H. Rider Haggard
Part 4 out of 8
"Who remembered the swords of Godwin and Wulf," broke in Rosamund
scornfully, "and preferred that braver men should face them."
"Lady," answered Lozelle, colouring, "hitherto none have accused
me of a lack of courage. Of your courtesy, listen, I pray you. I
did wrong to enter on this business; but lady, it was love for
you that drove me to it, for the thought of this long voyage in
your company was a bait I could not withstand."
"Paynim gold was the bait you could not withstand--that is what
you mean. Be brief, I pray you. I weary.
"Lady, you are harsh and misjudge me, as I will show," and he
looked about him cautiously. "Within a week from now, if all goes
well, we cast anchor at Limazol in Cyprus, to take in food and
water before we run to a secret port near Antioch, whence you are
to be taken overland to Damascus, avoiding all cities of the
Franks. Now, the Emperor Isaac of Cyprus is my friend, and over
him Saladin has no power. Once in his court, you would be safe
until such time as you found opportunity to return to England.
This, then, is my plan--that you should escape from the ship at
night as I can arrange."
"And what is your payment," she asked, "who are a merchant
"My payment, lady, is--yourself. In Cyprus we will be wed--oh!
think before you answer. At Damascus many dangers await you; with
me you will find safety and a Christian husband who loves you
well--so well that for your sake he is willing to lose his ship
and, what is more, to break faith with Saladin, whose arm is
"Have done," she said coldly. "Sooner will I trust myself to an
honest Saracen than to you, Sir Hugh, whose spurs, if you met
your desert, should be hacked from your heels by scullions. Yes,
sooner would I take death for my lord than you, who for your own
base ends devised the plot that brought my father to his murder
and me to slavery. Have done, I say, and never dare again to
speak of love to me," and rising, she walked past him to her
But Lozelle looking after her muttered to himself, "Nay, fair
lady, I have but begun; nor will I forget your bitter words, for
which you shall pay the merchant knight in kisses."
>From her cabin Rosamund sent a message to Hassan, saying that
she would speak with him.
He came, still pale with illness, and asked her will, whereon she
told him what had passed between Lozelle and herself, demanding
his protection against this man.
Hassan's eyes flashed.
"Yonder he stands," he said, "alone. Will you come with me and
speak to him?"
She bowed her head, and giving her his hand, he led her to the
"Sir captain," he began, addressing Lozelle, "the Princess here
tells me a strange story--that you have dared to offer your love
to her, by Allah! to her, a niece of Salah-ed-din."
"What of it, Sir Saracen?" answered Lozelle, insolently. "Is not
a Christian knight fit mate for the blood of an Eastern chief ?
Had I offered her less than marriage, you might have spoken."
"You!" answered Hassan, with rage in his low voice, "you,
huckstering thief and renegade, who swear by Mahomet in Damascus
and by your prophet Jesus in England--ay, deny it not, I have
heard you, as I have heard that rogue, Nicholas, your servant.
You, her fit mate? Why, were it not that you must guide this
ship, and that my master bade me not to quarrel with you till
your task was done, I would behead you now and cut from your
throat the tongue that dared to speak such words," and as he
spoke he gripped the handle of his scimitar.
Lozelle quailed before his fierce eyes, for well he knew Hassan,
and knew also that if it came to fighting his sailors were no
match for the emir and his picked Saracens.
"When our duty is done you shall answer for those words," he
said, trying to look brave.
"By Allah! I hold you to the promise," replied Hassan. "Before
Salah-ed-din I will answer for them when and where you will, as
you shall answer to him for your treachery."
"Of what, then, am I accused?" asked Lozelle. "Of loving the lady
Rosamund, as do all men--perhaps yourself, old and withered as
you are, among them?"
"Ay, and for that crime I will repay you, old and withered as I
am, Sir Renegade. But with Salah-ed-din you have another score to
settle--that by promising her escape you tried to seduce her from
this ship, where you were sworn to guard her, saying that you
would find her refuge among the Greeks of Cyprus."
"Were this true," replied Lozelle, "the Sultan might have cause
of complaint against me. But it is not true. Hearken, since speak
I must. The lady Rosamund prayed me to do this deed, and I told
her that for my honour's sake it is not possible, although it was
true that I loved her now as always, and would dare much for her.
Then she said that if I did but save her from you Saracens, I
should not go without my reward, since she would wed me. Again,
although it cost me sore, I answered that it might not be, but
when once I had brought my ship to land, I was her true knight,
and being freed of my oath, would do my best to save her."
"Princess, you hear," said Hassan, turning to Rosamund. "What say
"I say," she answered coldly, "that this man lies to save
himself. I say, moreover, that I answered to him, that sooner
would I die than that he should lay a finger on me."
"I hold also that he lies," said Hassan. "Nay; unclasp that
dagger if you would live to see another sun. Here, I will not
fight with you, but Salah-ed-din shall learn all this case when
we reach his court, and judge between the word of the princess of
Baalbec and of his hired servant, the false Frank and pirate, Sir
"Let him learn it--when we reach his court," answered Lozelle,
with meaning; then added, "Have you aught else to say to me,
prince Hassan? Because if not, I must be attending to the
business of my ship, which you suppose that I was about to
abandon to win a lady's smile."
"Only this, that the ship is the Sultan's and not yours, for he
bought it from you, and that henceforth this lady will be guarded
day and night, and doubly guarded when we come to the shores of
Cyprus, where it seems that you have friends. Understand and
"I understand, and certainly I will remember," replied Lozelle,
and so they parted.
"I think," said Rosamund, when he had gone, "that we shall be
fortunate if we land safe in Syria."
"That was in my mind, also, lady. I think, too, that I have
forgot my wisdom, but my heart rose against this man, and being
still weak from sickness, I lost my judgment and spoke what was
in my heart, who would have done better to wait. Now, perhaps, it
will be best to kill him, if it were not that he alone has the
skill to navigate the ship, which is a trade that he has followed
from his youth. Nay, let it go as Allah wills. He is just, and
will bring the matter to judgment in due time."
"Yes, but to what judgment?" asked Rosamund.
"I hope to that of the sword," answered Hassan, as he bowed and
>From that time forward armed men watched all the night through
before Rosamund's cabin, and when she walked the deck armed men
walked after her. Nor was she troubled by Lozelle, who sought to
speak with her no more, or to Hassan either. Only with the man
Nicholas he spoke much.
At length upon one golden evening--for Lozelle was a skilful
pilot, one of the best, indeed, who sailed those seas--they came
to the shores of Cyprus, and cast anchor. Before them, stretched
along the beach, lay the white town of Limazol, with palm trees
standing up amidst its gardens, while beyond the fertile plain
rose the mighty mountain range of Trooidos. Sick and weary of the
endless ocean, Rosamund gazed with rapture at this green and
beauteous shore, the home of so much history, and sighed to think
that on it she might set no foot. Lozelle saw her look and heard
her sigh, and as he climbed into the boat which had come out to
row him into the harbour, mocked her, saying:
"Will you not change your mind, lady, and come with me to visit
my friend, the Emperor Isaac? I swear that his court is gay, not
packed full of sour Saracens or pilgrims thinking of their souls.
In Cyprus they only make pilgrimages to Paphos yonder, where
Venus was born from out the foam, and has reigned since the
beginning of the world--ay, and will reign until its end."
Rosamund made no answer, and Lozelle, descending into the boat,
was rowed shorewards through the breakers by the dark-skinned,
Cyprian oarsmen, who wore flowers in their hair and sang as they
laboured at the oars.
For ten whole days they rolled off Limazol, although the weather
was fair and the wind blew straight for Syria. When Rosamund
asked why they bided there so long, Hassan stamped his foot and
said it was because the Emperor refused to supply them with more
food or water than was sufficient for their daily need, unless
he, Hassan, would land and travel to an inland town called
Nicosia, where his court lay, and there do homage to him. This,
scenting a trap, he feared to do, nor could they put out to sea
"Cannot Sir Hugh Lozelle see to it?" asked Rosamund.
"Doubtless, if he will," answered Hassan, grinding his teeth;
"but he swears that he is powerless."
So there they bode day after day, baked by the sweltering summer
sun and rocked to and fro on the long ocean rollers till their
hearts grew sick within them, and their bodies also, for some of
them were seized with a fever common to the shores of Cyprus, of
which two died. Now and again some officer would come off from
the shore with Lozelle and a little food and water, and bargain
with them, saying that before their wants were supplied the
prince Hassan must visit the Emperor and bring with him the fair
lady who was his passenger, whom he desired to see.
Hassan would answer no, and double the guard about Rosamund, for
at nights boats appeared that cruised round them. In the daytime
also bands of men, fantastically dressed in silks, and with them
women, could be seen riding to and fro upon the shore and staring
at them, as though they were striving to make up their minds to
attack the ship.
Then Hassan armed his grim Saracens and bade them stand in line
upon the bulwarks, drawn scimitar in hand, a sight that seemed to
frighten the Cypriotes--at least they always rode away towards
the great square tower of Colossi.
At length Hassan would bear it no more. One morning Lozelle came
off from Limazol, where he slept at night, bringing with him
three Cyprian lords, who visited the ship--not to bargain as they
pretended, but to obtain sight of the beauteous princess
Rosamund. Thereon the common talk began of homage that must be
paid before food was granted, failing which the Emperor would bid
his seamen capture the ship. Hassan listened a while, then
suddenly issued an order that the lords should be seized.
"Now," he said to Lozelle, "bid your sailors haul up the anchor,
and let us begone for Syria."
"But," answered the knight, "we have neither food nor water for
more than one day."
