Part 3 out of 5
dominions. Here were Nubians from the Nile, tall and powerful men, jet
black in skin, with lines of red and white paint on their faces, giving a
ghastly and wild appearance to them. On their shoulders were skins of
lions and other wild animals. They carried short bows, and heavy clubs
studded with iron. By them were the Bedouin cavalry, light, sinewy men,
brown as berries, with white turbans and garments. Near these were the
cavalry from Syria and the plains of Assyria--wild horsemen with
semi-barbarous armour and scarlet trappings. Here were the solid lines of
the Egyptian infantry, steady troops, upon whom Saladin much relied. Here
were other tribes, gathered from afar, each distinguished by its own
particular marks. In silence did this vast array view awhile the solid
mass of the Christians. Suddenly a strange din of discordant music from
thousands of musical instruments--conches and horns, cymbals and drums,
arose in wild confusion. Shouts of defiance in a dozen tongues and from
200,000 throats rose wild and shrill upon the air, while clear above all
the din were heard the strange vibratory cries of the warriors from the
"One would think," said Cnut grimly to Cuthbert, "that the infidels
imagine we are a flock of antelopes to be frightened by an outcry. They
would do far better to save their wind for future use. They will want it,
methinks, when we get fairly among them. Who would have thought that a
number of men, heathen and infidel though they be, could have made so
foul an outcry?"
"Every one fights according to his own method, Cnut; and I am not sure
that there is not something to be said for this outcry, for it is really
so wild and fearful that it makes my blood almost curdle in my veins; and
were it not that I know the proved valour of our knights and footmen, I
should feel shaken by this terrible introduction to the fight."
"I heed it no more," said Cnut, "than the outcry of wild fowl, when one
comes upon them suddenly on a lake in winter. It means no more than that;
and I reckon that they are trying to encourage themselves fully as much
as to frighten us. However, we shall soon see. If they can fight as well
as they can scream, they certainly will get no answering shouts from us.
The English bulldog fights silently, and bite as hard as he will, you
will hear little beyond a low growl. Now, my men," he said, turning to
his archers, "methinks the heathen are about to begin in earnest. Keep
steady; do not fire until you are sure that they are within range. Draw
your bows well to your ears, and straightly and steadily let fly. Never
heed the outcry or the rush, keep steady to the last moment. There is
shelter behind you, and fierce as the attack may be, you can find a sure
refuge behind the line of the knights."
Cnut with his archers formed part of the line outside the array of
English knights, and the arrows of the English bowmen fell fast as bands
of the Bedouin horse circled round them in the endeavour to draw the
Christians on to the attack. For some time Saladin persisted in these
tactics. With his immense superiority of force he reckoned that if the
Christian chivalry would but charge him, the victory of Tiberias would be
repeated. Hemmed in by numbers, borne down by the weight of armour and
the effects of the blazing sun, the knights would succumb as much to
fatigue as to the force of their foes. King Richard's orders, however,
were well obeyed, and at last the Moslem chief, urged by the entreaties
of his leading emirs, who felt ashamed that so large a force should
hesitate to attack one so vastly inferior in numbers, determined upon
taking the initiative, and forming his troops in a semicircle round the
Christian army, launched his horsemen to the attack. The instant they
came within range, a cloud of arrows from the English archers fell among
them, but the speed at which the desert horses covered the ground
rendered it impossible for the archers to discharge more than one or two
shafts before the enemy were upon them. Quickly as they now slipped back
and sought refuge under the lances of the knights, many of them were
unable to get back in time, and were cut down by the Saracens. The rest
crept between the horses or under their bellies into the rear, and there
prepared to sally out again as soon as the enemy retired, The Christian
knights sat like a wall of steel upon their horses, their lances were
levelled, and, brave as the Bedouin horsemen were, they felt to break
this massive line was impossible. The front line, however, charged well
up to the points of the lances, against which they hewed with their sharp
scimitars, frequently severing the steel top from the ashpole, and then
breaking through and engaging in hand-to-hand conflict with the knights.
Behind the latter sat their squires, with extra spears and arms ready to
hand to their masters; and in close combat, the heavy maces with their
spike ends were weapons before which the light clad horsemen went down
like reeds before a storm.
Hour after hour the Arab horsemen persisted in their attack, suffering
heavily, but determined to conquer if possible. Then Saladin suddenly
ordered a retreat, and at seeing their enemy fly, the impetuosity of the
crusaders at last broke out. With a shout they dashed after the foe. King
Richard, knowing that his followers had already shown a patience far
beyond what he could have expected, now headed the onslaught, performing
prodigies of valour with his single arm, and riding from point to point
to see that all was well.
The early resistance of the infidel host was comparatively slight.
The heavy mass of the Christian cavalry, with their levelled lances,
swept through the ranks of the light horsemen, and trampled them down
like grass beneath their feet; but every moment the resistance became
Saladin, knowing the Christians would sooner or later assume the
offensive, had gathered his troops line in line behind the front ranks,
and as the force of the crusaders' charge abated, so did the number of
foes in their front multiply. Not only this, but upon either side chosen
bands swept down, and ere long the Christians were brought to a stand,
and all were fighting hand to hand with their enemies. The lances were
thrown away now, and with axe and mace each fought for himself.
The Earl of Evesham was one of a group of knights whom King Richard had
that day ordered to keep close to his person, and around this group the
fight raged most furiously.
Saladin, aware of the extreme personal valour and warlike qualities of
King Richard, set the greatest value upon his death or capture, and had
ordered a large number of his best troops to devote their whole attention
to attacking the King of England. The royal standard carried behind the
king was a guide to their onslaught, and great as was the strength and
valour of King Richard, he with difficulty was able to keep at bay the
hosts that swept around him.
Now that the lance had been abandoned for battle-axe, Cuthbert was able
to take an active part in the struggle, his duties consisting mainly in
guarding the rear of his master, and preventing his being overthrown by
any sudden attack on the flank or from behind.
King Richard was bent not only on defending himself from the attacks of
his foes, but on directing the general course of the battle; and from
time to time he burst, with his own trusty knights, through the ring of
foes, and rode from point to point of the field, calling the knights
together, exhorting them to steadiness, and restoring the fight where its
fortunes seemed doubtful. At one time the impetuosity of the king led him
into extreme danger. He had burst through the enemy surrounding him, and
these, by order of their captain, allowed him to pass through their
ranks, and then threw themselves together in his rear, to cut him off
from the knights who rode behind. The maneuver was successful. The rush
of horsemen fairly carried away the Christian knights, and one or two
alone were able to make their way through.
Amid the wild confusion that raged, where each man was fighting for his
own life, and but little view of what was passing could be obtained
through the barred visor, the fact that the king was separated from them
was known to but few. Sir Walter himself was engaged fiercely in a
hand-to-hand fight with four Bedouins who surrounded him, when Cuthbert
"The king, Sir Walter! the king! He is cut off and surrounded! For
heaven's sake ride to him. See! the royal standard is down."
With a shout the earl turned, brained one of his foes with a sweep of his
heavy axe, and, followed by Cuthbert, dashed to the assistance of the
king. The weight of his horse and armour cleft through the crowd, and in
a brief space he penetrated to the side of King Richard, who was borne
upon by a host of foes. Just as they reached them a Bedouin who had been
struck from his horse crawled beneath the noble charger of King Richard,
and drove his scimitar deep into its bowels. The animal reared high in
its sudden pain, and then fell on the ground, carrying the king, who was
unable to disengage himself quickly enough.
In an instant the Earl of Evesham had leapt from his horse and with his
broad triangular shield extended sought to cover him from the press of
enemies. Cuthbert imitated his lord, and strove to defend the latter from
attacks from the rear. For a moment or two the sweep of the earl's heavy
axe and Cuthbert's circling sword kept back the foe, but this could not
last. King Richard in vain strove to extricate his leg from beneath his
fallen steed. Cuthbert saw at a glance that the horse still lived, and
with a sudden slash of his sword he struck it on the hind quarter. Goaded
by the pain the noble animal made a last effort to rise, but only to fall
back dead. The momentary action was, however, sufficient for King
Richard, who drew his leg from under it, and with his heavy battle-axe in
hand, rose with a shout, and stood by the side of the earl.
In vain did the Bedouins strive to cut down and overpower the two
champions; in vain did they urge their horses to ride over them. With
each sweep of his axe the king either dismounted a foe or clove in the
head of his steed, and a wall of slain around them testified to the
tremendous power of their arms. Still, even such warriors as these could
not long sustain the conflict. The earl had already received several
desperate wounds, and the king himself was bleeding from some severe
gashes with the keen-edged scimitars. Cuthbert was already down, when a
shout of "St. George!" was heard, and a body of English knights clove
through the throng of Saracens and reached the side of King Richard.
Close behind these in a mass pressed the British footmen with bill and
pike, the enemy giving way foot by foot before their steady discipline.
The king was soon on horseback again, and rallying his troops on, led
them for one more great and final charge upon the enemy.
The effect was irresistible. Appalled by the slaughter which they had
suffered, and by the tremendous strength and energy of the Christian
knights, the Saracens broke and fled; and the last reserves of Saladin
gave way as the king, shouting his war-cry of "God help the holy
sepulchre!" fell upon them. Once, indeed, the battle still seemed
doubtful, for a fresh band of the enemy at that moment arrived and joined
in the fray. The crusaders were now, however, inspired with such courage
and confidence that they readily obeyed the king's war-cry, gathered in a
firm body, and hurled themselves upon this new foe. Then the Saracens
finally turned and fled, and the Christian victory was complete.
It was one of the features of this war that however thorough the
victories of the Christians, the Saracens very speedily recovered from
their effects. A Christian defeat was crushing and entire; the knights
died as they stood, and defeat meant annihilation. Upon the other hand,
the Saracens and Bedouins when they felt that their efforts to win the
battle were unsuccessful, felt no shame or humiliation in scattering like
sheep. On their fleet horses and in their light attire they could easily
distance the Christians, who never, indeed, dreamt of pursuing them. The
day after the fight, the enemy would collect again under their chiefs,
and be as ready as before to renew their harassing warfare.
On his return from the field, the king assembled many of his principal
knights and leaders, and summoned the Earl of Evesham, with the message
that he was to bring his esquire with him. When they reached the tent,
the king said,--
"My lords, as some of you may be aware, I have this day had a narrow
escape from death. Separated from you in the battle, and attended only by
my standard-bearer, I was surrounded by the Saracens. I should doubtless
have cleft my way through the infidel dogs, but a foul peasant stabbed my
charger from below, and the poor brute fell with me. My standard-bearer
was killed, and in another moment my nephew Arthur would have been your
king, had it not been that my good lord here, attended by this brave lad,
appeared. I have seen a good deal of fighting, but never did I see a
braver stand than they made above my body. The Earl of Evesham, as you
all know, is one of my bravest knights, and to him I can simply say,
'Thanks; King Richard does not forget a benefit like this.' But such aid
as I might well look for from so stout a knight as the Earl of Evesham, I
could hardly have expected on the part of a mere boy like this. It is not
the first time that I have been under a debt of gratitude to him; for it
was his watchfulness and bravery which saved Queen Berengaria from being
carried off by the French in Sicily. I deemed him too young then for the
order of knighthood--although indeed bravery has no age; still for a
private benefit, and that performed against allies, in name at least, I
did not wish so far to fly in the face of usage as to make him a knight.
I promised him then, however, that the first time he distinguished
himself against the infidel he should win his spurs. I think that you
will agree with me, my lords, that he has done so. Not only did he stand
over me, and with great bravery defend Sir Walter from attacks from
behind, but his ready wit saved me, when even his sword and that of Sir
Walter would have failed to do so. Penned down under poor Robin, I was
powerless to move until our young esquire, in an interval of slashing at
his assailants, found time to give a sharp blow together with a shout to
Robin. The poor beast tried to rise, and the movement, short as it was,
enabled me to draw my leg from under him, and then with my mace I was
enabled to make a stand until you arrived at my side. I think, my lords,
that you will agree with me that Cuthbert, the son of Sir William de
Lance, is fit for the honour of knighthood."
