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at-arms threw themselves on the causeway, four abreast, bearing the ladders in their midst; whilst the arbalestriers tarried still on the bank, to cover the assault with their artillery. As the head of the column touched the castle wall, a voice from above-distinctly audible as though the air had been deathly still, instead of filled with the rising din of battle-spoke these two words—

"Laissez aller !"

And a huge mass of stone like a crag toppling slowly over the battlements, fell into the very midst of the front rank; crushing Sir Yvon de Laconnet into a shapeless mass, and sorely maiming two others. This was only the forerunner of a storm of missiles of all weights and sizes, that for several minutes hailed down without pity or stay. Now it was seen, wherefore the wary Free Companion had suffered the causeway to be made without hindrance. Each one of his engines had been levelled with cool deliberation, and- -as at such short distance a stone, bullet, or beam could be shot to a hair's breadth-not one of them missed its mark, or wasted itself on a spot already swept by one of its fellows. The carnage wrought in brief space was marvellous. It was wrought, too, with scarce any loss to the defenders; who could discharge their engines with very moderate danger to their own persons, from bolt or quarrel. When the storm of missiles began to slacken, the causeway was cumbered with corpses and writhing bodies;

whilst in the ditch on either side wallowed those who had been thrust from above in the turmoil, or had cast themselves off in their agony or fear. Several of these last contrived to struggle to the further bank, and were drawn out by their comrades; but more-some even unwounded-were smothered under the weight of their harness, in the water and ooze.

A crueller repulse, or one likelier to discourage those who came up in support, could scarce be imagined. But Geoffrey de Kerimel, who led the second division, was a Breton to the backbone; endowed with more than his fair share of the surly obstinacy that makes better soldiers and more dangerous rebels than mere dashing valour. Hastily -as though fearful that the trumpets in the rear sounding recall, might baulk him of his purpose-he gave the word to advance. The second division came on, much as the first had done; saving that they could not keep close order, and were fain to make their way as best they could across the causeway, thrusting aside the corpses with scant ceremony, and not always pausing to make distinction betwixt the dead. and dying. As De Laconnet's cross-bowmen still lined the moat-bank,



those attached to De Kerimel's company were not required for like duty. So, laying down their ponderous crennequins, they drew their short swords, and prepared to support the men-at-arms to the best of their power.

The second company were exposed to no such peril as the first, for reason good. The cumbrous wall engines then in use, when once discharged, could not be brought to bear again without some time and trouble; and the garrison were not able to offer any serious resistance to the rearing of the scaling-ladders. Two of them were set up abreast, cach in a notch of a crenelle; and were soon crowded with stormers swarming up eagerly. The right hand party was led by Sir Geoffrey de Kerimel in person; the other by a strong and valiant esquireManoel Cassouan by name.

As Sir Geoffrey's head rose on the level of the battlements he came face to face with a knight in bright armour-wearing his vizor down; and in his right hand swaying carelessly a great steel mace, as if he had no present intention to strike,

"Valiant sir"—the Englishman said coolly-" whose title I know not; for I mind not before to have seen your pennon: doth it please you to yield yourself my prisoner, 'rescue or no rescue? 'For I hold you now at such vantage, that in no other wise may you carry your life away."

The Breton laughed hoarsely in his helmet; and, with no other answer, mounted two more rungs, brandishing his epée d'armes. Sir Ralph Brakespeare-the speaker was none other laughed too; and, as the other strove to thrust himself through the crenelle, his mace descended, crushing in helmet and brain-pan like egg-shells: so that Geoffrey de Kerimel fell back without a stagger-carrying with him headlong the two who stood next upon the ladder.

Others swarmed up apace; but never an one of these fairly gained footing within the battlements. For there stood the Free Companion, swaying his mace as a smith sways his fore-hammer-only that, instead of the blithe clink of the anvil, each blow was followed by a ghastly dull crash. Against that weapon, aided by advantage of height and ground, neither skill of fence nor harness of proof could avail. The fatal crenelle was all splashed with blood-gouts; till a foul, dark streamlet oozed therefrom, and trickled down the wall. At last the attack wavered and slackened: there was no longer press and throng at the ladder-foot; for even the stubborn Bretons began to doubt whether it were their bounden duty to front-not peril alone, but seemingly certain death.

The stormers on the other ladder, if they encountered no single champion of such terrible prowess, met with a very stout resistance, and could barely hold their own. There Gualtier de Marsan led the defenders, and did his devoir right gallantly; dealing such strokes as could scarce have been expected in one of his slender frame, not long since raised up from sore sickness. Before they had exchanged half-adozen blows, his sword point had found passage through Manoel de Cassouan's gorget, and hurled him backwards with a mortal wound. For some minutes fierce foining went on, with glaive and battle-axe and shortened spear.

Whilst the fight was at its hottest, came up Lanyon, from another part of the walls whither he had been sent by his lord. For a brief space the old esquire stood aside; looking on with a kind of grim approval, but not seeking to take any part therein. At last he pushed his way to the front; and touched the shoulder of De Marsan, who had that second hurled back another adversary.

