They were obliged to be under arms night and day; not to defend themselves from an enemy that always fled away from them, but to guard against surprise. A vast number of the crusaders sunk under fatigue, famine, and disease.
It became impossible to bury the dead; the ditches of the camp were filled with carcasses, thrown in in heaps, which added to the corruption of the air and to the spectacle of the general desolation.
In spite of his sufferings, in spite of his griefs, Louis IX was constantly engaged in endeavors to alleviate the situation of his army. He gave orders as long as he had any strength left, dividing his time between the duties of a Christian and those of a monarch. The fever, however, increased; no longer able to attend either to his cares for the army or to exercises of piety, he ordered the cross to be placed before him, and, stretching out his hands, he in silence implored Him who had suffered for all men.
The whole army was in a state of mourning—the soldiers walked about in tears, demanding of heaven the preservation of so good a prince. Amid the general grief, Louis turned his thoughts toward the accomplishment of the divine laws and the destinies of France.
Philip, who was his successor to the throne, was in his tent; he desired him to approach his bed, and in a faltering voice gave him counsels in what manner he should govern the kingdom of his fathers. The instructions he gave him comprise the most noble maxims of religion and loyalty; and that which will render them forever worthy of the respect of posterity is that they had the authority of his example, and only recalled the virtues of his own life.
The celebrated traveller, Marco Polo, was born at Venice in 1254, and died there in 1334, His father, a Venetian merchant, had passed many years in Tartary, where he was hospitably treated by Kublai Khan, to whose court, at an early age, Marco was taken, and there was received into the Khan’s service. The training he acquired there fitted him to become a professional politician rather than a traveller, in the ordinary sense of the word; hence his more intimate acquaintance with the social and political systems which he describes.
Possessing, in a high degree, the versatility and subtlety seen in so many of his nation, and improving his new opportunities, he soon became among the high-class Tartars as one of themselves. He adopted their dress and manners, and learned the four languages spoken in the Khan’s dominions, of which he left a famous description in his book of travels.
The empire seems at this time to have been at the height of its splendor, and historians, as well as students and readers of history, have