15. The Battle Of Jarnac
While the two armies were lying inactive through the winter, the agents of both were endeavouring to interest other European powers in the struggle. The pope and Philip of Spain assisted the Guises; while the Duc de Deux-Ponts was preparing to lead an army to the assistance of the Huguenots, from the Protestant states of Germany. The Cardinal Chatillon was in England, eloquently supporting the letters of the Queen of Navarre to Elizabeth, asking for aid and munitions of war, men, and money--the latter being required, especially, to fulfil the engagements made with the German mercenaries.
Elizabeth listened favourably to these requests while, with her usual duplicity, she gave the most solemn assurances to the court of France that, so far from assisting the Huguenots, she held in horror those who raised the standard of rebellion against their sovereigns. She lent, however, 7000 pounds to the King of Navarre, taking ample security in the way of jewels for the sum; and ordered Admiral Winter to embark six cannons, three hundred barrels of powder, and four thousand balls, and carry them to La Rochelle. The admiral, well aware of the crooked policy of the queen, and her readiness to sacrifice any of her subjects in order to justify herself, absolutely refused to sail until he received an order signed by the queen herself.
His caution was justified for, upon the French ambassador remonstrating with her upon supplying the king's enemies, she declared that the assistance was wholly involuntary; for that Admiral Winter had entered the port of La Rochelle simply to purchase wine, and other merchandise, for some ships that he was convoying. The governor, however, had urged him so strongly to sell to him some guns and ammunition that he, seeing that his ships were commanded by the guns of the forts, felt himself obliged to comply with the request. The court of France professed to be satisfied with this statement, although perfectly aware of its absolute untruth; but they did not wish, while engaged in the struggle with the Huguenots, to be involved in open war with England.
As soon as spring commenced, both armies again prepared to take the field. The position of the Huguenots was by no means so strong as it had been, when winter set in. Considerable numbers had died from disease; while large bodies had returned to their homes, the nobles and citizens being alike unable to continue any longer in the field, owing to the exhaustion of their resources. Upon the other hand, although the army of Anjou had suffered equally from disease, it had not been diminished by desertion, as the troops were paid out of the royal treasury. Two thousand two hundred German horsemen, a portion of the large force sent by the Catholic princes of Germany, had joined him; and the Count de Tende had brought 3000 soldiers from the south of France. Other nobles came in, as the winter broke, with bodies of their retainers.
The southern Huguenot leaders, known as the Viscounts, remained in Guyenne to protect the Protestant districts. The plan of Conde and the Admiral was to effect a junction with them, and then to march and meet the army of the Duc de Deux-Ponts. They therefore left Niort, which had for some time been their headquarters, and marched south towards Cognac; while the Duc d'Anjou moved in the same direction.
Both armies reached the river Charente at the same time, but upon opposite sides. The Royalists seized the town of Chateau Neuf, halfway between Jarnac and Cognac; and set to work to repair the bridge, which had been broken down by the Huguenots. Their main army marched down to Cognac, and made a pretence of attacking the town.
The Huguenots were spread over a long line; and the Admiral, seeing the danger of being attacked while so scattered, sent to Conde, who commanded the most advanced part of the army opposite Chateau Neuf, begging him to retire. Conde, however, with his usual rashness, declined to fall back; exclaiming that a Bourbon never fled from a foe.
The troop of Francois de Laville was with a large body of horse, commanded by the Count de la Noue. Life had passed quietly at the chateau, after the repulse of the attack; for the occupation of Niort by a large force, under the Admiral, secured Laville from any risk of a repetition of the attack.
The garrison and the whole of the tenantry, after they had erected huts for their families, devoted themselves to the work of strengthening the defences. Flanking towers were erected at the angles of the walls. The moat was doubled in width, and a work erected beyond it, to guard the approach across the drawbridge. The windows on the unprotected side were all partially closed with brickwork, leaving only loopholes through which the defenders could fire. The battlements of the wall were raised two feet and pierced with loopholes, so that the defenders would no longer be obliged to raise their heads above its shelter to fire; and the narrow path was widened by the erection of a platform, so as to give more room for the men to use their weapons.