A general chorus of approval arose from the assembly, and the king,
bidding Cuthbert kneel before him, drew his sword and laid it across his
shoulders, dubbing him Sir Cuthbert de Lance. When he had risen, the
great barons of England pressed round to shake his hand, and Cuthbert,
who was a modest young fellow, felt almost ashamed at the honours which
were bestowed upon him. The usual ceremonies and penances which young
knights had to undergo before admission into the body--and which in those
days were extremely punctilious, and indeed severe, consisting, among
other things, in fasting, in watching the armour at night, in seclusion
and religious services--were omitted when the accolade was bestowed for
bravery in the field.
The king ordered his armourer at once to make for Cuthbert a suit of the
finest armour, and authorized him to carry on his shield a sword raising
a royal crown from the ground, in token of the deed for which the honour
of knighthood had been bestowed upon him.
Upon his return to the earl's camp the news of his new dignity spread at
once among the followers of Sir Walter, and many and hearty were the
cheers that went up from the throats of the Saxon foresters, led by Cnut.
These humble friends were indeed delighted at his success, for they felt
that to him they owed very much; and his kindness of manner and the
gaiety of heart which he had shown during the hardships they had
undergone since their start, had greatly endeared him to them.
Cuthbert was now to take rank among the knights who followed the banner
of the earl. A tent was erected for him, an esquire assigned to him, and
the lad as he entered his new abode felt almost bewildered at the change
which had taken place in one short day--that he, at the age of sixteen,
should have earned the honour of knighthood, and the approval of the King
of England, expressed before all the great barons of the realm, was
indeed an honour such as he could never have hoped for; and the thought
of what his mother would say should the news reach her in her quiet Saxon
home, brought the tears into his eyes. He had not gone through the usual
religious ceremonies, but he knelt in his tent alone, and prayed that he
might be made worthy of the honours bestowed upon him; that he might
fulfil the duties of a Christian knight fearlessly and honourably; that
his sword might never be raised but for the right; that he might devote
himself to the protection of the oppressed, and the honour of God; that
his heart might be kept from evil; and that he might carry through life,
unstained his new escutcheon.
If the English had thought that their victory would have gained them
immunity from the Saracen attacks, they were speedily undeceived. The
host, indeed, which had barred their way had broken up; but its fragments
were around them, and the harassing attacks began again with a violence
and persistency even greater than before. The crusaders, indeed, occupied
only the ground upon which they stood. It was death to venture 100 yards
from the camp, unless in a strong body; and the smallest efforts to bring
in food from the country round were instantly met and repelled. Only in
very strong bodies could the knights venture from camp even to forage for
their horses, and the fatigues and sufferings of all were in a way
relieved by the great victory of Azotus.
IN THE HANDS OF THE SARACENS.
The English had hoped that after one pitched battle they should be able
to advance upon Jerusalem, but they had reckoned without the climate
Although unconquered in the fray, the Christian army was weakened by its
sufferings to such an extent that it was virtually brought to a
standstill. Even King Richard, with all his impetuosity, dared not
venture to cut adrift from the seashore, and to march direct upon
Jerusalem; that city was certainly not to be taken without a long siege,
and this could only be undertaken by an army strong enough, not only to
carry out so great a task, but to meet and defeat the armies which
Saladin would bring up to the rescue, and to keep open the line down to
Joppa, by which alone provisions, and the engines necessary for the
siege, could be brought up. Hence the war resolved itself into a series
of expeditions and detached fights.
The British camp was thoroughly fortified, and thence parties of the
knights sallied out and engaged in conflicts with the Saracens, with
varying success. On several of these expeditions Cuthbert attended the
earl, and behaved with a bravery which showed him well worthy of the
honours which he had received.
Upon one occasion the news reached camp that a party of knights, who had
gone out to guard a number of footmen cutting forage and bringing it
into camp, had been surrounded and had taken refuge in a small town,
whose gates they had battered in when they saw the approach of an
overwhelming host of the enemy. King Richard himself headed a strong
force and advanced to their assistance. Their approach was not seen until
within a short distance of the enemy, upon whom the crusaders fell with
the force of a thunderbolt, and cleft their way through their lines.
After a short pause in the little town, they prepared to again cut their
way through, joined by the party who had there been besieged. The task
was now however, far more difficult; for the footmen would be unable to
keep up with the rapid charge of the knights, and it was necessary not
only to clear the way, but to keep it open for their exit. King Richard
himself and the greater portion of his knights were to lead the charge;
another party were to follow behind the footmen, who were ordered to
advance at the greatest speed of which they were capable, while their
rearguard by charges upon the enemy, kept them at bay. To this latter
party Cuthbert was attached.
The Saracens followed their usual tactics, and this time with great
success. Dividing as the king with his knights charged them, they
suffered these to pass through with but slight resistance, and then
closed in upon their track, while another and still more numerous body
fell upon the footmen and their guard. Again and again did the knights
charge through the ranks of the Moslems, while the billmen stoutly kept
together and resisted the onslaughts of the enemy's cavalry. In spite of
their bravery, however, the storm of arrows shot by the desert horsemen
thinned their ranks with terrible rapidity. Charging up to the very point
of the spears, these wild horsemen fired their arrows into the faces of
their foe, and although numbers of them fell beneath the more formidable
missiles sent by the English archers, their numbers were so overwhelming
that the little band melted away. The small party of knights, too, were
rapidly thinned, although performing prodigious deeds of valour. The
Saracens when dismounted or wounded still fought on foot, their object
being always to stab or hough the horses, and so dismount the riders.
King Richard and his force, though making the most desperate efforts to
return to the assistance of the rearguard, were baffled by the sturdy
resistance of the Saracens, and the position of those in the rear was
fast becoming hopeless.
One by one the gallant little band of knights fell, and a sea of turbans
closed over the fluttering plumes. Cuthbert, after defending himself with
extreme bravery for a long time, was at last separated from the small
remainder of his comrades by a rush of the enemy's horse, and when
fighting desperately he received a heavy blow at the back of the head
from the mace of a huge Nubian soldier, and fell senseless to the ground.
When he recovered his consciousness, the first impression upon his mind
was the stillness which had succeeded to the din of battle; the shouts
and war-cries of the crusaders, the wild yells of the Moslems, were
hushed, and in their place was a quiet chatter in many unknown tongues,
and the sound of laughter and feasting. Raising his head and looking
round, Cuthbert saw that he and some ten of his comrades were lying
together in the midst of a Saracen camp, and that he was a prisoner to
the infidels. The sun streamed down with tremendous force upon them;
there was no shelter; and though all were wounded and parched with
thirst, the Saracens of whom they besought water, pointing to their
mouths and making signs of their extreme thirst, laughed in their faces,
and signified by a gesture that it was scarcely worth the trouble to
drink when they were likely so soon to be put to death.
It was late in the afternoon before any change was manifest. Then
Cuthbert observed a stir in the camp; the men ran to their horses, leapt
on their backs, and with wild cries of "Welcome!" started off at full
speed. Evidently some personage was about to arrive, and the fate of the
prisoners would be solved. A few words were from time to time exchanged
between these, each urging the other to keep up his heart and defy the
infidel. One or two had succumbed to their wounds during the afternoon,
and only six were able to stand erect when summoned to do so by some of
their guard, who made signs to them that a great personage was coming.
Soon the shouts of the horsemen and other sounds announced that the great
chief was near at hand, and the captives gathered from the swelling
shouts of the Arabs that the new arrival was Sultan Suleiman--or Saladin,
for he was called by both names--surrounded by a body-guard of
splendidly-dressed attendants. The emir, who was himself plainly attired,
reined up his horse in front of the captives.
"You are English," he said, in the lingua-franca which was the medium of
communication between the Eastern and Western peoples in those days. "You
are brave warriors, and I hear that before you were taken you slaughtered
numbers of my people. They did wrong to capture you and bring you here to
be killed. Your cruel king gives no mercy to those who fall into his
hands. You must not expect it here, you who without a pretence of right
invade my country, slaughter my people, and defeat my armies. The murder
of the prisoners of Acre has closed my heart to all mercy. There, your
king put 10,000 prisoners to death in cold blood, a month after the
capture of the place, because the money at which he had placed their
ransom had not arrived. We Arabs do not carry huge masses of gold about
with us; and although I could have had it brought from Egypt, I did not
think that so brave a monarch as Richard of England could have committed
so cruel an action in cold blood. When we are fresh from battle, and our
wounds are warm, and our hearts are full of rage and fury, we kill our
prisoners; but to do so weeks after a battle is contrary to the laws
alike of your religion and of ours. However, it is King Richard who has
sealed your doom, not I. You are knights, and I do not insult you with
the offer of turning from your religion and joining me. Should one of you
wish to save his life on these conditions, I will, however, promise him a
place of position and authority among us."
None of the knights moved to accept the offer, but each, as the eye of
the emir ran along the line, answered with an imprecation of contempt and
hatred. Saladin waved his hand, and one by one the captives were led
aside, walking as proudly to their doom as if they had been going to a
feast. Each wrung the hand of the one next to him as he turned, and then
without a word followed his captors. There was a dull sound heard, and
one by one the heads of the knights rolled in the sand.
Cuthbert happened to be last in the line, and as the executioners laid
hands upon him and removed his helmet, the eye of the sultan fell upon
him, and he almost started at perceiving the extreme youth of his
captive. He held his hand aloft to arrest the movements of the
executioners, and signalled for Cuthbert to be brought before him again.
"You are but a boy," he said. "All the knights who have hitherto fallen
into my hands have been men of strength and power; how is it that I see a
mere youth among their ranks, and wearing the golden spurs of
"King Richard himself made me a knight," Cuthbert said proudly, "after
having stood across him when his steed had been foully stabbed at the
battle of Azotus, and the whole Moslem host were around him."
"Ah!" said the emir, "were you one of the two who, as I have heard,
defended the king for some time against all assaults? It were hard
indeed to kill so brave a youth. I doubt me not that at present you are
as firmly determined to die a Christian knight as those who have gone
before you? But time may change you. At any rate for the present your
doom is postponed."
He turned to a gorgeously-dressed noble next to him, and said,--
"Your brother, Ben Abin, is Governor of Jerusalem, and the gardens of
the palace are fair. Take this youth to him as a present, and set him to
work in his gardens. His life I have spared, in all else Ben Abin will
be his master."
Cuthbert heard without emotion the words which changed his fate from
death to slavery. Many, he knew, who were captured in these wars were
carried away as slaves to different parts of Asia, and it did not seem to
him that the change was in any way a boon. However, life is dear, and it
was but natural that a thought should leap into his heart that soon
either the crusaders might force a way into Jerusalem and there rescue
him, or that he himself might in some way escape.
The sultan having thus concluded the subject, turned away, and galloped
off surrounded by his body-guard.
Those who had captured the Christians now stripped off the armour of
Cuthbert; then he was mounted on a bare-backed steed, and with four
Bedouins, with their long lances, riding beside him, started for
Jerusalem. After a day of long and rapid riding, the Arabs stopped
suddenly, on the crest of a hill, with a shout of joy, and throwing
themselves from their horses, bent with their foreheads to the earth at
the sight of their holy city. Cuthbert, as he gazed at the stately walls
of Jerusalem, and the noble buildings within, felt bitterly that it was
not thus that he had hoped to see the holy city. He had dreamt of
arriving before it with his comrades, proud and delighted at their
success so far, and confident in their power soon to wrest the town
before them from the hands of the Moslems. Instead of this he was a
slave--a slave to the infidel, perhaps never more to see a white face,
save that of some other unfortunate like himself.
