« FöregåendeFortsätt »
"This world is surely wide enough to hold both thee and
This lesson of universal good will, taught by my uncle Toby, may serve instead of a whole volume upon the subject. XIV-Story of the Siege of Cn/ais - Fool or Quality.
EDWARD III. after the battle of Cressy, laid siege to Calais. He had fortified his camp in so impregnable a manner, that all the efforts of France proved ineffectual to raise the siege, or throw succors into the city.— The citizens, under count Vienne, their gallant governor, made an admirable defence.—France had now put the sickle into her second harvest, since Edward, with his victorious army, sat down before the town. The eyes of all Europe were intent on the issue. At length famine did more for Edward than arms.—After suffering unheard of calamities, they resolved to attempt the enemy's camp-They boldly sallied forth'; the English joined battle ; and, after a long and desperate engagement, count Vienne was taken prisoner, and the citizens who survived the slaughter, retired within their gates. The command devolving upon Eustace St. Pierre, a man of mean birth, but of exalted virtue : He offered to capitulate with Edward, provided he permitted him to depart with life and liberty. Edward, to avoid the imputation of cruelty, consented to spare the bulk of the Plebians, provided they delivered up to him six of their principal citizens, witb halters about their necks, as victims of due atonement for that spirit of rebellion, with which they had inflamed the vulgar. When his messenger, Sir Walter Mauny, delivered the terms, consternation and pale dismay were impressed on every countenance.—To a long and dead silence, deep sighs and groans succeeded, till Eustace St. Pierre, getting up to a little eminence, thus addressed the assembly :
My friends, we are brought to great straits this day. We must either yield to the terms of our cruel and ensnaring conqueror, or give up our tender infants, our wives and daughters to the bloody and brutal. lusts of the violating soldiers. Is there any expedient left,
whereby we may avoid the guilt, and infamy of delivering up those who have suffered every misery with you, on the one hand ;—or the desolation and horror of a sacked city on the other ? There is, my friends; there is one expedient left; a gracious, an excellent, a godlike · expedient! Is there any here to whom virtue is dearer than life ?—Let him offer himself an oblation for the safety of his people! He shall not fail of a blessed ap. probation from that Power, who offered up his only Son, for the salvation of mankind." He spoke—but an universal silence ensued. Each man looked around for the example of that virtue and magnanimity, which all wished to approve in themselves, though they wanted the resolution. At length St. Pierre resumed, " I doubt not but there are many here as ready, nay, more zealous of this martyrdom, than I can be ; though the station to which I am raised, by the captivity of Lord Vienne, imparts a right to be the first in giving my life for your sakes. I give it freely ;-I give it checrfully. Who comes next ?".“ Your son,” exclaimed a youth, not yet come to maturity.-- Ah, my child,” cried St. Pierre, " I am then twice sacrificed. But no :-I have rather -begotten thee a second time. Thy years are few, but full, my son. The victim of virtue has reached the utmost purpose and goal of mortality. Who next, my friends ! This is the hour of heroes.”.,“ Your kinsman,” cried. John de Aire.
