Part 6 out of 8
So they sat down on the divan and obeyed, keeping nothing back
from the beginning to the end, nor, although the tale was long,
did the Sultan weary of listening.
"A great story, truly," he said, when at length they had
finished, "and one in which I seem to see the hand of Allah. Sir
Knights, you will think that I have wronged you--ay, and your
uncle, Sir Andrew, who was once my friend, although an older man
than I, and who, by stealing away my sister, laid the foundations
of this house of love and war and woe, and perchance of happiness
"Now listen. The tale that those two Frankish knaves, the priest
and the false knight Lozelle, told to you was true. As I wrote to
your uncle in my letter, I dreamed a dream. Thrice I dreamed it;
that this niece of mine lived, and that if I could bring her here
to dwell at my side she should save the shedding of much blood by
some noble deed of hers--ay, of the blood of tens of thousands;
and in that dream I saw her face. Therefore I stretched out my
arm and took her from far away. And now, through you--yes,
through you--she has been snatched from the power of the great
Assassin, and is safe in my court, and therefore henceforth I am
"Sire, have you seen her?" asked Godwin.
"Knights, I have seen her, and the face is the face of my dreams,
and therefore I know full surely that in those dreams God spoke.
Listen, Sir Godwin and Sir Wulf," Saladin went on in a changed
voice, a stern, commanding voice. "Ask of me what you will, and,
Franks though you are, it shall be given you for your service's
sake--wealth, lands, titles, all that men desire and I can
grant--but ask not of me my niece, Rose of the World, princess of
Baalbec, whom Allah has brought to me for His own purposes. Know,
moreover, that if you strive to steal her away you shall
certainly die; and that if she escapes from me and I recapture
her, then she shall die. These things I have told her already,
and I swear them in the name of Allah. Here she is, and in my
house she must abide until the vision be fulfilled."
Now in their dismay the brethren looked at each other, for they
seemed further from their desire than they had been even in the
castle of Sinan. Then a light broke upon the face of Godwin, and
he stood up and answered:
"Dread lord of all the East, we hear you and we know our risk.
You have given us your friendship; we accept it, and are
thankful, and seek no more. God, you say, has brought our lady
Rosamund to you for His own purposes, of which you have no doubt
since her face is the very face of your dreams. Then let His
purposes be accomplished according to His will, which may be in
some way that we little guess. We abide His judgment Who has
guided us n the past, and will guide us in the future."
"Well spoken," replied Saladin. "I have warned you, my guests,
therefore blame me not if I keep my word; but I ask no promise
from you who would not tempt noble knights to lie. Yes, Allah has
set this strange riddle; by Allah let it be answered in His
Then he waved his hand to show that the audience was ended.
Chapter Seventeen: The Brethren Depart from Damascus
At the court of Saladin Godwin and Wulf were treated with much
honour. A house was given them to dwell in, and a company of
servants to minister to their comfort and to guard them. Mounted
on their swift horses, Flame and Smoke, they were taken out into
the desert to hunt, and, had they so willed, it would have been
easy for them to out-distance their retinue and companions and
ride away to the nearest Christian town. Indeed, no hand would
have been lifted to stay them who were free to come or go. But
whither were they to go without Rosamund?
Saladin they saw often, for it pleased him to tell them tales of
those days when their father and uncle were in the East, or to
talk with them of England and the Franks, and even now and again
to reason with Godwin on matters of religion. Moreover, to show
his faith in them, he gave them the rank of officers of his own
bodyguard, and when, wearying of idleness, they asked it of him,
allowed them to take their share of duty in the guarding of his
palace and person. This, at a time when peace still reigned
between Frank and Saracen, the brethren were not ashamed to do,
who received no payment for their services.
Peace reigned indeed, but Godwin and Wulf could guess that it
would not reign for long. Damascus and the plain around it were
one great camp, and every day new thousands of wild tribesmen
poured in and took up the quarters that had been prepared for
them. They asked Masouda, who knew everything, what it meant. She
"It means the jihad, the Holy War, which is being preached in
every mosque throughout the East. It means that the great
struggle between Cross and Crescent is at hand, and then,
pilgrims Peter and John, you will have to choose your standard.
"There can be little doubt about that," said Wulf.
"None," replied Masouda, with one of her smiles, "only it may
pain you to have to make war upon the princess of Baalbec and her
uncle, the Commander of the Faithful."
Then she went, still smiling. For this was the trouble of it:
Rosamund, their cousin and their love, had in truth become the
princess of Baalbec--for them. She lived in great state and
freedom, as Saladin had promised that she should live in his
letter to Sir Andrew D'Arcy. No insult or violence were offered
to her faith; no suitor was thrust upon her. But she was in a
land where women do not consort with men, especially if they be
high-placed. As a princess of the empire of Saladin, she must
obey its rules, even to veiling herself when she went abroad, and
exchanging no private words with men. Godwin and Wulf prayed
Saladin that they might be allowed to speak with her from time to
time, but he only answered shortly:
"Sir Knights, our customs are our customs. Moreover, the less you
see of the princess of Baalbec the better I think it will be for
her, for you, whose blood I do not wish to have upon my hands,
and for myself, who await the fulfilment of that dream which the
Then the brethren left his presence sore at heart, for although
they saw her from time to time at feasts and festivals, Rosamund
was as far apart from them as though she sat in Steeple
Hall--ay, and further. Also they came to see that of rescuing her
from Damascus there was no hope at all. She dwelt in her own
palace, whereof the walls were guarded night and day by a company
of the Sultan's Mameluks, who knew that they were answerable for
her with their lives. Within its walls, again, lived trusted
eunuchs, under the command of a cunning fellow named Mesrour,
and her retinue of women, all of them spies and watchful. How
could two men hope to snatch her from the heart of such a host
and to spirit her out of Damascus and through its encircling
One comfort, however, was left to them. When she reached the
court Rosamund had prayed of the Sultan that Masouda should not
be separated from her, and this because of the part she had
played in his niece's rescue from the power of Sinan, he had
granted, though doubtfully. Moreover, Masouda, being a person of
no account except for her beauty, and a heretic, was allowed to
go where she would and to speak with whom she wished. So, as she
wished to speak often with Godwin, they did not lack for tidings
>From her they learned that in a fashion the princess was happy
enough-- who would not be that had just escaped from
Al-je-bal?--yet weary of the strange Eastern life, of the
restraints upon her, and of her aimless days; vexed also that she
might not mix with the brethren. Day by day she sent them her
greetings, and with them warnings to attempt nothing-- not even
to see her--since there was no hope that they would succeed. So
much afraid of them was the Sultan, Rosamund said, that both she
and they were watched day and night, and of any folly their lives
would pay the price. When they heard all this the brethren began
to despair, and their spirits sank so low that they cared not
what should happen to them.
Then it was that a chance came to them of which the issue was to
make them still more admired by Saladin and to lift Masouda to
honour. One hot morning they were seated in the courtyard of
their house beside the fountain, staring at the passers-by
through the bars of the bronze gates and at the sentries who
marched to and fro before them. This house was in one of the
principal thoroughfares of Damascus, and in front of it flowed
continually an unending, many-coloured stream of folk.
There were white-robed Arabs of the desert, mounted on their
grumbling camels; caravans of merchandise from Egypt or
elsewhere; asses laden with firewood or the grey, prickly growth
of the wild thyme for the bakers' ovens; water-sellers with their
goatskin bags and chinking brazen cups; vendors of birds or
sweetmeats; women going to the bath in closed and curtained
litters, escorted by the eunuchs of their households; great lords
riding on their Arab horses and preceded by their runners, who
thrust the crowd asunder and beat the poor with rods; beggars,
halt, maimed, and blind, beseeching alms; lepers, from whom all
shrank away, who wailed their woes aloud; stately companies of
soldiers, some mounted and some afoot; holy men, who gave
blessings and received alms; and so forth, without number and
Godwin and Wulf, seated in the shade of the painted house,
watched them gloomily. They were weary of this ever-changing
sameness, weary of the eternal glare and glitter of this
unfamiliar life, weary of the insistent cries of the mullahs on
the minarets, of the flash of the swords that would soon be red
with the blood of their own people; weary, too, of the hopeless
task to which they were sworn. Rosamund was one of this
multitude; she was the princess of Baalbec, half an Eastern by
her blood, and growing more Eastern day by day--or so they
thought in their bitterness. As well might two Saracens hope to
snatch the queen of England from her palace at Westminster, as
they to drag the princess of Baalbec out of the power of a
monarch more absolute than any king of England.
So they sat silent since they had nothing to say, and stared now
at the passing crowd, and now at the thin stream of water falling
continually into the marble basin.
Presently they heard voices at the gate, and, looking up, saw a
woman wrapped in a long cloak, talking with the guard, who with a
laugh thrust out his arm, as though to place it round her. Then a
knife flashed, and the soldier stepped back, still laughing, and
opened the wicket. The woman came in. It was Masouda. They rose
and bowed to her, but she passed before them into the house.
Thither they followed, while the soldier at the gate laughed
again, and at the sound of his mockery Godwin's cheek grew red.
Even in the cool, darkened room she noticed it, and said,
"What does it matter? Such insults are my daily bread whom they
believe--" and she stopped.
"They had best say nothing of what they believe to me," muttered
"I thank you," Masouda answered, with a sweet, swift smile, and,
throwing off her cloak, stood before them unveiled, clad in the
white robes that befitted her tall and graceful form so well, and
were blazoned on the breast with the cognizance of Baalbec. "Well
for you," she went on, "that they hold me to be what I am not,
since otherwise I should win no entry to this house."
"What of our lady Rosamund?" broke in Wulf awkwardly, for, like
Godwin, he was pained.
Masouda laid her hand upon her breast as though to still its
heaving, then answered:
"The princess of Baalbec, my mistress, is well and as ever,
beautiful, though somewhat weary of the pomp in which she finds
no joy. She sent her greetings, but did not say to which of you
they should be delivered, so, pilgrims, you must share them.