Even now in its fallen state no city is so impressive at first sight as
Jerusalem; the walls, magnificent in height and strength, and picturesque
in their deep embattlements, rising on the edge of a deep valley. Every
building has its name and history. Here is the church built by the first
crusaders; there the mighty mosque of Suleiman on the site of the Temple;
far away on a projecting ridge the great building known as the Tomb of
Moses; on the right beyond the houses rise the towers on the Roman walls;
the Pool of Bethsaida lies in the hollow; in the centre are the cupolas
of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Among all the fairest cities of the
world, there are none which can compare in stately beauty with Jerusalem.
Doubtless it was a fairer city in those days, for long centuries of
Turkish possession have reduced many of the former stately palaces to
ruins. Then, as now, the banner of the Prophet floated over the high
places; but whereas at present the population is poor and squalid, the
city in those days contained a far large number of inhabitants,
irrespective of the great garrison collected for its defence.
The place from which Cuthbert had his first sight of Jerusalem is that
from which the best view is to be obtained--the crest of the Mount of
Olives. After a minute or two spent in looking at the city, the Arabs
with a shout continued their way down into the valley. Crossing this
they ascended the steep road to the walls, brandishing their lances and
giving yells of triumph; then riding two upon each side of their
prisoner, to protect him from any fanatic who might lay a hand upon him,
they passed under the gate known as the Gate of Suleiman into the city.
The populace thronged the streets; and the news brought by the horsemen
that a considerable portion of the Christian host had been defeated and
slain, passed from mouth to mouth, and was received with yells of
exultation. Execrations were heaped upon Cuthbert, who rode along with an
air as quiet and composed as if he were the centre of an ovation instead
of that of an outburst of hatred.
He would, indeed, speedily have been torn from his guards, had not these
shouted that he was placed in their hands by Saladin himself for conduct
to the governor. As the emir was as sharp and as ruthless with his own
people as with the prisoners who fell into his hands, the name acted as a
talisman, and Cuthbert and his escort rode forward without molestation
until they reached the entrance to the palace.
Dismounting, Cuthbert was now led before the governor himself, a stern
and grave-looking man, sitting cross-legged on a divan surrounded by
officers and attendants. He heard in silence the account given him by the
escort, bowed his head at the commands of Suleiman, and, without
addressing a word to Cuthbert, indicated to two attendants that he was to
be removed into the interior of the house. Here the young knight was led
to a small dungeon-like room; bread and dates with a cruse of water were
placed before him; the door was then closed and locked without, and he
found himself alone with his thoughts.
No one came near him that night, and he slept as soundly as he would have
done in his tent in the midst of the Christian host. He was resolved to
give no cause for ill-treatment or complaint to his captors, to work as
willingly, as cheerfully, as was in his power, and to seize the first
opportunity to make his escape, regardless of any risk of his life which
he might incur in doing so.
In the morning the door opened, and a black slave led him into the
garden, which was surrounded by a very high and lofty wall. It was large,
and full of trees and flowers, and far more beautiful than any garden
that Cuthbert had seen in his native land. There were various other
slaves at work; and an Arab, who appeared to be the head of the
gardeners, at once appointed to Cuthbert the work assigned to him. A
guard of Arabs with bow and spear watched the doings of the slaves.
With one glance round, Cuthbert was assured that escape from this garden,
at least, was not to be thought of, and that for the present, patience
alone was possible. Dismissing all ideas of that kind from his mind, he
set to work with a steady attention to his task. He was very fond of
flowers, and soon he became so absorbed in his work as almost to forget
that he was a slave. It was not laborious--digging, planting, pruning and
training the flowers, and giving them copious draughts of water from a
large fountain in the centre of the garden.
The slaves were not permitted to exchange a word with each other. At the
end of the day's work they were marched off to separate chambers, or, as
they might be called, dungeons. Their food consisted of water, dried
dates, and bread, and they had little to complain of in this respect;
indeed, the slaves in the gardens of the governor's house at Jerusalem
enjoyed an exceptionally favoured existence. The governor himself was
absorbed in the cares of the city. The head gardener happened to be a man
of unusual humanity, and it was really in his hands that the comfort of
the prisoners was placed.
Sometimes in the course of the day, veiled ladies would issue in groups
from the palace, attended by black slaves with drawn scimitars. They
passed without unveiling across the point where the slaves were at work,
and all were forbidden on pain of death to look up, or even to approach
the konak or pavilion, where the ladies threw aside their veils, and
enjoyed the scent and sight of the flowers, the splash of murmuring
waters, and the strains of music touched by skilful hands.
Although Cuthbert wondered in his heart what these strange wrapped-up
figures might look like when the veils were thrown back, he certainly did
not care enough about the matter to run any risk of drawing the anger of
his guards upon himself by raising his eyes towards them; nor did he ever
glance up at the palace, which was also interdicted to the slaves. From
the lattice casements during the day the strains of music and merry
laughter often came down to the captives; but this, if anything, only
added to the bitterness of their position, by reminding them that they
were shut off for life from ever hearing the laughter of the loved ones
they had left behind.
For upwards of a month Cuthbert remained steadily at work, and during
that time no possible plan of escape had occurred to him, and he had
indeed resigned himself to wait, either until, as he hoped, the city
would be taken by the Christians, or until he himself might be removed
from his present post and sent into the country, where, although his
lot would doubtless be far harder, some chance of escape might open
One night, long after slumber had fallen upon the city, Cuthbert was
startled by hearing his door open. Rising to his feet, he saw a black
slave, and an old woman beside him. The latter spoke first in the
"My mistress, the wife of the governor, has sent me to ask your story.
How is it that, although but a youth, you are already a knight? How is it
that you come to be a slave to our people? The sultan himself sent you to
her lord. She would fain hear through me how it has happened. She is the
kindest of ladies, and the sight of your youth has touched her heart."
With thanks to the unknown lady who had felt an interest in him, Cuthbert
briefly related the events which had led to his captivity. The old woman
placed on the ground a basket containing some choice fruit and white
bread, and then departed with the negro as quietly as she had come,
leaving Cuthbert greatly pleased at what had taken place.
"Doubtless," he said to himself, "I shall hear again; and it may be that
through the pity of this lady some means of escape may open to me."
Although for some little time no such prospect appeared, yet the visits
of the old woman, which were frequently repeated, were of interest to
him, and seemed to form a link between him and the world.
After coming regularly every night for a week, she bade the young knight
follow her, holding her finger to her lips in sign that caution must be
observed. Passing through several passages, he was at length led into a
room where a lady of some forty years of age, surrounded by several
slaves and younger women, was sitting. Cuthbert felt no scruple in making
a deep obeisance to her; the respect shown to women in the days of
chivalry was very great, and Cuthbert in bowing almost to the ground
before the lady who was really his mistress, did not feel that he was
"Young slave," she said, "your story has interested us. We have
frequently watched from the windows, and have seen how willingly and
patiently you have worked; and it seems strange indeed that one so young
should have performed such feats of bravery as to win the honour of
knighthood from the hand of that greatest of warriors, Richard of
England. What is it, we would fain learn from your lips, that stirs up
the heart of the Christian world that they should launch their armies
against us, who wish but to be left alone, and who have no grudge against
them? This city is as holy to us as it is to you; and as we live around
it, and all the country for thousands of miles is ours, is it likely that
we should allow it to be wrested from us by strangers from a distance?"
This was spoken in some Eastern language of which Cuthbert understood no
word, but its purport was translated to him by the old woman who had
hitherto acted as his mistress's messenger.
Cuthbert reported the circumstances of the fight at Azotus and
endeavoured to explain the feelings which had given rise to the Crusade.
He then, at the orders of the lady, related the incidents of his voyage
out, and something of his life at home, which was more interesting even
than the tale of his adventures to his hearers, as to them the home-life
of these fierce Christian warriors was entirely unknown.
After an audience of two hours Cuthbert was conducted back to his cell,
his mistress assuring him of her good-will, and promising to do all in
her power to make his captivity as light as possible.
AN EFFORT FOR FREEDOM.
Two or three nights afterwards the old woman again came to Cuthbert, and
asked him, in her mistress's name, if in any way he could suggest a
method of lightening his captivity, as his extreme youth, and bravery of
demeanour, had greatly pleased her.
Cuthbert replied that nothing but freedom could satisfy his longings;
that he was comfortable and not overworked, but that he pined to be back
again with his friends.
The old woman brought him on the following night a message to the
effect that his mistress would willingly grant him his liberty, but as
he was sent to her husband by the sultan, it would be impossible to
free him openly.
"From what she said," the old woman continued, "if you could see some
plan of making your escape, she would in no way throw difficulties in
your path; but it must not be known that the harem in any way connived at
your escape, for my lord's wrath would be terrible, and he is not a man
to be trifled with."
Looking round at the high walls that surrounded the garden, Cuthbert said
that he could think of no plan whatever for escaping from such a place;
that he had often thought it over, but that it appeared to him to be
hopeless. Even should he manage to scale these walls, he would only find
himself in the town beyond, and his escape from that would be altogether
hopeless. "Only," he said, "if I were transported to some country palace
of the governor could I ever hope to make my escape." The next night the
messenger brought him the news that his mistress was disposed to favour
his escape in the way he had pointed out, and that she would in two or
three days ask the governor for permission to pay a visit to their palace
beyond the walls, and that with her she would take a number of
gardeners--among them Cuthbert--to beautify the place. Cuthbert returned
the most lively and hearty thanks to his patroness for her kind
intentions, and hope began to rise rapidly in his heart.
It is probable, however, that the black guards of the harem heard
something of the intentions of their mistress, and that they feared the
anger of the governor should Cuthbert make his escape, and should it be
discovered that this was the result of her connivance. Either through
this or through some other source the governor obtained an inkling that
the white slave sent by the sultan was receiving unusual kindness from
the ladies of the harem.
Two nights after Cuthbert had begun to entertain bright hopes of his
liberty, the door of the cell was softly opened. He was seized by four
slaves, gagged, tied hand and foot, covered with a thick burnous, and
carried out from his cell. By the sound of their feet he heard that they
were passing into the open air, and guessed that he was being carried
through the garden; then a door opened and was closed after them; he was
flung across a horse like a bale of goods, a rope or two were placed
around him to keep him in that position, and then he felt the animal put
in motion, and heard by the trampling of feet that a considerable number
of horsemen were around him. For some time they passed over the rough,
uneven streets of the city; then there was a pause and exchange of
watchword and countersign, a creaking of doors, and a lowering of a
drawbridge, and the party issued out into the open country. Not for very
long did they continue their way; a halt was called, and Cuthbert was
taken off his horse.
On looking round, he found that he was in the middle of a considerable
group of men. Those who had brought him were a party of the governor's
guards; but he was now delivered over to a large band of Arabs, all of
whom were mounted on camels. One of these creatures he was ordered to
mount, the bonds being loosed from his arms and feet. An Arab driver,
with lance, bows, and arrows, and other weapons, took his seat on the
neck of the animal, and then with scarcely a word the caravan marched
off, with noiseless step, and with their faces turned southwards.
It seemed to Cuthbert almost as a dream. A few hours before he had been
exalted with the hope of freedom; now he was being taken away to a
slavery which would probably end but with his life. Although he could not
understand any of his captors, the repetition of a name led him to
believe that he was being sent to Egypt as a present to some man in high
authority there; and he doubted not that the Governor of Jerusalem,
fearing that he might escape, and dreading the wrath of the sultan,
should he do so, had determined to transfer the troublesome captive to a
more secure position and to safer hands.
For three days the journey continued; they had now left the fertile
lowlands of Palestine, and their faces were turned west. They were
entering upon that sandy waste which stretches between the southern
corner of Palestine and the land of Egypt, a distance which can be
travelled by camels in three days, but which occupied the Children of
Israel forty years.