"Cover my head while I stoop, Messire Gualtier "-he said-" and I will show thee a trick worth the seeing, if my sinews have not grown slack through idlesse."

Even while he spoke, Lanyon leant forward and grasped the ladder, the topmost rungs of which were just then clear; for the rearmost assailants had been somewhat thrown into confusion by their comrade's fall. Then he braced his knees firmly against either side of the deep crenelle, till his body formed a sort of arc-boutant, and thrust forward with his whole strength. The strain was so great, that one might have seen the brawny muscles start out under the cuir-bouilli covering the back of his legs and thighs; but, little by little, the ladder began to yield, till one tremendous jerk sent it headlong backwards into the moat with all its freight.

A sound betwixt a shriek and groan came up from below, echoed by Lanyon's surly chuckle as he picked himself out of the embrasure, where, in that last effort he had fallen prone; and the assault was over. The right-hand storming-party were already wavering in their attack; and the disaster of their fellows turned wavering into retreat. All scrambled across the causeway, or struggled out of the moat as quickly as they might; leaving behind their dead and wounded. Even had the trumpets not sounded sharply the recall, it is more than doubtful if Alain de Beaumanoir would have found enow to have followed him in a third essay.



VERY Wroth was Sir Olivier de Clisson as he watched the failure of the first assault, though he knew not as yet the full extent of the disaster; and he chafed yet more bitterly over the second repulse; but when he heard of Yvon de Laconnet's miserable end, and of Geoffrey de Kerimel's death, his anger was turned into a great sorrow; for he had loved both of them well. He smote upon his breast with his clenched hand, as he cried aloud

"Now may God pardon me! In that for mere vain-glory I suffered my judgment to be overruled; and set on a needless hazard the lives of two valiant knights and many a good man-at-arms. Lo! here I make vow that if ever I win back to Rennes, there shall be said in the cathedral church a hundred masses each, for the souls of Sir Yvon de Laconnet and Sir Geoffrey de Kerimel; neither will I put harness from off my back till they be ere avenged. It is well we came amply furnished with engines and bombards: we will have yon cursed castle, if we pluck it down stone by stone."

Nevertheless De Clisson first bade his trumpets sound a parley; and sent forward his own body squire, to pray for leave to take up their dead and wounded without molestation. This was granted readily. When the corpses were brought in, several besides Geoffrey de Kerimel's bore the same manner of death wound—a wound evidently inflicted by a single downright blow, that crushed steel and bone. together. And some of the bluff Bretons glanced at each other rather ruefully, as they gathered round to look on the Free Companion's handwriting.

It was but natural that those withinside should triumph somewhat in their complete success; which had been achieved too at the cost of not a single life, but only a few sharp flesh wounds. Long speeches were not in Brakespeare's way at any time. He made no set oration to his garrison; but for each and every one he had a kindly or cheery word. The rawest recruit there-and some there were who had never before seen a blow struck in anger-felt that he had not perilled his life for naught, in serving such a captain.

The rest of that day passed quietly enough. De Clisson set all his mind to the bringing up of his battering train, and to the construction of

those moveable penthouses called chatte-feux, which in all regular sieges were then employed to protect the miners and pioneers. For the last purpose, he used some of the trees just felled; and beams taken from some houses hard by: for the country folk had fled at the first news of the Breton's approach, not guessing in what humour they would come. Nevertheless, De Clisson forbade his soldiers to plunder, or treat any that they should meet otherwise than as friends; and would allow only such matters to be taken as were absolutely necessary for the sustenance of his troops, or the requirements of his engineers. Night fell before all things were in order-it was slow and toilsome work dragging up bombard, trebuchet, and mangonel over the steep, rocky ground. So both besiegers and besieged lay quiet till the morning.

When it was barely light the siege opened in earnest, and soon it became evident on which side lay the advantage. Setting aside their bombards, the French had brought with them engines infinitely more powerful than any to be found at Hacquemont; some of these last were of very antique make; and others had been hastily constructed of unseasoned wood, though with no mean skill. So the besiegers were enabled to do infinite damage, keeping just without the range of the missiles from within. De Clisson had great skill and practice in this line of warfare: instead of dividing his battering train and attacking at divers points, he brought its full force to bear at once, on one-the weakest point-that where the fruitless assault had been made; for there the plateau was broadest, and afforded most space for the working of his engines, and there, was the longest space of curtain-wall betwixt the barbican and the nearest tower.

The stone whereof Hacquemont was built, though of fairly durable quality, was neither granite nor limestone; and had waxed rotten under the rain and frost and winds of two centuries or more. Before the bombards and other artillery had played on it for an hour, there were shrewd gaps in the curtain-wall; and more than one of the battlements had toppled down into the moat. That same moat, too, soon ceased to be an efficient defence; for the chatte-feux worked up slowly and surely to the very verge; and under their shelter worked the miners-filling up the ditch before them, not with a frail causeway of fascines, but with solid earth, on which, if need were, even one of those great siege towers called belfrois could be rolled forward in safety. It was all in vain that the besieged bent trebuchet, petrary and mangonel against those solid penthouses; for the heaviest missiles harmed

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