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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page. 97

 

for celebrating his coronation. They borrowed money to buy robes and armour, for they wished to make the most splendid appearance possible in the service of one so magnificent, who had been raised to so high a dignity. Men were now to be seen cleaning their armour, polishing their rusty arms, sharpening their swords, and rubbing their lances; soldiers and boys engaged in sham battles, and maintaining the appearance of a real conflict of combatants, boasting at the same time of the future destruction of the Turks; and, in fact, they were a brave people, had they not been without the Divine aid. Thus they indulged in joy, the more unreasonable, for being so intemperate, according to the proverb, - "We should not rejoice too much, nor grieve too much," for all excess is reprehensible.

Chapter XXVI. - How the marquis was stabbed with two poniards, by two young men, assassins, sent by the old man (senior) of Musse.

Meanwhile, Count Henry, after executing his embassy, turned off with his companions to Acre, to equip themselves in becoming attire for the coronation, and were on the point of returning to Ascalon, when the marquis was overtaken by sudden death at Tyre. For it happened one day that he was returning, in a very cheerful and pleasant humour, from an entertainment given by the bishop of Beauvais, at which he had been a guest, and had reached the custom-house of the city, when two young men, assassins,(21) without cloaks, suddenly rushed upon him, and having drawn two poniards, which they carried in their hands, stabbed him to the heart, and ran off at full speed. The marquis instantly fell from his horse, and rolled dying on the ground; one of the murderers was slain directly but the second took shelter in a church; notwithstanding which he was captured, and condemned to be dragged through the city until life should be extinct. One of them was closely questioned before expiring, at whose instigation, and for what reason, they had done the deed, when he confessed that they had been sent along time before to perpetrate the crime, and that they had done it by the command of their superior, whom they were bound to obey. This turned out to be true; for these very young men had been some time in the service of the marquis, waiting for a favourable opportunity to complete the deed. The old man of Musse had sent them over to assassinate the marquis, whom he thought worthy of death, within a certain space of time; for every one the old man judged deserving of death, he caused to be assassinated in the same manner. The old man of

(21)The origin of the fraternity of Assassins, followers of the Old Man of the Mountain, as he is generally called in the common histories of England, has not been very clearly traced. It appears by the accounts which we have of the Thugs and other tribes in India, that similar associations still exist in the East.

Musse, according to hereditary custom, brought up a large number of noble boys in his palace, causing them to be taught every kind of learning and accomplishment, and to be instructed in various languages, until they could converse in them without the aid of an interpreter, in any nation of the known world. Cruelty of the greatest degree was also inculcated with profound secrecy; and the pupils were carefully and anxiously trained to follow it up. When they reach the age of puberty, the senior calls them to him, and enjoins on them, for the remission of their sins, to slay some great man, whom he mentions by name; and for this purpose he gives to each of them a poniard, of terrible length and sharpness. From their devoted obedience, they never hesitate to set out, as they are commanded; nor do they pause until they have reached the prince, or tyrant, who has been pointed out to them; and they remain in his service until they find a favourable opportunity for accomplishing their purpose; for by so doing they believe they shall gain the favour of heaven. Of this sect were the persons who slew the marquis. Now while he was breathing his last, the attendants who were about him took him up in their arms and carried him to the palace, mourning and weeping inconsolably; the more so, as their joy had been, but now, so great. He enjoined his wife to attend carefully to the preservation of the city of Tyre, and to resign it to no one, save King Richard, or to whomsoever the kingdom should fall by right of heirship. Immediately afterwards be expired, and was buried in the Hospital, amidst great mourning and lamentation. Thus the former state of excitement and public joy was cut short; and the dominion so long desired, but not yet secured, vanished. The cheering hopes of that desolate land were destroyed, and intense grief superseded the former gladness.

Chapter XXVII. - How the French, from envy, accused King Richard of the marquis’s death.

In the confusion which now prevailed amongst the people, the tares which an enemy had sown sprung up and corrupted the wheat. For it was whispered by certain of the French, who sought to veil their own

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