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´╗┐Title: The Talisman
Author: Scott, Walter, Sir, 1771-1832
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Talisman" ***

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THE TALISMAN

By Sir Walter Scott



INTRODUCTION TO THE TALISMAN.

The "Betrothed" did not greatly please one or two friends, who thought
that it did not well correspond to the general title of "The Crusaders."
They urged, therefore, that, without direct allusion to the manners of
the Eastern tribes, and to the romantic conflicts of the period, the
title of a "Tale of the Crusaders" would resemble the playbill, which
is said to have announced the tragedy of Hamlet, the character of
the Prince of Denmark being left out. On the other hand, I felt the
difficulty of giving a vivid picture of a part of the world with which
I was almost totally unacquainted, unless by early recollections of
the Arabian Nights' Entertainments; and not only did I labour under the
incapacity of ignorance--in which, as far as regards Eastern manners, I
was as thickly wrapped as an Egyptian in his fog--but my contemporaries
were, many of them, as much enlightened upon the subject as if they had
been inhabitants of the favoured land of Goshen. The love of travelling
had pervaded all ranks, and carried the subjects of Britain into all
quarters of the world. Greece, so attractive by its remains of art, by
its struggles for freedom against a Mohammedan tyrant, by its very name,
where every fountain had its classical legend--Palestine, endeared
to the imagination by yet more sacred remembrances--had been of late
surveyed by British eyes, and described by recent travellers. Had I,
therefore, attempted the difficult task of substituting manners of my
own invention, instead of the genuine costume of the East, almost every
traveller I met who had extended his route beyond what was anciently
called "The Grand Tour," had acquired a right, by ocular inspection, to
chastise me for my presumption. Every member of the Travellers' Club who
could pretend to have thrown his shoe over Edom was, by having done so,
constituted my lawful critic and corrector. It occurred, therefore,
that where the author of Anastasius, as well as he of Hadji Baba, had
described the manners and vices of the Eastern nations, not only with
fidelity, but with the humour of Le Sage and the ludicrous power of
Fielding himself, one who was a perfect stranger to the subject must
necessarily produce an unfavourable contrast. The Poet Laureate also,
in the charming tale of "Thalaba," had shown how extensive might be
the researches of a person of acquirements and talent, by dint of
investigation alone, into the ancient doctrines, history, and manners of
the Eastern countries, in which we are probably to look for the cradle
of mankind; Moore, in his "Lalla Rookh," had successfully trod the
same path; in which, too, Byron, joining ocular experience to extensive
reading, had written some of his most attractive poems. In a word, the
Eastern themes had been already so successfully handled by those who
were acknowledged to be masters of their craft, that I was diffident of
making the attempt.

These were powerful objections; nor did they lose force when they
became the subject of anxious reflection, although they did not finally
prevail. The arguments on the other side were, that though I had no hope
of rivalling the contemporaries whom I have mentioned, yet it occurred
to me as possible to acquit myself of the task I was engaged in without
entering into competition with them.

The period relating more immediately to the Crusades which I at last
fixed upon was that at which the warlike character of Richard I., wild
and generous, a pattern of chivalry, with all its extravagant virtues,
and its no less absurd errors, was opposed to that of Saladin, in which
the Christian and English monarch showed all the cruelty and violence
of an Eastern sultan, and Saladin, on the other hand, displayed the deep
policy and prudence of a European sovereign, whilst each contended
which should excel the other in the knightly qualities of bravery and
generosity. This singular contrast afforded, as the author conceived,
materials for a work of fiction possessing peculiar interest. One of the
inferior characters introduced was a supposed relation of Richard Coeur
de Lion--a violation of the truth of history which gave offence to Mr.
Mills, the author of the "History of Chivalry and the Crusades," who was
not, it may be presumed, aware that romantic fiction naturally includes
the power of such invention, which is indeed one of the requisites of
the art.

Prince David of Scotland, who was actually in the host, and was the hero
of some very romantic adventures on his way home, was also pressed into
my service, and constitutes one of my DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

It is true I had already brought upon the field him of the lion heart.
But it was in a more private capacity than he was here to be exhibited
in the Talisman--then as a disguised knight, now in the avowed character
of a conquering monarch; so that I doubted not a name so dear to
Englishmen as that of King Richard I. might contribute to their
amusement for more than once.

I had access to all which antiquity believed, whether of reality or
fable, on the subject of that magnificent warrior, who was the proudest
boast of Europe and their chivalry, and with whose dreadful name the
Saracens, according to a historian of their own country, were wont to
rebuke their startled horses. "Do you think," said they, "that King
Richard is on the track, that you stray so wildly from it?" The most
curious register of the history of King Richard is an ancient romance,
translated originally from the Norman; and at first certainly having a
pretence to be termed a work of chivalry, but latterly becoming stuffed
with the most astonishing and monstrous fables. There is perhaps no
metrical romance upon record where, along with curious and genuine
history, are mingled more absurd and exaggerated incidents. We have
placed in the Appendix to this Introduction the passage of the romance
in which Richard figures as an ogre, or literal cannibal.

A principal incident in the story is that from which the title is
derived. Of all people who ever lived, the Persians were perhaps most
remarkable for their unshaken credulity in amulets, spells, periapts,
and similar charms, framed, it was said, under the influence of
particular planets, and bestowing high medical powers, as well as the
means of advancing men's fortunes in various manners. A story of this
kind, relating to a Crusader of eminence, is often told in the west of
Scotland, and the relic alluded to is still in existence, and even yet
held in veneration.

Sir Simon Lockhart of Lee and Gartland made a considerable figure in the
reigns of Robert the Bruce and of his son David. He was one of the chief
of that band of Scottish chivalry who accompanied James, the Good Lord
Douglas, on his expedition to the Holy Land with the heart of King
Robert Bruce. Douglas, impatient to get at the Saracens, entered into
war with those of Spain, and was killed there. Lockhart proceeded to the
Holy Land with such Scottish knights as had escaped the fate of their
leader and assisted for some time in the wars against the Saracens.

The following adventure is said by tradition to have befallen him:--

He made prisoner in battle an Emir of considerable wealth and
consequence. The aged mother of the captive came to the Christian camp,
to redeem her son from his state of captivity. Lockhart is said to have
fixed the price at which his prisoner should ransom himself; and the
lady, pulling out a large embroidered purse, proceeded to tell down the
ransom, like a mother who pays little respect to gold in comparison of
her son's liberty. In this operation, a pebble inserted in a coin, some
say of the Lower Empire, fell out of the purse, and the Saracen matron
testified so much haste to recover it as gave the Scottish knight a
high idea of its value, when compared with gold or silver. "I will not
consent," he said, "to grant your son's liberty, unless that amulet be
added to his ransom." The lady not only consented to this, but explained
to Sir Simon Lockhart the mode in which the talisman was to be used,
and the uses to which it might be put. The water in which it was dipped
operated as a styptic, as a febrifuge, and possessed other properties as
a medical talisman.

Sir Simon Lockhart, after much experience of the wonders which it
wrought, brought it to his own country, and left it to his heirs, by
whom, and by Clydesdale in general, it was, and is still, distinguished
by the name of the Lee-penny, from the name of his native seat of Lee.

The most remarkable part of its history, perhaps, was that it so
especially escaped condemnation when the Church of Scotland chose to
impeach many other cures which savoured of the miraculous, as occasioned
by sorcery, and censured the appeal to them, "excepting only that to
the amulet, called the Lee-penny, to which it had pleased God to annex
certain healing virtues which the Church did not presume to condemn." It
still, as has been said, exists, and its powers are sometimes resorted
to. Of late, they have been chiefly restricted to the cure of persons
bitten by mad dogs; and as the illness in such cases frequently arises
from imagination, there can be no reason for doubting that water which
has been poured on the Lee-penny furnishes a congenial cure.

Such is the tradition concerning the talisman, which the author has
taken the liberty to vary in applying it to his own purposes.

Considerable liberties have also been taken with the truth of history,
both with respect to Conrade of Montserrat's life, as well as his death.
That Conrade, however, was reckoned the enemy of Richard is agreed both
in history and romance. The general opinion of the terms upon which they
stood may be guessed from the proposal of the Saracens that the Marquis
of Montserrat should be invested with certain parts of Syria, which they
were to yield to the Christians. Richard, according to the romance which
bears his name, "could no longer repress his fury. The Marquis he said,
was a traitor, who had robbed the Knights Hospitallers of sixty thousand
pounds, the present of his father Henry; that he was a renegade, whose
treachery had occasioned the loss of Acre; and he concluded by a solemn
oath, that he would cause him to be drawn to pieces by wild horses, if
he should ever venture to pollute the Christian camp by his presence.
Philip attempted to intercede in favour of the Marquis, and throwing
down his glove, offered to become a pledge for his fidelity to the
Christians; but his offer was rejected, and he was obliged to give way
to Richard's impetuosity."--HISTORY OF CHIVALRY.

Conrade of Montserrat makes a considerable figure in those wars, and was
at length put to death by one of the followers of the Scheik, or Old Man
of the Mountain; nor did Richard remain free of the suspicion of having
instigated his death.

It may be said, in general, that most of the incidents introduced in
the following tale are fictitious, and that reality, where it exists, is
only retained in the characters of the piece.

ABBOTSFORD, 1st July, 1832



APPENDIX TO INTRODUCTION.

While warring in the Holy Land, Richard was seized with an ague.

The best leeches of the camp were unable to effect the cure of the
King's disease; but the prayers of the army were more successful. He
became convalescent, and the first symptom of his recovery was a violent
longing for pork. But pork was not likely to be plentiful in a country
whose inhabitants had an abhorrence for swine's flesh; and

     "Though his men should be hanged,
     They ne might, in that countrey,
     For gold, ne silver, ne no money,
     No pork find, take, ne get,
     That King Richard might aught of eat.
     An old knight with Richard biding,
     When he heard of that tiding,
     That the king's wants were swyche,
     To the steward he spake privyliche--
     "Our lord the king sore is sick, I wis,
     After porck he alonged is;
     Ye may none find to selle;
     No man be hardy him so to telle!
     If he did he might die.
     Now behoves to done as I shall say,
     Tho' he wete nought of that.
     Take a Saracen, young and fat;
     In haste let the thief be slain,
     Opened, and his skin off flayn;
     And sodden full hastily,
     With powder and with spicery,
     And with saffron of good colour.
     When the king feels thereof savour,
     Out of ague if he be went,
     He shall have thereto good talent.
     When he has a good taste,
     And eaten well a good repast,
     And supped of the BREWIS [Broth] a sup,
     Slept after and swet a drop,
     Through Goddis help and my counsail,
     Soon he shall be fresh and hail.'
     The sooth to say, at wordes few,
     Slain and sodden was the heathen shrew.
     Before the king it was forth brought:
     Quod his men, 'Lord, we have pork sought;
     Eates and sups of the brewis SOOTE,[Sweet]
     Thorough grace of God it shall be your boot.'
     Before King Richard carff a knight,
     He ate faster than he carve might.
     The king ate the flesh and GNEW [Gnawed] the bones,
     And drank well after for the nonce.
     And when he had eaten enough,
     His folk hem turned away, and LOUGH.[Laughed]
     He lay still and drew in his arm;
     His chamberlain him wrapped warm.
     He lay and slept, and swet a stound,
     And became whole and sound.
     King Richard clad him and arose,
     And walked abouten in the close."

An attack of the Saracens was repelled by Richard in person, the
consequence of which is told in the following lines:--

     "When King Richard had rested a whyle,
     A knight his arms 'gan unlace,
     Him to comfort and solace.
     Him was brought a sop in wine.
     'The head of that ilke swine,
     That I of ate!' (the cook he bade,)
     'For feeble I am, and faint and mad.
     Of mine evil now I am fear;
     Serve me therewith at my soupere!'
     Quod the cook, 'That head I ne have.'
     Then said the king, 'So God me save,
     But I see the head of that swine,
     For sooth, thou shalt lesen thine!'
     The cook saw none other might be;
     He fet the head and let him see.
     He fell on knees, and made a cry--
     'Lo, here the head!  my Lord, mercy!'"

The cook had certainly some reason to fear that his master would be
struck with horror at the recollection of the dreadful banquet to which
he owed his recovery; but his fears were soon dissipated.

     "The swarte vis [Black face] when the king seeth,
     His black beard and white teeth,
     How his lippes grinned wide,
     'What devil is this?' the king cried,
     And 'gan to laugh as he were wode.
     'What!  is Saracen's flesh thus good?
     That never erst I nought wist!
     By God's death and his uprist,
     Shall we never die for default,
     While we may in any assault,
     Slee Saracens, the flesh may take,
     And seethen and roasten and do hem bake,
     [And] Gnawen her flesh to the bones!
     Now I have it proved once,
     For hunger ere I be wo,
     I and my folk shall eat mo!"'

The besieged now offered to surrender, upon conditions of safety to the
inhabitants; while all the public treasure, military machines, and arms
were delivered to the victors, together with the further ransom of
one hundred thousand bezants. After this capitulation, the following
extraordinary scene took place. We shall give it in the words of the
humorous and amiable George Ellis, the collector and the editor of these
Romances:--

"Though the garrison had faithfully performed the other articles of
their contract, they were unable to restore the cross, which was not
in their possession, and were therefore treated by the Christians
with great cruelty. Daily reports of their sufferings were carried to
Saladin; and as many of them were persons of the highest distinction,
that monarch, at the solicitation of their friends, dispatched an
embassy to King Richard with magnificent presents, which he offered
for the ransom of the captives. The ambassadors were persons the most
respectable from their age, their rank, and their eloquence. They
delivered their message in terms of the utmost humility; and without
arraigning the justice of the conqueror in his severe treatment of their
countrymen, only solicited a period to that severity, laying at his feet
the treasures with which they were entrusted, and pledging themselves
and their master for the payment of any further sums which he might
demand as the price of mercy.

     "King Richard spake with wordes mild.
     'The gold to take, God me shield!
     Among you partes [Divide] every charge.
     I brought in shippes and in barge,
     More gold and silver with me,
     Than has your lord, and swilke three.
     To his treasure have I no need!
     But for my love I you bid,
     To meat with me that ye dwell;
     And afterward I shall you tell.
     Thorough counsel I shall you answer,
     What BODE [Message] ye shall to your lord bear.

"The invitation was gratefully accepted. Richard, in the meantime, gave
secret orders to his marshal that he should repair to the prison,
select a certain number of the most distinguished captives, and, after
carefully noting their names on a roll of parchment, cause their heads
to be instantly struck off; that these heads should be delivered to the
cook, with instructions to clear away the hair, and, after boiling
them in a cauldron, to distribute them on several platters, one to
each guest, observing to fasten on the forehead of each the piece of
parchment expressing the name and family of the victim.

     "'An hot head bring me beforn,
     As I were well apayed withall,
     Eat thereof fast I shall;
     As it were a tender chick,
     To see how the others will like.'

"This horrible order was punctually executed. At noon the guests were
summoned to wash by the music of the waits. The king took his seat
attended by the principal officers of his court, at the high table, and
the rest of the company were marshalled at a long table below him.
On the cloth were placed portions of salt at the usual distances, but
neither bread, wine, nor water. The ambassadors, rather surprised at
this omission, but still free from apprehension, awaited in silence
the arrival of the dinner, which was announced by the sound of pipes,
trumpets, and tabours; and beheld, with horror and dismay, the unnatural
banquet introduced by the steward and his officers. Yet their sentiments
of disgust and abhorrence, and even their fears, were for a time
suspended by their curiosity. Their eyes were fixed on the king, who,
without the slightest change of countenance, swallowed the morsels as
fast as they could be supplied by the knight who carved them.

     "Every man then poked other;
     They said, 'This is the devil's brother,
     That slays our men, and thus hem eats!'

"Their attention was then involuntarily fixed on the smoking heads
before them. They traced in the swollen and distorted features the
resemblance of a friend or near relation, and received from the
fatal scroll which accompanied each dish the sad assurance that this
resemblance was not imaginary. They sat in torpid silence, anticipating
their own fate in that of their countrymen; while their ferocious
entertainer, with fury in his eyes, but with courtesy on his lips,
insulted them by frequent invitations to merriment. At length this first
course was removed, and its place supplied by venison, cranes, and other
dainties, accompanied by the richest wines. The king then apologized to
them for what had passed, which he attributed to his ignorance of their
taste; and assured them of his religious respect for their characters as
ambassadors, and of his readiness to grant them a safe-conduct for their
return. This boon was all that they now wished to claim; and

     "King Richard spake to an old man,
     'Wendes home to your Soudan!
     His melancholy that ye abate;
     And sayes that ye came too late.
     Too slowly was your time y-guessed;
     Ere ye came, the flesh was dressed,
     That men shoulden serve with me,
     Thus at noon, and my meynie.
     Say him, it shall him nought avail,
     Though he for-bar us our vitail,
     Bread, wine, fish, flesh, salmon, and conger;
     Of us none shall die with hunger,
     While we may wenden to fight,
     And slay the Saracens downright,
     Wash the flesh, and roast the head.
     With 0 [One] Saracen I may well feed
     Well a nine or a ten
     Of my good Christian men.
     King Richard shall warrant,
     There is no flesh so nourissant
     Unto an English man,
     Partridge, plover, heron, ne swan,
     Cow ne ox, sheep ne swine,
     As the head of a Sarazyn.
     There he is fat, and thereto tender,
     And my men be lean and slender.
     While any Saracen quick be,
     Livand now in this Syrie,
     For meat will we nothing care.
     Abouten fast we shall rare,
     And every day we shall eat
     All as many as we may get.
     To England will we nought gon,
     Till they be eaten every one.'"


      ELLIS'S SPECIMENS OF EARLY ENGLISH METRICEL ROMANCES.

The reader may be curious to know owing to what circumstances so
extraordinary an invention as that which imputed cannibalism to the King
of England should have found its way into his history. Mr. James, to
whom we owe so much that is curious, seems to have traced the origin of
this extraordinary rumour.

"With the army of the cross also was a multitude of men," the same
author declares, "who made it a profession to be without money. They
walked barefoot, carried no arms, and even preceded the beasts of burden
in their march, living upon roots and herbs, and presenting a spectacle
both disgusting and pitiable.

"A Norman, who, according to all accounts, was of noble birth, but who,
having lost his horse, continued to follow as a foot soldier, took
the strange resolution of putting himself at the head of this race
of vagabonds, who willingly received him as their king. Amongst the
Saracens these men became well known under the name of THAFURS (which
Guibert translates TRUDENTES), and were beheld with great horror
from the general persuasion that they fed on the dead bodies of their
enemies; a report which was occasionally justified, and which the king
of the Thafurs took care to encourage. This respectable monarch was
frequently in the habit of stopping his followers, one by one, in a
narrow defile, and of causing them to be searched carefully, lest the
possession of the least sum of money should render them unworthy of the
name of his subjects. If even two sous were found upon any one, he
was instantly expelled the society of his tribe, the king bidding him
contemptuously buy arms and fight.

"This troop, so far from being cumbersome to the army, was infinitely
serviceable, carrying burdens, bringing in forage, provisions, and
tribute; working the machines in the sieges; and, above all, spreading
consternation among the Turks, who feared death from the lances of the
knights less than that further consummation they heard of under the
teeth of the Thafurs." [James's "History of Chivalry."]

It is easy to conceive that an ignorant minstrel, finding the taste and
ferocity of the Thafurs commemorated in the historical accounts of the
Holy Wars, has ascribed their practices and propensities to the Monarch
of England, whose ferocity was considered as an object of exaggeration
as legitimate as his valour.

ABBOTSFORD, 1st July, 1832.



TALES OF THE CRUSADERS. TALE II.--THE TALISMAN.



CHAPTER I.

     They, too, retired
     To the wilderness, but 'twas with arms.
         PARADISE REGAINED.

The burning sun of Syria had not yet attained its highest point in
the horizon, when a knight of the Red Cross, who had left his distant
northern home and joined the host of the Crusaders in Palestine, was
pacing slowly along the sandy deserts which lie in the vicinity of the
Dead Sea, or, as it is called, the Lake Asphaltites, where the waves of
the Jordan pour themselves into an inland sea, from which there is no
discharge of waters.

The warlike pilgrim had toiled among cliffs and precipices during the
earlier part of the morning. More lately, issuing from those rocky
and dangerous defiles, he had entered upon that great plain, where
the accursed cities provoked, in ancient days, the direct and dreadful
vengeance of the Omnipotent.

The toil, the thirst, the dangers of the way, were forgotten, as the
traveller recalled the fearful catastrophe which had converted into an
arid and dismal wilderness the fair and fertile valley of Siddim, once
well watered, even as the Garden of the Lord, now a parched and blighted
waste, condemned to eternal sterility.

Crossing himself, as he viewed the dark mass of rolling waters, in
colour as in duality unlike those of any other lake, the traveller
shuddered as he remembered that beneath these sluggish waves lay the
once proud cities of the plain, whose grave was dug by the thunder of
the heavens, or the eruption of subterraneous fire, and whose remains
were hid, even by that sea which holds no living fish in its bosom,
bears no skiff on its surface, and, as if its own dreadful bed were the
only fit receptacle for its sullen waters, sends not, like other lakes,
a tribute to the ocean. The whole land around, as in the days of Moses,
was "brimstone and salt; it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass
groweth thereon." The land as well as the lake might be termed dead, as
producing nothing having resemblance to vegetation, and even the very
air was entirely devoid of its ordinary winged inhabitants, deterred
probably by the odour of bitumen and sulphur which the burning sun
exhaled from the waters of the lake in steaming clouds, frequently
assuming the appearance of waterspouts. Masses of the slimy and
sulphureous substance called naphtha, which floated idly on the sluggish
and sullen waves, supplied those rolling clouds with new vapours, and
afforded awful testimony to the truth of the Mosaic history.

Upon this scene of desolation the sun shone with almost intolerable
splendour, and all living nature seemed to have hidden itself from the
rays, excepting the solitary figure which moved through the flitting
sand at a foot's pace, and appeared the sole breathing thing on the wide
surface of the plain. The dress of the rider and the accoutrements of
his horse were peculiarly unfit for the traveller in such a country. A
coat of linked mail, with long sleeves, plated gauntlets, and a steel
breastplate, had not been esteemed a sufficient weight of armour; there
were also his triangular shield suspended round his neck, and his barred
helmet of steel, over which he had a hood and collar of mail, which
was drawn around the warrior's shoulders and throat, and filled up the
vacancy between the hauberk and the headpiece. His lower limbs were
sheathed, like his body, in flexible mail, securing the legs and thighs,
while the feet rested in plated shoes, which corresponded with the
gauntlets. A long, broad, straight-shaped, double-edged falchion, with
a handle formed like a cross, corresponded with a stout poniard on the
other side. The knight also bore, secured to his saddle, with one end
resting on his stirrup, the long steel-headed lance, his own proper
weapon, which, as he rode, projected backwards, and displayed its little
pennoncelle, to dally with the faint breeze, or drop in the dead calm.
To this cumbrous equipment must be added a surcoat of embroidered cloth,
much frayed and worn, which was thus far useful that it excluded the
burning rays of the sun from the armour, which they would otherwise have
rendered intolerable to the wearer. The surcoat bore, in several places,
the arms of the owner, although much defaced. These seemed to be a
couchant leopard, with the motto, "I sleep; wake me not." An outline of
the same device might be traced on his shield, though many a blow had
almost effaced the painting. The flat top of his cumbrous cylindrical
helmet was unadorned with any crest. In retaining their own unwieldy
defensive armour, the Northern Crusaders seemed to set at defiance the
nature of the climate and country to which they had come to war.

The accoutrements of the horse were scarcely less massive and unwieldy
than those of the rider. The animal had a heavy saddle plated with
steel, uniting in front with a species of breastplate, and behind with
defensive armour made to cover the loins. Then there was a steel axe,
or hammer, called a mace-of-arms, and which hung to the saddle-bow. The
reins were secured by chain-work, and the front-stall of the bridle was
a steel plate, with apertures for the eyes and nostrils, having in the
midst a short, sharp pike, projecting from the forehead of the horse
like the horn of the fabulous unicorn.

But habit had made the endurance of this load of panoply a second
nature, both to the knight and his gallant charger. Numbers, indeed,
of the Western warriors who hurried to Palestine died ere they became
inured to the burning climate; but there were others to whom that
climate became innocent and even friendly, and among this fortunate
number was the solitary horseman who now traversed the border of the
Dead Sea.

Nature, which cast his limbs in a mould of uncommon strength, fitted
to wear his linked hauberk with as much ease as if the meshes had been
formed of cobwebs, had endowed him with a constitution as strong as his
limbs, and which bade defiance to almost all changes of climate, as well
as to fatigue and privations of every kind. His disposition seemed, in
some degree, to partake of the qualities of his bodily frame; and as
the one possessed great strength and endurance, united with the power of
violent exertion, the other, under a calm and undisturbed semblance, had
much of the fiery and enthusiastic love of glory which constituted the
principal attribute of the renowned Norman line, and had rendered
them sovereigns in every corner of Europe where they had drawn their
adventurous swords.

It was not, however, to all the race that fortune proposed such tempting
rewards; and those obtained by the solitary knight during two years'
campaign in Palestine had been only temporal fame, and, as he was taught
to believe, spiritual privileges. Meantime, his slender stock of money
had melted away, the rather that he did not pursue any of the ordinary
modes by which the followers of the Crusade condescended to recruit
their diminished resources at the expense of the people of Palestine--he
exacted no gifts from the wretched natives for sparing their possessions
when engaged in warfare with the Saracens, and he had not availed
himself of any opportunity of enriching himself by the ransom of
prisoners of consequence. The small train which had followed him from
his native country had been gradually diminished, as the means of
maintaining them disappeared, and his only remaining squire was at
present on a sick-bed, and unable to attend his master, who travelled,
as we have seen, singly and alone. This was of little consequence to the
Crusader, who was accustomed to consider his good sword as his safest
escort, and devout thoughts as his best companion.

Nature had, however, her demands for refreshment and repose even on
the iron frame and patient disposition of the Knight of the Sleeping
Leopard; and at noon, when the Dead Sea lay at some distance on his
right, he joyfully hailed the sight of two or three palm-trees, which
arose beside the well which was assigned for his mid-day station. His
good horse, too, which had plodded forward with the steady endurance of
his master, now lifted his head, expanded his nostrils, and quickened
his pace, as if he snuffed afar off the living waters which marked the
place of repose and refreshment. But labour and danger were doomed to
intervene ere the horse or horseman reached the desired spot.

As the Knight of the Couchant Leopard continued to fix his eyes
attentively on the yet distant cluster of palm-trees, it seemed to him
as if some object was moving among them. The distant form separated
itself from the trees, which partly hid its motions, and advanced
towards the knight with a speed which soon showed a mounted horseman,
whom his turban, long spear, and green caftan floating in the wind, on
his nearer approach showed to be a Saracen cavalier. "In the desert,"
saith an Eastern proverb, "no man meets a friend." The Crusader was
totally indifferent whether the infidel, who now approached on his
gallant barb as if borne on the wings of an eagle, came as friend or
foe--perhaps, as a vowed champion of the Cross, he might rather have
preferred the latter. He disengaged his lance from his saddle, seized
it with the right hand, placed it in rest with its point half elevated,
gathered up the reins in the left, waked his horse's mettle with
the spur, and prepared to encounter the stranger with the calm
self-confidence belonging to the victor in many contests.

The Saracen came on at the speedy gallop of an Arab horseman, managing
his steed more by his limbs and the inflection of his body than by any
use of the reins, which hung loose in his left hand; so that he was
enabled to wield the light, round buckler of the skin of the rhinoceros,
ornamented with silver loops, which he wore on his arm, swinging it as
if he meant to oppose its slender circle to the formidable thrust of the
Western lance. His own long spear was not couched or levelled like that
of his antagonist, but grasped by the middle with his right hand, and
brandished at arm's-length above his head. As the cavalier approached
his enemy at full career, he seemed to expect that the Knight of the
Leopard should put his horse to the gallop to encounter him. But the
Christian knight, well acquainted with the customs of Eastern warriors,
did not mean to exhaust his good horse by any unnecessary exertion; and,
on the contrary, made a dead halt, confident that if the enemy advanced
to the actual shock, his own weight, and that of his powerful charger,
would give him sufficient advantage, without the additional momentum
of rapid motion. Equally sensible and apprehensive of such a probable
result, the Saracen cavalier, when he had approached towards the
Christian within twice the length of his lance, wheeled his steed to the
left with inimitable dexterity, and rode twice around his antagonist,
who, turning without quitting his ground, and presenting his front
constantly to his enemy, frustrated his attempts to attack him on an
unguarded point; so that the Saracen, wheeling his horse, was fain to
retreat to the distance of a hundred yards. A second time, like a hawk
attacking a heron, the heathen renewed the charge, and a second time
was fain to retreat without coming to a close struggle. A third time he
approached in the same manner, when the Christian knight, desirous to
terminate this illusory warfare, in which he might at length have been
worn out by the activity of his foeman, suddenly seized the mace which
hung at his saddle-bow, and, with a strong hand and unerring aim,
hurled it against the head of the Emir, for such and not less his enemy
appeared. The Saracen was just aware of the formidable missile in time
to interpose his light buckler betwixt the mace and his head; but the
violence of the blow forced the buckler down on his turban, and though
that defence also contributed to deaden its violence, the Saracen was
beaten from his horse. Ere the Christian could avail himself of this
mishap, his nimble foeman sprung from the ground, and, calling on his
steed, which instantly returned to his side, he leaped into his seat
without touching the stirrup, and regained all the advantage of which
the Knight of the Leopard hoped to deprive him. But the latter had
in the meanwhile recovered his mace, and the Eastern cavalier, who
remembered the strength and dexterity with which his antagonist had
aimed it, seemed to keep cautiously out of reach of that weapon of which
he had so lately felt the force, while he showed his purpose of waging a
distant warfare with missile weapons of his own. Planting his long spear
in the sand at a distance from the scene of combat, he strung, with
great address, a short bow, which he carried at his back; and putting
his horse to the gallop, once more described two or three circles of
a wider extent than formerly, in the course of which he discharged six
arrows at the Christian with such unerring skill that the goodness of
his harness alone saved him from being wounded in as many places. The
seventh shaft apparently found a less perfect part of the armour, and
the Christian dropped heavily from his horse. But what was the surprise
of the Saracen, when, dismounting to examine the condition of his
prostrate enemy, he found himself suddenly within the grasp of the
European, who had had recourse to this artifice to bring his enemy
within his reach! Even in this deadly grapple the Saracen was saved by
his agility and presence of mind. He unloosed the sword-belt, in which
the Knight of the Leopard had fixed his hold, and, thus eluding his
fatal grasp, mounted his horse, which seemed to watch his motions with
the intelligence of a human being, and again rode off. But in the last
encounter the Saracen had lost his sword and his quiver of arrows, both
of which were attached to the girdle which he was obliged to abandon. He
had also lost his turban in the struggle.

These disadvantages seemed to incline the Moslem to a truce. He
approached the Christian with his right hand extended, but no longer in
a menacing attitude.

"There is truce betwixt our nations," he said, in the lingua franca
commonly used for the purpose of communication with the Crusaders;
"wherefore should there be war betwixt thee and me? Let there be peace
betwixt us."

"I am well contented," answered he of the Couchant Leopard; "but what
security dost thou offer that thou wilt observe the truce?"

"The word of a follower of the Prophet was never broken," answered the
Emir. "It is thou, brave Nazarene, from whom I should demand security,
did I not know that treason seldom dwells with courage."

The Crusader felt that the confidence of the Moslem made him ashamed of
his own doubts.

"By the cross of my sword," he said, laying his hand on the weapon as
he spoke, "I will be true companion to thee, Saracen, while our fortune
wills that we remain in company together."

"By Mohammed, Prophet of God, and by Allah, God of the Prophet," replied
his late foeman, "there is not treachery in my heart towards thee. And
now wend we to yonder fountain, for the hour of rest is at hand, and
the stream had hardly touched my lip when I was called to battle by thy
approach."

The Knight of the Couchant Leopard yielded a ready and courteous assent;
and the late foes, without an angry look or gesture of doubt, rode side
by side to the little cluster of palm-trees.



CHAPTER II.

Times of danger have always, and in a peculiar degree, their seasons
of good-will and security; and this was particularly so in the ancient
feudal ages, in which, as the manners of the period had assigned war
to be the chief and most worthy occupation of mankind, the intervals
of peace, or rather of truce, were highly relished by those warriors to
whom they were seldom granted, and endeared by the very circumstances
which rendered them transitory. It is not worth while preserving any
permanent enmity against a foe whom a champion has fought with to-day,
and may again stand in bloody opposition to on the next morning. The
time and situation afforded so much room for the ebullition of violent
passions, that men, unless when peculiarly opposed to each other,
or provoked by the recollection of private and individual wrongs,
cheerfully enjoyed in each other's society the brief intervals of
pacific intercourse which a warlike life admitted.

The distinction of religions, nay, the fanatical zeal which animated the
followers of the Cross and of the Crescent against each other, was much
softened by a feeling so natural to generous combatants, and especially
cherished by the spirit of chivalry. This last strong impulse had
extended itself gradually from the Christians to their mortal enemies
the Saracens, both of Spain and of Palestine. The latter were, indeed,
no longer the fanatical savages who had burst from the centre of Arabian
deserts, with the sabre in one hand and the Koran in the other, to
inflict death or the faith of Mohammed, or, at the best, slavery and
tribute, upon all who dared to oppose the belief of the prophet of
Mecca. These alternatives indeed had been offered to the unwarlike
Greeks and Syrians; but in contending with the Western Christians,
animated by a zeal as fiery as their own, and possessed of as
unconquerable courage, address, and success in arms, the Saracens
gradually caught a part of their manners, and especially of those
chivalrous observances which were so well calculated to charm the minds
of a proud and conquering people. They had their tournaments and games
of chivalry; they had even their knights, or some rank analogous; and
above all, the Saracens observed their plighted faith with an accuracy
which might sometimes put to shame those who owned a better religion.
Their truces, whether national or betwixt individuals, were faithfully
observed; and thus it was that war, in itself perhaps the greatest
of evils, yet gave occasion for display of good faith, generosity,
clemency, and even kindly affections, which less frequently occur in
more tranquil periods, where the passions of men, experiencing wrongs or
entertaining quarrels which cannot be brought to instant decision, are
apt to smoulder for a length of time in the bosoms of those who are so
unhappy as to be their prey.

It was under the influence of these milder feelings which soften the
horrors of warfare that the Christian and Saracen, who had so lately
done their best for each other's mutual destruction, rode at a slow pace
towards the fountain of palm-trees to which the Knight of the Couchant
Leopard had been tending, when interrupted in mid-passage by his
fleet and dangerous adversary. Each was wrapt for some time in his own
reflections, and took breath after an encounter which had threatened to
be fatal to one or both; and their good horses seemed no less to enjoy
the interval of repose.

That of the Saracen, however, though he had been forced into much the
more violent and extended sphere of motion, appeared to have suffered
less from fatigue than the charger of the European knight. The sweat
hung still clammy on the limbs of the latter, when those of the noble
Arab were completely dried by the interval of tranquil exercise, all
saving the foam-flakes which were still visible on his bridle and
housings. The loose soil on which he trod so much augmented the distress
of the Christian's horse, heavily loaded by his own armour and the
weight of his rider, that the latter jumped from his saddle, and led his
charger along the deep dust of the loamy soil, which was burnt in the
sun into a substance more impalpable than the finest sand, and thus
gave the faithful horse refreshment at the expense of his own additional
toil; for, iron-sheathed as he was, he sunk over the mailed shoes at
every step which he placed on a surface so light and unresisting.

"You are right," said the Saracen--and it was the first word that either
had spoken since their truce was concluded; "your strong horse deserves
your care. But what do you in the desert with an animal which sinks over
the fetlock at every step as if he would plant each foot deep as the
root of a date-tree?"

"Thou speakest rightly, Saracen," said the Christian knight, not
delighted at the tone with which the infidel criticized his favourite
steed--"rightly, according to thy knowledge and observation. But my good
horse hath ere now borne me, in mine own land, over as wide a lake as
thou seest yonder spread out behind us, yet not wet one hair above his
hoof."

The Saracen looked at him with as much surprise as his manners permitted
him to testify, which was only expressed by a slight approach to a
disdainful smile, that hardly curled perceptibly the broad, thick
moustache which enveloped his upper lip.

"It is justly spoken," he said, instantly composing himself to his usual
serene gravity; "List to a Frank, and hear a fable."

"Thou art not courteous, misbeliever," replied the Crusader, "to doubt
the word of a dubbed knight; and were it not that thou speakest in
ignorance, and not in malice, our truce had its ending ere it is well
begun. Thinkest thou I tell thee an untruth when I say that I, one of
five hundred horsemen, armed in complete mail, have ridden--ay, and
ridden for miles, upon water as solid as the crystal, and ten times less
brittle?"

"What wouldst thou tell me?" answered the Moslem. "Yonder inland sea
thou dost point at is peculiar in this, that, by the especial curse of
God, it suffereth nothing to sink in its waves, but wafts them away, and
casts them on its margin; but neither the Dead Sea, nor any of the
seven oceans which environ the earth, will endure on their surface the
pressure of a horse's foot, more than the Red Sea endured to sustain the
advance of Pharaoh and his host."

"You speak truth after your knowledge, Saracen," said the Christian
knight; "and yet, trust me, I fable not, according to mine. Heat, in
this climate, converts the soil into something almost as unstable
as water; and in my land cold often converts the water itself into
a substance as hard as rock. Let us speak of this no longer, for
the thoughts of the calm, clear, blue refulgence of a winter's lake,
glimmering to stars and moonbeam, aggravate the horrors of this fiery
desert, where, methinks, the very air which we breathe is like the
vapour of a fiery furnace seven times heated."

The Saracen looked on him with some attention, as if to discover in
what sense he was to understand words which, to him, must have appeared
either to contain something of mystery or of imposition. At length he
seemed determined in what manner to receive the language of his new
companion.

"You are," he said, "of a nation that loves to laugh, and you make sport
with yourselves, and with others, by telling what is impossible, and
reporting what never chanced. Thou art one of the knights of France, who
hold it for glee and pastime to GAB, as they term it, of exploits that
are beyond human power. [Gaber. This French word signified a sort of
sport much used among the French chivalry, which consisted in vying
with each other in making the most romantic gasconades. The verb and the
meaning are retained in Scottish.] I were wrong to challenge, for the
time, the privilege of thy speech, since boasting is more natural to
thee than truth."

"I am not of their land, neither of their fashion," said the Knight,
"which is, as thou well sayest, to GAB of that which they dare not
undertake--or, undertaking, cannot perfect. But in this I have imitated
their folly, brave Saracen, that in talking to thee of what thou canst
not comprehend, I have, even in speaking most simple truth, fully
incurred the character of a braggart in thy eyes; so, I pray you, let my
words pass."

They had now arrived at the knot of palm-trees and the fountain which
welled out from beneath their shade in sparkling profusion.

We have spoken of a moment of truce in the midst of war; and this, a
spot of beauty in the midst of a sterile desert, was scarce less dear
to the imagination. It was a scene which, perhaps, would elsewhere have
deserved little notice; but as the single speck, in a boundless
horizon, which promised the refreshment of shade and living water, these
blessings, held cheap where they are common, rendered the fountain and
its neighbourhood a little paradise. Some generous or charitable hand,
ere yet the evil days of Palestine began, had walled in and arched over
the fountain, to preserve it from being absorbed in the earth, or choked
by the flitting clouds of dust with which the least breath of wind
covered the desert. The arch was now broken, and partly ruinous; but it
still so far projected over and covered in the fountain that it excluded
the sun in a great measure from its waters, which, hardly touched by a
straggling beam, while all around was blazing, lay in a steady repose,
alike delightful to the eye and the imagination. Stealing from under the
arch, they were first received in a marble basin, much defaced indeed,
but still cheering the eye, by showing that the place was anciently
considered as a station, that the hand of man had been there and that
man's accommodation had been in some measure attended to. The thirsty
and weary traveller was reminded by these signs that others had suffered
similar difficulties, reposed in the same spot, and, doubtless, found
their way in safety to a more fertile country. Again, the scarce visible
current which escaped from the basin served to nourish the few trees
which surrounded the fountain, and where it sunk into the ground and
disappeared, its refreshing presence was acknowledged by a carpet of
velvet verdure.

In this delightful spot the two warriors halted, and each, after his own
fashion, proceeded to relieve his horse from saddle, bit, and rein,
and permitted the animals to drink at the basin, ere they refreshed
themselves from the fountain head, which arose under the vault. They
then suffered the steeds to go loose, confident that their interest, as
well as their domesticated habits, would prevent their straying from the
pure water and fresh grass.

Christian and Saracen next sat down together on the turf, and produced
each the small allowance of store which they carried for their own
refreshment. Yet, ere they severally proceeded to their scanty meal,
they eyed each other with that curiosity which the close and doubtful
conflict in which they had been so lately engaged was calculated to
inspire. Each was desirous to measure the strength, and form some
estimate of the character, of an adversary so formidable; and each was
compelled to acknowledge that, had he fallen in the conflict, it had
been by a noble hand.

The champions formed a striking contrast to each other in person and
features, and might have formed no inaccurate representatives of their
different nations. The Frank seemed a powerful man, built after the
ancient Gothic cast of form, with light brown hair, which, on the
removal of his helmet, was seen to curl thick and profusely over his
head. His features had acquired, from the hot climate, a hue much darker
than those parts of his neck which were less frequently exposed to view,
or than was warranted by his full and well-opened blue eye, the colour
of his hair, and of the moustaches which thickly shaded his upper
lip, while his chin was carefully divested of beard, after the Norman
fashion. His nose was Grecian and well formed; his mouth rather large
in proportion, but filled with well-set, strong, and beautifully white
teeth; his head small, and set upon the neck with much grace. His age
could not exceed thirty, but if the effects of toil and climate were
allowed for, might be three or four years under that period. His form
was tall, powerful, and athletic, like that of a man whose strength
might, in later life, become unwieldy, but which was hitherto united
with lightness and activity. His hands, when he withdrew the mailed
gloves, were long, fair, and well-proportioned; the wrist-bones
peculiarly large and strong; and the arms remarkably well-shaped and
brawny. A military hardihood and careless frankness of expression
characterized his language and his motions; and his voice had the tone
of one more accustomed to command than to obey, and who was in the habit
of expressing his sentiments aloud and boldly, whenever he was called
upon to announce them.

The Saracen Emir formed a marked and striking contrast with the Western
Crusader. His stature was indeed above the middle size, but he was at
least three inches shorter than the European, whose size approached the
gigantic. His slender limbs and long, spare hands and arms, though well
proportioned to his person, and suited to the style of his countenance,
did not at first aspect promise the display of vigour and elasticity
which the Emir had lately exhibited. But on looking more closely, his
limbs, where exposed to view, seemed divested of all that was fleshy or
cumbersome; so that nothing being left but bone, brawn, and sinew, it
was a frame fitted for exertion and fatigue, far beyond that of a bulky
champion, whose strength and size are counterbalanced by weight, and
who is exhausted by his own exertions. The countenance of the Saracen
naturally bore a general national resemblance to the Eastern tribe from
whom he descended, and was as unlike as possible to the exaggerated
terms in which the minstrels of the day were wont to represent the
infidel champions, and the fabulous description which a sister art still
presents as the Saracen's Head upon signposts. His features were small,
well-formed, and delicate, though deeply embrowned by the Eastern sun,
and terminated by a flowing and curled black beard, which seemed trimmed
with peculiar care. The nose was straight and regular, the eyes keen,
deep-set, black, and glowing, and his teeth equalled in beauty the ivory
of his deserts. The person and proportions of the Saracen, in short,
stretched on the turf near to his powerful antagonist, might have been
compared to his sheeny and crescent-formed sabre, with its narrow and
light but bright and keen Damascus blade, contrasted with the long and
ponderous Gothic war-sword which was flung unbuckled on the same sod.
The Emir was in the very flower of his age, and might perhaps have been
termed eminently beautiful, but for the narrowness of his forehead and
something of too much thinness and sharpness of feature, or at least
what might have seemed such in a European estimate of beauty.

The manners of the Eastern warrior were grave, graceful, and decorous;
indicating, however, in some particulars, the habitual restraint which
men of warm and choleric tempers often set as a guard upon their native
impetuosity of disposition, and at the same time a sense of his own
dignity, which seemed to impose a certain formality of behaviour in him
who entertained it.

This haughty feeling of superiority was perhaps equally entertained by
his new European acquaintance, but the effect was different; and the
same feeling, which dictated to the Christian knight a bold, blunt, and
somewhat careless bearing, as one too conscious of his own importance
to be anxious about the opinions of others, appeared to prescribe to the
Saracen a style of courtesy more studiously and formally observant of
ceremony. Both were courteous; but the courtesy of the Christian seemed
to flow rather from a good humoured sense of what was due to others;
that of the Moslem, from a high feeling of what was to be expected from
himself.

The provision which each had made for his refreshment was simple, but
the meal of the Saracen was abstemious. A handful of dates and a morsel
of coarse barley-bread sufficed to relieve the hunger of the latter,
whose education had habituated them to the fare of the desert, although,
since their Syrian conquests, the Arabian simplicity of life frequently
gave place to the most unbounded profusion of luxury. A few draughts
from the lovely fountain by which they reposed completed his meal. That
of the Christian, though coarse, was more genial. Dried hog's flesh, the
abomination of the Moslemah, was the chief part of his repast; and his
drink, derived from a leathern bottle, contained something better than
pure element. He fed with more display of appetite, and drank with more
appearance of satisfaction, than the Saracen judged it becoming to show
in the performance of a mere bodily function; and, doubtless, the secret
contempt which each entertained for the other, as the follower of a
false religion, was considerably increased by the marked difference of
their diet and manners. But each had found the weight of his opponent's
arm, and the mutual respect which the bold struggle had created was
sufficient to subdue other and inferior considerations. Yet the Saracen
could not help remarking the circumstances which displeased him in the
Christian's conduct and manners; and, after he had witnessed for some
time in silence the keen appetite which protracted the knight's banquet
long after his own was concluded, he thus addressed him:--

"Valiant Nazarene, is it fitting that one who can fight like a man
should feed like a dog or a wolf? Even a misbelieving Jew would shudder
at the food which you seem to eat with as much relish as if it were
fruit from the trees of Paradise."

"Valiant Saracen," answered the Christian, looking up with some surprise
at the accusation thus unexpectedly brought, "know thou that I exercise
my Christian freedom in using that which is forbidden to the Jews,
being, as they esteem themselves, under the bondage of the old law of
Moses. We, Saracen, be it known to thee, have a better warrant for
what we do--Ave Maria!--be we thankful." And, as if in defiance of
his companion's scruples, he concluded a short Latin grace with a long
draught from the leathern bottle.

"That, too, you call a part of your liberty," said the Saracen; "and
as you feed like the brutes, so you degrade yourself to the bestial
condition by drinking a poisonous liquor which even they refuse!"

"Know, foolish Saracen," replied the Christian, without hesitation,
"that thou blasphemest the gifts of God, even with the blasphemy of thy
father Ishmael. The juice of the grape is given to him that will use it
wisely, as that which cheers the heart of man after toil, refreshes him
in sickness, and comforts him in sorrow. He who so enjoyeth it may thank
God for his winecup as for his daily bread; and he who abuseth the gift
of Heaven is not a greater fool in his intoxication than thou in thine
abstinence."

The keen eye of the Saracen kindled at this sarcasm, and his hand sought
the hilt of his poniard. It was but a momentary thought, however, and
died away in the recollection of the powerful champion with whom he
had to deal, and the desperate grapple, the impression of which still
throbbed in his limbs and veins; and he contented himself with pursuing
the contest in colloquy, as more convenient for the time.

"Thy words" he said, "O Nazarene, might create anger, did not thy
ignorance raise compassion. Seest thou not, O thou more blind than any
who asks alms at the door of the Mosque, that the liberty thou dost
boast of is restrained even in that which is dearest to man's happiness
and to his household; and that thy law, if thou dost practise it, binds
thee in marriage to one single mate, be she sick or healthy, be she
fruitful or barren, bring she comfort and joy, or clamour and strife,
to thy table and to thy bed? This, Nazarene, I do indeed call slavery;
whereas, to the faithful, hath the Prophet assigned upon earth the
patriarchal privileges of Abraham our father, and of Solomon, the wisest
of mankind, having given us here a succession of beauty at our pleasure,
and beyond the grave the black-eyed houris of Paradise."

"Now, by His name that I most reverence in heaven," said the Christian,
"and by hers whom I most worship on earth, thou art but a blinded and
a bewildered infidel!--That diamond signet which thou wearest on thy
finger, thou holdest it, doubtless, as of inestimable value?"

"Balsora and Bagdad cannot show the like," replied the Saracen; "but
what avails it to our purpose?"

"Much," replied the Frank, "as thou shalt thyself confess. Take my
war-axe and dash the stone into twenty shivers: would each fragment be
as valuable as the original gem, or would they, all collected, bear the
tenth part of its estimation?"

"That is a child's question," answered the Saracen; "the fragments of
such a stone would not equal the entire jewel in the degree of hundreds
to one."

"Saracen," replied the Christian warrior, "the love which a true knight
binds on one only, fair and faithful, is the gem entire; the affection
thou flingest among thy enslaved wives and half-wedded slaves is
worthless, comparatively, as the sparkling shivers of the broken
diamond."

"Now, by the Holy Caaba," said the Emir, "thou art a madman who hugs
his chain of iron as if it were of gold! Look more closely. This ring
of mine would lose half its beauty were not the signet encircled and
enchased with these lesser brilliants, which grace it and set it off.
The central diamond is man, firm and entire, his value depending on
himself alone; and this circle of lesser jewels are women, borrowing
his lustre, which he deals out to them as best suits his pleasure or
his convenience. Take the central stone from the signet, and the
diamond itself remains as valuable as ever, while the lesser gems are
comparatively of little value. And this is the true reading of thy
parable; for what sayeth the poet Mansour: 'It is the favour of man
which giveth beauty and comeliness to woman, as the stream glitters no
longer when the sun ceaseth to shine.'"

"Saracen," replied the Crusader, "thou speakest like one who never saw
a woman worthy the affection of a soldier. Believe me, couldst thou
look upon those of Europe, to whom, after Heaven, we of the order of
knighthood vow fealty and devotion, thou wouldst loathe for ever the
poor sensual slaves who form thy haram. The beauty of our fair ones
gives point to our spears and edge to our swords; their words are our
law; and as soon will a lamp shed lustre when unkindled, as a knight
distinguish himself by feats of arms, having no mistress of his
affection."

"I have heard of this frenzy among the warriors of the West," said the
Emir, "and have ever accounted it one of the accompanying symptoms of
that insanity which brings you hither to obtain possession of an empty
sepulchre. But yet, methinks, so highly have the Franks whom I have met
with extolled the beauty of their women, I could be well contented to
behold with mine own eyes those charms which can transform such brave
warriors into the tools of their pleasure."

"Brave Saracen," said the Knight, "if I were not on a pilgrimage to the
Holy Sepulchre, it should be my pride to conduct you, on assurance of
safety, to the camp of Richard of England, than whom none knows better
how to do honour to a noble foe; and though I be poor and unattended
yet have I interest to secure for thee, or any such as thou seemest, not
safety only, but respect and esteem. There shouldst thou see several
of the fairest beauties of France and Britain form a small circle, the
brilliancy of which exceeds ten-thousandfold the lustre of mines of
diamonds such as thine."

"Now, by the corner-stone of the Caaba!" said the Saracen, "I will
accept thy invitation as freely as it is given, if thou wilt postpone
thy present intent; and, credit me, brave Nazarene, it were better for
thyself to turn back thy horse's head towards the camp of thy people,
for to travel towards Jerusalem without a passport is but a wilful
casting-away of thy life."

"I have a pass," answered the Knight, producing a parchment, "Under
Saladin's hand and signet."

The Saracen bent his head to the dust as he recognized the seal and
handwriting of the renowned Soldan of Egypt and Syria; and having kissed
the paper with profound respect, he pressed it to his forehead, then
returned it to the Christian, saying, "Rash Frank, thou hast sinned
against thine own blood and mine, for not showing this to me when we
met."

"You came with levelled spear," said the Knight. "Had a troop of
Saracens so assailed me, it might have stood with my honour to have
shown the Soldan's pass, but never to one man."

"And yet one man," said the Saracen haughtily, "was enough to interrupt
your journey."

"True, brave Moslem," replied the Christian; "but there are few such as
thou art. Such falcons fly not in flocks; or, if they do, they pounce
not in numbers upon one."

"Thou dost us but justice," said the Saracen, evidently gratified by
the compliment, as he had been touched by the implied scorn of the
European's previous boast; "from us thou shouldst have had no wrong. But
well was it for me that I failed to slay thee, with the safeguard of
the king of kings upon thy person. Certain it were, that the cord or the
sabre had justly avenged such guilt."

"I am glad to hear that its influence shall be availing to me," said the
Knight; "for I have heard that the road is infested with robber-tribes,
who regard nothing in comparison of an opportunity of plunder."

"The truth has been told to thee, brave Christian," said the Saracen;
"but I swear to thee, by the turban of the Prophet, that shouldst thou
miscarry in any haunt of such villains, I will myself undertake thy
revenge with five thousand horse. I will slay every male of them, and
send their women into such distant captivity that the name of their
tribe shall never again be heard within five hundred miles of Damascus.
I will sow with salt the foundations of their village, and there shall
never live thing dwell there, even from that time forward."

"I had rather the trouble which you design for yourself were in revenge
of some other more important person than of me, noble Emir," replied the
Knight; "but my vow is recorded in heaven, for good or for evil, and I
must be indebted to you for pointing me out the way to my resting-place
for this evening."

"That," said the Saracen, "must be under the black covering of my
father's tent."

"This night," answered the Christian, "I must pass in prayer and
penitence with a holy man, Theodorick of Engaddi, who dwells amongst
these wilds, and spends his life in the service of God."

"I will at least see you safe thither," said the Saracen.

"That would be pleasant convoy for me," said the Christian; "yet might
endanger the future security of the good father; for the cruel hand of
your people has been red with the blood of the servants of the Lord, and
therefore do we come hither in plate and mail, with sword and lance, to
open the road to the Holy Sepulchre, and protect the chosen saints and
anchorites who yet dwell in this land of promise and of miracle."

"Nazarene," said the Moslem, "in this the Greeks and Syrians have much
belied us, seeing we do but after the word of Abubeker Alwakel, the
successor of the Prophet, and, after him, the first commander of true
believers. 'Go forth,' he said, 'Yezed Ben Sophian,' when he sent that
renowned general to take Syria from the infidels; 'quit yourselves like
men in battle, but slay neither the aged, the infirm, the women, nor the
children. Waste not the land, neither destroy corn and fruit-trees; they
are the gifts of Allah. Keep faith when you have made any covenant,
even if it be to your own harm. If ye find holy men labouring with their
hands, and serving God in the desert, hurt them not, neither destroy
their dwellings. But when you find them with shaven crowns, they are of
the synagogue of Satan! Smite with the sabre, slay, cease not till
they become believers or tributaries.' As the Caliph, companion of the
Prophet, hath told us, so have we done, and those whom our justice has
smitten are but the priests of Satan. But unto the good men who, without
stirring up nation against nation, worship sincerely in the faith of
Issa Ben Mariam, we are a shadow and a shield; and such being he whom
you seek, even though the light of the Prophet hath not reached him,
from me he will only have love, favour, and regard."

"The anchorite whom I would now visit," said the warlike pilgrim, "is, I
have heard, no priest; but were he of that anointed and sacred order, I
would prove with my good lance, against paynim and infidel--"

"Let us not defy each other, brother," interrupted the Saracen; "we
shall find, either of us, enough of Franks or of Moslemah on whom to
exercise both sword and lance. This Theodorick is protected both by Turk
and Arab; and, though one of strange conditions at intervals, yet, on
the whole, he bears himself so well as the follower of his own prophet,
that he merits the protection of him who was sent--"

"Now, by Our Lady, Saracen," exclaimed the Christian, "if thou darest
name in the same breath the camel-driver of Mecca with--"

An electrical shock of passion thrilled through the form of the Emir;
but it was only momentary, and the calmness of his reply had both
dignity and reason in it, when he said, "Slander not him whom thou
knowest not--the rather that we venerate the founder of thy religion,
while we condemn the doctrine which your priests have spun from it. I
will myself guide thee to the cavern of the hermit, which, methinks,
without my help, thou wouldst find it a hard matter to reach. And,
on the way, let us leave to mollahs and to monks to dispute about the
divinity of our faith, and speak on themes which belong to youthful
warriors--upon battles, upon beautiful women, upon sharp swords, and
upon bright armour."



CHAPTER III.

The warriors arose from their place of brief rest and simple
refreshment, and courteously aided each other while they carefully
replaced and adjusted the harness from which they had relieved for the
time their trusty steeds. Each seemed familiar with an employment which
at that time was a part of necessary and, indeed, of indispensable duty.
Each also seemed to possess, as far as the difference betwixt the animal
and rational species admitted, the confidence and affection of the horse
which was the constant companion of his travels and his warfare. With
the Saracen this familiar intimacy was a part of his early habits; for,
in the tents of the Eastern military tribes, the horse of the soldier
ranks next to, and almost equal in importance with, his wife and
his family; and with the European warrior, circumstances, and indeed
necessity, rendered his war-horse scarcely less than his brother in
arms. The steeds, therefore, suffered themselves quietly to be taken
from their food and liberty, and neighed and snuffled fondly around
their masters, while they were adjusting their accoutrements for further
travel and additional toil. And each warrior, as he prosecuted his own
task, or assisted with courtesy his companion, looked with observant
curiosity at the equipments of his fellow-traveller, and noted
particularly what struck him as peculiar in the fashion in which he
arranged his riding accoutrements.

Ere they remounted to resume their journey, the Christian Knight again
moistened his lips and dipped his hands in the living fountain, and said
to his pagan associate of the journey, "I would I knew the name of this
delicious fountain, that I might hold it in my grateful remembrance; for
never did water slake more deliciously a more oppressive thirst than I
have this day experienced."

"It is called in the Arabic language," answered the Saracen, "by a name
which signifies the Diamond of the Desert."

"And well is it so named," replied the Christian. "My native valley hath
a thousand springs, but not to one of them shall I attach hereafter
such precious recollection as to this solitary fount, which bestows
its liquid treasures where they are not only delightful, but nearly
indispensable."

"You say truth," said the Saracen; "for the curse is still on yonder
sea of death, and neither man nor beast drinks of its waves, nor of the
river which feeds without filling it, until this inhospitable desert be
passed."

They mounted, and pursued their journey across the sandy waste. The
ardour of noon was now past, and a light breeze somewhat alleviated
the terrors of the desert, though not without bearing on its wings
an impalpable dust, which the Saracen little heeded, though his
heavily-armed companion felt it as such an annoyance that he hung his
iron casque at his saddle-bow, and substituted the light riding-cap,
termed in the language of the time a MORTIER, from its resemblance
in shape to an ordinary mortar. They rode together for some time in
silence, the Saracen performing the part of director and guide of the
journey, which he did by observing minute marks and bearings of the
distant rocks, to a ridge of which they were gradually approaching. For
a little time he seemed absorbed in the task, as a pilot when navigating
a vessel through a difficult channel; but they had not proceeded half
a league when he seemed secure of his route, and disposed, with more
frankness than was usual to his nation, to enter into conversation.

"You have asked the name," he said, "of a mute fountain, which hath the
semblance, but not the reality, of a living thing. Let me be pardoned
to ask the name of the companion with whom I have this day encountered,
both in danger and in repose, and which I cannot fancy unknown even here
among the deserts of Palestine?"

"It is not yet worth publishing," said the Christian. "Know, however,
that among the soldiers of the Cross I am called Kenneth--Kenneth of
the Couching Leopard; at home I have other titles, but they would sound
harsh in an Eastern ear. Brave Saracen, let me ask which of the tribes
of Arabia claims your descent, and by what name you are known?"

"Sir Kenneth," said the Moslem, "I joy that your name is such as my lips
can easily utter. For me, I am no Arab, yet derive my descent from
a line neither less wild nor less warlike. Know, Sir Knight of the
Leopard, that I am Sheerkohf, the Lion of the Mountain, and that
Kurdistan, from which I derive my descent, holds no family more noble
than that of Seljook."

"I have heard," answered the Christian, "that your great Soldan claims
his blood from the same source?"

"Thanks to the Prophet that hath so far honoured our mountains as to
send from their bosom him whose word is victory," answered the paynim.
"I am but as a worm before the King of Egypt and Syria, and yet in my
own land something my name may avail. Stranger, with how many men didst
thou come on this warfare?"

"By my faith," said Sir Kenneth, "with aid of friends and kinsmen, I was
hardly pinched to furnish forth ten well-appointed lances, with maybe
some fifty more men, archers and varlets included. Some have deserted
my unlucky pennon--some have fallen in battle--several have died of
disease--and one trusty armour-bearer, for whose life I am now doing my
pilgrimage, lies on the bed of sickness."

"Christian," said Sheerkohf, "here I have five arrows in my quiver,
each feathered from the wing of an eagle. When I send one of them to my
tents, a thousand warriors mount on horseback--when I send another, an
equal force will arise--for the five, I can command five thousand men;
and if I send my bow, ten thousand mounted riders will shake the desert.
And with thy fifty followers thou hast come to invade a land in which I
am one of the meanest!"

"Now, by the rood, Saracen," retorted the Western warrior, "thou
shouldst know, ere thou vauntest thyself, that one steel glove can crush
a whole handful of hornets."

"Ay, but it must first enclose them within its grasp," said the Saracen,
with a smile which might have endangered their new alliance, had he not
changed the subject by adding, "And is bravery so much esteemed amongst
the Christian princes that thou, thus void of means and of men, canst
offer, as thou didst of late, to be my protector and security in the
camp of thy brethren?"

"Know, Saracen," said the Christian, "since such is thy style, that the
name of a knight, and the blood of a gentleman, entitle him to place
himself on the same rank with sovereigns even of the first degree, in
so far as regards all but regal authority and dominion. Were Richard
of England himself to wound the honour of a knight as poor as I am, he
could not, by the law of chivalry, deny him the combat."

"Methinks I should like to look upon so strange a scene," said the Emir,
"in which a leathern belt and a pair of spurs put the poorest on a level
with the most powerful."

"You must add free blood and a fearless heart," said the Christian;
"then, perhaps, you will not have spoken untruly of the dignity of
knighthood."

"And mix you as boldly amongst the females of your chiefs and leaders?"
asked the Saracen.

"God forbid," said the Knight of the Leopard, "that the poorest knight
in Christendom should not be free, in all honourable service, to devote
his hand and sword, the fame of his actions, and the fixed devotion of
his heart, to the fairest princess who ever wore coronet on her brow!"

"But a little while since," said the Saracen, "and you described love as
the highest treasure of the heart--thine hath undoubtedly been high and
nobly bestowed?"

"Stranger," answered the Christian, blushing deeply as he spoke, "we
tell not rashly where it is we have bestowed our choicest treasures. It
is enough for thee to know that, as thou sayest, my love is highly and
nobly bestowed--most highly--most nobly; but if thou wouldst hear of
love and broken lances, venture thyself, as thou sayest, to the camp of
the Crusaders, and thou wilt find exercise for thine ears, and, if thou
wilt, for thy hands too."

The Eastern warrior, raising himself in his stirrups, and shaking aloft
his lance, replied, "Hardly, I fear, shall I find one with a crossed
shoulder who will exchange with me the cast of the jerrid."

"I will not promise for that," replied the Knight; "though there be in
the camp certain Spaniards, who have right good skill in your Eastern
game of hurling the javelin."

"Dogs, and sons of dogs!" ejaculated the Saracen; "what have these
Spaniards to do to come hither to combat the true believers, who, in
their own land, are their lords and taskmasters? with them I would mix
in no warlike pastime."

"Let not the knights of Leon or Asturias hear you speak thus of them,"
said the Knight of the Leopard. "But," added he, smiling at the
recollection of the morning's combat, "if, instead of a reed, you were
inclined to stand the cast of a battle-axe, there are enough of Western
warriors who would gratify your longing."

"By the beard of my father, sir," said the Saracen, with an approach to
laughter, "the game is too rough for mere sport. I will never shun them
in battle, but my head" (pressing his hand to his brow) "will not, for a
while, permit me to seek them in sport."

"I would you saw the axe of King Richard," answered the Western warrior,
"to which that which hangs at my saddle-bow weighs but as a feather."

"We hear much of that island sovereign," said the Saracen. "Art thou one
of his subjects?"

"One of his followers I am, for this expedition," answered the Knight,
"and honoured in the service; but not born his subject, although a
native of the island in which he reigns."

"How mean you? " said the Eastern soldier; "have you then two kings in
one poor island?"

"As thou sayest," said the Scot, for such was Sir Kenneth by birth. "It
is even so; and yet, although the inhabitants of the two extremities of
that island are engaged in frequent war, the country can, as thou seest,
furnish forth such a body of men-at-arms as may go far to shake the
unholy hold which your master hath laid on the cities of Zion."

"By the beard of Saladin, Nazarene, but that it is a thoughtless and
boyish folly, I could laugh at the simplicity of your great Sultan, who
comes hither to make conquests of deserts and rocks, and dispute the
possession of them with those who have tenfold numbers at command, while
he leaves a part of his narrow islet, in which he was born a sovereign,
to the dominion of another sceptre than his. Surely, Sir Kenneth, you
and the other good men of your country should have submitted yourselves
to the dominion of this King Richard ere you left your native land,
divided against itself, to set forth on this expedition?"

Hasty and fierce was Kenneth's answer. "No, by the bright light of
Heaven! If the King of England had not set forth to the Crusade till
he was sovereign of Scotland, the Crescent might, for me, and all
true-hearted Scots, glimmer for ever on the walls of Zion."

Thus far he had proceeded, when, suddenly recollecting himself, he
muttered, "MEA CULPA! MEA CULPA! what have I, a soldier of the Cross, to
do with recollection of war betwixt Christian nations!"

The rapid expression of feeling corrected by the dictates of duty did
not escape the Moslem, who, if he did not entirely understand all
which it conveyed, saw enough to convince him with the assurance that
Christians, as well as Moslemah, had private feelings of personal pique,
and national quarrels, which were not entirely reconcilable. But the
Saracens were a race, polished, perhaps, to the utmost extent which
their religion permitted, and particularly capable of entertaining high
ideas of courtesy and politeness; and such sentiments prevented his
taking any notice of the inconsistency of Sir Kenneth's feelings in the
opposite characters of a Scot and a Crusader.

Meanwhile, as they advanced, the scene began to change around them. They
were now turning to the eastward, and had reached the range of steep and
barren hills which binds in that quarter the naked plain, and varies the
surface of the country, without changing its sterile character. Sharp,
rocky eminences began to rise around them, and, in a short time, deep
declivities and ascents, both formidable in height and difficult from
the narrowness of the path, offered to the travellers obstacles of a
different kind from those with which they had recently contended.

Dark caverns and chasms amongst the rocks--those grottoes so often
alluded to in Scripture--yawned fearfully on either side as they
proceeded, and the Scottish knight was informed by the Emir that these
were often the refuge of beasts of prey, or of men still more ferocious,
who, driven to desperation by the constant war, and the oppression
exercised by the soldiery, as well of the Cross as of the Crescent, had
become robbers, and spared neither rank nor religion, neither sex nor
age, in their depredations.

The Scottish knight listened with indifference to the accounts of
ravages committed by wild beasts or wicked men, secure as he felt
himself in his own valour and personal strength; but he was struck
with mysterious dread when he recollected that he was now in the awful
wilderness of the forty days' fast, and the scene of the actual personal
temptation, wherewith the Evil Principle was permitted to assail the Son
of Man. He withdrew his attention gradually from the light and worldly
conversation of the infidel warrior beside him, and, however acceptable
his gay and gallant bravery would have rendered him as a companion
elsewhere, Sir Kenneth felt as if, in those wildernesses the waste and
dry places in which the foul spirits were wont to wander when expelled
the mortals whose forms they possessed, a bare-footed friar would have
been a better associate than the gay but unbelieving paynim.

These feelings embarrassed him the rather that the Saracen's spirits
appeared to rise with the journey, and because the farther he penetrated
into the gloomy recesses of the mountains, the lighter became his
conversation, and when he found that unanswered, the louder grew his
song. Sir Kenneth knew enough of the Eastern languages to be assured
that he chanted sonnets of love, containing all the glowing praises
of beauty in which the Oriental poets are so fond of luxuriating, and
which, therefore, were peculiarly unfitted for a serious or devotional
strain of thought, the feeling best becoming the Wilderness of the
Temptation. With inconsistency enough, the Saracen also sung lays in
praise of wine, the liquid ruby of the Persian poets; and his gaiety at
length became so unsuitable to the Christian knight's contrary train of
sentiments, as, but for the promise of amity which they had exchanged,
would most likely have made Sir Kenneth take measures to change his
note. As it was, the Crusader felt as if he had by his side some gay,
licentious fiend, who endeavoured to ensnare his soul, and endanger his
immortal salvation, by inspiring loose thoughts of earthly pleasure, and
thus polluting his devotion, at a time when his faith as a Christian and
his vow as a pilgrim called on him for a serious and penitential state
of mind. He was thus greatly perplexed, and undecided how to act; and it
was in a tone of hasty displeasure that, at length breaking silence, he
interrupted the lay of the celebrated Rudpiki, in which he prefers the
mole on his mistress's bosom to all the wealth of Bokhara and Samarcand.

"Saracen," said the Crusader sternly, "blinded as thou art, and plunged
amidst the errors of a false law, thou shouldst yet comprehend that
there are some places more holy than others, and that there are some
scenes also in which the Evil One hath more than ordinary power
over sinful mortals. I will not tell thee for what awful reason this
place--these rocks--these caverns with their gloomy arches, leading as
it were to the central abyss--are held an especial haunt of Satan and
his angels. It is enough that I have been long warned to beware of this
place by wise and holy men, to whom the qualities of the unholy region
are well known. Wherefore, Saracen, forbear thy foolish and
ill-timed levity, and turn thy thoughts to things more suited to the
spot--although, alas for thee! thy best prayers are but as blasphemy and
sin."

The Saracen listened with some surprise, and then replied, with
good-humour and gaiety, only so far repressed as courtesy required,
"Good Sir Kenneth, methinks you deal unequally by your companion, or
else ceremony is but indifferently taught amongst your Western tribes.
I took no offence when I saw you gorge hog's flesh and drink wine, and
permitted you to enjoy a treat which you called your Christian liberty,
only pitying in my heart your foul pastimes. Wherefore, then, shouldst
thou take scandal, because I cheer, to the best of my power, a gloomy
road with a cheerful verse? What saith the poet, 'Song is like the
dews of heaven on the bosom of the desert; it cools the path of the
traveller.'"

"Friend Saracen," said the Christian, "I blame not the love of
minstrelsy and of the GAI SCIENCE; albeit, we yield unto it even too
much room in our thoughts when they should be bent on better things.
But prayers and holy psalms are better fitting than LAIS of love, or of
wine-cups, when men walk in this Valley of the Shadow of Death, full of
fiends and demons, whom the prayers of holy men have driven forth
from the haunts of humanity to wander amidst scenes as accursed as
themselves."

"Speak not thus of the Genii, Christian," answered the Saracen, "for
know thou speakest to one whose line and nation drew their origin from
the immortal race which your sect fear and blaspheme."

"I well thought," answered the Crusader, "that your blinded race had
their descent from the foul fiend, without whose aid you would never
have been able to maintain this blessed land of Palestine against so
many valiant soldiers of God. I speak not thus of thee in particular,
Saracen, but generally of thy people and religion. Strange is it to me,
however, not that you should have the descent from the Evil One, but
that you should boast of it."

"From whom should the bravest boast of descending, saving from him that
is bravest?" said the Saracen; "from whom should the proudest trace
their line so well as from the Dark Spirit, which would rather fall
headlong by force than bend the knee by his will? Eblis may be hated,
stranger, but he must be feared; and such as Eblis are his descendants
of Kurdistan."

Tales of magic and of necromancy were the learning of the period, and
Sir Kenneth heard his companion's confession of diabolical descent
without any disbelief, and without much wonder; yet not without a secret
shudder at finding himself in this fearful place, in the company of
one who avouched himself to belong to such a lineage. Naturally
insusceptible, however, of fear, he crossed himself, and stoutly
demanded of the Saracen an account of the pedigree which he had boasted.
The latter readily complied.

"Know, brave stranger," he said, "that when the cruel Zohauk, one of the
descendants of Giamschid, held the throne of Persia, he formed a league
with the Powers of Darkness, amidst the secret vaults of Istakhar,
vaults which the hands of the elementary spirits had hewn out of the
living rock long before Adam himself had an existence. Here he fed,
with daily oblations of human blood, two devouring serpents, which had
become, according to the poets, a part of himself, and to sustain whom
he levied a tax of daily human sacrifices, till the exhausted patience
of his subjects caused some to raise up the scimitar of resistance, like
the valiant Blacksmith and the victorious Feridoun, by whom the tyrant
was at length dethroned, and imprisoned for ever in the dismal caverns
of the mountain Damavend. But ere that deliverance had taken place, and
whilst the power of the bloodthirsty tyrant was at its height, the band
of ravening slaves whom he had sent forth to purvey victims for his
daily sacrifice brought to the vaults of the palace of Istakhar seven
sisters so beautiful that they seemed seven houris. These seven maidens
were the daughters of a sage, who had no treasures save those beauties
and his own wisdom. The last was not sufficient to foresee this
misfortune, the former seemed ineffectual to prevent it. The eldest
exceeded not her twentieth year, the youngest had scarce attained her
thirteenth; and so like were they to each other that they could not
have been distinguished but for the difference of height, in which they
gradually rose in easy gradation above each other, like the ascent which
leads to the gates of Paradise. So lovely were these seven sisters when
they stood in the darksome vault, disrobed of all clothing saving a
cymar of white silk, that their charms moved the hearts of those who
were not mortal. Thunder muttered, the earth shook, the wall of the
vault was rent, and at the chasm entered one dressed like a hunter, with
bow and shafts, and followed by six others, his brethren. They were tall
men, and, though dark, yet comely to behold; but their eyes had more the
glare of those of the dead than the light which lives under the eyelids
of the living. 'Zeineb,' said the leader of the band--and as he spoke
he took the eldest sister by the hand, and his voice was soft, low, and
melancholy--'I am Cothrob, king of the subterranean world, and supreme
chief of Ginnistan. I and my brethren are of those who, created out of
the pure elementary fire, disdained, even at the command of Omnipotence,
to do homage to a clod of earth, because it was called Man. Thou mayest
have heard of us as cruel, unrelenting, and persecuting. It is false. We
are by nature kind and generous; only vengeful when insulted, only cruel
when affronted. We are true to those who trust us; and we have heard the
invocations of thy father, the sage Mithrasp, who wisely worships not
alone the Origin of Good, but that which is called the Source of Evil.
You and your sisters are on the eve of death; but let each give to us
one hair from your fair tresses, in token of fealty, and we will carry
you many miles from hence to a place of safety, where you may bid
defiance to Zohauk and his ministers.' The fear of instant death, saith
the poet, is like the rod of the prophet Haroun, which devoured all
other rods when transformed into snakes before the King of Pharaoh; and
the daughters of the Persian sage were less apt than others to be
afraid of the addresses of a spirit. They gave the tribute which Cothrob
demanded, and in an instant the sisters were transported to an enchanted
castle on the mountains of Tugrut, in Kurdistan, and were never again
seen by mortal eye. But in process of time seven youths, distinguished
in the war and in the chase, appeared in the environs of the castle of
the demons. They were darker, taller, fiercer, and more resolute than
any of the scattered inhabitants of the valleys of Kurdistan; and they
took to themselves wives, and became fathers of the seven tribes of the
Kurdmans, whose valour is known throughout the universe."

The Christian knight heard with wonder the wild tale, of which Kurdistan
still possesses the traces, and, after a moment's thought, replied,
"Verily, Sir Knight, you have spoken well--your genealogy may be dreaded
and hated, but it cannot be contemned. Neither do I any longer wonder
at your obstinacy in a false faith, since, doubtless, it is part of the
fiendish disposition which hath descended from your ancestors, those
infernal huntsmen, as you have described them, to love falsehood rather
than truth; and I no longer marvel that your spirits become high and
exalted, and vent themselves in verse and in tunes, when you approach to
the places encumbered by the haunting of evil spirits, which must excite
in you that joyous feeling which others experience when approaching the
land of their human ancestry."

"By my father's beard, I think thou hast the right," said the Saracen,
rather amused than offended by the freedom with which the Christian had
uttered his reflections; "for, though the Prophet (blessed be his name!)
hath sown amongst us the seed of a better faith than our ancestors
learned in the ghostly halls of Tugrut, yet we are not willing, like
other Moslemah, to pass hasty doom on the lofty and powerful elementary
spirits from whom we claim our origin. These Genii, according to our
belief and hope, are not altogether reprobate, but are still in the way
of probation, and may hereafter be punished or rewarded. Leave we this
to the mollahs and the imauns. Enough that with us the reverence for
these spirits is not altogether effaced by what we have learned from the
Koran, and that many of us still sing, in memorial of our fathers' more
ancient faith, such verses as these."

