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At Agincourt by G. A. Henty

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[Illustration: GUY AYLMER SAVES THE KING'S LIFE AT THE BATTLE OF
AGINCOURT.]

AT AGINCOURT

BY
G. A. HENTY

PREFACE

The long and bloody feud between the houses of Orleans and Burgundy--which
for many years devastated France, caused a prodigious destruction of life
and property, and was not even relaxed in the presence of a common enemy--
is very fully recorded in the pages of Monstrellet and other contemporary
historians. I have here only attempted to relate the events of the early
portion of the struggle--from its commencement up to the astonishing
victory of Agincourt, won by a handful of Englishmen over the chivalry of
France. Here the two factions, with the exception of the Duke of Burgundy
himself, laid aside their differences for the moment, only to renew them
while France still lay prostrate at the feet of the English conqueror.

At this distance of time, even with all the records at one's disposal, it
is difficult to say which party was most to blame in this disastrous civil
war, a war which did more to cripple the power of France than was ever
accomplished by English arms. Unquestionably Burgundy was the first to
enter upon the struggle, but the terrible vengeance taken by the
Armagnacs,--as the Orleanists came to be called,--for the murders
committed by the mob of Paris in alliance with him, was of almost
unexampled atrocity in civil war, and was mainly responsible for the
terrible acts of cruelty afterwards perpetrated upon each other by both
parties. I hope some day to devote another volume to the story of this
desperate and unnatural struggle.

G. A. HENTY.

CONTENTS

I. A FEUDAL CASTLE

II. TROUBLES IN FRANCE

III. A SIEGE

IV. A FATAL ACCIDENT

V. HOSTAGES

VI. IN PARIS

VII. IN THE STREETS OF PARIS

VIII. A RIOT

IX. A STOUT DEFENCE

X. AFTER THE FRAY

XI. DANGER THREATENED

XII. IN HIDING

XIII. THE MASTERS OF PARIS

XIV. PLANNING MASSACRE

XV. A RESCUE

XVI. THE ESCAPE

XVII. A LONG PAUSE

XVIII. KATARINA

XIX. AGINCOURT

XX. PENSHURST

ILLUSTRATIONS

GUY AYLMER SAVES THE KING'S LIFE AT THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT.

GUY HAS HIS HEAD BOUND UP AFTER A BOUT AT QUARTER-STAFF.

"THE TWO MEN WHO LIT THE ALARM FIRES RODE INTO THE CASTLE."

"SIR EUSTACE GAVE A LOUD CRY, FOR LYING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIR WAS THE
FORM OF HIS SON."

THE LADY MARGARET MAKES HER OBEISANCE TO THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY.

GUY AND LONG TOM COME TO THE RESCUE OF COUNT CHARLES.

"TOM'S BOW TWANGED, AND THE ARROW STRUCK THE HORSEMAN UNDER THE ARM-PIT."

"THE KING EXTENDED HIS HAND TO GUY, WHO WENT ON ONE KNEE TO KISS IT."

"WELL, COMRADE," SAID SIMON, "I SUPPOSE YOU ARE THE MAN I WAS TOLD WOULD
COME TO-NIGHT?"

"GUY DELIVERED A SLASHING BLOW ON THE BUTCHER'S CHEEK, AND DASHED PAST
HIM."

GUY WELCOMES THE COUNT OF MONTEPONE AND HIS DAUGHTER TO VILLEROY.

"KATARINA SWEPT A DEEP CURTSEY, AND WENT OFF WITH A MERRY LAUGH."

AT AGINCOURT

CHAPTER I

A FEUDAL CASTLE

"And is it true that our lord and lady sail next week for their estate in
France?"

"Ay, it is true enough, and more is the pity; it was a sad day for us all
when the king gave the hand of his ward, our lady, to this baron of
Artois."

"They say she was willing enough, Peter."

"Ay, ay, all say she loved him, and, being a favourite with the queen, she
got her to ask the king to accede to the knight's suit; and no wonder, he
is as proper a man as eyes can want to look on--tall and stately, and they
say brave. His father and grandfather both were Edward's men, and held
their castle for us; his father was a great friend of the Black Prince,
and he, too, took a wife from England. Since then things have not gone
well with us in France, and they say that our lord has had difficulty in
keeping clear of the quarrels that are always going on out there between
the great French lords; and, seeing that we have but little power in
Artois, he has to hold himself discreetly, and to keep aloof as far as he
can from the strife there, and bide his time until the king sends an army
to win back his own again. But I doubt not that, although our lady's
wishes and the queen's favour may have gone some way with him, the king
thought more of the advantage of keeping this French noble,--whose fathers
have always been faithful vassals of the crown, and who was himself
English on his mother's side,--faithful to us, ready for the time when the
royal banner will flutter in the wind again, and blood will flow as it did
at Cressy and Poitiers.

"The example of a good knight like Sir Eustace taking the field for us
with his retainers might lead others to follow his example; besides, there
were several suitors for our lady's hand, and, by giving her to this
French baron, there would be less offence and heart-burning than if he had
chosen one among her English suitors. And, indeed, I know not that we have
suffered much from its being so; it is true that our lord and lady live
much on their estates abroad, but at least they are here part of their
time, and their castellan does not press us more heavily during their
absence than does our lord when at home."

"He is a goodly knight, is Sir Aylmer, a just man and kindly, and, being a
cousin of our lady's, they do wisely and well in placing all things in his
hands during their absence."

"Ay, we have nought to grumble at, for we might have done worse if we had
had an English lord for our master, who might have called us into the
field when he chose, and have pressed us to the utmost of his rights
whenever he needed money."

The speakers were a man and woman, who were standing looking on at a party
of men practising at the butts on the village green at Summerley, one of
the hamlets on the estates of Sir Eustace de Villeroy, in Hampshire.

"Well shot!" the man exclaimed, as an archer pierced a white wand at a
distance of eighty yards. "They are good shots all, and if our lord and
lady have fears of troubles in France, they do right well in taking a band
of rare archers with them. There are but five-and-twenty of them, but they
are all of the best. When they offered prizes here a month since for the
bowmen of Hants and Sussex and Dorset, methought they had some good reason
why they should give such high prizes as to bring hither the best men from
all three counties, and we were all proud that four of our own men should
have held their own so well in such company, and especially that Tom, the
miller's son, should have beaten the best of them. He is captain of the
band, you know, but almost all the others shoot nigh as well; there is not
one of them who cannot send an arrow straight into the face of a foe at a
hundred and twenty yards. There were some others as good who would fain
have been of the party, but our lady said she would take no married men,
and she was right. They go for five years certain, and methinks a man
fights all the better when he knows there is no one in England praying for
his return, and that if he falls, there is no widow or children to bewail
his loss. There are as many stout men-at-arms going too; so the Castle of
Villeroy will be a hard nut for anyone to crack, for I hear they can put a
hundred and fifty of their vassals there in the field."

"We shall miss Sir Aylmer's son Guy," the woman said; "he is ever down at
the village green when there are sports going on. There is not one of his
age who can send an arrow so straight to the mark, and not many of the
men; and he can hold his own with a quarter-staff too."

"Ay, dame; he is a stout lad, and a hearty one. They say that at the
castle he is ever practising with arms, and that though scarce sixteen he
can wield a sword and heavy battle-axe as well as any man-at-arms there."

"He is gentle too," the woman said. "Since his mother's death he often
comes down with wine and other goodies if anyone is ill, and he speaks as
softly as a girl. There is not one on the estate but has a good word for
him, nor doubts that he will grow up as worthy a knight as his father,
though gentler perhaps in his manner, and less grave in face, for he was
ever a merry lad. Since the death of his lady mother two years ago he has
gone about sadly, still of late he has gotten over his loss somewhat, and
he can laugh heartily again. I wonder his father can bear to part with
him."

"Sir Eustace knows well enough that he cannot always keep the boy by his
side, dame; and that if a falcon is to soar well, he must try his wings
early. He goes as page, does he not?"

"Ay, but more, methinks, as companion to young Henry, who has, they say,
been sickly from a child, and, though better now, has scarce the making of
a stalwart knight in him. His young brother Charles is a sturdy little
chap, and bids fair to take after his father; and little Lady Agnes, who
comes between them, is full of fire and spirit.

"Yes; methinks Guy will have a pleasant time of it out there; that is, if
there are no fresh troubles. I doubt not that in two or three years he
will be one of our lord's esquires, and if he has a chance of displaying
his courage and skill, may be back among us a dubbed knight before many
years have passed over our heads. France is a rare place for gaining
honours, and so it may well be, for I see not that we gain much else by
our king's possessions there."

"There was plenty of spoil brought over, dame, after Cressy and Poitiers."

"Ay, but it soon goes; easy come, easy go, you know; and though they say
that each man that fought there brought home a goodly share of spoil, I
will warrant me the best part went down their throats ere many months had
passed."

"'Tis ever so, dame; but I agree with you, and deem that it would be
better for England if we did not hold a foot of ground in France, and if
English kings and nobles were content to live quietly among their people.
We have spent more money than ever we made in these wars, and even were
our kings to become indeed, as they claim, kings of France as well as
England, the ill would be much greater, as far as I can see, for us all.
Still there may be things, dame, that we country folks don't understand,
and I suppose that it must be so, else Parliament would not be so willing
to vote money always when the kings want it for wars with France. The wars
in France don't affect us as much as those with Scotland and Wales. When
our kings go to France to fight they take with them only such as are
willing to go, men-at-arms and archers; but when we have troubles such as
took place but five or six years ago, when Douglas and Percy and the Welsh
all joined against us, then the lords call out their vassals and the
sheriffs the militia of the county, and we have to go to fight willy-
nilly. Our lord had a hundred of us with him to fight for the king at
Shrewsbury. Nigh thirty never came back again. That is worse than the
French wars, dame."

"Don't I know it, for wasn't my second boy one of those who never came
back. Ay, ay, they had better be fighting in France, perhaps, for that
lets out the hot blood that might otherwise bring on fighting at home."

"That is so, dame, things are all for the best, though one does not always
see it."

A week later all the tenantry gathered in front of the castle to wish God-
speed to their lord and lady, and to watch the following by which they
were accompanied. First there passed half a dozen mounted men-at-arms, who
were to accompany the party but half a day's march and then to return with
Sir Aylmer. Next to these rode Sir Eustace and Lady Margaret, still a
beautiful woman, a worthy mate of her noble-looking husband. On her other
side rode Sir Aylmer; then came John Harpen, Sir Eustace's esquire; beside
whom trotted Agnes, a bright, merry-faced girl of twelve. Guy rode with
the two boys; then came twenty-four men-at-arms, many of whom had fought
well and stoutly at Shrewsbury; while Tom, the miller's son, or, as he was
generally called, Long Tom, strode along at the head of twenty-four
bowmen, each of whom carried the long English bow and quiver full of
cloth-yard arrows, and, in addition, a heavy axe at his leathern girdle.

Behind these were some servitors leading horses carrying provisions for
the journey, and valises with the clothes of Sir Eustace, his wife, and
children, and a heavy cart drawn by four strong horses with the bundles of
extra garments for the men-at-arms and archers, and several large sheaves
of spare arrows. The men-at-arms wore iron caps, as also breast and back
pieces. On the shoulders and arms of their leathern jerkins iron rings
were sewn thickly, forming a sort of chain armour, while permitting
perfect freedom of the limbs. The archers also wore steel caps, which,
like those of the men-at-arms, came low down on the neck and temples. They
had on tough leathern frocks, girded in at the waist, and falling to the
knee; some of them had also iron rings sewn on the shoulders. English
archers were often clad in green cloth, but Sir Eustace had furnished the
garments, and had chosen leather, both as being far more durable, and as
offering a certain amount of defence.

