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At Agincourt By G. A. Henty Characters: 31252

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

In a short time Robert Picard returned with his two companions, and leaving the square, they all went along the quays to a quiet spot. "We cannot be overheard here," Guy said, "and now, in the first place, let me know how you have fared. I knew that you had got safely away, for I was near the gate of St. Denis when the Burgundians fought their way out, and I saw you follow."

"We had no difficulty," Robert Picard said. "We went into the wood, and thence I went across to St. Cloud and bought these garments that you see us in, and we hid away our steel caps and harness in some bushes in the heart of the wood, where they are not likely to be found. Then after a long talk with Tom we agreed that he had best go as a half-witted man with a basket of vegetables for sale, and I went into St. Cloud again, dressed as I now am, and found a little shop where they sold rags and old garments, and got his outfit for a couple of francs, and dear at that. We thought in that way he would not have to say much, and that any confusion of speech would be set down to the fact that his brain was weak. Hearing that the gates were open this afternoon, we came in just before they were closed for the night. We have got a room in a lane which honest folk would not care to pass through even in daylight; 'tis a vile hole, but consorts well with our appearance."

"I will try and find you a better place to-morrow, Robert. I am going to see the people with whom Ma?tre Leroux is in hiding. I hear that they have no sympathy with these butchers, and when I tell them that you are stout fellows and good fighters methinks they will find quarters for you; and you may be able to put on safer disguises than those you wear at present, except that of Tom's, which I think we cannot better. Besides, he can lie there quietly, and need not, except when he chooses, sally out. I myself am lodging at present among the butchers. I hear that Caboche and the Legoix are furious at our having slipped through their fingers, and they declare that, as we cannot have escaped from Paris, they will lay hands on us very soon."

"I should like to lay hands on a few of them myself, Master Guy," Tom said earnestly, "say out in that wood there with a quarter-staff, and to deal with four of them at a time. They have burnt my bow, and I shall not get even with them till I have cracked fully a dozen of their skulls."

"I shall be likely to be near you in the quarter where I hope to get you lodging, Tom, for I too am going to have a room there, though I shall generally live where I now am, as I can there obtain news of all that is going on, and might be able to warn our lady in time if they should get any news that may set them on her track. Heard you aught at St. Cloud of any Orleanist gathering?"

"I heard a good deal of talk about it, but naught for certain; but methinks that ere long they will be stirring again. The news that I have heard of the insolence of the mob here to the Duke of Aquitaine, and of the seizure of their friends who were with him, is like to set them on fire, for they will see that all the promises made by Burgundy meant nothing, and that, with the aid of the Parisians, he is determined to exercise all authority in the state, and to hold Aquitaine as well as the king in his hands."

The next morning Guy went to the house of Ma?tre de Lepelletiere, and inquired for Philip Sampson. Ma?tre Leroux was in.

"I have spoken to my friend about you," he said, after they had talked over the events of the last two days, "and he has arranged for a room for you in a house three doors away; and I have no doubt that your four men can be lodged there also, for 'tis a large house, and is let out, for the most part, as he told me, to journeymen carpenters. But since the troubles began there has been little building, and men who can find no work here have moved away to seek for it in places less afflicted by these troubles. That is one of the reasons why the carpenters have not made a firmer stand against the butchers. I will ask him to come up here. You already know him, as you have spoken with him several times when he was looking after his men putting up the new doors."

The master carpenter soon came in. "I will gladly get a lodging for your men," he said, when Guy had explained the matter to him. "We may come to blows with these market people, and four stout fellows are not to be despised. There will be a meeting of the council of our guild this afternoon, and on my recommendation they will give me the necessary documents, saying that the men-you can give me their names-have received permission to work as carpenters in Paris. They can then put on dresses suitable for craftsmen, and the papers will suffice to satisfy anyone who may inquire as to their business. I think that your tall archer may safely lay aside the disguise you say he has assumed, it might be likely to get him into trouble; the change in the colour of the hair and the darkening of his eyebrows should be quite sufficient disguise, and if he is always when abroad with one of his comrades, he has but to keep his mouth shut, and if questioned the man with him can say that he is dumb."

