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 At three in the morning all on board the galley were astir. A ration of bread and meat was served out to the slaves, and the boat was soon afterwards under way. The rowers of the English knight's boat had been warmly commended by the commander and placed in charge of the overseer, with instructions that they were to be treated as free men. As soon as the galley slaves set to work, however, they seated themselves on the benches and double banked some of the oars, anxious to please the knights. With the exception of those whose turn it was to be on watch, most of the knights slept until daybreak. “At the rate we are rowing, Gervaise,” Harcourt said, as they went up on to the poop together, “it will not take us very long to join our friends. We are going through the water at fully six miles an hour; and as we have already been two hours under way, in another three we shall be there.”
An hour and a half later they passed the island where they had landed. The two young knights pointed out to the others the valley into which they had descended, and the point round which they had swum. In a few minutes they caught sight of the landing place.
“Look, Gervaise, there is something black showing just above the water.”
“I see it. I think it is a line of timbers. There were certainly no rocks there when we ran ashore.”
“Then Santoval must have found the craft still there and burnt her,” one of the knights standing by remarked, “and the pirates are caged up. It will take them some time to make a raft that will carry them to the next island, and before they can do that we shall be back again. I shall be sorry if they escape, for they are as ruthless a set of villains as sail the seas.”
The galley had traversed half the remaining distance when the sound of a gun was faintly heard. For a moment there was an absolute hush on the poop; then three or four shots in rapid succession were heard.
“Some more pirate ships must have come up,” the commander exclaimed. Then he shouted down to the slaves, “Row, men—row for your lives! Overseer, do not spare your lash if any hang back from their work.”
The galley had been travelling fast before, but her speed greatly increased as the slaves rowed their hardest. Fast as she was travelling, the impatience of the knights was extreme. They walked up and down the deck, making vows of candles that should be burnt at the shrine of St. John if they arrived in time to take a share in the fight, stopping at times to listen to the sound of artillery, which was now so frequent as to show that a severe engagement was being fought. Many of the younger knights ran down to the waist and double banked the oars, and in a shorter time than it seemed possible the galley arrived at the mouth of the bay.
A desperate fight was going on. Ricord's ship lay, idle and deserted, at anchor. Five pirate crafts surrounded Santoval's galley. Two of them were alongside of her; the others were raking her fore and aft with their shot. The young knights left the oars, sprang up to the poop and joined in the shout of encouragement raised by the others, and then, resuming their helmets and armour, stood ready to leap on board an enemy as soon as they reached her. Piccolomini directed the helmsman to lay him alongside one of the ships grappling with Santoval. As they came up, their galley's cannon poured their fire into her, and a moment later the knights sprang on board.
In the din of battle their shout had been unheard. The pirates thronging the other side of their ship were intent only on overcoming the resistance of the knights, and even the discharge of cannon had not called their attention to their foe, until the latter, shouting the war cry of the Order, fell suddenly upon them. A panic at once seized them. Some were cut down almost unresistingly, but the great majority, running to the bow or stern, threw themselves overboard and swam to the other ships. The pirate ship on the other side of Santoval's galley instantly threw off the grapnels and thrust off from her side, and, immediately hauling in the sheets of the big sail, began at once to draw away, while her three consorts made for the mouth of the bay.
“Back to your galley, comrades,” Piccolomini shouted, “or with this brisk wind they will escape us.”
The knights at once crossed on to their own craft, the oars were got out, and the chase began. A minute or two later Don Santoval followed them, but soon gave up, as so large a number of the oars had been broken when the two pirate ships ran alongside him, that it would have been hopeless to pursue. The wind was blowing freshly, and was rapidly increasing in strength, so that, in spite of the efforts of the galley slaves, the pirates gradually drew away, running straight before the wind, and aiding the effects of the sails with oars. Seeing the hopelessness of the chase, Piccolomini abandoned it, after rowing for two miles, and returned to the island. The other two galleys were lying beside each other, and Piccolomini had his craft steered alongside them.
“Thanks, Piccolomini, for arriving so opportunely,” Santoval, who was seated on the deck leaning against the bulwarks, said, as his fellow commander leapt on board, and came towards him.