So saying, he proceeded to chant verses, very ancient in the language
and structure, which some have thought derive their source from the
worshippers of Arimanes, the Evil Principle.


                AHRIMAN.

     Dark Ahriman, whom Irak still
     Holds origin of woe and ill!
     When, bending at thy shrine,
     We view the world with troubled eye,
     Where see we 'neath the extended sky,
     An empire matching thine!

     If the Benigner Power can yield
     A fountain in the desert field,
     Where weary pilgrims drink;
     Thine are the waves that lash the rock,
     Thine the tornado's deadly shock,
     Where countless navies sink!

     Or if he bid the soil dispense
     Balsams to cheer the sinking sense,
     How few can they deliver
     From lingering pains, or pang intense,
     Red Fever, spotted Pestilence,
     The arrows of thy quiver!

     Chief in Man's bosom sits thy sway,
     And frequent, while in words we pray
     Before another throne,
     Whate'er of specious form be there,
     The secret meaning of the prayer
     Is, Ahriman, thine own.

     Say, hast thou feeling, sense, and form,
     Thunder thy voice, thy garments storm,
     As Eastern Magi say;
     With sentient soul of hate and wrath,
     And wings to sweep thy deadly path,
     And fangs to tear thy prey?

     Or art thou mix'd in Nature's source,
     An ever-operating force,
     Converting good to ill;
     An evil principle innate,
     Contending with our better fate,
     And, oh!  victorious still?

     Howe'er it be, dispute is vain.
     On all without thou hold'st thy reign,
     Nor less on all within;
     Each mortal passion's fierce career,
     Love, hate, ambition, joy, and fear,
     Thou goadest into sin.

     Whene'er a sunny gleam appears,
     To brighten up our vale of tears,
     Thou art not distant far;
     'Mid such brief solace of our lives,
     Thou whett'st our very banquet-knives
     To tools of death and war.

     Thus, from the moment of our birth,
     Long as we linger on the earth,
     Thou rulest the fate of men;
     Thine are the pangs of life's last hour,
     And--who dare answer?--is thy power,
     Dark Spirit!  ended THEN?

     [The worthy and learned clergyman by whom this species of
     hymn has been translated desires, that, for fear of
     misconception, we should warn the reader to recollect that
     it is composed by a heathen, to whom the real causes of
     moral and physical evil are unknown, and who views their
     predominance in the system of the universe as all must view
     that appalling fact who have not the benefit of the
     Christian revelation.  On our own part, we beg to add, that
     we understand the style of the translator is more
     paraphrastic than can be approved by those who are
     acquainted with the singularly curious original.  The
     translator seems to have despaired of rendering into English
     verse the flights of Oriental poetry; and, possibly, like
     many learned and ingenious men, finding it impossible to
     discover the sense of the original, he may have tacitly
     substituted his own.]

These verses may perhaps have been the not unnatural effusion of some
half-enlightened philosopher, who, in the fabled deity, Arimanes, saw
but the prevalence of moral and physical evil; but in the ears of Sir
Kenneth of the Leopard they had a different effect, and, sung as they
were by one who had just boasted himself a descendant of demons, sounded
very like an address of worship to the arch-fiend himself. He weighed
within himself whether, on hearing such blasphemy in the very desert
where Satan had stood rebuked for demanding homage, taking an abrupt
leave of the Saracen was sufficient to testify his abhorrence; or
whether he was not rather constrained by his vow as a Crusader to defy
the infidel to combat on the spot, and leave him food for the beasts of
the wilderness, when his attention was suddenly caught by an unexpected
apparition.

The light was now verging low, yet served the knight still to discern
that they two were no longer alone in the desert, but were closely
watched by a figure of great height and very thin, which skipped over
rocks and bushes with so much agility as, added to the wild and hirsute
appearance of the individual, reminded him of the fauns and silvans,
whose images he had seen in the ancient temples of Rome. As the
single-hearted Scottishman had never for a moment doubted these gods of
the ancient Gentiles to be actually devils, so he now hesitated not
to believe that the blasphemous hymn of the Saracen had raised up an
infernal spirit.

"But what recks it?" said stout Sir Kenneth to himself; "down with the
fiend and his worshippers!"

He did not, however, think it necessary to give the same warning of
defiance to two enemies as he would unquestionably have afforded to one.
His hand was upon his mace, and perhaps the unwary Saracen would have
been paid for his Persian poetry by having his brains dashed out on the
spot, without any reason assigned for it; but the Scottish Knight was
spared from committing what would have been a sore blot in his shield
of arms. The apparition, on which his eyes had been fixed for some time,
had at first appeared to dog their path by concealing itself behind
rocks and shrubs, using those advantages of the ground with great
address, and surmounting its irregularities with surprising agility. At
length, just as the Saracen paused in his song, the figure, which was
that of a tall man clothed in goat-skins, sprung into the midst of
the path, and seized a rein of the Saracen's bridle in either hand,
confronting thus and bearing back the noble horse, which, unable to
endure the manner in which this sudden assailant pressed the long-armed
bit, and the severe curb, which, according to the Eastern fashion, was
a solid ring of iron, reared upright, and finally fell backwards on his
master, who, however, avoided the peril of the fall by lightly throwing
himself to one side.

The assailant then shifted his grasp from the bridle of the horse to the
throat of the rider, flung himself above the struggling Saracen, and,
despite of his youth and activity kept him undermost, wreathing his
long arms above those of his prisoner, who called out angrily, and yet
half-laughing at the same time--"Hamako--fool--unloose me--this passes
thy privilege--unloose me, or I will use my dagger."

"Thy dagger!--infidel dog!" said the figure in the goat-skins, "hold it
in thy gripe if thou canst!" and in an instant he wrenched the Saracen's
weapon out of its owner's hand, and brandished it over his head.

"Help, Nazarene!" cried Sheerkohf, now seriously alarmed; "help, or the
Hamako will slay me."

"Slay thee!" replied the dweller of the desert; "and well hast thou
merited death, for singing thy blasphemous hymns, not only to the praise
of thy false prophet, who is the foul fiend's harbinger, but to that of
the Author of Evil himself."

The Christian Knight had hitherto looked on as one stupefied, so
strangely had this rencontre contradicted, in its progress and event,
all that he had previously conjectured. He felt, however, at length,
that it touched his honour to interfere in behalf of his discomfited
companion, and therefore addressed himself to the victorious figure in
the goat-skins.

"Whosoe'er thou art," he said, "and whether of good or of evil, know
that I am sworn for the time to be true companion to the Saracen whom
thou holdest under thee; therefore, I pray thee to let him arise, else I
will do battle with thee in his behalf."

"And a proper quarrel it were," answered the Hamako, "for a Crusader to
do battle in--for the sake of an unbaptized dog, to combat one of his
own holy faith! Art thou come forth to the wilderness to fight for the
Crescent against the Cross? A goodly soldier of God art thou to listen
to those who sing the praises of Satan!"

Yet, while he spoke thus, he arose himself, and, suffering the Saracen
to rise also, returned him his cangiar, or poniard.

"Thou seest to what a point of peril thy presumption hath brought thee,"
continued he of the goat-skins, now addressing Sheerkohf, "and by what
weak means thy practised skill and boasted agility can be foiled, when
such is Heaven's pleasure. Wherefore, beware, O Ilderim! for know that,
were there not a twinkle in the star of thy nativity which promises for
thee something that is good and gracious in Heaven's good time, we
two had not parted till I had torn asunder the throat which so lately
trilled forth blasphemies."

"Hamako," said the Saracen, without any appearance of resenting the
violent language and yet more violent assault to which he had been
subjected, "I pray thee, good Hamako, to beware how thou dost again urge
thy privilege over far; for though, as a good Moslem, I respect those
whom Heaven hath deprived of ordinary reason, in order to endow them
with the spirit of prophecy, yet I like not other men's hands on the
bridle of my horse, neither upon my own person. Speak, therefore, what
thou wilt, secure of any resentment from me; but gather so much sense
as to apprehend that if thou shalt again proffer me any violence, I will
strike thy shagged head from thy meagre shoulders.--and to thee, friend
Kenneth," he added, as he remounted his steed, "I must needs say, that
in a companion through the desert, I love friendly deeds better than
fair words. Of the last thou hast given me enough; but it had been
better to have aided me more speedily in my struggle with this Hamako,
who had well-nigh taken my life in his frenzy."

"By my faith," said the Knight, "I did somewhat fail--was somewhat tardy
in rendering thee instant help; but the strangeness of the assailant,
the suddenness of the scene--it was as if thy wild and wicked lay had
raised the devil among us--and such was my confusion, that two or three
minutes elapsed ere I could take to my weapon."

"Thou art but a cold and considerate friend," said the Saracen; "and,
had the Hamako been one grain more frantic, thy companion had been slain
by thy side, to thy eternal dishonour, without thy stirring a finger in
his aid, although thou satest by, mounted, and in arms."

"By my word, Saracen," said the Christian, "if thou wilt have it in
plain terms, I thought that strange figure was the devil; and being of
thy lineage, I knew not what family secret you might be communicating to
each other, as you lay lovingly rolling together on the sand."

"Thy gibe is no answer, brother Kenneth," said the Saracen; "for know,
that had my assailant been in very deed the Prince of Darkness, thou
wert bound not the less to enter into combat with him in thy comrade's
behalf. Know, also, that whatever there may be of foul or of fiendish
about the Hamako belongs more to your lineage than to mine--this Hamako
being, in truth, the anchorite whom thou art come hither to visit."

"This!" said Sir Kenneth, looking at the athletic yet wasted figure
before him--"this! Thou mockest, Saracen--this cannot be the venerable
Theodorick!"

"Ask himself, if thou wilt not believe me," answered Sheerkohf; and
ere the words had left his mouth, the hermit gave evidence in his own
behalf.

"I am Theodorick of Engaddi," he said--"I am the walker of the desert--I
am friend of the Cross, and flail of all infidels, heretics, and
devil-worshippers. Avoid ye, avoid ye! Down with Mahound, Termagaunt,
and all their adherents!"--So saying, he pulled from under his shaggy
garment a sort of flail or jointed club, bound with iron, which he
brandished round his head with singular dexterity.

"Thou seest thy saint," said the Saracen, laughing, for the first time,
at the unmitigated astonishment with which Sir Kenneth looked on the
wild gestures and heard the wayward muttering of Theodorick, who, after
swinging his flail in every direction, apparently quite reckless whether
it encountered the head of either of his companions, finally showed
his own strength, and the soundness of the weapon, by striking into
fragments a large stone which lay near him.

"This is a madman," said Sir Kenneth.

"Not the worse saint," returned the Moslem, speaking according to
the well-known Eastern belief, that madmen are under the influence
of immediate inspiration. "Know, Christian, that when one eye is
extinguished, the other becomes more keen; when one hand is cut off,
the other becomes more powerful; so, when our reason in human things
is disturbed or destroyed, our view heavenward becomes more acute and
perfect."

Here the voice of the Saracen was drowned in that of the hermit, who
began to hollo aloud in a wild, chanting tone, "I am Theodorick of
Engaddi--I am the torch-brand of the desert--I am the flail of the
infidels! The lion and the leopard shall be my comrades, and draw nigh
to my cell for shelter; neither shall the goat be afraid of their fangs.
I am the torch and the lantern--Kyrie Eleison!"

He closed his song by a short race, and ended that again by three
forward bounds, which would have done him great credit in a gymnastic
academy, but became his character of hermit so indifferently that the
Scottish Knight was altogether confounded and bewildered.

The Saracen seemed to understand him better. "You see," he said, "that
he expects us to follow him to his cell, which, indeed, is our only
place of refuge for the night. You are the leopard, from the portrait
on your shield; I am the lion, as my name imports; and by the goat,
alluding to his garb of goat-skins, he means himself. We must keep him
in sight, however, for he is as fleet as a dromedary."

In fact, the task was a difficult one, for though the reverend guide
stopped from time to time, and waved his hand, as if to encourage them
to come on, yet, well acquainted with all the winding dells and passes
of the desert, and gifted with uncommon activity, which, perhaps, an
unsettled state of mind kept in constant exercise, he led the knights
through chasms and along footpaths where even the light-armed Saracen,
with his well-trained barb, was in considerable risk, and where the
iron-sheathed European and his over-burdened steed found themselves in
such imminent peril as the rider would gladly have exchanged for the
dangers of a general action. Glad he was when, at length, after this
wild race, he beheld the holy man who had led it standing in front of
a cavern, with a large torch in his hand, composed of a piece of wood
dipped in bitumen, which cast a broad and flickering light, and emitted
a strong sulphureous smell.

Undeterred by the stifling vapour, the knight threw himself from
his horse and entered the cavern, which afforded small appearance of
accommodation. The cell was divided into two parts, in the outward of
which were an altar of stone and a crucifix made of reeds: this served
the anchorite for his chapel. On one side of this outward cave the
Christian knight, though not without scruple, arising from religious
reverence to the objects around, fastened up his horse, and arranged him
for the night, in imitation of the Saracen, who gave him to understand
that such was the custom of the place. The hermit, meanwhile, was busied
putting his inner apartment in order to receive his guests, and there
they soon joined him. At the bottom of the outer cave, a small aperture,
closed with a door of rough plank, led into the sleeping apartment of
the hermit, which was more commodious. The floor had been brought to a
rough level by the labour of the inhabitant, and then strewed with white
sand, which he daily sprinkled with water from a small fountain which
bubbled out of the rock in one corner, affording in that stifling
climate, refreshment alike to the ear and the taste. Mattresses, wrought
of twisted flags, lay by the side of the cell; the sides, like the
floor, had been roughly brought to shape, and several herbs and flowers
were hung around them. Two waxen torches, which the hermit lighted,
gave a cheerful air to the place, which was rendered agreeable by its
fragrance and coolness.

There were implements of labour in one corner of the apartment, in
another was a niche for a rude statue of the Virgin. A table and two
chairs showed that they must be the handiwork of the anchorite, being
different in their form from Oriental accommodations. The former was
covered, not only with reeds and pulse, but also with dried flesh, which
Theodorick assiduously placed in such arrangement as should invite the
appetite of his guests. This appearance of courtesy, though mute, and
expressed by gestures only, seemed to Sir Kenneth something entirely
irreconcilable with his former wild and violent demeanour. The movements
of the hermit were now become composed, and apparently it was only a
sense of religious humiliation which prevented his features, emaciated
as they were by his austere mode of life, from being majestic and noble.
He trod his cell as one who seemed born to rule over men, but who had
abdicated his empire to become the servant of Heaven. Still, it must
be allowed that his gigantic size, the length of his unshaven locks and
beard, and the fire of a deep-set and wild eye were rather attributes of
a soldier than of a recluse.

Even the Saracen seemed to regard the anchorite with some veneration,
while he was thus employed, and he whispered in a low tone to Sir
Kenneth, "The Hamako is now in his better mind, but he will not speak
until we have eaten--such is his vow."

It was in silence, accordingly, that Theodorick motioned to the Scot to
take his place on one of the low chairs, while Sheerkohf placed himself,
after the custom of his nation, upon a cushion of mats. The hermit then
held up both hands, as if blessing the refreshment which he had placed
before his guests, and they proceeded to eat in silence as profound
as his own. To the Saracen this gravity was natural; and the Christian
imitated his taciturnity, while he employed his thoughts on the
singularity of his own situation, and the contrast betwixt the wild,
furious gesticulations, loud cries, and fierce actions of Theodorick,
when they first met him, and the demure, solemn, decorous assiduity with
which he now performed the duties of hospitality.

When their meal was ended, the hermit, who had not himself eaten a
morsel, removed the fragments from the table, and placing before the
Saracen a pitcher of sherbet, assigned to the Scot a flask of wine.

"Drink," he said, "my children"--they were the first words he had
spoken--"the gifts of God are to be enjoyed, when the Giver is
remembered."

Having said this, he retired to the outward cell, probably for
performance of his devotions, and left his guests together in the inner
apartment; when Sir Kenneth endeavoured, by various questions, to
draw from Sheerkohf what that Emir knew concerning his host. He was
interested by more than mere curiosity in these inquiries. Difficult as
it was to reconcile the outrageous demeanour of the recluse at his first
appearance with his present humble and placid behaviour, it seemed yet
more impossible to think it consistent with the high consideration in
which, according to what Sir Kenneth had learned, this hermit was held
by the most enlightened divines of the Christian world. Theodorick, the
hermit of Engaddi, had, in that character, been the correspondent of
popes and councils; to whom his letters, full of eloquent fervour,
had described the miseries imposed by the unbelievers upon the Latin
Christians in the Holy Land, in colours scarce inferior to those
employed at the Council of Clermont by the Hermit Peter, when he
preached the first Crusade. To find, in a person so reverend and so
much revered, the frantic gestures of a mad fakir, induced the Christian
knight to pause ere he could resolve to communicate to him certain
important matters, which he had in charge from some of the leaders of
the Crusade.

It had been a main object of Sir Kenneth's pilgrimage, attempted by
a route so unusual, to make such communications; but what he had that
night seen induced him to pause and reflect ere he proceeded to the
execution of his commission. From the Emir he could not extract much
information, but the general tenor was as follows:--That, as he had
heard, the hermit had been once a brave and valiant soldier, wise in
council and fortunate in battle, which last he could easily believe from
the great strength and agility which he had often seen him display; that
he had appeared at Jerusalem in the character not of a pilgrim, but in
that of one who had devoted himself to dwell for the remainder of his
life in the Holy Land. Shortly afterwards, he fixed his residence amid
the scenes of desolation where they now found him, respected by the
Latins for his austere devotion, and by the Turks and Arabs on account
of the symptoms of insanity which he displayed, and which they ascribed
to inspiration. It was from them he had the name of Hamako, which
expresses such a character in the Turkish language. Sheerkohf himself
seemed at a loss how to rank their host. He had been, he said, a wise
man, and could often for many hours together speak lessons of virtue or
wisdom, without the slightest appearance of inaccuracy. At other
times he was wild and violent, but never before had he seen him so
mischievously disposed as he had that day appeared to be. His rage was
chiefly provoked by any affront to his religion; and there was a story
of some wandering Arabs, who had insulted his worship and defaced his
altar, and whom he had on that account attacked and slain with the
short flail which he carried with him in lieu of all other weapons.
This incident had made a great noise, and it was as much the fear of the
hermit's iron flail as regard for his character as a Hamako which caused
the roving tribes to respect his dwelling and his chapel. His fame had
spread so far that Saladin had issued particular orders that he should
be spared and protected. He himself, and other Moslem lords of rank, had
visited the cell more than once, partly from curiosity, partly that they
expected from a man so learned as the Christian Hamako some insight into
the secrets of futurity. "He had," continued the Saracen, "a rashid, or
observatory, of great height, contrived to view the heavenly bodies, and
particularly the planetary system--by whose movements and influences,
as both Christian and Moslem believed, the course of human events was
regulated, and might be predicted."

This was the substance of the Emir Sheerkohf's information, and it left
Sir Kenneth in doubt whether the character of insanity arose from the
occasional excessive fervour of the hermit's zeal, or whether it was not
altogether fictitious, and assumed for the sake of the immunities
which it afforded. Yet it seemed that the infidels had carried their
complaisance towards him to an uncommon length, considering the
fanaticism of the followers of Mohammed, in the midst of whom he was
living, though the professed enemy of their faith. He thought also there
was more intimacy of acquaintance betwixt the hermit and the Saracen
than the words of the latter had induced him to anticipate; and it
had not escaped him that the former had called the latter by a
name different from that which he himself had assumed. All these
considerations authorized caution, if not suspicion. He determined to
observe his host closely, and not to be over-hasty in communicating with
him on the important charge entrusted to him.

"Beware, Saracen," he said; "methinks our host's imagination wanders
as well on the subject of names as upon other matters. Thy name is
Sheerkohf, and he called thee but now by another."

"My name, when in the tent of my father," replied the Kurdman, "was
Ilderim, and by this I am still distinguished by many. In the field, and
to soldiers, I am known as the Lion of the Mountain, being the name my
good sword hath won for me. But hush, the Hamako comes--it is to warn us
to rest. I know his custom; none must watch him at his vigils."

The anchorite accordingly entered, and folding his arms on his bosom as
he stood before them, said with a solemn voice, "Blessed be His name,
who hath appointed the quiet night to follow the busy day, and the calm
sleep to refresh the wearied limbs and to compose the troubled spirit!"

Both warriors replied "Amen!" and, arising from the table, prepared to
betake themselves to the couches, which their host indicated by waving
his hand, as, making a reverence to each, he again withdrew from the
apartment.

The Knight of the Leopard then disarmed himself of his heavy panoply,
his Saracen companion kindly assisting him to undo his buckler and
clasps, until he remained in the close dress of chamois leather, which
knights and men-at-arms used to wear under their harness. The Saracen,
if he had admired the strength of his adversary when sheathed in steel,
was now no less struck with the accuracy of proportion displayed in his
nervous and well-compacted figure. The knight, on the other hand, as, in
exchange of courtesy, he assisted the Saracen to disrobe himself of his
upper garments, that he might sleep with more convenience, was, on his
side, at a loss to conceive how such slender proportions and slimness of
figure could be reconciled with the vigour he had displayed in personal
contest.

Each warrior prayed ere he addressed himself to his place of rest. The
Moslem turned towards his KEBLAH, the point to which the prayer of each
follower of the Prophet was to be addressed, and murmured his heathen
orisons; while the Christian, withdrawing from the contamination of the
infidel's neighbourhood, placed his huge cross-handled sword upright,
and kneeling before it as the sign of salvation, told his rosary with
a devotion which was enhanced by the recollection of the scenes through
which he had passed, and the dangers from which he had been rescued, in
the course of the day. Both warriors, worn by toil and travel, were soon
fast asleep, each on his separate pallet.



CHAPTER IV.

Kenneth the Scot was uncertain how long his senses had been lost in
profound repose, when he was roused to recollection by a sense of
oppression on his chest, which at first suggested a flirting dream of
struggling with a powerful opponent, and at length recalled him fully
to his senses. He was about to demand who was there, when, opening his
eyes, he beheld the figure of the anchorite, wild and savage-looking as
we have described him, standing by his bedside, and pressing his right
hand upon his breast, while he held a small silver lamp in the other.

"Be silent," said the hermit, as the prostrate knight looked up in
surprise; "I have that to say to you which yonder infidel must not
hear."

These words he spoke in the French language, and not in the lingua
franca, or compound of Eastern and European dialects, which had hitherto
been used amongst them.

"Arise," he continued, "put on thy mantle; speak not, but tread lightly,
and follow me."

Sir Kenneth arose, and took his sword.

"It needs not," answered the anchorite, in a whisper; "we are going
where spiritual arms avail much, and fleshly weapons are but as the reed
and the decayed gourd."

The knight deposited his sword by the bedside as before, and, armed only
with his dagger, from which in this perilous country he never parted,
prepared to attend his mysterious host.

The hermit then moved slowly forwards, and was followed by the knight,
still under some uncertainty whether the dark form which glided
on before to show him the path was not, in fact, the creation of a
disturbed dream. They passed, like shadows, into the outer apartment,
without disturbing the paynim Emir, who lay still buried in repose.
Before the cross and altar, in the outward room, a lamp was still
burning, a missal was displayed, and on the floor lay a discipline, or
penitential scourge of small cord and wire, the lashes of which were
recently stained with blood--a token, no doubt, of the severe penance of
the recluse. Here Theodorick kneeled down, and pointed to the knight to
take his place beside him upon the sharp flints, which seemed placed for
the purpose of rendering the posture of reverential devotion as uneasy
as possible. He read many prayers of the Catholic Church, and chanted,
in a low but earnest voice, three of the penitential psalms. These last
he intermixed with sighs, and tears, and convulsive throbs, which bore
witness how deeply he felt the divine poetry which he recited. The
Scottish knight assisted with profound sincerity at these acts of
devotion, his opinion of his host beginning, in the meantime, to be so
much changed, that he doubted whether, from the severity of his penance
and the ardour of his prayers, he ought not to regard him as a saint;
and when they arose from the ground, he stood with reverence before
him, as a pupil before an honoured master. The hermit was, on his side,
silent and abstracted for the space of a few minutes.

"Look into yonder recess, my son," he said, pointing to the farther
corner of the cell; "there thou wilt find a veil--bring it hither."

The knight obeyed, and in a small aperture cut out of the wall, and
secured with a door of wicker, he found the veil inquired for. When he
brought it to the light, he discovered that it was torn, and soiled in
some places with some dark substance. The anchorite looked at it with
a deep but smothered emotion, and ere he could speak to the Scottish
knight, was compelled to vent his feelings in a convulsive groan.

"Thou art now about to look upon the richest treasure that the earth
possesses," he at length said; "woe is me, that my eyes are unworthy to
be lifted towards it! Alas! I am but the vile and despised sign, which
points out to the wearied traveller a harbour of rest and security, but
must itself remain for ever without doors. In vain have I fled to the
very depths of the rocks, and the very bosom of the thirsty desert. Mine
enemy hath found me--even he whom I have denied has pursued me to my
fortresses."

He paused again for a moment, and turning to the Scottish knight, said,
in a firmer tone of voice, "You bring me a greeting from Richard of
England?"

"I come from the Council of Christian Princes," said the knight;
"but the King of England being indisposed, I am not honoured with his
Majesty's commands."

"Your token?" demanded the recluse.

Sir Kenneth hesitated. Former suspicions, and the marks of insanity
which the hermit had formerly exhibited, rushed suddenly on his
thoughts; but how suspect a man whose manners were so saintly? "My
password," he said at length, "is this--Kings begged of a beggar."

"It is right," said the hermit, while he paused. "I know you well; but
the sentinel upon his post--and mine is an important one--challenges
friend as well as foe."

He then moved forward with the lamp, leading the way into the room which
they had left. The Saracen lay on his couch, still fast asleep. The
hermit paused by his side, and looked down on him.

"He sleeps," he said, "in darkness, and must not be awakened."

The attitude of the Emir did indeed convey the idea of profound repose.
One arm, flung across his body, as he lay with his face half turned to
the wall, concealed, with its loose and long sleeve, the greater part
of his face; but the high forehead was yet visible. Its nerves, which
during his waking hours were so uncommonly active, were now motionless,
as if the face had been composed of dark marble, and his long silken
eyelashes closed over his piercing and hawklike eyes. The open and
relaxed hand, and the deep, regular, and soft breathing, all gave tokens
of the most profound repose. The slumberer formed a singular group along
with the tall forms of the hermit in his shaggy dress of goat-skins,
bearing the lamp, and the knight in his close leathern coat--the former
with an austere expression of ascetic gloom, the latter with anxious
curiosity deeply impressed on his manly features.

"He sleeps soundly," said the hermit, in the same low tone as before;
and repeating the words, though he had changed the meaning from that
which is literal to a metaphorical sense--"he sleeps in darkness, but
there shall be for him a dayspring.--O Ilderim, thy waking thoughts
are yet as vain and wild as those which are wheeling their giddy dance
through thy sleeping brain; but the trumpet shall be heard, and the
dream shall be dissolved."

So saying, and making the knight a sign to follow him, the hermit went
towards the altar, and passing behind it, pressed a spring, which,
opening without noise, showed a small iron door wrought in the side
of the cavern, so as to be almost imperceptible, unless upon the most
severe scrutiny. The hermit, ere he ventured fully to open the door,
dropped some oil on the hinges, which the lamp supplied. A small
staircase, hewn in the rock, was discovered, when the iron door was at
length completely opened.

"Take the veil which I hold," said the hermit, in a melancholy tone,
"and blind mine eyes; For I may not look on the treasure which thou art
presently to behold, without sin and presumption."

Without reply, the knight hastily muffled the recluse's head in the
veil, and the latter began to ascend the staircase as one too much
accustomed to the way to require the use of light, while at the same
time he held the lamp to the Scot, who followed him for many steps up
the narrow ascent. At length they rested in a small vault of irregular
form, in one nook of which the staircase terminated, while in another
corner a corresponding stair was seen to continue the ascent. In a
third angle was a Gothic door, very rudely ornamented with the usual
attributes of clustered columns and carving, and defended by a wicket,
strongly guarded with iron, and studded with large nails. To this
last point the hermit directed his steps, which seemed to falter as he
approached it.

"Put off thy shoes," he said to his attendant; "the ground on which
thou standest is holy. Banish from thy innermost heart each profane and
carnal thought, for to harbour such while in this place were a deadly
impiety."

The knight laid aside his shoes as he was commanded, and the hermit
stood in the meanwhile as if communing with his soul in secret prayer,
and when he again moved, commanded the knight to knock at the wicket
three times. He did so. The door opened spontaneously--at least Sir
Kenneth beheld no one--and his senses were at once assailed by a stream
of the purest light, and by a strong and almost oppressive sense of the
richest perfumes. He stepped two or three paces back, and it was the
space of a minute ere he recovered the dazzling and overpowering effects
of the sudden change from darkness to light.

When he entered the apartment in which this brilliant lustre was
displayed, he perceived that the light proceeded from a combination of
silver lamps, fed with purest oil, and sending forth the richest odours,
hanging by silver chains from the roof of a small Gothic chapel, hewn,
like most part of the hermit's singular mansion, out of the sound and
solid rock. But whereas, in every other place which Sir Kenneth had
seen, the labour employed upon the rock had been of the simplest and
coarsest description, it had in this chapel employed the invention and
the chisels of the most able architects. The groined roofs rose from six
columns on each side, carved with the rarest skill; and the manner in
which the crossings of the concave arches were bound together, as it
were, with appropriate ornaments, were all in the finest tone of the
architecture of the age. Corresponding to the line of pillars, there
were on each side six richly-wrought niches, each of which contained the
image of one of the twelve apostles.

At the upper and eastern end of the chapel stood the altar, behind
which a very rich curtain of Persian silk, embroidered deeply with gold,
covered a recess, containing, unquestionably, some image or relic of no
ordinary sanctity, in honour of which this singular place of worship
had been erected, Under the persuasion that this must be the case, the
knight advanced to the shrine, and kneeling down before it, repeated his
devotions with fervency, during which his attention was disturbed by the
curtain being suddenly raised, or rather pulled aside, how or by whom he
saw not; but in the niche which was thus disclosed he beheld a cabinet
of silver and ebony, with a double folding-door, the whole formed into
the miniature resemblance of a Gothic church.

As he gazed with anxious curiosity on the shrine, the two folding-doors
also flew open, discovering a large piece of wood, on which were
blazoned the words, VERA CRUX; at the same time a choir of female voices
sung GLORIA PATRI. The instant the strain had ceased, the shrine was
closed, and the curtain again drawn, and the knight who knelt at the
altar might now continue his devotions undisturbed, in honour of the
holy relic which had been just disclosed to his view. He did this under
the profound impression of one who had witnessed, with his own eyes, an
awful evidence of the truth of his religion; and it was some time ere,
concluding his orisons, he arose, and ventured to look around him for
the hermit, who had guided him to this sacred and mysterious spot. He
beheld him, his head still muffled in the veil which he had himself
wrapped around it, crouching, like a rated hound, upon the threshold of
the chapel; but, apparently, without venturing to cross it--the holiest
reverence, the most penitential remorse, was expressed by his posture,
which seemed that of a man borne down and crushed to the earth by the
burden of his inward feelings. It seemed to the Scot that only the
sense of the deepest penitence, remorse, and humiliation could have thus
prostrated a frame so strong and a spirit so fiery.

He approached him as if to speak; but the recluse anticipated his
purpose, murmuring in stifled tones, from beneath the fold in which his
head was muffled, and which sounded like a voice proceeding from the
cerements of a corpse,--"Abide, abide--happy thou that mayest--the
vision is not yet ended." So saying, he reared himself from the ground,
drew back from the threshold on which he had hitherto lain prostrate,
and closed the door of the chapel, which, secured by a spring bolt
within, the snap of which resounded through the place, appeared so much
like a part of the living rock from which the cavern was hewn, that
Kenneth could hardly discern where the aperture had been. He was now
alone in the lighted chapel which contained the relic to which he had
lately rendered his homage, without other arms than his dagger, or other
companion than his pious thoughts and dauntless courage.

Uncertain what was next to happen, but resolved to abide the course of
events, Sir Kenneth paced the solitary chapel till about the time of the
earliest cock-crowing. At this dead season, when night and morning met
together, he heard, but from what quarter he could not discover, the
sound of such a small silver bell as is rung at the elevation of the
host in the ceremony, or sacrifice, as it has been called, of the mass.
The hour and the place rendered the sound fearfully solemn, and, bold as
he was, the knight withdrew himself into the farther nook of the
chapel, at the end opposite to the altar, in order to observe, without
interruption, the consequences of this unexpected signal.

He did not wait long ere the silken curtain was again withdrawn, and the
relic again presented to his view. As he sunk reverentially on his knee,
he heard the sound of the lauds, or earliest office of the Catholic
Church, sung by female voices, which united together in the performance
as they had done in the former service. The knight was soon aware that
the voices were no longer stationary in the distance, but approached the
chapel and became louder, when a door, imperceptible when closed, like
that by which he had himself entered, opened on the other side of the
vault, and gave the tones of the choir more room to swell along the
ribbed arches of the roof.

The knight fixed his eyes on the opening with breathless anxiety, and,
continuing to kneel in the attitude of devotion which the place and
scene required, expected the consequence of these preparations. A
procession appeared about to issue from the door. First, four beautiful
boys, whose arms, necks, and legs were bare, showing the bronze
complexion of the East, and contrasting with the snow-white tunics
which they wore, entered the chapel by two and two. The first pair bore
censers, which they swung from side to side, adding double fragrance
to the odours with which the chapel already was impregnated. The second
pair scattered flowers.

After these followed, in due and majestic order, the females who
composed the choir--six, who from their black scapularies, and black
veils over their white garments, appeared to be professed nuns of the
order of Mount Carmel; and as many whose veils, being white, argued them
to be novices, or occasional inhabitants in the cloister, who were
not as yet bound to it by vows. The former held in their hands large
rosaries, while the younger and lighter figures who followed carried
each a chaplet of red and white roses. They moved in procession around
the chapel, without appearing to take the slightest notice of Kenneth,
although passing so near him that their robes almost touched him, while
they continued to sing. The knight doubted not that he was in one of
those cloisters where the noble Christian maidens had formerly openly
devoted themselves to the services of the church. Most of them had been
suppressed since the Mohammedans had reconquered Palestine, but many,
purchasing connivance by presents, or receiving it from the clemency
or contempt of the victors, still continued to observe in private the
ritual to which their vows had consecrated them. Yet, though Kenneth
knew this to be the case, the solemnity of the place and hour, the
surprise at the sudden appearance of these votaresses, and the
visionary manner in which they moved past him, had such influence on his
imagination that he could scarce conceive that the fair procession
which he beheld was formed of creatures of this world, so much did
they resemble a choir of supernatural beings, rendering homage to the
universal object of adoration.

Such was the knight's first idea, as the procession passed him, scarce
moving, save just sufficiently to continue their progress; so that,
seen by the shadowy and religious light which the lamps shed through the
clouds of incense which darkened the apartment, they appeared rather to
glide than to walk.

But as a second time, in surrounding the chapel, they passed the spot on
which he kneeled, one of the white-stoled maidens, as she glided by him,
detached from the chaplet which she carried a rosebud, which dropped
from her fingers, perhaps unconsciously, on the foot of Sir Kenneth. The
knight started as if a dart had suddenly struck his person; for, when
the mind is wound up to a high pitch of feeling and expectation,
the slightest incident, if unexpected, gives fire to the train
which imagination has already laid. But he suppressed his emotion,
recollecting how easily an incident so indifferent might have happened,
and that it was only the uniform monotony of the movement of the
choristers which made the incident in the slightest degree remarkable.

Still, while the procession, for the third time, surrounded the chapel,
the thoughts and the eyes of Kenneth followed exclusively the one among
the novices who had dropped the rosebud. Her step, her face, her form
were so completely assimilated to the rest of the choristers that it
was impossible to perceive the least marks of individuality; and yet
Kenneth's heart throbbed like a bird that would burst from its cage, as
if to assure him, by its sympathetic suggestions, that the female who
held the right file on the second rank of the novices was dearer to him,
not only than all the rest that were present, but than the whole sex
besides. The romantic passion of love, as it was cherished, and indeed
enjoined, by the rules of chivalry, associated well with the no less
romantic feelings of devotion; and they might be said much more to
enhance than to counteract each other. It was, therefore, with a glow
of expectation that had something even of a religious character that
Sir Kenneth, his sensations thrilling from his heart to the ends of
his fingers, expected some second sign of the presence of one who, he
strongly fancied, had already bestowed on him the first. Short as
the space was during which the procession again completed a third
perambulation of the chapel, it seemed an eternity to Kenneth. At length
the form which he had watched with such devoted attention drew nigh.
There was no difference betwixt that shrouded figure and the others,
with whom it moved in concert and in unison, until, just as she passed
for the third time the kneeling Crusader, a part of a little and
well-proportioned hand, so beautifully formed as to give the highest
idea of the perfect proportions of the form to which it belonged, stole
through the folds of the gauze, like a moonbeam through the fleecy cloud
of a summer night, and again a rosebud lay at the feet of the Knight of
the Leopard.

This second intimation could not be accidental---it could not be
fortuitous, the resemblance of that half-seen but beautiful female hand
with one which his lips had once touched, and, while they touched it,
had internally sworn allegiance to the lovely owner. Had further proof
been wanting, there was the glimmer of that matchless ruby ring on that
snow-white finger, whose invaluable worth Kenneth would yet have prized
less than the slightest sign which that finger could have made; and,
veiled too, as she was, he might see, by chance or by favour, a stray
curl of the dark tresses, each hair of which was dearer to him a hundred
times than a chain of massive gold. It was the lady of his love! But
that she should be here--in the savage and sequestered desert--among
vestals, who rendered themselves habitants of wilds and of caverns, that
they might perform in secret those Christian rites which they dared
not assist in openly; that this should be so, in truth and in reality,
seemed too incredible--it must be a dream--a delusive trance of the
imagination. While these thoughts passed through the mind of Kenneth,
the same passage, by which the procession had entered the chapel,
received them on their return. The young sacristans, the sable nuns,
vanished successively through the open door. At length she from whom he
had received this double intimation passed also; yet, in passing, turned
her head, slightly indeed, but perceptibly, towards the place where he
remained fixed as an image. He marked the last wave of her veil--it was
gone--and a darkness sunk upon his soul, scarce less palpable than that
which almost immediately enveloped his external sense; for the last
chorister had no sooner crossed the threshold of the door than it shut
with a loud sound, and at the same instant the voices of the choir were
silent, the lights of the chapel were at once extinguished, and Sir
Kenneth remained solitary and in total darkness. But to Kenneth,
solitude, and darkness, and the uncertainty of his mysterious situation
were as nothing--he thought not of them--cared not for them--cared for
nought in the world save the flitting vision which had just glided past
him, and the tokens of her favour which she had bestowed. To grope on
the floor for the buds which she had dropped--to press them to his lips,
to his bosom, now alternately, now together--to rivet his lips to the
cold stones on which, as near as he could judge, she had so lately
stepped--to play all the extravagances which strong affection suggests
and vindicates to those who yield themselves up to it, were but the
tokens of passionate love common to all ages. But it was peculiar to the
times of chivalry that, in his wildest rapture, the knight imagined of
no attempt to follow or to trace the object of such romantic attachment;
that he thought of her as of a deity, who, having deigned to show
herself for an instant to her devoted worshipper, had again returned
to the darkness of her sanctuary--or as an influential planet, which,
having darted in some auspicious minute one favourable ray, wrapped
itself again in its veil of mist. The motions of the lady of his love
were to him those of a superior being, who was to move without watch or
control, rejoice him by her appearance, or depress him by her absence,
animate him by her kindness, or drive him to despair by her cruelty--all
at her own free will, and without other importunity or remonstrance than
that expressed by the most devoted services of the heart and sword of
the champion, whose sole object in life was to fulfil her commands, and,
by the splendour of his own achievements, to exalt her fame.

Such were the rules of chivalry, and of the love which was its ruling
principle. But Sir Kenneth's attachment was rendered romantic by other
and still more peculiar circumstances. He had never even heard the sound
of his lady's voice, though he had often beheld her beauty with rapture.
She moved in a circle which his rank of knighthood permitted him
indeed to approach, but not to mingle with; and highly as he stood
distinguished for warlike skill and enterprise, still the poor Scottish
soldier was compelled to worship his divinity at a distance almost as
great as divides the Persian from the sun which he adores. But when was
the pride of woman too lofty to overlook the passionate devotion of
a lover, however inferior in degree? Her eye had been on him in the
tournament, her ear had heard his praises in the report of the battles
which were daily fought; and while count, duke, and lord contended
for her grace, it flowed, unwillingly perhaps at first, or even
unconsciously, towards the poor Knight of the Leopard, who, to support
his rank, had little besides his sword. When she looked, and when she
listened, the lady saw and heard enough to encourage her in a partiality
which had at first crept on her unawares. If a knight's personal beauty
was praised, even the most prudish dames of the military court of
England would make an exception in favour of the Scottish Kenneth;
and it oftentimes happened that, notwithstanding the very considerable
largesses which princes and peers bestowed on the minstrels, an
impartial spirit of independence would seize the poet, and the harp was
swept to the heroism of one who had neither palfreys nor garments to
bestow in guerdon of his applause.

The moments when she listened to the praises of her lover became
gradually more and more dear to the high-born Edith, relieving the
flattery with which her ear was weary, and presenting to her a subject
of secret contemplation, more worthy, as he seemed by general report,
than those who surpassed him in rank and in the gifts of fortune. As her
attention became constantly, though cautiously, fixed on Sir Kenneth,
she grew more and more convinced of his personal devotion to herself and
more and more certain in her mind that in Kenneth of Scotland she beheld
the fated knight doomed to share with her through weal and woe--and the
prospect looked gloomy and dangerous--the passionate attachment to which
the poets of the age ascribed such universal dominion, and which its
manners and morals placed nearly on the same rank with devotion itself.

Let us not disguise the truth from our readers. When Edith became aware
of the state of her own sentiments, chivalrous as were her sentiments,
becoming a maiden not distant from the throne of England--gratified as
her pride must have been with the mute though unceasing homage rendered
to her by the knight whom she had distinguished, there were moments
when the feelings of the woman, loving and beloved, murmured against the
restraints of state and form by which she was surrounded, and when she
almost blamed the timidity of her lover, who seemed resolved not to
infringe them. The etiquette, to use a modern phrase, of birth and rank,
had drawn around her a magical circle, beyond which Sir Kenneth might
indeed bow and gaze, but within which he could no more pass than an
evoked spirit can transgress the boundaries prescribed by the rod of a
powerful enchanter. The thought involuntarily pressed on her that she
herself must venture, were it but the point of her fairy foot, beyond
the prescribed boundary, if she ever hoped to give a lover so reserved
and bashful an opportunity of so slight a favour as but to salute her
shoe-tie. There was an example--the noted precedent of the "King's
daughter of Hungary," who thus generously encouraged the "squire of low
degree;" and Edith, though of kingly blood, was no king's daughter, any
more than her lover was of low degree--fortune had put no such extreme
barrier in obstacle to their affections. Something, however, within
the maiden's bosom--that modest pride which throws fetters even on love
itself forbade her, notwithstanding the superiority of her condition, to
make those advances, which, in every case, delicacy assigns to the other
sex; above all, Sir Kenneth was a knight so gentle and honourable, so
highly accomplished, as her imagination at least suggested, together
with the strictest feelings of what was due to himself and to her,
that however constrained her attitude might be while receiving his
adorations, like the image of some deity, who is neither supposed to
feel nor to reply to the homage of its votaries, still the idol feared
that to step prematurely from her pedestal would be to degrade herself
in the eyes of her devoted worshipper.

Yet the devout adorer of an actual idol can even discover signs of
approbation in the rigid and immovable features of a marble image;
and it is no wonder that something, which could be as favourably
interpreted, glanced from the bright eye of the lovely Edith, whose
beauty, indeed, consisted rather more in that very power of expression,
than an absolute regularity of contour or brilliancy of complexion. Some
slight marks of distinction had escaped from her, notwithstanding her
own jealous vigilance, else how could Sir Kenneth have so readily and
so undoubtingly recognized the lovely hand, of which scarce two fingers
were visible from under the veil, or how could he have rested so
thoroughly assured that two flowers, successively dropped on the spot,
were intended as a recognition on the part of his lady-love? By what
train of observation--by what secret signs, looks, or gestures--by what
instinctive freemasonry of love, this degree of intelligence came to
subsist between Edith and her lover, we cannot attempt to trace; for we
are old, and such slight vestiges of affection, quickly discovered by
younger eyes, defy the power of ours. Enough that such affection
did subsist between parties who had never even spoken to one
another--though, on the side of Edith, it was checked by a deep sense of
the difficulties and dangers which must necessarily attend the further
progress of their attachment; and upon that of the knight by a thousand
doubts and fears lest he had overestimated the slight tokens of the
lady's notice, varied, as they necessarily were, by long intervals
of apparent coldness, during which either the fear of exciting the
observation of others, and thus drawing danger upon her lover, or that
of sinking in his esteem by seeming too willing to be won, made her
behave with indifference, and as if unobservant of his presence.

This narrative, tedious perhaps, but which the story renders necessary,
may serve to explain the state of intelligence, if it deserves so strong
a name, betwixt the lovers, when Edith's unexpected appearance in the
chapel produced so powerful an effect on the feelings of her knight.



CHAPTER V.

     Their necromantic forms in vain
     Haunt us on the tented plain;
     We bid these spectre shapes avaunt,
     Ashtaroth and Termagaunt.     WARTON.

The most profound silence, the deepest darkness, continued to brood for
more than an hour over the chapel in which we left the Knight of the
Leopard still kneeling, alternately expressing thanks to Heaven and
gratitude to his lady for the boon which had been vouchsafed to him.
His own safety, his own destiny, for which he was at all times little
anxious, had not now the weight of a grain of dust in his reflections.
He was in the neighbourhood of Lady Edith; he had received tokens of her
grace; he was in a place hallowed by relics of the most awful sanctity.
A Christian soldier, a devoted lover, could fear nothing, think of
nothing, but his duty to Heaven and his devoir to his lady.

At the lapse of the space of time which we have noticed, a shrill
whistle, like that with which a falconer calls his hawk, was heard to
ring sharply through the vaulted chapel. It was a sound ill suited to
the place, and reminded Sir Kenneth how necessary it was he should be
upon his guard. He started from his knee, and laid his hand upon his
poniard. A creaking sound, as of a screw or pulleys, succeeded, and a
light streaming upwards, as from an opening in the floor, showed that
a trap-door had been raised or depressed. In less than a minute a long,
skinny arm, partly naked, partly clothed in a sleeve of red samite,
arose out of the aperture, holding a lamp as high as it could stretch
upwards, and the figure to which the arm belonged ascended step by step
to the level of the chapel floor. The form and face of the being who
thus presented himself were those of a frightful dwarf, with a large
head, a cap fantastically adorned with three peacock feathers, a
dress of red samite, the richness of which rendered his ugliness more
conspicuous, distinguished by gold bracelets and armlets, and a white
silk sash, in which he wore a gold-hilted dagger. This singular figure
had in his left hand a kind of broom. So soon as he had stepped from
the aperture through which he arose, he stood still, and, as if to show
himself more distinctly, moved the lamp which he held slowly over
his face and person, successively illuminating his wild and fantastic
features, and his misshapen but nervous limbs. Though disproportioned in
person, the dwarf was not so distorted as to argue any want of strength
or activity. While Sir Kenneth gazed on this disagreeable object, the
popular creed occurred to his remembrance concerning the gnomes or
earthly spirits which make their abode in the caverns of the earth; and
so much did this figure correspond with ideas he had formed of their
appearance, that he looked on it with disgust, mingled not indeed with
fear, but that sort of awe which the presence of a supernatural creature
may infuse into the most steady bosom.

The dwarf again whistled, and summoned from beneath a companion. This
second figure ascended in the same manner as the first; but it was
a female arm in this second instance which upheld the lamp from the
subterranean vault out of which these presentments arose, and it was a
female form, much resembling the first in shape and proportions,
which slowly emerged from the floor. Her dress was also of red samite,
fantastically cut and flounced, as if she had been dressed for some
exhibition of mimes or jugglers; and with the same minuteness which her
predecessor had exhibited, she passed the lamp over her face and person,
which seemed to rival the male's in ugliness. But with all this most
unfavourable exterior, there was one trait in the features of both which
argued alertness and intelligence in the most uncommon degree. This
arose from the brilliancy of their eyes, which, deep-set beneath black
and shaggy brows, gleamed with a lustre which, like that in the eye
of the toad, seemed to make some amends for the extreme ugliness of
countenance and person.

Sir Kenneth remained as if spellbound, while this unlovely pair, moving
round the chapel close to each other, appeared to perform the duty of
sweeping it, like menials; but as they used only one hand, the floor was
not much benefited by the exercise, which they plied with such oddity of
gestures and manner as befitted their bizarre and fantastic appearance.
When they approached near to the knight in the course of their
occupation, they ceased to use their brooms; and placing themselves side
by side, directly opposite to Sir Kenneth, they again slowly shifted the
lights which they held, so as to allow him distinctly to survey features
which were not rendered more agreeable by being brought nearer, and to
observe the extreme quickness and keenness with which their black and
glittering eyes flashed back the light of the lamps. They then turned
the gleam of both lights upon the knight, and having accurately surveyed
him, turned their faces to each other, and set up a loud, yelling laugh,
which resounded in his ears. The sound was so ghastly that Sir Kenneth
started at hearing it, and hastily demanded, in the name of God, who
they were who profaned that holy place with such antic gestures and
elritch exclamations.

"I am the dwarf Nectabanus," said the abortion-seeming male, in a voice
corresponding to his figure, and resembling the voice of the night-crow
more than any sound which is heard by daylight.

"And I am Guenevra, his lady and his love," replied the female, in tones
which, being shriller, were yet wilder than those of her companion.

"Wherefore are you here?" again demanded the knight, scarcely yet
assured that they were human beings which he saw before him.

"I am," replied the male dwarf, with much assumed gravity and dignity,
"the twelfth Imaum. I am Mohammed Mohadi, the guide and the conductor of
the faithful. A hundred horses stand ready saddled for me and my train
at the Holy City, and as many at the City of Refuge. I am he who shall
bear witness, and this is one of my houris."

"Thou liest!" answered the female, interrupting her companion, in tones
yet shriller than his own; "I am none of thy houris, and thou art no
such infidel trash as the Mohammed of whom thou speakest. May my curse
rest upon his coffin! I tell thee, thou ass of Issachar, thou art King
Arthur of Britain, whom the fairies stole away from the field of Avalon;
and I am Dame Guenevra, famed for her beauty."

"But in truth, noble sir," said the male, "we are distressed princes,
dwelling under the wing of King Guy of Jerusalem, until he was driven
out from his own nest by the foul infidels--Heaven's bolts consume
them!"

"Hush," said a voice from the side upon which the knight had
entered--"hush, fools, and begone; your ministry is ended."

The dwarfs had no sooner heard the command than, gibbering in discordant
whispers to each other, they blew out their lights at once, and left the
knight in utter darkness, which, when the pattering of their retiring
feet had died away, was soon accompanied by its fittest companion, total
silence.

The knight felt the departure of these unfortunate creatures a relief.
He could not, from their language, manners, and appearance, doubt that
they belonged to the degraded class of beings whom deformity of person
and weakness of intellect recommended to the painful situation of
appendages to great families, where their personal appearance and
imbecility were food for merriment to the household. Superior in no
respect to the ideas and manners of his time, the Scottish knight might,
at another period, have been much amused by the mummery of these poor
effigies of humanity; but now their appearance, gesticulations, and
language broke the train of deep and solemn feeling with which he was
impressed, and he rejoiced in the disappearance of the unhappy objects.

A few minutes after they had retired, the door at which he had entered
opened slowly, and remaining ajar, discovered a faint light arising from
a lantern placed upon the threshold. Its doubtful and wavering gleam
showed a dark form reclined beside the entrance, but without its
precincts, which, on approaching it more nearly, he recognized to be the
hermit, crouching in the same humble posture in which he had at first
laid himself down, and which, doubtless, he had retained during the
whole time of his guest's continuing in the chapel.

"All is over," said the hermit, as he heard the knight approaching, "and
the most wretched of earthly sinners, with him who should think himself
most honoured and most happy among the race of humanity, must retire
from this place. Take the light, and guide me down the descent, for I
must not uncover my eyes until I am far from this hallowed spot."

The Scottish knight obeyed in silence, for a solemn and yet ecstatic
sense of what he had seen had silenced even the eager workings of
curiosity. He led the way, with considerable accuracy, through the
various secret passages and stairs by which they had ascended, until at
length they found themselves in the outward cell of the hermit's cavern.

"The condemned criminal is restored to his dungeon, reprieved from one
miserable day to another, until his awful Judge shall at length appoint
the well-deserved sentence to be carried into execution."

As the hermit spoke these words, he laid aside the veil with which his
eyes had been bound, and looked at it with a suppressed and hollow sigh.
No sooner had he restored it to the crypt from which he had caused the
Scot to bring it, than he said hastily and sternly to his companion;
"Begone, begone--to rest, to rest. You may sleep--you can sleep--I
neither can nor may."

Respecting the profound agitation with which this was spoken, the knight
retired into the inner cell; but casting back his eye as he left the
exterior grotto, he beheld the anchorite stripping his shoulders with
frantic haste of their shaggy mantle, and ere he could shut the frail
door which separated the two compartments of the cavern, he heard
the clang of the scourge and the groans of the penitent under his
self-inflicted penance. A cold shudder came over the knight as he
reflected what could be the foulness of the sin, what the depth of the
remorse, which, apparently, such severe penance could neither cleanse
nor assuage. He told his beads devoutly, and flung himself on his rude
couch, after a glance at the still sleeping Moslem, and, wearied by the
various scenes of the day and the night, soon slept as sound as infancy.
Upon his awaking in the morning, he held certain conferences with the
hermit upon matters of importance, and the result of their intercourse
induced him to remain for two days longer in the grotto. He was regular,
as became a pilgrim, in his devotional exercises, but was not again
admitted to the chapel in which he had seen such wonders.



CHAPTER VI.

     Now change the scene--and let the trumpets sound,
     For we must rouse the lion from his lair.  OLD PLAY.

The scene must change, as our programme has announced, from the mountain
wilderness of Jordan to the camp of King Richard of England, then
stationed betwixt Jean d'Acre and Ascalon, and containing that army with
which he of the lion heart had promised himself a triumphant march
to Jerusalem, and in which he would probably have succeeded, if not
hindered by the jealousies of the Christian princes engaged in the same
enterprise, and the offence taken by them at the uncurbed haughtiness
of the English monarch, and Richard's unveiled contempt for his brother
sovereigns, who, his equals in rank, were yet far his inferiors
in courage, hardihood, and military talents. Such discords, and
particularly those betwixt Richard and Philip of France, created
disputes and obstacles which impeded every active measure proposed by
the heroic though impetuous Richard, while the ranks of the Crusaders
were daily thinned, not only by the desertion of individuals, but of
entire bands, headed by their respective feudal leaders, who withdrew
from a contest in which they had ceased to hope for success.

The effects of the climate became, as usual, fatal to soldiers from
the north, and the more so that the dissolute license of the Crusaders,
forming a singular contrast to the principles and purpose of their
taking up arms, rendered them more easy victims to the insalubrious
influence of burning heat and chilling dews. To these discouraging
causes of loss was to be added the sword of the enemy. Saladin, than
whom no greater name is recorded in Eastern history, had learned, to
his fatal experience, that his light-armed followers were little able to
meet in close encounter with the iron-clad Franks, and had been taught,
at the same time, to apprehend and dread the adventurous character of
his antagonist Richard. But if his armies were more than once routed
with great slaughter, his numbers gave the Saracen the advantage in
those lighter skirmishes, of which many were inevitable.

As the army of his assailants decreased, the enterprises of the Sultan
became more numerous and more bold in this species of petty warfare. The
camp of the Crusaders was surrounded, and almost besieged, by clouds of
light cavalry, resembling swarms of wasps, easily crushed when they are
once grasped, but furnished with wings to elude superior strength, and
stings to inflict harm and mischief. There was perpetual warfare of
posts and foragers, in which many valuable lives were lost, without
any corresponding object being gained; convoys were intercepted, and
communications were cut off. The Crusaders had to purchase the means
of sustaining life, by life itself; and water, like that of the well of
Bethlehem, longed for by King David, one of its ancient monarchs, was
then, as before, only obtained by the expenditure of blood.

These evils were in a great measure counterbalanced by the stern
resolution and restless activity of King Richard, who, with some of his
best knights, was ever on horseback, ready to repair to any point where
danger occurred, and often not only bringing unexpected succour to the
Christians, but discomfiting the infidels when they seemed most secure
of victory. But even the iron frame of Coeur de Lion could not support
without injury the alternations of the unwholesome climate, joined to
ceaseless exertions of body and mind. He became afflicted with one of
those slow and wasting fevers peculiar to Asia, and in despite of his
great strength and still greater courage, grew first unfit to mount on
horseback, and then unable to attend the councils of war which were from
time to time held by the Crusaders. It was difficult to say whether this
state of personal inactivity was rendered more galling or more endurable
to the English monarch by the resolution of the council to engage in a
truce of thirty days with the Sultan Saladin; for on the one hand, if he
was incensed at the delay which this interposed to the progress of the
great enterprise, he was, on the other, somewhat consoled by knowing
that others were not acquiring laurels while he remained inactive upon a
sick-bed.

That, however, which Coeur de Lion could least excuse was the general
inactivity which prevailed in the camp of the Crusaders so soon as his
illness assumed a serious aspect; and the reports which he extracted
from his unwilling attendants gave him to understand that the hopes of
the host had abated in proportion to his illness, and that the interval
of truce was employed, not in recruiting their numbers, reanimating
their courage, fostering their spirit of conquest, and preparing for a
speedy and determined advance upon the Holy City, which was the
object of their expedition, but in securing the camp occupied by their
diminished followers with trenches, palisades, and other fortifications,
as if preparing rather to repel an attack from a powerful enemy so soon
as hostilities should recommence, than to assume the proud character of
conquerors and assailants.

The English king chafed under these reports, like the imprisoned lion
viewing his prey from the iron barriers of his cage. Naturally rash
and impetuous, the irritability of his temper preyed on itself. He was
dreaded by his attendants and even the medical assistants feared to
assume the necessary authority which a physician, to do justice to his
patient, must needs exercise over him. One faithful baron, who, perhaps,
from the congenial nature of his disposition, was devoutly attached to
the King's person, dared alone to come between the dragon and his wrath,
and quietly, but firmly, maintained a control which no other dared
assume over the dangerous invalid, and which Thomas de Multon only
exercised because he esteemed his sovereign's life and honour more than
he did the degree of favour which he might lose, or even the risk
which he might incur, in nursing a patient so intractable, and whose
displeasure was so perilous.

Sir Thomas was the Lord of Gilsland, in Cumberland, and in an age
when surnames and titles were not distinctly attached, as now, to the
individuals who bore them, he was called by the Normans the Lord de
Vaux; and in English by the Saxons, who clung to their native language,
and were proud of the share of Saxon blood in this renowned warrior's
veins, he was termed Thomas, or, more familiarly, Thom of the Gills,
or Narrow Valleys, from which his extensive domains derived their
well-known appellation.

This chief had been exercised in almost all the wars, whether waged
betwixt England and Scotland, or amongst the various domestic factions
which then tore the former country asunder, and in all had been
distinguished, as well from his military conduct as his personal
prowess. He was, in other respects, a rude soldier, blunt and careless
in his bearing, and taciturn--nay, almost sullen--in his habits of
society, and seeming, at least, to disclaim all knowledge of policy and
of courtly art. There were men, however, who pretended to look deeply
into character, who asserted that the Lord de Vaux was not less shrewd
and aspiring than he was blunt and bold, and who thought that, while he
assimilated himself to the king's own character of blunt hardihood, it
was, in some degree at least, with an eye to establish his favour, and
to gratify his own hopes of deep-laid ambition. But no one cared to
thwart his schemes, if such he had, by rivalling him in the dangerous
occupation of daily attendance on the sick-bed of a patient whose
disease was pronounced infectious, and more especially when it was
remembered that the patient was Coeur de Lion, suffering under all the
furious impatience of a soldier withheld from battle, and a sovereign
sequestered from authority; and the common soldiers, at least in the
English army, were generally of opinion that De Vaux attended on
the King like comrade upon comrade, in the honest and disinterested
frankness of military friendship contracted between the partakers of
daily dangers.

It was on the decline of a Syrian day that Richard lay on his couch of
sickness, loathing it as much in mind as his illness made it irksome to
his body. His bright blue eye, which at all times shone with uncommon
keenness and splendour, had its vivacity augmented by fever and mental
impatience, and glanced from among his curled and unshorn locks of
yellow hair as fitfully and as vividly as the last gleams of the sun
shoot through the clouds of an approaching thunderstorm, which still,
however, are gilded by its beams. His manly features showed the
progress of wasting illness, and his beard, neglected and untrimmed,
had overgrown both lips and chin. Casting himself from side to side, now
clutching towards him the coverings, which at the next moment he flung
as impatiently from him, his tossed couch and impatient gestures showed
at once the energy and the reckless impatience of a disposition whose
natural sphere was that of the most active exertion.

Beside his couch stood Thomas de Vaux, in face, attitude, and manner
the strongest possible contrast to the suffering monarch. His stature
approached the gigantic, and his hair in thickness might have resembled
that of Samson, though only after the Israelitish champion's locks had
passed under the shears of the Philistines, for those of De Vaux were
cut short, that they might be enclosed under his helmet. The light of
his broad, large hazel eye resembled that of the autumn morn; and it was
only perturbed for a moment, when from time to time it was attracted by
Richard's vehement marks of agitation and restlessness. His features,
though massive like his person, might have been handsome before they
were defaced with scars; his upper lip, after the fashion of the
Normans, was covered with thick moustaches, which grew so long and
luxuriantly as to mingle with his hair, and, like his hair, were dark
brown, slightly brindled with grey. His frame seemed of that kind which
most readily defies both toil and climate, for he was thin-flanked,
broad-chested, long-armed, deep-breathed, and strong-limbed. He had not
laid aside his buff-coat, which displayed the cross cut on the shoulder,
for more than three nights, enjoying but such momentary repose as the
warder of a sick monarch's couch might by snatches indulge. This Baron
rarely changed his posture, except to administer to Richard the medicine
or refreshments which none of his less favoured attendants could
persuade the impatient monarch to take; and there was something
affecting in the kindly yet awkward manner in which he discharged
offices so strangely contrasted with his blunt and soldierly habits and
manners.

The pavilion in which these personages were, had, as became the time,
as well as the personal character of Richard, more of a warlike than a
sumptuous or royal character. Weapons offensive and defensive, several
of them of strange and newly-invented construction, were scattered about
the tented apartment, or disposed upon the pillars which supported it.
Skins of animals slain in the chase were stretched on the ground, or
extended along the sides of the pavilion; and upon a heap of
these silvan spoils lay three ALANS, as they were then called
(wolf-greyhounds, that is), of the largest size, and as white as snow.
Their faces, marked with many a scar from clutch and fang, showed their
share in collecting the trophies upon which they reposed; and their
eyes, fixed from time to time with an expressive stretch and yawn upon
the bed of Richard, evinced how much they marvelled at and regretted the
unwonted inactivity which they were compelled to share. These were but
the accompaniments of the soldier and huntsman; but on a small table
close by the bed was placed a shield of wrought steel, of triangular
form, bearing the three lions passant first assumed by the chivalrous
monarch, and before it the golden circlet, resembling much a ducal
coronet, only that it was higher in front than behind, which, with
the purple velvet and embroidered tiara that lined it, formed then the
emblem of England's sovereignty. Beside it, as if prompt for defending
the regal symbol, lay a mighty curtal-axe, which would have wearied the
arm of any other than Coeur de Lion.

In an outer partition of the pavilion waited two or three officers of
the royal household, depressed, anxious for their master's health, and
not less so for their own safety, in case of his decease. Their gloomy
apprehensions spread themselves to the warders without, who paced about
in downcast and silent contemplation, or, resting on their halberds,
stood motionless on their post, rather like armed trophies than living
warriors.

"So thou hast no better news to bring me from without, Sir Thomas!"
said the King, after a long and perturbed silence, spent in the feverish
agitation which we have endeavoured to describe. "All our knights turned
women, and our ladies become devotees, and neither a spark of valour nor
of gallantry to enlighten a camp which contains the choicest of Europe's
chivalry--ha!"

"The truce, my lord," said De Vaux, with the same patience with which
he had twenty times repeated the explanation--"the truce prevents us
bearing ourselves as men of action; and for the ladies, I am no great
reveller, as is well known to your Majesty, and seldom exchange steel
and buff for velvet and gold--but thus far I know, that our choicest
beauties are waiting upon the Queen's Majesty and the Princess, to a
pilgrimage to the convent of Engaddi, to accomplish their vows for your
Highness's deliverance from this trouble."

"And is it thus," said Richard, with the impatience of indisposition,
"that royal matrons and maidens should risk themselves, where the dogs
who defile the land have as little truth to man as they have faith
towards God?"

"Nay, my lord," said De Vaux, "they have Saladin's word for their
safety."

"True, true!" replied Richard; "and I did the heathen Soldan
injustice--I owe him reparation for it. Would God I were but fit
to offer it him upon my body between the two hosts--Christendom and
heathenesse both looking on!"

As Richard spoke, he thrust his right arm out of bed naked to the
shoulder, and painfully raising himself in his couch, shook his clenched
hand, as if it grasped sword or battle-axe, and was then brandished over
the jewelled turban of the Soldan. It was not without a gentle degree of
violence, which the King would scarce have endured from another, that
De Vaux, in his character of sick-nurse, compelled his royal master
to replace himself in the couch, and covered his sinewy arm, neck, and
shoulders with the care which a mother bestows upon an impatient child.

"Thou art a rough nurse, though a willing one, De Vaux," said the King,
laughing with a bitter expression, while he submitted to the strength
which he was unable to resist; "methinks a coif would become thy
lowering features as well as a child's biggin would beseem mine. We
should be a babe and nurse to frighten girls with."

"We have frightened men in our time, my liege," said De Vaux; "and, I
trust, may live to frighten them again. What is a fever-fit, that we
should not endure it patiently, in order to get rid of it easily?"

"Fever-fit!" exclaimed Richard impetuously; "thou mayest think, and
justly, that it is a fever-fit with me; but what is it with all the
other Christian princes--with Philip of France, with that dull Austrian,
with him of Montserrat, with the Hospitallers, with the Templars--what
is it with all them? I will tell thee. It is a cold palsy, a dead
lethargy, a disease that deprives them of speech and action, a canker
that has eaten into the heart of all that is noble, and chivalrous, and
virtuous among them--that has made them false to the noblest vow ever
knights were sworn to--has made them indifferent to their fame, and
forgetful of their God!"

"For the love of Heaven, my liege," said De Vaux, "take it less
violently--you will be heard without doors, where such speeches are but
too current already among the common soldiery, and engender discord and
contention in the Christian host. Bethink you that your illness mars the
mainspring of their enterprise; a mangonel will work without screw and
lever better than the Christian host without King Richard."

"Thou flatterest me, De Vaux," said Richard, and not insensible to
the power of praise, he reclined his head on the pillow with a more
deliberate attempt to repose than he had yet exhibited. But Thomas
de Vaux was no courtier; the phrase which had offered had risen
spontaneously to his lips, and he knew not how to pursue the pleasing
theme so as to soothe and prolong the vein which he had excited. He was
silent, therefore, until, relapsing into his moody contemplations, the
King demanded of him sharply, "Despardieux! This is smoothly said to
soothe a sick man; but does a league of monarchs, an assemblage or
nobles, a convocation of all the chivalry of Europe, droop with the
sickness of one man, though he chances to be King of England? Why
should Richard's illness, or Richard's death, check the march of thirty
thousand men as brave as himself? When the master stag is struck down,
the herd do not disperse upon his fall; when the falcon strikes the
leading crane, another takes the guidance of the phalanx. Why do not
the powers assemble and choose some one to whom they may entrust the
guidance of the host?"

"Forsooth, and if it please your Majesty," said De Vaux, "I hear
consultations have been held among the royal leaders for some such
purpose."

"Ha!" exclaimed Richard, his jealousy awakened, giving his mental
irritation another direction, "am I forgot by my allies ere I have taken
the last sacrament? Do they hold me dead already? But no, no, they are
right. And whom do they select as leader of the Christian host?"

"Rank and dignity," said De Vaux, "point to the King of France."

"Oh, ay," answered the English monarch, "Philip of France and
Navarre--Denis Mountjoie--his most Christian Majesty! Mouth-filling
words these! There is but one risk--that he might mistake the words EN
ARRIERE for EN AVANT, and lead us back to Paris, instead of marching to
Jerusalem. His politic head has learned by this time that there is more
to be gotten by oppressing his feudatories, and pillaging his allies,
than fighting with the Turks for the Holy Sepulchre."

"They might choose the Archduke of Austria," said De Vaux.

"What! because he is big and burly like thyself, Thomas--nearly as
thick-headed, but without thy indifference to danger and carelessness
of offence? I tell thee that Austria has in all that mass of flesh no
bolder animation than is afforded by the peevishness of a wasp and the
courage of a wren. Out upon him! He a leader of chivalry to deeds
of glory! Give him a flagon of Rhenish to drink with his besmirched
baaren-hauters and lance-knechts."

"There is the Grand Master of the Templars," continued the baron, not
sorry to keep his master's attention engaged on other topics than his
own illness, though at the expense of the characters of prince and
potentate. "There is the Grand Master of the Templars," he continued,
"undaunted, skilful, brave in battle, and sage in council, having no
separate kingdoms of his own to divert his exertions from the recovery
of the Holy Land--what thinks your Majesty of the Master as a general
leader of the Christian host?"

"Ha, Beau-Seant?" answered the King. "Oh, no exception can be taken to
Brother Giles Amaury; he understands the ordering of a battle, and the
fighting in front when it begins. But, Sir Thomas, were it fair to take
the Holy Land from the heathen Saladin, so full of all the virtues which
may distinguish unchristened man, and give it to Giles Amaury, a worse
pagan than himself, an idolater, a devil-worshipper, a necromancer, who
practises crimes the most dark and unnatural in the vaults and secret
places of abomination and darkness?"

"The Grand Master of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem is not
tainted by fame, either with heresy or magic," said Thomas de Vaux.

"But is he not a sordid miser?" said Richard hastily; "has he not been
suspected--ay, more than suspected--of selling to the infidels those
advantages which they would never have won by fair force? Tush, man,
better give the army to be made merchandise of by Venetian skippers and
Lombardy pedlars, than trust it to the Grand Master of St. John."

"Well, then, I will venture but another guess," said the Baron de Vaux.
"What say you to the gallant Marquis of Montserrat, so wise, so elegant,
such a good man-at-arms?"

"Wise?--cunning, you would say," replied Richard; "elegant in a lady's
chamber, if you will. Oh, ay, Conrade of Montserrat--who knows not the
popinjay? Politic and versatile, he will change you his purposes as
often as the trimmings of his doublet, and you shall never be able to
guess the hue of his inmost vestments from their outward colours. A
man-at-arms? Ay, a fine figure on horseback, and can bear him well in
the tilt-yard, and at the barriers, when swords are blunted at point
and edge, and spears are tipped with trenchers of wood instead of steel
pikes. Wert thou not with me when I said to that same gay Marquis, 'Here
we be, three good Christians, and on yonder plain there pricks a band of
some threescore Saracens--what say you to charge them briskly? There are
but twenty unbelieving miscreants to each true knight."

"I recollect the Marquis replied," said De Vaux, "that his limbs were
of flesh, not of iron, and that he would rather bear the heart of a
man than of a beast, though that beast were the lion, But I see how
it is--we shall end where we began, without hope of praying at the
Sepulchre until Heaven shall restore King Richard to health."

At this grave remark Richard burst out into a hearty fit of laughter,
the first which he had for some time indulged in. "Why what a thing is
conscience," he said, "that through its means even such a thick-witted
northern lord as thou canst bring thy sovereign to confess his folly!
It is true that, did they not propose themselves as fit to hold my
leading-staff, little should I care for plucking the silken trappings
off the puppets thou hast shown me in succession. What concerns it me
what fine tinsel robes they swagger in, unless when they are named as
rivals in the glorious enterprise to which I have vowed myself? Yes,
De Vaux, I confess my weakness, and the wilfulness of my ambition. The
Christian camp contains, doubtless, many a better knight than Richard of
England, and it would be wise and worthy to assign to the best of them
the leading of the host. But," continued the warlike monarch, raising
himself in his bed, and shaking the cover from his head, while his eyes
sparkled as they were wont to do on the eve of battle, "were such a
knight to plant the banner of the Cross on the Temple of Jerusalem while
I was unable to bear my share in the noble task, he should, so soon as I
was fit to lay lance in rest, undergo my challenge to mortal combat,
for having diminished my fame, and pressed in before to the object of my
enterprise. But hark, what trumpets are those at a distance?"

"Those of King Philip, as I guess, my liege," said the stout Englishman.

"Thou art dull of ear, Thomas," said the King, endeavouring to start up;
"hearest thou not that clash and clang? By Heaven, the Turks are in the
camp--I hear their LELIES." [The war-cries of the Moslemah.]

He again endeavoured to get out of bed, and De Vaux was obliged to
exercise his own great strength, and also to summon the assistance of
the chamberlains from the inner tent, to restrain him.

"Thou art a false traitor, De Vaux," said the incensed monarch, when,
breathless and exhausted with struggling, he was compelled to submit
to superior strength, and to repose in quiet on his couch. "I would I
were--I would I were but strong enough to dash thy brains out with my
battle-axe!"

"I would you had the strength, my liege," said De Vaux, "and would
even take the risk of its being so employed. The odds would be great in
favour of Christendom were Thomas Multon dead and Coeur de Lion himself
again."

"Mine honest faithful servant," said Richard, extending his hand, which
the baron reverentially saluted, "forgive thy master's impatience of
mood. It is this burning fever which chides thee, and not thy kind
master, Richard of England. But go, I prithee, and bring me word what
strangers are in the camp, for these sounds are not of Christendom."

De Vaux left the pavilion on the errand assigned, and in his absence,
which he had resolved should be brief, he charged the chamberlains,
pages, and attendants to redouble their attention on their sovereign,
with threats of holding them to responsibility, which rather added to
than diminished their timid anxiety in the discharge of their duty; for
next, perhaps, to the ire of the monarch himself, they dreaded that
of the stern and inexorable Lord of Gilsland. [Sir Thomas Multon of
Gilsland.]



CHAPTER VII.

     There never was a time on the march parts yet,
     When Scottish with English met,
     But it was marvel if the red blood ran not
     As the rain does in the street.
     --BATTLE OF OTTERBOURNE.

A considerable band of Scottish warriors had joined the Crusaders,
and had naturally placed themselves under the command of the English
monarch, being, like his native troops, most of them of Saxon and
Norman descent, speaking the same languages, possessed, some of them, of
English as well as Scottish demesnes, and allied in some cases by blood
and intermarriage. The period also preceded that when the grasping
ambition of Edward I. gave a deadly and envenomed character to the wars
betwixt the two nations--the English fighting for the subjugation
of Scotland, and the Scottish, with all the stern determination and
obstinacy which has ever characterized their nation, for the defence
of their independence, by the most violent means, under the most
disadvantageous circumstances, and at the most extreme hazard. As yet,
wars betwixt the two nations, though fierce and frequent, had been
conducted on principles of fair hostility, and admitted of those
softening shades by which courtesy and the respect for open and generous
foemen qualify and mitigate the horrors of war. In time of peace,
therefore, and especially when both, as at present, were engaged in war,
waged in behalf of a common cause, and rendered dear to them by their
ideas of religion, the adventurers of both countries frequently fought
side by side, their national emulation serving only to stimulate them to
excel each other in their efforts against the common enemy.

The frank and martial character of Richard, who made no distinction
betwixt his own subjects and those of William of Scotland, excepting as
they bore themselves in the field of battle, tended much to
conciliate the troops of both nations. But upon his illness, and the
disadvantageous circumstances in which the Crusaders were placed, the
national disunion between the various bands united in the Crusade, began
to display itself, just as old wounds break out afresh in the human body
when under the influence of disease or debility.

The Scottish and English, equally jealous and high-spirited, and apt to
take offence--the former the more so, because the poorer and the weaker
nation--began to fill up by internal dissension the period when the
truce forbade them to wreak their united vengeance on the Saracens.
Like the contending Roman chiefs of old, the Scottish would admit no
superiority, and their southern neighbours would brook no equality.
There were charges and recriminations, and both the common soldiery
and their leaders and commanders, who had been good comrades in time of
victory, lowered on each other in the period of adversity, as if their
union had not been then more essential than ever, not only to the
success of their common cause, but to their joint safety. The same
disunion had begun to show itself betwixt the French and English, the
Italians and the Germans, and even between the Danes and Swedes; but it
is only that which divided the two nations whom one island bred, and who
seemed more animated against each other for the very reason, that our
narrative is principally concerned with.

