“That is all right, Gervaise,” Ralph said good temperedly. “Only I think it would be a pity if you were to turn out a fanatic. Jerusalem and Palestine are lost, and you admit that there is really very little chance of our ever regaining them. Our duties, therefore, are changed, and we are now an army of knights, pledged to war against the infidels, in the same way as knights and nobles at home are ever ready to engage in a war with France. The vow of poverty is long since obsolete. Many of our chief officials are men of great wealth, and indeed, a grand master, or the bailiff of a langue, is expected to spend, and does spend, a sum vastly exceeding his allowance from the Order. The great body of knights are equally lax as to some of their other vows, and carry this to a length that, as you know, has caused grave scandal. But I see not that it is in any way incumbent on us to give up all the pleasures of life. We are a military Order, and are all ready to fight in defence of Rhodes, as in bygone days we were ready to fight in defence of the Holy Sepulchre. Kings and great nobles have endowed us with a large number of estates, in order to maintain us as an army against Islam; and as such we do our duty. But to affect asceticism is out of date and ridiculous.”
“I have certainly no wish to be an ascetic, Ralph. I should have no objection to hold estates, if I had them to hold. But I think that at present, with the great danger hanging over us, it would be better if, in the first place, we were all to spend less time in idleness or amusement, and to devote all our energies to the cause. I mean not only by fighting when the time comes for fighting, but by endeavouring in every way to ward off danger.”
“When I see danger, I will do my best to ward it off, Gervaise; but I cannot go about with my nose in the air, snuffing danger like a hunting dog in pursuit of game. At any rate, I will not bother you to accompany me on my visits in future.”
Gervaise, on consideration, was obliged to own to himself that Ralph was right in saying that he had no ground whatever for suspicion against the Greek he had met at Signor Vrados’s; and he could see no means of following the matter up. It would not, he felt, be honourable to go again to the merchant’s house, and to avail himself of his hospitality, while watching his guest. He determined to dismiss the matter from his mind, and had, indeed, altogether done so when, a week later, it suddenly recurred to his memory.