Part 3 out of 8
Dead, or only dying? Nay, answer not, let us see. Come, brother."
Now together they ran, or rather reeled, torch in hand, along the
Wulf saw the bloodstains on the floor and laughed savagely.
"The old man made a good fight," he said,"while, like drunken
brutes, we slept."
They were there, and before them, beneath the white, shroud-like
cloak, lay Sir Andrew, the steel helm on his head, and his face
beneath it even whiter than the cloak.
At the sound of their footsteps he opened his eyes. "At length,
at length," he muttered."Oh, how many years have I waited for
you? Nay, be silent, for I do not know how long my strength will
last, but listen--kneel down and listen."
So they knelt on either side of him, and in quick, fierce words
he told them all--of the drugging, of the fight, of the long
parley carried on to give the palmer knave time to climb to the
window; of his cowardly blow, and of what chanced afterwards.
Then his strength seemed to fail him, but they poured drink down
his throat, and it came back again.
"Take horse swiftly," he gasped, pausing now and again to rest,
"and rouse the countryside. There is still a chance. Nay, seven
hours have gone by; there is no chance. Their plans were too well
laid; by now they will be at sea. So hear me. Go to Palestine.
There is money for your faring in my chest, but go alone, with no
company, for in time of peace these would betray you. Godwin,
draw off this ring from my finger, and with it as a token, find
out Jebal, the black sheik of the Mountain Tribe at Masyaf on
Lebanon. Bid him remember the vow he made to Andrew D'Arcy, the
English knight. If any can aid you, it will be Jebal, who hates
the Houses of Nur-ed-din and of Ayoub. So, I charge you, let
nothing-- I say nothing--turn you aside from seeking him.
"Afterwards act as God shall guide you. If they still live, kill
that traitor Nicholas and Hugh Lozelle, but, save in open war,
spare the Emir Hassan, who did but do his duty as an Eastern
reads it, and shown some mercy, for he could have slain or burnt
us all. This riddle has been hard for me; yet now, in my dying
hour, I seem to see its answer. I think that Saladin did not
dream in vain. Keep brave hearts, for I think also that at Masyaf
you will find friends, and that things will yet go well, and our
sorrows bear good fruit."
"What is that you said? She left you my father's sword, Wulf?
Then wield it bravely, winning honour for our name. She left you
the cross, Godwin? Wear it worthily, winning glory for the Lord,
and salvation to your soul. Remember what you have sworn.
Whate'er befall, bear no bitterness to one another. Be true to
one another, and to her, your lady, so that when at the last you
make your report to me before high Heaven, I may have no cause to
be ashamed of you, my nephews, Godwin and Wulf."
For a moment the dying man was silent, until his face lit up as
with a great gladness, and he cried in a loud, clear
voice,"Beloved wife, I hear you! O, God, I come!"
Then though his eyes stayed open, and the smile still rested on
his face, his jaw fell.
Thus died Sir Andrew D'Arcy.
Still kneeling on either side of him, the brethren watched the
end, and, as his spirit passed, bowed their heads in prayer.
"We have seen a great death," said Godwin presently ."Let us
learn a lesson from it, that when our time comes we may die like
"Ay," answered Wulf, springing to his feet,"but first let us take
vengeance for it. Why, what is this? Rosamund's writing! Read it,
Godwin took the parchment and read:
"Follow me to Saladin. In that hope I live on."
"Surely we will follow you, Rosamund," he cried aloud. "Follow
you through life to death or victory."
Then he threw down the paper, and calling for the chaplain to
come to watch the body, they ran into the hall. By this time
about half of the folk were awake from their drugged sleep,
whilst others who had been doctored by the man Ali in the barn
staggered into the hall-- wild-eyed, white-faced, and holding
their hands to their heads and hearts. They were so sick and
bewildered, indeed, that it was difficult to make them understand
what had chanced, and when they learned the truth, the most of
them could only groan. Still, a few were found strong enough in
wit and body to grope their way through the darkness and the
falling snow to Stangate Abbey, to Southminster, and to the
houses of their neighbours, although of these there were none
near, praying that every true man would arm and ride to help them
in the hunt. Also Wulf, cursing the priest Matthew and himself
that he had not thought of it before, called him from his prayers
by their dead uncle, and charged him to climb the church tower as
swiftly as he could, and set light to the beacon that was laid
Away he went, taking flint, steel, and tinder with him, and ten
minutes later the blaze was flaring furiously above the roof of
Steeple Church, warning all men of the need for help. Then they
armed, saddled such horses as they had, amongst them the three
that had been left there by the merchant Georgios, and gathered
all of them who were not too sick to ride or run, in the
courtyard of the Hall. But as yet their haste availed them
little, for the moon was down. Snow fell also, and the night was
still black as death--so black that a man could scarcely see the
hand he held before his face. So they must wait, and wait they
did, eating their hearts out with grief and rage, and bathing
their aching brows in icy water.
At length the dawn began to break, and by its first grey light
they saw men mounted and afoot feeling their way through the
snow, shouting to each other as they came to know what dreadful
thing had happened at Steeple. Quickly the tidings spread among
them that Sir Andrew was slain, and the lady Rosamund snatched
away by Paynims, while all who feasted in the place had been
drugged with poisoned wine by a man whom they believed to be a
merchant. So soon as a band was got together--perhaps thirty men
in all-- and there was light to stir by, they set out and began
to search, though where to look they knew not, for the snow had
covered up all traces of their foes.
"One thing is certain," said Godwin,"they must have come by
"Ay," answered Wulf,"and landed near by, since, had they far to
go, they would have taken the horses, and must run the risk also
of losing their path in the darkness. To the Staithe! Let us try
So on they went across the meadow to the creek. It lay but three
bow-shots distant. At first they could see nothing, for the snow
covered the stones of the little pier, but presently a man cried
out that the lock of the water house, in which the brethren kept
their fishing-boat, was broken, and next minute, that the boat
"She was small; she would hold but six men," cried a voice. "So
great a company could never have crowded into her."
"Fool!" one answered,"there may have been other boats."
So they looked again, and beneath the thin coating of rime, found
a mark in the mud by the Staithe, made by the prow of a large
boat, and not far from it a hole in the earth into which a peg
had been driven to make her fast.
Now the thing seemed clear enough, but it was to be made yet
clearer, for presently, even through the driving snow, the quick
eye of Wulf caught sight of some glittering thing which hung to
the edge of a clump of dead reeds. A man with a lance lifted it
out at his command, and gave it to him.
"I thought so," he said in a heavy voice; "it is a fragment of
that star-wrought veil which was my Christmas gift to Rosamund,
and she has torn it off and left it here to show us her road. To
St. Peter's-on-the-Wall! To St. Peter's, I say, for there the
boats or ship must pass, and maybe that in the darkness they have
not yet won out to sea."
So they turned their horses' heads, and those of them that were
mounted rode for St. Peter's by the inland path that runs through
Steeple St. Lawrence and Bradwell town, while those who were
not, started to search along the Saltings and the river bank. On
they galloped through the falling snow, Godwin and Wulf leading
the way, whilst behind them thundered an ever-gathering
train of knights, squires and yeomen, who had seen the beacon
flare on Steeple tower, or learned the tale from messengers--yes,
and even of monks from Stangate and traders from Southminster.
Hard they rode, but the lanes were heavy with fallen snow and mud
beneath, and the way was far, so that an hour had gone by before
Bradwell was left behind, and the shrine of St. Chad lay but half
a mile in front. Now of a sudden the snow ceased, and a strong
northerly wind springing up, drove the thick mist before it and
left the sky hard and blue behind. Still riding in this mist,
they pressed on to where the old tower loomed in front of them,
then drew rein and waited.
"What is that?" said Godwin presently, pointing to a great, dim
thing upon the vapour-hidden sea.
As he spoke a strong gust of wind tore away the last veils of
mist, revealing the red face of the risen sun, and not a hundred
yards away from them--for the tide was high--the tall masts of a
galley creeping out to sea beneath her banks of oars. As they
stared the wind caught her, and on the main-mast rose her
bellying sail, while a shout of laughter told them that they
themselves were seen. They shook their swords in the madness of
their rage, knowing well who was aboard that galley; while to the
fore peak ran up the yellow flag of Saladin, streaming there
like gold in the golden sunlight.
Nor was this all, for on the high poop appeared the tall shape of
Rosamund herself, and on one side of her, clad now in coat of
mail and turban, the emir Hassan, whom they had known as the
merchant Georgios, and on the other, a stout man, also clad in
mail, who at that distance looked like a Christian knight.
Rosamund stretched out her arms towards them. Then suddenly she
sprang forward as though she would throw herself into the sea,
had not Hassan caught her by the arm and held her back, whilst
the other man who was watching slipped between her and the
In his fury and despair Wulf drove his horse into the water till
the waves broke about his middle, and there, since he could go no
further, sat shaking his sword and shouting:
"Fear not! We follow! we follow!" in such a voice of thunder,
that even through the wind and across the everwidening space of
foam his words may have reached the ship. At least Rosamund
seemed to hear them, for she tossed up her arms as though in
But Hassan, one hand pressed upon his heart and the other on his
forehead, only bowed thrice in courteous farewell.
Then the great sail filled, the oars were drawn in, and the
vessel swept away swiftly across the dancing waves, till at
length she vanished, and they could only see the sunlight playing
on the golden banner of Saladin which floated from her truck.
Chapter Eight: The Widow Masouda
Many months had gone by since the brethren sat upon their horses
that winter morning, and from the shrine of St.
Peter's-on-the-Wall, at the mouth of the Blackwater in Essex,
watched with anguished hearts the galley of Saladin sailing
southwards; their love and cousin, Rosamund, standing a prisoner
on the deck. Having no ship in which to follow her--and this,
indeed, it would have been too late to do--they thanked those who
had come to aid them, and returned home to Steeple, where they
had matters to arrange. As they went they gathered from this man
and that tidings which made the whole tale clear to them.