• Your kinsman,"
cried James Wissant. “ Your kinsman," cried Peter Wissant. Ah !". exclaimed Sir Walter Mauny, bursting into
Why was not I a citizen of Calais !! The sixth victim was still wanting, but was quickly supplied by lot, from numbers who were now emulous of so ennobling an example.. The keys of the city were then delivered to Sir Waltcr. He took the six prisoners into his custody ; then ordered the gates to be opened, and gave charge to his attendants to conduct the remaining citizens, with their families, through the camp of the Euglish. Before they departed, however, they, desired permission to take their last adieu of their deliverers.-What a parting! What a scene ! They crowded, with their wives and children, about St. Pierre and his fel
low prisoners. They embraced—they clung around they fell prostrate before them. They groaned—they wept aloud—and the joint clamor of their mourning passed the gates of the city, and was heard throughout the English camp. The English by this time, were apprised of what passed within Calais. They heard the voice of lamentation, and their souls were touched with compassion. Each of the soldiers prepared a portion of his own victuals, to welcome and entertain the half famished inhabitants ; and they loaded them with as much as their present weakness was able to bear, in order to supply them with sustenance by the way. At length St. Pierre and his fellow victims appeared under the conduct of Sir Walter and a guard. All the tents of the English were instantly emptied. The soldiers poured from all parts, and arranged themselves on each side, to behold, to contemplate, to admire this little band of patriots, as they passed. They bowed down to them on all sides. They murmured their applause of that virtue, which they could not but revere, even in enemies; and they regarded those ropes which they had voluntarily assumed about their necks, as ensigns of greater dignity than that of the British garter. As soon as they had reached the presence, " Manny," says the monarchi, are these the principal inhabitants of Calais ?" - They are," says. Mauny : " They are not only the principal men of Calais--they are the principal men of France, my Lord, if virtue has any share in the act of ennobling." “ Were they delivered peaceably ?" says Edward. “ Was there no resistance, no commotion among the people ?" “ Not in the least, my Lord ; the people would all have perished, rather than have delivered the least of these to your majesty. They are self delivered, self devoted ; and come to offer up their inestimable heads, as an ample equivalent for the ransom of thousands." Edward was secretly piqued at this reply of Sir Walter : But he knew the privilege of a British subject, and suppressed his resentment. "Experience," says hc,“ has ever showi), that lenity only serves to invite people to new crimes. Severity, at tinies, is indispensably necessary to compel subjects to submission,
by punishment and example. "Go," he cried to an officer, " lead these men to execution."
At this instant a sound of triumph was heard throughout the camp. The queen had just arrived with a powerful reinforcement of gallant troops. Sir Walter Mauny flew to receive her majesty, and briefly informed her of the particulars respecting the six victims.
As soon as she had been welcomed by Edward and his court, she desired a private audience. - My Lord," said she, “ the question I am to enter upon, is not touching the lives of a few mechanics—it respects the honor of the English nation ; it respects the glory of my Edward, my husband, my king. You think you have sentenced six of your enemies to death. No, my Lord, they have sentenced themselves ; and their execution would be the execution of their own orders, not the orders of Edward. The stage on which they would suffer, would be to them a stage of honor, but a stage of shame to Edward ; a reproach on his conquests ; an indelible disgrace to his name. Let us rather disappoint these haughty burghers, who wish to invest themselves with glory at our expense. We cannot wholly deprive them of the merit of a sacrifice so nobly intended, but we may cut them short of their desires ; in the place of that death by which their glory would be consummate, let us bury them under gifts ; let us put them to confusion with applauses. We shall thereby defeat them of that popular opinion, which never fails to attend those who suffer in the cause of virtue." "I am convinced ; you have prevailed. Be it so," replied Edward : " Prevent the xecution ; have them instantly before us."They came ; when the queen, with an aspect and accents diffusing sweetness, thus bespoke them ;—“Natives of France, and inhabitants of Calais, you have put us to a vast expense of blood and treasure in the recovery of our just and natural inheritance ; but you have acted up to the best of an erroneous judgment ; and we admire and honor in you that valor and virtue, by which we are so long kept out of our rightful possessions. You noble burghers ! You excellent citizens ! Though you were tenfold the enemies of our person and our throne,
we can feel nothing on our part save respect and affection for you. You have been sufficiently tested. We loose your chains ; we snatch you from the scaffold ; and we thank you for that lesson of humiliation which you teach us, when you show us that excellence is not of blood, of title or station ;—that virtue gives a dignity superior to that of kings ; and that those whom the Al
; mighty informs, with sentiments like yours, are justly and eminently raised above all human distinctions. You are now free to depart to your kinsfolk, your country'men, to all those whose lives and liberties you have so nobly redeemed, provided you refuse not the tokens of our esteem. Yet we would rather bind you to ourselves by every endearing obligation ; and for this purpose, we offer to you your choice of the gifts and honors that Edward has to bestow. Rivals for fame, but always friends to virtue, we wish that England were entitled to call you
."—“Ah, my country I" exclaimed St. Pierre ; "it is now that I tremble for you. Edward only wins our cities, but Phillippa conquers hearts."