The frocks were sleeveless, and each man wore cloth sleeves of a colour
according to his fancy. The band was in all respects a well-appointed one.
As Sir Eustace wished to avoid exciting comment among his neighbours, he
had abstained from taking a larger body of men; and it was partly for this
reason that he had decided not to dress the archers in green. But every
man had been carefully picked; the men-at-arms were all powerful fellows
who had seen service; the archers were little inferior in physique, for
strength as well as skill was required in archery, and in choosing the men
Sir Eustace had, when there was no great difference in point of skill,
selected the most powerful among those who were willing to take service
with him.

Guy enjoyed the two days' ride to Southampton greatly. It was the first
time that he had been away from home, and his spirits were high at thus
starting on a career that would, he hoped, bring him fame and honour.
Henry and his brother and sister were also in good glee, although the
journey was no novelty to them, for they had made it twice previously.
Beyond liking change, as was natural at their age, they cared not whether
they were at their English or at their French home, as they spoke both
languages with equal fluency, and their life at one castle differed but
little from that at the other.

Embarking at Portsmouth in a ship that was carrying military stores to
Calais, they coasted along the shores of Sussex and of Kent as far as
Dungeness, and then made across to Calais. It was early in April, the
weather was exceptionally favourable, and they encountered no rough seas
whatever. On the way Sir Eustace related to Guy and his sons the events
that had taken place in France, and had led up to the civil war that was
raging so furiously there.

"In 1392, the King of France being seized with madness, the Dukes of
Burgundy and Orleans in a very short time wrested the power of the state
from the hands of his faithful councillors, the Constable de Clisson, La
Riviere, and others. De Clisson retired to his estate and castle at
Montelhery, the two others were seized and thrown into prison. De Clisson
was prosecuted before Parliament as a false and wicked traitor; but the
king, acting on the advice of Orleans, who had not then broken with the
Dukes of Burgundy and Berri, had, after La Riviere and another had been in
prison for a year, stopped the prosecution, and restored their estates to
them. Until 1402 the Dukes of Burgundy and Berri were all-powerful, and in
1396 a great number of knights and nobles, led by John, Count of Nevers,
the eldest son of the Duke of Burgundy, went to the assistance of the King
of Hungary, which country was being invaded by the Turks. They were,
however, on the 28th of September, utterly defeated. The greater portion
of them were killed; Nevers and the rest were ransomed and brought home.

"In 1402 the king, influenced by his wife, Isobel, and his brother, the
Duke of Orleans, who were on terms of the closest alliance, placed the
entire government in the hands of the latter, who at once began to abuse
it to such an extent, by imposing enormous taxes upon the clergy and the
people, that he paved the way for the return of his uncle of Burgundy to
power. On the 27th of April, 1404, Philip the Bold of Burgundy died. He
was undoubtedly ambitious, but he was also valiant and able, and he had
the good of France at heart. He was succeeded by his son John, called the
Fearless, from the bravery that he had displayed in the unfortunate
Hungarian campaign. The change was disastrous for France. John was violent
and utterly unscrupulous, and capable of any deed to gratify either his
passions, jealousies, or hatreds. At first he cloaked his designs against
Orleans by an appearance of friendship, paid him a visit at his castle
near Vincennes, where he was at the time lying ill. When he recovered, the
two princes went to mass together, dined at their uncle's, the Duke of
Berri, and together entered Paris; and the Parisians fondly hoped that
there was an end of the rivalry that had done so much harm. It was,
however, but a very short time afterwards that, on the 23d of November,
1407, as the Duke of Orleans was returning from having dined with the
queen, and was riding with only two esquires and four or five men on foot
carrying torches, twenty armed men sprang out from behind a house and
rushed upon him.

"'I am the Duke of Orleans,' the prince cried; but they hurled him from
his mule, and as he tried to rise to his feet one blow struck off the hand
he raised to protect his head, other blows rained down upon him from axe
and sword, and in less than a minute the duke lay dead. The Duke of
Burgundy at first affected grief and indignation, but at the council the
next day he boldly avowed that Orleans had been killed by his orders. He
at once took horse and rode to the frontier of Flanders, which he reached
safely, though hotly chased by a party of the Duke of Orleans' knights.
The duke's widow, who was in the country at the time, hastened up to Paris
with her children, and appealed for justice to the king, who declared that
he regarded the deed done to his brother as done to himself. The Dukes of
Berri and Bourbon, the Constable and Chancellor, all assured her that she
should have justice; but there was no force that could hope to cope with
that which Burgundy could bring into the field, and when, two months
later, Burgundy entered Paris at the head of a thousand men-at-arms, no
attempt was made at resistance, and the murderer was received with
acclamations by the fickle populace.

"The king at the time was suffering from one of his terrible fits of
insanity, but a great assembly was held, at which princes, councillors,
lords, doctors of law, and prominent citizens were present. A monk of the
Cordeliers, named John Petit, then spoke for five hours in justification
of the duke, and the result was that the poor insane king was induced to
sign letters cancelling the penalty of the crime. For four months the duke
remained absolute master of Paris, disposing of all posts and honours, and
sparing no efforts to render himself popular with the burghers. A serious
rebellion breaking out at Liege, and the troops sent against the town
being repulsed, he was obliged to leave Paris to put down the revolt. As
soon as he had left, the queen and the partisans of Orleans prepared to
take advantage of his absence, and two months later Queen Isobel marched
with the dauphin, now some thirteen years old, from Melun with three
thousand men.

"The Parisians received her with applause, and as soon as she had taken up
her quarters at the Louvre, the Dukes of Berri, Bourbon, and Brittany, the
Constable, and all the great officers of the court rallied round her. Two
days later the Duchess of Orleans arrived with a long train of mourning
coaches. A great assembly was held, and the king's advocate announced to
them the intention of the king to confer the government upon the queen
during his illness, and produced a document signed by the king to that
effect. The Duchess of Orleans then came forward, and kneeling before the
dauphin, begged for justice for the death of her husband, and that she
might be granted an opportunity of refuting the calumnies that John Petit
had heaped on the memory of her husband. A week later another great
assembly was held, and the justification of the duke was read, refuting
all these imputations, and the duchess's advocate demanded that the duke
should be forced to make public reparation, and then to be exiled for
twenty years. The dauphin replied that he and all the princes of blood
royal present held that the charges against the Duke of Orleans had been
amply refuted, and that the demands with reference to the Duke of Burgundy
should be provided for in course of justice.

"Scarcely had the assembly broken up when it became known that Burgundy
and his army was on the way back to Paris. Resistance was out of the
question; therefore, taking the young dauphin with her, and accompanied by
all the members of the royal family, the queen retired to Tours. Burgundy,
unscrupulous as he was, finding that although he might remain master of
Paris, he could not hope to rule France, except when acting under the
pretence of the king's authority, soon sent an embassy to Tours to
endeavour to arrange matters. He was able to effect this with the less
difficulty, that the Duchess of Orleans had just died from grief at her
husband's death, and at the hopelessness of obtaining vengeance on his
murderer. The queen was won to the cause of Burgundy by secret proposals
submitted to her for a close league between them, and in March a treaty
was concluded, and a meeting took place at Chartres, at which the duke,
the king, the queen, the royal princes, and the young Duke of Orleans and
his adherents were present.

"The king declared that he pardoned the duke, and the princes of Orleans
consented to obey his orders and to lay aside all hatred and thoughts of
vengeance, and shortly afterwards Paris welcomed with shouts of joy the
return of the king and queen and the apparent reconciliation of all
parties. But the truce was a brief one; for the princes and adherents of
Orleans might bend before circumstances at the moment, but their feelings
were unchanged.

"A head of the party was needed, and the young duke married the daughter
of Count Bernard d'Armagnac, one of the most powerful and ambitious nobles
of the south of France, who at once,--in concert with the Dukes of Berri
and Brittany and other lords,--put himself at the head of the Orleans
party. On the 10th of July, 1411, the three princes of Orleans sent a long
letter to the king, complaining that no reparation whatever had been made
for the murder of their father, and begging him that, as what was done at
Chartres was contrary to every principle of law, equity, reason, and
justice, the case should be reopened again. They also made complaints
against the Duke of Burgundy for his conduct and abuse of power.

"As the king was surrounded by Burgundy's creatures no favourable reply
was returned, and a formal challenge or declaration of war was, on the
18th of July, sent by the princes to the Duke of Burgundy, and both
parties began at once to make preparation for war.

"Now for my own view of this quarrel. King Henry sent for me a year since,
and asked for whom I should hold my castle if Orleans and Burgundy came to
blows, adding that Burgundy would be viewed by him with most favour.

"'My father and grandfather ever fought faithfully in the service of
England,' I said; 'but for years past now, the line betwixt your majesty's
possessions and those of France has been drawn in, and my estates and
Castle of Villeroy now lie beyond the line, and I am therefore a vassal of
France as well as of your majesty. It being known to all men that even
before I became Lord of Summerley, on my marriage with your majesty's
ward, Mistress Margaret, I, like my father, held myself to be the liege
man of the King of England. I am therefore viewed with much hostility by
my neighbours, and right gladly would they seize upon any excuse to lay
complaint against me before the king, in order that I might be deprived of
my fief and castle.

"'This I would fain hold always for your majesty; and, seeing how it is
situated but a few miles across the frontier, it is, I would humbly submit
to you, of importance to your majesty that it should be held by one
faithful to you--since its possession in the hands of an enemy would
greatly hinder any English army marching out from Calais to the invasion
of France. It is a place of some strength now; but were it in French hands
it might be made very much stronger, and would cost much time and loss of
men to besiege. At present your majesty is in alliance with Burgundy, but
none can say how the war will go, or what changes will take place; and
should the Orleanists gain the upper hand, they will be quick to take
advantage of my having fought for Burgundy, and would confiscate my
estates and hand them over to one who might be hostile to England, and
pledged to make the castle a stronghold that would greatly hinder and bar
the advance of an English army upon Paris. Therefore, Sire, I would, not
for my own sake but for the sake of your majesty's self and your
successors, pray you to let me for a while remain quietly at Summerley
until the course of events in France is determined.'

"The king was pleased to see the force of what I urged. As far as I had
inclinations in the case, they were towards the cause, not of Burgundy
himself, whose murder of Orleans was alike treacherous and indefensible,
but of his cause, seeing that Flanders is wholly under his authority, and
that in Artois he is well-nigh paramount at present. On the other hand,
Amiens and Ponthieu, which lie but a short distance to the south of me,
are strongly Orleanist, and I have therefore every motive for standing
aloof. So far the fortune of war has been so changeable that one cannot
say that the chances incline towards one faction more than the other. Even
the Church has failed to bring about the end of the troubles. The
Orleanists have been formally placed under interdicts, and cursed by book,
bell, and candle. The king's commands have been laid upon all to put aside
their quarrels, but both the ban of the Church and the king's commands
have been ineffectual. I am as anxious as ever to abstain from taking any
part in the trouble, the more so as the alliance between our king and
Burgundy has cooled somewhat. But I have received such urgent prayers from
my vassals at Villeroy to come among them, since they are now being
plundered by both parties, that I feel it is time for me to take up my
abode there. When the king stayed at Winchester, a month since, I laid the
matter before him. He was pleased to say that what I had urged a year ago
had turned out to be as I foretold, and that he would give me leave to go
over and establish myself at Villeroy, and to hold myself aloof from both
parties until the matter should further ripen. What will come of it I
cannot say. The English king seemed to me to be ailing, and I fear that it
may not be long before young Henry comes to the throne. He is a wild young
prince, but has already shown himself in the Northern war to be full of
spirit and courage, and methinks that when he comes to the throne he will
not long observe the peaceful policy of his father, but that we shall see
the royal standard once again spread to the winds of France."

