THE HILL OF HEBRON
 It was now May, and in the gardens of Ascalon the peach
and apricot trees were laden with young fruit, while
the roadsides shone with scarlet anemones and golden
poppies. The crusading army, rested and no longer
hungry, took cheer; but all the beauty around him could
not comfort the troubled spirit of King Richard. The
new from home was still as bad as ever, but he had been
obliged to put off his return there for another year.
Even before the death of Conrad the crusaders had been
unwilling for him to leave them, and he felt he could
not do so now. For though he had chosen Count Henry of
Champagne to be called king of Jerusalem, he knew that
if left to head the crusade, the count, with all his
bravery and loyalty, lacked power to settle the hard
questions that were always coming up.
And one of the hardest of these was worrying
 Richard right then. The army was demanding to be led
once more to Jerusalem;
And while of course the taking of the city and rescue
of the Holy Sepulchre was the great thing for which he
had come, he knew far better than the rest how
impossible it was to hope to do it then. The
reinforcements he had waited for had not come, though
Saladin's army had all the while grown bigger and
stronger. Richard foresaw that while the crusaders,
full of fresh hope and courage, might start again for
the holy city, as they drew near they would find the
same hardships they had found before, and they would
have neither the strength nor numbers to attempt a long
siege of its strong walls. When a leader so bold and
of such heroic bravery as the Lion Heart hesitated to
undertake the thing he most cared to do, the rest of
the crusaders should have known he had the best of
reasons. But they would listen to nothing, and at last
declared that if Richard would not lead them they would
go by themselves.
At this the king yielded, though against his own
judgment; perhaps he thought the only way was to let
them find out for themselves how it would turn out. At
any rate, having decided to go, he
 made preparations with all his usual energy. Hugh was
sent flying here and there on many errands, provisions
were got together, knights rode out to gather in the
straggling foot-soldiers, and when all was ready, one
bright Sunday morning they set off.
As out two pages marched along together they could not
help but feel full of hope and cheer. For the first
week or more the country was green and flowery, they
had plenty to eat, fresh streams to drink from, and,
best of all, the crusaders, happy in being once more on
the road to Jerusalem, seemed to have laid aside their
quarrels for the time and showed each other the
greatest kindness. "There!" said Hugh one morning,
"that's the third knight today I've seen get off his
horse so a sick foot-soldier can ride it!"
"Yes," said Raymond, "and haven't you noticed how the
rich share their money with the poorer ones in the army
so they can buy things they need? Everybody seems to
be trying to be as good as they can!"
But this pleasant state of affairs did not last long.
As they went farther and farther from the seashore, so
the ships could no longer
sup-  ply them, food again became scarce, for it took a great
deal for so many men. As they drew nearer Jerusalem,
again they found the whole country laid waste, not even
providing enough for the horses, while the streams
failed and no one dared to drink from the poisoned
wells. And the hungrier and thirstier they became, the
harder it was to bear the heat of the Palestine sun.
Hotter and hotter it blazed, till, as before, many fell
sick and died, while still more began to straggle off
At last, after the greatest hardships and suffering,
the worn-out army managed to reach Hebron, this time
only seven miles from the holy city. That sounds very
near, but to Richard with his famished and footsore men
it seemed a long way yet; and seeing the utter
hopelessness of it all, he determined to camp there a
few days, until he and the chief knights could decide
whether to go on, for he wanted them to see for
themselves how matters were.
Hugh, as he attended his master on the march, had seen
each day how more and more troubled he grew, and as
they camped there at Hebron his heart fairly ached for
him. When he carried in his supper, which Richard
 he found him sitting with his head bowed on his hands,
and as he raised his fearless blue eyes that had been
so full of high hopes and dreams, the lad could not but
be struck with the disappointment and misery in them.
Indeed, one can only guess what the lion-hearted king
must have suffered, knowing at last that he must give
up the dream he had cherished for years, for which he
had worked and planned and fought, had sacrificed his
fortune and almost his kingdom. Bitter, bitter must
have been his thoughts of Philip, who had deserted him,
of the quarrels and misfortunes that had divided and
dimished his army, and the thousand and one things
that, in spite of all his boldness and courage and
military skill, now forced him to leave Jersualem still
unconquered, the Holy Sepulchre still in the hands of
the infidels. For he knew that the knights whom he had
asked to help him decide whether to go on must at last
agree with him that it was quite hopeless.
The next day a group of soldiers were talking and Hugh
heard one of them say, "I saw one of the spies the king
sent ahead to get news of the city,—you know he sent
out spies the other time, too,—this one came back
 morning, and he says the walls of Jerusalem are
stronger than ever. It seems last winter, while we
were waiting for reinforcements, everybody from the
sultan down worked on the walls, just as King Richard
and the rest of us did at Ascalon. Saladin even
brought stones for them on the back of his fine horse;
and as the walls were tremendously strong to begin
with, now nobody could take the place, except maybe by
a long siege, and we are in no shape for that!"
