THE MASSACRE

The alarming news that an attack was being made on the rear quickly
spread, and from all parts of the field knights, men-at-arms and archers
came running towards the Royal Standard as fast as their wearied bodies
and cumbersome armour would permit.

Yet, even in the face of this new danger the mercenary instinct of the
common soldiers was paramount. They had fought and won; rich and noble
prisoners, worth princely ransoms, were theirs, and even the threatened
attack failed to make the archers and men-at-arms abandon their
hard-earned prizes. Thus the King found himself surrounded by a medley
of Englishmen, intermingled with a crowd of French knights and gentlemen
who in the confusion of the impending attack would undoubtedly be a
source of danger to their captors.

Henry was quick to act. As a general and a soldier he resolved upon
stern measures.

“My Lord Camoys,” he exclaimed, “take a thousand lances and at all costs
hold the enemy in check until the men-at-arms and archers can be formed
up. Pass the word also that every man is to put his prisoner to death.”

Unhesitatingly Lord Camoys rode to execute his terrible orders, but to
the King’s anger and surprise, sullen murmurs of protest and defiance
rose on all sides. Though realizing the gravity of the situation, the
English—knights and common soldiers alike—were loth to take such extreme
measures. In some cases feelings of humanity prompted them to resist
their liege-lord’s orders, but, generally speaking, it was the
reluctance to put a high-born prisoner to death that incited them to
refusal. According to the practice of the times the indiscriminate
slaughter of the common soldiers—men who could not afford to pay
ransom—was regarded as the custom of war, but the murder of every
prisoner who was willing to pay a large sum to his captor was in every
sense abhorrent.

“By the Blessed Trinity,” thundered the King, “what is this I see? Open
rebellion? Sirs, ye will pay dearly for this anon.”

And turning to one Thomas Almer, squire to Sir John Cornwall, afterwards
Baron Fanhope, he ordered him to take three hundred archers and execute
the helpless prisoners.

“Nay, I cannot abide it,” exclaimed Geoffrey resolutely, as the shrieks
of the unfortunate Frenchmen began to ring in his ears. “E’en if my own
life has to pay forfeit this knight must be protected.”

Bidding Oswald support the tottering form of Sir Raoul, Geoffrey made
his way to where lay the body of a slain English man-at-arms. Quickly he
stripped the corpse of its white surcoat with the distinguishing Cross
of St. George, and returning, began to place it over the body of his
captive.

Feebly Sir Raoul tried to resist. This donning of the hated cognisance
was repugnant to his sense of honour, but his strength was unequal to
his resolution, and with a groan he swooned away.

“We are indeed in sore straits,” exclaimed Geoffrey as he carried out
his plan of disguising the Frenchman’s appearance. “If we stay here
perchance they will see through the trick; if we go on we shall fall
into the hands of our enemies. Yet, by St. George, I’ll see Sir Raoul to
safety or perish.”

By dint of great exertions the two squires dragged the mail-clad body of
the helpless knight to the shelter of a thorn-bush. Here they waited,
reluctantly compelled to witness the horrible scene as the archers went
about their murderous business.

Presently three of the executioners, with reeking weapons in their hands
and their white surcoats splashed with blood, approached.

“Whom hast thou here, sir squire?” demanded one, pointing with his blade
at the unconscious Sir Raoul. “I’ faith; I’ll swear yon red cross covers
no English carcase.”

“‘Tis a wounded knight,” replied Geoffrey. “I thank thee for thy offer
of assistance, but must needs decline it.”

“Hark at him! Decline, forsooth? Nay, mine assistance is to help the
rogue to Paradise, so stand aside, squire, in the King’s name, for no
man dare tell me that his harness was fashioned in England.”

“Nay, ’tis no affair of thine, archer; yet if a gold piece or two
will——”

“Offerest thou me gold?” replied the soldier with a gruff laugh. “I’ll
wager I have enough gold sewn up in my doublet to buy thee thrice over.”

“Then take care lest I slit thy doublet and thy hide as well,” replied
Geoffrey, standing on his guard. “‘Tis ill that Englishmen should shed
each other’s blood, yet I have sworn to protect this man, and before
Heaven I’ll not go back from my word.”

