H. Rider Haggard
Part 7 out of 8
"By which you mean, whose arm is perhaps a little stronger, and
who at a pinch could cut down a few more Saracens. Well, it takes
more than strength to make a man--you must add spirit."
"Masouda," went on Godwin, taking no note of her words, "although
we may guess her mind, our lady has said nothing yet. Also Wulf
may fall, and then I fill his place as best I can. I am no free
"The love-sick are never free," she answered.
"I have no right to love the woman who loves my brother; to her
are due my friendship and my reverence-- no more."
"She has not declared that she loves your brother; we may guess
wrongly in this matter. They are your words--not mine."
"And we may guess rightly. What then?"
"Then," answered Masouda, "there are many knightly Orders, or
monasteries, for those who desire such places--as you do in your
heart. Nay, talk no more of all these things that may or may not
be. Back to your tent, Sir Godwin, where I will send Abdullah to
you to receive the jewel. So, farewell, farewell."
He took her outstretched hand, hesitated a moment, then lifted it
to his lips, and went. It was cold as that of a corpse, and fell
against her side again like the hand of a corpse. Masouda shrank
back among the flowers of the garden as though to hide herself
from him and all the world. When he had gone a few paces, eight
or ten perhaps, Godwin turned and glanced behind him, and at that
moment there came a great blaze of lightning. In its fierce and
fiery glare he saw Masouda standing with outstretched arms, pale,
upturned face, closed eyes, and parted lips. Illumined by the
ghastly sheen of the levin her face looked like that of one new
dead, and the tall red lilies which climbed up her dark,
pall-like robe to her throat--yes, they looked like streams of
Godwin shuddered a little and went his way, but as she slid
thence into the black, embracing night, Masouda said to herself:
"Had I played a little more upon his gentleness and pity, I think
that he would have offered me his heart--after Rosamund had done
with it and in payment for my services. Nay, not his heart, for
he has none on earth, but his hand and loyalty. And, being
honourable, he would have kept his promise, and I, who have
passed through the harem of Al-je-bal, might yet have become the
lady D'Arcy, and so lived out my life and nursed his babes. Nay,
Sir Godwin; when you love me--not before; and you will never love
me--until I am dead."
Snatching a bloom of the lilies into her hand, the hand that he
had kissed, Masouda pressed it convulsively against her breast,
till the red juice ran from the crushed flower and stained her
like a wound. Then she glided away, and was lost in the storm and
Chapter Twenty: The Luck of the Star of Hassan
An hour later the captain Abdullah might have been seen walking
carelessly towards the tent where the brethren slept. Also, had
there been any who cared to watch, something else might have been
seen in that low moonlight, for now the storm and the heavy rain
which followed it had passed. Namely, the fat shape of the eunuch
Mesrour, slipping after him wrapped in a dark camel-hair cloak,
such as was commonly worn by camp followers, and taking shelter
cunningly behind every rock and shrub and rise of the ground.
Hidden among some picketed dromedaries, he saw Abdullah enter the
tent of the brethren, then, waiting till a cloud crossed the
moon, Mesrour ran to it unseen, and throwing himself down on its
shadowed side, lay there like a drunken man, and listened with
all his ears. But the thick canvas was heavy with wet, nor would
the ropes and the trench that was dug around permit him, who did
not love to lie in the water, to place his head against it. Also,
those within spoke low, and he could only hear single words, such
as "garden," "the star," "princess."
So important did these seem to him, however, that at length
Mesrour crept under the cords, and although he shuddered at its
cold, drew his body into the trench of water, and with the sharp
point of his knife cut a little slit in the taut canvas. To this
he set his eye, only to find that it served him nothing, for
there was no light in the tent. Still, men were there who talked
in the darkness.
"Good," said a voice--it was that of one of the brethren, but
which he could not tell, for even to those who knew them best
they seemed to be the same. "Good; then it is settled. To-morrow,
at the hour arranged, you bring the princess to the place agreed
upon, disguised as you have said. In payment for this service I
hand you the Luck of Hassan which you covet. Take it; here it is,
and swear to do your part, since otherwise it will bring no luck
to you, for I will kill you the first time we meet--yes, and the
"I swear it by Allah and his prophet," answered Abdullah in a
hoarse, trembling voice.
"It is enough; see that you keep the oath. And now away; it is
not safe that you should tarry here."
Then came the sound of a man leaving the tent. Passing round it
cautiously, he halted, and opening his hand, looked at its
contents to make sure that no trick had been played upon him in
the darkness. Mesrour screwed his head round to look also, and
saw the light gleam faintly on the surface of the splendid jewel,
which he, too, desired so eagerly. In so doing his foot struck a
stone, and instantly Abdullah glanced down to see a dead or
drunken man Iying almost at his feet. With a swift movement he
hid the jewel and started to walk away. Then bethinking him that
it would be well to make sure that this fellow was dead or
sleeping, he turned and kicked the prostrate Mesrour upon the
back and with all his strength. Indeed, he did this thrice,
putting the eunuch to the greatest agony.
"I thought I saw him move," Abdullah muttered after the third
kick; "it is best to make sure," and he drew his knife.
Now, had not terror paralysed him, Mesrour would have cried out,
but fortunately for himself, before he found his voice Abdullah
had buried the knife three inches deep in his fat thigh. With an
effort Mesrour bore this also, knowing that if he showed signs of
life the next stroke would be in his heart. Then, satisfied that
this fellow, whoever he might be, was either a corpse or
insensible, Abdullah drew out the knife, wiped it on his victim's
robe, and departed.
Not long afterwards Mesrour departed also, towards the Sultan's
house, bellowing with rage and pain and vowing vengeance.
It was not long delayed.
That very night Abdullah was seized and put to the question. In
his suffering he confessed that he had been to the tent of the
brethren and received from one of them the jewel which was found
upon him, as a bribe to bring the princess to a certain garden
outside the camp. But he named the wrong garden. Further, when
they asked which of the brethren it was who bribed him, he said
he did not know, as their voices were alike, and their tent was
in darkness; moreover, that he believed there was only one man in
it--at least he heard or saw no other. He added that he was
summoned to the tent by an Arab man whom he had never seen
before, but who told him that if he wished for what he most
desired and good fortune, he was to be there at a certain hour
after sunset. Then he fainted, and was put back in prison till
the morning by the command of Saladin.
When the morning came Abdullah was dead, who desired no more
torments with doom at the end of them, having made shift to
strangle himself with his robe. But first he had scrawled upon
the wall with a piece of charcoal:
"May that accursed Star of Hassan which tempted me bring better
luck to others, and may hell receive the soul of Mesrour."
Thus died Abdullah, as faithful as he could be in such sore
straits, since he had betrayed neither Masouda nor his son, both
of whom were in the plot, and said that only one of the brethren
was present in the tent, whereas he knew well that the two of
them were there and which of these spoke and gave him the jewel.
Very early that morning the brethren, who were Iying wakeful,
heard sounds without their tent, and looking out saw that it was
surrounded by Mameluks.
"The plot is discovered," said Godwin to Wulf quietly, but with
despair in his face. "Now, my brother, admit nothing, even under
torture, lest others perish with us."
"Shall we fight?" asked Wulf as they threw on their mail.
But Godwin answered:
"Nay, it would serve us nothing to kill a few brave men.
Then an officer entered the tent, and commanded them to give up
their swords and to follow him to Saladin to answer a charge that
had been laid against them both, nor would he say any more. So
they went as prisoners, and after waiting awhile, were ushered
into a large room of the house where Saladin lodged, which was
arranged as a court with a dais at one end. Before this they were
stood, till presently the Sultan entered through the further
door, and with him certain of his emirs and secretaries. Also
Rosamund, who looked very pale, was brought there, and in
attendance on her Masouda, calm-faced as ever.
The brethren bowed to them, but Saladin, whose eyes were full of
rage, took no notice of their salutation. For a moment there was
silence, then Saladin bade a secretary read the charge, which was
brief. It was that they had conspired to steal away the princess
"Where is the evidence against us?" asked Godwin boldly. "The
Sultan is just, and convicts no man save on testimony."
Again Saladin motioned to the secretary, who read the words that
had been taken down from the lips of the captain Abdullah. They
demanded to be allowed to examine the captain Abdullah, and
learned that he was already dead. Then the eunuch Mesrour was
carried forward, for walk he could not, owing to the wound that
Abdullah had given him, and told all his tale, how he had
suspected Abdullah, and, following him, had heard him and one of
the brethren speaking in the tent, and the words that passed,
and afterwards seen Abdullah with the jewel in his hand.
When he had finished Godwin asked which of them he had heard
speaking with Abdullah, and he answered that he could not say, as
their voices were so alike, but one voice only had spoken.
Then Rosamund was ordered to give her testimony, and said, truly
enough, that she knew nothing of the plot and had not thought of
this flight. Masouda also swore that she now heard of it for the
first time. After this the secretary announced that there was no
more evidence, and prayed of the Sultan to give judgment in the
"Against which of us," asked Godwin, "seeing that both the dead
and the living witness declared they heard but one voice, and
whose that voice was they did not know? According to your own
law, you cannot condemn a man against whom there is no good
"There is testimony against one of you," answered Saladin
sternly, "that of two witnesses, as is required, and, as I have
warned you long ago, that man shall die. Indeed, both of you
should die, for I am sure that both are guilty. Still, you have
been put upon your trial according to the law, and as a just
judge I will not strain the law against you. Let the guilty one
die by beheading at sundown, the hour at which he planned to
commit his crime. The other may go free with the citizens of
Jerusalem who depart to-night, bearing my message to the Frankish
leaders in that holy town."
