Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Ted Garvin, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed
WINNING HIS SPURS
A Tale of the Crusades.
BY G. A. HENTY
CHAPTER I. THE OUTLAWS
CHAPTER II. A RESCUE
CHAPTER III. THE CAPTURE OF WORTHAM HOLD
CHAPTER IV. THE CRUSADES
CHAPTER V. PREPARATIONS
CHAPTER VI. THE LISTS
CHAPTER VII. REVENGE
CHAPTER VIII. THE ATTACK
CHAPTER IX. THE PRINCESS BERENGARIA
CHAPTER X. PIRATES
CHAPTER XI. IN THE HOLY LAND
CHAPTER XII. THE ACCOLADE
CHAPTER XIII. IN THE HANDS OF THE SARACENS
CHAPTER XIV. AN EFFORT FOR FREEDOM
CHAPTER XV. A HERMIT'S TALE
CHAPTER XVI. A FIGHT OF HEROES
CHAPTER XVII. AN ALFINE STORM
CHAPTER XVIII. SENTENCED TO DEATH
CHAPTER XIX. DRESDEN
CHAPTER XX. UNDER THE GREENWOOD
CHAPTER XXI. THE ATTEMPT ON THE CONVENT
CHAPTER XXII. A DASTARDLY STRATAGEM
CHAPTER XXIII. THE FALSE AND PERJURED KNIGHT
CHAPTER XXIV. THE SIEGE OF EVESHAM CASTLE
CHAPTER XXV. IN SEARCH OF THE KING
CHAPTER XXVI. KING RICHARD'S RETURN TO ENGLAND
WINNING HIS SPURS.
It was a bright morning in the month of August, when a lad of some
fifteen years of age, sitting on a low wall, watched party after party of
armed men riding up to the castle of the Earl of Evesham. A casual
observer glancing at his curling hair and bright open face, as also at
the fashion of his dress, would at once have assigned to him a purely
Saxon origin; but a keener eye would have detected signs that Norman
blood ran also in his veins, for his figure was lither and lighter, his
features more straightly and shapely cut, than was common among Saxons.
His dress consisted of a tight-fitting jerkin, descending nearly to his
knees. The material was a light-blue cloth, while over his shoulder hung
a short cloak of a darker hue. His cap was of Saxon fashion, and he wore
on one side a little plume of a heron. In a somewhat costly belt hung a
light short sword, while across his knees lay a crossbow, in itself
almost a sure sign of its bearer being of other than Saxon blood. The boy
looked anxiously as party after party rode past towards the castle.
"I would give something," he said, "to know what wind blows these knaves
here. From every petty castle in the Earl's feu the retainers seem
hurrying here. Is he bent, I wonder, on settling once and for all his
quarrels with the Baton of Wortham? or can he be intending to make a
clear sweep of the woods? Ah! here comes my gossip Hubert; he may tell me
the meaning of this gathering."
Leaping to his feet, the speaker started at a brisk walk to meet a
jovial-looking personage coming down from the direction of the castle.
The new comer was dressed in the attire of a falconer, and two dogs
followed at his heels.
"Ah, Master Cuthbert," he said, "what brings you so near to the castle?
It is not often that you favour us with your presence."
"I am happier in the woods, as you well know, and was on my way thither
but now, when I paused at the sight of all these troopers flocking in to
Evesham. What enterprise has Sir Walter on hand now, think you?"
"The earl keeps his own counsel," said the falconer, "but methinks a
shrewd guess might be made at the purport of the gathering. It was but
three days since that his foresters were beaten back by the landless
men, whom they caught in the very act of cutting up a fat buck. As thou
knowest, my lord though easy and well-disposed to all, and not fond of
harassing and driving the people as are many of his neighbours, is yet
to the full as fanatical anent his forest privileges as the worst of
them. They tell me that when the news came in of the poor figure that
his foresters cut with broken bows and draggled plumes--for the varlets
had soused them in a pond of not over savoury water--he swore a great
oath that he would clear the forest of the bands. It may be, indeed,
that this gathering is for the purpose of falling in force upon that
evil-disposed and most treacherous baron, Sir John of Wortham, who has
already begun to harry some of the outlying lands, and has driven off, I
hear, many heads of cattle. It is a quarrel which will have to be fought
out sooner or later, and the sooner the better, say I. Although I am no
man of war, and love looking after my falcons or giving food to my dogs
far more than exchanging hard blows, yet would I gladly don the buff and
steel coat to aid in levelling the keep of that robber and tyrant, Sir
John of Wortham."
"Thanks, good Hubert," said the lad. "I must not stand gossiping here.
The news you have told me, as you know, touches me closely, for I would
not that harm should come to the forest men."
"Let it not out, I beseech thee, Cuthbert, that the news came from me,
for temperate as Sir Walter is at most times, he would, methinks, give
me short shift did he know that the wagging of my tongue might have
given warning through which the outlaws of the Chase should slip through
"Fear not, Hubert; I can be mum when the occasion needs. Can you tell me
farther, when the bands now gathering are likely to set forth?"
"In brief breathing space," the falconer replied. "Those who first
arrived I left swilling beer, and devouring pies and other provisions
cooked for them last night, and from what I hear, they will set forth as
soon as the last comer has arrived. Whichever be their quarry, they will
try to fall upon it before the news of their arrival is bruited abroad."
With a wave of his hand to the falconer the boy started. Leaving the
road, and striking across the slightly undulated country dotted here
and there by groups of trees, the lad ran at a brisk trot, without
stopping to halt or breathe, until after half an hour's run he arrived
at the entrance of a building, whose aspect proclaimed it to be the
abode of a Saxon franklin of some importance. It would not be called a
castle, but was rather a fortified house, with a few windows looking
without, and surrounded by a moat crossed by a drawbridge, and capable
of sustaining anything short of a real attack. Erstwood had but lately
passed into Norman hands, and was indeed at present owned by a Saxon.
Sir William de Lance, the father of the lad who is now entering its
portals, was a friend and follower of the Earl of Evesham; and soon
after his lord had married Gweneth the heiress of all these fair
lands--given to him by the will of the king, to whom by the death of
her father she became a ward--Sir William had married Editha, the
daughter and heiress of the franklin of Erstwood, a cousin and dear
friend of the new Countess of Evesham.
In neither couple could the marriage at first have been called one of
inclination on the part of the ladies, but love came after marriage.
Although the knights and barons of the Norman invasion would, no doubt,
be considered rude and rough in these days of broadcloth and
civilization, yet their manners were gentle and polished by the side of
those of the rough though kindly Saxon franklins; and although the Saxon
maids were doubtless as patriotic as their fathers and mothers, yet the
female mind is greatly led by gentle manners and courteous address. Thus
then, when bidden or forced to give their hands to the Norman knights,
they speedily accepted their lot, and for the most part grew contented
and happy enough. In their changed circumstances it was pleasanter to
ride by the side of their Norman husbands, surrounded by a gay cavalcade,
to hawk and to hunt, than to discharge the quiet duties of mistress of a
Saxon farm-house. In many cases, of course, their lot was rendered
wretched by the violence and brutality of their lords; but in the
majority they were well satisfied with their lot, and these mixed
marriages did more to bring the peoples together and weld them in one,
than all the laws and decrees of the Norman sovereigns.
This had certainly been the case with Editha, whose marriage with Sir
William had been one of the greatest happiness. She had lost him, three
years before the story begins, fighting in Normandy, in one of the
innumerable wars in which our first Norman kings were constantly
involved. On entering the gates of Erstwood, Cuthbert had rushed hastily
to the room where his mother was sitting with three or four of her
maidens, engaged in work.
"I want to speak to you at once, mother," he said.
"What is it now, my son?" said his mother, who was still young and very
comely. Waving her hand to the girls, they left her.
"Mother," he said, when they were alone, "I fear me that Sir Walter is
about to make a great raid upon the outlaws. Armed men have been coming
in all the morning from the castles round, and if it be not against the
Baron de Wortham that these preparations are intended, and methinks it is
not, it must needs be against the landless men."
"What would you do, Cuthbert?" his mother asked anxiously. "It will not
do for you to be found meddling in these matters. At present you stand
well in the favour of the Earl, who loves you for the sake of his
wife, to whom you are kin, and of your father, who did him good
"But, mother, I have many friends in the wood. There is Cnut, their
chief, your own first cousin, and many others of our friends, all
good men and true, though forced by the cruel Norman laws to refuge
in the woods."
"What would you do?" again his mother asked.
"I would take Ronald my pony and ride to warn them of the danger that
"You had best go on foot, my son. Doubtless men have been set to see that
none from the Saxon homesteads carry the warning to the woods. The
distance is not beyond your reach, for you have often wandered there, and
on foot you can evade the eye of the watchers; but one thing, my son, you
must promise, and that is, that in no case, should the Earl and his bands
meet with the outlaws, will you take part in any fray or struggle."
"That will I willingly, mother," he said. "I have no cause for offence
against the castle or the forest, and my blood and my kin are with both.
I would fain save shedding of blood in a quarrel like this. I hope that
the time may come when Saxon and Norman may fight side by side, and I
maybe there to see."
A few minutes later, having changed his blue doublet for one of more
sober and less noticeable colour, Cuthbert started for the great forest,
which then stretched to within a mile of Erstwood. In those days a large
part of the country was covered with forest, and the policy of the
Normans in preserving these woods for the chase, tended to prevent the
increase of cultivation.
The farms and cultivated lands were all held by Saxons, who although
nominally handed over to the nobles to whom William and his successors
had given the fiefs, saw but little of their Norman masters. These stood,
indeed, much in the position in which landlords stand to their tenants,
payment being made, for the most part, in produce. At the edge of the
wood the trees grew comparatively far apart, but as Cuthbert proceeded
farther into its recesses, the trees in the virgin forest stood thick and
close together. Here and there open glades ran across each other, and in
these his sharp eye, accustomed to the forest, could often see the stags
starting away at the sound of his footsteps.
It was a full hour's journey before Cuthbert reached the point for
which he was bound. Here, in an open space, probably cleared by a storm
ages before, and overshadowed by giant trees, was a group of men of all
ages and appearances. Some were occupied in stripping the skin off a
buck which hung from the bough of one of the trees. Others were
roasting portions of the carcass of another deer. A few sat apart, some
talking, others busy in making arrows, while a few lay asleep on the
greensward. As Cuthbert entered the clearing, several of the party rose
to their feet.
