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Guy's great joy, arrived at the castle, bringing with him his esquire and eight men-at-arms, as well as the three serving-women and their escort. As soon as his pennon was seen Guy leapt on a horse that was standing saddled in the court-yard, and rode to meet them. As he came up he checked his horse in surprise, for his father was riding by the side of Sir Eustace. Recovering himself, however, he doffed his cap to his lord.
"Welcome back, my lord!" he said. "I trust that our dear lady is better."
"Much better, Guy. You see I have brought your father over with me."
Guy bent low to his father.
"I am right glad to see you," the latter said, "and to hear such good accounts of you. Dame Margaret and Mistress Agnes were never tired of singing your praises, and in truth I was not weary of hearing them."
"Are you going to make a long stay, father?"
"I shall stay for some little time, Guy. Our lady is going to be her own castellan for the present. And in truth things are so quiet in England that Summerley could well go on without a garrison, so Sir Eustace suggested that I should accompany him hither, where, however, just at present things have also a peaceful aspect. The young countess arrived safely, Guy, and was heartily welcomed, the more so since, as your letter told me, it is to her father that we owe it that we did not have the king's army battering our walls, or, even if they did not try that, devastating the fields and ruining the farmers."
By this time they were at the gate. Long Tom had the garrison drawn up in the court-yard, and they hailed the return of their lord with hearty cheers, while the retainers of Summerley were no less pleased at seeing Sir John Aylmer. "And now, Guy," said Sir Eustace, "I will tell you why I have come hither. It is partly to see after the estate, to hear the complaints of my vassals and to do what I can for them, and in the next place I wanted to see these fortifications that you have raised, and, thirdly, I shall shortly ride to Paris in the train of the Earl of Dorset, the Lord Grey, Admiral of England, some bishops, and many other knights and nobles, amounting in the whole to 600 horse. They go to treat for the marriage of the princess of France with the English king. I had an audience with the king at Winchester as soon as we heard that the royal army was marching towards Artois, and he gave assurance that he would instruct the governor of Calais to furnish what assistance he could should the castle be attacked, and that he himself would at once on hearing of it send a remonstrance to the King of France, urging that I, as a vassal of his as well as of France, had avoided taking any part in the troubles, and had ever borne myself as a loyal vassal of his Majesty.
"He was at Winchester when the young countess arrived, and I rode over to him to tell him that I had news that it was not probable that Villeroy would be attacked. It was then that his Majesty informed me that the Earl of Dorset with a large body of nobles would ere long cross the Channel for the purpose that I have named, and begged me to ride with them. The king, being disengaged at the time, talked with me long, and questioned me as to the former defence of the castle, and how Dame Margaret had fared when, as he had heard, she was obliged to go as a hostage to Paris. I told him all that had befallen her, at which he seemed greatly interested, and bade me present you to him at the first opportunity.
"'He must be a lad after my own heart,' he said, 'and he shall have an opportunity of winning his spurs as soon as may be, which perchance is not so far away as some folks think.'"
Guy thanked Sir Eustace for having so spoken of him to the English king, and asked: "What do you think he meant by those last words, my lord?"
"That I cannot say, Guy; but it may well be that he thinks that this marriage which has been so long talked of may not take place, and that the negotiations have been continued solely for the purpose of keeping him quiet while France was busied with her own troubles. Moreover, I know that the king has been already enlisting men, that he is impatient at having been put off so often with soft words, and that embassy is intended to bring matters to a head; therefore if, as I gathered from some of my friends at his court, he is eager for fighting, it may be that his ambassadors will demand conditions which he is sure beforehand the King of France will not grant. At any rate I shall ride with Dorset to Paris; whatever the sentiments of the Burgundians or Orleanists may be towards me will matter nothing, riding as I shall do in the train of the earl. I am going to take you with me, as well as John Harpen, for I must do as well as others, and have had to lay out a goodly sum in garments fit for the occasion, for the king is bent upon his embassy making a brave show. Your father will be castellan here in my absence. I shall also take with me Long Tom and four of his archers, and five French men-at-arms. I have brought some Lincoln-green cloth to make fresh suits for the archers, and also material for those for the men-at-arms."
Both Sir Eustace and Sir John Aylmer expressed great satisfaction at the manner in which the new outworks had been erected.
"Assuredly it is a strong castle now, Sir Eustace," Sir John said, "and would stand a long siege even by a great army."
"What is all that earth for in the corner, Guy?" Sir Eustace asked as they re-entered the castle after having made a survey of the new works. "I had that brought in, my lord, to fill sacks, of which I had three hundred made, so that if guns and battering machines were brought against us, we might cover the wall at the place they aimed at with sacks hanging closely together, and so break the force of the stones or the cannon balls."
