Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

At Agincourt by G. A. Henty

Part 6 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

embarked immediately, and a great fleet had been collected for the
purpose; but, as he was on the point of sailing, Henry obtained news of a
plot against his life on the part of Sir Thomas Grey, Lord Scroop, and
Richard, Earl of Cambridge, the king's cousin. As Scroop was in constant
attendance upon the king and slept in his room, the conspirators had
little doubt that their purpose could be carried out, their intention
being to proclaim the Earl of March king, and to summon assistance from
Scotland. The three conspirators were tried by a jury and were all found
guilty. Grey was beheaded, but his companions claimed to be tried again by
their peers. No time was lost in carrying out the trial; all the lords
assembled at Southampton were called together, and, after hearing the
evidence, at once found the two nobles guilty, and they were immediately
beheaded.

Orders were then given for the embarkation. Sir Eustace had brought with
him thirty archers and as many men-at-arms, and, as they were waiting on
the strand for the boats that were to take them out to the ships to which
they had been appointed, the king, who was personally superintending the
operations, rode past. Sir Eustace saluted him.

"Is this your following, Sir Eustace?" the king asked.

"It is, my lord king, and would that it were larger. Had we landed at
Calais I should have been joined by another fifty stout Englishmen from
Villeroy, and should we in our marches pass near it I will draw them to
me. Your majesty asked me to present to you my esquire, Guy Aylmer, who,
as I had the honour of telling you, showed himself a brave and trusty
gentleman, when, during the troubles, he was in Paris with my wife. Step
forward, Guy!"

The latter did so, saluted the king, and stood erect in military attitude.

"You have begun well," the king said graciously; "and I hereby request
your lord that in the day of battle he will permit you to fight near me,
and if you bear yourself as well when righting for your king as you did
when looking after your lady mistress, you shall have your share of
honours as well as of blows."

The king then rode on, and Sir Eustace and Guy took their places in a boat
where the men had already embarked.

"This is something like, Master Guy," said Long Tom, who was in command of
the archers. "It was well indeed that I asked to come home to England when
I did, else had I been now mewed up at Villeroy while my lord was righting
the French in the open field. Crecy was the last time an English king
commanded an army in battle against France; think you that we shall do as
well this time?"

"I trust so, Tom; methinks we ought assuredly not to do worse. It is true
that the French have been having more fighting of late than we have, but
the nobles are less united now than they were then, and are likely to be
just as headstrong and incautious as they were at Crecy. I doubt not that
we shall be greatly outnumbered, but numbers go for little unless they are
well handled. The Constable d'Albrett is a good soldier, but the nobles,
who are his equals in rank, will heed his orders but little when their
blood is up and they see us facing them. We may be sure, at any rate, that
we shall be well led, for the king has had much experience against the
Scotch and Welsh, and has shown himself a good leader as well as a brave
fighter. I hope, Tom, that you have by this time come to be well
accustomed to your new bow."

"That have I. I have shot fourscore arrows a day with it from the time I
reached home, not even omitting my wedding day, and I think that now I
make as good shooting with it as I did with my old one. 'Tis a pity we are
not going to Calais; if we had been joined by thirty archers there we
should have made a brave show, and more than that, they would have done
good service, for they are picked men. A few here may be as good, but not
many. You see when we last sailed with our lord the times were peaceful,
and we were able to gather the best shots for fifty miles round, but now
that the king and so many of the nobles are all calling for archers we
could not be so particular, and have had to take what we could get; still,
I would enlist none who were not fair marksmen."

This conversation took place as they were dropping down Southampton
waters. Their destination was known to be Harfleur, which, as it was
strongly fortified and garrisoned, was like to offer a sturdy resistance.
The fleet was a great one, consisting of from twelve to fourteen hundred
sail, which the king had collected from all the ports of England and
Ireland, or hired from Holland and Friesland. The army consisted of six
thousand five hundred horsemen and twenty-four thousand footmen of all
kinds. On the 13th of August the fleet anchored in the mouth of the Seine,
three miles from Harfleur. The operation of landing the great army and
their horses occupied three days, the French, to the surprise of all,
permitting the operation to be carried on without let or hindrance,
although the ground was favourable for their attacks, As soon as the
landing was effected the army took up its position so as to prevent any
supplies from entering the town. They had with them an abundance of
machines for battering the walls, and these were speedily planted, and
they began their work.

The garrison had been reinforced by four hundred knights and picked men-
at-arms, and fought with great determination and valour, making several
sorties from the two gates of the town. There were, however, strong bodies
of troops always stationed near to guard the engines from such attacks,
and the French sorties were not only repulsed, but their knights had much
difficulty in winning their way back to the town. The enemy were unable to
use their cannon to much effect, for a large supply of gunpowder sent by
the French king was, on the day after the English landed, captured on its
way into the town. The besiegers lost, however, a good many men from the
crossbowmen who manned the walls, although the English archers endeavoured
to keep down their shooting by a storm of arrows. The most formidable
enemy, however, that the English had to contend with was dysentery,
brought on by the damp and unhealthy nature of the ground upon which they
were encamped. No less than two thousand men died, and a vastly larger
number were so reduced by the malady that they were useless for fighting.
The siege, however, was carried on uninterruptedly. The miners who had
been brought over drove two galleries under the walls, and the gates were
so shattered by stones and cannon-balls that they scarce hung together.

The garrison surrendered after having by the permission of the English
king sent a messenger to the King of France, who was at Vernon, to say
that unless they were succoured within three days they must surrender, as
the town was already at the mercy of the English, and received for answer
that no army was as yet gathered that could relieve them.

In addition to the ravages of dysentery the English army had suffered much
from want of food. Large bodies of French troops were gathered at Rouen
and other places, and when knights and men-at-arms went out to forage,
they fell upon them and drove them back. Still a large amount of booty was
gathered, together with enough provisions to afford a bare subsistence to
the army. A considerable amount of booty was also obtained when Harfleur
fell. The greater portion of the inhabitants of the town were forced to
leave it, the breaches in the walls were repaired and new gates erected. A
portion of the treasure obtained was divided by the king among the troops.
The prisoners and the main portion of the booty--which, as Harfleur was
the chief port of Normandy, and indeed of all the western part of France,
was very great--he sent direct to England, together with the engines of
war. The sick and ailing were then embarked on ships, with a considerable
fighting force under the Earl of Warwick. They were ordered to touch at
Calais, where the fighting-men were to be landed and the sick carried
home, and Henry then prepared to march to Calais by land.

CHAPTER XIX

AGINCOURT

The English king waited some time for an answer to a challenge he had sent
to the Duke of Aquitaine to decide their quarrel by single combat; but
Aquitaine cared more for pleasure than for fighting, and sent no answer to
the cartel. It was open to Henry to have proceeded by sea to Calais, and
it was the advice of his counsellors that he should do so; but the king
declared that the French should never say that he was afraid to meet them,
and that as the country was his by right he would march wherever he
pleased across it; and so, after leaving a thousand archers and five
hundred men-at-arms under the command of the Duke of Exeter, he set out on
the 6th of October on his adventurous journey.

Accounts differ as to the number that started with him, some French
historians put it as high as 17,000, but it is certain that it could not
have exceeded nine thousand men, of whom two thousand were men-at-arms and
the rest archers. Now, while the siege of Harfleur had been going on, the
arrangements for the embarkation of the troops and stores carried out, and
the town put in a state of defence, troops had been marching from all
points of France at the command of the French king to join him at Rouen,
so that here and in Picardy two great armies were already assembled, the
latter under the command of the constable.

The English force marched by the sea-shore until it arrived at the river
Somme. No great resistance was encountered, but large bodies of the
enemy's horse hovered near and cut off all stragglers, and rendered it
difficult to obtain food, so that sickness again broke out among the
troops. On reaching the Somme Henry followed its left bank up, intending
to cross at the ford of La Blanche-Tache, across which Edward the Third
had carried his army before fighting at Crecy.

The French, as on the previous occasion, held the ford; but they this time
had erected defences on each of the banks, and had strong posts driven
into the bed of the river. Still ascending along the river bank the
English found every bridge broken and every ford fortified, while a great
body of troops marched parallel with them on the right bank of the river.
At Pont St. Remy, Ponteau de Mer, and several other points they tried in
vain to force a passage. Seven days were spent in these attempts; the
troops, suffering terrible hardships, were disheartened at their failure
to cross the river, and at finding themselves getting farther and farther
from the sea. On the morning of the 19th, however, a ford was discovered
which had not been staked. The English vanguard at once made a dash across
it, repulsed its defenders on the other bank, and the whole army with its
baggage, which was of scanty dimensions, swarmed across the river.

