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´╗┐Title: Saint Bartholomew's Eve - A Tale of the Huguenot WarS
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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Saint Bartholomew's Eve:
A Tale of the Huguenot Wars
By G. A. Henty.

Illustrated by H. J. Draper.

Contents

Preface.
Chapter  1: Driven From Home.
Chapter  2: An Important Decision.
Chapter  3: In A French Chateau.
Chapter  4: An Experiment.
Chapter  5: Taking The Field.
Chapter  6: The Battle Of Saint Denis.
Chapter  7: A Rescue.
Chapter  8: The Third Huguenot War.
Chapter  9: An Important Mission.
Chapter 10: The Queen Of Navarre.
Chapter 11: Jeanne Of Navarre.
Chapter 12: An Escape From Prison.
Chapter 13: At Laville.
Chapter 14: The Assault On The Chateau.
Chapter 15: The Battle Of Jarnac.
Chapter 16: A Huguenot Prayer Meeting.
Chapter 17: The Battle Of Moncontor.
Chapter 18: A Visit Home.
Chapter 19: In A Net.
Chapter 20: The Tocsin.
Chapter 21: Escape.
Chapter 22: Reunited.

Illustrations

Map of France in 1570.
Gaspard Vaillant makes a proposal.
Philip and Francoise in the armoury.
Philip gets his first look at Pierre.
"If you move a step, you are a dead man."
Philip and his followers embarking.
Philip in prison.
Philip struck him full in the face.
Pierre listens at the open window of the inn.
Gaspard Vaillant gets a surprise.
"You have not heard the news, Monsieur Philip?"
"That cross is placed there by design."
Philip, Claire and Pierre disguise themselves.

[Illustration: Map of France in 1570.]



Preface.


It is difficult, in these days of religious toleration, to
understand why men should, three centuries ago, have flown at each
others' throats in the name of the Almighty; still less how, in
cold blood, they could have perpetrated hideous massacres of men,
women, and children. The Huguenot wars were, however, as much
political as religious. Philip of Spain, at that time the most
powerful potentate of Europe, desired to add France to the
countries where his influence was all powerful; and in the
ambitious house of Guise he found ready instruments.

For a time the new faith, that had spread with such rapidity in
Germany, England, and Holland, made great progress in France, also.
But here the reigning family remained Catholic, and the vigorous
measures they adopted, to check the growing tide, drove those of
the new religion to take up arms in self defence. Although, under
the circumstances, the Protestants can hardly be blamed for so
doing, there can be little doubt that the first Huguenot war,
though the revolt was successful, was the means of France remaining
a Catholic country. It gave colour to the assertions of the Guises
and their friends that the movement was a political one, and that
the Protestants intended to grasp all power, and to overthrow the
throne of France. It also afforded an excuse for the cruel
persecutions which followed, and rallied to the Catholic cause
numbers of those who were, at heart, indifferent to the question of
religion, but were Royalists rather than Catholics.

The great organization of the Church of Rome laboured among all
classes for the destruction of the growing heresy. Every pulpit in
France resounded with denunciations of the Huguenots, and
passionate appeals were made to the bigotry and fanaticism of the
more ignorant classes; so that, while the power of the Huguenots
lay in some of the country districts, the mobs of the great towns
were everywhere the instruments of the priests.

I have not considered it necessary to devote any large portion of
my story to details of the terrible massacres of the period, nor to
the atrocious persecutions to which the Huguenots were subjected;
but have, as usual, gone to the military events of the struggle for
its chief interest. For the particulars of these, I have relied
chiefly upon the collection of works of contemporary authors
published by Monsieur Zeller, of Paris; the Memoirs of Francois de
la Noue, and other French authorities.

G. A. Henty.



Chapter 1: Driven From Home.


In the year 1567 there were few towns in the southern counties of
England that did not contain a colony, more or less large, of
French Protestants. For thirty years the Huguenots had been exposed
to constant and cruel persecutions; many thousands had been
massacred by the soldiery, burned at the stake, or put to death
with dreadful tortures. Fifty thousand, it was calculated, had, in
spite of the most stringent measures of prevention, left their
homes and made their escape across the frontiers. These had settled
for the most part in the Protestant cantons of Switzerland, in
Holland, or England. As many of those who reached our shores were
but poorly provided with money, they naturally settled in or near
the ports of landing.

Canterbury was a place in which many of the unfortunate emigrants
found a home. Here one Gaspard Vaillant, his wife, and her sister,
who had landed in the year 1547, had established themselves. They
were among the first comers, but the French colony had grown,
gradually, until it numbered several hundreds. The Huguenots were
well liked in the town, being pitied for their misfortunes, and
admired for the courage with which they bore their losses; setting
to work, each man at his trade if he had one, or if not, taking to
the first work that came to hand. They were quiet and God-fearing
folk; very good towards each other, and to their poor countrymen on
their way from the coast to London, entertaining them to the best
of their power, and sending them forward on their way with letters
to the Huguenot committee in London, and with sufficient money in
their pockets to pay their expenses on the journey, and to maintain
them for a while until some employment could be found for them.

Gaspard Vaillant had been a landowner near Civray, in Poitou. He
was connected by blood with several noble families in that
district, and had been among the first to embrace the reformed
religion. For some years he had not been interfered with, as it was
upon the poorer and more defenceless classes that the first fury of
the persecutors fell; but as the attempts of Francis to stamp out
the new sect failed, and his anger rose more and more against them,
persons of all ranks fell under the ban. The prisons were filled
with Protestants who refused to confess their errors; soldiers were
quartered in the towns and villages, where they committed terrible
atrocities upon the Protestants; and Gaspard, seeing no hope of
better times coming, or of being permitted to worship in peace and
quietness, gathered together what money he could and made his way,
with his wife and her sister, to La Rochelle, whence he took ship
to London.

Disliking the bustle of a large town, he was recommended by some of
his compatriots to go down to Canterbury, where three or four
fugitives from his own part of the country had settled. One of
these was a weaver by trade, but without money to manufacture looms
or set up in his calling. Gaspard joined him as partner, embarking
the little capital he had saved; and being a shrewd, clear-headed
man he carried on the business part of the concern, while his
partner Lequoc worked at the manufacture.

As the French colony in Canterbury increased, they had no
difficulty in obtaining skilled hands from among them. The business
grew in magnitude, and the profits were large, in spite of the fact
that numbers of similar enterprises had been established by the
Huguenot immigrants in London, and other places. They were, indeed,
amply sufficient to enable Gaspard Vaillant to live in the
condition of a substantial citizen, to aid his fellow countrymen,
and to lay by a good deal of money.

His wife's sister had not remained very long with him. She had,
upon their first arrival, given lessons in her own language to the
daughters of burgesses, and of the gentry near the town; but, three
years after the arrival of the family there, she had married a
well-to-do young yeoman who farmed a hundred acres of his own land,
two miles from the town. His relations and neighbours had shaken
their heads over what they considered his folly, in marrying the
pretty young Frenchwoman; but ere long they were obliged to own
that his choice had been a good one.

Just after his first child was born he was, when returning home one
evening from market, knocked down and run over by a drunken carter,
and was so injured that for many months his life was in danger.
Then he began to mend, but though he gained in strength he did not
recover the use of his legs, being completely paralysed from the
hips downward; and, as it soon appeared, was destined to remain a
helpless invalid all his life. From the day of the accident Lucie
had taken the management of affairs in her hands, and having been
brought up in the country, and being possessed of a large share of
the shrewdness and common sense for which Frenchwomen are often
conspicuous, she succeeded admirably. The neatness and order of the
house, since their marriage, had been a matter of surprise to her
husband's friends; and it was not long before the farm showed the
effects of her management. Gaspard Vaillant assisted her with his
counsel and, as the French methods of agriculture were considerably
in advance of those in England, instead of things going to rack and
ruin, as John Fletcher's friends predicted, its returns were
considerably augmented.

Naturally, she at first experienced considerable opposition. The
labourers grumbled at what they called new-fangled French fashions;
but when they left her, their places were supplied by her
countrymen, who were frugal and industrious, accustomed to make the
most out of small areas of ground, and to turn every foot to the
best advantage. Gradually the raising of corn was abandoned, and a
large portion of the farm devoted to the growing of vegetables;
which, by dint of plentiful manuring and careful cultivation, were
produced of a size and quality that were the surprise and
admiration of the neighbourhood, and gave her almost a monopoly of
the supply of Canterbury.

The carters were still English; partly because Lucie had the good
sense to see that, if she employed French labourers only, she would
excite feelings of jealousy and dislike among her neighbours; and
partly because she saw that, in the management of horses and
cattle, the Englishmen were equal, if not superior, to her
countrymen.

Her life was a busy one. The management of the house and farm
would, alone, have been a heavy burden to most people; but she
found ample time for the tenderest care of the invalid, whom she
nursed with untiring affection.

"It is hard upon a man of my size and inches, Lucie," he said one
day, "to be lying here as helpless as a sick child; and yet I don't
feel that I have any cause for discontent. I should like to be
going about the farm, and yet I feel that I am happier here, lying
watching you singing so contentedly over your work, and making
everything so bright and comfortable. Who would have thought, when
I married a little French lady, that she was going to turn out a
notable farmer? All my friends tell me that there is not a farm
like mine in all the country round, and that the crops are the
wonder of the neighbourhood; and when I see the vegetables that are
brought in here, I should like to go over the farm, if only for
once, just to see them growing."

"I hope you will be able to do that, some day, dear. Not on foot, I
am afraid; but when you get stronger and better, as I hope you
will, we will take you round in a litter, and the bright sky and
the fresh air will do you good."

Lucie spoke very fair English now, and her husband had come to
speak a good deal of French; for the service of the house was all
in that language, the three maids being daughters of French workmen
in the town. The waste and disorder of those who were in the house
when her husband first brought her there had appalled her; and the
women so resented any attempt at teaching, on the part of the
French madam, that after she had tried several sets with equally
bad results, John Fletcher had consented to the introduction of
French girls; bargaining only that he was to have good English
fare, and not French kickshaws. The Huguenot customs had been kept
up, and night and morning the house servants, with the French
neighbours and their families, all assembled for prayer in the
farmhouse.

To this John Fletcher had agreed without demur. His father had been
a Protestant, when there was some danger in being so; and he
himself had been brought up soberly and strictly. Up to the time of
his accident there had been two congregations, he himself reading
the prayers to his farm hands, while Lucie afterwards read them in
her own language to her maids; but as the French labourers took the
place of the English hands, only one service was needed.

When John Fletcher first regained sufficient strength to take much
interest in what was passing round, he was alarmed at the increase
in the numbers of those who attended these gatherings. Hitherto
four men had done the whole work of the farm; now there were
twelve.

"Lucie, dear," he said uneasily one day, "I know that you are a
capital manager; but it is impossible that a farm the size of ours
can pay, with so many hands on it. I have never been able to do
more than pay my way, and lay by a few pounds every year, with only
four hands, and many would have thought three sufficient; but with
twelve--and I counted them this morning--we must be on the highroad
to ruin."

"I will not ruin you, John. Do you know how much money there was in
your bag when you were hurt, just a year ago now?"

"Yes, I know there were thirty-three pounds."

His wife went out of the room and returned with a leather bag.

"Count them, John," she said.

There were forty-eight. Fifteen pounds represented a vastly greater
sum, at that time, than they do at present; and John Fletcher
looked up from the counting with amazement.

"This can't be all ours, Lucie. Your brother must have been helping
us."

"Not with a penny, doubting man," she laughed. "The money is yours,
all earned by the farm; perhaps not quite all, because we have not
more than half as many animals as we had before. But, as I told
you, we are growing vegetables, and for that we must have more men
than for corn. But, as you see, it pays. Do not fear about it,
John. If God should please to restore you to health and strength,
most gladly will I lay down the reins; but till then I will manage
as best I may and, with the help and advice of my brother and his
friends, shall hope, by the blessing of God, to keep all straight."

The farm throve, but its master made but little progress towards
recovery. He was able, however, occasionally to be carried round in
a hand litter, made for him upon a plan devised by Gaspard
Vaillant; in which he was supported in a half-sitting position,
while four men bore him as if in a Sedan chair.

But it was only occasionally that he could bear the fatigue of such
excursions. Ordinarily he lay on a couch in the farmhouse kitchen,
where he could see all that was going on there; while in warm
summer weather he was wheeled outside, and lay in the shade of the
great elm, in front of the house.

The boy, Philip--for so he had been christened, after John
Fletcher's father--grew apace and, as soon as he was old enough to
receive instruction, his father taught him his letters out of a
horn book, until he was big enough to go down every day to school
in Canterbury. John himself was built upon a large scale, and at
quarterstaff and wrestling could, before he married, hold his own
with any of the lads of Kent; and Philip bade fair to take after
him, in skill and courage. His mother would shake her head
reprovingly when he returned, with his face bruised and his clothes
torn, after encounters with his schoolfellows; but his father took
his part.

"Nay, nay, wife," he said one day, "the boy is eleven years old
now, and must not grow up a milksop. Teach him if you will to be
honest and true, to love God, and to hold to the faith; but in
these days it needs that men should be able to use their weapons,
also. There are your countrymen in France, who ere long will be
driven to take up arms, for the defence of their faith and lives
from their cruel persecutors; and, as you have told me, many of the
younger men, from here and elsewhere, will assuredly go back to aid
their brethren.

"We may even have trials here. Our Queen is a Protestant, and
happily at present we can worship God as we please, in peace; but
it was not so in the time of Mary, and it may be that troubles may
again fall upon the land, seeing that as yet the Queen is not
married. Moreover, Philip of Spain has pretensions to rule here;
and every Englishman may be called upon to take up bow, or bill,
for his faith and country. Our co-religionists in Holland and
France are both being cruelly persecuted, and it may well be that
the time will come when we shall send over armies to their
assistance.

"I would that the boy should grow up both a good Christian and a
stout soldier. He comes on both sides of a fighting stock. One of
my ancestors fought at Agincourt, and another with the Black Prince
at Cressy and Poitiers; while on your side his blood is noble and,
as we know, the nobles of France are second to none in bravery.

"Before I met you I had thoughts of going out, myself, to fight
among the English bands who have engaged on the side of the
Hollanders. I had even spoken to my cousin James about taking
charge of the farm, while I was away. I would not have sold it, for
Fletchers held this land before the Normans set foot in England;
but I had thoughts of borrowing money upon it, to take me out to
the war, when your sweet face drove all such matters from my mind.

"Therefore, Lucie, while I would that you should teach the boy to
be good and gentle in his manners, so that if he ever goes among
your French kinsmen he shall be able to bear himself as befits his
birth, on that side; I, for my part--though, alas, I can do nothing
myself--will see that he is taught to use his arms, and to bear
himself as stoutly as an English yeoman should, when there is need
of it.

"So, wife, I would not have him chidden when he comes home with a
bruised face, and his garments somewhat awry. A boy who can hold
his own, among boys, will some day hold his own among men; and the
fisticuffs, in which our English boys try their strength, are as
good preparation as are the courtly sports; in which, as you tell
me, young French nobles are trained. But I would not have him
backward in these, either. We English, thank God, have not had much
occasion to draw a sword since we broke the strength of Scotland on
Flodden Field; and in spite of ordinances, we know less than we
should do of the use of our weapons. Even the rules that every lad
shall practise shooting at the butts are less strictly observed
than they should be. But in this respect our deficiencies can be
repaired, in his case; for here in Canterbury there are several of
your countrymen of noble birth, and doubtless among these we shall
be able to find an instructor for Phil. Many of them are driven to
hard shifts to procure a living; and since that bag of yours is
every day getting heavier, and we have but him to spend it upon, we
will not grudge giving him the best instruction that can be
procured."

Lucie did not dispute her husband's will; but she nevertheless
tried to enlist Gaspard Vaillant--who was frequently up at the farm
with his wife in the evening, for he had a sincere liking for John
Fletcher--on her side; and to get him to dissuade her husband from
putting thoughts into the boy's head that might lead him, some day,
to be discontented with the quiet life on the farm. She found,
however, that Gaspard highly approved of her husband's determination.

"Fie upon you, Lucie. You forget that you and Marie are both of
noble blood, in that respect being of condition somewhat above
myself, although I too am connected with many good families in
Poitou. In other times I should have said it were better that the
boy should grow up to till the land, which is assuredly an
honourable profession, rather than to become a military adventurer,
fighting only for vainglory. But in our days the sword is not drawn
for glory, but for the right to worship God in peace.

"No one can doubt that, ere long, the men of the reformed religion
will take up arms to defend their right to live, and worship God,
in their own way. The cruel persecutions under Francis the First,
Henry the Second, and Francis the Second have utterly failed in
their object. When Merindol, Cabrieres, and twenty-two other towns
and villages were destroyed, in 1547; and persons persecuted and
forced to recant, or to fly as we did; it was thought that we were
but a handful, whom it would be easy to exterminate. But in spite
of edict after edict, of persecution, slaughterings, and burnings,
in spite of the massacres of Amboise and others, the reformed
religion has spread so greatly that even the Guises are forced to
recognize it as a power. At Fontainebleau Admiral Coligny,
Montmorency, the Chatillons, and others openly professed the
reformed religion, and argued boldly for tolerance; while Conde and
Navarre, although they declined to be present, were openly ranged
on their side. Had it not been that Henry the Second and Francis
were both carried off by the manifest hand of God, the first by a
spear thrust at a tournament, the second by an abscess in the ear,
France would have been the scene of deadly strife; for both were,
when so suddenly smitten, on the point of commencing a war of
extermination.

"But it is only now that the full strength of those who hold the
faith is manifested. Beza, the greatest of the reformers next to
Calvin himself, and twelve of our most learned and eloquent pastors
are at Poissy, disputing upon the faith with the Cardinal of
Lorraine and the prelates of the Romish church, in the presence of
the young king, the princes, and the court. It is evident that the
prelates are unable to answer the arguments of our champions. The
Guises, I hear, are furious; for the present Catharine, the queen
mother, is anxious for peace and toleration, and it is probable
that the end of this argument at Poissy will be an edict allowing
freedom of worship.

"But this will only infuriate still more the Papists, urged on by
Rome and Philip of Spain. Then there will be an appeal to arms, and
the contest will be a dreadful one. Navarre, from all I hear, has
been well-nigh won over by the Guises; but his noble wife will, all
say, hold the faith to the end, and her kingdom will follow her.
Conde is as good a general as Guise, and with him there is a host
of nobles: Rochefoucauld, the Chatillons, Soubise, Gramont, Rohan,
Genlis, and a score of others. It will be terrible, for in many
cases father and son will be ranged on opposite sides, and brother
will fight against brother."

"But surely, Gaspard, the war will not last for years?"

"It may last for generations," the weaver said gloomily, "though
not without intermissions; for I believe that, after each success
on one side or the other, there will be truces and concessions; to
be followed by fresh persecutions and fresh wars, until either the
reformed faith becomes the religion of all France, or is entirely
stamped out.

"What is true of France is true of Holland. Philip will annihilate
the reformers there, or they will shake off the yoke of Spain.
England will be driven to join in one or both struggles; for if
papacy is triumphant in France and Holland, Spain and France would
unite against her.

"So you see, sister, that in my opinion we are at the commencement
of a long and bloody struggle for freedom of worship; and at any
rate it will be good that the boy should be trained as he would
have been, had you married one of your own rank in France; in order
that, when he comes to man's estate, he may be able to wield a
sword worthily in the defence of the faith.

"Had I sons, I should train them as your husband intends to train
Phil. It may be that he will never be called upon to draw a sword,
but the time he has spent in acquiring its use will not be wasted.
These exercises give firmness and suppleness to the figure,
quickness to the eye, and briskness of decision to the mind. A man
who knows that he can, at need, defend his life if attacked,
whether against soldiers in the field or robbers in the street, has
a sense of power and self reliance that a man, untrained in the use
of the strength God has given him, can never feel. I was instructed
in arms when a boy, and I am none the worse weaver for it.

"Do not forget, Lucie, that the boy has the blood of many good
French families in his veins; and you should rejoice that your
husband is willing that he shall be so trained that, if the need
should ever come, he shall do no discredit to his ancestors on our
side. These English have many virtues, which I freely recognize;
but we cannot deny that many of them are somewhat rough and
uncouth, being wondrous lacking in manners and coarse in speech. I
am sure that you yourself would not wish your son to grow up like
many of the young fellows who come into town on market day. Your
son will make no worse a farmer for being trained as a gentleman.
You yourself have the training of a French lady, and yet you manage
the farm to admiration.

"No, no, Lucie, I trust that between us we shall make a true
Christian and a true gentleman of him; and that, if needs be, he
will show himself a good soldier, also."

And so, between his French relatives and his sturdy English father,
Philip Fletcher had an unusual training. Among the Huguenots he
learned to be gentle and courteous; to bear himself among his
elders respectfully, but without fear or shyness; to consider that,
while all things were of minor consequence in comparison to the
right to worship God in freedom and purity, yet that a man should
be fearless of death, ready to defend his rights, but with
moderation and without pushing them to the injury of others; that
he should be grave and decorous of speech, and yet of a gay and
cheerful spirit. He strove hard so to deport himself that if, at
any time, he should return to his mother's country, he could take
his place among her relations without discredit. He learned to
fence, and to dance.

Some of the stricter of the Huguenots were of opinion that the
latter accomplishment was unnecessary, if not absolutely sinful;
but Gaspard Vaillant was firm on this point.

"Dancing is a stately and graceful exercise," he said, "and like
the use of arms, it greatly improves the carriage and poise of the
figure. Queen Elizabeth loves dancing, and none can say that she is
not a good Protestant. Every youth should be taught to dance, if
only he may know how to walk. I am not one of those who think that,
because a man is a good Christian, he should necessarily be awkward
and ungainly in speech and manner, adverse to innocent gaieties,
narrow in his ideas, ill dressed and ill mannered, as I see are
many of those most extreme in religious matters, in this country."

Upon the other hand, in the school playground, under the shadow of
the grand cathedral, Phil was as English as any; being foremost in
their rough sports, and ready for any fun or mischief.

He fought many battles, principally because the difference of his
manner from that of the others often caused him to be called
"Frenchy." The epithet in itself was not displeasing to him; for he
was passionately attached to his mother, and had learned from her
to love her native country; but applied in derision it was regarded
by him as an insult, and many a tough battle did he fight, until
his prowess was so generally acknowledged that the name, though
still used, was no longer one of disrespect.

In figure, he took after his French rather than his English
ancestors. Of more than average height for his age, he was
apparently slighter in build than his schoolfellows. It was not
that he lacked width of chest, but that his bones were smaller and
his frame less heavy. The English boys, among themselves, sometimes
spoke of him as "skinny," a word considered specially appropriate
to Frenchmen; but though he lacked their roundness and fulness of
limb, and had not an ounce of superfluous flesh about him, he was
all sinew and wire; and while in sheer strength he was fully their
equal, he was incomparably quicker and more active.

Although in figure and carriage he took after his mother's
countrymen, his features and expression were wholly English. His
hair was light brown, his eyes a bluish gray, his complexion fair,
and his mouth and eyes alive with fun and merriment. This, however,
seldom found vent in laughter. His intercourse with the grave
Huguenots, saddened by their exile, and quiet and restrained in
manner, taught him to repress mirth, which would have appeared to
them unseemly; and to remain a grave and silent listener to their
talk of their unhappy country, and their discussions on religious
matters.

To his schoolfellows he was somewhat of an enigma. There was no
more good-tempered young fellow in the school, no one more ready to
do a kindness; but they did not understand why, when he was
pleased, he smiled while others roared with laughter; why when, in
their sports, he exerted himself to the utmost, he did so silently
while others shouted; why his words were always few and, when he
differed from others, he expressed himself with a courtesy that
puzzled them; why he never wrangled nor quarrelled; and why any
trick played upon an old woman, or a defenceless person, roused him
to fury.

As a rule, when boys do not quite understand one of their number
they dislike him. Philip Fletcher was an exception. They did not
understand him, but they consoled themselves under this by the
explanation that he was half a Frenchman, and could not be expected
to be like a regular English boy; and they recognized instinctively
that he was their superior.

Much of Philip's time was spent at the house of his uncle, and
among the Huguenot colony. Here also were many boys of his own age.
These went to a school of their own, taught by the pastor of their
own church, who held weekly services in the crypt of the cathedral,
which had been granted to them for that purpose by the dean. While,
with his English schoolfellows, he joined in sports and games;
among these French lads the talk was sober and quiet. Scarce a week
passed but some fugitive, going through Canterbury, brought the
latest news of the situation in France, and the sufferings of their
co-religionist friends and relations there; and the political
events were the chief topics of conversation.

The concessions made at the Conference of Poissy had infuriated the
Catholics, and the war was brought on by the Duke of Guise who,
passing with a large band of retainers through the town of Vassy in
Champagne, found the Huguenots there worshipping in a barn. His
retainers attacked them, slaying men, women, and children--some
sixty being killed, and a hundred or more left terribly wounded.

The Protestant nobles demanded that Francis of Guise should be
punished for this atrocious massacre, but in vain; and Guise, on
entering Paris, in defiance of Catharine's prohibition, was
received with royal honours by the populace. The Cardinal of
Lorraine, the duke's brother, the duke himself, and their allies,
the Constable Montmorency and Marshal Saint Andre, assumed so
threatening an attitude that Catharine left Paris and went to
Melun, her sympathies at this period being with the reformers; by
whose aid, alone, she thought that she could maintain her influence
in the state against that of the Guises.

Conde was forced to leave Paris with the Protestant nobles, and
from all parts of France the Huguenots marched to assist him.
Coligny, the greatest of the Huguenot leaders, hesitated; being,
above all things, reluctant to plunge France into civil war. But
the entreaties of his noble wife, of his brothers and friends,
overpowered his reluctance. Conde left Meaux, with fifteen hundred
horse, with the intention of seizing the person of the young king;
but he had been forestalled by the Guises, and moved to Orleans,
where he took up his headquarters. All over France the Huguenots
rose in such numbers as astonished their enemies, and soon became
possessed of a great many important cities.

Their leaders had endeavoured, in every way, to impress upon them
the necessity of behaving as men who fought only for the right to
worship God; and for the most part these injunctions were strictly
obeyed. In one matter, alone, the Huguenots could not be
restrained. For thirty years the people of their faith had been
executed, tortured, and slain; and their hatred of the Romish
church manifested itself by the destruction of images and pictures
of all kinds, in the churches of the towns of which they obtained
possession. Only in the southeast of France was there any exception
to the general excellence of their conduct. Their persecution here
had always been very severe, and in the town of Orange the papal
troops committed a massacre almost without a parallel in its
atrocity. The Baron of Adrets, on behalf of the Protestants, took
revenge by massacres equally atrocious; but while the butchery at
Orange was hailed with approbation and delight by the Catholic
leaders, those promoted by Adrets excited such a storm of
indignation, among the Huguenots of all classes, that he shortly
afterwards went over to the other side, and was found fighting
against the party he had disgraced.

At Toulouse three thousand Huguenots were massacred, and in other
towns where the Catholics were in a majority terrible persecutions
were carried out.

It was nearly a year after the massacre at Vassy before the two
armies met in battle. The Huguenots had suffered greatly, by the
delays caused by attempts at negotiations and compromise. Conde's
army was formed entirely of volunteers, and the nobles and gentry,
as their means became exhausted, were compelled to return home with
their retainers; while many were forced to march to their native
provinces, to assist their co-religionists there to defend
themselves from their Catholic neighbours.

England had entered, to a certain extent, upon the war; Elizabeth,
after long vacillation, having at length agreed to send six
thousand men to hold the towns of Havre, Dieppe, and Rouen,
providing these three towns were handed over to her; thus evincing
the same calculating greed that marked her subsequent dealings with
the Dutch, in their struggle for freedom.

In vain Conde and Coligny begged her not to impose conditions that
Frenchmen would hold to be infamous to them. In vain Throgmorton,
her ambassador at Paris, warned her that she would alienate the
Protestants of France from her; while the possession of the cities
would avail her but little. In vain her minister, Cecil, urged her
frankly to ally herself with the Protestants. From the first
outbreak of the war for freedom of conscience in France, to the
termination of the struggle in Holland, Elizabeth baffled both
friends and enemies by her vacillation and duplicity, and her utter
want of faith; doling out aid in the spirit of a huckster rather
than a queen, so that she was, in the end, even more hated by the
Protestants of Holland and France than by the Catholics of France
and Spain.

To those who look only at the progress made by England, during the
reign of Elizabeth--thanks to her great ministers, her valiant
sailors and soldiers, long years of peace at home, and the spirit
and energy of her people--Elizabeth may appear a great monarch. To
those who study her character from her relations with the
struggling Protestants of Holland and France, it will appear that
she was, although intellectually great, morally one of the meanest,
falsest, and most despicable of women.

Rouen, although stoutly defended by the inhabitants, supported by
Montgomery with eight hundred soldiers, and five hundred Englishmen
under Killegrew of Pendennis, was at last forced to surrender. The
terms granted to the garrison were basely violated, and many of the
Protestants put to death. The King of Navarre, who had, since he
joined the Catholic party, shown the greatest zeal in their cause,
commanded the besiegers. He was wounded in one of the attacks upon
the town, and died shortly afterwards.

The two armies finally met, on the 19th of December, 1562. The
Catholic party had sixteen thousand foot, two thousand horse, and
twenty-two cannon; the Huguenots four thousand horse, but only
eight thousand infantry and five cannon. Conde at first broke the
Swiss pikemen of the Guises, while Coligny scattered the cavalry of
Constable Montmorency, who was wounded and taken prisoner; but the
infantry of the Catholics defeated those of the Huguenots, the
troops sent by the German princes to aid the latter behaving with
great cowardice. Conde's horse was killed under him, and he was
made prisoner. Coligny drew off the Huguenot cavalry and the
remains of the infantry in good order, and made his retreat
unmolested.

The Huguenots had been worsted in the battle, and the loss of Conde
was a serious blow; but on the other hand Marshal Saint Andre was
killed, and the Constable Montmorency a prisoner. Coligny was
speedily reinforced; and the assassination of the Duke of Guise, by
an enthusiast of the name of Jean Poltrot, more than equalized
matters.

Both parties being anxious to treat, terms of peace were arranged;
on the condition that the Protestant lords should be reinstated in
their honours and possessions; all nobles and gentlemen should be
allowed to celebrate, in their own houses, the worship of the
reformed religion; that in every bailiwick the Protestants should
be allowed to hold their religious services, in the suburbs of one
city, and should also be permitted to celebrate it, in one or two
places, inside the walls of all the cities they held at the time of
the signature of the truce. This agreement was known as the Treaty
of Amboise, and sufficed to secure peace for France, until the
latter end of 1567.



