The Chronicles of Sir John Froissart


IIIVIII. — THE WHITE HOODS MURDER THE BAILIFF OF GHENT IN THE MIDST OF THE MARKET. — THE HOUSES AND GOODS OF THE FAMILY OF THE MATTHEWS ARE DESTROYED. — A GRAND CONFUSION IN GHENT . NOT long afterwards, the bailiff of Ghent, Roger d’Auterme, came to town with full two hundred horse, in order to execute what had been planned between the earl, Gilbert Matthew, and his brothers. The bailiff, with his two hundred men, galloped up the streets, with the banner of the earl in his hand, unto the market-place, where he halted, and posted his banner before him. Gilbert Matthew, his brothers, and the deacon of the small craft, immediately went thither. It had been determined that these men at arms should march instantly to the house of Jack Lyon, and arrest him as chief of the white hoods, with six or seven others, the most culpable, carry them to the castle of Ghent, and immediately cut off their heads. John Lyon suspected some such thing; for he had received secret intelligence from his spies, scattered over different parts of the town. He knew of the arrival of the bailiff, and saw it was a thing determined upon. The other white hoods were informed that this day had been fixed to arrest them, and were therefore ready prepared and assembled near the house of John Lyon, who was waiting for them: they came in bands of ten and twenty, and, as they marched up, they formed in the street: when they were all assembled, they were full four hundred. John Lyon marched off as fierce as a lion, saying, “Let us advance against these traitors, who wish to ruin the town of Ghent. I thought all those fine speeches which Gilbert Matthew brought back the other day were only meant for our destruction, and to lull us asleep; but we will make him pay dearly for them.” He and his rout advanced hastily: they increased very much by the way; for there were those who joined him that had not as yet put on the white hoods, who cried out, “Treason! treason!” They marched, by a roundabout way and a narrow street, to the corn market, where the bailiff, who represented the earl, had posted himself. Gilbert Matthew and his brothers, the moment they saw John Lyon and the white hoods enter the market-place, left the bailiff and ran away as fast as they could; and neither order nor array was observed, except by the men at arms whom the bailiff had brought thither. Immediately on the arrival of John Lyon in the market-place, with the white hoods, a large body of them advanced towards the bailiff; and, without saying a word, he was seized, thrown on the ground and slain. The banner of the earl was then dragged through the dirt, and torn to pieces; but not one man, except the bailiff, was touched. They then collected round John Lyon. When the earl’s men at arms saw the bailiff dead, and their banner torn to pieces, they were thunderstruck, and, like men defeated, took to flight, and left the town. You may easily imagined that Gilbert Matthew and his brothers, who were known to be the enemies of John Lyon and the white hoods, did not think themselves very safe in their houses: they therefore set out as speedily as they could, and quitted the town through bye streets, leaving their wives, children, and goods behind them. They made what haste they could to the earl of Flanders, to whom they related all that had happened, and the death of 582 the bailiff. The earl was sorely afflicted at this intelligence, as well he might, for they had treated him with great contempt: he was much enraged, and swore that he would have ample revenge before he ever returned to Ghent, and before they should have peace from him, so that all other towns should take an example from it. Gilbert Matthew and his brothers remained with the earl. John Lyon and the white hoods persevered in their outrages: after the death of the bailiff, and the flight of the men at arms, as no one offered to revenge this murder, John, who wished to ruin the Matthews (for he bore them deadly hatred), said, “Come, let us go after those wicked traitors who this day intended to have destroyed the town of Ghent.” They hastened down the streets to the residence of the Matthews, but found none, fro they had all gone off. They were sought for in every room throughout the houses of the adjoining streets; and, when they were convinced they were gone, John Lyon was much vexed. He gave up to his companions all their goods, when the houses were completely pillaged and razed to the ground, so that no vestige remained, as if they had been traitors to the whole body of the town. When they had done this deed, they returned to their homes; nor was there a sheriff, or any other officer belonging to the earl or to the town, who said they had acted wrong: indeed, at that time all were afraid to say a word against them: for the white hoods were so numerous that none dared to provoke them, and they paraded the streets in large bodies without any opposition. It as said, both within and without the town, that they were connected with some of the sheriffs and rich men in Ghent, which was not unlikely; for such a ruffianly crew would never have dared to slay so noble a man as Roger d’Auterme, bailiff of Ghent, holding the banner of the earl in his hand at the time, if they had not depended on some good and able supporters in their wicked acts. They afterwards increased so much as to want no foreign aid, and became so powerful that none were bold enough to oppose nay thing they thought proper to undertake. Roger d’Auterme was carried away by the Friar Minors to their church, where he was by them buried. After this event, several of the wisest and richest citizens in Ghent began to murmur, and were much vexed: they said among themselves, that a great outrage had been committed when the earl’s bailiff had thus been murdered in the execution of his office; and that their lord would be justly offended, and never grant them peace: that these wicked people had put the town to the hazard of being totally destroyed, if God did not speedily afford a remedy. Notwithstanding all these words, there was not one among them who had courage personally to correct or reprove the authors of these atrocities. John de Faucille, who at that time as a man much renowned for his wisdom in Ghent, on finding things carried to such lengths as the murdering of the earl’s bailiff, though it must end badly: that he might not be suspected by the earl, he left the town privately, and went to a handsome country-house which he had near Ghent, and there remained, having given orders to tell every one he was very unwell and melancholy, and could see none but his own people. Every day, however, he had news from Ghent; for he had left there the greater part of his family, his wife, his children and his friends; and thus he dissembled for a considerable time.

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