Most of the French army retired into the duchy of Milan, but Bayard appears to have remained behind with the garrison of Verona. By one of those rapid changes so common in Italian politics, before the end of the year Louis XII. found himself deserted by most of the allies, the Pope, the King of Spain, Henry VIII., and the Swiss having joined the “Holy League” to drive the French out of Italy.
[Illustration: Andrea Gritti doge of Venice from the portrait by Titian Vecelli.]
While Bayard was with the garrison at Verona, in command of three or four hundred men-at-arms who had been lent to the Emperor by the King of France, he had some stirring adventures. It was winter time, and that year, 1509, was long remembered for its severity. The soldiers in the town were obliged to send for their horses’ forage sometimes to a great distance, and they were constantly losing both horses and varlets, who were waylaid by the enemy, so that a large escort was necessary, for not a day passed without some encounter.
Now there was a village called San Bonifacio about fifteen miles from Verona, where a certain Venetian captain, named Giovanni Paolo Manfroni, was stationed with a number of men, and he amused himself by chasing the foraging parties up to the very gates of Verona. The Good Knight at last became very angry at this bold defiance, and he resolved to put an end to these raids by going out with the escort himself the next time that hay was fetched from the farms round. He kept his plans as secret as possible, but Manfroni had a spy in the city who managed to let him know what was on foot, and he resolved to take so strong a force that he would make sure of capturing the famous Bayard.
One Thursday morning the foragers set forth from Verona as usual, and in their train were thirty or forty men-at-arms and archers under the command of the captain, Pierre du Pont, a very wise and capable young man. The party soon left the highroad to look out for the farms where they were to receive the usual loads of hay. Meantime, the Good Knight, not suspecting that his plan was betrayed, had taken a hundred men-at-arms and gone to a little village called San Martino about six miles from Verona. From thence he sent out some scouts, who were not long in returning with the news that the enemy was in sight, about five hundred horsemen, who were marching straight after the foragers. The Good Knight was delighted to hear it, and at once set out to follow them with his company.