"I care not," answered Hassan, "as well die of thirst and
starvation on the sea as rot here with fever. What we can bear
these Cyprian gallants can bear also. Bid the sailors lift the
anchor and hoist the sail, or I loose my scimitars among them."
Now Lozelle stamped and foamed, but without avail, so he turned
to the three lords, who were pale with fear, and said:
"Which will you do: find food and water for this ship, or put to
sea without them, which is but to die?"
They answered that they would go ashore and supply all that was
"Nay," said Hassan, "you bide here until it comes."
In the end, then, this happened, for one of the lords chanced to
be a nephew of the Emperor, who, when he learned that he was
captive, sent supplies in plenty. Thus it came about that the
Cyprian lords having been sent back with the last empty boat,
within two days they were at sea again.
Now Rosamund missed the hated face of the spy, Nicholas, and told
Hassan, who made inquiry, to find--or so said Lozelle--that he
went ashore and vanished there on the first day of their landing
in Cyprus, though whether he had been killed in some brawl, or
fallen sick, or hidden himself away, he did not know. Hassan
shrugged his shoulders, and Rosamund was glad enough to be rid of
him, but in her heart she wondered for what evil purpose Nicholas
had left the ship.
When the galley was one day out from Cyprus steering for the
coast of Syria, they fell into a calm such as is common in those
seas in summer. This calm lasted eight whole days, during which
they made but little progress. At length, when all were weary of
staring at the oil-like sea, a wind sprang up that grew gradually
to a gale blowing towards Syria, and before it they fled along
swiftly. Worse and stronger grew that gale, till on the evening
of the second day, when they seemed in no little danger of being
pooped, they saw a great mountain far away, at the sight of which
Lozelle thanked God aloud.
"Are those the mountains near Antioch?" asked Hassan.
"Nay," he answered, "they are more than fifty miles south of
them, between Ladikiya and Jebela. There, by the mercy of Heaven,
is a good haven, for I have visited it, where we can lie till
this storm is past."
"But we are steering for Darbesak, not for a haven near Jebela,
which is a Frankish port," answered Hassan, angrily.
"Then put the ship about and steer there yourself," said Lozelle,
"and I promise you this, that within two hours every one of you
will be dead at the bottom of the sea."
Hassan considered. It was true, for then the waves would strike
them broadside on, and they must fill and sink.
"On your head be it," he answered shortly.
The dark fell, and by the light of the great lantern at their
prow they saw the white seas hiss past as they drove shorewards
beneath bare masts. For they dared hoist no sail.
All that night they pitched and rolled, till the stoutest of them
fell sick, praying God and Allah that they might have light by
which to enter the harbour. At length they saw the top of the
loftiest mountain grow luminous with the coming dawn, although
the land itself was still lost in shadow, and saw also that it
seemed to be towering almost over them.
"Take courage," cried Lozelle, "I think that we are saved," and
he hoisted a second lantern at his masthead--why, they did not
After this the sea began to fall, only to grow rough again for a
while as they crossed some bar, to find themselves in calm water,
and on either side of them what appeared in the dim, uncertain
light to be the bush-clad banks of a river. For a while they ran
on, till Lozelle called in a loud voice to the sailors to let the
anchor go, and sent a messenger to say that all might rest now,
as they were safe. So they laid them down and tried to sleep.
But Rosamund could not sleep. Presently she rose, and throwing on
her cloak went to the door of the cabin and looked at the beauty
of the mountains, rosy with the new-born light, and at the misty
surface of the harbour. It was a lonely place--at least, she
could see no town or house, although they were lying not fifty
yards from the tree-hidden shore. As she stood thus, she heard
the sound of boats being rowed through the mist, and perceived
three or four of these approaching the ship in silence, perceived
also that Lozelle, who stood alone upon the deck, was watching
their approach. Now the first boat made fast and a man in the
prow rose up and began to speak to Lozelle in a low voice. As he
did so the hood fell back from his head, and Rosamund saw the
face. It was that of the spy Nicholas! For a moment she stood
amazed, for they had left this man in Cyprus; then understanding
came to her and she cried aloud:
"Treachery! Prince Hassan, there is treachery."
As the words left her lips fierce, wild-looking men began to
scramble aboard at the low waist of the galley, to which boat
after boat made fast. The Saracens also tumbled from the benches
where they slept and ran aft
to the deck where Rosamund was, all except one of them.
who was cut off in the prow of the ship. Prince Hassan appeared,
too, scimitar in hand, clad in his jewelled turban and coat of
mail, but without his cloak, shouting orders as he came, while
the hired crew of the ship flung themselves upon their knees and
begged for mercy. To him Rosamund cried out that they were
betrayed and by Nicholas, whom she had seen. Then a great man,
wearing a white burnous and holding a naked sword in his hand,
stepped forward and said in Arabic:
"Yield you now, for you are outnumbered and your captain is
captured," and he pointed to Lozelle, who was being held by two
men while his arms were bound behind him.
"In whose name do you bid me yield?" asked the prince, glaring
about him like a lion in a trap.
"In the dread name of Sinan, in the name of the lord Al-je-bal, O
servant of Salah-ed-din."
At these words a groan of fear went up even from the brave
Saracens, for now they learned that they had to do with the
terrible chief of the Assassins.
"Is there then war between the Sultan and Sinan?" asked Hassan.
"Ay, there is always war. Moreover, you have one with you," and
he pointed to Rosamund, "who is dear to Salah-ed-din, whom,
therefore, my master desires as a hostage."
"How knew you that?" said Hassan, to gain time while his men
"How does the lord Sinan know all things?" was the answer; "Come,
yield, and perhaps he will show you mercy."
"Through spies," hissed Hassan, "such spies as Nicholas, who has
come from Cyprus before us, and that Frankish dog who is called a
knight," and he pointed to Lozelle. "Nay, we yield not, and here,
Assassins, you have to do not with poisons and the knife, but
with bare swords and brave men. Ay, and I warn you--and your
lord-- that Salah-ed-din will take vengeance for this deed."
"Let him try it if he wishes to die, who hitherto has been
spared," answered the tall man quietly. Then he said to his
followers, "Cut them down, all save the women"--for the
Frenchwoman, Marie, was now clinging to the arm of Rosamund--"and
emir Hassan, whom I am commanded to bring living to Masyaf."
"Back to your cabin, lady," said Hassan, "and remember that
whate'er befalls, we have done our best to save you. Ay, and
tell it to my lord, that my honour may be clean in his eyes. Now,
soldiers of Salah-ed-din, fight and die as he has taught you how.
The gates of Paradise stand open, and no coward will enter
They answered with a fierce, guttural cry. Then, as Rosamund fled
to the cabin, the fray began, a hideous fray. On came the
Assassins with sword and dagger, striving to storm the deck.
Again and again they were beaten back, till the waist seemed full
of their corpses, as man by man they fell beneath the curved
scimitars, and again and again they charged these men who, when
their master ordered, knew neither fear nor pity. But more
boatloads came from the shore, and the Saracens were but few,
worn also with storm and sickness, so at last Rosamund, peeping
beneath her hand, saw that the poop was gained.
Here and there a man fought on until he fell beneath the cruel
knives in the midst of the circle of the dead, among them the
warrior-prince Hassan. Watching him with fascinated eyes as he
strove alone against a host, Rosamund was put in mind of another
scene, when her father, also alone, had striven thus against that
emir and his soldiers, and even then she bethought her of the
justice of God.
See! his foot slipped on the blood-stained deck. He was down, and
ere he could rise again they had thrown cloaks over him, these
fierce, silent men, who even with their lives at stake,
remembered the command of their captain, to take him living. So
living they took him, with not a wound upon his skin, who when he
struck them down, had never struck back at him lest the command
of Sinan should be broken.
Rosamund noted it, and remembering that his command was also that
she should be brought to him unharmed, knew that she had no
violence to fear at the hands of these cruel murderers. From this
thought, and because Hassan still lived, she took such comfort as
"It is finished," said the tall man, in his cold voice. "Cast
these dogs into the sea who have dared to disobey the command of
So they took them up, dead and living together, and threw them
into the water, where they sank, nor did one of the wounded
Saracens pray them for mercy. Then they served their own dead
likewise, but those that were only wounded they took ashore. This
done, the tall man advanced to the cabin and said:
"Lady, come, we are ready to start upon our journey."
Having no choice, Rosamund obeyed him, remembering as she went
how from a scene of battle and bloodshed she had been brought
aboard that ship to be carried she knew not whither, which now
she left in a scene of battle and bloodshed to be carried she
knew not whither.
"Oh!" she cried aloud, pointing to the corpses they hurled into
the deep, "ill has it gone with these who stole me, and ill may
it go with you also, servant of Al-je-bal."
But the tall man answered nothing, as followed by the weeping
Marie and the prince Hassan, he led her to the boat.
Soon they reached the shore, and here they tore Marie from her,
nor did Rosamund ever learn what became of her, or whether or no
this poor woman found her husband whom she had dared so much to
Chapter Eleven: The City of Al-Je-Bal
"I pray you have done," said Godwin, "it is but a scratch from
the beast's claws. I am ashamed that you should put your hair to
such vile uses. Give me a little water."
He asked it of Wulf, but Masouda rose without a word and fetched
the water, in which she mingled wine. Godwin drank of it and his
faintness left him, so that he was able to stand up and move his
arms and legs.
"Why," he said, "it is nothing; I was only shaken. That lioness
did not hurt me at all."
