Authors: Karleen Bradford
onstantine was the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire. In the fourth century A.D. he established a new capital for the empire at Byzantium, later known as Constantinople, now known as Istanbul, the capital of Turkey. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Constantinople survived as the capital of a powerful Christian state, that included the former Near Eastern provinces of the Caesars. This state gradually became known as the Byzantine Empire.
In the meantime, by the eleventh century A.D., a Western revival of the Roman Empire had occurred. This empire was called the Holy Roman Empire and comprised all of Germany and northern Italy.
In the middle of the eleventh century, the Byzantine Empire was attacked by the Seljuk Turks, who rapidly overran the eastern provinces, effectively cutting off trade routes and pilgrimage
routes to the Holy Land. Its emperor, Alexius, sent an appeal to the West to the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry IV, and to the pope, to help him recapture the Holy Land, most especially the city of Jerusalem. The result of his appeal was Pope Urban II’s call for a holy Crusade. There were to be, in fact, several Crusades. The first one of them all, called the People’s Crusade, set out for Jerusalem in April 1096 A.D., under the leadership of a monk many believed mad, named Peter.
hall I kill him for you?” “No! I’m going to heal him!” Ursula glared up at the figure standing over her, then moderated her temper as she realized that the words had not been spoken cruelly, but with compassion. The dog lying at her feet whined and made a frantic effort to get up. She put out a hand to restrain it.
“But its leg—it seems broken.” The boy looked to be only a few years older than Ursula herself. The early spring day was cool, and the wind whipping up from the river cooler still, nevertheless he was flushed and hot. His rough woolen tunic was disheveled, his fair hair plastered against his forehead, and he seemed to be covered in a kind of fine, white dust.
“It is broken,” Ursula answered shortly. “Hes been kicked by a horse—belonging to one of Count Emil’s men, of course.” Her mouth turned
down as she glanced along the alley where the man had ridden carelessly off, not bothered in the least by the thought of the injured dog he had left behind. She knew he would have been equally unconcerned even if it had been a child.
“Animals with broken legs don’t usually heal. They must be killed.” The boy bent toward the dog.
Ursula moved to protect it, but he reached past her and began to quieten the animal. His hands were blunt and work-roughened, the nails broken and torn, but there was gentleness in his fingers. He felt for the wound. “It’s the merciful thing to do,” he said.
“Not if I can make him well—and I
The boy seemed about to argue further, but the look on Ursula’s face stopped him. “Shall I help you then?” he asked. “I could carry him home for you.”
“I can manage….” Ursula began, then stopped. The dog was much too big for her to carry alone. As she hesitated, a horse-drawn cart clattered toward them through the bustling cacophony of the market stalls, horse’s hooves and iron-rimmed wheels hammering on the cobblestones. It showed no signs of slowing to avoid them. She gave in and nodded.
The boy scooped the dog into his arms and lifted it up. The animal struggled, then relaxed under his soothing.
Ursula stood also and immediately took command. “Follow me,” she ordered.
She threaded her way out of one alley and turned into another. This was the street of the tanners and the butchers. The whole city stank, of course, of ordure, filth, and rot, but here the smell was overwhelming. Ursula hurried to leave it behind. Around a corner they strode into an even more winding passageway. This was the street of the shoemakers and the saddlers. The upper stories of the houses overhung the roadway so much they nearly touched. Gilded signs swung and creaked in the wind, while apprentices added to the general din by bawling out the wares set on benches before the open doorways. The shouting was tremendous. Then, to add to the noise even further, the bells of all the churches in Cologne began to peal.
Ursula turned to make certain the boy was still following, and then continued on, trying to avoid the rivers of sewage that ran down the gutters at her feet. The street of the apothecaries was just around one more corner in this maze, her father’s shop at the end.
Her father’s house was one of the largest: narrow and made of wood, as were the rest, but fully three stories high and with a fine thatched roof. The shutters from the window on the ground floor lay flat upon two trestles to make a counter in front. On this were displayed various bowls
and jars of herbs and ointments. Her father himself stood behind it, pounding a mixture of dried leaves and flowers. He was a thin man, stooped and graying. His face carried lines of loneliness. Ursula’s mother had died of the pestilence the year before, all three brothers soon after. He stopped in amazement when he saw Ursula and the boy behind her carrying the dog.
“Child! Whatever is this?”
“A dog, Father. Its leg is broken. I must help it.”
“And this young man?”
Ursula flushed. In her concern for the animal, she had forgotten all good manners. “He helped me, Father. I could not carry the poor beast alone.”
“And his name?”
Ursula flushed even darker. She had never asked.
The boy stepped forward, still cradling the dog. “I am Bruno, Master. An apprentice stonemason, working on the new church. I was just on my way home when I saw your daughter….”
“My name is Ursula,” she put in quickly, and then hurried on, trying to cover her confusion. “The dog—we must see to it. Bring it in here.”