"That would be excellent," Guy said, "and I am greatly obliged to you. Doubtless, too, they will soon make acquaintance with some of the other workmen, and by mixing with these there will be less suspicion excited than if they always went about together."

"I will tell my foreman to present them to the men who work for me, and they will soon get known in the quarter. Five or six of my men lodge in the house where I took the room for you. It might be useful, too, were I to give you a paper of apprenticeship, and if you were similarly introduced. In that case it might be convenient to exchange the small room that I have taken for you for a larger one; as an apprentice you would ordinarily lodge with your master, and if you did not you would scarce have a room to yourself, but were you to lodge with your four men it would seem natural enough."

"That would be a capital plan, Ma?tre Lepelletiere."

"You see, in that way, too," the carpenter went on, "you would only have to place a plank on your shoulder and then go where you will without exciting the least attention. I will furnish you with a list of the houses where I have men at work, and this again would be an assistance to you. It is my foreman who took the lodging for you; I am expecting him here shortly for orders, and he shall go round with you. As you say that your fellows are dressed at present in rough fashion it will be as well that they should provide themselves with their new disguises before they come here, as, if they were seen in their present guise, it would prejudice them with the others in the house, for craftsmen look down greatly upon the rough element of the street."

"They shall do so," Guy said, "and I will come with them myself this evening."

Guy presently went in with the foreman and arranged for a large attic with a dormer window, at the top of the house. At midday he met Robert Picard and told him the arrangements that had been made, supplying him with money for the purchase of the four dresses. "As soon as it becomes dark," he said, "you had best go to some quiet spot and change them. Bring the clothes you now have on in a bundle, for they may yet prove useful, and meet me at eight o'clock at the corner of the Rue des Fosses."

Guy then went to the Italian's and told Dame Margaret of the arrangements he had made.

"Since you have managed it all so well, Guy, I am glad to hear that the men are all back in Paris. I before wished that they should make straight for Villeroy, but since they are so safely bestowed it were best perhaps that they should be within reach. Long Tom is the only one I shall feel anxious about, for of course he is less easy to disguise than the others."

"He has plenty of shrewdness, my lady, and will, I have no doubt, play his part well. I know that I myself feel very glad that there are four true men upon whom we can rely if any difficulty should arise."

"Some evening, mother," Agnes said, "when I have grown more accustomed to this boy's dress I will go with Katarina to this house so that I can carry a message there, should she happen to be away when there is need for sending one."

Lady Margaret hesitated, but Guy said: "By your leave, my lady, I think that the idea is a very good one, saving that I myself will escort the two ladies there as soon as Mistress Agnes feels confident enough to go."

"In that case I should have no objection, Guy. Under your charge I have no doubt Agnes would be perfectly safe, but I could hardly bring myself to let her go out without escort in so wild a city as this is at present."

The Italian and his daughter presently joined them, and heard with satisfaction where Guy and the four men had obtained a safe lodging.

"Still," he said, "I should advise you sometimes to sleep at your lodging by the market-place. Simon is not the sort of companion you would choose. I have only seen him once, and I was then so disguised that he would not recognize me again-for none of those with whom I have dealings know who I am or where I live-but that once was sufficient to show me that the fellow might be trusted to serve me well as long as he was paid well, especially as he believed that I was an agent of the duke's; still, he is a rough and very unsavoury rascal, and had I been able to think at the moment of anywhere else where you could for the time safely shelter I should not have placed you with him."

"I do not mind," Guy said; "and at any rate with him I have opportunities of seeing what is going on, as, for example, when they insulted the Duke of Aquitaine, and it is certainly well to be able to learn what the intentions of the fellows are. As an Englishman I care naught for one party or the other, but as one of gentle blood it fills me with anger and disgust to see this rabble of butchers and skinners lording it over nobles and dragging knights and gentlemen away to prison; and if it were in my power I would gladly upset their design, were it not that I know that, for my lady's sake, it were well to hold myself altogether aloof from meddling in it."