Of all the English nobles who had followed their King to Palestine,
De Vaux was most prejudiced against the Scottish. They were his near
neighbours, with whom he had been engaged during his whole life in
private or public warfare, and on whom he had inflicted many calamities,
while he had sustained at their hands not a few. His love and devotion
to the King was like the vivid affection of the old English mastiff to
his master, leaving him churlish and inaccessible to all others even
towards those to whom he was indifferent--and rough and dangerous to
any against whom he entertained a prejudice. De Vaux had never observed
without jealousy and displeasure his King exhibit any mark of courtesy
or favour to the wicked, deceitful, and ferocious race born on the
other side of a river, or an imaginary line drawn through waste and
wilderness; and he even doubted the success of a Crusade in which they
were suffered to bear arms, holding them in his secret soul little
better than the Saracens whom he came to combat. It may be added that,
as being himself a blunt and downright Englishman, unaccustomed
to conceal the slightest movement either of love or of dislike, he
accounted the fair-spoken courtesy which the Scots had learned, either
from imitation of their frequent allies, the French, or which might
have arisen from their own proud and reserved character, as a false and
astucious mark of the most dangerous designs against their neighbours,
over whom he believed, with genuine English confidence, they could, by
fair manhood, never obtain any advantage.

Yet, though De Vaux entertained these sentiments concerning his Northern
neighbours, and extended them, with little mitigation, even to such as
had assumed the Cross, his respect for the King, and a sense of the duty
imposed by his vow as a Crusader, prevented him from displaying them
otherwise than by regularly shunning all intercourse with his Scottish
brethren-at-arms as far as possible, by observing a sullen taciturnity
when compelled to meet them occasionally, and by looking scornfully upon
them when they encountered on the march and in camp. The Scottish barons
and knights were not men to bear his scorn unobserved or unreplied to;
and it came to that pass that he was regarded as the determined and
active enemy of a nation, whom, after all, he only disliked, and in some
sort despised. Nay, it was remarked by close observers that, if he had
not towards them the charity of Scripture, which suffereth long, and
judges kindly, he was by no means deficient in the subordinate and
limited virtue, which alleviates and relieves the wants of others.
The wealth of Thomas of Gilsland procured supplies of provisions and
medicines, and some of these usually flowed by secret channels into
the quarters of the Scottish--his surly benevolence proceeding on the
principle that, next to a man's friend, his foe was of most importance
to him, passing over all the intermediate relations as too indifferent
to merit even a thought. This explanation is necessary, in order that
the reader may fully understand what we are now to detail.

Thomas de Vaux had not made many steps beyond the entrance of the royal
pavilion when he was aware of what the far more acute ear of the English
monarch--no mean proficient in the art of minstrelsy--had instantly
discovered, that the musical strains, namely, which had reached their
ears, were produced by the pipes, shalms, and kettle-drums of the
Saracens; and at the bottom of an avenue of tents, which formed a broad
access to the pavilion of Richard, he could see a crowd of idle soldiers
assembled around the spot from which the music was heard, almost in the
centre of the camp; and he saw, with great surprise, mingled amid the
helmets of various forms worn by the Crusaders of different nations,
white turbans and long pikes, announcing the presence of armed
Saracens, and the huge deformed heads of several camels or dromedaries,
overlooking the multitude by aid of their long, disproportioned necks.

Wondering, and displeased at a sight so unexpected and singular--for it
was customary to leave all flags of truce and other communications from
the enemy at an appointed place without the barriers--the baron looked
eagerly round for some one of whom he might inquire the cause of this
alarming novelty.

The first person whom he met advancing to him he set down at once, by
his grave and haughty step, as a Spaniard or a Scot; and presently after
muttered to himself, "And a Scot it is--he of the Leopard. I have seen
him fight indifferently well, for one of his country."

Loath to ask even a passing question, he was about to pass Sir Kenneth,
with that sullen and lowering port which seems to say, "I know thee, but
I will hold no communication with thee." But his purpose was defeated
by the Northern Knight, who moved forward directly to him, and accosting
him with formal courtesy, said, "My Lord de Vaux of Gilsland, I have in
charge to speak with you."

"Ha!" returned the English baron, "with me? But say your pleasure, so it
be shortly spoken--I am on the King's errand."

"Mine touches King Richard yet more nearly," answered Sir Kenneth; "I
bring him, I trust, health."

The Lord of Gilsland measured the Scot with incredulous eyes, and
replied, "Thou art no leech, I think, Sir Scot; I had as soon thought of
your bringing the King of England wealth."

Sir Kenneth, though displeased with the manner of the baron's
reply, answered calmly, "Health to Richard is glory and wealth to
Christendom.--But my time presses; I pray you, may I see the King?"

"Surely not, fair sir," said the baron, "until your errand be told more
distinctly. The sick chambers of princes open not to all who inquire,
like a northern hostelry."

"My lord," said Kenneth, "the cross which I wear in common with
yourself, and the importance of what I have to tell, must, for the
present, cause me to pass over a bearing which else I were unapt to
endure. In plain language, then, I bring with me a Moorish physician,
who undertakes to work a cure on King Richard."

"A Moorish physician!" said De Vaux; "and who will warrant that he
brings not poisons instead of remedies?"

"His own life, my lord--his head, which he offers as a guarantee."

"I have known many a resolute ruffian," said De Vaux, "who valued his
own life as little as it deserved, and would troop to the gallows as
merrily as if the hangman were his partner in a dance."

"But thus it is, my lord," replied the Scot. "Saladin, to whom none will
deny the credit of a generous and valiant enemy, hath sent this
leech hither with an honourable retinue and guard, befitting the high
estimation in which El Hakim [The Physician] is held by the Soldan, and
with fruits and refreshments for the King's private chamber, and such
message as may pass betwixt honourable enemies, praying him to be
recovered of his fever, that he may be the fitter to receive a visit
from the Soldan, with his naked scimitar in his hand, and a hundred
thousand cavaliers at his back. Will it please you, who are of the
King's secret council, to cause these camels to be discharged of
their burdens, and some order taken as to the reception of the learned
physician?"

"Wonderful!" said De Vaux, as speaking to himself.--"And who will vouch
for the honour of Saladin, in a case when bad faith would rid him at
once of his most powerful adversary?"

"I myself," replied Sir Kenneth, "will be his guarantee, with honour,
life, and fortune."

"Strange!" again ejaculated De Vaux; "the North vouches for the
South--the Scot for the Turk! May I crave of you, Sir Knight, how you
became concerned in this affair?"

"I have been absent on a pilgrimage, in the course of which," replied
Sir Kenneth "I had a message to discharge towards the holy hermit of
Engaddi."

"May I not be entrusted with it, Sir Kenneth, and with the answer of the
holy man?"

"It may not be, my lord," answered the Scot.

"I am of the secret council of England," said the Englishman haughtily.

"To which land I owe no allegiance," said Kenneth. "Though I have
voluntarily followed in this war the personal fortunes of England's
sovereign, I was dispatched by the General Council of the kings,
princes, and supreme leaders of the army of the Blessed Cross, and to
them only I render my errand."

"Ha! sayest thou?" said the proud Baron de Vaux. "But know, messenger
of the kings and princes as thou mayest be, no leech shall approach the
sick-bed of Richard of England without the consent of him of Gilsland;
and they will come on evil errand who dare to intrude themselves against
it."

He was turning loftily away, when the Scot, placing himself closer, and
more opposite to him, asked, in a calm voice, yet not without expressing
his share of pride, whether the Lord of Gilsland esteemed him a
gentleman and a good knight.

"All Scots are ennobled by their birthright," answered Thomas de Vaux,
something ironically; but sensible of his own injustice, and perceiving
that Kenneth's colour rose, he added, "For a good knight it were sin to
doubt you, in one at least who has seen you well and bravely discharge
your devoir."

"Well, then," said the Scottish knight, satisfied with the frankness of
the last admission, "and let me swear to you, Thomas of Gilsland, that,
as I am true Scottish man, which I hold a privilege equal to my ancient
gentry, and as sure as I am a belted knight, and come hither to acquire
LOS [Los--laus, praise, or renown] and fame in this mortal life, and
forgiveness of my sins in that which is to come--so truly, and by the
blessed Cross which I wear, do I protest unto you that I desire but the
safety of Richard Coeur de Lion, in recommending the ministry of this
Moslem physician."

The Englishman was struck with the solemnity of the obtestation, and
answered with more cordiality than he had yet exhibited, "Tell me, Sir
Knight of the Leopard, granting (which I do not doubt) that thou art
thyself satisfied in this matter, shall I do well, in a land where the
art of poisoning is as general as that of cooking, to bring this
unknown physician to practise with his drugs on a health so valuable to
Christendom?"

"My lord," replied the Scot, "thus only can I reply--that my squire, the
only one of my retinue whom war and disease had left in attendance on
me, has been of late suffering dangerously under this same fever, which,
in valiant King Richard, has disabled the principal limb of our holy
enterprise. This leech, this El Hakim, hath ministered remedies to him
not two hours since, and already he hath fallen into a refreshing sleep.
That he can cure the disorder, which has proved so fatal, I nothing
doubt; that he hath the purpose to do it is, I think, warranted by his
mission from the royal Soldan, who is true-hearted and loyal, so far as
a blinded infidel may be called so; and for his eventual success, the
certainty of reward in case of succeeding, and punishment in case of
voluntary failure, may be a sufficient guarantee."

The Englishman listened with downcast looks, as one who doubted, yet was
not unwilling to receive conviction. At length he looked up and said,
"May I see your sick squire, fair sir?"

The Scottish knight hesitated and coloured, yet answered at last,
"Willingly, my Lord of Gilsland. But you must remember, when you see my
poor quarter, that the nobles and knights of Scotland feed not so high,
sleep not so soft, and care not for the magnificence of lodgment which
is Proper to their southern neighbours. I am POORLY lodged, my Lord of
Gilsland," he added, with a haughty emphasis on the word, while, with
some unwillingness, he led the way to his temporary place of abode.

Whatever were the prejudices of De Vaux against the nation of his new
acquaintance, and though we undertake not to deny that some of these
were excited by its proverbial poverty, he had too much nobleness
of disposition to enjoy the mortification of a brave individual
thus compelled to make known wants which his pride would gladly have
concealed.

"Shame to the soldier of the Cross," he said, "who thinks of worldly
splendour, or of luxurious accommodation, when pressing forward to
the conquest of the Holy City. Fare as hard as we may, we shall yet be
better than the host of martyrs and of saints, who, having trod these
scenes before us, now hold golden lamps and evergreen palms."

This was the most metaphorical speech which Thomas of Gilsland was ever
known to utter, the rather, perhaps (as will sometimes happen), that it
did not entirely express his own sentiments, being somewhat a lover of
good cheer and splendid accommodation. By this time they reached the
place of the camp where the Knight of the Leopard had assumed his abode.

Appearances here did indeed promise no breach of the laws of
mortification, to which the Crusaders, according to the opinion
expressed by him of Gilsland, ought to subject themselves. A space of
ground, large enough to accommodate perhaps thirty tents, according to
the Crusaders' rules of castrametation, was partly vacant--because,
in ostentation, the knight had demanded ground to the extent of his
original retinue--partly occupied by a few miserable huts, hastily
constructed of boughs, and covered with palm-leaves. These habitations
seemed entirely deserted, and several of them were ruinous. The central
hut, which represented the pavilion of the leader, was distinguished by
his swallow-tailed pennon, placed on the point of a spear, from which
its long folds dropped motionless to the ground, as if sickening under
the scorching rays of the Asiatic sun. But no pages or squires--not even
a solitary warder--was placed by the emblem of feudal power and knightly
degree. If its reputation defended it not from insult, it had no other
guard.

Sir Kenneth cast a melancholy look around him, but suppressing his
feelings, entered the hut, making a sign to the Baron of Gilsland to
follow. He also cast around a glance of examination, which implied pity
not altogether unmingled with contempt, to which, perhaps, it is as
nearly akin as it is said to be to love. He then stooped his lofty
crest, and entered a lowly hut, which his bulky form seemed almost
entirely to fill.

The interior of the hut was chiefly occupied by two beds. One was empty,
but composed of collected leaves, and spread with an antelope's hide. It
seemed, from the articles of armour laid beside it, and from a crucifix
of silver, carefully and reverentially disposed at the head, to be the
couch of the knight himself. The other contained the invalid, of whom
Sir Kenneth had spoken, a strong-built and harsh-featured man, past, as
his looks betokened, the middle age of life. His couch was trimmed
more softly than his master's, and it was plain that the more courtly
garments of the latter, the loose robe in which the knights showed
themselves on pacific occasions, and the other little spare articles
of dress and adornment, had been applied by Sir Kenneth to the
accommodation of his sick domestic. In an outward part of the hut,
which yet was within the range of the English baron's eye, a boy,
rudely attired with buskins of deer's hide, a blue cap or bonnet, and a
doublet, whose original finery was much tarnished, sat on his knees by
a chafing-dish filled with charcoal, cooking upon a plate of iron the
cakes of barley-bread, which were then, and still are, a favourite food
with the Scottish people. Part of an antelope was suspended against one
of the main props of the hut. Nor was it difficult to know how it had
been procured; for a large stag greyhound, nobler in size and appearance
than those even which guarded King Richard's sick-bed, lay eyeing
the process of baking the cake. The sagacious animal, on their first
entrance, uttered a stifled growl, which sounded from his deep chest
like distant thunder. But he saw his master, and acknowledged his
presence by wagging his tail and couching his head, abstaining from more
tumultuous or noisy greeting, as if his noble instinct had taught him
the propriety of silence in a sick man's chamber.

Beside the couch sat on a cushion, also composed of skins, the Moorish
physician of whom Sir Kenneth had spoken, cross-legged, after the
Eastern fashion. The imperfect light showed little of him, save that
the lower part of his face was covered with a long, black beard, which
descended over his breast; that he wore a high TOLPACH, a Tartar cap of
the lamb's wool manufactured at Astracan, bearing the same dusky colour;
and that his ample caftan, or Turkish robe, was also of a dark hue.
Two piercing eyes, which gleamed with unusual lustre, were the only
lineaments of his visage that could be discerned amid the darkness in
which he was enveloped.

The English lord stood silent with a sort of reverential awe; for
notwithstanding the roughness of his general bearing, a scene of
distress and poverty, firmly endured without complaint or murmur, would
at any time have claimed more reverence from Thomas de Vaux than would
all the splendid formalities of a royal presence-chamber, unless that
presence-chamber were King Richard's own. Nothing was for a time heard
but the heavy and regular breathings of the invalid, who seemed in
profound repose.

"He hath not slept for six nights before," said Sir Kenneth, "as I am
assured by the youth, his attendant."

"Noble Scot," said Thomas de Vaux, grasping the Scottish knight's hand,
with a pressure which had more of cordiality than he permitted his words
to utter, "this gear must be amended. Your esquire is but too evil fed
and looked to."

In the latter part of this speech he naturally raised his voice to its
usual decided tone, The sick man was disturbed in his slumbers.

"My master," he said, murmuring as in a dream, "noble Sir Kenneth, taste
not, to you as to me, the waters of the Clyde cold and refreshing after
the brackish springs of Palestine?"

"He dreams of his native land, and is happy in his slumbers," whispered
Sir Kenneth to De Vaux; but had scarce uttered the words, when the
physician, arising from the place which he had taken near the couch of
the sick, and laying the hand of the patient, whose pulse he had been
carefully watching, quietly upon the couch, came to the two knights,
and taking them each by the arm, while he intimated to them to remain
silent, led them to the front of the hut.

"In the name of Issa Ben Mariam," he said, "whom we honour as you,
though not with the same blinded superstition, disturb not the effect
of the blessed medicine of which he hath partaken. To awaken him now is
death or deprivation of reason; but return at the hour when the muezzin
calls from the minaret to evening prayer in the mosque, and if left
undisturbed until then, I promise you this same Frankish soldier shall
be able, without prejudice to his health, to hold some brief converse
with you on any matters on which either, and especially his master, may
have to question him."

The knights retreated before the authoritative commands of the leech,
who seemed fully to comprehend the importance of the Eastern proverb
that the sick chamber of the patient is the kingdom of the physician.

They paused, and remained standing together at the door of the hut--Sir
Kenneth with the air of one who expected his visitor to say farewell,
and De Vaux as if he had something on his mind which prevented him from
doing so. The hound, however, had pressed out of the tent after them,
and now thrust his long, rough countenance into the hand of his master,
as if modestly soliciting some mark of his kindness. He had no sooner
received the notice which he desired, in the shape of a kind word and
slight caress, than, eager to acknowledge his gratitude and joy for his
master's return, he flew off at full speed, galloping in full career,
and with outstretched tail, here and there, about and around, cross-ways
and endlong, through the decayed huts and the esplanade we have
described, but never transgressing those precincts which his sagacity
knew were protected by his master's pennon. After a few gambols of this
kind, the dog, coming close up to his master, laid at once aside his
frolicsome mood, relapsed into his usual gravity and slowness of gesture
and deportment, and looked as if he were ashamed that anything should
have moved him to depart so far out of his sober self-control.

Both knights looked on with pleasure; for Sir Kenneth was justly proud
of his noble hound, and the northern English baron was, of course, an
admirer of the chase, and a judge of the animal's merits.

"A right able dog," he said. "I think, fair sir, King Richard hath not
an ALAN which may match him, if he be as stanch as he is swift. But let
me pray you--speaking in all honour and kindness--have you not heard the
proclamation that no one under the rank of earl shall keep hunting dogs
within King Richard's camp without the royal license, which, I think,
Sir Kenneth, hath not been issued to you? I speak as Master of the
Horse."

"And I answer as a free Scottish knight," said Kenneth sternly. "For
the present I follow the banner of England, but I cannot remember that I
have ever subjected myself to the forest-laws of that kingdom, nor have
I such respect for them as would incline me to do so. When the trumpet
sounds to arms, my foot is in the stirrup as soon as any--when it clangs
for the charge, my lance has not yet been the last laid in the rest. But
for my hours of liberty or of idleness King Richard has no title to bar
my recreation."

"Nevertheless," said De Vaux, "it is a folly to disobey the King's
ordinance; so, with your good leave, I, as having authority in that
matter, will send you a protection for my friend here."

"I thank you," said the Scot coldly; "but he knows my allotted quarters,
and within these I can protect him myself.--And yet," he said, suddenly
changing his manner, "this is but a cold return for a well-meant
kindness. I thank you, my lord, most heartily. The King's equerries
or prickers might find Roswal at disadvantage, and do him some injury,
which I should not, perhaps, be slow in returning, and so ill might come
of it. You have seen so much of my house-keeping, my lord," he added,
with a smile, "that I need not shame to say that Roswal is our principal
purveyor, and well I hope our Lion Richard will not be like the lion
in the minstrel fable, that went a-hunting, and kept the whole booty to
himself. I cannot think he would grudge a poor gentleman, who follows
him faithfully, his hour of sport and his morsel of game, more
especially when other food is hard enough to come by."

"By my faith, you do the King no more than justice; and yet," said the
baron, "there is something in these words, vert and venison, that turns
the very brains of our Norman princes."

"We have heard of late," said the Scot, "by minstrels and pilgrims, that
your outlawed yeomen have formed great bands in the shires of York and
Nottingham, having at their head a most stout archer, called Robin Hood,
with his lieutenant, Little John. Methinks it were better that Richard
relaxed his forest-code in England, than endeavour to enforce it in the
Holy Land."

"Wild work, Sir Kenneth," replied De Vaux, shrugging his shoulders, as
one who would avoid a perilous or unpleasing topic--"a mad world, sir.
I must now bid you adieu, having presently to return to the King's
pavilion. At vespers I will again, with your leave, visit your quarters,
and speak with this same infidel physician. I would, in the meantime,
were it no offence, willingly send you what would somewhat mend your
cheer."

"I thank you, sir," said Sir Kenneth, "but it needs not. Roswal hath
already stocked my larder for two weeks, since the sun of Palestine, if
it brings diseases, serves also to dry venison."

The two warriors parted much better friends than they had met; but ere
they separated, Thomas de Vaux informed himself at more length of
the circumstances attending the mission of the Eastern physician, and
received from the Scottish knight the credentials which he had brought
to King Richard on the part of Saladin.



CHAPTER VIII.

     A wise physician, skilled our wounds to heal,
     Is more than armies to the common weal.
       POPE'S ILLIAD.


"This is a strange tale, Sir Thomas," said the sick monarch, when he had
heard the report of the trusty Baron of Gilsland. "Art thou sure this
Scottish man is a tall man and true?"

"I cannot say, my lord," replied the jealous Borderer. "I live a little
too near the Scots to gather much truth among them, having found them
ever fair and false. But this man's bearing is that of a true man,
were he a devil as well as a Scot; that I must needs say for him in
conscience."

"And for his carriage as a knight, how sayest thou, De Vaux?" demanded
the King.

"It is your Majesty's business more than mine to note men's bearings;
and I warrant you have noted the manner in which this man of the Leopard
hath borne himself. He hath been full well spoken of."

"And justly, Thomas," said the King. "We have ourselves witnessed him.
It is indeed our purpose in placing ourselves ever in the front of
battle, to see how our liegemen and followers acquit themselves, and
not from a desire to accumulate vainglory to ourselves, as some have
supposed. We know the vanity of the praise of man, which is but a
vapour, and buckle on our armour for other purposes than to win it."

De Vaux was alarmed when he heard the King make a declaration so
inconsistent with his nature, and believed at first that nothing short
of the approach of death could have brought him to speak in depreciating
terms of military renown, which was the very breath of his nostrils. But
recollecting he had met the royal confessor in the outer pavilion, he
was shrewd enough to place this temporary self-abasement to the effect
of the reverend man's lesson, and suffered the King to proceed without
reply.

"Yes," continued Richard, "I have indeed marked the manner in which this
knight does his devoir. My leading-staff were not worth a fool's bauble
had he escaped my notice; and he had ere now tasted of our bounty, but
that I have also marked his overweening and audacious presumption."

"My liege," said the Baron of Gilsland, observing the King's countenance
change, "I fear I have transgressed your pleasure in lending some
countenance to his transgression."

"How, De Multon, thou?" said the King, contracting his brows, and
speaking in a tone of angry surprise. "Thou countenance his insolence?
It cannot be."

"Nay, your Majesty will pardon me to remind you that I have by mine
office right to grant liberty to men of gentle blood to keep them a
hound or two within camp, just to cherish the noble art of venerie; and
besides, it were a sin to have maimed or harmed a thing so noble as this
gentleman's dog."

"Has he, then, a dog so handsome?" said the King.

"A most perfect creature of Heaven," said the baron, who was an
enthusiast in field-sports--"of the noblest Northern breed--deep in the
chest, strong in the stern--black colour, and brindled on the breast
and legs, not spotted with white, but just shaded into grey--strength to
pull down a bull, swiftness to cote an antelope."

The King laughed at his enthusiasm. "Well, thou hast given him leave to
keep the hound, so there is an end of it. Be not, however, liberal of
your licenses among those knights adventurers who have no prince or
leader to depend upon; they are ungovernable, and leave no game in
Palestine.--But to this piece of learned heathenesse--sayest thou the
Scot met him in the desert?"

"No, my liege; the Scot's tale runs thus. He was dispatched to the old
hermit of Engaddi, of whom men talk so much--"

"'Sdeath and hell!" said Richard, starting up. "By whom dispatched,
and for what? Who dared send any one thither, when our Queen was in the
Convent of Engaddi, upon her pilgrimage for our recovery?"

"The Council of the Crusade sent him, my lord," answered the Baron de
Vaux; "for what purpose, he declined to account to me. I think it is
scarce known in the camp that your royal consort is on a pilgrimage;
and even the princes may not have been aware, as the Queen has been
sequestered from company since your love prohibited her attendance in
case of infection."

"Well, it shall be looked into," said Richard. "So this Scottish
man, this envoy, met with a wandering physician at the grotto of
Engaddi--ha?"

"Not so my liege," replied De Vaux? "but he met, I think, near that
place, with a Saracen Emir with whom he had some MELEE in the way of
proof of valour, and finding him worthy to bear brave men company, they
went together, as errant knights are wont, to the grotto of Engaddi."

Here De Vaux stopped, for he was not one of those who can tell a long
story in a sentence.

"And did they there meet the physician?" demanded the King impatiently.

"No, my liege," replied De Vaux; "but the Saracen, learning your
Majesty's grievous illness, undertook that Saladin should send his own
physician to you, and with many assurances of his eminent skill; and he
came to the grotto accordingly, after the Scottish knight had tarried a
day for him and more. He is attended as if he were a prince, with drums
and atabals, and servants on horse and foot, and brings with him letters
of credence from Saladin."

"Have they been examined by Giacomo Loredani?"

"I showed them to the interpreter ere bringing them hither, and behold
their contents in English."

Richard took a scroll, in which were inscribed these words: The blessing
of Allah and his Prophet Mohammed ["Out upon the hound!" said Richard,
spitting in contempt, by way of interjection], Saladin, king of kings,
Saldan of Egypt and of Syria, the light and refuge of the earth, to the
great Melech Ric, Richard of England, greeting. Whereas, we have been
informed that the hand of sickness hath been heavy upon thee, our royal
brother, and that thou hast with thee only such Nazarene and Jewish
mediciners as work without the blessing of Allah and our holy Prophet
["Confusion on his head!" again muttered the English monarch], we have
therefore sent to tend and wait upon thee at this time the physician
to our own person, Adonbec el Hakim, before whose face the angel Azrael
[The Angel of Death.] spreads his wings and departs from the sick
chamber; who knows the virtues of herbs and stones, the path of the sun,
moon, and stars, and can save man from all that is not written on his
forehead. And this we do, praying you heartily to honour and make use
of his skill; not only that we may do service to thy worth and valour,
which is the glory of all the nations of Frangistan, but that we may
bring the controversy which is at present between us to an end, either
by honourable agreement, or by open trial thereof with our weapons, in a
fair field--seeing that it neither becomes thy place and courage to die
the death of a slave who hath been overwrought by his taskmaster, nor
befits it our fame that a brave adversary be snatched from our weapon by
such a disease. And, therefore, may the holy--"

"Hold, hold," said Richard, "I will have no more of his dog of a
prophet! It makes me sick to think the valiant and worthy Soldan should
believe in a dead dog. Yes, I will see his physician. I will put
myself into the charge of this Hakim--I will repay the noble Soldan
his generosity--I will meet Saladin in the field, as he so worthily
proposes, and he shall have no cause to term Richard of England
ungrateful. I will strike him to the earth with my battle-axe--I will
convert him to Holy Church with such blows as he has rarely endured. He
shall recant his errors before my good cross-handled sword, and I will
have him baptized on the battle-field, from my own helmet, though the
cleansing waters were mixed with the blood of us both.--Haste, De Vaux,
why dost thou delay a conclusion so pleasing? Fetch the Hakim hither."

"My lord," said the baron, who perhaps saw some accession of fever in
this overflow of confidence, "bethink you, the Soldan is a pagan, and
that you are his most formidable enemy--"

"For which reason he is the more bound to do me service in this matter,
lest a paltry fever end the quarrel betwixt two such kings. I tell thee
he loves me as I love him--as noble adversaries ever love each other. By
my honour, it were sin to doubt his good faith!"

"Nevertheless, my lord, it were well to wait the issue of these
medicines upon the Scottish squire," said the Lord of Gilsland. "My own
life depends upon it, for worthy were I to die like a dog did I proceed
rashly in this matter, and make shipwreck of the weal of Christendom."

"I never knew thee before hesitate for fear of life," said Richard
upbraidingly.

"Nor would I now, my liege," replied the stout-hearted baron, "save that
yours lies at pledge as well as my own."

"Well, thou suspicious mortal," answered Richard, "begone then, and
watch the progress of this remedy. I could almost wish it might either
cure or kill me, for I am weary of lying here like an ox dying of
the murrain, when tambours are beating, horses stamping, and trumpets
sounding without."

The baron hastily departed, resolved, however, to communicate his errand
to some churchman, as he felt something burdened in conscience at the
idea of his master being attended by an unbeliever.

The Archbishop of Tyre was the first to whom he confided his doubts,
knowing his interest with his master, Richard, who both loved and
honoured that sagacious prelate. The bishop heard the doubts which De
Vaux stated, with that acuteness of intelligence which distinguishes the
Roman Catholic clergy. The religious scruples of De Vaux he treated
with as much lightness as propriety permitted him to exhibit on such a
subject to a layman.

"Mediciners," he said, "like the medicines which they employed, were
often useful, though the one were by birth or manners the vilest of
humanity, as the others are, in many cases, extracted from the basest
materials. Men may use the assistance of pagans and infidels," he
continued, "in their need, and there is reason to think that one cause
of their being permitted to remain on earth is that they might minister
to the convenience of true Christians. Thus we lawfully make slaves of
heathen captives. Again," proceeded the prelate, "there is no doubt that
the primitive Christians used the services of the unconverted heathen.
Thus in the ship of Alexandria, in which the blessed Apostle Paul sailed
to Italy, the sailors were doubtless pagans; yet what said the holy
saint when their ministry was needful?--'NISI HI IN NAVI MANSERINT, VOS
SALVI FIERI NON POTESTIS'--Unless these men abide in the ship, ye
cannot be saved. Again, Jews are infidels to Christianity, as well as
Mohammedans. But there are few physicians in the camp excepting Jews,
and such are employed without scandal or scruple. Therefore,
Mohammedans may be used for their service in that capacity--QUOD ERAT
DEMONSTRANDUM."

This reasoning entirely removed the scruples of Thomas de Vaux, who was
particularly moved by the Latin quotation, as he did not understand a
word of it.

But the bishop proceeded with far less fluency when he considered the
possibility of the Saracen's acting with bad faith; and here he came not
to a speedy decision. The baron showed him the letters of credence. He
read and re-read them, and compared the original with the translation.

"It is a dish choicely cooked," he said, "to the palate of King Richard,
and I cannot but have my suspicions of the wily Saracen. They are
curious in the art of poisons, and can so temper them that they shall
be weeks in acting upon the party, during which time the perpetrator
has leisure to escape. They can impregnate cloth and leather, nay, even
paper and parchment, with the most subtle venom. Our Lady forgive me!
And wherefore, knowing this, hold I these letters of credence so close
to my face? Take them, Sir Thomas--take them speedily!"

Here he gave them at arm's-length, and with some appearance of haste,
to the baron. "But come, my Lord de Vaux," he continued, "wend we to the
tent of this sick squire, where we shall learn whether this Hakim hath
really the art of curing which he professeth, ere we consider whether
there be safety in permitting him to exercise his art upon King
Richard.--Yet, hold! let me first take my pouncet-box, for these fevers
spread like an infection. I would advise you to use dried rosemary
steeped in vinegar, my lord. I, too, know something of the healing art."

"I thank your reverend lordship," replied Thomas of Gilsland; "but had
I been accessible to the fever, I had caught it long since by the bed of
my master."

The Bishop of Tyre blushed, for he had rather avoided the presence of
the sick monarch; and he bid the baron lead on.

As they paused before the wretched hut in which Kenneth of the Leopard
and his follower abode, the bishop said to De Vaux, "Now, of a surety,
my lord, these Scottish Knights have worse care of their followers than
we of our dogs. Here is a knight, valiant, they say, in battle, and
thought fitting to be graced with charges of weight in time of truce,
whose esquire of the body is lodged worse than in the worst dog-kennel
in England. What say you of your neighbours?"

"That a master doth well enough for his servant when he lodgeth him in
no worse dwelling than his own," said De Vaux, and entered the hut.

The bishop followed, not without evident reluctance; for though he
lacked not courage in some respects, yet it was tempered with a strong
and lively regard for his own safety. He recollected, however, the
necessity there was for judging personally of the skill of the Arabian
physician, and entered the hut with a stateliness of manner calculated,
as he thought, to impose respect on the stranger.

The prelate was, indeed, a striking and commanding figure. In his youth
he had been eminently handsome, and even in age was unwilling to appear
less so. His episcopal dress was of the richest fashion, trimmed with
costly fur, and surrounded by a cope of curious needlework. The rings
on his fingers were worth a goodly barony, and the hood which he wore,
though now unclasped and thrown back for heat, had studs of pure gold to
fasten it around his throat and under his chin when he so inclined. His
long beard, now silvered with age, descended over his breast. One of two
youthful acolytes who attended him created an artificial shade, peculiar
then to the East, by bearing over his head an umbrella of palmetto
leaves, while the other refreshed his reverend master by agitating a fan
of peacock-feathers.

When the Bishop of Tyre entered the hut of the Scottish knight, the
master was absent, and the Moorish physician, whom he had come to see,
sat in the very posture in which De Vaux had left him several hours
before, cross-legged upon a mat made of twisted leaves, by the side of
the patient, who appeared in deep slumber, and whose pulse he felt from
time to time. The bishop remained standing before him in silence for
two or three minutes, as if expecting some honourable salutation, or
at least that the Saracen would seem struck with the dignity of his
appearance. But Adonbec el Hakim took no notice of him beyond a passing
glance, and when the prelate at length saluted him in the lingua
franca current in the country, he only replied by the ordinary Oriental
greeting, "SALAM ALICUM--Peace be with you."

"Art thou a physician, infidel?" said the bishop, somewhat mortified at
this cold reception. "I would speak with thee on that art."

"If thou knewest aught of medicine," answered El Hakim, "thou wouldst be
aware that physicians hold no counsel or debate in the sick chamber of
their patient. Hear," he added, as the low growling of the staghound was
heard from the inner hut, "even the dog might teach thee reason, Ulemat.
His instinct teaches him to suppress his barking in the sick man's
hearing. Come without the tent," said he, rising and leading the way,
"if thou hast ought to say with me."

Notwithstanding the plainness of the Saracen leech's dress, and his
inferiority of size when contrasted with the tall prelate and
gigantic English baron, there was something striking in his manner and
countenance, which prevented the Bishop of Tyre from expressing strongly
the displeasure he felt at this unceremonious rebuke. When without the
hut, he gazed upon Adonbec in silence for several minutes before he
could fix on the best manner to renew the conversation. No locks were
seen under the high bonnet of the Arabian, which hid also part of a brow
that seemed lofty and expanded, smooth, and free from wrinkles, as were
his cheeks, where they were seen under the shade of his long beard. We
have elsewhere noticed the piercing quality of his dark eyes.

The prelate, struck with his apparent youth, at length broke a pause,
which the other seemed in no haste to interrupt, by demanding of the
Arabian how old he was?

"The years of ordinary men," said the Saracen, "are counted by their
wrinkles; those of sages by their studies. I dare not call myself older
than a hundred revolutions of the Hegira." [Meaning that his attainments
were those which might have been made in a hundred years.]

The Baron of Gilsland, who took this for a literal assertion that he was
a century old, looked doubtfully upon the prelate, who, though he better
understood the meaning of El Hakim, answered his glance by mysteriously
shaking his head. He resumed an air of importance when he again
authoritatively demanded what evidence Adonbec could produce of his
medical proficiency.

"Ye have the word of the mighty Saladin," said the sage, touching his
cap in sign of reverence--"a word which was never broken towards friend
or foe. What, Nazarene, wouldst thou demand more?"

"I would have ocular proof of thy skill," said the baron, "and without
it thou approachest not to the couch of King Richard."

"The praise of the physician," said the Arabian, "is in the recovery of
his patient. Behold this sergeant, whose blood has been dried up by the
fever which has whitened your camp with skeletons, and against which the
art of your Nazarene leeches hath been like a silken doublet against a
lance of steel. Look at his fingers and arms, wasted like the claws and
shanks of the crane. Death had this morning his clutch on him; but had
Azrael been on one side of the couch, I being on the other, his soul
should not have been left from his body. Disturb me not with further
questions, but await the critical minute, and behold in silent wonder
the marvellous event."

The physician had then recourse to his astrolabe, the oracle of Eastern
science, and watching with grave precision until the precise time of the
evening prayer had arrived, he sunk on his knees, with his face turned
to Mecca, and recited the petitions which close the Moslemah's day of
toil. The bishop and the English baron looked on each other, meanwhile,
with symptoms of contempt and indignation, but neither judged it fit to
interrupt El Hakim in his devotions, unholy as they considered them to
be.

The Arab arose from the earth, on which he had prostrated himself, and
walking into the hut where the patient lay extended, he drew a sponge
from a small silver box, dipped perhaps in some aromatic distillation,
for when he put it to the sleeper's nose, he sneezed, awoke, and looked
wildly around. He was a ghastly spectacle as he sat up almost naked on
his couch, the bones and cartilages as visible through the surface of
his skin as if they had never been clothed with flesh. His face was
long, and furrowed with wrinkles; but his eye, though it wandered at
first, became gradually more settled. He seemed to be aware of the
presence of his dignified visitors, for he attempted feebly to pull
the covering from his head in token of reverence, as he inquired, in a
subdued and submissive voice, for his master.

"Do you know us, vassal?" said the Lord of Gilsland.

"Not perfectly, my lord," replied the squire faintly. "My sleep has been
long and full of dreams. Yet I know that you are a great English lord,
as seemeth by the red cross, and this a holy prelate, whose blessing I
crave on me a poor sinner."

"Thou hast it--BENEDICTIO DOMINI SIT VOBISCUM," said the prelate, making
the sign of the cross, but without approaching nearer to the patient's
bed.

"Your eyes witness," said the Arabian, "the fever hath been subdued.
He speaks with calmness and recollection--his pulse beats composedly as
yours--try its pulsations yourself."

The prelate declined the experiment; but Thomas of Gilsland, more
determined on making the trial, did so, and satisfied himself that the
fever was indeed gone.

"This is most wonderful," said the knight, looking to the bishop; "the
man is assuredly cured. I must conduct this mediciner presently to King
Richard's tent. What thinks your reverence?"

"Stay, let me finish one cure ere I commence another," said the Arab; "I
will pass with you when I have given my patient the second cup of this
most holy elixir."

So saying he pulled out a silver cup, and filling it with water from a
gourd which stood by the bedside, he next drew forth a small silken
bag made of network, twisted with silver, the contents of which the
bystanders could not discover, and immersing it in the cup, continued to
watch it in silence during the space of five minutes. It seemed to the
spectators as if some effervescence took place during the operation; but
if so, it instantly subsided.

"Drink," said the physician to the sick man--"sleep, and awaken free
from malady."

"And with this simple-seeming draught thou wilt undertake to cure a
monarch?" said the Bishop of Tyre.

"I have cured a beggar, as you may behold," replied the sage. "Are
the Kings of Frangistan made of other clay than the meanest of their
subjects?"

"Let us have him presently to the King," said the Baron of Gilsland. "He
hath shown that he possesses the secret which may restore his health. If
he fails to exercise it, I will put himself past the power of medicine."

As they were about to leave the hut, the sick man, raising his voice
as much as his weakness permitted, exclaimed, "Reverend father, noble
knight, and you, kind leech, if you would have me sleep and recover,
tell me in charity what is become of my dear master?"

"He is upon a distant expedition, friend," replied the prelate--"on an
honourable embassy, which may detain him for some days."

"Nay," said the Baron of Gilsland, "why deceive the poor
fellow?--Friend, thy master has returned to the camp, and you will
presently see him."

The invalid held up, as if in thankfulness, his wasted hands to Heaven,
and resisting no longer the soporiferous operation of the elixir, sunk
down in a gentle sleep.

"You are a better physician than I, Sir Thomas," said the prelate--"a
soothing falsehood is fitter for a sick-room than an unpleasing truth."

"How mean you, my reverend lord?" said De Vaux hastily. "Think you I
would tell a falsehood to save the lives of a dozen such as he?"

"You said," replied the bishop, with manifest symptoms of alarm--"you
said the esquire's master was returned--he, I mean, of the Couchant
Leopard."

"And he IS returned," said De Vaux. "I spoke with him but a few hours
since. This learned leech came in his company."

"Holy Virgin! why told you not of his return to me?" said the bishop, in
evident perturbation.

"Did I not say that this same Knight of the Leopard had returned
in company with the physician? I thought I had," replied De Vaux
carelessly. "But what signified his return to the skill of the
physician, or the cure of his Majesty?"

"Much, Sir Thomas--it signified much," said the bishop, clenching
his hands, pressing his foot against the earth, and giving signs of
impatience, as if in an involuntary manner. "But where can he be gone
now, this same knight? God be with us--here may be some fatal errors!"

"Yonder serf in the outer space," said De Vaux, not without wonder
at the bishop's emotion, "can probably tell us whither his master has
gone."

The lad was summoned, and in a language nearly incomprehensible to
them, gave them at length to understand that an officer had summoned his
master to the royal tent some time before their arrival at that of his
master. The anxiety of the bishop appeared to rise to the highest, and
became evident to De Vaux, though, neither an acute observer nor of a
suspicious temper. But with his anxiety seemed to increase his wish to
keep it subdued and unobserved. He took a hasty leave of De Vaux, who
looked after him with astonishment, and after shrugging his shoulders in
silent wonder, proceeded to conduct the Arabian physician to the tent of
King Richard.



CHAPTER IX.

     This is the prince of leeches; fever, plague,
     Cold rheum, and hot podagra, do but look on him,
     And quit their grasp upon the tortured sinews.
        ANONYMOUS.

The Baron of Gilsland walked with slow step and an anxious countenance
towards the royal pavilion. He had much diffidence of his own capacity,
except in a field of battle, and conscious of no very acute intellect,
was usually contented to wonder at circumstances which a man of livelier
imagination would have endeavoured to investigate and understand, or
at least would have made the subject of speculation. But it seemed very
extraordinary, even to him, that the attention of the bishop should have
been at once abstracted from all reflection on the marvellous cure which
they had witnessed, and upon the probability it afforded of Richard
being restored to health, by what seemed a very trivial piece of
information announcing the motions of a beggardly Scottish knight, than
whom Thomas of Gilsland knew nothing within the circle of gentle
blood more unimportant or contemptible; and despite his usual habit
of passively beholding passing events, the baron's spirit toiled with
unwonted attempts to form conjectures on the cause.

At length the idea occurred at once to him that the whole might be a
conspiracy against King Richard, formed within the camp of the allies,
and to which the bishop, who was by some represented as a politic and
unscrupulous person, was not unlikely to have been accessory. It was
true that, in his own opinion, there existed no character so perfect as
that of his master; for Richard being the flower of chivalry, and the
chief of Christian leaders, and obeying in all points the commands of
Holy Church, De Vaux's ideas of perfection went no further. Still, he
knew that, however unworthily, it had been always his master's fate
to draw as much reproach and dislike as honour and attachment from the
display of his great qualities; and that in the very camp, and amongst
those princes bound by oath to the Crusade, were many who would have
sacrificed all hope of victory over the Saracens to the pleasure of
ruining, or at least of humbling, Richard of England.

"Wherefore," said the baron to himself, "it is in no sense impossible
that this El Hakim, with this his cure, or seeming cure, wrought on the
body of the Scottish squire, may mean nothing but a trick, to which he
of the Leopard may be accessory, and wherein the Bishop of Tyre, prelate
as he is, may have some share."

This hypothesis, indeed, could not be so easily reconciled with the
alarm manifested by the bishop on learning that, contrary to his
expectation, the Scottish knight had suddenly returned to the Crusaders'
camp. But De Vaux was influenced only by his general prejudices,
which dictated to him the assured belief that a wily Italian priest,
a false-hearted Scot, and an infidel physician, formed a set of
ingredients from which all evil, and no good, was likely to be
extracted. He resolved, however, to lay his scruples bluntly before
the King, of whose judgment he had nearly as high an opinion as of his
valour.

Meantime, events had taken place very contrary to the suppositions which
Thomas de Vaux had entertained. Scarce had he left the royal pavilion,
when, betwixt the impatience of the fever, and that which was natural
to his disposition, Richard began to murmur at his delay, and express
an earnest desire for his return. He had seen enough to try to reason
himself out of this irritation, which greatly increased his bodily
malady. He wearied his attendants by demanding from them amusements, and
the breviary of the priest, the romance of the clerk, even the harp of
his favourite minstrel, were had recourse to in vain. At length, some
two hours before sundown, and long, therefore, ere he could expect
a satisfactory account of the process of the cure which the Moor or
Arabian had undertaken, he sent, as we have already heard, a messenger
commanding the attendance of the Knight of the Leopard, determined to
soothe his impatience by obtaining from Sir Kenneth a more particular
account of the cause of his absence from the camp, and the circumstances
of his meeting with this celebrated physician.

The Scottish knight, thus summoned, entered the royal presence as one
who was no stranger to such scenes. He was scarcely known to the King
of England, even by sight, although, tenacious of his rank, as devout in
the adoration of the lady of his secret heart, he had never been absent
on those occasions when the munificence and hospitality of England
opened the Court of its monarch to all who held a certain rank in
chivalry. The King gazed fixedly on Sir Kenneth approaching his bedside,
while the knight bent his knee for a moment, then arose, and stood
before him in a posture of deference, but not of subservience or
humility, as became an officer in the presence of his sovereign.

"Thy name," said the King, "is Kenneth of the Leopard--from whom hadst
thou degree of knighthood?"

"I took it from the sword of William the Lion, King of Scotland,"
replied the Scot.

"A weapon," said the King, "well worthy to confer honour; nor has it
been laid on an undeserving shoulder. We have seen thee bear thyself
knightly and valiantly in press of battle, when most need there was; and
thou hadst not been yet to learn that thy deserts were known to us, but
that thy presumption in other points has been such that thy services can
challenge no better reward than that of pardon for thy transgression.
What sayest thou--ha?"

Kenneth attempted to speak, but was unable to express himself
distinctly; the consciousness of his too ambitious love, and the keen,
falcon glance with which Coeur de Lion seemed to penetrate his inmost
soul, combining to disconcert him.

"And yet," said the King, "although soldiers should obey command, and
vassals be respectful towards their superiors, we might forgive a brave
knight greater offence than the keeping a simple hound, though it were
contrary to our express public ordinance."

Richard kept his eye fixed on the Scot's face, beheld and beholding,
smiling inwardly at the relief produced by the turn he had given to his
general accusation.

"So please you, my lord," said the Scot, "your majesty must be good
to us poor gentlemen of Scotland in this matter. We are far from home,
scant of revenues, and cannot support ourselves as your wealthy nobles,
who have credit of the Lombards. The Saracens shall feel our blows the
harder that we eat a piece of dried venison from time to time with our
herbs and barley-cakes."

"It skills not asking my leave," said Richard, "since Thomas de Vaux,
who doth, like all around me, that which is fittest in his own eyes,
hath already given thee permission for hunting and hawking."

"For hunting only, and please you," said the Scot. "But if it please
your Majesty to indulge me with the privilege of hawking also, and you
list to trust me with a falcon on fist, I trust I could supply your
royal mess with some choice waterfowl."

"I dread me, if thou hadst but the falcon," said the King, "thou wouldst
scarce wait for the permission. I wot well it is said abroad that we of
the line of Anjou resent offence against our forest-laws as highly as we
would do treason against our crown. To brave and worthy men, however, we
could pardon either misdemeanour.--But enough of this. I desire to know
of you, Sir Knight, wherefore, and by whose authority, you took this
recent journey to the wilderness of the Dead Sea and Engaddi?"

"By order," replied the knight, "of the Council of Princes of the Holy
Crusade."

"And how dared any one to give such an order, when I--not the least,
surely, in the league--was unacquainted with it?"

"It was not my part, please your highness," said the Scot, "to inquire
into such particulars. I am a soldier of the Cross--serving, doubtless,
for the present, under your highness's banner, and proud of the
permission to do so, but still one who hath taken on him the holy symbol
for the rights of Christianity and the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre,
and bound, therefore, to obey without question the orders of the
princes and chiefs by whom the blessed enterprise is directed. That
indisposition should seclude, I trust for but a short time, your
highness from their councils, in which you hold so potential a voice, I
must lament with all Christendom; but, as a soldier, I must obey those
on whom the lawful right of command devolves, or set but an evil example
in the Christian camp."

"Thou sayest well," said King Richard; "and the blame rests not with
thee, but with those with whom, when it shall please Heaven to raise me
from this accursed bed of pain and inactivity, I hope to reckon roundly.
What was the purport of thy message?"

"Methinks, and please your highness," replied Sir Kenneth, "that were
best asked of those who sent me, and who can render the reasons of mine
errand; whereas I can only tell its outward form and purport."

"Palter not with me, Sir Scot--it were ill for thy safety," said the
irritable monarch.

"My safety, my lord," replied the knight firmly, "I cast behind me as a
regardless thing when I vowed myself to this enterprise, looking rather
to my immortal welfare than to that which concerns my earthly body."

"By the mass," said King Richard, "thou art a brave fellow! Hark thee,
Sir Knight, I love the Scottish people; they are hardy, though dogged
and stubborn, and, I think, true men in the main, though the necessity
of state has sometimes constrained them to be dissemblers. I deserve
some love at their hand, for I have voluntarily done what they could not
by arms have extorted from me any more than from my predecessors, I
have re-established the fortresses of Roxburgh and Berwick, which lay
in pledge to England; I have restored your ancient boundaries; and,
finally, I have renounced a claim to homage upon the crown of England,
which I thought unjustly forced on you. I have endeavoured to make
honourable and independent friends, where former kings of England
attempted only to compel unwilling and rebellious vassals."

"All this you have done, my Lord King," said Sir Kenneth, bowing--"all
this you have done, by your royal treaty with our sovereign at
Canterbury. Therefore have you me, and many better Scottish men, making
war against the infidels, under your banners, who would else have been
ravaging your frontiers in England. If their numbers are now few, it is
because their lives have been freely waged and wasted."

"I grant it true," said the King; "and for the good offices I have done
your land I require you to remember that, as a principal member of
the Christian league, I have a right to know the negotiations of my
confederates. Do me, therefore, the justice to tell me what I have a
title to be acquainted with, and which I am certain to know more truly
from you than from others."

"My lord," said the Scot, "thus conjured, I will speak the truth; for
I well believe that your purposes towards the principal object of our
expedition are single-hearted and honest, and it is more than I dare
warrant for others of the Holy League. Be pleased, therefore, to know
my charge was to propose, through the medium of the hermit of Engaddi--a
holy man, respected and protected by Saladin himself--"

"A continuation of the truce, I doubt not," said Richard, hastily
interrupting him.

"No, by Saint Andrew, my liege," said the Scottish knight; "but the
establishment of a lasting peace, and the withdrawing our armies from
Palestine."

"Saint George!" said Richard, in astonishment. "Ill as I have justly
thought of them, I could not have dreamed they would have humbled
themselves to such dishonour. Speak, Sir Kenneth, with what will did you
carry such a message?"

"With right good will, my lord," said Kenneth; "because, when we had
lost our noble leader, under whose guidance alone I hoped for victory,
I saw none who could succeed him likely to lead us to conquest, and I
accounted it well in such circumstances to avoid defeat."

"And on what conditions was this hopeful peace to be contracted?" said
King Richard, painfully suppressing the passion with which his heart was
almost bursting.

"These were not entrusted to me, my lord," answered the Knight of the
Couchant Leopard. "I delivered them sealed to the hermit."

"And for what hold you this reverend hermit--for fool, madman, traitor,
or saint?" said Richard.

"His folly, sire," replied the shrewd Scottish man, "I hold to be
assumed to win favour and reverence from the Paynimrie, who regard
madmen as the inspired of Heaven--at least it seemed to me as exhibited
only occasionally, and not as mixing, like natural folly, with the
general tenor of his mind."

"Shrewdly replied," said the monarch, throwing himself back on his
couch, from which he had half-raised himself. "Now of his penitence?"

"His penitence," continued Kenneth, "appears to me sincere, and the
fruits of remorse for some dreadful crime, for which he seems, in his
own opinion, condemned to reprobation."

"And for his policy?" said King Richard.

"Methinks, my lord," said the Scottish knight, "he despairs of the
security of Palestine, as of his own salvation, by any means short of
a miracle--at least, since the arm of Richard of England hath ceased to
strike for it."

"And, therefore, the coward policy of this hermit is like that of these
miserable princes, who, forgetful of their knighthood and their faith,
are only resolved and determined when the question is retreat, and
rather than go forward against an armed Saracen, would trample in their
flight over a dying ally!"

"Might I so far presume, my Lord King," said the Scottish knight, "this
discourse but heats your disease, the enemy from which Christendom
dreads more evil than from armed hosts of infidels."

The countenance of King Richard was, indeed, more flushed, and his
action became more feverishly vehement, as, with clenched hand, extended
arm, and flashing eyes, he seemed at once to suffer under bodily pain,
and at the same time under vexation of mind, while his high spirit led
him to speak on, as if in contempt of both.

"You can flatter, Sir Knight," he said, "but you escape me not. I must
know more from you than you have yet told me. Saw you my royal consort
when at Engaddi?"

"To my knowledge--no, my lord," replied Sir Kenneth, with considerable
perturbation, for he remembered the midnight procession in the chapel of
the rocks.

"I ask you," said the King, in a sterner voice, "whether you were not in
the chapel of the Carmelite nuns at Engaddi, and there saw Berengaria,
Queen of England, and the ladies of her Court, who went thither on
pilgrimage?"

"My lord," said Sir Kenneth, "I will speak the truth as in the
confessional. In a subterranean chapel, to which the anchorite conducted
me, I beheld a choir of ladies do homage to a relic of the highest
sanctity; but as I saw not their faces, nor heard their voices, unless
in the hymns which they chanted, I cannot tell whether the Queen of
England was of the bevy."

"And was there no one of these ladies known to you?"

Sir Kenneth stood silent.

"I ask you," said Richard, raising himself on his elbow, "as a knight
and a gentleman--and I shall know by your answer how you value either
character--did you, or did you not, know any lady amongst that band of
worshippers?"

"My lord," said Kenneth, not without much hesitation, "I might guess."

"And I also may guess," said the King, frowning sternly; "but it is
enough. Leopard as you are, Sir Knight, beware tempting the lion's paw.
Hark ye--to become enamoured of the moon would be but an act of folly;
but to leap from the battlements of a lofty tower, in the wild hope of
coming within her sphere, were self-destructive madness."

At this moment some bustling was heard in the outer apartment, and
the King, hastily changing to his more natural manner, said,
"Enough--begone--speed to De Vaux, and send him hither with the Arabian
physician. My life for the faith of the Soldan! Would he but abjure his
false law, I would aid him with my sword to drive this scum of French
and Austrians from his dominions, and think Palestine as well ruled by
him as when her kings were anointed by the decree of Heaven itself."

The Knight of the Leopard retired, and presently afterwards the
chamberlain announced a deputation from the Council, who had come to
wait on the Majesty of England.

"It is well they allow that I am living yet," was his reply. "Who are
the reverend ambassadors?"

"The Grand Master of the Templars and the Marquis of Montserrat."

"Our brother of France loves not sick-beds," said Richard; "yet, had
Philip been ill, I had stood by his couch long since.--Jocelyn, lay me
the couch more fairly--it is tumbled like a stormy sea. Reach me yonder
steel mirror--pass a comb through my hair and beard. They look, indeed,
liker a lion's mane than a Christian man's locks. Bring water."

"My lord," said the trembling chamberlain, "the leeches say that cold
water may be fatal."

"To the foul fiend with the leeches!" replied the monarch; "if they
cannot cure me, think you I will allow them to torment me?--There,
then," he said, after having made his ablutions, "admit the worshipful
envoys; they will now, I think, scarcely see that disease has made
Richard negligent of his person."

The celebrated Master of the Templars was a tall, thin, war-worn man,
with a slow yet penetrating eye, and a brow on which a thousand dark
intrigues had stamped a portion of their obscurity. At the head of
that singular body, to whom their order was everything, and their
individuality nothing--seeking the advancement of its power, even at
the hazard of that very religion which the fraternity were originally
associated to protect--accused of heresy and witchcraft, although by
their character Christian priests--suspected of secret league with the
Soldan, though by oath devoted to the protection of the Holy Temple, or
its recovery--the whole order, and the whole personal character of its
commander, or Grand Master, was a riddle, at the exposition of which
most men shuddered. The Grand Master was dressed in his white robes
of solemnity, and he bore the ABACUS, a mystic staff of office, the
peculiar form of which has given rise to such singular conjectures and
commentaries, leading to suspicions that this celebrated fraternity of
Christian knights were embodied under the foulest symbols of paganism.

Conrade of Montserrat had a much more pleasing exterior than the dark
and mysterious priest-soldier by whom he was accompanied. He was a
handsome man, of middle age, or something past that term, bold in the
field, sagacious in council, gay and gallant in times of festivity; but,
on the other hand, he was generally accused of versatility, of a narrow
and selfish ambition, of a desire to extend his own principality,
without regard to the weal of the Latin kingdom of Palestine, and of
seeking his own interest, by private negotiations with Saladin, to the
prejudice of the Christian leaguers.

When the usual salutations had been made by these dignitaries, and
courteously returned by King Richard, the Marquis of Montserrat
commenced an explanation of the motives of their visit, sent, as he said
they were, by the anxious kings and princes who composed the Council of
the Crusaders, "to inquire into the health of their magnanimous ally,
the valiant King of England."

"We know the importance in which the princes of the Council hold our
health," replied the English King; "and are well aware how much they
must have suffered by suppressing all curiosity concerning it for
fourteen days, for fear, doubtless, of aggravating our disorder, by
showing their anxiety regarding the event."

The flow of the Marquis's eloquence being checked, and he himself thrown
into some confusion by this reply, his more austere companion took up
the thread of the conversation, and with as much dry and brief gravity
as was consistent with the presence which he addressed, informed
the King that they came from the Council, to pray, in the name of
Christendom, "that he would not suffer his health to be tampered with
by an infidel physician, said to be dispatched by Saladin, until the
Council had taken measures to remove or confirm the suspicion which they
at present conceived did attach itself to the mission of such a person."

"Grand Master of the Holy and Valiant Order of Knights Templars, and
you, most noble Marquis of Montserrat," replied Richard, "if it please
you to retire into the adjoining pavilion, you shall presently see what
account we make of the tender remonstrances of our royal and princely
colleagues in this religious warfare."

The Marquis and Grand Master retired accordingly; nor had they been
many minutes in the outward pavilion when the Eastern physician arrived,
accompanied by the Baron of Gilsland and Kenneth of Scotland. The baron,
however, was a little later of entering the tent than the other two,
stopping, perchance, to issue some orders to the warders without.

As the Arabian physician entered, he made his obeisance, after the
Oriental fashion, to the Marquis and Grand Master, whose dignity was
apparent, both from their appearance and their bearing. The Grand Master
returned the salutation with an expression of disdainful coldness, the
Marquis with the popular courtesy which he habitually practised to men
of every rank and nation. There was a pause, for the Scottish knight,
waiting for the arrival of De Vaux, presumed not, of his own authority,
to enter the tent of the King of England; and during this interval the
Grand Master sternly demanded of the Moslem, "Infidel, hast thou the
courage to practise thine art upon the person of an anointed sovereign
of the Christian host?"

"The sun of Allah," answered the sage, "shines on the Nazarene as
well as on the true believer, and His servant dare make no distinction
betwixt them when called on to exercise the art of healing."

"Misbelieving Hakim," said the Grand Master, "or whatsoever they call
thee for an unbaptized slave of darkness, dost thou well know that thou
shalt be torn asunder by wild horses should King Richard die under thy
charge?"

"That were hard justice," answered the physician, "seeing that I can but
use human means, and that the issue is written in the book of light."

"Nay, reverend and valiant Grand Master," said the Marquis of
Montserrat, "consider that this learned man is not acquainted with our
Christian order, adopted in the fear of God, and for the safety of His
anointed.--Be it known to thee, grave physician, whose skill we doubt
not, that your wisest course is to repair to the presence of the
illustrious Council of our Holy League, and there to give account and
reckoning to such wise and learned leeches as they shall nominate,
concerning your means of process and cure of this illustrious patient;
so shall you escape all the danger which, rashly taking such a high
matter upon your sole answer, you may else most likely incur."

"My lords," said El Hakim, "I understand you well. But knowledge hath
its champions as well as your military art--nay, hath sometimes had its
martyrs as well as religion. I have the command of my sovereign, the
Soldan Saladin, to heal this Nazarene King, and, with the blessing
of the Prophet, I will obey his commands. If I fail, ye wear swords
thirsting for the blood of the faithful, and I proffer my body to your
weapons. But I will not reason with one uncircumcised upon the virtue
of the medicines of which I have obtained knowledge through the grace
of the Prophet, and I pray you interpose no delay between me and my
office."

"Who talks of delay?" said the Baron de Vaux, hastily entering the tent;
"we have had but too much already. I salute you, my Lord of Montserrat,
and you, valiant Grand Master. But I must presently pass with this
learned physician to the bedside of my master."

"My lord," said the Marquis, in Norman-French, or the language of
Ouie, as it was then called, "are you well advised that we came to
expostulate, on the part of the Council of the Monarchs and Princes
of the Crusade, against the risk of permitting an infidel and Eastern
physician to tamper with a health so valuable as that of your master,
King Richard?"

"Noble Lord Marquis," replied the Englishman bluntly, "I can neither use
many words, nor do I delight in listening to them; moreover, I am much
more ready to believe what my eyes have seen than what my ears have
heard. I am satisfied that this heathen can cure the sickness of King
Richard, and I believe and trust he will labour to do so. Time is
precious. If Mohammed--may God's curse be on him! stood at the door of
the tent, with such fair purpose as this Adonbec el Hakim entertains,
I would hold it sin to delay him for a minute. So, give ye God'en, my
lords."

"Nay, but," said Conrade of Montserrat, "the King himself said we should
be present when this same physician dealt upon him."

The baron whispered the chamberlain, probably to know whether the
Marquis spoke truly, and then replied, "My lords, if you will hold your
patience, you are welcome to enter with us; but if you interrupt, by
action or threat, this accomplished physician in his duty, be it known
that, without respect to your high quality, I will enforce your absence
from Richard's tent; for know, I am so well satisfied of the virtue of
this man's medicines, that were Richard himself to refuse them, by our
Lady of Lanercost, I think I could find in my heart to force him to take
the means of his cure whether he would or no.--Move onward, El Hakim."

The last word was spoken in the lingua franca, and instantly obeyed by
the physician. The Grand Master looked grimly on the unceremonious old
soldier, but, on exchanging a glance with the Marquis, smoothed his
frowning brow as well as he could, and both followed De Vaux and the
Arabian into the inner tent, where Richard lay expecting them, with that
impatience with which the sick man watches the step of his physician.
Sir Kenneth, whose attendance seemed neither asked nor prohibited, felt
himself, by the circumstances in which he stood, entitled to follow
these high dignitaries; but, conscious of his inferior power and rank,
remained aloof during the scene which took place.

Richard, when they entered his apartment, immediately exclaimed, "So ho!
a goodly fellowship come to see Richard take his leap in the dark.
My noble allies, I greet you as the representatives of our assembled
league; Richard will again be amongst you in his former fashion, or ye
shall bear to the grave what is left of him.--De Vaux, lives he or dies
he, thou hast the thanks of thy prince. There is yet another--but this
fever hath wasted my eyesight. What, the bold Scot, who would climb
heaven without a ladder! He is welcome too.--Come, Sir Hakim, to the
work, to the work!"

The physician, who had already informed himself of the various symptoms
of the King's illness, now felt his pulse for a long time, and with deep
attention, while all around stood silent, and in breathless expectation.
The sage next filled a cup with spring water, and dipped into it the
small red purse, which, as formerly, he took from his bosom. When he
seemed to think it sufficiently medicated, he was about to offer it to
the sovereign, who prevented him by saying, "Hold an instant. Thou hast
felt my pulse--let me lay my finger on thine. I too, as becomes a good
knight, know something of thine art."

The Arabian yielded his hand without hesitation, and his long, slender
dark fingers were for an instant enclosed, and almost buried, in the
large enfoldment of King Richard's hand.

"His blood beats calm as an infant's," said the King; "so throbs not
theirs who poison princes. De Vaux, whether we live or die, dismiss this
Hakim with honour and safety.--Commend us, friend, to the noble Saladin.
Should I die, it is without doubt of his faith; should I live, it will
be to thank him as a warrior would desire to be thanked."

He then raised himself in bed, took the cup in his hand, and turning
to the Marquis and the Grand Master--"Mark what I say, and let my royal
brethren pledge me in Cyprus wine, 'To the immortal honour of the first
Crusader who shall strike lance or sword on the gate of Jerusalem; and
to the shame and eternal infamy of whomsoever shall turn back from the
plough on which he hath laid his hand!'"

He drained the cup to the bottom, resigned it to the Arabian, and sunk
back, as if exhausted, upon the cushions which were arranged to receive
him. The physician then, with silent but expressive signs, directed
that all should leave the tent excepting himself and De Vaux, whom
no remonstrance could induce to withdraw. The apartment was cleared
accordingly.



CHAPTER X.

     And now I will unclasp a secret book,
     And, to your quick-conceiving discontent,
     I'll read you matter deep and dangerous.
       HENRY IV., PART I.

The Marquis of Montserrat and the Grand Master of the Knights Templars
stood together in the front of the royal pavilion, within which this
singular scene had passed, and beheld a strong guard of bills and bows
drawn out to form a circle around it, and keep at distance all which
might disturb the sleeping monarch. The soldiers wore the downcast,
silent, and sullen looks with which they trail their arms at a funeral,
and stepped with such caution that you could not hear a buckler ring
or a sword clatter, though so many men in armour were moving around the
tent. They lowered their weapons in deep reverence as the dignitaries
passed through their files, but with the same profound silence.

"There is a change of cheer among these island dogs," said the Grand
Master to Conrade, when they had passed Richard's guards. "What hoarse
tumult and revel used to be before this pavilion!--nought but pitching
the bar, hurling the ball, wrestling, roaring of songs, clattering of
wine pots, and quaffing of flagons among these burly yeomen, as if they
were holding some country wake, with a Maypole in the midst of them
instead of a royal standard."

"Mastiffs are a faithful race," said Conrade; "and the King their Master
has won their love by being ready to wrestle, brawl, or revel amongst
the foremost of them, whenever the humour seized him."

"He is totally compounded of humours," said the Grand Master. "Marked
you the pledge he gave us! instead of a prayer, over his grace-cup
yonder."

"He would have felt it a grace-cup, and a well-spiced one too," said
the Marquis, "were Saladin like any other Turk that ever wore turban,
or turned him to Mecca at call of the muezzin. But he affects faith, and
honour, and generosity, as if it were for an unbaptized dog like him to
practise the virtuous bearing of a Christian knight. It is said he hath
applied to Richard to be admitted within the pale of chivalry."

"By Saint Bernard!" exclaimed the Grand Master, "it were time then
to throw off our belts and spurs, Sir Conrade, deface our armorial
bearings, and renounce our burgonets, if the highest honour of
Christianity were conferred on an unchristened Turk of tenpence."

"You rate the Soldan cheap," replied the Marquis; "yet though he be a
likely man, I have seen a better heathen sold for forty pence at the
bagnio."

They were now near their horses, which stood at some distance from the
royal tent, prancing among the gallant train of esquires and pages by
whom they were attended, when Conrade, after a moment's pause, proposed
that they should enjoy the coolness of the evening breeze which had
arisen, and, dismissing their steeds and attendants, walk homewards to
their own quarters through the lines of the extended Christian camp. The
Grand Master assented, and they proceeded to walk together accordingly,
avoiding, as if by mutual consent, the more inhabited parts of the
canvas city, and tracing the broad esplanade which lay between the tents
and the external defences, where they could converse in private, and
unmarked, save by the sentinels as they passed them.

They spoke for a time upon the military points and preparations for
defence; but this sort of discourse, in which neither seemed to take
interest, at length died away, and there was a long pause, which
terminated by the Marquis of Montserrat stopping short, like a man who
has formed a sudden resolution, and gazing for some moments on the dark,
inflexible countenance of the Grand Master, he at length addressed him
thus: "Might it consist with your valour and sanctity, reverend Sir
Giles Amaury, I would pray you for once to lay aside the dark visor
which you wear, and to converse with a friend barefaced."

The Templar half smiled.

"There are light-coloured masks," he said, "as well as dark visors, and
the one conceals the natural features as completely as the other."

"Be it so," said the Marquis, putting his hand to his chin, and
withdrawing it with the action of one who unmasks himself; "there lies
my disguise. And now, what think you, as touching the interests of your
own order, of the prospects of this Crusade?"

"This is tearing the veil from my thoughts rather than exposing your
own," said the Grand Master; "yet I will reply with a parable told to me
by a santon of the desert. 'A certain farmer prayed to Heaven for rain,
and murmured when it fell not at his need. To punish his impatience,
Allah,' said the santon, 'sent the Euphrates upon his farm, and he was
destroyed, with all his possessions, even by the granting of his own
wishes.'"

"Most truly spoken," said the Marquis Conrade. "Would that the ocean had
swallowed up nineteen parts of the armaments of these Western princes!
What remained would better have served the purpose of the Christian
nobles of Palestine, the wretched remnant of the Latin kingdom of
Jerusalem. Left to ourselves, we might have bent to the storm; or,
moderately supported with money and troops, we might have compelled
Saladin to respect our valour, and grant us peace and protection on easy
terms. But from the extremity of danger with which this powerful Crusade
threatens the Soldan, we cannot suppose, should it pass over, that the
Saracen will suffer any one of us to hold possessions or principalities
in Syria, far less permit the existence of the Christian military
fraternities, from whom they have experienced so much mischief."

"Ay, but," said the Templar, "these adventurous Crusaders may succeed,
and again plant the Cross on the bulwarks of Zion."

"And what will that advantage either the Order of the Templars, or
Conrade of Montserrat?" said the Marquis.

"You it may advantage," replied the Grand Master. "Conrade of Montserrat
might become Conrade King of Jerusalem."

"That sounds like something," said the Marquis, "and yet it rings but
hollow. Godfrey of Bouillon might well choose the crown of thorns for
his emblem. Grand Master, I will confess to you I have caught some
attachment to the Eastern form of government--a pure and simple
monarchy should consist but of king and subjects. Such is the simple and
primitive structure--a shepherd and his flock. All this internal chain
of feudal dependance is artificial and sophisticated; and I would rather
hold the baton of my poor marquisate with a firm gripe, and wield
it after my pleasure, than the sceptre of a monarch, to be in effect
restrained and curbed by the will of as many proud feudal barons as hold
land under the Assizes of Jerusalem. [The Assises de Jerusalem were
the digest of feudal law, composed by Godfrey of Boulogne, for the
government of the Latin kingdom of Palestine, when reconquered from the
Saracens. "It was composed with advice of the patriarch and barons,
the clergy and laity, and is," says the historian Gibbon, "a precious
monument of feudatory jurisprudence, founded upon those principles
of freedom which were essential to the system."] A king should tread
freely, Grand Master, and should not be controlled by here a ditch, and
there a fence-here a feudal privilege, and there a mail-clad baron with
his sword in his hand to maintain it. To sum the whole, I am aware that
Guy de Lusignan's claims to the throne would be preferred to mine, if
Richard recovers, and has aught to say in the choice."

"Enough," said the Grand Master; "thou hast indeed convinced me of thy
sincerity. Others may hold the same opinions, but few, save Conrade of
Montserrat, dared frankly avow that he desires not the restitution of
the kingdom of Jerusalem, but rather prefers being master of a portion
of its fragments--like the barbarous islanders, who labour not for the
deliverance of a goodly vessel from the billows, expecting rather to
enrich themselves at the expense of the wreck."

"Thou wilt not betray my counsel?" said Conrade, looking sharply and
suspiciously. "Know, for certain, that my tongue shall never wrong my
head, nor my hand forsake the defence of either. Impeach me if thou
wilt--I am prepared to defend myself in the lists against the best
Templar who ever laid lance in rest."

"Yet thou start'st somewhat suddenly for so bold a steed," said the
Grand Master. "However, I swear to thee by the Holy Temple, which our
Order is sworn to defend, that I will keep counsel with thee as a true
comrade."

"By which Temple?" said the Marquis of Montserrat, whose love of sarcasm
often outran his policy and discretion; "swearest thou by that on the
hill of Zion, which was built by King Solomon, or by that symbolical,
emblematical edifice, which is said to be spoken of in the councils
held in the vaults of your Preceptories, as something which infers the
aggrandizement of thy valiant and venerable Order?"

The Templar scowled upon him with an eye of death, but answered calmly,
"By whatever Temple I swear, be assured, Lord Marquis, my oath is
sacred. I would I knew how to bind THEE by one of equal obligation."

"I will swear truth to thee," said the Marquis, laughing, "by the
earl's coronet, which I hope to convert, ere these wars are over, into
something better. It feels cold on my brow, that same slight coronal;
a duke's cap of maintenance were a better protection against such a
night-breeze as now blows, and a king's crown more preferable still,
being lined with comfortable ermine and velvet. In a word, our interests
bind us together; for think not, Lord Grand Master, that, were these
allied princes to regain Jerusalem, and place a king of their own
choosing there, they would suffer your Order, any more than my poor
marquisate, to retain the independence which we now hold. No, by Our
Lady! In such case, the proud Knights of Saint John must again spread
plasters and dress plague sores in the hospitals; and you, most puissant
and venerable Knights of the Temple, must return to your condition of
simple men-at-arms, sleep three on a pallet, and mount two upon one
horse, as your present seal still expresses to have been your ancient
most simple custom."

"The rank, privileges, and opulence of our Order prevent so much
degradation as you threaten," said the Templar haughtily.

"These are your bane," said Conrade of Montserrat; "and you, as well
as I, reverend Grand Master, know that, were the allied princes to be
successful in Palestine, it would be their first point of policy to
abate the independence of your Order, which, but for the protection of
our holy father the Pope, and the necessity of employing your valour in
the conquest of Palestine, you would long since have experienced. Give
them complete success, and you will be flung aside, as the splinters of
a broken lance are tossed out of the tilt-yard."

"There may be truth in what you say," said the Templar, darkly smiling.
"But what were our hopes should the allies withdraw their forces, and
leave Palestine in the grasp of Saladin?"

"Great and assured," replied Conrade. "The Soldan would give large
provinces to maintain at his behest a body of well-appointed Frankish
lances. In Egypt, in Persia, a hundred such auxiliaries, joined to his
own light cavalry, would turn the battle against the most fearful odds.
This dependence would be but for a time--perhaps during the life of
this enterprising Soldan; but in the East empires arise like mushrooms.
Suppose him dead, and us strengthened with a constant succession of
fiery and adventurous spirits from Europe, what might we not hope to
achieve, uncontrolled by these monarchs, whose dignity throws us at
present into the shade--and, were they to remain here, and succeed in
this expedition, would willingly consign us for ever to degradation and
dependence?"

"You say well, my Lord Marquis," said the Grand Master, "and your words
find an echo in my bosom. Yet must we be cautious--Philip of France is
wise as well as valiant."

"True, and will be therefore the more easily diverted from an expedition
to which, in a moment of enthusiasm, or urged by his nobles, he rashly
bound himself. He is jealous of King Richard, his natural enemy, and
longs to return to prosecute plans of ambition nearer to Paris than
Palestine. Any fair pretence will serve him for withdrawing from a scene
in which he is aware he is wasting the force of his kingdom."

"And the Duke of Austria?" said the Templar.

"Oh, touching the Duke," returned Conrade, "his self-conceit and folly
lead him to the same conclusions as do Philip's policy and wisdom. He
conceives himself, God help the while, ungratefully treated, because
men's mouths--even those of his own MINNE-SINGERS [The German minstrels
were so termed.]--are filled with the praises of King Richard, whom he
fears and hates, and in whose harm he would rejoice, like those unbred,
dastardly curs, who, if the foremost of the pack is hurt by the gripe of
the wolf, are much more likely to assail the sufferer from behind than
to come to his assistance. But wherefore tell I this to thee, save to
show that I am in sincerity in desiring that this league be broken up,
and the country freed of these great monarchs with their hosts? And thou
well knowest, and hast thyself seen, how all the princes of influence
and power, one alone excepted, are eager to enter into treaty with the
Soldan."

"I acknowledge it," said the Templar; "he were blind that had not seen
this in their last deliberations. But lift yet thy mask an inch higher,
and tell me thy real reason for pressing upon the Council that Northern
Englishman, or Scot, or whatever you call yonder Knight of the Leopard,
to carry their proposals for a treaty?"

"There was a policy in it," replied the Italian. "His character of
native of Britain was sufficient to meet what Saladin required, who knew
him to belong to the band of Richard; while his character of Scot, and
certain other personal grudges which I wot of, rendered it most unlikely
that our envoy should, on his return, hold any communication with the
sick-bed of Richard, to whom his presence was ever unacceptable."

"Oh, too finespun policy," said the Grand Master; "trust me, that
Italian spiders' webs will never bind this unshorn Samson of the
Isle--well if you can do it with new cords, and those of the toughest.
See you not that the envoy whom you have selected so carefully hath
brought us, in this physician, the means of restoring the lion-hearted,
bull-necked Englishman to prosecute his Crusading enterprise. And so
soon as he is able once more to rush on, which of the princes dare hold
back? They must follow him for very shame, although they would march
under the banner of Satan as soon."