They learned, for instance, then and afterwards, that the galley
which had been thought to be a merchantman put into the river
Crouch by design, feigning an injury to her rudder, and that on
Christmas eve she had moved up with the tide, and anchored in the
Blackwater about three miles from its mouth. Thence a great boat,
which she towed behind her, and which was afterwards found
abandoned, had rowed in the dusk, keeping along the further shore
to avoid observation, to the mouth of Steeple Creek, which she
descended at dark, making fast to the Staithe, unseen of any. Her
crew of thirty men or more, guided by the false palmer Nicholas,
next hid themselves in the grove of trees about fifty yards from
the house, where traces of them were found afterwards, waiting
for the signal, and, if that were necessary, ready to attack and
burn the Hall while all men feasted there. But it was not
necessary, since the cunning scheme of the drugged wine, which
only an Eastern could have devised, succeeded. So it happened
that the one man they had to meet in arms was an old knight, of
which doubtless they were glad, as their numbers being few, they
wished to avoid a desperate battle, wherein many must fall, and,
if help came, they might be all destroyed.
When it was over they led Rosamund to the boat, felt their way
down the creek, towing behind them the little skiff which they
had taken from the water-house--Iaden with their dead and
wounded. This, indeed, proved the most perilous part of their
adventures, since it was very dark, and came on to snow; also
twice they grounded upon mud banks. Still guided by Nicholas, who
had studied the river, they reached the galley before dawn, and
with the first light weighed anchor, and very cautiously rowed
out to sea. The rest is known.
Two days later, since there was no time to spare, Sir Andrew was
buried with great pomp at Stangate Abbey, in the same tomb where
lay the heart of his brother, the father of the brethren, who had
fallen in the Eastern wars. After he had been laid to rest amidst
much lamentation and in the presence of a great concourse of
people, for the fame of these strange happenings had travelled
far and wide, his will was opened. Then it was found that with
the exception of certain sums of money left to his nephews, a
legacy to Stangate Abbey, and another to be devoted to masses for
the repose of his soul, with some gifts to his servants and the
poor, all his estate was devised to his daughter Rosamund. The
brethren, or the survivor of them, however, held it in trust on
her behalf, with the charge that they should keep watch and ward
over her, and manage her lands till she took a husband.
These lands, together with their own, the brethren placed in the
hands of Prior John of Stangate, in the presence of witnesses, to
administer for them subject to the provisions of the will, taking
a tithe of the rents and profits for his pains. The priceless
jewels also that had been sent by Saladin were given into his
keeping, and a receipt with a list of the same signed in
duplicate, deposited with a clerk at Southminster. This, indeed,
was necessary, seeing that none save the brethren and the Prior
knew of these jewels, of which, being of so great a value, it was
not safe to speak. Their affairs arranged, having first made
their wills in favour of each other with remainder to their
heirs-at-law, since it was scarcely to be hoped that both of them
would return alive from such a quest, they received the
Communion, and with it his blessing from the hands of the Prior
John. Then early one morning, before any were astir, they rode
quietly away to London.
On the top of Steeple Hill, sending forward the servant who led
the mule laden with their baggage--that same mule which had been
left by the spy Nicholas--the brethren turned their horses' heads
to look in farewell on their home. There to the north of them lay
the Blackwater, and to the west the parish of Mayland, towards
which the laden barges crept along the stream of Steeple Creek.
Below was the wide, flat, plain outlined with trees, and in it,
marked by the plantation where the Saracens had hid, the Hall and
church of Steeple, the home in which they had grown from
childhood to youth, and from youth to man's estate in the company
of the fair, lost Rosamund, who was the love of both, and whom
both went forth to seek. That past was all behind them, and in
front a dark and troublous future, of which they could not read
the mystery nor guess the end.
Would they ever look on Steeple Hall again? Were they who stood
there about to match their strength and courage against all the
might of Saladin, doomed to fail or gloriously to succeed?
Through the darkness that shrouded their forward path shone one
bright star of love--but for which of them did that star shine,
or was it perchance for neither? They knew not. How could they
know aught save that the venture seemed very desperate. Indeed,
the few to whom they had spoken of it thought them mad. Yet they
remembered the last words of Sir Andrew, bidding them keep a high
heart, since he believed that things would yet go well. It seemed
to them, in truth, that they were not quite alone--as though his
brave spirit companioned them on their search, guiding their
feet, with ghostly counsel which they could not hear.
They remembered also their oaths to him, to one another, and to
Rosamund; and in silent token that they would keep them to the
death, pressed each other's hands. Then, turning their horses
southwards, they rode forward with light hearts, not caring what
befell, if only at the last, living or dead, Rosamund and her
father should, in his own words, find no cause to be ashamed of
Through the hot haze of a July morning a dromon, as certain
merchant vessels of that time were called, might have been seen
drifting before a light breeze into St. George's Bay at Beirut,
on the coast of Syria. Cyprus, whence she had sailed last, was
not a hundred miles away, yet she had taken six days to do the
journey, not on account of storms--of which there were none at
this time of year, but through lack of wind to move her. Still,
her captain and the motley crowd of passengers--for the most part
Eastern merchants and their servants, together with a number of
pilgrims of all nations-- thanked God for so prosperous a
voyage--for in those times he who crossed the seas without
shipwreck was very fortunate.
Among these passengers were Godwin and Wulf, travelling, as their
uncle had bidden them, unattended by squires or by servants. Upon
the ship they passed themselves off as brothers named Peter and
John of Lincoln, a town of which they knew something, having
stayed there on their way to the Scottish wars; simple gentlemen
of small estate, making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in
penitence for their sins and for the repose of the souls of their
father and mother. At this tale their fellow-passengers, with
whom they had sailed from Genoa, to which place they travelled
overland, shrugged their shoulders. For these brethren looked
what they were, knights of high degree; and considering their
great stature, long swords, and the coats of mail they always
wore beneath their gambesons, none believed them but plain
gentlefolk bent on a pious errand. Indeed, they nicknamed them
Sir Peter and Sir John, and as such they were known throughout
The brethren were seated together in a little place apart in the
bow of the ship, and engaged, Godwin in reading from an Arabic
translation of the Gospels made by some Egyptian monk, and Wulf
in following it with little ease in the Latin version. Of the
former tongue, indeed, they had acquired much in their youth,
since they learned it from Sir Andrew with Rosamund, although
they could not talk it as she did, who had been taught to lisp it
as an infant by her mother. Knowing, too, that much might hang
upon a knowledge of this tongue, they occupied their long journey
in studying it from such books as they could get; also in
speaking it with a priest, who had spent many years in the East,
and instructed them for a fee, and with certain Syrian merchants
"Shut the book, brother," said Wulf; "there is Lebanon at last,"
and he pointed to the great line of mountains revealing
themselves dimly through their wrappings of mist. "Glad I am to
see them, who have had enough of these crooked scrolls and
"Ay," said Godwin, "the Promised Land."
"And the Land of Promise for us," answered his brother. "Well,
thank God that the time has come to act, though how we are to set
about it is more than I can say."
"Doubtless time will show. As our uncle bade, we will seek out
this Sheik Jebal---"
"Hush!" said Wulf, for just then some merchants, and with them a
number of pilgrims, their travel-worn faces full of rapture at
the thought that the terrors of the voyage were done, and that
they were about to set foot upon the ground their Lord had
trodden, crowded forward to the bow to obtain their first view of
it, and there burst into prayers and songs of thanksgiving.
Indeed, one of these men--a trader known as Thomas of
Ipswich--was, they found, standing close to them, and seemed as
though he listened to their talk.
The brethren mingled with them while this same Thomas of Ipswich,
who had visited the place before, or so it seemed, pointed out
the beauties of the city, of the fertile country by which it was
surrounded, and of the distant cedar-clad mountains where, as he
said, Hiram, King of Tyre, had cut the timber for Solomon's
"Have you been on them?" asked Wulf.
"Ay, following my business," he answered, "so far." And he showed
them a great snow-capped peak to the north. "Few ever go
"Why not?" asked Godwin.
"Because there begins the territory of the Sheik Al-je-bal"--and
he looked at them meaningly--"whom," he added, "neither Christian
nor Saracen visit without an invitation, which is seldom given."
Again they inquired why not.
"Because," answered the trader, still watching them, "most men
love their lives, and that man is the lord of death and magic.
Strange things are to be seen in his castle, and about it lie
wonderful gardens inhabited by lovely women that are evil
spirits, who bring the souls of men to ruin. Also, this Old Man
of the Mountain is a great murderer, of whom even all the
princes of the East are terrified, for he speaks a word to his
fedais--or servants --who are initiated, and they go forth and
bring to death any whom he hates. Young men, I like you well, and
I say to you, be warned. In this Syria there are many wonders to
be seen; leave those of Masyaf and its fearful lord alone if you
desire to look again upon--the towers of Lincoln.
"Fear not; we will," answered Godwin, "who come to seek holy
places--not haunts of devils."
"Of course we will," added Wulf. "Still, that country must be
worth travelling in."
Then boats came out to greet them from the shore--for at that
time Beirut was in the hands of the Franks--and in the shouting
and confusion which followed they saw no more of this merchant
Thomas. Nor did they seek him out again, since they thought it
unwise to show themselves too curious about the Sheik Al-je-bal.
Indeed, it would have been useless, since that trader was ashore
two full hours before they were suffered to leave the ship, from
which he departed alone in a private boat.
At length they stood in the motley Eastern crowd upon the quay,
wondering where they could find an inn that was quiet and of
cheap charges, since they did not wish to be considered persons
of wealth or importance. As they lingered here, somewhat
bewildered, a tall, veiled woman whom they had noted watching
them, drew near, accompanied by a porter, who led a donkey. This
man, without more ado, seized their baggage, and helped by other
porters began to fasten it upon the back of the donkey with great
rapidity, and when they would have forbidden him, pointed to the
"Your pardon," said Godwin to her at length and speaking in
French, "but this man--"
"Loads up your baggage to take it to my inn. It is cheap, quiet
and comfortable--things which I heard you say you required just
now, did I not?" she answered in a sweet voice, also speaking in
Godwin looked at Wulf, and Wulf at Godwin, and they began to
discuss together what they should do. When they had agreed that
it seemed not wise to trust themselves to the care of a strange
woman in this fashion, they looked up to see the donkey laden
with their trunks being led away by the porter.