Godwin winced, but Wulf asked if there were any hope of seeing
her, to which Masouda answered:
"None," adding, in a low voice, "I come upon another business. Do
you brethren wish to do Salah-ed-din a service?"
"I don't know. What is it?" asked Godwin gloomily.
"Only to save his life--for which he may be grateful, or may not,
according to his mood."
"Speak on," said Godwin, "and tell us how we two Franks can save
the life of the Sultan of the East."
"Do you still remember Sinan and his fedais? Yes--they are not
easily forgotten, are they? Well, to-night he has plotted to
murder Salah-ed-din, and afterwards to murder you if he can, and
to carry away your lady Rosamund if he can, or, failing that, to
murder her also. Oh! the tale is true enough. I have it from one
of them under the Signet--surely that Signet has served us
well--who believes, poor fool, that I am in the plot. Now, you
are the officers of the bodyguard who watch in the ante-chamber
to-night, are you not? Well, when the guard is changed at
midnight, the eight men who should replace them at the doors of
the room of Salah-ed-din will not arrive; they will be decoyed
away by a false order. In their stead will come eight murderers,
disguised in the robes and arms of Mameluks. They look to deceive
and cut you down, kill Salah-ed-din, and escape by the further
door. Can you hold your own awhile against eight men, think you?"
"We have done so before and will try," answered Wulf. "But how
shall we know that they are not Mameluks?"
"Thus--they will wish to pass the door, and you will say, 'Nay,
sons of Sinan,' whereon they will spring on you to kill you. Then
be ready and shout aloud."
"And if they overcome us," asked Godwin, "then the Sultan would
"Nay, for you must lock the door of the chamber of Salah-ed-din
and hide away the key. The sound of the fighting will arouse the
outer guard ere hurt can come to him. Or," she added, after
thinking awhile, "perhaps it will be best to reveal the plot to
the Sultan at once."
"No, no," answered Wulf; "let us take the chance. I weary of
doing nothing here. Hassan guards the outer gate. He will come
swiftly at the sound of blows."
"Good," said Masouda; "I will see that he is there and awake. Now
farewell, and pray that we may meet again. I say nothing of this
story to the princess Rosamund until it is done with." Then
throwing her cloak about her shoulders, she turned and went.
"Is that true, think you?" asked Wulf of Godwin.
"We have never found Masouda to be a liar," was his answer.
"Come; let us see to our armour, for the knives of those fedai
It was near midnight, and the brethren stood in the small, domed
ante-chamber, from which a door opened into the sleeping rooms of
Saladin. The guard of eight Mameluks had left them, to be met by
their relief in the courtyard, according to custom, but no relief
had as yet appeared in the ante-chamber.
"It would seem that Masouda's tale is true," said Godwin, and
going to the door he locked it, and hid the key beneath a
Then they took their stand in front of the locked door, before
which hung curtains, standing in the shadow with the light from
the hanging silver lamps pouring down in front of them. Here they
waited awhile in silence, till at length they heard the tramp of
men, and eight Mameluks, clad in yellow above their mail, marched
in and saluted.
"Stand!" said Godwin, and they stood a minute, then began to edge
"Stand!" said both the brethren again, but still they edged
"Stand, sons of Sinan!" they said a third time, drawing their
Then with a hiss of disappointed rage the fedai came at them.
"A D'Arcy! A D'Arcy! Help for the Sultan!" shouted the brethren,
and the fray began.
Six of the men attacked them, and while they were engaged with
these the other two slipped round and tried the door, only to
find it fast. Then they also turned upon the brethren, thinking
to take the key from off their bodies. At the first rush two of
the fedai went down beneath the sweep of the long swords, but
after that the murderers would not come close, and while some
engaged them in front, others strove to pass and stab them from
behind. Indeed, a blow from one of their long knives fell upon
Godwin's shoulder, but the good mail turned it.
"Give way," he cried to Wulf, "or they will best us."
So suddenly they gave way before them till their backs were
against the door, and there they stood, shouting for help and
sweeping round them with their swords into reach of which the
fedai dare not come. Now from without the chamber rose a cry and
tumult, and the sound of heavy blows falling upon the gates that
the murderers had barred behind them, while upon the further side
of the door, which he could not open, was heard the voice of the
Sultan demanding to know what passed.
The fedai heard these sounds also, and read in them their doom.
Forgetting caution in their despair and rage, they hurled
themselves upon the brethren, for they thought that if they could
get them down they might still break through the door and slay
Salah-ed-din before they themselves were slain. But for awhile
the brethren stopped their rush with point and buckler, wounding
two of them sorely; and when at length they closed in upon them,
the gates were burst, and Hassan and the outer guard were at
A minute later and, but little hurt, Godwin and Wulf were leaning
on their swords, and the fedai, some of them dead or wounded and
some of them captive, lay before them on the marble floor.
Moreover, the door had been opened, and through it came the
Sultan in his nightgear.
"What has chanced?" he asked, looking at them doubtfully.
"Only this, lord," answered Godwin; "these men came to kill you
and we held them off till help arrived."
"Kill me! My own guard kill me?"
"They are not your guard; they are fedai, disguised as your
guard, and sent by Al-je-bal, as he promised."
Now Salah-ed-din turned pale, for he who feared nothing else was
all his life afraid of the Assassins and their lord, who thrice
had striven to murder him.
"Strip the armour from those men," went on Godwin, "and I think
that you will find truth in my words, or, if not, question such
of them as still live."
They obeyed, and there upon the breast of one of them, burnt into
his skin, was the symbol of the blood-red dagger. Now Saladin
saw, and beckoned the brethren aside.
"How knew you of this?" he asked, searching them with his
"Masouda, the lady Rosamund's waiting woman, warned us that you,
lord, and we, were to be murdered tonight by eight men, so we
"Why, then, did you not tell me?"
"Because," answered Wulf, "we were not sure that the news was
true, and did not wish to bring false tidings and be made
foolish. Because, also, my brother and I thought that we could
hold our own awhile against eight of Sinan's rats disguised as
soldiers of Saladin."
"You have done it well, though yours was a mad counsel," answered
the Sultan. Then he gave his hand first to one and next to the
other, and said, simply:
"Sir Knights, Salah-ed-din owes his life to you. Should it ever
come about that you owe your lives to Salah-ed-din, he will
Thus this business ended. On the morrow those of the fedai who
remained alive were questioned, and confessing freely that they
had been sent to murder Salah-ed-din who had robbed their master
of his bride, the two Franks who had carried her off, and the
woman Masouda who had guided them, they were put to death cruelly
enough. Also many others in the city were seized and killed on
suspicion, so that for awhile there was no more fear from the
Now from that day forward Saladin held the brethren in great
friendship, and pressed gifts upon them and offered them honours.
But they refused them all, saying that they needed but one thing
of him, and he knew what it was--an answer at which his face
One morning he sent for them, and, except for the presence of
prince Hassan, the most favourite of his emirs, and a famous
imaum, or priest of his religion, received them alone.
"Listen," he said briefly, addressing Godwin. "I understand that
my niece, the princess of Baalbec, is beloved by you. Good.
Subscribe the Koran, and I give her to you in marriage, for thus
also she may be led to the true faith, whom I have sworn not to
force thereto, and I gain a great warrior and Paradise a brave
soul. The imaum here will instruct you in the truth."
Thus he spoke, but Godwin only stared at him with eyes set wide
in wonderment, and answered:
"Sire, I thank you, but I cannot change my faith to win a woman,
however dearly I may love her."
"So I thought," said Saladin with a sigh, "though indeed it is
sad that superstition should thus blind so brave and good a man.
Now, Sir Wulf, it is your turn. What say you to my offer? Will
you take the princess and her dominions with my love thrown in as
a marriage portion?"
Wulf thought a moment, and as he thought there arose in his mind
a vision of an autumn afternoon that seemed years and years ago,
when they two and Rosamund had stood by the shrine of St. Chad on
the shores of Essex, and jested of this very matter of a change
of faith. Then he answered, with one of his great laughs:
"Ay, sire, but on my own terms, not on yours, for if I took these
I think that my marriage would lack blessings. Nor, indeed, would
Rosamund wish to wed a servant of your Prophet, who if it pleased
him might take other wives."
Saladin leant his head upon his hand, and looked at them with
disappointed eyes, yet not unkindly.
"The knight Lozelle was a Cross-worshipper," he said, "but you
two are very different from the knight Lozelle, who accepted the
Faith when it was offered to him--"
"To win your trade," said Godwin, bitterly.
"I know not," answered Saladin, "though it is true the man seems
to have been a Christian among the Franks, who here was a
follower of the Prophet. At least, he is dead at your hands, and
though he sinned against me and betrayed my niece to Sinan,
peace be with his soul. Now I have one more thing to say to you.
That Frank, Prince Arnat of Karak, whom you call Reginald de
Chatillon--accursed be his name!--" and he spat upon the ground,
"has once more broken the peace between me and the king of
Jerusalem, slaughtering my merchants, and stealing my goods. I
will suffer this shame no more, and very shortly I unfurl my
standards, which shall not be folded up again until they float
upon the mosque of Omar and from every tower top in Palestine.
Your people are doomed. I, Yusuf Salah-ed-din," and he rose as
he said the words, his very beard bristling with wrath, "declare
the Holy War, and will sweep them to the sea. Choose now, you
brethren. Do you fight for me or against me? Or will you give up
your swords and bide here as my prisoners?"
"We are the servants of the Cross," answered Godwin, "and cannot
lift steel against it and thereby lose our souls." Then he spoke
with Wulf, and added, "As to your second question, whether we
should bide here in chains. It is one that our lady Rosamund must
answer, for we are sworn to her service. We demand to see the
princess of Baalbec."
"Send for her, Emir," said Saladin to the prince Hassan, who
bowed and departed.
