Tales from Froissart
edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University
Peter du Bois Rallies Ghent
After the surrender of Bruges the fate of Ghent is uncertain.
Book II, ch. 126. The French imagined, that when Bruges had surrendered itself to the king's mercy, Ghent would do the same, since it had lost its leader [Philip von Artaveld], and such numbers of men a the battle of Rosebecque. In truth, for three days, the inhabitants were well inclined so to do, and knew not how to act: to quit the town and leave every thing, or to send the keys to the king, and surrender themselves to his mercy. They were so completely cast down that there was neither union nor steadiness among them. The lord de Harzelles, though in the town, was incapable of giving them comfort.
When Peter du Bois arrived, he found the gates open without any guards, which much surprised him; and he asked, why they did not better guard the town. Those who came to him, and were much rejoiced at his arrival, replied: "Ah, sir, what can we do? You know we have had our good captain slain; and, by an exact account, the town of Ghent has lost, without counting strangers, full nine thousand men. This loss touches us so nearly that we have no hopes left."
"Ye foolish people," answered Peter du Bois, "are ye thus thunderstruck when the war is not near over, nor the town of Ghent so famous as she shall be? If Philip is dead, it has been by his own violence. Close your gates, and think of preparing to defend yourselves. Ye do not suppose that the king of France will come here this winter-time; and before the proper season shall arrive, we shall have gained reinforcements from our friends in Holland, Zealand, Guelderland, Brabant and other places. We can have men enough for our money.
"Francis Atremen, who is now in England, will soon return, and he and I will be your captains. The war has never been so serious, or so well conducted, as we will have it. We are much better alone than joined by all Flanders; for while we had the country with us, we knew not how to make war. Let us now attend to the business ourselves, and we shall perform greater exploits than have hitherto been done."
By such speeches as this did Peter du Bois rally the cast-down inhabitants of Ghent, who would, without doubt, have surrendered themselves unconditionally to the king of France, if Peter du Bois had not been there. So much depends on the courage and ability of a single man. When the Ghent men saw five or six days pass over without any attempt being made on their town, nor any appearance of a siege, they recovered their courage, and became more presumptuous than before.