Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Sir Espaign du Lyon tells Froissart how the garrison at Lourde took Ortingas

On his way to Foix, Froissart falls in with a knight who knows much about local events.

Book III, ch. 4 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 60-1).  At the time I undertook my journey to visit the count de Foix, reflecting on the diversity of countries I had never seen, I set out from Carcassonne, leaving the road to Toulouse on the right hand, and came to Monteroral, then to Tonges, then to Belle, then to the first town in the county of Foix; from thence to Maisieres, to the castle of Sauredun, then to the handsome city of Pamiers, which belongs to the count de Foix, where I halted, to wait for company that were going to Béarn, where the count resided. I remained in the city of Pamiers three days: it is a very delightful place, seated among fine vineyards, and surrounded by a clear and broad river, called the Liege.

Accidentally, a knight attached to the count de Foix, called sir Espaign du Lyon, came thither, on his return from Avignon: he was a prudent and valiant knight, handsome in person, and about fifty years of age. I introduced myself to his company, as he had a great desire to know what was doing in France. We were six days on the road travelling to Orthez.

As we journeyed, the knight, after saying his orisons, conversed the greater part of the day with me, asking for news; and when I put any questions to him, he very willingly answered them. On our departure from Pamiers we crossed the mountain of Cesse, which is difficult of ascent, and passed near the town and castle of Ortingas, which belongs to the king of France, but did not enter it. We went to dine at a castle of the count de Foix, half a league further, called Carlat, seated on a high mountain.

After dinner, the knight said: "Let us ride gently, we have but two leagues of this country (which are equal to three of France) to our lodging."

"Willingly," answered I.

"Now," said the knight, "we have this day passed the castle of Ortingas, the garrison of which did great mischief to all this part of the country. Peter d'Anchin had possession of it: he took it by surprise, and has gained sixty thousand francs from France."

"How did he get so much ?" said I.

"I will tell you," replied the knight. "On the feast of our lady, the middle of August, a fair is holden, where all the country assemble, and there is much merchandise brought thither during that time. Peter d'Anchin and his companions of the garrison of Lourde, had long wanted to gain this town and castle, but could not devise the means. They had, however, in the beginning of May, sent two of their men, of very simple outward appearance, to seek for service in the town: they soon found masters, who were so well satisfied with them, that they went in and out of the town whenever they pleased, without any one having the smallest suspicion of them.

"When mid-August arrived, the town was filled with foreign merchants from Foix, Béarn, and France: and, you know,
when merchants meet, after any considerable absence, they are accustomed to drink plentifully together to renew their
acquaintance, so that the houses of the masters of these two servants were quite filled, where they drank largely, and their
landlords with them.

"At midnight Peter d'Anchin and his company advanced towards Ortingas, and hid themselves and horses in the wood through which we passed. He sent six varlets with two ladders to the town, who, having crossed the ditches where they had been told was the shallowest place, fixed their ladders against the waIls: the two pretended servants, who were in waiting, assisted them (whilst their masters were seated at table) to mount the walls. They were no sooner up, than one of the servants conducted their companions towards the gate where only two men guarded the keys: he then said to them, 'Do you remain here, and not stir until you shall hear me whistle; then sally forth and slay the guards. I am well acquainted with the keys, having more than seven times guarded the gate with my master.'

"As he had planned so did they execute, and hid themselves well. He then advanced to the gate, and, having listened, found the watch drinking: he called to them by their names, for he was well acquainted with them, and said, 'Open the door: I bring you the best wine you ever tasted, which my master sends you that you may watch the better.' Those who knew the varlet
imagined he was speaking truth, and opened the door of the guard-room: upon this, he whistled, and his companions sallied
forth and pushed between the door, so that they could not shut it again. The guards were thus caught cunningly, amid so quietly
slain that no one knew anything of it. They then took the keys and went to the gate, which they opened, and let down the
draw-bridge so gently it was not heard. This done, they sounded a horn with one blast only, which those in ambuscade hearing,
they mounted their horses and came full gallop over the bridge into the town, where they took all its inhabitants either at table or
in their beds. Thus was Ortingas taken by Peter d'Anchin of Bigorre and his companions in Lourde."

I then asked the knight, "But how did they gain the castle?"