Sir Eustace, with his little force, now reduced to half its number, was,
as it happened, in front of the army when the ford was discovered, and,
followed by his two esquires and ten mounted men-at-arms, dashed into the
river, while the archers, slinging their bows behind them, drew their axes
and followed. For a short time there was a desperate conflict, but as
reinforcements hurried across, the fight became more even and the French
speedily gave way. When the king had crossed he thanked Sir Eustace for
his prompt action.

"Had you waited to send back for orders," he said, "the French would have
come up in such numbers that the ford would not have been won without
heavy loss, whereas by dashing across the moment it was discovered, you
took the defenders by surprise and enabled us to get over without the loss
of a single man."

The constable, disconcerted at finding that all his plans for keeping the
English on the left bank of the river were foiled, fell back to St. Pol in
Artois. Henry followed, but without haste. His small force was greatly
reduced by sickness, while by this time the whole of the royal army had
marched round and joined that of the constable. On the day after the
passage had been effected three heralds arrived in the English camp to
acquaint the king with the resolution of the constable and of the Dukes of
Orleans and Brabant to give his army battle before he reached Calais.
Henry replied that fear of them would not induce him to move out of his
way or to change the order of his march; he intended to go on straight by
the road to Calais, and if the French attempted to stop him it would be at
their peril; he accordingly continued to advance at the same rate as
before.

The constable fell back from St. Pol and took up his post between the
villages of Ruissanville and Agincourt, where, having received all the
reinforcements he expected, he determined to give battle. On the 24th the
English crossed the Ternois at Blangi, and soon afterwards came in sight
of the enemy's columns. These fell back as he advanced, and towards
evening he halted at the village of Maisoncelles, within half a mile of
the enemy's position. Fortunately provisions had been obtained during the
day's march; these were cooked and served out, and the English lay down to
sleep. The king sent for Sir Eustace.

"You know this ground well, I suppose, Sir Eustace," he said, "for your
Castle of Villeroy is not many miles distant?"

"'Tis but six miles away," the knight replied. "It is a good ground to
fight on, for facing it are fields, and on either flank of these are large
woods, so that there will be little space for the enemy to move."

"That is just what I would have," the king said. "Were they but half as
strong as they are I should feel less confident that we should defeat
them; their numbers will hinder them, and the deep wet ground will hamper
their movements. As for ourselves, I would not have a man more with me if
I could; the fewer we are the greater the glory if we conquer, while if we
are defeated the less the loss to England. Does your young esquire also
know the ground, Sir Eustace?"

"Yes, sire; he has, I know, often ridden here when hawking."

"Then let him go with four of my officers, who are about to reconnoitre
the ground and see where we had best fight."

Guy was accordingly called up and started with the officers. He first took
them up to the wood on the right of the French division, then they moved
across its front at a distance of fifty yards only from the French line.
The contrast between it and the English camp was great. In the latter all
was quiet. The men after a hearty meal had lain down to sleep, heeding
little the wet ground and falling rain, exhausted by their long marching,
and in good spirits,--desperate though the odds seemed against them,--that
they were next day to meet their foes. In the French camp all was noise
and confusion. Each body of troops had come on the ground under its own
commander, and shouts, orders, and inquiries sounded from all quarters.
Many of the Frenchmen never dismounted all the night, thinking it better
to remain on horseback than to lie down on wet ground. Great fires were
lighted and the soldiers gathered round these, warming themselves and
drinking, and calculating the ransoms to be gained by the capture of the
king and the great nobles of England. Knights and men-at-arms rode about
in search of their divisions, their horses slipping and floundering in the
deep clay.

Passing along the line of the French army Guy and the officers proceeded
to the wood on the left, and satisfied themselves that neither there nor
on the other flank had any large body of men been posted. They then
returned and made their report to the king. Guy wrapped himself in his
cloak and lay down and slept until the moon rose at three o'clock, when
the whole army awoke and prepared for the day's work. The English king
ordered the trumpeters and other musicians who had been brought with the
army to play merry tunes, and these during the three hours of darkness
cheered the spirits of the men and helped them to resist the depressing
influence of the cold night air following upon their sleep on the wet
ground. The French, on the other hand, had no manner of musical
instruments with their army, and all were fatigued and depressed by their
long vigil.

The horses had suffered as-much as the men from damp, sleeplessness, and
want of forage. There was, however, no want of confidence in the French
army--all regarded victory as absolutely certain. As the English had lost
by sickness since they left Harfleur fully a thousand men out of the
9,000, and as against these were arrayed at least a hundred thousand--some
French historians estimate them at 150,000--comprising most of the
chivalry of France, the latter might well regard victory as certain. There
were, however, some who were not so confident; among these was the old
Duke of Berri, who had fought at Poitiers sixty years before, and
remembered how confident the French were on that occasion, and how
disastrous was the defeat. His counsel that the English should be allowed
to march on unmolested to Calais, had been scouted by the French leaders,
but he had so far prevailed that the intention that Charles should place
himself at the head of the army was abandoned.

"It would be better," the duke had urged, "to lose the battle than to lose
the king and the battle together."

As soon as day broke the English were mustered and formed up, and three
masses were celebrated at different points in order that all might hear.
When this was done the force was formed up into three central divisions
and two wings, but the divisions were placed so close together that they
practically formed but one. The whole of the archers were placed in
advance of the men-at-arms. Every archer, in addition to his arms, carried
a long stake sharpened at both ends, that which was to project above the
ground being armed with a sharp tip of iron. When the archers had taken up
their positions these stakes were driven obliquely into the ground, each
being firmly thrust in with the strength of two or three men. As the
archers stood many lines deep, placed in open order and so that each could
shoot between the heads of the men in front of him, there were sufficient
stakes in front of the line to form a thick and almost impassable
_chevaux-de-frise_. The baggage and horses were sent to the rear, near the
village of Maisoncelles, under a guard of archers and men-at-arms. When
all the: arrangements were made, the king rode along the line from rank to
rank, saying a few words of encouragement to each group of men. He
recounted to them the victories that had been won against odds as great as
those they had to encounter, and told them that he had made up his own
mind to conquer or die, for that England should never have to pay ransom
for him.

The archers he fired especially by reminding them that when the Orleanists
had taken Soissons a few months before they had hung up like dogs three
hundred English archers belonging to the garrison. He told them that they
could expect no mercy, for that, as the French in other sieges had
committed horrible atrocities upon their own countrymen and countrywomen,
they would assuredly grant no mercy to the English; while the latter on
their march had burned no town nor village, and had injured neither man
nor woman, so that God would assuredly fight for them against their wicked
foes. The king's manner as much as his words aroused the enthusiasm of the
soldiers; his expression was calm, confident, and cheerful, he at least
evidently felt no doubt of the issue.

The Duke of Berri had most strongly urged on the council that the French
should not begin the attack. They had done so at Crecy and Poitiers with
disastrous effect, and he urged them to await the assault of the English.
The latter, however, had no intention of attacking, for Henry had
calculated upon the confusion that would surely arise when the immense
French army, crowded up between the two woods, endeavoured to advance. The
men were therefore ordered to sit down on the ground, and food and some
wine were served, out to them.

The constable was equally determined not to move; the French therefore
also sat down, and for some hours the two armies watched each other. The
constable had, however, some difficulty in maintaining his resolution. The
Duke of Orleans and numbers of the hot-headed young nobles clamoured to be
allowed to charge the English. He himself would gladly have waited until
joined by large reinforcements under the Duke of Brittany and the Marshal
de Loigny, who were both expected to arrive in the course of the day. As
an excuse for the delay, rather than from any wish that his overtures
should be accepted, he sent heralds to the English camp to offer Henry a
free passage if he would restore Harfleur, with all the prisoners that he
had made there and on his march, and resign his claims to the throne of
France. Henry replied that he maintained the conditions he had laid down
by his ambassadors, and that he would accept none others. He had, in fact,
no wish to negotiate, for he, too, knew that the French would very shortly
be largely reinforced, and that were he to delay his march, even for a day
or two, his army would be starved.