"Ah, Cuthbert," shouted a man of almost gigantic stature, who appeared to
be one of the leaders of the party, "what brings you here, lad, so early?
You are not wont to visit us till even, when you can lay your crossbow at
a stag by moonlight."
"No, no, Cousin Cnut," Cuthbert said, "thou canst not say that I have
ever broken the forest laws, though I have looked on often and often,
whilst you have done so."
"The abettor is as bad as the thief," laughed Cnut, "and if the foresters
caught us in the act, I wot they would make but little difference whether
it was the shaft of my longbow or the quarrel from thy crossbow which
brought down the quarry. But again, lad, why comest thou here? for I see
by the sweat on your face and by the heaving of your sides that you have
run fast and far."
"I have, Cnut; I have not once stopped for breathing since I left
Erstwood. I have come to warn you of danger. The earl is preparing
for a raid."
Cnut laughed somewhat disdainfully.
"He has raided here before, and I trow has carried off no game. The
landless men of the forest can hold their own against a handful of Norman
knights and retainers in their own home."
"Ay," said Cuthbert, "but this will be no common raid. This morning bands
from all the holds within miles round are riding in, and at least 500
men-at-arms are likely to do chase today."
"Is it so?" said Cnut, while exclamations of surprise, but not of
apprehension, broke from those standing round. "If that be so, lad, you
have done us good service indeed. With fair warning we can slip through
the fingers of ten times 500 men, but if they came upon us unawares, and
hemmed us in it would fare but badly with us, though we should, I doubt
not give a good account of them before their battle-axes and maces ended
the strife. Have you any idea by which road they will enter the forest,
or what are their intentions?"
"I know not," Cuthbert said; "all that I gathered was that the earl
intended to sweep the forest, and to put an end to the breaches of the
laws, not to say of the rough treatment that his foresters have met with
at your hands. You had best, methinks, be off before Sir Walter and his
heavily-armed men are here. The forest, large as it is, will scarce hold
you both, and methinks you had best shift your quarters to Langholm Chase
until the storm has passed."
"To Langholm be it, then," said Cnut, "though I love not the place. Sir
John of Wortham is a worse neighbour by far than the earl. Against the
latter we bear no malice, he is a good knight and a fair lord; and could
he free himself of the Norman notions that the birds of the air, and the
beasts of the field, and the fishes of the water, all belong to Normans,
and that we Saxons have no share in them, I should have no quarrel with
him. He grinds not his neighbours, he is content with a fair tithe of the
produce, and as between man and man is a fair judge without favour. The
baron is a fiend incarnate; did he not fear that he would lose by so
doing, he would gladly cut the throats, or burn, or drown, or hang every
Saxon within twenty miles of his hold. He is a disgrace to his order, and
some day when our band gathers a little stronger, we will burn his nest
about his ears."
"It will be a hard nut to crack," Cuthbert said, laughing. "With such
arms as you have in the forest the enterprise would be something akin to
scaling the skies."
"Ladders and axes will go far, lad, and the Norman men-at-arms have
learned to dread our shafts. But enough of the baron; if we must be his
neighbours for a time, so be it."
"You have heard, my mates," he said, turning to his comrades gathered
around him, "what Cuthbert tells us. Are you of my opinion, that it is
better to move away till the storm is past, than to fight against heavy
odds, without much chance of either booty or victory?"
A general chorus proclaimed that the outlaws approved of the proposal for
a move to Langholm Chase. The preparations were simple. Bows were taken
down from the boughs on which they were hanging, quivers slung across the
backs, short cloaks thrown over the shoulders. The deer was hurriedly
dismembered, and the joints fastened to a pole slung on the shoulders of
two of the men. The drinking-cups, some of which were of silver, looking
strangely out of place among the rough horn implements and platters, were
bundled together, carried a short distance and dropped among some thick
bushes for safety; and then the band started for Wortham.
With a cordial farewell and many thanks to Cuthbert, who declined their
invitations to accompany them, the retreat to Langholm commenced.
Cuthbert, not knowing in which direction the bands were likely to
approach, remained for a while motionless, intently listening.
In a quarter of an hour he heard the distant note of a bugle.
It was answered in three different directions, and Cuthbert, who knew
every path and glade of the forest, was able pretty accurately to surmise
those by which the various bands were commencing to enter the wood.
Knowing that they were still a long way off, he advanced as rapidly as he
could in the direction in which they were coming. When by the sound of
distant voices and the breaking of branches he knew that one at least of
the parties was near at hand, he rapidly climbed a thick tree and
ensconced himself in the branches, and there watched, secure and hidden
from the sharpest eye, the passage of a body of men-at-arms fully a
hundred strong, led by Sir Walter himself, accompanied by some half
dozen of his knights.
When they had passed, Cuthbert again slipped down the tree and made at
all speed for home. He reached it, so far as he knew without having been
observed by a single passer-by.
After a brief talk with his mother, he started for the castle, as his
appearance there would divert any suspicion that might arise; and it
would also appear natural that seeing the movements of so large a body of
men, he should go up to gossip with his acquaintances there.
When distant a mile from Evesham, he came upon a small party.
On a white palfrey rode Margaret, the little daughter of the earl. She
was accompanied by her nurse and two retainers on foot.
Cuthbert--who was a great favourite with the earl's daughter, for whom
he frequently brought pets, such as nests of young owlets, falcons, and
other creatures--was about to join the party when from a clump of trees
near burst a body of ten mounted men.
Without a word they rode straight at the astonished group. The
retainers were cut to the ground before they had thought of drawing a
sword in defence.
The nurse was slain by a blow with a battle-axe, and Margaret, snatched
from her palfrey, was thrown across the saddle-bow of one of the mounted
men, who then with his comrades dashed off at full speed.
The whole of the startling scene of the abduction of the Earl of
Evesham's daughter occupied but a few seconds. Cuthbert was so astounded
at the sudden calamity that he remained rooted to the ground at the spot
where, fortunately for himself, unnoticed by the assailants, he had stood
when they first burst from their concealment.
For a short time he hesitated as to the course he should take.
The men-at-arms who remained in the castle were scarce strong enough to
rescue the child, whose captors would no doubt be reinforced by a far
stronger party lurking near.
The main body of Sir Walter's followers were deep in the recesses of the
forest, and this lay altogether out of the line for Wortham, and there
would be no chance whatever of bringing them up in time to cut off the
marauders on their way back.
There remained only the outlaws, who by this time would be in Langholm
Forest, perhaps within a mile or two of the castle itself.
The road by which the horsemen would travel would be far longer than the
direct line across country, and he resolved at once to strain every nerve
to reach his friends in time to get them to interpose between the captors
of the Lady Margaret and their stronghold.
For an instant he hesitated whether to run back to Erstwood to get a
horse; but he decided that it would be as quick to go on foot, and far
easier so to find the outlaws.
These thoughts occupied but a few moments, and he at once started at the
top of his speed for his long run across the country.
Had Cuthbert been running in a race of hare and hound, he would assuredly
have borne away the prize from most boys of his age. At headlong pace he
made across the country, every foot of which, as far as the edge of
Langholm Chase, he knew by heart.
The distance to the woods was some twelve miles, and in an hour and a
half from the moment of his starting Cuthbert was deep within its shades.
Where he would be likely to find the outlaws he knew not; and, putting a
whistle to his lips, he shrilly blew the signal, which would, he knew, be
recognized by any of the band within hearing.
He thought that he heard an answer, but was not certain, and again dashed
forward, almost as speedily as if he had but just started.
Five minutes later a man stood in the glade up which he was running. He
recognized him at once as one of Cnut's party.
"Where are the band?" he gasped.
"Half a mile or so to the right," replied the man.
Guided by the man, Cuthbert ran at full speed, till, panting and scarce
able to speak, he arrived at the spot where Cnut's band were gathered.
In a few words he told them what had happened, and although they had just
been chased by the father of the captured child, there was not a moment
of hesitation in promising their aid to rescue her from a man whom they
regarded as a far more bitter enemy, both of themselves and their race.
"I fear we shall be too late to cut them off," Cnut said, "they have so
long a start; but at least we will waste no time in gossiping."
Winding a horn to call together some of the members of the band who had
scattered, and leaving one at the meeting-place to give instructions to
the rest, Cnut, followed by those assembled there, went off at a swinging
trot through the glades towards Wortham Castle.
After a rapid calculation of distances, and allowing for the fact that
the baron's men--knowing that Sir Walter's retainers and friends were all
deep in the forest, and even if they heard of the outrage could not be on
their traces for hours--would take matters quietly, Cnut concluded that
they had arrived in time.
Turning off, they made their way along the edge of the wood to the point
where the road from Evesham ran through the forest.
Scarcely had the party reached this point when they heard a faint
clatter of steel.
"Here they come!" exclaimed Cuthbert.
Cnut gave rapid directions, and the band took up their posts behind the
trees, on either side of the path.
"Remember," Cnut said, "above all things be careful not to hit the child,
but pierce the horse on which she is riding. The instant he falls, rush
forward. We must trust to surprise to give us the victory."
Three minutes later the head of a band of horsemen was seen through the
trees. They were some thirty in number, and, closely grouped as they were
together, the watchers behind the trees could not see the form of the
child carried in their midst.
When they came abreast of the concealed outlaws, Cnut gave a sharp
whistle, and fifty arrows flew from tree and bush into the closely
gathered party of horsemen. More than half their number fell at once;
some, drawing their swords, endeavoured to rush at their concealed foes,
while others dashed forward in the hope of riding through the snare into
which they had fallen. Cuthbert had levelled his crossbow, but had not
fired; he was watching with intense anxiety for a glimpse of the
bright-coloured dress of the child. Soon he saw a horseman separate
himself from the rest and dash forward at full speed. Several arrows flew
by him, and one or two struck the horse on which he rode.
The animal, however, kept on its way.
Cuthbert levelled his crossbow on the low arm of a tree, and as the rider
came abreast of him touched the trigger, and the steel-pointed quarrel
flew true and strong against the temple of the passing horseman. He fell
from his horse like a stone and the well-trained animal at once stood
still by the side of his rider.
