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A March on London by G. A. Henty

Part 5 out of 6

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us take a little now, and to-morrow we can do better. It might injure us
to give rein to our appetite after well-nigh starving for the last two
days."

As soon as the meal was eaten all sallied out into the streets, the young
knights first laying aside their armour, as they did not wish to attract
attention. The bells were still ringing out with joyous clamour; at every
house flags, carpets, and curtains had been hung out; torches were fixed
to every balcony, and great bonfires had been lighted in the middle of the
streets, and in the open spaces and markets. The people were well-nigh
delirious with joy; strangers shook hands and embraced in the streets; men
and women forgot their weakness and hunger, though many were so feeble but
an hour before that they could scarcely drag themselves along. The
cathedral and churches were all lighted up and crowded with worshippers,
thanking God for having preserved them in their hour of greatest need.

"Then, in truth, Sir Edgar," the Fleming said, as they went along, "the
people of Bruges showed themselves to be but a cowardly rabble, and the
fighting was poor indeed."

"It could scarce be called fighting at all," Edgar said. "A few blows from
halbert and bill, and a few thrusts of the pike struck my armour as I
charged among them, but after that, it was but a matter of cutting down
fugitives. The rabble down in Kent fought with far greater courage, for we
had to charge through and through them several times before they broke. I
doubt not that very many were outside Bruges against their wills; they had
not dared disobey the summons to arms. It was a panic, and a strange one.
They had doubtless made up their minds that when we saw their multitude,
we should surrender without a blow being struck. The sudden discharge of
the guns shook them, and at our first charge they bolted away panic-
struck. The strangest part of the affair was that the earl, who had a
strong following of knights and men-at-arms, made no effort to retrieve
the battle. Had they but charged down upon our flank when we had become
disordered in the pursuit, they could have overthrown us without
difficulty.

"How it came about that they did not do so is more than I can say. It is
clear that the earl showed himself to be a great coward, and his disgrace
this day is far greater than that of the burghers of Bruges, since he and
his party fled without the loss of a single drop of blood, while thousands
of the citizens have lost their lives."

"'Tis good that he so behaved," Van Voorden said. "The story that he so
deserted the men of Bruges, who went to fight in his quarrel, will
speedily be known throughout Flanders, and that, with the news of our
great victory, will bring many cities to our side. I trust that Van
Artevelde will treat Bruges with leniency."

"He has already issued a proclamation that none of the small craftsmen of
Bruges shall be injured, but exception is made in the case of the four
guilds that have always been foremost against Ghent; members of which are
to be killed when found."

"'Tis a pity, but one can scarce blame him. And now, my friends, that we
have seen Ghent on this wonderful night, it will be well that we get home
to bed. My wife and daughter are still weak from fasting, and I myself
feel the strain. As to you, you have done a heavy day's work indeed,
especially having to carry the weight of your armour."

The young knights were indeed glad to throw themselves upon their pallets.
They slept soundly until awakened by a fresh outburst of the bells. They
sat up; daylight was beginning to break.

"'Tis the train of provisions," Edgar said. "We may as well go out and see
the sight, and give such aid as we can to the council, for the famishing
people may well be too eager to await the proper division of the food."

In a few days there was an abundance of everything in Ghent, for Damme and
Sluys opened their gates at once. In the former there were vast cellars of
wine, of which 6,000 tuns were sent by ships and carts to Ghent, while at
Sluys there was a vast quantity of corn and meal in the ships and
storehouses of foreign merchants. All this was bought and paid for at fair
prices and sent to the city. Besides food and wine, Ghent received much
valuable spoil. All the gold and silver vessels of the earl were captured
at Bruges, with much treasure, and a great store of gold and jewels was
taken at his palace at Male, near Bruges.

Philip Van Artevelde at once sent messages to all the towns of Flanders
summoning them to send the keys of their gates to Ghent, and to
acknowledge her supremacy. The news of the victory had caused great
exultation in most of these cities, and with the exception of Oudenarde,
all sent deputations at once to Ghent to congratulate her, and to promise
to support her in all things. In the meantime the gates and a portion of
the wall of Bruges had been beaten down, and five hundred of the burgesses
were taken to Ghent as hostages. The young knights remained quietly there
until Philip Van Artevelde returned. He was received with frantic
enthusiasm. He had assumed the title of Regent of Flanders, and now
assumed a state and pomp far greater than that which the earl himself had
held. He had an immense income, for not only were his private estates
large, but a sort of tribute was paid by all the towns of Flanders, and
Ghent for a time presented a scene of gaiety and splendour equal to that
of any capital in Europe.

Siege was presently laid to Oudenarde, where the garrison had been
strongly reinforced by a large party of men-at-arms and cross-bowmen, sent
by the earl. Every city in Flanders sent a contingent of fighting men to
join those of Ghent, and no less than a hundred thousand men were
assembled outside Oudenarde. Thither went the two young friends as soon as
the siege began. They had come out to see fighting and not feasting, and
they had lost the society of Van Voorden, he having been requested by Van
Artevelde to return to England, to conclude a treaty between her and
Ghent. Flanders was indeed master of itself, for the earl was a fugitive
at the Court of his son-in-law, the Duke of Burgundy, who was endeavouring
to induce France to join him against Flanders.

For a time he failed, for the king was much better disposed to the
Flemings than he was to the earl, but when, some time later, Charles died,
and Burgundy became all-powerful with the young king, his successor,
France also prepared to take the field against Flanders. Thus a close
alliance between the latter and England became of great importance to
both, and had it not been for the extreme unpopularity of the Duke of
Lancaster and his brother Gloucester, the course of events might have been
changed. For war with France was always popular in England, and the
necessary supplies would at once have been voted by parliament had it not
been thought that when an army was raised Lancaster would, instead of
warring with France, use it for furthering his own claims in Spain. Many
English knights, however, came over on their own account to aid the
Flemings, and no less than two hundred archers at Calais quietly left the
town, with the acquiescence, if not with the encouragement, of the
authorities, to take service with Van Artevelde.

One day, the two friends returned to camp after being away for some time
watching what was going on. On entering their tent, Albert, who was the
first to enter, gave a shout of surprise and pleasure. Edgar pushed in to
see what could have thus excited his friend, and so moved him from his
usual quiet manner. He, too, was equally surprised, and almost equally
pleased, when he saw Albert standing with his hand clasped in that of his
father.

"I thought that I should surprise you," Sir Ralph said, "by coming over
both to see this great gathering, and also to have a look at you. We heard
of your doings from Van Voorden. He was good enough, after his first
interview with the king and council, to ride down to tell us how it fared
with you, and it gave us no small pleasure, as you may well suppose, to
hear that you had already gained so much credit, and that you both were
well in health, I went back to town with him, and stayed three weeks
there. There was much talk in the council. All were well content that
there should be an alliance with the Flemings, but it seems to me there is
not much chance of an English army taking the field to help them at
present.

"The king is altogether taken up with his marriage, and is thinking much
more of ftes and pageants than of war. Then 'tis doubtful whether the
commons would grant the large sum required. The present is a bad time; the
rebellion has cost much money, and what with the destruction of property,
with the fields standing untilled, and the expenses of the Court, which
are very heavy, in truth the people have reasonable cause for grumbling
thereat. Then, again, if an army were sent to Flanders, Lancaster would
most surely have the command, and you know how much he is hated, and, I
may say, feared. Naught will persuade men that he has not designs upon the
crown. For this I can see no warrant, but assuredly he loves power, and he
and Gloucester overshadow the king.

"Then, again, his wishes are, certainly, to lead a great army into Spain,
and he would oppose money being spent on operations in Flanders. Thus, I
fear, our alliance is like to be but of little use to Ghent or Flanders.
Were but the Black Prince or his father upon the throne things would be
different indeed, and we should have a stout army here before many weeks
are over. We of the old time feel it hard indeed to see England playing so
poor a part. There is another reason, moreover, why our barons do not
press matters on. In the first place, they are jealous of the influence
that the king's favourites have with him, and that those who, by rank and
age, should be his councillors meet with but a poor reception when they
come to Court.

"But methinks that even these things hinder much less than the conduct of
the people of Ghent. Since Bruges was captured there have been, as you
know, parties going through the land as far as the frontiers of France,
plundering and destroying all the houses and castles of the knights and
nobles, under the complaint that they were favourable to the earl, but in
truth chiefly because these knaves hate those of gentle blood and are
greedy of plunder. Our nobles deem it--and methinks that they have some
reason for doing so--to be a business something like that which we have
had in England, save that with us it was the country people, while here it
is those of the towns who would fain pull down and destroy all those above
them in station. Certainly, their acts are not like to win the friendship
and assistance of our English nobles and knights."

"Indeed, I see that, Sir Ralph," Edgar said. "At first we were greatly in
favour of Ghent, seeing that they were in a desperate strait and that all
reasonable terms were refused them, but of late we have not been so warm
in their cause. Van Artevelde himself is assuredly honest and desirous of
doing what is right, but methinks he does wrong in keeping up the state of
a king and bearing himself towards all those of the other cities of
Flanders as if Ghent were their conqueror, and laying heavy taxes upon
them, while he himself is swayed by the councils of the most violent of
the demagogues of Ghent."

"But now tell me--how goes on the siege?"

"It goes not on at all. Oudenarde is a strong place; it is defended by
many broad ditches, and has a garrison of knights and men-at-arms of the
earl, who, as we know, take upon themselves all the defence, knowing that
there are men in the town who would fain surrender, and fearing that these
would throw open the gates to us, or give us such aid as they could, were
there a chance. Still more, the siege goes on but slowly, or rather we may
say goes on not at all, for want of a leader. Van Artevelde himself knows
nothing whatever of the business of war, nor do any of those about him.

"The men of the towns will all fight bravely in a pitched field, as they
have often shown, but as to laying a siege, they know naught of it, and it
seems to us that the matter might go on for a year and yet be no nearer
its end. They are far more occupied in making ordinances and collecting
contributions, and in doing all they can for the honour and glory of
Ghent, than in thinking of taking Oudenarde, which, indeed, when captured,
would be of no great consequence to them."

Sir Ralph nodded. "Methinks you are right, Edgar. I arrived here just as
you went out this morning, and hearing from your men that you were not
like to return till midday, I have ridden round to see what was being
done, and to my surprise saw that, in the three months since this great
host sat down before Oudenarde, naught of any use whatever has been
accomplished. With such an army, if Flanders wishes to maintain her
freedom, she should have summoned Burgundy to abstain from giving aid to
the earl, and on his refusal should have marched with her whole force
against him, captured some of his great towns, and met his host in a fair
field. Methinks you two are doing no good to yourselves here, and that it
will be just as well for you both to go back to England for a time, until
you see how matters shape themselves."

CHAPTER XV

A CRUSHING DEFEAT

The two young knights were both pleased to hear Sir Ralph's counsel, for
they themselves had several times talked the matter over together, and
agreed that there was little prospect of aught being done for many months.
They felt that they were but wasting their time remaining before
Oudenarde, where they were frequently offended by the overbearing manner
of the Ghentois, who, on the strength of their defeat of the people of
Bruges, considered themselves to be invincible. They had, during the four
months that they had been in Flanders, learned enough of the language to
make themselves easily understood. They had paid visits to Brussels and
other places of importance, and were likely to learn nothing from the
events of the siege, which, they could already see, was not going to be
attended with success.