"You are right," the Italian said gravely. "I myself am careful not to meddle in any way with these affairs. I try to learn what is doing, because such knowledge is useful to me and gains me credit as well as money with those who consult me, and may possibly be the means of saving their lives if they do but take my warning. Thus, having learned what was proposed to be done yesterday morning, I was able to warn a certain knight who visited me the evening before that it might cost him his life were he to remain in Paris twelve hours. He was incredulous at first, for I would give him no clue as to the nature of the danger; however, by a little trick I succeeded in impressing him sufficiently for him to resolve to leave at daybreak. This he did; at least they searched for him in vain at the Duke of Aquitaine's, and therefore I have no doubt that he took my advice, engaged a boat, and made his escape by the river. It was his first A to me, and I doubt not that henceforth he will be a valuable client, and that he will bring many of his friends to me. If I mistake not, I shall have more opportunities of doing such services and of so increasing my reputation ere long."

For a time things went on quietly. Tom and his companions were on friendly terms with the other men in the house, who all believed them to be carpenters who had come to Paris in search of employment. Long Tom was supposed by them to be dumb, and never opened his lips save when alone with his companions, and seldom left the house. The room was altogether unfurnished, but furniture was regarded as by no means a necessity in those days. Five bundles of rushes formed their beds, and Guy, as there was little to learn in the markets, generally slept there. An earthenware pan, in which burned a charcoal fire over which they did what cooking was necessary, a rough gridiron, and a cooking pot were the only purchases that it was necessary to make. Slices of bread formed their platters, and saved them all trouble in the matter of washing up. Washing was roughly performed at a well in the court-yard of the house.

Things had now quieted down so much that a considerable number of great nobles resorted to Paris, for the king had now a lucid interval. Among them were the Dukes of Berri, Burgundy, and Lorraine, with Duke Louis of Bavaria, the queen's brother, with the Counts de Nevers, De Charolais, De St. Pol, the Constable of France, and many other great lords and prelates. The queen was also with her husband.

"There will shortly be trouble again," the Italian said one day to Guy. "Simon told my daughter yesterday evening that the butchers were only biding their time to get as many fish into their net as possible, and that when they would draw it they would obtain a great haul. You have not been down there for some time; it were best that you put on your butcher's garb again and endeavour to find out what is intended."

"I was expecting you," Simon said, when that evening Guy entered his room. "There will be a meeting at midnight in the butchers' hall, and I cannot take you in with me, but I will tell you what happens."

"That will do as well as if I went myself," Guy said, "though in truth I should like well to see one of these councils."

"No one is admitted save those known to be, like myself, thoroughly devoted to the cause."

"That I can well understand, Simon; a traitor might mar all their plans."

"Some time I may take you," Simon said, "for doubtless I could smuggle you in; but to-night-" and he hesitated, "to-night it will be specially important, and they have to be more particular than usual as to who are admitted."

Guy noticed the hesitation, and replied carelessly that one occasion would be as good as another for him, and presently lay down in his corner. He wondered to himself what the business could be that his companion was evidently anxious that he should hear nothing of. He might wish that he should alone have the merit of reporting it, or it might be something that it was deemed the Duke of Burgundy himself, the butchers' friend and ally, would not approve of. At any rate he was determined, if possible, to find it all out; he therefore feigned sleep. At eleven o'clock Simon got up and went down; Guy waited for two or three minutes and then rose and followed. As soon as he was out of the door he made direct for the hall of the butchers' guild. He knew that Simon was not going straight there, as the meeting was not, he said, for an hour, and that he would be stopping to drink at some cabaret with his associates. The hall was but a short distance away.

When Guy approached it he saw that as yet it was not lighted up. On three sides it was surrounded by a garden with high trees; near the front entrance some twenty men were gathered talking together. He, therefore, went round to the back; several trees grew near the wall, and the branches of one of these extended over it. With considerable difficulty Guy succeeded in climbing it, and made his way along the branch and got upon the top of the wall. This was about fourteen feet high, and, lowering himself by his arms, he dropped into the garden and crossed to the building. He took off his white hood and thrust it into his doublet. The windows were six feet from the ground, and were, as usual at this time

, closed by wooden shutters on the inside. Putting his fingers on the sill he raised himself up. There was plenty of room for him to stand, and, holding on by the iron bars, he took out his dagger and began to cut a hole in the shutter.

