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- A March on London - 50/56 -
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."
A NOBLE GIFT
The pace at which the party started soon slackened, for neither Albert nor Hal Carter could maintain it. However, it was not long before they heard the sentry challenge:
"Who go there?"
"Sir Albert De Courcy and Sir Edgar Ormskirk escaped from Ypres," Edgar answered.
"Stand where you are till I call the sergeant," the man said, and shouted "Sergeant!" at the top of his voice. In five minutes a sergeant and two men-at-arms came up.
"Hurry, sergeant, I pray you," Edgar said. "We have swum three ditches, and my companions, being weakened by their wounds, are well-nigh perished."
"Come on," the sergeant said, "it is clear at any rate that you are Englishmen." He had brought a torch with him, and as they came up looked at them narrowly, then he saluted. "I know you, Sir Edgar, disguised as you are. I was fighting behind you on the wall five weeks since, and had it not been for the strength of your arm, I should have returned no more to England."
"How is Sir Hugh Calverley?" Edgar asked, as they hurried towards the camp.
"His wounds are mending fast," the sergeant said, "and he went out of his tent to-day for the first time. I saw him myself."
A quarter of an hour's walking brought them to the tent occupied by Sir Hugh and his followers. A light was still burning there, and they heard voices within.
"May we enter?" Edgar said, as he slightly opened the flap of the tent.
"Surely, that must be the voice of Sir Edgar Ormskirk!" Sir Hugh exclaimed.
"It is I, sure enough, and with me is Sir Albert De Courcy and my brave man-at-arms."
As he spoke he stepped into the tent. Two knights were there, and they and Sir Hugh advanced with outstretched hands to meet the new-comers.
"Welcome back, welcome back!" Sir Hugh exclaimed, in a tone of emotion. "My brave knights, I and my two comrades here have to thank you for our lives, for, although in truth I know naught about it, I have heard from Sir Thomas Vokes and Sir Tristram Montford how you brought the band to our assistance, and how you kept the enemy at bay, while this good fellow of yours bore me down the ladder on his shoulder; while from those who escaped afterwards we heard how you both, with but two or three others, kept the foe back, and gave time for the rest to jump from the walls or slide down the ladders. But your faces are blue, and your teeth chattering!"
"We have had to swim three ditches, and the ice having formed pretty thickly, it was no child's work."
"First, do you each drain a goblet of wine," Sir Hugh said, "and then to your tent. All your things are untouched. Knights, will you go with them and rub them down till their skin glows, and then wrap them up in blankets?" He called, and two servants came in. "Heat three bottles of wine in a bowl with plenty of spices," he said, "and carry it to these knights' tent, and take a portion to the tent of their men-at-arms for the use of this good fellow. See that your comrades rub you down," he said to Hal. "They will be glad indeed to see you back; for, although we heard from a prisoner that the two knights were alive, we knew not whether any others had been taken with them. Tell Hawkins to light two torches at once and fix them in the knights' tent, and put two others in that of the men- at-arms. Mind, Sir Edgar, once between the blankets, you stay there till morning. Your story will keep until then."
After throwing off their wet clothes, and being rubbed down until they glowed, Edgar and Albert were soon covered up in blankets, and after drinking the hot spiced wine, soon fell asleep. In the morning they related their story to Sir Hugh Calverley and the other two knights.
"'Tis Sir Edgar who should tell the tale," Albert said, "for indeed I know but little about it from the time I saw you lowered over the wall. Things went well with us for a time; we were joined by more men, and were strong enough to divide into two parties, Edgar going to the right while I went to the left. We cleared the wall for some distance, and methinks had there been ladders, so that we could have been helped more quickly, the town would have been won, but the enemy were reinforced more quickly than we were, and we began to lose ground. Then came a body of knights who beat us back till we were close to the point where the ladders were set. Then a knight made at me with a mace. I saw his arms raised, and after that I knew nothing more."
"The last man who jumped from the wall, Sir Albert, told us that he saw that you were down and that Sir Edgar and one of his men-at-arms were fighting like demons over you. Now, Sir Edgar, tell us how the matter ended."
