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which would serve to buy either side of this street. But mark these houses, Alleyne, how they thrust forth upon the top. And see to the coats-of-arms at every window, and banner or pensil on the roof.”

“And the churches!” cried Alleyne. “The Priory at Christ church was a noble pile, but it was cold and bare, methinks, by one of these, with their frettings, and their carvings, and their traceries, as though some great ivy-plant of stone had curled and wantoned over the walls.”

“And hark to the speech of the folk!” said Ford. “Was ever such a hissing and clacking? I wonder that they have not wit to learn English now that they have come under the English crown. By Richard of Hampole! there are fair faces amongst them. See the wench with the brown whimple! Out on you, Alleyne, that you would rather gaze upon dead stone than on living flesh!”

It was little wonder that the richness and ornament, not only of church and of stall, but of every private house as well, should have impressed itself upon the young squires. The town was now at the height of its fortunes. Besides its trade and its armorers, other causes had combined to pour wealth into it. War, which had wrought evil upon so many fair cities around, had brought nought but good to this one. As her French sisters decayed she increased, for here, from north, and from east, and from south, came the plunder to be sold and the ransom money to be spent. Through all her sixteen landward gates there had set for many years a double tide of empty-handed soldiers hurrying Francewards, and of enriched and laden bands who brought their spoils home. The prince’s court, too, with its swarm of noble barons and wealthy knights, many of whom, in imitation of their master, had brought their ladies and their children from England, all helped to swell the coffers of the burghers. Now, with this fresh influx of noblemen and cavaliers, food and lodging were scarce to be had, and the prince was hurrying forward his forces to Dax in Gascony to relieve the overcrowding of his capital.

In front of the minster and abbey of St. Andrew’s was a large square crowded with priests, soldiers, women, friars, and burghers, who made it their common centre for sight-seeing and gossip. Amid the knot of noisy and gesticulating townsfolk, many small parties of mounted knights and squires threaded their way towards the prince’s quarters, where the huge iron-clamped doors were thrown back to show that he held audience within. Two-score archers stood about the gateway, and beat back from time to time with their bow-staves the inquisitive and chattering crowd who swarmed round the portal. Two knights in full armor, with lances raised and closed visors, sat their horses on either side, while in the centre, with two pages to tend upon him, there stood a noble-faced man in flowing purple gown, who pricked off upon a sheet of parchment the style and title of each applicant, marshalling them in their due order, and giving to each the place and facility which his rank demanded. His long white beard and searching eyes imparted to him an air of masterful dignity, which was increased by his tabardlike vesture and the heraldic barret cap with triple plume which bespoke his office.

“It is Sir William de Pakington, the prince’s own herald and scrivener,” whispered Sir Nigel, as they pulled up amid the line of knights who waited admission. “Ill fares it with the man who would venture to deceive him. He hath by rote the name of every knight of France or of England; and all the tree of his family, with his kinships, coat-armor, marriages, augmentations, abatements, and I know not what beside. We may leave our horses here with the varlets, and push forward with our squires.”

Following Sir Nigel’s counsel, they pressed on upon foot until they were close to the prince’s secretary, who was in high debate with a young and foppish knight, who was bent upon making his way past him.

“Mackworth!” said the king-at-arms. “It is in my mind, young sir, that you have not been presented before.”

“Nay, it is but a day since I set foot in Bordeaux, but I feared lest the prince should think it strange that I had not waited upon him.”

“The prince hath other things to think upon,” quoth Sir William de Pakington; “but if you be a Mackworth you must be a Mackworth of Normanton, and indeed I see now that your coat is sable and ermine.”

“I am a Mackworth of Normanton,” the other answered, with some uneasiness of manner.

“Then you must be Sir Stephen Mackworth, for I learn that when old Sir Guy died he came in for the arms and the name, the war-cry and the profit.”

“Sir Stephen is my elder brother, and I am Arthur, the second son,” said the youth.

“In sooth and in sooth!” cried the king-at-arms with scornful eyes. “And pray, sir second son, where is the cadency mark which should mark your rank. Dare you to wear your brother’s coat without the crescent which should stamp you as his cadet. Away to your lodgings, and come not nigh the prince until the armorer hath placed the true charge upon your shield.” As the youth withdrew in confusion, Sir William’s keen eye singled out the five red roses from amid the overlapping shields and cloud of pennons which faced him.

“Ha!” he cried, “there are charges here which are above counterfeit. The roses of Loring and the boar’s head of Buttesthorn may stand back in peace, but by my faith! they are not to be held back in war. Welcome, Sir Oliver, Sir Nigel! Chandos will be glad to his very heart-roots when he sees you. This way, my fair sirs. Your squires are doubtless worthy the fame of their masters. Down this passage, Sir Oliver! Edricson! Ha! one of the old strain of Hampshire Edricsons, I doubt not. And Ford, they are of a south Saxon stock, and of good repute. There are Norburys in Cheshire and in Wiltshire, and also, as I have heard, upon the borders. So, my fair sirs, and I shall see that you are shortly admitted.”

He had finished his professional commentary by flinging open a folding door, and ushering the party into a broad hall, which was filled with a great number of people who were waiting, like themselves, for an audience. The room was very spacious, lighted on one side by three arched and mullioned windows, while opposite was a huge fireplace in which a pile of faggots was blazing merrily. Many of the company had crowded round the flames, for the weather was bitterly cold; but the two knights seated themselves upon a bancal, with their squires standing behind them. Looking down the room, Alleyne marked that both floor and ceiling were of the richest oak, the latter spanned by twelve arching beams, which were adorned at either end by the lilies and the lions of the royal arms. On the further side was a small door, on each side of which stood men-at-arms. From time to time an elderly man in black with rounded shoulders and a long white wand in his hand came softly forth from this inner room, and beckoned to one or other of the company, who doffed cap and followed him.

The two knights were deep in talk, when Alleyne became aware of a remarkable individual who was walking round the room in their direction. As he passed each knot of cavaliers every head turned to look after him, and it was evident, from the bows and respectful salutations on all sides, that the interest which he excited was not due merely to his strange personal appearance. He was tall and straight as a lance, though of a great age, for his hair, which curled from under his velvet cap of maintenance, was as white as the new-fallen snow. Yet, from the swing of his stride and the spring of his step, it was clear that he had not yet lost the fire and activity of his youth. His fierce hawk-like face was clean shaven like that of a priest, save for a long thin wisp of white moustache which drooped down half way to his shoulder. That he had been handsome might be easily judged from his high aquiline nose and clear-cut chin; but his features had been so distorted by the seams and scars of old wounds, and by the loss of one eye which had been torn from the socket, that there was little left to remind one of the dashing young knight who had been fifty years ago the fairest as well as the boldest of the English chivalry. Yet what knight was there in that hall of St. Andrew’s who would not have gladly laid down youth, beauty, and all that he possessed to win the fame of this man? For who could be named with Chandos, the stainless knight, the wise councillor, the valiant warrior, the hero of Crecy, of Winchelsea, of Poictiers, of Auray, and of as many other battles as there were years to his life?

“Ha, my little heart of gold!” he cried, darting forward suddenly and throwing his arms round Sir Nigel. “I heard that you were here and have been seeking you.”

“My fair and dear lord,” said the knight, returning the warrior’s embrace, “I have indeed come back to you, for where else shall I go that I may learn to be a gentle and a hardy knight?”

“By my troth!” said Chandos with a smile, “it is very fitting that we should be companions, Nigel, for since you have tied up one of your eyes, and I have had the mischance to lose one of mine, we have but a pair between us. Ah, Sir Oliver! you were on the blind side of me and I saw you not. A wise woman hath made prophecy that this blind side will one day be the death of me. We shall go in to the prince anon; but in truth he hath much upon his hands, for what with Pedro, and the King of Majorca, and the King of Navarre, who is no two days of the same mind, and the Gascon barons who are all chaffering for terms like so many hucksters, he hath an uneasy part to play. But how left you the Lady Loring?”

“She was well, my fair lord, and sent her service and greetings to you.”

“I am ever her knight and slave. And your journey, I trust that it was pleasant?”

“As heart could wish. We had sight of two rover galleys, and even came to have some slight bickering with them.”

“Ever in luck’s way, Nigel!” quoth Sir John. “We must hear the tale anon. But I deem it best that ye should leave your squires and come with me, for, howsoe’er pressed the prince may be, I am very sure that he would be loth to keep two old comrades-in-arms upon the further side of the door. Follow close behind me, and I will forestall old Sir William, though I can scarce promise to roll forth your style and rank as is his wont.” So saying, he led the way to the inner chamber, the two companions treading close at his heels, and nodding to right and left as they caught sight of familiar faces among the crowd.

CHAPTER XIX

HOW THERE WAS STIR AT THE ABBEY OF ST. ANDREW’S.

The prince’s reception-room, although of no great size, was fitted up with all the state and luxury which the fame and power of its owner demanded. A high dais at the further end was roofed in by a broad canopy of scarlet velvet spangled with silver fleurs-de-lis, and supported at either corner by silver rods. This was approached by four steps carpeted with the same material, while all round were scattered rich cushions, oriental mats and costly rugs of fur. The choicest tapestries which the looms of Arras could furnish draped the walls, whereon the battles of Judas Maccabaeus were set forth, with the Jewish warriors in plate of proof, with crest and lance and banderole, as the naive artists of the day were wont to depict them. A few rich settles and bancals, choicely carved and decorated with glazed leather hangings of the sort termed _or basane_, completed the furniture of the apartment, save that at one side of the dais there stood a lofty perch, upon which a cast of three solemn Prussian gerfalcons sat, hooded and jesseled, as silent and motionless as the royal fowler who stood beside them.

