Barbarossa - George Upton




Capture of the Brothers

The brothers passed a sorrowful and sleepless night. Though they felt greatly honored by the Emperor's protection, they would rather have grown to manhood under their father's eyes, learned their highest duties from his lips, and, inspired by his example, have reached his lofty standard of honor. They fervently prayed for strength to face the inevitable, but no rest came to their tired bodies. Raymond suffered pain in his wounded arm, and Conrad, who was greatly overcome by his own exertions and by the loss of his father, was even more greatly troubled by the fear that he might lose his brother also and be left utterly alone.

The morning found them still disturbed by their sad thoughts. There was great activity in the camp. The Emperor had decided to move at once, attack the enemy wherever they were found, and destroy them or force them to make peace, whatever the cost. The army therefore quickly advanced. The brothers remained in the camp, the elder because he was incapacitated for active work, and the younger to look after his brother, according to what the Emperor said, but in reality because he did not wish to expose one so young to the possible dangers ahead of them. An old henchman, grown gray in the Emperor's service, was assigned to look after the brothers and advise with them whenever necessary. As soon as all these matters were settled, the Emperor set out in pursuit of the enemy.

On the third day, as on previous days, the Turks adopted their customary tactics, but the Christians by this time had gained confidence by the success of their attacks and knew how to follow them up. The horses which had been captured were very useful to the Christian knights, as their own half-starved animals had a chance to rest. Thus they were in excellent condition to execute their plan and from every point of view were ready for battle. Shortly, they neared the capital of Iconium. They beheld it in the distance about noon, and felt that their hardest battle was imminent; and so it proved. The Turks occupied a better position than on the previous days, and put forth every exertion to beat back the Christians. By their peculiar tactics, as well as by their superiority in numbers, they occasionally succeeded in forcing back detachments of the knights, so that they crowded upon the camp.

At last the Turks in overwhelming force directed an attack upon the spot where the Emperor and the bravest of his knights were fighting, for they knew the battle must be decided there. Thousands of scymitars flashed about the heads of the little Christian band and glanced off from shields and mail. Hundreds fell victims to German steel, but fresh fighters took their places as if they sprang from the earth to avenge the slain. The slaughter was appalling, for at every blow of the Germans' heavy two-edged swords, death followed. But at last the stoutest arms began to tire and the bravest hearts to weaken; for notwithstanding all this sanguinary work the numbers of the enemy apparently were not reduced. A brief rest was absolutely necessary and the Emperor granted it. The knights halted for rest in vain, however, for the enemy, elated by their seeming victory, rushed forward and the Christians were forced back toward their camp. The brothers, unprepared for battle, were suddenly surrounded in the melee and were in imminent danger of capture. Their critical position appealed to the heroic soul of the old Barbarossa, and he determined to give battle anew. In thunder tones he shouted to his knights: "Comrades-in-arms, help to defend my protégés. Let me not be guilty of breaking faith with the dying!" The next instant he fell upon the enemy, followed by his faithful knights. Nothing could withstand them. They charged as the hurricane sweeps through the forest. Again the enemy divided up and made isolated attacks, here and there with success; but the Christians did not waver.

"No more retreating!" was the cry. "Christ commands!" they shouted, and "Christ triumphs!" was the answering cry.

The Emperor's bold example inspired all. They not only held their ground, but forced the enemy to give way. As their courage rose that of the enemy proportionately weakened. They realized more and more that all the advantages they might secure could not compensate them for the loss they must suffer. The irregular hordes of cavalry, which had been harassing the Christians from motives of pure hatred, saw they had been deceived. They expected to overcome them with ease, but for every dead Christian there were hosts of dead Turks. The Sultan himself discovered that his plans had come to naught, and rather than sacrifice his subjects for the benefit of an ambitious neighbor, he decided simply to defend his city until peace was made. Finding that the Turks were falling back on all sides, Kilidj Arslan ordered a hasty retreat. His warriors were so glad that they fled precipitately. Inspired afresh by this new victory the Christians rapidly pursued them, and evening found them at the gates of Iconium and in possession of much rich booty which the enemy had abandoned.