“Would that I had arrived sooner, Santoval, for I see that you have been grievously wounded!”
“Ay. One of the paynims' cannonballs has carried off both my legs below the knee. The leech has been searing the wounds with a hot iron, and says that he thinks I shall get over it; but if so I fear that my fighting days are past, unless, indeed, I fight seated on a chair. However, I ought not to grumble. I have lost many brave comrades, and others are wounded more sorely than I am.”
Sir Louis Ricord now joined them. He embraced Piccolomini warmly.
“I never heard a more welcome shout, Piccolomini, than that which you gave when you fell upon the Moslems, for in truth the issue of the conflict was doubtful. I was delighted when this morning at daybreak Santoval's galley rowed in. We had all kept watch during the night, thinking the pirates might obtain boats and make an attack upon us; and, with but twenty of us fit to wield a sword, our position would have been a bad one, and at any rate they might have recaptured the prizes. We agreed that Santoval and his knights should land at once. This they did. Sir John Boswell had of course told me how his boat had been chased by a fishing craft, manned by a large number of the pirates, and that he feared the rest might similarly have escaped, and might have gone to bring some more of Hassan Ali's ships upon us.
“As soon as Santoval landed, some of the natives came down and told him that there was not a pirate remaining there, the rest having started in another boat a few minutes after the one that had chased Boswell. Santoval left two of his men with orders to ascend to the highest spot on the island, and to keep watch, and then brought the rest off to his galley. Our first step was, of course, to send all the women and children ashore. Then we consulted as to what had best be done if the pirates should come back in force. We hoped, at any rate, that this would not happen until you arrived. We expected that you would be here before noon; but we decided that, should they get here before you, we from our galley would embark on Santoval's, as it was better to fight in one strongly manned boat than to divide our forces.
“It was scarce half an hour after Santoval came down before the men left on the lookout appeared on the beach. On fetching them off, they told us that as soon as they reached the top of the hill they saw five vessels approaching with sails and oars, and that they would be here in half an hour at the outside. We at once abandoned my galley, brought the rowers and the wounded here, and prepared for the fight. As you saw, they ran their two biggest ships alongside us, and for two hours the fight went on. They were crowded with men, who in vain strove to get a footing on our decks. Had we only had these two to deal with, we should have had nothing to fear, heavily manned though they were; but the other three kept sailing backwards and forwards, discharging their guns into us as they passed, firing not only shot, but bags of bullets.
“Their gunners were skilful, and, as you see, they have completely riddled our poop. Twenty knights have been killed, and eleven others are sorely wounded. Scarce one has escaped unscathed. You may guess, then, how welcome was your aid, which we had not expected for another three hours. We were on the point of abandoning the waist and gathering on the poop, which we could still have defended for a considerable time, when, as if dropped from the skies, you fell upon the pirates, and turned the tables. How is it that you were here so early?”
“We started at three o'clock, instead of waiting for daybreak. It seemed, from the story of the two young knights, that it was possible you might be attacked early, and, crippled as your command was, and with four prizes on your hands, I deemed it best to come on as soon as the rowers had had a few hours' rest.”
“It is well that you did so; it would have been a grievous affair had two of our galleys been captured by the pirates. It would have been a blow to the prestige of the Order, and would have brought such strength to Hassan Ali and other pirate leaders that nothing short of sending out a fleet would have recovered our ascendancy; and as every ducat we can spare has to be spent on the fortifications, it would have been a misfortune indeed had we been obliged to fit out such an expedition at present.”
“Who have fallen, Sir Louis?”
“Five more of the knights of my galley—Pierre des Vignes, Raoul de Montpelier, Ernest Schmidt, Raymond Garcia, and Albert Schenck. Here is the list of the knights of Santoval's galley.”
“'Tis a long list, and a sad one,” Piccolomini said, after reading the names. “With the seven who fell in your first fight, twenty-seven knights have fallen, all brave comrades. Truly, we can ill spare such a loss. It is true there are five prizes to show for it, and we have struck Hassan Ali a blow that will resound through the Levant; but the cost is heavy.”