“Fall on, comrades,” shouted the archer. “We’ll see whether this young
cockerel can scratch as well as crow.”

“Draw, Oswald; I _command_ thee!” exclaimed Geoffrey, and wondering at
his companion’s tone, Oswald, sword in hand, took his place at his side.

“We are but wasting time,” expostulated one of the archers. “The squire
is right: why should we fight Englishmen? Are we not exceeding our
orders?”

“What! Art afraid of two lads?” replied his fellow. “Come on, I say, and
let’s settle this business.”

“Do it thyself. For my part I’ll pass by. The King can be told of this
opposition anon.”

“Go, chicken-heart! What will thy friends and kinsfolk at Ely say when
they hear that thou hast shown the white feather to two beardless
squires? Now, look to thyself, squire.”

As the archer with two of his comrades was on the point of closing, a
cry went up “In the King’s name, the slaughter of the prisoners must
cease!” The order was repeated in all parts of the field, and in a very
short space of time the work of massacre had ceased, the archers being,
for the most part, glad to cease their unprofitable and hateful task.

“‘Tis well for thee, squire,” growled Geoffrey’s antagonist, smartly
thrusting his sword back into its scabbard and turning on his heel.
“But, mark ye, the King shall hear of this.”

The report of the attack upon the rear guard had proved to be greatly
exaggerated. Finding that the camp had been left slenderly guarded a
seigneur living close to the village of Agincourt, Isambard by name, had
gathered together a band of five hundred peasants, and falling upon the
baggage guard had put them to flight. This done, the marauders set to
work to pillage the baggage, till they were dispersed by the English
lances.

Yet Isambard had not been unsuccessful, for part of his spoil consisted
of the King’s crown that had been made in anticipation of his coronation
in Paris, and also a diamond-hilted sword belonging to the royal
treasures.

But to counterbalance this gain ’tis said that no less than fourteen
hundred defenceless and unarmed knights and squires of France had been
slaughtered in cold blood. No wonder, therefore, was it that when
Isambard presented his trophies to the Duc de Burgundy that irate
prince, reproaching the seigneur as being the cause of the massacre,
ordered him to be cast into prison.

“I fear we have not seen the end of this affair,” remarked Oswald, as
the two squires stood much disquieted by the side of their prisoner, and
the gravity of their offence began to loom larger. “If this comes to the
King’s ears we are likely to be put to death.”

“I, perchance, but not thou, Oswald,” replied Geoffrey.

“How so? Did I not draw with thee?”

“Didst thou not hear me _order_ thee to draw? Since thou art my father’s
squire and I am his representative in the field, thou art under my
orders, though heretofore I have not exercised any authority over thee.
Therefore, should it come to pass that the matter is taken up, thou
canst—nay must—plead that ’twas by my command that thou didst resist the
King’s orders.”

“Thou meanest me well, Geoffrey; but methinks ’twill not serve,” replied
Oswald as the generous nature of his friend’s act became apparent to
him. “However, ’tis of no use waiting for trouble; let us find Sir
Thomas Carberry and confide in him.”

Acting on this sensible advice the two squires assisted Sir Raoul, who
had again recovered consciousness, to his feet, and having left him in a
secure place in charge of two of the Warblington archers, who had
strayed across their path, they set out to find the Constable of
Portchester.

The field of battle was literally smothered with corpses of men and
horses; shattered weapons lay everywhere, while in front of the
still-standing row of stakes the barrier of slaughtered Frenchmen was
piled breast-high. Amid these horrible surroundings archers were
carelessly sauntering, withdrawing arrows that had sunk deep in the
clayey soil to replenish their quivers, or stopping to plunder the body
of some wealthy knight. Here and there walked small knots of soldiers
searching for the corpse of their master, or engaged in succouring their
wounded comrades, whose groans and cries of pain rose on all sides; but
most of the English knights and squires, as well as a vast concourse of
men-at-arms, had gathered round the Royal Standard that floated proudly
over the fatal field.

