Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Sir Walter de Passac moves against Pulpiron

Having been tricked there by the garrison, he uses his new knowledge of local castles at Convalle.

Book III, ch. 19.  (Johnes, v. 2, pp. 132-136)... The army then marched away, and came :before a castle called Pulpiron; it was in the possession of marauders, under the command of Angerot and le petit Meschin, who had done much damage to the country round about.  Sir Walter de Passac had sworn by the soul of his father, that in return for the mischief, they had done, he would never grant them mercy, but hang them the moment he could lay hands on them. The army laid siege to this castle, which is seated on a rock, whence the view is extensive and pleasant, On forming the siege, sir Walter again swore he would never depart until he had gained it, and taken all within, who should not be allowed to surrender and go away, if they even wished it. Many attacks were made: but the French failed in all, as it was ably defended.

"I know not," said sir Walter, "how things may turn out; the king of France is rich enough to keep up the siege, and, if I remain here a whole year, I will not leaye it until I be the master:' What he had said was attended to, and all things necessary for a long siege were done.

The two captains in the castle, seeing the French were determined not to depart without having gained it, cost what it would, began to feel alarmed, and thought it advisable to leave it, whether their enemies would or not. They could easily do so at their pleasure, for there was a subterraneous passage that had an outlet half a league from the castle, of which the French had not any suspicion.

When Angerot noticed how the besiegers hall posted themselves, and seemed resolved to have them by famine or otherwise, he said to his companions, "Gentlemen, I find the lord de Passac hates us mortally, and that by a blockade he will starve us. He may easily do it, if he erect a small fort and garrison it with only one hundred lances; for we shall then be prevented quitting the castle. I therefore propose that we this night pack up all we can carry, and sally through the mine, which is wide enough, and opens into a small wood hard by. We shall thus be out of all danger before any one knows what is become of us; for there is not one man in the army that is acquainted with this mine."

His proposal was agreed to: and that same night, having packed up their all, they entered the subterranean passage with lighted torches, and issued out in a wood half a league from the castle. There were those with them able to conduct them through by-roads to other fortresses in Limousin and Rouergue. Some, however, the moment they were out of danger, departed different ways, saying, they would not carry on the war longer. Angerot, with four others, went to a castle in Perigord, called Mont Royal, where the lord of it received them handsomely; for he and his dependants were entirely English, and would never turn French when others did so, and many were of his way of thinking. Thus did the garrison of Pulpiron escape, not leaving a single varlet behind; and, before it was known to the army, they had arrived at the different places whither they intended going.

On the third day after the garrison were gone away, the commanders of the army ordered an assault. They had made a large machine, four stories high, and each story would hold twenty cross-bows. When this machine was completed, which they called a Passavant, it was moved to what they thought the weakest place of the walls, and Genoese cross-bowmen were posted in it. The cross-bows began shooting, but as no one appeared on the battlements, they imagined the castle was empty, and ceased to shoot, for they were unwilling to lose their bolts and arrows. They left the machine, and surprised their captains by their sudden return.

They said,-" My lords, the garrison have certainly quitted the castle; for there is not a man within it."

"How can you know this?" replied sir Walter.

"We know, that notwithstanding our shooting, not one showed himself." Ladders were upon this ordered to be affixed to the walls, and lusty varlets, proper for the business, to ascend them. They mounted without opposition, for the castle was empty; and having passed the walls and ascended into the court, they found near the gate a large bunch of keys, among which was that of the gate. They, with some difficulty, opened it and the barriers. The lords were much surprised; but more especially sir Walter de Passac, who thought it must have been by enchantment they had been able thus to escape, and asked his knights how it could have been done.

The seneschal of Toulouse replied, "That if they were gone, it must have been through some subterraneous passage."

The castle was searched, and this passage discovered in the cellars, with the door wide open. The lords would examine it; and sir Walter said to the seneschal of Toulouse,-" Did not you know of this passage, sir Hugh?"

"By my faith," he replied, "I certainly have heard that such a thing was in this castle; but I forgot it, and never imagined they would thus have made use of it."