It was their first absence from home, and in the lack of all adventure and
excitement, they would be glad to be back again. Therefore, after
remaining three days, which only confirmed Sir Ralph in his view, they
took leave of Van Artevelde, saying that they hoped to rejoin him as soon
as there was any prospect of active service, and, riding to Sluys, took
ship with their followers. At Sir Ralph's suggestion they retained in
their train the two Flemings, whom they had found stout and useful
fellows.

"Are you glad to go home again, Hal?" Sir Edgar said.

"Well, master, I should not be glad were there aught doing here, though
now that they have granted a pardon to all concerned in Wat the Tyler's
business, I can show my face without fear. But it has been a dull time.
Except just for a score of blows in that business with the Bruges people
there has been naught to do since we came over, except to groom the horses
and polish the armour. One might as well have been driving a cart at St.
Alwyth as moping about this camp."

"Perhaps there will be more stirring times when we come back again, Hal.
Burgundy is arming, and it is like enough that France may join him, and in
that case there will be fighting enough even to satisfy you; but we may
have a few months at home before that is likely to take place."

The knights were landed at Gravesend, and their road lay together as far
as St. Alwyth. It was late in the afternoon, and Sir Ralph and Albert rode
straight home, telling Edgar that they should expect to see him in the
morning. Edgar found his father going on just as usual. He received his
son with pleasure, but without surprise, as Sir Ralph had called before he
left, and had said that if he found that naught was doing at Oudenarde, he
would recommend his own son and Edgar to return home for a while.

"Well, sir knight," Mr. Ormskirk said, smiling, "I have not yet
congratulated you on your honour, but, believe me, I was right glad when I
heard the news. You have had but little fighting, I hear."

"None at all, father, for the affair near Bruges could scarcely be called
fighting. It was as naught to the fight we had down here before we went
away; save for that, I have not drawn sword. I have returned home somewhat
richer, for Van Artevelde gave Albert and myself rich presents as our
share of the spoil taken there."

"You have grown nigh two inches," Mr. Ormskirk said, as Edgar laid aside
his armour.

"I have done little else but eat and sleep, ride for an hour or two every
day, and practise arms other two hours with Albert, for indeed there were
few among the Flemings who knew aught of the matter save to strike a
downright blow. They are sturdy fellows and strong, and can doubtless
fight well side by side in a pitched battle, but they can scarce be called
men-at-arms, seeing that they but takedown their weapons when these are
required, and hang them up again until there is fresh occasion for their
use. So that I have doubtless grown a bit, having nothing else to do."

"And for how long are you home, Edgar?"

"That I know not, father. Sir Ralph will go up with us to London next
week. He says that it will be well we should present ourselves at Court,
but after that we shall do nothing until affairs change in Flanders, or
till a force goes from here to their aid."

Edgar rode over to the De Courcys' place the next morning, and received a
warm welcome.

Four days later they rode to town with Sir Ralph. The king received them
with much favour.

"Philip Van Artevelde sent me by Master Van Voorden a most favourable
report of you," he said, "and told me that he was mightily beholden to you
for his victory over the men of Bruges, for that had it not been for your
collecting supplies for his men, they would have been too famished to have
given battle, and that you led the charge into the midst of their ranks. I
was pleased to find that my knights had borne themselves so well. And how
goes on the siege of Oudenarde?"

"It can scarcely be called a siege, your Majesty," Edgar said; "there are
a few skirmishes, but beyond that naught is done. If your Majesty would
but send them out a good knight with skill in such matters they might take
Oudenarde in ten days. As it is, 'tis like to extend to the length of the
siege of Troy, unless the Burgundians come to its relief."

"I could send them a good knight, for I have plenty of them, but would
they obey him?"

"Methinks not, sire," Edgar replied, frankly. "Just at present they are so
content with themselves that they would assuredly accept no foreign
leader, and have indeed but small respect for their own."

The king laughed. "What thought you of them, Sir Ralph?"

"'Tis what might be looked for, your Majesty. It is an army of bourgeois
and craftsmen, stout fellows who could doubtless defend their walls
against an attack, or might fight stoutly shoulder to shoulder, but they
have an over-weening conceit in themselves, and deem that all that is
necessary in war is to carry a pike or a pole-axe and use it stoutly. A
party of children would do as well, or better, were they set to besiege a
town. Leadership there is none. Parties go out to skirmish with the
garrison; a few lives are lost, and then they return, well content with
themselves. 'Tis a mockery of war!"

The king asked them many questions about the state of things in Flanders,
to which they replied frankly that Flanders was united at present, and
that they thought that--with five thousand English archers and as many
men-at-arms under a commander of such station as would give him authority
not only over his own troops but over the Flemings--they might be able to
resist the attacks of Burgundy, or even of Burgundy allied with France;
but that by themselves, without military leaders, they feared that matters
would go ill with the Flemings.

The king bade the two friends come to the Court that evening; and when
they did so he presented them to the young queen, speaking of them in very
high terms.

"They were," he said, "the only men who did their duty on that day when
the rioters invaded the Tower during our absence, killing with their own
hands seven men who invaded the apartment of Lady De Courcy, and carrying
her and her daughter safely through the crowd. Had all done their duty but
a tenth part as well, the disgrace this rabble brought upon us would never
have occurred, and the lives of my trusty councillors would have been
saved."

"The king has already told me of your exploit here, and of other deeds as
notable done by you; and Mynheer Van Voorden also spoke to me of the
service you rendered him," the queen said, graciously, "but I had scarcely
looked to see the heroes of these stories such young knights."

She spoke to them for some time, while the king's favourites looked on,
somewhat ill-pleased at such graciousness being shown to the new-comers.
The haughty De Vere, who had just been created Duke of Dublin, and who was
about to start to undertake the governorship of Ireland, spoke in a
sneering tone to a young noble standing next to him. Sir Ralph happened to
overhear him, and touched him on the shoulder.

"My lord duke," he said, "methinks you need not grudge the honour that has
fallen to those two young knights; you yourself have achieved far greater
honour, and that without, so far as I know, ever having drawn your sword.
But it were best that, if you have aught to say against them, you should
say it in their hearing, when, I warrant me, either of them would gladly
give you an opportunity of proving your valour. Your skill, indeed, would
be needed, since I would wager either of them to spit you like a fly
within five minutes; or should you consider them too young for so great a
noble to cross swords with, I myself would gladly take up their quarrel."

The favourite flushed hotly, and for a moment hesitated. "I have no
quarrel with them, Sir Ralph De Courcy," he said, after a short
hesitation. "My words were addressed to a friend here."

"You spoke loud enough for me to hear, my lord duke, and should know that
such words so spoken are an insult."

"They were not meant as such, Sir Ralph."

"Then, sir, I will give you my advice to hold your tongue more under
government. Those young knights have earned royal favour not by soft words
or mincing ways, but by their swords; and it were best in future that any
remarks you may wish to make concerning them, should be either in strict
privacy or openly and in their hearing."

So saying, he turned his back on the disconcerted young courtier, who
shortly afterwards left the royal presence overcome by chagrin and
confusion, for the knight's words had been heard by several standing
round, and more than one malicious smile had been exchanged among his
rivals for Court favour.

De Vere had a fair share of bravery, but the reports of the singular feats
of swordsmanship by the young knights convinced him that he would have but
small chance with either of them in a duel. Even if he came well out of it
there would be but small credit indeed to him in overcoming a young knight
who had not yet reached manhood, while, if worsted, it would be a fatal
blow to his reputation. That evening he had a private interview with the
king, and requested leave to start the next day to take up his new
governorship. Sir Ralph related the incident to the lads as they returned
to the hostelry where they had taken up their lodging.

"It was a heavy blow for his pride," he said. "I think not that he is a
coward. The De Veres come of a good stock, but he saw that such a duel
would do him great harm. The king himself, if he learned its cause, as he
must have done, would have been greatly displeased, and the queen equally
so, and there would have been no credit to him had he wounded you; while
if he had been wounded, it would have been deemed a disgrace that he, the
Duke of Dublin and Governor of Ireland, should have been worsted by so
young a knight; therefore, I blame him not for refusing to accept the
challenge I offered him, and it will make him soberer and more careful of
his speech in future. It was a lesson he needly greatly, for I have often
heard him among his companions using insolent remarks concerning men who
were in every respect his superiors, save that they stood not so high in
the favour of the king."

They remained a week in London, attending the Court regularly and
improving their acquaintance with many whom they had met there in the
troubled times. There was scarce a day that they did not spend some time
at the house of Sir Robert Gaiton, Albert especially being always ready
with some pretext for a visit there. Van Voorden had left London, sailing
thence on the very day before they had arrived at Gravesend.

The summer passed quietly. Oudenarde still held out, and indeed no serious
attack had been made upon it. Van Artevelde had sent a messenger to the
King of France, begging him to mediate between the Flemings and the Duke
of Burgundy, but the king had thrown the messenger into prison without
returning answer, and in the autumn had summoned his levies to aid the
duke in the invasion of Flanders. Seeing that fighting in earnest was
likely to commence shortly, the knights took ship with their followers
early in October, and after a fair voyage landed at Sluys and rode to
Oudenarde. A formal alliance had by this time been made between the two
countries, but no steps had been taken towards gathering an army in
England. The two knights were, however, very cordially received by Van
Artevelde.

"You have arrived just in time to ride with me to-morrow," he said. "I am
going to see that all has been done to prevent the French from crossing
the river. All the bridges have been broken save those at Comines and
Warneton, and Peter De Bois is appointed to hold the one, and Peter De
Winter the other."

The following morning some twenty horsemen started with Van Artevelde and
rode to Ghent, and thence followed the bank of the Lys. Most of the
bridges had been completely destroyed, and those at Comines and Warneton
had both been so broken up that a handful of men at either could keep it
against an army.

"We may feel safe, I think, sir knights," Van Artevelde said to his
friends when they brought their tour of inspection to an end on the second
day after starting.

"Assuredly we are safe against the French crossing by the bridges," Edgar
said, "but should they find boats they may cross where they please."

"I have ordered every boat to be brought over to this side of the river,
Sir Edgar, and a number of men have, by my orders, been engaged in doing
so."

"Doubtless, sir. I have kept a look-out the whole distance and have not
seen one boat on the other side of the stream; but there are numerous
channels and canals by which the country folk bring down their produce;
and however sharp the search may be, some boats may have escaped notice.
Even a sunken one, that might seem wholly useless, could be raised and
roughly repaired, and in a few trips could bring a number of men across
under shadow of night. So far as I have read, it is rarely that an army
has failed to find means of some kind for crossing a river."

But Philip Van Artevelde was not now, as he had been a year before, ready
to take hints from others, and he simply replied, carelessly, "I have no
doubt that my orders have been strictly carried out, sir knight," and rode
forward again.

"I don't think things will go well with us, Albert," Edgar said. "With a
general who knows nothing whatever of warfare, an army without officers,
and tradesmen against men-at-arms, the look-out is not good. Van Artevelde
ought to have had horsemen scattered over on the other side of the river,
who would have brought us exact news as to the point against which the
main body of the French is marching. They ought to have a man posted every
two hundred yards along the river bank for fifteen miles above and below
that point, then I should have four bodies of five thousand men each
posted at equal distances three miles behind the river, so that one of
these could march with all haste to the spot where they learned that the
French were attempting to cross, and could arrive there long before enough
of the enemy had made a passage, to withstand their onslaught.

