The Talisman, by Walter Scott

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.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/talisman/chapter18.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29