In the centre of the dais were two very high chairs with dorserets, which arched forwards over the heads of the occupants, the whole covered with light-blue silk thickly powdered with golden stars. On that to the right sat a very tall and well formed man with red hair, a livid face, and a cold blue eye, which had in it something peculiarly sinister and menacing. He lounged back in a careless position, and yawned repeatedly as though heartily weary of the proceedings, stooping from time to time to fondle a shaggy Spanish greyhound which lay stretched at his feet. On the other throne there was perched bolt upright, with prim demeanor, as though he felt himself to be upon his good behavior, a little, round, pippin faced person, who smiled and bobbed to every one whose eye he chanced to meet. Between and a little in front of them on a humble charette or stool, sat a slim, dark young man, whose quiet attire and modest manner would scarce proclaim him to be the most noted prince in Europe. A jupon of dark blue cloth, tagged with buckles and pendants of gold, seemed but a sombre and plain attire amidst the wealth of silk and ermine and gilt tissue of fustian with which he was surrounded. He sat with his two hands clasped round his knee, his head slightly bent, and an expression of impatience and of trouble upon his clear, well-chiselled features. Behind the thrones there stood two men in purple gowns, with ascetic, clean-shaven faces, and half a dozen other high dignitaries and office-holders of Aquitaine. Below on either side of the steps were forty or fifty barons, knights, and courtiers, ranged in a triple row to the right and the left, with a clear passage in the centre.

“There sits the prince,” whispered Sir John Chandos, as they entered. “He on the right is Pedro, whom we are about to put upon the Spanish throne. The other is Don James, whom we purpose with the aid of God to help to his throne in Majorca. Now follow me, and take it not to heart if he be a little short in his speech, for indeed his mind is full of many very weighty concerns.”

The prince, however, had already observed their entrance, and, springing to his feet, he had advanced with a winning smile and the light of welcome in his eyes.

“We do not need your good offices as herald here, Sir John,” said he in a low but clear voice; “these valiant knights are very well known to me. Welcome to Aquitaine, Sir Nigel Loring and Sir Oliver Buttesthorn. Nay, keep your knee for my sweet father at Windsor. I would have your hands, my friends. We are like to give you some work to do ere you see the downs of Hampshire once more. Know you aught of Spain, Sir Oliver?”

“Nought, my sire, save that I have heard men say that there is a dish named an olla which is prepared there, though I have never been clear in my mind as to whether it was but a ragout such as is to be found in the south, or whether there is some seasoning such as fennel or garlic which is peculiar to Spain.”

“Your doubts, Sir Oliver, shall soon be resolved,” answered the prince, laughing heartily, as did many of the barons who surrounded them. “His majesty here will doubtless order that you have this dish hotly seasoned when we are all safely in Castile.”

“I will have a hotly seasoned dish for some folk I know of,” answered Don Pedro with a cold smile.

“But my friend Sir Oliver can fight right hardily without either bite or sup,” remarked the prince. “Did I not see him at Poictiers, when for two days we had not more than a crust of bread and a cup of foul water, yet carrying himself most valiantly. With my own eyes I saw him in the rout sweep the head from a knight of Picardy with one blow of his sword.”

“The rogue got between me and the nearest French victual wain,” muttered Sir Oliver, amid a fresh titter from those who were near enough to catch his words.

“How many have you in your train?” asked the prince, assuming a graver mien.

“I have forty men-at-arms, sire,” said Sir Oliver.

“And I have one hundred archers and a score of lancers, but there are two hundred men who wait for me on this side of the water upon the borders of Navarre.”

“And who are they, Sir Nigel?”

“They are a free company, sire, and they are called the White Company.”

To the astonishment of the knight, his words provoked a burst of merriment from the barons round, in which the two kings and the prince were fain to join. Sir Nigel blinked mildly from one to the other, until at last perceiving a stout black-bearded knight at his elbow, whose laugh rang somewhat louder than the others, he touched him lightly upon the sleeve.

“Perchance, my fair sir,” he whispered, “there is some small vow of which I may relieve you. Might we not have some honorable debate upon the matter. Your gentle courtesy may perhaps grant me an exchange of thrusts.”

“Nay, nay, Sir Nigel,” cried the prince, “fasten not the offence upon Sir Robert Briquet, for we are one and all bogged in the same mire. Truth to say, our ears have just been vexed by the doings of the same company, and I have even now made vow to hang the man who held the rank of captain over it. I little thought to find him among the bravest of my own chosen chieftains. But the vow is now nought, for, as you have never seen your company, it would be a fool’s act to blame you for their doings.”

“My liege,” said Sir Nigel, “it is a very small matter that I should be hanged, albeit the manner of death is somewhat more ignoble than I had hoped for. On the other hand, it would be a very grievous thing that you, the Prince of England and the flower of knighthood, should make a vow, whether in ignorance or no, and fail to bring it to fulfilment.”

“Vex not your mind on that,” the prince answered, smiling. “We have had a citizen from Montauban here this very day, who told us such a tale of sack and murder and pillage that it moved our blood; but our wrath was turned upon the man who was in authority over them.”

“My dear and honored master,” cried Nigel, in great anxiety, “I fear me much that in your gentleness of heart you are straining this vow which you have taken. If there be so much as a shadow of a doubt as to the form of it, it were a thousand times best—-“

“Peace! peace!” cried the prince impatiently. “I am very well able to look to my own vows and their performance. We hope to see you both in the banquet-hall anon. Meanwhile you will attend upon us with our train.” He bowed, and Chandos, plucking Sir Oliver by the sleeve, led them both away to the back of the press of courtiers.

“Why, little coz,” he whispered, “you are very eager to have your neck in a noose. By my soul! had you asked as much from our new ally Don Pedro, he had not baulked you. Between friends, there is overmuch of the hangman in him, and too little of the prince. But indeed this White Company is a rough band, and may take some handling ere you find yourself safe in your captaincy.”

“I doubt not, with the help of St. Paul, that I shall bring them to some order,” Sir Nigel answered. “But there are many faces here which are new to me, though others have been before me since first I waited upon my dear master, Sir Walter. I pray you to tell me, Sir John, who are these priests upon the dais?”

“The one is the Archbishop of Bordeaux, Nigel, and the other the Bishop of Agen.”

“And the dark knight with gray-streaked beard? By my troth, he seems to be a man of much wisdom and valor.”

“He is Sir William Felton, who, with my unworthy self, is the chief counsellor of the prince, he being high steward and I the seneschal of Aquitaine.”

“And the knights upon the right, beside Don Pedro?”

“They are cavaliers of Spain who have followed him in his exile. The one at his elbow is Fernando de Castro, who is as brave and true a man as heart could wish. In front to the right are the Gascon lords. You may well tell them by their clouded brows, for there hath been some ill-will of late betwixt the prince and them. The tall and burly man is the Captal de Buch, whom I doubt not that you know, for a braver knight never laid lance in rest. That heavy-faced cavalier who plucks his skirts and whispers in his ear is Lord Oliver de Clisson, known also as the butcher. He it is who stirs up strife, and forever blows the dying embers into flame. The man with the mole upon his cheek is the Lord Pommers, and his two brothers stand behind him, with the Lord Lesparre, Lord de Rosem, Lord de Mucident, Sir Perducas d’Albret, the Souldich de la Trane, and others. Further back are knights from Quercy, Limousin, Saintonge, Poitou, and Aquitaine, with the valiant Sir Guiscard d’Angle. That is he in the rose-colored doublet with the ermine.”

“And the knights upon this side?”

“They are all Englishmen, some of the household and others who like yourself, are captains of companies. There is Lord Neville, Sir Stephen Cossington, and Sir Matthew Gourney, with Sir Walter Huet, Sir Thomas Banaster, and Sir Thomas Felton, who is the brother of the high steward. Mark well the man with the high nose and flaxen beard who hath placed his hand upon the shoulder of the dark hard-faced cavalier in the rust-stained jupon.”

“Aye, by St. Paul!” observed Sir Nigel, “they both bear the print of their armor upon their cotes-hardies. Methinks they are men who breathe freer in a camp than a court.”

“There are many of us who do that, Nigel,” said Chandos, “and the head of the court is, I dare warrant, among them. But of these two men the one is Sir Hugh Calverley, and the other is Sir Robert Knolles.”

Sir Nigel and Sir Oliver craned their necks to have the clearer view of these famous warriors, the one a chosen leader of free companies, the other a man who by his fierce valor and energy had raised himself from the lowest ranks until he was second only to Chandos himself in the esteem of the army.

“He hath no light hand in war, hath Sir Robert,” said Chandos. “If he passes through a country you may tell it for some years to come. I have heard that in the north it is still the use to call a house which hath but the two gable ends left, without walls or roof, a Knolles’ mitre.”

“I have often heard of him,” said Nigel, “and I have hoped to be so far honored as to run a course with him. But hark, Sir John, what is amiss with the prince?”

Whilst Chandos had been conversing with the two knights a continuous stream of suitors had been ushered in, adventurers seeking to sell their swords and merchants clamoring over some grievance, a ship detained for the carriage of troops, or a tun of sweet wine which had the bottom knocked out by a troop of thirsty archers. A few words from the prince disposed of each case, and, if the applicant liked not the judgment, a quick glance from the prince’s dark eyes sent him to the door with the grievance all gone out of him. The younger ruler had sat listlessly upon his stool with the two puppet monarchs enthroned behind him, but of a sudden a dark shadow passed over his face, and he sprang to his feet in one of those gusts of passion which were the single blot upon his noble and generous character.

“How now, Don Martin de la Carra?” he cried. “How now, sirrah? What message do you bring to us from our brother of Navarre?”

The new-comer to whom this abrupt query had been addressed was a tall and exceedingly handsome cavalier who had just been ushered into the apartment. His swarthy cheek and raven black hair spoke of the fiery south, and he wore his long black cloak swathed across his chest and over his shoulders in a graceful sweeping fashion, which was neither English nor French. With stately steps and many profound bows, he advanced to the foot of the dais before replying to the prince’s question.

