Part 6 out of 8
according to the foolish ones of the earth, in respect the dark-rinded fruit hath the most exquisite flavour.
Know that he is
strong to execute the will of his master, as Rustan of Zablestan;
also he is wise to give counsel when thou shalt learn to hold
communication with him, for the Lord of Speech hath been stricken
with silence betwixt the ivory walls of his palace. We commend
him to thy care, hoping the hour may not be distant when he may
render thee good service. And herewith we bid thee farewell;
trusting that our most holy Prophet may yet call thee to a sight
of the truth, failing which illumination, our desire is for the
speedy restoration of thy royal health, that Allah may judge
between thee and us in a plain field of battle."
And the missive was sanctioned by the signature and seal of the
Richard surveyed the Nubian in silence as he stood before him,
his looks bent upon the ground, his arms folded on his bosom,
with the appearance of a black marble statue of the most
exquisite workmanship, waiting life from the touch of a
Prometheus. The King of England, who, as it was emphatically
said of his successor Henry the Eighth, loved to look upon A MAN,
was well pleased with the thews, sinews, and symmetry of him whom
he now surveyed, and questioned him in the lingua franca, "Art
thou a pagan?"
The slave shook his head, and raising his finger to his brow,
crossed himself in token of his Christianity, then resumed his
posture of motionless humility.
"A Nubian Christian, doubtless," said Richard, "and mutilated of
the organ of speech by these heathen dogs?"
The mute again slowly shook his head, in token of negative,
pointed with his forefinger to Heaven, and then laid it upon his
"I understand thee," said Richard; "thou dost suffer under the
infliction of God, not by the cruelty of man. Canst thou clean an
armour and belt, and buckle it in time of need?"
The mute nodded, and stepping towards the coat of mail, which
hung with the shield and helmet of the chivalrous monarch upon
the pillar of the tent, he handled it with such nicety of address
as sufficiently to show that he fully understood the business of
"Thou art an apt, and wilt doubtless be a useful knave. Thou
shalt wait in my chamber, and on my person," said the King, "to
show how much I value the gift of the royal Soldan. If thou hast
no tongue, it follows thou canst carry no tales, neither provoke
me to be sudden by any unfit reply."
The Nubian again prostrated himself till his brow touched the
earth, then stood erect, at some paces distant, as waiting for
his new master's commands.
"Nay, thou shalt commence thy office presently," said Richard,
"for I see a speck of rust darkening on that shield; and when I
shake it in the face of Saladin, it should be bright and
unsullied as the Soldan's honour and mine own."
A horn was winded without, and presently Sir Henry Neville
entered with a packet of dispatches. "From England, my lord," he
said, as he delivered it.
"From England--our own England!" repeated Richard, in a tone of
melancholy enthusiasm. "Alas! they little think how hard their
Sovereign has been beset by sickness and sorrow--faint friends
and forward enemies." Then opening the dispatches, he said
hastily, "Ha! this comes from no peaceful land--they too have
their feuds. Neville, begone; I must peruse these tidings alone,
and at leisure."
Neville withdrew accordingly, and Richard was soon absorbed in
the melancholy details which had been conveyed to him from
England, concerning the factions that were tearing to pieces his
native dominions--the disunion of his brothers John and Geoffrey,
and the quarrels of both with the High Justiciary Longchamp,
Bishop of Ely--the oppressions practised by the nobles upon the
peasantry, and rebellion of the latter against their masters,
which had produced everywhere scenes of discord, and in some
instances the effusion of blood. Details of incidents mortifying
to his pride, and derogatory from his authority, were
intermingled with the earnest advice of his wisest and most
attached counsellors that he should presently return to England,
as his presence offered the only hope of saving the Kingdom from
all the horrors of civil discord, of which France and Scotland
were likely to avail themselves. Filled with the most painful
anxiety, Richard read, and again read, the ill-omened letters;
compared the intelligence which some of them contained with the
same facts as differently stated in others; and soon became
totally insensible to whatever was passing around him, although
seated, for the sake of coolness, close to the entrance of his
tent, and having the curtains withdrawn, so that he could see and
be seen by the guards and others who were stationed without.
Deeper in the shadow of the pavilion, and busied with the task
his new master had imposed, sat the Nubian slave, with his back
rather turned towards the King. He had finished adjusting and
cleaning the hauberk and brigandine, and was now busily employed
on a broad pavesse, or buckler, of unusual size, and covered with
steel-plating, which Richard often used in reconnoitring, or
actually storming fortified places, as a more effectual
protection against missile weapons than the narrow triangular
shield used on horseback. This pavesse bore neither the royal
lions of England, nor any other device, to attract the
observation of the defenders of the walls against which it was
advanced; the care, therefore, of the armourer was addressed to
causing its surface to shine as bright as crystal, in which he
seemed to be peculiarly successful. Beyond the Nubian, and
scarce visible from without, lay the large dog, which might be
termed his brother slave, and which, as if he felt awed by being
transferred to a royal owner, was couched close to the side of
the mute, with head and ears on the ground, and his limbs and
tail drawn close around and under him.
While the Monarch and his new attendant were thus occupied,
another actor crept upon the scene, and mingled among the group
of English yeomen, about a score of whom, respecting the
unusually pensive posture and close occupation of their
Sovereign, were, contrary to their wont, keeping a silent guard
in front of his tent. It was not, however, more vigilant than
usual. Some were playing at games of hazard with small pebbles,
others spoke together in whispers of the approaching day of
battle, and several lay asleep, their bulky limbs folded in their
Amid these careless warders glided the puny form of a little old
Turk, poorly dressed like a marabout or santon of the desert--a
sort of enthusiasts, who sometimes ventured into the camp of the
Crusaders, though treated always with contumely, and often with
violence. Indeed, the luxury and profligate indulgence of the
Christian leaders had occasioned a motley concourse in their
tents of musicians, courtesans, Jewish merchants, Copts, Turks,
and all the varied refuse of the Eastern nations; so that the
caftan and turban, though to drive both from the Holy Land was
the professed object of the expedition, were, nevertheless,
neither an uncommon nor an alarming sight in the camp of the
Crusaders. When, however, the little insignificant figure we
have described approached so nigh as to receive some interruption
from the warders, he dashed his dusky green turban from his head,
showed that his beard and eyebrows were shaved like those of a
professed buffoon, and that the expression of his fantastic and
writhen features, as well as of his little black eyes, which
glittered like jet, was that of a crazed imagination.
"Dance, marabout," cried the soldiers, acquainted with the
manners of these wandering enthusiasts, "dance, or we will
scourge thee with our bow-strings till thou spin as never top did
under schoolboy's lash." Thus shouted the reckless warders, as
much delighted at having a subject to tease as a child when he
catches a butterfly, or a schoolboy upon discovering a bird's
The marabout, as if happy to do their behests, bounded from the
earth, and spun his giddy round before them with singular
agility, which, when contrasted with his slight and wasted
figure, and diminutive appearance, made him resemble a withered
leaf twirled round and round at the pleasure of the winter's
breeze. His single lock of hair streamed upwards from his bald
and shaven head, as if some genie upheld him by it; and indeed it
seemed as if supernatural art were necessary to the execution of
the wild, whirling dance, in which scarce the tiptoe of the
performer was seen to touch the ground. Amid the vagaries of his
performance he flew here and there, from one spot to another,
still approaching, however, though almost imperceptibly, to the
entrance of the royal tent; so that, when at length he sunk
exhausted on the earth, after two or three bounds still higher
than those which he had yet executed, he was not above thirty
yards from the King's person.
"Give him water," said one yeoman; "they always crave a drink
after their merry-go-round."
"Aha, water, sayest thou, Long Allen?" exclaimed another archer,
with a most scornful emphasis on the despised element; "how
wouldst like such beverage thyself, after such a morrice
"The devil a water-drop he gets here," said a third. "We will
teach the light-footed old infidel to be a good Christian, and
drink wine of Cyprus."
"Ay, ay," said a fourth; "and in case he be restive, fetch thou
Dick Hunter's horn, that he drenches his mare withal."
A circle was instantly formed around the prostrate and exhausted
dervise, and while one tall yeoman raised his feeble form from
the ground, another presented to him a huge flagon of wine.
Incapable of speech, the old man shook his head, and waved away
from him with his hand the liquor forbidden by the Prophet. But
his tormentors were not thus to be appeased.
"The horn, the horn!" exclaimed one. "Little difference between
a Turk and a Turkish horse, and we will use him conforming."
"By Saint George, you will choke him!" said Long Allen; "and
besides, it is a sin to throw away upon a heathen dog as much
wine as would serve a good Christian for a treble night-cap."
"Thou knowest not the nature of these Turks and pagans, Long
Allen," replied Henry Woodstall. "I tell thee, man, that this
flagon of Cyprus will set his brains a-spinning, just in the
opposite direction that they went whirling in the dancing, and so
bring him, as it were, to himself again. Choke? He will no more
choke on it than Ben's black bitch on the pound of butter."
"And for grudging it," said Tomalin Blacklees, "why shouldst thou
grudge the poor paynim devil a drop of drink on earth, since thou
knowest he is not to have a drop to cool the tip of his tongue
through a long eternity?"
"That were hard laws, look ye," said Long Allen, "only for being
a Turk, as his father was before him. Had he been Christian
turned heathen, I grant you the hottest corner had been good
winter quarters for him."
"Hold thy peace, Long Allen," said Henry Woodstall. "I tell thee
that tongue of thine is not the shortest limb about thee, and I
prophesy that it will bring thee into disgrace with Father
Francis, as once about the black-eyed Syrian wench. But here
comes the horn. Be active a bit, man, wilt thou, and just force
open his teeth with the haft of thy dudgeon-dagger."
"Hold, hold--he is conformable," said Tomalin; "see, see, he
signs for the goblet--give him room, boys! OOP SEY ES, quoth the
Dutchman--down it goes like lamb's-wool! Nay, they are true
topers when once they begin--your Turk never coughs in his cup,
or stints in his liquoring."
In fact, the dervise, or whatever he was, drank--or at least
seemed to drink--the large flagon to the very bottom at a single
pull; and when he took it from his lips after the whole contents
were exhausted, only uttered, with a deep sigh, the words, ALLAH
KERIM, or God is merciful. There was a laugh among the yeomen
who witnessed this pottle-deep potation, so obstreperous as to
rouse and disturb the King, who, raising his finger, said
angrily, "How, knaves, no respect, no observance?"
All were at once hushed into silence, well acquainted with the
temper of Richard, which at some times admitted of much military
familiarity, and at others exacted the most precise respect,
although the latter humour was of much more rare occurrence.
Hastening to a more reverent distance from the royal person, they
attempted to drag along with them the marabout, who, exhausted
apparently by previous fatigue, or overpowered by the potent
draught he had just swallowed, resisted being moved from the
spot, both with struggles and groans.
