And now I will unclasp a secret book,
And, to your quick-conceiving discontent,
I'll read you matter deep and dangerous.
HENRY IV., PART I.
 THE Marquis of Montserrat and the Grand Master of the Knights
Templars stood together in the front of the royal pavilion,
within which this singular scene had passed, and beheld a strong
guard of bills and bows drawn out to form a circle around it, and
keep at distance all which might disturb the sleeping monarch.
The soldiers wore the downcast, silent, and sullen looks with
which they trail their arms at a funeral, and stepped with such
caution that you could not hear a buckler ring or a sword
clatter, though so many men in armour were moving around the
tent. They lowered their weapons in deep reverence as the
dignitaries passed through their files, but with the same
"There is a change of cheer among these island dogs," said the
Grand Master to Conrade, when they had passed Richard's guards.
"What hoarse tumult and revel used to be before this pavilion!
—nought but pitching the bar, hurling the ball, wrestling,
roaring of songs, clattering of wine pots, and quaffing of
flagons among these burly yeomen, as if they were holding some
country wake, with a Maypole in the midst of them instead of a
"Mastiffs are a faithful race," said Conrade; "and the King their
Master has won their love by being ready to wrestle, brawl, or
revel amongst the foremost of them, whenever the humour seized
"He is totally compounded of humours," said the Grand Master.
"Marked you the pledge he gave us! instead of a prayer, over his
"He would have felt it a grace-cup, and a well-spiced one too,"
said the Marquis, "were Saladin like any other Turk that ever
wore turban, or turned him to Mecca at call of the muezzin. But
he affects faith, and honour, and generosity, as if it were for
an unbaptized dog like him to practise the virtuous bearing of a
Christian knight. It is said he hath applied to Richard to be
admitted within the pale of chivalry."
"By Saint Bernard!" exclaimed the Grand Master, "it were time
then to throw off our belts and spurs, Sir Conrade, deface our
armorial bearings, and renounce our burgonets, if the highest
honour of Christianity were conferred on an unchristened Turk of
"You rate the Soldan cheap," replied the Marquis; "yet though he
be a likely man, I have seen a better heathen sold for forty
pence at the bagnio."
They were now near their horses, which stood at some distance
from the royal tent, prancing among the gallant train of esquires
and pages by whom they were attended, when Conrade, after a
moment's pause, proposed that they should enjoy the coolness of
the evening breeze which had arisen, and, dismissing their steeds
and attendants, walk homewards to their own quarters through the
lines of the extended Christian camp. The Grand Master assented,
and they proceeded to walk together accordingly, avoiding, as if
by mutual consent, the more inhabited parts of the canvas city,
and tracing the broad esplanade which lay between the tents and
the external defences, where they could converse in private, and
unmarked, save by the sentinels as they passed them.
They spoke for a time upon the military points and preparations
for defence; but this sort of discourse, in which neither seemed
to take interest, at length died away, and there was a long
pause, which terminated by the Marquis of Montserrat stopping
short, like a man who has formed a sudden resolution, and gazing
for some moments on the dark, inflexible countenance of the Grand
Master, he at length addressed him thus: "Might it consist with
your valour and sanctity, reverend Sir Giles Amaury, I would pray
you for once to lay aside the dark visor which you wear, and to
converse with a friend barefaced."
The Templar half smiled.
"There are light-coloured masks," he said, "as well as dark
visors, and the one conceals the natural features as completely
as the other."
"Be it so," said the Marquis, putting his hand to his chin, and
withdrawing it with the action of one who unmasks himself; "there
lies my disguise. And now, what think you, as touching the
interests of your own order, of the prospects of this Crusade?"
"This is tearing the veil from my thoughts rather than exposing
your own," said the Grand Master; "yet I will reply with a
parable told to me by a santon of the desert. 'A certain farmer
prayed to Heaven for rain, and murmured when it fell not at his
need. To punish his impatience, Allah,' said the santon, 'sent
the Euphrates upon his farm, and he was destroyed, with all his
possessions, even by the granting of his own wishes.'"
"Most truly spoken," said the Marquis Conrade. "Would that the
ocean had swallowed up nineteen parts of the armaments of these
Western princes! What remained would better have served the
purpose of the Christian nobles of Palestine, the wretched
remnant of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. Left to ourselves, we
might have bent to the storm; or, moderately supported with money
and troops, we might have compelled Saladin to respect our
valour, and grant us peace and protection on easy terms. But
from the extremity of danger with which this powerful Crusade
threatens the Soldan, we cannot suppose, should it pass over,
that the Saracen will suffer any one of us to hold possessions or
principalities in Syria, far less permit the existence of the
Christian military fraternities, from whom they have experienced
so much mischief."
