(A Chess Piece is Moved)
We have not wings, we can not soar,
But we have feet to scale or climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time
H. W. Longfellow
As she looked into his clear blue eyes, their spirits merged into one. He felt soft warmth spread throughout his whole being; here was not just a conquest, or an object of desire before him. No, this was different than the others for as he felt his emotions stir deep within it was not the desire to possess her it was more. Here was one for whom he would willingly die to protect, and to save. It mattered not to him whether he would ever possess her, or know her in a sexual way. No, just to love her, to have her love, to do whatever he could, to just be able to serve her, that would be reward in deed.
“Monsieur Grant.” she finally said her voice as gentle as a lark, breaking the spell under which he was falling.
“I am indeed indebted to you; for I have heard how you saved my father at great risk to your own life.”
She lowered her eyes a moment, feeling his gaze to be to intimate, then looked up into his again with an unabashed boldness. Yet he saw that there were tears forming in her eyes, beautiful crystal tears, scintillating as they caught the sunlight and sparkled upon her cheeks.
“Monsieur, if there is anything I can do to help you or reward you, I will gladly do so to the best of my ability.” She paused a moment, her tear-filled eyes drawing him to her like to a magnet.
“My father is everything to me; I can never thank you enough for what you did and my words fail me to express this.” Her lips quivered with emotion as she spoke.
“No, it is I whom am indebted to you. For you are the one truly responsible, you saved me back in the burning desert sands when I was destined to die. I have only repaid a little bit what you had done for me.” Ronald paused; hesitating in his speech as an idea came to him.
“But wait, maybe there is something.” He saw the flicker in her eyes, was she wondered what he would ask.
“I ask only one question, the scarab the sign above your door, what does it symbolize and why does your father wear it?”
She looked away from him glancing to the floor then after a few moments as if considering the question, and then she looked up again, her face filled with determination and purpose.
“It is the emblem of my mother’s family. When my father married she gave the amulet with the golden scarab to him as a gift, he often wears it as you have seen him do. My brother has one also, that he keeps attached to his scabbard; he wears it to remind him of the Sultan’s judgments. I also have one it was my mothers own, my father gave it to me after her death.”
Reaching under her caftan she pulled out the glittering emerald scarab that he had seen once before as he lay delirious in the desert tent.
“When I turned twelve my mother gave each of us a gift, to always remember her family, my brother received the scarab and I this pulling out a small dagger. I keep this on me to always have in case of need, my mother warned me never to let anyone know I posses it, I don’t know why but I feel I can trust you.” She paused as her tears welling up again in her eyes.
“You see my mother’s family are all dead. My grandfather was a strong and proud man Sheik Abu Harun al-Rashid, he was also related to the Sultan although distantly through his uncle’s family, and was known to have many enemies throughout the land due to his strong unbending attitudes. One day he caused some great offence to the Sultan, I don't know exactly what happened or was said, but the Sultan ordered his whole family destroyed. The soldiers came; they hunted out my uncles and cousins, every one of my family seeking to destroy them. Some I believe escaped to Algeria or beyond never again returning. My grandfather and grandmother and my mothers two brothers were killed, only the power and station of my father protected my mother from his wrath. My father is looked on as both a holy man a descendant of the prophet and righteous man, but also a fair and just man respected in all Morocco for his peaceful views and his generosity. Many would have risen to the sword causing a great war and strife within the country if the Sultan had harmed him or my mother. So she survived in safety under the protection of my father.”
Ronald listened in silence this was fascinating but then where did Assif come into it all, why had he a tattoo of the scarab upon his arm? Clearing his throat a little hesitantly he asked.
“May I ask one more question of you?”
“Yes of course you may.” she replied
“The man who came to kill your father last night, he had the same sign on his arm? Do you know why? Do you know him?”
She was obviously surprised. “No I did not know that, I never saw him so I can't answer you but you say it was tattooed upon his arm?”
“Yes, do you know anything about that?”
“I have heard stories, you see when he was young my grandfather on my mother’s side was a renowned warrior a corsair. He sailed the seas as a privateer, not for murder and spoil but in the tradition of centuries of our lands, we were warriors and this but another form of war. Our lands and our neighbouring lands for centuries were known for our seamanship and like the privateers of old sailed the seas under orders from our sultans or emirs bringing the plunder back to the country, filling the lands with slaves and lining the pockets of the sultans and emirs. My grandfather’s emblem was the scarab, and all that sailed his ships were tattooed with it. This man if you say had such a tattoo must have at one time or other sailed with him. It is strange my father said nothing of this did he see it also did you tell him?”
“No I never, but he saw it, and he recognized the man, he muttered some name under his breath, he was surprised and yes he definitely knew him.”
“This is indeed strange then, for if my father said nothing to me then he does not want me to know. I cannot then ask him for it would be offensive and not my place. I am frightened, for if he hides it from me, then he must be fearful of someone or some people. Do you think there is danger ahead for him?”