“Ah, there is Sir Thomas,” exclaimed Oswald, pointing to the star and
crescent banner that showed bravely amidst a waving forest of silken
guidons and pennons.

“Heaven be praised,” exclaimed the Constable, “that I see thee safe and
sound, Geoffrey. Methought I had lost both my squires. And Oswald, too!”

“Fair lord, I have as yet been spared, though Richard Ratclyffe hath
fallen.”

“Ay, and right bravely he fought and died; Heaven rest his soul,” added
the knight gravely. “But what hath gone amiss? I see trouble in thine
eyes.”

“Sir, thou art like to lose another squire,” replied Geoffrey.

“How so? How so?” demanded the Constable anxiously. Then with a smile he
added, “Perchance the King hath thought fit to give thee advancement?”

“Advancement of a kind, fair sir,” replied Geoffrey gloomily, and in a
few words he related the events concerning Sir Raoul’s capture and
escape from massacre.

“By St. George! What hast thou done?” exclaimed Sir Thomas, aghast at
his squire’s temerity. “Thou hast flouted the King’s authority.”

“In this matter I had no choice,” replied Geoffrey. “Deeply I regret my
error, but I am under a vow to save this French knight.”

“‘Twill require all my efforts to save thee from the hangman’s rope,
young sir. But, certes, I’ll do my utmost. An I can but get the King’s
ear when he is in a good mood, so much the better. Above all I must have
my say ere the squire in charge of the archers can lay his complaint.
Yet think not to get off lightly, Geoffrey. Thou hast erred and must
needs pay the penalty.”

“That I know, fair sir.”

“Then bear thyself like a true soldier. But here comes the French
herald. List to what he hath to say, for ’tis of much import.”

Even in his distress Geoffrey craned his neck to see the meeting twixt
the victorious king and the representative of the conquered foe.

The French knight was magnificently harnessed in a suit of white armour,
over which was a tabard emblazoned with the royal arms of France. He was
unarmed and unhelmed, for he bore his casque in his right hand.
Alighting from his palfrey, he threw the reins to an attendant, and
accompanied by two pages, advanced to where Henry stood, clad in his
soiled and dented armour, surrounded by his lords and chief officers.

“I am Denis Mountjoye, King-at-Arms, and a loyal servant to my master
King Charles, on whose account am I here.”

“Greetings, herald,” exclaimed the King courteously. “We would fain know
thy errand.”

“I crave permission to bury our dead, sire.”

“First tell us, herald: to whom belongs this victory—to us or to the
King of France?”

“To you, sire.”

“And yon castle—what name does it bear?”

“The Castle of Agincourt, sire.”

“Then let this battle be called the battle of Agincourt,” announced the
King in a loud voice. “Herald, thy request is granted. Five hundred
peasants can see to the burial of thy master’s dead; Sir John Crofton
will give thee further directions.”

As soon as Mountjoye had taken his departure the King removed his
helmet, which bore eloquent testimony to its wearer’s prowess, and in
obedience to an order, knight, squire and common soldier followed his
example. Then, led by Henry in person, the psalm _Non nobis, Domine_,
was chanted by the English army in order to acknowledge, in the midst of
triumph, the only Giver of victory.

The French losses were enormous. Ten thousand fell on the field of
battle, and of these only fifteen hundred were common soldiers. The
Constable of France, the Counts of Nevers and Marle, the Dukes of
Brabant, Alençon and Barre, and the Archbishop of Sens were amongst
those who laid down their life for France; while the Dukes of Bourbon
and Orleans were amongst the prisoners.

The losses on the victorious side were proportionately small. The Duke
of York, the Earl of Suffolk, four knights, seven squires, and about
fifteen hundred men-at-arms and archers died in battle, or, roughly, one
in every four men engaged. Had the remnant of the French army rallied
and made another attack in the open, the shattered English force might
never have reached Calais, but so disheartened were the defeated troops
that any attempt at a renewal of the fray was impossible.

Deeming himself secure from further molestation Henry withdrew his
forces to the camp at Maisoncelles, a short distance from the scene of
action, to allow his wearied men a good night’s rest ere resuming their
coastward march.