"We made a shift to keep them back, Sir Hugh, for some five minutes, when one of the French knights offered to give us terms of surrender on ransom, and seeing no use in fighting longer when the matter could only have terminated one way, I surrendered."
Then he related the good treatment they had met with at the hands of Sir Robert De Beaulieu, and the manner in which he had enabled them to escape the fury of the rabble of Ypres, and had sent them away free from ransom.
"It was well done, indeed, of him," Sir Hugh said, warmly. "Truly a courteous and knightly action. And so you have both given your pledge to fight no more in this campaign. By St. George, I should not be ill-pleased if someone would put me under a similar pledge, for I tell you that I am heartily sick of it. Never did so disordered an army start from England. An army led by bishops and priests is something strange. Bishops have before now ridden often in battle, but never before did they assume command. Methinks when I go home that I will ask the king to give me the direction of Westminster Monastery and Abbey; at any rate I could not make a worse hand of it than the Bishop of Norwich is doing of this. And you say that De Beaulieu promised to send your armour on the first opportunity. That is, indeed, a generous action, for the armour of a prisoner is always the property of his captor, and your armour is of great value. I would that we could do something to show the good knight that we appreciate his generosity."
"We have our chains," Edgar said. "Of course we did not carry them about us when we should have to fight, and they are very heavy and of the finest workmanship. These would we gladly send to him, would we not, Albert, in token of our gratitude? Though, costly as they are, they are of much less value than the armour."
"I would gladly add something of my own account," Sir Hugh said, "seeing that you are in my train, and one does not like to be surpassed by a foreign knight. As to the matter of the ransom, that does not trouble me, and indeed, seeing that you surrendered to him, and that he felt that he could not give protection, and you had to risk your lives in getting away, it was but reasonable that he should remit it, but in the matter of the armour the case is different. I will add to your chains a reliquary which was presented to me by Pedro of Castile when I saved his life in the fight at Najarra. He told me that it contained a nail of the true cross, and that it was brought to Spain by a Spaniard of royal blood who was a knight commander of the Temple.
"I do not know how far this is true, for as one gets older one loses faith in these monkish stories of reliquaries. However, the casket is set with gems of value, and there is with it a parchment setting forth its history; at any rate it is a gift that is worthy of even a prince's acceptance. I will send it to him as a token that Sir Hugh Calverley recognizes his chivalrous behaviour to the knights who were captured while covering his carriage from the ramparts of Ypres, and, therefore, sends this gift to him in all honour and courtesy, together with the gold chains of the knights themselves. We shall not have long to wait. There are fights well- nigh every day, and when these are over there is a truce of an hour to carry off the wounded and dead."
The young knights thanked Sir Hugh for thus generously supplementing their own offering in return for their armour, but he waved it aside.
"You saved my life," he said; "or at any rate you saved me from capture, and had I fallen into their hands methinks that I should have had to pay a far heavier ransom before they let me out again."
Two days later there was heavy fighting again and much loss on both sides. It ceased as usual without any advantage being won by the besiegers. The fighting ended soon after mid-day, and at one o'clock the trumpet sounded a truce. Sir Hugh mounted, with his two knights, saying to Edgar: "It were perhaps best that you should not ride with me. 'Tis likely that the townsmen still think that you are in Beaulieu's house, and were it known that you had escaped it might bring trouble upon him and the two knights who aided your escape from the wall."
He took with him a pursuivant and trumpeter, and, riding through the English and Flemish men-at-arms, who were already engaged in carrying away the dead and wounded, he rode up to within a short distance of the wall, then the pursuivant and trumpeter advanced to the edge of the moat, and the latter blew a loud blast.
In a short time a knight appeared on the wall, and the pursuivant cried in a loud voice:
"Sir Hugh Calverley, a valiant and puissant knight of England, desires speech with Sir Robert De Beaulieu, a brave and gentle knight of Flanders."
"I am Sir Robert De Beaulieu. Pray tell Sir Hugh Calverley to do me the courtesy to wait for me a quarter of an hour, and I will then issue forth
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