Page 1383

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

answer.

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