Here there is an absolute blank in my story. One of those walls of oblivion of which I have spoken seems to be built across its path. It is as though a stream had plunged suddenly from some bright valley into the bosom of a mountain side and there vanished from the ken of man. What happened in the tomb after Heliodore had ended her tale; whether we departed thence together or left her there a while; how we escaped from Kurna, and by what good fortune or artifice we came safely to Alexandria, I know not. As to all these matters my vision fails me utterly. So far as I am concerned, they are buried beneath the dust of time. I know as little of them as I know of where and how I slept between my life as Olaf and this present life of mine; that is, nothing at all. Yet in this way or in that the stream did win through the mountain, since beyond all grows clear again.
Once more I stood upon the deck of the Diana in the harbour of Alexandria. With me were Martina and Heliodore. Heliodore’s face was stained and she was dressed as a boy, such a harlequin lad as singers and mountebanks often take in their company. The ship was ready to start and the wind served. Yet we could not sail because of the lack of some permission. A Moslem galley patrolled the harbour and threatened to sink us if we dared to weigh without this paper. The mate had gone ashore with a bribe. We waited and waited. At length the captain, Menas, who stood by me, whispered into my ear,
“Be calm; he comes; all is well.”
Then I heard the mate shout: “I have the writing under seal,” and Menas gave the order to cast off the ropes that held the ship to the quay. One of the sailors came up and reported to Menas that their companion, Cosmas, was missing. It seemed that he had slipped ashore without leave and had not returned.
“There let him bide,” said Menas, with an oath. “Doubtless the hog lies drunk in some den. When he awakes he may tell what tale he pleases and find his own way back to Lesbos. Cast off, cast off! I say.”
At this moment that same Cosmas appeared. I could not see him, but I could hear him plainly enough. Evidently he had become involved in some brawl, for an angry woman and others were demanding money of him and he was shouting back drunken threats. A man struck him and the woman got him by the beard. Then his reason left him altogether.
“Am I, a Christian, to be treated thus by you heathen dogs?” he screamed. “Oh, you think I am dirt beneath your feet. I have friends, I tell you I have friends. You know not whom I serve. I say that I am a soldier of Olaf the Northman, Olaf the Blind, Olaf Red-Sword, he who made you prophet-worshippers sing so small at Mitylene, as he will do again ere long.”
“Indeed, friend,” said a quiet voice. It was that of the Moslem captain, Yusuf, he who befriended us when we arrived at Alexandria, who had been watching all this scene. “Then you serve a great general, as some of us have cause to know. Tell me, where is he now, for I hear that he has left Lesbos?”