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At Agincourt by G. A. Henty

Part 2 out of 6

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defended. Sometimes the ladders were hurled back by poles with an iron
fork at the end; buckets of boiling water and tar were poured over on to
the assailants as they clambered up, and lime cast over on those waiting
to take their turns to ascend; while with spear, axe, and mace the men-at-
arms and tenants met the assailants as they endeavoured to get a footing
on the wall.

Guy had placed himself with the party to which he had first gone, and,
taking a pike from a fallen man, was fighting stoutly. The archers from
their turrets kept up a constant flight of arrows on the crowd below. Only
once was the horn sounded for the aid of the reserve. Sir Eustace had
taken the command at the rear, while Jean Bouvard headed the defence on
the side opposite to that at which Guy was fighting. The defenders under
Sir Eustace had the hardest work to hold their own, being assaulted at two
points. This was evidently the main place of attack, for here Sir Clugnet
himself and several of his knights led the assault, and at one time
succeeded in gaining a footing on the wall at one point, while Sir Eustace
was at the other. Then the knight blew his horn, and at the same time
called the archers from the turret nearest to him, while some of the other
party on the wall rushed to aid him of their own accord and, pressing
through the tenants, opposed themselves to the knights and men-at-arms who
had obtained a footing on the wall.

Their strength, and the power with which they wielded their heavy axes, so
held the assailants in cheek that they could not gain space sufficient for
others to join them, and when the reserve ran up, so fierce an attack was
made upon the knights that several were beaten down and the rest forced to
spring over the wall at the risk of life and limb. Sir Clugnet himself was
the last to do this, and was carried away insensible. Two or three of his
companions were killed by the fall, but the rest, leaping far enough out
to alight beyond the solid ground at the foot of the walls, had their fall
broken by the yielding mass of materials by which they had crossed the
moat. A loud shout of triumph rose from the defenders, and was re-echoed
by shouts from the other walls. As soon as the news of the repulse at the
rear reached the other parties, and that Sir Clugnet was badly hurt, while
several of the knights were killed, the assault ceased at once, and the
Orleanists withdrew, followed by derisive cries from the defenders.

"Thanks be to the saints that it is all over," Sir Eustace said, as he
opened his vizor; "it was a close thing here, and for a time I feared that
the outer wall was lost. However, I think that there is an end of it now,
and by the morning we shall find that they have moved off. They must have
suffered very heavily; certainly three or four hundred must have fallen,
for we must admit that they fought stoutly. You have all done well, my
friends, and I thank you heartily. Now, the first thing is to fetch the
wounded down to the hall prepared for them. Father Gregory has all in
readiness for them there. Guy, go round and find who have fallen, and see
them carried reverently down to the court-yard, send me a list of their
names, and place two men-at-arms at each point where the assault took
place. Tom, do you similarly dispose eight of your archers so that should
they send a spy up to see if we sleep, a message can be sent back in the
shape of a cloth-yard shaft. Bid all the tenants and retainers leave the
wall; a horn will recall them should there be need. I will myself visit
them shortly, and thank them for their stout defence. I will send round a
cup of spiced wine to each man on the wall as soon as it can be prepared,
to that all may slake their thirst after their efforts."

Sir Eustace then made his way down from the wall to his Apartments, where
Dame Margaret was awaiting him. She hurried to meet him.

"Wait, wife, till I have removed my helmet, and even then you must be
careful how you embrace me, for methinks there is more than one blood-
stain on my armour, though happily not of mine own. All has gone well,
love, and methinks that we shall hear no more of them; but they fought
more stoutly than I had given them credit for, seeing that they were but a
mixed rabble, with a small proportion of real men-at-arms among them. I
suppose Henry brought you my message to close the inner gates, as they had
gained a footing on the walls."

"No, I received no message since the one he brought me half an hour ago,
saying that all was going well, and I thought that he was with you. Where
can he be, Eustace?" she asked anxiously.

"I know not indeed, Margaret, but will search at once. While I do so will
you go to the hall that you have prepared for the wounded, and give what
aid you can there? Do not fear for the boy; he turned and ran off when I
spoke to him, and as his head reaches not to the top of the battlements no
harm can have befallen him, though in truth I cannot think what can have
delayed him."

He called to two or three of the men below to take torches, and to
accompany him at once, and sent others to the sheds to ask if he had been
seen there, then went up to the top of the inner wall and crossed the
bridge at the back.

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

"Have any of you seen aught of my son Henry?" he asked the men there.

"No, my lord," one said in reply. "I marked him by our side just before
the French got a footing at the other end of the wall, but I saw him not
afterwards."

"He ran towards the steps at the corner there," Sir Eustace said, "with a
message from me that the inner doors were to be closed. Come along, men,"
he said to those with torches, and going to the corner of the wall
descended the steps, which were steep and narrow. He took a torch from one
of the men and held it over his head. As he neared the bottom he gave a
low cry and ran down the last few steps, where, lying at the bottom, was
the form of his son. He was stretched at full length, and there was a
terrible gash on his forehead. The knight knelt beside him and raised his
head, from which the steel cap had fallen; there was a deep stain of blood
on the pavement beneath. He placed his hand on the boy's heart and his ear
to his lips, and the men with the torches stood silently round. It was but
too evident what had happened. In his haste to carry the message Henry's
foot had slipped, and he had fallen headforemost down the steep steps, his
head coming in contact with the edge of one of them. Without a word Sir
Eustace raised the boy gently in his arms. His face was sufficient to tell
the men the news; their young lord was dead.

Sir Eustace carried him through the inner gate and up to the boy's own
room, and laid him down on his bed, then silently he went out again and
crossed the court to the keep. Dame Margaret was seeing to the wounded
being laid on the straw in the lower room, and did not notice him until he
touched her. She turned sharply round, his face was sufficient to tell her
the truth. She gave a low cry and stepped back a pace, and he moved
forwards and drew her to him.

"Love," he said tenderly, "God has taken him. He was fitter for heaven
than any of us; he was too gentle for this rough world of ours. We shall
mourn for him, but with him it is well."

Dame Margaret laid her head on his shoulder, and burst into a passion of
tears. Sir Eustace let her weep for a time, then he whispered:

"You must be brave, my love. There will be other mourners here for their
dear ones who have died fighting for us; they will need your comfort. A
Villeroy could not die better than doing his duty. It was not by man's
hand that he fell, but God took him. His foot slipped in running down the
stair from the wall, and he must assuredly have died without a pang. Take
the priest with you; I will see to the wounded here. Father Gregory," he
went on, raising his voice, "Dame Margaret has more need of you at the
present moment than have these brave fellows. A grievous misfortune has
befallen us. My son is dead; he fell while doing his duty. Do you take her
to his room; I give her to your charge for the present. I have my work to
do, and will see that your patients are well cared for."

There was a murmur of surprise and regret from the wounded and those who
had brought them in. The poor lad had been a general favourite in the
castle for his gentle and pleasant ways with all, though many a time the
rough soldiers had said among themselves, "'Tis a pity that he was not a
girl, and the Lady Agnes a boy. He is more fit for a priest than for a
baron in times like these, for assuredly he will never grow into a stout
man-at-arms like his father." That a soldier should have been killed in
such a fight was to be expected, but that a gentle boy like this should
have fallen seemed strange and unnatural, and all sorrowed for him as well
as for their lord and lady, and the men forgot for a time the smart of
their wounds in their regret at his untimely death.

Sir Eustace went about his work quietly and earnestly, bound up the
soldiers' wounds, and saw as far as might be to their comfort. Their
number was not large, as it was only in the fight on the wall that aught
save their heads had been exposed, and those struck by cross-bow bolts had
for the most part fallen as they stood. The eight men brought in had
without exception received wounds from the swords of the French knights,
and though some of the gashes were broad and deep, none of them were
likely to prove fatal. Just as the knight had finished, Guy entered. He
had heard the news, which had spread like wildfire through the castle. The
lad's eyes were red, for he had been greatly attached to Henry, whose
constant companion he had been whenever the family had been at their
English home.

"It is a strange fate, lad," Sir Eustace said, laying his hand upon Guy's
shoulder. "You who have exposed yourself freely--for I marked you in the
fight--have come through scatheless, while Henry, whom I thought to keep
out of danger, has fallen. And what is your news?"

"There have been seventeen killed, my lord, besides Jean Bouvard, who was
struck in the face by one of the last crossbow bolts shot before they drew
off."

"This is bad news indeed. I wondered why he came not to me as soon as we
had beaten them off, but I thought not of this. He was a good and
trustworthy fellow, and I shall miss him sorely. Seventeen, say you? It is
too many; and yet there might have been more. Who are they?"

"Four of our archers, Sir Eustace, one of our English men-at-arms, and six
of your French men-at-arms. These were all killed by cross-bow bolts and
arrows, Two of your tenants, Pierre Leroix and Jules Beaune, and four of
their men fell on the wall when the French gained a footing there; three
were, I hear, unmarried men, the other has left a wife and three
children."

"They shall be my care," the knight said. "The wives of Leroix and Beaune
shall hold their farms free of dues until their eldest sons come of age.
Does all seem quiet without?"

"All is quiet, my lord; but as I left the wall but now a knight with a
white flag and four torch-bearers was coming down the slope towards the
outwork."

"I will go there myself," Sir Eustace said; "'tis likely they do but come
to ask for leave to carry off the dead and wounded, which we will gladly
let them do, for it will save us much trouble to-morrow."

It was as the knight had supposed, and he at once gave the permission
asked for, and in a short time a great number of men with torches came
down the slope and for the next two hours were occupied in carrying off
their dead and wounded comrades. A close watch was maintained all night,
though there was small fear of a renewal of the attack. At daybreak the
rear-guard of the enemy could be seen retiring, and a party of men-at-
arms, under Sir Eustace himself, on going out to reconnoitre, found that
none had remained behind. A mound marked the place where their dead had
been buried in one great grave. Many of the mantlets had been removed, and
they doubted not that these had been used as litters for the conveyance of
the wounded. They afterwards heard that some four hundred and fifty men
had been killed, and that over a hundred, too sorely wounded to be able to
walk, had been carried away.

In the afternoon Henry was buried beneath the chapel in the castle, while
the men-at-arms and others were laid in the inner court-yard. Having
learned that the Orleanists, greatly disheartened at their heavy repulse,
had marched away to the south, the gates of the castle were opened. A
small number of the garrison were retained in the castle, and the rest
were sent out to aid the tenants in felling trees and getting up temporary
shelters near their former homes until these could be rebuilt as before.
For the time their wives and families were to remain in the castle.

All fear of another attack by the Orleanists speedily passed away. Artois
was, upon the whole, strongly Burgundian, and an army marching from
Flanders speedily brought the whole province over to that side. Nothing
was done towards commencing the work of rebuilding the farmhouses, for it
was evident that the castle might at any moment be again beleaguered.