Cuthbert leapt forward, and to his delight the child at once opened her
arms and cried in a joyous tone,--
The fight was still raging fiercely, and Cuthbert, raising her from the
ground, ran with her into the wood, where they remained hidden until the
combat ceased, and the last survivors of the Baron's band had ridden past
towards the castle.
Then Cuthbert went forward with his charge and joined the band of
outlaws, who, absorbed in the fight, had not witnessed the incident of
her rescue, and now received them with loud shouts of joy and triumph.
"This is a good day's work indeed for all," Cuthbert said; "it will make
of the earl a firm friend instead of a bitter enemy; and I doubt not that
better days are dawning for Evesham Forest."
A litter was speedily made with boughs, on this Margaret was placed, and
on the shoulders of two stout foresters started for home, Cnut and
Cuthbert walking beside, and a few of the band keeping at a short
distance behind, as a sort of rear-guard should the Baron attempt to
regain his prey.
There was now no cause for speed, and Cuthbert in truth could scarce drag
one foot before another, for he had already traversed over twenty miles,
the greater portion of the distance at his highest rate of speed.
Cnut offered to have a litter made for him also, but this Cuthbert
indignantly refused; however, in the forest they came upon the hut of a
small cultivator, who had a rough forest pony, which was borrowed for
It was late in the afternoon before they came in sight of Evesham Castle.
From the distance could be seen bodies of armed men galloping towards it,
and it was clear that only now the party were returning from the wood,
and had learned the news of the disappearance of the Earl's daughter, and
of the finding of the bodies of her attendants.
Presently they met one of the mounted retainers riding at headlong speed.
"Have you heard or seen anything," he shouted, as he approached, "of the
Lady Margaret? She is missing, and foul play has taken place."
"Here I am, Rudolph," cried the child, sitting up on the rude litter.
The horseman gave a cry of astonishment and pleasure, and without a
word wheeled his horse and galloped past back at headlong speed towards
As Cuthbert and the party approached the gate, the earl himself,
surrounded by his knights and followers, rode out hastily from the
gate and halted in front of the little party. The litter was lowered,
and as he dismounted from his horse his daughter sprang out and leapt
into his arms.
For a few minutes the confusion and babble of tongues were too great for
anything to be heard, but Cuthbert, as soon as order was somewhat
restored, stated what had happened, and the earl was moved to fury at the
news of the outrage which had been perpetrated by the Baron of Wortham
upon his daughter and at the very gates of his castle, and also at the
thought that she should have been saved by the bravery and devotion of
the very men against whom he had so lately been vowing vengeance in the
depths of the forest.
"This is not a time," he said to Cnut, "for talking or making promises,
but be assured that henceforth the deer of Evesham Chase are as free to
you and your men as to me. Forest laws or no forest laws, I will no more
lift a hand against men to whom I owe so much. Come when you will to the
castle, my friends, and let us talk over what can be done to erase your
outlawry and restore you to an honest career again."
Cuthbert returned home tired, but delighted with his day's work, and Dame
Editha was surprised indeed with the tale of adventure he had to tell.
The next morning he went over to the castle, and heard that a grand
council had been held the evening before, and that it had been determined
to attack Wortham Castle and to raze it to the ground.
Immediately on hearing of his arrival, the earl, after again expressing
his gratitude for the rescue of his daughter, asked him if he would go
into the forest and invite the outlaws to join their forces with those of
the castle to attack the baron.
Cuthbert willingly undertook the mission, as he felt that this alliance
would further strengthen the position of the forest men.
When he arrived there was some considerable consultation and discussion
between the outlaws as to the expediency of mixing themselves in the
quarrels between the Norman barons. However, Cnut persuaded them that as
the Baron of Wortham was an enemy and oppressor of all Saxons, it was in
fact their own quarrel that they were fighting rather than that of the
earl, and they therefore agreed to give their aid, and promised to be at
the rendezvous outside the castle to be attacked, soon after dawn next
morning. Cuthbert returned with the news, which gave great satisfaction
to the earl.
The castle was now a scene of bustle and business; armourers were at work
repairing head-pieces and breastplates, sharpening swords and
battle-axes, while the fletchers prepared sheaves of arrows. In the
courtyard a number of men were engaged oiling the catapults, ballistas,
and other machines for hurling stones. All were discussing the chances of
the assault, for it was no easy matter which they had set themselves to
do. Wortham Hold was an extremely strong one, and it needed all and more
than all the machines at their disposal to undertake so formidable an
operation as a siege.
The garrison, too, were strong and desperate; and the baron, knowing what
must follow his outrage of the day before, would have been sure to send
off messengers round the country begging his friends to come to his
assistance. Cuthbert had begged permission of his mother to ask the earl
to allow him to join as a volunteer, but she would not hear of it.
Neither would she suffer him to mingle with the foresters. The utmost
that he could obtain was that he might go as a spectator, with strict
injunctions to keep himself out of the fray, and as far as possible
beyond bow-shot of the castle wall.
It was a force of some 400 strong that issued from the wood early next
morning to attack the stronghold at Wortham. The force consisted of some
ten or twelve knights and barons, some 150 or 160 Norman men-at-arms, a
miscellaneous gathering of other retainers, 200 strong, and some eighty
of the forest men. These last were not to fight under the earl's banner,
but were to act on their own account. There were among them outlaws,
escaped serfs, and some men guilty of bloodshed. The earl then could not
have suffered these men to fight under his flag until purged in some way
of their offences.
This arrangement suited the foresters well.
Their strong point was shooting; and by taking up their own position, and
following their own tactics, under the leadership of Cnut, they would be
able to do far more execution, and that with less risk to themselves,
than if compelled to fight according to the fashion of the Normans.
As they approached the castle a trumpet was blown, and the herald,
advancing, demanded its surrender, stigmatized the Baron of Wortham as a
false knight and a disgrace to his class, and warned all those within
the castle to abstain from giving him aid or countenance, but to submit
themselves to the earl, Sir Walter of Evesham, the representative of
The reply to the summons was a burst of taunting laughter from the walls;
and scarcely had the herald withdrawn, than a flight of arrows showed
that the besieged were perfectly ready for the fray.
Indeed, the baron had not been idle. Already the dispute between himself
and the earl had come to such a point that it was certain that sooner or
later open hostilities would break out.
He had therefore been for some time quietly accumulating a large store
of provisions and munitions of war, and strengthening the castle in
The moat had been cleaned out, and filled to the brim with water. Great
quantities of heavy stones had been accumulated on the most exposed
points of the walls, in readiness to hurl upon any who might try to
climb. Huge sheaves of arrows and piles of crossbow bolts, were in
readiness, and in all, save the number of men, Wortham had for weeks been
prepared for the siege.
On the day when the attempt to carry off the earl's daughter had failed,
the baron, seeing that his bold stroke to obtain a hostage which would
have enabled him to make his own terms with the earl, had been thwarted,
knew that the struggle was inevitable.
Fleet messengers had been sent in all directions. To Gloucester and
Hereford, Stafford, and even Oxford, men had ridden, with letters to the
baron's friends, beseeching them to march to his assistance.
"I can," he said, "defend my hold for weeks. But it is only by aid
from without that I can finally hope to break the power of this
Many of those to whom he addressed his call had speedily complied with
his demand, while those at a distance might be expected to reply later to
There were many among the barons who considered the mildness of the Earl
of Evesham towards the Saxons in his district to be a mistake, and who,
although not actually approving of the tyranny and brutality of the Baron
of Wortham, yet looked upon his cause to some extent as their own.
The Castle of Wortham stood upon ground but very slightly elevated above
the surrounding country. A deep and wide moat ran round it, and this
could, by diverting a rivulet, be filled at will.
From the edge of the moat the walls rose high, and with strong flanking
towers and battlements.
There were strong works also beyond the moat opposite to the drawbridge;
while in the centre of the castle rose the keep, from whose summit the
archers, and the machines for casting stones and darts, could command
the whole circuit of defence.
As Cuthbert, accompanied by one of the hinds of the farm, took his post
high up in a lofty tree, where at his ease he could command a view of the
proceedings, he marvelled much in what manner an attack upon so fair a
fortress would be commenced.
"It will be straightforward work to attack the outwork," he said, "but
that once won, I see not how we are to proceed against the castle itself.
The machines that the earl has will scarcely hurl stones strong enough
even to knock the mortar from the walls. Ladders are useless where they
cannot be planted; and if the garrison are as brave as the castle is
strong, methinks that the earl has embarked upon a business that will
keep him here till next spring."
There was little time lost in commencing the conflict.
The foresters, skirmishing up near to the castle, and taking advantage
of every inequality in the ground, of every bush and tuft of high grass,
worked up close to the moat, and then opened a heavy fire with their
bows against the men-at-arms on the battlements, and prevented their
using the machines against the main force now advancing to the attack
upon the outwork.
This was stoutly defended. But the impetuosity of the earl, backed as it
was by the gallantry of the knights serving under him, carried all
The narrow moat which encircled this work was speedily filled with great
bundles of brushwood, which had been prepared the previous night. Across
these the assailants rushed.
Some thundered at the gate with their battle-axes, while others placed
ladders by which, although several times hurled backwards by the
defenders, they finally succeeded in getting a footing on the wall.
Once there, the combat was virtually over.
The defenders were either cut down or taken prisoners, and in two hours
after the assault began, the outwork of Wortham Castle was taken.
This, however, was but the commencement of the undertaking, and it had
cost more than twenty lives to the assailants.
They were now, indeed, little nearer to capturing the castle than they
had been before.
The moat was wide and deep. The drawbridge had been lifted at the instant
that the first of the assailants gained a footing upon the wall. And now
that the outwork was captured, a storm of arrows, stones, and other
missiles was poured into it from the castle walls, and rendered it
impossible for any of its new masters, to show themselves above it.
Seeing that any sudden attack was impossible, the earl now directed a
strong body to cut down trees, and prepare a movable bridge to throw
across the moat.
This would be a work of fully two days; and in the meantime Cuthbert
returned to the farm.
THE CAPTURE OF WORTHAM HOLD.
Upon his return home, after relating to his mother the events of the
morning's conflict, Cuthbert took his way to the cottage inhabited by an
old man who had in his youth been a mason.
