Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The garrison of Lourde suffers a setback

Sir Espaign du Lyon continues to tell stories to Froissart as they travel to Foix.

Book III, ch. 7 (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 85-7).  In the morning, we mounted our horses, set out from Tournay, passed the river Lisse at a ford; and, riding towards the city of Tarbes, entered Bigorre, leaving on our left the road to Lourde, Bagneres and the castle of Montgaillard. We made for a village called in the country Terra Cimitat, and skirted a wood, which we afterwards entered, on the lands of the lord de Barbasan; when the knight said, "Sir John, this is the pass of Larre: look about you. I did so, and thought it a very strange country, and should have imagined myself in great danger if I had not had the company of the knight."

I recollected what he had said some days before respecting the country of Larre and Mengeant de Lourde, and,
reminding him of them, said, "My lord, you promised that when we came to the country of Larre, you would tell me more of
Mengeant de Lourde, and the manner of his death."

"It is true," replied the knight: come and ride by my side, and I will tell it you." I then pushed forward to hear him the better, when he began as follows:

"During the time Peter d'Anchin held the castle and garrison of Ortingas, as I have before related, those of Lourde made
frequent excursions at a distance from their fort, when they had not always the advantage. You see those two castles of
Barbasan and Marteras, which had always considerable garrisons: the towns of Bagneres, Tournay, Montgaillard, Salenges,
Benach, Gorre, and Tarbes, were also full of French troops. When they heard that those of Lourde had made any excursion
towards Toulouse or Carcassone, they collected themselves and formed an ambuscade, to slay them and carry off what pillage
they should have collected: sometimes several on each side were killed, at others those of Lourde passed unmolested.

"It happened once, that Ernauton de Sainte Colombe, he Mengeant de Sainte Corneille, with six score lances, good men at arms, set out from Lourde, and advanced round the mountains between the two rivers Lisse and Lesse, as far as Toulouse. On their return, they found in the meadows great quantities of cattle, pigs, and sheep, which they seized, as well as some substantial men from the flat countries, and drove them all before them.

"It was told to the governor of Tarbes, a squire of Gascony, called Ernauton Biffete, how those of Lourde were
overrunning and harassing the country, and he sent information of this to the lord de Benach and to Enguerros de Lane, son of
sir Raymond, and also to the lord de Barbasan, adding, he was determined to attack them. These knights and squires of
Bigorre, having agreed to join him, assembled their men in the town of Tournay, through which the garrison of Lourde generally
returned. The bourg d'Espaign had come thither from his garrison of St. Béart, and they were in the whole two hundred lances.
They had sent spies into the country to see what appearance their enemies made on their return.

"On the other hand, those from Lourde had likewise spies on the watch, to observe if there were any men at arms out to intercept them: both parties were so active, that each knew the force of the other. When those of Lourde heard that the French garrisons were waiting for them at Tournay, they began to be alarmed, and called a council to determine how to conduct their pillage in safety. It was resolved to divide themselves into two parties: one, consisting of servants and pillagers, was to drive the booty, and take bye roads to Lane-bourg crossing the bridge of Tournay, and the river Lesse between Tournay and Malvoisin: the other division was to march in order of battle on the high grounds, and to make an appearance as if they meant to return by the pass of Larre below Marteras, but to fall back between Barbasan and Montgaillard, in order that the baggage might cross the river in safety. They were to meet all together at Montgaillard, from whence they would soon be at Lourde.

"This plan they executed: and the bastard de Carnillac, Guillonet de Harnes, Perot Boursier, John Calemin de Basselle, and le Rouge Ecuyer, collected forty lances, with all the servants and pillagers, and. said to them,'You will conduct our plunder and prisoners by the road to Lane-bourg, and then descend between Tournay and Malvoisin, where you will cross the river at the bridge: follow then the bye road between Cimitat and Montgaillard: we will go the other road by Marteras and Barbasan, so as to meet all together at Montgaillard.' On this they departed; and there remained with the principal division Ernauton de Resten, Ernauton de Sainte Colombe, le Mengeant de Sainte Corneille, and full eighty companions, all men at arms: there were not ten varlets among them. They tightened their armour, fixed their helmets, and, grasping their lances, marched in close order as if they were instantly to engage: they indeed expected nothing else, for they knew their enemies were in the field.

"The French, in like manner as those of Lourde, had called a council respecting their mode of acting. Sir Monant de Barbasan
and Ernauton Biscete said: 'Since we know the men of Lourde are bringing home great plunder and many prisoners, we shall
be much vexed if they escape us: let us, therefore, form two ambuscades, for we are enow for both.' Upon this it was ordered,
that the bourg d'Espaign, sir Raymond de Benach, and Enguerros de Lane, with one hundred spears, should guard the passage
at Tournay, for the cattle and prisoners must necessarily cross the river; and the lord de Barbasan and Ernauton Biscete, with
the other hundred lances, should reconnoitre, if perchance they could come up with them. They separated from each other, and
the lord de Benach, and the bourg d'Espaign, placed themselves in ambuscade at the bridge between Tournay and Malvoisin.
The other division rode to the spot where we now are, which is called the Larre, and there the two parties met. They instantly
dismounted, and leaving their horses to pasture, with pointed lances advanced, for a combat was unavoidable, shouting their
cries, 'St. George for Lourde!' 'Our lady for Bigorre!'

"They charged each other, thrusting their spears with all their strengths, and, to add greater force, urged them forward
with their breasts.. The combat was very equal; and for some time none were struck down, as I heard from those present. When they had sufficiently used their spears, they threw them down, and with battle-axes began to deal out terrible blows on both sides. This action lasted for three hours, and it was marvellous to see how well they fought and defended themselves. When any were so worsted or out of breath, that they could not longer support the fight, they seated themselves near a large ditch full of water in the middle of the plain, when having taken off their helmets, they refreshed themselves: this done, they replaced their helmets and returned to the combat. I do not believe there ever was so well fought or so severe a battle, as this of Marteras in Bigorre, since the famous combat of thirty English against thirty French knights in Brittany .

"They fought hand to hand, and Ernauton de Sainte Colombe, an excellent man at arms, was on the point of being killed by a
squire of the country called Guillonet de Salenges, who had pushed him so hard that he was quite out of breath, when I will tell
you what happened: Ernauton de Sainte Colombe had a servant who was a spectator of the battle, neither attacking nor
attacked by any one; but, seeing his master thus distressed, he ran to him, and, wresting the battle-axe from his hands, said,
'Ernauton, go and sit down: recover yourself: you cannot longer continue the battle.' With this battle-axe he advanced upon the
squire, and gave him such a blow on the helmet as made him stagger and almost fall down. Guillonet, smarting from the blow,
was very wroth, and made for the servant to strike him with his axe on the head; but the varlet avoided it, and grappling with the
squire, who was much fatigued, turned him round, and flung him to the ground under him, when he said, 'I will put you to death,
if you do not surrender yourself to my master.'

"'And who is thy master?'

"' Ernauton de Sainte Colombe, with whom you have been so long engaged.' The squire, finding he had not the advantage, being under the servant, who had his dagger ready to strike, surrendered on condition to deliver himself prisoner within fifteen days, at the castle of Lourde, whether rescued or not.

Of such service was this servant to his master; and, I must say, sir John, that there was a superabundance of feats of arms that
day performed, and many companions were sworn to surrender themselves at Tarbes and at Lourde. Ernauton Biscete and le
Mengeant de Sainte Basile fought hand to hand, without sparing themselves, and performed many gallant deeds, while all the others were fully employed: however, they fought so vigorously that they exhausted their strength, and both were slain on the spot. Thus fell Ernauton Biscete and le Mengeant de Sainte Basile.

"Upon this, the combat ceased by mutual consent, for they were so worn down that they could not longer wield their axes :
some disarmed themselves, to recruit their strength, and left there their arms. Those of Lourde carried with them the dead body
of le Mengeant, as the French did that of Ernauton to Tarbes; and, in order that the memory of this battle should be preserved,
they erected a cross of stone on the place where these two knights had fought and died. See, there it is: I point to it."

On this, we turned to the right, and made for the cross, when each said an Ave Maria and a Pater-noster for the souls of the deceased.

"By my faith," said I to the knight, " I have listened to you with pleasure; and in truth it was a very severe affair for so small a
number; but what became of these who conducted the pillage?"

"I will tell you," replied he. "At the bridge of Tournay, below Malvoisin, where they intended to cross, they found the bourg d'Espaign in ambuscade, who, on their arrival, sallied out upon them, being in sufficient force. Those of Lourde could not retreat, and were obliged to abide the event. I must truly say, that the combat was as severe and as long, if not longer than that at Marteras. The bourg d'Espaign performed wonders: he wielded a battle-axe, and never hit a man with it but he struck him to the ground. He was well formed for this, being of a large size, strongly made, and not too much loaded with flesh. He took with his own hand the two captains, the bourg de Cornillac and Perot Palatin de Béarn. A squire of Navarre was there slain, called Ferdinand de Miranda, an expert man at arms. Some who were present say the bourg d'Espaign killed him, others that he was stifled through the heat of his armour. In short, the pillage was rescued, and all who conducted it slain or made prisoners; for not three escaped excepting varlets, who ran away and crossed the river Lesse by swimming.

Thus ended this business, and the garrison of Lourde never had such a loss as it suffered that day. The prisoners were courteously ransomed, or mutually exchanged; for those who had been engaged in this combat had made several prisoners on each side, so that it behoved them to treat each other handsomely."

The tales of Espaign du Lyon continue.

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