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Title: The Boy Crusaders - A Story of the Days of Louis IX.
Author: Edgar, John G. (John George), 1834-1864
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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          Presented to Master
          Thomas St. Lawrence
          Stephenson as a Birthday
          present from the Crew
          of the yacht "Northumbria"

               Sept. 12th 1841[1]

[Illustration: In vain were all attempts to drag him from his steed;
before his mighty battle-axe the Saracens seemed to fall as corn before
the reaper.--p. 169.]



THE

BOY CRUSADERS:

=A Story of the Days of Louis IX.=

BY

J. G. EDGAR,

AUTHOR OF 'THE BOY PRINCES,' ETC.

=Eight Full Page Illustrations.=

=Edinburgh:=

GALL & INGLIS, 6 GEORGE STREET.



PREFACE.


AMONG the many adventurous enterprises which rendered the age of
feudalism and chain-armour memorable in history, none were more
remarkable or important than the 'armed pilgrimages' popularly known as
the Crusades; and, among the expeditions which the warriors of mediæval
Europe undertook with the view of rescuing the Holy Sepulchre from the
Saracens, hardly one is so interesting as that which had Louis IX. for
its chief and Joinville for its chronicler.

In this volume I have related the adventures of two striplings, who,
after serving their apprenticeship to chivalry in a feudal castle in the
north of England, assumed the cross, embarked for the East, took part in
the crusade headed by the saint-King of France, and participated in the
glory and disaster which attended the Christian army, after landing at
Damietta--including the carnage of Mansourah, and the massacre of
Minieh.

In writing the 'Boy Crusaders' for juvenile readers, my object has
been--while endeavouring to give those, for whose perusal the work is
intended, as faithful a picture as possible of the events which
Joinville has recorded--to convey, at the same time, as clear an idea as
my limits would permit, of the career and character of the renowned
French monarch who, in peril and perplexity, in captivity and chains, so
eminently signalised his valour and his piety.

                                                   J. G. E.



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER                                  PAGE
        I. A FEUDAL CASTLE                    9
       II. THE BROTHERS-IN-ARMS              14
      III. THE HEIRS OF THE ESPECS           21
       IV. ST. LOUIS                         28
        V. TAKING THE CROSS                  36
       VI. EMBARKING FOR THE EAST            41
      VII. THE ARMED PILGRIMS AT CYPRUS      45
     VIII. EASTWARD                          49
       IX. AN ADVENTURE                      55
        X. ON THE LADDER OF LIFE             60
       XI. THE VOYAGE                        68
      XII. AT DAMIETTA                       74
     XIII. INCURSIONS                        82
      XIV. A RENEGADE                        88
       XV. CAPTURE OF A CARAVAN              96
      XVI. A COUNCIL OF WAR                 103
     XVII. FACE TO FACE                     109
    XVIII. DELAY AND DANGER                 113
      XIX. THE CAPTIVE                      119
       XX. PASSING THE ACHMOUN              124
      XXI. THE CARNAGE OF MANSOURAH         128
     XXII. THE BATTLE                       136
    XXIII. HOW JOINVILLE KEPT THE BRIDGE    142
     XXIV. THE FIRST FRIDAY IN LENT         150
      XXV. MORTIFICATIONS AND MISERIES      158
     XXVI. THE MASSACRE OF MINIEH           165
    XXVII. JOINVILLE IN PERIL               173
   XXVIII. NEWS OF DISASTER                 181
     XXIX. A WOUNDED PILGRIM                185
      XXX. ST. LOUIS IN CHAINS              191
     XXXI. THE TRAGEDY OF PHARESCOUR        199
    XXXII. PERILS AND SUSPENSE              204
   XXXIII. ACRE                             210
    XXXIV. A RESCUE                         214
     XXXV. MISSION TO BAGDAD                222
    XXXVI. THE LAST OF THE CALIPHS          229
   XXXVII. A RECOGNITION                    234
  XXXVIII. WOE TO THE CALIPH                240
    XXXIX. IN THE LION'S MOUTH              246
       XL. END OF THE ARMED PILGRIMAGE      253
      XLI. A SUDDEN DISCOVERY               260
     XLII. HOMEWARD BOUND                   266
    XLIII. A ROYAL VISIT                    272
     XLIV. THE FEAST OF KINGS               279



THE BOY CRUSADERS.



CHAPTER I.

A FEUDAL CASTLE.


IT was the age of chain armour and tournaments--of iron barons and
barons' wars--of pilgrims and armed pilgrimages--of forests and forest
outlaws--when Henry III. reigned as King of England, and the feudal
system, though no longer rampant, was still full of life and energy;
when Louis King of France, afterwards canonised as St. Louis, undertook
one of the last and most celebrated of those expeditions known as the
Crusades, and described as 'feudalism's great adventure, and popular
glory.'

At the time when Henry was King of England and when Louis of France was
about to embark for the East, with the object of rescuing the Holy
Sepulchre from the Saracens, there stood on the very verge of
Northumberland a strong baronial edifice, known as the Castle of Wark,
occupying a circular eminence, visible from a great distance, and
commanding such an extensive view to the north as seemed to ensure the
garrison against any sudden inroad on the part of the restless and
refractory Scots. On the north the foundations were washed by the waters
of the Tweed, here broad and deep; and on the south were a little town,
which had risen under the protection of the castle, and,--stretching
away towards the hills of Cheviot,--an extensive park or chase,
abounding with wild cattle and deer and beasts of game. At an earlier
period this castle had been a possession of the famous house of Espec;
and, when in after days it came into the hands of the Montacute Earls of
Salisbury, Edward III. was inspired within its walls with that romantic
admiration of the Countess of Salisbury which resulted in the
institution of the Order of the Garter. During the fifth decade of the
thirteenth century, however, it was the chief seat of Robert, Lord de
Roos, a powerful Anglo-Norman noble, whose father had been one of the
barons of Runnymede and one of the conservators of the Great Charter.

Like most of the fortresses built by the Norman conquerors of England,
Wark consisted of a base-court, a keep, and a barbican in front of the
base-court. The sides of the walls were fortified with innumerable
angles, towers, and buttresses, and surmounted with strong battlements
and hornworks. For greater security the castle was encompassed, save
towards the Tweed, with a moat or deep ditch, filled with water, and
fortified with strong palisades, and sharp stakes set thick all around
the walls. Over the moat, at the principal gate, was the drawbridge,
which was almost always raised, and the gate-house, a square building,
having strong towers at each corner. Over the entrance and within the
square of the gate-house was an arched vault, and over it was a chamber
with apertures, through which, on occasion of an assault, the garrison,
unseen the whilst, could watch the operations of the foe, and pour
boiling water or melted lead on the foremost assailants. On the west
side were the outworks, consisting of a platform with a trench half a
mile in length, and breastworks, and covered ways, and mounds. The roofs
of the building were bordered with parapets, guard walks, and sentry
boxes.

But the whole space was not appropriated to works intended to ensure the
stronghold against the assault of foes. Near the mound was the chapel
dedicated to St. Giles. Under the outer wall was a military walk, five
yards wide, and forty-eight yards in length. Underneath the walls, on
the brink of the river, was a beautiful terrace, called the Maiden's
Walk, where the lady of the castle and her damsels, after their labours
at the loom, were wont to take air and exercise on a summer evening, ere
the vesper bell rang, and the bat began to hunt the moth. Within the
precincts of the building was the tiltyard, a broad space enclosed with
rails, and covered with sawdust, where young men of gentle blood, in the
capacity of pages and squires, acquired the chivalrous accomplishments
which the age prized so highly.

In fact, the castle of Wark, like most feudal castles of that century,
was a school of chivalry, whither the sons of nobles and knights were
sent to serve their apprenticeship as warriors, taught their duty to God
and the ladies, and trained to the skill in arms which enabled them to
compel the respect of one sex and influence the hearts of the other.

First, on foot, they were taught to attack the pel, an imaginary
adversary, which was simply the stump of a tree six feet in height;
then, on horseback, they were made to charge the quintain, a wooden
figure in the form of a Saracen, armed in mail and holding a sabre in
one hand and a shield in the other, and so constructed to move on a
pivot that, unless the youth was dexterous enough to strike the face or
breast, it revolved rapidly, and dealt him a heavy blow on the back as
he was retiring. As the lads became more expert they tilted at each
other with blunt lances, practised riding at the ring, and learned to
excel as equestrians by riding in a circle, vaulting from their steeds
in the course of their career, and mounting again while they galloped.

At the same time they were trained to acquit themselves with credit in
those encounters celebrated as combats at the barriers. At the sieges of
cities, during the middle ages, knights of the besieging army were in
the habit of going to the barriers, or grated palisades of the fortress,
and defying the garrison to break a lance for the honour of their
ladies. Indeed, this was so fashionable, that an army could hardly
appear before a town without the siege giving rise to a variety of such
combats, which were generally conducted with fairness on both sides.
This mode of attack was early taught to the apprentice to chivalry, and
assiduously practised by all who were ambitious of knightly honour.

Nor did the exercises of the tiltyard end at this stage. At the time of
which I write, the name of Richard Coeur de Lion was famous in Europe
and Asia; and his feats in arms were on every tongue. One of his great
exploits at the battle of Joppa was especially the admiration of the
brave. It seems that, when the Crusaders were surrounded and almost
overwhelmed by the swarming host of Saladin, Richard, who, up to that
moment, had neither given nor received a wound, suddenly sprang on his
charger, drew his sword, laid his lance in rest, and with his sword in
one hand, and his lance in the other, spurred against the Saracens,
striking sparks from their helmets and armour, and inspiring such terror
that his foes were completely routed. Naturally such an exploit made a
strong impression on the imagination of aspirants to warlike fame, and
the youth who had the dexterity and the equestrian skill to imitate it
in mimic fray was regarded with admiration and envy.

Now our concern with Wark, and its tiltyard, is simply this--that,
within the castle, there were trained in the exercises of chivalry, and
qualified for its honours, two striplings, who, when St. Louis took the
Cross, and undertook a holy war, embarked for the East, and figured,
during a memorable expedition, as the Boy Crusaders.



CHAPTER II.

THE BROTHERS-IN-ARMS.


ON the last Wednesday of the month of July, in the year 1248, the castle
of Wark reposed in the sunshine and warmth of a bright merry summer's
day; and, the exercises in the tiltyard being over for the morning, two
of the apprentices to chivalry, whose dress indicated that they had
attained the rank of squires, strolled slowly along the green border of
the Tweed. Neither of them had passed the age of seventeen, but both
were tall and strong and handsome for their years; and both had the fair
hair, blue eyes, aquiline features, and air of authority which
distinguished the descendants of the valiant Northmen who accompanied
Rollo when he left Norway, sailed up the Seine, and seized on Neustria.
But in one rather important respect there was a remarkable difference.
One had a countenance which expressed gaiety of heart; the other had a
countenance which expressed sadness of spirit. One bore the name of Guy
Muschamp; the other the still greater name of Walter Espec.

'And so, good Walter, we are actually soldiers of the Cross, and vowed
to combat the Saracens,' said Guy, as they walked along the grassy
margin of the river, which flowed tranquilly on, while the salmon leaped
in its silver tide, and the trouts glided like silver darts through the
clear stream, and the white and brindled cows cooled their hoofs in the
water; 'and yet I know not how it comes to pass, good Walter; but
beshrew me if, at times, I do not fancy that it is a dream of the
night.'

'In truth, brave Guy,' replied the other, 'I comprehend not how you can
have any doubts on the subject, when you see the sacred badge on our
shoulders, and when we have, even within the hour, learned that the
ships of the great Saxon earl, in which we are to embark for the Holy
Land, are now riding at anchor before the town of Berwick.'

'You are right, good Walter,' said Guy, quickly; 'and marry! worse than
an infidel am I to have a doubt; and yet when I think of all the marvels
we are likely to behold, I can scarce credit my good fortune. Just
imagine, Walter Espec, the picturesque scenery--the palm-trees, the
fig-trees, the gardens with flowers, and vines, and citrons, and
pomegranates; the Saracenic castles, the long caravans of camels, and
the Eastern women veiled in white, standing at fountains, and all the
wonders that palmers and pilgrims tell of! Oh! the adventure appears so
grand, that I now begin to dread lest some mischance should come to
prevent us going.'

[Illustration: "I will go straightway with you, Walter," said Guy, "to
the palace of the Caliph; and if he refuses to render you justice, I
will challenge him to mortal combat on the spot."--p. 16.]

'And I,' observed Walter, calmly, 'have no dread of the kind; and I am,
heart and soul, bent on the holy enterprise; albeit, I reck little of
caravans of camels, or veiled women. But my heart yearns for that far
land; for there it is that I am like to hear tidings of him I have lost.
Ah! credit me, brave Guy, that you, and such as you, little know what it
is to be alone in this world, without kith or kindred, or home, and how
saddening is the thought, ever crossing my mind, that one, near and
dear, does live; and--and--'

He paused, bent his brow, clenched his hand, and cast his eyes on the
ground, as tears streamed down his cheek.

'Good Walter, dear Walter,' said Guy, yielding to sympathy till he was
almost equally affected; 'droop not, but be of good cheer. Forget not
that we are brothers-in-arms, that I am your friend, your true and sworn
friend; and I will aid your search. Nay, I know what you are going to
say; but you do me wrong. I will not waste time in looking at the camels
and the veiled women, of whom palmer and pilgrim tell; but I will go
straightway with you to the palace of the caliph; and, if he refuse to
render you justice, I will challenge him to mortal combat on the spot.
So again I say, be of good cheer.'

Walter Espec smiled mournfully. His enthusiasm was not, in reality, less
than that of his companion. But he had none of the gaiety, and little of
the buoyant spirit, which enabled Guy Muschamp to make himself, at all
times and seasons, a favourite in castle hall and lady's bower. 'I fear
me, brave Guy,' said Walter, after a brief silence, 'that the caliph is
too great a potentate to be dealt with as you would wish. But, come what
may, I am sworn to laugh at danger in the performance of a duty. My
dreams, awake and asleep, are of him who is lost; and I fantasied last
night,' added he, lowering his voice, 'that my mother stood before me,
as I last saw her when living, and implored me, in the name of St.
Katherine, the patron saint of the Especs, to fulfil my vow of rescuing
her lost son from captivity and from the enemies of Christ.'

'Oh, fear not, doubt not, good Walter,' cried Guy, with enthusiasm; 'it
must, it shall, be done; and then we can go and conquer a principality,
like Tancred, or Bohemund of Tarentum, or Count Raymond of St. Giles,
and other old heroes.'

'Even the crown of Jerusalem may not be beyond our grasp, if fortune
favour us,' said Walter, with a calm smile.

'Oh, fortune ever favours the brave,' exclaimed Guy; 'and I hold that
nothing is impossible to men who are brave and ambitious; and no squire
of your years is braver or more ambitious than you, Walter, or more
expert in arms; albeit you never utter a boast as to your own feats,
while no one is more ready to praise the actions of others.'

'Even if I had anything to boast of,' replied Walter, 'I should refrain
from so doing; and therein I should only be acting according to the
maxims of chivalry; for you know we are admonished to be dumb as to our
own deeds, and eloquent in praise of others; and, moreover, that if the
squire is vainglorious, he is not worthy to become a knight, and that he
who is silent as to the valour of others is a thief and a robber.'

And thus conversing, the brothers-in-arms returned to the castle, and
entered the great hall, which was so spacious and so high in the roof
that a man on horseback might have turned a spear in it with all the
ease imaginable. It was, indeed, a stately apartment; the ceiling
consisting of a smooth vault of ashlar-work, the stones being curiously
joined and fitted together; and the walls and roof decorated by some of
those great painters who flourished in England under the patronage of
King Henry and his fair and accomplished queen, Eleanor of Provence.
Here was represented the battle of Hastings; there the siege of
Jerusalem by the Crusaders under Godfrey of Bouillon and Robert
Curthose; here the battle of the Standard; there the signing of the
Great Charter by King John, under the oak of Runnymede. Around the hall
might be traced the armorial bearings of the lord of the castle and the
chief families with whom the lord of the castle was allied by blood--the
three water-budgets of De Roos; the three Katherine-wheels of Espec; the
engrailed cross of De Vesci; the seven blackbirds of Merley; the lion
argent of Dunbar in its field of gules; and the ruddy lion of Scotland,
ramping in gold; while on the roof was depicted the castle itself, with
gates, and battlements, and pinnacles, and towers; and there also, very
conspicuous, was the form of a rose, and around it was inscribed in
Gothic letters the legend--

          He who doth secrets reveal,
          Beneath my roof shall never live.

It was ten o'clock--in that age the hour of dinner--when Walter Espec
and Guy Muschamp entered the great hall of the castle, and, the
household having assembled for that important meal, a huge oaken table,
which in shape resembled the letter T, groaned under massive sirloins.
Attended by his jesters, the lord of the castle took his seat on the
dais, which was reserved for his family and his guests of high rank;
while the knights, squires, pages, and retainers ranged themselves above
and below the salt, according to their claims to precedence; and hawks
stood around on perches, and hounds lay stretched on the rushy floor,
waiting their turn to be fed.

Much ceremony was of course observed. The sirloins were succeeded by
fish and fowl, and dishes curiously compounded; and, as was the fashion
of that feudal age, the dinner lasted three hours. But, notwithstanding
the pride and pomp exhibited, the meal was by no means dull. The jesters
and minstrels did their work. During the intervals the jesters exercised
all their wit to divert the lord and his friends; and the minstrels, in
the gallery set apart for their accommodation, discoursed flourishes of
music, borrowed from the Saracens and brought from the East, for the
gratification of the company, or roused the aspirations of the youthful
warriors by some such spirit-stirring strain as the battle-hymn of
Rollo.

'I marvel much, good Walter,' said Guy Muschamp to his brother-in-arms,
'I marvel much where we are destined to dine this day next year.'

'Beshrew me if I can even form a guess,' replied Walter Espec,
thoughtfully; 'methinks no seer less potent than the Knight of
Ercildoune, whom the vulgar call "True Thomas," could on such a point do
aught to satisfy your curiosity.'

'Mayhap at Acre or Jerusalem,' suggested Guy, after a pause.

'By Holy Katherine,' exclaimed Walter, 'ere you named Acre and
Jerusalem, my imagination had carried me to the palace of the caliph at
Bagdad.'



CHAPTER III.

THE HEIRS OF THE ESPECS.


IN the days when the Norman kings reigned in England, the Especs were of
high account among the Anglo-Norman barons. Many were the brave and
pious men who bore the name; but the bravest and most pious of them all
was that Walter Espec, a great noble of the north, who maintained high
feudal state at the castles of Wark, Helmsley, and Kirkham, and who
figured so conspicuously as chief of the English at the battle of the
Standard, and harangued the soldiers before the battle from the chariot
from which the standard was displayed.

But not only as a warrior was Walter Espec known to fame. As a
benefactor to religion, his name was held in honour and his memory
regarded with veneration.

It seems that Walter Espec had, by his wife Adeline, an only son, who
was a youth of great promise, and much beloved by his parents. Nothing,
however, pleased him more than a swift horse; and he was so bold a rider
that he would not have feared to mount Bucephalus, in spite of heels and
horns. Leaping into the saddle one day, at the castle of Kirkham, and
scorning the thought of danger, he spurred his charger beyond its
strength, and, while galloping towards Frithby, had a fall at the stone
cross, and was killed on the spot. Much afflicted at his son's death,
Walter Espec sent for his brother, who was a priest and a rector.

'My son being, alas! dead,' said he, 'I know not who should be my heir.'

'Brother mine,' replied the priest, 'your duty is clear. Make Christ
your heir.'

Now Walter Espec relished the advice, and proceeded to act on it
forthwith. He founded three religious houses, one at Warden, a second at
Kirkham, a third at Rievallé; and, having been a disciple of Harding,
and much attached to the Cistercian order, he planted at each place a
colony of monks, sent him from beyond the sea by the great St. Bernard;
and, having further signalised his piety by becoming a monk in the abbey
of Rievallé, he died, full of years and honours, and was buried in that
religious house; while his territorial possessions passed to the Lord de
Roos, as husband of his sister.

Nevertheless, the family of Espec was not yet extinct. A branch still
survived and flourished in the north; and, as time passed over, a
kinsman of the great Walter won distinction in war, and, though a knight
of small estate, wedded a daughter of that Anglo-Saxon race the
Icinglas, once so great in England, but of whom now almost everything is
forgotten but the name. And this Espec, who had lived as a soldier, died
a soldier's death; falling bravely with his feet to the foe, on that day
in 1242 when the English under King Henry fought against such fearful
odds, at the-village of Saintonge. But even now the Especs were not
without representatives; for, by his Anglo-Saxon spouse Algitha, the
Anglo-Norman warrior who fell in Gascony left two sons, and of the two
one was named Walter, the other Osbert.

While Dame Algitha Espec lived, the young Especs scarcely felt the loss
they had sustained in the death of their father. Nothing, indeed, could
have been more exemplary than the care which the Anglo-Saxon dame
bestowed on her sons. In a conversation which Walter Espec held on the
battlements of the castle of Wark, with his brother-in-arms Guy
Muschamp, the heir of an Anglo-Norman baron of Northumberland, he lauded
her excellence as a woman, and her tenderness as a mother.

'I was in my tenth year,' said Walter, 'when my father, after having
served King Henry as a knight in Gascony, fell in battle; and, albeit my
mother, when she became a widow, was still fair and of fresh age, a
widow she resolved to remain; and she adhered firmly to her purpose. In
truth, her mouth was so accustomed to repeat the name of her dead
husband that it seemed as if his memory had possession of her whole
heart and soul; for whether in praying or giving alms, and even in the
most ordinary acts of life, she continually pronounced his name.

'My mother brought up my brother and myself with the most tender care.
Living at our castellated house of Heckspeth, in the Wansbeck, and hard
by the abbey of Newminster, she lived in great fear of the Lord, and
with an equal love for her neighbours, especially such as were poor; and
she prudently managed us and our property. Scarcely had we learned the
first elements of letters, which she herself, being convent-bred, taught
us, when, eager to have us instructed, she confided us to a master of
grammar, who incited us to work, and taught us to recite verses and
compose them according to rule.'

It was while the brothers Espec were studying under this master of
grammar, and indulging with spirit and energy in the sports and
recreations fashionable among the boys of the thirteenth century--such
as playing with whirligigs and paper windmills, and mimic engines of
war, and trundling hoops, and shooting with bows and arrows, and
learning to swim on bladders, that Dame Algitha followed her husband to
a better world, and they found themselves orphans and unprotected. For
both, however, Providence raised up friends in the day of need.
Remembering what he owed to his connection with the Especs, the Lord de
Roos received Walter into his castle of Wark, to be trained to arms; and
another kinsman, who was a prior in France, received Osbert into his
convent, to be reared as a monk. The orphans, who had never before been
separated, and who were fondly attached, parted after many embraces, and
many tears; and, with as little knowledge of the world into which they
were entering as fishes have of the sea in which they swim, each went
where destiny seemed to point the way.

On reaching the castle of Wark, Walter Espec felt delighted with the
novelty of the scene, and entered with enthusiasm upon his duties as an
aspirant to the honours of chivalry. Besides learning to carve, to sing,
and to take part in that exciting sport which has been described as 'the
image of war'--such as hawking, and hunting the hare, the deer, the
boar, and the wolf--he ere long signalised himself in the tiltyard by
the facility which he displayed in acquiring skill in arms, and in
chivalrous exercises. Indeed, whether in assailing the pel, or charging
the quintain on horseback, or riding at the ring, or in the combat at
the barriers, Walter had hardly a rival among the youths of his own age;
and, after being advanced to the rank of squire, he crowned his triumphs
in the tiltyard by successfully charging on horseback, _à la_ Coeur de
Lion, with a sword in one hand and a lance in the other.

But still Walter Espec was unhappy; and, even when his dexterity and
prowess in arms moved the envy or admiration of his youthful compeers,
his heart was sad and his smile mournful.

And why was the brave boy so sad?

At the time when Walter was winning such reputation at the castle of
Wark, Jerusalem was sacked by the Karismians. A cry of distress came
from the Christians in the East; and the warriors of the West were
implored to undertake a new crusade, to rescue the Holy Sepulchre and
save the kingdom founded by Godfrey and the Baldwins. The warriors of
the West, however, showed no inclination to leave their homes; and the
pope was lamenting the absence of Christian zeal, when a boy went about
France, singing in his native tongue--

          Jesus, Lord, repair our loss,
          Restore to us thy blessed cross;

and met with much sympathy from those of his own age. Multitudes of
children crowded round him as their leader, and followed his footsteps
wherever he went. Nothing could restrain their enthusiasm; and,
assembling in crowds in the environs of Paris, they prepared to cross
Burgundy and make for Marseilles.

'And whither are you going, children?' people asked.

'We are going to Jerusalem, to deliver the Holy Sepulchre,' answered
they.

'But how are you to get there?' was the next question.

'Oh,' replied they, 'you seem not to know how it has been prophesied
that this year the drought will be very great, that the sun will
dissipate all the waters, and that the abysses of the sea will be dry;
and that an easy road will lie open to us across the bed of the
Mediterranean.'

On reaching Marseilles, however, the young pilgrims discovered that they
had been deluded. Some of them returned to their homes; but the majority
were not so fortunate. Many lost themselves in the forests which then
covered the country, and died of hunger and fatigue; and the others
became objects of speculation to two merchants of Marseilles, who
carried on trade with the Saracens. Affecting to act from motives of
piety, the two merchants tempted the boy-pilgrims by offering to convey
them, without charge, to the Holy Land; and, the offer having been
joyfully accepted, seven vessels, with children on board, sailed from
Marseilles. But the voyage was not prosperous. At the end of two days,
when the ships were off the isle of St. Peter, near the rock of the
Recluse, a tempest arose, and the wind blew so violently that two of
them went down with all on board. The five others, however, weathered
the storm, and reached Bugia and Alexandria. And now the young Crusaders
discovered to their consternation how they had been deceived and
betrayed. Without delay they were sold by the merchants to the
slave-dealers, and by the slave-dealers to the Saracens. Forty of them
were purchased for the caliph and carried to Bagdad, where they were
forced to abjure Christianity, and brought up as slaves.

Now, among the boys who had yielded to the prevailing excitement, and
repaired to Marseilles to embark for Syria, was Osbert Espec; and ever
since Walter received from his kinsman, the prior, intelligence of his
brother's disappearance, and heard the rumours of what had befallen the
young pilgrims on their arrival in the East, his memory had brooded over
the misfortune, and his imagination, which was constantly at work,
pictured Osbert in the caliph's prison, laden with chains, and forced to
forswear the God of his fathers; and the thought of his lost brother was
ever present to his mind. And therefore was Walter Espec's heart sad,
and therefore was his smile mournful.



CHAPTER IV.

ST. LOUIS.


AMONG the names of the European princes associated with the history of
the Holy War, that of St. Louis is one of the most renowned. Although
flourishing in a century which produced personages like Frederick,
Emperor of Germany, and our first great Edward, who far excelled him in
genius and prowess--as wise rulers in peace and mighty chiefs in
war--his saintliness, his patience in affliction, his respect for
justice and the rights of his neighbours, entitle him to a high place
among the men of the age which could boast of so many royal heroes. In
order to comprehend the crusade, of which he was leader, it is necessary
to refer briefly to the character and career of the good and pious king,
who, in the midst of disaster and danger, exhibited the courage of a
hero and the resignation of a martyr.

It was on the day of the Festival of St. Mark, in the year 1215, that
Blanche of Castille, wife of the eighth Louis of France, gave birth, at
Poissy, to an heir to the crown, which Hugh Capet had, three centuries
earlier, taken from the feeble heir of Charlemagne. On the death of his
father, Louis, then in his twelfth year, became King of France, at a
time when it required a man with a strong hand to maintain the
privileges of the crown against the great nobles of the kingdom.
Fortunately for the young monarch Providence had blessed him with a
mother, who, whatever her faults and failings--and chroniclers have not
spared her reputation--brought to the terrible task of governing in a
feudal age a high spirit and a strong will, and applied herself
earnestly to the duty of bringing up her son in the way in which he
should walk, and educating him in such a manner as to prepare him for
executing the high functions which he was destined to fulfil. While,
with the aid of her chivalrous admirer, the Count of Champagne, and the
counsel of a cardinal-legate--with whom, by-the-bye, she was accused of
being somewhat too familiar--Blanche of Castille maintained the rights
of the French monarchy against the great vassals of France, she reared
her son with the utmost care. She entrusted his education to excellent
masters, appointed persons eminent for piety to attend to his religious
instruction, and evinced profound anxiety that he should lead a virtuous
and holy life.

'Rather,' she once said, 'would I see my son in his grave, than learn
that he had committed a mortal sin.'

As time passed on, Blanche of Castille had the gratification of finding
that her toil and her anxiety were not in vain. Lotus, indeed, was a
model whom other princes, in their teens, would have done well to copy.
His piety, and his eagerness to do what was right and to avoid what was
wrong, raised the wonder of his contemporaries. He passed much of his
time in devotional exercises, and, when not occupied with religious
duties, ever conducted himself as if with a consciousness that the eye
of his Maker was upon him, and that he would one day have to give a
strict account of all his actions. Every morning he went to hear prayers
chanted, and mass and the service of the day sung; every afternoon he
reclined on his couch, and listened while one of his chaplains repeated
prayers for the dead; and every evening he heard complines.

Nevertheless, Louis did not, like such royal personages as our Henry
VI., allow his religious exercises so wholly to monopolise his time or
attention as to neglect the duties which devolved upon him as king. The
reverse was the case. After arriving at manhood he convinced the world
that he was well qualified to lead men in war, and to govern them in
peace.

It happened that, in the year 1242, Henry King of England, who was
several years older than Louis, became ambitious of regaining the
continental territory wrested from his father, John, by Philip Augustus;
and the Count de la Marche, growing malecontent with the government of
France, formed a confederacy against the throne, and invited Henry to
conduct an army to the Continent. Everything seemed so promising, and
the confederacy so formidable, that Henry, unable to resist the
temptation of recovering Normandy and Anjou, crossed the sea, landed at
Bordeaux, and prepared for hostilities. At first, the confederates were
confident of succeeding in their objects; but, ere long, they discovered
that they had mistaken their position, and the character of the prince
whom they were defying.

In fact, Louis soon proved that he was no 'carpet knight.' Assembling an
army, he buckled on his mail, mounted his charger; and placing himself
at the head of his forces, marched to encounter his enemies. Reaching
the banks of the Charente, he offered the confederates battle, near the
bridge of Taillebourg; but his challenge was not accepted. By this time
the confederates had lost faith in their enterprise; and while De la
Marche was meditating a reconciliation with Louis, Henry, accusing the
count of having deceived, and being about to betray, him, retreated
precipitately, and never drew rein till he reached the village of
Saintonge.

But Louis was unwilling to allow his royal foe to escape so easily. Nor,
indeed, could Henry without reluctance fly from the peril he had
provoked. At all events, on reaching Saintonge, the English turned to
bay, and a battle began. But the odds were overwhelming; and, though the
Anglo-Norman barons fought with characteristic courage, they were
speedily worsted, and under the necessity of making for Bordeaux.

From the day on which this battle was fought, it was no longer doubtful
that Louis was quite able to hold his own; and neither foreign kings nor
continental counts cared to disturb his government or defy his power. In
fact, the fame of the King of France became great throughout
Christendom, and inspired the hopes of the Christians of the East.

Nor was it merely as a warrior that Louis signalised himself among his
contemporaries. At the time when he was attending, with exemplary
regularity, to his religious devotions, and keeping watch over the
security of his dominions, he was devoting himself assiduously to his
duties as sovereign and to the administration of justice.

One day, when Louis was at the castle of Hieros, in Provence, a
Cordelier friar approached.

'Sire,' said the friar, 'I have read of unbelieving princes in the Bible
and other good books; yet I have never read of a kingdom of believers or
unbelievers being ruined, but from want of justice being duly
administered. Now,' continued the friar, 'I perceive the king is going
to France; let him administer justice with care, that our Lord may
suffer him to enjoy his kingdom, and that it may remain in peace and
tranquillity all the days of his life, and that God may not deprive him
of it with shame and dishonour.'

Louis listened attentively to the Cordelier, and the friar's words sank
deep into his mind. From that date he gave much attention to the
administration of justice, and took especial care to prevent the poor
being wronged by their more powerful neighbours. On summer days, after
hearing mass, he was in the habit of repairing to the gardens of his
palace, seating himself on a carpet, and listening to such as wished to
appeal to him; at other times he went to the wood of Vincennes, and
there, sitting under an oak, listened to their statements with
attention and patience. No ceremony was allowed to keep the poor man
from the king's justice-seat.

'Whoever has a complaint to make,' Louis was wont to say, 'let him now
make it;' and when there were several who wished to be heard, he would
add, 'My friends, be silent for awhile, and your causes shall be
despatched one after another.'

When Louis was in his nineteenth year, Blanche of Castille recognised
the expediency of uniting him to a princess worthy of sharing the French
throne, and bethought her of the family of Raymond Berenger, Count of
Provence, one of the most accomplished men in Europe, and whose
countess, Beatrice of Savoy, was even more accomplished than her
husband; Raymond and Beatrice had four daughters, all remarkable for
their wit and beauty, and all destined to be queens. Of these four
daughters, the eldest, Margaret of Provence, who was then thirteen, was
selected as the bride of Louis; and, about two years before her younger
sister, Eleanor, was conducted to England to be espoused by King Henry,
Margaret arrived in Paris, and began to figure as Queen of France.

The two princesses of Provence who had the fortune to form such high
alliances found themselves in very different positions. Eleanor did just
as she pleased, ruled her husband, and acted as if everything in England
had been created for her gratification. Margaret's situation, though
more safe, was much less pleasant. In her husband's palace she could not
boast of being in the enjoyment even of personal liberty. In fact,
Queen Blanche was too fond of power to allow that which she had acquired
to be needlessly imperilled; and, apprehensive that the young queen
should gain too much influence with the king, she deliberately kept the
royal pair separate. Nothing, indeed, could exceed the domestic tyranny
under which they suffered. When Louis and Margaret made royal
progresses, Blanche of Castille took care that her son and
daughter-in-law were lodged in separate houses. Even in cases of
sickness the queen-mother did not relent. On one occasion, when Margaret
was ill and in the utmost danger, Louis stole to her chamber. While he
was there, Blanche entered, and he endeavoured to conceal himself.
Blanche, however, detected him, shook her head, and forcibly pushed him
out of the door.

'Be off, sir,' said she, sternly; 'you have no right here.'

'Madam, madam,' exclaimed Margaret, in despair, 'will you not allow me
to see my husband, either when I am living, or when I am dying?' and the
poor queen fainted away.

It was while the young saint-king and his fair Provencal spouse were
enduring this treatment at the hands of the old queen-mother that events
occurred which fired Louis with the idea of undertaking a crusade, and
gave Margaret an excellent excuse for escaping from the society of the
despotic dowager who had embittered her life, and almost broken her
heart.

One day, when Louis was recovering from the effects of a fever, which
had so thoroughly prostrated him, that at times his attendants believed
he was dead, he ordered a Cross to be stitched to his garments.

'How is this,' asked Blanche of Castille, when she came to visit her son
on his sick bed.

'Madam,' whispered the attendants, 'the king has, out of gratitude for
his recovery, taken the Cross, and vowed to combat the infidel.'

'Alas! alas!' exclaimed Blanche, terrified, 'I am struck as fearfully as
if I had seen him dead.'



CHAPTER V.

TAKING THE CROSS.


A CENTURY and a half had elapsed since Peter the Hermit roused
Christendom to rescue the Holy Sepulchre, and since Godfrey and the
Baldwins established the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem; and in the
interval, many valiant warriors--including Richard Coeur de Lion, and
Philip Augustus, and Frederick Barbarossa--had gone forth to light in
its defence; and the orders of military monks--the Knights of the
Temple, the Knights of St. John, the Knights of St. Katherine of Sinai,
and the Teutonic Knights, had risen to keep watch over the safety of the
Holy Sepulchre. But the kingdom of Jerusalem, constantly exposed to rude
shocks, far from prospering, was always in danger of ruin; and in 1244
the Holy City, its capital, was taken and sacked by a wild race, without
a country, known as the Karismians, who, at the sultan's instance,
slaughtered the inhabitants, opened the tombs, burnt the bodies of
heroes, scattered the relics of saints and martyrs to the wind, and
perpetrated such enormities as Jerusalem, in her varying fortunes, had
never before witnessed.

When this event occurred, the Christians of the East, more loudly than
ever, implored the warriors of Europe to come to their rescue. But, as
it happened, most of the princes of Christendom were in too much trouble
at home to attend to the affairs of Jerusalem. Baldwin Courtenay,
Emperor of Constantinople, was constantly threatened with expulsion by
the Greeks; Frederick, Emperor of Germany, was at war with the Pope; the
King of Castille was fighting with the Moors; the King of Poland was
fully occupied with the Tartars; the King of Denmark had to defend his
throne against his own brother; the King of Sweden had to defend his
throne against the Tolekungers. As for Henry King of England, he was
already involved in those disputes with the Anglo-Norman barons which
ultimately led to the Barons' War. One kingdom alone was at peace; and
it was France, then ruled by Louis IX., since celebrated as St. Louis,
that listened to the cry of distress.

At that time Louis King of France, then not more than thirty, but
already, as we have seen, noted for piety and valour, was stretched on a
bed of sickness, and so utterly prostrate that, at times, as has been
related, he was thought to be dead. Nevertheless, he did recover; and,
snatched as if by miracle from the gates of death, he evinced his
gratitude to Heaven by ordering the Cross to be fixed to his vestments,
and vowing to undertake an expedition for the rescue of the Holy
Sepulchre.

The resolution of the saintly monarch was not quite agreeable to his
family or his subjects, any more than to his mother, Blanche of
Castille; and many of his lords made earnest efforts to divert him from
his purpose. But remonstrance proved unavailing. Clinging steadfastly to
his resolution, Louis summoned a Parliament at Paris, induced the
assembled magnates to take the Cross, occupied three years with
preparations on a great scale, and ultimately, having repaired to St.
Denis, and received from the hands of the papal legate the famous
standard known as the oriflamme of France, embarked at Aigues Mortes,
and sailed for Cyprus, with his queen, Margaret of Provence, his
brothers, the Counts of Artois, Poictiers, and Anjou, and many of the
greatest lords of his kingdom.

Meanwhile, the barons of England were not indifferent to what was
passing on the Continent. Many of them, indeed, were desirous to take
part in the expedition. But King Henry not only forbade them to assume
the Cross, but would not allow a crusade to be preached in his
dominions. No general movement was therefore made in England.
Nevertheless, William Longsword, Earl of Salisbury, grandson of the
second Henry and Rosamond Clifford, determined on an 'armed pilgrimage,'
and, in company with Lord Robert de Vere and others, vowed to join the
French Crusaders and combat the Saracens. Henry, enraged at his mandate
being disregarded, seized Salisbury's manors and castles; but the earl,
faithful to his vow, embarked, with De Vere as his standard-bearer, and
with two hundred English knights of noble name and dauntless courage,
sworn to bring the standard back with glory, or dye it with their
hearts' blood.

At the same time Patrick, Earl of March, the most illustrious noble who
sprang from the Anglo-Saxon race, announced his intention of
accompanying King Louis to the East. Earl Patrick had seen more than
threescore years, and his hair was white, and his limbs stiff; but his
head was still as clear, and his heart was still as courageous, as in
the days when he had dyed his lance in Celtic blood, vanquished the
great Somerled, and carried the Bastard of Galloway in chains to
Edinburgh; and, with an earnest desire to couch against the enemies of
Christianity the lance which he had often couched against the enemies of
civilisation, he took the Cross, sold his stud on the Leader Haughs to
pay his expenses, bade a last farewell to Euphemia Stewart, his aged
countess, received the pilgrim's staff and scrip from the Abbot of
Melrose, and left his castle to embark with his knights and kinsmen.