"Which of us, then, is to die, and which to go free?" asked
Godwin. "Tell us, that he who is doomed may prepare his soul."
"Say you, who know the truth," answered Saladin.
"We admit nothing," said Godwin; "yet, if one of us must die, I
as the elder claim that right."
"And I claim it as the younger. The jewel was Hassan's gift to
me; who else could give it to Abdullah?" added Wulf, speaking for
the first time, whereat all the Saracens there assembled, brave
men who loved a knightly deed, murmured in admiration, and even
"Well spoken, both of you. So it seems that both must die."
Then Rosamund stepped forward and threw herself upon her knees
before him, exclaiming:
"Sire, my uncle, such is not your justice, that two should be
slain for the offence of one, if offence there be. If you know
not which is guilty, spare them both, I beseech you."
He stretched out his hand and raised her from her knees: then
thought awhile, and said:
"Nay, plead not with me, for however much you love him the
guilty man must suffer, as he deserves. But of this matter Allah
alone knows the truth, therefore let it be decided by Allah," and
he rested his head upon his hand, looking at Wulf and Godwin as
though to read their souls.
Now behind Saladin stood that old and famous imaum who had been
with him and Hassan when he commanded the brethren to depart from
Damascus, who all this while had listened to everything that
passed with a sour smile. Leaning forward, he whispered in his
master's ear, who considered a moment, then answered him:
"It is good. Do so."
So the imaum left the court, and returned presently carrying two
small boxes of sandalwood tied with silk and sealed, so like each
other that none could tell them apart, which boxes he passed
continually from his right hand to his left and from his left
hand to his right, then gave them to Saladin.
"In one of these," said the Sultan, "is that jewel known as the
enchanted Star and the Luck of the House of Hassan, which the
prince presented to his conqueror on the day of Hattin, and for
the desire of which my captain Abdullah became a traitor and was
brought to death. In the other is a pebble of the same weight.
Come, my niece, take you these boxes and give them to your
kinsmen, to each the box you will. The jewel that is called the
Star of Hassan is magical, and has virtue, so they say. Let it
choose, therefore, which of these knights is ripe for death, and
let him perish in whose box the Star is found."
"Now," muttered the imaum into the ear of his master, "now at
length we shall learn which it is of these two men that the lady
"That is what I seek to know," answered Saladin in the same low
As she heard this decree Rosamund looked round wildly and
"Oh! be not so cruel. I beseech you spare me this task. Let it be
another hand that is chosen to deal death to one of those of my
own blood with whom I have dwelt since childhood. Let me not be
the blind sword of fate that frees his spirit, lest it should
haunt my dreams and turn all my world to woe. Spare me, I beseech
But Saladin looked at her very sternly and answered:
"Princess, you know why I have brought you to the East and raised
you to great honour here, why also I have made you my companion
in these wars. It is for my dream's sake, the dream which told me
that by some noble act of yours you should save the lives of
thousands. Yet I am sure that you desire to escape, and plots are
made to take you from me, though of these plots you say that you
and your woman"--and he looked darkly at Masouda--"know nothing.
But these men know, and it is right that you, for whose sake if
not by whose command the thing was done, should mete out its
reward, and that the blood of him whom you appoint, which is
spilt for you, should be on your and no other head. Now do my
For a moment Rosamund stared at the boxes, then suddenly she
closed her eyes, and taking them up at hazard, stretched out her
arms, leaning forward over the edge of the dais. Thereon, calmly
enough the brethren took, each of them, the box that was nearest
to him, that in Rosamund's left hand falling to Godwin and that
in her right to Wulf. Then she opened her eyes again, stood
still, and watched.
"Cousin," said Godwin, "before we break this cord that is our
chain of doom, know well that, whatever chances, we blame you not
at all. It is God Who acts through you, and you are as innocent
of the death of either of us as of that plot whereof we stand
Then he began to unknot the silk which was bound about his box.
Wulf, knowing that it would tell all the tale, did not trouble
himself as yet, but looked around the room, thinking that,
whether he lived or died, never would he see a stranger sight.
Every eye in it was fixed upon the box in Godwin's hand; even
Saladin stared as though it held his own destiny. No; not every
one, for those of the old imaum were fixed upon the face of
Rosamund, which was piteous to see, for all its beauty had left
it, and even her parted lips were ashy. Masouda alone still
stood upright and unmoved, as though she watched some play, but
he noted that her rich-hued cheek grew pale and that beneath her
robe her hand was pressed upon her heart. The silence also was
intense, and broken only by the little grating noise of Godwin's
nails as, having no knife to cut it, he patiently untied the
"Trouble enough about one man's life in a land where lives are
cheap!" exclaimed Wulf, thinking aloud, and at the sound of his
voice all men started, as though it had thundered suddenly in a
summer sky. Then with a laugh he tore the silk about his box
asunder with his strong fingers, and breaking the seal, shook out
its contents. Lo! there on the floor before him, gleaming green
and white with emerald and diamond, lay the enchanted Star of
Masouda saw, and the colour crept back to her cheek. Rosamund saw
also, and nature was too strong for her, for in one bitter cry
the truth broke from her lips at last:
"Not Wulf! Not Wulf!" she wailed, and sank back senseless into
"Now, sire," said the old imaum with a chuckle, "you know which
of those two the lady loves. Being a woman, as usual she chooses
badly, for the other has the finer spirit."
"Yes, I know now," said Saladin, "and I am glad to know, for the
matter has vexed me much."
But Wulf, who had paled for a moment, flushed with joy as the
truth came home to him, and he understood the end of all their
"This Star is well named 'The Luck,' " he said, as bending down
he took it from the floor and fastened it to his cloak above his
heart, "nor do I hold it dearly earned." Then he turned to his
brother, who stood by him white and still, saying:
"Forgive me, Godwin, but such is the fortune of love and war.
Grudge it not to me, for when I am sped tonight this Luck--and
all that hangs to it--will be yours."
So that strange scene ended.
The afternoon drew towards evening, and Godwin stood before
Saladin in his private chamber.
"What seek you now?" said the Sultan sternly.
"A boon," answered Godwin. "My brother is doomed to die before
nightfall. I ask to die instead of him."
"Why, Sir Godwin?"
"For two reasons, sire. As you learned to-day, at length the
riddle is answered. It is Wulf who is beloved of the lady
Rosamund, and therefore to kill him would be a crime. Further, it
is I and not he whom the eunuch heard bargaining with the captain
Abdullah in the tent--I swear it. Take your vengeance upon me,
and let him go to fulfil his fate."
Saladin pulled at his beard, then answered:
"If this is to be so, time is short, Sir Godwin. What farewells
have you to make? You say that you would speak with my niece
Rosamund? Nay, the princess you shall not see, and indeed cannot,
for she lies swooning in her chamber. Do you desire to meet your
brother for the last time?"
"No, sire, for then he might learn the truth and--"
"Refuse this sacrifice, Sir Godwin, which perchance will be
scarcely to his liking."
"I wish to say good-bye to Masouda, she who is waitingwoman to
"That you cannot do, for, know, I mistrust this Masouda, and
believe that she was at the bottom of your plot. I have dismissed
her from the person of the princess and from my camp, which she
is to leave--if she has not already left--with some Arabs who
are her kin. Had it not been for her services in the land of the
Assassins and afterwards, I should have put her to death."
"Then," said Godwin with a sigh, "I desire only to see Egbert the
bishop, that he may shrive me according to our faith and make
note of my last wishes."
"Good; he shall be sent to you. I accept your statement that you
are the guilty man and not Sir Wulf, and take your life for his.
Leave me now, who have greater matters on my mind. The guard will
seek you at the appointed time.'
Godwin bowed and walked away with a steady step while Saladin,
looking after him, muttered:
"The world could ill spare so brave and good a man."
Two hours later guards summoned Godwin from the place where he
was prisoned, and, accompanied by the old bishop who had shriven
him, he passed its door with a happy countenance, such as a
bridegroom might have worn. In a fashion, indeed, he was happy,
whose troubles were done with, who had few sins to mourn, whose
faith was the faith of a child, and who laid down his life for
his friend and brother. They took him to a vault of the great
house where Saladin was lodged--a large, rough place, lit with
torches, in which waited the headsman and his assistants.
Presently Saladin entered, and, looking at him curiously, said:
"Are you still of the same mind, Sir Godwin?"
"Good Yet I have changed mine. You shall say farewell to your
cousin, as you desired. Let the princess of Baalbec be brought
hither, sick or well, that she may see her work. Let her come
"Sire," pleaded Godwin, "spare her such a sight."
But he pleaded in vain, for Saladin answered only, "I have said."
A while passed, and Godwin, hearing the sweep of robes, looked
up, and saw the tall shape of a veiled woman standing in the
corner of the vault where the shadow was so deep that the
torchlight only glimmered faintly upon her royal ornaments.
"They told me that you were sick, princess, sick with sorrow, as
well you may be, because the man you love was about to die for
you," said Saladin in a slow voice. "Now I have had pity on your
grief, and his life has been bought with another life, that of
the knight who stands yonder."
The veiled form started wildly, then sank back against the wall.
"Rosamund," broke in Godwin, speaking in French, "I beseech you,
be silent and do not unman me with words or tears. It is best
thus, and you know that it is best. Wulf you love as he loves
you, and I believe that in time you will be brought together. Me
you do not love, save as a friend, and never have. Moreover, I
tell you this that it may ease your pain and my conscience; I no
longer seek you as my wife, whose bride is death. I pray you,
give to Wulf my love and blessing, and to Masouda, that truest
and most sweet woman, say, or write, that I offer her the homage
of my heart; that I thought of her in my last moments, and that
my prayer is we may meet again where all crooked paths are
straightened. Rosamund, farewell; peace and joy go with you
through many years, ay, and with your children's children. Of
Godwin I only ask you to remember this, that he lived serving
you, and so died."
