At Agincourt by G. A. Henty
Chapter XV. A Rescue
Guy had found his mornings hang heavy on his hands, as of course he had been obliged to give up attending the fencing-school. Going down to the river now, he sat there watching the passing boats until nearly one o'clock, and then returned to the fair. Before reaching the booth Katarina joined him.
"I have been watching for you, Monsieur Guy. Father said it was as well that you should not, twice in a day, be seen entering his place. He bade me tell you that the three gentlemen have been to him and will not re- enter Paris."
"Did you see Simon this morning?"
"Yes, he only told me that the market men would have an interview with the Duke of Aquitaine to-morrow, and would demand the arrest of those whom the Duke of Burgundy had pointed out as his enemies. He said that they would go in such force that the duke would be unable to refuse their request. Although it was so early, I think that the man had been drinking. My father, when I told him, said I should go no more to meet him."
"I am very glad to hear it," Guy said. "He is a low scoundrel, and though I say not but that the information obtained from him may have been of some advantage, for indeed it was the means of my being enabled to save our lives and those of my Burgundian friends, I like not the thought of your going to meet him; and I am sure that if he were to take the idea into his thick head that it was not for the advantage of the Duke of Burgundy that the information he had given was being used, he is capable of denouncing you."
"I did not mind meeting him,", the girl said. "I never went into the rough quarters, but always met him in one of the better squares or streets. Still, I am glad that I have not to go again. I think that he had been drinking all night, and with his unwashed face and his bloodshot eyes and his foul attire I was ashamed even in my present dress to speak with him."
"I hope that I have done with him too," Guy said. "Of course, for my mistress's sake, I shall go again if there be aught to be learnt by it, but as it seems he is now no longer to be trusted it is not likely that any advantage is to be gained by visiting him. However, I shall hear what your father thinks this evening."
Upon talking over the matter with the astrologer the latter at once said that he thought that it would be better for him not to go to Simon's again.
"When he finds that my daughter meets him no more he will feel aggrieved. I myself shall go in disguise to-morrow to meet him in the Place de Greve, and tell him that for the present there will be no occasion for him to come to the rendezvous, as the events of the meeting which will have taken place before I see him show that there can be no doubt that the butchers are ready to go all lengths against the Orleanist party; but that if any change should occur, and private information be required, you would go to his lodging again, I shall make no allusion to his having given me none of the names save those furnished by the duke, or remark on the strangeness that, having been at the meeting, he should have heard nothing of the measures proposed against the others; his own conscience will no doubt tell him that his failure is one of the causes of my no longer desiring any messages from him. I have other means of gaining information, as I have one of the medical students who follow that cracked-brained fellow, John de Troyes, in my pay. Hitherto I have not employed him largely, but shall now, if need be, avail myself of his services. But I do not think that I shall have any occasion to do so. After the demand by the Parisians for so many nobles and gentlemen to be arrested, it will be clear to all adhering to Orleans that Paris is no longer a place for them, and even the followers of Burgundy will see that those the duke regarded as his servants have become his masters, and there will be but few persons of quality remaining in Paris, and therefore, save when some citizen wishes to consult me, I shall have little to do here save to carry on my work as a quack outside the gates. Even this I can drop for a time, for the people of Paris will not be inclined for pleasure when at any moment there may be fierce fighting in the streets. I shall be well content to look on for a time. I have been almost too busy of late. And it was but yesterday that I received news from a Carthusian monk,--whom I thought it as well to engage to let me know what is passing,--that there have been debates among some of the higher clergy upon reports received that persons, evidently disguised, call upon me at late hours, and that I practise diabolic arts. A determination has been arrived at that an inquisition shall be made into my doings, my house is to be searched, and myself arrested and tried by the judge for having dealings with the devil. This news much disturbed me; however, when you told me that the Archbishop of Bourges was among those on the list of accused, and also Boisratier, confessor to the queen, it is evident that these good ecclesiastics will have ample matter of another sort to attend to, and are not likely to trouble themselves about sorcery at present."
