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Chapter 32


CHAPTER VII - DICK'S REVENGE


The next morning Dick was afoot before the sun, and having dressed
himself to the best advantage with the aid of the Lord Foxham's
baggage, and got good reports of Joan, he set forth on foot to walk
away his impatience.

For some while he made rounds among the soldiery, who were getting
to arms in the wintry twilight of the dawn and by the red glow of
torches; but gradually he strolled further afield, and at length
passed clean beyond the outposts, and walked alone in the frozen
forest, waiting for the sun.

His thoughts were both quiet and happy.  His brief favour with the
Duke he could not find it in his heart to mourn; with Joan to wife,
and my Lord Foxham for a faithful patron, he looked most happily
upon the future; and in the past he found but little to regret.

As he thus strolled and pondered, the solemn light of the morning
grew more clear, the east was already coloured by the sun, and a
little scathing wind blew up the frozen snow.  He turned to go
home; but even as he turned, his eye lit upon a figure behind, a
tree.

"Stand!" he cried.  "Who goes?"

The figure stepped forth and waved its hand like a dumb person.  It
was arrayed like a pilgrim, the hood lowered over the face, but
Dick, in an instant, recognised Sir Daniel.

He strode up to him, drawing his sword; and the knight, putting his
hand in his bosom, as if to seize a hidden weapon, steadfastly
awaited his approach.

"Well, Dickon," said Sir Daniel, "how is it to be?  Do ye make war
upon the fallen?"

"I made no war upon your life," replied the lad; "I was your true
friend until ye sought for mine; but ye have sought for it
greedily."

"Nay - self-defence," replied the knight.  "And now, boy, the news
of this battle, and the presence of yon crooked devil here in mine
own wood, have broken me beyond all help.  I go to Holywood for
sanctuary; thence overseas, with what I can carry, and to begin
life again in Burgundy or France."

"Ye may not go to Holywood," said Dick.

"How!  May not?" asked the knight.

"Look ye, Sir Daniel, this is my marriage morn," said Dick; "and
yon sun that is to rise will make the brightest day that ever shone
for me.  Your life is forfeit - doubly forfeit, for my father's
death and your own practices to meward.  But I myself have done
amiss; I have brought about men's deaths; and upon this glad day I
will be neither judge nor hangman.  An ye were the devil, I would
not lay a hand on you.  An ye were the devil, ye might go where ye
will for me.  Seek God's forgiveness; mine ye have freely.  But to
go on to Holywood is different.  I carry arms for York, and I will
suffer no spy within their lines.  Hold it, then, for certain, if
ye set one foot before another, I will uplift my voice and call the
nearest post to seize you."

"Ye mock me," said Sir Daniel.  "I have no safety out of Holywood."

"I care no more," returned Richard.  "I let you go east, west, or
south; north I will not.  Holywood is shut against you.  Go, and
seek not to return.  For, once ye are gone, I will warn every post
about this army, and there will be so shrewd a watch upon all
pilgrims that, once again, were ye the very devil, ye would find it
ruin to make the essay."

"Ye doom me," said Sir Daniel, gloomily.

"I doom you not," returned Richard.  "If it so please you to set
your valour against mine, come on; and though I fear it be disloyal
to my party, I will take the challenge openly and fully, fight you
with mine own single strength, and call for none to help me.  So
shall I avenge my father, with a perfect conscience."

"Ay," said Sir Daniel, "y' have a long sword against my dagger."

"I rely upon Heaven only," answered Dick, casting his sword some
way behind him on the snow.  "Now, if your ill-fate bids you, come;
and, under the pleasure of the Almighty, I make myself bold to feed
your bones to foxes."

"I did but try you, Dickon," returned the knight, with an uneasy
semblance of a laugh.  "I would not spill your blood."

"Go, then, ere it be too late," replied Shelton.  "In five minutes
I will call the post.  I do perceive that I am too long-suffering.
Had but our places been reversed, I should have been bound hand and
foot some minutes past."

"Well, Dickon, I will go," replied Sir Daniel.  "When we next meet,
it shall repent you that ye were so harsh."

And with these words, the knight turned and began to move off under
the trees.  Dick watched him with strangely-mingled feelings, as he
went, swiftly and warily, and ever and again turning a wicked eye
upon the lad who had spared him, and whom he still suspected.

There was upon one side of where he went a thicket, strongly matted
with green ivy, and, even in its winter state, impervious to the
eye.  Herein, all of a sudden, a bow sounded like a note of music.
An arrow flew, and with a great, choked cry of agony and anger, the
Knight of Tunstall threw up his hands and fell forward in the snow.

Dick bounded to his side and raised him.  His face desperately
worked; his whole body was shaken by contorting spasms.

"Is the arrow black?" he gasped.

"It is black," replied Dick, gravely.

And then, before he could add one word, a desperate seizure of pain
shook the wounded man from head to foot, so that his body leaped in
Dick's supporting arms, and with the extremity of that pang his
spirit fled in silence.

The young man laid him back gently on the snow and prayed for that
unprepared and guilty spirit, and as he prayed the sun came up at a
bound, and the robins began chirping in the ivy.

When he rose to his feet, he found another man upon his knees but a
few steps behind him, and, still with uncovered head, he waited
until that prayer also should be over.  It took long; the man, with
his head bowed and his face covered with his hands, prayed like one
in a great disorder or distress of mind; and by the bow that lay
beside him, Dick judged that he was no other than the archer who
had laid Sir Daniel low.

At length he, also, rose, and showed the countenance of Ellis
Duckworth.

"Richard," he said, very gravely, "I heard you.  Ye took the better
part and pardoned; I took the worse, and there lies the clay of
mine enemy.  Pray for me."

And he wrung him by the hand.

"Sir," said Richard, "I will pray for you, indeed; though how I may
prevail I wot not.  But if ye have so long pursued revenge, and
find it now of such a sorry flavour, bethink ye, were it not well
to pardon others?  Hatch - he is dead, poor shrew!  I would have
spared a better; and for Sir Daniel, here lies his body.  But for
the priest, if I might anywise prevail, I would have you let him
go."

A flash came into the eyes of Ellis Duckworth.

"Nay," he said, "the devil is still strong within me.  But be at
rest; the Black Arrow flieth nevermore - the fellowship is broken.
They that still live shall come to their quiet and ripe end, in
Heaven's good time, for me; and for yourself, go where your better
fortune calls you, and think no more of Ellis."


Robert Louis Stevenson