At Agincourt

At Agincourt

AT AGINCOURT G. A. HENTY CONTENTS I. A FEUDAL CASTLE II. TROUBLES IN FRANCE III. A SIEGE IV. A FATAL ACCIDENT V. HOSTAGES VI. IN PARIS VII. IN THE STREETS OF PARIS VIII. A RIOT IX. A STOUT DEFENCE X. AFTER THE FRAY XI. DANGER THREATENED XII. IN HIDING XIII. THE MASTERS OF PARIS XIV. PLANNING MASSACRE XV. A RESCUE XVI. THE ESCAPE XVII. A LONG PAUSE XVIII. KATARINA XIX. AGINCOURT XX. PENSHURST ILLUSTRATIONS GUY AYLMER SAVES THE KING'S LIFE AT THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT. GUY HAS HIS HEAD BOUND UP AFTER A BOUT AT QUARTER-STAFF. "THE TWO MEN WHO LIT THE ALARM FIRES RODE INTO THE CASTLE." "SIR EUSTACE GAVE A LOUD CRY FOR LYING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIR WAS THE FORM OF HIS SON." THE LADY MARGARET MAKES HER OBEISANCE TO THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY. GUY AND LONG TOM COME TO THE RESCUE OF COUNT CHARLES. "TOM'S BOW TWANGED AND THE ARROW STRUCK THE HORSEMAN UNDER THE ARM-PIT." "THE KING EXTENDED HIS HAND TO GUY WHO WENT ON ONE KNEE TO KISS IT." "WELL COMRADE" SAID SIMON "I SUPPOSE YOU ARE THE MAN I WAS TOLD WOULD COME TO-NIGHT?" "GUY DELIVERED A SLASHING BLOW ON THE BUTCHER'S CHEEK AND DASHED PAST HIM." GUY WELCOMES THE COUNT OF MONTEPONE AND HIS DAUGHTER TO VILLEROY. "KATARINA SWEPT A DEEP CURTSEY AND WENT OFF WITH A MERRY LAUGH." AT AGINCOURT CHAPTER I A FEUDAL CASTLE "And is it true that our lord and lady sail next week for their estate in France?" "Ay it is true enough and more is the pity; it was a sad day for us all when the king gave the hand of his ward our lady to this baron of Artois." "They say she was willing enough Peter." "Ay ay all say she loved him and being a favourite with the queen she got her to ask the king to accede to the knight's suit; and no wonder he is as proper a man as eyes can want to look on--tall and stately and they say brave. His father and grandfather both were Edward's men and held their castle for us; his father was a great friend of the Black Prince and he too took a wife from England. Since then things have not gone well with us in France and they say that our lord has had difficulty in keeping clear of the quarrels that are always going on out there between the great French lords; and seeing that we have but little power in Artois he has to hold himself discreetly and to keep aloof as far as he can from the strife there and bide his time until the king sends an army to win back his own again. But I doubt not that although our lady's wishes and the queen's favour may have gone some way with him the king thought more of the advantage of keeping this French noble--whose fathers have always been faithful vassals of the crown and who was himself English on his mother's side--faithful to us ready for the time when the royal banner will flutter in the wind again and blood will flow as it did at Cressy and Poitiers. "The example of a good knight like Sir Eustace taking the field for us with his retainers might lead others to follow his example; besides there were several suitors for our lady's hand and by giving her to this French baron there would be less offence and heart-burning than if he had chosen one among her English suitors. And indeed I know not that we have suffered much from its being so; it is true that our lord and lady live much on their estates abroad but at least they are here part of their time and their castellan does not press us more heavily during their absence than does our lord when at home." "He is a goodly knight is Sir Aylmer a just man and kindly and being a cousin of our lady's they do wisely and well in placing all things in his hands during their absence." "Ay we have nought to grumble at for we might have done worse if we had had an English lord for our master who might have called us into the field when he chose and have pressed us to the utmost of his rights whenever he needed money." The speakers were a man and woman who were standing looking on at a party of men practising at the butts on the village green at Summerley one of the hamlets on the estates of Sir Eustace de Villeroy in Hampshire. "Well shot!" the man exclaimed as an archer pierced a white wand at a distance of eighty yards. "They are good shots all and if our lord and lady have fears of troubles in France they do right well in taking a band of rare archers with them. There are but five-and-twenty of them but they are all of the best. When they offered prizes here a month since for the bowmen of Hants and Sussex and Dorset methought they had some good reason why they should give such high prizes as to bring hither the best men from all three counties and we were all proud that four of our own men should have held their own so well in such company and especially that Tom the miller's son should have beaten the best of them. He is captain of the band you know but almost all the others shoot nigh as well; there is not one of them who cannot send an arrow straight into the face of a foe at a hundred and twenty yards. There were some others as good who would fain have been of the party but our lady said she