Then a shock, a sound of furious snarling, and down he went to earth beneath a soft and heavy weight, and there his senses left him.
When they came back again something soft was still upon his face; but this proved to be only the hand of Masouda, who bathed his brow with a cloth dipped in water, while Wulf chafed his hands. Godwin sat up, and in the light of the new risen sun, saw a dead lioness lying before him, its breast still transfixed with his own sword.
“So I saved you,” he said faintly.
“Yes, you saved me,” answered Masouda, and kneeling down she kissed his feet; then rising again, with her long, soft hair wiped away the blood that was running from a wound in his arm.
Rosamund was led from the Hall of Steeple across the meadow down to the quay at Steeple Creek, where a great boat waited—that of which the brethren had found the impress in the mud. In this the band embarked, placing their dead and wounded, with one or two to tend them, in the fishing skiff that had belonged to her father. This skiff having been made fast to the stern of the boat, they pushed off, and in utter silence rowed down the creek till they reached the tidal stream of the Blackwater, where they turned their bow seawards. Through the thick night and the falling snow slowly they felt their way along, sometimes rowing, sometimes drifting, while the false palmer Nicholas steered them. The journey proved dangerous, for they could scarcely see the shore, although they kept as close to it as they dared.
The end of it was that they grounded on a mud bank, and, do what they would, could not thrust themselves free. Now hope rose in the heart of Rosamund, who sat still as a statue in the middle of the boat, the prince Hassan at her side and the armed men—twenty or thirty of them—all about her. Perhaps, she thought, they would remain fast there till daybreak, and be seen and rescued when the brethren woke from their drugged sleep. But Hassan read her mind, and said to her gently enough:
“Be not deceived, lady, for I must tell you that if the worst comes to the worst, we shall place you in the little skiff and go on, leaving the rest to take their chance.”
As it happened, at the full tide they floated off the bank and drifted with the ebb down towards the sea. At the first break of dawn she looked up, and there, looming large in the mist, lay a galley, anchored in the mouth of the river. Giving thanks to Allah for their safe arrival, the band brought her aboard and led her towards the cabin. On the poop stood a tall man, who was commanding the sailors that they should get up the anchor. As she came he advanced to her, bowing and saying:
“Lady Rosamund, thus you find me once more, who doubtless you never thought to see again.”
She looked at him in the faint light and her blood went cold. It was the knight Lozelle.