"I will wager that the Lys will not arrest the passage of the French for
twenty-four hours. Were Peter De Bois a reasonable man, I would ask leave
of Van Artevelde to ride and take up our post with him, but he is an
arrogant and ignorant fellow with whom I should quarrel before I had been
in his camp an hour."

Two days passed quietly at Oudenarde, then the news came that the enemy
had passed the Lys at Comines. Seeing that the bridge could not be
crossed, the French army had halted. Some of the knights went down to the
river, and after a search discovered some boats, in which they passed over
with four hundred men-at-arms before nightfall, unperceived by the
Flemings. They then marched towards Comines, hoping that the Flemings
would leave their strong position near the head of the bridge to give
battle, in which case they doubted not that the constable would find means
so far to repair the bridge that the passage could begin.

Peter De Bois, however, was not to be tempted to leave his position, and
the French had to remain all night on the marshy ground without food for
themselves or their horses. In the morning, however, the Fleming, fearing
that others might cross and reinforce the party, marched out against them.
The knights and men-at-arms met them so stoutly that in a very short time
the Flemings took to flight. The French at once set to work to repair the
bridge, and by nightfall a great portion of the army had crossed. The
weather was very wet and stormy, and the French army had suffered much.

There were besides Edgar and Albert some other English knights in the
camp, and these gathered together as soon as the news came, and talked
over what in their opinion had best be done.

"I think," said Sir James Pinder, a knight who had seen much service on
many stricken fields, "it would be best to remain where we are, and to
throw up fortifications behind which we can fight to better advantage,
while the French cavalry would be able to do but little against us. The
French troops must be worn out with marching, and with the terrible
weather; they will find it difficult to procure food, and might even
abstain altogether from coming against us, while, from what I see of this
rabble, they may fight bravely, but they will never be able to withstand
the shock of the French knights and men-at-arms. 'Tis like the French will
be three or four days before they come hither, and by that time, with
fifty thousand men to work at them, we should have works so strong and
high that we could fearlessly meet them. Moreover, the threescore English
archers who still remain would be able to gall them as they pressed
forward, whereas in a pitched battle they would not be numerous enough to
avail anything."

The other six knights all agreed with Sir James, who then said, "I hear
that Van Artevelde has summoned his leaders to consult them as to the best
course. I will go across and tell them what in our opinion had better be
done."

He returned in half an hour. "'Tis hopeless," he said, shrugging his
shoulders. "These Flemings are as obstinate as they are ignorant; not one
of those present agreed with my proposal. Many, indeed, broke into rude
laughter, and so I left them."

After crossing the Lys the French came to Ypres, and on the same day the
Flemings broke up their camp before Oudenarde and marched, fifty thousand
strong, to Courtray. On the following day they moved forward to ground
which Van Artevelde and his counsellors deemed good for fighting. Behind
them was a hill, a dyke was on one wing, and a grove of wood was on the
other. The French were camped at Rosbecque, some four miles away. That
evening Van Artevelde invited all the principal men and officers to sup
with him, and gave them instructions for the morrow. He said that he was
not sorry that no large force of Englishmen had come to their aid, for had
they done so they would assuredly have had the credit of the victory. He
also gave orders that no prisoners should be taken save the king himself,
whom they would bring to Ghent and instruct in the Flemish language.

A false alarm roused the camp at midnight, and although it proved to be
ill-founded, the Flemings were so uneasy at the thought that they might be
attacked unawares, that great fires were lighted and meat cooked and wine
drunk until an hour before daylight, when they arranged themselves in
order of battle and also occupied a heath beyond the wood. A large dyke
ran across in front of them, and behind them the ground was covered by
small bushes. Philip Van Artevelde was in the centre with 9,000 picked men
of Ghent, whom he always kept near his person, as he had but little faith
in the goodwill of those from other towns.

Beyond these were the contingents of Alost and Grammont, of Courtray and
Bruges, Damme and Sluys. All were armed with maces, steel caps, breast-
pieces, and gauntlets of steel. Each carried a staff tipped with iron;
each company and craft had its own livery, and colours and standards with
the arms of their town. The morning was misty, and no sign could be seen
of the French. After a time the Flemings became impatient, and determined
to sally out to meet the enemy.

"It is just madness," Sir James said to the English knights, who, with
their followers, had gathered round him. "I had great hopes that, with the
dyke in their front to check the onrush of the French, they might
withstand all attacks and come out victors; now they are throwing away
their advantage, and going like sheep to the shearers. By my faith,
friends, 'tis well that our horses have rested of late, for we shall need
all their speed if we are to make our escape from this business."

As they moved forward in the mist they caught sight of some French
knights, who moved backwards and forwards along their front and then rode
away, doubtless to inform their countrymen that the Flemings were
advancing against them. In the French army were all the best knights and
leaders of France, and as soon as they heard that the Flemings were
advancing they divided into three bodies, the one carrying the royal
banner, which was to attack the Flemings in front; the two others were to
move on either side and fall upon their flanks. This arranged, they moved
forward with full confidence of victory.

The central division fell first upon the Flemings, but it was received so
roughly that it recoiled a little, and several good knights fell. In a few
minutes, however, the other two divisions attacked the Flemings' flanks.
The English knights, who were stationed on the right, seeing what was
coming, had in vain tried to get the companies on this side to face round
so as to oppose a front to the attack. The consequence was that the weight
of the attack fell entirely upon the extreme end of the line, doubling it
up and driving it in upon the centre, while the same took place on the
right. Thus in a very few minutes the Flemings were driven into a helpless
mass, inclosed on three sides, and so pressed in, that those in front
could scarce use their arms, many falling stifled without having struck a
blow.

The centre fought well, but their rough armour could not resist the better
tempered swords of the French knights, which cleft through the iron caps
as if they had been but leather, while the steel points of the lances
pierced breast-and back-piece. But chiefly the knights fought with axes
and heavy maces, beating the Flemings to the ground, while their own
armour protected them effectually from any blows in return. The noise was
tremendous. The shouts of the leaders were unheard in the din of the blows
of sword and mace on helm and steel cap. Specially fierce was the French
assault against the point where Van Artevelde's banner flew. He himself
had dismounted, and was fighting in the front rank, and in the terrible
_mle_ was, erelong, struck down and trampled to death; and indeed to
every man that fell by the French weapons many were suffocated by the
press, and on the French side many valiant knights, after fighting their
way into the thick of the battle, met with a similar fate.

When the French division bore down on the right flank the seven English
knights with their men-at-arms had fallen back. Single-handed it would
have been madness had they attempted to charge against the solid line of
the French.

"Keep well back!" Sir James Pinder cried, "If we get mixed up with the
foot-men we shall be powerless. Let us bide our time, and deliver a stroke
where we see an opportunity."

They continued, therefore, to rein back, as the Flemings were doubled up,
powerless to give any aid, or to press forward towards the front line.

"Didst ever see so fearful a sight?" Sir James said. "Sure never before
was so dense a mass. 'Tis like a sea raging round the edge of a black
rock, and eating it away piecemeal. Were there but five thousand Flemings,
they might do better; for now their very numbers prevent them from using
their arms. Ah, here is a party with whom we may deal," and he pointed to
a small body of French knights who were about to fall on the rear of the
Flemings. "Now, gentlemen, _St. George, St. George!_"

Putting spurs to their horses, the seven knights and their followers
dashed at the French. The latter were also mounted, unlike the majority of
their companions, who before attacking had dismounted, and handed their
horses to their pages. The party were fully double the strength of the
English, but the impetus of the charge broke their line, and in a moment a
fierce _mle_ began. Edgar and Albert fought side by side. The former, as
no missiles were flying, had thrown up his vizor, the better to be able to
see what was passing round him. He was fighting with a battle-axe, for a
sword was a comparatively poor weapon against knightly armour. His three
first opponents fell headlong, their helmets crushed in under the
tremendous blows he dealt them. Then warding off a blow dealt at him, he
turned swiftly and drove his horse at a French knight who was on the point
of striking at Albert with a mace while the latter was engaged with
another opponent.

The sudden shock rolled rider and horse over. He heard Hal Carter shout,
"Look out, Sir Edgar!" and forcing his horse to leap aside, he struck off
the head of a lance that would have caught him in the gorget, and an
instant later swept a French knight from his saddle. He looked round.
Three of his companions were already down, and although many more of the
French had fallen, the position was well-nigh desperate.

"We must cut our way through," he shouted, "or we shall be lost. Let all
keep close together--forward!" and he and Albert, spurring their horses,
fell furiously upon the French opposed to them.

Their splendid armour now proved invaluable; sword blows fell harmless on
it, and lances glanced from its polished face. As he put spurs to his
horse Edgar had dropped his vizor down again, for he wanted to strike now,
and not to have to defend himself. With crushing blows he hewed his way
through his opponents. The other two English knights kept close, and the
men-at-arms fought as stoutly as their masters, until the party emerged
from among their assailants. As they did so the knight next to Edgar
reeled in his saddle. Edgar threw his arm round him, and supported him
until they had ridden a short distance. Then, as they halted, he sprung
from his horse and lowered him to the ground.

"Thanks," the knight murmured, as he opened his vizor. "But I am hurt to
death. Leave me here to die quietly, and look to yourselves. All is lost."

Edgar saw that indeed his case was hopeless. A lance had pierced his body,
and had broken short off; a minute later he had breathed his last. Edgar
sprung upon his horse again, and looked round. Of the whole of their
retainers but four remained, and all of these were wounded.

"Art hurt, Albert?" he asked.

"Naught to speak of, but I am sorely bruised, and my head rings with the
blows I have had on my helmet."

"And you, Sir Eustace? I fear that you have fared less well."

"Wounded sorely," the English knight said. "But I can sit my horse, and
methinks that it were best to ride off at once, seeing the Flemings are
flying. We can assuredly do no good by remaining."

Edgar agreed. "Methinks that we had best ride for Sluys, and get there
before the news of the defeat."

As they rode off they looked back. Behind them were a host of flying men,
and many of them were throwing away their steel caps and armour to run the
more quickly. The battle had lasted only half an hour, but by that time
nine thousand Flemings had fallen, of whom more than half had been
suffocated by the press. The flight, however, was far more fatal than the
battle, for the French, as soon as the fight was won, mounted their
horses, and chased the Flemings so hotly that twenty-five thousand were
killed. The body of Van Artevelde was found after the battle. It was
without a wound, but was so trampled on as to be almost unrecognizable.
His body was taken and hung on a tree.

As they galloped off Edgar reined back to Hal Carter, who was one of the
survivors.

"I see that you are badly hurt, Hal. As soon as we get fairly away we will
halt, and I will bandage your wounds."

"They are of no great account, Sir Edgar. It was worth coming over from
England to take part in such a fray; the worst part of it was that it did
not last long enough."

"It lasted too long for many of us, Hal. You saved my life by that warning
shout you gave, for, most assuredly, I must have been borne from my saddle
had the blow struck me, unawares."

"It was a cowardly trick to charge a man when he was otherwise engaged,"
Hal said. "But you paid him well for it, master; you fairly crushed his
helmet in."