She led the way inside the tiny room. Jars and flasks lined the shelves, which covered most of the walls. Bags of all descriptions hung from them. Baskets stood in the corners. The stench of the street was overshadowed here by pungent,
even mysterious scents. Against one wall a fire burned in an open hearth. Ursula grabbed a piece of sacking and laid it on the hard-packed dirt floor in front of the fire.
“Put the dog here,” she said. “Carefully!” as the dog let out a yelp. “Hold him for me now. I must fetch my book and make ready.”
Bruno knelt beside the dog while Ursula disappeared up a narrow staircase to a room above. She returned almost immediately, clutching a tattered black book. Her father frowned.
“I do not like you reading in that,” he said.
“The old monk gave it to me, Father. I’ve told you so many times—how can it be harmful if it comes from God?”
“It’s not right. Young maidens have no business with such things. Brother Bernhard was ill toward the end. He knew not what he was doing.”
“Oh, Father …” She sighed with frustration. This was an argument that had been repeated often. “He knew exactly what he was doing. He was a healer; he recognized another healer. Besides, you have taught me all that you know of healing herbs and potions—what is the difference?”
“There is a difference. That book is for true healers. Men of age and wisdom. There is more in there than even an apothecary knows. More than an apothecary
Ursula tossed her head angrily, but a pain knotted her chest. A few years back her father would
not have spoken so. He had been so brave! So strong! When her mother had objected to him teaching his daughter his trade, instead of his sons, he had defended her boldly. “The boys wish to know nothing of my herbs and the making of healing potions, nor do they have any talent for it. They will find their own work. It is Ursula that I will train to take my place.” And so he had. He had been the best of teachers, interested in everything that was new and eager to learn himself. But in these last few years…. Ursula’s anger faded, replaced with sadness as she saw how old and defeated he looked now. Suddenly embarrassed as she remembered Bruno’s presence, she took the book into the light at the front of the room and began to leaf through the pages.
“Here is what I want,” she exclaimed. “How to set and mend a broken bone in a man’s arm.” Embarrassment forgotten in her enthusiasm, she went on. “If it can be done for a man’s arm, why not for a dog’s leg?”
“But the dog must walk on it,” Bruno objected. He had been watching silently and was looking at the book warily.
“Then we must make it all the stronger.” Ursula looked around her, not really paying attention to him or to her father now. She darted over to a wood basket sitting beside the fire, rummaged around among the sticks and bits of kindling until she found two straight, sturdy pieces
of wood, and then snatched up a cloth from the corner and tore it into strips. “This should do,” she muttered to herself. “But first I must make the poultice. Rosemary and knitbone, am I not right, father?”
Her father nodded, unwilling to speak.
Ursula worked quickly and soon had a sticky, sweet-smelling paste in the old marble mortar. She ground it even more finely with the pestle and then turned back to Bruno. “Now I’ll set the bone. Father, will you help?”
With her father and Bruno holding the dog, Ursula wiped away the blood from the broken skin and felt for the break in its leg. The dog whined and would have moved, but Bruno and her father held it fast. Ursula’s fingers moved quickly to straighten the leg, then she reached for the poultice and smeared it over the wound.
“There. Hold the leg for me now,” Ursula said to Bruno. “Like this. Hold it steady whilst I bind it.” She held the two sticks, one to either side of the leg, and bound them on securely with the strips of rag. Then she wound more rags on over that. Finally she sat back and scrutinized her work.
“Will it mend?” Bruno asked. He looked dubious.
“I don’t know,” Ursula answered. “But at least he has a chance now. Better that than dead.”
Just then a large shape blocked the doorway and a voice rang out. “Master William! Are you
not attending to your customers today?”
A woman strode into the room. She wore a cloak the size of a tent over her vast bulk, and its edges swept all before it. Several jars teetered perilously on one of the lower shelves, and a bag fell to the floor. She turned imperiously toward Ursula’s father, heedless of the dog, and stepped on its injured leg as she did so. The dog yelped again in pain.
Ursula leaped up. “Mistress Elke! Do be careful!” she cried, reaching out and pushing the woman back.
The woman turned upon Ursula with a glare. “Take your hand away from me, you forward chit! Master William, your daughter forgets herself—as usual!”
“Ursula!” Her father’s voice was apprehensive.
“But there’s a dog here, a wounded animal. And you trod on him!” Ursula glared back at the woman.
At that moment Mistress Elke caught sight of the book that Ursula had been using. She stepped back quickly; her fingers flew up in the ancient sign against evil. “Do you allow your daughter to read in that?” she demanded, staring at it as if it harbored a nest of snakes. Before Master William could answer, she went on. “That she should be reading at all—a young girl like her—it’s against nature. And in that book! It looks like witchcraft to me. You are breeding trouble here, Master
William, mark my words!”