A while later Rosamund came, looking beautiful but, as they saw
when she threw back her veil, very white and weary. She bowed to
Saladin, and the brethren, who were not allowed to touch her
hand, bowed to her, devouring her face with eager eyes.
"Greeting, my uncle," she said to the Sultan, "and to you, my
cousins, greeting also. What is your pleasure with me?"
Saladin motioned to her to be seated and bade Godwin set out the
case, which he did very clearly, ending:
"Is it your wish, Rosamund, that we stay in this court as
prisoners, or go forth to fight with the Franks in the great war
that is to be? "
Rosamund looked at them awhile, then answered:
"To whom were you sworn the first? Was it to the service of our
Lord, or to the service of a woman? I have said."
"Such words as we expected from you, being what you are,"
exclaimed Godwin, while Wulf nodded his head in assent, and
"Sultan, we ask your safe conduct to Jerusalem, and leave this
lady in your charge, relying on your plighted word to do no
violence to her faith and to protect her person."
"My safe conduct you have," replied Saladin, "and my friendship
also. Nor, indeed, should I have thought well of you had you
decided otherwise. Now, henceforth we are enemies in the eyes of
all men, and I shall strive to slay you as you will strive to
slay me. But as regards this lady, have no fear. What I have
promised shall be fulfilled. Bid her farewell, whom you will see
"Who taught your lips to say such words, O Sultan?" asked Godwin.
"Is it given to you to read the future and the decrees of God?"
"I should have said," answered Saladin, " 'Whom you will see no
more if I am able to keep you apart.' Can you complain who, both
of you, have refused to take her as a wife?"
Here Rosamund looked up wondering, and Wulf broke in:
"Tell her the price. Tell her that she was asked to wed either of
us who would bow the knee to Mahomet, and to be the head of his
harem, and I think that she will not blame us."
"Never would I have spoken again to him who answered otherwise,"
exclaimed Rosamund, and Saladin, frowned at the words. "Oh! my
uncle," she went on, "you have been kind to me and raised me
high, but I do not seek this greatness, nor are your ways my
ways, who am of a faith that you call accursed. Let me go, I
beseech you, in care of these my kinsmen."
"And your lovers," said Saladin bitterly. "Niece, it cannot be. I
love you well, but did I know even that your life must pay the
price of your sojourn here, here you still should stay, since, as
my dream told me, on you hang the lives of thousands, and I
believe that dream. What, then, is your life, or the lives of
these knights, or even my life, that any or all of them should
turn the scale against those of thousands. Oh! everything that my
empire can give is at your feet, but here you stay until the
dream be accomplished, and," he added, looking at the brethren,
death shall be the portion of any who would steal you from my
"Until the dream be accomplished?" said Rosamund catching at the
words. "Then, when it is accomplished, shall I be free?"
"Ay," answered the Sultan; "free to come or to go, unless you
attempt escape, for then you know your certain doom."
"It is a decree. Take note, my cousins, it is a decree. And you,
prince Hassan, remember it also. Oh! I pray with all my soul I
pray, that it was no lying spirit who brought you that dream, my
uncle, though how I shall bring peace, who hitherto have brought
nothing except war and bloodshed, I know not. Now go, my cousins
but, if you will, leave me Masouda, who has no other friends. Go,
and take my love and blessing with you, ay, and the blessing of
Jesu and His saints which shall protect you in the hour of
battle, and bring us together again."
So spoke Rosamund and threw her veil before her face that she
might hide her tears.
Then Godwin and Wulf stepped to where she stood by the throne of
Saladin, bent the knee before her, and, taking her hand, kissed
it in farewell, nor did the Sultan say them nay. But when she was
gone and the brethren were gone, he turned to the emir Hassan and
to the great imaum who had sat silent all this while, and said:
"Now tell me, you who are old and wise, which of those men does
the lady love? Speak, Hassan, you who know her well."
But Hassan shook his head. "One or the other. Both or neither--I
know not," he answered. "Her counsel is too close for me."
Then Saladin turned to the imaum--a cunning, silent man.
"When both the infidels are about to die before her face, as I
still hope to see them do, we may learn the answer. But unless
she wills it, never before," he replied, and the Sultan noted his
Next morning, having been warned that they would pass there by
Masouda, Rosamund, watching through the lattice of one of her
palace windows, saw the brethren go by. They were fully armed
and, mounted on their splendid chargers Flame and Smoke, looked
glorious men as, followed by their escort of swarthy, turbaned
Mameluks, they rode proudly side by side, the sunlight glinting
on their mail. Opposite to her house they halted awhile, and,
knowing that Rosamund watched, although they could not see her,
drew their swords and lifted them in salute. Then sheathing them
again, they rode forward in silence, and soon were lost to
Little did Rosamund guess how different they would appear when
they three met again. Indeed, she scarcely dared to hope that
they would ever meet, for she knew well that even if the war went
in favour of the Christians she would be hurried away to some
place where they would never find her. She knew well also that
from Damascus her rescue was impossible, and that although
Saladin loved them, as he loved all who were honest and brave, he
would receive them no more as friends, for fear lest they should
rob him of her, whom he hoped in some way unforeseen would enable
him to end his days in peace. Moreover, the struggle between
Cross and Crescent would be fierce and to the death, and she was
sure that where was the closest fighting there in the midst of it
would be found Godwin and Wulf. Well might it chance, therefore,
that her eyes had looked their last upon them.
Oh! she was great. Gold was hers, with gems more than she could
count, and few were the weeks that did not bring her added wealth
or gifts. She had palaces to dwell in--alone; gardens to wander
in--alone; eunuchs and slaves to rule over--alone. But never a
friend had she, save the woman of the Assassins, to whom she
clung because she, Masouda, had saved her from Sinan, and who
clung to her, why, Rosamund could not be sure, for there was a
veil between their spirits.
They were gone--they were gone! Even the sound of their horses'
hoofs had died away, and she was desolate as a child lost in a
city full of folk. Oh! and her heart was filled with fears for
them, and most of all for one of them. If he should not come back
into it, what would her life be?
Rosamund bowed her head and wept; then, hearing a sound behind
her, turned to see that Masouda was weeping also.
"Why do you weep?" she asked.
"The maid should copy her mistress," answered Masouda with a hard
laugh; "but, lady, why do you weep? At least you are beloved,
and, come what may, nothing can take that from you. You are not
of less value than the good horse between the rider's knees, or
the faithful hound that runs at his side."
A thought rose in Rosamund's mind--a new and terrible thought.
The eyes of the two women met, and those of Rosamund asked,
"Which?" anxiously as once in the moonlight she had asked it with
her voice from the gate above the Narrow Way. Between them stood
a table inlaid with ivory and pearl, whereon the dust from the
street had gathered through the open lattice. Masouda leaned
over, and with her forefinger wrote a single Arabic letter in the
dust upon the table, then passed her hand across it.
Rosamund's breast heaved twice or thrice and was still. Then she
"Why did not you who are free go with him?"
"Because he prayed me to bide here and watch over the Iady whom
he loved. So to the death--I watch."
Slowly Masouda spoke, and the heavy words seemed like blood
dropping from a death wound. Then she sank forward into the arms
Chapter Eighteen: Wulf Pays for the Drugged Wine
Many a day had gone by since the brethren bade farewell to
Rosamund at Damascus. Now, one burning July night, they sat upon
their horses, the moonlight gleaming on their mail. Still as
statues they sat, looking out from a rocky mountain top across
that grey and arid plain which stretches from near Nazareth to
the lip of the hills at whose foot lies Tiberias on the Sea of
Galilee. Beneath them, camped around the fountain of Seffurieh,
were spread the hosts of the Franks to which they did sentinel;
thirteen hundred knights, twenty thousand foot, and hordes of
Turcopoles--that is, natives of the country, armed after the
fashion of the Saracens. Two miles away to the southeast
glimmered the white houses of Nazareth, set in the lap of the
mountains Nazareth, the holy city, where for thirty years lived
and toiled the Saviour of the world. Doubtless, thought Godwin,
His feet had often trod that mountain whereon they stood, and in
the watered vales below His hands had sped the plow or reaped the
corn. Long, long had His voice been silent, yet to Godwin's ears
it still seemed to speak in the murmur of the vast camp, and to
echo from the slopes of the Galilean hills, and the words it said
were: "I bring not peace, but a sword."
To-morrow they were to advance, so rumour said, across yonder
desert plain and give battle to Saladin, who lay with all his
power by Hattin, above Tiberias.
Godwin and his brother thought that it was a madness; for they
had seen the might of the Saracens and ridden across that thirsty
plain beneath the summer sun. But who were they, two wandering,
unattended knights, that they should dare to lift up their voices
against those of the lords of the land, skilled from their birth
in desert warfare? Yet Godwin's heart was troubled and fear took
hold of him, not for himself, but for all the countless army that
lay asleep yonder, and for the cause of Christendom, which staked
its last throw upon this battle.
"I go to watch yonder; bide you here," he said to Wulf, and,
turning the head of Flame, rode some sixty yards over a shoulder
of the rock to the further edge of the mountain which looked
towards the north. Here he could see neither the camp, nor Wulf,
nor any living thing, but indeed was utterly alone. Dismounting,
and bidding the horse stand, which it would do like a dog, he
walked forward a few steps to where there was a rock, and,
kneeling down, began to pray with all the strength of his pure,
"O Lord," he prayed, "Who once wast man and a dweller in these
mountains, and knowest what is in man, hear me. I am afraid for
all the thousands who sleep round Nazareth; not for myself, who
care nothing for my life, but for all those, Thy servants and my
brethren. Yes, and for the Cross upon which Thou didst hang, and
for the faith itself throughout the East. Oh! give me light! Oh!
let me hear and see, that I may warn them, unless my fears are
So he murmured to Heaven above and beat his hands against his
brow, praying, ever praying, as he had never prayed before, that
wisdom and vision might be given to his soul.