"Leave him still, ye fools," whispered Long Allen to his mates;
"by Saint Christopher, you will make our Dickon go beside
himself, and we shall have his dagger presently fly at our
costards. Leave him alone; in less than a minute he will sleep
like a dormouse."
At the same moment the Monarch darted another impatient glance to
the spot, and all retreated in haste, leaving the dervise on the
ground, unable, as it seemed, to stir a single limb or joint of
his body. In a moment afterward all was as still and quiet as it
had been before the intrusion.
--and wither'd Murder,
Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. MACBETH.
For the space of a quarter of an hour, or longer, after the
incident related, all remained perfectly quiet in the front of
the royal habitation. The King read and mused in the entrance of
his pavilion; behind, and with his back turned to the same
entrance, the Nubian slave still burnished the ample pavesse; in
front of all, at a hundred paces distant, the yeomen of the guard
stood, sat, or lay extended on the grass, attentive to their own
sports, but pursuing them in silence, while on the esplanade
betwixt them and the front of the tent lay, scarcely to be
distinguished from a bundle of rags, the senseless form of the
But the Nubian had the advantage of a mirror from the brilliant
reflection which the surface of the highly-polished shield now
afforded, by means of which he beheld, to his alarm and surprise,
that the marabout raised his head gently from the ground, so as
to survey all around him, moving with a well-adjusted precaution
which seemed entirely inconsistent with a state of ebriety. He
couched his head instantly, as if satisfied he was unobserved,
and began, with the slightest possible appearance of voluntary
effort, to drag himself, as if by chance, ever nearer and nearer
to the King, but stopping and remaining fixed at intervals, like
the spider, which, moving towards her object, collapses into
apparent lifelessness when she thinks she is the subject of
observation. This species of movement appeared suspicious to the
Ethiopian, who, on his part, prepared himself, as quietly as
possible, to interfere, the instant that interference should seem
to be necessary.
The marabout, meanwhile, glided on gradually and imperceptibly,
serpent-like, or rather snail-like, till he was about ten yards
distant from Richard's person, when, starting on his feet, he
sprung forward with the bound of a tiger, stood at the King's
back in less than an instant, and brandished aloft the cangiar,
or poniard, which he had hidden in his sleeve. Not the presence
of his whole army could have saved their heroic Monarch; but the
motions of the Nubian had been as well calculated as those of the
enthusiast, and ere the latter could strike, the former caught
his uplifted arm. Turning his fanatical wrath upon what thus
unexpectedly interposed betwixt him and his object, the
Charegite, for such was the seeming marabout, dealt the Nubian a
blow with the dagger, which, however, only grazed his arm, while
the far superior strength of the Ethiopian easily dashed him to
the ground. Aware of what had passed, Richard had now arisen,
and with little more of surprise, anger, or interest of any kind
in his countenance than an ordinary man would show in brushing
off and crushing an intrusive wasp, caught up the stool on which
he had been sitting, and exclaiming only, "Ha, dog!" dashed
almost to pieces the skull of the assassin, who uttered twice,
once in a loud, and once in a broken tone, the words ALLAH
ACKBAR!--God is victorious--and expired at the King's feet.
"Ye are careful warders," said Richard to his archers, in a tone
of scornful reproach, as, aroused by the bustle of what had
passed, in terror and tumult they now rushed into his tent;
"watchful sentinels ye are, to leave me to do such hangman's work
with my own hand. Be silent, all of you, and cease your
senseless clamour!--saw ye never a dead Turk before? Here, cast
that carrion out of the camp, strike the head from the trunk, and
stick it on a lance, taking care to turn the face to Mecca, that
he may the easier tell the foul impostor on whose inspiration he
came hither how he has sped on his errand.--For thee, my swart
and silent friend," he added, turning to the Ethiopian--"but
how's this? Thou art wounded--and with a poisoned weapon, I
warrant me, for by force of stab so weak an animal as that could
scarce hope to do more than raze the lion's hide.--Suck the
poison from his wound one of you--the venom is harmless on the
lips, though fatal when it mingles with the blood."
The yeomen looked on each other confusedly and with hesitation,
the apprehension of so strange a danger prevailing with those who
feared no other.
"How now, sirrahs," continued the King, "are you dainty-lipped,
or do you fear death, that you daily thus?"
"Not the death of a man," said Long Allen, to whom the King
looked as he spoke; "but methinks I would not die like a poisoned
rat for the sake of a black chattel there, that is bought and
sold in a market like a Martlemas ox."
"His Grace speaks to men of sucking poison," muttered another
yeoman, "as if he said, "Go to, swallow a gooseberry!"
"Nay," said Richard, "I never bade man do that which I would not
And without further ceremony, and in spite of the general
expostulations of those around, and the respectful opposition of
the Nubian himself, the King of England applied his lips to the
wound of the black slave, treating with ridicule all
remonstrances, and overpowering all resistance. He had no sooner
intermitted his singular occupation, than the Nubian started from
him, and casting a scarf over his arm, intimated by gestures, as
firm in purpose as they were respectful in manner, his
determination not to permit the Monarch to renew so degrading an
employment. Long Allen also interposed, saying that, if it were
necessary to prevent the King engaging again in a treatment of
this kind, his own lips, tongue, and teeth were at the service of
the negro (as he called the Ethiopian), and that he would eat him
up bodily, rather than King Richard's mouth should again approach
Neville, who entered with other officers, added his
"Nay, nay, make not a needless halloo about a hart that the
hounds have lost, or a danger when it is over," said the King.
"The wound will be a trifle, for the blood is scarce drawn--an
angry cat had dealt a deeper scratch. And for me, I have but to
take a drachm of orvietan by way of precaution, though it is
Thus spoke Richard, a little ashamed, perhaps, of his own
condescension, though sanctioned both by humanity and gratitude.
But when Neville continued to make remonstrances on the peril to
his royal person, the King imposed silence on him.
"Peace, I prithee--make no more of it. I did it but to show
these ignorant, prejudiced knaves how they might help each other
when these cowardly caitiffs come against us with sarbacanes and
poisoned shafts. But," he added, "take thee this Nubian to thy
quarters, Neville--I have changed my mind touching him--let him
be well cared for. But hark in thine ear; see that he escapes
thee not--there is more in him than seems. Let him have all
liberty, so that he leave not the camp.--And you, ye beef-devouring, wine-swilling English mastiffs, get ye
to your guard
again, and be sure you keep it more warily. Think not you are
now in your own land of fair play, where men speak before they
strike, and shake hands ere they cut throats. Danger in our land
walks openly, and with his blade drawn, and defies the foe whom
he means to assault; but here he challenges you with a silk glove
instead of a steel gauntlet, cuts your throat with the feather of
a turtle-dove, stabs you with the tongue of a priest's brooch, or
throttles you with the lace of my lady's boddice. Go to--keep
your eyes open and your mouths shut--drink less, and look sharper
about you; or I will place your huge stomachs on such short
allowance as would pinch the stomach of a patient Scottish man."
The yeomen, abashed and mortified, withdrew to their post, and
Neville was beginning to remonstrate with his master upon the
risk of passing over thus slightly their negligence upon their
duty, and the propriety of an example in a case so peculiarly
aggravated as the permitting one so suspicious as the marabout to
approach within dagger's length of his person, when Richard
interrupted him with, "Speak not of it, Neville--wouldst thou
have me avenge a petty risk to myself more severely than the loss
of England's banner? It has been stolen--stolen by a thief, or
delivered up by a traitor, and no blood has been shed for it.--My
sable friend, thou art an expounder of mysteries, saith the
illustrious Soldan--now would I give thee thine own weight in
gold, if, by raising one still blacker than thyself or by what
other means thou wilt, thou couldst show me the thief who did
mine honour that wrong. What sayest thou, ha?"
The mute seemed desirous to speak, but uttered only that
imperfect sound proper to his melancholy condition; then folded
his arms, looked on the King with an eye of intelligence, and
nodded in answer to his question.
"How!" said Richard, with joyful impatience. "Wilt thou
undertake to make discovery in this matter?"
The Nubian slave repeated the same motion.
"But how shall we understand each other?" said the King. "Canst
thou write, good fellow?"
The slave again nodded in assent.
"Give him writing-tools," said the King. "They were readier in
my father's tent than mine; but they be somewhere about, if this
scorching climate have not dried up the ink.--Why, this fellow is
a jewel--a black diamond, Neville."
"So please you, my liege," said Neville, "if I might speak my
poor mind, it were ill dealing in this ware. This man must be a
wizard, and wizards deal with the Enemy, who hath most interest
to sow tares among the wheat, and bring dissension into our
"Peace, Neville," said Richard. "Hello to your northern hound
when he is close on the haunch of the deer, and hope to recall
him, but seek not to stop Plantagenet when he hath hope to
retrieve his honour."
The slave, who during this discussion had been writing, in which
art he seemed skilful, now arose, and pressing what he had
written to his brow, prostrated himself as usual, ere he
delivered it into the King's hands. The scroll was in French,
although their intercourse had hitherto been conducted by Richard
in the lingua franca.
"To Richard, the conquering and invincible King of England, this
from the humblest of his slaves. Mysteries are the sealed
caskets of Heaven, but wisdom may devise means to open the lock.
Were your slave stationed where the leaders of the Christian host
were made to pass before him in order, doubt nothing that if he
who did the injury whereof my King complains shall be among the
number, he may be made manifest in his iniquity, though it be
hidden under seven veils."
"Now, by Saint George!" said King Richard, "thou hast spoken most
opportunely.--Neville, thou knowest that when we muster our
troops to-morrow the princes have agreed that, to expiate the
affront offered to England in the theft of her banner, the
leaders should pass our new standard as it floats on Saint
George's Mount, and salute it with formal regard. Believe me, the
secret traitor will not dare to absent himself from an
expurgation so solemn, lest his very absence should be matter of
suspicion. There will we place our sable man of counsel, and if
his art can detect the villain, leave me to deal with him."
"My liege," said Neville, with the frankness of an English baron,
"beware what work you begin. Here is the concord of our holy
league unexpectedly renewed--will you, upon such suspicion as a
negro slave can instil, tear open wounds so lately closed? Or
will you use the solemn procession, adopted for the reparation of
your honour and establishment of unanimity amongst the discording
princes, as the means of again finding out new cause of offence,
or reviving ancient quarrels? It were scarce too strong to say
this were a breach of the declaration your Grace made to the
assembled Council of the Crusade."
"Neville," said the King, sternly interrupting him, "thy zeal
makes thee presumptuous and unmannerly. Never did I promise to
abstain from taking whatever means were most promising to
discover the infamous author of the attack on my honour. Ere I
had done so, I would have renounced my kingdom, my life. All my
declarations were under this necessary and absolute
qualification;--only, if Austria had stepped forth and owned the
injury like a man, I proffered, for the sake of Christendom, to
have forgiven HIM."
"But," continued the baron anxiously, "what hope that this
juggling slave of Saladin will not palter with your Grace?"
