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A March on London by G. A. Henty

Part 4 out of 6

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When he had concluded, his father said: "Truly, Edgar, you have been
fortunate indeed, which is another way of saying that you have skilfully
grasped the opportunities that presented themselves. The man who bemoans
ill-fortune is the man too apathetic, too unready, or too cowardly to
grasp opportunity. The man who is called fortunate is, on the other hand,
he who never lets a chance slip by, who is cool, resolute, and determined.
During the time that you have been away you have made friends of two
wealthy merchants, and have rendered them both high services; you have
also as greatly benefited our neighbour, Sir Ralph De Courcy, and have
placed your foot so firmly on the ladder, that 'tis your own fault if you
do not rise high. And now, what think you of doing?"

"I have the intention of staying at home for a while, father. There will
be troubles for a time, but I care not to take part in the hunting down of
these poor peasants north of the river, who, unlike these fellows, were
well content when the king offered them the charter granting their
demands, and retired peacefully to their homes. So I would rather remain
here quietly until I have a chance of drawing sword in a foreign war,
either against the French or the Scots."

"I think that you are right; and, moreover, although you have proved your
manhood against men, you can hardly, when with an army, be regarded as
more than a young esquire till another year or two have gone over your
head."

Two days later, finding that all was now perfectly quiet, and that there
was no probability whatever of a renewal of the troubles, Sir Ralph went
up to London with the city knight and his company. They had ridden over on
the previous day to call upon Mr. Ormskirk to thank him for the services
that Edgar had rendered them, and upon which they entered in much fuller
detail than Edgar had allowed himself. In return he gave them a
description of the defence of his house, in which Sir Robert was greatly
interested, going down into the laboratory and examining the luminous
paint and its effect upon the skull.

"It is a goodly device," he said, "and though I myself have, during my
visit to Italy, come to believe but little in the superstitions that are
held by the mass of the people, I own that my courage would have been
grievously shaken if I had encountered suddenly that gibbering head. How
long does the effect last?"

"Three or four days. I believe that it is a sort of slow combustion which,
although it has no sensible heat, gradually consumes the particles that
give rise to it. It may be that further researches will lead to a
discovery by which the light might be made permanent, and in that case the
invention would be a useful one. I have, however, no time to follow it up,
being engaged in more serious matters, and regard this as a mere
relaxation from more important work."

"And yet, methinks," the merchant said, "that were men of science, like
yourself, to devote themselves to such discoveries, instead of searching
for the secrets that always evade them, they might do good service to
mankind. Look at this discovery of Friar Bacon's. So far, I grant that it
has led to nothing, but I can see that in the future the explosive power
of this powder will be turned to diverse uses besides those of machines
for battering down walls. Were this light of yours made permanent it would
do away with the necessity for burning lamps indoors. What could be more
beautiful than a hall with its ceilings, rafters, walls, and pillars all
glowing as if in the moonlight? For methinks the light resembles that of
the moon rather than any other."

"Were I a young man I would take up such matters, Sir Robert, for I
believe with you that the time might be more usefully spent; but 'tis too
late now. 'Tis not when one's prime is past that men can embark in a fresh
course or lay aside the work for which they have laboured for so many
years."

"And which, even if made, might bring more woe than good upon the world,"
Sir Robert said. "Where would be the value of gold if other metals could
at will be transformed into it? When first produced, it might enable
monarchs to raise huge armies to wage war against their neighbours; but,
after a time, its use would become common. Gold would lose its value, and
men would come to think less of it than of iron, for it is not so strong
nor so fitted for weapons or for tools; and then some other and rarer
metal would take its place, and alchemists would begin their work again in
discovering another philosopher's stone that would transmute other metals
into the more valuable one."

Mr. Ormskirk was silent. "I think, Sir Robert," he said, at last, "that we
alchemists do not work solely for the good of mankind, nor give a thought
to the consequences that might follow the finding of the philosopher's
stone. We dream of immortality, that our name shall pass down through all
ages as that of the man who first conquered the secret of nature and made
the great discovery that so many thousands of others have sought for in
vain."

"It is assuredly an ambition as worthy as many others," Sir Robert said,
thoughtfully. "A knight would be ready to risk his life a thousand times
in order to gain the reputation of being one of the foremost knights of
Europe. A king would wring the last penny from his subjects for a rich
monument that will, he thinks, carry down his name to all time; and
doubtless the discovery of a secret that has baffled research for hundreds
of years, is at least as worthy an ambition as these--far more laudable,
indeed, since it can be carried out without inflicting woes upon others.
And now farewell, Mr. Ormskirk. I trust that your son will always remember
that in me he has a friend ready to do aught in his power for him. I am
but a simple citizen of London, but I have correspondents in well-nigh
every city in Europe, and can give him introductions that may be valuable
wheresoever he goes, and I shall be grieved indeed if he does not avail
himself of my good-will and gratitude."

Three days later Sir Ralph returned to St. Alwyth from London with his
dame and Aline. For some weeks time passed quietly and pleasantly to
Edgar. The intimacy between the two houses became even closer than before,
and Sir Ralph's report of Edgar's doings in London caused him to be
frequently invited to the houses of all the well-to-do people in the
neighbourhood. In the meantime the insurrection had been finally crushed.
The commissioners in various parts of the country were trying and
executing all who had taken any lead in the movement, and until a general
amnesty was passed, two months later, every peasant lived in hourly dread
of his life. They had gained nothing by the movement from which they had
hoped so much, and for a while, indeed, their position was worse than it
had ever been before.

In time, however, as the remembrance of the insurrection died out, it bore
its fruits, and although there was no specific law passed abolishing
serfdom, the result was arrived at insensibly. Privileges were granted,
and these privileges became customs with all the effect of the law, and
almost without their knowing it, the people became possessed of the rights
for which their fathers had in vain taken up arms. Three weeks after
Edgar's return from London a royal commission came down to Dartford, and
the authorities of the town and others were called upon to name the
leaders of the insurgents.

Sir Ralph, who was one of those summoned, said that he was altogether
unable to give any information. He had been away when the first outbreak
took place. On his return he found his castle besieged, but having with
him fifty stout men-at-arms, he attacked and pursued the insurgents, and
nearly five hundred of them were slain. But fighting, as he did, with his
vizor down, and having, for a time, as much as he could do to defend
himself, he had recognized no one, and indeed, so far as he knew, he did
not see one among the rioters with whose face he was acquainted.

Two days later, as Edgar was riding back from Sir Ralph's castle, he came
suddenly upon a man at a cross-road. He was one of the villagers.

"Well, Master Ormskirk," he said, folding his arms, "you can kill me if
you will, and it will be best so, for if you do not I shall live but the
life of a hunted dog, and sooner or later fall into their hands."

"Why should I kill you, Carter? I have naught against you."

"Then it was not you who denounced me as one of those who fought against
you at De Courcy's castle?"

"Not I, assuredly. I have had no communication whatever with the
commissioners, nor did I know that you were one of those we encountered
there."

"Someone has given my name," the man said, moodily. "I suppose it was some
of those at Dartford, for it is true enough that I joined the Tyler the
day he slew the collector. I thought that he had done rightfully, and it
may be that, like a fool, I have exhorted others to join him to win our
charter of rights, I thought it was to be got honestly, that no harm was
to be done to any man; but when we got to London, and I saw that the Tyler
and others intended to slay many persons of high rank and to burn and
destroy, I was seized with horror, and made my way back. When the others
returned I was fool enough to let myself be persuaded to join in the
attack on Sir Ralph's castle; and for that and the speeches, it seems that
I am to be tried and hung. You had best run me through, Master Ormskirk,
and have done with it; I would rather that than be hung like a dog."

"I shall do nothing of the kind, Carter. I have known you for years as an
honest, and a hard-working fellow. Here are a couple of crowns with which
you can make your way to London."

"'Tis no good, sir. I hear that there are parties of men on every road,
and that orders have been given in every township to arrest all passers-
by, and to detain them if they have not proper papers with them. Well, I
can die better than some, for I lost my wife last Christmas, and have no
children; so if you won't do my business for me I will go straight back to
Dartford and give myself up."

"No, no, Carter. Do you go into that wood, and remain there till
nightfall; then come to our house and knock at the gate, and you can
shelter there as long as you like. As you know, there are few indeed who
come there, and if I get you a servitor's suit, assuredly none of our
visitors would recognize you, and as for the village folk, you have but to
keep out of their way when they come with wood, meat, and other matters.
It may not be for long, for 'tis like that I shall be going to the wars
soon, and when I do so I will take you with me as my man-at-arms.
Moreover, it is probable that when the commissioners have sat for a time,
and executed all the prominent leaders of this rioting, there will be an
amnesty passed. What do you say to that?"

"I say, God bless you, sir! I know well enough that I deserve everything
that has befallen me, for of a surety the murders that were done in London
have so disgraced our cause that no one has a right to look for mercy.
However, sir, if you are willing to give me such shelter as you say, I
will serve you well and faithfully, and will right willingly imperil the
last drop of my blood in your service."

"Then it is agreed, Carter. Come soon after nightfall. I am sure that my
father will approve of what I am doing, and should the worst come to the
worst, and you be discovered, he would be able to say truly that he knew
not that you were wanted for your share in the matter, for, indeed, he
takes but small notice of what is passing without. Now you had better be
off at once to hiding before anyone else comes along."

"Father," Edgar said, when he returned, "I have taken on an additional
servitor in the house. He will cost you naught but his food while he is
here, and he will ride with me as my man-at-arms if I go abroad. He is a
stout fellow, and I beg that you will ask me no questions concerning him,
and will take him simply on my recommendation. He will not stir out of the
house at present, but you may make him of use in your laboratory if you
can."

"I think that I understand, Edgar. After a business like that which is
just over, vengeance often strikes blindly, and 'tis enough for me that
you declare him to be honest, and that you have known him for some time."

"Andrew," Edgar said to the old servitor after he had left his father, "I
know that you are no gossip, and that in the matter of which I am going to
speak to you I can rely upon your discretion. I have taken on a stout
fellow, who will follow me to the wars as a man-at-arms. It may be that
you will know him when you see him; indeed, I doubt not that you will do
so. It is good for him at present that he should not stir beyond the
walls, and he will, indeed, remain indoors all day. There are a good many
others like him, who just at present will be keeping quiet, and you may be
sure that I should not befriend the man were it not that I feel certain he
has had no hand in the evil deeds performed by others."

"I understand, young master, and you may trust me to keep my lips sealed.
I hear that a score have been hung during the last three days, and though
I am no upholder of rioters, methinks that now they have had a bitter
lesson. The courts might have been content with punishing only those who
took a part in the murders and burnings in London. The rest were but poor
foolish knaves, who knew no better, and who were led astray by the
preachings of some of these Jack Priests and other troublers of the
peace."

"Think you that it would be best to speak to old Anna?"

"Not a bit, Master Ormskirk. Save to go to mass, she never stirs beyond
the house, and she is so deaf that you have to shout into her ear to make
her hear the smallest thing. I will simply say to her that you have got a
man-at-arms to go with you to the wars, and that until you leave he is to
remain here in the house. You did not tell me whether I was to take your
horse round to the stable."

"No; I am going to ride into Dartford now, to get the man some apparel
suited to his station here."

Edgar returned in an hour, bringing with him a servitor's suit. As soon as
Hal Carter arrived, Edgar himself opened the gate to him.