"Be content," said Conrade of Montserrat; "ere this physician, if he
work by anything short of miraculous agency, can accomplish Richard's
cure, it may be possible to put some open rupture betwixt the
Frenchman--at least the Austrian--and his allies of England, so that
the breach shall be irreconcilable; and Richard may arise from his bed,
perhaps to command his own native troops, but never again, by his sole
energy, to wield the force of the whole Crusade."

"Thou art a willing archer," said the Templar; "but, Conrade of
Montserrat, thy bow is over-slack to carry an arrow to the mark."

He then stopped short, cast a suspicious glance to see that no one
overheard him, and taking Conrade by the hand, pressed it eagerly as he
looked the Italian in the face, and repeated slowly, "Richard arise from
his bed, sayest thou? Conrade, he must never arise!"

The Marquis of Montserrat started. "What! spoke you of Richard of
England--of Coeur de Lion--the champion of Christendom?"

His cheek turned pale and his knees trembled as he spoke. The Templar
looked at him, with his iron visage contorted into a smile of contempt.

"Knowest thou what thou look'st like, Sir Conrade, at this moment? Not
like the politic and valiant Marquis of Montserrat, not like him
who would direct the Council of Princes and determine the fate of
empires--but like a novice, who, stumbling upon a conjuration in his
master's book of gramarye, has raised the devil when he least thought of
it, and now stands terrified at the spirit which appears before him."

"I grant you," said Conrade, recovering himself, "that--unless some
other sure road could be discovered--thou hast hinted at that which
leads most direct to our purpose. But, blessed Mary! we shall become the
curse of all Europe, the malediction of every one, from the Pope on his
throne to the very beggar at the church gate, who, ragged and leprous,
in the last extremity of human wretchedness, shall bless himself that he
is neither Giles Amaury nor Conrade of Montserrat."

"If thou takest it thus," said the Grand Master, with the same composure
which characterized him all through this remarkable dialogue, "let us
hold there has nothing passed between us--that we have spoken in our
sleep--have awakened, and the vision is gone."

"It never can depart," answered Conrade.

"Visions of ducal crowns and kingly diadems are, indeed, somewhat
tenacious of their place in the imagination," replied the Grand Master.

"Well," answered Conrade, "let me but first try to break peace between
Austria and England."

They parted. Conrade remained standing still upon the spot, and watching
the flowing white cloak of the Templar as he stalked slowly away, and
gradually disappeared amid the fast-sinking darkness of the Oriental
night. Proud, ambitious, unscrupulous, and politic, the Marquis of
Montserrat was yet not cruel by nature. He was a voluptuary and an
epicurean, and, like many who profess this character, was averse,
even upon selfish motives, from inflicting pain or witnessing acts of
cruelty; and he retained also a general sense of respect for his own
reputation, which sometimes supplies the want of the better principle by
which reputation is to be maintained.

"I have," he said, as his eyes still watched the point at which he had
seen the last slight wave of the Templar's mantle--"I have, in truth,
raised the devil with a vengeance! Who would have thought this stern,
ascetic Grand Master, whose whole fortune and misfortune is merged in
that of his order, would be willing to do more for its advancement than
I who labour for my own interest? To check this wild Crusade was my
motive, indeed, but I durst not think on the ready mode which this
determined priest has dared to suggest. Yet it is the surest--perhaps
even the safest."

Such were the Marquis's meditations, when his muttered soliloquy was
broken by a voice from a little distance, which proclaimed with the
emphatic tone of a herald, "Remember the Holy Sepulchre!"

The exhortation was echoed from post to post, for it was the duty of
the sentinels to raise this cry from time to time upon their periodical
watch, that the host of the Crusaders might always have in their
remembrance the purpose of their being in arms. But though Conrade was
familiar with the custom, and had heard the warning voice on all former
occasions as a matter of habit, yet it came at the present moment so
strongly in contact with his own train of thought, that it seemed a
voice from Heaven warning him against the iniquity which his heart
meditated. He looked around anxiously, as if, like the patriarch of
old, though from very different circumstances, he was expecting some
ram caught in a thicket some substitution for the sacrifice which his
comrade proposed to offer, not to the Supreme Being, but to the Moloch
of their own ambition. As he looked, the broad folds of the ensign of
England, heavily distending itself to the failing night-breeze, caught
his eye. It was displayed upon an artificial mound, nearly in the midst
of the camp, which perhaps of old some Hebrew chief or champion had
chosen as a memorial of his place of rest. If so, the name was now
forgotten, and the Crusaders had christened it Saint George's
Mount, because from that commanding height the banner of England was
supereminently displayed, as if an emblem of sovereignty over the many
distinguished, noble, and even royal ensigns, which floated in lower
situations.

A quick intellect like that of Conrade catches ideas from the glance of
a moment. A single look on the standard seemed to dispel the uncertainty
of mind which had affected him. He walked to his pavilion with the hasty
and determined step of one who has adopted a plan which he is resolved
to achieve, dismissed the almost princely train who waited to attend
him, and, as he committed himself to his couch, muttered his amended
resolution, that the milder means are to be tried before the more
desperate are resorted to.

"To-morrow," he said, "I sit at the board of the Archduke of Austria. We
will see what can be done to advance our purpose before prosecuting the
dark suggestions of this Templar."



CHAPTER XI.

     One thing is certain in our Northern land--
     Allow that birth or valour, wealth or wit,
     Give each precedence to their possessor,
     Envy, that follows on such eminence,
     As comes the lyme-hound on the roebuck's trace,
     Shall pull them down each one.
              SIR DAVID LINDSAY.

Leopold, Grand Duke of Austria, was the first possessor of that noble
country to whom the princely rank belonged. He had been raised to the
ducal sway in the German Empire on account of his near relationship to
the Emperor, Henry the Stern, and held under his government the finest
provinces which are watered by the Danube. His character has been
stained in history on account of one action of violence and perfidy,
which arose out of these very transactions in the Holy Land; and yet
the shame of having made Richard a prisoner when he returned through
his dominions; unattended and in disguise, was not one which flowed from
Leopold's natural disposition. He was rather a weak and a vain than
an ambitious or tyrannical prince. His mental powers resembled the
qualities of his person. He was tall, strong, and handsome, with a
complexion in which red and white were strongly contrasted, and had long
flowing locks of fair hair. But there was an awkwardness in his gait
which seemed as if his size was not animated by energy sufficient to
put in motion such a mass; and in the same manner, wearing the richest
dresses, it always seemed as if they became him not. As a prince, he
appeared too little familiar with his own dignity; and being often at
a loss how to assert his authority when the occasion demanded it, he
frequently thought himself obliged to recover, by acts and expressions
of ill-timed violence, the ground which might have been easily and
gracefully maintained by a little more presence of mind in the beginning
of the controversy.

Not only were these deficiencies visible to others, but the Archduke
himself could not but sometimes entertain a painful consciousness that
he was not altogether fit to maintain and assert the high rank which he
had acquired; and to this was joined the strong, and sometimes the just,
suspicion that others esteemed him lightly accordingly.

When he first joined the Crusade, with a most princely attendance,
Leopold had desired much to enjoy the friendship and intimacy of
Richard, and had made such advances towards cultivating his regard as
the King of England ought, in policy, to have received and answered.
But the Archduke, though not deficient in bravery, was so infinitely
inferior to Coeur de Lion in that ardour of mind which wooed danger as a
bride, that the King very soon held him in a certain degree of contempt.
Richard, also, as a Norman prince, a people with whom temperance was
habitual, despised the inclination of the German for the pleasures of
the table, and particularly his liberal indulgence in the use of wine.
For these, and other personal reasons, the King of England very soon
looked upon the Austrian Prince with feelings of contempt, which he was
at no pains to conceal or modify, and which, therefore, were speedily
remarked, and returned with deep hatred, by the suspicious Leopold. The
discord between them was fanned by the secret and politic arts of Philip
of France, one of the most sagacious monarchs of the time, who, dreading
the fiery and overbearing character of Richard, considering him as his
natural rival, and feeling offended, moreover, at the dictatorial manner
in which he, a vassal of France for his Continental domains, conducted
himself towards his liege lord, endeavoured to strengthen his own party,
and weaken that of Richard, by uniting the Crusading princes of inferior
degree in resistance to what he termed the usurping authority of the
King of England. Such was the state of politics and opinions entertained
by the Archduke of Austria, when Conrade of Montserrat resolved upon
employing his jealousy of England as the means of dissolving, or
loosening at least, the league of the Crusaders.

The time which he chose for his visit was noon; and the pretence, to
present the Archduke with some choice Cyprus wine which had lately
fallen into his hands, and discuss its comparative merits with those of
Hungary and of the Rhine. An intimation of his purpose was, of course,
answered by a courteous invitation to partake of the Archducal meal, and
every effort was used to render it fitting the splendour of a sovereign
prince. Yet the refined taste of the Italian saw more cumbrous profusion
than elegance or splendour in the display of provisions under which the
board groaned.

The Germans, though still possessing the martial and frank character of
their ancestors--who subdued the Roman Empire--had retained withal
no slight tinge of their barbarism. The practices and principles of
chivalry were not carried to such a nice pitch amongst them as amongst
the French and English knights, nor were they strict observers of the
prescribed rules of society, which among those nations were supposed
to express the height of civilization. Sitting at the table of the
Archduke, Conrade was at once stunned and amused with the clang of
Teutonic sounds assaulting his ears on all sides, notwithstanding the
solemnity of a princely banquet. Their dress seemed equally fantastic to
him, many of the Austrian nobles retaining their long beards, and
almost all of them wearing short jerkins of various colours, cut, and
flourished, and fringed in a manner not common in Western Europe.

Numbers of dependants, old and young, attended in the pavilion, mingled
at times in the conversation, received from their masters the relics of
the entertainment, and devoured them as they stood behind the backs
of the company. Jesters, dwarfs, and minstrels were there in unusual
numbers, and more noisy and intrusive than they were permitted to be in
better regulated society. As they were allowed to share freely in the
wine, which flowed round in large quantities, their licensed tumult was
the more excessive.

All this while, and in the midst of a clamour and confusion which would
better have become a German tavern during a fair than the tent of a
sovereign prince, the Archduke was waited upon with a minuteness of form
and observance which showed how anxious he was to maintain rigidly the
state and character to which his elevation had entitled him. He was
served on the knee, and only by pages of noble blood, fed upon plate of
silver, and drank his Tokay and Rhenish wines from a cup of gold. His
ducal mantle was splendidly adorned with ermine, his coronet might have
equalled in value a royal crown, and his feet, cased in velvet shoes
(the length of which, peaks included, might be two feet), rested upon
a footstool of solid silver. But it served partly to intimate the
character of the man, that, although desirous to show attention to the
Marquis of Montserrat, whom he had courteously placed at his right hand,
he gave much more of his attention to his SPRUCH-SPRECHER--that is, his
man of conversation, or SAYER-OF-SAYINGS--who stood behind the Duke's
right shoulder.

This personage was well attired in a cloak and doublet of black velvet,
the last of which was decorated with various silver and gold coins
stitched upon it, in memory of the munificent princes who had conferred
them, and bearing a short staff to which also bunches of silver coins
were attached by rings, which he jingled by way of attracting attention
when he was about to say anything which he judged worthy of it. This
person's capacity in the household of the Archduke was somewhat betwixt
that of a minstrel and a counsellor. He was by turns a flatterer, a
poet, and an orator; and those who desired to be well with the Duke
generally studied to gain the good-will of the SPRUCH-SPRECHER.

Lest too much of this officer's wisdom should become tiresome, the
Duke's other shoulder was occupied by his HOFF-NARR, or court-jester,
called Jonas Schwanker, who made almost as much noise with his fool's
cap, bells, and bauble, as did the orator, or man of talk, with his
jingling baton.

These two personages threw out grave and comic nonsense alternately;
while their master, laughing or applauding them himself, yet carefully
watched the countenance of his noble guest, to discern what impressions
so accomplished a cavalier received from this display of Austrian
eloquence and wit. It is hard to say whether the man of wisdom or the
man of folly contributed most to the amusement of the party, or stood
highest in the estimation of their princely master; but the sallies of
both seemed excellently well received. Sometimes they became rivals for
the conversation, and clanged their flappers in emulation of each other
with a most alarming contention; but, in general, they seemed on such
good terms, and so accustomed to support each other's play, that the
SPRUCH-SPRECHER often condescended to follow up the jester's witticisms
with an explanation, to render them more obvious to the capacity of
the audience, so that his wisdom became a sort of commentary on the
buffoon's folly. And sometimes, in requital, the HOFF-NARR, with a pithy
jest, wound up the conclusion of the orator's tedious harangue.

Whatever his real sentiments might be, Conrade took especial care that
his countenance should express nothing but satisfaction with what he
heard, and smiled or applauded as zealously, to all appearance, as the
Archduke himself at the solemn folly of the SPRUCH-SPRECHER and the
gibbering wit of the fool. In fact, he watched carefully until the one
or other should introduce some topic favourable to the purpose which was
uppermost in his mind.

It was not long ere the King of England was brought on the carpet by the
jester, who had been accustomed to consider Dickon of the Broom (which
irreverent epithet he substituted for Richard Plantagenet) as a subject
of mirth, acceptable and inexhaustible. The orator, indeed, was silent,
and it was only when applied to by Conrade that he observed, "The
GENISTA, or broom-plant, was an emblem of humility; and it would be well
when those who wore it would remember the warning."

The allusion to the illustrious badge of Plantagenet was thus rendered
sufficiently manifest, and Jonas Schwanker observed that they who
humbled themselves had been exalted with a vengeance. "Honour unto whom
honour is due," answered the Marquis of Montserrat. "We have all had
some part in these marches and battles, and methinks other princes might
share a little in the renown which Richard of England engrosses amongst
minstrels and MINNE-SINGERS. Has no one of the joyeuse science here
present a song in praise of the royal Archduke of Austria, our princely
entertainer?"

Three minstrels emulously stepped forward with voice and harp. Two were
silenced with difficulty by the SPRUCH-SPRECHER, who seemed to act as
master of the revels, and a hearing was at length procured for the
poet preferred, who sung, in high German, stanzas which may be thus
translated:--

"What brave chief shall head the forces, Where the red-cross legions
gather? Best of horsemen, best of horses, Highest head and fairest
feather."

Here the orator, jingling his staff, interrupted the bard to intimate to
the party--what they might not have inferred from the description--that
their royal host was the party indicated, and a full-crowned goblet went
round to the acclamation, HOCH LEBE DER HERZOG LEOPOLD! Another stanza
followed:--

"Ask not Austria why, 'midst princes, Still her banner rises highest;
Ask as well the strong-wing'd eagle, Why to heaven he soars the
highest."

"The eagle," said the expounder of dark sayings, "is the cognizance of
our noble lord the Archduke--of his royal Grace, I would say--and the
eagle flies the highest and nearest to the sun of all the feathered
creation."

"The lion hath taken a spring above the eagle," said Conrade carelessly.

The Archduke reddened, and fixed his eyes on the speaker, while the
SPRUCH-SPRECHER answered, after a minute's consideration, "The Lord
Marquis will pardon me--a lion cannot fly above an eagle, because no
lion hath got wings."

"Except the lion of Saint Mark," responded the jester.

"That is the Venetian's banner," said the Duke; "but assuredly that
amphibious race, half nobles, half merchants, will not dare to place
their rank in comparison with ours."

"Nay, it was not of the Venetian lion that I spoke," said the Marquis of
Montserrat, "but of the three lions passant of England. Formerly, it is
said, they were leopards; but now they are become lions at all points,
and must take precedence of beast, fish, or fowl, or woe worth the
gainstander."

"Mean you seriously, my lord?" said the Austrian, now considerably
flushed with wine. "Think you that Richard of England asserts any
pre-eminence over the free sovereigns who have been his voluntary allies
in this Crusade?"

"I know not but from circumstances," answered Conrade. "Yonder hangs
his banner alone in the midst of our camp, as if he were king and
generalissimo of our whole Christian army."

"And do you endure this so patiently, and speak of it so coldly?" said
the Archduke.

"Nay, my lord," answered Conrade, "it cannot concern the poor Marquis of
Montserrat to contend against an injury patiently submitted to by
such potent princes as Philip of France and Leopold of Austria. What
dishonour you are pleased to submit to cannot be a disgrace to me."

Leopold closed his fist, and struck on the table with violence.

"I have told Philip of this," he said. "I have often told him that it
was our duty to protect the inferior princes against the usurpation
of this islander; but he answers me ever with cold respects of their
relations together as suzerain and vassal, and that it were impolitic in
him to make an open breach at this time and period."

"The world knows that Philip is wise," said Conrade, "and will judge his
submission to be policy. Yours, my lord, you can yourself alone account
for; but I doubt not you have deep reasons for submitting to English
domination."

"I submit!" said Leopold indignantly--"I, the Archduke of Austria, so
important and vital a limb of the Holy Roman Empire--I submit myself to
this king of half an island, this grandson of a Norman bastard! No, by
Heaven! The camp and all Christendom shall see that I know how to right
myself, and whether I yield ground one inch to the English bandog.--Up,
my lieges and merry men; up and follow me! We will--and that without
losing one instant--place the eagle of Austria where she shall float as
high as ever floated the cognizance of king or kaiser."

With that he started from his seat, and amidst the tumultuous cheering
of his guests and followers, made for the door of the pavilion, and
seized his own banner, which stood pitched before it.

"Nay, my lord," said Conrade, affecting to interfere, "it will blemish
your wisdom to make an affray in the camp at this hour; and perhaps it
is better to submit to the usurpation of England a little longer than
to--"

"Not an hour, not a moment longer," vociferated the Duke; and with the
banner in his hand, and followed by his shouting guests and attendants,
marched hastily to the central mount, from which the banner of England
floated, and laid his hand on the standard-spear, as if to pluck it from
the ground.

"My master, my dear master!" said Jonas Schwanker, throwing his arms
about the Duke, "take heed--lions have teeth--"

"And eagles have claws," said the Duke, not relinquishing his hold on
the banner-staff, yet hesitating to pull it from the ground.

The speaker of sentences, notwithstanding such was his occupation, had
nevertheless some intervals of sound sense. He clashed his staff loudly,
and Leopold, as if by habit, turned his head towards his man of counsel.

"The eagle is king among the fowls of the air," said the
SPRUCH-SPRECHER, "as is the lion among the beasts of the field--each has
his dominion, separated as wide as England and Germany. Do thou, noble
eagle, no dishonour to the princely lion, but let your banners remain
floating in peace side by side."

Leopold withdrew his hand from the banner-spear, and looked round for
Conrade of Montserrat, but he saw him not; for the Marquis, so soon as
he saw the mischief afoot, had withdrawn himself from the crowd, taking
care, in the first place, to express before several neutral persons his
regret that the Archduke should have chosen the hours after dinner to
avenge any wrong of which he might think he had a right to complain. Not
seeing his guest, to whom he wished more particularly to have addressed
himself, the Archduke said aloud that, having no wish to breed
dissension in the army of the Cross, he did but vindicate his own
privileges and right to stand upon an equality with the King of England,
without desiring, as he might have done, to advance his banner--which he
derived from emperors, his progenitors--above that of a mere descendant
of the Counts of Anjou; and in the meantime he commanded a cask of wine
to be brought hither and pierced, for regaling the bystanders, who,
with tuck of drum and sound of music, quaffed many a carouse round the
Austrian standard.

This disorderly scene was not acted without a degree of noise, which
alarmed the whole camp.

The critical hour had arrived at which the physician, according to the
rules of his art, had predicted that his royal patient might be awakened
with safety, and the sponge had been applied for that purpose; and
the leech had not made many observations ere he assured the Baron of
Gilsland that the fever had entirely left his sovereign, and that,
such was the happy strength of his constitution, it would not be even
necessary, as in most cases, to give a second dose of the powerful
medicine. Richard himself seemed to be of the same opinion, for, sitting
up and rubbing his eyes, he demanded of De Vaux what present sum of
money was in the royal coffers.

The baron could not exactly inform him of the amount.

"It matters not," said Richard; "be it greater or smaller, bestow it
all on this learned leech, who hath, I trust, given me back again to the
service of the Crusade. If it be less than a thousand byzants, let him
have jewels to make it up."

"I sell not the wisdom with which Allah has endowed me," answered the
Arabian physician; "and be it known to you, great Prince, that the
divine medicine of which you have partaken would lose its effects in my
unworthy hands did I exchange its virtues either for gold or diamonds."

"The Physician refuseth a gratuity!" said De Vaux to himself. "This is
more extraordinary than his being a hundred years old."

"Thomas de Vaux," said Richard, "thou knowest no courage but what
belongs to the sword, no bounty and virtue but what are used in
chivalry. I tell thee that this Moor, in his independence, might set an
example to them who account themselves the flower of knighthood."

"It is reward enough for me," said the Moor, folding his arms on his
bosom, and maintaining an attitude at once respectful and dignified,
"that so great a king as the Melech Ric [Richard was thus called by the
Eastern nations.] should thus speak of his servant.--But now let me pray
you again to compose yourself on your couch; for though I think there
needs no further repetition of the divine draught, yet injury might
ensue from any too early exertion ere your strength be entirely
restored."

"I must obey thee, Hakim," said the King; "yet believe me, my bosom
feels so free from the wasting fire which for so many days hath scorched
it, that I care not how soon I expose it to a brave man's lance.--But
hark! what mean these shouts, and that distant music, in the camp? Go,
Thomas de Vaux, and make inquiry."

"It is the Archduke Leopold," said De Vaux, returning after a minute's
absence, "who makes with his pot-companions some procession through the
camp."

"The drunken fool!" exclaimed King Richard; "can he not keep his brutal
inebriety within the veil of his pavilion, that he must needs show
his shame to all Christendom?--What say you, Sir Marquis?" he added,
addressing himself to Conrade of Montserrat, who at that moment entered
the tent.

"Thus much, honoured Prince," answered the Marquis, "that I delight
to see your Majesty so well, and so far recovered; and that is a long
speech for any one to make who has partaken of the Duke of Austria's
hospitality."

"What! you have been dining with the Teutonic wine-skin!" said
the monarch. "And what frolic has he found out to cause all this
disturbance? Truly, Sir Conrade, I have still held you so good a
reveller that I wonder at your quitting the game."

De Vaux, who had got a little behind the King, now exerted himself by
look and sign to make the Marquis understand that he should say nothing
to Richard of what was passing without. But Conrade understood not, or
heeded not, the prohibition.

"What the Archduke does," he said, "is of little consequence to any one,
least of all to himself, since he probably knows not what he is acting;
yet, to say truth, it is a gambol I should not like to share in, since
he is pulling down the banner of England from Saint George's Mount, in
the centre of the camp yonder, and displaying his own in its stead."

"WHAT sayest thou?" exclaimed the King, in a tone which might have waked
the dead.

"Nay," said the Marquis, "let it not chafe your Highness that a fool
should act according to his folly--"

"Speak not to me," said Richard, springing from his couch, and casting
on his clothes with a dispatch which seemed marvellous--"Speak not to
me, Lord Marquis!--De Multon, I command thee speak not a word to
me--he that breathes but a syllable is no friend to Richard
Plantagenet.--Hakim, be silent, I charge thee!"

All this while the King was hastily clothing himself, and, with the last
word, snatched his sword from the pillar of the tent, and without any
other weapon, or calling any attendance, he rushed out of his pavilion.
Conrade, holding up his hands as if in astonishment, seemed willing to
enter into conversation with De Vaux; but Sir Thomas pushed rudely past
him, and calling to one of the royal equerries, said hastily, "Fly to
Lord Salisbury's quarters, and let him get his men together and follow
me instantly to Saint George's Mount. Tell him the King's fever has left
his blood and settled in his brain."

Imperfectly heard, and still more imperfectly comprehended, by the
startled attendant whom De Vaux addressed thus hastily, the equerry and
his fellow-servants of the royal chamber rushed hastily into the tents
of the neighbouring nobility, and quickly spread an alarm, as general
as the cause seemed vague, through the whole British forces. The English
soldiers, waked in alarm from that noonday rest which the heat of the
climate had taught them to enjoy as a luxury, hastily asked each other
the cause of the tumult, and without waiting an answer, supplied by the
force of their own fancy the want of information. Some said the Saracens
were in the camp, some that the King's life was attempted, some that he
had died of the fever the preceding night, many that he was assassinated
by the Duke of Austria. The nobles and officers, at an equal loss with
the common men to ascertain the real cause of the disorder, laboured
only to get their followers under arms and under authority, lest their
rashness should occasion some great misfortune to the Crusading army.
The English trumpets sounded loud, shrill, and continuously. The
alarm-cry of "Bows and bills, bows and bills!" was heard from quarter
to quarter, again and again shouted, and again and again answered by the
presence of the ready warriors, and their national invocation, "Saint
George for merry England!"

The alarm went through the nearest quarter of the camp, and men of
all the various nations assembled, where, perhaps, every people in
Christendom had their representatives, flew to arms, and drew together
under circumstances of general confusion, of which they knew neither
the cause nor the object. It was, however, lucky, amid a scene so
threatening, that the Earl of Salisbury, while he hurried after De
Vaux's summons with a few only of the readiest English men-at-arms,
directed the rest of the English host to be drawn up and kept under
arms, to advance to Richard's succour if necessity should require, but
in fit array and under due command, and not with the tumultuary
haste which their own alarm and zeal for the King's safety might have
dictated.

In the meanwhile, without regarding for one instant the shouts, the
cries, the tumult which began to thicken around him, Richard, with
his dress in the last disorder, and his sheathed blade under his arm,
pursued his way with the utmost speed, followed only by De Vaux and one
or two household servants, to Saint George's Mount.

He outsped even the alarm which his impetuosity only had excited,
and passed the quarter of his own gallant troops of Normandy, Poitou,
Gascony, and Anjou before the disturbance had reached them, although the
noise accompanying the German revel had induced many of the soldiery to
get on foot to listen. The handful of Scots were also quartered in the
vicinity, nor had they been disturbed by the uproar. But the King's
person and his haste were both remarked by the Knight of the Leopard,
who, aware that danger must be afoot, and hastening to share in it,
snatched his shield and sword, and united himself to De Vaux, who with
some difficulty kept pace with his impatient and fiery master. De Vaux
answered a look of curiosity, which the Scottish knight directed towards
him, with a shrug of his broad shoulders, and they continued, side by
side, to pursue Richard's steps.

The King was soon at the foot of Saint George's Mount, the sides as well
as platform of which were now surrounded and crowded, partly by those
belonging to the Duke of Austria's retinue, who were celebrating, with
shouts of jubilee, the act which they considered as an assertion of
national honour; partly by bystanders of different nations, whom dislike
to the English, or mere curiosity, had assembled together to witness the
end of these extraordinary proceedings. Through this disorderly troop
Richard burst his way, like a goodly ship under full sail, which cleaves
her forcible passage through the rolling billows, and heeds not that
they unite after her passage and roar upon her stern.

The summit of the eminence was a small level space, on which were
pitched the rival banners, surrounded still by the Archduke's friends
and retinue. In the midst of the circle was Leopold himself, still
contemplating with self-satisfaction the deed he had done, and still
listening to the shouts of applause which his partisans bestowed with no
sparing breath. While he was in this state of self-gratulation, Richard
burst into the circle, attended, indeed, only by two men, but in his own
headlong energies an irresistible host.

"Who has dared," he said, laying his hands upon the Austrian
standard, and speaking in a voice like the sound which precedes an
earthquake--"Who has dared to place this paltry rag beside the banner of
England?"

The Archduke wanted not personal courage, and it was impossible he
could hear this question without reply. Yet so much was he troubled
and surprised by the unexpected arrival of Richard, and affected by the
general awe inspired by his ardent and unyielding character, that the
demand was twice repeated, in a tone which seemed to challenge heaven
and earth, ere the Archduke replied, with such firmness as he could
command, "It was I, Leopold of Austria."

"Then shall Leopold of Austria," replied Richard, "presentry see the
rate at which his banner and his pretensions are held by Richard of
England."

So saying, he pulled up the standard-spear, splintered it to pieces,
threw the banner itself on the ground, and placed his foot upon it.

"Thus," said he, "I trample on the banner of Austria. Is there a knight
among your Teutonic chivalry dare impeach my deed?"

There was a momentary silence; but there are no braver men than the
Germans.

"I," and "I," and "I," was heard from several knights of the Duke"s
followers; and he himself added his voice to those which accepted the
King of England's defiance.

"Why do we dally thus?" said the Earl Wallenrode, a gigantic warrior
from the frontiers of Hungary. "Brethren and noble gentlemen, this man's
foot is on the honour of your country--let us rescue it from violation,
and down with the pride of England!"

So saying, he drew his sword, and struck at the King a blow which might
have proved fatal, had not the Scot intercepted and caught it upon his
shield.

"I have sworn," said King Richard--and his voice was heard above all
the tumult, which now waxed wild and loud--"never to strike one whose
shoulder bears the cross; therefore live, Wallenrode--but live to
remember Richard of England."

As he spoke, he grasped the tall Hungarian round the waist, and,
unmatched in wrestling, as in other military exercises, hurled him
backwards with such violence that the mass flew as if discharged from a
military engine, not only through the ring of spectators who witnessed
the extraordinary scene, but over the edge of the mount itself, down
the steep side of which Wallenrode rolled headlong, until, pitching at
length upon his shoulder, he dislocated the bone, and lay like one dead.
This almost supernatural display of strength did not encourage either
the Duke or any of his followers to renew a personal contest so
inauspiciously commenced. Those who stood farthest back did, indeed,
clash their swords, and cry out, "Cut the island mastiff to pieces!"
but those who were nearer veiled, perhaps, their personal fears under an
affected regard for order, and cried, for the most part, "Peace! Peace!
the peace of the Cross--the peace of Holy Church and our Father the
Pope!"

These various cries of the assailants, contradicting each other, showed
their irresolution; while Richard, his foot still on the archducal
banner, glared round him with an eye that seemed to seek an enemy, and
from which the angry nobles shrunk appalled, as from the threatened
grasp of a lion. De Vaux and the Knight of the Leopard kept their places
beside him; and though the swords which they held were still sheathed,
it was plain that they were prompt to protect Richard's person to the
very last, and their size and remarkable strength plainly showed the
defence would be a desperate one.

Salisbury and his attendants were also now drawing near, with bills and
partisans brandished, and bows already bended.

At this moment King Philip of France, attended by one or two of his
nobles, came on the platform to inquire the cause of the disturbance,
and made gestures of surprise at finding the King of England raised from
his sick-bed, and confronting their common ally, the Duke of Austria, in
such a menacing and insulting posture. Richard himself blushed at being
discovered by Philip, whose sagacity he respected as much as he disliked
his person, in an attitude neither becoming his character as a monarch,
nor as a Crusader; and it was observed that he withdrew his foot, as
if accidentally, from the dishonoured banner, and exchanged his look of
violent emotion for one of affected composure and indifference. Leopold
also struggled to attain some degree of calmness, mortified as he was
by having been seen by Philip in the act of passively submitting to the
insults of the fiery King of England.

Possessed of many of those royal qualities for which he was termed by
his subjects the August, Philip might be termed the Ulysses, as Richard
was indisputably the Achilles, of the Crusade. The King of France was
sagacious, wise, deliberate in council, steady and calm in action,
seeing clearly, and steadily pursuing, the measures most for the
interest of his kingdom--dignified and royal in his deportment, brave in
person, but a politician rather than a warrior. The Crusade would
have been no choice of his own; but the spirit was contagious, and the
expedition was enforced upon him by the church, and by the unanimous
wish of his nobility. In any other situation, or in a milder age, his
character might have stood higher than that of the adventurous Coeur de
Lion. But in the Crusade, itself an undertaking wholly irrational, sound
reason was the quality of all others least estimated, and the chivalric
valour which both the age and the enterprise demanded was considered as
debased if mingled with the least touch of discretion. So that the merit
of Philip, compared with that of his haughty rival, showed like the
clear but minute flame of a lamp placed near the glare of a huge,
blazing torch, which, not possessing half the utility, makes ten times
more impression on the eye. Philip felt his inferiority in public
opinion with the pain natural to a high-spirited prince; and it cannot
be wondered at if he took such opportunities as offered for placing his
own character in more advantageous contrast with that of his rival. The
present seemed one of those occasions in which prudence and calmness
might reasonably expect to triumph over obstinacy and impetuous
violence.

"What means this unseemly broil betwixt the sworn brethren of the
Cross--the royal Majesty of England and the princely Duke Leopold? How
is it possible that those who are the chiefs and pillars of this holy
expedition--"

"A truce with thy remonstrance, France," said Richard, enraged inwardly
at finding himself placed on a sort of equality with Leopold, yet not
knowing how to resent it. "This duke, or prince, or pillar, if you will,
hath been insolent, and I have chastised him--that is all. Here is a
coil, forsooth, because of spurning a hound!"

"Majesty of France," said the Duke, "I appeal to you and every sovereign
prince against the foul indignity which I have sustained. This King of
England hath pulled down my banner-torn and trampled on it."

"Because he had the audacity to plant it beside mine," said Richard.

"My rank as thine equal entitled me," replied the Duke, emboldened by
the presence of Philip.

"Assert such equality for thy person," said King Richard, "and, by Saint
George, I will treat thy person as I did thy broidered kerchief there,
fit but for the meanest use to which kerchief may be put."

"Nay, but patience, brother of England," said Philip, "and I will
presently show Austria that he is wrong in this matter.--Do not think,
noble Duke," he continued, "that, in permitting the standard of England
to occupy the highest point in our camp, we, the independent sovereigns
of the Crusade, acknowledge any inferiority to the royal Richard. It
were inconsistent to think so, since even the Oriflamme itself--the
great banner of France, to which the royal Richard himself, in respect
of his French possessions, is but a vassal--holds for the present an
inferior place to the Lions of England. But as sworn brethren of the
Cross, military pilgrims, who, laying aside the pomp and pride of this
world, are hewing with our swords the way to the Holy Sepulchre, I
myself, and the other princes, have renounced to King Richard, from
respect to his high renown and great feats of arms, that precedence
which elsewhere, and upon other motives, would not have been yielded.
I am satisfied that, when your royal grace of Austria shall have
considered this, you will express sorrow for having placed your banner
on this spot, and that the royal Majesty of England will then give
satisfaction for the insult he has offered."

The SPRUCH-SPRECHER and the jester had both retired to a safe distance
when matters seemed coming to blows; but returned when words, their own
commodity, seemed again about to become the order of the day.

The man of proverbs was so delighted with Philip's politic speech that
he clashed his baton at the conclusion, by way of emphasis, and forgot
the presence in which he was, so far as to say aloud that he himself had
never said a wiser thing in his life.

"It may be so," whispered Jonas Schwanker, "but we shall be whipped if
you speak so loud."

The Duke answered sullenly that he would refer his quarrel to the
General Council of the Crusade--a motion which Philip highly applauded,
as qualified to take away a scandal most harmful to Christendom.

Richard, retaining the same careless attitude, listened to Philip until
his oratory seemed exhausted, and then said aloud, "I am drowsy--this
fever hangs about me still. Brother of France, thou art acquainted with
my humour, and that I have at all times but few words to spare. Know,
therefore, at once, I will submit a matter touching the honour
of England neither to Prince, Pope, nor Council. Here stands my
banner--whatsoever pennon shall be reared within three butts' length
of it--ay, were it the Oriflamme, of which you were, I think, but now
speaking--shall be treated as that dishonoured rag; nor will I yield
other satisfaction than that which these poor limbs can render in the
lists to any bold challenge--ay, were it against five champions instead
of one."

"Now," said the jester, whispering his companion, "that is as complete
a piece of folly as if I myself had said it; but yet, I think, there may
be in this matter a greater fool than Richard yet."

"And who may that be?" asked the man of wisdom.

"Philip," said the jester, "or our own Royal Duke, should either accept
the challenge. But oh, most sage SPRUCH-SPECHER, what excellent kings
wouldst thou and I have made, since those on whose heads these crowns
have fallen can play the proverb-monger and the fool as completely as
ourselves!"

While these worthies plied their offices apart, Philip answered calmly
to the almost injurious defiance of Richard, "I came not hither to
awaken fresh quarrels, contrary to the oath we have sworn, and the holy
cause in which we have engaged. I part from my brother of England as
brothers should part, and the only strife between the Lions of England
and the Lilies of France shall be which shall be carried deepest into
the ranks of the infidels."

"It is a bargain, my royal brother," said Richard, stretching out his
hand with all the frankness which belonged to his rash but generous
disposition; "and soon may we have the opportunity to try this gallant
and fraternal wager."

"Let this noble Duke also partake in the friendship of this happy
moment," said Philip; and the Duke approached half-sullenly,
half-willing to enter into some accommodation.

"I think not of fools, nor of their folly," said Richard carelessly; and
the Archduke, turning his back on him, withdrew from the ground.

Richard looked after him as he retired.

"There is a sort of glow-worm courage," he said, "that shows only by
night. I must not leave this banner unguarded in darkness; by daylight
the look of the Lions will alone defend it. Here, Thomas of Gilsland, I
give thee the charge of the standard--watch over the honour of England."

"Her safety is yet more dear to me," said De Vaux, "and the life of
Richard is the safety of England. I must have your Highness back to your
tent, and that without further tarriance."

"Thou art a rough and peremptory nurse, De Vaux," said the king,
smiling; and then added, addressing Sir Kenneth, "Valiant Scot, I
owe thee a boon, and I will pay it richly. There stands the banner of
England! Watch it as novice does his armour on the night before he is
dubbed. Stir not from it three spears' length, and defend it with thy
body against injury or insult. Sound thy bugle if thou art assailed by
more than three at once. Dost thou undertake the charge?"

"Willingly," said Kenneth; "and will discharge it upon penalty of my
head. I will but arm me, and return hither instantly."

The Kings of France and England then took formal leave of each other,
hiding, under an appearance of courtesy, the grounds of complaint which
either had against the other--Richard against Philip, for what he deemed
an officious interference betwixt him and Austria, and Philip against
Coeur de Lion, for the disrespectful manner in which his mediation had
been received. Those whom this disturbance had assembled now drew off in
different directions, leaving the contested mount in the same solitude
which had subsisted till interrupted by the Austrian bravado. Men judged
of the events of the day according to their partialities, and while the
English charged the Austrian with having afforded the first ground of
quarrel, those of other nations concurred in casting the greater blame
upon the insular haughtiness and assuming character of Richard.

"Thou seest," said the Marquis of Montserrat to the Grand Master of the
Templars, "that subtle courses are more effective than violence. I
have unloosed the bonds which held together this bunch of sceptres and
lances--thou wilt see them shortly fall asunder."

"I would have called thy plan a good one," said the Templar, "had there
been but one man of courage among yonder cold-blooded Austrians to sever
the bonds of which you speak with his sword. A knot that is unloosed may
again be fastened, but not so the cord which has been cut to pieces."



CHAPTER XII.

     'Tis woman that seduces all mankind.
        GAY.

In the days of chivalry, a dangerous post or a perilous adventure was a
reward frequently assigned to military bravery as a compensation for its
former trials; just as, in ascending a precipice, the surmounting one
crag only lifts the climber to points yet more dangerous.

It was midnight, and the moon rode clear and high in heaven, when
Kenneth of Scotland stood upon his watch on Saint George's Mount, beside
the banner of England, a solitary sentinel, to protect the emblem of
that nation against the insults which might be meditated among the
thousands whom Richard's pride had made his enemies. High thoughts
rolled, one after each other, upon the mind of the warrior. It seemed
to him as if he had gained some favour in the eyes of the chivalrous
monarch, who till now had not seemed to distinguish him among the crowds
of brave men whom his renown had assembled under his banner, and Sir
Kenneth little recked that the display of royal regard consisted in
placing him upon a post so perilous. The devotion of his ambitious and
high-placed affection inflamed his military enthusiasm. Hopeless as that
attachment was in almost any conceivable circumstances, those which had
lately occurred had, in some degree, diminished the distance between
Edith and himself. He upon whom Richard had conferred the distinction
of guarding his banner was no longer an adventurer of slight note, but
placed within the regard of a princess, although he was as far as ever
from her level. An unknown and obscure fate could not now be his. If
he was surprised and slain on the post which had been assigned him, his
death--and he resolved it should be glorious--must deserve the praises
as well as call down the vengeance of Coeur de Lion, and be followed
by the regrets, and even the tears, of the high-born beauties of the
English Court. He had now no longer reason to fear that he should die as
a fool dieth.

Sir Kenneth had full leisure to enjoy these and similar high-souled
thoughts, fostered by that wild spirit of chivalry, which, amid its
most extravagant and fantastic flights, was still pure from all selfish
alloy--generous, devoted, and perhaps only thus far censurable, that it
proposed objects and courses of action inconsistent with the frailties
and imperfections of man. All nature around him slept in calm moon-shine
or in deep shadow. The long rows of tents and pavilions, glimmering or
darkening as they lay in the moonlight or in the shade, were still and
silent as the streets of a deserted city. Beside the banner-staff lay
the large staghound already mentioned, the sole companion of Kenneth's
watch, on whose vigilance he trusted for early warning of the approach
of any hostile footstep. The noble animal seemed to understand the
purpose of their watch; for he looked from time to time at the rich
folds of the heavy pennon, and, when the cry of the sentinels came from
the distant lines and defences of the camp, he answered them with one
deep and reiterated bark, as if to affirm that he too was vigilant in
his duty. From time to time, also, he lowered his lofty head, and wagged
his tail, as his master passed and repassed him in the short turns which
he took upon his post; or, when the knight stood silent and abstracted
leaning on his lance, and looking up towards heaven, his faithful
attendant ventured sometimes, in the phrase of romance, "to disturb his
thoughts," and awaken him from his reverie, by thrusting his large rough
snout into the knight's gauntleted hand, to solicit a transitory caress.

Thus passed two hours of the knight's watch without anything remarkable
occurring. At length, and upon a sudden, the gallant staghound bayed
furiously, and seemed about to dash forward where the shadow lay
the darkest, yet waited, as if in the slips, till he should know the
pleasure of his master.

"Who goes there?" said Sir Kenneth, aware that there was something
creeping forward on the shadowy side of the mount.

"In the name of Merlin and Maugis," answered a hoarse, disagreeable
voice, "tie up your fourfooted demon there, or I come not at you."

"And who art thou that would approach my post?" said Sir Kenneth,
bending his eyes as keenly as he could on some object, which he
could just observe at the bottom of the ascent, without being able to
distinguish its form. "Beware--I am here for death and life."

"Take up thy long-fanged Sathanas," said the voice, "or I will conjure
him with a bolt from my arblast."

At the same time was heard the sound of a spring or check, as when a
crossbow is bent.

"Unbend thy arblast, and come into the moonlight," said the Scot, "or,
by Saint Andrew, I will pin thee to the earth, be what or whom thou
wilt!"

As he spoke he poised his long lance by the middle, and, fixing his eye
upon the object, which seemed to move, he brandished the weapon, as
if meditating to cast it from his hand--a use of the weapon sometimes,
though rarely, resorted to when a missile was necessary. But Sir Kenneth
was ashamed of his purpose, and grounded his weapon, when there stepped
from the shadow into the moonlight, like an actor entering upon the
stage, a stunted, decrepit creature, whom, by his fantastic dress and
deformity, he recognized, even at some distance, for the male of the two
dwarfs whom he had seen in the chapel at Engaddi. Recollecting, at the
same moment, the other and far different visions of that extraordinary
night, he gave his dog a signal, which he instantly understood, and,
returning to the standard, laid himself down beside it with a stifled
growl.

The little, distorted miniature of humanity, assured of his safety from
an enemy so formidable, came panting up the ascent, which the shortness
of his legs rendered laborious, and, when he arrived on the platform at
the top, shifted to his left hand the little crossbow, which was just
such a toy as children at that period were permitted to shoot small
birds with, and, assuming an attitude of great dignity, gracefully
extended his right hand to Sir Kenneth, in an attitude as if he expected
he would salute it. But such a result not following, he demanded, in a
sharp and angry tone of voice, "Soldier, wherefore renderest thou not
to Nectabanus the homage due to his dignity? Or is it possible that thou
canst have forgotten him?"

"Great Nectabanus," answered the knight, willing to soothe the
creature's humour, "that were difficult for any one who has ever looked
upon thee. Pardon me, however, that, being a soldier upon my post,
with my lance in my hand, I may not give to one of thy puissance the
advantage of coming within my guard, or of mastering my weapon. Suffice
it that I reverence thy dignity, and submit myself to thee as humbly as
a man-at-arms in my place may."

"It shall suffice," said Nectabanus, "so that you presently attend me to
the presence of those who have sent me hither to summon you."

"Great sir," replied the knight, "neither in this can I gratify thee,
for my orders are to abide by this banner till daybreak--so I pray you
to hold me excused in that matter also."

So saying, he resumed his walk upon the platform; but the dwarf did not
suffer him so easily to escape from his importunity.

"Look you," he said, placing himself before Sir Kenneth, so as to
interrupt his way, "either obey me, Sir Knight, as in duty bound, or I
will lay the command upon thee, in the name of one whose beauty could
call down the genii from their sphere, and whose grandeur could command
the immortal race when they had descended."

A wild and improbable conjecture arose in the knight's mind, but he
repelled it. It was impossible, he thought, that the lady of his love
should have sent him such a message by such a messenger; yet his voice
trembled as he said, "Go to, Nectabanus. Tell me at once, and as a true
man, whether this sublime lady of whom thou speakest be other than
the houri with whose assistance I beheld thee sweeping the chapel at
Engaddi?"

"How! presumptuous Knight," replied the dwarf, "think'st thou the
mistress of our own royal affections, the sharer of our greatness, and
the partner of our comeliness, would demean herself by laying charge on
such a vassal as thou? No; highly as thou art honoured, thou hast not
yet deserved the notice of Queen Guenevra, the lovely bride of Arthur,
from whose high seat even princes seem but pigmies. But look thou here,
and as thou knowest or disownest this token, so obey or refuse her
commands who hath deigned to impose them on thee."

So saying, he placed in the knight's hand a ruby ring, which, even in
the moonlight, he had no difficulty to recognize as that which usually
graced the finger of the high-born lady to whose service he had devoted
himself. Could he have doubted the truth of the token, he would have
been convinced by the small knot of carnation-coloured ribbon which was
fastened to the ring. This was his lady's favourite colour, and more
than once had he himself, assuming it for that of his own liveries,
caused the carnation to triumph over all other hues in the lists and in
the battle.

Sir Kenneth was struck nearly mute by seeing such a token in such hands.

"In the name of all that is sacred, from whom didst thou receive
this witness?" said the knight. "Bring, if thou canst, thy wavering
understanding to a right settlement for a minute or two, and tell me the
person by whom thou art sent, and the real purpose of thy message, and
take heed what thou sayest, for this is no subject for buffoonery."

"Fond and foolish Knight," said the dwarf, "wouldst thou know more of
this matter than that thou art honoured with commands from a princess,
delivered to thee by a king? We list not to parley with thee further
than to command thee, in the name and by the power of that ring, to
follow us to her who is the owner of the ring. Every minute that thou
tarriest is a crime against thy allegiance."

"Good Nectabanus, bethink thyself," said the knight. "Can my lady know
where and upon what duty I am this night engaged? Is she aware that my
life--pshaw, why should I speak of life--but that my honour depends on
my guarding this banner till daybreak; and can it be her wish that
I should leave it even to pay homage to her? It is impossible--the
princess is pleased to be merry with her servant in sending him such
a message; and I must think so the rather that she hath chosen such a
messenger."

"Oh, keep your belief," said Nectabanus, turning round as if to leave
the platform; "it is little to me whether you be traitor or true man to
this royal lady--so fare thee well."

"Stay, stay--I entreat you stay," said Sir Kenneth. "Answer me but one
question: is the lady who sent thee near to this place?"

"What signifies it?" said the dwarf. "Ought fidelity to reckon furlongs,
or miles, or leagues--like the poor courier, who is paid for his
labour by the distance which he traverses? Nevertheless, thou soul
of suspicion, I tell thee, the fair owner of the ring now sent to so
unworthy a vassal, in whom there is neither truth nor courage, is not
more distant from this place than this arblast can send a bolt."

The knight gazed again on that ring, as if to ascertain that there was
no possible falsehood in the token. "Tell me," he said to the dwarf, "is
my presence required for any length of time?"

"Time!" answered Nectabanus, in his flighty manner; "what call you time?
I see it not--I feel it not--it is but a shadowy name--a succession of
breathings measured forth by night by the clank of a bell, by day by
a shadow crossing along a dial-stone. Knowest thou not a true knight's
time should only be reckoned by the deeds that he performs in behalf of
God and his lady?"

"The words of truth, though in the mouth of folly," said the knight.
"And doth my lady really summon me to some deed of action, in her name
and for her sake?--and may it not be postponed for even the few hours
till daybreak?"

"She requires thy presence instantly," said the dwarf, "and without the
loss of so much time as would be told by ten grains of the sandglass.
Hearken, thou cold-blooded and suspicious knight, these are her very
words--Tell him that the hand which dropped roses can bestow laurels."

This allusion to their meeting in the chapel of Engaddi sent a thousand
recollections through Sir Kenneth's brain, and convinced him that the
message delivered by the dwarf was genuine. The rosebuds, withered as
they were, were still treasured under his cuirass, and nearest to his
heart. He paused, and could not resolve to forego an opportunity, the
only one which might ever offer, to gain grace in her eyes whom he had
installed as sovereign of his affections. The dwarf, in the meantime,
augmented his confusion by insisting either that he must return the ring
or instantly attend him.

"Hold, hold, yet a moment hold," said the knight, and proceeded to
mutter to himself, "Am I either the subject or slave of King Richard,
more than as a free knight sworn to the service of the Crusade? And whom
have I come hither to honour with lance and sword? Our holy cause and my
transcendent lady!"

"The ring! the ring!" exclaimed the dwarf impatiently; "false and
slothful knight, return the ring, which thou art unworthy to touch or to
look upon."

"A moment, a moment, good Nectabanus," said Sir Kenneth; "disturb not
my thoughts.--What if the Saracens were just now to attack our lines?
Should I stay here like a sworn vassal of England, watching that her
king's pride suffered no humiliation; or should I speed to the breach,
and fight for the Cross? To the breach, assuredly; and next to the cause
of God come the commands of my liege lady. And yet, Coeur de Lion's
behest--my own promise! Nectabanus, I conjure thee once more to say, are
you to conduct me far from hence?"

"But to yonder pavilion; and, since you must needs know," replied
Nectabanus, "the moon is glimmering on the gilded ball which crowns its
roof, and which is worth a king's ransom."

"I can return in an instant," said the knight, shutting his eyes
desperately to all further consequences, "I can hear from thence the bay
of my dog if any one approaches the standard. I will throw myself at my
lady's feet, and pray her leave to return to conclude my watch.--Here,
Roswal" (calling his hound, and throwing down his mantle by the side of
the standard-spear), "watch thou here, and let no one approach."

The majestic dog looked in his master's face, as if to be sure that he
understood his charge, then sat down beside the mantle, with ears erect
and head raised, like a sentinel, understanding perfectly the purpose
for which he was stationed there.

"Come now, good Nectabanus," said the knight, "let us hasten to obey the
commands thou hast brought."

"Haste he that will," said the dwarf sullenly; "thou hast not been in
haste to obey my summons, nor can I walk fast enough to follow your long
strides--you do not walk like a man, but bound like an ostrich in the
desert."

There were but two ways of conquering the obstinacy of Nectabanus, who,
as he spoke, diminished his walk into a snail's pace. For bribes Sir
Kenneth had no means--for soothing no time; so in his impatience
he snatched the dwarf up from the ground, and bearing him along,
notwithstanding his entreaties and his fear, reached nearly to the
pavilion pointed out as that of the Queen. In approaching it, however,
the Scot observed there was a small guard of soldiers sitting on the
ground, who had been concealed from him by the intervening tents.
Wondering that the clash of his own armour had not yet attracted
their attention, and supposing that his motions might, on the present
occasion, require to be conducted with secrecy, he placed the little
panting guide upon the ground to recover his breath, and point out what
was next to be done. Nectabanus was both frightened and angry; but he
had felt himself as completely in the power of the robust knight as an
owl in the claws of an eagle, and therefore cared not to provoke him to
any further display of his strength.

He made no complaints, therefore, of the usage he had received; but,
turning amongst the labyrinth of tents, he led the knight in silence
to the opposite side of the pavilion, which thus screened them from
the observation of the warders, who seemed either too negligent or too
sleepy to discharge their duty with much accuracy. Arrived there, the
dwarf raised the under part of the canvas from the ground, and made
signs to Sir Kenneth that he should introduce himself to the inside of
the tent, by creeping under it. The knight hesitated. There seemed an
indecorum in thus privately introducing himself into a pavilion pitched,
doubtless, for the accommodation of noble ladies; but he recalled
to remembrance the assured tokens which the dwarf had exhibited, and
concluded that it was not for him to dispute his lady's pleasure.

He stooped accordingly, crept beneath the canvas enclosure of the tent,
and heard the dwarf whisper from without, "Remain here until I call
thee."



CHAPTER XIII.

     You talk of Gaiety and Innocence!
     The moment when the fatal fruit was eaten,
     They parted ne'er to meet again; and Malice
     Has ever since been playmate to light Gaiety,
     From the first moment when the smiling infant
     Destroys the flower or butterfly he toys with,
     To the last chuckle of the dying miser,
     Who on his deathbed laughs his last to hear
     His wealthy neighbour has become a bankrupt.
         OLD PLAY.

Sir Kenneth was left for some minutes alone and in darkness. Here was
another interruption which must prolong his absence from his post, and
he began almost to repent the facility with which he had been induced to
quit it. But to return without seeing the Lady Edith was now not to be
thought of. He had committed a breach of military discipline, and was
determined at least to prove the reality of the seductive expectations
which had tempted him to do so. Meanwhile his situation was unpleasant.
There was no light to show him into what sort of apartment he had
been led--the Lady Edith was in immediate attendance on the Queen
of England--and the discovery of his having introduced himself thus
furtively into the royal pavilion might, were it discovered; lead to
much and dangerous suspicion. While he gave way to these unpleasant
reflections, and began almost to wish that he could achieve his retreat
unobserved, he heard a noise of female voices, laughing, whispering, and
speaking, in an adjoining apartment, from which, as the sounds gave him
reason to judge, he could only be separated by a canvas partition. Lamps
were burning, as he might perceive by the shadowy light which extended
itself even to his side of the veil which divided the tent, and he
could see shades of several figures sitting and moving in the adjoining
apartment. It cannot be termed discourtesy in Sir Kenneth that, situated
as he was, he overheard a conversation in which he found himself deeply
interested.

"Call her--call her, for Our Lady's sake," said the voice of one of
these laughing invisibles. "Nectabanus, thou shalt be made ambassador to
Prester John's court, to show them how wisely thou canst discharge thee
of a mission."

The shrill tone of the dwarf was heard, yet so much subdued that
Sir Kenneth could not understand what he said, except that he spoke
something of the means of merriment given to the guard.

"But how shall we rid us of the spirit which Nectabanus hath raised, my
maidens?"

"Hear me, royal madam," said another voice. "If the sage and princely
Nectabanus be not over-jealous of his most transcendent bride and
empress, let us send her to get us rid of this insolent knight-errant,
who can be so easily persuaded that high-born dames may need the use of
his insolent and overweening valour."

"It were but justice, methinks," replied another, "that the Princess
Guenever should dismiss, by her courtesy, him whom her husband's wisdom
has been able to entice hither."

Struck to the heart with shame and resentment at what he had heard, Sir
Kenneth was about to attempt his escape from the tent at all hazards,
when what followed arrested his purpose.

"Nay, truly," said the first speaker, "our cousin Edith must first learn
how this vaunted wight hath conducted himself, and we must reserve the
power of giving her ocular proof that he hath failed in his duty. It
may be a lesson will do good upon her; for, credit me, Calista, I have
sometimes thought she has let this Northern adventurer sit nearer her
heart than prudence would sanction."

One of the other voices was then heard to mutter something of the Lady
Edith's prudence and wisdom.

"Prudence, wench!" was the reply. "It is mere pride, and the desire to
be thought more rigid than any of us. Nay, I will not quit my advantage.
You know well that when she has us at fault no one can, in a civil way,
lay your error before you more precisely than can my Lady Edith. But
here she comes."

A figure, as if entering the apartment, cast upon the partition a
shade, which glided along slowly until it mixed with those which
already clouded it. Despite of the bitter disappointment which he had
experienced--despite the insult and injury with which it seemed he had
been visited by the malice, or, at best, by the idle humour of Queen
Berengaria (for he already concluded that she who spoke loudest, and in
a commanding tone, was the wife of Richard), the knight felt something
so soothing to his feelings in learning that Edith had been no partner
to the fraud practised on him, and so interesting to his curiosity in
the scene which was about to take place, that, instead of prosecuting
his more prudent purpose of an instant retreat, he looked anxiously,
on the contrary, for some rent or crevice by means of which he might be
made eye as well as ear witness to what was to go forward.

"Surely," said he to himself, "the Queen, who hath been pleased for
an idle frolic to endanger my reputation, and perhaps my life, cannot
complain if I avail myself of the chance which fortune seems willing to
afford me to obtain knowledge of her further intentions."

It seemed, in the meanwhile, as if Edith were waiting for the commands
of the Queen, and as if the other were reluctant to speak for fear of
being unable to command her laughter and that of her companions; for Sir
Kenneth could only distinguish a sound as of suppressed tittering and
merriment.

"Your Majesty," said Edith at last, "seems in a merry mood, though,
methinks, the hour of night prompts a sleepy one. I was well disposed
bedward when I had your Majesty's commands to attend you."

"I will not long delay you, cousin, from your repose," said the Queen,
"though I fear you will sleep less soundly when I tell you your wager is
lost."

"Nay, royal madam," said Edith, "this, surely, is dwelling on a jest
which has rather been worn out, I laid no wager, however it was your
Majesty's pleasure to suppose, or to insist, that I did so."

"Nay, now, despite our pilgrimage, Satan is strong with you, my gentle
cousin, and prompts thee to leasing. Can you deny that you gaged your
ruby ring against my golden bracelet that yonder Knight of the Libbard,
or how call you him, could not be seduced from his post?"

"Your Majesty is too great for me to gainsay you," replied Edith,
"but these ladies can, if they will, bear me witness that it was your
Highness who proposed such a wager, and took the ring from my finger,
even while I was declaring that I did not think it maidenly to gage
anything on such a subject."

"Nay, but, my Lady Edith," said another voice, "you must needs grant,
under your favour, that you expressed yourself very confident of the
valour of that same Knight of the Leopard."

"And if I did, minion," said Edith angrily, "is that a good reason why
thou shouldst put in thy word to flatter her Majesty's humour? I spoke
of that knight but as all men speak who have seen him in the field, and
had no more interest in defending than thou in detracting from him. In a
camp, what can women speak of save soldiers and deeds of arms?"

"The noble Lady Edith," said a third voice, "hath never forgiven Calista
and me, since we told your Majesty that she dropped two rosebuds in the
chapel."

"If your Majesty," said Edith, in a tone which Sir Kenneth could judge
to be that of respectful remonstrance, "have no other commands for
me than to hear the gibes of your waiting-women, I must crave your
permission to withdraw."

"Silence, Florise," said the Queen, "and let not our indulgence lead
you to forget the difference betwixt yourself and the kinswoman of
England.--But you, my dear cousin," she continued, resuming her tone
of raillery, "how can you, who are so good-natured, begrudge us poor
wretches a few minutes' laughing, when we have had so many days devoted
to weeping and gnashing of teeth?"

"Great be your mirth, royal lady," said Edith; "yet would I be content
not to smile for the rest of my life, rather than--"

She stopped, apparently out of respect; but Sir Kenneth could hear that
she was in much agitation.

"Forgive me," said Berengaria, a thoughtless but good-humoured princess
of the House of Navarre; "but what is the great offence, after all? A
young knight has been wiled hither--has stolen, or has been stolen, from
his post, which no one will disturb in his absence--for the sake of a
fair lady; for, to do your champion justice, sweet one, the wisdom of
Nectabanus could conjure him hither in no name but yours."

"Gracious Heaven! your Majesty does not say so?" said Edith, in a
voice of alarm quite different from the agitation she had previously
evinced,--"you cannot say so consistently with respect for your own
honour and for mine, your husband's kinswoman! Say you were jesting with
me, my royal mistress, and forgive me that I could, even for a moment,
think it possible you could be in earnest!"

"The Lady Edith," said the Queen, in a displeased tone of voice,
"regrets the ring we have won of her. We will restore the pledge to you,
gentle cousin; only you must not grudge us in turn a little triumph over
the wisdom which has been so often spread over us, as a banner over a
host."

"A triumph!" exclaimed Edith indignantly--"a triumph! The triumph will
be with the infidel, when he hears that the Queen of England can
make the reputation of her husband's kinswoman the subject of a light
frolic."

"You are angry, fair cousin, at losing your favourite ring," said the
Queen. "Come, since you grudge to pay your wager, we will renounce our
right; it was your name and that pledge brought him hither, and we care
not for the bait after the fish is caught."

"Madam," replied Edith impatiently, "you know well that your Grace could
not wish for anything of mine but it becomes instantly yours. But I
would give a bushel of rubies ere ring or name of mine had been used to
bring a brave man into a fault, and perhaps to disgrace and punishment."

"Oh, it is for the safety of our true knight that we fear!" said the
Queen. "You rate our power too low, fair cousin, when you speak of
a life being lost for a frolic of ours. O Lady Edith, others have
influence on the iron breasts of warriors as well as you--the heart
even of a lion is made of flesh, not of stone; and, believe me, I have
interest enough with Richard to save this knight, in whose fate Lady
Edith is so deeply concerned, from the penalty of disobeying his royal
commands."

"For the love of the blessed Cross, most royal lady," said Edith--and
Sir Kenneth, with feelings which it were hard to unravel, heard her
prostrate herself at the Queen's feet--"for the love of our blessed
Lady, and of every holy saint in the calendar, beware what you do! You
know not King Richard--you have been but shortly wedded to him. Your
breath might as well combat the west wind when it is wildest, as your
words persuade my royal kinsman to pardon a military offence. Oh, for
God's sake, dismiss this gentleman, if indeed you have lured him hither!
I could almost be content to rest with the shame of having invited him,
did I know that he was returned again where his duty calls him!"

"Arise, cousin, arise," said Queen Berengaria, "and be assured all will
be better than you think. Rise, dear Edith. I am sorry I have played my
foolery with a knight in whom you take such deep interest. Nay, wring
not thy hands; I will believe thou carest not for him--believe anything
rather than see thee look so wretchedly miserable. I tell thee I
will take the blame on myself with King Richard in behalf of thy fair
Northern friend--thine acquaintance, I would say, since thou own'st him
not as a friend. Nay, look not so reproachfully. We will send Nectabanus
to dismiss this Knight of the Standard to his post; and we ourselves
will grace him on some future day, to make amends for his wild-goose
chase. He is, I warrant, but lying perdu in some neighbouring tent."

"By my crown of lilies, and my sceptre of a specially good water-reed,"
said Nectabanus, "your Majesty is mistaken, He is nearer at hand than
you wot--he lieth ensconced there behind that canvas partition."

"And within hearing of each word we have said!" exclaimed the Queen, in
her turn violently surprised and agitated. "Out, monster of folly and
malignity!"

As she uttered these words, Nectabanus fled from the pavilion with a
yell of such a nature as leaves it still doubtful whether Berengaria had
confined her rebuke to words, or added some more emphatic expression of
her displeasure.

"What can now be done?" said the Queen to Edith, in a whisper of
undisguised uneasiness.

"That which must," said Edith firmly. "We must see this gentleman and
place ourselves in his mercy."

So saying, she began hastily to undo a curtain, which at one place
covered an entrance or communication.

"For Heaven's sake, forbear--consider," said the Queen--"my
apartment--our dress--the hour--my honour!"

But ere she could detail her remonstrances, the curtain fell, and there
was no division any longer betwixt the armed knight and the party of
ladies. The warmth of an Eastern night occasioned the undress of Queen
Berengaria and her household to be rather more simple and unstudied than
their station, and the presence of a male spectator of rank, required.
This the Queen remembered, and with a loud shriek fled from the
apartment where Sir Kenneth was disclosed to view in a compartment of
the ample pavilion, now no longer separated from that in which they
stood. The grief and agitation of the Lady Edith, as well as the deep
interest she felt in a hasty explanation with the Scottish knight,
perhaps occasioned her forgetting that her locks were more dishevelled
and her person less heedfully covered than was the wont of high-born
damsels, in an age which was not, after all, the most prudish or
scrupulous period of the ancient time. A thin, loose garment of
pink-coloured silk made the principal part of her vestments, with
Oriental slippers, into which she had hastily thrust her bare feet, and
a scarf hurriedly and loosely thrown about her shoulders. Her head had
no other covering than the veil of rich and dishevelled locks falling
round it on every side, that half hid a countenance which a mingled
sense of modesty and of resentment, and other deep and agitated
feelings, had covered with crimson.

But although Edith felt her situation with all that delicacy which is
her sex's greatest charm, it did not seem that for a moment she placed
her own bashfulness in comparison with the duty which, as she thought,
she owed to him who had been led into error and danger on her account.
She drew, indeed, her scarf more closely over her neck and bosom, and
she hastily laid from her hand a lamp which shed too much lustre over
her figure; but, while Sir Kenneth stood motionless on the same spot in
which he was first discovered, she rather stepped towards than retired
from him, as she exclaimed, "Hasten to your post, valiant knight!--you
are deceived in being trained hither--ask no questions."

"I need ask none," said the knight, sinking upon one knee, with the
reverential devotion of a saint at the altar, and bending his eyes on
the ground, lest his looks should increase the lady's embarrassment.

"Have you heard all?" said Edith impatiently. "Gracious saints! then
wherefore wait you here, when each minute that passes is loaded with
dishonour!"

"I have heard that I am dishonoured, lady, and I have heard it from
you," answered Kenneth. "What reck I how soon punishment follows? I
have but one petition to you; and then I seek, among the sabres of the
infidels, whether dishonour may not be washed out with blood."

"Do not so, neither," said the lady. "Be wise--dally not here; all may
yet be well, if you will but use dispatch."

"I wait but for your forgiveness," said the knight, still kneeling,
"for my presumption in believing that my poor services could have been
required or valued by you."

"I do forgive you--oh, I have nothing to forgive! have been the means of
injuring you. But oh, begone! I will forgive--I will value you--that is,
as I value every brave Crusader--if you will but begone!"

"Receive, first, this precious yet fatal pledge," said the knight,
tendering the ring to Edith, who now showed gestures of impatience.

"Oh, no, no " she said, declining to receive it. "Keep it--keep it as a
mark of my regard--my regret, I would say. Oh, begone, if not for your
own sake, for mine!"

Almost recompensed for the loss even of honour, which her voice had
denounced to him, by the interest which she seemed to testify in his
safety, Sir Kenneth rose from his knee, and, casting a momentary glance
on Edith, bowed low, and seemed about to withdraw. At the same instant,
that maidenly bashfulness, which the energy of Edith's feelings had till
then triumphed over, became conqueror in its turn, and she hastened from
the apartment, extinguishing her lamp as she went, and leaving, in Sir
Kenneth's thoughts, both mental and natural gloom behind her.

She must be obeyed, was the first distinct idea which waked him from
his reverie, and he hastened to the place by which he had entered the
pavilion. To pass under the canvas in the manner he had entered required
time and attention, and he made a readier aperture by slitting the
canvas wall with his poniard. When in the free air, he felt rather
stupefied and overpowered by a conflict of sensations, than able to
ascertain what was the real import of the whole. He was obliged to spur
himself to action by recollecting that the commands of the Lady Edith
had required haste. Even then, engaged as he was amongst tent-ropes and
tents, he was compelled to move with caution until he should regain
the path or avenue, aside from which the dwarf had led him, in order to
escape the observation of the guards before the Queen's pavilion; and he
was obliged also to move slowly, and with precaution, to avoid giving an
alarm, either by falling or by the clashing of his armour. A thin cloud
had obscured the moon, too, at the very instant of his leaving the tent,
and Sir Kenneth had to struggle with this inconvenience at a moment when
the dizziness of his head and the fullness of his heart scarce left him
powers of intelligence sufficient to direct his motions.

But at once sounds came upon his ear which instantly recalled him to the
full energy of his faculties. These proceeded from the Mount of Saint
George. He heard first a single, fierce, angry, and savage bark, which
was immediately followed by a yell of agony. No deer ever bounded with
a wilder start at the voice of Roswal than did Sir Kenneth at what he
feared was the death-cry of that noble hound, from whom no ordinary
injury could have extracted even the slightest acknowledgment of pain.
He surmounted the space which divided him from the avenue, and, having
attained it, began to run towards the mount, although loaded with his
mail, faster than most men could have accompanied him even if unarmed,
relaxed not his pace for the steep sides of the artificial mound, and in
a few minutes stood on the platform upon its summit.

The moon broke forth at this moment, and showed him that the Standard of
England was vanished, that the spear on which it had floated lay broken
on the ground, and beside it was his faithful hound, apparently in the
agonies of death.



CHAPTER XIV.

     All my long arrear of honour lost,
     Heap'd up in youth, and hoarded up for age.
     Hath Honour's fountain then suck'd up the stream?
     He hath--and hooting boys may barefoot pass,
     And gather pebbles from the naked ford!
          DON SEBASTIAN.

After a torrent of afflicting sensations, by which he was at first
almost stunned and confounded, Sir Kenneth's first thought was to look
for the authors of this violation of the English banner; but in no
direction could he see traces of them. His next, which to some persons,
but scarce to any who have made intimate acquaintances among the canine
race, may appear strange, was to examine the condition of his faithful
Roswal, mortally wounded, as it seemed, in discharging the duty which
his master had been seduced to abandon. He caressed the dying animal,
who, faithful to the last, seemed to forget his own pain in the
satisfaction he received from his master's presence, and continued
wagging his tail and licking his hand, even while by low moanings he
expressed that his agony was increased by the attempts which Sir Kenneth
made to withdraw from the wound the fragment of the lance or javelin
with which it had been inflicted; then redoubled his feeble endearments,
as if fearing he had offended his master by showing a sense of the pain
to which his interference had subjected him. There was something in
the display of the dying creature's attachment which mixed as a bitter
ingredient with the sense of disgrace and desolation by which Sir
Kenneth was oppressed. His only friend seemed removed from him, just
when he had incurred the contempt and hatred of all besides. The
knight's strength of mind gave way to a burst of agonized distress, and
he groaned and wept aloud.

While he thus indulged his grief, a clear and solemn voice, close beside
him, pronounced these words in the sonorous tone of the readers of the
mosque, and in the lingua franca mutually understood by Christians and
Saracens:--

"Adversity is like the period of the former and of the latter
rain--cold, comfortless, unfriendly to man and to animal; yet from that
season have their birth the flower and the fruit, the date, the rose,
and the pomegranate."

Sir Kenneth of the Leopard turned towards the speaker, and beheld the
Arabian physician, who, approaching unheard, had seated himself a little
behind him cross-legged, and uttered with gravity, yet not without a
tone of sympathy, the moral sentences of consolation with which the
Koran and its commentators supplied him; for, in the East, wisdom is
held to consist less in a display of the sage's own inventive talents,
than in his ready memory and happy application of and reference to "that
which is written."

Ashamed at being surprised in a womanlike expression of sorrow, Sir
Kenneth dashed his tears indignantly aside, and again busied himself
with his dying favourite.

"The poet hath said," continued the Arab, without noticing the knight's
averted looks and sullen deportment, "the ox for the field, and the
camel for the desert. Were not the hand of the leech fitter than that of
the soldier to cure wounds, though less able to inflict them?"

"This patient, Hakim, is beyond thy help," said Sir Kenneth; "and,
besides, he is, by thy law, an unclean animal."

"Where Allah hath deigned to bestow life, and a sense of pain and
pleasure," said the physician, "it were sinful pride should the sage,
whom He has enlightened, refuse to prolong existence or assuage agony.
To the sage, the cure of a miserable groom, of a poor dog and of a
conquering monarch, are events of little distinction. Let me examine
this wounded animal."

Sir Kenneth acceded in silence, and the physician inspected and handled
Roswal's wound with as much care and attention as if he had been a human
being. He then took forth a case of instruments, and, by the judicious
and skilful application of pincers, withdrew from the wounded shoulder
the fragment of the weapon, and stopped with styptics and bandages the
effusion of blood which followed; the creature all the while suffering
him patiently to perform these kind offices, as if he had been aware of
his kind intentions.

"The animal may be cured," said El Hakim, addressing himself to Sir
Kenneth, "if you will permit me to carry him to my tent, and treat him
with the care which the nobleness of his nature deserves. For know,
that thy servant Adonbec is no less skilful in the race and pedigree and
distinctions of good dogs and of noble steeds than in the diseases which
afflict the human race."

"Take him with you," said the knight. "I bestow him on you freely, if
he recovers. I owe thee a reward for attendance on my squire, and have
nothing else to pay it with. For myself, I will never again wind bugle
or halloo to hound!"

The Arabian made no reply, but gave a signal with a clapping of his
hands, which was instantly answered by the appearance of two black
slaves. He gave them his orders in Arabic, received the answer that "to
hear was to obey," when, taking the animal in their arms, they removed
him, without much resistance on his part; for though his eyes turned to
his master, he was too weak to struggle.

"Fare thee well, Roswal, then," said Sir Kenneth--"fare thee well, my
last and only friend--thou art too noble a possession to be retained
by one such as I must in future call myself!--I would," he said, as the
slaves retired, "that, dying as he is, I could exchange conditions with
that noble animal!"

"It is written," answered the Arabian, although the exclamation had not
been addressed to him, "that all creatures are fashioned for the
service of man; and the master of the earth speaketh folly when he would
exchange, in his impatience, his hopes here and to come for the servile
condition of an inferior being."

"A dog who dies in discharging his duty," said the knight sternly, "is
better than a man who survives the desertion of it. Leave me, Hakim;
thou hast, on this side of miracle, the most wonderful science which man
ever possessed, but the wounds of the spirit are beyond thy power."

"Not if the patient will explain his calamity, and be guided by the
physician," said Adonbec el Hakim.

"Know, then," said Sir Kenneth, "since thou art so importunate, that
last night the Banner of England was displayed from this mound--I was
its appointed guardian--morning is now breaking--there lies the broken
banner-spear, the standard itself is lost, and here sit I a living man!"

"How!" said El Hakim, examining him; "thy armour is whole--there is no
blood on thy weapons, and report speaks thee one unlikely to return thus
from fight. Thou hast been trained from thy post--ay, trained by the
rosy cheek and black eye of one of those houris, to whom you Nazarenes
vow rather such service as is due to Allah, than such love as may
lawfully be rendered to forms of clay like our own. It has been thus
assuredly; for so hath man ever fallen, even since the days of Sultan
Adam."

"And if it were so, physician," said Sir Kenneth sullenly, "what
remedy?"

"Knowledge is the parent of power," said El Hakim, "as valour supplies
strength. Listen to me. Man is not as a tree, bound to one spot of
earth; nor is he framed to cling to one bare rock, like the scarce
animated shell-fish. Thine own Christian writings command thee, when
persecuted in one city, to flee to another; and we Moslem also know
that Mohammed, the Prophet of Allah, driven forth from the holy city of
Mecca, found his refuge and his helpmates at Medina."

"And what does this concern me?" said the Scot.

"Much," answered the physician. "Even the sage flies the tempest which
he cannot control. Use thy speed, therefore, and fly from the vengeance
of Richard to the shadow of Saladin's victorious banner."

"I might indeed hide my dishonour," said Sir Kenneth ironically, "in a
camp of infidel heathens, where the very phrase is unknown. But had I
not better partake more fully in their reproach? Does not thy advice
stretch so far as to recommend me to take the turban? Methinks I want
but apostasy to consummate my infamy."

"Blaspheme not, Nazarene," said the physician sternly. "Saladin makes
no converts to the law of the Prophet, save those on whom its precepts
shall work conviction. Open thine eyes to the light, and the great
Soldan, whose liberality is as boundless as his power, may bestow on
thee a kingdom; remain blinded if thou will, and, being one whose second
life is doomed to misery, Saladin will yet, for this span of present
time, make thee rich and happy. But fear not that thy brows shall be
bound with the turban, save at thine own free choice."

"My choice were rather," said the knight, "that my writhen features
should blacken, as they are like to do, in this evening's setting sun."

"Yet thou art not wise, Nazarene," said El Hakim, "to reject this fair
offer; for I have power with Saladin, and can raise thee high in his
grace. Look you, my son--this Crusade, as you call your wild enterprise,
is like a large dromond [The largest sort of vessels then known were
termed dromond's, or dromedaries.] parting asunder in the waves. Thou
thyself hast borne terms of truce from the kings and princes, whose
force is here assembled, to the mighty Soldan, and knewest not,
perchance, the full tenor of thine own errand."