The wood was old, and after half an hour's hard work he succeeded in making a hole three inches long and an inch wide. By the time this was finished the hall had been lighted up with torches, and men were pouring in through the doors at the other end. Across the end next to him was a platform on which was a table. For a time no one came up there, for the members as they entered gathered in groups on the floor and talked earnestly together. After a few minutes ten men came up on to the platform; by this time the body of the hall was full, and the doors at the other end were closed. A man, whom Guy recognized as John de Troyes, stepped forward from the others on the platform and, standing in front of the table, addressed his comrades.

"My friends," he said, "it is time that we were at work again. Paris is becoming infested by enemies of the people, and we must rid ourselves of them. The nobles are assembled for the purpose, as they say, of being present at the marriage of Louis of Bavaria with the widow of Peter de Navarre, but we know well enough that this is but a pretext; they have come to consult how best they can overthrow the power of our Duke of Burgundy and suppress the liberty of this great city. The question is, are we tamely to submit to this?"

A deep shout of "No!" ran through the multitude.

"You are right, we will not submit. Were we to do so we know that it would cost the lives of all those who have made themselves prominent in the defence of the liberties of Paris; they might even go so far as to suppress all our privileges and to dissolve our guilds. In this matter the Duke of Burgundy hesitates and is not inclined to go with us to the full, but we Parisians must judge for ourselves what is necessary to be done. The duke has furnished us with a list of twelve names; these men are all dangerous and obnoxious to the safety of Paris. But there must be a longer list, we must strike at our own enemies as well as at those of the duke, and the council has therefore prepared a list of sixty names, which I will read to you."

Then, taking out a roll of paper, he read a list of lords and gentlemen, and also, to Guy's indignation, the names of several ladies of rank.

"These people," he said when he had finished, "are all obnoxious, and must be cast into prison. They must be tried and condemned."

Even among the greater portion of those present the boldness of a proposal that would array so many powerful families against them created a feeling of doubt and hesitation. The bolder spirits, however, burst into loud applause, and in this the others speedily joined, none liking to appear more lukewarm than the rest. Then up rose Caboche, a big, burly man with a coarse and brutal expression of face.

"I say we want no trials," he cried, striking one hand on the palm of the other. "As to the number, it is well enough as a beginning, but I would it were six hundred instead of sixty. I would that at one blow we could destroy all the nobles, who live upon the people of France. It needs but a good example to be set in Paris for all the great towns in France to follow it. Still, paltry as the number is, it will, as I said, do as a beginning. But there must be no mistake; if trials they must have, it must be by good men and true, who will know what is necessary and do it; and who will not stand upon legal tricks, but will take as evidence the fact that is known to all, that those people are dangerous to Paris and are the enemies of the king and the Duke of Burgundy. Last time we went, we marched with five thousand men; this time we must go with twenty thousand. They must see what force we have at our command, and that Paris is more powerful than any lord or noble even of the highest rank, and that our alliance must be courted and our orders obeyed. The Duke of Burgundy may pretend to frown, but at heart he will know that we are acting in his interest as well as our own; and even if we risk his displeasure, well, let us risk it. He needs us more than we need him. Do what he will, he cannot do without us. He knows well enough that the Orleanists will never either trust or forgive him, and he committed himself so far with us last time that, say what he will, none will believe that he is not with us now. For myself, I am glad that De Jacqueville and his knights will not this time, as last, ride at our head; 'tis best to show them that Paris is independent even of Burgundy, and that what we will we can do."

The hall rang with the loud acclamations, then John de Troyes got up again.

"I agree, we all agree, with every word that our good friend has spoken, and can warrant me that the judges shall be men in whom we can absolutely trust, and that those who enter the prisons will not leave them alive. The day after to-morrow, Thursday, the 11th of May, we shall hold a great assembly, of which we shall give notice to the king and the royal dukes, and shall make our proposals to the Duke of Aquitaine. Now, my friends, let each come forward with a list of the number of his friends who he will engage shall be present on Thursday."

