Part 5 out of 8
"Madam," she said to the Queen, "lose not another word in
speaking, but save life--if, indeed," she added, her voice
choking as she said it, "life may yet be saved."
"It may, it may," answered the Lady Calista. "I have just heard
that he has been brought before the King. It is not yet over
--but," she added, bursting into a vehement flood of weeping, in
which personal apprehensions had some share, "it will soon,
unless some course be taken."
"I will vow a golden candlestick to the Holy Sepulchre, a shrine
of silver to our Lady of Engaddi, a pall, worth one hundred
byzants, to Saint Thomas of Orthez," said the Queen in extremity.
"Up, up, madam!" said Edith; "call on the saints if you list,
but be your own best saint."
"Indeed, madam," said the terrified attendant, "the Lady Edith
speaks truth. Up, madam, and let us to King Richard's tent and
beg the poor gentleman's life."
"I will go--I will go instantly," said the Queen, rising and
trembling excessively; while her women, in as great confusion as
herself, were unable to render her those duties which were
indispensable to her levee. Calm, composed, only pale as death,
Edith ministered to the Queen with her own hand, and alone
supplied the deficiencies of her numerous attendants.
"How you wait, wenches!" said the Queen, not able even then to
forget frivolous distinctions. "Suffer ye the Lady Edith to do
the duties of your attendance? Seest thou, Edith, they can do
nothing; I shall never be attired in time. We will send for the
Archbishop of Tyre, and employ him as a mediator."
"Oh, no, no!" exclaimed Edith. "Go yourself madam; you have
done the evil, do you confer the remedy."
"I will go--I will go," said the Queen; "but if Richard be in his
mood, I dare not speak to him--he will kill me!"
"Yet go, gracious madam," said the Lady Calista, who best knew
her mistress's temper; "not a lion, in his fury, could look upon
such a face and form, and retain so much as an angry thought, far
less a love-true knight like the royal Richard, to whom your
slightest word would be a command."
"Dost thou think so, Calista?" said the Queen. "Ah, thou little
knowest yet I will go. But see you here, what means this? You
have bedizened me in green, a colour he detests. Lo you! let me
have a blue robe, and--search for the ruby carcanet, which was
part of the King of Cyprus's ransom; it is either in the steel
casket, or somewhere else."
"This, and a man's life at stake!" said Edith indignantly; "it
passes human patience. Remain at your ease, madam; I will go to
King Richard. I am a party interested. I will know if the
honour of a poor maiden of his blood is to be so far tampered
with that her name shall be abused to train a brave gentleman
from his duty, bring him within the compass of death and infamy,
and make, at the same time, the glory of England a laughing-stock
to the whole Christian army."
At this unexpected burst of passion, Berengaria listened with an
almost stupefied look of fear and wonder. But as Edith was about
to leave the tent, she exclaimed, though faintly, "Stop her, stop
"You must indeed stop, noble Lady Edith," said Calista, taking
her arm gently; "and you, royal madam, I am sure, will go, and
without further dallying. If the Lady Edith goes alone to the
King, he will be dreadfully incensed, nor will it be one life
that will stay his fury."
"I will go--I will go," said the Queen, yielding to necessity;
and Edith reluctantly halted to wait her movements.
They were now as speedy as she could have desired. The Queen
hastily wrapped herself in a large loose mantle, which covered
all inaccuracies of the toilet. In this guise, attended by Edith
and her women, and preceded and followed by a few officers and
men-at-arms, she hastened to the tent of her lionlike husband.
Were every hair upon his head a life,
And every life were to be supplicated
By numbers equal to those hairs quadrupled,
Life after life should out like waning stars
Before the daybreak--or as festive lamps,
Which have lent lustre to the midnight revel,
Each after each are quench'd when guests depart! OLD PLAY
The entrance of Queen Berengaria into the interior of Richard's
pavilion was withstood--in the most respectful and reverential
manner indeed, but still withstood--by the chamberlains who
watched in the outer tent. She could hear the stern command of
the King from within, prohibiting their entrance.
"You see," said the Queen, appealing to Edith, as if she had
exhausted all means of intercession in her power; "I knew it--the
King will not receive us."
At the same time, they heard Richard speak to some one within:
--"Go, speed thine office quickly, sirrah, for in that consists
thy mercy--ten byzants if thou dealest on him at one blow. And
hark thee, villain, observe if his cheek loses colour, or his eye
falters; mark me the smallest twitch of the features, or wink of
the eyelid. I love to know how brave souls meet death."
"If he sees my blade waved aloft without shrinking, he is the
first ever did so," answered a harsh, deep voice, which a sense
of unusual awe had softened into a sound much lower than its
usual coarse tones.
Edith could remain silent no longer. "If your Grace," she said
to the Queen, "make not your own way, I make it for you; or if
not for your Majesty, for myself at least.--Chamberlain, the
Queen demands to see King Richard--the wife to speak with her
"Noble lady," said the officer, lowering his wand of office, "it
grieves me to gainsay you, but his Majesty is busied on matters
of life and death."
"And we seek also to speak with him on matters of life and
death," said Edith. "I will make entrance for your Grace." And
putting aside the chamberlain with one hand, she laid hold on the
curtain with the other.
"I dare not gainsay her Majesty's pleasure," said the
chamberlain, yielding to the vehemence of the fair petitioner;
and as he gave way, the Queen found herself obliged to enter the
apartment of Richard.
The Monarch was lying on his couch, and at some distance, as
awaiting his further commands, stood a man whose profession it
was not difficult to conjecture. He was clothed in a jerkin of
red cloth, which reached scantly below the shoulders, leaving the
arms bare from about half way above the elbow; and as an upper
garment, he wore, when about as at present to betake himself to
his dreadful office, a coat or tabard without sleeves, something
like that of a herald, made of dressed bull's hide, and stained
in the front with many a broad spot and speckle of dull crimson.
The jerkin, and the tabard over it, reached the knee; and the
nether stocks, or covering of the legs, were of the same leather
which composed the tabard. A cap of rough shag served to hide
the upper part of a visage which, like that of a screech owl,
seemed desirous to conceal itself from light, the lower part of
the face being obscured by a huge red beard, mingling with shaggy
locks of the same colour. What features were seen were stern and
misanthropical. The man's figure was short, strongly made, with
a neck like a bull, very broad shoulders, arms of great and
disproportioned length, a huge square trunk, and thick bandy
legs. This truculent official leant on a sword, the blade of
which was nearly four feet and a half in length, while the handle
of twenty inches, surrounded by a ring of lead plummets to
counterpoise the weight of such a blade, rose considerably above
the man's head as he rested his arm upon its hilt, waiting for
King Richard's further directions.
On the sudden entrance of the ladies, Richard, who was then lying
on his couch with his face towards the entrance, and resting on
his elbow as he spoke to his grisly attendant, flung himself
hastily, as if displeased and surprised, to the other side,
turning his back to the Queen and the females of her train, and
drawing around him the covering of his couch, which, by his own
choice, or more probably the flattering selection of his
chamberlains, consisted of two large lions' skins, dressed in
Venice with such admirable skill that they seemed softer than the
hide of the deer.
Berengaria, such as we have described her, knew well--what woman
knows not?--her own road to victory. After a hurried glance of
undisguised and unaffected terror at the ghastly companion of her
husband's secret counsels, she rushed at once to the side of
Richard's couch, dropped on her knees, flung her mantle from her
shoulders, showing, as they hung down at their full length, her
beautiful golden tresses, and while her countenance seemed like
the sun bursting through a cloud, yet bearing on its pallid front
traces that its splendours have been obscured, she seized upon
the right hand of the King, which, as he assumed his wonted
posture, had been employed in dragging the covering of his couch,
and gradually pulling it to her with a force which was resisted,
though but faintly, she possessed herself of that arm, the prop
of Christendom and the dread of Heathenesse, and imprisoning its
strength in both her little fairy hands, she bent upon it her
brow, and united to it her lips.
"What needs this, Berengaria?" said Richard, his head still
averted, but his hand remaining under her control.
"Send away that man, his look kills me!" muttered Berengaria.
"Begone, sirrah," said Richard, still without looking round,
"What wait'st thou for? art thou fit to look on these ladies?"
"Your Highness's pleasure touching the head," said the man.
"Out with thee, dog!" answered Richard--"a Christian burial!"
The man disappeared, after casting a look upon the beautiful
Queen, in her deranged dress and natural loveliness, with a smile
of admiration more hideous in its expression than even his usual
scowl of cynical hatred against humanity.
"And now, foolish wench, what wishest thou?" said Richard,
turning slowly and half reluctantly round to his royal suppliant.
But it was not in nature for any one, far less an admirer of
beauty like Richard, to whom it stood only in the second rank to
glory, to look without emotion on the countenance and the tremor
of a creature so beautiful as Berengaria, or to feel, without
sympathy, that her lips, her brow, were on his hand, and that it
was wetted by her tears. By degrees, he turned on her his manly
countenance, with the softest expression of which his large blue
eye, which so often gleamed with insufferable light, was capable.
Caressing her fair head, and mingling his large fingers in her
beautiful and dishevelled locks, he raised and tenderly kissed
the cherub countenance which seemed desirous to hide itself in
his hand. The robust form, the broad, noble brow and majestic
looks, the naked arm and shoulder, the lions' skins among which
he lay, and the fair, fragile feminine creature that kneeled by
his side, might have served for a model of Hercules reconciling
himself, after a quarrel, to his wife Dejanira.
"And, once more, what seeks the lady of my heart in her knight's
pavilion at this early and unwonted hour?"
"Pardon, my most gracious liege--pardon!" said the Queen, whose
fears began again to unfit her for the duty of intercessor.
"Pardon--for what?" asked the King.
"First, for entering your royal presence too boldly and
"THOU too boldly!--the sun might as well ask pardon because his
rays entered the windows of some wretch's dungeon. But I was
busied with work unfit for thee to witness, my gentle one; and I
was unwilling, besides, that thou shouldst risk thy precious
health where sickness had been so lately rife."
"But thou art now well?" said the Queen, still delaying the
communication which she feared to make.
"Well enough to break a lance on the bold crest of that champion
who shall refuse to acknowledge thee the fairest dame in
"Thou wilt not then refuse me one boon--only one--only a poor
"Ha!--proceed," said King Richard, bending his brows.
"This unhappy Scottish knight--" murmured the Queen.
"Speak not of him, madam," exclaimed Richard sternly; "he dies
--his doom is fixed."
"Nay, my royal liege and love, 'tis but a silken banner
neglected. Berengaria will give thee another broidered with her
own hand, and rich as ever dallied with the wind. Every pearl I
have shall go to bedeck it, and with every pearl I will drop a
tear of thankfulness to my generous knight."