"But you hurt the lioness," said Wulf, with a laugh. "By St. Chad
a good thrust!" and he pointed to the long sword driven up to the
hilt in the brute's breast. "Why, I swear I could not have made a
"I think it was the lion that thrust," answered Godwin. "I only
held the sword straight. Drag it out, brother, I am still too
So Wulf set his foot upon the breast of the lion and tugged and
tugged until at length he loosened the sword, saying as he
strained at it:
"Oh! what an Essex hog am I, who slept through it all, never
waking until Masouda seized me by the hair, and I opened my eyes
to see you upon the ground with this yellow beast crouched on the
top of you like a hen on a nest egg. I thought that it was alive
and smote it with my sword, which, had I been fully awake, I
doubt if I should have found the courage to do. Look," and he
pushed the lioness's head with his foot, whereon it twisted round
in such a fashion that they perceived for the first time that it
only hung to the shoulders by a thread of skin.
"I am glad you did not strike a little harder," said Godwin, "or
I should now be in two pieces and drowned m my own blood,
instead of in that of this dead brute," and he looked ruefully at
his burnous and hauberk, that were soaked with gore.
"Yes," said Wulf, "I never thought of that. Who would, in such a
"Lady Masouda," asked Godwin, "when last I saw you you were
hanging from those jaws. Say, are you hurt?"
"Nay," she answered, "for I wear mail like you, and the teeth
glanced on it so that she held me by the cloak only. Come, let us
skin the beast, and take its pelt as a present to the lord
"Good," said Godwin, "and I give you the claws for a necklace."
"Be sure that I will wear them," she answered, and helped Wulf to
flay the lioness while he sat by resting. When it was done Wulf
went to the little cave and walked into it, to come out again
with a bound.
"Why!" he said, "there are more of them in there. I saw their
eyes and heard them snarl. Now, give me a burning branch and I
will show you, brother, that you are not the only one who can
fight a lion."
"Let be, you foolish man," broke in Masouda. "Doubtless those are
her cubs, and if you kill them, her mate will follow us for
miles; but if they are left safe he will stay to feed them. Come,
let us begone from this place as swiftly as we can."
So having shown them the skin of the lion, that they might know
it was but a dead thing, at the sight of which they snorted and
trembled, they packed it upon one of the mules and rode off
slowly into a valley some five miles away, where was water but no
trees. Here, since Godwin needed rest, they stopped all that day
and the night which followed, seeing no more of lions, though
they watched for them sharply enough. The next morning, having
slept well, he was himself again, and they started forward
through a broken country towards a deep cleft, on either side of
which stood a tall mountain.
"This is Al-je-bal's gateway," said Masouda, "and tonight we
should sleep in the gate, whence one day's ride brings us to his
So on they rode till at length, perched upon the sides of the
cleft, they saw a castle, a great building, with high walls, to
which they came at sunset. It seemed that they were expected in
this place, for men hastened to meet them, who greeted Masouda
and eyed the brethren curiously, especially after they had heard
of the adventure with the lion. These took them, not into the
castle, but to a kind of hostelry at its back, where they were
furnished with food and slept the night.
Next morning they went on again to a hilly country with beautiful
and fertile valleys. Through this they rode for two hours,
passing on their way several villages, where sombre-eyed people
were labouring in the fields. From each village, as they drew
near to it, horsemen would gallop out and challenge them, whereon
Masouda rode forward and spoke with the leader alone. Then he
would touch his forehead with his hand and bow his head and they
rode on unmolested.
"See," she said, when they had thus been stopped for the fourth
time, "what chance you had of winning through to Masyaf
unguarded. Why, I tell you, brethren, that you would have been
dead before ever you passed the gates of the first castle."
Now they rode up a long slope, and at its crest paused to look
upon a marvellous scene. Below them stretched a vast plain, full
of villages, cornfields, olive-groves, and vineyards. In the
centre of this plain, some fifteen miles away, rose a great
mountain, which seemed to be walled all about. Within the wall
was a city of which the white, flat-roofed houses climbed the
slopes of the mountain, and on its crest a level space of land
covered with trees and a great, many-towered castle surrounded by
"Behold the home of Al-je-bal, Lord of the Mountain," said
Masouda, "where we must sleep to-night. Now, brethren, listen to
me. Few strangers who enter that castle come thence living. There
is still time; I can pass you back as I passed you hither. Will
you go on?"
"We will go on," they answered with one breath.
"Why? What have you to gain? You seek a certain maiden. Why seek
her here whom you say has been taken to Salah-ed-din? Because the
Al-je-bal in bygone days swore to befriend one of your blood. But
that Al-je-bal is dead, and another of his line rules who took no
such oath. How do you know that he will befriend you--how that he
will not enslave or kill you? I have power in this land, why or
how does not matter, and I can protect you against all that dwell
in it--as I swear I will, for did not one of you save my life?"
and she glanced at Godwin, "except my lord Sinan, against whom I
have no power, for I am his slave."
"He is the enemy of Saladin, and may help us for his hate's
"Yes, he is the enemy of Salah-ed-din now more than ever. He may
help you or he may not. Also," she added with meaning, "you may
not wish the help he offers Oh! " and there was a note of
entreaty in her voice, "think, think! For the last time, I pray
"We have thought," answered Godwin solemnly; "and, whatever
chances, we will obey the command of the dead."
She heard and bowed her head in assent, then said, looking up
"So be it. You are not easily turned from your purpose, and I
like that spirit well. But hear my counsel. While you are in this
city speak no Arabic and pretend to understand none. Also drink
nothing but water, which is good here, for the lord Sinan sets
strange wines before his guests, that, if they pass the lips,
produce visions and a kind of waking madness in which you might
do deeds whereof you were afterwards ashamed. Or you might swear
oaths that would sit heavy on your souls, and yet could not be
broken except at the cost of life."
"Fear not," answered Wulf. "Water shall be our drink, who have
had enough of drugged wines," for he remembered the Christmas
feast in the Hall at Steeple.
"You, Sir Godwin," went on Masouda, "have about your neck a
certain ring which you were mad enough to show to me, a
stranger--a ring with writing on it which none can read save the
great men that in this land are called the dais. Well, as it
chances, the secret is safe with me; but be wise; say nothing of
that ring and let no eye.see it."
"Why not?" asked Godwin. "It is the token of our dead uncle to
She looked round her cautiously and replied:
"Because it is, or was once, the great Signet, and a day may come
when it will save your lives. Doubtless when the lord who is dead
thought it gone forever he caused another to be fashioned, so
like that I who have had both in my hand could not tell the two
apart. To him who holds that ring all gates are open; but to let
it be known that you have its double means death. Do you
They nodded, and Masouda continued:
"Lastly--though you may think that this seems much to ask--trust
me always, even if I seem to play you false, who for your sakes,"
and she sighed, "have broken oaths and spoken words for which the
punishment is to die by torment. Nay, thank me not, for I do only
what I must who am a slave--a slave."
"A slave to whom?" asked Godwin, staring at her.
"To the Lord of all the Mountains," she answered, with a smile
that was sweet yet very sad; and without another word spurred on
"What does she mean," asked Godwin of Wulf, when she was out of
hearing, "seeing that if she speaks truth, for our sakes, in
warning us against him, Masouda is breaking her fealty to this
"I do not know, brother, and I do not seek to know. All her talk
may be a part of a plot to blind us, or it may not. Let well
alone and trust in fortune, say I."
"A good counsel," answered Godwin, and they rode forward in
They crossed the plain, and towards evening came to the wall of
the outer city, halting in front of its great gateway. Here, as
at the first castle, a band of solemn-looking mounted men came
out to meet them, and, having spoken a few words with Masouda,
led them over the drawbridge that spanned the first rock-cut
moat, and through triple gates of iron into the city. Then they
passed up a street very steep and narrow, from the roofs and
windows of the houses on either side of which hundreds of
people--many of whom seemed to be engaged at their evening
prayer--watched them go by. At the head of this street they
reached another fortified gateway, on the turrets of which, so
motionless that at first they took them to be statues cut in
stone, stood guards wrapped in long white robes. After parley,
this also was opened to them, and again they rode through triple
Then they saw all the wonder of that place, for between the outer
city where they stood and the castle, with its inner town which
was built around and beneath it yawned a vast gulf over ninety
feet in depth. Across this gulf, built of blocks of stone, quite
unrailed, and not more than three paces wide, ran a causeway some
two hundred yards in length, which causeway was supported upon
arches reared up at intervals from the bottom of the gulf.
"Ride on and have no fear," said Masouda. "Your horses are
trained to heights, and the mules and mine will follow."
So Godwin, showing nothing in his face of the doubt that he felt
in his heart, patted Flame upon the neck, and, after hanging back
a little, the horse started lifting its hoofs high and glancing
from side to side at the terrible gulf beneath. Where Flame went
Smoke knew that it could go, and came on bravely, but snorting a
little, while the mules, that did not fear heights so long as the
ground was firm beneath their feet, followed. Only Masouda's
horse was terrified, backed, and strove to wheel round, till she
drove the spur into it, when of a sudden it started and came over
at a gallop.
At length they were across, and, passing under another gateway
which had broad terraces on either side of it, rode up the long
street beyond and entered a great courtyard, around which stood
the castle, a vast and frowning fortress. Here a white-robed
officer came forward, greeting them with a low bow, and with him
servants who assisted them to dismount. These men took the horses
to a range of stables on one side of the courtyard, whither the
brethren followed to see their beasts groomed and fed. Then the
officer, who had stood patiently by the while, conducted them
through doorways and down passages to the guest chambers, large,
stone-roofed rooms, where they found their baggage ready for
them. Here Masouda said that she would see them again on the
following morning, and departed in company with the officer.
Wulf looked round the great vaulted chamber, which. now that the
dark had fallen, was lit by flickering lamps set in iron
brackets upon the wall, and said:
"Well, for my part, I had rather pass the night in a desert among
the lions than in this dismal place."