It seemed to Godwin that a sleep fell on him--at least, his mind
grew clouded and confused. Then it cleared again, slowly, as
stirred water clears, till it was bright and still; yet another
mind to that which was his servant day by day which never could
see or hear those things he saw and heard in that strange hour.
Lo! he heard the spirits pass, whispering as they went;
whispering, and, as it seemed to him, weeping also for some great
woe which was to be; weeping yonder over Nazareth. Then like
curtains the veils were lifted from his eyes, and as they swung
aside he saw further, and yet further.
He saw the king of the Franks in his tent beneath, and about him
the council of his captains, among them the fierce-eyed master of
the Templars, and a man whom he had seen in Jerusalem where they
had been dwelling, and knew for Count Raymond of Tripoli, the
lord of Tiberias. They were reasoning together, till, presently,
in a rage, the Master of the Templars drew his sword and dashed
it down upon the table.
Another veil was lifted, and lo! he saw the camp of Saladin, the
mighty, endless camp, with its ten thousand tents, amongst which
the Saracens cried to Allah through all the watches of the night.
He saw the royal pavilion, and in it the Sultan walked to and fro
alone--none of his emirs, not even his son, were with him. He was
lost in thought, and Godwin read his thought.
It was: "Behind me the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee, into which,
if my flanks were turned, I should be driven, I and all my host.
In front the territories of the Franks, where I have no friend;
and by Nazareth their great army. Allah alone can help me. If
they sit still and force me to advance across the desert and
attack them before my army melts away, then I am lost. If they
advance upon me round the Mountain Tabor and by the watered land,
I may be lost. But if--oh! if Allah should make them mad, and
they should strike straight across the desert--then, then they
are lost, and the reign of the Cross in Syria is forever at an
end. I will wait here. I will wait here. . ."
Look! near to the pavilion of Saladin stood another tent, closely
guarded, and in it on a cushioned bed lay two women. One was
Rosamund, but she slept sound; and the other was Masouda, and she
was waking, for her eyes met his in the darkness.
The last veil was withdrawn, and now Godwin saw a sight at which
his soul shivered. A fire-blackened plain, and above it a
frowning mountain, and that mountain thick, thick with dead,
thousands and thousands and thousands of dead, among which the
hyenas wandered and the night-birds screamed. He could see their
faces, many of them he knew again as those of living men whom he
had met in Jerusalem and elsewhere, or had noted with the army.
He could hear also the moanings of the few who were yet alive.
About that field--yes, and in the camp of Saladin, where lay more
dead--his body seemed to wander searching for something, he knew
not what, till it came to him that it was the corpse of Wulf for
which he sought and found it not-- nay, nor his own either. Then
once more he heard the spirits pass--a very great company, for to
them were gathered all those dead--heard them pass away, wailing,
ever more faintly wailing for the lost cause of Christ, wailing
Godwin awoke from his dream trembling, mounted his horse, and
rode back to Wulf. Beneath, as before, lay the sleeping camp,
yonder stretched the brown desert, and there sat Wulf watching
"Tell me," asked Godwin, "how long is it since I left you?"
"Some few minutes--ten perhaps," answered his brother.
"A short while to have seen so much," replied Godwin. Then Wulf
looked at him curiously and asked:
"What have you seen?"
"If I told you, Wulf, you would not believe."
"Tell me, and I will say."
So Godwin told him all, and at the end asked him, "What think
Wulf considered awhile, and answered:
"Well, brother, you have touched no wine to-day, so you are not
drunk, and you have done nothing foolish, so you are not mad.
Therefore it would seem that the saints have been talking to you,
or, at least, so I should think of any other man whom I knew to
be as good as you are. Yet it is folk like you that see visions,
and those visions are not always true, for sometimes, I believe,
the devil is their showman. Our watch is ended, for I hear the
horses of the knights who come to relieve us. Listen; this is my
counsel. In the camp yonder is our friend with whom we travelled
from Jerusalem, Egbert, the bishop of Nazareth, who marches with
the host. Let us go to him and lay this matter before him, for he
is a holy man and learned; no false, self-seeking priest."
Godwin nodded in assent, and presently, when the other knights
were come and they had made their report to them, they rode off
together to the tent of Egbert, and, leaving their horses in
charge of a servant, entered.
Egbert was an Englishman who had spent more than thirty years of
his life in the East, whereof the suns had tanned his wrinkled
face to the hue of bronze, that seemed the darker in contrast
with his blue eyes and snow-white hair and beard. Entering the
tent, they found him at his prayers before a little image of the
Virgin, and stood with bowed heads until he had finished.
Presently he rose, and greeting them with a blessing, asked them
what they needed.
"Your counsel, holy father," answered Wulf. "Godwin, set out your
So, having seen that the tent flap was closed and that none
lingered near, Godwin told him his dream.
The old man listened patiently, nor did he seem surprised at this
strange story, since in those days men saw--or thought they
saw--many such visions, which were accepted by the Church as
When he had finished Godwin asked of him as he had asked of Wulf:
"What think you, holy father? Is this a dream, or is it a
message? And if so, from whom comes the message?"
"Godwin D'Arcy," he answered, "in my youth I knew your father. It
was I who shrove him when he lay dying of his wounds, and a
nobler soul never passed from earth to heaven. After you had left
Damascus, when you were the guest of Saladin, we dwelt together
in the same lodging in Jerusalem, and together we travelled here,
during all which time I learned to know you also as the worthy
son of a worthy sire--no dissolute knight, but a true servant of
the Church. It well may be that to such a one as you foresight
has been given, that through you those who rule us may be warned,
and all Christendom saved from great sorrow and disgrace. Come;
let us go to the king, and tell this story, for he still sits in
So they went out together and rode to the royal tent. Here the
bishop was admitted, leaving them without.
Presently he returned and beckoned to them, and as they passed,
the guards whispered to them:
"A strange council, sirs, and a fateful!"
Already it was near midnight, but still the great pavilion was
crowded with barons and chief captains who sat in groups, or sat
round a narrow table made of boards placed upon trestles. At the
head of that table sat the king, Guy of Lusignan, a weak-faced
man, clad in splendid armour. On his right was the white-haired
Count Raymond of Tripoli, and on his left the black-bearded,
frowning Master of the Templars, clad in his white mantle on the
left breast of which the red cross was blazoned.
Words had been running high, their faces showed it, but just then
a silence reigned as though the disputants were weary, and the
king leaned back in his chair, passing his hand to and fro across
his forehead. He looked up, and seeing the bishop, asked
"What is it now? Oh! I remember, some tale from those tall twin
knights. Well, bring them forward and speak it out, for we have
no time to lose."
So the three of them came forward and at Godwin's prayer the
bishop Egbert told of the vision that had come to him not more
than an hour ago while he kept watch upon the mountain top. At
first one or two of the barons seemed disposed to laugh, but when
they looked at Godwin's high and spiritual face, their laughter
died away, for it did not seem wonderful to them that such a man
should see visions. Indeed, as the tale of the rocky hill and the
dead who were stretched upon it went on, they grew white with
fear, and whitest of them all was the king, Guy of Lusignan.
"Is all this true, Sir Godwin?" he asked, when the bishop had
"It is true, my lord king," answered Godwin.
"His word is not enough," broke in the Master of the Templars.
"Let him swear to it on the Holy Rood, knowing that if he lies it
will blast his soul to all eternity." And the council muttered,
"Ay, let him swear."
Now there was an annexe to the tent, rudely furnished as a
chapel, and at the end of this annexe a tall, veiled object.
Rufinus, the bishop of Acre, who was clad in the armour of a
knight, went to the object, and drawing the veil, revealed a
broken, blackened cross, set around with jewels, that stood
about the height of a man above the ground, for all the
lower part was gone.
At the sight of it Godwin and every man present there fell upon
his knees, for since St. Helena found it, over seven centuries
before, this had been accounted the most precious relic in all
Christendom; the very wood upon which the Saviour suffered, as,
indeed, it may have been.
Millions had worshipped it, tens of thousands had died for it,
and now, in the hour of this great struggle between Christ and
the false prophet it was brought from its shrine that the host
which escorted it might prove invincible in battle. Soldiers who
fought around the very Cross could not be defeated, they said,
for, if need were, legions of angels would come to aid them.
Godwin and Wulf stared at the relic with wonder, fear, and
adoration. There were the nail marks, there was the place where
the scroll of Pilate had been affixed above the holy head--almost
could they seem to see that Form divine and dying.
"Now," broke in the voice of the Master of the Templars, "let Sir
Godwin D'Arcy swear to the truth of his tale upon this Rood."
Rising from his knees Godwin advanced to the Cross, and laying
his hand upon the wood, said: "Upon the very Rood I swear that
not much more than an hour ago I saw the vision which has been
told to the king's highness and to all; that I believe this
vision was sent to me in answer to my prayer to preserve our host
and the holy city from the power of the Saracen, and that it is a
true foreshadowing of what will come about should we advance upon
the Sultan. I can say no more. I swear, knowing that if I lie
eternal damnation is my doom."
The bishop drew back the covering over the Cross, and in silence
the council took their seats again about the table. Now the king
was very pale, and fearful; indeed a gloom lay upon all of them.
"It would seem," he said, "that here a messenger has been sent to
us from heaven. Dare we disobey his message?"
The Grand Templar lifted his rugged, frowning face. "A messenger
from heaven, said you, king? To me he seems more like a messenger
from Saladin. Tell us, Sir Godwin, were not you and your brother
once the Sultan's guests at Damascus?"
