“Oh! I know not, save that I find life difficult, and full of pitfalls which it is hard to escape.”
Martina rested her elbows on the table and her chin upon her little hand, staring me full in the face with her quick eyes that pierced like nails.
“Olaf,” she said, “your star shines bright above you. Keep your eyes fixed thereon and follow it, and never think about the pitfalls. It may lead you I know not where.”
“To heaven, perhaps,” I suggested.
“Well, you did not fear to go thither when you would have eaten the poisoned fig last night. To heaven, perchance, but by a royal road. Whatever you may think of some others, marriage is an honourable estate, my Christian friend, especially if a man marries well. And now good-bye; we shall meet again at the palace, whither you will repair to-morrow morning. Not before, since I am engaged in directing the furnishment of your new quarters in the right wing, and, though the workmen labour all night, they will not be finished until then. Good-bye, General Olaf. Your servant Martina salutes you and your star,” and she curtsied before me until her knees almost touched the ground.
AVE POST SECULA
It comes back to me that on the following day my successor in the governorship of the jail, who he was I know not now, arrived, and that to him in due form I handed over my offices and duties. Before I did so, however, I made it my care to release Barnabas, I think on the previous evening. In his cell I read the Augusta’s warrant to the old bishop.
“How was it obtained, son,” he asked, “for, know, that having so many enemies on this small matter of image worship, I expected to die in this place? Now it seems that I am free, and may even return to my charge in Egypt.”
“The Empress granted it to me as a favour, Father,” I answered. “I told her that you were from the North, like myself.”
He studied me with his shrewd blue eyes, and said:
“It seems strange to me that so great and unusual a boon should be granted for such a reason, seeing that better men than I am have suffered banishment and worse woes for less cause than I have given. What did you pay the Empress for this favour, son Olaf?”
“Is it so? Olaf, a dream has come to me about you, and in that dream I saw you walk through a great fire and emerge unscathed, save for the singeing of your lips and hair.”
“Perhaps they were singed, Father. Otherwise, I am unburned, though what will happen to me in the future I do not know, for my dangers seem great.”
“In my dream you triumphed over all of them, Olaf, and also met with some reward even in this life, though now I know not what it was. Yes, and triumph you shall, my son in Christ. Fear nothing, even when the storm-clouds sweep about your head and the lightnings blind your eyes. I say, fear nothing, for you have friends whom you cannot see. I ask no more even under the seal of confession, since there are secrets which it is not well to learn. Who knows, I might go mad, or torture might draw from me words I would not speak. Therefore, keep your own counsel, son, and confess to God alone.”