"Peace, Neville," said the King; "thou thinkest thyself mighty
wise, and art but a fool. Mind thou my charge touching this
fellow; there is more in him than thy Westmoreland wit can
fathom.--And thou, smart and silent, prepare to perform the feat
thou hast promised, and, by the word of a King, thou shalt choose
thine own recompense.--Lo, he writes again."
The mute accordingly wrote and delivered to the King, with the
same form as before, another slip of paper, containing these
words, "The will of the King is the law to his slave; nor doth it
become him to ask guerdon for discharge of his devoir."
"GUERDON and DEVOIR!" said the King, interrupting himself as he
read, and speaking to Neville in the English tongue with some
emphasis on the words. "These Eastern people will profit by the
Crusaders--they are acquiring the language of chivalry! And see,
Neville, how discomposed that fellow looks! were it not for his
colour he would blush. I should not think it strange if he
understood what I say--they are perilous linguists."
"The poor slave cannot endure your Grace's eye," said Neville;
"it is nothing more."
"Well, but," continued the King, striking the paper with his
finger as he proceeded, "this bold scroll proceeds to say that
our trusty mute is charged with a message from Saladin to the
Lady Edith Plantagenet, and craves means and opportunity to
deliver it. What thinkest thou of a request so modest--ha,
"I cannot say," said Neville, "how such freedom may relish with
your Grace; but the lease of the messenger's neck would be a
short one, who should carry such a request to the Soldan on the
part of your Majesty."
"Nay, I thank Heaven that I covet none of his sunburnt beauties,"
said Richard; "and for punishing this fellow for discharging his
master's errand, and that when he has just saved my life--
methinks it were something too summary. I'll tell thee, Neville,
a secret; for although our sable and mute minister be present, he
cannot, thou knowest, tell it over again, even if he should
chance to understand us. I tell thee that, for this fortnight
past, I have been under a strange spell, and I would I were
disenchanted. There has no sooner any one done me good service,
but, lo you, he cancels his interest in me by some deep injury;
and, on the other hand, he who hath deserved death at my hands
for some treachery or some insult, is sure to be the very person
of all others who confers upon me some obligation that
overbalances his demerits, and renders respite of his sentence a
debt due from my honour. Thus, thou seest, I am deprived of the
best part of my royal function, since I can neither punish men
nor reward them. Until the influence of this disqualifying
planet be passed away, I will say nothing concerning the request
of this our sable attendant, save that it is an unusually bold
one, and that his best chance of finding grace in our eyes will
be to endeavour to make the discovery which he proposes to
achieve in our behalf. Meanwhile, Neville, do thou look well to
him, and let him be honourably cared for. And hark thee once
more," he said, in a low whisper, "seek out yonder hermit of
Engaddi, and bring him to me forthwith, be he saint or savage,
madman or sane. Let me see him privately."
Neville retired from the royal tent, signing to the Nubian to
follow him, and much surprised at what he had seen and heard, and
especially at the unusual demeanour of the King. In general, no
task was so easy as to discover Richard's immediate course of
sentiment and feeling, though it might, in some cases, be
difficult to calculate its duration; for no weathercock obeyed
the changing wind more readily than the King his gusts of
passion. But on the present occasion his manner seemed unusually
constrained and mysterious; nor was it easy to guess whether
displeasure or kindness predominated in his conduct towards his
new dependant, or in the looks with which, from time to time, he
regarded him. The ready service which the King had rendered to
counteract the bad effects of the Nubian's wound might seem to
balance the obligation conferred on him by the slave when he
intercepted the blow of the assassin; but it seemed, as a much
longer account remained to be arranged between them, that the
Monarch was doubtful whether the settlement might leave him, upon
the whole, debtor or creditor, and that, therefore, he assumed in
the meantime a neutral demeanour, which might suit with either
character. As for the Nubian, by whatever means he had acquired
the art of writing the European languages, the King remained
convinced that the English tongue at least was unknown to him,
since, having watched him closely during the last part of the
interview, he conceived it impossible for any one understanding a
conversation, of which he was himself the subject, to have so
completely avoided the appearance of taking an interest in it.
Who's there!--Approach--'tis kindly done--
My learned physician and a friend. SIR EUSTACE GREY.
Our narrative retrogrades to a period shortly previous to the
incidents last mentioned, when, as the reader must remember, the
unfortunate Knight of the Leopard, bestowed upon the Arabian
physician by King Richard, rather as a slave than in any other
capacity, was exiled from the camp of the Crusaders, in whose
ranks he had so often and so brilliantly distinguished himself.
He followed his new master--for so he must now term the Hakim--to
the Moorish tents which contained his retinue and his property,
with the stupefied feelings of one who, fallen from the summit of
a precipice, and escaping unexpectedly with life, is just able to
drag himself from the fatal spot, but without the power of
estimating the extent of the damage which he has sustained.
Arrived at the tent, he threw himself, without speech of any
kind, upon a couch of dressed buffalo's hide, which was pointed
out to him by his conductor, and hiding his face betwixt his
hands, groaned heavily, as if his heart were on the point of
bursting. The physician heard him, as he was giving orders to
his numerous domestics to prepare for their departure the next
morning before daybreak, and, moved with compassion, interrupted
his occupation to sit down, cross-legged, by the side of his
couch, and administer comfort according to the Oriental manner.
"My friend," he said, "be of good comfort; for what saith the
poet--it is better that a man should be the servant of a kind
master than the slave of his own wild passions. Again, be of
good courage; because, whereas Ysouf Ben Yagoube was sold to a
king by his brethren, even to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, thy king
hath, on the other hand, bestowed thee on one who will be to thee
as a brother."
Sir Kenneth made an effort to thank the Hakim, but his heart was
too full, and the indistinct sounds which accompanied his
abortive attempts to reply induced the kind physician to desist
from his premature endeavours at consolation. He left his new
domestic, or guest, in quiet, to indulge his sorrows, and having
commanded all the necessary preparations for their departure on
the morning, sat down upon the carpet of the tent, and indulged
himself in a moderate repast. After he had thus refreshed
himself, similar viands were offered to the Scottish knight; but
though the slaves let him understand that the next day would be
far advanced ere they would halt for the purpose of refreshment,
Sir Kenneth could not overcome the disgust which he felt against
swallowing any nourishment, and could be prevailed upon to taste
nothing, saving a draught of cold water.
He was awake long after his Arab host had performed his usual
devotions and betaken himself to his repose; nor had sleep
visited him at the hour of midnight, when a movement took place
among the domestics, which, though attended with no speech, and
very little noise, made him aware they were loading the camels
and preparing for departure. In the course of these
preparations, the last person who was disturbed, excepting the
physician himself, was the knight of Scotland, whom, about three
in the morning, a sort of major-domo, or master of the household,
acquainted that he must arise. He did so, without further
answer, and followed him into the moonlight, where stood the
camels, most of which were already loaded, and one only remained
kneeling until its burden should be completed.
A little apart from the camels stood a number of horses ready
bridled and saddled, and the Hakim himself, coming forth, mounted
on one of them with as much agility as the grave decorum of his
character permitted, and directed another, which he pointed out,
to be led towards Sir Kenneth. An English officer was in
attendance, to escort them through the camp of the Crusaders, and
to ensure their leaving it in safety; and all was ready for their
departure. The pavilion which they had left was, in the
meanwhile, struck with singular dispatch, and the tent-poles and
coverings composed the burden of the last camel--when the
physician, pronouncing solemnly the verse of the Koran, "God be
our guide, and Mohammed our protector, in the desert as in the
watered field," the whole cavalcade was instantly in motion.
In traversing the camp, they were challenged by the various
sentinels who maintained guard there, and suffered to proceed in
silence, or with a muttered curse upon their prophet, as they
passed the post of some more zealous Crusader. At length the
last barriers were left behind them, and the party formed
themselves for the march with military precaution. Two or three
horsemen advanced in front as a vanguard; one or two remained a
bow-shot in the rear; and, wherever the ground admitted, others
were detached to keep an outlook on the flanks. In this manner
they proceeded onward; while Sir Kenneth, looking back on the
moonlit camp, might now indeed seem banished, deprived at once of
honour and of liberty, from the glimmering banners under which he
had hoped to gain additional renown, and the tented dwellings of
chivalry, of Christianity, and--of Edith Plantagenet.
The Hakim, who rode by his side, observed, in his usual tone of
sententious consolation, "It is unwise to look back when the
journey lieth forward;" and as he spoke, the horse of the knight
made such a perilous stumble as threatened to add a practical
moral to the tale.
The knight was compelled by this hint to give more attention to
the management of his steed, which more than once required the
assistance and support of the check-bridle, although, in other
respects, nothing could be more easy at once, and active, than
the ambling pace at which the animal (which was a mare)
"The conditions of that horse," observed the sententious
physician, "are like those of human fortune--seeing that, amidst
his most swift and easy pace, the rider must guard himself
against a fall, and that it is when prosperity is at the highest
that our prudence should be awake and vigilant to prevent
The overloaded appetite loathes even the honeycomb, and it is
scarce a wonder that the knight, mortified and harassed with
misfortunes and abasement, became something impatient of hearing
his misery made, at every turn, the ground of proverbs and
apothegms, however just and apposite.
"Methinks," he said, rather peevishly, "I wanted no additional
illustration of the instability of fortune though I would thank
thee, Sir Hakim, for the choice of a steed for me, would the jade
but stumble so effectually as at once to break my neck and her
"My brother," answered the Arab sage, with imperturbable gravity,
"thou speakest as one of the foolish. Thou sayest in thy heart
that the sage should have given you, as his guest, the younger
and better horse, and reserved the old one for himself. But know
that the defects of the older steed may be compensated by the
energies of the young rider, whereas the violence of the young
horse requires to be moderated by the cold temper of the older."
So spoke the sage; but neither to this observation did Sir
Kenneth return any answer which could lead to a continuance of
their conversation, and the physician, wearied, perhaps, of
administering comfort to one who would not be comforted, signed
to one of his retinue.
"Hassan," he said, "hast thou nothing wherewith to beguile the
Hassan, story-teller and poet by profession, spurred up, upon
this summons, to exercise his calling. "Lord of the palace of
life," he said, addressing the physician, "thou, before whom the
angel Azrael spreadeth his wings for flight--thou, wiser than
Solimaun Ben Daoud, upon whose signet was inscribed the REAL NAME
which controls the spirits of the elements--forbid it, Heaven,
that while thou travellest upon the track of benevolence, bearing
healing and hope wherever thou comest, thine own course should be
saddened for lack of the tale and of the song. Behold, while thy
servant is at thy side, he will pour forth the treasures of his
memory, as the fountain sendeth her stream beside the pathway,
for the refreshment or him that walketh thereon."