At first the watch had been very sharply kept over the captive; but now
that they had entered the desert the Arabs appeared to consider that
there was no chance of an attempt to escape. Cuthbert had in every way
endeavoured to ingratiate himself with his guard. He had most willingly
obeyed their smallest orders, had shown himself pleased and grateful for
the dates which formed the staple of their repasts. He had assumed so
innocent and quiet an appearance that the Arabs had marvelled much among
themselves, and had concluded that there must have been some mistake in
the assertion of the governor's guard who had handed the prisoner over to
them, that he was one of the terrible knights of King Richard's army.
Cuthbert's heart had not fallen for a moment. He knew well that if he
once reached Cairo all hope of escape was at an end; and it was before
reaching that point that he determined if possible to make an effort for
freedom. He had noticed particularly the camel which appeared to be the
fleetest of the band; it was of lighter build than the rest, and it was
with difficulty that its rider had compelled it to accommodate itself to
the pace of the others. It was clear from the pains he took with it, by
the constant patting and the care bestowed upon its watering and
feeding, that its rider was extremely proud of it; and Cuthbert
concluded that if an escape was to be made, this was the animal on which
he must accomplish it.
Upon arriving at the end of each day's journey the camels were allowed
to browse at will, a short cord being tied between one of their hind and
one of their fore feet. The Arabs then set to work to collect sticks and
to make a fire--not for cooking, for their only food was dried dates and
some black bread, which they brought with them--but for warmth, as the
nights were damp and somewhat chilly, as they sat round the fire, talked,
and told stories. Before finally going off to rest, each went out into
the bushes and brought in his camel; these were then arranged in a circle
around the Arabs, one of the latter being mounted as sentry to prevent
any sudden surprise--not indeed that they had the smallest fear of the
Christians, who were far distant; but then, as now, the Arabs of the
desert were a plundering race, and were ever ready to drive off each
other's camels or horses. Cuthbert determined that if flight was possible
it must be undertaken during the interval after the arrival at the
halting-place and before the bringing in of the camels. Therefore, each
day upon the halt he had pretended great fatigue from the rough motion of
the camel, and had, after hastily eating the dates handed to him, thrown
himself down, covered himself with his Arab robe, and feigned instant
sleep. Thus they had in the three days from starting come to look upon
his presence sleeping close to them as a matter of course.
The second day after entering the desert, however, Cuthbert threw himself
down by the side of an uprooted shrub of small size and about his own
length. He covered himself as usual with his long, dark-blue robe, and
pretended to go to sleep. He kept his eyes, however, on the alert through
an aperture beneath his cloth, and observed particularly the direction in
which the camel upon which he had set his mind wandered into the bushes.
The darkness came on a very few minutes after they had halted, and when
the Arabs had once settled round their fire, Cuthbert very quietly
shifted the robe from himself to the long low bush near him, and then
crawled stealthily off into the darkness.
He had no fear of his footfall being heard upon the soft sand, and was
soon on his feet, looking for the camels. He was not long in finding
them, or in picking out the one which he had selected. The bushes were
succulent, and close to the camping ground; indeed, it was for this that
the halting-places were always chosen. It was not so easy, however, to
climb into the high wooden saddle, and Cuthbert tried several times in
vain. Then he repeated in a sharp tone the words which he had heard the
Arabs use to order their camels to kneel, striking the animal at the same
moment behind the fore-legs with a small switch. The camel immediately
obeyed the order to which he was accustomed, and knelt down, making,
however, as he did so, the angry grumble which those creatures appear to
consider it indispensable to raise when ordered to do anything.
Fortunately this noise is so frequently made, and the camels are so given
to quarrel among themselves, that although in the still air it might have
been heard by the Arabs sitting a short hundred yards away, it attracted
no notice, and Cuthbert, climbing into the seat, shook the cord that
served as a rein, and the animal, rising, set off at a smooth, steady
swing in the direction in which his head was turned--that from which they
had that day arrived.
Once fairly away from the camping-ground, Cuthbert, with blows of his
stick, increased the speed of the camel to a long shuffling trot, and the
fire in the distance soon faded out into the darkness.
Cuthbert trusted to the stars as guides. He was not unarmed, for as he
crawled away from his resting-place, he had picked up one of the Arabs'
spears and bow and arrows, and a large bag of dates from the spot where
they had been placed when their owner dismounted. He was already clad in
Eastern garb, and was so sun-burnt and tanned that he had no fear
whatever of any one at a distance detecting that he was a white man.
Steering his course by the stars, he rode all night without stopping. He
doubted not that he would have at least three hours' start, for the
Arabs were sure to have sat that time round the fires before going out to
bring in their camels. Even then they would suppose for some time that
the animal upon which he was seated had strayed, and no pursuit would be
attempted until it was discovered that he himself had made his escape,
which might not be for a long time, as the Arabs would not think of
looking under the cloth to see if he were there. He hoped, therefore,
that he would reach the cultivated land long before he was overtaken. He
had little fear but that he should then be able to journey onward without
A solitary Arab when travelling rides straight, and his communications to
those whom he meets are confined to the set form of two or three words,
"May Allah protect you!" the regular greeting of Moslems when they meet.
When morning broke Cuthbert, even when ascending to the top of a somewhat
lofty mound, could see no signs of pursuers in the vast stretch of desert
behind him. In front, the ground was already becoming dotted here and
there with vegetation, and he doubted not that after a few hours' ride he
should be fairly in the confines of cultivated country. He gave his camel
a meal of dates, and having eaten some himself, again set the creature in
motion. These camels, especially those of good breed, will go on for
three or four days with scarcely a halt; and there was no fear of that on
which he rode breaking down from fatigue, for the journeys hitherto had
been comparatively short.
By mid-day Cuthbert had reached the cultivated lands of Palestine. Here
and there over the plain, villages were dotted, and parties of men and
camels were to be seen. Cuthbert now arranged his robes carefully in Arab
fashion, slung the long spear across his shoulders, and went boldly
forward at a slinging trot, having little fear that a passer-by would
have any suspicion whatever as to his being other than an Arab bent upon
some rapid journey. He soon found that his hopes were justified. Several
times he came upon parties of men whom he passed with the salute, and who
scarcely raised their eyes as he trotted by them. The plain was an open
one, and though cultivated here and there, there were large tracts lying
unworked. There was no occasion therefore to keep to the road; so riding
across country, and avoiding the villages as far as possible, stopping
only at a stream to give his camel water, Cuthbert rode without ceasing
until nightfall. Then he halted his camel near a wood, turned it in to
feed on the young foliage, and wrapping himself in his burnous was soon
asleep, for he ached from head to foot with the jolting motion which had
now been continued for so many hours without an interval. He had little
fear of being overtaken by the party he had left behind; they would, he
was convinced, be many hours behind, and it was extremely improbable that
they would hit upon the exact line which he had followed, so that even if
they succeeded in coming up to him, they would probably pass him a few
miles either to the right or left.
So fatigued was he with his long journey, that the next day he slept
until after the sun had risen. He was awakened suddenly by being seized
by a party of Arabs, who, roughly shaking him, questioned him as to
where he came from, and what he was doing there. He saw at a glance that
they were not with the party from which he had escaped, and he pointed to
his lips to make signs that he was dumb. The Arabs evidently suspected
that something was wrong. They examined the camel, and then the person of
their captive. The whiteness of his skin at once showed them that he was
a Frank in disguise, and without more ado or questioning, they tied him
hand and foot, flung him across the camel, and, mounting their own
animals, rode rapidly away.
From the position of the sun, Cuthbert saw that they were making their
course nearly due east, and therefore that it could not be their
intention to take him to Jerusalem, which was to the north of the line
they were following. A long day's journeying, which to Cuthbert seemed
interminable, found them on the low spit of sand which runs along by the
side of the Dead Sea. Behind, lofty rocks rose almost precipitously, but
through a cleft in these the Arabs had made their way. Cuthbert saw at
once that they belonged to some desert tribe over whom the authority of
Suleiman was but nominal. When summoned for any great effort, these
children of the desert would rally to his armies and fight for a short
time; but at the first disaster, or whenever they became tired of the
discipline and regularity of the army, they would mount their camels and
return to the desert, generally managing on the way to abstract from the
farms of those on their route either a horse, cattle, or some other
objects which would pay them for the labours they had undergone.
They were now near the confines of their own country, and apparently had
no fear whatever of pursuit. They soon gathered some of the dead wood
cast on the shores of the sea, and with these a fire was speedily
lighted, and an earthenware pot was taken down from among their baggage:
it was filled with water from a skin, and then grain having been placed
in it, it was put among the wood ashes. Cuthbert, who was weary and
aching in every limb from the position in which he had been placed on
the camel, asked them by signs for permission to bathe in the lake.
This was given, principally apparently from curiosity, for but very few
Arabs were able to swim; indeed, as a people they object so utterly to
water, that the idea of any one bathing for his amusement was to them a
matter of ridicule.
Cuthbert, who had never heard of the properties of the Dead Sea, was
perfectly astonished upon entering the water to find that instead of
wading in it up to the neck before starting-to swim, as he was accustomed
to do at home, the water soon after he got waist-deep took him off his
feet, and a cry of astonishment burst from him as he found himself on
rather than in the fluid. The position was so strange and unnatural that
with a cry of alarm he scrambled over on to his feet, and made the best
of his way to shore, the Arabs indulging in shouts of laughter at his
astonishment and alarm. Cuthbert was utterly unable to account for the
strange sensations he had experienced; he perceived that the water was
horribly salt, and that which had got into his mouth almost choked him.
He was, however, unaware that saltness adds to the weight of water, and
so to the buoyancy of objects cast into it. The saltness of the fluid he
was moreover painfully conscious of by the smarting of the places on his
wrists and ankles where the cords had been bound that fastened him to the
camel. Goaded, however, by the laughter of the Arabs, he determined once
more to try the experiment of entering this strange sheet of water, which
from some unaccountable cause appeared to him to refuse to allow anybody
to sink in it. This time he swam about for some time, and felt a little
refreshed. When he returned to the shore he soon re-attired himself in
his Bedouin dress, and seated himself a little distance from his captors,
who were now engaged in discussing the materials prepared by themselves.
They made signs to Cuthbert that he might partake of their leavings, for
which he was not a little grateful, for he felt utterly exhausted and
worn out with his cruel ride and prolonged fasting.
The Arabs soon wrapped themselves in their burnouses, and feeling
confident that their captive would not attempt to escape from them, in a
place where subsistence would be impossible, paid no further attention to
him beyond motioning to him to lie down at their side.
Cuthbert, however, determined to make another effort to escape; for
although he was utterly ignorant of the place in which he found himself,
or of the way back, he thought that anything would be better than to be
carried into helpless slavery into the savage country beyond the Jordan.
An hour, therefore, after his captors were asleep he stole to his feet,
and fearing to arouse them by exciting the wrath of one of the camels by
attempting to mount him, he struck up into the hills on foot. All night
he wandered, and in the morning found himself at the edge of a strange
precipice falling abruptly down to a river, which, some fifty feet wide,
ran at its foot. Upon the opposite side the bank rose with equal
rapidity, and to Cuthbert's astonishment he saw that the cliffs were
honeycombed by caves.