Scarcely were the words out of his lips when curtains swung aside
and beautiful women entered, clad in gauzy veils and bearing
dishes of food. These they placed upon the ground before them,
inviting them to eat with nods and smiles, while others brought
basins of scented water, which they poured over their hands. Then
they sat down and ate the food that was strange to them, but very
pleasant to the taste; and while they ate, women whom they could
not see sang sweet songs, and played upon harps and lutes. Wine
was offered to them also; but of this, remembering Masouda's
words, they would not drink, asking by signs for water, which was
brought after a little pause.
When their meal was done, the beautiful women bore away the
dishes, and black slaves appeared. These men led them to baths
such as they had never seen, where they washed first in hot
water, then in cold. Afterwards they were rubbed with
spicy-smelling oils, and having been wrapped in white robes,
conducted back to their chamber, where they found beds spread for
them. On these, being very weary, they lay down, when the
strange, sweet music broke out afresh, and to the sound of it
they fell asleep.
When they awoke it was to see the light streaming through the
high, latticed windows.
"Did you sleep well, Godwin?" asked Wulf.
"Well enough," answered his brother, "only I dreamed that
throughout the night people came and looked at me."
"I dreamed that also," said Wulf; "moreover, I think that it was
not all a dream, since there is a coverlet on my bed which was
not there when I went to sleep."
Godwin looked at his own, where also was another coverlet added,
doubtless as the night grew colder in that high place.
"I have heard of enchanted castles," he said; "now I think that
we have found one."
"Ay," replied Wulf, "and it is well enough while it lasts."
They rose and dressed themselves, putting on clean garments and
their best cloaks, that they had brought with them on the mules,
after which the veiled women entered the room with breakfast, and
they ate. When this was finished, having nothing else to do, they
made signs to one of the women that they wished for cloths
wherewith to clean their armour, for, as they had been bidden,
they pretended to understand no word of Arabic. She nodded, and
presently returned with a companion carrying leathers and paste
in a jar. Nor did they leave them, but, sitting upon the ground,
whether the brethren willed it or no, took the shirts of mail and
rubbed them till they shone like silver, while Godwin and Wulf
polished their helms, spurs, and bucklers, cleansing their swords
and daggers also, and sharpening them with a stone which they
carried for that purpose.
Now as these women worked, they began to talk to each other in a
low voice, and some of their talk, though not all, the brethren
"A handsome pair truly," said the first. "We should be fortunate
if we had such men for husbands, although they are Franks and
"Ay," answered the other; "and from their likeness they must be
twins. Now which of them would you choose?"
Then for a long while they discussed them, comparing them feature
by feature and limb by limb, until the brethren felt their faces
grow red beneath the sunburn and scrubbed furiously at their
armour to show a reason for it. At length one of the women said:
"It was cruel of the lady Masouda to bring these birds into the
Master's net. She might have warned them."
"Masouda was ever cruel," answered the other, "who hates all men,
which is unnatural. Yet I think if she loved a man she would love
him well, and perhaps that might be worse for him than her hate."
"Are these knights spies?" asked the first.
"I suppose so," was the answer, "silly fellows who think that
they can spy upon a nation of spies. They would have done better
to keep to fighting, at which, doubtless, they are good enough.
What will happen to them?"
"What always happens, I suppose--a pleasant time at first; then,
if they can be put to no other use, a choice between the faith
and the cup. Or, perhaps, as they seem men of rank, they may be
imprisoned in the dungeon tower and held to ransom. Yes, yes; it
was cruel of Masouda to trick them so, who may be but travellers
after all, desiring to see our city."
Just then the curtain was drawn, and through it entered Masouda
herself. She was dressed in a white robe that had a dagger worked
in red over the left breast, and her long black hair fell upon
her shoulders, although it was half hid by the veil, open in
front, which hung from her head. Never had they seen her look so
beautiful as she seemed thus.
"Greetings, brothers Peter and John. Is this fit work for
pilgrims?" she said in French, pointing to the long swords which
they were sharpening.
"Ay," answered Wulf, as they rose and bowed to her, "for pilgrims
to this--holy city."
The women who were cleaning the mail bowed also, for it seemed
that here Masouda was a person of importance. She took the
hauberks from their hands.
"III cleansed," she said sharply. "I think that you girls talk
better than you work. Nay, they must serve. Help these lords to
don them. Fools, that is the shirt of the grey-eyed knight. Give
it me; I will be his squire," and she snatched the hauberk from
their hands, whereat, when her back was turned, they glanced at
"Now," she said, when they were fully armed and had donned their
mantles, "you brethren look as pilgrims should. Listen, I have a
message for you. The Master" --and she bowed her head, as did the
women, guessing of whom she spoke--"will receive you in an hour's
time, till when, if it please you, we can walk in the gardens,
which are worth your seeing."
So they went out with her, and as they passed towards the curtain
"For your lives' sake, remember all that I have told you--above
everything, about the wine and the ring, for if you dream the
drink-dream you will be searched. Speak no word to me save of
In the passage beyond the curtain white-robed guards were
standing, armed with spears, who turned and followed them without
a word. First they went to the stables to visit Flame and Smoke,
which whinnied as they drew near. These they found well-fed and
tended--indeed, a company of grooms were gathered round them,
discussing their points and beauty, who saluted as the owners of
such steeds approached. Leaving the stable, they passed through
an archway into the famous gardens, which were said to be the
most beautiful in all the East. Beautiful they were indeed,
planted with trees, shrubs, and flowers such as are seldom seen,
while between fern-clad rocks flowed rills which fell over deep
cliffs in waterfalls of foam. In places the shade of cedars lay
so dense that the brightness of day was changed to twilight, but
in others the ground was open and carpeted with flowers which
filled the air with perfume. Everywhere grew roses, myrtles, and
trees laden with rich fruits, while from all sides came the sound
of cooing doves and the voices of many bright-winged birds which
flashed from palm to palm.
On they walked, down the sand-strewn paths for a mile or more,
accompanied by Masouda and the guard. At length, passing through
a brake of whispering, reed-like plants, of a sudden they came to
a low wall, and saw, yawning black and wide at their very feet,
that vast cleft which they had crossed before they entered the
"It encircles the inner city, the fortress, and its grounds,"
said Masouda; "and who lives to-day that could throw a bridge
across it? Now come back."
So, following the gulf round, they returned to the castle by
another path, and were ushered into an ante-room, where stood a
watch of twelve men. Here Masouda left them in the midst of the
men, who stared at them with stony eyes. Presently she returned,
and beckoned to them to follow her. Walking down a long passage
they came to curtains, in front of which were two sentries, who
drew these curtains as they approached. Then, side by side, they
entered a great hall, long as Stangate Abbey church, and passed
through a number of people, all crouched upon the ground. Beyond
these the hall narrowed as a chancel does.
Here sat and stood more people, fierce-eyed, turbaned men, who
wore great knives in their girdles. These, as they learned
afterwards, were called the fedai, the sworn assassins, who lived
but to do the command of their lord the great Assassin. At the
end of this chancel were more curtains, beyond which was a
guarded door. It opened, and on its further side they found
themselves in full sunlight on an unwalled terrace, surrounded by
the mighty gulf into which it was built out. On the right and
left edges of this terrace sat old and bearded men, twelve in
number, their heads bowed humbly and their eyes fixed upon the
ground. These were the dais or councillors.
At the head of the terrace, under an open and beautifully carved
pavilion of wood, stood two gigantic soldiers, having the red
dagger blazoned on their white robes. Between them was a black
cushion, and on the cushion a black heap. At first, staring out
of the bright sunlight at this heap in the shadow, the brethren
wondered what it might be. Then they caught sight of the glitter
of eyes, and knew that the heap was a man who wore a black turban
on his head and a black, bell-shaped robe clasped at the breast
with a red jewel. The weight of the man had sunk him down deep
into the soft cushion, so that there was nothing of him to be
seen save the folds of the bell-shaped cloak, the red jewel, and
the head. He looked like a coiled-up snake; the dark and
glittering eyes also were those of a snake. Of his features, in
the deep shade of the canopy and of the wide black turban, they
could see nothing.
The aspect of this figure was so terrible and inhuman that the
brethren trembled at the sight of him. They were men and he was a
man, but between that huddled, beady-eyed heap and those two tall
Western warriors, clad in their gleaming mail and coloured
cloaks, helm on brow, buckler on arm, and long sword at side, the
contrast was that of death and life.
Chapter Twelve: The Lord of Death
Masouda ran forward and prostrated herself at full length, but
Godwin and Wulf stared at the heap, and the heap stared at them.
Then, at some motion of his chin, Masouda arose and said:
"Strangers, you stand in the presence of the Master, Sinan, Lord
of Death. Kneel, and do homage to the Master."
But the brethren stiffened their backs and would not kneel. They
lifted their hands to their brows in salute, but no more.
Then from between the black turban and the black cloak came a
hollow voice, speaking in Arabic, and saying:
"Are these the men who brought me the lion's skin? Well, what
seek ye, Franks?" They stood silent.
"Dread lord," said Masouda, "these knights are but now come from
England over sea, and do not understand our tongue."
"Set out their story and their request," said Al-je-bal, "that we
may judge of them."
"Dread lord," answered Masouda, "as I sent you word, they say
that they are the kin of a certain knight who in battle saved
the life of him who ruled before you, but is now an inhabitant of
"I have heard that there was such a knight," said the voice. "He
was named D'Arcy, and he bore the same cognizance on his
shield--the sign of a skull."
" Lord, these brethren are also named D'Arcy, and now they come
to ask your help against Salah-ed-din."
At that name the heap stirred as a snake stirs when it hears
danger, and the head erected itself a little beneath the great
"What help, and why?" asked the voice.
"Lord, Salah-ed-din has stolen a woman of their house who is his
niece, and these knights, her brothers, ask you to aid them to
The beady eyes instantly became interested.