"Too late to say no, I fear me," said the woman with a laugh, "so
you must be my guests awhile if you would not lose your-baggage.
Come, after so long a journey you need to wash and eat. Follow
me, sirs, I pray you."
Then she walked through the crowd, which, they noted, parted for
her as she went, to a post where a fine mule was tied. Loosing
it, she leaped to the saddle without help, and began to ride
away, looking back from time to time to see that they were
following her, as, indeed, they must.
"Whither go we, I wonder," said Godwin, as they trudged through
the sands of Beirut, with the hot sun striking on their heads.
"Who can tell when a strange woman leads?" replied Wulf, with a
At last the woman on the mule turned through a doorway in a wall
of unburnt brick, and they found them selves before the porch of
a white, rambling house which stood in a large garden planted
with mulberries, oranges and other fruit trees that were strange
to them, and was situated on the borders of the city.
Here the woman dismounted and gave the mule to a Nubian who was
waiting. Then, with a quick movement she unveiled herself, and
turned towards them as though to show her beauty. Beautiful she
was, of that there could be no doubt, with her graceful, swaying
shape, her dark and liquid eyes, her rounded features and
strangely impassive countenance. She was young also--perhaps
twenty-five, no more-- and very fair-skinned for an Eastern.
"My poor house is for pilgrims and merchants, not for famous
knights; yet, sirs, I welcome you to it," she said presently,
scanning them out of the corners of her eyes.
"We are but squires in our own country, who make the pilgrimage,"
replied Godwin. "For what sum each day will you give us board and
a good room to sleep in?"
"These strangers," she said in Arabic to the porter, "do not
speak the truth."
"What is that to you?" he answered, as he busied himself in
loosening the baggage. "They will pay their score, and all sorts
of mad folk come to this country, pretending to be what they are
not. Also you sought them--why, I know not--not they you."
"Mad or sane, they are proper men," said the impassive woman, as
though to herself, then added in French, "Sirs, I repeat, this is
but a humble place, scarce fit for knights like you, but if you
will honour it, the charge is--so much."
"We are satisfied," said Godwin, "especially," he added, with a
bow and removing the cap from his head, "as, having brought us
here without leave asked, we are sure that you will treat us who
are strangers kindly."
"As kindly as you wish--I mean as you can pay for," said the
woman. "Nay, I will settle with the porter; he would cheat you."
Then followed a wrangle five minutes long between this curious,
handsome, still-faced woman and the porter who, after the eastern
fashion, lashed himself into a frenzy over the sum she offered,
and at length began to call her by ill names.
She stood looking at him quite unmoved, although Godwin, who
understood all, but pretended to understand nothing, wondered at
her patience. Presently, however, in a perfect foam of passion he
said, or rather spat out: "No wonder, Masouda the Spy, that after
hiring me to do your evil work, you take the part of these
Christian dogs against a true believer, you child of Al-je-bal!"
Instantly the woman seemed to stiffen like a snake about to
"Who is he?" she said coldly. "Do you mean the lord--who kills?"
And she looked at him--a terrible look.
At that glance all the anger seemed to go out of the man.
"Your pardon, widow Masouda," he said. "I forgot that you are a
Christian, and naturally side with Christians. The money will
not pay for the wear of my ass's hoofs, but give it me, and let
me go to pilgrims who will reward me better."
She gave him the sum, adding in her quiet voice: "Go; and if you
love life, keep better watch over your words."
Then the porter went, and now so humble was his mien that in his
dirty turban and long, tattered robe he looked, Wulf thought,
more like a bundle of rags than a man mounted on the donkey's
back. Also it came into his mind that their strange hostess had
powers not possessed by innkeepers in England. When she had
watched him through the gate, Masouda turned to them and said in
"Forgive me, but here in Beirut these Saracen porters are
extortionate, especially towards us Christians. He was deceived
by your appearance. He thought that you were knights, not simple
pilgrims as you avow yourselves, who happen to be dressed and
armed like knights beneath your gambesons; and," she added,
fixing her eyes upon the line of white hair on Godwin's head
where the sword had struck him in the fray on Death Creek quay,
"show the wounds of knights, though it is true that a man might
come by such in any brawl in a tavern. Well, you are to pay me a
good price, and you shall have my best room while it pleases you
to honour me with your company. Ah! your baggage. You do not wish
to leave it. Slave. come here."
With startling suddenness the Nubian who had led away the mule
appeared, and took up some of the packages. Then she led them
down a passage into a large, sparsely-furnished room with high
windows, in which were two beds laid on the cement floor, and
asked them if it pleased them.
They said: "Yes; it will serve." Reading what passed in their
minds, she added: "Have no fear for your baggage. Were you as
rich as you say you are poor, and as noble as you say you are
humble, both it and you are safe in the inn of the widow Masouda,
O my guests--but how are you named?"
"Peter and John."
"O, my guests, Peter and John, who have come to visit the land of
Peter and John and other holy founders of our faith--"
"And have been so fortunate as to be captured on its shore by the
widow Masouda," answered Godwin, bowing again.
"Wait to speak of the fortune until you have done with her,
Sir--is it Peter, or John?" she replied, with something like a
smile upon her handsome face.
"Peter," answered Godwin. "Remember the pilgrim with the line of
white hair is Peter."
"You need it to distinguish you apart, who, I suppose, are twins.
Let me see--Peter has a line of white hair and grey eyes. John
has blue eyes. John also is the greater warrior, if a pilgrim can
be a warrior-- look at his muscles; but Peter thinks the more. It
would be hard for a woman to choose between Peter and John, who
must both of them be hungry, so I go to prepare their food."
"A strange hostess," said Wulf, laughing, when she had left the
room; "but I like her, though she netted us so finely. I wonder
why? What is more, brother Godwin, she likes you, which is as
well, since she may be useful. But, friend Peter, do not let it
go too far, since, like that porter, I think also that she may be
dangerous. Remember, he called her a spy, and probably she is
Godwin turned to reprove him, when the voice of the widow Masouda
was heard without saying:
"Brothers Peter and John, I forgot to caution you to speak low in
this house, as there is lattice-work over the doors to let in the
air. Do not be afraid. I only heard the voice of John, not what
"I hope not," muttered Wulf, and this time he spoke very low
Then they undid their baggage, and having taken from it clean
garments, washed themselves after their long journey with the
water that had been placed ready for them in great jars. This,
indeed, they needed, for on that crowded dromon there was little
chance of washing. By the time they had clothed themselves
afresh, putting on their shirts of mail beneath their tunics, the
Nubian came and led them to another room, large and lighted with
high-set lattices, where cushions were piled upon the floor round
a rug that also was laid upon the floor. Motioning them to be
seated on the cushions, he went away, to return again presently,
accompanied by Masouda bearing dishes upon brass platters. These
she placed before them, bidding them eat. What that food was they
did not know, because of the sauces with which it had been
covered, until she told them that it was fish.
After the fish came flesh, and after the flesh fowls, and after
the fowls cakes and sweetmeats and fruits, until, ravenous as
they were, who for days had fed upon salted pork and biscuits
full of worms washed down with bad water, they were forced to beg
her to bring no more.
"Drink another cup of wine at least," she said, smiling and
filling their mugs with the sweet vintage of Lebanon--for it
seemed to please her to see them eat so heartily of her fare.
They obeyed, mixing the wine with water. While they drank she
asked them suddenly what were their plans, and how long they
wished to stay in Beirut. They answered that for the next few
days they had none, as they needed to rest, to see the town and
its neighbourhood, and to buy good horses--a matter in which
perhaps she could help them. Masouda nodded again, and asked
whither they wished to ride on horses.
"Out yonder," said Wulf, waving his hand towards the mountains.
"We desire to look upon the cedars of Lebanon and its great hills
before we go on towards Jerusalem."
"Cedars of Lebanon?" she replied. "That is scarcely safe for two
men alone, for in those mountains are many wild beasts and wilder
people who rob and kill. Moreover, the lord of those mountains
has just now a quarrel with the Christians, and would take any
whom he found prisoners."
"How is that lord named?" asked Godwin.
"Sinan," she answered, and they noted that she looked round
quickly as she spoke the word.
"Oh," he said, "we thought the name was Jebal."
Now she stared at him with wide, wondering eyes, and replied:
"He is so called also; but, Sir Pilgrims, what know you of the
dread lord Al-je-bal?"
"Only that he lives at a place called Masyaf, which we wish to
Again she stared.
"Are you mad?" she queried, then checked herself, and clapped her
hands for the slave to remove the dishes. While this was being
done they said they would like to walk abroad.
"Good," answered Masouda, "the man shall accompany you--nay, it
is best that you do not go alone, as you might lose your way.
Also, the place is not always safe for strangers, however humble
they may seem," she added with meaning. "Would you wish to visit
the governor at the castle, where there are a few English
knights, also some priests who give advice to pilgrims?"
"We think not," answered Godwin;"we are not worthy of such high
company. But, lady, why do you look at us so strangely?"
"I am wondering, Sir Peter and Sir John, why you think it worth
while to tell lies to a poor widow? Say, in your own country did
you ever hear of certain twin brethren named--oh, how are they
named?--Sir Godwin and Sir Wulf, of the house of D'Arcy, which
has been told of in this land?"
Now Godwin's jaw dropped, but Wulf laughed out loud, and seeing
that they were alone in the room, for the slave had departed,
asked in his turn:
"Surely those twins would be pleased to find themselves so
famous. But how did you chance to hear of them, O widowed hostess
of a Syrian inn?"
"I? Oh, from a man on the dromon who called here while I made
ready your food, and told me a strange story that he had learned
in England of a band sent by Salah-ed-din--may his name be
accursed!--to capture a certain Iady. Of how the brethren named
Godwin and Wulf fought all that band also--ay, and held them
off--a very knightly deed he said it was--while the lady escaped;
and of how afterwards they were taken in a snare, as those are
apt to be who deal with the Sultan, and this time the lady was
"A wild tale truly," said Godwin. "But did this man tell you
further whether that lady has chanced to come to Palestine?"
She shook her head.