"That is so, my lord Templar. We left before the war was
"And," went on the Master, "were you not officers of the Sultan's
Now all looked intently at Godwin, who hesitated a little,
foreseeing how his answer would be read, whereon Wulf spoke in
his loud voice:
"Ay, we acted as such for awhile, and--doubtless you have heard
the story--saved Saladin's life when he was attacked by the
"Oh!" said the Templar with bitter sarcasm, "you saved Saladin's
life, did you? I can well believe it. You, being Christians, who
above everything should desire the death of Saladin, saved his
life! Now, Sir Knights, answer me one more question--"
"Sir Templar, with my tongue or with my sword?" broke in Wulf,
but the king held up his hand and bade him be silent.
"A truce to your tavern ruffling, young sir, and answer," went on
the Templar. "Or, rather, do you answer, Sir Godwin. Is your
cousin, Rosamund, the daughter of Sir Andrew D'Arcy, a niece of
Saladin, and has she been created by him princess of Baalbec, and
is she at this moment in his city of Damascus?"
"She is his niece," answered Godwin quietly; "she is he princess
of Baalbec, but at this moment she is not in Damascus."
"How do you know that, Sir Godwin?"
"I know it because in the vision of which you have been told I
saw her sleeping in a tent in the camp of Saladin."
Now the council began to laugh, but Godwin, with a set, white
face, went on:
"Ay, my lord Templar, and near that very blazoned tent I saw
scores of the Templars and of the Hospitallers Iying dead.
Remember it when the dreadful hour comes and you see them also."
Now the laughter died away, and a murmur of fear ran round the
board, mixed with such words as "Wizardry." "He has learnt it
from the Paynims." "A black sorcerer, without doubt."
Only the Templar, who feared neither man nor spirit, laughed, and
gave him the lie with his eyes.
"You do not believe me," said Godwin, "nor will you believe me
when I say that while I was on guard on yonder hill-top I saw you
wrangling with the Count of Tripoli--ay, and draw your sword and
dash it down in front of him upon this very table."
Now again the council stared and muttered, for they too had seen
this thing; but the Master answered:
"He may have learnt it otherwise than from an angel. Folk have
been in and out of this tent. My lord king, have we more time to
waste upon these visions of a knight of whom all we know for
certain is, that like his brother, he has been in the service of
Saladin, which they left, he says, in order to fight against him
in this war. It may be so; it is not for us to judge; though were
the times different I would inform against Sir Godwin D'Arcy as a
sorcerer, and one who has been in traitorous communication with
our common foe."
"And I would thrust the lie down your throat with my sword's
point!" shouted Wulf.
But Godwin only shrugged: his shoulders and said nothing, and the
Master went on, taking no heed.
"King, we await your word, and it must be spoken soon, for in
four hours it will be dawn. Do we march against Saladin like
bold, Christian men, or do we bide here like cowards?"
Then Count Raymond of Tripoli rose, and said:
"Before you answer, king, hear me, if it be for the last time,
who am old in war and know the Saracens. My town of Tiberias is
sacked; my vassals have been put to the sword by thousands; my
wife is imprisoned in her citadel, and soon must yield, if she be
not rescued. Yet I say to you, and to the barons here assembled,
better so than that you should advance across the desert to
attack Saladin. Leave Tiberias to its fate and my wife with it,
and save your army, which is the last hope of the Christians of
the East. Christ has no more soldiers in these lands, Jerusalem
has no other shield. The army of the Sultan is larger than yours;
his cavalry are more skilled. Turn his flank--or, better still,
bide here and await his attack, and victory will be to the
soldiers of the Cross. Advance and the vision of that knight at
whom you scoff will come true, and the cause of Christendom be
lost in Syria. I have spoken, and for the last time."
"Like his friend the knight of Visions," sneered the Grand
Master, "the count Raymond is an old ally of Saladin. Will you
take such coward council? On--on! and smite these heathen dogs,
or be forever shamed. On, in the name of the Cross! The Cross is
with us! "
"Ay," answered Raymond, "for the last time."
Then there arose a tumult through which every man shouted to his
fellow, some saying one thing and some another, while the king
sat at the head of the board, his face hidden in his hands.
Presently he lifted it, and said:
"I command that we march at dawn. If the count Raymond and these
brethren think the words unwise, let them leave us and remain
here under guard until the issue be known."
Now followed a great silence, for all there knew that the words
were fateful, in the midst of which count Raymond said:
"Nay, I go with you," while Godwin echoed, "And we go also to
show whether or not we are the spies of Saladin."
Of these speeches none of them seemed to take heed, for all were
lost in their own thoughts. One by one they rose, bowed to the
king, and left the tent to give their commands and rest awhile,
before it was time to ride. Godwin and Wulf went also, and with
them the bishop of Nazareth, who wrung his hands and seemed ill
at ease. But Wulf comforted him, saying:
"Grieve no more, father; let us think of the joy of battle, not
of the sorrow by which it may be followed."
"I find no joy in battles," answered the holy Egbert.
When they had slept awhile, Godwin and Wulf rose and fed their
horses. After they had washed and groomed them, they tested and
did on their armour, then took them down to the spring to drink
their fill, as their masters did. Also Wulf, who was cunning in
war, brought with him four large wineskins which he had provided
against this hour, and filling them with pure water, fastened two
of them with thongs behind the saddle of Godwin and two behind
his own. Further, he filled the water-bottles at their
"At least we will be among the last to die of thirst."
Then they went back and watched the host break its camp, which it
did with no light heart, for many of them knew of the danger in
which they stood; moreover, the tale of Godwin's vision had been
spread abroad. Not knowing where to go, they and Egbert, the
bishop of Nazareth--who was unarmed and rode upon a mule, for
stay behind he would not--joined themselves to the great body of
knights who followed the king. As they did so, the Templars, five
hundred strong, came up, a fierce and gallant band, and the
Master, who was at their head, saw the brethren and called out,
pointing to the wineskins which were hung behind their saddles:
"What do these water-carriers here among brave knights who trust
in God alone?"
Wulf would have answered, but Godwin bade him be silent, saying:
"Fall back; we will find less ill-omened company."
So they stood on one side and bowed themselves as the Cross went
by, guarded by the mailed bishop of Acre. Then came Reginald of
Chatillon, Saladin's enemy, the cause of all this woe, who saw
them and cried:
"Sir Knights, whatever they may say, I know you for brave men,
for I have heard the tale of your doings among the Assassins.
There is room for you among my suite--follow me."
"As well him as another," said Godwin. "Let us go where we are
led." So they followed him.
By the time that the army reached Kenna, where once the water was
made wine, the July sun was already hot, and the spring was so
soon drunk dry that many men could get no water. On they pushed
into the desert lands below, which lay between them and Tiberias,
and were bordered on the right and left by hills. Now clouds of
dust were seen moving across the plains, and in the heart of them
bodies of Saracen horsemen, which continually attacked the
vanguard under count Raymond, and as continually retreated before
they could be crushed, slaying many with their spears and arrows.
Also these came round behind them, and charged the rearguard,
where marched the Templars and the light-armed troops named
Turcopoles, and the band of Reginald de Chatillon, with which
rode the brethren.
>From noon till near sundown the long harassed line, broken now
into fragments, struggled forward across the rough, stony plain,
the burning heat beating upon their armour till the air danced
about it as it does before a fire. Towards evening men and horses
became exhausted, and the soldiers cried to their captains to
lead them to water. But in that place there was no water. The
rearguard fell behind, worn out with constant attacks that must
be repelled in the burning heat, so that there was a great gap
between it and the king who marched in the centre. Messages
reached them to push on, but they could not, and at length camp
was pitched in the desert near a place called Marescalcia, and
upon this camp Raymond and his vanguard were forced back. As
Godwin and Wulf rode up, they saw him come in bringing his
wounded with him, and heard him pray the king to push on and at
all hazards to cut his way through to the lake, where they might
drink--ay, and heard the king say that he could not, since the
soldiers would march no more that day. Then Raymond wrung his
hands in despair and rode back to his men, crying aloud:
"Alas ! alas! Oh! Lord God, alas! We are dead, and Thy Kingdom is
That night none slept, for all were athirst, and who can sleep
with a burning throat? Now also Godwin and Wulf were no longer
laughed at because of the water-skins they carried on their
horses. Rather did great nobles come to them, and almost on their
knees crave for the boon of a single cup. Having watered their
horses sparingly from a bowl, they gave what they could, till at
length only two skins remained, and one of these was spilt by a
thief, who crept up and slashed it with his knife that he might
drink while the water ran to waste. After this the brethren drew
their swords and watched, swearing that they would kill any man
who so much as touched the skin which was left. All that long
night through there arose a confused clamour from the camp, of
which the burden seemed to be, "Water! Give us water!" while from
without came the shouts of the Saracens calling upon Allah. Here,
too, the hot ground was covered with scrub dried to tinder by the
summer drought, and to this the Saracens set fire so that the
smoke rolled down on the Christian host and choked them, and the
place became a hell.
Day dawned at last; and the army was formed up in order of
battle, its two wings being thrown forward. Thus they struggled
on, those of them that were not too weak to stir, who were
slaughtered as they lay. Nor as yet did the Saracens attack them,
since they knew that the sun was stronger than all their spears.
On they laboured towards the northern wells, till about mid-day
the battle began with a flight of arrows so thick that for awhile
it hid the heavens.
After this came charge and counter-charge, attack and repulse,
and always above the noise of war that dreadful cry for water.
What chanced Godwin and Wulf never knew, for the smoke and dust
blinded them so that they could see but a little way. At length
there was a last furious charge, and the knights with whom they
were clove the dense mass of Saracens like a serpent of steel,
leaving a broad trail of dead behind them. When they pulled rein
and wiped the sweat from their eyes it was to find themselves
with thousands of others upon the top of a steep hill, of which
the sides were thick with dry grass and bush that already was
"The Rood! The Rood! Rally round the Rood!" said a voice, and
looking behind them they saw the black and jewelled fragment of
the true Cross set upon a rock, and by it the bishop of Acre.
