HUMPHREY’S TEETH WERE CHATTERING AGAIN. THE chills came irregularly and were interspersed with fever. The fever was better because it made him lethargic, while the chills made him conscious of his misery. He had not had a change of clothes since his capture, and he had been given only a single ragged blanket to supplement his garments. This was inadequate to hold off the cold. Clothes and blanket, furthermore, were equally soiled and caked with mud from the floor of the cave. His hair and beard were encrusted with it as well, because he had nothing on which to rest his head except the rocks or the damp, naked floor.
Humphrey hated the filth even more than he hated the shackles on his wrists and ankles or the near-permanent hunger. When he was in Saracen captivity after Hattin, it had been the offer of a bath from Imad ad-Din that had shattered his desire to resist. He had been so grateful for that bath and the clean clothes. The others had detested him for having “special privileges”; they had even accused him of converting. In fact, Imad ad-Din, despite hinting that someone as intelligent as Humphrey “must see” the error of “polytheism,” had never pressed Humphrey to renounce his faith. For his part, Humphrey had never been seriously tempted, but he had learned much from the Islamic scholar. He had endured the jealousy and seething anger of his fellow Frankish captives for the sake of intelligent conversation with a truly educated man—and for the baths. The hostility of the others had simply made him long to be alone.
Now he knew better.
He had been alone since his capture on Cyprus, except when they deigned to feed and water him. Sometimes it seemed as if they had forgotten him entirely, and the thirst and hunger nearly overpowered him. Or rather, it did overpower him, and he sobbed in self-pity or pleaded frantically for help or screamed wild threats at the solid stone of his cave prison. It didn’t matter what he did. No one saw or heard him.
Now and then, however—irregularly—someone would come to throw moldy bread at him and taunt him as he begged for water. There was no question that they hated him, as the Saracens had not. The Saracens had treated all the noble Frankish prisoners with the respect due a worthy enemy. The Saracens felt themselves superior, and they felt the Christians had been punished by God for their foolish “polytheist” beliefs, so they pitied more than hated their prisoners. Indeed, Imad ad-Din had genuinely liked him, Humphrey told himself.
Not so his current jailers. They wanted him dead. The only question was why they hadn’t already killed him. It couldn’t be because they were holding him for ransom; he was penniless. The only person who might have paid an obol for his release was Aimery de Lusignan, but Aimery hardly had sufficient revenues to pay his household, let alone the ransoms for his dead brother’s friends. Besides, Humphrey had no illusions about Aimery liking him. Aimery had never forgiven him for the better treatment he had received from Imad ad-Din. . . .
If his captors knew he had no monetary value, why didn’t they kill him? Humphrey asked himself. Or were they killing him? Just slowly, so it would be as terrible as possible?
This slow death left Humphrey time to reflect upon his life, and that was the greatest torture of all. He would turn thirty this year, if he lived until the Feast of St. John the Baptist. And what had he accomplished? He had surrendered his proud inheritance to his stepfather Reynald de Châtillon before he was sixteen. He had rejected a kingdom at twenty-one. He had lost his mother’s heritage at twenty-two, and lost his wife at twenty-five.
Since then, his life hadn’t been worth living.
So why didn’t he just die? Why didn’t God let him die?
It wasn’t just his anonymous captors who hated him, he reflected: it must be God Himself. But he didn’t understand why God hated him, any more than he understood why his captors hated him. As far as he knew, he had never met any of his captors anywhere or anytime. Nor had he engaged in any violence against the inhabitants of Cyprus. But maybe they didn’t know that?
As for God, however, He knew that Humphrey was guilty of no violence against the Cypriots or anyone else. Why did He want Humphrey to suffer? It wasn’t as if he had ever denied Christ. He couldn’t. Much as he recognized the humanity and intellectual sophistication of men like Imad ad-Din, Salah ad-Din, and his brother al-Adil, he had never been tempted by Islam, simply because it offered him nothing. He could pray five times a day as a Christian. And he could give alms, fast, and go on pilgrimage, too. To the Muslims, both Mohammed and Christ were prophets, and so Humphrey could not see why a pilgrimage to the tomb of one prophet was more valuable than to another. No, Islam offered him nothing at all. At least in Christianity he had the Virgin Mary and the saints.
So many saints had suffered for their faith. They had been tortured and humiliated. So had Christ. Hadn’t Christ himself despaired in the hour of his death, calling out to his Father to ask why He had deserted him?
“Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Humphrey formed the words. First silently, and then as the chattering receded, he said it out loud: “Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?” The words were lost in the vastness of the cave. “Father!” Humphrey raised his voice, “Why hast Thou forsaken me?” Now his words came back at him, reverberating with deathly tension.
Humphrey pulled his disintegrating sanity together and forced himself to form the words in Greek, a language he had mastered as a youth but spoke far less fluently than Arabic. Still, he had learned his Greek by reading the Gospels, because his grandfather claimed they had originally been written in Greek. Greek was the most “authentic” form of the Holy Word. When he thought he had the phrase right, he lifted his voice and asked loudly of the darkness: Patera mou, yiati exeis me evkatelepsyes?” The last word, forsaken, reverberated in the cave, getting softer and more conspiratorial with each repetition.
As the echoes died down to a whisper, Humphrey lifted his voice and shouted even louder: “Patera mou, yiati—”
“He has not,” a voice interrupted him in Greek, and Humphrey leapt out of his skin in terror. He broke instantly into a cold sweat, certain that God had answered his cry and terrified of a confrontation with the Almighty in his present state. Then he realized a light was approaching through the tunnel by which they always brought his water and food.
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