1383 THE CRUSADES-FALL OF THE CROSS.
was endeavoring in his absence to deprive
him of the kingdom, prevail to reverse his
plans and destroy his hopes? or was it one
of those unaccountable failures of will which,
in the supreme hours of the lives of the
greatest, have so many times supervened
to break the knees of the demigod on the
threshold of his highest ambition? None can
Here in the valley of Hebron, with the
towers of Jerusalem in view, the Lion Heart
called a council! Ten of the leading barons
were called upon to decide whether the siege
of the city should be undertaken or deferred.
It was decided that the present prosecution of the enterprise was not expedient, and
should be given up. Great was the chagrin
of the army when this decision was promulgated; and if appearances might be trusted,
Richard was himself as much mortified as
any of his chiefs. With slow and discontented footsteps the English warriors and
their Syrian allies made their way back to
the coast, and Jerusalem was left to the perpetual profanation of the Turks.
The supposition that Saladin was in
collusion with Richard in the abandonment
of his enterprise against the Holy City seems
to be contradicted by the conduct of the
sultan after the fact. He eagerly followed
the retreating Christians, and sought every
opportunity to strike them a fatal blow.
While the Crusaders were on their way from
Jaffa to Acre, a host of Moslems assailed
the former city and gained possession of all
but the fortresses. Many of the inhabitants
and garrison were cut down in the streets.
Richard was already at Acre, and busy with
his preparations to sail for Europe, when
the news came of what the Turks had done
at Jaffa. Enraged at the sultan for this aggression, he at once took ship with a mere
handful of Knights, and returned to Jaffa.
Here he found the Christians still in possession
of the citadel, and doing their best to keep
the Moslems at bay. With the very excess
of reckless daring the king, on coming into
the shoal-water, jumped out of his boat and
waded to the shore, followed by his warriors. There was no standing against such
valor. The Saracens who lined the beach were
amazed, and gave way before the brandished
battle ax of Plantagenet as though he were
the Evil Genius of Islam. In a short time
the assailants of Jaffa escaped from the environments of the town, and fled to the hills for
safety. The entire force of Richard, including the defenders of the city, amounted to
fifty-five Knights and two thousand infantry;
and yet with this mere handful he defiantly
pitched his camp outside of the walls, as if to
taunt all the hosts of Saladin with the implied
charge of cowardice.
This was more than the Turks could stand.
On the next day, perceiving the insignificance
of the force from which they had fled, they
returned with overpowering numbers and renewed the battle. From the fury of their
onset it seemed that they had determined to
destroy Richard at whatever cost to themselves; but the English hero grew more terrible with the crisis. He fought up and down
the shore like Castor on the field of Troy.
Neither numbers nor courage prevailed to
stay his fury. He charged a whole squadron
as though it were composed of boys and
women. His pathway was strewn with cleft
skulls and headless trunks. He was in the
height of his glory. Appalled at the flash of
his death-dealing weapon, the greatest warriors of Islam fell back from the circle of destruction. They lowered upon him from a
distance, but durst not give him battle. Not
until the shadows of the Syrian twilight
gathered over the scene did Richard and
his Knights abate their furious onsets. The
Moslems had had enough; they retreated
from before the city, and the siege was abandoned.
We have now come to the close of the
Third Crusade. The exploits of the Lion
Heart in Palestine were at an end. His tremendous exertions in the battle of Jaffa
brought on a fever of which he was for some
time prostrated. His eagerness to return to