A March on London by G. A. Henty
Chapter XVII. Prisoners
After the capture of Dunkirk all the seaports as far as Sluys were taken by the English, who then marched to Ypres, to which town they at once laid siege, and were joined by twenty thousand men from Ghent. Their own number had swollen considerably by the arrival from England of many knights and men-at-arms, besides numbers of foot-men, attracted as much by the news of the great spoil that had been captured in the Flemish towns as by the exhortations and promises of the clergy.
Ypres had a numerous garrison, commanded by several knights of experience. The works were very strong, and every assault was repulsed with heavy loss. One of these was led by Sir Hugh Calverley. The force crossed the ditches by throwing in great bundles of wood with which each of the foot- men had been provided, and having reached the wall, in spite of a hail of cross-bow bolts and arrows, ladders were planted, and the leaders endeavoured to gain the ramparts. Sir Hugh Calverley succeeded in obtaining a footing, but for a time he stood almost alone. Two or three other knights, however, sprang up. Just as they did so one of the ladders broke with the weight upon it, throwing all heavily to the ground.
Edgar and Albert were with a party of archers who were keeping up a rain of arrows. Seeing that the situation was bad they now ran forward, followed by four of their men-at-arms, the others having charge of the horses in the camp. A few more men-at-arms had gained the ramparts by the time they arrived at the foot of the ladders, where numbers waited to take their turns to ascend.
"There is not much broken off this one, Sir Edgar," Hal Carter said; "not above three feet, I should say. We might make a shift to get up with that."
"Pick it up, Hal, and bring it along a short distance. Possibly we may be able to mount unobserved, for the fight is hot above, and the attention of the enemy will be fixed there."
Followed by their own men-at-arms, and by a few others who saw what their intentions were, they kept along at the foot of the wall until they reached an angle some thirty yards away. Searching about they found several stones that had been dislodged from the battlements during the siege. With these they built up a platform, and raising the ladder on this, they found that it reached to within a foot of the top.
"Now," Edgar said, "follow us as quickly as you can, but do not try the ladder too heavily; it has broken once, so the wood cannot be over- strong."
Then, followed closely by Albert and the men-at-arms, he ascended the walls. So intent were the defenders upon the strife going on round Sir Hugh Calverley that Edgar was not noticed until, putting his hands upon the wall, he vaulted over it. He held his sword between his teeth, and betaking himself to this fell so fiercely and suddenly upon the enemy, that several were cut down and the rest recoiled so far that Albert and the four men-at-arms were able to join him before the enemy rallied. Every moment added to the strength of the party, and as soon as some twenty had gathered behind him, Edgar flung himself upon the enemy with a shout of "St. George! St. George!" and, in spite of the opposition of the defenders, fought his way along the wall until he joined Sir Hugh and the little group who were defending themselves against tremendous odds.
Sir Hugh himself was seriously wounded. Two or three of his knights lay dead beside him, and had it not been for the arrival of the reinforcement the fight would speedily have terminated, for the English were so penned up against the wall that there was no footing for more to join them. The suddenness of the attack drove the enemy back some little distance, and this enabled a score of those upon the ladders to make their way onto the rampart.
"Bravely done!" Sir Hugh Calverley said, as he leant against the wall, utterly exhausted by his efforts and loss of blood. A moment later he would have fallen had not Albert sprung to his side.
"We must save Sir Hugh at all risks," he said to two of the knight's companions, who were also wounded. "Will you, sir knights, aid in lowering him down the ladder, and see that he is carried off? You have done your share. It is our turn now, and we can at least hold the rampart until he is in safety."
Leaning over, he shouted to the men on one of the ladders to descend and leave the ladder clear, as Sir Hugh was to be lowered down.
"Methinks I can carry him, Sir Albert," Hal Carter said. "I have carried two sacks of wheat on my shoulder before now, and methinks that I can carry one knight and his armour."
He took his place on the ladder, and Sir Hugh was lowered to him, and laying him on his shoulder Hal carried him safely down. The two wounded knights followed, and then Hal sprang up the ladder again. While this was being done Edgar and his party had been holding the enemy at bay. Hal was followed by some of the men-at-arms, and others poured up by the other ladders. Edgar saw that they were now strong enough to take the offensive, and as the English numbered nearly a hundred, he fell upon the enemy to the right, while Albert led another party to the left.
