor who had come to Venice, although, however fast such news* may fly, this seemed . scarcely probable. At the least there they were, men and women*, talking earnestly, and about them the three Englishmen noted a strange thing. As their boat slipped by some influence seemed to pass from it to the minds of all these people.. Their talk died out and was succeeded by/a morne and heavy silence. They looked at it as though wondering why a sight so usual should draw their eyes. Then after a few irresolute moments the groups on the footpaths separated and went their ways without bidding each , other good night As they went/many of; them made; th-t rigs »'«>h their fingers that these Italians believed couid avert evil, which gave them the appearance/of all pointing at the boat or its occupants., Those in the balconies also did the same thing and disappeared through the open window places. More than any. of the wonderful things that he had done, perhaps,/this effect of the eastern stranger's presence struck terror and foreboding to Hugh's heart. At length they came to the end of that little street where they had hired the: boat, for. although none had told him the way, thither their dread steersman brought them without fault. The lad David laid down his oars and mounted the steps that led to the street, which was quite ■ deserted, even the bordering houses being in darkness. "Hugh de Cressi and Richard the Fatherless," said .Murgh, "you have seen wonderful things this/night; and made a strange friend, as you may think by chance, although truly in all the wide universe there is no room for such a thing as chance. Now my coun sel to you and your companion is that speak no word of these matters lest you should be set upon as wizards. We part, but we shall meet again twice more, and after many years a third time, but that third meeting do not seek, for it .will, be when your ' last grains of sand/are running from the glass. Also EVE you may see me at other times, but if so unless l. speak to you do not speak to me. Now go your ways, fearing nothing. However great may seem your peril, I say to you, fear nothing. Soon you will hear ill things spoken of me, yet"—and here a touch of human wistfulness came into his inhuman voice"l pray you, believe them not. When I am named 'Murgh the Fiend'and Murgh the Sword, then think of me as Murgh the Helper. What I do is decreed by that which is greater than I, and if you could understand it, leads by terrible ways to a'goal of good, as all things do. Richard the Archer. I will answer the riddle that you asked yourself upon the ship at Calais. The strength that made your, black bow an instrument of doom made you who loose its shafts and me who can outshoot you far. As the arrow travels whither it is sent and there does .its appointed work, so do you travel and so do I, and many another thing, seen arid unseen, and therefore I told you . truly that although* we differ in degree yet are. we one. ■ Yes, even Murgh the Sword, Murgh the Gate and that bent wand of yours are one in the hand'that shaped and holds us both." "' • , Then divesting himself of the long robe which he had borrowed from the lad, handed it to Hugh, and, taking the oars, rowed away clad in his rich, fan tastic garb, which now, as at first, could be seen by all. He i rowed away,; and; or a while \ the three ; whom he had left behind heard the soughing of the innumerable -■' winds that went ever with him, .after which came * silence. W&sm*- /Silence, but not for long, for presently from the bor ders of the great canal into which his skiff must/enter// rose shouts of fear and rage, nearby at ; first, then a; farther and farther off, till t these two /were lost in .silence.-. '" ' ■ " ?; "Oh! Sir Hugh!" sobbed poor David Day, "who and ;, what is that dreadful man?" "I think his name is Death," answered Hugh sol- ,/■ emnly, while Dick nodded his head but said nothing. "Then we must die," went on David in his terror, "and am not fit to die." ' v "I think not," said Hugh again. ;;■ "Be comforted. -■] Death-has passed us by. Only be warned also and; as ■ he bade you, say nothing -of tall.: that you have heard and seen.;. - .■ | ' . , "By Death himself I'll say nothing for my life's ■ sake," he replied faintly, for he was shaking in every; limb.;;■ .; , .:',--" ' Then they,'walked up the street to the yard door. As they went Hugh asked -.Dick what it was that he had in his mind as a mark for the arrow that Murgh ;had shot, that arrow which to his charmed sight had seemed: to rush over Venice like a flake. of fire. --/../.