The Emperor allowed but a few hours of rest, for he had decided to storm the city while yet the hearts of the knights beat high with victory and before the enemy could make the necessary preparations for defence. Everything was made ready in the gray of twilight, and at break of day the general assault began. The enemy, who imagined they alone excelled in swift movements, found themselves outdone. Surprised by the unexpected attack, some of them became panic-stricken, but the most of them, who were only accustomed to fighting in the open country, could not stand confinement within city walls. Troops of cavalry rode helplessly up and down the streets, seeking some way of escape and finding none. Desperate over the possibility of a Christian victory, the foot-soldiers fought upon the walls. The Germans in the lead, bold as lions, climbed the scaling ladders in spite of all obstacles. Descending the walls, they plunged into the very thick of the enemy, shouting, "Christ triumphs!" and piled the streets with Turkish dead. A terrible panic seized the Moslems, and they fled helter-skelter, hotly pursued by the Christians. No resistance was attempted; flight was their only thought. They dared not surrender to an enemy whom they hats so greatly incensed and for whom they had shown so little consideration. Indeed, the Christians would have made them no offer of peace, so intense was their indignation. From the Emperor down to the lowest man in the ranks they fought so continuously and so unweariedly that they had no time to think of making such an offer, to say nothing of negotiating a treaty.

The Turks at last opened the gates to secure their liberty and life, and out they poured, with the Sultan at their head, eager to escape. When they reached the camp of the Christians they gave vent to their rage by slaying the sick and non-combatants. Our young friends suddenly found themselves surrounded by furious Moslems swinging their scymitars over their unprotected heads. Faithful to his trust their caretaker sought to defend them, but fell in the unequal contest, and the same fate seemed to threaten them. A muscular, sun-browned hand was already directing a blow at Raymond's head with a blood-stained scymitar, but the blow was averted by a sudden order. The enemies conversed in a language the brothers did not understand, with the result that their lives were spared, although they were dragged away in spite of all resistance. They were placed upon light, fleet horses, and, guarded by a strong band of the enemy, left the camp, fleeing afar with the wind's speed, they knew not whither.

They soon discovered that they had fallen into the hands of the Sultan, and that it was he who had rescued them from instant death. But alas! they feared that they had only been spared to gratify his revenge by some painful mode of torture. At the same time it did not escape their notice how carefully they were guarded from any possibility of danger, and that great consideration was paid to the wounded brother. They could not account for this, nor could they reconcile such solicitude with the malicious expression of the Sultan's face whenever he looked at them. After a short halt, during which the prisoners got some rest, they went on. Though the night was very dark, Raymond noticed that their way led through ravines and narrow defiles like those in which the Christians had suffered so many disasters. He had hoped to return that way after the war was over, but, alas! how cruelly was he disappointed! They were defenceless prisoners in the hands of an enemy who knew no pity, who blindly followed his relentless rage, and was preparing to take their lives in the most barbarous manner as an expiation for the thousands who had been slain by the Christians.

Ready as he was to sacrifice his life for Christ and His holy religion, Raymond would rather have fallen, weapons in hand, fighting with the infidels, the arch-enemies of Christianity, than perish by torture. How he lamented the fatality of his wounded arm! His effort to protect his father's life had been in vain, and now he was a helpless prisoner. His mind was filled with sad reflections in the stillness of the night, broken only by the hoof-beats of the horses.

The increasing coolness and light gray streaks in the sky announced the approach of morning, and as it gradually dawned he felt somewhat less anxious. The same horde surrounded him, the same browned faces scowled at him; but he could see the dear face of his brother, and he felt cheered by his unwavering reliance upon the will of God. This was a great consolation, and they enjoyed it with all the ardor of innocent souls. God's glorious nature lay spread out before them, bathed in the morning radiance. Millions of dewdrops glistened on the grass. The flowers, refreshed by the moisture, exhaled delicious fragrance, and thousands of the gentle singers of the wood proclaimed their joy in song. When tears of sadness came to their eyes at times, as they reflected that the birds could enjoy a happiness denied to them, they found consolation in the thought that God cared for all his creatures, and that He would not forget them. "Not a sparrow falls from the roof without the will of the Heavenly Father," say the Scriptures. "It is God's will that we suffer. It is in accordance with His plans, and we must submit. When His wise purpose is accomplished, He will send us help." Thus Raymond consoled his beloved brother.

The cool morning wind, which hardly stirred the tree boughs, occasionally brought a peculiar roar to their ears. Now it sounded strong, again weak; at times it entirely ceased, and then was loud again. The brothers thought it must come from some distant spot at the end of their journey. They strained their eyes to find it, but as soon as their guards saw them doing this, they bandaged their eyes. During the brief delay occasioned by this, they noticed that the leader gave one of his attendants an order, and that the latter hastily left in the opposite direction.

The march was at once resumed. It was not long before the roar grew stronger. The brothers were convinced it was the noise of waves breaking right and left along their way. "The sea," thought Raymond; "we are by the sea, and no longer in the interior of the enemy's country."