After this exordium, Hassan uplifted his voice, and began a tale
of love and magic, intermixed with feats of warlike achievement,
and ornamented with abundant quotations from the Persian poets,
with whose compositions the orator seemed familiar. The retinue
of the physician, such excepted as were necessarily detained in
attendance on the camels, thronged up to the narrator, and
pressed as close as deference for their master permitted, to
enjoy the delight which the inhabitants of the East have ever
derived from this species of exhibition.
At another time, notwithstanding his imperfect knowledge of the
language, Sir Kenneth might have been interested in the
recitation, which, though dictated by a more extravagant
imagination, and expressed in more inflated and metaphorical
language, bore yet a strong resemblance to the romances of
chivalry then so fashionable in Europe. But as matters stood
with him, he was scarcely even sensible that a man in the centre
of the cavalcade recited and sung, in a low tone, for nearly two
hours, modulating his voice to the various moods of passion
introduced into the tale, and receiving, in return, now low
murmurs of applause, now muttered expressions of wonder, now
sighs and tears, and sometimes, what it was far more difficult to
extract from such an audience, a tribute of smiles, and even
During the recitation, the attention of the exile, however
abstracted by his own deep sorrow, was occasionally awakened by
the low wail of a dog, secured in a wicker enclosure suspended on
one of the camels, which, as an experienced woodsman, he had no
hesitation in recognizing to be that of his own faithful hound;
and from the plaintive tone of the animal, he had no doubt that
he was sensible of his master's vicinity, and, in his way,
invoking his assistance for liberty and rescue.
"Alas! poor Roswal," he said, "thou callest for aid and sympathy
upon one in stricter bondage than thou thyself art. I will not
seem to heed thee or return thy affection, since it would serve
but to load our parting with yet more bitterness."
Thus passed the hours of night and the space of dim hazy dawn
which forms the twilight of a Syrian morning. But when the very
first line of the sun's disk began to rise above the level
horizon, and when the very first level ray shot glimmering in dew
along the surface of the desert, which the travellers had now
attained, the sonorous voice of El Hakim himself overpowered and
cut short the narrative of the tale-teller, while he caused to
resound along the sands the solemn summons, which the muezzins
thunder at morning from the minaret of every mosque.
"To prayer--to prayer! God is the one God.--To prayer--to
prayer! Mohammed is the Prophet of God.--To prayer--to prayer!
Time is flying from you.--To prayer--to prayer! Judgment is
drawing nigh to you,"
In an instant each Moslem cast himself from his horse, turned his
face towards Mecca, and performed with sand an imitation of those
ablutions, which were elsewhere required to be made with water,
while each individual, in brief but fervent ejaculations,
recommended himself to the care, and his sins to the forgiveness,
of God and the Prophet.
Even Sir Kenneth, whose reason at once and prejudices were
offended by seeing his companions in that which he considered as
an act of idolatry, could not help respecting the sincerity of
their misguided zeal, and being stimulated by their fervour to
apply supplications to Heaven in a purer form, wondering,
meanwhile, what new-born feelings could teach him to accompany in
prayer, though with varied invocation, those very Saracens, whose
heathenish worship he had conceived a crime dishonourable to the
land in which high miracles had been wrought, and where the day-star of redemption had arisen.
The act of devotion, however, though rendered in such strange
society, burst purely from his natural feelings of religious
duty, and had its usual effect in composing the spirits which had
been long harassed by so rapid a succession of calamities. The
sincere and earnest approach of the Christian to the throne of
the Almighty teaches the best lesson of patience under
affliction; since wherefore should we mock the Deity with
supplications, when we insult him by murmuring under His decrees?
or how, while our prayers have in every word admitted the vanity
and nothingness of the things of time in comparison to those of
eternity, should we hope to deceive the Searcher of Hearts, by
permitting the world and worldly passions to reassume the reins
even immediately after a solemn address to Heaven! But Sir
Kenneth was not of these. He felt himself comforted and
strengthened, and better prepared to execute or submit to
whatever his destiny might call upon him to do or to suffer.
Meanwhile, the party of Saracens regained their saddles, and
continued their route, and the tale-teller, Hassan, resumed the
thread of his narrative; but it was no longer to the same
attentive audience. A horseman, who had ascended some high
ground on the right hand of the little column, had returned on a
speedy gallop to El Hakim, and communicated with him. Four or
five more cavaliers had then been dispatched, and the little
band, which might consist of about twenty or thirty persons,
began to follow them with their eyes, as men from whose gestures,
and advance or retreat, they were to augur good or evil. Hassan,
finding his audience inattentive, or being himself attracted by
the dubious appearances on the flank, stinted in his song; and
the march became silent, save when a camel-driver called out to
his patient charge, or some anxious follower of the Hakim
communicated with his next neighbour in a hurried and low
This suspense continued until they had rounded a ridge, composed
of hillocks of sand, which concealed from their main body the
object that had created this alarm among their scouts. Sir
Kenneth could now see, at the distance of a mile or more, a dark
object moving rapidly on the bosom of the desert, which his
experienced eye recognized for a party of cavalry, much superior
to their own in numbers, and, from the thick and frequent flashes
which flung back the level beams of the rising sun, it was plain
that these were Europeans in their complete panoply.
The anxious looks which the horsemen of El Hakim now cast upon
their leader seemed to indicate deep apprehension; while he, with
gravity as undisturbed as when he called his followers to prayer,
detached two of his best-mounted cavaliers, with instructions to
approach as closely as prudence permitted to these travellers of
the desert, and observe more minutely their numbers, their
character, and, if possible, their purpose. The approach of
danger, or what was feared as such, was like a stimulating
draught to one in apathy, and recalled Sir Kenneth to himself and
"What fear you from these Christian horsemen, for such they
seem?" he said to the Hakim.
"Fear!" said El Hakim, repeating the word disdainfully. "The
sage fears nothing but Heaven, but ever expects from wicked men
the worst which they can do."
"They are Christians," said Sir Kenneth, "and it is the time of
truce--why should you fear a breach of faith?"
"They are the priestly soldiers of the Temple," answered El
Hakim, "whose vow limits them to know neither truce nor faith
with the worshippers of Islam. May the Prophet blight them, both
root, branch, and twig! Their peace is war, and their faith is
falsehood. Other invaders of Palestine have their times and
moods of courtesy. The lion Richard will spare when he has
conquered, the eagle Philip will close his wing when he has
stricken a prey, even the Austrian bear will sleep when he is
gorged; but this horde of ever-hungry wolves know neither pause
nor satiety in their rapine. Seest thou not that they are
detaching a party from their main body, and that they take an
eastern direction? Yon are their pages and squires, whom they
train up in their accursed mysteries, and whom, as lighter
mounted, they send to cut us off from our watering-place. But
they will be disappointed. I know the war of the desert yet
better than they."
He spoke a few words to his principal officer, and his whole
demeanour and countenance was at once changed from the solemn
repose of an Eastern sage accustomed more to contemplation than
to action, into the prompt and proud expression of a gallant
soldier whose energies are roused by the near approach of a
danger which he at once foresees and despises.
To Sir Kenneth's eyes the approaching crisis had a different
aspect, and when Adonbec said to him, "Thou must tarry close by
my side," he answered solemnly in the negative.
"Yonder," he said, "are my comrades in arms--the men in whose
society I have vowed to fight or fall. On their banner gleams
the sign of our most blessed redemption--I cannot fly from the
Cross in company with the Crescent."
"Fool!" said the Hakim; "their first action would be to do thee
to death, were it only to conceal their breach of the truce."
"Of that I must take my chance," replied Sir Kenneth; "but I wear
not the bonds of the infidels an instant longer than I can cast
them from me."
"Then will I compel thee to follow me," said El Hakim.
"Compel!" answered Sir Kenneth angrily. "Wert thou not my
benefactor, or one who has showed will to be such, and were it
not that it is to thy confidence I owe the freedom of these
hands, which thou mightst have loaded with fetters, I would show
thee that, unarmed as I am, compulsion would be no easy task."
"Enough, enough," replied the Arabian physician, "we lose time
even when it is becoming precious."
So saying, he threw his arm aloft, and uttered a loud and shrill
cry, as a signal to his retinue, who instantly dispersed
themselves on the face of the desert, in as many different
directions as a chaplet of beads when the string is broken. Sir
Kenneth had no time to note what ensued; for, at the same
instant, the Hakim seized the rein of his steed, and putting his
own to its mettle, both sprung forth at once with the suddenness
of light, and at a pitch of velocity which almost deprived the
Scottish knight of the power of respiration, and left him
absolutely incapable, had he been desirous, to have checked the
career of his guide. Practised as Sir Kenneth was in
horsemanship from his earliest youth, the speediest horse he had
ever mounted was a tortoise in comparison to those of the Arabian
sage. They spurned the sand from behind them; they seemed to
devour the desert before them; miles flew away with minutes--and
yet their strength seemed unabated, and their respiration as free
as when they first started upon the wonderful race. The motion,
too, as easy as it was swift, seemed more like flying through the
air than riding on the earth, and was attended with no unpleasant
sensation, save the awe naturally felt by one who is moving at
such astonishing speed, and the difficulty of breathing
occasioned by their passing through the air so rapidly.
It was not until after an hour of this portentous motion, and
when all human pursuit was far, far behind, that the Hakim at
length relaxed his speed, and, slackening the pace of the horses
into a hand-gallop, began, in a voice as composed and even as if
he had been walking for the last hour, a descant upon the
excellence of his coursers to the Scot, who, breathless, half
blind, half deaf, and altogether giddy; from the rapidity of this
singular ride, hardly comprehended the words which flowed so
freely from his companion.
"These horses," he said, "are of the breed called the Winged,
equal in speed to aught excepting the Borak of the Prophet. They
are fed on the golden barley of Yemen, mixed with spices and with
a small portion of dried sheep's flesh. Kings have given
provinces to possess them, and their age is active as their
youth. Thou, Nazarene, art the first, save a true believer, that
ever had beneath his loins one of this noble race, a gift of the
Prophet himself to the blessed Ali, his kinsman and lieutenant,
well called the Lion of God. Time lays his touch so lightly on
these generous steeds, that the mare on which thou now sittest
has seen five times five years pass over her, yet retains her
pristine speed and vigour, only that in the career the support of
a bridle, managed by a hand more experienced than thine, hath now
become necessary. May the Prophet be blessed, who hath bestowed
on the true believers the means of advance and retreat, which
causeth their iron-clothed enemies to be worn out with their own
ponderous weight! How the horses of yonder dog Templars must
have snorted and blown, when they had toiled fetlock-deep in the
desert for one-twentieth part of the space which these brave
steeds have left behind them, without one thick pant, or a drop
of moisture upon their sleek and velvet coats!"