She heard and stretched out her arms, and, none forbidding him,
Godwin walked to where she stood. Without lifting her veil she
bent forward and kissed him, first upon the brow and next upon
the lips; then with a low, moaning cry, she turned and fled from
that gloomy place, nor did Saladin seek to stay her. Only to
himself the Sultan wondered how it came about that if it was Wulf
whom Rosamund loved, she still kissed Godwin thus upon the lips.
As he walked back to the death-place Godwin wondered also, first
that Rosamund should have spoken no single word, and secondly
because she had kissed him thus, even in that hour. Why or
wherefore he did not know, but there rose in his mind a memory
of that wild ride down the mountain steeps at Beirut, and of lips
which then had touched his cheek, and of the odour of hair that
then was blown about his breast. With a sigh he thrust the
thought aside, blushing to think that such memories should come
to him who had done with earth and its delights, knelt down
before the headsman, and, turning to the bishop, said:
"Bless me, father, and bid them strike."
Then it was that he heard a well-known footstep, and looked up to
see Wulf staring at him.
"What do you here, Godwin?" asked Wulf. "Has yonder fox snared
both of us?" and he nodded at Saladin.
"Let the fox speak," said the Sultan with a smile. "Know, Sir
Wulf, that your brother was about to die in your place, and of
his own wish. But I refuse such sacrifice who yet have made use
of it to teach my niece, the princess, that should she continue
in her plottings to escape, or allow you to continue in them,
certainly it will bring you to your deaths, and, if need be, her
also. Knights, you are brave men whom I prefer to kill in war.
Good horses stand without; take them as my gift, and ride with
these foolish citizens of Jerusalem. We may meet again within its
streets. Nay, thank me not. I thank you who have taught
Salah-ed-din how perfect a thing can be the love of brothers."
The brethren stood awhile bewildered, for it is a strange thing
thus to come back from death to life. Each of them had made sure
that he must die within some few minutes, and pass through the
blackness which walls man in, to find he knew not what. And now,
behold! the road that led to that blackness turned again at its
very edge, and ran forward through the familiar things of earth
to some end unknown. They were brave, both of them, and
accustomed to face death daily, as in such a place and time all
men must be; moreover, they had been shriven, and looked to see
the gates of Paradise open on their newborn sight.
Yet, since no man loves that journey, it was very sweet to know
it done with for a while, and that they still might hope to dwell
in this world for many years. Little wonder, then, that their
brains swam, and their eyes grew dim, as they passed from the
shadow to the light again. It was Wulf who spoke the first.
"A noble deed, Godwin, yet one for which I should not have
thanked you had it been accomplished, who then must have lived on
by grace of your sacrifice. Sultan, we are grateful for your boon
of life, though had you shed this innocent blood surely it would
have stained your soul. May we bid farewell to our cousin
Rosamund before we ride?"
"Nay," answered Saladin; "Sir Godwin has done that already--let
it serve for both. To-morrow she shall learn the truth of the
story. Now go, and return no more."
"That must be as fate wills," answered Godwin, and they bowed and
Outside that gloomy place of death their swords were given them,
and two good horses, which they mounted. Hence guides led them to
the embassy from Jerusalem that was already in the saddle, who
were very glad to welcome two such knights to their company.
Then, having bid farewell to the bishop Egbert, who wept for joy
at their escape, escorted for a while by Saladin's soldiers, they
rode away from Ascalon at the fall of night.
Soon they had told each other all there was to tell. When he
heard of the woe of Rosamund Wulf well-nigh shed tears.
"We have our lives," he said, "but how shall we save her? While
Masouda stayed with her there was some hope, but now I can see
"There is none, except in God," answered Godwin, "Who can do all
things--even free Rosamund and make her your wife. Also, if
Masouda is at liberty, we shall hear from her ere long; so let us
keep a good heart."
But though he spoke thus, the soul of Godwin was oppressed with a
fear which he could not understand. It seemed as though some
great terror came very close to him, or to one who was near and
dear. Deeper and deeper he sank into that pit of dread of he knew
not what, until at length he could have cried aloud, and his brow
was bathed with a sweat of anguish. Wulf saw his face in the
moonlight, and asked:
"What ails you, Godwin? Have you some secret wound?''
"Yes, brother," he answered, "a wound in my spirit. III fortune
threatens us--great ill fortune."
"That is no new thing," said Wulf, "in this land of blood and
sorrows. Let us meet it as we have met the rest."
"Alas! brother," exclaimed Godwin, "I fear that Rosamund is in
sore danger--Rosamund or another."
"Then," answered Wulf, turning pale, "since we cannot, let us
pray that some angel may deliver her."
"Ay," said Godwin, and as they rode through the desert sands
beneath the silent stars, they prayed to the Blessed Mother, and
to their saints, St. Peter and St. Chad--prayed with all their
strength. Yet the prayer availed not. Sharper and sharper grew
Godwin's agony, till, as the slow hours went by, his very soul
reeled beneath this spiritual pain, and the death which he had
escaped seemed a thing desirable.
The dawn was breaking, and at its first sign the escort of
Saladin's soldiers had turned and left them, saying that now they
were safe in their own country. All night they had ridden fast
and far. The plain was behind them, and their road ran among
hills. Suddenly it turned, and in the flaming lights of the
new-born day showed them a sight so beautiful that for a moment
all that little company drew rein to gaze. For yonder before
them, though far away as yet, throned upon her hills, stood the
holy city of Jerusalem. There were her walls and towers, and
there, stained red as though with the blood of its worshippers,
soared the great cross upon the mosque of Omar--that cross which
was so soon to fall.
Yes, yonder was the city for which throughout the ages men had
died by tens and hundreds of thousands, and still must die until
the doom was done. Saladin had offered to spare her citizens if
they consented to surrender, but they would not. This embassy had
told him that they had sworn to perish with the holy Places, and
now, looking at it in its splendour, they knew that the hour was
near, and groaned aloud.
Godwin groaned also, but not for Jerusalem. Oh! now the last
terror was upon him. Blackness surged round him, and in the
blackness swords, and a sound as of a woman's voice murmuring his
name. Clutching the pommel of his saddle, he swayed to and fro,
till suddenly the anguish passed. A strange wind seemed to blow
about him and lift his hair; a deep, unearthly peace sank into
his spirit; the world seemed far away and heaven very near.
"It is over," he said to Wulf. "I fear that Rosamund is dead."
"If so, we must make haste to follow her," answered Wulf with a
Chapter Twenty-One: What Befell Godwin
At the village of Bittir, some seven miles from Jerusalem, the
embassy dismounted to rest, then again they pressed forward down
the valley in the hope of reaching the Zion Gate before the
mid-day heat was upon them. At the end of this valley swelled the
shoulder of a hill whence the eye could command its length, and
on the crest of that shoulder appeared suddenly a man and a
woman, seated on beautiful horses. The company halted, fearing
lest these might herald some attack and that the woman was a man
disguised to deceive them. While they waited thus irresolute, the
pair upon the hill turned their horses' heads, and
notwithstanding its steepness, began to gallop towards them very
swiftly. Wulf looked at them curiously and said to Godwin:
"Now I am put in mind of a certain ride which once we took
outside the walls of Beirut. Almost could I think that yonder
Arab was he who sat behind my saddle, and yonder woman she who
rode with you, and that those two horses were Flame and Smoke
reborn. Note their whirlwind pace, and strength, and stride."
Almost as he finished speaking the strangers pulled up their
steeds in front of the company, to whom the man bowed his
salutations. Then Godwin saw his face, and knew him at once as
the old Arab called Son of the Sand, who had given them the
horses Flame and Smoke.
"Sir," said the Arab to the leader of the embassy, "I have come
to ask a favour of yonder knights who travel with you, which I
think that they, who have ridden my horses, will not refuse me.
This woman," and he pointed to the closely-veiled shape of his
companion, "is a relative of mine whom I desire to deliver to
friends in Jerusalem, but dare not do so myself because the
hilldwellers between here and there are hostile to my tribe. She
is of the Christian faith and no spy, but cannot speak your
language. Within the south gate she will be met by her relatives.
I have spoken."
"Let the knights settle it," said the commander, shrugging his
shoulders impatiently and spurring his horse.
"Surely we will take her," said Godwin, "though what we shall do
with her if her friends are wanting I do not know. Come, lady,
ride between us."
She turned her head to the Arab as though in question, and he
repeated the words, whereon she fell into the place that was
shown to her between and a little behind the brethren.
"Perhaps," went on the Arab to Godwin, "by now you have learned
more of our tongue than you knew when we met in past days at
Beirut, and rode the mountain side on the good horses Flame and
Smoke. Still, if so, I pray you of your knightly courtesy disturb
not this woman with your words, nor ask her to unveil her face,
since such is not the custom of her people. It is but an hour's
journey to the city gate during which you will be troubled with
her. This is the payment that I ask of you for the two good
horses which, as I am told, bore you none so ill upon the Narrow
Way and across plain and mountain when you fled from Sinan, also
on the evil day of Hattin when you unhorsed Salah-ed-din and slew
"It shall be as you wish," said Godwin; "and, Son of the Sand, we
thank you for those horses."
"Good. When you want more, let it be known in the market places
that you seek me," and he began to turn his horse's head.
"Stay," said Godwin. "What do you know of Masouda, your niece? Is
she with you?"
"Nay," answered the Arab in a low voice, "but she bade me be in a
certain garden of which you have heard, near Ascalon, at an
appointed hour, to take her away, as she is leaving the camp of
Salah-ed-din. So thither I go. Farewell." Then with a reverence
to the veiled lady, he shook his reins and departed like an arrow
by the road along which they had come.