"But, Sir Eustace," Guy said, when he had concluded, "how do these matters
affect you? I thought that by the treaty the west part of Artois was
English."

"Ay, lad, it was so settled; but at that time the strength of France had
been broken at Poitiers, and the Black Prince and his army were so feared
that his terms were willingly accepted in order to secure peace. Much has
happened since then: war has been constantly going on, sometimes hotly,
sometimes sluggishly; France has had her own troubles, and as the English
kings have been more pacific, and England has become weary of bearing the
heavy expenses of the war, the treaty has become a dead letter. Gascony,
in which province Armagnac is the greatest lord, is altogether lost to
England, as is the greater part of Guienne. A great proportion of the
people there were always bitterly opposed to the change, and, as you know,
even in the time of the Black Prince himself there were great rebellions
and troubles; since then town after town and castle after castle has
declared for France, and no real efforts have ever been made by the
English to win them back again. I, who in England am an English baron,
and--so long as things go on as at present--a French noble while in
France, am in a perilous position between my two Suzerains. Were an
English army to land, I should join them, for I still hold myself to be a
vassal of the king of England, as we have been for three generations. As
to the French disputes, I fear that sooner or later I shall have to
declare in favour of one party or the other, for it will be difficult to
stand altogether aloof from these conflicts, because all men, at least all
men of condition, are well-nigh forced to take one side or the other. The
plea that I am a baron of England will be of no avail, for both sides
would turn against me and be glad of an excuse for pillaging and
confiscating my estate. At present, then, I must regard myself solely as a
French noble, for Villeroy has passed into the hands of France, just as
for a while it passed into the hands of England, and if this war goes on
we shall have to take a side."

"And to which side do your thoughts incline, Sir Eustace, if I may ask
you?"

"I love not either side, Guy, and would fain, if it could be so, that my
sword should remain in its sheath. I fear that I shall have to go with
Burgundy, for he is all-powerful in Artois; but had I been altogether free
to choose, I should have sided with Orleans. In the first place, it is
certain that the last duke was foully murdered by Burgundy, who thereby
laid the foundation for the present troubles. There were jealousies
before, as there have always been between the great nobles, but that act
forced almost all to take sides. The Dukes of Berri and Brittany, who had
been of the party of the late Duke of Burgundy, were driven by this foul
act of his son to range themselves with Orleans. Armagnac is very powerful
in the south, Berri's dukedom is in the north, that of Orleans to the
north-east. Burgundy's strength lies in his own dukedom,--which has ever
been all but independent of France,--in Flanders, in Artois, and in Paris;
thus, generally, it is the north and east of France against the south and
west. This is broadly the case, but in a civil war provinces and
countships, neighbours, ay, and families, become split up into factions,
as interest, or family ties, or the desire to increase an estate by
annexing another next to it, may influence the minds of men.

"So long as it is but a war between the great dukes and princes of France
we smaller men may hope to hold aloof, but, as it goes on, and evil deeds
are done on both sides, men's passions become heated, the spirit spreads
until every man's hand is against his neighbour, and he who joins not
against one or the other finds both ready to oppress and rob him. I should
not have cared to bring out an English following with me had we been
forced to march any distance through France; but as Villeroy is but a few
miles from the frontier, and of that distance well-nigh half is through my
own estates, we can reach the castle almost unnoticed. Once there, the
fact that I have strengthened my garrison will keep me from attack, for
either party would be chary in attacking one who can defend himself
stoutly. I was minded to leave your lady and the two younger children in
England, but in truth she begged so hard to accompany me that I could not
say her nay."

The Castle of Villeroy was somewhat larger than the one in which Guy had
been born and brought up. The plan, however, was very similar: there was
the central keep, but, whereas at home this was the dwelling-house of the
family, it was here used as a storehouse, and the apartments of the count
and countess were in the range of buildings that formed an inner court
round the keep. In point of luxury the French were in advance of the
English, and they had already begun to combine comfort with strength in
their buildings. The apartments struck Guy as being wonderfully spacious
in comparison to those with which he was accustomed. On the ground floor
of one side of the square was the banqueting-hall. Its walls were
decorated with arms and armour, the joists that supported the floor above
were carved, the windows large and spacious, for, looking as they did into
the inner court, there was no occasion for their being mere loopholes.
Above the banqueting-hall was a room where Lady Margaret sat with her
maids engaged in working at tapestry; here the priest gave such slight
instruction as was then considered necessary to Agnes and Charles; Henry
had already passed out of his hands.

Next to this room was the knight's sleeping apartment, or closet as it was
then called, a room which would now be considered of ridiculously
straitened dimensions; and close to it were the still smaller closets of
the children. Beyond were a series of guest-chambers. Another side of the
court-yard contained the apartments of the castellan, Jean Bouvard, a
sturdy soldier of long experience, and those of the other officers of the
household; the other two sides were occupied by the chapel, the kitchens,
and the offices of the servants and retainers. All these rooms were
loopholed on the side looking into the outer court. This was considerably
wider and more extensive than the one surrounding the keep. Here were the
stables, storehouses for grain and forage, and a building, just erected,
for the lodging of the English garrison. All these buildings stood against
the outer wall, so that they would afford no shelter to an enemy who had
obtained possession of the first defences and was making an attack against
the second line. The outer wall was twelve feet in thickness, and thirty
feet above the court; outside the height was considerably greater, as
there was a moat faced with stone fifteen feet deep entirely surrounding
it, and containing seven or eight feet of water.

Walls ran half across the outer court, and, from the end of these, light
wooden bridges formed a communication with the wall of the inner court, so
that in the event of the outer wall being stormed or the gates being
carried by assault, the defenders could retire to the inner defences. The
ends of these bridges rested upon irons projecting from the wall, and so
arranged that they could be instantly withdrawn when the last of the
defenders had crossed over, when the bridges would at once fall into the
court-yard below. The inner wall was twelve feet higher than the outer
one, and, like it, was provided with a crenellated battlement four feet
high; there were projecting turrets at each corner, and one in the middle
of each side.

The keep rose twenty feet higher than the wall of the inner court. The
lower portions of the cross walls of the outer court were carried on as
far as the inner wall, thereby dividing the space into four; strong gates
gave communication from one to the other. Into these could be driven the
cattle of the tenantry, and one of them contained a number of huts in
which the tenants themselves would be lodged. The court-yard facing the
entrance was the largest of the areas into which the space between the
outer and inner walls was divided, extending the whole width between the
outer walls. Here the military exercises were carried on. Along the wall,
at each side of the gate, were a range of stables for the use of the
horses of guests, with rooms over them for the use of their retainers.
There was a strong exterior work defending the approach to the drawbridge
on the other side of the moat, and in all respects the castle was well
appointed, and to Guy it seemed almost impossible that it could be carried
by assault, however numerous the foe.

CHAPTER II

TROUBLES IN FRANCE

As soon as it was heard that the lord and lady had returned, the vassals
of Villeroy came in to pay their respects, and presents of fowls, game,
and provisions of all kinds poured in. The table in the banqueting-hall
was bountifully spread, casks of wine broached, and all who came received
entertainment. As French was still spoken a good deal at the English court
and among the nobles and barons, and was considered part of the necessary
education of all persons of gentle blood, Guy, who had always used it in
his conversation with his father, had no difficulty in performing his duty
of seeing that the wants of all who came were well attended to. In a few
days guests of higher degree came in, the knights and barons of that part
of the province; a few of these expressed surprise at the height of the
sturdy men-at-arms and archers loitering about the court-yard. Sir Eustace
always answered any remarks made on the subject by saying, "Yes, Dame
Margaret and I thought that instead of keeping all our retainers doing
nothing in our castle in England, where there is at present no use
whatever for their services, we might as well bring a couple of score of
them over here. I have no wish to take part in any of the troubles that
seem likely to disturb France, but there is never any saying what may
happen, and at any rate it costs no more to feed these men here than in
England."

The English archers and men-at-arms were well satisfied with their
quarters and food, and were soon on good terms with their French
associates. The garrison, before their arrival, had consisted of fifty
men-at-arms, and although these had no means of communicating verbally
with the new arrivals, they were not long in striking up such acquaintance
as could be gained by friendly gestures and the clinking of wine-cups.
Their quarters were beside those of the English, and the whole of the men-
at-arms daily performed their exercises in the court-yard together, under
the command of the castellan, while the archers marched out across the
drawbridge and practised shooting at some butts pitched there. To the
French men-at-arms their performances appeared astounding. The French had
never taken to archery, but the cross-bow was in use among them, and half
of the French men-at-arms had been trained in the use of this weapon,
which was considered more valuable in the case of sieges than of warfare
in the field. While they were able to send their bolts as far as the
bowmen could shoot their arrows, there was no comparison whatever in point
of accuracy, and the archers could discharge a score of arrows while the
cross-bowmen were winding up their weapons.

"_Pardieu_, master page," Jean Bouvard said one day as he stood with
Guy watching the shooting of the archers, "I no longer wonder at the way
in which you English defeated us at Cressy and Poitiers. I have heard from
my father, who fought at Poitiers, how terrible was the rain of arrows
that was poured upon our knights when they charged up the hill against the
English, but I had never thought that men could shoot with such skill and
strength. It was but yesterday that I set my men-at-arms to try and bend
one of these English bows, and not one of them could draw an arrow
anywhere near the head with all their efforts; while these men seem to do
so with the greatest ease, and the speed with which they can shoot off
arrow after arrow well-nigh passes belief. That tall fellow, who is their
chief, but now sent twenty arrows into a space no greater than a hand's-
breadth, at a hundred and twenty yards, and that so quickly that he scarce
seemed to take time to aim at all, and the others are well-nigh as
skilful. Yesterday I put up a breastplate such as is worn by our men-at-
arms and asked them to shoot at it at eighty yards. They fired a volley
together at it. It was riddled like a colander; not one of the five-and-
twenty arrows had failed to pierce it."

"Ay, at that distance, Captain, an English archer of fair skill could not
miss it, and it needs Milan armour, and that of the best, to keep out
their arrows."

"By our Lady," the captain remarked, "I should be sorry to attack a castle
defended by them, and our lord has done well indeed to bring them over
with him. Your men-at-arms are stalwart fellows. My own men feel well-nigh
abashed when they see how these men take up a stone that they themselves
can with difficulty lift from the ground, and hurl it twenty yards away;
and they whirl their heavy axes round their heads as if they were reeds."

"They are all picked men," Guy said with a laugh. "You must not take it
that all Englishmen are of equal strength, though no doubt Sir Eustace
could have gathered five hundred as strong had he wished it."

