Instantly he remembered all.
“Where is he?” he asked.
They knew he meant the dead man, and answered him in a hushed murmur of many voices. They had placed the body gently down within, in a darkened chamber.
A shiver passed over him; he stretched his hand out for water that they held to him.
“Saddle me a fresh horse; I have my work to do.”
He knew that for no friendship, or grief, or suffering, or self-pity might a soldier pause by the wayside while his errand was still undone, his duty unfulfilled.
He drank the water thirstily; then, reeling slightly still, from the weakness that was still upon him, he rose, rejecting their offers of aid. “Take me to him,” he said simply. They understood him; there were French soldiers among them, and they took him, without question or comment, across the court to the little square stone cell within one of the towers, where they had laid the corpse, with nothing to break the quiet and the solitude except the low, soft cooing of some doves that had their homes in its dark corners, and flew in and out at pleasure through the oval aperture that served as window.
He motioned them all back with his hand, and went into the gloom of the chamber alone. Not one among them followed.
When he came forth again the reckless and riotous soldiers of France turned silently and reverentially away, so that they should not look upon his face. For it was well known throughout the army that no common tie had bound together the exiles of England, and the fealty of comrade to comrade was sacred in their sight.
The fresh animal, saddled, was held ready outside the gates. He crossed the court, moving still like a man without sense of what he did; he had the instinct to carry out the mission trusted to him, instantly and accurately, but he had no distinct perception or memory of aught else, save of those long-familiar features of which, ere he could return, the cruel sun of Africa would not have spared one trace.