The shades of evening were falling upon the ghastly field of Agincourt
as the Constable of Portchester returned from audience with the King. He
had gone alone, thinking it wiser to leave the two culprits in their
quarters during the fateful interview with his royal master.

During his absence Geoffrey and Oswald had not been unmindful of their
lord’s comfort. Tents there were now in abundance, for the fugitive host
had left the whole of the camp equipment standing.

“What think ye of our condition, Arnold?” asked Geoffrey of the old
man-at-arms, pausing in the midst of arranging Sir Thomas’s couch.

“Faith! many a man has been hanged for less,” replied Gripwell, bluntly
outspoken in his sorrow. “E’en though the order was unnecessary, as it
seems, yet ’twas thy place to obey it. Yet likely thy youth and thy
previous good service being taken into consideration, thou mayest save
thy neck. But here comes our master. Methinks I read good tidings on his
face.”

Dutifully the two squires hastened to relieve Sir Thomas of his armour,
placing wine and food before him as he eased his wearied limbs upon the
couch. Though both lads were consumed with anxiety they preserved a
strict silence, awaiting the news of the knight’s mediation.

“By Our Lady,” exclaimed the Constable, “’tis strange that after a hard
day in the field I should have to spend a harder time in exercising my
sorry tongue on behalf of two wrong-headed young squires. Yet fret not
thyself, Geoffrey; nor thee, Oswald. In short, ye are pardoned for your
transgression, though at a price.”

“Fair lord, I thank thee,” Geoffrey exclaimed.

“Nay, wait and hear me out. Certes, when I told the King his brow was as
black as a thundercloud, yet, on recalling thy services to him both at
Southampton and on the field when he was beset by d’Alençon, he mused
awhile.

“‘Then the chief culprit was the squire who went into the enemy’s camp,
and who later helped most valiantly to beat d’Alençon to the earth? And
he would spoil himself on account of a French knight? Well, Sir Thomas,
we’ll let this pass. It was in our mind to bestow upon him the gilded
spurs of knighthood, but now ’tis not to be thought of. As for his
companion in trouble thou sayest he acted under compulsion? Let that
also pass.’

“Then as I was about to withdraw who should appear but Sir John
Cornwall. ‘Sire, I have a plaint to lay before thee. My squire Almer
hath reported that two squires have obstructed certain of my archers in
the execution of thy orders.’

“‘Thou art too late, Sir John,’ replied the King. ‘Sir Thomas, here,
hath already lodged a case ‘gainst them. Yet thanks for thy zeal in our
cause.’

“Once more I was about to withdraw when the King called me back. ‘Who is
this French knight, and what hath he done that thy squire should so
stoutly befriend him?’

“‘Sire,’ I replied, ‘he is Sir Raoul d’Aulx, seigneur of the Chateau de
Maissons, and he holds this squire’s father, Sir Oliver Lysle, in
captivity.’

“”Tis indeed strange. We would have thought that ‘twould be an eye for
an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But concerning this Castle of Maissons—doth
it not lie near this place?’

“‘But a short distance from the ford at Peronne.’

“‘Then see to it, Sir Thomas. Let a troop of lances on the morrow be
sent to bring Sir Oliver hither, for we have heard much concerning the
Lord of Warblington, and have need of his services.’ With that I thanked
the King and withdrew.”

“Fair lord, then we are much beholden to thee.”

“Nay, ‘twould ill become me if I failed to do my utmost for my squires.
Now to rest, Geoffrey, for thou must be up betimes, since it is my
desire that thou shouldst ride with the men-at-arms to Maissons.”

For a space Geoffrey could not utter a word, then with an effort he
asked—

“Did I hear aright, fair sir? The King—did he say that the gilded spurs
of knighthood were not to be thought of in my case?”

“Aye, that he did,” replied the Constable with a twinkle in his deep-set
eyes. “Aye, that he did; but beshrew me, I have forgotten to add his own
words ‘for a while at least.’ So bear up, young heart, and I’ll warrant
that thou’lt be Sir Geoffrey ere the King sets foot in Paris.”