For some time the fury with which the English fought drove the enemy before them on either hand. Every moment they were joined by fresh men, who were now able to pour in a steady stream up the ladders. The enemy, too, were harassed by the English archers, who, advancing to the edge of the ditch, sent their shafts thick and fast among them. The town bells were clanging fiercely, drums beating, and horns sounding as the alarm spread that the besiegers had gained a footing on the walls, and great numbers of the garrison could be seen pouring along the streets leading to the threatened point.
Had there been more ladders, so that reinforcements could have arrived more rapidly, the place might have been won. As it was, it was evident that success was impossible. Edgar's party still gained ground slowly, but he saw that Albert was being pressed backwards.
"Fall back, men!" he shouted, "slowly, and keeping your face to the enemy. The odds are too heavy for us."
Foot by foot, fighting silently and obstinately, the English fell back until their party joined that of Albert, at the spot where the wall had been won. Their exulting foes pressed hotly upon them, but Edgar's sword and the heavy long-handled mace wielded by Hal Carter did such terrible execution that the rest were able to retreat in good order.
"Jump down, my men!" Edgar shouted. "You will break the ladders if you try to go by them. The ground is but soft, and the wall of no great height. Do not hurry. We will cover you and then follow."
Gradually the number of the party on the walls was lessened, as by threes and fours they leapt down; while many, getting onto the ladders, slipped rapidly to the ground. When there were but half a dozen left, Hal suddenly exclaimed: "Sir Albert has fallen--wounded!"
Edgar freed himself from his opponent of the moment by a sweeping blow, and then with a spring placed himself astride of his friend. Hal Carter joined him. The rest of their followers remaining on the wall either jumped over or were cut down. Fortunately Albert had fallen close to the parapet, and his two defenders could not be attacked from behind. For some minutes the fight continued, and then for a moment the enemy drew back astonished at the manner in which two men kept them at bay; then one of the assailants lowered his sword.
"Sir knight," he said, "you have done enough for honour. Never have I seen a stouter fighter. I pray you, then, to surrender, on promise of good treatment and fair terms of ransom to you, to the knight at your feet, and to this stout man-at-arms. I am Sir Robert De Beaulieu."
"Then I yield to you," Edgar said. "I am Sir Edgar Ormskirk, and this knight is my brother-in-arms, Sir Albert De Courcy. I yield in his name and my own, and am glad that, as fortune has declared against us, it should be to so good a knight as Sir Robert De Beaulieu that I surrender my sword."
"Keep it, Sir Edgar, for never have I seen one better wielded. No small damage, indeed, has it done us."
"The stout man-at-arms is my own retainer, and I prythee, sir knight, suffer him to remain with us."
[Illustration: SIR EDGAR AT LAST SURRENDERS TO SIR ROBERT DE BEAULIEU.]
"Assuredly he shall do so."
As soon as the parley began Hal Carter laid down his weapon, and kneeling beside Albert, unlaced his helmet.
"He lives, Sir Edgar!" he said; "he is but stunned, methinks, with the blow of a mace, which has deeply dinted his casque, though, indeed, he has other wounds."
By Sir Robert De Beaulieu's orders, four men now formed a litter with their spears. Albert was laid on it, and Sir Robert, Edgar, and Hal Carter walking in front, and half a score of men-at-arms accompanying them, they made their way to a large house where the knight lodged. Sir Robert had sent on for a leech to be in attendance, and he was there when they arrived. Hal at once took off Albert's armour.
"'Tis well for him that this armour was good," Sir Robert said. "Had it not been, it would have gone hard with him. It must be steel of proof indeed, for I saw the blow struck, and there are but few helmets that would not have been crushed by it."
"He has a deep gash near the neck," the leech said. "The lacings and straps of the helmet and gorget must have been cut by a sharp sword, and another blow has fallen on the same spot. Methinks he has dropped as much from loss of blood as from the blow on the head."
Edgar had by this time taken off his own helmet. As soon as he did so, Sir Robert De Beaulieu, who was somewhat grizzled with age, said:
"In truth, sir knight, you and your companion are young indeed to have fought so doughtily as you have done to-day; you are young to be knights, and yet you have shown a courage and a skill such as no knight could have surpassed. We had thought the affair finished when that stout knight, Sir Hugh Calverley, was down with two others, and but three or four remained on their feet. Then suddenly your party burst upon us, coming from we knew not where, and had you but been reinforced more rapidly the town would have been lost."
Edgar made no reply, for at the moment Hal Carter leant heavily against him.
"I can do no more, Sir Edgar," he murmured; "I am spent."
