Page 1399

1399 THE CRUSADES-FALL OF THE CROSS.

Pelagius, the legate of the Pope, vehemently

opposed the conclusion of a peace, and

overrode the wishes and wise counsels of

the allied chieftains. Whenever the latter

would urge the immense and definitive advantages of the proposed cession of Palestine with the consequent recovery of the

Holy Sepulcher and every thing for which

the blood and treasure of Europe had been

poured out like water for a hundred and

twenty-five years, the blatant Pelagius would

bawl out with imperious inconsistency that

the soldiers of the Cross should never compromise with Infidels. The result was that

the auspicious opportunity of ending the

Holy War on terms most satisfactory to every

sincere knight in Christendom, went by unimproved, and instead of withdrawing from

Egypt the Crusaders passed an inglorious

winter in the captured city of Damietta.

Perceiving that their enemies were inexorable, the Moslems rallied from their despair

and employed the interval in recruiting their

armies and planning campaigns for the ensuing year. With the beginning of 1220,

the army of Coradinus came out of Syria

and was joined to that of Camel at Cairo.

The incompetence of Pelagius, and the outrageous folly of his course, were now fully

manifested. While hesitating to attack the

Islamite armies, he permitted his own forces

to remain in the vicinity of Damietta until

with the rise of the Nile the Egyptians deliberately cut the canals on the side next

the Isthmus, and inundated the country.

On a sudden the Christians found themselves

in a world of waters, swelling higher and

higher. The crisis was overwhelming. The

bigots who were responsible for it were

obliged to send a humble embassy to the

sultan, and to offer him the city of Damietta

for the privilege of retiring from Egypt.

The sultan accepted the offer, but took care

to detain as a hostage the king of Jerusalem

until what time the embarkation should be

effected. The miserable and crestfallen Crusaders took ship as quickly as possible and

sailed to Acre. So completely was the host

dispirited that great numbers of the warriors

abandoned the enterprise and returned to

Europe.

The broils which had so many times distracted the counsels and defeated the plans of

the Christian princes in the East were now transferred to the West. Great was the mortification of Christendom when it was known

what might have been, and what was, accomplished in Egypt. It seemed necessary to find

a scapegoat, on whose head might be laid the

sin and ignominy of the failure. Popular indignation with due apprehension of the facts

pointed to Pelagius, and great odium was set

against his name. But Honorius III, who

had now come to the papal throne, defended

his legate from the aspersions of his enemies;

and, in order that the blame might rest upon

some one sufficiently eminent to bear the disgrace, His Holiness laid the charge of failure

at the feet of Frederick II. That distinguished

and obstinate ruler had promised, but had not

fulfilled. In 1220 he had gone to Rome in a

triumphal fashion and had been crowned by

the Pope, who had every hope that the eccentric Emperor would become an obedient son

of the Church. Now it was said by the papal

adherents that the Emperor, after taking

the vow of the Cross, had failed to keep

his covenant, and had left the suffering

Crusaders to their fate among the floods of

Lower Egypt.

It soon appeared, however, that Frederick was not to be moved by such imputations of dishonor. The Pope accordingly changed his tone, and undertook to accomplish by policy what he could not effect by

upbraiding the imperial Crusader. He managed to bring it about that Herman de Saltza,

Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights,

should bring to the Emperor from the East

a proposal from King John of Jerusalem that

his daughter Iolanta should be given to

Frederick in marriage. The scheme amounted

to this, that the kingdom of Jerusalem should

become an appendage of the German Empire. John of Brienne was most willing to

give up the shadowy distinction with which

he had been honored and to escape from the

perils of Syrian warfare, and Frederick was

equally willing to accept a trust made palatable by such a gift as the Princess Iolanta.

Accordingly, in the year 1225, the project

was completed, and the Emperor solemnly

bound himself to lead an army to the Holy

Land for the reestablishment of the kingdom

planted by Godfrey in the City of Zion.

The event showed, however, that Frederick

was slow to fulfill what he had so readily

promised. A period of five years elapsed and