Book III, ch. 19. ...The French then marched to the castle of la Bassere, of which Ernauton de Batefol was captain. He had strongly fortified it, in expectation of the visit the French intended him. On their arrival, they reconnoitred it on all sides, to see where they could the better make their attack, and with the least loss to their men: having carefully examined it, they posted themselves opposite to the weakest part. The cross-bowmen were ordered to advance before those intended for the assault, and they did their duty so well that few dared to appear on the battlements.
Ernauton de Batefol was at the gate where the attack was the sharpest, performing such wonders in arms that the French knights cried out,—" Here is a squire of great valour, who becomes his arms well, and makes excellent use of them; it would not be amiss to treat with him to surrender the castle, and seek his fortune elsewhere: let him be informed, that if sir Walter de Passac conquer it by storm, no power on earth can save him; for he has sworn to be put to death, or have hanged, all whom he may find in any castle or fort."
The séneschal de Toulouse then charged a squire from Gascony, named William Ahiedel, who was well acquainted with Ernauton, they having formerly borne arms together, to talk within him on the subject. He willingly undertook it; for he would have been very sorry if Ernauton had suffered loss of honour or death, as other things could be remedied.
William stepped forward, and made signs to Ernauton that he wanted to speak to him on what nearly concerned him, to which his friend assented; and the assault was at that place discontinued, though not elsewhere. "Ernauton," said William, "you are risking too much: our leaders have compassion on you, and send me to tell you, that should you be taken, sir Walter de Passac has strictly ordered you to be instantly put to death, as he has done to those who were in St. Forget. It is, therefore, much better for you to surrender the place, as I would advise, than to wait the event; for I can assure you, we shall not depart before we be masters of it."
"I know very well," replied Ernauton, "that, although you now bear arms against me, you would never advise anything disgraceful to my honour, but if I do surrender, all who are with me must be saved likewise; and we must carry away with us as much as we can, excepting the provisions, and be conducted in safety to the castle of Lourde."
"I am not commissioned," answered William, "to go so far, but I will cheerfully mention it to my commanders." On this, he returned to the séneschal of Toulouse, and related what you have heard.
Sir Hugh de Froideville said, "Let us go and speak with sir Walter; for I know not what his intentions may be, although I have advanced so far in the treaty; but I fancy we shall make him agree to it."
When they came to sir Walter, they found him engaged in assaulting another part of the castle; the séneschal addressed him,— "Sir Walter, I have opened a treaty with the captain of the castle, who is willing to surrender the place as it is, on condition that himself and garrison be spared and escorted to Lourde, and that they carry away everything but the provision: now, what do you say to this? We should lose more, if any of our knights and squires were killed by arrows or stones: and you would have more sorrow than profit, even should you win it and put all to death; but that is not yet done; it will cost us many lives; for it will not be so easily conquered as St. Forget."
"That is true," added the séneschal of Carcassonne, who was present: "it is impossible but in such attacks there must be many killed and wounded."
Sir Walter de Passac then said,—" I am willing to consent order the attacks to cease. We have still farther to march; and, by little and little, we shall gain all these castles from the pillagers; if they escape from us cheaply at this moment, they will fall into our hands again some time hence, when they shall pay for all. Ill deeds bring the doers to an ill end. I have hanged and drowned in my time more than five hundred such scoundrels, and these will at last come to the same fate."
William Aliedel and others then returned to the gate, where Ernauton was waiting for them, to conclude the treaty. "By my troth, Ernauton," said William, "you and your companions ought to give many thanks to God and to sir Hugh de Froideville, for he has obtained for you your own terms of surrender. You and your garrison may depart hence, taking with you all you are able to carry, and will be escorted to Lourde."
"I am satisfied;" replied Ernauton, "since it cannot be otherwise; but know, William, that I am very sorry to quit my castle, which has been of infinite service to me since my capture at the bridge of Tournay, below Mauvoisin, by the bourg d'Espaign, who made me pay two thousand francs for my ransom; indeed, to say the truth, I have more than repaid myself the loss since I have been here. I have been so long in this part of the country that I like it well; and whenever I wished to make an excursion, I always was fortunate in meeting with prey, that fell into my hands, from some merchant from Rabastens, Toulouse, or Rodais."
"Ernauton," answered William, "I readily believe you; but if you will turn to the French, I will obtain your pardon, and put a thousand francs into your purse besides: and will pledge my honour that you be steady to the French interest, when once you have sworn so to do."
"Many thanks," said Ernauton; "but I like not your party, and will remain firm to the English; for, as God may help me, I do not think I can ever be a good Frenchman. Return now to your army, and say that we shall employ this day in packing up; but we will surrender the place tomorrow and depart: you will therefore order an escort to conduct us to Lourde."
The attacks on la Bassere had ceased, and the French retired to their quarters, where they refreshed themselves at their ease, for they had wherewithal so to do. On the morrow, by eight o'clock, the army was drawn out, and those who were to escort the garrison selected. 'Sir Walter then sent the séneschal of Toulouse to take possession of the castle, where he found Ernauton with his companions and their baggage packed, and all ready to set out. He ordered a knight of Lourde, called sir Mouvant de Salenges, to escort them, which he undertook to do safely; and I believe he kept his word. This castle was given to Bertrand de Montesquieu, a squire of that country, to guard, as well as the territory adjacent.
The story continues.