would take no married men and she was right. They go for five years certain and methinks a man fights all the better when he knows there is no one in England praying for his return and that if he falls there is no widow or children to bewail his loss. There are as many stout men-at-arms going too; so the Castle of Villeroy will be a hard nut for anyone to crack for I hear they can put a hundred and fifty of their vassals there in the field." "We shall miss Sir Aylmer's son Guy" the woman said; "he is ever down at the village green when there are sports going on. There is not one of his age who can send an arrow so straight to the mark and not many of the men; and he can hold his own with a quarter-staff too." "Ay dame; he is a stout lad and a hearty one. They say that at the castle he is ever practising with arms and that though scarce sixteen he can wield a sword and heavy battle-axe as well as any man-at-arms there." "He is gentle too" the woman said. "Since his mother's death he often comes down with wine and other goodies if anyone is ill and he speaks as softly as a girl. There is not one on the estate but has a good word for him nor doubts that he will grow up as worthy a knight as his father though gentler perhaps in his manner and less grave in face for he was ever a merry lad. Since the death of his lady mother two years ago he has gone about sadly still of late he has gotten over his loss somewhat and he can laugh heartily again. I wonder his father can bear to part with him." "Sir Eustace knows well enough that he cannot always keep the boy by his side dame; and that if a falcon is to soar well he must try his wings early. He goes as page does he not?" "Ay but more methinks as companion to young Henry who has they say been sickly from a child and though better now has scarce the making of a stalwart knight in him. His young brother Charles is a sturdy little chap and bids fair to take after his father; and little Lady Agnes who comes between them is full of fire and spirit. "Yes; methinks Guy will have a pleasant time of it out there; that is if there are no fresh troubles. I doubt not that in two or three years he will be one of our lord's esquires and if he has a chance of displaying his courage and skill may be back among us a dubbed knight before many years have passed over our heads. France is a rare place for gaining honours and so it may well be for I see not that we gain much else by our king's possessions there." "There was plenty of spoil brought over dame after Cressy and Poitiers." "Ay but it soon goes; easy come easy go you know; and though they say that each man that fought there brought home a goodly share of spoil I will warrant me the best part went down their throats ere many months had passed." "'Tis ever so dame; but I agree with you and deem that it would be better for England if we did not hold a foot of ground in France and if English kings and nobles were content to live quietly among their people. We have spent more money than ever we made in these wars and even were our kings to become indeed as they claim kings of France as well as England the ill would be much greater as far as I can see for us all. Still there may be things dame that we country folks don't understand and I suppose that it must be so else Parliament would not be so willing to vote money always when the kings want it for wars with France. The wars in France don't affect us as much as those with Scotland and Wales. When our kings go to France to fight they take with them only such as are willing to go men-at-arms and archers; but when we have troubles such as took place but five or six years ago when Douglas and Percy and the Welsh all joined against us then the lords call out their vassals and the sheriffs the militia of the county and we have to go to fight willy- nilly. Our lord had a hundred of us with him to fight for the king at Shrewsbury. Nigh thirty never came back again. That is worse than the French wars dame." "Don't I know it for wasn't my second boy one of those who never came back. Ay ay they had better be fighting in France perhaps for that lets out the hot blood that might otherwise bring on fighting at home." "That is so dame things are all for the best though one does not always see it." A week later all the tenantry gathered in front of the castle to wish God- speed to their lord and lady and to watch the following by which they were accompanied. First there passed half a dozen mounted men-at-arms who were to accompany the party but half a day's march and then to return with Sir Aylmer. Next to these rode Sir Eustace and Lady Margaret still a beautiful woman a worthy mate of her noble-looking husband. On her other side rode Sir Aylmer; then came John Harpen Sir Eustace's esquire; beside whom trotted Agnes a bright merry-faced girl of twelve. Guy rode with the two boys; then came twenty-four men-at-arms many of whom had fought well and stoutly at Shrewsbury; while Tom the miller's son or as he was generally called Long Tom strode along at the head of twenty-four bowmen each of whom carried the long English bow and