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 lying 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.