Chapter VIII. A Riot
 

While Dame Margaret was speaking to Guy, one of the servitors came up with word that Count Charles d'Estournel was below desiring to speak with Master Guy Aylmer.

"Show the count up. Or no, you had best go down yourself to receive him, Guy. Pray him to come up with you; it will be more fitting."

Guy at once went down.

"So this is my saviour of last night," the count said gaily as Guy joined him. "I could scarce get a view of your face then, as the lamps give such a poor light, and I should hardly have known you again. Besides, you were wrapped up in your cloak. But you told me that you were an esquire, and I see that you carry a sword. I want to take you out to introduce you to some of my friends. Can you accompany me now?"

"I shall do so willingly, Count; but first will you allow me to present you to my lady mistress? She prayed me to bring you up to her apartments."

"That shall I right willingly; those who were present yesterday speak of her as a noble lady."

They went upstairs together.

"My lady, this is Count Charles d'Estournel, who desires me to present him to you."

"I am glad to meet you, Sir Count," Dame Margaret said, holding out her hand, which he raised to his lips, "seeing that my esquire, Master Guy Aylmer, was able to render you some slight service last night. This is my daughter Agnes, and my son Charles."

"The service was by no means a slight one," the young count said, returning a deep salute that Agnes and Charlie made to him, "unless indeed you consider that my life is a valueless one, for assuredly without his aid and that of your tall retainer, my father would have been childless this morning. I was indeed in sore plight when they arrived; my arm was tiring, and I could not have defended myself very much longer against such odds, and as I had exasperated them by killing two of their comrades, I should have received no mercy at their hands. In my surprise at being so suddenly attacked I even forgot to raise a shout for the watch, though it is hardly likely that they would have heard me had I done so; the lazy knaves are never on the spot when they are wanted. However, we gave the ruffians a lesson that those of them who escaped are not likely to forget readily, for out of the fourteen who attacked me we accounted for ten, of whom your retainer levelled no less than six with that staff of his, and I doubt whether any of the other four came off scatheless. I imagine that those levelled by your retainer got up and made off,--that is, if they recovered their senses before the watch came,--but I am sure that the other four will never steal pouch or cut throat in future. 'Tis a shame that these rascals are suffered to interfere with honest men, and it would be far better if the city authorities would turn their attention to ridding the streets of these pests instead of meddling with things that in no way concern them."

"It would no doubt be much wiser," Dame Margaret replied; "but since their betters are ever quarrelling among themselves, we can hardly wonder that the citizens do not attend to their own business."

"No doubt you are right," the young count said with a smile; "but it is the highest who set the bad example, and we their vassals cannot but follow them, though I myself would far rather draw my sword against the enemies of France than against my countrymen. But methinks," and here he laughed, "the example of the wars that England has so often waged with Scotland might well cause you to take a lenient view of our misdoings."

"I cannot gainsay you there, Sir Count, and truly those quarrels have caused more damage to England than your disputes between Burgundy and Orleans have, so far, inflicted on France; but you see I am a sufferer in the one case and not in the other. Even now I am ignorant why I have been brought here. There is a truce at present between England and France, and assuredly there are more English in the service of nobles of Burgundy than in those of Orleans, and at any rate I have seen no reason why there can at present be any doubt at all of the conduct of my lord, who has but lately defended his castle against the followers of Orleans.'"

"So I have heard, madame, and I know that there are some of my friends who think that Duke John has behaved hardly in the matter; but he seldom acts without reason, though it may not be always that one which he assigns for any action." Then, changing the subject, he went on. "I have come to take Master Guy for a walk with me, and to introduce him to some of my friends. My father is absent at present, but on his return he will, I know, hasten to express his gratitude. I trust that you can spare your esquire to go out with me."

"Certainly, so that he does but return in time to escort me for a walk through the streets this afternoon."

"I will be sure to come back, madam," Guy said. "You have but to say the hour at which you will start; but indeed I think that I shall probably be in to dinner at one."

"I cannot see," Guy said, when he had sallied out with the young count, "why they should have called upon Sir Eustace to furnish hostages. As the Duke of Burgundy has English archers in his pay, and France is at truce with England, there seems less reason than at other times to demand sureties of his loyalty, especially as he has shown that he is in no way well disposed to the Armagnacs."

"Between ourselves, Guy, I think that the duke in no way expected that hostages would be given, and that he was by no means well pleased when a messenger arrived from the herald to say that he was returning with your lady and her children. What was his intention I know not, but in times like these it is necessary sometimes to reward faithful followers or to secure doubtful ones, and it may be that he would have been glad to have had the opportunity of finding so fair a castle and estate at his disposal. You know the fable of the wolf and the lamb; a poor excuse is deemed sufficient at all times in France when there is a great noble on one side and a simple knight on the other, and I reckon that the duke did not calculate upon the willingness of your Sir Eustace to permit his wife and children to come here, or upon the dame's willingness to do so, and in no way expected matters to turn out as they have done, for there is now no shadow of excuse for him to meddle with Villeroy. Indeed, I question whether the condition about hostages was of his devising; but it may well be that the king or the queen wished it inserted, and he, thinking that there was no chance of that alternative being accepted, yielded to the wish. Mind, all this is not spoken from my own knowledge, but I did hear that Duke John was much put out when he found that the hostages were coming, and there was some laughter among us at the duke being for once outwitted."

"Then you do not love him overmuch, Count?"

"He is our lord, Guy, and we are bound to fight in his cause, but our vows of fealty do not include the word love. The duke his father was a noble prince, just and honourable, and he was loved as well as honoured. Duke John is a different man altogether. He is brave, as he proved in Hungary, and it may be said that he is wise, but his wisdom is not of the kind that Burgundian nobles love. It might have been wise to remove Orleans from his path, although I doubt it, but it was a dastardly murder all the same; and although we are bound to support him, it alienated not a few. Then he condescends to consort with these sorry knaves the butchers, and others of low estate, to take them into his counsels, and to thrust them upon us, at which, I may tell you, there is grievous discontent. All this is rank treason to the duke, I have no doubt, but it is true nevertheless. Here we are at our first stopping-place. This is as it is kept by a Burgundian master, who has with him two or three of the best swordsmen in France, and here a number of us meet every morning to learn tricks of fence, and to keep ourselves in good exercise, which indeed one sorely needs in this city of Paris, where there is neither hawking nor hunting nor jousting nor any other kind of knightly sport, everyone being too busily in earnest to think of amusement. Several of my best friends are sure to be here, and I want to introduce you to them."

When they entered the salon they found some thirty young knights and nobles gathered. Two or three pairs in helmet and body-armour were fighting with blunted swords, others were vaulting on to a saddle placed on a framework roughly representing a high war-horse; one or two were swinging heavy maces, whirling them round their heads and bringing them down occasionally upon great sand-bags six feet high, while others were seated on benches resting themselves after their exercises. D'Estournel's arrival was greeted with a shout, and several of those disengaged at once came over to him.

"Laggard!" one exclaimed, "what excuse have you to make for coming so late? I noted not that De Jouvaux's wine had mounted into your head last night, and surely the duke cannot have had need of your valuable services this morning?"

"Neither one nor the other befell, D'Estelle. But first let me introduce to you all my friend Guy Aylmer, an English gentleman, the son of a knight of that country, and himself an esquire of Sir Eustace de Villeroy. I am sure you will welcome him when I tell you that he saved my life last night when attacked by a band of cut-throats. Guy, these are my friends Count Pierre d'Estelle, Count Walter de Vesoul, the Sieur John de Perron, and the Knights Louis de Lactre, Sir Reginald Poupart, Sir James Regnier, Sir Thomas d'Autre, and Sir Philip de Noisies."

"I can assure you of our friendship," the first-named of these gentlemen said cordially to Guy, "for indeed you have rendered us all a service in thus saving to us our friend D'Estournel. Tell us how the matter occurred, Charles; in sooth, we shall have to take these ruffians of Paris in hand. So long as they cut each other's throats no great harm is done, but if they take to cutting ours it is time to give them a lesson."

"The matter was simple enough," D'Estournel said. "As you know, it was late before we broke up at De Jouvaux's last night, for I heard it strike half-past ten by the bell of St. Germain as I sallied out. I was making my way home like a peaceful citizen, when two men came out from a narrow lane and stumbled roughly across me. Deeming that they were drunk, I struck one a buffet on the side of his head and stretched him in the gutter."

"That was not like a peaceful citizen, Charles," one of the others broke in.

"Well, hardly, perhaps; but I forgot my character at the moment. However, an instant later there was a shout, and a dozen or so armed men poured out from the lane and fell upon me. I saw at once that I had been taken in a trap. Luckily there was a deep doorway close by, so I sprang into it, and, drawing my sword, put myself in a posture of defence before they were upon me. I ran the first through the body, and that seemed to teach the others some caution. Fortunately the doorway was so deep that only two could assail me at once, and I held my ground for some time pretty fairly, only receiving a few scratches. Presently I saw another opening, and, parrying a thrust, I ran my sword through the fellow's throat. He fell with a loud outcry, which was fortunate, for it came to the ears of my friend here, and brought him and a stout retainer--a prodigiously tall fellow, with a staff longer than himself--to my aid. They were but just in time, for the ruffians, furious at the fall of another of their companions, were pressing me hotly, and slashing so furiously with their swords that it was as much as I could do to parry them, and had no time to thrust back in reply. My friend here ran two of them through, his tall companion levelled six to the ground with his staff, while I did what I could to aid them, and at last the four that remained still on their legs ran off. I believe they thought that the man with the staff was the Evil One himself, who had got tired of aiding them in their villainous enterprises."

"It was a narrow escape indeed, Charles," Count Walter de Vesoul said gravely, "and it was well for you that there was that doorway hard by, or your brave friend would have found but your body when he came along. It is evident, gentlemen, that when we indulge in drinking parties we must go home in couples. Of course, Charles, you must lay a complaint before the duke, and he must let the Parisians know that if they do not keep their cut-throats within bounds we will take to sallying out at night in parties and will cut down every man we find about the streets."

"I will lay my complaint, but I doubt if much good will come of it. The duke will speak to the provost of the butchers, and nothing will be done."

"Then we will take them in hand," the other said angrily. "If the Parisians won't keep order in their streets we will keep it for them. Such doings are intolerable, and we will make up parties to scour the streets at night. Men passing peaceably along we shall not of course molest, but any parties of armed men we find about we will cut down without hesitation."

"I shall be heartily glad to join one of the parties whenever you are disposed, De Vesoul," D'Estournel said. "Perchance I may light on one or more of the four fellows who got away last night. Now I am ready to have a bout with swords."

"We have all had our turn, Charles," the other said.

"Then I must work with the mace," the count said. "My friend here, you see, did not come off as scatheless last night as I did, or else I would have asked him to have a bout with me. He held his own so well against two of them who fell on him together that I doubt not I should find him a sturdy adversary."

"I fear not, Count," Guy said smiling. "I can use my sword, it is true, in English fashion, but I know little of feints and tricks with the sword such as I am told are taught in your schools."

"A little practice here will amend that," D'Estournel said. "These things are well enough in a salle d'armes, and are useful when one man is opposed to another in a duel, but in a battle or melee I fancy that they are of but little use, though indeed I have never yet had the chance of trying. We will introduce you to the master, and I hope that you will come here regularly; it will give real pleasure to all. This salon is kept up by the duke for our benefit, and as you are one of his most pressingly invited guests you are certainly free of it."

They went up in a body to the master. "Maitre Baudin," Count Charles said, "I have to introduce to you a gentleman who is our mutual friend, and who last night saved my life in a street brawl. He is at present an esquire of Sir Eustace de Villeroy, and has travelled hither with the knight's dame, who has come at the invitation of the duke. His father is an English knight, and as the friend of us all we trust that you will put him upon the list of your pupils."

"I shall be pleased to do so, Count Charles, the more so since he has done you such service."