Godwin gave a sigh of relief. If Masouda had appointed to meet
her uncle the Arab, at least she must be safe. So it was no
voice of hers which seemed to whisper his name in the darkness of
the night when terror had ahold of him--terror, born perhaps of
all that he had endured and the shadow of death through which he
had so lately passed. Then he looked up, to find Wulf staring
back at the woman behind him, and reproved him, saying that he
must keep to the spirit of the bargain as well as to the letter,
and that if he might not speak he must not look either.
"That is a pity," answered Wulf, "for though she is so tied up,
she must be a tall and noble lady by the way she sits her horse.
The horse, too, is noble, own cousin or brother to Smoke, I
think. Perhaps she will sell it when we get to Jerusalem."
Then they rode on, and because they thought their honour in it,
neither spoke nor looked more at the companion of this adventure,
though, had they known it, she looked hard enough at them.
At length they reached the gate of Jerusalem, which was crowded
with folk awaiting the return of their ambassadors. They all
passed through, and the embassy was escorted thence by the chief
people, most of the multitude following them to know if they
brought peace or war.
Now Godwin and Wulf stared at each other, wondering whither they
were to go and where to find the relatives of their veiled
companion, of whom they saw nothing. Out of the street opened an
archway, and beyond this archway was a garden, which seemed to be
deserted. They rode into it to take counsel, and their companion
followed, but, as always, a little behind them.
"Jerusalem is reached, and we must speak to her now," said Wulf,
"if only to ask her whither she wishes to be taken.
Godwin nodded, and they wheeled their horses round.
"Lady," he said in Arabic, "we have fulfilled our charge. Be
pleased to tell us where are those kindred to whom we must lead
"Here," answered a soft voice.
They stared about the deserted garden in which stones and sacks
of earth had been stored ready for a siege, and finding no one,
"We do not see them."
Then the lady let slip her cloak, though not her veil revealing
the robe beneath.
"By St. Peter!" said Godwin. "I know the broidery on that dress.
Masouda! Say, is it you, Masouda?"
As he spoke the veil fell also, and lo! before them was a woman
like to Masouda and yet not Masouda. The hair was dressed like
hers; the ornaments and the necklace made of the claws of the
lion which Godwin killed were hers; the skin was of the same rich
hue; there even was the tiny mole upon her cheek, but as the head
was bent they could not see her eyes. Suddenly, with a little
moan she lifted it, and looked at them.
"Rosamund! It is Rosamund herself!" gasped Wulf. "Rosamund
disguised as Masouda!"
And he fell rather than leapt from his saddle and ran to her,
murmuring, " God! I thank Thee! "
Now she seemed to faint and slid from her horse into his arms,
and lay there a moment, while Godwin turned aside his head.
"Yes," said Rosamund, freeing herself, "it is I and no other, yet
I rode with you all this way and neither of you knew me."
"Have we eyes that can pierce veils and woollen garments?" asked
Wulf indignantly; but Godwin said in a strange, strained voice:
"You are Rosamund disguised as Masouda. Who, then, was that woman
to whom I bade farewell before Saladin while the headsman awaited
me; a veiled woman who wore the robes and gems of Rosamund?"
"I know not, Godwin," she answered, "unless it were Masouda clad
in my garments as I left her. Nor do I know anything of this
story of the headsman who awaited you. I thought--I thought it
was for Wulf that he waited--oh! Heaven, I thought that."
"Tell us your tale," said Godwin hoarsely.
"It is short," she answered. "After the casting of the lot, of
which I shall dream till my death-day, I fainted. When I found my
senses again I thought that I must be mad, for there before me
stood a woman dressed in my garments, whose face seemed like my
face, yet not the same.
" 'Have no fear,' she said; 'I am Masouda, who, amongst many
other things, have learned how to play a part. Listen; there is
no time to lose. I have been ordered to leave the camp; even now
my uncle the Arab waits without, with two swift horses. You,
Princess, will leave in my place. Look, you wear my robes and my
face--almost; and are of my height, and the man who guides you
will know no difference. I have seen to that, for although a
soldier of Salah-ed-din, he is of my tribe. I will go with you
to the door, and there bid you farewell before the eunuchs and
the guards with weeping, and who will guess that Masouda is the
princess of Baalbec and that the princess of Baalbec is
" 'And whither shall I go?' I asked.
" 'My uncle, Son of the Sand, will give you over to the embassy
which rides to Jerusalem, or failing that, will take you to the
city, or failing that, will hide you in the mountains among his
own people. See, here is a letter that he must read; I place it
in your breast.'
" 'And what of you, Masouda?' I asked again.
" 'Of me? Oh! it is all planned, a plan that cannot fail,' she
answered. 'Fear not; I escape to-night--I have no time to tell
you how--and will join you in a day or two. Also, I think that
you will find Sir Godwin, who will bring you home to England.'
" 'But Wulf? What of Wulf?' I asked again. 'He is doomed to die,
and I will not leave him.'
" 'The living and the dead can keep no company,' she answered.
'Moreover, I have seen him, and all this is done by his most
urgent order. If you love him, he bids that you will obey." '
"I never saw Masouda! I never spoke such words! I knew nothing of
this plot!" exclaimed Wulf, and the brethren looked at each other
with white faces.
"Speak on," said Godwin; "afterwards we can debate."
"Moreover," continued Rosamund, bowing her head, "Masouda added
these words, 'I think that Sir Wulf will escape his doom. If you
would see him again, obey his word, for unless you obey you can
never hope to look upon him living. Go, now, before we are both
discovered, which would mean your death and mine, who, if you go,
am safe.' "
"How knew she that I should escape?" asked Wulf.
"She did not know it. She only said she knew to force Rosamund
away," answered Godwin in the same strained voice. "And then?"
"And then--oh! having Wulf's express commands, then I went, like
one in a dream. I remember little of it. At the door we kissed
and parted weeping, and while the guard bowed before her, she
blessed me beneath her breath. A soldier stepped forward and
said, 'Follow me, daughter of Sinan,' and I followed him, none
taking any note, for at that hour, although perhaps you did not
see it m your prisons, a strange shadow passed across the sun, of
which all folk were afraid, thinking that it portended evil,
either to Saladin or Ascalon.*
[* The eclipse, which overshadowed Palestine and caused much
terror at Jerusalem on 4th September, 1187, the day of the
surrender of Ascalon. -Author]
"In the gloom we came to a place, where was an old Arab among
some trees, and with him two led horses. The soldier spoke to the
Arab, and I gave him Masouda's letter, which he read. Then he put
me on one of the led horses and the soldier mounted the other,
and we departed at a gallop. All that evening and last night we
rode hard, but in the darkness the soldier left us, and I do not
know whither he went. At length we came to that mountain shoulder
and waited there, resting the horses and eating food which the
Arab had with him, till we saw the embassy, and among them two
" 'See,' said the old Arab, 'yonder come the brethren whom you
seek. See and give thanks to Allah and to Masouda, who has not
lied to you, and to whom I must now return.'
"Oh! my heart wept as though it would burst, and I wept in my
joy-- wept and blessed God and Masouda. But the Arab, Son of the
Sand, told me that for my life's sake I must be silent and keep
myself close veiled and disguised even from you until we reached
Jerusalem, lest perhaps if they knew me the embassy might refuse
escort to the princess of Baalbec and niece of Saladin, or even
give me up to him.
"Then I promised and asked, 'What of Masouda?' He said that he
rode back at speed to save her also, as had been arranged, and
that was why he did not take me to Jerusalem himself. But how
that was to be done he was not sure as yet; only he was sure that
she was hidden away safely, and would find a way of escape when
she wished it. And--and--you know the rest, and here, by the
grace of God, we three are together again."
"Ay," said Godwin, "but where is Masouda, and what will happen to
her who has dared to venture such a plot as this? Oh! know you
what this woman did? I was condemned to die in place of
Wulf--how, does not matter; you will learn it afterwards--and the
princess of Baalbec was brought to say me farewell. There, under
the very eyes of Saladin, Masouda played her part and mimicked
you so well that the Sultan was deceived, and I, even I, was
deceived. Yes, when for the first and last time I embraced her, I
was deceived, although, it is true, I wondered. Also since then a
great fear has been with me, although here again I was deceived,
for I thought I feared--for you.
"Now, hark you, Wulf; take Rosamund and lodge her with some lady
in this city, or, better still, place her in sanctuary with the
nuns of the Holy Cross, whence none will dare to drag her, and
let her don their habit. The abbess may remember you, for we have
met her, and at least she will not refuse Rosamund a refuge."
"Yes, yes; I mind me she asked us news of folk in England. But
you? Where do you go, Godwin?" said his brother.
"I? I ride back to Ascalon to find Masouda."
"Why?" asked Wulf. "Cannot Masouda save herself, as she told her
uncle, the Arab, she would do? And has he not returned thither to
take her away?"
"I do not know," answered Godwin; "but this I do know, that for
the sake of Rosamund, and perhaps for my sake also, Masouda has
run a fearful risk. Bethink you, what will be the mood of Saladin
when at length he finds that she upon whom he had built such
hopes has gone, leaving a waiting woman decked out in her
"Oh!" broke in Rosamund. "I feared it, but I awoke to find myself
disguised, and she persuaded me that all was well; also that this
was done by the will of Wulf, whom she thought would escape."
"That is the worst of if," said Godwin. "To carry out her plan
she held it necessary to lie, as I think she lied when she said
that she believed we should both escape, though it is true that
so it came about. I will tell you why she lied. It was that she
might give her life to set you free to join me in Jerusalem."