Edgar caught the brave fellow in his arms and supported him, while two men-at-arms, who had assisted to carry Albert in, unstrapped Hal's armour and gently laid him down on a couch. He was bleeding from half a dozen wounds, and his face was pale and bloodless. Edgar knelt by his side and raised his head.
"I will see to him, sir knight," the surgeon said. "I have bandaged your comrade's injuries, and methinks that he will soon come round."
Then he examined Hal's wounds.
"He will do," he said. "Assuredly there are none of them that are mortal; 'tis but loss of blood that ails him. I will but bandage them hastily now, for there are many other cases waiting for me, and methinks, sir, that you yourself need looking to."
"I am unhurt," Edgar said, in surprise.
"Your doublet is stained with blood from the shoulder to the wrist," Sir Robert said. "A spear-head has penetrated at the shoulder-joint and torn a gash well-nigh to the neck. 'Tis well that it is not worse."
Two of his men-at-arms had by this time taken off Sir Robert's armour also.
"You have ruined my helmet, Sir Edgar, and cut so deep a notch in it that I know not how my head escaped. You have gashed a hole in my gorget and dinted the armour in half a dozen places, and I failed to make a single mark on yours. Never was I engaged with so good a swordsman. I could scarcely believe my eyes when you lifted your vizor, for it seemed to me that you must be in the prime of your manhood, and possessed of strength altogether out of the common."
"I have practised a good deal," Edgar said, quietly, "having indeed little else to do, so it is not surprising that my muscles are hard."
At the knight's order a servant now brought in two goblets of wine. Sir Robert and Edgar then drank to each other, both draining the cups to the bottom.
Albert was not long before he opened his eyes. He looked round in wonder, and smiled faintly when he saw Edgar, who hastened to his side.
"We are out of luck this time, Albert; we are both prisoners. Still, things might have been worse. You were struck down with a mace, but the leech says that the wound on your head is of no great consequence, and that you fainted rather from loss of blood from other gashes than from the blow on the head. I have got off with a scratch on the shoulder. Hal Carter, who fought like a tiger over your body, has come off worst, having fully half a dozen wounds, but it was not before he had killed at least twice as many of his assailants with that terrible mace of his."
So far Edgar had spoken in English. He went on in French:
"This is the good knight, Sir Robert De Beaulieu, who is our captor, and will hold us on ransom."
"You may congratulate yourself, Sir Albert," the knight said, courteously, "that you had such stout defenders as your comrade here and his man-at- arms, because for fully five minutes they held the whole of us at bay, and so stoutly did they fight that we were all glad when Sir Edgar yielded himself to me. Truly, between you, you have done us ill service, for not only have you and your party killed a large number of our men, but you have enabled Sir Hugh Calverley to be carried off, and for so famous a captain we should have claimed a goodly ransom, and it would have been an honour and glory to have taken so fearless a knight. As it is, with the exception of yourselves, no single prisoner has fallen into our hands, and methinks that in all there were not more than ten or twelve in the storming party killed, while we must have lost nigh a hundred. 'Tis the first time I have fought against the English, and in truth you are doughty foemen. It was well that you came into the land but some four or five thousand strong, for had you brought an army you might have marched to Paris. Now, Sir Edgar, I will show you your room."
He led the way along a broad corridor to a large room, the men-at-arms carrying the couch on which Albert was lying.
"I should like to have my man-at-arms brought here also, Sir Robert," Edgar said. "He is a faithful fellow, and I have known him for years. He speaks but little of any language but English, and will, methinks, do better with my nursing than with any other."
In a fortnight Albert was quite convalescent, and Hal was rapidly gaining strength. Three days after they had been taken prisoner Sir Robert had said to Edgar:
"It will be best, Sir Edgar, that you should not go abroad in the streets. The townsmen here, as in other towns in Flanders, are rough fellows. They are, of course, suffering somewhat from the siege, and they murmur that any prisoners should have been taken. They say that your people showed no mercy at Gravelines and Dunkirk, which, methinks, is true enough, and that none should be given here. Yesterday some of their leaders came to the house where I was sitting in council with other knights, and represented that all English prisoners should be put to the sword at once. I pointed out to them that, for their own sakes, as many prisoners should be taken as possible. We hope to defend the town until succour comes, but were the English to capture it, and to find that prisoners who had surrendered had been killed, no mercy would be shown, but every man within the walls would be slain and the city laid in ashes.
