The Siege of Arrascoun
For many days Guy wandered on painfully and sorrowfully, sick with wounds, and sad at heart for the loss of his friends. But at last his wounds were whole again, and once more he came to cities where there were tilts and tournaments; once more he fought and conquered; and although he did not forget his friends, the bitterness of sorrow went out of his heart.
One day news was brought to him that Duke Ledgwin of Louvain was in trouble. Sadok, the Emperor's nephew, had challenged Ledgwin to fight with him, but Ledgwin, knowing himself to be far stronger than Sadok and certain to beat him, refused, for he did not wish to hurt the boy who was the Emperor's favourite. Sadok was jealous of Ledgwin, however, and angry because he would not tilt with him. "Thou art a coward," he said.
"I am no coward," replied Ledgwin. "Thou art but a foolish boy. I did only mean to save thee a beating, but since thou wilt have it so, let us to it." So they tilted together, and Sadok, being unskillful with his weapons, Ledgwin killed him by mischance.
When the Emperor heard that Ledgwin had killed his nephew he was very angry, and gathering a great army he declared war against the Duke.
Now Ledgwin was shut up in his city of Arrascoun, sore beset by the Emperor. When Guy heard of it, he gathered all his soldiers together, and with fifty knights he set out to bring what aid he could to his friend.
One day, as he journeyed, he passed through a forest, and as he went he came upon a pilgrim who sat by the roadside. His clothes were old and worn, and he leaned his head upon his hand, and looked like one who was hopeless and weary.
Guy, who was always sorry for any one in trouble, reined in his horse, and spoke to the man. "Whence art thou, pilgrim?" he asked.
"From Lombardy, replied the man, without looking up.
"What news from there?" asked Guy.
"What news, sir?" said the man. "Alas! I know none, I care for none."
"Why art thou so sad, friend pilgrim?" asked Guy.
"Alas! Sir," replied the pilgrim, "it is now many a long day since I lost my dear master and friend, who is the best knight that ever there was. I roam the world looking for him, and can neither find him nor hear any tidings of him, and so I mourn him and am sad."
"Tell me, pilgrim, truly, what was the name of thy master whom thou dost love so well; mayhap I have news of him?"
"He was called Guy of Warwick," said the man, looking up. "A knight he was without blame"; and once more he let his head drop upon his breast and sighed deeply.
"Guy of Warwick!" cried Guy surprised to hear his own name. "Who then art thou?" and leaping from his horse he stood beside the pilgrim.
"Men call me Heraud of Ardern," said the pilgrim.
"Heraud, Heraud!" cried Guy, tears of joy springing to his eyes, "dost thou not know thy friend?"
"Guy," said Heraud in astonishment, "can it indeed be thee?" Then, throwing their arms round each other, they wept for joy.
Presently they sat down upon the grassy bank, and told each other all that had happened since that sad day when Guy had left Heraud with the Hermit, believing him to be dead.
"After thou wert gone," said Heraud, "the kind Hermit found out that I was not dead, but only sorely wounded. So he carried me to his cave, and, taking off my armour, washed my wounds and cared for them. All this I knew not at the time, but he told me afterward. For many days I lay knowing nothing, taking heed neither of day nor night, of darkness nor sunshine; but at last one morn I awoke to find the kind Hermit bending over me. I knew not at first where I lay or who he might be, and so weak was I that I could move neither hand nor foot. But day by day the Hermit tended me, and presently he told me all that had happened. Week after week crept past, and slowly my strength returned, until at length a day came when I said farewell to my kind friend, and set forth to search for thee. And now,"said Heraud, rising as he finished his tale, "I will no longer wear pilgrim"s weeds, for my pilgrimage is at an end. I will once more put on armour and join thee in thy quest, whatever it may be."
So he threw off his dull brown cloak, and Guy clad him anew in shining armour, and together they rode towards the city of Arrascoun.
Right glad was Ledgwin to see Guy and his fifty knights, and being so strengthened he decided to sally out and attack the Almains, as the enemy were called. So, on a sudden, the gates were thrown open and Guy, Ledgwin, and all their knights and soldiers poured out upon the foe.
Soon the air was full of the cries of war, and the sound of ringing blows. The ground was strewn with torn banners, splintered weapons and broken armour, among which lay the dead and dying. Such slaughter there was that of the thirty thousand men who had gathered to besiege Arrascoun scarce three thousand remained alive. From early morning until the shadows of evening fell the battle lasted. Then Ledgwin, calling his men together, took up the wounded, and retired once more within the walls of his town.