Soon the horses clattered over a bridge and halted in a spacious courtyard. The bandages were removed, and the brothers found themselves in a narrow space inclosed by high walls. Nothing could be seen around them, but the beautiful clear blue sky seemed to say, "Despair not! God is watching over you." They embraced each other and heart to heart wept tears of sorrow and joy—of sorrow over the death of their beloved father, of joy that they still had each other and loved each other so faithfully. Their joy was short-lived, however, for they were soon led into a solitary room and confined securely like ordinary prisoners.

They saw nothing of their enemy that day. A grinning slave silently brought their simple food, and after a time as silently carried away the dishes. It seemed to the brothers that he was a mute, he manifested so little interest in their conversation.

The prisoners naturally talked much about their unfortunate plight,—what the Emperor would think, and what great anxiety their absence would cause him.. At one moment they hoped he would rescue them, but at the next they feared he might be so occupied with his great undertaking that he would find neither time nor opportunity to come to their help. Possibly he might even forget them in the wild tumult of war raging about him. How could he be expected to think of their lives when the lives of so many thousands depended upon his activity? If their father were only living, he would either attempt their rescue himself or induce the Emperor to undertake it. The sad thought brought tears to their eyes again.

After considering their situation from every point of view, they continued to repose their trust in God, who has so many agencies for the accomplishment of His purposes. This reconciled them to the thought of dying for the religion of Christ. Indeed, it seemed to them now as glorious to sacrifice their lives within prison walls as upon the battlefield. They shed tears less often; their lips no longer uttered laments.

Thus the time passed for several days, but at length the Sultan suddenly entered the room. They instantly realized that they were not regarded as ordinary prisoners. The Sultan inquired if there was anything they needed, but they made no complaints. He expected to see them at his feet, deploring their situation, but he heard no request for mitigation of their imprisonment, for better food, or for the enjoyment of fresh air. They were quiet and calm in his presence. Every trace of sorrow had disappeared from their faces, and confidence and courage shone in their eyes. The Sultan stood before them, astonished at their bearing. At last, with scornful look and menacing voice, he said:

"Your death will follow the slightest attempt you make to escape, or which your Emperor shall make to rescue you."

"We shall make no attempt to escape, for it is impossible," said Raymond, "but we cannot prevent the Emperor from doing what he thinks is right. If you kill us, we will die joyfully."

"But that will not be necessary, if your protector, the Emperor, keeps his word as faithfully as they say he does."

"He always keeps his word, whatever malicious tongues may say to the contrary."

"Why, then, does he delay keeping it in your case?"

"How do you know he has given his word to us?"

"Oho! you innocent doves! On the very spot where your father died, and where you (pointing to Raymond) killed one of my bravest, I heard him say, 'I will care for thy sons as if they were my own, and I will pledge my life for them.'"

"And he will do what he said. He will keep his word, but he has hardly had time to hear of our capture."

He knows it well enough, but he will not keep his word."

"That is false."

Don't be so hasty! Listen. I have sent word to him by one of my most trusty messengers that you are in my hands and that I will kill you if he attacks my castle. In addition to this, I offered to release you if he would make peace and quit the country. And what was his reply?"

"He has considered your proposition, and rejects it."

"You have guessed right; and yet by doing as he has done, he has put your lives in danger. He has been faithless."

"He esteems honor—without which one cannot be a knight—higher than life. Will he, the greatest sovereign on earth, whose long life is one series of heroic acts such as have rarely been performed in this world, before whom Europe and Asia tremble, will he forget his imperial duty and prove himself guilty in his old age of such a cowardly act as you expect from him? No, never! The world would point its finger of scorn at him, and those who were slain in executing his designs would rise up and say, 'Thou hast deliberately sacrificed us at the close of thy victorious career; thou hast thrown away all that thou hast purchased with our blood.'"

The Sultan, astonished at these words, replied: "It is true the Emperor promised to free Palestine; but he also promised to protect you, and his obstinacy consigns you to death."

"We will die willingly when the time comes. What we expected in battle we will not fly from in prison, if God so wills. The Emperor knows our feelings, and if he shall leave us to our fate, that will be because he is engaged in carrying out a higher purpose."

"Perhaps if you remind him of his pledge he will recall the services of your father and accede to my demands. Write to him, and a trusty messenger shall take your letter to him."

"Never! It would be disgraceful for us to do it. We would rather die a thousand times."

Seeing that his efforts were fruitless, the Sultan contemptuously left the apartment. The brothers now realized their importance in the eyes of the enemy, and were satisfied that their noble father would have approved what they had done.