Pistol was in the thick of the battle. The boy was at his side, ready to offer assistance whenever required. It was looking bad. Pistol was trying to fight a French soldier off and not succeeding very well. He ducked as the Frenchman swung his broadsword and was about to beg for his life when the boy stuck his foot out and tripped the man, who went sprawling. His sword spun away from him. The Frenchman turned over but before he could get up Pistol was standing over him, his foot firmly planted on his stomach, his sword an inch from his nose.
‘Surrender, mongrel!’ barked Pistol.
The man looked up at him apprehensively. ‘Je pense que vous etes le gentilhomme de bon qualite.’ [I think you are a gentleman of noble rank.]
‘Calitay?’ said Pistol, looking at the boy for some kind of explanation. He laughed and began singing ‘Calin o custure me!’ Then he looked at the Frenchman with great ferocity. ‘Are you a gentleman? What’s your name? Inform me!’
‘Oh Seigneur Dieu!’ exclaimed the man.
‘Hm. Seigneur Dew. Sounds like he’s a gentleman,’ he whispered to the boy. He looked down at his prisoner again. ‘Hear my words, Seigneur Dew, and take note. Oh Seigneur Dew, you’re going to die, right here and now. Unless, oh Seigneur Dew, you pay me.’
‘Oh prenez misericorde! Ayez pitie de moi!’ exclaimed the Frenchman. [Oh mercy! Just an ounce of mercy!]
‘Moy isn’t enough,’ said Pistol. ‘I want at least forty moys or I’ll cut your throat.’
The Frenchman moved his head desperately from side to side. ‘Est-impossible d’echapper la force de ton bras?’ [Is it impossible to change a heart of brass?]
Pistol raised his sword high above his captive’s head. ‘Brass, cur? You damned, lecherous mountain goat. Are you offering me brass?’
The man shrieked. ‘Oh pardonne-mois!’
‘Are you offering me that?’ said Pistol. ‘Did you say a ton of moys? Come here, boy. Ask this slave – in French – what his name is.’
‘Ecoutez,’ said the boy. ‘Comment etes-vous appele?’
‘Monsieur le Fer,’ the man said.
‘He says his name is Mr Fer.’
‘Mister Fer?’ said Pistol. ‘I’ll fer him and firk him and ferret him. Inform him of that in French.’
‘I don’t know the French for fer and ferret and firk,’ said the boy.
‘Tell him to prepare himself. I’m going to cut his throat.’
The Frenchman looked at the boy in alarm. ‘Quil dit-il, monsieur?’ [What did he say, sir?]
‘Il me commande a vous dire que vous faites vous pret, car ce soldat ici est dispose tout a cette heure de couper votre gorge,’ the boy said. [He told me to tell you to prepare yourself, because this soldier here is disposed to cut your throat right now.]
Pistol nodded gravely. ‘Ah wee,’ he said. ‘Coopay la gorge!’ He drew his finger along his throat and put on his sternest face. ‘Peasant, unless you give me crowns, genuine crowns. Or you’re going to be mangled by my sword.’
Tears filled the Frenchman’s eyes. ‘Oh je vous supplie, pour l’amour de Dieu, me pardonner. Je suis gentilhomme de bonne maison. Gardez ma vie, et je vous donnerai deux cents ecus.’ [I beg you, for the love of God, let me go. I am a gentleman of good family. Spare my life and I’ll give you two hundred gold coins.]
Pistol nodded. ‘What did he say?’
‘He begs you to save his life. He is a gentleman of a good house and he will give you two hundred crowns for his ransom.’
‘Tell him my fury is about to subside. I’ll take the money.’
‘Petit monsieur, que dit-il?’ the Frenchman was trembling. [Little sir, what did he say?]
‘Encore qu’il est contre son jurement de pardonner aucun prisonnier, neanmoins, pour les ecus que vous l’avez promis il est content a vous la liberte, le franchisement,’ the boy told him. [Although it’s against his better judgment to pardon any prisoner, nevertheless, in return for the gold you’ve promised him, he’ll agree to give you your libery, your freedom.]
Pistol took his foot off the Frenchman’s chest and sheathed his sword. The man rose to his knees and made an emotional speech of thanks.
‘Translate for me, boy,’ said Pistol.
‘He gives you a thousand thanks, on his knees, and he considers himself fortunate to have fallen into the hands of one who, as he thinks, is the most brave, valorous and thrice worthy English gentleman.’
Pistol acknowledged the compliment with a gracious half-bow. ‘As I suck blood I will show some mercy,’ he said. ‘Follow me.’
‘Suivez-vous le grand capitaine,’ the boy said, and the Frenchman followed Pistol off the battlefield.
The boy reflected that he had never heard such rubbish from such a loudmouth. The saying was certainly true that empty vessels make the most sound. Bardolph and Nym were ten times braver than this figure of fun and they were both hanged. This one would be too if he had the courage to steal anything honestly. The boy had to get back to his job of helping guard the camp luggage. If the French only knew that the guards were all unarmed boys they would have easy pickings.
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