"Have I not heard, Gurth," he said, "that you helped to build the Castle
"No, no, young sir," he said; "old as I am, I was a child when the
castle was built. My father worked at it, and it cost him, and many
others, his life."
"And how was that, prithee?" asked Cuthbert.
"He was, with several others, killed by the baron, the grandfather of the
present man, when the work was finished."
"But why was that, Gurth?"
"We were but Saxon swine," said Gurth bitterly, "and a few of us more or
less mattered not. We were then serfs of the baron. But my mother fled
with me on the news of my father's death. For years we remained far away,
with some friends in a forest near Oxford. Then she pined for her native
air, and came back and entered the service of the franklin."
"But why should your mother have taken you away?" Cuthbert asked.
"She always believed, Master Cuthbert, that my father was killed by the
baron, to prevent him giving any news of the secrets of the castle. He
and some others had been kept in the walls for many months, and were
engaged in the making of secret passages."
"That is just what I came to ask you, Gurth. I have heard something of
this story before, and now that we are attacking Wortham Castle, and the
earl has sworn to level it to the ground, it is of importance if possible
to find out whether any of the secret passages lead beyond the castle,
and if so, where. Almost all the castles have, I have been told, an exit
by which the garrison can at will make sorties or escape; and I thought
that maybe you might have heard enough to give us some clue as to the
existence of such a passage at Wortham."
The old man thought for some time in silence, and then said,--
"I may be mistaken, but methinks a diligent search in the copse near the
stream might find the mouth of the outlet."
"What makes you think that this is so, Gurth?"
"I had been with my mother to carry some clothes to my father on the last
occasion on which I saw him. As we neared the castle I saw my father and
three other of the workmen, together with the baron, coming down from the
castle towards the spot. As my mother did not wish to approach while the
baron was at hand, we stood within the trees at the edge of the wood, and
watched what was being done. The baron came with them down to the bushes,
and then they again came out, crossed the river, and one of them cut some
willows, peeled them, and erected the white staves in a line towards the
castle. They walked for a bit on each side, and seemed to be making
calculations. Then they went back into the castle, and I never saw my
"Why did you not go in at once according to your intention?"
"Because my mother said that she thought some important work was on
hand, and that maybe the baron would not like that women should know
aught of it, for he was of suspicious and evil mind. More than this I
know not. The castle had already been finished, and most of the masons
discharged. There were, however, a party of serfs kept at work, and also
some masons, and rumour had it that they were engaged in making the
secret passages. Whether it was so or not I cannot say, but I know that
none of that party ever left the castle alive. It was given out that a
bad fever had raged there, but none believed it; and the report went
about, and was I doubt not true, that all had been killed, to preserve
the secret of the passage."
Cuthbert lost no time in making use of the information that he had
Early next morning, at daybreak, he started on his pony to Wortham.
As he did not wish the earl or his followers to know the facts that
he had learned until they were proved, he made his way round the camp
of the besiegers, and by means of his whistle called one of the
foresters to him.
"Where is Cnut?" he asked.
"He is with a party occupied in making ladders."
"Go to him," Cuthbert said, "and tell him to withdraw quietly and
make his way here. I have an important matter on which I wish to
speak to him,'"
Cnut arrived in a few minutes, somewhat wondering at the message. He
brightened greatly when Cuthbert told him what he had learned.
"This is indeed important," he said. "We will lose no time in searching
the copse you speak of. You and I, together with two of my most trusty
men, with axes to clear away the brush, will do. At present a thing of
this sort had best be kept between as few as may be."
They started at once and soon came down upon the stream.
It ran at this point in a little valley, some twenty or thirty feet deep.
On the bank not far from the castle grew a small wood, and it was in this
that Cuthbert hoped to find the passage spoken of by Gurth.
The trees and brushwood were so thick that it was apparent at once that
if the passage had ever existed it had been unused for some years.
The woodmen were obliged to chop down dozens of young saplings to make
their way up from the water towards the steeper part of the bank.
The wood was some fifty yards in length, and as it was uncertain at which
point the passage had come out, a very minute search had to be made.
"What do you think it would be like, Cnut?" Cuthbert asked.
"Like enough to a rabbit-hole, or more likely still there would be no
hole whatever. We must look for moss and greenery, for it is likely that
such would have been planted, so as to conceal the door from any
passer-by, while yet allowing a party from inside to cut their way
through it without difficulty."
After a search of two hours, Cnut decided that the only place in the
copse in which it was likely that the entrance to a passage could be
hidden, was a spot where the ground was covered thickly with ivy and
"It looks level enough with the rest," Cuthbert said.
"Ay, lad, but we know not what lies behind this thick screen of ivy.
Thrust in that staff."
One of the woodmen began to probe with the end of a staff among the ivy.
For some time he was met by the solid ground, but presently the butt of
the staff went through suddenly, pitching him on his head, amidst a
suppressed laugh from his comrades.
"Here it is, if anywhere," said Cnut, and with their billhooks they at
once began to clear away the thickly grown creepers.
Five minutes' work was sufficient to show a narrow cut, some two feet
wide, in the hill side, at the end of which stood a low door.
"Here it is," said Cnut, with triumph, "and the castle is ours. Thanks,
Cuthbert, for your thought and intelligence. It has not been used lately,
that is clear," he went on. "These creepers have not been moved for
years. Shall we go and tell the earl of our discovery? What think you,
"I think we had better not," Cuthbert said. "We might not succeed in
getting in, as the passage may have fallen farther along; but I will
speak to him and tell him that we have something on hand which may alter
his dispositions for fighting to-morrow."
Cuthbert made his way to the earl, who had taken possession of a small
cottage a short distance from the castle.
"What can I do for you?" Sir Walter said.
"I want to ask you, sir, not to attack the castle to-morrow until you see
a white flag waved from the keep."
"But how on earth is a white flag to be raised from the keep?"
"It may be," Cuthbert said, "that I have some friends inside who will be
able to make a diversion in our favour. However sir, it can do no harm
if you will wait till then, and may save many lives. At what hour do you
mean to attack?"
"The bridges and all other preparations to assist us across the moat will
be ready to-night. We will advance then under cover of darkness, and as
soon after dawn as may be attack in earnest."
"Very well, sir," Cuthbert said. "I trust that within five minutes after
your bugle has sounded, the white flag will make its appearance on the
keep, but it cannot do so until after you have commenced an attack, or at
least a pretence of an attack."
Two or three hours before daylight Cuthbert accompanied Cnut and
twenty-five picked men of the foresters to the copse. They were provided
with crowbars, and all carried heavy axes. The door was soon prised open.
It opened silently and without a creak.
"It may be," Cnut said, "that the door has not been opened as you say for
years, but it is certain," and he placed his torch to the hinges, "that
it has been well oiled within the last two or three days. No doubt the
baron intended to make his escape this way, should the worst arrive. Now
that we have the door open we had better wait quiet until the dawn
commences. The earl will blow his bugle as a signal for the advance; it
will be another ten minutes before they are fairly engaged, and that will
be enough for us to break open any doors that there may be between this
and the castle, and to force our way inside."
It seemed a long time waiting before the dawn fairly broke--still longer
before the earl's bugle was heard to sound the attack. Then the band,
headed by Cnut and two or three of the strongest of the party, entered
Cuthbert had had some misgivings as to his mother's injunctions to take
no part in the fray, and it cannot be said that in accompanying the
foresters he obeyed the letter of her instructions. At the same time as
he felt sure that the effect of a surprise would be complete and
crushing, and that the party would gain the top of the keep without any
serious resistance, he considered the risk was so small as to justify
him in accompanying the foresters.
The passage was some five feet high, and little more than two feet wide.
It was dry and dusty, and save the marks on the ground of a human foot
going and returning, doubtless that of the man who had oiled the lock the
day before, the passage appeared to have been unused from the time that
it left the hands of its builders.
Passing along for some distance they came to another strong oaken
door. This, like the last, yielded to the efforts of the crowbars of
the foresters, and they again advanced. Presently they came to a
flight of steps.
"We must now be near the castle," Cnut said. "In fact, methinks I can
hear confused noises ahead."
Mounting the steps, they came to a third door; this was thickly studded
with iron, and appeared of very great strength. Fortunately the lock was
upon their side, and they were enabled to shoot the bolt; but upon the
other side the door was firmly secured by large bolts, and it was fully
five minutes before the foresters could succeed in opening it. It was
not without a good deal of noise that they at last did so; and several
times they paused, fearing that the alarm must have been given in the
castle. As, however, the door remained closed, they supposed that the
occupants were fully engaged in defending themselves from the attacks of
the earl's party.
When the door gave way, they found hanging across in front of them a very
thick arras, and pressing this aside they entered a small room in the
thickness of the wall of the keep. It contained the merest slit for
light, and was clearly unused. Another door, this time unfastened, led
into a larger apartment, which was also at present unoccupied. They could
hear now the shouts of the combatants without, the loud orders given by
the leaders on the walls, the crack, as the stones hurled by the
mangonels struck the walls, and the ring of steel as the arrows struck
against steel cap and cuirass.
"It is fortunate that all were so well engaged, or they would certainly
have heard the noise of our forcing the door, which would have brought
all of them upon us. As it is, we are in the heart of the keep. We have
now but to make a rush up these winding steps, and methinks we shall find
ourselves on the battlements. They will be so surprised, that no real
resistance can be offered to us. Now let us advance."
So saying Cnut led the way upstairs, followed by the foresters, Cuthbert,
as before, allowing five or six of them to intervene between him and the
leader. He carried his short sword and a quarterstaff, a weapon by no
means to be despised in the hands of an active and experienced player.
Presently, after mounting some fifty or sixty steps, they issued on the
platform of the keep.
Here were gathered some thirty or forty men, who were so busied in
shooting with crossbows, and in working machines casting javelins,
stones, and other missives upon the besiegers, that they were unaware of
the addition to their numbers until the whole of the foresters had
gathered on the summit, and at the order of Cnut suddenly fell upon them
with a loud shout.
Taken wholly by surprise by the foe, who seemed to have risen from the
bowels of the earth by magic, the soldiers of the Baron of Wortham
offered but a feeble resistance. Some were cast over the battlement of
the keep, some driven down staircases, others cut down, and then
Cuthbert, fastening a small white flag he had prepared to his
quarter-staff, waved it above the battlements.