"Of that he told me nothing, and I have heard nothing. Now
listen, my guests. You think it strange that I should know so
much, but it is not strange, since here in Syria, knowledge is
the business of some of us. Did you then believe, O foolish
children, that two knights like you, who have played a part in a
very great story, whereof already whispers run throughout the
East, could travel by land and sea and not be known? Did you then
think that none were left behind to watch your movements and to
make report of them to that mighty one who sent out the ship of
war, charged with a certain mission? Well, what he knows I know.
Have I not said it is my business to know? Now, why do I tell you
this? Well, perhaps because I like such knights as you are, and I
like that tale of two men who stood side by side upon a pier
while a woman swam the stream behind them, and afterwards, sore
wounded, charged their way through a host of foes. In the East we
love such deeds of chivalry. Perhaps also because I would warn
you not to throw away lives so gallant by attempting to win
through the guarded gates of Damascus upon the maddest of all
"What, you still stare at me and doubt? Good, I have been telling
you lies. I was not awaiting you upon the quay, and that porter
with whom I seemed to quarrel was not charged to seize your
baggage and bring it to my house. No spies watched your movements
from England to Beirut. Only since you have been at dinner I
visited your room and read some writings which, foolishly, you
and John have left among your baggage, and opened some books in
which other names than Peter and John were written, and drew a
great sword from its scabbard on which was engraved a motto:
'Meet D 'Arcy, meet Death!' and heard Peter call John Wulf, and
John call Peter Godwin, and so forth."
"It seems," said Wulf in English, "that we are flies in a web,
and that the spider is called the widow Masouda, though of what
use we are to her I know not. Now, brother, what is to be done?
Make friends with the spider?"
"An ill ally," answered Godwin. Then looking her straight in the
face he asked, "Hostess, who know so much, tell me why, amongst
other names, did that donkey driver call you 'daughter of
She started, and answered:
"So you understand Arabic? I thought it. Why do you ask? What
does it matter to you?"
"Not much, except that, as we are going to visit Al-je-bal, of
course we think ourselves fortunate to have met his daughter."
"Going to visit Al-je-bal? Yes, you hinted as much upon the ship,
did you not? Perhaps that is why I came to meet you. Well, your
throats will be cut before ever you reach the first of his
"I think not," said Godwin, and, putting his hand into his
breast, he drew thence a ring, with which he began to play
"Whence that ring?" she said, with fear and wonder in her eyes.
"It is--" and she ceased.
"From one to whom it was given and who has charged us with a
message. Now, hostess, let us be plain with one another. You know
a great deal about us, but although it has suited us to call
ourselves the pilgrims Peter and John, in all this there is
nothing of which we need be ashamed, especially as you say that
our secret is no secret, which I can well believe. Now, this
secret being out, I propose that we remove ourselves from your
roof, and go to stay with our own people at the castle, where, I
doubt not, we shall be welcome, telling them that we would bide
no longer with one who is called a spy, whom we have discovered
also to be a 'daughter of Al-je-bal.' After which, perhaps, you
will bide no longer in Beirut, where, as we gather, spies and
the 'daughters of Al-je-bal' are not welcome."
She listened with an impassive face, and answered: "Doubtless you
have heard that one of us who was so named was burned here
recently as a witch?"
"Yes," broke in Wulf, who now learned this fact for the first
time, "we heard that."
"And think to bring a like fate upon me. Why, foolish men, I can
lay you both dead before ever those words pass your lips."
"You think you can," said Godwin, "but for my part I am sure that
this is not fated, and am sure also that you do not wish to harm
us any more than we wish to harm you. To be plain, then, it is
necessary for us to visit Al-je-bal. As chance has brought us
together--if it be chance--will you aid us in this, as I think
you can, or must we seek other help?"
"I do not know. I will tell you after four days. If you are not
satisfied with that, go, denounce me, do your worst, and I will
do mine, for which I should be sorry."
"Where is the security that you will not do it if we are
satisfied?" asked Wulf bluntly.
"You must take the word of a 'daughter of Al-je-bal.' I have none
other to offer," she replied.
"That may mean death," said Wulf.
"You said just now that was not fated, and although I have sought
your company for my own reasons, I have no quarrel with you--as
yet. Choose your own path. Still, I tell you that if you go, who,
chancing to know Arabic, have learned my secret, you die, and
that if you stay you are safe--at least while you are in this
house. I swear it on the token of Al-je-bal," and bending forward
she touched the ring in Godwin's hand, "but remember that for the
future I cannot answer."
Godwin and Wulf looked at each other. Then Godwin replied:
"I think that we will trust you, and stay," words at which she
smiled a little as though she were pleased, then said:
"Now, if you wish to walk abroad, guests Peter and John, I will
summon the slave to guide you, and in four days we will talk
more of this matter of your journey, which, until then, had best
So the man came, armed with a sword, and led them out, clad in
their pilgrims' robes, through the streets of this Eastern town,
where everything was so strange, that for awhile they forgot
their troubles in studying the new life about them. They noted,
moreover, that though they went into quarters where no Franks
were to be seen, and where fierce-looking servants of the Prophet
stared at them sourly, the presence of this slave of Masouda
seemed to be sufficient to protect them from affront, since on
seeing him even the turbaned Saracens nudged each other and
turned aside. In due course they came to the inn again, having
met no one whom they knew, except two pilgrims who had been their
fellow-passengers on the dromon. These men were astonished when
they said that they had been through the Saracen quarter of the
city, where, although this town was in the hands of the
Christians, it was scarcely thought safe for Franks to venture
without a strong guard.
When the brethren were back in their chamber, seated at the far
end of it, and speaking very low, lest they should be overheard,
they consulted together long and earnestly as to what they should
do. This was clear--they and something of their mission were
known, and doubtless notice of their coming would soon be given
to the Sultan Saladin. From the king and great Christian lords in
Jerusalem they could expect little help, since to give it might
be to bring about an open rupture with Saladin, such as the
Franks dreaded, and for which they were ill prepared. Indeed, if
they went to them, it seemed likely that they would be prevented
from stirring in this dangerous search for a woman who was the
niece of Saladin, and for aught they knew thrown into prison, or
shipped back to Europe. True, they might try to find their way to
Damascus alone, but if the Sultan was warned of their coming,
would he not cause them to be killed upon the road, or cast into
some dungeon where they would languish out their lives? The more
they spoke of these matters the more they were perplexed, till at
length Godwin said:
"Brother, our uncle bade us earnestly to seek out this
Al-je-bal, and though it seems that to do so is very dangerous, I
think that we had best obey him who may have been given foresight
at the last. When all paths are full of thorns what matter which
"A good saying," answered Wulf. "I am weary of doubts and
troublings. Let us follow our uncle's will, and visit this Old
Man of the Mountains, to do which I think the widow Masouda is
the woman to help us. If we die on that journey, well, at least
we shall have done our best."
Chapter Nine: The Horses Flame and Smoke
On the following morning, when they came into the eating-room of
the inn, Godwin and Wulf found they were no longer alone in the
house, for sundry other guests sat there partaking of their
morning meal. Among them were a grave merchant of Damascus,
another from Alexandria in Egypt, a man who seemed to be an Arab
chief, a Jew of Jerusalem, and none other than the English trader
Thomas of Ipswich, their fellow-passenger, who greeted them
Truly they seemed a strange and motley set of men. Considering
them as the young and stately widow Masouda moved from one to the
other, talking to each in turn while she attended to their wants,
it came into Godwin's mind that they might be spies meeting there
to gain or exchange information, or even to make report to their
hostess, in whose pay perhaps they were. Still if so, of this
they showed no sign. Indeed, for the most part they spoke in
French, which all of them understood, on general matters, such as
the heat of the weather, the price of transport animals or
merchandise, and the cities whither they purposed to travel.
The trader Thomas, it appeared, had intended to start for
Jerusalem that morning with his goods. But the riding mule he had
bought proved to be lame from a prick in the hoof, nor were all
his hired camels come down from the mountains, so that he must
wait a few days, or so he said.
Under these circumstances, he offered the brethren his company in
their ramblings about the town. This they thought it wise not to
refuse, although they felt little confidence in the man,
believing that it was he who had found out their story and true
names and revealed them to Masouda, either through talkativeness
or with a purpose.
However these things might be, this Thomas proved of service to
them, since, although he was but just landed, he seemed to know
all that had passed in Syria since he left it, and all that was
passing then. Thus he told them how Guy of Lusignan had just made
himself king in Jerusalem on the death of the child Baldwin, and
how Raymond of Tripoli refused to acknowledge him and was about
to be besieged in Tiberias. How Saladin also was gathering a
great host at Damascus to make war upon the Christians, and many
other things, false and true.
In his company, then, and sometimes in that of the other guests--
none of whom showed any curiosity concerning them, though
whether this was from good manners or for other reasons they
could not be sure--the brethren passed the hours profitably
It was on the third morning of their stay that their hostess
Masouda, with whom as yet they had no further private talk, asked
them if they had not said that they wished to buy horses. On
their answering "Yes," she added that she had told a certain man
to bring two for them to look at, which were now in the stable
beyond the garden. Thither they went, accompanied by Masouda, to
find a grave Arab, wrapped in a garment of camel's hair and
carrying a spear in his hand, standing at the door of the cave
which served the purpose of a stable, as is common in the East
where the heat is so great. As they advanced towards him, Masouda
"If you like the horses, leave me to bargain, and seem to
understand nothing of my talk."
The Arab, who took no notice of them, saluted Masouda, and said
to her in Arabic:
"Is it then for Franks that I have been ordered to bring the two
"What is that to you, my Uncle, Son of the Sand?" she asked. "Let
them be led forth that I may know whether they are those for
which I sent."
The man turned and called into the door of the cave.
"Flame, come hither!" As he spoke, there was a sound of hoofs,
and through the low archway leapt the most beautiful horse that
ever their eyes had seen. It was grey in colour, with flowing
mane and tail, and on its forehead was a black star; not over
tall, but with a barrel-like shape of great strength,
small-headed, large-eyed; wide-nostriled, big-boned, but fine
beneath the knee, and round-hoofed. Out it sprang snorting; then
seeing its master, the Arab, checked itself and stood still by
him as though it had been turned to stone.