"If that be so," the captain said, "I can well believe that if France and
England meet again on a field of battle France shall be beaten as she was
before. However, there is one comfort, we shall not be among the defeated;
for our lord, and his father and his grandfather before, him, have ever
been with England, and Sir Eustace, having an English wife and mother, and
being a vassal of the English crown for his estates in England, will
assuredly take their part in case of a quarrel. Of course, at present we
hold ourselves to be neutrals, and though our lord's leanings towards
England give some umbrage to his neighbours, their enmity finds no
expression, since for years now there has been no righting to speak of
between the two nations. How it will be if Orleans and Burgundy come to
blows I know not; but if they do so, methinks our lord will have to
declare for one or the other, or he may have both upon him. A man with
broad estates, on which many cast covetous eyes, can scarce stand
altogether aloof. However, if Villeroy is attacked, methinks that with the
following Sir Eustace has brought with him across the sea even Burgundy
himself will find that it would cost him so dearly to capture the castle
that it were best left alone."

"How about the vassals?"

"They will fight for their lord," Jean Bouvard answered confidently. "You
see their fathers and grandfathers fought under the Black Prince, and it
is natural that their leanings should be on that side. Then they know that
there is no better lord in all Artois than Sir Eustace, and his dame has
made herself much beloved among them all. There is no fear that they will
disobey our lord's orders whatever they be, and will fight as he bids
them, for Orleans or Burgundy, England or France. He has never exercised
to the full his rights of seigneur; he has never called upon them for
their full quota of work; no man has even been hung on his estate for two
generations save for crime committed; no vassal's daughter has ever been
carried into the castle. I tell you there is not a man for over fifty
miles round who does not envy the vassals of Villeroy, and this would be a
happy land indeed were all lords like ours. Were we to hoist the flag on
the keep and fire a gun, every man on the estate would muster here before
sunset, and would march against the King of France himself did Sir Eustace
order them to do so."

"In that case what force could we put on the walls, Captain?"

"Two hundred men besides the garrison, and we have provisions stored away
in the keep sufficient for them and their women and children for a three
months' siege. Sir Eustace gave me orders yesterday to procure wood of the
kind used for arrows, and to lay in a great store of it; also to set the
smiths to work to make arrow-heads. I asked him how many, and he said,
'Let them go on at it until further orders. I should like a store
sufficient at least for a hundred rounds for each of these English
archers, and if we had double that it would be all the better. They can
make their own arrows if they have suitable wood.' It seemed to me that
two hundred rounds was beyond all necessity, but now when I see that these
men can shoot nigh twenty rounds a minute, I can well understand that a
great supply for them is needful."

The time passed very pleasantly at Villeroy. Sometimes Guy rode with his
lord and lady when they went out hawking or paid visits to neighbouring
castles. Regularly every day they practised for two hours in arms, and
although well instructed before, Guy gained much additional skill from the
teaching of Jean Bouvard, who was a famous swordsman. The latter was
surprised at finding that the page was able to draw the English bows as
well as the archers, and that, although inferior to Long Tom and three or
four of the best shots, he was quite as good a marksman as the majority.
Moreover, though of gentle blood he would join with the men in their bouts
of quarter-staff, and took no more heed of a broken head than they did.

[Illustration: GUY HAS HIS HEAD BOUND UP AFTER A BOUT AT QUARTER-STAFF.]

"_Pardieu_, master page," he said one day when Guy came in from the
court-yard to have his head, which was streaming with blood, bound up,
"our French pages would marvel indeed if they saw you. They all practise
in arms as you do, save with the shooting; but they would consider it
would demean them sorely to join in such rough sports with their
inferiors, or to run the risk of getting their beauty spoiled by a rough
blow. No wonder your knights strike so mightily in battle when they are
accustomed to strike so heavily in sport. I saw one of your men-at-arms
yesterday bury his axe to the very head in a block of oak; he wagered a
stoup of wine that no two of my men-at-arms would get the axe out, and he
won fairly, for indeed it took four of the knaves at the handle to tug it
out, and then indeed it needed all their strength. No armour ever forged
could have withstood such a blow; it-would have cracked both the casque
and the skull inside like egg-shells. It seemed to me that a thousand such
men, with as many archers, could march through France from end to end, if
they kept well together, and were well supplied with meat and drink by the
way--they would need that, for they are as good trenchermen as they are
fighters, and indeed each man amongst them eats as much as three of my
fellows."

"Yes, they want to be well fed," Guy laughed, "and they are rarely pleased
with the provision that you make for them; surely not one of them ever fed
so well before."

"Food does not cost much," the captain said; "we have herds of our own
which run half wild on the low ground near the river, which our lords
always keep in hand for their own uses, and they multiply so fast that
they are all the better for thinning; we sell a few occasionally, but they
are so wild that it scarce pays the trouble of driving them to the nearest
market, and we are always ready to grant permission to any of the vassals,
whose cattle have not done as well as usual, to go out and kill one or two
for meat."

"I hear from the Governor of Calais," Sir Eustace said, when he returned
from a visit to that town, "that a truce has been agreed upon between
England and France for a year; it is France who asked for it, I suppose.
Both parties here wanted to be able to fight it out without interference.
Here, in Artois, where the Burgundians are most numerous, they will
profit, as they will have no fear of England trying to regain some of her
lost territory, while in the south it will leave Armagnac and his friends
equally free from English incursions from Guienne."

"And how will it affect us, Eustace?" his wife asked.

"That I have not been able fully to determine. At any rate they will have
no excuse for attacking us upon the ground that we are partly English, and
wholly so in feeling; but upon the other hand, if we are attacked either
by Burgundians or Orleanists, we cannot hope, as we should have done
before, for aid from Calais, lying as we do some fifteen miles beyond the
frontier. Amiens has already declared for Burgundy, in spite of the fact
that a royal proclamation has been issued, and sent to every town and
bailiwick through France, strictly commanding all persons whatsoever not
to interfere, or in any manner to assist the Dukes of Orleans or Burgundy
in their quarrels with each other. I hear that the Duke of Burgundy has
seized Roye, Nesle, and Ham, and a number of other places, and that both
parties are fortifying all their towns. They say, too, that there is news
that the king has again been seized with one of his fits of madness.
However, that matters little. He has of late been a tool in the hands of
Burgundy, and the royal signature has no weight one way or the other.
However, now that hostilities have begun, we must lose no time, for at any
moment one party or the other may make a sudden attack upon us. Burgundy
and Orleans may quarrel, but it is not for love of one or the other that
most of the nobles will join in the fray, but merely because it offers
them an opportunity for pillaging and plundering, and for paying off old
scores against neighbours. Guy, bid John Harpen come hither."

When the esquire entered, Sir Eustace went on:

"Take two men-at-arms, John, and ride round to all the tenants. Warn them
that there are plundering bands about, and that either the Burgundians or
the Orleanists may swoop down upon us any day. Tell them that they had
better send in here all their valuables, and at any rate the best of their
cattle and horses, and to have everything prepared for bringing in their
wives and families and the rest of their herds at a moment's notice. You
can say that if they like they can at once send their wives and families
in, with such store of grain and forage as they can transport; the more
the better. If the plunderers come, so much the more is saved from
destruction; if we are besieged, so much the more food have we here. Those
who do not send in their families would do well to keep a cart with two
strong horses ready day and night, so that no time would be lost when they
get the signal. We shall fire a gun, hoist the flag, and light a bonfire
on the keep, so that they may see the smoke by day or the fire by night.
Tell Jean Bouvard to come to me."

"There is trouble afoot, Jean, and at any moment we may be attacked. Place
two men-at-arms on each of the roads to St. Omer, St. Pol, and Bethune.
Post them yourself at the highest points you can find near our boundary.
By each have a pile of faggots, well smeared with pitch, and have another
pile ready on the keep, and a watch always stationed there. He is to light
it at once when he sees smoke or fire from either of the three points. Let
the men at the outposts be relieved every four hours. They must, of
course, be mounted. Let one of the two remain by the faggots, and let the
other ride three or four miles in advance, and so post himself as to see a
long distance down the road.

"If he sees a force advancing he must gallop back at full speed to his
comrade, and light the fire. Have a gun always loaded on the keep, and
have a brazier burning hard by, with an iron in it, so that the piece may
be fired the instant smoke is seen. It might be two or three minutes
before the beacon would give out smoke enough to be noticed, and every
minute may be of the greatest importance to the vassals. As soon as you
return from setting the posts see that everything is in readiness here. I
myself will make sure that the drawbridge works easily and the portcullis
runs freely in its groove. I have already sent off John Harpen to warn the
tenants, and doubtless many of them will be in this afternoon. Send Pierre
with four men, and tell them to drive up a number of the cattle from the
marshes. They need not trouble to hunt them all up today. Let them bring
the principal herd, the others we will fetch in to-morrow, or let them
range where they are until we have further news."

In a few minutes the castle resounded with the din of preparations under
the superintendence of Sir Eustace. The men-at-arms and archers carried up
stones from the great pile that had been collected in the court-yard in
readiness, to the various points on the walls that would be most exposed
to assault. Others were employed in fixing barricades in the court-yard at
the rear for the reception of the herd of half-wild cattle. The water was
turned from the little rivulet running down to the Somme into the moat.
Two or three bullocks were killed to furnish food for the fugitives who
might come in, and straw was laid down thickly in the sheds that would be
occupied by them. Machines for casting heavy stones were taken from the
storehouse and carried up to the walls, and set up there. Large stone
troughs placed in the court-yard were filled with water, and before
nightfall everything was in readiness.

As Sir Eustace had anticipated, most of the vassals whose farms lay at a
distance from the castle came in with their wives and families in the
course of the afternoon, bringing carts laden with their household goods,
and a considerable number of horses and cattle. Lady Margaret herself saw
that they were established as comfortably as possible in the sheds, which
were large enough to contain all the women and children on the estate. As
for the men, no such provision was necessary, as at this time of the year
they could sleep in the open air. Guy was busy all day seeing that the
orders of his lord were carried out, and especially watching the
operations of putting the ballistas and catapults together on the walls.
Cannon, though now in use, had by no means superseded these machines, for
they were cumbrous and clumsy, and could only be fired at considerable
intervals, and their aim was by no means accurate or their range
extensive, as the charge of powder that could be used in them was
comparatively small, and the powder itself ill-made and defective in
strength.

Guy was struck with the difference of demeanour between the men-at-arms
and archers, especially among the English contingent, and that of the
fugitives who poured in. What was a terrible blow to the latter was the
cause of a scarce concealed gratification among the former. The two months
that had been spent at the castle had, to the English, been a somewhat
monotonous time, and the prospect of active service and of the giving and
taking of blows made their blood course more rapidly through their veins.
It was the prospect of fighting rather than of pay that had attracted them
to the service of Sir Eustace. Then, as for a century previous and until
quite modern days, Frenchmen were regarded as the natural foes of England,
and however large a force an English king wished to collect for service in
France, he had never any difficulty whatever in obtaining the number he
asked for, and they were ready cheerfully to give battle whatever the odds
against them. The English archer's confidence in himself and his skill was
indeed supreme. Before the shafts of his forefathers the flower of the
French chivalry had gone down like rushes before a scythe, and from being
a mere accessory to a battle the English archers had become the backbone
of the force. Their skill, in fact, had revolutionized warfare, had broken
the power of cavalry, and had added to the dignity and value of infantry,
who had become, as they have ever since continued to be, the prime factor
in warfare. Consequently the English archers and men-at-arms went about
their work of preparation with a zest and cheerfulness that showed their
satisfaction in it.

"Why, Tom," Guy said to the tall leader of the archers, "you look as
pleased as if it were a feast rather than a fray for which you were
preparing."