Even now the combatants on the outer wall were in ignorance of what had
happened in the keep; so great was the din that the struggle which had
there taken place had passed unnoticed; and it was not until the
fugitives, rushing out into the courtyard, shouted that the keep had been
captured, that the besieged became aware of the imminence of the danger.
Hitherto the battle had been going well for the defenders of the castle.
The Baron of Wortham was indeed surprised at the feebleness of the
assault. The arrows which had fallen in clouds upon the first day's
attack upon the castle among his soldiers were now comparatively few and
ineffective. The besiegers scarcely appeared to push forward their
bridges with any vigour, and it seemed to him that a coldness had fallen
upon them, and that some disagreement must have arisen between the
foresters and the earl, completely crippling the energy of the attack.
When he heard the words shouted from the courtyard below he could not
believe his ears. That the keep behind should have been carried by the
enemy appeared to him impossible. With a roar he called upon the bravest
of his men to follow, and rushing across the courtyard, rapidly ascended
the staircase. The movement was observed from the keep, and Cnut and a
few of his men, stationed themselves with their battle-axes at the top of
various stairs leading below.
The signal shown by Cuthbert had not passed unobserved. The earl, who had
given instructions to his followers to make a mere feint of attacking,
now blew the signal for the real onslaught. The bridges were rapidly run
across the moat, ladders were planted, and the garrison being paralyzed
and confused by the attack in their rear, as well as hindered by the
arrows which now flew down upon them from the keep above, offered but a
feeble resistance, and the assailants, led by Sir Walter himself, poured
over the walls.
Now there was a scene of confusion and desperate strife. The baron had
just gained the top of the stairs, and was engaged in a fierce conflict
with Cnut and his men, when the news reached him that the wall was
carried from without. With an execration he again turned and rushed down
the stairs, hoping by a vigorous effort to cast back the foe.
It was, however, all too late: his followers, disheartened and alarmed,
fought without method or order in scattered groups of threes and fours.
They made their last stand in corners and passages. They knew there was
but little hope of mercy from the Saxon foresters, and against these they
fought to the last. To the Norman retainers, however, of the earl they
offered a less determined resistance, throwing down their arms and
surrendering at discretion.
The baron, when fiercely fighting, was slain by an arrow from the keep
above, and with his fall the last resistance ceased. A short time was
spent in searching the castle, binding the prisoners, and carrying off
the valuables that the baron had collected in his raids. Then a light was
set to the timbers, the granaries were fired, and in a few minutes the
smoke wreathing out of the various loopholes and openings told the
country round that the stronghold had fallen, and that they were free
from the oppressor at last.
Warm thanks and much praise were bestowed upon Cuthbert for his share in
the capture of the castle, and the earl, calling the foresters round him,
then and there bestowed freedom upon any of them who might have been
serfs of his, and called upon all his knights and neighbours to do the
same, in return for the good service which they had rendered.
This was willingly done, and a number of Cnut's party who had before
borne the stigma of escaped serfs were now free men.
We are too apt to forget, in our sympathy with the Saxons, that fond as
they were of freedom for themselves, they were yet severe masters, and
kept the mass of the people in a state of serfage. Although their laws
provided ample justice as between Saxon man and man, there was no justice
for the unhappy serfs, who were either the original inhabitants or
captives taken in war, and who were distinguished by a collar of brass or
iron round their neck.
Cnut's party had indeed long got rid of these badges, the first act of a
serf when he took to the woods being always to file off his collar; but
they were liable when caught to be punished, even by death, and were
delighted at having achieved their freedom.
"And what can I do for you, Cuthbert?" Sir Walter said, as they rode
homewards. "It is to you that I am indebted: in the first place for the
rescue of my daughter, in the second for the capture of that castle,
which I doubt me much whether we should ever have taken in fair fight had
it not been for your aid."
"Thanks, Sir Walter," the lad replied. "At present I need nothing, but
should the time come when you may go to the wars, I would fain ride
with you as your page, in the hope of some day winning my spurs also in
"So shall it be," the earl said, "and right willingly. But who
have we here?"
As he spoke a horseman rode up and presented a paper to the earl.
"This is a notice," the earl said, after perusing it, "that King Richard
has determined to take up the cross, and that he calls upon his nobles
and barons to join him in the effort to free the holy sepulchre from the
infidels. I doubt whether the minds of the people are quite prepared, but
I hear that there has been much preaching by friars and monks in some
parts, and that many are eager to join in the war."
"Think you that you will go to the war, Sir Walter?" Cuthbert asked.
"I know not as yet; it must much depend upon the king's mood. For
myself, I care not so greatly as some do about this question of the Holy
Land. There has been blood enough shed already to drown it, and we are no
nearer than when the first swarms of pilgrims made their way thither."
On Cuthbert's returning home and telling his mother all that had passed,
she shook her head, but said that she could not oppose his wishes to go
with the earl when the time should come, and that it was only right he
should follow in the footsteps of the good knight his father.
"I have heard much of these Crusades," he said; "canst tell me
"In truth I know not much, my son; but Father Francis, I doubt not, can
tell you all the particulars anent the affair."
The next time that Father Francis, who was the special adviser of Dame
Editha, rode over from the convent on his ambling nag, Cuthbert eagerly
asked him if he would tell him what he knew of the Crusades.
"Hitherto, my son," he said, "the Crusades have, it must be owned,
brought many woes upon Europe. From the early times great swarms
of pilgrims were accustomed to go from all parts of Europe to the
"When the followers of the evil prophet took possession of the land, they
laid grievous burdens upon the pilgrims, heavily they fined them,
persecuted them in every way, and treated them as if indeed they were but
the scum of the earth under their feet.
"So terrible were the tales that reached Europe that men came to think
that it would be a good deed truly, to wrest the sepulchre of the Lord
from the hands of these heathens. Pope Urban was the first to give
authority and strength to the movement, and at a vast meeting at
Claremont of 30,000 clergy and 4000 barons, it was decided that war must
be made against the infidel. From all parts of France men flocked to
hear Pope Urban preach there; and when he had finished his oration, the
vast multitude, carried away by enthusiasm, swore to win the holy
sepulchre or to die.
"Mighty was the throng that gathered for the First Crusade. Monks threw
aside their gowns and took to the sword and cuirass; even women and
children joined in the throng. What, my son, could be expected from a
great army so formed? Without leaders, without discipline, without
tactics, without means of getting food, they soon became a scourge of the
country through which they passed.
"Passing through Hungary, where they greatly ravaged the fields, they
came to Bulgaria. Here the people, struck with astonishment and dismay at
this great horde of hungry people who arrived among them like locusts,
fell upon them with the sword, and great numbers fell. The first band
that passed into that country perished miserably, and of all that huge
assembly, it may be said that, numbering, at the start, not less than
250,000 persons, only about 100,000 crossed into Asia Minor. The fate of
these was no better than that of those who had perished in Hungary and
Bulgaria. After grievous suffering and loss they at last reached Nicaea.
There they fell into an ambuscade; and out of the whole of the
undisciplined masses who had followed Peter the Hermit, it is doubtful
whether 10,000 ever returned home.
"This first attempt to rescue the holy sepulchre was followed by others
equally wild, misguided, and unfortunate. Some of them indeed began their
evil deeds as soon as they had left their home. The last of these bodies
fell upon the Jews, who are indeed enemies of the Christian faith, but
who have now, at least, nothing to do with the question of the holy
sepulchre. As soon as they entered into Germany the Crusaders put them to
death with horrible torture. Plunder and rapine indeed appeared to be the
object of the crusaders. On this as well as on most other preceding
bands, their misdeeds drew down the vengeance of the people. At an early
period of their march, and as soon as they reached Hungary, the people
fell upon them, and put the greater portion to the sword.
"Thus, in these irregular expeditions no less than 500,000 people are
supposed to have perished. Godfrey de Bouillon was the first who
undertook to lead a Crusade according to the military knowledge of the
day. With him were his brothers Eustace and Baldwin, the Counts of Anault
and St. Paul, and many other nobles and gentlemen, with their retainers,
well armed and under good order; and so firm was the discipline of Duke
Godfrey that they were allowed to pass freely, by the people of the
countries who had opposed the previous bands.
"Through Hungary, Bulgaria, and Thrace he made his way; and though he
met with many difficulties from Alexius, the crafty and treacherous
Emperor of the Greeks, he at last succeeded in crossing into Asia.
There he was joined by many from England, as well as from France and
other countries. Duke Robert, the son of our first William, led a
strong band of Normans to the war, as did the other great princes of
France and Spain.
"The army which crossed the narrow passage of the Hellespont is estimated
at no less than 700,000 fighting men. Of these 100,000 were knights clad
in complete armour, the remainder were men-at-arms and bowmen.
"Nicaea, the place which had been the scene of the massacre of Peter the
Hermit's hosts, was taken after a desperate conflict, lasting for many
weeks, and the crusaders afterwards defeated the Turks in a great battle
near the town of Doryleum. After these successes disputes arose among the
leaders, and Count Baldwin, brother of Duke Godfrey, left the main body
with about 1500 men, and founded a kingdom for himself in Mesopotamia.
"The main body, slowly and painfully, and suffering from disease, famine,
and the heat, made its way south. Antioch, a city of great strength and
importance, was besieged, but it proved so strong that it resisted for
many months, and was at last only taken by treachery.
"After the capture of this place the sufferings of the crusaders so far
from being diminished were redoubled. They themselves during the siege
had bought up all the food that could be brought from the surrounding
country, while the magazines of the town were found, when an entry was
effected, to be entirely deserted. The enemy, aided by a great Persian
host, came down, and those who had been the besiegers were now besieged.
However, when in the last strait the Christian army sallied out, and
inspired with supernatural strength, defeated the Turks and Persians,
with a slaughter of 100,000 men. Another slow movement to the south
brought them into the Holy Land, and pressing forward, they came at last
within sight of Jerusalem itself.
"So fearful had been the losses of the crusaders that of 700,000 who
crossed the Hellespont, not more than 40,000 reached the end of the
pilgrimage. This fragment of an army, which had appeared before a very
strongly fortified town, possessed no means of capturing the place--none
of the machines of war necessary for the purpose, no provisions or
munitions of any kind. Water was scarce also; and it appeared as if the
remnant of the great army of Godfrey de Bouillon had arrived before
Jerusalem only to perish there.