Perceiving at last that the constable was determined not to begin the
battle, he sent off two detachments from the rear of his army, so that
their movements should be concealed from the sight of the French. One of
these, composed of archers, was to take post in the wood on the left hand
of the French, the other was to move on through the wood, to come down in
their rear, and to set on fire some barns and houses there, and so create
a panic. He waited until noon, by which time he thought that both
detachments would have reached the posts assigned to them, and then gave
the orders for the advance. The archers were delighted when their
commander, Sir Thomas Erpingham, repeated the order. None of them had put
on his armour, and many had thrown off their jerkins so as to have a freer
use of their arms either for bow or axe. Each man plucked up his stake,
and the whole moved forward in orderly array until within bow-shot of the
enemy. Then the archers again stuck their stakes into the ground, and,
taking up their position as before, raised a mighty shout as they let fly
a volley of arrows into the enemy.

The shout was echoed from the wood on the French left, and the archers
there at once plied their bows, and from both flank and front showers of
arrows fell among the French. As originally formed up, the latter's van
should have been covered by archers and cross-bowmen, but, from the
anxiety of the knights and nobles to be first to attack, the footmen had
been pushed back to the rear, a position which they were doubtless not
sorry to occupy, remembering how at Crecy the cross--bowmen had been
trampled down and slain by the French knights, desirous of getting through
them to attack the English. Therefore, there stood none between the
archers and the French array of knights, and the latter suffered heavily
from the rain of arrows. Sir Clugnet de Brabant was the first to take the
offensive, and with twelve hundred men-at-arms charged down upon the
archers with loud shouts. The horses, however, were stiff and weary from
standing so long in order; the deep and slippery ground, and the weight of
their heavily-armed riders caused them to stagger and stumble, and the
storm of arrows that smote them as soon as they got into motion added to
the disorder.

So accurate was the aim of the archers, that most of the arrows struck the
knights on their helmets and vizors. Many fell shot through the brain, and
so terrible was the rain of arrows that all had to bend down their heads
so as to save their faces. Many of the archers, too, shot at the horses;
some of these were killed and many wounded, and the latter swerving and
turning aside added to the confusion. And when at length Sir Clugnet and
the leaders reached the line of stakes in front of the archers, only about
a hundred and fifty of the twelve hundred men were behind them.

The horses drew up on reaching the hedge of stakes. Their riders could
give them no guidance, for without deigning to move from their order the
archers continued to keep up their storm of arrows, which at such close
quarters pierced all but the very finest armour, while it was certain
death to the knights to raise their heads to get a glance at the
situation. The horses, maddened with the pain of the arrows, soon settled
the matter. Some turned and rushed off madly, carrying confusion into the
ranks of the first division, others galloped off to the right or left, and
of the twelve hundred men who charged, three only broke through the line
of stakes, and these were instantly killed by the bill-hooks and axes of
the archers.

The second line of battle was now in disorder, broken by the fugitive men
and horses of Sir Clugnet's party, smitten with the arrows to which they
had been exposed as that party melted away, and by those of the English
archers in the wood on their flank. The confusion heightened every moment
as wounded knights tried to withdraw from the fight, and others from
behind struggled to take their places in front. Soon the disorder became
terrible. The archers plucked up their stakes and ran forward; the French
line recoiled at their approach in order to get into fairer order; and the
archers, with loud shouts of victory, slung their bows behind them,
dropped the stakes, and with axe and bill-hook rushed at the horsemen.
These were too tightly wedged together to use their lances, and as they
had retired they had come into newly-ploughed ground, which had been so
soaked by the heavy rain that the horses sank in the deep mud to their
knees, many almost to their bellies. Into the midst of this helpless crowd
of armed men the English archers burst. Embarrassed by their struggling
horses, scarcely able to wield their arms in the press, seeing but
scantily, and that only in front through the narrow slits of their vizors,
the chivalry of France died almost unresistingly.

The Constable of France and many of the highest nobles and most
distinguished knights fell, and but few of the first line made their
escape: these, passing through the second division, in order to draw up
behind, threw this also into some confusion. The Duke de Brabant, who had
just arrived on the field, charged down upon the flank of the archers.
These met him fearlessly, and he and most of those with him were killed.
This fight had, however, given time to the second division to close up
their ranks. The archers would have attacked them, but the king caused the
signal for them to halt to be sounded, and riding up formed them in order
again. The French were unable to take advantage of the moment to try and
recover their lost ground, for the horses were knee-deep in the ground,
upon which they had all night been trampling, and into which the weight of
their own and their riders' armour sunk them deeply.

"Now, my lords," the king said, turning to those around him, "our brave
archers have done their share; it is our turn;" and then, as arranged, all
dismounted and marched forward against the enemy.

In accordance with his orders, Sir Eustace de Villeroy and Guy were posted
close to the king, while John Harpen led the men-at-arms from Summerley.
For a time the battle raged fiercely. In the centre fought the king with
his nobles and knights; while the archers, who had most of them thrown off
their shoes and were able to move lightly over the treacherous ground,
threw themselves upon the enemy's flanks, and did dreadful execution
there. In the centre, however, the progress of the English was slower. The
French knights made the most desperate efforts to attack the king himself,
and pressed forward to reach the royal banner. His brother, the Duke of
Clarence, was wounded, and would have been killed had not the king
himself, with a few of his knights, taken post around him, and kept off
the attacks of his foes until he recovered his feet. Almost immediately
afterwards a band of eighteen knights, under the banner of the Lord of
Croye, who had bound themselves by an oath to take or kill the king,
charged down upon him. One of them struck him so heavy a blow on the head
with a mace that the king was beaten to his knee, but his knights closed
in round him, and every one of his assailants was killed.

The Duke of Alençon next charged down with a strong following; he cut his
way to the royal standard, and struck the Duke of York dead with a blow of
his battle-axe. Henry sprung forward, but Alençon's weapon again fell, and
striking him on the head clipped off a portion of the crown which Henry
wore round his helmet. But before the French knight could repeat the
stroke Guy Aylmer sprung forward and struck so heavy a blow full on the
duke's vizor that he fell from his horse dead. His fall completed the
confusion and dismay among the French, and the second division of their
army, which had hitherto fought gallantly, now gave way. Many were taken
prisoners. The third division, although alone vastly superior in numbers
to the English, seeing the destruction of the others, began to draw off.
They had moved but a short distance when loud shouts were heard in the
English rear. Two or three French knights, with a body of several hundred
armed peasants, had suddenly fallen upon the English baggage and horses
which had been left at Maisoncelles. Many of the guard had gone off to
join in the battle, so that the attack was successful, a portion of the
baggage, including the king's own wardrobe, and a great number of horses
being captured.

Ignorant of the strength of the attacking party, Henry believed that it
was the reinforcements under the Duke of Brittany that had come up. At the
same moment the third division of the French, whose leaders were also
similarly deceived, halted and faced round. Believing that he was about to
be attacked in front and rear by greatly superior forces, Henry gave the
order that all prisoners should be killed, and the order was to a great
extent executed before the real nature of the attack was discovered and
the order countermanded. The third division of the French now continued
its retreat, and the battle was over. There remained but to examine the
field and see who had fallen.

The king gave at once the name of Agincourt to the battle, as this village
possessed a castle, and was therefore the most important of those near
which the fight had taken place. Properly the name should have been
Azincourt, as this was the French spelling of the village. The loss of the
French was terrible, and their chivalry had suffered even more than at
Poitiers. Several of the relations of the French king were killed. The
Duke of Brabant, the Count de Nevers, the Duke of Bar and his two
brothers, the constable, and the Duke of Alençon all perished. No less
than a hundred and twenty great lords were killed, and eight thousand
nobles, knights, and esquires lost their lives, with some thousands of
lower degree, while the Duke of Orleans, the Duke of Bourbon, and many
others were taken prisoners.

The accounts of the English loss differ considerably, the highest placing
it at sixteen hundred, the lowest at one-fourth of that number. The
plunder taken by them in the shape of costly armour, arms, rich garments,
and the trappings of horses, was great; but of food there was but little,
many of the victors lay down supperless around the village of
Maisoncelles.

The knights who had led the peasants to the attack of the baggage-train,
instead of joining in the fight, and had thereby caused the unfortunate
massacre of so many prisoners, fell into great disgrace among the French
for their conduct, and were imprisoned for some years by the Duke of
Burgundy.

