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Historical Tales, Vol. 4 (of 15) by Charles Morris

Illustration CHURCH OF NOTRE DAME POITIERS


"Sir,"

he said, "there seems hope of making peace with your foes, nor need you make haste to fight them, for they cannot flee if they would. I beg you, therefore, to forbear for this day, and put off the battle till to-morrow sunrise. That may give time to conclude a truce."

This advice was not pleasing to the king, who saw no wisdom in delay, but the cardinal in the end persuaded him to consent to a day's respite. The conference ended, the king's pavilion of red silk was raised, and word sent through the army that the men might take their ease, except the advanced forces of the constable and marshal.

All that day the cardinal kept himself busy in earnest efforts to effect an agreement. Back and forth he rode between the tents of the king and the prince, seeking to make terms of peace or surrender. Offer after offer was made and refused. The king's main demand was that four of the principal Englishmen should be placed in his hands, to deal with as he would, and all the others yield themselves prisoners. This the prince refused. He would agree to return all the castles and towns he had taken, surrender all prisoners, and swear not to bear arms against the French for seven years; this and no more he would offer.

King John would listen to no such terms. He had the English at his mercy, as he fully believed, and it was for him, not for them, to make terms. He would be generous. The prince

and a hundred of his knights alone should yield themselves prisoners. The rest might go free. Surely this was a most favorable offer, pleaded the cardinal. But so thought not the Black Prince, who refused it absolutely, and the cardinal returned in despair to Poitiers.

That day of respite was not wasted by the prince. What he lacked in men he must make up in work. He kept his men busily employed, deepening the dikes, strengthening the hedges, making all the preparations that skill suggested and time permitted.

The sun rose on Monday morning, and with its first beams the tireless peace-maker was again on horse, with the forlorn hope that the bloody fray might still be avoided. He found the leaders of the hosts in a different temper from that of the day before. The time for words had gone; that for blows had come.

"Return whither ye will," was King John's abrupt answer; "bring hither no more words of treaty or peace; and if you love yourself depart shortly."

To the prince rode the good cardinal, overcome with emotion.

"Sir," he pleaded, "do what you can for peace. Otherwise there is no help from battle, for I can find no spirit of accord in the French king."

"Nor here," answered the prince, cheerfully. "I and all my people are of the same intent,--and God help the right!"

[Illustration: CHURCH OF NOTRE DAME POITIERS.]

The cardinal turned and rode away, sore-hearted with pity. As he went the prince turned to his men.

"Though," he said, "we be but a small company as compared with the power of our foes, let not that abash us; for victory lies not in the multitude of people, but goes where God sends it. If fortune makes the day ours, we shall be honored by all the world; but if we die, the king, my father, and your good friends and kinsmen shall revenge us. Therefore, sirs and comrades, I require you to do your duty this day; for if God be pleased, and Saint George aid, this day you shall see me a good knight."


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