CHAPTER XVII CAPTURED
Upon the following day the doge requested Gervaise to accompany him to a meeting of the council. Upon entering the grand hall he found not only the members of the council assembled in their robes of office, but a large gathering of the nobles and principal citizens of Genoa, together with the knights of the galley whom, under Ralph Harcourt’s orders, Gervaise found, to his surprise, drawn up in order across the Hall. Here, in the name of the Republic, Battista Fragoso announced to him that, by the unanimous decision of the council, he had been elected a noble of Genoa; an honour, he added, on only one or two previous occasions in the history of the Republic bestowed upon any but of princely rank, but which he had nobly earned by the great service he had rendered to the State. His name was then inscribed in the book containing the names and titles of the nobles of Genoa. Next, Battista Fragoso presented him with a superb suit of Milanese armour, as his own personal gift, and then with a casket of very valuable jewels, as the gift of the city of Genoa. Each presentation was accompanied by the plaudits of the assembly, and by the no less warm acclamations of the knights. Ralph was then called forward, and presented with a suit of armour but little inferior to that given to Gervaise, and each knight received a heavy gold chain of the finest workmanship of Genoa.
Two days later the preparations for departure were complete, and a sufficient number of men were engaged to man the prizes. This charge, also, Genoa took upon itself, and put on board much stronger crews than Gervaise deemed necessary for the navigation of the ships. The weather was fine and the wind favourable, and a quick passage was made to Rhodes. When the harbour was in sight, the ships were ordered to proceed in single file, the galley leading the way with a huge banner of the Order floating from her stern, and smaller flags on staffs at each side. It was not until they passed by the two forts guarding the entrance that the flags fluttering at the mastheads of the prizes afforded to those on shore an intimation of the event that had taken place, and even then none supposed that this fleet of prizes had been taken by the one galley that headed them.
As the Santa Barbara slowly rowed up the harbour, the State barge of the grand master put off to meet it, and D’Aubusson, with a party of knights, soon stepped on board.
“Welcome back, Sir Gervaise! although I little expected to see you return so soon. What is the meaning of this procession that follows you? By their rig and appearance they are Moors, but how they come to be thus sailing in your wake is a mystery to us all.”