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KING RICHARD AND BLONDEL
I. KING RICHARD
 KING RICHARD THE LION-HEARTED, with a great army of
English knights and fighting men, went on a crusade to
the Holy Land. The object of the crusade was to drive
the Saracens out of Jerusalem and make it safe for
Christian pilgrims to visit the holy places in that
Richard was a brave warrior. He was afraid of nothing,
and no savage beast was more fond of fighting. Never
was he more happy than when in battle, knocking the
heads of his foes with his huge battle ax and shouting
the Norman war cry, "God help us! God help us!"
Many were his exploits in the Holy Land. His deeds of
cruelty and of daring were such that even his name was
a terror to the Saracens. But with all his rudeness and
roughness and savage love of bloodshed, he was not
wholly bad. Now and then he would act so kindly, or
show such gentleness of heart, that men would forget
his grievous faults.
Much fierce fighting did the crusaders find to do. The
walls of Jerusalem were so well guarded by the
 Saracens that King Richard's men could find no way to
get inside. They had to encamp on the barren hills
outside and wait for help to come.
One morning Saladin, the noble leader of the Saracens,
rode out of the city to see King Richard. The king went
out from his camp to meet him; and each was so pleased
with the other that soon they were fast friends. Later
in the day Richard rode by the side of Saladin into the
city. Through the narrow, winding streets they passed
until they came at last to the Holy Sepulcher, where
men said the body of the Saviour had been laid. There
they shook hands and parted.
Soon after this Richard made a truce with the Saracens.
He promised to withdraw his army from the Holy Land;
and it was agreed that there should be no more fighting
until after three years, three months, three days, and
three hours had passed by.
With some of his bravest knights King Richard embarked
on a small ship and sailed for home. At first the sea
was calm and the wind wafted the king swiftly on his
way. But after a few days a storm arose. The waves
rolled mountain high. The ship was driven this way and
that, until at last it was wrecked on an unknown shore.
Most of the men who were with the king were drowned.
It was as much as he could do to reach
 the land alive. He was bruised by the rocks and choked
by salt water and chilled by the rushing wind. For the
rocks and the water and the wind have no more respect
for a king than for any other man.
The country in which Richard found himself was wild and
rough. Alone and quietly he made his way through woods
and over mountains, not daring to tell who he was. For
in those rude times no stranger was safe in a foreign
land; and a ship-wrecked king would have been a fine
prize. So, as a poor pilgrim returning from the Holy
Land, he trudged onward, looking very ragged and
forlorn and keeping out of the way of people as much as
he could. Now and then he found food and lodging at the
hut of some poor woodsman, but often he had no shelter
under which to rest at night. He did not know how far
it was to England, yet he kept going, toward the
northwest, and every day he felt that he was a little
He had traveled in this way for some time, when he came
to a more thickly settled country. There was a road,
with now and then a field or a house by it. The few
people he met looked at him in a way that he did not
like, but he kept straight on and said nothing.
One afternoon he came within sight of a strong
 castle with high towers and thick gray walls of rough
stone. A little way from the castle there was a village
of half a dozen houses, and at the entrance to the
village there was a small inn.
"Whose castle is that?" he asked of a boy who was
driving some cows along the road.
The boy stared at him, as though he thought him mad,
and then answered, "Why, everybody knows it's the Duke
of Austria's castle."
Now, Richard had good reason for not wishing to see the
Duke of Austria. But he could not well turn back, and
he followed the boy and the cows down to the village.
When they came to the inn they went through a wide
gateway into a courtyard where some knights were
exercising their horses. As luck would have it, one of
the knights was the duke himself. He stared hard at
Richard as he came trudging in behind the cows.
"Hello, you fellow!" cried the duke. "Who are you, and
what do you want here?"
"I am a poor woodcutter from the forest," answered
Richard, "and I have come to offer you my services.
There is no man in Austria who can handle an ax better
"Indeed!" said the duke, looking very keenly at his
visitor. "I think I saw you wield an ax once.
 It was made of twenty pounds of English steel. I saw
you wield it, not among the trees, but against the
heads of Saracens. Am I not right?"
Richard knew that he was discovered. The Duke of
Austria had seen him a hundred times in the Holy Land,
and would have known his face anywhere.
"Yes, you are right," answered Richard. "As king of
England I have often wielded such an ax, and I would
fain wield it again when in the presence of the Duke of
"Do you remember Ascalon?" asked the duke.