"I will tell you," said sir Espaign du Lyon. "At the time the town was taken, by ill-luck the governor was absent, supping with some merchants from Carcassonne, so that he was made prisoner, and on the morrow Peter d'Anchin had him brought before the castle, wherein were his wife and children, whom he frightened by declaring he would order the governor's head to be struck off, if they did not enter into a treaty to deliver up the castle. It was concluded, that if his lady would surrender, the governor should be given up to her, with permission to march unmolested away with everything that belonged to them.

The lady, who found herself in such a critical situation, through love to him who could not now defend her, in order to recover her husband and to avoid greater dangers, surrendered the castle, when the governor, his wife and children, set out with all that belonged to them, and went to Pamiers. By this means, Peter d'Anchin captured the town and castle of Ortingas; and, when they entered the place, he and his companions gained thirty thousand francs, as well in merchandise which they found there as in good French prisoners. All those who were from the county of Foix or Béarn received their liberty, with their goods untouched.

"Peter d'Anchin held Ortingas for full five years; and he and his garrison made frequent excursions as far as the gates of Carcassonne, which is sixteen long leagues distant, greatly ruining the country as well by the ransoms of towns which compounded, as by the pillage they made. During the time Peter d'Anchin garrisoned Ortingas, some of his companions made a
sally, being desirous of gain, and came to a castle a good league off, called le Paillier, of which Raymond du Paillier, a French
knight, was the lord. They this time accomplished their enterprise, having before attempted it in vain; and, by means of a
scalado, they took the castle, the knight and his lady in bed. They kept possession of it, allowing the lady and the children to
depart, but detained the knight four months in his own castle, until he had paid. four thousand francs for his ransom. In short,
after they had sufficiently harassed the country, they sold these two castles, Ortingas and le Paillier, for eight thousand francs,
and then retired to Lourde, their principal garrison. Such feats of arms and adventures were these companions daily practising.

"It happened likewise at this time, that a very able man at arms, one of the garrison of Lourde, a Gascon, called le
Mengeant de Sainte Basile, set out from Lourde with twenty-nine others, and rode towards the Toulousain and the Albigeois,
seeking adventures. His wishes were to surprise the castle of Penne in the Albigeois, which he was nearly doing, but failed.
When he found he was disappointed, he rode up to the gate, where he skirmished, and several gallant deeds were done. At this
same hour, the castellan of Toulouse, sir Hugh de Froide-ville, had also made an excursion with sixty lances, and by accident
arrived at Penne whilst this skirmish was going forward. He and his men instantly dismounted, and advanced to the barriers. Le
Mengeant would have made off; but, as that was impossible, he fought valiantly hand to hand with the knight: he behaved
gallantly, and wounded his adversary in two or three places, but at last was made prisoner; for he was not the strongest; and of
his men few escaped being killed or taken. Le Mengeant was carried to Toulouse; and the seneschal had great difficulty to save
him from the populace, who wanted to put him to death when they saw him in the hands of their own officer, so much was he
hated at Toulouse.

"Fortunately for him, the duke of Berry chanced to come to that city, and he had such good friends that the duke gave him
his liberty in consideration of a thousand francs being paid the seneschal for his ransom. Le Mengeant, on gaining his liberty,
returned to Lourde, where he ceased not from his usual enterprises.

"One time he set out with others, without arms, disguised as an abbot attended by four monks; for he and his companions had shaven the crowns of their heads, and no one would have imagined who saw them but that they were real monks, for they had every appearance in dress and look. In this manner he came to Montpelier, and alighted at the hotel of the Angel, saying he was an abbot from Upper Gascony going to Paris on business. He made acquaintance with a rich man of Montpelier, called sir Beranger, who was likewise bound for Paris on his affairs. On the abbot telling him he would carry him thither free from all expense, he was delighted that the journey would cost him nothing, and set out with le Mengeant attended only by a servant. They had not left Montpelier three leagues when le Mengeant made him his prisoner, and conducted him through crooked and bye-roads to his garrison of Lourde, whence he afterwards ransomed him for five thousand francs."

"Holy Mary !" cried I, "this le Mengeant must have been a clever fellow."

"Aye, that he was indeed," replied he; "and he died in his armour at a place we shall pass in three days, called Larre in Bigorre,
below a town called Archinach."

"I will remind you of it," said I, "when we shall arrive at the spot."

The tales of Espaign du Lyon continue.

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