“Now this was the dream—that the oath I made as regards your mother is binding as regards you also; further, that in some way which is not revealed to me, your presence here will withhold me from the shedding of a sea of blood, and save the whole world much misery. Therefore it is decreed that you must come and bide in my house. That these things are so, Allah and His Prophet be my witnesses.”
Chapter Five: The Wine Merchant
Godwin laid down the letter, and all of them stared at one another in amazement.
“Surely,” said Wulf, “this is some fool’s trick played off upon our uncle as an evil jest.”
By way of answer Sir Andrew bade him lift the silk that hid the contents of the coffer and see what lay there. Wulf did so, and next moment threw back his head like a man whom some sudden light had blinded, as well he might, for from it came such a flare of gems as Essex had rarely seen before. Red, green and blue they sparkled; and among them were the dull glow of gold and the white sheen of pearls.
“Oh, how beautiful! how beautiful!” said Rosamund.
“Ay,” muttered Godwin; “beautiful enough to maze a woman’s mind till she knows not right from wrong.”
Wulf said nothing, but one by one drew its treasures from the chest—coronet, necklace of pearls, breast ornaments of rubies, girdle of sapphires, jewelled anklets, and with them veil, sandals, robes and other garments of gold-embroidered purple silk. Moreover, among these, also sealed with the seals of Salah-ed-din, his viziers, officers of state, and secretaries, was that patent of which the letter spoke, setting out the full titles of the Princess of Baalbec; the extent and boundaries of her great estates, and the amount of her annual revenue, which seemed more money than they had ever heard of.
“I was wrong,” said Wulf. “Even the Sultan of the East could not afford a jest so costly.”
“Jest?” broke in Sir Andrew; “it is no jest, as I was sure from the first line of that letter. It breathes the very spirit of Saladin, though he be a Saracen, the greatest man on all the earth, as I, who was a friend of his youth, know well. Ay, and he is right. In a sense I sinned against him as his sister sinned, our love compelling us. Jest? Nay, no jest, but because a vision of the night, which he believes the voice of God, or perhaps some oracle of the magicians has deeply stirred that great soul of his and led him on to this wild adventure.”
He paused awhile, then looked up and said, “Girl, do you know what Saladin has made of you? Why, there are queens in Europe who would be glad to own that rank and those estates in the rich lands above Damascus. I know the city and the castle of which he speaks. It is a mighty place upon the banks of Litani and Orontes, and after its military governor—for that rule he would not give a Christian—you will be first in it, beneath the seal of Saladin—the surest title in all the earth. Say, will you go and queen it there?”