"Strip off those clothes, and put on this suit; it were best that you be
not seen in your ordinary attire. However, you can trust old Andrew, and
as to Anna, there is little chance of her recognizing you, and I don't
suppose she as much as knows that there has been trouble in the land."

A month later a mounted messenger brought Edgar a letter--it was the first
that he had ever received. Telling the man to alight, and calling Carter
to take his horse, he led the man into the kitchen and told Anna to give
him some food. He then opened the letter. It ran as follows:

_To Master Edgar Ormskirk, with hearty greeting,_

_Be it known to you, good friend, that having wound up my business
affairs, I am about to start for Flanders, and shall, in the first place,
go to Ghent, having a mission from those in authority at Court here to
carry out in that city. It would greatly please me if you would accompany
me. The times are troubled in Flanders, as you doubtless know, and you
would see much to interest you; and, moreover, as at present there is
naught doing in England, save the trying and executing of malefactors, you
could spend your time better in seeing somewhat of a foreign country than
in resting quietly at St. Alwyth. I need not say that the trip will put
you to no cost, and that by accepting, you will give pleasure to my wife
and daughter, as well as to myself._

_Yours in friendship,_

_NICHOLAS VAN VOORDEN._

_P.S.--I am writing at the same time to Master De Courcy, who, I hope,
will also accompany me._

Edgar went down at once to his father's laboratory and handed him the
letter. Mr. Ormskirk read it.

"It is a hearty invitation, Edgar," he said, "and after the kindness of
the Fleming in presenting you with that splendid suit of armour, you can
scarce refuse it; but, indeed, in any case, I should be glad for you to
accompany him to Flanders. The Flemings are mostly our allies against
France, and it would be well for you to pass some time among them, to
learn as much as you can of their language, and to acquaint yourself with
their customs. Their towns are virtually independent republics, like those
of Athens, Sparta, and Thebes. The power lies wholly in the hands of the
democracy, and rough fellows are they. The nobles have little or no
influence, save in the country districts. The Flemings are at present on
ill terms with France, seeing that they, like us, support Pope Urban,
while the French, Spaniards, and others hold to Pope Clement.

"Possibly neither may care very much which pope gets the mastery, but it
makes a convenient bone of contention, and so is useful to neighbours on
bad terms with each other. Go, by all means. You had best write a reply at
once, and hand it to the messenger. Have you heard yet whether he has been
to the De Courcy's castle?"

"I did not ask him, father, for I did not read the letter until I had
handed him over to Anna to get some food in the kitchen. I will go and ask
him now, and if he has not yet gone there I will ride with him. 'Tis a
cross-road, and he might have difficulty in finding it; besides, perhaps
if I tell Sir Ralph that I am going, it may influence him to let Albert go
also."

He went down to the kitchen and found that the messenger had not yet been
to the castle. Telling him that he would go with him and act as his guide,
and would be ready to start in a quarter of an hour, Edgar sat down to
write to the Fleming. It was the first time that he had ever indited a
letter, and it took him longer than he expected. When he went down, the
messenger was already standing by his horse, while Carter was walking
Edgar's up and down.

Albert and Aline were at the castle gate as they rode up.

"We were in the pleasaunce when we saw you coming, Edgar. We did not
expect you until to-morrow."

"I have come over with a messenger, who is the bearer of a letter to you."

"You mean to my father, I suppose?"

"No, indeed; it is for yourself, and I have had a similar one. I have
written an answer, and I hope you will write one in the same strain."

"Who can it be from?" Aline said, as Albert took out his dagger and cut
the silk that held the roll.

"It is from our good friend, Mynheer Van Voorden," Edgar said. "He is just
leaving for Flanders, and has written to ask Albert and myself to
accompany him thither."

"And I suppose that you have accepted," Aline said, pettishly.

"Yes, indeed; my father thinks that it will be very good for me to see
something of foreign countries, and especially Flanders. As there is
nothing doing here now, I am wasting my time, and doubtless in the great
Flemish cities I shall be able to find masters who can teach me many
things with the sword."

"And how are we going to get on without you, I should like to know?" she
asked, indignantly, "especially if you are going to take Albert away too."

"Albert will decide for himself--at least Sir Ralph will decide for him,
Mistress Aline."

"It is all very well to say that, but you know perfectly well that Albert
will be wanting to go if you are going, and that Sir Ralph will not say
no, if you and he both want it."

"Well, you would wish us to become accomplished knights some day, and
assuredly, as all say, that is a thing better learned abroad than in
England."

"I am quite satisfied with you as you are," she replied, "and I call it a
downright shame. I thought, anyhow, I was going to have you both here
until some great war broke out, and here you are running away for your
amusement. It is all very well for you to contend that you think it may do
you good, but it is just for change and excitement that you want to go."

By this time Albert had finished reading the letter.

"That will be splendid," he said. "I have always thought that I should
like to see the great Flemish cities. Why, what is the matter, Aline?" he
broke off, seeing tears in his sister's eyes.

"Is it not natural that I should feel sorry at the thought of your going
away? We have to stay all our lives at home, while you wander about,
either fighting or looking for danger wherever it pleases you."

"I don't think that it is quite fair myself, Aline, but I did not have
anything to do with regulating our manners and customs; besides, it is not
certain yet that my father will let me go."

They had by this time reached the spot where Sir Ralph was watching a
party of masons engaged in heightening the parapet of the wall, as the
experience of the last fight showed that it did not afford sufficient
protection to its defenders.

"Well, Albert, what is your news?" he said, as he saw by their faces that
something unusual had happened.

"A letter from Mynheer Van Voorden to ask me to accompany him to Flanders,
whither he is about to sail. He has asked Edgar too, and his father has
consented."

"Read me the letter, Albert. 'Tis a fair offer," he said, when Albert came
to the end, "and pleases me much. I had spoken but yesterday with your
mother, saying that it was high time you were out in the world, the only
difficulty being with whom to place you. There are many knights of my
acquaintance who would gladly enough take you as esquire, but it is so
difficult to choose. It might be that, from some cause or other, your lord
might not go to the wars; unless, of course, it were a levy of all the
royal forces, and then it would be both grief to you and me that I had not
put you with another lord under whom you might have had a better
opportunity.

"But this settles the difficulty. By the time you come back there may be
some chance of your seeing service under our own flag. Lancaster has just
made a three years' truce with the Scots, and it may be that he will now
make preparations in earnest to sail with an array to conquer his kingdom
in Spain. That would be an enterprise in which an aspirant for knighthood
might well desire to take part. The Spaniards are courtly knights and
brave fellows, and there is like to be hard fighting. This invitation is a
timely one. Foreign travel is a part of the education of a knight, and in
Flanders there are always factions, intrigues, and troubles. Then there is
a French side and an English side, and the French side is further split up
by the Flemings inclining rather to Burgundy than to the Valois. Why, this
is better than that gift of armour, and it was a lucky day indeed for you
when you went to his daughter's aid. Faith, such a piece of luck never
fell in my way."

"Shall I go and write the letter at once, father?"

"There is no hurry, Albert. The messenger must have ridden from town to-
day, and as he went first to Master Ormskirk's, that would lengthen his
journey by three or four miles, therefore man and horse need rest, and it
were best, I should think, that he sleep here to-night, and be off betimes
in the morning. It would be dark before he reached the city, and the roads
are not safe riding after nightfall; besides, it can make no difference to
Van Voorden whether he gets the answer to-night or by ten o'clock to-
morrow morning."

Dame Agatha did not, as Aline had somewhat hoped, say a word to persuade
Sir Ralph to keep Albert longer at home. She looked wistfully at the lad
as the knight told her of the invitation that had come, and at his hearty
pleasure thereat, but she only said: "I am sorely unwilling to part with
you, Albert, but I know that it is best for you to be entering the world,
and that I could not expect to have you many months longer. Your father
and I were agreeing on that yesterday. A knight cannot remain by a
fireside, and it is a comfort to me that this first absence of yours
should be with the good Flemish merchant, and I like much also his wife
and daughter, who were most kind to us when we tarried with them in London
when your father was away. I would far rather you were with him, than in
the train of some lord, bound for the wars. I am glad, too, that your good
friend Edgar is going with you. Altogether, it is better than anything I
had thought of, and though I cannot part with you without a sigh, I can
feel that the parting might well have been much more painful. What say
you, Aline?"

"I knew, as you say, mother, that it was certain that Albert would have to
leave us, but I did not think that it would be so soon. It is very
hateful, and I shall miss him dreadfully."

"Yes, my dear, but you must remember it was so I felt the many times that
your father went to the war. It is so with the wife of every knight and
noble in the land. And not only these, but also the wives of the men-at-
arms and archers, and it will be yours when you too have a lord. Men risk
their lives in battle; women stay at home and mind their castles. We each
have our tasks. You know the lines that the priest John Ball used, they
say, as a text for his harangues to the crowds, _When Adam delved and Eve
span_. You see, one did the rough part of the toil, the other sat at home
and did what was needful there, and so it has been ever since. You know
how you shared our feelings of delight that your brother had grown
stronger, and would be able to take his own part, as his fathers had done
before him, to become a brave and valiant knight, and assuredly it is not
for you to repine now that a fair opportunity offers for him to prepare
for his career."

"I was wrong, mother," Aline said, penitently. "I was very cross and ill-
behaved, but it came suddenly upon me, and it seemed to me hard that
Albert and Edgar should both seem delighted at what pained me so much.
Forgive me, Albert."

"There is nothing to forgive, dear. Of course I understand your feeling
that it will be hard for us to part, when we have been so much together. I
shall be very sorry to leave you, but I am sure you will agree with me
that it is less hard to do so now than it would have been if I had been
going to be shut up in a convent to prepare for entering the Church, as we
once thought would be the case."

"I should think so," the girl said. "This will be nothing to it. Then you
would have been going out of our lives; now we shall have an interest in
all you do, and you will often be coming back to us; there will be that to
look forward to. Well, you won't hear me say another word of grumbling
until you have gone. And when are you to go?"

"To-morrow or next day," her father said. "Mynheer Van Voorden says, 'I am
about to start,' which may mean three days or six. It will need a whole
day for your mother and the maids to see to Albert's clothes, and that all
is decent and in order. To-day is Monday, and I think that if we say that
Albert will arrive there on Thursday by noon it will do very well. Will
you be ready by that time, Edgar?"

"Easily enough, Sir Ralph; for, indeed, as we have no maid, my clothes
need but little preparation. I wear them until they are worn out, and then
get new ones; and I doubt not that I shall be able to replenish my
wardrobe to-morrow at Dartford."

Well pleased to find that Albert was to accompany him, Edgar rode home. As
he passed in at the gates, Hal Carter ran up to him. "Master tells me that
you are going away, Master Edgar. Are you going to take me with you?"

"Not this time, Hal. I am going to Flanders as a guest of a Flemish
gentleman, and I could not therefore take a man-at-arms with me; besides,
as you know naught of the language, you would be altogether useless there.
But do not think that I shall not fulfil my promise. This is but a short
absence, and when I return I shall enter the train of some warlike knight
or other, and then you shall go with me, never fear."

"Thank you, sir. 'Tis strange to me to be pent up here; not that I have
aught in the world to complain of; your father is most kind to me, and I
do hope that I am of some use to him."

"Yes, my father has told me several times how useful you were to him in
washing out his apparatus and cleaning his crucibles and getting his fires
going in readiness. He wonders now how he got on so long without a helper,
and will be sorry when the time comes for you to go with me. Indeed he
said, but two days ago, that when you went he should certainly look for
someone to fill your place."

