Hard they rode, but the lanes were heavy with fallen snow and mud beneath, and the way was far, so that an hour had gone by before Bradwell was left behind, and the shrine of St. Chad lay but half a mile in front. Now of a sudden the snow ceased, and a strong northerly wind springing up, drove the thick mist before it and left the sky hard and blue behind. Still riding in this mist, they pressed on to where the old tower loomed in front of them, then drew rein and waited.
“What is that?” said Godwin presently, pointing to a great, dim thing upon the vapour-hidden sea.
As he spoke a strong gust of wind tore away the last veils of mist, revealing the red face of the risen sun, and not a hundred yards away from them—for the tide was high—the tall masts of a galley creeping out to sea beneath her banks of oars. As they stared the wind caught her, and on the main-mast rose her bellying sail, while a shout of laughter told them that they themselves were seen. They shook their swords in the madness of their rage, knowing well who was aboard that galley; while to the fore peak ran up the yellow flag of Saladin, streaming there like gold in the golden sunlight.
Nor was this all, for on the high poop appeared the tall shape of Rosamund herself, and on one side of her, clad now in coat of mail and turban, the emir Hassan, whom they had known as the merchant Georgios, and on the other, a stout man, also clad in mail, who at that distance looked like a Christian knight. Rosamund stretched out her arms towards them. Then suddenly she sprang forward as though she would throw herself into the sea, had not Hassan caught her by the arm and held her back, whilst the other man who was watching slipped between her and the bulwark.
In his fury and despair Wulf drove his horse into the water till the waves broke about his middle, and there, since he could go no further, sat shaking his sword and shouting:
“Fear not! We follow! we follow!” in such a voice of thunder, that even through the wind and across the everwidening space of foam his words may have reached the ship. At least Rosamund seemed to hear them, for she tossed up her arms as though in token.
But Hassan, one hand pressed upon his heart and the other on his forehead, only bowed thrice in courteous farewell.
Then the great sail filled, the oars were drawn in, and the vessel swept away swiftly across the dancing waves, till at length she vanished, and they could only see the sunlight playing on the golden banner of Saladin which floated from her truck.
Many months had gone by since the brethren sat upon their horses that winter morning, and from the shrine of St. Peter’s-on-the-Wall, at the mouth of the Blackwater in Essex, watched with anguished hearts the galley of Saladin sailing southwards; their love and cousin, Rosamund, standing a prisoner on the deck. Having no ship in which to follow her—and this, indeed, it would have been too late to do—they thanked those who had come to aid them, and returned home to Steeple, where they had matters to arrange. As they went they gathered from this man and that tidings which made the whole tale clear to them.