-"I'll; not. tell you, master," answered Dick,"/ "lest you* should think me madder than I 'am, which tonight would be very mad indeed. Stay, though; I'll tell David here, that he may be a witness? to my./folly," ; and he called the young man to him and spoke with ' nT7iß%||*ll*a'nßßßai^n4HHA>MßflHHßßiflißßttflfedMMHßßßH him apart. > . , • Then"they unlocked the courtyard gate/arid entered' the house by the kitchen door, as it chanced quite un observed, for .now all the servants were abed. Indeed, of that household: none-ever "knew that they had been: "outside its walls this night, since no one saw; them'go or return, and Sir Geoffrey/and his lady thought that they had retired to their chamber. .- They came/to the door of their room, David still with them, for the place where he slept was at ' the end of this-same passage. ~~ -~ "Bide here a while," said Dick to him. "My master and I may have a word to say to you" presently." Then they lit tapers -from a- little Roman lamp/ that. burned all night in the passage and entered : the room. ; Dick walked■ at once: to the windowplace, looked and laughed a little. ,/ - /- * "The arrow has missed,'' he /said, "or, rather," he added doubtfully, "the target is gone." . "What target?" asked Hugh wearily, for now he desired sleep more than he had ever, done in all his life. Then he turned, the taper in his hand, and started back suddenly, pointing to something which hung upon his bedpost that stood opposite to the window. "Who nails his helm upon my bed?" he said. "Is this a challenge from some knight of Venice?";/ Dick stepped/forward and looked. , "'An omen, hot a challenge, I- think./ Come and see for yourself," he said. This was what Hugh saw. Fixed to the post by a shaft which pierced it and the carved olive wood; from' side to side, was the helm that they had stripped from * ■ the body ■of /Sir; Pierre de/ la Roche, the helm of Sir H. RIDER HAGGARD Edmund ;Acour which Sir Pierre had worn at Xrecy and Dick had tumbled out of his sack in the presence of the Doge before Cattrina's face. • On his return to the house of Sir Geoffrey Carleon Dick had set it down in the center of the openpvindowplace and left it •; there when they went out to survey the ground where they must fight upon: the morrow. ; ''■ . ; . Having.studied it for a moment, Dick went to the door and called to David. "* - , "Friend," he said standing' between him and the bed, so that he could see nothing, "what was it that just now I told you' was in my mind when yonder, Murgh asked me at what target he should shoot with my bow on the Place of Arms?" "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 bedpost? Answer you, David, for perchance my sight is bewitched." "A knight's helm," answered David, "bearing the crest of a jfloating;swan arid 1 held there by an arrow which has pierced the swan." r \-[. '. "What i was the arrow like which I-.- gave to one Murgh, master?" asked Dick again. '; / ' .' '"'■'•., •"] "It was a war/arrow^ having two black feathers. and the third , white ; but checkered with ;four; black • spots ■ and a smear of brown," ."answered Hugh. > ; "Then; is that the arrow, master, which this Murgh> loosed 1: from more than a mile away?";;> ; -'- i Hugh examined it with care. Thrice he •vamined They Glided On Down the Long Canals in Utter Silence. He Ripped the Mask Off His Face, Turning Him So That the Light Shone on Him. it. point and shaft and feathers. Then, in a low voice, he ;snswercd: "Yes." ■ CHAPTER XIV. At the Place of Armi. 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 5:30 o'clock in the morning— for they must be stirring early— David came to can 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 jat "the/Place; of Arms and >in the boat, or whether I thought'l saw them." . • ' f "Doubtless you thought you saw them. David, an- swered 'Hugh, adding with meaning, "and it is not always well to talk of things we think that we have seen." "-^ •'...-,'-,,'J -V"' The lad, who,was" sharp enough, nodded, but as he turned to hand ;H ugh/ some garment his eye fell upon the ; swan crested j helm that 'was " still nailed \ by the long war shaft with two black feathers and one white to the carved olive wood post of the bed. .;'''' "It must have been at 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 vof 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 it :should set ; another arrow upon another string and shoot again." '•** ','•,;..,, "God's truth, not I!" exclaimed David. "And for The San Francisco Sunday Call your comfort, sir, know that none saw us leave this house or re-enter it last t night. . . ;...w;:^ .