"So long as he feels that, Master Edgar, I shall be willing enough to
stay, but it seemed to me that I was doing but small service in return for
meat and drink and shelter. I should feel that I was getting fat and lazy,
were it not that I swing a battle-axe every day for an hour, as you bade
me."

"Look through your apparel, Edgar," his father said that evening, "and see
what you lack. To-morrow morning I will give you moneys wherewith you can
repair deficiencies. The suits you got in London will suffice you for the
present, but as winter approaches you must get yourself cloth garments,
and these can be purchased more cheaply in Flanders than here. Of course,
I know not how long your stay there may be; that must depend upon your
host. It would be well if, at the end of a month, you should speak about
returning, then you will see by his manner whether he really wishes you to
make a longer stay or not. Methinks, however, that it is likely he will
like you to stay with him until the spring if there is no matter of
importance for which you would wish to return. I am sure that he feels
very earnestly how much he owes to you, and is desirous of doing you real
service; and to my thinking he can do it in no better manner than by
giving you six months in Flanders."

Accordingly, three days later, the two friends again rode to London. Each
was followed by a man on horseback leading a sumpter-horse carrying the
baggage; and Hal Carter was much pleased when he was told that he was to
perform this service. Both, for the convenience of carriage, wore their
body-armour and arm-pieces, the helmets and greaves being carried with
their baggage. On their arrival they were most cordially received by Van
Voorden and his family, and found that they were to start on Saturday. On
the following morning the lads went to the Tower to pay their respects to
the king.

"Be sure you do not neglect that," Sir Ralph had said; "the king is
mightily well disposed to you, as I told you. I had related to him in full
the affairs in which you took part in London, and on my return after the
fight here, I, of course, told him the incidents of the battle, and he
said, 'If all my knights had borne themselves as well as your son and his
friend, I should not have been in so sore a strait. I should be glad to
have them about my person now; but I can well understand that you wish
your son to make a name for himself as a valiant knight, and that for a
time I must curb my desire.'"

The king received them very graciously. "Sir Ralph and you did good work
in dispersing that Kentish rabble, and doing with one blow what it has
taken six weeks to accomplish in Essex and Hertford. So you are going to
Flanders? You will see there what has come of allowing the rabble to get
the mastery. But of a truth the knaves of Ghent and Bruges are of very
different mettle to those here, and fight as stoutly as many men-at-arms."

"'Tis true, your Majesty," Edgar said, "but not because they are stouter
men, for those we defeated so easily down in Kent are of the same mettle
as our archers and men-at-arms who fought so stoutly at Cressy and
Poictiers, but they have no leading and no discipline. They know, too,
that against mail-clad men they are powerless; but if they were freemen,
and called out on your Majesty's service, they would fight as well as did
their forefathers."

"You are in favour, then, of granting them freedom?"

"It seems to me that it would strengthen your Majesty's power, and would
add considerably to the force that you could put in the field, and would
make the people happier and more contented. Living down among them as we
do, one cannot but see that 'tis hard on men that they may not go to open
market, but must work for such wages as their lords may choose to give
them, and be viewed as men of no account, whereas they are as strong and
able to work as others."

"You may be right," the young king said, "but you see, my councillors
think otherwise, and I am not yet rightly my own master. In one matter,
however, I can have my way, and that is in dispensing honours. You know
what I said to you before you went hence, that, young as you were, I would
fain knight you for the valiant work that you had done. Since then you
have done me good service, as well as the realm, by having, with Sir Ralph
De Courcy and Sir Robert Gaiton, defeated a great body of the Kentish
rebels, who were the worst and most violent of all, though there were with
you but fifty men-at-arms. This is truly knightly service, and their
defeat drove all rioters in that part to their homes, whereas, had they
not been so beaten, there might have been much more trouble, and many
worthy men might have been slain by them.

[Illustration: EDGAR AND ALBERT ARE KNIGHTED BY KING RICHARD.]

"Moreover, as you are going to Flanders with our good friend Mynheer Van
Voorden, who is in a way charged with a mission from us, it is well that
you should travel as knights. It will give you more influence, and may aid
him to further my object. Therefore, I am sure, that all here who know how
stoutly you have wielded your swords, and how you gave aid and rescue to
the worshipful Mynheer Van Voorden and his family, to stout Sir Robert
Gaiton, Dame De Courcy and her daughter, and how you bore yourselves in
the fight down in Kent, will agree with me that you have right well won
the honour."

Then, drawing his sword, he touched each slightly on the shoulder:

"Rise, Sir Albert De Courcy, and Sir Edgar Ormskirk."

As the lads rose they were warmly congratulated by several of the nobles
and knights standing round.

"I will not detain you," the king said, a short time later. "Doubtless you
have many preparations to make for your voyage. I hope that things will
fare well with you in Flanders. Bear in mind that if you draw sword for
Mynheer Van Voorden you are doing it for England."

CHAPTER XII

THE TROUBLES IN FLANDERS

On re-entering the city gates they first went to an armourer's, where they
purchased and buckled on some gilded spurs.

"Truly, Albert, I can scarce believe our good fortune," Edgar said, as
they left the shop. "It seems marvellous that though we have not served as
esquires, we should yet at seventeen be dubbed knights by the king."

"You have well deserved it, Edgar; as for me, I have but done my best to
second you."

"And a very good best it was, Albert," Edgar laughed. "'Tis true that in
the skirmish outside Aldersgate I might have managed by myself, but in the
Fleming's affair and in the Tower I should have fared hardly indeed had it
not been for your help. I fancy that we have the Fleming to thank for this
good fortune. You see he had already told the king that we were to
accompany him, and perhaps he may have pointed out to him that it might be
to the advantage of his mission that we should be made knights. He has
great influence with the Court, seeing that he has frequently supplied the
royal needs with money. First let us visit our good friend Sir Robert
Gaiton."

The knight received them most warmly. "I heard from Van Voorden that you
were going to Flanders with him. You are like to see stirring events, for
Ghent has long been in insurrection against the Count of Flanders, and
things are likely to come to a head erelong. Ah, and what do I see--gold
spurs! Then the king has knighted you. That is well, indeed, and I
congratulate you most heartily. I tell you that I felt some shame that I,
who had not even drawn a sword, should have been knighted, while you two,
who had fought like paladins, had not yet your spurs, and I was glad that
I had an opportunity, down in Kent, of showing that I was not a mere
carpet knight."

"'Tis for that affair that the king said he knighted us, Sir Robert,"
Edgar said. "The other matters were private ventures, though against the
king's enemies; but that was a battle in the field, and the success put an
end to rioting down there."

"I shall not forget my promise about the knightly armour," the merchant
said, "but methinks that it were best to wait for a while. The armour the
Fleming bought you is as good as could be made, but doubtless you will
outgrow it, so it would be best for me to delay for two or three years. It
is not likely that you will have much to do with courtly ceremonies before
then, and when you get to twenty, by which time you will have your full
height, if not your full width, I will furnish you with suits with which
you could ride with Richard when surrounded by his proudest nobles and
best knights."

"We thank you, indeed, Sir Robert, and it would be much better so. The
first shine is not off our armour at present, and it would be cumbrous to
carry a second suit with us, therefore we would much rather that you
postponed your gift."

He now went with them into the ladies' room. "Dame and daughter," he said,
"I have to present to you Sir Edgar Ormskirk and Sir Albert De Courcy,
whom his Majesty has been pleased this morning to raise to the honour of
knighthood, which has been well won by their own merits and bravery."

The dame gave an exclamation of pleasure and her daughter clapped her
hands.

"'Tis well deserved, indeed," the former exclaimed, "and I wish them all
good fortune with their new dignity. How much we owe them, Robert."

"That do we," the merchant said, heartily.

"I am pleased," the girl said, coming forward and frankly shaking hands
with both.

"I can scarce credit our good fortune, Mistress Ursula," Albert said.
"'Tis but a few months since I deemed that I was unfit for martial
exercise, and that there was naught for me but to enter the Church, and
now, thanks entirely to Edgar and to good luck, I am already a knight;
'tis well-nigh past belief. That meeting with you and your father was the
beginning of our great fortune."

"That was a terrible night," the girl said, with a little shudder at the
recollection. "Heaven surely sent you to our aid."

While they were talking, Sir Robert said a word apart to his wife, and
left the room. He presently returned with a small coffer, which he handed
to her.

"It seems to me, young knights," she said, "that your equipment is
incomplete without a knightly chain. My husband, I know, is going to give
you armour for war; it is for us to give you an ornament for Court. These
are the work of Genoese goldsmiths, and I now, in the name of my daughter
and myself, and as a small token of the gratitude that we owe you, bestow
these upon you."

So saying she placed round their necks two heavy gold chains of the finest
workmanship. Both expressed their thanks in suitable terms.

"When do you sail?" the merchant asked Edgar.

"To-morrow morning," he replied, "and the ship will unmoor at noon. We
will come to say farewell to you in the morning."

Mynheer Van Voorden and his family were no less delighted than Sir Robert
Gaiton at the honour that had befallen them.

"Methinks, Mynheer," Edgar said, "that 'tis to you that we in part owe the
honour the king has bestowed on us, for he said that as you had a mission
from him it would be well that we should have the rank of knighthood."

"I may have said as much to the king," Van Voorden admitted, "but it was
not until Richard had himself said that he intended at the first
opportunity to knight you both. On that I spoke, and pointed out that the
presence of two English knights with me would add weight to my words. On
which he gladly assented, saying that it had before been his intention to
do so ere you left London, had not Sir Ralph said it would be better for
you to earn it in the field; but as, since that time, you had fought in a
stiff battle, and done good service to the realm by putting down the
insurgents in Kent, who had been the foremost in the troubles here, he
would do so at once.

"I think now that it were well you should each take a man-at-arms with
you--a knight should not ride unattended. When we get across there I will
hire two Flemings, who speak English, to ride with your men. You will need
them to interpret for you, and they can aid your men to look after your
horses and armour. If the two fellows here start at once for your homes,
the others can be back in the morning."

"One of them is the man I should take with me," Edgar said. "I promised
him that he should ride behind me as soon as occasion offered. He has no
horse, but I doubt not that I shall be able to purchase one out there."

"I will see to that," Van Voorden said, "and to his armour. Do not trouble
yourself about it in any way. And now about your man, Sir Albert?"

"I will ask my father to choose a good fellow for me, and one who has
armour and a horse."

"Then it were best to lose no time. There is pen and parchment on that
table. Doubtless you will both wish to write to tell your fathers of the
honour that the king has bestowed upon you."

Both at once sat down and wrote a short letter. Edgar, after telling his
father that he had been knighted, said:

"_Mynheer Van Voorden says it will be as well if we each take a man-at-
arms with us, so I shall, with your permission, take Hal Carter, as I had
arranged with you to do so when I went to the wars. He is a stout fellow,
and will, I am sure, be a faithful one. I hope that you will find no
difficulty in replacing him._"

Sir Ralph himself arrived at the house the next morning. "I could not let
you go without coming to congratulate you both on the honour that has
befallen you. It might have been well that it should have come a little
later, but doubtless it will be of advantage to you in Flanders, and
should there be fighting between Ghent and the earl you will be more free
to choose your own place in battle, and to perform such journeys and
adventures as may seem good to you as knights, than you would be as
private gentlemen, or esquires, following no leader, and having no rank or
standing save that of gentlemen who have come over as friends of Mynheer
Van Voorden.

