How I was brought before Le Grand Sarrasin, and of his magnificence. How I saw Folly in his chamber, and was lodged in a cavern under earth.
It is long years ago since I was borne up the Castle Hill, the prisoner of the Moors, but I stand not upon any high hill even to-day to look down without remembering how I felt on that day, when the bandage was torn from my eyes, and I looked round, dazzled at first by the daylight. But there was that in me, in that I was young, and had all my boyhood been taught true faith in Heaven, which even now rose up and persuaded me that come what might a man could bear it, and that no evil man could by any means force out of a true man’s lips that which he would fain not say.
Before me rose a bright pavilion of green and gold, and two great sentries in rich raiment with pikes stood either side of the entrance, letting none pass without a countersign.
Then as my captor drew me rudely onwards towards the entrance, I guessed, as they stood speaking with the sentries ere we entered, that this was the Pavilion of Le Grand Sarrasin.
We entered, and found ourselves in a rich antechamber, spread with carpets of Turkey, whereon men in glossy cloaks trod to and fro in converse or lay at ease. A fair curtain of blue silk was drawn across an inner entrance, guarded by two negro lads in scarlet. Awhile we waited, but at length a page came through the curtain, and with a low obeisance to Mahmud called us to follow him, and we went into a second chamber, wherein was no daylight, but only great lighted lamps of silver, that swung melancholy in the gloom. As mine eyes used themselves to the dim light, I saw it was indeed Geoffrey’s presence chamber that I, poor Nigel, stood in, with the great foe of our cloister seated before me.
Stout and thick-set as I saw him on his Arabian steed, he sat in his golden chair, clad in black velvet, with buttons of glittering jewels. I looked up through the dim light to see his face, but lo! I saw naught, for a little veil of black gauze was stretched round from a small gold cap upon his head. And I remembered how it was current talk that no man had ever seen Le Grand Geoffroy’s face in war or peace, and that a terrible mystery lay beneath this veil of gauze, through which he gazed on his men.
Upon my entrance, he stooped and spoke to one at his side, who it seemed was to act as interpreter between us; and he coming forward bade Mahmud speak, which he did in a strange tongue, pointing to me at times as though recounting my efforts to resist at Jersey.
Upon his ceasing, the interpreter presently approached, and bade me tell my name, and whither I went in that boat, and what my business. Now, I was determined to answer nothing, lest ill be done to the good cause of my friends, so I said not a word. Then at a word from the Sarrasin, Mahmud said—
“Silence avails not, Nigel of Vale Abbey; we know thee and thy business, and have power to know more!”