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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, August 27, 1911, Image 2

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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
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 '
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
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." ■
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.)

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