Three miles on they halted in a wood to give the horses breathing time,
when those unhurt bandaged the wounds of the others. It was found that Sir
Eustace was so severely wounded that he could not go much farther, and
that two of the men-at-arms were in as bad a case; the third was a
Fleming.

"It were best to leave us here," Sir Eustace said. "We cannot ride much
farther."

"That we will not do," Edgar said. "Torhut is but four miles away. We can
ride at an easy pace, for the Flemings will make for Courtray and Ghent,
and the French will pursue in that direction. 'Tis not likely that any
will ride so far south as this."

"I have friends in Torhut," the Fleming said. "I come from that
neighbourhood, and I can bestow Sir Eustace, my master, in a place of
safety, and will look after him and these two who can go no farther."

"That will be well, indeed. Is it in the town itself?" Edgar asked.

"I have friends there, but an uncle of mine resides in a farm-house three
quarters of a mile from the town. We can get help and shelter there."

"That would be safer, good fellow," Sir Eustace said. "I should not care
to enter a town now, for some who saw us come in might be willing to gain
favour with the French by saying where we were hidden. Moreover, we should
be detained and questioned as to the battle. I have money wherewith to pay
your uncle well for the pains to which he will be put. Well, let us
forward; the sooner we are in shelter the better."

They rode slowly now until they saw the steeple of Torhut, and then turned
off the road, and in half an hour came to a farm-house. The Fleming had
ridden on a short distance ahead.

"My uncle will take them in," he said. "He has a loft in the top of his
house, and can bestow them there safely, for none would be likely to
suspect its existence, even if they searched the house. My uncle is a true
Fleming, and would have taken them in without payment, but I say not that
he will refuse what my master may be willing to pay."

Ten minutes later, Edgar and Albert continued their way, followed now by
Hal Carter alone. The latter had washed the blood from his face and
armour, and had thrown a short cloak over his shoulders, so that they
could pass without its being suspected that they had taken part in a
desperate fray. After riding for some hours they stopped at a wayside inn,
and, avoiding Bruges, rode the next day into Sluys, where they found a
vessel sailing that evening for England. No rumour of the disastrous
battle of Rosebeque had, as yet, reached Sluys; but the two young knights,
calling upon the merchant who had entertained them at their first landing,
informed him of what had happened.

"'Tis well that it is so," he said, "for, in truth, the domination of the
craftsmen of Ghent and the other great cities would have been far harder
to bear than that of the earl, or of France, or of Burgundy. Already the
taxes and imposts are four times as heavy as those laid upon us by the
earl, and had they gained a victory these people would soon have come to
exercise a tyranny altogether beyond bearing. 'Tis ever thus when the
lower class gain dominion over the upper."

CHAPTER XVI

A WAR OF THE CHURCH

"You have been but a short time absent this voyage," Sir Ralph said as his
son and Edgar rode up to the castle.

"Truly we have been but a short time, father," Albert said, "but we have
seen much. Of course the news has not yet reached you, but the army of
Flanders has been utterly broken by the French. Whether Van Artevelde was
killed we know not, but of the fifty thousand men who marched to battle,
we doubt whether half ever returned to their homes."

"That was indeed a terrible defeat. And how bore you yourselves in the
battle?"

"It was rough work, though short, father. Five other English knights were
with us; four of these were killed, and one we left behind at a farm,
grievously wounded. Each of us had two men-at-arms, and of the fourteen
two were left behind wounded sorely, one remained in charge of his master
and them, and Edgar's man here is the only one who rode to Sluys with us;
the rest are dead. So, too, might we have been but for the strength and
temper of our armour."

"Did not the Flemings fight sturdily, then?"

"They fought sturdily for a time, but altogether without leader or order.
They took up a strong position, but impatient of an hour's delay, marched
from it to give battle, and being attacked on both flanks, as well as in
front, were driven into a close mass, so that few could use their arms,
and, were it only to find breathing space, they had to fly."

"'Tis bad news, indeed. Had they prevailed, their alliance with us would
have brought about great things, for Artevelde would have put Flanders
under English protection, and between us we could have withstood all the
attacks of France and Burgundy."

"Think yon that Ghent will be taken, Edgar?"

"That I cannot say, Sir Ralph. However great their loss may be, the
Ghentois are like to make an obstinate defence, judging from the way in
which they withstood their earl with all Flanders at his back. They will
know that they have no mercy to expect if they yield, and I believe that
so long as there is a man left to wield arms the city will hold out. As to
the other towns of Flanders, they are as fickle as the wind, and will all
open their gates to the King of France, who, seeing that it is by his
power alone that Flanders has been taken, will assuredly hold it as his
own in the future."

"Now that you have returned, it would be well, Edgar, that you and my son
should practise with the lance. 'Tis a knightly weapon, and a knight
should at least know how to use it well. There is a piece of ground but a
quarter of a mile away that I have been looking at, and find that it will
make a good tilting-ground, and I will teach you all that I know in the
matter."

Edgar thankfully embraced the offer and, after going into the castle to
pay his respects to the dame and her daughter, went home with Hal Carter,
whose wounds were still sore.

The news that came from Flanders to England from time to time was bad. It
was first heard how terrible had been the slaughter of the Flemings after
the victory, and that in all thirty-four thousand had been killed. Then
the news came that Courtray, although it opened its gates without
resistance, had been first pillaged and then burnt, and that Bruges had
surrendered, but had been only spared from pillage by the payment of a
great sum of money. None of the other towns had offered any resistance,
but Ghent had shut her gates, and the French, deeming that the operations
of the siege would be too severe to be undertaken in winter, had marched
away, their return being hastened by the news of an insurrection in
France.

The king, however, had declared Flanders to be a portion of France, and
the Earl of Flanders had done homage to him as his liege lord. The news of
the merciless slaughter of the Flemings, and of the cruel treatment of
Courtray, aroused great indignation in England, which was increased when
it was heard that all the rich English merchants in Bruges had been
obliged to fly for their lives, and that all other Englishmen found in the
towns had been seized by the Earl of Flanders, and thrown into prison, and
their goods confiscated.

The young knights practised at tilting daily under the eye of Sir Ralph,
and at the end of three months could carry off rings skilfully, and could
couch their lances truly, whether at breast-piece or helm. It was nigh two
years since they had first ridden to London, and both had grown tall and
greatly widened. Edgar was still by far the taller and stronger, and was
now an exceptionally powerful young man. Albert was of a fair strength and
stature, and from his constant practice with Edgar, had attained almost as
great a skill with his weapons. When they jousted they always used lighter
spears than when they practised at the ring, for in a charge, Edgar's
weight and strength would have carried Albert out of his saddle, and that
with such force as might have caused him serious injury; the lances
therefore were made so slight as to shiver at the shock.

"You are like to be employing your weapons to better advantage soon," Sir
Ralph said one day on his return from London. "You know of the rivalry
between the two popes, and that we hold for Urban while France champions
Clement."

"Yes, sir," Edgar said; "but how is that likely to give occasion for us to
betake ourselves to arms again?"

"Urban is going to use us as his instrument against France and Spain. A
bull was received yesterday, of which copies have also been sent to all
the bishops, calling upon Richard to engage in a sort of Holy War to this
end. He has ordered that all church property throughout England shall be
taxed, and that the bishops shall exhort all persons to give as much as
they can afford for the same purpose. To all those who take part in the
war he gives absolution from all sins, and the same to those who, staying
at home, contribute to the Church's need.

"The sum of money thus raised, which, I doubt not, will be great, is to be
devoted partly to an expedition against France, and partly to one under
Lancaster against Spain. As it is a church war, the expedition to France
is to be led by a churchman, and Urban has chosen Sir Henry Spencer,
Bishop of Norwich, who, if you will remember, bore himself so stoutly
against the insurgents in his diocese, as the nominal leader. The king has
taken the matter up heartily, and many of the knights whom I met at Court
are also well content, seeing that the war is to be conducted at the
expense of the Church and not of themselves; and I doubt not that a large
number of knights and gentlemen will take part in the expedition, which is
of the nature of a crusade.

"More than that, I met an old friend, Sir Hugh Calverley, with whom I have
fought side by side a score of times, and whose name is, of course, well
known to you. He is minded also to go, partly because he hates the French,
and partly because of the pope's blessing and absolution. Seeing that, I
said to him, 'As you are going, Sir Hugh, I pray you to do me a favour.'

"'There is no one I would more willingly oblige, old friend,' he said.

"'My son,' I went on, 'and a friend of his whom I regard almost as a son,
were knighted more than a year since, as you may have heard, for their
valiant conduct in the time of the troubles here.'

"'I have heard the story,' he said. 'It is well known to all at Court.'

"'Since then, Sir Hugh, they have been over in Flanders, where they gained
the approbation of Van Artevelde by their conduct, and fought stoutly at
the grievous battle of Rosbecque. But hitherto they have had no knightly
leader. They have gained such experience as they could by themselves, but
I would that they should campaign in the train of a valiant and well-known
knight like yourself, under whose eyes they could gain distinction as well
as a knowledge of military affairs.'

"'I will take them with me gladly,' he said. 'They must be young knights
of rare mettle, and even apart from my regard for you I should be right
glad to have them ride with me.'"

Both the young knights gave exclamations of pleasure. It was hard for a
knight unattached to the train of some well-known leader to rise to
distinction, and there was no English knight living who bore a higher
reputation than Sir Hugh Calverley, so that to ride under him would be an
honour indeed. But some months passed before the preparations were
complete. Throughout England the bishops and priests preached and incited
the people to what they considered a Holy War. The promises of absolution
of past and future sins were in proportion to the money given. In the
diocese of London alone, a tun full of gold and silver was gathered, and
by Lent the total amounted to what at that time was the fabulous sum of
2,500,000 francs. Thomas, Bishop of London, and brother to the Earl of
Devonshire, was appointed by Urban to go with the Duke of Lancaster to
Spain, as chief captain, with two thousand spears and four thousand
archers, and half the money gathered was to be spent on this expedition,
and the other half on that of the Bishop of Norwich.

The expeditions were to set out together, but one progressed far more
rapidly than the other. The Bishop of Norwich was very popular. He was of
ancient lineage, had personally shown great bravery, and was highly
esteemed. Upon the other hand, the Duke of Lancaster was hated. Thus great
numbers of knights and others enlisted eagerly under the bishop, while
very few were willing to take service under the duke. Five hundred
spearmen, and fifteen hundred men-at-arms and archers were soon enrolled
under the bishop's banner. A great number of priests, too, followed the
example of the bishop, threw aside the cassock and clad themselves in
armour to go to the war in the spirit of crusaders.

Great numbers passed over from Dover and Sandwich in parties to wait at
Calais for the arrival of their leaders. At Easter, the bishop, Sir Hugh
Calverley, and two of the principal knights attended the king and his
council, and swore to do their best to bring to an end the matter on which
they were engaged, and to war only against the supporters of Clement. The
king begged them to wait for a month at Calais, promising that he would
send them over many men-at-arms and archers, and Sir William Beauchamp as
marshal to the army. The bishop promised the king to do this, and he and
his party sailed from Dover and arrived at Calais on April 23, 1383.

The young knights had gone up to town a month before by invitation of Sir
Robert Gaiton, and had stayed with him for a week. At the end of that time
he presented each of them with a superb suit of Milan steel, richly inlaid
with gold, and two fine war-horses.

