Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
ASSAULTING THE CITY
 One morning as Hugh was moving quietly about, putting
his master's tent in order, the sick king, lying on his
bed with closed eyes, slightly roused and asked the two
faithful knights watching by him, "Does Philip attack
the city soon? I thought I heard my squires whispering
"Yes, Sire," answered one of the knights, "the French
army will assault Acre at mid-day."
Richard only shrugged his shoulders and again closed
his eyes. But when Hugh, having finished his work,
stepped outside, he heard other knights talking. "It's
too bad King Richard can't do anything!" said one.
"Yes," replied the other, "you know he is still
desperately sick, but King Philip doesn't want to wait,
and some of the English troops will help guard the
And this reply of the knight showed one of the reasons
why the crusaders did not get along so well as they
might. There was more or less jealousy between the
armies of the different
 nations, and they did not always work together to the
best advantage. When the French made an attack, part
of the English would often hold back, and the French
would do the same way when the English king led. And
Duke Leopold of Austria was often sulky and wouldn't
fight with the others. The crusaders might have won
much more than they did, if they had all rallied round
one leader, as did the Saracens, who obeyed every
command of their great Sultan Saladin.
So now a part of the English waited for Richard to get
well and lead them, though quite a number of others
made ready to help guard the moat. Hugh, who was not
then needed in the royal tent, ran after these as they
rode toward the edge of the camp. Meantime in the
French section Raymond was hurrying about as fast as he
could, waiting on the squires of Count William as they
Of course while all these preparations were being made
to attack the city, the people shut up there had been
watching from the walls and had not missed anything.
Suddenly a deafening noise arouse, and Hugh, running
toward the moat, turned around and rushed nearer the
 where the din was growing louder and louder. "What's
that noise for?" he asked breathlessly of a French
soldier who had stopped to fasten his helmet.
"Oh," said the soldier, "that's the signal the
Saracens make to tell Saladin's troops and all those
Egyptians and Arabians yonder that we are going to
assault Acre. Then they will try to cross the moat and
attack us from behind, and of course that always takes
a lot of our men from fighting to get into the city.
Just hear those infidels beating their drums and
banging and pounding on anything that will make a
noise! Some of them even pound on brass and copper
cooking pots and platters!"
Sure enough, as the soldier had said, Saladin's troops
heard the signal and rushing down from their camp on
the hills joined their allies beyond the moat, and soon
the din of battle drowned the noise in the besieged
city, for at the same moment the French army began a
furious assault. Dragging up their huge
battering-rams, they thumped and pounded the great
walls; from the petraries and mangonels heavy stones
were hurled against and over them, and from archers on
the ground and others stationed in tall
 wooden towers wheeled up close to the city flew an
incessant shower of arrows.
Hugh, who had found a group of pages busy carrying
fresh arrows to these archers, at once began to help
too and almost ran into Raymond eagerly hurrying to
bring a shield to one who had dropped his. Then the
boys scampered to a sheltered nook behind one of the
petraries, for they had no armor and showers of arrows
and stones and Greek fire were pouring down from the
walls, which the Saracens were defending with a
desperate bravery. Hugh noticed that the rams were
battering hardest of all against one tall tower in an
angle of the wall, and "Look!" he heard one of the men
shout as he helped work the huge wooden beam, "The old
Cursed Tower shook that time!" For this was what the
crusaders had named it, and they all especially hated
it and wanted to knock it down, because it was said to
have been built with the thirty pieces of silver which
Judas received for betraying our Lord Jesus.
But though it shook, the Cursed Tower did not fall; and
though the French knights fought valiantly it was in
vain they tried to scale the massive walls they could
not batter down; for so
 deadly was the Greek fire poured upon them and so
fiercely did the Saracens resist, that at last they
were forced to retreat, having lost many of their
number. Moreover, the fighting at the moat had been so
violent that a large number of the crusaders had been
obliged to leave the city walls and go there. All
were bitterly mortified, especially as the Saracens,
seeing them retreating, began to jeer from the walls
and to taunt them with cowardice; which was not true,
for the bravest fighters in Christendom were in the
crusading army. But to take a strongly walled city in
those days was not an easy task. Fever had weakened
many of the crusaders, their heavy armor was a burden
under the burning sun of Palestine, but worst of all,
the quarrels and disagreements of their leaders made it
hard for the army to make headway.