"Thou knowest not what thou sayest," said the King, interrupting
her in anger. "Pearls! can all the pearls of the East atone for
a speck upon England's honour--all the tears that ever woman's
eye wept wash away a stain on Richard's fame? Go to, madam, know
your place, and your time, and your sphere. At present we have
duties in which you cannot be our partner."
"Thou hearest, Edith," whispered the Queen; "we shall but incense
"Be it so," said Edith, stepping forward.--"My lord, I, your poor
kinswoman, crave you for justice rather than mercy; and to the
cry of justice the ears of a monarch should be open at every
time, place, and circumstance."
"Ha! our cousin Edith?" said Richard, rising and sitting
upright on the side of his couch, covered with his long camiscia.
"She speaks ever kinglike, and kinglike will I answer her, so she
bring no request unworthy herself or me."
The beauty of Edith was of a more intellectual and less
voluptuous cast than that of the Queen; but impatience and
anxiety had given her countenance a glow which it sometimes
wanted, and her mien had a character of energetic dignity that
imposed silence for a moment even on Richard himself, who, to
judge by his looks, would willingly have interrupted her.
"My lord," she said, "this good knight, whose blood you are about
to spill, hath done, in his time, service to Christendom. He has
fallen from his duty through a snare set for him in mere folly
and idleness of spirit. A message sent to him in the name of one
who--why should I not speak it?--it was in my own--induced him
for an instant to leave his post. And what knight in the
Christian camp might not have thus far transgressed at command of
a maiden, who, poor howsoever in other qualities, hath yet the
blood of Plantagenet in her veins?"
"And you saw him, then, cousin?" replied the King, biting his
lips to keep down his passion.
"I did, my liege," said Edith. "It is no time to explain
wherefore. I am here neither to exculpate myself nor to blame
"And where did you do him such a grace?"
"In the tent of her Majesty the Queen."
"Of our royal consort!" said Richard. "Now by Heaven, by Saint
George of England, and every other saint that treads its crystal
floor, this is too audacious! I have noticed and overlooked this
warrior's insolent admiration of one so far above him, and I
grudged him not that one of my blood should shed from her high-born sphere such influence as the sun
bestows on the world
beneath. But, heaven and earth! that you should have admitted
him to an audience by night, in the very tent of our royal
consort!--and dare to offer this as an excuse for his
disobedience and desertion! By my father's soul, Edith, thou
shalt rue this thy life long in a monastery!"
"My liege," said Edith, "your greatness licenses tyranny. My
honour, Lord King, is as little touched as yours, and my Lady the
Queen can prove it if she think fit. But I have already said I
am not here to excuse myself or inculpate others. I ask you but
to extend to one, whose fault was committed under strong
temptation, that mercy, which even you yourself, Lord King, must
one day supplicate at a higher tribunal, and for faults, perhaps,
"Can this be Edith Plantagenet?" said the King bitterly--"Edith
Plantagenet, the wise and the noble? Or is it some lovesick
woman who cares not for her own fame in comparison of the life of
her paramour? Now, by King Henry's soul! little hinders but I
order thy minion's skull to be brought from the gibbet, and fixed
as a perpetual ornament by the crucifix in thy cell!"
"And if thou dost send it from the gibbet to be placed for ever
in my sight," said Edith, "I will say it is a relic of a good
knight, cruelly and unworthily done to death by" (she checked
herself)--"by one of whom I shall only say, he should have known
better how to reward chivalry. Minion callest thou him?" she
continued, with increasing vehemence. "He was indeed my lover,
and a most true one; but never sought he grace from me by look or
word--contented with such humble observance as men pay to the
saints. And the good--the valiant--the faithful must die for
"Oh, peace, peace, for pity's sake," whispered the Queen, "you do
but offend him more!"
"I care not," said Edith; "the spotless virgin fears not the
raging lion. Let him work his will on this worthy knight.
Edith, for whom he dies, will know how to weep his memory. To me
no one shall speak more of politic alliances to be sanctioned
with this poor hand. I could not--I would not --have been his
bride living--our degrees were too distant. But death unites the
high and the low--I am henceforward the spouse of the grave."
The King was about to answer with much anger, when a Carmelite
monk entered the apartment hastily, his head and person muffled
in the long mantle and hood of striped cloth of the coarsest
texture which distinguished his order, and, flinging himself on
his knees before the King, conjured him, by every holy word and
sign, to stop the execution.
"Now, by both sword and sceptre," said Richard, "the world is
leagued to drive me mad!--fools, women, and monks cross me at
every step. How comes he to live still?"
"My gracious liege," said the monk, "I entreated of the Lord of
Gilsland to stay the execution until I had thrown myself at your
"And he was wilful enough to grant thy request," said the King; "but it is of a piece with his wonted
obstinacy. And what is it
thou hast to say? Speak, in the fiend's name!"
"My lord, there is a weighty secret, but it rests under the seal
of confession. I dare not tell or even whisper it; but I swear
to thee by my holy order, by the habit which I wear, by the
blessed Elias, our founder, even him who was translated without
suffering the ordinary pangs of mortality, that this youth hath
divulged to me a secret, which, if I might confide it to thee,
would utterly turn thee from thy bloody purpose in regard to
"Good father," said Richard, "that I reverence the church, let
the arms which I now wear for her sake bear witness. Give me to
know this secret, and I will do what shall seem fitting in the
matter. But I am no blind Bayard, to take a leap in the dark
under the stroke of a pair of priestly spurs."
"My lord," said the holy man, throwing back his cowl and upper
vesture, and discovering under the latter a garment of goatskin,
and from beneath the former a visage so wildly wasted by climate,
fast, and penance, as to resemble rather the apparition of an
animated skeleton than a human face, "for twenty years have I
macerated this miserable body in the caverns of Engaddi, doing
penance for a great crime. Think you I, who am dead to the world,
would contrive a falsehood to endanger my own soul; or that one,
bound by the most sacred oaths to the contrary--one such as I,
who have but one longing wish connected with earth, to wit, the
rebuilding of our Christian Zion--would betray the secrets of the
confessional? Both are alike abhorrent to my very soul."
"So," answered the King, "thou art that hermit of whom men speak
so much? Thou art, I confess, like enough to those spirits which
walk in dry places; but Richard fears no hobgoblins. And thou
art he, too, as I bethink me, to whom the Christian princes sent
this very criminal to open a communication with the Soldan, even
while I, who ought to have been first consulted, lay on my sick-bed? Thou and they may content
themselves--I will not put my
neck into the loop of a Carmelite's girdle. And, for your envoy,
he shall die the rather and the sooner that thou dost entreat for
"Now God be gracious to thee, Lord King!" said the hermit, with
much emotion; "thou art setting that mischief on foot which thou
wilt hereafter wish thou hadst stopped, though it had cost thee a
limb. Rash, blinded man, yet forbear!"
"Away, away," cried the King, stamping; "the sun has risen on the
dishonour of England, and it is not yet avenged.--Ladies and
priest, withdraw, if you would not hear orders which would
displease you; for, by St. George, I swear--"
"Swear NOT!" said the voice of one who had just then entered the
"Ha! my learned Hakim," said the King, "come, I hope, to tax our
"I come to request instant speech with you--instant--and touching
matters of deep interest."
"First look on my wife, Hakim, and let her know in you the
preserver of her husband."
"It is not for me," said the physician, folding his arms with an
air of Oriental modesty and reverence, and bending his eyes on
the ground--"it is not for me to look upon beauty unveiled, and
armed in its splendours."
"Retire, then, Berengaria," said the Monarch; "and, Edith, do you
retire also;--nay, renew not your importunities! This I give to
them that the execution shall not be till high noon. Go and be
pacified--dearest Berengaria, begone.--Edith," he added, with a
glance which struck terror even into the courageous soul of his
kinswoman, "go, if you are wise."
The females withdrew, or rather hurried from the tent, rank and
ceremony forgotten, much like a flock of wild-fowl huddled
together, against whom the falcon has made a recent stoop.
They returned from thence to the Queen's pavilion to indulge in
regrets and recriminations, equally unavailing. Edith was the
only one who seemed to disdain these ordinary channels of sorrow.
Without a sigh, without a tear, without a word of upbraiding, she
attended upon the Queen, whose weak temperament showed her sorrow
in violent hysterical ecstasies and passionate hypochondriacal
effusions, in the course of which Edith sedulously and even
affectionately attended her.
"It is impossible she can have loved this knight," said Florise
to Calista, her senior in attendance upon the Queen's person.
"We have been mistaken; she is but sorry for his fate, as for a
stranger who has come to trouble on her account."
"Hush, hush," answered her more experienced and more observant
comrade; "she is of that proud house of Plantagenet who never own
that a hurt grieves them. While they have themselves been
bleeding to death, under a mortal wound, they have been known to
bind up the scratches sustained by their more faint-hearted
comrades. Florise, we have done frightfully wrong, and, for my
own part, I would buy with every jewel I have that our fatal jest
had remained unacted."
This work desires a planetary intelligence
Of Jupiter and Sol; and those great spirits
Are proud, fantastical. It asks great charges
To entice them from the guiding of their spheres,
To wait on mortals. ALBUMAZAR.
The hermit followed the ladies from the pavilion of Richard, as
shadow follows a beam of sunshine when the clouds are driving
over the face of the sun. But he turned on the threshold, and
held up his hand towards the King in a warning, or almost a
menacing posture, as he said, "Woe to him who rejects the counsel
of the church, and betaketh himself to the foul divan of the
infidel! King Richard, I do not yet shake the dust from my feet
and depart from thy encampment; the sword falls not--but it hangs
but by a hair. Haughty monarch, we shall meet again."
"Be it so, haughty priest," returned Richard, "prouder in thy
goatskins than princes in purple and fine linen."
The hermit vanished from the tent, and the King continued,
addressing the Arabian, "Do the dervises of the East, wise Hakim,
use such familiarity with their princes?"
"The dervise," replied Adonbec, "should be either a sage or a
madman; there is no middle course for him who wears the khirkhah,
[Literally, the torn robe. The habit of the dervises is so
called.] who watches by night, and fasts by day. Hence hath he
either wisdom enough to bear himself discreetly in the presence
of princes; or else, having no reason bestowed on him, he is not
responsible for his own actions."
"Methinks our monks have adopted chiefly the latter character,"
said Richard. "But to the matter. In what can I pleasure you,
my learned physician?"
"Great King," said El Hakim, making his profound Oriental
obeisance, "let thy servant speak one word, and yet live. I
would remind thee that thou owest--not to me, their humble
instrument--but to the Intelligences, whose benefits I dispense
to mortals, a life--"
"And I warrant me thou wouldst have another in requital, ha?"
interrupted the King.