"Your mother is greatly pleased, and as for Aline, she would fain have
ridden hither with me, but as I intend to return this afternoon, and as
she saw you both but two days since, I thought it best that she should
stay at home. I have brought up with me John Lance. I thought that he was
the one who would suit you best. In some respects the other is the more
experienced and might be of more value were you going on a campaign, but
he is somewhat given to the ale-jug, so I thought it best to bring Lance,
who is a stout fellow, and can wield his sword well. He is civil and well-
spoken, and as I have told him he is to obey your orders just the same as
if they were mine, I believe that you will have little trouble with him.
His arms and armour are in good condition, and he has been furnished with
a fresh suit out of the chest.

"I saw your father, Edgar, late yesterday evening. I myself took over your
letter to him. He said that whatever a man's calling may be, it is well
that he should go into it with all his heart, and that since you have
taken to arms, it is well indeed that you should so soon have
distinguished yourself as to be deemed worthy of knighthood. He said that
he would get another to take the place of the man you keep with you, and
he wishes you God-speed in Flanders."

At eleven o'clock, Van Voorden, his wife and daughter, mounted, together
with Edgar, Albert, and their two men-at-arms; both the latter were in
body armour, with steel caps; the Fleming had secured a strong and
serviceable horse for Hal. His own servants had gone on an hour before
with three carts carrying the baggage; Sir Ralph accompanied them across
London Bridge to Rotherhithe, where the barque was lying alongside a
wharf. The horses were first taken on board, and placed in stalls on deck.
These Van Voorden had had erected so that the horses should suffer no
injury in case they encountered rough weather. As soon as the animals were
secured in their places, Sir Ralph said good-bye to them all, the hawsers
were thrown off, and the vessel dropped out into the tide, the baggage
having been lowered into the hold before they came down.

There were no other passengers, the Fleming having secured all the
accommodation for his party. There were two small cabins in the stern, one
of which was set apart for the merchant's wife and daughter, the other for
their two maids. The cabin where they sat and took their meals was used by
the merchant and the two young knights as a sleeping-place. The Fleming's
four men-servants and the two men-at-arms slept in a portion of the hold
under the stern cabins. The wind was favourable, and although speed was
not the strong point of the ship, she made a quick passage, and forty-
eight hours after starting they entered the port of Sluys.

"Will you tell us, Mynheer," Edgar said, as they sailed quietly down the
Thames, "how it comes about that Ghent is at war with the Earl of
Flanders, for it is well that we should have some knowledge of the matter
before we get into the midst of it."

"'Tis well, indeed, that it should be so, Edgar. The matter began in a
quarrel between two men, John Lyon and Gilbert Mahew. Lyon was a crafty
and politic man, and was held in great favour by the earl. There was a
citizen who had seriously displeased Louis, and at his request John Lyon
made a quarrel with him and killed him. The matter caused great anger
among the burgesses, and Lyon had to leave the city, and went and dwelt at
Douay, living in great state there for three years, at the earl's expense.
At the end of that time the earl used all the influence he possessed at
Ghent, and obtained a pardon for Lyon, and the restoration of his
property, that had been forfeited for his crime, and, moreover, made him
chief ruler of all the ships and mariners.

"This caused great displeasure to many, not only in Ghent but in all
Flanders. Mahew, who, with his seven brothers, was the leading man among
the mariners, and between whose family and that of Lyon there was a long-
standing feud, went presently to the earl and told him that if things were
properly managed and certain taxes put on the shipping, the earl would
derive a large annual sum from it, and the earl directed Lyon to carry
this out. But owing to the general opposition among the mariners, which
was craftily managed by Mahew's brothers, Lyon was unable to carry the
earl's orders into effect. Gilbert Mahew then went to the earl and said
that if he were appointed in Lyon's place he would carry the thing out.
This was done, and Mahew. from his influence with the mariners, and by
giving many presents to persons at the earl's Court, gained high favour,
and used his power to injure Lyon.

"The latter, however, kept quiet, and bided his time. This came when the
people of Bruges, who had long desired to make a canal--which would take
away most of the water of the river Lys for their benefit--but who had
never been able to do so, owing to the opposition offered by Ghent, now
set a great number of men upon this work. This caused a great agitation in
Ghent, especially among mariners, who feared that if the river Lys were
lowered their shipping trade would be much injured. Then people began to
say that if Lyon had remained their governor in Ghent the people of Bruges
would never have ventured on such action. Many of them went secretly to
Lyon to sound him on the matter. He advised them that they had best revive
the old custom of wearing white hoods, and that they should then choose a
governor whom they would obey.

"In a few days a great number of white hoods appeared in the streets, and
a popular meeting was held. John Lyon was elected leader, and with two
hundred companies marched from Ghent to attack the pioneers digging the
channel. These, on hearing that a great force from Ghent was marching
against them, hastily retired. John Lyon and his force returned home, and
the former again resumed his position as a quiet trader. The White Hoods,
however, dominated the town. In a short time some of them demanded that a
mariner, who was a burgess of Ghent, and who was confined in the earl's
prison at Eccloo, should be liberated, as, according to the franchise of
the city, no burgess could be tried save by its Courts.

"This trouble Lyon carefully fostered, and as the new and heavy dues
injured the trade of Ghent, his party increased rapidly. In public,
however, he always spoke moderately, remaining quietly in his house, and
never going out except with an escort of two or three hundred of the White
Hoods. An embassy was sent to the earl to ask that the rights of the city
should be respected. The earl answered them mildly, ordered the prisoner
to be given up to them, and promised to respect the franchise of the city,
but at the same time asked that the wearing of white hoods should be
discontinued. Lyon, however, persuaded the White Hoods not to accede to
this request, saying that it was the White Hoods that had wrung those
concessions from the earl, and that if they disappeared from the streets,
the franchise would be speedily abolished.

"In this Lyon was right, and he at once set to work to organize the White
Hoods, dividing them into companies, and appointing a captain to each
hundred men; a lieutenant to fifty; and a sub-officer to ten. In a short
time the Bailie of Ghent, with two hundred horse, rode into the city, the
earl having agreed with Gilbert Mahew that John Lyon and several other
leaders should be carried off and beheaded. As soon as the bailie arrived
at the market-place he was joined by the Mahews and their adherents. The
White Hoods at once gathered at John Lyon's house, and he set out for the
market-house with four hundred men. These were joined by many others as
they went. As soon as they appeared, the Mahews, with their party, fled.
Then the White Hoods rushed upon the bailie, unhorsed and slew him, and
tore the earl's banner to pieces. His men-at-arms, seeing how strong and
furious were the townsmen, at once turned their horses and rode away.

"A search was then made for the Mahews, but they had fled from the town
and ridden away to join the earl. Their houses were all sacked and
destroyed. The White Hoods were now undisturbed masters of the place; most
of the rich burgesses, however, were much grieved at what had taken place.
A great council was held, and twelve of their number went to the earl to
beg for pardon for the town. The earl received them sternly, but at their
humble prayer promised to spare the city and to punish only the chief
offenders. While they were away, however, Lyon called an assembly of the
citizens in a field outside the town. Ten thousand armed men gathered
there, and they at once sacked and burnt the palace of Andrehon, which was
the earl's favourite residence, and a very stately pile.

"The earl, on hearing the news, called the burgesses, who were still with
him, and sent them back to Ghent with a message to the town that they
should have neither peace nor treaty until he had struck off the heads of
all those whom he chose. John Lyon began the war by marching to Bruges,
which, being wholly unprepared, was forced to admit him and his men, and
to agree to an alliance with Ghent. He then marched to Damme, where he was
taken ill, and died, not without strong suspicion of having been poisoned.
The people of Ghent sent a strong force to Ypres. The knights and men-at-
arms of the garrison refused to admit them, but the craftsmen of the town
rose in favour of Ghent, slew five of the knights, and opened the gates.
The men of the allied cities then tried to attack Tormonde, where the earl
was, but were unable to take it; they afterwards besieged Oudenarde. The
Duke of Burgundy, however, interposed, and peace was agreed upon, on
condition that the earl should pardon all and come to live in Ghent. The
earl kept his promise so far as to go there, but he only stayed four days
and then left the town.

"The peace was of very short continuance, for some relations of the bailie
and some other knights took forty ships on the river, put out the eyes of
the sailors, and sent them into Ghent, in return for which a strong body
marched out from Ghent, surprised Oudenarde, and stayed there a month,
during which time they hewed down the gates and made a breach in the walls
by destroying two towers. After the men of Ghent had left Oudenarde the
earl went there and repaired the damage they had done, and then marched to
Ypres and beheaded many of those who had risen against him, and had slain
his knights. In the meantime Ghent prepared for the war by sacking and
destroying all the houses of the gentry in the country round the city.

"Several battles were fought, and in these the White Hoods had the worst
of it, for although they fought stoutly they were greatly outnumbered.
Bruges and Damme opened their gates to the earl, and Ghent was left
without an ally. Then Peter De Bois, who was now the chief of the White
Hoods, seeing that many of the townsmen were sorely discouraged by their
want of success, went to Philip Van Artevelde (the son of Jacob Van
Artevelde, who was murdered by the townsfolk for making an alliance with
England) and persuaded him to come forward as the leader of the people. On
his doing so Philip was at once accepted by the White Hoods. Two of the
leaders of the party of peace were at once murdered. As his father had
been a great man and an excellent ruler, Philip was joyfully accepted by
the whole population, and was given almost arbitrary power.

"Since that time," went on Van Voorden, "Ghent has been straitly besieged,
and had it not been that they sent out a strong force, who bought large
supplies at Brussels and at Liege, and managed to convey them back to the
city, most of the inhabitants would have died from hunger.

"So matters stand at present. The mission with which I am charged at
present is to see Van Artevelde, and to find out whether he, like his
father Jacob, is well disposed towards the English, and if so, to promise
that some aid shall be sent to him."

"And what are your own thoughts on the matter, Mynheer?"

"As to Ghent, I say nothing," the merchant replied. "The population have
ever been rough and turbulent, swayed by agitators, and tyrannized over by
the craftsmen; but I can well see that it is for the interest of England
that Ghent should be upheld, for these troubles in Flanders greatly
disturb both the Duke of Burgundy and the King of France, whose interests
never run together. Again, I see that the independence of Ghent, Bruges,
and other large towns is for the good of Flanders, since were it not for
that, the country would be but an appanage of Burgundy or France. Heavy
imposts would be laid upon the people, their franchises abolished, and the
trade greatly injured; and it would therefore be a sore misfortune for the
country were the Earl of Flanders to crush Ghent, for did he do so he
could work his will in all the other towns.

"These, you see, are something like your city of London; they exist and
flourish owing to the rights they have gained. They curbed the power of
the nobles, and have built up great wealth and power for themselves. Their
merchants have the revenues of princes, and carry on a great trade with
all countries. You see how readily the earl fell in with Mahew's
suggestion, and laid heavy taxes on the shipping of Ghent. In the same
way, were he supreme master, he and his lords could similarly tax the
trade of other towns of Flanders, to the great benefit of the merchants of
foreign countries. Thus, you see, as a Fleming I should wish to see Ghent
--although I love not the turbulent town--preserved from the destruction
that would surely fall upon it were the earl to capture it. Why, at Ypres,
not only did he kill many thousands of the citizens in an ambush, but when
he entered the town, he beheaded well-nigh six hundred of the citizens. If
he did that at Ypres, which had offended comparatively little, what would
he do to Ghent, which has killed his bailie, sacked and burned his palace,
defied his authority, and holds out against all his force?"

