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Bayard, The Good Knight
by [?]

Good knights were abundant in the romance of the age of chivalry; they seem to have been greatly lacking in its history. Of knights without fear there were many; of knights “without fear and without reproach” we are specially told of but one, Pierre du Terrail, Chevalier de Bayard, “Le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche.” Many are the stories of the courage, the justice, the honor, the mercy, the intrepidity in war, the humanity and kindliness of spirit in peace, which make this admirable character an anomaly in that age of courteous appearance and brutal reality yclept the “age of chivalry.” One such story we have to tell.

The town of Brescia had been taken by the French army under Gaston de Foix, and given up to pillage by his troops, with all the horrors which this meant in that day of license and inhumanity. Bayard took part in the assault on the town, and was wounded therein, so severely that he said to his fellow-captain, the lord of Molart,–

“Comrade, march your men forward; the town is ours. As for me, I cannot pull on farther, for I am a dead man.”

Not quite dead, as it proved. He had many years of noble deeds before him still. When the town was taken, two of his archers bore him to a house whose size and show of importance attracted them as a fair harbor for their lord. It was the residence of a rich citizen, who had fled for safety to a monastery, leaving his wife to God’s care in the house, and two fair daughters to such security as they could gain from the hay in a granary, under which they were hidden.

At the loud summons of the archers the lady tremblingly opened the door, and was surprised and relieved when she saw that it was a wounded knight who craved admittance. Sadly hurt as Bayard was, his instinct of kindness remained active. He bade the archers to close the door and remain there on guard.

“Take heed, for your lives,” he said, “that none enter here unless they be some of my own people. I am sure that, when this is known to be my quarters, none will try to force a way in. If, by your aiding me, you miss a chance of gain in the sack of the town, let not that trouble you; you shall lose nothing by your service.”

The archers obeyed, and the wounded knight was borne to a rich chamber, the lady herself showing the way. When he had been laid in bed, she threw herself on her knees before him, and pleadingly said,–

“Noble sir, I present you this house and all that is therein, all of which, in truth, I well know to be yours by right of war. But I earnestly pray that it be your pleasure to spare me and my two young daughters our lives and honor.”

“Madam,” answered the knight, with grave courtesy, “I know not if I can escape from my wound; but, so long as I live, trust me that no harm shall come to you and your daughters, any more than to myself. Only keep them in their chambers; let them not be seen; and I assure you that no man in the house will take upon himself to enter any place against your will.”

These words the lady heard with joy, and on Bayard’s request that he should have a good surgeon without delay, she and one of the archers set out in quest of the best that could be found. Fortunately, it proved that the knight’s wound, though deep, was not mortal. At the second dressing Master Claude, the surgeon of Gaston de Foix, took him in hand, and afterwards attended him assiduously until his wound was healed, a process which took about a month. After the first dressing of the wound, Bayard asked his hostess, in kindly tones, where her husband was.