"Such is my humble prayer," said the Hakim, "to the great Melech
Ric--even the life of this good knight, who is doomed to die, and
but for such fault as was committed by the Sultan Adam, surnamed
Aboulbeschar, or the father of all men."
"And thy wisdom might remind thee, Hakim, that Adam died for it,"
said the King, somewhat sternly, and then began to pace the
narrow space of his tent with some emotion, and to talk to
himself. "Why, God-a-mercy, I knew what he desired as soon as
ever he entered the pavilion! Here is one poor life justly
condemned to extinction, and I, a king and a soldier, who have
slain thousands by my command, and scores with my own hand, am to
have no power over it, although the honour of my arms, of my
house, of my very Queen, hath been attainted by the culprit. By
Saint George, it makes me laugh! By Saint Louis, it reminds me
of Blondel's tale of an enchanted castle, where the destined
knight was withstood successively in his purpose of entrance by
forms and figures the most dissimilar, but all hostile to his
undertaking! No sooner one sunk than another appeared! Wife
--kinswoman--hermit--Hakim-each appears in the lists as soon as
the other is defeated! Why, this is a single knight fighting
against the whole MELEE of the tournament--ha! ha! ha!" And
Richard laughed aloud; for he had, in fact, begun to change his
mood, his resentment being usually too violent to be of long
The physician meanwhile looked on him with a countenance of
surprise, not unmingled with contempt; for the Eastern people
make no allowance for these mercurial changes in the temper, and
consider open laughter, upon almost any account, as derogatory to
the dignity of man, and becoming only to women and children. At
length the sage addressed the King when he saw him more
"A doom of death should not issue from laughing lips. Let thy
servant hope that thou hast granted him this man's life."
"Take the freedom of a thousand captives instead," said Richard;
"restore so many of thy countrymen to their tents and families,
and I will give the warrant instantly. This man's life can avail
thee nothing, and it is forfeited."
"All our lives are forfeited," said the Hakim, putting his hand
to his cap. "But the great Creditor is merciful, and exacts not
the pledge rigorously nor untimely."
"Thou canst show me," said Richard, "no special interest thou
hast to become intercessor betwixt me and the execution of
justice, to which I am sworn as a crowned king."
"Thou art sworn to the dealing forth mercy as well as justice,"
said El Hakim; "but what thou seekest, great King, is the
execution of thine own will. And for the concern I have in this
request, know that many a man's life depends upon thy granting
"Explain thy words," said Richard; "but think not to impose upon
me by false pretexts."
"Be it far from thy servant!" said Adonbec. "Know, then, that
the medicine to which thou, Sir King, and many one besides, owe
their recovery, is a talisman, composed under certain aspects of
the heavens, when the Divine Intelligences are most propitious.
I am but the poor administrator of its virtues. I dip it in a
cup of water, observe the fitting hour to administer it to the
patient, and the potency of the draught works the cure."
"A most rare medicine," said the King, "and a commodious! and,
as it may be carried in the leech's purse, would save the whole
caravan of camels which they require to convey drugs and physic
stuff; I marvel there is any other in use."
"It is written," answered the Hakim, with imperturbable gravity,
"'Abuse not the steed which hath borne thee from the battle.'
Know that such talismans might indeed be framed, but rare has
been the number of adepts who have dared to undertake the
application of their virtue. Severe restrictions, painful
observances, fasts, and penance, are necessary on the part of the
sage who uses this mode of cure; and if, through neglect of these
preparations, by his love of ease, or his indulgence of sensual
appetite, he omits to cure at least twelve persons within the
course of each moon, the virtue of the divine gift departs from
the amulet, and both the last patient and the physician will be
exposed to speedy misfortune, neither will they survive the year.
I require yet one life to make up the appointed number."
"Go out into the camp, good Hakim, where thou wilt find a-many,"
said the King, "and do not seek to rob my headsman of HIS
patients; it is unbecoming a mediciner of thine eminence to
interfere with the practice of another. Besides, I cannot see
how delivering a criminal from the death he deserves should go to
make up thy tale of miraculous cures."
"When thou canst show why a draught of cold water should have
cured thee when the most precious drugs failed," said the Hakim,
"thou mayest reason on the other mysteries attendant on this
matter. For myself, I am inefficient to the great work, having
this morning touched an unclean animal. Ask, therefore, no
further questions; it is enough that, by sparing this man's life
at my request, you will deliver yourself, great King, and thy
servant, from a great danger."
"Hark thee, Adonbec," replied the King, "I have no objection that
leeches should wrap their words in mist, and pretend to derive
knowledge from the stars; but when you bid Richard Plantagenet
fear that a danger will fall upon HIM from some idle omen, or
omitted ceremonial, you speak to no ignorant Saxon, or doting old
woman, who foregoes her purpose because a hare crosses the path,
a raven croaks, or a cat sneezes."
"I cannot hinder your doubt of my words," said Adonbec; "but yet
let my Lord the King grant that truth is on the tongue of his
servant--will he think it just to deprive the world, and every
wretch who may suffer by the pains which so lately reduced him to
that couch, of the benefit of this most virtuous talisman, rather
than extend his forgiveness to one poor criminal? Bethink you,
Lord King, that, though thou canst slay thousands, thou canst not
restore one man to health. Kings have the power of Satan to
torment, sages that of Allah to heal--beware how thou hinderest
the good to humanity which thou canst not thyself render. Thou
canst cut off the head, but not cure the aching tooth."
"This is over-insolent," said the King, hardening himself, as the
Hakim assumed a more lofty and almost a commanding tone. "We
took thee for our leech, not for our counsellor or conscience-keeper."
"And is it thus the most renowned Prince of Frangistan repays
benefit done to his royal person?" said El Hakim, exchanging the
humble and stooping posture in which he had hitherto solicited
the King, for an attitude lofty and commanding. "Know, then," he
said, "that: through every court of Europe and Asia--to Moslem
and Nazarene--to knight and lady--wherever harp is heard and
sword worn --wherever honour is loved and infamy detested--to
every quarter of the world--will I denounce thee, Melech Ric, as
thankless and ungenerous; and even the lands--if there be any
such--that never heard of thy renown shall yet be acquainted with
"Are these terms to me, vile infidel?" said Richard, striding
up to him in fury. "Art weary of thy life?"
"Strike!" said El Hakim; "thine own deed shall then paint thee
more worthless than could my words, though each had a hornet's
Richard turned fiercely from him, folded his arms, traversed the
tent as before, and then exclaimed, "Thankless and ungenerous!
--as well be termed coward and infidel! Hakim, thou hast chosen
thy boon; and though I had rather thou hadst asked my crown
jewels, yet I may not, kinglike, refuse thee. Take this Scot,
therefore, to thy keeping; the provost will deliver him to thee
on this warrant."
He hastily traced one or two lines, and gave them to the
physician. "Use him as thy bond-slave, to be disposed of as thou
wilt--only, let him beware how he comes before the eyes of
Richard. Hark thee--thou art wise--he hath been over-bold among
those in whose fair looks and weak judgments we trust our honour,
as you of the East lodge your treasures in caskets of silver
wire, as fine and as frail as the web of a gossamer."
"Thy servant understands the words of the King," said the sage,
at once resuming the reverent style of address in which he had
commenced. "When the rich carpet is soiled, the fool pointeth to
the stain--the wise man covers it with his mantle. I have heard
my lord's pleasure, and to hear is to obey."
"It is well," said the King; "let him consult his own safety, and
never appear in my presence more. Is there aught else in which I
may do thee pleasure?"
"The bounty of the King hath filled my cup to the brim," said the
sage--" yea, it hath been abundant as the fountain which sprung
up amid the camp of the descendants of Israel when the rock was
stricken by the rod of Moussa Ben Amram."
"Ay, but," said the King, smiling, "it required, as in the
desert, a hard blow on the rock ere it yielded its treasures. I
would that I knew something to pleasure thee, which I might yield
as freely as the natural fountain sends forth its waters."
"Let me touch that victorious hand," said the sage, "in token
that if Adonbec el Hakim should hereafter demand a boon of
Richard of England, he may do so, yet plead his command."
"Thou hast hand and glove upon it, man," replied Richard; "only,
if thou couldst consistently make up thy tale of patients without
craving me to deliver from punishment those who have deserved it,
I would more willingly discharge my debt in some other form."
"May thy days be multiplied!" answered the Hakim, and withdrew
from the apartment after the usual deep obeisance.
King Richard gazed after him as he departed, like one but half-satisfied with what had passed.
"Strange pertinacity," he said, "in this Hakim, and a wonderful
chance to interfere between that audacious Scot and the
chastisement he has merited so richly. Yet let him live! there
is one brave man the more in the world. And now for the
Austrian. Ho! is the Baron of Gilsland there without?"
Sir Thomas de Vaux thus summoned, his bulky form speedily
darkened the opening of the pavilion, while behind him glided as
a spectre, unannounced, yet unopposed, the savage form of the
hermit of Engaddi, wrapped in his goatskin mantle.
Richard, without noticing his presence, called in a loud tone to
the baron, "Sir Thomas de Vaux, of Lanercost and Gilsland, take
trumpet and herald, and go instantly to the tent of him whom they
call Archduke of Austria, and see that it be when the press of
his knights and vassals is greatest around him, as is likely at
this hour, for the German boar breakfasts ere he hears mass--
enter his presence with as little reverence as thou mayest, and
impeach him, on the part of Richard of England, that he hath this
night, by his own hand, or that of others, stolen from its staff
the Banner of England. Wherefore say to him our pleasure that
within an hour from the time of my speaking he restore the said
banner with all reverence--he himself and his principal barons
waiting the whilst with heads uncovered, and without their robes
of honour. And that, moreover, he pitch beside it, on the one
hand, his own Banner of Austria reversed, as that which hath been
dishonoured by theft and felony, and on the other, a lance,
bearing the bloody head of him who was his nearest counsellor, or
assistant, in this base injury. And say, that such our behests
being punctually discharged we will, for the sake of our vow and
the weal of the Holy Land, forgive his other forfeits."
"And how if the Duke of Austria deny all accession to this act of
wrong and of felony?" said Thomas de Vaux.
"Tell him," replied the King, "we will prove it upon his body
--ay, were he backed with his two bravest champions. Knightlike
will we prove it, on foot or on horse, in the desert or in the
field, time, place, and arms all at his own choice."
"Bethink you of the peace of God and the church, my liege lord,"
said the Baron of Gilsland, "among those princes engaged in this
"Bethink you how to execute my commands, my liege vassal,"
answered Richard impatiently. "Methinks men expect to turn our
purpose by their breath, as boys blow feathers to and fro. Peace
of the church! Who, I prithee, minds it? The peace of the
church, among Crusaders, implies war with the Saracens, with whom
the princes have made truce; and the one ends with the other.