"Happily just at this time a further band of crusaders from Genoa, who
had reached Jaffa, made their appearance. They were provided with stores,
and had skilled workmen capable of making the machines for the siege. On
July 14th, 1099, the attack was made, and after resistance gallant and
desperate as the assault, the crusaders burst into the city, massacred
the whole of the defenders and inhabitants, calculated at 70,000 in
number, and so became masters of the holy sepulchre.
"The Sultan of Egypt was meanwhile advancing to the assistance of the
Mohammedans of Syria; but Godfrey, with 20,000 of his best men, advanced
to meet the vast host, and scattered them as if they had been sheep.
Godfrey was now chosen King of Jerusalem, and the rest of his army--save
300 knights and 200 soldiers, who agreed to remain with him--returned to
their home. The news of the victory led other armies of crusaders to
follow the example of that of Godfrey; but as these were almost as
completely without organization or leadership as those of Peter the
Hermit, they suffered miserably on their way, and few indeed ever
reached the Holy Land. Godfrey died in 1100, and his brother Baldwin
"The history of the last 100 years has been full of fresh efforts to
crush the Moslem power, but hitherto it cannot be said that fortune has
attended the efforts of the Christians. Had it not been indeed for the
devotion of the Knights of St. John and of the Templars, two great
companies formed of men who devoted their lives to the holding of the
sepulchre against the infidel, our hold of the Holy Land would have
"Gradually the Saracens have wrested post after post from our hands.
Edessa was taken in 1144, and the news of this event created an intense
excitement. The holy St. Bernard stirred up all France, and Louis VII.
himself took the vow and headed a noble army. The ways of God are not our
ways, and although the army of Germany joined that of France, but little
results came of this great effort. The Emperor Conrad, with the Germans,
was attacked by the Turk Saladin of Iconium, and was defeated with a loss
of 60,000 men. The King of France, with his army, was also attacked with
fury, and a large portion of his force were slaughtered. Nothing more
came of this great effort, and while the first Crusade seemed to show
that the men-at-arms of Europe were irresistible, the second on the
contrary gave proof that the Turks were equal to the Christian knights.
Gradually the Christian hold of the Holy Land was shaken. In 1187,
although fighting with extraordinary bravery, the small army of Christian
Knights of the Temple and of St. John were annihilated, the King of
Jerusalem was made prisoner, and the Christian power was crushed. Then
Saladin, who commanded the Turks, advanced against Jerusalem, and forced
it to capitulate.
"Such, my boy, is the last sad news which has reached us; and no wonder
that it has stirred the hearts of the monarchs of Europe, and that every
effort will be again made to recapture the holy sepulchre, and to avenge
our brethren who have been murdered by the infidels."
"But, Father Francis, from your story it would seem that Europe has
already sacrificed an enormous number of lives to take the holy
sepulchre, and that after all the fighting, when she has taken it, it is
only to lose it again."
"That is so, my son; but we will trust that in future things will be
better managed. The Templars and Hospitallers now number so vast a number
of the best lances in Europe, and are grown to be such great powers, that
we may believe that when we have again wrested the holy sepulchre from
the hands of the infidels they will be able to maintain it against all
assaults. Doubtless the great misfortunes which have fallen upon the
Christian armies have been a punishment from heaven, because they have
not gone to work in the right spirit. It is not enough to take up lance
and shield, and to place a red cross upon the shoulder. Those who desire
to fight the battle of the Lord must cleanse their hearts, and go forth
in the spirit of pilgrims rather than knights. I mean, not that they
should trust wholly to spiritual weapons--for in truth the infidel is a
foe not to be despised--but I mean, that they should lay aside all
thoughts of worldly glory, and rivalry one against another."
"And think you, Father, that such is the spirit with which King Richard
and the other kings and nobles now preparing to go to the Holy Land are
Father Francis hesitated.
"It is not for me, my son, to judge motives, or to speak well or ill the
instruments who have been chosen for this great work. It is of all works
the most praiseworthy, most holy. It is horrible to think that the holy
shrines of Jerusalem should be in the hands of men who believe not in our
Redeemer; and I hold it to be the duty of every man who can bear arms, no
matter what his rank or his station, to don his armour and to go forth to
battle in the cause. Whether success will crown the effort, or whether
God wills it otherwise, it is not for man to discuss; it is enough that
the work is there, and it is our duty to do it."
"And think you, Father, that it will do good to England?"
"That do I, my son, whether we gain the Holy Land or no. Methinks that it
will do good service to the nation that Saxon and Norman should fight
together under the holy cross. Hitherto the races have stood far too
much apart. They have seen each other's bad qualities rather than good;
but methinks that when the Saxon and the Norman stand side by side on the
soil of the Holy Land, and shout together for England, it must needs bind
them together, and lead them to feel that they are no longer Normans and
Saxons, but Englishmen. I intend to preach on the village green at
Evesham next Sunday morning on this subject, and as I know you are in
communication with the forest men, I would, Cuthbert, that you would
persuade them to come in to hear me. You were wondering what could be
found for these vagrants. They have many of them long since lost the
habits of honest labour. Many of them are still serfs, although most have
been freed by the good earl and the knights his followers. Some of those
who would fain leave the life in the woods, still cling to it because
they think that it would be mean to desert their comrades, who being
serfs are still bound to lurk there; but methinks that this is a great
opportunity for them. They are valiant men, and the fact that they are
fond of drawing an arrow at a buck does not make them one whit the worse
Christians. I will do my best to move their hearts, and if they will but
agree together to take the cross, they would make a goodly band of
footmen to accompany the earl."
"Is the earl going?" Cuthbert asked eagerly.
"I know not for certain," said Father Francis; "but I think from what I
hear from his chaplain, Father Eustace, that his mind turns in that
"Then, Father, if he goes, I will go too," Cuthbert exclaimed. "He
promised to take me as his page the first time he went to war."
Father Francis shook his head.
"I fear me, Cuthbert, this is far from the spirit in which we a while ago
agreed that men should go to the holy war."
Cuthbert hung his head a little.
"Ay, Father Francis, men; but I am a boy," he said, "and after all, boys
are fond of adventure for adventure's sake. However, Father," he said,
with a smile, "no doubt your eloquence on the green will turn me mightily
to the project, for you must allow that the story you have told me this
morning is not such as to create any very strong yearning in one's mind
to follow the millions of men who have perished in the Holy Land."
"Go to," said Father Francis, smiling, "thou art a pert varlet. I will do
my best on Sunday to turn you to a better frame of mind."
Next Sunday a large number of people from some miles round were gathered
on the green at Evesham, to hear Father Francis preach on the holy
sepulchre. The forest men in their green jerkins mingled with the crowd,
and a look of attention and seriousness was on the faces of all, for the
news of the loss of the holy sepulchre had really exercised a great
effect upon the minds of the people in England as elsewhere.
Those were the days of pilgrimage to holy places, when the belief in the
sanctity of places and things was overwhelming, and when men believed
that a journey to the holy shrines was sufficient to procure for them a
pardon for all their misdeeds. The very word "infidel" in those days was
full of horror, and the thought that the holy places of the Christians
were in the hands of Moslems, affected all Christians throughout Europe
with a feeling of shame as well as of grief.
Among the crowd were many of the Norman retainers from the castle and
from many of the holds around, and several knights with the ladies of
their family stood a little apart from the edge of the gathering; for it
was known that Father Francis would not be alone, but that he would be
accompanied by a holy friar who had returned from the East, and who could
tell of the cruelties which the Christians had suffered at the hands of
Father Francis, at ordinary times a tranquil preacher, was moved beyond
himself by the theme on which he was holding forth. He did not attempt
to hide from those who stood around that the task to be undertaken was
one of grievous peril and trial; that disease and heat, hunger and
thirst, must be dared, as well as the sword of the infidel. But he
spoke of the grand nature of the work, of the humiliation to Christians
of the desecration of the shrines, and of the glory which awaited those
who joined the crusade, whether they lived or whether they died in the
His words had a strong effect upon the simple people who listened to him,
but the feelings so aroused were as nought to the enthusiasm which
greeted the address of the friar.
Meagre and pale, with a worn, anxious face as one who had suffered much,
the friar, holding aloft two pieces of wood from the Mount of Olives tied
together in the form of a cross, harangued the crowd. His words poured
forth in a fiery stream, kindling the hearts, and stirring at once the
devotion and the anger of his listeners.
He told of the holy places, he spoke of the scenes of Holy Writ, which
had there been enacted; and then he depicted the men who had died for
them. He told of the knights and men-at-arms, each of whom proved himself
again and again a match for a score of infidels. He spoke of the holy
women, who, fearlessly and bravely, as the knights themselves, had borne
their share in the horrors of the siege and in the terrible times which
had preceded it.
He told them that this misfortune had befallen Christianity because of
the lukewarmness which had come upon them.
"What profited it," he asked, "if the few knights who remained to defend
the holy sepulchre were heroes? A few heroes cannot withstand an army. If
Christendom after making a mighty effort to capture the holy sepulchre
had not fallen away, the conquest which had been made with so vast an
expenditure of blood would not have been lost. This is a work in which no
mere passing fervour will avail; bravery at first, endurance afterwards,
are needed. Many men must determine not only to assist to wrest the holy
sepulchre from the hands of the infidels, but to give their lives, so
long as they might last, to retaining it. It is scarce to be expected
that men with wives and families will take a view like this, indeed it is
not to be desired. But there are single men, men of no ties, who can
devote their whole lives, as did the Knights of the Orders of the Cross,
to this great object. When their life has come to an end, doubtless
others will take up the banner that their hands can no longer hold. But
for life it is, indeed, that many of humble as well as of princely class
must bind themselves to take and defend to death the holy sepulchre."
So, gradually raising the tone of his speech, the friar proceeded;
until at length by his intense earnestness, his wild gesticulations,
his impassioned words, he drew the whole of his listeners along with
him; and when he ceased, a mighty shout of "To the Holy Land!" burst
from his hearers.