That evening the English king knighted many esquires and aspirants of
noble families, among them Guy Aylmer, who was indeed the first to receive
the honour.

"No one fought more bravely than you did, young knight," he said, as Guy
rose to his feet after receiving the accolade; "I will see that you have
lands to support your new dignity. Twice you were at my side when I was in
the greatest danger, and none have won their spurs more fairly."

John Harpen would also have been among those knighted, but he declined the
honour, saying that he was not come of gentle blood, and wished for
nothing better than to remain his lord's esquire so long as he had
strength to follow him in the field.

The next morning the army marched to Calais. The king turned aside with
Sir Eustace, and with a strong party rode to Villeroy. Guy had gone on
with the men-at-arms at daybreak, and a banquet had been prepared, and
twenty cartloads of grain and a hundred bullocks sent off to meet the army
on its march.

"'Tis a fine castle, Sir Eustace," the king said as he rode in, "but truly
it is perilously situated. If after this I can make good terms with France
I will see that the border shall run outside your estates; but if not,
methinks that it were best for you to treat with some French noble for its
sale, and I will see that you are equally well bestowed in England, for in
truth, after fighting for us at Agincourt, you are like to have but little
peace here."

"I would gladly do so, my lord king," Sir Eustace replied. "During the
last three years it has been a loss rather than a gain to me. I have had
to keep a large garrison here; the estate has been wasted, and the houses
and barns burned. Had it not been that there was for most of the time a
truce between England and France I should have fared worse. And now I may
well be attacked as soon as your majesty and the army cross to England."

"You will have a little breathing time," the king said; "they will have
enough to do for a while to mourn their losses. I will not leave behind
any of your brave fellows who have fought so hard here, but when I arrive
at Calais will order two hundred men of the garrison to come over to
reinforce you until you can make arrangements to get rid of the castle, if
it is not to remain within my territory."

Sir Eustace introduced Sir John Aylmer as the father of the newly-made
knight.

"You have a gallant son, Sir John," the king said, "and one who is like to
make his way to high distinction. I doubt not that before we have done
with the French he will have fresh opportunities of proving his valour."

After the meal was over the king went round the walls.

"'Tis a strong place," he said, "and yet unless aid reached you, you could
not resist an army with cannon and machines."

"I have long seen that, your majesty, and have felt that I should have to
choose between England and France, for that, when war broke out again, I
could not remain a vassal of both countries."

"It shall be my duty to show you that you have not chosen wrongly, Sir
Eustace. I cannot promise to maintain you here, for you might be attacked
when I have no army with which I could succour you. As soon as I return
home and learn which of those who have fallen have left no heirs, and
whose lands therefore have come into my gift, I will then make choice of a
new estate for you."

The army marched slowly to Calais. It was weakened by sickness and hunger,
and every man was borne down by the weight of the booty he carried. On
arriving there the king held a council, and it was finally determined to
return to England. The force under his command was now but the skeleton of
an army. Fresh men and money were required to continue the war, and he
accordingly set sail, carrying with him his long train of royal and noble
prisoners. The news of the victory created the greatest enthusiasm in
England. At Dover the people rushed into the sea and carried the king to
shore on their shoulders. At Canterbury and the other towns through which
he passed he received an enthusiastic welcome, while his entry into London
was a triumph. Every house was decorated, the conduits ran with wine
instead of water, and the people were wild with joy and enthusiasm. Great
subsidies were granted him by Parliament, and the people in their joy
would have submitted to any taxation. However, throughout his reign Henry
always showed the greatest moderation; he kept well within constitutional
usages, and his pleasant, affable manner secured for him throughout his
reign the love and devotion of his subjects.

On his arrival at Calais Guy discovered that among the prisoners was his
friend Count Charles d'Estournel.

"I am grieved indeed to see you in this plight," he exclaimed as he met
him.

"'Tis unfortunate truly, Aylmer, but it might have been worse; better a
prisoner than among the dead at Agincourt," the light-hearted young count
said; "but truly it has been an awful business. Who could have dreamt of
it? I thought myself that the council were wrong when they refused all the
offers of the towns to send bodies of footmen to fight beside us; had they
been there, they might have faced those terrible archers of yours, for
they at least would have been free to fight when we were all but helpless
in that quagmire. I see that you have knightly spurs on, and I
congratulate you."

"Now, Count, what can I do to ensure your release at once? Whose prisoner
are you?"

"I surrendered to one John Parsons, an esquire, and I shall, of course, as
soon as we get to England, send home to raise money for my ransom."

"I know him well," Guy said; "his lord's tent was pitched alongside that
of Sir Eustace, before Harfleur, and we saw much of each other, and often
rode together on the march. If I gave him my guarantee for your ransom, I
doubt not that he will take your pledge, and let you depart at once."

"I should be glad indeed if you would do so, Aylmer."

"At any rate he will take the guarantee of Sir Eustace," Guy said, "which
will, I know, be given readily, after the service you rendered to his
dame, and it may be that you will have it in your power to do him a
service in return." He then told the count of the intention of Sir Eustace
to sell the estate, or rather to arrange for its transfer.

"It is held directly from the crown," he said, "but just at present the
crown is powerless. Artois is everywhere Burgundian, and it would
certainly be greatly to the advantage of Burgundy that it should be held
by one of his followers, while it would be to the safety of France that it
should be held by a Frenchman, rather than by one who is also a vassal of
England."

"I should think that that could he managed," the count said thoughtfully.
"I will speak to my father. I am, as you know, his second son, but through
my mother, who is a German, I have an estate on the other side of the
Rhine. This I would gladly exchange--that is to say, would part with to
some German baron--if I could obtain the fief of Villeroy. I have no doubt
that Burgundy would not only consent, but would help, for, as you know by
the manner in which your lady was made a hostage, he looked with great
jealousy on this frontier fortress, which not only gives a way for the
English into Artois, but which would, in the hands of an Orleanist,
greatly aid an invasion of the province from Pontoise and the west. And,
although the court would just at present object to give the fief to a
Burgundian, it is powerless to interfere, and when the troubles are over,
the duke would doubtless be able to manage it."

Guy had no difficulty in arranging the matter with D'Estournel's captor,
to whom Sir Eustace and he both gave their surety that his ransom should
be paid; and, before sailing, Guy had the satisfaction of seeing his
friend mount and ride for St. Omar with a pass through the English
territory from the governor.

CHAPTER XX

PENSHURST

After accompanying the king to London Sir Eustace and Guy rode to
Summerley, where Long Tom and his companions had already arrived, having
marched thither direct from Dover. There were great rejoicings at the
castle. Not only the tenants, but people from a long way round came in to
join in welcoming home two of the heroes of Agincourt. The archer had
already brought news of Guy having been knighted, and he was warmly,
congratulated by Dame Margaret and by Agnes, who received him with her
usual sisterly affection. Katarina, also, congratulated him, but it was
with less warmth of manner. In the evening, how ever, her mood changed,
and she said to him:

"Though I do not say much, you know that I am pleased, Sir Guy."

[Illustration: "KATARINA SWEPT A DEEP CURTSEY, AND WENT OFF WITH A MERRY
LAUGH."]

"I am not sure, Countess Katarina--since we are to be ceremonious to each
other--that I do quite know, for since I returned from France last time, I
have seldom understood you; one moment you seem to me just as you used to
be, at another you hold me at a distance, as if I were well-nigh a
stranger."

Katarina shrugged her shoulders. "What would you have, Guy? One can't be
always in the same humour."

"You are always in the same humour to Dame Margaret and Agnes," he said;
"so far as I can see I am the only one whom you delight to tease."

"Now that you are a belted knight, Sir Guy, I shall not presume to tease
you any more, but shall treat you with the respect due to your dignity."
Then she swept a deep curtsey, and turning, went off with a merry laugh,
while Guy looked after her more puzzled than ever.

That evening he received the news that during the absence of Sir Eustace
and himself Sir William Bailey, a young knight whose estates lay near, had
asked for the hand of Agnes, and that, although Dame Margaret had been
unable to give an answer during her lord's absence, Agnes would willingly
submit herself to her father's orders to wed Sir William.