Two months passed quietly. Sir Eustace busied himself in seeing that the
tenants were comfortably re-established in their temporary homes. The
Burgundians had again obtained several advantages, and as Sir Clugnet was
known to have marched away with his following to the assistance of the
Orleanists, who had of late fared badly, there was no fear of any fresh
attack being made upon the castle. One day a messenger rode in from the
Governor of Calais, who was personally known to Sir Eustace. The letter
that he carried was an important one. After the usual greeting it read:--

_For the love I bear you, Sir Eustace, I write to let you know that
there is a change in affairs. It seems that the Duke of Burgundy has but
been playing with our King Henry, and that the offer of a marriage was
made only in order to obtain assistance and the countenance of the king.
Being now, as it would seem, powerful enough to hold his own against his
enemies without such aid, the matter has fallen through. I have received a
royal order, which has also been sent to the governors of other English
towns, and it has been proclaimed everywhere by sound of trumpets, that
none of Henry's subjects of whatever rank should in any way interfere
between the two factions in France, nor go into France to serve either of
them by arms or otherwise under pain of death and confiscation of fortune.
But I would tell you for your private ear, that I have news that our king
is in correspondence with the Dukes of Berri, Orleans, and Bourbon, and
that it is like that he will shortly declare for that party, being
grievously offended at the treatment that he has received at the hands of
the Duke of Burgundy after having given him loyal help and assistance
which had, in no slight degree, assisted him in making good his cause
against his enemies._

In a short time, indeed, the English from Calais, and from other places
held by them in France, began to make sorties and to carry off much
plunder from the country round, and especially took by storm the Castle of
Banelinghen near Ardres, notwithstanding the truce that prevailed. The
intentions of the King of England were made still more manifest by his
writing a letter to the Flemish towns, saying that, having heard that the
Duke of Burgundy was gathering an army of Flemings to march into Aquitaine
to wage war upon and destroy his subjects, and particularly his very dear
and well-beloved cousins the Dukes of Berri, Orleans, and Bourbon, and the
Counts of Alençon and Armagnac, and the Lord d'Albreth, he therefore
begged them to inform him whether they were willing to conform to the
truce concluded between them and England without in any way assisting
their lord in his wicked purpose.

The Flemish towns replied that they desired in no way to infringe the
truce between the two countries, but that they would serve and assist the
King of France, their sovereign lord, and their Count the Duke of
Burgundy, as heretofore, to the utmost of their power.

In a short time, indeed, it became known that a solemn treaty had been
concluded between the King of England and the Orleanist nobles, they
engaging to aid him to recover Guienne and the parts of Aquitaine he had
lost, while he promised to put an army in the field to assist them.

The position of Sir Eustace was now very difficult. It was uncertain when
the English would move, and it was likely enough that if an army set sail
it would land in Guienne, and that Calais would be able to render no
assistance, so that he would be exposed to the attacks of the Burgundians.
Nor was his position improved when he learned that on the 15th of July the
two French factions, urged by the Count of Savoy, the Grand Master of
Rhodes, and many others, had agreed to terms of peace between them, and
that the Orleanists had formally renounced the English alliance.

At the meeting of the leaders of the party, the Duke of Aquitaine, the
king's son, presided. For a time all the differences were patched up. The
news, however, came too late to arrest the embarkation of the English.
Eight thousand men landed at La Hogue, under the Duke of Clarence, overran
a wide extent of country, being reinforced by 800 Gascons, who had,
according to the agreement with the Orleanists, been raised to join them.
They advanced towards Paris, declaring, however, that they would retire if
the Duke of Berri and his party kept their engagement with them, and paid
them the two hundred thousand crowns he had agreed to do. The Duke had
not, however, the means to pay this amount, and the English therefore
continued to ravage the country, while a large force from Calais, under
the Earl of Warwick, captured the town of Saumer-au-Bois and the Castle of
Ruissault. This, however, was scarcely an invasion, and Sir Eustace, being
doubtful whether Henry meditated operations upon a large scale now that he
had no longer allies in France, took no part in the matter, but remained
quietly in his castle.

Towards the end of March, 1413, a royal herald appeared before the gate.
He was at once admitted, and was received with all honour in the great
hall by Sir Eustace.

"Sir Eustace de Villeroy." he said, "I come to you in the name of the King
of France, your lord and suzerain. He bids me to say that he has heard
with satisfaction that you refused entry to your castle to those who
demanded it altogether without authority from him; but that, seeing the
importance of the castle in case of trouble with England, and that you are
a vassal of England for estates in that country, he deems it necessary
that its safety should be assured, and therefore calls upon you to send,
in proof of your loyalty to and affection for him, your wife and children
to Paris, where they shall be cared for in all honour and as becomes their
condition; or to receive a garrison of royal troops of such strength as to
defend it from any fresh assault that may be made upon it, either on the
part of those who before attacked it, or of England. He charges you on
your fealty to accept one or other of these conditions, or to be deemed a
false vassal, which he cannot believe you are, knowing you to be a brave
and worthy knight. Here is a document with the king's signature and seal
to the effect which I have delivered to you."

"His Majesty's demands come upon me as a surprise," the knight said
gravely, "and I pray you to abide with me till to-morrow, by which time I
shall have had leisure to consider the alternative and be ready to give
you answer."

"Your request is a reasonable one, Sir Eustace," the herald replied, "and
I will await the answer for twenty-four hours."

The herald was then conducted to the guest-chamber, and Sir Eustace went
out into the court-yard and for some time busied himself with the usual
affairs of his estate and talked to the tenants as to their plans; then he
went up on to the wall and there paced moodily backwards and forwards
thinking over the summons that he had received. He knew that Margaret had
been in the gallery in the hall and had heard the message the herald had
delivered, and he wished to think it well over before seeing her. His
position was, he felt, a perilous one. The last treaty of peace between
France and England had drawn the frontier line more straitly in. After
Cressy was fought, but a few miles away, Villeroy had stood within the
English line as far as it now stood without it. That Henry, who although
now old and averse to war, must yet ere long again renew the war that had
so long languished he had little doubt; but he had no hope of succour at
present, and felt that though able to withstand any sudden attack like
that he had recently repulsed, he could not hope to make a successful
defence against a great force provided with battering machines.

The message from the king was indeed but a message from Burgundy, but if
Burgundy was all-powerful just at present it had the same effect as if it
were the king and not he who had sent the summons. He could see no way of
temporizing save that Margaret and the children should go as hostages, and
the idea of this was wholly repugnant to him. Were he to admit a French
garrison the castle would be virtually lost to him; for once powerless, he
could easily be set aside in favour of one of Burgundy's followers. The
only alternative then seemed to be that he should altogether forsake the
castle and estate so long held by his ancestors, and retire to England,
until maybe some day Henry might again place him in possession of it. He
regretted now that he had not told Margaret that she had best keep her
chamber, for she then would have known nothing of the alternative that she
should go as a hostage--an alternative, he foresaw, that she was likely to
favour, as by so doing the necessity for making an absolute decision and
choosing between France and England would be postponed. At length, still
undecided in his mind, he descended from the wall and went up to his
wife's apartments.

CHAPTER V

HOSTAGES

Margaret rose to meet her husband when he entered. She had looked pale in
her dress of deep mourning before, but he thought that she looked paler
now. She, too, had evidently been thinking over the summons that he had
received, and there was an expression of firmness and resolution in her
face that seemed to say that she had arrived at a more definite conclusion
than he had done.

"'Tis a knotty question, wife," Sir Eustace said. "In the first place, it
is clear we cannot hope to defend the castle successfully against an
attack by Burgundy. The last was but of the character of a raid, the next
would be a serious siege by experienced soldiers provided with all proper
means and appliances. Before, it was certain that Sir Clugnet would, if he
tarried here, be shortly attacked by the Burgundians, whereas now there
would be no prospect of assistance. There is no hope of help from England,
for there is no force in Calais that could contend with that which would
probably be sent against me; therefore I take it that if attacked the
castle must in the end fall, in which case probably its defenders would
all be put to the sword. I myself should most likely be kilted, the
estates forfeited, and you and the children taken prisoners to Paris. Now
it seems to me that that is not to be thought of. It remains to decide,
therefore, whether we shall abandon the castle and journey to England, or
whether we will admit a Burgundian garrison, which will in fact, we may be
sure, be the first step towards losing the castle and estate altogether.
It seems to me that the first will be the best plan. I see no chance of it
at present, but in time Henry may invade France; and as we lie only some
seven or eight miles from the frontier he would doubtless recapture
Villeroy, and we should again become its masters."

"You have not mentioned the other alternative, Eustace, namely, that I and
the children should go to Paris as hostages; and this, it seems to me, is
the best of the three to follow. If there were indeed a chance of an
English invasion I should not say so, but I think not that there is any
such prospect. It is many years since England has done aught in earnest,
and during all that time her power in France has been waning. I would not
that our children should lose this fair estate when it can well be
preserved by some slight sacrifice on my part. Were I and the children to
go to Paris it would put an end to all doubts as to your loyalty, and you
would hold the castle and estates. The peace now patched up between the
parties will not last, and as soon as they are engaged with each other,
and have no time to spare to think of attacking you here, I will endeavour
to escape with the children and rejoin you. I shall assuredly have no
cause for complaint. I shall, of course, have honourable treatment, and
apartments fitting to our rank assigned to me. It would be no great
hardship, and even were it so it would be worth enduring in order that our
son Charles should inherit his father's estate."

"I could not part from you, love."

"Nay, Eustace, as I have said, it cannot be for long; and you must
remember that twice when the children were infants I remained in England
with them while you were some months here. It would be no worse now. I
would take Guy with me; the lad has sense and courage, the children are
both fond of him, and I myself could, if occasion arose, take counsel with
him. Then I could have two or three stout men-at-arms who might ride in my
train in peaceful garb as retainers. As to a maid I can, if I need one,
hire her in Paris. Surely, husband, it would be far better so than that we
should lose castle and land. There could be little danger to one in Paris
at any time, still less to the wife of a vassal of the crown, least of all
to a hostage. I shall be but staying at the court. If you peril life and
limb, Eustace, in defence of your castle, surely it is not much that I
should put myself to the slight inconvenience of a stay in Paris for a
while."

"I like it not," the knight said moodily. "I see well enough that what you
say is true, and that you should be safe at Charles's court, indeed safer
than here. The citizens of Paris are indeed turbulent, whether they shout
for Orleans or Burgundy, but what if Henry of England should again lead an
army here?"

"But why imagine what is not likely to happen? Long ere Henry comes I may
have joined you again; should it be otherwise I might perhaps escape, or
at the very worst of all they could but keep me in duress in my chamber.
Who ever heard of a woman being ill-treated for the disobedience of her
lord? All that they could do would be to make you pay ransom for my
return."

"I would rather go as a hostage myself."

"Nay, husband, that could hardly be. Who would then take care of your
castle? It is not a hard thing that the king asks, merely that I and the
children shall for a time live at his court as a proof that you, his
vassal, hold your castle for him. Even if the worst comes to the worst we
can but lose castle and land, as we must lose it now if I do not go. Nay,
my dear lord, do not wrinkle your brow, we cannot strive against the might
of France; and at present we must bow our heads and wait until the storm
has passed, and hope for better times. There may be an English war; ere
long Henry may again extend his frontiers, and you might again become a
vassal of England for these possessions of yours even as your fathers
were."

"I see that reason is on your side, Margaret, and yet I cannot bring
myself to like the plan."

"Nor do I like it, husband; yet I feel that it were a thousand times
better that I should be separated from you for a time than that we should
risk another siege. The last has cost us dear enough, another might take
you from me."

"Well, well, dear, I suppose you must have your way; indeed I do not see
that harm can possibly come to you, and it will at any rate ensure peace
for a time and enable us to repair our tenants' losses. I shall send over
a message at once to Sir Aylmer, and beg him to choose and send me another
fifty archers--with that reinforcement I could make head against any
attack save in the greatest force--for there is no saying how things may
go. The five-and-twenty did wonders, and with thrice that force I should
feel confident that Villeroy could withstand any attack save by an army
with an abundance of great machines.

