This is the prince of leeches; fever, plague,
Cold rheum, and hot podagra, do but look on him,
And quit their grasp upon the tortured sinews.
 THE Baron of Gilsland walked with slow step and an anxious
countenance towards the royal pavilion. He had much diffidence
of his own capacity, except in a field of battle, and conscious
of no very acute intellect, was usually contented to wonder at
circumstances which a man of livelier imagination would have
endeavoured to investigate and understand, or at least would have
made the subject of speculation. But it seemed very
extraordinary, even to him, that the attention of the bishop
should have been at once abstracted from all reflection on the
marvellous cure which they had witnessed, and upon the
probability it afforded of Richard being restored to health, by
what seemed a very trivial piece of information announcing the
motions of a beggardly Scottish knight, than whom Thomas of
Gilsland knew nothing within the circle of gentle blood more
unimportant or contemptible; and despite his usual habit of
passively beholding passing events, the baron's spirit toiled
with unwonted attempts to form conjectures on the cause.
At length the idea occurred at once to him that the whole might
be a conspiracy against King Richard, formed within the camp of
the allies, and to which the bishop, who was by some represented
as a politic and unscrupulous person, was not unlikely to have
been accessory. It was true that, in his own opinion, there
existed no character so perfect as that of his master; for
Richard being the flower of chivalry, and the chief of Christian
leaders, and obeying in all points the commands of Holy Church,
De Vaux's ideas of perfection went no further. Still, he knew
that, however unworthily, it had been always his master's fate to
draw as much reproach and dislike as honour and attachment from
the display of his great qualities; and that in the very camp,
and amongst those princes bound by oath to the Crusade, were many
who would have sacrificed all hope of victory over the Saracens
to the pleasure of ruining, or at least of humbling, Richard of
"Wherefore," said the baron to himself, "it is in no sense
impossible that this El Hakim, with this his cure, or seeming
cure, wrought on the body of the Scottish squire, may mean
nothing but a trick, to which he of the Leopard may be accessory,
and wherein the Bishop of Tyre, prelate as he is, may have some
This hypothesis, indeed, could not be so easily reconciled with
the alarm manifested by the bishop on learning that, contrary to
his expectation, the Scottish knight had suddenly returned to the
Crusaders' camp. But De Vaux was influenced only by his general
prejudices, which dictated to him the assured belief that a wily
Italian priest, a false-hearted Scot, and an infidel physician,
formed a set of ingredients from which all evil, and no good, was
likely to be extracted. He resolved, however, to lay his
scruples bluntly before the King, of whose judgment he had nearly
as high an opinion as of his valour.
Meantime, events had taken place very contrary to the
suppositions which Thomas de Vaux had entertained. Scarce had he
left the royal pavilion, when, betwixt the impatience of the
fever, and that which was natural to his disposition, Richard
began to murmur at his delay, and express an earnest desire for
his return. He had seen enough to try to reason himself out of
this irritation, which greatly increased his bodily malady. He
wearied his attendants by demanding from them amusements, and the
breviary of the priest, the romance of the clerk, even the harp
of his favourite minstrel, were had recourse to in vain. At
length, some two hours before sundown, and long, therefore, ere
he could expect a satisfactory account of the process of the cure
which the Moor or Arabian had undertaken, he sent, as we have
already heard, a messenger commanding the attendance of the
Knight of the Leopard, determined to soothe his impatience by
obtaining from Sir Kenneth a more particular account of the cause
of his absence from the camp, and the circumstances of his
meeting with this celebrated physician.
The Scottish knight, thus summoned, entered the royal presence as
one who was no stranger to such scenes. He was scarcely known to
the King of England, even by sight, although, tenacious of his
rank, as devout in the adoration of the lady of his secret heart,
he had never been absent on those occasions when the munificence
and hospitality of England opened the Court of its monarch to all
who held a certain rank in chivalry. The King gazed fixedly on
Sir Kenneth approaching his bedside, while the knight bent his
knee for a moment, then arose, and stood before him in a posture
of deference, but not of subservience or humility, as became an
officer in the presence of his sovereign.
