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what stern in discipline, and imperious-apt rather to repel than invite familiarity-he was known to be free-handed, even to lavishness; and when there was danger in the front, he only asked to be followed. speaking of the misadventure at La Roche Dagon, the routiers did not forget how the castle was won: weighing the exploit of the pont levis against the night surprise and the drugged drink, the scale turned rather in Ralph's favour. Any man might be excused for being taken unawares by secret passages, or woman's wile; if their captain had paid dearly for his own love-fit, perchance he might be less severe hereafter in judging others who broke bounds; and they liked him none the worse, since he had shown that he was not temptation-proof. Little sympathy, and less regret, was expressed for those who came by their deaths when the place was re-taken; those reckless soudards were more inclined to pity a comrade for losing his money at the dice, than for losing his life in battle or brawl.

Sir Ralph Brakespeare was much in the position of a favourite captain, who having just lost a vessel-rather by the visitation of God, than through his own ignorance or cowardice-when he begins to fit out again, finds less difficulty in manning his ship than many merchants who have plodded on through their profession, steering clear both of brilliant success and grave disasters.

It soon became noised abroad, that Hawkwood and Brakespeare purposed to sever themselves from the Companies lying at Anse, and set forth for Lombardy. Rumours-vague, but tempting-of the suc cess of those who had already marched thither, had come back across the Alps; so that, when the knights finally mustered their followers, no fewer than fourscore lances, and nigh two hundred spearmen and coutilliers, were ranged under their command. Seguin de Bastefol was sorely inclined to take umbrage at so large a defection; but independent action was the very root and essence of Free Companies; and he knew that neither of those two was likely to be dissuaded nor gainsayed. Moreover, he himself had begun to find the country round. Anse too strait for him, and to think of moving westwards, towards his native Gascony. This indeed, he did not long afterwards, turning by the way to storm Brieux, ravaging and devastating Auvergne from Clermont to Ussoire. So Seguin de Bastefol swallowed the necessity with a tolerably good grace; and when he bade his comrades "Go and prosper, in the devil's name!" this, according to his peculiar ideas, was rather a benison than a ban.

The events and preparations just related, extended over the space of


several months; and the spring of 1362 was far advanced, when the adventurers rode forth from Anse. They bore to the south-east, by Grenoble and Briançon, and crossed the Alps under Mont Genevre, by the pass through which, more than a century later, Charles VIII. descended, bringing with him a mighty armament and heavy train of artillery. It was a long march, and a toilsome; for the road was rough to travel, even in summer, and was more than fetlock deep in snow on the higher grounds: yet they had not lost horse or man when they came down on the Piedmontese plains near Susa. Thenceforward the journey was easy, and they moved steadily on-meeting with no let or hindrance by way of Asti and Alexandria, till they fixed themselves for the present on the south bank of the Po; waiting to see how the tide of events would turn.

By this time John of Montserrat, warring with the Lords of Milan, had made such good use of the spears he hired at Pont St. Esprit, that Barnabo and Galeas Visconti were fain to sue for peace. When this was once concluded, the Margrave-a prince no less politic than boldbegan to cast about how he might best deliver himself of a burden both cumbersome and costly; for it was needful not only to provide the Freebooters with food and pay, but also with constant work. Once in idleness, they waxed dangerous; and, like the familiars of necromancy, were apt to turn and rend their masters. From this perplexity he was relieved, by the offer of the Pisan deputies to take off his hands such of the Free Lances as he could spare; and so the White Company -then chiefly, though not entirely, composed of English-passed into the pay of the Republic. To this Company Hawkwood and Brakespeare joined themselves; and were received as those are like to be, who bring with them no mean reputation, and a following answering thereto.

It was not long before the elder knight began to gather into his own hand the reins of authority, hitherto somewhat slackly held by the two or three esteemed chiefs of the White Company. Only one of those-Simon Burnley by name-could lay claim to any real military skill; and he was such a thorough debauchee, that it was hard to reckon when his senses would be fit to use. So the eyes of all men began to turn to the quiet, staid commander-slow of speech, but whose cool brain and steady nerves were ever ready to profit by advantage, or battle with calamity.

Ralph Brakespeare watched his comrade's rise, not alone without envy, but without emulation; though he was neither gloomy nor des

pondent, the shadow of his last misadventure passed not away from him when others forgot it. He seemed loath to take upon himself any responsibility of command; in field or on parade, his voice was clear and sonorous as ever; but in counsel-chamber it was never heard. Hawkwood at first made efforts, not a few, to draw the other out of the background, as if unwilling to engross the chances of advancement ; but after awhile he desisted, and left Brakespeare to follow his own devices, whilst he addressed himself steadfastly to the task of building up his own fortunes.

