Rosamund gazed at the gleaming gems and the writings that made her royal, and her eyes flashed and her breast heaved, as they had done by the church of St. Peter on the Essex coast. Thrice she looked while they watched her, then turned her head as from the bait of some great temptation and answered one word only—“Nay.”
“Well spoken,” said her father, who knew her blood and its longings. “At least, had the ‘nay’ been ‘yea,’ you must have gone alone. Give me ink and parchment, Godwin.”
They were brought, and he wrote:
“To the Sultan Saladin, from Andrew D’Arcy and his daughter Rosamund.
“We have received your letter, and we answer that where we are there we will bide in such state as God has given us. Nevertheless, we thank you, Sultan, since we believe you honest, and we wish you well, except in your wars against the Cross. As for your threats, we will do our best to bring them to nothing. Knowing the customs of the East, we do not send back your gifts to you, since to do so would be to offer insult to one of the greatest men in all the world; but if you choose to ask for them, they are yours—not ours. Of your dream we say that it was but an empty vision of the night which a wise man should forget.—Your servant and your niece.”
Then he signed, and Rosamund signed after him, and the writing was done up, wrapped in silk, and sealed.
“Now,” said Sir Andrew, “hide away this wealth, since were it known that we had such treasures in the place, every thief in England would be our visitor, some of them bearing high names, I think.”
So they laid the gold-embroidered robes and the priceless sets of gems back in their coffer, and having locked it, hid it away in the great iron-bound chest that stood in Sir Andrew’s sleeping chamber.
When everything was finished, Sir Andrew said: “Listen now, Rosamund, and you also, my nephews. I have never told you the true tale of how the sister of Saladin, who was known as Zobeide, daughter of Ayoub, and afterwards christened into our faith by the name of Mary, came to be my wife. Yet you should learn it, if only to show how evil returns upon a man. After the great Nur-ed-din took Damascus, Ayoub was made its governor; then some three-and-twenty years ago came the capture of Harenc, in which my brother fell. Here I was wounded and taken prisoner. They bore me to Damascus, where I was lodged in the palace of Ayoub and kindly treated. Here too it was, while I lay sick, that I made friends with the young Saladin, and with his sister Zobeide, whom I met secretly in the gardens of the palace. The rest may be guessed. Although she numbered but half my years, she loved me as I loved her, and for my sake offered to change her faith and fly with me to England if opportunity could be found, which was hard.