The Moors were gathered in force indeed, and an evil crew, evil equipped, and in evil order they were. Each within a little his own general as we first viewed them, each his own envoy to shoot forth to us on the walls foul and blasphemous words, that shamed us to hear: “Come forth, ye foul rats of the cloister; come and be spitted here on the ground.” “Spear or fire, greasy monks, which choose ye, or a spit to roast your fat carcases by the flame.” “Good Michael, send us, prithee, thine envoy hither; see us deck him with fair traps for thine entertainment”
In such wise they ranted and railed before us, but naught was said in answer, nor, as they doubtless hoped, did they draw us to think of leaving our fastness for the open. No word was spoken. No arrow was shot. Nor was a ball thrown yet.
But the number of the villains! Stretching back across the common, well-nigh to the cloister, and seeming even still to be pouring down from the woods. Ah me! What a black hell of sin lay ’neath those faces, like an ugly, stormy sea below us, and what a motley of lost souls of every race. Dark Moors were there in plenty, with rich dress and shining mail; black Africans with blubber lips and mats of furzy hair; sleek Jews slithering in and out the groups, inciting to devil’s work; figures of nobles and gentlemen of France or Espagne, dishonoured and merged in the depth of the lowest scum there present; great Saxon churls and Danes, standing stern and resolute, but barbarous, as lions in the ranks of jackals and wolves!
Of Le Grand Sarrasin, and of the renewed attack upon Vale Castle. Of my first deeds of arms, and how the Moors were beaten back.
What they waited for we guessed not, till a great black horse came cantering over the plain, and a whisper went through the ramparts: “The Grand Sarrasin himself!” And he it was. He had his visor down. For none, so men said, had ever seen his face; and with excellent management of the steed of Araby, whereon he sat, drew up straight in front of the long rank of villains that he led. A great figure he sat on his horse, but swift and ready in his movements, though stout and heavy, and exceedingly knightly, as he rested with one hand on the beast’s haunch.
The ranks were no more in disorder, and the sounds ceased. Side by side they stood, erect and deadly. Each eye on him. Each head steady. It was a disciplined host. It was a band of music that he ruled with the sweep of his hand. We understood how the pirates of the Norman seas were all at one. They had found their master, and knew naught but his will.