Guy remained for some months quietly at Summerley. The Emperor Sigismund
had paid a visit to England, and then to Paris, to endeavour to reconcile
the two countries. His mediation failed. Henry offered, as a final
settlement, to accept the execution, on the part of France, of the treaty
of Trepigny. Nothing, however, came of it, for there was no government in
France capable of making a binding treaty. In spite of the disgrace and
the slaughter of the nobles at Agincourt there was no abatement of the
internal dissensions, and the civil war between Burgundy and Armagnac was
still raging, the only change in affairs being that the vicious and
incapable Duke of Aquitaine had died, and the queen had once again gone
over to the Burgundian faction. Count Charles d'Estournel had carried into
effect the mission with which he had charged himself. Burgundy had eagerly
embraced the opportunity of attaching to his side the castle and estates
of Villeroy, and he and the Count d'Estournel between them raised a sum of
money which was paid to Sir Eustace for the relinquishment to Burgundy of
the fief, which was then bestowed upon Count Charles.

The sum in no way represented what would now be considered the value of
the estate, but in those days, when fiefs reverted to the crown or other
feudal superior upon the death of an owner without heirs, or were
confiscated upon but slight pretence, the money value was far under the
real value of the estate. Sir Eustace was well satisfied, however, with
the sum paid him. Had his son Henry lived he had intended that the
anomalous position of the lord of Villeroy, being also a vassal of
England, should have been got rid of by one of his sons becoming its
owner, and a vassal of France, while the other would inherit Summerley,
and grow up a vassal of England only. Henry's death had put an end to the
possibility of this arrangement, and Charlie would now become, at his
father's death, Lord of Summerley and of such other English lands as could
be obtained with the money paid for the surrender of the fief of Villeroy.

In the first week of July there were great rejoicings at Summerley over
the marriage of Agnes with Sir William Bailey. The king had not forgotten
his promise to Sir Eustace, and had raised him to the title of Baron
Eustace of Summerley, and had presented him with a royal manor near
Winchester. Guy was summoned to court to take part in the festivities that
were held during the visit of Sigismund, and the king said to him
pleasantly one day:

"I have not forgotten you, Sir Guy; but I have had many to reward, and you
know importunate suitors, and those who have powerful connections to keep
their claims ever in front, obtain an advantage over those who are content
to hold themselves in the back-ground."

"I am in all ways contented, your majesty. I have lived all my life in the
household at Summerley, and am so much one of my lord's family that I have
no desire to quit it. Moreover, my father has just returned from Villeroy
with the garrison of the castle, and it is a great pleasure to me to have
his society again."

"I thought that some day you would have married Dame Margaret's fair
daughter, after acting as their protector in the troubles in Paris, but I
hear that she is betrothed to Sir William Bailey."

"Such an idea never entered my mind, your majesty. She was but a child in
those days, not so much in years as in thought, and brought up together as
we were I have always regarded her rather in the light of a sister."

Guy's quiet stay at Summerley came to an end suddenly. A fortnight after
the marriage of Agnes, Harfleur was besieged by the French by land and
water, and the Earl of Dorset, its governor, sent to England for aid. The
king sent hasty orders to his vassals of Kent, Surrey, and Hampshire, to
march with their retainers to Rye, where a fleet was to gather for their
conveyance. A body of archers and men-at-arms were also sent thither by
the king, and the Duke of Bedford, his brother, appointed to the command
of the expedition. Sir Eustace was suffering somewhat from the effects of
a fever, the seeds of which he had contracted in France, and he
accordingly sent his contingent, thirty archers and as many men-at-arms,
under the command of Guy.

"I had hoped that we had done with Harfleur," Long Tom said as they
started on their march to the seaport. "I don't mind fighting, that comes
in the way of business, but to see men rotting away like sheep with
disease is not to my fancy."

"We shall have no fighting on land, Tom," Guy replied, "at least I expect
not. When the French see that the garrison is reinforced they will
probably give up the siege, though we may have a fight at sea with the
French ships that are blockading the town and preventing provisions from
reaching the garrison. Doubtless we shall take a good store of food with
us, and the French will know well enough that as we had such hard work in
capturing the town, they can have no chance whatever of taking it by
assault when defended by us."

Guy and his party had a small ship to themselves, with which he was well
content, as, being but a newly-made knight, he would, had he been in a
large ship, have been under the orders of any others who chanced to be
with him; while he was now free to act as he chose. The voyage was
favourable, but when the fleet arrived off the mouth of the Seine they
found that the work before them was far more serious than they had
expected. In addition to their own fleet, which was itself considerably
stronger than the English, the besiegers had hired the aid of some great
Genoese vessels, and a number of galleys, caravels, and many high-decked
ships from Spain. They occupied a strong position off the town, and could
be supported by some of the siege batteries. The English fleet lay to at
the mouth of the Seine, and at night the captains of the troops on board
the various ships were rowed to Bedford's ship, which displayed a light at
the mast-head, so that the fleet could all lie in company round her. Here
after much discussion a plan for the battle next day was agreed upon. The
enterprise would have been a very hazardous one, but, happily, at daybreak
the French ships were seen coming out to give battle. Confident in their
superior numbers, and anxious to revenge their defeat at Agincourt, the
French commanders were eager to reap the whole glory of victory without
the assistance of their allies, whose ships remained anchored in the
river.

Bedford at once made the signal to attack them, and a desperate fight
ensued. Great as was the slaughter in those days in battles on land, it
was far greater in sea-fights. Except to knights and nobles, from whom
ransom could be obtained, quarter was never given to prisoners either by
land or sea, consequently as soon as soldiers in a land battle saw that
fortune was going against them they fled. But on sea there was no escape;
every man knew that it was either death or victory, and therefore fought
with determination and obstinacy to the end. The two first French ships
that arrived were speedily captured, but when the rest came up a desperate
battle took place. Guy was on the point of ordering his ship to be laid
alongside a French craft little larger than his own, when his eye fell
upon a great ship carrying the flag of a French admiral, and at once
diverting the course of his vessel, he ran alongside her. The archers were
on the bow and stern castles of his ship, and as they came within a short
distance of the Frenchman, they sent their arrows thick and fast into the
crowded mass on her deck. Two grapnels, to each of which were attached
twenty feet of chain, were thrown into the shrouds of the French vessel,
and Guy shouted to the men-at-arms in the waist to keep the enemy from
boarding by holding the vessels apart by thrusting out light spars and
using their spears.

The French had a few cross-bowmen on board, but Guy, running up on to the
castle at the bow, where Long Tom himself was posted, bade him direct the
fire of his men solely against them, and in a very short time the
discharge of missiles from the French ship ceased. In vain the French
attempted to bring the ships alongside each other by throwing grapnels;
the ropes of these were cut directly they fell, and although many of the
English spears were hacked in two, others were at once thrust out, and the
spars, being inclined so as to meet the hull of the enemy below the water-
line, could not be reached by their axes. The wind was light, and there
was no great difference in point of sailing. The English sailors were
vigilant, and when the Frenchman brailed up his great sail, so as to fall
behind, they at once followed his example. At the end of a quarter of an
hour the effect of the arrows of the thirty archers was so great that
there was much confusion on board the enemy, and Guy thought that,
comparatively small as his force was, an attack might be made. So the
spars were suddenly drawn in and the chains hauled upon. The archers
caught up their axes and joined the men-at-arms, and as the vessels came
together they all leapt with a great shout upon the enemy's deck.

The French knights, whose armour had protected them to some extent from
the slaughter that the arrows had effected among the soldiers, fought
bravely and rallied their men to resistance; but with shouts of
"Agincourt!" the men-at-arms and archers, led by Guy,--who now for the
first time fought in his knightly armour,--were irresistible. They had
boarded at the enemy's stern so as to get all their foes in front of them,
and after clearing the stern castle they poured down into the waist and
gradually won their way along it. After ten minutes' hard fighting the
French admiral and knights were pent up on the fore castle, and defended
the ladder by which it was approached so desperately that Guy ordered Tom,
with a dozen of the archers, to betake themselves to the English fore
castle and to shoot from there, and in a short time the French leaders
lowered their swords and surrendered. The French flag at the stern had
been hauled down and that of England hoisted as soon as they boarded, and
the latter was now run up to the mast-head amid the loud hurrahs of the
English.

