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- A Knight of the White Cross - 72/72 -

us when they have performed their active service, for in civil life they sometimes have it in their power to render better service to the Order than if passing their lives in the quiet duties of a provincial commandery. It will be so in your case: the lady is a great heiress, and, as the possessor of wide lands, your influence in Northern Italy may be very valuable to us, and in case of need you will, like my brother De Monteuil, be able to bring a gathering of men-at-arms to our aid. Have no fear that the Pope will refuse to you a release from your vows. My recommendation alone would be sufficient; but as, moreover, he is himself under an obligation to you, he will do so without hesitation. Since you have been away, your friend Harcourt has been appointed a commander of a galley, and Sir John Boswell, being incapacitated by the grievous wounds he received during the siege, has accepted a rich commandery in England, and sailed but two days since to take up his charge. By the way, did you reply to those letters expressing your thanks and explaining your long silence?"

"Yes, your Highness, I wrote the same evening you gave them to me."

"That is right. The money voted you by Florence will be useful to you now, and there is still a sum sent by your commandery owing to you by the treasury. I will give you an order for it. However rich an heiress a knight may win, 'tis pleasant for him to have money of his own; not that you will need it greatly, for, among the presents you have received, the jewels are valuable enough for a wedding gift to a princess."

Gervaise was well received at Rome, and the Pope, after reading the grand master's letter, and learning from him his reason for wishing to leave the Order, without hesitation granted him absolution from his vows. A few months later there was a grand wedding at the cathedral of Genoa, the doge and all the nobles of the Republic being present.

Ralph Harcourt and nine other young knights had accompanied Gervaise from Rhodes by the permission, and indeed at the suggestion, of the grand master, who was anxious to show that Gervaise had his full approval and countenance in leaving the Order. Caretto, who had been appointed grand prior of Italy, had brought the knights from all the commanderies in the northern republics to do honour to the occasion, and the whole, in their rich armour and the mantles of the Order, made a distinguishing feature in the scene.

The defeat of the Turks created such enthusiasm throughout Europe that when the grand prior of England laid before the king letters he had received from the grand master and Sir John Kendall, speaking in the highest terms of the various great services Gervaise had rendered to the Order, Edward granted his request that the act of attainder against Sir Thomas Tresham and his descendants should be reversed and the estates restored to Gervaise. The latter made, with his wife, occasional journeys to England, staying a few months on his estates in Kent; and as soon as his second son became old enough, he sent him to England to be educated, and settled the estate upon him. He himself had but few pleasant memories of England; he had spent indeed but a very short time there before he entered the house of the Order in Clerkenwell, and that time had been marked by constant anxiety, and concluded with the loss of his father. The great estates that were now his in Italy demanded his full attention, and, as one of the most powerful nobles of Genoa, he had come to take a prominent part in the affairs of the Republic.

He was not called upon to fulfil his promise to aid in the defence of Rhodes, for the death of Mahomet just at the time when he was preparing a vast expedition against it, freed the Island for a long time from fear of an invasion. From time to time they received visits from Ralph Harcourt, who, after five years longer service at Rhodes, received a commandery in England. He held it a few years only, and then returned to the Island, where he obtained a high official appointment.

In 1489 Sir John Boswell became bailiff of the English langue, and Sir Fabricius Caretto was in 1513 elected grand master of the Order, and held the office eight years, dying in 1521.

When, in 1522, forty-two years after the first siege, Rhodes was again beleaguered, Gervaise, who had, on the death of the countess, become Count of Forli, raised a large body of men-at-arms, and sent them, under the command of his eldest son, to take part in the defence. His third son had, at the age of sixteen, entered the Order, and rose to high rank in it.

The defence, though even more obstinate and desperate than the first, was attended with less success, for after inflicting enormous losses upon the great army, commanded by the Sultan Solyman himself, the town was forced to yield; for although the Grand Master L'Isle Adam, and most of his knights, would have preferred to bury themselves beneath the ruins rather than yield, they were deterred from doing so, by the knowledge that it would have entailed the massacre of the whole of the inhabitants, who had throughout the siege fought valiantly in the defence of the town. Solyman had suffered such enormous losses that he was glad to grant favourable conditions, and the knights sailed away from the city they had held so long and with such honour, and afterwards established themselves in Malta, where they erected another stronghold, which in the end proved an even more valuable bulwark to Christendom than Rhodes had been. There were none who assisted more generously and largely, by gifts of money, in the establishment of the Order at Malta than Gervaise. His wife, while she lived, was as eager to aid in the cause as he was himself, holding that it was to the Order she owed her husband. And of all their wide possessions there were none so valued by them both, as the little coral heart set in pearls that she, as a girl, had given him, and he had so faithfully brought back to her.


A Knight of the White Cross - 72/72

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