Chapter 2: An Important Decision.


One day in June, 1567, Gaspard Vaillant and his wife went up to
Fletcher's farm.

"I have come up to have a serious talk with you, John, about
Philip. You see, in a few months he will be sixteen. He is already
taller than I am. Rene and Gustave both tell me that they have
taught him all they know with sword and dagger; and both have been
stout men-at-arms in their time, and assure me that the lad could
hold his own against any young French noble of his own age, and
against not a few men. It is time that we came to some conclusion
about his future."

[Illustration: Gaspard Vaillant makes a proposal.]

"I have thought of it much, Gaspard. Lying here so helpless, my
thoughts do naturally turn to him. The boy has grown almost beyond
my power of understanding. Sometimes, when I hear him laughing and
jesting with the men, or with some of his school friends whom he
brings up here, it seems to me that I see myself again in him; and
that he is a merry young fellow, full of life and fun, and able to
hold his own at singlestick, or to foot it round the maypole with
any lad in Kent of his age. Then again, when he is talking with his
mother, or giving directions in her name to the French labourers, I
see a different lad, altogether: grave and quiet, with a gentle,
courteous way, fit for a young noble ten years his senior. I don't
know but that between us, Gaspard, we have made a mess of it; and
that it might have been better for him to have grown up altogether
as I was, with no thought or care save the management of his farm,
with a liking for sport and fun, when such came in his way."

"Not at all, not at all," Gaspard Vaillant broke in hastily, "we
have made a fine man of him, John; and it seems to me that he
possesses the best qualities of both our races. He is frank and
hearty, full of life and spirits when, as you say, occasion offers;
giving his whole heart either to work or play, with plenty of
determination, and what you English call backbone. There is, in
fact, a solid English foundation to his character. Then from our
side he has gained the gravity of demeanour that belongs to us
Huguenots; with the courtesy of manner, the carriage and bearing of
a young Frenchman of good blood. Above all, John, he is a sober
Christian, strong in the reformed faith, and with a burning hatred
against its persecutors, be they French or Spanish.

"Well then, being what he is, what is to be done with him? In the
first place, are you bent upon his remaining here? I think that,
with his qualities and disposition, it would be well that for a
while he had a wider scope. Lucie has managed the farm for the last
fifteen years, and can well continue to do so for another ten, if
God should spare her; and my own opinion is that, for that time, he
might be left to try his strength, and to devote to the good cause
the talents God has given him, and the skill and training that he
has acquired through us; and that it would be for his good to make
the acquaintance of his French kinsfolk, and to see something of
the world."

"I know that is Lucie's wish, also, Gaspard; and I have frequently
turned the matter over in my mind, and have concluded that, should
it be your wish also, it would be well for me to throw no
objections in the way. I shall miss the boy sorely; but young birds
cannot be kept always in the nest, and I think that the lad has
such good stuff in him that it were a pity to keep him shut up
here."

"Now, John," his brother-in-law went on, "although I may never have
said quite as much before, I have said enough for you to know what
my intentions are. God has not been pleased to bestow children upon
us; and Philip is our nearest relation, and stands to us almost in
the light of a son. God has blest my work for the last twenty
years, and though I have done, I hope, fully my share towards
assisting my countrymen in distress, putting by always one-third of
my income for that purpose, I am a rich man. The factory has grown
larger and larger; not because we desired greater gains, but that I
might give employment to more and more of my countrymen. Since the
death of Lequoc, twelve years ago, it has been entirely in my hands
and, living quietly as we have done, a greater portion of the
profits have been laid by every year; therefore, putting out of
account the money that my good sister has laid by, Philip will
start in life not ill equipped.

"I know that the lad has said nothing of any wishes he may
entertain--at his age it would not be becoming for him to do so,
until his elders speak--but of late, when we have read to him
letters from our friends in France, or when he has listened to the
tales of those freshly arrived from their ruined homes, I have
noted that his colour rose; that his fingers tightened, as if on a
sword; and could see how passionately he was longing to join those
who were struggling against their cruel oppressors. Not less
interested has he been in the noble struggle that the Dutch are
making against the Spaniards; a struggle in which many of our
exiled countrymen are sharing.

"One of his mother's cousins, the Count de La Noue, is, as you
know, prominent among the Huguenot leaders; and others of our
relatives are ranged on the same side. At present there is a truce,
but both parties feel that it is a hollow one; nevertheless it
offers a good opportunity for him to visit his mother's family.
Whether there is any prospect of our ever recovering the lands
which were confiscated on our flight is uncertain. Should the
Huguenots ever maintain their ground, and win freedom of worship in
France, it may be that the confiscated estates will in many cases
be restored; as to that, however, I am perfectly indifferent. Were
I a younger man, I should close my factory, return to France, and
bear my share in the defence of the faith. As it is, I should like
to send Philip over as my substitute.

"It would, at any rate, be well that he should make the
acquaintance of his kinsfolk in France; although even I should not
wish that he should cease to regard England as his native country
and home. Hundreds of young men, many no older than himself, are in
Holland fighting against the persecutors; and risking their lives,
though having no kinship with the Dutch, impelled simply by their
love of the faith and their hatred of persecution.

"I have lately, John, though the matter has been kept quiet,
purchased the farms of Blunt and Mardyke, your neighbours on either
hand. Both are nearly twice the size of your own. I have arranged
with the men that, for the present, they shall continue to work
them as my tenants, as they were before the tenants of Sir James
Holford; who, having wasted his money at court, has been forced to
sell a portion of his estates. Thus, some day Phil will come into
possession of land which will place him in a good position, and I
am prepared to add to it considerably. Sir James Holford still
gambles away his possessions; and I have explained, to his notary,
my willingness to extend my purchases at any time, should he desire
to sell. I should at once commence the building of a comfortable
mansion, but it is scarce worth while to do so; for it is probable
that, before many years, Sir James may be driven to part with his
Hall, as well as his land. In the meantime I am ready to provide
Philip with an income which will enable him to take his place with
credit among our kinsfolk, and to raise a company of some fifty men
to follow him in the field, should Conde and the Huguenots again be
driven to struggle against the Guises.

"What do you think?"

"I think, in the first place, that Lucie and I should be indeed
grateful to you, Gaspard, for your generous offer. As to his going
to France, that I must talk over with his mother; whose wishes in
this, as in all respects, are paramount with me. But I may say at
once that, lying here as I do, thinking of the horrible cruelties
and oppressions to which men and women are subjected for the
faith's sake in France and Holland, I feel that we, who are happily
able to worship in peace and quiet, ought to hesitate at no
sacrifice on their behalf; and moreover, seeing that, owing to my
affliction, he owes what he is rather to his mother and you than to
me, I think your wish that he should make the acquaintance of his
kinsfolk in France is a natural one. I have no wish for the lad to
become a courtier, English or French; nor that he should, as
Englishmen have done before now in foreign armies, gain great
honour and reputation; but if it is his wish to fight on behalf of
the persecuted people of God, whether in France or in Holland, he
will do so with my heartiest goodwill; and if he die, he could not
die in a more glorious cause.

"Let us talk of other matters now, Gaspard. This is one that needs
thought before more words are spoken."

Two days later, John Fletcher had a long talk with Phil. The latter
was delighted when he heard the project, which was greatly in
accord with both sides of his character. As an English lad, he
looked forward eagerly to adventure and peril; as French and of the
reformed religion, he was rejoiced at the thought of fighting with
the Huguenots against their persecutors, and of serving under the
men with whose names and reputations he was so familiar.

"I do not know your uncle's plans for you, as yet, Phil," his
father said. "He went not into such matters, leaving these to be
talked over after it had been settled whether his offer should be
accepted or not. He purposes well by you, and regards you as his
heir. He has already bought Blunt and Mardyke's farms, and purposes
to buy other parts of the estates of Sir James Holford, as they may
slip through the knight's fingers at the gambling table. Therefore,
in time, you will become a person of standing in the county; and
although I care little for these things now, Phil, yet I should
like you to be somewhat more than a mere squire; and if you serve
for a while under such great captains as Coligny and Conde, it will
give you reputation and weight.

"Your good uncle and his friends think little of such matters, but
I own that I am not uninfluenced by them. Coligny, for example, is
a man whom all honour; and that honour is not altogether because he
is leader of the reformed faith, but because he is a great soldier.
I do not think that honour and reputation are to be despised.
Doubtless the first thing of all is that a man should be a good
Christian. But that will in no way prevent him from being a great
man; nay, it will add to his greatness.

"You have noble kinsfolk in France, to some of whom your uncle will
doubtless commit you; and it may be that you will have opportunities
of distinguishing yourself. Should such occur, I am sure you will
avail yourself of them, as one should do who comes of good stock on
both sides; for although we Fletchers have been but yeomen, from
generation to generation, we have been ever ready to take and give
our share of hard blows when they were going; and there have been
few battles fought, since William the Norman came over, that a
Fletcher has not fought in the English ranks; whether in France, in
Scotland, or in our own troubles.

"Therefore it seems to me but natural that, for many reasons, you
should desire at your age to take part in the fighting; as an
Englishman, because Englishmen fought six years ago under the
banner of Conde; as a Protestant, on behalf of our persecuted
brethren; as a Frenchman by your mother's side, because you have
kinsfolk engaged, and because it is the Pope and Philip of Spain,
as well as the Guises, who are, in fact, battling to stamp out
French liberty.

"Of one thing I am sure, my boy--you will disgrace neither an
honest English name, nor the French blood in your veins, nor your
profession as a Christian and a Protestant. There are Englishmen
gaining credit on the Spanish Main, under Drake and Hawkins; there
are Englishmen fighting manfully by the side of the Dutch; there
are others in the armies of the Protestant princes of Germany; and
in none of these matters are they so deeply concerned as you are in
the affairs of France and religion.

"I shall miss you, of course, Philip, and that sorely; but I have
long seen that this would probably be the upshot of your training
and, since I can myself take no share in adventure, beyond the
walls of this house, I shall feel that I am living again in you.
But, lad, never forget that you are English. You are Philip
Fletcher, come of an old Kentish stock; and though you may be
living with French kinsfolk and friends, always keep uppermost the
fact that you are an Englishman who sympathizes with France, and
not a Frenchman with some English blood in your veins. I have given
you up greatly to your French relations here; but if you win credit
and honour, I would have it won by my son, Philip Fletcher, born in
England of an English father, and who will one day be a gentleman
and landowner in the county of Kent."

"I sha'n't forget that, father," Philip said earnestly. "I have
never regarded myself as in any way French; although speaking the
tongue as well as English, and being so much among my mother's
friends. But living here with you, where our people have lived so
many years; hearing from you the tales from our history; seeing
these English fields around me; and being at an English school,
among English boys, I have ever felt that I am English, though in
no way regretting the Huguenot blood that I inherit from my mother.
Believe me, that if I fight in France it will be as an Englishman
who has drawn his sword in the quarrel, and rather as one who hates
oppression and cruelty than because I have French kinsmen engaged
in it."

"That is well, Philip. You may be away for some years, but I trust
that, on your return, you will find me sitting here to welcome you
back. A creaking wheel lasts long. I have everything to make my
life happy and peaceful--the best of wives, a well-ordered farm,
and no thought or care as to my worldly affairs--and since it has
been God's will that such should be my life, my interest will be
wholly centred in you; and I hope to see your children playing
round me or, for ought I know, your grandchildren, for we are a
long-lived race.

"And now, Philip, you had best go down and see your uncle, and
thank him for his good intentions towards you. Tell him that I
wholly agree with his plans, and that if he and your aunt will come
up this evening, we will enter farther into them."

That evening John Fletcher learned that it was the intention of
Gaspard that his wife should accompany Philip.

"Marie yearns to see her people again," he said, "and the present
is a good time for her to do so; for when the war once breaks out
again, none can say how long it will last or how it will terminate.
Her sister and Lucie's, the Countess de Laville, has, as you know,
frequently written urgently for Marie to go over and pay her a
visit. Hitherto I have never been able to bring myself to spare
her, but I feel that this is so good an opportunity that I must let
her go for a few weeks.

"Philip could not be introduced under better auspices. He will
escort Marie to his aunt's, remain there with her, and then see her
on board ship again at La Rochelle; after which, doubtless, he will
remain at his aunt's, and when the struggle begins will ride with
his cousin Francois. I have hesitated whether I should go, also.
But in the first place, my business would get on but badly without
me; in the second, although Marie might travel safely enough, I
might be arrested were I recognized as one who had left the kingdom
contrary to the edicts; and lastly, I never was on very good terms
with her family.

"Emilie, in marrying the Count de Laville, made a match somewhat
above her own rank; for the Lavilles were a wealthier and more
powerful family than that of Charles de Moulins, her father. On the
other hand, I was, although of good birth, yet inferior in
consideration to De Moulins, although my lands were broader than
his. Consequently we saw little of Emilie, after our marriage.
Therefore my being with Marie would, in no way, increase the warmth
of the welcome that she and Philip will receive. I may say that the
estrangement was, perhaps, more my fault than that of the Lavilles.
I chose to fancy there was a coolness on their part, which probably
existed only in my imagination. Moreover, shortly after my marriage
the religious troubles grew serious; and we were all too much
absorbed in our own perils, and those of our poorer neighbours, to
think of travelling about, or of having family gatherings.

"At any rate, I feel that Philip could not enter into life more
favourably than as cousin of Francois de Laville; who is but two
years or so his senior, and who will, his mother wrote to Marie,
ride behind that gallant gentleman, Francois de la Noue, if the war
breaks out again. I am glad to feel confident that Philip will in
no way bring discredit upon his relations.

"I shall at once order clothes for him, suitable for the occasion. They
will be such as will befit an English gentleman; good in material but
sober in colour, for the Huguenots eschew bright hues.  I will take
his measure, and send up to a friend in London for a helmet, breast,
and back pieces, together with offensive arms, sword, dagger, and
pistols. I have already written to correspondents, at Southampton
and Plymouth, for news as to the sailing of a ship bound for La Rochelle.
There he had better take four men into his service, for in these days it
is by no means safe to ride through France unattended; especially when
one is of the reformed religion.  The roads abound with disbanded
soldiers and robbers, while in the villages a fanatic might, at any time,
bring on a religious tumult.  I have many correspondents at La Rochelle,
and will write to one asking him to select four stout fellows, who showed
their courage in the last war, and can be relied on for good and faithful
service.  I will also get him to buy horses, and make all arrangements
for the journey.

"Marie will write to her sister. Lucie, perhaps, had better write
under the same cover; for although she can remember but little of
Emilie, seeing that she was fully six years her junior, it would be
natural that she should take the opportunity to correspond with
her.

"In one respect, Phil," he went on, turning to his nephew, "you
will find yourself at some disadvantage, perhaps, among young
Frenchmen. You can ride well, and I think can sit a horse with any
of them; but of the menage, that is to say, the purely ornamental
management of a horse, in which they are most carefully instructed,
you know nothing. It is one of the tricks of fashion, of which
plain men like myself know but little; and though I have often made
inquiries, I have found no one who could instruct you. However,
these delicacies are rather for courtly displays than for the rough
work of war; though it must be owned that, in single combat between
two swordsmen, he who has the most perfect control over his horse,
and can make the animal wheel or turn, press upon his opponent, or
give way by a mere touch of his leg or hand, possesses a
considerable advantage over the man who is unversed in such
matters. I hope you will not feel the want of it, and at any rate,
it has not been my fault that you have had no opportunity of
acquiring the art.

"The tendency is more and more to fight on foot. The duel has taken
the place of the combat in the lists, and the pikeman counts for as
much in the winning of a battle as the mounted man. You taught us
that at Cressy and Agincourt; but we have been slow to learn the
lesson, which was brought home to you in your battles with the
Scots, and in your own civil struggles. It is the bow and the pike
that have made the English soldier famous; while in France, where
the feudal system still prevails, horsemen still form a large
proportion of our armies; and the jousting lists, and the exercise
of the menage, still occupy a large share in the training and
amusements of the young men of noble families."

Six weeks later, Philip Fletcher landed at La Rochelle, with his
aunt and her French serving maid When the ship came into port, the
clerk of a trader there came on board at once and, on the part of
his employer, begged Madame Vaillant and her son to take up their
abode at his house; he having been warned of their coming by his
valued correspondent, Monsieur Vaillant. A porter was engaged to
carry up their luggage to the house, whither the clerk at once
conducted them.

From his having lived so long among the Huguenot colony, the scene
was less strange to Philip than it would have been to most English
lads. La Rochelle was a strongly Protestant city, and the
sober-coloured costumes of the people differed but little from
those to which he was accustomed in the streets of Canterbury. He
himself and his aunt attracted no attention, whatever, from
passersby; her costume being exactly similar to those worn by the
wives of merchants, while Philip would have passed anywhere as a
young Huguenot gentleman, in his doublet of dark puce cloth,
slashed with gray, his trunks of the same colour, and long gray
hose.

"A proper-looking young gentleman," a market woman said to her
daughter, as he passed. "Another two or three years, and he will
make a rare defender of the faith. He must be from Normandy, with
his fair complexion and light eyes. There are not many of the true
faith in the north."

They were met by the merchant at the door of his house.

"I am glad indeed to see you again, Madame Vaillant," he said. "It is
some twenty years, now, since you and your good husband and your sister
hid here, for three days, before we could smuggle you on board a ship.
Ah! Those were bad times; though there have been worse since. But since
our people showed that they did not intend, any longer, to be slaughtered
unresistingly, things have gone better here, at least; and for the last
four years the slaughterings and murders have ceased.

"You are but little changed, madame, since I saw you last."

"I have lived a quiet and happy life, my good Monsieur Bertram;
free from all strife and care, save for anxiety about our people
here. Why cannot Catholics and Protestants live quietly side by
side here, as they do in England?"

"We should ask nothing better, madame."

At this moment, a girl came hurrying down the stairs.

"This is my daughter Jean, madame.

"Why were you not down before, Jean?" he asked sharply. "I told you
to place Suzette at the casement, to warn you when our visitors
were in sight, so that you should, as was proper, be at the door to
meet them. I suppose, instead of that, you had the maid arranging
your headgear, or some such worldly folly."

The girl coloured hotly, for her father had hit upon the truth.

"Young people will be young people, Monsieur Bertram," Madame
Vaillant said, smiling, "and my husband and I are not of those who
think that it is necessary to carry a prim face, and to attire
one's self in ugly garments, as a proof of religion. Youth is the
time for mirth and happiness, and nature teaches a maiden what is
becoming to her; why then should we blame her for setting off the
charms God has given her to their best advantage?"

By this time they had reached the upper storey, and the merchant's
daughter hastened to relieve Madame Vaillant of her wraps.

"This is my nephew, of whom my husband wrote to you," the latter
said to the merchant, when Philip entered the room--he having
lingered at the door to pay the porters, and to see that the
luggage, which had come up close behind them, was stored.

"He looks active and strong, madame. He has the figure of a fine
swordsman."

"He has been well taught, and will do no discredit to our race,
Monsieur Bertram. His father is a strong and powerful man, even for
an Englishman; and though Philip does not follow his figure, he has
something of his strength."

"They are wondrous strong, these Englishmen," the trader said. "I
have seen, among their sailors, men who are taller by a head than
most of us here, and who look strong enough to take a bull by the
horns and hold him. But had it not been for your nephew's fair hair
and gray eyes, his complexion, and the smile on his lips--we have
almost forgotten how to smile, in France--I should hardly have
taken him for an Englishman."

"There is nothing extraordinary in that, Monsieur Bertram, when his
mother is French, and he has lived greatly in the society of my
husband and myself, and among the Huguenot colony at Canterbury."

"Have you succeeded in getting the horses and the four men for us,
Monsieur Bertram?" Philip asked.

"Yes, everything is in readiness for your departure tomorrow.
Madame will, I suppose, ride behind you upon a pillion; and her
maid behind one of the troopers.

"I have, in accordance with Monsieur Vaillant's instructions,
bought a horse, which I think you will be pleased with; for Guise
himself might ride upon it, without feeling that he was ill
mounted. I was fortunate in lighting on such an animal. It was the
property of a young noble, who rode hither from Navarre and was
sailing for England. I imagine he bore despatches from the queen to
her majesty of England. He had been set upon by robbers on the way.
They took everything he possessed, and held him prisoner, doubtless
meaning to get a ransom for him; but he managed to slip off while
they slept, and to mount his horse, with which he easily left the
varlets behind, although they chased him for some distance. So when
he came here, he offered to sell his horse to obtain an outfit and
money for his voyage; and the landlord of the inn, who is a friend
of mine, knowing that I had been inquiring for a good animal,
brought him to me, and we soon struck a bargain."

"It was hard on him to lose his horse in that fashion," Philip
said; "and I am sorry for it, though I may be the gainer thereby."

"He did not seem to mind much," the merchant said. "Horses are good
and abundant in Navarre, and when I said I did not like to take
advantage of his strait, he only laughed and said he had three or
four others as good at home. He did say, though, that he would like
to know if it was to be in good hands. I assured him that on that
ground he need not fear; for that I had bought it for a young
gentleman, nearly related to the Countess de Laville. He said that
was well, and seemed glad, indeed, that it was not to be ridden by
one of the brigands into whose hands he fell."

"And the men. Are they trustworthy fellows?"

"They are stout men-at-arms. They are Gascons all, and rode behind
Coligny in the war, and according to their own account performed
wonders; but as Gascons are given to boasting, I paid not much heed
to that. However, they were recommended to me by a friend, a large
wine grower, for whom they have been working for the last two
years. He says they are honest and industrious, and they are
leaving him only because they are anxious for a change and, deeming
that troubles were again approaching, wanted to enter the service
of some Huguenot lord who would be likely to take the field. He was
lamenting the fact to me, when I said that it seemed to me they
were just the men I was in search of; and I accordingly saw them,
and engaged them on the understanding that, at the end of a month,
you should be free to discharge them if you were not satisfied with
them; and that equally they could leave your service, if they did
not find it suit.

"They have arms, of course, and such armour as they need; and I
have bought four serviceable horses for their use, together with a
horse to carry your baggage, but which will serve for your body
servant.

"I have not found a man for that office. I knew of no one who
would, as I thought, suit you; and in such a business it seemed to
me better that you should wait, and choose for yourself, for in the
matter of servants everyone has his fancies. Some like a silent
knave, while others prefer a merry one. Some like a tall proper
fellow, who can fight if needs be; others a staid man, who will do
his duty and hold his tongue, who can cook a good dinner and groom
a horse well. It is certain you will never find all virtues
combined. One man may be all that you wish, but he is a liar;
another helps himself; a third is too fond of the bottle. In this
matter, then, I did not care to take the responsibility, but have
left it for you to choose for yourself."

"I shall be more likely to make a mistake than you will, Monsieur
Bertram," Philip said with a laugh.

"Perhaps so, but then it will be your own mistake; and a man chafes
less, at the shortcomings of one whom he has chosen himself, than
at those of one who has, as it were, been forced upon him."

"Well, there will be no hurry in that matter," Philip said. "I can
get on well enough without a servant, for a time. Up to the
present, I have certainly never given a thought as to what kind of
man I should want as a servant; and I should like time to think
over a matter which is, from what you say, so important."

"Assuredly it is important, young sir. If you should take the
field, you will find that your comfort greatly depends upon it. A
sharp, active knave, who will ferret out good quarters for you,
turn you out a good meal from anything he can get hold of, bring
your horse up well groomed in the morning, and your armour brightly
polished; who will not lie to you overmuch, or rob you overmuch,
and who will only get drunk at times when you can spare his
services. Ah! He would be a treasure to you. But assuredly such a
man is not to be found every day."

"And of course," Marie put in, "in addition to what you have said,
Monsieur Bertram, it would be necessary that he should be one of
our religion, and fervent and strong in the faith."

"My dear lady, I was mentioning possibilities," the trader said.
"It is of course advisable that he should be a Huguenot, it is
certainly essential that he should not be a Papist; but beyond this
we need not inquire too closely. You cannot expect the virtues of
an archbishop, and the capacity of a horse boy. If he can find a
man embracing the qualities of both, by all means let your son
engage him; but as he will require him to be a good cook, and a
good groom, and he will not require religious instruction from him,
the former points are those on which I should advise him to lay
most stress.

"And now, Madame Vaillant, will you let me lead you into the next
room where, as my daughter has for some time been trying to make me
understand, a meal is ready? And I doubt not that you are also
ready; for truly those who travel by sea are seldom able to enjoy
food, save when they are much accustomed to voyaging. Though they
tell me that, after a time, even those with the most delicate
stomachs recover their appetites, and are able to enjoy the rough
fare they get on board a ship."

After the meal was over, the merchant took Philip to the stables,
where the new purchases had been put up. The men were not there,
but the ostler brought out Philip's horse, with which he was
delighted.

"He will not tire under his double load," the merchant said; "and
with only your weight upon him, a foeman would be well mounted,
indeed, to overtake you."

"I would rather that you put it, Monsieur Bertram, that a foeman
needs be well mounted to escape me."

"Well, I hope it will be that way," his host replied, smiling. "But
in fighting such as we have here, there are constant changes. The
party that is pursued one day is the pursuer a week later; and of
the two, you know, speed is of much more importance in flight than
in pursuit. If you cannot overtake a foe, well, he gets away, and
you may have better fortune next time; but if you can't get away
from a foe, the chances are you may never have another opportunity
of doing so."

"Perhaps you are right. In fact, now I think of it, I am sure you
are; though I hope it will not often happen that we shall have to
depend for safety on the speed of our horses. At any rate, I am
delighted with him, Monsieur Bertram; and I thank you greatly for
procuring so fine an animal for me. If the four men turn out to be
as good, of their kind, as the horse, I shall be well set up,
indeed."

Early the next morning the four men came round to the merchant's,
and Philip went down with him into the entry hall where they were.
He was well satisfied with their appearance. They were stout
fellows, from twenty-six to thirty years old. All were soberly
dressed, and wore steel caps and breast pieces, and carried long
swords by their sides. In spite of the serious expression of their
faces, Philip saw that all were in high, if restrained, spirits at
again taking service.

"This is your employer, the Sieur Philip Fletcher. I have warranted
that he shall find you good and true men, and I hope you will do
justice to my recommendation."

"We will do our best," Roger, the eldest of the party, said. "We
are all right glad to be moving again. It is not as if we had been
bred on the soil here, and a man never takes to a strange place as
to one he was born in."

"You are Gascons, Maitre Bertram tells me," Philip said.

"Yes, sir. We were driven out from there ten years ago, when the
troubles were at their worst. Our fathers were both killed, and we
travelled with our mothers and sisters by night, through the
country, till we got to La Rochelle."

"You say both your fathers. How are you related to each other?"

"Jacques and I are brothers," Roger said, touching the youngest of
the party on his shoulder. "Eustace and Henri are brothers, and are
our cousins. Their father and ours were brothers. When the troubles
broke out, we four took service with the Count de Luc, and followed
him throughout the war. When it was over we came back here. Our
mothers had married again. Some of our sisters had taken husbands,
too. Others were in service. Therefore we remained here rather than
return to Gascony, where our friends and relations had all been
either killed or dispersed.

"We were lucky in getting employment together, but were right glad
when we heard that there was an opening again for service. For the
last two years we have been looking forward to it; for as everyone
sees, it cannot be long before the matter must be fought out again.
And in truth, we have been wearying for the time to come; for after
having had a year of fighting, one does not settle down readily to
tilling the soil.

"You will find that you can rely on us, sir, for faithful service.
We all bore a good reputation as stout fighters and, during the
time we were in harness before, we none of us got into trouble for
being overfond of the wine pots."

"I think you will suit me very well," Philip said, "and I hope that
my service will suit you. Although an Englishman by birth and name,
my family have suffered persecution here as yours have done, and I
am as warmly affected to the Huguenot cause as yourselves. If there
is danger you will not find me lacking in leading you, and so far
as I can I shall try to make my service a comfortable one, and to
look after your welfare.

"We shall be ready to start in half an hour, therefore have the
horses round at the door in that time. One of the pillions is to be
placed on my own horse. You had better put the other for the maid
behind your saddle, Roger; you being, I take it, the oldest of your
party, had better take charge of her."

The men saluted and went out.

"I like their looks much," Philip said to the merchant. "Stout
fellows and cheerful, I should say. Like my aunt, I don't see why
we should carry long faces, Monsieur Bertram, because we have
reformed our religion; and I believe that a light heart and good
spirits will stand wear and tear better than a sad visage."

The four men were no less pleased with their new employer.

"That is a lad after my own heart," Roger said, as they went out.
"Quick and alert, pleasant of face; and yet, I will be bound, not
easily turned from what he has set his mind to. He bears himself
well, and I doubt not can use his weapons. I don't know what stock
he comes from, on this side, but I warrant it is a good one.

"He will make a good master, lads. I think that, as he says, he
will be thoughtful as to our comforts, and be pleasant and cheerful
with us; but mind you, he will expect the work to be done, and you
will find that there is no trifling with him."



Chapter 3: In A French Chateau.


The three days' ride to the chateau of the Countess de Laville was
marked by no incident. To Philip it was an exceedingly pleasant
one. Everything was new to him; the architecture of the churches
and villages, the dress of the people, their modes of agriculture,
all differing widely from those to which he was accustomed. In some
villages the Catholics predominated, and here the passage of the
little party was regarded with frowning brows and muttered threats;
by the Huguenots they were saluted respectfully, and if they
halted, many questions were asked their followers as to news about
the intentions of the court, the last rumours as to the attitude of
Conde, and the prospects of a continuance of peace.

Here, too, great respect was paid to Marie and Philip when it was
known they were relatives of the Countess de Laville, and belonged
to the family of the De Moulins. Emilie had for some time been a
widow--the count, her husband, having fallen at the battle of
Dreux, at the end of the year 1562--but being an active and capable
woman, she had taken into her hands the entire management of the
estates, and was one of the most influential among the Huguenot
nobles of that part of the country.

From their last halting place, Marie Vaillant sent on a letter by
one of the men to her sister, announcing their coming. She had
written on her landing at La Rochelle, and they had been met on
their way by a messenger from the countess, expressing her delight
that her sister had at last carried out her promise to visit her,
and saying that Francois was looking eagerly for the coming of his
cousin.