"To this they had no answer ready, and retired grumbling. But, in any case, it were better that you did not show yourself in the street, for a tumult might arise, and your life might be sacrificed before any of us could come to your assistance."
"I thank you, Sir Robert, and will gladly take your advice. I have seen somewhat of the townsmen of Ghent and Bruges, and know that, when the fit seizes them, they are not to be restrained."
After that time Sir Robert De Beaulieu seldom left the house, and Edgar found that the doors were kept closed, and that the knight's followers and men-at-arms were also kept in the house. Several times he heard shouts in the street of "Death to the English!"
He took his meals with the knight, while Albert and Hal were served in their room. At the end of the week, however, Albert was able to join the two knights, and a fortnight later Hal was again up and about.
"I fear, Sir Robert, that our presence here is a source of trouble to you," Edgar said one day. "If it could be managed, we would gladly give you our knightly word to send you our ransom at the first opportunity, and not to serve in arms again until it is paid, if you would let us go free."
"I would do so gladly, Sir Edgar, but I fear that it would be difficult to manage. Both before and behind the house there are evidently men on the watch to see that no one passes out. My own men-at-arms have been stopped and questioned, and were you to issue out methinks that there would, on the instant, be an uproar, for so great a crowd would gather in a few minutes that even had you a strong guard you might be torn from them. You see, though some eight of us knights and three hundred men-at-arms were placed here to aid in the defence, we could do naught without the assistance of the townsmen, who have on all occasions fought stoutly. Were there to be a fray now, the safety of the town would be compromised, for the craftsmen of all these towns are as fickle as the wind. The men of Ypres fought by the side of those at Ghent at one time, and when the Count of Flanders came here, great numbers of the townspeople were executed. At present, why, I know not, they are fighting stoutly for the count, while the men of Ghent are with the besiegers; but were there to be troubles between them and us, they might tomorrow open their gates to the English."
"That I can quite believe, Sir Robert. I can only say that we are in your hands, and are ready to pursue any course that you may think best, either to stay here quietly and take the risk of what may come of it or endeavour to escape in disguise if so it could be managed."
"I would that it could be managed, for the matter is causing us grave anxiety. My comrades are, of course, all with me, and hold, that even if it comes to a struggle with the mob, the lives of prisoners who have surrendered on ransom must be defended. I suggested that we should hold counsel here, that two should remain, and that you should sally out with the others, but our faces are all so well known in the town that there would be little chance indeed of your passing undetected."
"Think you, Sir Robert, that we could pass along the roofs, enter a casement a few houses along, and then make our way out in disguise?"
"It would be well-nigh impossible. The roofs are all so sloping that no one could maintain a footing upon them."
"When it gets dusk I will, with your permission, Sir Robert, go up to one of the attics and take a look out."
"By all means do so. Escape in that manner would certainly be the best way out of the dilemma, though I much fear that it cannot be done."
When it became so dark that while he could take a view round, his figure could not be recognized at a short distance, Edgar, with Albert and Hal, went up to the top of the house, and the former got out of the highest of the dormer windows, and, standing on the sill, looked out. The roof was indeed so steep that it would be impossible to obtain a footing upon it. Its ridge was some twenty feet above the window. The houses were of varying heights, some being as much as thirty feet lower than others. Still it seemed to Edgar that it would not be very difficult to make their way along if they were provided with ropes. Descending, he told Sir Robert the result of their investigations.
"It would," he said, "be very desirable, if possible, to come down into some house which was either uninhabited, or where the people were friendly. Still that would not be absolutely necessary, as we might hope to make our way down to the door unperceived."
"There is one house which is empty," Sir Robert said, "for the owner left the town with his family before the siege began, he having another place of business at Liege, He was an old man, and was therefore permitted to leave; for he could have been no good for the defence, and there would, with his family and servants, have been ten mouths more to feed had he remained. It is the sixth house along, I think, but I will see when I go out. Once in the street and away from here, there would be no difficulty. I would meet you a short distance away, and go with you to the walls, from which you could lower yourself down. One or two of my comrades would give their aid, for, naturally, all would be pleased that you should escape, and so put an end to this cause of feud between us and the townsmen. You would, of course, require some rope; that I can easily procure for you."
"We shall want several lengths, Sir Robert, and two or three stout grapnels. We shall also want a strong chisel for forcing open a casement."
"All these you shall have; one of my men shall fetch them to-morrow."