Then the smoke of the burning grass rose up and hid it from their
Now began one of the most hideous fights that is told of in the
history of the world. Again and again the Saracens attacked in
thousands, and again and again they were driven back by the
desperate valour of the Franks, who fought on, their jaws agape
with thirst. A blackbearded man stumbled up to the brethren, his
tongue protruding from his lips, and they knew him for the Master
of the Templars.
"For the love of Christ, give me to drink," he said, recognizing
them as the knights at whom he had mocked as water-carriers.
They gave him of the little they had left, and while they and
their horses drank the rest themselves, saw him rush down the
hill refreshed, shaking his red sword. Then came a pause, and
they heard the voice of the bishop of Nazareth, who had clung to
them all this while, saying, as though to himself:
"And here it was that the Saviour preached the Sermon on the
Mount. Yes, He preached the words of peace upon this very spot.
Oh! it cannot be that He will desert us--it cannot be."
While the Saracens held off, the soldiers began to put up the
king's pavilion, and with it other tents, around the rock on
which stood the Cross.
"Do they mean to camp here?" asked Wulf bitterly.
"Peace," answered Godwin; "they hope to make a wall about the
Rood. But it is of no avail, for this is the place of my dream."
Wulf shrugged his shoulders. "At least, let us die well," he
Then the last attack began. Up the hillside rose dense volumes of
smoke, and with the smoke came the Saracens. Thrice they were
driven back; thrice they came on. At the fourth onset few of the
Franks could fight more, for thirst had conquered them on this
waterless hill of Hattin. They lay down upon the dry grass with
gaping jaws and protruding tongues, and let themselves be slam or
taken prisoners. A great company of Saracen horsemen broke
through the ring and rushed at the scarlet tent. It rocked to and
fro, then down it fell in a red heap, entangling the king in its
At the foot of the Cross, Rufinus, the bishop of Acre, still
fought on bravely. Suddenly an arrow struck him in the throat,
and throwing his arms wide, he fell to earth. Then the Saracens
hurled themselves upon the Rood, tore it from its place, and with
mockery and spittings bore it down the hill towards their camp,
as ants may be seen carrying a little stick into their nest,
while all who were left alive of the Christian army stared
upwards, as though they awaited some miracle from Heaven. But no
angels appeared in the brazen sky, and knowing that God had
deserted them, they groaned aloud in their shame and
"Come," said Godwin to Wulf in a strange, quiet voice. "We have
seen enough. It is time to die. Look! yonder below us are the
Mameluks, our old regiment, and amongst them Saladin, for I see
his banner. Having had water, we and our horses are still fresh
and strong. Now, let us make an end of which they will tell in
Essex yonder. Charge for the flag of Saladin!"
Wulf nodded, and side by side they sped down the hill. Scimitars
flashed at them, arrows struck upon their mail and the shields
blazoned with the Death's-head D'Arcy crest. Through it all they
went unscathed, and while the army of the Saracens stared, at the
foot of the Horn of Hattin turned their horses' heads straight
for the royal standard of Saladin. On they struggled, felling or
riding down a foe at every stride. On, still on, although Flame
and Smoke bled from a score of wounds.
They were among the Mameluks, where their line was thin; by
Heaven! they were through them, and riding straight at the
well-known figure of the Sultan, mounted on his white horse with
his young son and his emir, the prince Hassan, at his side.
"Saladin for you, Hassan for me," shouted Wulf.
Then they met, and all the host of Islam cried out in dismay as
they saw the Commander of the Faithful and his horse borne to the
earth before the last despairing charge of these mad Christian
knights. Another instant, and the Sultan was on his feet again,
and a score of scimitars were striking at Godwin. His horse Flame
sank down dying, but he sprang from the saddle, swinging the long
sword. Now Saladin recognized the crest upon his buckler, and
"Yield you, Sir Godwin! You have done well--yield you!"
But Godwin, who would not yield, answered:
"When I am dead--not before."
Thereupon Saladin spoke a word, and while certain of his Mameluks
engaged Godwin in front, keeping out of reach of that red and
terrible sword, others crept up behind, and springing on him,
seized his arms and dragged him to the ground, where they bound
Meanwhile Wulf had fared otherwise, for it was his horse Smoke,
already stabbed to the vitals, that fell as he plunged on prince
Hassan. Yet he also arose but little hurt, and cried out:
"Thus, Hassan, old foe and friend, we meet at last in war. Come,
I would pay the debt I owe you for that drugged wine, man to man
and sword to sword."
"Indeed, it is due, Sir Wulf," answered the prince, laughing.
"Guards, touch not this brave knight who has dared so much to
reach me. Sultan, I ask a boon. Between Sir Wulf and me there is
an ancient quarrel that can only be washed away in blood. Let it
be decided here and now, and let this be your decree--that if I
fall in fair fight, none shall set upon my conqueror, and no
vengeance shall be taken for my blood."
"Good," said Saladin. "Then Sir Wulf shall be my prisoner and no
more, as his brother is already. I owe it to the men who saved my
life when we were friends. Give the Frank to drink that the fight
may be fair."
So they gave Wulf a cup of which he drank, and when he had done
it was handed to Godwin. For even the Mameluks knew and loved
these brethren who had been their officers, and praised the
fierce charge that they had dared to make alone.
Hassan sprang to the ground, saying:
"Your horse is dead, Sir Wulf, so we must fight afoot."
"Generous as ever," laughed Wulf. "Even the poisoned wine was a
"If so, for the last time, I fear me," answered Hassan with a
Then they faced each other, and oh! the scene was strange. Up on
the slopes of Hattin the fight still raged. There amidst the
smoke and fires of the burning grass little companies of soldiers
stood back to back while the Saracens wheeled round them,
thrusting and cutting at them till they fell. Here and there
knights charged singly or in groups, and so came to death or
capture. About the plain hundreds of foot soldiers were being
slaughtered, while their officers were taken prisoners. Towards
the camp of Saladin a company advanced with sounds of triumph,
carrying aloft a black stump which was the holy Rood, while
others drove or led mobs of prisoners, among them the king and
his chosen knights.
The wilderness was red with blood, the air was rent with shouts
of victory and cries of agony or despair. And there, in the midst
of it all, ringed round with grave, courteous Saracens, stood the
emir, clad above his mail in his white robe and jewelled turban,
facing the great Christian knight, with harness hacked and
reddened, the light of battle shining in his fierce eyes, and a
smile upon his stained features.
For those who watched the battle was forgotten--or, rather, its
interest was centred on this point.
"It will be a good fight," said one of them to Godwin, whom they
had suffered to rise, "for though your brother is the younger and
the heavier man, he is hurt and weary, whereas the emir is fresh
and unwounded. Ah! they are at it!"
Hassan had struck first and the blow went home. Falling upon the
point of Wulf's steel helm, the heavy, razoredged scimitar
glanced from it and shore away the links from the flap which hung
upon his shoulder, causing the Frank to stagger. Again he struck,
this time upon the shield, and so heavily that Wulf came to his
"Your brother is sped," said the Saracen captain to Godwin, but
Godwin only answered:
As he spoke Wulf twisted his body out of reach of a third blow,
and while Hassan staggered forward with the weight of the missed
stroke, placed his hand upon the ground, and springing to his
feet, ran backwards six or eight paces.
"He flies!" cried the Saracens; but again Godwin said, "Wait."
Nor was there long to wait.
For now, throwing aside his buckler and grasping the great sword
in both his hands, with a shout of "A D'Arcy! A D'Arcy!" Wulf
leapt at Hassan as a wounded lion leaps. The sword wheeled and
fell, and lo! the shield of the Saracen was severed in two. Again
it fell, and his turbaned helm was cloven. A third time, and the
right arm and shoulder with the scimitar that grasped it seemed
to spring from his body, and Hassan sank dying to the ground.
Wulf stood and looked at him, while a murmur of grief went up
from those who watched, for they loved this emir. Hassan beckoned
to the victor with his left hand, and throwing down his sword to
show that he feared no treachery, Wulf came to him and knelt
"A good stroke," Hassan said faintly, "that could shear the
double links of Damascus steel as though it were silk. Well, as I
told you long ago, I knew that the hour of our meeting in war
would be an ill hour for me, and my debt is paid. Farewell, brave
knight. Would I could hope that we should meet in Paradise! Take
that star jewel, the badge of my House, from my turban and wear
it in memory of me. Long, long and happy be your days."
Then, while Wulf held him in his arms, Saladin came up and spoke
to him, till he fell back and was dead.
Thus died Hassan, and thus ended the battle of Hattin, which
broke the power of the Christians in the East.
Chapter Nineteen: Before the Walls of Ascalon
When Hassan was dead, at a sign from Saladin a captain of the
Mameluks named Abdullah unfastened the jewel from the emir's
turban and handed it to Wulf. It was a glorious star-shaped
thing, made of great emeralds set round with diamonds, and the
captain Abdullah, who like all Easterns loved such ornaments,
looked at it greedily, and muttered:
"Alas! that an unbeliever should wear the enchanted Star, the
ancient Luck of the House of Hassan!" a saying that Wulf
He took the jewel, then turned to Saladin and said, pointing to
the dead body of Hassan:
"Have I your peace, Sultan, after such a deed?"
"Did I not give you and your brother to drink?" asked Saladin
with meaning. "Whoever dies, you are safe. There is but one sin
which I will not pardon you--you know what it is," and he looked
at them. "As for Hassan, he was my beloved friend and servant,
but you slew him in fair fight, and his soul is now in Paradise.
None in my army will raise a blood feud against you on that
Then dismissing the matter with a wave of his hand, he turned to
receive a great body of Christian prisoners that, panting and
stumbling like over-driven sheep, were being thrust on towards
the camp with curses, blows and mockery by the victorious
Among them the brethren rejoiced to see Egbert, the gentle and
holy bishop of Nazareth, whom they had thought dead. Also,
wounded in many places, his hacked harness hanging about him like
a beggar's rags, there was the black-browed Master of the
Templars, who even now could be fierce and insolent.