At this point, Guy, seeing that the main business of the meeting had been declared, and that there now remained but to settle the details, got down from his post. With the aid of some ivy he climbed the wall and dropped down beyond it, and made his way back to his lodging. When Simon returned an hour later, Guy was apparently as fast asleep as before. When sleeping at the butchers' quarter he always rose at a very early hour, so that none who might have noticed him in his butcher's attire should see him go out in that of an apprentice, and he was obliged to walk about for some time before he could call at the count's. As soon as he thought that they would be likely to be stirring he knocked at the door. The old woman opened it.

"Is your master up yet?" he asked.

She nodded, and without further question he made his way upstairs to the

Italian's chamber.

"You are early, Master Aylmer," the latter said in surprise as he entered.

"Have you news of importance?"

"I have indeed, Count," and he at once related all that he had heard through the hole in the shutter.

"The insolence of these people surpasses all bounds," the count said angrily as he walked up and down the room. "Were there any force in the town that could resist them I would warn the Duke of Aquitaine what was intended, but as it is, nothing would be gained by it. You can only remember the eight or ten names that you have given me?"

"That is all; they were names that I was familiar with, while the others were strange to me."

"Two or three of them I can at least save from the grasp of these rascals," he said, "but I will take them all down on my tablets. What need was there for you," he went on after he had done this, "to run such risk as you did-for you would assuredly have been killed without mercy had they caught you spying upon them-when Simon, who you say was present, could have sent me full particulars of all that passed?"

Guy stated his reasons for fancying that upon this occasion Simon did not intend to send a full account.

"I thought so before I started," he said, "but I was well assured of it when I heard that, although Burgundy had given the names of twelve persons whom he desired to be arrested, he would go no further in the matter, and that he had no knowledge of their further pretensions. It seems to me, Count, that, believing as he does that you are an agent of the duke's, he was unwilling to say anything about this matter, as Burgundy might thwart the intentions of the butchers. The man is heart and soul with them, and though he is willing to sell you information that can do no harm to their plans, he will say nothing that might enable Burgundy to thwart them."

"If I thought that Burgundy could, or would do so, I would inform him as well as Aquitaine what is doing; but in the first place he has not the power, and in the second he would not have the will. What are a few score of lives to him, and those mostly of men of the Orleanist faction, in comparison with the support of Paris? I am vexed, too, at this failure of Simon, that is to say, if it be a failure. That we shall know by mid-day. My daughter will meet him in the Place de Grève at eleven, and we shall hear when she comes back how much he has told her. I am going after breakfast to my booth outside the walls, where you first saw me. I must send notes to the three gentlemen whom I know, begging them to see me there."

"Can I take them for you? I have nothing to do, and shall be glad of anything to occupy me."

"I shall be obliged if you will; you are sure to find them in at this hour."

He sat down and wrote three short communications. The wording was identical, but the times fixed for the interview were an hour apart. They ran as follows:

"My Lord,-Consulting the stars last night I find that danger menaces you. It may be averted if you quit Paris when you receive this, for it seems to me that it is here only that your safety is menaced. Should you wish to consult me before doing so, come, I pray you, to my booth in the fair at two, but come mounted. "

Instead of a signature a cabalistic figure was drawn below it, and then the words were added:

The bearer can be trusted.

The slips of parchment were then rolled up and sealed; no addresses were put on.

"If they question you," he said, "say nothing, save that I told you that the matter contained in the letter was sure and certain, and that a great risk of life would assuredly be run unless my advice was taken. Deliver them into the hands of those they concern, and trust them to no others, Master Aylmer. If you cannot obtain access to them, say to the varlets that they are to inform their lords that one from the man in the Rue des Essarts desires urgently to see them, and that should be sufficient if the message is given. If they refuse to take it, then I pray you wait outside for a while on the chance of the gentlemen issuing out. This, on which you see I have made one dot, is for the Count de Rennes, who is at present at the Hotel of St. Pol, being in the company of the Duke of Berri; this is for Sir John Rembault, who is at the Louvre, where he is lodging with the governor, who is a relation of his; the third is for the Lord of Roubaix, who is also lodged at the Louvre."