On the following day the ropes and grapnels were brought in, and Sir Robert, who had been out, ascertained that he had been correct, and that the empty house was indeed the sixth from that he occupied. "I have been speaking with two of my comrades," he said, "and they will be with me at ten o'clock to-night at the end of the street that faces the house through which you will descend. I shall accompany you to the foot of the walls. The citizens are on guard there at night, and if they ask questions, as they may well do, my comrades will say that you are bearers of a message to the King of France to pray him to hasten to our aid. I shall not myself go up on to the walls, for were I to do so suspicion might fall upon me. Should you be interrupted as you go along the street to meet us, give a call and we will run to your assistance."
"And now as to our ransom, Sir Robert?" Edgar went on.
"Trouble not yourselves about it," he replied; "you are but young knights, and 'tis a pleasure to me to have been of service to two such valiant young gentlemen. Moreover, I consider that I have no right to a ransom, since, instead of letting you go free to obtain it, or holding you in honourable captivity until it is sent to you, you are obliged to risk your lives, as you assuredly will do, by climbing along those roofs to obtain your liberty; therefore, we will say nothing about it. It may be that some day you will be able to treat leniently some young Flemish or French knight whom you may make captive. As to your armour, I see not how you can carry it away with you, for you will have to swim the ditches; but the first time that there is a flag of truce exchanged I will send it out to you, or should there be no such opportunity, I will, when the siege is over, forward it by the hands of some merchant trading with England, to any address that you may give me there."
The two young knights thanked Sir Robert De Beaulieu most cordially for his kindness to them, and at his request gave him their word not to serve again during the campaign. This, indeed, they were by no means sorry to do, for they had keenly felt the slight paid to Sir Hugh Calverley by the haughty bishop in acting altogether contrary to his advice. They also had been thoroughly disgusted by the massacre at Gravelines, and the sack of so many towns against which England had no cause for complaint.
In the afternoon Sir Robert brought three doublets and caps for them to put over their own clothes, so that they could pass as citizens. They employed some time in wrapping strips of cloth round the grapnels, so that these would fall noiselessly onto the tiles.
At nine o'clock Sir Robert said good-bye to them and went out; and half an hour later they ascended to the upper story. They were well provided with ropes, and had made all their arrangements. Edgar was the first to fasten a rope round his body, and while this was held by his companions he was to get out on the window-sill and throw a grapnel over the ridge and pull himself up by the rope attached to it.
The others were to fasten the rope round their bodies at distances of twenty feet apart, so that if one slipped down the others could check him. Edgar took off his shoes and tied them round his neck, and then stood out on the window-sill, and threw the grapnel over the ridge of the roof; then he drew the rope in until he found that the hook caught on the ridge.
"That is all right," he said to his comrades. "Now keep a firm hold on the rope, but let it gradually out as I climb; if you hear me slipping draw it in rapidly so as to stop me as I come past the window. But there is no fear of that unless the hook gives way."
Then he swung himself up to the roof of the dormer window and proceeded to haul himself by the rope up the steep incline, helping himself as much as possible with his feet and knees. He was heartily glad when he gained the ridge, and had thus accomplished the most dangerous part of the work. He was able now to fix the grapnel firmly, and sitting astride of the roof, he called down that he was ready. It was easier work for Albert to follow him. Not only was the latter certain that the grapnel was safely fixed, but Edgar, pulling upon the rope, was enabled to give him a good deal of assistance. In two or three minutes Hal Carter joined them.
"In faith, master," he said, panting, "I had not deemed that so much of my strength had gone from me. If it had not been for the help you gave me I doubt if I could have climbed up that rope."
They now made their way along to the end of the roof. The grapnel was fixed, and Edgar slid down the rope to the next roof, which was some fifteen feet below them. They did not attempt to free the grapnel, fearing that in its fall it might make a clatter; they therefore used another to mount to the next house, which was as high as that which they had left. There was but a difference of four feet in the height of the next, and they had not to use the grapnel again until they reached the sixth house, which was ten feet below that next to it.
[Illustration: THE PRISONERS MAKE THEIR ESCAPE OVER THE ROOFS OF YPRES.]
There was light enough to enable them to make out the position of the dormer window below them, and fixing the grapnel, Edgar, aided by his companions lowering him, made his way down beside it, and knelt upon the sill, his companions keeping a steady strain upon the rope. With his chisel he had but little difficulty in prising open the casement. His companions were not long in joining him. Once inside the house they made their way with great caution. They had no means of striking a light, and were forced to grope about with their swords in front of them to prevent their touching any piece of furniture, till at last they discovered the door. It was not fastened, and passing through, and, as before, feeling the floor carefully as they went, they presently found the head of the stairs.