“It is indeed,” Ricord agreed. “The four vessels are well filled with rich spoil that the scoundrels had gathered, and I doubt not the one you captured is equally rich. Still, had they been ten times as valuable, the booty would be dearly purchased at such a price.”
There was now a consultation among the leaders, and it was agreed that six knights should be placed in each of the captured ships, with ten of the galley slaves to work the sails, the others being equally divided between the three galleys. They were, in the first place, to row to the island where the pirates were imprisoned, and to slay or capture the whole of them; afterwards they were to make direct for Rhodes; with so numerous a fleet there was no fear of their being attacked. The arrangements took but a short time to complete. An hour later they left the port, the three galleys rowing ahead, while the five prizes, under easy sail, followed them.
Sir John Boswell had been wounded, but not so seriously as to altogether disable him, and he was in command of one of the prizes, having Sir Adam Tedbond, Harcourt, Gervaise, and a German knight, with him. Sir Marmaduke Lumley, who, after the first fight was over, was found, to the surprise and pleasure of his comrades, to be still living, was, with the rest of the wounded, on board one of the galleys. Two of the pirates had fallen dead across him, and in the ardour of their attack on the knights, he had lain there unnoticed until the return of Sir Louis and his comrades had driven the pirates overboard. The leech was of opinion that he might yet recover from his wound.
On arriving at the island, sixty of the knights disembarked. The woods near the shore were first searched, but were found untenanted. They were about to advance up the hill when a man appeared on the crest above them waving a white flag. He was told to come down, and on his arrival said that he was sent by his companions to offer to surrender, on the promise that their lives should be spared. The knights were well pleased to be saved the trouble of a long search through the woods, and the messenger left at once to acquaint the pirates that their terms were accepted. In a short time some eighty men made their way down the hill. On reaching the beach they were disarmed, divided equally between the galleys, and distributed among the rowers, filling up the places of those who had been killed by the fire of the Moslems, and of the men drafted into the prizes. They begged for food and water before they began work, and, on being questioned, admitted that their surrender was due principally to the fact that they had been unable to find food of any sort on the island, and that after searching all over it no spring of water could be discovered.
“In that case,” Sir John Boswell said, “I have no doubt they have all surrendered. I before thought it probable that a good many of them would have remained hidden, trusting to be able to make a raft after we had left, and so get away, believing rightly enough that we should be disinclined to search every foot of the island for them. As it is, I doubt not, all are here.”
The little fleet anchored that night at the rendezvous, and after two more days' rowing reached Rhodes, where the appearance of the three galleys, followed by their five prizes, was greeted with great acclamation. The news, however, that twenty-seven knights had fallen, and that thirteen or fourteen others were very gravely wounded, damped the satisfaction that every one had at first felt. D'Aubusson came down as soon as they reached the mole, and was greatly affected when he received Ricord's report.
“It is an unfortunate loss indeed, Sir Louis,” he said, “though it may be that the victory is not too dearly purchased. I do not speak of the captured ships, nor of the spoil they contain, nor even of the slaves you have brought us, welcome though all may be, but of the effect that the defeat and capture of these craft of Hassan Ali's will have. It is plain that the preparations the sultan is making, and the belief that Rhodes is doomed, have so encouraged the infidels that they are becoming really formidable at sea. This blow will show them that the Order has yet power to sweep the sea of pirates. Since, however, this adventure has taught us that a single leader like Hassan sails with at least nine ships under his orders, it is clear that in future our galleys must not adventure singly among the islands. It was fortunate indeed that first Santoval, and then Piccolomini, arrived to your assistance. How was it that they happened to come up so opportunely?”
“Sir John Boswell, with Ralph Harcourt and Gervaise Tresham; went in a boat to the rendezvous we had arranged, and reached it after an adventure, which I will leave Sir John to tell himself. I may say that the two young knights named had in our encounter both obtained very high credit amongst us all for the valour with which they fought. No one bore himself more stoutly, and I am glad to take this early opportunity of bringing their conduct before your notice. As you will learn from Sir John, Gervaise Tresham afterwards showed a quickness of wit that was the means of saving the lives of those with him, and I may say also of all with me, for had they failed to reach the rendezvous we should have fallen easy victims to the five ships Hassan Ali brought against us.”