The Scottish knight, who had now begun to recover his breath and
powers of attention, could not help acknowledging in his heart
the advantage possessed by these Eastern warriors in a race of
animals, alike proper for advance or retreat, and so admirably
adapted to the level and sandy deserts of Arabia and Syria. But
he did not choose to augment the pride of the Moslem by
acquiescing in his proud claim of superiority, and therefore
suffered the conversation to drop, and, looking around him, could
now, at the more moderate pace at which they moved, distinguish
that he was in a country not unknown to him.
The blighted borders and sullen waters of the Dead Sea, the
ragged and precipitous chain of mountains arising on the left,
the two or three palms clustered together, forming the single
green speck on the bosom of the waste wilderness--objects which,
once seen, were scarcely to be forgotten--showed to Sir Kenneth
that they were approaching the fountain called the Diamond of the
Desert, which had been the scene of his interview on a former
occasion with the Saracen Emir Sheerkohf, or Ilderim. In a few
minutes they checked their horses beside the spring, and the
Hakim invited Sir Kenneth to descend from horseback and repose
himself as in a place of safety. They unbridled their steeds, El
Hakim observing that further care of them was unnecessary, since
they would be speedily joined by some of the best mounted among
his slaves, who would do what further was needful.
"Meantime," he said, spreading some food on the grass, "eat and
drink, and be not discouraged. Fortune may raise up or abase the
ordinary mortal, but the sage and the soldier should have minds
beyond her control."
The Scottish knight endeavoured to testify his thanks by showing
himself docile; but though he strove to eat out of complaisance,
the singular contrast between his present situation and that
which he had occupied on the same spot when the envoy of princes
and the victor in combat, came like a cloud over his mind, and
fasting, lassitude, and fatigue oppressed his bodily powers. El
Hakim examined his hurried pulse, his red and inflamed eye, his
heated hand, and his shortened respiration.
"The mind," he said, "grows wise by watching, but her sister the
body, of coarser materials, needs the support of repose. Thou
must sleep; and that thou mayest do so to refreshment, thou must
take a draught mingled with this elixir."
He drew from his bosom a small crystal vial, cased in silver
filigree-work, and dropped into a little golden drinking-cup a
small portion of a dark-coloured fluid.
"This," he said, "is one of those productions which Allah hath
sent on earth for a blessing, though man's weakness and
wickedness have sometimes converted it into a curse. It is
powerful as the wine-cup of the Nazarene to drop the curtain on
the sleepless eye, and to relieve the burden of the overloaded
bosom; but when applied to the purposes of indulgence and
debauchery, it rends the nerves, destroys the strength, weakens
the intellect, and undermines life. But fear not thou to use its
virtues in the time of need, for the wise man warms him by the
same firebrand with which the madman burneth the tent." [Some
preparation of opium seems to be intimated.]
"I have seen too much of thy skill, sage Hakim," said Sir
Kenneth, "to debate thine hest;" and swallowed the narcotic,
mingled as it was with some water from the spring, then wrapped
him in the haik, or Arab cloak, which had been fastened to his
saddle-pommel, and, according to the directions of the physician,
stretched himself at ease in the shade to await the promised
repose. Sleep came not at first, but in her stead a train of
pleasing yet not rousing or awakening sensations. A state ensued
in which, still conscious of his own identity and his own
condition, the knight felt enabled to consider them not only
without alarm and sorrow, but as composedly as he might have
viewed the story of his misfortunes acted upon a stage--or rather
as a disembodied spirit might regard the transactions of its past
existence. From this state of repose, amounting almost to apathy
respecting the past, his thoughts were carried forward to the
future, which, in spite of all that existed to overcloud the
prospect, glittered with such hues as, under much happier
auspices, his unstimulated imagination had not been able to
produce, even in its most exalted state. Liberty, fame,
successful love, appeared to be the certain and not very distant
prospect of the enslaved exile, the dishonoured knight, even of
the despairing lover who had placed his hopes of happiness so far
beyond the prospect of chance, in her wildest possibilities,
serving to countenance his wishes. Gradually as the intellectual
sight became overclouded, these gay visions became obscure, like
the dying hues of sunset, until they were at last lost in total
oblivion; and Sir Kenneth lay extended at the feet of El Hakim,
to all appearance, but for his deep respiration, as inanimate a
corpse as if life had actually departed.
'Mid these wild scenes Enchantment waves her hand,
To change the face of the mysterious land;
Till the bewildering scenes around us seem
The Vain productions of a feverish dream. ASTOLPHO, A ROMANCE.
When the Knight of the Leopard awoke from his long and profound
repose, he found himself in circumstances so different from those
in which he had lain down to sleep, that he doubted whether he
was not still dreaming, or whether the scene had not been changed
by magic. Instead of the damp grass, he lay on a couch of more
than Oriental luxury; and some kind hands had, during his repose,
stripped him of the cassock of chamois which he wore under his
armour, and substituted a night-dress of the finest linen and a
loose gown of silk. He had been canopied only by the palm-trees
of the desert, but now he lay beneath a silken pavilion, which
blazed with the richest colours of the Chinese loom, while a
slight curtain of gauze, displayed around his couch, was
calculated to protect his repose from the insects, to which he
had, ever since his arrival in these climates, been a constant
and passive prey. He looked around, as if to convince himself
that he was actually awake; and all that fell beneath his eye
partook of the splendour of his dormitory. A portable bath of
cedar, lined with silver, was ready for use, and steamed with the
odours which had been used in preparing it. On a small stand of
ebony beside the couch stood a silver vase, containing sherbet of
the most exquisite quality, cold as snow, and which the thirst
that followed the use of the strong narcotic rendered peculiarly
delicious. Still further to dispel the dregs of intoxication
which it had left behind, the knight resolved to use the bath,
and experienced in doing so a delightful refreshment. Having
dried himself with napkins of the Indian wool, he would willingly
have resumed his own coarse garments, that he might go forth to
see whether the world was as much changed without as within the
place of his repose. These, however, were nowhere to be seen,
but in their place he found a Saracen dress of rich materials,
with sabre and poniard, and all befitting an emir of distinction.
He was able to suggest no motive to himself for this exuberance
of care, excepting a suspicion that these attentions were
intended to shake him in his religious profession--as indeed it
was well known that the high esteem of the European knowledge and
courage made the Soldan unbounded in his gifts to those who,
having become his prisoners, had been induced to take the turban.
Sir Kenneth, therefore, crossing himself devoutly, resolved to
set all such snares at defiance; and that he might do so the more
firmly, conscientiously determined to avail himself as moderately
as possible of the attentions and luxuries thus liberally heaped
upon him. Still, however, he felt his head oppressed and sleepy;
and aware, too, that his undress was not fit for appearing
abroad, he reclined upon the couch, and was again locked in the
arms of slumber.
But this time his rest was not unbroken, for he was awakened by
the voice of the physician at the door of the tent, inquiring
after his health, and whether he had rested sufficiently. "May I
enter your tent?" he concluded, "for the curtain is drawn before
"The master," replied Sir Kenneth, determined to show that he was
not surprised into forgetfulness of his own condition, "need
demand no permission to enter the tent of the slave."
"But if I come not as a master?" said El Hakim, still without
"The physician," answered the knight, "hath free access to the
bedside of his patient."
"Neither come I now as a physician," replied El Hakim; "and
therefore I still request permission, ere I come under the
covering of thy tent."
"Whoever comes as a friend," said Sir Kenneth, "and such thou
hast hitherto shown thyself to me, the habitation of the friend
is ever open to him."
"Yet once again," said the Eastern sage, after the periphrastical
manner of his countrymen, "supposing that I come not as a
"Come as thou wilt," said the Scottish knight, somewhat impatient
of this circumlocution; "be what thou wilt--thou knowest well it
is neither in my power nor my inclination to refuse thee
"I come, then," said El Hakim, "as your ancient foe, but a fair
and a generous one."
He entered as he spoke; and when he stood before the bedside of
Sir Kenneth, the voice continued to be that of Adonbec, the
Arabian physician, but the form, dress, and features were those
of Ilderim of Kurdistan, called Sheerkohf. Sir Kenneth gazed
upon him as if he expected the vision to depart, like something
created by his imagination.
"Doth it so surprise thee," said Ilderim, "and thou an approved
warrior, to see that a soldier knows somewhat of the art of
healing? I say to thee, Nazarene, that an accomplished cavalier
should know how to dress his steed, as well as how to ride him;
how to forge his sword upon the stithy, as well as how to use it
in battle; how to burnish his arms, as well as how to wear them;
and, above all, how to cure wounds, as well as how to inflict
As he spoke, the Christian knight repeatedly shut his eyes, and
while they remained closed, the idea of the Hakim, with his long,
flowing dark robes, high Tartar cap, and grave gestures was
present to his imagination; but so soon as he opened them, the
graceful and richly-gemmed turban, the light hauberk of steel
rings entwisted with silver, which glanced brilliantly as it
obeyed every inflection of the body, the features freed from
their formal expression, less swarthy, and no longer shadowed by
the mass of hair (now limited to a well-trimmed beard), announced
the soldier and not the sage.
"Art thou still so much surprised," said the Emir, "and hast thou
walked in the world with such little observance, as to wonder
that men are not always what they seem? Thou thyself--art thou
what thou seemest?"
"No, by Saint Andrew!" exclaimed the knight; "for to the whole
Christian camp I seem a traitor, and I know myself to be a true
though an erring man."
"Even so I judged thee," said Ilderim; "and as we had eaten salt
together, I deemed myself bound to rescue thee from death and
contumely. But wherefore lie you still on your couch, since the
sun is high in the heavens? or are the vestments which my
sumpter-camels have afforded unworthy of your wearing?"
"Not unworthy, surely, but unfitting for it," replied the Scot.
"Give me the dress of a slave, noble Ilderim, and I will don it
with pleasure; but I cannot brook to wear the habit of the free
Eastern warrior with the turban of the Moslem."
"Nazarene," answered the Emir, "thy nation so easily entertain
suspicion that it may well render themselves suspected. Have I
not told thee that Saladin desires no converts saving those whom
the holy Prophet shall dispose to submit themselves to his law?
violence and bribery are alike alien to his plan for extending
the true faith. Hearken to me, my brother. When the blind man
was miraculously restored to sight, the scales dropped from his
eyes at the Divine pleasure. Think'st thou that any earthly
leech could have removed them? No. Such mediciner might have
tormented the patient with his instruments, or perhaps soothed
him with his balsams and cordials, but dark as he was must the
darkened man have remained; and it is even so with the blindness
of the understanding. If there be those among the Franks who,
for the sake of worldly lucre, have assumed the turban of the
Prophet, and followed the laws of Islam, with their own
consciences be the blame. Themselves sought out the bait; it was
not flung to them by the Soldan. And when they shall hereafter
be sentenced, as hypocrites, to the lowest gulf of hell, below
Christian and Jew, magician and idolater, and condemned to eat
the fruit of the tree Yacoun, which is the heads of demons, to
themselves, not to the Soldan, shall their guilt and their
punishment be attributed. Wherefore wear, without doubt or
scruple, the vesture prepared for you, since, if you proceed to
the camp of Saladin, your own native dress will expose you to
troublesome observation, and perhaps to insult."
