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The Crusaders by  Alfred J. Church

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OF THE MARCH TO JERUSALEM

[79] THERE were some that thought that the enemy having been routed and the stores replenished, the host should, after some days, maybe, of rest, march forward to their journey's end, that is, to the city of Jerusalem. This counsel, beyond all doubt, was pleasing to the multitude, but it was not approved by the chiefs. Some man will say, Who shall judge in such a matter but the chiefs, to whom the government of the host has been committed? Nor will I deny that such an one has reason on his side. Nevertheless I hold, having had no small experience in such matters, that the common folk, having a more single mind, are wont to have a more clear vision of the thing that it is best to do. So assuredly was it at the time of which I now write. The leaders of the host sought each man for his own. One would be lord of this city and another lord of that. Some cared for ease, and some were moved [80] by ambition, and others were greedy of gain. I say not that none of the common folk cared for these things. They were a mixed multitude, both good and bad, as armies are wont to be; that they were more given to cruelty and wickedness than others is not a thing to be believed. Only men looked that they should be better than they were, aye, or than they could be. Truly men do not change their natures because they wear a cross upon their breasts. Be this as it may, 'tis certain that the common men were urgent that the army should march without delay to Jerusalem, while the captains were busy with other things.

That there were causes of hindrance cannot, indeed, be denied. First it was but decent that the churches in Antioch, which had been shamefully misused and defiled by the Turks, should be restored and beautified. Then there befell a sore visitation of the plague, by which many died, and among them that bishop of whom I have spoken before in the matter of the finding of the spear. Also there came ambassadors from the Emperor of New Rome, demanding that the city of Antioch should be delivered up to him, to whom it was answered that the Emperor had not, for his part, kept [81] the covenant which he had made, and that he could not in reason demand such keeping from others.

Then the leaders sent an embassy to the Sultan of Egypt, if perchance he might be willing to give up the Holy City without further strife, to whom the answer was made that the pilgrims might enter the city, but to the number of two hundred only, and these not bearing arms. When the Duke Godfrey heard this he cried aloud, "Tell your master that we will go with as many thousands as we will, and bearing our arms and with our banners duly ranged." In these and other things many days were spent to no purpose, and still the common folk complained concerning the delay, and were more and more urgent that the army should go forward. So at the last it came to this that they affirmed that if their captains made yet further delay, then they would choose leaders for themselves, and advance whether the others would or would not. When the Earl of Toulouse heard these words he was not a little moved, and he persuaded the captains, though much against the will of certain of them, that they should fix a day for the setting out. And the day fixed was the fifteenth from that on which the council of the captains was held, [82] being the first day of the new year, as the years are reckoned in eastern lands.

On this day, therefore, according to his promise made, the Earl of Toulouse set forth, having with him some ten thousand men, of whom three hundred only were mounted on horses. (The greater part of the host still tarried at Antioch.) And now it seemed as if all the difficulties of the enterprise were done with. The march was easy; there were no enemies within sight; and all the towns and villages which the army passed on its way brought forth store of provisions and other gifts.

Two months after the setting forth of the Earl of Toulouse the remaining part of the army marched from Antioch, and of these there were twenty-five thousand men, well armed all of them.

But now there befell a great trouble, for coming to a certain town, Archis by name, they besieged it, and would have taken it by storm but could not, but lost many men, to the great grief and displeasure of the army. And now men began to murmur about the spear that had been found in the church at Antioch, saying that it was a false device that had been contrived for the deceiving of the [83] people. The chief of the murmurers was one Arnold, a priest, who was in the company of Duke Robert of Normandy, a learned man, but of an evil life. Then the clerk that had told the matter of the vision to the chiefs came forward and said, "I am ill content to lie under this accusation. Let me now have the trial of fire; so shall it be known whether I am a true man or no." A great fire, therefore, was made, and the said clerk passed through it, holding the spear in his hand. And when he came forth on the farther side, he seemed as if he had suffered no hurt. Great was the rejoicing, and the people made much ado with him, kissing his hands, and doing him honour in many ways. But it fell out that some two days after the man died; some said that the fire had indeed done him hurt, though not to outward appearance; but others affirmed that he had suffered hurt from the crowding of the people. And so the matter was left in doubt.

So the army, leaving Archis on one side, proceeded to the region of the Three Cities, whose governor persuaded the leaders of the host to leave the cities unhurt, giving [84] them for a price fifteen thousand pieces of gold. While the army tarried in this country there came certain men from Mount Lebanon, Christians by faith, to salute the chiefs. These men gave good counsel about the way by which the host should go to Jerusalem, saying that the way by the coast was easier, and that it would be profitable to have the ships at hand. This counsel they followed, and on the first day they came to Bibelim, and on the third to Beyrut. For the most part these journeyings were made in peace and quiet, but as they passed by Sidon the governor of the city issued forth from the gates with a great company of horsemen, and fell upon them, but received more hurt than he gave. So they came, by sundry stages which it profits not to relate, to the city of Caesarea, where they kept the feast that is called Pentecost. And it should be noted that they had spent a full year, short by eighteen days, since they had put the Sultan Kerboga to flight before Antioch.

From Caesarea the host went by the road that all men who have dwelt in these parts know well to Jerusalem. And there came to meet it a company of Christian men from Bethlehem, who were ready to do all service [85] that they could, delivering their town into the hands of the chiefs, and giving such other help as might be needed. And many of the host went to see the Church of Bethlehem; for this is built in the place of the stable wherein the Lord Christ was born. And when they had seen this then they were for going on to Jerusalem. By this time it was night; but they were hardly content to abide the day. And as soon as ever it was dawn then they hastened on the way to Jerusalem, not thinking of aught but that they had now come to the end of their pilgrimage. There were many who did not so much as stay to take their arms, so eager were they. Nevertheless, certain knights and men-at-arms went with them, who should be as a guard if the Turks should chance to issue forth against them. And when they came within sight of the walls and towers of the city, then they took off the shoes from their feet and lifted up their hands to heaven. There were but few out of the many that had set forth, and these spent with travel and suffering, but all things were forgotten. Never did I see a company of men so carried out of themselves with joy.


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