Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
OF THE SLAYING OF THE SULTAN, AND WHAT FOLLOWED
 ALL things were now settled, and there were but four days before the fulfilling of the treaty, when the King
should give up Damietta to the Sultan, and the Sultan, on his part, should suffer the King and his people to
go free. But lo! there came to pass that which was like to bring the whole matter to nothing. The emirs of the
Sultan made a conspiracy against him. "Know this," they said one to another, "that so soon as he shall find
himself master of Damietta, he will slay us. Let us therefore be beforehand with him." And it was agreed that
this should be done. First, when the Sultan was going to his chamber after a banquet which he had given to the
emirs, one, who was, indeed, his sword-bearer, dealt him a blow and struck off his hand. But the Sultan, being
young and nimble, escaped into a strong tower that
 was hard by his chamber, and three of his priests were with him. The emirs called upon him to give himself up.
"That," said he, "I will do, if you will give me a promise of my life." "Nay," they answered, "we will give
you no promises. If you surrender not of your own free will, then will we compel you." Then they threw Greek
fire at the tower, and the tower, which was built of pine-wood, caught fire on the instant. When the Sultan
saw this he ran down with all the speed that he could, seeking to reach the river, if so be he could find a
ship. But the emirs and their men were ranged along the way, nor was it long before they slew him. And he that
dealt him the last blow came to the King, his hand yet dripping with blood, and said, "What will you give me?
I have slain your enemy, who would assuredly have done you to death had he lived." But the King answered him
not a word.
It may well be that the man spoke truth. Certainly the Sultan had broken his promises. He had caused many of
the prisoners to be put to death; others he had sent to Cairo. Nor, in the end, did the Christians fare the
worse for his having been slain. For now the covenant between the King and the Saracen
 chiefs was renewed, nor was any change made in the conditions; only the payment was differently ordered; that
is to say, one half of the ransom was to be paid before the King left the place where he was, and the other
half in the town of Acre.
Then the emirs on the one part and the King on the other took the oaths that were held to be the most binding
on them. The King indeed held staunchly by his faith, and when the emirs would have had him swear in a way
that he thought to be unseemly to him as a Christian man he would not. And the emirs paid him the more honour
and reverence for this very cause. It was said, indeed, that they would have made him Sultan of Cairo, if he
had been minded to receive that dignity at their hands; furthermore, some that knew the King affirmed that he
was not altogether set against it. But none knew for certain the truth in the matter. Yet it was well said by
one of the emirs, "There surely never was better or more steadfast Christian than this King Louis. Verily if
he had been made our sultan he would never have been content till he had either made us all Christians, or,
failing this, had put us all to the sword."
And now there came a time of great peril
 to the prisoners. First the town of Damietta was given up to the Saracens, the gates being opened and their
flag hoisted on the towers. So soon as this was done the emirs and their men, save some of the better sort,
flew upon the wine and drank themselves drunk therewith. Now there is always danger from a drunken man, when
he has a sword in his hand, and is free to do what he will; and this danger is the greater when the man knows
within himself that he has already broken the law. And so it was with these men, for their law strictly
forbids the drinking of wine. Certain it is that one of them came to the galley where the Lord of Joinville
was, bearing in his hand a sword dripping with blood. This fellow cried, "I have already slain six of these
accursed Christians and I will slay yet six more." But whether he spoke truly or was boasting cannot be told.
That there was a debate about the slaying of the prisoners is well known. One of the emirs said, "Listen to
me, my friends. If you would have peace and safety, kill the King and his nobles. Say you that their children
will avenge them? Nay, but those children are yet but babes, so that at the least you have many years of peace
 To him another emir answered: "Surely if we slay the King now that we have slain our own Sultan all the world
will say that the Egyptians are the most wicked of men." Then spoke a third emir, saying, "Truly we did evil
when we slew the Sultan, for we transgressed the commandment of Mahomet: 'Ye shall keep the lord who rules
over you as you would keep the apple of your eye.' But there is another commandment"—and while he spoke
he turned over the leaves of a book till he came to a place where it was written, "For the assuring of the
faith, thou shalt slay the enemies of thy faith."
But in the end the party that was for keeping of the covenant and setting the prisoners free had the upper
hand. So the prisoners were released. On the next day the paying of the ransom was begun. When the money was
counted it was found to be short by some thirty thousand pieces. These were taken from the treasury of the
Templars much against their will, but the necessities of the prisoners prevailed.
As for the King, there could not have been a man more loyal in the fulfilling of his promise. When one of
those that counted the money said that the Saracens had received less
 than their due by some ten thousand pieces, the King would not suffer but that the whole matter should be
looked into, lest the Saracens should have wrong. The counter, indeed, averred that this thing was said in
jest; but the King answered that such a jest was out of season, and that above all things it was necessary
that a Christian should show good faith.
While the King was awaiting the payment of the ransom there came to him a Saracen finely clothed and of a
handsome presence who brought him a present, frozen milk and a nosegay of flowers; these, he said, were a gift
from the children of a certain village, Narac by name. These things he gave to the King, speaking at the same
time in French. "How came you to speak French?" said the King. And when the man said that he was born in
France and that he had been a Christian, the King cried, "Get you gone!" for no man, he thought, could commit
a greater sin than to deny his faith. The Lord of Joinville was standing by the King, and he drew the man
aside, and asked him who he was and how he had come thither. The man said that he had come to Egypt some years
before, and had married a wife in Egypt, and was now a man
 of rank and substance. "But," said the Lord of Joinville, "know you not that if you die in this condition you
will be lost?" "Aye," said the other, "I do not doubt but that the Christian religion is the best of all
religions. Nevertheless I fear the poverty, for I must needs give up all that I have. Also I fear the
reproaches that I should have to suffer. Would not men say when they saw me, 'There goes the renegade!'?"
"Ah!" said the Lord of Joinville, "you will hear more than that at the Great Judgment." But he spoke to no
After this the King went to Acre, where he tarried till what was left over of the ransom was paid.