Thus he thought aloud. Afterwards he, Jodd and some others, Martina among them, went aside, leaving me seated on a bench. Presently they returned, and Constantine said,
“General Olaf, I and your companions have taken counsel. Listen. But to-day messengers have come from Lesbos, whom we met outside the gates. It seems that the governor there is dead, and that the accursed Moslems threaten to storm the isle as soon as summer comes and add it to their empire. Our Christian subjects there pray that a new governor may be appointed, one who knows war, and that with him may be sent troops sufficient to repel the prophet-worshippers, who, not having many ships, cannot attack in great force. Now, Captain Jodd thinks this task will be to the liking of the Northmen, and though you are blind, I think that you would serve me well as governor of Lesbos. Is it your pleasure to accept this office?”
“Aye, with thankfulness, Augustus,” I answered. “Only, after the Moslems are beaten back, if it pleases God that it should so befall, I ask leave of absence for a while, since there is one for whom I must search.”
“I grant it, who name Captain Jodd your deputy. Stay, there’s one more thing. In Lesbos my mother has large vineyards and estates. As part payment of her debt these shall be conveyed to you. Nay, no thanks; it is I who owe them. Whatever his faults, Constantine is not ungrateful. Moreover, enough time has been spent upon this matter. What say you, Officer? That the Armenians are marshalled and that you have Stauracius safe? Good! I come to lead them. Then to the Hippodrome to be proclaimed.”
TIDINGS FROM EGYPT
That curtain of oblivion without rent or seam sinks again upon the visions of this past of mine. It falls, as it were, on the last of the scenes in the dreadful chamber of the pit, to rise once more far from Byzantium.
I am blind and can see nothing, for the power which enables me to disinter what lies buried beneath the weight and wreck of so many ages tells me no more than those things that once my senses knew. What I did not hear then I do not hear now; what I did not see then I do not see now. Thus it comes about that of Lesbos itself, of the shape of its mountains or the colour of its seas I can tell nothing more than I was told, because my sight never dwelt on them in any life that I can remember.
It was evening. The heat of the sun had passed and the night breeze blew through the wide, cool chamber in which I sat with Martina, whom the soldiers, in their rude fashion, called “Olaf’s Brown Dog.” For brown was her colouring, and she led me from place to place as dogs are trained to lead blind men. Yet against her the roughest of them never said an evil word; not from fear, but because they knew that none could be said.