"Thy name," said the King, "is Kenneth of the Leopard—from whom
hadst thou degree of knighthood?"
"I took it from the sword of William the Lion, King of Scotland,"
replied the Scot.
"A weapon," said the King, "well worthy to confer honour; nor has
it been laid on an undeserving shoulder. We have seen thee bear
thyself knightly and valiantly in press of battle, when most need
there was; and thou hadst not been yet to learn that thy deserts
were known to us, but that thy presumption in other points has
been such that thy services can challenge no better reward than
that of pardon for thy transgression. What sayest thou—ha?"
Kenneth attempted to speak, but was unable to express himself
distinctly; the consciousness of his too ambitious love, and the
keen, falcon glance with which Coeur de Lion seemed to penetrate
his inmost soul, combining to disconcert him.
"And yet," said the King, "although soldiers should obey command,
and vassals be respectful towards their superiors, we might
forgive a brave knight greater offence than the keeping a simple
hound, though it were contrary to our express public ordinance."
Richard kept his eye fixed on the Scot's face, beheld and
beholding, smiling inwardly at the relief produced by the turn he
had given to his general accusation.
"So please you, my lord," said the Scot, "your majesty must be
good to us poor gentlemen of Scotland in this matter. We are far
from home, scant of revenues, and cannot support ourselves as
your wealthy nobles, who have credit of the Lombards. The
Saracens shall feel our blows the harder that we eat a piece of
dried venison from time to time with our herbs and barley-cakes."
"It skills not asking my leave," said Richard, "since Thomas de
Vaux, who doth, like all around me, that which is fittest in his
own eyes, hath already given thee permission for hunting and
"For hunting only, and please you," said the Scot. "But if it
please your Majesty to indulge me with the privilege of hawking
also, and you list to trust me with a falcon on fist, I trust I
could supply your royal mess with some choice waterfowl."
"I dread me, if thou hadst but the falcon," said the King, "thou
wouldst scarce wait for the permission. I wot well it is said
abroad that we of the line of Anjou resent offence against our
forest-laws as highly as we would do treason against our crown.
To brave and worthy men, however, we could pardon either
misdemeanour.—But enough of this. I desire to know of you, Sir
Knight, wherefore, and by whose authority, you took this recent
journey to the wilderness of the Dead Sea and Engaddi?"
"By order," replied the knight, "of the Council of Princes of the
"And how dared any one to give such an order, when I—not the
least, surely, in the league—was unacquainted with it?"
"It was not my part, please your highness," said the Scot, "to
inquire into such particulars. I am a soldier of the Cross
—serving, doubtless, for the present, under your highness's
banner, and proud of the permission to do so, but still one who
hath taken on him the holy symbol for the rights of Christianity
and the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, and bound, therefore, to
obey without question the orders of the princes and chiefs by
whom the blessed enterprise is directed. That indisposition
should seclude, I trust for but a short time, your highness from
their councils, in which you hold so potential a voice, I must
lament with all Christendom; but, as a soldier, I must obey those
on whom the lawful right of command devolves, or set but an evil
example in the Christian camp."
"Thou sayest well," said King Richard; "and the blame rests not
with thee, but with those with whom, when it shall please Heaven
to raise me from this accursed bed of pain and inactivity, I hope
to reckon roundly. What was the purport of thy message"
"Methinks, and please your highness," replied Sir Kenneth, "that
were best asked of those who sent me, and who can render the
reasons of mine errand; whereas I can only tell its outward form
"Palter not with me, Sir Scot—it were ill for thy safety," said
the irritable monarch.
"My safety, my lord," replied the knight firmly, "I cast behind
me as a regardless thing when I vowed myself to this enterprise,
looking rather to my immortal welfare than to that which concerns
my earthly body."
"By the mass," said King Richard, "thou art a brave fellow! Hark
thee, Sir Knight, I love the Scottish people; they are hardy,
though dogged and stubborn, and, I think, true men in the main,
though the necessity of state has sometimes constrained them to
be dissemblers. I deserve some love at their hand, for I have
voluntarily done what they could not by arms have extorted from
me any more than from my predecessors, I have re-established the
fortresses of Roxburgh and Berwick, which lay in pledge to
England; I have restored your ancient boundaries; and, finally, I
have renounced a claim to homage upon the crown of England, which
I thought unjustly forced on you. I have endeavoured to make
honourable and independent friends, where former kings of England
attempted only to compel unwilling and rebellious vassals."
