Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Aymerigot Marcel takes Marquel by strategem

English captains continue to plunder Auvergne.

Book II, ch. 143 (Johnes, v. II, pp. 8-9).  In the same week [as the taking of Oudenarde] an almost similar adventure happened in Auvergne, where the English held several castles bordering on the territories of the count dauphin, and on those of the bishops of St. Flour and of Clermont. The English garrisons knew the country of Auvergne had been drained of men at arms, for the greater part of them were with the king of France in Flanders: they, in consequence, began to lay plans for surprising some of the strong places of Auvergne.

Aymerigot Marcel, governor of Aloise, a handsome castle situated a league distant from St. Flour, set off from his castle at day-break, attended only by thirty picked men. He marched silently for the lands of the count dauphin, having formed his plan to take by scalado the castle of Marquel (which the count dauphin bears for his arms), and rode through woods and a close country. Aymerigot and his men took up their lodgings early in a small wood near the castle, where they remained until sun-set, and the garrison had retired into the castle: while the governor, whose name was Girardon Buissel, was at supper, the English, who knew well what they were to do, affixed their ladders and entered the castle at their ease.

Those passing through the court saw them climbing over the walls, and instantly cried out, "Treason, treason !" On Girardon hearing this, he had not any hopes of saving himself but through a private passage which led from his apartment to the great tower, and which served as the dungeon of the castle. Thither he instantly retired, taking with him the keys of the gates, and shut himself in, whilst Aymerigot and his companions were otherwise employed. When they discovered that the governor had escaped into the great tower, which they were unable to take, they said they had done nothing, and repented greatly having thus inclosed themselves; for, the gates being fastened, they could not get out.

Aymerigot having mused a little, came to the tower, and, addressing the governor, said, "Girardon, give us the keys of the castle-gate, and I promise you we will leave it without doing any mischief to the castle."

"Indeed," replied Girardon, "but you will carry off all my cattle: how can I believe you?"

"Give me thy hand," said Aymerigot to him, "and I swear to thee, on my faith, that thou shalt not suffer the smallest loss."

Upon this, he, like a fool, came to a small window in the tower, and offered his hand for him to pledge his faith on; but the moment Aymerigot got hold of it he pulled it to him, squeezing it very hard, and called for his dagger, swearing he would stick his hand to the wall unless he gave up all his keys. When Girardon saw himself thus caught, he was stupified, as indeed he had reason; for Aymnerigot would not give up his hand without nailing it to the wall, unless he received the keys. With his other hand, therefore, he gave the keys, for he had them near him.

"Now, see," said Aymerigot to his companions, when he had got the keys, " if I have not well cheated the fool: I am equal to many such feats as this."

They opened the tower gate, and, being the masters, put out of the castle the governor and all who were in it, without doing them any other harm.

News was carried to the countess dauphine, who resided at a strong castle in the good town of Zaides, a league distant, how the English had won Marquel. The lady was much surprised, and because her lord, the dauphin, was not in the country, she immediately sent to all the knights and squires who were at home, to request they would assist her in recovering possession of her castle. Knights and squires, on hearing this, instantly waited on the lady and laid siege to the castle; but the English were not alarmed and held the place for fifteen days. During this time the lady entered into a treaty, and Aymerigot received five thousand francs in hard money, for which he and his men surrendered it and returned to his garrison.

In another part those of Caluisel, of which Perrot le Brenois was captain, harassed much the countries of Auvergne and Limousin. The English had at that time upwards of sixty strong castles on the borders of Auvergne, Limousin, and Quercy, and they could march from fort to fort, even unto Bordeaux.

But the castle which harassed the country most was Ventadour, one of the strongest castles in the world: the captain of it was a Breton, called Geoffry Tête-noir. This Geoffry was a wicked man, showed mercy to none, and would just as soon put to death a knight or squire as a peasant: he held all men so cheap; and was so much feared by his soldiers, that they dared not anger him. He maintained in this castle full four hundred men, whom he paid regularly every month; and the whole country was under such subjection and awe of him, that none dared to ride over his lands. His castle of Ventadour was more largely supplied with every sort of store than that of any lord. There were warehouses of Brussels and Normandy cloths, of furs, merceries, and other articles, which he sold to his people, deducting the prices from their pay. He had stores of steel, iron, wax, spices, and every necessary, in as great plenty as at Paris. Sometimes he made war on the English as well as on the French, in order to be the more dreaded: and his castle of Ventadour was always provided for a siege of seven years.

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