"Excellently well arranged, Guy. You thought, Sir John, that I was somewhat rash to leave the defence solely to the charge of this son of yours, but you see the lad was ready at all points, and I will warrant me that the castle would have held out under him as long a time as if you and I both had been in command of it."
It was not until January, the year being 1414, that the Earl of Dorset and a great company arrived at Calais. As they passed not far from the castle they were joined by Sir Eustace and his retinue. The king's wishes had been carried out, and the knights and nobles were so grandly attired and their retinues so handsomely appointed that when they rode into Paris the people were astonished at the splendour of the spectacle. A few days after they reached the capital the king gave a great festival in honour of the visitors, and there was a grand tournament at which the king and all the princes of the blood tilted. The English ambassadors were splendidly entertained, but their proposals were considered inadmissible by the French court, for Henry demanded with Katherine the duchy of Normandy, the county of Pontieu, and the duchy of Aquitaine.
No direct refusal was given, but the king said that he would shortly send over an embassy to discuss the conditions. Many handsome presents were made to all the knights and noblemen, and the embassy returned to England. Sir Eustace left them near Villeroy with his party, and stayed two days at the castle. Sir John Aylmer said that he would prefer that Guy should return home with Sir Eustace and that he himself should remain as castellan, for he thought that there was little doubt that war would soon be declared; he said that he himself was too old to take the field on active service, and preferred greatly that Guy should ride with Sir Eustace. Long Tom made a petition to his lord that he too should go to England for a time.
"If there was any immediate chance of fighting here, my lord," he said, "I would most willingly remain, but seeing that at present all is quiet, I would fain return, were it but for a month; for I have a maid waiting for me, and have, methinks, kept her long enough, and would gladly go home and fetch her over here."
The request was at once granted, and Sir Eustace, his two esquires, and the archer rode to Calais, and crossed with the company of the Earl of Dorset.
For some months Guy remained quietly at Summerley. Agnes, though nearly sixteen, was still but a young girl, while Katarina had grown still more womanly during the last six months. The former always treated him as a brother, but the latter was changeable and capricious. Occasionally she would laugh and chat when the three were alone, as she had done of old in Paris, but more often she would tease and laugh at him, while sometimes she would be shy and silent.
"I cannot make out the young countess, my lady," he said to Dame Margaret when Katarina had been teasing him even more than usual. "She was never like this in Paris, and I know not that I have done aught to offend her that she should so often pick up my words, and berate me for a meaning they never had."
"You see, things have changed since then," Dame Margaret said with a smile; "'tis two years since you were in Paris, and Katarina, although but little older than Agnes, is already a young woman. You were then still under seventeen, now you are nineteen, and in growth and stature well-nigh a man. You can hardly expect her to be the same with you as when she was running about Paris in boy's attire, for then you regarded her rather as a comrade than as a girl. I think, perhaps, it is that she a little resents the fact that you knew her in that guise, and therefore feels all the less at her ease with you. Do not trouble about it, the thing will right itself in time; and besides, you will shortly be going off to the war."
In fact, preparations were being already made for it. A French embassy of nobles and knights, with three hundred and fifty horsemen, had come over, and, after passing through London, had gone to Winchester, and there met the king and his great lords. The Archbishop of Bourges, who was their spokesman, at once set forth that the king could not hand over so large a portion of his kingdom, but that he would give with his daughter large estates in France, together with a great sum in ready money. This offer was refused, and preparations for war went on in both countries. France was, indeed, but in poor condition to defend itself, for the Duke of Aquitaine had seriously angered both parties. He had made a pretext to get the great lords to ride out from Paris, he being with them; but he had secretly returned, and had ordered the gates to be closed, had called the citizens to arms, and had resumed the supreme authority of the realm.
Having done this, he sent his wife, Burgundy's daughter, to a castle at a distance, and surrounding himself with young nobles as reckless and dissipated as himself, led a life of disorder, squandering money on his pleasures, and heavily taxing the city for his wants. The Duke of Burgundy, indignant at the treatment of his daughter, sent an ambassador to demand that she should be taken back, and that all the persons, five hundred in number, who had been exempted from the terms of the treaty, should be allowed to return to Paris. Both requests were refused, and the consequence was that the Duke of Burgundy, with his partisans, returned to his own country in deep anger; he would take no part in the war against the English, although he permitted his vassals to do so.
In July the English levies gathered at Southampton. The king was to have embarked immediately, and a great fleet had been collected for the purpose; but, as he was on the point of sailing, Henry obtained news of a plot against his life on the part of Sir Thomas Grey, Lord Scroop, and Richard, Earl of Cambridge, the king's cousin. As Scroop was in constant attendance upon the king and slept in his room, the conspirators had little doubt that their purpose could be carried out, their intention being to proclaim the Earl of March king, and to summon assistance from Scotland. The three conspirators were tried by a jury and were all found
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