"All this you have done, my Lord King," said Sir Kenneth, bowing
—"all this you have done, by your royal treaty with our
sovereign at Canterbury. Therefore have you me, and many better
Scottish men, making war against the infidels, under your
banners, who would else have been ravaging your frontiers in
England. If their numbers are now few, it is because their lives
have been freely waged and wasted."
"I grant it true," said the King; "and for the good offices I
have done your land I require you to remember that, as a
principal member of the Christian league, I have a right to know
the negotiations of my confederates. Do me, therefore, the
justice to tell me what I have a title to be acquainted with, and
which I am certain to know more truly from you than from others."
"My lord," said the Scot, "thus conjured, I will speak the truth;
for I well believe that your purposes towards the principal
object of our expedition are single-hearted and honest, and it is
more than I dare warrant for others of the Holy League. Be
pleased, therefore, to know my charge was to propose, through the
medium of the hermit of Engaddi—a holy man, respected and
protected by Saladin himself—"
"A continuation of the truce, I doubt not," said Richard, hastily
"No, by Saint Andrew, my liege," said the Scottish knight; "but
the establishment of a lasting peace, and the withdrawing our
armies from Palestine."
"Saint George!" said Richard, in astonishment. "Ill as I have
justly thought of them, I could not have dreamed they would have
humbled themselves to such dishonour. Speak, Sir Kenneth, with
what will did you carry such a message?"
"With right good will, my lord," said Kenneth; "because, when we
had lost our noble leader, under whose guidance alone I hoped for
victory, I saw none who could succeed him likely to lead us to
conquest, and I accounted it well in such circumstances to avoid
"And on what conditions was this hopeful peace to be contracted?"
said King Richard, painfully suppressing the passion with which
his heart was almost bursting.
"These were not entrusted to me, my lord," answered the Knight of
the Couchant Leopard. "I delivered them sealed to the hermit."
"And for what hold you this reverend hermit—for fool, madman,
traitor, or saint?" said Richard.
"His folly, sire," replied the shrewd Scottish man, "I hold to be
assumed to win favour and reverence from the Paynimrie, who
regard madmen as the inspired of Heaven—at least it seemed to me
as exhibited only occasionally, and not as mixing, like natural
folly, with the general tenor of his mind."
"Shrewdly replied," said the monarch, throwing himself back on
his couch, from which he had half-raised himself. "Now of his
"His penitence," continued Kenneth, "appears to me sincere, and
the fruits of remorse for some dreadful crime, for which he
seems, in his own opinion, condemned to reprobation."
"And for his policy?" said King Richard.
"Methinks, my lord," said the Scottish knight, "he despairs of
the security of Palestine, as of his own salvation, by any means
short of a miracle—at least, since the arm of Richard of England
hath ceased to strike for it."
"And, therefore, the coward policy of this hermit is like that of
these miserable princes, who, forgetful of their knighthood and
their faith, are only resolved and determined when the question
is retreat, and rather than go forward against an armed Saracen,
would trample in their flight over a dying ally!"
"Might I so far presume, my Lord King," said the Scottish knight,
"this discourse but heats your disease, the enemy from which
Christendom dreads more evil than from armed hosts of infidels."
The countenance of King Richard was, indeed, more flushed, and
his action became more feverishly vehement, as, with clenched
hand, extended arm, and flashing eyes, he seemed at once to
suffer under bodily pain, and at the same time under vexation of
mind, while his high spirit led him to speak on, as if in
contempt of both.
"You can flatter, Sir Knight," he said, "but you escape me not.
I must know more from you than you have yet told me. Saw you my
royal consort when at Engaddi?"
"To my knowledge—no, my lord," replied Sir Kenneth, with
considerable perturbation, for he remembered the midnight
procession in the chapel of the rocks.