Falling upon their knees, the crowd begged of him to give them the sign
of the cross, and to bestow his blessing upon their swords, and upon
Father Francis had prepared, in contemplation of such a movement, a large
number of small white crosses of cloth. These he and the friar now
fastened to the shoulders of the men as they crowded up to receive it,
holding their hands aloft, kissing the cross that the Friar extended to
them, and swearing to give their lives, if need be, to rescue the holy
shrines from the infidel.
When all had received the holy symbol, Father Francis again ascended the
bank from which they had addressed the crowd:
"Now go to your homes, my sons," he said. "Think of the oath that you
have taken, and of the course that lies open to you when the time comes.
When King Richard is prepared to start, then will you be called upon to
fulfil your vows. It may be that all who have sworn may not be called
upon to go. It needs that the land here should be tilled, it needs that
there should be protectors for the women and children, it needs that this
England of ours should flourish, and we cannot give all her sons, however
willing they might be to take the cross. But the willingness which you
will, I am sure, show to go if needs be, and to redeem your vows, will be
sufficient. Some must go and some must stay; these are matters to be
decided hereafter; for the time let us separate; you will hear when the
hour for action arrives."
A fortnight later the Earl of Evesham, who had been on a long journey to
London, returned with full authority to raise and organize a force as his
contingent to the holy wars.
All was now bustle and activity in the castle.
Father Francis informed him of the willingness of such of the forest men
as he deemed fit to enlist under his banner; and the earl was much
gratified at finding that the ranks of heavily-armed retainers whom he
would take with him, were to be swollen by the addition of so useful a
contingent as that of 100 skilful archers.
Cuthbert was not long in asking for an interview with the earl.
He had indeed great difficulty in persuading Dame Editha that he was old
enough to share in the fatigues of so great an expedition, but he had
Father Francis on his side; and between the influence of her confessor,
and the importunities of her son, the opposition of the good lady fell to
Cuthbert was already, for his age, well trained to arms. Many of the old
soldiers at the castle who had known and loved his father, had been ever
ready to give lessons in the use of arms to Cuthbert, who was
enthusiastic in his desire to prove as good a knight as his father had
been. His friends, the outlaws, had taught him the use of the bow and of
the quarter-staff; and Cuthbert, strong and well-built for his age, and
having little to do save to wield the sword and the bow, had attained a
very considerable amount of skill with each.
He had too, which was unusual, a certain amount of book learning,
although this, true to say, had not been acquired so cheerfully or
willingly as the skill at arms. Father Francis had, however, taught him
to read and to write--accomplishments which were at that time rare,
except in the cloister. In those days if a knight had a firm seat in his
saddle, a strong arm, a keen eye, and high courage, it was thought to be
of little matter whether he could or could not do more than make his mark
on the parchment. The whole life of the young was given to acquiring
skill in arms; and unless intended for the convent, any idea of education
would in the great majority of cases have been considered as
To do Cuthbert justice, he had protested with all his might against
the proposition of Father Francis to his mother to teach him some
clerkly knowledge. He had yielded most unwillingly at last to her
entreaties, backed as they were by the sound arguments and good sense
of Father Francis.
The Earl of Evesham received Cuthbert's application very graciously.
"Certainly, Cuthbert," he said, "you shall accompany me; first, on
account of my promise to you; secondly, because from the readiness you
displayed both in the matter of my daughter and of the attack on Wortham,
you will be a notable aid and addition to my party; thirdly, from my
friendship for your father and Dame Editha."
This point being settled, Cuthbert at once assumed his new duties. There
was plenty for him to do--to see that the orders of the earl were
properly carried out; to bear messages to the knights who followed the
earl's fortunes, at their various holds; to stand by and watch the
armourers at work, and the preparation of the stores of arms and missiles
which would be necessary for the expedition.
Sometimes he would go round to summon the tenants of the various farms
and lands, who held from the earl, to come to the castle; and here Sir
Walter would, as far as might be without oppression, beg of them to
contribute largely to the expedition.
In these appeals he was in no slight way assisted by Father Francis, who
pointed out loudly to the people that those who stayed behind were bound
to make as much sacrifice of their worldly goods, as those who went to
the war might make of their lives. Life and land are alike at the service
of God. Could the land be sold, it would be a good deed to sell it; but
as this could not be, they should at least sell all that they could, and
pledge their property if they could find lenders, in order to contribute
to the needs of their lord, and the fitting out of this great enterprise.
The preparations were at last complete, and a gallant band gathered at
the castle ready for starting. It consisted of some 200 men-at-arms led
by six knights, and of 100 bowmen dressed in Lincoln green, with quilted
jerkins to keep out the arrows of the enemy. All the country from around
gathered to see the start. Dame Editha was there, and by her side stood
the earl's little daughter. The earl himself was in armour, and beside
him rode Cuthbert in the gay attire of a page.
Just at that moment, however, his face did not agree with his costume,
for although he strove his best to look bright and smiling, it was a
hard task to prevent the tears from filling his eyes at his departure
from his mother. The good lady cried unrestrainedly, and Margaret joined
in her tears. The people who had gathered round cheered lustily; the
trumpets blew a gay fanfaronade; and the squire threw to the wind the
It was no mere pleasure trip on which they were starting, for all knew
that, of the preceding crusades, not one in ten of those who had gone so
gladly forth had ever returned.
It must not be supposed that the whole of those present were animated by
any strong religious feeling. No doubt there existed a desire, which was
carefully fanned by the preaching of the priests and monks, to rescue the
holy sepulchre from the hands of the Saracens; but a far stronger
feeling was to be found in the warlike nature of the people in those
days. Knights, men-at-arms, and indeed men of all ranks, were full of a
combative spirit. Life in the castle and hut was alike dull and
monotonous, and the excitement of war and adventure was greatly looked
for, both as a means of obtaining glory and booty, and for the change
they afforded to the dreary monotony of life.
There is little to tell of the journey of the Earl of Evesham's band
through England to Southampton, at which place they took ship and crossed
to France--or rather to Normandy, for in those days Normandy was
regarded, as indeed it formed, a part of England.
Cuthbert, as was natural to his age, was full of delight at all the
varying scenes through which they passed. The towns were to him an
especial source of wonder, for he had never visited any other than that
of Worcester, to which he had once or twice been taken on occasions of
high festival. Havre was in those days an important place, and being the
landing-place of a great portion of the English bands, it was full of
bustle and excitement. Every day ships brought in nobles and their
The King of England was already in Normandy hastening the preparations,
and each band, as it landed, marched down to the meeting-place on the
plains of Vezelay. Already they began to experience a taste of the
hardships which they were to endure.
In those days there was no regular supply train for an army, but each
division or band supported itself by purchase or pillage, as the case
might be, from the surrounding country.
As the English troops were marching through a friendly country, pillage
was of course strictly forbidden; but while many of the leaders paid for
all they had, it must be owned that among the smaller leaders were many
who took anything that they required with or without payment.
The country was eaten up.
The population in those days was sparse, and the movement of so large a
number of men along a certain route completely exhausted all the
resources of the inhabitants; and although willing to pay for all that
his men required, the Earl of Evesham had frequently to lie down on the
turf supperless himself.
"If this is the case now," he said to Cuthbert, "what will it be after we
have joined the French army? Methinks whatever we may do if we reach the
Holy Land, that we have a fair chance of being starved before we sail."
After a long succession of marches they arrived in sight of the great
camp at Vezelay. It was indeed rather a canvas town than a camp. Here
were gathered nearly 100,000 men, a vast host at any time, but in those
days far greater in proportion to the strength of the countries than at
present. The tents of the leaders, nobles, and other knights and
gentlemen, rose in regular lines, forming streets and squares.
The great mass of troops, however, were contented to sleep in the open
air; indeed the difficulties of carriage were so great that it was only
the leaders who could carry with them their canvas abodes. Before each
tent stood the lance and colours of its owner, and side by side in the
centre of the camp stood the royal pavilions of Phillip of France and
Richard of England, round which could be seen the gonfalons of all the
nobles of Western Europe.
Nothing could be gayer than the aspect of this camp as the party rode
into it. They were rather late, and the great body of the host were
Cuthbert gazed with delight at the varied colours, the gay dresses, the
martial knights, and the air of discipline and order which reigned
This was indeed war in its most picturesque form, a form which, as far as
beauty is concerned, has been altogether altered, and indeed destroyed,
by modern arms.
In those days individual prowess and bravery went for everything. A
handful of armoured knights were a match for thousands of footmen, and
battles were decided as much by the prowess and bravery of the leader and
his immediate following as by that of the great mass of the army.
The earl had the day before sent on a messenger to state that he was
coming, and as the party entered the camp they were met by a squire of
the camp-marshal, who conducted them to the position allotted to them.
The earl's tent was soon erected, with four or five grouped around it for
his knights, one being set aside for his squires and pages.
When this was done, Cuthbert strolled away to look at the varied sights
of the camp. A military officer in these days would be scandalized at the
scenes which were going on, but the strict, hard military discipline of
modern times was then absolutely unknown.
A camp was a moving town, and to it flocked the country people with their
goods; smiths and armourers erected their forges; minstrels and
troubadours flocked in to sing of former battles, and to raise the
spirits of the soldiers by merry lays of love and war; simple countrymen
and women came in to bring their presents of fowls or cakes to their
friends in camp; knights rode to and fro on their gaily caparisoned
horses through the crowd; the newly raised levies, in many cases composed
of woodmen and peasants who had not in the course of their lives wandered
a league from their birthplaces, gaped in unaffected wonder at the sights
around them; while last, but by no means least, the maidens and good
wives of the neighbourhood, fond then as now of brave men and gay
dresses, thronged the streets of the camp, and joined in, and were the
cause of, merry laughter and jest.
Here and there, a little apart from the main stream of traffic, the
minstrels would take up their position, and playing a gay air, the
soldier lads and lasses would fall to and foot it merrily to the strains.
Sometimes there would be a break in the gaiety, and loud shouts, and
perhaps fierce oaths, would rise. Then the maidens would fly like
startled fawns, and men hasten to the spot; though the quarrel might be
purely a private one, yet should it happen between the retainers of two
nobles, the friends of each would be sure to strike in, and serious frays
would arise before the marshal of the camp with his posse could arrive to
interfere. Sometimes indeed these quarrels became so serious and
desperate that alliances were broken up and great intentions frustrated
by the quarrels of the soldiery.