"But in God's name they have done so," answered sir Walter, "as is very clear. Have all the castles in this country similar mines and passages?"

"Sir," said sir Hugh, "there are many castles which have been built in the same manner, particularly all those that belonged to Reginald de Montauban; for when he waged war against king Charlemagne of France, he had them so well built, by the advice of Maugis his cousin, that when the king was besieging them with his whole power, and resistance would have been vain, they made use of their tunnels, and departed without taking leave."

"By my troth," said sir Walter, "I admire the thought. I know not if any king, duke, or neighbour I have, will make war upon me; but on my return home I will have instantly built, at my castle of Passac, just such a passage."

Here ended this conversation. They took possession of the castle, and, having placed a good garrison therein to guard it, they began their march towards the town and castle of Convalle *, in which were Espaignolet de Papercau, a Biscayan, and a number of pillagers. -

Ch. 20.  Sir Walter de Passac, with his army, came before Convalle, and surrounded it on all sides. Having called to him the senechal of Toulouse, he said,- "Was this one of sir Reginald de Montauban's castles?"

He answered, that it was one.

"Then it has a subterraneous passage like his others,"

"Ay, in God's Name truly there is one; for by means of this passage did Espaignolet take the castle a second time and the lord within it."

"Order the knight to whom it belongs, and who is with us, to come hither; for it will be proper," added sir Walter, "that we first get information from him." On sir Raymond de Convalle appearing, he was asked concerning the strength of the place, and if there were a subterraneous passage like that of la Bassere. He replied, that it was by such means he had been captured; that he had long ago stopped it up as useless; "but these robbers who keep possession of my castle have repaired it, and entered the castle through it."

"And do you know its issue?"

"Yes, my lord: it opens into a wood not far hence."

"It is well, by God," said sir Walter, and was then silent.

At the end of four days, sir Walter was conducted by sir Raymond to the opening of the mine in the wood, accompanied by two hundred of the country peasants well armed.  When arrived at the entrance, he had all the earth and thorns cleared away from before it, and a number of torches lighted, and said to those with him, "Enter this passage, which will lead you to the hall of the castle: when you come to the door, break it open, for you are sufficiently strong to do it, and to combat all you shall find in the castle."

They replied, they would cheerfully obey.

Having entered the passage, they came to the steps that lead to the door of the hall, and began to make use of their axes and hammers in battering the door. As it was about night-fall, the garrison kept a good watch, and heard them working in the mine to enter the castle. They instantly informed Espaignolet of it; be was going to bed, but he advised them to place benches, stones, and. other things in the doorway, to embarras it so much that they might not enter. This was instantly done, and no better defence could have been made; for although their opponents had cut the door into a thousand pieces, they found their difficulties so increase upon them, they gave it up, and returned about midnight to tell their lords, how the garrison, having heard them, had blocked up the passage, making it impossible to gain entry by that way. Upon this the passavant was ordered from la Bassere, which being taken to pieces, was brought on carts to Convalle, and remounted on its wheels, fit for immediate service. When all was ready, sir Walter de Passac, impatient to win this castle, ordered his trumpets to sound, and the host to arm and advance in proper array. The seneschal of Toulouse was on one side, with all his seneschalship; on the opposite sir Roger d'Espaign, in like manner, with his men from Carcassonne; there were the lord de Barbazan, sir Benedict de Faignolles, the lord de Benoch, the son of the count d'Estarac, sir Raymond de I'Isle, and the knights and squires of the country, each with his company, drawn up in good array. The attack and defence now seriously commenced: the garrison defended themselves valiantly; indeed it behoved them so to do, for they found themselves hard pressed; and knowing that sir Walter would show them no mercy, if taken, were resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible. The Genoese cross-bows behaved well, and shot so truly with their bolts, that the boldest was afraid of them; for whomsoever they struck on the head, it was over with him.

Sir Walter de Passac was in the front acting wonders in arms, and crying out, "How, my lords! shall such a stinking crew keep us here all the day? If they were good men at arms, I should not wonder; for in them is much more vigour than in such fellows as we are attacking; it is my intention to dine in the castle, and it will depend on you that I accomplish my purpose." Those who were desirous to obtain his favour advanced eagerly to the attack, and fixed several ladders to the walls, near where the large machine was placed, which they mounted under protection of the cross-bows, who prevented the garrison from showing themselves. The French thus entered the castle of Convalle sword in hand; they pursued their enemies, killing great numbers, and the remainder they made prisoners. Sir Walter, having entered by the gates, was asked what he would have done with the prisoners.

"By St, George, I will they be all hanged."

His orders were instantly obeyed, and Espaignolet suffered the first. The lords dined in the castle, and the men at arms in the town, where they remained the whole day. Sir Walter gave to the lord de Convalle his town and castle, and then made preparations to continue his march.

After the conquest of Convalle, the army marched for a fort, called Mastulle, which with the others had done much mischief to the country. On their arrival, they began an attack, which was bravely resisted at first; but it lasted not long, for the place was taken by storm, and all within slain or hanged. When those of Roix, Rocheforte, and other castles in possession of these pillagers, heard that sir Walter de Passac was on his march, and that, whatever places he took, he had hanged the garrisons, they were doubtful whether they might not come to the same end, and in consequence, left their forts in the night time, by subterranean passages or otherwise; for Roix and Rochefort have mines, having formerly belonged to sir Reginald de Montauban so that when the French arrived they found them both empty. Having taken possession, they re-garrisoned and re-victualled them, and then marched towards Toulouse to enter Bigorre, for there were in that country two castles on the borders of Tarbes, called Jullians and Nazareth, held by these marauders, who much harassed Tarbes and its neighbourhood, as well as the territory of the lord d' Anchin.

Sir Walter de Passac and his army, having refreshed themselves in Toulouse, took the road towards Bigorre, and seated themselves before Jullians, saying they would never depart until they had delivered the country from its oppressors. Sir Walter was joined by the seneschal of Donnezan, who represented the count de Foix, according to the summons of sir Walter to come to his aid in driving the pillagers out of the country; for they made, when opportunity offered, as free with the country of Donnezan as they did elsewhere. It was for this reason the seneschal had come, and with the approbation of the count, otherwise he would not have dared to have done it.

They were fifteen days before they could gain the castle of Jullians, for it was strong, and the captain a Gascon squire, called Bruyer de Brunemote, of great skill and valour. He had quitted la Bassere in the manner before mentioned; and at last, finding they could not take it by storm, they consented to a capitulation, agreeing to spare the lives of the garrison and to conduct them to Lourde. A squire, called Bertrand de Montdighen, escorted them thither. When the French had possession of the castle of Jullians, they debated whether to keep or to raze it: at last they determined to demolish it on account of its vicinity to Lourde, for that garrison, the men being traitors, might, after they had left it, regain possession by stratagem or open force. It was therefore razed; and the stones to this day remain in heaps, without the expectation of its being rebuilt.

The army then came before Nazareth, a strong place, of which some adventurous companions had kept possession for more than a year. When they heard that those of Jullians had retreated, they also withdrew, having obtained a passport, and went to Lourde, where they knew they would not seek them, unless they wished to lose their labour, for Lourde is so strong it is impossible to be conquered. The French, finding Nazareth empty, razed it to the ground, to the great joy of the inhabitants of Tarbes, as they had received many injuries from it.

They then marched to the castle of Auch, in Bigorre, situated among the mountains on the borders of Bearn. They remained there about fifteen days, but only conquered the lower court with all the horses within it, through? very many attacks were made: the great tower, being seated on a high rock, they could not win, for it is impregnable. The lords seeing they were labouring in vain, and that William Morenton, the captain) would neither surrender nor listen to any treaty whatever, marched away, and returned to Tarbes. Sir Walter de Passac then disbanded his army, with liberty for them to return to their homes. Those who had served in this army received their pay in money or in promissory notes, at their option: he himself retired to recruit himself at Carcassonne, and in that neighbourhood.

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