The chateau was a semi-fortified building, capable of making a
stout resistance against any sudden attack. It stood on the slope
of a hill, and Philip felt a little awed at its stately aspect as
they approached it. When they were still a mile away, a party of
horsemen rode out from the gateway, and in a few minutes their
leader reined up his horse in front of them and, springing from it,
advanced towards Philip, who also alighted and helped his aunt to
dismount.

"My dear aunt," the young fellow said, doffing his cap, "I am come
in the name of my mother to greet you, and to tell you how joyful
she is that you have, at last, come back to us.

"This is my Cousin Philip, of course; though you are not what I
expected to see. My mother told me that you were two years' my
junior, and I had looked to find you still a boy; but, by my faith,
you seem to be as old as I am. Why, you are taller by two inches,
and broader and stronger too, I should say. Can it be true that you
are but sixteen?"

"That is my age, Cousin Francois; and I am, as you expected, but a
boy yet and, I can assure you, no taller or broader than many of my
English schoolfellows of the same age."

"But we must not delay, aunt," Francois said, turning again to her.
"My mother's commands were urgent, that I was not to delay a moment
in private talk with you, but to bring you speedily on to her;
therefore I pray you to mount again and ride on with me, for
doubtless she is watching impatiently now, and will chide me
rarely, if we linger."

Accordingly the party remounted at once, and rode forward to the
chateau. A dozen men-at-arms were drawn up at the gate and, on the
steps of the entrance from the courtyard into the chateau itself,
the countess was standing. Francois leapt from his horse, and was
by the side of his aunt as Philip reined in his horse. Taking his
hand, she sprang lightly from the saddle, and in a moment the two
sisters fell into each others' arms.

It was more than twenty years since they last met, but time had
dealt gently with them both. The countess had changed least. She
was two or three years older than Marie, was tall, and had been
somewhat stately even as a girl. She had had many cares, but her
position had always been assured; as the wife of a powerful noble
she had been accustomed to be treated with deference and respect,
and although the troubles of the times and the loss of her husband
had left their marks, she was still a fair and stately woman at the
age of forty-three. Marie, upon the other hand, had lived an
untroubled life for the past twenty years. She had married a man
who was considered beneath her, but the match had been in every way
a happy one. Her husband was devoted to her, and the expression of
her face showed that she was a thoroughly contented and happy
woman.

"You are just what I fancied you would be, Marie, a quiet little
home bird, living in your nest beyond the sea, and free from all
the troubles and anxieties of our unhappy country. You have been
good to write so often, far better than I have been; and I seem to
know all about your quiet, well-ordered home, and your good husband
and his business that flourishes so. I thought you were a little
foolish in your choice, and that our father was wrong in mating you
as he did; but it has turned out well, and you have been living in
quiet waters, while we have been encountering a sea of troubles.

"And this tall youth is our nephew, Philip? I wish you could have
brought over Lucie with you. It would have been pleasant, indeed,
for us three sisters to be reunited again, if only for a time. Why,
your Philip is taller than Francois, and yet he is two years
younger. I congratulate you and Lucie upon him.

"Salute me, nephew. I had not looked to see so proper a youth. You
show the blood of the De Moulins plainly, Philip. I suppose you get
your height and your strength from your English father?"

"They are big men, these English, Emilie; and his father is big,
even among them. But, as you say, save in size Philip takes after
our side rather than his father's; and of course he has mixed so
much with our colony at Canterbury that, in spite of his being
English bred, we have preserved in him something of the French
manner, and I think his heart is fairly divided between the two
countries."

"Let us go in," the countess said. "You need rest and refreshment
after your journey, and I long to have a quiet talk with you.

"Francois, do you take charge of your cousin. I have told the
serving men to let you have a meal in your own apartments, and then
you can show him over the chateau and the stables."

Francois and Philip bowed to the two ladies, and then went off
together.

"That is good," the young count said, laying his hand on Philip's
shoulder; "now we shall get to know each other. You will not be
angry, I hope, when I tell you that, though I have looked forward
to seeing my aunt and you, I have yet been a little anxious in my
mind. I do not know why, but I have always pictured the English as
somewhat rough and uncouth--as doughty fighters, for so they have
shown themselves to our cost, but as somewhat deficient in the
graces of manner--and when I heard that my aunt was bringing you
over, to leave you for a time with us, since you longed to fight in
the good cause, I have thought--pray, do not be angry with me, for
I feel ashamed of myself now--" and he hesitated.

"That I should be a rough cub, whom you would be somewhat ashamed
of introducing to your friends as your cousin," Philip laughed. "I
am not surprised. English boys have ideas just as erroneous about
the French, and it was a perpetual wonder to my schoolfellows that,
being half French, I was yet as strong and as tough as they were.
Doubtless I should have been somewhat different, had I not lived so
much with my uncle and aunt and the Huguenot community at
Canterbury. Monsieur Vaillant and my aunt have always impressed
upon me that I belong to a noble French family, and might some day
come over here to stay with my relations; and have taken much pains
with my deportment and manners, and have so far succeeded that I am
always called 'Frenchy' among my English companions, though in
their own games and sports I could hold my own with any of them."

"And can you ride, Philip?"

"I can sit on any horse, but I have had no opportunity of learning
the menage."

"That matters little, after all," Francois said; "though it is an
advantage to be able to manage your horse with a touch of the heel,
or the slightest pressure of the rein, and to make him wheel and
turn at will, while leaving both arms free to use your weapons. You
have learned to fence?"

"Yes. There were some good masters among the colony, and many a
lesson have I had from old soldiers passing through, who paid for a
week's hospitality by putting me up to a few tricks with the
sword."

"I thought you could fence," Francois said. "You would hardly have
that figure and carriage, unless you had practised with the sword.
And you dance, I suppose. Many of our religion regard such
amusement as frivolous, if not sinful; but my mother, although as
staunch a Huguenot as breathes, insists upon my learning it, not as
an amusement but as an exercise. There was no reason, she said, why
the Catholics should monopolize all the graces."

"Yes, I learned to dance, and for the same reason. I think my uncle
rather scandalized the people of our religion in Canterbury. He
maintained that it was necessary, as part of the education of a
gentleman; and that in the English Protestant court, dancing was as
highly thought of as in that of France, the queen herself being
noted for her dancing, and none can throw doubts upon her
Protestantism. My mother and aunt were both against it, but as my
father supported my uncle, he had his own way."

"Well I see, Philip, that we shall be good comrades. There are many
among us younger Huguenots who, though as staunch in the religion
as our fathers, and as ready to fight and die for it if need be,
yet do not see that it is needful to go about always with grave
faces, and to be cut off from all innocent amusements. It is our
natural disposition to be gay, and I see not why, because we hold
the Mass in detestation, and have revolted against the authority of
the Pope and the abuses of the church, we should go through life as
if we were attending a perpetual funeral. Unless I am mistaken,
such is your disposition also; for although your face is grave,
your eyes laugh."

"I have been taught to bear myself gravely, in the presence of my
elders," Philip replied with a smile; "and truly at Canterbury the
French colony was a grave one, being strangers in a strange land;
but among my English friends, I think I was as much disposed for a
bit of fun or mischief as any of them."

"But I thought the English were a grave race."

"I think not, Francois. We call England 'Merry England.' I think we
are an earnest people, but not a grave one. English boys play with
all their might. The French boys of the colony never used to join
in our sports, regarding them as rude and violent beyond all
reason; but it is all in good humour, and it is rare, indeed, for
anyone to lose his temper, however rough the play and hard the
knocks. Then they are fond of dancing and singing, save among the
strictest sects; and the court is as gay as any in Europe. I do not
think that the English can be called a grave people."

"Well, I am glad that it is so, Philip, especially that you
yourself are not grave. Now, as we have finished our meal, let us
visit the stables. I have a horse already set aside for you; but I
saw, as we rode hither, that you are already excellently mounted.
Still, Victor, that is his name, shall be at your disposal. A
second horse is always useful, for shot and arrows no more spare a
horse than his rider."

The stables were large and well ordered for, during the past two
months, there had been large additions made by the countess, in
view of the expected troubles.

"This is my charger. I call him Rollo. He was bred on the estate
and, when I am upon him, I feel that the king is not better
mounted."

"He is a splendid animal, indeed," Philip said, as Rollo tossed his
head, and whinnied with pleasure at his master's approach.

"He can do anything but talk," Francois said, as he patted him. "He
will lie down when I tell him, will come to my whistle and, with
the reins lying loose on his neck, will obey my voice as readily as
he would my hand.

"This is my second horse, Pluto. He is the equal of Rollo in
strength and speed, but not so docile and obedient, and he has a
temper of his own."

"He looks it," Philip agreed. "I should keep well out of reach of
his heels and jaws."

"He is quiet enough when I am on his back," Francois laughed; "but
I own that he is the terror of the stable boys.

"This is Victor. He is not quite as handsome as Rollo, but he has
speed and courage and good manners."

"He is a beautiful creature," Philip said enthusiastically. "I was
very well satisfied with my purchase, but he will not show to
advantage by the side of Victor."

"Ah, I see they have put him in the next stall," Francois said.

"He is a fine animal, too," he went on, after examining the horse
closely. "He comes from Gascony, I should say. He has signs of
Spanish blood."

"Yes, from Gascony or Navarre. I was very fortunate in getting
him," and he related how the animal had been left at La Rochelle.

"You got him for less than half his value, Philip. What are you
going to call him?"

"I shall call him Robin. That was the name of my favourite horse,
at home.

"I see you have got some stout animals in the other stalls, though
of course they are of a very different quality to your own."

"Yes; many of them are new purchases. We have taken on thirty
men-at-arms; stout fellows, old soldiers all, whom my mother will
send into the field if we come to blows. Besides these there will
be some twenty of our tenants. We could have raised the whole
number among them, had we chosen; for if we called up the full
strength of the estate, and put all bound to service in the field
in war time, we could turn out fully three hundred; but of these
well-nigh a third are Catholics, and could not in any way be relied
on, nor would it be just to call upon them to fight against their
co-religionists. Again, it would not do to call out all our
Huguenot tenants; for this would leave their wives and families and
homes and property, to say nothing of the chateau, at the mercy of
the Catholics while they were away. I do not think that our
Catholic tenants would interfere with them, still less with the
chateau; for our family have ever been good masters, and my mother
is loved by men of both parties. Still, bands might come from other
districts, or from the towns, to pillage or slay were the estate
left without fighting men. Therefore, we have taken these
men-at-arms into our service, with twenty of our own tenants, all
young men belonging to large families; while the rest will remain
behind, as a guard for the estate and chateau; and as in all they
could muster some two hundred and fifty strong, and would be joined
by the other Huguenots of the district, they would not likely be
molested, unless one of the Catholic armies happened to come in
this direction.

"Directly I start with the troop, the younger sons of the tenants
will be called in to form a garrison here. We have five-and-thirty
names down, and there are twenty men capable of bearing arms among
the household, many of whom have seen service. Jacques Parold, our
seneschal, has been a valiant soldier in his time, and would make
the best of them; and my mother would assuredly keep our flag
flying till the last.

"I shall go away in comfort for, unless the Guises march this way,
there is little fear of trouble in our absence. We are fortunate in
this province. The parties are pretty evenly divided, and have a
mutual respect for each other. In districts where we are greatly
outnumbered, it is hard for fighting men to march away with the
possibility that, on their return, they will find their families
murdered and their homes levelled.

"Now we will take a turn round the grounds. Their beauty has been
sadly destroyed. You see, before the troubles seven years ago broke
out, there was a view from the windows on this side of the house
over the park and shrubberies; but at that time my father thought
it necessary to provide against sudden attacks, and therefore,
before he went away to the war, he had this wall with its flanking
towers erected. All the tenants came in and helped, and it was
built in five weeks time. It has, as you see, made the place safe
from a sudden attack, for on the other three sides the old defences
remain unaltered. It was on this side, only, that my grandfather
had the house modernized, believing that the days of civil war were
at an end.

"You see, this new wall forms a large quadrangle. We call it the
countess's garden, and my mother has done her best, by planting it
with shrubs and fast-growing trees, to make up for the loss of the
view she formerly had from the windows.

"Along one side you see there are storehouses, which are screened
from view by that bank of turf. They are all full, now, of grain.
There is a gate, as you see, opposite. In case of trouble cattle
will be driven in there, and the garden turned into a stockyard, so
that there is no fear of our being starved out."

"Fifty-five men are a small garrison for so large a place,
Francois."

"Yes, but that is only against a sudden surprise. In case of alarm,
the Protestant tenants would all come in with their wives and
families, and the best of their horses and cattle, and then there
will be force enough to defend the place against anything short of
a siege by an army. You see there is a moat runs all round. It is
full now on three sides, and there is a little stream runs down
from behind, which would fill the fourth side in a few hours.

"Tomorrow we will take a ride through the park, which lies beyond
that wall."

Entering the house, they passed through several stately apartments,
and then entered a large hall completely hung with arms and armour.

[Illustration: Philip and Francois in the armoury.]

"This is the grand hall, and you see it serves also the purpose of
a salle d'armes. Here we have arms and armour for a hundred men,
for although all the tenants are bound, by the terms of their
holding, to appear when called upon fully armed and accoutred, each
with so many men according to the size of his farm, there may well
be deficiencies; especially as, until the religious troubles began,
it was a great number of years since they had been called upon to
take the field. For the last eight years, however, they have been
trained and drilled; fifty at a time coming up, once a week. That
began two years before the last war, as my father always held that
it was absurd to take a number of men, wholly unaccustomed to the
use of arms, into the field. Agincourt taught that lesson to our
nobles, though it has been forgotten by most of them.

"We have two officers accustomed to drill and marshal men, and
these act as teachers here in the hall. The footmen practise with
pike and sword. They are exercised with arquebus and crossbow in
the park, and the mounted men are taught to manoeuvre and charge,
so that, in case of need, we can show a good face against any body
of troops of equal numbers. It is here I practise with my maitre
d'armes, and with Montpace and Bourdon, our two officers.

"Ah! Here is Charles, my maitre d'armes.

"Charles, this is my cousin Philip, who will also be a pupil of
yours while he remains here.

"What do you say, Philip? Will we try a bout with blunted swords
just now?"

"With pleasure," Philip said.

The art of fencing had not, at that time, reached the perfection it
afterwards attained. The swords used were long and straight, and
sharpened at both edges; and were used as much for cutting as
thrusting. In single combat on foot, long daggers were generally
held in the left hand, and were used for the purpose both of
guarding and of striking at close quarters.

They put on thick quilted doublets, and light helmets with visors.

"Do you use a dagger, Philip?"

"No, I have never seen one used in England. We are taught to guard
with our swords, as well as to strike with them."

"Monsieur has learned from English teachers?" the maitre d'armes
asked.

"I have had English teachers as well as French," Philip said. "We
all learn the use of the sword in England; but my uncle, Monsieur
Vaillant, has taken great pains in having me taught also by such
French professors of arms as lived in Canterbury, or happened to
pass through it; but I own that I prefer the English style of
fighting. We generally stand upright to our work, equally poised on
the two feet for advance or retreat; while you lean with the body
far forward and the arm outstretched, which seems to me to cripple
the movements."

"Yes, but it puts the body out of harm's way," Francois said.

"It is the arm's business to guard the body, Francois, and it is
impossible to strike a downright blow when leaning so far forward."

"We strike but little, nowadays, in single combat," the maitre
d'armes said. "The point is more effective."

"That is doubtless so, Maitre Charles," Philip agreed; "but I have
not learned fencing for the sake of fighting duels, but to be able
to take my part on a field of battle. The Spaniards are said to be
masters of the straight sword, and yet they have been roughly used
in the western seas by our sailors; who, methinks, always use the
edge."

The two now took up their position facing each other. Their
attitude was strikingly different. Francois stood on bent knees,
leaning far forward; while Philip stood erect, with his knees but
slightly bent, ready to spring either forwards or backwards, with
his arm but half extended. For a time both fought cautiously.
Francois had been well taught, having had the benefit, whenever he
was in Paris, of the best masters there. He was extremely active
and, as they warmed to their work, Philip had difficulty in
standing his ground against his impetuous rushes. Some minutes
passed without either of them succeeding in touching the other. At
length the maitre d'armes called upon them to lower their swords.

"That is enough," he said. "You are equally matched.

"I congratulate you, Monsieur Philip. You have been well taught;
and indeed, there are not many youths of his age who could hold
their own with my pupil.

"Take off your helmets. Enough has been done for one day."

"Peste, Philip!" Francois said, as he removed his helmet. "I was
not wrong when I said that, from your figure, I was sure that you
had learned fencing. Maitre Charles interfered on my behalf, and to
save me the mortification of defeat. I had nearly shot my bolt, and
you had scarcely begun.

"I own myself a convert. Your attitude is better than ours--that
is, when the hand is skilful enough to defend the body. The fatigue
of holding the arm extended, as I do, is much greater than it is as
you stand; and in the long run you must get the better of anyone
who is not sufficiently skilful to slay you before his arm becomes
fatigued.

"What do you think, Maitre Charles? My cousin is two years younger
than I am, and yet his wrist and arm are stronger than mine, as I
could feel every time he put aside my attacks."

"Is that so?" the maitre d'armes said, in surprise. "I had taken
him for your senior. He will be a famous man-at-arms, when he
attains his full age. His defence is wonderfully strong and,
although I do not admit that he is superior to you with the point,
he would be a formidable opponent to any of our best swordsmen in a
melee. If, as he says, he is more accustomed to use the edge than
the point, I will myself try him tomorrow, if he will permit me. I
have always understood that the English are more used to strike
than to thrust, and although in the duel the edge has little chance
against the point, I own that it is altogether different in a melee
on horseback; especially as the point cannot penetrate armour,
while a stout blow, well delivered with a strong arm, can break it
in.

"Are you skilled in the exercises of the ring, Monsieur Philip?"

"Not at all. I have had no practise, whatever, in them. Except in
some of the great houses, the tourney has gone quite out of fashion
in England; and though I can ride a horse across country, I know
nothing whatever of knightly exercises. My father is but a small
proprietor and, up to the time I left England, I have been but a
schoolboy."

"If all your schoolboys understand the use of their arms as you
do," Maitre Charles said courteously, "it is no wonder that the
English are terrible fighters."

"I do not say that," Philip said, smiling. "I have had the
advantage of the best teaching, both English and French, to be had
at Canterbury; and it would be a shame for me, indeed, if I had not
learnt to defend myself."

A servant now entered, and said that the countess desired their
presence, and they at once went to the apartment where the sisters
were talking.

"What do you think, mother?" Francois said. "This cousin of mine,
whom I had intended to patronize, turns out to be already a better
swordsman than I am."

"Not better, madame," Philip said hastily. "We were a fair match,
neither having touched the other."

"Philip is too modest, mother," Francois laughed. "Maitre Charles
stopped us in time to save me from defeat. Why, he has a wrist like
iron, this cousin of mine."

"We have done our best to have him well taught," Madame Vaillant
said. "There were some good swordsmen among our Huguenot friends,
and he has also had the best English teachers we could get for him.
My husband always wished, particularly, that if he ever came over
to visit our friends here, he should not be deficient in such
matters."

"I feel a little crestfallen," the countess said. "I have been
rather proud of Francois' skill as a swordsman, and I own that it
is a little mortifying to find that Philip, who is two years
younger, is already his match. Still, I am glad that it is so; for
if they ride together into battle, I should wish that Philip should
do honour to our race.

"Now, Philip, I have been hearing all about your mother's life, as
well as that of your uncle and aunt. Now let us hear about your
own, which must needs differ widely from that to which Francois has
been accustomed. Your aunt says that your English schools differ
altogether from ours. With us our sons are generally brought up at
home, and are instructed by the chaplain, in Huguenot families; or
by the priest in Catholic families; or else they go to religious
seminaries, where they are taught what is necessary of books and
Latin, being under strict supervision, and learning all other
matters such as the use of arms after leaving school, or when at
home with their families."

Philip gave an account of his school life, and its rough games and
sports.

"But is it possible, Philip," the countess said in tones of horror,
"that you used to wrestle and to fight? Fight with your arms and
fists against rough boys, the sons of all sorts of common people?"

"Certainly I did, aunt, and it did me a great deal of good, and no
harm so far as I know. All these rough sports strengthen the frame
and give quickness and vigour, just the same as exercises with the
sword do. I should never have been so tall and strong as I am now
if, instead of going to an English school, I had been either, as
you say, educated at home by a chaplain, or sent to be taught and
looked after by priests. My mother did not like it at first, but
she came to see that it was good for me. Besides, there is not the
same difference between classes in England as there is in France.
There is more independence in the lower and middle classes, and
less haughtiness and pride in the upper, and I think that it is
better so."

"It is the English custom, Emilie," her sister said; "and I can
assure you that my husband and I have got very English, in some
things. We do not love our country less, but we see that, in many
respects, the English ways are better than ours; and we admire the
independence of the people, every man respecting himself, though
giving honour, but not lavishly, to those higher placed."

The countess shrugged her shoulders.

"We will not argue, Marie. At any rate, whatever the process, it
has succeeded well with Philip."

The days passed quietly at the chateau. Before breakfast Philip
spent an hour on horseback, learning to manage his horse by the
pressure of knee or hand. This was the more easy, as both his
horses had been thoroughly trained in the menage, and under the
instruction of Captain Montpace, who had been Francois' teacher, he
made rapid progress.

"It is much easier to teach the man than the horse," his instructor
said, "although a horse learns readily enough, when its rider is a
master of the art; but with horse and rider alike ignorant, it is a
long business to get them to work together as if they were one,
which is what should be. As both your horses know their work, they
obey your motions, however slight; and you will soon be able to
pass muster on their backs. But it would take months of patient
teaching for you so to acquire the art of horsemanship as to be
able to train an animal, yourself."

After the lesson was over, Francois and Philip would tilt at rings
and go through other exercises in the courtyard. Breakfast over,
they went hawking or hunting. Of the former sport Philip was
entirely ignorant, and was surprised to learn how highly a
knowledge of it was prized in France, and how necessary it was
considered as part of the education of a gentleman. Upon the other
hand, his shooting with the bow and arrow astonished Francois; for
the bow had never been a French weapon, and the crossbow was fast
giving way to the arquebus; but few gentlemen troubled themselves
to learn the use of either one or the other. The pistol, however,
was becoming a recognized portion of the outfit of a cavalier in
the field and, following Francois' advice, Philip practised with
one steadily, until he became a fair shot.

"They are cowardly weapons," Francois said, "but for all that they
are useful in battle. When you are surrounded by three or four
pikemen, thrusting at you, it is a good thing to be able to
disembarrass yourself of one or two of them. Besides, these German
horsemen, of whom the Guises employ so many, all carry firearms;
and the contest would be too uneven if we were armed only with the
sword; though for my part I wish that all the governments of Europe
would agree to do away with firearms of every description. They
place the meanest footman upon the level of the bravest knight, and
in the end will, it seems to me, reduce armies to the level of
machines."

In the afternoons there were generally gatherings of Huguenot
gentry, who came to discuss the situation, to exchange news, or to
listen to the last rumours from Paris. No good had arisen from the
Conference of Bayonne, and one by one the privileges of the
Huguenots were being diminished.

The uprising of the Protestants of Holland was watched with the
greatest interest by the Huguenots of France. It was known that
several of the most influential Huguenot nobles had met, at Valery
and at Chatillon, to discuss with the Prince of Conde and Admiral
Coligny the question of again taking up arms in defence of their
liberties. It was rumoured that the opinion of the majority was
that the Huguenot standard should be again unfurled, and that this
time there should be no laying down of their arms until freedom of
worship was guaranteed to all; but that the admiral had used all
his powers to persuade them that the time had not yet come, and
that it was better to bear trials and persecutions, for a time, in
order that the world might see they had not appealed to arms until
driven to it by the failure of all other hope of redress of their
grievances.

The elder men among the visitors at the chateau were of the
admiral's opinion. The younger chafed at the delay. The position
had indeed become intolerable. Protestant worship was absolutely
forbidden, except in a few specified buildings near some of the
large towns; and all Protestants, save those dwelling in these
localities, were forced to meet secretly, and at the risk of their
lives, for the purpose of worship. Those caught transgressing the
law were thrown into prison, subjected to crushing fines, and even
punished with torture and death.

"Better a thousand times to die with swords in our hands, in the
open field, than thus tamely to see our brethren ill-treated and
persecuted!" was the cry of the young men; and Philip, who from
daily hearing tales of persecution and cruelty had become more and
more zealous in the Huguenot cause, fully shared their feeling.

In the presence of the elders, however, the more ardent spirits
were silent. At all times grave and sober in manner and word, the
knowledge that a desperate struggle could not long be deferred, and
the ever-increasing encroachments of the Catholics, added to the
gravity of their demeanour. Sometimes those present broke up into
groups, talking in an undertone. Sometimes the gathering took the
form of a general council. Occasionally some fugitive minister, or
a noble from some district where the persecution was particularly
fierce, would be present; and their narratives would be listened to
with stern faces by the elders, and with passionate indignation by
the younger men.

In spite of the decrees, the countess still retained her chaplain
and, before the meetings broke up, prayers were offered by him for
their persecuted brethren, and for a speedy deliverance of those of
the reformed religion from the cruel disabilities under which they
laboured.

Services were held night and morning in the chateau. These were
attended not only by all the residents, but by many of the farmers
and their families. The countess had already received several
warnings from the Catholic authorities of the province; but to
these she paid no attention, and there were no forces available to
enforce the decree in her case, as it would require nothing short
of an army to overcome the opposition that might be expected,
joined as she would be by the other Huguenot gentry of the
district.



Chapter 4: An Experiment.


Marie Vaillant, after remaining six weeks at the chateau, returned
to England; and Philip, with a party of twelve men, escorted her to
La Rochelle. Her visit was cut short somewhat, at the end, by the
imminence of the outbreak of hostilities, in which case she might
have found a difficulty in traversing the country. Moreover, La
Rochelle would probably be besieged, soon after the war began; for
being both an important town and port, the Catholics would be
anxious to obtain possession of it, and so cut off the Huguenots
from escape to England, besides rendering it difficult for
Elizabeth to send a force to their assistance.

"It has been a pleasant time," the countess said, on the morning of
her departure; "and your presence has taken me back five-and-twenty
years, Marie. I hope that when these troubles are past you will
again come over, and spend a happier time with me. I was going to
say that I will look well after Philip, but that I cannot do. He
has cast his lot in with us, and must share our perils. I am
greatly pleased with him, and I am glad that Francois will have him
as a companion in arms. Francois is somewhat impulsive, and liable
to be carried away by his ardour; and Philip, although the younger,
is, it seems to me, the more thoughtful of the two. He is one I
feel I can have confidence in. He is grave, yet merry; light
hearted in a way, and yet, I think, prudent and cautious. It seems
strange, but I shall part with Francois with the more comfort, in
the thought that he has Philip with him.

"Don't come back more English than you are now, Marie; for truly
you seem to me to have fallen in love with the ways of these
islanders."

"I will try not to, Emilie; but I should not like the customs, did
it not seem to me that they are better than my own. In England
Protestants and Catholics live side by side in friendship, and
there is no persecution of anyone for his religion; the Catholics
who have suffered during the present reign have done so, not
because they are Catholics, but because they plotted against the
queen. Would that in France men would agree to worship, each in his
own way, without rancour or animosity."

"Tell Lucie that I am very sorry she did not come over with you and
Philip, and that it is only because you tell me how occupied she is
that I am not furiously angry with her.

"Tell her, too," she went on earnestly, "that I feel she is one of
us; still a Huguenot, a Frenchwoman, and one of our race, or she
would never have allowed her only son to come over, to risk his
life in our cause. I consider her a heroine, Marie. It is all very
well for me, whose religion is endangered, whose friends are in
peril, whose people are persecuted, to throw myself into the strife
and to send Francois into the battle; but with her, working there
with an invalid husband, and her heart, as it must be, wrapped up
in her boy, it is splendid to let him come out here, to fight side
by side with us for the faith. Whose idea was it first?"

"My husband's. Gaspard regards Philip almost in the light of a son.
He is a rich man now, as I told you, and Philip will become his
heir. Though he has no desire that he should settle in France, he
wished him to take his place in our family here, to show himself
worthy of his race, to become a brave soldier, to win credit and
honour, and to take his place perhaps, some day, in the front rank
of the gentry of Kent."

"They were worldly motives, Marie, and our ministers would denounce
them as sinful; but I cannot do so. I am a Huguenot, but I am a
countess of France, a member of one noble family and married into
another; and though, I believe, as staunch a Huguenot, and as ready
to lay down my life for our religion as any man or woman in France,
yet I cannot give up all the traditions of my rank, and hold that
fame and honour and reputation and courage are mere snares. But
such were not Lucie's feelings in letting him go, I will be bound;
nor yours."

"Mine partly," Marie said. "I am the wife now of a trader, though
one honoured in his class; but have still a little of your
feelings, Emilie, and remember that the blood of the De Moulins
runs in Philip's veins, and hope that he will do credit to it. I
don't think that Lucie has any such feelings. She is wrapt up in
duty--first her duty to God, secondly her duty to her crippled
husband, whom she adores; and I think she regarded the desire of
Philip to come out to fight in the Huguenot ranks as a call that
she ought not to oppose. I know she was heartbroken at parting with
him, and yet she never showed it.

"Lucie is a noble character. Everyone who knows her loves her. I
believe the very farm labourers would give their lives for her, and
a more utterly unselfish creature never lived."

"Well, she must take a holiday and come over with you, next time
you come, Marie. I hope that these troubles may soon be over,
though that is a thing one cannot foretell."

After seeing his aunt safely on board a ship at La Rochelle, Philip
prepared to return to the chateau. He and his aunt had stayed two
nights at the house of Maitre Bertram, and on his returning there
the latter asked:

"Have you yet found a suitable servant, Monsieur Philip?"

"No; my cousin has been inquiring among the tenantry, but the young
men are all bent on fighting, and indeed there are none of them who
would make the sort of servant one wants in a campaign--a man who
can not only groom horses and clean arms, but who knows something
of war, can forage for provisions, cook, wait on table, and has
intelligence. One wants an old soldier; one who has served in the
same capacity, if possible."

"I only asked because I have had a man pestering me to speak to you
about him. He happened to see you ride off, when you were here
last, and apparently became impressed with the idea that you would
be a good master. He is a cousin of one of my men, and heard I
suppose from him that you were likely to return. He has been to me
three or four times. I have told him again and again that he was
not the sort of man I could recommend, but he persisted in begging
me to let him see you himself."

"What sort of a fellow is he?"

"Well, to tell you the truth he is a sort of ne'er-do-well," the
merchant laughed. "I grant that he has not had much chance. His
father died when he was a child, and his mother soon married again.
There is no doubt that he was badly treated at home, and when he
was twelve he ran away. He was taken back and beaten, time after
time; but in a few hours he was always off again, and at last they
let him go his own way. There is nothing he hasn't turned his hand
to. First he lived in the woods, I fancy; and they say he was the
most arrant young poacher in the district, though he was so cunning
that he was never caught. At last he had to give that up. Then he
fished for a bit, but he couldn't stick to it. He has been always
doing odd jobs, turning his hand to whatever turned up. He worked
in a shipyard for a bit, then I took him as a sort of errand boy
and porter. He didn't stop long, and the next I heard of him he was
servant at a priest's. He has been a dozen other things, and for
the last three or four months he has been in the stables where your
horse was standing. I fancy you saw him there. Some people think he
is half a fool, but I don't agree with them; he is as sharp as a
needle, to my mind. But, as I say, he has never had a fair chance.
A fellow like that, without friends, is sure to get roughly
treated."

"Is he a young man of about one or two and twenty?" Philip asked.
"I remember a fellow of about that age brought out the horse, and
as he seemed to me a shrewd fellow, and had evidently taken great
pains in grooming Robin, I gave him a crown. I thought he needed
it, for his clothes were old and tattered, and he looked as if he
hadn't had a hearty meal for a week.

"Well, Maitre Bertram, can you tell me if, among his other
occupations, he has ever been charged with theft?"

"No, I have never heard that brought against him."

"Why did he leave you?"

"It was from no complaint as to his honesty. Indeed, he left of his
own accord, after a quarrel with one of the men, who was, as far as
I could learn, in the wrong. I did not even hear that he had left
until a week after, and it was too late then to go thoroughly into
the matter. Boys are always troublesome and, as everyone had warned
me that Pierre would turn out badly, I gave the matter but little
thought at the time. Of course, you will not think of taking the
luckless rascal as your servant."

"I don't know. I will have a talk with him, anyhow. A fellow like
that would certainly be handy; but whether he could be relied upon
to behave discreetly and soberly, and not to bring me into
discredit, is a different matter. Is he here now?"

"He is below. Shall I send him up here to you?"

"No, I will go down and see him in the courtyard. If he comes up
here he would be, perhaps, awkward and unnatural, and would not
speak so freely as he would in the open air."

The merchant shook his head.

"If you take the vagabond, remember, Monsieur Philip, that it is
altogether against my advice. I would never have spoken to you
about him, if I had imagined for a moment that you would think of
taking him. A fellow who has never kept any employment for two
months, how could he be fit for a post of confidence, and be able
to mix as your body servant with the households of honourable
families?"

"But you said yourself, Maitre Bertram, that he has never had a
fair chance. Well, I will see him, anyhow."

[Illustration: Philip gets his first look at Pierre.]

He descended into the courtyard, and could not help smiling as his
eye fell upon a figure seated on the horse block. He was looking
out through the gateway, and did not at first see Philip. The
expression of his face was dull and almost melancholy, but as
Philip's eye fell on him his attention was attracted by some
passing object in the street. His face lit up with amusement. His
lips twitched and his eyes twinkled. A moment later and the
transient humour passed, and the dull, listless expression again
stole over his face.

"Pierre!" Philip said sharply.

The young fellow started to his feet, as if shot upwards by a
spring; and as he turned and saw who had addressed him, took off
his cap and, bowing, stood twisting it round in his fingers.

"Monsieur Bertram tells me you want to come with me as a servant,
Pierre; but when I asked him about you, he does not give you such a
character as one would naturally require in a confidential servant.
Is there anyone who will speak for you?"

"Not a soul," the young man said doggedly; "and yet, monsieur, I am
not a bad fellow. What can a man do, when he has not a friend in
the world? He picks up a living as he can, but everybody looks at
him with suspicion. There is no friend to take his part, and so
people vent their ill humours upon him, till the time comes when he
revolts at the injustice and strikes back; and then he has to begin
it all over again, somewhere else.

"And yet, sir, I know that I could be faithful and true to anyone
who would not treat me like a dog. You spoke kindly to me in the
stable, and gave me a crown. No one had ever given me a crown
before. But I cared less for that than for the way you spoke. Then
I saw you start, and you spoke pleasantly to your men; and I said
to myself, 'that is the master I would serve, if he would let me.'

"Try me, sir, and if you do not find me faithful, honest, and true
to you, tell your men to string me up to a bough. I do not drink,
and have been in so many services that, ragged as you see me, I can
yet behave so as not to do discredit to you."

Philip hesitated. There was no mistaking the earnestness with which
the youth spoke.

"Are you a Catholic or a Huguenot?" he asked.

"I know nothing of the difference between them," Pierre replied.
"How should I? No one has ever troubled about me, one way or the
other. When my mother lived I went to Mass with her; since then I
have gone nowhere. I have had no Sunday clothes. I know that the
bon Dieu has taken care of me, or I should have died of hunger,
long ago. The priest I was with used to tell me that the Huguenots
were worse than heathen; but if that were so, why should they let
themselves be thrown into prison, and even be put to death, rather
than stay away from their churches? As for me, I know nothing about
it. They say monsieur is a Huguenot, and if he were good enough to
take me into his service, of course I should be a Huguenot."

"That is a poor reason, Pierre," Philip said smiling. "Still, you
may find better reasons, in time. However, you are not a Catholic,
which is the principal thing, at present.

"Well, I will try you, I think. Perhaps, as you say, you have never
had a fair chance yet, and I will give you one. I believe what you
say, that you will be faithful."

The young fellow's face lit up with pleasure.

"I will be faithful, sir. If I were otherwise, I should deserve to
be cut in pieces."

"As for wages," Philip said, "I will pay you what you deserve. We
will settle that when we see how we get on together. Now follow me,
and I will get some suitable clothes for you."

There was no difficulty about this. Clothes were not made to fit
closely in those days, and Philip soon procured a couple of suits
suitable for the serving man of a gentleman of condition. One was a
riding suit; with high boots, doublet, and trunks of sober colour
and of a strong tough material; a leather sword belt and sword; and
a low hat thickly lined and quilted, and capable of resisting a
heavy blow. The other suit was for wear in the house. It was of
dark green cloth of a much finer texture than the riding suit; with
cloth stockings of the same colour, coming up above the knee, and
then meeting the trunks or puffed breeches. A small cap with turned
up brim, furnished with a few of the tail feathers of a black cock,
completed the costume; a dagger being worn in the belt instead of
the sword. Four woollen shirts, a pair of shoes, and a cloak were
added to the purchases; which were placed in a valise, to be
carried behind the saddle.

"Is there any house where you can change your clothes, Pierre? Of
course you could do so at Monsieur Bertram's, but some of the men I
brought with me will be there, and it would be just as well that
they did not see you in your present attire."

"I can change at the stables, sir, if you will trust me with the
clothes."

"Certainly, I will trust you. If I trust you sufficiently to take
you as my servant, I can surely trust you in a matter like this. Do
you know of anyone who has a stout nag for sale?"

Pierre knew of several and, giving Philip an address, the latter
was not long in purchasing one, with saddle and bridle complete. He
ordered this to be sent, at once, to the stables where Pierre had
been employed, with directions that it was to be handed over to his
servant.

It was one o'clock in the day when Madame Vaillant embarked, and it
was late in the afternoon before Philip returned to Monsieur
Bertram's house.

"What have you done about that vagabond Pierre?"

"I have hired him," Philip said.

"You don't say that you have taken him, after what I have told you
about him!" the merchant exclaimed.

"I have, indeed. He pleaded hard for a trial, and I am going to
give him one. I believe that he will turn out a useful fellow. I am
sure that he is shrewd, and he ought to be full of expedients. As
to his appearance, good food and decent clothes will make him
another man. I think he will turn out a merry fellow, when he is
well fed and happy; and I must say, Maitre Bertram, that I am not
fond of long faces. Lastly, I believe that he will be faithful."

"Well, well, well, I wash my hands of it altogether, Monsieur
Philip. I am sorry I spoke to you about him, but I never for a
moment thought you would take him. If harm comes of it, don't blame
me."

"I will hold you fully acquitted," Philip laughed. "I own that I
have taken quite a fancy to him, and believe that he will turn out
well."

An hour later one of the domestics came in, with word that Monsieur
Philip's servant was below, and wished to know if he had any
commands for him.

"Tell him to come up," Philip said, and a minute later Pierre
entered.

He was dressed in his dark green costume. He had had his hair cut,
and presented an appearance so changed that Philip would hardly
have known him.

"By my faith!" the merchant said, "you have indeed transformed him.
He is not a bad-looking varlet, now that he has got rid of that
tangled crop of hair."

Pierre bowed low at the compliment.

"Fine feathers make fine birds, Monsieur Bertram," replied Pierre.
"It is the first time I have had the opportunity of proving the
truth of the proverb. I am greatly indebted to monsieur, for
recommending me to my master."

"It is not much recommendation you got from me, Pierre," the
merchant said bluntly; "for a more troublesome young scamp I never
had in my warehouse. Still, as I told Monsieur Philip, I think
everything has been against you; and I do hope, now that this
English gentleman has given you a chance, that you will take
advantage of it."

"I mean to, sir," the young fellow said earnestly, and without a
trace of the mocking smile with which he had first spoken. "If I do
not give my master satisfaction, it will not be for want of trying.
I shall make mistakes at first--it will all be strange to me, but I
feel sure that he will make allowances. I can at least promise that
he will find me faithful and devoted."

"Has your horse arrived, Pierre?"

"Yes, sir. I saw him watered and fed before I came out. Is it your
wish that I should go round to the stables where your horse and
those of your troop are, and take charge of your horse at once?"

"No, Pierre; the men will look after him, as usual. We will start
at six in the morning. Be at the door, on horseback, at that hour."

Pierre bowed and withdrew.

"I do not feel so sure as I did that you have made a bad bargain,
Monsieur Philip. As far as appearances go, at any rate, he would
pass muster. Except that his cheeks want filling out a bit, he is a
nimble, active-looking young fellow; and with that little moustache
of his, and his hair cut short, he is by no means ill looking. I
really should not have known him. I think at present he means what
he says, though whether he will stick to it is another matter,
altogether."

"I think he will stick to it," Philip said quietly. "Putting aside
what he says about being faithful to me, he is shrewd enough to see
that it is a better chance than he is ever likely to have, again,
of making a start in life. He has been leading a dog's life, ever
since he was a child; and to be well fed, and well clothed, and
fairly treated will be a wonderful change for him.

"My only fear is that he may get into some scrape at the chateau. I
believe that he is naturally full of fun, and fun is a thing that
the Huguenots, with all their virtues, hardly appreciate."

"A good thrashing will tame him of that," the merchant said.

Philip laughed.

"I don't think I shall be driven to try that. I don't say that
servants are never thrashed in England, but I have not been brought
up among the class who beat their servants. I think I shall be able
to manage him without that. If I can't, we must part.

"I suppose there is no doubt, Monsieur Bertram, how La Rochelle
will go when the troubles begin?"

"I think not. All preparations are made on our part and, as soon as
the news comes that Conde and the Admiral have thrown their flags
to the wind, we shall seize the gates, turn out all who oppose us,
and declare for the cause. I do not think it can be much longer
delayed. I sent a trusty servant yesterday to fetch back my
daughter; who, as I told you, has been staying with a sister of
mine, five or six leagues away. I want to have her here before the
troubles break out. It will be no time for damsels to be wandering
about the country, when swords are once out of their scabbards."

The next morning the little troop started early from La Rochelle,
Pierre riding gravely behind Philip. The latter presently called
him up to his side.

"I suppose you know the country round here well?"

"Every foot of it. I don't think that there is a pond in which I
have not laid my lines, not a streamlet of which I do not know
every pool, not a wood that I have not slept in, nor a hedge where
I have not laid snares for rabbits. I could find my way about as
well by night as by day; and you know, sir, that may be of use, if
you ever want to send a message into the town when the Guises have
got their troops lying outside."

Philip looked sharply at him.

"Oh, you think it likely that the Guises will soon be besieging La
Rochelle?"

"Anyone who keeps his ears open can learn that," Pierre said
quietly. "I haven't troubled myself about these matters. It made no
difference to me whether the Huguenots or the Catholics were in the
saddle; still, one doesn't keep one's ears closed, and people talk
freely enough before me.

"'Pierre does not concern himself with these things. The lad is
half a fool; he pays no attention to what is being said.'

"So they would go on talking, and I would go on rubbing down a
horse, or eating my black bread with a bit of cheese or an onion,
or whatever I might be about, and looking as if I did not even know
they were there. But I gathered that the Catholics think that the
Guises, and Queen Catherine, and Philip of Spain, and the Pope are
going to put an end to the Huguenots altogether. From those on the
other side, I learned that the Huguenots will take the first step
in La Rochelle, and that one fine morning the Catholics are likely
to find themselves bundled out of it. Then it doesn't need much
sense to see that, ere long, we shall be having a Catholic army
down here to retake the place; that is, if the Huguenot lords are
not strong enough to stop them on their way."

"And you think the Catholics are not on their guard at all?"

"Not they," Pierre said contemptuously. "They have been
strengthening the walls and building fresh ones, thinking that an
attack might come from without from the Huguenots; and all the time
the people of that religion in the town have been laughing in their
sleeves, and pretending to protest against being obliged to help at
the new works, but really paying and working willingly. Why, they
even let the magistrates arrest and throw into prison a number of
their party, without saying a word, so that the priests and the
commissioners should think they have got it entirely their own way.
It has been fun watching it all, and I had made up my mind to take
to the woods again, directly it began. I had no part in the play,
and did not wish to run any risk of getting a ball through my head;
whether from a Catholic or a Huguenot arquebus.

"Now, of course, it is all different. Monsieur is a Huguenot, and
therefore so am I. It is the Catholic bullets that will be shot at
me and, as no one likes to be shot at, I shall soon hate the
Catholics cordially, and shall be ready to do them any ill turn
that you may desire."

"And you think that if necessary, Pierre, you could carry a message
into the town, even though the Catholics were camped round it."

Pierre nodded.

"I have never seen a siege, master, and don't know how close the
soldiers might stand round a town; but I think that if a rabbit
could get through I could and, if I could not get in by land, I
could manage somehow to get in by water."

"But such matters as this do not come within your service, Pierre.
Your duties are to wait on me when not in the field, to stand
behind my chair at meals, and to see that my horses are well
attended to by the stable varlets. When we take the field you will
not be wanted to fight, but will look after my things; will buy
food and cook it, get dry clothes ready for me to put on if I come
back soaked with rain, and keep an eye upon my horses. Two of the
men-at-arms will have special charge of them. They will groom and
feed them. But if they are away with me, they cannot see after
getting forage for them; and it will be for you to get hold of
that, either by buying it from the villagers or employing a man to
cut it. At any rate, to see that there is food for them, as well as
for me, when the day's work is over."

"I understand that, master; but there are times when a lad who can
look like a fool, but is not altogether one, can carry messages and
make himself very useful, if he does not place over much value on
his life. When you want anything done, no matter what it is, you
have only to tell me, and it will be done, if it is possible."

In the afternoon of the second day after starting, they approached
the chateau. The old sergeant of the band who, with two of his men,
was riding a hundred yards ahead, checked his horse and rode back
to Philip.

"There is something of importance doing, Monsieur Philip. The flag
is flying over the chateau. I have not seen it hoisted before since
my lord's death, and I can make out horsemen galloping to and from
the gates."

"We will gallop on then," Philip said, and in ten minutes they
arrived.

Francois ran down the steps as Philip alighted in the courtyard.

"I am glad you have come, Philip. I had already given orders for a
horseman to ride to meet you, and tell you to hurry on. The die is
cast, at last. There was a meeting yesterday at the Admiral's. A
messenger came to my mother from my cousin, Francois de la Noue.
The Admiral and Conde had received news, from a friend at court,
that there had been a secret meeting of the Royal Council; and that
it had been settled that the Prince should be thrown into prison,
and Coligny executed. The Swiss troops were to be divided between
Paris, Orleans, and Poitiers. The edict of toleration was to be
annulled, and instant steps taken to suppress Huguenot worship by
the sternest measures.

"In spite of this news the Admiral still urged patience; but his
brother, D'Andelot, took the lead among the party of action; and
pointed out that if they waited until they, the leaders, were all
dragged away to prison, resistance by the Huguenots would be
hopeless. Since the last war over three thousand Huguenots had been
put to violent deaths. Was this number to be added to indefinitely?
Were they to wait until their wives and children were in the hands
of the executioners, before they moved? His party were in the
majority, and the Admiral reluctantly yielded.

"Then there was a discussion as to the steps to be taken. Some
proposed the seizure of Orleans and other large towns; and that,
with these in their hands, they should negotiate with the court for
the dismissal of the Swiss troops; as neither toleration nor peace
could be hoped for, as long as this force was at the disposal of
the Cardinal of Lorraine and his brothers.

"This council, however, was overruled. It was pointed out that, at
the beginning of the last war, the Huguenots held fully a hundred
towns, but nearly all were wrested from their hands before its
termination. It was finally resolved that all shall be prepared for
striking a heavy blow, and that the rising shall be arranged to
take place, throughout France, on the 29th of September. That an
army shall take the field, disperse the Swiss, seize if possible
the Cardinal of Lorraine; and at any rate petition the king for a
redress of grievances, for a removal of the Cardinal from his
councils, and for sending all foreign troops out of the kingdom.

"We have, you see, a fortnight to prepare. We have just sent out
messengers to all our Huguenot friends, warning them that the day
is fixed, that their preparations are to be made quietly, and that
we will notify them when the hour arrives. All are exhorted to
maintain an absolute silence upon the subject, while seeing that
their tenants and retainers are, in all respects, ready to take the
field."

"Why have you hoisted your flag, Francois? That will only excite
attention."

"It is my birthday, Philip, and the flag is supposed to be raised
in my honour. This will serve as an excuse for the assemblage of
our friends, and the gathering of the tenants. It has been
arranged, as you know, that I, and of course you, are to ride with
De la Noue, who is a most gallant gentleman; and that our
contingent is to form part of his command.

"I am heartily glad this long suspense is over, and that at last we
are going to meet the treachery of the court by force. Too long
have we remained passive, while thousands of our friends have, in
defiance of the edicts, been dragged to prison and put to death.
Fortunately the court is, as it was before the last war, besotted
with the belief that we are absolutely powerless; and we have every
hope of taking them by surprise."

"I also am glad that war has been determined upon," Philip said.
"Since I have arrived here, I have heard nothing but tales of
persecution and cruelty. I quite agree with you that the time has
come when the Huguenots must either fight for their rights; abandon
the country altogether and go into exile, as so many have already
done; or renounce their religion."

"I see you have a new servant, Philip. He is an active,
likely-looking lad, but rather young. He can know nothing of
campaigning."

"I believe he is a very handy fellow, with plenty of sense and
shrewdness; and if he can do the work, I would rather have a man of
that age than an older one. It is different with you. You are
Francois, Count de Laville; and your servant, whatever his age,
would hold you in respect. I am younger and of far less
consequence, and an old servant might want to take me under his
tuition. Moreover, if there is hard work to be done for me, I would
rather have a young fellow like this doing it than an older man."

"You are always making out that you are a boy, Philip. You don't
look it, and you are going to play a man's part."

"I mean to play it as far as I can, Francois; but that does not
really make me a day older."

"Well, mind, not a word to a soul as to the day fixed on."

For the next fortnight the scene at the chateau was a busy one.
Huguenot gentlemen came and went. The fifty men-at-arms who were to
accompany Francois were inspected, and their arms and armour served
out to them. The tenantry came up in small parties, and were also
provided with weapons, offensive and defensive, from the armoury;
so that they might be in readiness to assemble for the defence of
the chateau, at the shortest notice. All were kept in ignorance as
to what was really going on; but it was felt that a crisis was
approaching, and there was an expression of grim satisfaction on
the stern faces of the men, that showed they rejoiced at the
prospect of a termination to the long passive suffering, which they
had borne at the hands of the persecutors of their faith. Hitherto
they themselves had suffered but little, for the Huguenots were
strong in the south of Poitou; while in Niort--the nearest town to
the chateau--the Huguenots, if not in an absolute majority, were
far too strong to be molested by the opposite party. Nevertheless
here, and in all other towns, public worship was suspended; and it
was only in the chateaux and castles of the nobles that the
Huguenots could gather to worship without fear of interruption or
outrage.

There was considerable debate as to whether Francois' troop should
march to join the Admiral, at Chatillon-sur-Loing; or should
proceed to the southeast, where parties were nearly equally
balanced; but the former course was decided upon. The march itself
would be more perilous; but as Conde, the Admiral, and his brother
D'Andelot would be with the force gathered there, it was the most
important point; and moreover Francois de la Noue would be there.

So well was the secret of the intended movement kept that the
French court, which was at Meaux, had no idea of the danger that
threatened; and when a report of the intentions of the Huguenots
came from the Netherlands, it was received with incredulity. A spy
was, however, sent to Chatillon to report upon what the Admiral was
doing; and he returned with the news that he was at home, and was
busily occupied in superintending his vintage.

On the evening of the 26th the troop, fifty strong, mustered in the
courtyard of the chateau. All were armed with breast and back
pieces, and steel caps, and carried lances as well as swords. In
addition to this troop were Philip's four men-at-arms; and four
picked men who were to form Francois' bodyguard, one of them
carrying his banner. He took as his body servant a man who had
served his father in that capacity. He and Pierre wore lighter
armour than the others, and carried no lances.

Francois and Philip were both in complete armour; Philip donning,
for the first time, that given to him by his uncle. Neither of them
carried lances, but were armed with swords, light battle-axes, and
pistols.

Before mounting, service was held. The pastor offered up prayers
for the blessing of God upon their arms, and for his protection
over each and all of them in the field. The countess herself made
them a stirring address, exhorting them to remember that they
fought for the right to worship God unmolested, and for the lives
of those dear to them. Then she tenderly embraced her son and
Philip, the trumpets sounded to horse, and the party rode out from
the gates of the chateau.

As soon as they were away, the two young leaders took off their
helmets and handed them to their attendants, who rode behind them.
Next to these came their eight bodyguards, who were followed by the
captain and his troop.

"It may be that this armour will be useful, on the day of battle,"
Philip said; "but at present it seems to me, Francois, that I would
much rather be without it."

"I quite agree with you, Philip. If we had only to fight with
gentlemen armed with swords, I would gladly go into battle
unprotected; but against men with lances, one needs a defence.
However, I do not care so much, now that I have got rid of the
helmet; which, in truth, is a heavy burden."

"Methinks, Francois, that armour will ere long be abandoned, now
that arquebuses and cannon are coming more and more into use.
Against them they give no protection; and it were better, methinks,
to have lightness and freedom of action, than to have the trouble
of wearing all this iron stuff merely as a protection against
lances. You have been trained to wear armour, and therefore feel
less inconvenience; but I have never had as much as a breast plate
on before, and I feel at present as if I had almost lost the use of
my arms. I think that, at any rate, I shall speedily get rid of
these arm pieces. The body armour I don't so much mind, now that I
am fairly in the saddle.

"The leg pieces are not as bad as those on the arms. I was scarcely
able to walk in them; still, now that I am mounted, I do not feel
them much. But if I am to be of any use in a melee, I must have my
arms free, and trust to my sword to protect them."

"I believe that some have already given them up, Philip; and if you
have your sleeves well wadded and quilted, I think you might, if
you like, give up the armour. The men-at-arms are not so protected,
and it is only when you meet a noble, in full armour, that you
would be at a disadvantage."

"I don't think it would be a disadvantage; for I could strike
twice, with my arms free, to once with them so confined."

"There is one thing, you will soon become accustomed to the
armour."

"Not very soon, I fancy, Francois. You know, you have been
practising in it almost since you were a child; and yet you admit
that you feel a great difference. Still, I daresay as the novelty
wears off I shall get accustomed to it, to some extent."



Chapter 5: Taking The Field.


A guide thoroughly acquainted with the country rode ahead of the
party, carrying a lantern fixed at the back of his saddle. They
had, after leaving the chateau, begun to mount the lofty range of
hills behind. The road crossing these was a mere track, and they
were glad when they began to descend on the other side. They
crossed the Clain river some ten miles above Poitiers, a few miles
farther forded the Vienne, crossed the Gartempe at a bridge at the
village of Montmorillon and, an hour later, halted in a wood, just
as daylight was breaking, having ridden nearly fifty miles since
leaving the chateau.

So far they had kept to the south of the direct course, in order to
cross the rivers near their sources. Every man carried provisions
for himself and his horse and, as soon as they had partaken of a
hearty meal, the armour was unstrapped, and all threw themselves
down for a long sleep; sentries being first placed, with orders to
seize any peasants who might enter the wood to gather fuel. With
the exception of the sentries, who were changed every hour, the
rest slept until late in the afternoon; then the horses were again
fed and groomed, and another meal was eaten.

At sunset the armour was buckled on again, and they started. They
crossed the Creuse at the bridge of Argenton about midnight and,
riding through La Chatre, halted before morning in a wood two miles
from Saint Amand. Here the day was passed as the previous one had
been.

"Tell me, Francois," Philip said, as they were waiting for the sun
to go down, "something about your cousin De la Noue. As we are to
ride with him, it is as well to know something about him. How old
is he?"

"He is thirty-six, and there is no braver gentleman in France. As
you know, he is of a Breton family, one of the most illustrious of
the province. He is connected with the great houses of Chateau-Briant
and Matignon. As a boy he was famous for the vigour and strength that
he showed in warlike exercises; but was in other respects, I have
heard, of an indolent disposition, and showed no taste for reading or
books of any kind. As usual among the sons of noble families, he went
up to the court of Henry the Second as a page; and when there became
seized with an ardour for study, especially that of ancient and
modern writers who treated on military subjects. As soon as he
reached manhood he joined the army in Piedmont, under Marshal de
Brissac, that being the best military school of the time.

"On his return he showed the singular and affectionate kindness of
his nature. His mother, unfortunately, while he was away, had
become infected with the spirit of gambling; and the king, who had
noted the talent and kind disposition of the young page, thought to
do him a service by preventing his mother squandering the estates
in play. He therefore took the management of her affairs entirely
out of her hands, appointing a royal officer to look after them.
Now most young men would have rejoiced at becoming masters of their
estates; but the first thing that Francois did, on his return, was
to go to the king and solicit, as a personal favour, that his
mother should be reinstated in the management of her estates. This
was granted, but a short time afterwards she died. De La Noue
retired from court, and settled in Brittany upon his estates, which
were extensive.

"Shortly afterwards D'Andelot, Coligny's brother, who was about to
espouse Mademoiselle De Rieux, the richest heiress in Brittany,
paid a visit there. He had lately embraced our faith, and was bent
upon bringing over others to it; and he brought down with him to
Brittany a famous preacher named Cormel. His preaching in the
chateau attracted large numbers of people, and although Brittany is
perhaps the most Catholic province in France, he made many
converts. Among these was De La Noue, then twenty-seven years old.
Recognizing his talent and influence, D'Andelot had made special
efforts to induce him to join the ranks of the Huguenots, and
succeeded.

"My cousin, who previous to that had, I believe, no special
religious views, became a firm Huguenot. As you might expect with
such a man, he is in no way a fanatic, and does not hold the
extreme views that we have learned from the preachers of Geneva. He
is a staunch Huguenot, but he is gentle, courtly, and polished; and
has, I believe, the regard of men of both parties. He is a personal
friend of the Guises, and was appointed by them as one of the group
of nobles who accompanied Marie Stuart to Scotland.

"When the war broke out in 1562, after the massacre of Vassy, he
joined the standard of Conde. He fought at Dreux, and distinguished
himself by assisting the Admiral to draw off our beaten army in
good order. The assassination of Francois de Guise, as you know,
put an end to that war. De la Noue bitterly regretted the death of
Guise and, after peace was made, retired to his estates in
Brittany, where he has lived quietly for the last four years.

"I have seen him several times, because he has other estates in
Poitou, within a day's ride of us. I have never seen a man I admire
so much. He is all for peace, though he is a distinguished soldier.
While deeply religious, he has yet the manners of a noble of the
court party. He has no pride, and he is loved by the poor as well
as by the rich. He would have done anything to have avoided war;
but you will see that, now the war has begun, he will be one of our
foremost leaders. I can tell you, Philip, I consider myself
fortunate indeed that I am going to ride in the train of so brave
and accomplished a gentleman."

During the day they learned, from a peasant, of a ford crossing the
Cher, two or three miles below Saint Amand. Entering a village near
the crossing place, they found a peasant who was willing, for a
reward, to guide them across the country to Briare, on the
Loire--their first guide had returned from their first halting
place--and the peasant, being placed on a horse behind a
man-at-arms, took the lead. Their pace was much slower than it had
been the night before, and it was almost daybreak when they passed
the bridge at Briare, having ridden over forty miles. They rode two
or three miles into the mountains after crossing the Loire, and
then halted.

"We must give the horses twenty-four hours here," Francois said. "I
don't think it is above twenty miles on to Chatillon-sur-Loing; but
it is all through the hills, and it is of no use arriving there
with the horses so knocked up as to be useless for service. We have
done three tremendous marches, and anyhow, we shall be there long
before the majority of the parties from the west and south can
arrive. The Admiral and Conde will no doubt be able to gather
sufficient strength, from Champagne and the north of Burgundy, for
his purpose of taking the court by surprise.

"I am afraid there is but little chance of their succeeding. It is
hardly possible that so many parties of Huguenots can have been
crossing the country in all directions to the Admiral's, without an
alarm being given. Meaux is some sixty miles from Chatillon, and if
the court get the news only three or four hours before Conde
arrives there, they will be able to get to Paris before he can cut
them off."

In fact, even while they were speaking, the court was in safety.
The Huguenots of Champagne had their rendezvous at Rosoy, a little
more than twenty miles from Meaux, and they began to arrive there
in the afternoon of the 28th. The Prince of Conde, who was awaiting
them, feeling sure that the news of the movement must, in a few
hours at any rate, be known at Meaux, marched for Lagny on the
Mane, established himself there late in the evening, and seized the
bridge. The news however had, as he feared, already reached the
court; and messages had been despatched in all haste to order up
six thousand Swiss troops, who were stationed at Chateau-Thierry,
thirty miles higher up the Maine.