Here and there, on elevated platforms, or even on the top of a pile of
tubs, were friars occupied in haranguing the soldiers, and in inspiring
them with enthusiasm for the cause upon which they were embarked. The
conduct of their listeners showed easily enough the motives which had
brought them to war. Some stood with clasped hands and eager eyes
listening to the exhortations of the priests, and ready, as might be
seen from their earnest gaze, to suffer martyrdom in the cause. More,
however, stood indifferently round, or after listening to a few words
walked on with a laugh or a scoff; indeed preaching had already done all
that lay in its power. All those who could be moved by exhortations of
this kind were there, and upon the rest the discourses and sermons were
Several times in the course of his stroll round the camp Cuthbert
observed the beginnings of quarrels, which were in each case only checked
by the intervention of some knight or other person in authority coming
past, and he observed that these in every instance occurred between men
of the English and those of the French army.
Between the Saxon contingent of King Richard's army and the French
soldiers there could indeed be no quarrel, for the Saxons understood no
word of their language; but with the Normans the case was different, for
the Norman-French, which was spoken by all the nobles and their retainers
in Britain, was as nearly as possible the same as that in use in France.
It seemed, however, to Cuthbert, watching narrowly what was going on,
that there existed by no means a good feeling between the men of the
different armies; and he thought that this divergence so early in the
campaign boded but little good for the final success of the expedition.
When he returned to the tent the earl questioned him as to what he had
seen, and Cuthbert frankly acknowledged that it appeared to him that the
feeling between the men of the two armies was not good.
"I have been," the earl said, "to the royal camp, and from what I hear,
Cuthbert, methinks that there is reason for what you say. King Richard is
the most loyal and gallant of kings, but he is haughty, and hasty in
speech. The Normans, too, have been somewhat accustomed to conquer our
neighbours, and it may well be that the chivalry of France love us not.
However, it must be hoped that this feeling will die away, and that we
shall emulate each other only in our deeds on the battlefield."
The third day after the arrival of the Earl of Evesham there was a
great banquet given by the King of France to King Richard and his
Among those present was the Earl of Evesham, and Cuthbert as his page
followed him to the great tent where the banquet was prepared.
Here, at the top of the tent, on a raised dais, sat the King of France,
surrounded by his courtiers.
The Earl of Evesham, having been conducted by the herald to the dais,
paid his compliments to the king, and was saluted by him with many
The sound of a trumpet was heard, and Richard of England, accompanied by
his principal nobles, entered.
It was the first time that Cuthbert had seen the king.
Richard was a man of splendid stature and of enormous strength. His
appearance was in some respects rather Saxon than Norman, for his hair
was light and his complexion clear and bright. He wore the moustache and
pointed beard at that time in fashion; and although his expression was
generally that of frankness and good humour, there might be observed in
his quick motions and piercing glances signs of the hasty temper and
unbridled passion which went far to wreck the success of the enterprise
upon which he was embarked.
Richard possessed most of the qualities which make a man a great king and
render him the idol of his subjects, especially in a time of
semi-civilization, when personal prowess is placed at the summit of all
human virtues. In all his dominions there was not one man who in personal
conflict was a match for his king.
Except during his fits of passion, King Richard was generous, forgiving,
and royal in his moods. He was incapable of bearing malice. Although
haughty of his dignity, he was entirely free from any personal pride, and
while he would maintain to the death every right and privilege against
another monarch, he could laugh and joke with the humblest of his
subjects on terms of hearty good fellowship. He was impatient of
contradiction, eager to carry out whatever he had determined upon; and
nothing enraged him so much as hesitation or procrastination. The delays
which were experienced in the course of the Crusade angered him more than
all the opposition offered by the Saracens, or than the hardships through
which the Christian host had to pass.
At a flourish of trumpets all took their seats at dinner, their places
being marked for them by a herald, whose duty it was to regulate nicely
the various ranks and dignities.
The Earl of Evesham was placed next to a noble of Brabant. Cuthbert
took his place behind his lord and served him with wines and meats,
the Brabant being attended by a tall youth, who was indeed on the
verge of manhood.
As the dinner went on the buzz of conversation became fast and furious.
In those days men drank deep, and quarrels often arose over the cups.
From the time that the dinner began, Cuthbert noticed that the manner of
Sir de Jacquelin Barras, Count of Brabant, was rude and offensive.
It might be that he was accustomed to live alone with his retainers, and
that his manners were rude and coarse to all. It might be that he had a
special hostility to the English. At any rate, his remarks were
calculated to fire the anger of the earl.
He began the conversation by wondering how a Norman baron could live in a
country like England, inhabited by a race but little above pigs.
The earl at once fired up at this, for the Normans were now beginning to
feel themselves English, and to resent attacks upon a people for whom
their grandfathers had entertained contempt.
He angrily repelled the attack upon them by the Brabant knight, and
asserted at once that the Saxons were every bit as civilized, and in some
respects superior, to the Normans or French.
The ill-feeling thus begun at starting clearly waxed stronger as dinner
went on. The Brabant knight drank deeply, and although his talk was not
clearly directed against the English, yet he continued to throw out
innuendoes and side attacks, and to talk with a vague boastfulness, which
greatly irritated Sir Walter.
Presently, as Cuthbert was about to serve his master with a cup of wine,
the tall page pushed suddenly against him, spilling a portion of the wine
over his dress.
"What a clumsy child!" he said scoffingly.
"You are a rough and ill-mannered loon," Cuthbert said angrily. "Were
you in any other presence I would chastise you as you deserve."
The tall page burst into a mocking laugh.
"Chastise me!" he said. "Why, I could put you in my pocket for a little
hop-of-my-thumb as you are."
"I think," said Sir Jacquelin--for the boys' voices both rose
loud--to the earl, "you had better send that brat home and order him
to be whipped."
"Sir count," said the earl, "your manners are insolent, and were we not
engaged upon a Crusade, it would please me much to give you a lesson on
Higher and higher the dispute rose, until some angry word caught the ear
of the king.
Amid the general buzz of voices King Phillip rose, and speaking a word to
King Richard, moved from the table, thus giving the sign for the breaking
up of the feast.
Immediately afterwards a page touched the earl and Sir Jacquelin upon the
shoulder, and told them that the kings desired to speak with them in the
tent of the King of France.
The two nobles strode through the crowd, regarding each other with eyes
much like those of two dogs eager to fly at each other's throat.
"My lords, my lords," said King Phillip when they entered, "this is
against all law and reason. For shame, to be brawling at my table. I
would not say aught openly, but methinks it is early indeed for the
knights and nobles engaged in a common work to fall to words."
"Your Majesty," said the Earl of Evesham, "I regret deeply what has
happened. But it seemed, from the time we sat down to the meal, that this
lord sought to pass a quarrel upon me, and I now beseech your Majesty
that you will permit us to settle our differences in the lists."
King Richard gave a sound of assent, but the King of France shook his
"Do you forget," he said, "the mission upon which you are assembled
here? Has not every knight and noble in these armies taken a solemn oath
to put aside private quarrels and feuds until the holy sepulchre is
taken? Shall we at this very going off show that the oath is a mere form
of words? Shall we show before the face of Christendom that the knights
of the cross are unable to avoid flying at each other's throats, even
while on their way to wrest the holy sepulchre from the infidel? No,
sirs, you must lay aside your feuds, and must promise me and my good
brother here that you will keep the peace between you until this war is
over. Whose fault it was that the quarrel began I know not. It may be
that my Lord of Brabant was discourteous. It may be that the earl here
was too hot. But whichever it be, it matters not."
"The quarrel, sire," said Sir Jacquelin, "arose from a dispute between
our pages, who were nigh coming to blows in your Majesty's presence. I
desired the earl to chide the insolence of his varlet, and instead of so
doing he met my remarks with scorn."
"Pooh, pooh," said King Richard, "there are plenty of grounds for quarrel
without two nobles interfering in the squabbles of boys. Let them fight;
it will harm no one. By-the-bye, your Majesty," he said, turning to the
King of France with a laugh, "if the masters may not fight, there is no
reason in the world why the varlets should not. We are sorely dull for
want of amusement. Let us have a list to-morrow, and let the pages fight
it out for the honour of their masters and their nations."
"It were scarce worth while to have the lists set for two boys to fight,"
said the King of France.
"Oh, we need not have regular lists," said King Richard. "Leave that
matter in my hands. I warrant you that if the cockerels are well plucked,
they will make us sport. What say you, gentlemen?"
The Brabant noble at once assented, answering that he was sure that his
page would be glad to enter the lists; and the earl gave a similar
assent, for he had not noticed how great was the discrepancy between the
size of the future combatants.
"That is agreed, then," said King Richard joyously. "I will have a piece
of ground marked out on the edge of the camp to-morrow morning. It shall
be kept by my men-at-arms, and there shall be a raised place for King
Phillip and myself, who will be the judges of the conflict. Will they
fight on foot or on horse?"
"On foot, on foot," said the King of France. "It would be a pity that
knightly exercises should be brought to scorn by any failure on their
part on horseback. On foot at least it will be a fair struggle."
"What arms shall they use?" the Brabant knight asked.
"Oh, swords and battle-axes, of course," said King Richard with a laugh.
"Before you go," King Phillip said, "you must shake hands, and swear
to let the quarrel between you drop, at least until after our return.
If you still wish to shed each other's blood, I shall offer no
The earl and Count Jacquelin touched each other's hands in obedience to
the order, went out of the tent together, and strode off without a word
in different directions.
"My dear lad," the Earl of Evesham said on entering his tent where his
page was waiting him, "this is a serious business. The kings have
ordered this little count and myself to put aside our differences till
after the Crusade, in accordance with our oath. But as you have no wise
pledged yourself in the same fashion, and as their Majesties fell
somewhat dull while waiting here, it is determined that the quarrel
between me, and between you and the count's page, shall be settled by a
fight between you in the presence of the kings."
"Well, sir," Cuthbert said, "I am glad that it should be, seeing the
varlet insulted me without cause, and purposely upset the cup over me."
"What is he like?" the earl asked. "Dost think that you are a
"I doubt not that we are fair match enough," Cuthbert said. "As you know,
sir, I have been well trained to arms of all kinds, both by my father and
by the men-at-arms at the castle, and could hold my own against any of