« AnteriorContinuar »
this, as you will set a very bad example, for if you order us to defend any of your castles, we shall not obey you so cheerfully if you put these people to death, for we shall know that they will do the same to us if they take us.' Many barons who were there said the same thing. Upon which the king replied, “Gentlemen, I am not so obstinate as to hold my opinion alone, against you all. Sir Walter, you will inform the Governor of Calais that the only grace that he must expect from me is, that six of the principal citizens of Calais march out of the town with bare heads and feet, with ropes round their necks, and the keys of the town and castle in their hands. These six men shall be treated as I choose—the rest of the people shall be pardoned.”
Then Sir Walter went back to the governor and told him all he had been able to gain from the king.
Then the governor went to the market-place and caused the bell to be rung, upon which all the inhabitants, men and women, came into the town-hall; and then he told them that he could not obtain any better terms than these, and that they must give a short and immediate answer. This news caused such lamentation and despair, that the hardest heart would have had compassion on them ; even the governor himself wept bitterly.
After a short time the most wealthy citizen of the town, by name Eustace de St Pierre, rose up and said, “Gentlemen, both high and low, it would be a very great pity to suffer so many people to die of famine, and it would be a very good deed in the eyes of our Saviour to try and turn aside such misery. I have such faith and trust in finding grace before God if I die to save my townsmen, that I name myself as first of the six.” When Eustace had done speaking, they all rose up and almost worshipped him, and many cast themselves at his feet with tears and groans. Another citizen, very rich and respected, rose up, and said that he would be second to his companion · Eustace; his name was John Daire. After him four others, very rich in lands and merchandise, offered themselves.
Then the governor conducted them to the gate. There was the greatest sorrow and lamentation all over the town. The governor ordered the gate to be opened, and then shut upon him and the six citizens, whom he led to the barriers, and then said to Sir Walter Mauny, who was there waiting for them, “I deliver up to you these six citizens, and I swear to you they were, and are at this day, the most wealthy and respectable citizens of Calais. I beg of you, gentle sir, that you would have the goodness to beseech the king that they may not be put to death.” “I will do all in my power to save them, was Sir Walter Mauny's reply; and then the barriers were opened, and the six citizens led towards the tent of the king.
When they were presented to the king, they fell on their knees with uplifted hands, saying,
“ Most gallant king, see before you six citizens of Calais, who have been great merchants, and who bring you the keys of the town and castle. We surrender ourselves to your absolute will and pleasure, in order to save the remainder of the inhabitants of Calais, who have suffered much distress and misery. Condescend, therefore, out of your nobleness of mind, to have mercy on us.' All the barons, knights, and squires, that were assembled there in great numbers, wept at this sight.
The king eyed them with angry looks (for he hated much the people of Calais, for the great losses he had formerly suffered from them at sea), and ordered their heads to be struck off. All present begged the king to be merciful, but he would not listen to them. Then Sir Walter Mauny said, “ Ah! gentle king, let me beseech you to restrain your anger; you are renowned for great nobleness of soul, do not therefore lessen it by such an act as this. All the world will say you have acted cruelly if you put to death six men, who, of their own free-will, have given themselves up to your mercy, in order to save their fellow-townsmen." The king said, “ Let them speak as they will," and ordered the headsman to be sent for, as the people of Calais had done him much damage, and it was proper they should suffer for it. The Queen of England fell on her knees, and with tears said, “ Ah! gentle sir, since I have crossed the sea with great danger to see you, I have never asked you one favour; now
I most humbly ask as a gift, for the sake of our blessed Lord, and for your love to me, that you will be merciful to these six men.
The king looked at her for some time in silence, and then said, “Ah! lady, I wish you had been anywhere else but here; you have entreated in such a manner that I cannot refuse you ; I therefore give them to you, to do as you please with them.”
The Queen conducted the six men to her own rooms, and had the ropes taken from round their necks, after which she gave them new clothing, and served them with a plentiful dinner; she then presented each with six pieces of money, and had them taken through the camp in safety.
Adapted from Froissart.
77.—THE TWO DOGS.
“ How degenerate our race is in this country!” said a spaniel which had been a traveller. In those remote parts of the world which people call India, there are still dogs of the right sort. Dogs, my brothers—you will not believe me, and yet I have seen it with my own eyes—which are not even afraid of a lion, and boldly pick a quarrel with him."
“ But,” inquired a steady old hound,“ do they overcome the lions then ?"
“ Overcome?" was the reply;"I cannot exactly say that they do that. But still, only think, to attack a lion!”
“Oh !" continued the hound,“ if they do not overcome them, then these Indian dogs you are praising so much are not one whit better than we are, but only a very great deal more stupid.”
78. -THE LAMENT OF MARY, QUEEN OF
Now Nature hangs her mantle green
On every blooming tree,
Out o'er the grassy lea;
And glads the azure skies ;
That fast in durance lies.
Now lav'rocks wake the merry morn,
Aloft on dewy wing ;
Makes woodland echoes ring;
Sings drowsy day to rest;
With care nor thrall opprest.