"Thank you very much, Mynheer; I knew but little of the matter before, and
I am glad to be so thoroughly informed in it. I see it is the same there
as it was in London when the rioters came thither; the better class were
overborne by the baser. Had it not been for the death of Wat the Tyler,
and the dispersal of his rabble, it is likely that every trader's house in
London would have been pillaged and all the better class murdered, as were
the Flemings."

As soon as the vessel drew alongside the wharf at Sluys, a Flemish trader
came on board. He was a correspondent of Van Voorden's, and to him the
merchant had written, asking him to secure lodgings for him and his party
for a day or two. Van Voorden was well known to him, for the merchant had
occasion to cross to Flanders three or four times every year, and his
correspondent often came over to London. After greeting the merchant, his
wife and daughter, he said:

"I was in much fear for you, Van Voorden, when I heard the reports of the
wild doings of the rabble in London, and how they specially directed their
fury against our people, and killed very many worthy merchants. You have
said in your letters to me that you had been in some danger, but that, as
you would see me shortly, you would not write at length."

"I will tell you of it anon, Rochter. First, how about the lodging?"

"As to that, there is no difficulty. It would be strange indeed were you
to go elsewhere than to my house, which you have always used hitherto when
you passed through."

"Yes: when I was alone. Now I have my wife and daughter, and these two
young English knights, to say nothing of the maids and the men-at-arms."

"We can take them all without difficulty. As you know, the house is a
large one, and there are but my wife and myself and my daughter Marie.
There is the room you always occupy for yourself and madame, a bed has
been put up in Marie's room for your daughter, the large room over it will
be allotted to these gentlemen, your maids can sleep with ours, and there
is a large room in the attic for your servants and the knights' men."

"So be it," Van Voorden said, "and it will be far more pleasant to be with
you and your good wife than in a strange place. How about the horses, of
which we have six?"

"The accommodation I have for them is small, but I have arranged with a
friend for the disposal of the horses in his stables, which are
commodious, and of which he makes but little use."

The house of Mynheer Rochter surprised the young knights by its size. It
was massively and strongly built, and apparently there was no pressure for
room, as was the case in the busy streets of London. The hall was of great
size, panelled with a dark wood, and with a flooring so smooth and
polished that both knights narrowly escaped falling, on stepping on it for
the first time. A great staircase led to the family apartments upstairs.
The main room would have held four of either those of Van Voorden or Sir
Robert Gaiton in London, and the rest of the house was on the same scale.
All was dark, massive, and rich, with an air of great comfort. The
furniture and floors were polished until they reflected the light from the
casements, and heavy rugs and carpets were stretched in front of the fire-
places and windows, and at other points where the family were accustomed
to sit.

There were heavy curtains to the windows, and others before the doors, so
that all draught should be cut off. Although not so handsome as the rooms
of the two merchants in London, everything was so substantial, well kept,
and comfortable, that the two friends were greatly struck by it. It was
now October, and great wood fires blazed in the hall below and in all the
upstairs rooms, and these quite dispelled any air of gloom that might
otherwise have been caused by the darkness of the furniture.

"Truly, Edgar," Albert said, in a low tone, while the ladies were talking
together, "I think that I shall change my vocation once again, abandon the
cutting of throats, and establish myself as a Flemish merchant."

"It would be years before you could acquire the necessary knowledge,"
Edgar laughed, "to say nothing of the capital required for the business;
but truly the comfort of this house is wonderful, and it is clear to me
that, although we Englishmen have learned to fight, we are mightily behind
others in the art of making our lives comfortable."

Before the meal was served the friends went upstairs to their room, took
off the rough clothes in which they had travelled, and apparelled
themselves in the plainest of their two suits. When dinner was announced
they went into a room leading from that in which they had before been. As
the numbers were equal, the four gentlemen each offered his hand to a
lady, and led her to the table. It was almost dark now, and the room was
lighted with many wax candles, which were novelties to the young knights.
Tallow candles had indeed come into partial use at the beginning of the
century, but they had never seen wax used, save on occasions of great
ceremony in the churches. It was now for the first time that Frau Rochter
obtained a fair view of the faces of her guests.

"You are young indeed, gentlemen, are you not, to have attained the rank
of knighthood?" she said; "but I believe that in England 'tis a title that
goes with the land."

"It is so," Van Voorden said, before either of the young knights could
reply; "but in this case it has been won by distinguished bravery, for
which King Richard himself bestowed knighthood upon them. No one can
testify to their bravery more strongly than ourselves, for it was thanks
alone to them that my life certainly, and probably those of my wife and
daughter, were preserved on that evil day in London," and as the meal
proceeded he gave a full narrative of the manner in which they had
defended his house while his wife was removed from her sick-bed and
carried down to the hiding-place below. "It was not only for this single
act of bravery that they received knighthood. Young though they are, they
saved the life of a worshipful London citizen--who has since himself
become a knight--when he had fallen into the hands of a party of robbers.
When the Tower was in the hands of the rioters, they, without assistance,
killed seven men who had entered the ladies' chamber; and, lastly, they
rode, with two knights and fifty men-at-arms, at a mob consisting of some
two thousand of the worst of the rebels, and entirely defeated them with
the loss of five hundred, and it was for this last act that they were
knighted."

"Mynheer Van Voorden omits to say," Edgar added, "that it was largely to
his own good offices that we owe the honour."

"I said nothing to the king but what was true and just," the merchant
replied; "and he told me that he had already determined to promote you on
the first opportunity; indeed, even had I not spoken I believe that he
would have done so before we left London."

"I am sure that they deserved it if it had only been for what they did for
us," his daughter said, warmly. "Several times, while you were getting
mother down the stairs, I ran out to the landing and looked down at the
fight. It was terrible to see all the fierce faces, and the blows that
were struck with pole-axe and halbert, and a marvel that two young men
should so firmly hold their ground against such odds."

"We all owe them our lives assuredly," Madame Van Voorden said. "Had it
not been for them, undoubtedly I should have died that day. I was very
near to death as it was, and had I seen my husband slaughtered before my
eyes, it would have needed no blow of knife to have finished me."

CHAPTER XIII

A STARVING TOWN

Many of the leading citizens, hearing of Van Voorden's arrival, called in
the course of the evening. The conversation, of course, turned upon the
state of public affairs in Flanders; and Van Voorden inquired particularly
as to the feeling in Bruges, and the sides taken by leading citizens
there.

"That is difficult to say," one of the merchants replied. "Bruges has
always been a rival to Ghent, and there has been little good-will between
the cities. The lower class are undoubtedly in favour of Ghent; but among
the traders and principal families the feeling is the other way. Were
Ghent in a position to head a national movement with a fair chance of
success, no doubt Bruges would go with her, for she would fear that,
should it be successful, she would suffer from the domination of Ghent. At
present, however, the latter is in a strait, the rivers are blockaded by
the earl's ships, and the town is sorely pressed by famine. After the
vengeance taken by the earl on the places that, at the commencement of the
trouble, threw in their lot with Ghent, she can expect no aid until she
shows herself capable of again defeating the prince's army."

"Of course, at present I know but little how matters stand," Van Voorden
said. "I have been so long settled in England that I have hardly kept
myself informed of affairs here. I am thinking now of making Flanders my
home again, but I would not do so if the land is like to be torn by civil
war; I shall, therefore, make it my business to sojourn for a time in many
of the large towns, and so to learn the general feeling throughout the
country towards the earl, and to find out what prospect there is of the
present trouble coming to a speedy end. France, Burgundy, or even England
may interfere in the matter if they see a prospect of gain by it, and in
that case the fighting might become general."

"Is the feeling of England in favour of Ghent?" one of the burghers asked,
anxiously.

"So far I have heard but little on the matter. The English have had
troubles of their own, and have had but little time to cast their eyes
abroad. Nevertheless, if the struggle continues, they may remember that a
Van Artevelde was their stout ally, and that Ghent, after his murder,
again submitted itself to them. There is, too, the bond of sympathy that
Flanders accepts the same pope as England, and that in aiding her they aid
the pope's cause, and strike a blow at France, with whom they are always
at daggers drawn. Therefore, methinks more unlikely things have happened
than that; if France gives aid to the earl, the English may strike in for
Ghent."

"I trust not," one of the burghers said, earnestly, "for Sluys might well
be the landing point for an English expedition, and then the first brunt
of the war would fall upon us."

"I say not that there is much chance of such a thing," Van Voorden said;
"I was but mentioning the complication that might arise if Ghent is able
to prolong the struggle."

On the following morning the party started from Sluys. They made a good
show, for Van Voorden had the evening before engaged two mounted men,
well-armed, to ride with the young knights as men-at-arms. Behind the
merchant and his party came the two maids and the four retainers who had
accompanied them from England. These carried swords and daggers, but no
defensive armour. Behind were the two English men-at-arms and the two
freshly taken on, all wearing breast-and back-pieces and steel caps. They
tarried but a day or two at Bruges, Van Voorden finding that among the
burgesses the trade animosity against Ghent overpowered any feeling of
patriotism, and moreover it was felt that the success of that town would
give such encouragement to the democracy elsewhere that every city would
become the scene of riot and civil strife.

They learnt that, unless they fell in with one of the parties that was
stationed to prevent strong forces of foragers issuing from Ghent to drive
in cattle, they would find no difficulty in entering the town, for the
citizens had shown themselves such stout fighters, that the earl,
believing that the city must fall by famine, had drawn off the greater
portion of his army. Travelling by easy stages, the party approached the
town on the second evening. Soon after they started that morning they came
upon a body of the troops of the Earl of Flanders. The officer in command
rode up to the merchant and asked him for his name and his object in going
to Ghent, and also who were the two knights with him. As soon as Van
Voorden mentioned his name, and said that he had for many years been
established in London, the officer at once recognized it.

"I am well acquainted with your name as one of the foremost among our
countrymen at King Richard's Court, and that you have several times acted
as our representative when complaints have been made of injury to Flemish
traders by English adventurers, but I must still ask, what do you propose
doing at Ghent?"

"I am over here for a time with my wife and daughter, and am paying visits
to friends and business correspondents in the various towns, and it may be
that if these troubles come to an end I may retire from business
altogether and settle down here. These knights have done me a signal
service, having saved the lives of myself and daughter during the riots in
London; therefore I have asked of them the courtesy to ride with me
through Flanders. Having a desire to visit foreign countries, they
accepted my invitation."

"Adieu, then, Master Van Voorden. I know that you are a man of influence
among the merchants, and trust that you will do your best to persuade the
stiff-necked burghers of Ghent to submit themselves to their lord."

"Methinks, from what I hear," the merchant replied, "that if it depended
upon the burgesses and traders there would be a speedy end to these
troubles, but they are overborne by the demagogues of the craftsmen."

"That is true enough," the officer replied. "Numbers of the richer
burgesses have long since left Ghent, and many have established themselves
in trade in other cities where there was better chance of doing their
business in peace and quiet."

The party now rode on, and without further interruption arrived at Ghent.
They put up for the night at a hostelry, but in the morning the merchant
had no difficulty in hiring the use of a house for a month, for many of
the better class houses were standing empty. Then he called on several of
the leading burgesses, some of whom were known to him personally, and had
long and earnest talk with them upon the situation.