"IF I go to the camp of Saladin?" said Sir Kenneth, repeating the
words of the Emir; "alas! am I a free agent, and rather must I
NOT go wherever your pleasure carries me?"
"Thine own will may guide thine own motions," said the Emir, "as
freely as the wind which moveth the dust of the desert in what
direction it chooseth. The noble enemy who met and well-nigh
mastered my sword cannot become my slave like him who has
crouched beneath it. If wealth and power would tempt thee to
join our people, I could ensure thy possessing them; but the man
who refused the favours of the Soldan when the axe was at his
head, will not, I fear, now accept them, when I tell him he has
his free choice."
"Complete your generosity, noble Emir," said Sir Kenneth, "by
forbearing to show me a mode of requital which conscience forbids
me to comply with. Permit me rather to express, as bound in
courtesy, my gratitude for this most chivalrous bounty, this
"Say not undeserved," replied the Emir Ilderim. "Was it not
through thy conversation, and thy account of the beauties which
grace the court of the Melech Ric, that I ventured me thither in
disguise, and thereby procured a sight the most blessed that I
have ever enjoyed--that I ever shall enjoy, until the glories of
Paradise beam on my eyes?"
"I understand you not," said Sir Kenneth, colouring alternately,
and turning pale, as one who felt that the conversation was
taking a tone of the most painful delicacy.
"Not understand me!" exclaimed the Emir. "If the sight I saw in
the tent of King Richard escaped thine observation, I will
account it duller than the edge of a buffoon's wooden falchion.
True, thou wert under sentence of death at the time; but, in my
case, had my head been dropping from the trunk, the last strained
glances of my eyeballs had distinguished with delight such a
vision of loveliness, and the head would have rolled itself
towards the incomparable houris, to kiss with its quivering lips
the hem of their vestments. Yonder royalty of England, who for
her superior loveliness deserves to be Queen of the universe--
what tenderness in her blue eye, what lustre in her tresses of
dishevelled gold! By the tomb of the Prophet, I scarce think
that the houri who shall present to me the diamond cup of
immortality will deserve so warm a caress!"
"Saracen," said Sir Kenneth sternly, "thou speakest of the wife
of Richard of England, of whom men think not and speak not as a
woman to be won, but as a Queen to be revered."
"I cry you mercy," said the Saracen. "I had forgotten your
superstitious veneration for the sex, which you consider rather
fit to be wondered at and worshipped than wooed and possessed. I
warrant, since thou exactest such profound respect to yonder
tender piece of frailty, whose every motion, step, and look
bespeaks her very woman, less than absolute adoration must not be
yielded to her of the dark tresses and nobly speaking eye. SHE
indeed, I will allow, hath in her noble port and majestic mien
something at once pure and firm; yet even she, when pressed by
opportunity and a forward lover, would, I warrant thee, thank him
in her heart rather for treating her as a mortal than as a
"Respect the kinswoman of Coeur de Lion!" said Sir Kenneth, in a
tone of unrepressed anger.
"Respect her!" answered the Emir in scorn; "by the Caaba, and if
I do, it shall be rather as the bride of Saladin."
"The infidel Soldan is unworthy to salute even a spot that has
been pressed by the foot of Edith Plantagenet!" exclaimed the
Christian, springing from his couch.
"Ha! what said the Giaour?" exclaimed the Emir, laying his hand
on his poniard hilt, while his forehead glowed like glancing
copper, and the muscles of his lips and cheeks wrought till each
curl of his beard seemed to twist and screw itself, as if alive
with instinctive wrath. But the Scottish knight, who had stood
the lion-anger of Richard, was unappalled at the tigerlike mood
of the chafed Saracen.
"What I have said," continued Sir Kenneth, with folded arms and
dauntless look, "I would, were my hands loose, maintain on foot
or horseback against all mortals; and would hold it not the most
memorable deed of my life to support it with my good broadsword
against a score of these sickles and bodkins," pointing at the
curved sabre and small poniard of the Emir.
The Saracen recovered his composure as the Christian spoke, so
far as to withdraw his hand from his weapon, as if the motion had
been without meaning, but still continued in deep ire.
"By the sword of the Prophet," he said, "which is the key both of
heaven and hell, he little values his own life, brother, who uses
the language thou dost! Believe me, that were thine hands loose,
as thou term'st it, one single true believer would find them so
much to do that thou wouldst soon wish them fettered again in
manacles of iron."
"Sooner would I wish them hewn off by the shoulder-blades!"
replied Sir Kenneth.
"Well. Thy hands are bound at present," said the Saracen, in a
more amicable tone--"bound by thine own gentle sense of courtesy;
nor have I any present purpose of setting them at liberty. We
have proved each other's strength and courage ere now, and we may
again meet in a fair field--and shame befall him who shall be
the first to part from his foeman! But now we are friends, and I
look for aid from thee rather than hard terms or defiances."
"We ARE friends," repeated the knight; and there was a pause,
during which the fiery Saracen paced the tent, like the lion,
who, after violent irritation, is said to take that method of
cooling the distemperature of his blood, ere he stretches himself
to repose in his den. The colder European remained unaltered in
posture and aspect; yet he, doubtless, was also engaged in
subduing the angry feelings which had been so unexpectedly
"Let us reason of this calmly," said the Saracen. "I am a
physician, as thou knowest, and it is written that he who would
have his wound cured must not shrink when the leech probes and
tests it. Seest thou, I am about to lay my finger on the sore.
Thou lovest this kinswoman of the Melech Ric. Unfold the veil
that shrouds thy thoughts--or unfold it not if thou wilt, for
mine eyes see through its coverings."
"I LOVED her," answered Sir Kenneth, after a pause, "as a man
loves Heaven's grace, and sued for her favour like a sinner for
"And you love her no longer?" said the Saracen.
"Alas," answered Sir Kenneth, "I am no longer worthy to love her.
I pray thee cease this discourse--thy words are poniards to me."
"Pardon me but a moment," continued Ilderim. "When thou, a poor
and obscure soldier, didst so boldly and so highly fix thine
affection, tell me, hadst thou good hope of its issue?"
"Love exists not without hope," replied the knight; "but mine was
as nearly allied to despair as that of the sailor swimming for
his life, who, as he surmounts billow after billow, catches by
intervals some gleam of the distant beacon, which shows him there
is land in sight, though his sinking heart and wearied limbs
assure him that he shall never reach it."
"And now," said Ilderim, "these hopes are sunk--that solitary
light is quenched for ever?"
"For ever," answered Sir Kenneth, in the tone of an echo from the
bosom of a ruined sepulchre.
"Methinks," said the Saracen, "if all thou lackest were some such
distant meteoric glimpse of happiness as thou hadst formerly, thy
beacon-light might be rekindled, thy hope fished up from the
ocean in which it has sunk, and thou thyself, good knight,
restored to the exercise and amusement of nourishing thy
fantastic fashion upon a diet as unsubstantial as moonlight; for,
if thou stood'st tomorrow fair in reputation as ever thou wert,
she whom thou lovest will not be less the daughter of princes and
the elected bride of Saladin."
"I would it so stood," said the Scot, "and if I did not--"
He stopped short, like a man who is afraid of boasting under
circumstances which did not permit his being put to the test.
The Saracen smiled as he concluded the sentence.
"Thou wouldst challenge the. Soldan to single combat?" said he.
"And if I did," said Sir Kenneth haughtily, "Saladin's would
neither be the first nor the best turban that I have couched
"Ay, but methinks the Soldan might regard it as too unequal a
mode of perilling the chance of a royal bride and the event of a
great war," said the Emir.
"He may be met with in the front of battle," said the knight, his
eyes gleaming with the ideas which such a thought inspired.
"He has been ever found there," said Ilderim; "nor is it his wont
to turn his horse's head from any brave encounter. But it was
not of the Soldan that I meant to speak. In a word, if it will
content thee to be placed in such reputation as may be attained
by detection of the thief who stole the Banner of England, I can
put thee in a fair way of achieving this task--that is, if thou
wilt be governed; for what says Lokman, 'If the child would walk,
the nurse must lead him; if the ignorant would understand, the
wise must instruct.'"
"And thou art wise, Ilderim," said the Scot--"wise though a
Saracen, and generous though an infidel. I have witnessed that
thou art both. Take, then, the guidance of this matter; and so
thou ask nothing of me contrary to my loyalty and my Christian
faith, I, will obey thee punctually. Do what thou hast said, and
take my life when it is accomplished."
"Listen thou to me, then," said the Saracen. "Thy noble hound is
now recovered, by the blessing of that divine medicine which
healeth man and beast; and by his sagacity shall those who
assailed him be discovered."
"Ha!" said the knight, "methinks I comprehend thee. I was dull
not to think of this!"
"But tell me," added the Emir, "hast thou any followers or
retainers in the camp by whom the animal may be known?"
"I dismissed," said Sir Kenneth, "my old attendant, thy patient,
with a varlet that waited on him, at the time when I expected to
suffer death, giving him letters for my friends in Scotland;
there are none other to whom the dog is familiar. But then my
own person is well known--my very speech will betray me, in a
camp where I have played no mean part for many months."
"Both he and thou shalt be disguised, so as to escape even close
examination. I tell thee," said the Saracen, "that not thy
brother in arms--not thy brother in blood--shall discover thee,
if thou be guided by my counsels. Thou hast seen me do matters
more difficult--he that can call the dying from the darkness of
the shadow of death can easily cast a mist before the eyes of the
living. But mark me: there is still the condition annexed to
this service--that thou deliver a letter of Saladin to the niece
of the Melech Ric, whose name is as difficult to our Eastern
tongue and lips, as her beauty is delightful to our eyes."
Sir Kenneth paused before he answered, and the Saracen observing
his hesitation, demanded of him, "if he feared to undertake this
"Not if there were death in the execution," said Sir Kenneth. "I
do but pause to consider whether it consists with my honour to
bear the letter of the Soldan, or with that of the Lady Edith to
receive it from a heathen prince."
"By the head of Mohammed, and by the honour of a soldier--by the
tomb at Mecca, and by the soul of my father," said the Emir, "I
swear to thee that the letter is written in all honour and
respect. The song of the nightingale will sooner blight the
rose-bower she loves than will the words of the Soldan offend the
ears of the lovely kinswoman of England."
"Then," said the knight, "I will bear the Soldan's letter
faithfully, as if I were his born vassal--understanding, that
beyond this simple act of service, which I will render with
fidelity, from me of all men he can least expect mediation or
advice in this his strange love-suit."
"Saladin is noble," answered the Emir, "and will not spur a
generous horse to a leap which he cannot achieve. Come with me
to my tent," he added, "and thou shalt be presently equipped with
a disguise as unsearchable as midnight, so thou mayest walk the
camp of the Nazarenes as if thou hadst on thy finger the signet
of Giaougi." [Perhaps the same with Gyges.]