Keeping along the edge for a considerable distance, he came to a spot
where it was passable, and made his way down to the river bank. Here he
indulged in a long drink of fresh water, and then began to examine the
caves which perforated the rocks. These caves Cuthbert knew had formerly
been the abode of hermits. It was supposed to be an essentially sacred
locality, and between the third and fourth centuries of Christianity some
20,000 monks had lived solitary lives on the banks of that river. Far
away he saw the ruins of a great monastery, called Mar Saba, which had
for a long time been the abode of a religious community, and which at the
present day is still tenanted by a body of monks. Cuthbert made up his
mind at once to take refuge in these caves. He speedily picked out one
some fifty feet up the face of the rock, and approachable only with the
greatest difficulty and by a sure foot. First he made the ascent to
discover the size of the grotto, and found that although the entrance was
but four feet high and two feet wide, it opened into an area of
considerable dimensions. Far in the corner, when his eyes became
accustomed to the light, he discovered a circle of ashes, and his
conjectures that these caves had been the abode of men were therefore
verified. He again descended, and collected a large bundle of grass and
rushes for his bed. He discovered growing among the rocks many edible
plants, whose seeds were probably sown there centuries before, and
gathering some of these he made his way back to the cavern. The grass
furnished him with an excellent bed, and he was soon asleep.
A HERMIT'S TALE.
The next day he discovered on his excursions plenty of eatable berries on
the bushes; and now that he had no longer fear of hunger he resolved to
stay for some little time, until his wounds, which had festered badly,
had recovered, before making an attempt to rejoin the Christian army.
One day when employed in gathering berries he was surprised by meeting a
wild-looking figure, who appeared suddenly from one of the caves. It was
that of a very old man, with an extremely long white beard flowing to his
waist; his hair, which was utterly unkempt, fell to the same point. He
was thin to an extraordinary extent, and Cuthbert wondered how a man
could have been reduced to such a state of starvation, with so plentiful
a supply of fruit and berries at hand.
The old man looked at Cuthbert attentively, and then made the sign of the
cross. Cuthbert gave a cry of joy, and repeated the sign. The old man at
once came down from his cavern, and looked at him with surprise and
astonishment, and then addressed him in the French language.
"Are you a Christian truly; and if so, whence do you come?"
Cuthbert at once explained that he had been taken prisoner when with King
Richard's army, and had effected his escape. He also told the old man
that he had been remaining for the last four days in a cave higher up the
stream. The hermit--for he was one--beckoned him to follow him, and
Cuthbert found himself in a cave precisely similar to that which he
himself inhabited. There were no signs of comfort of any kind; a
bed-place made of great stones stood in one corner, and Cuthbert,
remembering the comforts of his own grassy couch, shuddered at the
thought of the intense discomfort of such a sleeping-place. In another
corner was an altar, upon which stood a rough crucifix, before which the
hermit knelt at once in prayer, Cuthbert following his example. Rising
again, the hermit motioned to him to sit down, and then began a
conversation with him.
It was so long since the hermit had spoken to any living being, that he
had almost lost the use of his tongue, and his sentences were slow and
ill-formed. However, Cuthbert was able to understand him, and he to
gather the drift of what Cuthbert told him. The old man then showed him,
that by touching a stone in the corner of his cave the apparently solid
rock opened, and revealed an entrance into an inner cave, which was lit
by a ray of light, which penetrated from above.
"This," he said, "was made centuries ago, and was intended as a refuge
from the persecutors of that day. The caves were then almost all
inhabited by hermits, and although many recked not of their lives, and
were quite ready to meet death through the knife of the infidel, others
clung to existence, and preferred to pass many years of penance on earth
for the sake of atoning for their sins before called upon to appear
before their Maker.
"If you are pursued, it will be safer for you to take up your abode here.
I am known to all the inhabitants of this country, who look upon me as
mad, and respect me accordingly. None ever interfere with me, or with the
two or three other hermits, the remains of what was once almost an army,
who now alone survive. I can offer you no hospitality beyond that of a
refuge; but there is water in the river below, fruits and berries in
abundance on the shrubs. What would you have more?"
Cuthbert accepted the invitation with thanks; for he thought that even at
the worst the presence of this holy man would be a protection to him from
any Arabs who might discover him.
For three or four days he resided with the hermit, who, although he
stretched his long lean body upon the hard stones of his bed, and passed
many hours of the night kneeling on the stone floor in front of his
alter, yet had no objection to Cuthbert making himself as comfortable as
he could under the circumstances.
At the end of the fourth day Cuthbert asked him how long he had been
there, and how he came to take up his abode in so desolate and fearsome a
place. The hermit was silent for a time, and then said,--
"It is long indeed since my thoughts have gone back to the day when I was
of the world. I know not whether it would not be a sin to recall them;
but I will think the matter over to-night, and if it appears to me that
you may derive good from my narrative, I will relate it to you
The next day Cuthbert did not renew the request, leaving it to the hermit
to speak should he think fit. It was not until the evening that he
alluded to the subject; and then taking his seat on a bank near the edge
of the river, he motioned to Cuthbert to sit beside him, and began,--
"My father was a peer of France, and I was brought up at the court.
Although it may seem strange to you, looking upon this withered frame,
sixty-five years back I was as bold and comely a knight as rode in the
train of the king, for I am now past ninety, and for sixty years I have
resided here. I was a favourite of the king's, and he loaded me with
wealth and honour. He, too, was young, and I joined with him in the mad
carousals and feastings of the court. My father resided for the most part
at one of his castles in the country, and I, an only son, was left much
to myself. I need not tell you that I was as wild and as wicked as all
those around me; that I thought little of God, and feared neither Him nor
"It chanced that one of the nobles--I need not mention his name--whose
castle lay in the same province as that of my father, had a lovely
daughter, who, being an only child, would be his heiress. She was
considered one of the best matches in France, and reports of her
exceeding beauty had reached the court. Although my allowance from my
father, and from the estates which the king had give me personally,
should have been more than enough for my utmost wants, gambling and
riotous living swallowed up my revenue faster than it came in, and I was
constantly harassed by debt.
"Talking one night at supper with a number of bold companions, as to the
means we should take for restoring our wasted fortunes, some said in jest
that the best plan would be for one of us to marry the beauty of
Dauphiny. I at once said that I would be the man to do it; the ideas was
a wild one, and a roar of laughter greeted my words. Her father was known
to be a stern and rigid man, and it was certain that he would not consent
to give his daughter to a spendthrift young noble like myself. When the
laughter had subsided I repeated my intention gravely, and offered to
wager large sums with all around the table that I would succeed.
"On the morrow I packed up a few of my belongings, put in my valise the
dress of a wandering troubadour, and taking with me only a trusty
servant, started for Dauphiny. It would be tedious to tell you the means
I resorted to to obtain the affections of the heiress. I had been well
instructed in music and could play on the lute, and knew by heart large
numbers of ballads, and could myself, in case of necessity, string verses
together with tolerable ease. As a troubadour I arrived at the castle
gate, and craved permission to enter to amuse its occupants. Troubadours
then, as now, were in high esteem in the south, and I was at once made a
"Days passed, and weeks; still I lingered at the castle, my heart being
now as much interested as my pride in the wager which I had undertaken.
Suffice it to say, that my songs, and perhaps my appearance--for I cannot
be accused of vanity now in saying nature had been bountiful to me--won
my way to her heart. Troubadours were licensed folk, and even in her
father's presence there was nought unseemly in my singing songs of love.
While he took them as the mere compliments of a troubadour, the lady, I
saw, read them as serious effusions of my heart.
"It was only occasionally that we met alone; but ere long she confessed
that she loved me. Without telling her my real name, I disclosed to her
that I was of her own rank, and that I had entered upon the disguise I
wore in order to win her love. She was romantic, and was flattered by my
devotion. I owned to her that hitherto I had been wild and reckless; and
she told me at once that her father destined her for the son of an old
friend of his, to whom it appeared she had been affianced while still a
baby. She was positive that nothing would move her father. For the man
she was to marry she entertained no kind of affection, and indeed had
never seen him, as she had been brought up in a convent to the age of
fifteen; and just before she had returned thence, he had gone to finish
his education at Padua.
"She trembled when I proposed flight; but I assured her that I was
certain of the protection of the king, and that he would, I was sure,
when the marriage was once celebrated, use his influence with her father
to obtain his forgiveness.
"The preparations for her flight were not long in making. I purchased a
fleet horse in addition to my own, and ordered my servant to bring it to
a point a short distance from the castle gate. I had procured a long rope
with which to lower her down from her lattice to the moat below, which
was at present dry, intending myself to slide after her. The night chosen
was one when I knew that the count was to have guests, and I thought that
they would probably, as is the custom, drink heavily, and that there
would be less fear of any watch being kept.
"The guests arrived just at nightfall. I had feigned illness, and kept my
room. From time to time I heard through the windows of the banqueting
hall bursts of laughter. These gradually ceased; and at last, when all
was still, I, awaiting some time, stole from my room with a rope in my
hand to the apartment occupied by her. A slight tap at the door, as
arranged, was at once answered, and I found her ready cloaked and
prepared for the enterprise. She trembled from head to foot, but I
cheered her to the best of my power, and at last she was in readiness to
be lowered. The window was at a considerable height from the ground; but
the rope was a long one, and I had no fear of its reaching the bottom.
Fastening it round her waist, I began to lower her from the window.
"The night was a windy one, and she swung backwards and forwards as she
went down. By what chance it was I know not,--for I had examined the
rope and found it secure--but methinks in swaying backwards and
forwards it may have caught a sharp stone, maybe it was a punishment
from Heaven upon me for robbing a father of his child--but suddenly I
felt there was no longer a weight on my arms. A fearful shriek rang
through the air, and, looking out, I saw far below a white figure
stretched senseless in the mud!
"For a minute I stood paralyzed. But the cry had aroused others, and,
turning round, I saw a man at the door with a drawn sword. Wild with
grief and despair, and thinking, not of making my escape, or of
concealing my part in what had happened, but rushing without an instant's
delay to the body of her I loved so well, I drew my sword, and like a
madman rushed upon him who barred the door. The combat was brief but
furious, and nerved by the madness of despair I broke down his guard and
ran him through the body. As he fell back, his face came in the full
light of the moon, which streamed through the open door of the passage,
and to my utter horror and bewilderment I saw that I had slain my father.
"What happened after that night I know not. I believe that I made my
escape from the castle and rushed round to the body of her whose life I
had destroyed, and that there finding her dead, I ran wildly across the
country. When I came to my senses months had passed, and I was the inmate
of an asylum for men bereaved of their senses, kept by noble monks. Here
for two years I remained, the world believing that I was dead. None knew
that the troubadour whose love had cost the lady her life, who had slain
the guest of her father, and had then disappeared, was the unhappy son of
that guest. My friends in Paris when they heard of the tragedy of course
associated it with me, but they all kept silent. The monks, to whom I
confessed the whole story, were shocked indeed, but consoled me in my
grief and despair by the assurance that however greatly I had sinned, the
death of the lady had been accidental, and that if I were a parricide it
was at least unintentionally.
"My repentance was deep and sincere; and after a while, under another
name, I joined the army of the crusaders, to expiate my sin by warring
for the holy sepulchre. I fought as men fight who have no wish to live;
but while all around me fell by sword and disease, death kept aloof from
me. When the crusade had failed I determined to turn for ever from the
world, and to devote my life to prayer and penance; and so casting aside
my armour, I made my way here, and took up my abode in a cave in this
valley, where at that time were many thousands of other hermits--for the
Saracens, while they gained much money from fines and exactions from
pilgrims who came to Jerusalem, and fought stoutly against those who
sought to capture that city, were in the main tolerant, and offered no
hindrance to the community of men whom they looked upon as mad.
"Here, my son, for more than sixty years have I prayed, with much
fasting and penance. I trust now that the end is nearly at hand, and
that my long life of mortification may be deemed to have obliterated the
evil deeds which I did in my youth. Let my fate be a warning to you.
Walk steadily in the right way; indulge not in feasting and evil
companionship; and above all, do not enter upon evil deeds, the end of
which no man can see."