A garrison, composed of fifty of the younger men on the farms, took the place of the troop when it rode away.
Anjou had prepared several bridges, and suddenly crossed the river on the night of the 12th of March; the movement being so well managed that even the Huguenot divisions in the neighbourhood were unaware, until morning, of what was taking place. As soon as the Admiral was informed that the enemy had crossed in great force, messengers were sent off in all directions, to order the scattered divisions to concentrate.
The operation was a slow one. Discipline was lax, and many of the commanders, instead of occupying the positions assigned to them, had taken up others where better accommodation could be obtained; and much time was lost before the orders reached them. Even then their movements were slow, and it was afternoon before those in the neighbourhood were assembled, and the Admiral prepared to fall back towards the main body of the army, which lay near the position occupied by Conde.
But before this could be done, the whole Royalist army were upon him. He had taken part at Bassac, a little village with an abbey, with but De la Noue's cavalry and a small number of infantry with him; and though the latter fought desperately, they could not check the advance of the enemy.
"This is worse than Saint Denis, Francois," De la Noue said, as he prepared to charge a vastly superior body of the enemy's cavalry, advancing against the village. "However, it must be done; for unless Anjou's advance is checked, the battle will be lost before Conde can arrive. You and your cousin had best put yourself at the head of your own troop."
On reaching his men Francois gave the order:
"Now, my men, is the time to show that you have profited by your drill. Keep in a solid body. Do not break up and engage in single conflicts for, if you do, we must be overpowered by numbers. Ride boot to boot. Keep your eyes fixed on our plumes and, when we turn, do you turn also, and follow us closely."
When De la Noue's trumpet sounded the charge, the band of horsemen burst down upon the Catholic cavalry, broke their ranks, and pierced far into them. Francois and Philip were but a horse's length ahead of their men, and the pressure of the enemy soon drove them back into their ranks. Keeping in a close and compact body, they fought their way on until Francois perceived that they were separated from the rest of the force. Then he put the horn that he wore slung over his shoulder to his lips, and gave the command to wheel round. It was obeyed, and the line, which was four deep, fought their way round until facing the rear; and then, putting spurs to their horses, they overthrew all opposition and cleft their way out through the enemy, and then galloped back to Bassac.
The village was lost, and the defenders were falling back in disorder upon D'Andelot; who, with his division, was just arriving to their assistance. For a moment, the fugitive horse and foot broke up his ranks. But he rallied his men and, advancing, drove the Catholics out of the village and retook the abbey.
But as a whole army was opposed to him, the success was but brief. After a desperate struggle the village was again lost, and the Huguenots fell back, contesting every foot of the ground, along a raised causeway.
The enemy were, however, fast outflanking them; and they were on the point of destruction when Conde arrived, with three hundred knights with whom he had ridden forward, leaving the infantry to follow, as soon as Coligny's message for help had reached him.
He himself was in no condition for battle. His arm had been broken by a cannon shot and, just as he reached the scene of battle, his hip was fractured by the kick of a horse ridden by his brother-in-law, La Rochefoucault. Nevertheless he did not hesitate but, calling on his little band to follow him, rode full at a body of eight hundred of the Catholic cavalry.
For a time the struggle was a desperate one. The Huguenots performed prodigies of valour; but the Royalists were reinforced, and the devoted band melted away. One Huguenot nobleman, named La Vergne, fought surrounded by twenty-five of his kinsmen whom he brought into the field. He himself, and fifteen of his followers, fell in a circle. Most of the others were taken prisoners.
At last Conde's horse was killed under him and fell, pinning him to the ground. Conde raised his visor, and surrendered to two knights to whom he was known. They raised him from the ground respectfully; but as they did so Montesquieu, captain of Anjou's guards, rode up and, drawing a pistol, shot Conde in the back, killing him almost instantaneously. Several other Huguenot nobles were killed in cold blood, after they had surrendered.