Late in the afternoon he sent a letter to Philip Van Artevelde, saying
that he had just arrived from England, and would be glad to have a private
parley with him. An answer was received from Van Artevelde saying that he
would call that evening upon him, as it would be more easy to have quiet
speech together there than if he visited him at his official residence. At
eight o'clock Van Artevelde arrived. He was wrapped in a cloak, and gave
no name, simply saying to the retainer who opened the door that he was
there by appointment with his master. Van Voorden received him alone. They
had met on two or three occasions previously, and saluted each other
cordially.

"I think it best that we should meet quietly," the merchant said, as they
shook hands. "I know the Ghentois, how greedily they swallow every rumour,
how they magnify the smallest things, and how they rage if their desires
are not gratified, and give themselves wholly up to the demagogues. 'Tis
for that reason that I think it well that you have come to see me
privately.

"I have no official mission to you, but I am charged by King Richard, or
rather by his council--when they heard that I was coming over here on my
private affairs--to find out in the first place how things really stand
here; and secondly, to learn your own opinion and thoughts on the matters
in hand."

By this time they had seated themselves by the fire.

"The position is grievous enough in that we are straitened for food," was
the reply; "indeed, although we have of late been fortunate in obtaining
supplies, the pressure cannot be borne. Of one thing you may be sure,
Ghent will not tamely be starved out. If we cannot obtain fair terms,
every man will arm himself and sally out, and, it need be, we will sweep
the whole country clear of its flocks and herds, and bring in such stores
as we want from all quarters, carrying our arms to the gates of Brussels
and Malines in one direction, to Lisle in another, and to Ypres and
Dixmuide south of the Lys. Earl though he be, Louis cannot bar every road
to us, nor forever keep up a force sufficient to withstand us. Already the
feudal lords have kept their levies under arms far beyond the time they
have a right to require them, but this cannot go on. War costs us no more
than peace, and whenever we will we can march with 20,000 men in any
direction that may please us. As to defending ourselves against assault, I
have no fear whatever. Thus, then, so long as Ghent chooses she can
maintain the war." He put an emphasis on the last words.

"That means, I take it," the merchant said, "as long as the people are
willing to go on fasting."

"That is so. There is a sore pinch; food is distributed gratuitously; for,
as all trade is stopped, there is little work to be had. So long as they
could live in idleness, obtain enough food, and a small sum paid daily,
there were no signs of discontent; and there is still plenty of money in
the coffers, for the goods and estates of many who have fled, and who are
known to be favourable to the earl, have been confiscated, but money
cannot provide food. Thus, it seems to me that, save for the lack of food,
matters could go on as at present. But if fair terms cannot be obtained,
the people will demand to be led against their enemy. We shall lead them,
but what will come after that I cannot say.

"As you doubtless know, I am here by no choice of my own. I had naught to
do with the rising of Ghent, or what has been done hitherto, but when Lyon
died and the leaders who succeeded him were killed, they sent to me to be
their governor. For a time I refused, but I was overborne. I was living
quietly and peaceably on my estates, with no love for strife; but it was
pointed out that I alone could unite the factions, that many of the better
classes of citizens, who held aloof from the demagogues of the streets,
would feel confidence in me, that my name would carry weight, and that
other cities might make alliance with me when they would have naught to
say to butchers and skinners and such like, and that possibly the earl
would be more likely to grant terms to me than to those whom he considers
as the rabble. I took up the position reluctantly, but, having taken it
up, I shall not lay it down. Like enough it will cost me my life, as it
cost the life of Jacob Van Artevelde before me, but it may be that aid
will come from some unexpected quarter."

"That is the next point. Do you look for aid from France?"

"France is never to be relied upon," Artevelde replied, gloomily. "The
Valois has, of course, made us vague promises, but all he cares for is
that the war should go on, so that, if he and Burgundy come to blows,
Flanders can give no aid to the duke. I have no hope in that quarter. Of
late, however, Burgundy and Berry have prevailed in his councils, and we
hear that he has decided to join the duke against us. We have sent, as
doubtless you know, to the King of England, to ask him to ally himself
with us."

"'Tis concerning that matter he has charged me. It was known when I left
England that Burgundy had promised his aid to the earl, but naught was
known of France joining in. The king is well disposed towards you, but his
council hold that, so long as Ghent stands alone, England can make no
alliance with her, for she would have to fight, not only Burgundy and
France, but the rest of Flanders. But if Ghent makes herself master of
Flanders, England will gladly ally herself with you, and will send troops
and money."

"'Tis reasonable," Artevelde said, "and we will bestir ourselves. I myself
have done all that is possible to obtain peace, and in three days I am
going, with twelve of the principal citizens, to Bruges, where the earl
arrived yesterday. We shall offer to submit ourselves to his mercy if he
will have pity on the city. If he demands the entire mastership we shall
fight in earnest. If he will content himself with taking our lives, we are
ready to give them for the sake of the city. We know that we have a strong
body of friends in every town, and should it come to blows, methinks it is
not improbable that all Flanders will join, and if we are supported by
England, we may well hope to withstand both France and Burgundy."

"I have two young English knights with me, Van Artevelde; they are young,
but have already shown themselves capable of deeds of the greatest
bravery. During the late riots in London they defended my house against a
mob many hundreds strong, and so gave time for myself, my wife, and
daughter to gain a place of hiding; they did many other brave feats, and
so distinguished themselves that, though very young, the king has knighted
them. I invited them to accompany me hither, in order that they might see
service, and I would fain commend them greatly to you. The fact that they
are English knights would be of advantage to you, seeing that it will, in
the eyes of the people, be taken as a proof that the sympathy of England
is with us, and should there be fighting, or any occasion for the use of
brave men, you can rely upon them to do their utmost."

"I will gladly accept their services, Van Voorden, and, as you say, the
people will certainly draw a good augury from their presence."

The merchant left the room, and returned in a minute with the two young
knights.

"These are the gentlemen of whom I have spoken to you, Van Artevelde," he
said, "Sir Edgar Ormskirk and Sir Albert De Courcy, both very valiant
gentlemen, and high in the esteem of King Richard."

"I greet you gladly, sir knights," Van Artevelde said, "both for your own
sakes and for that of Mynheer Van Voorden, my worthy friend, who has
presented you, and right glad shall I be if you will aid us in this sore
strait into which we have fallen."

"I fear that our aid will not be of much avail to you, sir," Edgar said,
"but such service as we can render we will right willingly give. I shall
be glad to see service for the first time under one bearing the name of
the great man who lost his life because he was so firm an ally of
England."

"At present, gentlemen, things have not come to a crisis here, and for a
few days I must ask your patience; by that time we shall know how matters
are to go. If it be war, gladly, indeed, will I have you ride with me in
the field."

Two days later Philip Van Artevelde rode away with the twelve citizens,
who, like himself, went to offer their lives for the sake of the city. The
scene was an affecting one, and crowds of haggard men and half-starved
women filled the streets. Most of them were in tears, and all prayed aloud
that Heaven would soften the earl's heart and suffer them to come back
unharmed to the city. Three days later they returned. As they rode through
the streets all could see that their news was bad, and that they had
returned because the earl had refused to accept them as sacrifices for the
rest. An enormous crowd gathered in front of the town-hall, and in a few
minutes Van Artevelde and his companions appeared on the balcony.

There was a dead hush among the multitude. They felt that life or death
hung on his words. He told them that the count had refused altogether to
accept twelve lives as ransom for the city, and that he would give no
terms save that he would become its master and would execute all such as
were found to have taken part in the rebellion against him.

A despairing moan rose from the square below.

"Fellow citizens," Van Artevelde went on, "there is now but one of two
things for us to do. The one is to shut our gates, retire to our houses,
and there die either by famine or by such other means as each may choose.
The other way is, that every man capable of bearing arms shall muster,
that we shall march to Bruges, and there either perish under the lances of
his knights, or conquer and drive him headlong from the land. Which choose
ye, my friends?"

A mighty shout arose: "We will fight!"

"You have chosen well," Van Artevelde said. "Have we not before now
defeated forces of men-at-arms superior in numbers to ourselves? Are we
less brave than our fathers? Shall we not fight as stoutly when we know
that we leave famishing wives and children behind who look to us to bring
them back food? Return to your homes! A double ration of bread shall be
served out from the magazines to all. Two hours before daybreak we will
muster in our companies, and an hour later start for Bruges."

Among those who shouted loudest, "We will fight!" were the two young
knights. They had, as soon as it was known that Van Artevelde and his
party had entered the town, gone with Van Voorden to the house of a friend
of his in the great square. They heard with indignation the refusal of the
Earl of Flanders to accept the noble sacrifice offered by the twelve
burgesses, who had followed the example of the Governor of Calais and its
leading citizens in offering their lives as a sacrifice for the rest. They
had met, however, with a less generous foe, whose terms would, if
accepted, have placed the life and property of every citizen of Ghent at
his mercy. What that was likely to be had been shown at Ypres. Now the
young knights felt indeed that the cause was a righteous one, and that
they could draw their swords for Ghent with the conviction that by so
doing they were fighting to save its people from massacre.

"By heavens!" Van Voorden exclaimed, "were I but younger I too would go
out with the Ghentois to battle. I care but little myself as to the rights
of the quarrel, though methinks that Ghent is right in resisting the
oppressive taxes which, contrary to their franchise, the earl has laid on
the city. But that is nothing. One has but to look upon the faces of the
crowd to feel one's blood boil at the strait to which their lord, instead
of fighting them boldly, has, like a coward, reduced them by famine. But
now when I hear that he has refused the prayer for mercy, refused to stay
his vengeance, or to content himself with the heads of the noblest of the
citizens offered to him, but instead would deluge the streets with blood,
I would march with them as to a crusade. I will presently see Van
Artevelde if but for a moment, tell him that you will ride with him, and
ask where you shall take your station."

Late that evening Van Voorden returned. "I have been present at the
council," he said. "The gates will not be open to-morrow, but on Thursday
five thousand men will set out early."

"But five thousand is a small number," Edgar said, "to march against
Bruges, a city as large as this, and having there the earl, and no doubt a
strong body of his own troops."

"That is true; but most of the men are so weakened that it is thought that
it will be best to take but a small number of the strongest and most
capable. They will carry with them the three hundred hand guns. What
little provision there is must be divided; half will go with those who
march, the other half will be kept for those here to sustain life until
news comes how matters have fared in the field."

"But with only five thousand men, without machines for the siege, they can
never hope to storm the walls of Bruges. It would be a feat that as many
veteran soldiers might well hesitate to undertake."

"They have no thought of doing so. It has been agreed that this would be
impossible, but the force will camp near the city, and seeing the
smallness of their number, the people of Bruges will surely sally out and
attack them. Then they will do their best for victory, and if they beat
the enemy our men will follow on their rear hotly and enter the city."

"'Tis a bold plan," Edgar said; "but at least there seems some hope of
success, which no other plan, methinks, could give. At any rate we two
will do our best, and being well fed and well armed may hope to be able to
cut our way out of the _mle_ if all should be lost. We fight for honour
and from good-will. But this is not a case in which we would die rather
than turn bridle, as it would be were we fighting under the banner of
England and the command of the king."