"I knew not, and I care not," said the knight impatiently. "What avails
it to me that I have been of late the envoy of princes, when, ere night,
I shall be a gibbeted and dishonoured corpse?"

"Nay, I speak that it may not be so with thee," said the physician.
"Saladin is courted on all sides. The combined princes of this league
formed against him have made such proposals of composition and peace,
as, in other circumstances, it might have become his honour to have
granted to them. Others have made private offers, on their own
separate account, to disjoin their forces from the camp of the Kings of
Frangistan, and even to lend their arms to the defence of the standard
of the Prophet. But Saladin will not be served by such treacherous and
interested defection. The king of kings will treat only with the Lion
King. Saladin will hold treaty with none but the Melech Ric, and with
him he will treat like a prince, or fight like a champion. To Richard he
will yield such conditions of his free liberality as the swords of all
Europe could never compel from him by force or terror. He will permit
a free pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and all the places where the Nazarenes
list to worship; nay, he will so far share even his empire with his
brother Richard, that he will allow Christian garrisons in the six
strongest cities of Palestine, and one in Jerusalem itself, and suffer
them to be under the immediate command of the officers of Richard, who,
he consents, shall bear the name of King Guardian of Jerusalem.
Yet further, strange and incredible as you may think it, know, Sir
Knight--for to your honour I can commit even that almost incredible
secret--know that Saladin will put a sacred seal on this happy union
betwixt the bravest and noblest of Frangistan and Asia, by raising to
the rank of his royal spouse a Christian damsel, allied in blood to King
Richard, and known by the name of the Lady Edith of Plantagenet." [This
may appear so extraordinary and improbable a proposition that it is
necessary to say such a one was actually made. The historians, however,
substitute the widowed Queen of Naples, sister of Richard, for the
bride, and Saladin's brother for the bridegroom. They appear to have
been ignorant of the existence of Edith of Plantagenet.--See MILL'S
History of the Crusades, vol. ii., p. 61.]

"Ha!--sayest thou?" exclaimed Sir Kenneth, who, listening with
indifference and apathy to the preceding part of El Hakim's speech,
was touched by this last communication, as the thrill of a nerve,
unexpectedly jarred, will awaken the sensation of agony, even in the
torpor of palsy. Then, moderating his tone, by dint of much effort he
restrained his indignation, and, veiling it under the appearance of
contemptuous doubt, he prosecuted the conversation, in order to get as
much knowledge as possible of the plot, as he deemed it, against the
honour and happiness of her whom he loved not the less that his passion
had ruined, apparently, his fortunes, at once, and his honour.--"And
what Christian," he said, With tolerable calmness, "would sanction a
union so unnatural as that of a Christian maiden with an unbelieving
Saracen?"

"Thou art but an ignorant, bigoted Nazarene," said the Hakim. "Seest
thou not how the Mohammedan princes daily intermarry with the noble
Nazarene maidens in Spain, without scandal either to Moor or Christian?
And the noble Soldan will, in his full confidence in the blood of
Richard, permit the English maid the freedom which your Frankish manners
have assigned to women. He will allow her the free exercise of her
religion, seeing that, in very truth, it signifies but little to which
faith females are addicted; and he will assign her such place and rank
over all the women of his zenana, that she shall be in every respect his
sole and absolute queen."

"What!" said Sir Kenneth, "darest thou think, Moslem, that Richard would
give his kinswoman--a high-born and virtuous princess--to be, at best,
the foremost concubine in the haram of a misbeliever? Know, Hakim, the
meanest free Christian noble would scorn, on his child's behalf, such
splendid ignominy."

"Thou errest," said the Hakim. "Philip of France, and Henry of
Champagne, and others of Richard's principal allies, have heard the
proposal without starting, and have promised, as far as they may, to
forward an alliance that may end these wasteful wars; and the wise
arch-priest of Tyre hath undertaken to break the proposal to Richard,
not doubting that he shall be able to bring the plan to good issue. The
Soldan's wisdom hath as yet kept his proposition secret from others,
such as he of Montserrat, and the Master of the Templars, because he
knows they seek to thrive by Richard's death or disgrace, not by his
life or honour. Up, therefore, Sir Knight, and to horse. I will give
thee a scroll which shall advance thee highly with the Soldan; and deem
not that you are leaving your country, or her cause, or her religion,
since the interest of the two monarchs will speedily be the same. To
Saladin thy counsel will be most acceptable, since thou canst make him
aware of much concerning the marriages of the Christians, the treatment
of their wives, and other points of their laws and usages, which, in
the course of such treaty, it much concerns him that he should know. The
right hand of the Soldan grasps the treasures of the East, and it is the
fountain or generosity. Or, if thou desirest it, Saladin, when allied
with England, can have but little difficulty to obtain from Richard, not
only thy pardon and restoration to favour, but an honourable command in
the troops which may be left of the King of England's host, to maintain
their joint government in Palestine. Up, then, and mount--there lies a
plain path before thee."

"Hakim," said the Scottish knight, "thou art a man of peace; also thou
hast saved the life of Richard of England--and, moreover, of my own poor
esquire, Strauchan. I have, therefore, heard to an end a matter which,
being propounded by another Moslem than thyself, I would have cut short
with a blow of my dagger! Hakim, in return for thy kindness, I advise
thee to see that the Saracen who shall propose to Richard a union
betwixt the blood of Plantagenet and that of his accursed race do put on
a helmet which is capable to endure such a blow of a battle-axe as that
which struck down the gate of Acre. Certes, he will be otherwise placed
beyond the reach even of thy skill."

"Thou art, then, wilfully determined not to fly to the Saracen host?"
said the physician. "Yet, remember, thou stayest to certain destruction;
and the writings of thy law, as well as ours, prohibit man from breaking
into the tabernacle of his own life."

"God forbid!" replied the Scot, crossing himself; "but we are also
forbidden to avoid the punishment which our crimes have deserved. And
since so poor are thy thoughts of fidelity, Hakim, it grudges me that I
have bestowed my good hound on thee, for, should he live, he will have a
master ignorant of his value."

"A gift that is begrudged is already recalled," said El Hakim; "only
we physicians are sworn not to send away a patient uncured. If the dog
recover, he is once more yours."

"Go to, Hakim," answered Sir Kenneth; "men speak not of hawk and hound
when there is but an hour of day-breaking betwixt them and death. Leave
me to recollect my sins, and reconcile myself to Heaven."

"I leave thee in thine obstinacy," said the physician; "the mist hides
the precipice from those who are doomed to fall over it."

He withdrew slowly, turning from time to time his head, as if to observe
whether the devoted knight might not recall him either by word or
signal. At last his turbaned figure was lost among the labyrinth of
tents which lay extended beneath, whitening in the pale light of the
dawning, before which the moonbeam had now faded away.

But although the physician Adonbec's words had not made that impression
upon Kenneth which the sage desired, they had inspired the Scot with a
motive for desiring life, which, dishonoured as he conceived himself
to be, he was before willing to part from as from a sullied vestment no
longer becoming his wear. Much that had passed betwixt himself and the
hermit, besides what he had observed between the anchorite and Sheerkohf
(or Ilderim), he now recalled to recollection, and tended to confirm
what the Hakim had told him of the secret article of the treaty.

"The reverend impostor!" he exclaimed to himself; "the hoary hypocrite!
He spoke of the unbelieving husband converted by the believing wife; and
what do I know but that the traitor exhibited to the Saracen, accursed
of God, the beauties of Edith Plantagenet, that the hound might judge if
the princely Christian lady were fit to be admitted into the haram of
a misbeliever? If I had yonder infidel Ilderim, or whatsoever he is
called, again in the gripe with which I once held him fast as ever hound
held hare, never again should HE at least come on errand disgraceful
to the honour of Christian king or noble and virtuous maiden. But
I--my hours are fast dwindling into minutes--yet, while I have life and
breath, something must be done, and speedily."

He paused for a few minutes, threw from him his helmet, then strode down
the hill, and took the road to King Richard's pavilion.



CHAPTER XV.

     The feather'd songster, chanticleer,
     Had wound his bugle-horn,
     And told the early villager
     The coming of the morn.
     King Edward saw the ruddy streaks
     Of light eclipse the grey,
     And heard the raven's croaking throat
     Proclaim the fated day.
     "Thou'rt right," he said, "for, by the God
     That sits enthron'd on high,
     Charles Baldwin, and his fellows twain,
     This day shall surely die."
                   CHATTERTON.

On the evening on which Sir Kenneth assumed his post, Richard, after the
stormy event which disturbed its tranquillity, had retired to rest in
the plenitude of confidence inspired by his unbounded courage and the
superiority which he had displayed in carrying the point he aimed at in
presence of the whole Christian host and its leaders, many of whom, he
was aware, regarded in their secret souls the disgrace of the Austrian
Duke as a triumph over themselves; so that his pride felt gratified,
that in prostrating one enemy he had mortified a hundred.

Another monarch would have doubled his guards on the evening after such
a scene, and kept at least a part of his troops under arms. But Coeur de
Lion dismissed, upon the occasion, even his ordinary watch, and assigned
to his soldiers a donative of wine to celebrate his recovery, and to
drink to the Banner of Saint George; and his quarter of the camp would
have assumed a character totally devoid of vigilance and military
preparation, but that Sir Thomas de Vaux, the Earl of Salisbury, and
other nobles, took precautions to preserve order and discipline among
the revellers.

The physician attended the King from his retiring to bed till midnight
was past, and twice administered medicine to him during that period,
always previously observing the quarter of heaven occupied by the
full moon, whose influences he declared to be most sovereign, or most
baleful, to the effect of his drugs. It was three hours after midnight
ere El Hakim withdrew from the royal tent, to one which had been pitched
for himself and his retinue. In his way thither he visited the tent of
Sir Kenneth of the Leopard, in order to see the condition of his first
patient in the Christian camp, old Strauchan, as the knight's esquire
was named. Inquiring there for Sir Kenneth himself, El Hakim learned
on what duty he was employed, and probably this information led him
to Saint George's Mount, where he found him whom he sought in the
disastrous circumstances alluded to in the last chapter.

It was about the hour of sunrise, when a slow, armed tread was heard
approaching the King's pavilion; and ere De Vaux, who slumbered beside
his master's bed as lightly as ever sleep sat upon the eyes of a
watch-dog, had time to do more than arise and say, "Who comes?" the
Knight of the Leopard entered the tent, with a deep and devoted gloom
seated upon his manly features.

"Whence this bold intrusion, Sir Knight?" said De Vaux sternly, yet in a
tone which respected his master's slumbers.

"Hold! De Vaux," said Richard, awaking on the instant; "Sir Kenneth
cometh like a good soldier to render an account of his guard. To such
the general's tent is ever accessible." Then rising from his slumbering
posture, and leaning on his elbow, he fixed his large bright eye upon
the warrior--"Speak, Sir Scot; thou comest to tell me of a vigilant,
safe, and honourable watch, dost thou not? The rustling of the folds of
the Banner of England were enough to guard it, even without the body of
such a knight as men hold thee."

"As men will hold me no more," said Sir Kenneth. "My watch hath neither
been vigilant, safe, nor honourable. The Banner of England has been
carried off."

"And thou alive to tell it!" said Richard, in a tone of derisive
incredulity. "Away, it cannot be. There is not even a scratch on thy
face. Why dost thou stand thus mute? Speak the truth--it is ill jesting
with a king; yet I will forgive thee if thou hast lied."

"Lied, Sir King!" returned the unfortunate knight, with fierce emphasis,
and one glance of fire from his eye, bright and transient as the flash
from the cold and stony flint. "But this also must be endured. I have
spoken the truth."

"By God and by Saint George!" said the King, bursting into fury, which,
however, he instantly checked. "De Vaux, go view the spot. This fever
has disturbed his brain. This cannot be. The man's courage is proof. It
CANNOT be! Go speedily--or send, if thou wilt not go."

The King was interrupted by Sir Henry Neville, who came, breathless, to
say that the banner was gone, and the knight who guarded it overpowered,
and most probably murdered, as there was a pool of blood where the
banner-spear lay shivered.

"But whom do I see here?" said Neville, his eyes suddenly resting upon
Sir Kenneth.

"A traitor," said the King, starting to his feet, and seizing the
curtal-axe, which was ever near his bed--"a traitor! whom thou shalt see
die a traitor's death." And he drew back the weapon as in act to strike.

Colourless, but firm as a marble statue, the Scot stood before him, with
his bare head uncovered by any protection, his eyes cast down to the
earth, his lips scarcely moving, yet muttering probably in prayer.
Opposite to him, and within the due reach for a blow, stood King
Richard, his large person wrapt in the folds of his camiscia, or ample
gown of linen, except where the violence of his action had flung the
covering from his right arm, shoulder, and a part of his breast,
leaving to view a specimen of a frame which might have merited his Saxon
predecessor's epithet of Ironside. He stood for an instant, prompt
to strike; then sinking the head of the weapon towards the ground,
he exclaimed, "But there was blood, Neville--there was blood upon the
place. Hark thee, Sir Scot--brave thou wert once, for I have seen
thee fight. Say thou hast slain two of the thieves in defence of the
Standard--say but one--say thou hast struck but a good blow in our
behalf, and get thee out of the camp with thy life and thy infamy!"

"You have called me liar, my Lord King," replied Kenneth firmly; "and
therein, at least, you have done me wrong. Know that there was no blood
shed in defence of the Standard save that of a poor hound, which, more
faithful than his master, defended the charge which he deserted."

"Now, by Saint George!" said Richard, again heaving up his arm. But De
Vaux threw himself between the King and the object of his vengeance, and
spoke with the blunt truth of his character, "My liege, this must not
be--here, nor by your hand. It is enough of folly for one night and day
to have entrusted your banner to a Scot. Said I not they were ever fair
and false?" [Such were the terms in which the English used to speak of
their poor northern neighbours, forgetting that their own encroachments
upon the independence of Scotland obliged the weaker nation to defend
themselves by policy as well as force. The disgrace must be divided
between Edward I. and Edward III., who enforced their domination over
a free country, and the Scots, who were compelled to take compulsory
oaths, without any purpose of keeping them.]

"Thou didst, De Vaux; thou wast right, and I confess it," said Richard.
"I should have known him better--I should have remembered how the fox
William deceived me touching this Crusade."

"My lord," said Sir Kenneth, "William of Scotland never deceived; but
circumstances prevented his bringing his forces."

"Peace, shameless!" said the King; "thou sulliest the name of a prince,
even by speaking it.--And yet, De Vaux, it is strange," he added, "to
see the bearing of the man. Coward or traitor he must be, yet he abode
the blow of Richard Plantagenet as our arm had been raised to lay
knighthood on his shoulder. Had he shown the slightest sign of fear,
had but a joint trembled or an eyelid quivered, I had shattered his head
like a crystal goblet. But I cannot strike where there is neither fear
nor resistance."

There was a pause.

"My lord," said Kenneth--

"Ha!" replied Richard, interrupting him, "hast thou found thy speech?
Ask grace from Heaven, but none from me; for England is dishonoured
through thy fault, and wert thou mine own and only brother, there is no
pardon for thy fault."

"I speak not to demand grace of mortal man," said the Scot; "it is in
your Grace's pleasure to give or refuse me time for Christian shrift--if
man denies it, may God grant me the absolution which I would otherwise
ask of His church! But whether I die on the instant, or half an hour
hence, I equally beseech your Grace for one moment's opportunity to
speak that to your royal person which highly concerns your fame as a
Christian king."

"Say on," said the King, making no doubt that he was about to hear some
confession concerning the loss of the Banner.

"What I have to speak," said Sir Kenneth, "touches the royalty of
England, and must be said to no ears but thine own."

"Begone with yourselves, sirs," said the King to Neville and De Vaux.

The first obeyed, but the latter would not stir from the King's
presence.

"If you said I was in the right," replied De Vaux to his sovereign, "I
will be treated as one should be who hath been found to be right--that
is, I will have my own will. I leave you not with this false Scot."

"How! De Vaux," said Richard angrily, and stamping slightly, "darest
thou not venture our person with one traitor?"

"It is in vain you frown and stamp, my lord," said De Vaux; "I venture
not a sick man with a sound one, a naked man with one armed in proof."

"It matters not," said the Scottish knight; "I seek no excuse to put off
time. I will speak in presence of the Lord of Gilsland. He is good lord
and true."

"But half an hour since," said De Vaux, with a groan, implying a mixture
of sorrow and vexation, "and I had said as much for thee!"

"There is treason around you, King of England," continued Sir Kenneth.

"It may well be as thou sayest," replied Richard; "I have a pregnant
example."

"Treason that will injure thee more deeply than the loss of a hundred
banners in a pitched field. The--the--" Sir Kenneth hesitated, and at
length continued, in a lower tone, "The Lady Edith--"

"Ha!" said the King, drawing himself suddenly into a state of haughty
attention, and fixing his eye firmly on the supposed criminal; "what of
her? what of her? What has she to do with this matter?"

"My lord," said the Scot, "there is a scheme on foot to disgrace your
royal lineage, by bestowing the hand of the Lady Edith on the
Saracen Soldan, and thereby to purchase a peace most dishonourable to
Christendom, by an alliance most shameful to England."

This communication had precisely the contrary effect from that which Sir
Kenneth expected. Richard Plantagenet was one of those who, in Iago's
words, would not serve God because it was the devil who bade him; advice
or information often affected him less according to its real import,
than through the tinge which it took from the supposed character and
views of those by whom it was communicated. Unfortunately, the
mention of his relative's name renewed his recollection of what he had
considered as extreme presumption in the Knight of the Leopard, even
when he stood high in the roll of chivalry, but which, in his present
condition, appeared an insult sufficient to drive the fiery monarch into
a frenzy of passion.

"Silence," he said, "infamous and audacious! By Heaven, I will have
thy tongue torn out with hot pincers, for mentioning the very name of
a noble Christian damsel! Know, degenerate traitor, that I was already
aware to what height thou hadst dared to raise thine eyes, and endured
it, though it were insolence, even when thou hadst cheated us--for thou
art all a deceit--into holding thee as of some name and fame. But now,
with lips blistered with the confession of thine own dishonour--that
thou shouldst NOW dare to name our noble kinswoman as one in whose fate
thou hast part or interest! What is it to thee if she marry Saracen or
Christian? What is it to thee if, in a camp where princes turn cowards
by day and robbers by night--where brave knights turn to paltry
deserters and traitors--what is it, I say, to thee, or any one, if I
should please to ally myself to truth and to valour, in the person of
Saladin?"

"Little to me, indeed, to whom all the world will soon be as nothing,"
answered Sir Kenneth boldly; "but were I now stretched on the rack, I
would tell thee that what I have said is much to thine own conscience
and thine own fame. I tell thee, Sir King, that if thou dost but
in thought entertain the purpose of wedding thy kinswoman, the Lady
Edith--"

"Name her not--and for an instant think not of her," said the King,
again straining the curtal-axe in his gripe, until the muscles started
above his brawny arm, like cordage formed by the ivy around the limb of
an oak.

"Not name--not think of her!" answered Sir Kenneth, his spirits, stunned
as they were by self-depression, beginning to recover their elasticity
from this species of controversy. "Now, by the Cross, on which I place
my hope, her name shall be the last word in my mouth, her image the last
thought in my mind. Try thy boasted strength on this bare brow, and see
if thou canst prevent my purpose."

"He will drive me mad!" said Richard, who, in his despite, was once more
staggered in his purpose by the dauntless determination of the criminal.

Ere Thomas of Gilsland could reply, some bustle was heard without,
and the arrival of the Queen was announced from the outer part of the
pavilion.

"Detain her--detain her, Neville," cried the King; "this is no sight
for women.--Fie, that I have suffered such a paltry traitor to chafe me
thus!--Away with him, De Vaux," he whispered, "through the back entrance
of our tent; coop him up close, and answer for his safe custody with
your life. And hark ye--he is presently to die--let him have a ghostly
father--we would not kill soul and body. And stay--hark thee--we will
not have him dishonoured--he shall die knightlike, in his belt and
spurs; for if his treachery be as black as hell, his boldness may match
that of the devil himself."

De Vaux, right glad, if the truth may be guessed, that the scene ended
without Richard's descending to the unkingly act of himself slaying
an unresisting prisoner, made haste to remove Sir Kenneth by a private
issue to a separate tent, where he was disarmed, and put in fetters
for security. De Vaux looked on with a steady and melancholy attention,
while the provost's officers, to whom Sir Kenneth was now committed,
took these severe precautions.

When they were ended, he said solemnly to the unhappy criminal, "It is
King Richard's pleasure that you die undegraded--without mutilation of
your body, or shame to your arms--and that your head be severed from the
trunk by the sword of the executioner."

"It is kind," said the knight, in a low and rather submissive tone of
voice, as one who received an unexpected favour; "my family will not
then hear the worst of the tale. Oh, my father--my father!"

This muttered invocation did not escape the blunt but kindly-natured
Englishman, and he brushed the back of his large hand over his rough
features ere he could proceed.

"It is Richard of England's further pleasure," he said at length, "that
you have speech with a holy man; and I have met on the passage hither
with a Carmelite friar, who may fit you for your passage. He waits
without, until you are in a frame of mind to receive him."

"Let it be instantly," said the knight. "In this also Richard is kind. I
cannot be more fit to see the good father at any time than now; for life
and I have taken farewell, as two travellers who have arrived at the
crossway, where their roads separate."

"It is well," said De Vaux slowly and solemnly; "for it irks me somewhat
to say that which sums my message. It is King Richard's pleasure that
you prepare for instant death."

"God's pleasure and the King's be done," replied the knight patiently.
"I neither contest the justice of the sentence, nor desire delay of the
execution."

De Vaux began to leave the tent, but very slowly--paused at the door,
and looked back at the Scot, from whose aspect thoughts of the world
seemed banished, as if he was composing himself into deep devotion. The
feelings of the stout English baron were in general none of the most
acute, and yet, on the present occasion, his sympathy overpowered him in
an unusual manner. He came hastily back to the bundle of reeds on which
the captive lay, took one of his fettered hands, and said, with as much
softness as his rough voice was capable of expressing, "Sir Kenneth,
thou art yet young--thou hast a father. My Ralph, whom I left training
his little galloway nag on the banks of the Irthing, may one day attain
thy years, and, but for last night, would to God I saw his youth bear
such promise as thine! Can nothing be said or done in thy behalf?"

"Nothing," was the melancholy answer. "I have deserted my charge--the
banner entrusted to me is lost. When the headsman and block are
prepared, the head and trunk are ready to part company."

"Nay, then, God have mercy!" said De Vaux. "Yet would I rather than my
best horse I had taken that watch myself. There is mystery in it,
young man, as a plain man may descry, though he cannot see through
it. Cowardice? Pshaw! No coward ever fought as I have seen thee do.
Treachery? I cannot think traitors die in their treason so calmly. Thou
hast been trained from thy post by some deep guile--some well-devised
stratagem--the cry of some distressed maiden has caught thine ear, or
the laughful look of some merry one has taken thine eye. Never blush for
it; we have all been led aside by such gear. Come, I pray thee, make a
clean conscience of it to me, instead of the priest. Richard is merciful
when his mood is abated. Hast thou nothing to entrust to me?"

The unfortunate knight turned his face from the kind warrior, and
answered, "NOTHING."

And De Vaux, who had exhausted his topics of persuasion, arose and left
the tent, with folded arms, and in melancholy deeper than he thought
the occasion merited--even angry with himself to find that so simple a
matter as the death of a Scottish man could affect him so nearly.

"Yet," as he said to himself, "though the rough-footed knaves be
our enemies in Cumberland, in Palestine one almost considers them as
brethren."



CHAPTER XVI.

     'Tis not her sense, for sure in that
     There's nothing more than common;
     And all her wit is only chat,
     Like any other woman.
        SONG.

The high-born Berengaria, daughter of Sanchez, King of Navarre, and
the Queen-Consort of the heroic Richard, was accounted one of the most
beautiful women of the period. Her form was slight, though exquisitely
moulded. She was graced with a complexion not common in her country, a
profusion of fair hair, and features so extremely juvenile as to make
her look several years younger than she really was, though in reality
she was not above one-and-twenty. Perhaps it was under the consciousness
of this extremely juvenile appearance that she affected, or at least
practised, a little childish petulance and wilfulness of manner, not
unbefitting, she might suppose, a youthful bride, whose rank and age
gave her a right to have her fantasies indulged and attended to. She was
by nature perfectly good-humoured, and if her due share of admiration
and homage (in her opinion a very large one) was duly resigned to her,
no one could possess better temper or a more friendly disposition; but
then, like all despots, the more power that was voluntarily yielded to
her, the more she desired to extend her sway. Sometimes, even when all
her ambition was gratified, she chose to be a little out of health, and
a little out of spirits; and physicians had to toil their wits to invent
names for imaginary maladies, while her ladies racked their imagination
for new games, new head-gear, and new court-scandal, to pass away those
unpleasant hours, during which their own situation was scarce to be
greatly envied. Their most frequent resource for diverting this malady
was some trick or piece of mischief practised upon each other; and
the good Queen, in the buoyancy of her reviving spirits, was, to speak
truth, rather too indifferent whether the frolics thus practised were
entirely befitting her own dignity, or whether the pain which those
suffered upon whom they were inflicted was not beyond the proportion of
pleasure which she herself derived from them. She was confident in her
husband's favour, in her high rank, and in her supposed power to make
good whatever such pranks might cost others. In a word, she gambolled
with the freedom of a young lioness, who is unconscious of the weight of
her own paws when laid on those whom she sports with.

The Queen Berengaria loved her husband passionately, but she feared the
loftiness and roughness of his character; and as she felt herself not
to be his match in intellect, was not much pleased to see that he would
often talk with Edith Plantagenet in preference to herself,
simply because he found more amusement in her conversation, a more
comprehensive understanding, and a more noble cast of thoughts and
sentiments, than his beautiful consort exhibited. Berengaria did
not hate Edith on this account, far less meditate her any harm; for,
allowing for some selfishness, her character was, on the whole, innocent
and generous. But the ladies of her train, sharpsighted in such matters,
had for some time discovered that a poignant jest at the expense of
the Lady Edith was a specific for relieving her Grace of England's low
spirits, and the discovery saved their imagination much toil.

There was something ungenerous in this, because the Lady Edith was
understood to be an orphan; and though she was called Plantagenet, and
the fair Maid of Anjou, and admitted by Richard to certain privileges
only granted to the royal family, and held her place in the circle
accordingly, yet few knew, and none acquainted with the Court of England
ventured to ask, in what exact degree of relationship she stood to
Coeur de Lion. She had come with Eleanor, the celebrated Queen Mother of
England, and joined Richard at Messina, as one of the ladies destined
to attend on Berengaria, whose nuptials then approached. Richard treated
his kinswoman with much respectful observance, and the Queen made her
her most constant attendant, and, even in despite of the petty jealousy
which we have observed, treated her, generally, with suitable respect.

The ladies of the household had, for a long time, no further advantage
over Edith than might be afforded by an opportunity of censuring a less
artfully disposed head attire or an unbecoming robe; for the lady was
judged to be inferior in these mysteries. The silent devotion of the
Scottish knight did not, indeed, pass unnoticed; his liveries, his
cognizances, his feats of arms, his mottoes and devices, were nearly
watched, and occasionally made the subject of a passing jest. But then
came the pilgrimage of the Queen and her ladies to Engaddi, a journey
which the Queen had undertaken under a vow for the recovery of her
husband's health, and which she had been encouraged to carry into effect
by the Archbishop of Tyre for a political purpose. It was then, and in
the chapel at that holy place, connected from above with a Carmelite
nunnery, from beneath with the cell of the anchorite, that one of the
Queen's attendants remarked that secret sign of intelligence which Edith
had made to her lover, and failed not instantly to communicate it to
her Majesty. The Queen returned from her pilgrimage enriched with this
admirable recipe against dullness or ennui; and her train was at
the same time augmented by a present of two wretched dwarfs from the
dethroned Queen of Jerusalem, as deformed and as crazy (the excellence
of that unhappy species) as any Queen could have desired. One of
Berengaria's idle amusements had been to try the effect of the sudden
appearance of such ghastly and fantastic forms on the nerves of the
Knight when left alone in the chapel; but the jest had been lost by the
composure of the Scot and the interference of the anchorite. She had now
tried another, of which the consequences promised to be more serious.

The ladies again met after Sir Kenneth had retired from the tent, and
the Queen, at first little moved by Edith's angry expostulations, only
replied to her by upbraiding her prudery, and by indulging her wit
at the expense of the garb, nation, and, above all the poverty of the
Knight of the Leopard, in which she displayed a good deal of playful
malice, mingled with some humour, until Edith was compelled to carry her
anxiety to her separate apartment. But when, in the morning, a female
whom Edith had entrusted to make inquiry brought word that the Standard
was missing, and its champion vanished, she burst into the Queen's
apartment, and implored her to rise and proceed to the King's tent
without delay, and use her powerful mediation to prevent the evil
consequences of her jest.

The Queen, frightened in her turn, cast, as is usual, the blame of her
own folly on those around her, and endeavoured to comfort Edith's grief,
and appease her displeasure, by a thousand inconsistent arguments. She
was sure no harm had chanced--the knight was sleeping, she fancied,
after his night-watch. What though, for fear of the King's displeasure,
he had deserted with the Standard--it was but a piece of silk, and he
but a needy adventurer; or if he was put under warding for a time,
she would soon get the King to pardon him--it was but waiting to let
Richard's mood pass away.

Thus she continued talking thick and fast, and heaping together all
sorts of inconsistencies, with the vain expectation of persuading both
Edith and herself that no harm could come of a frolic which in her heart
she now bitterly repented. But while Edith in vain strove to intercept
this torrent of idle talk, she caught the eye of one of the ladies who
entered the Queen's apartment. There was death in her look of affright
and horror, and Edith, at the first glance of her countenance, had sunk
at once on the earth, had not strong necessity and her own elevation of
character enabled her to maintain at least external composure.

"Madam," she said to the Queen, "lose not another word in speaking, but
save life--if, indeed," she added, her voice choking as she said it,
"life may yet be saved."

"It may, it may," answered the Lady Calista. "I have just heard that he
has been brought before the King. It is not yet over--but," she
added, bursting into a vehement flood of weeping, in which personal
apprehensions had some share, "it will soon, unless some course be
taken."

"I will vow a golden candlestick to the Holy Sepulchre, a shrine of
silver to our Lady of Engaddi, a pall, worth one hundred byzants, to
Saint Thomas of Orthez," said the Queen in extremity.

"Up, up, madam!" said Edith; "call on the saints if you list, but be
your own best saint."

"Indeed, madam," said the terrified attendant, "the Lady Edith speaks
truth. Up, madam, and let us to King Richard's tent and beg the poor
gentleman's life."

"I will go--I will go instantly," said the Queen, rising and trembling
excessively; while her women, in as great confusion as herself, were
unable to render her those duties which were indispensable to her levee.
Calm, composed, only pale as death, Edith ministered to the Queen
with her own hand, and alone supplied the deficiencies of her numerous
attendants.

"How you wait, wenches!" said the Queen, not able even then to forget
frivolous distinctions. "Suffer ye the Lady Edith to do the duties of
your attendance? Seest thou, Edith, they can do nothing; I shall never
be attired in time. We will send for the Archbishop of Tyre, and employ
him as a mediator."

"Oh, no, no!" exclaimed Edith. "Go yourself madam; you have done the
evil, do you confer the remedy."

"I will go--I will go," said the Queen; "but if Richard be in his mood,
I dare not speak to him--he will kill me!"

"Yet go, gracious madam," said the Lady Calista, who best knew her
mistress's temper; "not a lion, in his fury, could look upon such a face
and form, and retain so much as an angry thought, far less a love-true
knight like the royal Richard, to whom your slightest word would be a
command."

"Dost thou think so, Calista?" said the Queen. "Ah, thou little knowest
yet I will go. But see you here, what means this? You have bedizened
me in green, a colour he detests. Lo you! let me have a blue robe,
and--search for the ruby carcanet, which was part of the King of
Cyprus's ransom; it is either in the steel casket, or somewhere else."

"This, and a man's life at stake!" said Edith indignantly; "it passes
human patience. Remain at your ease, madam; I will go to King Richard. I
am a party interested. I will know if the honour of a poor maiden of
his blood is to be so far tampered with that her name shall be abused to
train a brave gentleman from his duty, bring him within the compass of
death and infamy, and make, at the same time, the glory of England a
laughing-stock to the whole Christian army."

At this unexpected burst of passion, Berengaria listened with an almost
stupefied look of fear and wonder. But as Edith was about to leave the
tent, she exclaimed, though faintly, "Stop her, stop her!"

"You must indeed stop, noble Lady Edith," said Calista, taking her arm
gently; "and you, royal madam, I am sure, will go, and without
further dallying. If the Lady Edith goes alone to the King, he will be
dreadfully incensed, nor will it be one life that will stay his fury."

"I will go--I will go," said the Queen, yielding to necessity; and Edith
reluctantly halted to wait her movements.

They were now as speedy as she could have desired. The Queen hastily
wrapped herself in a large loose mantle, which covered all inaccuracies
of the toilet. In this guise, attended by Edith and her women, and
preceded and followed by a few officers and men-at-arms, she hastened to
the tent of her lionlike husband.



CHAPTER XVII.

     Were every hair upon his head a life,
     And every life were to be supplicated
     By numbers equal to those hairs quadrupled,
     Life after life should out like waning stars
     Before the daybreak--or as festive lamps,
     Which have lent lustre to the midnight revel,
     Each after each are quench'd when guests depart!
          OLD PLAY


The entrance of Queen Berengaria into the interior of Richard's pavilion
was withstood--in the most respectful and reverential manner indeed, but
still withstood--by the chamberlains who watched in the outer tent. She
could hear the stern command of the King from within, prohibiting their
entrance.

"You see," said the Queen, appealing to Edith, as if she had exhausted
all means of intercession in her power; "I knew it--the King will not
receive us."

At the same time, they heard Richard speak to some one within:--"Go,
speed thine office quickly, sirrah, for in that consists thy mercy--ten
byzants if thou dealest on him at one blow. And hark thee, villain,
observe if his cheek loses colour, or his eye falters; mark me the
smallest twitch of the features, or wink of the eyelid. I love to know
how brave souls meet death."

"If he sees my blade waved aloft without shrinking, he is the first ever
did so," answered a harsh, deep voice, which a sense of unusual awe had
softened into a sound much lower than its usual coarse tones.

Edith could remain silent no longer. "If your Grace," she said to the
Queen, "make not your own way, I make it for you; or if not for your
Majesty, for myself at least.--Chamberlain, the Queen demands to see
King Richard--the wife to speak with her husband."

"Noble lady," said the officer, lowering his wand of office, "it grieves
me to gainsay you, but his Majesty is busied on matters of life and
death."

"And we seek also to speak with him on matters of life and death," said
Edith. "I will make entrance for your Grace." And putting aside the
chamberlain with one hand, she laid hold on the curtain with the other.

"I dare not gainsay her Majesty's pleasure," said the chamberlain,
yielding to the vehemence of the fair petitioner; and as he gave way,
the Queen found herself obliged to enter the apartment of Richard.

The Monarch was lying on his couch, and at some distance, as awaiting
his further commands, stood a man whose profession it was not difficult
to conjecture. He was clothed in a jerkin of red cloth, which reached
scantly below the shoulders, leaving the arms bare from about half way
above the elbow; and as an upper garment, he wore, when about as at
present to betake himself to his dreadful office, a coat or tabard
without sleeves, something like that of a herald, made of dressed bull's
hide, and stained in the front with many a broad spot and speckle of
dull crimson. The jerkin, and the tabard over it, reached the knee; and
the nether stocks, or covering of the legs, were of the same leather
which composed the tabard. A cap of rough shag served to hide the upper
part of a visage which, like that of a screech owl, seemed desirous to
conceal itself from light, the lower part of the face being obscured by
a huge red beard, mingling with shaggy locks of the same colour. What
features were seen were stern and misanthropical. The man's figure was
short, strongly made, with a neck like a bull, very broad shoulders,
arms of great and disproportioned length, a huge square trunk, and thick
bandy legs. This truculent official leant on a sword, the blade of which
was nearly four feet and a half in length, while the handle of twenty
inches, surrounded by a ring of lead plummets to counterpoise the weight
of such a blade, rose considerably above the man's head as he rested his
arm upon its hilt, waiting for King Richard's further directions.

On the sudden entrance of the ladies, Richard, who was then lying on his
couch with his face towards the entrance, and resting on his elbow as he
spoke to his grisly attendant, flung himself hastily, as if displeased
and surprised, to the other side, turning his back to the Queen and the
females of her train, and drawing around him the covering of his couch,
which, by his own choice, or more probably the flattering selection of
his chamberlains, consisted of two large lions' skins, dressed in Venice
with such admirable skill that they seemed softer than the hide of the
deer.

Berengaria, such as we have described her, knew well--what woman knows
not?--her own road to victory. After a hurried glance of undisguised
and unaffected terror at the ghastly companion of her husband's secret
counsels, she rushed at once to the side of Richard's couch, dropped on
her knees, flung her mantle from her shoulders, showing, as they hung
down at their full length, her beautiful golden tresses, and while her
countenance seemed like the sun bursting through a cloud, yet bearing
on its pallid front traces that its splendours have been obscured, she
seized upon the right hand of the King, which, as he assumed his wonted
posture, had been employed in dragging the covering of his couch, and
gradually pulling it to her with a force which was resisted, though but
faintly, she possessed herself of that arm, the prop of Christendom
and the dread of Heathenesse, and imprisoning its strength in both her
little fairy hands, she bent upon it her brow, and united to it her
lips.

"What needs this, Berengaria?" said Richard, his head still averted, but
his hand remaining under her control.

"Send away that man, his look kills me!" muttered Berengaria.

"Begone, sirrah," said Richard, still without looking round, "What
wait'st thou for? art thou fit to look on these ladies?"

"Your Highness's pleasure touching the head," said the man.

"Out with thee, dog!" answered Richard--"a Christian burial!" The man
disappeared, after casting a look upon the beautiful Queen, in her
deranged dress and natural loveliness, with a smile of admiration more
hideous in its expression than even his usual scowl of cynical hatred
against humanity.

"And now, foolish wench, what wishest thou?" said Richard, turning
slowly and half reluctantly round to his royal suppliant.

But it was not in nature for any one, far less an admirer of beauty
like Richard, to whom it stood only in the second rank to glory, to
look without emotion on the countenance and the tremor of a creature so
beautiful as Berengaria, or to feel, without sympathy, that her lips,
her brow, were on his hand, and that it was wetted by her tears. By
degrees, he turned on her his manly countenance, with the softest
expression of which his large blue eye, which so often gleamed with
insufferable light, was capable. Caressing her fair head, and mingling
his large fingers in her beautiful and dishevelled locks, he raised and
tenderly kissed the cherub countenance which seemed desirous to hide
itself in his hand. The robust form, the broad, noble brow and majestic
looks, the naked arm and shoulder, the lions' skins among which he lay,
and the fair, fragile feminine creature that kneeled by his side,
might have served for a model of Hercules reconciling himself, after a
quarrel, to his wife Dejanira.

"And, once more, what seeks the lady of my heart in her knight's
pavilion at this early and unwonted hour?"

"Pardon, my most gracious liege--pardon!" said the Queen, whose fears
began again to unfit her for the duty of intercessor.

"Pardon--for what?" asked the King.

"First, for entering your royal presence too boldly and unadvisedly--"

She stopped.

"THOU too boldly!--the sun might as well ask pardon because his rays
entered the windows of some wretch's dungeon. But I was busied with work
unfit for thee to witness, my gentle one; and I was unwilling, besides,
that thou shouldst risk thy precious health where sickness had been so
lately rife."

"But thou art now well?" said the Queen, still delaying the
communication which she feared to make.

"Well enough to break a lance on the bold crest of that champion who
shall refuse to acknowledge thee the fairest dame in Christendom."

"Thou wilt not then refuse me one boon--only one--only a poor life?"

"Ha!--proceed," said King Richard, bending his brows.

"This unhappy Scottish knight--" murmured the Queen.

"Speak not of him, madam," exclaimed Richard sternly; "he dies--his doom
is fixed."

"Nay, my royal liege and love, 'tis but a silken banner neglected.
Berengaria will give thee another broidered with her own hand, and rich
as ever dallied with the wind. Every pearl I have shall go to bedeck it,
and with every pearl I will drop a tear of thankfulness to my generous
knight."

"Thou knowest not what thou sayest," said the King, interrupting her in
anger. "Pearls! can all the pearls of the East atone for a speck upon
England's honour--all the tears that ever woman's eye wept wash away a
stain on Richard's fame? Go to, madam, know your place, and your time,
and your sphere. At present we have duties in which you cannot be our
partner."

"Thou hearest, Edith," whispered the Queen; "we shall but incense him."

"Be it so," said Edith, stepping forward.--"My lord, I, your poor
kinswoman, crave you for justice rather than mercy; and to the cry of
justice the ears of a monarch should be open at every time, place, and
circumstance."

"Ha! our cousin Edith?" said Richard, rising and sitting upright on
the side of his couch, covered with his long camiscia. "She speaks
ever kinglike, and kinglike will I answer her, so she bring no request
unworthy herself or me."

The beauty of Edith was of a more intellectual and less voluptuous
cast than that of the Queen; but impatience and anxiety had given
her countenance a glow which it sometimes wanted, and her mien had a
character of energetic dignity that imposed silence for a moment even
on Richard himself, who, to judge by his looks, would willingly have
interrupted her.

"My lord," she said, "this good knight, whose blood you are about to
spill, hath done, in his time, service to Christendom. He has fallen
from his duty through a snare set for him in mere folly and idleness of
spirit. A message sent to him in the name of one who--why should I not
speak it?--it was in my own--induced him for an instant to leave his
post. And what knight in the Christian camp might not have thus far
transgressed at command of a maiden, who, poor howsoever in other
qualities, hath yet the blood of Plantagenet in her veins?"

"And you saw him, then, cousin?" replied the King, biting his lips to
keep down his passion.

"I did, my liege," said Edith. "It is no time to explain wherefore. I am
here neither to exculpate myself nor to blame others."

"And where did you do him such a grace?"

"In the tent of her Majesty the Queen."

"Of our royal consort!" said Richard. "Now by Heaven, by Saint George
of England, and every other saint that treads its crystal floor, this
is too audacious! I have noticed and overlooked this warrior's insolent
admiration of one so far above him, and I grudged him not that one of
my blood should shed from her high-born sphere such influence as the
sun bestows on the world beneath. But, heaven and earth! that you should
have admitted him to an audience by night, in the very tent of our royal
consort!--and dare to offer this as an excuse for his disobedience and
desertion! By my father's soul, Edith, thou shalt rue this thy life long
in a monastery!"

"My liege," said Edith, "your greatness licenses tyranny. My honour,
Lord King, is as little touched as yours, and my Lady the Queen can
prove it if she think fit. But I have already said I am not here to
excuse myself or inculpate others. I ask you but to extend to one, whose
fault was committed under strong temptation, that mercy, which even you
yourself, Lord King, must one day supplicate at a higher tribunal, and
for faults, perhaps, less venial."

"Can this be Edith Plantagenet?" said the King bitterly--"Edith
Plantagenet, the wise and the noble? Or is it some lovesick woman who
cares not for her own fame in comparison of the life of her paramour?
Now, by King Henry's soul! little hinders but I order thy minion's skull
to be brought from the gibbet, and fixed as a perpetual ornament by the
crucifix in thy cell!"

"And if thou dost send it from the gibbet to be placed for ever in my
sight," said Edith, "I will say it is a relic of a good knight, cruelly
and unworthily done to death by" (she checked herself)--"by one of whom
I shall only say, he should have known better how to reward chivalry.
Minion callest thou him?" she continued, with increasing vehemence. "He
was indeed my lover, and a most true one; but never sought he grace from
me by look or word--contented with such humble observance as men pay to
the saints. And the good--the valiant--the faithful must die for this!"

"Oh, peace, peace, for pity's sake," whispered the Queen, "you do but
offend him more!"

"I care not," said Edith; "the spotless virgin fears not the raging
lion. Let him work his will on this worthy knight. Edith, for whom he
dies, will know how to weep his memory. To me no one shall speak more of
politic alliances to be sanctioned with this poor hand. I could not--I
would not--have been his bride living--our degrees were too distant. But
death unites the high and the low--I am henceforward the spouse of the
grave."

The King was about to answer with much anger, when a Carmelite monk
entered the apartment hastily, his head and person muffled in the
long mantle and hood of striped cloth of the coarsest texture which
distinguished his order, and, flinging himself on his knees before the
King, conjured him, by every holy word and sign, to stop the execution.

"Now, by both sword and sceptre," said Richard, "the world is leagued to
drive me mad!--fools, women, and monks cross me at every step. How comes
he to live still?"

"My gracious liege," said the monk, "I entreated of the Lord of Gilsland
to stay the execution until I had thrown myself at your royal--"

"And he was wilful enough to grant thy request," said the King; "but
it is of a piece with his wonted obstinacy. And what is it thou hast to
say? Speak, in the fiend's name!"

"My lord, there is a weighty secret, but it rests under the seal of
confession. I dare not tell or even whisper it; but I swear to thee
by my holy order, by the habit which I wear, by the blessed Elias, our
founder, even him who was translated without suffering the ordinary
pangs of mortality, that this youth hath divulged to me a secret, which,
if I might confide it to thee, would utterly turn thee from thy bloody
purpose in regard to him."

"Good father," said Richard, "that I reverence the church, let the arms
which I now wear for her sake bear witness. Give me to know this secret,
and I will do what shall seem fitting in the matter. But I am no
blind Bayard, to take a leap in the dark under the stroke of a pair of
priestly spurs."

"My lord," said the holy man, throwing back his cowl and upper vesture,
and discovering under the latter a garment of goatskin, and from beneath
the former a visage so wildly wasted by climate, fast, and penance, as
to resemble rather the apparition of an animated skeleton than a human
face, "for twenty years have I macerated this miserable body in the
caverns of Engaddi, doing penance for a great crime. Think you I, who am
dead to the world, would contrive a falsehood to endanger my own soul;
or that one, bound by the most sacred oaths to the contrary--one such
as I, who have but one longing wish connected with earth, to wit,
the rebuilding of our Christian Zion--would betray the secrets of the
confessional? Both are alike abhorrent to my very soul."

"So," answered the King, "thou art that hermit of whom men speak so
much? Thou art, I confess, like enough to those spirits which walk in
dry places; but Richard fears no hobgoblins. And thou art he, too, as
I bethink me, to whom the Christian princes sent this very criminal to
open a communication with the Soldan, even while I, who ought to have
been first consulted, lay on my sick-bed? Thou and they may content
themselves--I will not put my neck into the loop of a Carmelite's
girdle. And, for your envoy, he shall die the rather and the sooner that
thou dost entreat for him."

"Now God be gracious to thee, Lord King!" said the hermit, with much
emotion; "thou art setting that mischief on foot which thou wilt
hereafter wish thou hadst stopped, though it had cost thee a limb. Rash,
blinded man, yet forbear!"

"Away, away," cried the King, stamping; "the sun has risen on the
dishonour of England, and it is not yet avenged.--Ladies and priest,
withdraw, if you would not hear orders which would displease you; for,
by St. George, I swear--"

"Swear NOT!" said the voice of one who had just then entered the
pavilion.

"Ha! my learned Hakim," said the King, "come, I hope, to tax our
generosity."

"I come to request instant speech with you--instant--and touching
matters of deep interest."

"First look on my wife, Hakim, and let her know in you the preserver of
her husband."

"It is not for me," said the physician, folding his arms with an air of
Oriental modesty and reverence, and bending his eyes on the ground--"it
is not for me to look upon beauty unveiled, and armed in its
splendours."

"Retire, then, Berengaria," said the Monarch; "and, Edith, do you retire
also;--nay, renew not your importunities! This I give to them that
the execution shall not be till high noon. Go and be pacified--dearest
Berengaria, begone.--Edith," he added, with a glance which struck terror
even into the courageous soul of his kinswoman, "go, if you are wise."

The females withdrew, or rather hurried from the tent, rank and ceremony
forgotten, much like a flock of wild-fowl huddled together, against whom
the falcon has made a recent stoop.

They returned from thence to the Queen's pavilion to indulge in regrets
and recriminations, equally unavailing. Edith was the only one who
seemed to disdain these ordinary channels of sorrow. Without a sigh,
without a tear, without a word of upbraiding, she attended upon the
Queen, whose weak temperament showed her sorrow in violent hysterical
ecstasies and passionate hypochondriacal effusions, in the course of
which Edith sedulously and even affectionately attended her.

"It is impossible she can have loved this knight," said Florise to
Calista, her senior in attendance upon the Queen's person. "We have been
mistaken; she is but sorry for his fate, as for a stranger who has come
to trouble on her account."

"Hush, hush," answered her more experienced and more observant comrade;
"she is of that proud house of Plantagenet who never own that a hurt
grieves them. While they have themselves been bleeding to death, under a
mortal wound, they have been known to bind up the scratches sustained
by their more faint-hearted comrades. Florise, we have done frightfully
wrong, and, for my own part, I would buy with every jewel I have that
our fatal jest had remained unacted."



CHAPTER XVIII.

     This work desires a planetary intelligence
     Of Jupiter and Sol; and those great spirits
     Are proud, fantastical. It asks great charges
     To entice them from the guiding of their spheres,
     To wait on mortals.
            ALBUMAZAR.

The hermit followed the ladies from the pavilion of Richard, as shadow
follows a beam of sunshine when the clouds are driving over the face of
the sun. But he turned on the threshold, and held up his hand towards
the King in a warning, or almost a menacing posture, as he said, "Woe to
him who rejects the counsel of the church, and betaketh himself to the
foul divan of the infidel! King Richard, I do not yet shake the dust
from my feet and depart from thy encampment; the sword falls not--but it
hangs but by a hair. Haughty monarch, we shall meet again."

"Be it so, haughty priest," returned Richard, "prouder in thy goatskins
than princes in purple and fine linen."

The hermit vanished from the tent, and the King continued, addressing
the Arabian, "Do the dervises of the East, wise Hakim, use such
familiarity with their princes?"

"The dervise," replied Adonbec, "should be either a sage or a madman;
there is no middle course for him who wears the khirkhah, [Literally,
the torn robe. The habit of the dervises is so called.] who watches
by night, and fasts by day. Hence hath he either wisdom enough to bear
himself discreetly in the presence of princes; or else, having no reason
bestowed on him, he is not responsible for his own actions."

"Methinks our monks have adopted chiefly the latter character," said
Richard. "But to the matter. In what can I pleasure you, my learned
physician?"

"Great King," said El Hakim, making his profound Oriental obeisance,
"let thy servant speak one word, and yet live. I would remind thee
that thou owest--not to me, their humble instrument--but to the
Intelligences, whose benefits I dispense to mortals, a life--"

"And I warrant me thou wouldst have another in requital, ha?"
interrupted the King.

"Such is my humble prayer," said the Hakim, "to the great Melech
Ric--even the life of this good knight, who is doomed to die, and
but for such fault as was committed by the Sultan Adam, surnamed
Aboulbeschar, or the father of all men."

"And thy wisdom might remind thee, Hakim, that Adam died for it," said
the King, somewhat sternly, and then began to pace the narrow space of
his tent with some emotion, and to talk to himself. "Why, God-a-mercy,
I knew what he desired as soon as ever he entered the pavilion! Here
is one poor life justly condemned to extinction, and I, a king and a
soldier, who have slain thousands by my command, and scores with my own
hand, am to have no power over it, although the honour of my arms, of
my house, of my very Queen, hath been attainted by the culprit. By Saint
George, it makes me laugh! By Saint Louis, it reminds me of Blondel's
tale of an enchanted castle, where the destined knight was withstood
successively in his purpose of entrance by forms and figures the most
dissimilar, but all hostile to his undertaking! No sooner one sunk than
another appeared! Wife--kinswoman--hermit--Hakim-each appears in the
lists as soon as the other is defeated! Why, this is a single knight
fighting against the whole MELEE of the tournament--ha! ha! ha!" And
Richard laughed aloud; for he had, in fact, begun to change his mood,
his resentment being usually too violent to be of long endurance.

The physician meanwhile looked on him with a countenance of surprise,
not unmingled with contempt; for the Eastern people make no allowance
for these mercurial changes in the temper, and consider open laughter,
upon almost any account, as derogatory to the dignity of man, and
becoming only to women and children. At length the sage addressed the
King when he saw him more composed:--

"A doom of death should not issue from laughing lips. Let thy servant
hope that thou hast granted him this man's life."

"Take the freedom of a thousand captives instead," said Richard;
"restore so many of thy countrymen to their tents and families, and I
will give the warrant instantly. This man's life can avail thee nothing,
and it is forfeited."

"All our lives are forfeited," said the Hakim, putting his hand to his
cap. "But the great Creditor is merciful, and exacts not the pledge
rigorously nor untimely."

"Thou canst show me," said Richard, "no special interest thou hast to
become intercessor betwixt me and the execution of justice, to which I
am sworn as a crowned king."

"Thou art sworn to the dealing forth mercy as well as justice," said El
Hakim; "but what thou seekest, great King, is the execution of thine own
will. And for the concern I have in this request, know that many a man's
life depends upon thy granting this boon."

"Explain thy words," said Richard; "but think not to impose upon me by
false pretexts."

"Be it far from thy servant!" said Adonbec. "Know, then, that the
medicine to which thou, Sir King, and many one besides, owe their
recovery, is a talisman, composed under certain aspects of the heavens,
when the Divine Intelligences are most propitious. I am but the poor
administrator of its virtues. I dip it in a cup of water, observe the
fitting hour to administer it to the patient, and the potency of the
draught works the cure."

"A most rare medicine," said the King, "and a commodious! and, as it may
be carried in the leech's purse, would save the whole caravan of camels
which they require to convey drugs and physic stuff; I marvel there is
any other in use."

"It is written," answered the Hakim, with imperturbable gravity, "'Abuse
not the steed which hath borne thee from the battle.' Know that such
talismans might indeed be framed, but rare has been the number of adepts
who have dared to undertake the application of their virtue. Severe
restrictions, painful observances, fasts, and penance, are necessary on
the part of the sage who uses this mode of cure; and if, through neglect
of these preparations, by his love of ease, or his indulgence of sensual
appetite, he omits to cure at least twelve persons within the course of
each moon, the virtue of the divine gift departs from the amulet,
and both the last patient and the physician will be exposed to speedy
misfortune, neither will they survive the year. I require yet one life
to make up the appointed number."

"Go out into the camp, good Hakim, where thou wilt find a-many," said
the King, "and do not seek to rob my headsman of HIS patients; it is
unbecoming a mediciner of thine eminence to interfere with the practice
of another. Besides, I cannot see how delivering a criminal from the
death he deserves should go to make up thy tale of miraculous cures."

"When thou canst show why a draught of cold water should have cured
thee when the most precious drugs failed," said the Hakim, "thou mayest
reason on the other mysteries attendant on this matter. For myself, I
am inefficient to the great work, having this morning touched an unclean
animal. Ask, therefore, no further questions; it is enough that, by
sparing this man's life at my request, you will deliver yourself, great
King, and thy servant, from a great danger."

"Hark thee, Adonbec," replied the King, "I have no objection that
leeches should wrap their words in mist, and pretend to derive knowledge
from the stars; but when you bid Richard Plantagenet fear that a danger
will fall upon HIM from some idle omen, or omitted ceremonial, you speak
to no ignorant Saxon, or doting old woman, who foregoes her purpose
because a hare crosses the path, a raven croaks, or a cat sneezes."

"I cannot hinder your doubt of my words," said Adonbec; "but yet let my
Lord the King grant that truth is on the tongue of his servant--will he
think it just to deprive the world, and every wretch who may suffer by
the pains which so lately reduced him to that couch, of the benefit of
this most virtuous talisman, rather than extend his forgiveness to one
poor criminal? Bethink you, Lord King, that, though thou canst slay
thousands, thou canst not restore one man to health. Kings have the
power of Satan to torment, sages that of Allah to heal--beware how thou
hinderest the good to humanity which thou canst not thyself render. Thou
canst cut off the head, but not cure the aching tooth."

"This is over-insolent," said the King, hardening himself, as the Hakim
assumed a more lofty and almost a commanding tone. "We took thee for our
leech, not for our counsellor or conscience-keeper."

"And is it thus the most renowned Prince of Frangistan repays benefit
done to his royal person?" said El Hakim, exchanging the humble and
stooping posture in which he had hitherto solicited the King, for an
attitude lofty and commanding. "Know, then," he said, "that: through
every court of Europe and Asia--to Moslem and Nazarene--to knight and
lady--wherever harp is heard and sword worn--wherever honour is loved
and infamy detested--to every quarter of the world--will I denounce
thee, Melech Ric, as thankless and ungenerous; and even the lands--if
there be any such--that never heard of thy renown shall yet be
acquainted with thy shame!"

"Are these terms to me, vile infidel?" said Richard, striding up to him
in fury. "Art weary of thy life?"

"Strike!" said El Hakim; "thine own deed shall then paint thee more
worthless than could my words, though each had a hornet's sting."

Richard turned fiercely from him, folded his arms, traversed the tent
as before, and then exclaimed, "Thankless and ungenerous!--as well be
termed coward and infidel! Hakim, thou hast chosen thy boon; and though
I had rather thou hadst asked my crown jewels, yet I may not, kinglike,
refuse thee. Take this Scot, therefore, to thy keeping; the provost will
deliver him to thee on this warrant."

He hastily traced one or two lines, and gave them to the physician. "Use
him as thy bond-slave, to be disposed of as thou wilt--only, let him
beware how he comes before the eyes of Richard. Hark thee--thou art
wise--he hath been over-bold among those in whose fair looks and weak
judgments we trust our honour, as you of the East lodge your treasures
in caskets of silver wire, as fine and as frail as the web of a
gossamer."

"Thy servant understands the words of the King," said the sage, at once
resuming the reverent style of address in which he had commenced. "When
the rich carpet is soiled, the fool pointeth to the stain--the wise man
covers it with his mantle. I have heard my lord's pleasure, and to hear
is to obey."

"It is well," said the King; "let him consult his own safety, and never
appear in my presence more. Is there aught else in which I may do thee
pleasure?"

"The bounty of the King hath filled my cup to the brim," said the
sage--"yea, it hath been abundant as the fountain which sprung up amid
the camp of the descendants of Israel when the rock was stricken by the
rod of Moussa Ben Amram."

"Ay, but," said the King, smiling, "it required, as in the desert, a
hard blow on the rock ere it yielded its treasures. I would that I knew
something to pleasure thee, which I might yield as freely as the natural
fountain sends forth its waters."

"Let me touch that victorious hand," said the sage, "in token that if
Adonbec el Hakim should hereafter demand a boon of Richard of England,
he may do so, yet plead his command."

"Thou hast hand and glove upon it, man," replied Richard; "only, if thou
couldst consistently make up thy tale of patients without craving me
to deliver from punishment those who have deserved it, I would more
willingly discharge my debt in some other form."

"May thy days be multiplied!" answered the Hakim, and withdrew from the
apartment after the usual deep obeisance.

King Richard gazed after him as he departed, like one but half-satisfied
with what had passed.

"Strange pertinacity," he said, "in this Hakim, and a wonderful chance
to interfere between that audacious Scot and the chastisement he has
merited so richly. Yet let him live! there is one brave man the more in
the world. And now for the Austrian. Ho! is the Baron of Gilsland there
without?"

Sir Thomas de Vaux thus summoned, his bulky form speedily darkened
the opening of the pavilion, while behind him glided as a spectre,
unannounced, yet unopposed, the savage form of the hermit of Engaddi,
wrapped in his goatskin mantle.

Richard, without noticing his presence, called in a loud tone to the
baron, "Sir Thomas de Vaux, of Lanercost and Gilsland, take trumpet and
herald, and go instantly to the tent of him whom they call Archduke of
Austria, and see that it be when the press of his knights and vassals
is greatest around him, as is likely at this hour, for the German
boar breakfasts ere he hears mass--enter his presence with as little
reverence as thou mayest, and impeach him, on the part of Richard of
England, that he hath this night, by his own hand, or that of others,
stolen from its staff the Banner of England. Wherefore say to him our
pleasure that within an hour from the time of my speaking he restore
the said banner with all reverence--he himself and his principal barons
waiting the whilst with heads uncovered, and without their robes of
honour. And that, moreover, he pitch beside it, on the one hand, his own
Banner of Austria reversed, as that which hath been dishonoured by theft
and felony, and on the other, a lance, bearing the bloody head of him
who was his nearest counsellor, or assistant, in this base injury. And
say, that such our behests being punctually discharged we will, for
the sake of our vow and the weal of the Holy Land, forgive his other
forfeits."

"And how if the Duke of Austria deny all accession to this act of wrong
and of felony?" said Thomas de Vaux.

"Tell him," replied the King, "we will prove it upon his body--ay, were
he backed with his two bravest champions. Knightlike will we prove it,
on foot or on horse, in the desert or in the field, time, place, and
arms all at his own choice."

"Bethink you of the peace of God and the church, my liege lord,"
said the Baron of Gilsland, "among those princes engaged in this holy
Crusade."

"Bethink you how to execute my commands, my liege vassal," answered
Richard impatiently. "Methinks men expect to turn our purpose by their
breath, as boys blow feathers to and fro. Peace of the church! Who, I
prithee, minds it? The peace of the church, among Crusaders, implies war
with the Saracens, with whom the princes have made truce; and the one
ends with the other. And besides, see you not how every prince of them
is seeking his own several ends? I will seek mine also--and that is
honour. For honour I came hither; and if I may not win it upon the
Saracens, at least I will not lose a jot from any respect to this paltry
Duke, though he were bulwarked and buttressed by every prince in the
Crusade."

De Vaux turned to obey the King's mandate, shrugging his shoulders at
the same time, the bluntness of his nature being unable to conceal that
its tenor went against his judgment. But the hermit of Engaddi stepped
forward, and assumed the air of one charged with higher commands than
those of a mere earthly potentate. Indeed, his dress of shaggy skins,
his uncombed and untrimmed hair and beard, his lean, wild, and contorted
features, and the almost insane fire which gleamed from under his
bushy eyebrows, made him approach nearly to our idea of some seer of
Scripture, who, charged with high mission to the sinful Kings of Judah
or Israel, descended from the rocks and caverns in which he dwelt in
abstracted solitude, to abash earthly tyrants in the midst of their
pride, by discharging on them the blighting denunciations of Divine
Majesty, even as the cloud discharges the lightnings with which it is
fraught on the pinnacles and towers of castles and palaces. In the
midst of his most wayward mood, Richard respected the church and its
ministers; and though offended at the intrusion of the hermit into his
tent, he greeted him with respect--at the same time, however, making a
sign to Sir Thomas de Vaux to hasten on his message.

But the hermit prohibited the baron, by gesture, look, and word, to stir
a yard on such an errand; and holding up his bare arm, from which the
goatskin mantle fell back in the violence of his action, he waved it
aloft, meagre with famine, and wealed with the blows of the discipline.

"In the name of God, and of the most holy Father, the vicegerent of the
Christian Church upon earth, I prohibit this most profane, bloodthirsty,
and brutal defiance betwixt two Christian princes, whose shoulders are
signed with the blessed mark under which they swore brotherhood. Woe
to him by whom it is broken!--Richard of England, recall the most
unhallowed message thou hast given to that baron. Danger and death are
nigh thee!--the dagger is glancing at thy very throat!--"

"Danger and death are playmates to Richard," answered the Monarch
proudly; "and he hath braved too many swords to fear a dagger."

"Danger and death are near," replied the seer, and sinking his voice to
a hollow, unearthly tone, he added, "And after death the judgment!"

"Good and holy father," said Richard, "I reverence thy person and thy
sanctity--"

"Reverence not me!" interrupted the hermit; "reverence sooner the vilest
insect that crawls by the shores of the Dead Sea, and feeds upon its
accursed slime. But reverence Him whose commands I speak--reverence Him
whose sepulchre you have vowed to rescue--revere the oath of concord
which you have sworn, and break not the silver cord of union
and fidelity with which you have bound yourself to your princely
confederates."

"Good father," said the King, "you of the church seem to me to presume
somewhat, if a layman may say so much, upon the dignity of your
holy character. Without challenging your right to take charge of our
conscience, methinks you might leave us the charge of our own honour."

"Presume!" repeated the hermit. "Is it for me to presume, royal Richard,
who am but the bell obeying the hand of the sexton--but the senseless
and worthless trumpet carrying the command of him who sounds it? See,
on my knees I throw myself before thee, imploring thee to have mercy on
Christendom, on England, and on thyself!"

"Rise, rise," said Richard, compelling him to stand up; "it beseems not
that knees which are so frequently bended to the Deity should press the
ground in honour of man. What danger awaits us, reverend father? and
when stood the power of England so low that the noisy bluster of this
new-made Duke's displeasure should alarm her or her monarch?"

"I have looked forth from my mountain turret upon the starry host of
heaven, as each in his midnight circuit uttered wisdom to another, and
knowledge to the few who can understand their voice. There sits an enemy
in thy House of Life, Lord King, malign at once to thy fame and thy
prosperity--an emanation of Saturn, menacing thee with instant and
bloody peril, and which, but thou yield thy proud will to the rule of
thy duty, will presently crush thee even in thy pride."

"Away, away--this is heathen science," said the King. "Christians
practise it not--wise men believe it not. Old man, thou dotest."

"I dote not, Richard," answered the hermit--"I am not so happy. I know
my condition, and that some portion of reason is yet permitted me, not
for my own use, but that of the Church and the advancement of the Cross.
I am the blind man who holds a torch to others, though it yields no
light to himself. Ask me touching what concerns the weal of Christendom,
and of this Crusade, and I will speak with thee as the wisest counsellor
on whose tongue persuasion ever sat. Speak to me of my own wretched
being, and my words shall be those of the maniac outcast which I am."

"I would not break the bands of unity asunder among the princes of the
Crusade," said Richard, with a mitigated tone and manner; "but what
atonement can they render me for the injustice and insult which I have
sustained?"

"Even of that I am prepared and commissioned to speak by the Council,
which, meeting hastily at the summons of Philip of France, have taken
measures for that effect."

"Strange," replied Richard, "that others should treat of what is due to
the wounded majesty of England!"

"They are willing to anticipate your demands, if it be possible,"
answered the hermit. "In a body, they consent that the Banner of
England be replaced on Saint George's Mount; and they lay under ban
and condemnation the audacious criminal, or criminals, by whom it was
outraged, and will announce a princely reward to any who shall denounce
the delinquent's guilt, and give his flesh to the wolves and ravens."

"And Austria," said Richard, "upon whom rest such strong presumptions
that he was the author of the deed?"

"To prevent discord in the host," replied the hermit, "Austria will
clear himself of the suspicion by submitting to whatsoever ordeal the
Patriarch of Jerusalem shall impose."

"Will he clear himself by the trial by combat?" said King Richard.

"His oath prohibits it," said the hermit; "and, moreover, the Council of
the Princes--"

"Will neither authorize battle against the Saracens," interrupted
Richard, "nor against any one else. But it is enough, father--thou hast
shown me the folly of proceeding as I designed in this matter. You shall
sooner light your torch in a puddle of rain than bring a spark out of a
cold-blooded coward. There is no honour to be gained on Austria, and so
let him pass. I will have him perjure himself, however; I will insist
on the ordeal. How I shall laugh to hear his clumsy fingers hiss, as he
grasps the red-hot globe of iron! Ay, or his huge mouth riven, and
his gullet swelling to suffocation, as he endeavours to swallow the
consecrated bread!"

"Peace, Richard," said the hermit--"oh, peace, for shame, if not for
charity! Who shall praise or honour princes who insult and calumniate
each other? Alas! that a creature so noble as thou art--so accomplished
in princely thoughts and princely daring--so fitted to honour
Christendom by thy actions, and, in thy calmer mood, to rule her by thy
wisdom, should yet have the brute and wild fury of the lion mingled with
the dignity and courage of that king of the forest!"

He remained an instant musing with his eyes fixed on the ground, and
then proceeded--"But Heaven, that knows our imperfect nature, accepts
of our imperfect obedience, and hath delayed, though not averted, the
bloody end of thy daring life. The destroying angel hath stood still, as
of old by the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, and the blade
is drawn in his hand, by which, at no distant date, Richard, the
lion-hearted, shall be as low as the meanest peasant."

"Must it, then, be so soon?" said Richard. "Yet, even so be it. May my
course be bright, if it be but brief!"

"Alas! noble King," said the solitary, and it seemed as if a tear
(unwonted guest) were gathering in his dry and glazened eye, "short and
melancholy, marked with mortification, and calamity, and captivity, is
the span that divides thee from the grave which yawns for thee--a grave
in which thou shalt be laid without lineage to succeed thee--without
the tears of a people, exhausted by thy ceaseless wars, to lament
thee--without having extended the knowledge of thy subjects--without
having done aught to enlarge their happiness."

"But not without renown, monk--not without the tears of the lady of my
love! These consolations, which thou canst neither know nor estimate,
await upon Richard to his grave."

"DO I not know, CAN I not estimate the value of minstrel's praise and of
lady's love?" retorted the hermit, in a tone which for a moment seemed
to emulate the enthusiasm of Richard himself. "King of England," he
continued, extending his emaciated arm, "the blood which boils in thy
blue veins is not more noble than that which stagnates in mine. Few
and cold as the drops are, they still are of the blood of the royal
Lusignan--of the heroic and sainted Godfrey. I am--that is, I was when
in the world--Alberick Mortemar--"

"Whose deeds," said Richard, "have so often filled Fame's trumpet! Is it
so?--can it be so? Could such a light as thine fall from the horizon of
chivalry, and yet men be uncertain where its embers had alighted?"

"Seek a fallen star," said the hermit, "and thou shalt only light on
some foul jelly, which, in shooting through the horizon, has assumed for
a moment an appearance of splendour. Richard, if I thought that rending
the bloody veil from my horrible fate could make thy proud heart stoop
to the discipline of the church, I could find in my heart to tell thee
a tale, which I have hitherto kept gnawing at my vitals in concealment,
like the self-devoted youth of heathenesse. Listen, then, Richard, and
may the grief and despair which cannot avail this wretched remnant of
what was once a man be powerful as an example to so noble, yet so wild,
a being as thou art! Yes--I will--I WILL tear open the long-hidden
wounds, although in thy very presence they should bleed to death!"

King Richard, upon whom the history of Alberick of Mortemar had made
a deep impression in his early years, when minstrels were regaling his
father's halls with legends of the Holy Land, listened with respect
to the outlines of a tale, which, darkly and imperfectly sketched,
indicated sufficiently the cause of the partial insanity of this
singular and most unhappy being.

"I need not," he said, "tell thee that I was noble in birth, high in
fortune, strong in arms, wise in counsel. All these I was. But while
the noblest ladies in Palestine strove which should wind garlands for my
helmet, my love was fixed--unalterably and devotedly fixed--on a maiden
of low degree. Her father, an ancient soldier of the Cross, saw our
passion, and knowing the difference betwixt us, saw no other refuge
for his daughter's honour than to place her within the shadow of the
cloister. I returned from a distant expedition, loaded with spoils and
honour, to find my happiness was destroyed for ever! I too sought the
cloister; and Satan, who had marked me for his own, breathed into my
heart a vapour of spiritual pride, which could only have had its source
in his own infernal regions. I had risen as high in the church as
before in the state. I was, forsooth, the wise, the self-sufficient,
the impeccable!--I was the counsellor of councils--I was the director
of prelates. How should I stumble?--wherefore should I fear temptation?
Alas! I became confessor to a sisterhood, and amongst that sisterhood
I found the long-loved--the long-lost. Spare me further confession!--A
fallen nun, whose guilt was avenged by self-murder, sleeps soundly in
the vaults of Engaddi; while, above her very grave, gibbers, moans, and
roars a creature to whom but so much reason is left as may suffice to
render him completely sensible to his fate!"

"Unhappy man!" said Richard, "I wonder no longer at thy misery. How
didst thou escape the doom which the canons denounce against thy
offence?"

"Ask one who is yet in the gall of worldly bitterness," said the hermit,
"and he will speak of a life spared for personal respects, and from
consideration to high birth. But, Richard, I tell thee that Providence
hath preserved me to lift me on high as a light and beacon, whose ashes,
when this earthly fuel is burnt out, must yet be flung into Tophet.
Withered and shrunk as this poor form is, it is yet animated with two
spirits--one active, shrewd, and piercing, to advocate the cause of
the Church of Jerusalem; one mean, abject, and despairing, fluctuating
between madness and misery, to mourn over my own wretchedness, and to
guard holy relics on which it would be most sinful for me even to cast
my eye. Pity me not!--it is but sin to pity the loss of such an abject;
pity me not, but profit by my example. Thou standest on the highest,
and, therefore, on the most dangerous pinnacle occupied by any Christian
prince. Thou art proud of heart, loose of life, bloody of hand. Put from
thee the sins which are to thee as daughters--though they be dear to the
sinful Adam, expel these adopted furies from thy breast--thy pride, thy
luxury, thy bloodthirstiness."

"He raves," said Richard, turning from the solitary to De Vaux, as one
who felt some pain from a sarcasm which yet he could not resent; then
turned him calmly, and somewhat scornfully, to the anchoret, as he
replied, "Thou hast found a fair bevy of daughters, reverend father, to
one who hath been but few months married; but since I must put them
from my roof, it were but like a father to provide them with suitable
matches. Therefore, I will part with my pride to the noble canons of the
church--my luxury, as thou callest it, to the monks of the rule--and my
bloodthirstiness to the Knights of the Temple."

"O heart of steel, and hand of iron," said the anchoret, "upon whom
example, as well as advice, is alike thrown away! Yet shalt thou be
spared for a season, in case it so be thou shouldst turn, and do that
which is acceptable in the sight of Heaven. For me I must return to my
place. Kyrie Eleison! I am he through whom the rays of heavenly grace
dart like those of the sun through a burning-glass, concentrating them
on other objects, until they kindle and blaze, while the glass itself
remains cold and uninfluenced. Kyrie Eleison!--the poor must be called,
for the rich have refused the banquet--Kyrie Eleison!"

So saying, he burst from the tent, uttering loud cries.

"A mad priest!" said Richard, from whose mind the frantic exclamations
of the hermit had partly obliterated the impression produced by the
detail of his personal history and misfortunes. "After him, De Vaux, and
see he comes to no harm; for, Crusaders as we are, a juggler hath more
reverence amongst our varlets than a priest or a saint, and they may,
perchance, put some scorn upon him."

The knight obeyed, and Richard presently gave way to the thoughts which
the wild prophecy of the monk had inspired. "To die early--without
lineage--without lamentation! A heavy sentence, and well that it is not
passed by a more competent judge. Yet the Saracens, who are accomplished
in mystical knowledge, will often maintain that He, in whose eyes the
wisdom of the sage is but as folly, inspires wisdom and prophecy into
the seeming folly of the madman. Yonder hermit is said to read the
stars, too, an art generally practised in these lands, where the
heavenly host was of yore the object of idolatry. I would I had asked
him touching the loss of my banner; for not the blessed Tishbite, the
founder of his order, could seem more wildly rapt out of himself, or
speak with a tongue more resembling that of a prophet.--How now, De
Vaux, what news of the mad priest?"

"Mad priest, call you him, my lord?" answered De Vaux. "Methinks
he resembles more the blessed Baptist himself, just issued from the
wilderness. He has placed himself on one of the military engines, and
from thence he preaches to the soldiers as never man preached since the
time of Peter the Hermit. The camp, alarmed by his cries, crowd around
him in thousands; and breaking off every now and then from the main
thread of his discourse, he addresses the several nations, each in their
own language, and presses upon each the arguments best qualified to urge
them to perseverance in the delivery of Palestine."

"By this light, a noble hermit!" said King Richard. "But what else could
come from the blood of Godfrey? HE despair of safety, because he hath
in former days lived PAR AMOURS? I will have the Pope send him an ample
remission, and I would not less willingly be intercessor had his BELLE
AMIE been an abbess."

As he spoke, the Archbishop of Tyre craved audience, for the purpose of
requesting Richard's attendance, should his health permit, on a secret
conclave of the chiefs of the Crusade, and to explain to him the
military and political incidents which had occurred during his illness.



CHAPTER XIX.

     Must we then sheathe our still victorious sword;
     Turn back our forward step, which ever trod
     O'er foemen's necks the onward path of glory;
     Unclasp the mail, which with a solemn vow,
     In God's own house, we hung upon our shoulders--
     That vow, as unaccomplish'd as the promise
     Which village nurses make to still their children,
     And after think no more of?
           THE CRUSADE, A TRAGEDY.

The Archbishop of Tyre was an emissary well chosen to communicate to
Richard tidings, which from another voice the lion-hearted King would
not have brooked to hear without the most unbounded explosions of
resentment. Even this sagacious and reverend prelate found difficulty in
inducing him to listen to news which destroyed all his hopes of gaining
back the Holy Sepulchre by force of arms, and acquiring the renown which
the universal all-hail of Christendom was ready to confer upon him as
the Champion of the Cross.