But Conde's magnificent charge had not been without effect, for it enabled the Admiral to draw off from the field, without further loss. The accounts of the number of killed and wounded differ, but numerically it was very small. The Huguenot infantry were not engaged at all, with the exception of a small body of the regiment of Plupiart. But of their cavalry nearly four hundred were killed or taken prisoners, and of these a hundred and forty were nobles and gentlemen, the flower of the Huguenot nobility. Among the prisoners were La Noue, Soubise, La Loue, and many others of distinction.
Coligny's retreat was not interfered with. The satisfaction of the Catholics at the death of Conde was so great that they were contented to rest upon their success. There were great rejoicings throughout France, and the Catholic countries of Europe, over the exaggerated accounts issued by Anjou of his victory; and it was generally considered that the Huguenot cause was lost. However, out of a hundred and twenty-eight troops of cavalry, only fifteen had been engaged; and only six out of two hundred companies of infantry.
The army retired to Cognac, where the brave Queen of Navarre at once hurried, on hearing the intelligence, and herself addressed the army; reminding them that though the Prince of Conde was dead, the good cause was still alive, and that God would provide fresh instruments for carrying on His work. She then hurried away to La Rochelle, to make provision for the needs of the army.
The young Prince Henry was, at Conde's death, nominally placed in command of the army as general-in-chief; and he was joined by his cousin, the young Prince of Conde, a lad of about his own age.
D'Anjou, one of the most despicable of the princes of France, was so intoxicated by the success that he had gained that, for a time, he made no effort to follow up his advantage. He disgraced himself by having the body of Conde stripped and carried on a donkey to Jarnac, and there exposed for four days by the house where he lodged; while he occupied himself in writing vainglorious despatches to all the Catholic kings and princes.
At last he moved forward to the siege of Cognac. Seven thousand infantry, for the most part new levies, had been placed here by Coligny; and these received the royal army with great determination. Not only were the assaults upon the walls repulsed, with heavy loss; but the garrison made many sallies and, after wasting a month before the town, Anjou, despairing of its capture, drew off the army, which had suffered heavier losses here than it had done in the battle of Jarnac.
He then besieged Saint Jean d'Angely, where the garrison, commanded by Count Montgomery, also repulsed all attacks. Angouleme was attacked with an equal want of success; but Mucidan, a town to the southwest of Perigueux, was captured. The attack upon it, however, cost the life of De Brissac, one of his best officers--a loss which Anjou avenged by the murder, in cold blood, of the garrison; which surrendered on condition that life and property should be spared.
As a set off to the success of the Huguenots, they suffered a heavy blow in the death of the gallant D'Andelot, the Admiral's brother--an officer of the highest ability, who had, before the outbreak of the troubles, occupied the rank of colonel general of the French infantry. His death was attributed by both parties to poison, believed to have been administered by an emissary of Catherine de Medici. The fact, however, was not clearly established; and possibly he fell a victim to arduous and unceasing toil and exertion.
Both Francois de Laville and Philip Fletcher had been severely wounded in the battle of Jarnac, and some twenty of their troop had fallen in the fight. They were able, however, to sit their horses until they reached Cognac. The Admiral visited them, as soon as he arrived there. He had noticed the little band, as it emerged unbroken from the charge and, at once, ranged itself up to aid him in retreating from the village of Bassac, until Conde's charge enabled him to draw off. He praised the cousins highly for their conduct and, as soon as they were able to be about again, he bestowed on both the honour of knighthood; and then sent them to La Rochelle, to remain there until perfectly cured.
The vacancies in the troop were filled up by young men from the estate, who responded to the summons, of the countess, for men to take the place of those who had fallen in her son's command.
The young Prince of Navarre had, while at Cognac, paid frequent visits to Philip, for whom he had taken a great liking; and he again begged Coligny to appoint him as one of the knights told off as his special bodyguard. The Admiral, however, repeated the arguments he had before used.
"He is very young, prince, though he has borne himself so well; and it would create much jealousy among our young nobles, were I to choose a foreigner for so honourable a post."