"It is a gift that I have long promised you," he said. "I gave orders to
my agents in Italy a year since to spare neither time nor trouble to
obtain the best that the armourers of Milan could turn out. The horses are
of Yorkshire breed, and are warranted sound at every point."

"It is a princely present, Sir Robert," Edgar said, "and, indeed, a most
timely one, for truly we have well-nigh grown out of the other suits,
although when we got them it seemed to us that we should never be able to
fill them properly; but of late we have been forced to ease the straps,
and to leave spaces between the pieces, by which lance or arrow might well
find entrance."

Sir Ralph had gone up with them and introduced them to Sir Hugh, who
promised to give them two days' warning when they were to join him at
Sandwich or Dover. During this week Edgar for the most part went about
alone, Albert, at first to his surprise, and then to his amusement, always
making some pretext or other for not accompanying him, but passing, as he
found on his return, the greater portion of the time in the house, in
discourse, as he said, with Dame Gaiton, but as Edgar shrewdly guessed,
chiefly with Ursula, who, he found, obligingly kept his friend company
while the dame was engaged in her household duties. It seemed to him, too,
that on the ride back to St. Alwyth Albert was unusually silent and
depressed in spirits.

Edgar himself, however, experienced something of the same feeling when he
took his last farewell from the De Courcys before starting for Dover. On
this occasion each took with him four men-at-arms, stout fellows, Albert's
being picked men from among the De Courcy retainers, while Hal Carter had
selected his three mates from among the villagers, and had, during the
last three months, trained them assiduously in the use of their arms.

"How long do you think that you are likely to be away, Edgar?" his father
asked, the evening before the party started.

"I cannot tell you, father, but I do not think that it will be long. If
the expedition had started six months ago, it would have arrived in
Flanders in time to have helped the Flemings, and with their aid the
French might have been driven flying over the frontier; but I cannot see
what two or three thousand men can do. We cannot fight the whole strength
of France by ourselves."

"It seems to me a hare-brained affair altogether," Mr. Ormskirk said;
"almost as mad, only in a different way, as the crusade of Peter the
Hermit. The Church has surely trouble enough in these days, what with men
like Wickliffe, who denounce her errors, and point out how far she has
fallen back from the simple ways of old times, what with the impatience or
indifference of no small part of the people, the pomp and wasteful
confusion of the prelates, and the laziness of the monks--she has plenty
of matters to look after without meddling in military affairs.

"What would she say if a score of nobles were to take upon themselves to
tell her to set her house in order, to adopt reforms, and to throw aside
sloth and luxury; and yet the Church is stirring up a war, and raising and
paying an army of fighting men--and for what? To settle which of two men
shall be pope. The simple thing would be to hold a high tournament, and to
let Urban and Clement don armour and decide between themselves, in fair
fight, who should be pope. They might as well do that as set other men to
fight for them. I see not what good can come of it, Edgar."

"Albert and myself are of the same opinion, father. Certainly with two or
three thousand men we can hardly expect to march to Paris and force the
King of France to declare for our pope. Still, we shall march in good
company, and shall both be proud to do so under the banner of so
distinguished a knight as Sir Hugh Calverley."

"I say naught against that, Edgar; but I would rather see you start with
him as knights-errant, willing at all times to couch a lance for damsels
in distress. The day has passed for crusades. Surely we have had
experience enough to see that solid advantages are not to be won by
religious enthusiasm. Men may be so inspired to deeds of wondrous valour,
but there is no instance of permanent good arising out of such
expeditions. As for this in which you are going to embark, it seems to me
to be the height of folly."

The next day the two young knights rode to Canterbury, and thence to
Dover. The following evening the Bishop of Norwich, with his train, Sir
Hugh Calverley, and other knights, arrived, and the next morning embarked
with their following and horses on board three ships, and sailed to
Calais. Those who had preceded them were already impatient to take the
field. The news that there was to be a further delay of a month until Sir
William Beauchamp with reinforcements should arrive, caused much
disappointment and vexation.

"'Tis unfortunate," Sir Hugh said, one evening a few days later to the
knights of his party, "that there are not more men here accustomed to war,
and who have learned that patience and obedience are as needful as strong
arms, if a campaign is to be carried out successfully. The Bishop of
Norwich is young and fiery, and he hath many like himself round him, so
that he frets openly at this delay. Moreover, Sir Thomas Trivet and Sir
William Helmon are too full of ardour to act with discretion, and are
ready enough to back up the bishop in his hot desire to be doing
something. I regret that this army is not, like the army which fought at
Crcy and Poictiers, composed of men well inured to war, with a great
number of good archers and led by experienced warriors, instead of a hasty
gathering of men, who have been fired by the exhortations of the priests
and the promises of the pope.

"We are but a small gathering. We may take some castles, and defeat the
forces that the nobles here gather against us, but more than that we
cannot do unless England arms in earnest. I foresaw this, and spoke to the
council when they prayed me to go with the bishop; but when they pointed
out that what I said made it all the more needful that one of grave
experience and years should go with him, and prayed me to accept the
office, I consented."

On the 4th of May the Bishop of Norwich took advantage of Sir Hugh's
absence--he having gone for two days to see a cousin who was commander of
Guines--to call the other leaders together, and said that it was time they
did some deed of arms, and rightly employed the money with which the
Church had furnished them. All agreed with him, and the bishop then
proposed that instead of entering France they should march to Flanders,
which was now a portion of France. To this Sir Thomas Trivet and Sir
William Helmon cordially agreed.

When Sir Hugh returned another council was called, and the matter was laid
before him. Sir Hugh opposed it altogether. In the first place, they had
given their word to the king to wait for a month for the promised
reinforcements; in the second place, they had not come over as Englishmen
to fight the French, but as followers of Pope Urban to fight those of
Clement, and the men of Flanders were, like themselves, followers of
Urban. The bishop answered him very hotly, and as the other knights and
all present agreed with the bishop, Sir Hugh reluctantly gave way, and
said that if they were determined upon going to Flanders he would ride
with them. Accordingly notice was given through the town that the force
would march the next morning. All assembled at the order to the number of
three thousand, and marched from Calais to Gravelines.

No preparations for defence had been made there, for there was no war
between England and Flanders. However, the burghers defended the place for
a short time, and then withdrew, with their wives and families, to the
cathedral, which was a place of strength. Here they defended themselves
for two days. The church was then stormed, and all its defenders put to
the sword. The news excited the greatest surprise and indignation in
Flanders, and the earl at once sent two English knights who were with him
to Gravelines to protest, and with orders to obtain from the bishop a
safe-conduct to go to England to lay the matter before the English king
and his council.

When they arrived at Gravelines the bishop refused their request for a
safe-conduct, but told them to tell the earl that he was not warring
against Flanders, nor was his army an army of England, but of Pope Urban,
and that, although the greater portion of Flanders was Urbanist, the Lord
of Bar--in whose dominion Gravelines stood--was for Clement, and so were
his people. If he and they would acknowledge Pope Urban, he would march
away without doing damage and paying for all he took, but unless they did
so he would force them to submit. The people of Artois, however, who were
French rather than Flemings, took the matter in their own hands, and
twelve thousand men, under some knights from Nieuport and other towns,
marched to Dunkirk and then to Mardyck, a large village not far from
Gravelines.

Edgar and Albert had taken no part in the attack upon the cathedral, but
remained with Sir Hugh Calverley in the house that he occupied as soon as
resistance of the entry to the town had ended.

"On the field I will fight with the rest," he said, "but I will have no
hand in this matter. There has been no defiance sent to the Earl of
Flanders nor received from him, and 'tis not my habit to fight burghers
against whom we have no complaint, and who are but defending their homes
against us."

The two young knights were well pleased with this decision. It was an age
when quarter was but seldom given, and wholesale slaughters followed
battles, so that they had, naturally, the ideas common to the time. Still,
they both felt that this attack was wholly unprovoked and altogether
beyond the scope of the expedition, and were well pleased that their
leader would have naught to do with it. It was, however, a different
matter when they heard that an army twelve thousand strong was coming out
against them, and they were quite ready to take their share in the fight.

While waiting at Gravelines several other knights had joined the army,
among them Sir Nicholas Clifton and Sir Hugh's cousin, the commander of
Guines, Sir Hugh Spencer, nephew of the bishop, and others.

The force consisted of six hundred mounted men, sixteen hundred archers,
and the rest foot-men. They found that the Flemings had fallen back to
Dunkirk, and had taken up a position in front of that town. The bishop, on
approaching them, sent forward a herald, to ask them whether they were for
Pope Urban or Clement, and that if they were for Urban he had no quarrel
with them. As soon, however, as the herald approached, the Flemings fell
upon him and killed him. This excited the most lively indignation among
the English, for among all civilized people the person of a herald was
held to be sacred.

The bishop and knights at once drew up the force in order of battle. The
men on foot were formed into a wedge. The archers were placed on the two
flanks of the unmounted men-at-arms, while the cavalry prepared to charge
as soon as opportunity offered. The army was preceded by the standard of
the Church. The trumpets on both sides sounded, and as they came within
range the English archers poured flights of arrows among the Flemings.
These advanced boldly to the attack of the foot-men. Again and again the
horsemen charged down upon them, but were unable to break their solid
lines, and for a time the battle was doubtful, but the English archers
decided the fate of the day. The Flemings, although they resisted firmly
the charge of the men-at-arms, were unable to sustain the terrible and
continuous rain of arrows, and their front line fell back.

As soon as they did so the second line wavered and broke. Then the bishop
with his knights and men-at-arms charged furiously down upon them, and the
battle was over. The Flemings broke and fled in wild disorder, but the
English pursued them so hotly that they entered Dunkirk with them. Here
again and again they attempted to make a stand, but speedily gave way
before the onslaught of the English. No one distinguished themselves in
the battle more than did the priests and monks who were fighting on the
side of the bishop, and it was said among the others that these must have
mistaken their vocation, and that had they entered the army instead of the
Church they would have made right valiant knights.

The English loss was four hundred, that of the Flemings was very much
heavier. There died, however, among them no knights or persons of quality,
for the rising was one of the people themselves, and as yet the Earl of
Flanders was waiting for the King of England's reply to the message he had
sent by the two knights from Sluys. The English, however, considered that
the absence of any horsemen or knights was due to the fact that these
remembered what terrible havoc had been made among the chivalry of France
at Crcy and Poictiers, and cared not to expose themselves to that risk.

CHAPTER XVII

PRISONERS

After the capture of Dunkirk all the seaports as far as Sluys were taken
by the English, who then marched to Ypres, to which town they at once laid
siege, and were joined by twenty thousand men from Ghent. Their own number
had swollen considerably by the arrival from England of many knights and
men-at-arms, besides numbers of foot-men, attracted as much by the news of
the great spoil that had been captured in the Flemish towns as by the
exhortations and promises of the clergy.

Ypres had a numerous garrison, commanded by several knights of experience.
The works were very strong, and every assault was repulsed with heavy
loss. One of these was led by Sir Hugh Calverley. The force crossed the
ditches by throwing in great bundles of wood with which each of the foot-
men had been provided, and having reached the wall, in spite of a hail of
cross-bow bolts and arrows, ladders were planted, and the leaders
endeavoured to gain the ramparts. Sir Hugh Calverley succeeded in
obtaining a footing, but for a time he stood almost alone. Two or three
other knights, however, sprang up. Just as they did so one of the ladders
broke with the weight upon it, throwing all heavily to the ground.