"Report has been made to me of that story," said the voice; "but
what sign do these Franks show? He who went before me gave a
ring, and with it certain rights in this land, to the knight
D'Arcy who befriended him in danger. Where is that sacred ring,
with which he parted in his foolishness?"
Masouda translated, and seeing the warning in her eyes and
remembering her words, the brethren shook their heads, while Wulf
"Our uncle, the knight Sir Andrew, was cut down by the soldiers
of Salah-ed-din, and as he died bade us seek you out. What time
had he to tell us of any ring?"
The head sank upon the breast.
"I hoped," said Sinan to Masouda, "that they had the ring, and it
was for this reason, woman, that I allowed you to lead these
knights hither, after you had reported of them and their quest to
me from Beirut. It is not well that there should be two holy
Signets in the world, and he who went before me, when he lay
dying, charged me to recover his if that were possible. Let them
go back to their own land and return to me with the ancient ring,
and I will help them."
Masouda translated the last sentence only, and again the brethren
shook their heads. This time it was Godwin who spoke.
"Our land is far away, O lord, and where shall we find this
long-lost ring? Let not our journey be in vain. O mighty One,
give us justice against Salah-ed-din."
"All my years have I sought justice on Salah-ed-din," answered
Sinan, "and yet he prevails against me. Now I make you an offer.
Go, Franks, and bring me his head, or at least put him to death
as I shall show you how, and we will talk again."
When they heard this saying Wulf said to Godwin, in English:
"I think that we had best go; I do not like this company." But
Godwin made no answer.
As they stood silent thus, not knowing what to say, a man entered
through the door, and, throwing himself on his hands and knees,
crawled towards the cushion through the double line of
councillors or dais.
"Your report?" said Sinan in Arabic.
"Lord," answered the man, "I acquaint you that your will has been
done in the matter of the vessel." Then he went on speaking in a
low voice, so rapidly that the brethren could scarcely hear and
much less understand him.
Sinan listened, then said:
"Let the fedai enter and make his own report, bringing with him
Now one of the dais, he who sat nearest the canopy, rose and
pointing towards the brethren, said.
"Touching these Franks, what is your will?"
The beady eyes, which seemed to search out their souls, fixed
themselves upon them and for a long while Sinan considered. They
trembled, knowing that he was passing some judgment concerning
them in his heart, and that on his next words much might
hang--even their lives.
"Let them stay here," he said at length. "I may have questions to
For a time there was silence. Sinan, Lord of Death, seemed to be
lost in thought under the black shade of his canopy; the double
line of dais stared at nothingness across the passage way; the
giant guards stood still as statues; Masouda watched the brethren
from beneath her long eye-lashes, while the brethren watched the
sharp edge of the shadow of the canopy on the marble floor They
strove to seem unconcerned, but their hearts were beating fast
within them who felt that great things were about to happen,
though what these might be they knew not.
So intense was the silence, so dreadful seemed that inhuman,
snake-like man, so strange his aged, passionless councillors, and
the place of council surrounded by a dizzy gulf, that fear took
hold of them like the fear of an evil dream. Godwin wondered if
Sinan could see the ring upon his breast, and what would happen
to him if he did see it; while Wulf longed to shout aloud, to do
anything that would break this deathly, sunlit quiet. To them
those minutes seemed like hours; indeed, for aught they knew,
they might have been hours.
At length there was a stir behind the brethren, and at a word
from Masouda they separated, falling apart a pace or two, and
stood opposite each other and sideways to Sinan. Standing thus,
they saw the curtains drawn. Through them came four men, carrying
a stretcher covered with a cloth, beneath which they could see
the outline of a form, that lay there stirless. The four men
brought the stretcher to the front of the canopy, set it on the
ground, prostrated themselves, and retired, walking backwards
down the length of the terrace.
Again there was silence, while the brethren wondered whose corpse
it was that lay beneath the cloth, for a corpse it must surely
be; though neither the Lord of the Mountain nor his dais and
guards seemed to concern themselves in the matter. Again the
curtains parted, and a procession advanced up the terrace. First
came a great man clad in a white robe blazoned with the bleeding
dagger, after whom walked a tall woman shrouded in a long veil,
who was followed by a thick-set knight clad in Frankish armour
and wearing a cape of which the cowl covered his head as though
to keep the rays of the sun from beating on his helm. Lastly
walked four guards. Up the long place they marched, through the
double line of dais, while with a strange stirring in their
breasts the brethren watched the shape and movements of the
veiled woman who stepped forward rapidly, not seeing them, for
she turned her head neither to the right nor left. The leader of
the little band reached the space before the canopy, and,
prostrating himself by the side of the stretcher, lay still. She
who walked behind him stopped also, and, seeing the black heap
upon the cushion, shuddered.
"Woman, unveil," commanded the voice of Sinan.
She hesitated, then swiftly undid some fastening, so that her
drapery fell from her head. The brethren stared, rubbed their
eyes, and stared again.
Before them stood Rosamund!
Yes, it was Rosamund, worn with sickness, terrors, and travel,
Rosamund herself beyond all doubt. At the sight of her pale,
queenly beauty the heap on the cushion stirred beneath his black
cloak, and the beady eyes were filled with an evil, eager light.
Even the dais seemed to wake from their contemplation, and
Masouda bit her red lip, turned pale beneath her olive skin, and
watched with devouring eyes, waiting to read this woman's heart.
"Rosamund! " cried the brethren with one voice.
She heard. As they sprang towards her she glanced wildly from
face to face, then with a low cry flung an arm about the neck of
each and would have fallen in the ecstacy of her joy had they not
held her. Indeed, her knees touched the ground. As they stooped
to lift her it flashed into Godwin's mind that Masouda had told
Sinan that they were her brethren. The thought was followed by
another. If this were so, they might be left with her, whereas
otherwise that black-robed devil--
"Listen," he whispered in English; "we are not your cousins--we
are your brothers, your half-brothers, and we know no Arabic."
She heard and Wulf heard, but the watchers thought that they were
but welcoming each other, for Wulf began to talk also, random
words in French, such as "Greeting, sister!" "Well found,
sister!" and kissed her on the forehead.
Rosamund opened her eyes, which had closed, and, gaining her
feet, gave one hand to each of the brethren. Then the voice of
Masouda was heard interpreting the words of Sinan.
"It seems, lady, that you know these knights."
"I do--well. They are my brothers, from whom I was stolen when
they were drugged and our father was killed."
"How is that, lady, seeing that you are said to be the niece of
Salah-ed-din? Are these knights, then, the nephews of
"Nay," answered Rosamund, "they are my father's sons, but of
The answer appeared to satisfy Sinan, who fixed his eyes upon the
pale beauty of Rosamund and asked no more questions. While he
remained thus thinking, a noise arose at the end of the terrace,
and the brethren, turning their heads, saw that the thick-set
knight was striving to thrust his way through the guards who
stood by the curtains and barred his path with the shafts of
Then it came into Godwin's mind that just before Rosamund
unveiled he had seen this knight suddenly turn and walk down the
The lord Sinan looked up at the sound and made a sign. Thereon
two of the dais sprang to their feet and ran towards the curtain,
where they spoke with the knight, who turned and came back with
them, though slowly, as one who is unwilling. Now his hood had
fallen from his head, and Godwin and Wulf stared at him as he
advanced, for surely they knew those great shoulders, those round
black eyes, those thick lips, and that heavy jowl.
"Lozelle! It is Lozelle!" said Godwin.
"Ay," echoed Rosamund, "it is Lozelle, the double traitor, who
betrayed me first to the soldiers of Saladin, and, because I
would have none of his love, next to this lord Sinan."
Wulf heard, and, as Lozelle drew near to them, sprang forward
with an oath and struck him across the face with his mailed hand.
Instantly guards thrust themselves between them, and Sinan asked
"Why do you dare to strike this Frank in my presence? "
"Because, lord," answered Wulf, "he is a rogue who has brought
all these troubles on our house. I challenge him to meet me in
battle to the death."
"And I also," said Godwin.
"I am ready," shouted Lozelle, stung to fury by the blow.
"Then, dog, why did you try to run away when you saw our faces?"
Masouda held up her hand and began to interpret, addressing
Lozelle, and speaking in the first person as the "mouth" of
"I thank you for your service who have served me before. Your
messenger came, a Frank whom I knew in old days. As you had
arranged it should be, I sent one of my fedais with soldiers to
kill the men of Salah-ed-din on the ship and capture this lady
who is his niece, all of which it seems has been done. The
bargain that your messenger made was that the lady should be
given over to you--"
Here Godwin and Wulf ground their teeth and glared at him.
"But these knights say that you stole her, their kinswoman, from
them, and one of them has struck you and challenged you to single
combat, which challenge you have accepted. I sanction the combat
gladly, who have long desired to see two knights of the Franks
fight in tourney according to their custom. I will set the
course, and you shall be given the best horse in my kingdom; this
knight shall ride his own. These are the conditions--the course
shall be on the bridge between the inner and outer gates of the
castle city, and the fight, which must be to the death, shall
take place on the night of the full moon--that is, three days
from now. If you are victor, we will talk of the matter of the
lady for whom you bargained as a wife."
"My lord, my lord," answered Lozelle, "who can lay a lance on
that terrible place in moonlight? Is it thus that you keep faith
"I can and will!" cried Wulf. "Dog, I would fight you in the
gates of hell, with my soul on the hazard."