"I should think not!" said another standing by. "We
would starve to death ourselves long before we could
starve out those heathens by a siege!"
"They say Saladin has an enormous army," put in a
third, "and if we tried to besiege the city with our
few men, he could swing around behind us, and then
where would we be?"
For even the common soldiers now could begin to see
some of the things Richard had foreseen at the
beginning of the march. And when the knights he had
called together talked over everything, they agreed, as
he knew they must, that it would be death for the army
to try to take the city. Like many crusaders before
and after them, they had at last learned the bitter
 truth that to conquer Jerusalem was a task to baffle
the boldest, and a thousand times harder than it had
seemed to their eager hearts as they had set off from
their far-away homes. And hardest of all it was to
give up their dream of rescuing Christ's tomb when they
had marched almost in sight of it!
Indeed, only a few miles from Hebron there was a hill
from which Jerusalem could be plainly seen. The
afternoon of the day it was decided to turn back,
Richard ordered Favelle to be brought to his tent door,
and Hugh held the bridle while he mounted; and then,
attended by Count William and a few other knights and
squires, he rode off in the direction of this hill.
"Do you suppose they are going to look at Jerusalem?"
asked Raymond, who had run over to talk to Hugh.
"Yes," said Hugh, "I think Richard wants to see it even
if he has to give up taking it. Oh, isn't it just a
shame the way things have turned out! I had no idea
when we started that a crusade was such a hard thing!"
"Neither had I," replied Raymond, "and I do wish we
could go on,—but," he added with a sigh, "it would
seem mighty nice to have
 enough to eat again, and all the fresh water we want to
drink! I'm sick of these muddy, brackish brooks around
here!" for he was very thirsty.
"So am I," agreed Hugh, "and sick of eating dead
horses!" for he was very hungry.
"I wish we could go over that hill and see the city,"
"We could walk the few miles easily enough," replied
Hugh "but we wouldn't have time today before they got
back, and they might want us for something. But likely
we can find a chance tomorrow."
A few hours later, when Richard and his party returned,
Hugh ran to take Favelle, and the king walked into his
tent with such a far-away look in his eyes that he
seemed not to hear as the knights took leave of him.
The next morning both the pages asked permission, which
was readily granted, to go to the hill, though Hugh was
puzzled at King Richard's answer when he inquired if
one could really see the city from there. "So they
say, lad," replied the king absently, with such a
strange expression in his face the page dared not ask
more. But when he and Raymond set off together,
 he said, "didn't they go to look at the city
"Yes," answered Raymond, "but what do you think Count
William told some knights who came to the tent last
evening while I was fixing his bed? He said that as
they rode toward the hill the king hardly spoke a word,
but seemed thinking things over all tot himself. Then
at last, when they reached the highest point, from
which he says you can see the city quite distinctly,
one of the squires, who had been there before, led
Favelle to the best place to look at it, and they all
reined their horses to one side so as not to interfere
with the king's view. And then, while they waited for
him to take the first look, King Richard—he had been
riding with his head bowed—made as if he would raise
his eyes, then suddenly he dropped his head again and
lifted his shield before his face. You know they all
wore their armor and had their swords and shields
"LIFTED HIS SHIELD BEFORE HIS FACE."
"What?" exclaimed Hugh, "didn't he look at all?"
"No," replied Raymond, "that's the strange part of it.
It seemed as if, when it came right to the point, much
as he wanted to see Jerusalem,
 he couldn't quite stand it. Count William, who was
nearest to him, said he heard him say in a low tone, as
if talking to himself, something about how, since God
had held him unworthy to conquer the city and rescue
the Holy Sepulchre, he felt himself unworthy to look at
it. Anyway, still holding the shield before his eyes
as if he was afraid he might look in spite of himself,
he turned his horse around and quietly waited till the
others had seen what they wanted, and then rode back
without another word."
Hugh was silent a few moments, and then he said slowly,
"Well, that was just like him. You know, besides being
a tremendous fighter, he's a poet, too, and I've heard
that poets feel things like that more than other
people. He must be frightfully disappointed,
especially as he hasn't been beaten in a single battle
here. It's just that everything else has gone against
As the boys talked they were all the while going along
as fast as they could, and before long had reached and
climbed the hill to its highest point. But as they
stood with eager eyes gazing on the distant city of
Jerusalem, the chatter on their lips died away. The
towers and domes shone in the sunlight, and the great
 the city about showed how strong a fortress it was. In
all the long months, almost a year, since they had
landed at Acre, every night the hearld had cried
through the camp, "God save the Holy Sepulchre!"and
now, somewhere within those frowning walls on which
they looked, was the tomb for the sake of which they
had toiled and suffered so much; and boys though they
were, the two pages could not help but feel their
hearts swell as there swept over them the great pang of
disappointment which all the crusaders shared.