Sending for Sir John Boswell, the grand prior heard from him the details of his adventure in the boat.
“I am right glad to hear you speak so warmly of Tresham, Sir John, for I regard him as my special protege, and am pleased indeed to find that at this outset of his career he has proved himself not only a brave knight, but full of resource, and quick at invention. I think, Sir John, that these two young knights have shown themselves well worthy of receiving the honour of secular knighthood.”
“Assuredly they have,” Sir John agreed.
“Then, Sir John, will you bestow it upon them? The Order, as an Order, does not bestow the honour, but its members do not forfeit their right as knights to bestow it individually, and none among us are more worthy of admitting them to your rank than yourself.”
“I would gladly do it, Sir Peter; but the honour would come far better from yourself, and would not only be more highly prized by them, but would be of greater value in the eyes of others. I am but a simple knight commander of the Order, and my name would scarce be known beyond its ranks. But to be knighted by one whose name is known and honoured throughout Europe would give them a standing wherever they went, and place them on a level with the best.”
“If that is your opinion, Boswell, I will myself undertake it, and will do it at once; it were better done here than at a conclave of the Order—now, when they are fresh from the battle. Let the knights be summoned from the other galleys at once.”
In a few minutes the whole of the knights were assembled on the poop of the galley.
“Friends, and brother knights,” D'Aubusson said. “First, in the name of the Order, I have to thank you all most heartily for the brave deeds that you have performed, and for the fresh honour you have won for it. Every man has, as I learn from the three commanders, borne himself as a true and valiant knight, ready to give his life in the cause of the Order and of humanity. Two names have been specially brought before me by commander Ricord, and by the good knight Sir John Boswell; they are those of two young companions who, though knights of our Order, have not yet received secular knighthood, and this, in the opinion of these two knights, they have right worthily won. Sir Ralph Harcourt and Sir Gervaise Tresham, step forward.”
The two young knights, colouring with pleasure at this unexpected honour, removed their helmets, and stood with bowed heads before the grand prior. D'Aubusson went on, turning to the knights around him, “I am about, comrades, to undertake the office of knighting them. Sir Louis Ricord and Sir John Boswell stand as their sponsors. But before I proceed I would ask you all whether you, too, approve, and hold that Sir Ralph Harcourt and Sir Gervaise Tresham have proved themselves worthy of the honour of secular knighthood at my hands?”
There was a general reply in the affirmative, the answer of the survivors of Ricord's crew being specially emphatic. The grand prior drew his sword, and the two young knights knelt before him, their sponsors standing beside them.
“Sir Ralph Harcourt, you have now been four years a knight of this Order, but hitherto you have had no opportunity of drawing sword against the infidels. Now that the chance has come, you have proved yourself a true and valiant brother of the Order, and well worthy of the secular accolade. It is in that capacity that I now knight you. It is not the grand prior of Auvergne, but Sir Peter D'Aubusson, of the grand cross of St. Louis, who now bestows upon you the honour of secular knighthood.” He touched him lightly with the sword. He then turned to Gervaise.
“You, Sir Gervaise Tresham, are young indeed to receive the honour of secular knighthood; but valour is of no age, and in the opinion of your commanders, and in that of your comrades, you have proved yourself worthy of the honour. You have shown too, that, as Sir John Boswell has related to me, you are not only brave in action, but able, in the moment of danger, to plan and to execute. You were, he tells me, the means of saving his life and that of your comrade, and, by thus enabling him to bear to the place of rendezvous the news of Sir Louis's danger, were also the means of saving the lives of Sir Louis and his companions, and of bringing home in safety the prizes he had taken. With such a beginning it is easy to foresee that you will win for yourself some day a distinguished position in the ranks of the Order, and are most worthy of the honour I now bestow upon you.” And he touched him with his sword.
The two young knights rose to their feet, bowed deeply to D'Aubusson, and then retired, with their sponsors. They were at once surrounded by the knights, who shook them by the hand, and warmly congratulated them upon the honour that had befallen them, receiving equally warm congratulations on their arrival at the auberge of the langue.