"Well, Margaret, since you have decided for me that you are to go--and
indeed I myself plainly see that that alternative is really the best--let
us talk over who you had best take with you. I quite approve of your
choice of Guy; he is a good lad, and will make a brave knight some day. I
shall now make him one of my esquires, and as such he will always be in
attendance on you; and assuredly Agnes and Charlie will, as well as
yourself, benefit by his presence. He will be able to take them out and
look after them, and as he talks French as well as English the lad will be
useful to you in many ways. Have you any preference as to the four men-at-
arms?"

"Could you spare Tom, the leader of the archers? I should like to have
another Englishman with me, and he is very good-tempered and obliging. He
is shrewd too, and with his strength and courage I should feel that I
could wholly rely upon him in any strait, though indeed I see not that
there is any probability of such occurring."

"Certainly you can have him, Margaret, and I shall be glad to know that he
is with you. Dickon, who is next under him, can act as captain of the
archers while he is away. I have noticed that Tom is picking up the
language fast. He is always ready to do little kindnesses to the women and
children, and I have often heard him talking with them. He will soon get
to speak the language fairly. As to the others have you any choice?"

"No, I think you had better choose them for me, Eustace."

"They had better be French," he said; "it would not do for you to surround
yourself entirely by English, although of course it is natural enough that
you should have an English squire and servant. I think that you could not
do better than take Jules Varey and Albert Bongarde. They are both stout
men-at-arms, prudent fellows, and not given to the wine-cup. As a fourth I
would say Jean Picard's son; he is a stout fellow too, and I know that,
but for his father's hopes that he will one day succeed him as butler, he
would have taken service regularly as a man-at-arms. He fought stoutly
when the French gained the wall, and I marked him exchanging blows be in
attendance on you; and assuredly Agnes and Charlie will, as well as
yourself, benefit by his presence. He will be able to take them out and
look after them, and as he talks French as well as English the lad will be
useful to you in many ways. Have you any preference as to the four men-at-
arms?"

"Could you spare Tom, the leader of the archers? I should like to have
another Englishman with me, and he is very good-tempered and obliging. He
is shrewd too, and with his strength and courage I should feel that I
could wholly rely upon him in any strait, though indeed I see not that
there is any probability of such occurring."

"Certainly you can have him, Margaret, and I shall be glad to know that he
is with you. Dickon, who is next under him, can act as captain of the
archers while he is away. I have noticed that Tom is picking up the
language fast. He is always ready to do little kindnesses to the women and
children, and I have often heard him talking with them. He will soon get
to speak the language fairly. As to the others have you any choice?"

"No, I think you had better choose them for me, Eustace."

"They had better be French," he said; "it would not do for you to surround
yourself entirely by English, although of course it is natural enough that
you should have an English squire and servant. I think that you could not
do better than take Jules Varey and Albert Bongarde. They are both stout
men-at-arms, prudent fellows, and not given to the wine-cup. As a fourth I
would say Jean Picard's son; he is a stout fellow too, and I know that,
but for his father's hopes that he will one day succeed him as butler, he
would have taken service regularly as a man-at-arms. He fought stoutly
when the French gained the wall, and I marked him exchanging blows with
Sir Clugnet himself, and bearing himself as well as any man there.' You
could choose no better."

"So be it," she said. "I think, Eustace, that with four such defenders, to
say nothing of young Guy, you need not feel uneasy about us."

"I don't think that I shall feel uneasy, Margaret; but I know that I can
ill spare you. You have ever been at my side since we were married, save
when, after the birth of Agnes and Charles, you were forced to stay in
England when I came over here. I felt it a dreary time then, and shall
feel it so now; but I doubt not that all will go well with you, though it
will be a very different life to that to which you have been accustomed."

"I shall do well enough," Margaret said cheerfully, "and maybe I shall get
so fond of court that you will have to take me to that of Henry when we
return to England."

"Now you had best begin to make your preparations. I will speak to Guy and
the others myself."

Sir Eustace went into the court-yard, where Guy was superintending the
issue of provisions for the women.

"This can go on without you," he said; "Gervaise will see to it. I would
speak to you. You were at the meeting this morning, Guy, and you heard
what the herald of France said. The position is a hard one. I cannot hold
the castle against the strength of France, while if we take a Burgundian
garrison I should cease to be its master, and it would doubtless soon pass
into other hands. Again, if I go to England, it would equally be lost to
us. Therefore my wife has resolved, in order to gain time until these
disorders are over, to go to Paris with the children as a hostage for me.
In no case, as it seems to me, are Dame Margaret and the children likely
to be in danger; nevertheless, I am greatly loth for them to go. However,
seeing no other way out of the business, I have consented, and we have
arranged that you shall accompany her. You will go as my esquire, and I
shall install you as such this afternoon. You will take Long Tom, two of
the men-at-arms, and Robert Picard, all good men and true; but at the same
time the burden and responsibility must rest upon your shoulders. You are
young yet for so grave a charge, and yet I feel that I can confide it to
you. You will have to be the stay and support of your mistress, you will
have to be the companion and friend of my children, and I shall charge the
four men-at-arms to take orders from you as from me. Tom will be a
valuable fellow. In the first place, he is, I know, much attached to you,
besides being shrewd, and a very giant in strength. The other three are
all honest varlets, and you can rely upon them in any pinch."

"I will do my best, my lord," Guy said quietly; "and I am grateful to you
indeed for the confidence that you show in me, and I shall, I hope, prove
worthy of it, and of my father."

The news soon spread through the castle that Dame Margaret was going to
Paris. The maids wept at the thought, as did many of the tenants' wives,
for since the siege began, her kindness and the pains that she had taken
to make them comfortable had endeared her greatly to them. On her previous
visits they had seen comparatively little of her; she had been to them
simply their lord's English wife, now they knew her as a friend.
Nevertheless, their regret at her leaving was softened by the thought that
her going to be near the king insured peace for them, and that they would
now be able to venture out to the houses that were fast rising on the
ruins of their former homes, and to take up their life again as they had
left it.

Early next morning the little cortege mustered in the court-yard in
readiness for a start. Sir Eustace and his wife had said good-bye to each
other in their chamber, and she looked calm and tranquil as she mounted
her horse; for, having been accustomed from a child to ride with her
father hunting and hawking, she could sit a horse well, and scorned to
ride, as did so many ladies, on a pillion. Guy rode by her side, with
Agnes on a pillion behind him. Long Tom, with Charlie perched in front of
him, followed them, and the three men-at-arms brought up the rear. Charlie
was in high spirits; he regarded the trip as a sort of holiday, and had
been talking, ever since he got up, of the wonders that he should see in
Paris. Agnes better understood the situation, and nothing but the feeling
that she ought to emulate the calmness of her mother restrained her from
bursting into tears when her father lifted her on to her seat. The herald
led the way, followed by his two pursuivants. Dame Margaret checked her
horse in the middle of the court-yard, and said in a loud clear voice to
the tenants and men-at-arms round: "Adieu, good friends; I trust that I
shall not be long away from you. I go to stay for a time at the court in
Paris, and I leave you with the surety that you will have peace and rest
until I return, and be able to repair the damages you suffered from the
attack made upon us by men who regard not the law." She turned and waved
her hand to Sir Eustace, who was standing immovable on the steps, and
then, touching the horse with her heel, they moved on after the herald.

"Do not fear to speak, Tom," Dame Margaret said, after they had left the
castle behind them; "the journey is a long one, and it will go all the
quicker for honest talk. What think you of this expedition to Paris?"

"I would as lief go there as anywhere else, my lady. Indeed, men say that
it is a fine city, and as I have never seen a bigger town than
Southampton, I doubt not that I shall find plenty to interest me at times
when you may not require our services."

"I see that you have brought your bow with you."

"Ay, my lady, I could not bring myself to part with it. Sir Eustace told
me that I could not carry it, as its length would be a matter of remark,
and point me out at once as being an Englishman, seeing that the French
archers carry no bows of such length; so I have, even as you see, wrapped
it round with straw, and fastened it to the saddle beneath my leg. I have
also put fourscore arrows among the valises on the pack-horses."

"There is no chance of your needing them, Tom."

"I trust that it is so," the archer replied; "but, indeed, there is never
any saying, and an archer without his bow is but a poor creature,--though,
indeed, I trust that I can swing an axe as well as another."

"And much better than most, Tom; still, I hope that neither axe nor bow
will be required."

"To that I say amen also; for, although a fray may sometimes be to my
taste, I have no desire to be mixed up in a mêlée without some of my own
stout comrades with me."

"Shall we get to Paris to-night, Lady Mother?" Charlie asked.

"No, indeed; it will be five days, if not six, for I see by the way that
we are travelling we are bearing east, and shall sleep at Lille or may be
at Tournay; then, doubtless, we shall bear south, and may stop the next
night at Cambrai, and make to Noyon on the following day, and thence to
Compiègne or to Senlis, and the next day will take us to Paris. It all
depends how far and how fast we ride each day. But these matters will be
arranged by the herald. Were we to go by the shortest route we should get
there more quickly; but Amiens is held by the party to whom the men who
attacked our castle belong, and by the way we are travelling we shall keep
for some time in Artois, and so escape all risk of trouble on the road."

"I don't care for trouble," Charlie said stoutly; "we have got Long Tom
and Robert Picard and the other two, and Guy can fight also."

"That would be all very well, my son," his mother said smiling, "if we
were only attacked by half a dozen vagrants, but brave as they all are
they could do naught if a large body surprised us; but be assured that
there is no fear of that--by the way we are travelling we shall meet with
none but friends."

"I should like to be attacked by the vagrants, mother. The last time you
made us stay with you when there was fighting going on, except just at the
first, but here we should see it all."

"Well, I don't want to see it, Charlie, and I am glad that we are not
likely to do so; and you must remember that you and I and Agnes would
sorely hamper our friends."

Nevertheless whenever a party of peasants was met upon the road Charlie
looked out hopefully and heaved a sigh of disappointment when, after
doffing their caps in respect, they passed on quietly. Several times they
encountered bodies of knights and men-at-arms, but the presence of the
royal herald saved them from all question. At each halting-place Dame
Margaret, her children and maid, were lodged in the house of one of the
principal citizens, while Guy and the men-at-arms lay at an inn. The
troubled state of the times was only manifest by the number of men-at-arms
in the streets, and the strict watch kept at the gates of the towns. Many
of these were kept shut, and were only opened once an hour to let people
pass in and out. This, however, did not affect the travellers, for the
gates were opened the moment the emblazonings on the surcoat of the herald
could be made out.

"We have assuredly nothing to complain of so far, Guy," Dame Margaret
said, as they set out on their last day's journey; "had we been the king's
special guests we could not have been more honourably treated, and I have
no doubt that although we shall be much less important personages at Paris
than as travellers under the royal protection, we shall yet be made
comfortable enough, and shall have naught to grieve over save the
separation from our lord."

"I cannot doubt that it will be so, lady," Guy replied; "and that at any
rate there will be no trouble, unless the Armagnacs lay siege to Paris or
there are riots in the city. I heard last night at the inn from some
travellers who had just left it, that although the majority of the people
there are in favour of Burgundy, yet that much discontent exists on
account of the harsh measures of the officers he has appointed, and
especially of the conduct of the guild of butchers, who, as it seems, are
high in favour with the duke, and rule the city as if it belonged to
them."