A grain of dust
Soiling our cup, will make our sense reject
Fastidiously the draught which we did thirst for;
A rusted nail, placed near the faithful compass,
Will sway it from the truth, and wreck the argosy.
Even this small cause of anger and disgust
Will break the bonds of amity 'mongst princes,
And wreck their noblest purposes. THE CRUSADE.
The reader can now have little doubt who the Ethiopian slave
really was, with what purpose he had sought Richard's camp, and
wherefore and with what hope he now stood close to the person of
that Monarch, as, surrounded by his valiant peers of England and
Normandy, Coeur de Lion stood on the summit of Saint George's
Mount, with the Banner of England by his side, borne by the most
goodly person in the army, being his own natural brother, William
with the Long Sword, Earl of Salisbury, the offspring of Henry
the Second's amour with the celebrated Rosamond of Woodstock.
From several expressions in the King's conversation with Neville
on the preceding day, the Nubian was left in anxious doubt
whether his disguise had not been penetrated, especially as that
the King seemed to be aware in what manner the agency of the dog
was expected to discover the thief who stole the banner, although
the circumstance of such an animal's having been wounded on the
occasion had been scarce mentioned in Richard's presence.
Nevertheless, as the King continued to treat him in no other
manner than his exterior required, the Nubian remained uncertain
whether he was or was not discovered, and determined not to throw
his disguise aside voluntarily.
Meanwhile, the powers of the various Crusading princes, arrayed
under their royal and princely leaders, swept in long order
around the base of the little mound; and as those of each
different country passed by, their commanders advanced a step or
two up the hill, and made a signal of courtesy to Richard and to
the Standard of England, "in sign of regard and amity," as the
protocol of the ceremony heedfully expressed it, "not of
subjection or vassalage." The spiritual dignitaries, who in
those days veiled not their bonnets to created being, bestowed on
the King and his symbol of command their blessing instead of
Thus the long files marched on, and, diminished as they were by
so many causes, appeared still an iron host, to whom the conquest
of Palestine might seem an easy task. The soldiers, inspired by
the consciousness of united strength, sat erect in their steel
saddles; while it seemed that the trumpets sounded more
cheerfully shrill, and the steeds, refreshed by rest and
provender, chafed on the bit, and trod the ground more proudly.
On they passed, troop after troop, banners waving, spears
glancing, plumes dancing, in long perspective--a host composed of
different nations, complexions, languages, arms, and appearances,
but all fired, for the time, with the holy yet romantic purpose
of rescuing the distressed daughter of Zion from her thraldom,
and redeeming the sacred earth, which more than mortal had
trodden, from the yoke of the unbelieving pagan. And it must be
owned that if, in other circumstances, the species of courtesy
rendered to the King of England by so many warriors, from whom he
claimed no natural allegiance, had in it something that might
have been thought humiliating, yet the nature and cause of the
war was so fitted to his pre-eminently chivalrous character and
renowned feats in arms, that claims which might elsewhere have
been urged were there forgotten, and the brave did willing homage
to the bravest, in an expedition where the most undaunted and
energetic courage was necessary to success.
The good King was seated on horseback about half way up the
mount, a morion on his head, surmounted by a crown, which left
his manly features exposed to public view, as, with cool and
considerate eye, he perused each rank as it passed him, and
returned the salutation of the leaders. His tunic was of sky-coloured velvet, covered with plates of silver,
and his hose of
crimson silk, slashed with cloth of gold. By his side stood the
seeming Ethiopian slave, holding the noble dog in a leash, such
as was used in woodcraft. It was a circumstance which attracted
no notice, for many of the princes of the Crusade had introduced
black slaves into their household, in imitation of the barbarous
splendour of the Saracens. Over the King's head streamed the
large folds of the banner, and, as he looked to it from time to
time, he seemed to regard a ceremony, indifferent to himself
personally, as important, when considered as atoning an indignity
offered to the kingdom which he ruled. In the background, and on
the very summit of the Mount, a wooden turret, erected for the
occasion, held the Queen Berengaria and the principal ladies of
the Court. To this the King looked from time to time; and then
ever and anon his eyes were turned on the Nubian and the dog, but
only when such leaders approached, as, from circumstances of
previous ill-will, he suspected of being accessory to the theft
of the standard, or whom he judged capable of a crime so mean.
Thus, he did not look in that direction when Philip Augustus of
France approached at the head of his splendid troops of Gallic
chivalry---nay, he anticipated the motions of the French King, by
descending the Mount as the latter came up the ascent, so that
they met in the middle space, and blended their greetings so
gracefully that it appeared they met in fraternal equality. The
sight of the two greatest princes in Europe, in rank at once and
power, thus publicly avowing their concord, called forth bursts
of thundering acclaim from the Crusading host at many miles
distance, and made the roving Arab scouts of the desert alarm the
camp of Saladin with intelligence that the army of the Christians
was in motion. Yet who but the King of kings can read the hearts
of monarchs? Under this smooth show of courtesy, Richard
nourished displeasure and suspicion against Philip, and Philip
meditated withdrawing himself and his host from the army of the
Cross, and leaving Richard to accomplish or fail in the
enterprise with his own unassisted forces.
Richard's demeanour was different when the dark-armed knights and
squires of the Temple chivalry approached--men with countenances
bronzed to Asiatic blackness by the suns of Palestine, and the
admirable state of whose horses and appointments far surpassed
even that of the choicest troops of France and England. The King
cast a hasty glance aside; but the Nubian stood quiet, and his
trusty dog sat at his feet, watching, with a sagacious yet
pleased look, the ranks which now passed before them. The King's
look turned again on the chivalrous Templars, as the Grand
Master, availing himself of his mingled character, bestowed his
benediction on Richard as a priest, instead of doing him
reverence as a military leader.
"The misproud and amphibious caitiff puts the monk upon me," said
Richard to the Earl of Salisbury. "But, Longsword, we will let
it pass. A punctilio must not lose Christendom the services of
these experienced lances, because their victories have rendered
them overweening. Lo you, here comes our valiant adversary, the
Duke of Austria. Mark his manner and bearing, Longsword--and
thou, Nubian, let the hound have full view of him. By Heaven, he
brings his buffoons along with him!"
In fact, whether from habit, or, which is more likely, to
intimate contempt of the ceremonial he was about to comply with,
Leopold was attended by his SPRUCH-SPRECHER and his jester; and
as he advanced towards Richard, he whistled in what he wished to
be considered as an indifferent manner, though his heavy features
evinced the sullenness, mixed with the fear, with which a truant
schoolboy may be seen to approach his master. As the reluctant
dignitary made, with discomposed and sulky look, the obeisance
required, the SPRUCH-SPRECHER shook his baton, and proclaimed,
like a herald, that, in what he was now doing, the Archduke of
Austria was not to be held derogating from the rank and
privileges of a sovereign prince; to which the jester answered
with a sonorous AMEN, which provoked much laughter among the
King Richard looked more than once at the Nubian and his dog; but
the former moved not, nor did the latter strain at the leash, so
that Richard said to the slave with some scorn, "Thy success in
this enterprise, my sable friend, even though thou hast brought
thy hound's sagacity to back thine own, will not, I fear, place
thee high in the rank of wizards, or much augment thy merits
towards our person."
The Nubian answered, as usual, only by a lowly obeisance.
Meantime the troops of the Marquis of Montserrat next passed in
order before the King of England. That powerful and wily baron,
to make the greater display of his forces, had divided them into
two bodies. At the head of the first, consisting of his vassals
and followers, and levied from his Syrian possessions, came his
brother Enguerrand; and he himself followed, leading on a gallant
band of twelve hundred Stradiots, a kind of light cavalry raised
by the Venetians in their Dalmatian possessions, and of which
they had entrusted the command to the Marquis, with whom the
republic had many bonds of connection. These Stradiots were
clothed in a fashion partly European, but partaking chiefly of
the Eastern fashion. They wore, indeed, short hauberks, but had
over them party-coloured tunics of rich stuffs, with large wide
pantaloons and half-boots. On their heads were straight upright
caps, similar to those of the Greeks; and they carried small
round targets, bows and arrows, scimitars, and poniards. They
were mounted on horses carefully selected, and well maintained at
the expense of the State of Venice; their saddles and
appointments resembled those of the Turks, and they rode in the
same manner, with short stirrups and upon a high seat. These
troops were of great use in skirmishing with the Arabs, though
unable to engage in close combat, like the iron-sheathed men-at-arms of Western and Northern Europe.
Before this goodly band came Conrade, in the same garb with the
Stradiots, but of such rich stuff that he seemed to blaze with
gold and silver, and the milk-white plume fastened in his cap by
a clasp of diamonds seemed tall enough to sweep the clouds. The
noble steed which he reined bounded and caracoled, and displayed
his spirit and agility in a manner which might have troubled a
less admirable horseman than the Marquis, who gracefully ruled
him with the one hand, while the other displayed the baton, whose
predominancy over the ranks which he led seemed equally absolute.
Yet his authority over the Stradiots was more in show than in
substance; for there paced beside him, on an ambling palfrey of
soberest mood, a little old man, dressed entirely in black,
without beard or moustaches, and having an appearance altogether
mean and insignificant when compared with the blaze of splendour
around him. But this mean-looking old man was one of those
deputies whom the Venetian government sent into camps to overlook
the conduct of the generals to whom the leading was consigned,
and to maintain that jealous system of espial and control which
had long distinguished the policy of the republic.
Conrade, who, by cultivating Richard's humour, had attained a
certain degree of favour with him, no sooner was come within his
ken than the King of England descended a step or two to meet him,
exclaiming, at the same time, "Ha, Lord Marquis, thou at the head
of the fleet Stradiots, and thy black shadow attending thee as
usual, whether the sun shines or not! May not one ask thee
whether the rule of the troops remains with the shadow or the
Conrade was commencing his reply with a smile, when Roswal, the
noble hound, uttering a furious and savage yell, sprung forward.
The Nubian, at the same time, slipped the leash, and the hound,
rushing on, leapt upon Conrade's noble charger, and, seizing the
Marquis by the throat, pulled him down from the saddle. The
plumed rider lay rolling on the sand, and the frightened horse
fled in wild career through the camp.
"Thy hound hath pulled down the right quarry, I warrant him,"
said the King to the Nubian, "and I vow to Saint George he is a
stag of ten tynes! Pluck the dog off; lest he throttle him."
The Ethiopian, accordingly, though not without difficulty,
disengaged the dog from Conrade, and fastened him up, still
highly excited, and struggling in the leash. Meanwhile many
crowded to the spot, especially followers of Conrade and officers
of the Stradiots, who, as they saw their leader lie gazing wildly
on the sky, raised him up amid a tumultuary cry of "Cut the slave
and his hound to pieces!"