Edgar and Albert were with a party of archers who were keeping up a rain
of arrows. Seeing that the situation was bad they now ran forward,
followed by four of their men-at-arms, the others having charge of the
horses in the camp. A few more men-at-arms had gained the ramparts by the
time they arrived at the foot of the ladders, where numbers waited to take
their turns to ascend.

"There is not much broken off this one, Sir Edgar," Hal Carter said; "not
above three feet, I should say. We might make a shift to get up with
that."

"Pick it up, Hal, and bring it along a short distance. Possibly we may be
able to mount unobserved, for the fight is hot above, and the attention of
the enemy will be fixed there."

Followed by their own men-at-arms, and by a few others who saw what their
intentions were, they kept along at the foot of the wall until they
reached an angle some thirty yards away. Searching about they found
several stones that had been dislodged from the battlements during the
siege. With these they built up a platform, and raising the ladder on
this, they found that it reached to within a foot of the top.

"Now," Edgar said, "follow us as quickly as you can, but do not try the
ladder too heavily; it has broken once, so the wood cannot be over-
strong."

Then, followed closely by Albert and the men-at-arms, he ascended the
walls. So intent were the defenders upon the strife going on round Sir
Hugh Calverley that Edgar was not noticed until, putting his hands upon
the wall, he vaulted over it. He held his sword between his teeth, and
betaking himself to this fell so fiercely and suddenly upon the enemy,
that several were cut down and the rest recoiled so far that Albert and
the four men-at-arms were able to join him before the enemy rallied. Every
moment added to the strength of the party, and as soon as some twenty had
gathered behind him, Edgar flung himself upon the enemy with a shout of
"_St. George! St. George!_" and, in spite of the opposition of the
defenders, fought his way along the wall until he joined Sir Hugh and the
little group who were defending themselves against tremendous odds.

Sir Hugh himself was seriously wounded. Two or three of his knights lay
dead beside him, and had it not been for the arrival of the reinforcement
the fight would speedily have terminated, for the English were so penned
up against the wall that there was no footing for more to join them. The
suddenness of the attack drove the enemy back some little distance, and
this enabled a score of those upon the ladders to make their way onto the
rampart.

"Bravely done!" Sir Hugh Calverley said, as he leant against the wall,
utterly exhausted by his efforts and loss of blood. A moment later he
would have fallen had not Albert sprung to his side.

"We must save Sir Hugh at all risks," he said to two of the knight's
companions, who were also wounded. "Will you, sir knights, aid in lowering
him down the ladder, and see that he is carried off? You have done your
share. It is our turn now, and we can at least hold the rampart until he
is in safety."

Leaning over, he shouted to the men on one of the ladders to descend and
leave the ladder clear, as Sir Hugh was to be lowered down.

"Methinks I can carry him, Sir Albert," Hal Carter said. "I have carried
two sacks of wheat on my shoulder before now, and methinks that I can
carry one knight and his armour."

He took his place on the ladder, and Sir Hugh was lowered to him, and
laying him on his shoulder Hal carried him safely down. The two wounded
knights followed, and then Hal sprang up the ladder again. While this was
being done Edgar and his party had been holding the enemy at bay. Hal was
followed by some of the men-at-arms, and others poured up by the other
ladders. Edgar saw that they were now strong enough to take the offensive,
and as the English numbered nearly a hundred, he fell upon the enemy to
the right, while Albert led another party to the left.

For some time the fury with which the English fought drove the enemy
before them on either hand. Every moment they were joined by fresh men,
who were now able to pour in a steady stream up the ladders. The enemy,
too, were harassed by the English archers, who, advancing to the edge of
the ditch, sent their shafts thick and fast among them. The town bells
were clanging fiercely, drums beating, and horns sounding as the alarm
spread that the besiegers had gained a footing on the walls, and great
numbers of the garrison could be seen pouring along the streets leading to
the threatened point.

Had there been more ladders, so that reinforcements could have arrived
more rapidly, the place might have been won. As it was, it was evident
that success was impossible. Edgar's party still gained ground slowly, but
he saw that Albert was being pressed backwards.

"Fall back, men!" he shouted, "slowly, and keeping your face to the enemy.
The odds are too heavy for us."

Foot by foot, fighting silently and obstinately, the English fell back
until their party joined that of Albert, at the spot where the wall had
been won. Their exulting foes pressed hotly upon them, but Edgar's sword
and the heavy long-handled mace wielded by Hal Carter did such terrible
execution that the rest were able to retreat in good order.

"Jump down, my men!" Edgar shouted. "You will break the ladders if you try
to go by them. The ground is but soft, and the wall of no great height. Do
not hurry. We will cover you and then follow."

Gradually the number of the party on the walls was lessened, as by threes
and fours they leapt down; while many, getting onto the ladders, slipped
rapidly to the ground. When there were but half a dozen left, Hal suddenly
exclaimed: "Sir Albert has fallen--wounded!"

Edgar freed himself from his opponent of the moment by a sweeping blow,
and then with a spring placed himself astride of his friend. Hal Carter
joined him. The rest of their followers remaining on the wall either
jumped over or were cut down. Fortunately Albert had fallen close to the
parapet, and his two defenders could not be attacked from behind. For some
minutes the fight continued, and then for a moment the enemy drew back
astonished at the manner in which two men kept them at bay; then one of
the assailants lowered his sword.

"Sir knight," he said, "you have done enough for honour. Never have I seen
a stouter fighter. I pray you, then, to surrender, on promise of good
treatment and fair terms of ransom to you, to the knight at your feet, and
to this stout man-at-arms. I am Sir Robert De Beaulieu."

"Then I yield to you," Edgar said. "I am Sir Edgar Ormskirk, and this
knight is my brother-in-arms, Sir Albert De Courcy. I yield in his name
and my own, and am glad that, as fortune has declared against us, it
should be to so good a knight as Sir Robert De Beaulieu that I surrender
my sword."

"Keep it, Sir Edgar, for never have I seen one better wielded. No small
damage, indeed, has it done us."

"The stout man-at-arms is my own retainer, and I prythee, sir knight,
suffer him to remain with us."

[Illustration: SIR EDGAR AT LAST SURRENDERS TO SIR ROBERT DE BEAULIEU.]

"Assuredly he shall do so."

As soon as the parley began Hal Carter laid down his weapon, and kneeling
beside Albert, unlaced his helmet.

"He lives, Sir Edgar!" he said; "he is but stunned, methinks, with the
blow of a mace, which has deeply dinted his casque, though, indeed, he has
other wounds."

By Sir Robert De Beaulieu's orders, four men now formed a litter with
their spears. Albert was laid on it, and Sir Robert, Edgar, and Hal Carter
walking in front, and half a score of men-at-arms accompanying them, they
made their way to a large house where the knight lodged. Sir Robert had
sent on for a leech to be in attendance, and he was there when they
arrived. Hal at once took off Albert's armour.

"'Tis well for him that this armour was good," Sir Robert said. "Had it
not been, it would have gone hard with him. It must be steel of proof
indeed, for I saw the blow struck, and there are but few helmets that
would not have been crushed by it."

"He has a deep gash near the neck," the leech said. "The lacings and
straps of the helmet and gorget must have been cut by a sharp sword, and
another blow has fallen on the same spot. Methinks he has dropped as much
from loss of blood as from the blow on the head."

Edgar had by this time taken off his own helmet. As soon as he did so, Sir
Robert De Beaulieu, who was somewhat grizzled with age, said:

"In truth, sir knight, you and your companion are young indeed to have
fought so doughtily as you have done to-day; you are young to be knights,
and yet you have shown a courage and a skill such as no knight could have
surpassed. We had thought the affair finished when that stout knight, Sir
Hugh Calverley, was down with two others, and but three or four remained
on their feet. Then suddenly your party burst upon us, coming from we knew
not where, and had you but been reinforced more rapidly the town would
have been lost."

Edgar made no reply, for at the moment Hal Carter leant heavily against
him.

"I can do no more, Sir Edgar," he murmured; "I am spent."

Edgar caught the brave fellow in his arms and supported him, while two
men-at-arms, who had assisted to carry Albert in, unstrapped Hal's armour
and gently laid him down on a couch. He was bleeding from half a dozen
wounds, and his face was pale and bloodless. Edgar knelt by his side and
raised his head.

"I will see to him, sir knight," the surgeon said. "I have bandaged your
comrade's injuries, and methinks that he will soon come round."

Then he examined Hal's wounds.

"He will do," he said. "Assuredly there are none of them that are mortal;
'tis but loss of blood that ails him. I will but bandage them hastily now,
for there are many other cases waiting for me, and methinks, sir, that you
yourself need looking to."

"I am unhurt," Edgar said, in surprise.

"Your doublet is stained with blood from the shoulder to the wrist," Sir
Robert said. "A spear-head has penetrated at the shoulder-joint and torn a
gash well-nigh to the neck. 'Tis well that it is not worse."

Two of his men-at-arms had by this time taken off Sir Robert's armour
also.

"You have ruined my helmet, Sir Edgar, and cut so deep a notch in it that
I know not how my head escaped. You have gashed a hole in my gorget and
dinted the armour in half a dozen places, and I failed to make a single
mark on yours. Never was I engaged with so good a swordsman. I could
scarcely believe my eyes when you lifted your vizor, for it seemed to me
that you must be in the prime of your manhood, and possessed of strength
altogether out of the common."

"I have practised a good deal," Edgar said, quietly, "having indeed little
else to do, so it is not surprising that my muscles are hard."

At the knight's order a servant now brought in two goblets of wine. Sir
Robert and Edgar then drank to each other, both draining the cups to the
bottom.

Albert was not long before he opened his eyes. He looked round in wonder,
and smiled faintly when he saw Edgar, who hastened to his side.

"We are out of luck this time, Albert; we are both prisoners. Still,
things might have been worse. You were struck down with a mace, but the
leech says that the wound on your head is of no great consequence, and
that you fainted rather from loss of blood from other gashes than from the
blow on the head. I have got off with a scratch on the shoulder. Hal
Carter, who fought like a tiger over your body, has come off worst, having
fully half a dozen wounds, but it was not before he had killed at least
twice as many of his assailants with that terrible mace of his."

So far Edgar had spoken in English. He went on in French:

"This is the good knight, Sir Robert De Beaulieu, who is our captor, and
will hold us on ransom."

"You may congratulate yourself, Sir Albert," the knight said, courteously,
"that you had such stout defenders as your comrade here and his man-at-
arms, because for fully five minutes they held the whole of us at bay, and
so stoutly did they fight that we were all glad when Sir Edgar yielded
himself to me. Truly, between you, you have done us ill service, for not
only have you and your party killed a large number of our men, but you
have enabled Sir Hugh Calverley to be carried off, and for so famous a
captain we should have claimed a goodly ransom, and it would have been an
honour and glory to have taken so fearless a knight. As it is, with the
exception of yourselves, no single prisoner has fallen into our hands, and
methinks that in all there were not more than ten or twelve in the
storming party killed, while we must have lost nigh a hundred. 'Tis the
first time I have fought against the English, and in truth you are doughty
foemen. It was well that you came into the land but some four or five
thousand strong, for had you brought an army you might have marched to
Paris. Now, Sir Edgar, I will show you your room."