The moment the French surrendered, Guy called to his men to cease from
slaying and to disarm the prisoners, who were still much more numerous
than themselves. The common men he told to take to their boats and row
away, while the admiral and knights were conducted to the cabin, and a
guard placed over them. As soon as this was done Guy looked round; the
battle was still raging and many of the French ships had been captured,
but others were defending themselves desperately. Twelve of Guy's men had
been killed, and several of the others more or less severely wounded, and
seeing that his countrymen did not need his assistance, he ordered the
decks to be cleared and the dead bodies thrown overboard. In a quarter of
an hour, the last French ship had been taken. There was now breathing time
for half an hour, during which the Duke of Bedford, whose ship lay not far
from Guy's prize, had himself rowed on board.

"All have done well to-day, Sir Guy Aylmer, but assuredly the feat you
have performed surpasses any of the others, seeing that you have captured
this great ship with one of the smallest in our fleet. Their crew must
have been three or four times as strong as yours, which was, as I know,
but sixty strong. Has the Count de Valles fallen?"

"No, my lord duke, he is, with six of his knights, a prisoner in the
cabin."

"I will see him later," the duke said; "we are now going to attack the
Genoese and Spaniards. Is there aught that I can do for you?"

"Some twenty of my men are dead or disabled," Guy said, "and I must leave
ten in charge of this prize. I have suffered the French soldiers, after
disarming them and the sailors, to leave in their boats, and ten men will
therefore be sufficient to hold her. If your grace can spare me thirty
men-at-arms I will go on in my own ship to attack the Genoese."

"I will do so," the duke replied. "I will send ten to keep this ship, and
twenty to fill the places of those of your men who have fallen. I can
spare ten from my own ship and will borrow twenty from such of the others
as can best spare them."

In a few minutes the thirty men came on board, with a sub-officer to take
charge of the prize. Guy returned with his own men and twenty new-comers
to his vessel, and sailed in with the fleet to attack the great ships of
the Genoese and Spaniards at their moorings. As they approached they were
received with a heavy cannonade from the enemy's ships and shore
batteries, but without replying they sailed on and ranged themselves
alongside the enemy, their numbers permitting them to lay a vessel on each
side of most of the great caravels. Their task was by no means an easy
one, for the sides of these ships were fifteen feet above those of the low
English vessels, and they were all crowded with men. Nevertheless, the
English succeeded in boarding, forcing their way in through port-holes and
windows, clambering up the bows by the carved work, or running out on
their yards and swinging themselves by ropes on to the enemy's deck, while
the cannon plied them with shot close to the water-line.

Most of the ships were taken by boarding, some were sunk with all on
board, a few only escaped by cutting their cables and running up the Seine
into shallow water. The loss of life on the part of the French and their
allies in this brilliant British victory was enormous. With the exception
of those on board the few ships which escaped, and the men sent off in the
boats by Guy, the whole of the crews of the French, Genoese, and
Spaniards, save only the nobles and knights put to ransom, were killed,
drowned, or taken prisoners, and during the three weeks that the English
fleet remained off Harfleur, the sailors were horrified by the immense
number of dead bodies that were carried up and down by the tide. Harfleur
was revictualled and put into a state of defence, and the Duke of Bedford
then sailed with his fleet to England, having achieved the greatest naval
victory that England had ever won save when Edward the Third, with the
Black Prince, completely defeated a great Spanish fleet off the coast of
Sussex, with a squadron composed of ships vastly inferior both in size and
number to those of the Spaniards, which contained fully ten times the
number of fighting men carried by the English vessels.

This great naval victory excited unbounded enthusiasm in England. The king
gave a great banquet to the Duke of Bedford and his principal officers,
and by the duke's orders Guy attended. Before they sat down to the table
the duke presented his officers individually to the king. Guy, as the
youngest knight, was the last to be introduced.

"The duke has already spoken to me of the right valiant deeds that you
accomplished, Sir Guy Aylmer," the king said as he bowed before him, "and
that with but a small craft and only sixty men-at-arms and archers you
captured the ship of the French admiral, which he estimates must have
carried at least three hundred men. We hereby raise you to the rank of
knight-banneret, and appoint you to the fief of Penshurst in Hampshire,
now vacant by the death without heirs of the good knight Sir Richard Fulk.
And we add thereto, as our own gift, the two royal manors of Stoneham and
Piverley lying adjacent to it, and we enjoin you to take for your coat-of-
arms a great ship. The fief of Penshurst is a sign of our royal approval
of your bravery at Harfleur, the two manors are the debt we owe you for
your service at Agincourt. We have ordered our chancellor to make out the
deeds, and tomorrow you will receive them from him and take the oaths."

Guy knelt and kissed the hand that the king held out to him, and
acknowledged the royal gift in fitting words. On the following day, after
taking the oaths for his new possessions, he mounted, and the next day
rode into Summerley. Here to his surprise he found the Count of Montepone,
who had arrived, by way of Calais and Dover, a few days previously. He was
suffering from a severe wound, and when Guy entered rose feebly from a
chair by the fire, for it was now October and the weather was cold. His
daughter was sitting beside him, and Lady Margaret was also in the room.
Lord Eustace and Sir John Aylmer had met Guy as he dismounted below.

"So you have gone through another adventure and come out safely," the
count said after Guy had greeted him. "Truly you have changed greatly
since you left Paris, well-nigh three years ago. It was well that Maître
Leroux had the armour made big for you, for I see that it is now none too
large. I too, you see, have been at war; but it was one in which there was
small honour, though, as you see, with some risk, for it was a private
duel forced upon me by one of the Armagnac knights. Up to that time my
predictions had wrought me much profit and no harm. I had told Aquitaine
and other lords who consulted me that disaster would happen when the
French army met the English. That much I read in the stars. And though,
when Henry marched north from Harfleur with so small a following, it
seemed to me that victory could scarce attend him against the host of
France, I went over my calculations many times and could not find that I
had made an error. It was owing greatly to my predictions that the duke
readily gave way when the great lords persuaded him not to risk his life
in the battle.

"Others whom I had warned went to their death, in some cases because they
disbelieved me, in others because they preferred death to the dishonour of
drawing back. One of the latter, on the eve of the battle, confided to a
hot-headed knight in his following that I had foretold his death; and
instead of quarrelling with the stars, the fool seemed to think that I had
controlled them, and was responsible for his lord's death. So when in
Paris some months since, he publicly insulted me, and being an Italian
noble as well as an astrologer, I fought him the next day. I killed him,
but not before I received a wound that laid me up for months, and from
which I have not yet fairly recovered. While lying in Paris I decided upon
taking a step that I had for some time been meditating. I could, when
Katarina left Paris with your lady, have well gone with her, with ample
means to live in comfort and to furnish her with a fortune not unfitted to
her rank as my daughter.

"During the past three years the reputation I gained by my success in
saving the lives of several persons of rank, increased so rapidly that
money has flowed into my coffers beyond all belief. There was scarcely a
noble of the king's party who had not consulted me, and since Agincourt
the Duke of Aquitaine and many others took no step whatever without coming
to me. But I am weary of the everlasting troubles of which I can see no
end, and assuredly the aspect of the stars affords no ground for hope that
they will terminate for years; therefore, I have determined to leave
France, and to practise my art henceforth solely for my own pleasure, I
shall open negotiations with friends in Mantua, to see whether, now that
twelve years have elapsed since I had to fly, matters cannot be arranged
with my enemies; much can often be done when there are plenty of funds
wherewith to smooth away difficulties. Still, that is in the future. My
first object in coming to England was to see how my daughter was faring,
and to enjoy a period of rest and quiet while my wound was healing, which
it has begun to do since I came here. I doubted on my journey, which has
been wholly performed in a litter, whether I should arrive here alive."

"And now, father," Katarina said, "let us hear what Sir Guy has been doing
since he left; we have been all full of impatience since the news came
four days ago that the Duke of Bedford had destroyed a great fleet of
French, Spanish, and Genoese ships."

"Guy has had his share of fighting, at any rate," Lord Eustace said, as he
entered the room while the girl was speaking, "for fifteen of our men have
fallen; and, as Long Tom tells me, they had hot work of it, and gained
much credit by capturing single-handed a great French ship."

"Yes, we were fortunate," Guy said, "in falling across the ship of the
French admiral, Count de Valles. Our men all fought stoutly, and the
archers having cleared the way for us and slain many of their crew, we
captured them, and I hold the count and five French knights to ransom."

"That will fill your purse rarely, Guy. But let us hear more of this
fighting. De Valles's ship must have been a great one, and if you took it
with but your own sixty men it must have been a brilliant action."

Guy then gave a full account of the fight, and of the subsequent capture
of one of the Spanish carracks with the aid of another English ship.

