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what he had done in respect of the bishops. Fitzurse told him repeatedly that his assertion was false, and in the end commanded him in the King's name to depart, with all who belonged to him, out of the kingdom of England, as he had broken the agreement by which only he obtained peace from the King. In reply, Becket declared positively that he would not obey, and they in return informed him that it would be at the peril of his head if he did not. The Archbishop then asked, “Have you come to kill me ?” adding that their swords were not more ready to strike than he was to suffer martyrdom.
It is evident that the four knights had not yet fully made up their minds to the terrible act which they ultimately committed; for they now turned to the clergy in Becket's presence, commanding them to secure the person of the Archbishop, and telling them that they should be answerable for him if he escaped. Becket, however, scoffed at the idea of flight; and the four noblemen leaving him, commanded the knights of his household, as they passed out, to follow them in the King's name, which would appear to have been executed without resistance.
In the course of the day proclamation was made in the town of Canterbury for all persons to remain quiet, waiting the execution of the King's will upon the Archbishop; and, though an awful apprehension of what was coming was general throughout the city and neighbonrhood, yet, strange to say, no measures were taken to prevent it. Becket himself seems now to have been perfectly prepared for, and ready to meet his fate. When some of his companions reproached him for the sharp and angry terms with which he had answered Fitzurse, and said that he should have taken counsel, the Archbishop replied, “There is no need of more counsel now;" and when told that his enemies were arming, he said, “ Well, let them arm; what matters it ?” His servants, however, barred the doors of the abbey; and at the hour of vespers his friends led him into the cathedral by his private way, thinking that security would be found in the house of God.
The four knights in the meantime had consulted long together, and we find that at this period Robert de Broc was with them. There was evidently some hesitation remaining in their minds, and they afterwards declared that even when they returned to the abbey their design was merely to arrest the Archbishop, and carry him in chains to the King; but it is not unlikely that they suffered the vague idea of killing him to mingle with their purposes, as a thing that might happen in the course of events, rather than as a definitive purpose; for men very seldom allow their mind to form a clear picture beforehand of the crimes they are about to commit. They go to the scene not unwilling to commit them, but without forming any intention,
leave accident to produce the impulse, which carries them on to the extreme.
The knights, however, armed themselves, and followed by the soldiery, proceeded to the abbey a little after three o'clock in the evening. On finding the doors closed, they prepared to break them down; but Robert de Broc, who was with them, and who seems to have known the locality well, pointed out a window by which they could enter more easily, and of this they immediately took advantage. They then ran hastily through the palace, searching for the Archbishop; but not finding him there, they hastened to the cathedral, from which was proceeding the sound of the evening service. By this time, the monks had become aware that the knights and their followers were in the palace, and they hastened to lock the door which led thence to the cathedral. Some of the monks, it would appear, even placed themselves on the outside of it, probably with the generous view of interposing between the Archbishop and his pursuers. Becket himself, however, unlocked the door, saying, “You must not make a fortress of the church; I did not come hither to resist, but to suffer.” He then called in the monks who were without, and walked calmly up to the high altar.
It was now twilight; and the knights with twelve followers rushing in, demanded loudly, “ Where is the traitor ?" Becket made no reply; but when Fitzurse exclaimed, “Where is the Archbishop ?"
he turned towards him, saying, “Here am I-a priest, but no traitor; what would you with me?"
The knights thereupon, in the King's name, commanded him once more, to absolve the bishops. Becket replied, that they had not made satisfaction for their offence, and that he would not absolve them. His murderers then told him he should die if he did not; and he replied firmly, “I am ready to die that the church may obtain liberty and peace by my blood; but in the name of God I command you not to hurt any of my people.”
The barons and their followers now rushed forward and seized him, endeavouring to drag him out of the church, most probably with the purpose of killing him in a less holy place; but Becket resisted; and being a strong man, they could not force him from one of the columns of the choir, to which he clung. The struggle excited the passions of all; and unhappily, Becket, at that moment, once more forgot the high and dignified demeanour which had characterized his latter actions, and as Fitzurse pressed harder on him than any of the rest, the Archbishop thrust him violently from him, and called him by an opprobrious name. The baron, furious at the insult, drew his sword, and aimed a blow at the head of the prelate. All the Archbishop's followers had fled but one devoted friend, his crossbearer, who, seeing the descending blow, while Becket crossed his hands and bowed his head to receive it, weakened its force by interposing his arm, which was broken, and nearly severed from his body. So heavy was the stroke, however, that, notwithstanding this obstacle, it dashed off the Archbishop's cap, and wounded him on the head. No murmur broke from his lips; and only recommending his soul to God, he remained firm in the same position, with his hands clasped and his head bent, till, after enduring a second blow unshaken, a third laid him upon the pavement without a groan.
The butchers then mangled the dead body with repeated wounds; and one Hugh of Horsea, a subdeacon who had joined the other conspirators at Canterbury, had the horrible brutality to scatter his brains about with the point of a sword.
This done, they left the body, and hastened to the palace, which they searched strictly; and gave all the papers that they found to Ranulph de Broc, with directions to carry them to the King. They are said also to have pillaged the Archbishop's dwelling; but there is no reason to believe this ; and it is certain that they made their way speedily out of Canterbury, and passed the night somewhere without the walls. It must have been an awful moment for the murderers, when they first awakened from the delirium of fury and excitement in which they had committed their great crime—when they recollected that it was donethat the seal of fate was upon it—that they had slain, without any lawful warrant, without even