"Come hither, Smoke," called the Arab again, and another horse
appeared and ranged itself by the first. In size and shape it was
the same, but the colour was coal-black and the star upon its
forehead white. Also the eye was more fiery.
"These are the horses," said the Arab, Masouda translating. "They
are twins, seven years old and never backed until they were
rising six, cast at a birth by the swiftest mare in Syria, and of
a pedigree that can be counted for a hundred years."
"Horses indeed!" said Wulf. "Horses indeed! But what is the price
Masouda repeated the question in Arabic, whereon the man replied
in the same tongue with a slight shrug of the shoulders.
"Be not foolish. You know this is no question of price, for they
are beyond price. Say what you will."
"He says," said Masouda, "that it is a hundred gold pieces for
the pair. Can you pay as much?"
The brethren looked at each other. The sum was large.
"Such horses have saved men's lives ere now," added Masouda, "and
I do not think that I can ask him to take less, seeing that, did
he but know it, in Jerusalem they could be sold for thrice as
much. But if you wish, I could lend you money, since doubtless
you have jewels or other articles of value you could give as
security--that ring in your breast, for instance, Peter."
"We have the gold itself," answered Wulf, who would have paid to
his last piece for those horses.
"They buy," said Masouda.
"They buy, but can they ride?" asked the Arab. "These horses are
not for children or pilgrims. Unless they can ride well they
shall not have them--no, not even if you ask it of me."
Godwin said that he thought so--at least, they would try. Then
the Arab, leaving the horses standing there, went into the
stable, and with the help of two of the inn servants, brought out
bridles and saddles unlike any they had seen. They were but
thickly-quilted pads stretching far back upon the horses' loins,
with strong hide girths strapped with wool and chased stirrups
fashioned like half hoofs. The bits also were only snaffles
When all was ready and the stirrups had been let down to the
length they desired, the Arab motioned to them to mount. As they
prepared to do so, however, he spoke some word, and suddenly
those meek, quiet horses were turned into two devils, which
reared up on their hind legs and threatened them with their teeth
and their front hoofs, that were shod with thin plates of iron.
Godwin stood wondering, but Wulf, who was angry at the trick, got
behind the horses, and watching his chance, put his hands upon
the flanks of the stallion named Smoke, and with one spring leapt
into the saddle. Masouda smiled, and even the Arab muttered
"Good," while Smoke, feeling himself backed, came to the ground
again and became quiet as a sheep. Then the Arab spoke to the
horse Flame, and Godwin was allowed to vault into the saddle
"Where shall we go?" he asked.
Masouda said they would show them, and, accompanied by her and
the Arab, they walked the horses until they were quite clear of
the town, to find themselves on a road that had the sea to the
left, and to the right a stretch of flat land, some of it
cultivated, above which rose the steep and stony sides of hills.
Here on this road the brethren trotted and cantered the horses to
and fro, till they began to be at home in their strange saddles
who from childhood had ridden barebacked in the Essex marshes,
and to learn what pressure on the bit was needed to check or turn
them. When they came back to where the pair stood, Masouda said
that if they were not afraid the seller wished to show them that
the horses were both strong and swift.
"We fear no ride that he dares to take himself," answered Wulf
angrily, whereon the Arab smiled grimly and said something in a
low voice to Masouda. Then, placing his hand upon Smoke's flank,
he leapt up behind Wulf, the horse never stirring.
"Say, Peter, are you minded to take a companion for this ride?"
asked Masouda; and as she spoke a strange look came into her
eyes, a wild look that was new to the brethren.
"Surely," answered Godwin, "but where is the companion?"
Her reply was to do as the Arab had done, and seating herself
straddle-legged behind Godwin, to clasp him around the middle
"Truly you look a pretty pilgrim now, brother," said Wulf,
laughing aloud, while even the grave Arab smiled and Godwin
muttered between his teeth the old proverb "Woman on croup, devil
on bow." But aloud he said, "I am indeed honoured; yet, friend
Masouda, if harm should come of this, do not blame me."
" No harm will come--to you, friend Peter; and I have been so
long cooped in an inn that I, who am desert-born, wish for a
gallop on the mountains with a good horse beneath me and a brave
knight in front. Listen, you brethren; you say you do not fear;
then leave your bridles loose, and where'er we go and whate'er we
meet seek not to check or turn the horses Flame and Smoke. Now,
Son of the Sand, we will test these nags of which you sing so
loud a song. Away, and let the ride be fast and far! "
"On your head be it then, daughter," answered the old Arab.
"Pray Allah that these Franks can sit a horse! "
Then his sombre eyes seemed to take fire, and gripping the
encircling saddle girth, he uttered some word of command, at
which the stallions threw up their heads and began to move at a
long, swinging gallop towards the mountains a mile away. At first
they went over cultivated land off which the crops had been
already cut, taking two or three ditches and a low wall in their
stride so smoothly that the brethren felt as though they were
seated upon swallows. Then came a space of sandy sward, half a
mile or more, where their pace quickened, after which they began
to breast the long slope of a hill, picking their way amongst its
stones like cats.
Ever steeper it grew, till in places it was so sheer that Godwin
must clutch the mane of Flame, and Masouda must cling close to
Godwin's middle to save themselves from slipping off behind. Yet,
notwithstanding the double weights they bore, those gallant
steeds never seemed to falter or to tire. At one spot they
plunged through a mountain stream. Godwin noted that not fifty
yards to their right this stream fell over a little precipice
cutting its way between cliffs which were full eighteen feet from
bank to bank, and thought to himself that had they struck it
lower down, that ride must have ended. Beyond the stream lay a
hundred yards or so of level ground, and above it still steeper
country, up which they pushed their way through bushes, till at
length they came to the top of the mountain and saw the plain
they had left Iying two miles or more below them.
"These horses climb hills like goats," Wulf said; "but one thing
is certain: we must lead them down."
Now on the top of the mountain was a stretch of land almost flat
and stoneless, over which they cantered forward, gathering speed
as the horses recovered their wind till the pace grew fast.
Suddenly the stallions threw themselves on to their haunches and
stopped, as well they might, for they were on the verge of a
chasm, at whose far foot a river brawled in foam. For a moment
they stood; then, at some word from the Arab, wheeled round, and,
bearing to the left, began to gallop back across the tableland,
until they approached the edge of the mountainside, where the
brethren thought that they would stop.
But Masouda cried to the Arab, and the Arab cried to the horses,
and Wulf cried to Godwin in the English tongue, "Show no fear,
brother. Where they go, we can go.
"Pray God that the girths may hold," answered Godwin, leaning
back against the breast of Masouda behind him. As he spoke they
began to descend the hill, slowly at first, afterwards faster and
yet more fast, till they rushed downwards like a whirlwind.
How did those horses keep their footing? They never knew, and
certainly none that were bred in England could have done so. Yet
never falling, never stumbling even, on they sped, taking great
rocks in their stride, till at length they reached the level
piece of land above the stream, or rather above the cleft full
eighteen feet in width at the foot of which that stream ran.
Godwin saw and turned cold. Were these folk mad that they would
put double-laden horses at such a jump? If they hung back, if
they missed their stride, if they caught hoof or sprang short,
swift death was their portion.
But the old Arab seated behind Wulf only shouted aloud, and
Masouda only tightened her round arms about Godwin's middle and
laughed in his ear. The horses heard the shout, and seeming to
see what was before them, stretched out their long necks and
rushed forward over the flat ground.
Now they were on the edge of the terrible place, and, like a man
in a dream, Godwin noted the sharp, sheer lips of the cliff, the
gulf between them, and the white foam of the stream a score of
yards beneath. Then he felt the brave horse Flame gather itself
together and next instant fly into the air like a bird.
Also--and was this dream indeed, or even as they sped over that
horrible pit did he feel a woman's lips pressed upon his cheek?
He was not sure. Who could have been at such a time, with death
beneath them? Perchance it was the wind that kissed him, or a
lock of her loose hair which struck across his face.
Indeed, at the moment he thought of other things than women's
lips-- those of the black and yawning gulf, for instance.
They swooped through the air, the white foam vanished, they were
safe. No; the hind feet of Flame had missed their footing, they
fell, they were lost. A struggle. How tight those arms clung
about him. How close that face was pressed against his own. Lo!
it was over. They were speeding down the hill, and alongside of
the grey horse Flame raced the black horse Smoke. Wulf on its
back, with eyes that seemed to be starting from his head, was
shouting, "A D'Arcy! A D'Arcy!" and behind him, turban gone, and
white burnous floating like a pennon on the air, the grim-visaged
Arab, who also shouted.
Swifter and yet swifter. Did ever horses gallop so fast? Swifter
and yet swifter, till the air sang past them and the ground
seemed to fly away beneath. The slope was done. They were on the
flat; the flat was past, they were in the fields; the fields were
left behind; and, behold! side by side, with hanging heads and
panting flanks, the horses Smoke and Flame stood still upon the
road, their sweating hides dyed red in the light of the sinking
The grip loosened from about Godwin's middle. It had been close;
on Masouda's round and naked arms were the prints of the steel
shirt beneath his tunic, for she slipped to the ground and stood
looking at them. Then she smiled one of her slow, thrilling
smiles, gasped and said: "You ride well, pilgrim Peter, and
pilgrim John rides well also, and these are good horses; and, oh!
that ride was worth the riding, even though death had been its
end. Son of the Sand, my Uncle, what say you?"
"That I grow old for such gallops--two on one horse, with
nothing to win."
"Nothing to win?" said Masouda. "I am not so sure!" and she
looked at Godwin. "Well, you have sold your horses to pilgrims
who can ride, and they have proved them, and I have had a change
from my cooking in the inn, to which I must now get me back
Wulf wiped the sweat from his brow, shook his head, and muttered:
"I always heard the East was full of madmen and devils; now I
know that it is true."
But Godwin said nothing.
They led the horses back to the inn, where the brethren groomed
them down under the direction of the Arab, that the gallant
beasts might get used to them, which, after carrying them upon
that fearful ride, they did readily enough. Then they fed them
with chopped barley, ear and straw together, and gave them water
to drink that had stood in the sun all day to warm, in which the
Arab mixed flour and some white wine.