'I was young, and now I am old,' said Earl Patrick, with enthusiasm. 'In
my youth I fought with the foes of my race. In my old age I will fare
forth and combat the foes of my religion.'

It was under the banner of this aged hero that Guy Muschamp and Walter
Espec were about to embark for the East; and, on the evening of the day
preceding that on which they were to set out, they were conducted to the
presence of the mother of the lord of the castle, who was the daughter
of a Scottish king, that they might receive her blessing.

'My children,' said she, as they knelt before her, and she laid her
hands on their heads, 'do not forget, when among strangers and exposed
to temptation, the lessons of piety and chivalry which you have learned
within these walls. Fear God, and He will support you in all dangers. Be
frank and courteous, but not servile, to the rich and powerful; kind and
helpful to the poor and afflicted. Beware of meriting the reproaches of
the brave; and ever bear in mind that evil befalls him who proves false
to his promises to his God, his country, and his lady. Be brave in war;
in peace, loyal and true in thought and word; and Heaven will bless you,
and men will hold your names in honour, and you will be dreaded in
battle and loved in hall.'

Next morning the brothers-in-arms rose betimes; and, all preparations
for their departure having been previously made, they mounted at
daybreak, and leaving the castle of Wark, and riding through the great
park that lay around it, startling the deer and the wild cattle as they
went, took their way towards Berwick, before which rode the ships
destined to convey them from their native shores.



CHAPTER VI.

EMBARKING FOR THE EAST.


IT was Saturday; and the sun shone brightly on pool and stream, and even
lighted up the dingy corners of walled cities, as the Earl of March
proceeded on foot from the castle to the port of Berwick, and embarked
with his knights and kinsmen.

The event created much excitement in the town. In fact, though the
princes and nobles of Europe were weary of enterprises that had ruined
so many great houses, the people still thought of the crusades with
interest, and talked of them with enthusiasm. The very name of Palestine
exercised a magical influence on the European Christians of that
generation. At the mention of the Holy Land, their imagination conjured
up the most picturesque scenery; Saracenic castles stored with gold and
jewels; cities the names of which were recorded in the sacred book which
the poorest knew by picture; and they listened earnestly as palmer or
pilgrim told of Sharon with its roses without thorns; Lebanon with its
cedars and vines; and Carmel with its solitary convent, and its summit
covered with thyme, and haunted by the eagle and the boar, till their
fancy pictured 'a land flowing with milk and honey,' by repairing to
which sinners could secure pardon without penance in this world, and
happiness without purgatory in the next.

It is not wonderful that, when such sentiments prevailed, the
embarkation of a great noble for the Holy Land should have excited much
interest; and, as Guy Muschamp and Walter Espec took their way from the
castle to the port, crowded with ships, and passed warehouses stored
with merchandise, the Red Hall of the Flemings resounding with the noise
of artificers, the wealthy religious houses which kept alive the flame
of ancient learning, and dispensed befitting charities, the streets
presented a motley assemblage of seafaring men, monks, warriors, and
soldiers; the wives and daughters of the burghers, all in holiday
attire, crowded the housetops or gazed from the windows and balconies;
and the burghers themselves, leaving their booths and warehouses,
flocked to the port to gossip with each other, and to witness the
departure of the armed pilgrims.

'Oh, good Walter,' exclaimed Guy Muschamp, whose spirit rose with the
excitement, 'is not this a stirring scene? By St. John of Beverley, what
rich armour! what gallant ships! what stately churches! And yet I would
wager my basinet to a prentice's flat cap that it is not, for a moment,
to be compared to Acre.'

'I deem that it can hardly be,' replied Walter, calmly; 'and, in truth,
I am in no mood to look upon life with joyous emotions. But, brave Guy,
I am pleased to see you pleased; albeit, I own frankly that I should be
more than human did I not somewhat envy you your gaiety.'

'Be gay, good Walter.'

Walter shook his head.

'Vain would be the effort,' he replied, sadly; 'I can only pray to God
and Holy Katherine to grant that I may return with a lighter heart.'

'As for me,' continued Guy, 'I am ever gay--gay as the lark; gay in the
morning, gay at eve. It is my nature so to be. My mother is a
Frenchwoman--a kinswoman of the Lord of Joinville--and scarce knows what
sadness is. I inherit her spirit; and I doubt not that, if I am slain by
the Saracens, I shall die laughing.'

With this conversation they reached the quay, just as Earl Patrick was
stepping on board his ship, the 'Hilda,' which, if less graceful and
elegant than the vessels of modern times, was imposing to look upon.
Adorned with painting and gilding, it had armorial bearings and badges
embroidered on various parts; banners of gay and brilliant colours
floated from the masts; and the sails of azure and purple shone with
work of gold. Armour glittered on deck; and martial music was not
wanting to give variety to the display.

Meanwhile, amidst the bustle and shouts of the crew, the ports of the
vessel were opened to allow the horses of the armed pilgrims to enter;
and, as the ports were under water when the vessel was at sea, they were
caulked and stopped up as close as a tun of wine. This operation over,
and all the adventurers embarked, the skipper raised his hand for
silence.

'My men, is your work done?' cried he to his people in the prow; 'are
you ready?'

'Yes, in truth, we are ready,' answered the seamen.

And now, the priests who accompanied Earl Patrick having embarked, the
captain made them mount to the castle of the ship, and chant psalms in
praise of God, and to pray that He might be pleased to grant a
prosperous voyage; and they, having ascended, sang the beautiful hymn of
'Veni, Creator' from beginning to end. While the priests sang, the
mariners set their sails, and the skipper ordered them to haul up the
anchor; and instantly a breeze filled the sails, and the ships moved
slowly but proudly away from the shore.



CHAPTER VII.

THE ARMED PILGRIMS AT CYPRUS.


NOT with the very best grace did the King of France come to the
resolution of sailing for Cyprus. Indeed, the safety of his army
depended, in some degree, on the route selected; and the safest way to
the Holy Land was understood to be by Sicily. Unluckily, however, Sicily
was subject to the Emperor Frederick; and Frederick and his dominions
had been excommunicated by the Pope; and Louis, with his peculiar
notions, feared to set foot on a soil that was under the ban of the
Church. At Lyons, where he received the papal blessing, he endeavoured
to reconcile the Emperor and the Pope; but his Holiness declined to
listen to mediation; and the saint-king, yielding to conscientious
scruples, determined, without further hesitation, to sacrifice his plan
of passing through Sicily to Syria, and announced his intention of
proceeding by way of Cyprus to Egypt.

At that time the King of Cyprus was Henry de Lusignan, to whose family
Richard Coeur de Lion had, in the twelfth century, given the throne,
from which he dragged the Emperor Isaac; and no sooner did Louis reach
the port of Limisso, than Henry, accompanied by nobles and clergy,
appeared to bid him welcome. Nothing, indeed, could have exceeded the
enthusiasm with which the French Crusaders were received; and when Louis
was conducted with much ceremony to Nicosia, and entered that city, the
capital of the island, the populace cheered loudly, and the clergy met
him, singing 'Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.'

The glory of Nicosia has long since departed. Situated in the centre of
Cyprus, on the river Pedia, in a low fertile plain, near the base of a
range of mountains that intersects the island, and surrounded by walls,
in the form of a hexagon, flanked with bastions, the capital has many
fine houses; but these are mostly in ruins, and the inhabitants occupy
tenements reared of mud and brick, and rather repulsive in appearance.
At that time, however, the state of Nicosia was very different. As the
capital of the Lusignans, the city exhibited the pomp and pride of
feudal chivalry, with much of the splendour of oriental courts, and
boasted of its palaces, castles, churches, and convents, and chapelries,
and gardens, and vineyards, and pleasant places, and all the luxuries
likely to render mediæval life enviable.

Now, when Louis landed at Limisso, and entered Nicosia, he had no
intention of wintering in Cyprus. In fact, the saint-king was all
eagerness to push forward and combat the Saracens. But circumstances
proved stronger than his will. The Crusaders were highly captivated with
all that they saw and heard. The aspect of the island was enchanting;
the wine, which even Solomon has deigned to celebrate, was to their
taste: the dark-eyed Greek women, who perhaps knew that the island had
anciently been the favourite seat, of Venus, and who, in any case,
enjoyed the reputation of being devoted to the worship of the goddess,
were doubtless fascinating; and almost every one of the days that
succeeded Louis's arrival was devoted to rejoicings and feastings. Not
unnaturally, but most unfortunately, the Crusaders yielded to the
fascinations of an existence which at first they all enjoyed, heart and
soul; and with one accord they cried out, 'We must tarry here till
spring. Let us eat, drink, and be merry.'

Accordingly the Crusaders did winter in Cyprus; and the consequences
were most disastrous. Enervated by luxury, they soon forgot their vows,
and rushed into every kind of extravagance and dissipation. Of course,
their recklessness soon brought its own punishment. As time passed on,
and winter set in, rain fell daily, and the intemperance, the strange
climate, and the weather soon did their work. By-and-by, a pestilential
disease made its appearance in the camp of the pilgrims, and carried off
thousands of victims, including two hundred and fifty knights. Moreover,
there was much discord and dissension. The Greek clergy and the Latin
clergy began to quarrel; the Templars and the Knights of St. John began
to fight; and the saint-king found his position the very reverse of
satisfactory or agreeable.

By the time that the little fleet, on board of which were Guy Muschamp
and Walter Espec, reached Cyprus, matters were not what they should
have been; and the wise and prudent shook their heads, and predicted
that an expedition conducted in such a fashion was too likely to end in
disaster and ruin.



CHAPTER VIII.

EASTWARD.


IT was July, as I have intimated, when the ship 'Hilda,' which carried
Walter Espec and Guy Muschamp, left the shores of England; and, soon
after having lost sight of land, both began to experience a little of
that vague fear of 'the blue above and the blue below,' which, in the
thirteenth century, made some of the boldest feudal warriors, when they
embarked, invoke the protection of the saints in Paradise.

'On my faith, good Walter,' remarked Guy, with less than his wonted
gaiety, for the ship was beginning to toss, and he was beginning to feel
rather sea sick, 'I cannot but think that the man is a great fool, who,
having wronged any of his neighbours, or having any mortal sin on his
conscience, puts himself in such peril as this; for, when he goes to
sleep at night, he knows not if in the morning he may not find himself
under the waves.'

'May the saints preserve us from such a fate,' replied Walter,
thoughtfully; 'yet I own I feel so uneasy that I can hardly believe
myself a descendant of the kings of the north who made the ocean their
home, and called the tempest their servant, and never felt so joyous as
when they were treading the pine plank, and giving the reins to their
great sea horses.'

'On my faith,' said Guy, who was every moment becoming more
uncomfortable,'I cannot but marvel much at the eccentricity of their
tastes, and could almost wish myself back to the castle of Wark.'

'Nevertheless,' replied Walter, 'we must bear in mind that, having taken
the Cross and vowed to combat the Saracens, it beseems us not, as
Christians and gentlemen, to look backward.'

At the time when this conversation took place, the sea was comparatively
calm, and the weather most favourable; and the skipper, naturally
overjoyed with his good fortune in both respects, predicted a speedy
voyage. In this, however, he was in some measure disappointed. Many
circumstances occurred to retard the progress of the Saxon Earl and his
companions towards Cyprus; and, what with prolonged calms, and contrary
winds, and foul weather, it was late in autumn ere they neared the
island where the King of France and his chivalry had, for their
misfortune, resolved on passing the winter.

So far all was well, and the Boy Crusaders, now recovered from their
sickness, rejoiced in the anticipation of soon reaching Cyprus. But the
dangers of the voyage were not yet over, and one evening, about vespers,
while Walter and Guy were regaling their imaginations with the prospect
of being speedily in the company of the warriors of France, the mariners
found that they were unpleasantly close to a great mountain of Barbary.
Not relishing their position--for they had the fear of the Saracens of
Barbary before their eyes--the mariners pressed on, and during the night
made all the sail they could, and flattered themselves that they had run
at least fifty leagues. But what was their surprise when day broke, to
find that they were still off the mountain which they fancied they must
have left behind. Great, moreover, was their alarm as they thought of
the piratical natives; and, albeit they laboured hard all that day and
all that night to make sail, when the sun rose next morning--it was
Saturday--the mountain, from which they were so anxious to escape, was
still near at hand. All on board expressed their alarm on discovering
that the mariners deemed their position perilous; and the Earl, on
learning how matters stood, appeared on deck, and summoned the master of
the ship.

'In wonder's name, skipper,' said he, sternly, 'how happens this?'

'In truth, my lord earl,' replied the skipper, much perplexed, 'I cannot
tell how it happens; but this I know, that we all run great risk of our
lives.'

'In what way?'

'From the Saracens of Barbary, who are cruel and savage, and who are as
likely as not to come down in swarms and attack us.'

The idea of captivity and chains occurred to every one who listened, and
even the Earl changed countenance. At that moment, however, one of the
chaplains stepped forward. He was a discreet churchman, and his words
were ever treated with high respect.

'My lord earl and gentlemen,' said the chaplain; 'I never remember any
distress in our parish, either from too much abundance or from want of
rain, or from any other plague, but that God delivered us from it, and
caused everything to happen as well as could have been wished, when a
procession had been made three times with devotion on a Saturday.'

'Wherefore,' suggested the Earl, 'you would have us do likewise, as
deeming the ceremony likely to deliver us from our peril?'

'Even so,' continued the churchman. 'I recommend, noble Earl, that, as
this day is Saturday, we instantly commence walking in procession round
the masts of the ship.'

'By all means,' replied the Earl, 'let us forthwith walk in procession
as you recommend. Worse than foolish would it be on our parts to neglect
such a ceremony. A simple remedy, on my faith, for such an evil.'

Accordingly, the skipper issued orders through the ship; and all on
board were assembled on deck, and, headed by the priests, solemnly
walked in procession round the masts, singing as they walked; and,
however it came to pass, the ceremony seemed to have the effect which
the chaplain had prognosticated. From that moment everything went
smoothly. Almost immediately afterwards they lost sight of the mountain,
and cast all fear of the Saracens of Barbary to the winds; and ere long
they had the gratification of hearing the cry of 'Land,' and of seeing
before their eyes the far-famed island of Cyprus.

It was latest autumn, however; and Cyprus did not look by any means so
bright and beautiful as the Boy Crusaders had, during the voyage,
anticipated. Indeed, clouds rested over the range of mountains that
intersects the island lengthways. The rain had fallen somewhat heavily,
and the aspect of the place was so decidedly dismal and disheartening,
that, as the two squires landed, their countenances expressed much
disappointment.

'Now, by St. John of Beverley,' exclaimed Guy, giving expression to his
feelings, 'I marvel much that this lovely queen, Venus, of whom
minstrels have sung so much, should, when she doubtless had her free
choice as to a residence, have so highly favoured this place.

'Tastes differ,' replied Walter, rather gloomily. 'Certainly, had I my
choice of a residence, I should fix my abode elsewhere.'

'But what have we here?' cried Guy, as he pointed to countless casks of
wine piled high, one on the other, and to huge heaps of wheat, barley,
and other grains, which the purveyors of King Louis had some time before
prepared for his grand enterprise. 'Beshrew me, if, at a distance, I did
not imagine the casks of wine to be houses, and the heaps of corn
mountains.'

'Anyhow,' observed Walter, 'the sight of the wine and the corn should
give us comfort; for it is clear that the King of France, however
saintly, does not forget that men have mouths, nor mean his army to die
of hunger or thirst.'

'On my faith,' said Guy, 'I have a strong desire to catch a glance of
this miracle of saintliness. I marvel if he rides about Cyprus on a
Spanish steed, magnificently harnessed, as chronicles tell of Richard
Coeur de Lion doing, dressed in a tunic of rose-coloured satin, and a
mantle of striped and silver tissue, brocaded with half moons, and a
scarlet bonnet brocaded with gold, and wearing a Damascus blade with a
golden hilt in a silver sheath--oh, what a fine figure the English king
must have cut!'

'However,' said Walter, 'I fancy King Louis is not quite so splendid in
his appearance as Coeur de Lion was. But we shall see him ere long.'

'Ay,' cried Guy; 'we must have a peep at the royal saint. Meanwhile,
good Walter, one thing is certain--that we are in Cyprus.'



CHAPTER IX.

AN ADVENTURE.


IT was not the good fortune of all the warriors who had taken the Cross
to escape the perils of the deep, and reach Cyprus in safety.

About a month after Guy Muschamp and Walter Espec had reached Limisso, a
tall ship bearing a Crusader of noble name, who had left Constantinople
to combat the Saracens under the banner of St. Denis, was sailing
gallantly towards Cyprus, when a violent storm arose, and threatened her
with destruction. The wind blew fiercely; the sea ran mountains high;
and, though the ship for a time struggled sturdily with the elements,
she could not resist her fate. Her cordage creaked, and her timbers
groaned dismally; and, as she was by turns borne aloft on the waves
crested with foam and precipitated headlong into the gulphs that yawned
between, great was the terror, loud the wailing, and frightful the
turmoil. In vain the mariners exerted their strength and skill. No
efforts on their part could enable the vessel to resist the fury of the
tempest.

Every minute matters became more desperate. The sea, recently calm,
seemed to boil from its very depths; and the ship, incessantly tossed to
and fro by the roaring billows, appeared, every moment, on the point of
being engulphed. The skipper was lost in consternation; the Crusaders
gave way to despair; and with death staring them in the face they ceased
to hope for safety, and, kneeling, confessed to each other, and prayed
aloud that their sins might be forgiven. At length, in spite of the
efforts made by the mariners to resist the winds and waves, the ship,
driven on the rocks near the island, filled with water, went to pieces,
leaving those on board to struggle as they best might to escape a watery
grave. The struggle was vain. Many, indeed, caught hold of the vessel's
timbers with a vague hope of reaching the shore; but, unable to contend
with the elements, they, one after another, disappeared and sank to rise
no more.

Now this terrible shipwreck was not without witnesses. On that part of
the coast of Cyprus where it occurred was a rude hamlet chiefly tenanted
by fishermen; and men, women, and children crowded the beach, uttering
loud cries, and highly excited, but unable to render any assistance. It
seemed that no boat could live in such a sea; and the fishermen could
only gaze mournfully on the heartrending scene, as the waves sprang up
and rapaciously claimed their prey.

It was while the sea, agitated by the gale, was still running high;
while the waves were leaping, and tearing, and dashing against the
rocks; and while flocks of sea birds wheeled and screamed over the
troubled waters, that a knight and two squires, who, having been caught
in the storm, while riding towards Limisso, reined up, and not without
difficulty learned from the natives, whose language they scarcely
comprehended, the nature and extent of the disaster. The knight was an
English Crusader, named Bisset, who had taken service with King Louis;
the squires were Walter Espec and Guy Muschamp. All three, as they
became aware of what had happened, crossed themselves and breathed a
prayer for the souls of those who had gone to their account.

'We may as well ride on,'said Guy Muschamp, who, like his companions,
was very much affected; 'all of them have perished, and are now beyond
the reach of human aid.'

'Not all of them,' exclaimed Walter Espec, suddenly, as he sprang from
his horse, and, with out-stretched arm, pointed to a white object which
was carried hither and thither by the waves.

'By the might of Henry, sir squire, you are right,' cried the English
knight, highly excited; 'it is a woman, as I live, and she is clinging
to one of the ship's timbers.'

'And she may yet be saved,' said Walter, calmly; 'and by the Holy Cross
the attempt must be made, if we are to escape the reproach of inhumanity
and cowardice.'

And now the men, women, and children on the beach became much excited,
and shouted loudly. No one, however, volunteered to go to the rescue. In
fact, the aspect of the sea was so menacing and terrible, that the
boldest and hardiest of the seafaring men felt that an attempt could
only end in the destruction of those making it, and shook their heads
with a significance there was no misunderstanding.

'It seems,' said the knight, mournfully, 'that the business is
desperate; and yet----'

'And yet,' said Walter, taking up the word as the knight hesitated and
paused, 'it shall never be told that a woman perished before my eyes,
and that I stood looking on, without making an effort to save her.'

'He is mad,' muttered the fishermen, as they first eyed the English
squire, and then exchanged glances with each other, and shrugged their
shoulders.

But Walter Espec did not ponder or pause. Throwing his bridle-rein to
Guy Muschamp, whose countenance expressed grave alarm, he quickly
divested himself of his mantle and the belt bearing his sword, committed
himself to the protection of Holy Katherine, the patron saint of his
house, plunged into the water, and next moment was battling manfully
with the waves. But everything was against him, even the tide; and, in
spite of his skill as a swimmer, his efforts were at first abortive. But
it was not his nature to yield easily; and, as he put forth all his
strength, and made a desperate struggle, the affair began to wear
another face.

'Good Walter,' murmured Guy, who stood, pale as death, watching the
swimmer. 'Brave Walter!'

'Now, may our lady, the Virgin, aid and prosper him,' exclaimed the
knight. 'Never have I witnessed a bolder attempt.'

As the knight spoke, a loud cheer burst from the crowd; and then there
was silence. Walter drew nearer and nearer to the woman, for whose life
he was freely venturing his own. In another minute he clutched her with
one hand, turned towards the shore, and, favoured by the tide, came
sailing towards the spot which the crowd occupied.

A dozen of the men dashed knee-deep into the water to relieve Walter of
his burden; and as they did so, a dozen of the women stretched out their
hands, and received the still unconscious form of her who had been
rescued; meanwhile the knight and Guy Muschamp caught hold of Walter,
who, fatigued and overcome with his almost superhuman exertions, would
otherwise have fallen to the ground. However they laid him down
carefully to rest; and, while Guy stood watching over him, Bisset went
to look to the safety of the damsel who had been rescued.

'Sir squire,' said he, with enthusiasm, as he returned, 'you have done
as noble a deed as it has ever been my fate to witness, and the King of
France shall hear of it, as I am a living man; and,' continued he, in a
whisper, 'hearken! you may at the same time congratulate yourself on
having had the good luck to save a woman well worth saving.'

'What mean you, sir knight,' asked Walter, faintly.

'Simply this--that she is young, fair to behold, and evidently of high
lineage.'



CHAPTER X.

ON THE LADDER OF LIFE.


FOUR days passed over, and Walter Espec, quite recovered from the
effects of his struggle with the waves, and of the salt water he had
involuntarily imbibed during his perilous adventure on the coast of
Cyprus, was at Nicosia, and engaged in chivalrous exercises, in the
courtyard of the house occupied by the Earl of March; when he was
accosted by Bisset, the English knight, who had been a witness of his
daring exploit, and requested to repair to the presence of the King of
France.

Walter was somewhat taken by surprise and startled by the summons.
Recovering his serenity, however, as well as he could, he intimated his
readiness; and with the air befitting a Norman gentleman who had existed
from childhood in the consciousness that his name was known to fame, and
who did not forget that he had noble blood of Icinglas in his veins, he
accompanied the knight to the palace in which the saint-king was lodged.

At that time, Louis, not much satisfied with himself for having
consented to winter in Cyprus, though little dreaming of the terrible
misfortunes that awaited his army in the land for which he was bound,
was seated at table and endeavouring to forget his cares, while
conversing familiarly with a young and noble-looking personage of great
strength and stature, with a head of immense size, and a countenance
beaming with sagacity. In truth this was a very remarkable personage. He
was then known as John, Lord of Joinville, and seneschal of Champagne;
and he has since been famous as the chronicler of the triumphs and
disasters of the Crusade in which he acted a conspicuous part.

'Seneschal,' said Louis, addressing Joinville, 'I marvel much that you
do not mix water with your wine.'

'In truth, sire,' replied Joinville, half jocularly, 'I fear so to do;
for physicians have told me I have so large a head, and so cold a
stomach, that water might prove most injurious.'

'Nevertheless,' said Louis, earnestly, 'be advised by me, and do not
allow yourself to be deceived. If you do not drink water till you are in
the decline of life, you will then increase any disorders you may have.'

'But, sire,' asked Joinville, innocently, 'why should I drink water then
more than now?'

'Ah,' answered Louis, 'simply because if you take pure wine in your old
age, you will be frequently intoxicated; and verily it is a beastly
thing for an honourable man to make himself drunk.'

'I acknowledge that it is very wrong, sire,' said Joinville; 'but I am
one of those who endeavour to practise moderation in the use of the
wine-cup.'

'And pray, seneschal,' asked Louis, after a pause, 'may I ask if you
ever wash the feet of the poor?'

'Oh, sire, no,' answered Joinville, not without evincing surprise. 'I
hardly deem that it would become such a person as I am.'

'In truth, seneschal,' exclaimed Louis, 'this is very ill said. You
ought not to think that unbecoming which He, who was their Lord and
Master, did for our example when He washed the feet of His apostles. I
doubt not you would very unwillingly perform what the King of England
does; for on Holy Thursday he washes the feet of lepers.'

'Oh, sire,' cried Joinville, in a conclusive tone, 'never will I wash
the feet of such fellows.'

'Now, seneschal,' resumed Louis, still more seriously, 'let me ask you
another question. Whether would you be a leper, or have committed a
deadly sin?'

'Sire,' answered Joinville, frankly, 'rather than be a leper, I would
have committed thirty deadly sins.'

'How could you make such an answer?' said Louis, reproachfully.

'Sire,' exclaimed Joinville, with decision, 'if I were to answer again,
I should repeat the same thing.'

'Nevertheless,' urged Louis, with earnestness, 'you deceive yourself on
the subject; for no leprosy can be so awful as deadly sin, and the soul
that is guilty of such is like the devil in hell.'

It was when the conversation between the King of France and the Lord of
Joinville had reached this stage, that Walter Espec, guided by the
English knight, made his appearance, not without exhibiting symptoms of
agitation when he found himself face to face with the monarch, who, of
all the princes of Christendom, enjoyed, at that period, the highest
reputation in Europe and the East.

But the appearance and aspect of Louis were not such as to daunt or
dismay.

Nothing could have been more plain and simple than the dress worn by the
royal chief of the crusaders. Indeed it was plain and simple to
affectation; and the coat of camlet, the surcoat of tyretaine, the
mantle of black sandal, contrasted remarkably with the splendid garments
of princes who were his contemporaries, especially Henry, King of
England, who, like most of the Plantagenets, was given to magnificence
of attire, and generally regarded as by far the greatest dandy in his
dominions. Nor had Louis been endowed by nature with the qualities which
please the eye and impress the imagination. His figure, it is true, was
tall and well proportioned; but his face and features were not
calculated to dazzle. When compared with men of such noble presence and
regal air as our English Edwards and Henrys, he was decidedly plain. He
had the peculiar face and slanting features which distinguished so many
of the descendants of Hugh Capet, and that large long straight nose,
which, instead of keeping the Greek facial line, inclined forward, and
hung slightly over the short upper lip. Not even flattery could have
described the saint-king as a model of manly beauty.

[Illustration: "Young gentleman," said King Louis, "it has come to my
knowledge that you have performed an action noble in itself, and worthy
of the praises of the valiant."--p. 64.]

Now it happened that Walter Espec had never before seen a king, and was
prepared to behold something very grand, like Coeur de Lion, with his
scarlet bonnet, his rose-coloured tunic, and his mantle of striped
silver tissue, and his Damascus blade with a golden hilt in a silver
sheath. Naturally, therefore, he was at the first glance somewhat
disappointed with the appearance of the monarch in whose presence he
stood. But as Louis turned upon him a countenance which, albeit not
beautiful, denoted energy and decision of character, and expressed at
once goodness and good-nature, and high moral and intellectual
superiority, the youth, whose instincts were strong, felt that he was in
the presence of a man who was worthy of reigning.

'Young gentleman,' said Louis, mildly, as Walter bent his knee, 'it has
come to my knowledge that you have performed an action noble in itself,
and worthy of the praises of the valiant.'

'Sire,' replied Walter, colouring, and speaking with less than his
wonted confidence, 'I scarce know to what your highness is pleased to
refer.'

'Ah,' said Louis, glancing towards the Lord of Joinville, 'I can hardly
credit your words. But such modesty is becoming in youth. However, I
mean that, four days since, as I learn, you saved a noble demoiselle
from the sea, at the most manifest peril to your own life.'

Walter bowed in acknowledgement of the compliment, but did not speak.

'Not,' continued Louis hastily, 'not that you should therefore be
vainglorious, or puffed up with vanity, or think more highly of
yourself than you ought to think on account of your achievement, however
honourable; for I trust you know and feel that, before our Maker, we are
all but as potter's clay.'

'My lord,' replied Walter, pausing in some perplexity, 'I would fain
hope my ideas on the subject will ever be such as befit a Christian and
a gentleman.'

'Well, well,' said Louis, hastily, 'on that point I meant not to express
a doubt, and,' added he, 'seeing that you give promise of being a
preuhomme, I pray God, out of His goodness, that you may prove a
preudhomme as well as a preuhomme.'

'Sire,' said Walter, looking puzzled, 'you must pardon me when I confess
that I comprehend not clearly the distinction.'

'Ah,' replied Louis, smiling, and shaking his head gravely, 'the
distinction is of much consequence; for know that by preuhomme I mean a
man who is valiant and bold in person, whereas by preudhomme I signify
one who is prudent, discreet, and who fears God, and has a good
conscience.'

Walter bowed again; and, being at a loss for words to answer, took
refuge in silence. In fact, he began to feel so awkward that he wished
nothing so fervently as that the interview would come to an end; and
Louis, after condescending to ask some more questions, and inculcate
some more lessons, dismissed him with words of encouragement, and gifted
him with an amulet in the form of a ring, which bore on it this
inscription--

          Who wears me shall perform exploits,
            And with great joy return.

As Walter left the king's presence to depart from the palace, he turned
to the knight who had been his conductor.

'On my faith, sir knight,' said he laughing, but rather nervously, 'this
reminds me more of the adventures which in childhood I have heard
related by pilgrims and pedlars at the chimney-corner, than aught I ever
expected to meet with in the real breathing busy world.'

'Indeed,' said Bisset, quietly; 'methinks there is nothing so very
wondrous about the business. It only seems to me that you have been born
with luck on your side--not my own case--and that you have, without
hazarding more than you are likely to do in the first battle with the
Saracens, gained the privilege of climbing some steps up the ladder that
leads to fortune and fame.'

'And yet,' observed Walter, as he laughed and looked at the ring which
Louis had bestowed on him, 'beshrew me if I have had the courage to ask
either the rank or name of the demoiselle to whom I had the fortune to
render the service that has made my existence known to this good and
pious king.'

'By the might of Mary,' exclaimed the knight, 'there is no reason why
you should remain in ignorance who the demoiselle is, or what is her
name. She is kinswoman of John de Brienne, who, in his day, figured as
King of Jerusalem, and kinswoman also of Baldwin de Courtenay, who now
reigns at Constantinople as Emperor of the East; and her name is Adeline
de Brienne.'

'Holy Katherine,' muttered Walter, again looking closely at the
inscription on the ring, as if for evidence that the whole was not a
dream, 'I begin to think that I must assuredly have been born with luck
on my side, as you say; and, with such luck on my side, I need not even
despair of finding the brother I have lost.'

'Credit me, at all events,' said Bisset, looking wise, 'when I tell you
that you have got upon the ladder of life.'



CHAPTER XI.

THE VOYAGE.


IT was the Saturday before Pentecost, in the year 1249, when the fleet
of King Louis and the armed pilgrims, consisting of no fewer than
eighteen hundred vessels, great and small, issued gallantly from the
port of Limisso, and steered towards Egypt.

At first nothing could have been more gay and pleasant than the voyage
of the Crusaders. It seemed as if the whole sea, so far as the eye could
reach, was covered with cloth and with banners of bright colours.
Everything appeared promising. The voyage, however, was not destined to
prove prosperous. Suddenly the wind, which had been favourable, changed,
and blew violently from the coast of Egypt. Great confusion was the
consequence; and, though the Genoese mariners exerted all their skill,
the fleet was utterly dispersed. Indeed, when King Louis, having put
back, reached Limisso, he found, to his horror, that not more than
two-thirds of the armed pilgrims remained in his company. Concluding
that his companions had been drowned, the saintly monarch was grieved
beyond measure, and on the point of giving way to despair.

It happened, however, that while Louis was mourning over the mishap,
William Longsword, Earl of Salisbury, arrived at Cyprus with the English
Crusaders, and administered some degree of consolation. In truth,
Longsword was just the man to explain all in the most satisfactory
manner. Having been accustomed from his youth to cross the narrow seas,
he felt none of that vague terror of the ocean which made the French
knights, when they embarked, invoke the protection of the saints; and he
expressed his opinion that, in all probability, the missing vessels were
safe on the Syrian coast. But the indifference which the earl showed for
dangers at which the French trembled had the effect of making him many
enemies, and arousing the natural jealousies which afterwards proved so
baneful to the expedition.

It ought to be borne in mind, that at the period of St. Louis's crusade
there existed no love between the nobles of France and the nobles of
England; and it appears that the French were in the habit of treating
the English with some degree of scorn. Nor was it unnatural that such
should have been the case; for, during half a century, in almost every
struggle between the kingdoms, the French had been victorious. Philip
Augustus, after holding his own against Richard Coeur de Lion, had
succeeded in driving John from the continent; and Louis, when forced to
take the field against Henry, had pursued his royal brother-in-law from
the bridge of Taillebourg to the gates of Bordeaux. Remembering such
triumphs, the French, who have in all ages been vain and boastful, were
continually vaunting about their prowess, and repeating the story of
some Englishman having cut off the tail of Thomas à Becket's horse, and
of Englishmen having ever after that outrage been born with tails like
horses.

Such being the state of affairs, the Earl of Salisbury did not inspire
the French nobles with any particular affection for him and his
countrymen who had arrived at Cyprus, when they heard him speaking
lightly of the dangers of the sea. In fact, the French lords, who a few
hours earlier had been sinking under sea-sickness, trembling at the
sound of raging billows, and wishing themselves safely in their own
castles, cursed 'Longsword,' as the worst of 'English tails.'

But the King of France did not share the malice of his countrymen; and,
much comforted by the words of the English earl, he resolved on again
tempting the sea. Accordingly, on Monday morning, he ordered the
mariners to spread their sails to the wind. The weather proving
favourable, the fleet made gallantly for the shores of Egypt; and on the
morning of Thursday, about sunrise, the watch on deck of the vessel that
led the van, shouted 'Land!'

'Surely, not yet,' exclaimed several voices; but the pilot to make
certain ascended to the round-top of the vessel.

'Gentlemen,' cried the pilot, 'it is all right. We are before Damietta,
so you have nothing to do but to recommend yourselves to God.'

'Hurrah!' shouted the mariners; and from ship to ship the tidings
passed; and, as the words of the pilot flew from deck to deck, a cry of
joy burst from thousands of lips. Great was the excitement that
prevailed; and the chiefs of the expedition hastily arrayed themselves
to go on board the king's ship and hold a council of war.

And now all eyes were turned towards the shore; and it seemed that the
Crusaders were likely to encounter a desperate resistance in any attempt
to land. A fleet and formidable engines of war defended the mouth of the
Nile. A numerous army of horse and foot appeared on the beach, as if
bent on contesting every inch of ground. At the head of this mighty
host, wearing armour of burnished gold, figured the Emir Fakreddin, one
of the foremost of Saracen warriors. From the midst trumpets and drums
sounded a stern defiance to the armament of the Christians. But,
undaunted by the aspect of affairs, the armed pilgrims steadily pursued
their course; and ship after ship, moving calmly forward, anchored
within a mile of the shore.

Meanwhile, the pilgrims, princes, and nobles, had reached the king's
ship; and Louis, leaning on his sword, received them with satisfaction
on his countenance.

'Gentlemen,' said he, 'our voyage has not been without its perils, but
let us be thankful that we are at length face to face with the enemies
of Christ.'

'Yes, sire,' said the chiefs, 'and it is therefore expedient to form
some plan of action.'

'And, under the circumstances,' added several, 'it will be prudent to
await our comrades who have been separated from us by the tempest.'

It soon appeared that among the chiefs there was a general wish to await
the coming of their missing comrades; but the king was young, and the
drums and horns of the Saracens had so chafed his pride that he would
not hear of delay.

'We have not come hither,' said he, excitedly, 'to listen to the insults
of our enemies; nor have we any port in which to shelter from the wind.
A second tempest may disperse what remains of our fleet. To-day God
offers us a victory; another day He may punish us for having neglected
to conquer.'

'Sire, be it as you will,' replied the assembled chiefs, not caring to
debate the point with their king.

And so, with much less deliberation than was necessary under the
circumstances, and without duly considering the resources of the enemy
whom they had to combat, King Louis and the chief Crusaders resolved to
disembark on the morrow and give battle. Meantime a strict watch was
maintained, and several swift vessels were despatched towards the mouth
of the Nile to observe the motions of the Saracens.

It happened that the Saracens, in spite of their dauntless show, were by
no means in the best mood to make an obstinate resistance, nor were they
in any sanguine mood as to the result of their preparations. At such a
crisis, the presence of the sultan was necessary to sustain their
spirits, and stimulate their fanaticism.

Now at that time Melikul Salih was Sultan of Egypt; but he was not at
Damietta, and his absence caused much uncertainty and dismay among the
warriors assembled to defend his dominions. Melikul Salih was then at
Cairo; and almost every man in Fakreddin's army knew that Melikul Salih
was dying.



CHAPTER XII.

AT DAMIETTA.


ABOUT a mile from the sea, on the northern bank of the second mouth of
the Nile, stood the city of Damietta, with its mosques, and palaces, and
towers, and warehouses, defended on the river side by a double rampart,
and on the land side by a triple wall. Fair and enchanting to the eye
was the locality in which it was situated; and as the Crusaders directed
their gaze towards the groves of oranges and citrons, loaded with
flowers and fruit, the woods of palms and sycamores, the thickets of
jasmines and odoriferous shrubs, the vast plains, with pools and lakes
well stocked with fish, the thousand canals intersecting the land, and
crowned with papyrus and reeds, they, feeling the influence of a rich
climate and a beautiful sky, could not find words sufficiently strong to
express their admiration and delight.

'Now, good Walter,' said Guy Muschamp, as the brothers-in-arms, having
ascended to the castle of the 'Hilda,' looked earnestly towards the
shore, 'who can deny that such a land is worth fighting to conquer?'

'On my faith,' exclaimed Walter Espec, with enthusiasm, 'it is so
pleasant to the eye, that I could almost persuade myself I am looking
upon that terrestrial paradise in which the father and mother of mankind
lived so happily before eating the fatal apple.'

No wonder, when such was the aspect of the country around Damietta, that
the armed pilgrims were impatient to land.

And no time was lost; for, of all the armed pilgrims, King Louis was
perhaps the most eager to encounter the enemies of his religion; and,
soon after daybreak, on the morning of Friday, a signal was given for
the fleet to weigh anchor and draw near to the shore.

Meanwhile the Saracens, under the Emir Fakreddin, were on the alert; and
while a bell, that had remained in the great mosque of Damietta ever
since John de Brienne seized the city in 1217, tolled loudly to warn the
inhabitants of the danger, the Moslem warriors got under arms, and with
cavalry and infantry occupied the whole of that part of the strand at
which the Crusaders had resolved to disembark.

But the armed pilgrims were nothing daunted by the sight of the
formidable preparations made to oppose their landing. Getting into
barques which had been provided for the purpose, they prepared to fight
their way ashore, in defiance of all dangers. Ranging themselves in two
lines, with their lances in their hands, and their horses by their
sides, the knights and nobles stood erect in their boats, while in
front, and on the wings of the armament, were placed crossbowmen to
harass and keep off the foe. Nor did Louis in that hour appear in any
way unworthy to be the leader of brave men. Attended by his brothers and
his knights, the King of France, arrayed in chain-mail, with his helmet
on his brow, his shield on his neck, and his lance in his hand, figured
prominently on the right of his array. By his side stood the cardinal
legate; and in front of him was a boat in which the oriflamme, brought
from the abbey of St. Denis, was proudly displayed.

