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GEOFFREY VINSAUF Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land

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Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page 110

protection of the caravans, formed a body of 2,000 horsemen, besides a numerous company of foot-soldiers.

Chapter IV. - How King Richard fought bravely with the Turks, and took a caravan full of costly things, of inestimable value, camels, dromedaries, horses, and asses.

Whilst King Richard and his people were staying at Galatia, a spy informed the king, that one of the aforesaid caravans was passing by a round cistern, and advised him to proceed at once and capture it, recommending that he should keep back his troops; "for," said he, "whoever shall capture that caravan, will gain an immense booty." But as the spy was a native of the country, the king did not think he ought to place implicit confidence in his sole assertion. Therefore, the king straightway sent a Bedouin and two cautious Turcopolite servants, to inquire into the truth of the matter, and ascertain its accuracy; and he caused them to be clothed after the fashion of Bedouins, to look like Saracens. These men set out by night across the hills, which were covered with watch-towers, and descended to the valley, by turns, until they saw some Saracens on the higher ground, who were themselves spies, and lying in wait for those who might cross the mountains; and when our Bedouin approached, with stealthy steps, to reconnoitre them, the Saracens asked him, who they were, whence they came, and whither they were going? The Bedouin, beckoning the other two to be silent, lest the Saracens should recognize them by their speech, answered, "that they were returning from the neighbourhood of Ascalon, whither they had gone for the sake of plunder:" but one of the Saracens said to him, "You are come to look out for us, and you belong to the king of England." The Bedouin answered, "that he lied," and then proceeded hastily in the direction of the caravan, followed for some time by the Saracens, with their bows and lances, until they ceased in their pursuit from weariness. They, however, strongly suspected that they were of their own country, and not belonging to the enemy. Our spies, therefore, having ascertained the truth, as to the beforementioned caravans, returned with all speed to the king, and told him that he might easily capture the caravans if he would make haste. On learning this, the king, after refreshing his horses with provender, set out with his men, and they walked during the following night until they came to the place where the caravan and its guards were resting: a short distance from it they halted, armed themselves, and formed into companies; the king being in the front rank, and the French in the rear. The king forbade, by mouth of herald, any one from turning to plunder; and commanded, that all should endeavour, by their utmost means, to break and destroy the Turkish lines. When, therefore, day arrived, and they were engaged in forming their ranks, another spy came up at full speed, and informed the king that the caravan was preparing to hasten forwards at dawn of day, for the king’s intention to attack it had become known to its guards. On hearing this, the king sent forward the lightest of his slingers and bowmen to retard their march; and by feigning to challenge them to battle, keep them in check until he and his troops should come up. In this manner the Turks were harassed and delayed by these attacks; whilst our army approached in battle array. When the Turks perceived them, they immediately began to ascend a certain mountain, in order that the higher ground might afford them a firmer position; but their bearing was less arrogant than usual. Then the Turks, making a fierce onset, threw their darts and arrows, like hail, upon our ranks: the caravan, meanwhile, standing motionless. King Richard now having placed his army in two divisions, suddenly charged the Turks, and with his followers, penetrated and routed the foremost rank. Such was the fury of his onset, that they fell to the ground almost without a blow; and be pressed so hard upon the fugitives, that there were none left to make further resistance, except that several of those who fled turned back and shot their arrows behind them. Thus all of them took to flight, like hares before the hounds, and were routed in every direction, while the caravan stood at the mercy of the pursuers, who slew all they met with; so that the enemy lay dead in heaps upon the sand. Those who were thrown from their horses by our knights, were put to death by their squires. There might be seen horses with their saddles twisted round; the conquered were miserably destroyed, and the king’s men fought nobly. The French, too, fought with the utmost spirit, like men accustomed to battle. The king was conspicuous above all the rest by his royal bearing, surpassing all of them: he was mounted on a tall charger, and charged the enemy singly; his ashen lance gave way from his repeated blows, and was shivered in pieces; but drawing his sword instantly, and brandishing it, he pressed upon the fugitives, and mowed them down, sweeping away the hindmost, and subduing the foremost;

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