Martina was talking, she who always loved to talk, if not of one thing, then of another.
“God-son,” she said, “although you are a great grumbler, I tell you that in my judgment you were born under a lucky star, or saint, call it which you will. For instance, when you were walking up and down that Hall of the Pit in the palace at Constantinople, which I always dream of now if I sup too late——”
“And your spirit, or double, or whatever you call it, was kindly leading me round the edge of the death-trap,” I interrupted.
“——and my spirit, or double, making itself useful for once, was doing what you say, well, who would have thought that before so very long you would be the governor, much beloved, of the rich and prosperous island of Lesbos; still the commander, much beloved, of troops, many of them your own countrymen, and, although you are blind, the Imperial general who has dealt the Moslems one of the worst defeats they have suffered for a long while.”
“Jodd and the others did that,” I answered. “I only sat here and made the plans.”
“Jodd!” she exclaimed with contempt. “Jodd has no more head for plans than a doorpost! Although it is true,” she added with a softening of the voice, “that he is a good man to lean on at a pinch, and a very terrible fighter; also one who can keep such brain as God gave him cool in the hour of terror, as Irene knows well enough. Yet it was you, Olaf, not even I, but you, who remembered that the Northmen are seafolk born, and turned all those trading vessels into war-galleys and hid them in the little bays with a few of your people in command of each. It was you who suffered the Moslem fleet to sail unmolested into the Mitylene harbours, pretending and giving notice that the only defence would be by land. Then, after they were at anchor and beginning to disembark, it was you who fell on them at the dawn and sank and slew till none remained save those of their army who were taken prisoners or spared for ransom. Yes, and you commanded our ships in person; and at night who is a better captain than a blind man? Oh! you did well, very well; and you are rich with Irene’s lands, and sit here in comfort and in honour, with the best of health save for your blindness, and I repeat that you were born under a lucky star—or saint.”
“Not altogether so, Martina,” I answered with a sigh.
“Ah!” she replied, “man can never be content. As usual, you are thinking of that Egyptian, I mean of the lady Heliodore, of whom, of course, it is quite right that you should think. Well, it is true that we have heard nothing of her. Still, that does not mean that we may not hear. Perhaps Jodd has learned something from those prisoners. Hark! he comes.”
As she spoke I heard the guards salute without and Jodd’s heavy step at the door of the chamber.