And besides, see you not how every prince of them is seeking his
own several ends? I will seek mine also--and that is honour.
For honour I came hither; and if I may not win it upon the
Saracens, at least I will not lose a jot from any respect to this
paltry Duke, though he were bulwarked and buttressed by every
prince in the Crusade."
De Vaux turned to obey the King's mandate, shrugging his
shoulders at the same time, the bluntness of his nature being
unable to conceal that its tenor went against his judgment. But
the hermit of Engaddi stepped forward, and assumed the air of one
charged with higher commands than those of a mere earthly
potentate. Indeed, his dress of shaggy skins, his uncombed and
untrimmed hair and beard, his lean, wild, and contorted features,
and the almost insane fire which gleamed from under his bushy
eyebrows, made him approach nearly to our idea of some seer of
Scripture, who, charged with high mission to the sinful Kings of
Judah or Israel, descended from the rocks and caverns in which he
dwelt in abstracted solitude, to abash earthly tyrants in the
midst of their pride, by discharging on them the blighting
denunciations of Divine Majesty, even as the cloud discharges the
lightnings with which it is fraught on the pinnacles and towers
of castles and palaces. In the midst of his most wayward mood,
Richard respected the church and its ministers; and though
offended at the intrusion of the hermit into his tent, he greeted
him with respect--at the same time, however, making a sign to Sir
Thomas de Vaux to hasten on his message.
But the hermit prohibited the baron, by gesture, look, and word,
to stir a yard on such an errand; and holding up his bare arm,
from which the goatskin mantle fell back in the violence of his
action, he waved it aloft, meagre with famine, and wealed with
the blows of the discipline.
"In the name of God, and of the most holy Father, the vicegerent
of the Christian Church upon earth, I prohibit this most profane,
bloodthirsty, and brutal defiance betwixt two Christian princes,
whose shoulders are signed with the blessed mark under which they
swore brotherhood. Woe to him by whom it is broken!--Richard of
England, recall the most unhallowed message thou hast given to
that baron. Danger and death are nigh thee!--the dagger is
glancing at thy very throat!--"
"Danger and death are playmates to Richard," answered the Monarch
proudly; "and he hath braved too many swords to fear a dagger."
"Danger and death are near," replied the seer, and sinking his
voice to a hollow, unearthly tone, he added, "And after death the
"Good and holy father," said Richard, "I reverence thy person and
"Reverence not me!" interrupted the hermit; "reverence sooner
the vilest insect that crawls by the shores of the Dead Sea, and
feeds upon its accursed slime. But reverence Him whose commands
I speak--reverence Him whose sepulchre you have vowed to rescue
--revere the oath of concord which you have sworn, and break not
the silver cord of union and fidelity with which you have bound
yourself to your princely confederates."
"Good father," said the King, "you of the church seem to me to
presume somewhat, if a layman may say so much, upon the dignity
of your holy character. Without challenging your right to take
charge of our conscience, methinks you might leave us the charge
of our own honour."
"Presume!" repeated the hermit. "Is it for me to presume, royal
Richard, who am but the bell obeying the hand of the sexton--but
the senseless and worthless trumpet carrying the command of him
who sounds it? See, on my knees I throw myself before thee,
imploring thee to have mercy on Christendom, on England, and on
"Rise, rise," said Richard, compelling him to stand up; "it
beseems not that knees which are so frequently bended to the
Deity should press the ground in honour of man. What danger
awaits us, reverend father? and when stood the power of England
so low that the noisy bluster of this new-made Duke's displeasure
should alarm her or her monarch?"
"I have looked forth from my mountain turret upon the starry host
of heaven, as each in his midnight circuit uttered wisdom to
another, and knowledge to the few who can understand their voice.
There sits an enemy in thy House of Life, Lord King, malign at
once to thy fame and thy prosperity--an emanation of Saturn,
menacing thee with instant and bloody peril, and which, but thou
yield thy proud will to the rule of thy duty, will presently
crush thee even in thy pride."
"Away, away--this is heathen science," said the King. "Christians
practise it not--wise men believe it not. Old man, thou dotest."
"I dote not, Richard," answered the hermit--"I am not so happy.
I know my condition, and that some portion of reason is yet
permitted me, not for my own use, but that of the Church and the
advancement of the Cross. I am the blind man who holds a torch
to others, though it yields no light to himself. Ask me touching
what concerns the weal of Christendom, and of this Crusade, and I
will speak with thee as the wisest counsellor on whose tongue
persuasion ever sat. Speak to me of my own wretched being, and
my words shall be those of the maniac outcast which I am."
"I would not break the bands of unity asunder among the princes
of the Crusade," said Richard, with a mitigated tone and manner;
"but what atonement can they render me for the injustice and
insult which I have sustained?"
"Even of that I am prepared and commissioned to speak by the
Council, which, meeting hastily at the summons of Philip of
France, have taken measures for that effect."
"Strange," replied Richard, "that others should treat of what is
due to the wounded majesty of England!"
"They are willing to anticipate your demands, if it be possible,"
answered the hermit. "In a body, they consent that the Banner of
England be replaced on Saint George's Mount; and they lay under
ban and condemnation the audacious criminal, or criminals, by
whom it was outraged, and will announce a princely reward to any
who shall denounce the delinquent's guilt, and give his flesh to
the wolves and ravens."
"And Austria," said Richard, "upon whom rest such strong
presumptions that he was the author of the deed?"
"To prevent discord in the host," replied the hermit, "Austria
will clear himself of the suspicion by submitting to whatsoever
ordeal the Patriarch of Jerusalem shall impose."
"Will he clear himself by the trial by combat?" said King
"His oath prohibits it," said the hermit; "and, moreover, the
Council of the Princes--"
"Will neither authorize battle against the Saracens," interrupted
Richard, "nor against any one else. But it is enough, father--
thou hast shown me the folly of proceeding as I designed in this
matter. You shall sooner light your torch in a puddle of rain
than bring a spark out of a cold-blooded coward. There is no
honour to be gained on Austria, and so let him pass. I will have
him perjure himself, however; I will insist on the ordeal. How I
shall laugh to hear his clumsy fingers hiss, as he grasps the
red-hot globe of iron! Ay, or his huge mouth riven, and his
gullet swelling to suffocation, as he endeavours to swallow the
"Peace, Richard," said the hermit--"oh, peace, for shame, if not
for charity! Who shall praise or honour princes who insult and
calumniate each other? Alas! that a creature so noble as thou
art--so accomplished in princely thoughts and princely daring--so
fitted to honour Christendom by thy actions, and, in thy calmer
mood, to rule her by thy wisdom, should yet have the brute and
wild fury of the lion mingled with the dignity and courage of
that king of the forest!"
He remained an instant musing with his eyes fixed on the ground,
and then proceeded--"But Heaven, that knows our imperfect nature,
accepts of our imperfect obedience, and hath delayed, though not
averted, the bloody end of thy daring life. The destroying angel
hath stood still, as of old by the threshing-floor of Araunah the
Jebusite, and the blade is drawn in his hand, by which, at no
distant date, Richard, the lion-hearted, shall be as low as the
"Must it, then, be so soon?" said Richard. "Yet, even so be it.
May my course be bright, if it be but brief!"
"Alas! noble King," said the solitary, and it seemed as if a
tear (unwonted guest) were gathering in his dry and glazened eye,
"short and melancholy, marked with mortification, and calamity,
and captivity, is the span that divides thee from the grave which
yawns for thee--a grave in which thou shalt be laid without
lineage to succeed thee--without the tears of a people, exhausted
by thy ceaseless wars, to lament thee-- without having extended
the knowledge of thy subjects-- without having done aught to
enlarge their happiness."
"But not without renown, monk--not without the tears of the lady
of my love! These consolations, which thou canst neither know
nor estimate, await upon Richard to his grave."
"DO I not know, CAN I not estimate the value of minstrel's praise
and of lady's love?" retorted the hermit, in a tone which for a
moment seemed to emulate the enthusiasm of Richard himself.
"King of England," he continued, extending his emaciated arm,
"the blood which boils in thy blue veins is not more noble than
that which stagnates in mine. Few and cold as the drops are,
they still are of the blood of the royal Lusignan--of the heroic
and sainted Godfrey. I am--that is, I was when in the world--
"Whose deeds," said Richard, "have so often filled Fame's
trumpet! Is it so?--can it be so? Could such a light as thine
fall from the horizon of chivalry, and yet men be uncertain where
its embers had alighted?"
"Seek a fallen star," said the hermit, "and thou shalt only light
on some foul jelly, which, in shooting through the horizon, has
assumed for a moment an appearance of splendour. Richard, if I
thought that rending the bloody veil from my horrible fate could
make thy proud heart stoop to the discipline of the church, I
could find in my heart to tell thee a tale, which I have hitherto
kept gnawing at my vitals in concealment, like the self-devoted
youth of heathenesse. Listen, then, Richard, and may the grief
and despair which cannot avail this wretched remnant of what was
once a man be powerful as an example to so noble, yet so wild, a
being as thou art! Yes--I will--I WILL tear open the long-hidden
wounds, although in thy very presence they should bleed to
King Richard, upon whom the history of Alberick of Mortemar had
made a deep impression in his early years, when minstrels were
regaling his father's halls with legends of the Holy Land,
listened with respect to the outlines of a tale, which, darkly
and imperfectly sketched, indicated sufficiently the cause of the
partial insanity of this singular and most unhappy being.
"I need not," he said, "tell thee that I was noble in birth, high
in fortune, strong in arms, wise in counsel. All these I was.
But while the noblest ladies in Palestine strove which should
wind garlands for my helmet, my love was fixed --unalterably and
devotedly fixed--on a maiden of low degree. Her father, an
ancient soldier of the Cross, saw our passion, and knowing the
difference betwixt us, saw no other refuge for his daughter's
honour than to place her within the shadow of the cloister. I
returned from a distant expedition, loaded with spoils and
honour, to find my happiness was destroyed for ever! I too
sought the cloister; and Satan, who had marked me for his own,
breathed into my heart a vapour of spiritual pride, which could
only have had its source in his own infernal regions. I had
risen as high in the church as before in the state. I was,
forsooth, the wise, the self-sufficient, the impeccable!--I was
the counsellor of councils--I was the director of prelates. How
should I stumble?--wherefore should I fear temptation? Alas! I
became confessor to a sisterhood, and amongst that sisterhood I
found the long-loved--the long-lost. Spare me further
confession!--A fallen nun, whose guilt was avenged by self-murder, sleeps soundly in the vaults of
Engaddi; while, above her
very grave, gibbers, moans, and roars a creature to whom but so
much reason is left as may suffice to render him completely
sensible to his fate!"