On the following morning some twelve thousand White Hoods marched to the Hotel de St. Pol, and the leaders, on being admitted, found all the great lords assembled. After making various propositions they presented a roll to the Duke of Aquitaine containing the names of those they charged with being traitors. He at first refused to take it; but so many of their followers at once poured into the great hall that he was obliged to do so, and to read out the names. Twenty of those mentioned in the list were at once, in spite of the protest of the duke, arrested and carried off; a proclamation was made by sound of trumpet in all the squares of Paris summoning the other forty named to appear within a few days, under penalty of having their property confiscated. A week later the king, having recovered his health, went to the church of Notre Dame, he and all the nobles with him wearing white hoods. Four days later the Parisians rose again, seized the gates, drew up the bridges, placed strong guards at each point, and a cordon of armed men outside the walls all round the city, to prevent any from escaping by letting themselves down from the walls.
Parties of ten armed men were placed in every street, and the sheriffs and other leaders marched a large body of men to the Hotel de St. Pol and surrounded it by a line three deep. They then entered and found the king, dukes, and nobles all assembled in the great hall.
They then ordered a Carmelite friar, named Eustace, to preach to the king. He took for his text, "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain," and upon this discoursed on the bad state of the government of the kingdom, and of the crimes committed. The Chancellor of France demanded of the friar when he had concluded who were those who had incited him thus to speak, and the leaders at once said they had done so, and called up a number of other leaders, who on bended knees declared to the king that Father Eustace had spoken their sentiments; that they had the sincerest love for the king and his family, and that what they had done had been for the welfare of himself and the kingdom. While this was going on, the Duke of Burgundy, at once indignant and alarmed at this insolence of the Parisians, had gone out, and, finding the lines of armed men surrounding the hotel, had earnestly entreated them to retire, saying that it was neither decent nor expedient that the king, who had but just recovered from his illness, should thus see them drawn up in battle array round his abode. Those he addressed replied like the leaders within, that they were there for the good of the kingdom, and then gave him a roll, saying that they should not depart until those written on it were delivered up to them.
With the names of Louis of Bavaria, five knights, an archbishop and priest, were those of nine ladies of high rank, including the eldest daughter of the constable. The duke found that neither his authority nor powers were of the slightest avail, and returning to the queen, showed her the list. She was greatly troubled, and begged him to go with the Duke of Aquitaine and beg the Parisians in her name to wait for eight days, and that she would at the end of that time allow them to arrest her brother. The two dukes went out to the Parisians, but they positively refused to grant the request, and declared that they would go up to the queen's apartments and take those named by force, even in her or the king's presence, unless they were given up. On their return to the queen they found Louis of Bavaria and the king with her. On their report of the Parisians' demands the Duke of Bavaria went out and begged them to take him into custody, and that if he were found guilty they could punish him, but that if found innocent he should be allowed to go back to Bavaria, under a promise not to return to France again. He begged them to be content with taking him a prisoner, and to arrest no others.
They would not, however, abate one jot of their pretensions, and the whole of those demanded were at once brought out, including the ladies. They were put two and two on horseback, each horse escorted by four men-at- arms, and were carried to various prisons. The Duke of Burgundy now, with his usual craft, professed to be well satisfied with what the Parisians had done, and handed over to them the Duke of Bar and the other prisoners confined in the Louvre, for whose security he had solemnly pledged himself. The Parisians then obliged the king to appoint twelve knights, nominated by themselves, and six examiners, to try the prisoners and punish all found guilty, while the dukes were obliged to draw up a statement and send it to the University for their seal of approval of what had been done.
The University, however, to their honour, stood firm; and while king and nobles had quailed before the violence of the crowd, they declared in full council before the king that they would in nowise intermeddle or advise in the business; and that so far from having advised the arrests of the dukes and other prisoners, they were much displeased at what had taken place. The University was a power; its buildings were strong, and the students were numerous, and at all times ready to take part in brawls against the Parisians; and even the butchers, violent as they were, were afraid to take steps against it.