"It matters little to us, Guy, though it seems strange that the nobles of
France and the respectable citizens of Paris should allow themselves to be
ruled over by such a scum as that; but it was the same in Flanders, where
Von Artevelde, our ally, a great man and the chief among them, was
murdered by the butchers who at the time held sway in Ghent, and who were
conspicuous for many years in all the tumults in the great towns there."

"I hear, madam, that the king is ill, and can see no one."

"Yes, I have heard the same from the herald. It will be John of Burgundy
who will, for the time, be our master."

"I could desire a better," Guy said bluntly; "but we shall at any rate
know that his fair words are not to be trusted. For my part, however, I
wonder that after the of the Duke of Orleans, with whom he had sworn a
solemn peace, any man should hold converse with him."

"Unfortunately, Guy, men's interests count for more than their feelings,
and a great noble, who has it in his power to grant favours and dispense
honours, will find adherents though he has waded through blood. Burgundy,
too, as I hear, has winning manners and a soft tongue, and can, when it
pleases him, play the part of a frank and honest man. At least it must be
owned that the title of 'Fearless' does not misbecome him, for, had it
been otherwise, he would have denied all part in the murder of Orleans,
instead of openly avowing that it was done by his orders."

They had started at an earlier hour than usual that morning, as the herald
had pointed out to Dame Margaret, that it were best to arrive in Paris as
early as possible, in order that the question of their lodging might be
settled at once. Accordingly, they had been up at daybreak, and arrived in
Paris at noon.

"How long will it be, I wonder," Dame Margaret said, as they rode through
the gates, "before we shall pass through here again?"

"Not very long I hope, my lady," Guy said; "but be sure that if at any
time you wish to leave we shall be able to procure disguises for you all,
and to make our way out without difficulty."

"Nay, Guy, you forget that it is only so long as we are here that Villeroy
is safe from attack. Whatever happens, nothing, save the news that an
English army has landed at Calais, and is about to invade France, would
leave me free to attempt an escape. If not released before that, I must
then, at all hazards, try to escape, for Sir Eustace, knowing that I am
here, would be placed in a sore strait indeed; both by his own
inclinations and as a vassal of England, for he would want to join the
English as soon as they advanced, and yet would be hindered by the
knowledge that I was a hostage here. It would be for me to relieve him of
that fear; and the same feeling that induced me to come hither would then
take me back to Villeroy."

"Then, madam, I fear that our stay here will be a long one, for Henry has
never pushed on the war with France vigorously, and though plenty of cause
has been given by the capture of his castles in Guienne, he has never
drawn sword either to regain them or to avenge the insults put upon the
English flag."

"King Henry is old, Guy; and they say that his son is as full of spirit
and as fiery as his father is peaceful and indisposed for war. When the
king dies, my lord thinks that it will be but a short time before the
English banner will be unfurled in France; and this is one of the reasons
why he consented to my becoming an hostage, thinking that no long time is
likely to elapse before he will have English backing, and will be able to
disregard the threats of France."

"How narrow and sombre are these streets!" Guy said, after a pause, "one
seems to draw one's very breath with difficulty."

"They are well-nigh as narrow in London," his mistress replied; "but they
are gay enough below. See how crowded they are, and how brilliant are some
of the costumes!"

"Some of them indeed, madam, but more are poor and miserable; and as to
the faces, they are so scowling and sombre, truly were we not on horseback
I should keep my hand tight upon my pouch, though in truth there is
nothing in it worth stealing."

"Ay, ay, Master Guy," Long Tom broke in, "methinks that there are a good
many heads among these scowling knaves that I would gladly have a chance
of cracking had I my quarter-staff in my hand and half a dozen stout
fellows here with me. See how insolently they stare!"

"Hush, Tom!" Dame Margaret said, turning round, "if you talk of cracking
skulls I shall regret that I brought you with me."

"I am not thinking of doing it, my lady," the archer said apologetically.
"I did but say that I should like to do it, and between liking and doing
there is often a long distance."

"Sometimes, Tom, but one often leads to the other. You must remember that
above all things it behoves us to act prudently here, and to avoid drawing
the attention of our foes. We English are not loved in Paris, and the less
you open your mouth here the better; for when Burgundians and Armagnacs
are ready to cut each other's throats over a name, fellow-countrymen
though they be, neither would feel any compunction about killing an
Englishman."

After riding for half an hour they entered the court-yard of a large
building, where men-at-arms and varlets wearing the cognizance of Burgundy
were moving about, a group of nobles were standing on the steps, while
some grooms were walking their horses round the court-yard. The herald
made his way to the door, and here all alighted.

"Whom have we here, I wonder?" one of the young nobles said to another as
they came up. "A royal herald and his pursuivants; a young dame and a very
fair one; her daughter, I suppose, also fair; the lady's esquire; and a
small boy."

"Hostages, I should say," the other replied, "for the good conduct of the
lady's lord, whoever he may be. I know her not, and think that she cannot
have been at court for the last ten years, for I could hardly have
forgotten her face."

Dame Margaret took the hands of her two children and followed the herald
up the steps. She had made a motion of her head to Guy to attend her, and
he accordingly followed behind.

"A haughty lady as well as a fair one," the young knight laughed. "She did
not so much as glance at us, but held her head as high as if she were
going in to rate Burgundy himself. I think that she must be English by her
looks, though what an English woman can be doing here in Paris is beyond
my understanding, unless it be that she is the wife of a knight of
Guienne; in that case she would more likely be with Orleans than here."

"Yes, but you see the herald has brought her. It may be her lord's castle
has been captured, and she has come under the safe-conduct of a herald to
lay a complaint; but I think with you that she is English. The girl was
fair too, though not so fair as her mother, and that curly-headed young
esquire is of English stock too."

"He is a stout-looking fellow, De Maupas, and will make a powerful man; he
looks as if he could strike a shrewd blow even now. Let us question their
knaves, one of whom, by the way, is a veritable giant in point of height."

He beckoned to the four men, and Robert Picard came forward.

"Who is your lady, young man?"

"Dame Margaret de Villeroy, may it please you, sir. She is the wife of Sir
Eustace de Villeroy."

"Then we were right, De Maupas, for De Villeroy is, I know, a vassal of
England for his wife's estates, and his people have always counted
themselves English, because for over a hundred years their castle stood
inside the English line."

"He is a stout knight. We heard a month ago how bravely he held his castle
against Sir Clugnet de Brabant with 8000 Orleanists, and beat him off with
a loss of five knights and 400 men. Sir Clugnet himself was sorely
wounded. We all ought to feel mightily obliged to him for the check, which
sent them back post-haste out of Artois, where they had already done
damage enough, and might have done more had they not been so roughly
handled. I wonder what the lady is here for?"

"It may be that he would have fought the Burgundians as stoutly as he
fought the Armagnacs," the other said, "and that the duke does not care
about having so strong a castle held by so stout a knight within a few
miles of the English line."

The other shrugged his shoulders. "The English are sleeping dogs," he
said; "there is no Edward and no Black Prince to lead them now."

"No, but you must remember that sleeping dogs wake up sometimes, and even
try to bite when they do so; moreover we know of old that these particular
dogs can bite hard."

"The sooner they wake up the better, I say, De Maupas. We have a long
grudge to wipe off against them, and our men are not likely to repeat the
mistakes that cost us so dearly before. Besides, the English have had no
real fighting for years, and it seems to me that they have altogether
given up any hope of extending their possessions in France."

"One can never tell, De Revelle. For my part I own that I care not that
they should again spread their banner on this side of the sea. There can
be no doubt that they are stout fighting-men, and seeing how France is
divided they might do sore damage did they throw their weight into one
side of the scale."

"Methinks that there is no fear of that. The dukes both know well enough
that their own followers would not fight side by side with the English;
and though they might propose an alliance with the Islanders, it would
only be for the purpose of bringing the war to a close by uniting both
parties against our old enemy."

In the meantime Dame Margaret had followed her conductor to the great
chamber, where John of Burgundy held audience in almost royal state.
Several nobles were gathered round him, but at the entrance of the herald
these fell back, leaving him standing by himself. An eminently politic
man, the duke saw at once by the upright figure and the fearless air with
which Dame Margaret entered the hall, that this was a case where courtesy
and deference were far more likely to bring about the desired end of
winning her husband over to his interests, than any menaces or rough
speaking; he therefore advanced two or three steps to meet her.

"My lord duke," the herald said, "this lady, Dame Margaret of Villeroy,
has journeyed hither with me in accordance with the wish expressed by His
Majesty the king."

"As the king's representative in Paris, lady," the duke said to Margaret,
"I thank you for your promptness in thus conceding to his wish."

"His Majesty's wish was naturally a command to me, Sir Duke," Margaret
said with quiet dignity. "We, my husband and I, understood that some enemy
had been influencing His Majesty's mind against my lord, and in order to
assure him of my lord's loyalty as a faithful vassal for the land he
holds, I have willingly journeyed here with my children, although in much
grief for the loss of my eldest son, who died in the attack lately made
upon our castle by a large body of men, of whom we knew naught, save that
they did not come in the name of our lord the king."

"I have heard of the attack, lady, and of the gallant and successful
defence made by Sir Eustace, and the king was greatly pleased to hear of
the heavy check thus inflicted upon the men who had raised the banner of
revolt, and were harassing His Majesty's faithful subjects."

"That being so, my lord duke," Margaret said, "'tis strange, after my lord
had shown how ready and well prepared he was to protect his castle against
ill-doers, that he should have been asked to admit a garrison of strangers
to aid him to hold it. Sir Eustace has no desire to meddle with the
troubles of the times; he holds his castle as a fief directly from the
crown, as his ancestors have held it for two hundred years; he wishes only
to dwell in peace and in loyal service to the king."

[Illustration: THE LADY MARGARET MAKES HER OBEISANCE TO THE DUKE OF
BURGUNDY.]

"Such we have always understood, madam, and gladly would the king have
seen Sir Eustace himself at his court. The king will, I trust, shortly be
recovered from his malady; until he. is so I have--for I was made
acquainted with your coming by messenger sent forward by Monjoie--arranged
for you to be lodged in all honour at the house of Master Leroux, one of
the most worshipful of the citizens of Paris, and provost of the guild of
silversmiths. My chamberlain will at once conduct you thither."

"I thank you, my lord duke," Margaret said with a stately reverence, "and
trust that when I am received by my lord the king I shall be able to prove
to him that Sir Eustace is his faithful vassal, and can be trusted to hold
his castle for him against all comers."

"I doubt it not, lady," the duke said courteously. "Sir Victor
Pierrepoint, I pray you to see this lady to the entrance. Sir Hugo will
already be waiting her there."

CHAPTER VI

IN PARIS

"A bold dame and a fair one," John of Burgundy said to the gentlemen round
him when Margaret left the chamber. "Methinks that she would be able to
hold Villeroy even should Sir Eustace be away."

"That would she," one of the knights said with a laugh. "I doubt not that
she would buckle on armour if need were. But we must make some allowance
for her heat; it is no pleasant thing to be taken away from her castle and
brought hither as a hostage, to be held for how long a time she knows
not."