It was an exciting occasion, and the hearts of the saint-king and his
mailed comrades beat high as the barques moved onward to the Egyptian
strand. The warriors, standing steady and silent as graven images, gazed
earnestly on their multitudinous foes. For a time no attempt was made to
oppose their progress. No sooner, however, were they within bowshot,
than a shower of arrows and javelins rattled against the mail of the
Crusaders. For a moment the ranks of the Christian warriors were shaken.
But the crossbowmen, without the delay of an instant, retaliated with
damaging effect; and while their shafts carried death into the Saracen
host, the rowers redoubled their efforts to reach the shore, and bring
Christian and Moslem hand to hand and foot to foot.

Again the silence was unbroken, save by the plashing of oars and the
tumultuous shock of the barques pressing on in disorder. Ere long,
however, there was a loud shout. The Lord of Joinville, closely followed
by Baldwin de Rheims, had reached the shore; and they were setting
their men in battle order, and covering themselves with their shields,
and presenting the points of their lances to check the impetuosity of
the enemy.

And now King Louis lost all patience; and deeming it no time to stand on
his regal dignity, he leaped from his barge, and plunging up to his
shoulders in the water, struggled towards the shore. Inspired by his
example, the Crusaders threw themselves into the sea in a body, and
pressed eagerly onward, with cries of 'Montjoie! St. Denis!' Again the
silence was unbroken, save by the clash of mail, the noise of a dense
crowd of armed men struggling with the waves, which were so elevated by
the rush, that they fell and broke at the feet of the Saracens. In a few
moments, however, the oriflamme was landed, and the saint-king, with the
salt water running off his armour, was on his knees giving thanks to God
for having preserved him and his companions from the perils of the deep.

'And now, gentlemen,' said Louis, as he rose and looked excitedly around
him, 'let us forthwith charge our enemies in the name of God.'

'Be patient, sire,' replied the knights, interfering; 'it is better to
await the landing of our comrades, that we may fight with advantage.'

Louis allowed himself to be persuaded; and it speedily appeared that
caution was necessary; for, while the Crusaders were still struggling
ashore in disorder, the Saracen cavalry came down upon them with an
impetuosity which convinced the French that their adversaries were not
to be despised. But Joinville and Baldwin of Rheims rendered their
comrades good service. Hastily closing their ranks, they contrived not
only to stay the rush, but to present so impenetrable a front, that the
Saracens retired baffled to prepare for a fresh spring.

And again, with an enthusiastic energy which would have struck terror
into antagonists less bold, the Saracens under Fakreddin charged down
upon the Crusaders; and then began, all along the coast, a confused
conflict which raged for hours--Christian and Moslem fighting hand to
hand; while the two fleets engaged at the mouth of the Nile; and the
Queen of France and the Countess of Anjou, and other ladies of high
rank, who remained on board at a distance, awaited the issue of the
contest with terrible anxiety, and, with priests around them, sang
psalms and prayed fervently for the aid and protection of the God of
battles. At length the conflict came to an end. Both on the water and on
the land the Crusaders were victorious. The Saracen fleet, after getting
decidedly the worst of the combat, escaped up the Nile; and the Saracen
soldiers, beaten and dispersed, retired precipitately, and flying in
confusion towards Damietta, abandoned their camp, and left several of
their emirs dead on the field.

After witnessing the flight of the Saracens, Louis ordered his pavilion,
which was of bright scarlet, to be pitched on the ground where he had
conquered, and caused the clergy to sing the Te Deum. The Crusaders then
set up their tents around that of the king, and passed the night in
rejoicing over the victory they had won.

Next day the Crusaders had still stronger reason to congratulate
themselves on the good fortune which had attended their arms. At
daybreak, looking towards Damietta, they observed that columns of smoke
were rising from the bosom of the city, and that the whole horizon was
on fire. Without delay the King of France sent one of his knights and a
body of cavalry to ascertain the cause; and, on reaching Damietta, the
knight found the gates open, and learned on entering that the Saracens,
after setting fire to that part called the Fonde, which was a row of
shops and warehouses, had abandoned the city. Returning to the camp at a
gallop, while his men remained to extinguish the fire, the knight
announced the glad tidings to the saint-king.

'Sire,' said he, 'I bring good news; Damietta may be taken possession of
without striking a blow.'

It was not very easy, even after hearing all, to credit this knight's
report; and Louis was somewhat suspicious of a stratagem. However, he
gave orders for marching towards the gates, and moving slowly, and with
much caution, took possession. It was clear that the city had been
abandoned by its defenders; and the king, the cardinal legate, and the
clergy, having formed in procession, walked to the grand mosque, which
was speedily converted into a Christian church, and sang psalms of
praise and thanksgiving.

And now the Crusaders, with Damietta in their possession, were indeed
elate, and rather inclined to magnify their successes; and the Queen of
France and the Countess of Anjou, and the other ladies were brought
ashore and lodged in the palaces of the city; and five hundred knights
were charged with the duty of guarding the ramparts and towers; and the
warriors of the Cross, encamping in the plain outside the gates, gave
themselves up to dissipation, and deluded themselves with the idea that
no enterprise was too difficult for them to accomplish.

'Now,' said the French, as they quaffed the red wine and rattled the
dice-box, 'we have only to await the coming of our companions from the
coast of Syria, and of the Count of Poictiers, with the _arrière ban_ of
France, to undertake the conquest of Egypt.'

'Ay,' said others, 'and then let the Saracens and their sultan tremble.'

'Nothing,' echoed a third party, 'can withstand the warriors of France,
when animated by the presence and example of their king.'

'I dislike all this boasting,' remarked Bisset, the English knight, to
Walter Espec and Guy Muschamp, 'and, albeit I wish not to be thought a
prophet of evil, I predict that it will end in mischief and disaster.'

'The saints forbid,' exclaimed Guy, gaily. 'For my part I dread nothing
but the thought of being devoured by some of the crocodiles which, men
say, are hatched in the waters of the Nile.'

'Nevertheless, mark my words,' said Bisset, more gravely than it was his
wont to speak. 'At present the Frenchmen believe that, because they have
plied their swords with some effect, that henceforth the Saracens will
fly before their scabbards. Now they are all singing songs of triumph;
ere long, if you and I live, we'll hear them singing to a very different
tune.'

'Ah, sir knight,' said Walter, smiling, 'you say this from national
jealousy, and because they call us "English tails."'

'"English tails!"' repeated Bisset, scornfully; 'I tell you, for your
comfort, that when the hour of real danger arrives, we "English tails"
are likely to find our way so deep into the Saracens' ranks, that not a
bragging Frenchman will venture to come nigh the tails of our
war-steeds.'

'By St. John of Beverley,' exclaimed Guy, laughing merrily, 'I cannot
but think that the French and English Crusaders are already inclined to
hate each other much more than either French or English hate the
Saracens.'



CHAPTER XIII.

INCURSIONS.


AND what were the sultan and the Saracens saying and doing while the
Crusaders were establishing themselves at Damietta, and delighting their
souls with visions of the conquest of Egypt?

In order to ascertain we must, in imagination, pass from the camp at
Damietta to the palace of Cairo.

Melikul Salih was under the influence of a malady which his physicians
pronounced to be incurable. On that point there was no mistake.
Nevertheless, when pigeons carried to Cairo intelligence of the French
king's victory and Fakreddin's defeat, the sultan roused himself to
energy, and, after having sentenced fifty of the principal fugitives to
execution, and taken Fakreddin severely to task for allowing his men to
be vanquished, he caused himself to be removed to Mansourah. On reaching
that city, Melikul Salih expended his remaining strength in rallying his
army and strengthening the fortifications, and at the same time sent men
to attack the Crusaders in their camp, to kill the Franks and cut off
their heads,--promising a golden besant for every head brought to him.

The Arab cavalry of the Desert, and bands of horsemen belonging to that
wild nation known as the Karismians, were employed on this service; and
the Crusaders found themselves exposed to dangers against which it
seemed impossible to guard. As wild animals prowl around the habitations
of men on the watch for prey, so around the Christian camp prowled the
Arabs and Karismians by day and by night. If even at noon a soldier
wandered from the camp he was lost; and, in hours of darkness, sentinel
after sentinel disappeared, and knight after knight was struck dead, as
if by invisible hands. Every morning the Crusaders had to listen to some
new tale of horror which made their blood run cold.

Ere the Arabs and Karismians had carried alarm into the camp of the
Crusaders, many of the warriors of the West had begun to suffer from the
climate of Egypt; and among others who were prostrated, was the old Earl
of March. For a time he seemed likely to fall a victim to the malady;
but the natural vigour of his constitution at length prevailed; and he
had almost recovered, when a sudden inroad of the enemy exposed him to a
new peril.

It was the afternoon of an August day; and Earl Patrick was arraying
himself to ride into Damietta to attend a council of war. His white
charger stood at the entrance of his pavilion, and there sat Walter
Espec, looking somewhat gloomy, as many of the armed pilgrims were
already doing, when Guy Muschamp approached with a countenance from
which much of the habitual gaiety had vanished.

'What tidings?' asked Walter, eagerly.

'On my faith, good Walter,' answered Guy, shaking his head, 'I now know
of a truth that this Damietta is not quite such a paradise as we fancied
when gazing at it from the sea.'

'Serpents often lurk where flowers grow,' said Walter; 'but what new
tidings of mishap have clouded your brow?'

'Nothing less,' replied Guy, 'than that these foul Saracens have been
marvellously near us. No later than last night they entered the camp,
surprised the watch of Lord Courtenay, and this morning his body was
found on the table; his head was gone.'

'By the saints!' exclaimed Walter, 'such warfare, waged by invisible
foes, may well daunt the bravest; and albeit I trust much from the
protection of the Holy Katherine, yet I at times feel a vague dread of
being the next victim.'

At that moment, and almost ere Walter had spoken, there arose loud and
shrill cries, and then loud shouts of alarm.

'By good St. George!' shouted Hugh Bisset, rushing in, 'the Saracens are
upon us; they are carrying off the Lord Perron, and his brother the Lord
Duval. Arm, arm, brave squires. To the rescue! to the rescue!'

As Bisset gave the alarm, the Earl of March came forth. He was arrayed
in chain-mail, and his helmet was on his brow.

'What, ho!' cried the earl, with lofty indignation; 'do the sons of
darkness, who worship Mahound and Termagaunt, venture where my white
lion ramps in his field of red? Out upon them! My axe and shield.'

Mounting his white steed, the earl caused one of the sides of his
pavilion to be raised, and issuing forth, spurred against the foe with
shouts of 'Let him who loves me follow me! Holy Cross! Holy Cross!' Nor
did the aged warrior confine his hostility to words. Encountering the
leader of the Saracens face to face, he bravely commenced the attack,
and, after a brief conflict, with his heavy axe cleft the infidel from
the crown almost to the chest.

'Pagan dog!' exclaimed the earl, as the Saracen fell lifeless to the
ground; 'I devote thine impure soul to the powers of hell.'

But this achievement was the last which Earl Patrick was destined to
perform. As he spurred forward to pursue his success, his steed became
refractory, and he was flung violently to the ground. Ere his friends
could come to his aid, the Saracens gave him several blows with their
clubs, and he would have been killed on the spot but for the arrival of
Bisset, with Guy Muschamp and Walter Espec, who, having mounted, now
came with a rush to the rescue. A sharp conflict then took place. Guy,
advancing as gaily as if he had been in the tiltyard at Wark, gallantly
unhorsed one Saracen with the point of his lance. Walter, going more
gravely into the combat, killed another with his falchion, at the use of
which he was expert. After much trouble the French lords were rescued;
and such of the Saracens as had not fallen, fled, and galloped along the
banks of the Nile.

Meanwhile the squires and grooms of the Earl of March raised him from
the ground; and, supported by them, he contrived to reach his tent; but
he was much bruised, and so exhausted that he could not muster voice to
speak. When, however, surgeons and physicians were called, they
expressed themselves hopefully, and, not comprehending his dangerous
state, bled him freely in the arm, and then administering a composing
draught, left him under the charge of the squires.

As evening was falling, the Earl of Salisbury, after a long conference
with King Louis, during which the unfortunate quarrel of the English and
French Crusaders were discussed with a view of averting fatal
consequences, left the royal quarters, in company with the Lord of
Joinville.

'Seneschal,' said Salisbury, 'I would fain visit the Earl of March; and
I pray you to bear me company.'

'Right willingly,' replied Joinville; 'for he is a man of great valour
and renown, and wise in council; and it were ill for our expedition if
his wounds should prove fatal.'

'And how fares the earl?' asked Salisbury, as they reached the tent over
which ramped that ancient lion argent, so terrible on many a foughten
field.

'My lord,' said Walter Espec, in a hushed voice, as they came to the
entrance, 'the earl sleeps; so pray tread softly, lest you should
disturb his repose.'

They did so, and entering, found the earl lying on his mantle of
minever, which covered him.

'He sleeps soundly,' whispered Walter, looking up.

'Boy,' said Salisbury, solemnly, 'he sleeps the sleep that knows no
waking.'

Walter stooped down, and perceived that Salisbury was right. The earl
was dead.

'May paradise be open to him,' said Salisbury, crossing himself with
pious fervour.

'Amen,' said Joinville. 'May his soul repose in holy flowers.'



CHAPTER XIV.

A RENEGADE.


IT was a sad day for Guy Muschamp and Walter Espec, when they suddenly
found themselves deprived of the protection of the aged war-chief under
whose banner they had embarked for the East. However, they were not long
without patrons. Guy attached himself to the Lord of Joinville, who was
his mother's kinsman. Walter became squire to the Earl of Salisbury, and
in that capacity joined the English Crusaders. In fact, Longsword,
having heard from Joinville of Walter's adventure at Cyprus, took a
decided liking to the young northern man, examined him as to his
lineage, his parentage, and his education, heard the sad story of his
brother's disappearance, and spoke words of such kind encouragement,
that the tears started to Walter's eyes, and his brave heart was quite
won.

One day, soon after entering Longsword's service, Walter was standing at
the entrance of the tent occupied by the chief of the English Crusaders,
now thinking somewhat sadly of the green fields and oak forests of his
native land, now longing to behold some of the wonders of the Nile, when
a man of forty or thereabouts, handsome and well-dressed as a Frank,
presented himself, and bowed low.

'You are of the English nation?' said he, in French.

'Yes,' replied Walter, examining him with curiosity.

'And you serve the great English lord, who is called Longsword?'

'It is my pride to serve that famous warrior,' replied Walter, quietly.

'And I would fain speak with him if you could obtain me a hearing.'

Walter shook his head significantly.

'Before I can make such an attempt,' said he, 'I must learn who you are,
and what you want.'

'My name is Beltran. I am a Frank by birth, but for nine years I have
been an inhabitant of Egypt.'

'Nine years!' exclaimed Walter. 'By the Holy Cross, you must know the
country well-nigh as intimately as the Egyptians themselves.'

'Much knowledge I do possess of the country, and of the wonders it
contains.'

'Well,' said Walter, 'I will put your knowledge to the test. Whence
comes this river, the Nile, of which so many stories are told? Is it
true that it takes its rise in the terrestrial paradise?'

'In truth,' replied Beltran, 'I would I could answer your question to
your satisfaction. It is the report of the country that the Nile does
come from the terrestrial paradise. But nothing certain is known on the
subject. I have heard that the sultan has attempted to learn whence it
came, by sending experienced persons to follow the course of it.'

'Yes,' said Walter, eagerly.

'These persons, on their return,' continued Beltran, 'reported that they
had followed the river till they came to a large mountain of
perpendicular rocks, which it was impossible to climb, and over these
rocks fell the water. And it seemed to them that on the top of this
mountain were many trees; and they saw strange wild beasts, such as
lions, elephants, and other sorts, which came to gaze at them. And, not
daring to advance further, they returned to the sultan.'

'And this is all that is known?' said Walter.

'Yes,' replied Beltran. 'Where the Nile enters Egypt, it spreads in
branches over the plain. One of them flows to Damietta; a second to
Alexandria; a third to Tunis; and a fourth to Rexi. About St. Remy's Day
it expands itself into seven branches, and thence flows over the plains.
When the waters retire, the labourers appear and till the ground with
ploughs without wheels, and then sow wheat, barley, rice, and cumin,
which succeed so well that nowhere are finer crops.'

'And whence,' asked Walter, 'comes this yearly increase of water?'

'I cannot tell, except that it comes from God's mercy. Some say that
this overflowing is caused by heavy rains in Abyssinia; but many Arabs
believe that a drop of dew falls into the river, and causes the
inundation; and some declare they have seen it fall, like a star. The
night when it falls is called the "drop-night." But certain it is that,
were it not to happen, Egypt, from the great heat, would produce
nothing; for, being near the rising sun, it scarcely ever rains, save at
very long intervals.'

'Of a truth,' observed Walter, 'all this sounds strange to English
ears.'

'Where the river enters Egypt,' continued Beltran, 'there are expert
persons, who may be called the fishermen of this stream, and who, in the
evening, cast their nets into the water, and in the morning frequently
find many spices in them, such as ginger, cinnamon, rhubarb, cloves,
lignum-aloes, and other good things, which they sell by weight.'

'But how come the spices into the water?' enquired Walter.

'Well, it is the belief of the country that they come from the
terrestrial paradise, and that the wind blows them down from these fine
trees, as, in your forests, the wind blows down the old dry wood. But
such is mere surmise, albeit widely credited.'

'And the water of the Nile is deemed sweet to the taste?' said Walter.

'None in the world more sweet. The Arabs hold that, if Mahomet had once
tasted it, he would have prayed that he might live for ever, so as
unceasingly to enjoy its sweetness.'

'And yet it seems so turbid to the eye?'

'True; but, when the natives drink of it, it is clear as crystal.
Towards evening, crowds come down to get water, and especially women,
who, on such occasions, are decorated with all the ornaments they
possess. You must understand that they come in companies, because it is
not deemed decorous for a woman to go alone. And marvellous it is to see
how they balance the water-pots on their head, and walk gracefully up
steep banks which even you--agile as you may be--might have some
difficulty in clambering up without any burden. Then they put into their
vessels almonds or beans, which they shake well; and on the morrow the
water is wondrous clear, and more refreshing than the daintiest wine.'

'On my faith!' said Walter, 'all this is so curious that, were it a time
of truce, I should be tempted to adventure up this river and behold some
of the strange things of which you tell. But here comes my lord.' And,
as he spoke, the Earl of Salisbury rode up, and, while Walter held the
stirrup, dismounted.

Immediately the stranger stepped forward, and, humbling himself, with
respect offered Salisbury some lard in pots, and a variety of
sweet-smelling flowers.

'I bring them to you, noble earl,' said the man, in French, 'because you
are cousin of Prince Richard, who is called Earl of Cornwall, and
because you are nephew of the Crusader whose memory is held in most
respect and dread by the Saracens.'

'Of whom speak you?' asked Salisbury, a little surprised.

'I speak of King Richard of England,' was the reply; 'for he performed
such deeds when he was in the Holy Land that the Saracens, when their
horses are frightened at a bush or a shadow, cry out, "What! dost think
King Richard is there?" In like manner, when their children cry, their
mothers say to them, "Hush, hush! or I will bring King Richard of
England to you."'

'On my faith!' said the earl, looking more and more surprised, 'I cannot
comprehend you; for, albeit speaking French, and wearing the dress of a
Frank, you seem from your words to be an inhabitant of this country.'

'It is true,' replied the man, slowly. 'You must know that I am a
Christian renegade.'

'A Christian renegade!' exclaimed Salisbury, with pious horror. And then
asked, 'But who are you, and why became you a renegade?'

'Well, it came to pass in this wise,' answered the man, frankly. 'I was
born in Poictiers, whence I followed Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to the
East, and found my way to Egypt, where I have acquired some wealth.'

'But,' demanded the earl, indignantly, 'know you not that if you were to
die while leading your present life, you would descend straight to hell,
and be for ever damned?'

'In truth,' replied the man, 'I know full well that there is not a
better religion than that of the Christians. But what can I do? Suppose
I returned to it and had to go back to France, I should assuredly suffer
great poverty, and be continually reproached all my days, and be called
"Renegado! renegado!"'

'Even with that prospect you ought not to hesitate,' said the earl; 'for
surely it would be much better to suffer the scorn of the world than
await your sentence in the day of judgment, when your evil deeds will be
made manifest, and damnation will follow.'

'Nevertheless,' protested the renegade, 'I had rather live at my ease,
as I am, like a rich man, than become an object of contempt.'

'I cannot brook your presence,' said the earl, growing very indignant:
'therefore begone; I can have no more to say to you.'

'Be not over-hasty,' said the renegade; 'for be it known to you, noble
Earl, that I have that to tell which it will profit you much to know.'

'Speak, then,' said the earl, hesitating, 'but be brief; for my patience
is not so long as was my father's sword.'

'It is of a rich caravan I would speak,' said the renegade, with a
glance and a gesture of peculiar significance.

'Ah!' exclaimed the earl, pricking up his ears, and listening with
evident interest.

'It is on its way to Alexandria, and will pass within six leagues of
Damietta within four days,' said the renegade. 'And whoever can capture
that caravan may gain an immense booty.'

'And how does this concern me?' asked the earl.

'My lord,' replied the renegade, 'I see not wherefore you should not
seize the prize as well as another.'

'But how am I to trust your report? How am I to know that your intent is
not to betray me?'

'My lord,' answered the renegade, 'I am in your power. I will answer for
the truth of my story with my head; and, I promise you, I am as yet
neither so old nor so weary of life as to hazard it needlessly.'

'One question further,' said the earl, who was by this time much excited
with the prospect of a rich booty. 'How am I, being in a strange
country, to find this caravan of which you speak?'

'I myself will be your guide,' replied the renegade.

'And wherefore do you hazard so much to put me in possession of this
prize, when, by doing so, you expose yourself to the enmity of the
Egyptians, among whom you have cast your lot?'

'Well, my lord,' said the renegade, after a pause, 'I will be frank. I
expect my share of the spoil; and, besides, I see very clearly that this
army of pilgrims is likely to conquer Egypt, in spite of all the
resistance sultans and emirs may make; and, at such a time, I would fain
have some powerful lord among the conquerors to befriend me.'

'Ha!' exclaimed Longsword, smiling grimly,'I am now convinced.'

'Of what, noble earl?'

'Either that I must have the caravan or your head.'



CHAPTER XV.

CAPTURE OF A CARAVAN.


WHILE King Louis lay at Damietta, awaiting the arrival of Crusaders from
France and Syria, ere venturing to march into Egypt, the utmost disorder
began to prevail in the camp. The armed pilgrims, left to inactivity in
a delightful climate, under a bright sky, and surrounded by beautiful
scenery, appeared once more to forget the oaths they had taken, and
indulged in still worse riot and debauchery than when they wintered in
Cyprus. Gambling was their daily occupation; and the rattle of the
dice-box was constantly heard through the camp. And men with the Cross
of Christ upon their shoulders had the name of the devil continually on
their tongues. Nor was this the worst. Vice reigned all around in its
grossest form; and the saint-king complained mournfully to the Lord of
Joinville, that, within a stone's-throw of his own pavilion, houses of
infamous repute were kept by his personal attendants.

At the same time, the jealousy between the French and English grew more
and more intense, and threatened disastrous consequences. In vain did
Louis exert his influence to restrain the insolence of his countrymen.
The English were constantly reminded of their inferiority as a nation,
and exposed to such insults as it was difficult to brook. Bitter taunts
and insinuations of cowardice were unhesitatingly used to mortify the
island warriors; and men who had disobeyed their king's mandate, and
forfeited lands and living to combat the Saracens, were, day by day,
driven nearer the conclusion that they would ere long be under the
necessity of drawing their swords against their fellow-soldiers of the
Cross.

Of all the French Crusaders, however, none were so foolishly insolent as
Robert, Count of Artois, brother of King Louis. From a boy the French
prince had been remarkable for the ferocity of his temper, and had early
signalised himself by throwing a cheese at the face of his mother's
chivalrous admirer, Thibault of Champagne. For some reason or other, the
Count of Artois conceived a strong aversion to the Earl of Salisbury,
and treated Longsword with the utmost insolence. And, though the Earl
only retaliated by glances of cold contempt, it was known that his
patience was wearing away, and it was feared that there would yet be
bloodshed.

'By my father's sword!' said he, speaking partly to himself, partly to
Walter Espec, one day after returning to his tent, 'I fear me that my
spirit will not much longer brook the reproaches of that vain prince.
Even this day, as he spoke, my hand stole to the hilt of my sword; and I
panted to defy him to mortal combat on the spot.'

'My lord,' replied Walter, gravely and cautiously, 'I perceived that,
albeit striving to be calm, you felt your ancestral blood boiling in
your veins. And, in truth, I marvel not that such should have been the
case; and yet----

'And yet----Well, speak freely. I listen.'

'Well, my lord,' continued Walter, 'I was about to say that it seemed to
me the part of a wise man, and one so renowned in arms, not to deign to
answer a fool according to his folly.'

'Doubtless you are right,' replied the earl. 'And sinful, I feel, and
calculated to provoke God's vengeance, would it be to draw the sword
against one marked with the Cross, and engaged, like ourselves, in this
holy war. Nevertheless, my patience may come to an end, as the patience
of better men has done in such cases. However, a truce to such talk for
the present; and see that, at daybreak, this renegade is ready to guide
us on our expedition after the caravan; for I am weary of inactivity,
and eager for change of scene.'

Accordingly, preparations for the expedition were made; and, next
morning, Salisbury and his knights dashed away from Damietta to
intercept the caravan that was reported to be on its way to Alexandria.
For a time they waited patiently at a place where it was expected to
pass. But this mode of spending time was not much to the taste of men
whose spirits were raised by the novelty of everything around. Panting
for action, Longsword left Walter Espec with a band of horse and Beltran
the renegade to keep watch, and, at the head of his knights, went off in
quest of adventure.

[Illustration: "I cannot but think," said Walter, "our post is one of
danger, if the guards of this caravan are so numerous as reported.
Nevertheless, it shall never be told that, for fear of odds, I retreated
from a post which I had been entrusted to maintain."--p. 99.]

Hours passed; evening fell and deepened into night; and still neither
the caravan nor the warriors who had determined to capture it made
their appearance; and Walter and the renegade, for different reasons,
began to entertain considerable alarm. As morning approached, however,
one point was explained. In fact, a spy employed by Beltran reached the
rendezvous, with intelligence that the Earl's intention to attack the
caravan having been suspected, had caused the delay; but that, being
aware that he was out of the way, its guards were preparing to hasten
forward at dawn of day, confidently hoping to pass without being
assailed, or to beat down any opposition that might be offered to its
progress.

'On my faith,' said Walter, as he learned how matters were, 'I cannot
but think our post is one of danger, if the guards of this caravan are
so numerous as reported. Nevertheless, it shall never be told that, for
fear of odds, I retreated from a post which I had been entrusted to
maintain.' And he proceeded to place his men in such a position that
they might elude the observation of the Saracens till close at hand, and
then rush out and take the guards of the caravan by surprise.

Meanwhile, day was breaking; and, in the distance, Walter and his
companions could descry the caravan, apparently guarded by a strong
force: and gradually the white turbans and green caftans and long spears
became more and more distinct. It was clear that, in the event of
Salisbury not returning in time, Walter would have to fight against
great odds; and the return of the earl in time to aid him now appeared
so improbable that the squire ceased even to hope for his banners, and
resolved to take what fortune might be sent him. Suddenly, however, a
sound--a whisper on the breeze, and the heavy tread of horses--reached
his ears; and, gazing round, he descried a body of horsemen approaching
in the opposite direction from which the caravan came.

'Now, may the saints be praised, and may we be for ever grateful!
exclaimed Walter, with a joyful heart, as he closely examined the banner
that approached; 'for here come my Lord of Salisbury and his men of
might.'

In a few minutes the Earl reached the spot, and, rapidly comprehending
the situation of affairs, prepared for action. But there was hardly
occasion to strike a blow. No sooner did the English move towards the
caravan, and no sooner had the Saracens an opportunity of judging what
manner of men their assailants were, than they halted in surprise, and
gave way to terror; and when the Earl, on his bay charger, spurred
forward, shouting his battle-cry, they only waited long enough to
discharge a shower of arrows, and then fled like hares before the
hounds. Routed in every direction, they left the caravan to its fate;
and the English, pausing from the fray, found themselves in possession
of oxen, buffaloes, camels, mules, and asses, laden with gold and
silver, and silks and paintings.

'And now for Damietta!' said Longsword; 'for this is in truth a rich
prize; and let us not risk the loss of it by loitering on the way.'

And without waste of time--for a rescue was not impossible--they secured
their booty, and marched with what speed they could towards Damietta.

'Sir squire,' said Lord Robert de Vere, riding up to Walter Espec, whose
conduct Longsword had commended, 'your position in the earl's absence
was not quite so pleasant as a bed of roses.'

'In truth, my lord,' replied Walter, thoughtfully, 'now that the danger
is over, I cannot but deem that you came just in time to save us from
death or captivity.'

'And you marvelled that we tarried so long?'

'Much,' replied Walter; 'and had given up all hope of your return.
However,' added he, 'I perceive that your time was by no means wasted.'

'You speak truly,' said De Vere. 'Never were men more successful in an
adventure. By accident, we found ourselves hard by the castle of some
wealthy Saracen, and determined to seize it; so, overcoming all
resistance, we took it by storm, and found therein much booty, and a
bevy of Saracen ladies; and, having given them to understand that they
were captives of our swords and lances, we are carrying them to
Damietta.'

'On my faith!' said Walter, laughing, 'Fortune seems to bestow her
favours liberally on the pilgrims from England. No saying what great
exploits my Lord of Salisbury and his knights may yet perform! One day
we seize a castle and a caravan; another day it may be a kingdom.'

'And yet,' observed De Vere, the tone of his voice suddenly changing as
he spoke, 'I am seldom in solitude without experiencing a vague feeling
that calamity is impending.'

Now this adventure, successful as it appeared, involved the English
Crusaders in serious troubles. When Salisbury, on his bay charger, rode
into Damietta, with the captive Saracen ladies and the captured caravan,
the French were moved with envy, and did not fail to express their
sentiments in strong language. Perhaps the English did not bear their
good fortune so meekly as they might have done. In any case, the French
grew more and more exasperated; and at length the quarrel reached such a
stage that the French, availing themselves of superior numbers, had
recourse to violence, and forcibly carried off part of the booty which,
at great peril and with some labour, Longsword and his men had won.



CHAPTER XVI.

A COUNCIL OF WAR.


ON the morning after the return of the Earl of Salisbury to Damietta,
and the violent proceedings of the French Crusaders against the English
companions of their expedition, King Louis summoned a council of war to
deliberate on the measures most likely to lead to the conquest of
Egypt--the grand object of the saintly monarch's ambition.

By this time arrivals from various quarters had swelled the army that,
under the banner of St. Denis, lay encamped at Damietta. Thither, under
the grand masters of their orders, had come the Templars and the
Hospitallers, whose discipline and knowledge of the East rendered them
such potent allies. Thither had come the Duke of Burgundy, who had
passed the winter in the Morea; and the Prince of Achaia, who forgot the
perils surrounding the Latin empire of Constantinople, in his eagerness
to combat the Moslem on the banks of the Nile; thither, recovered from
their fright, had come the Crusaders whose vessels the storm had driven
on the Syrian coast; and thither, with the _arrière ban_ of France,
Alphonse, Count of Poictiers--'one of that princely quaternion of
brothers which came hither at this voyage, and exceeded each other in
some quality--Louis the holiest, Alphonse the subtlest, Charles the
stoutest, and Robert the proudest.' No fewer than sixty thousand
men--twenty thousand of whom were cavalry---were now encamped around the
oriflamme; and with such an army, led by such chiefs, the saint-king
would have been more than mortal if he had not flattered himself with
the hope of accomplishing something great, to be recorded by chroniclers
and celebrated by minstrels.

And the princes and nobles assembled to hold a council of war; and
Louis, with his crown on his brow, took his place to preside, with that
serene dignity which distinguished him. But, ere the proceedings began,
the Earl of Salisbury rose, and intimated his desire to address the king
on a subject of great importance. Louis immediately signified consent;
and the earl, raising his hand to ensure silence, proceeded with a calm
but resolute air:--

'Sire,' said he, 'I crave your pardon, and that of the princes and noble
warriors here assembled, for trespassing upon their time. But I have
that to state which demands your attention and interference, inasmuch as
it nearly concerns the safety and welfare and honour of the army of
pilgrims, of which you are the recognised chief. Sire,' continued the
earl, 'however others may plead ignorance of the circumstances, you, at
least, are fully informed and well aware that, in taking the Cross, and
coming from a distant land to aid you in the recovery of the Holy
Sepulchre, I made sacrifices of no ordinary kind. My doing so exposed
me to the wrath of King Henry, my kinsman and liege lord, who took from
me my earldom and all my substance. This, however, he did judicially,
not in his anger, or any violence of self-will; and I do not blame him.
But I came hither with my countrymen, and we have fought as faithfully
for God's cause as any man in your army. Nevertheless we have been
exposed to insults and injuries which brave men cannot long tolerate.
The chief offender is your brother, the Count of Artois. I lay my
complaint before you, and I ask you to judge between us. I promise to
abide by your decision, and, if I am found to be in the wrong, to render
every satisfaction for my fault. So help me God, and good St. George!'

Louis listened with attention to the earl's speech. Indeed, the grandeur
of Longsword's aspect, and his eloquence, so frank and so manly,
produced a strong impression both on the king and the assemblage, and
many of the French, notwithstanding their prejudices, murmured
approbation.

'This English earl,' said they, 'speaks words of truth and soberness,
and he asks nothing more than the justice that ought not to be denied to
the meanest man in the army of pilgrims.'

Louis, however, paused, and appeared to be in extreme perplexity.

'William Longsword,' he said, at length, 'you have spoken boldly; and I
do not deny that you have spoken the truth. The Lord, who is ignorant of
nothing, is aware of the injuries you have suffered. But what can I do?
You know how serious an affair it would be for me to offend any of my
nobles in the position in which I now am, and it therefore becomes you
to exercise the patience becoming a soldier of the Cross.'

And now the Count of Artois started up, his face flushed and his limbs
trembling with rage:

'King,' exclaimed he, in accents of menace, 'what mean you by the words
you have spoken? Do you defend this Englishman and take part with him
against Frenchmen, who are of your own country and kindred?'

The countenance of Louis expressed more annoyance than he was in the
habit of exhibiting.

'Now, Longsword,' said he, turning with an imploring look to the earl,
'you see the position of affairs, and how easily a quarrel might arise;
and God forbid it should occur in an army of Christians. At such a
crisis it is necessary to endure much for the sake of Christendom.'

'Sire,' exclaimed Longsword, giving way to his indignation, 'if this is
the only answer you can give to my complaint, I advise you to call
yourself no longer a king; since you have no longer the privilege of
being obeyed, or of administering justice, or punishing offenders.' And
rising with a dignity which awed most of those present, he left the
council.

'Frenchmen,' said Louis, reproachfully, 'why do you persecute this man?
What madness excites you?'

'I do it,' cried the Count of Artois, 'because I dislike the tailed
English, and because I think the army of Crusaders would be well purged
of them.'

But none present ventured to give the count the support he seemed to
expect; and the wise and prudent bent their brows, and intimated their
disapprobation.

'The matter is too serious to be lightly spoken of,' said they,
significantly; 'and this dispute is a sad presage of future events; and
well will it be if the anger of the Most High is not provoked by such
offences.'

'And now,' said Louis, anxious to drop the subject, 'let us to the
business on which we assembled to deliberate. Let us consult on the line
of march, and on the measures to be taken for completing the conquest of
Egypt.'

'Sire,' said John de Valery, a baron, whose probity and courage were the
admiration of the army, 'it seems to me that the best and safest policy
is to undertake the siege of Alexandria. That city has a commodious
port, where the fleet could find shelter, and where munitions and
provisions could be procured with facility. My voice, therefore, is for
marching to Alexandria.'

Many of those whose experience in war was greatest--among whom were the
Master of the Temple and the Master of the Hospital---echoed John de
Valery's opinion.

'For my part,' said the Count of Artois, with his characteristic
rashness, 'I dislike timid counsels. Why not at once attack Cairo, which
is the capital of Egypt? When you wish to kill the serpent,' added he,
'you ought always to endeavour to crush his head. Then, I say, let us on
to Cairo.'

A warm and somewhat angry discussion ensued; and Louis, having given his
opinion in favour of marching to Cairo, the project was adopted: and it
was resolved to leave Queen Margaret, with the Countesses of Artois,
Poictiers, and Anjou, at Damietta, to send the fleet with provisions and
engines of war up the Nile, and then to march with banners displayed
along the banks of the river.

'Gentlemen,' said Louis, as he dismissed the council, 'I feel assured
that we shall have no reason to repent adopting the bolder of the
projects discussed this day; for, with an army of sixty thousand men,
and the blessing of God on our endeavours, I see no reason to despair of
accomplishing something great against the enemies of Christ.'

'Sire,' replied John de Valery, 'may God grant that your hopes be
realised.'

And the nobles and princes separated to make the necessary preparations
for marching to Cairo.

Little did they foresee the terrible circumstances under which many of
them were to reach that city.



CHAPTER XVII.

FACE TO FACE.


WHILE the Crusaders were preparing to leave Damietta, march up the Nile,
and attack Cairo, Melikul Salih, after struggling desperately with the
great destroyer, yielded to his fate, and breathed his last at
Mansourah. The death of the sultan was regarded by the emirs as most
untimely; for his son, Touran Chah, was then in Mesopotamia, and they
were apprehensive of the most serious troubles. At this crisis, however,
a woman, whose great ability enabled her to comprehend the emergency and
to deal with it, suggested measures for averting the ruin with which the
empire of Egypt was menaced.

Her name was Chegger Eddour, and she is said to have been an Armenian.
She had originally been brought to Cairo as merchandise, and purchased
by Melikul Salih as a slave. But her wit and beauty won the sultan's
heart, and he became so enamoured that he elevated her to the position
of favourite sultana, and carried her about with him wherever he went.
One son whom she had by the sultan died young. Nevertheless her
influence daily increased; and the Arabian historians, while eloquent
in praise of her courage, agree in saying, that 'no woman surpassed her
in beauty, and no man excelled her in genius.'

No sooner did Melikul Salih depart this life, than Chegger Eddour
assembled the principal emirs at Mansourah, and made them acknowledge
Touran Chah as sultan. Moreover, she impressed upon them the necessity
of concealing the death of her husband till the arrival of his
successor. The policy she recommended was adopted. Orders were still
issued in Melikul Salih's name; the Mamelukes still guarded the gates of
the palace as if he had been living; and prayers for his recovery were
still offered up in the mosques, where the Moslems worshipped. All these
precautions, which were the work of the sultana, were skilfully taken,
and for a time the Saracens hoped that Melikul Salih might yet recover
from his malady, and save them from the foe by whom they were
threatened.

Ere long, however, suspicion was aroused, and it became more and more
difficult to conceal the truth. Of itself this was sufficient to create
consternation; but, at the same time, rumour brought to Mansourah
intelligence that the French, having left Damietta, and marched in
hostile array along the banks of the Nile, had reached Pharescour; and
the approach of the Crusaders converted the consternation into panic,
which rapidly extended its influence to Cairo. Every cheek grew pale;
and the Egyptians exhibited such anxiety and terror as had never before
been felt in their cities.

At this crisis, Fakreddin, to whom the sultana had entrusted the command
of the Egyptian army, took measures to reanimate his countrymen with
courage and confidence, and called upon them to hazard their lives
freely for their religion.

'In the name of God, and Mahomet his prophet,' said the emir, 'hasten,
great and small--the cause of God has need of your arms and of your
wealth; the Franks--Heaven curse them!--are arrived in our country, with
their standards and their swords. They wish to obtain possession of our
cities, and to ravage our provinces. What Mussulman can refuse to march
against them, and avenge the glory of Islamism?'

But, at Cairo and Mansourah, the Egyptians only answered with sighs and
groans; and, at first, Fakreddin's appeal failed to produce the effect
he intended. The emir, however, was not dismayed. Indeed, he showed a
courage worthy of the fame he had won by his military exploits, and
gradually rallied the more courageous of his countrymen around him.
Marching from Mansourah, he encamped at Djedilé, on the side of the
canal known as the Achmoun, which has a deep bed and steep banks; and
halted with the Nile on his left and the city in his rear.

'Here,' said he, addressing his men, 'I await the invaders. Be brave; we
will yet avenge Islamism; and on Sebastian's-day I will dine in the
scarlet tent of the French king.'

Meanwhile, the Crusaders continued their march, and they soon approached
Mansourah. At this point, however, their progress was arrested by two
obstacles--the canal of Achmoun, and the army of Fakreddin.

'Who is the leader of that army?' asked King Louis, as he looked
earnestly across the canal to where the Saracens were encamped.

'Sire,' answered one of his knights, 'it is Fakreddin, the emir, who
fled from Damietta; but who, nevertheless, as I learn, does not hesitate
to boast that it is his intention to dine in your red tent on St.
Sebastian's-day.'

'Does the emir intend to dine in my tent on St. Sebastian's-day?' said
Louis, mildly; 'however, I will take good care to prevent him.'

'In truth, sire,' said the knight, smiling, 'I hold that you are much
more likely to dine in the sultan's palace.'

'Be that as it may,' replied the king, 'one thing is certain. We and our
foes are now face to face.'

And so they were. Face to face, separated only by the canal Achmoun,
Christian and Moslem, headed by the King of France and the Emir
Fakreddin, lay encamped and awaiting a favourable opportunity to fight,
and to conquer or die for their countries and religions.

And it speedily appeared that face to face they were for some time
likely to remain.



CHAPTER XVIII.

DELAY AND DANGER.


IT was January 1250, and King Louis, at the head of the Crusaders, was
still on the banks of the Achmoun. But it was not from reluctance to
prosecute their enterprise that the armed pilgrims submitted to delay.
The aspect of the country through which they had passed on their way
from Damietta had not been such as to diminish their ambition to be
conquerors. It cannot be doubted that the fertility of the land of the
Pharaohs must have made them more and more eager to become its masters.

In truth, there cannot be a more delightful sight than Egypt at either
of two seasons of the year. Ascend some mountain in the month of July or
August, when the Nile has risen, and you behold a vast sea, in which
appear numerous towns and villages, with causeways leading from place to
place, the whole interspersed with groves and fruit-trees, of which the
tops are only visible, and bounded by woods and mountains. But it is the
peculiarity of the Nile, unlike other rivers, which, in overflowing
lands, wash away and exhaust their vivific moisture, that its waters
serve to fatten and enrich the soil. Accordingly, ascend the same
mountain in January or February, when the waters have subsided and the
husbandman has done his work, and the country is like one beautiful
meadow, dotted with flocks and herds, covered with crops of corn,
enamelled with flowers, and perfumed with the blossoms of oranges and
lemons.

Nor, considering the marvellous history of Egypt, could the imaginations
of the Crusaders be otherwise than fascinated by the prospect of looking
with their own eyes on its cities, its pyramids, its obelisks, its mummy
pits, and all the relics of its ancient and mysterious civilisation.
Persians, Macedonians, Romans, and Saracens, had come hither before them
as conquerors. But it may be doubted whether the warriors of Cambyses,
or Alexander, or the Cæsars, or Omar, felt a more thorough confidence in
their own prowess and destiny, than did the warriors who marched from
Damietta under the banner of St. Denis.

It was certainly mortifying to men in so elate a mood to have their
progress arrested by a canal; and, in fact, the French warriors seem to
have been startled out of their senses by its steep banks and deep bed.
At all events, they, instead of looking for a ford, which was certainly
the most natural way of getting over their difficulty, commenced the
construction of a causeway.

Now, Fakreddin no sooner observed that the Crusaders were at work, than
he perceived his advantage, and vowed that the causeway should never be
completed; and, while workmen, protected by machines of war and wooden
castles, were occupied with its construction, the Saracens spared no
pains to retard the operations. As fast as the Crusaders heaped up the
sand and stones, the Saracens dug away the earth in front, thus removing
the opposite bank to a greater distance; and, moreover, they incessantly
showered arrows and javelins at the workmen. Every day brought fresh
annoyances; and every day the Saracens became more audacious in their
attacks. Every night brought fresh surprises; and, in the conflicts
which took place, the Crusaders had not always the best of the struggle.

'A large body of Turks,' says Joinville, 'made an attack on the Count of
Poictiers and me. But be assured they were very well received. It was
well for them that they found their way back as they came; but they left
behind them great numbers of slain.'

'One night the Turks brought an engine, called by them _la perriere_, a
terrible engine to do mischief, and placed it opposite the
chas-chateils, which Sir Walter Curel and I were guarding. From this
engine they flung such quantities of Greek fire, that it was the most
horrible sight I ever witnessed. When my companion, the good Sir Walter,
saw this shower of fire, he cried out, "Gentlemen, we are all lost
without remedy; for should they set fire to our chas-chateils we must be
burnt, and if we quit our post we are for ever dishonoured; from which,
therefore, I conclude that no one can possibly save us from this peril
but God, our benignant creator. I therefore advise all of you, whenever
they throw any of this Greek fire, to cast yourselves on your hands and
knees and cry for mercy to our Lord, in whom alone resides all power."

'As soon, therefore, as the Turks threw their fires, we flung ourselves
on our hands and knees as the wise man had advised; and, this time, they
fell between our two cats, into a hole in front, which our people had
made to extinguish them; and they were instantly put out by a man
appointed for that purpose.

'Each time that our good king, St. Louis, heard them make these
discharges of fire, he cast himself on the ground, and with extended
arms, and eyes turned to the heavens, cried with a loud voice to our
Lord, and shedding heavy tears, said--"Good Lord God, preserve thou me,
and all thy people:" and, believe me, his sincere prayers were of great
service to us. Every time the fire fell near us he sent one of his
knights to know how we were, and if the fire had hurt us. One of the
discharges from the Turks fell beside a chas-chateil, guarded by the men
of the Lord of Courtenay, struck the bank of the river in front and ran
on the ground toward them, burning with flames. One of the knights of
his guard instantly came to me, crying out, "Help us, my lord, or we are
burnt; for there is a long train of Greek fire, which the Saracens have
discharged, that is running straight for our castle."

'We immediately hastened thither, and good need was there, for as the
knight had said, so it was. We extinguished the fire with much labour
and difficulty; for the Saracens, in the meantime, kept up so brisk a
shooting from the opposite bank, that we were covered with arrows and
bolts.'

All this time Fakreddin was diligent in procuring what intelligence he
could as to the position and plans of the Crusaders. This, however, was
not an easy business. Indeed, no intelligence on such subjects could be
obtained, save from captives, and the emir, therefore, offered a high
reward for every Frank brought to his tent. But the Crusaders, taught by
experience, had become marvellously vigilant, and showed a decided
aversion to be captured. A Saracen, however, who was an expert swimmer,
vowed not to be baffled, and performed an exploit, which Arabian
chroniclers, while omitting much more important events, have carefully
recorded.

It seems that this Saracen, having determined to carry a Christian as
captive to Fakreddin's tent, and claim the reward, fell upon a somewhat
whimsical plan for accomplishing his object. Having scooped out a melon,
and thrust his head into the cavity, he threw himself into the canal,
and swam down the stream in such a way that the melon appeared to float
in the water. The trick succeeded in attracting the attention of the
Crusaders, and as the melon was passing that part of the bank where the
Lord of Joinville was encamped, there was much excitement among his men.

'Let us catch the melon,' cried one.

'Who is bold enough to make the attempt?' asked another.

'On my faith,' said a squire, laughing, 'I see no danger to daunt the
most timid.'

[Illustration: Scarcely, indeed, had he stretched forward his hand, when
he found himself seized by the Saracen, and dragged forcibly away in the
direction of the camp on the opposite bank.--p. 118.]

As he spoke, the squire, doffing his upper garments, rushed into the
water, and, striking out, grasped at the melon. But the adventure did
not end so pleasantly as he had anticipated. Scarcely, indeed, had he
stretched forward his hand, when he found himself seized by the Saracen,
and dragged forcibly away in the direction of the camp on the opposite
bank.

At first the Crusaders could hardly believe their eyes. But there was no
mistake about it. Their comrade was gone, and a prisoner in the hands of
the Saracens; and, as they considered what might be his fate, they
raised such shouts of alarm, that their lord was attracted to the spot.

'In St. Denis' name,' said Joinville, after hearing sufficient to be
aware of what had occurred, 'tell me, I pray you, who among my fellows
has met with this mishap?'

'In truth, my lord,' replied one of the knights, 'it is the English
squire who took service with you at Damietta.'

'May the God of his fathers protect him!' exclaimed Joinville, somewhat
sadly; 'as matters are, we can do nothing in his behalf.'

And who was the squire, who had entered the service of Joinville at
Damietta, and afterwards been taken prisoner by the Saracens?

It was one of the brothers-in-arms. It was Guy Muschamp.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE CAPTIVE.


AT the time when Guy Muschamp was dragged away as a captive to the camp
of the Saracens at Djedilé, the emir Fakreddin sat in his pavilion. It
was a marvellous tent, in the centre of the camp, and formed so as to
resemble a fortified city, being divided into streets, flanked with
towers, and furnished with everything likely to contribute to the luxury
of an oriental. In an apartment, ornamented with gold and gems, the emir
sat, face to face with a dark-browed Saracen chief, and playing at
chess. But the game did not by any means monopolise the attention of the
persons engaged in it; for the companion of the emir was no less
celebrated a person than Bibars Bendocdar, the chief of the Mamelukes;
and between him and Fakreddin there was much discussion as to the best
mode of dealing with the enemies who menaced the empire with ruin.

And who was Bibars Bendocdar? It is necessary that we should learn, in
order to comprehend the events that were ere long to startle and terrify
the nations of Christendom.

At the time when Louis, King of France, undertook his Crusade, it was
the custom, when two eastern potentates went to war, for the conqueror
to sell the subjects of the vanquished enemy as slaves; and many of
these, bought by merchants, were carried to Egypt, and sold to the
sultan, who had them trained from boyhood to serve him as soldiers.
Carefully were these young captives reared; and, when their beards began
to grow, they were taught to draw the bow and wield the sword. After
becoming expert in military exercises, they were admitted into that
famous body, which Saladin the Great had instituted, and known as
Mamelukes. Their privileges were many. They were highly favoured by the
sultan, wearing his emblazonments of pure gold, only adding bars of
vermilion, with birds or roses or griffins for difference, and acting as
his body-guard in time of war, and watching over his safety while he
slept.

It seems that Bibars Bendocdar was originally brought to Egypt as a
slave, and, in course of time, enrolled as one of the Mamelukes. As such
he rose rapidly. His ambition was intense; and, being both able and
unscrupulous, he had no reason to despair of his ambition being one day
gratified. No position, indeed, could be more favourable to a man eager
to emerge from obscurity to eminence, than that which he occupied; and
he not only succeeded in winning the confidence of the sultan, but
contrived to insinuate himself into the good graces of the soldiers. In
truth, this with him was no difficult matter. He had profoundly studied
human nature as it was exhibited around him; and he comprehended, above
all things, the arts by which the hearts of fighting men are gained and
retained, and the arts also by which military adventurers elevate
themselves to supremacy in a state.

Besides, Bibars Bendocdar had other qualities likely to render him a
formidable foe or a dangerous rival. He was skillful as a leader in war,
courageous in conflict, cruel in the hour of victory, and remarkable for
his penetration, sagacity, and activity. Moreover, he professed great
faith in the Mahometan religion, and had great faith also in his own
destiny. Such was the man who now watched events with the eagerness of a
gambler, and who recognised, not without satisfaction, the danger and
disorder, from the bosom of which a leader of courage and audacity
might, by rekindling enthusiasm and restoring order, elevate himself to
power. He was about to prove himself one of the most formidable foes
whom the soldiers of the Cross had ever been under the necessity of
encountering.

Into the presence of the Emir Fakreddin and Bibars Bendocdar young Guy
Muschamp, drenched and agitated, was carried. Alarmed as he well might
be, the squire exhibited a dauntless air and presented a bold front. In
fact, his demeanour was such that the Saracen chiefs exchanged glances
of surprise.

'Who are you?' asked Fakreddin.

'My name is Muschamp, and I am a subject of the King of England.'

'And what brought you to Egypt?'

'I came to fight for the Holy Sepulchre.'

'And,' asked Bibars Bendocdar, sternly, 'know you not that passage in
the Koran which says that they who make war unjustly shall perish?'

'Saracen,' replied Guy, proudly, 'an Anglo-Norman gentleman does not
regulate his conduct by the Koran.'

'However,' said Fakreddin, waving his hand, 'it is needful that you
answer some questions as to the army of Franks, and that you answer
truly.'

'Saracen,' replied Guy, resolutely, 'I will not answer a question on the
subject.'

'Fool!' exclaimed Bibars Bendocdar, impatiently; 'know you not your
danger? Know you not that we can instantly order your head to be struck
off?'

'Doubtless,' replied Guy. 'And, in that case, I die the death of a
martyr, and go straight to paradise.'

'Infidel!' cried Bibars, loudly; 'you know not of what you speak. You
will have to account for your faith to the angels Munkir and Nakir.'

'Munkir and Nakir!' exclaimed Guy, with an air of perplexity; 'beshrew
me if I ever before heard of their names.'

'You will know them soon enough, if you act not more discreetly,' said
Bibars; 'for they are the two angels who interrogate the dead the moment
they are in the grave, saying, "Who is thy lord?" and, "Who is thy
prophet?"'

'On my faith, Saracen,' said Guy, compassionately, 'I marvel much that a
man of your years can credit such pagan fables.'

'Dog!' exclaimed Bibars. 'This to my beard! Ho! there, guards! Strike
off this Christian's head, and cast his carcase to the fishes!'

'No,' said Fakreddin, mildly, 'it is well that he should have time to
reflect. Let him be kept as a prisoner till the morrow. He will then be
more likely to answer the questions asked of him.'

Accordingly Guy Muschamp was led from the presence of the Saracen chiefs
and shut up in a small apartment in the centre of Fakreddin's tent. The
position was the reverse of pleasant; and he almost gave himself up for
lost. Next morning, however, after he had eaten some food brought him by
the jailer, he was startled, first by a commotion in the camp, and then
by such a noise and tumult as if all the fiends had come thither from
the infernal regions to fight their battles. Gradually, through the din,
the ear of Guy recognised the clash of weapons and the rushing of
steeds, and his suspense was agonising. For a time he endeavoured to
make out what was occurring; but this was in vain. At length the noise
ceased; and Guy moved to the door with the intention of making a
desperate effort to break it open. Somewhat to his surprise, he found
that it did not resist. In fact, the jailer was gone and the camp
deserted.



CHAPTER XX.

PASSING THE ACHMOUN.


MORE than six weeks had passed since the Crusaders found their progress
arrested by the Achmoun; and still the causeway by which they had hoped
to pass the canal was not constructed. Indeed, the workmen had made very
little progress since the first week; and Louis was despairing of seeing
the work brought to a completion, when, much to his gratification, he
learned that there was a prospect of crossing the canal by the simplest
of all processes.

On the day when Guy Muschamp was carried off as a captive, the Constable
of France was surprised by a visit from a Bedouin, and demanded his
business. The Bedouin thereupon offered, for five hundred golden
bezants, to point out a ford by which the Crusaders might, without
danger or difficulty, cross in safety to the opposite bank. The
constable at once promised the required reward, in the event of the
information proving satisfactory; but it was not till the money was told
down that the Bedouin conducted him to the spot, and convinced him that
the ford was there. Gladly hastening to Louis, the constable revealed
the means of extricating the armed pilgrims from their embarrassment;
and the king, assembling the princes and nobles, decided on leaving the
Duke of Burgundy on the Damietta side with a sufficient force to guard
the camp; and then, mastering their men and mounting their horses, they
at midnight marched along the bank of the canal to the ford pointed out
by the Bedouin, and awaited the break of day to dash through the water
and move towards Mansourah.

It was the morning of Tuesday, the 8th of February, 1250--Shrove
Tuesday--when the armed pilgrims, under the auspices of King Louis,
halted on the Damietta side of the Achmoun, and awaited the signal to
pass to that on which Mansourah was situated. Everything so far had gone
quite as smoothly as could reasonably have been expected. Some horsemen,
indeed, rode too near the margin of the canal, and, getting on soft and
slippery ground, they and their horses fell in and were drowned. Among
them was Sir John of Orleans, a valiant knight, who bore the French
banner. But this was a slight misfortune compared with that which the
folly and presumption of one man was preparing for that ill-starred
host.

At all times, and under all circumstances, the Count of Artois was one
of the most unreasonable of human beings; and at this moment, so
important to Louis, to France, to the Crusaders, and to the Christian
kingdom of Jerusalem, nothing would satisfy his ambition but being the
first to cross. Not unaware of his brother's failings, Louis protested;
but the count persisted; and, promising to wait with patience on the
opposite bank for the main army, he placed himself at the head of the
van, which was formed of the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the English
Crusaders, and dashed into the canal.

Now, at this moment the opposite bank was occupied by several hundred
Saracen horsemen, who seemed prepared to oppose the landing of the
Crusaders. No sooner, however, did the Saracens perceive that the
Crusaders were fording the canal safely than they gave way, and fled
towards the camp of the Emir Fakreddin at Djedilé.

It was then that, in spite of all the warnings he had received and all
the promises he had made, the Count of Artois gave way to the
impetuosity that was destined to lead to the ruin of the pilgrim army.
At the sight of the flying Saracens, he threw all discretion to the
winds, and, attended by his governor, an old deaf knight, who held his
rein, pursued the fugitives towards the camp. In vain the Grand Masters
of the Temple and the Hospital shouted out remonstrances. The count paid
no attention whatever; and the aged knight, who was too deaf to hear a
word, urged on the pursuit, crying loudly, 'Hurrah! hurrah! Upon them!
upon them!'

The Saracens who occupied the camp at Djedilé were panic-stricken; and,
supposing that the whole French army was upon them, fled in confusion
towards Mansourah. But there was one man who did not fly; and that man
was Fakreddin. When the camp was invaded, the emir was in his bath, and
having his beard coloured, after the custom of the Orientals; but he
immediately roused himself, dressed himself hastily, and, springing on
horseback, endeavoured to rally his troops, and attempted to resist.
Inspired by Fakreddin's example, the Saracens who had not fled offered a
feeble resistance. But it was unavailing, and they followed the
fugitives streaming towards Mansourah. Fakreddin, however, disdaining
either to fly or yield, continued to struggle bravely; until, left
almost alone, he fell in the midst of his foes, covered with wounds, and
consoling himself, as his breath went, that his end was glorious, that
he died a martyr for Islamism, and that he would be conveyed to the
banks of the celestial river.

'By the head of St. Anthony!' exclaimed the Count of Artois, looking
fiercely on Fakreddin's mangled corpse, 'it was this emir who boasted
that he would dine in the red tent of my lord the king; but now he will
not grumble at a humbler resting-place.'

'My lord count,' said Salisbury, gravely, 'the emir, had he been ten
times a Saracen, was a brave man; and let us merit the praises of the
valiant by showing that we know how to honour the memory of our enemies
as well as of our friends.'

'Amen,' said both the grand masters, in significant accents.



CHAPTER XXI

THE CARNAGE OF MANSOURAH.


IT was still early morning, and King Louis was still on the Damietta
side of the Achmoun, when the Count of Artois, the Earl of Salisbury,
and the Grand Masters of the Temple and the Hospital, found themselves
victors in the camp.

'Now, gentlemen,' said the Count of Artois, 'let us forward, and
complete the rout of our foes while affairs prosper in our hands and
they are in dismay. Speed will now avail more than strength; and the
fewer we are the greater will be the honour of a victory. Forward then,
and crush them at a blow!'

'Forward!' shouted the old deaf knight, who held the count's rein.
'Hurrah! hurrah! Upon them! upon them!'

But the count's companions hesitated, and exchanged glances of alarm.

'Noble prince,' said the Master of the Temple, after a pause, 'I give
all praise to your valour; but I entreat you to be advised, and not to
act rashly. Our men are weary; our horses are wounded; we are few in
number; and we must not overvalue our victory, or suppose our enemies
are vanquished because they have lost a handful of men. Let us,
therefore, return to the king, that we may be strengthened by his
counsel and aid.'

'In truth,' said the Grand Master of the Hospital, 'we should be
foolhardy to attempt aught rashly. We are in a strange country; and our
best instructors are behind. Let us stay for our lantern and not go
forward in the dark.'

'Ah!' exclaimed the Count of Artois, swelling with pride and anger,
'this is ever the way with military monks. But for the treachery of the
Templars, and the sedition of the Hospitallers, the Holy Land would long
since have been won.'

'Noble count,' said the Grand Master of the Temple, reproachfully, 'you
do us grievous wrong. Why should we take the habit of religion, and pass
our lives in a foreign land amid perils and fatigues? Is it, think you,
to overthrow the Church and betray the cause of Christ, that we abandon
our homes and kindred? However,' added the Grand Master, waxing wrath,
'let us forward, in God's name, and try all together the fortunes of
battle. Standard-bearer, unfurl the banner of the Temple. Ha!
Beau-séant! Beau-séant!'

At this moment the Earl of Salisbury made an effort to save his comrades
from the destruction on which they were about to rush.

'My lord,' said he, addressing the Count of Artois, 'I implore you to
listen to the wholesome counsel of the grand masters. They have been
long in this country, and learned by experience the craft as well as the
strength of our foes. We, being strangers, are ignorant of the perils;
but we know that, as far as the east is from the west, so far are my
ways different from the ways of the Orientals.'

'Hearken to this Englishman!' exclaimed the count, scornfully. 'What
cowardice there is in these English! But their timid counsel suits not
us. Happy should I be if the Christian army were purged of the English
tails!'

A flush of rage crimsoned the earl's bronzed cheek, and his eye flashed
fire.

'Now, by my father's sword!' cried he, striving to be calm, though he
literally quivered with indignation, 'this passes human patience! Ho!
there, Lord Robert de Vere, raise my banner; and you, Count of Artois,
lead on, and see if the danger of death hinders us from following. The
touchstone must try which is gold and which is brass; and I swear, by
good St. George, as I put on my helmet, that the English knights whom
you have taunted with cowardice will this day penetrate farther in the
ranks of our foes than any warrior of France--be he prince or
paladin--will venture to do.'

And the dispute having there been terminated, the Count of Artois and
his Crusaders put on their helmets and mounted their horses. At that
moment the eye of Salisbury alighted on Walter Espec; and his
countenance, which had expressed the most scornful indignation, suddenly
changed, and expressed something like pity.

'Boy,' said he, in a low, kindly tone, 'fall back and wait for the
French king. We are rushing on certain death; and you are too young to
die.'

'Nay, my good lord,' replied Walter, calmly. 'A man, whether young or
old, can die but once: I would rather fall fighting in the cause of our
Redeemer, and under your banner, than in a less holy cause and in meaner
company.'

'As you will,' said the earl. 'It shall never be told that I prevented
knight or squire from dying the death of a martyr.'

'By the might of Mary! Master Espec,' whispered Bisset; the English
knight, 'were I your age, and had my choice, certes, I should think
twice ere hazarding life against such odds. Wherefore should you fall a
victim to the madness of my Lord of Artois, or the pride of my Lord of
Salisbury?'

'On my faith, I know not,' answered Walter, smiling. 'But this I do
know, that a man can die but once, and that a Christian warrior who
falls with the Cross on his shoulder is understood to win the crown of
martyrdom.'

'Nevertheless, were I you, and of your years,' argued Bisset; 'I should
little relish the notion of being killed; for, as the Saracens say, when
man dies there is no hope of his living again; because, as they add
truly, man is not a water-melon; when once in the ground he cannot grow
again.'

By this time French and Templars and Hospitallers and English were
mounted; and, without further argument, they dashed towards Mansourah.
At first they encountered no obstacle; and, while the inhabitants fled
in terror along the road to Cairo, the Count of Artois and his
companions, after destroying one of the gates, so as to secure egress
if necessary, penetrated into the city, carrying all before them; and,
reaching the palace of the sultan, they commenced the work of pillage.
But during this process they were rudely interrupted; for Bibars
Bendocdar perceived the imprudence of which the Crusaders had been
guilty, and suddenly, at the head of a Saracen army, appeared to give
them battle.

And now the Crusaders were in a fearful predicament. Ere they had time
to rally, they were fiercely attacked. From the roofs and windows of the
houses around, the Saracens hurled stones, and poured heated sand and
boiling water. Before them were the Mamelukes, headed by Bibars
Bendocdar, fiery with fanaticism, and panting for blood. It was a
terrible situation even for brave men; and the very bravest there felt a
thrill of awe and terror.

'All is lost!' said Salisbury, in a whisper.

'The King of France may hear of our peril, and come to our rescue,'
suggested Lord Robert de Vere.

'No hope of succour,' said Bisset, in a conclusive tone. 'But let us not
droop. We can at least sell our lives dearly.'

A brief and painful silence succeeded, while still upon the Crusaders
the Saracens hurled stones and poured boiling water.

'Englishmen and friends,' at length said Salisbury, raising his voice so
as to be heard at a distance, 'it were vain at this moment to deny our
peril. But take courage, my brave companions; and let us not faint in
the hour of adversity. Everything, save dishonour, may be borne by
valiant men; and adversity sheds a light upon the virtues of mankind, as
surely as prosperity casts over them a shade. Here there is no room for
retreat; for our enemies encompass us about; and to attempt to fly would
be certain death. Be of good cheer, then, and let the urgency of the
case sharpen your valour and nerve your arms. Brave men should either
conquer nobly, or die with glory; and martyrdom is a boon which we
should accept without reluctance. But, before we fall, let us, while we
live, do what may avenge our deaths; and, while giving thanks to God
that it is our lot to die as martyrs, let us, in our last efforts of
valour and despair, prove ourselves worthy soldiers of the Cross.'

'Earl William,' said the Count of Artois, riding up, and now conscious
of his folly, 'God fights against us. Resistance is vain, but escape is
possible. Let us consult our safety, and fly while yet our horses can
carry us.'

'Fly if you will!' answered the earl, scornfully; 'but God forbid that
any but liars should ever have it in their power to tell that my
father's son fled from the face of a Saracen.'

And now the heavens and the earth seemed to resound with the noise of
horns and enormous kettle-drums; and, urged on by Bibars Bendocdar, the
Saracens rushed upon their enemies. The plight of the Crusaders was
desperate. But, few as they were in comparison with the swarming foe,
they fought gallantly and well; and, though wounded and exhausted,
maintained the conflict for hours after the flight of the Count of
Artois. But fearful in the meantime was the carnage. Full fifteen
hundred knights had fallen; and of these, three hundred were of the
order of the Temple. Gradually the numbers diminished, till there
remained not a dozen of the men who had that morning invaded Fakreddin's
camp; and among these were the Earl of Salisbury, Lord Robert de Vere,
the Grand Masters of the Temple and the Hospital, Bisset the English
knight, and Walter Espec, still unwounded, and fighting as if he bore a
charmed life, and felt invulnerable to javelins or arrows.

But all possibility of continuing to resist was now at an end, and every
hope of succour had vanished. Salisbury, resolved to sell his life
dearly, faced the Saracens with desperate valour, and used his
battle-axe with such effect that a hundred Saracens are said to have
fallen that day by his hand. At length his horse was killed under him;
and, after rising to his feet, and fighting for awhile with disdain, he
fell covered with wounds. Robert de Vere, already bleeding and
exhausted, no sooner saw Salisbury sink than he wrapped the English
standard round his body, and lay down to die by the great earl's side.
Bisset, Walter Espec, and the two grand masters, found themselves
surrounded by a host of foes, and defending themselves desperately
against every species of assailant.

'Alas!' exclaimed the grand masters of the Temple, 'we are clearly
doomed.'

'I would fain hope not,' answered Bisset, resolutely. 'Our weapons are
not willow-wands; we can cut our way through the pagan rabble.'

'Shame upon us if we hesitate!' said Walter Espec.

And drawing close together, with a rush which for a time bore down
opposition, the four survivors made a stern endeavour to reach the
gate,--the axe of Bisset and the swords of the military monks doing
terrible execution. Twice the Saracens formed in a mass to prevent their
reaching the only gate which was not closed; as often Bisset,
penetrating singly into the Saracen ranks, dealt death and destruction
to his foes, and opened the way for his friends; till gradually, having
by force of arm overthrown every obstacle in his path, he reached the
gate, and, followed by the Grand Master of the Temple, dashed through
the opening, with a shout of defiance at his assailants.

But the Grand Master of the Hospital and Walter Espec had not such good
fortune as the Templar and the English knight. Bibars Bendocdar, enraged
at the rumour that some Christians were escaping from the carnage,
hastened to the open gate, and, with his arrival, every chance vanished.
Dragged from his steed, the grand master was fain to surrender himself
prisoner. Wounded by an arrow and a javelin, but still struggling to
fight his way out, Walter Espec cut down a Saracen soldier, and, rising
in his stirrups and shouting, 'St. Katherine for Espec!' made a fierce
thrust at Bendocdar. But next moment he was felled to the ground; he
felt that his blood was flowing fast, and that horsemen were riding over
him; and then he lost all consciousness, and lay prostrate and
insensible among the dead and the dying.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE BATTLE.


NO sooner did Guy Muschamp find the door of his prison opened, than he
rushed out to ascertain the cause of the tumult to which he was indebted
for liberty, and he discovered that the camp was deserted and abandoned,
save by the wounded and the slain. However, he hastily donned his steel
cap, possessed himself of a short sword; and having with little
difficulty caught a stray horse, saddled and bridled, he mounted, and
rode forth with the idea of following the Crusaders, who by this time
were disappearing within the gates of Mansourah.

Fortunately, however, for Guy, he was not destined to share the fate of
his gallant countrymen who fell victims to the vain folly of the Count
of Artois. Nevertheless, his danger was great. By this time the Count of
Brittany and a multitude of warriors were riding towards Mansourah to
aid the Count of Artois; and, as the Saracens who came out to oppose
their progress rapidly spread over the plain, Guy began to find his
position somewhat perilous, and to give himself up for lost. At that
moment, however, his eye and his ear were attracted by the gleaming of
spears and the ringing of mail to a ruined house; and, cantering
thither, he found to his joyful surprise, that the Lord of Joinville and
his knights had taken shelter there, to await the arrival of the king,
who was still engaged in passing the main body of his army over the
Achmoun.

Nor had they long to wait. As with breathless anxiety they watched the
Saracens, swarming like bees from their hives, and covering the plain,
Louis, having at length crossed the canal, with sound of trumpets and
clarions, rode up at the head of his cavalry, and, with a German sword
in his hand, halted on an eminence to survey the field. And neither in
air nor appearance did Louis, at that moment, look unworthy of the part
he was acting as chief of the pilgrim army. His magnificent armour, his
gilded helmet, and his noble bearing, gave him the appearance of being
taller by the shoulders than any of his companions. As he reined up his
white charger--the symbol of sovereignty--and, with the oriflamme
displayed before him, endeavoured calmly to estimate the chances of the
conflict, the Lord of Joinville and his knights, surrounded as they were
with danger, could not but utter exclamations expressive of admiration.

'By St. James,' exclaimed Joinville, 'I never in my life saw a more
handsome man under arms.'

'Certes,' replied one of the knights, 'I could almost believe that the
angel of battles had come to our aid.'

While the king was still surveying the combat, that every moment became
more fierce and sanguinary, the Constable of France rode up to inform
him of the peril of the Count of Artois.

'Sire,' said the constable, 'your noble brother is shut up in Mansourah;
and, albeit he and his comrades hold out gallantly, they must perish if
not aided forthwith.'

'Well, constable,' answered Louis, 'on to the rescue, in God's name, and
I will speedily follow.'

The constable, without more words, gave his horse the spur, and dashed
towards Mansourah, whither the king and his knights also attempted to
make their way. But this was no easy matter. Every moment the Saracens
seemed to increase in numbers; and the Crusaders, while struggling
bravely not to be overwhelmed by odds, were exposed to terrible hazard.
Louis soon found himself in the thick of the fight and environed by
foes. Nothing seemed to remain to him but to sell his life dearly; and
six Saracens, rushing forward simultaneously, attempted to seize his
bridle, and take him captive. But, at that moment, Louis--gentle and
saintly as was his nature--used his German sword with a vigour and
effect, scarcely excelled by Richard Coeur de Lion at Joppa, when he
charged among the Mamelukes of Saladin, or by Edward Longshanks at
Kakhow, when the sweep of his sword, and the rush of his grey steed,
struck terror into the heart of the host of Bibars Bendocdar. Down
before that short German sword went turban and caftan; till the French
knights, aware of their king's danger, spurred in to his rescue, and,
with a mighty effort, saved him from captivity.

And now another attempt was made to reach Mansourah. But it was too
late. All was over with the brave band who had followed the Count of
Artois into the city; and every moment the aspect of affairs became more
menacing; for Bibars Bendocdar, elate with his victory within the walls,
issued from the gate, animating his soldiers with the words--'God is
powerful,' and hoping to deal with the French king, as he had dealt with
the French king's brother. Nor, at first, did it appear that the
Crusaders could escape utter defeat. Not aware what was occurring, and
suddenly attacked by a mighty force led by a dauntless chief, they were
pressed and whirled about and separated from each other, and forced to
encounter countless odds at every disadvantage. Yet even in such
circumstances the warriors of France maintained their high reputation
for valour; and, as the combat proceeded and became keener and keener,
many a strong Saracen went to his account.

On both sides, indeed, great was the display of personal prowess and
courage; but there was no generalship. Amidst clouds of dust, and under
a glowing sun, Christian and Moslem fought hand to hand, and steel to
steel. Helmet and turban mingled confusedly in the struggle; while
banners rose and fell, and knights were unhorsed, and saddles emptied.
From Mansourah to Achmoun, and from the Nile to the ford pointed out by
the Bedouin, the ground, literally covered with combatants, shook with
the rush of their horses, and the sky was rent by the opposing war-cries
of 'Islam! Islam!' and 'Montjoie, St. Denis!' What with the shouts of
the living, the shrieks of the dying, and the yells of the Saracens, as
they bore down on their adversaries like hawks on their prey, all was
bloodshed, confusion, and clamour, and the carnage was such as few men,
who fought on that field and survived it, ever remembered without a
thrill of awe.

And as the day sped on and the battle continued to rage all over the
plain, and warriors fell in heaps before and around him, Louis became
painfully aware that Mansourah could not be reached, and that the
Crusaders were no longer fighting to conquer the Saracens but to save
themselves. And there was considerable danger of Bibars Bendocdar
drawing near to the Achmoun, and cutting off all communication between
the camp of the Duke of Burgundy, and the Christian army struggling for
existence on the plains of Mansourah. On becoming aware of the danger,
the king decided on falling back towards the canal, and, with the
oriflamme displayed, moved in that direction.

Unfortunate were the consequences. A report immediately spread that the
king was retreating because the Saracens were everywhere victorious, and
immediately there was a panic, and several squadrons disbanded and
rushed towards the canal. A terrible scene followed, and men and horses
were drowned while struggling in the water. Nothing could have exceeded
the disorder and dismay. Louis, indeed, made strenuous efforts to
restore confidence, but his voice was scarcely heard in the tumult; and
he must have rejoiced when night put an end to the conflict, and when
Bibars Bendocdar retired to Mansourah, with the determination to attack
the Crusaders on another day, as the tiger draws back to make a more
terrible spring.

Repairing to Djédilé, Louis dismounted, and took possession of the camp
which, at daybreak, had been occupied by the Emir Fakreddin; and when
his red tent was pitched there, the Prior of Rosnay presented himself,
and kissed the king's hand.

'Sire,' said he, wishing to break the news gently, 'I know not if you
have heard tidings of your noble brother, the Count of Artois?'

'I know all,' answered Louis, mournfully.

'Sire,' said the prior, endeavouring to administer consolation, 'no King
of France has ever reaped such honour as you have done this day. You
have crossed a dangerous river; you have gained a victory; you have put
your enemies to flight; you have captured their engines of war; and now
you are taking possession of their camp.'

'May God be praised for all that I have, with His aid, been able to do
in His cause,' said Louis, with a faltering voice, and tears rolling
down his cheeks, as he entered his pavilion.

'On my faith, sir prior,' said John de Valery, with the tone of a man
who has a presentiment of coming calamity, 'I marvel how you can speak
of this day's work as a triumph of our arms. Often have I fought for
victory; but this day I have felt too surely that I was fighting not for
victory but for life.'

'In truth,' said the Lord of Joinville, who had joined them, 'I would
fain hope for better fortune in the future; for, call this a victory if
you will, such another victory would be worse than a defeat.'



CHAPTER XXIII.

HOW JOINVILLE KEPT THE BRIDGE.


WHEN the Constable of France informed King Louis that the Count of
Artois was in extreme peril, and when Louis made an effort to go to the
rescue of his brother--the Lord of Joinville, having previously left the
ruined house, and joined the king, endeavoured to keep in the royal
warrior's company. But all efforts with this object proved vain. The
Saracens, raising clouds of dust and uttering ferocious yells as they
advanced, came down upon the Crusaders with a force that was
irresistible. The French were scattered in all directions; and Joinville
was separated from Louis some minutes before the person of the saintly
monarch was in such imminent danger. But in the meantime the seneschal's
band had been reduced to six persons, including Guy Muschamp, who
adhered with determination to Joinville's side; and between them and the
king, then struggling to save his liberty, intervened thousands of
Saracens.

'Impossible for us to make our way through such a crowd,' said
Joinville; 'much better, therefore, will it be to wheel round and get on
the other side of them.'

Accordingly they wheeled round, and gained the bank of the river, and
began to descend. But at this moment the aspect of the field became most
alarming to the armed pilgrims. The Crusaders and Saracens met on the
banks, and many of the French, attempting to cross and form a junction
with the Duke of Burgundy, were drowned; and the river was covered with
lances, pikes, shields, and horses and men struggling in vain to save
themselves.

By this time the Lord of Joinville, heading his knights, had reached a
bridge on one of the roads to Mansourah; and on perceiving the miserable
state of the army he halted.

'It is better,' said he, after looking round, 'to remain where we are,
and guard this bridge; for, if we leave it, the Saracens may come and
attack the king on this side, and, if he is assaulted from two quarters,
he will surely be discomfited.'

Accordingly they posted themselves on the bridge which was between the
canal Achmoun and the gates of Mansourah, and prepared to defend it
against the Saracens. But such was the danger, that Joinville's heart,
brave as it was, beat with terror, and he cried aloud for the protection
of St. James.

'Good Lord St. James,' exclaimed he; 'succour me, I beseech thee, and
come to my aid in this hour of need.'

It seemed to him and his companions that his prayer was answered. Almost
as he uttered it, the Count of Soissons, who was his kinsman, appeared
riding past the bridge; and Joinville hastened to secure his company.

'Sir count,' said he; 'I beg you to remain with us and guard this
bridge; for, should it be lost, the king will have his enemies upon him
both in front and rear.'

'Willingly, seneschal,' replied the count; and he placed himself on
Joinville's right hand, while a French knight who was with him took his
station on the left.

While Joinville and his companions were seated on their horses, prepared
to keep the bridge at all hazards against all comers, the Saracens made
repeated efforts to drive them from their post. But they remained firm
as rocks. Trusting to accomplish by stratagem what they could not do by
force, the Saracens attempted to lure them from the spot; and one
stalwart horseman, galloping suddenly forward, felled one of the French
knights with his battle-axe, and then retreated to his own people,
hoping that he would be followed. But Joinville, who comprehended the
purpose, would not be decoyed, and resolutely kept his ground, though
annoyed and wounded by a rabble of half-armed Saracens, who incessantly
threw darts, and large stones, and hard clods.

At length, however, the Saracens began to make themselves much more
formidable, and to discharge Greek fire, which threatened to do much
mischief, and pressed forward with savage yells.

'On my faith, we must take order with this rabble,' said the Count of
Soissons, growing angry.

'As you will,' replied Joinville; and, without further hesitation, they
charged the crowd, put them to flight, and resumed their post.

But no sooner did the Saracens perceive that the immediate danger was
over, than they turned round, and, keeping at a safe distance, yelled
out defiance.

'Heed them not, seneschal,' said the Count of Soissons, who, in the
midst of peril, retained all the gaiety of soul which distinguished the
French chevaliers from the thoughtful Saxon, and the haughty and
somewhat grim Norman. 'Heed them not. Let this rascal canaille bawl and
bray as they please. By St. Denis, you and I will live to talk of this
day's exploits in the chambers of our ladies.'

'May God and good St. James grant it,' said Joinville, gravely.

'But who comes hither, and in such a plight?' asked the Count of
Soissons, suddenly, as a Crusader, mounted on a strong horse, came
galloping from the direction of Mansourah--his face wounded, blood
gushing from his mouth, the reins of his bridle cut, and his hands
resting, as if for support, on his charger's neck.

'In truth,' replied Joinville, after examining the horseman, 'it is the
Count of Brittany;' as, closely pursued by Saracens, the wounded warrior
gained the bridge, and ever and anon turned round and shouted mockingly
to his pursuers.

'By St. Denis,' exclaimed the count, 'one thing is certain: he is not
afraid of his pursuers.'

And almost as the Count of Soissons spoke, the Count of Brittany was
followed by two warriors, who made their way through the Saracens,
literally smiting to the earth all who came in their way. Nothing, it
seemed, could resist their progress; and their path was tracked with
blood. On they came, scornfully scattering their foes till they reached
the bridge, when reining up where the Lord of Joinville was posted, they
stopped to take breath, after their almost superhuman exertions. One had
in his hand a battle-axe; the other a sword. The battle-axe was stained
red with gore; the sword was hacked till it looked 'like a saw of dark
and purple tint.' One was Bisset, the English knight, the other was the
Grand Master of the Temple. The horses of both were wounded all over;
the helmets of both were deeply dinted. Bisset's mail was almost hacked
to pieces; the Templar's vestments were torn to rags, his cuirass
pierced, and his eye and face wounded and bleeding.

'You bring tidings of woe?' said the Count of Soissons.

'Woe, in truth,' answered Bisset; for the grand master could not even
muster voice to speak; 'of all who rode into Mansourah this morning, not
a man, save ourselves, lives to tell the tale.'

'And what of the Count of Artois, sir knight?' asked Joinville.

'I know not,' replied Bisset, briefly; 'the count disappeared early, and
doubtless died with the comrades of his jeopardy.'

'No,' interrupted the Count of Brittany, faintly, 'he was drowned while
attempting to save himself by flight. At least,' added he, 'so I have
been told.'

And in truth, to this day it is somewhat uncertain what became of
Robert, Count of Artois, though the most probable account is that,
seeing all was lost, he turned his horse's head, with a vague hope of
reaching the main body of the Crusaders, and, while attempting to cross
one of the branches of the Nile, sank never more to rise.

It was about this time that King Louis had moved towards the Achmoun;
and the Constable of France, with the king's crossbowmen under his
command, just as the sun was setting came to the bridge which had been
so bravely defended.

'Seneschal,' said he, addressing Joinville, 'you and your comrades have
behaved well in guarding this bridge; and now, all danger being over in
this quarter, I pray you to accompany the Lord John de Valery to the
king, who is about to go to his pavilion.'

And Joinville went as the constable requested; and while his companions
were pursuing their way towards the king's red pavilion--that pavilion
in which the Emir Fakreddin had boasted he would dine on the day of St.
Sebastian--Guy Muschamp approached Bisset, the English knight, and
entreated his attention.

'Sir knight,' said he, 'I would fain enquire if you know what has
befallen the English squire, by name Walter Espec?'

'Boy,' replied Bisset, 'I know not what may have befallen him; but, if I
were to hazard a guess, I should say that he died, and died bravely. I
remember me that he fought to the last; and I hoped that he was destined
to escape, as I did; but I grieve to say that he failed so to do.'

'Alas! alas!' said Guy sadly, and he clasped his hands, as if muttering
a prayer for his comrade's soul; 'woe is me, that I should live to hear
that my brother-in-arms, the good Walter, has fallen.'

'My brave youth,' urged Bisset, kindly, as he observed that the boy's
face was suffused with tears, 'death has this day been the portion of
many thousands of valiant men; and, for your brother-in-arms, I can
testify for your comfort that he fought to the last with the courage of
a hero, and I doubt not, that he faced death with the courage of a
martyr.'

'And if we are to give the faith which our fathers did to the words of
holy men,' added Guy, solemnly, 'the souls of all such as fall, fighting
for the Cross, are purified from sin, and admitted straight to
Paradise.'

'By the mass, I have heard priests say so,' replied Bisset, after a
pause, during which he eyed the boy with evident surprise; 'and mayhap,'
continued he, 'in the days of Peter the Hermit, and Godfrey of Bouillon,
such was the case. But, credit me, in our day, armed pilgrims are guilty
of such flagrant sins during their pilgrimage, and while decked with the
Cross, that I hardly deem them likely to get access to Paradise on such
easy terms.'

'By St. John of Beverley,' exclaimed the squire, in great astonishment,
'deem you that matters are so much changed, sir knight?'

'So much so,' answered Bisset, shaking his head, 'that seeing, save
myself, you are almost the only Englishman left in this army of
pilgrims, I am free to confess to you my opinion, that for aught we are
likely to do for the Holy Sepulchre, we might as well have stayed at
home, and hunted, and hawked, and held our neighbours at feud. On my
life, I have seen enough of this army to feel sure that Blacas, the
troubadour knight, is a wise man, when on being asked whether he will go
to the Holy Land, answers, that he loves and is beloved, and that he
will remain at home with his ladye love.'

And already, forgetting his wounds, and his bruises, his hair-breadth
escape, and the terrible scenes in which he had that day acted a part,
the knight, as he reached the tent of King Louis, and prepared to
dismount, half chanted, half sung, the lines with which Blacas concludes
his simple song:--

          Je ferai ma pénitence,
          Entre mer et Durance,
          Auprès de son manoir.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE FIRST FRIDAY IN LENT.


ON the day when the city of Mansourah witnessed the carnage of the
Crusaders under the Count of Artois, and a great battle shook the plain
outside the walls, the Egyptians experienced by turns fear and hope, joy
and sadness.

On the morning when the camp at Djédilé was taken, and the Emir
Fakreddin slain, a pigeon carried intelligence of the disaster to Cairo;
and the Egyptian capital was immediately in consternation. Believing
that the days of Islamism were numbered, and the empire of the sultan on
the verge of ruin, the inhabitants thought of nothing but escape from
the danger that impended. Many departed for Upper Egypt, and sorrow
reigned in the city--the inhabitants bewailing their misfortunes, and
crying that the world was coming to an end. A second pigeon, however,
carried thither tidings that the Count of Artois was defeated and slain;
and Cairo became the scene of joy and rejoicing. Fear vanished from
every face; and the Saracens gratefully extolled the courage of the
Mamelukes, and of their chief, Bibars Bendocdar.

At the same time, an arrival of great importance took place at
Mansourah. While the battle was raging on the plain, Touran Chah, the
new sultan, reached the city, and was received with acclamations by the
populace. The emirs, however, regarded the sultan with some suspicion.
Unfortunately, Touran Chah did not come alone; and the jealousy of the
emirs was aroused by the presence of the favourites who accompanied him
from Mesopotamia. If the heir of Saladin could have foreseen what a
price he was to pay for the happiness of having his favourites with him,
he would doubtless have been discreet enough to leave them behind.

But, in the meantime, it was necessary for the safety and interests both
of the sultan and the emirs, that the Crusaders should be destroyed; and
Bibars Bendocdar was bent on pursuing his success. In the first place,
he made several attempts to recapture the engines of war, and the French
were repeatedly roused to defend them at the point of the sword. But
these attacks led to a feeling of insecurity, and King Louis deemed it
prudent to construct a bridge of wood over the Achmoun, so as to have
the means of communicating readily with the Duke of Burgundy's camp. Who
at that time could have imagined the mischief of which this bridge was
subsequently to be the cause?

Meanwhile Bibars Bendocdar was doing his best to inflame the enthusiasm
of the Mamelukes and soldiers. Nor, with that object, was he above
practising a little deception. A cuirass covered with fleur-de-lis was
publicly exhibited, and declared to be that of the French king. Heralds
proclaimed that the Christian army, deprived of its chief, was like a
trunk without a head; and the enthusiasm of the Saracens reached a high
pitch. At length, the soldiers began to clamour to be led against the
enemy, and Bibars Bendocdar fixed Friday, the 11th of February, as the
day on which he would lead them to triumph.

It was the first Friday in Lent; and King Louis, having received warning
that an attack was meditated, gave orders for fortifying the camp, and
preparing for a conflict. At daybreak, accordingly, the Crusaders were
under arms; and, in good time, Bibars Bendocdar appeared on the plain,
setting his men in battle order. Placing his cavalry in the van, the
infantry behind, and a strong reserve in the rear, the Mameluke chief
extended his lines till his forces seemed to cover the plain. Nor was he
sorry to observe that there was a prospect of a stern resistance; for
the difficulties of his situation increased his importance in the eyes
of his soldiers, and every step he took in overcoming perils, from which
others shrank, brought him nearer to the object on which his heart was
set--that object being neither more nor less than the throne of the
sultans.

And now, noon having come, with horns and kettle-drums sounding an
onset, Bibars Bendocdar advanced on the Crusaders, and attacked the
Count of Anjou, who was at the head of the camp on the side towards the
Nile. At first, the French cavalry calmly abided the assault; but they
soon found themselves exposed to a kind of attack which they had not
anticipated. In fact, the Saracen infantry, moving forward, overwhelmed
the knights with Greek fire, and threw them into confusion. Surcoats and
caparisons blazed, and the horses plunged, broke from the control of
their riders, and galloped to and fro. While they were in disorder,
Bibars Bendocdar, at the head of the Mamelukes, penetrated within the
entrenchments, and the Count of Anjou found himself surrounded by foes.

Ere this, King Louis, aware of his brother's peril, despatched Bisset,
the English knight, with a message assuring the count of speedy aid;
but, ere the Englishman reached the Count of Anjou, he met the French
cavalry flying in disarray. Bisset reined up, and addressed the
fugitives.

'Christian warriors,' said he, 'I come from your king to ask whither are
you flying? See you not that the horses of the unbelievers are swifter
than yours?'

'It is too true,' replied the fugitives.

'Come then,' said Bisset, 'follow me, and I will show you what your king
deems a safer road than flight;' and charging among the Mamelukes, in
front of the French cavalry, the English knight succeeded in maintaining
the conflict, which had commenced so inauspiciously for the French.

And aid was at hand; for Louis did not forget his promise of succour.
Shouting his battle-cry, he spurred, lance in rest, to his brother's
rescue, and, precipitating himself with his knights on the Moslem
warriors, soon redeemed the disaster which had marked the opening of the
battle. Nor did the saint-king exhibit the slightest dread of exposing
his royal person. With a shout of 'Montjoie, St. Denis!' he charged into
the midst of the foe--his banner flying, and his sword flashing--and by
his example inspired the Crusaders with such courage that, after a
sanguinary combat, they succeeded in expelling the Mamelukes from the
camp, and driving back the infantry that threw the Greek fire.

By this time the battle had become general, and everywhere the Crusaders
fought valiantly and well, though they had not always the advantage. In
fact, Bibars Bendocdar, as a war chief, possessed such a degree of skill
in handling masses of fighting men as neither Louis nor any of the
Crusaders could boast of; and the discipline of the Mamelukes was such
as to make them terrible foes to encounter.

Nevertheless the Crusaders held their ground, and performed prodigies of
valour. At one point the warriors of Syria and Cyprus maintained their
ground against fearful odds; at a second, the knights of Champagne and
Flanders fought stoutly and well; at a third, such of the Templars as
had not fallen at Mansourah, headed by their grand master who had so
narrowly escaped the carnage, exhibited the fine spectacle of a handful
of men baffling a multitude, and, despite the showers of Greek fire and
missiles which fell so thick that the ground was literally covered with
arrows and javelins, kept the enemy at bay. Even when the grand master
fell mortally wounded, the Knights of the Temple continued to struggle;
and when their entrenchments failed, and the Saracens rushed into the
camp, the military monks closed their ranks and presented a front
against which the assailants continued for hours to charge violently,
but in vain.

But meanwhile the peril of the Count of Poictiers had been great and
alarming. Composed of infantry, his division gave way before the rush of
the Saracen cavalry, and dispersed in consternation. Nor was this the
worst. The count himself, while endeavouring to rally his forces, was
seized, and experienced the mortification of finding himself dragged off
as a prisoner. But there was succour at hand.

The Lord of Joinville and his knights were luckily posted near the Count
of Poictiers; but having all been so severely wounded in the battle of
Shrove Tuesday as to be unable to bear their armour, they could take no
prominent part in the conflict raging around them. No sooner, however,
did they observe the count's predicament than they deemed themselves
bound to interfere at all hazards; and Guy Muschamp, riding to the place
where the sutlers and workmen and women of the army were posted, urged
them to rouse themselves.

'Good people,' cried the squire, 'the brave Count of Poictiers is being
carried into captivity. For our Leader's sake, succour the Count of
Poictiers. To the rescue! to the rescue!'

Now the count was highly popular with the persons to whom this appeal
was addressed; and no sooner did they learn the prince's danger than
they displayed the utmost alacrity to aid him. Arming themselves with
axes, and clubs, and sticks, and anything that came in their way, they
rushed furiously forward, and, led on by the English squire, made so
successful an attack that the Saracens were dispersed, and the count was
rescued and carried back in triumph.

'Young gentleman,' said the count, gratefully, 'I owe you my liberty. I
pray you, tell me to whom I am so deeply indebted.'

'Noble count,' replied Guy, after telling his name, 'I am a squire of
England; and, for the present, I serve the Lord of Joinville.'

'Ah,' said the count, smiling, 'the seneschal must give you to me; for I
would fain have an opportunity of proving how I can requite such good
service.'

By this time Bibars Bendocdar perceived that he was wasting his strength
in vain, and sounded a retreat. But the Mameluke chief was not without
his consolation. He knew that he had ruined the enterprise of the
Crusaders; that they were no longer in a condition to attempt a march to
Cairo; and that they knew not on which side to turn.

But when the Saracens retreated towards Damietta, and the danger was
over for the time being, the Crusaders were inclined to talk of their
successful resistance as a victory; and the knights and barons when
summoned that evening to the king's pavilion, went thither with the airs
of conquerors.

'My lords and friends,' said Louis, kindly; 'we have much cause to be
grateful to God our Creator. On Tuesday, aided by Him, we dislodged our
enemies from their quarters, of which we gained possession. This day we
have defended ourselves against them, though taken at advantage; many of
us being left without arms or horses, while they were completely armed
and on horseback, and on their own ground. And since you have all
witnessed the grace which God our Creator has of late shown to us, and
continues to do daily, I commend you all, as you are bounden to do, to
return Him due thanksgiving.'



CHAPTER XXV.

MORTIFICATIONS AND MISERIES.


NO longer could the armed pilgrims, so recently buoyed up with the hope
of making themselves famous as the conquerors of Egypt, delude their
imaginations with the project of advancing to Cairo.

'It is necessary to retreat to Damietta,' said the wise and prudent.

'A retreat to Damietta in the face of the foe is more than our pride can
brook,' exclaimed the haughty and obstinate.

'Let us remain at Djédilé, and trust to the course of events,' suggested
the reckless and the irresolute.

At Djédilé, accordingly, the Crusaders remained; and ere long, their
calamities began in earnest, and daily increased in magnitude. First
came disease; then came famine; and death and despair soon did more than
the Saracens could with the utmost efforts have hoped to accomplish.

It appears that, after the two battles fought on the plains of
Mansourah, the Crusaders had neglected to bury the slain; and the bodies
thrown confusedly into the Achmoun, and floating on the water, stopped
before the wooden bridge, and infected the atmosphere. A contagious
disease was the consequence; and this, being increased by the abstinence
during Lent, wrought such havoc, that nothing was heard in the camp but
mourning and lamentation. Louis, sad, but still not in despair, exerted
himself to mitigate the sufferings of his army. At length he also fell
sick, and, every day, affairs wore a gloomier aspect.

'It seems,' said Guy Muschamp, who lay prostrate with sickness in the
tent of the Lord of Joinville, 'it seems that Heaven has abandoned the
soldiers of the Cross.'

'Hem,' replied Bisset, to whom this was addressed, 'I see not why Heaven
should be blamed for the evils which men bring on themselves by their
own folly. I warned you at Damietta what would be the end of all the
boastings which were uttered hourly. A haughty spirit goes before a
fall. Trust me, we have not yet seen the worst. By the might of Mary, we
armed pilgrims may yet find ourselves under a necessity similar to that
which made cannibals of the soldiers of King Cambyses when he made war
in Egypt!'

'King Cambyses?' repeated Guy, enquiringly.

'Ay,' replied Bisset, 'he was King of Persia, and almost as great a
monarch as King Louis; and when he was in this country his provisions
ran short. At first his soldiers lived on herbs, roots, and leaves; when
they could not get even these, they ate their horses and beasts of
burden; and, when the horses and beasts of burden were finished, they
began to devour one another; and every tenth man, on whom the lot fell,
was doomed to serve as a meal for his companions. Marry, we are like to
be in a similar plight; for famine begins to stare us in the face!'

Guy groaned aloud, and wondered why he had left England; and, at that
time, indeed, the new and terrible danger daunted every heart. Resolved
to cut off all communication between Damietta and the camp of the
Crusaders, the sultan ordered a number of galleys to be transported
overland, to form an ambuscade; and many French vessels were
intercepted. For a time, Louis could not comprehend how no arrivals took
place, and felt the gravest alarm. Ere long, however, one vessel,
belonging to the Count of Flanders, escaped the vigilance of the
galleys, and brought tidings that the sultan's flag was displayed all
along the Nile. The Crusaders received this intelligence with horror;
and, in a few days, the evil of famine was added to that of pestilence.

'What is to be done now?' asked they, giving way to despondency.

'It is quite clear,' said Louis, 'that, in order to save ourselves, we
must treat with our enemies.'

No time was lost. Philip de Montfort, a knight of renown, was despatched
as ambassador to the sultan, and was led to cherish hopes of success.
The sultan not only expressed his readiness to treat, but actually
nominated commissioners. At first everything went smoothly, and the
Saracens appeared reasonable in their demands. But when the question of
hostages came to be discussed, a difficulty arose.

'I am empowered to offer the Counts of Poictiers and Anjou as hostages,'
said De Montfort.

'No,' replied the Saracens, 'the sultan requires the King of France.'

'You ought to know Frenchmen better,' exclaimed Geoffrey de Segrines,
one of the commissioners; 'they would rather die than leave their king
in pledge.'

After this, the negotiation was broken off; and the French prepared to
cross the Achmoun by the bridge, and deliberate on the propriety of
marching back to Damietta. But even the passage of the bridge was not
effected without terrible danger and heavy loss. No sooner did the
Crusaders begin to move, than the Saracens came down upon them, and made
a furious attack; but Walter de Chatillon, a French baron of great fame,
led on his companions to the encounter, and after being seconded by the
Count of Anjou, succeeded in repulsing the foe. The Crusaders, however,
after remaining some days in their old camp, found that they were a prey
to the worst calamities, and, no longer hesitating, decided on a day for
returning to Damietta.

Unfortunately for the armed pilgrims, their resolution was no secret to
the Saracens, and when Touran Chah became aware of their intended
movement down the Nile, he devised measures to intercept them. He
himself harangued his soldiers, distributed money and provisions,
reinforced them with Arabs attracted to his standard by the prospect of
booty, and ordered boats with troops on board to descend the river, and
join the fleet already there; while bodies of light horse were placed on
all the roads by which the Crusaders were likely to make good their
retreat.

Nevertheless, the Crusaders, finding their present position desperate,
persevered in their resolution, and Tuesday, the 5th of April, was
appointed for the perilous enterprise. On the arrival of that day, the
sick, the wounded, the women, and the children, were embarked on the
Nile, and, at the same time, several French nobles, and the papal
legate, got on board a vessel. No doubt seems to have existed that Louis
might have saved himself. Even the Arabian historians admit that the
French king might have escaped, either in a boat or on horseback, if he
would have abandoned his army. But, with characteristic generosity, he
distinctly refused to separate his fate from theirs. Anxious about his
safety, the soldiers ran along the bank, shouting to the boatmen not to
set sail till the king embarked.

'Wait for the king--wait for the king!' cried they.

'No,' said Louis, his heart touched, but his resolution firm; 'go on. I
will share weal or woe with my soldiers. I am not such a niggard of
life, that I grudge to risk it in such company, and in such a cause.'

And now the boats began to descend the Nile; and at the same time the
Duke of Burgundy, having broken up his camp, about nightfall commenced a
retreat towards Damietta. But at this stage, the French were guilty of a
piece of negligence that was destined to cost them dear. The king had
ordered the wooden bridge over the Achmoun to be destroyed. In their
agitation and haste, the French paid no attention to the order. In vain
Bisset, the English knight, protested against such insane indifference
to a manifest peril.

'My masters,' said he, bluntly, 'we can hardly be deemed otherwise than
madmen, if we leave that bridge standing as it is, to afford the
Saracens a safe passage over the canal, to attack us in the rear.'

'Sir knight,' replied the French drily, for they did not relish an
Englishman's interference, 'it is not from that quarter that danger is
most to be apprehended.'

'Nevertheless,' urged Bisset.

'We are wasting time to no purpose,' said the French; 'and this day,
time is more precious than your counsel.'

'As you will, my masters,' replied Bisset; 'only credit me, that if you
leave that bridge behind you to facilitate the operations of your
enemies, you will place your army in such a predicament, that neither
the craft of Alexander of Macedon, nor William the Norman--could either
come from their graves to lead--would avail to save it from destruction
ere reaching Damietta.'

And having administered this warning, Bisset withdrew, with the
consolation of a man who has done at least his duty, and with the air
also of a man much too reckless as to his personal safety to fear much
on his own account from the consequences of the blunders and incapacity
of others; then, arming himself, he saddled his steed, girded on his
sword, hung his battle-axe at his saddle-bow, and went to attend King
Louis during the perilous enterprise of marching through a country, with
armed foes posted at the turn of every road.

'Hearken to that English tail,' said the French one to another, as
Bisset withdrew; 'these islanders are so timid, that they will next be
afraid of their own shadows.'

'By the head of St. Anthony,' said a knight, who had been attached to
the Count of Artois, 'I hate the tailed English so, that I would leave
the bridge as it is, if only to mortify one of them.'



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE MASSACRE OF MINIEH.


IT was already dark when the pilgrim army commenced a perilous retreat
to Damietta, and when the King of France, surrounded by a band of brave
knights, undertook the duty of bringing up the rear--on that occasion
the post of honour.

But Louis was in no condition to occupy such a position with advantage.
He was not fully recovered from his sickness, and so weak, that he could
hardly bear the weight of his armour, or support himself on his white
charger. Neither helmet nor cuirass wore he; nor had he any weapon save
his sword; nor had he sufficient strength to wield his sword to any
purpose in the event of a close encounter.

And, as it happened, the post of honour speedily became the post of
danger. As Bisset had predicted, the Saracens lost not a minute in
availing themselves of the bridge that had been left standing. In an
incredibly brief space of time, they contrived to cross the canal in
such numbers, that the plain on the Damietta side was covered with
turbaned warriors, bent on the destruction of their foes; and, in the
darkness of the night, their cavalry charged constantly, and with
deadly effect, on the retiring and dispirited rear of the Crusaders.

Of course, the plight of Louis and his comrades every hour became more
deplorable. They fell into disorder; they ran against and impeded each
other; and cries of anger and despair were mingled with the neighing of
horses, and the clash of arms. Earnestly they prayed for day, that they
might, at least, ascertain their real position; but, when day came, it
brought no comfort. In fact, when the rising sun revealed their
diminished and diminishing numbers, and the formidable force of enemies
who surrounded them--here a handful of men--there a host--the very
boldest of the Crusaders gave themselves up for lost, and a simultaneous
cry of terror and dismay broke from their scanty ranks.

'Gentlemen,' said Louis, calm in the midst of peril, 'droop not. At the
great battle of Antioch, Godfrey of Bouillon, and his companions, had
worse odds than we.'

'And they conquered,' said Walter de Chatillon, striving to banish
apprehension, 'and we may conquer.'

'Yes,' replied Louis, 'they had faith in God's protection, and
confidence in the holiness of their cause; and it seemed to them that
while the struggle was well-nigh hopeless, the blessed martyrs--George,
Demetrius, and Theodore, came to aid them, and assure them of victory.'

'Ha,' said Bisset, the English knight, as if speaking to himself, 'I
have heard that some saw St. George in the air, with an army of white
horses; but these did no doubt look through the spectacles of fancy.'

Louis turned, bent his brow, and darted upon the speaker a glance of
keen reproach, which might have found fuller expression in words. But
there was no time for argument or admonition; for at that moment the
Saracens made one of their fiery charges, and though the French warriors
defended themselves and their king with heroism, they could not hope
that valour would ultimately save them. While Chatillon and Bisset, now
charging singly, now side by side, did wonders in keeping a space clear
around the king and the royal standard, Geoffrey de Segrines, adhering
to the side of Louis, wielded his sword with such effect that he drove
off, one by one, the horsemen who darted forth from the Saracen ranks.

'In truth,' said the brave Frenchman, when complimented by Bisset on his
exploits, 'I know not how it is; but to me, it seems that the danger of
this day has doubled my strength.'

'On my faith,' replied Bisset, 'I am at a loss whether more to admire
your valour or your vigilance. Your care of your good king reminds me of
the watchful servant who carefully drives away the flies from his
master's cup.'

But brief were the intervals allowed even for such an exchange of
sentiments. Now secure of victory, and stimulated by enthusiasm and
fanaticism, the Saracens grew bolder and more audacious in their
attacks. Urged on by their dervishes and imaums, who had flocked to the
host of Saracens to remind them that they were fighting in the cause of
the prophet, they became more and more eager for carnage and blood, and
the Crusaders less and less capable of a stubborn resistance. At length,
on reaching the little town of Minieh, the Crusaders acknowledged that
they could no longer continue the retreat; and, halting, they drew up in
a body outside the town, with the simple resolution of fighting till
they fell.

But by this time Louis was utterly exhausted; and Segrines, conducting
him into the court, lifted him from his steed, and carried him, 'weak as
a child in its mother's lap,' into a house, expecting every moment to be
his last. Nor did the prospects of the Crusaders outside improve in the
king's absence. Alarming rumours, vaguely flying about the town, reached
their ears and depressed their hearts; and, while they were still in
panic and incertitude, the Saracens made an onset with more than their
former ferocity. Soon all was confusion and carnage. It seemed, indeed,
that nothing but the hearts' blood of the Crusaders would satisfy the
vindictive cravings of their foes; and so utterly dispirited by
adversity and defeat, and pestilence, were knights formerly renowned as
brave among the bravest that they allowed themselves, almost without
resisting, to be slaughtered in heaps.

Naturally, however, there were striking exceptions; and none were more
remarkable than Chatillon and Bisset; who, when Louis was conducted into
Minieh, took up their post hard by an orange grove, and close to a wall
at the entrance of the narrow street leading to the house into which
Segrines had carried the king.

Nothing could have exceeded Chatillon's fiery valour. At one moment he
rushed like lightning among the Saracens, scattered them, and cut them
down. Then after reining back to the wall to draw out the arrows and
darts that adhered to his cuirass, he returned to the charge, rising in
his stirrups, and shouting--'Chatillon, knights--Chatillon to the
rescue.'

Meanwhile Bisset exerted himself with no less courage and prowess.
Scorning his danger, and scorning his foes, he charged among the
Saracens, with shouts of--'Holy Cross, Holy Cross! Down with the pagan
dogs! Down with the slaves of Mahound and Termagaunt!' Nothing could
resist the vehemence of his attack. In vain were all attempts to drag
him from his steed. Before his mighty battle-axe the Saracens seemed to
shake and fall as corn before the reaper.

At length Chatillon, mortally wounded, dropt from his horse, and the
Saracen who had wounded him springing forward seized the French knight's
steed, which was one sheet of blood and foam. Bisset cleft the Saracen's
skull to the teeth, and laughed defiantly as he avenged the fall of his
comrade-in-arms.

But Bisset was now alone; and his situation was so utterly desperate,
that any ordinary man, even in that feudal and fighting age, would have
relinquished all hope and yielded to fate. The English knight had no
inclination to do anything of the kind. Rapidly his eye measured the
ground; as rapidly his brain calculated the chances of reaching the
orange grove; and as rapidly he arrived at the conclusion that he could
cut his way through the crowd. No sooner had he settled this than he
wasted not a moment in hesitation. Drawing back towards the wall, and
halting for a moment, with his face to his foes, to breathe his panting
steed, he once more, with battle-axe in hand, charged forward upon his
now recoiling foes, but this time not to return. Nothing daunted by the
darts and arrows that flew around him, he deliberately pursued the
course which his eye had marked out, literally felling to the earth all
who attempted to stop his progress, but skillfully avoiding foes whom it
was not necessary to encounter. Only a man of the highest courage would
have made such an attempt: only a man of the strongest will would have
persevered.

Now Bisset had both courage and strength of will, and in spite of all
the chances against him, he did reach the orange grove, and making his
way through it as well as he could, found himself in the verge of a wood
of palms and sycamores. But he himself was wounded; his horse was
bleeding in a dozen places; and close behind him were three Saracens,
well mounted, and thirsting for his blood. It may seem to the reader,
that such being the circumstances, Bisset might as well have fallen at
Mansourah or with Walter de Chatillon at the entrance to the narrow
street leading to the house to which the king had been carried. But,
certainly, that was by no means his view of the case; for he was one of
those warriors who never despair; and he turned on his pursuers like a
lion at bay.

'Surely,' said he, speaking to himself, 'wounded and weary as I am, I
should be but a poor Christian knight if I could not deal with three
pagan dogs.'

And terrible, even to brave foes, was the ferocity and fury with which
Bisset turned upon the Saracens. Mighty was the force with which he
swung a battle-axe, ponderous enough to have served as a weapon to Coeur
de Lion. Crushed by one swoop of the axe fell the first of the
pursuers--down, as it again swung on high, fell the second, who a moment
earlier was uttering threats of vengeance. But the English knight had no
inclination to encounter the third antagonist. His horse, as he felt,
was sinking; he himself was weakened by loss of blood; and, quick as
thought, he turned towards the wood of palms and sycamores.

But a new difficulty presented itself. Between Bisset and the wood was a
very deep ditch which at another time would have made him pause. Now,
however, he did not hesitate, even for an instant. He touched his steed
with the spur; he spoke as if imploring the noble animal to make a last
effort; and the result was a gallant bound. But the effort was too much.
In exerting itself to scramble up the opposite bank, the good steed
broke its back; and the knight, freeing his limbs from its corse,
quickly drew his dagger and relieved it from suffering.

The delay, however, had proved dangerous. Even as he gained one bank of
the ditch the Saracen was at the other, and preparing to launch a
javelin. One moment only intervened between the Crusader and death; but
that moment was not neglected. With his remaining strength Bisset raised
his battle-axe, whirled it with irresistible force, and, as the weapon
whizzed through the air, the Saracen dropped from his horse and rolled
into the ditch, the water of which immediately became red with his
blood.

Not a moment did Bisset now waste in getting under cover of the wood.
For full five minutes he neither halted nor looked behind. At length he
stopped under a palm tree; and taking out one of those little crosses
which the Crusaders carried with them for purposes of prayer, and which
are now symbolised by figures on the shield of many a Crusader's
descendant, he knelt before it, and invoked the protection and aid of
God and the saints to shield him from danger and restore him to the land
of his fathers.

But almost ere the prayer was uttered, Bisset started at the sound of
footsteps; and as he turned his head his brain reeled; and, after
grasping at the tree for support, he sank motionless on the ground.



CHAPTER XXVII.

JOINVILLE IN PERIL.


WHILE King Louis and the brave companions of his ill-starred retreat
were seized as captives, or mercilessly massacred by the Saracens at
Minieh, the sick and wounded Crusaders who embarked on the Nile were not
more fortunate. In order to understand the extent of their dangers and
sufferings, it is necessary to refer to the chronicle of the good Lord
of Joinville--who, still suffering from disease, embarked with his
knights and followers, including Guy Muschamp, not yet recovered from
the sickness by which he had been prostrated.

Nor is it possible to peruse the seneschal's simple narrative without
profound interest. In reading his account of this disastrous expedition,
we are transported, in imagination, to the thirteenth century, and
witness, with the mind's eye, the scenes in which he was an actor, and
gradually come to feel as if we were not reading a chronicle penned
centuries ago, but listening to a Crusader who, just returned from the
East, and seated on the dais of the castle hall, tells his story over
the wine-cup to his kinsmen and neighbours assembled at the festive
board.

It was evening; and Joinville, who was suffering fearfully from the
prevailing malady, perceiving that everyone was preparing to depart
towards Damietta, withdrew to his galley, with his chaplain, and such of
his company, including Guy Muschamp, as had escaped the pestilence, and
the swords of the Saracens; and no sooner did darkness descend over the
hill, than he commanded his captain to raise the anchor, and float down
the stream.

'My lord,' replied the man, 'I dare not; for between us and Damietta are
the large galleys of the Saracens, who would infallibly capture us.'

And at this moment a terrible spectacle arrested Joinville's attention.
It happened that the king's seamen were waiting to take the sick and
wounded on board; but many of the sick and wounded were still in the
camp on the banks of the river. Suddenly, by the light of fires which
the sailors had lighted for the comfort of the sick, Joinville saw the
Saracens enter the camp, and gratify their thirst for blood by a general
massacre. In great alarm, the king's seamen cut their cables; and while
Joinville's men were raising their anchor, the huge galleys came down
upon them with such force, that he expected every moment to be sunk.
However he escaped this danger, and made some way down the Nile. But it
speedily appeared that the Crusaders who had embarked on the river were
not to be more fortunate in their attempt to reach Damietta than were
those who remained on shore.

Joinville very soon discovered that he had scarcely a chance of escape.
During the night, a tempest arose; and the wind blowing with great
force towards Damietta drove the vessels of the Crusaders straight in
the way of the sultan's fleet, and about break of day they found
themselves close to the galleys of the Saracens. Immediately on
observing the Crusaders approaching, the Saracens raised loud shouts,
and shot large bolts, and threw Greek fire in such quantities, that it
seemed as if the stars were falling from the heavens.

Great, of course, was the alarm of the Crusaders. Joinville and his
company, however, gained the current, and endeavoured to push forward;
but the wind becoming more and more violent drove them against the
banks, and close to the Saracens, who, having already taken several
vessels, were murdering the crews, and throwing the dead bodies into the
river.

On seeing what was taking place, and finding that the Saracens began to
shoot bolts at his galley, Joinville, to protect himself, put on his
armour. He had hardly done so, when some of his people began to shout in
great consternation.

'My lord, my lord,' cried they, 'because the Saracens menace us, our
steersman is going to run us ashore, where we shall all be murdered.'

At that moment Joinville was so faint that he had seated himself, but
instantly rising he drew his sword and advanced.

'Beware what you do,' said he; 'for I vow to slay the first person who
attempts to run us ashore.'

'My lord,' said the captain in a resolute tone, 'it is impossible to
proceed; so you must make up your mind whether you will be landed on
shore, or stranded in the mud of the banks.'

'Well,' replied Joinville, 'I choose rather to be run on a mud bank than
to be carried ashore, where even now I see our people being
slaughtered.'

But escape proved impossible. Almost as he spoke, Joinville perceived
four of the sultan's galleys making towards his barge; and, giving
himself up for lost, he took a little casket containing his jewels, and
threw it into the Nile. However, it turned out that, though he could not
save his liberty, there was still a chance of saving his life.

'My lord,' said the mariner, 'you must permit me to say you are the
king's cousin; if not, we are as good as murdered.'

'Say what you please,' replied Joinville.

And now Joinville met with a protector, whose coming he attributed to
the direct interposition of heaven. 'It was God,' says he, 'who then, as
I verily believe, sent to my aid a Saracen, who was a subject of the
Emperor of Germany. He wore a pair of coarse trowsers, and, swimming
straight to me, he came into my vessel and embraced my knees. "My lord,"
he said, "if you do not what I shall advise, you are lost. In order to
save yourself, you must leap into the river, without being observed." He
had a cord thrown to me, and I leaped into the river, followed by the
Saracen, who saved me, and conducted me to a galley, wherein were
fourteen score of men, besides those who had boarded my vessel. But this
good Saracen held me fast in his arms.'

Shortly after, Joinville with the good Saracen's aid was landed, and
the other Saracens rushed on him to cut his throat, and he expected no
better fate. But the Saracen who had saved him would not quit his hold.

'He is the king's cousin,' shouted he; 'the king's cousin.'

'I had already,' says Joinville, 'felt the knife at my throat, and cast
myself on my knees; but, by the hands of this good Saracen, God
delivered me from this peril; and I was led to the castle where the
Saracen chiefs had assembled.'

When Joinville was conducted with some of his company, along with the
spoils of his barge, into the presence of the emirs, they took off his
coat of mail; and perceiving that he was very ill, they, from pity,
threw one of his scarlet coverlids lined with minever over him, and gave
him a white leathern girdle, with which he girded the coverlid round
him, and placed a small cap on his head. Nevertheless, what with his
fright and his malady, he soon began to shake so that his teeth
chattered, and he complained of thirst.

On this the Saracens gave him some water in a cup; but he no sooner put
it to his lips, than the water began to run back through his nostrils.
'Having an imposthume in my throat,' says he, 'imagine what a wretched
state I was in; and I looked more to death than life.'

When Joinville's attendants saw the water running through his nostrils,
they began to weep; and the good Saracen who had saved him asked them
why they were so sorrowful.

'Because,' they replied, 'our lord is nearly dead.'

And thereupon the good Saracen, taking pity on their distress, ran to
tell the emirs; and one of them coming, told Joinville to be of good
cheer, for he would bring a drink that should cure him in two days.
Under the influence of this beverage, the seneschal ere long recovered;
and when he was well, he was sent for by the admiral, who commanded the
sultan's galleys.

'Are you,' asked the admiral, 'the king's cousin, as was reported?'

'No,' answered Joinville, 'I am not;' and he informed the admiral why it
had been stated.

'You were well advised,' said the admiral; 'for otherwise you would have
been all murdered, and cast into the river. Have you any acquaintance
with the Emperor Frederic, or are you of his lineage?'

'Truly,' replied Joinville, 'I have heard my mother say that I am the
emperor's second cousin.'

'Ah,' said the admiral, 'I rejoice to hear it; and I love you all the
better on that account.'

It appears that Joinville became quite friendly with the admiral, and
was treated by him with kindness; and, on Sunday, when it was ordered
that all the Crusaders who had been taken prisoners on the Nile should
be brought to a castle on the banks, Joinville was invited to go thither
in the admiral's company. On that occasion, the seneschal had to endure
the horror of seeing his chaplain dragged from the hold of his galley
and instantly killed and flung into the water; and scarcely was this
over when the chaplain's clerk was dragged out of the hold, so weak that
he could hardly stand, felled on the head with a mortar, and cast after
his master. In this manner the Saracens dealt with all the captives who
were suffering from sickness.

Horrorstruck at such a destruction of human life, Joinville, by means of
the good Saracen who had saved his life, informed them that they were
doing very wrong; but they treated the matter lightly.

'We are only destroying men who are of no use,' said they; 'for they are
much too ill with their disorders to be of any service.'

Soon after witnessing this harrowing spectacle, Joinville was requested
by the Saracen admiral to mount a palfrey; and they rode together, over
a bridge, to the place where the Crusaders were imprisoned. At the
entrance of a large pavilion the good Saracen, who had been Joinville's
preserver, and had always followed him about, stopped, and requested his
attention.

'Sir,' said he, 'you must excuse me, but I cannot come further. I
entreat you not to quit the hand of this boy, otherwise the Saracens
will kill him.'

'Who is he?' asked Joinville.

'The boy's name,' replied the good Saracen, 'is Bartholomew de Bar, and
he is son of the Lord Montfaucon de Bar.'

And now conducted by the admiral, and leading the little boy by the
hand, Joinville entered the pavilion, where the nobles and knights of
France, with more than ten thousand persons of inferior rank, were
confined in a court, large in extent, and surrounded by walls of mud.
From this court the captive Christians were led forth, one at a time,
and asked if they would become renegades, yes or no. He who answered
'Yes,' was put aside; but he who answered 'No,' was instantly beheaded.

Such was the plight of the Christian warriors who so recently had
boasted of being about to conquer Egypt. Already thirty thousand of the
Crusaders had perished; and the survivors were so wretched, that they
almost envied their comrades who had gone where the weary are at rest.

Now in the midst of all this suffering and anxiety, what had become of
Guy Muschamp? Had the gay young squire, who boasted that if killed by
the Saracens he would die laughing, been drowned in the Nile, or was he
a captive in that large court surrounded by walls of mud? Neither. But
as our narrative proceeds, the reader will see that Guy Muschamp's fate
was hardly less sad than the fate of those who had found a watery grave,
or of those who were offered the simple choice of denying their God or
losing their lives.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

NEWS OF DISASTER.


WHILE Louis of France and his nobles and knights were exposed to such
danger at the hands of their enemies, from whom they had no reason to
expect forbearance, Queen Margaret remained at Damietta, with her
ladies, expecting to hear of battles won and fortresses taken. At
length, one morning about sunrise, a strange and heart-rending cry
resounded through the city, and reached the ears of the queen in her
palace. What was it? was it fire? No. Another and another wail of agony.
What could it be? The approach of an enemy? No. It was merely tidings of
the massacre of Minieh!

Margaret of Provence summoned to her presence Oliver de Thermes, whom
King Louis had left at Damietta in command of the garrison.

'Sir knight,' said the queen, 'what is all that noise I hear?'

The warrior hesitated.

'Speak, sir,' said Margaret, losing patience; 'I command you to tell me
what has happened.'

'Madam,' replied the knight, 'the news as yet is but vague and
uncertain.'

'Answer me, directly,' said the queen, speaking in a tone of authority.
'What of the King of France? What of the warriors who marched from
Damietta under the banner of St. Denis?'

'Alas, madam,' replied Sir Oliver, 'I would fain hope that the news is
not true; but it certainly is bruited about that the king is a captive,
and that the warriors of the Cross have fallen almost to a man.'

Margaret did not answer; she did not even attempt to speak. Her colour
went, she shuddered, tottered, and would have fallen to the floor had
not her ladies rushed to her support. It was indeed a terrible situation
for that youthful matron, and--what made matters more melancholy--she
was about to become a mother.

And now Damietta was the scene of consternation somewhat similar to that
which pervaded Cairo, when a pigeon carried thither intelligence of the
victory of the Count of Artois at Djédilé. The ladies of the Crusaders,
the Countesses of Poictiers and Provence, and the widowed Countess of
Artois, among the number, bewailed the fate of their lords; the queen
was afflicted to a terrible degree as she thought of the king's peril;
and many people only felt concerned about their own extreme peril. Of
course much selfishness was exhibited under the circumstances; and the
Pisans and Genoese set a bad example by preparing to save themselves,
and leave the city to its fate. But, on hearing of their intention, the
queen ordered that the chief persons among them should be brought to her
presence, and addressed them in a way likely to convince them of the
selfishness of their conduct.

'Gentlemen,' said Margaret, rousing herself from her prostration and
raising her head; 'as you love God, do not leave this city; for if you
do you will utterly ruin the king and his army, who are captives, and
expose all within the walls to the vengeance of the Saracens.'

'Madam,' replied the Pisans and Genoese, utterly unmoved by the loyal
lady's distress, 'we have no provisions left, and we cannot consent to
remain at the risk of dying of hunger.'

'Be under no such apprehension,' said the queen quickly; 'you shall not
die of hunger; I will cause all the provisions in Damietta to be bought
in the king's name, and distributed forthwith.'

The Pisans and Genoese on hearing this assurance consented to remain in
Damietta; and, after an expenditure of three hundred and sixty thousand
livres, Margaret provided for their subsistence. But the men who were
thus bribed to remain as a garrison were not likely to make any very
formidable resistance in the event of an attack taking place; and such
an event was no longer improbable. Indeed rumours, vague but most
alarming, reached Damietta that a Saracenic host was already on its way
to capture the city.

The rumour that the Moslems were actually coming made the bravest men in
Damietta quake, and inspired the ladies who were in the city with
absolute terror. Even the courage of the queen, who had just given birth
to her son John, failed; and her faculties well-nigh deserted her. One
moment her imagination conjured up visions of Saracens butchering her
husband; at another she shrieked with terror at the idea that the
Saracens had taken the city and were entering her chamber. Ever and anon
she sank into feverish sleep, and then, wakened by some fearful dream,
sprang up, shouting, 'Help! help! they are at hand. I hear their
lelies.'

It was while Margaret of Provence was in this unhappy state of mind,
that a French knight, who was eighty years of age, but whose heart, in
spite of his four score of years, still overflowed with chivalry,
undertook the duty of guarding the door of her chamber night and day.

'Madam,' said he, 'be not alarmed. I am with you. Banish your fears.'

'Sir knight,' exclaimed the unhappy queen, throwing herself on her knees
before him, 'I have a favour to ask. Promise that you will grant my
request.'

'I swear, madam, that I will comply with your wishes,' replied the aged
knight.

'Well, then,' said the queen; 'what I have to request is this, that if
the Saracens should take the city, you, by the faith you have pledged,
will rather cut off my head than suffer me to fall into their hands.'

'Madam,' replied the veteran chevalier, 'I had already resolved on doing
what you have asked, in case the worst should befall.'



CHAPTER XXIX.

A WOUNDED PILGRIM.


IT was long ere Walter Espec, struck down wounded and bleeding at
Mansourah, recovered possession of his faculties sufficiently to recall
the scenes through which he had passed or even to understand what was
taking place around him. As time passed over, however, consciousness
returned; and he one day became aware that he was stretched on a bed in
a chamber somewhat luxuriously furnished, and tended by a woman advanced
in years, who wore a gown of russet, and a wimple which gave her a
conventual appearance.

Walter raised his head, and was about to speak, when she suddenly left
the room, and the squire was left to guess, as he best might, where and
under whose care he was. He attempted to rise; but the effort was in
vain. He put his hand to his head; but he found that his long locks of
fair hair were gone. He tried to remember how he had got there; but, try
as he might, his memory would not bring him farther down the stream of
time, than the hour in which he fell at Mansourah. All the rest was a
blank or a feverish dream of being rowed on a river by Saracen boatmen,
and left at the portal of a house which he had never seen before.
Gradually recalling all his adventures since he left the castle of Wark,
he remembered and felt his hand for the amulet with which he had been
gifted by King Louis when at Cyprus. The ring was there, and as Walter
thought of the inscription he felt something like hope.

But Walter was still weak from loss of blood and the fever which had
been the consequence of wounds and exposure, and he soon sank into a
slumber. When he again awoke to consciousness the woman in russet was
standing near him, and conversing with a damsel whom Walter did not at
first see, but whose tones, sweet and soft, manifested a strong interest
in his recovery.

'He will yet live,' said the woman in russet, 'and rejoice we in it; for
he is a young man; and to such life must needs be dear.'

'He will live,' repeated the girl, 'and our lady be praised therefor;
for it is sweet to live.'

'In truth, noble demoiselle,' said the woman in russet, 'the youth owes
much to your solicitude; but for your anxiety on his behalf, I hardly
think he would have struggled through the fever. However, if you will
remain and watch him for a brief space, I will attend to the commands of
my lady the queen, and hasten to relieve you. Nay, it misbeseems not
noble maiden to tend a wounded warrior, especially a soldier of the
Cross; and, credit me, he will give you little trouble. He lies as quiet
and calm as if he were in his shroud.'

With these words the woman in russet departed; and the damsel, treading
so softly that her footstep made not the slightest noise, moved about
the room in silent thought, now turning to gaze on the wounded squire,
now looking from the casement. Walter, now fully awake, began to
experience a strong feeling of curiosity; and turning his head directed
his gaze, not without interest, towards his youthful nurse. She was not
more than sixteen, and still more beautiful than young. She had features
exquisitely lovely in their delicacy and expression, deep blue eyes with
long dark fringes, and dark brown hair which, according to the fashion
of the period, was turned up behind and enclosed in a caul of network.
Her form was already elegant in its proportions; but it inclined to be
taller, and gave promise of great perfection. Her charms were set off by
the mourning dress which she wore, and by the robe called the quintise,
which was an upper tunic without sleeves, with bordered vandyking and
scalloping worked and notched in various patterns, worn so long behind
that it swept the floor, but in front held up gracefully with one hand
so as not to impede the step.

Walter was charmed, and a little astonished as his eye alighted on a
face and form so fascinating; and, in spite of his prostration and utter
weakness, he gazed on her with lively interest and some wonder.

'Holy Katherine!' exclaimed he to himself; 'what a lovely vision. I
marvel who she is, and where I am; and, as he thus soliloquised, the
girl turned round, and not without flutter and alarm perceived that he
was awake and watching her.

'Noble demoiselle, heed me not;' said Walter earnestly, 'but rather
tell me, since, if I understand aright, I owe my life to you--how am I
ever sufficiently to prove my gratitude?'

'Ah, sir squire,' replied she, 'you err in supposing the debt to be on
your side. It is I who owe you a life, and not you who owe a life to me;
and,' added she, struggling to repress tears, 'my heart fills when I
remember how you did for me, albeit a stranger, what, under the
circumstances, no other being on earth would have ventured to do.'

'By Holy Katherine, noble demoiselle,' said Walter, wondering at her
words; 'I should in truth deem it a high honour to have rendered such as
you any service. But that is a merit which I cannot claim; for, until
this hour, unless my memory deceives me, I never saw your face.'

The countenance of the girl evinced disappointment, and the tears
started to her eyes.

'Ah, sir, sir,' said she, with agitation; 'I am she whom, on the coast
of Cyprus, you saved from the waves of the sea.'

Walter's heart beat rather quick as he learned that it was Adeline de
Brienne who stood before him; for, though her very face was unknown to
him, her name had strangely mixed up with many of his day-dreams; and it
was not without confusion that, after a pause, he continued the
conversation.

'Pardon my ignorance, noble demoiselle,' said he, 'and vouchsafe, I pray
you, to inform me where I now am; for I own to you that I am somewhat
perplexed.'

'You are in Damietta.'

'In Damietta!' exclaimed Walter, astonished; 'and how came I to
Damietta? My latest recollection is having been struck from my steed at
Mansourah, after my lord, the Earl of Salisbury, and all the English
warriors, had fallen before the weapons of the Saracens; and how I come
to be in Damietta is more than I can guess.'

'Mayhap; but I can tell you,' said a frank hearty voice; and, as Walter
started at the sound, Bisset, the English knight, stood before him; and
Adeline de Brienne, not without casting a kindly look behind, vanished
from the chamber.

'Wonder upon wonders,' cried Walter, as the knight took his hand; 'I am
now more bewildered than before. Am I in Damietta, and do I see you, and
in the body?'

'Even so,' replied Bisset; 'and for both circumstances we are wholly
indebted to Beltran, the Christian renegade. He saved you from perishing
at Mansourah, and conveyed you down the Nile, and brought you to the
portal of this palace; and he came to me when I was at Minieh under a
tree, sinking with fatigue, and in danger of bleeding to death; and he
found the means of conveying me hither also; so I say that, were he ten
times a renegade, he merits our gratitude.'

'Certes,' said Walter, 'and, methinks, also our prayers that his heart
may be turned from the error of his ways, and that he may return to the
faith which Christians hold.'

'Amen,' replied Bisset.

'But tell me, sir knight,' continued Walter, eagerly, what has
happened, since that dreadful day, to the pilgrim army? and if you know
aught of my brother-in-arms, Guy Muschamp?'

'Sir squire,' answered Bisset, sadly; 'for your first question, I grieve
to say, that has come to pass which I too shrewdly predicted--all the
boasting of the French has ended in disaster--the king and his nobles
being prisoners, and most of the other pilgrims slain or drowned; and,
for your second, as to Guy Muschamp, the English squire, who was a brave
and gallant youth, I own I entertain hardly a doubt that, ere this, he
is food for worms or fishes.'

Walter Espec uttered an exclamation of horror, and, without another
word, sank back on his pillow.



CHAPTER XXX.

ST. LOUIS IN CHAINS.


WHEN King Louis was led away by the faithful Segrines, and when he was
so exhausted that he had to be lifted from his steed and carried into a
house, and when the Crusaders outside were in dismay and despair, Philip
de Montfort entered the chamber where the saintly monarch was, and
proposed to renew negotiations with the Saracens.

'Sire,' said De Montfort, 'I have just seen the emir with whom I
formerly treated; and, so it be your good pleasure, I will seek him out,
and demand a cessation of hostilities.'

'Go,' replied Louis; 'and, since it can no better be, promise to submit
to the conditions on which the sultan formerly insisted.'

Accordingly De Montfort went; and the Saracens, still fearing their
foes, and remembering that the French held Damietta, agreed to treat. A
truce was, indeed, on the point of being concluded. Montfort had given
the emir a ring; the emir had taken off his turban, and their hands were
about to meet; when a Frenchman, named Marcel, rushed in and spoiled
all.

'Seigneurs,' said he, interrupting the conference, 'noble knights of
France, surrender yourselves all! The king commands you by me. Do not
cause him to be put to death.'

On hearing this message, the emir withdrew his hand, returned De
Montfort's ring, put on his turban, and intimated that the negotiation
was at an end.

'God is powerful,' said he, 'and it is not customary to treat with
beaten enemies.'

And now it was that there ensued such a scene as Minieh had never
witnessed. Almost as the negotiation ended, Louis was seized, violently
handled and put in chains. Both the Count of Poictiers and the Count of
Anjou were at the same time made prisoners; and the bulk of the warriors
accompanying the king had scarcely the choice between surrender and
death; for nothing, as has been said, but their hearts' blood would
satisfy the vindictive cravings of their foes; and, when the king's
captivity became known, many of those who had formerly been most
intrepid, remained motionless and incapable of the slightest resistance.

About the time when King Louis was put in chains, and when Bisset, the
English knight, was endeavouring to escape death or rather captivity,
the sultan arrived at Minieh, and, without any display of generosity for
the vanquished, took measures for improving his victory to the utmost.
The king and his brothers who, like himself, were bound hand and foot,
were conducted in triumph to a boat of war. The oriflamme--that banner
so long the pride of France--was now carried in mockery; the crosses
and images, which the Crusaders had with them as symbols of their
religious faith, were trampled scornfully under foot; and, with trumpets
sounding and kettle-drums clashing, the royal captives were marched into
Mansourah.

It was to the house of Fakreddin Ben Lokman, the secretary of the
sultan, that Louis was escorted; and, on arriving there, he was given
into the custody of the Eunuch Sahil. But, abandoned by fortune, and in
the power of his enemies, Louis was still himself. In chains and
captivity he exhibited the dignity of a king and the resignation of a
Christian, and his jailers could not refrain from expressing their
astonishment at the serene patience with which he bore adversity. Of all
his property, he had only saved his book of psalms; and daily, while
consoling himself with reciting from its pages, he was inspired with
strength and resolution to bear his misfortunes, and to raise his
thoughts far above the malice of his foes.

Meanwhile, at the court of the sultan, everything was not going
smoothly. From the beginning, the emirs and Mamelukes had looked with
envy and suspicion on the favourites brought by Touran Chah from
Mesopotamia; and such feelings had not died away. Many of the favourites
ere long were substituted for the ministers of the late sultan; and the
emirs and Mamelukes not only complained loudly of this to Touran Chah,
but reproached him bitterly for the way in which he disposed of the
spoil of the Crusaders.

'How is this?' asked they; 'you are bestowing the spoils of the
vanquished Franks, not on the men who have borne the burden of the war,
but on men whose sole merit consists in having come from the banks of
the Euphrates to the Nile.'

Now, the sultan's favourites were not unaware of the unfriendly feeling
with which they were regarded by the Mameluke chiefs. Indeed, they saw
all the dangers of their position, and considered it politic, under the
circumstances, to reduce the influence of the emirs and Mamelukes by
bringing about a treaty with the Crusaders.

'In these people,' said they to the sultan, 'you have enemies far more
dangerous than the Christians. Nothing will content them but reigning in
your stead. They never cease to boast of their victories, as if they
alone had conquered the Franks, and as if the God of Mahomet had not
sent pestilence and famine to aid you in triumphing. But hasten to
terminate the war, that you may strengthen your power within; and then
you will be able to reign in reality.'

As soon as Touran Chah was convinced that the emirs and Mamelukes
entertained projects of ambition dangerous to his power, and that war
was favourable to their designs, he resolved to show the chiefs how
little he regarded their opinions; and, without even consulting them, he
sent some of his favourites to the house of Lokman, and empowered them
to treat with Louis.

'King,' said the ambassador, 'I come from the sultan, to inform you that
he will restore you to liberty, on condition that you surrender to him
the cities of Palestine now held by the Franks.'

'The cities of Palestine are not mine to give,' replied Louis, calmly;
'and I cannot pretend to dispose of them.'

'But beware of rashly refusing to submit to the sultan's terms,' said
the ambassador; 'for you know not what may happen. He will send you to
the caliph at Bagdad, who will imprison you for life; or he will cause
you to be led throughout the East, to exhibit to all Asia a Christian
king reduced to slavery.'

'I am the sultan's prisoner,' replied Louis, unmoved, 'and he can do
with me what he pleases.'

On hearing this answer, the ambassadors intimated their intention of
employing personal violence; and, one of them having stamped three times
with his foot, the Eunuch Sahil entered, followed by the jailers,
bearing that frightful instrument of torture, known as 'the bernicles.'

Now this terrible engine was made of pieces of wood pierced with holes,
into which the legs of the criminal were put; and the holes were at so
great a distance from each other, and could be forced to so great an
extension, that the pain was about the most horrible that could be
produced. Moreover, the holes being at various distances, the legs of
the victim could be inserted into those that extended them to the
greatest distance, and while the pain inflicted was more than flesh and
blood could bear, means were, at the same time, used to break or
dislocate all his small bones. It was an instrument of punishment
reserved for the worst of criminals; and no torture was deemed so awful
as that which it was capable of inflicting.

'What do you say to be put in this engine of punishment?' asked the
ambassador, pointing significantly to the bernicles.

'I have already told you,' replied Louis, unmoved, 'that I am the
sultan's prisoner, and that he can do with me as he pleases.'

In fact, the courage of Louis was proof against any danger to his own
person; and he held all the menaces of his captors so cheap, that they
scarcely knew how to deal with him. At length, the sultan determined to
propose terms more likely to be acceptable to the saint-king, and again
sent ambassadors to his prison, with the object of bringing about a
treaty.

'King,' said the ambassador, 'the sultan has sent to ask how much money
you will give for your ransom, besides restoring Damietta?'

'In truth,' replied Louis, 'I scarcely know what answer to make; but, if
the sultan will be contented with a reasonable sum, I will write to the
queen to pay it for myself and my army.'

'But wherefore write to the queen, who is but a woman?' asked the
ambassador somewhat surprised.

'She is my lady and companion,' answered Louis, even at that moment
mindful of the principles of chivalry; 'and it is only reasonable that
her consent should be obtained.'

'Well,' said the ambassador, 'if the queen will pay a million golden
bezants, the sultan will set you free.'

'However,' said Louis, with dignity, 'I must tell you that, as King of
France, I cannot be redeemed by money; but a million of bezants will be
paid as the ransom of my army, and Damietta given up in exchange for my
own freedom.'

After some negotiations the terms were agreed to; and the sultan not
only concluded the treaty joyfully, but expressed his admiration of the
nobility of spirit which Louis had displayed.

'By my faith!' said Touran Chah to the ambassador, 'this Frenchman is
generous and noble, seeing that he does not condescend to bargain about
so large a sum of money, but instantly complies with the first demand.
Go,' added the sultan, 'and tell him, from me, that I make him a present
of a fifth of the sum, so that he will only have to pay four-fifths; and
that I will command all the principal nobles and his great officers to
be embarked in four of my largest galleys, and conducted safely to
Damietta.'

It was Thursday before the Feast of Ascension; and, while the King of
France, and the Crusaders were conveyed down the Nile in galleys, Touran
Chah travelled by land from Mansourah, in order to receive Damietta, and
perform the conditions of peace. On reaching Pharescour, however, the
sultan halted to dine with his chiefs; and, while the other Crusaders
lay in their galleys on the river, the king and his brethren were
invited to land, and received into a pavilion, where they had an
interview with the sultan, when Saturday was appointed for the payment
of the golden bezants and the surrender of Damietta. But long ere
Saturday a terrible tragedy was to occur, and render Pharescour
memorable as the scene of a deed of violence, startling both to Asia and
Europe. Already, while the sultan held his interview with the King of
France and the Counts of Poictiers and Anjou, everything was prepared;
and soon after Touran Chah had left Louis and his brothers shut up in
the pavilion, they were roused by loud shouts of distress and a mighty
tumult; and, while they breathlessly asked each other whether the French
captives were being massacred or Damietta taken by storm, in rushed
twenty Saracens, their swords red and reeking with blood, and spots of
blood on their vestments and their faces, stamping, threatening
furiously, and uttering fierce cries.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE TRAGEDY OF PHARESCOUR.


AT Pharescour, on the margin of the Nile, the Sultan of Egypt had a
remarkable palace. It appears to have been constructed of wood, and
covered with cloth of brilliant colours. At the entrance was a pavilion,
where the emirs and chiefs were in the habit of leaving their swords,
when they had audience of the sultan; and beyond this pavilion was a
handsome gateway which led to the great hall where the sultan feasted;
and adjoining the great hall was a tower, by which the sultan ascended
to his private apartments.

Between the palace and the river was a spacious lawn, in which there was
a tower, to which the sultan was wont to ascend when he wished to make
observations on the surrounding country; and hard by was an alley which
led towards the margin of the hill, and a summer-house formed of
trellis-work and covered with Indian linen, where he frequently repaired
for the purpose of bathing.

The chroniclers of the period who write of the crusade of St. Louis
fully describe this palace. Indeed, the appearance of the place was
strongly impressed on the memory of the Crusaders. It was there that
Touran Chah, when on his way from Mansourah to Damietta, halted to
receive the congratulations of the Moslem chiefs on the victory that had
been achieved over the Franks; there, in their company, he celebrated
his triumph by a grand banquet; and there was enacted the terrible
tragedy that exposed the surviving pilgrims to new dangers and fresh
trials.

By this time, indeed, the emirs and Mamelukes had become so exasperated
at the elevation of the sultan's favourite courtiers that they vowed
vengeance; and, in order to justify their project, they ascribed to him
the most sinister designs. It was asserted that many of the emirs were
doomed to die on a certain day; and that, in the midst of a nocturnal
orgy, Touran Chah had cut off the tops of the flambeaux in his chamber,
crying--'Thus shall fly the heads of all the Mamelukes.' In order to
avenge herself for the neglect to which she was exposed under the new
reign, Chegger Edour, the sultana who had played so important a part in
the last days of Melikul Salih, exerted her eloquence to stimulate the
discontent; and the emirs and Mamelukes, having formed a conspiracy,
only awaited a convenient opportunity to complete their projects of
vengeance at a blow.

It was the day after his arrival at Pharescour, on which Touran Chah
gave a banquet to the chiefs of his army; and, as it happened, the
company comprised the Mamelukes and the emirs who were, or who deemed
themselves, in danger. It would seem that everything went forward
quietly and ceremoniously till the feast was ended, and the sultan rose
to ascend to his chamber. Not a moment, however, was then lost. As soon
as Touran Chah moved from table, Bibars Bendocdar, who carried the
sultan's sword, struck the first blow, and instantly the others rushed
furiously upon their destined victim. Touran Chah parried the blow of
the Mameluke chief with his hand; but the weapon penetrated between two
of his fingers and cut up his arm.

'My lords,' said he, taken by surprise; 'I make my complaint against
this man, who has endeavoured to kill me.'

'Better that you should be slain than live to murder us, as you intend
to do,' cried all present, with the exception of an envoy of the caliph,
who had arrived from Bagdad, and appeared much terrified at the scene so
suddenly presented.

Touran Chah looked round him in amazement; and, as he did so, he was
seized with terror. However, the instinct of self-preservation did not
desert him. With a spring he bounded between the motionless guards,
escaped into the lawn, took refuge in the tower, and looking from a
window demanded of the conspirators what they really wanted; but they
were not in a humour to spend time in talk.

'Come down,' cried they; 'you cannot escape us.'

'Assure me of safety, and I will willingly descend,' said the sultan.

At this stage the envoy of the caliph, having mounted his horse, came
forward as if to interfere; but the conspirators menaced him with
instant death if he did not return to his tent, and, still keenly bent
on completing their work of murder, ordered the sultan to come down.

Touran Chah shook his head, as if declining the invitation.

'Fool,' cried the conspirators, scornfully, 'we have the means of
compelling you to descend, or to meet a worse fate;' and without further
parley they commenced assailing the tower with Greek fire.

The Greek fire caught the cloth and timber, and immediately the whole
was in a blaze. Touran Chah could no longer hesitate. One hope remained
to him, namely to rush towards the Nile, to throw himself into the
water, and to take refuge on board one of the vessels that he saw
anchored near the shore. Accordingly he leaped from the blazing tower,
with the intention of rushing across the lawn. But the toils were upon
him. A nail having caught his mantle, he, after remaining for a moment
suspended, fell to the ground. Instantly sabres and swords waved over
him; and he clung in a supplicating posture to Octai, one of the
captains of his guard; but Octai repulsed him with contempt.
Nevertheless, the conspirators hesitated; and they were still
hesitating, when Bibars Bendocdar, who was never troubled either with
fears or scruples, and who, indeed, had struck the first blow, made a
thrust so stern that the sword remained sticking fast between the ribs
of the victim. Still resisting, however, the sultan contrived to drag
himself to the Nile, with a hope of reaching the galleys from which the
captive Crusaders witnessed the outrage; but some of the Mamelukes
followed him into the water; and close to the galley in which the Lord
of Joinville was, the heir of Saladin--the last of the Eioubites--died
miserably.

It was now that the Mamelukes rushed into the tent where Louis and his
brothers were.

'King,' cried Octai, pointing to his bloody sword, 'Touran Chah is no
more. What will you give me for having freed you from an enemy who
meditated your destruction as well as ours?'

Louis vouchsafed no reply.

'What!' cried the emir, furiously presenting the point of his sword;
'know you not that I am master of your person? Make me a knight, or thou
art a dead man.'

'Make thyself a Christian, and I will make thee a knight,' said Louis,
calmly.

Rather cowed than otherwise with his reception, and with the demeanour
of the royal captive, Octai retired; and the French king and his
brothers once more breathed with as much freedom as men could under the
circumstances. But they were not long left undisturbed. Scarcely had the
Mameluke aspirant for knighthood disappeared when the tent was crowded
with Saracens, who brandished their sabres and threatened Louis with
destruction.

'Frenchman!' cried they, addressing the king, wildly and fiercely; 'art
thou ignorant of thy danger, or what may be the fate that awaits thee?
Pharescour is not Mansourah, as events may convince thee yet. Here thou
mayest find a tomb instead of the house of Lokman, and the two terrible
angels, Munkir and Nakir, instead of the Eunuch Sahil.'



CHAPTER XXXII.

PERILS AND SUSPENSE.


THE Saracen chiefs, after having dyed their sabres in the blood of the
sultan, did not confine their menaces and violent demonstrations to the
tent in which the captive King of France was lodged. With swords drawn
and battle-axes on their shoulders, thirty of them boarded the galley
where Joinville was with the Count of Brittany, Sir Baldwin d'Ebelin,
and the Constable of Cyprus, and menaced them with gestures and furious
imprecations.

'I asked Sir Baldwin d'Ebelin,' writes Joinville, 'what they were
saying; and he, understanding Saracenic, replied that they were come to
cut off our heads, and shortly after I saw a large body of our men on
board confessing themselves to a monk of La Trinité, who had accompanied
the Count of Flanders. I no longer thought of any sin or evil I had
done, but that I was about to receive my death. In consequence, I fell
on my knees at the feet of one of them, and making the sign of the
cross, said "Thus died St. Agnes." The Constable of Cyprus knelt beside
me, and confessed himself to me, and I gave him such absolution as god
was pleased to grant me the power of bestowing. But of all the things
he had said to me, when I rose up I could not remember one of them.'

'We were confined in the hold of the galleys,' continues the chronicler,
'and laid heads and heels together. We thought it had been so ordered
because they were afraid of attacking us in a body, and that they would
destroy us one at a time. This danger lasted the whole night. I had my
feet right on the face of the Count of Brittany, whose feet, in return,
were beside my face. On the morrow we were taken out of the hold, and
the emirs sent to inform us that we might renew the treaties we had made
with the sultan.'

'So far, all seemed well. But the danger was not yet over, as the
Crusaders were destined to feel. At first the form of the oaths to be
taken by the king and the emirs presented much difficulty; and, even
when it was settled, the emirs in council gravely discussed the
propriety of putting the French king and his barons to death. Only one
of them pleaded for keeping faith; and his voice would have been drowned
in the clamour, but fortunately he used an argument which appealed
irresistibly to their cupidity.'

'You may put these Franks to death if you will,' said he; 'but reflect
ere doing so that dead men pay no ransom.'

Nevertheless, it really seemed that after all the Crusaders were doomed;
and while they were on board the galleys, and this discussion was
proceeding, an incident occurred which caused them to give themselves up
for lost.

'One of the emirs that were against us,' says Joinville, 'threatening we
were to be slain, came to the bank of the river, and shouted out in
Saracen to those who were on board our galley, and, taking off his
turban, made signs, and told them they were to carry us back to Babylon.
The anchors were instantly raised, and we were carried a good league up
the river. This caused great grief to all of us, and many tears fell
from our eyes, for we now expected nothing but death.'

And what in the meantime was taking place in Damietta?

Nothing in truth could have exceeded the anxiety which prevailed within
the walls of that city, when thither were carried tidings of the
assassination of the Sultan of Egypt, and of the new danger to which the
King of France and the captive Crusaders were exposed.

The aspect of affairs was indeed menacing; and it was not till
messengers from King Louis came to announce that the treaty was to be
maintained and the city evacuated, that something like confidence was
restored. On the evening of Friday, Queen Margaret, with the Countesses
of Anjou, Poictiers, and Artois, and the other ladies, went on board a
Genoese vessel. As night advanced, Oliver de Thermes and all the
Crusaders who had garrisoned Damietta embarked on the Nile, and Geoffrey
de Segrines, having brought the keys to the emirs, the Saracens took
possession. Next morning at daybreak the Moslem standards were floating
over tower and turret. But still King Louis was in the hands of his
enemies, and still the emirs were debating whether or not they ought to
put him and the companions of his captivity to death.

At the mouth of the Nile, a Genoese galley awaited the king; and, while
every eye was strained towards the shore with an anxiety which was not
without cause, Walter Espec and Bisset, the English knight, stood on
deck in no enviable frame of mind.

'I mislike all this delay,' said Walter, more agitated than he was wont
to appear. 'What if, after all, these emirs should prove false to their
covenant?'

'In truth,' replied Bisset, 'it would not amaze me so much as many
things that have come to pass of late; and both the king and his nobles
may yet find to their cost that their hopes of freedom are dashed; for
we all know the truth of the proverb as to there being so much between
the cup and the lip.'

At this moment they observed the galleys, on board of which Joinville
and other captive Crusaders were, move up the Nile, and each uttered an
exclamation of horror.

'Now may Holy Katherine be our aid,' cried Walter, 'for our worst
anticipations are like to be realised.'

'The saints forbid,' replied Bisset; 'and yet I am not so hopeful as I
might be, for I have long since learned not to holloa till out of the
wood.'

It was indeed a critical moment for Louis and his nobles; but in the
council of the emirs the milder views ultimately prevailed, and Bisset
and Walter Espec observed with delight that the galleys which had moved
up the Nile were brought back towards Damietta, and that Louis,
attended by a multitude of Saracens who watched his movements in
silence, was approaching. Immediately the Genoese galley moved towards
the shore, and Louis, having been joined by the Count of Anjou and the
Lord of Joinville, stepped on board, while the other knights and nobles
hastened to embark in the vessels that lay in wait for them. As soon as
the king was on board, Bisset made a signal; and, as he did so, eighty
archers with their crossbows strung appeared on deck so suddenly that
the crowd of Saracens who had been pressing forward immediately
dispersed in alarm, and the galley moved from the shore. Ere long, the
Count of Poictiers, who had remained as a hostage in Damietta till the
ransom of the Crusaders was paid, came on board; and, all being now in
readiness for leaving the place where he had experienced so many
misfortunes and so much misery, the saint-king made a sign to the
mariners, the sails were given to the wind, and the fleet of the armed
pilgrims--the wreck of a brilliant army--glided away towards Syria. But
thousands of the survivors still remained in captivity, and, albeit
Louis was conscientiously bent on ransoming them, their prospect was
gloomy, and the thought of their unhappy plight clouded the saint-king's
brow.

And sad was the heart of Walter Espec, as he recalled the day when he
landed at Damietta side by side with Guy Muschamp; and for the hundredth
time asked himself mournfully whether his brother-in-arms had died for
his faith, or whether a worse fate had befallen him.

But why linger on the Egyptian shore amid scenes suggestive of
reminiscences so melancholy and so dismal--reminiscences of misfortunes
and calamities and losses not to be repaired? Let us on to the Syrian
coast, and gladden our eyes with a sight of the white walls of Acre,
washed by the blue waters of the Mediterranean.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

ACRE.


AT the time when King Louis, sad but unsubdued, left Damietta and
steered for the Syrian coast, Acre, situated on a promontory at the foot
of Mount Carmel and washed by the blue waters of the Mediterranean, was
a place of great strength, and renowned throughout Christendom for
riches and splendour. For a long period previous to its destruction by
the Mameluke Sultan--indeed, from the time of the seizure of Jerusalem
by Saladin the Great--Acre was regarded as of higher importance than any
city in the Christian kingdom of which Jerusalem had been the
metropolis; and thither, when driven from other towns which they had
called their own in the days of Godfrey and the Baldwins, most of the
Christians carried such wealth as they could save from the grasp of
sultans and emirs. Acre had, in fact, come to be regarded as the capital
of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and by far the finest of the cities in
Syria.

Naturally enough, a capital so wealthy was rather tempting to men bent
on conquest. But Acre had the advantage of being strongly fortified. On
the land side it was surrounded by a double wall, with towers and
battlements, and a broad and deep ditch, which prevented access to its
ramparts, and towards the sea by a fortress at the entrance of the
harbour, by the castle of the Templars, and by a stronghold known as
'The King's Tower;' and on the whole, the fortifications were such that
no foe, not even such as Bibars Bendocdar, could have calculated on
finding the place an easy prey.

Nor could the aspect of the city seem otherwise than strange and
picturesque to such of the armed pilgrims as landed with the saint-king
beneath its white walls, washed by the blue waters of the Mediterranean.
The interior was chiefly occupied by the houses of traders and artisans;
but, between the two ramparts that defended the city on the east, stood
the castles and palaces of the King of Cyprus, the Prince of Antioch,
the representatives of France and Germany, and other men of high rank.
The houses were built of square stones, all rising to an equal height;
and most of them were surrounded with a terrace; and inside they were
luxurious and resplendent, and lighted with windows of painted glass,
which modified the glare of the oriental sun. Even the greatest kings in
Europe could boast of nothing to compare with the pictures and marbles
and rich furniture which the mansions of the magnates of Acre presented
to the eyes of the weary and desponding Crusaders.

And Acre was not without busy life and striking ceremonies to give
variety to the scene. The port was crowded with ships from Europe and
Asia; the warehouses were stored with merchandise; the market-place was
lively with bustle and excitement; monks, sailors, pirates, pilgrims,
merchants, and warriors appeared in the streets; the squares and public
places were screened from the heat by silken coverings; and there on
certain days the magnates of the city, wearing golden crowns and
vestments glittering with precious stones, walked to show themselves to
the people, attended by splendid trains composed of men varying in
language and manners, but unfortunately separated by jealousies and
rivalries that frequently led to riot and bloodshed.

Around Acre, the country was fertile and fair to the eye of the gazer.
Outside the walls were beautiful gardens where the citizens were wont to
repair for recreation; and farther away groves and pleasure houses, and
scattered villages and orchards, gave variety to the landscape.

Such was Acre when King Louis landed there with his queen and the
remains of his once brilliant army; and when Walter Espec, penniless and
pensive, but still hoping to hear tidings of his lost brother, leapt
ashore with Bisset the English knight, and returned thanks to heaven for
having escaped from the power of the Saracens and the perils of the sea.

'Sir knight,' said Walter, who was in a desponding mood, 'we have now,
thanks be to God reached a place of safety; and yet, beshrew me if my
heart does not fail me; for we are in a strange land, without money,
without horses, almost without raiment befitting our rank.'

'In truth,' replied the knight, 'I own that our plight is not enviable.
But it is not desperate. Still I am in the service of King Louis, and
have claims which he cannot disregard; and, credit me, a king's name is
a tower of strength. As for you, for lack of a more potent protector,
attach yourself to me as squire, and we can struggle together against
adverse fortune. So droop not, but take courage, my brave Englishman;
and we will, with the aid of God and our lady, so contrive to make the
best of our circumstances as to turn matters to our advantage.'



CHAPTER XXXIV.

A RESCUE.


WALTER Espec, albeit since leaving England he had enacted the part of
squire to two of the foremost earls in Christendom, was too much in need
of a protector not to accept Bisset's offer with gratitude; and the
English knight exercised his influence with such effect that both of
them were soon provided with horses and raiment befitting their rank,
and made a creditable figure among the Crusaders who thronged Acre.
Indeed Walter, having now quite recovered from his illness, attracted
much notice, and won the reputation of being one of the handsomest
Englishmen who had ever appeared in the Syrian city.

Nevertheless, Walter was gloomy and despondent. All his enquiries after
Osbert, his lost brother, resulted in disappointment. Guy Muschamp he
regarded as one to be numbered with the dead; and Adeline de Brienne,
who since their unexpected meeting at Damietta, where in days of dismay
and danger they had conversed on equal terms, was now, as the
grand-daughter of a King of Jerusalem, treated as a princess, and moved
in too high a sphere to be approached by a simple squire. At first he
was astonished to find that they were separated by so wide a gulf, and
the Espec pride made him almost disdainful. Still, the fair demoiselle
was present in all his visions by day and his dreams by night; and while
consoling himself with building castles in the air when he was to reside
in baronial state with her as his 'lady and companion,' he was under the
necessity of contenting himself in the meantime with worshipping at a
distance, as an Indian pays homage to his star. Ere long, however,
fortune, which had ever been friendly to Walter, gave him an opportunity
of acquiring a new claim on Adeline's gratitude.

It was about St. John the Baptist's day, in the year 1251, and the King
of France, having undertaken an expedition against the Saracens, was at
Joppa, while the queen and the ladies of the Crusade remained at Acre,
which was garrisoned by a large body of infantry under the command of
the Constable of Jerusalem, and a small party of cavalry under Bisset,
whose courage and prowess still, in spite of his recklessness, made him
a favourite with the royal saint. No danger, however, appeared to
threaten the city. The citizens were occupying themselves as usual; and
some of the ladies had gone to walk in the gardens outside the gate,
when suddenly a body of Saracens, who had marched from Joppa, presented
themselves before the walls, and sent to inform the constable that if he
did not give them fifty thousand bezants by way of tribute, they would
destroy the gardens. The threat was alarming, but the constable replied
that he would give them nothing; and having sent a young knight of Genoa
to order them off, he left the city and marched to the mount, where was
the churchyard of St. Nicholas, to defend the gardens; while bowmen
posted between them and the town kept up a brisk discharge of arrows,
and Bisset at the head of a band of horsemen, attended by Walter Espec,
charged forward and skirmished with the Saracens so as to retard their
approach. Nevertheless, the Saracens continued to advance, and the
Christian magnates who had been walking in the squares came to the
battlements, and with anxiety on their faces watched the feats of arms
that were performed, and especially those wrought by the young knight of
Genoa.

Meanwhile Bisset and Walter Espec, while skirmishing with the Saracens,
skirted their lines and made a circuit of the garden with the object of
defending a gate by which it was feared an entrance might be effected.
And in truth they found they had come too late to prevent the evil that
was apprehended. Just as they approached their ears were hailed with
loud cries of 'Help! help!' and to their horror they perceived that ten
or twelve Saracens, well mounted, were issuing from the garden, one of
whom was forcibly carrying off a lady without regard to her screams or
her struggles.

'In the name of wonder!' said Bisset, staring in amaze, 'what is this I
see?'

'By Holy Katherine!' exclaimed Walter wildly, 'the pagan dogs are
carrying off a lady, and she is no other than Adeline de Brienne. To the
rescue, sir knight! to the rescue!'

'Hold,' cried Bisset, 'or you will ruin all. See you not that their
horses are swifter than ours, and we must go cunningly to work?
Patience, Walter, patience. We must make a circuit and intercept them,
without their being aware that we are in pursuit.'

Walter's blood boiled; his head seemed about to turn; and, in spite of
the knight's admonition, he could hardly restrain his impetuosity as he
saw the Saracens making off with their prize. Bisset, however, was calm,
but, as usual, resolute; and it was not till he had posted part of his
cavalry at the gate to prevent further intrusions that, at the head of
half-a-dozen horsemen, he deliberately went in pursuit, and in such a
direction that the Saracens had no suspicions that they were pursued.
Indeed, they deemed themselves so secure that they gradually slackened
their pace, and at length halted while two of their number rode back to
ascertain the result of the combat that was taking place before Acre.

And what was the state of affairs before the city?

'As the Genoese knight was retiring with his body of infantry,' says
Joinville, 'a Saracen suddenly moved by his courage came boldly up to
him, and said in his Saracenic tongue that if he pleased he would tilt
with him. The knight answered with pride that he would receive him; but,
when he was on the point of beginning his course, he perceived on his
left hand eight or nine Saracens, who had halted there to see the event
of the tournament. The knight, therefore, instead of directing his
course towards the Saracen who had offered to tilt with him, made for
this troop, and, striking one of them with his lance, pierced his body
through and killed him on the spot. He then retreated to our men,
pursued by the other Saracens, one of whom gave him a heavy blow on his
helmet with a battle-axe. In return, the knight struck the Saracen so
severely on the head that he made his turban fly off. Another Saracen
thought to give the knight a mortal blow with his Turkish blade, but he
twisted his body in such wise that it missed him, and the knight, by a
back-hand blow on the Saracen's arm, made his sword fall to the ground,
and then made a good retreat with the infantry. These three famous
actions did the Genoese knight perform in the presence of the constable,
and before all the principal persons of the town who were assembled on
the battlements.'

Nevertheless, the Saracens advanced with 'fierce faces threatening war,'
when suddenly a band of those military monks who at the cry of battle
armed 'with faith within and steel without,' and long white mantles over
their chain mail, spurred with lances erect from the Castle of St.
Katherine near the gate of St. Anthony, and, interposing between the
Saracens and the city, formed a barrier that seemed impenetrable. They
were the knights of the Order of St. Katherine of Mount Sinai, an Order
instituted in honour of that saint in 1063, and bearing on their snowy
mantles the instruments by which she suffered martyrdom--the half were
armed with spikes and traversed by a sword stained with blood.

The Saracens halted in surprise at the sight of the Knights of St.
Katherine, who were supposed at the time to be at the Castle of Kakhow;
and, as if to provoke a conflict that they might have the satisfaction
of conquering, one of the warrior monks, who seemed very young, at a
signal from the marshal of the Order left his companions, and spurring
gallantly forward, with marvellous skill unhorsed two of the Saracens
without breaking his lance. On this, the leader of the Saracens,
perceiving that the knight was alone, rode forward to meet him; but the
youth charged him so fiercely that he was fain to retreat desperately
wounded, and then returned leisurely to his comrades.

After some hesitation the Saracens withdrew, and the Knights of St.
Katherine rode calmly back to their castle.

And now let us follow Bisset and Walter Espec.

About the distance of a league from Acre is a place which was then known
as Passe-Poulain, where, shaded by foliage, were many beautiful springs
of water, with which the sugar-canes were irrigated. It was at
Passe-Poulain that the Saracens who carried off Adeline de Brienne
halted to await the report of their comrades, and, little thinking of
their danger, dismounted to quench their thirst and rest their steeds;
the Saracen who had charge of the damsel alone remaining on horseback,
and tenaciously keeping hold of his prize.

Suddenly all of them started in surprise; for one of the horses raised
his head and neighed; and the Saracens had scarcely ceased their
conversation and begun to listen, when, with loud shouts of 'Holy
cross!' Bisset and his riders emerged from the foliage and dashed in
amongst them. Resistance was vain, but the Saracens turned to bay, and a
bloody fray, in which Bisset's axe did terrible execution, was the
consequence. Only one attempted to escape,--he who had before him on his
saddle the almost lifeless form of Adeline de Brienne; and after him
Walter Espec, his sword drawn and his spur in his horse's flank, rode
with furious shouts.

[Illustration: "Be of good cheer, noble Demoiselle," said Walter, "you
are saved."--p. 220.]

It was a keen chase, both flyer and pursuer urging their steeds to the
utmost; and under ordinary circumstances the Saracen would have escaped;
but, hampered with his burden, and unable to exert his equestrian skill,
he soon found that his pursuer was gaining on him rapidly, and turned to
take the chance of an encounter. Fearful of hurting the damsel, but
perceiving that even this must be hazarded, Walter met him in full
course; and, exercising all his art in arms to elude a blow fiercely
aimed at him, he dealt one on the Saracen's turban, which stretched the
eastern warrior lifeless on the ground, and then leaping from his steed,
quick as thought caught the form of the half-fainting maiden just as she
was falling.

'Be of good cheer, noble demoiselle,' said Walter. 'You are saved.'

But Adeline de Brienne did not reply. She had fainted; and Walter,
taking her in his strong arms, bore her tenderly to one of the springs
of water, and was gradually bringing her back to consciousness when
Bisset and his riders, having routed the other Saracens, came up in
doubt as to the issue of the chase. Having succeeded in restoring the
damsel, they placed her on Walter's steed, and, the squire leading her
rein, conducted her to Acre.

'On my faith, sir squire,' said Bisset with a smile of peculiar
significance, as Walter unbuckled his armour, 'I marvel at your good
fortune in regard to the noble demoiselle, and perceive that I was right
in saying that you had been born with luck on your side. A few more such
exploits, and you will be known to fame.'

'At all events, sir knight,' replied Walter, trying not to appear too
much elated, 'we can lay ourselves down to rest to-night with all the
better conscience that we have this day performed an action worthy of
minstrels' praise.'

'Marry,' exclaimed Bisset seriously, 'I look to deriving from this
adventure some benefit more substantial than a sound sleep or minstrels'
flattery; and, to speak truth, I am somewhat weary of this saint-king
and this purposeless Crusade, and would fain go to aid the Emperor of
Constantinople against the Greeks and the Turks; and Baldwin de
Courtenay could not but accord a favourable reception to warriors who
had saved his kinswoman from the Saracens. What thinkest thou of a
movement to Constantinople?'

Walter mused, but did not answer.



CHAPTER XXXV.

MISSION TO BAGDAD.


AFTER the assassination of Touran Chah at Pharescour, the Mamelukes were
very much at a loss on whom to bestow the crown so long worn by the
chiefs of this family of Saladin. In their perplexity they elevated
Chegger Edour to the throne, and proclaimed her 'Queen of the
Mussulmen.' But the affairs of the sultana did not go smoothly. Moslems
were aroused at the elevation of a woman to sovereignty; and the Caliph
of Bagdad, when asked to send the rich robe which the caliphs were in
the habit of sending by way of investiture to the Sultans of Egypt,
demanded with indignation if a man capable of reigning could no longer
be found. Every day the confusion increased and the troubles multiplied.

In order to make matters more pleasant, the sultana associated a
Mameluke named Turcoman with her in the government, and even
condescended so far as to unite herself with him in marriage. But the
aspect of affairs became gradually more alarming, and Chegger Edour,
yielding to the prevailing discontent, abdicated in favour of her
husband. Turcoman, however, found that his crown was somewhat thorny;
and at a critical period he aroused the jealousy of his wife by aspiring
to wed an oriental princess.

The sultana vowed vengeance, and hastened to execute it by causing
Turcoman to be assassinated in his bath. One night an emir, hastily
summoned to the palace, found Chegger Edour seated on a couch with her
feet resting on the dead body of her husband. The emir uttered an
exclamation of horror; but she calmly stated that she had sent for him
to offer her hand and her crown. The emir fled in terror, and next day
the mother of the murdered man had the sultana put to death by her
slaves, and caused her corpse to be thrown into a ditch.

A Mameluke named Koutouz was now elevated to the throne, and signalised
himself by a victory over the Moguls or Tartars, hordes of wandering
warriors who were now making themselves terrible both to Europe and
Asia. Unfortunately for Koutouz, however, he at that time renewed a
truce with the Christians of Syria, and raised the anger of his soldiers
to such a height that his death was decreed. Accordingly, one day, when
he had ridden out from Sallhie to hunt, a Mameluke chief suddenly
spurred into the camp, his garments stained with blood.

'I have slain the sultan,' said he.

'Well, then, reign in his stead,' replied the bystanders.

The Mameluke chief was Bibars Bendocdar; and, having been proclaimed as
successor to the man he had murdered, he ascended the throne, and, as
sultan of Egypt and Syria, began to govern with despotic power.

Meanwhile, Louis was anxious to redeem from captivity the Crusaders who
had been left in Egypt, and sent ambassadors to Cairo with the money
that had been agreed on as their ransom. But the ambassadors could
hardly get a hearing. At length they did obtain the release of four
hundred of the Christian prisoners, most of whom had paid their own
ransom; but when they pressed for the liberation of the others, they
were plainly told that the King of France might deem himself fortunate
that he had regained his own liberty; and that if he gave more trouble,
he might expect the Mamelukes to besiege him at Acre. On hearing this
Louis was much perplexed, and consulted his nobles, especially the Lord
of Joinville.

'Sire,' said Joinville, after some consideration, 'this is a serious
question, and one not to be hastily disposed of; for I remember that
when I was on the eve of leaving home, my cousin, the Seigneur de
Bollaincourt, said to me, "Now you are going beyond the seas, but take
care how you return; no knight, either rich or poor, can come back
without shame, if he leaves behind him, in the hands of the Saracens,
any of the common people who leave home in his company." Now,' added the
seneschal, 'these unhappy captives were in the service of the king, as
well as the service of God, and never can they escape from captivity if
the king should abandon them.'

On hearing this Louis was more perplexed than ever. In his anxiety,
however, he bethought him of the caliph, and resolved, great as was the
distance, to send ambassadors to Bagdad, where reigned Musteazem the
Miser, the thirty-seventh of his dynasty.

Now, albeit Moslems were in the habit of paying great reverence to the
caliph as the successor of Mahomet, he exercised very little substantial
power over the fierce warriors who fought for Islamism. Nor, indeed, had
the history of the caliphate been such as to add to the sacredness of
the office, or to increase the superstitious veneration with which it
was regarded. For several centuries, the East witnessed the spectacle of
rival caliphs, both professing to be the representatives of the prophet,
and each claiming all the privileges attaching to the character. The
rivals were known as the Fatimites and the Abassides. The Fatimites
claimed the caliphate as being the heirs of Ali, Mahomet's son-in-law,
and established their throne at Cairo. The Abassides, who were Mahomet's
male heirs, maintained their state at Bagdad. At length, in 1170, the
struggle for supremacy was terminated by Saladin the Great, who killed
the Caliph of Cairo with his mace, and rendered the Caliph of Bagdad
undisputed chief of all Moslems; and, from that time, the Abassides,
though sunk in effeminacy, and much given to sensual indulgences,
continued to exercise their vague privileges and their shadowy
authority.

Nevertheless, King Louis, bent on obtaining the relief of the captive
Crusaders, despatched ambassadors to Bagdad to treat with the caliph.
The ambassadors were a Templar, and Bisset the English knight; and with
them, in their train, went Walter Espec, now, at length, hopeful of
ascertaining something about his brother's fate.

It was not without encountering considerable danger, and having to
endure much fatigue, that the Templar and the English knight, under the
guidance of Beltran the renegade, who had opportunely appeared at Acre,
and whom Bisset had pressed into the service, traversed the country;
and, after many days' travel, drew nigh to the capital of the caliphate,
which had been built, in the eighth century, by Al Mansour, one of the
Abasside caliphs, out of the ruins of Ctesiphon, and afterwards enlarged
and adorned by Haroun Alraschid, the great caliph of his dynasty.

But the journey had not been without its novelty and excitement; and
Walter Espec was riding by the side of Beltran the renegade, towards
whom, in spite of his prejudices as a Crusader, he felt the gratitude
due to a man who had saved his life, when he was cut down at Mansourah.
At present he was much interested with the account given by the renegade
of the ostriches or camel-birds, and eager to learn how they were
hunted.

'And so, good Beltran,' said he, 'you have actually hunted this bird,
whose height is gigantic, whose cry at a distance resembles the lion's,
and which is to be found in parched and desolate tracts, deserted even
by antelopes and beasts of prey.'

'In truth have I,' replied Beltran.

'I envy you,' said Walter; 'nothing would please me more than such an
enterprise.'

'Nevertheless,' rejoined the renegade, 'it is somewhat irksome, and
requires much patience. But the Arabs have a proverb, that patience is
the price that must be paid for all success, and act accordingly. They
have horses trained for the purpose; and, when they first start the
ostrich, they go off at an easy gallop, so as to keep the bird in view,
without going so near as to alarm it. On discovering that it is pursued,
the ostrich begins to move away, gently at first, but gradually
increasing its speed, running with wings extended, as if flying, and
keeps doubling. It generally takes two days to run one down; but the
hunter gets the best of the race at last; and, when the ostrich finds
itself exhausted and beaten, it buries its head in the sand; and the
hunters, coming up, kill it with their clubs, taking care not to spoil
the feathers.'

'On my faith,' said Walter, 'I do own that such a pursuit would be
irksome; and I hardly think that my patience would brook so much delay.'

'However,' said Beltran, suddenly raising his hand and pointing forward,
'there lies before you the city of the caliph.'

Bagdad, as the reader may be aware, is situated on the Tigris, at the
distance of two hundred miles above the junction of that river with the
Euphrates, and the Tigris is here about six hundred feet in breadth. The
city, which is of an oblong shape, and of which the streets are so
narrow that not more than two horsemen can ride abreast, is surrounded
with a high wall, flanked with towers, some of an immense size, built by
the early caliphs; and several old buildings remain to attest its
ancient magnificence--such as the Gate of the Talisman, a lofty
minaret, built in 785; the tomb of Zobeida, the most beloved of the
wives of Haroun Alraschid; and the famous Madressa College, founded in
1233 by the Caliph Mustenatser.

No traces, however, are left of the palace so long inhabited by the
caliphs; nor does anything mark the place where, though its glory was
about to depart, it still stood in all its pride, with the black banner
of the Abassides floating over its portals, when the ambassadors of St.
Louis reached Bagdad, and craved an audience of the heir of the prophet.
It was a sight to impress even men accustomed to the wealth and
splendour of Acre; and they thanked God for having conducted them in
safety to a place where there was a prospect of food and rest.

But Walter Espec was not thinking of such things; his whole mind was
occupied with the question, whether or not his lost brother was a
captive within these walls.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE LAST OF THE CALIPHS.


ASTONISHED as the Caliph Musteazem might be at the audacity which
prompted a Frankish king to send ambassadors to the heir of the prophet,
he did not venture to decline receiving the message of a prince who so
recently had threatened the empire of Egypt with destruction, and might
have the power of doing so again. Besides, Musteazem was not in the most
celestial humour with the Mamelukes, who seemed inclined to defy his and
every other person's authority; and, on hearing that the result of all
the disorders and revolutions had been the elevation of Bibars Bendocdar
to the throne of Saladin, he remarked, in homely oriental phrase, 'when
the pot boils, the scum rises to the top.' Above all, Musteazem was a
miser, and covetous to the last degree; and when it was explained to him
by his grand vizier, whom the Templar had already bribed with a purse of
gold, that the King of France was liberal in money matters, and was
ready to pay handsomely for the ransom of his captive countrymen, the
caliph's ruling passion prevailed--his avarice got the better of his
dignity; and, without farther words, he consented to grant an audience
to the Franks.

Meanwhile, the ambassadors and their attendants were admitted within the
gates of the palace, and conducted into an immense garden, there to wait
till suitable apartments were assigned them. And this garden made them
stare with wonder; its regal magnificence was so surprising as to make
them start and stop simultaneously, and to make Bisset exclaim--

'Of a truth, the lines of this pope of the infidels have fallen in
pleasant places. None of King Henry's palaces can boast of anything like
this. Surely it must be the terrestrial paradise.'

Now, this garden might well surprise the ambassadors. In the centre was
a kiosk of the richest architecture, constructed entirely of marble and
alabaster, with an arcade composed of countless marble pillars. In the
court was a marble reservoir, surrounded with marble balustrades, which
at each angle opened on a flight of stairs, guarded by lions and
crocodiles sculptured of white marble; and alabaster baths with taps of
gold. On one side of the garden was a large aviary; on the other a huge
elephant, chained to a tree. The walks were set in mosaic of coloured
pebbles, in all kinds of fanciful patterns; and around were groves,
bowers, arbours, and trellis-covered paths, with streams, fountains,
hedges of box and myrtle, flowers, cypresses, odoriferous plants, and
trees groaning under the weight of lemons, oranges, citrons, and fruit
in great variety. It was more like such a scene as magicians are
supposed to conjure up, than reality; and the Crusaders gazed for a
while with silent admiration.

'On my faith,' said Bisset, at length breaking the silence, 'this is
marvellous to behold; and yet, had I the ear of the pope of the
infidels, I should recommend an addition which would be to the purpose.
I mean such a statue of the goddess Minerva as once stood in the great
square of Constantinople.'

'And wherefore?'

'Because Minerva is the goddess who presides over prudence and valour;
and my eyes have deceived me if, in this city, there is not a lack of
both. Marked you not, as we rode along, that the place is well nigh
without defences and fighting men; and think you that, with such spoil
in prospect, the Mamelukes, not to mention the Moguls, would hesitate
about seizing it?'

'You err,' replied the Templar: 'the caliph, as you say, is the pope of
the infidels, and the Mamelukes hold everything he possesses as sacred.'

'So did they last century,' remarked Bisset, elevating his shoulders;
'and yet Saladin killed a caliph with his mace; and as for the Moguls,
you know they are almost Christians, and Father Rubruquis is now in
Tartary, completing their conversion. Beshrew me, sir Templar, if I deem
not this caliph foolhardy to run the risk of being attacked, without
fighting men to defend him.'

As the English knight spoke, an officer of the caliph appeared to
conduct the ambassadors to their lodgings; and they, having refreshed
themselves with the bath, and with food, were invited by the grand
vizier to repair to the presence of the caliph.

It was not, however, without much ceremony, and some mystery, that the
Templar and the English knight were admitted into the interior of a
palace within whose precincts no Christian, save as a captive, had ever
before set foot. First, they were guided through dark passages, guarded
by armed Ethiopians, and then into open courts so richly and beautifully
adorned, that they could not refrain from expressing their admiration.

'Certes,' exclaimed Bisset, halting, 'the caliph must, of all princes,
be the richest; and I should not much marvel to hear that he had
discovered the philosopher's stone, which turns everything into gold,
and of which my countryman, Roger Bacon, is said to be in search.
Nevertheless, he does not seem to have studied the Roman poet, who tells
us that treasure is hardly worth having, unless it is properly used.'

'In truth, sir knight,' said the Templar, 'the farther we go, the
greater is the splendour and state.'

At length the ambassadors reached a magnificent chamber, where the
caliph awaited them. At first, however, he was concealed from them by a
curtain wrought with pearls. But the grand vizier thrice prostrated
himself to the ground; and, as he did so, the traverse was drawn aside,
and the caliph appeared arrayed in gorgeous robes, seated on a throne of
gold, and surrounded by his eunuchs, who seemed both surprised and
grieved to see Christians in that place and presence.

And now the grand vizier kissed the caliph's hand, and, presenting the
ambassadors, explained their errand. A long conversation, which was
carried on chiefly by the Templar and the grand vizier, followed; and
the caliph having expressed his willingness to treat, the grand vizier
desired him, in token of his good faith, to give the ambassadors his
hand. Musteazem, however, shook his head, to indicate that he was not
prepared to derogate so far from his dignity. At length, after some
persuasion, he consented to give them his hand, gloved.

'That will do,' said the grand vizier.

'I fear not,' replied the Templar, hesitating.

'Sir,' said Bisset, addressing the caliph--for by this time the English
knight had recovered all his reckless audacity, and felt quite as much
at home as if he had been in the palace of Westminster, and speaking to
the good King Henry--'truth makes no holes to hide herself in; and
princes, if they will covenant, must deal fairly and openly. Give us,
therefore, your hand, if you mean to treat; we will make no bargains
with your glove.'

But the caliph, still unsatisfied, stood upon his dignity, and refused
to be persuaded. However, at the instance of the grand vizier, he
consented to consider the subject, and promise the ambassadors another
audience on the morrow. But who can tell what a day may bring forth? Ere
the morrow, an event occurred which raised more important questions than
whether he could, without degradation, give his ungloved hand to a
Templar and an English knight.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

A RECOGNITION.


WHEN the Templar and the English knight left the lodgings that had been
assigned to them in the palace of Bagdad to enter the presence of the
caliph, and were honoured with the audience described, Walter Espec,
excited by the novelty of his situation, thinking of his lost brother,
and bearing in mind that he had a mission to accomplish, strolled,
heedless of rules or regulations, into the garden of the palace, and
took his way along one of the walks, set in mosaic-coloured pebbles,
towards the kiosk. He had not proceeded far, however, when he perceived,
coming from the opposite direction, six youths, apparently about his own
age. All were so fettered as to be impeded in their walking, and seemed
to be under the charge of an aged Saracen, who, in his turban and
flowing robes, looked a most venerable personage.

'Christian captives, as I live,' muttered Walter, compassionately.

Of the six youths, five paced moodily along, with their eyes bent sadly
on the ground; the sixth neither seemed sad, nor had his eyes bent on
the ground, but held his head aloft with the air of one whom
circumstances could not depress; and Walter felt his heart beat and his
brain whirl, and stopped suddenly, with an exclamation of surprise, as
in this youth he recognised an old acquaintance.

Immediately it appeared that the recognition was mutual. Indeed, the
captive no sooner observed Walter than, disregarding the remonstrances
of the old Saracen, and forgetful for the moment of his chains, he broke
away from his companions, and hobbling, not without danger of a fall,
fairly flung himself into the Boy Crusader's arms.

'Oh, good Walter,' exclaimed he, 'what a surprise! The idea of your
being here, and at a time when they are threatening to put me to death
because I will not embrace the filthy religion of their false prophet.
But, thanks to our lady the Virgin, I now feel that I am saved.'

'In truth, brave Guy,' replied Walter, much affected, 'you are saved, if
my efforts can save you. I have mourned for you as for one dead; and I
swear by holy Katherine, who hath preserved me miraculously through
manifold dangers, that if I fail I remain to share your fate, for weal
or for woe. But how came you hither?'

'By St. John of Beverley,' answered Guy, 'not with my own goodwill, as
you may swear on the Evangelists. I was dragged out of the galley of the
Lord of Joinville, and, with my hands chained behind my back, I was, in
that base, unworthy plight, led captive to Cairo; and, when the
Mamelukes killed their sultan, and the sultana, that dark-eyed woman,
who outdoes Jezebel in wickedness, wished to propitiate the caliph, she
sent me and five other Christian prisoners whom you see as a
peace-offering. And so,' added Guy, looking down at his fetters, 'here
you see me, an Anglo-Norman gentleman, of great name, in captivity and
chains, and threatened with a cruel death; which, however, I would fain
escape; for, tempting as may be the prospect of the crown of martyrdom,
beshrew me, good Walter, if at my age I deem not life too sweet to part
with willingly.'

And in spite of his fetters and his perilous plight, Guy looked as
blithe and gay as he was wont to do in the tiltyard of the castle of
Wark.

'By the Holy Cross,' said Walter, gravely, 'I cannot pretend to make
light of the business; and yet I am not without hope; for a Templar, and
Bisset, the stout knight whom I now serve, have come from the good King
Louis as ambassadors to the caliph, and they will not fail you. But
credit this, at least, that if the worst comes to the worst I will
remain in this place, and not leave it--save in your company--tide what
may.'

Guy was about to protest against Walter sacrificing himself to
friendship; but further conversation was prevented by the approach of
the aged Saracen; and Guy, however reluctant, was fain to rejoin the
companions of his captivity. Walter, however, followed their steps, and
watched their movements, till they disappeared in a door contiguous to
that part of the palace in which the ambassadors were lodged with their
train. But, warned by Beltran, the renegade, that it would be prudent
to confine himself to the quarters assigned, he returned to his
lodgings, and there, musing over this unexpected meeting with his
brother-in-arms, awaited Bisset's return.

At length the English knight appeared. But he did not seem quite
himself. The frank and joyous expression which characterised him had
deserted his countenance, and he looked a changed man. Haughty sternness
sat on his brow; his eye-brows were elevated; his eye glanced flame; his
nostrils breathed fire; and he clenched and opened his hand excitedly,
as if contemplating some ruthless deed, as he strode into the apartment
and seized Walter's arm.

'Sir knight,' said Walter, amazed, and almost terrified, 'what aileth
thee?'

'By the might of Mary!' exclaimed the knight hurriedly and sternly, 'I
have seen a sight that has roused all the Norman within me, and made me
thirst for gold and pant for conquest.'

'And what of the caliph?' asked Walter.

'Tush,' answered the knight, contemptuously. 'This caliph is nobody,
save as master of this palace and city, and the treasure they contain.
By my father's soul! the caitiff wretch is rolling in wealth. May the
saints grant me patience to think of it calmly! The very throne of gold
on which he sits would, if coined into money, furnish forth an army,
capable, under a skilful and daring leader, of conquering kingdoms. Oh,
for five hundred brave men in mail, and the cross on their shoulders! By
the bones of Becket, I should, ere morning, be lord of all;' and,
torturing himself with the idea of such a prize escaping his grasp,
Bisset sunk into silence, and indulged in reflection.

'Sir knight,' said Walter, after a long pause, 'I have made a strange
discovery. Guy Muschamp, the English squire, my brother-in-arms, is a
captive in this palace, and in danger of death, because he will not
abandon his faith as a Christian. I have seen him; I have spoken with
him; I implore you to obtain his release; for,' added Walter, with tears
in his eyes, 'I must tell you frankly, that otherwise I must remain to
share his fate.'

'Fear not, boy,' said Bisset, touched with the squire's emotion; 'I will
see to his being ransomed. In truth, I hardly think there will be much
difficulty; for this caliph is a miser--a mean, detestable miser--and
would sell anything for bezants--even his soul, if he had not already
pawned it to Satan, through his brokers Mahound and Termagaunt.' And,
too much occupied with his dream of seizing Bagdad, and carving out a
kingdom with his sword, the knight relapsed into silence, and scarcely
moved till evening fell.

It was just after sunset, and Bisset was rapt in thought, and Walter
Espec perplexing his soul about Guy Muschamp, when suddenly they were
aroused by the voice of the Muezzin, who, according to the custom of the
Saracens, standing on the minaret of a mosque hard by, solemnly
proclaimed three times--'There is but one God, and Mahomet is his
prophet.'

Walter sprang up, quivering with pious horror, and hastily crossed
himself.

'Sir knight,' said he, earnestly, 'I feel that this place is unholy.'

'Mayhap, boy,' replied the knight. 'But patter your prayers, and no evil
will come nigh you. For the rest, Bagdad would be holy enough were the
walls and towers manned by Christian warriors, and the mosques converted
into churches, and I king, with the caliph's treasures to go forth
against the Moslem, conquering and to conquer. Oh, credit me, it is a
glorious vision. But it cannot be realised. Marry, I spoke too truly
when I said that I was born without luck on my side.'

Night fell; the moon rose; and the Crusaders, after for a time looking
out upon innumerable stars, glorious in the blue depths of an Asian sky,
saw to the comfort and security of their attendants, and then stretched
themselves to rest--Walter laying himself down at the door of the
chamber which Bisset occupied. In spite of the knight's agitation and
the squire's anxiety, both soon sank into sleep. But their repose was
destined to be broken. About daybreak they were awakened by cries and
tumult, that filled the palace of the caliph. Gradually, the noise
increased, and was blended with strange cries, as of warriors storming
the city. Bisset and Walter listened with breathless attention, as yell
after yell, and whoop after whoop, intimated that some terrible
catastrophe had occurred; and as they hearkened, the Templar, who had
occupied an adjoining apartment, rushed in, calm, but pale as a ghost.

'Gentlemen,' said he, 'we are dead men.'



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

WOE TO THE CALIPH.


I HAVE mentioned that, in the middle of the thirteenth century, the
Moguls, or Tartars, were the terror of Asia and Europe. In considering
their energy and cruelty as warriors, is it wonderful that their
movements should have been regarded with lively alarm? From the Yellow
River to the banks of the Danube they had marched, conquering and
slaughtering; marking their way with devastation, and making the two
continents resound with the tumult of war and the crash of empires.

Originally a number of hordes, inhabiting the waste regions that lie
between ancient Emaüs, Siberia, and China, and the sea of Kamschatka,
the Tartars formed several nations of hunters and shepherds, living
under tents, with their families subsisting on the produce of the chase
and the flesh of their flocks, and acknowledging one God, the sovereign
of heaven, but reserving their worship for the genii, who, as they
believed, followed their steps, and watched over the safety of their
families. They moved from place to place, despising agriculture, and not
deigning to build. Even as late as the twelfth century, they had only
one city--Karrakoroum--situated on the Orgon, in the country
subsequently the residence of the Grand Lama. In short, they looked upon
all the world as their own, and, disliking all neighbours and rivals,
were frequently engaged in war, which they deemed the sole occupation
worthy of their attention.

As warriors, the Tartars early proved themselves most formidable. Their
valour and discipline were remarkable; and they had neither baggage nor
provisions to encumber their marches. While the skins of sheep or bears
served them for clothing, they made a little hardened milk, diluted with
water, suffice them for food. On horseback, they were as much at home as
a sea king on the deck of his war-ship, and their seat was so easy and
firm, that they were in the habit of eating, and even sleeping, without
taking the trouble to dismount. They fought with lance and bow, reared
machines of terrible power; and all the stratagems of war were familiar
to them. They excelled in the art of fighting while flying; and, with
them, retreat was often the signal for victory.

It was in the twelfth century that Gheniskhan was elected by the Tartars
as their ruler, and that, under his leadership, they struck terror into
the surrounding nations. Under Gheniskhan, the Tartars made themselves
masters of China, and the empire of Karismia; and, during the reign of
his son Octai, they added Turkistan and India and Persia to their
conquests. Moreover, at that time, they turned their eyes westward; and,
having crossed the Volga, they overran Russia, ravaged Poland,
desolated Hungary, devastated the frontiers of Germany, and caused such
dread, that even England was agitated with the danger that threatened
all Christendom.

About the year 1245, however, Mango, the grandson of Gheniskhan,
professed a desire to embrace Christianity; and Oulagon, the brother of
Mango, espoused a Christian woman; and, when King Louis was wintering in
Cyprus, ambassadors from Tartary reached the island, with messages to
the effect that the great khan had been baptised, and that he would
readily aid the Crusaders in rescuing Jerusalem from the Moslems. The
saint-king received the ambassadors with joy, entertained them
hospitably, conducted them to church, and, when they departed, sent two
monks with magnificent presents to the great khan, and exhortations to
hold fast the profession of his faith without wavering. Even when the
Tartars menaced Bagdad, an ambassador, despatched by King Louis from
Acre, was at the court of the great khan, with the object of converting
the Tartars; and it appears clear that, however little they might care
for either faith, the Tartars, in the struggle of Christian and Moslem
in the East, were ever ready to take the side of the Christian against
the Moslem.

Such being the state of affairs, Mango sent his brother with an army to
besiege Bagdad; and Oulagon, raising his banner, marched towards the
city of the caliph. Now it happened that Musteazem, being at once under
the influence of the most egregious vanity and of the most sordid
avarice, neither believed in his danger, nor had the heart to expend
money to provide the means of defence, but devoted to the hoarding of
the jewels, gold, and treasures with which his palace abounded, the
whole time that should have been employed in mustering armies and
preparing for war.

However, when the caliph learned that Oulagon was approaching to attack
Bagdad, he partially awoke from his dream, and sent offers to treat.
Oulagon, who either suspected, or pretended to suspect, a snare,
thereupon proposed that a marriage should take place between the
children of the caliph and the great khan, as the best way of preserving
peace; and Musteazem expressed his entire satisfaction with the
proposal.

The Tartar then requested the caliph to send sixty of his chief men to
treat of the marriage; and, when this was complied with, he demanded
sixty more, that he might have full security for the fulfilment of the
treaty. Not doubting Oulagon's good faith, Musteazem did as he was asked
to do; and the royal Mogul smiled grimly.

'Now,' said Oulagon to his Tartars, 'seeing that we have in our hands
six score of the caliph's chief counsellors and most wealthy subjects, I
cannot doubt that the remainder are very common sort of people, and not
likely to offer much resistance. My plans have been laid with such
secrecy and caution, that nothing is suspected. I have only to appear
before Bagdad, and take possession.'

And no time was wasted. In fact, Oulagon had no motive for sparing the
seat of the caliphate; and no sooner did he get the six score of
Musteazem's chief men into his hands, than he ordered them to be
beheaded, and prepared for an attack. Nor, as he rightly anticipated,
was there much danger of an obstinate resistance. In fact, not only was
the city undefended by any regular force: it was divided against itself.
The citizens were formed into various sects, all at daggers drawn, and
much more earnest in their conflicts with each other than in resolution
to repulse assailants.

It was early morning when the inhabitants of Bagdad were aroused from
their slumbers with loud shouts of alarm, and cries that the Tartars
were upon them. Resistance was vain; and equally vain was any hope of
mercy. Having set up his machines of war, Oulagon gave the word of
command, and the Tartars rushed to the assault with all the ferocity of
their nature. Entering the city sword in hand, Oulagon gave it up to the
fury of his soldiers. Carnage, and all the horrors of war, followed; the
gutters ran with blood; and the caliph who, a few hours earlier, deemed
his person so sacred that he would not even consent to touch the hand of
a Frank, experienced such rough treatment that he shrunk and shuddered
and sickened.

Oulagon, however, was in no mood to respect the person of the head of
the Moslem religion. No allegiance did the grim Tartar owe to the heir
of Mahomet. Having seized Musteazem in his palace, Oulagon, after
severely reproaching him with meditating treachery, caused him to be
confined in an iron cage; and, after keeping him in durance for some
time, came to add insult to injury.

But, ere relating what passed, it is necessary to return to the
Christian ambassadors.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

IN THE LION'S MOUTH.


IT must be admitted that the position of the ambassadors was not
enviable; and, when the Templar hastily stated that the Tartars were
storming Bagdad, even Bisset's bold countenance fell, and his tongue
faltered.

'I will not hide,' said he, recovering himself, 'that our doom looks
dark; our heads are in the lion's mouth. But, as Christian warriors, we
must trust in God and the saints; and, as brave men, we must do what we
can to extricate ourselves.'

Without wasting more time in words, Bisset proceeded to buckle on his
chain mail, while Walter Espec also arrayed himself; and, while the
knight armed himself with his ponderous battle-axe, the squire
unsheathed his falchion; and both, resuming their wonted air of
dauntless courage, prepared, in case of the worst, to sell their lives
dearly. Meanwhile, the attendants of the ambassadors filled the chamber,
with alarm on their faces; and thither also Guy Muschamp and his fellow
captives found their way, closely followed by the aged Saracen, who
bowed himself before Bisset and exclaimed--

'In the name of God, save me!'

'Save you, Saracen!' said Bisset. 'On my faith, I cannot but think that
the man will do well this day who saves himself.'

'But,' asked the Saracen, 'do you not believe in a God, born of a woman,
who was crucified for the salvation of the human race, and rose again
the third day?'

'Assuredly, Saracen,' replied Bisset, regarding his questioner with a
curious eye: 'as certainly as I believe that I am now in the palace of
the caliph, and in greater danger than I pretend to relish.'

'In that case,' said the Saracen, 'place your hopes in your God; for, if
he was able to recall himself to life, he will not want the power to
deliver you from the evils that now threaten you.'

'On my faith,' replied Bisset, a little surprised, 'I must say that you
speak the words of wisdom were you twenty times an infidel; and, for my
own part, I would fain hope that God and the saints, especially good St.
George, will befriend us in our jeopardy.'

Meanwhile the noise and tumult caused by the Tartars, as they forced
their way into Bagdad, drew nearer, and shouts and shrieks were heard,
which left no doubt that they had entered the palace. Bisset thereupon,
grasping his battle-axe, took his post on one side of the door: the
Templar, sword in hand, stationed himself on the other. Neither spoke,
and such was the silence of those who were likely to share their fate,
that a pin might have been heard to drop. But though the carnage was
going on around them, they were left undisturbed; and they passed a
full hour in breathless suspense.

At length a loud shout intimated that the Tartars had penetrated to the
garden; and Bisset, wishing to tiring matters to a crisis, stepped
forward so as to make himself visible, and then retreated to his post.
Immediately twenty of the fierce Mogul warriors rushed towards the
place, and with loud shouts prepared for fresh carnage. But, when they
perceived the Templar and the English knight guarding the door with the
air of men who could not fail to prove terrible antagonists, they
hesitated, paused, and seemed to think that it was necessary to exercise
caution.

Now, this delay was not without an important result. In the leader of
the Tartars, Bisset to his astonishment saw a man whom he had met under
other circumstances, and instantly turned his discovery to account.

'Hold, hold, brave warrior!' cried he, in a conciliating tone. 'With us
you have no quarrel. We are ambassadors who were sent hither by the King
of France to obtain the release of some captives, and in you I recognise
one of the barons of Tartary who came to the court of the island of
Cyprus, and to whom I myself, as a knight in the Christian king's
service, rendered what service I could. With us, therefore, I repeat,
you have no quarrel. Wherefore should we dye our weapons in each other's
blood?'

The Tartar remained motionless, and eyed the knight keenly, and not
without suspicion.

'It may be as you say,' replied he after some consideration; 'and yet I
know not how I am to credit your words. Knowest thou that the Moslems
have a proverb which says, "Hearken to a Frank, and hear a fable?"'

'You do me wrong by your suspicions,' exclaimed Bisset. 'On my honour as
a Christian knight, I tell you naught but the truth.'

'Give me a token by which I may prove the truth of what you say,'
suggested the Tartar. And Bisset forthwith related several incidents
that had occurred during the residence of the Tartars at Nicosia.