"If the Duke of Bedford himself came on board," Lord Eustace said, "and
sent you some reinforcements, he must have thought highly of the action;
indeed he cannot but have done so, or he would not have come personally on
board. Did he speak to the king of it?"

"He did, and much more strongly, it seems to me, than the affair
warranted, for at the banquet the day before yesterday his majesty was
graciously pleased to appoint me a knight-banneret, and to bestow upon me
the estates of Penshurst, adding thereto the royal manors of Stoneham and
Piverley."

"A right royal gift!" Lord Eustace said, while exclamations of pleasure
broke from the others.

"I congratulate you on your new honour, which you have right worthily
earned. Sir John, you may well be proud of this son of yours."

"I am so, indeed," Sir John Aylmer said heartily. "I had hoped well of the
lad, but had not deemed that he would mount so rapidly. Sir Richard Fulk
had a fine estate, and joined now to the two manors it will be as large as
those of Summerley, even with its late additions."

"I am very glad," Dame Margaret said, "that the king has apportioned you
an estate so near us, for it is scarce fifteen miles to Penshurst, and it
will be but a morning ride for you to come hither."

"Methinks, wife," Lord Eustace said with a smile, "we were somewhat hasty
in that matter of Sir William Bailey, for had we but waited Agnes might
have done better."

"She chose for herself," Dame Margaret replied with an answering smile. "I
say not that in my heart I had not hoped at one time that she and Guy
might have come together, for I had learnt to love him almost as if he had
been my own, and would most gladly have given Agnes to him had it been
your wish as well as theirs; but I have seen for some time past that it
was not to be, for they were like brother and sister to each other, and
neither had any thought of a still closer relation. Had it not been so I
should never have favoured Sir William Bailey's suit, though indeed he is
a worthy young man, and Agnes is happy with him. You have not been to your
castle yet, Guy?" she asked, suddenly changing the subject.

"No, indeed, Lady Margaret, I rode straight here from London, deeming
this, as methinks that I shall always deem it, my home."

"We must make up a party to ride over and see it to-morrow," Lord Eustace
said. "We will start early, wife, and you and Katarina can ride with us.
Charlie will of course go, and Sir John. We could make a horse-litter for
the count, if he thinks he could bear the journey.

"Methinks that I had best stay quietly here," the Italian said. "I have
had enough of litters for a time, and the shaking might make my wound
angry again."

"Nonsense, child!" he broke off as Katarina whispered that she would stay
with him; "I need no nursing now; you shall ride with the rest."

Accordingly the next day the party started early. Charlie was in high
spirits; he had grown into a sturdy boy, and was delighted at the good
fortune that had befallen Guy, whom he had regarded with boundless
admiration since the days in Paris. Katarina was in one of her silent
moods, and rode close to Lady Margaret. Long Tom, who was greatly rejoiced
on hearing of the honours and estates that had been bestowed on Guy, rode
with two of his comrades in the rear of the party. Penshurst was a strong
castle, though scarcely equal in size to Summerley; it was, however, a
more comfortable habitation, having been altered by the late owner's
father, who had travelled in Italy, with a view rather to the
accommodation of its inmates than its defence, and had been furnished with
many articles of luxury rare in England.

"A comfortable abode truly, Guy!" his father said. "It was well enough two
hundred years since, when the country was unsettled, for us to pen
ourselves up within walls, but there is little need of it now in England,
although in France, where factions are constantly fighting against each
other, it is well that every man should hold himself secure from attack.
But now that cannon are getting to so great a point of perfection, walls
are only useful to repel sudden attacks, and soon crumble when cannon can
be brought against them. Me thinks the time will come when walls will be
given up altogether, especially in England, where the royal power is so
strong that nobles can no longer war with each other."

"However, Guy," Lord Eustace said, "'tis as well at present to have walls,
and strong ones; and though I say not that this place is as strong as
Villeroy, it is yet strong enough to stand a siege."

Guy spent an hour with the steward, who had been in charge of the castle
since the death of Sir Richard Fulk, and who had the day before heard from
a royal messenger that Sir Guy had been appointed lord of the estates. The
new owner learned from him much about the extent of the feu, the number of
tenants, the strength that he would be called upon to furnish in case of
war, and the terms on which the vassals held their tenure.

"Your force will be well-nigh doubled," the steward said in conclusion,
"since you tell me that the manors of Stoneham and Piverley have also
fallen to you."

"'Tis a fair country," Guy said as the talk ended, "and one could wish for
no better. I shall return to Summerley to-day, but next Monday I will
come over here and take possession, and you can bid the tenants, and those
also of the two manors, to come hither and meet me at two o'clock."

"Well, daughter," the Count of Montepone said to Katarina as she was
sitting by his couch in the evening, "so you think that Penshurst is a
comfortable abode?"

"Yes, father, the rooms are brighter and lighter than these and the walls
are all hung with arras and furnished far more comfortably."

"Wouldst thou like to be its mistress, child?"

A bright flush of colour flooded the girl's face.

"Dost mean it, father?" she asked in a voice hardly above a whisper.

"Why not, child? You have seen much of this brave young knight, whom,
methinks, any maiden might fall in love with. Art thou not more sensible
to his merits than was Mistress Agnes?"

"He saved my life, father."

"That did he, child, and at no small risk to his own: Then do I understand
that such a marriage would be to your liking?"

"Yes, father," she said frankly, "but I know not that it would be to Sir
Guy's."

"That is for me to find out," he said. "I asked Lady Margaret a few days
ago what she thought of the young knight's inclinations, and she told me
that she thought indeed he had a great liking for you, but that in truth
you were so wayward that you gave him but little chance of showing it."

"How could I let him see that I cared for him, father, when I knew not for
certain that he thought aught of me, and moreover, I could not guess what
your intentions for me might be."

"I should not have sent you where you would often be in his company,
Katarina, unless I had thought the matter over deeply. It was easy to
foresee that after the service he had rendered you you would think well of
him, and that, thrown together as you would be, it was like enough that
you should come to love each other. I had cast your horoscope and his and
found that you would both be married about the same time, though I could
not say that it would be to each other. I saw enough of him during that
time in Paris to see that he was not only brave, but prudent and discreet.
I saw, too, from his affection to his mistress, that he would be loyal and
honest in all he undertook, that it was likely that he would rise to
honour, and that above all I could assuredly trust your happiness to him.
He was but a youth and you a girl, but he was bordering upon manhood and
you upon womanhood. I marked his manner with his lady's daughter and saw
that she would be no rival to you. Had it been otherwise I should have
yielded to your prayers, and have kept you with me in France. Matters have
turned out according to my expectation. I can give you a dowry that any
English noble would think an ample one with his bride; and though Guy is
now himself well endowed he will doubtless not object to such an addition
as may enable him, if need be, to place in the field a following as large
as that which many of the great nobles are bound to furnish to their
sovereign. I will speak to him on the subject to-morrow, Katarina."

Accordingly, the next morning at breakfast the count told Guy that there
was a matter on which he wished to consult him, and the young knight
remained behind when the other members of the family left the room to
carry out their avocations.

"Hast thought of a mistress for your new castle, Sir Guy?" the count began
abruptly.

Guy started at the sudden question, and did not reply at once.

"I have thought of one, Count," he said; "but although, so for, all that
you told me long ago in Paris has come true, and fortune has favoured me
wonderfully, in this respect she has not been kind, for the lady cares not
for me, and I would not take a wife who came not to me willingly."

"How know you that she cares not for you?" the count asked.

"Because I have eyes and ears, Count. She thinks me but a boy, and a
somewhat ill-mannered one. She mocks me when I try to talk to her, shuns
being left alone with me, and in all ways shows that she has no
inclination towards me, but very much the contrary."

"Have you asked her straightforwardly?" the count inquired with a smile.

"No, I should only be laughed at for my pains, and it would take more
courage than is required to capture a great French ship for me to put the
matter to her."

"I fancy, Sir Guy, that you are not greatly versed in female ways. A woman
defends herself like a beleaguered fortress. She makes sorties and
attacks, she endeavours to hide her weakness by her bravados, and when she
replies most disdainfully to a summons to capitulate, is perhaps on the
eve of surrender. To come to the point, then, are you speaking of my
daughter?"