But, by the Archbishop's report, it appeared that Saladin was assembling
all the force of his hundred tribes, and that the monarchs of Europe,
already disgusted from various motives with the expedition, which had
proved so hazardous, and was daily growing more so, had resolved to
abandon their purpose. In this they were countenanced by the example of
Philip of France, who, with many protestations of regard, and assurances
that he would first see his brother of England in safety, declared his
intention to return to Europe. His great vassal, the Earl of Champagne,
had adopted the same resolution; and it could not excite surprise that
Leopold of Austria, affronted as he had been by Richard, was glad
to embrace an opportunity of deserting a cause in which his haughty
opponent was to be considered as chief. Others announced the same
purpose; so that it was plain that the King of England was to be left,
if he chose to remain, supported only by such volunteers as might, under
such depressing circumstances, join themselves to the English army, and
by the doubtful aid of Conrade of Montserrat and the military orders of
the Temple and of Saint John, who, though they were sworn to wage battle
against the Saracens, were at least equally jealous of any European
monarch achieving the conquest of Palestine, where, with shortsighted
and selfish policy, they proposed to establish independent dominions of
their own.

It needed not many arguments to show Richard the truth of his situation;
and indeed, after his first burst of passion, he sat him calmly down,
and with gloomy looks, head depressed, and arms folded on his bosom,
listened to the Archbishop's reasoning on the impossibility of his
carrying on the Crusade when deserted by his companions. Nay, he forbore
interruption, even when the prelate ventured, in measured terms, to hint
that Richard's own impetuosity had been one main cause of disgusting the
princes with the expedition.

"CONFITEOR," answered Richard, with a dejected look, and something of
a melancholy smile--"I confess, reverend father, that I ought on some
accounts to sing CULPA MEA. But is it not hard that my frailties of
temper should be visited with such a penance--that, for a burst or two
of natural passion, I should be doomed to see fade before me ungathered
such a rich harvest of glory to God and honour to chivalry? But it shall
NOT fade. By the soul of the Conqueror, I will plant the Cross on the
towers of Jerusalem, or it shall be planted over Richard's grave!"

"Thou mayest do it," said the prelate, "yet not another drop of
Christian blood be shed in the quarrel."

"Ah, you speak of compromise, Lord Prelate; but the blood of the infidel
hounds must also cease to flow," said Richard.

"There will be glory enough," replied the Archbishop, "in having
extorted from Saladin, by force of arms, and by the respect inspired by
your fame, such conditions as at once restore the Holy Sepulchre, open
the Holy Land to pilgrims, secure their safety by strong fortresses,
and, stronger than all, assure the safety of the Holy City, by
conferring on Richard the title of King Guardian of Jerusalem."

"How!" said Richard, his eyes sparkling with unusual light. "I--I--I the
King Guardian of the Holy City! Victory itself, but that it is victory,
could not gain more--scarce so much, when won with unwilling and
disunited forces. But Saladin still proposes to retain his interest in
the Holy Land?"

"As a joint sovereign, the sworn ally," replied the prelate, "of the
mighty Richard--his relative, if it may be permitted, by marriage."

"By marriage!" said Richard, surprised, yet less so than the prelate had
expected. "Ha!--ay--Edith Plantagenet. Did I dream this? or did some one
tell me? My head is still weak from this fever, and has been agitated.
Was it the Scot, or the Hakim, or yonder holy hermit, that hinted such a
wild bargain?"

"The hermit of Engaddi, most likely," said the Archbishop, "for he hath
toiled much in this matter; and since the discontent of the princes has
became apparent, and a separation of their forces unavoidable, he hath
had many consultations, both with Christian and pagan, for arranging
such a pacification as may give to Christendom, at least in part, the
objects of this holy warfare."

"My kinswoman to an infidel--ha!" exclaimed Richard, as his eyes began
to sparkle.

The prelate hastened to avert his wrath.

"The Pope's consent must doubtless be first attained, and the holy
hermit, who is well known at Rome, will treat with the holy Father."

"How?--without our consent first given?" said the King.

"Surely no," said the Bishop, in a quieting and insinuating tone of
voice--"only with and under your especial sanction."

"My sanction to marry my kinswoman to an infidel!" said Richard; yet
he spoke rather in a tone of doubt than as distinctly reprobating the
measure proposed. "Could I have dreamed of such a composition when I
leaped upon the Syrian shore from the prow of my galley, even as a lion
springs on his prey! And now--But proceed--I will hear with patience."

Equally delighted and surprised to find his task so much easier than he
had apprehended, the Archbishop hastened to pour forth before Richard
the instances of such alliances in Spain--not without countenance from
the Holy See; the incalculable advantages which all Christendom would
derive from the union of Richard and Saladin by a bond so sacred; and,
above all, he spoke with great vehemence and unction on the probability
that Saladin would, in case of the proposed alliance, exchange his false
faith for the true one.

"Hath the Soldan shown any disposition to become Christian?" said
Richard. "If so, the king lives not on earth to whom I would grant the
hand of a kinswoman, ay, or sister, sooner than to my noble Saladin--ay,
though the one came to lay crown and sceptre at her feet, and the other
had nothing to offer but his good sword and better heart!"

"Saladin hath heard our Christian teachers," said the Bishop, somewhat
evasively--"my unworthy self, and others--and as he listens with
patience, and replies with calmness, it can hardly be but that he be
snatched as a brand from the burning. MAGNA EST VERITAS, ET PREVALEBIT!
moreover, the hermit of Engaddi, few of whose words have fallen
fruitless to the ground, is possessed fully with the belief that there
is a calling of the Saracens and the other heathen approaching, to which
this marriage shall be matter of induction. He readeth the course of
the stars; and dwelling, with maceration of the flesh, in those divine
places which the saints have trodden of old, the spirit of Elijah the
Tishbite, the founder of his blessed order, hath been with him as it was
with the prophet Elisha, the son of Shaphat, when he spread his mantle
over him."

King Richard listened to the Prelate's reasoning with a downcast brow
and a troubled look.

"I cannot tell," he said, "How, it is with me, but methinks these cold
counsels of the Princes of Christendom have infected me too with a
lethargy of spirit. The time hath been that, had a layman proposed such
alliance to me, I had struck him to earth--if a churchman, I had spit at
him as a renegade and priest of Baal; yet now this counsel sounds not
so strange in mine ear. For why should I not seek for brotherhood and
alliance with a Saracen, brave, just, generous--who loves and honours
a worthy foe, as if he were a friend--whilst the Princes of Christendom
shrink from the side of their allies, and forsake the cause of Heaven
and good knighthood? But I will possess my patience, and will not think
of them. Only one attempt will I make to keep this gallant brotherhood
together, if it be possible; and if I fail, Lord Archbishop, we will
speak together of thy counsel, which, as now, I neither accept nor
altogether reject. Wend we to the Council, my lord--the hour calls
us. Thou sayest Richard is hasty and proud--thou shalt see him humble
himself like the lowly broom-plant from which he derives his surname."

With the assistance of those of his privy chamber, the King then hastily
robed himself in a doublet and mantle of a dark and uniform colour; and
without any mark of regal dignity, excepting a ring of gold upon his
head, he hastened with the Archbishop of Tyre to attend the Council,
which waited but his presence to commence its sitting.

The pavilion of the Council was an ample tent, having before it the
large Banner of the Cross displayed, and another, on which was portrayed
a female kneeling, with dishevelled hair and disordered dress, meant to
represent the desolate and distressed Church of Jerusalem, and bearing
the motto, AFFLICTAE SPONSAE NE OBLIVISCARIS. Warders, carefully
selected, kept every one at a distance from the neighbourhood of this
tent, lest the debates, which were sometimes of a loud and stormy
character, should reach other ears than those they were designed for.

Here, therefore, the princes of the Crusade were assembled awaiting
Richard's arrival. And even the brief delay which was thus interposed
was turned to his disadvantage by his enemies, various instances being
circulated of his pride and undue assumption of superiority, of which
even the necessity of the present short pause was quoted as an instance.
Men strove to fortify each other in their evil opinion of the King of
England, and vindicated the offence which each had taken, by putting the
most severe construction upon circumstances the most trifling; and all
this, perhaps, because they were conscious of an instinctive reverence
for the heroic monarch, which it would require more than ordinary
efforts to overcome.

They had settled, accordingly, that they should receive him on his
entrance with slight notice, and no more respect than was exactly
necessary to keep within the bounds of cold ceremonial. But when they
beheld that noble form, that princely countenance, somewhat pale from
his late illness--the eye which had been called by minstrels the bright
star of battle and victory--when his feats, almost surpassing human
strength and valour, rushed on their recollection, the Council of
Princes simultaneously arose--even the jealous King of France and the
sullen and offended Duke of Austria--arose with one consent, and the
assembled princes burst forth with one voice in the acclamation, "God
save King Richard of England! Long life to the valiant Lion's-heart!"

With a countenance frank and open as the summer sun when it rises,
Richard distributed his thanks around, and congratulated himself on
being once more among his royal brethren of the Crusade.

"Some brief words he desired to say," such was his address to the
assembly, "though on a subject so unworthy as himself, even at the
risk of delaying for a few minutes their consultations for the weal of
Christendom and the advancement of their holy enterprise."

The assembled princes resumed their seats, and there was a profound
silence.

"This day," continued the King of England, "is a high festival of the
church, and it well becomes Christian men, at such a tide, to reconcile
themselves with their brethren, and confess their faults to each
other. Noble princes and fathers of this holy expedition, Richard is a
soldier--his hand is ever readier than his tongue--and his tongue is
but too much used to the rough language of his trade. But do not, for
Plantagenet's hasty speeches and ill-considered actions, forsake the
noble cause of the redemption of Palestine--do not throw away earthly
renown and eternal salvation, to be won here if ever they can be won by
man, because the act of a soldier may have been hasty, and his speech as
hard as the iron which he has worn from childhood. Is Richard in
default to any of you, Richard will make compensation both by word and
action.--Noble brother of France, have I been so unlucky as to offend
you?"

"The Majesty of France has no atonement to seek from that of England,"
answered Philip, with kingly dignity, accepting, at the same time, the
offered hand of Richard; "and whatever opinion I may adopt concerning
the prosecution of this enterprise will depend on reasons arising out of
the state of my own kingdom--certainly on no jealousy or disgust at my
royal and most valorous brother."

"Austria," said Richard, walking up to the Archduke, with a mixture
of frankness and dignity, while Leopold arose from his seat, as if
involuntarily, and with the action of an automaton, whose motions
depended upon some external impulse--"Austria thinks he hath reason to
be offended with England; England, that he hath cause to complain of
Austria. Let them exchange forgiveness, that the peace of Europe and the
concord of this host may remain unbroken. We are now joint supporters of
a more glorious banner than ever blazed before an earthly prince, even
the Banner of Salvation. Let not, therefore, strife be betwixt us for
the symbol of our more worldly dignities; but let Leopold restore the
pennon of England, if he has it in his power, and Richard will say,
though from no motive save his love for Holy Church, that he repents him
of the hasty mood in which he did insult the standard of Austria."

The Archduke stood still, sullen and discontented, with his eyes fixed
on the floor, and his countenance lowering with smothered displeasure,
which awe, mingled with awkwardness, prevented his giving vent to in
words.

The Patriarch of Jerusalem hastened to break the embarrassing silence,
and to bear witness for the Archduke of Austria that he had exculpated
himself, by a solemn oath, from all knowledge, direct or indirect, of
the aggression done to the Banner of England.

"Then we have done the noble Archduke the greater wrong," said Richard;
"and craving his pardon for imputing to him an outrage so cowardly, we
extend our hand to him in token of renewed peace and amity. But how is
this? Austria refuses our uncovered hand, as he formerly refused our
mailed glove? What! are we neither to be his mate in peace nor his
antagonist in war? Well, let it be so. We will take the slight esteem in
which he holds us as a penance for aught which we may have done against
him in heat of blood, and will therefore hold the account between us
cleared."

So saying, he turned from the Archduke with an air rather of dignity
than scorn, leaving the Austrian apparently as much relieved by the
removal of his eye as is a sullen and truant schoolboy when the glance
of his severe pedagogue is withdrawn.

"Noble Earl of Champagne--princely Marquis of Montserrat--valiant Grand
Master of the Templars--I am here a penitent in the confessional. Do any
of you bring a charge or claim amends from me?"

"I know not on what we could ground any," said the smooth-tongued
Conrade, "unless it were that the King of England carries off from his
poor brothers of the war all the fame which they might have hoped to
gain in the expedition."

"My charge, if I am called on to make one," said the Master of the
Templars, "is graver and deeper than that of the Marquis of Montserrat.
It may be thought ill to beseem a military monk such as I to raise his
voice where so many noble princes remain silent; but it concerns our
whole host, and not least this noble King of England, that he should
hear from some one to his face those charges which there are enow to
bring against him in his absence. We laud and honour the courage and
high achievements of the King of England; but we feel aggrieved that he
should on all occasions seize and maintain a precedence and superiority
over us, which it becomes not independent princes to submit to. Much we
might yield of our free will to his bravery, his zeal, his wealth,
and his power; but he who snatches all as matter of right, and leaves
nothing to grant out of courtesy and favour, degrades us from allies
into retainers and vassals, and sullies in the eyes of our soldiers and
subjects the lustre of our authority, which is no longer independently
exercised. Since the royal Richard has asked the truth from us, he must
neither be surprised nor angry when he hears one, to whom worldly pomp
is prohibited, and secular authority is nothing, saving so far as it
advances the prosperity of God's Temple, and the prostration of the lion
which goeth about seeking whom he may devour--when he hears, I say, such
a one as I tell him the truth in reply to his question; which truth,
even while I speak it, is, I know, confirmed by the heart of every one
who hears me, however respect may stifle their voices."

Richard coloured very highly while the Grand Master was making this
direct and unvarnished attack upon his conduct, and the murmur of
assent which followed it showed plainly that almost all who were present
acquiesced in the justice of the accusation. Incensed, and at the
same time mortified, he yet foresaw that to give way to his headlong
resentment would be to give the cold and wary accuser the advantage over
him which it was the Templar's principal object to obtain. He therefore,
with a strong effort, remained silent till he had repeated a pater
noster, being the course which his confessor had enjoined him to pursue
when anger was likely to obtain dominion over him. The King then spoke
with composure, though not without an embittered tone, especially at the
outset:--

"And is it even so? And are our brethren at such pains to note the
infirmities of our natural temper, and the rough precipitance of our
zeal, which may sometimes have urged us to issue commands when there
was little time to hold council? I could not have thought that offences,
casual and unpremeditated like mine, could find such deep root in the
hearts of my allies in this most holy cause; that for my sake they
should withdraw their hands from the plough when the furrow was near
the end--for my sake turn aside from the direct path to Jerusalem, which
their swords have opened. I vainly thought that my small services
might have outweighed my rash errors--that if it were remembered that I
pressed to the van in an assault, it would not be forgotten that I
was ever the last in the retreat--that, if I elevated my banner upon
conquered fields of battle, it was all the advantage that I sought,
while others were dividing the spoil. I may have called the conquered
city by my name, but it was to others that I yielded the dominion. If
I have been headstrong in urging bold counsels, I have not, methinks,
spared my own blood or my people's in carrying them into as bold
execution; or if I have, in the hurry of march or battle, assumed a
command over the soldiers of others, such have been ever treated as my
own when my wealth purchased the provisions and medicines which their
own sovereigns could not procure. But it shames me to remind you of what
all but myself seem to have forgotten. Let us rather look forward to
our future measures; and believe me, brethren," he continued, his face
kindling with eagerness, "you shall not find the pride, or the wrath,
or the ambition of Richard a stumbling-block of offence in the path to
which religion and glory summon you as with the trumpet of an archangel.
Oh, no, no! never would I survive the thought that my frailties and
infirmities had been the means to sever this goodly fellowship of
assembled princes. I would cut off my left hand with my right, could my
doing so attest my sincerity. I will yield up, voluntarily, all right to
command in the host--even mine own liege subjects. They shall be led by
such sovereigns as you may nominate; and their King, ever but too apt to
exchange the leader's baton for the adventurer's lance, will serve
under the banner of Beau-Seant among the Templars--ay, or under that of
Austria, if Austria will name a brave man to lead his forces. Or if
ye are yourselves a-weary of this war, and feel your armour chafe your
tender bodies, leave but with Richard some ten or fifteen thousand of
your soldiers to work out the accomplishment of your vow; and when
Zion is won," he exclaimed, waving his hand aloft, as if displaying the
standard of the Cross over Jerusalem--"when Zion is won, we will write
upon her gates, NOT the name of Richard Plantagenet, but of those
generous princes who entrusted him with the means of conquest!"

The rough eloquence and determined expression of the military monarch
at once roused the drooping spirits of the Crusaders, reanimated their
devotion, and, fixing their attention on the principal object of the
expedition, made most of them who were present blush for having been
moved by such petty subjects of complaint as had before engrossed them.
Eye caught fire from eye, voice lent courage to voice. They resumed, as
with one accord, the war-cry with which the sermon of Peter the Hermit
was echoed back, and shouted aloud, "Lead us on, gallant Lion's-heart;
none so worthy to lead where brave men follow. Lead us on--to
Jerusalem--to Jerusalem! It is the will of God--it is the will of God!
Blessed is he who shall lend an arm to its fulfilment!"

The shout, so suddenly and generally raised, was heard beyond the ring
of sentinels who guarded the pavilion of Council, and spread among
the soldiers of the host, who, inactive and dispirited by disease and
climate, had begun, like their leaders, to droop in resolution; but
the reappearance of Richard in renewed vigour, and the well-known shout
which echoed from the assembly of the princes, at once rekindled their
enthusiasm, and thousands and tens of thousands answered with the same
shout of "Zion, Zion! War, war! Instant battle with the infidels! It is
the will of God--it is the will of God!"

The acclamations from without increased in their turn the enthusiasm
which prevailed within the pavilion. Those who did not actually catch
the flame were afraid--at least for the time--to seem colder than
others. There was no more speech except of a proud advance towards
Jerusalem upon the expiry of the truce, and the measures to be taken in
the meantime for supplying and recruiting the army. The Council broke
up, all apparently filled with the same enthusiastic purpose--which,
however, soon faded in the bosom of most, and never had an existence in
that of others.

Of the latter class were the Marquis Conrade and the Grand Master of
the Templars, who retired together to their quarters ill at ease, and
malcontent with the events of the day.

"I ever told it to thee," said the latter, with the cold, sardonic
expression peculiar to him, "that Richard would burst through the flimsy
wiles you spread for him, as would a lion through a spider's web. Thou
seest he has but to speak, and his breath agitates these fickle fools
as easily as the whirlwind catcheth scattered straws, and sweeps them
together, or disperses them at its pleasure."

"When the blast has passed away," said Conrade, "the straws, which it
made dance to its pipe, will settle to earth again."

"But knowest thou not besides," said the Templar, "that it seems, if
this new purpose of conquest shall be abandoned and pass away, and each
mighty prince shall again be left to such guidance as his own scanty
brain can supply, Richard may yet probably become King of Jerusalem by
compact, and establish those terms of treaty with the Soldan which thou
thyself thought'st him so likely to spurn at?"

"Now, by Mahound and Termagaunt, for Christian oaths are out of
fashion," said Conrade, "sayest thou the proud King of England
would unite his blood with a heathen Soldan? My policy threw in that
ingredient to make the whole treaty an abomination to him. As bad for us
that he become our master by an agreement, as by victory."

"Thy policy hath ill calculated Richard's digestion," answered the
Templar; "I know his mind by a whisper from the Archbishop. And then thy
master-stroke respecting yonder banner--it has passed off with no more
respect than two cubits of embroidered silk merited. Marquis Conrade,
thy wit begins to halt; I will trust thy finespun measures no longer,
but will try my own. Knowest thou not the people whom the Saracens call
Charegites?"

"Surely," answered the Marquis; "they are desperate and besotted
enthusiasts, who devote their lives to the advancement of
religion---somewhat like Templars, only they are never known to pause in
the race of their calling."

"Jest not," answered the scowling monk. "Know that one of these men has
set down in his bloody vow the name of the Island Emperor yonder, to be
hewn down as the chief enemy of the Moslem faith."

"A most judicious paynim," said Conrade. "May Mohammed send him his
paradise for a reward!"

"He was taken in the camp by one of our squires, and in private
examination frankly avowed his fixed and determined purpose to me," said
the Grand Master.

"Now the heavens pardon them who prevented the purpose of this most
judicious Charegite!" answered Conrade.

"He is my prisoner," added the Templar, "and secluded from speech with
others, as thou mayest suppose; but prisons have been broken--"

"Chains left unlocked, and captives have escaped," answered the Marquis.
"It is an ancient saying, no sure dungeon but the grave."

"When loose, he resumes his quest," continued the military priest; "for
it is the nature of this sort of blood hound never to quit the suit of
the prey he has once scented."

"Say no more of it," said the Marquis; "I see thy policy--it is
dreadful, but the emergency is imminent."

"I only told thee of it," said the Templar, "that thou mayest keep
thyself on thy guard; for the uproar will be dreadful, and there is
no knowing on whom the English may vent their rage. Ay, and there
is another risk. My page knows the counsels of this Charegite," he
continued; "and, moreover, he is a peevish, self-willed fool, whom I
would I were rid of, as he thwarts me by presuming to see with his own
eyes, not mine. But our holy order gives me power to put a remedy to
such inconvenience. Or stay--the Saracen may find a good dagger in his
cell, and I warrant you he uses it as he breaks forth, which will be of
a surety so soon as the page enters with his food."

"It will give the affair a colour," said Conrade; "and yet--"

"YET and BUT," said the Templar, "are words for fools; wise men neither
hesitate nor retract--they resolve and they execute."



CHAPTER XX.

     When beauty leads the lion in her toils,
     Such are her charms, he dare not raise his mane,
     Far less expand the terror of his fangs.
     So great Alcides made his club a distaff,
     And spun to please fair Omphale.
               ANONYMOUS.

Richard, the unsuspicious object of the dark treachery detailed in the
closing part of the last chapter, having effected, for the present at
least, the triumphant union of the Crusading princes in a resolution
to prosecute the war with vigour, had it next at heart to establish
tranquillity in his own family; and, now that he could judge more
temperately, to inquire distinctly into the circumstances leading to
the loss of his banner, and the nature and the extent of the connection
betwixt his kinswoman Edith and the banished adventurer from Scotland.

Accordingly, the Queen and her household were startled with a visit
from Sir Thomas de Vaux, requesting the present attendance of the Lady
Calista of Montfaucon, the Queen's principal bower-woman, upon King
Richard.

"What am I to say, madam?" said the trembling attendant to the Queen,
"He will slay us all."

"Nay, fear not, madam," said De Vaux. "His Majesty hath spared the life
of the Scottish knight, who was the chief offender, and bestowed him
upon the Moorish physician. He will not be severe upon a lady, though
faulty."

"Devise some cunning tale, wench," said Berengaria. "My husband hath too
little time to make inquiry into the truth."

"Tell the tale as it really happened," said Edith, "lest I tell it for
thee."

"With humble permission of her Majesty," said De Vaux, "I would say Lady
Edith adviseth well; for although King Richard is pleased to believe
what it pleases your Grace to tell him, yet I doubt his having the same
deference for the Lady Calista, and in this especial matter."

"The Lord of Gilsland is right," said the Lady Calista, much agitated at
the thoughts of the investigation which was to take place; "and besides,
if I had presence of mind enough to forge a plausible story, beshrew me
if I think I should have the courage to tell it."

In this candid humour, the Lady Calista was conducted by De Vaux to the
King, and made, as she had proposed, a full confession of the decoy by
which the unfortunate Knight of the Leopard had been induced to desert
his post; exculpating the Lady Edith, who, she was aware, would not
fail to exculpate herself, and laying the full burden on the Queen, her
mistress, whose share of the frolic, she well knew, would appear the
most venial in the eyes of Coeur de Lion. In truth, Richard was a fond,
almost a uxorious husband. The first burst of his wrath had long since
passed away, and he was not disposed severely to censure what could
not now be amended. The wily Lady Calista, accustomed from her earliest
childhood to fathom the intrigues of a court, and watch the indications
of a sovereign's will, hastened back to the Queen with the speed of
a lapwing, charged with the King's commands that she should expect
a speedy visit from him; to which the bower-lady added a commentary
founded on her own observation, tending to show that Richard meant just
to preserve so much severity as might bring his royal consort to repent
of her frolic, and then to extend to her and all concerned his gracious
pardon.

"Sits the wind in that corner, wench?" said the Queen, much relieved by
this intelligence. "Believe me that, great commander as he is, Richard
will find it hard to circumvent us in this matter, and that, as the
Pyrenean shepherds are wont to say in my native Navarre, Many a one
comes for wool, and goes back shorn."

Having possessed herself of all the information which Calista could
communicate, the royal Berengaria arrayed herself in her most becoming
dress, and awaited with confidence the arrival of the heroic Richard.

He arrived, and found himself in the situation of a prince entering an
offending province, in the confidence that his business will only be to
inflict rebuke, and receive submission, when he unexpectedly finds it in
a state of complete defiance and insurrection. Berengaria well knew
the power of her charms and the extent of Richard's affection, and
felt assured that she could make her own terms good, now that the first
tremendous explosion of his anger had expended itself without mischief.
Far from listening to the King's intended rebuke, as what the levity
of her conduct had justly deserved, she extenuated, nay, defended as a
harmless frolic, that which she was accused of. She denied, indeed,
with many a pretty form of negation, that she had directed Nectabanus
absolutely to entice the knight farther than the brink of the Mount on
which he kept watch--and, indeed, this was so far true, that she had not
designed Sir Kenneth to be introduced into her tent--and then, eloquent
in urging her own defence, the Queen was far more so in pressing upon
Richard the charge of unkindness, in refusing her so poor a boon as the
life of an unfortunate knight, who, by her thoughtless prank, had been
brought within the danger of martial law. She wept and sobbed while she
enlarged on her husband's obduracy on this score, as a rigour which had
threatened to make her unhappy for life, whenever she should reflect
that she had given, unthinkingly, the remote cause for such a tragedy.
The vision of the slaughtered victim would have haunted her dreams--nay,
for aught she knew, since such things often happened, his actual spectre
might have stood by her waking couch. To all this misery of the mind was
she exposed by the severity of one who, while he pretended to dote upon
her slightest glance, would not forego one act of poor revenge, though
the issue was to render her miserable.

All this flow of female eloquence was accompanied with the usual
arguments of tears and sighs, and uttered with such tone and action as
seemed to show that the Queen's resentment arose neither from pride nor
sullenness, but from feelings hurt at finding her consequence with her
husband less than she had expected to possess.

The good King Richard was considerably embarrassed. He tried in vain
to reason with one whose very jealousy of his affection rendered her
incapable of listening to argument, nor could he bring himself to use
the restraint of lawful authority to a creature so beautiful in the
midst of her unreasonable displeasure. He was therefore reduced to the
defensive, endeavoured gently to chide her suspicions and soothe her
displeasure, and recalled to her mind that she need not look back upon
the past with recollections either of remorse or supernatural fear,
since Sir Kenneth was alive and well, and had been bestowed by him upon
the great Arabian physician, who, doubtless, of all men, knew best how
to keep him living. But this seemed the unkindest cut of all, and
the Queen's sorrow was renewed at the idea of a Saracen--a
mediciner--obtaining a boon for which, with bare head and on bended
knee, she had petitioned her husband in vain. At this new charge
Richard's patience began rather to give way, and he said, in a serious
tone of voice, "Berengaria, the physician saved my life. If it is of
value in your eyes, you will not grudge him a higher recompense than the
only one I could prevail on him to accept."

The Queen was satisfied she had urged her coquettish displeasure to the
verge of safety.

"My Richard," she said, "why brought you not that sage to me, that
England's Queen might show how she esteemed him who could save from
extinction the lamp of chivalry, the glory of England, and the light of
poor Berengaria's life and hope?"

In a word, the matrimonial dispute was ended; but, that some penalty
might be paid to justice, both King and Queen accorded in laying the
whole blame on the agent Nectabanus, who (the Queen being by this time
well weary of the poor dwarf's humour) was, with his royal consort
Guenevra, sentenced to be banished from the Court; and the unlucky dwarf
only escaped a supplementary whipping, from the Queen's assurances that
he had already sustained personal chastisement. It was decreed further
that, as an envoy was shortly to be dispatched to Saladin, acquainting
him with the resolution of the Council to resume hostilities so soon as
the truce was ended, and as Richard proposed to send a valuable present
to the Soldan, in acknowledgment of the high benefit he had derived from
the services of El Hakim, the two unhappy creatures should be added to
it as curiosities, which, from their extremely grotesque appearance, and
the shattered state of their intellect, were gifts that might well pass
between sovereign and sovereign.

Richard had that day yet another female encounter to sustain; but
he advanced to it with comparative indifference, for Edith, though
beautiful and highly esteemed by her royal relative--nay, although she
had from his unjust suspicions actually sustained the injury of which
Berengaria only affected to complain--still was neither Richard's wife
nor mistress, and he feared her reproaches less, although founded in
reason, than those of the Queen, though unjust and fantastical. Having
requested to speak with her apart, he was ushered into her apartment,
adjoining that of the Queen, whose two female Coptish slaves remained on
their knees in the most remote corner during the interview. A thin black
veil extended its ample folds over the tall and graceful form of the
high-born maiden, and she wore not upon her person any female ornament
of what kind soever. She arose and made a low reverence when Richard
entered, resumed her seat at his command, and, when he sat down beside
her, waited, without uttering a syllable, until he should communicate
his pleasure.

Richard, whose custom it was to be familiar with Edith, as their
relationship authorized, felt this reception chilling, and opened the
conversation with some embarrassment.

"Our fair cousin," he at length said, "is angry with us; and we own that
strong circumstances have induced us, without cause, to suspect her
of conduct alien to what we have ever known in her course of life. But
while we walk in this misty valley of humanity, men will mistake shadows
for substances. Can my fair cousin not forgive her somewhat vehement
kinsman Richard?"

"Who can refuse forgiveness to RICHARD," answered Edith, "provided
Richard can obtain pardon of the KING?"

"Come, my kinswoman," replied Coeur de Lion, "this is all too solemn.
By Our Lady, such a melancholy countenance, and this ample sable veil,
might make men think thou wert a new-made widow, or had lost a betrothed
lover, at least. Cheer up! Thou hast heard, doubtless, that there is no
real cause for woe; why, then, keep up the form of mourning?"

"For the departed honour of Plantagenet--for the glory which hath left
my father's house."

Richard frowned. "Departed honour! glory which hath left our house!" he
repeated angrily. "But my cousin Edith is privileged. I have judged her
too hastily; she has therefore a right to deem of me too harshly. But
tell me at least in what I have faulted."

"Plantagenet," said Edith, "should have either pardoned an offence, or
punished it. It misbecomes him to assign free men, Christians, and
brave knights, to the fetters of the infidels. It becomes him not to
compromise and barter, or to grunt life under the forfeiture of liberty.
To have doomed the unfortunate to death might have been severity, but
had a show of justice; to condemn him to slavery and exile was barefaced
tyranny."

"I see, my fair cousin," said Richard, "you are of those pretty ones who
think an absent lover as bad as none, or as a dead one. Be patient; half
a score of light horsemen may yet follow and redeem the error, if thy
gallant have in keeping any secret which might render his death more
convenient than his banishment."

"Peace with thy scurrile jests!" answered Edith, colouring deeply.
"Think, rather, that for the indulgence of thy mood thou hast lopped
from this great enterprise one goodly limb, deprived the Cross of one of
its most brave supporters, and placed a servant of the true God in the
hands of the heathen; hast given, too, to minds as suspicious as thou
hast shown thine own in this matter, some right to say that Richard
Coeur de Lion banished the bravest soldier in his camp lest his name in
battle might match his own."

"I--I!" exclaimed Richard, now indeed greatly moved--"am I one to be
jealous of renown? I would he were here to profess such an equality! I
would waive my rank and my crown, and meet him, manlike, in the lists,
that it might appear whether Richard Plantagenet had room to fear or to
envy the prowess of mortal man. Come, Edith, thou think'st not as thou
sayest. Let not anger or grief for the absence of thy lover make thee
unjust to thy kinsman, who, notwithstanding all thy techiness, values
thy good report as high as that of any one living."

"The absence of my lover?" said the Lady Edith, "But yes, he may be
well termed my lover, who hath paid so dear for the title. Unworthy as I
might be of such homage, I was to him like a light, leading him forward
in the noble path of chivalry; but that I forgot my rank, or that he
presumed beyond his, is false, were a king to speak it."

"My fair cousin," said Richard, "do not put words in my mouth which I
have not spoken. I said not you had graced this man beyond the favour
which a good knight may earn, even from a princess, whatever be his
native condition. But, by Our Lady, I know something of this
love-gear. It begins with mute respect and distant reverence; but when
opportunities occur, familiarity increases, and so--But it skills not
talking with one who thinks herself wiser than all the world."

"My kinsman's counsels I willingly listen to, when they are such," said
Edith, "as convey no insult to my rank and character."

"Kings, my fair cousin, do not counsel, but rather command," said
Richard.

"Soldans do indeed command," said Edith, "but it is because they have
slaves to govern."

"Come, you might learn to lay aside this scorn of Soldanrie, when you
hold so high of a Scot," said the King. "I hold Saladin to be truer to
his word than this William of Scotland, who must needs be called a
Lion, forsooth; he hath foully faulted towards me in failing to send the
auxiliary aid he promised. Let me tell thee, Edith, thou mayest live to
prefer a true Turk to a false Scot."

"No--never!" answered Edith--"not should Richard himself embrace the
false religion, which he crossed the seas to expel from Palestine."

"Thou wilt have the last word," said Richard, "and thou shalt have it.
Even think of me what thou wilt, pretty Edith. I shall not forget that
we are near and dear cousins."

So saying, he took his leave in fair fashion, but very little satisfied
with the result of his visit.

It was the fourth day after Sir Kenneth had been dismissed from the
camp, and King Richard sat in his pavilion, enjoying an evening breeze
from the west, which, with unusual coolness on her wings, seemed
breathed from merry England for the refreshment of her adventurous
Monarch, as he was gradually recovering the full strength which was
necessary to carry on his gigantic projects. There was no one with
him, De Vaux having been sent to Ascalon to bring up reinforcements and
supplies of military munition, and most of his other attendants being
occupied in different departments, all preparing for the re-opening
of hostilities, and for a grand preparatory review of the army of the
Crusaders, which was to take place the next day. The King sat listening
to the busy hum among the soldiery, the clatter from the forges, where
horseshoes were preparing, and from the tents of the armourers, who were
repairing harness. The voice of the soldiers, too, as they passed
and repassed, was loud and cheerful, carrying with its very tone an
assurance of high and excited courage, and an omen of approaching
victory. While Richard's ear drank in these sounds with delight, and
while he yielded himself to the visions of conquest and of glory which
they suggested, an equerry told him that a messenger from Saladin waited
without.

"Admit him instantly," said the King, "and with due honour, Josceline."

The English knight accordingly introduced a person, apparently of no
higher rank than a Nubian slave, whose appearance was nevertheless
highly interesting. He was of superb stature and nobly formed, and his
commanding features, although almost jet-black, showed nothing of negro
descent. He wore over his coal-black locks a milk-white turban, and over
his shoulders a short mantle of the same colour, open in front and at
the sleeves, under which appeared a doublet of dressed leopard's skin
reaching within a handbreadth of the knee. The rest of his muscular
limbs, both legs and arms, were bare, excepting that he had sandals
on his feet, and wore a collar and bracelets of silver. A straight
broadsword, with a handle of box-wood and a sheath covered with
snakeskin, was suspended from his waist. In his right hand he held a
short javelin, with a broad, bright steel head, of a span in length, and
in his left he led by a leash of twisted silk and gold a large and noble
staghound.

The messenger prostrated himself, at the same time partially uncovering
his shoulders, in sign of humiliation, and having touched the earth with
his forehead, arose so far as to rest on one knee, while he delivered
to the King a silken napkin, enclosing another of cloth of gold,
within which was a letter from Saladin in the original Arabic, with a
translation into Norman-English, which may be modernized thus:--

"Saladin, King of Kings, to Melech Ric, the Lion of England. Whereas, we
are informed by thy last message that thou hast chosen war rather than
peace, and our enmity rather than our friendship, we account thee as
one blinded in this matter, and trust shortly to convince thee of thine
error, by the help of our invincible forces of the thousand tribes, when
Mohammed, the Prophet of God, and Allah, the God of the Prophet, shall
judge the controversy betwixt us. In what remains, we make noble account
of thee, and of the gifts which thou hast sent us, and of the two
dwarfs, singular in their deformity as Ysop, and mirthful as the lute of
Isaack. And in requital of these tokens from the treasure-house of thy
bounty, behold we have sent thee a Nubian slave, named Zohauk, of whom
judge not by his complexion, according to the foolish ones of the earth,
in respect the dark-rinded fruit hath the most exquisite flavour.
Know that he is strong to execute the will of his master, as Rustan of
Zablestan; also he is wise to give counsel when thou shalt learn to hold
communication with him, for the Lord of Speech hath been stricken with
silence betwixt the ivory walls of his palace. We commend him to thy
care, hoping the hour may not be distant when he may render thee good
service. And herewith we bid thee farewell; trusting that our most
holy Prophet may yet call thee to a sight of the truth, failing which
illumination, our desire is for the speedy restoration of thy royal
health, that Allah may judge between thee and us in a plain field of
battle."

And the missive was sanctioned by the signature and seal of the Soldan.

Richard surveyed the Nubian in silence as he stood before him, his looks
bent upon the ground, his arms folded on his bosom, with the appearance
of a black marble statue of the most exquisite workmanship, waiting
life from the touch of a Prometheus. The King of England, who, as it was
emphatically said of his successor Henry the Eighth, loved to look upon
A MAN, was well pleased with the thews, sinews, and symmetry of him whom
he now surveyed, and questioned him in the lingua franca, "Art thou a
pagan?"

The slave shook his head, and raising his finger to his brow, crossed
himself in token of his Christianity, then resumed his posture of
motionless humility.

"A Nubian Christian, doubtless," said Richard, "and mutilated of the
organ of speech by these heathen dogs?"

The mute again slowly shook his head, in token of negative, pointed with
his forefinger to Heaven, and then laid it upon his own lips.

"I understand thee," said Richard; "thou dost suffer under the
infliction of God, not by the cruelty of man. Canst thou clean an armour
and belt, and buckle it in time of need?"

The mute nodded, and stepping towards the coat of mail, which hung with
the shield and helmet of the chivalrous monarch upon the pillar of the
tent, he handled it with such nicety of address as sufficiently to show
that he fully understood the business of an armour-bearer.

"Thou art an apt, and wilt doubtless be a useful knave. Thou shalt wait
in my chamber, and on my person," said the King, "to show how much I
value the gift of the royal Soldan. If thou hast no tongue, it follows
thou canst carry no tales, neither provoke me to be sudden by any unfit
reply."

The Nubian again prostrated himself till his brow touched the earth,
then stood erect, at some paces distant, as waiting for his new master's
commands.

"Nay, thou shalt commence thy office presently," said Richard, "for I
see a speck of rust darkening on that shield; and when I shake it in
the face of Saladin, it should be bright and unsullied as the Soldan's
honour and mine own."

A horn was winded without, and presently Sir Henry Neville entered
with a packet of dispatches. "From England, my lord," he said, as he
delivered it.

"From England--our own England!" repeated Richard, in a tone of
melancholy enthusiasm. "Alas! they little think how hard their Sovereign
has been beset by sickness and sorrow--faint friends and forward
enemies." Then opening the dispatches, he said hastily, "Ha! this comes
from no peaceful land--they too have their feuds. Neville, begone; I
must peruse these tidings alone, and at leisure."

Neville withdrew accordingly, and Richard was soon absorbed in the
melancholy details which had been conveyed to him from England,
concerning the factions that were tearing to pieces his native
dominions--the disunion of his brothers John and Geoffrey, and the
quarrels of both with the High Justiciary Longchamp, Bishop of Ely--the
oppressions practised by the nobles upon the peasantry, and rebellion of
the latter against their masters, which had produced everywhere scenes
of discord, and in some instances the effusion of blood. Details of
incidents mortifying to his pride, and derogatory from his authority,
were intermingled with the earnest advice of his wisest and most
attached counsellors that he should presently return to England, as
his presence offered the only hope of saving the Kingdom from all the
horrors of civil discord, of which France and Scotland were likely to
avail themselves. Filled with the most painful anxiety, Richard read,
and again read, the ill-omened letters; compared the intelligence which
some of them contained with the same facts as differently stated in
others; and soon became totally insensible to whatever was passing
around him, although seated, for the sake of coolness, close to the
entrance of his tent, and having the curtains withdrawn, so that he
could see and be seen by the guards and others who were stationed
without.

Deeper in the shadow of the pavilion, and busied with the task his new
master had imposed, sat the Nubian slave, with his back rather turned
towards the King. He had finished adjusting and cleaning the hauberk and
brigandine, and was now busily employed on a broad pavesse, or buckler,
of unusual size, and covered with steel-plating, which Richard often
used in reconnoitring, or actually storming fortified places, as a more
effectual protection against missile weapons than the narrow triangular
shield used on horseback. This pavesse bore neither the royal lions
of England, nor any other device, to attract the observation of
the defenders of the walls against which it was advanced; the care,
therefore, of the armourer was addressed to causing its surface to shine
as bright as crystal, in which he seemed to be peculiarly successful.
Beyond the Nubian, and scarce visible from without, lay the large dog,
which might be termed his brother slave, and which, as if he felt awed
by being transferred to a royal owner, was couched close to the side of
the mute, with head and ears on the ground, and his limbs and tail drawn
close around and under him.

While the Monarch and his new attendant were thus occupied, another
actor crept upon the scene, and mingled among the group of English
yeomen, about a score of whom, respecting the unusually pensive posture
and close occupation of their Sovereign, were, contrary to their wont,
keeping a silent guard in front of his tent. It was not, however, more
vigilant than usual. Some were playing at games of hazard with small
pebbles, others spoke together in whispers of the approaching day of
battle, and several lay asleep, their bulky limbs folded in their green
mantles.

Amid these careless warders glided the puny form of a little old Turk,
poorly dressed like a marabout or santon of the desert--a sort of
enthusiasts, who sometimes ventured into the camp of the Crusaders,
though treated always with contumely, and often with violence. Indeed,
the luxury and profligate indulgence of the Christian leaders had
occasioned a motley concourse in their tents of musicians, courtesans,
Jewish merchants, Copts, Turks, and all the varied refuse of the Eastern
nations; so that the caftan and turban, though to drive both from
the Holy Land was the professed object of the expedition, were,
nevertheless, neither an uncommon nor an alarming sight in the camp of
the Crusaders. When, however, the little insignificant figure we have
described approached so nigh as to receive some interruption from the
warders, he dashed his dusky green turban from his head, showed that his
beard and eyebrows were shaved like those of a professed buffoon, and
that the expression of his fantastic and writhen features, as well as
of his little black eyes, which glittered like jet, was that of a crazed
imagination.

"Dance, marabout," cried the soldiers, acquainted with the manners of
these wandering enthusiasts, "dance, or we will scourge thee with our
bow-strings till thou spin as never top did under schoolboy's lash."
Thus shouted the reckless warders, as much delighted at having a subject
to tease as a child when he catches a butterfly, or a schoolboy upon
discovering a bird's nest.

The marabout, as if happy to do their behests, bounded from the earth,
and spun his giddy round before them with singular agility, which, when
contrasted with his slight and wasted figure, and diminutive appearance,
made him resemble a withered leaf twirled round and round at the
pleasure of the winter's breeze. His single lock of hair streamed
upwards from his bald and shaven head, as if some genie upheld him by
it; and indeed it seemed as if supernatural art were necessary to the
execution of the wild, whirling dance, in which scarce the tiptoe of
the performer was seen to touch the ground. Amid the vagaries of his
performance he flew here and there, from one spot to another, still
approaching, however, though almost imperceptibly, to the entrance of
the royal tent; so that, when at length he sunk exhausted on the earth,
after two or three bounds still higher than those which he had yet
executed, he was not above thirty yards from the King's person.

"Give him water," said one yeoman; "they always crave a drink after
their merry-go-round."

"Aha, water, sayest thou, Long Allen?" exclaimed another archer, with a
most scornful emphasis on the despised element; "how wouldst like such
beverage thyself, after such a morrice dancing?"

"The devil a water-drop he gets here," said a third. "We will teach
the light-footed old infidel to be a good Christian, and drink wine of
Cyprus."

"Ay, ay," said a fourth; "and in case he be restive, fetch thou Dick
Hunter's horn, that he drenches his mare withal."

A circle was instantly formed around the prostrate and exhausted
dervise, and while one tall yeoman raised his feeble form from the
ground, another presented to him a huge flagon of wine. Incapable of
speech, the old man shook his head, and waved away from him with his
hand the liquor forbidden by the Prophet. But his tormentors were not
thus to be appeased.

"The horn, the horn!" exclaimed one. "Little difference between a Turk
and a Turkish horse, and we will use him conforming."

"By Saint George, you will choke him!" said Long Allen; "and besides, it
is a sin to throw away upon a heathen dog as much wine as would serve a
good Christian for a treble night-cap."

"Thou knowest not the nature of these Turks and pagans, Long Allen,"
replied Henry Woodstall. "I tell thee, man, that this flagon of Cyprus
will set his brains a-spinning, just in the opposite direction that they
went whirling in the dancing, and so bring him, as it were, to himself
again. Choke? He will no more choke on it than Ben's black bitch on the
pound of butter."

"And for grudging it," said Tomalin Blacklees, "why shouldst thou grudge
the poor paynim devil a drop of drink on earth, since thou knowest he
is not to have a drop to cool the tip of his tongue through a long
eternity?"

"That were hard laws, look ye," said Long Allen, "only for being a Turk,
as his father was before him. Had he been Christian turned heathen, I
grant you the hottest corner had been good winter quarters for him."

"Hold thy peace, Long Allen," said Henry Woodstall. "I tell thee that
tongue of thine is not the shortest limb about thee, and I prophesy that
it will bring thee into disgrace with Father Francis, as once about the
black-eyed Syrian wench. But here comes the horn. Be active a bit,
man, wilt thou, and just force open his teeth with the haft of thy
dudgeon-dagger."

"Hold, hold--he is conformable," said Tomalin; "see, see, he signs for
the goblet--give him room, boys! OOP SEY ES, quoth the Dutchman--down
it goes like lamb's-wool! Nay, they are true topers when once they
begin--your Turk never coughs in his cup, or stints in his liquoring."

In fact, the dervise, or whatever he was, drank--or at least seemed to
drink--the large flagon to the very bottom at a single pull; and when
he took it from his lips after the whole contents were exhausted, only
uttered, with a deep sigh, the words, ALLAH KERIM, or God is merciful.
There was a laugh among the yeomen who witnessed this pottle-deep
potation, so obstreperous as to rouse and disturb the King, who, raising
his finger, said angrily, "How, knaves, no respect, no observance?"

All were at once hushed into silence, well acquainted with the temper of
Richard, which at some times admitted of much military familiarity, and
at others exacted the most precise respect, although the latter humour
was of much more rare occurrence. Hastening to a more reverent distance
from the royal person, they attempted to drag along with them the
marabout, who, exhausted apparently by previous fatigue, or overpowered
by the potent draught he had just swallowed, resisted being moved from
the spot, both with struggles and groans.

"Leave him still, ye fools," whispered Long Allen to his mates; "by
Saint Christopher, you will make our Dickon go beside himself, and we
shall have his dagger presently fly at our costards. Leave him alone; in
less than a minute he will sleep like a dormouse."

At the same moment the Monarch darted another impatient glance to the
spot, and all retreated in haste, leaving the dervise on the ground,
unable, as it seemed, to stir a single limb or joint of his body. In a
moment afterward all was as still and quiet as it had been before the
intrusion.



CHAPTER XXI

     --and wither'd Murder,
     Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
     Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,
     With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
     Moves like a ghost.
                MACBETH.

For the space of a quarter of an hour, or longer, after the incident
related, all remained perfectly quiet in the front of the royal
habitation. The King read and mused in the entrance of his pavilion;
behind, and with his back turned to the same entrance, the Nubian slave
still burnished the ample pavesse; in front of all, at a hundred paces
distant, the yeomen of the guard stood, sat, or lay extended on the
grass, attentive to their own sports, but pursuing them in silence,
while on the esplanade betwixt them and the front of the tent lay,
scarcely to be distinguished from a bundle of rags, the senseless form
of the marabout.

But the Nubian had the advantage of a mirror from the brilliant
reflection which the surface of the highly-polished shield now afforded,
by means of which he beheld, to his alarm and surprise, that the
marabout raised his head gently from the ground, so as to survey all
around him, moving with a well-adjusted precaution which seemed entirely
inconsistent with a state of ebriety. He couched his head instantly, as
if satisfied he was unobserved, and began, with the slightest possible
appearance of voluntary effort, to drag himself, as if by chance, ever
nearer and nearer to the King, but stopping and remaining fixed at
intervals, like the spider, which, moving towards her object, collapses
into apparent lifelessness when she thinks she is the subject of
observation. This species of movement appeared suspicious to the
Ethiopian, who, on his part, prepared himself, as quietly as possible,
to interfere, the instant that interference should seem to be necessary.

The marabout, meanwhile, glided on gradually and imperceptibly,
serpent-like, or rather snail-like, till he was about ten yards distant
from Richard's person, when, starting on his feet, he sprung forward
with the bound of a tiger, stood at the King's back in less than an
instant, and brandished aloft the cangiar, or poniard, which he had
hidden in his sleeve. Not the presence of his whole army could have
saved their heroic Monarch; but the motions of the Nubian had been as
well calculated as those of the enthusiast, and ere the latter could
strike, the former caught his uplifted arm. Turning his fanatical wrath
upon what thus unexpectedly interposed betwixt him and his object, the
Charegite, for such was the seeming marabout, dealt the Nubian a blow
with the dagger, which, however, only grazed his arm, while the far
superior strength of the Ethiopian easily dashed him to the ground.
Aware of what had passed, Richard had now arisen, and with little more
of surprise, anger, or interest of any kind in his countenance than an
ordinary man would show in brushing off and crushing an intrusive wasp,
caught up the stool on which he had been sitting, and exclaiming only,
"Ha, dog!" dashed almost to pieces the skull of the assassin, who
uttered twice, once in a loud, and once in a broken tone, the words
ALLAH ACKBAR!--God is victorious--and expired at the King's feet.

"Ye are careful warders," said Richard to his archers, in a tone of
scornful reproach, as, aroused by the bustle of what had passed, in
terror and tumult they now rushed into his tent; "watchful sentinels ye
are, to leave me to do such hangman's work with my own hand. Be silent,
all of you, and cease your senseless clamour!--saw ye never a dead Turk
before? Here, cast that carrion out of the camp, strike the head from
the trunk, and stick it on a lance, taking care to turn the face
to Mecca, that he may the easier tell the foul impostor on whose
inspiration he came hither how he has sped on his errand.--For thee, my
swart and silent friend," he added, turning to the Ethiopian--"but how's
this? Thou art wounded--and with a poisoned weapon, I warrant me, for
by force of stab so weak an animal as that could scarce hope to do
more than raze the lion's hide.--Suck the poison from his wound one of
you--the venom is harmless on the lips, though fatal when it mingles
with the blood."

The yeomen looked on each other confusedly and with hesitation, the
apprehension of so strange a danger prevailing with those who feared no
other.

"How now, sirrahs," continued the King, "are you dainty-lipped, or do
you fear death, that you daily thus?"

"Not the death of a man," said Long Allen, to whom the King looked as he
spoke; "but methinks I would not die like a poisoned rat for the sake
of a black chattel there, that is bought and sold in a market like a
Martlemas ox."

"His Grace speaks to men of sucking poison," muttered another yeoman,
"as if he said, 'Go to, swallow a gooseberry!'"

"Nay," said Richard, "I never bade man do that which I would not do
myself."

And without further ceremony, and in spite of the general expostulations
of those around, and the respectful opposition of the Nubian himself,
the King of England applied his lips to the wound of the black
slave, treating with ridicule all remonstrances, and overpowering all
resistance. He had no sooner intermitted his singular occupation, than
the Nubian started from him, and casting a scarf over his arm, intimated
by gestures, as firm in purpose as they were respectful in manner,
his determination not to permit the Monarch to renew so degrading
an employment. Long Allen also interposed, saying that, if it were
necessary to prevent the King engaging again in a treatment of this
kind, his own lips, tongue, and teeth were at the service of the negro
(as he called the Ethiopian), and that he would eat him up bodily,
rather than King Richard's mouth should again approach him.

Neville, who entered with other officers, added his remonstrances.

"Nay, nay, make not a needless halloo about a hart that the hounds have
lost, or a danger when it is over," said the King. "The wound will be a
trifle, for the blood is scarce drawn--an angry cat had dealt a deeper
scratch. And for me, I have but to take a drachm of orvietan by way of
precaution, though it is needless."

 Thus spoke Richard, a little ashamed, perhaps, of his own
condescension, though sanctioned both by humanity and gratitude. But
when Neville continued to make remonstrances on the peril to his royal
person, the King imposed silence on him.

"Peace, I prithee--make no more of it. I did it but to show these
ignorant, prejudiced knaves how they might help each other when these
cowardly caitiffs come against us with sarbacanes and poisoned shafts.
But," he added, "take thee this Nubian to thy quarters, Neville--I have
changed my mind touching him--let him be well cared for. But hark in
thine ear; see that he escapes thee not--there is more in him than
seems. Let him have all liberty, so that he leave not the camp.--And
you, ye beef-devouring, wine-swilling English mastiffs, get ye to your
guard again, and be sure you keep it more warily. Think not you are now
in your own land of fair play, where men speak before they strike, and
shake hands ere they cut throats. Danger in our land walks openly, and
with his blade drawn, and defies the foe whom he means to assault; but
here he challenges you with a silk glove instead of a steel gauntlet,
cuts your throat with the feather of a turtle-dove, stabs you with the
tongue of a priest's brooch, or throttles you with the lace of my lady's
boddice. Go to--keep your eyes open and your mouths shut--drink less,
and look sharper about you; or I will place your huge stomachs on such
short allowance as would pinch the stomach of a patient Scottish man."

The yeomen, abashed and mortified, withdrew to their post, and Neville
was beginning to remonstrate with his master upon the risk of passing
over thus slightly their negligence upon their duty, and the propriety
of an example in a case so peculiarly aggravated as the permitting one
so suspicious as the marabout to approach within dagger's length of
his person, when Richard interrupted him with, "Speak not of it,
Neville--wouldst thou have me avenge a petty risk to myself more
severely than the loss of England's banner? It has been stolen--stolen
by a thief, or delivered up by a traitor, and no blood has been shed
for it.--My sable friend, thou art an expounder of mysteries, saith the
illustrious Soldan--now would I give thee thine own weight in gold, if,
by raising one still blacker than thyself or by what other means thou
wilt, thou couldst show me the thief who did mine honour that wrong.
What sayest thou, ha?"

The mute seemed desirous to speak, but uttered only that imperfect sound
proper to his melancholy condition; then folded his arms, looked on the
King with an eye of intelligence, and nodded in answer to his question.

"How!" said Richard, with joyful impatience. "Wilt thou undertake to
make discovery in this matter?"

The Nubian slave repeated the same motion.

"But how shall we understand each other?" said the King. "Canst thou
write, good fellow?"

The slave again nodded in assent.

"Give him writing-tools," said the King. "They were readier in my
father's tent than mine; but they be somewhere about, if this scorching
climate have not dried up the ink.--Why, this fellow is a jewel--a black
diamond, Neville."

"So please you, my liege," said Neville, "if I might speak my poor mind,
it were ill dealing in this ware. This man must be a wizard, and wizards
deal with the Enemy, who hath most interest to sow tares among the
wheat, and bring dissension into our councils, and--"

"Peace, Neville," said Richard. "Hello to your northern hound when he is
close on the haunch of the deer, and hope to recall him, but seek not to
stop Plantagenet when he hath hope to retrieve his honour."

The slave, who during this discussion had been writing, in which art he
seemed skilful, now arose, and pressing what he had written to his brow,
prostrated himself as usual, ere he delivered it into the King's hands.
The scroll was in French, although their intercourse had hitherto been
conducted by Richard in the lingua franca.

"To Richard, the conquering and invincible King of England, this from
the humblest of his slaves. Mysteries are the sealed caskets of Heaven,
but wisdom may devise means to open the lock. Were your slave stationed
where the leaders of the Christian host were made to pass before him
in order, doubt nothing that if he who did the injury whereof my King
complains shall be among the number, he may be made manifest in his
iniquity, though it be hidden under seven veils."

"Now, by Saint George!" said King Richard, "thou hast spoken most
opportunely.--Neville, thou knowest that when we muster our troops
to-morrow the princes have agreed that, to expiate the affront offered
to England in the theft of her banner, the leaders should pass our new
standard as it floats on Saint George's Mount, and salute it with formal
regard. Believe me, the secret traitor will not dare to absent himself
from an expurgation so solemn, lest his very absence should be matter of
suspicion. There will we place our sable man of counsel, and if his art
can detect the villain, leave me to deal with him."

"My liege," said Neville, with the frankness of an English baron,
"beware what work you begin. Here is the concord of our holy league
unexpectedly renewed--will you, upon such suspicion as a negro slave can
instil, tear open wounds so lately closed? Or will you use the solemn
procession, adopted for the reparation of your honour and establishment
of unanimity amongst the discording princes, as the means of again
finding out new cause of offence, or reviving ancient quarrels? It were
scarce too strong to say this were a breach of the declaration your
Grace made to the assembled Council of the Crusade."

"Neville," said the King, sternly interrupting him, "thy zeal makes thee
presumptuous and unmannerly. Never did I promise to abstain from taking
whatever means were most promising to discover the infamous author of
the attack on my honour. Ere I had done so, I would have renounced my
kingdom, my life. All my declarations were under this necessary and
absolute qualification;--only, if Austria had stepped forth and owned
the injury like a man, I proffered, for the sake of Christendom, to have
forgiven HIM."

"But," continued the baron anxiously, "what hope that this juggling
slave of Saladin will not palter with your Grace?"

"Peace, Neville," said the King; "thou thinkest thyself mighty wise, and
art but a fool. Mind thou my charge touching this fellow; there is
more in him than thy Westmoreland wit can fathom.--And thou, smart and
silent, prepare to perform the feat thou hast promised, and, by the
word of a King, thou shalt choose thine own recompense.--Lo, he writes
again."

The mute accordingly wrote and delivered to the King, with the same form
as before, another slip of paper, containing these words, "The will of
the King is the law to his slave; nor doth it become him to ask guerdon
for discharge of his devoir."

"GUERDON and DEVOIR!" said the King, interrupting himself as he read,
and speaking to Neville in the English tongue with some emphasis on
the words. "These Eastern people will profit by the Crusaders--they are
acquiring the language of chivalry! And see, Neville, how discomposed
that fellow looks! were it not for his colour he would blush. I should
not think it strange if he understood what I say--they are perilous
linguists."

"The poor slave cannot endure your Grace's eye," said Neville; "it is
nothing more."

"Well, but," continued the King, striking the paper with his finger as
he proceeded, "this bold scroll proceeds to say that our trusty mute is
charged with a message from Saladin to the Lady Edith Plantagenet, and
craves means and opportunity to deliver it. What thinkest thou of a
request so modest--ha, Neville?"

"I cannot say," said Neville, "how such freedom may relish with your
Grace; but the lease of the messenger's neck would be a short one, who
should carry such a request to the Soldan on the part of your Majesty."

"Nay, I thank Heaven that I covet none of his sunburnt beauties," said
Richard; "and for punishing this fellow for discharging his master's
errand, and that when he has just saved my life--methinks it were
something too summary. I'll tell thee, Neville, a secret; for although
our sable and mute minister be present, he cannot, thou knowest, tell it
over again, even if he should chance to understand us. I tell thee that,
for this fortnight past, I have been under a strange spell, and I would
I were disenchanted. There has no sooner any one done me good service,
but, lo you, he cancels his interest in me by some deep injury; and,
on the other hand, he who hath deserved death at my hands for some
treachery or some insult, is sure to be the very person of all others
who confers upon me some obligation that overbalances his demerits, and
renders respite of his sentence a debt due from my honour. Thus, thou
seest, I am deprived of the best part of my royal function, since I
can neither punish men nor reward them. Until the influence of this
disqualifying planet be passed away, I will say nothing concerning the
request of this our sable attendant, save that it is an unusually bold
one, and that his best chance of finding grace in our eyes will be to
endeavour to make the discovery which he proposes to achieve in our
behalf. Meanwhile, Neville, do thou look well to him, and let him
be honourably cared for. And hark thee once more," he said, in a
low whisper, "seek out yonder hermit of Engaddi, and bring him to
me forthwith, be he saint or savage, madman or sane. Let me see him
privately."

Neville retired from the royal tent, signing to the Nubian to follow
him, and much surprised at what he had seen and heard, and especially at
the unusual demeanour of the King. In general, no task was so easy as to
discover Richard's immediate course of sentiment and feeling, though
it might, in some cases, be difficult to calculate its duration; for
no weathercock obeyed the changing wind more readily than the King
his gusts of passion. But on the present occasion his manner seemed
unusually constrained and mysterious; nor was it easy to guess whether
displeasure or kindness predominated in his conduct towards his new
dependant, or in the looks with which, from time to time, he regarded
him. The ready service which the King had rendered to counteract the
bad effects of the Nubian's wound might seem to balance the obligation
conferred on him by the slave when he intercepted the blow of the
assassin; but it seemed, as a much longer account remained to be
arranged between them, that the Monarch was doubtful whether the
settlement might leave him, upon the whole, debtor or creditor, and
that, therefore, he assumed in the meantime a neutral demeanour, which
might suit with either character. As for the Nubian, by whatever means
he had acquired the art of writing the European languages, the King
remained convinced that the English tongue at least was unknown to him,
since, having watched him closely during the last part of the interview,
he conceived it impossible for any one understanding a conversation,
of which he was himself the subject, to have so completely avoided the
appearance of taking an interest in it.



CHAPTER XXII.

     Who's there!--Approach--'tis kindly done--
     My learned physician and a friend.
              SIR EUSTACE GREY.

Our narrative retrogrades to a period shortly previous to the incidents
last mentioned, when, as the reader must remember, the unfortunate
Knight of the Leopard, bestowed upon the Arabian physician by King
Richard, rather as a slave than in any other capacity, was exiled
from the camp of the Crusaders, in whose ranks he had so often and so
brilliantly distinguished himself. He followed his new master--for so
he must now term the Hakim--to the Moorish tents which contained his
retinue and his property, with the stupefied feelings of one who, fallen
from the summit of a precipice, and escaping unexpectedly with life, is
just able to drag himself from the fatal spot, but without the power of
estimating the extent of the damage which he has sustained. Arrived at
the tent, he threw himself, without speech of any kind, upon a couch of
dressed buffalo's hide, which was pointed out to him by his conductor,
and hiding his face betwixt his hands, groaned heavily, as if his heart
were on the point of bursting. The physician heard him, as he was giving
orders to his numerous domestics to prepare for their departure the next
morning before daybreak, and, moved with compassion, interrupted his
occupation to sit down, cross-legged, by the side of his couch, and
administer comfort according to the Oriental manner.

"My friend," he said, "be of good comfort; for what saith the poet--it
is better that a man should be the servant of a kind master than the
slave of his own wild passions. Again, be of good courage; because,
whereas Ysouf Ben Yagoube was sold to a king by his brethren, even to
Pharaoh, King of Egypt, thy king hath, on the other hand, bestowed thee
on one who will be to thee as a brother."

Sir Kenneth made an effort to thank the Hakim, but his heart was too
full, and the indistinct sounds which accompanied his abortive attempts
to reply induced the kind physician to desist from his premature
endeavours at consolation. He left his new domestic, or guest, in
quiet, to indulge his sorrows, and having commanded all the necessary
preparations for their departure on the morning, sat down upon the
carpet of the tent, and indulged himself in a moderate repast. After he
had thus refreshed himself, similar viands were offered to the Scottish
knight; but though the slaves let him understand that the next day would
be far advanced ere they would halt for the purpose of refreshment, Sir
Kenneth could not overcome the disgust which he felt against swallowing
any nourishment, and could be prevailed upon to taste nothing, saving a
draught of cold water.

He was awake long after his Arab host had performed his usual devotions
and betaken himself to his repose; nor had sleep visited him at the
hour of midnight, when a movement took place among the domestics, which,
though attended with no speech, and very little noise, made him aware
they were loading the camels and preparing for departure. In the course
of these preparations, the last person who was disturbed, excepting the
physician himself, was the knight of Scotland, whom, about three in the
morning, a sort of major-domo, or master of the household, acquainted
that he must arise. He did so, without further answer, and followed him
into the moonlight, where stood the camels, most of which were already
loaded, and one only remained kneeling until its burden should be
completed.

A little apart from the camels stood a number of horses ready bridled
and saddled, and the Hakim himself, coming forth, mounted on one of them
with as much agility as the grave decorum of his character permitted,
and directed another, which he pointed out, to be led towards Sir
Kenneth. An English officer was in attendance, to escort them through
the camp of the Crusaders, and to ensure their leaving it in safety; and
all was ready for their departure. The pavilion which they had left was,
in the meanwhile, struck with singular dispatch, and the tent-poles and
coverings composed the burden of the last camel--when the physician,
pronouncing solemnly the verse of the Koran, "God be our guide, and
Mohammed our protector, in the desert as in the watered field," the
whole cavalcade was instantly in motion.

In traversing the camp, they were challenged by the various sentinels
who maintained guard there, and suffered to proceed in silence, or with
a muttered curse upon their prophet, as they passed the post of some
more zealous Crusader. At length the last barriers were left behind
them, and the party formed themselves for the march with military
precaution. Two or three horsemen advanced in front as a vanguard;
one or two remained a bow-shot in the rear; and, wherever the ground
admitted, others were detached to keep an outlook on the flanks. In this
manner they proceeded onward; while Sir Kenneth, looking back on the
moonlit camp, might now indeed seem banished, deprived at once of honour
and of liberty, from the glimmering banners under which he had hoped
to gain additional renown, and the tented dwellings of chivalry, of
Christianity, and--of Edith Plantagenet.


The Hakim, who rode by his side, observed, in his usual tone of
sententious consolation, "It is unwise to look back when the journey
lieth forward;" and as he spoke, the horse of the knight made such a
perilous stumble as threatened to add a practical moral to the tale.

The knight was compelled by this hint to give more attention to the
management of his steed, which more than once required the assistance
and support of the check-bridle, although, in other respects, nothing
could be more easy at once, and active, than the ambling pace at which
the animal (which was a mare) proceeded.

"The conditions of that horse," observed the sententious physician, "are
like those of human fortune--seeing that, amidst his most swift and easy
pace, the rider must guard himself against a fall, and that it is when
prosperity is at the highest that our prudence should be awake and
vigilant to prevent misfortune."

The overloaded appetite loathes even the honeycomb, and it is scarce
a wonder that the knight, mortified and harassed with misfortunes and
abasement, became something impatient of hearing his misery made, at
every turn, the ground of proverbs and apothegms, however just and
apposite.

"Methinks," he said, rather peevishly, "I wanted no additional
illustration of the instability of fortune though I would thank thee,
Sir Hakim, for the choice of a steed for me, would the jade but stumble
so effectually as at once to break my neck and her own."

"My brother," answered the Arab sage, with imperturbable gravity, "thou
speakest as one of the foolish. Thou sayest in thy heart that the sage
should have given you, as his guest, the younger and better horse, and
reserved the old one for himself. But know that the defects of the older
steed may be compensated by the energies of the young rider, whereas the
violence of the young horse requires to be moderated by the cold temper
of the older."

So spoke the sage; but neither to this observation did Sir Kenneth
return any answer which could lead to a continuance of their
conversation, and the physician, wearied, perhaps, of administering
comfort to one who would not be comforted, signed to one of his retinue.

"Hassan," he said, "hast thou nothing wherewith to beguile the way?"

Hassan, story-teller and poet by profession, spurred up, upon this
summons, to exercise his calling. "Lord of the palace of life," he said,
addressing the physician, "thou, before whom the angel Azrael spreadeth
his wings for flight--thou, wiser than Solimaun Ben Daoud, upon whose
signet was inscribed the REAL NAME which controls the spirits of the
elements--forbid it, Heaven, that while thou travellest upon the track
of benevolence, bearing healing and hope wherever thou comest, thine own
course should be saddened for lack of the tale and of the song. Behold,
while thy servant is at thy side, he will pour forth the treasures of
his memory, as the fountain sendeth her stream beside the pathway, for
the refreshment or him that walketh thereon."

After this exordium, Hassan uplifted his voice, and began a tale of love
and magic, intermixed with feats of warlike achievement, and ornamented
with abundant quotations from the Persian poets, with whose compositions
the orator seemed familiar. The retinue of the physician, such excepted
as were necessarily detained in attendance on the camels, thronged up
to the narrator, and pressed as close as deference for their master
permitted, to enjoy the delight which the inhabitants of the East have
ever derived from this species of exhibition.

At another time, notwithstanding his imperfect knowledge of the
language, Sir Kenneth might have been interested in the recitation,
which, though dictated by a more extravagant imagination, and
expressed in more inflated and metaphorical language, bore yet a strong
resemblance to the romances of chivalry then so fashionable in Europe.
But as matters stood with him, he was scarcely even sensible that a
man in the centre of the cavalcade recited and sung, in a low tone, for
nearly two hours, modulating his voice to the various moods of passion
introduced into the tale, and receiving, in return, now low murmurs of
applause, now muttered expressions of wonder, now sighs and tears,
and sometimes, what it was far more difficult to extract from such an
audience, a tribute of smiles, and even laughter.

During the recitation, the attention of the exile, however abstracted by
his own deep sorrow, was occasionally awakened by the low wail of a dog,
secured in a wicker enclosure suspended on one of the camels, which, as
an experienced woodsman, he had no hesitation in recognizing to be that
of his own faithful hound; and from the plaintive tone of the animal, he
had no doubt that he was sensible of his master's vicinity, and, in his
way, invoking his assistance for liberty and rescue.

"Alas! poor Roswal," he said, "thou callest for aid and sympathy upon
one in stricter bondage than thou thyself art. I will not seem to heed
thee or return thy affection, since it would serve but to load our
parting with yet more bitterness."

Thus passed the hours of night and the space of dim hazy dawn which
forms the twilight of a Syrian morning. But when the very first line of
the sun's disk began to rise above the level horizon, and when the very
first level ray shot glimmering in dew along the surface of the desert,
which the travellers had now attained, the sonorous voice of El Hakim
himself overpowered and cut short the narrative of the tale-teller,
while he caused to resound along the sands the solemn summons, which the
muezzins thunder at morning from the minaret of every mosque.

"To prayer--to prayer! God is the one God.--To prayer--to prayer!
Mohammed is the Prophet of God.--To prayer--to prayer! Time is flying
from you.--To prayer--to prayer! Judgment is drawing nigh to you."

In an instant each Moslem cast himself from his horse, turned his face
towards Mecca, and performed with sand an imitation of those ablutions,
which were elsewhere required to be made with water, while each
individual, in brief but fervent ejaculations, recommended himself to
the care, and his sins to the forgiveness, of God and the Prophet.

Even Sir Kenneth, whose reason at once and prejudices were offended by
seeing his companions in that which he considered as an act of idolatry,
could not help respecting the sincerity of their misguided zeal, and
being stimulated by their fervour to apply supplications to Heaven in a
purer form, wondering, meanwhile, what new-born feelings could teach
him to accompany in prayer, though with varied invocation, those
very Saracens, whose heathenish worship he had conceived a crime
dishonourable to the land in which high miracles had been wrought, and
where the day-star of redemption had arisen.

The act of devotion, however, though rendered in such strange society,
burst purely from his natural feelings of religious duty, and had its
usual effect in composing the spirits which had been long harassed by
so rapid a succession of calamities. The sincere and earnest approach of
the Christian to the throne of the Almighty teaches the best lesson of
patience under affliction; since wherefore should we mock the Deity with
supplications, when we insult him by murmuring under His decrees?
or how, while our prayers have in every word admitted the vanity and
nothingness of the things of time in comparison to those of eternity,
should we hope to deceive the Searcher of Hearts, by permitting the
world and worldly passions to reassume the reins even immediately after
a solemn address to Heaven! But Sir Kenneth was not of these. He felt
himself comforted and strengthened, and better prepared to execute or
submit to whatever his destiny might call upon him to do or to suffer.

Meanwhile, the party of Saracens regained their saddles, and continued
their route, and the tale-teller, Hassan, resumed the thread of his
narrative; but it was no longer to the same attentive audience. A
horseman, who had ascended some high ground on the right hand of
the little column, had returned on a speedy gallop to El Hakim, and
communicated with him. Four or five more cavaliers had then been
dispatched, and the little band, which might consist of about twenty or
thirty persons, began to follow them with their eyes, as men from whose
gestures, and advance or retreat, they were to augur good or evil.
Hassan, finding his audience inattentive, or being himself attracted by
the dubious appearances on the flank, stinted in his song; and the
march became silent, save when a camel-driver called out to his patient
charge, or some anxious follower of the Hakim communicated with his next
neighbour in a hurried and low whisper.

This suspense continued until they had rounded a ridge, composed of
hillocks of sand, which concealed from their main body the object that
had created this alarm among their scouts. Sir Kenneth could now see,
at the distance of a mile or more, a dark object moving rapidly on the
bosom of the desert, which his experienced eye recognized for a party of
cavalry, much superior to their own in numbers, and, from the thick and
frequent flashes which flung back the level beams of the rising sun, it
was plain that these were Europeans in their complete panoply.

The anxious looks which the horsemen of El Hakim now cast upon their
leader seemed to indicate deep apprehension; while he, with gravity as
undisturbed as when he called his followers to prayer, detached two of
his best-mounted cavaliers, with instructions to approach as closely as
prudence permitted to these travellers of the desert, and observe
more minutely their numbers, their character, and, if possible, their
purpose. The approach of danger, or what was feared as such, was like
a stimulating draught to one in apathy, and recalled Sir Kenneth to
himself and his situation.

"What fear you from these Christian horsemen, for such they seem?" he
said to the Hakim.

"Fear!" said El Hakim, repeating the word disdainfully. "The sage fears
nothing but Heaven, but ever expects from wicked men the worst which
they can do."

"They are Christians," said Sir Kenneth, "and it is the time of
truce--why should you fear a breach of faith?"

"They are the priestly soldiers of the Temple," answered El Hakim,
"whose vow limits them to know neither truce nor faith with the
worshippers of Islam. May the Prophet blight them, both root, branch,
and twig! Their peace is war, and their faith is falsehood. Other
invaders of Palestine have their times and moods of courtesy. The lion
Richard will spare when he has conquered, the eagle Philip will close
his wing when he has stricken a prey, even the Austrian bear will sleep
when he is gorged; but this horde of ever-hungry wolves know neither
pause nor satiety in their rapine. Seest thou not that they are
detaching a party from their main body, and that they take an eastern
direction? Yon are their pages and squires, whom they train up in their
accursed mysteries, and whom, as lighter mounted, they send to cut us
off from our watering-place. But they will be disappointed. I know the
war of the desert yet better than they."

He spoke a few words to his principal officer, and his whole demeanour
and countenance was at once changed from the solemn repose of an Eastern
sage accustomed more to contemplation than to action, into the prompt
and proud expression of a gallant soldier whose energies are roused by
the near approach of a danger which he at once foresees and despises.

To Sir Kenneth's eyes the approaching crisis had a different aspect,
and when Adonbec said to him, "Thou must tarry close by my side," he
answered solemnly in the negative.

"Yonder," he said, "are my comrades in arms--the men in whose society I
have vowed to fight or fall. On their banner gleams the sign of our
most blessed redemption--I cannot fly from the Cross in company with the
Crescent."

"Fool!" said the Hakim; "their first action would be to do thee to
death, were it only to conceal their breach of the truce."

"Of that I must take my chance," replied Sir Kenneth; "but I wear not
the bonds of the infidels an instant longer than I can cast them from
me."

"Then will I compel thee to follow me," said El Hakim.

"Compel!" answered Sir Kenneth angrily. "Wert thou not my benefactor,
or one who has showed will to be such, and were it not that it is to
thy confidence I owe the freedom of these hands, which thou mightst have
loaded with fetters, I would show thee that, unarmed as I am, compulsion
would be no easy task."

"Enough, enough," replied the Arabian physician, "we lose time even when
it is becoming precious."