“My powerful and illustrious master,” he began, “Charles, King of Navarre, Earl of Evreux, Count of Champagne, who also writeth himself Overlord of Bearn, hereby sends his love and greetings to his dear cousin Edward, the Prince of Wales, Governor of Aquitaine, Grand Commander of—-“

“Tush! tush! Don Martin!” interrupted the prince, who had been beating the ground with his foot impatiently during this stately preamble. “We already know our cousin’s titles and style, and, certes, we know our own. To the point, man, and at once. Are the passes open to us, or does your master go back from his word pledged to me at Libourne no later than last Michaelmas?”

“It would ill become my gracious master, sire, to go back from promise given. He does but ask some delay and certain conditions and hostages—-“

“Conditions! Hostages! Is he speaking to the Prince of England, or is it to the bourgeois provost of some half-captured town! Conditions, quotha? He may find much to mend in his own condition ere long. The passes are, then, closed to us?”

“Nay, sire—-“

“They are open, then?”

“Nay, sire, if you would but—-“

“Enough, enough, Don Martin,” cried the prince. “It is a sorry sight to see so true a knight pleading in so false a cause. We know the doings of our cousin Charles. We know that while with the right hand he takes our fifty thousand crowns for the holding of the passes open, he hath his left outstretched to Henry of Trastamare, or to the King of France, all ready to take as many more for the keeping them closed. I know our good Charles, and, by my blessed name-saint the Confessor, he shall learn that I know him. He sets his kingdom up to the best bidder, like some scullion farrier selling a glandered horse. He is—-“

“My lord,” cried Don Martin, “I cannot stand there to hear such words of my master. Did they come from other lips, I should know better how to answer them.”

Don Pedro frowned and curled his lip, but the prince smiled and nodded his approbation.

“Your bearing and your words, Don Martin, are such I should have looked for in you,” he remarked. “You will tell the king, your master, that he hath been paid his price and that if he holds to his promise he hath my word for it that no scath shall come to his people, nor to their houses or gear. If, however, we have not his leave, I shall come close at the heels of this message without his leave, and bearing a key with me which shall open all that he may close.” He stooped and whispered to Sir Robert Knolles and Sir Huge Calverley, who smiled as men well pleased, and hastened from the room.

“Our cousin Charles has had experience of our friendship,” the prince continued, “and now, by the Saints! he shall feel a touch of our displeasure. I send now a message to our cousin Charles which his whole kingdom may read. Let him take heed lest worse befall him. Where is my Lord Chandos? Ha, Sir John, I commend this worthy knight to your care. You will see that he hath refection, and such a purse of gold as may defray his charges, for indeed it is great honor to any court to have within it so noble and gentle a cavalier. How say you, sire?” he asked, turning to the Spanish refugee, while the herald of Navarre was conducted from the chamber by the old warrior.

“It is not our custom in Spain to reward pertness in a messenger,” Don Pedro answered, patting the head of his greyhound. “Yet we have all heard the lengths to which your royal generosity runs.”

“In sooth, yes,” cried the King of Majorca.

“Who should know it better than we?” said Don Pedro bitterly, “since we have had to fly to you in our trouble as to the natural protector of all who are weak.”

“Nay, nay, as brothers to a brother,” cried the prince, with sparkling eyes. “We doubt not, with the help of God, to see you very soon restored to those thrones from which you have been so traitorously thrust.”

“When that happy day comes,” said Pedro, “then Spain shall be to you as Aquitaine, and, be your project what it may, you may ever count on every troop and every ship over which flies the banner of Castile.”

“And,” added the other, “upon every aid which the wealth and power of Majorca can bestow.”

“Touching the hundred thousand crowns in which I stand your debtor,” continued Pedro carelessly, “it can no doubt—-“

“Not a word, sire, not a word!” cried the prince. “It is not now when you are in grief that I would vex your mind with such base and sordid matters. I have said once and forever that I am yours with every bow-string of my army and every florin in my coffers.”

“Ah! here is indeed a mirror of chivalry,” said Don Pedro. “I think, Sir Fernando, since the prince’s bounty is stretched so far, that we may make further use of his gracious goodness to the extent of fifty thousand crowns. Good Sir William Felton, here, will doubtless settle the matter with you.”

The stout old English counsellor looked somewhat blank at this prompt acceptance of his master’s bounty.

“If it please you, sire,” he said, “the public funds are at their lowest, seeing that I have paid twelve thousand men of the companies, and the new taxes–the hearth-tax and the wine-tax–not yet come in. If you could wait until the promised help from England comes—-“

“Nay, nay, my sweet cousin,” cried Don Pedro. “Had we known that your own coffers were so low, or that this sorry sum could have weighed one way or the other, we had been loth indeed—-“

“Enough, sire, enough!” said the prince, flushing with vexation. “If the public funds be, indeed, so backward, Sir William, there is still, I trust, my own private credit, which hath never been drawn upon for my own uses, but is now ready in the cause of a friend in adversity. Go, raise this money upon our own jewels, if nought else may serve, and see that it be paid over to Don Fernando.”

“In security I offer—-” cried Don Pedro.

“Tush! tush!” said the prince. “I am not a Lombard, sire. Your kingly pledge is my security, without bond or seal. But I have tidings for you, my lords and lieges, that our brother of Lancaster is on his way for our capital with four hundred lances and as many archers to aid us in our venture. When he hath come, and when our fair consort is recovered in her health, which I trust by the grace of God may be ere many weeks be past, we shall then join the army at Dax, and set our banners to the breeze once more.”

A buzz of joy at the prospect of immediate action rose up from the group of warriors. The prince smiled at the martial ardor which shone upon every face around him.

“It will hearten you to know,” he continued, “that I have sure advices that this Henry is a very valiant leader, and that he has it in his power to make such a stand against us as promises to give us much honor and pleasure. Of his own people he hath brought together, as I learn, some fifty thousand, with twelve thousand of the French free companies, who are, as you know very valiant and expert men-at-arms. It is certain also, that the brave and worthy Bertrand de Guesclin hath ridden into France to the Duke of Anjou, and purposes to take back with him great levies from Picardy and Brittany. We hold Bertrand in high esteem, for he has oft before been at great pains to furnish us with an honorable encounter. What think you of it, my worthy Captal? He took you at Cocherel, and, by my soul I you will have the chance now to pay that score.”

The Gascon warrior winced a little at the allusion, nor were his countrymen around him better pleased, for on the only occasion when they had encountered the arms of France without English aid they had met with a heavy defeat.

“There are some who say, sire,” said the burly De Clisson, “that the score is already overpaid, for that without Gascon help Bertrand had not been taken at Auray, nor had King John been overborne at Poictiers.”

“By heaven! but this is too much,” cried an English nobleman. “Methinks that Gascony is too small a cock to crow so lustily.”

“The smaller cock, my Lord Audley, may have the longer spur,” remarked the Captal de Buch.

“May have its comb clipped if it make over-much noise,” broke in an Englishman.

“By our Lady of Rocamadour!” cried the Lord of Mucident, “this is more than I can abide. Sir John Charnell, you shall answer to me for those words!”

“Freely, my lord, and when you will,” returned the Englishman carelessly.

“My Lord de Clisson,” cried Lord Audley, “you look some, what fixedly in my direction. By God’s soul! I should be right glad to go further into the matter with you.”

“And you, my Lord of Pommers,” said Sir Nigel, pushing his way to the front, “it is in my mind that we might break a lance in gentle and honorable debate over the question.”

For a moment a dozen challenges flashed backwards and forwards at this sudden bursting of the cloud which had lowered so long between the knights of the two nations. Furious and gesticulating the Gascons, white and cold and sneering the English, while the prince with a half smile glanced from one party to the other, like a man who loved to dwell upon a fiery scene, and yet dreaded least the mischief go so far that he might find it beyond his control.

“Friends, friends!” he cried at last, “this quarrel must go no further. The man shall answer to me, be he Gascon or English, who carries it beyond this room. I have overmuch need for your swords that you should turn them upon each other. Sir John Charnell, Lord Audley, you do not doubt the courage of our friends of Gascony?”

“Not I, sire,” Lord Audley answered. “I have seen them fight too often not to know that they are very hardy and valiant gentlemen.”

“And so say I,” quoth the other Englishman; “but, certes, there is no fear of our forgetting it while they have a tongue in their heads.”

“Nay, Sir John,” said the prince reprovingly, “all peoples have their own use and customs. There are some who might call us cold and dull and silent. But you hear, my lords of Gascony, that these gentlemen had no thought to throw a slur upon your honor or your valor, so let all anger fade from your mind. Clisson, Captal, De Pommers, I have your word?”

“We are your subjects, sire,” said the Gascon barons, though with no very good grace. “Your words are our law.”

“Then shall we bury all cause of unkindness in a flagon of Malvoisie,” said the prince, cheerily. “Ho, there! the doors of the banquet-hall! I have been over long from my sweet spouse but I shall be back with you anon. Let the sewers serve and the minstrels play, while we drain a cup to the brave days that are before us in the south!” He turned away, accompanied by the two monarchs, while the rest of the company, with many a compressed lip and menacing eye, filed slowly through the side-door to the great chamber in which the royal tables were set forth.

CHAPTER XX.

HOW ALLEYNE WON HIS PLACE IN AN HONORABLE GUILD.

Whilst the prince’s council was sitting, Alleyne and Ford had remained in the outer hall, where they were soon surrounded by a noisy group of young Englishmen of their own rank, all eager to hear the latest news from England.

“How is it with the old man at Windsor?” asked one.

“And how with the good Queen Philippa?”

“And how with Dame Alice Perrers?” cried a third.

“The devil take your tongue, Wat!” shouted a tall young man, seizing the last speaker by the collar and giving him an admonitory shake. “The prince would take your head off for those words.”