Next morning at the dawn they rose to see how Flame and Smoke
fared after that journey. Entering the stable, they heard the
sound of a man weeping, and hidden in the shadow, saw by the low
light of the morning that it was the old Arab, who stood with his
back to them, an arm around the neck of each horse, which he
kissed from time to time. Moreover, he talked aloud in his own
tongue to them, calling them his children, and saying that rather
would he sell his wife and his sister to the Franks.
"But," he added, " she has spoken--why, I know not--and I must
obey. Well, at least they are gallant men and worthy of such
steeds. Half I hoped that you and the three of us and my niece
Masouda, the woman with the secret face and eyes that have looked
on fear, might perish in the cleft of the stream; but it was not
willed of Allah. So farewell, Flame, and farewell, Smoke,
children of the desert, who are swifter than arrows, for never
more shall I ride you in battle. Well, at least I have others of
your matchless blood."
Then Godwin touched Wulf on the shoulder, and they crept away
from the stable without the Arab knowing that they had been
there, for it seemed shameful to pry upon his grief. When they
reached their room again Godwin asked Wulf:
"Why does this man sell us those noble steeds?"
"Because his niece Masouda has bid him so to do," he answered.
"And why has she bidden him?"
"Ah!" replied Wulf. "He called her 'the woman with the secret
face and eyes that have looked on fear,' didn't he? Well, for
reasons that have to do with his family perhaps, or with her
secrets, or us, with whom she plays some game of which we know
neither the beginning nor the end. But, Brother Godwin, you are
wiser than I. Why do you ask me these riddles? For my part, I do
not wish to trouble my head about them. All I know is that the
game is a brave one, and I mean to go through with it, especially
as I believe that this playing will lead us to Rosamund."
"May it lead us nowhere worse," answered Godwin with something
like a groan, for he remembered that dream of his which he
dreamed in mid-air between the edges of black rock with the
bubbling foam beneath.
But to Wulf he said nothing of this dream.
When the sun was fully up they prepared to go out again, taking
with them the gold to pay the Arab; but on opening the door of
their room they met Masouda, apparently about to knock upon it.
"Whither go you, friends Peter and John, and so early?" she
asked, looking at them with a smile upon her beautiful face that
was so thrilling and seemed to hide so much mystery.
Godwin thought to himself that it was like another smile, that on
the face of the woman-headed, stone sphinx which they had seen
set up in the market place of Beirut.
"To visit our horses and pay your uncle, the Arab, his money,"
"Indeed! I thought I saw you do the first an hour ago, and as for
the second, it is useless; Son of the Sand has gone."
"Gone! With the horses?"
"Nay, he has left them behind."
"Did you pay him, then, lady?" asked Godwin.
It was easy to see that Masouda was pleased at this courteous
word, for her voice, which in general seemed a little hard,
softened as she answered, for the first time giving him his own
"Why do you call me 'lady,' Sir Godwin D'Arcy, who am but an
inn-keeper, for whom sometimes men find hard names ? Well,
perhaps I was a lady once before I became an inn-keeper; but now
I am--the widow Masouda, as you are the pilgrim Peter. Still, I
thank you for this--bad guess of yours." Then stepping back a
foot or two towards the door, which she had closed behind her,
she made him a curtsey so full of dignity and grace that any who
saw it must be sure that, wherever she might dwell, Masouda was
not bred in inns.
Godwin returned the bow, doffing his cap. Their eyes met and in
hers he learned that he had no treachery to fear from this woman,
whatever else he might have to fear. Indeed, from that moment,
however black and doubtful seemed the road, he would have trusted
his life to her; for this was the message written there, a
message which she meant that he should read. Yet at his heart he
felt terribly afraid.
Wulf, who saw something of all this and guessed more, also was
afraid. He wondered what Rosamund would have thought of it, if
she had seen that strange and turbulent look in the eyes of this
woman who had been a lady and was an inn-keeper; of one whom men
called Spy, and daughter of Satan, and child of Al-je-bal. To his
fancy that look was like a flash of lightning upon a dark night,
which for a second illumines some magical, unguessed landscape,
after which comes the night again, blacker than before.
Now the widow Masouda was saying in her usual somewhat hard
"No; I did not pay him. At the last he would take no money; but,
having passed it, neither would he break his word to knights who
ride so well and boldly. So I made a bargain with him on behalf
of both of you, which I expect that you will keep, since my good
faith is pledged, and this Arab is a chief and my kinsman. It is
this, that if you and these horses should live, and the time
comes when you have no more need of them, you will cause it to be
cried in the market-place of whatever town is nearest to you, by
the voice of the public crier, that for six days they stand to be
returned to him who lent them. Then if he comes not they can be
sold, which must not be sold or given away to any one without
this proclamation. Do you consent?"
"Ay," answered both of them, but Wulf added: "Only we should like
to know why the Arab, Son-of-the-Sand, who is your kinsman,
trusts his glorious horses to us in this fashion."
"Your breakfast is served, my guests," answered Masouda in tones
that rang like the clash of metal, so steely were they. Whereon
Wulf shook his head and followed her into the eating-room, which
was now empty again as it had been on the afternoon of their
Most of that day they spent with their horses. In the evening,
this time unaccompanied by Masouda, they rode out for a little
way, though rather doubtfully, since they were not sure that
these beasts which seemed to be almost human would not take the
bits between their teeth and rush with them back to the desert
whence they came. But although from time to time they looked
about them for their master, the Arab, whinnying as they looked,
this they did not do, or show vice of any kind; indeed, two
Iadies' palfreys could not have been more quiet. So the brethren
brought them home again, groomed, fed and fondled them, while
they pricked their ears, sniffing them all over, as though they
knew that these were their new lords and wished to make friends
The morrow was a Sunday, and, attended by Masouda's slave,
without whom she would not suffer them to walk in the town, the
brethren went to mass in the big church which once had been a
mosque, wearing pilgrim's robes over their mail.
"Do you not accompany us, who are of the faith?" asked Wulf.
"Nay," answered Masouda, "I am in no mood to make confession.
This day I count my beads at home."
So they went alone, and mingling with a crowd of humble persons
at the back of the church, which was large and dim, watched the
knights and priests of various nations struggling for precedence
of place beneath the dome. Also they heard the bishop of the town
preach a sermon from which they learnt much. He spoke at length
of the great coming war with Saladin, whom he named Anti-Christ.
Moreover, he prayed them all to compose their differences and
prepare for that awful struggle, lest in the end the Cross of
their Master should be trampled under foot of the Saracen, His
soldiers slain, His fanes desecrated, and His people slaughtered
or driven into the sea-- words of warning that were received in
"Four full days have gone by. Let us ask our hostess if she has
any news for us," said Wulf as they walked back to the inn.
"Ay, we will ask her," answered Godwin.
As it chanced, there was no need, for when they entered their
chamber they found Masouda standing in the centre of it,
apparently lost in thought.
"I have come to speak with you," she said, looking up. "Do you
still wish to visit the Sheik Al-je-bal?"
They answered "Yes."
"Good. I have leave for you to go; but I counsel you not to go,
since it is dangerous. Let us be open with one another. I know
your object. I knew it an hour before ever you set foot upon this
shore, and that is why you were brought to my house. You would
seek the help of the lord Sinan against Salah-ed-din, from whom
you hope to rescue a certain great lady of his blood who is your
kinswoman and whom both of you--desire in marriage. You see, I
have learned that also. Well, this land is full of spies, who
travel to and from Europe and make report of all things to those
who pay them enough. For instance--I can say it, as you will not
see him again--the trader Thomas, with whom you stayed in this
house, is such a spy. To him your story has been passed on by
other spies in England, and he passed it on to me."
"Are then you a spy also, as the porter called you?" asked Wulf
"I am what I am," she answered coldly. "Perhaps I also have sworn
oaths and serve as you serve. Who my master is or why I do so is
naught to you. But I like you well, and we have ridden together--
a wild ride. Therefore I warn you, though perhaps I should not
say so much, that the lord Al-je-bal is one who takes payment for
what he gives, and that this business may cost you your lives."
"You warned us against Saladin also," said Godwin, "so what is
left to us if we may dare a visit to neither?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "To take service under one of the
great Frankish lords and wait a chance that will never come. Or,
better still, to sew some cockle shells into your hats, go home
as holy men who have made the pilgrimage, marry the richest wives
that you can find, and forget Masouda the widow, and Al-je-bal
and Salah-ed-din and the lady about whom he has dreamed a dream.
Only then," she added in a changed voice, "remember, you must
leave the horses Flame and Smoke behind you."
"We wish to ride those horses," said Wulf lightly, and Godwin
turned on her with anger in his eyes.
"You seem to know our story," he said, "and the mission to which
we are sworn. What sort of knights do you think us, then, that
you offer us counsel which is fitter for those spies from whom
you learn your tidings? You talk of our lives. Well, we hold our
lives in trust, and when they are asked of us we will yield them
up, having done all that we may do."
"Well spoken," answered Masouda. "III should I have thought of
you had you said otherwise. But why would you go to Al-je-bal?"
"Because our uncle at his death bade us so to do without fail,
and having no other counsel we will take that of his spirit, let
come what may."
"Well spoken again! Then to Al-je-bal you shall go, and let come
what come may--to all three of us!"
"To all three of us?" said Wulf. "What, then, is your part in
"I do not know, but perhaps more than you think. At least, I must
be your guide."
"Do you mean to betray us?" asked Wulf bluntly.
She drew herself up and looked him in the eyes till he grew red,
"Ask your brother if he thinks that I mean to betray you. No; I
mean to save you, if I can, and it comes into my mind that before
all is done you will need saving, who speak so roughly to those
who would befriend you. Nay, answer not; it is not strange that
you should doubt. Pilgrims to the fearful shrine of Al-je-bal, if
it pleases you, we will ride at nightfall. Do not trouble about
food and such matters. I will make preparation, but we go alone
and secretly. Take only your arms and what garments you may need;
the rest I will store, and for it give you my receipt. Now I go
to make things ready. See, I pray of you, that the horses Flame
and Smoke are saddled by sunset."
