At Acre, then held by European powers that had been engaged in the crusades for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, they took counsel with one Tebaldo Visconti, an eminent prelate, who was Archdeacon of Liége and a person of great consequence in the Eastern church.
No one quite liked to start the thing at first, for fear doubtless of not doing it full justice, but it only wanted a spark to kindle the whole lower school on the question of Greenfield senior. Stephen it was who supplied the spark. He entered the Fourth Juror room one day, after one of the unsuccessful crusades of which we have spoken, utterly cast down and out of humour.
Some of the younger members of the community did confess to a passing knowledge of Jonah and the whale, and of the ships which brought the cedar of Lebanon to the port where their lot was cast; but they seemed as much at sea as Jonah was when the Crusades were mentioned.
Then he has testified to have known in the army of the Crusades the demon in question, and in the town of Damascus to have seen the knight of Bueil, since defunct, fight at close quarters to be her sole possessor.
The remembrance that Peter the Hermit there put himself at the head of the army with which the Crusades were begun adds to the mysterious and powerful fascination of the place. I fancied that I could see the lean and fanatical priest preaching before the assembled thousands, hurling his words down upon them from some lofty pinnacle.
Our sources of information in regard to the Crusades are so abundant and so rich in picturesque incidents that writers have often yielded to the temptation to give more space to these expeditions than their consequences really justify. They were, after all, only one of the great foreign enterprises which have been undertaken from time to time by the European peoples.
No doubt there has been here, as in the campagna of Rome, a change of climate introduced by historical causes. It is Islamism, and especially the Mussulman reaction against the Crusades, which has withered as with a blast of death the district preferred by Jesus. The beautiful country of Gennesareth never suspected that beneath the brow of this peaceful wayfarer its highest destinies lay hidden.
I am told indeed that the choice was given him to be outlawed, or to join the Crusades with all the strength he could raise. Naturally he adopted the latter alternative; but he has the instincts of the robber still, and will do us an evil turn, if he have the chance." Two days later the great army broke up its camp and marched south.
Such a war was that by which Edward I. drew on England the enmity of the Scotch; and such again was the great war which Edward III. entered into with France. You must not suppose that there was anything in this war of a national, far less of a race, character. The last series of wars before this time I am now speaking of, in which race feelings counted for much, was the Crusades.
Every one of these causes influenced the Crusades, and conspired to render them the most extraordinary instance upon record of the extent to which popular enthusiasm can be carried. History in her solemn page informs us, that the crusaders were but ignorant and savage men, that their motives were those of bigotry unmitigated, and that their pathway was one of blood and tears.