"Ay, but," said the Templar, "these adventurous Crusaders may
succeed, and again plant the Cross on the bulwarks of Zion."
"And what will that advantage either the Order of the Templars,
or Conrade of Montserrat?" said the Marquis.
"You it may advantage," replied the Grand Master. "Conrade of
Montserrat might become Conrade King of Jerusalem."
"That sounds like something," said the Marquis, "and yet it rings
but hollow. Godfrey of Bouillon might well choose the crown of
thorns for his emblem. Grand Master, I will confess to you I
have caught some attachment to the Eastern form of government—a
pure and simple monarchy should consist but of king and subjects.
Such is the simple and primitive structure—a shepherd and his
flock. All this internal chain of feudal dependance is
artificial and sophisticated; and I would rather hold the baton
of my poor marquisate with a firm gripe, and wield it after my
pleasure, than the sceptre of a monarch, to be in effect
restrained and curbed by the will of as many proud feudal barons
as hold land under the Assizes of Jerusalem. [The Assises de
Jerusalem were the digest of feudal law, composed by Godfrey of
Boulogne, for the government of the Latin kingdom of Palestine,
when reconquered from the Saracens. "It was composed with advice
of the patriarch and barons, the clergy and laity, and is," says
the historian Gibbon, "a precious monument of feudatory
jurisprudence, founded upon those principles of freedom which
were essential to the system."] A king should tread freely,
Grand Master, and should not be controlled by here a ditch, and
there a fence-here a feudal privilege, and there a mail-clad
baron with his sword in his hand to maintain it. To sum the
whole, I am aware that Guy de Lusignan's claims to the throne
would be preferred to mine, if Richard recovers, and has aught to
say in the choice."
"Enough," said the Grand Master; "thou hast indeed convinced me
of thy sincerity. Others may hold the same opinions, but few,
save Conrade of Montserrat, dared frankly avow that he desires
not the restitution of the kingdom of Jerusalem, but rather
prefers being master of a portion of its fragments—like the
barbarous islanders, who labour not for the deliverance of a
goodly vessel from the billows, expecting rather to enrich
themselves at the expense of the wreck."
"Thou wilt not betray my counsel?" said Conrade, looking sharply
and suspiciously. "Know, for certain, that my tongue shall never
wrong my head, nor my hand forsake the defence of either.
Impeach me if thou wilt—I am prepared to defend myself in the
lists against the best Templar who ever laid lance in rest."
"Yet thou start'st somewhat suddenly for so bold a steed," said
the Grand Master. "However, I swear to thee by the Holy Temple,
which our Order is sworn to defend, that I will keep counsel with
thee as a true comrade."
"By which Temple?" said the Marquis of Montserrat, whose love of
sarcasm often outran his policy and discretion; "swearest thou by
that on the hill of Zion, which was built by King Solomon, or by
that symbolical, emblematical edifice, which is said to be spoken
of in the councils held in the vaults of your Preceptories, as
something which infers the aggrandizement of thy valiant and
The Templar scowled upon him with an eye of death, but answered
calmly, "By whatever Temple I swear, be assured, Lord Marquis,
my oath is sacred. I would I knew how to bind THEE by one of
"I will swear truth to thee," said the Marquis, laughing, "by the
earl's coronet, which I hope to convert, ere these wars are over,
into something better. It feels cold on my brow, that same
slight coronal; a duke's cap of maintenance were a better
protection against such a night-breeze as now blows, and a king's
crown more preferable still, being lined with comfortable ermine
and velvet. In a word, our interests bind us together; for think
not, Lord Grand Master, that, were these allied princes to regain
Jerusalem, and place a king of their own choosing there, they
would suffer your Order, any more than my poor marquisate, to
retain the independence which we now hold. No, by Our Lady! In
such case, the proud Knights of Saint John must again spread
plasters and dress plague sores in the hospitals; and you, most
puissant and venerable Knights of the Temple, must return to your
condition of simple men-at-arms, sleep three on a pallet, and
mount two upon one horse, as your present seal still expresses to
have been your ancient most simple custom."
"The rank, privileges, and opulence of our Order prevent so much
degradation as you threaten," said the Templar haughtily.
