Chapter Eighteen: Wulf Pays for the Drugged Wine
Many a day had gone by since the brethren bade farewell to Rosamund at Damascus. Now, one burning July night, they sat upon their horses, the moonlight gleaming on their mail. Still as statues they sat, looking out from a rocky mountain top across that grey and arid plain which stretches from near Nazareth to the lip of the hills at whose foot lies Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Beneath them, camped around the fountain of Seffurieh, were spread the hosts of the Franks to which they did sentinel; thirteen hundred knights, twenty thousand foot, and hordes of Turcopoles—that is, natives of the country, armed after the fashion of the Saracens. Two miles away to the southeast glimmered the white houses of Nazareth, set in the lap of the mountains. Nazareth, the holy city, where for thirty years lived and toiled the Saviour of the world. Doubtless, thought Godwin, His feet had often trod that mountain whereon they stood, and in the watered vales below His hands had sped the plow or reaped the corn. Long, long had His voice been silent, yet to Godwin’s ears it still seemed to speak in the murmur of the vast camp, and to echo from the slopes of the Galilean hills, and the words it said were: “I bring not peace, but a sword.”
To-morrow they were to advance, so rumour said, across yonder desert plain and give battle to Saladin, who lay with all his power by Hattin, above Tiberias.
Godwin and his brother thought that it was a madness; for they had seen the might of the Saracens and ridden across that thirsty plain beneath the summer sun. But who were they, two wandering, unattended knights, that they should dare to lift up their voices against those of the lords of the land, skilled from their birth in desert warfare? Yet Godwin’s heart was troubled and fear took hold of him, not for himself, but for all the countless army that lay asleep yonder, and for the cause of Christendom, which staked its last throw upon this battle.
“I go to watch yonder; bide you here,” he said to Wulf, and, turning the head of Flame, rode some sixty yards over a shoulder of the rock to the further edge of the mountain which looked towards the north. Here he could see neither the camp, nor Wulf, nor any living thing, but indeed was utterly alone. Dismounting, and bidding the horse stand, which it would do like a dog, he walked forward a few steps to where there was a rock, and, kneeling down, began to pray with all the strength of his pure, warrior heart.
“O Lord,” he prayed, “Who once wast man and a dweller in these mountains, and knowest what is in man, hear me. I am afraid for all the thousands who sleep round Nazareth; not for myself, who care nothing for my life, but for all those, Thy servants and my brethren. Yes, and for the Cross upon which Thou didst hang, and for the faith itself throughout the East. Oh! give me light! Oh! let me hear and see, that I may warn them, unless my fears are vain!”