During the hours that elapsed before their arrival, the court was
in a state of abject alarm, but at one o'clock the Swiss arrived;
and two hours later the court set out, under their protection, for
Paris. The Prince of Conde, who had with him but some four hundred
gentlemen, for the most part armed only with swords, met the force
as it passed by Lagny. He engaged in a slight skirmish with it; but
being unable, with his lightly-armed followers, to effect anything
against the solid body of the Swiss mountaineers, armed with their
long pikes, he fell back to await reinforcements; and the court
reached Paris in safety.

A messenger had arrived at Chatillon with the news when Francois
and Philip rode in. The castle gate stood open. Numbers of Huguenot
gentlemen were standing in excited groups, discussing the news.

"There is my cousin De la Noue!" Francois exclaimed, as he alighted
from his horse. "This is good fortune. I was wondering what we
should do, if we did not find him here;" and he made his way to
where a singularly handsome gentleman was talking with several
others.

"Ah, Francois, is that you? Well arrived, indeed!

"Gentlemen, this is my cousin and namesake, Francois de Laville. He
has ridden across France to join us. Is that your troop, Francois,
entering the gate now? Ah, yes, I see your banner.

"By my faith, it is the best accoutred body we have seen yet. They
make a brave show with their armour and lances. The countess has
indeed shown her goodwill right worthily, and it is no small credit
to you that you should have brought them across from the other side
of Poitou, and yet have arrived here before many who live within a
few leagues of the castle.

"And who is this young gentleman with you?"

"It is my cousin, Philip Fletcher, son of my mother's sister Lucie.
I spoke to you of his coming to us, when you were at Laville three
months since. He has come over in order that he may venture his
life on behalf of our religion and family."

"I am glad to welcome you, young sir. We are, you see, connections;
I being Philip's first cousin on his father's side, and you on that
of his mother. Your spirit in coming over here shows that you
inherit the bravery of your mother's race, and I doubt not that we
shall find that the mixture with the sturdy stock of England will
have added to its qualities. Would that your queen would but take
her proper place, as head of a league of the Protestants of Europe.
Our cause would then be well-nigh won, without the need of striking
a blow."

"Is it true, cousin, that the court has escaped to Paris?"

"Yes. I would that Conde had had but a few hours longer, before
they took the alarm. Another day, and he would have had such a
gathering as it would have puzzled the Swiss to have got through.
His forces were doubled yesterday, and eight hundred have ridden
forth from here this morning to join him.

"I myself, though I made all speed, arrived but two hours since;
and shall, with all who come in this evening, ride forward
tomorrow. The Admiral and his brother, the Cardinal of Chatillon,
will go with us. D'Andelot is already with Conde.

"Now, as your troop is to ride with mine, I will see that they are
disposed for the night together, and that their wants are attended
to. My men have picketed their horses just outside the castle moat;
for, as you see, we are crowded here with gentlemen and their
personal followers, and it would be impossible to make room for
all. I will take your officer to the seneschal, who will see that
your men are provided with bread, meat, and wine.

"Ah, Captain Montpace, you are in command of the troop, I see. I
thought the countess would send so experienced a soldier with them,
and I am proud to have such a well-appointed troop behind me. None
so well armed and orderly have yet arrived. My own at present are
forty strong, and have, like you, made their way across France from
Poitou.

"I could not bring my Bretons," he said, turning to Francois. "The
Huguenots there are but a handful among the Catholics. Happily on
my estates they are good friends together, but I could not call
away men from their homes, at a time like this.

"Now, Captain Montpace, I will show you where your men are to
bivouac, next to my own. Then, if you will come with me to the
seneschal, rations shall be served out to them. Are your horses fit
for another journey?"

"They will be by tomorrow morning, Count. They have only come from
this side of Briare this morning, but though the journey is not
long the road is heavy. They had twenty-four hours' rest before
that, which they needed sorely, having travelled from Laville in
three days."

"Draw a good supply of forage for them from the magazines," De la
Noue said. "See that the saddlebags are well filled in the morning.
There is another heavy day's work before them, and then they can
take a good rest."

Francois and Philip accompanied the troop, and waited until they
saw that they were supplied with provisions and forage, and with
straw for lying down on; then they re-entered the castle. De la
Noue presented them to many of his friends, and then took them in
to the Admiral.

He quite fulfilled the anticipations that Philip had formed of him.
He was of tall figure, with a grave but kindly face. He was dressed
entirely in black, with puffed trunks, doublet to match, and a
large turned-down collar. As was usual, he wore over his shoulders
a loose jacket with a very high collar, the empty sleeves hanging
down on either side. When riding, the arms were thrust into these.
He wore a low soft cap with a narrow brim all round.

The expression of his face, with its short pointed beard,
moustache, and closely trimmed whiskers, was melancholy. The
greatest captain of his age, he was more reluctant than any of his
followers to enter upon civil war; and the fact that he felt that
it was absolutely necessary, to save Protestantism from being
extinguished in blood, in no way reconciled him to it.

He received Francois and his cousin kindly.

"I am glad," he said to the former, "to see the representative of
the Lavilles here. Your father was a dear friend of mine, and fell
fighting bravely by my side. I should have been glad to have had
you riding among my friends; but it is better still for you to be
with your cousin, De la Noue, who is far more suitable as a leader
and guide for youth than I am. You can follow no better example.

"I am glad also," he said, turning to Philip, "to have another
representative of the old family of the De Moulins here; and to
find that, though transplanted to England, it still retains its
affection for France. I trust that, ere long, I may have many of
your countrymen fighting by my side. We have the same interests
and, if the Protestant nations would unite, the demand for the
right of all men, Catholic and Protestant, to worship according to
their consciences could no longer be denied. I regret that your
queen does not permit free and open worship to her Catholic
subjects, since her not doing so affords some sort of excuse to
Catholic kings and princes. Still, I know that this law is not put
rigidly into force, and that the Catholics do, in fact, exercise
the rights of their religion without hindrance or persecution; and
above all, that there is no violent ill will between the people of
the two religions. Would it were so here.

"Were it not that you are going to ride with my good friend here, I
would have said a few words to you; praying you to remember that
you are fighting, not for worldly credit and honour, but for a holy
cause, and it behoves you to bear yourselves gravely and seriously.
But no such advice is needed to those who come under his
influence."

Leaving the Count de la Noue in conversation with the Admiral,
Francois and Philip made their way to the hall; where the tables
were laid, so that all who came, at whatever hour, could at once
obtain food. Their own servants, who were established in the
castle, waited upon them.

"I think that lackey of yours will turn out a very useful fellow,
Philip," Francois said, as they left the hall. "He is quick and
willing, and he turned out our dinner yesterday in good fashion. It
was certainly far better cooked than it had been, by Charles, the
day before."

"I fancy Pierre has done a good deal of cooking in the open air,"
Philip said, "and we shall find that he is capable of turning out
toothsome dishes from very scanty materials."

"I am glad to hear it for, though I am ready to eat horseflesh, if
necessary, I see not why, because we happen to be at war, one
should have to spoil one's teeth by gnawing at meat as hard as
leather. Soldiers are generally bad cooks. They are in too much
haste to get their food, at the end of a long day's work, to waste
much time with the cooking.

"Here comes La Noue again."

"Will you order your troop to be again in the saddle at five
o'clock in the morning, De Laville?" the Count said. "I start with
a party of two hundred at that hour. There will be my own men and
yours. The rest will be gentlemen and their personal retainers."

"I would that it had been three hours later," Francois said, as the
Count left them and moved away, giving similar orders to the other
gentlemen. "I own I hate moving before it is light. There is
nothing ruffles the temper so much as getting up in the dark,
fumbling with your buckles and straps, and finding everyone else
just as surly and cross as you feel yourself. It was considered a
necessary part of my training that I should turn out and arm myself
at all times of the night. It was the part of my exercises that I
hated the most."

Philip laughed.

"It will not make much difference here, Francois. I don't like
getting out of a warm bed, myself, on a dark winter's morning; but
as there will be certainly no undressing tonight, and we shall
merely have to get up and shake the straw off us, it will not
matter much. By half-past five it will be beginning to get light.
At any rate, we should not mind it tomorrow, as it will be really
our first day of military service."

Up to a late hour fresh arrivals continued to pour in, and the
cooks and servants of the castle were kept hard at work,
administering to the wants of the hungry and tired men. There was
no regular set meal, each man feeding as he was disposed. After it
became dark, all the gentlemen of family gathered in the upper part
of the great hall, and there sat talking by the light of torches
until nine. Then the Admiral, with a few of the nobles who had been
in consultation with him, joined them and, a quarter of an hour
later, a pastor entered and prayers were read. Then a number of
retainers came in with trusses of straw, which were shaken down
thickly beside the walls; and as soon as this was done, all present
prepared to lie down.

"The trumpet will sound, gentleman," Francois de la Noue said in a
loud voice, "at half-past four; but this will only concern those
who, as it has already been arranged, will ride with me--the rest
will set out with the Admiral, at seven. I pray each of you who go
with me to bid his servant cut off a goodly portion of bread and
meat, to take along with him, and to place a flask or two of wine
in his saddlebags; for our ride will be a long one, and we are not
likely to be able to obtain refreshment on our way."

"I should have thought," Francois said, as he lay down on the straw
by Philip's side, "that we should have passed through plenty of
places where we could obtain food. Whether we go direct to Paris,
or by the road by Lagny, we pass through Nemours and Melun."

"These places may not open their gates to us, Francois; and in that
case probably we should go through Montereau and Rosoy, and it may
be considered that those who have already gone through to join
Conde may have pretty well stripped both places of provisions."

The trumpet sounded at half-past four. The torches were at once
relighted by the servants, and the gentlemen belonging to La Noue's
party rose, and their servants assisted them to buckle on their
armour. They gave them instructions as to taking some food with
them, and prepared for their journey by an attack on some cold
joints, that had been placed on a table at the lower end of the
hall.

There was a scene of bustle and confusion in the courtyard, as the
horses were brought up by the retainers. The Admiral himself was
there to see the party off and, as they mounted, each issued out
and joined the men drawn up outside. Before starting the minister,
according to Huguenot custom, held a short service; and then, with
a salute to the Admiral, La Noue took his place at their head and
rode away.

With him went some twenty or thirty gentlemen, behind whom rode
their body servants After these followed some fifty men-at-arms,
and the troops of La Noue and Laville. As soon as they were off, La
Noue reined in his horse so as to ride in the midst of his friends,
and chatted gaily with them as they went along.

An hour and a half's brisk riding took them to Montargis. Instead
of keeping straight on, as most of those present expected, the two
men who were riding a short distance in advance of the column
turned sharp off to the left, in the middle of the town.

"I am going to give you a surprise, gentlemen," De la Noue said,
with a smile. "I will tell you what it is when we are once outside
the place."

"I suppose," one of the gentlemen from the province, who was riding
next to Philip, said, "we are going to strike the main road from
Orleans north; to ride through Etampes, and take post between
Versailles and Paris on the south side of the river; while the
Prince and his following beleaguer the place on the north. It is a
bold plan thus to divide our forces, but I suppose the Admiral's
party will follow us and, by taking post on the south side of the
river, we shall straiten Paris for provisions."

"Gentlemen," the Count said, when they had issued from the streets
of Montargis, "I can now tell you the mission which the Admiral has
done me the honour to confide to me. It was thought best to keep
the matter an absolute secret, until we were thus fairly on our
way; because, although we hope and believe that there is not a man
at Chatillon who is not to be trusted, there may possibly be a spy
of the Guises there, and it would have been wrong to run the risk
of betrayal.

"Well, my friends, our object is the capture of Orleans."

An exclamation of surprise broke from many of his hearers.

"It seems a bold enterprise to undertake, with but little over two
hundred men," La Noue went on with a smile; "but we have friends
there. D'Andelot has been, for the last ten days, in communication
with one of them. We may, of course, expect to meet with a stout
resistance but, with the advantage of a surprise, and with so many
gallant gentlemen with me, I have no shadow of fear as to the
result. I need not point out to you how important its possession
will be to us. It will keep open a road to the south; will afford a
rallying place for all our friends, in this part of France; and the
news of its capture will give immense encouragement to our
co-religionists throughout the country. Besides, it will
counterbalance the failure to seize the court, and will serve as an
example, to others, to attempt to obtain possession of strong
places.

"We shall ride at an easy pace today, for the distance is long and
the country hilly. We could not hope to arrive there until too late
to finish our work before dark. Moreover, most of our horses have
already had very hard work during the past few days. We have
started early, in order that we may have a halt of four hours in
the middle of the day. We are to be met tonight by our friend, the
Master of Grelot, five miles this side of the city. He will tell us
what arrangements have been made for facilitating our entrance."

"This is a glorious undertaking, Philip, is it not?" Francois said.
"Until now I have been thinking how unfortunate we were, in being
too late to ride with Conde. Now I see that what I thought was a
loss has turned out a gain."

"You do not think Conde will be able to do anything against Paris?"
Philip asked.

"Certainly not at present. What can some fifteen hundred horsemen
and as many infantry (and he will have no more force than that, for
another three or four days) do against Paris with its walls and its
armed population, and the Guises and their friends and retainers,
to say nothing of the six thousand Swiss? If our leaders thought
they were going to fight at once, they would hardly have sent two
hundred good troops off in another direction. I expect we shall
have plenty of time to get through this and other expeditions, and
then to join the Prince in front of Paris before any serious
fighting takes place."

"Do you know how far it is across the hills to Orleans?" Philip
asked the gentlemen next to him on the other side.

"It is over fifty miles, but how much more I do not know. I am a
native of the province, but I have never travelled along this road,
which can be but little used. East of Montargis the traffic goes by
the great road through Melun to Paris; while the traffic of
Orleans, of course, goes north through Etampes."

They rode on until noon, and then dismounted by a stream, watered
and fed the horses, partook of a meal from the contents of their
saddlebags, and then rested for four hours to recruit the strength
of their horses. The soldiers mostly stretched themselves on the
sward and slept. A few of the gentlemen did the same, but most of
them sat chatting in groups, discussing the enterprise upon which
they were engaged.

Francois and Philip went among their men with Captain Montpace,
inspected the horses, examined their shoes, saw that fresh nails
were put in where required, chatting with the men as they did so.

"I felt sure we should not be long before we were engaged on some
stirring business," the Captain said. "The Count de la Noue is not
one to let the grass grow under his feet. I saw much of him in the
last campaign; and the count, your father, had a very high opinion
of his military abilities. At first he was looked upon somewhat
doubtfully in our camp, seeing that he did not keep a long face,
but was ready with a jest and a laugh with high and low, and that
he did not affect the soberness of costume favoured by our party;
but that soon passed off, when it was seen how zealous he was in
the cause, how ready to share in any dangerous business; while he
set an example to all, by the cheerfulness with which he bore
fatigue and hardship. Next to the Admiral himself, and his brother
D'Andelot, there was no officer more highly thought of by the
troops.

"This is certainly a bold enterprise that he has undertaken now, if
it be true what I have heard, since we halted, that we are going to
make a dash at Orleans. It is a big city for two hundred men to
capture; even though, no doubt, we have numbers of friends within
the walls."

"All the more glory and credit to us, Montpace," Francois said
gaily. "Why, the news that Orleans is captured will send a thrill
through France, and will everywhere encourage our friends to rise
against our oppressors. We are sure to take them by surprise, for
they will believe that all the Huguenots in this part of France are
hastening to join the Prince before Paris."

At four o'clock the party got in motion again and, an hour after
dark, entered a little village among the hills, about five miles
north of the town. De la Noue at once placed a cordon of sentries,
with orders that neither man, woman, nor child was to be allowed to
leave it. Orders were issued, to the startled peasants, that all
were to keep within their doors, at the peril of their lives. The
horses were picketed in the street, and the soldiers stowed in
barns; trusses of straw were strewn round a fire for La Noue, and
the gentlemen who followed him.

At eight o'clock two videttes, thrown forward some distance along
the road, rode in with a horseman. It was the Master of Grelot who,
as he rode up to the fire, was heartily greeted by the Count.

"I am glad to find you here, Count," he said. "I knew you to be a
man of your word, but in warfare things often occur to upset the
best calculations."

"Is everything going on well at Orleans?" De la Noue asked.

"Everything. I have made all my arrangements. A party of
five-and-twenty men I can depend on will, tomorrow morning at seven
o'clock, gather near the gate this side of the town. They will come
up in twos and threes and, just as the guard are occupied in
unbarring the gate, they will fall upon them. The guard is fifteen
strong and, as they will be taken by surprise, they will be able to
offer but a faint resistance.

"Of course, you with your troop will be lying in readiness near. As
soon as they have taken possession of the gateway, the party will
issue out and wave a white flag, as a signal to you that all is
clear; and you will be in before the news that the gateway has been
seized can spread. After that you will know what to do. In addition
to the men who are to carry out the enterprise, you will shortly be
joined by many others. Word has been sent round to our partisans
that they may speedily expect deliverance; and bidding them be
prepared, whenever they are called upon, to take up their arms and
join those who come to free them.

"A large number of the town folk are secretly either wholly with us
or well disposed towards us; and, although some will doubtless take
up arms on the other side, I think that, with the advantage of the
surprise, and with such assistance as our party can give you, there
is every chance of bringing the enterprise to a successful issue.

"One of our friends, who has a residence within a bow shot of the
gates, has arranged with me that your troop, arriving there before
daylight, shall at once enter his grounds, where they will be
concealed from the sight of any country people going towards the
city. From the upper windows the signal can be seen and, if you are
mounted and ready, you can be there in three or four minutes; and
it will take longer than that before the alarm can spread, and the
Catholics muster strongly enough to recapture the gate."

"Admirably arranged," the Count said warmly. "With a plan so well
laid, our scheme can hardly fail of success. If we only do our part
as well as you have done yours, Orleans is as good as won.

"Now, gentlemen, I advise you to toss off one more goblet of wine,
and then to wrap yourselves up in your cloaks for a few hours'
sleep. We must be in the saddle soon after four, so as to be off
the road by five."

At that hour the troop, led by the Master of Grelot, turned in at
the gate of the chateau. The owner was awaiting them, and gave them
a cordial welcome. The men were ordered to dismount and stand by
their horses, while the leaders followed their host into the house,
where a repast had been laid out for them; while some servitors
took out baskets of bread and flagons of wine to the troopers.

At half-past six groups of countrymen were seen, making their way
along the road towards the gate and, a quarter of an hour later,
the troop mounted and formed up, in readiness to issue out as soon
as the signal was given; their host placing himself at an upper
window, whence he could obtain a view of the city gate.

It was just seven when he called out "The gate is opening!" and
immediately afterwards, "They have begun the work. The country
people outside are running away in a panic.

"Ah! there is the white flag."

Two servitors at the gate of the chateau threw it open and, headed
by La Noue and the gentlemen of the party, they issued out and
galloped down the road at full speed. As they approached the gate
some men ran out, waving their caps and swords.

"Well done!" La Noue exclaimed, as he rode up. "Now, scatter and
call out all our friends to aid us in the capture."

The troop had been already divided into four parties, each led by
gentlemen familiar with the town. Francois and Philip, with the men
from Laville, formed the party led by the Count himself. The news
of the tumult at the gate had spread and, just as they reached the
marketplace, a body of horsemen, equal in strength to their own,
rode towards them.

"For God and the religion!" La Noue shouted, as he led the charge.

Ignorant of the strength of their assailants, and having mounted in
haste at the first alarm, the opposing band hesitated; and before
they could set their horses into a gallop, the Huguenots were upon
them. The impetus of the charge was irresistible. Men and horses
rolled over, while those in the rear turned and rode away; and the
combat was over before scarce a blow had been struck.

A party of infantry, hastening up, were next encountered. These
offered a more stubborn resistance, but threw down their arms and
surrendered, when another of the Huguenot parties rode into the
square.

At the sound of the conflict the upper windows of the houses were
opened, and the citizens looked out in alarm at the struggle. But
the Catholics, having neither orders nor plan, dared not venture
out; while the Huguenots mustered rapidly, with arms in their
hands; and rendered valuable assistance to the horsemen, in
attacking and putting to flight the parties of Catholic horse and
foot, as they came hurriedly up.

In an hour all resistance had ceased and Orleans was taken. The
Count at once issued a proclamation to the citizens, assuring all
peaceable persons of protection; and guaranteeing to the citizens
immunity from all interference with personal property, and the
right of full exercise of their religion. The charge of the gates
was given over to the Huguenot citizens. Parties of horse were told
off to patrol the streets, to see that order was preserved, and to
arrest any using threats or violence to the citizens; and in a very
few hours the town resumed its usual appearance.

Now that all fear of persecution was at an end, large numbers of
the citizens, who had hitherto concealed their leanings towards the
new religion, openly avowed them; and La Noue saw with satisfaction
that the town could be safely left to the keeping of the Huguenot
adherents, with the assistance only of a few men to act as leaders.
These he selected from the gentlemen of the province who had come
with him and, as soon as these had entered upon their duties, he
felt free to turn his attention elsewhere.

Two days were spent in appointing a council of the leading
citizens, the Huguenots of course being in the majority. To them
was intrusted the management of the affairs of the town, and the
maintenance of order. The young nobleman appointed as governor was
to have entire charge of military matters. All Huguenots capable of
bearing arms were to be formed up in companies, each of which was
to appoint its own officers. They were to practise military
exercises, to have charge of the gates and walls, and to be
prepared to defend them, in case a hostile force should lay siege
to the city.

Three of the nobles were appointed to see to the victualling of the
town; and all citizens were called upon to contribute a sum,
according to their means, for this purpose. A few old soldiers were
left to drill the new levies, to see that the walls were placed in
a thorough condition of defence, and above all to aid the leaders
in suppressing any attempt at the ill-treatment of Catholics, or
the desecration of their churches, by the Huguenot portion of the
population.

When all arrangements were made for the peace and safety of the
town, De la Noue despatched most of the gentlemen with him, and
their followers, to join the Prince of Conde before Paris;
retaining only his Cousin Francois, Philip, the troop from Laville,
and his own band of forty men-at-arms.



Chapter 6: The Battle Of Saint Denis.


Francois de Laville and Philip had fought by the side of La Noue,
in the engagement in the streets of Orleans; but had seen little of
the Count afterwards, his time being fully employed in completing
the various arrangements to ensure the safety of the town. They had
been lodged in the house of one of the Huguenot citizens, and had
spent their time walking about the town, or in the society of some
of the younger gentlemen of their party.

"Are you both ready for service again?" the Count de la Noue, who
had sent for them to come to his lodgings, asked on the evening of
the third day after the capture of Orleans.

"Quite ready," Francois replied. "The horses have all recovered
from their fatigue, and are in condition for a fresh start. Are we
bound for Paris, may I ask?"

"No, Francois, we are going on a recruiting tour: partly because we
want men, but more to encourage our people by the sight of an armed
party, and to show the Catholics that they had best stay their
hands, and leave us alone for the present.

"I take a hundred men with me, including your troop and my own,
which I hope largely to increase. Sometimes we shall keep in a
body, sometimes break up into two or three parties. Always we shall
move rapidly, so as to appear where least expected, and so spread
uneasiness as to where we may next appear.

"In the south we are, as I hear, holding our own. I shall therefore
go first to Brittany and, if all is quiet, there raise another
fifty men. We shall travel through Touraine and Anjou as we go, and
then sweep round by Normandy and La Perche, and so up to Paris.

"So you see, we shall put a good many miles of ground under our
feet, before we join the Prince. In that way not only shall we
swell our numbers and encourage our friends, but we shall deter
many of the Catholic gentry from sending their retainers to join
the army of the Guises."

"It will be a pleasant ride, cousin," Francois said, "and I hope
that we shall have an opportunity of doing some good work, before
we reach Paris; and especially that we shall not arrive there too
late to join in the coming battle."

"I do not think that there is much fear of that," the Count
replied. "The Prince has not sufficient strength to attack Paris.
And for my part, I think that it would have been far better, when
it was found that his plan of seizing the court had failed, to have
drawn off at once. He can do nothing against Paris, and his
presence before it will only incite the inhabitants against us, and
increase their animosity. It would have been better to have applied
the force in reducing several strong towns where, as at Orleans,
the bulk of the inhabitants are favourable to us. In this way we
should weaken the enemy, strengthen ourselves, and provide places
of refuge for our people in case of need. However, it is too late
for such regrets. The Prince is there, and we must take him what
succour we can.

"I was pleased with you both, in the fights upon the day we
entered. You both behaved like brave gentlemen and good swordsmen.
I expected no less from you, Francois; but I was surprised to find
your English cousin so skilled with his weapon."

"He is a better swordsman than I am," Francois said; "which is a
shame to me, since he is two years my junior."

"Is he indeed!" the Count said in surprise. "I had taken him to be
at least your equal in years. Let me think, you are but eighteen
and some months?"

"But a month over eighteen," Francois said, "and Philip has but
just passed sixteen."

"You will make a doughty warrior when you attain your full
strength, Philip. I saw you put aside a thrust from an officer in
the melee, and strike him from his horse with a backhanded cut with
your sword, dealt with a vigour that left nothing to be desired."

"I know that I am too fond of using the edge, sir," Philip said,
modestly. "My English masters taught me to do so and, although my
French instructors at home were always impressing upon me that the
point was more deadly than the edge, I cannot break myself
altogether from the habit."

"There is no need to do so," the Count said. "Of late the point has
come into fashion among us, and doubtless it has advantages; but
often a downright blow will fetch a man from his saddle, when you
would in vain try to find, with the point, a joint in his armour.
But you must have been well taught, indeed, if you are a better
swordsman than my cousin; whose powers I have tried at Laville, and
found him to be an excellent swordsman, for his age."

"I have had many masters," Philip said. "Both my French and English
teachers were good swordsmen; and it was seldom a Frenchman who had
been in the wars passed through Canterbury, that my uncle did not
engage him to give me a few lessons. Thus, being myself very
anxious to become a good swordsman, and being fond of exercises, I
naturally picked up a great many tricks with the sword."

"You could not have spent your time better, if you had an intention
of coming over to take part in our troubles here. Your grandfather,
De Moulins, was said to be one of the best swordsmen in France; and
you may have inherited some of his skill. I own that I felt rather
uneasy at the charge of two such young cockerels, though I could
not refuse when the countess, my aunt, begged me to let you ride
with me; but in future I shall feel easy about you, seeing that you
can both take your own parts stoutly.

"Well, order your men to be ready and mounted, in the marketplace,
at half-past five. The west gate will be opened for us to ride
forth at six."

Philip had every reason to be satisfied with the conduct of his new
servant. In the town, as at Laville, Pierre behaved circumspectly
and quietly; assuming a grave countenance in accordance with his
surroundings, keeping his arms and armour brightly polished, and
waiting at table as orderly as if he had been used to nothing else
all his life.

"I am glad to hear it, sir," Pierre said, when Philip informed him
that they would start on the following morning. "I love not towns;
and here, where there is nought to do but to polish your armour,
and stand behind your chair at dinner, the time goes mighty
heavily."

"You will have no cause to grumble on that account, Pierre, I
fancy, for your ride will be a long one. I do not expect we shall
often have a roof over our heads."

"All the better, sir, so long as the ride finishes before the cold
weather sets in. Fond as I am of sleeping with the stars over me; I
own that, when the snow is on the ground, I prefer a roof over my
head."

At six o'clock the party started. Only two other gentlemen rode
with it, both of whom were, like the Count, from Brittany. The
little group chatted gaily as they rode along. Unless they happened
to encounter parties of Catholics going north, to join the royal
army, there was, so far as they knew, no chance of their meeting
any body of the enemy on their westward ride.

The towns of Vendome, Le Mans, and Laval were all strongly
Catholic, and devoted to the Guises. These must be skirted. Rennes
in Brittany must also be avoided, for all these towns were strongly
garrisoned, and could turn out a force far too strong for La Noue
to cope with.

Upon the march, Pierre was not only an invaluable servant but the
life of the troop; he being full of fun and frolic, and making even
the gravest soldier smile at his sallies. When they halted, he was
indefatigable in seeing after Philip's comforts. He cut boughs of
the trees best suited for the purpose of making a couch, and
surprised his master and Francois by his ingenuity in turning out
excellent dishes from the scantiest materials. He would steal away
in the night to procure fowls and eggs from neighbouring farmhouses
and, although Philip's orders were that he was to pay the full
price for everything he required, Philip found, when he gave an
account a fortnight later of how he had spent the money he had
given him, that there was no mention of any payment for these
articles. When he rated Pierre for this, the latter replied:

"I did not pay for them, sir. Not in order to save you money, but
for the sake of the farmers and their families. It would have been
worse than cruelty to have aroused them from sleep. The loss of a
fowl or two, and of a dozen eggs, were nothing to them. If they
missed them at all, they would say that a fox had been there, and
they would think no more of it. If, on the other hand, I had waked
them up in the middle of the night to pay for these trifles, they
would have been scared out of their life; thinking, when I knocked,
that some band of robbers was at the door. In their anger at being
thus disturbed they would have been capable of shooting me; and it
is well nigh certain that, at any rate, they would have refused to
sell their chickens and eggs at that time of the night.

"So you see, sir, I acted for the best for all parties. Two
chickens out of scores was a loss not worth thinking of, while the
women escaped the panic and terror that my waking them up would
have caused them. When I can pay I will assuredly do so, since that
is your desire; but I am sure you will see that, under such
circumstances, it would be a crime to wake people from their sleep
for the sake of a few sous."

Philip laughed.

"Besides, sir," Pierre went on, "these people were either Huguenots
or Catholics. If they were Huguenots, they would be right glad to
minister to those who are fighting on their behalf. If they were
Catholics, they would rob and murder us without mercy. Therefore
they may think themselves fortunate, indeed, to escape at so
trifling a cost from the punishment they deserve."

"That is all very well, Pierre; but the orders are strict against
plundering and, if the Admiral were to catch you, you would get a
sound thrashing with a stirrup leather."

"I have risked worse than that, sir, many times in my life; and if
I am caught, I will give them leave to use the strap. But you will
see, Monsieur Philip, that if the war goes on these niceties will
soon become out of fashion. At present the Huguenot lords and
gentlemen have money in their pockets to pay for what they want,
but after a time money will become scarce. They will see that the
armies of the king live on plunder, as armies generally do; and
when cash runs short, they will have to shut their eyes and let the
men provide themselves as best they can."