"It was the safest way of securing the castle," the duke said. "Can one
doubt that, with her by his side, her husband would open his gates to the
English, should they appear before it? He himself is a vassal both of
England and France, and should the balance be placed before him, there can
be little doubt that her weight would incline him to England. How well
these English women keep their youth! One might believe her to be but a
few years past twenty, and yet she is the mother of that girl, who is
well-nigh as tall as herself."

"And who bids to be as fair, my lord duke."

"And as English, De Porcelet. She would be a difficult eaglet to tame, if
I mistake not; and had she been the spokeswoman, methinks she would have
answered as haughtily as did her mother. But it might be no bad plan to
mate her to a Frenchman. It is true that there is the boy, but the fief
might well be bestowed upon her if so mated, on the ground that the boy
would likely take after his father and mother and hold Villeroy for
England rather than for France. However, she is young yet; in a couple of
years, De Porcelet, it will be time for you to urge your suit, if so
inclined."

There was a general smile from the circle standing round, but the young
knight said gravely, "When the time comes, my lord duke, I may remind you
of what you have said. 'Tis a fair young face, honest and good, though at
present she must naturally feel with her mother at being thus haled away
from her home."

Sir Victor escorted Margaret to the court-yard. As they appeared at the
entrance a knight came up and saluted her.

"I am intrusted by the duke with the honour of escorting you to your
lodgings," he said; "I am Hugo de Chamfort, the duke's chamberlain."

After assisting her into the saddle he mounted a horse which an attendant
brought up and placed himself by her side. Two men-at-arms with their
surtouts embroidered with the cognizance of Burgundy led the way, and the
rest of the party followed in the same order in which they had come. The
distance was short, and beyond a few questions by the knight as to the
journey and how she had been cared for on the way, and Margaret's replies,
little was said until they reached the house of the provost of the
silversmiths. As they rode up to the door Maître Leroux himself came out
from the house.

"Welcome, lady," he said, "to my abode. My wife will do all that she can
to make you comfortable."

"I am sorry indeed, good sir," Margaret said, "to be thus forced upon your
hospitality, and regret the trouble that my stay will impose upon you."

"Say not so, lady," he said, "we deem it an honour that his grace the Duke
of Burgundy should have selected us for the honour of entertaining you.
The house is large, and we have no family. Chambers are already prepared
for yourself, your daughter, and son, while there are others at your
disposal for your following."

"I would not trespass too much upon you," she said. "My daughter can sleep
with me, and I am sure that my esquire here, Master Guy Aylmer, will
gladly share a room with my boy. I can obtain lodgings for my four
followers without."

"You will grieve me much if you propose it, lady. There is a large room
upstairs unoccupied, and I will place pallets for them there; and as for
their meals they can have them apart."

By this time they had mounted a fine flight of stairs, at the top of which
Dame Leroux was standing to receive her guests. She was a kindly-looking
woman between thirty and forty years of age.

"Welcome, Lady Margaret," she said with a cordiality that made Margaret
feel at once that her visit was not regarded as an infliction. "We are
quiet people, but will do our best to render your stay here a pleasant
one."

"Thanks indeed, mistress!" Margaret replied. "I feared much that my
presence would be felt as a burden, and had hardly hoped for so kind a
welcome. This is my daughter Agnes, and my son Charles." Then she turned
to Sir Hugo: "I pray you to give my thanks to his grace the Duke of
Burgundy, and to thank him for having so well bestowed me. I thank you
also for your courtesy for having conducted me here."

"I will convey your message to the duke," he said, "who will, I am sure,
be pleased to hear of your contentment."

Maître Leroux accompanied the knight downstairs again, and when he had
mounted and ridden off he called two servitors, and bade one carry the
luggage upstairs, and the other conduct the men to the stables he had
taken for the horses.

"After you have seen to their comfort," he said to Robert Picard, "you
will return hither; you will find a meal prepared for you, and will be
bestowed together in a chamber upstairs."

In the meantime his wife had ushered Dame Margaret into a very handsomely
furnished apartment. "This is at your entire service, Lady Margaret," she
said. "The bedroom behind it is for yourself, the one next to it for your
daughter, unless you would prefer that she should sleep with you."

"I thank you. I was telling your husband that I should prefer that; and my
son and esquire can therefore occupy the second room. But I fear greatly
that I am disturbing yourself and your husband."

"No, indeed; our sitting-room and bedroom are on the other side of the
landing. These are our regular guest-chambers, and your being here will
make no change whatever in our arrangements. I only regret that the
apartments are not larger."

"Do not apologize, I beg of you, madam. I can assure you that the room is
far handsomer than that to which I have been accustomed. You citizens of
Paris are far in advance of us in your ideas of comfort and luxury, and
the apartments both at Villeroy and in my English home cannot compare with
these, except in point of size. I never dreamt that my prison would be so
comfortable."

"Say not prison, I pray you, lady. I heard, indeed, that your visit to the
court was not altogether one of your own choice; but, believe me, here at
least you will be but a guest, and an honoured and welcome one. I will
leave you now. If there is aught that you desire, I pray you to ring that
bell on the table; refreshments will be quickly served. Had I known the
precise hour at which you would come we should have been in readiness for
you, but I thought not that you would arrive till evening."

"I hope that you will give me much of your company, mistress," Margaret
said warmly. "We know no one in this great city, and shall be glad indeed
if, when you can spare time, you will sit with us."

"Well, children, what do you think of this?" she asked when their hostess
had left the room.

"It is lovely, mother," Agnes said. "Look at the inlaid cabinets, and the
couches and tables, and this great warm rug that covers all the floor, how
snug and comfortable it all is. Why, mother, I never saw anything like
this."

"You might have seen something like it had you ever been in the house of
one of our rich London traders, Agnes; at least so I have heard, though in
truth I have never myself been in so luxuriously furnished a room. I only
hope that we may stay here for some time. The best of it is that these
good people evidently do not regard us as a burden. No doubt they are
pleased to oblige the Duke of Burgundy, but, beyond that, their welcome
seemed really sincere. Now let us see our bedroom. I suppose that is
yours, Charlie, through the door in the corner."

The valises had already been brought to the rooms by another entrance, and
Margaret and her daughter were charmed with their bedroom. A large ewer
and basin of silver stood on a table which was covered with a white cloth,
snowy towels hung beside it; the hangings of the bed were of damask silk,
and the floor was almost covered by an Eastern carpet. An exquisitely
carved wardrobe stood in one corner.

"It is all lovely!" Agnes said, clapping her hands. "You ought to have
your room at home fitted up like this, mother."

"It would take a large slice out of a year's revenue, Agnes," her mother
said with a smile, "to furnish a room in this fashion. That wardrobe alone
is worth a knight's ransom, and the ewer and basin are fit for a king. I
would that your father could see us here; it would ease his anxiety about
us. I must ask how I can best despatch a messenger to him."

When they returned to the other apartment they found the table already
laid, and in a short time a dainty repast was served. To this Guy sat down
with them, for except when there were guests, when his place was behind
his lord's chair, he had always been treated as one of the family, and as
the son of Sir Aylmer rather than as a page.

"Well, Master Guy, what think you of affairs?"

"They seem well to the eye, mistress, but I would not trust that Duke of
Burgundy for an hour. With that long face of his and the hooked nose and
his crafty look he resembles little a noble of France. He has an evil
face, and one which accords well with the foul murder of the king's
brother. However, as I see not that he has aught to gain by holding you
here,--save that he thinks it will ensure our lord's keeping his castle
for him,--there is no reason why he should not continue to treat you
honourably and courteously. We have yet to learn whether Master Leroux is
one of his party, or whether he is in favour of Armagnac."

"I should think that he cannot be for Armagnac," she said, "or Duke John
would hardly have quartered us upon him. No doubt it was done under the
semblance of goodwill, but most men would have considered it a heavy tax,
even though, as I expect, we shall not remain here long. Doubtless,
however, the trader considers that his complaisance in the matter would be
taken by the duke as a sign of his desire to show that at least he is not
hostile to him."

When they rose from the table Guy, at his mistress's suggestion, went
below and found the four men sitting in the great kitchen, where they had
just finished an ample meal.

"You have seen to the horses, Robert?"

"Yes, Master Guy, they are comfortably bestowed, with an abundance of
provender."

"I am going out to see how matters stand in the town. Our lady says that
at all times two of you must remain here, as it may be necessary to send
messages, or should she wish to go out, to escort her, but the other two
can be out and about as they please, after first inquiring of me whether
there is aught for them to do. You can arrange among yourselves which
shall stay in, taking turns off duty. Tom, you had better not go out till
after dark. There is something in the cut of your garments which tells
that you are not French. Robert will go out with me now, and find a
clothier, and bid him send garments here for you to choose from, or if he
has none to fit, which may likely enough be, send him to measure you. It
might lead to broils and troubles were any of the rabble to notice that
you were a stranger."

"That is right enough, Master Guy; and in sooth I have no desire to go out
at present, for after riding for the last six days I am well content to
sit quiet and take my ease here."

Guy then started with Robert Picard. Except in the streets where the
principal merchants dwelt, the town struck him as gloomy and sombre. The
palaces of the nobles were veritable fortresses, the streets were ill-
paved and evil-smelling, and the people in the poorer quarters had a
sinister aspect.

"I should not care to wander about in this district after nightfall,
Robert," Guy said to the man-at-arms, who kept close to his elbow.

"Nor I," the man growled. "It is as much as I can do to keep my hands off
my dagger now, for methinks that nine out often of the fellows loitering
about would cut our throats willingly, if they thought that we had but a
crown in our pockets."

Presently they found themselves on the quays, and, hailing a boat, rowed
up the river a little beyond the walls. Hearing the sound of music they
landed, and on seeing a number of people gather round some booths they
discharged the boat and went on. They found that it was a sort of fair.
Here were sword-players and mountebanks, pedlars who vended their wares at
a lower price than those at which they were sold within the limits of the
city, booths at which wine and refreshments could be obtained. Here many
soldiers were sitting drinking, watching the passers-by, and exchanging
ribald jests with each other, and sometimes addressing observations to the
wives and daughters of the citizens, amid fits of laughter at the looks of
indignation on the part of their husbands or fathers.

"It is evidently a holiday of some sort," Guy remarked, as they found that
the fair extended for a considerable distance, and that the crowd was
everywhere large. They stopped for a minute or two in front of a booth of
more pretensions than the generality. In front of it a man was beating a
drum, and a negro walking up and down attired in showy garments. The drum
ceased and the latter shouted:

"Those of you who wish to see my master, the famous Elminestres, the most
learned doctor in Europe, who can read the stars, cast your horoscope,
foretell your future, and cure your ailments, should not lose this
opportunity."

The curtains opened behind, and a man dressed in dark garments with a long
black cloak spotted with silver stars came forward.

"You have heard, good people, what my slave has said. He speaks with
knowledge. I saved his life in the deserts of Africa when he was all but
dead with fever, by administering to him one of my wonderful potions; he
at once recovered and devoted himself to my service. I have infallible
remedies for every disease, therefore do you who are sick come to me and
be cured; while for you who do not suffer I can do as much or more, by
telling you of your future, what evils to avoid and what chances to
grasp."