"These are your bane," said Conrade of Montserrat; "and you, as
well as I, reverend Grand Master, know that, were the allied
princes to be successful in Palestine, it would be their first
point of policy to abate the independence of your Order, which,
but for the protection of our holy father the Pope, and the
necessity of employing your valour in the conquest of Palestine,
you would long since have experienced. Give them complete
success, and you will be flung aside, as the splinters of a
broken lance are tossed out of the tilt-yard."
"There may be truth in what you say," said the Templar, darkly
smiling. "But what were our hopes should the allies withdraw
their forces, and leave Palestine in the grasp of Saladin?"
"Great and assured," replied Conrade. "The Soldan would give
large provinces to maintain at his behest a body of well-appointed Frankish lances. In Egypt, in Persia, a
auxiliaries, joined to his own light cavalry, would turn the
battle against the most fearful odds. This dependence would be
but for a time—perhaps during the life of this enterprising
Soldan; but in the East empires arise like mushrooms. Suppose
him dead, and us strengthened with a constant succession of fiery
and adventurous spirits from Europe, what might we not hope to
achieve, uncontrolled by these monarchs, whose dignity throws us
at present into the shade—and, were they to remain here, and
succeed in this expedition, would willingly consign us for ever
to degradation and dependence?"
"You say well, my Lord Marquis," said the Grand Master, "and your
words find an echo in my bosom. Yet must we be cautious—Philip
of France is wise as well as valiant."
"True, and will be therefore the more easily diverted from an
expedition to which, in a moment of enthusiasm, or urged by his
nobles, he rashly bound himself. He is jealous of King Richard,
his natural enemy, and longs to return to prosecute plans of
ambition nearer to Paris than Palestine. Any fair pretence will
serve him for withdrawing from a scene in which he is aware he is
wasting the force of his kingdom."
"And the Duke of Austria?" said the Templar.
"Oh, touching the Duke," returned Conrade, "his self-conceit and
folly lead him to the same conclusions as do Philip's policy and
wisdom. He conceives himself, God help the while, ungratefully
treated, because men's mouths—even those of his own MINNE-SINGERS [The German minstrels were so
termed.]—are filled with
the praises of King Richard, whom he fears and hates, and in
whose harm he would rejoice, like those unbred, dastardly curs,
who, if the foremost of the pack is hurt by the gripe of the
wolf, are much more likely to assail the sufferer from behind
than to come to his assistance. But wherefore tell I this to
thee, save to show that I am in sincerity in desiring that this
league be broken up, and the country freed of these great
monarchs with their hosts? And thou well knowest, and hast
thyself seen, how all the princes of influence and power, one
alone excepted, are eager to enter into treaty with the Soldan."
"I acknowledge it," said the Templar; "he were blind that had not
seen this in their last deliberations. But lift yet thy mask an
inch higher, and tell me thy real reason for pressing upon the
Council that Northern Englishman, or Scot, or whatever you call
yonder Knight of the Leopard, to carry their proposals for a
"There was a policy in it," replied the Italian. "His character
of native of Britain was sufficient to meet what Saladin
required, who knew him to belong to the band of Richard; while
his character of Scot, and certain other personal grudges which I
wot of, rendered it most unlikely that our envoy should, on his
return, hold any communication with the sick-bed of Richard, to
whom his presence was ever unacceptable."
"Oh, too finespun policy," said the Grand Master; "trust me, that
Italian spiders' webs will never bind this unshorn Samson of the
Isle—well if you can do it with new cords, and those of the
toughest. See you not that the envoy whom you have selected so
carefully hath brought us, in this physician, the means of
restoring the lion-hearted, bull-necked Englishman to prosecute
his Crusading enterprise. And so soon as he is able once more to
rush on, which of the princes dare hold back? They must follow
him for very shame, although they would march under the banner of
Satan as soon."
"Be content," said Conrade of Montserrat; "ere this physician, if
he work by anything short of miraculous agency, can accomplish
Richard's cure, it may be possible to put some open rupture
betwixt the Frenchman—at least the Austrian—and his allies of
England, so that the breach shall be irreconcilable; and Richard
may arise from his bed, perhaps to command his own native troops,
but never again, by his sole energy, to wield the force of the
"Thou art a willing archer," said the Templar; "but, Conrade of
Montserrat, thy bow is over-slack to carry an arrow to the mark."
He then stopped short, cast a suspicious glance to see that no
one overheard him, and taking Conrade by the hand, pressed it
eagerly as he looked the Italian in the face, and repeated
slowly, "Richard arise from his bed, sayest thou? Conrade, he
must never arise!"