"And so I feel, Master Guy. For what have I been practising with the bow
since I was eight years old but that I might, when the time came, send an
arrow straight through the bars of a French vizor? In faith, I began to
think that I should never have an opportunity of exercising my skill on
anything more worthy than a target or peeled wand. Since our kings have
given up leading armies across the sea, there was no way but to take
service with our lord when I heard that he wanted a small company of
archers for the defence of his castle over here, and since we have come it
has seemed to us all that we were taking pay and food under false
pretences, and that we might as well have stopped at home where, at least,
we can compete in all honour and good temper against men as good as
ourselves, and with the certainty of winning a few silver pennies, to say
nothing of plaudits from the onlookers. 'Tis with our people as with the
knights of old; if they win in a tournament they take the armour of the
vanquished, the prize from the Queen of Beauty, and many a glance of
admiration from bright eyes. It is the same with us; for there is not an
English maid but would choose an archer who stands straight and firm, and
can carry off a prize when in good company, to a hind who thinks of naught
but delving the soil and tending the herd."

Guy laughed. "I suppose it is the same, when you put it so, Long Tom; but
there will be none of your English maids to watch your prowess here."

"No, Master Guy; but here we shall fight for our own satisfaction, and
prove to ourselves that we are as good men as our fathers were. I know
naught of this quarrel. Had Sir Eustace taken us into the field to fight
for one or other of these factions concerning which we know nothing, we
should doubtless have done our duty and fought manfully. But we are all
glad that here we are doing what we came for; we are going to defend the
castle against Frenchmen of some sort or other who would do ill to our
lord and lady, and we shall fight right heartily and joyfully, and should
still do so were it the mad king of France himself who marched against us.
Besides, master, we should be less than men if we did not feel for the
frightened women and children who, having done no wrong, and caring naught
for these factions, are forced to flee from their homes for their lives;
so we shall strike in just as we should strike in were we to come upon a
band of robbers ill-treating a woman at home.... Think you that they will
come, master?" he added eagerly.

"That I cannot say surely, Tom; but Sir Eustace has news that the
Burgundians have already seized several towns and placed garrisons there,
and that armed bands are traversing the country, burning and pillaging.
Whether they will feel strong enough to make an attack on this castle I
know not, but belike they will do so, for Sir Eustace, belonging as he
does, and as his fathers have done before him, to the English party,
neither of the others will feel any good-will towards him, and some of his
neighbours may well be glad to take advantage of this troubled time to
endeavour to despoil him of his castle and possessions."

"They will want to have good teeth to crack this nut, Master Guy--good
teeth and strong; and methinks that those who come to pluck the feathers
may well go back without their own. We have a rare store of shafts ready,
and they will find that their cross-bowmen are of little use against
picked English archers, even though there be but twenty-five of us in
all."

"You know very well, Long Tom, that you would have come over here whether
there was any chance of your drawing your bow on a Frenchman or not."

"That is true enough, Master Guy. Our lady wanted some bowmen, and I, who
have been born and bred on the estate, was of course bound to go with her.
Then you see, Master Guy, haven't I taught you to use the bow and the
quarter-staff, and carried you on my shoulder many a score of times when
you were a little lad and I was a big boy? It would not have been natural
for you to have gone out with a chance of getting into a fight without my
being there to draw a shaft when you needed it. Why, Ruth Gregory, whose
sworn bachelor you know I am, would have cried shame on me if I had
lingered behind. I told her that if I stayed it would be for her sake, and
you should have seen how she flouted me, saying that she would have no
tall lout hiding behind her petticoats, and that if I stayed, it should
not be as her man. And now I must be off to my supper, or I shall find
that there is not a morsel left for me."

The gates of the castle were closed that night, but it was not considered
necessary to lower the drawbridge. Two sentries were posted at the work
beyond the moat, and one above the gate, besides the watcher at the top of
the keep. The next day things were got into better order. More barricades
were erected for the separation of the cattle; a portion was set aside for
horses. The provisions brought in from the farms were stored away in the
magazines. The women and children began to settle down more comfortably in
their sheds. The best of the horses and cattle were removed into the inner
court-yard. The boys were set drawing water and filling the troughs, while
some of the farm men were told off to carry the fodder to the animals,
most of which, however, were for the time turned out to graze near the
castle. Many of the men who had come in had returned to their work on the
farms. During the day waggons continued to arrive with stores of grain and
forage; boys and girls drove in flocks of geese and turkeys and large
numbers of ducks and hens, until the yard in which the sheds were was
crowded with them. By nightfall every preparation was complete, and even
Jean Bouvard himself could find nothing further to suggest.

"If they are coming," he said to Sir Eustace, "the sooner they come the
better, my lord; we have done all that we can do, and had best get it over
without more ado."

"I still hope that no one will come, Bouvard, but I agree with you, that
if it is to come the sooner the better. But there is no saying, it may be
to-morrow, it may be months before we are disturbed. Still, in a war like
this, it is likely that all will try and get as much as they can as
quickly as possible, for at any moment it may suit Burgundy and Orleans to
patch up their quarrel again. Burgundy is astute and cunning, and if he
sees that the Orleans princes with Armagnac and the Duke of Bourbon are
likely to get the best of it, he will use the king and queen to intervene
and stop the fighting. Seeing that this may be so, the rogues who have
their eye on their neighbours' goods and possessions will, you may be
sure, lose no time in stretching out their hands for them."

A week later came the news that Sir Clugnet de Brabant, who styled himself
Admiral of France, had gathered two thousand men from the Orleanist
garrisons and, with scaling-ladders and other warlike machines, had
attacked the town of Rethel. The inhabitants had, however, notice of their
coming, and resisted so stoutly that the Orleanists had been forced to
retreat, and had then divided into two parties, each of whom had scoured
the country, making prisoners all whom they met, firing the villages and
driving off the cattle, and then returned to the town of Ham and to the
various garrisons from which they had been drawn. Some of the tenants had
returned to their farms, but when the news spread they again took refuge
in the castle. It was probable that Artois, where almost all the towns
were held by the Burgundian party, would be the next object of attack. The
Orleanists remained quiet for eight days only, then the news came that
they had moved out again from Ham eight thousand strong, and were marching
west.

Two days later several fugitives from the country round arrived at the
castle with news that the Orleanists were advancing against Bapaume, and
the next morning they heard that they had, after a fierce fight, won their
way to the gate of the town. The Burgundian garrison had then sallied out
and at first met with success, but had been obliged to retreat within the
walls again. The Orleanists, however, considering the place too strong to
be captured without a long siege, which might be interrupted by a
Burgundian force from Flanders, had drawn off from the place, but were
still marching north burning and plundering.

"It is likely enough that they will come this way," Sir Eustace said as he
and Jean Bouvard talked the matter over. "Assuredly Arras will be too
strong for them to attempt. The straight line would take them to St. Pol,
but the castle there is a very strong one also. They may sack and burn
Avesne and Auvigni, and then, avoiding both St. Pol and Arras, march
between them to Pernes, which is large enough to give them much plunder,
but has no force that could resist them. As Pernes is but four miles away,
their next call may be here."

"But why should they attack us, Sir Eustace? for here, too, they might
reckon upon more hard blows than plunder."

"It will depend upon whom they have with them," Sir Eustace replied. "They
say that our neighbour Hugh de Fruges went south ten days ago to join the
Duke of Bourbon; his castle is but a small place, and as most of Artois is
Burgundian he might be afraid he might be captured. He has never borne me
good-will, and might well persuade the duke that were my castle and
estates in his possession he might do good service to the cause; and that,
moreover, standing as we do within twelve miles of the English frontier,
its possession might be very valuable to him should the Orleanists ever
have occasion to call in the aid of England, or to oppose their advance
should the Burgundians take that step."

"Surely neither of these factions will do that, Sir Eustace."

"Why not, Bouvard? Every time that English armies have passed into France
they have done it at the invitation of French nobles who have embroiled
themselves with their kings. Burgundy and Orleans, Bourbon and Brittany,
each fights for his own hand, and cares little for France as a whole. They
may be vassals of the Valois, but they regard themselves as being nearly,
if not altogether, their equals, and are always ready to league themselves
with each other, or if it needs be with the English, against the throne."

At nine o'clock on the following evening Sir Eustace and his family were
startled by the report of the gun on the keep, and, running out, saw the
signal-fire beginning to blaze up.

"Above there!" Sir Eustace shouted, "where is the alarm?"

"A fire has just blazed up on the road to St. Pol," the warder replied.

"Blow your horn, then, loudly and urgently."

The news that the Orleanists were marching north from Bapaume had caused
the greater portion of the farmers to come in on the previous day, and in
a short time those who were nearest to the castle, and who had
consequently delayed as long as possible, began to arrive. The garrison
were already under arms, and had taken the places assigned to them on the
walls. All the tenants had brought their arms in with them, and were now
drawn up in the court-yard, where a large bonfire, that had been for some
days in readiness, was now blazing. The new-comers, after turning their
horses into the inclosure with those already there, joined them. All had
been acquainted with the share they were to bear should the place be
besieged. They were to be divided into two parties, one of which was to be
on duty on the walls with the garrison, the other to be held in reserve,
and was--every six hours when matters were quiet--to relieve the party on
the walls, or, when an attack took place, to be under arms and ready to
hasten to any spot where its aid was required. The men were now inspected
by Sir Eustace, additional arms were served out from the armoury to those
whose equipment was insufficient, and they were then dismissed to join
their wives and families until called to the walls.

[Illustration: "THE TWO MEN WHO LIT THE ALARM FIRES RODE INTO THE
CASTLE."]

CHAPTER III

A SIEGE

The two men who had lit the alarm fires had already ridden in. They
reported that they had, just as it became dark, seen flames rising from a
village three miles from them, and that the man in advance had ridden
forward until near enough to see that a great body of men were issuing
from the village in the direction of the castle.

Ten of the English men-at-arms, and as many French, were now posted in the
outwork at the head of the drawbridge under the command of Jean Bouvard.
Sir Eustace placed himself with his squire on the wall above the gate, and
four men were stationed at the chains of the drawbridge in readiness to
hoist it should the order be given. The English archers were on the wall
beside Sir Eustace, as their arrows commanded the ground beyond the
outwork. Half an hour after the first alarm was given the tale of the
tenants was found to be complete, and the guards on the other two roads
had also ridden in. Guy, to his great satisfaction, had been ordered by
Sir Eustace to don his armour and to take his place beside him.

It was upwards of an hour before a body of horsemen could be heard
approaching. They came at a leisurely pace, for the bonfire on the road
and that on the keep had apprised them that their hope of taking the
castle by surprise had been frustrated by the disobedience of some of
their men, who, in defiance of the strictest orders to the contrary, had
set fire to several houses in the village after having plundered them. Sir
Eustace, accompanied by his esquire and Guy, descended from the wall and
crossed the drawbridge to the outwork. As soon as the horsemen came within
bow-shot of the castle they lighted some torches, and three knights,
preceded by a trooper carrying a white flag, and two others with torches,
came towards the work. When within fifty yards of the postern they halted.

"Is Sieur Eustace de Villeroy present?"

"I am here," Sir Eustace replied, and at his order two men with torches
took their place one on each side of him. "Who are you that approach my
castle in armed force?"

"I am Sir Clugnet de Brabant, Admiral of France. These are Sir Manessier
Guieret and Sir Hugh de Fruges, and we come in the name of the Duke of
Orleans to summon you to admit a garrison of his highness's troops."