"I ask you," said the King, in a sterner voice," whether you were
not in the chapel of the Carmelite nuns at Engaddi, and there saw
Berengaria, Queen of England, and the ladies of her Court, who
went thither on pilgrimage?"
"My lord," said Sir Kenneth, "I will speak the truth as in the
confessional. In a subterranean chapel, to which the anchorite
conducted me, I beheld a choir of ladies do homage to a relic of
the highest sanctity; but as I saw not their faces, nor heard
their voices, unless in the hymns which they chanted, I cannot
tell whether the Queen of England was of the bevy."
"And was there no one of these ladies known to you?"
Sir Kenneth stood silent.
"I ask you," said Richard, raising himself on his elbow, "as a
knight and a gentleman—and I shall know by your answer how you
value either character—did you, or did you not, know any lady
amongst that band of worshippers?"
"My lord," said Kenneth, not without much hesitation, "I might
"And I also may guess," said the King, frowning sternly; "but it
is enough. Leopard as you are, Sir Knight, beware tempting the
lion's paw. Hark ye—to become enamoured of the moon would be
but an act of folly; but to leap from the battlements of a lofty
tower, in the wild hope of coming within her sphere, were self-destructive
At this moment some bustling was heard in the outer apartment,
and the King, hastily changing to his more natural manner, said,
"Enough—begone—speed to De Vaux, and send him hither with the
Arabian physician. My life for the faith of the Soldan! Would
he but abjure his false law, I would aid him with my sword to
drive this scum of French and Austrians from his dominions, and
think Palestine as well ruled by him as when her kings were
anointed by the decree of Heaven itself."
The Knight of the Leopard retired, and presently afterwards the
chamberlain announced a deputation from the Council, who had come
to wait on the Majesty of England.
"It is well they allow that I am living yet," was his reply.
"Who are the reverend ambassadors?"
"The Grand Master of the Templars and the Marquis of Montserrat."
"Our brother of France loves not sick-beds," said Richard; "yet,
had Philip been ill, I had stood by his couch long since.
—Jocelyn, lay me the couch more fairly—it is tumbled like a
stormy sea. Reach me yonder steel mirror—pass a comb through my
hair and beard. They look, indeed, liker a lion's mane than a
Christian man's locks. Bring water."
"My lord," said the trembling chamberlain, "the leeches say that
cold water may be fatal."
"To the foul fiend with the leeches!" replied the monarch; "if
they cannot cure me, think you I will allow them to torment me?
—There, then," he said, after having made his ablutions, "admit
the worshipful envoys; they will now, I think, scarcely see that
disease has made Richard negligent of his person."
The celebrated Master of the Templars was a tall, thin, war-worn
man, with a slow yet penetrating eye, and a brow on which a
thousand dark intrigues had stamped a portion of their obscurity.
At the head of that singular body, to whom their order was
everything, and their individuality nothing—seeking the
advancement of its power, even at the hazard of that very
religion which the fraternity were originally associated to
protect—accused of heresy and witchcraft, although by their
character Christian priests—suspected of secret league with the
Soldan, though by oath devoted to the protection of the Holy
Temple, or its recovery—the whole order, and the whole personal
character of its commander, or Grand Master, was a riddle, at the
exposition of which most men shuddered. The Grand Master was
dressed in his white robes of solemnity, and he bore the ABACUS,
a mystic staff of office, the peculiar form of which has given
rise to such singular conjectures and commentaries, leading to
suspicions that this celebrated fraternity of Christian knights
were embodied under the foulest symbols of paganism.
Conrade of Montserrat had a much more pleasing exterior than the
dark and mysterious priest-soldier by whom he was accompanied.
He was a handsome man, of middle age, or something past that
term, bold in the field, sagacious in council, gay and gallant in
times of festivity; but, on the other hand, he was generally
accused of versatility, of a narrow and selfish ambition, of a
desire to extend his own principality, without regard to the weal
of the Latin kingdom of Palestine, and of seeking his own
interest, by private negotiations with Saladin, to the prejudice
of the Christian leaguers.
