When the stunned and bewildered Templars recovered their breath, they saw nothing of the alchemist or of his disciple. It was felt to be just and right if they had been carried off bodily by the foul fiend. No one else was missing, though broken heads and bruises were everywhere. Only when dawn paled the heavens did the boldest of John’s mercenaries venture back to the place of terror.
There was a great hole in the rear wall of the cellar, and among the ruins lay shining heaps of gold—not bezants or zecchins, but wedges and bars of a strange reddish hue. They touched it warily; it was not red-hot. They filled their pouches, and others came and did likewise. The hard-riding veterans had had no opportunity to plunder for more than a year, and John had little money for himself and none for them. When Gregory came on the scene, white and shaking with rage, and somewhat damaged about the face from flying stones, it was too late to hide his ingots. Gold of Spain or of Beelzebub, it was all one to John Sansterre. What little the troopers had left went into the gaping leather bags of their master, while Gregory looked on, grinding his teeth.
It was not in the nature of Prince John to believe much in miracles, but it suited him to accept this one, whole. With a jesting compliment upon the success of the formula and an intimation that he would like more such entertainment, John departed next day well pleased with his perquisition.
All this came duly to the ears of Swart the drover, and was told by him when he came by Edrupt’s house a few days later.
“How did it happen so suitably, Padraig of my heart?” asked Tomaso, his deep eyes twinkling.
Padraig chuckled in pure delight. “I guessed that if our Apples of Sodom were properly ripe they’d blow a hole in the treasury wall. Those Norman thieves are not the men to balk at a little brimstone, and I figured that Master Gregory would be too busy to think of us for awhile. He took that formula for himself. Much good may he get of it. In place o’ the copper and sulphur and nitre and the like I set down our cipher—snakes and toads and scorpions, Maltese cocks, unicorn’s blood and so on. The cellarer said there was a lot o’ foreign gold locked up in there, and that must ha’ been what was heaved out. I warrant there’ll be no more Black Magic in Temple Assheton.”
THE EBBING TIDE
The sun has gone from the heights of heaven,
The knights a-tilting no longer ride,
The sails are vanished, the beaches empty—
There is nothing left but the ebbing tide.
At dawn we sounded our heady challenge,
At noon our blood beat high i’ the sun,
At eve we rode where the wolf-pack follow—
The night is falling, our course is run.
But the tide runs out through the gates of sunset,
And the living fires of Atlantis glow
Between the clouds and the long sea-level,
Beyond the waters we used to know.