Now Rosamund, who knew the secret of Masouda's heart, looked at
him strangely, wondering within herself how it came about that,
thinking Wulf dead or about to die, she should sacrifice herself
that she, Rosamund, might be sent to the care of Godwin. Surely
it could not be for love of her, although they loved each other
well. From love of Godwin then? How strange a way to show it!
Yet now she began to understand. So true and high was this great
love of Masouda's that for Godwin's sake she was ready to hide
herself in death, leaving him--now that, as she thought, his
rival was removed--to live on with the lady whom he loved; ay,
and at the price of her own life giving that lady to his arms.
Oh! how noble must she be who could thus plan and act, and,
whatever her past had been, how pure and high of soul! Surely, if
she lived, earth had no grander woman; and if she were dead,
heaven had won a saint indeed.
Rosamund looked at Godwin, and Godwin looked at Rosamund, and
there was understanding in their eyes, for now both of them saw
the truth in all its glory and all its horror.
"I think that I should go back also," said Rosamund.
"That shall not be," answered Wulf. "Saladin would kill you for
this flight, as he has sworn."
"That cannot be," added Godwin. "Shall the sacrifice of blood be
offered in vain? Moreover it is our duty to prevent you."
Rosamund looked at him again and stammered:
" If--if--that dreadful thing has happened, Godwin--if the
sacrifice--oh! what will it serve?"
"Rosamund, I know not what has chanced; I go to see. I care not
what may chance; I go to meet it. Through life, through death,
and if there be need, through all the fires of hell, I ride on
till I find Masouda, and kneel to her in homage--"
"And in love," exclaimed Rosamund, as though the words broke from
her lips against her will.
"Mayhap," Godwin answered, speaking more to himself than to her.
Then seeing the look upon his face, the set mouth and the
flashing eyes, neither of them sought to stay him further.
"Farewell, my liege-lady and cousin Rosamund," Godwin said; "my
part is played. Now I leave you in the keeping of God in heaven
and of Wulf on earth. Should we meet no more, my counsel is that
you two wed here in Jerusalem and travel back to Steeple, there
to live in peace, if it may be so. Brother Wulf, fare you well
also. We part to-day for the first time, who from our birth have
lived together and loved together and done many a deed together,
some of which we can look back upon without shame. Go on your
course rejoicing, taking the love and gladness that Heaven has
given you and living a good and Christian knight, mindful of the
end which draws on apace, and of eternity beyond."
"Oh! Godwin, speak not thus," said Wulf, "for in truth it breaks
my heart to hear such fateful words. Moreover, we do not part
thus easily. Our lady here will be safe enough among the
nuns--more safe than I can keep her. Give me an hour, and I will
set her there and join you. Both of us owe a debt to Masouda, and
it is not right that it should be paid by you alone."
"Nay," answered Godwin; "look upon Rosamund, and think what is
about to befall this city. Can you leave her at such a time?"
Then Wulf dropped his head, and trusting himself to speak no more
words, Godwin mounted his horse, and, without so much as looking
back, rode into the narrow street and out through the gateway,
till presently he was lost in the distance and the desert.
Wulf and Rosamund watched him go in silence, for they were choked
"Little did I look to part with my brother thus," said Wulf at
length in a thick and angry voice. "By God's Wounds! I had more
gladly died at his side in battle than leave him to meet his doom
"And leave me to meet my doom alone," murmured Rosamund; then
added, "Oh! I would that I were dead who have lived to bring all
this woe upon you both, and upon that great heart, Masouda. I
say, Wulf, I would that I were dead."
"Like enough the wish will be fulfilled before all is done,"
answered Wulf wearily, "only then I pray that I may be dead with
you, for now, Rosamund, Godwin has gone, forever as I fear, and
you alone are left to me. Come; let us cease complaining, since
to dwell upon these griefs cannot help us, and be thankful that
for a while, at least, we are free. Follow me, Rosamund, and we
will ride to this nunnery to find you shelter, if we may."
So they rode on through the narrow streets that were crowded with
scared people, for now the news was spread that the embassy had
rejected the terms of Saladin. He had offered to give the city
food and to suffer its inhabitants to fortify the walls, and to
hold them till the following Whitsuntide if, should no help reach
them, they would swear to surrender then. But they had answered
that while they had life they would never abandon the place where
their God had died.
So now war was before them--war to the end; and who were they
that must bear its brunt? Their leaders were slain or captive,
their king a prisoner, their soldiers skeletons on the field of
Hattin. Only the women and children, the sick, the old, and the
wounded remained--perhaps eighty thousand souls in all--but few
of whom could bear arms. Yet these few must defend Jerusalem
against the might of the victorious Saracen. Little wonder that
they wailed in the streets till the cry of their despair went up
to heaven, for in their hearts all of them knew that the holy
place was doomed and their lives were forfeited.
Pushing their path through this sad multitude, who took little
note of them, at length they came to the nunnery on the sacred
Via Dolorosa, which Wulf had seen when Godwin and he were in
Jerusalem after they had been dismissed by Saladin from Damascus.
Its door stood in the shadow of that arch where the Roman Pilate
had uttered to all generations the words "Behold the man!"
Here the porter told him that the nuns were at prayer in their
chapel. Wulf replied that he must see the lady abbess upon a
matter which would not delay, and they were shown into a cool and
lofty room. Presently the door opened, and through it came the
abbess in her white robes--a tall and stately Englishwoman, of
middle age, who looked at them curiously.
"Lady Abbess," said Wulf, bowing low, "my name is Wulf D'Arcy. Do
you remember me?"
"Yes. We met in Jerusalem--before the battle of Hattin," she
answered. "Also I know something of your story in this land--a
very strange one."
"This lady," went on Wulf, "is the daughter and heiress of Sir
Andrew D'Arcy, my dead uncle, and in Syria the princess of
Baalbec and the niece of Saladin."
The abbess started, and asked: "Is she, then, of their accursed
faith, as her garb would seem to show?"
"Nay, mother," said Rosamund, " I am a Christian, if a sinful
one, and I come here to seek sanctuary, lest when they know who I
am and he clamours at their gates, my fellow Christians may
surrender me to my uncle, the Sultan."
"Tell me the story," said the abbess; and they told her briefly,
while she listened, amazed. When they had finished, she said:
"Alas! my daughter, how can we save you, whose own lives are at
stake? That belongs to God alone. Still, what we can we will do
gladly, and here, at least, you may rest for some short while. At
the most holy altar of our chapel you shall be given sanctuary,
after which no Christian man dare lay a hand upon you, since to
do so is a sacrilege that would cost him his soul. Moreover, I
counsel that you be enrolled upon our books as a novice, and don
our garb. Nay," she added with a smile, noting the look of alarm
on the face of Wulf, "the lady Rosamund need not wear it always,
unless such should be her wish. Not every novice proceeds to the
"Long have I been decked in gold-embroidered silks and priceless
gems," answered Rosamund, "and now I seem to desire that white
robe of yours more than anything on earth."
So they led Rosamund to the chapel, and in sight of all their
order and of priests who had been summoned, at the altar there,
upon that holy spot where they said that once Christ had answered
Pilate, they placed her hand and gave her sanctuary, and threw
over her tired head the white veil of a novice. There, too, Wulf
left her, and riding away, reported himself to Balian of Ibelin,
the elected commander of the city, who was glad enough to welcome
so stout a knight where knights were few.
Oh! weary, weary was that ride of Godwin's beneath the sun,
beneath the stars. Behind him, the brother who had been his
companion and closest friend, and the woman whom he had loved in
vain; and in front, he knew not what. What went he forth to seek?
Another woman, who had risked her life for them all because she
loved him. And if he found her, what then? Must he wed her, and
did he wish this? Nay, he desired no woman on the earth; yet what
was right that he would do. And if he found her not, what then?
Well, at least he would give himself up to Saladin, who must
think ill of them by whom he had dealt well, and tell him that of
this plot they had no knowledge. Indeed, to him he would go
first, if it were but to beg forgiveness for Masouda should she
still be in his hands. Then--for he could not hope to be believed
or pardoned a second time--then let death come, and he would
welcome it, who greatly longed for peace.
It was evening, and Godwin's tired horse stumbled slowly through
the great camp of the Saracens without the walls of fallen
Ascalon. None hindered him, for having been so long a prisoner he
was known by many, while others thought that he was but one of
the surrendered. Christian knights. So he came to the great
house where Saladin lodged, and bade the guard take his name to
the Sultan, saying that he craved audience of him. Presently he
was admitted, and found Saladin seated in council among his
"Sir Godwin," he said sternly, "seeing how you have dealt by me,
what brings you back into my camp? I gave you brethren your
lives, and you have robbed me of one whom I would not lose."
"We did not rob you, sire," answered Godwin, "who knew nothing of
this plot. Nevertheless, as I was sure that you would think thus,
I am come from Jerusalem, leaving the princess and my brother
there, to tell the truth and to surrender myself to you, that I
may bear in her place any punishment which you think fit to
inflict upon the woman Masouda."
"Why should you bear it?" asked Saladin.
"Because, Sultan," answered Godwin sadly, and with bent head,
"whatever she did, she did for love of me, though without my
knowledge. Tell me, is she still here, or has she fled?"
"She is still here," answered Saladin shortly. "Would you wish to
Godwin breathed a sigh of relief. At least, Masouda still lived,
and the terror that had struck him in the night was but an evil
dream born of his own fears and sufferings.
"I do," he answered, "once, if no more. I have words to say to
"Doubtless she will be glad to learn how her plot prospered,"
said Saladin, with a grim smile. "In truth it was well laid and
Calling to one of his council, that same old imaum who had
planned the casting of the lots, the Sultan spoke with him aside.