"Quite so, Edgar; I agree with you entirely," the merchant said. "You have
not come to this country to die in the defence of Ghent. You came hither
to do, if occasion offers, some knightly deeds, and feeling pity for the
starving people here you offer them knightly aid, and will fight for them
as long as there is a chance that fighting may avail them, but beyond that
it would be folly indeed to go; and when you see the day hopelessly lost,
you and your men-at-arms may well try to make your way out of the crowd of
combatants, and to ride whither you will. I say not to return here, for
that would indeed be an act of folly, since Ghent will have to surrender
at once, and without conditions, as soon as the news comes that the battle
is lost. Therefore your best plan would be to ride for Sluys, and there
take ship again. As for me, I shall wait until news comes and then ride
for Liege, and remain there with friends quietly until we see what the
upshot of the affair is likely to be."

During the day preparations were made for the expedition. Five thousand of
those best able to carry arms were chosen, but the store of provisions was
so small that there were but five cartloads of biscuit and two tuns of
wine for those who went, and a like quantity for the sustenance of those
who stayed. The young knights were to ride in the train of Van Artevelde
himself. In the morning the merchant had asked them what colours they
would wear, for, so far, they had not provided themselves with scarves.

"You should have scarves, and knightly plumes also," he said, "and, if you
carry lances, pennons; but as you say that you shall fight with sword,
that matter can stand over. Tell me what colours you choose, and I will
see that you have them."

Albert answered that he should carry his father's colours, namely, a red
sash, and red and blue plumes. Edgar replied that he had never thought
about it, but that he would choose white and red plumes, and a scarf of
the same colour. These the merchant purchased in the afternoon, and his
wife and daughter fastened the plumes in their helmets. At the appointed
hour in the morning they clad themselves in full armour, and when they
went down they found the merchant's wife and daughter were already afoot,
and these fastened the scarves over their shoulders. On going down to the
courtyard they found, to their surprise, that their two horses both
carried armour on the chest, body, and head.

"It is right that you should go to battle in knightly fashion," the
merchant said, "and I have provided you with what is necessary. Indeed,
that is no more than is due. I brought you out here, and involved you in
this business, and 'tis but right that I should see that you are protected
as far as may be from harm."

The reins were supplemented by steel chains, so that the riders should not
be left powerless were the leather cut by a sweeping blow. When they
mounted, the merchant himself went with them to the spot where Van
Artevelde's following were to assemble. The two men-at-arms, in high
spirits at the thought of a fight, rode behind them, together with the two
Van Voorden had engaged at Sluys, both of whom were able to speak a
certain amount of English.

"If you are unhorsed, comrade," one of them said to Hal Carter, "and in an
extremity, remember that the cry for mercy is '_Misericorde_.'"

"By my faith," Hal replied, "'tis little likely that they will get that
cry from me; as long as I can fight I will fight, when I can fight no
longer they can slay me. Still, it is as well that I should know the word,
as I should not like to kill any poor wretch who asks for quarter."

They found Van Artevelde already at the place of assembly. He greeted the
young knights most cordially.

"Your presence here," he said, "will be invaluable to me. The word will
soon go round to our host that you are English knights, and it will be
held as a token that England is with us."

They waited half an hour, and then Van Voorden bade them adieu, as the
cavalcade moved forward. Already the greater part of the armed men had
moved out from the city, each band having assembled in its own quarter,
and moved through the gates as soon as its number was complete. The
instructions had been that each company, as it issued from the gates, was
to follow the road to Bruges, and as soon as the sun rose it was to halt,
when they were all to form up and move in order. Van Artevelde introduced
the young knights to many of those who rode with him, as having lately
arrived from England, and as being willing to take part in a battle for so
good a cause.

The road was broad and wide, but the cavalcade rode in single file, so as
to pass without difficulty the masses of marching men. Just as the sun
rose they reached the head of the column. A halt was called; the country
was flat, and the companies were now formed on a front half a mile wide,
so that they could march at once faster and in an orderly body, as it was
possible that some spy might have sent the news of their coming to Bruges,
and they might be attacked on their way. There were no horses, save those
of Van Artevelde and his immediate followers, the seven carts being
dragged by men. As the march proceeded, Edgar and Albert requested Van
Artevelde to give them leave to ride with their four men across the
country, and to take with them a score of the most active foot-men.

"It will be hard," they said, "if we cannot come across a few cattle,
sheep, or horses, or some sacks of flour, which would mightily help us. If
we keep ahead of the main body we may, too, come by surprise on some of
the farm-houses, and shall be able to send back news to you should there
be any armed force approaching."

"By all means do so, and thanks for the offer."

Artevelde gave orders at once that twenty men of the company next to him
should proceed as rapidly as they could ahead with the English knights,
and should hold themselves under their command.

"We will go on, good fellows," Edgar said to them; "if we meet with a
force too strong for us we shall ride back, but if we can capture aught in
the way of food we will wait until you come up and leave it in your charge
to hold until the others arrive."

Riding on fast the friends were soon two miles ahead of the main body. The
villages on the road were found to be completely deserted, the people
having removed weeks before; for lying, as they did, between the rival
cities, they were likely to suffer at the hands of both. The party soon
turned off and made across the country. Here and there a few animals could
be seen over the flat expanse. Presently they came upon a mill; the water
of the canal that turned its wheel was running to waste, and the place was
evidently deserted.

"Hew down the door, Hal," Edgar said to his follower.

"That will I right willingly, my lord, for, in truth, I begin to feel
well-nigh as hungry as those of Ghent. We have had good lodgings, and the
beasts have fared well on hay, but had it not been for the food we brought
from the last halting-place, verily I believe that we should not have had
a bite from the time we entered the place five days ago to now."

"We have been in almost as bad a plight, Hal. It was well indeed that we
filled up our panniers, in the knowledge that there was little to be
obtained in Ghent; though in truth we knew not that the pressure of want
was so great."

A few strokes with the heavy axe Hal carried at his saddlebow stove in the
door, and they entered.

The interior of the mill was in great confusion, and by the manner in
which things were thrown about, it was evident that it had been deserted
in great haste, and probably some months before, when the fighting was
going on hotly. "Look round, lads!" Edgar exclaimed. "They may well have
left something behind when they fled so suddenly."

A shout was raised when the men-at-arms entered the next chamber. In one
corner stood ten sacks of flour, and the bin, into which the flour ran
from the stones, was half full, and contained enough to fill five or six
others. One of the Flemish men-at-arms was at once ordered to ride back at
full speed to the road to intercept the twenty foot-men. These were to be
directed to come at once to take charge of the mill, and the messenger was
then to ride on till he met Van Artevelde, and to beg him to send forward
as many bakers as there might be among his following, and to inform him
that there was flour enough to furnish a loaf for every man in the force.
As soon as the foot-men arrived, Edgar and Albert set them to work. The
three men had already collected a quantity of wood and lighted the fire in
a great oven that they had found, and from which it was evident that the
miller was also a baker, and supplied the villagers round them. The two
knights, with their followers, again started on horseback, and after four
hours' riding, returned with twelve cattle, four horses, and a score of
sheep they had found grazing masterless over the country. By this time
fifty bakers were at work, and five hundred men were sitting down round
the mill waiting to carry the loaves, when baked, to the army. The animals
were given over to the charge of ten of these men, who were ordered to
drive them after the army until this halted. The young knights and their
men-at-arms then rode away.

CHAPTER XIV

CIVIL WAR

Edgar and Albert came up with the force after an hour-and-a-half's riding,
and found it halted some four miles from Bruges. The news that the English
knights had discovered a store of flour had passed quickly through the
ranks, and they were loudly cheered as they rode in.

"Truly you have rendered us a vast service," Van Artevelde said, as they
joined him, "for it will not be needful to break in this evening upon our
scanty store, and this is of vital importance, since we must perforce wait
until the earl and the men of Bruges come out to attack us. Your men said
that it was some fifteen sacks of flour that you had found?"

"About that, sir. There were ten full, and under the millstones was a
great bin holding, I should say, half as much more. Moreover, we have
ridden far over the country, and have gathered up twelve head of cattle,
four horses, and a score of sheep. These are following us, and will give
meat enough for a good meal to-day all round, and maybe something to
spare, and to-morrow I trust that we may bring in some more."

A murmur of satisfaction broke from the four or five burghers with Van
Artevelde.

"This is a good beginning, indeed, of our adventure," the latter said,
"and greatly are we beholden to these knights. They have dispelled the
apprehension I had that if the people of Bruges deferred their attack for
a couple of days they might find us so weakened with hunger as to be
unable to show any front against them."

Two hours later the animals arrived, and were handed over to the company
of the butchers' guild, who proceeded at once to cut them up. They were
then distributed among the various companies, with orders that but half
was to be eaten that night and the rest kept for the morrow. In the
meantime men had been sent on to some of the deserted villages, and had
returned with doors, shutters, broken furniture, and beams, and fires were
speedily lighted. Before the meat was ready half of those who had remained
at the mill arrived laden with bread, and said that the rest would be up
in two hours. For the first time for weeks the Ghentois enjoyed a hearty
meal, and as Van Artevelde, with the young knights and burghers with him,
went round on foot among the men, they were greeted with loud cheers and
shouts of satisfaction.

The next day the force remained where it had halted. The two knights and
the men-at-arms scoured the country again for some miles round, and drove
in before them twenty-two head of cattle, and these sufficed, with what
had remained over, to furnish food for the day and to leave enough for the
troops to break their fast in the morning.

So deserted was the country that it was not until the next morning early
that the news reached the earl that the men of Ghent had come out against
him. Rejoicing that they should thus have placed themselves in his power,
he sent out three knights to reconnoitre their position and bring an
account of their numbers. After breakfast Philip Van Artevelde had moved
his followers a short distance away from their halting-ground and taken up
a position near to a small hill, where he addressed them.

Some friars and clergy who were with the force celebrated mass at various
points, and then confessed the troops and exhorted them to keep up their
courage, telling them that small forces had, with the help of God,
frequently defeated large ones, and as all had been done that was possible
to obtain peace but without avail, He would surely help them against these
enemies who sought to destroy them utterly. Then they prepared for battle.
Each man carried with him a long and sharp stake, as was their custom, in
the same fashion as did the English archers, and they gathered in a square
and set a hedge of these stakes round them. The enemy's knights had ridden
near them without being interfered with, for the Ghentois wished nothing
better than that the smallness of their numbers should be clearly seen.

After they had ridden off, Van Artevelde, confident that their report
would suffice to bring out the earl with his people, now ordered that the
wine and bread brought out with them, which had hitherto been untouched,
should be served out. The men then sat down and quietly awaited the
attack. As Van Artevelde had hoped, the message taken back by the knights
as to his strength and position was sufficient to induce the earl to give
battle at once, as he feared that they might change their mind and
retreat. The alarm-bells called all the citizens to arms. They fell in
with their companies, and marched out forty thousand strong, including the
knights and men-at-arms of the earl. The citizens of Bruges, delighted at
the thought that the opportunity for levelling their haughty rival to the
dust had now arrived, marched on, until they reached the edge of a pond in
front of the position of the Ghentois.

Van Artevelde had placed the whole of the men with guns in the front rank,
with the strictest orders that no shot was to be fired until the order was
given. Waiting until the enemy had gathered in great masses, Van Artevelde
gave the word, and the three hundred guns, many of these being wall-
pieces, were fired at once, doing great destruction. The sun was behind
the Ghentois, and its direct rays, and those reflected from the pond,
rendered it difficult for the men of Bruges to see what their foes were
doing, and observing the great confusion from the effect of the volley,
the men of Ghent, with a mighty cheer, pulled up their stakes, and rushing
round the ends of the pond, fell upon their enemies with fury.