The five prizes turned out, when their cargoes were landed, to be much more valuable than the cursory examination made by the knights had warranted them in expecting. They contained, indeed, an accumulation of the most valuable contents of the prizes taken by the pirates for a long time previously; and as these desperadoes preyed upon Turkish commerce as well as Christian, the goods consisted largely of Eastern manufactures of all kinds. Costly robes, delicate embroidery, superb carpets, shawls, goldsmiths' work, and no small amount of jewels, were among the spoil collected, and the bulk of the merchandise captured was, two days later, despatched in galleys to Genoa and Marseilles, to be sold for the benefit of the Order.
D'Aubusson without hesitation carried out Sir John Boswell's promise to the slaves who had rowed his boat. They were not only set at liberty, but were each presented with a sum of money, and were placed on board a galley, and landed on the mainland.
The English knights were all proud of the honour that had been won by their young countrymen, the only exception being Robert Rivers, who was devoured with jealousy at their advancement. He did not openly display his feelings, for the reports not only of Sir John Boswell, but of the other two English knights, were so strong that he dared not express his discontent. He himself had twice been engaged with pirates, but had gained no particular credit, and indeed had, in the opinion of his comrades, been somewhat slack in the fray. He was no favourite in the auberge, though he spared no pains to ingratiate himself with the senior knights, and had a short time before been very severely reprimanded by the bailiff for striking one of the servants.
“I have more than once had to reprove you for your manners to the servants,” the bailiff said. “You will now be punished by the septaine; you will fast for seven days, on Wednesday and Friday you will receive bread and water only, and will be confined to the auberge for that period. The next time that I have reason to complain of you, I shall bring the matter before the grand master, and represent to him that it were best to send you home, since you cannot comport yourself to the servants of the auberge as befits a knight of the Order. We have always borne the reputation of being specially kind to our servants, and it is intolerable that one, who has been but a short time only a professed knight, should behave with a hauteur and insolence that not even the oldest among us would permit himself. There is not one of the servants here who was not in his own country of a rank and station equal, if not superior, to your own; and though misfortune has fallen upon them, they are to be pitied rather than condemned for it. In future, you are to give no order whatever to the servants, nor to address them, save when at meals you require anything. If you have any complaints to make of their conduct to you, you will make them to me, and I will inquire into the matter; and if I find they have failed in their duty they will be punished. I shall keep my eye upon you in the future. There are other faults that I have observed in you. More than once I have heard you address Sir Gervaise Tresham in a manner which, were not duelling forbidden by our rules, might bring about bloodshed; and from what I have seen when I have been watching the exercises, he is as much your superior in arms as he is in manner and disposition.”
This reproof had greatly subdued Robert Rivers; and as he felt that any display of his jealousy of Gervaise would be resented by the other knights, and might result in serious consequences to himself, he abstained from any exhibition of it when they returned to the auberge, although he could not bring himself to join in the congratulations offered to them. The next day, however, when he was talking to Ralph Harcourt, he remarked, “From what I hear, Harcourt, D'Aubusson praised young Tresham very highly. It seems to me that there was nothing at all out of the way in what he did, and it was very unfair that he should be selected for higher praise than yourself.”
“It was not unfair at all,” Ralph said warmly, for he was of a generous nature, and incapable of the base feeling of envy. “Tresham did a great deal more than I did. When we saw the pirate boat gaining so fast upon us, it seemed to Sir John Boswell, as well as to myself, that there was scarce a chance of escape, and that all we could do was to choose a spot on which to make a stand, and then to sell our lives as dearly as we could. I could see that Sir John was scanning the hill for a spot where we could best defend ourselves. As to hiding on so small an island, with a hundred men eager for our blood searching for us, it was well nigh impossible. It was Tresham's suggestion alone that saved our lives and enabled us to fetch succour to Sir Louis. Sir John, who is an old and tried soldier, said that for quickness and merit of conception, the oldest knight in the Order could not have done better; and he is not one to praise unduly. I am four years older than Gervaise Tresham, but I tell you that were he named tomorrow commander of a galley, I would willingly serve under him.”