He led the way along a broad corridor to a large room, the men-at-arms
carrying the couch on which Albert was lying.

"I should like to have my man-at-arms brought here also, Sir Robert,"
Edgar said. "He is a faithful fellow, and I have known him for years. He
speaks but little of any language but English, and will, methinks, do
better with my nursing than with any other."

In a fortnight Albert was quite convalescent, and Hal was rapidly gaining
strength. Three days after they had been taken prisoner Sir Robert had
said to Edgar:

"It will be best, Sir Edgar, that you should not go abroad in the streets.
The townsmen here, as in other towns in Flanders, are rough fellows. They
are, of course, suffering somewhat from the siege, and they murmur that
any prisoners should have been taken. They say that your people showed no
mercy at Gravelines and Dunkirk, which, methinks, is true enough, and that
none should be given here. Yesterday some of their leaders came to the
house where I was sitting in council with other knights, and represented
that all English prisoners should be put to the sword at once. I pointed
out to them that, for their own sakes, as many prisoners should be taken
as possible. We hope to defend the town until succour comes, but were the
English to capture it, and to find that prisoners who had surrendered had
been killed, no mercy would be shown, but every man within the walls would
be slain and the city laid in ashes.

"To this they had no answer ready, and retired grumbling. But, in any
case, it were better that you did not show yourself in the street, for a
tumult might arise, and your life might be sacrificed before any of us
could come to your assistance."

"I thank you, Sir Robert, and will gladly take your advice. I have seen
somewhat of the townsmen of Ghent and Bruges, and know that, when the fit
seizes them, they are not to be restrained."

After that time Sir Robert De Beaulieu seldom left the house, and Edgar
found that the doors were kept closed, and that the knight's followers and
men-at-arms were also kept in the house. Several times he heard shouts in
the street of "Death to the English!"

He took his meals with the knight, while Albert and Hal were served in
their room. At the end of the week, however, Albert was able to join the
two knights, and a fortnight later Hal was again up and about.

"I fear, Sir Robert, that our presence here is a source of trouble to
you," Edgar said one day. "If it could be managed, we would gladly give
you our knightly word to send you our ransom at the first opportunity, and
not to serve in arms again until it is paid, if you would let us go free."

"I would do so gladly, Sir Edgar, but I fear that it would be difficult to
manage. Both before and behind the house there are evidently men on the
watch to see that no one passes out. My own men-at-arms have been stopped
and questioned, and were you to issue out methinks that there would, on
the instant, be an uproar, for so great a crowd would gather in a few
minutes that even had you a strong guard you might be torn from them. You
see, though some eight of us knights and three hundred men-at-arms were
placed here to aid in the defence, we could do naught without the
assistance of the townsmen, who have on all occasions fought stoutly. Were
there to be a fray now, the safety of the town would be compromised, for
the craftsmen of all these towns are as fickle as the wind. The men of
Ypres fought by the side of those at Ghent at one time, and when the Count
of Flanders came here, great numbers of the townspeople were executed. At
present, why, I know not, they are fighting stoutly for the count, while
the men of Ghent are with the besiegers; but were there to be troubles
between them and us, they might tomorrow open their gates to the English."

"That I can quite believe, Sir Robert. I can only say that we are in your
hands, and are ready to pursue any course that you may think best, either
to stay here quietly and take the risk of what may come of it or endeavour
to escape in disguise if so it could be managed."

"I would that it could be managed, for the matter is causing us grave
anxiety. My comrades are, of course, all with me, and hold, that even if
it comes to a struggle with the mob, the lives of prisoners who have
surrendered on ransom must be defended. I suggested that we should hold
counsel here, that two should remain, and that you should sally out with
the others, but our faces are all so well known in the town that there
would be little chance indeed of your passing undetected."

"Think you, Sir Robert, that we could pass along the roofs, enter a
casement a few houses along, and then make our way out in disguise?"

"It would be well-nigh impossible. The roofs are all so sloping that no
one could maintain a footing upon them."

"When it gets dusk I will, with your permission, Sir Robert, go up to one
of the attics and take a look out."

"By all means do so. Escape in that manner would certainly be the best way
out of the dilemma, though I much fear that it cannot be done."

When it became so dark that while he could take a view round, his figure
could not be recognized at a short distance, Edgar, with Albert and Hal,
went up to the top of the house, and the former got out of the highest of
the dormer windows, and, standing on the sill, looked out. The roof was
indeed so steep that it would be impossible to obtain a footing upon it.
Its ridge was some twenty feet above the window. The houses were of
varying heights, some being as much as thirty feet lower than others.
Still it seemed to Edgar that it would not be very difficult to make their
way along if they were provided with ropes. Descending, he told Sir Robert
the result of their investigations.

"It would," he said, "be very desirable, if possible, to come down into
some house which was either uninhabited, or where the people were
friendly. Still that would not be absolutely necessary, as we might hope
to make our way down to the door unperceived."

"There is one house which is empty," Sir Robert said, "for the owner left
the town with his family before the siege began, he having another place
of business at Liege, He was an old man, and was therefore permitted to
leave; for he could have been no good for the defence, and there would,
with his family and servants, have been ten mouths more to feed had he
remained. It is the sixth house along, I think, but I will see when I go
out. Once in the street and away from here, there would be no difficulty.
I would meet you a short distance away, and go with you to the walls, from
which you could lower yourself down. One or two of my comrades would give
their aid, for, naturally, all would be pleased that you should escape,
and so put an end to this cause of feud between us and the townsmen. You
would, of course, require some rope; that I can easily procure for you."

"We shall want several lengths, Sir Robert, and two or three stout
grapnels. We shall also want a strong chisel for forcing open a casement."

"All these you shall have; one of my men shall fetch them to-morrow."

On the following day the ropes and grapnels were brought in, and Sir
Robert, who had been out, ascertained that he had been correct, and that
the empty house was indeed the sixth from that he occupied. "I have been
speaking with two of my comrades," he said, "and they will be with me at
ten o'clock to-night at the end of the street that faces the house through
which you will descend. I shall accompany you to the foot of the walls.
The citizens are on guard there at night, and if they ask questions, as
they may well do, my comrades will say that you are bearers of a message
to the King of France to pray him to hasten to our aid. I shall not myself
go up on to the walls, for were I to do so suspicion might fall upon me.
Should you be interrupted as you go along the street to meet us, give a
call and we will run to your assistance."

"And now as to our ransom, Sir Robert?" Edgar went on.

"Trouble not yourselves about it," he replied; "you are but young knights,
and 'tis a pleasure to me to have been of service to two such valiant
young gentlemen. Moreover, I consider that I have no right to a ransom,
since, instead of letting you go free to obtain it, or holding you in
honourable captivity until it is sent to you, you are obliged to risk your
lives, as you assuredly will do, by climbing along those roofs to obtain
your liberty; therefore, we will say nothing about it. It may be that some
day you will be able to treat leniently some young Flemish or French
knight whom you may make captive. As to your armour, I see not how you can
carry it away with you, for you will have to swim the ditches; but the
first time that there is a flag of truce exchanged I will send it out to
you, or should there be no such opportunity, I will, when the siege is
over, forward it by the hands of some merchant trading with England, to
any address that you may give me there."

The two young knights thanked Sir Robert De Beaulieu most cordially for
his kindness to them, and at his request gave him their word not to serve
again during the campaign. This, indeed, they were by no means sorry to
do, for they had keenly felt the slight paid to Sir Hugh Calverley by the
haughty bishop in acting altogether contrary to his advice. They also had
been thoroughly disgusted by the massacre at Gravelines, and the sack of
so many towns against which England had no cause for complaint.

In the afternoon Sir Robert brought three doublets and caps for them to
put over their own clothes, so that they could pass as citizens. They
employed some time in wrapping strips of cloth round the grapnels, so that
these would fall noiselessly onto the tiles.

At nine o'clock Sir Robert said good-bye to them and went out; and half an
hour later they ascended to the upper story. They were well provided with
ropes, and had made all their arrangements. Edgar was the first to fasten
a rope round his body, and while this was held by his companions he was to
get out on the window-sill and throw a grapnel over the ridge and pull
himself up by the rope attached to it.

The others were to fasten the rope round their bodies at distances of
twenty feet apart, so that if one slipped down the others could check him.
Edgar took off his shoes and tied them round his neck, and then stood out
on the window-sill, and threw the grapnel over the ridge of the roof; then
he drew the rope in until he found that the hook caught on the ridge.

"That is all right," he said to his comrades. "Now keep a firm hold on the
rope, but let it gradually out as I climb; if you hear me slipping draw it
in rapidly so as to stop me as I come past the window. But there is no
fear of that unless the hook gives way."

Then he swung himself up to the roof of the dormer window and proceeded to
haul himself by the rope up the steep incline, helping himself as much as
possible with his feet and knees. He was heartily glad when he gained the
ridge, and had thus accomplished the most dangerous part of the work. He
was able now to fix the grapnel firmly, and sitting astride of the roof,
he called down that he was ready. It was easier work for Albert to follow
him. Not only was the latter certain that the grapnel was safely fixed,
but Edgar, pulling upon the rope, was enabled to give him a good deal of
assistance. In two or three minutes Hal Carter joined them.

"In faith, master," he said, panting, "I had not deemed that so much of my
strength had gone from me. If it had not been for the help you gave me I
doubt if I could have climbed up that rope."

They now made their way along to the end of the roof. The grapnel was
fixed, and Edgar slid down the rope to the next roof, which was some
fifteen feet below them. They did not attempt to free the grapnel, fearing
that in its fall it might make a clatter; they therefore used another to
mount to the next house, which was as high as that which they had left.
There was but a difference of four feet in the height of the next, and
they had not to use the grapnel again until they reached the sixth house,
which was ten feet below that next to it.

[Illustration: THE PRISONERS MAKE THEIR ESCAPE OVER THE ROOFS OF YPRES.]

There was light enough to enable them to make out the position of the
dormer window below them, and fixing the grapnel, Edgar, aided by his
companions lowering him, made his way down beside it, and knelt upon the
sill, his companions keeping a steady strain upon the rope. With his
chisel he had but little difficulty in prising open the casement. His
companions were not long in joining him. Once inside the house they made
their way with great caution. They had no means of striking a light, and
were forced to grope about with their swords in front of them to prevent
their touching any piece of furniture, till at last they discovered the
door. It was not fastened, and passing through, and, as before, feeling
the floor carefully as they went, they presently found the head of the
stairs.

After this it was comparatively easy work, though a stoppage was necessary
at each landing. At last, to their satisfaction, they found themselves in
a flagged passage, and knew that they were on the ground floor. They made
their way along the passage, and soon reached the door. It was locked with
so massive a fastening that it would have been difficult to unfasten it
from the outside; but with the aid of the chisel they had but little
difficulty in forcing back the lock. They paused for a minute to listen,
as a passer-by might have been startled by the sound of the bolts being
shot in an empty house. All was quiet, however, and, opening the door
cautiously, Edgar stepped out.

"The street is all clear," he said; "except half a dozen fellows watching
in front of the house we have left, there is not a soul in sight." The
others joined him, closing the door silently behind them. They had not put
on their shoes again, so with noiseless steps they crossed the street and
turned up the one that had been indicated by Sir Robert. After going a few
paces they stopped, put on their shoes, and then walked boldly along. When
they reached the end of the street three figures came out from a deep
doorway to meet them.

