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 his breast.
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 already.
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 Egbert.
Godwin shook his head.
“Not for me, my father.”
“Then there are the knightly Orders, in which you might rise high.”
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?”