Then he said:
"Let this knight be led to the woman Masouda. Tomorrow we will
Taking a silver lamp from the wall, the imaum beckoned to Godwin,
who bowed to the Sultan and followed. As he passed wearily
through the throng in the audience room, it seemed to Godwin that
the emirs and captains gathered there looked at him with pity in
their eyes. So strong was this feeling in him that he halted in
his walk, and asked:
"Tell me, lord, do I go to my death?"
"All of us go thither," answered Saladin in the silence, "but
Allah has not written that death is yours to-night."
They passed down long passages; they came to a door which the
imaum, who hobbled in front, unlocked.
"She is under ward then?" said Godwin.
"Ay," was the answer, "under ward. Enter," and he handed him the
lamp. "I remain without."
"Perchance she sleeps, and I shall disturb her," said Godwin, as
he hesitated upon the threshold.
"Did you not say she loved you? Then doubtless, even if she
sleeps, she, who has dwelt at Masyaf will not take your visit
ill, who have ridden so far to find her," said the imaum with a
sneering laugh. "Enter, I say."
So Godwin took the lamp and went in, and the door was shut behind
him. Surely the place was familiar to him? He knew that arched
roof and these rough, stone walls. Why, it was here that he had
been brought to die, and through that very door the false
Rosamund had come to bid him farewell, who now returned to greet
her in this same darksome den. Well, it was empty--doubtless she
would soon come, and he waited, looking at the door. It did not
stir; he heard no footsteps; nothing broke that utter silence. He
turned again and stared about him. Something glinted on the
ground yonder, towards the end of the vault, just where he had
knelt before the executioner. A shape lay there; doubtless it was
Masouda, imprisoned and asleep.
"Masouda," he said, and the sounding echoes from the arched walls
answered back, "Masouda!"
He must awaken her; there was no choice. Yes, it was she, asleep,
and she still wore the royal robes of Rosamund, and a clasp of
Rosamund's still glittered on her breast.
How sound Masouda slept! Would she never wake? He knelt down
beside her and put out his hand to lift the long hair that hid
Now it touched her, and lo! the head fell over.
Then, with horror in his heart, Godwin held down the lamp and
looked. Oh! those robes were red, and those lips were ashen. It
was Masouda, whose spirit had passed him in the desert; Masouda,
slain by the headsman's sword! This was the evil jest that had
been played upon him, and thus--thus they met again.
Godwin rose to his feet and stood over her still shape as a man
stands in a dream, while words broke from his lips and a fountain
in his heart was unsealed.
"Masouda," he whispered, "I know now that I love you and you
only, henceforth and forever, O woman with a royal heart. Wait
for me, Masouda, wherever you may dwell."
While the whispered words left his lips, it seemed to Godwin that
once more, as when he rode with Wulf from Ascalon, the strange
wind blew about his brow, bringing with it the presence of
Masouda, and that once more the unearthly peace sank into his
Then all was past and over, and he turned to see the old imaum
standing at his side.
"Did I not tell you that you would find her sleeping?" he said,
with his bitter, chuckling laugh. "Call on her, Sir Knight; call
on her! Love, they say, can bridge great gulfs--even that between
severed neck and bosom."
With the silver lamp in his hand Godwin smote, and the man went
down like a felled ox, leaving him once more in silence and in
For a moment Godwin stood thus, till his brain was filled with
fire, and he too fell--fell across the corpse of Masouda, and
there lay still.
Chapter Twenty-two: At Jerusalem
Godwin knew that he lay sick, but save that Masouda seemed to
tend him in his sickness he knew no more, for all the past had
gone from him. There she was always, clad in a white robe, and
looking at him with eyes full of ineffable calm and love, and he
noted that round her neck ran a thin, red line, and wondered how
it came there.
He knew also that he travelled while he was ill, for at dawn he
would hear the camp break up with a mighty noise, and feel his
litter lifted by slaves who bore him along for hours across the
burning sand, till at length the evening came, and with a humming
sound, like the sound of hiving bees, the great army set its
bivouac. Then came the night and the pale moon floating like a
boat upon the azure sea above, and everywhere the bright, eternal
stars, to which went up the constant cry of "Allahu Akbar! Allahu
Akbar! God is the greatest, there is none but He."
"It is a false god," he would say. "Tell them to cry upon the
Saviour of the World."
Then the voice of Masouda would seem to answer:
"Judge not. No god whom men worship with a pure and single heart
is wholly false. Many be the ladders that lead to heaven. Judge
not, you Christian knight."
At length that journey was done, and there arose new noises as of
the roar of battle. Orders were given and men marched out in
thousands; then rose that roar, and they marched back again,
mourning their dead.
At last came a day when, opening his eyes, Godwin turned to rest
them on Masouda, and lo! she was gone, and in her accustomed
place there sat a man whom he knew well--Egbert, once bishop of
Nazareth, who gave him to drink of sherbet cooled with snow. Yes,
the Woman had departed and the Priest was there.
"Where am I?" he asked.
"Outside the walls of Jerusalem, my son, a prisoner in the camp
of Saladin," was the answer.
"And where is Masouda, who has sat by me all these days?"
"In heaven, as I trust," came the gentle answer, "for she was a
brave lady. It is I who have sat by you."
"Nay," said Godwin obstinately, "it was Masouda."
"If so," answered the bishop again, "it was her spirit, for I
shrove her and have prayed over her open grave--her spirit, which
came to visit you from heaven, and has gone back to heaven now
that you are of the earth again."
Then Godwin remembered the truth, and groaning, fell asleep.
Afterwards, as he grew stronger, Egbert told him all the story.
He learned that when he was found Iying senseless on the body of
Masouda the emirs wished Saladin to kill him, if for no other
reason because he had dashed out the eye of the holy imaum with a
lamp. But the Sultan, who had discovered the truth, would not,
for he said that it was unworthy of the imaum to have mocked his
grief, and that Sir Godwin had dealt with him as he deserved.
Also, that this Frank was one of the bravest of knights, who had
returned to bear the punishment of a sin which he did not commit,
and that, although he was a Christian, he loved him as a friend.
So the imaum lost both his eye and his vengeance.
Thus it had come about that the bishop Egbert was ordered to
nurse him, and, if possible to save his life; and when at last
they marched upon Jerusalem, soldiers were told off to bear his
litter, and a good tent was set apart to cover him. Now the siege
of the holy city had begun, and there was much slaughter on both
"Will it fall?" asked Godwin.
"I fear so, unless the saints help them," answered Egbert. "Alas!
I fear so."
"Will not Saladin be merciful?" he asked again.
"Why should he be merciful, my son, since they have refused his
terms and defied him? Nay, he has sworn that as Godfrey took the
place nigh upon a hundred years ago and slaughtered the Mussulmen
who dwelt there by thousands, men, women, and children together,
so will he do to the Christians. Oh! why should he spare them?
They must die! They must die!" and wringing his hands Egbert left
Godwin lay still, wondering what the answer to this riddle might
be. He could think of one, and one only. In Jerusalem was
Rosamund, the Sultan's niece, whom he must desire to recapture,
above all things, not only because she was of his blood, but
since he feared that if he did not do so his vision concerning
her would come to nothing.
Now what was this vision? That through Rosamund much slaughter
should be spared. Well, if Jerusalem were saved, would not tens
of thousands of Moslem and Christian lives be saved also? Oh!
surely here was the answer, and some angel had put it into his
heart, and now he prayed for strength to plant it in the heart of
Saladin, for strength and opportunity.
This very day Godwin found the opportunity. As he lay dozing in
his tent that evening, being still too weak to rise, a shadow
fell upon him, and opening his eyes he saw the Sultan himself
standing alone by his bedside. Now he strove to rise to salute
him, but in a kind voice
Saladin bade him lie still, and seating himself, began to talk.
"Sir Godwin," he said, " I am come to ask your pardon. When I
sent you to visit that dead woman, who had suffered justly for
her crime, I did an act unworthy of a king. But my heart was
bitter against her and you, and the imaum, he whom you smote, put
into my mind the trick that cost him his eye and almost cost a
worn-out and sorrowful man his life. I have spoken."
"I thank you, sire, who were always noble," answered Godwin.
"You say so. Yet I have done things to you and yours that you can
scarcely hold as noble," said Saladin. "I stole your cousin from
her home, as her mother had been stolen from mine, paying back
ill with ill, which is against the law, and in his own hall my
servants slew her father and your uncle, who was once my friend.
Well, these things I did because a fate drove me on--the fate of
a dream, the fate of a dream. Say, Sir Godwin, is that story
which they tell in the camps true, that a vision came to you
before the battle of Hattin, and that you warned the leaders of
the Franks not to advance against me?"
"Yes, it is true," answered Godwin, and he told the vision, and
of how he had sworn to it on the Rood.
"And what did they say to you?"
"They laughed at me, and hinted that I was a sorcerer, or a
traitor in your pay, or both."
"Blind fools, who would not hear the truth when it was sent to
them by the pure mouth of a prophet," muttered Saladin. "Well,
they paid the price, and I and my faith are the gainers. Do you
wonder, then, Sir Godwin, that I also believe my vision which
came to me thrice in the night season, bringing with it the
picture of the very face of my niece, the princess of Baalbec?"
"I do not wonder," answered Godwin.
"Do you wonder also that I was mad with rage when I learned that
at last yonder brave dead woman had outwitted me and all my spies
and guards, and this after I had spared your lives? Do you wonder
that I am still so wroth, believing as I do that a great occasion
has been taken from me?"
"I do not wonder. But, Sultan, I who have seen a vision speak to
you who also have seen a vision--a prophet to a prophet. And I
tell you that the occasion has not been taken--it has been
brought, yes, to your very door, and that all these things have
happened that it might thus be brought."