"I am neither for Orleans nor for Burgundy," Sir Eustace replied. "I am a
simple knight, holding my castle and estate as a vassal of the crown, and
am ready to obey the orders of the king,--and of him only when he is in a
condition of mind to give such orders. Until then I shall hold my castle,
and will admit no garrison whether of Orleans or of Burgundy."

"We hold you to be but a false vassal of the crown, and we are told that
at heart you are an enemy to France and devoted to England."

"I am a vassal of England for the estates of my wife in that country," Sir
Eustace said; "and as at present there is a truce between the two nations,
I can serve here the King of France as faithfully as if, in England, I
should serve the King of England."

"Nevertheless, Sir Eustace, you will have to receive a garrison of
Orleans. I have at my back eight thousand men, and if you compel me to
storm this hold of yours I warn you that all within its walls will be put
to the sword."

"Thanks for your warning, Sir Knight; and I on my part warn you that,
eight thousand though you be, I shall resist you to the death, and that
you will not carry eight thousand away. As for Sir Hugh de Fruges, I give
him my open defiance. I know it is to him that I owe this raid; and if he
be man enough, I challenge him to meet me in the morning on fair ground
outside this postern, with lance and battle-axe, to fight to the death. If
he conquers, my castle shall be surrendered to him, upon promise of good
treatment and a safe-conduct to depart where they will for all within it;
but if I slay him, you must give me your knightly oath that you and your
following will depart forthwith."

"The conditions would be hardly fair, Sir Eustace," Sir Clugnet said; "and
though I doubt not that Sir Hugh would gladly accept them, I cannot permit
him to do so. I have brought some eight thousand men here to capture this
castle, and hold it for the Duke of Orleans, and I see not why I should
march away with them because you may perchance prove a better fighter than
Sir Hugh. I am ready, however, to give a safe-conduct to all within the
walls if you will surrender."

"That will I not do, Sir Clugnet. I hold this castle neither for Burgundy
nor Orleans, and am ready to give pledge that I will not draw sword for
either of these princes; but if that will not content you, you must even
take my castle if you can, and I give you fair warning that it will cost
you dear."

"Then adieu, Sir Knight, until to-morrow morning, when we will talk in
other fashion."

"So be it," Sir Eustace replied, "you will not find me backward in
returning any courtesies you may pay me."

The knights turned away with their torch-bearers.

"Keep a close watch to-night, Bouvard," Sir Eustace said. "Mark you what
the knight said,--adieu till the morning. Had I to deal with a loyal
gentleman I could have slept soundly, but with these adventurers it is
different. It may be that he truly does not intend to attack till morning,
but it is more likely that he used the words in order to throw us off our
guard."

"We will keep close ward, Sir Eustace. All the men-at-arms have their
cross-bows, and though I say not that they can shoot like these English
archers, they can shoot straight enough to do good work should those
fellows attempt in force to cross the small moat and attack the gate. But
if they come, methinks it will be but to try if we are wakeful; 'tis no
light thing to attack even an outwork like this, with this loop from the
moat surrounding it, without previous examination of the ground and
reconnoitring of the castle."

"They would not attempt to attack the fortress itself," Sir Eustace said;
"but if they could seize this outwork by surprise it would mightily aid
them in their attack on the fortress; at any rate I will send down five
archers, and if any of the enemy crawl up to see how wide the water is
here, and how the attempt had best be made, I warrant that they will not
return if the archers can but get a sight of them. Post half your men on
the wall, and let the others sleep; change them every two hours--we want
no sleepy heads in the morning."

By this time the confused sound of a large number of men marching could be
made out, and a quarter of an hour later three or four cottages, some five
hundred yards away, were fired, and an angry murmur broke from the men as
the flames shot up. After sending down the five archers, Sir Eustace
returned to his post over the main gate,

"Get cressets and torches in readiness to light if they attack the
postern," Sir Eustace said; "we must have light to see how things go, so
that we may hoist the drawbridge as soon as our men are upon it, should
the enemy get the better of them. Be sure that one is not left behind; it
were better that half a dozen of the enemy set foot on the drawbridge than
that one of our brave fellows should be sacrificed."

"I should think that there is no fear of their attacking until those
flames have burnt down; we should see them against the light," John Harpen
said.

"No, there is no fear of their attacking; but the fire would be of
advantage if any men were crawling up to spy. Of course they would not
cross the slope in a line with the fire, but would work along on either
side, reckoning, and with reason, that as our men would have the light in
their eyes they would be all the less likely to make out objects crawling
along in the shade by the side of the moat. Plant half a dozen bowmen at
intervals on the wall, Tom, and tell them to keep a shrewd eye on the
ground near the moat, and if they see aught moving there to try it with an
arrow."

There was shouting and noise up by the burning cottages, where the enemy
were feasting on the spoils they had taken, and drinking from the wine-
barrels that had been brought with them in carts from the last village
that they had plundered.

"I wish we were somewhat stronger, or they somewhat weaker," Sir Eustace
said; "were it so, we would make a sally, and give the knaves a sharp
lesson, but with only two hundred men against their eight thousand it
would be madness to try it; we might slay a good many, but might lose a
score before we were back in the castle, and it would be a heavy loss to
us."

"I was thinking that myself, Sir Eustace," his esquire said. "That is the
worst of being on the defence; one sees such chances but cannot avail
one's self of them."

In the castle everything was quiet, and all those not on duty were already
asleep. Along the wall watchers stood at short intervals peering into the
darkness, but the main body there were also stretched on the wall with
their arms by their side until required to be up and doing. Now that Sir
Eustace was himself at the gate his esquire went round the walls at short
intervals to be sure that the men on watch were vigilant. Presently a loud
cry was heard from the corner of the moat away to the right.

"Go and see what is doing, Guy," Sir Eustace said, "and bring me news."

Guy ran along to the angle of the wall. Here one of the archers was
posted.

"What is it, Dickon?"

"A man crept up to that corner opposite, Master Guy. I could not have
sworn to him, it is so pesky dark, but I thought there was something
moving there and shot almost at a venture, for I could scarce see the end
of my arrow; but it hit there or thereabouts, for I heard him shout. A
moment later he was on his feet and running. I could see him more plainly
then, so I shot again, and over he went. I fancy that in the morning you
will see my arrow sticking up somewhere between his shoulder-blades,
though there is no saying precisely, for a nicety of shooting is not to be
looked for in the dark,"

"You have done very well, Dickon. Keep your eyes open; we may be sure
there are more than one of these fellows about."

Guy hurried back with the news.

"That is good," said Sir Eustace, "and it was just as well that the archer
did not kill him outright with his first arrow, the cry will show any of
his comrades who may be about that they had best keep their distance from
the walls."

A minute's silence followed, and then Long Tom said, "There is another has
had his lesson, Sir Eustace. I heard a bow twang across there, and as
there was no cry you may be sure that the shaft sped straight, and that
the man had no time to utter one."

"He may have been missed altogether, Tom."

"Missed altogether! no indeed, Sir Eustace, there is no fear of that.
There is not one of the men on the wall who would miss a man whose figure
he could make out at fifty yards' distance, and they would scarce see them
until they were as close as that. No, my lord, I would wager a month's pay
that when morning dawns there is a dead man lying somewhere in front of
the outwork."

"Now, Guy, you had best go up to your room and lie down until daylight,"
Sir Eustace said. "There will be naught doing to-night, and unless I am
mistaken, we shall be busy from sunrise till sunset. I shall myself lie
down for a couple of hours presently, and then send John Harpen to rest
till daylight. Long Tom, see that you yourself and all your men take a
short sleep by turns; we shall need your eyes to be open above all others
to-morrow."

Guy promptly obeyed the order. Dame Margaret was still up.

"Is everything quiet, Guy?" she asked as she entered,

"So quiet, my lady, that Sir Eustace has ordered me to bed, and he said
that he himself should come down for a short sleep presently. Two spies
who crawled up have been slain by the archers. Sir Eustace is sure that no
attack will be made before morning."

Then he went into his little room and threw himself onto his pallet.
During the first few minutes he lifted his head several times fancying
that he heard noises; then he fell into a sound sleep and did not awake
until the day dawned.

In a few minutes Guy was on the wall. The night had passed quietly; so far
as was known no fresh attempt at reconnoitring the works had been made,
and as the moon had risen soon after he had gone to bed there was reason
to believe that the fact that the two spies had not returned was so strong
a proof of the vigilance of the garrison, that the enemy had been content
to wait until morning. Just as the sun rose the three knights who had
summoned the castle on the preceding evening appeared on the brow of the
opposite slope, accompanied by a body of men-at-arms, and rode slowly
round the castle. From time to time they halted, and were evidently
engaged in a discussion as to the point at which it could be best
attacked.

"Shall I shoot, my lord?" Long Tom asked. "They are some two hundred and
fifty yards away, but from this height methinks that I could reach them."

"It would be useless," Sir Eustace said; "you could hit them, I doubt not,
but you would not pierce their armour at this distance, and it is as well
that they should not know how far our bows will carry until we are sure of
doing execution when we shoot; besides I would rather that they began the
fight. The quarrel is not one of my seeking, and I will leave it to them
to open the ball. It is true that they did so last night by sending their
spies here, but we have balanced that account. Moreover, if they are to
attack, the sooner the better. They may have gained news from Sir Hugh of
the coming here of the English archers and the men-at-arms, but if they
have not done so we shall have a rare surprise in store for them."

After the knights had made a circuit of the castle they retired, and
presently a dense mass of men appeared from behind the brow on which the
cottages they had burned had stood.

"They have bundles of faggots, Sir Eustace!" Guy exclaimed.

"So they have, Guy! Your eye is a good one. It seemed to me that the
outline was a strange one, but doubtless it is as you say--that each man
has a faggot on his shoulder. It is evident that they intend, in the first
place, to assault the postern, and have brought the faggots to fill up the
ditch."

Then he turned to the gunners at the cannon.

"Lay your pieces so as to bear on them when they come half-way down the
hill," he said, "and shoot when they are fairly in the line of fire. Take
the same orders, Guy, to the men working the ballistas and mangonels on
the wall. Tell them not to loose their machines until after the guns are
fired. If the fellows take to flight, tell them not to waste their
missiles; if they advance, let them be sure that they are well within
range before they shoot."

With loud shouts the enemy came down the slope. When they were half-way
down the two guns roared out, and their shot ploughed two lanes in the
crowded body. There was a movement of retreat, but the three knights and
several others threw themselves in front, waving their swords and
shouting, and the Orleanists rallied and moved forward, but at a much
slower pace than before. They had gone but a short distance when the
arrows of the archers in the outwork and the bolts of the cross-bows
worked by the men-at-arms there, began to fall among them. So true was the
aim of the archers that scarce a shaft was wasted. At the distance at
which they were shooting they did not aim at the knights, whose vizors and
coats of mail could not have been pierced, but shot at the commonalty,
whose faces and throats were for the most part unprotected. Man after man
fell, and the cross-bow bolts also told heavily upon the crowd. They had
come down but a short distance farther when Long Tom, and the archers with
him on the wall, began to send their arrows thick and fast, and the
machines hurled heavy stones with tremendous force among them. A moment
later the French broke and fled up the slope again, leaving some fifty of
their number stretched on the ground. The knights followed more slowly.
When they reached the crest a group of them gathered around Sir Clugnet de
Brabant.