The Marquis of Montserrat started. "What! spoke you of Richard
of England—of Coeur de Lion—the champion of Christendom?"
His cheek turned pale and his knees trembled as he spoke. The
Templar looked at him, with his iron visage contorted into a
smile of contempt.
"Knowest thou what thou look'st like, Sir Conrade, at this
moment? Not like the politic and valiant Marquis of Montserrat,
not like him who would direct the Council of Princes and
determine the fate of empires—but like a novice, who, stumbling
upon a conjuration in his master's book of gramarye, has raised
the devil when he least thought of it, and now stands terrified
at the spirit which appears before him."
"I grant you," said Conrade, recovering himself, "that—unless
some other sure road could be discovered—thou hast hinted at
that which leads most direct to our purpose. But, blessed Mary!
we shall become the curse of all Europe, the malediction of every
one, from the Pope on his throne to the very beggar at the church
gate, who, ragged and leprous, in the last extremity of human
wretchedness, shall bless himself that he is neither Giles Amaury
nor Conrade of Montserrat."
"If thou takest it thus," said the Grand Master, with the same
composure which characterized him all through this remarkable
dialogue, "let us hold there has nothing passed between us—that
we have spoken in our sleep—have awakened, and the vision is
"It never can depart," answered Conrade.
"Visions of ducal crowns and kingly diadems are, indeed, somewhat
tenacious of their place in the imagination," replied the Grand
"Well," answered Conrade, "let me but first try to break peace
between Austria and England."
They parted. Conrade remained standing still upon the spot, and
watching the flowing white cloak of the Templar as he stalked
slowly away, and gradually disappeared amid the fast-sinking
darkness of the Oriental night. Proud, ambitious, unscrupulous,
and politic, the Marquis of Montserrat was yet not cruel by
nature. He was a voluptuary and an epicurean, and, like many who
profess this character, was averse, even upon selfish motives,
from inflicting pain or witnessing acts of cruelty; and he
retained also a general sense of respect for his own reputation,
which sometimes supplies the want of the better principle by
which reputation is to be maintained.
"I have," he said, as his eyes still watched the point at which
he had seen the last slight wave of the Templar's mantle—"I
have, in truth, raised the devil with a vengeance! Who would
have thought this stern, ascetic Grand Master, whose whole
fortune and misfortune is merged in that of his order, would be
willing to do more for its advancement than I who labour for my
own interest? To check this wild Crusade was my motive, indeed,
but I durst not think on the ready mode which this determined
priest has dared to suggest. Yet it is the surest—perhaps even
Such were the Marquis's meditations, when his muttered soliloquy
was broken by a voice from a little distance, which proclaimed
with the emphatic tone of a herald, "Remember the Holy
The exhortation was echoed from post to post, for it was the duty
of the sentinels to raise this cry from time to time upon their
periodical watch, that the host of the Crusaders might always
have in their remembrance the purpose of their being in arms.
But though Conrade was familiar with the custom, and had heard
the warning voice on all former occasions as a matter of habit,
yet it came at the present moment so strongly in contact with his
own train of thought, that it seemed a voice from Heaven warning
him against the iniquity which his heart meditated. He looked
around anxiously, as if, like the patriarch of old, though from
very different circumstances, he was expecting some ram caught in
a thicket some substitution for the sacrifice which his comrade
proposed to offer, not to the Supreme Being, but to the Moloch of
their own ambition. As he looked, the broad folds of the ensign
of England, heavily distending itself to the failing night-breeze,
caught his eye. It was displayed upon an artificial
mound, nearly in the midst of the camp, which perhaps of old some
Hebrew chief or champion had chosen as a memorial of his place of
rest. If so, the name was now forgotten, and the Crusaders had
christened it Saint George's Mount, because from that commanding
height the banner of England was supereminently displayed, as if
an emblem of sovereignty over the many distinguished, noble, and
even royal ensigns, which floated in lower situations.
A quick intellect like that of Conrade catches ideas from the
glance of a moment. A single look on the standard seemed to
dispel the uncertainty of mind which had affected him. He walked
to his pavilion with the hasty and determined step of one who has
adopted a plan which he is resolved to achieve, dismissed the
almost princely train who waited to attend him, and, as he
committed himself to his couch, muttered his amended resolution,
that the milder means are to be tried before the more desperate
are resorted to.
"To-morrow," he said, "I sit at the board of the Archduke of
Austria. We will see what can be done to advance our purpose
before prosecuting the dark suggestions of this Templar."
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