Page 1407

1407 THE CRUSADES-FALL OF THE CROSS.

commercial portion of the emporium, and the flames

destroyed all that was most valuable to the

captors.

It was the peculiarity of the military

temper of the Islamites of the thirteenth

century that they sometimes fled from shadows and sometimes fought like the lions

of the desert. There was still in them a

residue of that fiery valor which they had

displayed in the days of Omar the Great.

At the present juncture, after flying from

a fortress which they might easily have

defended, they suddenly turned about in

great force, and the Christian army in Damietta was in its turn besieged. The Sultan Nejmeddin, great-nephew of Saladin,

now occupied the throne of Egypt; nor

did he fail to exhibit those sterling qualities as a soldier which might have been

expected in one of so heroic a lineage. Himself suffering from disease, he hastened to

Damietta, put to death fifty of his officers

for having in so cowardly a manner given

up the city to the invaders, took command

in person, and soon reversed the fortunes of the campaign. The Christians found

themselves closely invested and in danger of

extermination. It was well for them that

their scattered fleet, most of which had been

driven into Acre, now arrived with reinforcements. At the same time William Long

Sword and his English chivalry reached

Damietta, and joined themselves to the

forces of King Louis. The French, thus

strengthened, might have sallied forth with a

strong prospect of raising the siege and scattering the Moslem army.

Much valuable time was wasted in inaction. At length it was resolved by the Christians to make their exit up that branch of the

Nile on which Damietta was located, and force

their way to Cairo. As soon as the Moslems

discovered the movement, they threw their

forces along the river, and strenuously opposed the progress of King Louis's army.

After much hard fighting, the Christians

reached Mansoura. Here a terrible conflict

ensued. Before the city could be taken, it

was necessary that the Crusaders should cross the Ashmoun canal, and this was held by the