He stood for a minute silent, his eyes wandering keenly over the
spectators. "I see," he said, "one among you who loves a fair maiden
standing beside him. At present her parents are unfavourable to his suit,
but if he will take my advice he will be able to overcome their objections
and to win the damsel. Another I see who has come to Paris with the
intention of enlisting in the service of our good duke, and who, I
foresee, will attain rank and honour and become a distinguished soldier if
he does but act prudently at the critical moment, while if he takes a
wrong turn misfortune and death will befall him. I see a youth of gentle
blood who will become a brave knight, and will better his condition by
marriage. He has many dangers to go through before that, and has at
present a serious charge for one so young; but as he has circumspection as
well as courage he may pass through them unharmed. To him too I could give
advice that may be valuable, more especially as he is a stranger to the
land, as are those of whom he is in charge."

"It is wonderful, Master Guy!" Robert Picard whispered in Guy's ear in a
tone of astonished awe.

"The knave doubtless saw us ride in this morning, and recognized me again.
There is naught of magic in it, but the fellow must be shrewd, or he would
not have so quickly drawn his conclusions. I will go in and speak to him
presently, for though I believe not his prophecies one jot, a fellow of
this sort may be useful. Let us be moving on at present."

They passed two monks, who were scowling angrily at the man, who was just
exciting the laughter of the crowd by asserting that there was a holy man
present who usually preferred a flask of good wine to saying his vespers.

"Rogues like this should be whipped and branded, Brother Anselmo."

"Ay, ay," the other agreed: "and yet," he added slyly, "it may be that he
has not altogether missed his mark this time. We are not the only two
monks here," he went on as the other turned upon him angrily, "and it may
well be that among them is one who answers to the fellow's lewd
description."

On the outskirts of the fair were many people of higher degree. Knights
and ladies strolled on the turf exchanging greetings, looking for a minute
or two at the gambols of a troupe of performing dogs, or at a bout of
cudgel play--where two stout fellows belaboured each other heartily, and
showed sufficient skill to earn from the crowd a shower of small pieces of
money, when at last they ceased from pure exhaustion. Half an hour later
Guy returned to the booth of the doctor, and went in by a side entrance,
to which those who wished to consult the learned man had been directed by
the negro. The latter was at the entrance, and, observing that Guy's
condition was above that of the majority of his master's clients, at once
took him into an inner apartment divided from the rest of the tent by a
hanging. Over the top of this was stretched a black cloth spotted with
silver stars, and similar hangings surrounded it; thus all light was cut
off, and the room was dimly illuminated by two lamps. A table with a black
cloth stood at the back. On this stood a number of phials and small boxes,
together with several retorts and alembics. The doctor was seated on a
tripod stool. He rose and was about to address Guy in his usual style,
when the latter said:

"So you saw us ride in this morning, Master Doctor, and guessed shrewdly
as to our condition and nationality. As to the latter, indeed, it needed
no sorcery, for it must have been plain to the dullest that my mistress
and her daughter were not of French blood, and though I am much less fair,
it was a pretty safe guess to suppose that I also was of their country. I
need not tell you that I have not come here either for charms or nostrums,
but it seemed to me that being, as you said, strangers here, we might
benefit by the advice of one who like yourself notes things quickly, and
can form his own conclusions."

The doctor removed his tall conical cap, and placed it on the table.

"You guess rightly," he said with a smile. "I was in the crowd and marked
you enter, and a soldier standing next to me observed to a comrade that he
had heard that Burgundy had sent the herald to demand the surrender of a
castle held by one Sir Eustace, a knight who was known to have friendly
leanings towards the English, being a vassal of their king for estates
that had come to him with an English wife, and that doubtless this was the
lady. When my eye fell on you in the crowd I said: Here is a youth of
shrewdness and parts, he is alone and is a foreigner, and maybe I can be
of service to him; therefore I shot my shaft, and, as you see, with
success. I said to myself: This youth, being a stranger, will know of no
one to whom he can turn for information, and I can furnish him with almost
any that he may require. I come in contact with the highest and the
lowest, for the Parisians are credulous, and after dark there are some of
rank and station who come to my doors for filtres and nostrums, or to have
their horoscope cast and their futures predicted. You will ask why one who
has such clients should condescend to stand at a booth and talk to this
rabble; but it has its purpose. Were I known only as one whom men and
women visit in secret, I should soon become suspected of black arts, the
priests would raise an outcry against me, and one of these days I might be
burned. Here, however, I ostensibly earn my living as a mountebank vendor
of drugs and nostrums, and therefore no one troubles his head about me."

"There is one thing that you have not told me," Guy said when he ceased
speaking. "Having, as you say, good clients besides your gains here, why
should you trouble to interest yourself in our affairs?"

"Shrewdly put, young sir. I will be frank with you. I too am a stranger,
and sooner or later I may fall into discredit, and the power of the church
be too much for me. When I saw your mistress to-day I said to myself: Here
is an English lady of rank, with a castle and estate in England; should I
have to fly-and I have one very dear to me, for whose sake I value my
life-it might be well for me that I should have one friend in England who
would act as protectress to her should aught befall me. Your mistress is a
stranger here, and in the hands of enemies. I may be of use to her. I know
this population of Paris, and can perhaps give her better information of
what is going on both at the court and in the gutter than any other man,
and may be able to render her assistance when she most needs it; and would
ask but in payment that, should I come to England, she will extend her
protection to my daughter until I can find a home and place her there. You
see I am playing an open game with you."

"I will reply as frankly," Guy said. "When I came in here it was, as I
told the man-at-arms my companion, with the thought that one who had
noticed us so shrewdly, and had recognized me so quickly in the crowd, was
no ordinary mountebank, but a keen, shrewd man who had some motive for
thus addressing me, and I see that my view was a right one. As to your
proposal I can say naught before I have laid it before my mistress, but
for myself I may say at once that it recommends itself to me as excellent.
We are, as you say, strangers here, and know of no one from whom we might
obtain information as to what is going on. My mistress, if not an actual
prisoner, is practically so, being held with her children as hostages for
my lord's loyalty to France. She is the kindest of ladies, and should she
authorize me to enter into further communication with you, you may be sure
that she would execute to the full the undertaking you ask for on behalf
of your daughter. Where can I see you again? This is scarce a place I
could often resort to without my visits being noticed, if, as is likely
enough, the Duke of Burgundy may occasionally set spies to inform him as
to what we are doing, and whether my mistress is in communication with any
who are regarded as either doubtful or hostile to his faction."

"If you will be in front of Notre Dame this evening at nine o'clock, I
will meet you there and conduct you to my abode, where you can visit me
free of any fear of observation."

"What name shall I call you?" Guy asked.

"My name is Montepone. I belong to a noble family of Mantua, but mixing
myself up with the factions there, I was on the losing side, and
unfortunately it happened that in a fray I killed a noble connected with
all the ruling families; sentence of death was passed upon me in my
absence, my property was confiscated. Nowhere in Italy should I have been
safe from the dagger of the assassin, therefore I fled to France, and for
ten years have maintained myself by the two arts which so often go
together, astrology and buffoonery. I had always been fond of knowledge,
and had learned all that could be taught in the grand science of
astrology, so that however much I may gull fools here, I have obtained the
confidence of many powerful personages by the accuracy of my forecasts.
Had Orleans but believed my solemn assurance he would not have ridden
through the streets of Paris to his death that night, and in other cases
where I have been more trusted I have rendered valuable assistance."

The belief in astrology had never gained much hold upon the mass of the
English people, many as were the superstitions that prevailed among them.
Guy had never even given the matter a thought. Montepone, however,
evidently believed in his powers of foreseeing the future, and such powers
did not in themselves seem altogether impossible to the lad; he therefore
made no direct reply, but saying that he would not fail to be at the
appointed place at nine that evening, took his leave.

"Truly, Master Guy, I began to be uneasy about you," Robert Picard said
when he rejoined him, "and was meditating whether I had best enter the
tent, and demand what had become of you. It was only the thought that
there might have been others before you, and that you had to wait your
turn before seeing him, that restrained me. You have not been taking his
nostrums, I trust; for they say that some of those men sell powders by
which a man can be changed into a wolf."

Guy laughed. "I have taken nothing, Robert, and if I had I should have no
fear of such a change happening to me. I have but talked to the man as to
how he came to know me, and it is as I thought,--he saw us as we entered.
He is a shrewd fellow, and may well be of some use to us."

"I like not chaffering with men who have intercourse with the devil,"
Picard said, shaking his head gravely; "nothing good comes of it. My
mother knew a man who bought a powder that was to cure his wife of
jealousy; and indeed it did, for it straightway killed her, and he was
hung. I think that I can stand up against mortal man as well as another,
but my blood ran cold when I saw you enter yon tent, and I fell into a
sweat at your long absence."

"The man is not of that kind, Robert, so you can reassure yourself. I
doubt not that the nostrums he sells are perfectly harmless, and that
though they may not cure they will certainly not kill."

They made their way back to the house of the provost of the silversmiths.

"Well, what do you think of Paris, Guy?" Dame Margaret asked when he
entered.

"It is a fine city, no doubt, lady, but in truth I would rather be in the
country than in this wilderness of narrow streets. But indeed I have had
somewhat of an adventure, and one which I think may prove of advantage;"
and he then related to his mistress his visit to the booth of the supposed
doctor.

"Do you think that he is honest, Guy?" she asked when he concluded.

"I think so, madam. He spoke honestly enough, and there was a ring of
truth in what he said; nor do I see that he could have had any motive for
making my acquaintance save what he stated. His story seemed to me to be a
natural one; but I shall be able to judge better when I see him in his own
house and with this daughter he speaks of; that is, if your ladyship is
willing that I should meet him."

"I am willing enough," she said, "for even if he is a spy of Burgundy's
there is nothing that we wish to conceal. I have come here willingly, and
have no thought of making my escape, or of mixing myself up in any of the
intrigues of the court. Therefore there is no harm that he can do us,
while on the other hand you may learn much from him, and will gather in a
short time whether he can be trusted. Then by all means go and meet him
this evening. But it would be as well to take Tom with you. It does not
seem to me at all likely that any plot can be intended, but at any rate it
will be well that you should have one with you whom you can thoroughly
trust, in case there is any snare set, and to guard you against any
lurking cut-throats."

"I will tell him to be in readiness to go with me. It will be his turn to
go out with one of the others this evening, and he might not be back in
time if I did not warn him."

"What arms shall I take with me?" Long Tom said, when Guy told him of
their expedition.

"Nothing but your sword and quarter-staff. I see that many of the beggars
and others that one meets in the streets carry long staffs, and yours is
not much longer than the generality. You brought it tied up with your bow,
so you would do well to carry it, for in a street broil, where there is
room to swing it, you could desire no better weapon, in such strong hands
as yours, Tom. Besides, you can knock down and disable with it and no
great harm is done, whereas if you used your sword there would be dead
men; and although by all I hear these are not uncommon objects in the
streets of Paris, there might be trouble if the town watch came up, as we
are strangers. I shall carry a stout cudgel myself, as well as my sword."