Seeing her fear and worry for her father Ronald went on to encourage her. “You have no reason to fear, for your father is a wise man, he is also well protected, and I promise as long as I am around no harm will befall him. I swear it. Besides it may all be nothing, I may have just read things into it all that are not there, so don't fret, just forget it all and you will see it will probably turn out to be nothing.” Ronald could see a flicker of hope return to her eyes.
“Tell me,” he continued “your name, Gulistan it means what?”
She smiled coyly blushing a little. “It means ‘Rose Garden’, it was my mothers favourite book by Saadi the Persian poet. She used to say I was like a small fragile rose and a breath of fresh life to her, and therefore she called me after the book.”
“I can see why,” answered Ronald “for you are indeed a rose among women.”
“Thank you, thank you, you are indeed a gentleman, my father has spoken well of you and I see why, I am sorry for the other day if I offended you in my speech, it was not so nice to speak as I did.”
“No, no it was nothing please you make things out of nothing, you could never cause offence, for one like you such would be impossible. For you shine like the rose giving of sweet scent, you cause no harm only delight the senses, yet…” with a twinkle in his eyes he continued “…sometimes when you reach out to touch the rose you get pricked by the thorn.”
She laughed and that twinkle returned to her eyes as they again sparkled with light. “And you would try to touch the rose? You need to have the gardener’s permission first, so watch out for the gardener if you plan to pluck roses?”
Ronald laughed, “Well said my princess, well said!" I will indeed watch out for him.”
The door opened and the servant returned he nodded to her. She nodded in return and arose from her seat.
“I must leave now, thank you again for saving my father, and also for the words you shared.”
She hurriedly moved past him and left the room with the servant, leaving Ronald sitting there with a mixture of thoughts and ideas. It was as though he was in a game it was unfolding around him yet he could not see the overall board, he could not see where to move and he was but a piece upon the board.
Ronald shook his head He was so utterly lost and helpless, how could he do anything to help her, he didn't even know what to do. What was this mystery it was like one of these mystery stories that had started in the papers in England. He read one or two while in Rome as Gwenn had found them captivating, what was it, ah yes, Sherlock Holmes. Ha, yes, he could definitely use the help of a Sherlock Holmes to solve this, he laughed to himself as he thought of it. Well why not, he could write his own story after he solved it. If he could become an artist overnight then why not also a writer, he laughed again imagining himself as a writer of novels. Life is full of surprises he thought well I'd better get of now and return to my room.
Ronald arose from his seat and left the library. Ronald looking out of his window espied Yousuf walking through the garden with Kahil; they were collecting olives from the trees. When they finished Kahil headed of to the kitchen with the basket while Yousuf stayed to clear up a little. Ronald seeing an opportunity to speak with him seized it with open arms and dashed down into the garden.
As he approached Yousuf had started to move away, Ronald called out to him.
“Wait Yousuf, Yousuf wait a moment I wish to speak to you.”
Yousuf spun around on his heels he looked as though he were ready to run of. But then something stopped him. What stopped him, he knew not what. Not wanting to lose the advantage Ronald pressed on with his question.
“Yousuf I know you understand me, you understand English, but do you write it also?”
Yousuf hesitated, his eyes searching Ronald’s features as if seeking to ascertain whether he was trustworthy. Then seeming to have reached a decision he nodded in assertion.
Ronald smiled “All right then I have a proposal for you. I have been watching you and I see your loyalty to your master and mistress you have ever been diligent and faithful in your duties. You seem to look to the safety and well being of your mistress and this is all I want. I also care for them and would do nothing to hurt or harm them. Believe me I owe my life to your mistress and would never dream of causing her harm I fear though the man last night with the crooked nose and scarab tattoo was otherwise inclined when he attacked your master.”
Ronald noticed as he spoke the look of astonishment followed by fear that flickered across his face. He recognized the description of the man.
“I can see from your expression you recognized him, well he was the one that I fought, and killed last night, he tried to murder your master. Don't worry though he will harm no one any more. But I sense there is still danger your master is fearful; I hope that you can help me there. If you know anything I ask for your help. Please help me. I have here in my pouch some writing material, pen paper ink. I will give these to you.”
Seeing reluctance still upon his face another idea came to him, he continued. “Better still why not pray! If you are a man of faith then ask God! I have faith he will show you the right thing to do. I am not being deceitful I mean no harm I am doing this out of a good heart, write whatever you feel who you are how you got here what happened who this man is why did he try to kill your master is there a real danger still? I have faith in God that he will show you to do the right thing. If you so choose to do then you may send me the answer or deliver it to my room or if not then send back the implements as you feel led Yousuf. But remember I mean no harm, what I do I do out of love. I…”
He stopped realizing what he said, and then he quickly added. ”…I mean…To your master and mistress, it is for their service to me. I am obliged to repay this service I would have been dead but for the help of your mistress. I cannot in all good faith leave them then in danger.”
Yousuf’s eyes lit up he understood of course he had seen it in the garden it was not just the mistress but Ronald also who was in love. This man loved her he would not harm her. He nodded to Ronald and took the offered implements. With one final glance at him he turned and left departing back to the household.