At sundown, accordingly, the brethren stood waiting in their
room. They were fully armed beneath their rough pilgrims' robes,
even to the bucklers which had been hidden in their baggage. Also
the saddle-bags of carpet which Masouda had given them were
packed with such things as they must take, the rest having been
handed over to her keeping.
Presently the door opened, and a young man stood before them
clothed in the rough camel-hair garment, or burnous, which is
common m the East.
"What do you want?" asked Godwin.
"I want you, brothers Peter and John," was the reply, and they
saw that the slim young man was Masouda. "What! you English
innocents, do you not know a woman through a camel-hair cloak?"
she added as she led the way to the stable. "Well, so much the
better, for it shows that my disguise is good. Henceforth be
pleased to forget the widow Masouda and, until we reach the land
of Al-je-bal, to remember that I am your servant, a halfbreed
from Jaffa named David, of no religion--or of all."
In the stable the horses stood saddled, and near to them
another--a good Arab--and two laden Cyprian mules, but no
attendant was to be seen. They brought them out and mounted,
Masouda riding like a man and leading the mules, of which the
head of one was tied to the tail of the other. Five minutes later
they were clear of Beirut, and through the solemn twilight hush,
followed the road whereon they had tried the horses, towards the
Dog River, three leagues away, which Masouda said they would
reach by moonrise.
Soon it grew very dark, and she rode alongside of them to show
them the path, but they did not talk much. Wulf asked her who
would take care of the inn while she was absent, to which she
answered sharply that the inn would take care of itself, and no
more. Picking their way along the stony road at a slow amble,
they crossed the bed of two streams then almost dry, till at
length they heard running water sounding above that of the slow
wash of the sea to their left, and Masouda bade them halt. So
they waited, until presently the moon rose in a clear sky,
revealing a wide river in front, the pale ocean a hundred feet
beneath them to the left, and to the right great mountains, along
the face of which their path was cut. So bright was it that
Godwin could see strange shapes carven on the sheer face of the
rock, and beneath them writing which he could not read.
"What are these?" he asked Masouda.
"The tablets of kings," she answered, "whose names are written in
your holy book, who ruled Syria and Egypt thousands of years ago.
They were great in their day when they took this land, greater
even than Salah-ed-din, and now these seals which they set upon
this rock are all that is left of them."
Godwin and Wulf stared at the weather-worn sculptures, and in the
silence of that moonlit place there arose in their minds a vision
of the mighty armies of different tongues and peoples who had
stood in their pride on this road and looked upon yonder river
and the great stone wolf that guarded it, which wolf, so said the
legend, howled at the approach of foes. But now he howled no
more, for he lay headless beneath the waters, and there he lies
to this day. Well, they were dead, everyone of them, and even
their deeds were forgotten; and oh! how small the thought of it
made them feel, these two young men bent upon a desperate quest
in a strange and dangerous land. Masouda read what was passing in
their hearts, and as they came to the brink of the river, pointed
to the bubbles that chased each other towards the sea, bursting
and forming again before their eyes.
"Such are we," she said briefly; "but the ocean is always yonder,
and the river is always here, and of fresh bubbles there will
always be a plenty. So dance on life's water while you may, in
the sunlight, in the moonlight, beneath the storm, beneath the
stars, for ocean calls and bubbles burst. Now follow me, for I
know the ford, and at this season the stream is not deep. Pilgrim
Peter, ride you at my side in case I should be washed from the
saddle; and pilgrim John, come you behind, and if they hang back,
prick the mules with your sword point."
Thus, then, they entered the river, which many might have feared
to do at night, and, although once or twice the water rose to
their saddles and the mules were stubborn in the swift stream, in
the end gained the further bank in safety. Thence they pursued
their path through mountains till at length the sun rose and they
found themselves in a lonely land where no one was to be seen.
Here they halted in a grove of oaks, off-saddled their animals,
tethered and fed them with barley which they had brought upon a
mule, and ate of the food that Masouda had provided. Then, having
secured the beasts, they lay down to sleep, all three of them,
since Masouda said that here there was nothing to fear; and being
weary, slept on till the heat of noon was past, when once more
they fed the horses and mules, and having dined themselves, set
forward upon their way.
Now their road--if road it could be called, for they could see
none--ran ever upwards through rough, mountainous country, where
seemed to dwell neither man nor beast. At sunset they halted
again, and at moonrise went forward till the night turned
towards morning, when they came to a place where was a little
Before they reached this spot of a sudden the silence of those
lonely hills was broken by a sound of roaring, not very near to
them, but so loud and so long that it echoed and reechoed from
the cliff. At it the horses Flame and Smoke pricked their ears
and trembled, while the mules strove to break away and run back.
"What is that?" asked Wulf, who had never heard its like.
"Lions," answered Masouda. "We draw near the country where there
are many of them, and therefore shall do well to halt presently,
since it is best to pass through that land in daylight."
So when they came to the cave, having heard no more of the lion,
or lions, they unsaddled there, purposing to put the horses into
it, where they would be safe from the attack of any such ravening
beast. But when they tried to do this, Smoke and Flame spread out
their nostrils, and setting their feet firm before them, refused
to enter the place, about which there was an evil smell.
"Perhaps jackals have been here," said Masouda "Let us tether
them all in the open."
This then they did, building a fire in front of them with dry
wood that lay about in plenty, for here grew sombre cedar trees.
The brethren sat by this fire; but, the night being hot, Masouda
laid herself down about fifteen paces away under a cedar tree,
which grew almost in front of the mouth of the cave, and slept,
being tired with long riding. Wulf slept also, since Godwin had
agreed to keep watch for the first part of the night.
For an hour or more he sat close by the horses, and noted that
they fed uneasily and would not lie down. Soon, however, he was
lost in his own thoughts, and, as he heard no more of the lions,
fell to wondering over the strangeness of their journey and of
what the end of it might be. He wondered also about Masouda, who
she was, how she came to know so much, why she befriended them if
she really was a friend, and other things--for instance, of that
leap over the sunken stream; and whether-- no, surely he had been
mistaken, her eyes had never looked at him like that. Why, he was
sleeping at his post, and the eyes in the darkness yonder were
not those of a woman. Women's eyes were not green and gold; they
did not grow large, then lessen and vanish away.
Godwin sprang to his feet. As he thought, they were no eyes. He
had dreamed, that was all. So he took cedar boughs and threw them
on to the fire, where soon they flared gloriously, which done he
sat himself down again close to Wulf, who was lost in heavy
The night was very still and the silence so deep that it pressed
upon him like a weight. He could bear it no longer, and rising,
began to walk up and down in front of the cave, drawing his sword
and holding it in his hand as sentries do. Masouda lay upon the
ground, with her head pillowed on a saddle-bag, and the moonlight
fell through the cedar boughs upon her face. Godwin stopped to
look at it, and wondered that he had never noted before how
beautiful she was. Perhaps it was but the soft and silvery light
which clothed those delicate features with so much mystery and
charm. She might be dead, not sleeping; but even as he thought
this, life came into her face, colour stole up beneath the pale,
olive-hued skin, the red lips opened, seeming to mutter some
words, and she stretched out her rounded arms as though to clasp
a vision of her dream.
Godwin turned aside; it seemed not right to watch her thus,
although in truth he had only come to know that she was safe. He
went back to the fire, and lifting a cedar bough, which blazed
like a torch in his left hand, was about to lay it down again on
the centre of the flame, when suddenly he heard the sharp and
terrible cry of a woman in an agony of pain or fear, and at the
same moment the horses and mules began to plunge and snort. In an
instant, the blazing bough still in his hand, he was back by the
cave, and lo! there before him, the form of Masouda, hanging from
its jaws, stood a great yellow beast, which, although he had
never seen its like, he knew must be a lioness. It was heading
for the cave, then catching sight of him, turned and bounded away
in the direction of the fire, purposing to reenter the wood
But the woman in its mouth cumbered it, and running swiftly,
Godwin came face to face with the brute just opposite the fire.
He hurled the burning bough at it, whereon it dropped Masouda,
and rearing itself straight upon its hind legs, stretched out its
claws, and seemed about to fall on him. For this Godwin did not
wait. He was afraid, indeed, who had never before fought lions,
but he knew that he must do or die. Therefore he charged straight
at it, and with all the strength of his strong arm drove his long
sword into the yellow breast, till it seemed to him that the
steel vanished and he could see nothing but the hilt.
Then a shock, a sound of furious snarling, and down he went to
earth beneath a soft and heavy weight, and there his senses left
When they came back again something soft was still upon his face;
but this proved to be only the hand of Masouda, who bathed his
brow with a cloth dipped in water, while Wulf chafed his hands.
Godwin sat up, and in the light of the new risen sun, saw a dead
lioness Iying before him, its breast still transfixed with his
"So I saved you," he said faintly.
"Yes, you saved me," answered Masouda, and kneeling down she
kissed his feet; then rising again, with her long, soft hair
wiped away the blood that was running from a wound in his arm.
Chapter Ten: On Board the Galley
Rosamund was led from the Hall of Steeple across the meadow down
to the quay at Steeple Creek, where a great boat waited--that of
which the brethren had found the impress in the mud. In this the
band embarked, placing their dead and wounded, with one or two
to tend them, in the fishing skiff that had belonged to her
father. This skiff having been made fast to the stern of the
boat, they pushed off, and in utter silence rowed down the creek
till they reached the tidal stream of the Blackwater, where they
turned their bow seawards. Through the thick night and the
falling snow slowly they felt their way along, sometimes rowing,
sometimes drifting, while the false palmer Nicholas steered them.
The journey proved dangerous, for they could scarcely see the
shore, although they kept as close to it as they dared
The end of it was that they grounded on a mud bank, and, do what
they would, could not thrust themselves free. Now hope rose in
the heart of Rosamund, who sat still as a statue in the middle of
the boat, the prince Hassan at her side and the armed men--twenty
or thirty of them--all about her. Perhaps, she thought, they
would remain fast there till daybreak, and be seen and rescued
when the brethren woke from their drugged sleep. But Hassan read
her mind, and said to her gently enough:
"Be not deceived, lady, for I must tell you that if the worst
comes to the worst, we shall place you in the little skiff and go
on, leaving the rest to take their chance."