“By God’s coif! Wat would miss it but little,” said another. “It is as empty as a beggar’s wallet.”

“As empty as an English squire, coz,” cried the first speaker. “What a devil has become of the maitre-des-tables and his sewers? They have not put forth the trestles yet.”

“Mon Dieu! if a man could eat himself into knighthood, Humphrey, you had been a banneret at the least,” observed another, amid a burst of laughter.

“And if you could drink yourself in, old leather-head, you had been first baron of the realm,” cried the aggrieved Humphrey. “But how of England, my lads of Loring?”

“I take it,” said Ford, “that it is much as it was when you were there last, save that perchance there is a little less noise there.”

“And why less noise, young Solomon?”

“Ah, that is for your wit to discover.”

“Pardieu! here is a paladin come over, with the Hampshire mud still sticking to his shoes. He means that the noise is less for our being out of the country.”

“They are very quick in these parts,” said Ford, turning to Alleyne.

“How are we to take this, sir?” asked the ruffling squire.

“You may take it as it comes,” said Ford carelessly.

“Here is pertness!” cried the other.

“Sir, I honor your truthfulness,” said Ford.

“Stint it, Humphrey,” said the tall squire, with a burst of laughter. “You will have little credit from this gentleman, I perceive. Tongues are sharp in Hampshire, sir.”

“And swords?”

“Hum! we may prove that. In two days’ time is the vepres du tournoi, when we may see if your lance is as quick as your wit.”

“All very well, Roger Harcomb,” cried a burly, bull-necked young man, whose square shoulders and massive limbs told of exceptional personal strength. “You pass too lightly over the matter. We are not to be so easily overcrowed. The Lord Loring hath given his proofs; but we know nothing of his squires, save that one of them hath a railing tongue. And how of you, young sir?” bringing his heavy hand down on Alleyne’s shoulder.

“And what of me, young sir?”

“Ma foi! this is my lady’s page come over. Your cheek will be browner and your hand harder ere you see your mother again.”

“If my hand is not hard, it is ready.”

“Ready? Ready for what? For the hem of my lady’s train?”

“Ready to chastise insolence, sir,” cried Alleyne with hashing eyes.

“Sweet little coz!” answered the burly squire. “Such a dainty color! Such a mellow voice! Eyes of a bashful maid, and hair like a three years’ babe! Voila!” He passed his thick fingers roughly through the youth’s crisp golden curls.

“You seek to force a quarrel, sir,” said the young man, white with anger.

“And what then?”

“Why, you do it like a country boor, and not like a gentle squire. Hast been ill bred and as ill taught. I serve a master who could show you how such things should he done.”

“And how would he do it, O pink of squires?”

“He would neither be loud nor would he be unmannerly, but rather more gentle than is his wont. He would say, `Sir, I should take it as an honor to do some small deed of arms against you, not for mine own glory or advancement, but rather for the fame of my lady and for the upholding of chivalry.’ Then he would draw his glove, thus, and throw it on the ground; or, if he had cause to think that he had to deal with a churl, he might throw it in his face–as I do now!”

A buzz of excitement went up from the knot of squires as Alleyne, his gentle nature turned by this causeless attack into fiery resolution, dashed his glove with all his strength into the sneering face of his antagonist. From all parts of the hall squires and pages came running, until a dense, swaying crowd surrounded the disputants.

“Your life for this!” said the bully, with a face which was distorted with rage.

“If you can take it,” returned Alleyne.

“Good lad!” whispered Ford. “Stick to it close as wax.”

“I shall see justice,” cried Norbury, Sir Oliver’s silent attendant.

“You brought it upon yourself, John Tranter,” said the tall squire, who had been addressed as Roger Harcomb. “You must ever plague the new-comers. But it were shame if this went further. The lad hath shown a proper spirit.”

“But a blow! a blow!” cried several of the older squires. “There must be a finish to this.”

“Nay; Tranter first laid hand upon his head,” said Harcomb. “How say you, Tranter? The matter may rest where it stands?”

“My name is known in these parts,” said Tranter, proudly, “I can let pass what might leave a stain upon another. Let him pick up his glove and say that he has done amiss.”

“I would see him in the claws of the devil first,” whispered Ford.

“You hear, young sir?” said the peacemaker. “Our friend will overlook the matter if you do but say that you have acted in heat and haste.”

“I cannot say that,” answered Alleyne.

“It is our custom, young sir, when new squires come amongst us from England, to test them in some such way. Bethink you that if a man have a destrier or a new lance he will ever try it in time of peace, lest in days of need it may fail him. How much more then is it proper to test those who are our comrades in arms.”

“I would draw out if it may honorably be done,” murmured Norbury in Alleyne’s ear. “The man is a noted swordsman and far above your strength.”

Edricson came, however, of that sturdy Saxon blood which is very slowly heated, but once up not easily to be cooled. The hint of danger which Norbury threw out was the one thing needed to harden his resolution.

“I came here at the back of my master,” he said, “and I looked on every man here as an Englishman and a friend. This gentleman hath shown me a rough welcome, and if I have answered him in the same spirit he has but himself to thank. I will pick the glove up; but, certes, I shall abide what I have done unless he first crave my pardon for what he hath said and done.”

Tranter shrugged his shoulders. “You have done what you could to save him, Harcomb,” said he. “We had best settle at once.”

“So say I,” cried Alleyne.

“The council will not break up until the banquet,” remarked a gray-haired squire. “You have a clear two hours.”

“And the place?”

“The tilting-yard is empty at this hour.”

“Nay; it must not be within the grounds of the court, or it may go hard with all concerned if it come to the ears of the prince.”

“But there is a quiet spot near the river,” said one youth. “We have but to pass through the abbey grounds, along the armory wall, past the church of St. Remi, and so down the Rue des Apotres.”

“En avant, then!” cried Tranter shortly, and the whole assembly flocked out into the open air, save only those whom the special orders of their masters held to their posts. These unfortunates crowded to the small casements, and craned their necks after the throng as far as they could catch a glimpse of them.

Close to the banks of the Garonne there lay a little tract of green sward, with the high wall of a prior’s garden upon one side and an orchard with a thick bristle of leafless apple-trees upon the other. The river ran deep and swift up to the steep bank; but there were few boats upon it, and the ships were moored far out in the centre of the stream. Here the two combatants drew their swords and threw off their doublets, for neither had any defensive armor. The duello with its stately etiquette had not yet come into vogue, but rough and sudden encounters were as common as they must ever be when hot-headed youth goes abroad with a weapon strapped to its waist. In such combats, as well as in the more formal sports of the tilting-yard, Tranter had won a name for strength and dexterity which had caused Norbury to utter his well-meant warning. On the other hand, Alleyne had used his weapons in constant exercise and practice for every day for many months, and being by nature quick of eye and prompt of hand, he might pass now as no mean swordsman. A strangely opposed pair they appeared as they approached each other: Tranter dark and stout and stiff, with hairy chest and corded arms, Alleyne a model of comeliness and grace, with his golden hair and his skin as fair as a woman’s. An unequal fight it seemed to most; but there were a few, and they the most experienced, who saw something in the youth’s steady gray eye and wary step which left the issue open to doubt.

“Hold, sirs, hold!” cried Norbury, ere a blow had been struck. “This gentleman hath a two-handed sword, a good foot longer than that of our friend.”

“Take mine, Alleyne,” said Ford.

“Nay, friends,” he answered, “I understand the weight and balance of mine own. To work, sir, for our lord may need us at the abbey!”

Tranter’s great sword was indeed a mighty vantage in his favor. He stood with his feet close together, his knees bent outwards, ready for a dash inwards or a spring out. The weapon he held straight up in front of him with blade erect, so that he might either bring it down with a swinging blow, or by a turn of the heavy blade he might guard his own head and body. A further protection lay in the broad and powerful guard which crossed the hilt, and which was furnished with a deep and narrow notch, in which an expert swordsman might catch his foeman’s blade, and by a quick turn of his wrist might snap it across. Alleyne, on the other hand, must trust for his defence to his quick eye and active foot–for his sword, though keen as a whetstone could make it, was of a light and graceful build with a narrow, sloping pommel and a tapering steel.

Tranter well knew his advantage and lost no time in putting it to use. As his opponent walked towards him he suddenly bounded forward and sent in a whistling cut which would have severed the other in twain had he not sprung lightly back from it. So close was it that the point ripped a gash in the jutting edge of his linen cyclas. Quick as a panther, Alleyne sprang in with a thrust, but Tranter, who was as active as he was strong, had already recovered himself and turned it aside with a movement of his heavy blade. Again he whizzed in a blow which made the spectators hold their breath, and again Alleyne very quickly and swiftly slipped from under it, and sent back two lightning thrusts which the other could scarce parry. So close were they to each other that Alleyne had no time to spring back from the next cut, which beat down his sword and grazed his forehead, sending the blood streaming into his eyes and down his cheeks. He sprang out beyond sword sweep, and the pair stood breathing heavily, while the crowd of young squires buzzed their applause.

“Bravely struck on both sides!” cried Roger Harcomb. “You have both won honor from this meeting, and it would be sin and shame to let it go further.”

“You have done enough, Edricson,” said Norbury.

“You have carried yourself well,” cried several of the older squires.

“For my part, I have no wish to slay this young man,” said Tranter, wiping his heated brow.

“Does this gentleman crave my pardon for having used me despitefully?” asked Alleyne.

“Nay, not I.”

“Then stand on your guard, sir!” With a clatter and dash the two blades met once more, Alleyne pressing in so as to keep within the full sweep of the heavy blade, while Tranter as continually sprang back to have space for one of his fatal cuts. A three-parts-parried blow drew blood from Alleyne’s left shoulder, but at the same moment he wounded Tranter slightly upon the thigh. Next instant, however, his blade had slipped into the fatal notch, there was a sharp cracking sound with a tinkling upon the ground, and he found a splintered piece of steel fifteen inches long was all that remained to him of his weapon.