'Enough,' said the Tartar. 'I now give credit to the words you have
spoken; therefore let there be peace between thee and me, and between
thy people and my people. For the present I leave to take measures for
your security; and I will conduct you to the presence of Oulagon the
brave, brother of the great khan, and grandson of him who received the
title of "King of Kings" from a prophet who came down from heaven on a
white horse.'

The ambassadors now breathed freely; and the attendants looked upon
Bisset as almost more than mortal; and the knight congratulated himself
on the prospect of getting his head out of the lion's den. It was not,
however, till the morrow that the Templar and the English knight were
led to the presence of Oulagon; a semi-savage warrior, with those Tartar
features which naturally looked harsh to the eyes of men accustomed to
the features of Norman and Saxon, and short of stature, but thickset,
compact of body, and of prodigious strength. Bisset was at first by no
means satisfied with Oulagon's look, but the Tartar manifested every
disposition to treat the ambassadors as friends.

'The wrath of the King of Kings,' said he, 'is like the fire of a
conflagration, which the slightest wind may light up, but which nothing
but blood can quench. But between the King of Kings and the King of
France there is peace and amity and goodwill. Wherefore, friend, say
what you desire of me, and your will shall be granted.'

'Simply,' replied Bisset, 'permission to depart with my comrade and our
train, and six Christian captives who have thrown themselves on our
protection.'

'Be it as you will, Frank,' said Oulagon. 'But not till you have had
fitting gifts; for this is the storehouse of the treasure of the world,
and I would fain send gifts to the King of France; nor would I like his
ambassadors to depart empty-handed.'

The knight and the Templar bowed.

'But,' said Oulagon with a cunning leer, 'ere departing you must visit
the caliph in my company, that you may relate to the King of the Franks
how the King of Kings punishes men who are the enemies of both.'

And without delay the Tartar led the ambassadors to the prison where he
had on the previous day shut up Musteazem in an iron cage, and where he
had since kept his captive without food.

'Caliph,' asked Oulagon approaching, 'dost thou hunger?'

'Yes,' answered Musteazem indignantly. 'I do hunger, and not without
cause.'

[Illustration: "Ah, Caliph," said Oulagon with bitter scorn, "thou mayst
now see thy great fault; for if thou hadst given part of thy treasures,
which thou lovest so dearly, thou mightest have held out against
me."--p. 251.]

'Then,' said Oulagon, 'thou shalt have that to eat which above all
things thy heart loveth.' And the Tartar ordered a large golden platter,
filled with jewels and precious stones, to be brought and set before the
captive.

'Knowest thou these treasures, caliph?' asked he with an affectation of
carelessness.

'Yes,' answered Musteazem sharply, 'I know them, for they are mine own.'

'And dost thou dearly love thy treasures?' asked Oulagon.

'Yes,' replied Musteazem, simply and frankly.

'Well, then,' said Oulagon, 'since thou lovest thy treasures so well,
take of these jewels as many as thou wilt, and appease thy hunger.'

'They are not food to eat,' replied Musteazem, shaking his head with an
air of great dejection.

'Ah, caliph,' said Oulagon with bitter scorn, 'thou mayest now see thy
great fault; for if thou hadst given part of thy treasures, which thou
lovest so dearly, to subsidise soldiers for thy defence, thou mightest
have held out against me. But that which thou didst prize most highly
has failed thee in the hour of need.'

And Oulagon withdrew with the Templar and the English knight; and soon
after this interview Musteazem drew his last breath. But whether he
perished of hunger, or of indignant despair, or by the violence of his
conquerors, is not clearly ascertained. In the midst of the tumult and
disorder which followed the sack of Bagdad, and the extinction of the
caliphate, chroniclers neglected to record under what circumstances,
and how, died the last of the caliphs.

But, however that may have been, the ambassadors next morning took their
departure from Bagdad.

'Now God and all the saints be praised!' exclaimed Bisset: 'our heads
are out of the lion's mouth.'



CHAPTER XL.

END OF THE ARMED PILGRIMAGE.


THE Templar and the English knight after a variety of adventures reached
Acre, having on their way fallen in with Father Yves, whom King Louis
had sent on a mission to 'the Old Man of the Mountains'--that remarkable
personage to whose behests kings bowed, and at whose name princes
trembled--and a knight of the noble House of Coucy, who had come from
Constantinople, and whose accounts of the state of the Latin empire of
the East much increased Bisset's desire to go and offer his sword to the
Emperor Baldwin de Courtenay, then struggling desperately to maintain
his throne against Greeks and Turks.

On reaching Acre, however, the ambassadors found that King Louis and the
court were at Sajecte, and without delay repaired thither to present the
gifts sent by Oulagon, and inform him of the unexpected event which had
frustrated the object of their mission. Louis was deeply grieved at the
failure of his attempt to open the prison doors of the unfortunate
captives, and with tears bewailed their unhappy fate.

But soon after this, the saint-king found that the case was not
desperate. The Sultan of Damascus went to war with the Mamelukes, and
both parties craved the alliance of the French monarch. Louis,
therefore, sent John de Valence to Cairo once more to demand the release
of the captives, and this time he obtained something like satisfaction.
Two hundred knights were immediately set at liberty, and allowed to
depart for Acre, which they reached in safety.

At length, however, news came to King Louis, while he was at Sajecte,
which compelled him to turn his thoughts towards France, where he was
much wanted, and to deliberate on the expediency of returning to his own
kingdom.

When it was known in France that the king was a prisoner in the hands of
the Saracens, the utmost excitement prevailed throughout the land; and
suddenly among the pastoral population appeared a man bearing a letter,
to which he pretended to attach a mysterious importance.

'This,' said he, solemnly, 'I have received from the mother of God; and
it commands me to assemble all the Christian shepherds and herdsmen, and
to march at their head to deliver the king. Follow me then, and fear
not, for the battle is not to the strong, but reserved for the weak and
humble.'

It appears that this man's eloquence, and the mystery which he affected,
fascinated the shepherds and herdsmen of France, and they flocked to him
in multitudes; and his followers, having been joined by outlaws and
exiles, ere long formed a formidable force, and caused much alarm.

At first, indeed, the queen-mother, Blanche of Castille, naturally
anxious for her son's release, favoured the enterprise. But the priests,
aware it might be that the leaders of the movement had ulterior objects
in view, set their faces decidedly against it, and the leaders of the
shepherds retaliated by stirring up the populace against the priests,
and by the massacre of several ecclesiastics. On hearing this, Queen
Blanche changed her policy, took part against the shepherds, caused
their leader to be beheaded, and their army to be dispersed. Moreover,
the populace, who had at first held the shepherds in high honour, began
to suspect them of imposture, and slaughtered them without mercy; and
all was still doubt and dismay and confusion, when messengers brought to
Sajecte news that Queen Blanche had breathed her last.

Louis was profoundly affected when he heard of his mother's death, and
mourned sadly for two or three days, without speaking with any one.
However, at the end of that time, he was visited by the papal legate,
and sent for the Lord of Joinville; and Joinville, who was on the point
of going into a meadow to amuse himself with martial exercises, entered
into conversation.

'Ah, seneschal,' began the king, mournfully, 'I have lost my mother.'

'Well, sire,' said Joinville, calmly, 'I am not surprised at such an
event, seeing that she was no longer young, and that to all of us death
must come some time; but, sire, I am surprised that so great a prince
should grieve so outrageously; for you know that the wise man says,
"Whatever grief the valiant man may suffer in his mind, he ought not to
show it on his countenance; for he that does so causes pain to his
friends and pleasure to his enemies."'

'However, seneschal,' said the legate, 'the king is much satisfied with
the good and agreeable services you have rendered him, and earnestly
wishes for your honour and advancement. He commands me to tell you, as
he knows it will give you pleasure at heart, that he intends to embark
for France on this side of Easter.'

'In truth, it does give me pleasure,' said Joinville. 'And I pray that
the Lord may ever induce the king to act in accordance with his will.'

And soon after Louis, with his queen and his knights and nobles,
returned to Acre, and made preparations for his departure.

It happened that when John de Valence and his associates went to Cairo,
to treat for the release of the French captives, and also for the
remains of some of the French warriors who fell at Mansourah, the
Saracens suddenly reminded him of the Earl of Salisbury.

'I wonder,' said an emir, 'that you Christians, who venerate the ashes
of the dead, make no inquiry for the bones of that most illustrious and
noble-born William, to whom you give the name of Longsword; whereas we,
seeing that he was slain in battle and on account of his illustrious
qualities, have treated his remains with all respect.'

On hearing this, the ambassadors were somewhat confused.

'How,' asked they, one of another, 'can we disparage this man, because
he was an Englishman, when even the Saracens accord the honour due to
his nobility of soul?'

Accordingly, the Crusaders requested that Salisbury's bones might be
given to them; they carried them to Acre, where they were laid, with
much respect, in the church of the Holy Cross.

It was on the afternoon of the day when the burial took place that
Bisset, who had been maturing his project of repairing to
Constantinople, entered his lodgings, and took Walter Espec by one hand
and Guy Muschamp by the other.

'Boys,' said he, 'this crusade, as I foresaw, has resulted in naught
save disaster, and, as fighting men, it behoves us to consider whither
we are now to carry our swords. For my part, I am resolved to turn the
gifts of the Tartar warrior into money, and make without delay for
Constantinople, and fight for the Latin Emperor. Are you willing to
accompany me and share my fortunes, or must we part?'

'In truth, sir knight,' replied Walter, frankly, 'I sigh for the green
fields and the oak forests of my native land; and, therefore, I would
fain embark with the army of King Louis, and return to Europe.'

'As you will, sir squire,' said Bisset, a little mortified: 'albeit, I
cannot but deem that you are not moved so much by the desire to visit
your native land, as to be near to a certain noble demoiselle, on whose
gratitude you have some claims. Well, on my life, I blame you not; for
at your age I might have felt as you do, and, mayhap, lived to repent my
delusion. But, be it known to you that, as matters stand, the Sultan of
Damascus has intimated that he will permit any of the pilgrims to visit
Jerusalem. Now, have you the courage--for courage will be needed--to
enter the Holy City, held as it is by fierce Saracens, and kneel at the
Holy Sepulchre?'

'By Holy Katherine, sir knight!' exclaimed Walter, bluntly, 'you must
hold me excused. Happy, indeed, should I deem myself in the privilege of
kneeling at the Holy Sepulchre, even at the cost of much labour and
fatigue. But these are not the days of Godfrey and the Baldwins; and I
care not to trust to the tender mercies of Bibars Bendocdar and his
Mameluke myrmidons. I will not needlessly put my head again into the
lion's mouth.'

'And what say you on the point, my gay and puissant warrior?' asked
Bisset, turning to Guy Muschamp.

'Oh,' answered Guy, merrily, 'as says the good Walter, so say I, neither
to Jerusalem nor to Constantinople do I go. I have a father and mother
and kindred at home, whose faces I long to see. Wherefore, I go to
England, and to no other place.'

Walter Espec sighed, as he was in the habit of doing, at the mention of
kindred, and gave himself up to painful reminiscences.

'Sir knight,' said he, addressing Bisset, after a long silence, 'deem
you that my lost brother can be in the hands of him who is known as the
Old Man of the Mountains?'

'What!' exclaimed Bisset, 'rearing as an assassin? The saints
forefend!'

'It is strange,' said Walter, after a pause, 'that I have begun to hope
better things; for, as I lay asleep last night, methought I saw him in
the flesh, and that he looked high and brave, and that he told me how
the blessed Katherine had preserved him from evil.'

'May your dream be realised ere we depart from this holy land, good
Walter!' said Guy, with sympathy.

'Amen,' added Bisset, earnestly. 'More unlikely things have come to
pass.'

And, in truth, such a result was not altogether impossible; for at that
moment Walter Espec and Osbert Espec were both within the walls of Acre.
But Walter was preparing to embark for Europe; and Osbert was on the eve
of setting out for the castle of Kakhow, not to return for many days.
But the stars had decreed that they were to meet.



CHAPTER XLI.

A SUDDEN DISCOVERY.


IT was evening, and shadows were closing over Acre. But the scene thus
presented was fair to behold. The sky was richly coloured, the setting
sun painted the landscape in brilliant hues, the wind sighed among the
palms and lofty sycamores, and the waves of the Mediterranean murmured
against the white walls and on the Syrian shore.

Walter Espec sat in the lodgings of Bisset, hard by the palace occupied
by the King of France, and he was alone. Bisset had been summoned to
attend the king; Guy Muschamp had gone to visit his kinsman, the Lord of
Joinville; and Walter, left with his own thoughts, was reclining on a
couch, and resting his head against a window, with his eyes fixed on the
citizens who passed before him, on their way to breathe the air in the
gardens outside the walls, when he was aroused by the tramp of cavalry,
and the approach of a body of warriors, whose white mantles over their
armour, and whole appearance, indicated that they were military monks.
Walter's curiosity was aroused, and he shouted to make inquiries of a
portly citizen who was passing at the moment, and who, as Walter knew,
as a confirmed gossip.

'Good citizen,' said he, 'these are warrior monks, and yet they neither
wear the habit of the Templars nor the Hospitallers. Canst tell me what
knights they be who come along so proudly?'

'In faith can I, sir squire,' answered the citizen; 'and blithely will I
do so. These be the knights of St. Katherine, of Mount Sinai; and they
are brave men in hours of danger; albeit, like other Orders, overmuch
given to amassing wealth, and more intent on keeping it than keeping the
vows of their Order.'

'Thanks, good citizen,' said Walter, laughing heartily, as Crusaders
generally did when reminded of the faults of the military monks. 'And,
to requite your courtesy, I admonish you to speak in a whisper when you
say aught in dispraise of Templars or Hospitallers; for you must be a
bolder man than I pretend to be, if you fear not to provoke their
enmity.'

'Gramercy for your warning, young squire,' replied the citizen, as,
apparently much amused, and chuckling to himself, he proceeded on his
way; while Walter, standing up, watched the warrior monks as they passed
the window.

Now, Walter Espec had of course heard of the monks of St. Katherine, and
especially what a stern front they had presented on the day when the
Saracens threatened Acre, and carried off Adeline de Brienne. Moreover,
he was naturally somewhat interested in an Order instituted in honour of
the tutelar saint of his House: but he had never before seen them; and
he looked out with no inconsiderable curiosity as, mounted on choice
steeds, they came on and swept along, with bronzed visages, athletic
forms, muscular limbs, and the air of men who believed implicitly in
their own superiority over their compeers, and desired nothing so much
as foes to conquer.

[Illustration: Suddenly Walter started in amazement, and uttered a cry;
then remained for a moment silent, and quivered with agitation; then
seized his cap, and, rushing from the house, hastened, with excitement
on his countenance and wildness in his manner, after the warrior
monk.--p. 262.]

But suddenly Walter started in amazement, and uttered a cry; then
remained for a moment silent, and quivered with agitation; then seized
his cap, and, rushing from the house, hastened, with excitement on his
countenance and wildness in his manner, after the warrior monks, not
losing sight of them till they disappeared within the gates of the
castle of St. Katherine, which they possessed in Acre, near the gate of
St. Anthony. Into this building he demanded to be admitted.

Two hours later, Walter Espec returned to his lodgings, and found Guy
Muschamp awaiting his return, and impatient to tell him that everything
was arranged for embarking for France in the king's ship in company with
the Lord of Joinville. But observing that his friend's countenance wore
a look of extraordinary elation, he, for the time being, quite forgot
the communication he had intended to make, and eyed him with an
expression of keen curiosity.

'Good Walter,' said he, quickly, and with interest, 'you appear so
excited that I cannot but presume that something wonderful has befallen
you since we parted?'

'In truth, brave Guy, you guess aright,' replied Walter, taking his
friend's hand. 'Rejoice with me, my brother-in-arms, for I have found
him who was lost.'

'Found your brother!--found Osbert Espec!' exclaimed Guy, in surprise.

'It is true as that I am a living man,' replied Walter, joyfully. 'When
he reached Marseilles with the companions of his pilgrimage, instead,
like them, of going back to die of hunger in the forests, or listening,
like them, to the temptations of the two rascal merchants by whom they
were ensnared, he embarked on board the "Christopher," which was on the
point of sailing for Acre; and the skipper, having brought him ashore,
carried him to the house of a Northern knight, who had long been
fighting for the Cross. And this noble warrior, being about to return to
England, placed him under the protection of the Grand Master of the
Order of St. Katherine; and, when he was of a fitting age, the grand
master, to whom the name of Espec was honourably known, made him take
the vows of the Order. And now, thanks to God and Holy Katherine, he is
in safety and honour, and rides bravely as the bravest among his
brethren, with his white mantle over his chain mail.'

'By St. John of Beverley!' exclaimed Guy, in surprise, 'I much rejoice
to hear that he was so graciously protected by the saints in the hour of
danger, and that his fortune has been such as is worthy of a Norman
gentleman.'

'And what is more,' said Walter, proudly, 'it was he who unhorsed the
two Saracens with his lance without breaking it, and who wounded their
leader on that day when they came hither to demand tribute.'

'A most worthy exploit, as it has been related to me,' replied Guy; 'and
one that does credit to his strength and courage. But tell me, good
Walter, how rejoiced he was to see you after so long a separation, and
all your suffering on his account.'

A shade of disappointment appeared on Walter Espec's handsome
countenance. After a pause, however, he replied--

'In faith, brave Guy, to be frank with you, I must own that my brother,
for whom I had so long mourned, manifested less enthusiasm than I
expected; and when I talked to him of our castellated house of
Heckspeth, on the Wansbeck, and of the tombs of our ancestors in the
Abbey of Newminster, and even of my great namesake, the glory of our
line, I perceived right well that he cared for none of these things. His
heart and soul are in his Order, its renown and influence; and all his
hopes are for the restoration of its glory. And nothing would serve him
but attempting to induce me to take the vows of poverty and celibacy and
obedience. But I answered readily, that such vows were not to my
liking--that I despise not riches; that I rather love noble demoiselles;
and that I am by nature more inclined to command than to obey; in short,
that I will neither be a warrior monk nor a monk in minster. And so the
great bell of the castle of St. Katherine tolled, and we parted; and at
daybreak he mounts to ride to the castle of Kakhow, which the knights of
his Order hold.

'And now, good Walter,' said Guy, 'having fulfilled your mission, for
such you deemed it, you will return to England with a light heart.'

But Walter Espec only sighed, as his thoughts reverted to Adeline de
Brienne and to the great gulf that seemed to interpose between them.



CHAPTER XLII.

HOMEWARD BOUND.


ON the vigil of St. Mark, after Easter, the Crusaders having mustered at
Acre, flocked on board their ships and prepared to set sail for Europe.
On that day also the King of France, leaving Geoffrey de Segrines with a
hundred knights to aid in the defence of what remained of the once grand
kingdom of Godfrey and the Baldwins, left the palace which he had
occupied, and, attended by the papal legate, the Patriarch of Jerusalem,
and the Christian nobles and knights of Palestine, walked on foot to the
port, amid an immense crowd assembled to witness his departure, who all,
while lamenting his departure, applauded him as the Father of the
Christians, and implored Heaven to shower blessings on his head.

'This is the day of St. Mark, seneschal,' said Louis to Joinville, as
they went on board; 'and on St. Mark's-day was I born at Poissy.'

'Sire,' replied Joinville, 'you may well say that you have been born
again on St. Mark's-day; for you are escaping from a pestilent land,
where you have remained so long.'

Bisset, the English knight, resolute to his purpose, had taken farewell
of his companions, and embarked for Constantinople, to wield his
ponderous battle-axe in the cause of Baldwin de Courtenay, whose empire
was falling to ruins. But Walter Espec and Guy Muschamp were on board
the king's vessel, through the influence of the Lord of Joinville; and
there also was Beltran the renegade, who, touched with remorse, had
abandoned his wealth in Egypt, and was doing penance by labouring as a
seaman.

At length the fleet weighed anchor and set sail, with every prospect of
a prosperous voyage. But, ere long, a somewhat alarming accident
occurred. On Saturday, as the French approached Cyprus, about vespers,
the vessels were suddenly enveloped in a thick fog, and the ship in
which were the king and queen struck on a sandbank, and was so damaged
that Louis was recommended to leave it without loss of time.

'Sire,' said the skipper, 'if you will believe me, you must remove from
this ship to another. We well know that, since the keel has suffered so
much damage, all the ribs must be started, and should there be a high
wind, we fear she will be unable to bear the sea without sinking.'

'Now,' said the king, 'I put it to you on your faith and loyalty, to
tell me truly, if the ship were your own, and full of merchandise, would
you quit it?'

'No!' said the skipper; 'for we would rather risk our lives than lose a
vessel worth forty or fifty thousand livres.'

'Why, then, do you advise me to quit it?' asked the king.

'Oh, sire,' answered the skipper, 'we are different sort of beings; for
there is no sum, however great, that could compensate for the loss of
yourself and the queen and your children; and we cannot advise you to
run such a risk.'

'Ah,' replied the king, 'now that you have answered, I will tell you
what I think of the matter. Suppose I quit this vessel, there are five
hundred persons on board, who will remain in Cyprus for fear of the
danger that may befall them should they stay on board. Now,' continued
Louis, 'there is not one among them who is attached to his own person
more than I am myself; and, if we land, they will lose all hope of
returning to their own country. Therefore, I declare I will rather
expose myself, the queen, and my children to some danger, under the
providence of God, than make such numbers of people suffer as are now
with me.'

The example which Louis set inspired the companions of his voyage with
courage; and the fleet having resumed its course, encountered, but
survived, a violent storm, took in water at Cyprus, and soon after came
in sight of Lampedosa, an island which was then uninhabited. And here a
strange incident occurred.

It happened that King Louis and his company, including Walter Espec and
Guy Muschamp, landed, and, while climbing among the rocks, discovered a
hermitage, with a handsome garden, planted with olives, figs, vines, and
many other fruit trees, and watered by a beautiful spring. On going to
the upper end of the garden, the king and his company found an oratory,
the roof of which was painted white, with a red cross in the centre,
and, in a chamber more retired, two bodies laid toward the East, with
their hands on their breasts. Soon after the king and his company,
conversing about what they had seen, returned on board their ship, and
the skipper was about to weigh anchor, when it was discovered that one
of the warriors who had gone ashore was missing; and this caused much
excitement.

'I think I can account for this,' said the skipper. 'One of the sailors
was desirous of turning hermit, and I doubt not he has seized so fair an
opportunity.'

Walter Espec and Guy Muschamp exchanged glances. It was Beltran the
renegade, who had thus devoted himself to solitude.

'Well,' said the king, on hearing this, 'let three sacks of biscuit be
left on the shore; the man may find them, and, if so, they will serve
for sustenance.'

Soon after this an accident happened to one of the squires on board the
ship of one of the barons of Provence, which, at the time, was about
half a league from that of the king. One morning, finding, as he lay in
bed, that the sea dashed into his eyes and much annoyed him, he ordered
the squire to stop it up. Having in vain attempted to do so from the
inside, the squire went outside, and was endeavouring to stop the hole,
when his foot dipped and he fell into the sea. The ship kept on her way
without the mariners being aware of what had happened, and as the
squire did not attempt to move, those on board the king's ship thought
some piece of furniture had tumbled overboard. On coming nearer,
however, they perceived that it was a human being, and Walter and Guy,
with some mariners, lowered a boat, rowed to the rescue, and succeeded
in saving him.

On being brought on board the king's ship, the squire related how he met
with the accident, and was asked why he did not endeavour to save
himself by swimming.

'In faith,' answered the squire, 'I had no occasion so to do; for, as I
fell into the sea, I cried, "Our Lady of Valbert!" and she supported me
by the shoulders till I was rescued.'

'In good sooth,' remarked the Lord of Joinville, on hearing this, 'it is
truly marvellous; and, to perpetuate the memory of this miracle, I vow
to have it painted on the windows of my chapel at Joinville, and also on
the windows of the church at Blecourt;' and, on reaching home, the noble
seneschal kept his word.

And now the ships tilted over the waters; and, after a voyage of ten
weeks, they reached the Port of Hieros, in front of a castle which, in
right of his spouse, belonged to the king's brother, the Count of Anjou.
Louis, however, was not inclined to land. In vain the queen and his
council advised him to disembark.

'No,' said he, 'I will not land till I can do so on my own territory; I
will not disembark till I arrive at Aigues Mortes.'

Everybody looked extremely disappointed.

'Seneschal,' said Louis, turning to Joinville, 'what is your opinion?'

'Sire,' replied Joinville, 'it seems to me that you ought to land; for
Madame de Bourbon, being once in this very port, put again to sea to
land at Aigues Mortes, and she was tossed about for seven long weeks
before she could make that harbour.'

'Seneschal,' said the king, 'you have persuaded me.' And soon after, to
the joy of the queen and all on board, Louis landed at Hieros, and with
Margaret and his children took up his residence in the castle, to rest
from his fatigues ere setting out for his own dominions. Indeed, the
saint-king was so weak, that Joinville had to carry him in his arms; and
for some time he could hardly support the weight of his armour, or
remain on horseback.

But Louis had yet many years of life before him; and after repairing for
a time to recruit his health at Montpellier, where then, as in after
ages, the medical science eminently flourished, he in the autumn arrived
at Vincennes, and after prostrating himself before the altar of St.
Denis and restoring the oriflamme to the abbot, he proceeded to Paris,
where he was received with profound respect. But the saint-king bore on
his brow traces of the sorrow caused by the multiplied disasters of his
expedition, and still wore the symbol of salvation on his shoulder, as
if to intimate that he was not yet done with the Holy Land.



CHAPTER XLIII.

A ROYAL VISIT.


THE countenance of the King of France did not belie his heart. He was
sad, and much more dejected than when he was in captivity and chains at
Mansourah, bullied by the Saracens, and threatened with the bernicles.
Nor was there any affectation in his continuing to wear the cross on his
shoulder; as he proved, sixteen years later, when he undertook his
ill-fated expedition to Tunis, and died, on a bed of ashes, amid the
ruins of Carthage, looking up to heaven, and exclaiming with his latest
breath, 'I will enter into Thy house; I will worship in Thy holy
tabernacle!'

Meanwhile the saint-king appeared inconsolable, and refused to be
comforted. Even the affectionate welcome accorded him by his people
failed to dispel his gloom or cheer his soul. Day and night he brooded
over his defeats and disasters, and sighed dolefully as his memory
recalled the humiliation to which, in his person, the cause of
Christianity had been exposed at the hands of the Moslem.

Fortunately, at that time, Henry, King of England, being at Bordeaux,
offered Louis a visit; and the saintly monarch, rousing himself to
welcome his royal brother-in-law, made preparations for his reception.
Moreover, when Henry's approach was announced, Louis mounted and went
forth to meet his guest; and, ere long, the King of England with a
magnificent train appeared in sight.

Henry was considerably older than Louis. Indeed, he had now attained the
age of forty-seven. But his frame was vigorous; he had always enjoyed
robust health; and, as he had taken life easily, time and trouble had
not wrought so much havoc on him as on the French monarch. He was of the
middle height, and compactly built, and would have been accounted
handsome, but that one of his eyelids hung down in such a way as to
conceal part of the eyeball, and rather spoiled a face which otherwise
would have been pleasant to look upon. But, such as his person was,
Henry did not neglect its adornment. He had all a Plantagenet's love of
splendour, and the gorgeousness of his dress was such as to excite the
wonder of his contemporaries. By his right hand rode his spouse, Eleanor
of Provence, sister of the Queen of France, no longer young, but still
preserving, in face and form, much of the beauty and grace which, twenty
years earlier, made the name of the second daughter of Raymond Berenger
celebrated at the courts of Europe.

Behind the King and Queen of England, on a black steed, which he
bestrode with remarkable grace, rode their son, Edward, taller by the
head and shoulders than other tall men, and already, though not out of
his teens, renowned as one of the bravest and handsomest princes in
Christendom. With him was his very juvenile wife, Eleanor of Castille,
whom he had recently espoused at Burgos, and brought over the Pyrenees
to Bordeaux, on his way to England.

But the procession did not stop here; for, as the chronicler tells us,
'the King of England had in his own retinue a thousand handsome horses,
ridden by men of dignity and rank, besides waggons and sumpter cattle,
as well as a large number of choice horses, so that the unusual novelty
of the array caused great astonishment to the French.'

The meeting of the two kings was all that could have been desired by the
most enthusiastic advocate of the French alliance who could have been
found in England; and, 'at sight of one another, they rushed into each
other's arms, and after mutual greeting, entered into conversation.'
Naturally enough, the first subject on which they touched was the
crusade from which Louis had just returned; and the saint-king seemed
relieved to meet with a man to whom he could, without derogating from
his dignity, unbosom his griefs.

'My friend,' said Louis, mournfully, 'you cannot imagine how pleasant
your voice is to my ears; let us enjoy ourselves in talking together,
for never, perhaps, shall we have such an opportunity. In truth,' added
he, as they rode on side by side towards Paris, 'it is no easy matter to
tell how much bitterness of spirit I endured while on my pilgrimage
through love of Christ.'

'I believe it, Louis, my cousin,' said Henry quickly.

'And yet,' continued Louis, 'albeit everything turned against me, I
return thanks to the Most High; for, on reflection, I rejoice more in
the patience which God granted me, than if the whole world were to be
made subject to my rule. And yet, my friend, when I think of all my
mishaps, my heart saddens and my soul is heavy.'

'Cousin,' said Henry, kindly, 'beware of casting yourself into a
life-wearying sorrow; for holy men will tell you that it is the
stepmother of souls, and that it absorbs spiritual joy, and generates
prejudice to the Holy Spirit. Recall to your mind the patience of Job,
the endurance of Eustace.' And Henry proceeded to relate much that he
knew, and much that he did not comprehend, of the history of both, and
how, in the end, God rewarded them.

'My friend,' said Louis, 'if I were the only one to suffer the trouble
and disgrace, and if my sins did not fall on the church universal, I
could bear all with equanimity; but, woe is me, through me the whole of
Christendom is enveloped in confusion and shame.'

'And, cousin,' said Henry, 'I perceive that you still wear the symbol of
the cross on your raiment.'

'I do,' replied Louis, 'because I have not concluded my pilgrimage; I
have only suspended it; therefore bear I the sacred symbol. And you
also, Henry, you have taken the cross, and vowed to fight for the Holy
Sepulchre.'

'Cousin,' answered Henry, gravely, but frankly, 'when I heard that you
were a prisoner in the hands of the Saracens, I did take the cross and
vow to go to the rescue; but now that, by God's grace, you are at
liberty, I cannot but think that it is my duty to remain at home and
minister to the welfare of my subjects.'

'And yet,' urged Louis, 'we are told that he who will not take up his
cross and come with me, is not worthy of me; and I know you, Henry, to
be a man who, albeit you are negligent in punishing Jews and heretics,
are distinguished for attention to the things that belong to your
eternal peace, and by your devotion to the Lord.'

'In truth, cousin,' replied Henry, not sorry perhaps, to leave the
subject of the crusade, 'I am regular, at least, in my religious
exercises; for it is my custom, every day, to hear three masses, with
the notes, and, as I wish to hear more, I assiduously assist at the
celebration of private masses; and when the priest elevates the Host, I
usually hold the hand of the priest and kiss it.'

'Nevertheless, my friend,' remarked Louis, 'I cannot but deem that the
attention ought not always to be devoted to the hearing of masses, but
that we ought to hear sermons as often as possible.'

'Mayhap,' said Henry. 'And yet, by God's help, I would rather see a
friend often than hear of him, even although I should hear nothing
spoken of him but good.'

As the two kings conversed they entered Paris side by side, and the
sight which met the eyes of the English might well, indeed, raise their
admiration. The city, with its squares and bridges and churches and
houses built of gypsum, was splendidly decorated with bowers of leaves
and flowers; many of the mansions were three and four storeys in height,
and the windows were crowded with people of both sexes, gaily dressed,
and excited with the spectacle. Everything wore a holiday guise; and the
citizens and the scholars of the University, especially those of English
birth, suspending their readings and disputations, came forth in crowds,
carrying branches of trees, and attended by bands of music. Everybody
appeared eager to accord the royal guests a hearty welcome; and Louis,
after thanking the scholars for showing his friends so much honour,
turned to Henry.

'My friend,' said he, 'I place Paris at your disposal. Where will you be
pleased to take up your abode? There is my palace in the middle of the
city; or, if you prefer taking up your residence at the Old Temple,
which is more roomy, it shall be so arranged.'

'Verily,' answered Henry, 'I think I must choose the Old Temple; for I
hear it is roomy enough to lodge an army, and my company, as you see, is
somewhat numerous; and there it is my purpose to give a banquet on the
morrow, and I trust that you and your princes and nobles will honour it
with your presence.'

'After which,' said Louis, 'you must come as my guest to my palace. Nay,
nay,' continued he, as Henry sought to excuse himself, 'let it be so:
for it is proper for me to perform all the duties of courtesy and
hospitality. In my own kingdom I am lord,' he added, with a smile; 'and
I will be master in my own house.'

'On my faith,' said Walter Espec to Guy Muschamp, as gallantly the
brothers-in-arms rode in the train of the saint-king, 'this is a great
day for England!'

'In truth it is,' replied Guy, gaily. 'Methinks there are Englishmen
enough in Paris to take the city.'



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE FEAST OF KINGS.


ON the day after the arrival of Henry and his queen in Paris, that
marvellous banquet, described as 'the feast of kings,' was given in the
great hall of the Old Temple; and a mighty entertainment it appears to
have been, if we are to judge from the description of the chronicler,
who tells us that 'never in times past was there given such a rich and
splendid banquet, even in the time of Esther, or of Arthur, or of
Charles.' Besides three kings--those of Navarre, and France, and
England, with their queens--there were present eighteen countesses, and
twenty-five counts, and twelve bishops; not to mention a host of noble
knights and ladies--knights illustrious for their valour, and ladies
celebrated for their beauty.

As the guests were ranged according to their rank, some difficulty arose
as to who was to preside. Henry requested Louis to assume the post of
honour; but Louis protested.

'It is more fitting,' said he, 'that the master of the feast should
occupy the chief seat.'

'Not so, my lord king,' urged Henry. 'It is more becoming and proper
for you to sit in the middle; seeing that you are my sovereign and will
be so, for the reason is plain.'

'Henry,' replied Louis, in a low voice, 'would that every one could
obtain his right without injury. But in your case,' added he, alluding
to Henry's claims on Normandy and Anjou, 'the pride of the French would
never permit it. But enough of this.'

Now it happened that the great hall was, according to the continental
custom, hung around with as many bucklers as the four walls would hold,
and among them was the shield of Coeur de Lion; and when the feast was
drawing to a close, the company began to look around and examine them.

'My lord,' said the Count of Anjou, jocularly addressing Henry, 'why
have you invited the French to dine with you in this house of all
others? See, there is the shield of the lion-hearted King Richard. I
marvel that your guests have been able to eat without fear and
trembling.'

Now this remark, uttered as it was in a tone of irony, was calculated to
excite unpleasant sensations, and to recall disagreeable reminiscences;
and Henry looked mortified, and Prince Edward threw his magnificent head
disdainfully backward. But Louis, ever on the watch, hastened to soothe
their rising ire.

'Would to God, Henry!' said he, earnestly, 'that the twelve peers of
France and the barons would agree to my wishes. We should then be
inseparable friends.'

'I believe it, Louis, my cousin,' exclaimed Henry, quickly.

'I grieve, my Lord knows,' continued Louis, 'that our feelings of
affection cannot be cemented on all points; but I cannot bend the
obstinacy of my barons; and therefore I perceive plainly that you will
never recover your rights.'

'Nay, the future is with God and his saints,' said Henry; who, pacific
as he was, by no means relished the idea of the Plantagenets being
perpetually excluded from their inheritance. 'Meanwhile, cousin, there
is peace between us, and let not the feast flag.'

'Henry,' said Louis, pausing, as he approached a painful subject, 'it
grieves me sore to think that, of all the English who landed with me at
Damietta, few, indeed, escaped the carnage of Mansourah. Nevertheless, I
have brought home with me two English squires, who are anxious to return
to their own country, and whom I would fain recommend to your gracious
protection.'

'Cousin,' said Henry, responding with readiness and sympathy, 'for your
sake I will both protect and honour them.'

Walter Espec and Guy Muschamp were immediately summoned, and, marching
up the great hall between the tables, approached the two kings and bent
their knees.

'Both of them,' explained Louis, mildly, 'have rendered good services,
and encountered great perils, and undergone great sufferings for the
cross. One saved my brother, the Count of Poictiers, from captivity; and
the other saved my kinswoman, Adeline de Brienne, from still worse
evils.' And the king looked towards the noble demoiselle, who, princess
as she was, felt her heart beat rapidly, and was under the necessity of
making a strong effort not to betray the interest which she felt in the
fortunes of the young warrior, with whose fate, she had convinced
herself, since the rescue at Passe-Poulain, her own was strangely
intermingled.

'Wherefore,' continued Louis, 'I would fain, ere parting with them, give
them a token of my appreciation of their piety, and the courage they
have shown in hours of danger and disaster, as I have already admonished
them how to act towards their God and their neighbour. Kneel.'

And as they obeyed, Louis gave each of them three blows on the shoulder
with the flat of his weapon, mentioning the name of each, and repeating
the formula--'In the name of God, of St. Michael, and St. George, I dub
thee knight. Rise up, Sir Walter Espec, and Sir Guy Muschamp.'

And as Walter and Guy rose to their feet, blushing with this new and
unexpected honour, Louis added--

'And now you will accompany your king to England, and lose no time in
winning your spurs, so as to justify me, in the eyes of men, for having
thus distinguished you.'

'By St. George, cousin,' said Henry, laughing, 'I fear me that their
patience will be put to the test; for at present I have not an enemy
against whom to lead such redoubted warriors.'

'My lord and father,' said Prince Edward, interposing, 'if the young
knights will enter my service, I will undertake to find them enough of
work to keep their swords from rusting.'

'I doubt it not, Edward,' replied Henry, seriously, 'I doubt it not;'
and, turning to Louis, he added by way of explanation, 'I have gifted my
son with the principality of Wales, and recommended him to employ his
youth in bringing the natives to obedience; and I know enough of the
Welsh to be aware that he has before him an arduous duty. Now, young
gentlemen,' said he, addressing Guy and Walter, 'will you take service
with the prince, and go to war under his banner?'

'In truth, my lord,' answered Walter, 'nothing could be more to my mind
than so to do.'

'And what say you, most doughty warrior?' said Henry, looking towards
the heir of the Muschamps.

'My lord,' replied Guy, cheerfully, 'we are brothers in arms; and, as
says Walter, so say I.'

And when Henry and Queen Eleanor left Paris, and took leave of Louis and
his court at Chartres to return to Bordeaux, Walter Espec and Guy
Muschamp rode off in Prince Edward's train; Guy, laughing as he thought
how much his new dignity would add to his importance when he reached his
father's castle, and Walter, casting many a look behind to catch a last
glance of Adeline de Brienne.

And so ended the adventures of the Boy Crusaders.

       *       *       *       *       *

FOOTNOTE:

[1]Transcriber's Note: Although, generally, handwritten notes are not
preserved in the final text, the proofreaders so enjoyed this edition's
inscription that it was retained. An image can be seen in the html
version.



Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

All instances of "Richard Coeur de Lion" used an oe-ligature. As this
cannot be represented in a plain text file, it is instead noted here.

Both Djédilé and Djedilé were used in this text.

Page 60, "Icingla" changed to "Icinglas" (blood of Icinglas)

Page 65, words obscurred in original, "per xity" changed to "perplexity"
(in some perplexity)

Page 65, " l" changed to "will" (will ever be such)

Page 206, "Geoffery" changed to "Geoffrey" (Nile, and Geoffrey)

Page 242, "Lovis" changed to "Louis" (King Louis from Acre)

Page 281, "Posse-Poulain" changed to "Passe-Poulain" (the rescue at
Passe-Poulain)





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