"But my councillors are all staid men, Admiral; and I want someone I can talk to, without ceremony."
"There are plenty of young Frenchmen, prince. If you must choose one, why not take the Count de Laville? You were saying, but yesterday, that you liked him."
"Yes, he is something like his cousin. I think being together has given him Philip's manner. If I cannot have Philip, I should like to have him."
"He would doubtless feel it a great honour, prince; while I doubt, were I to offer the post to the young Englishman, if he would accept it. He has not come here to seek honour, but to fight for our faith. I had a conversation with him, one day, and found that it was with that simple purpose he came here; and however honourable the post, I am sure he would prefer one that gave him full opportunity for taking an active part.
"With De Laville it is different. He is a French noble; and maybe, someday, you will be king of France. He is of a brave and adventurous spirit; but methinks that the young Englishman has a greater genius for war. His cousin, although older, I observe generally appeals to him for his opinion; and has frankly and nobly given him the chief credit, in the affairs in which he has been engaged."
The Admiral was not mistaken. Francois, when asked if he would like to be appointed as one of the gentlemen about the prince's person, at once embraced the offer; which, as he saw, afforded him great openings for advancement in the future. His only regret was that it would separate him from Philip.
When he said as much to his cousin, on informing him of the unexpected honour that had befallen him, Philip replied at once:
"Do not think of that, Francois. I shall of course be sorry; but I shall see you often, and you would be wrong to refuse such an offer. The King of France has no children. His two brothers are unmarried. Anjou is, from all accounts, reckless and dissolute; and Alencon is sickly. They alone stand between Henry of Navarre and the throne of France and, should he succeed to it, his intimates will gain honours, rank, and possessions. There is not a young noble but would feel honoured by being selected for the post.
"As for fighting, no one can say how long these troubles may last; and I am greatly mistaken if those round Henry of Navarre, when he reaches manhood, will not have their full share of it."
Therefore, when the two newly-made young knights went to La Rochelle, for quiet and sea air, it was with the understanding that, as soon as their strength was thoroughly recovered, Francois should resign the command of the troop to Philip, and would himself ride with the Prince of Navarre and his cousin Conde. Francois had at once written to his mother, with the news of his appointment and, a few days after they reached La Rochelle, received an answer expressing her gratification.
"I rejoice," she said, "not only because it is a post of high honour, but because it will take you somewhat out of the heat of the fray. I have not hesitated to let you risk your life in the cause; but you are my only son and, were you slain, I should be alone in the world; and the title would go to one of your cousins, for whom I care nothing; and it will be a comfort for me to know, in the future, you will not be running such fearful risks."
At La Rochelle they took up their abode at Maitre Bertram's, and were most kindly received by him and his daughter.
"It is but two years since you landed here with madame, your mother, Monsieur Fletcher. You were but a stripling then, though you gave wonderful promise of size and strength. Now you are a man, and have won the honour of knighthood; and methinks that, in thew and sinew, there are not many in our army who would overmatch you."
"Oh, yes, there are, Maitre Bertram," Philip laughed. "I have a big frame like my father's, I will admit; and to look at, it may be as you say; but I shall want many another year over my head, before my strength matches my size. I am but just eighteen, and men do not come to their full strength till they are five-and-twenty."
"You are strong enough for anything, now," the merchant said; "and I should not like to stand a downright blow from you, in the best suit of armour ever forged.
"I was glad to see that rascal Pierre come back with you. He is a merry fellow, though I fear that he causes idleness among my servants, for all the grave looks he puts on as he waits on you at dinner. Is he valiant?"
"He has had no great opportunity of showing valour," Philip replied; "but he is cool, and not easily ruffled, and he fought stoutly in the defence of the Count de Laville's chateau; but of course, it is not his business to ride behind me in battle."
Philip had corresponded regularly with his parents, and had received letters in reply from them, and also from his uncle and aunt; though these of course came irregularly, as ships happened to be sailing for La Rochelle. His father wrote but briefly, but his letters expressed satisfaction.