Very wrathful was the Emperor at this defeat, and quickly gathering another army he best Arrascoun more closely than before. So strict a watch did he now keep that no man could go into the town, no man could come out of it, and the Emperor hoped soon to starve the brave garrison into submission.
But the people within the town had no lack of food. They laughed at the Emperor, and Guy and Ledgwin came to the walls and taunted the Almains.
"Ye will never win the town," they said; "ye can never starve us into yielding, for we have food enough and to spare. See, we will give some unto ye too, for we hear that there is hunger within your camp."
Then, at the bidding of their masters, the soldiers threw sacks of flour and carcases of bullocks over the walls into the camp of the Almains. "Speak if ye want more," cried Guy, "for we have store enough to make ye all fat."
"We have fed ye; now why fight ye not?" cried Ledgwin.
"We have heard your tongues, but we cannot feel your arms," laughed Guy. "Your words are indeed hot, but your actions are cool enough. With your arms ye are slow, and with your heels exceeding nimble."
But in spite of taunts and laughter, the Almains lay around the town doing nothing, waiting until famine and disease should fight for them.
At length Ledgwin and Guy, weary of idleness, made up their minds to sally out once more to fight, come what would. So again the gates were thrown wide open, and the gallant knights pouring forth fell upon the Almains. Fierce was the struggle. Guy and his men fought as those who laughed death to scorn. Much blood was shed; many brave men fell upon the field, others fled away; and when at last night came, the Almains were utterly defeated, the remnant fleeing from the field, hotly pursued by their foes.
The victors then returned to Arrascoun, bearing with them much spoil, and the banners and arms of the fallen foe.
That night there was great rejoicing and feasting within the town. Duke Ledgwin heaped honours and praise upon Guy. "For," said he, "it is the fame of thy name and valour that has won the day."
But although Ledgwin had won the battle he was not happy, for the Emperor had a beautiful sister called Erneborough whom Ledgwin loved. Now he feared that he would never see her more so long as the Emperor was angry with him. The Emperor, too, was Ledgwin's overlord, and very great and powerful, so that Ledgwin could never hope to be safe or at peace until he had made friends with the Emperor again. So he was sad.
"My friend," said Guy, seeing him look so sorrowful, "I would rather that my tongue had won peace for thee than my sword victory. Now let me go to the Emperor, and perchance, though my tongue is but a soldier's and ill-used to sue, he may listen to me."
"Go, friend," replied Ledgwin, "though, I fear me, thou wilt speed but ill. Yet I charge thee, as thou dost love me, say to the Lady Erneborough that although I have drawn my sword against the Emperor, her brother, my heart is hers, and shall be always until I die."
"Give me some token then," said Guy, "whereby she shall know from whom I come."
Ledgwin hesitated for a moment, then putting his hand into his doublet, he drew forth a ring and laid it in Guy's hand. "This shall be thy token," he said.
Guy took the ring, and, mounting upon his horse, rode to the court. There, lighting down, he bent his knee before the Emperor and begged him to forgive Ledgwin, and to take him into love and fellowship again. But the Emperor looked darkly on Guy and would not listen to him. Then all the other lords, barons, and knights round also prayed him to forgive Ledgwin, but the Emperor only looked more dark and angry.
Beside her brother Princess Erneborough sat, pale and silent; but when Guy at last drew forth the ring and gave it to her, her sad face shone suddenly with a smile, and a happy colour came into her pale cheeks. Then she too bent to the Emperor and whispered, "Forgive."
So at last the Emperor yielded. "My lords and barons, hearken to me," he said. "For the love I bear unto ye, and for the sake of Sir Guy, the courteous knight, I do as ye desire. I put all wrath out of my heart. Duke Ledgwin is forgiven."
Messengers were quickly sent to Ledgwin, and, as soon as he heard the good news, he hurried to the court. There he knelt to the Emperor and vowed to b e ever his faithful friend and follower. But although he knelt to the Emperor, it was at Erneborough that he looked, and as she smiled down upon him, her eyes were like the summer sky when the clouds have fled away.
Soon afterwards there was a great wedding. Ledgwin and Erneborough were married. For days there was feasting and merriment, games and play, but at last Guy came to the Duke and told him that he must leave him, and once more set out upon adventures.
Ledgwin was very sad at the thought of parting from his friend, and begged him to remain. But Guy said, "No, in thy wars I have served thee. Now I leave thee happy. But if ever again thou hast need of me, send, and I shall come right hastily." Then, mounting upon his horse, he rode away.