"I hope the war won't last long enough for that, Pierre. But at any
rate, we have money in our pockets at present, and can pay for what
we require; though I do not pretend that it is a serious matter to
take a hen out of a coop, especially when you can't get it
otherwise, without, as you say, alarming a whole family. However,
remember my orders are that everything we want is to be paid for."

"I understand, sir, and you will see that the next time we reckon
up accounts every item shall be charged for, so that there will be
nothing on your conscience."

Philip laughed again.

"I shall be content if that is the case, Pierre; and I hope that
your conscience will be as clear as mine will be."

On the third of November, just a month after leaving Orleans, De La
Noue, with his troop augmented to three hundred, joined the Prince
of Conde before Paris. During the interval, he had traversed the
west of France by the route he had marked out for himself, had
raised fifty more men among the Huguenots of Brittany, and had been
joined on the route by many gentlemen with parties of their
retainers.

Several bodies of Catholics had been met and dispersed. Two or
three small towns, where the Huguenots had been ill treated and
massacred, were entered. The ringleaders in the persecutions had
been hung, and the authorities had been compelled to pay a heavy
fine, under threat of the whole town being committed to the flames.
Everywhere he passed La Noue had caused proclamations to be
scattered far and wide, to the effect that any ill treatment of
Huguenots would be followed by his return, and by the heaviest
punishment being inflicted upon all who molested them.

And so, having given great encouragement to the Huguenots, and
scattered terror among their persecutors; having ridden great
distances, and astonished the people of the western provinces by
his energy and activity; La Noue joined the Prince of Conde, with
three hundred men. He was heartily welcomed on his arrival at the
Huguenot camp at Saint Denis.

Francois de Laville and Philip Fletcher had thoroughly enjoyed the
expedition. They had often been in the saddle from early morning to
late at night; and had felt the benefit of having each two horses
as, when the party halted for a day or two, they were often sent
out with half their troop to visit distant places--to see friends;
to bring into the camp magistrates, and others, who had been
foremost in stirring up the people to attack the Huguenots; to
enter small towns, throw open prisons and carry off the Huguenots
confined there; and occasionally to hang the leaders of local
massacres. In these cases they were always accompanied by one or
other of the older leaders, in command of the party.

Their spare chargers enabled them to be on horseback every day,
while half the troop rested in turn. Sometimes their halts were
made in small towns and villages, but more often they bivouacked in
the open country; being thus, the Count considered, more watchful
and less apt to be surprised.

On their return from these expeditions, Pierre always had a meal
prepared for them. In addition to the rations of meat and bread,
chicken and eggs, he often contrived to serve up other and daintier
food. His old poaching habits were not forgotten. As soon as the
camp was formed, he would go out and set snares for hares, traps
for birds, and lay lines in the nearest stream; while fish and
game, of some sort, were generally added to the fare.

"Upon my word," the Count, who sometimes rode with them, said one
evening, "this varlet of yours, Master Philip, is an invaluable
fellow; and Conde, himself, cannot be better served than you are. I
have half a mind to take him away from you, and to appoint him
Provider-in-General to our camp. I warrant me he never learned thus
to provide a table, honestly; he must have all the tricks of a
poacher at his fingers' end."

"I fancy, when he was young, he had to shift a good deal for
himself, sir," Philip replied.

"I thought so," La Noue laughed. "I marked him once or twice,
behind your chair at Orleans; and methought, then, that he looked
too grave to be honest; and there was a twinkle in his eye, that
accorded badly with the gravity of his face, and his sober attire.

"Well, there can be no doubt that, in war, a man who has a spice of
the rogue in him makes the best of servants; provided he is but
faithful to his master, and respects his goods, if he does those of
no one else. Your rogue is necessarily a man of resources; and one
of that kind will, on a campaign, make his master comfortable,
where one with an over-scrupulous varlet will well-nigh starve. I
had such a man, when I was with Brissac in Northern Italy; but one
day he went out, and never returned. Whether a provost marshal did
me the ill service of hanging him, or whether he was shot by the
peasants, I never knew; but I missed him sorely, and often went
fasting to bed, when I should have had a good supper had he been
with me.

"It is lucky for you both that you haven't to depend upon that
grim-visaged varlet of Francois'. I have no doubt that the countess
thought she was doing well by my cousin, when she appointed him to
go with him, and I can believe that he would give his life for him;
but for all that, if you had to depend upon him for your meals, you
would fare badly, indeed."

De la Noue was much disappointed, on joining the Prince, at finding
that the latter's force had not swollen to larger dimensions. He
had with him, after the arrival of the force the Count had brought
from the west, but two thousand horse. Of these a large proportion
were gentlemen, attended only by a few personal retainers. A fifth
only were provided with lances, and a large number had no defensive
armour. Of foot soldiers he had about the same number as of horse,
and of these about half were armed with arquebuses, the rest being
pikemen.

The force under the command of the Constable de Montmorency, inside
the walls of Paris, was known to be enormously superior in
strength; and the Huguenots were unable to understand why he did
not come out to give them battle. They knew, however, that Count
Aremberg was on his way from the Netherlands, with seventeen
hundred horse, sent by the Duke of Alva to the support of the
Catholics; and they supposed that Montmorency was waiting for this
reinforcement.

On the 9th of November news arrived that Aremberg was approaching,
and D'Andelot, with five hundred horse and eight hundred of the
best-trained arquebusiers, was despatched to seize Poissy, and so
prevent Aremberg entering Paris.

The next morning the Constable, learning that Conde had weakened
his army by this detachment, marched out from Paris. Seldom have
two European armies met with a greater disparity of numbers; for
while Conde had but fifteen hundred horse and twelve hundred foot,
the Constable marched out with sixteen thousand infantry, of whom
six thousand were Swiss, and three thousand horse. He had eighteen
pieces of artillery, while Conde was without a single cannon.

As soon as this force was seen pouring out from the gates of Paris,
the Huguenot trumpets blew to arms. All wore over their coats or
armour a white scarf, the distinguishing badge of the Huguenots;
and the horsemen were divided into three bodies. De la Noue and his
following formed part of that under the personal command of Conde.

"We longed to be here in time for this battle, Philip," Francois
said; "but I think this is rather more than we bargained for. They
must be nearly ten to one against us. There is one thing: although
the Swiss are good soldiers, the rest of their infantry are for the
most part Parisians, and though these gentry have proved themselves
very valiant in the massacre of unarmed Huguenot men, women, and
children, I have no belief in their valour, when they have to meet
men with swords in their hands. I would, however, that D'Andelot,
with his five hundred horse and eight hundred arquebusiers, all
picked men, were here with us; even if Aremberg, with his seventeen
hundred horse, were ranged under the Constable.

"As it is, I can hardly believe that Conde and the Admiral will
really lead us against that huge mass. I should think that they can
but be going to manoeuvre so as to fall back in good order, and
show a firm face to the enemy. Their footmen would then be of no
use to them and, as I do not think their horse are more than twice
our strength, we might turn upon them when we get them away from
their infantry, and beyond the range of their cannon."

As soon, however, as the troops were fairly beyond the gates of
Saint Denis, the leaders placed themselves at the head of the three
columns and, with a few inspiring words, led them forward. Coligny
was on the right; La Rochefoucauld, Genlis, and other leaders on
the left; and the column commanded by Conde, himself, in the
centre.

Conde, with a number of nobles and gentlemen, rode in front of the
line. Behind them came the men-at-arms with lances, while those
armed only with swords and pistols followed.

Coligny, on the right, was most advanced, and commenced the battle
by charging furiously down upon the enemy's left.

Facing Conde were the great mass of the Catholic infantry but,
without a moment's hesitation, the little band of but five hundred
horse charged right down upon them. Fortunately for them it was the
Parisians, and not the Swiss, upon whom their assault fell. The
force and impetus of their rush was too much for the Parisians, who
broke at the onset, threw away their arms, and fled in a disorderly
mob towards the gates of Paris.

"Never mind those cowards," the Prince shouted, "there is nobler
game!" and, followed by his troop, he rode at the Constable; who,
with a thousand horse, had taken his post behind the infantry.
Before this body of cavalry could advance to meet the Huguenots,
the latter were among them, and a desperate hand-to-hand melee took
place. Gradually the Huguenots won their way into the mass;
although the old Constable, fighting as stoutly as the youngest
soldier, was setting a splendid example to his troops.

Robert Stuart, a Scotch gentleman in Conde's train, fought his way
up to him and demanded his surrender. The Constable's reply was a
blow with the hilt of the sword which nearly struck Stuart from his
horse, knocking out three of his teeth. A moment later the
Constable was struck by a pistol ball, but whether it was fired by
Stuart himself, or one of the gentlemen by his side, was never
known. The Constable fell, but the fight still raged.

The Royalists, recovered from the first shock, were now pressing
their adversaries. Conde's horse was shot by a musket ball and, in
falling, pinned him to the ground so that he was unable to
extricate himself. De la Noue, followed by Francois and Philip, who
were fighting by his side, and other gentlemen, saw his peril and,
rushing forward, drove back Conde's assailants. Two gentlemen,
leaping from their horses, extricated the Prince from his fallen
steed and, after hard fighting, placed him on a horse before one of
them; and the troops, repulsing every attack made on them, fell
slowly back to Saint Denis.

On the right, Coligny had more than held his own against the enemy;
but on the left the Huguenots, encountering Marshal de Montmorency,
the eldest son of the Constable, and suffering heavily from the
arquebus and artillery fire, had been repulsed; and the Catholics
here had gained considerable advantages. The flight of a large
portion of the infantry, and the disorder caused in the cavalry by
the charges of Conde and Coligny, prevented the Marshal from
following up his advantage; and as the Huguenots fell back upon
Saint Denis the Royalists retired into Paris, where the wounded
Constable had already been carried.

Victory was claimed by both sides, but belonged to neither. Each
party had lost about four hundred men, a matter of much greater
consequence to the Huguenots than to the Catholics, the more so as
a large proportion of the slain on their side were gentlemen of
rank. Upon the other hand the loss of the Constable, who died next
day, paralysed for a time the Catholic forces.

A staunch and even bigoted Catholic, and opposed to any terms of
toleration being granted to the Huguenots, he was opposed to the
ambition of the Guises; and was the head of the Royalist party, as
distinguished from that of Lorraine. Catharine, who was the moving
spirit of the court, hesitated to give the power he possessed, as
Constable, into hands that might use it against her; and persuaded
the king to bestow the supreme command of the army upon his
brother, Henri, Duke of Anjou. The divisions in the court, caused
by the death of the Constable and the question of his successor,
prevented any fresh movements of the army; and enabled the Prince
of Conde, after being rejoined by D'Andelot's force, to retire
unmolested three days after the battle; the advanced guard of the
Royalists having been driven back into Paris by D'Andelot on his
return when, in his disappointment at being absent from the battle,
he fell fiercely upon the enemy, and pursued them hotly to the
gates, burning several windmills close under the walls.

On the evening of the battle De la Noue had presented his cousin
and Philip to the Prince, speaking in high terms of the bravery
they displayed in the battle, and they had received Conde's thanks
for the part they had taken in his rescue from the hands of the
Catholics. The Count himself had praised them highly, but had
gently chided Francois for the rashness he had shown.

"It is well to be brave, Francois, but that is not enough. A man
who is brave without being prudent may, with fortune, escape as you
have done from a battle without serious wounds; but he cannot hope
for such fortune many times, and his life would be a very short
one. Several times today you were some lengths ahead of me in the
melee; and once or twice I thought you lost, for I was too closely
pressed, myself, to render you assistance. It was the confusion,
alone, that saved you.

"Your life is a valuable one. You are the head of an old family,
and have no right to throw your life away. Nothing could have been
more gallant than your behaviour, Francois; but you must learn to
temper bravery by prudence.

"Your cousin showed his English blood and breeding. When we charged
he was half a length behind me, and at that distance he remained
through the fight; except when I was very hotly pressed, when he at
once closed up beside me. More than once I glanced round at him,
and he was fighting with the coolness of a veteran. It was he who
called my attention to Conde's fall which, in the melee, might have
passed unnoticed by me until it was too late to save him. He kept
his pistols in his holsters throughout the fray; and it was only
when they pressed us so hotly, as we were carrying off the Prince,
that he used them; and, as I observed, with effect. I doubt if
there was a pistol save his undischarged, at that time. They were a
reserve that he maintained for the crisis of the fight.

"Master Philip, I trust that you will have but small opportunity
for winning distinction in this wretched struggle; but were it to
last, which heaven forbid, I should say that you would make a name
for yourself; as assuredly will my cousin Francois, if he were to
temper his enthusiasm with coolness."

The evening before the Huguenots retired from Saint Denis, the
Count sent for Francois and his cousin.

"As you will have heard," he said, "we retire tomorrow morning. We
have done all, and more than all, that could have been expected
from such a force. We have kept Paris shut up for ten weeks, and
have maintained our position in face of a force, commanded by the
Constable of France, of well-nigh tenfold our strength.

"We are now going to march east, to effect a junction with a force
under Duke Casimir. He is to bring us over six thousand horse,
three thousand foot, and four cannon. The march will be toilsome;
but the Admiral's skill will, I doubt not, enable us to elude the
force with which the enemy will try to bar our way.

"The Admiral is sending off the Sieur D'Arblay, whom you both know,
to the south of France, in order that he may explain to our friends
there the reason for our movement to the east; for otherwise the
news, that we have broken up from before Paris, may cause great
discouragement. I have proposed to him that you should both
accompany him. You have frequently ridden under his orders, during
our expedition to the west, and he knows your qualities.

"He has gladly consented to receive you as his companions. It will
be pleasant for him to have two gentlemen with him. He takes with
him his own following, of eight men; six of his band fell in the
battle. The Admiral is of opinion that this is somewhat too small a
force for safety; but if you each take the four men-at-arms who
ride behind you, it will double his force. Two of yours fell in the
fight, I believe, Francois."

"I have taken two others from the troop to fill their places."

"Your men all came out of it, Philip, did they not?"

"Yes, sir. They were all wounded, but none of them seriously, and
are all fit to ride."

"You will understand, Francois, that in separating you from myself
I am doing so for your sakes, alone. It will be the Admiral's
policy to avoid fighting. Winter is close upon us, and the work
will be hard and toilsome; and doubtless, ere we effect a junction
with the Germans, very many will succumb to cold and hardship. You
are not as yet inured to this work, and I would rather not run the
risk of your careers ending from such causes.

"If I thought there was a prospect of fighting I should keep you
with me but, being as it is, I think it better you should accompany
the Sieur D'Arblay. The mission is a dangerous one, and will demand
activity, energy, and courage, all of which you possess; but in the
south you will have neither cold nor famine to contend with, and
far greater opportunities, maybe, of gaining credit than you would
in an army like this where, as they have proved to the enemy, every
man is brave.

"Another reason, I may own, is that in this case I consider your
youth to be an advantage. We could hardly have sent one gentleman
on such a mission, alone; and with two of equal rank and age, each
with eight followers, difficulties and dissensions might have
arisen; while you would both be content to accept the orders of the
Sieur D'Arblay without discussion, and to look up to him as the
leader of your party."

Although they would rather have remained with the army, the lads at
once thanked the Count; and stated their willingness to accompany
the Sieur D'Arblay, whom they both knew and liked--being, like De
la Noue, cheerful and of good spirits; not deeming it necessary to
maintain at all times a stern and grave aspect, or a ruggedness of
manner, as well as sombre garments.

De la Noue at once took them across to D'Arblay's tent.

"My cousin and his kinsman will gladly ride with you, and place
themselves under your orders, D'Arblay. I can warmly commend them
to you. Though they are young I can guarantee that you will find
them, if it comes to blows, as useful as most men ten years their
senior; and on any mission that you may intrust to them, I think
that you can rely upon their discretion; but of that you will judge
for yourself, when you know somewhat more of them. They will take
with them eight men-at-arms, all of whom will be stout fellows; so
that, with your own men, you can traverse the country without fear
of any party you are likely to fall in with."

"I shall be glad to have your cousin and his kinsman with me,"
D'Arblay said courteously. "Between you and I, De la Noue, I would
infinitely rather have two bright young fellows of spirit than one
of our tough old warriors, who deem it sinful to smile, and have
got a text handy for every occasion. It is not a very bright world
for us, at present; and I see not the use of making it sadder, by
always wearing a gloomy countenance."

The next morning the party started, and rode south. Avoiding the
places held by the Catholics, they visited many of the chateaux of
Huguenot gentlemen, to whom D'Arblay communicated the instructions
he had received, from the Admiral, as to the assemblage of troops,
and the necessity for raising such a force as would compel the
Royalists to keep a considerable army in the south, and so lessen
the number who would gather to oppose his march eastward.

After stopping for a short time in Navarre, and communicating with
some of the principal leaders in that little kingdom, they turned
eastward. They were now passing through a part of the country where
party spirit was extremely bitter, and were obliged to use some
caution, as they were charged to communicate with men who were
secretly well affected to the cause; but who, living within reach
of the bigoted parliament of Toulouse, dared not openly avow their
faith.

Toulouse had, from the time the troubles first began, distinguished
itself for the ferocity with which it had persecuted the Huguenots;
yielding obedience to the various royal edicts of toleration most
reluctantly, and sometimes openly disobeying them. Thus, for many
miles round the city, those of the Reformed faith lived in
continual dread; conducting their worship with extreme secrecy,
when some pastor in disguise visited the neighbourhood, and
outwardly conforming to the rites of the Catholic church. Many,
however, only needed the approach of a Huguenot army to throw off
the mask and take up arms; and it was with these that D'Arblay was
specially charged to communicate. Great caution was needed in doing
this, as the visit of a party of Huguenots would, if denounced,
have called down upon them the vengeance of the parliament; who
were animated not only by hatred of the Huguenots, but by the
desire of enriching themselves by the confiscation of the estates
and goods of those they persecuted.

The visits, consequently, were generally made after nightfall; the
men-at-arms being left a mile or two away. D'Arblay found
everywhere a fierce desire to join in the struggle, restrained only
by the fear of the consequences to wives and families, during
absence.

"Send an army capable of besieging and capturing Toulouse, and
there is not one of us who will not rise and give his blood for the
cause, putting into the field every man he can raise, and spending
his last crown; but unless such a force approaches, we dare not
move. We know that we are strictly watched and that, on the
smallest pretext, we and our families would be dragged to prison.
Tell the Admiral that our hearts and our prayers are with him, and
that nothing in the world would please us so much as to be fighting
under his banner; but until there is a hope of capturing Toulouse,
we dare not move."

Such was the answer at every castle, chateau, and farmhouse where
they called. Many of the Huguenots contributed not only the money
they had in their houses, but their plate and jewels; for money
was, above all things, needed to fulfil the engagements the Admiral
had made with the German mercenaries who were on their march to
join him.

Sometimes Philip and Francois both accompanied their leader on his
visits. Sometimes they went separately, for they were always able
to obtain, from the leading men, the names of neighbours who were
favourable to the cause. In the way of money they succeeded beyond
their expectations for, as the gentlemen in the district had not,
like those where the parties were more equally divided,
impoverished themselves by placing their retainers in the field,
they were able to contribute comparatively large sums to the cause
they had at heart.



Chapter 7: A Rescue.


D'Arblay and his two companions had been engaged, for ten days, in
visiting the Huguenots within a circuit of four or five leagues
round Toulouse, when they learned that their movements had been
reported to the authorities there. They had one day halted as usual
in a wood, when the soldier on the lookout ran in and reported that
a body of horsemen, some forty or fifty strong, were approaching at
a gallop by the road from the city.

"They may not be after us," D'Arblay said, "but at any rate, they
shall not catch us napping."

Girths were hastily tightened, armour buckled on, and all took
their places in their saddles. It was too late to retreat, for the
wood was a small one, and the country around open. As the horsemen
approached the wood they slackened speed; and presently halted,
facing it.

"Some spy has tracked us here," D'Arblay said; "but it is one thing
to track the game, another to capture it. Let us see what these
gentlemen of Toulouse are going to do. I have no doubt that they
know our number accurately enough, and if they divide, as I hope
they will, we shall be able to give them a lesson."

This was evidently the intention of the Catholics. After a short
pause an officer trotted off with half the troop, making a circuit
to come down behind the wood and cut off all retreat. As they moved
off, the Huguenots could count that there were twenty-five men in
each section.

"The odds are only great enough to be agreeable," D'Arblay laughed.
"It is not as it was outside Paris, where they were ten to one
against us. Counting our servants we muster twenty-two, while that
party in front are only four stronger; for that gentleman with the
long robe is probably an official of their parliament, or a city
councillor, and need not be counted. We will wait a couple of
minutes longer, until the other party is fairly out of sight; and
then we will begin the dance."

A minute or two later he gave the word, and the little troop moved
through the trees until nearly at the edge of the wood.

"Now, gentlemen, forward," D'Arblay said, "and God aid the right!"

As in a compact body, headed by the three gentlemen, they burst
suddenly from the wood, there was a shout of dismay; and then loud
orders from the officer of the troop, halted a hundred and fifty
yards away. The men were sitting carelessly on their horses. They
had confidently anticipated taking the Huguenots alive, and thought
of nothing less than that the latter should take the offensive.

Scarcely had they got their horses into motion before the Huguenots
were upon them. The conflict lasted but a minute. Half the
Catholics were cut down; the rest, turning their horses, rode off
at full speed. The Huguenots would have followed them, but D'Arblay
shouted to them to halt.

"You have only done half your work yet," he said. "We have the
other party to deal with."

Only one of his Huguenots had fallen, shot through the head by a
pistol discharged by the officer; who had himself been, a moment
later, run through by D'Arblay, at whom the shot had been aimed.
Gathering his men together, the Huguenot leader rode back and, when
halfway through the wood, they encountered the other party; whose
officer had at once ridden to join the party he had left, when he
heard the pistol shot that told him they were engaged with the
Huguenots. Although not expecting an attack from an enemy they
deemed overmatched by their comrades, the troop, encouraged by
their officer, met the Huguenots stoutly.

The fight was, for a short time, obstinate. Broken up by the trees,
it resolved itself into a series of single combats. The Huguenot
men-at-arms, however, were all tried soldiers; while their
opponents were, rather, accustomed to the slaughter of defenceless
men and women than to a combat with men-at-arms. Coolness and
discipline soon asserted themselves.

Francois and Philip both held their ground, abreast of their
leader; and Philip, by cutting down the lieutenant, brought the
combat to a close. His followers, on seeing their officer fall, at
once lost heart; and those who could do so turned their horses, and
rode off. They were hotly pursued, and six were overtaken and cut
down. Eight had fallen in the conflict in the wood.

"That has been a pretty sharp lesson," D'Arblay said as, leaving
the pursuit to his followers, he reined in his horse at the edge of
the wood. "You both did right gallantly, young sirs. It is no
slight advantage, in a melee of that kind, to be strong in
officers. The fellows fought stoutly, for a short time.

"Had it not been for your despatching their officer, Monsieur
Fletcher, we should not have finished with them so quickly. It was
a right down blow, and heartily given, and fell just at the joint
of the gorget."

"I am sorry that I killed him," Philip replied. "He seemed a brave
gentleman, and was not very many years older than I am, myself."

"He drew it upon himself," D'Arblay said. "If he had not come out
to take us, he would be alive now.

"Well, as soon as our fellows return we will move round to
Merlincourt, on the other side of the town. There are several of
our friends there, and it is the last place we have to visit. After
this skirmish, we shall find the neighbourhood too hot for us. It
is sure to make a great noise and, at the first gleam of the sun on
helm or breast plate, some Catholic or other will hurry off to
Toulouse with the news. In future we had best take some of the
men-at-arms with us, when we pay our visits, or we may be caught
like rats in a trap."

Making a circuit of twenty miles, they approached Merlincourt that
evening and, establishing themselves as usual in a wood, remained
quiet there next day. After nightfall D'Arblay rode off, taking
with him Francois and five of his own men, and leaving Philip in
command of the rest. The gold and jewels they had gathered had been
divided into three portions, and the bags placed in the holsters of
the saddles of the three lackeys; as these were less likely to be
taken than their masters and, if one were captured, a portion only
of the contributions would be lost. D'Arblay had arranged that he
would not return that night, but would sleep at the chateau of the
gentleman he was going to visit.

"I will get him to send around to our other friends, in the
morning. The men will return when they see that all is clear. Send
them back to meet us at the chateau, tomorrow night."

The five men returned an hour after they set out, and reported that
all was quiet at Merlincourt; and that the Sieur D'Arblay had sent
a message, to Philip, to move a few miles farther away before
morning, and to return to the wood soon after nightfall.

Philip gave the men six hours to rest themselves and their horses.
They then mounted and rode eight miles farther from Toulouse,
halting before daybreak in a thick copse standing on high ground,
commanding a view of a wide tract of country. Two of the troopers
were sent off to buy provisions in a village, half a mile away. Two
were placed on watch. Some of the others lay down for another
sleep, while Pierre redressed the wounds that five of the men had
received in the fight.

At twelve o'clock one of the lookouts reported that he could see,
away out on the plain, a body of horsemen. Philip at once went to
examine them for himself.

"There must be some two hundred of them, I should say, by the size
of the clump," he remarked to the soldier.

"About that, I should say, sir."

"I expect they are hunting for us," Philip said. "They must have
heard from some villager that we were seen to ride round this way,
the day before yesterday, or they would hardly be hunting in this
neighbourhood for us. It is well we moved in the night.

"I wish the Sieur D'Arblay and the Count de Laville were with us.
No doubt they were hidden away, as soon as the troop was seen, but
one is never secure against treachery."

Philip was restless and uncomfortable all day, and walked about the
wood, impatiently longing for night to come. As soon as it was dark
they mounted, and rode back to the wood near Merlincourt. The five
men were at once sent off to the chateau where they had left their
leaders.

"That is a pistol shot!" Pierre exclaimed, some twenty minutes
after they left.

"I did not hear it. Are you sure, Pierre?"

"Quite sure, sir. At least, I will not swear that it was a
pistol--it might have been an arquebus--but I will swear it was a
shot."

"To your saddle, men," Philip said. "A pistol shot has been heard,
and it may be that your comrades have fallen into an ambush.
Advance to the edge of the wood, and be ready to dash out to
support them, should they come."

But a quarter of an hour passed, and there was no sound to break
the stillness of the evening.

"Shall I go into the village and find out what has taken place,
Monsieur Fletcher? I will leave my iron cap and breast and back
pieces here. I shall not want to fight but to run, and a hare could
not run in these iron pots."

"Do, Pierre. We shall be ready to support you, if you are chased."

"If I am chased by half a dozen men, I may run here, sir; if by a
strong force, I shall strike across the country. Trust me to double
and throw them off the scent. If I am not back here in an hour, it
will be that I am taken, or have had to trust to my heels; and you
will find me, in the last case, tomorrow morning at the wood where
we halted today. If I do not come soon after daybreak, you will
know that I am either captured or killed. Do not delay for me
longer, but act as seems best to you."

Pierre took off his armour and sped away in the darkness, going at
a trot that would speedily take him to the village.

"Dismount and stand by your horses," Philip ordered. "We may want
all their strength."

Half an hour later Pierre returned, panting.

"I have bad news, sir. I have prowled about the village, which is
full of soldiers, and listened to their talk through open windows.
The Sieur D'Arblay, Monsieur Francois, and the owner of the chateau
and his wife were seized, and carried off to Toulouse this morning,
soon after daybreak. By what I heard, one of the servants of the
chateau was a spy, set by the council of Toulouse to watch the
doings of its owner; and as soon as Monsieur D'Arblay arrived there
last night, he stole out and sent a messenger to Toulouse. At
daybreak the chateau was surrounded, and they were seized before
they had time to offer resistance. The troop of horse we saw have
all day been searching for us, and went back before nightfall to
Merlincourt; thinking that we should be sure to be going there,
sometime or other, to inquire after our captain. The five men you
sent were taken completely by surprise, and all were killed, though
not without a tough fight. A strong party are lying in ambush with
arquebuses, making sure that the rest of the troop will follow the
five they surprised."

"You were not noticed, Pierre, or pursued?"

"No, sir. There were so many men about in the village that one more
stranger attracted no attention."

"Then we can remain here safely for half an hour," Philip said.

The conversation had taken place a few paces from the troop. Philip
now joined his men.

"The Sieur D'Arblay and Count Francois have been taken prisoners.
Your comrades fell into an ambush, and have, I fear, all lost their
lives. Dismount for half an hour, men, while I think over what is
best to be done. Keep close to your horses, so as to be in
readiness to mount instantly, if necessary. One of you take my
horse.

"Do you come with me, Pierre.

"This is a terrible business, lad," he went on, as they walked away
from the others. "We know what will be the fate of my cousin and
Monsieur D'Arblay. They will be burnt or hung, as heretics. The
first thing is, how are we to get them out; and also, if possible,
the gentleman and his wife who were taken with them?"

"We have but ten of the men-at-arms left, sir; and four of them are
so wounded that they would not count for much, in a fight. There
are the two other lackeys and myself, so we are but fourteen, in
all. If we had arrived in time we might have done something but,
now they are firmly lodged in the prison at Toulouse, I see not
that we can accomplish anything."

Philip fell into silence for some minutes, then he said:

"Many of the councillors and members of parliament live, I think,
in villas outside the walls. If we seize a dozen of them, appear
before the city, and threaten to hang or shoot the whole of them,
if the four captives are not released, we might succeed in getting
our friends into our hands, Pierre."

"That is so, sir. There really seems a hope for us, in that way."

"Then we will lose no time. We will ride at once for Toulouse. When
we get near the suburbs we will seize some countryman, and force
him to point out to us the houses of the principal councillors and
the members of their parliament. These we will pounce upon and
carry off, and at daybreak will appear with them before the walls.
We will make one of them signify, to their friends, that if any
armed party sallies out through the gates, or approaches us from
behind, it will be the signal for the instant death of all of our
captives.

"Now let us be off, at once."

The party mounted without delay, and rode towards Toulouse. This
rich and powerful city was surrounded by handsome villas and
chateaux, the abode of wealthy citizens and persons of distinction.
At the first house at which they stopped, Philip, with Pierre and
two of the men-at-arms, dismounted and entered. It was the abode of
a small farmer, who cultivated vegetables for the use of the
townsfolk. He had retired to bed with his family, but upon being
summoned came downstairs trembling, fearing that his late visitors
were bandits.

"No harm will be done to you, if you obey our orders," Philip said;
"but if not, we shall make short work of you. I suppose you know
the houses of most of the principal persons who live outside the
walls?"

"Assuredly I do, my lord. There is the President of the Parliament,
and three or four of the principal councillors, and the Judge of
the High Court, and many others, all living within a short mile of
this spot."

"Well, I require you to guide us to their houses. There will be no
occasion for you to show yourself, nor will anyone know that you
have had aught to do with the matter. If you attempt to escape, or
to give the alarm, you will without scruple be shot. If, on the
other hand, we are satisfied with your work, you will have a couple
of crowns for your trouble."

The man, seeing that he had no choice, put a good face on it.

"I am ready to do as your lordship commands," he said. "I have no
reason for goodwill towards any of these personages, who rule us
harshly, and regard us as if we were dirt under their feet. Shall
we go first to the nearest of them?"

"No, we will first call on the President of the Parliament, and
then the Judge of the High Court, then the councillors in the order
of their rank. We will visit ten in all, and see that you choose
the most important.

"Pierre, you will take charge of this man, and ride in front of us.
Keep your pistol in your hand, and shoot him through the head, if
he shows signs of trying to escape. You will remain with him when
we enter the houses.

"Have you any rope, my man?"

"Yes, my lord, I have several long ropes, with which I bind the
vegetables on my cart when I go to market."

"That will do. Bring them at once."

Pierre accompanied the man when he went to his shed. On his return
with the ropes, Philip told the men-at-arms to cut them into
lengths of eight feet, and to make a running noose at one end of
each. When this was done, they again mounted and moved on.

"When we enter the houses," he said to the two other lackeys, "you
will remain without with Pierre, and will take charge of the first
four prisoners we bring out. Put the nooses round their necks, and
draw them tight enough to let the men feel that they are there.
Fasten the other ends to your saddles, and warn them, if they put
up their hands to throw off the nooses, you will spur your horses
into a gallop. That threat will keep them quiet enough."

In a quarter of an hour they arrived at the gate of a large and
handsome villa. Philip ordered his men to dismount, and fasten up
their horses.

"You will remain here, in charge of the horses," he said to the
lackeys; and then, with the men-at-arms, he went up to the house.

Two of them were posted at the back entrance, two at the front,
with orders to let no one issue out. Then with his dagger he opened
the shutters of one of the windows and, followed by the other six
men, entered. The door was soon found and, opening it, they found
themselves in a hall where a hanging light was burning.

Several servants were asleep on the floor. These started up, with
exclamations of alarm, at seeing seven men with drawn swords.

"Silence!" Philip said sternly, "or this will be your last moment.

"Roger and Jules, do you take each one of these lackeys by the
collar. That is right. Now, put your pistols to their heads.

"Now, my men, lead us at once to your master's chamber.

"Eustace, light one of these torches on the wall at the lamp, and
bring it along with you.

"Henri, do you also come with us.

"The rest of you stay here, and guard these lackeys. Make them sit
down. If any of them move, run him through without hesitation."

At this moment an angry voice was heard shouting above.

"What is all this disturbance about! If I hear another sound, I
will discharge you all in the morning."

Philip gave a loud and derisive laugh, which had the effect he had
anticipated for, directly afterwards, a man in a loose dressing
gown ran into the hall.

"What does this mean, you rascals?" he shouted angrily, as he
entered.

Then he stopped, petrified with astonishment.

[Illustration: If you move a step, you are a dead man.]

"It means this," Philip said, levelling a pistol at him, "that if
you move a step, you are a dead man."

"You must be mad," the president gasped. "Do you know who I am?"

"Perfectly, sir. You are president of the infamous parliament of
Toulouse. I am a Huguenot officer, and you are my prisoner. You
need not look so indignant; better men than you have been dragged
from their homes, to prison and death, by your orders. Now it is
your turn to be a prisoner.

"I might, if I chose, set fire to this chateau, and cut the throats
of all in it; but we do not murder in the name of God. We leave
that to you.

"Take this man away with you, Eustace. I give him into your charge.
If he struggles, or offers the least resistance, stab him to the
heart."

"You will at least give me time to dress, sir?" the president said.

"Not a moment," Philip replied. "The night is warm, and you will do
very well, as you are.

"As for you," he went on, turning to the servants, "you will remain
quiet until morning; and if any of you dare to leave the house, you
will be slain without mercy. You can assure your mistress that she
will not be long without the society of your master; for in all
probability he will be returned, safe and sound, before midday
tomorrow. One of you may fetch your master's cloak, since he seems
to fear the night air."

The doors were opened and they issued out, Philip bidding the
servants close and bar them behind them. When they reached the
horses, the prisoner was handed over to D'Arblay's lackey, who
placed the noose round his neck, and gave him warning as Philip had
instructed him. Then they set off, Pierre with the guide again
leading the way.

Before morning they had ten prisoners in their hands. In one or two
cases the servants had attempted opposition, but they were speedily
overpowered, and the captures were all effected without loss of
life. The party then moved away about a mile, and the prisoners
were allowed to sit down. Several of them were elderly men, and
Philip picked these out, by the light of two torches they had
brought from the last house, and ordered the ropes to be removed
from their necks.

"I should regret, gentlemen," he said, "the indignity that I have
been forced to place upon you, had you been other than you are. It
is well, however, that you should have felt, though in a very
slight degree, something of the treatment that you have all been
instrumental in inflicting upon blameless men and women, whose only
fault was that they chose to worship God in their own way. You may
thank your good fortune at having fallen into the hands of one who
has had no dear friends murdered in the prisons of Toulouse. There
are scores of men who would have strung you up without mercy,
thinking it a righteous retribution for the pitiless cruelties of
which the parliament of Toulouse has been guilty.

"Happily for you, though I regard you with loathing as pitiless
persecutors, I have no personal wrongs to avenge. Your conscience
will tell you that, fallen as you have into the hands of Huguenots,
you could only expect death; but it is not for the purpose of
punishment that you have been captured. You are taken as hostages.
My friends, the Count de Laville and the Sieur D'Arblay, were
yesterday carried prisoners into Toulouse; and with them Monsieur
de Merouville, whose only fault was that he had afforded them a
night's shelter. His innocent wife was also dragged away with him.

"You, sir," he said to one of the prisoners, "appear to me to be
the oldest of the party. At daybreak you will be released; and will
bear, to your colleagues in the city, the news that these nine
persons are prisoners in my hands. You will state that, if any body
of men approaches this place from any quarter, these nine persons
will at once be hung up to the branches above us. You will say that
I hold them as hostages for the four prisoners, and that I demand
that these shall be sent out here, with their horses and the arms
of my two friends, and under the escort of two unarmed troopers.

"These gentlemen here will, before you start, sign a document
ordering the said prisoners at once to be released; and will also
sign a solemn undertaking, which will be handed over to Monsieur de
Merouville, pledging themselves that, should he and his wife choose
to return to their chateau, no harm shall ever happen to them; and
no accusation, of any sort, in the future be brought against them.

"I may add that, should at any time this guarantee be broken, I
shall consider it my duty, the moment I hear of the event, to
return to this neighbourhood; and assuredly I will hang the
signatories of the guarantee over their own door posts, and will
burn their villas to the ground. I know the value of oaths sworn to
Huguenots; but in this case, I think they will be kept, for I swear
to you--and I am in the habit of keeping my oaths--that if you
break your undertaking, I will not break mine."

As soon as it was daylight, Pierre produced from his saddlebag an
ink horn, paper, and pens; and the ten prisoners signed their name
to an order for the release of the four captives. They then wrote
another document, to be handed by their representative to the
governor, begging him to see that the order was executed, informing
him of the position they were in, and that their lives would
certainly be forfeited, unless the prisoners were released without
delay. They also earnestly begged him to send out orders, to the
armed forces who were searching for the Huguenots, bidding them
make no movement, whatever, until after midday.

The councillor was then mounted on a horse and escorted, by two of
the men-at-arms, to within a quarter of a mile of the nearest gate
of the city. The men were to return with his horse. The councillor
was informed that ten o'clock was the limit given for the return of
the prisoners; and that, unless they had by that hour arrived, it
would be supposed that the order for their release would not be
respected, and in that case the nine hostages would be hung
forthwith; and that, in the course of a night or two, another batch
would be carried off.

Philip had little fear, however, that there would be any
hesitation, upon the part of those in the town, in acting upon the
order signed by so many important persons; for the death of the
president, and several of the leading members of the parliament,
would create such an outcry against the governor, by their friends
and relatives, that he would not venture to refuse the release of
four prisoners, of minor importance, in order to save their lives.

After the messenger had departed, Philip had the guarantee for the
safety of Monsieur de Merouville and his wife drawn up and signed,
in duplicate.

"One of these documents," he said, "I shall give to Monsieur de
Merouville. The other I shall keep myself, so that, if this solemn
guarantee is broken, I shall have this as a justification for the
execution of the perjured men who signed it."

The time passed slowly. Some of the prisoners walked anxiously and
impatiently to and fro, looking continually towards the town.
Others sat in gloomy silence, too humiliated at their present
position even to talk to one another.

The soldiers, on the contrary, were in high spirits. They rejoiced
at the prospect of the return of their two leaders, and they felt
proud of having taken part in such an exploit as the capture of the
chief men of the dreaded parliament of Toulouse. Four of them kept
a vigilant guard over the prisoners. The rest ate their breakfast
with great gusto, and laughed and joked at the angry faces of some
of their prisoners.

It was just nine o'clock when a small group of horsemen were seen
in the distance.

"I think there are six of them, sir," Eustace said.

"That is the right number, Eustace. The lady is doubtless riding
behind her husband. Two men are the escort, and the other is, no
doubt, the councillor we released, who is now acting as guide to
this spot.

"Bring my horse, Pierre," and, mounting, Philip rode off to meet
the party.

He was soon able to make out the figures of Francois and D'Arblay
and, putting his horse to a gallop, was speedily alongside of them.

"What miracle is this?" Monsieur D'Arblay asked, after the first
greeting was over. "At present we are all in a maze. We were in
separate dungeons, and the prospect looked as hopeless as it could
well do; when the doors opened and an officer, followed by two
soldiers bearing our armour and arms, entered and told us to attire
ourselves. What was meant we could not imagine. We supposed we were
going to be led before some tribunal; but why they should arm us,
before taking us there, was more than we could imagine.

"We met in the courtyard of the prison, and were stupefied at
seeing our horses saddled and bridled there, and Monsieur De
Merouville and his wife already mounted. Two unarmed troopers were
also there, and this gentleman, who said sourly:

"'Mount, sirs, I am going to lead you to your friends.'

"We looked at each other, to see if we were dreaming, but you may
imagine we were not long in leaping into our saddles.

"This gentleman has not been communicative. In fact, by his manner,
I should say he is deeply disgusted at the singular mission with
which he was charged; and on the ride here Francois, Monsieur de
Merouville, and myself have exhausted ourselves in conjectures as
to how this miracle has come about."

"Wait two or three minutes longer," Philip said, with a smile.
"When you get to yonder trees, you will receive an explanation."

Francois and Monsieur D'Arblay gazed in surprise at the figures of
nine men, all in scanty raiments, wrapped up in cloaks, and
evidently guarded by the men-at-arms, who set up a joyous shout as
they rode in. Monsieur de Merouville uttered an exclamation of
astonishment, as he recognized the dreaded personages collected
together in such a plight.

"Monsieur de Merouville," Philip said, "I believe you know these
gentlemen by sight.

"Monsieur D'Arblay and Francois, you are not so fortunate as to be
acquainted with them; and I have pleasure in introducing to you the
President of the Parliament of Toulouse, the Judge of the High
Court, and other councillors, all gentlemen of consideration. It
has been my misfortune to have had to treat these gentlemen with
scant courtesy, but the circumstances left me no choice.

"Monsieur de Merouville, here is a document, signed by these nine
gentlemen, giving a solemn undertaking that you and Madame shall
be, in future, permitted to reside in your chateau without the
slightest let or hindrance; and that you shall suffer no
molestation, whatever, either on account of this affair, or on the
question of religion. I have a duplicate of this document; and
have, on my part, given an undertaking that, if its terms are
broken I will, at whatever inconvenience to myself, return to this
neighbourhood, hang these ten gentlemen if I can catch them, and at
any rate burn their chateaux to the ground. Therefore I think, as
you have their undertaking and mine, you can without fear return
home; but this, of course, I leave to yourself to decide.

"Gentlemen, you are now free to return to your homes; and I trust
this lesson--that we, on our part, can strike, if necessary--will
have some effect in moderating your zeal for persecution."

Without a word, the president and his companions walked away in a
body. The troopers began to jeer and laugh, but Philip held up his
hand for silence.

"There need be no extra scorn," he said. "These gentlemen have been
sufficiently humiliated."

"And you really fetched all these good gentlemen from their beds,"
D'Arblay said, bursting into a fit of laughter. "Why, it was worth
being taken prisoner, were it only for the sake of seeing them.
They looked like a number of old owls, suddenly disturbed by
daylight--some of them round eyed with astonishment, some of them
hissing menacingly. By my faith, Philip, it will go hard with you,
if you ever fall into the hands of those worthies.

"But a truce to jokes. We owe you our lives, Philip; of that there
is not a shadow of doubt. Though I have no more fear than another
of death in battle, I own that I have a dread of being tortured and
burned. It was a bold stroke, thus to carry off the men who have
been the leaders of the persecution against us."

"There was nothing in the feat, if it can be called a feat," Philip
said. "Of course, directly we heard that you had been seized and
carried into Toulouse, I cast about for the best means to save you.
To attempt it by force would have been simple madness; and any
other plan would have required time, powerful friends, and a
knowledge of the city, and even then we should probably have failed
to get you out of prison. This being so, it was evident that the
best plan was to seize some of the citizens of importance, who
might serve as hostages. There was no difficulty in finding out,
from a small cultivator, who were the principal men living outside
the walls; and their capture was as easy a business. Scarcely a
blow was struck, and no lives lost, in capturing the whole of
them."

"But some of the men are missing," D'Arblay said.

"Yes; five of your men, I am sorry to say. On getting back to the
wood after dark I sent them, as you ordered, to fetch you from
Monsieur de Merouville's; but of course you had been captured
before that, and they fell into an ambush that was laid for them,
and were all killed."

"That is a bad business, Philip.

"Well, Monsieur de Merouville, will you go with us, or will you
trust in this safeguard?"

"In the first place, you have not given me a moment's opportunity
of thanking this gentleman; not only for having saved the lives of
my wife and myself, but for the forethought and consideration with
which he has, in the midst of his anxiety for you and Monsieur de
Laville, shown for us who were entire strangers to him.

"Be assured, Monsieur Fletcher, that we are deeply grateful. I hope
that some time in the future, should peace ever again be restored
to France, we may be able to meet you again, and express more
warmly the obligations we feel towards you."

Madame de Merouville added a few words of gratitude, and then
D'Arblay broke in with:

"De Merouville, you must settle at once whether to go with us, or
stay on the faith of this safeguard. We have no such protection
and, if we linger here, we shall be having half a dozen troops of
horse after us. You may be sure they will be sent off, as soon as
the president and his friends reach the city; and if we were caught
again, we should be in an even worse plight than before. Do you
talk it over with Madame and, while you are doing so, Francois and
I will drink a flask of wine, and eat anything we can find here;
for they forgot to give us breakfast before they sent us off, and
it is likely we shall not have another opportunity, for some
hours."

"What do you think, Monsieur Fletcher?" Monsieur de Merouville
said, after speaking for a few minutes with his wife; "will they
respect this pledge? If not we must go, but we are both past the
age when we can take up life anew. My property would, of course, be
confiscated, and we should be penniless among strangers."

"I think they will respect the pledge," Philip replied. "I assured
them, so solemnly, that any breach of their promises would be
followed by prompt vengeance upon themselves and their homes, that
I feel sure they will not run the risk. Two or three among them
might possibly do so, but the others would restrain them. I believe
that you can safely return; and that, for a long time, at any rate,
you will be unmolested.

"Still, if I might advise, I should say sell your property, as soon
as you can find a purchaser at any reasonable price; and then
remove, either to La Rochelle or cross the sea to England. You may
be sure that there will be a deep and bitter hatred against you, by
those whose humiliation you have witnessed."

"Thank you. I will follow your advice, Monsieur Fletcher; and I
hope that I may, ere long, have the pleasure of seeing you, and of
worthily expressing our deep sense of the debt of gratitude we owe
you."

Five minutes later the troop mounted and rode away, while Monsieur
de Merouville, with his wife behind him, started for home.

"I hope, Francois," D'Arblay said, as they galloped off from the
wood, "that the next time I ride on an expedition your kinsman may
again be with me, for he has wit and resources that render him a
valuable companion, indeed."

"I had great hopes, even when I was in prison, and things looked
almost as bad as they could be," Francois said, "that Philip would
do something to help us. I had much faith in his long headedness;
and so has the countess, my mother. She said to me, when we
started:

"'You are older than Philip, Francois; but you will act wisely if,
in cases of difficulty, you defer your opinions to his. His
training has given him self reliance and judgment, and he has been
more in the habit of thinking for himself than you have,' and
certainly he has fully justified her opinion.

"Where do you propose to ride next, D'Arblay?"

"For La Rochelle. I shall not feel safe until I am within the
walls. Presidents of Parliament, judges of High Court, and
dignified functionaries are not to be dragged from their beds with
impunity. Happily it will take them an hour and a half to walk back
to the town; or longer, perhaps, for they will doubtless go first
to their own homes. They will never show themselves, in such sorry
plight, in the streets of the city where they are accustomed to
lord it; so we may count on at least two hours before they can take
any steps. After that, they will move heaven and earth to capture
us. They will send out troops of horse after us, and messengers to
every city in the province, calling upon the governors to take
every means to seize us.

"We have collected a good sum of money, and carried out the greater
portion of our mission. We shall only risk its loss, as well as the
loss of our own lives, by going forward. The horses are fresh, and
we will put as many miles between us and Toulouse as they can carry
us, before nightfall."

The return journey was accomplished without misadventure. They made
no more halts than were required to rest their horses and,
travelling principally at night, they reached La Rochelle without
having encountered any body of the enemy.

While they had been absent, the army of Conde and the Admiral had
marched into Lorraine and, eluding the forces that barred his
march, effected a junction with the German men-at-arms who had been
brought to their aid by the Duke Casimir, the second son of the
Elector Palatine. However, the Germans refused to march a step
farther, unless they received the pay that had been agreed upon
before they started.

Conde's treasury was empty, and he had no means, whatever, of
satisfying their demand. In vain Duke Casimir, himself, tried to
persuade his soldiers to defer their claims, and to trust their
French co-religionists to satisfy their demands, later on. They
were unanimous in their refusal to march a step, until they
obtained their money.

The Admiral then addressed himself to his officers and soldiers. He
pointed out to them that, at the present moment, everything
depended upon their obtaining the assistance of the Germans--who
were, indeed, only demanding their rights, according to the
agreement that had been made with them--and he implored them to
come to the assistance of the prince and himself at this crisis. So
great was his influence among his soldiers that his appeal was
promptly and generally acceded to, and officers and men alike
stripped themselves of their chains, jewels, money, and valuables
of all kinds, and so made up the sum required to satisfy the
Germans.

As soon as this important affair had been settled, the united army
turned its face again westward; with the intention of giving
battle, anew, under the walls of Paris. It was, however, terribly
deficient in artillery, powder, and stores of all kinds and, the
military chest being empty and the soldiers without pay, it was
necessary, on the march, to exact contributions from the small
Catholic towns and villages through which the army marched and, in
spite of the orders of the Admiral, a certain amount of pillage was
carried on by the soldiers.

Having recruited the strength of his troops, by a short stay at
Orleans, the Admiral moved towards Paris. Since the commencement of
the war, negotiations had been going on fitfully. When the court
thought that the Huguenots were formidable, they pushed on the
negotiations in earnest. Whenever, upon the contrary, they believed
that the royal forces would be able to crush those of the Admiral,
the negotiations at once came to a standstill.

During the Admiral's long march to the east, they would grant no
terms whatever that could possibly be accepted; but as soon as the
junction was effected with Duke Casimir and his Germans, and the
Huguenot army again turned its face to Paris, the court became
eager to conclude peace. When the Prince of Conde's army arrived
before Chartres the negotiators met, and the king professed a
readiness to grant so many concessions, that it seemed as if the
objects of the Huguenots could be attained without further
fighting, and the Cardinal of Chatillon and some Huguenot nobles
went forward to have a personal conference with the royal
commissioners, at Lonjumeau.

After much discussion, the points most insisted upon by the
Huguenots were conceded, and the articles of a treaty drawn up,
copies of which were sent to Paris and Chartres. The Admiral and
Conde both perceived that, in the absence of any guarantees for the
observance of the conditions to which the other side bound
themselves, the treaty would be of little avail; as it could be
broken, as soon as the army now menacing Paris was scattered. The
feeling among the great portion of the nobles and their followers
was, however, strongly in favour of the conditions being accepted.

The nobles were becoming beggared by the continuance of the war,
the expenses of which had, for the most part, to be paid from their
private means. Their followers, indeed, received no pay; but they
had to be fed, and their estates were lying untilled for want of
hands. Their men were eager to return to their farms and families,
and so strong and general was the desire for peace that the Admiral
and Conde bowed to it.

They agreed to the terms and, pending their ratification, raised
the siege of Chartres. Already their force was dwindling rapidly.
Large numbers marched away to their homes, without even asking for
leave; and their leaders soon ceased to be in a position to make
any demands for guarantees, and the peace of Lonjumeau was
therefore signed.

Its provisions gave very little more to the Huguenots than that of
the preceding arrangement of the same kind, and the campaign left
the parties in much the same position as they had occupied before
the Huguenots took up arms.



Chapter 8: The Third Huguenot War.


Before the treaty of Lonjumeau had been signed many weeks, the
Huguenots were sensible of the folly they had committed, in
throwing away all the advantages they had gained in the war, by
laying down their arms upon the terms of a treaty made by a
perfidious woman and a weak and unstable king, with advisers bent
upon destroying the reformed religion. They had seen former edicts
of toleration first modified and then revoked, and they had no
reason even to hope that the new treaty, which had been wrung from
the court by its fears, would be respected by it.

The Huguenots were not surprised to find, therefore, that as soon
as they had sent back their German auxiliaries and returned to
their homes--the ink, indeed, was scarcely dry on the paper upon
which the treaty was written--its conditions were virtually
annulled. From the pulpit of every Catholic church in France, the
treaty was denounced in the most violent language; and it was
openly declared that there could be no peace with the Huguenots.
These, as they returned home, were murdered in great numbers and,
in many of the cities, the mobs rose and massacred the defenceless
Protestants.

Heavy as had been the persecutions before the outbreak of the war,
they were exceeded by those that followed it. Some of the governors
of the provinces openly refused to carry out the conditions of the
treaty. Charles issued a proclamation that the edict was not
intended to include any of the districts that were appanages of his
mother, or of any of the royal or Bourbon princes. In the towns the
soldiers were quartered upon the Huguenots, whom they robbed and
ill treated at their pleasure; and during the six months that this
nominal peace lasted, no less than ten thousand Huguenots were
slaughtered in various parts of France.

"The Prince of Conde, the Admiral, his brothers, and our other
leaders may be skilful generals and brave men," the Countess de
Laville said indignantly to Francois when, with the troop, reduced
by war, fever, and hardship to one-third of its number, he had
returned to the chateau, "but they cannot have had their senses
about them, when they permitted themselves to be cozened into
laying down their arms, without receiving a single guarantee that
the terms of the treaty should be observed.

"Far better never to have taken up arms at all. The king has come
to regard us as enemies. The Catholics hate us more than ever, for
our successful resistance. Instead of being in a better position
than we were before, we shall be in a worse. We have given up all
the towns we had captured, thrown away every advantage we had
gained and, when we are again driven to take up arms, we shall be
in a worse position than before; for they no longer despise us, and
will in future be on their guard. There will be no repeating the
surprise of last September.

"I am disappointed above all in the Admiral, D'Andelot, La
Rochefoucauld, and Genlis. Conde I have never trusted as one to be
relied upon, in an extremity. He is a royal prince, has been
brought up in courts, and loves gaiety and ease; and although I say
not that he is untrue to the Huguenot cause, yet he would gladly
accommodate matters; and as we see, even in this treaty, the great
bulk of the Huguenots all over the country have been utterly
deserted, their liberty of worship denied, and their very lives are
at the mercy of the bigots.

"What do you think, Philip? Have you had enough of fighting for a
party who wilfully throw away all that they have won by their
sacrifices? Are you thinking of returning home, or will you wait
for a while, to see how matters go on?"

"I will, with your permission, wait," Philip said. "I lament this
peace, which seems to me to leave us in a worse position than
before the war; but I agree with you that it cannot last, and that
ere long the Huguenots will be driven again to take up arms.
Francois and I have become as brothers and, until the cause is
either lost or won, I would fain remain."

"That is well, Philip. I will be glad to have you with us, my
nephew. La Noue wrote to me, a month since, saying that both my son
and you had borne yourselves very gallantly; that he was well
pleased to have had you with him; and that he thought that, if
these wars of religion continued--which they might well do for a
long time, as in Germany and Holland, as well as in France, the
reformed religion is battling for freedom--you would both rise to
eminence as soldiers.

"However, now that peace is made, we must make the best of it. I
should think it will not be broken until after the harvest and
vintage; for until then all will be employed, and the Catholics as
well as the Huguenots must repair their losses, and gather funds,
before they can again take the field with their retainers.
Therefore, until then I think that there will be peace."

The summer passed quietly at Laville. The tales of massacre and
outrage, that came from all parts of France, filled them with
horror and indignation; but in their own neighbourhood, all was
quiet. Rochelle had refused to open her gates to the royal troops
and, as in all that district the Huguenots were too numerous to be
interfered with by their neighbours, the quiet was unbroken.

Nevertheless, it was certain that hostilities would not be long
delayed. The Catholics, seeing the advantage that the perfect
organization of the Huguenots had given them at the commencement of
the war, had established leagues in almost every province. These
were organized by the clergy, and the party that looked upon the
Guises as their leaders and, by the terms of their constitution,
were evidently determined to carry out the extirpation of the
reformed religion, with or without the royal authority; and were,
indeed, bent upon forming a third party in the state, looking to
Philip of Spain rather than to the King of France as their leader.

So frequent and daring were the outrages, in Paris, that Conde soon
found that his life was not safe there; and retired to Noyers, a
small town in Burgundy. Admiral Coligny, who had been saddened by
the loss of his brave wife, who had died from a disease contracted
in attending upon the sick and wounded soldiers at Orleans, had
abandoned the chateau at Chatillon-sur-Loing, where he had kept up
a princely hospitality; and retired to the castle of Tanlay,
belonging to his brother D'Andelot, situated within a few miles of
Noyers. D'Andelot himself had gone to Brittany, after writing a
remonstrance to Catharine de Medici upon the ruin and desolation
that the breaches of the treaty, and the persecution of a section
of the population, were bringing upon France.

The Chancellor L'Hopital had, in vain, urged toleration. His
adversaries in the royal council were too strong for him. The
Cardinal of Lorraine had regained his old influence. The king
appointed, as his preachers, four of the most violent advocates of
persecution. The De Montmorencys, for a time, struggled
successfully against the influence of the Cardinal of Lorraine; who
sought supreme power, under cover of Henry of Anjou's name. Three
of the marshals of France--Montmorency, his brother Danville, and
Vielleville--supported by Cardinal Bourbon, demanded of the council
that D'Anjou should no longer hold the office of lieutenant
general. Catharine at times aided the Guises, at times the
Montmorencys; playing off one party against the other, but chiefly
inclining to the Guises, who gradually obtained such an ascendency
that the Chancellor L'Hopital, in despair, retired from the
council; and thus removed the greatest obstacle to the schemes and
ambition of the Cardinal of Lorraine.

At the commencement of August the king despatched, to all parts of
his dominions, copies of an oath that was to be demanded from every
Huguenot. It called upon them to swear never to take up arms, save
by the express command of the king; nor to assist with counsel,
money, or food any who did so; and to join their fellow citizens in
the defence of their towns against those who disobeyed this
mandate. The Huguenots unanimously declined to sign the oath.

With the removal of the chancellor from the council, the party of
Lorraine became triumphant; and it was determined to seize the
whole of the Huguenot leaders, who were quietly residing upon their
estates in distant parts of France. Gaspard de Tavannes was charged
with the arrest of Conde and the Admiral; and fourteen companies of
men-at-arms, and as many of infantry were placed under his orders,
and these were quietly and secretly marched to Noyers.

Fortunately Conde received warning, just before the blow was going
to be struck. He was joined at Noyers by the Admiral, with his
daughter and sons, and the wife and infant son of D'Andelot. Conde
himself had with him his wife and children. They were joined by a
few Huguenot noblemen from the neighbourhood; and these, with the
servants of the prince and Admiral, formed an escort of about a
hundred and fifty horse.

Escape seemed well-nigh hopeless. Tavannes' troops guarded most of
the avenues of escape. There was no place of refuge save La
Rochelle, several hundred miles away, on the other side of France.
Every city was in the hands of their foes, and their movements were
encumbered with the presence of women and young children.

There was but one thing in their favour--their enemies naturally
supposed that, should they attempt to escape, they would do so in
the direction of Germany, where they would be warmly welcomed by
the Protestant princes. Therefore it was upon that line that the
greatest vigilance would be displayed by their enemies.

Before starting, Coligny sent off a very long and eloquent protest
to the king; defending himself for the step that he was about to
take; giving a history of the continuous breaches of the treaty,
and of the sufferings that had been inflicted upon the Huguenots;
and denouncing the Cardinal of Lorraine and his associates, as the
guilty causes of all the misfortunes that had fallen upon France.

It was on the 23d of August that the party set out from Noyers.
Their march was prompt and rapid. Contrary to expectation, they
discovered an unguarded ford across the Loire, near the town of
Laussonne. This ford was only passable when the river was unusually
low, and had therefore escaped the vigilance of their foes. The
weather had been for some time dry, and they were enabled, with
much difficulty, to effect a crossing; a circumstance which was
regarded by the Huguenots as a special act of Providence, the more
so as heavy rain fell the moment they had crossed, and the river
rose so rapidly that when, a few hours later, the cavalry of
Tavannes arrived in pursuit, they were unable to effect a passage.
The party had many other dangers and difficulties to encounter but,
by extreme caution and rapidity of movement, they succeeded in
baffling their foes, and in making their way across France.