"Keep faith with yourself," said Sinan, "who said that you
accepted the challenge of this knight and made no conditions,
and when you have proved upon his body that his quarrel is not
just, then speak of my faith with you. Nay, no more words; when
this fight is done we will speak again, and not before. Let him
be led to the outer castle and there given of our best. Let my
great black horse be brought to him that he may gallop it to and
fro upon the bridge, or where he will within the circuit of the
walls, by day or by night; but see that he has no speech with
this lady whom he has betrayed into my power, or with these
knights his foes, nor suffer him to come into my presence. I will
not talk with a man who has been struck in the face until he has
washed away the blow in blood."
As Masouda finished translating, and before Lozelle could answer,
the lord Sinan moved his head, whereon guards sprang forward and
conducted Lozelle from the terrace.
"Farewell, Sir Thief," cried Wulf after him, "till we meet again
upon the narrow bridge and there settle our account. You have
fought Godwin, perhaps you will have better luck with Wulf."
Lozelle glared back at him, and, finding no answer, went on his
"Your report," said Sinan, addressing the tall fedai who all this
while had lain upon his face before him, still as the form that
was stretched upon the bier. "There should have been another
prisoner, the great emir Hassan. Also, where is the Frankish
The fedai rose and spoke.
"Lord," he said, "I did your bidding. The knight who has gone
steered the ship into the bay, as had been arranged. I attacked
with the daylight. The soldiers of Salah-ed-din fought bravely,
for the lady here saw us, and gave them time to gather, and we
lost many men. We overcame and killed them all, except the prince
Hassan, whom we took prisoner. I left some men to watch the ship.
The crew we spared, as they were the servants of the Frank
Lozelle, setting them loose upon the beach, together with a
Frankish woman, who was the servant of the lady here, to find
their way to the nearest city. This woman I would have killed,
but the lady your captive begged for her life, saying she had
come from the land of the Franks to seek her husband; so, having
no orders, let her go. Yesterday morning we started for Masyaf,
the prince Hassan riding in a litter together with that Frankish
spy who was here a while ago, and told you of the coming of the
ship. At night they slept in the same tent; I left the prince
bound and set a guard, but in the morning when we looked we found
him gone--how, I know not--and Iying in the tent the Frankish
spy, dead, with a knife-wound through his heart. Behold!" and
withdrawing the cloth from the stretcher he revealed the stiff
form of the spy Nicholas, who lay there dead, a look of terror
frozen on his face.
"At least this one has come to an end he deserved," muttered Wulf
"So, having searched without avail, I came on here with the lady
your prisoner and the Frank Lozelle. I have spoken."
Now when he had heard this report, forgetting his calm, Sinan
arose from the cushion and stepped forward two paces. There he
halted, with fury in his glittering eyes, looking like a man
clothed in a black bell. For a moment he stroked his beard, and
the brethren noted that on the first finger of his right hand
was a ring so like to that which hung about the neck of Godwin
that none could have told them apart.
"Man," Sinan said in a low voice, "what have you done? You have
left the emir Hassan go, who is the most trusted friend and
general of the Sultan of Damascus. By now he is there, or near
it, and within six days we shall see the army of Salah-ed-din
riding across the plain. Also you have not killed the crew and
the Frankish woman, and they too will make report of the taking
of the ship and the capture of this lady, who is of the house of
Salah-ed-din and whom he seeks more earnestly than all the
kingdom of the Franks. What have you to say?"
"Lord," answered the tall fedai, and his hand trembled as he
spoke, "most mighty lord, I had no orders as to the killing of
the crew from your lips, and the Frank Lozelle told me that he
had agreed with you that they should be spared."
"Then, slave, he lied. He agreed with me through that dead spy
that they should be slain, and do you not know that if I give no
orders in such a case I mean death, not life? But what of the
"Lord, I have nothing to say. I think he must have bribed the spy
named Nicholas"--and he pointed to the corpse--"to cut his bonds,
and afterwards killed the man for vengeance sake, for by the body
we found a heavy purse of gold. That he hated him as he hated
yonder Lozelle I know, for he called them dogs and traitors in
the boat; and since he could not strike them, his hands being
bound, he spat in their faces, cursing them in the name of Allah.
That is why, Lozelle being afraid to be near him, I set the spy
Nicholas, who was a bold fellow, as a watch over him, and two
soldiers outside the tent, while Lozelle and I watched the lady."
"Let those soldiers be brought," said Sinan, "and tell their
They were brought and stood by their captain, but they had no
story to tell. They swore that they had not slept on guard, nor
heard a sound, yet when morning came the prince was gone. Again
the Lord of Death stroked his black beard. Then he held up the
Signet before the eyes of the three men, saying:
"You see the token. Go."
"Lord," said the fedai, "I have served you well for many years."
"Your service is ended. Go! " was the stern answer.
The fedai bowed his head in salute, stood for a moment as though
lost in thought, then, turning suddenly, walked with a steady
step to the edge of the abyss and leapt. For an instant the
sunlight shone on his white and fluttering robe, then from the
depths of that darksome place floated up the sound of a heavy
fall, and all was still.
"Follow your captain to Paradise," said Sinan to the two
soldiers, whereon one of them drew a knife to stab himself, but a
dai sprang up, saying:
"Beast, would you shed blood before your lord? Do you not know
the custom? Begone!"
So the poor men went, the first with a steady step, and the
second, who was not so brave, reeling over the edge of the
precipice as one might who is drunken.
"It is finished," said the dais, clapping their hands gently.
"Dread lord, we thank thee for thy justice."
But Rosamund turned sick and faint, and even the brethren paled.
This man was terrible indeed--if he were a man and not a
devil--and they were in his power. How long would it be, they
wondered, before they also were bidden to walk that gulf? Only
Wulf swore in his heart that if he went by this road Sinan should
go with him.
Then the corpse of the false palmer was borne away to be thrown
to the eagles which always hovered over that house of death, and
Sinan, having reseated himself upon the cushion, began to talk
again through his "mouth" Masouda, in a low, quiet voice, as
though nothing had happened to anger him.
"Lady," he said to Rosamund, "your story is known to me.
Salah-ed-din seeks you, nor is it wonderful"--here his eyes
glittered with a new and horrible light--"that he should desire
to see such loveliness at his court, although the Frank Lozelle
swore through yonder dead spy that you are precious in his eyes
because of some vision that has come to him. Well, this heretic
sultan is my enemy whom Satan protects, for even my fedais have
failed to kill him, and perhaps there will be war on account of
you. But have no fear, for the price at which you shall be
delivered to him is higher than Salah-ed-din himself would care
to pay, even for you. So, since this castle is impregnable, here
you may dwell at peace, nor shall any desire be denied you.
Speak, and your wishes are fulfilled."
"I desire," said Rosamund in a low, steady voice, "protection
against Sir Hugh Lozelle and all men."
"It is yours. The Lord of the Mountain covers you with his own
"I desire," she went on, "that my brothers here may lodge with
me, that I may not feel alone among strange people."
He thought awhile, and answered:
"Your brethren shall lodge near you in the guest castle. Why not,
since from them you cannot need protection? They shall meet you
at the feast and in the garden. But, lady, do you know it? They
came here upon faith of some old tale of a promise made by him
who went before me to ask my help to recover you from
Salah-ed-din, unwitting that I was your host, not Salah-ed-din.
That they should meet you thus is a chance which makes even my
wisdom wonder, for in it I see omens. Now she whom they wished to
rescue from Salah-ed-din, these tall brethren of yours might wish
to rescue from Al-je-bal. Understand then, all of you, that from
the Lord of Death there is but one escape. Yonder runs its path,"
and he pointed to the dizzy place whence his three servants had
leapt to their doom
"Knights," he went on, addressing Godwin and Wulf, "lead your
sister hence. This evening I bid her, and you to my banquet. Till
then, farewell. Woman," he added to Masouda, "accompany them. You
know your duties; this lady is in your charge. Suffer that no
strange man comes near her--above all, the Frank Lozelle. Dais
take notice and let it be proclaimed--To these three is given the
protection of the Signet in all things, save that they must not
leave my walls except under sanction of the Signet--nay, in its
The dais rose, bowed, and seated themselves again. Then, guided
by Masouda and preceded and followed by guards, the brethren and
Rosamund walked down the terrace through the curtains into the
chancel-like place where men crouched upon the ground; through
the great hall were more men crouched upon the ground; through
the ante-chamber where, at a word from Masouda, the guards
saluted; through passages to that place where they had slept.
Here Masouda halted and said:
"Lady Rose of the World, who are fitly so named, I go to prepare
your chamber. Doubtless you will wish to speak awhile with these
your--brothers. Speak on and fear not, for it shall be my care
that you are left alone, if only for a little while. Yet walls
have ears, so I counsel you use that English tongue which none of
us understand in the land of Al-je-bal--not even I."
Then she bowed and went.
Chapter Thirteen: The Embassy
The brethren and Rosamund looked at each other, for having so
much to say it seemed that they could not speak at all. Then with
a low cry Rosamund said:
"Oh! let us thank God, Who, after all these black months of
travel and of danger, has thus brought us together again," and,
kneeling down there together in the guest-hall of the lord of
Death, they gave thanks earnestly. Then, moving to the centre of
the chamber where they thought that none would hear them, they
began to speak in low voices and in English.
"Tell you your tale first, Rosamund," said Godwin.
She told it as shortly as she could, they listening without a
Then Godwin spoke and told her theirs. Rosamund heard it, and
asked a question almost in a whisper.
"Why does that beautiful dark-eyed woman befriend you?"
"I do not know," answered Godwin, "unless it is because of the
accident of my having saved her from the lion."
Rosamund looked at him and smiled a little, and Wulf smiled also.
Then she said:
"Blessings be on that lion and all its tribe! I pray that she may
not soon forget the deed, for it seems that our lives hang upon
her favour. How strange is this story, and how desperate our
case! How strange also that you should have come on hither
against her counsel, which, seeing what we have, I think was
"We were led," answered Godwin. "Your father had wisdom at his
death, and saw what we could not see."