Accordingly at half-past eight they set out. Guy put on a long cloak and a
cap such as was worn by the citizens, but strengthened inside by a few
bands of steel forming sufficient protection to the head against any
ordinary blow. This he had purchased at a stall on his way home. Tom had
put on the garments that had been bought for him that afternoon,
consisting of a doublet of tanned leather that could be worn under armour
or for ordinary use, and was thick enough to afford considerable
protection. The streets were already almost deserted; those who were
abroad hurried along looking with suspicion at all whom they met, and
walking in the middle of the road so as to avoid being taken by surprise
by anyone lurking in the doorways or at the corners of alleys. Once or
twice men came out and stared at Guy and his companion by the light of the
lanterns suspended across the streets, but there was nothing about their
appearance to encourage an attack, and the stalwart figure of the archer
promised hard blows rather than plunder. Arriving at the square in front
of Notre Dame they waited awhile. Here there were still people about, for
it was a rendezvous both for roistering young gallants, thieves, and
others starting on midnight adventures. After walking backwards and
forwards two or three times Guy said, "You had best stand here in the
shadow of this buttress while I go and place myself beneath that hanging
lamp; seeing that we are together, and he, looking perhaps only for one,
may not recognize me."

On reaching the lamp, Guy took off his hat, so that the light should fall
on his face, waited for a minute, and then replaced it. As soon as he did
so a slightly-built lad came up to him.

"Were you not at the fair by the river to-day, sir, and are you not
expecting some one to meet you here?"

"That is so, lad. If you will tell me whom I am expecting I shall know
that he has sent you, though, indeed, I looked to meet himself and not a
messenger."

"Montepone," the lad said.

"That is right. Why is he not here himself?"

"He received a message before starting that one whose orders he could not
neglect would call upon him this evening, and he therefore sent me to the
rendezvous. I have been looking anxiously for you, but until now had not
seen you."

"I have a companion with me; being a stranger here in Paris, I did not
care to be wandering through the streets alone. He is a countryman of
mine, and can be trusted."

"It is indeed dangerous to be out alone. It is seldom that I am in the
streets after dark, but the doctor came with me and placed me in a corner
of the porch, and then returned by himself, telling me to stir not until I
saw you; and that should you not come, or should I not be able to make you
out, I was to remain until he came for me even if I waited until morning."

"I will fetch my follower," Guy said, "and am ready to accompany you."

The lad was evidently unwilling to be left there for a moment alone, and
he walked back with Guy to the buttress where the archer was standing.

"This is our guide, Tom," Guy said, as the archer stepped out to join him;
"the person I expected was unable to come himself. Now, lad, I am ready;
you see we are well guarded."

The boy nodded, evidently reassured by the bulk of the archer, and was
about to step on ahead of them, when Guy said, "You had best walk with us.
If you keep in front, it will seem as if you were guiding us, and that
would point us out at once as strangers. Is it far to the place you are
taking us to?"

"A short quarter of an hour's walk, sir."

CHAPTER VII

IN THE STREETS OF PARIS

They crossed the bridge to the right bank of the river, and followed the
stream down for some distance. Passing through some narrow lanes, they
presently emerged into a street of higher pretensions, and stopped at the
door of a small house wedged in between two of much larger size. The boy
took a key from his girdle, opened the door, and entered.

"Stand here a moment, I pray you," he said; "I will fetch a light."

In a few seconds he appeared with a lantern. He shut and barred the door,
and then led the way upstairs and showed them into a small but well-
furnished room, which was lighted by a hanging lamp. He then went to a
buffet, brought out a flask of wine and two goblets, and said: "Will it
please you to be seated and to help yourselves to the wine; my master may
possibly be detained for some little time before he is able to see you."
Then he went out and closed the door behind him.

"It is evident, Tom," Guy said, as he took off his hat and cloak, and
seated himself, "that the doctor has a good idea of making himself
comfortable. Sit down, we may have to wait some time."

"Do you think that it will be safe to touch the wine, Master Guy?
Perchance it may be drugged."

"Why should it be?" Guy asked. "We are not such important personages that
anyone can desire to make away with us. I am convinced that the doctor was
in earnest when he told me that story that I repeated to you this evening.
It is possible that he may not be able to give us as much information as
he said, but that he means well by us I am certain; and I think we may be
sure that his wine is as good as his apartments are comfortable."

This turned out to be the case; the wine was excellent, and the archer
soon laid aside any doubt he might have entertained. From time to time
steps could be heard in the apartment above, and it was evident that it
was here that the interview between the doctor and his visitor was taking
place. Presently a ring was heard below.

"Another visitor," Guy said. Getting up, he slightly drew aside a thick
curtain that hung before a casement, a moment later he let it fall again.
"There are two men-at-arms standing on the other side of the street and
one at the door." He heard the door opened, then the boy's step was heard
on the stairs, two or three minutes later there was a movement above and
the sound of the footsteps of two men coming down. Presently the outside
door closed, two or three minutes elapsed; then the door opened and the
Italian entered.

"I regret that I have kept you so long," he said courteously, "but my
visitor was not to be got rid of hastily. It was a lady, and there is no
hurrying ladies. When a man comes in, I have already ascertained what he
desires to know; he listens to my answer and takes his departure. A woman,
on the contrary, has a thousand things to ask, and for the most part they
are questions quite beyond my power to answer."

"I have, as you see, Signor Montepone, brought my tall countryman with me;
as you noticed me, I doubt not for a moment that you also marked him when
we entered the city. Knowing nothing of the ways of Paris, but having
heard that the streets were very unsafe after dark, I thought it best to
bring him with me; and I am indeed glad that I did so, for we met with
several very rough-looking characters on our way to Notre Dame, and had I
been alone I might have had trouble."

"You did quite right," the Italian said; "I regretted afterwards that I
did not myself advise you to bring some one with you, for indeed it is not
safe for one man to go abroad alone after dark. And now, will you
accompany me upstairs; this tall fellow will doubtless be able to pass the
time with that flask of wine until you return."

"He should be able to do so," Guy said with a smile, "for indeed it is the
best wine I have tasted, so far as my judgment goes, since I crossed the
Channel, and indeed the best I have ever tasted."

"'Tis good wine. I received a cask of it from the grower, a Burgundian
noble, who had, as he believed, gained some advantage from following my
advice."

The man led the way upstairs. The room he entered there was much larger
than that which they had left, extending over the whole floor. It was
draped similarly to that in the booth, but was far more handsomely and
elaborately got up. The hangings were of heavy cloth sprinkled with stars,
the ceiling was blue with gold stars, a planisphere and astrolabe stood in
the centre of the room, and a charcoal fire burned in a brazier beside
them. A pair of huge bats with outstretched wings hung by wires from the
ceiling, their white teeth glistening in the light of four lamps on
stands, some six feet high, one in each corner of the room. The floor was
covered with a dark Eastern carpet, a large chair with a footstool in
front stood at a short distance from the planisphere; at one end was a
massive table on which were retorts, glass globes, and a variety of
apparatus new to Guy. At the other end of the room there was a frame some
eight feet square on which a white sheet was stretched tightly.

"Now, Master Guy," the Italian said, "firstly, I beg you to give me the
date of your birth and if possible the hour, for I would for my own
information if not for yours, cast your horoscope. I like to know for my
own satisfaction, as far as may be, the future of those with whom I have
to deal. If I perceive that misfortunes and perhaps death threaten them,
it is clearly of no use my entering into relations with them. In your
case, of course, it is with your mistress that I am chiefly concerned;
still as your fortunes are at present so closely mixed up with hers, I may
learn something of much utility to me from your horoscope."

"I was born on the 8th of December, 1394, and shall be therefore seventeen
in a fortnight's time. I was born a few minutes after midnight, for I have
heard my mother say that the castle bell had sounded but a few minutes
before I was born. She said that she had been anxious about it, because an
old woman had predicted that if she ever had a child born on the 7th day
of the month, it would be in every way unfortunate; so my mother was
greatly pleased that I had escaped the consequences predicted."

"And now," the Italian went on, having made a note in his tablets, "what
said your lady?"

"She bid me say, sir, that she was very sensible of the advantage that it
would be to her to receive news or warning from one so well informed as
yourself; and that she on her part promises that she will befriend and
protect your daughter should you at any time bring her to her castle in
England, or should she come alone with such tokens from you as that she
might be known; and this promise my lady vows on the sacraments to keep."

"Then we are in agreement," the Italian said; "and right glad am I to know
that should aught befall me, my daughter will be in such good hands. As
far as worldly means are concerned her future is assured, for I have laid
out much of the money I have received in jewels of value, which will
produce a sum that will be an ample dowry for her. Now I can give you some
news. The Duke of Berri with the queen came two days since from Melun to
Corbeil, and Louis of Bavaria came on here yesterday to the Duke of
Aquitaine with a message to Burgundy and to the butchers, asking that they
would allow him to attend the queen to Paris, and that she might reside in
his house of Nasle. Burgundy was minded to grant her leave, but at a
meeting of the chiefs of the guild of butchers this afternoon they
resolved to refuse the request; and this evening they have broken every
door and window of the Duke of Berri's house, and committed great damages
there, so that it should not be habitable; they resolved that Berri should
not enter Paris, but that the queen might come. I hear that it has been
determined that the king shall be placed in the Louvre, where the citizens
of Paris can keep guard over him and prevent any attempt by the Orleanists
to carry him away.

"All this will make no difference to your mistress directly; the point of
it is that the power of these butchers, with whom go the guild of skinners
and others, is so increasing that even the Duke of Burgundy is forced to
give in to them. Some of the other guilds and the greater part of the
respectable traders are wholly opposed to these men. They themselves may
care little whether Orleans or Burgundy sways the court and the king, but
this usurpation of the butchers, who have behind them the scum of Paris,
is regarded as a danger to the whole city, and the feeling may grow into
so hot a rage that there may be serious rioting in the streets. I tell you
this that you may be prepared. Assuredly the butchers are not likely to
interfere with any save such of the townspeople as they may deem hostile
to them, and no harm would intentionally be done to her or to any other
hostage of Burgundy. But the provost of the silversmiths is one of those
who withstands them to the best of his power, and should matters come to
serious rioting his house might be attacked. The leaders of the butchers'
guild would be glad to see him killed, and their followers would still
more like to have the sacking of his rich magazine of silver goods and the
spoiling of his furniture.

"I say not that things are likely to come to that yet, but there is no
telling how far they may be carried. It is but a dark cloud in the
distance at present, but it may in time burst into a storm that will
deluge the streets of Paris with blood. I may tell you that, against you
as English there is no strong feeling at present among the Burgundians,
for I am informed that the duke has taken several bodies of English
archers into his pay, and that at Soissons and other towns he has enlisted
a score or two of these men. However, I am sure to gain information long
before matters come to any serious point, except a sudden outbreak arise
from a street broil. I may tell you that one result of the violence of the
butchers to-day may be to cause some breach between them and the
Burgundian nobles, who are, I am told, greatly incensed at their refusing
to give permission to the Duke of Berri to come here after Burgundy had
acceded to his request, and that these fellows should venture to damage
the hotel of one of the royal dukes seemed to them to be still more
intolerable. The Duke of Burgundy may truckle to these fellows, but his
nobles will strongly resent their interference and their arrogant
insolence, and the duke may find that if he is to retain their support he
will have to throw over that of these turbulent citizens. Moreover, their
conduct adds daily to the strength of the Orleanists among the citizens,
and if a strong Armagnac force approaches Paris they will be hailed by no
small portion of the citizens as deliverers."

"In truth I can well understand, Signor Montepone, that the nobles should
revolt against this association with butchers and skinners; 'tis past all
bearing that fellows like these should thus meddle in public affairs."

"The populace of Paris has ever been turbulent," the Italian replied. "In
this it resembles the cities of Flanders, and the butchers are ever at the
bottom of all tumults. Now I will introduce my daughter to you; it is well
that you should know her, for in case of need she may serve as a
messenger, and it may be that I may some day ask you to present her to
your lady."