"I am right glad," he said, "to think that a Fletcher is again cracking the skulls of Frenchmen--I mean, of course, of Catholic Frenchmen--for I regard the Huguenots, being of our religion, as half English. I don't say take care of yourself, my lad--it is not the way of Englishmen to do that, on the battlefield--but it would be a grievous day for us all, here, if we heard that aught had befallen you."
The letters of his mother and aunt were of a different character, and dwelt strongly upon the sacred cause upon which he was engaged; and both rejoiced greatly over the number of Huguenots he and Francois had rescued, round Niort.
His uncle's letters were more worldly.
"Your aunt's letters to my wife," he said, "speak very warmly in praise of you. She said you have distinguished yourself highly, that you have attracted the attention of the Prince of Conde and the Admiral, have rendered service to the Queen of Navarre and her son, and have received tokens of their esteem; also that you stand high in the regard of the Count de la Noue, who is in all respects a most accomplished gentleman; and that he has told her that he hopes, before long, you will receive the honour of knighthood. Worldly honours, Philip, are not to be despised, especially when they are won by worthy service; although I know that my wife and your mother think but lightly of them, and that it is the fashion of those of our faith to treat them with contempt. Such is not my opinion. I am gratified to think that the money I have made in trade will descend to one of whom I can be proud; and who, in this country, may occupy the position that his ancestors on his mother's side did in my own; and to me it will be a matter of extreme gratification if I hear that you have won your spurs, especially at the hand of so great a leader, and so worthy a one, as Admiral Coligny. I promise you that there shall be feasting among the poor of Canterbury, on the day when the news comes.
"Of late you have drawn but slightly upon me for, as you say, you have few expenses save the pay of your five men, when staying at Laville; but do not stint money, should there be an occasion."
Upon rejoining the camp, Philip found the time hang somewhat heavily upon his hands. Francois was necessarily much with the prince. Captain Montpace looked after the troop, and the Count de la Noue was in captivity. A few days after he rejoined, however, one of the Admiral's pages came to his tent, and requested him to call upon Coligny.
"The camp will break up tomorrow, Chevalier Fletcher," the latter said. "We are going down to join the Viscounts, and then march to effect a junction with the Duc de Deux-Ponts, who we hear has now fairly set out on his forward march. I wish to send a despatch to him, and I know no one to whom I could better intrust it than yourself. It is a mission of honour, but of danger. However, you have already exhibited such tact and discretion, as well as bravery, that I believe if anyone can reach the duke, through the two royal armies that are trying to intercept him, you can do so. Will you undertake the mission?"
"I am greatly honoured by your intrusting me with it, sir, and will assuredly do my best."
"I do not propose that you should travel in disguise," the Admiral said, "for disguise means slow motion, and there is need for despatch. Therefore, I should say, take a small body of well-mounted men with you, and ride as speedily as you can. How many to take, I leave to your discretion. The despatches will be ready for you, by ten o'clock tonight."
"I shall be ready to start at that hour, sir," and Philip returned to his tent.
After sitting thinking for a few minutes he called to Pierre, who was sitting outside.
"Pierre, I want your advice. I am about to start on a journey to the east of France. I do not go this time in disguise, but ride straight through. What think you? How many men shall I take with me--one, or fifty?"
"Not fifty, certainly," Pierre said promptly. "There is mighty trouble in feeding fifty men. Besides, you may have to pass as a Royalist, and who can answer for the discretion of so many? Besides, if we have to turn and double, there is no hiding fifty men. If you ride through the smallest village at midnight, the noise would wake the inhabitants; and when the enemy came up, they would get news of your passage.
"I do not see that you can do better than take Eustace and Roger and myself. Henri will not be fit to ride for weeks, yet; and although Jacques is recovering from the loss of his bridle arm, you settled that he was to go to Laville, where the countess would take him into her service. Jarnac lessened your force by half; but I think that two will be as good as four, on a journey like this. Such a party can pass unnoticed. It is but a gentleman, with two retainers behind him, from a neighbouring chateau."