"Unhappy man!" said Richard, "I wonder no longer at thy misery.
How didst thou escape the doom which the canons denounce against
"Ask one who is yet in the gall of worldly bitterness," said the
hermit, "and he will speak of a life spared for personal
respects, and from consideration to high birth. But, Richard, I
tell thee that Providence hath preserved me to lift me on high as
a light and beacon, whose ashes, when this earthly fuel is burnt
out, must yet be flung into Tophet. Withered and shrunk as this
poor form is, it is yet animated with two spirits--one active,
shrewd, and piercing, to advocate the cause of the Church of
Jerusalem; one mean, abject, and despairing, fluctuating between
madness and misery, to mourn over my own wretchedness, and to
guard holy relics on which it would be most sinful for me even to
cast my eye. Pity me not!--it is but sin to pity the loss of
such an abject; pity me not, but profit by my example. Thou
standest on the highest, and, therefore, on the most dangerous
pinnacle occupied by any Christian prince. Thou art proud of
heart, loose of life, bloody of hand. Put from thee the sins
which are to thee as daughters--though they be dear to the sinful
Adam, expel these adopted furies from thy breast--thy pride, thy
luxury, thy bloodthirstiness."
"He raves," said Richard, turning from the solitary to De Vaux,
as one who felt some pain from a sarcasm which yet he could not
resent; then turned him calmly, and somewhat scornfully, to the
anchoret, as he replied, "Thou hast found a fair bevy of
daughters, reverend father, to one who hath been but few months
married; but since I must put them from my roof, it were but like
a father to provide them with suitable matches. Therefore, I
will part with my pride to the noble canons of the church--my
luxury, as thou callest it, to the monks of the rule--and my
bloodthirstiness to the Knights of the Temple."
"O heart of steel, and hand of iron," said the anchoret, "upon
whom example, as well as advice, is alike thrown away! Yet shalt
thou be spared for a season, in case it so be thou shouldst turn,
and do that which is acceptable in the sight of Heaven. For me I
must return to my place. Kyrie Eleison! I am he through whom
the rays of heavenly grace dart like those of the sun through a
burning-glass, concentrating them on other objects, until they
kindle and blaze, while the glass itself remains cold and
uninfluenced. Kyrie Eleison!--the poor must be called, for the
rich have refused the banquet--Kyrie Eleison!"
So saying, he burst from the tent, uttering loud cries.
"A mad priest!" said Richard, from whose mind the frantic
exclamations of the hermit had partly obliterated the impression
produced by the detail of his personal history and misfortunes.
"After him, De Vaux, and see he comes to no harm; for, Crusaders
as we are, a juggler hath more reverence amongst our varlets than
a priest or a saint, and they may, perchance, put some scorn upon
The knight obeyed, and Richard presently gave way to the thoughts
which the wild prophecy of the monk had inspired. "To die early
--without lineage--without lamentation! A heavy sentence, and
well that it is not passed by a more competent judge. Yet the
Saracens, who are accomplished in mystical knowledge, will often
maintain that He, in whose eyes the wisdom of the sage is but as
folly, inspires wisdom and prophecy into the seeming folly of the
madman. Yonder hermit is said to read the stars, too, an art
generally practised in these lands, where the heavenly host was
of yore the object of idolatry. I would I had asked him touching
the loss of my banner; for not the blessed Tishbite, the founder
of his order, could seem more wildly rapt out of himself, or
speak with a tongue more resembling that of a prophet.--How now,
De Vaux, what news of the mad priest?"
"Mad priest, call you him, my lord?" answered De Vaux. "Methinks
he resembles more the blessed Baptist himself, just issued from
the wilderness. He has placed himself on one of the military
engines, and from thence he preaches to the soldiers as never man
preached since the time of Peter the Hermit. The camp, alarmed
by his cries, crowd around him in thousands; and breaking off
every now and then from the main thread of his discourse, he
addresses the several nations, each in their own language, and
presses upon each the arguments best qualified to urge them to
perseverance in the delivery of Palestine."
"By this light, a noble hermit!" said King Richard. "But what
else could come from the blood of Godfrey? HE despair of safety,
because he hath in former days lived PAR AMOURS? I will have the
Pope send him an ample remission, and I would not less willingly
be intercessor had his BELLE AMIE been an abbess."
As he spoke, the Archbishop of Tyre craved audience, for the
purpose of requesting Richard's attendance, should his health
permit, on a secret conclave of the chiefs of the Crusade, and to
explain to him the military and political incidents which had
occurred during his illness.
Must we then sheathe our still victorious sword;
Turn back our forward step, which ever trod
O'er foemen's necks the onward path of glory;
Unclasp the mail, which with a solemn vow,
In God's own house, we hung upon our shoulders--
That vow, as unaccomplish'd as the promise
Which village nurses make to still their children,
And after think no more of? THE CRUSADE, A TRAGEDY.
The Archbishop of Tyre was an emissary well chosen to communicate
to Richard tidings, which from another voice the lion-hearted
King would not have brooked to hear without the most unbounded
explosions of resentment. Even this sagacious and reverend
prelate found difficulty in inducing him to listen to news which
destroyed all his hopes of gaining back the Holy Sepulchre by
force of arms, and acquiring the renown which the universal all-hail of Christendom was ready to confer
upon him as the Champion
of the Cross.
But, by the Archbishop's report, it appeared that Saladin was
assembling all the force of his hundred tribes, and that the
monarchs of Europe, already disgusted from various motives with
the expedition, which had proved so hazardous, and was daily
growing more so, had resolved to abandon their purpose. In this
they were countenanced by the example of Philip of France, who,
with many protestations of regard, and assurances that he would
first see his brother of England in safety, declared his
intention to return to Europe. His great vassal, the Earl of
Champagne, had adopted the same resolution; and it could not
excite surprise that Leopold of Austria, affronted as he had been
by Richard, was glad to embrace an opportunity of deserting a
cause in which his haughty opponent was to be considered as
chief. Others announced the same purpose; so that it was plain
that the King of England was to be left, if he chose to remain,
supported only by such volunteers as might, under such depressing
circumstances, join themselves to the English army, and by the
doubtful aid of Conrade of Montserrat and the military orders of
the Temple and of Saint John, who, though they were sworn to wage
battle against the Saracens, were at least equally jealous of any
European monarch achieving the conquest of Palestine, where, with
shortsighted and selfish policy, they proposed to establish
independent dominions of their own.
It needed not many arguments to show Richard the truth of his
situation; and indeed, after his first burst of passion, he sat
him calmly down, and with gloomy looks, head depressed, and arms
folded on his bosom, listened to the Archbishop's reasoning on
the impossibility of his carrying on the Crusade when deserted by
his companions. Nay, he forbore interruption, even when the
prelate ventured, in measured terms, to hint that Richard's own
impetuosity had been one main cause of disgusting the princes
with the expedition.
"CONFITEOR," answered Richard, with a dejected look, and
something of a melancholy smile--"I confess, reverend father,
that I ought on some accounts to sing CULPA MEA. But is it not
hard that my frailties of temper should be visited with such a
penance--that, for a burst or two of natural passion, I should be
doomed to see fade before me ungathered such a rich harvest of
glory to God and honour to chivalry? But it shall NOT fade. By
the soul of the Conqueror, I will plant the Cross on the towers
of Jerusalem, or it shall be planted over Richard's grave!"
"Thou mayest do it," said the prelate, "yet not another drop of
Christian blood be shed in the quarrel."
"Ah, you speak of compromise, Lord Prelate; but the blood of the
infidel hounds must also cease to flow," said Richard.
"There will be glory enough," replied the Archbishop, "in having
extorted from Saladin, by force of arms, and by the respect
inspired by your fame, such conditions as at once restore the
Holy Sepulchre, open the Holy Land to pilgrims, secure their
safety by strong fortresses, and, stronger than all, assure the
safety of the Holy City, by conferring on Richard the title of
King Guardian of Jerusalem."
"How!" said Richard, his eyes sparkling with unusual light. "I-
-I--I the King Guardian of the Holy City! Victory itself, but
that it is victory, could not gain more--scarce so much, when won
with unwilling and disunited forces. But Saladin still proposes
to retain his interest in the Holy Land?"
"As a joint sovereign, the sworn ally," replied the prelate, "of
the mighty Richard--his relative, if it may be permitted, by
"By marriage!" said Richard, surprised, yet less so than the
prelate had expected. "Ha!--ay--Edith Plantagenet. Did I dream
this? or did some one tell me? My head is still weak from this
fever, and has been agitated. Was it the Scot, or the Hakim, or
yonder holy hermit, that hinted such a wild bargain?"
"The hermit of Engaddi, most likely," said the Archbishop, "for
he hath toiled much in this matter; and since the discontent of
the princes has became apparent, and a separation of their forces
unavoidable, he hath had many consultations, both with Christian
and pagan, for arranging such a pacification as may give to
Christendom, at least in part, the objects of this holy warfare."
"My kinswoman to an infidel--ha!" exclaimed Richard, as his eyes
began to sparkle.
The prelate hastened to avert his wrath.
"The Pope's consent must doubtless be first attained, and the
holy hermit, who is well known at Rome, will treat with the holy
"How?--without our consent first given?" said the King.
"Surely no," said the Bishop, in a quieting and insinuating tone
of voice--"only with and under your especial sanction."
"My sanction to marry my kinswoman to an infidel!" said Richard;
yet he spoke rather in a tone of doubt than as distinctly
reprobating the measure proposed. "Could I have dreamed of such
a composition when I leaped upon the Syrian shore from the prow
of my galley, even as a lion springs on his prey! And now--But
proceed--I will hear with patience."
Equally delighted and surprised to find his task so much easier
than he had apprehended, the Archbishop hastened to pour forth
before Richard the instances of such alliances in Spain--not
without countenance from the Holy See; the incalculable
advantages which all Christendom would derive from the union of
Richard and Saladin by a bond so sacred; and, above all, he spoke
with great vehemence and unction on the probability that Saladin
would, in case of the proposed alliance, exchange his false faith
for the true one.
"Hath the Soldan shown any disposition to become Christian?"
said Richard. "If so, the king lives not on earth to whom I
would grant the hand of a kinswoman, ay, or sister, sooner than
to my noble Saladin--ay, though the one came to lay crown and
sceptre at her feet, and the other had nothing to offer but his
good sword and better heart!"