When the usual salutations had been made by these dignitaries,
and courteously returned by King Richard, the Marquis of
Montserrat commenced an explanation of the motives of their
visit, sent, as he said they were, by the anxious kings and
princes who composed the Council of the Crusaders, "to inquire
into the health of their magnanimous ally, the valiant King of
"We know the importance in which the princes of the Council hold
our health," replied the English King; "and are well aware how
much they must have suffered by suppressing all curiosity
concerning it for fourteen days, for fear, doubtless, of
aggravating our disorder, by showing their anxiety regarding the
The flow of the Marquis's eloquence being checked, and he himself
thrown into some confusion by this reply, his more austere
companion took up the thread of the conversation, and with as
much dry and brief gravity as was consistent with the presence
which he addressed, informed the King that they came from the
Council, to pray, in the name of Christendom, "that he would not
suffer his health to be tampered with by an infidel physician,
said to be dispatched by Saladin, until the Council had taken
measures to remove or confirm the suspicion which they at present
conceived did attach itself to the mission of such a person."
"Grand Master of the Holy and Valiant Order of Knights Templars,
and you, most noble Marquis of Montserrat," replied Richard, "if
it please you to retire into the adjoining pavilion, you shall
presently see what account we make of the tender remonstrances of
our royal and princely colleagues in this religious warfare."
The Marquis and Grand Master retired accordingly; nor had they
been many minutes in the outward pavilion when the Eastern
physician arrived, accompanied by the Baron of Gilsland and
Kenneth of Scotland. The baron, however, was a little later of
entering the tent than the other two, stopping, perchance, to
issue some orders to the warders without.
As the Arabian physician entered, he made his obeisance, after
the Oriental fashion, to the Marquis and Grand Master, whose
dignity was apparent, both from their appearance and their
bearing. The Grand Master returned the salutation with an
expression of disdainful coldness, the Marquis with the popular
courtesy which he habitually practised to men of every rank and
nation. There was a pause, for the Scottish knight, waiting for
the arrival of De Vaux, presumed not, of his own authority, to
enter the tent of the King of England; and during this interval
the Grand Master sternly demanded of the Moslem, "Infidel, hast
thou the courage to practise thine art upon the person of an
anointed sovereign of the Christian host?"
"The sun of Allah," answered the sage, "shines on the Nazarene as
well as on the true believer, and His servant dare make no
distinction betwixt them when called on to exercise the art of
"Misbelieving Hakim," said the Grand Master, "or whatsoever they
call thee for an unbaptized slave of darkness, dost thou well
know that thou shalt be torn asunder by wild horses should King
Richard die under thy charge?"
"That were hard justice," answered the physician, "seeing that I
can but use human means, and that the issue is written in the
book of light."
"Nay, reverend and valiant Grand Master," said the Marquis of
Montserrat, "consider that this learned man is not acquainted
with our Christian order, adopted in the fear of God, and for the
safety of His anointed.—Be it known to thee, grave physician,
whose skill we doubt not, that your wisest course is to repair to
the presence of the illustrious Council of our Holy League, and
there to give account and reckoning to such wise and learned
leeches as they shall nominate, concerning your means of process
and cure of this illustrious patient; so shall you escape all the
danger which, rashly taking such a high matter upon your sole
answer, you may else most likely incur."
"My lords," said El Hakim, "I understand you well. But knowledge
hath its champions as well as your military art—nay, hath
sometimes had its martyrs as well as religion. I have the
command of my sovereign, the Soldan Saladin, to heal this
Nazarene King, and, with the blessing of the Prophet, I will obey
his commands. If I fail, ye wear swords thirsting for the blood
of the faithful, and I proffer my body to your weapons. But I
will not reason with one uncircumcised upon the virtue of the
medicines of which I have obtained knowledge through the grace of
the Prophet, and I pray you interpose no delay between me and my
"Who talks of delay?" said the Baron de Vaux, hastily entering
the tent; "we have had but too much already. I salute you, my
Lord of Montserrat, and you, valiant Grand Master. But I must
presently pass with this learned physician to the bedside of my
"My lord," said the Marquis, in Norman-French, or the language of
Ouie, as it was then called, "are you well advised that we came
to expostulate, on the part of the Council of the Monarchs and
Princes of the Crusade, against the risk of permitting an infidel
and Eastern physician to tamper with a health so valuable as that
of your master, King Richard?"