So as Ronald stood and watched wondering would he answer what secrets would he reveal, would Yousuf uncover this mystery? Ronald returned to his room he felt very restless and could not settle down, he pulled out one of the books a French book ‘Salammbo’ by Gustave Flaubert. He had read one of Flaubert’s books before, it had been ‘Madame Bovary’ It had been quite interesting, slow but interesting so he decided to try this one out.
After about an hour though he closed it, he could not concentrate, he lay back and thought of his family, were they still alive how were they where were they were they even alive? He was filled with sudden remorse over his actions, for he had not been in touch with them. Not once since leaving home had he tried to contact them, in fact he had hardly even thought of them. His mother, his father, his brothers and sisters, he had not been in touch with any of them since that fateful day he left with Max. The pain the sorrow that his tortured mind endured, as he reflected on them, now what had become of them? How selfish he had been so inconsiderate of others, he would try to undo the damage he would write them and put his troubled mind at ease.
Then he thought of the legion, here he was a deserter and would be shot if known to be alive. Of course he had not signed up under his proper name using the name Ronald McPherson. Still that would not save his life if recognized he thought, and that possibility always would remain. My, how he had gotten him self into a lot of trouble, immense difficulty it seemed, yet in spite of all the seemingly difficulties in the situation that he was now in, he felt an inner peace within.
God had brought this peace to him through all the trials of his life God had been there, engineering it to bring him to the point where he had broken down and received Him. When he made his commitment when he gave his heart to the Lord then had been the turning point as his eyes had been opened to the truths and the real meaning in life. Now he had the Lord to help him, to guide him, regardless of what the future held, if he put his faith in God then he would be safe. Jesus whom his mother had loved so dearly giving her all for Him day and night so sacrificial and dedicated, yes he could see now so clearly. He would safely guide him out of all trouble if he would but trust Him. Ronald closed his eyes and prayed.
“Dear Jesus I have been so selfish and uncaring in my life. I pray right now for my family wherever they are and what ever they are doing please be with them comfort them and guide them. Please if possible let them be alive and help me to make right my sins and lack of love. Jesus I feel for these ones here, the Sharif and his daughter, they are in trouble. I can’t see the danger but I feel it. You have put me here for a reason Lord. I know not what but I feel Your hand on this situation, therefore I ask, I ask Your help Lord. I can do nothing of myself I am blind and lost and incapable I feel my heart go out to this girl I know in the past I have been draw away in selfishness and lust and therefore I ask Your help. I am drawn like a magnet to her yet If it be not thy will I willingly will put her aside, I will gladly follow thy leading Lord despite my own feelings. I see Lord, I want to help these ones to repay their love and kindness, and I fear that my emotions may complicate it and ask therefore that You be my help Lord. She radiates beauty like a sun, but I wish not to impose my will upon her Lord. You help me to do the right thing have Thy way Lord.”
As he sat in quietness meditating on his prayer he felt still calm come down upon him it seemed that he could even smell sweet scents of blossoms fill the air. He arose and went to the shelf drawn by some unseen force he reached up and pulled down the bible opening it up and sitting down to read:
‘…But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him…’
It was as if he was one of the sheep and had now at last heard the shepherd’s voice and come into his fold”
‘And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.’
Ronald stopped and reflected on it, one fold. Yes it was as if the Sharif was one of these sheep in another fold, a believer yet not of the shepherd. Now he had read something else just recently what was it? Ah, yes" He thumbed through the pages until he found it:
‘For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became a Jew that I might gain the Jews; to them under the law, as under the law that I might gain them that are under the law. To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God but being under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without the law.’
Hmm, that was like Kahlid who had become one of them that he may understand them better.
Ronald then stood up and put the bible down on the shelf again then sat down, it had indeed been a worthwhile meeting he thought there was something quite different about her that he just could not put his finger on.
Then looking over at the ivory chess set on the table before him; he picked up the pieces examining each one with care, admiring the intricate craftsmanship and beautiful detail in each piece incredible how detailed they were such masterful pieces of work. As he fingered them he thought of the similarities between the game of chess and the game of life. It seemed to him as though he were but a game piece moved wither so ever the player wished, he had no control over his movements and as such was finding it frustrating. Yet in all of this he began to feel a peace, for if God was indeed the master player and he but yielded to His will, then no matter how seemingly illogical the move it would bear the right result. It was a hard thing to do though, to yield your will your desires your own ideas and feelings and put your self into the unknown totally blind to everything just trusting that God the all knowing had directed you.
This was indeed a great struggle for Ronald for how could he know for sure that it was God? Could it not be just a feeling or mistaken idea of his own? It was too much for him; his mind was finite and could not comprehend these mysteries. This he knew that he had a strong sense that God was directing this and that if he followed these feelings and senses then all would work out. He could not try to understand it or comprehend each little detail; he just needed to flow with it and be as the chess piece in front of him, yielded completely and utterly, no will of his own, just there for the master player’s use.