“What will you do now, Father?” I asked. “Return to Egypt?”
“Nay, not yet awhile. It comes to me that I must bide here for a space, which under this pardon I have liberty to do, but to what end I cannot say. Later on I shall return, if God so wills. I go to dwell with good folk who are known to me, and from time to time will let you hear where I may be found, if you should need my help or counsel.”
Then I led him to the gates, and, having given him a witnessed copy of his warrant of release, bade him farewell for that time, making it known to the guards and certain priests who lingered there that any who molested him must answer for it to the Augusta.
Thus we parted.
Having handed over the keys of the prison, I walked to the palace unattended, being minded to take up my duties there unnoticed. But this was not to be. As I entered the palace gate a sentry called out something, and a messenger, who seemed to be in waiting, departed at full speed. Then the sentry, saluting, told me that his orders were that I must stand awhile, he knew not why. Presently I discovered, for across the square within the gates marched a full general’s guard, whereof the officer also saluted, and prayed me to come with him. I went, wondering if I was to be given in charge, and by him, surrounded with this pompous guard, was led to my new quarters, which were more splendid than I could have dreamed. Here the guard left me, and presently other officers appeared, some of them old comrades of my own, asking for orders, of which, of course, I had none to give. Also, within an hour, I was summoned to a council of generals to discuss some matter of a war in which the Empire was engaged. By such means as these it was conveyed to me that I had become a great man, or, at any rate, one in the way of growing great.
That afternoon, when, according to my old custom, I was making my round of the guards, I met the Augusta upon the main terrace, surrounded by a number of ministers and courtiers. I saluted and would have passed on, but she bade one of her eunuchs call me to her. So I came and stood before her.
“We greet you, General Olaf,” she said. “Where have you been all this long while? Oh! I remember. At the State prison, as its governor, of which office you are now relieved at your own request. Well, the palace welcomes you again, for when you are here all within know themselves safe.”
Thus she spoke, her great eyes searching my face the while, then bowed her head in token of dismissal. I saluted again, and began to step backwards, according to the rule, whereon she motioned to me to stand. Then she began to make a laugh of me to the painted throng about her.