The hermit was silent, and Cuthbert, seeing that his thoughts had again
referred to the past, wandered away, and left him sitting by the river
side. Some hours later he returned, and found the hermit kneeling before
the altar; and the next morning the latter said,--
"I presume, my son, you do not wish to remain here as a hermit, as I have
done? Methinks it were well that we made our arrangements for your return
to the Christian host, who will, I hope, ere long be at the gates of
"I should like nothing better," Cuthbert said. "But ignorant as I am of
the nature of the country, it seems to be nigh impossible to penetrate
through the hosts of the Saracens to reach the camp of King Richard."
"The matter is difficult and not without danger," the hermit said. "As to
the nature of the country, I myself know but little, for my dealings with
the natives have been few and simple. There are, however, several
Christian communities dwelling among the heathen. They are poor, and are
forced to live in little-frequented localities. Their Christianity may be
suspected by their neighbours, but as they do no man harm, and carry on
their worship in secret, they are little interfered with. There is one
community among the hills between this and Jerusalem, and I can give you
instructions for reaching this, together with a token which will secure
you hospitality there, and they will no doubt do their best to forward
you to another station. When you approach the flat country where the
armies are maneuvering you must doubtless trust to yourself; but as far
as the slopes extend, methinks that our friends will be able to pass you
without great difficulty."
Cuthbert's heart rose greatly at the prospect of once again entering upon
an active life, and the next evening, with many thanks for his kindness,
he knelt before the aged hermit to receive his blessing.
With the instructions given him he had no difficulty in making his way
through the mountains, until after some five hours' walk he found himself
at a little village situated in a narrow valley.
Going to the door of the principal hut, he knocked, and upon entering
showed the owner--who opened the door--a rosette of peculiar beads, and
repeated the name of Father Anselm. The peasant at once recognized it,
and bade Cuthbert welcome. He knew but a few words of French, although
doubtless his ancestors had been of European extraction. In the morning
he furnished Cuthbert with the sheepskin and short tunic which formed the
dress of a shepherd, and dyeing his limbs and face a deep brown, he
himself started with Cuthbert on his journey to the next Christian
This was a small one, consisting of two huts only, built almost on the
summit of a mountain, the inhabitants living partly on the milk and
cheese of their goats, and partly upon the scanty vegetables which grew
around the huts.
His welcome was as cordial as that of the night before; and the next
morning, his former guide taking leave of him, the peasant in whose house
he had slept, again conducted him forward to another community. This was
the last station, and stood in a narrow gorge on the face of the hills
looking down over the plain, beyond which in the far distance a faint
line of blue sea was visible.
This community was far more prosperous and well-to-do than those at which
the previous nights had been passed. The head of the village appeared to
be a personage of some importance; and although clinging in secret to his
Christian faith, he and his belongings had so far adopted the usages of
the Mussulmen that apparently no thought of their Christianity entered
into the minds of the authorities. He was the owner of two or three
horses, and of some extensive vineyards and olive grounds. He was also
able to speak French with some degree of fluency.
At considerable length he explained to Cuthbert the exact position of the
Christian army, which had moved some distance along the coast since
Cuthbert had left it. It was, he said, exposed to constant attacks by the
Saracens, who harassed it in every way, and permitted it no repose. He
said that the high hopes which had been raised by the defeat of the
Saracens at Azotus, had now fallen, and that it was feared the Christians
would not be able to force their way forward to Jerusalem. The great
portion of their animals had died, and the country was so eaten up by the
Saracen hosts, that an advance upon Jerusalem without a large baggage
train was next to impossible; and indeed if the Christians were to arrive
before that city, they could effect nothing without the aid of the heavy
machines necessary for battering the walls or effecting an escalade.
Cuthbert was vastly grieved when he heard of the probable failure of the
expedition, and he burned with eagerness to take his part again in the
dangers and difficulties which beset the Christian army. His host pointed
out to him the extreme difficulty and danger of his crossing the enemy's
lines, but at the same time offered to do all in his power to assist him.
After two days' stay at the village, and discussing the pros and cons of
all possible plans, it was decided that the best chance lay in a bold
effort. The host placed at his disposal one of his horses, together with
such clothes as would enable him to ride as an Arab chief of rank and
station; a long lance was furnished him, a short and heavy mace, and
scimitar; a bag of dates was hung at the saddle-bow; and with the
sincerest thanks to his protector, and with a promise that should the
Christian host win their way to Jerusalem the steed should be returned
with ample payment, Cuthbert started on his journey.
A FIGHT OF HEROES.
The horse was a good and spirited one, and when he had once descended to
the plains, Cuthbert rode gaily along, exulting in his freedom, and in
once again possessing arms to defend himself should it be needed. His
appearance was so exactly that of the horsemen who were continually
passing and repassing that no observation whatever was attracted by it.
Through villages, and even through camps, Cuthbert rode fearlessly, and
arrived, without having once been accosted, near the main camp of the
Saracens, which extended for miles parallel to the sea. But at a distance
of some three leagues beyond, could be seen the white tents of the
Christian host, and Cuthbert felt that the time of trial was now at hand.
He dismounted for an hour to allow his steed to rest itself, fed it with
dates from his wallet, and gave it a drink of water at the stream. Then,
when he felt that it had thoroughly recovered its strength and freshness,
he re-mounted, and rode briskly on as before. He passed unchallenged,
attracting no more notice than a person now-a-days would do in walking
along a crowded street. Without hesitation he passed through the tents
and started across the open country. Bands of horsemen were seen here and
there, some going, and some coming from the direction of the Christian
camp. As it was doubtless supposed that he was on his way to join some
band that had gone on in advance, the passage of the solitary horseman
excited no comment until he approached within about two miles of the
Christian camp. There were now, so far as he could see, no enemies
between him and the point he so longed to gain. But at this minute a
group of Arab horsemen, gathered, apparently on the look-out against any
movement of the Christians, shouted to him "Halt!" demanding whither he
Up to this point Cuthbert had ridden at a gentle canter; but at the
challenge he put spurs into his steed and made across the plain at full
speed. With a wild yell the Arabs started in pursuit. They lay at first
some 200 yards on his right, and he had therefore a considerable start of
them. His horse was fairly fresh, for the journey that he had made had
only been about fifteen miles--an inconsiderable distance to an Arab
steed. For half a mile he did not think that his pursuers gained much
upon him, riding as they had done sideways. They had now gathered in his
rear, and the nearest was some 150 yards behind him. A quarter of a mile
farther he again looked round, and found that two of the Arabs, far
better mounted than the others, had come within half the distance which
separated them from him when he last glanced back. His horse was
straining to the utmost, and he felt that it could do no more; he
therefore prepared himself for a desperate fight should his pursuers
overtake him. In another quarter of a mile they were but a short distance
behind, and an arrow whizzing by Cuthbert's ear told him they had
be-taken themselves to their bows.
Half a mile ahead he saw riding towards him a group of Christian knights;
but he felt that it was too late for him to hope to reach them, and that
his only chance now was to boldly encounter his pursuers. The main body
of the Arabs was fully 200 yards behind--a short distance when going at a
gallop--which left him but little time to shake off the pursuit of the
two immediately behind him.
A sharp stinging pain in his leg told him that it was time to make his
effort; and checking his horse, he wheeled suddenly round. The two Arabs
with a yell rode at him with pointed lance. With his right hand Cuthbert
grasped the short heavy mace which hung at his saddle-bow, and being well
practised in the hurling of this weapon--which formed part of the
education of a good knight--he cast it with all his force at the chest of
the Arab approaching on that side. The point of the spear was within a
few yards of his breast as he flung the mace; but his aim was true, for
it smote the Saracen full on the chest, and hurled him from his horse as
if struck with a thunderbolt. At the same instant Cuthbert threw himself
flat on the neck of his steed and the lance of the Arab who came up on
the other side passed harmlessly between his shoulders, tearing his
clothes as it went. In an instant Cuthbert had wheeled his horse, and
before the Arab could turn his steed Cuthbert, coming up from behind,
had run him through the body.
Short as the delay had been, the main body of the pursuers were scarcely
fifty yards away; but Cuthbert now continued his flight towards the
knights, who were galloping forward at full speed; and a moment
afterwards glancing back, he saw that his pursuers had turned and were in
With a shout of joy he rode forward to the party who had viewed with
astonishment this conflict between what appeared to be three of the
infidels. Even louder than his first shout of exultation was the cry of
joy which he raised at seeing among the party to whom he rode up, the
Earl of Evesham, who reined in his horse in astonishment, and drew his
sword as the supposed enemy galloped towards him.
"My lord, my lord!" Cuthbert said. "Thank heaven I am safe with
The earl lowered his sword in astonishment.
"Am I mad," he said, "or dreaming, or is this really Sir Cuthbert?"
"It is I sure enough," Cuthbert exclaimed, "although truly I look more
like a Bedouin soldier than a Christian knight."
"My dear boy!" exclaimed the earl, galloping forward and throwing his
arms around Cuthbert's neck, "we thought you were dead. But by what
wonderful fortune have you succeeded in escaping?"
In a few words Cuthbert related the principal incidents of his
adventures, and he was heartily congratulated by the assembled knights.
There was, however, no time for long explanations. Large bodies of the
Saracen horse were already sweeping down, to capture, if possible, this
small band of knights who had ventured so far from the camp; and as King
Richard's orders were that none should venture upon conflicts except by
his orders, the party reluctantly turned their horses and galloped back
to the camp.
Great as had been the earl's joy, it was, if possible, exceeded by that
of Cnut on discovering in the Arab chief who rode up alongside the earl,
the lad he loved so well. Loud and hearty were the cheers which rang out
from the earl's camp as the news spread, and Cuthbert was compelled to
shake hands with the whole party before entering the earl's tent, to
refresh himself and give the narrative of what had happened.
Cuthbert, retiring to his tent with the Earl of Evesham, inquired of him
what had taken place during his absence.
"For," he said, "although but a short three days' march from here, I have
been as one of the dead, and have heard nothing whatever of what has
"Nothing could have gone worse," the earl said. "We have had nothing
but dissensions and quarrels. First, the king fell out with the
Archduke of Austria."
"On what ground did this happen?" Cuthbert asked.
"For once," the earl said, "the king our master was wholly in the wrong,
which is not generally the case. We had just taken Ascalon, and were hard
at work fortifying the place. King Richard with his usual zeal, in order
to encourage the army, seized heavy stones and himself bore them into
their place. The Archduke stood near with some of his knights: and it may
be that the haughty Austrian looked somewhat superciliously at our king,
"'Why do you not make a show of helping?' King Richard said, going up to
him. 'It would encourage the men, and show that the labour upon which we
are engaged can be undertaken by all without derogation.'
"To this the Archduke replied,--
"'I am not the son of a mason!'
"Whereupon Richard, whose blood no doubt had been excited by the air of
the Austrian, struck him with his hand a fierce blow across the face. We
nearly betook ourselves to our swords on both sides; but King Richard
himself could have scattered half the Austrians, and these, knowing that
against his impetuous valour they could do nothing, simply withdrew from
our camp, and sailed the next day for home. Then the king, in order to
conciliate some at least of his allies, conferred the crown of Jerusalem
upon Conrad of Montferat. No sooner had he done this than Conrad was
mysteriously wounded. By whom it was done none knew. Some say that it was
by emissaries of the Old Man of the Mountain. Others affirm that it was
the jealousy of some of the knights of the holy orders. But be that as it
may, he died. Some of the French, ever jealous of the valour of our king,
ascribed it to his orders. This monstrous accusation coming to the ears
of King Richard, he had hot words with the Duke of Burgundy. In this I
blame him not, for it is beyond all reason that a man like the king,
whose faults, such as they are, arise from too much openness, and from
the want of concealment of such dislikes as he may have, should resort to
poison to free himself of a man whom he himself had but a day or two
before appointed King of Jerusalem. However it be, the consequences were
most unfortunate, for the result of the quarrel was that the Duke of
Burgundy and his Frenchmen followed the example of the Austrians, and we
were left alone. Before this we had marched upon Jerusalem. But the
weather had been so bad, and our train was so insufficient to carry the
engines of war, that we had been forced to fall back again. King Richard
again advanced, and with much toil we went as far as the village of
"Why," Cuthbert exclaimed, "I passed through that village, and it is but
three miles from the holy city."
"That is so," the earl said; "and many of us, ascending the hill in
front, saw Jerusalem. But even then it was certain that we must again
retrace our steps; and when we asked King Richard to come to the crest of
the hill to see the holy city, he refused to do so, saying, 'No; those
who are not worthy of conquering Jerusalem should not look at it!' This
was but a short time since, and we are now retracing our steps to Acre,
and are treating with Saladin for a peace."
"Then," Cuthbert said sadly, "all our hopes and efforts are thrown away;
all this blood has been shed for nothing; and after the three great
powers of Europe have engaged themselves solemnly in the war, we are
baffled, and have to fall back before the hordes of the infidels."
"Partly before them," the earl said, "partly as the result of our own
jealousies and passions. Had King Richard been a lesser man than he is,
we might have conquered Jerusalem. But he is so extraordinary a warrior
that his glory throws all others into the shade. He is a good general,
perhaps the best in Europe; and had he done nothing but lead, assuredly
we should have carried out our purpose. See how ably he maneuvered the
army at the fight of Azotus. Never was a more complete defeat than that
which he inflicted there upon the Saracens; and although the fact that
his generalship achieved this, might have caused some jealousy to the
other commanders, this might have died away could he between the battles
have been a general, and nothing more. But alas! he is in addition a
knight-errant--and such a knight-errant as Europe has never seen before.
Wherever there is danger, Richard will plunge into the midst. There are
brave men in all the three armies; but the strongest and bravest are as
children to King Richard. Alone he can dart into ranks of the infidels,
and cut a lane for himself by the strength of his right arm. More than
this, when danger has threatened he has snatched up his battle-axe and
dashed into the fray without helm or cuirass, performing such prodigies
of valour and strength that it has been to his prowess alone that victory
was to be ascribed. Hence he is the idol of all the soldiers, whatever
their nationality; for he is as ready to rush to the rescue of a French
or Austrian knight when pressed as to that of his own men. But the
devotion which the whole army felt for him was as gall and wormwood to
the haughty Austrian and the indolent Frenchman; and the retirement of
the King of France, which left Richard in supreme command, was in every
Upon the following day the army again marched, and Cuthbert could not but
notice the difference, not only in number but in demeanour, from the
splendid array which had left Acre a few months before. There was little
now of the glory of pennon and banner; the bright helms and cuirasses
were rusted and dinted, and none seemed to care aught for bravery of
show. The knights and men-at-arms were sunburnt and thin, and seemed but
half the weight that they had been when they landed. Fatigue, hardship,
and the heat had done their work; disease had swept off vast numbers. But
the remains of the army were so formidable in their fighting powers that
the Saracens, although following them at a distance in vast numbers, did
not venture an attack upon them.
A few days after their arrival at Acre, the king gave orders for the
embarcation of the troops. Just as they were preparing to enter the ships
a small vessel was seen entering the harbour. It drew up to the shore,
and a knight leaped from it, and, inquiring where King Richard was to be
found, made his way to the king, who was standing superintending the
embarcation of some of the horses.
"The Saracens, sire!" he exclaimed. "The Saracens are besieging Jaffa,
and the place must be lost unless assistance arrives in a day or two."
The king leaped on board the nearest ship, shouted to his leading
officers to follow him, and gave orders to others to bring down the
troops with all possible speed, to waste not a moment, and to see that
all was done, and then, in five minutes after the receipt of the news he
started for Jaffa. The Earl of Evesham and Cuthbert had been standing
near the king when the order was given, and followed him at once on board
the bark which he had chosen.
"Ah, my gallant young knight," the king exclaimed, "I am right glad to
see you with me. We shall have more fighting before we have done, and I
know that that suits your mood as well as my own."
The king's vessel was far in advance of any of the others, when early the
following morning it arrived at Jaffa.
"Your eyes are better than mine," the king said to Cuthbert. "Tell me
what is that flag flying on the top of the town."
Cuthbert looked at it earnestly.
"I fear, sire, that it is the crescent. We have arrived too late."
"By the holy cross," said King Richard, "that shall not be so; for if the
place be taken, we will retake it."
As the vessel neared the shore a monk ran out into the water up to his
shoulders, and said to the king that the citadel still held out, and that
even now the Saracens might be driven back. Without delay the king leaped
into the water, followed by the knights and men-at-arms, and entering the
gate, threw himself upon the infidels within, who, busy plundering, had
not noticed the arrival of the ship.
The war cry of "St. George! St. George!" which the king always shouted
in battle, struck panic among the infidels; and although the king was
followed but by five knights and a few men-at-arms, the Saracens, to
the number of 3000, fled before him, and all who tarried were smitten
down. The king followed them out upon the plain, driving them before
him as a lion would drive a flock of sheep, and then returned
triumphant into the city.
The next day, some more ships having arrived, King Richard found that in
all, including the garrison, he could muster 2000 combatants. The enemy
renewed the attack in great numbers, and the assaults upon the walls were
continuous and desperate. King Richard, who loved fighting in the plain
rather than behind walls, was impatient at this, and at one time so
fierce was the attack that he resolved to sally out. Only ten horses
remained in the town, and King Richard, mounting one, called upon nine of
the knights to mount and sally out with him. The little band of ten
warriors charged down upon the host of the Saracens and swept them before
them. It was a marvellous sight indeed to see so small a group of
horsemen dashing through a crowd of Saracen warriors. These, although at
first beaten back, yet rallied, and the ten knights had great difficulty
in fighting their way back to the town. When near the walls the
Christians again made a stand, and a few knights sallied out from the
town on foot and joined them. Among these was Cuthbert, the Earl of
Evesham having accompanied King Richard in his charge. In all, seventeen
knights were now rallied round the king. So fierce was the charge of the
Saracens that the king ordered those on horseback to dismount, and with
their horses in the centre, the little body knelt with their lances
opposed to the Saracens. Again and again the wild cavalry swept down upon
this little force, but in vain did they attempt to break their ranks. The
scene was indeed an extraordinary one. At last the king, seeing that the
enemy were losing heart, again ordered the knights to mount, and these
dashing among the enemy, completed their defeat.
While this had been going on, news came to the king that the Saracens
from another side had made their way into Jaffa, and were massacring the
Christians. Without an instant's delay he flew to their succour, followed
only by two knights and a few archers, the rest being so worn by their
exertions as to be unable to move. The Mamelukes, the chosen guard of
Saladin, had headed the attack; but even these were driven out from the
town, and Richard dashed out from the city in their pursuit. One Saracen
emir, distinguished for his stature and strength, ventured to match
himself against the king, and rode boldly at him. But with one blow
Richard severed his head, and his right shoulder and arm, from his body.
Then having, by his single arm, put to rout the Saracens at this point,
he dashed through them to the aid of the little band of knights who had
remained on the defensive when he left them at the alarm of the city
being entered. These were almost sinking with fatigue and wounds; but
King Richard opened a way around them by slaying numbers of the enemy,
and then charged again alone into the midst of the Mussulman host, and
was lost to the sight of his companions. All thought that they would
never see him again. But he soon reappeared, his horse covered with
blood, but himself unwounded; and the attack of the enemy ceased.
From the hour of daybreak, it is said, Richard had not ceased for a
moment to deal out his blows, and the skin of his hand adhered to the
handle of his battle-axe. This narration would appear almost fabulous,
were it not that it is attested in the chronicles of several
eye-witnesses, and for centuries afterwards the Saracen women hushed
their babes when fractious by threatening them with Malek-Rik, the name
which they gave to King Richard.
Glorious as was the success, it was a sad one, for several of the most
devoted of the followers of King Richard were wounded badly, some few to
death. Among these last, to the terrible grief of Cuthbert, was his
friend and patron, the Earl of Evesham. The king, on taking off his
armour, hurried to his tent.
"The glory of this day is marred indeed," he said to the wounded knight,
"if I am to lose you, Sir Walter."
"I fear that it must even be so, my lord," the dying earl said. "I am
glad that I have seen this day, for never did I think to witness such
feats as those which your Majesty has performed; and though the crusade
has failed, and the Holy City remains in the hands of the infidel, yet
assuredly no shadow of disgrace has fallen upon the English arms, and,
indeed, great glory has accrued to us. Whatever may be said of the Great
Crusade, it will, at least, be allowed by all men, and for all time, that
had the princes and soldiers of other nations done as your Majesty and
your followers have done, the holy city would have fallen into our hands
within a month of our putting foot upon the soil. Your Majesty, I have a
boon to ask."
"You have but to name it, Sir Walter, and it is yours."
"Sir Cuthbert, here," he said, pointing to the young knight, who was
sorrowfully kneeling by his bedside, "is as a son to me. The relationship
by blood is but slight, but by affection it is as close as though he were
mine own. I have, as your Majesty knows, no male heirs, and my daughter
is but young, and will now be a royal ward. I beseech your Majesty to
bestow her in marriage, when the time comes, upon Sir Cuthbert. They have
known each other as children, and the union will bring happiness,
methinks, to both, as well as strength and protection to her; and
further, if it might be, I would fain that you should bestow upon him my
title and dignity."
"It shall be so," the king said. "When your eyes are closed, Sir Walter,
Sir Cuthbert shall be Earl of Evesham, and, when the time comes, the
husband of your daughter."
Cuthbert was too overwhelmed with grief to feel a shadow of exaltation at
the gracious intimation of the king; although, even then, a thought of
future happiness in the care of the fair young lady Margaret passed
before his mind. For the last time the king gave his hand to his faithful
servant, who pressed it to his lips, and a few minutes afterwards
breathed his last.
AN ALPINE STORM.
The tremendous exertions which King Richard had made told upon him, and
attacks of fever succeeded each other at short intervals. This, however,
mattered the less, since negotiations were now proceeding between him and
Saladin. It was impossible, with the slight means at his disposal, for
Richard further to carry on the crusade alone. Moreover, pressing news
had arrived from his mother in England, urging him to return, as his
brother John was intriguing against him, and had already assumed all but
the kingly tide. Saladin was equally desirous of peace. His wild troops
were, for the most part, eager to return to their homes, and the defeats
which they had suffered, and the, to them, miraculous power of King
Richard's arm, had lowered their spirit and made them eager to be away.
Therefore he consented without difficulty to the terms proposed. By
these, the Christians were to surrender Ascalon, but were to keep Jaffa,
Tyre, and the fortresses along the coast. All hostilities were to be
suspended on both sides for the space of three years, three months, three
weeks, three days, and three hours, when Richard hoped to return again
and to recommence the struggle.
Between the sultan and King Richard a feeling approaching that of
friendship had sprung up during the campaign. Saladin was himself brave
in the extreme, and exposed his life as fearlessly as did his Christian
rival, and the two valiant leaders recognized the great qualities of each
other. Several times during the campaign, when Richard had been ill, the
emir had sent him presents of fruit and other matters, to which Richard
had responded in the same spirit. An interview had taken place between
them which further cemented their friendship; and when Richard promised
to return again at the end of the truce with a far larger army, and to
accomplish the rescue of the holy city, the sultan smiled, and said that
it appeared that valour alone was not sufficient to conquer in the Holy
Land, but that if Jerusalem were to fall into the hands of the
Christians, it could fall into no worthier hands than those of Malek-Rik.
So, with many mutual courtesies, the great rivals separated, and, soon
after, King Richard and the little remnant of his army embarked on board
ship, and set sail for England.