They foresaw, however, that the position taken up by the University might lead some day to an inquiry into their conduct, and therefore obtained from the king an edict declaring that all that had been done was done by his approval and for the security of his person and the state, and that the arrests and imprisonments were therefore to be considered and regarded as having been done for the true honour and profit of the crown, and that he accordingly commanded all his councillors, judges, and officers to proclaim that this was so in all public places. This was signed by the king in council, the Dukes of Berri and Burgundy, and several other nobles and ecclesiastics, by the Chancellor of Burgundy, and other knights attached to the duke.
Many nobles quitted Paris at once, either openly or in disguise, including many of the Burgundian party, who were to the last degree indignant at what was going on; for the mock trials were at once commenced, and many of the prisoners, without regard to sex, were daily either put to death in prison or drowned in the Seine. Some of the bodies were exhibited on gibbets, the heads of others were fixed on lances, and some of them were beheaded in the market-place. During this time Paris remained in a state of terror, bands of armed butchers parading the streets were loud in their threats as to what would be done to all who did not join heartily with them. None of the better class ventured from their houses, and the mob were absolute masters of the city. The leaders, however, maintained for the time a certain degree of order. For the time they were anxious to appear in the light of earnest friends of the king, and as carrying out in his name the punishment of his enemies. But many tumults, murders, and conflagrations occurred in the city, and the country in general soon perceived the real nature of their doings. It was known that the Orleanist forces were marching against the city. The Count d'Eu had left Paris and returned to his estates, where he raised two thousand men-at-arms and marched to Verneuil, where the Dukes of Orleans, Brittany, and Bourbon were assembled, with a number of great lords, among whom were the Counts of Vettus and D'Alencon, the king's sons. The former had made his escape from Paris, and brought letters from the Duke of Aquitaine declaring that he himself, with the king and queen, were prisoners in the hands of the Parisians.
All these nobles met in a great assembly, and letters were written to the king, his great council, and to the Parisians, ordering them to allow the Duke of Aquitaine to go wherever he pleased, and to set at liberty the Dukes of Bar and Bavaria and all other prisoners. Should they refuse to comply, they declared war against the town of Paris, which they declared they would destroy, with all within it except the king and the princes of royal blood. The Parisians compelled the king to send a friendly answer, putting them off with excuses, and in the meantime to despatch commissaries to all the towns and baronies of France assuring them that the trials and executions of the traitors had been fairly conducted and their guilt proved, and calling upon the country to take up arms to aid Paris against various nobles who were traitorously advancing against it.
During this time Guy remained quietly in his lodging with the four retainers, seldom stirring abroad. The men were now regarded by all their neighbours as honest carpenters, and they shared the indignation of the great body of the craft at this usurpation by the market men of the government of France, and at the murders of knights and ladies that were daily taking place. At present, however, the opponents of the butchers dared not resort to arms. So great had been the fear that they excited that most men, however much at heart opposed to them, had been constrained to appear to side with and agree with them, and as there was no means of knowing how could be counted upon to join the carpenters were these to take up arms, the latter could not venture alone to enter the lists against the armed host of the other party.
One evening Guy, who had not been near the Italian's for over a fortnight, received a message from Dame Margaret to say that she wished to speak to him, for that she had determined, if any way of escape could be decided on, to quit Paris, and to endeavour to make her way to Villeroy. He was greatly pleased at the news. He had himself ventured to urge this step on the day after the Duke of Bar and his companions were seized, pointing out that it was evident that the Duke of Burgundy had neither the power nor the inclination to thwart the Parisians, and that although both parties were now nominally hostile to the English, neither were likely, at so critical a time, to give so much as a thought to Villeroy. Dame Margaret had agreed to this, but considered the difficulties of getting out of Paris and traversing the intervening country were so great that she preferred to wait until some change took place in the situation of Paris. But it was now too evident that the changes were entirely for the worse, and that if discovered the butchers would undoubtedly add her and her children to their long list of victims.
His companions were equally glad when Guy told them the news.
"The sooner the better, Master Guy," Long Tom said. "I own that I should like to have a tussle with these rascals before I go; their doings are so wicked that every honest man must want to get one fair blow at them. Still, I don't see any chance of that, for although the good fellows round here grumble under their breath, there does not seem any chance of their doing anything. There is not an hour passes that my heart is not in my mouth if I hear a step on the stairs, thinking that they may have found out where my lady is hidden."
Guy had just turned into the street where the astrologer dwelt when he heard loud voices from a little group in front of him. Four armed men, whose white hoods showed that they were one of the butchers' patrols, were standing round a slight figure.
"It is well you stopped him, comrade," a voice said, that Guy recognized at once as being that of Simon Bouclier. "I know the young fellow; he has been to me many a time on the part of a knave who professed to be an agent of Burgundy's, making inquiries of me as to the doings in our quarter. I have found out since that the duke employed no such agent, and this matter must be inquired into. We will take him with us to the market; they will soon find means of learning all about him and his employer."
Guy felt at once that if Katarina were carried to the butchers, not only would the consequences to herself be terrible, but that she would be forced to make such disclosures as would lead to the arrest of the count, and to the discovery of Dame Margaret. He determined at all hazards to get her out of these men's hands. The girl made a sudden attempt to free herself, slipped from the grasp that one of the men had of her shoulder, dived between two others, and would have been off had not Simon seized her by the arm. Guy sprung forward and threw himself on the butcher, and with such force that Simon rolled over in the gutter.
"Run, run!" he shouted at the same moment to Katarina, who darted down a lane to the left, while he himself ran forward and turned down the first lane to the right with the three men in hot pursuit of him. Young, active, and unencumbered by armour, he gained on them rapidly; but when he neared the end of the lane he saw some five or six White Hoods, whose attention had been called by the shouts of his pursuers, running to meet him. He turned and ran back till close to those who had been following him, and then suddenly sprung into a doorway when they were but three or four paces from him. They were unable to check their speed, and as they passed he brought his sword down on the neck of the one nearest, and as he fell to the ground Guy leapt out and ran up the street again. He had gone but ten paces when he met Simon, who rushed at him furiously with an uplifted axe. Springing aside as the blow descended he delivered a slashing cut on the butcher's cheek, dashed past him, and kept on his way. He took the first turning, and then another, leading, like that in which he had been intercepted, towards the river. His pursuers were fifty yards behind him, but he feared that at any moment their shouts would attract the attention of another patrol. More than once, indeed, he had to alter his direction as he heard sounds of shouts in front of him, but at last, after ten minutes' running, he came down on to the main thoroughfare at the point where the street leading to the bridge across to the island issued from it.
His pursuers were still but a short distance away, for fresh parties who had joined them had taken up the chase, and Guy was no longer running at the speed at which he had started. His great fear was that he should be stopped at the gate at the end of the bridge; but as there was no fear of attack this had been left open, so as not to interfere with the traffic between that quarter of the city on the island and those on the opposite banks. Guy was now again running his hardest, in order to get across far enough ahead of his pursuers to enable him to hide himself, when a strong patrol of some twenty White Hoods issued from the gate at the other side of the bridge. Without a moment's hesitation he climbed the parapet and threw himself over. It would, he knew, be as bad for his mistress were he captured as if Katarina had fallen into their hands, for if caught he felt sure that tortures would be applied to discover who he was and where his mistress was hidden, and he had made up his mind that if he was overtaken he would fight until killed rather than be captured.
When he came to the surface of the water Guy turned on his back and suffered himself to float down until he recovered his breath. When he did so he raised his head and, treading the water, listened attentively. He was now nearly a quarter of a mile below the bridge. There was no sound of shouting behind him, but he felt sure that the pursuit was in no way abandoned. Already torches were flashing on the quay between the wall and the river, and in a short time others appeared on his left. On both sides there were dark spaces where the walls of the great chateaux of the nobles extended down to the water's side, and obliged those pursuing him along the quays to make a detour round them to come down again to the bank. He could hardly succeed in reaching one of these buildings without being seen, for the light of the torches on the opposite shore would be almost certain to betray his movements as soon as he began to swim, and even if he did reach the shore unseen he might at once be handed over to the White Hoods by those in the hotel. He therefore remained floating on his back, and in twenty minutes was beyond the line of the city wall. He could now swim without fear of being discovered, and made for the southern shore.
It was now the middle of June, and the water was fairly warm, but he was glad to be out of it. So far as Guy had heard he had not been caught sight of from the moment that he had sprung from the bridge. It might well be supposed that he had been drowned. Climbing up the bank he gained, after walking a quarter of a mile, the forest that surrounded Paris on all sides. Going some distance into it he threw himself down, after first taking off his doublet and hanging it on a bush to dry. He had escaped the first pressing danger, that of being taken and tortured into confession, and the rest was now comparatively easy. He had but to obtain another disguise of some sort and to re-enter Paris; he would then be in no greater danger than before, for in the sudden attack on Simon, and in the subsequent flight through the ill-lighted streets, he was certain that beyond the fact that he was young and active, and that he was evidently not a noble, no one could have noted any details of his dress, and certainly no one could have had as much as a glance at his face.
He started at daybreak, walked through the woods up to Meudon, and thence to Versailles, which was then little more than a village. By the time that he reached it his clothes had thoroughly dried on him, and being of a dark colour they looked little the worse, save that his tight pantaloons had shrunk considerably. The stalls were just opening when he arrived there, and he presently came upon one where garments of all sorts were hanging. The proprietor's wife, a cheery-looking woman, was standing at the door.
"I have need of some garments, madame," he said.
"You look as if you did," she said with a smile, glancing at his ankles. "I see that you are an apprentice, and for that sort of gear you will have to go to Paris; we deal in country garments."
"That will suit me well enough, madame. The fact is that, as you see, I am an apprentice; but having been badly treated, and having in truth no stomach for the frays and alarms in Paris (where the first man one meets will strike one down, and if he slays you it matters not if he but shout loud enough that he has killed an Orleanist), I have left my master, and have no intention of returning as an apprentice. But I might be stopped and questioned at every place I pass through on my way home did I travel in this 'prentice dress, and I would, therefore, fain buy the attire of a young peasant."
The woman glanced up and down the street.
"Come in," she said. "You know that it is against the law to give shelter to a runaway apprentice, but there are such wild doings in Paris that for my part I can see no harm in assisting anyone to escape, whether he be a noble or an apprentice, and methinks from your speech that you are as like to be the former as the latter. But," she went on, seeing that Guy was about to speak, "tell me naught about it. My husband, who ought to be here, is snoring upstairs, and I can sell what I will; therefore, look round and take your choice of garments, and go into the parlour behind the shop and don them quickly before anyone comes in. As to your own I will pay you what they are worth, for although those pantaloons are all too tight for those strong limbs of yours they may do for a slighter figure."
Guy was soon suited, and in a few minutes left the shop in a peasant's dress, and made his way along the village until beyond the houses. Then he left the road, made a long detour, and returned to Sevres. Here he first purchased a basket, which he took outside the place and hid in a bush. Then he went down into the market and bargained for vegetables, making three journeys backwards and forwards, and buying each time of different women, until his basket was piled up. Then he got a piece of old rope for two or three sous, slung the basket on his shoulders, crossed the ferry, and made for Paris. He felt strange without his sword, which he had dropped into the water on landing; for although in Paris every one now went armed, a sword would have been out of character with his dress, in the country, and still more so in the disguise in which he had determined to re-enter the town. He passed without question through the gate, and made his way to his lodgings. As he entered Long Tom leapt up with a cry of joy.