The men of Bruges, who had anticipated no resistance, and had marched out
in the full belief that the Ghentois would lay down their arms and crave
for mercy as soon as they appeared, were seized with a panic. The two
young knights, with their four men-at-arms, had placed themselves at the
head of the foot-men, and, dashing among the citizens, hewed their way
through them, followed closely by the shouting Ghentois. Numbers of the
men of Bruges were slain with sword, axe, and pike. The others threw away
their arms and fled, hotly pursued by their foes. Louis of Flanders, who,
by a charge with his knights and men-at-arms, might well have remedied the
matter, now showed that he was as cowardly as he was cruel, drew off with
them, and, without striking a single blow, he himself and some forty men
galloped to Bruges. The rest of his knights and followers scattered in all
directions.

Great numbers of the flying citizens were killed in the pursuit. It was
now dark; the earl on arriving had ordered the gate by which he entered to
be closed, and had set twenty men there. Thus the retreat of the citizens
into the town was prevented, and many were slaughtered. In consequence,
the rest fled to other gates, where they were admitted, but with them
rushed in their pursuers. Philip Van Artevelde begged the two English
knights to each take a strong party, and to proceed round the walls in
different directions, seizing all the gates, and setting a strong guard on
them, that none should enter or leave; and then, with the main body of his
following, he marched without opposition to the market-place.

The earl, when he found that the town was lost and the gates closed,
disguised himself, and found shelter for the night in a loft in the house
of a poor woman. Van Artevelde had issued the strictest orders that he was
on no account to be injured, but was, when found, to be brought at once to
him, so that he might be taken to Ghent, and there obliged to make a peace
that would assure to the city all its privileges, and give rest and
tranquillity to the country. In spite, however, of the most rigid search,
the earl was not found; but the forty knights and men-at-arms who had
entered with him were all captured and killed. No harm whatever was done
to any of the inhabitants of Bruges, or to any foreign merchants or others
residing there.

[Illustration: THE TWO YOUNG KNIGHTS CHARGE DOWN UPON THE PANIC-STRICKEN
CROWD.]

On the following night the Earl of Flanders managed to effect his escape
in disguise. That day being Sunday the men of Ghent repaired to the
cathedral, where they had solemn mass celebrated, and a thanksgiving for
their victory and for their relief from their sore strait. The young
knights were not present, for as soon as the city was captured, Van
Artevelde said to them:

"Brave knights, to you it is chiefly due that we are masters here to-day,
instead of being men exhausted, without hope, and at the mercy of our
enemies. It was you who found and brought us food, and so enabled us to
hold out for two days, and to meet the enemy strong and in good heart.
Then, too, I marked how you clove a way for our men to follow you through
the ranks of the foe, spreading death and dismay among them. Sirs, to you,
then, I give the honour of bearing the news to Ghent. I have ordered that
fresh horses shall be brought you from the prince's stable. Councillor
Moens will ride with you to act as spokesman; but before starting, take, I
pray you, a goblet of wine and some bread. It were well that you took your
men-at-arms with you, for you might be beset on the road by some of the
people who did not succeed in entering the gates, or by some of the
cowardly knights who stood by and saw the citizens being defeated without
laying lance in rest to aid them. Fresh horses shall be prepared for your
men also, and they shall sup before they start. There is no lack of food
here."

Much gratified at the mission intrusted to them, the young knights at once
ordered their men-at-arms to prepare for the ride.

"When you have supped," Albert said, "see that you stuff your saddle-bags
and ours with food for Van Voorden's household first, and then for those
who most need it."

The meals were soon eaten. As they were about to mount Van Artevelde said
to them:

"There will be no lack of provisions to-morrow, for in two hours a great
train of waggons, loaded with provisions, will start under a strong guard,
and to-morrow at daybreak herds of cattle will be brought in and driven
there; you may be sure also that the rivers will be open as soon as the
news is known, for none will now venture to interfere with those bringing
food into Ghent."

The councillor was ready, and in a few minutes they had passed out of the
city, and were galloping along the road to Ghent, just as the bell of the
cathedral tolled the hour often. Two hours later, without having once
checked the speed of their horses, they heard the bells ringing midnight
in Ghent. In ten minutes they approached the gate, and were challenged
from the walls.

"I am the Councillor Moens," the knights' companion shouted. "I come from
Philip Van Artevelde with good news. We have defeated the enemy and
captured Bruges."

There was a shout of delight from the walls, and in a minute the
drawbridge was lowered and the great gate opened. The councillor rode
straight to the town-hall. The doors were open, and numbers of the
citizens were still gathered there. Moens did not wait to speak to them,
but, running into the belfry, ordered the men there to ring their most
joyous peal. The poor fellows had been lying about, trying to deaden their
hunger by sleep, but at the order they leapt to their feet, seized the
ropes, and Ghent was electrified by hearing the triumphal peal bursting
out in the stillness of the night.

In the meantime those in the hall had crowded round the young knights and
their followers, but these, beyond saying that the news was good, waited
until Moens' return. It was but a minute, and he at once shouted:

"The enemy have been beaten! We have taken Bruges! By the morning food
will be here!"

Now from every belfry in the city the notes from the town-hall had been
taken up, the clanging of the bells roused every sleeper, and the whole
town poured into the street shouting wildly, for though they knew not yet
what had happened, it was clear that some great news had arrived. All the
councillors and the principal citizens had made for the town-hall, which
was speedily thronged. Moens took his place with the two young knights
upon the raised platform at the end, and lifted his hand for silence. The
excited multitude were instantly still, and those near the doors closed
them, to keep out the sound of the bells. Then Moens, speaking at the top
of his voice that all might hear him, said: "I am now but the mouthpiece
of these English knights, to whom Van Artevelde has given the honour of
bearing the news to you, but since they are ignorant of our language I
have come with them as interpreter. First, then, we have met the army of
Bruges and the earl, forty thousand strong; we have defeated them with
great slaughter, and with but small loss to ourselves."

A mighty shout rose from the crowd, and it was some minutes before the
speaker could continue.

"Following on the heels of our flying foes, we entered the city, and
Bruges is ours."

Another shout, as enthusiastic as the first, again interrupted him.

"A great train of waggons filled with wine and provisions was to start at
midnight, and will be here to-morrow morning at daybreak. Herds will be
driven in, and dispatched at once. By to-morrow night, therefore, the
famine will be at an end, and every man, woman, and child in Ghent will be
able to eat their fill."

Those at the door shouted the glad news to the multitude in the square,
and a roar like that of the sea answered, and echoed the shouts in the
hall.

"Tell us more, tell us more!" the men cried, when the uproar ceased. "We
have seven or eight hours to wait for food; tell us all about it."

"I will tell you first, citizens, why I am speaking to you in the name of
these English knights, and why they have been chosen to have the honour of
bringing these good tidings hither."

He then told them how, the force being without horsemen, and bound to keep
straight along by the road, the two knights had volunteered to ride out to
see if any hostile force was approaching, and also to endeavour to find
provisions.

"The latter seemed hopeless," the councillor went on. "Every village had
long since been deserted, and no living soul met the eye on the plain.
They had been gone but three hours when one of their men-at-arms rode in,
asking that all the bakers should be sent forward at once, for that, in a
mill less than two miles from the road, they had discovered fifteen sacks
of flour left behind. The bakers started at once with five hundred men to
bring on the bread as fast as it was baked to the spot where we were to
halt.

"This was not all, for, later on, the knights with some of the men joined
us at the camp with sufficient cattle, sheep, and horses, that the knights
had found straying, to give every man a meal that night, and one the
following morning. The next day they drove in a few more, and so it was
not until to-day that we touched the store we took with us. It was the
food that saved us. Had we been forced to eat our scanty supply that first
night, we should have been fasting for well-nigh forty-eight hours, and
when the earl, with his knights and men-at-arms and the townsmen of
Bruges, in all forty thousand men, marched out to meet us, what chance
would five thousand famished men have had against them? As it was, the
food we got did wonders for us; and every man seemed to have regained his
full strength and courage. When they came nigh to us we poured in one
volley with all our guns, which put them into confusion. The sun was in
their eyes, and almost before they knew that we had moved, we were upon
them.

"These two knights and their four men-at-arms flung themselves into the
crowd and opened the way for our footmen, and in five minutes the fight
was over. It may be that many of the craftsmen of Bruges were there
unwillingly, and that these were among the first to throw down their arms
and fly. However it was, in five minutes the whole force was in full
flight. The earl's knights and their men-at-arms struck not a single blow,
but seeming panic-struck, scattered and fled in all directions, the earl
and forty men alone gaining Bruges. There they closed the gate against the
fugitives, but these fled to other gates, and so hotly did we pursue them
that we entered mixed up with them.

"Van Artevelde committed to the two English knights the task of seizing
all the gates, and of setting a guard to prevent any man from leaving,
while the rest of us under him pushed forward to the market-place. There
was no resistance. Thousands of the men had fallen in the battle and
flight. Thousands had failed to enter the gates. All who did so were
utterly panic-stricken and terrified. Thus the five thousand men you sent
out have defeated forty thousand, and have captured Bruges, and I verily
believe that not more than a score have fallen. Methinks, my friends, you
will all agree with me that your governor has done well to give these
knights the honour of carrying the good news to Ghent."

A mighty shout answered the question. The crowd rushed upon the two young
knights, each anxious to speak to them, and praise them. With difficulty
the councillor, aided by some of his colleagues, surrounded them, and made
a way to a small door at the end of the platform. Once beyond the
building, they hurried along by-streets to Van Voorden's house, to where,
on entering the hall, they had charged the men-at-arms at once to take the
horses, to hand over as much of the provisions as were needed for the
immediate wants of the household, and then to carry the rest to the nuns
of a convent hard by--for these were, they knew, reduced to the direst
straits before the expedition started.

"Welcome back, welcome back!" the Fleming exclaimed, as they entered, and
the words were repeated by wife and daughter. "Your men-at-arms told my
wife what had happened, and I myself heard it from the lower end of the
town-hall, where I arrived just as Moens began to speak. I saw you escape
from the platform, and hurried off, but have only this instant arrived.
The crush was so great in the square that it was difficult to make my way
through it, but forgive us if we say nothing further until we have eaten
that food upon the table, for indeed we have had but one regular meal
since you left the town. Tell me first, though, for all were too excited
to ask Moens the question--has the earl been captured?"

"He had not, up to the moment when we left. The strictest search is being
made for him. It is known that he must be somewhere in the town, for he
and a party, not knowing that Van Artevelde was in the market-place, well-
nigh fell into his hands, and he certainly could not have got through any
of the gates before we had closed them and had placed a strong guard over
them. Van Artevelde has given strict orders that he is to be taken
uninjured, and he purposes to bring him here, and to make him sign a peace
with us."

"I trust that he will be caught," Van Voorden said; "but as for the peace,
I should have no faith in it, for be sure that as soon as he is once free
again he would repudiate it, and would at once set to work to gather, with
the aid of Burgundy, a force with which he could renew the war, wipe out
the disgrace that has befallen him, and take revenge upon the city that
inflicted it. Now, let us to supper."

"We will but look on," Albert said, with a smile. "We supped at Bruges at
half-past nine, but it will be a pleasure indeed to see you eat it."

"We must not eat much," the merchant said to his wife and daughter. "Let

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