It was on the 11th of October, 1192, that Richard Coeur de Lion left
Palestine. Soon after they started, a storm suddenly burst upon them,
and dispersed them in various directions. The ship in which Queen
Berengaria was carried, arrived safely in Sicily; but that in which King
Richard was borne was missing, and none of his fellow-voyagers knew what
had become of him.
Sir Cuthbert was in the same vessel as the king, and the bark was driven
upon the Island of Corfu. All reached shore in safety, and King Richard
then hired three small vessels, in which he sailed to the port of Zara,
whence he hoped to reach the domains of his nephew, Otho of Saxony, the
son of his sister Matilda. The king had with him now but two of his
knights, Baldwin of B,thune, and Cuthbert of Evesham. Cnut was with his
feudal chief--for such Cuthbert had now, by his accession to the rank of
Earl of Evesham, become--and three or four English archers.
"I fear, my lords," the king said to his knights as he sat in a little
room in an inn at Zara, "that my plight is a bad one. I am surrounded by
enemies, and, alas! I can no longer mount my steed and ride out as at
Jaffa to do battle with them. My brother, John Lackland, is scheming to
take my place upon the throne of England. Philip of France, whose mind is
far better at such matters than at setting armies in the field, is in
league with him. The Emperor Henry has laid claim to the throne of
Sicily. Leopold of Austria has not forgiven me the blow I struck him in
the face at Ascalon, and the friends of Conrad of Montferat are spreading
far and wide the lie that I was the instigator of his murder. Sure never
had a poor king so many enemies, and few have ever had so small a
following as I have now. What think you, my lords? What course would you
advise that I should adopt? If I can reach Saxony, doubtless Otho will
aid me. But hence to Dresden is a long journey indeed. I have neither
credit nor funds to hire a ship to take us by sea. Nor would such a
voyage be a safe one, when so many of my enemies' ships are on the main.
I must needs, I think, go in disguise, for my way lies wholly through the
country of my enemies."
"Surely," Cuthbert said, "no potentate could for very shame venture to
detain your Majesty on your way from the Holy Land, where you have
wrought such great deeds. Were I in your place, I would at once proclaim
myself, mount my horse, have my banner carried before me, and ride openly
on. You have, too, another claim, namely, that of being shipwrecked, and
even in war-time nations respect those whom the force of God has thrown
upon their shores."
"I fear me, Sir Cuthbert," Sir Baldwin said, "that you overrate the
chivalry of our master's enemies. Had we been thrown on the shores of
France, Philip perhaps would hesitate to lay hands upon the king; but
these petty German princelings have no idea of the observances of true
chivalry. They are coarse and brutal in their ways; and though in outward
form following the usages of knighthood, they have never been penetrated
with its spirit. If the friends of Conrad of Montferat lay hands upon
King Richard, I fear that no scruples will prevent them from using their
advantage to the utmost. Even their emperor I would not trust. The course
which you advise would no doubt be in accordance with the spirit of King
Richard; but it would be madness for him to judge other people's spirit
by his own, and it would be rushing into the lion's den to proclaim
himself here. I should recommend, if I might venture to do so, that his
Majesty should assume a false name, and that we should travel in small
parties so as to attract no attention, each making his way to Saxony as
best he may."
There was silence for a minute or two, and then the king with a
"I fear that you are right, Sir Baldwin, and that there is no chivalry
among these swinish German lords. You shall accompany me. Not, Sir
Cuthbert," he observed kindly, noticing a look of disappointment upon the
face of the young knight, "that I estimate your fidelity one whit lower
than that of my brave friend; but he is the elder and the more versed in
European travel, and may manage to bring matters through better than you
would do. You will have dangers enough to encounter yourself, more even
than I shall, for your brave follower, Cnut, can speak no language but
his own, and your archers will be hard to pass as any other than what
they are. You must be my messenger to England, should you arrive there
without me. Tell my mother and wife where you left me, and that, if I do
not come home I have fallen into the hands of one or other of my bitter
foes. Bid them bestir themselves to hold England for me against my
brother John, and, if needs be, to move the sovereigns of Europe to free
me from the hands of my enemies. Should a ransom be needed, I think that
my people of England will not grudge their goods for their king."
The following day the king bade farewell to his faithful followers,
giving his hand to kiss, not only to Sir Cuthbert, but to Cnut and
"You have done me brave service," he said, "and I trust may yet have
occasion to do it again. These are bad times when Richard of England has
nought wherewith to reward his friends. But," he said, taking a gold
chain from his neck and breaking it with his strong fingers into five
fragments, "that is for you, Cnut, and for your four archers, in
remembrance of King Richard."
The men, albeit hardened by many scenes of warfare, yet shed tears
plenteously at parting with the king.
"We had better," Cuthbert said to them when they were alone, "delay here
for a few days. If we are taken, the news that some Englishmen have been
captured making their way north from Zara will spread rapidly, and may
cause the enemies of Richard to be on the look-out for him, suspecting
that the ship which bore us may also have carried him; for the news that
he is missing will spread rapidly through Europe, and will set all his
enemies on the alert."
In accordance with this plan, they delayed for another ten days at Zara,
and then, hiring a small boat, were landed some thirty miles further
along the coast. Cuthbert had obtained for Cnut the dress of a palmer, as
in this he would pass almost unquestioned, and his silence might be
accounted for on the ground that he had taken a vow of silence. He
himself had placed on his coat and armour a red cross, instead of the
white cross borne by the English knights, and would now pass as a French
knight. Similar changes were made in the dress of his followers, and he
determined to pass as a French noble who had been wrecked on his way
home, and who was returning through Germany to France. The difficulties
in his own case would not be serious, as his French would pass muster
anywhere in Germany. The greatest difficulty would be with his
attendants; but he saw no way of avoiding this.
Cuthbert's object, when with his little party he separated from King
Richard, was to make his way to Verona, thence cross by Trent into
Bavaria, and so to journey to Saxony. Fortunately he had, at the storming
of Acre, become possessed of a valuable jewel, and this he now sold, and
purchased a charger for himself. He had little fear of any trouble in
passing through the north of Italy, for this was neutral ground, where
knights of all nations met, and where, neither as an English nor a French
crusader would he attract either comment or attention.
It was a slow journey across the northern plains, as of course he had to
accommodate his pace to that of his men. Cnut and the archers had
grumbled much at the change in the colour of the cross upon their
jerkins; and, as Cnut said, would have been willing to run greater perils
under their true colours than to affect to belong to any other
nationality. On their way they passed through Padua, and there stopped a
few days. Cuthbert could but feel, in looking at the splendour of this
Italian city, the courteous manner of its people, and the university
which was even then famous, how far in advance were those stately cities
of Italy to Western Europe. His followers were as much surprised as
himself at the splendour of the city. Here they experienced no trouble or
annoyance whatever, for to the cities of Italy knights of all nations
resorted, learned men came to study, philosophers to dispute, and as
these brought their attendants with them, you might in the streets of
Padua and its sister cities hear every language in Europe spoken.
From Padua they journeyed to Verona, marvelling greatly at the richness
of the country. The footmen, however, grumbled at the flatness of the
plain, and said that it was as bad as marching in the Holy Land. On
their right, however, the slopes of the Alps, thickly clad with forests,
reached down nearly to the road, and Cuthbert assured them that they
would have plenty of climbing before they had done. At Verona they
tarried again, and wondered much at the great amphitheatre, then almost
perfect. Cuthbert related to Cnut and the archers, how men had there
been set to fight, while the great stone benches round were thronged
with men and women looking on at their death struggles, and said that
not unfrequently British captives were brought hither and made to
contend in the arena. The honest fellows were full of indignation and
horror at the thought of men killing themselves to give sport to others.
They were used to hard knocks, and thought but little of their life, and
would have betaken themselves to their bows and bills without hesitation
in case of a quarrel. But to fight in cold blood for amusement seemed to
them very terrible.
Cuthbert would then have travelled on to Milan at that time next to Rome
the richest city in Europe, but he longed to be back in England, and was
the more anxious as he knew that King Richard would be passing through
great dangers, and he hoped to meet him at the Court of Saxony. His
money, too, was fast running out, and he found that it would be beyond
his slender means to extend his journey so far. At Verona, then, they
turned their back on the broad plains of Lombardy, and entered the valley
of the Trent.
So far no observation whatever had been excited by the passage of the
English knight. So many crusaders were upon their way home, many in
grievous plight, that the somewhat shabby retinue passed unnoticed. But
they were now leaving Italy, and entering a country where German was
spoken. Trent, in those days an important city, was then, and is still,
the meeting place of Italy and Germany. Both tongues are here spoken; but
while the Italian perhaps preponderates, the customs, manners, and mode
of thought of the people belong to those of the mountaineers of the
Tyrol, rather than of the dwellers on the plains.
"You are choosing a stormy time," the landlord of the hostelry where they
put up said to Cuthbert. "The winter is now at hand, and storms sweep
across the passes with terrible violence. You had better, at the last
village you come to in the valley, obtain the services of a guide, for
should a snowstorm come on when you are crossing, the path will be lost,
and nothing will remain but a miserable death. By daylight the road is
good. It has been cut with much trouble, and loaded mules can pass over
without difficulty. Poles have been erected at short distances to mark
the way when the snow covers it. But when the snowstorms sweep across the
mountains, it is impossible to see ten paces before you, and if the
traveller leaves the path he is lost."
"But I suppose," Cuthbert said, "that even in winter travellers
"They do," the host said. "The road is as open in winter as in summer,
although, of course, the dangers are greater. Still, there is nothing to
prevent vigorous men from crossing over when the storms come on. Now,
too, with the snow already lying in the upper forests, the wolves are
abroad, and should you be attacked by one of those herds, you will find
it hard work to defend your lives. Much has been done to render the road
safe. At the distance of every league stone houses have been erected,
where travellers can find shelter either from the storm or from the
attacks of wolves or bears, for these, too, abound in the forests, and in
summer there is fine hunting among them. You are, as I see, returning
from the Holy Land, and are therefore used to heat rather than cold, so I
should advise you before you leave this city to buy some rough cloaks to
shield you from the cold. You can obtain them for your followers very
cheaply, made of the mountain goat or of sheepskins, and even those of
bearskin well dressed are by no means dear."
Obtaining the address of a merchant who kept these things, Cuthbert
proceeded thither; and purchased five cloaks of goat-skin with hoods to
pull over their heads for his followers, while for himself he obtained
one of rather finer material.
Another two days' journey brought them to the foot of the steep ascent,
and here they hired the services of a guide. The ascent was long and
difficult, and in spite of the praises which the host had bestowed upon
the road, it was so steep that Cuthbert was, for the most part, obliged
to walk, leading his steed, whose feet slipped on the smooth rock, and as
in many places a false step would have thrown them down many hundreds of
feet into the valley below, Cuthbert judged it safer to trust himself to
his own feet. He disencumbered himself of his helmet and gorget, and
placed these upon the horse's back. At nightfall they had attained a very
considerable height, and stopped at one of the small refuges of which the
landlord had spoken.
"I like not the look of the weather," the guide said in the morning--at
least that was what Cuthbert judged him to say, for he could speak no
word of the man's language. His actions, however, as he looked towards
the sky, and shook his head, spoke for themselves, and Cuthbert, feeling
his own powerlessness in a situation so novel to him, felt serious
misgivings at the prospect.
The scenery was now very wild. On all sides crags and mountain tops
covered with snow glistened in the sun. The woods near the path were free
of snow; but higher up they rose black above the white ground. The wind
blew keenly, and all rejoiced in the warm cloaks which they had obtained;
for even with the protection of these they had found the cold bitter
during the night.
"I like not this country," Cnut said. "We grumbled at the heat of
Palestine, but I had rather march across the sand there than in this
inhospitable frozen region. The woods look as if they might contain
spectres. There is a silence which seems to be unnatural, and my courage,