“That I will never do,” Rivers said fiercely. “I would rather go and bury myself for life in the smallest commandery in England.”
“That may be,” Harcourt retorted, his temper also roused, “But possibly you might prefer that to fighting under any other leader.”
“That is a reflection on my courage, Sir Ralph Harcourt, I shall lay this matter before the bailiff.”
“You can do as you like,” Harcourt said disdainfully, “But I don’t think you will benefit by your pains.”
When his temper cooled down Rivers acknowledged to himself the truth of what Harcourt said. He was not in the favour of the bailiff, while both Harcourt and Tresham stood at the present moment high in his estimation. Any complaint would lead to an inquiry into the matter that had led to the former’s words, and even if Harcourt were reprimanded for using them, he himself would assuredly not gain in the estimation of the knights. Harcourt himself thought no more of the matter, though he laughingly told Gervaise that Rivers was by no means gratified at their both attaining the honour of secular knighthood, which virtually placed them over his head.
“He is not a nice fellow,” Gervaise said. “But naturally it must be galling to him, and to a good many others who have not yet had the chance of distinguishing themselves. I think it is very good of them that they are all so kind and cordial. Of course it is otherwise with you, who are as old as most of the other professed knights serving here; but with me it is quite different, and as Rivers, somehow, has never been very friendly with me, of course it is doubly galling to him. I hope he will soon get an opportunity of winning his spurs too.”
“That is just like you, Tresham. If I were in your place, I should have no good wishes for a fellow who has never lost an opportunity of annoying me, and that without the smallest cause of offence on my part.”
“I am sure you would not wish him ill, Harcourt. You would make allowance for him just as I do, and feel that if he had had the same opportunities he would have obtained the same credit and honours.”
The first news that the knights heard on their return from their expedition was that the Grand Master Orsini was seriously ill, and that, at his advanced age, the doctors feared there was little hope of his rallying. Gervaise felt a keen regret on hearing that the kind and gentle old man, who had been for three years his master, was at the point of death. Nevertheless, it was generally felt among the knights that, in view of the dangers that threatened Rhodes, it was for the good of the Order that a strong and capable man, whom all respected, and who possessed their entire confidence, should at such a time be invested with absolute power.