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of true venerie. I marvel that your lordship should choose to seek sport in such company!"
"Nay, nay "-Breckenridge broke in ; "I will not hear thee so miscall thyself. Blacker tales have been told of Knolles than ever were laid to thine account: yet Chandos himself, while he lived, thought it not shame to couch lance in his company, and few stand higher in the king's favour than he. 'Twas but lately John Menstreworth abyed dearly the maligning him. Didst thou not see yon grim head grinning down from the Bridge-house tower? Our liege is no niggard of his bounty to such as serve him faithfully. Three years agone he would have paid my poor deserts with the Barony of Welland, and a fair fief to boot; but I have more than sufficeth my needs, and none to inherit such honours; also, I love the old name; so, with all gratitude, I said him nay. Come, wilt thou not be ruled by me? Thou art not minded, I trust, to take part against us."
"Nay, verily "—Ralph replied. "I have no such thought; though 'tis long since I took King Edward's wages, were I arrayed against the Red Cross, I should seem unto myself but a renegade. Nevertheless, I am under promise to return to a certain place in France-marry, 'tis no secret, your lordship knows the place, 'tis no other than Hacquemontbefore binding myself by any engagement whatsoever. 'Tis a quiet nook, beyond the sound of French or English trumpets; and I see not why I should not tarry there for awhile, neither molesting nor molested, taking part with neither side. I have earned some respite, I trow, for- -save when I have been ailing of wounds—the harness has scarce been off my shoulders these twenty years."
The elder knight shook his head rather sorrowfully.
""Tis a pleasant dream"--he said-" and the saints forbid I should grudge thee rest so fairly earned; yet, 'tis a dream scarce like to come true. To sit with folded hands in such times as these is not for the like of thee and me. Some time back, the good Bishop of Rochester preached at Westminster on the blessings of peace, and so forth. His discourse pleased none of us that listened, my lord the King least of all, judging from his frown; yet the text hath rung in mine ears ever since 'All they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.'"
Ralph barely repressed a start. That same thought had been in his mind many and many a time; but it had never before been put in words.
"Your words have truth and reason, my lord," he said; "and, trust
me. I will ponder tharen heelfly. I will bring you mine answer to Beriani, or to such other place as you may please to appoint, within one month after I set foot in France; and I purpose to set forth thither allway. Will this ce ya?"
--It must, perforce, sith better may not be "-quoth Breckenridge, reing. But 'twill scarce delay thy journey to take passage in my ship f.om. Southampton, an i suffer me to set you safe on shore. Since Duke Lancaster's marriage, and the contract of the younger Infanta to his brother of Cambridge, the Spaniard hath waxed venomous, and his cor-a'rs are abroad in those seas, so that the passage is scarce safe for merchantmen without convoy. How sayest then? This grace, at least, then wit scarce deny me?"
Ralph had no choice but to accept gratefully; and so, with more courteous words on either side, they parted, having made compact to meet at Southampton that day se'nnight.
No further incident marked the remainder of Brakespeare's stay in Southwark. After taking kindly leave of the armourer, and bestowing on his family such gifts as he could prevail on them to accept, the knight once more took the road, and arrived safe at Southampton on the even of the day.
For a full fortnight beyond the time appointed for their sailing, the transports lay idle off the town; for the cumbrous vessels of that time never ventured forth from harbour when the breezes were contrary. During that weary waiting, Ralph had ample leisure to pass in review the chiefs of the expedition under whose convoy he was to sail: the more so, as, for reasons not hard to understand, he would be as yet presented to none of these; but tarried under the same roof with Sir Walter Breckenridge, without revealing his own name or quality. The Free Companion, like most other successful adventurers, had no mean skill in physiognomy, and the judgment that he formed of men at first sight was rarely far from truth.
John of Pembroke was older, and perchance wiser, than when he was trapped at Puyrenon, and was fain to humble himself by crying on Chandos for succour; yet his quick, impulsive manner, and bright, unsteady eyes, betokened one better fitted to lead a desperate assault or headlong charge, than to rule the destinies of a province, or control the movements of a mighty armament. Neither did the force, then actually sent forth, seem proportionate to the objects it was destined to achieve. Sir Guiscard d'Angle had assured King Edward that there was no lack of lances in Poitou and Guienne ready to be
So the trea
hired, and that gold was more needed there than steel. sure-ship was laden with nobles and florins enow to maintain for a full year's space three thousand fighting men; but there embarked with the Earl, besides his own household, scarce a score of knights, each with his immediate retainers. Truly, amongst them were numbered names of no mean renown: those of Beaufort, Curzon, Grimstone, Morton, Whitaker, and Breckenridge, were right well known on either side of the narrow seas.
At length the wind veered round to the north-west; and, getting aboard with what speed they might, the English sailed out of Southampton with good hope and courage, praying only that the breeze might hold till they reached Rochelle; for few, if any, of them dreamed of their landing being disputed. This confidence was somewhat abated when, after a prosperous voyage, they sighted the southern point of the Poitevin coast; for there the look-outs in the mast-turrets descried a dark line of shipping anchored in the sheltering lee of the Isle of Ré, barring entrance to the harbour. The vessel that carried Breckenridge and Brakespeare sailed better than the most part of her fellows, and held her place throughout in the vaward division of the squadron; so that those were among the first to be aware of the presence of an enemy.