"By my faith," the latter said bitterly, "we have reckoned without our
host, Sir Knights. We came to shear, but in good sooth we seem more likely
to go back shorn. Truly those knaves shoot marvellously; scarce an arrow
went astray."

"As I mentioned to you, Sir Clugnet," Sir Hugh de Fruges said, "Sir
Eustace brought with him from England five-and-twenty bowmen, and I heard
tell from men who had seen them trying their skill at targets that they
were in no wise inferior to those with whom we have before had to deal to
our cost."

"Truly ye did so, Sir Hugh; but the matter made no impression upon my
mind, except as a proof that the knight's inclinations were still with
England, and that it were well that his castle were placed in better
keeping; but in truth these fellows shoot marvellously, both for strength
and trueness of aim. I marked as we came back that of the men we passed
lying there, nigh all those who had been struck with arrows were hit in
the face or throat, and yet the distance must have been over a hundred and
fifty yards."

"I can answer for the force," one of the others said, "for a shaft struck
me fairly on the chest, and hurled me to the ground as if it had been the
shock of a lance, and it is well my mail was of the best work of Milan;
but nevertheless the arrow broke two of the links; if the distance had
been shorter, I doubt not that it would have slain me. Well, what shall we
do next, gentlemen? For very shame we cannot with eight thousand men march
away having accomplished nothing. The question is, where shall our next
attack be delivered?"

"Methinks," another knight said, "we delivered our attack too rashly. Had
I known that there were English archers there I should have advised
waiting until nightfall, and I think that it would be best to do so now.
If we take our fellows up while there is light they will suffer so much
from the stings of these wasps that they will soon lose heart. The knaves
shoot not only straight and strong, but they shoot so fast that though, as
you say, there may be but twenty-five of them, the air seemed full of
arrows, and had you told us that there were two hundred archers shooting,
I should have thought the estimate a reasonable one."

They stood for some time discussing the best method of attack, and as soon
as they had settled upon it the men were told to scatter. Some were to go
to the farmhouses, and bring up any hides that might be stored there, and
to fetch all the hurdles they could lay hands upon; a portion were to go
to the woods and cut timber for making mantlets and cover, while two
thousand were to remain under arms in case the garrison should make a
sortie.

Within the castle all were in high spirits at the easy repulse of the
first attack.

"Sir Clugnet must have learned from Sir Hugh of my having English archers
and men-at-arms here," Sir Eustace said to his lieutenant, "and yet he
advanced as carelessly and confidently as if he had been attacking a place
defended only by fat Flemish burghers; however, he has had his lesson, and
as it is said he is a good knight, he will doubtless profit by it, and we
shall hear no more of him till after the sun has set. Run up to the top of
the keep, Guy, and bring me back news what they are doing."

In a few minutes the lad returned. "There are two or three thousand of
them, my lord, drawn up in a body beyond the crest; the rest of them are
scattering in various directions."

"That is as I expected," Sir Eustace remarked; "they have gone to prepare
materials for a regular attack. It may be delivered to-night, or may be
delayed for a day or two; however, we shall be ready for them. Jean
Bouvard, do you go round the walls and tell all, save a few as sentries,
to retire until the watchman blows his horn to warn us if they seem to be
gathering for an attack; and do you, Long Tom, give the same orders to
your archers. There is no use wasting the men's strength till the work
begins in earnest. If Sir Clugnet is wise he will march away at once. He
would need heavy machines and cannon to make a breach in our walls, and
even had he an abundance of them it would take him some time to do so. If
he tries again, you may be sure that it will be the work of Sir Hugh de
Fruges, who has no doubt a lively interest in the matter. He is a clever
fellow, and will no doubt do his best to work on the feelings of the other
knights by representing that it would be disgraceful for so large a force
to abandon the enterprise merely because a first hasty attack, delivered
without preparation, had been repulsed. The fact that they have made so
careful an examination of the castle would seem in itself to show that
they intended to renew the attempt in another form if the first onset
failed, and, moreover, the scattering of the force afterwards while the
knights still remained with a large body here points in the same
direction."

Guy on descending from the keep joined Sir Eustace and his wife in their
apartments.

"The lad has borne himself bravely," Sir Eustace said approvingly to his
wife; "he was standing beside me when their shot was bringing down the
dust round our ears, and he neither started nor flinched, though in truth
it was far from pleasant, especially as we had nothing to do but to look
on. It may be next time we shall have sterner fighting, and I doubt not
that he will bear himself well."

"Could I not come up and carry your messages, father?" Henry asked; "I am
not strong like Guy, but I could do that."

"He is too young for it yet, Eustace," Dame Margaret broke in.

"Nay, wife," the knight said gently, "the lad is not too young for such
service. There will be little danger in it, for his head will not show
over the battlements, and it is well that he should learn to hear without
fear the whizz of an arrow or the shock of a great stone from a ballista,
the clash of arms, and the shouting of men. As he says, he is not yet
strong enough to bear arms, but he will learn to brace his nerves and show
a bold front in danger; that is a lesson that cannot be learned too young.
Yes, Henry, you shall be my messenger. If they try an assault to-night,
you shall put on for the first time the steel cap and breastpiece I had
made for you in England; there will be no danger of your being hit by
crossbow bolt or arrow, but there may be splinters of stone flying when a
missile hits the battlement. Take no arms with you, only your dagger; they
would be useless to you, and would hamper your movements in getting past
the men on the wall, or in running up and down the steps leading to it.
Now you had better lie down; both Guy and myself are going to do so. At
sunset, if no alarm comes before, you will be called."

"We must not coddle the boy, Margaret," he said as Guy and Henry went off.
"I know that he is not physically strong as yet, and sorry I am that it
should be so, but he might exert himself more than he does, and he is apt
to think too much of his ailments. I was glad when he volunteered to do
something, for it is at least as well that he should be able to stand fire
even if he cannot learn the use of arms; moreover, it may be that after
once bearing a part in a fray he may incline more warmly to warlike
exercises than he has hitherto done; it may rouse in him a spirit which
has so far been wanting. I have often thought that it would have been
better if Agnes had been the boy and he the girl; she has far more courage
and fire than he has. You remember when that savage bull chased them, how
she saw him first over the stile and got tossed over after him for her
pains?"

Dame Margaret nodded. "I am not likely to forget it, Eustace, seeing that
her arm was broken and I had to nurse her for six weeks. Do you know that
she was up on the top of the keep while the fighting was going on? Of
course I was there myself, and she begged so hard to be allowed to remain
with me that I had not the heart to say her nay."

"Was Henry there too?"

"Oh, yes; and shouted with the best of them when the enemy fled over the
hill. Even Charlie was there, and as excited as either of them. Of course,
I had to hold him up sometimes for him to be able to see what was going
on; and he looked rather pale at first, when they opened fire, but he soon
plucked up when he saw that their shot did no damage near us. You see he
is a strong healthy boy; while Henry has always been weak, although I do
not think that he lacks courage."

"He ought not, wife; he comes from a fighting stock on either side. But I
fear that unless he changes greatly he is cut out rather for a monk than a
man-at-arms. And now I will lie down, for you may be sure that I shall not
close an eye to-night. Did you note the banner of Hugh de Fruges with the
others?"

"Yes, and I felt more uncomfortable after seeing it. He is a crafty man,
Eustace."

"He is not a brave one," the knight said scornfully. "I challenged him to
meet me outside in a fair field, and the craven did not answer me, and Sir
Clugnet had to make speech for him and decline the offer."

"You will need all your vigilance, Eustace. I trust that every man within
the walls is faithful to us; but if there be a traitor, be sure that Sir
Hugh will endeavour to plot with him, nay, he may already have done so."

"They would have no chance of making communication with him were there a
dozen of them, wife. Long Tom and his comrades will take good care that
none come near enough for speech."

The day passed away in perfect quiet. From time to time word came down
from the look-out that the scattered soldiers were returning laden with a
great quantity of young trees, wattles, and doors. Dame Margaret kept
watch in her room, and allowed no messengers to enter her husband's
apartments.

"If there be need, I will wake him," she said; "but he knows well enough
what the French have gone for, and there is naught to do until they
advance to the attack."

Guy slept but a short time, and as he frequently started up under the
impression that the horn was sounding an alarm, in the afternoon he got up
and went down into the courtyard. For some time he wandered about in the
quarters occupied by the tenants. These had now settled down; the children
were playing about as unconcernedly as if they had been on their fathers'
farms; women were washing clothes or preparing the evening meal over
little charcoal fires. A certain quantity of meat had been served out to
each family, and they were therefore doing better than in their own
houses, for meat was a luxury seldom touched by the French peasantry.

Almost all who had entered the castle had brought with them a supply of
herbs and vegetables; these, with a handful or two of coarsely-ground meal
boiled into broth, constituted their usual fare, and the addition of a
portion of meat afforded them great satisfaction. Some of the men were
still asleep, in preparation for a long night's work; others were standing
about talking in little groups; some were on the walls watching with
gloomy faces the smoke wreaths that still rose from what had been their
homes. Ducks, geese, and hens walked about unconcernedly looking for any
stray grains that had passed unnoticed when they had last been fed, and a
chorus of dissatisfied grunting arose from the pigs that had a large pen
in the yard next to the huts. These were still smarting under a sense of
injury excited not only by their removal from their familiar haunts, but
by the fact that most of them had been hastily marked by a clipping of
some kind in the ear in order to enable their owners to distinguish them
from the others. Boys were carrying buckets of water from a well in the
court-yard to the troughs for the cattle and horses, and the men-at-arms
were cleaning their armour and polishing their steel caps.

"Well, Tom, I hope we shall get on as well to-night as we did this
morning," Guy said to the leader of the archers.

"I hope so, Master Guy, but I would rather fight by day than by night; it
is random work when you can neither see your mark nor look straight along
your arrow. If we had a moon we should do well enough, but on these dark
nights skill does not go for much; still, I doubt not that we shall give a
good account of ourselves, for at any rate we shall be able to make them
out before they come to close work. The women have been making a great
store of torches to-day, and that will help us a bit, though I would that
they could be planted fifty yards beyond the moat instead of on the walls,
for although they will be of some use to us they will be of even more to
the enemy. What think you that their plan will be?"

"I should say that they are intending to march forward covered by mantlets
of wattles and hides. They will plant them near the edge of the moat, and
throw up some earthworks to shelter them and their machines; no doubt they
will use the doors they have fetched from all the farmhouses for the same
purpose."

"The doors will be more to the point, certainly," the bowman said. "As to
their hides and wattles, at fifty yards I will warrant our arrows go
through them as if they were paper; but I cannot say as much about stout
oaken doors--that is a target that I have never shot against; I fear that
the shock would shiver the shafts. The mantlets too would serve them to
some purpose, for we should not know exactly where they were standing
behind them. As for their machines, they cannot have many of them."

"They had something like a score of waggons with them, Tom; these would
carry the beams for half a dozen big ballistas; besides, they have their
cannon."

"I don't make much account of the cannon," the archer said; "they take
pretty nearly an hour to load and fire them, and at that rate, however
hard a shot may hit, it would be some time before they wrought much damage
on the walls. It is the sound more than the danger that makes men afraid
of the things, and, for my part, I would not take the trouble of dragging
them about. They are all very well on the walls of a castle, though I see
not that even there they are of great advantage over the old machines. It
is true that they shoot further, but that is of no great use. It is when
the enemy come to attack that you want to kill them, and at fifty yards I
would kill more men with my shafts in ten minutes than a cannon would do
with a week's firing. I wonder they trouble to carry them about with them,
save that folks are not accustomed to their noise yet, and might open
their gates when they see them, while they would make a stout defence if
they had only ballistas and mangonels to deal with. I suppose when they
have got the shelters close to the moat they will bring up planks to throw
across."