"I remember it well," said Richard; "and I
re-  member the wall that I helped to build there with my
own hands. I remember, too, the kick that I gave the
Duke of Austria because he was too lazy to work on that
"Very well," said the duke. "You shall now have that
kick back with interest." Then turning to his men he
cried, "Ho, guards! Seize this fellow. Put him in
chains, and shut him up where the sunlight will never
Richard, with his back to the wall, made a strong fight
for freedom. But what could he, with his bare hands,
do against so many armed men? He was soon
overpowered, and dragged away to the duke's castle,
where he was thrown into a dismal dungeon at the bottom
of the tower.
more than a year the English people heard no
tidings of their king. They knew that he had started
home from the Holy Land. They had heard, too, of his
shipwreck, and it was rumored that he was held as a
prisoner in some distant land. But nobody knew where
that land was.
Now Richard in his happier days at home had trained up
a young rhymer, or minstrel, whose name was Blondel de
Nesle. Before going to the Holy
 Land, he had spent many a pleasant hour in Blondel's
company, listening to his beautiful songs. For the
young minstrel had a rare, rich voice, full of the most
charming melody; and no other singer in England or
France could excel him. Sometimes Richard himself had
composed little songs which he and Blondel sang
together; and a strong love, like that of two brothers,
had sprung up between the minstrel and the king.
Very sad was Blondel when no news could be heard of
Richard. He wandered hither and thither about the
king's lonely palace, and would not open his mouth to
sing for anybody. At last he said, "I know that my
master is a prisoner in a strange land. I will seek
him; I will find him; I will save him."
With his harp in his hand he set out on his quest. He
traveled through many lands in that part of Europe
where he would be most likely to find his master. He
made friends wherever he went. For in those days
minstrels were welcome in every palace and in every
hut, and Blondel's wonderful voice delighted all who
One day he stopped at a little inn by the edge of a
great forest. It was quite near to a strong castle
which was surrounded by high walls of rough, gray
 "Whose castle is that?" he asked of the inn-keeper.
"It belongs to the Duke of Austria," was the answer.
"But the duke has other and finer places, and it is now
a year since he was last here. While he is away the
Count Tribables is master of the castle."
Then Blondel inquired if there were any prisoners in
the castle; for he asked that question in every place
"Only one," answered the innkeeper. "He is kept in the
dungeon at the bottom of the tower. I know not who he
is. The duke keeps a close watch upon him and feeds him
well, and so I think he must be somebody."
That evening Blondel sang before the Count Tribables
and his family in the gray castle. All who heard him
praised his fine voice and loved him for his gentle
manners. They begged him to stay a while; for he had
made the dreary old place merrier than it had been for
many a day.
The next morning Blondel wandered around to the great
tower. He saw a slit in the wall which he knew was the
only means by which light was let into the dungeon
below. He sat down on a block of stone and tuned his
harp. Then he began to sing a song which he and King
Richard had sung
 together in the old happy days before his master had
"Your beauty, lady fair,
All view with strange delight;
But you've so cold an air,
None love you as they might.
Yet this I'm pleased to see,
You love none more than me."
This was the first half of the song; and when he had
sung it he paused. Then, far down in the dismal
dungeon, he heard the clear but mournful voice of King
Richard singing the rest:—
"My heart you'll sorely wound
If favor you divide
And smile on all around,
Unwilling to decide.
I'd rather hatred bear
Than love with others share."
Blondel sprang to his feet, his heart filled with
delight. "O Richard! O my king!" he cried in ecstasy.
Then he hurried away, to do what he could to secure his
He went to the emperor of Germany and to the king of
France, and finally back to England, telling how
Richard was cruelly kept in prison by the Duke of
The king of France would have been glad to
 leave Richard in prison; for he was one of his
bitterest foes. The emperor of Germany was but little
more friendly; yet many of his knights and warriors
said that it was a shame to treat the king of England
Then the French king accused Richard of having tried to
poison him when both were crusading in the Holy Land.
Upon this, the emperor ordered that Richard should be
brought out of his dungeon and made to plead his case
before the high court of Germany. He hoped in this way
to get rid of the troublesome prisoner.
Richard pleaded his case so well that many who heard
him wept. Pale and weak from his long imprisonment, he
told how the Duke of Austria had abused him. He showed
how the French king had plotted to have him put to
death. Then he spoke of the battles he had won in the
Holy Land, shouting the war cry of "God help us! God
The high court had nothing to gain by declaring him
guilty. And so it was decided that he should be set
free on the payment of a large ransom to the emperor
and the duke.
It was Blondel and Queen Eleanor, Richard's mother, who
helped to raise the ransom. With his harp and his fine
voice, Blondel so wrought upon the feelings of the
English people that they paid
 more willingly the price that was required of them.
They gave the value of one fourth of all the movable
property that they owned, and we may well doubt whether
any king was worth so much. Then Queen Eleanor herself
carried the money to Germany and put it in the hands
of the emperor and the duke. And when Richard the
Lion-hearted was at last a free man again, in his own
country, it was Blondel who first welcomed him back.