"Ay," added Wulf, "but I would that it had been into some other
place, for I fear this lord Al-je-bal at whose nod men hurl
themselves to death."
"He is hateful," answered Rosamund, with a shudder; "worse even
than the knight Lozelle; and when he fixes his eyes on me, my
heart grows sick. Oh! that we could escape this place!"
"An eel in an osier trap has more chance of freedom," said Wulf
gloomily. " Let us at least be thankful that we are caged
together--for how long, I wonder?"
As he spoke Masouda appeared, attended by waiting women, and,
bowing to Rosamund, said:
"It is the will of the Master, lady, that I lead you to the
chambers that have been made ready for you, there to rest until
the hour of the feast. Fear not; you shall meet your brethren
then. You knights have leave, if it so pleases you, to exercise
your horses In the gardens. They stand saddled in the courtyard,
to which this woman will bring you," and she pointed to one of
those two maids who had cleaned the armour, "and with them are
guides and an escort."
"She means that we must go," muttered Godwin, adding aloud,
"farewell, sister, until tonight."
So they parted, unwillingly enough. In the courtyard they found
the horses, Flame and Smoke, as they had been told, also a
mounted escort of four fierce-looking fedais and an officer. When
they were in the saddle, this man, motioning to them to follow
him, passed by an archway out of the courtyard into the gardens.
Hence ran a broad road strewn with sand, along which he began to
gallop. This road followed the gulf which encircled the citadel
and inner town of Masyaf, that was, as it were, an island on a
mountain top with a circumference of over three miles.
As they went, the gulf always on their right hand, holding in
their horses to prevent their passing that of their guide, swift
as it was, they saw another troop approaching them. This was also
preceded by an officer of the Assassins, as these servants of
Al-je-bal were called by the Franks, and behind him, mounted on a
splendid coalblack steed and followed by guards, rode a mail-clad
"It is Lozelle," said Wulf, "upon the horse that Sinan promised
At the sight of the man a fury took hold of Godwin. With a shout
of warning he drew his sword. Lozelle saw, and out leapt his
blade in answer. Then sweeping past the officers who were with
them and reining up their steeds, in a second they were face to
face. Lozelle struck first and Godwin caught the stroke upon his
buckler, but before he could return it the fedais of either party
rushed between them and thrust them asunder.
"A pity," said Godwin, as they dragged his horse away. "Had they
left us alone I think, brother, I might have saved you a
"That I do not want to miss, but the chance at his head was good
if those fellows would have let you take it," answered Wulf
Then the horses began to gallop again, and they saw no more of
Lozelle. Now, skirting the edge of the town, they came to the
narrow, wall-less bridge that spanned the gulf between it and the
outer gate and city. Here the officer wheeled his horse, and,
beckoning to them to follow, charged it at full gallop. After him
went the brethren--Godwin first, then Wulf. In the deep gateway
on the further side they reined up. The captain turned, and began
to gallop back faster than he had come--as fast, indeed, as his
good beast would travel.
"Pass him!" cried Godwin, and shaking the reins loose upon the
neck of Flame he called to it aloud.
Forward it sprang, with Smoke at its heels. Now they had
overtaken the captain, and now even on that narrow way they had
swept past him. Not an inch was there to spare between them and
the abyss, and the man, brave as he was, expecting to be thrust
to death, clung to his horse's mane with terror in his eyes. On
the city side the brethren pulled up laughing among the
astonished fedais who had waited for them there.
"By the Signet," cried the officer, thinking that the knights
could not understand, "these are not men; they are devils, and
their horses are goats of the mountains. I thought to frighten
them, but it is I who was frightened, for they swept past me like
eagles of the air."
"Gallant riders and swift, well-trained steeds," answered one of
the fedais, with admiration in his voice. "The fight at the full
moon will be worth our seeing."
Then once more they took the sand-strewn road and galloped on.
Thrice they passed round the city thus, the last time by
themselves, for the captain and the fedais were far outstripped.
Indeed it was not until they had unsaddled Flame and Smoke in
their stalls that these appeared, spurring their foaming horses.
Taking no heed of them, the brethren thrust aside the grooms,
dressed their steeds down, fed and watered them.
Then having seen them eat, there being no more to do, they walked
back to the guest-house, hoping to find Rosamund. But they found
no Rosamund, so sat down together and talked of the wonderful
things that had befallen them, and of what might befall them in
the future; of the mercy of Heaven also which had brought them
all three together safe and sound, although it was in this house
of hell. So the time passed on, till about the hour of sunset the
women servants came and led them to the bath, where the black
slaves washed and perfumed them, clothing them in fresh robes
above their armour.
When they came out the sun was down, and the women, bearing
torches in their hands, conducted them to a great and gorgeous
hall which they had not seen before, built of fretted stone and
having a carved and painted roof. Along one side of this hall,
that was lit with cressets, were a number of round-headed open
arches supported by elegant white columns, and beyond these a
marble terrace with flights of steps which led to the gardens
beneath. On the floor of this hall, each seated upon his cushion
beside low tables inlaid with pearl sat the guests, a hundred or
more, all dressed in white robes on which the red dagger was
blazoned, and all as silent as though they were asleep.
When the brethren reached the place the women left them, and
servants with gold chains round their necks escorted them to a
dais in the middle of the hall where were many cushions, as yet
unoccupied, arranged in a semicircle, of which the centre was a
divan higher and more gorgeous than the rest.
Here places were pointed out to them opposite the divan, and they
took their stand by them. They had not long to wait, for
presently there was a sound of music, and, heralded by troops of
singing women, the lord Sinan approached, walking slowly down the
length of the great hall. It was a strange procession, for after
the women came the aged, white robed dais, then the lord
Al-je-bal himself, clad now in his blood-red, festal robe, and
wearing jewels on his turban.
Around him marched four slaves, black as ebony, each of whom held
a flaming torch on high, while behind followed the two gigantic
guards who had stood sentry over him when he sat under the canopy
of justice. As he advanced down the hall every man in it rose
and prostrated himself, and so remained until their lord was
seated, save only the two brethren, who stood erect like the
survivors among the slain of a battle. Settling himself among the
cushions at one end of the divan, he waved his hand, whereon the
feasters, and with them Godwin and Wulf, sat themselves down.
Now there was a pause, while Sinan glanced along the hall
impatiently. Soon the brethren saw why, since at the end opposite
to that by which he had entered appeared more singing women, and
after them, also escorted by four black torch-bearers, only these
were women, walked Rosamund and, behind her, Masouda.
Rosamund it was without doubt, but Rosamund transformed, for now
she seemed an Eastern queen. Round her head was a coronet of gems
from which hung a veil, but not so as to hide her face. Jewelled,
too, were her heavy plaits of hair, jewelled the rose-silk
garments that she wore, the girdle at her waist, her naked, ivory
arms and even the slippers on her feet. As she approached in her
royal-looking beauty all the guests at that strange feast stared
first at her and next at each other. Then as though by a single
impulse they rose and bowed.
"What can this mean?" muttered Wulf to Godwin as they did
likewise. But Godwin made no answer.
On came Rosamund, and now, behold! the lord Al-je-bal rose also
and, giving her his hand, seated her by him on the divan.
"Show no surprise, Wulf," muttered Godwin, who had caught a
warning look in the eyes of Masouda as she took up her position
Now the feast began. Slaves running to and fro, set dish after
dish filled with strange and savoury meats, upon the little
inlaid tables, those that were served to Sinan and his guests
fashioned, all of them, of silver or of gold.
Godwin and Wulf ate, though not for hunger's sake, but of what
they ate they remembered nothing who were watching Sinan and
straining their ears to catch all he said without seeming to take
note or listen. Although she strove to hide it and to appear
indifferent, it was plain to them that Rosamund was much afraid.
Again and again Sinan presented to her choice morsels of food,
sometimes on the dishes and sometimes with his fingers, and these
she was obliged to take. All the while also he devoured her with
his fierce eyes so that she shrank away from him to the furthest
limit of the divan.
Then wine, perfumed and spiced, was brought in golden cups, of
which, having drunk, he offered to Rosamund. But she shook her
head and asked Masouda for water, saying that she touched nothing
stronger, and it was given her, cooled with snow. The brethren
asked for water also, whereon Sinan looked at them suspiciously
and demanded the reason. Godwin replied through Masouda that they
were under an oath to touch no wine till they returned to their
own country, having fulfilled their mission. To this he answered
meaningly that it was good and right to keep oaths, but he feared
that theirs would make them water-drinkers for the rest of their
lives, a saying at which their hearts sank.
Now the wine that he had drunk took hold of Sinan, and he began
to talk who without it was so silent.
"You met the Frank Lozelle to-day," he said to Godwin, through
Masouda, "when riding in my gardens, and drew your sword on him.
Why did you not kill him? Is he the better man?"
"It seems not, as once before I worsted him and I sit here
unhurt, lord," answered Godwin. "Your servants thrust between and
"Ay," replied Sinan, "I remember; they had orders. Still, I would
that you had killed him, the unbelieving dog, who has dared to
lift his eyes to this Rose of Roses, your sister. Fear not," he
went on, addressing Rosamund, "he shall offer you no more insult,
who are henceforth under the protection of the Signet," and
stretching out his thin, cruel-looking hand, on which gleamed the
ring of power, he patted her on the arm.
All of these things Masouda translated, while Rosamund dropped
her head to hide her face, though on it were not the blushes that
he thought, but loathing and alarm.