"Yes, no doubt they will try that, Tom; but the moat is over wide for
planks, and I think it more likely that they will have provided themselves
with sacks, and filled them with earth, so as to make a passage across
with them."

"As to the planks not being long enough, Master Guy, they could get over
that easy enough. They would only have to send three or four swimmers
across the moat, then thrust long beams over for those who had crossed to
fix firmly, and then lay short planks across them."

"So they would, Tom; I did not think of that. Well, at any rate, I expect
they will manage to get across the moat somehow and plant ladders against
the wall."

"And we shall chuck them down again," Tom said.

"They won't care much for that. But as long as they cannot knock a breach
in the walls I warrant that we can hold them."

CHAPTER IV

A FATAL ACCIDENT

As soon as the sun had set, the defenders gathered on the walls. Fires had
already been lighted there and cauldrons of water and pitch suspended over
them, and sacks of quicklime placed in readiness to be emptied; great
piles of stone were placed at short intervals.

"As long as they attack at only one or two places," Sir Eustace said to
his wife, "I am quite confident that we shall repulse them. If they attack
at a dozen they may succeed, as we should only have a couple of archers
and six or seven men-at-arms at each point, besides a score or so of the
vassals. I have no doubt that these will fight stoutly, for the sight of
their burning homes has roused them, and each man is longing to get a blow
at those who have wrought them so much damage. Still, thirty men are but a
small party to beat back an assault by hundreds. However, if they carry
the outside wall they will have the second to deal with, and there we
shall stand much thicker together, and they cannot attack from many
points, while if we are driven into the keep, we shall be stronger still.
Have you seen that the women and children are ready to retire into the
keep as soon as the assault begins?"

"I have been round myself and given orders," Dame Margaret said. "I have
told them that the inner gate will be closed as soon as fighting begins,
and that those who do not come in before that must remain outside, or else
mount to the walls and cross the bridges, for that on no account will the
gates be opened again."

"That is well, Margaret. I am now about to station two men-at-arms on the
inner wall at the end of each of the three bridges, so that they may be
ready on the instant to turn the catches and let the bridges fall behind
our men as they rush across. The tenants have already driven as many more
of their best horses and cattle into the inner court as can find standing
room, so that their loss may be as small as possible. If the outer wall is
carried, I have no great fear that the second wall will be taken; the
plunderers who form the mass of Sir Clugnet's force will have had enough
and more than enough of fighting by the time that they capture the outer
one. Whatever happens, do not show yourself on the walls to-night, and see
that the children do not leave their beds; you can do naught, and will see
but little in the dark. To-morrow morning, wife, I will leave you free to
go among the soldiers and give them encouragement as may be needed, but
for to-night, I pray you stir not out. I will send Henry from time to time
to let you know how matters go."

Rapidly the men gathered on the walls; each had had his post assigned to
him, and when Sir Eustace made a tour of inspection he was glad to see how
confidently each man bore himself, and how well prepared to give the enemy
a warm reception. As soon as it became dark, the outwork on the other side
of the moat was abandoned, the defenders called into the castle, and the
drawbridge raised, for it was evident to Sir Eustace that although it
might be maintained in daylight, by the aid of the archers on the wall, it
could not resist an attack by overwhelming numbers when deprived of that
assistance. Sir Eustace, after inspecting the men's arms, ordered all
those on the walls, with the exception of a few who were to remain on
watch, to sit down with their backs against the battlement, and to
maintain an absolute silence.

"It is by sound rather than sight that we shall be able to judge of their
movements," he said. "All sitting down may sleep, if it so pleases them,
till they are roused."

The sentries were ten in number, and were all taken from among the
archers. Most of these men had been accustomed to the chase, were skilled
in woodcraft, and accustomed to listen to the slightest noises that might
tell of the movement of a stag and enable them to judge his position. Sir
Eustace, for the present, posted himself in his old position over the
gate. Jean Bouvard and Guy were with him, while Long Tom moved round and
round the walls to gather news from his sentries. Sometimes Guy
accompanied him.

"They are moving," Tom the archer said as he stood listening intently on
the wall at the rear of the castle. "It is an hour past sundown, and about
the time the knaves will be mustering if they intend to make a regular
attack on us. If it had been only an escalade there would have been no
sound until nearly morning. I thought I heard them on the other side, but
I am sure of it now."

"I can hear singing up at their camp," Guy said, "but I don't hear
anything else."

"They are keeping that up to deceive us, I expect. But besides the singing
there is a sort of rustle. I don't think that they are coming this way at
present, or we should hear it plainer. It seems to me that it is spreading
all round."

"I will go back and tell Sir Eustace what you think, Tom."

Guy hurried back to the other side of the castle.

"Long Tom thinks, Sir Eustace, that he can hear a stir all round."

"We have noticed it too--at least, all round this side. Tell him not to
call the men to their feet until the enemy approaches more closely. I
believe that it is the march of a large number of men, and that they are
probably moving to the positions assigned to them, but it may be another
hour or two before they close in."

In a short time the sound became more distinct; from a rustle it rose to a
deep confused murmur, then an occasional clink as of arms striking armour
became audible. Most of the men on the walls were now on their feet gazing
into the darkness. Presently the sound ceased, first on one side and then
on another.

"I fancy they are all at their stations now, Jean Bouvard; we shall soon
hear more of them. Do not let your archers shoot, Tom, until they can make
them out very distinctly. We may be sure that they will come up with their
mantlets, and it would be a waste of arrows to loose at them until they
are close to the moat; but of course if separate figures can be
distinguished your men will draw on them."

In a quarter of an hour messengers came from various points on the wall
saying that there was something moving within sight, and to those at the
post over the gate a dark confused mass like a shadow seemed to be slowly
coming down towards their outwork.

"Touch off the guns, Jean," Sir Eustace said; "we shall get no further
chance of catching them in a body."

The captain stooped, lit two touchfires at the lantern standing in
readiness, gave one to a man-at-arms, and went with the other to a cannon.
Both the guns had been filled to the muzzle with bits of iron and nails,
and had been laid to bear on the slope beyond the outwork. They were fired
almost simultaneously, and the sound was followed by yells of pain and
dismay. The besiegers, seeing that there was nothing further to gain by
concealment, burst into a shout that ran all round the castle, and were
answered by one of defiance from the walls. The sound was succeeded by
loud orders from the leaders of the various assaulting parties, and the
objects before but dimly seen, now approached the walls rapidly. Jean
Bouvard hurried away to superintend the defence at other parts.

"You may as well go the other way, Guy, and let me know from time to time
how things are getting on. Henry, run down to your mother and tell her
that the enemy are moving up to the moat, and that it will be some time
before there is any hard fighting; then come back here again."

It was easier to see from the side walls than it had been in front, for in
front there was a glow in the sky from the number of fires burning beyond
the crest of the slope, and Guy was able to make out what seemed to him a
wall extending some fifteen yards, near the edge of the moat. The archers
and crossbow-men gathered opposite to it had just begun to shoot. Behind
this wall there were other dark masses irregularly placed, and extending
back as far as he could see. An occasional cry told that the arrows were
doing execution upon the unseen assailants behind the mantlets, and soon
the blows of cross-bow bolts against the wall and the sharp tap of arrows
told that the enemy had also betaken themselves to their arms. A number of
giant torches had been prepared, consisting of sheafs of straw soaked with
pitch, and one of these was now lighted and elevated on a pole some
fifteen feet above the battlement. Its light was sufficient to enable the
scene beyond to be clearly made out. A row of mantlets some eight feet
high had been placed by the moat, and others of the same height, and seven
or eight feet long, elevated at short intervals behind these, were so
placed as to afford shelter to the men coming down to the mantlets in
front. They stood in two lines; they were some twenty feet apart, but
those in one line alternated with those in the other. Guy soon saw the
object of this arrangement. Men were darting to and fro across the
interval some six feet wide between the two lines. Thus they had but ten
feet to run from the shelter on one side to that on the other, and exposed
themselves but for an instant to the aim of the archers. Some of the men
carried great bundles of faggots, others had sacks on their shoulders.

"Do not heed the mantlets in front," said Dickon, who was in command of
the six archers near Guy, "but pick off those fellows as they come down.
Shoot in turn; it is no use wasting two arrows on one man. Don't loose
your shaft until a man is within three mantlets from the end; then if one
misses, the next can take him when he runs across next time. That is
right, Hal," he broke off, as an arrow sped and a man with a sack on his
shoulder rolled over. "Now, lads, we ought not to miss them by this
light."

Eleven men fell, out of the next twelve who attempted to carry their
burdens down. Guy went back to Sir Eustace with the news of the manner in
which the attack was being carried on, and of the effect of the archers'
defence.

"I have just heard the same from the other side; there is one attack on
each side and two behind; Jean Bouvard has posted himself there. I am
going round myself now; I do not think there will be any attack made in
front. I have sent the archers here to the rear, where they will be more
useful; the fellows in the outwork across there have enough to do to
shelter themselves."

This Guy could well understand, for although the guns could not be
depressed sufficiently to fire down into the _tÍte du pont_, the mangonels
were hurling stones into it, and the men-at-arms shooting cross-bow
quarrels whenever a man showed himself. The rear of the outwork was open
and afforded no shelter to those who had taken possession of it, and
already the greater portion had retired to the other side of the small
moat surrounding it, where they lay sheltered by the outwork itself. It
was not long before the assailants at the other points, finding that the
plan they had formed was defeated by the skill of the archers, poured down
in a mass between the two lines of mantlets, each man carrying his burden
before him, thus sheltering him to a great extent. Against this method of
attack the archers could do little, and now confined themselves to
shooting at the men who, having thrown down the fascines or sacks by the
edge of the moat, stood for a moment and hesitated before running back to
the shelter of the mantlets, and not one in three got off scot-free. Guy
on going round the wall found the same state of things at each of the
other three points of assault. Numbers of the enemy were falling, but
great piles of materials were accumulating at the edge of the moat. After
a time a number of knights and men-at-arms, fully protected by armour,
came down and began to hurl the sacks and bags into the moat, their
operations being covered as much as possible by a storm of missiles shot
through holes in the mantlets. In a short time Sir Eustace ordered the
archers to desist shooting, for they were obliged, in order to aim at
those so much below them, to expose a considerable portion of their
bodies, and three were killed by the enemy's missiles.

"We can't prevent them from filling up the moat," he said, "and it is but
throwing away life to try to do so."

The archers were accordingly placed in the projecting turrets, where,
without being themselves exposed, they could shoot through the loopholes
at any point on the face of the walls. It was not long before the moat was
bridged at all four points of attack. Ladders were then brought down. This
the assailants were able to accomplish without loss, as, instead of
carrying them, they were pushed backwards and forwards by men stationed
behind the mantlets, and were so zigzagged down to the moat without the
defenders being able to offer any opposition. Then rushes were made by
parties of knights, the ladders were placed, and the fight began in
earnest.

In the great court-yard the leader of the English men-at-arms was placed
with twelve of his men as a reserve. They were to be summoned by one, two,
three, or four blasts of a horn to the point at which their services were
most required. The assaults were obstinate, but the walls were as stoutly

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