Under the careful training of that skilful strategist, the materials of the Free Companies-already moulded into shape by fifteen years of incessant warfare-was developed to a military perfection, forgotten in Europe since the Roman Legionaries ceased to be. On the harness and equipment, no less than on the training of his veterans, Hawkwood bestowed thought and care. It was easy to conceive how poor a front raw peasant-levies and citizen-soldiery must have shown, when set face to face with such troops as Villani describes.

"These English were all lusty young men, most of them born and brought up in the long wars between the French and English; warm, eager, and practised in slaughter and rapine, for which they are always ready to draw their swords, with very little care for their personal safety; but in matters of discipline very obedient to their commanders. However, in their camps and cantonments, through disorderly and overbearing boldness, they lay scattered about in great irregularity, and with so little caution, that a bold, resolute body of men, might, in that state, easily give them a shameful defeat. The armour of almost all were cuirasses, their breasts covered with a steel coat of mail, gauntlets, and armour on the thighs and legs, daggers and broadswords; all of them had long tilting lances, which after dismounting from their horses, they were very dexterous in handling. Every man had one or two pages, and some of them more, according to their ability to maintain them. On taking off their armour, it was the business of their pages to keep them bright and clean; so that when they came to action, their arms shone like looking-glass, and thus gave them a more terrifying appearance. Others among them were archers; their bows long, and made of yew. They were very expert in using them, and did great service in action. Their manner of fighting in the field, was almost always on foot. The horses were given in charge to the pages. The body they formed was very compact and almost round; each lance was held by two men in the same manner as a spear

is handled in hunting the wild boar; and thus close embodied, with their lances pointed low, and with slow steps they marched up to the enemy with terrible outcry, and very difficult it was to break or disunite them."

Nevertheless, fortune was tardy in rewarding the great Condottiere's pains. The winter expedition through the Val de Nievole, though an admirable test of hardihood and endurance, could scarcely be classed above a predatory expedition, from which was reaped no permanent advantage; and when, in the summer of 1364, he first appears as the leader of the Pisan forces in a regular engagement, he led them not to victory, but to a rude reverse. True it is, that at Barga those of the White Company encountered not municipal troops alone, but many of their ancient comrades-both German and English-who had been lured from their own ranks by fair proffer of florins. It was wolf set against wolf, and deadly rending ensued; yet was the defeat not doubtful, and Malatesta, who commanded the Florentine host-cousin to him whose doings and death have been recorded in this chronicle-pressed his advantage right up to the gates of Pisa. Never, since he first drew sword, did Sir Ralph Brakespeare show more desperate valour than in covering that retreat, wherein he gat two sore wounds, besides being crushed under his dead charger: hardly did Lanyon, and others who struck in to the rescue, bear the knight alive into the town.

So once more Ralph's iron constitution had sharp trial; and the stark muscles and sinews slackened, till they could no longer lift the weary arm. There were no white hands to smooth his pillow, and no soft voices to sing him to sleep, as at Hacquemont. Nevertheless the knight found a careful nurse and a cheery withal, in a certain matron, buxom though well stricken in years-wife of the clothier in whose house he had lodged ever since he first joined the White Company. The condottiere, even so early in their service, were apt to entreat somewhat roughly the good citizens, on whose pay they throve till they waxed wanton; so that murmurs not a few, and some shrill complaints, had already been heard in Pisa. But Sir Ralph Brakespeare's name was in itself a safeguard; the boldest ruffler presumed not to brawl under the eaves of the house where he dwelt, much less molest its inmates; and he himself treated his hosts, not with moderation only, but with courtesy. In his sickness he had his reward.

If Dame Giacinta had watched by the sickbed of her own son-she had never born a living child, yet the matronly instincts were not less strong in her ample breast-she could not have been more earnest in

her tending. Garrulous by nature, she could govern her tongue at need; and, not till it was safe for her patient to listen did she try her best to amuse him. She had a pleasant voice too, and the linqua toscana was musical then as now; and Ralph would lay for hours listening to her prattle, seldom exerting himself to speak, but answering her now and then with a smile; with which encouragement the dame was more than content. Lanyon, too, was always within call; for little duty was going on, since the late defeat caused the Pisan garrison to keep within the gates. On the whole, the knight's convalescence advanced comfortably enough.

One day early, Dame Giacinta came into the sick chamber, dressed in deep mourning, with a countenance unusually downcast and demure; praying for leave to absent herself some two hours, which she purposed to spend at her devotions in the cathedral church hard by. When she returned the cloud had cleared somewhat from her countenance; though still pensive, she lapsed rapidly into her wonted talkative mood, and was very ready to answer Ralph's questions as to the causes of her heaviness. This was the tale she had to tell; to which the Free Companion listened, till the summer day waned into twilight.

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