“Well, well, you need not be angry, Harcourt, I have nothing to say against Tresham. No doubt he had a happy thought, which turned out well; but I cannot see that there was anything wonderful in it, and it seemed to me unfair that one who is a mere boy should receive higher praise than yourself, who, as I heard Sir John and Sir Adam Tedbond say last night at the refectory, bore yourself right gallantly.”
“I did my best,” Ralph said shortly; “but there was small credit in that when we were fighting for our lives. The most cowardly beast will fight under such circumstances. When you see a Moslem rushing at you, scimitar in hand, and know that if you do not cut him down he will cut you down, you naturally strike as hard and as quickly as you can. You have never liked Gervaise, Rivers. I am sure I don't know why, but you always speak in a contemptuous sort of tone about him. True, it does him no harm, but it certainly does you no good. For what reason should you feel a contempt for him? Although so much younger, he is a better swordsman and a better rider than you are. He is liked by every one in the auberge, which is more than can be said of yourself; he is always good tempered, and is quiet and unassuming. What on earth do you always set yourself against him for?”
“I do not know that I do set myself against him,” Rivers said sullenly. “I own to having no great liking for him, which is natural enough, seeing that his father was a Lancastrian, while we are Yorkists; but it is not pleasant to see so much made of a boy, merely because D'Aubusson has favoured him.”
“I am certain,” Harcourt said hotly, “that such an idea has never occurred to any one but yourself. Sir Peter is a great man and will soon be our grand master, but at present he is but grand prior of the langue of Auvergne, and whether he favours Tresham or not is a matter that concerns none of us. Gervaise is liked by us for his own good qualities. He bears himself, as a young knight should do, respectfully towards his seniors, and is ever ready to do a service to any one. No one has ever seen him out of temper; he is always kind and considerate to the servants, and when in command of parties of slaves at the public works never says a harsh word to them, but treats them as if they were human beings, and not brute beasts. Besides, though he is more skilful than any of us with his sword, or indeed at any of the military exercises, he is unassuming, and has no particle of pride or arrogance. It is for all these things that he is liked, and the friendship of D'Aubusson has naught whatever to do with it. It is not only D'Aubusson who has prophesied that he will rise to a distinguished rank in the Order. Boswell and Ricord both said the same, and I for one thoroughly believe it. Is there one among us under the age of twenty—and I might go farther—who has already won such credit for himself? One who when but sixteen can make his mark in an Order like ours is certain to rise to high office, and you and I may, before many years are over, be proud to serve under him.”
“That I will never do,” Rivers said fiercely. “I would rather go and bury myself for life in the smallest commandery in England.”
“That may be,” Harcourt retorted, his temper also roused, “But possibly you might prefer that to fighting under any other leader.”
“That is a reflection on my courage, Sir Ralph Harcourt, I shall lay this matter before the bailiff.”
“You can do as you like,” Harcourt said disdainfully, “But I don't think you will benefit by your pains.”
When his temper cooled down Rivers acknowledged to himself the truth of what Harcourt said. He was not in the favour of the bailiff, while both Harcourt and Tresham stood at the present moment high in his estimation. Any complaint would lead to an inquiry into the matter that had led to the former's words, and even if Harcourt were reprimanded for using them, he himself would assuredly not gain in the estimation of the knights. Harcourt himself thought no more of the matter, though he laughingly told Gervaise that Rivers was by no means gratified at their both attaining the honour of secular knighthood, which virtually placed them over his head.
“He is not a nice fellow,” Gervaise said. “But naturally it must be galling to him, and to a good many others who have not yet had the chance of distinguishing themselves. I think it is very good of them that they are all so kind and cordial. Of course it is otherwise with you, who are as old as most of the other professed knights serving here; but with me it is quite different, and as Rivers, somehow, has never been very friendly with me, of course it is doubly galling to him. I hope he will soon get an opportunity of winning his spurs too.”
“That is just like you, Tresham. If I were in your place, I should have no good wishes for a fellow who has never lost an opportunity of annoying me, and that without the smallest cause of offence on my part.”
“I am sure you would not wish him ill, Harcourt. You would make allowance for him just as I do, and feel that if he had had the same opportunities he would have obtained the same credit and honours.”

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