"That is what I concluded myself, Pierre; but I thought I would ask your opinion about it, for you have shown yourself a shrewd fellow.
"All your horses are in good condition, and it is well that I exchanged those you rode before, for some of the best of the three hundred we captured from the assailants of the chateau. Of course, you will ride one of my horses; changing the saddle every day, as your weight is so much less than mine.
"I shall not take armour with me. The extra weight tells heavily, on a long journey; and besides, a knight in full armour would attract more attention than one riding, as it would seem, for pleasure.
"Let Eustace and Roger pick the two best horses."
"When do we start, sir?"
"We must be saddled, and ready to start, by ten tonight. See that a bottle of wine, a cold fowl, and a portion of bread for each are brought along with us. We shall have a long night's ride.
"We will carry no valises. They add to the weight, and look like travelling. Let each man make a small canvas bag, and place in it a change of linen. It can be rolled up in the cloak, and strapped behind the saddle. A dozen charges, for each pistol, will be more than we shall be likely to require. Tell them to take no more. They must take their breast pieces and steel caps, of course. They can leave the back pieces behind them.
"I will go round to the hospital, and say goodbye to Henri and Jacques. They will feel being left behind, sorely."
After visiting his wounded followers, he went to the house occupied by the Prince of Navarre, where Francois also was lodged.
"So I hear you are off again, Philip," the latter said; as his cousin entered the salon where two or three of the prince's companions were sitting. "I should feel envious of you, were it not that we also are on the point of starting."
"How did you know I was going off, Francois?"
"The prince told me, half an hour since. He heard it from the Admiral. He told me he wished he was going with you, instead of with the army. He is always thirsting after adventure. He bade me bring you in to him, if you came. I said you would be sure to do so. It was useless my going out to look for you, as I could not tell what you might have to do before starting."
The young prince threw aside the book he was reading, when they entered.
"Ah, monsieur the Englishman," he said; "so you are off again, like a veritable knight-errant of romance, in search of fresh adventure."
"No, sir, my search will be to avoid adventure."
"Ah, well, you are sure to find some, whether or not. Sapristie, but it is annoying to be born a prince."
"It has its advantages also, sir," Philip said, smiling.
The prince laughed merrily.
"So I suppose; but for my part, I have not discovered them, as yet. I must hope for the future; but it appears to me, now, that it can never be pleasant. One is obliged to do this, that, and the other because one is a prince. One always has to have one's head full of politics, to listen gravely to stupidities, to put up with tiresome people, and never to have one's own way in anything. However, I suppose my turn will come; but at present, I would rather be hunting the wild goats in Navarre than pretending to be general-in-chief of an army, when everyone knows that I am not even as free to go my own way as a common soldier.
"I shall look to see you again, Chevalier Philip; and shall expect you to have some more good stories to tell me."
Having handed him his despatches, the Admiral pointed out to him the position, as far as he knew by recent report, of the forces under the Dukes of Aumale and Nemours.
"Possibly there will be other enemies," the Admiral said; "for our friends in Paris have sent me word that the Spanish ambassador has, at the king's request, written to beg the Duke of Alva, and Mansfeld, governor of Luxembourg, to send troops to aid in barring the way to the Duc de Deux-Ponts. I hope Alva has his hands full with his own troubles, in the Netherlands; and although Spain is always lavish of promises, it gives but little real aid to the king.
"Then again, on the road you may meet with bands of German mercenaries, sent by the Catholic princes to join the royal forces. As you see, the despatches are written small and, at your first halt, it will be well if you sew them in the lining of your boot. They will escape observation there, however closely you may be searched; for they are but of little bulk, and I have written them on the softest paper I could obtain, so that it will not crackle to the touch.
"I leave it to yourself to choose the route; but I think that you could not do better than take that one you before followed, when you and Laville joined me at Chatillon. Thence keep well south through Lorraine. The royal forces are at Metz. I can give you no farther instructions; for I cannot say how rapidly Deux-Ponts may move, or what route he may be obliged to take, to avoid the royal forces.
