S FOR THE King, he was, I can scarce doubt, glad at heart that the season of waiting was over. Certain it is that not only did he not seek to call back his men from the charge--doubtless he knew full well that to do this was beyond the power of mortal--but he himself joined in it with the greatest vehemence; none that saw him but must have believed that the affair was altogether to his liking. If others were before him at the first, but a short time had passed when he was to be seen in the front rank, aye, and before it. Where he rode, it was as if Azrael had passed, for the dead lay upon the ground on either side.
Never had the Caliph Saladin suffered so great a defeat as that which fell upon him in the battle of Arsuf; never, indeed, after that day did he dare to meet King Richard in the open field. Nevertheless, from that very day did the hope of the Christians that they should accomplish the end of their warfare grow less and less. But, if any one ask what was the cause of this falling, and who should bear the blame, I, for one, know not what answer should be made to him. There was not one in the whole army more brave and more generous in this matter than King Richard; yet even he, I hold, had not a wholly single heart. He was ever thinking of worldly things; he desired greatly to win the city of Jerusalem, yet he desired it as much for his own sake, for his own glory and renown, and the increase of his royal power, as for any other cause.
There is no need to tell of all the combats, skirmishes, and the like that took place, how on one day a company of the Templars fell into an ambush, how on another the Hospitallers suffered some damage. For the most part the Christians had the better in these things, and this not a little because of the great skill and valour of the English King. Nevertheless, the fortunes of the army seemed to go backwards rather than forwards.
About this time the King began to have dealings for peace with the Caliph Saladin, sending an embassage to him, and receiving the like from him. But it was ever thus that the King asked more than he looked for the Caliph to give; and the Caliph promised more than he had the purpose to fulfil. There were many courtesies passed between them, and gifts also. King Richard would send a set of hawks, and, indeed, he had not much that he could give; but the presents that came from the Caliph were of exceeding richness and splendour; there was a tent made of cloth of gold, and horses such as Kings only have in their stalls, and rare beasts and birds, and snow from Lebanon, for the cooling of wines, and many other things, both for show and for use, of which it were long to tell. And these things, for all that they were costly, served the Caliph's purpose well, and for this reason, they seemed to show his good will, and all the while he was busy destroying the towns and laying waste the country. Of these things the King heard something, but not all, for in the matter of news he was ill served. And all the while the Turks ceased not to do all the mischief that they could, slaying such as strayed from the camp, yea, and coming into the camp itself, and doing men to death in their very tents, and Saladin, or rather Saphadin, his brother, for he it was who held converse with King Richard, when complaints were made of their deeds, affirmed that they were done by robbers and others who were not subject to him, and paid no reverence to his commands; of which pretence there need be said this only, that these robbers or murderers, whether they were the Caliph's men or no, never harmed any but such as were his enemies.
For all this King Richard still strove by all means that he could devise to come to a peaceful agreement with his adversaries. Nor did he refuse any instrument by which he might hope to compass this end.
When a whole moon had been wasted in parleying and the sending of messengers to and fro, the King, seeing that he must accomplish his purpose by force of arms or not at all, led his army towards the Holy City. It would serve no profitable end to tell of the other places where he pitched his camp, or of the days which he tarried in this or that. Let it suffice to say that in a month's time he traversed so much space only as an army well equipped might pass over in a single day's march; and that about twenty-one days after the winter solstice the army of the Christians came to a certain place which is named the Casal of Beitenoble, and which in ancient times was, if I err not, a city of the priests. There it tarried some twelve days, being much troubled by storms and rains, for the winds blew and the rains fell during the whole of this time, in such a fashion as I have never seen. As for the tents, only such as were appointed with ropes and so forth could be kept in their place, so violent were the blasts, so that the greater part of the army lay under the open sky, not a little to the damage of their health. The horses also were in evil case. These creatures, all men know, suffer from much sickness, and multitudes of them perished. Also there was a great scarcity of victuals; for the corn and even the biscuit were spoilt by the rain, and the hogs' flesh grew corrupt.
Though not a few died of sickness, yet did the host daily grow greater. Many who had stayed behind in various cities, their zeal having grown stale, now came back to the camp, judging that they would do well to take part in an enterprise that was now near to success. Also many that had tarried on the march for the cause of sickness now made shift to come to the camp. Some I saw carried in litters, and others that could scarce set one foot before the other crawled painfully along the road. Many of these were slain by the Turks, but not the less did the rest brave the dangers of the journey. And in the camp there was a great furbishing of arms and armour, and trimming of the plumes of helmets, for it was counted an unseemly thing that any man should enter such a place as the Holy City save in his best array.
On a certain evening, some eleven days after the coming of the army to Beitenoble, there was a council held in the tent of King Richard, at which were present the Master of the Templars and the Master of the Hospitallers, and other chief men in the army. About an hour after sunset the council came to an end; darkness had long since fallen, but it chanced to be full moon, and the faces of them that had been present at the council were plain to be seen. Before ever a word was said, it was manifest to all that a great misfortune had befallen them. For the faces of these men were clouded with discouragement. And straightway all the multitude that had been gathered together departed every man to his own place. There needed no proclaiming that neither on the morrow nor on any other day would there be a marching to the Holy City.
On the 8th day of January the army departed from Beitenoble, and on the 20th it came, after much toil and suffering, for the rain and tempest scarcely abated for a single hour through the twelve days, to the city of Ascalon.