"Saladin hath heard our Christian teachers," said the Bishop,
somewhat evasively--"my unworthy self, and others--and as he
listens with patience, and replies with calmness, it can hardly
be but that he be snatched as a brand from the burning. MAGNA
EST VERITAS, ET PREVALEBIT! moreover, the hermit of Engaddi, few
of whose words have fallen fruitless to the ground, is possessed
fully with the belief that there is a calling of the Saracens and
the other heathen approaching, to which this marriage shall be
matter of induction. He readeth the course of the stars; and
dwelling, with maceration of the flesh, in those divine places
which the saints have trodden of old, the spirit of Elijah the
Tishbite, the founder of his blessed order, hath been with him as
it was with the prophet Elisha, the son of Shaphat, when he
spread his mantle over him."
King Richard listened to the Prelate's reasoning with a downcast
brow and a troubled look.
"I cannot tell," he said, "How, it is with me, but methinks these
cold counsels of the Princes of Christendom have infected me too
with a lethargy of spirit. The time hath been that, had a layman
proposed such alliance to me, I had struck him to earth--if a
churchman, I had spit at him as a renegade and priest of Baal;
yet now this counsel sounds not so strange in mine ear. For why
should I not seek for brotherhood and alliance with a Saracen,
brave, just, generous--who loves and honours a worthy foe, as if
he were a friend--whilst the Princes of Christendom shrink from
the side of their allies, and forsake the cause of Heaven and
good knighthood? But I will possess my patience, and will not
think of them. Only one attempt will I make to keep this gallant
brotherhood together, if it be possible; and if I fail, Lord
Archbishop, we will speak together of thy counsel, which, as now,
I neither accept nor altogether reject. Wend we to the Council,
my lord--the hour calls us. Thou sayest Richard is hasty and
proud--thou shalt see him humble himself like the lowly broom-plant from which he derives his surname."
With the assistance of those of his privy chamber, the King then
hastily robed himself in a doublet and mantle of a dark and
uniform colour; and without any mark of regal dignity, excepting
a ring of gold upon his head, he hastened with the Archbishop of
Tyre to attend the Council, which waited but his presence to
commence its sitting.
The pavilion of the Council was an ample tent, having before it
the large Banner of the Cross displayed, and another, on which
was portrayed a female kneeling, with dishevelled hair and
disordered dress, meant to represent the desolate and distressed
Church of Jerusalem, and bearing the motto, AFFLICTAE SPONSAE NE
OBLIVISCARIS. Warders, carefully selected, kept every one at a
distance from the neighbourhood of this tent, lest the debates,
which were sometimes of a loud and stormy character, should reach
other ears than those they were designed for.
Here, therefore, the princes of the Crusade were assembled
awaiting Richard's arrival. And even the brief delay which was
thus interposed was turned to his disadvantage by his enemies,
various instances being circulated of his pride and undue
assumption of superiority, of which even the necessity of the
present short pause was quoted as an instance. Men strove to
fortify each other in their evil opinion of the King of England,
and vindicated the offence which each had taken, by putting the
most severe construction upon circumstances the most trifling;
and all this, perhaps, because they were conscious of an
instinctive reverence for the heroic monarch, which it would
require more than ordinary efforts to overcome.
They had settled, accordingly, that they should receive him on
his entrance with slight notice, and no more respect than was
exactly necessary to keep within the bounds of cold ceremonial.
But when they beheld that noble form, that princely countenance,
somewhat pale from his late illness-- the eye which had been
called by minstrels the bright star of battle and victory--when
his feats, almost surpassing human strength and valour, rushed on
their recollection, the Council of Princes simultaneously arose
--even the jealous King of France and the sullen and offended
Duke of Austria--arose with one consent, and the assembled
princes burst forth with one voice in the acclamation, "God save
King Richard of England! Long life to the valiant Lion's-heart!"
With a countenance frank and open as the summer sun when it
rises, Richard distributed his thanks around, and congratulated
himself on being once more among his royal brethren of the
"Some brief words he desired to say," such was his address to the
assembly, "though on a subject so unworthy as himself, even at
the risk of delaying for a few minutes their consultations for
the weal of Christendom and the advancement of their holy
The assembled princes resumed their seats, and there was a
"This day," continued the King of England, "is a high festival of
the church, and it well becomes Christian men, at such a tide, to
reconcile themselves with their brethren, and confess their
faults to each other. Noble princes and fathers of this holy
expedition, Richard is a soldier--his hand is ever readier than
his tongue--and his tongue is but too much used to the rough
language of his trade. But do not, for Plantagenet's hasty
speeches and ill-considered actions, forsake the noble cause of
the redemption of Palestine--do not throw away earthly renown
and eternal salvation, to be won here if ever they can be won by
man, because the act of a soldier may have been hasty, and his
speech as hard as the iron which he has worn from childhood. Is
Richard in default to any of you, Richard will make compensation
both by word and action.--Noble brother of France, have I been so
unlucky as to offend you?"
"The Majesty of France has no atonement to seek from that of
England," answered Philip, with kingly dignity, accepting, at the
same time, the offered hand of Richard; "and whatever opinion I
may adopt concerning the prosecution of this enterprise will
depend on reasons arising out of the state of my own kingdom--
certainly on no jealousy or disgust at my royal and most
"Austria," said Richard, walking up to the Archduke, with a
mixture of frankness and dignity, while Leopold arose from his
seat, as if involuntarily, and with the action of an automaton,
whose motions depended upon some external impulse--"Austria
thinks he hath reason to be offended with England; England, that
he hath cause to complain of Austria. Let them exchange
forgiveness, that the peace of Europe and the concord of this
host may remain unbroken. We are now joint supporters of a more
glorious banner than ever blazed before an earthly prince, even
the Banner of Salvation. Let not, therefore, strife be betwixt
us for the symbol of our more worldly dignities; but let Leopold
restore the pennon of England, if he has it in his power, and
Richard will say, though from no motive save his love for Holy
Church, that he repents him of the hasty mood in which he did
insult the standard of Austria."
The Archduke stood still, sullen and discontented, with his eyes
fixed on the floor, and his countenance lowering with smothered
displeasure, which awe, mingled with awkwardness, prevented his
giving vent to in words.
The Patriarch of Jerusalem hastened to break the embarrassing
silence, and to bear witness for the Archduke of Austria that he
had exculpated himself, by a solemn oath, from all knowledge,
direct or indirect, of the aggression done to the Banner of
"Then we have done the noble Archduke the greater wrong," said
Richard; "and craving his pardon for imputing to him an outrage
so cowardly, we extend our hand to him in token of renewed peace
and amity. But how is this? Austria refuses our uncovered hand,
as he formerly refused our mailed glove? What! are we neither
to be his mate in peace nor his antagonist in war? Well, let it
be so. We will take the slight esteem in which he holds us as a
penance for aught which we may have done against him in heat of
blood, and will therefore hold the account between us cleared."
So saying, he turned from the Archduke with an air rather of
dignity than scorn, leaving the Austrian apparently as much
relieved by the removal of his eye as is a sullen and truant
schoolboy when the glance of his severe pedagogue is withdrawn.
"Noble Earl of Champagne--princely Marquis of Montserrat
--valiant Grand Master of the Templars--I am here a penitent in
the confessional. Do any of you bring a charge or claim amends
"I know not on what we could ground any," said the smooth-tongued
Conrade, "unless it were that the King of England carries off
from his poor brothers of the war all the fame which they might
have hoped to gain in the expedition."
"My charge, if I am called on to make one," said the Master of
the Templars, "is graver and deeper than that of the Marquis of
Montserrat. It may be thought ill to beseem a military monk such
as I to raise his voice where so many noble princes remain
silent; but it concerns our whole host, and not least this noble
King of England, that he should hear from some one to his face
those charges which there are enow to bring against him in his
absence. We laud and honour the courage and high achievements of
the King of England; but we feel aggrieved that he should on all
occasions seize and maintain a precedence and superiority over
us, which it becomes not independent princes to submit to. Much
we might yield of our free will to his bravery, his zeal, his
wealth, and his power; but he who snatches all as matter of
right, and leaves nothing to grant out of courtesy and favour,
degrades us from allies into retainers and vassals, and sullies
in the eyes of our soldiers and subjects the lustre of our
authority, which is no longer independently exercised. Since the
royal Richard has asked the truth from us, he must neither be
surprised nor angry when he hears one, to whom worldly pomp is
prohibited, and secular authority is nothing, saving so far as it
advances the prosperity of God's Temple, and the prostration of
the lion which goeth about seeking whom he may devour--when he
hears, I say, such a one as I tell him the truth in reply to his
question; which truth, even while I speak it, is, I know,
confirmed by the heart of every one who hears me, however respect
may stifle their voices."
Richard coloured very highly while the Grand Master was making
this direct and unvarnished attack upon his conduct, and the
murmur of assent which followed it showed plainly that almost all
who were present acquiesced in the justice of the accusation.
Incensed, and at the same time mortified, he yet foresaw that to
give way to his headlong resentment would be to give the cold and
wary accuser the advantage over him which it was the Templar's
principal object to obtain. He therefore, with a strong effort,
remained silent till he had repeated a pater noster, being the
course which his confessor had enjoined him to pursue when anger
was likely to obtain dominion over him. The King then spoke with
composure, though not without an embittered tone, especially at
"And is it even so? And are our brethren at such pains to note
the infirmities of our natural temper, and the rough precipitance
of our zeal, which may sometimes have urged us to issue commands
when there was little time to hold council? I could not have
thought that offences, casual and unpremeditated like mine, could
find such deep root in the hearts of my allies in this most holy
cause; that for my sake they should withdraw their hands from the
plough when the furrow was near the end--for my sake turn aside
from the direct path to Jerusalem, which their swords have
opened. I vainly thought that my small services might have
outweighed my rash errors--that if it were remembered that I
pressed to the van in an assault, it would not be forgotten that
I was ever the last in the retreat--that, if I elevated my banner
upon conquered fields of battle, it was all the advantage that I
sought, while others were dividing the spoil. I may have called
the conquered city by my name, but it was to others that I
yielded the dominion. If I have been headstrong in urging bold
counsels, I have not, methinks, spared my own blood or my
people's in carrying them into as bold execution; or if I have,
in the hurry of march or battle, assumed a command over the
soldiers of others, such have been ever treated as my own when my
wealth purchased the provisions and medicines which their own
sovereigns could not procure. But it shames me to remind you of
what all but myself seem to have forgotten. Let us rather look
forward to our future measures; and believe me, brethren," he
continued, his face kindling with eagerness, "you shall not find
the pride, or the wrath, or the ambition of Richard a stumbling-block of offence in the path to which
religion and glory summon
you as with the trumpet of an archangel. Oh, no, no! never would
I survive the thought that my frailties and infirmities had been
the means to sever this goodly fellowship of assembled princes.