"So I was right," he mocked in a husky voice, "and here you are,
safe with your friends the Saracens, Sir Knights of the visions
and the water-skins--"
"From which you were glad enough to drink just now," said Godwin.
"Also," he added sadly, "all the vision is not done." And
turning, he looked towards a blazoned tent which with the
Sultan's great pavilion, and not far behind it, was being
pitched by the Arab camp-setters The Master saw and remembered
Godwin's vision of the dead Templars.
"Is it there that you mean to murder me, traitor and wizard?" he
Then rage took hold of Godwin and he answered him:
"Were it not for your plight, here and now I would thrust those
words down your throat, as, should we both live, I yet shall hope
to do. You call us traitors. Is it the work of traitors to have
charged alone through all this host until our horses died beneath
us?"--he pointed to where Smoke and Flame lay with glazing
eyes--"to have unhorsed Saladin and to have slain this prince in
single combat?" and he turned to the body of the emir Hassan,
which his servants were carrying away.
"You speak of me as wizard and murderer," he went on, "because
some angel brought me a vision which, had you believed it,
Templar, would have saved tens of thousands from a bloody death,
the Christian kingdom from destruction, and yonder holy thing
from mockery," and with a shudder he glanced at the Rood which
its captors had set up upon a rock not far away with a dead
knight tied to its black arms. "You, Sir Templar, are the
murderer who by your madness and ambition have brought ruin on
the cause of Christ, as was foretold by the count Raymond."
"That other traitor who also has escaped," snarled the Master.
Then Saracen guards dragged him away, and they were parted.
By now the pavilion was up and Saladin entered it, saying:
"Bring before me the king of the Franks and prince Arnat, he who
is called Reginald of Chatillon."
Then a thought struck him, and he called to Godwin and Wulf,
"Sir Knights, you know our tongue; give up your swords to the
officer--they shall be returned to you--and come, be my
So the brethren followed him into the tent, where presently were
brought the wretched king and the grey-haired Reginald de
Chatillon, and with them a few other great knights who, even in
the midst of their misery, stared at Godwin and Wulf in
wonderment. Saladin read the look, and explained lest their
presence should be misunderstood:
"King and nobles, be not mistaken. These knights are my
prisoners, as you are, and none have shown themselves braver
to-day, or done me and mine more damage. Indeed, had it not been
for my guards, within the hour I should have fallen beneath the
sword of Sir Godwin. But as they know Arabic, I have asked them
to render my words into your tongue. Do you accept them as
interpreters? If not, others must be found."
When they had translated this, the king said that he accepted
them, adding to Godwin:
"Would that I had also accepted you two nights gone as an
interpreter of the will of Heaven!"
The Sultan bade his captains be seated, and seeing their terrible
thirst, commanded slaves to bring a great bowl of sherbet made of
rose-water cooled with snow, and with his own hand gave it to
king Guy. He drank in great gulps, then passed the bowl to
Reginald de Chatillon, whereon Saladin cried out to Godwin:
"Say to the king it is he and not I who gives this man to drink.
There is no bond of salt between me and the prince Arnat."
Godwin translated, sorrowfully enough, and Reginald, who knew the
habits of the Saracens, answered:
"No need to explain, Sir Knight, those words are my
death-warrant. Well, I never expected less."
Then Saladin spoke again.
"Prince Arnat, you strove to take the holy city of Mecca and to
desecrate the tomb of the Prophet, and then I swore to kill you.
Again, when in a time of peace a caravan came from Egypt and
passed by Esh-Shobek, where you were, forgetting your oath, you
fell upon them and slew them. They asked for mercy in the name of
Allah, saying that there was truce between Saracen and Frank. But
you mocked them, telling them to seek aid from Mahomet, in whom
they trusted. Then for the second time I swore to kill you. Yet I
give you one more chance. Will you subscribe the Koran and
embrace the faith of Islam? Or will you die?"
Now the lips of Reginald turned pale, and for a moment he swayed
upon his seat. Then his courage came back to him, and he answered
in a strong voice:
"Sultan, I will have none of your mercy at such a price, nor do I
bow the knee to your dog of a false prophet, who perish in the
faith of Christ, and, being weary of the world, am content to go
Saladin sprang to his feet, his very beard bristling with wrath,
and drawing his sabre, shouted aloud:
"You scorn Mahomet! Behold! I avenge Mahomet upon you! Take him
away!" And he struck him with the flat of his scimitar.
Then Mameluks leapt upon the prince. Dragging him to the entrance
of the tent, they forced him to his knees and there beheaded him
in sight of the soldiers and of the other prisoners.
Thus, bravely enough, died Reginald de Chatillon, whom the
Saracens called prince Arnat. In the hush that followed this
terrible deed king Guy said to Godwin:
"Ask the Sultan if it is my turn next."
"Nay," answered Saladin; "kings do not kill kings, but that
truce-breaker has met with no more than his deserts."
Then came a scene still more dreadful. Saladin went to the door
of his tent, and standing over the body of Reginald, bade them
parade the captive Templars and Hospitallers before him. They
were brought to the number of over two hundred, for it was easy
to distinguish them by the red and white crosses on their
"These also are faith-breakers," he shouted, "and of their
unclean tribes will I rid the world. Ho! my emirs and doctors of
the law," and he turned to the great crowd of his captains about
him, "take each of you one of them and kill him."
Now the emirs hung back, for though fanatics they were brave, and
loved not this slaughter of defenceless men, and even the
Mameluks murmured aloud.
But Saladin cried again:
"They are worthy of death, and he who disobeys my command shall
himself be slain."
"Sultan," said Godwin, "we cannot witness such a crime; we ask
that we may die with them."
"Nay," he answered; "you have eaten of my salt, and to kill you
would be murder. Get you to the tent of the princess of Baalbec
yonder, for there you will see nothing of the death of these
Franks, your fellow-worshippers."
So the brethren turned, and led by a Mameluk, fled aghast for the
first time in their lives, past the long lines of Templars and
Hospitallers, who in the last red light of the dying day knelt
upon the sand and prayed, while the emirs came up to kill them.
They entered the tent, none forbidding them, and at the end of it
saw two women crouched together on some cushions, who rose,
clinging to each other. Then the women saw also and sprang
forward with a cry of joy, saying:
"So you live--you live! "
"Ay, Rosamund," answered Godwin, "to see this shame--would God
that we did not--whilst others die. They murder the knights of
the holy Orders. To your knees and pray for their passing souls."
So they knelt down and prayed till the tumult died away, and they
knew that all was done.
"Oh, my cousins," said Rosamund, as she staggered to her feet at
length, "what a hell of wickedness and bloodshed is this in which
we dwell! Save me from it if you love me--I beseech you save me!
"We will do our best," they answered; "but let us talk no more of
these things which are the decree of God--lest we should go mad.
Tell us your story."
But Rosamund had little to tell, except that she had been well
treated, and always kept by the person of the Sultan, marching to
and fro with his army, for he awaited the fulfilment of his dream
concerning her. Then they told her all that had chanced to them;
also of the vision of Godwin and its dreadful accomplishment, and
of the death of Hassan beneath the sword of Wulf. At that story
Rosamund wept and shrank from him a little, for though it was
this prince who had stolen her from her home, she loved Hassan.
Yet when Wulf said humbly:
"The fault is not mine; it was so fated. Would that I had died
instead of this Saracen!"
Rosamund answered: "No, no; I am proud that you should have
But Wulf shook his head, and said:
"I am not proud. Although weary with that awful battle, I was
still the younger and stronger man, though at first he well-nigh
mastered me by his skill and quickness. At least we parted
friends. Look, he gave me this," and he showed her the great
emerald badge which the dying prince had given him.
Masouda, who all this while had sat very quiet, came forward and
looked at it.
"Do you know," she asked, "that this jewel is very famous, not
only for its value, but because it is said to have belonged to
one of the children of the prophet, and to bring good fortune to
"It brought little to poor Hassan but now, when my grandsire's
sword shore the Damascus steel as though it were wet clay."
"And sent him swift to Paradise, where he would be, at the hands
of a gallant foe," answered Masouda. "Nay, all his life this emir
was happy and beloved, by his sovereign, his wives, his fellows
and his servants, nor do I think that he would have desired
another end whose wish was to die in battle with the Franks. At
least there is scarce a soldier in the Sultan's army who would
not give all he has for yonder trinket, which is known
throughout the land as the Star of Hassan. So beware, Sir Wulf,
lest you be robbed or murdered, although you have eaten the salt
"I remember the captain Abdullah looking at it greedily and
lamenting that the Luck of the House of Hassan should pass to an
unbeliever," said Wulf. "Well, enough of this jewel and its
dangers; I think Godwin has words to say."
"Yes," said Godwin. "We are here in your tent through the
kindness of Saladin, who did not wish us to witness the death of
our comrades, but to-morrow we shall be separated again. Now if
you are to escape--"
"I will escape! I must escape, even if I am recaptured and die
for it," broke in Rosamund passionately.
"Speak low," said Masouda. "I saw the eunuch Mesrour pass the
door of the tent, and he is a spy--they all are spies."
"If you are to escape," repeated Godwin in a whisper, "it must be
within the next few weeks while the army is on the march. The
risk is great to all of us--even to you, and we have no plan.
But, Masouda, you are clever; make one, and tell it to us."
She lifted her head to speak, when suddenly a shadow fell upon
them. It was that of the head eunuch, Mesrour, a fat,
cunning-faced man, with a cringing air. Low he bowed before them,
"Your pardon, O Princess. A messenger has come from Salah-ed-din
demanding the presence of these knights at the banquet that he
has made ready for his noble prisoners."