King Philip was so disappointed over the defeat of his
effort that his fever came back for a while, so with
both kings sick in their tents, the besieging army
settled down to comparative quiet. That is, they
delayed making another assault, but at intervals, every
day and night, the big battering-rams pounded away, and
now and then a shower of stones would be hurled
 over the walls by the other machines. Hugh and Raymond
were much interested in these, especially one that
belonged to the French army and that Philip had named
"Do you see," said Hugh one day as they were watching
this send a huge stone into the city, "the Acre people
have set up a petrary on top of the wall almost as big
as Bad Neighbor?"
"Yes," said a crusader coming with his arms full of
stones, "and do you know what the heathen call
theirs?—'Bad Kinsman!' "
Here, "Hark!" cried Raymond, "that's a herald! Hear
Everybody stopped working the fighting machines and
stared at a queer little procession coming through the
camp. "Well, what's that?" exclaimed Hugh in
bewilderment; but as nobody could tell, both boys
hurried off to find out.
"It's an English herald!" said Raymond as they ran
"Yes," said Hugh, "and there's a big Saracen behind him
carrying a white flag, and then come six black men with
white turbans, some bringing baskets, and some
goatskins like the water carriers do in this country."
 The tall, dark figures, looking neither to right nor
left, followed the herald who cleared a path for them,
announcing that they came on a peaceful errand from the
Sultan Saladin. Straight on they went toward the
quarters of King Richard, seeing which, Hugh sprang
after them and flew as fast as his legs would carry him
to his master's tent, reaching it just as the strangers
disappeared with in one close by.
Raymond, who had hurried after him and was waiting near
by, hoping Hugh would come out and tell him the news,
soon began to hear the soldiers talking, for nothing
was long kept secret from the camp. "Well! If that
don't beat everything!" said one. "They say that
heathen Saladin has sent cold sherbets and the finest
fruit to 'The Malek Ric!' "
"Who's that?" asked a soldier who had not been long
with the army.
"Why, that what those Saracens call King Richard,
'Malek' is their heathenish name of king, and I suppose
'Ric' is as near as they can come to Richard. It's got
to be a sort of nickname for him here."
"That Saladin can't be such a bad fellow," replied the
other. "I heard my master say the
 other day that if he would turn Christian, he would
make a fine honorable knight."
Here Hugh came out of the tent, and Raymond, knowing
nothing had escaped him, ran to him, asking, "Did
Saladin really send things to King Richard?"
"Yes, indeed!" answered Hugh. "They wouldn't let
anybody in the king's tent, but took them to the one
near it and I got right by the door and saw it all.
Those goatskins were full of sherbet packed in snow
from the top of the mountains, and the baskets heaped
with the finest fruit you ever saw! The black men were
slaves from Nubia, and their leader brought a message
from the sultan saying he was sorry 'The Malek Ric'
was sick and that he didn't want him to die like a
slave in his tent, but to get well so he could fight
him in the open field. And he said he'd send him
dainties every day till he was all right. The herald
interpreted for them; you know he can speak their
"Whew!" exclaimed Raymond, "wasn't that fine of
Saladin!" as Hugh paused, enjoying his importance as
news-dealer, for others had gathered around to listen.
"Yes," he went on, "King Richard was
 mightily pleased when one of his knights went in and
told him, and he sent a message of thanks to the sultan
and ordered presents given to all the slaves. And
then I heard that he drank a cup of the sherbet right
away to show his contempt for the opinion of some of
the knights who thought the things might be poisoned.
He said Saladin might be an infidel, but he was as
honorable as any knight in our army."
And this was quite true. Both Saladin and Richard
were brave fighters and generous foes and greatly
admired one another, though they had never met; and it
really seemed a pity that fate had made them enemies
when in many ways they might have enjoyed each other's