"They shall have them," Guy said as he placed them in his doublet, "if I have to stop till midnight to get speech with them; the matter of waiting a few hours is but a trifle in comparison with the life of a man. I would that I could warn others."

The Italian shook his head. "It could not be done without great danger," he said. "Were you to carry an anonymous letter to others you might be seized and questioned. The three to whom you now carry notes have all reason for knowing that my predictions are not to be despised, but the others would not accept any warning from an unknown person. They might take it for a plot, and you might be interrogated and even put to torture to discover who you are and whence you obtained this information. Things must go on as they are; assuredly this is no time for meddling in other people's affairs. We are only at the beginning of troubles yet, and know not how great they may grow. Moreover, you have no right to run a risk for strangers when your life may be of vital service to your mistress. Should you succeed in handing these three letters to the gentlemen to whom they are written by noon, I shall be glad if you will bring the news to me at my booth, and I shall then be able to tell, you how much information the butcher has sent of the proceedings last night."

Guy went first to the Louvre. As many people were going in and out, no question was asked him, and on reaching the entrance he inquired of some varlets standing there for the lodgings of the Lord de Roubaix and Sir John Rembault.

"I am in the service of the Lord de Roubaix; what would you with him?"

"I am charged with a message for him; I was told to deliver it only to himself."

"From whom do you come? I cannot disturb him with such a message from I know not who."

"That is reasonable," Guy replied, "but if you tell him that I come from the man in the Rue des Essarts I warrant that he will see me. You don't suppose that I am joking with you," he went on as the varlet looked at him suspiciously, "when I should likely be whipped for my pains. If you will give the message to your lord I doubt not that he will give me audience."

"Follow me," the varlet said, and led the way upstairs and through several corridors, then he motioned to him to wait, and entered a room. He returned in a minute.

"My lord will see you," he said, and led the way into the room. "This is the person, my lord," he said, and then retired.

The Lord of Roubaix was a tall man of some forty years of age. Guy bowed deeply and handed to him the roll of parchment. The count broke the seal and read it, and when he had finished looked fixedly at Guy.

"The writer tells me that you are to be trusted?"

"I hope so, my lord."

"Do you know the contents of this letter?"

"I know so much, my lord, that the writer told me to assure you that the matter was urgent, and that he could not be mistaken as to what was written in the letter."

The count stood irresolute for a minute or two; then he said:

"Tell him that I will act upon his advice. He has before now proved to me that his warnings are not to be neglected. You seem by your attire to be an apprentice, young sir, and yet your manner is one of higher degree."

"Disguises are convenient in times like these, my lord," Guy said.

"You are right, lad." He put his hand to his pouch, but Guy drew back with a smile.

"No, my lord, had you offered me gold before you remarked that I was but playing a part, I should have taken it in order to keep up that part; as it is I can refuse it without your considering it strange that I should do so."

The count smiled. "Whoever you are, you are shrewd and bold, young sir. I shall doubtless see you when I return to Paris."

Guy then left, and delivered the other two missives. In each case those who received them simply returned an answer that they would be at the place at the hour named, and he then went beyond the walls, observing as he passed out through the gates that a party of White Hoods had stationed themselves there. However, they interfered with no one passing in or out. On reaching the booth he informed the count of the success of his visits.

"I doubt, however," he said, "whether either of the three gentlemen will be here at the time appointed, for the White Hoods are watching at the gate."

"I think that they will not stop anyone to-day, Master Aylmer. They intend to make a great haul to-morrow, and would not wish to excite suspicion by seizing anyone to-day. Were it known that they had done so, many others who have reason to believe they are obnoxious to Burgundy or to the Parisians, might conceal themselves or make their escape in various disguises. I hear that a request has been made that a deputation of the citizens of Paris shall be received by the Duke of Aquitaine to-morrow morning, and that the great lords may be present to hear the request and complaints of the city."

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