Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the citizens, and, repairing to the market-place, he caused a great bell to be rung, at sound of which all the inhabitants came together in the town-hall. When he told them of these hard terms he could not refrain from weeping bitterly, and wailing and lamentation arose all round him. Should all starve together, or sacrifice their best and most honored after all suffering in common so long ?

Then a voice was heard : it was that of the richest burgher in the town, Eustache de St. Pierre. “ Messieurs, high and low,” he said, “it would be a sad pity to suffer so many people to die through hunger, if it could be prevented; and to hinder it would be meritorious in the eyes of our Saviour. 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."

As the burgher ceased, his fellow-townsmen wept aloud, and many, amid tears and groans, threw themselves at his feet in a transport of grief and gratitude. Another citizen, very rich and respected, rose up and said, “ I will be second to my comrade, Eustache.” His name was Jean Daire. After him Jacques Wissant, another very rich man, offered himself as companion to these, who were both his cousins; and his brother Pierre would not be left behind : and two more, unnamed, made up this gallant band of men willing to offer their lives for the rescue of their fellow-townsmen.

Sir Jean de Vienne mounted a little horse — for he had been wounded, and was still lame — and came to the gate with them, followed by all the people of the town, weeping and wailing, yet, for their own sakes and their children's, not daring to prevent the sacrifice. The gates were opened, the governor and the six passed out, and the gates were again shut behind them. Sir Jean then rode up to Sir Walter Mauny, and told him how these burghers had voluntarily offered themselves, begging him to do all in his power to save them; and Sir Walter promised with his whole heart to plead their cause. De Vienne then went back into the town, full of heaviness and anxiety; and the six citizens were led by Sir Walter to the presence of the king, in his full court. They all knelt down, and the foremost said : “ Most gallant King, you see before you six burghers of Calais, who have all been capital merchants, and who bring you the keys of the castle and town. We yield 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 pity on us."

Strong emotion was excited among all the barons and knights who stood round, as they saw the resigned countenances, pale and thin with patientlyendured hunger, of these venerable men, offering themselves in the cause of their fellow-townsmen. Many tears of pity were shed; but the king still showed himself implacable, and commanded that they should be led away, and their heads stricken off. Sir Walter Mauny interceded for them with all his might, even telling the king that such an execution would tarnish his honor, and that reprisals would be mide on his own garrisons; and all the nobles joined in entreating pardon for the citizens, but still without effect; and the headsman had been actually sent for, when Queen Philippa, her eyes streaming with tears, threw herself on her knees amongst the captives, and said, “Ah, gentle sir, since I have crossed the sea, with much danger, to see you, I have never asked you one favor; now I beg as a boon to myself, for the sake of the Son of the Blessed Mary, and for your love to me, that you will be merciful to these men !”

For some time the king looked at her in silence; then he exclaimed: “Dame, dame, would that you had been anywhere than here ! You have entreated in such a manner that I cannot refuse you; I therefore give these men to you, to do as you please with.

Joyfully did Queen Philippa conduct the six citizens to her own apartments, where she made them welcome, sent them new garments, entertained them with a plentiful dinner, and dismissed them each with a gift of six nobles. After this, Sir Walter Mauny entered the city, and took possession of it; retaining Sir Jean de Vienne and the other knights and squires till they should ransom themselves, and sending out the old French inhabitants ; for the king was resolved to people the city entirely with English, in order to gain a thoroughly strong hold of this first step in France.

The king and queen took up their abode in the city; and the houses of Jean Daire were, it appears, granted to the queen, — perhaps, because she considered the man himself as her charge, and wished to secure them for him, — and her little daughter Margaret was, shortly after, born in one of his houses. Eustache de St. Pierre was taken into high favor, and was placed in charge of the new citizens whom the king placed in the city.

Indeed, as this story is told by no chronicler but Froissart, some have doubted of it, and thought the violent resentment thus imputed to Edward III. inconsistent with his general character; but it is evident that the men of Calais had given him strong provocation by attacks on his shipping, - piracies which are not easily forgiven, - and that he considered that he had a right to make an example of them. It is not unlikely that he might, after all, have intended to forgive them, and have given the queen the grace of obtaining their pardon, so as to excuse himself from the fulfilment of some overhasty threat. But, however this may have been, nothing can lessen the glory of the six grave and patient men who went forth, by their own free will, to meet what might be a cruel and disgraceful death, in order to obtain the safety of their fellowtownsmen.

THE BATTLE OF SEMPACH.

1397

dred years,

than the union of the cantons and cities of the little republic of Switzerland. Of differing races, languages, and, latterly, even religions, unlike in habits, tastes, opinions, and costumes, — they have, however, been held together, as it were, by pressure from without, and one spirit of patriotism has kept the little mountain republic complete for five hun

Originally the lands were fiefs of the Holy Roman Empire, the city municipalities owning the Emperor for their lord ; and the great family of Hapsburg, in whom the Empire became at length hereditary, was in reality Swiss, the county that gave them title lying in the canton of Aargau. Rodolf of Hapsburg was elected leader of the burghers of Zurich, Ìong before he was chosen to the Empire ; and he continued a Swiss in heart, retaining his mountaineer's open simplicity and honesty to the end of his life. Privileges were granted by him to the cities and the nobles, and the country was loyal and prosperous in his reign.

His son Albert, the same who was slain by his nephew Johann, as before mentioned, permitted those tyrannies of his bailiffs which goaded the Swiss to their celebrated revolt, and commenced the

« ZurückWeiter »