"Say on," said Saladin, gazing at him earnestly.
"See now,Salah-ed-din, the princess Rosamund is in Jerusalem. She
has been led to Jerusalem that you may spare it for her sake, and
thus make an end of bloodshed and save the lives of folk
"Never!" said the Sultan, springing up. "They have rejected my
mercy, and I have sworn to sweep them away, man, woman, and
child, and be avenged upon all their unclean and faithless race."
"Is Rosamund unclean that you would be avenged upon her? Will her
dead body bring you peace? If Jerusalem is put to the sword, she
must perish also."
"I will give orders that she is to be saved--that she may be
judged for her crime by me," he added grimly.
"How can she be saved when the stormers are drunk with slaughter,
and she but one disguised woman among ten thousand others?"
"Then," he answered, stamping his foot, "she shall be brought or
dragged out of Jerusalem before the slaughter begins.
"That, I think, will not happen while Wulf is there to protect
her," said Godwin quietly.
"Yet I say that it must be so--it shall be so."
Then, without more words, Saladin left the tent with a troubled
Within Jerusalem all was misery, all was despair. There were
crowded thousands and tens of thousands of fugitives, women and
children, many of them, whose husbands and fathers had been slain
at Hattin or elsewhere. The fighting men who were left had few
commanders, and thus it came about that soon Wulf found himself
the captain of very many of them.
First Saladin attacked from the west between the gates of Sts.
Stephen and of David, but here stood strong fortresses called the
Castle of the Pisans and the Tower of Tancred, whence the
defenders made sallies upon him, driving back his stormers. So he
determined to change his ground, and moved his army to the east,
camping it near the valley of the Kedron. When they saw the tents
being struck the Christians thought that he was abandoning the
siege, and gave thanks to God in all their churches; but lo! next
morning the white array of these appeared again on the east, and
they knew that their doom was sealed.
There were in the city many who desired to surrender to the
Sultan, and fierce grew the debates between them and those who
swore that they would rather die. At length it was agreed that an
embassy should be sent. So it came under safe conduct, and was
received by Saladin in presence of his emirs and counsellors. He
asked them what was their wish, and they replied that they had
come to discuss terms. Then he answered thus:
"In Jerusalem is a certain lady, my niece, known among us as the
princess of Baalbec, and among the Christians as Rosamund D'Arcy,
who escaped thither a while ago in the company of the knight, Sir
Wulf D'Arcy, whom I have seen fighting bravely among your
warriors. Let her be surrendered to me that I may deal with her
as she deserves, and we will talk again. Till then I have no more
Now most of the embassy knew nothing of this lady, but one or two
said they thought that they had heard of her, but had no
knowledge of where she was hidden.
"Then return and search her out," said Saladin, and so dismissed
Back came the envoys to the council and told what Saladin had
"At least," exclaimed Heraclius the Patriarch, "in this matter it
is easy to satisfy the Sultan. Let his niece be found and
delivered to him. Where is she? "
Now one declared that was known by the knight, Sir Wulf D'Arcy,
with whom she had entered the city. So he was sent for, and came
with armour rent and red sword in hand, for he had just beaten
back an attack upon the barbican, and asked what was their
"We desire to know, Sir Wulf, said the patriarch, "where you have
hidden away the lady known as the princess of Baalbec, whom you
stole from the Sultan? "
"What is that to your Holiness?" asked Wulf shortly.
"A great deal, to me and to all, seeing that Saladin will not
even treat with us until she is delivered to him."
"Does this council, then, propose to hand over a Christian lady
to the Saracens against her will?" asked Wulf sternly.
"We must," answered Heraclius. "Moreover, she belongs to them."
"She does not belong," answered Wulf. "She was kidnapped by
Saladin in England, and ever since has striven to escape from
"Waste not our time," exclaimed the patriarch impatiently. "We
understand that you are this woman's lover, but however that may
be, Saladin demands her, and to Saladin she must go. So tell us
where she is without more ado, Sir Wulf."
"Discover that for yourself, Sir Patriarch," replied Wulf in
fury. "Or, if you cannot, send one of your own women in her
Now there was a murmur in the council, but of wonder at his
boldness rather than of indignation, for this patriarch was a
very evil liver.
"I care not if I speak the truth," went on Wulf, "for it is known
to all. Moreover, I tell this man that it is well for him that he
is a priest, however shameful, for otherwise I would cleave his
head in two who has dared to call the lady Rosamund my lover."
Then, still shaking with wrath, the great knight turned and
stalked from the council chamber.
"A dangerous man," said Heraclius, who was white to the lips; "a
very dangerous man. I propose that he should be imprisoned."
"Ay," answered the lord Balian of Ibelin, who was in supreme
command of the city, "a very dangerous man--to his foes, as I can
testify. I saw him and his brother charge through the hosts of
the Saracens at the battle of Hattin, and I have seen him in the
breach upon the wall. Would that we had more such dangerous men
"But he has insulted me," shouted the patriarch, "me and my holy
"The truth should be no insult," answered Balian with meaning.
"At least, it is a private matter between you and him on account
of which we cannot spare one of our few captains. Now as regards
this lady, I like not the business--"
As he spoke a messenger entered the room and said that the
hiding-place of Rosamund had been discovered. She had been
admitted a novice into the community of the Virgins of the Holy
Cross, who had their house by the arch on the Via Dolorosa.
"Now I like it still less," Balian went on, "for to touch her
would be sacrilege."
"His Holiness, Heraclius, will give us absolution," said a
Then another leader rose--he was one of the party who desired
peace--and pointed out that this was no time to stand on
scruples, for the Sultan would not listen to them in their sore
plight unless the lady were delivered to him to be judged for her
offence. Perhaps, being his own niece, she would, in fact, suffer
no harm at his hands, and whether this were so or not, it was
better that one should endure wrong, or even death, than many.
With such words he over-persuaded the most of them, so that in
the end they rose and went to the convent of the Holy Cross,
where the patriarch demanded admission for them, which, indeed,
could not be refused. The stately abbess received them in the
refectory, and asked their pleasure.
"Daughter," said the patriarch, "you have in your keeping a lady
named Rosamund D'Arcy, with whom we desire to speak. Where is
"The novice Rosamund," answered the abbess, "prays by the holy
altar in the chapel."
Now one murmured, "She has taken sanctuary," but the patriarch
"Tell us, daughter, does she pray alone?"
"A knight guards her prayers," was the answer.
"Ah! as I thought, he has been beforehand with us. Also,
daughter, surely your discipline is somewhat lax if you suffer
knights thus to invade your chapel. But lead us thither."
"The dangers of the times and of the lady must answer for it,"
the abbess replied boldly, as she obeyed.
Presently they were in the great, dim place, where the lamps
burned day and night. There by the altar, built, it was said,
upon the spot where the Lord stood to receive judgment, they saw
a kneeling woman, who, clad in the robe of a novice, grasped the
stonework with her hands. Without the rails, also kneeling, was
the knight Wulf, still as a statue on a sepulchre. Hearing them,
he rose, turned him about, and drew his great sword.
"Sheathe that sword," commanded Heraclius.
"When I became a knight," answered Wulf, "I swore to defend the
innocent from harm and the altars of God from sacrilege at the
hands of wicked men. Therefore I sheathe not my sword."
"Take no heed of him," said one; and Heraclius, standing back in
the aisle, addressed Rosamund:
"Daughter," he cried, "with bitter grief we are come to ask of
you a sacrifice, that you should give yourself for the people, as
our Master gave Himself for the people. Saladin demands you as a
fugitive of his blood, and until you are delivered to him he will
not treat with us for the saving of the city. Come forth, then,
we pray you."
Now Rosamund rose and faced them, with her hand resting upon the
"I risked my life and I believe another gave her life," she said,
"that I might escape from the power of the Moslems. I will not
come forth to return to them."
"Then, our need being sore, we must take you," answered Heraclius
"What!" she cried. "You, the patriarch of this sacred city, would
tear me from the sanctuary of its holiest altar? Oh! then, indeed
shall the curse fall upon it and you. Hence, they say, our sweet
Lord was haled to sacrifice by the command of an unjust judge,
and thereafter Jerusalem was taken by the sword. Must I too be
dragged from the spot that His feet have hallowed, and even in
these weeds"--and she pointed to her white robe--"thrown as an
offering to your foes, who mayhap will bid me choose between
death and the Koran? If so, I say assuredly that offering will be
made in vain, and assuredly your streets shall run red with the
blood of those who tore me from my sanctuary."
Now they consulted together, some taking one side and some the
other, but the most of them declared that she must be given up to
"Come of your own will, I pray you," said the patriarch, "since
we would not take you by force."
"By force only will you take me," answered Rosamund.
Then the abbess spoke.
"Sirs, will you commit so great a crime? Then I tell you that it
cannot go without its punishment. With this lady I say"--and she
drew up her tall shape--"that it shall be paid for in your blood,
and mayhap in the blood of all of us. Remember my words when the
Saracens have won the city, and are putting its children to the
"I absolve you from the sin," shouted the patriarch, "if sin it
"Absolve yourself," broke in Wulf sternly, "and know this. I am
but one man, but I have some strength and skill. If you seek but
to lay a hand upon the novice Rosamund to hale her away to be
slain by Saladin, as he has sworn that he would do should she
dare to fly from him, before I die there are those among you who
have looked the last upon the light."
Then, standing there before the altar rails, he lifted his great
blade and settled the skull-blazoned shield upon his arm.
Now the patriarch raved and stormed, and one among them cried
that they would fetch bows and shoot Wulf down from a distance.
"And thus," broke in Rosamund, "add murder to sacrilege! Oh!
sirs, bethink what you do--ay, and remember this, that you do it
all in vain. Saladin has promised you nothing, except that if you
deliver me to him, he will talk with you, and then you may find
that you have sinned for nothing. Have pity on me and go your
ways, leaving the issue in the hand of God."
"That is true," cried some. "Saladin made no promises."
Now Balian, the guardian of the city, who had followed them to
the chapel and standing in the background heard what passed
there, stepped forward and said:
"My lord Patriarch, I pray you let this thing be, since from such
a crime no good could come to us or any. That altar is the
holiest and most noted place of sanctuary in all Jerusalem. Will
you dare to tear a maiden from it whose only sin is that she, a
Christian, has escaped the Saracens by whom she was stolen? Do
you dare to give her back to them and death, for such will be her
doom at the hands of Saladin? Surely that would be the act of
cowards, and bring upon us the fate of cowards. Sir Wulf, put up
your sword and fear nothing. If there is any safety in Jerusalem,
your lady is safe. Abbess, lead her to her cell."
"Nay," answered the abbess with fine sarcasm, "it is not fitting
that we should leave this place before his Holiness."
"Then you have not long to wait," shouted the patriarch in fury.
"Is this a time for scruples about altars? Is this a time to
listen to the prayers of a girl or to threats of a single knight,
or the doubts of a superstitious captain? Well, take your way and
let your lives pay its cost. Yet I say that if Saladin asked for
half the noble maidens in the city, it would be cheap to let him
have them in payment for the blood of eighty thousand folk," and
he stalked towards the door.
So they went away, all except Wulf, who stayed to make sure that
they were gone, and the abbess, who came to Rosamund and embraced
her, saying that for the while the danger was past, and she might
"Yes, mother," answered Rosamund with a sob, "but oh! have I done
right? Should I not have surrendered myself to the wrath of
Saladin if the lives of so many hang upon it? Perhaps, after all,
he would forget his oath and spare my life, though at best I
should never be suffered to escape again while there is a castle
in Baalbec or a guarded harem in Damascus. Moreover, it is hard
to bid farewell to all one loves forever," and she glanced
towards Wulf, who stood out of hearing.
"Yes," answered the abbess, "it is hard, as we nuns know well.
But, daughter, that sore choice has not yet been thrust upon you.
When Saladin says that he sets you against the lives of all this
cityful, then you must judge."
"Ay," repeated Rosamund, "then I--must judge."
The siege went on; from terror to terror it went on. The
mangonels hurled their stones unceasingly, the arrows flew in
clouds so that none could stand upon the walls. Thousands of the
cavalry of Saladin hovered round St. Stephen's Gate, while the
engines poured fire and bolts upon the doomed town, and the
Saracen miners worked their way beneath the barbican and the
wall. The soldiers within could not sally because of the
multitude of the watching horsemen; they could not show
themselves, since he who did so was at once destroyed by a
thousand darts, and they could not build up the breaches of the
crumbling wall. As day was added to day, the despair grew ever
deeper. In every street might be met long processions of monks
bearing crosses and chanting penitential psalms and prayers,
while in the house-doors women wailed to Christ for mercy, and
held to their breasts the children which must so soon be given to
death, or torn from them to deck some Mussulman harem.
The commander Balian called the knights together in council, and
showed them that Jerusalem was doomed.
"Then," said one of the leaders, "let us sally out and die
fighting in the midst of foes."
"Ay," added Heraclius, "and leave our children and our women to
death and dishonour. Then that surrender is better, since there
is no hope of succour."
"Nay," answered Balian, "we will not surrender. While God lives,
there is hope."
"He lived on the day of Hattin, and suffered it," said Heraclius;
and the council broke up, having decided nothing.
That afternoon Balian stood once more before Saladin and implored
him to spare the city.
Saladin led him to the door of the tent and pointed to his
yellow banners floating here and there upon the wall, and to one
that at this moment rose upon the breach itself.
"Why should I spare what I have already conquered, and what I
have sworn to destroy?" he asked. "When I offered you mercy you
would have none of it. Why do you ask it now?"
Then Balian answered him in those words that will ring through
"For this reason, Sultan. Before God, if die we must, we will
first slaughter our women and our little children, leaving you
neither male nor female to enslave. We will burn the city and its
wealth; we will grind the holy Rock to powder and make of the
mosque el-Aksa, and the other sacred places, a heap of ruins. We
will cut the throats of the five thousand followers of the
Prophet who are in our power, and then, every man of us who can
bear arms, we will sally out into the midst of you and fight on
till we fall. So I think Jerusalem shall cost you dear."
The Sultan stared at him and stroked his beard.
"Eighty thousand lives," he muttered; "eighty thousand lives,
besides those of my soldiers whom you will slay. A great
slaughter--and the holy city destroyed forever. Oh! it was of
such a massacre as this that once I dreamed."
Then Saladin sat still and thought a while, his head bowed upon
Chapter Twenty-Three: Saint Rosamund
>From the day when he saw Saladin Godwin began to grow strong
again, and as his health came back, so he fell to thinking.
Rosamund was lost to him and Masouda was dead, and at times he
wished that he were dead also. What more had he to do with his
life, which had been so full of sorrow, struggle and bloodshed?
Go back to England to live there upon his lands, and wait until
old age and death overtook him? The prospect would have pleased
many, but it did not please Godwin, who felt that his days were
not given to him for this purpose, and that while he lived he
must also labour.
As he sat thinking thus, and was very unhappy, the aged bishop
Egbert, who had nursed him so well, entered his tent, and, noting
his face, asked:
"What ails you, my son?"
"Would you wish to hear?" said Godwin.
"Am I not your confessor, with a right to hear?" answered the
gentle old man. "Show me your trouble."
So Godwin began at the beginning and told it all--how as a lad he
had secretly desired to enter the Church; how the old prior of
the abbey at Stangate counselled him that he was too young to
judge; how then the love of Rosamund had entered into his life
with his manhood, and he had thought no more of religion. He told
him also of the dream that he had dreamed when he lay wounded
after the fight on Death Creek; of the vows which he and Wulf had
vowed at the time of their knighting, and of how by degrees he
had learned that Rosamund's love was not for him. Lastly, he told
him of Masouda, but of her Egbert, who had shriven her, knew
The bishop listened in silence till he had finished. Then he
looked up, saying:
"Now," answered Godwin, "I know not. Yet it seems to me that I
hear the sound of my own feet walking upon cloister stones, and
of my own voice lifted up in prayer before the altar."
"You are still young to talk thus, and though Rosamund be lost to
you and Masouda dead, there are other women in the world," said
Godwin shook his head.
"Not for me, my father."
"Then there are the knightly Orders, in which you might rise
Again he shook his head.
"The Templars and the Hospitallers are crushed. Moreover, I
watched them in Jerusalem and the field, and love them not.
Should they change their ways, or should I be needed to fight
against the Infidel, I can join them by dispensation in days to
come. But counsel me--what shall I do now?"
"Oh! my son," the old bishop said, his face lighting up, "if God
calls you, come to God. I will show you the road."
"Yes, I will come," Godwin answered quietly. "I will come, and,
unless the Cross should once more call me to follow it in war, I
will strive to spend the time that is left to me in His service
and that of men. For I think, my father, that to this end I was
Three days later Godwin was ordained a priest, there in the camp
of Saladin, by the hand of the bishop Egbert, while around his
tent the servants of Mahomet, triumphant at the approaching
downfall of the Cross, shouted that God is great and Mahomet His
Saladin lifted his head and looked at Balian.
"Tell me," he said, "what of the princess of Baalbec, whom you
know as the lady Rosamund D'Arcy? I told you that I would speak
no more with you of the safety of Jerusalem until she was
delivered to me for judgment. Yet I see her not."
"Sultan," answered Balian, "we found this lady in the convent of
the Holy Cross, wearing the robe of a novice of that order. She
had taken the sanctuary there by the altar which we deem so
sacred and inviolable, and refused to come."
"Cannot all your men-at-arms drag one maiden from an altar
stone?--unless, indeed, the great knight Wulf stood before it
with sword aloft," he added.
"So he stood," answered Balian, "but it was not of him that we
thought, though assuredly he would have slain some of us. To do
this thing would have been an awful crime, which we were sure
must bring down the vengeance of our God upon us and upon the
"What of the vengeance of Salah-ed-din?"
"Sore as is our case, Sultan, we still fear God more than
"Ay, Sir Balian, but Salah-ed-din may be a sword in the hand of
"Which sword, Sultan, would have fallen swiftly had we done this
"I think that it is about to fall," said Saladin, and again was
silent and stroked his beard.
"Listen, now," he said at length. "Let the princess, my niece,
come to me and ask it of my grace, and I think that I will grant
you terms for which, in your plight, you may be thankful."
"Then we must dare the great sin and take her," answered Balian
sadly, "having first slain the knight Wulf, who will not let her
go while he is alive."
"Nay, Sir Balian, for that I should be sorry, nor will I suffer
it, for though a Christian he is a man after my own heart. This
time I said 'Let her come to me,' not 'Let her be brought.' Ay,
come of her own free will, to answer to me for her sin against
me, understanding that I promise her nothing, who in the old days
promised her much, and kept my word. Then she was the princess of
Baalbec, with all the rights belonging to that great rank, to
whom I had sworn that no husband should be forced upon her, nor
any change of faith. Now I take back these oaths, and if she
comes, she comes as an escaped Cross-worshipping slave, to whom I
offer only the choice of Islam or of a shameful death."
"What high-born lady would take such terms?" asked Balian in
dismay. "Rather, I think, would she choose to die by her own hand
than by that of your hangman, since she can never abjure her
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