“Then, Captain Jodd,” she answered slowly, “if you are yet of the same mind we may talk again. Only remember that I ask no promises and make none.”
“So you go to Egypt with Olaf?”
“Aye, certainly, unless I should die first, and perhaps even then. You do not understand? Oh! of course you do not understand, nor can I stop to explain to you. Captain Jodd, I am going to Egypt with a certain blind beggar, whose name I forget at the moment, but who is my uncle, where no doubt I shall see many strange things. If ever I come back I will tell you about them, and, meanwhile, good night.”
THE STATUES BY THE NILE
The first thing that I remember of this journey to Egypt is that I was sitting in the warm morning sunshine on the deck of our little trading vessel, that went by the name of the heathen goddess, Diana. We were in the port of Alexandria. Martina, who now went by the name of Hilda, stood by my side describing to me the great city that lay before us.
She told me of the famous Pharos still rising from its rock, although in it the warning light no longer burned, for since the Moslems took Egypt they had let it die, as some said because they feared lest it should guide a Christian fleet to attack them. She described also the splendid palaces that the Greeks had built, many of them now empty or burned out, the Christian churches, the mosques, the broad streets and the grass-grown quays.
As we were thus engaged, she talking and I listening and asking questions, she said,
“The boat is coming with the Saracen officers of the port, who must inspect and pass the ship before she is allowed to discharge her cargo. Now, Olaf, remember that henceforth you are called Hodur.” (I had taken this name after that of the blind god of the northern peoples.) “Play your part well, and, above all, be humble. If you are reviled, or even struck, show no anger, and be sure to keep that red sword of yours close hidden beneath your robe. If you do these things we shall be safe, for I tell you that we are well disguised.”
The boat came alongside and I heard men climbing the ship’s ladder. Then someone kicked me. It was our captain, Menas, who also had his part to play.
“Out of the road, you blind beggar,” he said. “The noble officers of the Caliph board our ship, and you block their path.”
“Touch not one whom God has afflicted,” said a grave voice, speaking in bad Greek. “It is easy for us to walk round the man. But who is he, captain, and why does he come to Egypt? By their looks he and the woman with him might well have seen happier days.”