"I am, Sir Count," Guy said frankly. "I love her, but she loves me not,
and there is an end of it. 'Tis easy to understand that, beautiful as she
is, she should not give a thought to me who, at the best, can only claim
to be a stout man-at-arms; as for my present promotion, I know that it
goes for nothing in her eyes."

"It may be as you say, Sir Guy; but tell me, as a soldier, before you gave
up the siege of a fortress and retired would you not summon it to
surrender?"

"I should do so," Guy replied with a smile.

"Then it had better be so in this case, Sir Guy. You say that you would
willingly marry my daughter. I would as willingly give her to you. The
difficulty then lies with the maiden herself, and it is but fair to you
both that you should yourself manfully ask her decision in the matter."

He went out of the room, and returned in a minute leading Katarina. "Sir
Guy has a question to ask you, daughter," he said; "I pray you to answer
him frankly." He then led her to a seat, placed her there and left the
room.

Guy felt a greater inclination to escape by another door than he had ever
felt to fly in the hour of danger, but after a pause he said:

"I will put the question, Katarina, since your father would have me do it,
though I know well enough beforehand what the answer will be. I desire
above all things to have you for a wife, and would give you a true and
loyal affection were you willing that it should be so, but I feel only too
well that you do not think of me as I do of you. Still, as it is your
father's wish that I should take your answer from your lips, and as, above
all things, I would leave it in your hands without any constraint from
him, I ask you whether you love me as one should love another before
plighting her faith to him?"

"Why do you say that you know what my answer will be, Guy? Would you have
had me show that I was ready to drop like a ripe peach into your mouth
before you opened it? Why should I not love you? Did you not save my life?
Were you not kind and good to me even in the days when I was more like a
boy than a girl? Have you not since with my humours? I will answer your
question as frankly as my father bade me." She rose now. "Take my hand,
Guy, for it is yours. I love and honour you, and could wish for no better
or happier lot than to be your wife. Had you asked me six months ago I
should have said the same, save that I could not have given you my hand
until I had my father's consent."

During the next month Guy spent most of his time at Penshurst getting
everything in readiness for its mistress. Lord Eustace advanced him the
monies that he was to receive for the ransoms of Count de Valles and the
five knights, and the week before the wedding he went up with the Count of
Montepone to London, and under his advice bought many rich hangings and
pieces of rare furniture to beautify the private apartments. The count
laid out a still larger sum of money on Eastern carpets and other
luxuries, as well as on dresses and other matters for his daughter. On
jewels he spent nothing, having already, he said, "a sufficient store for
the wife of a royal duke."

On his return Guy called upon the king at his palace at Winchester, and
Henry declared that he himself would ride to Summerley to be present at
the wedding.

"You stood by me," he said, "in the day of battle, it is but right that I
should stand by you on your wedding-day. Her father will, of course, give
her away, and it is right that he should do so, seeing that she is no ward
of mine; but I will be your best man. I will bring with me but a small
train, for I would not inconvenience the Baron of Summerley and his wife,
and I will not sleep at the castle; though I do not say that I will not
stay to tread a measure with your fair bride."

Two days later a train of waggons was seen approaching Summerley; they.
were escorted by a body of men-at-arms with two officers of the king. Lord
Eustace, in some surprise, rode out to meet them, and was informed that
the king had ordered them to pitch a camp near the castle for himself and
his knights, and that he intended to tarry there for the night. As soon as
the waggons were unloaded the attendants and men-at-arms set to work, and
in a short time the royal tent and six smaller ones were erected and
fitted with their furniture. Other tents were put up a short distance away
for the grooms and attendants. This greatly relieved Lady Margaret, for
she had wondered where she could bestow the king and his knights if, at
the last moment, he determined to sleep there.

For the next three days the castle was alive with preparations. Oxen and
swine were slaughtered, vast quantities of game, geese, and poultry were
brought in, two stags from the royal preserves at Winchester were sent
over by the king, and the rivers for miles round were netted for fish. At
ten o'clock Guy rode in with fifty mounted men, the tenants of Penshurst,
Stoneham, and Piverley, and these and all the tenants of Summerley rode
out under Lord Eustace and Guy to meet the king. They had gone but a mile
when he and his train rode up. He had with him the Earl of Dorset and five
of the nobles who had fought at Agincourt and were all personally
acquainted with Guy. The church at Summerley was a large one, but it was
crowded as it had never been before. The king and his nobles stood on one
side of the altar, while Lord Eustace, his wife, Agnes, and Charlie were
on the other. Guy's tenants occupied the front seats, while the rest of
the church was filled by the tenants of Summerley, their wives and
daughters, and the retainers of the castle, among them Long Tom, with his
pretty wife beside him. When everything was in order the Count of
Montepone entered the church with his daughter, followed by the six
prettiest maidens on the Summerley estate.

"In truth, Sir Guy," the king whispered as the bride and her father came
up the aisle, "your taste is as good in love as your arms are strong in
war, for my eyes never fell on a fairer maid."

After the ceremony there was a great banquet in the hall, while all the
tenants, with their wives and families, sat down to long tables spread in
the court-yard. After the meal was over and the tables removed, the king
and the party in the banqueting-hall went out on the steps and were
received with tremendous cheering. Guy first returned thanks for himself
and his bride for the welcome that they had given him, and then, to the
delight of the people, the king stepped forward.

"Good people," he said, "among whom there are, I know, some who fought
stoutly with us at Agincourt, you do well to shout loudly at the marriage
of this brave young knight, who was brought up among you, and who has won
by his valour great credit, and our royal favour. Methinks that he has
won, also, a prize in his eyes even greater than the honours that we have
bestowed upon him, and I doubt not that, should occasion occur, he will
win yet higher honours in our service."

A great shout of "God bless the king!" went up from the assembly. Then the
party returned to the hall, while casks of wine were broached in the
court-yard. As Lord Eustace had sent for a party of musicians from
Winchester, first some stately dances were performed in the hall, as many
as could find room being allowed to come into it to witness them. The king
danced the first measure with Katarina, the Earl of Dorset led out Lady
Margaret, and Guy danced with Lady Agnes, while the other nobles found
partners among the ladies who had come in from the neighbourhood. After a
few dances the party adjourned to the court-yard, where games of various
kinds, dancing and feasting were kept up until a late hour, when the king
and his companions retired to their tents. At an early hour next morning
the king and his retinue rode back to Winchester.

Until he signed the marriage contract before going to the church, Guy was
altogether ignorant of the dowry that Katarina was to bring, and was
astonished at the very large sum of money, besides the long list of
jewels, entered in it.

"She will have as much more at my death," the count said quietly; "there
is no one else who has the slightest claim upon me."

Consequently, in the course of the wars with France, Guy was able to put a
contingent of men-at-arms and archers, far beyond the force his feudal
obligations required, in the field. Long Tom was, at his own request,
allowed by his lord to exchange his small holding for a larger one at
Penshurst, and always led Guy's archers in the wars.

Sir John Aylmer remained at Summerley, refusing Guy's pressing invitation
to take up his abode at Penshurst. "No, lad," he said; "Lord Eustace and I
have been friends and companions for many years, and Lady Margaret has
been very dear to me from her childhood. Both would miss me sorely did I
leave them, the more so as Agnes is now away. Moreover, it is best that
you and your fair wife should be together also for a time. 'Tis best in
all respects. You are but two hours' easy riding from Summerley, and I
shall often be over to see you."

Four years after his marriage the king promoted Guy to the rank of Baron
of Penshurst, and about the same time the Count of Montepone, who had been
for some months in Italy, finding that his enemies at Mantua were still so
strong that he was unable to obtain a reversal of the decree of banishment
that had been passed against him, returned to Penshurst.

"I have had more than enough of wandering, and would fain settle down
here, Guy, if you will give me a chamber for myself, and one for my
instruments. I shall need them but little henceforth, but they have become
a part of myself and, though no longer for gain, I love to watch the
stars, and to ponder on their lessons; and when you ride to the wars I
shall be company for Katarina, who has long been used to my society alone,
and I promise you that I will no longer employ her as my messenger."

Once established at Penshurst the count employed much of his time in
beautifying the castle, spending money freely in adding to the private
apartments, and decorating and furnishing them in the Italian style, until
they became the wonder and admiration of all who visited them. In time he
took upon himself much of the education of Katarina's children, and
throughout a long life Guy never ceased to bless the day when he and Dame
Margaret were in danger of their lives at the hands of the White Hoods of
Paris.

THE END.

Book of the day: