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- At Agincourt - 20/58 -

issued into the street, "for I am sure we should never find our way through those alleys. Let us keep along here until we come to a broader street leading the way we wish to go; fortunately, with the river to our left, we cannot go very far wrong."

They presently came to a street leading in the desired direction. They had scarcely entered it when they heard ahead of them the sound of a fray. A loud cry arose, and there was a clashing of sword-blades.

"Come on, Tom!" Guy said; "it may be that some gentleman is attacked by these ruffians of the streets."

Starting off at a run, they soon arrived at the scene of combat, the features of which they were able to see by the light of the lamp that hung in the centre of the street. A man was standing in a narrow doorway, which prevented his being attacked except in front, and the step on which he stood gave him a slight advantage over his adversaries. These were nearly a dozen in number, and were evidently, as Guy had supposed, street ruffians of the lowest class. Without hesitation Guy and the archer fell upon them, with a shout of encouragement to the defender of the doorway, who was evidently sorely pressed. Tom's quarter-staff sent two of the men rolling on the ground almost before they realized that they were attacked, while Guy ran another through the body. For a moment the assailants scattered, but then, seeing that they were attacked by only two men, they fell upon them with fury.

Guy defended himself stoutly, but he would have fared badly had it not been for the efforts of Long Tom, whose staff descended with such tremendous force upon the heads of his assailants that it broke down their guard, and sent man after man on to the pavement. Guy himself received a sharp wound in the shoulder, but cut down another of his assailants; and the defender of the door, leaving his post of vantage, now joined them, and in a couple of minutes but four of the assailants remained on their feet, and these, with a shout of dismay, turned and took to their heels. Guy had now opportunely arrived. As the latter took off his hat he saw time to look at the gentleman to whose assistance he had so that the stranger was but a year or two older than himself.

"By our Lady, sir," the young man said, "you arrived at a lucky moment, for I could not much longer have kept these ruffians at bay. I have to thank you for my life, which, assuredly, they would have taken, especially as I had disposed of two of their comrades before you came up. May I ask to whom I am so indebted? I am Count Charles d'Estournel."

"My name is Guy Aylmer, sir; I am the son of Sir James Aylmer, an English knight, and am here as the esquire of Dame Margaret de Villeroy, who arrived but this morning in Paris."

"And who is this stalwart fellow whose staff has done more execution than both our sword-blades?" the young count asked; "verily it rose and fell like a flail on a thrashing-floor."

"He is one of Dame Margaret's retainers, and the captain of a band of archers in her service, but is at present here as one of her men-at-arms."

"In truth I envy her so stout a retainer. Good fellow, I have to thank you much, as well as Monsieur Guy Aylmer, for your assistance."

"One is always glad of an opportunity to stretch one's arms a bit when there is but a good excuse for doing so," the archer said; "and one needs no better chance than when one sees a gentleman attacked by such scum as these ruffians," and he motioned to the men lying stretched on the ground.

"Ah, you are English!" D'Estournel said with a slight smile at Tom's very broken French. "I know all about you now," he went on, turning to Guy. "I was not present today when your lady had audience with Burgundy, but I heard that an English dame had arrived, and that the duke came but badly out of the encounter in words with her. But we had best be moving on or we may have the watch on us, and we should be called upon to account for these ten fellows lying here. I doubt not but half of them are only stunned and will soon make off, the other six will have to be carried away. We have a good account to give of ourselves, but the watch would probably not trouble themselves to ask any questions, and I have no fancy for spending a night locked up in the cage with perhaps a dozen unsavoury malefactors. Which way does your course lie, sir?"

"We are lodged at the house of Maître Leroux, provost of the silversmiths."

"Then you are going in the wrong direction. You return up this street, then turn to your right; his house is in the third street to the left. I shall do myself the honour of calling in the morning to thank you more fully for the service you have rendered me, which, should it ever fall into my power, you can count on my returning. My way now lies in the opposite direction."

After mutual salutes they parted, and Guy followed the directions given to them.

"That was a sharp skirmish, Master Guy," Long Tom said contentedly; "the odds were just enough to make it interesting. Did you escape scatheless?"

"Not altogether, Tom, I had a sword-thrust in my shoulder; but I can do with it until I get back, when I will get you to bandage it for me."

"That will I; I did not get so much as a scratch. A quarter-staff is a rare weapon in a fight like that, for you can keep well out of the reach of their swords. In faith I have not had so pleasant an exercise since that fight Dickon and I had in the market-place at Winchester last Lammas fair."

"I am afraid Dame Margaret will scold us for getting into a fray."

"Had it not been for your wound we need have said nothing about it; but you may be sure that you will have to carry your arm in a sling for a day or two, and she will want to know the ins and outs of the matter."

"I think the affair has been a fortunate one, for it has obtained for me the friendship of a young Burgundian noble. Friendless as we are here, this is no slight matter, and I by no means grudge the amount of blood I have lost for such a gain. There is a light in Dame Margaret's casement; she said that she should sit up till my return, and would herself let me in, for the household would be asleep two hours ago; and as Maître Leroux and his wife have shown themselves so kindly disposed towards us, she should not like the household disturbed at such an hour. I was to whistle a note or two of _Richard Mon Roi_, and she would know that we were without."

He whistled a bar or two of the air, they saw a shadow cross the casement, then the light disappeared, and in a minute they heard the bolts undrawn and the door opened.

"You are late, Guy," she said; "I have been expecting you this hour past. Why, what has happened to you?" she broke off as she saw his face.

"It is but a trifle, lady," he said; "a sword-thrust in the shoulder, and a little blood. Long Tom will bind it up. Our delay was caused partly by the fact that the Italian was engaged, and it was half-an-hour before I could see him. Moreover, we had been kept at the trysting-place, as the guide did not recognize me owing to Tom being with me; and lastly, we were somewhat delayed by the matter that cost me this sword-thrust, which I in no way grudge, since it has gained for us a friend who may be useful."

Tom had by this time barred the door and had gone upstairs. "I am disappointed in you, Guy," Dame Margaret said severely when they entered the room. "I told you to keep yourself free from frays of all kinds, and here you have been engaged in one before we have been twelve hours in Paris."

"I crave your pardon, madam, but it is not in human nature to stand by without drawing a sword on behalf of a young gentleman defending himself against a dozen cut-throats. I am sure that in such a case your ladyship would be the first to bid me draw and strike in. The matter did not last three minutes. Tom disposed of six of them with his quarter-staff, the gentleman had killed two before we arrived, and I managed to dispose of two others, the rest took to their heels. The young gentleman was Count Charles d'Estournel; he is, as it seems, in the Duke of Burgundy's train; and as we undoubtedly saved his life, he may turn out a good and useful friend."

"You are right, Guy; I spoke perhaps too hastily. And now about the other matter."

Guy told her all that had taken place.

"And what is this man like?" she asked when he had concluded.

"Now that I saw him without the astrologer's robe and in his ordinary costume he seemed to me a very proper gentleman," Guy replied. "He is my height or thereabouts, grave in face and of good presence. I have no doubt that he is to be trusted, and he has evidently resolved to do all in his power to aid you, should it be necessary to do so. He would scarce have introduced his daughter to me had it not been so."

"He must be a strange man," Dame Margaret said thoughtfully.

"He is certainly no common man, lady. As I have told you, he believes thoroughly in his science, and but adopts the costume in which I first saw him and the role of a quack vendor of nostrums in order that his real profession may not be known to the public, and so bring him in collision with the church."

"It seems to me, Guy," Dame Margaret said the next morning, "that as you have already made the acquaintance of a young French noble, and may probably meet with others, 'twill be best that, when we have finished our breakfast, you should lose no time in sallying out and providing yourself with suitable attire. Spare not money, for my purse is very full. Get yourself a suit in which you can accompany me fitly if I again see the duke, or, as is possible, have an interview with the queen. Get two others, the one a quiet one, and not likely to attract notice, for your ordinary wear; the other a more handsome one, to wear when you go into the company of the young men of station like this Burgundian noble whom you succoured last night. Your father being a knight, you may well, as the esquire of my lord, hold your head as high as other young esquires of good family in the train of French nobles."

On Agnes and Charlie coming into the room, the latter exclaimed, "Why have you got your arm in a scarf, Guy?"

"He was in a fray last night, Charlie. He and Tom came upon a number of ruffians fighting a young gentleman, so they joined in and helped him, and Guy was wounded in the shoulder."

"Did they beat the bad men, mother?"

"Yes, dear; Guy had taken a sword with him, as it was after dark, and Tom had his quarter-staff."

"Then the others can have had no chance," Charlie said decidedly. "I have often seen Long Tom playing with the quarter-staff, and he could beat

At Agincourt - 20/58

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