I would cut off my left hand with my right, could my doing so
attest my sincerity. I will yield up, voluntarily, all right to
command in the host--even mine own liege subjects. They shall be
led by such sovereigns as you may nominate; and their King, ever
but too apt to exchange the leader's baton for the adventurer's
lance, will serve under the banner of Beau-Seant among the
Templars--ay, or under that of Austria, if Austria will name a
brave man to lead his forces. Or if ye are yourselves a-weary of
this war, and feel your armour chafe your tender bodies, leave
but with Richard some ten or fifteen thousand of your soldiers to
work out the accomplishment of your vow; and when Zion is won,"
he exclaimed, waving his hand aloft, as if displaying the
standard of the Cross over Jerusalem--"when Zion is won, we will
write upon her gates, NOT the name of Richard Plantagenet, but of
those generous princes who entrusted him with the means of
The rough eloquence and determined expression of the military
monarch at once roused the drooping spirits of the Crusaders,
reanimated their devotion, and, fixing their attention on the
principal object of the expedition, made most of them who were
present blush for having been moved by such petty subjects of
complaint as had before engrossed them. Eye caught fire from
eye, voice lent courage to voice. They resumed, as with one
accord, the war-cry with which the sermon of Peter the Hermit was
echoed back, and shouted aloud, "Lead us on, gallant Lion's-heart; none so worthy to lead where brave men
follow. Lead us
on--to Jerusalem--to Jerusalem! It is the will of God--it is the
will of God! Blessed is he who shall lend an arm to its
The shout, so suddenly and generally raised, was heard beyond the
ring of sentinels who guarded the pavilion of Council, and spread
among the soldiers of the host, who, inactive and dispirited by
disease and climate, had begun, like their leaders, to droop in
resolution; but the reappearance of Richard in renewed vigour,
and the well-known shout which echoed from the assembly of the
princes, at once rekindled their enthusiasm, and thousands and
tens of thousands answered with the same shout of "Zion, Zion!
War, war! Instant battle with the infidels! It is the will of
God--it is the will of God!"
The acclamations from without increased in their turn the
enthusiasm which prevailed within the pavilion. Those who did
not actually catch the flame were afraid--at least for the time
--to seem colder than others. There was no more speech except of
a proud advance towards Jerusalem upon the expiry of the truce,
and the measures to be taken in the meantime for supplying and
recruiting the army. The Council broke up, all apparently filled
with the same enthusiastic purpose--which, however, soon faded
in the bosom of most, and never had an existence in that of
Of the latter class were the Marquis Conrade and the Grand Master
of the Templars, who retired together to their quarters ill at
ease, and malcontent with the events of the day.
"I ever told it to thee," said the latter, with the cold,
sardonic expression peculiar to him, "that Richard would burst
through the flimsy wiles you spread for him, as would a lion
through a spider's web. Thou seest he has but to speak, and his
breath agitates these fickle fools as easily as the whirlwind
catcheth scattered straws, and sweeps them together, or disperses
them at its pleasure."
"When the blast has passed away," said Conrade, "the straws,
which it made dance to its pipe, will settle to earth again."
"But knowest thou not besides," said the Templar, "that it seems,
if this new purpose of conquest shall be abandoned and pass away,
and each mighty prince shall again be left to such guidance as
his own scanty brain can supply, Richard may yet probably become
King of Jerusalem by compact, and establish those terms of treaty
with the Soldan which thou thyself thought'st him so likely to
"Now, by Mahound and Termagaunt, for Christian oaths are out of
fashion," said Conrade, "sayest thou the proud King of England
would unite his blood with a heathen Soldan? My policy threw in
that ingredient to make the whole treaty an abomination to him.
As bad for us that he become our master by an agreement, as by
"Thy policy hath ill calculated Richard's digestion," answered
the Templar; "I know his mind by a whisper from the Archbishop.
And then thy master-stroke respecting yonder banner--it has
passed off with no more respect than two cubits of embroidered
silk merited. Marquis Conrade, thy wit begins to halt; I will
trust thy finespun measures no longer, but will try my own.
Knowest thou not the people whom the Saracens call Charegites?"
"Surely," answered the Marquis; "they are desperate and besotted
enthusiasts, who devote their lives to the advancement of
religion---somewhat like Templars, only they are never known to
pause in the race of their calling."
"Jest not," answered the scowling monk. "Know that one of these
men has set down in his bloody vow the name of the Island Emperor
yonder, to be hewn down as the chief enemy of the Moslem faith."
"A most judicious paynim," said Conrade. "May Mohammed send him
his paradise for a reward!"
"He was taken in the camp by one of our squires, and in private
examination frankly avowed his fixed and determined purpose to
me," said the Grand Master.
"Now the heavens pardon them who prevented the purpose of this
most judicious Charegite!" answered Conrade.
"He is my prisoner," added the Templar, "and secluded from speech
with others, as thou mayest suppose; but prisons have been
"Chains left unlocked, and captives have escaped," answered the
Marquis. "It is an ancient saying, no sure dungeon but the
"When loose, he resumes his quest," continued the military
priest; "for it is the nature of this sort of blood hound never
to quit the suit of the prey he has once scented."
"Say no more of it," said the Marquis; "I see thy policy--it is
dreadful, but the emergency is imminent."
"I only told thee of it," said the Templar, "that thou mayest
keep thyself on thy guard; for the uproar will be dreadful, and
there is no knowing on whom the English may vent their rage. Ay,
and there is another risk. My page knows the counsels of this
Charegite," he continued; "and, moreover, he is a peevish, self-willed fool, whom I would I were rid of, as
he thwarts me by
presuming to see with his own eyes, not mine. But our holy order
gives me power to put a remedy to such inconvenience. Or stay--
the Saracen may find a good dagger in his cell, and I warrant you
he uses it as he breaks forth, which will be of a surety so soon
as the page enters with his food."
"It will give the affair a colour," said Conrade; "and yet--"
"YET and BUT," said the Templar, "are words for fools; wise men
neither hesitate nor retract--they resolve and they execute."
When beauty leads the lion in her toils,
Such are her charms, he dare not raise his mane,
Far less expand the terror of his fangs.
So great Alcides made his club a distaff,
And spun to please fair Omphale. ANONYMOUS.
Richard, the unsuspicious object of the dark treachery detailed
in the closing part of the last chapter, having effected, for the
present at least, the triumphant union of the Crusading princes
in a resolution to prosecute the war with vigour, had it next at
heart to establish tranquillity in his own family; and, now that
he could judge more temperately, to inquire distinctly into the
circumstances leading to the loss of his banner, and the nature
and the extent of the connection betwixt his kinswoman Edith and
the banished adventurer from Scotland.
Accordingly, the Queen and her household were startled with a
visit from Sir Thomas de Vaux, requesting the present attendance
of the Lady Calista of Montfaucon, the Queen's principal bower-woman, upon King Richard.
"What am I to say, madam?" said the trembling attendant to the
Queen, "He will slay us all."
"Nay, fear not, madam," said De Vaux. "His Majesty hath spared
the life of the Scottish knight, who was the chief offender, and
bestowed him upon the Moorish physician. He will not be severe
upon a lady, though faulty."
"Devise some cunning tale, wench," said Berengaria. "My husband
hath too little time to make inquiry into the truth."
"Tell the tale as it really happened," said Edith, "lest I tell
it for thee."
"With humble permission of her Majesty," said De Vaux, "I would
say Lady Edith adviseth well; for although King Richard is
pleased to believe what it pleases your Grace to tell him, yet I
doubt his having the same deference for the Lady Calista, and in
this especial matter."
"The Lord of Gilsland is right," said the Lady Calista, much
agitated at the thoughts of the investigation which was to take
place; "and besides, if I had presence of mind enough to forge a
plausible story, beshrew me if I think I should have the courage
to tell it."
In this candid humour, the Lady Calista was conducted by De Vaux
to the King, and made, as she had proposed, a full confession of
the decoy by which the unfortunate Knight of the Leopard had been
induced to desert his post; exculpating the Lady Edith, who, she
was aware, would not fail to exculpate herself, and laying the
full burden on the Queen, her mistress, whose share of the
frolic, she well knew, would appear the most venial in the eyes
of Coeur de Lion. In truth, Richard was a fond, almost a
uxorious husband. The first burst of his wrath had long since
passed away, and he was not disposed severely to censure what
could not now be amended. The wily Lady Calista, accustomed from
her earliest childhood to fathom the intrigues of a court, and
watch the indications of a sovereign's will, hastened back to the
Queen with the speed of a lapwing, charged with the King's
commands that she should expect a speedy visit from him; to which
the bower-lady added a commentary founded on her own observation,
tending to show that Richard meant just to preserve so much
severity as might bring his royal consort to repent of her
frolic, and then to extend to her and all concerned his gracious
"Sits the wind in that corner, wench?" said the Queen, much
relieved by this intelligence. "Believe me that, great commander
as he is, Richard will find it hard to circumvent us in this
matter, and that, as the Pyrenean shepherds are wont to say in my
native Navarre, Many a one comes for wool, and goes back shorn."
Having possessed herself of all the information which Calista
could communicate, the royal Berengaria arrayed herself in her
most becoming dress, and awaited with confidence the arrival of
the heroic Richard.
He arrived, and found himself in the situation of a prince
entering an offending province, in the confidence that his
business will only be to inflict rebuke, and receive submission,
when he unexpectedly finds it in a state of complete defiance and
insurrection. Berengaria well knew the power of her charms and
the extent of Richard's affection, and felt assured that she
could make her own terms good, now that the first tremendous
explosion of his anger had expended itself without mischief. Far
from listening to the King's intended rebuke, as what the levity
of her conduct had justly deserved, she extenuated, nay, defended
as a harmless frolic, that which she was accused of. She denied,
indeed, with many a pretty form of negation, that she had
directed Nectabanus absolutely to entice the knight farther than
the brink of the Mount on which he kept watch--and, indeed, this
was so far true, that she had not designed Sir Kenneth to be
introduced into her tent--and then, eloquent in urging her own
defence, the Queen was far more so in pressing upon Richard the
charge of unkindness, in refusing her so poor a boon as the life
of an unfortunate knight, who, by her thoughtless prank, had been
brought within the danger of martial law. She wept and sobbed
while she enlarged on her husband's obduracy on this score, as a
rigour which had threatened to make her unhappy for life,
whenever she should reflect that she had given, unthinkingly, the
remote cause for such a tragedy. The vision of the slaughtered
victim would have haunted her dreams--nay, for aught she knew,
since such things often happened, his actual spectre might have
stood by her waking couch. To all this misery of the mind was
she exposed by the severity of one who, while he pretended to
dote upon her slightest glance, would not forego one act of poor
revenge, though the issue was to render her miserable.
All this flow of female eloquence was accompanied with the usual
arguments of tears and sighs, and uttered with such tone and
action as seemed to show that the Queen's resentment arose
neither from pride nor sullenness, but from feelings hurt at
finding her consequence with her husband less than she had
expected to possess.
The good King Richard was considerably embarrassed. He tried in
vain to reason with one whose very jealousy of his affection
rendered her incapable of listening to argument, nor could he
bring himself to use the restraint of lawful authority to a
creature so beautiful in the midst of her unreasonable
displeasure. He was therefore reduced to the defensive,
endeavoured gently to chide her suspicions and soothe her
displeasure, and recalled to her mind that she need not look back
upon the past with recollections either of remorse or
supernatural fear, since Sir Kenneth was alive and well, and had
been bestowed by him upon the great Arabian physician, who,
doubtless, of all men, knew best how to keep him living. But
this seemed the unkindest cut of all, and the Queen's sorrow was
renewed at the idea of a Saracen--a mediciner--obtaining a boon
for which, with bare head and on bended knee, she had petitioned
her husband in vain. At this new charge Richard's patience began
rather to give way, and he said, in a serious tone of voice,
"Berengaria, the physician saved my life. If it is of value in
your eyes, you will not grudge him a higher recompense than the
only one I could prevail on him to accept."
The Queen was satisfied she had urged her coquettish displeasure
to the verge of safety.
"My Richard," she said, "why brought you not that sage to me,
that England's Queen might show how she esteemed him who could
save from extinction the lamp of chivalry, the glory of England,
and the light of poor Berengaria's life and hope?"
In a word, the matrimonial dispute was ended; but, that some
penalty might be paid to justice, both King and Queen accorded in
laying the whole blame on the agent Nectabanus, who (the Queen
being by this time well weary of the poor dwarf's humour) was,
with his royal consort Guenevra, sentenced to be banished from
the Court; and the unlucky dwarf only escaped a supplementary
whipping, from the Queen's assurances that he had already
sustained personal chastisement. It was decreed further that, as
an envoy was shortly to be dispatched to Saladin, acquainting him
with the resolution of the Council to resume hostilities so soon
as the truce was ended, and as Richard proposed to send a
valuable present to the Soldan, in acknowledgment of the high
benefit he had derived from the services of El Hakim, the two
unhappy creatures should be added to it as curiosities, which,
from their extremely grotesque appearance, and the shattered
state of their intellect, were gifts that might well pass between
sovereign and sovereign.
Richard had that day yet another female encounter to sustain; but
he advanced to it with comparative indifference, for Edith,
though beautiful and highly esteemed by her royal relative--nay,
although she had from his unjust suspicions actually sustained
the injury of which Berengaria only affected to complain--still
was neither Richard's wife nor mistress, and he feared her
reproaches less, although founded in reason, than those of the
Queen, though unjust and fantastical. Having requested to speak
with her apart, he was ushered into her apartment, adjoining that
of the Queen, whose two female Coptish slaves remained on their
knees in the most remote corner during the interview. A thin
black veil extended its ample folds over the tall and graceful
form of the high-born maiden, and she wore not upon her person
any female ornament of what kind soever. She arose and made a low
reverence when Richard entered, resumed her seat at his command,
and, when he sat down beside her, waited, without uttering a
syllable, until he should communicate his pleasure.
Richard, whose custom it was to be familiar with Edith, as their
relationship authorized, felt this reception chilling, and opened
the conversation with some embarrassment.
"Our fair cousin," he at length said, "is angry with us; and we
own that strong circumstances have induced us, without cause, to
suspect her of conduct alien to what we have ever known in her
course of life. But while we walk in this misty valley of
humanity, men will mistake shadows for substances. Can my fair
cousin not forgive her somewhat vehement kinsman Richard?"
"Who can refuse forgiveness to RICHARD," answered Edith,
"provided Richard can obtain pardon of the KING?"
"Come, my kinswoman," replied Coeur de Lion, "this is all too
solemn. By Our Lady, such a melancholy countenance, and this
ample sable veil, might make men think thou wert a new-made
widow, or had lost a betrothed lover, at least. Cheer up! Thou
hast heard, doubtless, that there is no real cause for woe; why,
then, keep up the form of mourning?"
"For the departed honour of Plantagenet--for the glory which hath
left my father's house."
Richard frowned. "Departed honour! glory which hath left our
house!" he repeated angrily. "But my cousin Edith is
privileged. I have judged her too hastily; she has therefore a
right to deem of me too harshly. But tell me at least in what I
"Plantagenet," said Edith, "should have either pardoned an
offence, or punished it. It misbecomes him to assign free men,
Christians, and brave knights, to the fetters of the infidels.
It becomes him not to compromise and barter, or to grunt life
under the forfeiture of liberty. To have doomed the unfortunate
to death might have been severity, but had a show of justice; to
condemn him to slavery and exile was barefaced tyranny."
"I see, my fair cousin," said Richard, "you are of those pretty
ones who think an absent lover as bad as none, or as a dead one.
Be patient; half a score of light horsemen may yet follow and
redeem the error, if thy gallant have in keeping any secret which
might render his death more convenient than his banishment."
"Peace with thy scurrile jests!" answered Edith, colouring
deeply. "Think, rather, that for the indulgence of thy mood thou
hast lopped from this great enterprise one goodly limb, deprived
the Cross of one of its most brave supporters, and placed a
servant of the true God in the hands of the heathen; hast given,
too, to minds as suspicious as thou hast shown thine own in this
matter, some right to say that Richard Coeur de Lion banished the
bravest soldier in his camp lest his name in battle might match
"I--I!" exclaimed Richard, now indeed greatly moved--"am I one
to be jealous of renown? I would he were here to profess such an
equality! I would waive my rank and my crown, and meet him,
manlike, in the lists, that it might appear whether Richard
Plantagenet had room to fear or to envy the prowess of mortal
man. Come, Edith, thou think'st not as thou sayest. Let not
anger or grief for the absence of thy lover make thee unjust to
thy kinsman, who, notwithstanding all thy techiness, values thy
good report as high as that of any one living."
"The absence of my lover?" said the Lady Edith, "But yes, he may
be well termed my lover, who hath paid so dear for the title.
Unworthy as I might be of such homage, I was to him like a light,
leading him forward in the noble path of chivalry; but that I
forgot my rank, or that he presumed beyond his, is false, were a
king to speak it."
"My fair cousin," said Richard, "do not put words in my mouth
which I have not spoken. I said not you had graced this man
beyond the favour which a good knight may earn, even from a
princess, whatever be his native condition. But, by Our Lady, I
know something of this love-gear. It begins with mute respect
and distant reverence; but when opportunities occur, familiarity
increases, and so--But it skills not talking with one who thinks
herself wiser than all the world."
"My kinsman's counsels I willingly listen to, when they are
such," said Edith, "as convey no insult to my rank and
"Kings, my fair cousin, do not counsel, but rather command," said
"Soldans do indeed command," said Edith, "but it is because they
have slaves to govern."
"Come, you might learn to lay aside this scorn of Soldanrie, when
you hold so high of a Scot," said the King. "I hold Saladin to
be truer to his word than this William of Scotland, who must
needs be called a Lion, forsooth; he hath foully faulted towards
me in failing to send the auxiliary aid he promised. Let me tell
thee, Edith, thou mayest live to prefer a true Turk to a false
"No--never!" answered Edith--"not should Richard himself embrace
the false religion, which he crossed the seas to expel from
"Thou wilt have the last word," said Richard, "and thou shalt
have it. Even think of me what thou wilt, pretty Edith. I shall
not forget that we are near and dear cousins."
So saying, he took his leave in fair fashion, but very little
satisfied with the result of his visit.
It was the fourth day after Sir Kenneth had been dismissed from
the camp, and King Richard sat in his pavilion, enjoying an
evening breeze from the west, which, with unusual coolness on her
wings, seemed breathed from merry England for the refreshment of
her adventurous Monarch, as he was gradually recovering the full
strength which was necessary to carry on his gigantic projects.
There was no one with him, De Vaux having been sent to Ascalon to
bring up reinforcements and supplies of military munition, and
most of his other attendants being occupied in different
departments, all preparing for the re-opening of hostilities, and
for a grand preparatory review of the army of the Crusaders,
which was to take place the next day. The King sat listening to
the busy hum among the soldiery, the clatter from the forges,
where horseshoes were preparing, and from the tents of the
armourers, who were repairing harness. The voice of the
soldiers, too, as they passed and repassed, was loud and
cheerful, carrying with its very tone an assurance of high and
excited courage, and an omen of approaching victory. While
Richard's ear drank in these sounds with delight, and while he
yielded himself to the visions of conquest and of glory which
they suggested, an equerry told him that a messenger from Saladin
"Admit him instantly," said the King, "and with due honour,
The English knight accordingly introduced a person, apparently of
no higher rank than a Nubian slave, whose appearance was
nevertheless highly interesting. He was of superb stature and
nobly formed, and his commanding features, although almost jet-black, showed nothing of negro descent.
He wore over his coal-black locks a milk-white turban, and over his shoulders a short
mantle of the same colour, open in front and at the sleeves,
under which appeared a doublet of dressed leopard's skin reaching
within a handbreadth of the knee. The rest of his muscular
limbs, both legs and arms, were bare, excepting that he had
sandals on his feet, and wore a collar and bracelets of silver.
A straight broadsword, with a handle of box-wood and a sheath
covered with snakeskin, was suspended from his waist. In his
right hand he held a short javelin, with a broad, bright steel
head, of a span in length, and in his left he led by a leash of
twisted silk and gold a large and noble staghound.
The messenger prostrated himself, at the same time partially
uncovering his shoulders, in sign of humiliation, and having
touched the earth with his forehead, arose so far as to rest on
one knee, while he delivered to the King a silken napkin,
enclosing another of cloth of gold, within which was a letter
from Saladin in the original Arabic, with a translation into
Norman-English, which may be modernized thus:--
"Saladin, King of Kings, to Melech Ric, the Lion of England.
Whereas, we are informed by thy last message that thou hast
chosen war rather than peace, and our enmity rather than our
friendship, we account thee as one blinded in this matter, and
trust shortly to convince thee of thine error, by the help of our
invincible forces of the thousand tribes, when Mohammed, the
Prophet of God, and Allah, the God of the Prophet, shall judge
the controversy betwixt us. In what remains, we make noble
account of thee, and of the gifts which thou hast sent us, and of
the two dwarfs, singular in their deformity as Ysop, and mirthful
as the lute of Isaack. And in requital of these tokens from the
treasure-house of thy bounty, behold we have sent thee a Nubian
slave, named Zohauk, of whom judge not by his complexion,