"We obey," said Godwin, and rising they bowed to Rosamund and to
Masouda, then turned to go, leaving the star jewel where they had
Very skilfully Mesrour covered it with a fold of his robe, and
under shelter of the fold slipped down his hand and grasped it,
not knowing that although she seemed to be turned away, Masouda
was watching him out of the corner of her eye. Waiting till the
brethren reached the tent door, she called out:
"Sir Wulf, are you already weary of the enchanted Star of
Fortune, or would you bequeath it to us?"
Now Wulf came back, saying heavily:
"I forgot the thing--who would not at such a time? Where is it? I
left it on the cushion."
"Try the hand of Mesrour," said Masouda, whereat with a very
crooked smile the eunuch produced it, and said:
"I wished to show you, Sir Knight, that you must be careful with
such gems as these, especially in a camp where there are many
"I thank you," answered Wulf as he took it; "you have shown me."
Then, followed by the sound of Masouda's mocking laughter, they
left the tent.
The Sultan's messenger led them forward, across ground strewn
with the bodies of the murdered Templars and Hospitallers, Iying
as Godwin had seen them in his dream on the mountain top near
Nazareth. Over one of these corpses Godwin stumbled in the
gloom, so heavily, that he fell to his knees. He searched the
face in the starlight, to find it was that of a knight of the
Hospitallers of whom he had made a friend at Jerusalem-- a very
good and gentle Frenchman, who had abandoned high station and
large lands to join the order for the love of Christ and
charity. Such was his reward on earth--to be struck down in cold
blood, like an ox by its butcher. Then, muttering a prayer for
the repose of this knight's soul, Godwin rose and, filled with
horror, followed on to the royal pavilion, wondering why such
Of all the strange feasts that they ever ate the brethren found
this the strangest and the most sad. Saladin was seated at the
head of the table with guards and officers standing behind him,
and as each dish was brought he tasted it and no more, to show
that it was not poisoned. Not far from him sat the king of
Jerusalem and his brother, and all down the board great captive
nobles, to the number of fifty or more. Sorry spectacles were
these gallant knights in their hewn and blood-stained armour,
pale-faced, too, with eyes set wide in horror at the dread deeds
they had just seen done. Yet they ate, and ate ravenously, for
now that their thirst was satisfied, they were mad with hunger.
Thirty thousand Christians lay dead on the Horn and plain of
Hattin; the kingdom of Jerusalem was destroyed, and its king a
prisoner. The holy Rood was taken as a trophy. Two hundred
knights of the sacred Orders lay within a few score of yards of
them, butchered cruelly by those very emirs and doctors of the
law who stood grave and silent behind their master's seat, at the
express command of that merciless master. Defeated, shamed,
bereaved--yet they ate, and, being human, could take comfort from
the thought that having eaten, by the law of the Arabs, at least
their lives were safe.
Saladin called Godwin and Wulf to him that they might interpret
for him, and gave them food, and they also ate who were compelled
to it by hunger.
"Have you seen your cousin, the princess?" he asked; "and how
found you her?" he asked presently.
Then, remembering over what he had fallen outside her tent, and
looking at those miserable feasters, anger took hold of Godwin,
and he answered boldly:
"Sire, we found her sick with the sights and sounds of war and
murder; shamed to know also that her uncle, the conquering
sovereign of the East, had slaughtered two hundred unarmed men.
Wulf trembled at his words, but Saladin listened and showed no
"Doubtless," he answered, "she thinks me cruel, and you also
think me cruel--a despot who delights in the death of his
enemies. Yet it is not so, for I desire peace and to save life,
not to destroy it. It is you Christians who for hard upon a
hundred years have drenched these sands with blood, because you
say that you wish to possess the land where your prophet lived
and died more than eleven centuries ago. How many Saracens have
Hundreds of thousands of them. Moreover, with you peace is no
peace. Those Orders that I destroyed tonight have broken it a
score of times. Well, I will bear no more. Allah has given me and
my army the victory, and I will take your cities and drive the
Franks back into the sea. Let them seek their own lands and
worship God there after their own fashion, and leave the East in
"Now, Sir Godwin, tell these captives for me that tomorrow I send
those of them who are unwounded to Damascus, there to await
ransom while I besiege Jerusalem and the other Christian cities.
Let them have no fear; I have emptied the cup of my anger; no
more of them shall die, and a priest of their faith, the bishop
of Nazareth, shall stay with their sick in my army to minister to
them after their own rites.
So Godwin rose and told them, and they answered not a word, who
had lost all hope and courage.
Afterwards he asked whether he and his brother were also to be
sent to Damascus.
Saladin replied, "No; he would keep them for awhile to
interpret, then they might go their ways without ransom."
On the morrow, accordingly, the captives were sent to Damascus,
and that day Saladin took the castle of Tiberias, setting at
liberty Eschiva, the wife of Raymond, and her children. Then he
moved on to Acre, which he took, relieving four thousand Moslem
captives, and so on to other towns, all of which fell before him,
till at length he came to Ascalon, which he besieged in form,
setting up his mangonels against its walls.
The night was dark outside of Ascalon, save when the flashes of
lightning in the storm that rolled down from the mountains to the
sea lit it up, showing the thousands of white tents set round the
city, the walls and the sentries who watched upon them, the
feathery palms that stood against the sky, the mighty,
snow-crowned range of Lebanon, and encircling all the black
breast of the troubled ocean. In a little open space of the
garden of an empty house that stood without the walls, a man and
a woman were talking, both of them wrapped in dark cloaks. They
were Godwin and Masouda.
"Well," said Godwin eagerly, "is all ready?"
She nodded and answered:
"At length, all. To-morrow afternoon an assault will be made upon
Ascalon, but even if it is taken the camp will not be moved that
night. There will be great confusion, and Abdullah, who is
somewhat sick, will be the captain of the guard over the
princess's tent. He will allow the soldiers to slip away to
assist in the sack of the city, nor will they betray him. At
sunset but one eunuch will be on watch--Mesrour; and I will find
means to put him to sleep. Abdullah will bring the princess to
this garden disguised as his young son, and there you two and I
shall meet them."
"What then?" asked Godwin.
"Do you remember the old Arab who brought you the horses Flame
and Smoke, and took no payment for them, he who was named Son of
the Sand? Well, as you know, he is my uncle, and he has more
horses of that breed. I have seen him, and he is well pleased at
the tale of Flame and Smoke and the knights who rode them, and
more particularly at the way in which they came to their end,
which he says has brought credit to their ancient blood. At the
foot of this garden is a cave, which was once a sepulchre. There
we shall find the horses--four of them--and with them my uncle,
Son of the Sand, and by the morning light we will be a hundred
miles away and lie hid with his tribe until we can slip to the
coast and board a Christian ship. Does it please you?"
"Very well; but what is Abdullah's price?"
"One only--the enchanted star, the Luck of the House of Hassan;
for nothing else will he take such risks. Will Sir Wulf give it?"
"Surely," answered Godwin with a laugh.
"Good. Then it must be done to-night. When I return I will send
Abdullah to your tent. Fear not; if he takes the jewel he will
give the price, since otherwise he thinks it will bring him ill
"Does the lady Rosamund know?" asked Godwin again.
She shook her head.
"Nay, she is mad to escape; she thinks of little else all day
long. But what is the use of telling her till the time comes? The
fewer in such a plot the better, and if anything goes wrong, it
is well that she should be innocent, for then--"
"Then death, and farewell to all things," said Godwin; "nor
indeed should I grieve to say them good-bye. But, Masouda, you
run great peril. Tell me now, honestly, why do you do this?"
As he spoke the lightning flashed and showed her face as she
stood there against a background of green leaves and red lily
flowers. There was a strange look upon it--a look that made
Godwin feel afraid, he knew not of what.
"Why did I take you into my inn yonder in Beirut when you were
the pilgrims Peter and John? Why did I find you the best horses
in Syria and guide you to the Al-je-bal? Why did I often dare
death by torment for you there? Why did I save the three of you?
And why, for all this weary while, have I--who, after all, am
nobly born--become the mock of soldiers and the tire-woman of the
princess of Baalbec?
"Shall I answer?" she went on, laughing. "Doubtless in the
beginning because I was the agent of Sinan, charged to betray
such knights as you are into his hands, and afterwards because my
heart was filled with pity and love for--the lady Rosamund."
Again the lightning flashed, and this time that strange look had
spread from Masouda's face to the face of Godwin.
"Masouda," he said in a whisper, "oh! think me no vain fool, but
since it is best perhaps that both should know full surely, tell
me, is it as I have sometimes--"
"Feared?" broke in Masouda with her little mocking laugh. "Sir
Godwin, it is so. What does your faith teach--the faith in which
I was bred, and lost, but that now is mine again--because it is
yours? That men and women are free, or so some read it. Well, it
or they are wrong. We are not free. Was I free when first I saw
your eyes in Beirut, the eyes for which I had been watching all
my life, and something came from you to me, and I--the cast-off
plaything of Sinan--loved you, loved you, loved you--to my own
doom? Yes, and rejoiced that it was so, and still rejoice that it
is so, and would choose no other fate, because in that love I
learned that there is a meaning in this life, and that there is
an answer to it in lives to be, otherwhere if not here. Nay,
speak not. I know your oath, nor would I tempt you to its
breaking. But, Sir Godwin, a woman such as the lady Rosamund
cannot love two men," and as she spoke Masouda strove to search
his face while the shaft went home.
But Godwin showed neither surprise nor pain.
"So you know what I have known for long," he said, "so long that
my sorrow is lost in the hope of my brother's joy. Moreover, it
is well that she should have chosen the better knight."
"Sometimes," said Masouda reflectively, "sometimes I have watched
the lady Rosamund, and said to myself, 'What do you lack? You are
beautiful, you are highborn, you are learned, you are brave, and
you are good.' Then I have answered, 'You lack wisdom and true
sight, else you would not have chosen Wulf when you might have
taken Godwin. Or perchance your eyes are blinded also.' "
"Speak not thus of one who is my better in all things, I pray
you," said Godwin in a vexed voice.