"Noble Lord Marquis," replied the Englishman bluntly, "I can
neither use many words, nor do I delight in listening to them;
moreover, I am much more ready to believe what my eyes have seen
than what my ears have heard. I am satisfied that this heathen
can cure the sickness of King Richard, and I believe and trust he
will labour to do so. Time is precious. If Mohammed—may God's
curse be on him! stood at the door of the tent, with such fair
purpose as this Adonbec el Hakim entertains, I would hold it sin
to delay him for a minute. So, give ye God'en, my lords."
"Nay, but," said Conrade of Montserrat, "the King himself said we
should be present when this same physician dealt upon him."
The baron whispered the chamberlain, probably to know whether the
Marquis spoke truly, and then replied, "My lords, if you will
hold your patience, you are welcome to enter with us; but if you
interrupt, by action or threat, this accomplished physician in
his duty, be it known that, without respect to your high quality,
I will enforce your absence from Richard's tent; for know, I am
so well satisfied of the virtue of this man's medicines, that
were Richard himself to refuse them, by our Lady of Lanercost, I
think I could find in my heart to force him to take the means of
his cure whether he would or no.—Move onward, El Hakim."
The last word was spoken in the lingua franca, and instantly
obeyed by the physician. The Grand Master looked grimly on the
unceremonious old soldier, but, on exchanging a glance with the
Marquis, smoothed his frowning brow as well as he could, and both
followed De Vaux and the Arabian into the inner tent, where
Richard lay expecting them, with that impatience with which the
sick man watches the step of his physician. Sir Kenneth, whose
attendance seemed neither asked nor prohibited, felt himself, by
the circumstances in which he stood, entitled to follow these
high dignitaries; but, conscious of his inferior power and rank,
remained aloof during the scene which took place.
Richard, when they entered his apartment, immediately exclaimed,
"So ho! a goodly fellowship come to see Richard take his leap in
the dark. My noble allies, I greet you as the representatives of
our assembled league; Richard will again be amongst you in his
former fashion, or ye shall bear to the grave what is left of
him.—De Vaux, lives he or dies he, thou hast the thanks of thy
prince. There is yet another—but this fever hath wasted my
eyesight. What, the bold Scot, who would climb heaven without a
ladder! He is welcome too.—Come, Sir Hakim, to the work, to the
The physician, who had already informed himself of the various
symptoms of the King's illness, now felt his pulse for a long
time, and with deep attention, while all around stood silent, and
in breathless expectation. The sage next filled a cup with
spring water, and dipped into it the small red purse, which, as
formerly, he took from his bosom. When he seemed to think it
sufficiently medicated, he was about to offer it to the
sovereign, who prevented him by saying, "Hold an instant. Thou
hast felt my pulse—let me lay my finger on thine. I too, as
becomes a good knight, know something of thine art."
The Arabian yielded his hand without hesitation, and his long,
slender dark fingers were for an instant enclosed, and almost
buried, in the large enfoldment of King Richard's hand.
"His blood beats calm as an infant's," said the King; "so throbs
not theirs who poison princes. De Vaux, whether we live or die,
dismiss this Hakim with honour and safety.—Commend us, friend,
to the noble Saladin. Should I die, it is without doubt of his
faith; should I live, it will be to thank him as a warrior would
desire to be thanked."
He then raised himself in bed, took the cup in his hand, and
turning to the Marquis and the Grand Master—"Mark what I say,
and let my royal brethren pledge me in Cyprus wine, 'To the
immortal honour of the first Crusader who shall strike lance or
sword on the gate of Jerusalem; and to the shame and eternal
infamy of whomsoever shall turn back from the plough on which he
hath laid his hand!'"
He drained the cup to the bottom, resigned it to the Arabian, and
sunk back, as if exhausted, upon the cushions which were arranged
to receive him. The physician then, with silent but expressive
signs, directed that all should leave the tent excepting himself
and De Vaux, whom no remonstrance could induce to withdraw. The
apartment was cleared accordingly.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics