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Episodes In The Life Of A Traitor
by [?]

At the early hour of one o’clock in the morning of September 8, 1523, a train of men-at-arms and servants, headed by a tall, stern-faced, soldierly-looking man, rode from the gates of the strong castle of Chantelle, and headed southward in the direction of Spain. The leader was dressed in armor, and carried sword by side and battle-axe at his saddle-bow. Of his followers, some fifteen of them were attired in a peculiar manner, wearing thick jackets of woollen cloth that seemed as stiff as iron mail, and jingled metallically as they rode. Mail they were, capable of turning arrow or spear thrust, but mail of gold, not of iron, for in those jackets were sewed up thirty thousand crowns of gold, and their wearers served as the ambulatory treasury of the proud soldier at their head.

This man was no less a personage than Charles, Duke of Bourbon, Constable of France, the highest personage in the kingdom next to the monarch himself, but now in flight from that monarch, and from the soldiers who were marching to environ Chantelle and carry him as a prisoner to the king. There had been bad blood between Bourbon and Francis I., pride and haughtiness on the one side, injustice and indecision on the other; wrong to the subject, defiance to the king; and now the “short-tempered” noble and great soldier had made a moonlight flitting, bent on cutting loose from his allegiance to France, and on lending the aid of his sword and military skill to her hereditary foes.

For a month Bourbon and his followers wandered around the provinces of southern France. Incessantly he changed his road, his costume, his companions, his resting-place, occasionally falling in with soldiers of the king who were on their way to take part in the wars in Italy, seeking in vain for adherents to his cause, and feeling his way by correspondence to an understanding with the enemies of France. In early October he entered the domains of the emperor, Charles V., and definitely cut loose from his allegiance to the king.

The news of this defection filled Francis with alarm. He had, by his injustice, driven his greatest soldier from the realm, and now sought to undo the perilous work he had done. He put off his journey to join the army marching to Italy, and sent a messenger to the redoubtable fugitive, offering restitution of his property, satisfaction in full of his claims, and security for good treatment and punctual payment. Bourbon curtly refused.

“It is too late,” he said.

“Then,” said the envoy, “I am bidden by the king to ask you to deliver up the sword of constable and the collar of the order of St. Michael.”

“You may tell the king,” answered Bourbon, shortly, “that he took from me the sword of constable on the day that he took from me the command of the advanced guard to give it to M. d’Alencon. As for the collar of his order, you will find it at Chantelle under the pillow of my bed.”

Francis made further efforts to win back the powerful noble whom he had so deeply offended, but equally in vain. Bourbon had definitely cut loose from his native land and was bent on joining hands with its mortal foes. Francis had offended him too deeply to be so readily forgiven as he hoped.

It is not the story of the life of this notable traitor that we propose to tell, but simply to depict some picturesque scenes in his career. Charles V. gladly welcomed him, and made him his lieutenant-general in Italy, so that he became leader against the French in their invasion of that land. We next find him during the siege of Milan by the army of Francis I., one of whose leaders was Chevalier Bayard, “the good knight,” who was the subject of our last story. The siege was destined to prove a fatal affair for this noble warrior. The French found themselves so hard pressed by the imperial army under the Constable de Bourbon that they fell back to await reinforcements. Near Romagnano, on the banks of the Sesia, they were thrown into disorder while seeking to pass the stream, and Bonnivet, their leader, was severely wounded. The Count de St. Pol and Chevalier Bayard took command. Bayard, always first in advance and last in retreat, charged the enemy at the head of a body of men-at-arms. It proved for him a fatal charge. A shot from an arquebuse gave him a mortal wound.