“Yes, brother,” he answered, “a wound in my spirit. Ill 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 sob.