quiver full of cloth-yard arrows and in addition a heavy axe at his leathern girdle. Behind these were some servitors leading horses carrying provisions for the journey and valises with the clothes of Sir Eustace his wife and children and a heavy cart drawn by four strong horses with the bundles of extra garments for the men-at-arms and archers and several large sheaves of spare arrows. The men-at-arms wore iron caps as also breast and back pieces. On the shoulders and arms of their leathern jerkins iron rings were sewn thickly forming a sort of chain armour while permitting perfect freedom of the limbs. The archers also wore steel caps which like those of the men-at-arms came low down on the neck and temples. They had on tough leathern frocks girded in at the waist and falling to the knee; some of them had also iron rings sewn on the shoulders. English archers were often clad in green cloth but Sir Eustace had furnished the garments and had chosen leather both as being far more durable and as offering a certain amount of defence. The frocks were sleeveless and each man wore cloth sleeves of a colour according to his fancy. The band was in all respects a well-appointed one. As Sir Eustace wished to avoid exciting comment among his neighbours he had abstained from taking a larger body of men; and it was partly for this reason that he had decided not to dress the archers in green. But every man had been carefully picked; the men-at-arms were all powerful fellows who had seen service; the archers were little inferior in physique for strength as well as skill was required in archery and in choosing the men Sir Eustace had when there was no great difference in point of skill selected the most powerful among those who were willing to take service with him. Guy enjoyed the two days' ride to Southampton greatly. It was the first time that he had been away from home and his spirits were high at thus starting on a career that would he hoped bring him fame and honour. Henry and his brother and sister were also in good glee although the journey was no novelty to them for they had made it twice previously. Beyond liking change as was natural at their age they cared not whether they were at their English or at their French home as they spoke both languages with equal fluency and their life at one castle differed but little from that at the other. Embarking at Portsmouth in a ship that was carrying military stores to Calais they coasted along the shores of Sussex and of Kent as far as Dungeness and then made across to Calais. It was early in April the weather was exceptionally favourable and they encountered no rough seas whatever. On the way Sir Eustace related to Guy and his sons the events that had taken place in France and had led up to the civil war that was raging so furiously there. "In 1392 the King of France being seized with madness the Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans in a very short time wrested the power of the state from the hands of his faithful councillors the Constable de Clisson La Riviere and others. De Clisson retired to his estate and castle at Montelhery the two others were seized and thrown into prison. De Clisson was prosecuted before Parliament as a false and wicked traitor; but the king acting on the advice of Orleans who had not then broken with the Dukes of Burgundy and Berri had after La Riviere and another had been in prison for a year stopped the prosecution and restored their estates to them. Until 1402 the Dukes of Burgundy and Berri were all-powerful and in 1396 a great number of knights and nobles led by John Count of Nevers the eldest son of the Duke of Burgundy went to the assistance of the King of Hungary which country was being invaded by the Turks. They were however on the 28th of September utterly defeated. The greater portion of them were killed; Nevers and the rest were ransomed and brought home. "In 1402 the king influenced by his wife Isobel and his brother the Duke of Orleans who were on terms of the closest alliance placed the entire government in the hands of the latter who at once began to abuse it to such an extent by imposing enormous taxes upon the clergy and the people that he paved the way for the return of his uncle of Burgundy to power. On the 27th of April 1404 Philip the Bold of Burgundy died. He was undoubtedly ambitious but he was also valiant and able and he had the good of France at heart. He was succeeded by his son John called the Fearless from the bravery that he had displayed in the unfortunate Hungarian campaign. The change was disastrous for France. John was violent and utterly unscrupulous and capable of any deed to gratify either his passions jealousies or hatreds. At first he cloaked his designs against Orleans by an appearance of friendship paid him a visit at his castle near Vincennes where he was at the time lying ill. When he recovered the two princes went to mass together dined at their uncle's the Duke of Berri and together entered Paris; and the Parisians fondly hoped that there was an end of the rivalry that had done so much harm. It was however