So saying, he threw his arm aloft, and uttered a loud and shrill cry, as
a signal to his retinue, who instantly dispersed themselves on the face
of the desert, in as many different directions as a chaplet of beads
when the string is broken. Sir Kenneth had no time to note what ensued;
for, at the same instant, the Hakim seized the rein of his steed,
and putting his own to its mettle, both sprung forth at once with the
suddenness of light, and at a pitch of velocity which almost deprived
the Scottish knight of the power of respiration, and left him absolutely
incapable, had he been desirous, to have checked the career of his
guide. Practised as Sir Kenneth was in horsemanship from his earliest
youth, the speediest horse he had ever mounted was a tortoise in
comparison to those of the Arabian sage. They spurned the sand from
behind them; they seemed to devour the desert before them; miles flew
away with minutes--and yet their strength seemed unabated, and their
respiration as free as when they first started upon the wonderful
race. The motion, too, as easy as it was swift, seemed more like flying
through the air than riding on the earth, and was attended with no
unpleasant sensation, save the awe naturally felt by one who is moving
at such astonishing speed, and the difficulty of breathing occasioned by
their passing through the air so rapidly.

It was not until after an hour of this portentous motion, and when all
human pursuit was far, far behind, that the Hakim at length relaxed his
speed, and, slackening the pace of the horses into a hand-gallop, began,
in a voice as composed and even as if he had been walking for the last
hour, a descant upon the excellence of his coursers to the Scot, who,
breathless, half blind, half deaf, and altogether giddy; from the
rapidity of this singular ride, hardly comprehended the words which
flowed so freely from his companion.

"These horses," he said, "are of the breed called the Winged, equal in
speed to aught excepting the Borak of the Prophet. They are fed on the
golden barley of Yemen, mixed with spices and with a small portion of
dried sheep's flesh. Kings have given provinces to possess them, and
their age is active as their youth. Thou, Nazarene, art the first, save
a true believer, that ever had beneath his loins one of this noble
race, a gift of the Prophet himself to the blessed Ali, his kinsman and
lieutenant, well called the Lion of God. Time lays his touch so lightly
on these generous steeds, that the mare on which thou now sittest has
seen five times five years pass over her, yet retains her pristine speed
and vigour, only that in the career the support of a bridle, managed by
a hand more experienced than thine, hath now become necessary. May the
Prophet be blessed, who hath bestowed on the true believers the means of
advance and retreat, which causeth their iron-clothed enemies to be
worn out with their own ponderous weight! How the horses of yonder dog
Templars must have snorted and blown, when they had toiled fetlock-deep
in the desert for one-twentieth part of the space which these brave
steeds have left behind them, without one thick pant, or a drop of
moisture upon their sleek and velvet coats!"

The Scottish knight, who had now begun to recover his breath and powers
of attention, could not help acknowledging in his heart the advantage
possessed by these Eastern warriors in a race of animals, alike proper
for advance or retreat, and so admirably adapted to the level and sandy
deserts of Arabia and Syria. But he did not choose to augment the pride
of the Moslem by acquiescing in his proud claim of superiority, and
therefore suffered the conversation to drop, and, looking around him,
could now, at the more moderate pace at which they moved, distinguish
that he was in a country not unknown to him.

The blighted borders and sullen waters of the Dead Sea, the ragged and
precipitous chain of mountains arising on the left, the two or three
palms clustered together, forming the single green speck on the bosom
of the waste wilderness--objects which, once seen, were scarcely to be
forgotten--showed to Sir Kenneth that they were approaching the fountain
called the Diamond of the Desert, which had been the scene of his
interview on a former occasion with the Saracen Emir Sheerkohf, or
Ilderim. In a few minutes they checked their horses beside the spring,
and the Hakim invited Sir Kenneth to descend from horseback and repose
himself as in a place of safety. They unbridled their steeds, El Hakim
observing that further care of them was unnecessary, since they would be
speedily joined by some of the best mounted among his slaves, who would
do what further was needful.

"Meantime," he said, spreading some food on the grass, "eat and drink,
and be not discouraged. Fortune may raise up or abase the ordinary
mortal, but the sage and the soldier should have minds beyond her
control."

The Scottish knight endeavoured to testify his thanks by showing himself
docile; but though he strove to eat out of complaisance, the singular
contrast between his present situation and that which he had occupied on
the same spot when the envoy of princes and the victor in combat,
came like a cloud over his mind, and fasting, lassitude, and fatigue
oppressed his bodily powers. El Hakim examined his hurried pulse, his
red and inflamed eye, his heated hand, and his shortened respiration.

"The mind," he said, "grows wise by watching, but her sister the body,
of coarser materials, needs the support of repose. Thou must sleep; and
that thou mayest do so to refreshment, thou must take a draught mingled
with this elixir."

He drew from his bosom a small crystal vial, cased in silver
filigree-work, and dropped into a little golden drinking-cup a small
portion of a dark-coloured fluid.

"This," he said, "is one of those productions which Allah hath sent
on earth for a blessing, though man's weakness and wickedness have
sometimes converted it into a curse. It is powerful as the wine-cup of
the Nazarene to drop the curtain on the sleepless eye, and to relieve
the burden of the overloaded bosom; but when applied to the purposes of
indulgence and debauchery, it rends the nerves, destroys the strength,
weakens the intellect, and undermines life. But fear not thou to use
its virtues in the time of need, for the wise man warms him by the same
firebrand with which the madman burneth the tent." [Some preparation of
opium seems to be intimated.]

"I have seen too much of thy skill, sage Hakim," said Sir Kenneth, "to
debate thine hest;" and swallowed the narcotic, mingled as it was with
some water from the spring, then wrapped him in the haik, or Arab cloak,
which had been fastened to his saddle-pommel, and, according to the
directions of the physician, stretched himself at ease in the shade to
await the promised repose. Sleep came not at first, but in her stead
a train of pleasing yet not rousing or awakening sensations. A state
ensued in which, still conscious of his own identity and his own
condition, the knight felt enabled to consider them not only without
alarm and sorrow, but as composedly as he might have viewed the story
of his misfortunes acted upon a stage--or rather as a disembodied spirit
might regard the transactions of its past existence. From this state
of repose, amounting almost to apathy respecting the past, his thoughts
were carried forward to the future, which, in spite of all that existed
to overcloud the prospect, glittered with such hues as, under much
happier auspices, his unstimulated imagination had not been able to
produce, even in its most exalted state. Liberty, fame, successful love,
appeared to be the certain and not very distant prospect of the enslaved
exile, the dishonoured knight, even of the despairing lover who had
placed his hopes of happiness so far beyond the prospect of chance, in
her wildest possibilities, serving to countenance his wishes. Gradually
as the intellectual sight became overclouded, these gay visions became
obscure, like the dying hues of sunset, until they were at last lost in
total oblivion; and Sir Kenneth lay extended at the feet of El Hakim, to
all appearance, but for his deep respiration, as inanimate a corpse as
if life had actually departed.



CHAPTER XXIII.

     'Mid these wild scenes Enchantment waves her hand,
     To change the face of the mysterious land;
     Till the bewildering scenes around us seem
     The Vain productions of a feverish dream.
        ASTOLPHO, A ROMANCE.

When the Knight of the Leopard awoke from his long and profound repose,
he found himself in circumstances so different from those in which
he had lain down to sleep, that he doubted whether he was not still
dreaming, or whether the scene had not been changed by magic. Instead of
the damp grass, he lay on a couch of more than Oriental luxury; and
some kind hands had, during his repose, stripped him of the cassock of
chamois which he wore under his armour, and substituted a night-dress of
the finest linen and a loose gown of silk. He had been canopied only by
the palm-trees of the desert, but now he lay beneath a silken pavilion,
which blazed with the richest colours of the Chinese loom, while a
slight curtain of gauze, displayed around his couch, was calculated to
protect his repose from the insects, to which he had, ever since his
arrival in these climates, been a constant and passive prey. He looked
around, as if to convince himself that he was actually awake; and all
that fell beneath his eye partook of the splendour of his dormitory.
A portable bath of cedar, lined with silver, was ready for use, and
steamed with the odours which had been used in preparing it. On a small
stand of ebony beside the couch stood a silver vase, containing sherbet
of the most exquisite quality, cold as snow, and which the thirst that
followed the use of the strong narcotic rendered peculiarly delicious.
Still further to dispel the dregs of intoxication which it had left
behind, the knight resolved to use the bath, and experienced in doing
so a delightful refreshment. Having dried himself with napkins of the
Indian wool, he would willingly have resumed his own coarse garments,
that he might go forth to see whether the world was as much changed
without as within the place of his repose. These, however, were
nowhere to be seen, but in their place he found a Saracen dress of
rich materials, with sabre and poniard, and all befitting an emir
of distinction. He was able to suggest no motive to himself for this
exuberance of care, excepting a suspicion that these attentions were
intended to shake him in his religious profession--as indeed it was well
known that the high esteem of the European knowledge and courage made
the Soldan unbounded in his gifts to those who, having become his
prisoners, had been induced to take the turban. Sir Kenneth, therefore,
crossing himself devoutly, resolved to set all such snares at defiance;
and that he might do so the more firmly, conscientiously determined to
avail himself as moderately as possible of the attentions and luxuries
thus liberally heaped upon him. Still, however, he felt his head
oppressed and sleepy; and aware, too, that his undress was not fit for
appearing abroad, he reclined upon the couch, and was again locked in
the arms of slumber.

But this time his rest was not unbroken, for he was awakened by the
voice of the physician at the door of the tent, inquiring after his
health, and whether he had rested sufficiently. "May I enter your tent?"
he concluded, "for the curtain is drawn before the entrance."

"The master," replied Sir Kenneth, determined to show that he was not
surprised into forgetfulness of his own condition, "need demand no
permission to enter the tent of the slave."

"But if I come not as a master?" said El Hakim, still without entering.

"The physician," answered the knight, "hath free access to the bedside
of his patient."

"Neither come I now as a physician," replied El Hakim; "and therefore I
still request permission, ere I come under the covering of thy tent."

"Whoever comes as a friend," said Sir Kenneth, "and such thou hast
hitherto shown thyself to me, the habitation of the friend is ever open
to him."

"Yet once again," said the Eastern sage, after the periphrastical manner
of his countrymen, "supposing that I come not as a friend?"

"Come as thou wilt," said the Scottish knight, somewhat impatient of
this circumlocution; "be what thou wilt--thou knowest well it is neither
in my power nor my inclination to refuse thee entrance."

"I come, then," said El Hakim, "as your ancient foe, but a fair and a
generous one."

He entered as he spoke; and when he stood before the bedside of
Sir Kenneth, the voice continued to be that of Adonbec, the Arabian
physician, but the form, dress, and features were those of Ilderim
of Kurdistan, called Sheerkohf. Sir Kenneth gazed upon him as if
he expected the vision to depart, like something created by his
imagination.

"Doth it so surprise thee," said Ilderim, "and thou an approved warrior,
to see that a soldier knows somewhat of the art of healing? I say to
thee, Nazarene, that an accomplished cavalier should know how to dress
his steed, as well as how to ride him; how to forge his sword upon the
stithy, as well as how to use it in battle; how to burnish his arms, as
well as how to wear them; and, above all, how to cure wounds, as well as
how to inflict them."

As he spoke, the Christian knight repeatedly shut his eyes, and while
they remained closed, the idea of the Hakim, with his long, flowing
dark robes, high Tartar cap, and grave gestures was present to
his imagination; but so soon as he opened them, the graceful and
richly-gemmed turban, the light hauberk of steel rings entwisted with
silver, which glanced brilliantly as it obeyed every inflection of the
body, the features freed from their formal expression, less swarthy, and
no longer shadowed by the mass of hair (now limited to a well-trimmed
beard), announced the soldier and not the sage.

"Art thou still so much surprised," said the Emir, "and hast thou walked
in the world with such little observance, as to wonder that men are not
always what they seem? Thou thyself--art thou what thou seemest?"

"No, by Saint Andrew!" exclaimed the knight; "for to the whole Christian
camp I seem a traitor, and I know myself to be a true though an erring
man."

"Even so I judged thee," said Ilderim; "and as we had eaten salt
together, I deemed myself bound to rescue thee from death and contumely.
But wherefore lie you still on your couch, since the sun is high in
the heavens? or are the vestments which my sumpter-camels have afforded
unworthy of your wearing?"

"Not unworthy, surely, but unfitting for it," replied the Scot. "Give
me the dress of a slave, noble Ilderim, and I will don it with pleasure;
but I cannot brook to wear the habit of the free Eastern warrior with
the turban of the Moslem."

"Nazarene," answered the Emir, "thy nation so easily entertain suspicion
that it may well render themselves suspected. Have I not told thee that
Saladin desires no converts saving those whom the holy Prophet shall
dispose to submit themselves to his law? violence and bribery are
alike alien to his plan for extending the true faith. Hearken to me,
my brother. When the blind man was miraculously restored to sight, the
scales dropped from his eyes at the Divine pleasure. Think'st thou that
any earthly leech could have removed them? No. Such mediciner might have
tormented the patient with his instruments, or perhaps soothed him with
his balsams and cordials, but dark as he was must the darkened man have
remained; and it is even so with the blindness of the understanding. If
there be those among the Franks who, for the sake of worldly lucre, have
assumed the turban of the Prophet, and followed the laws of Islam, with
their own consciences be the blame. Themselves sought out the bait; it
was not flung to them by the Soldan. And when they shall hereafter be
sentenced, as hypocrites, to the lowest gulf of hell, below Christian
and Jew, magician and idolater, and condemned to eat the fruit of the
tree Yacoun, which is the heads of demons, to themselves, not to the
Soldan, shall their guilt and their punishment be attributed. Wherefore
wear, without doubt or scruple, the vesture prepared for you, since, if
you proceed to the camp of Saladin, your own native dress will expose
you to troublesome observation, and perhaps to insult."

"IF I go to the camp of Saladin?" said Sir Kenneth, repeating the words
of the Emir; "alas! am I a free agent, and rather must I NOT go wherever
your pleasure carries me?"

"Thine own will may guide thine own motions," said the Emir, "as freely
as the wind which moveth the dust of the desert in what direction it
chooseth. The noble enemy who met and well-nigh mastered my sword cannot
become my slave like him who has crouched beneath it. If wealth and
power would tempt thee to join our people, I could ensure thy possessing
them; but the man who refused the favours of the Soldan when the axe was
at his head, will not, I fear, now accept them, when I tell him he has
his free choice."

"Complete your generosity, noble Emir," said Sir Kenneth, "by forbearing
to show me a mode of requital which conscience forbids me to comply
with. Permit me rather to express, as bound in courtesy, my gratitude
for this most chivalrous bounty, this undeserved generosity."

"Say not undeserved," replied the Emir Ilderim. "Was it not through thy
conversation, and thy account of the beauties which grace the court
of the Melech Ric, that I ventured me thither in disguise, and thereby
procured a sight the most blessed that I have ever enjoyed--that I ever
shall enjoy, until the glories of Paradise beam on my eyes?"

"I understand you not," said Sir Kenneth, colouring alternately, and
turning pale, as one who felt that the conversation was taking a tone of
the most painful delicacy.

"Not understand me!" exclaimed the Emir. "If the sight I saw in the tent
of King Richard escaped thine observation, I will account it duller than
the edge of a buffoon's wooden falchion. True, thou wert under sentence
of death at the time; but, in my case, had my head been dropping from
the trunk, the last strained glances of my eyeballs had distinguished
with delight such a vision of loveliness, and the head would have rolled
itself towards the incomparable houris, to kiss with its quivering
lips the hem of their vestments. Yonder royalty of England, who for
her superior loveliness deserves to be Queen of the universe--what
tenderness in her blue eye, what lustre in her tresses of dishevelled
gold! By the tomb of the Prophet, I scarce think that the houri who
shall present to me the diamond cup of immortality will deserve so warm
a caress!"

"Saracen," said Sir Kenneth sternly, "thou speakest of the wife of
Richard of England, of whom men think not and speak not as a woman to be
won, but as a Queen to be revered."

"I cry you mercy," said the Saracen. "I had forgotten your superstitious
veneration for the sex, which you consider rather fit to be wondered at
and worshipped than wooed and possessed. I warrant, since thou exactest
such profound respect to yonder tender piece of frailty, whose every
motion, step, and look bespeaks her very woman, less than absolute
adoration must not be yielded to her of the dark tresses and nobly
speaking eye. SHE indeed, I will allow, hath in her noble port and
majestic mien something at once pure and firm; yet even she, when
pressed by opportunity and a forward lover, would, I warrant thee, thank
him in her heart rather for treating her as a mortal than as a goddess."

"Respect the kinswoman of Coeur de Lion!" said Sir Kenneth, in a tone of
unrepressed anger.

"Respect her!" answered the Emir in scorn; "by the Caaba, and if I do,
it shall be rather as the bride of Saladin."

"The infidel Soldan is unworthy to salute even a spot that has been
pressed by the foot of Edith Plantagenet!" exclaimed the Christian,
springing from his couch.

"Ha! what said the Giaour?" exclaimed the Emir, laying his hand on his
poniard hilt, while his forehead glowed like glancing copper, and the
muscles of his lips and cheeks wrought till each curl of his beard
seemed to twist and screw itself, as if alive with instinctive wrath.
But the Scottish knight, who had stood the lion-anger of Richard, was
unappalled at the tigerlike mood of the chafed Saracen.

"What I have said," continued Sir Kenneth, with folded arms and
dauntless look, "I would, were my hands loose, maintain on foot or
horseback against all mortals; and would hold it not the most memorable
deed of my life to support it with my good broadsword against a score
of these sickles and bodkins," pointing at the curved sabre and small
poniard of the Emir.

The Saracen recovered his composure as the Christian spoke, so far as
to withdraw his hand from his weapon, as if the motion had been without
meaning, but still continued in deep ire.

"By the sword of the Prophet," he said, "which is the key both of heaven
and hell, he little values his own life, brother, who uses the language
thou dost! Believe me, that were thine hands loose, as thou term'st it,
one single true believer would find them so much to do that thou wouldst
soon wish them fettered again in manacles of iron."

"Sooner would I wish them hewn off by the shoulder-blades!" replied Sir
Kenneth.

"Well. Thy hands are bound at present," said the Saracen, in a more
amicable tone--"bound by thine own gentle sense of courtesy; nor have
I any present purpose of setting them at liberty. We have proved each
other's strength and courage ere now, and we may again meet in a fair
field--and shame befall him who shall be the first to part from his
foeman! But now we are friends, and I look for aid from thee rather than
hard terms or defiances."

"We ARE friends," repeated the knight; and there was a pause, during
which the fiery Saracen paced the tent, like the lion, who, after
violent irritation, is said to take that method of cooling the
distemperature of his blood, ere he stretches himself to repose in his
den. The colder European remained unaltered in posture and aspect; yet
he, doubtless, was also engaged in subduing the angry feelings which had
been so unexpectedly awakened.

"Let us reason of this calmly," said the Saracen. "I am a physician, as
thou knowest, and it is written that he who would have his wound cured
must not shrink when the leech probes and tests it. Seest thou, I am
about to lay my finger on the sore. Thou lovest this kinswoman of the
Melech Ric. Unfold the veil that shrouds thy thoughts--or unfold it not
if thou wilt, for mine eyes see through its coverings."

"I LOVED her," answered Sir Kenneth, after a pause, "as a man loves
Heaven's grace, and sued for her favour like a sinner for Heaven's
pardon."

"And you love her no longer?" said the Saracen.

"Alas," answered Sir Kenneth, "I am no longer worthy to love her. I pray
thee cease this discourse--thy words are poniards to me."

"Pardon me but a moment," continued Ilderim. "When thou, a poor and
obscure soldier, didst so boldly and so highly fix thine affection, tell
me, hadst thou good hope of its issue?"

"Love exists not without hope," replied the knight; "but mine was as
nearly allied to despair as that of the sailor swimming for his life,
who, as he surmounts billow after billow, catches by intervals some
gleam of the distant beacon, which shows him there is land in sight,
though his sinking heart and wearied limbs assure him that he shall
never reach it."

"And now," said Ilderim, "these hopes are sunk--that solitary light is
quenched for ever?"

"For ever," answered Sir Kenneth, in the tone of an echo from the bosom
of a ruined sepulchre.

"Methinks," said the Saracen, "if all thou lackest were some such
distant meteoric glimpse of happiness as thou hadst formerly, thy
beacon-light might be rekindled, thy hope fished up from the ocean
in which it has sunk, and thou thyself, good knight, restored to the
exercise and amusement of nourishing thy fantastic fashion upon a diet
as unsubstantial as moonlight; for, if thou stood'st tomorrow fair in
reputation as ever thou wert, she whom thou lovest will not be less the
daughter of princes and the elected bride of Saladin."

"I would it so stood," said the Scot, "and if I did not--"

He stopped short, like a man who is afraid of boasting under
circumstances which did not permit his being put to the test. The
Saracen smiled as he concluded the sentence.

"Thou wouldst challenge the Soldan to single combat?" said he.

"And if I did," said Sir Kenneth haughtily, "Saladin's would neither be
the first nor the best turban that I have couched lance at."

"Ay, but methinks the Soldan might regard it as too unequal a mode of
perilling the chance of a royal bride and the event of a great war,"
said the Emir.

"He may be met with in the front of battle," said the knight, his eyes
gleaming with the ideas which such a thought inspired.

"He has been ever found there," said Ilderim; "nor is it his wont to
turn his horse's head from any brave encounter. But it was not of the
Soldan that I meant to speak. In a word, if it will content thee to be
placed in such reputation as may be attained by detection of the
thief who stole the Banner of England, I can put thee in a fair way of
achieving this task--that is, if thou wilt be governed; for what says
Lokman, 'If the child would walk, the nurse must lead him; if the
ignorant would understand, the wise must instruct.'"

"And thou art wise, Ilderim," said the Scot--"wise though a Saracen, and
generous though an infidel. I have witnessed that thou art both.
Take, then, the guidance of this matter; and so thou ask nothing of
me contrary to my loyalty and my Christian faith, I, will obey thee
punctually. Do what thou hast said, and take my life when it is
accomplished."

"Listen thou to me, then," said the Saracen. "Thy noble hound is now
recovered, by the blessing of that divine medicine which healeth man and
beast; and by his sagacity shall those who assailed him be discovered."

"Ha!" said the knight, "methinks I comprehend thee. I was dull not to
think of this!"

"But tell me," added the Emir, "hast thou any followers or retainers in
the camp by whom the animal may be known?"

"I dismissed," said Sir Kenneth, "my old attendant, thy patient, with a
varlet that waited on him, at the time when I expected to suffer death,
giving him letters for my friends in Scotland; there are none other to
whom the dog is familiar. But then my own person is well known--my very
speech will betray me, in a camp where I have played no mean part for
many months."

"Both he and thou shalt be disguised, so as to escape even close
examination. I tell thee," said the Saracen, "that not thy brother in
arms--not thy brother in blood--shall discover thee, if thou be guided
by my counsels. Thou hast seen me do matters more difficult--he that can
call the dying from the darkness of the shadow of death can easily cast
a mist before the eyes of the living. But mark me: there is still the
condition annexed to this service--that thou deliver a letter of Saladin
to the niece of the Melech Ric, whose name is as difficult to our
Eastern tongue and lips, as her beauty is delightful to our eyes."

Sir Kenneth paused before he answered, and the Saracen observing his
hesitation, demanded of him, "if he feared to undertake this message?"

"Not if there were death in the execution," said Sir Kenneth. "I do but
pause to consider whether it consists with my honour to bear the letter
of the Soldan, or with that of the Lady Edith to receive it from a
heathen prince."

"By the head of Mohammed, and by the honour of a soldier--by the tomb
at Mecca, and by the soul of my father," said the Emir, "I swear to thee
that the letter is written in all honour and respect. The song of the
nightingale will sooner blight the rose-bower she loves than will the
words of the Soldan offend the ears of the lovely kinswoman of England."

"Then," said the knight, "I will bear the Soldan's letter faithfully, as
if I were his born vassal--understanding, that beyond this simple act
of service, which I will render with fidelity, from me of all men he can
least expect mediation or advice in this his strange love-suit."

"Saladin is noble," answered the Emir, "and will not spur a generous
horse to a leap which he cannot achieve. Come with me to my tent,"
he added, "and thou shalt be presently equipped with a disguise as
unsearchable as midnight, so thou mayest walk the camp of the Nazarenes
as if thou hadst on thy finger the signet of Giaougi." [Perhaps the same
with Gyges.]



CHAPTER XXIV

     A grain of dust
     Soiling our cup, will make our sense reject
     Fastidiously the draught which we did thirst for;
     A rusted nail, placed near the faithful compass,
     Will sway it from the truth, and wreck the argosy.
     Even this small cause of anger and disgust
     Will break the bonds of amity 'mongst princes,
     And wreck their noblest purposes.
                  THE CRUSADE.

The reader can now have little doubt who the Ethiopian slave really was,
with what purpose he had sought Richard's camp, and wherefore and
with what hope he now stood close to the person of that Monarch, as,
surrounded by his valiant peers of England and Normandy, Coeur de Lion
stood on the summit of Saint George's Mount, with the Banner of England
by his side, borne by the most goodly person in the army, being his own
natural brother, William with the Long Sword, Earl of Salisbury, the
offspring of Henry the Second's amour with the celebrated Rosamond of
Woodstock.

From several expressions in the King's conversation with Neville on the
preceding day, the Nubian was left in anxious doubt whether his disguise
had not been penetrated, especially as that the King seemed to be aware
in what manner the agency of the dog was expected to discover the thief
who stole the banner, although the circumstance of such an animal's
having been wounded on the occasion had been scarce mentioned in
Richard's presence. Nevertheless, as the King continued to treat him
in no other manner than his exterior required, the Nubian remained
uncertain whether he was or was not discovered, and determined not to
throw his disguise aside voluntarily.

Meanwhile, the powers of the various Crusading princes, arrayed under
their royal and princely leaders, swept in long order around the base
of the little mound; and as those of each different country passed by,
their commanders advanced a step or two up the hill, and made a signal
of courtesy to Richard and to the Standard of England, "in sign of
regard and amity," as the protocol of the ceremony heedfully expressed
it, "not of subjection or vassalage." The spiritual dignitaries, who in
those days veiled not their bonnets to created being, bestowed on the
King and his symbol of command their blessing instead of rendering
obeisance.

Thus the long files marched on, and, diminished as they were by so many
causes, appeared still an iron host, to whom the conquest of Palestine
might seem an easy task. The soldiers, inspired by the consciousness of
united strength, sat erect in their steel saddles; while it seemed that
the trumpets sounded more cheerfully shrill, and the steeds, refreshed
by rest and provender, chafed on the bit, and trod the ground more
proudly. On they passed, troop after troop, banners waving, spears
glancing, plumes dancing, in long perspective--a host composed of
different nations, complexions, languages, arms, and appearances, but
all fired, for the time, with the holy yet romantic purpose of rescuing
the distressed daughter of Zion from her thraldom, and redeeming the
sacred earth, which more than mortal had trodden, from the yoke of the
unbelieving pagan. And it must be owned that if, in other circumstances,
the species of courtesy rendered to the King of England by so many
warriors, from whom he claimed no natural allegiance, had in it
something that might have been thought humiliating, yet the nature and
cause of the war was so fitted to his pre-eminently chivalrous character
and renowned feats in arms, that claims which might elsewhere have been
urged were there forgotten, and the brave did willing homage to the
bravest, in an expedition where the most undaunted and energetic courage
was necessary to success.

The good King was seated on horseback about half way up the mount, a
morion on his head, surmounted by a crown, which left his manly features
exposed to public view, as, with cool and considerate eye, he perused
each rank as it passed him, and returned the salutation of the leaders.
His tunic was of sky-coloured velvet, covered with plates of silver, and
his hose of crimson silk, slashed with cloth of gold. By his side stood
the seeming Ethiopian slave, holding the noble dog in a leash, such as
was used in woodcraft. It was a circumstance which attracted no notice,
for many of the princes of the Crusade had introduced black slaves
into their household, in imitation of the barbarous splendour of the
Saracens. Over the King's head streamed the large folds of the banner,
and, as he looked to it from time to time, he seemed to regard a
ceremony, indifferent to himself personally, as important, when
considered as atoning an indignity offered to the kingdom which he
ruled. In the background, and on the very summit of the Mount, a wooden
turret, erected for the occasion, held the Queen Berengaria and the
principal ladies of the Court. To this the King looked from time to
time; and then ever and anon his eyes were turned on the Nubian and the
dog, but only when such leaders approached, as, from circumstances of
previous ill-will, he suspected of being accessory to the theft of the
standard, or whom he judged capable of a crime so mean.

Thus, he did not look in that direction when Philip Augustus of France
approached at the head of his splendid troops of Gallic chivalry---nay,
he anticipated the motions of the French King, by descending the Mount
as the latter came up the ascent, so that they met in the middle space,
and blended their greetings so gracefully that it appeared they met in
fraternal equality. The sight of the two greatest princes in Europe,
in rank at once and power, thus publicly avowing their concord, called
forth bursts of thundering acclaim from the Crusading host at many miles
distance, and made the roving Arab scouts of the desert alarm the camp
of Saladin with intelligence that the army of the Christians was in
motion. Yet who but the King of kings can read the hearts of monarchs?
Under this smooth show of courtesy, Richard nourished displeasure and
suspicion against Philip, and Philip meditated withdrawing himself and
his host from the army of the Cross, and leaving Richard to accomplish
or fail in the enterprise with his own unassisted forces.

Richard's demeanour was different when the dark-armed knights and
squires of the Temple chivalry approached--men with countenances bronzed
to Asiatic blackness by the suns of Palestine, and the admirable state
of whose horses and appointments far surpassed even that of the choicest
troops of France and England. The King cast a hasty glance aside; but
the Nubian stood quiet, and his trusty dog sat at his feet, watching,
with a sagacious yet pleased look, the ranks which now passed before
them. The King's look turned again on the chivalrous Templars, as the
Grand Master, availing himself of his mingled character, bestowed his
benediction on Richard as a priest, instead of doing him reverence as a
military leader.

"The misproud and amphibious caitiff puts the monk upon me," said
Richard to the Earl of Salisbury. "But, Longsword, we will let it pass.
A punctilio must not lose Christendom the services of these experienced
lances, because their victories have rendered them overweening. Lo you,
here comes our valiant adversary, the Duke of Austria. Mark his manner
and bearing, Longsword--and thou, Nubian, let the hound have full view
of him. By Heaven, he brings his buffoons along with him!"

In fact, whether from habit, or, which is more likely, to intimate
contempt of the ceremonial he was about to comply with, Leopold was
attended by his SPRUCH-SPRECHER and his jester; and as he advanced
towards Richard, he whistled in what he wished to be considered as an
indifferent manner, though his heavy features evinced the sullenness,
mixed with the fear, with which a truant schoolboy may be seen to
approach his master. As the reluctant dignitary made, with discomposed
and sulky look, the obeisance required, the SPRUCH-SPRECHER shook his
baton, and proclaimed, like a herald, that, in what he was now doing,
the Archduke of Austria was not to be held derogating from the rank and
privileges of a sovereign prince; to which the jester answered with a
sonorous AMEN, which provoked much laughter among the bystanders.

King Richard looked more than once at the Nubian and his dog; but
the former moved not, nor did the latter strain at the leash, so
that Richard said to the slave with some scorn, "Thy success in this
enterprise, my sable friend, even though thou hast brought thy hound's
sagacity to back thine own, will not, I fear, place thee high in the
rank of wizards, or much augment thy merits towards our person."

The Nubian answered, as usual, only by a lowly obeisance.

Meantime the troops of the Marquis of Montserrat next passed in order
before the King of England. That powerful and wily baron, to make the
greater display of his forces, had divided them into two bodies. At the
head of the first, consisting of his vassals and followers, and levied
from his Syrian possessions, came his brother Enguerrand; and he himself
followed, leading on a gallant band of twelve hundred Stradiots, a kind
of light cavalry raised by the Venetians in their Dalmatian possessions,
and of which they had entrusted the command to the Marquis, with whom
the republic had many bonds of connection. These Stradiots were clothed
in a fashion partly European, but partaking chiefly of the Eastern
fashion. They wore, indeed, short hauberks, but had over them
party-coloured tunics of rich stuffs, with large wide pantaloons and
half-boots. On their heads were straight upright caps, similar to those
of the Greeks; and they carried small round targets, bows and arrows,
scimitars, and poniards. They were mounted on horses carefully selected,
and well maintained at the expense of the State of Venice; their saddles
and appointments resembled those of the Turks, and they rode in the same
manner, with short stirrups and upon a high seat. These troops were
of great use in skirmishing with the Arabs, though unable to engage in
close combat, like the iron-sheathed men-at-arms of Western and Northern
Europe.

Before this goodly band came Conrade, in the same garb with the
Stradiots, but of such rich stuff that he seemed to blaze with gold
and silver, and the milk-white plume fastened in his cap by a clasp of
diamonds seemed tall enough to sweep the clouds. The noble steed which
he reined bounded and caracoled, and displayed his spirit and agility
in a manner which might have troubled a less admirable horseman than
the Marquis, who gracefully ruled him with the one hand, while the other
displayed the baton, whose predominancy over the ranks which he led
seemed equally absolute. Yet his authority over the Stradiots was more
in show than in substance; for there paced beside him, on an ambling
palfrey of soberest mood, a little old man, dressed entirely in black,
without beard or moustaches, and having an appearance altogether mean
and insignificant when compared with the blaze of splendour around
him. But this mean-looking old man was one of those deputies whom the
Venetian government sent into camps to overlook the conduct of the
generals to whom the leading was consigned, and to maintain that jealous
system of espial and control which had long distinguished the policy of
the republic.

Conrade, who, by cultivating Richard's humour, had attained a certain
degree of favour with him, no sooner was come within his ken than the
King of England descended a step or two to meet him, exclaiming, at the
same time, "Ha, Lord Marquis, thou at the head of the fleet Stradiots,
and thy black shadow attending thee as usual, whether the sun shines or
not! May not one ask thee whether the rule of the troops remains with
the shadow or the substance?"

Conrade was commencing his reply with a smile, when Roswal, the noble
hound, uttering a furious and savage yell, sprung forward. The Nubian,
at the same time, slipped the leash, and the hound, rushing on, leapt
upon Conrade's noble charger, and, seizing the Marquis by the throat,
pulled him down from the saddle. The plumed rider lay rolling on the
sand, and the frightened horse fled in wild career through the camp.

"Thy hound hath pulled down the right quarry, I warrant him," said
the King to the Nubian, "and I vow to Saint George he is a stag of ten
tynes! Pluck the dog off; lest he throttle him."

The Ethiopian, accordingly, though not without difficulty, disengaged
the dog from Conrade, and fastened him up, still highly excited, and
struggling in the leash. Meanwhile many crowded to the spot, especially
followers of Conrade and officers of the Stradiots, who, as they
saw their leader lie gazing wildly on the sky, raised him up amid a
tumultuary cry of "Cut the slave and his hound to pieces!"

But the voice of Richard, loud and sonorous, was heard clear above all
other exclamations. "He dies the death who injures the hound! He hath
but done his duty, after the sagacity with which God and nature have
endowed the brave animal.--Stand forward for a false traitor, thou
Conrade, Marquis of Montserrat! I impeach thee of treason."

Several of the Syrian leaders had now come up, and Conrade--vexation,
and shame, and confusion struggling with passion in his manner and
voice--exclaimed, "What means this? With what am I charged? Why this
base usage and these reproachful terms? Is this the league of concord
which England renewed but so lately?"

"Are the Princes of the Crusade turned hares or deers in the eyes of
King Richard that he should slip hounds on them?" said the sepulchral
voice of the Grand Master of the Templars.

"It must be some singular accident--some fatal mistake," said Philip of
France, who rode up at the same moment.

"Some deceit of the Enemy," said the Archbishop of Tyre.

"A stratagem of the Saracens," cried Henry of Champagne. "It were well
to hang up the dog, and put the slave to the torture."

"Let no man lay hand upon them," said Richard, "as he loves his own
life! Conrade, stand forth, if thou darest, and deny the accusation
which this mute animal hath in his noble instinct brought against thee,
of injury done to him, and foul scorn to England!"

"I never touched the banner," said Conrade hastily.

"Thy words betray thee, Conrade!" said Richard, "for how didst thou
know, save from conscious guilt, that the question is concerning the
banner?"

"Hast thou then not kept the camp in turmoil on that and no other
score?" answered Conrade; "and dost thou impute to a prince and an ally
a crime which, after all, was probably committed by some paltry
felon for the sake of the gold thread? Or wouldst thou now impeach a
confederate on the credit of a dog?"

By this time the alarm was becoming general, so that Philip of France
interposed.

"Princes and nobles," he said, "you speak in presence of those whose
swords will soon be at the throats of each other if they hear their
leaders at such terms together. In the name of Heaven, let us draw off
each his own troops into their separate quarters, and ourselves meet
an hour hence in the Pavilion of Council to take some order in this new
state of confusion."

"Content," said King Richard, "though I should have liked to have
interrogated that caitiff while his gay doublet was yet besmirched with
sand. But the pleasure of France shall be ours in this matter."

The leaders separated as was proposed, each prince placing himself at
the head of his own forces; and then was heard on all sides the crying
of war-cries and the sounding of gathering-notes upon bugles and
trumpets, by which the different stragglers were summoned to their
prince's banner, and the troops were shortly seen in motion, each taking
different routes through the camp to their own quarters. But although
any immediate act of violence was thus prevented, yet the accident which
had taken place dwelt on every mind; and those foreigners who had that
morning hailed Richard as the worthiest to lead their army, now resumed
their prejudices against his pride and intolerance, while the English,
conceiving the honour of their country connected with the quarrel, of
which various reports had gone about, considered the natives of other
countries jealous of the fame of England and her King, and disposed to
undermine it by the meanest arts of intrigue. Many and various were the
rumours spread upon the occasion, and there was one which averred that
the Queen and her ladies had been much alarmed by the tumult, and that
one of them had swooned.

The Council assembled at the appointed hour. Conrade had in the
meanwhile laid aside his dishonoured dress, and with it the shame and
confusion which, in spite of his talents and promptitude, had at first
overwhelmed him, owing to the strangeness of the accident and suddenness
of the accusation. He was now robed like a prince; and entered the
council-chamber attended by the Archduke of Austria, the Grand Masters
both of the Temple and of the Order of Saint John, and several other
potentates, who made a show of supporting him and defending his cause,
chiefly perhaps from political motives, or because they themselves
nourished a personal enmity against Richard.

This appearance of union in favour of Conrade was far from influencing
the King of England. He entered the Council with his usual indifference
of manner, and in the same dress in which he had just alighted from
horseback. He cast a careless and somewhat scornful glance on the
leaders, who had with studied affectation arranged themselves around
Conrade as if owning his cause, and in the most direct terms charged
Conrade of Montserrat with having stolen the Banner of England, and
wounded the faithful animal who stood in its defence.

Conrade arose boldly to answer, and in despite, as he expressed himself,
of man and brute, king or dog, avouched his innocence of the crime
charged.

"Brother of England," said Philip, who willingly assumed the character
of moderator of the assembly, "this is an unusual impeachment. We do
not hear you avouch your own knowledge of this matter, further than your
belief resting upon the demeanour of this hound towards the Marquis of
Montserrat. Surely the word of a knight and a prince should bear him out
against the barking of a cur?"

"Royal brother," returned Richard, "recollect that the Almighty, who
gave the dog to be companion of our pleasures and our toils, hath
invested him with a nature noble and incapable of deceit. He forgets
neither friend nor foe--remembers, and with accuracy, both benefit and
injury. He hath a share of man's intelligence, but no share of man's
falsehood. You may bribe a soldier to slay a man with his sword, or a
witness to take life by false accusation; but you cannot make a hound
tear his benefactor. He is the friend of man, save when man justly
incurs his enmity. Dress yonder marquis in what peacock-robes you will,
disguise his appearance, alter his complexion with drugs and washes,
hide him amidst a hundred men,--I will yet pawn my sceptre that the
hound detects him, and expresses his resentment, as you have this day
beheld. This is no new incident, although a strange one. Murderers
and robbers have been ere now convicted, and suffered death under such
evidence, and men have said that the finger of God was in it. In thine
own land, royal brother, and upon such an occasion, the matter was tried
by a solemn duel betwixt the man and the dog, as appellant and defendant
in a challenge of murder. The dog was victorious, the man was punished,
and the crime was confessed. Credit me, royal brother, that hidden
crimes have often been brought to light by the testimony even of
inanimate substances, not to mention animals far inferior in instinctive
sagacity to the dog, who is the friend and companion of our race."

"Such a duel there hath indeed been, royal brother," answered Philip,
"and that in the reign of one of our predecessors, to whom God be
gracious. But it was in the olden time, nor can we hold it a precedent
fitting for this occasion. The defendant in that case was a private
gentleman of small rank or respect; his offensive weapons were only a
club, his defensive a leathern jerkin. But we cannot degrade a prince
to the disgrace of using such rude arms, or to the ignominy of such a
combat."

"I never meant that you should," said King Richard; "it were foul play
to hazard the good hound's life against that of such a double-faced
traitor as this Conrade hath proved himself. But there lies our own
glove; we appeal him to the combat in respect of the evidence we
brought forth against him. A king, at least, is more than the mate of a
marquis."

Conrade made no hasty effort to seize on the pledge which Richard cast
into the middle of the assembly, and King Philip had time to reply ere
the marquis made a motion to lift the glove.

"A king," said he of France, "is as much more than a match for the
Marquis Conrade as a dog would be less. Royal Richard, this cannot be
permitted. You are the leader of our expedition--the sword and buckler
of Christendom."

"I protest against such a combat," said the Venetian proveditore, "until
the King of England shall have repaid the fifty thousand byzants which
he is indebted to the republic. It is enough to be threatened with loss
of our debt, should our debtor fall by the hands of the pagans, without
the additional risk of his being slain in brawls amongst Christians
concerning dogs and banners."

"And I," said William with the Long Sword, Earl of Salisbury, "protest
in my turn against my royal brother perilling his life, which is the
property of the people of England, in such a cause. Here, noble brother,
receive back your glove, and think only as if the wind had blown it from
your hand. Mine shall lie in its stead. A king's son, though with the
bar sinister on his shield, is at least a match for this marmoset of a
marquis."

"Princes and nobles," said Conrade, "I will not accept of King Richard's
defiance. He hath been chosen our leader against the Saracens, and if
his conscience can answer the accusation of provoking an ally to the
field on a quarrel so frivolous, mine, at least, cannot endure the
reproach of accepting it. But touching his bastard brother, William of
Woodstock, or against any other who shall adopt or shall dare to stand
godfather to this most false charge, I will defend my honour in the
lists, and prove whosoever impeaches it a false liar."

"The Marquis of Montserrat," said the Archbishop of Tyre, "hath spoken
like a wise and moderate gentleman; and methinks this controversy might,
without dishonour to any party, end at this point."

"Methinks it might so terminate," said the King of France, "provided
King Richard will recall his accusation as made upon over-slight
grounds."

"Philip of France," answered Coeur de Lion, "my words shall never do my
thoughts so much injury. I have charged yonder Conrade as a thief,
who, under cloud of night, stole from its place the emblem of England's
dignity. I still believe and charge him to be such; and when a day is
appointed for the combat, doubt not that, since Conrade declines to
meet us in person, I will find a champion to appear in support of my
challenge--for thou, William, must not thrust thy long sword into this
quarrel without our special license."

"Since my rank makes me arbiter in this most unhappy matter," said
Philip of France, "I appoint the fifth day from hence for the decision
thereof, by way of combat, according to knightly usage--Richard, King of
England, to appear by his champion as appellant, and Conrade, Marquis of
Montserrat, in his own person, as defendant. Yet I own I know not where
to find neutral ground where such a quarrel may be fought out; for it
must not be in the neighbourhood of this camp, where the soldiers would
make faction on the different sides."

"It were well," said Richard, "to apply to the generosity of the
royal Saladin, since, heathen as he is, I have never known knight more
fulfilled of nobleness, or to whose good faith we may so peremptorily
entrust ourselves. I speak thus for those who may be doubtful of mishap;
for myself, wherever I see my foe, I make that spot my battle-ground."

"Be it so," said Philip; "we will make this matter known to Saladin,
although it be showing to an enemy the unhappy spirit of discord
which we would willingly hide from even ourselves, were it possible.
Meanwhile, I dismiss this assembly, and charge you all, as Christian
men and noble knights, that ye let this unhappy feud breed no further
brawling in the camp, but regard it as a thing solemnly referred to the
judgment of God, to whom each of you should pray that He will dispose
of victory in the combat according to the truth of the quarrel; and
therewith may His will be done!"

"Amen, amen!" was answered on all sides; while the Templar whispered the
Marquis, "Conrade, wilt thou not add a petition to be delivered from the
power of the dog, as the Psalmist hath it?"

"Peace, thou--!" replied the Marquis; "there is a revealing demon abroad
which may report, amongst other tidings, how far thou dost carry the
motto of thy order--'FERIATUR LEO'."

"Thou wilt stand the brunt of challenge?" said the Templar.

"Doubt me not," said Conrade. "I would not, indeed, have willingly
met the iron arm of Richard himself, and I shame not to confess that
I rejoice to be free of his encounter; but, from his bastard brother
downward, the man breathes not in his ranks whom I fear to meet."

"It is well you are so confident," continued the Templar; "and, in that
case, the fangs of yonder hound have done more to dissolve this league
of princes than either thy devices or the dagger of the Charegite. Seest
thou how, under a brow studiously overclouded, Philip cannot conceal the
satisfaction which he feels at the prospect of release from the alliance
which sat so heavy on him? Mark how Henry of Champagne smiles to
himself, like a sparkling goblet of his own wine; and see the chuckling
delight of Austria, who thinks his quarrel is about to be avenged
without risk or trouble of his own. Hush! he approaches.--A most
grievous chance, most royal Austria, that these breaches in the walls of
our Zion--"

"If thou meanest this Crusade," replied the Duke, "I would it were
crumbled to pieces, and each were safe at home! I speak this in
confidence."

"But," said the Marquis of Montserrat, "to think this disunion should
be made by the hands of King Richard, for whose pleasure we have been
contented to endure so much, and to whom we have been as submissive as
slaves to a master, in hopes that he would use his valour against our
enemies, instead of exercising it upon our friends!"

"I see not that he is so much more valorous than others," said the
Archduke. "I believe, had the noble Marquis met him in the lists, he
would have had the better; for though the islander deals heavy blows
with the pole-axe, he is not so very dexterous with the lance. I should
have cared little to have met him myself on our old quarrel, had the
weal of Christendom permitted to sovereign princes to breathe themselves
in the lists; and if thou desirest it, noble Marquis, I will myself be
your godfather in this combat."

"And I also," said the Grand Master.

"Come, then, and take your nooning in our tent, noble sirs," said the
Duke, "and we'll speak of this business over some right NIERENSTEIN."

They entered together accordingly.

"What said our patron and these great folks together?" said Jonas
Schwanker to his companion, the SPRUCH-SPRECHER, who had used the
freedom to press nigh to his master when the Council was dismissed,
while the jester waited at a more respectful distance.

"Servant of Folly," said the SPRUCH-SPRECHER, "moderate thy curiosity;
it beseems not that I should tell to thee the counsels of our master."

"Man of wisdom, you mistake," answered Jonas. "We are both the constant
attendants on our patron, and it concerns us alike to know whether thou
or I--Wisdom or Folly--have the deeper interest in him."

"He told to the Marquis," answered the SPRUCH-SPRECHER, "and to the
Grand Master, that he was aweary of these wars, and would be glad he was
safe at home."

"That is a drawn cast, and counts for nothing in the game," said the
jester; "it was most wise to think thus, but great folly to tell it to
others--proceed."

"Ha, hem!" said the SPRUCH-SPRECHER; "he next said to them that Richard
was not more valorous than others, or over-dexterous in the tilt-yard."

"Woodcock of my side," said Schwanker, "this was egregious folly. What
next?"

"Nay, I am something oblivious," replied the man of wisdom--"he invited
them to a goblet of NIERENSTEIN."

"That hath a show of wisdom in it," said Jonas. "Thou mayest mark it to
thy credit in the meantime; but an he drink too much, as is most likely,
I will have it pass to mine. Anything more?"

"Nothing worth memory," answered the orator; "only he wished he had
taken the occasion to meet Richard in the lists."

"Out upon it--out upon it!" said Jonas; "this is such dotage of folly
that I am well-nigh ashamed of winning the game by it. Ne'ertheless,
fool as he is, we will follow him, most sage SPRUCH-SPRECHER, and have
our share of the wine of NIERENSTEIN."



CHAPTER XXV.

     Yet this inconstancy is such,
     As thou, too, shalt adore;
     I could not love thee, love so much,
     Loved I not honour more.
            MONTROSE'S LINES.

When King Richard returned to his tent, he commanded the Nubian to be
brought before him. He entered with his usual ceremonial reverence,
and having prostrated himself, remained standing before the King in the
attitude of a slave awaiting the orders of his master. It was perhaps
well for him that the preservation of his character required his eyes
to be fixed on the ground, since the keen glance with which Richard for
some time surveyed him in silence would, if fully encountered, have been
difficult to sustain.

"Thou canst well of woodcraft," said the King, after a pause, "and hast
started thy game and brought him to bay as ably as if Tristrem himself
had taught thee. [A universal tradition ascribed to Sir Tristrem, famous
for his love of the fair Queen Yseult, the laws concerning the practice
of woodcraft, or VENERIE, as it was called, being those that related to
the rules of the chase, which were deemed of much consequence during the
Middle Ages.] But this is not all--he must be brought down at force. I
myself would have liked to have levelled my hunting-spear at him. There
are, it seems, respects which prevent this. Thou art about to return to
the camp of the Soldan, bearing a letter, requiring of his courtesy to
appoint neutral ground for the deed of chivalry, and should it consist
with his pleasure, to concur with us in witnessing it. Now, speaking
conjecturally, we think thou mightst find in that camp some cavalier
who, for the love of truth and his own augmentation of honour, will do
battle with this same traitor of Montserrat."

The Nubian raised his eyes and fixed them on the King with a look of
eager ardour; then raised them to Heaven with such solemn gratitude that
the water soon glistened in them; then bent his head, as affirming what
Richard desired, and resumed his usual posture of submissive attention.

"It is well," said the King; "and I see thy desire to oblige me in this
matter. And herein, I must needs say, lies the excellence of such a
servant as thou, who hast not speech either to debate our purpose or to
require explanation of what we have determined. An English serving man
in thy place had given me his dogged advice to trust the combat
with some good lance of my household, who, from my brother Longsword
downwards, are all on fire to do battle in my cause; and a chattering
Frenchman had made a thousand attempts to discover wherefore I look for
a champion from the camp of the infidels. But thou, my silent agent,
canst do mine errand without questioning or comprehending it; with thee
to hear is to obey."

A bend of the body and a genuflection were the appropriate answer of the
Ethiopian to these observations.

"And now to another point," said the King, and speaking suddenly and
rapidly--"have you yet seen Edith Plantagenet?"

The mute looked up as in the act of being about to speak--nay, his lips
had begun to utter a distinct negative--when the abortive attempt died
away in the imperfect murmurs of the dumb.

"Why, lo you there!" said the King, "the very sound of the name of a
royal maiden of beauty so surpassing as that of our lovely cousin seems
to have power enough well-nigh to make the dumb speak. What miracles
then might her eye work upon such a subject! I will make the experiment,
friend slave. Thou shalt see this choice beauty of our Court, and do the
errand of the princely Soldan."

Again a joyful glance--again a genuflection--but, as he arose, the King
laid his hand heavily on his shoulder, and proceeded with stern gravity
thus: "Let me in one thing warn you, my sable envoy. Even if thou
shouldst feel that the kindly influence of her whom thou art soon to
behold should loosen the bonds of thy tongue, presently imprisoned,
as the good Soldan expresses it, within the ivory walls of its castle,
beware how thou changest thy taciturn character, or speakest a word in
her presence, even if thy powers of utterance were to be miraculously
restored. Believe me that I should have thy tongue extracted by
the roots, and its ivory palace--that is, I presume, its range of
teeth--drawn out one by one. Wherefore, be wise and silent still."

The Nubian, so soon as the King had removed his heavy grasp from his
shoulder, bent his head, and laid his hand on his lips, in token of
silent obedience.

But Richard again laid his hand on him more gently, and added, "This
behest we lay on thee as on a slave. Wert thou knight and gentleman,
we would require thine honour in pledge of thy silence, which is one
especial condition of our present trust."

The Ethiopian raised his body proudly, looked full at the King, and laid
his right hand on his heart.

Richard then summoned his chamberlain.

"Go, Neville," he said, "with this slave to the tent of our royal
consort, and say it is our pleasure that he have an audience--a private
audience--of our cousin Edith. He is charged with a commission to her.
Thou canst show him the way also, in case he requires thy guidance,
though thou mayst have observed it is wonderful how familiar he already
seems to be with the purlieus of our camp.--And thou, too, friend
Ethiop," the King continued, "what thou dost do quickly, and return
hither within the half-hour."

"I stand discovered," thought the seeming Nubian, as, with downcast
looks and folded arms, he followed the hasty stride of Neville towards
the tent of Queen Berengaria--"I stand undoubtedly discovered and
unfolded to King Richard; yet I cannot perceive that his resentment is
hot against me. If I understand his words--and surely it is impossible
to misinterpret them--he gives me a noble chance of redeeming my honour
upon the crest of this false Marquis, whose guilt I read in his craven
eye and quivering lip when the charge was made against him.--Roswal,
faithfully hast thou served thy master, and most dearly shall thy wrong
be avenged!--But what is the meaning of my present permission to look
upon her whom I had despaired ever to see again? And why, or how, can
the royal Plantagenet consent that I should see his divine kinswoman,
either as the messenger of the heathen Saladin, or as the guilty exile
whom he so lately expelled from his camp--his audacious avowal of the
affection which is his pride being the greatest enhancement of his
guilt? That Richard should consent to her receiving a letter from an
infidel lover by the hands of one of such disproportioned rank are
either of them circumstances equally incredible, and, at the same time,
inconsistent with each other. But Richard, when unmoved by his heady
passions, is liberal, generous, and truly noble; and as such I will
deal with him, and act according to his instructions, direct or implied,
seeking to know no more than may gradually unfold itself without my
officious inquiry. To him who has given me so brave an opportunity to
vindicate my tarnished honour, I owe acquiescence and obedience; and
painful as it may be, the debt shall be paid. And yet"--thus the proud
swelling of his heart further suggested--"Coeur de Lion, as he is
called, might have measured the feelings of others by his own. I urge an
address to his kinswoman! I, who never spoke word to her when I took a
royal prize from her hand--when I was accounted not the lowest in feats
of chivalry among the defenders of the Cross! I approach her when in
a base disguise, and in a servile habit--and, alas! when my actual
condition is that of a slave, with a spot of dishonour on that which was
once my shield! I do this! He little knows me. Yet I thank him for the
opportunity which may make us all better acquainted with each other."

As he arrived at this conclusion, they paused before the entrance of the
Queen's pavilion.

They were of course admitted by the guards, and Neville, leaving the
Nubian in a small apartment, or antechamber, which was but too well
remembered by him, passed into that which was used as the Queen's
presence-chamber. He communicated his royal master's pleasure in a
low and respectful tone of voice, very different from the bluntness
of Thomas de Vaux, to whom Richard was everything and the rest of the
Court, including Berengaria herself, was nothing. A burst of laughter
followed the communication of his errand.

"And what like is the Nubian slave who comes ambassador on such an
errand from the Soldan?--a negro, De Neville, is he not?" said a female
voice, easily recognized for that of Berengaria. "A negro, is he not, De
Neville, with black skin, a head curled like a ram's, a flat nose, and
blubber lips--ha, worthy Sir Henry?"

"Let not your Grace forget the shin-bones," said another voice, "bent
outwards like the edge of a Saracen scimitar."

"Rather like the bow of a Cupid, since he comes upon a lover's errand,"
said the Queen.--"Gentle Neville, thou art ever prompt to pleasure us
poor women, who have so little to pass away our idle moments. We must
see this messenger of love. Turks and Moors have I seen many, but negro
never."

"I am created to obey your Grace's commands, so you will bear me out
with my Sovereign for doing so," answered the debonair knight. "Yet,
let me assure your Grace you will see something different from what you
expect."

"So much the better--uglier yet than our imaginations can fancy, yet the
chosen love-messenger of this gallant Soldan!"

"Gracious madam," said the Lady Calista, "may I implore you would permit
the good knight to carry this messenger straight to the Lady Edith, to
whom his credentials are addressed? We have already escaped hardly for
such a frolic."

"Escaped?" repeated the Queen scornfully. "Yet thou mayest be right,
Calista, in thy caution. Let this Nubian, as thou callest him, first do
his errand to our cousin--besides, he is mute too, is he not?"

"He is, gracious madam," answered the knight.

"Royal sport have these Eastern ladies," said Berengaria, "attended by
those before whom they may say anything, yet who can report nothing.
Whereas in our camp, as the Prelate of Saint Jude's is wont to say, a
bird of the air will carry the matter."

"Because," said De Neville, "your Grace forgets that you speak within
canvas walls."

The voices sunk on this observation, and after a little whispering, the
English knight again returned to the Ethiopian, and made him a sign
to follow. He did so, and Neville conducted him to a pavilion, pitched
somewhat apart from that of the Queen, for the accommodation, it seemed,
of the Lady Edith and her attendants. One of her Coptic maidens received
the message communicated by Sir Henry Neville, and in the space of a
very few minutes the Nubian was ushered into Edith's presence, while
Neville was left on the outside of the tent. The slave who introduced
him withdrew on a signal from her mistress, and it was with humiliation,
not of the posture only but of the very inmost soul, that the
unfortunate knight, thus strangely disguised, threw himself on one
knee, with looks bent on the ground and arms folded on his bosom, like a
criminal who expects his doom. Edith was clad in the same manner as
when she received King Richard, her long, transparent dark veil hanging
around her like the shade of a summer night on a beautiful landscape,
disguising and rendering obscure the beauties which it could not hide.
She held in her hand a silver lamp, fed with some aromatic spirit, which
burned with unusual brightness.

When Edith came within a step of the kneeling and motionless slave,
she held the light towards his face, as if to peruse his features more
attentively, then turned from him, and placed her lamp so as to throw
the shadow of his face in profile upon the curtain which hung beside.
She at length spoke in a voice composed, yet deeply sorrowful,

"Is it you? It is indeed you, brave Knight of the Leopard--gallant Sir
Kenneth of Scotland; is it indeed you?--thus servilely disguised--thus
surrounded by a hundred dangers."

At hearing the tones of his lady's voice thus unexpectedly addressed
to him, and in a tone of compassion approaching to tenderness, a
corresponding reply rushed to the knight's lips, and scarce could
Richard's commands and his own promised silence prevent his answering
that the sight he saw, the sounds he just heard, were sufficient to
recompense the slavery of a life, and dangers which threatened that
life every hour. He did recollect himself, however, and a deep and
impassioned sigh was his only reply to the high-born Edith's question.

"I see--I know I have guessed right," continued Edith. "I marked you
from your first appearance near the platform on which I stood with the
Queen. I knew, too, your valiant hound. She is no true lady, and
is unworthy of the service of such a knight as thou art, from whom
disguises of dress or hue could conceal a faithful servant. Speak, then,
without fear to Edith Plantagenet. She knows how to grace in adversity
the good knight who served, honoured, and did deeds of arms in her name,
when fortune befriended him.--Still silent! Is it fear or shame that
keeps thee so! Fear should be unknown to thee; and for shame, let it
remain with those who have wronged thee."

The knight, in despair at being obliged to play the mute in an interview
so interesting, could only express his mortification by sighing deeply,
and laying his finger upon his lips. Edith stepped back, as if somewhat
displeased.

"What!" she said, "the Asiatic mute in very deed, as well as in attire?
This I looked not for. Or thou mayest scorn me, perhaps, for thus boldly
acknowledging that I have heedfully observed the homage thou hast paid
me? Hold no unworthy thoughts of Edith on that account. She knows well
the bounds which reserve and modesty prescribe to high-born maidens,
and she knows when and how far they should give place to gratitude--to
a sincere desire that it were in her power to repay services and repair
injuries arising from the devotion which a good knight bore towards her.
Why fold thy hands together, and wring them with so much passion? Can
it be," she added, shrinking back at the idea, "that their cruelty
has actually deprived thee of speech? Thou shakest thy head. Be it a
spell--be it obstinacy, I question thee no further, but leave thee to do
thine errand after thine own fashion. I also can be mute."

The disguised knight made an action as if at once lamenting his own
condition and deprecating her displeasure, while at the same time he
presented to her, wrapped, as usual, in fine silk and cloth of gold, the
letter of the Soldan. She took it, surveyed it carelessly, then laid it
aside, and bending her eyes once more on the knight, she said in a low
tone, "Not even a word to do thine errand to me?"

He pressed both his hands to his brow, as if to intimate the pain which
he felt at being unable to obey her; but she turned from him in anger.

"Begone!" she said. "I have spoken enough--too much--to one who will not
waste on me a word in reply. Begone!--and say, if I have wronged thee, I
have done penance; for if I have been the unhappy means of dragging thee
down from a station of honour, I have, in this interview, forgotten my
own worth, and lowered myself in thy eyes and in my own."

She covered her eyes with her hands, and seemed deeply agitated. Sir
Kenneth would have approached, but she waved him back.

"Stand off! thou whose soul Heaven hath suited to its new station!
Aught less dull and fearful than a slavish mute had spoken a word of
gratitude, were it but to reconcile me to my own degradation. Why pause
you?--begone!"

The disguised knight almost involuntarily looked towards the letter as
an apology for protracting his stay. She snatched it up, saying in a
tone of irony and contempt, "I had forgotten--the dutiful slave waits an
answer to his message. How's this--from the Soldan!"

She hastily ran over the contents, which were expressed both in Arabic
and French, and when she had done, she laughed in bitter anger.

"Now this passes imagination!" she said; "no jongleur can show so deft
a transmutation! His legerdemain can transform zechins and byzants into
doits and maravedis; but can his art convert a Christian knight, ever
esteemed among the bravest of the Holy Crusade, into the dust-kissing
slave of a heathen Soldan--the bearer of a paynim's insolent proposals
to a Christian maiden--nay, forgetting the laws of honourable chivalry,
as well as of religion? But it avails not talking to the willing slave
of a heathen hound. Tell your master, when his scourge shall have found
thee a tongue, that which thou hast seen me do"--so saying, she threw
the Soldan's letter on the ground, and placed her foot upon it--"and
say to him, that Edith Plantagenet scorns the homage of an unchristened
pagan."

With these words she was about to shoot from the knight, when, kneeling
at her feet in bitter agony, he ventured to lay his hand upon her robe
and oppose her departure.

"Heard'st thou not what I said, dull slave?" she said, turning short
round on him, and speaking with emphasis. "Tell the heathen Soldan, thy
master, that I scorn his suit as much as I despise the prostration of a
worthless renegade to religion and chivalry--to God and to his lady!"

So saying, she burst from him, tore her garment from his grasp, and left
the tent.

The voice of Neville, at the same time, summoned him from without.
Exhausted and stupefied by the distress he had undergone during this
interview, from which he could only have extricated himself by breach
of the engagement which he had formed with King Richard, the unfortunate
knight staggered rather than walked after the English baron, till they
reached the royal pavilion, before which a party of horsemen had just
dismounted. There were light and motion within the tent, and when
Neville entered with his disguised attendant, they found the King,
with several of his nobility, engaged in welcoming those who were newly
arrived.



CHAPTER XXVI.

     "The tears I shed must ever fall.
     I weep not for an absent swain;
     For time may happier hours recall,
     And parted lovers meet again.

     "I weep not for the silent dead.
     Their pains are past, their sorrows o'er;
     And those that loved their steps must tread,
     When death shall join to part no more."

     But worse than absence, worse than death,
     She wept her lover's sullied fame,
     And, fired with all the pride of birth,
     She wept a soldier's injured name.
            BALLAD.

The frank and bold voice of Richard was heard in joyous gratulation.

"Thomas de Vaux! stout Tom of the Gills! by the head of King Henry, thou
art welcome to me as ever was flask of wine to a jolly toper! I should
scarce have known how to order my battle-array, unless I had thy bulky
form in mine eye as a landmark to form my ranks upon. We shall have
blows anon, Thomas, if the saints be gracious to us; and had we fought
in thine absence, I would have looked to hear of thy being found hanging
upon an elder-tree."

"I should have borne my disappointment with more Christian patience,
I trust," said Thomas de Vaux, "than to have died the death of an
apostate. But I thank your Grace for my welcome, which is the more
generous, as it respects a banquet of blows, of which, saving your
pleasure, you are ever too apt to engross the larger share. But here
have I brought one to whom your Grace will, I know, give a yet warmer
welcome."

The person who now stepped forward to make obeisance to Richard was a
young man of low stature and slight form. His dress was as modest as his
figure was unimpressive; but he bore on his bonnet a gold buckle, with a
gem, the lustre of which could only be rivalled by the brilliancy of
the eye which the bonnet shaded. It was the only striking feature in his
countenance; but when once noticed, it ever made a strong impression on
the spectator. About his neck there hung in a scarf of sky-blue silk a
WREST as it was called--that is, the key with which a harp is tuned, and
which was of solid gold.

This personage would have kneeled reverently to Richard, but the Monarch
raised him in joyful haste, pressed him to his bosom warmly, and kissed
him on either side of the face.

"Blondel de Nesle!" he exclaimed joyfully--"welcome from Cyprus, my king
of minstrels!--welcome to the King of England, who rates not his own
dignity more highly than he does thine. I have been sick, man, and, by
my soul, I believe it was for lack of thee; for, were I half way to the
gate of heaven, methinks thy strains could call me back. And what news,
my gentle master, from the land of the lyre? Anything fresh from the
TROUVEURS of Provence? Anything from the minstrels of merry Normandy?
Above all, hast thou thyself been busy? But I need not ask thee--thou
canst not be idle if thou wouldst; thy noble qualities are like a fire
burning within, and compel thee to pour thyself out in music and song."

"Something I have learned, and something I have done, noble King,"
answered the celebrated Blondel, with a retiring modesty which all
Richard's enthusiastic admiration of his skill had been unable to
banish.

"We will hear thee, man--we will hear thee instantly," said the King.
Then, touching Blondel's shoulder kindly, he added, "That is, if thou
art not fatigued with thy journey; for I would sooner ride my best horse
to death than injure a note of thy voice."

"My voice is, as ever, at the service of my royal patron," said Blondel;
"but your Majesty," he added, looking at some papers on the table,
"seems more importantly engaged, and the hour waxes late."

"Not a whit, man, not a whit, my dearest Blondel. I did but sketch an
array of battle against the Saracens, a thing of a moment, almost as
soon done as the routing of them."

"Methinks, however," said Thomas de Vaux, "it were not unfit to inquire
what soldiers your Grace hath to array. I bring reports on that subject
from Ascalon."

"Thou art a mule, Thomas," said the King--"a very mule for dullness
and obstinacy! Come, nobles--a hall--a hall--range ye around him! Give
Blondel the tabouret. Where is his harp-bearer?--or, soft, lend him my
harp, his own may be damaged by the journey."

"I would your Grace would take my report," said Thomas de Vaux. "I have
ridden far, and have more list to my bed than to have my ears tickled."

"THY ears tickled!" said the King; "that must be with a woodcock's
feather, and not with sweet sounds. Hark thee, Thomas, do thine ears
know the singing of Blondel from the braying of an ass?"

"In faith, my liege," replied Thomas, "I cannot well say; but setting
Blondel out of the question, who is a born gentleman, and doubtless of
high acquirements, I shall never, for the sake of your Grace's question,
look on a minstrel but I shall think upon an ass."

"And might not your manners," said Richard, "have excepted me, who am a
gentleman born as well as Blondel, and, like him, a guild-brother of the
joyeuse science?"

"Your Grace should remember," said De Vaux, smiling, "that 'tis useless
asking for manners from a mule."

"Most truly spoken," said the King; "and an ill-conditioned animal thou
art. But come hither, master mule, and be unloaded, that thou mayest get
thee to thy litter, without any music being wasted on thee. Meantime do
thou, good brother of Salisbury, go to our consort's tent, and tell
her that Blondel has arrived, with his budget fraught with the newest
minstrelsy. Bid her come hither instantly, and do thou escort her, and
see that our cousin, Edith Plantagenet, remain not behind."

His eye then rested for a moment on the Nubian, with that expression of
doubtful meaning which his countenance usually displayed when he looked
at him.

"Ha, our silent and secret messenger returned?--Stand up, slave, behind
the back of De Neville, and thou shalt hear presently sounds which will
make thee bless God that He afflicted thee rather with dumbness than
deafness."

So saying, he turned from the rest of the company towards De Vaux, and
plunged instantly into the military details which that baron laid before
him.

About the time that the Lord of Gilsland had finished his audience, a
messenger announced that the Queen and her attendants were approaching
the royal tent.--"A flask of wine, ho!" said the King; "of old King
Isaac's long-saved Cyprus, which we won when we stormed Famagosta. Fill
to the stout Lord of Gilsland, gentles--a more careful and faithful
servant never had any prince."

"I am glad," said Thomas de Vaux, "that your Grace finds the mule a
useful slave, though his voice be less musical than horse-hair or wire."

"What, thou canst not yet digest that quip of the mule?" said Richard.
"Wash it down with a brimming flagon, man, or thou wilt choke upon it.
Why, so--well pulled!--and now I will tell thee, thou art a soldier
as well as I, and we must brook each other's jests in the hall as each
other's blows in the tourney, and love each other the harder we hit.
By my faith, if thou didst not hit me as hard as I did thee in our late
encounter! thou gavest all thy wit to the thrust. But here lies the
difference betwixt thee and Blondel. Thou art but my comrade--I might
say my pupil--in the art of war; Blondel is my master in the science of
minstrelsy and music. To thee I permit the freedom of intimacy; to him
I must do reverence, as to my superior in his art. Come, man, be not
peevish, but remain and hear our glee."

"To see your Majesty in such cheerful mood," said the Lord of Gilsland,
"by my faith, I could remain till Blondel had achieved the great romance
of King Arthur, which lasts for three days."

"We will not tax your patience so deeply," said the King. "But see,
yonder glare of torches without shows that our consort approaches. Away
to receive her, man, and win thyself grace in the brightest eyes of
Christendom. Nay, never stop to adjust thy cloak. See, thou hast let
Neville come between the wind and the sails of thy galley."

"He was never before me in the field of battle," said De Vaux, not
greatly pleased to see himself anticipated by the more active service of
the chamberlain.

"No, neither he nor any one went before thee there, my good Tom of the
Gills," said the King, "unless it was ourself, now and then."

"Ay, my liege," said De Vaux, "and let us do justice to the unfortunate.
The unhappy Knight of the Leopard hath been before me too, at a season;
for, look you, he weighs less on horseback, and so--"

"Hush!" said the King, interrupting him in a peremptory tone, "not a
word of him," and instantly stepped forward to greet his royal consort;
and when he had done so, he presented to her Blondel, as king of
minstrelsy and his master in the gay science. Berengaria, who well knew
that her royal husband's passion for poetry and music almost equalled
his appetite for warlike fame, and that Blondel was his especial
favourite, took anxious care to receive him with all the flattering
distinctions due to one whom the King delighted to honour. Yet it was
evident that, though Blondel made suitable returns to the compliments
showered on him something too abundantly by the royal beauty, he owned
with deeper reverence and more humble gratitude the simple and graceful
welcome of Edith, whose kindly greeting appeared to him, perhaps,
sincere in proportion to its brevity and simplicity.

Both the Queen and her royal husband were aware of this distinction, and
Richard, seeing his consort somewhat piqued at the preference assigned
to his cousin, by which perhaps he himself did not feel much gratified,
said in the hearing of both, "We minstrels, Berengaria, as thou mayest
see by the bearing of our master Blondel, pay more reverence to a severe
judge like our kinswoman than to a kindly, partial friend like thyself,
who is willing to take our worth upon trust."

Edith was moved by this sarcasm of her royal kinsman, and hesitated
not to reply that, "To be a harsh and severe judge was not an attribute
proper to her alone of all the Plantagenets."

She had perhaps said more, having some touch of the temper of that
house, which, deriving their name and cognizance from the lowly broom
(PLANTA GENISTA), assumed as an emblem of humility, were perhaps one
of the proudest families that ever ruled in England; but her eye, when
kindling in her reply, suddenly caught those of the Nubian, although he
endeavoured to conceal himself behind the nobles who were present,
and she sunk upon a seat, turning so pale that Queen Berengaria deemed
herself obliged to call for water and essences, and to go through the
other ceremonies appropriate to a lady's swoon. Richard, who better
estimated Edith's strength of mind, called to Blondel to assume his seat
and commence his lay, declaring that minstrelsy was worth every other
recipe to recall a Plantagenet to life. "Sing us," he said, "that song
of the Bloody Vest, of which thou didst formerly give me the argument
ere I left Cyprus. Thou must be perfect in it by this time, or, as our
yeomen say, thy bow is broken."

The anxious eye of the minstrel, however, dwelt on Edith, and it was
not till he observed her returning colour that he obeyed the repeated
commands of the King. Then, accompanying his voice with the harp, so as
to grace, but yet not drown, the sense of what he sung, he chanted in
a sort of recitative one of those ancient adventures of love and
knighthood which were wont of yore to win the public attention. So soon
as he began to prelude, the insignificance of his personal appearance
seemed to disappear, and his countenance glowed with energy and
inspiration. His full, manly, mellow voice, so absolutely under command
of the purest taste, thrilled on every ear and to every heart. Richard,
rejoiced as after victory, called out the appropriate summons for
silence, "Listen, lords, in bower and hall"; while, with the zeal of a
patron at once and a pupil, he arranged the circle around, and hushed
them into silence; and he himself sat down with an air of expectation
and interest, not altogether unmixed with the gravity of the professed
critic. The courtiers turned their eyes on the King, that they might be
ready to trace and imitate the emotions his features should express, and
Thomas de Vaux yawned tremendously, as one who submitted unwillingly
to a wearisome penance. The song of Blondel was of course in the Norman
language, but the verses which follow express its meaning and its
manner.


                THE BLOODY VEST.

     'Twas near the fair city of Benevent,
     When the sun was setting on bough and bent,
     And knights were preparing in bower and tent,
     On the eve of the Baptist's tournament;
     When in Lincoln green a stripling gent,
     Well seeming a page by a princess sent,
     Wander'd the camp, and, still as he went,
     Inquired for the Englishman, Thomas a Kent.

     Far hath he far'd, and farther must fare,
     Till he finds his pavilion nor stately nor rare,--
     Little save iron and steel was there;
     And, as lacking the coin to pay armourer's care,
     With his sinewy arms to the shoulders bare,
     The good knight with hammer and file did repair
     The mail that to-morrow must see him wear,
     For the honour of Saint John and his lady fair.

     "Thus speaks my lady," the page said he,
     And the knight bent lowly both head and knee,
     "She is Benevent's Princess so high in degree,
     And thou art as lowly as knight may well be--
     He that would climb so lofty a tree,
     Or spring such a gulf as divides her from thee,
     Must dare some high deed, by which all men may see
     His ambition is back'd by his hie chivalrie.

     "Therefore thus speaks my lady," the fair page he said,
     And the knight lowly louted with hand and with head,
     "Fling aside the good armour in which thou art clad,
     And don thou this weed of her night-gear instead,
     For a hauberk of steel, a kirtle of thread;
     And charge, thus attir'd, in the tournament dread,
     And fight as thy wont is where most blood is shed,
     And bring honour away, or remain with the dead."

Untroubled in his look, and untroubled in his breast, The knight the
weed hath taken, and reverently hath kiss'd. "Now blessed be the moment,
the messenger be blest! Much honour'd do I hold me in my lady's high
behest; And say unto my lady, in this dear night-weed dress'd, To the
best armed champion I will not veil my crest; But if I live and bear me
well 'tis her turn to take the test." Here, gentles, ends the foremost
fytte of the Lay of the Bloody Vest.

"Thou hast changed the measure upon us unawares in that last couplet, my
Blondel," said the King.

"Most true, my lord," said Blondel. "I rendered the verses from the
Italian of an old harper whom I met in Cyprus, and not having had time
either to translate it accurately or commit it to memory, I am fain to
supply gaps in the music and the verse as I can upon the spur of the
moment, as you see boors mend a quickset fence with a fagot."

"Nay, on my faith," said the King, "I like these rattling, rolling
Alexandrines. Methinks they come more twangingly off to the music than
that briefer measure."

"Both are licensed, as is well known to your Grace," answered Blondel.

"They are so, Blondel," said Richard, "yet methinks the scene where
there is like to be fighting will go best on in these same thundering
Alexandrines, which sound like the charge of cavalry, while the other
measure is but like the sidelong amble of a lady's palfrey."

"It shall be as your Grace pleases," replied Blondel, and began again to
prelude.

"Nay, first cherish thy fancy with a cup of fiery Chios wine," said
the King. "And hark thee, I would have thee fling away that new-fangled
restriction of thine, of terminating in accurate and similar rhymes.
They are a constraint on thy flow of fancy, and make thee resemble a man
dancing in fetters."

"The fetters are easily flung off, at least," said Blondel, again
sweeping his fingers over the strings, as one who would rather have
played than listened to criticism.

"But why put them on, man?" continued the King. "Wherefore thrust thy
genius into iron bracelets? I marvel how you got forward at all. I am
sure I should not have been able to compose a stanza in yonder hampered
measure."