“Your life is in my hands!” cried Tranter, with a bitter smile.

“Nay, nay, he makes submission!” broke in several squires.

“Another sword!” cried Ford.

“Nay, sir,” said Harcomb, “that is not the custom.”

“Throw down your hilt, Edricson,” cried Norbury.

“Never!” said Alleyne. “Do you crave my pardon, sir?”

“You are mad to ask it.”

“Then on guard again!” cried the young squire, and sprang in with a fire and a fury which more than made up for the shortness of his weapon. It had not escaped him that his opponent was breathing in short, hoarse gasps, like a man who is dizzy with fatigue. Now was the time for the purer living and the more agile limb to show their value. Back and back gave Tranter, ever seeking time for a last cut. On and on came Alleyne, his jagged point now at his foeman’s face, now at his throat, now at his chest, still stabbing and thrusting to pass the line of steel which covered him. Yet his experienced foeman knew well that such efforts could not be long sustained. Let him relax for one instant, and his death-blow had come. Relax he must! Flesh and blood could not stand the strain. Already the thrusts were less fierce, the foot less ready, although there was no abatement of the spirit in the steady gray eyes. Tranter, cunning and wary from years of fighting, knew that his chance had come. He brushed aside the frail weapon which was opposed to him, whirled up his great blade, sprang back to get the fairer sweep–and vanished into the waters of the Garonne.

So intent had the squires, both combatants and spectators, been on the matter in hand, that all thought of the steep bank and swift still stream had gone from their minds. It was not until Tranter, giving back before the other’s fiery rush, was upon the very brink, that a general cry warned him of his danger. That last spring, which he hoped would have brought the fight to a bloody end, carried him clear of the edge, and he found himself in an instant eight feet deep in the ice-cold stream. Once and twice his gasping face and clutching fingers broke up through the still green water, sweeping outwards in the swirl of the current. In vain were sword-sheaths, apple-branches and belts linked together thrown out to him by his companions. Alleyne had dropped his shattered sword and was standing, trembling in every limb, with his rage all changed in an instant to pity. For the third time the drowning man came to the surface, his hands full of green slimy water-plants, his eyes turned in despair to the shore. Their glance fell upon Alleyne, and he could not withstand the mute appeal which he read in them. In an instant he, too, was in the Garonne, striking out with powerful strokes for his late foeman.

Yet the current was swift and strong, and, good swimmer as he was, it was no easy task which Alleyne had set himself. To clutch at Tranter and to seize him by the hair was the work of a few seconds, but to hold his head above water and to make their way out of the current was another matter. For a hundred strokes he did not seem to gain an inch. Then at last, amid a shout of joy and praise from the bank, they slowly drew clear into more stagnant water, at the instant that a rope, made of a dozen sword-belts linked together by the buckles, was thrown by Ford into their very hands. Three pulls from eager arms, and the two combatants, dripping and pale, were dragged up the bank, and lay panting upon the grass.

John Tranter was the first to come to himself, for although he had been longer in the water, he had done nothing during that fierce battle with the current. He staggered to his feet and looked down upon his rescuer, who had raised himself upon his elbow, and was smiling faintly at the buzz of congratulation and of praise which broke from the squires around him.

“I am much beholden to you, sir,” said Tranter, though in no very friendly voice. “Certes, I should have been in the river now but for you, for I was born in Warwickshire, which is but a dry county, and there are few who swim in those parts.”

“I ask no thanks,” Alleyne answered shortly. “Give me your hand to rise, Ford.”

“The river has been my enemy,” said Tranter, “but it hath been a good friend to you, for it has saved your life this day.”

“That is as it may be,” returned Alleyne.

“But all is now well over,” quoth Harcomb, “and no scath come of it, which is more than I had at one time hoped for. Our young friend here hath very fairly and honestly earned his right to be craftsman of the Honorable Guild of the Squires of Bordeaux. Here is your doublet, Tranter.”

“Alas for my poor sword which lies at the bottom of the Garonne!” said the squire.

“Here is your pourpoint, Edricson,” cried Norbury. “Throw it over your shoulders, that you may have at least one dry garment.”

“And now away back to the abbey!” said several.

“One moment, sirs,” cried Alleyne, who was leaning on Ford’s shoulder, with the broken sword, which he had picked up, still clutched in his right hand. “My ears may be somewhat dulled by the water, and perchance what has been said has escaped me, but I have not yet heard this gentleman crave pardon for the insults which he put upon me in the hall.”

“What! do you still pursue the quarrel?” asked Tranter.

“And why not, sir? I am slow to take up such things, but once afoot I shall follow it while I have life or breath.”

“Ma foi! you have not too much of either, for you are as white as marble,” said Harcomb bluntly. “Take my rede, sir, and let it drop, for you have come very well out from it.”

“Nay,” said Alleyne, “this quarrel is none of my making; but, now that I am here, I swear to you that I shall never leave this spot until I have that which I have come for: so ask my pardon, sir, or choose another glaive and to it again.”

The young squire was deadly white from his exertions, both on the land and in the water. Soaking and stained, with a smear of blood on his white shoulder and another on his brow, there was still in his whole pose and set of face the trace of an inflexible resolution. His opponent’s duller and more material mind quailed before the fire and intensity of a higher spiritual nature.

“I had not thought that you had taken it so amiss,” said he awkwardly. “It was but such a jest as we play upon each other, and, if you must have it so, I am sorry for it.”

“Then I am sorry too,” quoth Alleyne warmly, “and here is my hand upon it.”

“And the none-meat horn has blown three times,” quoth Harcomb, as they all streamed in chattering groups from the ground. “I know not what the prince’s maitre-de-cuisine will say or think. By my troth! master Ford, your friend here is in need of a cup of wine, for he hath drunk deeply of Garonne water. I had not thought from his fair face that he had stood to this matter so shrewdly.”

“Faith,” said Ford, “this air of Bordeaux hath turned our turtle-dove into a game-cock. A milder or more courteous youth never came out of Hampshire.”

“His master also, as I understand, is a very mild and courteous gentleman,” remarked Harcomb; “yet I do not think that they are either of them men with whom it is very safe to trifle.”

CHAPTER XXI.

HOW AGOSTINO PISANO RISKED HIS HEAD.

Even the squires’ table at the Abbey of St. Andrew’s at Bordeaux was on a very sumptuous scale while the prince held his court there. Here first, after the meagre fare of Beaulieu and the stinted board of the Lady Loring, Alleyne learned the lengths to which luxury and refinement might be pushed. Roasted peacocks, with the feathers all carefully replaced, so that the bird lay upon the dish even as it had strutted in life, boars’ heads with the tusks gilded and the mouth lined with silver foil, jellies in the shape of the Twelve Apostles, and a great pasty which formed an exact model of the king’s new castle at Windsor–these were a few of the strange dishes which faced him. An archer had brought him a change of clothes from the cog, and he had already, with the elasticity of youth, shaken off the troubles and fatigues of the morning. A page from the inner banqueting-hall had come with word that their master intended to drink wine at the lodgings of the Lord Chandos that night, and that he desired his squires to sleep at the hotel of the “Half Moon” on the Rue des Apotres. Thither then they both set out in the twilight after the long course of juggling tricks and glee-singing with which the principal meal was concluded.

A thin rain was falling as the two youths, with their cloaks over their heads, made their way on foot through the streets of the old town, leaving their horses in the royal stables. An occasional oil lamp at the corner of a street, or in the portico of some wealthy burgher, threw a faint glimmer over the shining cobblestones, and the varied motley crowd who, in spite of the weather, ebbed and flowed along every highway. In those scattered circles of dim radiance might be seen the whole busy panorama of life in a wealthy and martial city. Here passed the round-faced burgher, swollen with prosperity, his sweeping dark-clothed gaberdine, flat velvet cap, broad leather belt and dangling pouch all speaking of comfort and of wealth. Behind him his serving wench, her blue whimple over her head, and one hand thrust forth to bear the lanthorn which threw a golden bar of light along her master’s path. Behind them a group of swaggering, half-drunken Yorkshire dalesmen, speaking a dialect which their own southland countrymen could scarce comprehend, their jerkins marked with the pelican, which showed that they had come over in the train of the north-country Stapletons. The burgher glanced back at their fierce faces and quickened his step, while the girl pulled her whimple closer round her, for there was a meaning in their wild eyes, as they stared at the purse and the maiden, which men of all tongues could understand. Then came archers of the guard, shrill-voiced women of the camp, English pages with their fair skins and blue wondering eyes, dark-robed friars, lounging men-at-arms, swarthy loud-tongued Gascon serving-men, seamen from the river, rude peasants of the Medoc, and becloaked and befeathered squires of the court, all jostling and pushing in an ever-changing, many-colored stream, while English, French, Welsh, Basque, and the varied dialects of Gascony and Guienne filled the air with their babel. From time to time the throng would be burst asunder and a lady’s horse-litter would trot past towards the abbey, or there would come a knot of torch-bearing archers walking in front of Gascon baron or English knight, as he sought his lodgings after the palace revels. Clatter of hoofs, clinking of weapons, shouts from the drunken brawlers, and high laughter of women, they all rose up, like the mist from a marsh, out of the crowded streets of the dim-lit city.

One couple out of the moving throng especially engaged the attention of the two young squires, the more so as they were going in their own direction and immediately in front of them. They consisted of a man and a girl, the former very tall with rounded shoulders, a limp of one foot, and a large flat object covered with dark cloth under his arm. His companion was young and straight, with a quick, elastic step and graceful bearing, though so swathed in a black mantle that little could be seen of her face save a flash of dark eyes and a curve of raven hair. The tall man leaned heavily upon her to take the weight off his tender foot, while he held his burden betwixt himself and the wall, cuddling it jealously to his side, and thrusting forward his young companion to act as a buttress whenever the pressure of the crowd threatened to bear him away. The evident anxiety of the man, the appearance of his attendant, and the joint care with which they defended their concealed possession, excited the interest of the two young Englishmen who walked within hand-touch of them.

“Courage, child!” they heard the tall man exclaim in strange hybrid French. “If we can win another sixty paces we are safe.”

“Hold it safe, father,” the other answered, in the same soft, mincing dialect. “We have no cause for fear.”

“Verily, they are heathens and barbarians,” cried the man; “mad, howling, drunken barbarians! Forty more paces, Tita mia, and I swear to the holy Eloi, patron of all learned craftsmen, that I will never set foot over my door again until the whole swarm are safely hived in their camp of Dax, or wherever else they curse with their presence. Twenty more paces, my treasure: Ah, my God! how they push and brawl! Get in their way, Tita mia! Put your little elbow bravely out! Set your shoulders squarely against them, girl! Why should you give way to these mad islanders? Ah, cospetto! we are ruined and destroyed!”

The crowd had thickened in front, so that the lame man and the girl had come to a stand. Several half-drunken English archers, attracted, as the squires had been, by their singular appearance, were facing towards them, and peering at them through the dim light.

“By the three kings!” cried one, “here is an old dotard shrew to have so goodly a crutch! Use the leg that God hath given you, man, and do not bear so heavily upon the wench.”

“Twenty devils fly away with him!” shouted another. “What, how, man! are brave archers to go maidless while an old man uses one as a walking-staff?”

“Come with me, my honey-bird!” cried a third, plucking at the girl’s mantle.

“Nay, with me, my heart’s desire!” said the first. “By St. George! our life is short, and we should be merry while we may. May I never see Chester Bridge again, if she is not a right winsome lass!”

“What hath the old toad under his arm?” cried one of the others. “He hugs it to him as the devil hugged the pardoner.”

“Let us see, old bag of bones; let us see what it is that you have under your arm!” They crowded in upon him, while he, ignorant of their language, could but clutch the girl with one hand and the parcel with the other, looking wildly about in search of help.

“Nay, lads, nay!” cried Ford, pushing back the nearest archer. “This is but scurvy conduct. Keep your hands off, or it will be the worse for you.”

“Keep your tongue still, or it will be the worse for you,” shouted the most drunken of the archers. “Who are you to spoil sport?”

“A raw squire, new landed,” said another. “By St. Thomas of Kent! we are at the beck of our master, but we are not to be ordered by every babe whose mother hath sent him as far as Aquitaine.”

“Oh, gentlemen,” cried the girl in broken French, “for dear Christ’s sake stand by us, and do not let these terrible men do us an injury.”

“Have no fears, lady,” Alleyne answered. “We shall see that all is well with you. Take your hand from the girl’s wrist, you north-country rogue!”

“Hold to her, Wat!” said a great black-bearded man-at-arms, whose steel breast-plate glimmered in the dusk. “Keep your hands from your bodkins, you two, for that was my trade before you were born, and, by God’s soul! I will drive a handful of steel through you if you move a finger.”

“Thank God!” said Alleyne suddenly, as he spied in the lamp-light a shock of blazing red hair which fringed a steel cap high above the heads of the crowd. “Here is John, and Aylward, too! Help us, comrades, for there is wrong being done to this maid and to the old man.”

“Hola, mon petit,” said the old bowman, pushing his way through the crowd, with the huge forester at his heels. “What is all this, then? By the twang of string! I think that you will have some work upon your hands if you are to right all the wrongs that you may see upon this side of the water. It is not to be thought that a troop of bowmen, with the wine buzzing in their ears, will be as soft-spoken as so many young clerks in an orchard. When you have been a year with the Company you will think less of such matters. But what is amiss here? The provost-marshal with his archers is coming this way, and some of you may find yourselves in the stretch-neck, if you take not heed.”

“Why, it is old Sam Aylward of the White Company!” shouted the man-at-arms. “Why, Samkin, what hath come upon thee? I can call to mind the day when you were as roaring a blade as ever called himself a free companion. By my soul! from Limoges to Navarre, who was there who would kiss a wench or cut a throat as readily as bowman Aylward of Hawkwood’s company?”

“Like enough, Peter,” said Aylward, “and, by my hilt! I may not have changed so much. But it was ever a fair loose and a clear mark with me. The wench must be willing, or the man must be standing up against me, else, by these ten finger bones I either were safe enough for me.”

A glance at Aylward’s resolute face, and at the huge shoulders of Hordle John, had convinced the archers that there was little to be got by violence. The girl and the old man began to shuffle on in the crowd without their tormentors venturing to stop them. Ford and Alleyne followed slowly behind them, but Aylward caught the latter by the shoulder.

“By my hilt! camarade,” said he, “I hear that you have done great things at the Abbey to-day, but I pray you to have a care, for it was I who brought you into the Company, and it would be a black day for me if aught were to befall you.”

“Nay, Aylward, I will have a care.”

“Thrust not forward into danger too much, mon petit. In a little time your wrist will be stronger and your cut more shrewd. There will be some of us at the `Rose de Guienne’ to-night, which is two doors from the hotel of the `Half Moon,’ so if you would drain a cup with a few simple archers you will be right welcome.”

Alleyne promised to be there if his duties would allow, and then, slipping through the crowd, he rejoined Ford, who was standing in talk with the two strangers, who had now reached their own doorstep.

“Brave young signor,” cried the tall man, throwing his arms round Alleyne, “how can we thank you enough for taking our parts against those horrible drunken barbarians. What should we have done without you? My Tita would have been dragged away, and my head would have been shivered into a thousand fragments.”

“Nay, I scarce think that they would have mishandled you so,” said Alleyne in surprise.

“Ho, ho!” cried he with a high crowing laugh, “it is not the head upon my shoulders that I think of. Cospetto! no. It is the head under my arm which you have preserved.”

“Perhaps the signori would deign to come under our roof, father,” said the maiden. “If we bide here, who knows that some fresh tumult may not break out.”

“Well said, Tita! Well said, my girl! I pray you, sirs, to honor my unworthy roof so far. A light, Giacomo! There are five steps up. Now two more. So! Here we are at last in safety. Corpo di Bacco! I would not have given ten maravedi for my head when those children of the devil were pushing us against the wall. Tita mia, you have been a brave girl, and it was better that you should be pulled and pushed than that my head should be broken.”

“Yes indeed, father,” said she earnestly.

“But those English! Ach! Take a Goth, a Hun, and a Vandal, mix them together and add a Barbary rover; then take this creature and make him drunk–and you have an Englishman. My God I were ever such people upon earth! What place is free from them? I hear that they swarm in Italy even as they swarm here. Everywhere you will find them, except in heaven.”

“Dear father,” cried Tita, still supporting the angry old man, as he limped up the curved oaken stair. “You must not forget that these good signori who have preserved us are also English.”

“Ah, yes. My pardon, sirs! Come into my rooms here. There are some who might find some pleasure in these paintings, but I learn the art of war is the only art which is held in honor in your island.”

The low-roofed, oak-panelled room into which he conducted them was brilliantly lit by four scented oil lamps. Against the walls, upon the table, on the floor, and in every part of the chamber were great sheets of glass painted in the most brilliant colors. Ford and Edricson gazed around them in amazement, for never had they seen such magnificent works of art.

“You like them then,” the lame artist cried, in answer to the look of pleasure and of surprise in their faces. “There are then some of you who have a taste for such trifling.”

“I could not have believed it,” exclaimed Alleyne. “What color! What outlines! See to this martyrdom of the holy Stephen, Ford. Could you not yourself pick up one of these stones which lie to the hand of the wicked murtherers?”

“And see this stag, Alleyne, with the cross betwixt its horns. By my faith! I have never seen a better one at the Forest of Bere.”

“And the green of this grass–how bright and clear! Why all the painting that I have seen is but child’s play beside this. This worthy gentleman must be one of those great painters of whom I have oft heard brother Bartholomew speak in the old days at Beaulieu.”

The dark mobile face of the artist shone with pleasure at the unaffected delight of the two young Englishmen. His daughter had thrown off her mantle and disclosed a face of the finest and most delicate Italian beauty, which soon drew Ford’s eyes from the pictures in front of him. Alleyne, however, continued with little cries of admiration and of wonderment to turn from the walls to the table and yet again to the walls.

“What think you of this, young sir?” asked the painter, tearing off the cloth which concealed the flat object which he had borne beneath his arm. It was a leaf-shaped sheet of glass bearing upon it a face with a halo round it, so delicately outlined, and of so perfect a tint, that it might have been indeed a human face which gazed with sad and thoughtful eyes upon the young squire. He clapped his hands, with that thrill of joy which true art will ever give to a true artist.

“It is great!” he cried. “It is wonderful! But I marvel, sir, that you should have risked a work of such beauty and value by bearing it at night through so unruly a crowd.”

“I have indeed been rash,” said the artist. “Some wine, Tita, from the Florence flask! Had it not been for you, I tremble to think of what might have come of it. See to the skin tint: it is not to be replaced, for paint as you will, it is not once in a hundred times that it is not either burned too brown in the furnace or else the color will not hold, and you get but a sickly white. There you can see the very veins and the throb of thee blood. Yes, diavolo! if it had broken, my heart would have broken too. It is for the choir window in the church of St. Remi, and we had gone, my little helper and I, to see if it was indeed of the size for the stonework. Night had fallen ere we finished, and what could we do save carry it home as best we might? But you, young sir, you speak as if you too knew something of the art.”

“So little that I scarce dare speak of it in your presence,” Alleyne answered. “I have been cloister-bred, and it was no very great matter to handle the brush better than my brother novices.”

“There are pigments, brush, and paper,” said the old artist. “I do not give you glass, for that is another matter, and takes much skill in the mixing of colors. Now I pray you to show me a touch of your art. I thank you, Tita! The Venetian glasses, cara mia, and fill them to the brim. A seat, signor!”

While Ford, in his English-French, was conversing with Tita in her Italian French, the old man was carefully examining his precious head to see that no scratch had been left upon its surface. When he glanced up again, Alleyne had, with a few bold strokes of the brush, tinted in a woman’s face and neck upon the white sheet in front of him.

“Diavolo!” exclaimed the old artist, standing with his head on one side, “you have power; yes, cospetto! you have power, it is the face of an angel!”

“It is the face of the Lady Maude Loring!” cried Ford, even more astonished.

“Why, on my faith, it is not unlike her!” said Alleyne, in some confusion.

“Ah! a portrait! So much the better. Young man, I am Agostino Pisano, the son of Andrea Pisano, and I say again that you have power. Further, I say, that, if you will stay with me, I will teach you all the secrets of the glass-stainers’ mystery: the pigments and their thickening, which will fuse into the glass and which will not, the furnace and the glazing–every trick and method you shall know.”

“I would be right glad to study under such a master,” said Alleyne; “but I am sworn to follow my lord whilst this war lasts.”

“War! war!” cried the old Italian. “Ever this talk of war. And the men that you hold to be great–what are they? Have I not heard their names? Soldiers, butchers, destroyers! Ah, per Bacco! we have men in Italy who are in very truth great. You pull down, you despoil; but they build up, they restore. Ah, if you could but see my own dear Pisa, the Duomo, the cloisters of Campo Santo, the high Campanile, with the mellow throb of her bells upon the warm Italian air! Those are the works of great men. And I have seen them with my own eyes, these very eyes which look upon you. I have seen Andrea Orcagna, Taddeo Gaddi, Giottino, Stefano, Simone Memmi–men whose very colors I am not worthy to mix. And I have seen the aged Giotto, and he in turn was pupil to Cimabue, before whom there was no art in Italy, for the Greeks were brought to paint the chapel of the Gondi at Florence. Ah, signori, there are the real great men whose names will be held in honor when your soldiers are shown to have been the enemies of humankind.”

“Faith, sir,” said Ford, “there is something to say for the soldiers also, for, unless they be defended, how are all these gentlemen whom you have mentioned to preserve the pictures which they have painted?”

“And all these!” said Alleyne. “Have you indeed done them all?–and where are they to go?”

“Yes, signor, they are all from my hand. Some are, as you see, upon one sheet, and some are in many pieces which may fasten together. There are some who do but paint upon the glass, and then, by placing another sheet of glass upon the top and fastening it, they keep the air from their painting. Yet I hold that the true art of my craft lies as much in the furnace as in the brush. See this rose window, which is from the model of the Church of the Holy Trinity at Vendome, and this other of the `Finding of the Grail,’ which is for the apse of the Abbey church. Time was when none but my countrymen could do these things; but there is Clement of Chartres and others in France who are very worthy workmen. But, ah! there is that ever shrieking brazen tongue which will not let us forget for one short hour that it is the arm of the savage, and not the hand of the master, which rules over the world.”

A stern, clear bugle call had sounded close at hand to summon some following together for the night.

“It is a sign to us as well,” said Ford. “I would fain stay here forever amid all these beautiful things–” staring hard at the blushing Tita as he spoke–“but we must be back at our lord’s hostel ere he reach it.” Amid renewed thanks and with promises to come again, the two squires bade their leave of the old Italian glass-stainer and his daughter. The streets were clearer now, and the rain had stopped, so they made their way quickly from the Rue du Roi, in which their new friends dwelt, to the Rue des Apotres, where the hostel of the “Half Moon” was situated.

CHAPTER XXII.

HOW THE BOWMEN HELD WASSAIL AT THE “ROSE DE GUIENNE.”

“Mon Dieu! Alleyne, saw you ever so lovely a face?” cried Ford as they hurried along together. “So pure, so peaceful, and so beautiful!”

“In sooth, yes. And the hue of the skin the most perfect that ever I saw. Marked you also how the hair curled round the brow? It was wonder fine.”

“Those eyes, too!” cried Ford. “How clear and how tender–simple, and yet so full of thought!”

“If there was a weakness it was in the chin,” said Alleyne.

“Nay. I saw none.”

“It was well curved, it is true.”

“Most daintily so.”

“And yet—-“

“What then, Alleyne? Wouldst find flaw in the sun?”

“Well, bethink you, Ford, would not more power and expression have been put into the face by a long and noble beard?”

“Holy Virgin!” cried Ford, “the man is mad. A beard on the face of little Tita!”

“Tita! Who spoke of Tita?”

“Who spoke of aught else?”

“It was the picture of St. Remi, man, of which I have been discoursing.”

“You are indeed,” cried Ford, laughing, “a Goth, Hun, and Vandal, with all the other hard names which the old man called us. How could you think so much of a smear of pigments, when there was such a picture painted by the good God himself in the very room with you? But who is this?”

“If it please you, sirs,” said an archer, running across to them, “Aylward and others would be right glad to see you. They are within here. He bade me say to you that the Lord Loring will not need your service to-night, as he sleeps with the Lord Chandos.”

“By my faith!” said Ford, “we do not need a guide to lead us to their presence.” As he spoke there came a roar of singing from the tavern upon the right, with shouts of laughter and stamping of feet. Passing under a low door, and down a stone-flagged passage, they found themselves in a long narrow hall lit up by a pair of blazing torches, one at either end. Trusses of straw had been thrown down along the walls, and reclining on them were some twenty or thirty archers, all of the Company, their steel caps and jacks thrown off, their tunics open and their great limbs sprawling upon the clay floor. At every man’s elbow stood his leathern blackjack of beer, while at the further end a hogshead with its end knocked in promised an abundant supply for the future. Behind the hogshead, on a half circle of kegs, boxes, and rude settles, sat Aylward, John, Black Simon and three or four other leading men of the archers, together with Goodwin Hawtayne, the master-shipman, who had left his yellow cog in the river to have a last rouse with his friends of the Company. Ford and Alleyne took their seats between Aylward and Black Simon, without their entrance checking in any degree the hubbub which was going on.

“Ale, mes camarades?” cried the bowman, “or shall it be wine? Nay, but ye must have the one or the other. Here, Jacques, thou limb of the devil, bring a bottrine of the oldest vernage, and see that you do not shake it. Hast heard the news?”

“Nay,” cried both the squires.

“That we are to have a brave tourney.”

“A tourney?”

“Aye, lads. For the Captal du Buch hath sworn that he will find five knights from this side of the water who will ride over any five Englishmen who ever threw leg over saddle; and Chandos hath taken up the challenge, and the prince hath promised a golden vase for the man who carries himself best, and all the court is in a buzz over it.”

“Why should the knights have all the sport?” growled Hordle John. “Could they not set up five archers for the honor of Aquitaine and of Gascony?”

“Or five men-at-arms,” said Black Simon.

“But who are the English knights?” asked Hawtayne.

“There are three hundred and forty-one in the town,” said Aylward, “and I hear that three hundred and forty cartels and defiances have already been sent in, the only one missing being Sir John Ravensholme, who is in his bed with the sweating sickness, and cannot set foot to ground.”

“I have heard of it from one of the archers of the guard,” cried a bowman from among the straw; “I hear that the prince wished to break a lance, but that Chandos would not hear of it, for the game is likely to be a rough one.”

“Then there is Chandos.”

“Nay, the prince would not permit it. He is to be marshal of the lists, with Sir William Felton and the Duc d’Armagnac. The English will be the Lord Audley, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Thomas Wake, Sir William Beauchamp, and our own very good lord and leader.”

“Hurrah for him, and God be with him!” cried several. “It is honor to draw string in his service.”

“So you may well say,” said Aylward. “By my ten finger-bones! if you march behind the pennon of the five roses you are like to see all that a good bowman would wish to see. Ha! yes, mes garcons, you laugh, but, by my hilt! you may not laugh when you find yourselves where he will take you, for you can never tell what strange vow he may not have sworn to. I see that he has a patch over his eye, even as he had at Poictiers. There will come bloodshed of that patch, or I am the more mistaken.”

“How chanced it at Poictiers, good Master Aylward?” asked one of the young archers, leaning upon his elbows, with his eyes fixed respectfully upon the old bowman’s rugged face.

“Aye, Aylward, tell us of it,” cried Hordle John.

“Here is to old Samkin Aylward!” shouted several at the further end of the room, waving their blackjacks in the air.

“Ask him!” said Aylward modestly, nodding towards Black Simon. “He saw more than I did. And yet, by the holy nails! there was not very much that I did not see either.”

“Ah, yes,” said Simon, shaking his head, “it was a great day. I never hope to see such another. There were some fine archers who drew their last shaft that day. We shall never see better men, Aylward.”

“By my hilt! no. There was little Robby Withstaff, and Andrew Salblaster, and Wat Alspaye, who broke the neck of the German. Mon Dieu! what men they were! Take them how you would, at long butts or short, hoyles, rounds, or rovers, better bowmen never twirled a shaft over their thumb-nails.”

“But the fight, Aylward, the fight!” cried several impatiently.

“Let me fill my jack first, boys, for it is a thirsty tale. It was at the first fall of the leaf that the prince set forth, and he passed through Auvergne, and Berry, and Anjou, and Touraine. In Auvergne the maids are kind, but the wines are sour. In Berry it is the women that are sour, but the wines are rich. Anjou, however, is a very good land for bowmen, for wine and women are all that heart could wish. In Touraine I got nothing save a broken pate, but at Vierzon I had a great good fortune, for I had a golden pyx from the minster, for which I afterwards got nine Genoan janes from the goldsmith in the Rue Mont Olive. From thence we went to Bourges, were I had a tunic of flame-colored silk and a very fine pair of shoes with tassels of silk and drops of silver.”

