William Neave, the governor of the prison, looked astonished indeed when, upon his opening the door, the grand master and the bailiff of the English langue, with the twelve knights behind them, entered. He had been puzzled when, four days before, he had received an order from the grand master that Ahmet, a servitor in the auberge of the English langue, should be permitted to pass the night in his house, with authority to move freely and without question, at any hour, in the courtyard of the gaol, and to depart at any hour, secretly and without observation, by the private gate. Still more had he been surprised when he received the message that the grand master would pay him a secret visit at eleven o’clock at night.
“Let no word be spoken until we are in your apartments,” D’Aubusson said in a low voice, as he entered. “But first lead four of these knights and post them so that none can enter the gaol from the house. If there are more than four doors or windows on that side, you must post a larger number. It is imperative that there shall be no communication whatever between your servants and the gaol.”
As soon as this was done, the rest of the party were taken to the governor’s rooms.
“I can now explain to you all,” the grand master said, “the reason of our presence here. I have learned that at twelve tonight there will be a general rising of the slaves in this prison, and that, aided by treachery, they will free themselves from their fetters, overpower and slay such of the guards in their rooms as have not been bribed, throw open the gates, make their way down to the port, burn all the shipping there, and make off in the six galleys manned by them, having first overpowered the sentries in the three forts commanding the entrance, and spiked the guns.”
Exclamations of astonishment burst from the knights, who now, for the first time, learnt the reason of their being called out. The governor listened with an expression of stupefaction.
“With all deference to your Highness,” he said hesitatingly, “it seems to me that some one must have been deceiving you with this tale. It is altogether incredible that such a plot should have been hatched without a whisper of the matter coming to my ears. It could only be possible were there, not one but many, traitors among the officials; if this is so, then indeed am I a dull ass, and unfit for my duty here, of which I shall pray you to relieve me, and to order such punishment as the council may deem just to be allotted to me for having so signally been hoodwinked.”