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The Captivity Of Richard Coeur De Lion
by [?]

In the month of October, in the year of our Lord 1192, a pirate vessel touched land on the coast of Sclavonia, at the port of Yara. Those were days in which it was not easy to distinguish between pirates and true mariners, either in aspect or avocation, neither being afflicted with much inconvenient honesty, both being hungry for spoil. From this vessel were landed a number of passengers,–knights, chaplains, and servants,–Crusaders on their way home from the Holy Land, and in need, for their overland journey, of a safe-conduct from the lord of the province.

He who seemed chief among the travellers sent a messenger to the ruler of Yara, to ask for this safe-conduct, and bearing a valuable ruby ring which he was commissioned to offer him as a present. The lord of Yara received this ring, which he gazed upon with eyes of doubt and curiosity. It was too valuable an offer for a small service, and he had surely heard of this particular ruby before.

“Who are they that have sent thee to ask a free passage of me?” he asked the messenger.

“Some pilgrims returning from Jerusalem,” was the answer.

“And by what names call you these pilgrims?”

“One is called Baldwin de Bethune,” rejoined the messenger. “The other, he who sends you this ring, is named Hugh the merchant.”

The ruler fixed his eyes again upon the ring, which he examined with close attention. He at length replied,–

“You had better have told me the truth, for your ring reveals it. This man’s name is not Hugh, but Richard, king of England. His gift is a royal one, and, since he wished to honor me with it without knowing me, I return it to him, and leave him free to depart. Should I do as duty bids, I would hold him prisoner.”

It was indeed Richard Coeur de Lion, on his way home from the Crusade which he had headed, and in which his arbitrary and imperious temper had made enemies of the rulers of France and Austria, who accompanied him. He had concluded with Saladin a truce of three years, three months, three days, and three hours, and then, disregarding his oath that he would not leave the Holy Land while he had a horse left to feed on, he set sail in haste for home. He had need to, for his brother John was intriguing to seize the throne.

On his way home, finding that he must land and proceed part of the way overland, he dismissed all his suite but a few attendants, fearing to be recognized and detained. The single vessel which he now possessed was attacked by pirates, but the fight, singularly enough, ended in a truce, and was followed by so close a friendship between Richard and the pirate captain that he left his vessel for theirs, and was borne by them to Yara.

The ruler of Yara was a relative of the marquis of Montferrat, whose death in Palestine had without warrant been imputed to Richard’s influence. The king had, therefore, unwittingly revealed himself to an enemy and was in imminent danger of arrest. On receiving the message sent him he set out at once, not caring to linger in so doubtful a neighborhood. No attempt was made to stop him. The lord of Yara was in so far faithful to his word. But he had not promised to keep the king’s secret, and at once sent a message to his brother, lord of a neighboring town, that King Richard of England was in the country, and would probably pass through his town.

There was a chance that he might pass undiscovered; pilgrims from Palestine were numerous; Richard reached the town, where no one knew him, and obtained lodging with one of its householders as Hugh, a merchant from the East.

As it happened, the lord of the town had in his service a Norman named Roger, formerly from Argenton. To him he sent, and asked him if he knew the king of England.