He opened the door. "Katarina!" he said without raising his voice, and at
once a girl came running up from the floor below.

"This is my daughter, Master Aylmer; you have seen her before."

Katarina was a girl of some fourteen years of age. She was dressed in
black, and was tall and slight. Her complexion was fairer than that of her
father, and she already gave promise of considerable beauty. Guy bowed to
her as she made her reverence, while her face lit up with an amused smile.

"Your father says I have seen you before, signora, but in sooth I know not
where or how, since it was but this morning that I arrived in Paris."

"We parted but half an hour since, monsieur."

"Parted?" Guy repeated with a puzzled expression on his face. "Surely you
are jesting with me."

"Do you not recognize my messenger?" the Italian said with a smile. "My
daughter is my assistant. In a business like mine one cannot trust a
stranger to do one service, and as a boy she could come and go unmarked
when she carries a message to persons of quality. She looks a saucy page
in the daytime when she goes on the business, but after nightfall she is
dressed as you saw her this evening. As a girl she could not traverse the
streets unattended, and I am far too busy to bear her company; but as a
boy she can go where she likes, and indeed it is only when we are alone,
and there is little chance of my having visitors, that she appears in her
proper character."

"You must be very courageous, signora," Guy said; "but, indeed, I can well
imagine that you can pass where you will without anyone suspecting you to
be a girl, for the thought that this was so never entered my head."

"I am so accustomed to the disguise," she said, "that I feel more
comfortable in it than dressed as I now am, and it is much more amusing to
be able to go about as I like than to remain all day cooped up here when
my father is abroad."

"And now, Master Aylmer, that you have made my daughter's acquaintance,
and I have told you what news I have gathered, it needs not that I should
detain you longer; the hour is getting late already, and your lady may
well be getting anxious at your absence. Can you read?"

"Yes, signor; the priest at my lady's castle in England, of which my
father is castellan during my lord's absences, instructed me."

"It is well; for sometimes a note can be slipped into a hand when it would
not be safe to deliver a message by word of mouth. From time to time if
there be anything new you shall hear from me, but there will be no
occasion for you to come hither again unless there is something of
importance on which I may desire to have speech with you, or you with me.
Remain here, Katarina, until my return; I will see monsieur out, and bar
the door after him."

[Illustration: GUY AND LONG TOM COME TO THE RESCUE OF COUNT CHARLES.]

Passing downstairs Guy looked in at the room where he had left the archer.
The latter sprung to his feet as he entered with a somewhat dazed
expression on his face, for indeed, he had fallen off into a sound sleep.

"We are going now, Tom," Guy said. "I have concluded my business with this
gentleman. We will not go back the way we came," he went on, as they
issued into the street, "for I am sure we should never find our way
through those alleys. Let us keep along here until we come to a broader
street leading the way we wish to go; fortunately, with the river to our
left, we cannot go very far wrong."

They presently came to a street leading in the desired direction. They had
scarcely entered it when they heard ahead of them the sound of a fray. A
loud cry arose, and there was a clashing of sword-blades.

"Come on, Tom!" Guy said; "it may be that some gentleman is attacked by
these ruffians of the streets."

Starting off at a run, they soon arrived at the scene of combat, the
features of which they were able to see by the light of the lamp that hung
in the centre of the street. A man was standing in a narrow doorway, which
prevented his being attacked except in front, and the step on which he
stood gave him a slight advantage over his adversaries. These were nearly
a dozen in number, and were evidently, as Guy had supposed, street
ruffians of the lowest class. Without hesitation Guy and the archer fell
upon them, with a shout of encouragement to the defender of the doorway,
who was evidently sorely pressed. Tom's quarter-staff sent two of the men
rolling on the ground almost before they realized that they were attacked,
while Guy ran another through the body. For a moment the assailants
scattered, but then, seeing that they were attacked by only two men, they
fell upon them with fury.

Guy defended himself stoutly, but he would have fared badly had it not
been for the efforts of Long Tom, whose staff descended with such
tremendous force upon the heads of his assailants that it broke down their
guard, and sent man after man on to the pavement. Guy himself received a
sharp wound in the shoulder, but cut down another of his assailants; and
the defender of the door, leaving his post of vantage, now joined them,
and in a couple of minutes but four of the assailants remained on their
feet, and these, with a shout of dismay, turned and took to their heels.
Guy had now opportunely arrived. As the latter took off his hat he saw
time to look at the gentleman to whose assistance he had so that the
stranger was but a year or two older than himself.

"By our Lady, sir," the young man said, "you arrived at a lucky moment,
for I could not much longer have kept these ruffians at bay. I have to
thank you for my life, which, assuredly, they would have taken, especially
as I had disposed of two of their comrades before you came up. May I ask
to whom I am so indebted? I am Count Charles d'Estournel."

"My name is Guy Aylmer, sir; I am the son of Sir James Aylmer, an English
knight, and am here as the esquire of Dame Margaret de Villeroy, who
arrived but this morning in Paris."

"And who is this stalwart fellow whose staff has done more execution than
both our sword-blades?" the young count asked; "verily it rose and fell
like a flail on a thrashing-floor."

"He is one of Dame Margaret's retainers, and the captain of a band of
archers in her service, but is at present here as one of her men-at-arms."

"In truth I envy her so stout a retainer. Good fellow, I have to thank you
much, as well as Monsieur Guy Aylmer, for your assistance."

"One is always glad of an opportunity to stretch one's arms a bit when
there is but a good excuse for doing so," the archer said; "and one needs
no better chance than when one sees a gentleman attacked by such scum as
these ruffians," and he motioned to the men lying stretched on the ground.

"Ah, you are English!" D'Estournel said with a slight smile at Tom's very
broken French. "I know all about you now," he went on, turning to Guy. "I
was not present today when your lady had audience with Burgundy, but I
heard that an English dame had arrived, and that the duke came but badly
out of the encounter in words with her. But we had best be moving on or we
may have the watch on us, and we should be called upon to account for
these ten fellows lying here. I doubt not but half of them are only
stunned and will soon make off, the other six will have to be carried
away. We have a good account to give of ourselves, but the watch would
probably not trouble themselves to ask any questions, and I have no fancy
for spending a night locked up in the cage with perhaps a dozen unsavoury
malefactors. Which way does your course lie, sir?"

"We are lodged at the house of Maître Leroux, provost of the
silversmiths."

"Then you are going in the wrong direction. You return up this street,
then turn to your right; his house is in the third street to the left. I
shall do myself the honour of calling in the morning to thank you more
fully for the service you have rendered me, which, should it ever fall
into my power, you can count on my returning. My way now lies in the
opposite direction."

After mutual salutes they parted, and Guy followed the directions given to
them.

"That was a sharp skirmish, Master Guy," Long Tom said contentedly; "the
odds were just enough to make it interesting. Did you escape scatheless?"

"Not altogether, Tom, I had a sword-thrust in my shoulder; but I can do
with it until I get back, when I will get you to bandage it for me."

"That will I; I did not get so much as a scratch. A quarter-staff is a
rare weapon in a fight like that, for you can keep well out of the reach
of their swords. In faith I have not had so pleasant an exercise since
that fight Dickon and I had in the market-place at Winchester last Lammas
fair."

"I am afraid Dame Margaret will scold us for getting into a fray."

"Had it not been for your wound we need have said nothing about it; but
you may be sure that you will have to carry your arm in a sling for a day
or two, and she will want to know the ins and outs of the matter."

"I think the affair has been a fortunate one, for it has obtained for me
the friendship of a young Burgundian noble. Friendless as we are here,
this is no slight matter, and I by no means grudge the amount of blood I
have lost for such a gain. There is a light in Dame Margaret's casement;
she said that she should sit up till my return, and would herself let me
in, for the household would be asleep two hours ago; and as Maître Leroux
and his wife have shown themselves so kindly disposed towards us, she
should not like the household disturbed at such an hour. I was to whistle
a note or two of _Richard Mon Roi_, and she would know that we were
without."

He whistled a bar or two of the air, they saw a shadow cross the casement,
then the light disappeared, and in a minute they heard the bolts undrawn
and the door opened.

"You are late, Guy," she said; "I have been expecting you this hour past.
Why, what has happened to you?" she broke off as she saw his face.

"It is but a trifle, lady," he said; "a sword-thrust in the shoulder, and
a little blood. Long Tom will bind it up. Our delay was caused partly by
the fact that the Italian was engaged, and it was half-an-hour before I
could see him. Moreover, we had been kept at the trysting-place, as the
guide did not recognize me owing to Tom being with me; and lastly, we were
somewhat delayed by the matter that cost me this sword-thrust, which I in
no way grudge, since it has gained for us a friend who may be useful."

Tom had by this time barred the door and had gone upstairs. "I am
disappointed in you, Guy," Dame Margaret said severely when they entered
the room. "I told you to keep yourself free from frays of all kinds, and
here you have been engaged in one before we have been twelve hours in
Paris."

"I crave your pardon, madam, but it is not in human nature to stand by
without drawing a sword on behalf of a young gentleman defending himself
against a dozen cut-throats. I am sure that in such a case your ladyship
would be the first to bid me draw and strike in. The matter did not last
three minutes. Tom disposed of six of them with his quarter-staff, the
gentleman had killed two before we arrived, and I managed to dispose of
two others, the rest took to their heels. The young gentleman was Count
Charles d'Estournel; he is, as it seems, in the Duke of Burgundy's train;
and as we undoubtedly saved his life, he may turn out a good and useful
friend."

"You are right, Guy; I spoke perhaps too hastily. And now about the other
matter."

Guy told her all that had taken place.

"And what is this man like?" she asked when he had concluded.

"Now that I saw him without the astrologer's robe and in his ordinary
costume he seemed to me a very proper gentleman," Guy replied. "He is my
height or thereabouts, grave in face and of good presence. I have no doubt
that he is to be trusted, and he has evidently resolved to do all in his
power to aid you, should it be necessary to do so. He would scarce have
introduced his daughter to me had it not been so."

"He must be a strange man," Dame Margaret said thoughtfully.

"He is certainly no common man, lady. As I have told you, he believes
thoroughly in his science, and but adopts the costume in which I first saw
him and the role of a quack vendor of nostrums in order that his real
profession may not be known to the public, and so bring him in collision
with the church."

"It seems to me, Guy," Dame Margaret said the next morning, "that as you
have already made the acquaintance of a young French noble, and may
probably meet with others, 'twill be best that, when we have finished our
breakfast, you should lose no time in sallying out and providing yourself
with suitable attire. Spare not money, for my purse is very full. Get
yourself a suit in which you can accompany me fitly if I again see the
duke, or, as is possible, have an interview with the queen. Get two
others, the one a quiet one, and not likely to attract notice, for your
ordinary wear; the other a more handsome one, to wear when you go into the
company of the young men of station like this Burgundian noble whom you
succoured last night. Your father being a knight, you may well, as the
esquire of my lord, hold your head as high as other young esquires of good
family in the train of French nobles."

On Agnes and Charlie coming into the room, the latter exclaimed, "Why have
you got your arm in a scarf, Guy?"

"He was in a fray last night, Charlie. He and Tom came upon a number of
ruffians fighting a young gentleman, so they joined in and helped him, and
Guy was wounded in the shoulder."

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