- A . Then Hugh and Dick clothed themselves and saw to thePr weapons and mail, but this they did not don as vet fearing lest the weight of it should weary them ?n tha great heat, although the day ™ the heat was terrible, more -oppressive indeed than any' they had yet known in Venice. -,- , When they were ready : and David had left -them to see to the horse which de Cress, wouldl nde: inh» combat with Cattrina. Hugh, as became a God fearing knight whom Sir Andrew Arnold had instructed.Jrom 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 away. After watching' him a while even Gray Dick whose prayers were few. followed ; his : example, kneeling in front of his bow as though it were an image that he worshiped. 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 lack ing, which 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 businesses ours, Dick; that is, if it can be come by." . T . . "Mayhap, master. But for my part I am content with';that of Murgh, which he gave us, you may re : member, or so I understood him. Moreover, did he not?teach that he and all are but ministers,of;Him ■above?. Therefore"*l go ' straight to the head of the stair," and he nodded 1 toward the sky, 'and am content to skip all the steps which are called priests and altars and popes and saints and suchlike folk, living or dead, for if-Mufgh's- wisdom be true, as "I think j these are ;but;garnishings to the dish which can well be spared "by the hungry. soul." ; . , --. . ""Mayhao," Hugh answered dubiously, for his faith in such matters ' was that of his time, "yet were I you, Dick, I'd not preach that philosophy too loud lest the "priests and popes'should- have something to say to it —and the saints also, for aught I know, since I have always" heard that they love not to be left out of our account" with heaven." , / : „ . - "Well, if so," answered/Dick, "I'll quote St. Murgh to them, who is a very fitting partron for an archer.' : and once again he glanced at the. helm and the arrow with something not unlike fear in his cold eye. _ Then they went down to the eating chamber, where they had been told that breakfast would be I ready for them at 7 o'clock and there found Sir Geoffrey await ing ■: them. ';. ■•-' ;; . ."■ TT ; ■ :,; •■ .• . "I trust that you have slept well, Sir Hugh, he said. "You were a 4 wise knight to go to rest so early, having before you such a trial of your strength and manhood, and, so to speak, ; the honor of our : king upon ; your hands/.' 1,. - ... 'i •■ ■ ,TT '. "Very well, indeed; thank you, sir,' answered Hugh. "And you?" - . "' ■ "Oh, ill, extremely ill. I do not know what is the matter with me or Venice either, whereof the very air seems poisoned. Feel the heat and see the haze! It is i most unnatural. Moreover, although in your bed doubtless you saw it not, a great ball of fire blazed and burnt over the city last night. So bright; was it that even in a darkened room each of us could see the color of the other's eyes. Later,; too, there came a thin streak of flame that seemed to alight on or about this very house, and indeed I thought I heard a sound as of iron striking upon iron, but could find no cause for it." •• '■'-' ':',■': ..'•'v: ! ; :■■::'-•-':, -.;.-. •;..... : t ■"Wondrous : happenings, sir," said Gray Dick. "Glad am I that we were not with you, lest the sight of them should have made us fearful on this morning of the combat." "^v'C'l;; '■'•;.•'"-.[■'■ ■:■■■ '-•.■>■' -'" '■•"■;■;':- '„-.'■':■ -■■ "Wondrous happenings indeed, friend Richard." said Sir ; Geoffrey = excitedly, "but ? you have not heard the half of them. : The herald, who has just been here with the final articles of your fray, signed by the Doge and Cattrina, has told me much that I can scarce be-, lieve. He says! that the great galley from this port, which is called 'Light of the East,' drifted up to the quay at the Place of Arms last night ;on its return voyage from Cyprus ifilled with dead arid' with no• liv- ing thing aboard it save the devil in a yellow robe and a many hued headdress like a cockscomb with a red eye in it. He swears that this fiend landed and that the mob set. on him, whereon two, some say three other devils, clad in long black gowns, appeared out of the water and drove them back. Also, it seems this ' same cockscombed- Satan stole a boat" and rowed about the city afterward; but now none can find him, although they have got the boat." "Then they can be well satisfied," said Hugh, "since y its owner has lost; nothing but the hire, which with" Satan at the oars is better than = might be hoped. Per haps he was not ' there after all. Sir Geoffrey." (To Be = Continued.)