Blondel looked down, and busied himself with the strings of his harp, to
hide an involuntary smile which crept over his features; but it escaped
not Richard's observation.

"By my faith, thou laughest at me, Blondel," he said; "and, in good
truth, every man deserves it who presumes to play the master when he
should be the pupil. But we kings get bad habits of self-opinion. Come,
on with thy lay, dearest Blondel--on after thine own fashion, better
than aught that we can suggest, though we must needs be talking."

Blondel resumed the lay; but as extemporaneous composition was familiar
to him, he failed not to comply with the King's hints, and was perhaps
not displeased to show with how much ease he could new-model a poem,
even while in the act of recitation.


                   THE BLOODY VEST.

                    FYTTE SECOND.

     The Baptist's fair morrow beheld gallant feats--
     There was winning of honour and losing of seats;
     There was hewing with falchions and splintering of staves--
     The victors won glory, the vanquish'd won graves.
     Oh, many a knight there fought bravely and well,
     Yet one was accounted his peers to excel,
     And 'twas he whose sole armour on body and breast
     Seem'd the weed of a damsel when bouned for her rest.

     There were some dealt him wounds that were bloody and sore,
     But others respected his plight, and forbore.
     "It is some oath of honour," they said, "and I trow,
     'Twere unknightly to slay him achieving his vow."
     Then the Prince, for his sake, bade the tournament cease--
     He flung down his warder, the trumpets sung peace;
     And the judges declare, and competitors yield,
     That the Knight of the Night-gear was first in the field.

     The feast it was nigh, and the mass it was nigher,
     When before the fair Princess low looted a squire,
     And deliver'd a garment unseemly to view,
     With sword-cut and spear-thrust, all hack'd and pierc'd through;
     All rent and all tatter'd, all clotted with blood,
     With foam of the horses, with dust, and with mud;
     Not the point of that lady's small finger, I ween,
     Could have rested on spot was unsullied and clean.

     "This token my master, Sir Thomas a Kent,
     Restores to the Princess of fair Benevent;
     He that climbs the tall tree has won right to the fruit,
     He that leaps the wide gulf should prevail in his suit;
     Through life's utmost peril the prize I have won,
     And now must the faith of my mistress be shown:
     For she who prompts knights on such danger to run
     Must avouch his true service in front of the sun.

     "'I restore,' says my master, 'the garment I've worn,
     And I claim of the Princess to don it in turn;
     For its stains and its rents she should prize it the more,
     Since by shame 'tis unsullied, though crimson'd with gore.'"
     Then deep blush'd the Princess--yet kiss'd she and press'd
     The blood-spotted robes to her lips and her breast.
     "Go tell my true knight, church and chamber shall show
     If I value the blood on this garment or no."

     And when it was time for the nobles to pass,
     In solemn procession to minster and mass,
     The first walk'd the Princess in purple and pall,
     But the blood-besmear'd night-robe she wore over all;
     And eke, in the hall, where they all sat at dine,
     When she knelt to her father and proffer'd the wine,
     Over all her rich robes and state jewels she wore
     That wimple unseemly bedabbled with gore.

     Then lords whisper'd ladies, as well you may think,
     And ladies replied with nod, titter, and wink;
     And the Prince, who in anger and shame had look'd down,
     Turn'd at length to his daughter, and spoke with a frown:
     "Now since thou hast publish'd thy folly and guilt,
     E'en atone with thy hand for the blood thou hast spilt;
     Yet sore for your boldness you both will repent,
     When you wander as exiles from fair Benevent."

     Then out spoke stout Thomas, in hall where he stood,
     Exhausted and feeble, but dauntless of mood:
     "The blood that I lost for this daughter of thine,
     I pour'd forth as freely as flask gives its wine;
     And if for my sake she brooks penance and blame,
     Do not doubt I will save her from suffering and shame;
     And light will she reck of thy princedom and rent,
     When I hail her, in England, the Countess of Kent."


A murmur of applause ran through the assembly, following the example
of Richard himself, who loaded with praises his favourite minstrel, and
ended by presenting him with a ring of considerable value. The Queen
hastened to distinguish the favourite by a rich bracelet, and many of
the nobles who were present followed the royal example.

"Is our cousin Edith," said the King, "become insensible to the sound of
the harp she once loved?"

"She thanks Blondel for his lay," replied Edith, "but doubly the
kindness of the kinsman who suggested it."

"Thou art angry, cousin," said the King; "angry because thou hast heard
of a woman more wayward than thyself. But you escape me not. I will walk
a space homeward with you towards the Queen's pavilion. We must have
conference together ere the night has waned into morning."

The Queen and her attendants were now on foot, and the other guests
withdrew from the royal tent. A train with blazing torches, and an
escort of archers, awaited Berengaria without the pavilion, and she was
soon on her way homeward. Richard, as he had proposed, walked beside
his kinswoman, and compelled her to accept of his arm as her support, so
that they could speak to each other without being overheard.

"What answer, then, am I to return to the noble Soldan?" said Richard.
"The kings and princes are falling from me, Edith; this new quarrel hath
alienated them once more. I would do something for the Holy Sepulchre by
composition, if not by victory; and the chance of my doing this depends,
alas, on the caprice of a woman. I would lay my single spear in the rest
against ten of the best lances in Christendom, rather than argue with a
wilful wench who knows not what is for her own good. What answer, coz,
am I to return to the Soldan? It must be decisive."

"Tell him," said Edith, "that the poorest of the Plantagenets will
rather wed with misery than with misbelief."

"Shall I say with slavery, Edith?" said the King. "Methinks that is
nearer thy thoughts."

"There is no room," said Edith, "for the suspicion you so grossly
insinuate. Slavery of the body might have been pitied, but that of the
soul is only to be despised. Shame to thee, King of merry England. Thou
hast enthralled both the limbs and the spirit of a knight, one scarce
less famed than thyself."

"Should I not prevent my kinswoman from drinking poison, by sullying
the vessel which contained it, if I saw no other means of disgusting her
with the fatal liquor?" replied the King.

"It is thyself," answered Edith, "that would press me to drink poison,
because it is proffered in a golden chalice."

"Edith," said Richard, "I cannot force thy resolution; but beware you
shut not the door which Heaven opens. The hermit of Engaddi--he whom
Popes and Councils have regarded as a prophet--hath read in the stars
that thy marriage shall reconcile me with a powerful enemy, and that thy
husband shall be Christian, leaving thus the fairest ground to hope that
the conversion of the Soldan, and the bringing in of the sons of Ishmael
to the pale of the church, will be the consequence of thy wedding with
Saladin. Come, thou must make some sacrifice rather than mar such happy
prospects."

"Men may sacrifice rams and goats," said Edith, "but not honour and
conscience. I have heard that it was the dishonour of a Christian maiden
which brought the Saracens into Spain; the shame of another is no likely
mode of expelling them from Palestine."

"Dost thou call it shame to become an empress?" said the King.

"I call it shame and dishonour to profane a Christian sacrament by
entering into it with an infidel whom it cannot bind; and I call it foul
dishonour that I, the descendant of a Christian princess, should become
of free will the head of a haram of heathen concubines."

"Well, kinswoman," said the King, after a pause, "I must not quarrel
with thee, though I think thy dependent condition might have dictated
more compliance."

"My liege," replied Edith, "your Grace hath worthily succeeded to all
the wealth, dignity, and dominion of the House of Plantagenet--do
not, therefore, begrudge your poor kinswoman some small share of their
pride."

"By my faith, wench," said the King, "thou hast unhorsed me with that
very word, so we will kiss and be friends. I will presently dispatch
thy answer to Saladin. But after all, coz, were it not better to
suspend your answer till you have seen him? Men say he is pre-eminently
handsome."

"There is no chance of our meeting, my lord," said Edith.

"By Saint George, but there is next to a certainty of it," said the
King; "for Saladin will doubtless afford us a free field for the
doing of this new battle of the Standard, and will witness it himself.
Berengaria is wild to behold it also; and I dare be sworn not a feather
of you, her companions and attendants, will remain behind--least of all
thou thyself, fair coz. But come, we have reached the pavilion, and must
part; not in unkindness thou, oh--nay, thou must seal it with thy lip as
well as thy hand, sweet Edith--it is my right as a sovereign to kiss my
pretty vassals."

He embraced her respectfully and affectionately, and returned through
the moonlit camp, humming to himself such snatches of Blondel's lay as
he could recollect.

On his arrival he lost no time in making up his dispatches for Saladin,
and delivered them to the Nubian, with a charge to set out by peep of
day on his return to the Soldan.



CHAPTER XXVII.

     We heard the Techir--so these Arabs call
     Their shout of onset, when, with loud acclaim,
     They challenge Heaven to give them victory.
        SIEGE OF DAMASCUS.

On the subsequent morning Richard was invited to a conference by Philip
of France, in which the latter, with many expressions of his high esteem
for his brother of England, communicated to him in terms extremely
courteous, but too explicit to be misunderstood, his positive intention
to return to Europe, and to the cares of his kingdom, as entirely
despairing of future success in their undertaking, with their diminished
forces and civil discords. Richard remonstrated, but in vain; and when
the conference ended he received without surprise a manifesto from the
Duke of Austria, and several other princes, announcing a resolution
similar to that of Philip, and in no modified terms, assigning, for
their defection from the cause of the Cross, the inordinate ambition and
arbitrary domination of Richard of England. All hopes of continuing
the war with any prospect of ultimate success were now abandoned; and
Richard, while he shed bitter tears over his disappointed hopes of
glory, was little consoled by the recollection that the failure was
in some degree to be imputed to the advantages which he had given his
enemies by his own hasty and imprudent temper.

"They had not dared to have deserted my father thus," he said to De
Vaux, in the bitterness of his resentment. "No slanders they could have
uttered against so wise a king would have been believed in Christendom;
whereas--fool that I am!--I have not only afforded them a pretext for
deserting me, but even a colour for casting all the blame of the rupture
upon my unhappy foibles."

These thoughts were so deeply galling to the King, that De Vaux was
rejoiced when the arrival of an ambassador from Saladin turned his
reflections into a different channel.

This new envoy was an Emir much respected by the Soldan, whose name
was Abdallah el Hadgi. He derived his descent from the family of the
Prophet, and the race or tribe of Hashem, in witness of which genealogy
he wore a green turban of large dimensions. He had also three times
performed the journey to Mecca, from which he derived his epithet of
El Hadgi, or the Pilgrim. Notwithstanding these various pretensions to
sanctity, Abdallah was (for an Arab) a boon companion, who enjoyed
a merry tale, and laid aside his gravity so far as to quaff a blithe
flagon when secrecy ensured him against scandal. He was likewise
a statesman, whose abilities had been used by Saladin in various
negotiations with the Christian princes, and particularly with Richard,
to whom El Hadgi was personally known and acceptable. Animated by the
cheerful acquiescence with which the envoy of Saladin afforded a fair
field for the combat, a safe conduct for all who might choose to witness
it, and offered his own person as a guarantee of his fidelity, Richard
soon forgot his disappointed hopes, and the approaching dissolution of
the Christian league, in the interesting discussions preceding a combat
in the lists.

The station called the Diamond of the Desert was assigned for the place
of conflict, as being nearly at an equal distance betwixt the Christian
and Saracen camps. It was agreed that Conrade of Montserrat, the
defendant, with his godfathers, the Archduke of Austria and the Grand
Master of the Templars, should appear there on the day fixed for the
combat, with a hundred armed followers, and no more; that Richard of
England and his brother Salisbury, who supported the accusation, should
attend with the same number, to protect his champion; and that the
Soldan should bring with him a guard of five hundred chosen followers,
a band considered as not more than equal to the two hundred Christian
lances. Such persons of consideration as either party chose to invite to
witness the contest were to wear no other weapons than their swords, and
to come without defensive armour. The Soldan undertook the preparation
of the lists, and to provide accommodations and refreshments of every
kind for all who were to assist at the solemnity; and his letters
expressed with much courtesy the pleasure which he anticipated in the
prospect of a personal and peaceful meeting with the Melech Ric, and his
anxious desire to render his reception as agreeable as possible.

All preliminaries being arranged and communicated to the defendant
and his godfathers, Abdullah the Hadgi was admitted to a more private
interview, where he heard with delight the strains of Blondel. Having
first carefully put his green turban out of sight, and assumed a
Greek cap in its stead, he requited the Norman minstrel's music with a
drinking song from the Persian, and quaffed a hearty flagon of Cyprus
wine, to show that his practice matched his principles. On the next day,
grave and sober as the water-drinker Mirglip, he bent his brow to the
ground before Saladin's footstool, and rendered to the Soldan an account
of his embassy.

On the day before that appointed for the combat Conrade and his friends
set off by daybreak to repair to the place assigned, and Richard left
the camp at the same hour and for the same purpose; but, as had been
agreed upon, he took his journey by a different route--a precaution
which had been judged necessary, to prevent the possibility of a quarrel
betwixt their armed attendants.

The good King himself was in no humour for quarrelling with any one.
Nothing could have added to his pleasurable anticipations of a desperate
and bloody combat in the lists, except his being in his own royal
person one of the combatants; and he was half in charity again even
with Conrade of Montserrat. Lightly armed, richly dressed, and gay as
a bridegroom on the eve of his nuptials, Richard caracoled along by
the side of Queen Berengaria's litter, pointing out to her the various
scenes through which they passed, and cheering with tale and song the
bosom of the inhospitable wilderness. The former route of the Queen's
pilgrimage to Engaddi had been on the other side of the chain of
mountains, so that the ladies were strangers to the scenery of the
desert; and though Berengaria knew her husband's disposition too well
not to endeavour to seem interested in what he was pleased either to
say or to sing, she could not help indulging some female fears when she
found herself in the howling wilderness with so small an escort, which
seemed almost like a moving speck on the bosom of the plain, and knew
at the same time they were not so distant from the camp of Saladin,
but what they might be in a moment surprised and swept off by an
overpowering host of his fiery-footed cavalry, should the pagan be
faithless enough to embrace an opportunity thus tempting. But when she
hinted these suspicions to Richard he repelled them with displeasure and
disdain. "It were worse than ingratitude," he said, "to doubt the good
faith of the generous Soldan."

Yet the same doubts and fears recurred more than once, not to the timid
mind of the Queen alone, but to the firmer and more candid soul of Edith
Plantagenet, who had no such confidence in the faith of the Moslem as
to render her perfectly at ease when so much in their power; and her
surprise had been far less than her terror, if the desert around had
suddenly resounded with the shout of ALLAH HU! and a band of Arab
cavalry had pounced on them like vultures on their prey. Nor were these
suspicions lessened when, as evening approached, they were aware of
a single Arab horseman, distinguished by his turban and long lance,
hovering on the edge of a small eminence like a hawk poised in the air,
and who instantly, on the appearance of the royal retinue, darted
off with the speed of the same bird when it shoots down the wind and
disappears from the horizon.

"We must be near the station," said King Richard; "and yonder cavalier
is one of Saladin's outposts--methinks I hear the noise of the Moorish
horns and cymbals. Get you into order, my hearts, and form yourselves
around the ladies soldierlike and firmly."

As he spoke, each knight, squire, and archer hastily closed in upon his
appointed ground, and they proceeded in the most compact order, which
made their numbers appear still smaller. And to say the truth, though
there might be no fear, there was anxiety as well as curiosity in the
attention with which they listened to the wild bursts of Moorish music,
which came ever and anon more distinctly from the quarter in which the
Arab horseman had been seen to disappear.

De Vaux spoke in a whisper to the King. "Were it not well, my liege, to
send a page to the top of that sand-bank? Or would it stand with your
pleasure that I prick forward? Methinks, by all yonder clash and clang,
if there be no more than five hundred men beyond the sand-hills, half of
the Soldan's retinue must be drummers and cymbal-tossers. Shall I spur
on?"

The baron had checked his horse with the bit, and was just about to
strike him with the spurs when the King exclaimed, "Not for the world.
Such a caution would express suspicion, and could do little to prevent
surprise, which, however, I apprehend not."

They advanced accordingly in close and firm order till they surmounted
the line of low sand-hills, and came in sight of the appointed station,
when a splendid, but at the same time a startling, spectacle awaited
them.

The Diamond of the Desert, so lately a solitary fountain, distinguished
only amid the waste by solitary groups of palm-trees, was now the centre
of an encampment, the embroidered flags and gilded ornaments of which
glittered far and wide, and reflected a thousand rich tints against the
setting sun. The coverings of the large pavilions were of the gayest
colours--scarlet, bright yellow, pale blue, and other gaudy and gleaming
hues--and the tops of their pillars, or tent-poles, were decorated
with golden pomegranates and small silken flags. But besides these
distinguished pavilions, there were what Thomas de Vaux considered as
a portentous number of the ordinary black tents of the Arabs, being
sufficient, as he conceived, to accommodate, according to the Eastern
fashion, a host of five thousand men. A number of Arabs and Kurds, fully
corresponding to the extent of the encampment, were hastily assembling,
each leading his horse in his hand, and their muster was accompanied by
an astonishing clamour of their noisy instruments of martial music, by
which, in all ages, the warfare of the Arabs has been animated.

They soon formed a deep and confused mass of dismounted cavalry in front
of their encampment, when, at the signal of a shrill cry, which arose
high over the clangour of the music, each cavalier sprung to his saddle.
A cloud of dust arising at the moment of this manoeuvre hid from Richard
and his attendants the camp, the palm-trees, and the distant ridge of
mountains, as well as the troops whose sudden movement had raised the
cloud, and, ascending high over their heads, formed itself into the
fantastic forms of writhed pillars, domes, and minarets. Another shrill
yell was heard from the bosom of this cloudy tabernacle. It was the
signal for the cavalry to advance, which they did at full gallop,
disposing themselves as they came forward so as to come in at once on
the front, flanks, and rear of Richard's little bodyguard, who were thus
surrounded, and almost choked by the dense clouds of dust enveloping
them on each side, through which were seen alternately, and lost, the
grim forms and wild faces of the Saracens, brandishing and tossing their
lances in every possible direction with the wildest cries and halloos,
and frequently only reining up their horses when within a spear's length
of the Christians, while those in the rear discharged over the heads of
both parties thick volleys of arrows. One of these struck the litter in
which the Queen was seated, who loudly screamed, and the red spot was on
Richard's brow in an instant.

"Ha! Saint George," he exclaimed, "we must take some order with this
infidel scum!"

But Edith, whose litter was near, thrust her head out, and with her hand
holding one of the shafts, exclaimed, "Royal Richard, beware what you
do! see, these arrows are headless!"

"Noble, sensible wench!" exclaimed Richard; "by Heaven, thou shamest
us all by thy readiness of thought and eye.--Be not moved, my English
hearts," he exclaimed to his followers; "their arrows have no heads--and
their spears, too, lack the steel points. It is but a wild welcome,
after their savage fashion, though doubtless they would rejoice to see
us daunted or disturbed. Move onward, slow and steady."

The little phalanx moved forward accordingly, accompanied on all sides
by the Arabs, with the shrillest and most piercing cries, the bowmen,
meanwhile, displaying their agility by shooting as near the crests of
the Christians as was possible, without actually hitting them, while the
lancers charged each other with such rude blows of their blunt weapons
that more than one of them lost his saddle, and well-nigh his life,
in this rough sport. All this, though designed to express welcome, had
rather a doubtful appearance in the eyes of the Europeans.

As they had advanced nearly half way towards the camp, King Richard and
his suite forming, as it were, the nucleus round which this tumultuary
body of horsemen howled, whooped, skirmished, and galloped, creating a
scene of indescribable confusion, another shrill cry was heard, on which
all these irregulars, who were on the front and upon the flanks of the
little body of Europeans, wheeled off; and forming themselves into a
long and deep column, followed with comparative order and silence in
the rear of Richard's troops. The dust began now to dissipate in their
front, when there advanced to meet them through that cloudy veil a body
of cavalry of a different and more regular description, completely armed
with offensive and defensive weapons, and who might well have served
as a bodyguard to the proudest of Eastern monarchs. This splendid troop
consisted of five hundred men and each horse which it contained was
worth an earl's ransom. The riders were Georgian and Circassian slaves
in the very prime of life. Their helmets and hauberks were formed of
steel rings, so bright that they shone like silver; their vestures were
of the gayest colours, and some of cloth of gold or silver; the sashes
were twisted with silk and gold, their rich turbans were plumed and
jewelled, and their sabres and poniards, of Damascene steel, were
adorned with gold and gems on hilt and scabbard.

This splendid array advanced to the sound of military music, and when
they met the Christian body they opened their files to the right and
left, and let them enter between their ranks. Richard now assumed the
foremost place in his troop, aware that Saladin himself was approaching.
Nor was it long when, in the centre of his bodyguard, surrounded by his
domestic officers and those hideous negroes who guard the Eastern
haram, and whose misshapen forms were rendered yet more frightful by the
richness of their attire, came the Soldan, with the look and manners of
one on whose brow Nature had written, This is a King! In his snow-white
turban, vest, and wide Eastern trousers, wearing a sash of scarlet
silk, without any other ornament, Saladin might have seemed the
plainest-dressed man in his own guard. But closer inspection discerned
in his turban that inestimable gem which was called by the poets the
Sea of Light; the diamond on which his signet was engraved, and which he
wore in a ring, was probably worth all the jewels of the English crown;
and a sapphire which terminated the hilt of his cangiar was not of much
inferior value. It should be added that, to protect himself from the
dust, which in the vicinity of the Dead Sea resembles the finest ashes,
or, perhaps, out of Oriental pride, the Soldan wore a sort of veil
attached to his turban, which partly obscured the view of his noble
features. He rode a milk-white Arabian, which bore him as if conscious
and proud of his noble burden.

There was no need of further introduction. The two heroic monarchs--for
such they both were--threw themselves at once from horseback, and the
troops halting and the music suddenly ceasing, they advanced to meet
each other in profound silence, and after a courteous inclination on
either side they embraced as brethren and equals. The pomp and display
upon both sides attracted no further notice--no one saw aught save
Richard and Saladin, and they too beheld nothing but each other. The
looks with which Richard surveyed Saladin were, however, more intently
curious than those which the Soldan fixed upon him; and the Soldan also
was the first to break silence.

"The Melech Ric is welcome to Saladin as water to this desert. I trust
he hath no distrust of this numerous array. Excepting the armed slaves
of my household, those who surround you with eyes of wonder and of
welcome are--even the humblest of them--the privileged nobles of my
thousand tribes; for who that could claim a title to be present would
remain at home when such a Prince was to be seen as Richard, with the
terrors of whose name, even on the sands of Yemen, the nurse stills her
child, and the free Arab subdues his restive steed!"

"And these are all nobles of Araby?" said Richard, looking around on
wild forms with their persons covered with haiks, their countenance
swart with the sunbeams, their teeth as white as ivory, their black eyes
glancing with fierce and preternatural lustre from under the shade of
their turbans, and their dress being in general simple even to meanness.

"They claim such rank," said Saladin; "but though numerous, they
are within the conditions of the treaty, and bear no arms but the
sabre--even the iron of their lances is left behind."

"I fear," muttered De Vaux in English, "they have left them where they
can be soon found. A most flourishing House of Peers, I confess, and
would find Westminster Hall something too narrow for them."

"Hush, De Vaux," said Richard, "I command thee.--Noble Saladin," he
said, "suspicion and thou cannot exist on the same ground. Seest thou,"
pointing to the litters, "I too have brought some champions with me,
though armed, perhaps, in breach of agreement; for bright eyes and fair
features are weapons which cannot be left behind."

The Soldan, turning to the litters, made an obeisance as lowly as if
looking towards Mecca, and kissed the sand in token of respect.

"Nay," said Richard, "they will not fear a closer encounter, brother;
wilt thou not ride towards their litters, and the curtains will be
presently withdrawn?"

"That may Allah prohibit!" said Saladin, "since not an Arab looks on who
would not think it shame to the noble ladies to be seen with their faces
uncovered."

"Thou shalt see them, then, in private, brother," answered Richard.

"To what purpose?" answered Saladin mournfully. "Thy last letter was,
to the hopes which I had entertained, like water to fire; and wherefore
should I again light a flame which may indeed consume, but cannot cheer
me? But will not my brother pass to the tent which his servant hath
prepared for him? My principal black slave hath taken order for the
reception of the Princesses, the officers of my household will attend
your followers, and ourself will be the chamberlain of the royal
Richard."

He led the way accordingly to a splendid pavilion, where was everything
that royal luxury could devise. De Vaux, who was in attendance, then
removed the chappe (CAPA), or long riding-cloak, which Richard wore, and
he stood before Saladin in the close dress which showed to advantage the
strength and symmetry of his person, while it bore a strong contrast
to the flowing robes which disguised the thin frame. of the Eastern
monarch. It was Richard's two-handed sword that chiefly attracted
the attention of the Saracen--a broad, straight blade, the seemingly
unwieldy length of which extended well-nigh from the shoulder to the
heel of the wearer.

"Had I not," said Saladin, "seen this brand flaming in the front of
battle, like that of Azrael, I had scarce believed that human arm could
wield it. Might I request to see the Melech Ric strike one blow with it
in peace, and in pure trial of strength?"

"Willingly, noble Saladin," answered Richard; and looking around for
something whereon to exercise his strength, he saw a steel mace held by
one of the attendants, the handle being of the same metal, and about an
inch and a half in diameter. This he placed on a block of wood.

The anxiety of De Vaux for his master's honour led him to whisper in
English, "For the blessed Virgin's sake, beware what you attempt, my
liege! Your full strength is not as yet returned--give no triumph to the
infidel."

"Peace, fool!" said Richard, standing firm on his ground, and casting a
fierce glance around; "thinkest thou that I can fail in HIS presence?"

The glittering broadsword, wielded by both his hands, rose aloft to the
King's left shoulder, circled round his head, descended with the sway
of some terrific engine, and the bar of iron rolled on the ground in two
pieces, as a woodsman would sever a sapling with a hedging-bill.

"By the head of the Prophet, a most wonderful blow!" said the Soldan,
critically and accurately examining the iron bar which had been cut
asunder; and the blade of the sword was so well tempered as to exhibit
not the least token of having suffered by the feat it had performed. He
then took the King's hand, and looking on the size and muscular strength
which it exhibited, laughed as he placed it beside his own, so lank and
thin, so inferior in brawn and sinew.

"Ay, look well," said De Vaux in English, "it will be long ere your long
jackanape's fingers do such a feat with your fine gilded reaping-hook
there."

"Silence, De Vaux," said Richard; "by Our Lady, he understands or
guesses thy meaning--be not so broad, I pray thee."

The Soldan, indeed, presently said, "Something I would fain
attempt--though wherefore should the weak show their inferiority in
presence of the strong? Yet each land hath its own exercises, and this
may be new to the Melech Ric." So saying, he took from the floor a
cushion of silk and down, and placed it upright on one end. "Can thy
weapon, my brother, sever that cushion?" he said to King Richard.

"No, surely," replied the King; "no sword on earth, were it the
Excalibur of King Arthur, can cut that which opposes no steady
resistance to the blow."

"Mark, then," said Saladin; and tucking up the sleeve of his gown,
showed his arm, thin indeed and spare, but which constant exercise had
hardened into a mass consisting of nought but bone, brawn, and sinew. He
unsheathed his scimitar, a curved and narrow blade, which glittered not
like the swords of the Franks, but was, on the contrary, of a dull blue
colour, marked with ten millions of meandering lines, which showed
how anxiously the metal had been welded by the armourer. Wielding this
weapon, apparently so inefficient when compared to that of Richard, the
Soldan stood resting his weight upon his left foot, which was slightly
advanced; he balanced himself a little, as if to steady his aim; then
stepping at once forward, drew the scimitar across the cushion, applying
the edge so dexterously, and with so little apparent effort, that the
cushion seemed rather to fall asunder than to be divided by violence.

"It is a juggler's trick," said De Vaux, darting forward and snatching
up the portion of the cushion which had been cut off, as if to assure
himself of the reality of the feat; "there is gramarye in this."

The Soldan seemed to comprehend him, for he undid the sort of veil
which he had hitherto worn, laid it double along the edge of his sabre,
extended the weapon edgeways in the air, and drawing it suddenly through
the veil, although it hung on the blade entirely loose, severed that
also into two parts, which floated to different sides of the tent,
equally displaying the extreme temper and sharpness of the weapon, and
the exquisite dexterity of him who used it.

"Now, in good faith, my brother," said Richard, "thou art even matchless
at the trick of the sword, and right perilous were it to meet thee!
Still, however, I put some faith in a downright English blow, and what
we cannot do by sleight we eke out by strength. Nevertheless, in truth
thou art as expert in inflicting wounds as my sage Hakim in curing them.
I trust I shall see the learned leech. I have much to thank him for, and
had brought some small present."

As he spoke, Saladin exchanged his turban for a Tartar cap. He had no
sooner done so, than De Vaux opened at once his extended mouth and his
large, round eyes, and Richard gazed with scarce less astonishment,
while the Soldan spoke in a grave and altered voice: "The sick man,
saith the poet, while he is yet infirm, knoweth the physician by his
step; but when he is recovered, he knoweth not even his face when he
looks upon him."

"A miracle!--a miracle!" exclaimed Richard.

"Of Mahound's working, doubtless," said Thomas de Vaux.

"That I should lose my learned Hakim," said Richard, "merely by absence
of his cap and robe, and that I should find him again in my royal
brother Saladin!"

"Such is oft the fashion of the world," answered the Soldan; "the
tattered robe makes not always the dervise."

"And it was through thy intercession," said Richard, "that yonder
Knight of the Leopard was saved from death, and by thy artifice that he
revisited my camp in disguise?"

"Even so," replied Saladin. "I was physician enough to know that, unless
the wounds of his bleeding honour were stanched, the days of his life
must be few. His disguise was more easily penetrated than I had expected
from the success of my own."

"An accident," said King Richard (probably alluding to the circumstance
of his applying his lips to the wound of the supposed Nubian), "let me
first know that his skin was artificially discoloured; and that hint
once taken, detection became easy, for his form and person are not to be
forgotten. I confidently expect that he will do battle on the morrow."

"He is full in preparation, and high in hope," said the Soldan. "I have
furnished him with weapons and horse, thinking nobly of him from what I
have seen under various disguises."

"Knows he now," said Richard, "to whom he lies under obligation?"

"He doth," replied the Saracen. "I was obliged to confess my person when
I unfolded my purpose."

"And confessed he aught to you?" said the King of England.

"Nothing explicit," replied the Soldan; "but from much that passed
between us, I conceive his love is too highly placed to be happy in its
issue."

"And thou knowest that his daring and insolent passion crossed thine own
wishes?" said Richard.

"I might guess so much," said Saladin; "but his passion had existed ere
my wishes had been formed--and, I must now add, is likely to survive
them. I cannot, in honour, revenge me for my disappointment on him who
had no hand in it. Or, if this high-born dame loved him better than
myself, who can say that she did not justice to a knight of her own
religion, who is full of nobleness?"

"Yet of too mean lineage to mix with the blood of Plantagenet," said
Richard haughtily.

"Such may be your maxims in Frangistan," replied the Soldan. "Our poets
of the Eastern countries say that a valiant camel-driver is worthy to
kiss the lip of a fair Queen, when a cowardly prince is not worthy to
salute the hem of her garment. But with your permission, noble brother,
I must take leave of thee for the present, to receive the Duke of
Austria and yonder Nazarene knight, much less worthy of hospitality, but
who must yet be suitably entreated, not for their sakes, but for mine
own honour--for what saith the sage Lokman? 'Say not that the food
is lost unto thee which is given to the stranger; for if his body be
strengthened and fattened therewithal, not less is thine own worship and
good name cherished and augmented.'"

The Saracen Monarch departed from King Richard's tent, and having
indicated to him, rather with signs than with speech, where the pavilion
of the Queen and her attendants was pitched, he went to receive the
Marquis of Montserrat and his attendants, for whom, with less
goodwill, but with equal splendour, the magnificent Soldan had provided
accommodations. The most ample refreshments, both in the Oriental and
after the European fashion, were spread before the royal and princely
guests of Saladin, each in their own separate pavilion; and so attentive
was the Soldan to the habits and taste of his visitors, that Grecian
slaves were stationed to present them with the goblet, which is the
abomination of the sect of Mohammed. Ere Richard had finished his meal,
the ancient Omrah, who had brought the Soldan's letter to the Christian
camp, entered with a plan of the ceremonial to be observed on the
succeeding day of combat. Richard, who knew the taste of his old
acquaintance, invited him to pledge him in a flagon of wine of Shiraz;
but Abdallah gave him to understand, with a rueful aspect, that
self-denial in the present circumstances was a matter in which his
life was concerned, for that Saladin, tolerant in many respects, both
observed and enforced by high penalties the laws of the Prophet.

"Nay, then," said Richard, "if he loves not wine, that lightener of the
human heart, his conversion is not to be hoped for, and the prediction
of the mad priest of Engaddi goes like chaff down the wind."

The King then addressed himself to settle the articles of combat, which
cost a considerable time, as it was necessary on some points to consult
with the opposite parties, as well as with the Soldan.

They were at length finally agreed upon, and adjusted by a protocol in
French and in Arabian, which was subscribed by Saladin as umpire of the
field, and by Richard and Leopold as guarantees for the two combatants.
As the Omrah took his final leave of King Richard for the evening, De
Vaux entered.

"The good knight," he said, "who is to do battle tomorrow requests to
know whether he may not to-night pay duty to his royal godfather!"

"Hast thou seen him, De Vaux?" said the King, smiling; "and didst thou
know an ancient acquaintance?"

"By our Lady of Lanercost," answered De Vaux, "there are so many
surprises and changes in this land that my poor brain turns. I scarce
knew Sir Kenneth of Scotland, till his good hound, that had been for a
short while under my care, came and fawned on me; and even then I only
knew the tyke by the depth of his chest, the roundness of his foot,
and his manner of baying, for the poor gazehound was painted like any
Venetian courtesan."

"Thou art better skilled in brutes than men, De Vaux," said the King.

"I will not deny," said De Vaux, "I have found them ofttimes the
honester animals. Also, your Grace is pleased to term me sometimes a
brute myself; besides that, I serve the Lion, whom all men acknowledge
the king of brutes."

"By Saint George, there thou brokest thy lance fairly on my brow," said
the King. "I have ever said thou hast a sort of wit, De Vaux; marry, one
must strike thee with a sledge-hammer ere it can be made to sparkle. But
to the present gear--is the good knight well armed and equipped?"

"Fully, my liege, and nobly," answered De Vaux. "I know the armour well;
it is that which the Venetian commissary offered your highness, just ere
you became ill, for five hundred byzants."

"And he hath sold it to the infidel Soldan, I warrant me, for a few
ducats more, and present payment. These Venetians would sell the
Sepulchre itself!"

"The armour will never be borne in a nobler cause," said De Vaux.

"Thanks to the nobleness of the Saracen," said the King, "not to the
avarice of the Venetians."

"I would to God your Grace would be more cautious," said the anxious
De Vaux. "Here are we deserted by all our allies, for points of offence
given to one or another; we cannot hope to prosper upon the land; and we
have only to quarrel with the amphibious republic, to lose the means of
retreat by sea!"

"I will take care," said Richard impatiently; "but school me no more.
Tell me rather, for it is of interest, hath the knight a confessor?"

"He hath," answered De Vaux; "the hermit of Engaddi, who erst did
him that office when preparing for death, attends him on the present
occasion, the fame of the duel having brought him hither."

"'Tis well," said Richard; "and now for the knight's request. Say to
him, Richard will receive him when the discharge of his devoir beside
the Diamond of the Desert shall have atoned for his fault beside the
Mount of Saint George; and as thou passest through the camp, let the
Queen know I will visit her pavilion--and tell Blondel to meet me
there."

De Vaux departed, and in about an hour afterwards, Richard, wrapping his
mantle around him, and taking his ghittern in his hand, walked in the
direction of the Queen's pavilion. Several Arabs passed him, but always
with averted heads and looks fixed upon the earth, though he could
observe that all gazed earnestly after him when he was past. This led
him justly to conjecture that his person was known to them; but that
either the Soldan's commands, or their own Oriental politeness, forbade
them to seem to notice a sovereign who desired to remain incognito.

When the King reached the pavilion of his Queen he found it guarded by
those unhappy officials whom Eastern jealousy places around the zenana.
Blondel was walking before the door, and touched his rote from time to
time in a manner which made the Africans show their ivory teeth, and
bear burden with their strange gestures and shrill, unnatural voices.

"What art thou after with this herd of black cattle, Blondel?" said the
King; "wherefore goest thou not into the tent?"

"Because my trade can neither spare the head nor the fingers," said
Blondel, "and these honest blackamoors threatened to cut me joint from
joint if I pressed forward."

"Well, enter with me," said the King, "and I will be thy safeguard."

The blacks accordingly lowered pikes and swords to King Richard, and
bent their eyes on the ground, as if unworthy to look upon him. In the
interior of the pavilion they found Thomas de Vaux in attendance on the
Queen. While Berengaria welcomed Blondel, King Richard spoke for some
time secretly and apart with his fair kinswoman.

At length, "Are we still foes, my fair Edith?" he said, in a whisper.

"No, my liege," said Edith, in a voice just so low as not to interrupt
the music; "none can bear enmity against King Richard when he deigns to
show himself, as he really is, generous and noble, as well as valiant
and honourable."

So saying, she extended her hand to him. The King kissed it in token of
reconciliation, and then proceeded.

"You think, my sweet cousin, that my anger in this matter was feigned;
but you are deceived. The punishment I inflicted upon this knight was
just; for he had betrayed--no matter for how tempting a bribe, fair
cousin--the trust committed to him. But I rejoice, perchance as much as
you, that to-morrow gives him a chance to win the field, and throw
back the stain which for a time clung to him upon the actual thief and
traitor. No!--future times may blame Richard for impetuous folly, but
they shall say that in rendering judgment he was just when he should and
merciful when he could."

"Laud not thyself, cousin King," said Edith. "They may call thy justice
cruelty, thy mercy caprice."

"And do not thou pride thyself," said the King, "as if thy knight,
who hath not yet buckled on his armour, were unbelting it in
triumph--Conrade of Montserrat is held a good lance. What if the Scot
should lose the day?"

"It is impossible!" said Edith firmly. "My own eyes saw yonder Conrade
tremble and change colour like a base thief; he is guilty, and the trial
by combat is an appeal to the justice of God. I myself, in such a cause,
would encounter him without fear."

"By the mass, I think thou wouldst, wench," said the King, "and beat him
to boot, for there never breathed a truer Plantagenet than thou."

 He paused, and added in a very serious tone, "See that thou
continue to remember what is due to thy birth."

"What means that advice, so seriously given at this moment?" said Edith.
"Am I of such light nature as to forget my name--my condition?"

"I will speak plainly, Edith," answered the King, "and as to a friend.
What will this knight be to you, should he come off victor from yonder
lists?"

"To me?" said Edith, blushing deep with shame and displeasure. "What can
he be to me more than an honoured knight, worthy of such grace as
Queen Berengaria might confer on him, had he selected her for his lady,
instead of a more unworthy choice? The meanest knight may devote himself
to the service of an empress, but the glory of his choice," she said
proudly, "must be his reward."

"Yet he hath served and suffered much for you," said the King.

"I have paid his services with honour and applause, and his sufferings
with tears," answered Edith. "Had he desired other reward, he would have
done wisely to have bestowed his affections within his own degree."

"You would not, then, wear the bloody night-gear for his sake?" said
King Richard.

"No more," answered Edith, "than I would have required him to expose his
life by an action in which there was more madness than honour."

"Maidens talk ever thus," said the King; "but when the favoured
lover presses his suit, she says, with a sigh, her stars had decreed
otherwise."

"Your Grace has now, for the second time, threatened me with the
influence of my horoscope," Edith replied, with dignity. "Trust me,
my liege, whatever be the power of the stars, your poor kinswoman will
never wed either infidel or obscure adventurer. Permit me that I listen
to the music of Blondel, for the tone of your royal admonitions is
scarce so grateful to the ear."

The conclusion of the evening offered nothing worthy of notice.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

     Heard ye the din of battle bray,
     Lance to lance, and horse to horse?
          GRAY.

It had been agreed, on account of the heat of the climate, that the
judicial combat which was the cause of the present assemblage of various
nations at the Diamond of the Desert should take place at one hour after
sunrise. The wide lists, which had been constructed under the inspection
of the Knight of the Leopard, enclosed a space of hard sand, which was
one hundred and twenty yards long by forty in width. They extended
in length from north to south, so as to give both parties the equal
advantage of the rising sun. Saladin's royal seat was erected on the
western side of the enclosure, just in the centre, where the combatants
were expected to meet in mid encounter. Opposed to this was a gallery
with closed casements, so contrived that the ladies, for whose
accommodation it was erected, might see the fight without being
themselves exposed to view. At either extremity of the lists was a
barrier, which could be opened or shut at pleasure. Thrones had been
also erected, but the Archduke, perceiving that his was lower than
King Richard's, refused to occupy it; and Coeur de Lion, who would have
submitted to much ere any formality should have interfered with the
combat, readily agreed that the sponsors, as they were called, should
remain on horseback during the fight. At one extremity of the lists
were placed the followers of Richard, and opposed to them were those
who accompanied the defender Conrade. Around the throne destined for
the Soldan were ranged his splendid Georgian Guards, and the rest of the
enclosure was occupied by Christian and Mohammedan spectators.

Long before daybreak the lists were surrounded by even a larger number
of Saracens than Richard had seen on the preceding evening. When the
first ray of the sun's glorious orb arose above the desert, the sonorous
call, "To prayer--to prayer!" was poured forth by the Soldan himself,
and answered by others, whose rank and zeal entitled them to act as
muezzins. It was a striking spectacle to see them all sink to earth,
for the purpose of repeating their devotions, with their faces turned
to Mecca. But when they arose from the ground, the sun's rays, now
strengthening fast, seemed to confirm the Lord of Gilsland's conjecture
of the night before. They were flashed back from many a spearhead, for
the pointless lances of the preceding day were certainly no longer such.
De Vaux pointed it out to his master, who answered with impatience that
he had perfect confidence in the good faith of the Soldan; but if De
Vaux was afraid of his bulky body, he might retire.

Soon after this the noise of timbrels was heard, at the sound of which
the whole Saracen cavaliers threw themselves from their horses, and
prostrated themselves, as if for a second morning prayer. This was to
give an opportunity to the Queen, with Edith and her attendants, to
pass from the pavilion to the gallery intended for them. Fifty guards of
Saladin's seraglio escorted them with naked sabres, whose orders were to
cut to pieces whomsoever, were he prince or peasant, should venture to
gaze on the ladies as they passed, or even presume to raise his head
until the cessation of the music should make all men aware that they
were lodged in their gallery, not to be gazed on by the curious eye.

This superstitious observance of Oriental reverence to the fair sex
called forth from Queen Berengaria some criticisms very unfavourable
to Saladin and his country. But their den, as the royal fair called it,
being securely closed and guarded by their sable attendants, she was
under the necessity of contenting herself with seeing, and laying aside
for the present the still more exquisite pleasure of being seen.

Meantime the sponsors of both champions went, as was their duty, to
see that they were duly armed and prepared for combat. The Archduke of
Austria was in no hurry to perform this part of the ceremony, having
had rather an unusually severe debauch upon wine of Shiraz the preceding
evening. But the Grand Master of the Temple, more deeply concerned
in the event of the combat, was early before the tent of Conrade
of Montserrat. To his great surprise, the attendants refused him
admittance.

"Do you not know me, ye knaves?" said the Grand Master, in great anger.

"We do, most valiant and reverend," answered Conrade's squire; "but even
you may not at present enter--the Marquis is about to confess himself."

"Confess himself!" exclaimed the Templar, in a tone where alarm mingled
with surprise and scorn--"and to whom, I pray thee?"

"My master bid me be secret," said the squire; on which the Grand Master
pushed past him, and entered the tent almost by force.

The Marquis of Montserrat was kneeling at the feet of the hermit of
Engaddi, and in the act of beginning his confession.

"What means this, Marquis?" said the Grand Master; "up, for shame--or,
if you must needs confess, am not I here?"

"I have confessed to you too often already," replied Conrade, with a
pale cheek and a faltering voice. "For God's sake, Grand Master, begone,
and let me unfold my conscience to this holy man."

"In what is he holier than I am?" said the Grand Master.--"Hermit,
prophet, madman--say, if thou darest, in what thou excellest me?"

"Bold and bad man," replied the hermit, "know that I am like the
latticed window, and the divine light passes through to avail others,
though, alas! it helpeth not me. Thou art like the iron stanchions,
which neither receive light themselves, nor communicate it to any one."

"Prate not to me, but depart from this tent," said the Grand Master;
"the Marquis shall not confess this morning, unless it be to me, for I
part not from his side."

"Is this YOUR pleasure?" said the hermit to Conrade; "for think not I
will obey that proud man, if you continue to desire my assistance."

"Alas," said Conrade irresolutely, "what would you have me say? Farewell
for a while---we will speak anon."

"O procrastination!" exclaimed the hermit, "thou art a
soul-murderer!--Unhappy man, farewell--not for a while, but until we
shall both meet no matter where. And for thee," he added, turning to the
Grand Master, "TREMBLE!"

"Tremble!" replied the Templar contemptuously, "I cannot if I would."

The hermit heard not his answer, having left the tent.

"Come! to this gear hastily," said the Grand Master, "since thou wilt
needs go through the foolery. Hark thee--I think I know most of thy
frailties by heart, so we may omit the detail, which may be somewhat
a long one, and begin with the absolution. What signifies counting the
spots of dirt that we are about to wash from our hands?"

"Knowing what thou art thyself," said Conrade, "it is blasphemous to
speak of pardoning another."

"That is not according to the canon, Lord Marquis," said the Templar;
"thou art more scrupulous than orthodox. The absolution of the wicked
priest is as effectual as if he were himself a saint--otherwise, God
help the poor penitent! What wounded man inquires whether the surgeon
that tends his gashes has clean hands or no? Come, shall we to this
toy?"

"No," said Conrade, "I will rather die unconfessed than mock the
sacrament."

"Come, noble Marquis," said the Templar, "rouse up your courage, and
speak not thus. In an hour's time thou shalt stand victorious in the
lists, or confess thee in thy helmet, like a valiant knight."

"Alas, Grand Master," answered Conrade, "all augurs ill for this affair,
the strange discovery by the instinct of a dog--the revival of this
Scottish knight, who comes into the lists like a spectre--all betokens
evil."

"Pshaw," said the Templar, "I have seen thee bend thy lance boldly
against him in sport, and with equal chance of success. Think thou art
but in a tournament, and who bears him better in the tilt-yard than
thou?--Come, squires and armourers, your master must be accoutred for
the field."

The attendants entered accordingly, and began to arm the Marquis.

"What morning is without?" said Conrade.

"The sun rises dimly," answered a squire.

"Thou seest, Grand Master," said Conrade, "nought smiles on us."

"Thou wilt fight the more coolly, my son," answered the Templar; "thank
Heaven, that hath tempered the sun of Palestine to suit thine occasion."

Thus jested the Grand Master. But his jests had lost their influence on
the harassed mind of the Marquis, and notwithstanding his attempts to
seem gay, his gloom communicated itself to the Templar.

"This craven," he thought, "will lose the day in pure faintness and
cowardice of heart, which he calls tender conscience. I, whom visions
and auguries shake not---who am firm in my purpose as the living rock--I
should have fought the combat myself. Would to God the Scot may strike
him dead on the spot; it were next best to his winning the victory. But
come what will, he must have no other confessor than myself--our sins
are too much in common, and he might confess my share with his own."

While these thoughts passed through his mind, he continued to assist the
Marquis in arming, but it was in silence.

The hour at length arrived; the trumpets sounded; the knights rode
into the lists armed at all points, and mounted like men who were to
do battle for a kingdom's honour. They wore their visors up, and riding
around the lists three times, showed themselves to the spectators. Both
were goodly persons, and both had noble countenances. But there was an
air of manly confidence on the brow of the Scot--a radiancy of hope,
which amounted even to cheerfulness; while, although pride and effort
had recalled much of Conrade's natural courage, there lowered still on
his brow a cloud of ominous despondence. Even his steed seemed to tread
less lightly and blithely to the trumpet-sound than the noble Arab which
was bestrode by Sir Kenneth; and the SPRUCH-SPRECHER shook his head
while he observed that, while the challenger rode around the lists in
the course of the sun--that is, from right to left--the defender made
the same circuit WIDDERSINS--that is, from left to right--which is in
most countries held ominous.

A temporary altar was erected just beneath the gallery occupied by the
Queen, and beside it stood the hermit in the dress of his order as a
Carmelite friar. Other churchmen were also present. To this altar the
challenger and defender were successively brought forward, conducted by
their respective sponsors. Dismounting before it, each knight avouched
the justice of his cause by a solemn oath on the Evangelists, and prayed
that his success might be according to the truth or falsehood of what he
then swore. They also made oath that they came to do battle in knightly
guise, and with the usual weapons, disclaiming the use of spells,
charms, or magical devices to incline victory to their side. The
challenger pronounced his vow with a firm and manly voice, and a bold
and cheerful countenance. When the ceremony was finished, the Scottish
Knight looked at the gallery, and bent his head to the earth, as if in
honour of those invisible beauties which were enclosed within; then,
loaded with armour as he was, sprung to the saddle without the use of
the stirrup, and made his courser carry him in a succession of caracoles
to his station at the eastern extremity of the lists. Conrade also
presented himself before the altar with boldness enough; but his voice
as he took the oath sounded hollow, as if drowned in his helmet. The
lips with which he appealed to Heaven to adjudge victory to the just
quarrel grew white as they uttered the impious mockery. As he turned
to remount his horse, the Grand Master approached him closer, as if
to rectify something about the sitting of his gorget, and whispered,
"Coward and fool! recall thy senses, and do me this battle bravely,
else, by Heaven, shouldst thou escape him, thou escapest not ME!"

The savage tone in which this was whispered perhaps completed the
confusion of the Marquis's nerves, for he stumbled as he made to horse;
and though he recovered his feet, sprung to the saddle with his usual
agility, and displayed his address in horsemanship as he assumed his
position opposite to the challenger's, yet the accident did not escape
those who were on the watch for omens which might predict the fate of
the day.

The priests, after a solemn prayer that God would show the rightful
quarrel, departed from the lists. The trumpets of the challenger then
rung a flourish, and a herald-at-arms proclaimed at the eastern end of
the lists--"Here stands a good knight, Sir Kenneth of Scotland, champion
for the royal King Richard of England, who accuseth Conrade, Marquis of
Montserrat, of foul treason and dishonour done to the said King."

When the words Kenneth of Scotland announced the name and character
of the champion, hitherto scarce generally known, a loud and cheerful
acclaim burst from the followers of King Richard, and hardly,
notwithstanding repeated commands of silence, suffered the reply of
the defendant to be heard. He, of course, avouched his innocence,
and offered his body for battle. The esquires of the combatants now
approached, and delivered to each his shield and lance, assisting to
hang the former around his neck, that his two hands might remain free,
one for the management of the bridle, the other to direct the lance.

The shield of the Scot displayed his old bearing, the leopard, but
with the addition of a collar and broken chain, in allusion to his late
captivity. The shield of the Marquis bore, in reference to his title,
a serrated and rocky mountain. Each shook his lance aloft, as if to
ascertain the weight and toughness of the unwieldy weapon, and then laid
it in the rest. The sponsors, heralds, and squires now retired to the
barriers, and the combatants sat opposite to each other, face to face,
with couched lance and closed visor, the human form so completely
enclosed, that they looked more like statues of molten iron than
beings of flesh and blood. The silence of suspense was now general.
Men breathed thicker, and their very souls seemed seated in their eyes;
while not a sound was to be heard save the snorting and pawing of the
good steeds, who, sensible of what was about to happen, were impatient
to dash into career. They stood thus for perhaps three minutes, when,
at a signal given by the Soldan, a hundred instruments rent the air with
their brazen clamours, and each champion striking his horse with the
spurs, and slacking the rein, the horses started into full gallop,
and the knights met in mid space with a shock like a thunderbolt. The
victory was not in doubt--no, not one moment. Conrade, indeed, showed
himself a practised warrior; for he struck his antagonist knightly in
the midst of his shield, bearing his lance so straight and true that
it shivered into splinters from the steel spear-head up to the very
gauntlet. The horse of Sir Kenneth recoiled two or three yards and fell
on his haunches; but the rider easily raised him with hand and rein.
But for Conrade there was no recovery. Sir Kenneth's lance had pierced
through the shield, through a plated corselet of Milan steel, through a
SECRET, or coat of linked mail, worn beneath the corselet, had wounded
him deep in the bosom, and borne him from his saddle, leaving the
truncheon of the lance fixed in his wound. The sponsors, heralds, and
Saladin himself, descending from his throne, crowded around the wounded
man; while Sir Kenneth, who had drawn his sword ere yet he discovered
his antagonist was totally helpless, now commanded him to avow his
guilt. The helmet was hastily unclosed, and the wounded man, gazing
wildly on the skies, replied, "What would you more? God hath decided
justly--I am guilty; but there are worse traitors in the camp than I. In
pity to my soul, let me have a confessor!"

He revived as he uttered these words.

"The talisman--the powerful remedy, royal brother!" said King Richard to
Saladin.

"The traitor," answered the Soldan, "is more fit to be dragged from the
lists to the gallows by the heels, than to profit by its virtues. And
some such fate is in his look," he added, after gazing fixedly upon the
wounded man; "for though his wound may be cured, yet Azrael's seal is on
the wretch's brow."

"Nevertheless," said Richard, "I pray you do for him what you may, that
he may at least have time for confession. Slay not soul and body! To him
one half hour of time may be worth more, by ten thousandfold, than the
life of the oldest patriarch."

"My royal brother's wish shall be obeyed," said Saladin.--"Slaves, bear
this wounded man to our tent."

"Do not so," said the Templar, who had hitherto stood gloomily looking
on in silence. "The royal Duke of Austria and myself will not permit
this unhappy Christian prince to be delivered over to the Saracens, that
they may try their spells upon him. We are his sponsors, and demand that
he be assigned to our care."

"That is, you refuse the certain means offered to recover him?" said
Richard.

"Not so," said the Grand Master, recollecting himself. "If the Soldan
useth lawful medicines, he may attend the patient in my tent."

"Do so, I pray thee, good brother," said Richard to Saladin, "though the
permission be ungraciously yielded.--But now to a more glorious work.
Sound, trumpets--shout, England--in honour of England's champion!"

Drum, clarion, trumpet, and cymbal rung forth at once, and the deep and
regular shout, which for ages has been the English acclamation, sounded
amidst the shrill and irregular yells of the Arabs, like the diapason of
the organ amid the howling of a storm. There was silence at length.

"Brave Knight of the Leopard," resumed Coeur de Lion, "thou hast shown
that the Ethiopian may change his skin, and the leopard his spots,
though clerks quote Scripture for the impossibility. Yet I have more to
say to you when I have conducted you to the presence of the ladies, the
best judges and best rewarders of deeds of chivalry."

The Knight of the Leopard bowed assent.

"And thou, princely Saladin, wilt also attend them. I promise thee our
Queen will not think herself welcome, if she lacks the opportunity to
thank her royal host for her most princely reception."

Saladin bent his head gracefully, but declined the invitation.

"I must attend the wounded man," he said. "The leech leaves not his
patient more than the champion the lists, even if he be summoned to a
bower like those of Paradise. And further, royal Richard, know that the
blood of the East flows not so temperately in the presence of beauty as
that of your land. What saith the Book itself?--Her eye is as the edge
of the sword of the Prophet, who shall look upon it? He that would not
be burnt avoideth to tread on hot embers--wise men spread not the flax
before a flickering torch. He, saith the sage, who hath forfeited a
treasure, doth not wisely to turn back his head to gaze at it."

Richard, it may be believed, respected the motives of delicacy which
flowed from manners so different from his own, and urged his request no
further.

"At noon," said the Soldan, as he departed, "I trust ye will all accept
a collation under the black camel-skin tent of a chief of Kurdistan."

The same invitation was circulated among the Christians, comprehending
all those of sufficient importance to be admitted to sit at a feast made
for princes.

"Hark!" said Richard, "the timbrels announce that our Queen and her
attendants are leaving their gallery--and see, the turbans sink on the
ground, as if struck down by a destroying angel. All lie prostrate, as
if the glance of an Arab's eye could sully the lustre of a lady's
cheek! Come, we will to the pavilion, and lead our conqueror thither in
triumph. How I pity that noble Soldan, who knows but of love as it is
known to those of inferior nature!"

Blondel tuned his harp to his boldest measure, to welcome the
introduction of the victor into the pavilion of Queen Berengaria. He
entered, supported on either side by his sponsors, Richard and Thomas
Longsword, and knelt gracefully down before the Queen, though more than
half the homage was silently rendered to Edith, who sat on her right
hand.

"Unarm him, my mistresses," said the King, whose delight was in the
execution of such chivalrous usages; "let Beauty honour Chivalry! Undo
his spurs, Berengaria; Queen though thou be, thou owest him what marks
of favour thou canst give.--Unlace his helmet, Edith;--by this hand
thou shalt, wert thou the proudest Plantagenet of the line, and he the
poorest knight on earth!"

Both ladies obeyed the royal commands--Berengaria with bustling
assiduity, as anxious to gratify her husband's humour, and Edith
blushing and growing pale alternately, as, slowly and awkwardly, she
undid, with Longsword's assistance, the fastenings which secured the
helmet to the gorget.

"And what expect you from beneath this iron shell?" said Richard, as the
removal of the casque gave to view the noble countenance of Sir Kenneth,
his face glowing with recent exertion, and not less so with present
emotion. "What think ye of him, gallants and beauties?" said Richard.
"Doth he resemble an Ethiopian slave, or doth he present the face of an
obscure and nameless adventurer? No, by my good sword! Here terminate
his various disguises. He hath knelt down before you unknown, save by
his worth; he arises equally distinguished by birth and by fortune. The
adventurous knight, Kenneth, arises David, Earl of Huntingdon, Prince
Royal of Scotland!"

There was a general exclamation of surprise, and Edith dropped from her
hand the helmet which she had just received.

"Yes, my masters," said the King, "it is even so. Ye know how Scotland
deceived us when she proposed to send this valiant Earl, with a bold
company of her best and noblest, to aid our arms in this conquest of
Palestine, but failed to comply with her engagements. This noble youth,
under whom the Scottish Crusaders were to have been arrayed, thought
foul scorn that his arm should be withheld from the holy warfare,
and joined us at Sicily with a small train of devoted and faithful
attendants, which was augmented by many of his countrymen to whom the
rank of their leader was unknown. The confidants of the Royal Prince had
all, save one old follower, fallen by death, when his secret, but
too well kept, had nearly occasioned my cutting off, in a Scottish
adventurer, one of the noblest hopes of Europe.--Why did you not mention
your rank, noble Huntingdon, when endangered by my hasty and passionate
sentence? Was it that you thought Richard capable of abusing the
advantage I possessed over the heir of a King whom I have so often found
hostile?"

"I did you not that injustice, royal Richard," answered the Earl of
Huntingdon; "but my pride brooked not that I should avow myself Prince
of Scotland in order to save my life, endangered for default of loyalty.
And, moreover, I had made my vow to preserve my rank unknown till the
Crusade should be accomplished; nor did I mention it save IN ARTICULO
MORTIS, and under the seal of confession, to yonder reverend hermit."

"It was the knowledge of that secret, then, which made the good man so
urgent with me to recall my severe sentence?" said Richard. "Well did
he say that, had this good knight fallen by my mandate, I should have
wished the deed undone though it had cost me a limb. A limb! I should
have wished it undone had it cost me my life---since the world would
have said that Richard had abused the condition in which the heir of
Scotland had placed himself by his confidence in his generosity."

"Yet, may we know of your Grace by what strange and happy chance this
riddle was at length read?" said the Queen Berengaria.

"Letters were brought to us from England," said the King, "in which
we learned, among other unpleasant news, that the King of Scotland had
seized upon three of our nobles, when on a pilgrimage to Saint Ninian,
and alleged, as a cause, that his heir, being supposed to be fighting in
the ranks of the Teutonic Knights against the heathen of Borussia, was,
in fact, in our camp, and in our power; and, therefore, William proposed
to hold these nobles as hostages for his safety. This gave me the first
light on the real rank of the Knight of the Leopard; and my suspicions
were confirmed by De Vaux, who, on his return from Ascalon, brought back
with him the Earl of Huntingdon's sole attendant, a thick-skulled slave,
who had gone thirty miles to unfold to De Vaux a secret he should have
told to me."

"Old Strauchan must be excused," said the Lord of Gilsland. "He knew
from experience that my heart is somewhat softer than if I wrote myself
Plantagenet."

"Thy heart soft? thou commodity of old iron and Cumberland flint, that
thou art!" exclaimed the King.--"It is we Plantagenets who boast soft
and feeling hearts. Edith," turning to his cousin with an expression
which called the blood into her cheek, "give me thy hand, my fair
cousin, and, Prince of Scotland, thine."

"Forbear, my lord," said Edith, hanging back, and endeavouring to hide
her confusion under an attempt to rally her royal kinsman's credulity.
"Remember you not that my hand was to be the signal of converting to
the Christian faith the Saracen and Arab, Saladin and all his turbaned
host?"

"Ay, but the wind of prophecy hath chopped about, and sits now in
another corner," replied Richard.

"Mock not, lest your bonds be made strong," said the hermit stepping
forward. "The heavenly host write nothing but truth in their brilliant
records. It is man's eyes which are too weak to read their characters
aright. Know, that when Saladin and Kenneth of Scotland slept in my
grotto, I read in the stars that there rested under my roof a prince,
the natural foe of Richard, with whom the fate of Edith Plantagenet was
to be united. Could I doubt that this must be the Soldan, whose rank
was well known to me, as he often visited my cell to converse on the
revolutions of the heavenly bodies? Again, the lights of the firmament
proclaimed that this prince, the husband of Edith Plantagenet, should
be a Christian; and I--weak and wild interpreter!--argued thence the
conversion of the noble Saladin, whose good qualities seemed often to
incline him towards the better faith. The sense of my weakness hath
humbled me to the dust; but in the dust I have found comfort! I have not
read aright the fate of others--who can assure me but that I may
have miscalculated mine own? God will not have us break into His
council-house, or spy out His hidden mysteries. We must wait His time
with watching and prayer--with fear and with hope. I came hither the
stern seer--the proud prophet--skilled, as I thought, to instruct
princes, and gifted even with supernatural powers, but burdened with
a weight which I deemed no shoulders but mine could have borne. But
my bands have been broken! I go hence humble in mine ignorance,
penitent--and not hopeless."

With these words he withdrew from the assembly; and it is recorded that
from that period his frenzy fits seldom occurred, and his penances were
of a milder character, and accompanied with better hopes of the future.
So much is there of self-opinion, even in insanity, that the conviction
of his having entertained and expressed an unfounded prediction with so
much vehemence seemed to operate like loss of blood on the human frame,
to modify and lower the fever of the brain.

It is needless to follow into further particulars the conferences at the
royal tent, or to inquire whether David, Earl of Huntingdon, was as mute
in the presence of Edith Plantagenet as when he was bound to act under
the character of an obscure and nameless adventurer. It may be well
believed that he there expressed with suitable earnestness the passion
to which he had so often before found it difficult to give words.

The hour of noon now approached, and Saladin waited to receive the
Princes of Christendom in a tent, which, but for its large size,
differed little from that of the ordinary shelter of the common Kurdman,
or Arab; yet beneath its ample and sable covering was prepared a banquet
after the most gorgeous fashion of the East, extended upon carpets of
the richest stuffs, with cushions laid for the guests. But we cannot
stop to describe the cloth of gold and silver--the superb embroidery in
arabesque--the shawls of Kashmere and the muslins of India, which were
here unfolded in all their splendour; far less to tell the different
sweetmeats, ragouts edged with rice coloured in various manners, with
all the other niceties of Eastern cookery. Lambs roasted whole, and
game and poultry dressed in pilaus, were piled in vessels of gold, and
silver, and porcelain, and intermixed with large mazers of sherbet,
cooled in snow and ice from the caverns of Mount Lebanon. A magnificent
pile of cushions at the head of the banquet seemed prepared for the
master of the feast, and such dignitaries as he might call to share that
place of distinction; while from the roof of the tent in all quarters,
but over this seat of eminence in particular, waved many a banner and
pennon, the trophies of battles won and kingdoms overthrown. But amongst
and above them all, a long lance displayed a shroud, the banner
of Death, with this impressive inscription--"SALADIN, KING OF
KINGS--SALADIN, VICTOR OF VICTORS--SALADIN MUST DIE." Amid these
preparations, the slaves who had arranged the refreshments stood
with drooped heads and folded arms, mute and motionless as monumental
statuary, or as automata, which waited the touch of the artist to put
them in motion.

Expecting the approach of his princely guests, the Soldan, imbued, as
most were, with the superstitions of his time, paused over a horoscope
and corresponding scroll, which had been sent to him by the hermit of
Engaddi when he departed from the camp.

"Strange and mysterious science," he muttered to himself, "which,
pretending to draw the curtain of futurity, misleads those whom it seems
to guide, and darkens the scene which it pretends to illuminate! Who
would not have said that I was that enemy most dangerous to Richard,
whose enmity was to be ended by marriage with his kinswoman? Yet it now
appears that a union betwixt this gallant Earl and the lady will bring
about friendship betwixt Richard and Scotland, an enemy more dangerous
than I, as a wildcat in a chamber is more to be dreaded than a lion
in a distant desert. But then," he continued to mutter to
himself, "the combination intimates that this husband was to be
Christian.--Christian!" he repeated, after a pause. "That gave the
insane fanatic star-gazer hopes that I might renounce my faith! But me,
the faithful follower of our Prophet--me it should have undeceived.
Lie there, mysterious scroll," he added, thrusting it under the pile of
cushions; "strange are thy bodements and fatal, since, even when true in
themselves, they work upon those who attempt to decipher their meaning
all the effects of falsehood.--How now! what means this intrusion?"

He spoke to the dwarf Nectabanus, who rushed into the tent fearfully
agitated, with each strange and disproportioned feature wrenched by
horror into still more extravagant ugliness--his mouth open, his eyes
staring, his hands, with their shrivelled and deformed fingers, wildly
expanded.

"What now?" said the Soldan sternly.

"ACCIPE HOC!" groaned out the dwarf.

"Ha! sayest thou?" answered Saladin.

"ACCIPE HOC!" replied the panic-struck creature, unconscious,
perhaps, that he repeated the same words as before.

"Hence, I am in no vein for foolery," said the Emperor.

"Nor am I further fool," said the dwarf, "than to make my folly help out
my wits to earn my bread, poor, helpless wretch! Hear, hear me, great
Soldan!"

"Nay, if thou hast actual wrong to complain of," said Saladin, "fool or
wise, thou art entitled to the ear of a King. Retire hither with me;"
and he led him into the inner tent.

Whatever their conference related to, it was soon broken off by the
fanfare of the trumpets announcing the arrival of the various Christian
princes, whom Saladin welcomed to his tent with a royal courtesy well
becoming their rank and his own; but chiefly he saluted the young Earl
of Huntingdon, and generously congratulated him upon prospects which
seemed to have interfered with and overclouded those which he had
himself entertained.

"But think not," said the Soldan, "thou noble youth, that the Prince
of Scotland is more welcome to Saladin than was Kenneth to the solitary
Ilderim when they met in the desert, or the distressed Ethiop to the
Hakim Adonbec. A brave and generous disposition like thine hath a value
independent of condition and birth, as the cool draught, which I here
proffer thee, is as delicious from an earthen vessel as from a goblet of
gold."

The Earl of Huntingdon made a suitable reply, gratefully acknowledging
the various important services he had received from the generous Soldan;
but when he had pledged Saladin in the bowl of sherbet which the Soldan
had proffered to him, he could not help remarking with a smile, "The
brave cavalier Ilderim knew not of the formation of ice, but the
munificent Soldan cools his sherbet with snow."

"Wouldst thou have an Arab or a Kurdman as wise as a Hakim?" said the
Soldan. "He who does on a disguise must make the sentiments of his heart
and the learning of his head accord with the dress which he assumes.
I desired to see how a brave and single-hearted cavalier of Frangistan
would conduct himself in debate with such a chief as I then seemed; and
I questioned the truth of a well-known fact, to know by what arguments
thou wouldst support thy assertion."

While they were speaking, the Archduke of Austria, who stood a little
apart, was struck with the mention of iced sherbet, and took with
pleasure and some bluntness the deep goblet, as the Earl of Huntingdon
was about to replace it.

"Most delicious!" he exclaimed, after a deep draught, which the heat of
the weather, and the feverishness following the debauch of the preceding
day, had rendered doubly acceptable. He sighed as he handed the cup to
the Grand Master of the Templars. Saladin made a sign to the dwarf, who
advanced and pronounced, with a harsh voice, the words, ACCIPE HOC! The
Templar started, like a steed who sees a lion under a bush beside the
pathway; yet instantly recovered, and to hide, perhaps, his confusion,
raised the goblet to his lips. But those lips never touched that
goblet's rim. The sabre of Saladin left its sheath as lightning leaves
the cloud. It was waved in the air, and the head of the Grand Master
rolled to the extremity of the tent, while the trunk remained for a
second standing, with the goblet still clenched in its grasp, then fell,
the liquor mingling with the blood that spurted from the veins.

There was a general exclamation of treason, and Austria, nearest to
whom Saladin stood with the bloody sabre in his hand, started back as
if apprehensive that his turn was to come next. Richard and others laid
hand on their swords.

"Fear nothing, noble Austria," said Saladin, as composedly as if nothing
had happened,--"nor you, royal England, be wroth at what you have seen.
Not for his manifold treasons--not for the attempt which, as may
be vouched by his own squire, he instigated against King Richard's
life--not that he pursued the Prince of Scotland and myself in the
desert, reducing us to save our lives by the speed of our horses--not
that he had stirred up the Maronites to attack us upon this very
occasion, had I not brought up unexpectedly so many Arabs as rendered
the scheme abortive--not for any or all of these crimes does he now lie
there, although each were deserving such a doom--but because, scarce
half an hour ere he polluted our presence, as the simoom empoisons
the atmosphere, he poniarded his comrade and accomplice, Conrade of
Montserrat, lest he should confess the infamous plots in which they had
both been engaged."

"How! Conrade murdered?--And by the Grand Master, his sponsor and most
intimate friend!" exclaimed Richard. "Noble Soldan, I would not doubt
thee; yet this must be proved, otherwise--"

"There stands the evidence," said Saladin, pointing to the terrified
dwarf. "Allah, who sends the fire-fly to illuminate the night season,
can discover secret crimes by the most contemptible means."

The Soldan proceeded to tell the dwarf's story, which amounted to this.
In his foolish curiosity, or, as he partly confessed, with some thoughts
of pilfering, Nectabanus had strayed into the tent of Conrade, which had
been deserted by his attendants, some of whom had left the encampment
to carry the news of his defeat to his brother, and others were availing
themselves of the means which Saladin had supplied for revelling. The
wounded man slept under the influence of Saladin's wonderful talisman,
so that the dwarf had opportunity to pry about at pleasure until he was
frightened into concealment by the sound of a heavy step. He skulked
behind a curtain, yet could see the motions, and hear the words, of the
Grand Master, who entered, and carefully secured the covering of the
pavilion behind him. His victim started from sleep, and it would appear
that he instantly suspected the purpose of his old associate, for it was
in a tone of alarm that he demanded wherefore he disturbed him.

"I come to confess and to absolve thee," answered the Grand Master.

Of their further speech the terrified dwarf remembered little, save that
Conrade implored the Grand Master not to break a wounded reed, and that
the Templar struck him to the heart with a Turkish dagger, with the
words ACCIPE HOC!--words which long afterwards haunted the terrified
imagination of the concealed witness.

"I verified the tale," said Saladin, "by causing the body to be
examined; and I made this unhappy being, whom Allah hath made the
discoverer of the crime, repeat in your own presence the words which the
murderer spoke; and you yourselves saw the effect which they produced
upon his conscience!"

The Soldan paused, and the King of England broke silence.

"If this be true, as I doubt not, we have witnessed a great act of
justice, though it bore a different aspect. But wherefore in this
presence? wherefore with thine own hand?"

"I had designed otherwise," said Saladin. "But had I not hastened his
doom, it had been altogether averted, since, if I had permitted him to
taste of my cup, as he was about to do, how could I, without incurring
the brand of inhospitality, have done him to death as he deserved? Had
he murdered my father, and afterwards partaken of my food and my bowl,
not a hair of his head could have been injured by me. But enough of
him--let his carcass and his memory be removed from amongst us."

The body was carried away, and the marks of the slaughter obliterated
or concealed with such ready dexterity, as showed that the case was not
altogether so uncommon as to paralyze the assistants and officers of
Saladin's household.

But the Christian princes felt that the scene which they had beheld
weighed heavily on their spirits, and although, at the courteous
invitation of the Soldan, they assumed their seats at the banquet, yet
it was with the silence of doubt and amazement. The spirits of Richard
alone surmounted all cause for suspicion or embarrassment. Yet he too
seemed to ruminate on some proposition, as if he were desirous of making
it in the most insinuating and acceptable manner which was possible.
At length he drank off a large bowl of wine, and addressing the Soldan,
desired to know whether it was not true that he had honoured the Earl of
Huntingdon with a personal encounter.

Saladin answered with a smile that he had proved his horse and his
weapons with the heir of Scotland, as cavaliers are wont to do with each
other when they meet in the desert; and modestly added that, though the
combat was not entirely decisive, he had not on his part much reason to
pride himself on the event. The Scot, on the other hand, disclaimed the
attributed superiority, and wished to assign it to the Soldan.

"Enough of honour thou hast had in the encounter," said Richard, "and I
envy thee more for that than for the smiles of Edith Plantagenet, though
one of them might reward a bloody day's work.--But what say you, noble
princes? Is it fitting that such a royal ring of chivalry should break
up without something being done for future times to speak of? What is
the overthrow and death of a traitor to such a fair garland of honour
as is here assembled, and which ought not to part without witnessing
something more worthy of their regard?--How say you, princely Soldan?
What if we two should now, and before this fair company, decide the
long-contended question for this land of Palestine, and end at once
these tedious wars? Yonder are the lists ready, nor can Paynimrie ever
hope a better champion than thou. I, unless worthier offers, will lay
down my gauntlet in behalf of Christendom, and in all love and honour we
will do mortal battle for the possession of Jerusalem."

There was a deep pause for the Soldan's answer. His cheek and brow
coloured highly, and it was the opinion of many present that he
hesitated whether he should accept the challenge. At length he said,
"Fighting for the Holy City against those whom we regard as idolaters
and worshippers of stocks and stones and graven images, I might confide
that Allah would strengthen my arm; or if I fell beneath the sword of
the Melech Ric, I could not pass to Paradise by a more glorious death.
But Allah has already given Jerusalem to the true believers, and it
were a tempting the God of the Prophet to peril, upon my own personal
strength and skill, that which I hold securely by the superiority of my
forces."

"If not for Jerusalem, then," said Richard, in the tone of one who would
entreat a favour of an intimate friend, "yet, for the love of honour,
let us run at least three courses with grinded lances?"

"Even this," said Saladin, half smiling at Coeur de Lion's affectionate
earnestness for the combat--"even this I may not lawfully do. The master
places the shepherd over the flock not for the shepherd's own sake, but
for the sake of the sheep. Had I a son to hold the sceptre when I fell,
I might have had the liberty, as I have the will, to brave this bold
encounter; but your own Scripture saith that when the herdsman is
smitten, the sheep are scattered."

"Thou hast had all the fortune," said Richard, turning to the Earl of
Huntingdon with a sigh. "I would have given the best year in my life for
that one half hour beside the Diamond of the Desert!"

The chivalrous extravagance of Richard awakened the spirits of the
assembly, and when at length they arose to depart Saladin advanced and
took Coeur de Lion by the hand.

"Noble King of England," he said, "we now part, never to meet again.
That your league is dissolved, no more to be reunited, and that
your native forces are far too few to enable you to prosecute your
enterprise, is as well known to me as to yourself. I may not yield you
up that Jerusalem which you so much desire to hold--it is to us, as to
you, a Holy City. But whatever other terms Richard demands of Saladin
shall be as willingly yielded as yonder fountain yields its waters. Ay
and the same should be as frankly afforded by Saladin if Richard stood
in the desert with but two archers in his train!"

The next day saw Richard's return to his own camp, and in a short
space afterwards the young Earl of Huntingdon was espoused by Edith
Plantagenet. The Soldan sent, as a nuptial present on this occasion, the
celebrated TALISMAN. But though many cures were wrought by means of it
in Europe, none equalled in success and celebrity those which the Soldan
achieved. It is still in existence, having been bequeathed by the Earl
of Huntingdon to a brave knight of Scotland, Sir Simon of the Lee, in
whose ancient and highly honoured family it is still preserved;
and although charmed stones have been dismissed from the modern
Pharmacopoeia, its virtues are still applied to for stopping blood, and
in cases of canine madness.

Our Story closes here, as the terms on which Richard relinquished his
conquests are to be found in every history of the period.





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