Wulf glared at the Al-je-bal, whose head by good fortune was
turned away, and so fierce was the rage swelling in his heart
that a mist seemed to gather before his eyes, and through it this
devilish chief of a people of murderers, clothed in his robe of
flaming red, looked like a man steeped in blood. The thought came
to him suddenly that he would make him what he looked, and his
hand passed to his sword-hilt. But Godwin saw the terror in
Masouda's eyes, saw Wulf's hand also, and guessed what was about
to chance. With a swift movement of his arm he struck a golden
dish from the table to the marble floor, then said, in a clear
voice in French:
"Brother, be not so awkward; pick up that dish and answer the
lord Sinan as is your right--I mean, touching the matter of
Wulf stooped to obey, and his mind cleared which had been so near
"I wish it not, lord," he said, "who, if I can, have your good
leave to slay this fellow on the third night from now. If I fail,
then let my brother take my place, but not before."
"Yes, I forgot," said Sinan. "So I decreed, and that will be a
fight I wish to see. If he kills you then your brother shall meet
him. And if he kills you both, then perhaps I, Sinan, will meet
him--in my own fashion. Sweet lady, knowing where the course is
laid, say, do you fear to see this fray?"
Rosamund's face paled, but she answered proudly:
"Why should I fear what my brethren do not fear? They are brave
knights, bred to arms, and God, in Whose hand are all our
destinies-- even yours, O Lord of Death --He will guard the
When this speech was translated to him Sinan quailed a little.
Then he answered:
"Lady, know that I am the Voice and Prophet of Allah--ay, and his
sword to punish evil-doers and those who do not believe. Well, if
what I hear is true, your brethren are skilled horsemen who even
dared to pass my servant on the narrow bridge, so victory may
rest with them. Tell me which of them do you love the least, for
he shall first face the sword of Lozelle."
Now as Rosamund prepared herself to answer Masouda scanned her
face through her half-closed eyes. But whatever she may have felt
within, it remained calm and cold as though it were cut in stone.
"To me they are as one man," she said. "When one speaks, both
speak. I love them equally."
"Then, Guest of my heart, it shall go as I have said Brother
Blue-eyes shall fight first, and if he falls then Brother
Grey-eyes. The feast is ended, and it is my hour for prayer.
Slaves, bid the people fill their cups. Lady, I pray of you,
stand forward on the dais."
She obeyed, and at a sign the black slave-women gathered behind
her with their flaming torches. Then Sinan rose also, and cried
with a loud voice:
"Servants of Al-je-bal, pledge, I command you, this Flower of
flowers, the high-born Princess of Baalbec, the niece of the
Sultan, Salah-ed-din, whom men call the Great," and he sneered,
"though he be not so great as I, this Queen of maids who soon--"
Then, checking himself, he drank off his wine, and with a low bow
presented the empty, jewelled cup to Rosamund. All the company
drank also, and shouted till the hall rang, for her loveliness as
she stood thus in the fierce light of the torches, aflame as
these men were with the vision-breeding wine of Al-je-bal, moved
them to madness.
"Queen! Queen!" they shouted. "Queen of our Master and of us
Sinan heard and smiled. Then, motioning for silence, he took the
hand of Rosamund, kissed it, and turning, passed from the hall
preceded by his singing women and surrounded by the dais and
Godwin and Wulf stepped forward to speak with Rosamund, but
Masouda interposed herself between them, saying in a cold, clear
"It is not permitted. Go, knights, and cool your brows in yonder
garden, where sweet water runs. Your sister is my charge. Fear
not, for she is guarded."
"Come," said Godwin to Wulf; "we had best obey."
So together they walked through the crowd of those feasters that
remained, for most of them had already left the hall, who made
way, not without reverence, for the brethren of this new star of
beauty, on to the terrace, and from the terrace into the gardens.
Here they stood awhile in the sweet freshness of the night, which
was very grateful after the heated, perfume-laden air of the
banquet; then began to wander up and down among the scented trees
and flowers. The moon, floating in a cloudless sky, was almost at
its full, and by her light they saw a wondrous scene. Under many
of the trees and in tents set about here and there, rugs were
spread, and to them came men who had drunk of the wine of the
feast, and cast themselves down to sleep.
"Are they drunk?" asked Wulf.
"It would seem so," answered Godwin.
Yet these men appeared to be mad rather than drunk, for they
walked steadily enough, but with wide-set, dreamy eyes; nor did
they seem to sleep upon the rugs, but lay there staring at the
sky and muttering with their lips, their faces steeped in a
strange, unholy rapture. Sometimes they would rise and walk a few
paces with outstretched arms, till the arms closed as though they
clasped something invisible, to which they bent their heads to
babble awhile. Then they walked back to their rugs again, where
they remained silent.
As they lay thus, white-veiled women appeared, who crouched by
the heads of these sleepers, murmuring into their ears, and when
from time to time they sat up, gave them to drink from cups they
carried, after partaking of which they lay down again and became
Only the women would move on to others and serve them likewise.
Some of them approached the brethren with a slow, gliding motion,
and offered them the cup; but they walked forward, taking no
notice, whereupon the girls left them, laughing softly, and
saying such things as "Tomorrow we shall meet," or "Soon you will
be glad to drink and enter into Paradise."
"When the time comes doubtless we shall be glad, who have dwelt
here," answered Godwin gravely, but as he spoke in French they
did not understand him.
"Step out, brother," said Wulf, "for at the very sight of those
rugs I grow sleepy, and the wine in the cups sparkles as bright
as their bearers' eyes."
So they walked on towards the sound of a waterfall, and, when
they came to it, drank, and bathed their faces and heads.
"This is better than their wine," said Wulf. Then, catching sight
of more women flitting round them, looking like ghosts amid the
moonlit glades, they pressed forward till they reached an open
sward where there were no rugs, no sleepers, and no cupbearers.
"Now," said Wulf, halting, "tell me what does all this mean?"
"Are you deaf and blind?" asked Godwin. "Cannot you see that
yonder fiend is in love with Rosamund, and means to take her, as
he well may do?"
Wulf groaned aloud, then answered: "I swear that first I will
send his soul to hell, even though our own must keep it
"Ay," answered Godwin, "I saw; you went near to it tonight. But
remember, that is the end for all of us. Let us wait then to
strike until we must--to save her from worse things."
"Who knows that we may find another chance? Meanwhile,
meanwhile--" and again he groaned.
"Among those ornaments that hung about the waist of Rosamund I
saw a jewelled knife," answered Godwin, sadly. "She can be
trusted to use it if need be, and after that we can be trusted to
do our worst. At least, I think that we should die in a fashion
that would be remembered in this mountain."
As they spoke they had loitered towards the edge of the glade,
and halting there stood silent, till presently from under the
shadow of a cedar tree appeared a solitary, white robed woman.
"Let us be going," said Wulf; "here is another of them with her
But before they could turn the woman glided up to them and
suddenly unveiled. It was Masouda.
"Follow me, brothers Peter and John," she said in a laughing
whisper. "I have words to say to you. What! you will not drink?
Well, it is wisest." And emptying the cup upon the ground she
flitted ahead of them.
Silently as a wraith she went, now appearing in the open spaces,
now vanishing, beneath the dense gloom of cedar boughs, till she
reached a naked, lonely rock which stood almost upon the edge of
the gulf. Opposite to this rock was a great mound such as ancient
peoples reared over the bodies of their dead, and in the mound,
cunningly hidden by growing shrubs, a massive door.
Masouda took a key from her girdle, and, having looked around to
see that they were alone, unlocked it.
"Enter," she said, pushing them before her. They obeyed, and
through the darkness within heard her close the door.
"Now we are safe awhile," she said with a sigh, "or, at least, so
I think. But I will lead you to where there is more light.
Then, taking each of them by the hand, she went forward along a
smooth incline, till presently they saw the moonlight, and by it
discovered that they stood at the mouth of a cave which was
fringed with bushes. Running up from the depths of the gulf
below to this opening was a ridge or shoulder of rock, very steep
"See the only road that leads from the citadel of Masyaf save
that across the bridge," said Masouda.
"A bad one," answered Wulf, staring downward.
"Ay, yet horses trained to rocks can follow it. At its foot is
the bottom of the gulf, and a mile or more away to the left a
deep cleft which leads to the top of the mountain and to freedom.
Will you not take it now? By tomorrow's dawn you might be far
"And where would the lady Rosamund be?" asked Wulf.
"In the harem of the lord Sinan--that is, very soon," she
"Oh, say it not!" he exclaimed, clasping her arm, while Godwin
leaned back against the wall of the cave.
"Why should I hide the truth? Have you no eyes to see that he is
enamoured of her loveliness--like others? Listen; a while ago my
master Sinan chanced to lose his queen--how, we need not ask, but
it is said that she wearied him. Now, as he must by law, he
mourns for her a month, from full moon to full moon. But on the
day after the full moon--that is, the third morning from now--he
may wed again, and I think there will be a marriage. Till then,
however, your sister is as safe as though she yet sat at home in
England before Salah-ed-din dreamed his dream."
"Therefore," said Godwin, "within that time she must either
escape or die."
"There is a third way," answered Masouda, shrugging her
shoulders. "She might stay and become the wife of Sinan."
Wulf muttered something between his teeth, then stepped towards
her threateningly, saying:
"Rescue her, or--"
"Stand back, pilgrim John," she said, with a laugh. "If I rescue
her, which indeed would be hard, it will not be for fear of your
"What, then, will avail, Masouda?" asked Godwin in a sad voice.
"To promise you money would be useless, even if we could."
"I am glad that you spared me that insult," she replied with
flashing eyes, "for then there had been an end. Yet," she added
more humbly, "seeing my home and business, and what I appear to
be," and she glanced at her dress and the empty cup in her hand,
"it had not been strange. Now hear me, and forget no word. At
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