“From a stall, Aylward?” asked one of the young archers.

“Nay, from a man’s feet, lad. I had reason to think that he might not need them again, seeing that a thirty-inch shaft had feathered in his back.”

“And what then, Aylward?”

“On we went, coz, some six thousand of us, until we came to Issodun, and there again a very great thing befell.”

“A battle, Aylward?”

“Nay, nay; a greater thing than that. There is little to be gained out of a battle, unless one have the fortune to win a ransom. At Issodun I and three Welshmen came upon a house which all others had passed, and we had the profit of it to ourselves. For myself, I had a fine feather-bed–a thing which you will not see in a long day’s journey in England. You have seen it, Alleyne, and you, John. You will bear me out that it is a noble bed. We put it on a sutler’s mule, and bore it after the army. It was on my mind that I would lay it by until I came to start house of mine own, and I have it now in a very safe place near Lyndhurst.”

“And what then, master-bowman?” asked Hawtayne. “By St. Christopher! it is indeed a fair and goodly life which you have chosen, for you gather up the spoil as a Warsash man gathers lobsters, without grace or favor from any man.”

“You are right, master-shipman,” said another of the older archers. “It is an old bowyer’s rede that the second feather of a fenny goose is better than the pinion of a tame one. Draw on old lad, for I have come between you and the clout.”

“On we went then,” said Aylward, after a long pull at his blackjack. “There were some six thousand of us, with the prince and his knights, and the feather-bed upon a sutler’s mule in the centre. We made great havoc in Touraine, until we came into Romorantin, where I chanced upon a gold chain and two bracelets of jasper, which were stolen from me the same day by a black-eyed wench from the Ardennes. Mon Dieu! there are some folk who have no fear of Domesday in them, and no sign of grace in their souls, for ever clutching and clawing at another man’s chattels.”

“But the battle, Aylward, the battle!” cried several, amid a burst of laughter.

“I come to it, my young war-pups. Well, then, the King of France had followed us with fifty thousand men, and he made great haste to catch us, but when he had us he scarce knew what to do with us, for we were so drawn up among hedges and vineyards that they could not come nigh us, save by one lane. On both sides were archers, men-at-arms and knights behind, and in the centre the baggage, with my feather-bed upon a sutler’s mule. Three hundred chosen knights came straight for it, and, indeed, they were very brave men, but such a drift of arrows met them that few came back. Then came the Germans, and they also fought very bravely, so that one or two broke through the archers and came as far as the feather-bed, but all to no purpose. Then out rides our own little hothead with the patch over his eye, and my Lord Audley with his four Cheshire squires, and a few others of like kidney, and after them went the prince and Chandos, and then the whole throng of us, with axe and sword, for we had shot away our arrows. Ma foi! it was a foolish thing, for we came forth from the hedges, and there was naught to guard the baggage had they ridden round behind us. But all went well with us, and the king was taken, and little Robby Withstaff and I fell in with a wain with twelve firkins of wine for the king’s own table, and, by my hilt! if you ask me what happened after that, I cannot answer you, nor can little Robby Withstaff either.”

“And next day?”

“By my faith! we did not tarry long, but we hied back to Bordeaux, where we came in safety with the King of France and also the feather-bed. I sold my spoil, mes garcons, for as many gold-pieces as I could hold in my hufken, and for seven days I lit twelve wax candles upon the altar of St. Andrew; for if you forget the blessed when things are well with you, they are very likely to forget you when you have need of them. I have a score of one hundred and nineteen pounds of wax against the holy Andrew, and, as he was a very just man, I doubt not that I shall have full weigh and measure when I have most need of it.”

“Tell me, master Aylward,” cried a young fresh-faced archer at the further end of the room, “what was this great battle about?”

“Why, you jack-fool, what would it be about save who should wear the crown of France?”

“I thought that mayhap it might be as to who should have this feather-bed of thine.”

“If I come down to you, Silas, I may lay my belt across your shoulders,” Aylward answered, amid a general shout of laughter. “But it is time young chickens went to roost when they dare cackle against their elders. It is late, Simon.”

“Nay, let us have another song.”

“Here is Arnold of Sowley will troll as good a stave as any man in the Company.”

“Nay, we have one here who is second to none,” said Hawtayne, laying his hand upon big John’s shoulder. “I have heard him on the cog with a voice like the wave upon the shore. I pray you, friend, to give us `The Bells of Milton,’ or, if you will, `The Franklin’s Maid.'”

Hordle John drew the back of his hand across his mouth, fixed his eyes upon the corner of the ceiling, and bellowed forth, in a voice which made the torches flicker, the southland ballad for which he had been asked:–

The franklin he hath gone to roam, The franklin’s maid she bides at home, But she is cold and coy and staid,
And who may win the franklin’s maid?

There came a knight of high renown In bassinet and ciclatoun;
On bended knee full long he prayed, He might not win the franklin’s maid.

There came a squire so debonair
His dress was rich, his words were fair, He sweetly sang, he deftly played:
He could not win the franklin’s maid.

There came a mercer wonder-fine
With velvet cap and gaberdine;
For all his ships, for all his trade He could not buy the franklin’s maid.

There came an archer bold and true, With bracer guard and stave of yew;
His purse was light, his jerkin frayed; Haro, alas! the franklin’s maid!

Oh, some have laughed and some have cried And some have scoured the country-side! But off they ride through wood and glade, The bowman and the franklin’s maid.

A roar of delight from his audience, with stamping of feet and beating of blackjacks against the ground, showed how thoroughly the song was to their taste, while John modestly retired into a quart pot, which he drained in four giant gulps. “I sang that ditty in Hordle ale-house ere I ever thought to be an archer myself,” quoth he.

“Fill up your stoups!” cried Black Simon, thrusting his own goblet into the open hogshead in front of him. “Here is a last cup to the White Company, and every brave boy who walks behind the roses of Loring!”

“To the wood, the flax, and the gander’s wing!” said an old gray-headed archer on the right.

“To a gentle loose, and the King of Spain for a mark at fourteen score!” cried another.

“To a bloody war!” shouted a fourth. “Many to go and few to come!”

“With the most gold to the best steel!” added a fifth.

“And a last cup to the maids of our heart!” cried Aylward. “A steady hand and a true eye, boys; so let two quarts be a bowman’s portion.” With shout and jest and snatch of song they streamed from the room, and all was peaceful once more in the “Rose de Guienne.”

CHAPTER XXIII.

HOW ENGLAND HELD THE LISTS AT BORDEAUX.

So used were the good burghers of Bordeaux to martial display and knightly sport, that an ordinary joust or tournament was an everyday matter with them. The fame and brilliancy of the prince’s court had drawn the knights-errant and pursuivants-of-arms from every part of Europe. In the long lists by the Garonne on the landward side of the northern gate there had been many a strange combat, when the Teutonic knight, fresh from the conquest of the Prussian heathen, ran a course against the knight of Calatrava, hardened by continual struggle against the Moors, or cavaliers from Portugal broke a lance with Scandinavian warriors from the further shore of the great Northern Ocean. Here fluttered many an outland pennon, bearing symbol and blazonry from the banks of the Danube, the wilds of Lithuania and the mountain strongholds of Hungary; for chivalry was of no clime and of no race, nor was any land so wild that the fame and name of the prince had not sounded through it from border to border.

Great, however, was the excitement through town and district when it was learned that on the third Wednesday in Advent there would be held a passage-at-arms in which five knights of England would hold the lists against all comers. The great concourse of noblemen and famous soldiers, the national character of the contest, and the fact that this was a last trial of arms before what promised to be an arduous and bloody war, all united to make the event one of the most notable and brilliant that Bordeaux had ever seen. On the eve of the contest the peasants flocked in from the whole district of the Medoc, and the fields beyond the walls were whitened with the tents of those who could find no warmer lodging. From the distant camp of Dax, too, and from Blaye, Bourge, Libourne, St. Emilion, Castillon, St. Macaire, Cardillac, Ryons, and all the cluster of flourishing towns which look upon Bordeaux as their mother, there thronged an unceasing stream of horsemen and of footmen, all converging upon the great city. By the morning of the day on which the courses were to be run, not less than eighty people had assembled round the lists and along the low grassy ridge which looks down upon the scene of the encounter.

It was, as may well be imagined, no easy matter among so many noted cavaliers to choose out five on either side who should have precedence over their fellows. A score of secondary combats had nearly arisen from the rivalries and bad blood created by the selection, and it was only the influence of the prince and the efforts of the older barons which kept the peace among so many eager and fiery soldiers. Not till the day before the courses were the shields finally hung out for the inspection of the ladies and the heralds, so that all men might know the names of the champions and have the opportunity to prefer any charge against them, should there be stain upon them which should disqualify them from taking part in so noble and honorable a ceremony.

Sir Hugh Calverley and Sir Robert Knolles had not yet returned from their raid into the marches of the Navarre, so that the English party were deprived of two of their most famous lances. Yet there remained so many good names that Chandos and Felton, to whom the selection had been referred, had many an earnest consultation, in which every feat of arms and failure or success of each candidate was weighed and balanced against the rival claims of his companions. Lord Audley of Cheshire, the hero of Poictiers, and Loring of Hampshire, who was held to be the second lance in the army, were easily fixed upon. Then, of the younger men, Sir Thomas Percy of Northumberland, Sir Thomas Wake of Yorkshire, and Sir William Beauchamp of Gloucestershire, were finally selected to uphold the honor of England. On the other side were the veteran Captal de Buch and the brawny Olivier de Clisson, with the free companion Sir Perducas d’Albret, the valiant Lord of Mucident, and Sigismond von Altenstadt, of the Teutonic Order. The older soldiers among the English shook their heads as they looked upon the escutcheons of these famous warriors, for they were all men who had spent their lives upon the saddle, and bravery and strength can avail little against