As it happened, at the full tide they floated off the bank and
drifted with the ebb down towards the sea. At the first break of
dawn she looked up, and there, looming large in the mist, lay a
galley, anchored in the mouth of the river. Giving thanks to
Allah for their safe arrival, the band brought her aboard and led
her towards the cabin. On the poop stood a tall man, who was
commanding the sailors that they should get up the anchor. As she
came he advanced to her, bowing and saying:
"Lady Rosamund, thus you find me once more, who doubtless you
never thought to see again."
She looked at him in the faint light and her blood went cold. It
was the knight Lozelle.
"You here, Sir Hugh?" she gasped.
"Where you are, there I am," he answered, with a sneer upon his
coarse, handsome face. "Did I not swear that it should be so,
beauteous Rosamund, after your saintly cousin worsted me in the
"You here?" she repeated, "you, a Christian knight, and in the
pay of Saladin!"
"In the pay of anyone who leads me to you, Rosamund." Then,
seeing the emir Hassan approach, he turned to give some orders to
the sailors, and she passed on to the cabin and in her agony fell
upon her knees.
When Rosamund rose from them she felt that the ship was moving,
and, desiring to look her last on Essex land, went out again upon
the poop, where Hassan and Sir Hugh placed themselves, one upon
either side of her. Then it was that she saw the tower of St.
Peter's-on-the-Wall and her cousins seated on horseback in front
of it, the light of the risen sun shining upon their mail. Also
she saw Wulf spur his horse into the sea, and faintly heard his
great cry of "Fear not! We follow, we follow!"
A thought came to her, and she sprang towards the bulwark; but
they were watching and held her, so that all that she could do
was to throw up her arms in token.
Now the wind caught the sail and the ship went forward swiftly,
so that soon she lost sight of them. Then in her grief and rage
Rosamund turned upon Sir Hugh Lozelle and beat him with bitter
words till he shrank before her.
"Coward and traitor!" she said. "So it was you who planned this,
knowing every secret of our home, where often you were a guest!
You who for Paynim gold have murdered my father, not daring to
show your face before his sword, but hanging like a thief upon
the coast, ready to receive what braver men had stolen. Oh! may
God avenge his blood and me on you, false knight--false to Him
and me and faith and honour--as avenge He will! Heard you not
what my kinsman called to me? 'We follow. We follow !' Yes, they
follow, and their swords--those swords you feared to look
on--shall yet pierce your heart and give up your soul to your
master Satan," and she paused, trembling with her righteous
wrath, while Hassan stared at her and muttered:
"By Allah, a princess indeed! So have I seen Salah-ed-din look in
his rage. Yes, and she has his very eyes."
But Sir Hugh answered in a thick voice.
"Let them follow--one or both. I fear them not and out there my
foot will not slip in the snow."
"Then I say that it shall slip in the sand or on a rock," she
answered, and turning, fled to the cabin and cast herself down
and wept till she thought that her heart would break.
Well might Rosamund weep whose beloved sire was slain, who was
torn from her home to fend herself in the power of a man she
hated. Yet there was hope for her. Hassan, Eastern trickster as
he might be, was her friend; and her uncle, Saladin, at least,
would never wish that she should be shamed. Most like he knew
nothing of this man Lozelle, except as one of those Christian
traitors who were ever ready to betray the Cross for gold. But
Saladin was far away and her home lay behind her, and her cousins
and lovers were eating out their hearts upon that fading shore.
And she--one woman alone--was on this ship with the evil man
Lozelle, who thus had kept his promise, and there were none save
Easterns to protect her, none save them--and God, Who had
permitted that such things should be.
The ship swayed, she grew sick and faint. Hassan brought her
food with his own hands, but she loathed it who only desired to
die. The day turned to night, the night turned to day again, and
always Hassan brought her food and strove to comfort her, till at
length she remembered no more.
Then came a long, long sleep, and in the sleep dreams of her
father standing with his face to the foe and sweeping them down
with his long sword as a sickle sweeps corn--of her father felled
by the pilgrim knave, dying upon the floor of his own house, and
saying "God will guard you. His will be done." Dreams of Godwin
and Wulf also fighting to save her, plighting their troths and
swearing their oaths, and between the dreams blackness.
Rosamund awoke to feel the sun streaming warmly through the
shutter of her cabin, and to see a woman who held a cup in her
hand, watching her--a stout woman of middle age with a not
unkindly face. She looked about her and remembered all. So she
was still in the ship.
"Whence come you?" she asked the woman.
"From France, lady. This ship put in at Marseilles, and there I
was hired to nurse one who lay sick, which suited me very well,
as I wished to go to Jerusalem to seek my husband, and good money
was offered me. Still, had I known that they were all Saracens on
this ship, I am not sure that I should have come--that is, except
the captain, Sir Hugh, and the palmer Nicholas; though what they,
or you either, are doing in such company I cannot guess."
"What is your name?" asked Rosamund idly.
"Marie--Marie Bouchet. My husband is a fishmonger, or was, until
one of those crusading priests got hold of him and took him off
to kill Paynims and save his soul, much against my will. Well, I
promised him that if he did not return in five years I would come
to look for him. So here I am, but where he may be is another
"It is brave of you to go," said Rosamund, then added by an
afterthought, "How long is it since we left Marseilles?"
Marie counted on her fat fingers, and answered:
"Five--nearly six weeks. You have been wandering in your mind all
that time, talking of many strange things, and we have called at
three ports. I forget their names, but the last one was an island
with a beautiful harbour. Now, in about twenty days, if all goes
well, we should reach another island called Cyprus. But you must
not talk so much, you must sleep. The Saracen called Hassan, who
is a clever doctor, told me so."
So Rosamund slept, and from that time forward, floating on the
calm Mediterranean sea, her strength began to come back again
rapidly, who was young and strong in body and constitution.
Three days later she was helped to the deck, where the first man
she saw was Hassan, who came forward to greet her with many
Eastern salutations and joy written on his dark, wrinkled face.
"I give thanks to Allah for your sake and my own," he said. "For
yours that you still live whom I thought would die, and for
myself that had you died your life would have been required at my
hands by Salah-ed-din, my master."
"If so, he should have blamed Azrael, not you," answered
Rosamund, smiling; then suddenly turned cold, for before her was
Sir Hugh Lozelle, who also thanked Heaven that she had recovered.
She listened to him coldly, and presently he went away, but soon
was at her side again. Indeed, she could never be free of him,
for whenever she appeared on deck he was there, nor could he be
repelled, since neither silence nor rebuff would stir him. Always
he sat near, talking in his false, hateful voice, and devouring
her with the greedy eyes which she could feel fixed upon her
face. With him often was his jackal, the false palmer Nicholas,
who crawled about her like a snake and strove to flatter her,
but to this man she would never speak a word.
At last she could bear it no longer, and when her health had
returned to her, summoned Hassan to her cabin.
"Tell me, prince," she said, "who rules upon this vessel?"
"Three people," he answered, bowing. "The knight, Sir Hugh
Lozelle, who, as a skilled navigator, is the captain and rules
the sailors; I, who rule the fighting men; and you, Princess, who
rule us all."
"Then I command that the rogue named Nicholas shall not be
allowed to approach me. Is it to be borne that I must associate
with my father's murderer? "
"I fear that in that business we all had a hand, nevertheless
your order shall be obeyed. To tell you the truth, lady, I hate
the fellow, who is but a common spy."
"I desire also," went on Rosamund, "to speak no more with Sir
"That is more difficult," said Hassan, "since he is the captain
whom my master ordered me to obey in all things that have to do
with the ship."
"I have nothing to do with the ship," answered Rosamund; "and
surely the princess of Baalbec, if so I am, may choose her own
companions. I wish to see more of you and less of Sir Hugh
"I am honoured," replied Hassan, "and will do my best."
For some days after this, although he was always watching her,
Lozelle approached Rosamund but seldom, and whenever he did so he
found Hassan at her side, or rather standing behind her like a
At length, as it chanced, the prince was taken with a sickness
from drinking bad water which held him to his bed for some days,
and then Lozelle found his opportunity. Rosamund strove to keep
her cabin to avoid him, but the heat of the summer sun in the
Mediterranean drove her out of it to a place beneath an awning on
the poop, where she sat with the woman Marie. Here Lozelle
approached her, pretending to bring her food or to inquire after
her comfort, but she would answer him nothing. At length, since
Marie could understand what he said in French, he addressed her
in Arabic, which he spoke well, but she feigned not to understand
him. Then he used the English tongue as it was talked among the
common people in Essex, and said:
"Lady, how sorely you misjudge me. What is my crime against you?
I am an Essex man of good lineage, who met you in Essex and
learnt to love you there. Is that a crime, in one who is not
poor, who, moreover, was knighted for his deeds by no mean hand?
Your father said me nay, and you said me nay, and, stung by my
disappointment and his words--for he called me sea-thief and
raked up old tales that are not true against me--I talked as I
should not have done, swearing that I would wed you yet in spite
of all. For this I was called to account with justice, and your
cousin, the young knight Godwin, who was then a squire, struck me
in the face. Well, he worsted and wounded me, fortune favouring
him, and I departed with my vessel to the East, for that is my
business, to trade between Syria and England.
"Now, as it chanced, there being peace at the time between the
Sultan and the Christians, I visited Damascus to buy merchandise.
Whilst I was there Saladin sent for me and asked if it were true
that I belonged to a part of England called Essex. When I
answered yes, he asked if I knew Sir Andrew D'Arcy and his
daughter. Again I said yes, whereon he told me that strange tale
of your kinship to him, of which I had heard already; also a
still stranger tale of some dream that he had dreamed concerning
you, which made it necessary that you should be brought to his
court, where he was minded to raise you to great honour. In the
end, he offered to hire my finest ship for a large sum, if I
would sail it to England to fetch you; but he did not tell me
that any force was to be used, and I, on my part, said that I
would lift no hand against you or your father, nor indeed have I