"Thank God that you are safe, Master Guy! We have been grievously disturbed for your safety, for the count came here early this morning in disguise to ask if we had heard aught of you. He said that his daughter had returned last night saying that you had rescued her from the hands of the White Hoods, and that beyond the fact that they had followed you in hot pursuit she had no news of you, and that the countess was greatly alarmed as to your safety. The other three men-at-arms started at once to find out if aught could be learned of you. I would fain have gone also, but the count said that I must bide here in case you should come, and that there was trouble enough at present without my running the risk of being discovered. An hour since Robert Picard returned; he had been listening to the talk of the White Hoods, and had learned that one of their number had been killed and another sorely wounded by a man who had rescued a prisoner from the hands of a patrol. He had been chased by a number of them, and finally threw himself off the bridge into the Seine to avoid falling into their hands. The general idea was that he was one of the nobles in disguise, of whom they were in search, and that the capture would have been a very important one.
"All agreed that he could never have come up alive, for there were bands of men with torches along both banks, and no sign of him had been perceived. However, they are searching the river down, and hope to come upon his body either floating or cast ashore. Robert went out again to try and gather more news, leaving me well-nigh distraught here."
"The story is true as far as it goes, Tom. I did catch one of them a back- handed blow just under his helmet as he ran past me, and I doubt not that it finished him; as to the other, I laid his cheek open. It was a hot pursuit, but I should have got away had it not been that a strong patrol came out through the gate at the other end of the bridge just as I was in the middle, and there was no course but to jump for it. I thrust my sword into the sheath, and went over. It added somewhat to my weight in the water, and it sunk my body below the surface, but with the aid of my hands paddling I floated so that only my nose and mouth were above the water; so that it is little wonder that they could not make me out. I landed on the other bank a quarter of a mile beyond the walls, slept in the forest, started this morning from Versailles, where I got rid of my other clothes and bought these. I purchased this basket and the vegetables at Sevres, then walked boldly in. No one could have seen my face in the darkness, and therefore I am safe from detection, perhaps safer than I was before."
"Well done, Master Guy; they would have killed you assuredly if they had caught you."
"It was not that that I was afraid of--it was of being taken prisoner. You see, if they had captured me and carried me before the butchers in order to inquire who I was before cutting my throat, they might have put me to the torture and forced me to say who I was, and where my mistress was in hiding. I hope if they had, that I should have stood out; but none can say what he will do when he has red-hot pincers taking bits out of his flesh, and his nails, perhaps, being torn out at the roots. So even if I could not have swam a stroke I should have jumped off the bridge."
"You did well, Master Guy," the archer said admiringly; "for indeed they say that the strongest man cannot hold out against these devilish tortures."
At this moment a step was heard on the stairs, and Jules Varoy entered.
"The saints be praised!" he exclaimed as he recognized Guy. "I thought that you were drowned like a rat, Master Guy; and though Tom here told us that you could swim well, I never thought to see you again."
Guy told him in a few words how he had escaped, and begged him to carry the news to his mistress. He was about to give him the address--for up till now he had refrained from doing so, telling them that it was from no doubt of their fidelity, but that if by any chance one of them fell into the hands of the White Hoods they might endeavour to wring from them the secret, and it was therefore best that they should not be burdened with it--but the man stopped him.
"The count told us that he would be at his booth at the fair at eleven o'clock, and that if any of us obtained any news we were to take it to him there. He said that there were several parties of White Hoods in the streets, and that as he went past he heard them say that the boy of whom they were in search was a messenger of some person of importance at court, and that doubtless the man who had rescued him was also in the plot, and that a strict watch was to be kept on the quarter both for the boy and for the man, who was said to be tall and young. Simon, who had been wounded by him, had declared that he knew him to be connected with the boy; that he was a young man with dark hair, and was in the habit of using disguises, sometimes wearing the dress of an apprentice, and at other times that of a butcher's assistant. He said that he was about twenty-three."
Guy smiled. He understood that the butcher, who was a very powerful man, did not like to own that the man who had killed one of his comrades and had severely wounded himself was but a lad.
"As you go, Jules," he said, "will you see Maitre Leroux and ask him if he can come hither, for I would consult him on the matter."