"Is all well?" one asked.

This was the signal that had been agreed upon.

"All is well, Sir Robert. We have escaped without any difficulty or aught
going wrong."

"The saints be praised!" the knight ejaculated. "These with me are Sir
Oliver Drafurn and Sir Franois Regnault."

"Right glad we are, knights," one of them said, "that we can assist in
giving you your freedom. A foul shame indeed would it have been had two
such gallant fighters been massacred by this rascally mob, after yielding
themselves to a knight."

"Truly, sirs, we are greatly beholden to you," Edgar replied, "and trust
that an occasion may occur in which we may repay to some of your
countrymen the great service you are now rendering us."

They had gone but a short distance further when the door of a tavern
opened and twelve or fifteen half-drunken soldiers poured out.

"Whom have we here?" one of them shouted. "Faith, if they are burghers
they must pay for being thus late in the streets."

"Silence, knaves," Sir Franois Regnault said, sternly. "What mean ye by
this roystering? Disperse to your quarters at once, or by St. James, some
of you shall hang in the morning, as a lesson to others that the burgesses
of Ypres are not to be insulted by drunken revellers."

As by this time the speaker had moved on into the light that streamed
through the open door, the soldier saw at once that it was a knight, and,
muttering excuses, went hastily down the street. No one else was
encountered until they reached the foot of the wall. Here Sir Robert took
a hearty farewell of them. The two knights first mounted the steps to the
wall.

As they reached the top a sentry close by challenged.

"France," Sir Oliver replied; "and, hark ye, make no noise. I am Sir
Oliver Drafurn, and I am here with Sir Franois Regnault to pass three
messengers over the wall, bearers of important dispatches. We do not wish
the news to get abroad, so take your halbert and march up and down."

Hal Carter had brought one of the ropes, twisted round him for the
purpose.

"You are on the side facing the English camp," Sir Oliver said. "Those are
the lights that you see ahead. You will have three ditches to swim, and
will find it cold work, but there is no other way for it."

After giving hearty thanks to the knights, the three were lowered, one at
a time, and the rope was then dropped down. It was a good deal longer than
was necessary for descending the wall, but Edgar, rather to the surprise
of the others, had chosen it for the purpose. The first ditch was but ten
yards away; it was some thirty feet across.

"Now," Edgar said, "I will cross first. I am much the strongest, for
neither of you has fully recovered his strength. The water will be icy
cold, therefore I will swim across first, and do you, when I am over, each
hold to the rope and I will pull you across."

Short as was the distance the work was trying, for the night was bitterly
cold, and the ditches would have been frozen hard, were it not that twice
a day the besieged went out and broke the ice, which had now began to bind
again. At last, however, Edgar got across.

"Do you take the rope, Albert, and let Hal hold on by you, for the passage
I have made is but narrow."

A few strong pulls on Edgar's part brought them across.

"It is well," he said, as they climbed out, "that the knights promised to
go one each way, to tell the watchers on the walls to take no heed of any
sounds that they might hear of breaking ice, for that those leaving the
town were doing so by their authority."

The two other ditches were crossed in the same way, but the work was more
difficult, as the besieged only broke the ice of these once a day.

"We should never have got across without your aid, Edgar," Albert said. "I
could scarce hold on to the rope. My hands are dead, and I feel as if I
were frozen to the bone."

"Let us run for a bit, Albert, to warm our blood. Another quarter of a
mile and we shall be challenged by our sentries."

CHAPTER XVIII

A NOBLE GIFT

The pace at which the party started soon slackened, for neither Albert nor
Hal Carter could maintain it. However, it was not long before they heard
the sentry challenge:

"Who go there?"

"Sir Albert De Courcy and Sir Edgar Ormskirk escaped from Ypres," Edgar
answered.

"Stand where you are till I call the sergeant," the man said, and shouted
"Sergeant!" at the top of his voice. In five minutes a sergeant and two
men-at-arms came up.

"Hurry, sergeant, I pray you," Edgar said. "We have swum three ditches,
and my companions, being weakened by their wounds, are well-nigh
perished."

"Come on," the sergeant said, "it is clear at any rate that you are
Englishmen." He had brought a torch with him, and as they came up looked
at them narrowly, then he saluted. "I know you, Sir Edgar, disguised as
you are. I was fighting behind you on the wall five weeks since, and had
it not been for the strength of your arm, I should have returned no more
to England."

"How is Sir Hugh Calverley?" Edgar asked, as they hurried towards the
camp.

"His wounds are mending fast," the sergeant said, "and he went out of his
tent to-day for the first time. I saw him myself."

A quarter of an hour's walking brought them to the tent occupied by Sir
Hugh and his followers. A light was still burning there, and they heard
voices within.

"May we enter?" Edgar said, as he slightly opened the flap of the tent.

"Surely, that must be the voice of Sir Edgar Ormskirk!" Sir Hugh
exclaimed.

"It is I, sure enough, and with me is Sir Albert De Courcy and my brave
man-at-arms."

As he spoke he stepped into the tent. Two knights were there, and they and
Sir Hugh advanced with outstretched hands to meet the new-comers.

"Welcome back, welcome back!" Sir Hugh exclaimed, in a tone of emotion.
"My brave knights, I and my two comrades here have to thank you for our
lives, for, although in truth I know naught about it, I have heard from
Sir Thomas Vokes and Sir Tristram Montford how you brought the band to our
assistance, and how you kept the enemy at bay, while this good fellow of
yours bore me down the ladder on his shoulder; while from those who
escaped afterwards we heard how you both, with but two or three others,
kept the foe back, and gave time for the rest to jump from the walls or
slide down the ladders. But your faces are blue, and your teeth
chattering!"

"We have had to swim three ditches, and the ice having formed pretty
thickly, it was no child's work."

"First, do you each drain a goblet of wine," Sir Hugh said, "and then to
your tent. All your things are untouched. Knights, will you go with them
and rub them down till their skin glows, and then wrap them up in
blankets?" He called, and two servants came in. "Heat three bottles of
wine in a bowl with plenty of spices," he said, "and carry it to these
knights' tent, and take a portion to the tent of their men-at-arms for the
use of this good fellow. See that your comrades rub you down," he said to
Hal. "They will be glad indeed to see you back; for, although we heard
from a prisoner that the two knights were alive, we knew not whether any
others had been taken with them. Tell Hawkins to light two torches at once
and fix them in the knights' tent, and put two others in that of the men-
at-arms. Mind, Sir Edgar, once between the blankets, you stay there till
morning. Your story will keep until then."

After throwing off their wet clothes, and being rubbed down until they
glowed, Edgar and Albert were soon covered up in blankets, and after
drinking the hot spiced wine, soon fell asleep. In the morning they
related their story to Sir Hugh Calverley and the other two knights.

"'Tis Sir Edgar who should tell the tale," Albert said, "for indeed I know
but little about it from the time I saw you lowered over the wall. Things
went well with us for a time; we were joined by more men, and were strong
enough to divide into two parties, Edgar going to the right while I went
to the left. We cleared the wall for some distance, and methinks had there
been ladders, so that we could have been helped more quickly, the town
would have been won, but the enemy were reinforced more quickly than we
were, and we began to lose ground. Then came a body of knights who beat us
back till we were close to the point where the ladders were set. Then a
knight made at me with a mace. I saw his arms raised, and after that I
knew nothing more."

"The last man who jumped from the wall, Sir Albert, told us that he saw
that you were down and that Sir Edgar and one of his men-at-arms were
fighting like demons over you. Now, Sir Edgar, tell us how the matter
ended."

"We made a shift to keep them back, Sir Hugh, for some five minutes, when
one of the French knights offered to give us terms of surrender on ransom,
and seeing no use in fighting longer when the matter could only have
terminated one way, I surrendered."

Then he related the good treatment they had met with at the hands of Sir
Robert De Beaulieu, and the manner in which he had enabled them to escape
the fury of the rabble of Ypres, and had sent them away free from ransom.

"It was well done, indeed, of him," Sir Hugh said, warmly. "Truly a
courteous and knightly action. And so you have both given your pledge to
fight no more in this campaign. By St. George, I should not be ill-pleased
if someone would put me under a similar pledge, for I tell you that I am
heartily sick of it. Never did so disordered an army start from England.
An army led by bishops and priests is something strange. Bishops have
before now ridden often in battle, but never before did they assume
command. Methinks when I go home that I will ask the king to give me the
direction of Westminster Monastery and Abbey; at any rate I could not make
a worse hand of it than the Bishop of Norwich is doing of this. And you
say that De Beaulieu promised to send your armour on the first
opportunity. That is, indeed, a generous action, for the armour of a
prisoner is always the property of his captor, and your armour is of great
value. I would that we could do something to show the good knight that we
appreciate his generosity."

"We have our chains," Edgar said. "Of course we did not carry them about
us when we should have to fight, and they are very heavy and of the finest
workmanship. These would we gladly send to him, would we not, Albert, in
token of our gratitude? Though, costly as they are, they are of much less
value than the armour."

"I would gladly add something of my own account," Sir Hugh said, "seeing
that you are in my train, and one does not like to be surpassed by a
foreign knight. As to the matter of the ransom, that does not trouble me,
and indeed, seeing that you surrendered to him, and that he felt that he
could not give protection, and you had to risk your lives in getting away,
it was but reasonable that he should remit it, but in the matter of the
armour the case is different. I will add to your chains a reliquary which
was presented to me by Pedro of Castile when I saved his life in the fight
at Najarra. He told me that it contained a nail of the true cross, and
that it was brought to Spain by a Spaniard of royal blood who was a knight
commander of the Temple.

"I do not know how far this is true, for as one gets older one loses faith
in these monkish stories of reliquaries. However, the casket is set with
gems of value, and there is with it a parchment setting forth its history;
at any rate it is a gift that is worthy of even a prince's acceptance. I
will send it to him as a token that Sir Hugh Calverley recognizes his
chivalrous behaviour to the knights who were captured while covering his
carriage from the ramparts of Ypres, and, therefore, sends this gift to
him in all honour and courtesy, together with the gold chains of the
knights themselves. We shall not have long to wait. There are fights well-
nigh every day, and when these are over there is a truce of an hour to
carry off the wounded and dead."

The young knights thanked Sir Hugh for thus generously supplementing their
own offering in return for their armour, but he waved it aside.

"You saved my life," he said; "or at any rate you saved me from capture,
and had I fallen into their hands methinks that I should have had to pay a
far heavier ransom before they let me out again."

Two days later there was heavy fighting again and much loss on both sides.
It ceased as usual without any advantage being won by the besiegers. The
fighting ended soon after mid-day, and at one o'clock the trumpet sounded
a truce. Sir Hugh mounted, with his two knights, saying to Edgar: "It were
perhaps best that you should not ride with me. 'Tis likely that the
townsmen still think that you are in Beaulieu's house, and were it known
that you had escaped it might bring trouble upon him and the two knights
who aided your escape from the wall."

He took with him a pursuivant and trumpeter, and, riding through the
English and Flemish men-at-arms, who were already engaged in carrying away
the dead and wounded, he rode up to within a short distance of the wall,
then the pursuivant and trumpeter advanced to the edge of the moat, and
the latter blew a loud blast.

In a short time a knight appeared on the wall, and the pursuivant cried in

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