Quoth the elder knight to the younger—
"I have done thee a right good turn, it seems, in persuading thee to take passage with me. Lo! now thou wilt have to take thy chance of landing with the rest of us-and thy full share of hard blows also, belike-whether thou wilt or no."
"Trouble not yourself, my good lord "-the other made answer, cheerily. "For your kind intent I am none the less beholden to you. Nevertheless, I am as well pleased that it is not against France alone we shall fight presently-if fight we must. Yon gaudy pennon of gules and or, that I saw in the last gleam of sunshine, is not blazoned with the Lilies, I trow; rather should it be borne by the Spaniards of whom ye spake-albeit those are no corsairs, but mighty warships."
"Those hawk's eyne of thine are keen, then, as ever," Breckenridge replied. "Never an one of our watchmen hath told us so much; yet thou art right, I doubt not. Even such as thou sayest, is the banner of Castile. Now I will below and arm me; but how to furnish thee forth I know not. There is no lack of harness aboard; yet none, I trow, like to fit one of thy size and stature.”
'My mails are not heavy;
"Fear not for me "-Brakespeare said. nevertheless, they hold that shall serve my turn to-day."
When the Free Companion appeared again, there was no outward change in his attire, save that he wore a plain bascinet. His squire,
too, was accoutred only in a light headpiece and a stout leathern gipon.
"Art thou distraught ?"-Breckenridge asked discontentedly, as he came on deck, armed in plate from head to 'heel,-" or bearest thou some charm, to make quarrells and javelins glint off from clothier's ware like hailstones ?"
By way of answer the other opened the breast of his doublet, revealing beneath a mail shirt, woven in steel links, exceeding fine, that glittered like silver broidery-one of those masterpieces of the hammerman's art, rare, even in Milan armouries.
"I have proved it"-he said, with a smile. "Ludovico Sforza wore this under his vest when I met him by the way, and guessing him unarmed, thought to spear him, as I would have speared a marsh-hog-for blacker traitor and fouler murderer never drew breath. I smote him full on the breast; and the shock was so rude that his neck brake, and he lay dead where he fell. I thought 'twas sorcery, that my lance had not gone thorow; but, when we stripped him, though there was a sore bruise above the midriff, the skin was barely grazed."
The old knight nodded his head as if well pleased. Of a truth the time was short for discourse; for the Spaniard's line was now so close that the great ramparts and towers of their war-ships, full of spearmen and arbalastiers, were plainly discerned: they had weighed anchor when the English first came into sight; and, having gotten to windward, were now bearing down full sail.
So the battle began. That it should have been vainly contested against such unequal odds, redounds not less to the honour of the Red Cross than any victory achieved since Poitiers. For, not only was the Spaniard far superior in numbers, but his vessels, compared to the English, were as caravels to cockboats; and, furthermore, besides crossbows and cannon, they carried divers warlike engines, flinging great bars of iron, huge stones, and leaded beams-the full shock of which no ordinary hull might withstand. Nevertheless, those who fought under John of Pembroke bare themselves with such valour and skilful seamanship that-at the cost of many sorely wounded, and not a few slain outright by the enemy's artillery-they held their own, even to
the going down of the sun, with actual loss of only two provision barges with all aboard. For-saith Froissart-" They handled their spears, which were well steeled, so briskly, and gave such terrible strokes, that none dared to come anear, unless he was warmed and sheltered."
Slowly, as night fell, the two fleets drew apart, and cast anchor waiting the one side with eager confidence, the other with stubborn courage for what the morrow should bring forth.
Now, the engagement took place not so far from the shore, but that it could be plainly discerned from the ramparts of Rochelle. Sir John Harpenden—a valiant and trusty captain, who then was Seneschal of the town-spared neither threats nor entreaties to induce the citizens to embark in the vessels and barges lying in the port, to the aid of their fellows, who were manifestly overborne. But the Rochellois, with French sympathies at their hearts, in no wise listened-excusing themselves with some show of reason; alleging that they had their own gates to guard, and that—lacking practice on the sea-they were illfitted to cope thereon with the Spaniard; but that they were ready with their service, should battle ensue on shore. When the Seneschal saw that he wasted breath, and was not like to prevail, he bethought himself how best he could act for the clearing of his own honour. So, on the turn of the tide John Harpenden, and three other Poitevin knights who also were minded at all risks to keep faith with their suzerain-embarked in four open barges; and carried to Pembroke and Guiscard d'Angle the heavy message, that they must trust no longer to aid or countenance from La Rochelle, but only to the strength of their own arms, and to the mercy of God.
THE BATTLE ON SAINT JOHN BAPTIST'S EVE.
WHEN the sun had fairly risen on the morning before St. John Baptist's Day, and the tide was at the full, the Spaniards weighed anchor to the sound of trumpet and drum; and, having once more taken the wind of the English, bore down in full battle array, intending fairly to surround the smaller squadron. Forty great ships of war, and thirteen galleys