"I am afraid that you will, find me a very backward pupil," Guy said. "I have been well taught in English fashion, but as you know, maitre, we were more famed for downright hard hitting than for subtlety and skill in arms."

"Downright hard hitting is not to be despised," the master said, "and in a battle it is the chief thing of all; yet science is not to be regarded as useless, since it not only makes sword-play a noble pastime, but in a single combat it enables one who is physically weak to hold his own against a far stronger antagonist."

"That I feel greatly, maitre. I shall be glad indeed of lessons in the art, and as soon as my shoulder is healed I shall take great pleasure in attending your school regularly, whenever my lady has no need of my presence. I am now in the position of the weak antagonist you speak of, and am therefore the more anxious to acquire the skill that will enable me to take my part in a conflict with full-grown men."

"You showed last night that you could do that," Count Charles said with a smile.

"Nay, men of that sort do not count," Guy said. "They are but rough swordsmen, and it was only their number that rendered them dangerous. There is little credit in holding one's own against ruffians of that kind."

"Well, I will be lazy this morning," the young count said, "and do without my practice. Will you all come round to my rooms, gentlemen, and drink a glass or two of wine and make the better acquaintance of my friend? He is bound to be back at his lodgings by one, and therefore you need not be afraid that I am leading you into a carouse."

Guy passed an hour in the count's lodgings and then returned to the provost's. The count accompanied him, saying that he had not yet seen his tall friend of the night before, and must personally thank him. Long Tom was called down, he being one of the two who had remained in for the morning.

"I must thank you again for the service that you rendered me last night," the count said frankly, holding out his hand to the archer. "I hope that you will accept this ring in token of my gratitude; I have had it enlarged this morning so that it may fit one of your strong fingers. It may be useful some day to turn into money should you find yourself in a pinch."

"I thank you, sir," Tom said. "I will wear it round my neck, for in truth rings are not for the use of men in my condition. As to gratitude, I feel that it is rather the other way, for my arms were beginning to get stiff for want of use. I only wish that the fray had lasted a bit longer, for I had scarce time to warm to it, and I hope that the next time your lordship gets into trouble I may have the good luck to be near at hand again."

"I hope you may, my friend; assuredly I could want no better helper."

After the count had taken his leave Guy went upstairs and told Lady Margaret how he had spent the morning.

"I am very glad to hear what you say about the fencing school, Guy; it will be good for you to have such training. And indeed 'tis well that you should have some employment, for time would hang but wearily on your hands were you to remain long caged up here. I shall be very glad for you to go. It will make no difference to us whether we take our walk in the morning or in the afternoon."

After dinner they went out. Guy escorted Dame Margaret, Agnes and Charlie followed, Long Tom and Jules Varoy bringing up the rear, both armed with swords and carrying in addition heavy cudgels. First of all they visited the that he had not yet seen his tall friend of the night before, and must personally thank him. Long Tom was called down, he being one of the two who had remained in for the morning.

"I must thank you again for the service that you rendered me last night," the count said frankly, holding out his hand to the archer. "I hope that you will accept this ring in token of my gratitude; I have had it enlarged this morning so that it may fit one of your strong fingers. It may be useful some day to turn into money should you find yourself in a pinch."

"I thank you, sir," Tom said. "I will wear it round my neck, for in truth rings are not for the use of men in my condition. As to gratitude, I feel that it is rather the other way, for my arms were beginning to get stiff for want of use. I only wish that the fray had lasted a bit longer, for I had scarce time to warm to it, and I hope that the next time your lordship gets into trouble I may have the good luck to be near at hand again."

"I hope you may, my friend; assuredly I could want no better helper."

After the count had taken his leave Guy went upstairs and told Lady Margaret how he had spent the morning.

"I am very glad to hear what you say about the fencing school, Guy; it will be good for you to have such training. And indeed 'tis well that you should have some employment, for time would hang but wearily on your hands were you to remain long caged up here. I shall be very glad for you to go. It will make no difference to us whether we take our walk in the morning or in the afternoon."

After dinner they went out. Guy escorted Dame Margaret, Agnes and Charlie followed, Long Tom and Jules Varoy bringing up the rear, both armed with swords and carrying in addition heavy cudgels. First of all they visited the cathedral, where Dame Margaret and her daughter knelt for some time in prayer before one of the shrines; then crossing the bridge again they followed along the broad pavement between the foot of the walls and the river, which served as a market, where hucksters of all sorts plied their trade; then entering the next gate on the wall they walked down the street to the Place de la Bastille, which had been finished but a few years.

"'Tis a gloomy place and a strong one," Dame Margaret said with a shiver as she looked at its frowning towers; "the poor wretches who are once entombed there can have but little hope of escape. Surely there cannot be so many state prisoners as to need for their keeping, a building so large as that. Still, with so turbulent a population as this of Paris, it doubtless needs a strong castle to hold them."

"It seems to me, madame, that, though useful doubtless as a prison, the castle was never really built for that purpose, but as a stronghold to overawe Paris."

"That may be so, Guy; at any rate I am glad that they did not use it as our place of detention instead of the house of Maitre Leroux."

"They see well enough, madame, that you are more securely held than bolts and bars could detain you. I imagine that they would like nothing better than for you to get away back to Villeroy, since it would give them an excuse for an attack on the castle."

"Doubtless that is so, Guy; I came freely, and I must stay freely until some change takes place that will leave it open to us to fly. But in sooth it seems to me that nothing short of the arrival of an English army could do that. Were the Armagnacs to get the better of the Burgundians our position would be even worse than it is now."

"That is true enough, madame, for the Burgundians have no cause of hostility whatever to Sir Eustace and you, while we have given the Armagnacs good reasons for ill-will against us. Still, were they to come here it would be open to you to fly, for all Artois is Burgundian; and though the duke might not be able to hold his position here, Artois and Flanders would long be able to sustain themselves, and you would therefore be safe at Villeroy, for they would have other matters to attend to without meddling with those who only ask to be let alone."

On their way back from the Bastille they saw a crowd in the street and heard loud shouts.

"We had best turn off by this side street, madame," Guy said; "doubtless it is a body of the scoundrel butchers at their work of slaying some enemy under the pretext of his being an Orleanist. Do you hear their shouts of 'Paris and Burgundy!'?"

Turning down a side street they made a circuit round the scene of the tumult, and then coming up into the main street again resumed their way. After walking a considerable distance they came to a large building.

"What place is this, Guy?"

"It is the Louvre, madame. It should be the abode of the King of France, but he is only sometimes lodged there; but often stays at one of the hotels of the great lords. These palaces are all fortified buildings. Our country castles are strong, but there is no air of gloom about them; these narrow streets and high houses seem to crush one down."

"We will go back again, Guy; I do not think that I shall often go out in future."

"You can take a boat on the river, madame, and row up or down into the country. They say it is pretty; once fairly away from Paris, there are hills and woods and villages."

"That may be pleasant. If they would but let me go and live in one of those quiet spots I should be as contented as it is possible for me to be away from my husband.

"Nothing can be kinder than are Maitre Leroux and his wife, but one cannot but feel that one is a burden upon them. My hope is that when the king comes to his senses I may be able to obtain an interview with him, and even if I cannot have leave to return to Villeroy I may be allowed to take up my abode outside the walls, or at any rate to obtain a quiet lodging for ourselves."

For the next three weeks the time passed quietly. Guy went every morning to the salle d'armes, for his wound being on his left shoulder he was able to use his sword arm as soon as it began to heal.

"You underrated your skill," the fencing-master said when he had given him his first lesson. "It is true that you do not know the niceties of sword- playing, but indeed you are so quick of eye and wrist that you can afford to do without them. Still, doubtless after a couple of months' practice here you will be so far improved that he will need to be a good swordsman who holds his own with you."

Guy paid only one visit during this time to the lodgings of the Italian.

"You have not heard from me, Master Aylmer," the latter said, "because indeed there has been nothing of importance to tell you. The Armagnacs are, I hear, collecting a great army, and are likely ere long to march in this direction. The butchers are becoming more and more unpopular and more and more violent; not a day passes but many citizens are killed by them under the pretence that they are Armagnacs, but really because they had expressed themselves as hostile to the doings of these tyrants. I have cast your horoscope, and I find that the conjunction of the planets at your birth was eminently favourable. It seems to me that about this time you will pass through many perilous adventures, but you are destined to escape any dangers that threaten you. You will gain honour and renown, and come to fortune through a marriage. There are other things in your career that are uncertain, since I cannot tell at what date they are likely to occur and whether the planets that were favourable at your birth may again be in the ascendant; but, for as much as I have told you, I have no doubt whatever."

"I thank you for the trouble that you have taken, Count Montepone," for Guy had now learned the rank that the Italian held in his own country," and can only trust that your predictions will be verified. I would rather win fortune by my own hand than by marriage, though it will not come amiss."

"Whatever way it may happen, you will be knighted," the astrologist said gravely, "after a great battle, and by the hand of a sovereign; though by whom the battle will be fought and who the sovereign may be I cannot say, but methinks that it will be the English king."

"That I can wish more than anything," Guy said warmly. "Fortune is good, but to be knighted by a royal hand would be an honour greater than any other that could befall me."

"Bear your destiny in mind," the Italian said earnestly, "remember that in many cases predictions bring about their own fulfilment; and truly I am rejoiced that I have found that the stars point out so prosperous a future for you."

Guy was not free from the superstition of the time, and although in his English home he had seldom heard astrology mentioned, he had found since he had been in France that many even of the highest rank had an implicit belief in it, and he was convinced that at any rate the count himself believed in the power of the stars. He was gratified, therefore, to be told that his future would be prosperous; and, indeed, about this time you will pass through many perilous adventures, but you are destined to escape any dangers that threaten you. You will gain honour and renown, and come to fortune through a marriage. There are other things in your career that are uncertain, since I cannot tell at what date they are likely to occur and whether the planets that were favourable at your birth may again be in the ascendant; but, for as much as I have told you, I have no doubt whatever."

"I thank you for the trouble that you have taken, Count Montepone," for Guy had now learned the rank that the Italian held in his own country," and can only trust that your predictions will be verified. I would rather win fortune by my own hand than by marriage, though it will not come amiss."

"Whatever way it may happen, you will be knighted," the astrologist said gravely, "after a great battle, and by the hand of a sovereign; though by whom the battle will be fought and who the sovereign may be I cannot say, but methinks that it will be the English king."

"That I can wish more than anything," Guy said warmly. "Fortune is good, but to be knighted by a royal hand would be an honour greater than any other that could befall me."

"Bear your destiny in mind," the Italian said earnestly, "remember that in many cases predictions bring about their own fulfilment; and truly I am rejoiced that I have found that the stars point out so prosperous a future for you."

Guy was not free from the superstition of the time, and although in his English home he had seldom heard astrology mentioned, he had found since he had been in France that many even of the highest rank had an implicit belief in it, and he was convinced that at any rate the count himself believed in the power of the stars. He was gratified, therefore, to be told that his future would be prosperous; and, indeed, the predictions were not so improbable as to excite doubt in themselves. He was already an esquire, and unless he fell in combat or otherwise, it was probable that he would attain the honour of knighthood before many years had passed. The fact, however, that it was to be bestowed by royal hand added greatly to the value of the honour. Knighthood was common in those days; it was bestowed almost as a matter of course upon young men of good birth, especially if they took up the profession of arms. Every noble had some, while not a few had many knights in their service, discharging what would now be the duties of officers when their levies were called out, and they could themselves bestow the rank upon any man possessing a certain amount of land; but to be knighted by a distinguished leader, or by a sovereign, was a distinction greatly prized, and placed its recipient in quite another category to the knights by service. It was a testimony alike of valour and of birth, and was a proof that its bearer was a warrior of distinction. The prophecy that he would better his fortune by marriage weighed little with him; marriage was a matter that appeared to him at present to be a very remote contingency; at the same time it was pleasant to him to be told that his wife would be an heiress, because this would place him above the need of earning his living by his sword, and would enable him to follow his sovereign, not as one of the train of a powerful noble, but as a free knight.