but a very short time afterwards that on the 23d of November 1407 as the Duke of Orleans was returning from having dined with the queen and was riding with only two esquires and four or five men on foot carrying torches twenty armed men sprang out from behind a house and rushed upon him. "'I am the Duke of Orleans' the prince cried; but they hurled him from his mule and as he tried to rise to his feet one blow struck off the hand he raised to protect his head other blows rained down upon him from axe and sword and in less than a minute the duke lay dead. The Duke of Burgundy at first affected grief and indignation but at the council the next day he boldly avowed that Orleans had been killed by his orders. He at once took horse and rode to the frontier of Flanders which he reached safely though hotly chased by a party of the Duke of Orleans' knights. The duke's widow who was in the country at the time hastened up to Paris with her children and appealed for justice to the king who declared that he regarded the deed done to his brother as done to himself. The Dukes of Berri and Bourbon the Constable and Chancellor all assured her that she should have justice; but there was no force that could hope to cope with that which Burgundy could bring into the field and when two months later Burgundy entered Paris at the head of a thousand men-at-arms no attempt was made at resistance and the murderer was received with acclamations by the fickle populace. "The king at the time was suffering from one of his terrible fits of insanity but a great assembly was held at which princes councillors lords doctors of law and prominent citizens were present. A monk of the Cordeliers named John Petit then spoke for five hours in justification of the duke and the result was that the poor insane king was induced to sign letters cancelling the penalty of the crime. For four months the duke remained absolute master of Paris disposing of all posts and honours and sparing no efforts to render himself popular with the burghers. A serious rebellion breaking out at Liege and the troops sent against the town being repulsed he was obliged to leave Paris to put down the revolt. As soon as he had left the queen and the partisans of Orleans prepared to take advantage of his absence and two months later Queen Isobel marched with the dauphin now some thirteen years old from Melun with three thousand men. "The Parisians received her with applause and as soon as she had taken up her quarters at the Louvre the Dukes of Berri Bourbon and Brittany the Constable and all the great officers of the court rallied round her. Two days later the Duchess of Orleans arrived with a long train of mourning coaches. A great assembly was held and the king's advocate announced to them the intention of the king to confer the government upon the queen during his illness and produced a document signed by the king to that effect. The Duchess of Orleans then came forward and kneeling before the dauphin begged for justice for the death of her husband and that she might be granted an opportunity of refuting the calumnies that John Petit had heaped on the memory of her husband. A week later another great assembly was held and the justification of the duke was read refuting all these imputations and the duchess's advocate demanded that the duke should be forced to make public reparation and then to be exiled for twenty years. The dauphin replied that he and all the princes of blood royal present held that the charges against the Duke of Orleans had been amply refuted and that the demands with reference to the Duke of Burgundy should be provided for in course of justice. "Scarcely had the assembly broken up when it became known that Burgundy and his army was on the way back to Paris. Resistance was out of the question; therefore taking the young dauphin with her and accompanied by all the members of the royal family the queen retired to Tours. Burgundy unscrupulous as he was finding that although he might remain master of Paris he could not hope to rule France except when acting under the pretence of the king's authority soon sent an embassy to Tours to endeavour to arrange matters. He was able to effect this with the less difficulty that the Duchess of Orleans had just died from grief at her husband's death and at the hopelessness of obtaining vengeance on his murderer. The queen was won to the cause of Burgundy by secret proposals submitted to her for a close league between them and in March a treaty was concluded and a meeting took place at Chartres at which the duke the king the queen the royal princes and the young Duke of Orleans and his adherents were present. "The king declared that he pardoned the duke and the princes of Orleans consented to obey his orders and to lay aside all hatred and thoughts of vengeance and shortly afterwards Paris welcomed with shouts of joy the return of the king and queen and the apparent reconciliation of all parties. But the truce was a brief one; for the princes and adherents of Orleans might bend before circumstances at the moment but their feelings were unchanged. ...