"And now farewell, lad. Remember that it is an important service you are rendering to our cause, and that much depends on your reaching Deux-Ponts; for the despatches tell him the route by which I intend to move, indicate that which he had best follow in order that he may effect a junction, and give him many details as to roads, fords, and bridges, that may be of vital importance to him."
Philip rode forty miles that night; and put up, just as daylight was breaking, at the village of Auverge. There they rested for six hours, and then rode on to Laville; where he was received with great joy by his aunt, for whom he bore a letter from Francois. After halting here for a few hours, they continued their journey.
So far they had been riding through a friendly country, but had now to travel with due precautions; journeying fast, and yet taking care that the horses should not be overworked, as sudden occasion might arise for speed or endurance; and as the journey was some eight hundred miles long, it behoved him to carefully husband the strength of the animals.
After riding another fifteen miles, they stopped for the night at a village, as Philip intended to journey by day; for his arrival at inns, early in the morning, would excite comment. The three men had been carefully instructed in the story they were to tell, at the inns where they halted. Their master was Monsieur de Vibourg, whose estate lay near the place at which they halted on the preceding night; and who was going for a short visit, to friends, at the next town at which they would arrive. If questioned as to his politics, they were to say that he held aloof from the matter, for he considered that undue violence was exercised towards the Huguenots; who, he believed, if permitted to worship in their own way, would be good and harmless citizens.
So day by day they journeyed along, avoiding all large towns, and riding quietly through small ones, where their appearance attracted no attention whatever. On the fourth day when, as usual, they had halted to dine and give their horses a couple of hours' rest, Philip heard the trampling of horses outside the inn. Going to the window he saw two gentlemen, with eight armed retainers, dismounting at the door. The gentlemen wore the Royalist colours. At the same moment, Pierre came into the room.
"I have told Eustace and Roger to finish their meal quickly, and then to get the horses saddled; to mount, and take ours quietly to the end of the village, and wait for us there, sir; so that if there should be trouble, we have but to leap through the casement, and make a short run of it."
"That is very well done, Pierre," Philip said; reseating himself at the table, while Pierre took his place behind his chair, as if waiting upon him.
The door opened, and the two gentlemen entered. They did not, as usual, remove their hats; but seated themselves at a table, and began talking noisily. Presently one made a remark in a low tone to the other, who turned round in his chair, and stared offensively at Philip. The latter continued his meal, without paying any attention to him.
"And who may you be, young sir?" the man said, rising and walking across the room.
"I am not in the habit of answering questions addressed to me by strangers," Philip said quietly.
"Parbleu, custom or no custom, you have to answer them, now. This is not a time when men can go about unquestioned. You do not wear the Royalist colours, and I demand to know who you are."
"I would wear the Royalist colours, if I were on the way to join the Royalist army," Philip replied calmly; "as at present I am not doing so, but am simply travelling as a private gentleman, I see no occasion for putting on badges."
"You have not answered my question. Who are you?"
"I do not intend to answer the question. My name is a matter which concerns myself only."
"You insolent young knave," the man said angrily, "I will crop your ears for you."
Philip rose from the table; and the other was, for a moment, surprised at the height and proportions of one whom he had taken for a mere lad.
"I desire to have no words with you," Philip said. "Eat your dinner in peace, and let me eat mine; for if it comes to cutting off ears, you may find that you had better have left the matter alone."
Philip struck him full in the face.
The gentleman put his hand to the hilt of his sword, and was in the act of drawing it when Philip, making a step forward, struck him full in the face with all his strength, knocking him backwards to the ground. His companion leapt from his seat, drawing a pistol from his belt as he did so; when Pierre sent a plate skimming across the room with great force. It struck the man in the mouth, cutting his lips and knocking out some of his front teeth. The pistol exploded harmlessly in the air, while the sudden shock and pain staggered and silenced him; and before he could recover sufficiently to draw his sword or to shout, Philip and Pierre leaped through the open casement, and ran down the street.