But the voice of Richard, loud and sonorous, was heard clear
above all other exclamations. "He dies the death who injures the
hound! He hath but done his duty, after the sagacity with which
God and nature have endowed the brave animal.--Stand forward for
a false traitor, thou Conrade, Marquis of Montserrat! I impeach
thee of treason."
Several of the Syrian leaders had now come up, and Conrade
--vexation, and shame, and confusion struggling with passion in
his manner and voice--exclaimed, "What means this? With what am
I charged? Why this base usage and these reproachful terms? Is
this the league of concord which England renewed but so lately?"
"Are the Princes of the Crusade turned hares or deers in the eyes
of King Richard that he should slip hounds on them?" said the
sepulchral voice of the Grand Master of the Templars.
"It must be some singular accident--some fatal mistake," said
Philip of France, who rode up at the same moment.
"Some deceit of the Enemy," said the Archbishop of Tyre.
"A stratagem of the Saracens," cried Henry of Champagne. "It
were well to hang up the dog, and put the slave to the torture."
"Let no man lay hand upon them," said Richard, "as he loves his
own life! Conrade, stand forth, if thou darest, and deny the
accusation which this mute animal hath in his noble instinct
brought against thee, of injury done to him, and foul scorn to
"I never touched the banner," said Conrade hastily.
"Thy words betray thee, Conrade!" said Richard, "for how didst
thou know, save from conscious guilt, that the question is
concerning the banner?"
"Hast thou then not kept the camp in turmoil on that and no other
score?" answered Conrade; "and dost thou impute to a prince and
an ally a crime which, after all, was probably committed by some
paltry felon for the sake of the gold thread? Or wouldst thou
now impeach a confederate on the credit of a dog?"
By this time the alarm was becoming general, so that Philip of
"Princes and nobles," he said, "you speak in presence of those
whose swords will soon be at the throats of each other if they
hear their leaders at such terms together. In the name of
Heaven, let us draw off each his own troops into their separate
quarters, and ourselves meet an hour hence in the Pavilion of
Council to take some order in this new state of confusion."
"Content," said King Richard, "though I should have liked to have
interrogated that caitiff while his gay doublet was yet
besmirched with sand. But the pleasure of France shall be ours
in this matter."
The leaders separated as was proposed, each prince placing
himself at the head of his own forces; and then was heard on all
sides the crying of war-cries and the sounding of gathering-notes
upon bugles and trumpets, by which the different stragglers were
summoned to their prince's banner, and the troops were shortly
seen in motion, each taking different routes through the camp to
their own quarters. But although any immediate act of violence
was thus prevented, yet the accident which had taken place dwelt
on every mind; and those foreigners who had that morning hailed
Richard as the worthiest to lead their army, now resumed their
prejudices against his pride and intolerance, while the English,
conceiving the honour of their country connected with the
quarrel, of which various reports had gone about, considered the
natives of other countries jealous of the fame of England and her
King, and disposed to undermine it by the meanest arts of
intrigue. Many and various were the rumours spread upon the
occasion, and there was one which averred that the Queen and her
ladies had been much alarmed by the tumult, and that one of them
The Council assembled at the appointed hour. Conrade had in the
meanwhile laid aside his dishonoured dress, and with it the shame
and confusion which, in spite of his talents and promptitude, had
at first overwhelmed him, owing to the strangeness of the
accident and suddenness of the accusation. He was now robed like
a prince; and entered the council-chamber attended by the
Archduke of Austria, the Grand Masters both of the Temple and of
the Order of Saint John, and several other potentates, who made a
show of supporting him and defending his cause, chiefly perhaps
from political motives, or because they themselves nourished a
personal enmity against Richard.
This appearance of union in favour of Conrade was far from
influencing the King of England. He entered the Council with his
usual indifference of manner, and in the same dress in which he
had just alighted from horseback. He cast a careless and
somewhat scornful glance on the leaders, who had with studied
affectation arranged themselves around Conrade as if owning his
cause, and in the most direct terms charged Conrade of Montserrat
with having stolen the Banner of England, and wounded the
faithful animal who stood in its defence.
Conrade arose boldly to answer, and in despite, as he expressed
himself, of man and brute, king or dog, avouched his innocence of
the crime charged.
"Brother of England," said Philip, who willingly assumed the
character of moderator of the assembly, "this is an unusual
impeachment. We do not hear you avouch your own knowledge of
this matter, further than your belief resting upon the demeanour
of this hound towards the Marquis of Montserrat. Surely the word
of a knight and a prince should bear him out against the barking
of a cur?"
"Royal brother," returned Richard, "recollect that the Almighty,
who gave the dog to be companion of our pleasures and our toils,
hath invested him with a nature noble and incapable of deceit.
He forgets neither friend nor foe--remembers, and with accuracy,
both benefit and injury. He hath a share of man's intelligence,
but no share of man's falsehood. You may bribe a soldier to slay
a man with his sword, or a witness to take life by false
accusation; but you cannot make a hound tear his benefactor. He
is the friend of man, save when man justly incurs his enmity.
Dress yonder marquis in what peacock-robes you will, disguise his
appearance, alter his complexion with drugs and washes, hide him
amidst a hundred men,--I will yet pawn my sceptre that the hound
detects him, and expresses his resentment, as you have this day
beheld. This is no new incident, although a strange one.
Murderers and robbers have been ere now convicted, and suffered
death under such evidence, and men have said that the finger of
God was in it. In thine own land, royal brother, and upon such
an occasion, the matter was tried by a solemn duel betwixt the
man and the dog, as appellant and defendant in a challenge of
murder. The dog was victorious, the man was punished, and the
crime was confessed. Credit me, royal brother, that hidden
crimes have often been brought to light by the testimony even of
inanimate substances, not to mention animals far inferior in
instinctive sagacity to the dog, who is the friend and companion
of our race."
"Such a duel there hath indeed been, royal brother," answered
Philip, "and that in the reign of one of our predecessors, to
whom God be gracious. But it was in the olden time, nor can we
hold it a precedent fitting for this occasion. The defendant in
that case was a private gentleman of small rank or respect; his
offensive weapons were only a club, his defensive a leathern
jerkin. But we cannot degrade a prince to the disgrace of using
such rude arms, or to the ignominy of such a combat."
"I never meant that you should," said King Richard; "it were foul
play to hazard the good hound's life against that of such a
double-faced traitor as this Conrade hath proved himself. But
there lies our own glove; we appeal him to the combat in respect
of the evidence we brought forth against him. A king, at least,
is more than the mate of a marquis."
Conrade made no hasty effort to seize on the pledge which Richard
cast into the middle of the assembly, and King Philip had time to
reply ere the marquis made a motion to lift the glove.
"A king," said he of France, "is as much more than a match for
the Marquis Conrade as a dog would be less. Royal Richard, this
cannot be permitted. You are the leader of our expedition--the
sword and buckler of Christendom."
"I protest against such a combat," said the Venetian proveditore,
"until the King of England shall have repaid the fifty thousand
byzants which he is indebted to the republic. It is enough to be
threatened with loss of our debt, should our debtor fall by the
hands of the pagans, without the additional risk of his being
slain in brawls amongst Christians concerning dogs and banners."
"And I," said William with the Long Sword, Earl of Salisbury,
"protest in my turn against my royal brother perilling his life,
which is the property of the people of England, in such a cause.
Here, noble brother, receive back your glove, and think only as
if the wind had blown it from your hand. Mine shall lie in its
stead. A king's son, though with the bar sinister on his shield,
is at least a match for this marmoset of a marquis."
"Princes and nobles," said Conrade, "I will not accept of King
Richard's defiance. He hath been chosen our leader against the
Saracens, and if his conscience can answer the accusation of
provoking an ally to the field on a quarrel so frivolous, mine,
at least, cannot endure the reproach of accepting it. But
touching his bastard brother, William of Woodstock, or against
any other who shall adopt or shall dare to stand godfather to
this most false charge, I will defend my honour in the lists, and
prove whosoever impeaches it a false liar."
"The Marquis of Montserrat," said the Archbishop of Tyre, "hath
spoken like a wise and moderate gentleman; and methinks this
controversy might, without dishonour to any party, end at this
"Methinks it might so terminate," said the King of France,
"provided King Richard will recall his accusation as made upon
"Philip of France," answered Coeur de Lion, "my words shall never
do my thoughts so much injury. I have charged yonder Conrade as
a thief, who, under cloud of night, stole from its place the
emblem of England's dignity. I still believe and charge him to
be such; and when a day is appointed for the combat, doubt not
that, since Conrade declines to meet us in person, I will find a
champion to appear in support of my challenge--for thou, William,
must not thrust thy long sword into this quarrel without our
"Since my rank makes me arbiter in this most unhappy matter,"
said Philip of France, "I appoint the fifth day from hence for
the decision thereof, by way of combat, according to knightly
usage--Richard, King of England, to appear by his champion as
appellant, and Conrade, Marquis of Montserrat, in his own person,
as defendant. Yet I own I know not where to find neutral ground
where such a quarrel may be fought out; for it must not be in the
neighbourhood of this camp, where the soldiers would make faction
on the different sides."
"It were well," said Richard, "to apply to the generosity of the
royal Saladin, since, heathen as he is, I have never known knight
more fulfilled of nobleness, or to whose good faith we may so
peremptorily entrust ourselves. I speak thus for those who may
be doubtful of mishap; for myself, wherever I see my foe, I make
that spot my battle-ground."
"Be it so," said Philip; "we will make this matter known to
Saladin, although it be showing to an enemy the unhappy spirit of
discord which we would willingly hide from even ourselves, were
it possible. Meanwhile, I dismiss this assembly, and charge you
all, as Christian men and noble knights, that ye let this unhappy
feud breed no further brawling in the camp, but regard it as a
thing solemnly referred to the judgment of God, to whom each of
you should pray that He will dispose of victory in the combat
according to the truth of the quarrel; and therewith may His will
"Amen, amen!" was answered on all sides; while the Templar
whispered the Marquis, "Conrade, wilt thou not add a petition to
be delivered from the power of the dog, as the Psalmist hath it?"
"Peace, thou--!" replied the Marquis; "there is a revealing
demon abroad which may report, amongst other tidings, how far
thou dost carry the motto of thy order--"FERIATUR LEO."
"Thou wilt stand the brunt of challenge?" said the Templar.
"Doubt me not," said Conrade. "I would not, indeed, have
willingly met the iron arm of Richard himself, and I shame not to
confess that I rejoice to be free of his encounter; but, from his
bastard brother downward, the man breathes not in his ranks whom
I fear to meet."
"It is well you are so confident," continued the Templar; "and,
in that case, the fangs of yonder hound have done more to
dissolve this league of princes than either thy devices or the
dagger of the Charegite. Seest thou how, under a brow studiously
overclouded, Philip cannot conceal the satisfaction which he
feels at the prospect of release from the alliance which sat so
heavy on him? Mark how Henry of Champagne smiles to himself,