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The Brave Men of Calais

Many years ago, King Edward III of England took the town of Calais from the French king. He could not take it by force, for the walls were very strong, but he succeeded by another plan. He placed his soldiers all round the walls, and would let no one go into the town to take food to the people. Inside the walls, the people waited bravely, but at last all their food was eaten, and then they knew that if they tried to hold the town any longer they would starve.

So the governor sent word to King Edward that he would give up the city, and begged him to have mercy on the people.

But Edward was angry. "Tell your masters," said he to the messenger, "that I will not spare the people unless six of the chief men come out to me, with their feet bare, and ropes around their necks."

At this sad news, the poor starving people cried aloud. But soon six brave men were found who were ready to die for their countrymen, and, with their feet bare and ropes around their necks, they went out to the place where King Edward was waiting, with Queen Philippa and the English nobles.

"Great king!" said the men, "we bring you the keys of our town, and we pray you to have mercy on us."

But the king would not listen. "Take them away and cut off their heads," he cried angrily. And when his nobles begged him to spare such brave enemies he would not listen to them.

Then Queen Philippa, whose heart was filled with pity for the poor men, fell upon her knees.

"My lord," she cried, "if you love me, give me the lives of these men."

King Edward could not bear to see his beautiful queen in tears upon the ground, so he raised her, saying: "Lady, I wish you had not been here, for I cannot say you nay. Take the men, they are yours."

Then Queen Philippa joyfully led the brave men away, and gave them food and clothes, and sent them back to their friends. So they, and all the people of Calais, were saved.


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