After this it was comparatively easy work, though a stoppage was necessary at each landing. At last, to their satisfaction, they found themselves in a flagged passage, and knew that they were on the ground floor. They made their way along the passage, and soon reached the door. It was locked with so massive a fastening that it would have been difficult to unfasten it from the outside; but with the aid of the chisel they had but little difficulty in forcing back the lock. They paused for a minute to listen, as a passer-by might have been startled by the sound of the bolts being shot in an empty house. All was quiet, however, and, opening the door cautiously, Edgar stepped out.
"The street is all clear," he said; "except half a dozen fellows watching in front of the house we have left, there is not a soul in sight." The others joined him, closing the door silently behind them. They had not put on their shoes again, so with noiseless steps they crossed the street and turned up the one that had been indicated by Sir Robert. After going a few paces they stopped, put on their shoes, and then walked boldly along. When they reached the end of the street three figures came out from a deep doorway to meet them.
"Is all well?" one asked.
This was the signal that had been agreed upon.
"All is well, Sir Robert. We have escaped without any difficulty or aught going wrong."
"The saints be praised!" the knight ejaculated. "These with me are Sir Oliver Drafurn and Sir Francois Regnault."
"Right glad we are, knights," one of them said, "that we can assist in giving you your freedom. A foul shame indeed would it have been had two such gallant fighters been massacred by this rascally mob, after yielding themselves to a knight."
"Truly, sirs, we are greatly beholden to you," Edgar replied, "and trust that an occasion may occur in which we may repay to some of your countrymen the great service you are now rendering us."
They had gone but a short distance further when the door of a tavern opened and twelve or fifteen half-drunken soldiers poured out.
"Whom have we here?" one of them shouted. "Faith, if they are burghers they must pay for being thus late in the streets."
"Silence, knaves," Sir Francois Regnault said, sternly. "What mean ye by this roystering? Disperse to your quarters at once, or by St. James, some of you shall hang in the morning, as a lesson to others that the burgesses of Ypres are not to be insulted by drunken revellers."
As by this time the speaker had moved on into the light that streamed through the open door, the soldier saw at once that it was a knight, and, muttering excuses, went hastily down the street. No one else was encountered until they reached the foot of the wall. Here Sir Robert took a hearty farewell of them. The two knights first mounted the steps to the wall.
As they reached the top a sentry close by challenged.
"France," Sir Oliver replied; "and, hark ye, make no noise. I am Sir Oliver Drafurn, and I am here with Sir Francois Regnault to pass three messengers over the wall, bearers of important dispatches. We do not wish the news to get abroad, so take your halbert and march up and down."
Hal Carter had brought one of the ropes, twisted round him for the purpose.
"You are on the side facing the English camp," Sir Oliver said. "Those are the lights that you see ahead. You will have three ditches to swim, and will find it cold work, but there is no other way for it."
After giving hearty thanks to the knights, the three were lowered, one at a time, and the rope was then dropped down. It was a good deal longer than was necessary for descending the wall, but Edgar, rather to the surprise of the others, had chosen it for the purpose. The first ditch was but ten yards away; it was some thirty feet across.
"Now," Edgar said, "I will cross first. I am much the strongest, for neither of you has fully recovered his strength. The water will be icy cold, therefore I will swim across first, and do you, when I am over, each hold to the rope and I will pull you across."
Short as was the distance the work was trying, for the night was bitterly cold, and the ditches would have been frozen hard, were it not that twice a day the besieged went out and broke the ice, which had now began to bind again. At last, however, Edgar got across.
"Do you take the rope, Albert, and let Hal hold on by you, for the passage I have made is but narrow."
A few strong pulls on Edgar's part brought them across.
"It is well," he said, as they climbed out, "that the knights promised to go one each way, to tell the watchers on the walls to take no heed of any sounds that they might hear of breaking ice, for that those leaving the town were doing so by their authority."
The two other ditches were crossed in the same way, but the work was more difficult, as the besieged only broke the ice of these once a day.
"We should never have got across without your aid, Edgar," Albert said. "I could scarce hold on to the rope. My hands are dead, and I feel as if I were frozen to the bone."
"Let us run for a bit, Albert, to warm our blood. Another quarter of a mile and we shall be challenged by our sentries."