Crusaders - Alfred J. Church

How the Town was Given Up

On the second day after the failure of the French assault upon the town, King Richard would make his own essay. He was not yet wholly recovered of his sickness; but it would have passed the wit of man to devise means by which he could be kept within his pavilion; nor must it be forgotten that such restraint might have done him more of harm than of good. So his physicians, for he had those who regularly waited on him (though I make bold to say that he trusted in me rather than in them), gave him the permission which he had taken, I doubt not, ungranted. He had caused a mantlet to be built for him which was brought up to the edge of the ditch with which the town was surrounded. In this he sat, with a cross-bow in hand, and shot not a few of the enemy, being skilful beyond the common in the use of this weapon. But towns are not taken by the shooting of bolts, howsoever well aimed they may be. This may not be done save by coming to close quarters. Now the King knew that the Frenchman's assault had failed for want of a breach so open that the town might be entered thereby. This, then, was the thing most needed. The King therefore caused it to be publicly proclaimed that he would pay two old pieces for every stone that should be drawn from its place in the wall near to the Accursed Tower—it was there that he was minded to make his assault. And as the day wore on he increased this reward of two gold pieces to three and even four, for it was his fixed purpose to attack the town on the next morning. It was a happy device, not on account of the gold only, though most men will do much for gold, but because the pieces were a token and proof of something achieved. And, indeed, among those who strove to drag the tones from their place were not a few wealthy men to whom four or forty pieces of gold sere as nothing. But there is no man, at least of the nobler sort, to whom praise is not precious. The Turks, when they saw what was being done, hastened to hinder it, and there was much fighting at the wall. One of the enemy had donned the armour of Alberic the Frenchman, of whom I have before written. Him the King slew with a bolt from his cross-bow.

So much success the King achieved that the Accursed Tower was altogether overthrown, but the town he did not take on that day. He had valiant nobles and knights fighting for him, but these were too few in number, and making assault in one and the same place were opposed by the whole garrison of the town. For to tell the truth, the King of England fell into the very same error as the King of France, and from the same cause. He was fain to keep all the glory and honour of the day to himself. So it came to pass that while the English knights and men-at-arms were striving and toiling to no purpose the greater part of the army sat at their morning meal in the camp. It can scarce be doubted, if one may judge from what came to pass within a few days, that if the whole host of the besiegers had made an assault on the town in diverse places at the same time, they would have broken through either in one quarter or another. So by this foolish jealousy of the kings, and it should in honesty be said, of their peoples also, for kings are as their peoples are, many valiant men perished and the glory of the achievement was greatly diminished.

Some seven days after these things there came into the camp under a flag of truce two chief captains of the Turks, seeking an audience of the two kings with whom they desired, they said, to treat of conditions of peace. The kings therefore, sitting together, each with his chief counsellors, received them. These Turkish captains, then, spake to this purpose: "There is no need to put you in mind for how long time ye have sat outside this city, and at what cost of treasure and lives of men. That your lordships know full well, and you know also by experience that we who defend this town can still hold it against you. At the same time we do not hide from you that we are in sore straits, and would gladly find deliverance for ourselves and yet more for our wives and children. We have come, therefore, to-day, hoping that we may bring about an honourable end of these troubles. What we say, therefore, is this. Let us send to our lord the Caliph Saladin, saying, 'If you can bring to our help so great an army as shall be able to deliver the town from its enemies, then we will hold out; but if you cannot bring it, then will we give up the town to our adversaries.' And your lordships shall set a time, seven days or the like, for the Caliph is near at hand. And if we yield up the town then you shall suffer us to go out unharmed with our arms and all our goods." This and what happened after I had from the scribe that was employed to take down and also to interpret the words of the captains.

Then the King of France and his counsellors were disposed to admit these conditions. "These are brave men, and it is but seemly to do them honour; also they may hinder our possessing the town to our great loss in life and wealth." But the chief reason that moved King Philip's mind was his desire to depart home, as has been already set forth. When King Richard heard this he broke forth in great wrath, swearing at the same time a strong oath, which I care not to set down in this place: "Nay, shall we be content, after abiding outside this town for two years and more, to take it over wholly empty and stripped?"

So the matter came to an end for the time, the two captains returning to the town, with nothing accomplished. Then the engines were set to work again, and preparations were made for yet another assault. That the town was in a sore plight was sufficiently manifest from this, that every morning there was to be seen outside the camp a crowd of men and women who had fled from the place during the night, even casting themselves down from the walls, if they could not win their way otherwise. (But many, I doubt not, bribed the keepers of the gates.) These professed themselves to be converted to the Christian faith and desired baptism, which, indeed, could hardly be denied to them. It was not therefore a thing to be marvelled at that in the course of some four days there came other envoys from the town with other terms. These first offered to surrender the town, and the Holy Cross, and with these two hundred and fifty noble prisoners, Christian men, whom they had; afterwards, when the kings showed themselves ill content with these terms, they offered ten times as many prisoners—who would have thought that they possessed so many?—and a vast sum of money, not less than a thousand thousand gold pieces, and, by way of surety for the due fulfillment of these promises, a hundred of the noblest men in the city as hostages. On the other hand all the garrison was to have free leave to depart, and with them such citizens as should choose this lot; only they should take with them neither arms nor goods, but a single garment only. King Richard, therefore, was wholly justified by the event.

It was on the thirty-fourth day after the coming of King Richard that the town was given up. Proclamation was made throughout the camp that no one should trespass by deed or word against the departing Turks. And, indeed, he who would insult men so brave would be of a poor and churlish spirit. To the last they bore themselves with great courage and dignity. On the morning of the day of their departure they dressed themselves in their richest apparel, and being so dressed showed themselves on the walls. This done, they laid aside their garments, piling them in a great heap in the market-place, and so marched forth from the town, each clad in his shirt only but with a most cheerful countenance.

When the last of the Turks had left the town the Christian army entered. Half of it was given to the French king, who had for his own abode the House of the Templars, and half to King Richard, to whom was assigned the palace of the Caliph. In like manner the prisoners and all the treasure were equally divided. I take it that the besiegers were well content, after their long sojourn in the camp and under tents, to find a resting-place again under the roofs of houses.