On the evening of the 16th of September, a watchman on a tower of
the chateau of Laville shouted, to those in the courtyard, that he
perceived a considerable body of horsemen in the distance. A
vigilant watch had been kept up for some time, for an army had for
some weeks been collected, with the ostensible motive of capturing
Rochelle and compelling it to receive a royal garrison; and as, on
its approach, parties would probably be sent out to capture and
plunder the chateaux and castles of the Huguenot nobles, everything
had been prepared for a siege.

The alarm bell was at once rung, to warn the neighbourhood of
approaching danger. The vacancies, caused in the garrison during
the war, had been lately filled up; and the gates were now closed,
and the walls manned; the countess herself, accompanied by her son
and Philip, taking her place on the tower by the gateway. The party
halted, three or four hundred yards from the gate, and then two
gentlemen rode forward.

"The party look to me more like Huguenots than Catholics, mother,"
Francois had said. "I see no banners; but their dresses look sombre
and dark, and I think that I can see women among them."

A minute later, Philip exclaimed:

"Surely, Francois, those gentlemen who are approaching are Conde
and the Admiral!"

"Impossible!" the countess said. "They are in Burgundy, full three
hundred miles away."

"Philip is right, mother," Francois said eagerly. "I recognize them
now. They are, beyond doubt, the prince and Admiral Coligny.

"Lower the drawbridge, and open the gates," he called down to the
warders.

The countess hastened down the stairs to the courtyard, followed by
Francois and Philip, and received her two unexpected visitors as
they rode across the drawbridge.

"Madame," Conde said, as he doffed his cap courteously, "we are
fugitives, who come to ask for a night's shelter. I have my wife
and children with me, and the Admiral has also his family. We have
ridden across France, from Noyers, by devious roads and with many
turnings and windings; have been hunted like rabid beasts, and are
sorely in need of rest."

"You are welcome, indeed, prince," the countess said. "I esteem it
a high honour to entertain such guests as yourself and Admiral
Coligny. Pray enter at once. My son will ride out to welcome the
princess, and the rest of your party."

Francois at once leapt on to a horse and galloped off, and in a few
minutes the party arrived. Their numbers had been considerably
increased since they left Noyers, as they had been joined by many
Huguenot gentlemen on the way, and they now numbered nearly four
hundred men.

"We have grown like a snowball, since we started," the prince said;
"and I am ashamed to invade your chateau with such an army."

"It is a great honour, prince. We had heard a rumour that an
attempt had been made to seize you; and that you had disappeared,
no one knew whither, and men thought that you were directing your
course towards Germany; but little did we dream of seeing you here,
in the west."

It was not until evening that the tale of the journey across
France, with its many hazards and adventures, was told; for the
countess was fully occupied in seeing to the comforts of her guests
of higher degree, while Francois saw that the men-at-arms and
others were bestowed as comfortably as might be. Then oxen and
sheep were killed, casks of wine broached, forage issued for the
horses; while messengers were sent off to the nearest farms for
chicken and ducks, and with orders for the women to come up, to
assist the domestics at the chateau to meet this unexpected strain.

"It is good to sit down in peace and comfort, again," Conde said
as, supper over, they strolled in the garden, enjoying the cool air
of the evening. "This is the first halt that we have made, at any
save small villages, since we left Noyers. In the first place, our
object was concealment; and in the second, though many of our
friends have invited us to their castles, we would not expose them
to the risk of destruction, for having shown us hospitality.

"Here, however, we have entered the stronghold of our faith; for
from this place to La Rochelle, the Huguenots can hold their own
against their neighbours, and need fear nothing save the approach
of a large army; in which case, countess, your plight could
scarcely be worse for having sheltered us. The royal commissioners
of the province must long have had your name down, as the most
stiff necked of the Huguenots of this corner of Poitou, as one who
defies the ordinances, and maintains public worship in her chateau.
Your son and nephew fought at Saint Denis; and you sent a troop
across France, at the first signal, to join me. The cup of your
offences is so full that this last drop can make but little
difference, one way or the other."

"I should have felt it as a grievous slight, had you passed near
Laville without halting here," the countess said. "As for danger,
for the last twenty years we have been living in danger; and
indeed, during the last year I have felt safer than ever for, now
that La Rochelle has declared for us, there is a place of refuge,
for all of the reformed religion in the provinces round, such as we
have not before possessed. During the last few months, I have sent
most of my valuables in there for safety; and if the tide of war
comes this way, and I am threatened by a force against which it
would be hopeless to contend, I shall make my way thither.

"But against anything short of an army, I shall hold the chateau.
It forms a place of refuge to which, at the approach of danger, all
of our religion for many miles round would flock in; and as long as
there is a hope of successful resistance, I would not abandon them
to the tender mercies of Anjou's soldiers."

"I fear, countess," the Admiral said, "that our arrival at La
Rochelle will bring trouble upon all the country round it. We had
no choice between that and exile. Had we consulted our own peace
and safety only, we should have betaken ourselves to Germany; but
had we done that, it would have been a desertion of our brethren,
who look to us for leading and guidance.

"Here at La Rochelle we shall be in communication with Navarre and
Gascony; and doubt not that we shall, ere very long, be again at
the head of an army with which we can take the field, even more
strongly than before; for after the breaches of the last treaty,
and the fresh persecutions and murders throughout the land, the
Huguenots everywhere must clearly perceive that there is no option
between destruction, and winning our rights at the point of the
sword.

"Nevertheless, as the court will see that it is to their interest
to strike at once, before we have had time to organize an army, I
think it certain that the whole Catholic forces will march, without
loss of time, against La Rochelle. Our only hope is that, as on the
last occasion, they will deceive themselves as to our strength. The
evil advisers of the king, when persuading him to issue fresh
ordinances against us, have assured him that with strong garrisons
in all the great towns in France, and with his army of Swiss and
Germans still on foot, we are altogether powerless; and are no
longer to be feared, in the slightest degree.

"We know that even now, while they deem us but a handful of
fugitives, our brethren throughout France will be everywhere
banding themselves in arms. Before we left Noyers we sent out a
summons, calling the Huguenots in all parts of France to take up
arms again. Their organization is perfect in every district. Our
brethren have appointed places where they are to assemble, in case
of need; and by this time I doubt not that, although there is no
regular army yet in the field, there are scores of bands ready to
march, as soon as they receive orders.

"It is true that the Catholics are far better prepared than before.
They have endeavoured, by means of these leagues, to organize
themselves in our manner; but there is one vital difference. We
know that we are fighting for our lives and our faith, and that
those who hang back run the risk of massacre in their own homes.
The Catholics have no such impulse. Our persecutions have been the
work of the mobs in the towns, excited by the priests; and these
ruffians, though ardent when it is a question of slaying
defenceless women and children, are contemptible in the field
against our men. We saw how the Parisians fled like a flock of
sheep, at Saint Denis.

"Thus, outnumbered as we are, methinks we shall take up arms far
more quickly than our foes; and that, except from the troops of
Anjou, and the levies of the great Catholic nobles, we shall have
little to fear. Even in the towns the massacres have ever been
during what is called peace; and there was far less persecution,
during the last two wars, than in the intervals between them."

The next morning the prince and Admiral, with their escort, rode on
towards La Rochelle; which they entered on the 18th September. The
countess, with a hundred of her retainers and tenants, accompanied
them on the first day's journey; and returned, the next day, to the
chateau.

The news of the escape, and the reports that the Huguenots were
arming, took the court by surprise; and a declaration was at once
published, by the king, guaranteeing his royal protection to all
adherents of the reformed faith who stayed at home, and promising a
gracious hearing to their grievances. As soon, however, as the
Catholic forces began to assemble in large numbers, the mask of
conciliation was thrown off, all edicts of toleration were
repealed, and the king prohibited his subjects in all parts of his
dominions, of whatever rank, from the exercise of all religious
rites other than those of the Catholic faith, on pain of
confiscation and death.

Nothing could have been more opportune, for the Huguenot leaders,
than this decree. It convinced even the most reluctant that their
only hope lay in resistance; and enabled Conde's agents, at foreign
courts, to show that the King of France was bent upon exterminating
the reformed faith, and that its adherents had been forced to take
up arms, in self preservation.

The fanatical populations of the towns rejoiced in the new decree.
Leagues for the extermination of heresy were formed, in Toulouse
and other towns, under the name of Crusades; and high masses were
celebrated in the churches, everywhere, in honour of the great
victory over heresy.

The countess had offered to send her son, with fifty men-at-arms,
to swell the gathering at La Rochelle; but the Admiral declined the
offer. Niort was but a day's march from the chateau and, although
its population were of mixed religion, the Catholics might, under
the influence of the present excitement, march against Laville. He
thought it would be better, therefore, that the chateau should be
maintained, with all its fighting force, as a centre to which the
Huguenots of the neighbourhood might rally.

"I think," he said, "that you might, for some time, sustain a siege
against all the forces that could be brought from Niort; and if you
are attacked I will, at once, send a force from the city to your
assistance. I have no doubt that the Queen of Navarre will join us,
and that I shall be able to take the offensive, very shortly."

Encouraged by the presence of the Admiral at La Rochelle, the whole
of the Huguenots of the district prepared to take the field,
immediately. Laville was the natural centre, and two hundred and
fifty men were ready to gather there, directly an alarm was given.

Three days later a man arrived at the chateau from Niort, soon
after daybreak. He reported that, on the previous day, the populace
had massacred thirty or forty Huguenots; and that all the rest they
could lay hands on, amounting in number to nearly two hundred, had
been dragged from their homes and thrown into prison. He said that
in all the villages round, the priests were preaching the
extermination of the Huguenots; and it was feared that, at any
moment, those of the religion would be attacked there; especially
as it was likely that the populace of the town would flock out, and
themselves undertake the work of massacre should the peasants, who
had hitherto lived on friendly terms with the Huguenots, hang back
from it.

"We must try to assist our brethren," the countess said, when she
heard the news. "Francois, take what force you can get together in
an hour, and ride over towards Niort. You will get there by midday.
If these ruffians come out from the town, do you give them a
lesson; and ride round to the villages, and bring off all of our
religion there. Assure them that they shall have protection here
until the troubles are over, or until matters so change that they
can return safely to their homes. We cannot sit quietly, and hear
of murder so close at hand. I see no prospect of rescuing the
unfortunates from the prison at Niort; and it would be madness,
with our small force, to attack a walled city; but I leave you free
to do what may seem best to you, warning you only against
undertaking any desperate enterprise.

"Philip will, of course, ride with you."

"Shall we ring the alarm bell, mother?"

"No; it is better not to disturb the tenantry, unless on very grave
occasion. Take the fifty men-at-arms, your own men, and Philip's.
Sixty will be ample for dispersing disorderly mobs; while a hundred
would be of no use to you, against the armed forces of the town and
the garrison of two hundred men."

In a quarter of an hour, the troop started. All knew the errand on
which they were bent, and the journey was performed at the highest
speed of which the horses were capable.

"They can have a good, long rest when they get there," Francois
said to Philip; "and half an hour, earlier or later, may mean the
saving or losing of fifty lives. The mob will have been feasting,
and exulting over the slaying of so many Huguenots, until late last
night; and will not be astir early, this morning. Probably, too,
they will, before they think of sallying out, attend the churches;
where the priests will stir them up to fury, before they lead them
out on a crusade into the country.

"I would that we knew where they are likely to begin. There are a
dozen villages, round the town."

"What do you say to dividing our force, Francois? As we near the
town, you with one party could ride round to the left, I with the
other to the right and, searching each village as we go, could join
forces again on the other side of the town. If Montpace had been
with us, of course he would have taken the command of one of the
parties. It is unfortunate that he is laid up with that wound he
got, at Saint Denis."

"I am afraid he will never be fit for active service again, Philip.
But I am not sorry that he is not here. He might have objected to
our dividing the troop; and besides, I am glad that you should
command, putting aside everything else. We understand each other.

"You will, of course, cut down the ruffians from the towns without
mercy, if you find them engaged in massacre. If not, you will warn
the Huguenots of the villages, as you pass through, to leave their
homes at once and make for Laville; giving a sharp intimation to
the village maires that, if the Protestants are interfered with in
any way, or hindered from taking their goods and setting out; we
will, on our return, burn the village about their ears, and hang up
any who have interfered with our people."

"I should say, Francois, that we should take prisoners, and hold as
hostages, any citizens of importance, or priests, whom we may find
encouraging the townsfolk to massacre. I would take the village
priests, and maire too, so as to carry out the same plan that acted
so well at Toulouse. We could then summon Niort, and say that,
unless the Huguenots in prison are released, and they and all the
Huguenots in the town allowed to come out and join us, we will in
the first place burn and destroy all the Catholic villages round
the town, and the pleasure houses and gardens of the citizens; and
that in the second place we will carry off the prisoners in our
hands, and hang them at once, if we hear of a single Huguenot being
further ill treated."

"That would be a capital plan, Philip, if we could get hold of
anyone of real importance. It is likely some of the principal
citizens, and perhaps Catholic nobles of the neighbourhood, will be
with those who sally out; so that they can claim credit and praise,
from the court party, for their zeal in the cause. I wish our
parties had been a little stronger for, after we have entered a
village or two, we shall have to look after the prisoners."

"I do not think it matters, Francois. A dozen stout men-at-arms,
like ours, would drive a mob of these wretches before them. They
will come out expecting to murder unresisting people; and the sight
of our men-at-arms, in their white scarves, will set them off
running like hares."

"Let it be understood," Philip continued, "that if, when one of us
gets round to the other side of the town, he should not meet the
other party, and can hear no tidings of it, he shall gallop on till
he meets it; for it is just possible, although I think it unlikely,
that one or other of us may meet with so strong a party of the
enemy as to be forced to stand on the defensive, until the other
arrives."

"I think there is little chance of that, Philip; still, it as well
that we should make that arrangement."

As they neared Niort, they met several fugitives. From them they
learned that, so far, the townspeople had not come out; but that
the Catholics in the villages were boasting that an end would be
made of the Huguenots that day, and that many of them were, in
consequence, deserting their homes and making their escape, as
secretly as they could, across the country. When within two miles
of Niort, a column of smoke was seen to arise on the left of the
town.

"They have begun the work!" Francois exclaimed. "That is my side!"

And he placed himself at the head of half the troop, giving them
orders that they were to spare none whom they found engaged in
massacring Huguenots, save priests and other persons acting as
leaders. These were to be taken as hostages, for the safety of
their brethren in the town.

"You need not be over careful with them," he said. "Throw a picket
rope round their necks, and make them trot beside you. They came
out for a little excitement, let them have enough of it."

As Francois rode off one way, Philip led his party the other.

"You have heard these orders," he said. "They will do for you,
also."

The first place they rode into, they found the Catholic inhabitants
in the streets; while the houses of the Huguenots were closed, and
the shutters barred. The men fled as the troop dashed in.

"Pursue them," Philip cried, "and thrash them back with the flat of
your swords, but wound no one."

Most of the men were soon brought back. By this time the Huguenots
had opened their doors and, with shouts of joy, were welcoming
their deliverers.

"Have they threatened you with harm?" Philip asked.

"Yes; there has been mass in the church this morning, and the
priest has told them to prepare to join in the good work, as soon
as the townspeople arrive."

The priest had already been fetched from his house, guarded by two
troopers. The maire was next pointed out, and seized. Two horses
were brought out, and the prisoners placed on them.

"Put a rope round each of their necks," Philip ordered. "Fasten it
firmly."

Two troopers took the other ends.

"Now you will come along with us," Philip went on, "and if you try
to escape, so much the worse for you.

"Now," he said to the villagers, "we shall return here shortly, and
then woe betide you if our orders are not executed. Every house in
the village shall be burned to the ground, every man we lay hold of
shall be hung.

"You will at once place every horse and cart here at the disposal
of your Huguenot brethren. You will assist them to put their
household goods in them, and will at once start with them for
Laville. Those who do so will be allowed to return, unharmed, with
their animals and carts.

"Eustace, you will remain here with two men, and see that this
order is carried out. Shoot down without hesitation any man who
murmurs. If there is any trouble whatever, before our return, the
priest and the maire shall dangle from the church tower."

The next two villages they entered, the same scene was enacted. As
they approached the fourth village, they heard cries and screams.

"Lower your lances, my friends. Forward!"

And at a gallop, the little band dashed into the village.

It was full of people. Several bodies of men and women lay in the
road. Pistol shots rang out here and there, showing that some of
the Huguenots were making a stout defence of their homes. Through
and through the crowd the horsemen rode, those in front clearing
their way with their lances, those behind thrusting and cutting
with their swords.

The Catholics were, for the most part, roughly armed. Some had
pikes, some had swords, others axes, choppers, or clubs; but none
now thought of defence. The arms that had been brought out for the
work of murder were thrown away, and there was no thought, save of
flight.

The doors of the Huguenot houses were thrown open and the men,
issuing out, fell upon those who were, just before, their
assailants. Philip saw some horsemen, and others, collected round a
cross in the centre of the village and, calling upon the men near
him to follow, dashed forward and surrounded the party, before they
apprehended the meaning of this sudden tumult. Two or three of the
men drew their swords, as if to resist; but seeing that their
friends were completely routed, they surrendered.

The party consisted of three men who were, by their dresses,
persons of rank; four or five citizens, also on horseback; four
priests, and a dozen acolytes, with banners and censers.

"Tie their hands behind them," Philip ordered. "Not the boys; let
them go."

"I protest against this indignity," one of the gentlemen said. "I
am a nobleman."

"If you were a prince of the blood, sir, and I found you engaged in
the massacre of innocent people, I would tie you up, and set you
swinging from the nearest tree, without compunction."

Their arms were all tightly bound behind them.

"Would you touch a servant of the Lord?" the leading priest said.

"Your clothing is that of a servant of the Lord," Philip replied;
"but as I find you engaged upon the work of the devil, I can only
suppose that you have stolen the clothes.

"Four of you take these priests behind you," he said to his men;
"tie them tightly, with their backs to yours. That will leave you
the use of your arms.

"Pierre, do you ride beside the other prisoners and, if you see any
attempt at escape, shoot them at once.

"Quick, my lads; there may be more of this work going on, ahead."

He then gave similar instructions, for the carriage of the Huguenot
goods, as he had at the preceding places.

At the next village they were in time to prevent the work of
massacre from commencing. A party of horsemen and some priests,
followed by a mob, were just entering it as they rode up. The
horsemen were overthrown by their onset, the mob sent flying back
towards the town, the Huguenots charging almost up to the gates.
The horsemen and priests were made prisoners, as before; and when
the rest of the band returned from their pursuit, they again rode
on. They had now made half a circuit of Niort, and presently saw
Francois and his party, galloping towards them.

"I had begun to be afraid that something had happened," Francois
said, as he rode up. "I waited a quarter of an hour and then rode
on, as we agreed.

"Well, I see you have got a good batch of prisoners."

"We have lost no time," Philip said. "We have been through five
villages. At one we were just in time, for they had begun the work
of massacre, before we got up. At another, we met them as they
arrived. But at the other three, although the villagers were
prepared for the work, the townsmen had not arrived."

"There were only three villages on my side," Francois said. "At the
first, they had nearly finished their work before we arrived. That
was where we saw the smoke rising. But we paid them for it
handsomely, for we must have cut down more than a hundred of the
scoundrels. At one of the others, the Huguenots were defending
themselves well; and there, too, we gave the townspeople a lesson.
At the third, all was quiet. We have taken six or eight burghers,
as many gentlemen, and ten priests."

Philip told him the orders he had given, for the Catholics to place
their horses and carts at the disposal of their Huguenot fellow
villagers.

"I wish I had thought of it," Francois said. "But it is not too
late. I will ride back with my party, and see all our friends well
on their way from the villages. I left four men at each, to keep
the Catholics from interfering.

"If you will go back the way you came, we will meet again on the
main road, on the other side of the town. I don't think there is
any fear of their making a sortie. Our strength is sure to be
greatly exaggerated; and the fugitives, pouring in from each side
of the town with their tales, will spread a report that Conde
himself, with a whole host of horsemen, is around them."

Philip found all going on well, as he returned through the
villages, the scare being so great that none thought of disobeying
the orders; and in a couple of hours he rejoined Francois, having
seen the whole of the Huguenot population of the villages well on
their way.

"Now, Philip, we will go and summon the town. First of all, though,
let us get a complete list of the names of our prisoners."

These were all written down, and then the two leaders, with their
eight men-at-arms, rode towards the gates of Niort, a white flag
being raised on one of the lances.



Chapter 9: An Important Mission.


"We have made an excellent haul," Francois said as, while awaiting
the answer to their signal, they looked down the list of names.
"Among the gentlemen are several connected with some of the most
important Catholic families of Poitou. The more shame to them, for
being engaged in so rascally a business; though when the court and
the king, Lorraine and the Guises, set the example of persecution,
one can scarcely blame the lesser gentry, who wish to ingratiate
themselves with the authorities, for doing the same.

"Of the citizens we have got one of the magistrates, and four or
five other prominent men; whom I know, by reputation, as having
been among the foremost to stir up the people against the
Huguenots. These fellows I could hang up with pleasure, and would
do so, were it not that we need them to exchange for our friends.

"Then we have got thirty priests. The names of two of them I know
as popular preachers who, after the last peace was made, denounced
the king and his mother as Ahab and Jezebel, for making terms with
us. They, too, were it not for their sacred office, I could string
up without having any weight upon my conscience.

"Ah! There is the white flag. Let us ride forward."

The gates remained closed, and they rode up to within a hundred
yards of them. In a few minutes several persons made their
appearance on the wall over the gateway, and they then advanced to
within twenty paces of the gate.

Then one from the wall said:

"I am John De Luc, royal commissioner of this town. This is the
reverend bishop of the town. This is the maire, and these the
magistrates. To whom am I speaking?"

"I am the Count Francois de Laville," Francois replied; "and I now
represent the gentlemen who have come hither, with a large body of
troops, to protect those of our faith from persecution and
massacre. We arrived too late to save all, but not to punish; as
the ruffians of your town have learned, to their cost. Some two or
three hundred of them came out to slay, and have been slain.

"The following persons are in our hands," and he read the list of
the prisoners. "I now give you notice that unless, within one hour
of the present time, all those of the reformed faith whom you have
thrown into prison, together with all others who wish to leave, are
permitted to issue from this gate, free and unharmed, and carrying
with them what portion of their worldly goods they may wish to take,
I will hang up the whole of the prisoners in my hands--gentlemen,
citizens, and priests--to the trees of that wood, a quarter of a
mile away. Let it be understood that the terms are to be carried
out to the letter. Proclamation must be made through your streets
that all of the reformed faith are free to depart, taking with them
their wives and families, and such valuables and goods as they may
choose. I shall question those who come out, and if I find that any
have been detained against their will, or if the news has not been
so proclaimed that all can take advantage of it, I shall not release
the prisoners.

"If these terms are not accepted, my officers will first hang the
prisoners, then they will ravage the country round; and will then
proceed to besiege the city and, when they capture it, take
vengeance for the innocent blood that has been shed within its
walls. You best know what is the strength of your garrison, and
whether you can successfully resist an assault by the troops of the
Admiral.

"I will give you ten minutes to deliberate. Unless by the end of
that time you accept the conditions offered, it will go hard with
those in our hands."

"Impious youth," the bishop, who was in full pontificals, said,
"you would never dare to hang priests."

"As the gentlemen of your party have thought it no sin to put to
death scores of our ministers, and as I found these most holy
persons hounding on a mob to massacre, I shall certainly feel no
compunction, whatever, in executing the orders of my leader, to
hang them with the other malefactors," Francois replied; "and
methinks that you will benefit these holy men more, by advising
those with you to agree to the conditions which I offer, than by
wasting your breath in controversy with me."

There was a hasty conversation between those on the wall, and it
was not long before they came to an agreement. De Luc feared that
he should incur the enmity of several powerful families, if he left
their relatives for execution. The citizens were equally anxious to
save their fellows; and were, moreover, scared at the threat of the
neighbourhood being laid waste, and the town attacked, by this
unknown force that had appeared before it. They had heard vague
rumours of the arrival of the prince and Admiral, with a large
force, at La Rochelle; but it might well be that he had turned
aside on his journey, at the news of the occurrences at Niort. The
bishop was equally anxious to rescue the priests, for he felt that
he might be blamed for their death by his ecclesiastical superiors.

Their consultation over, de Luc turned to the Count.

"Do you give me your solemn assurance and word, as a noble of
France, that upon our performing our part of the condition, the
prisoners in your hands shall be restored unharmed?"

"I do," Francois replied. "I pledge my honour that, as soon as I
find that the whole of those of our religion have left the town
peaceably, the prisoners shall be permitted to return, unharmed in
any way."

"Then we accept the terms. All those of the reformed religion in
the town, whether at present in prison or in their homes, who may
desire to leave, will be permitted to pass. As soon as you retire,
the gate shall be opened."

Francois and his party fell back a quarter of a mile. In a short
time, people began to issue in twos and threes from the gate. Many
bore heavy bundles on their backs, and were accompanied by women
and children, all similarly laden. A few had with them carts, piled
up with household goods.

From the first who came, Francois learned that the conditions had
been carried out; the proclamation being made in every street, at
the sound of the trumpet, that all who held the reformed religion
were free to depart, and that they might take with them such goods
as they could carry, or take in carts. At first it had been thought
that this was but a trap, to get the Huguenots to reveal
themselves; but the reports of those who had returned, discomfited,
to the town, that there was a great Huguenot force outside, and
that many people of consideration had been taken prisoners, gave
them courage; and some of the leading citizens went round, to every
house where persons suspected of being Huguenots were living, to
urge them to leave, telling them that a treaty had been made
securing them their safety. Before the hour had passed, more than
five hundred men, women, and children had left the town.

As all agreed that no impediment had been placed in their way, but
that upon the contrary, every person even suspected as having
Huguenot leanings had been urged to go, Francois and Philip felt
assured that, at any rate, all who wished to leave had had the
opportunity of doing so. They waited ten minutes over the hour; and
then, seeing that no more came forth, they ordered the prisoners to
be unbound, and allowed to depart for the city.

As the fugitives had come along they were told that the Prince of
Conde, with a strong force, had entered La Rochelle; and were
advised to make for that city, where they would find safety and
welcome. Those, however, who preferred to go to Laville, were
assured that they would be welcomed and cared for, there, until an
opportunity arose for their being sent, under escort, to La
Rochelle. The greater portion decided to make, at once, for the
Huguenot city.

"I think, Philip, you had better take forty of the men, to act as a
rearguard to these poor people, till you are within sight of La
Rochelle. The fellows whom we have let free will tell, on their
return to the town, that we are but a small party; and it is
possible they may send out parties in pursuit."

"I don't think it is likely. The townspeople have been too roughly
handled to care about running any risks. They have no very large
body of men-at-arms in the town. Still, if they do pursue, it will
be by the road to La Rochelle, for that is the one they will think
that most of the fugitives will take.

"Had we not better divide the troop equally, Francois?"

"No, I think not. They will imagine we shall all be going by that
road; and that, moreover, some of the other gentlemen of our faith
may be coming to meet us, with their retainers. Twenty will be
ample for me. Do you take the rest."

Two hours later, Philip saw a cloud of dust rising from the road in
his rear. He hurried on with the fugitives in front of him until,
half an hour later, they came to a bridge over a stream. This was
only wide enough for four horsemen to cross abreast, and here he
took up his station.

In a few minutes, a number of horsemen approached. They were riding
without order or regularity, intent only on overtaking their prey.
Seeing the disorder in which they came, Philip advanced from the
bridge, formed up his men in two lines, and then charged at full
gallop.

The men-at-arms tried to rein in their horses and form in order
but, before they could do so, the Huguenots burst down upon them.
The horses of the Catholics, exhausted with the speed at which they
had been ridden, were unable to withstand the shock; and they and
their riders went down before it. A panic seized those in the rear
and, turning quickly, they fled in all directions, leaving some
thirty of their number dead on the ground. Philip would not permit
his followers to pursue.

"They outnumber us four times," he said; "and if we scatter, they
may turn and fall upon us. Our horses have done a long day's work,
and deserve rest. We will halt here at the bridge. They are not
likely to disturb us, but if they do, we can make a stout
resistance here.

"Do you ride on, Jacques, and tell the fugitives that they can
press forward as far as they like, and then halt for the night. We
will take care that they are not molested, and will ride on and
overtake them, in the morning."

The night passed quietly and, late the following evening, the party
were in sight of La Rochelle. Philip had intended to turn at this
point, where all danger to the fugitives was over, and to start on
his journey back. But the hour was late, and he would have found it
difficult to obtain food and forage, without pressing the horses.
He therefore determined to pass the night at La Rochelle, as he
could take the last news, thence, back to Laville.

The streets of the town presented a busy aspect. Parties of
Huguenot gentlemen and their retainers were constantly arriving,
and fugitive villagers had come in from a wide extent of country.
Large numbers of men were working at the walls of the town. The
harbour was full of small craft. Lines of carts brought in
provisions from the surrounding country, and large numbers of oxen,
sheep, and goats were being driven in.

"As we shall start for Laville in the morning," Philip said to his
men, "it is not worth while to trouble to get quarters; and indeed,
I should say, from the appearance of the place, that every house is
already crowded from basement to roof. Therefore we will bivouac
down by the shore, where I see there are many companies already
bestowed."

As soon as they had picketed their horses, a party were sent off,
to purchase provisions for the troop and forage for their horses;
and when he had seen that the arrangements were complete, Philip
told Pierre to follow him, and went up to the castle, where Conde
and Coligny, with their families, were lodged. He was greeted
warmly by several of the gentlemen who had stopped at the chateau,
a few days before.

The story of the fugitives from Niort had already spread through
the town, and Philip was eagerly questioned about it. Just as he
was about to tell the story, Conde and the Admiral came out, from
an inner room, into the large anteroom where they were talking.

"Ah! Here is the young count's cousin, Monsieur Fletcher," the
Admiral said. "Now we shall hear about this affair of Niort, of
which we have received half a dozen different versions, in the last
hour. Is the count himself here?"

"No, sir. He returned to Laville, escorting the fugitives who went
thither; while he sent me, with the larger portion of the troop, to
protect the passage hither of the main body."

"But it was reported to me that the troop with which you entered
was but forty strong. I hear you fought a battle on the way. Did
you lose many men there?"

"None, sir. Indeed I am glad to say that, beyond a few trifling
wounds, the whole matter has been carried out without any loss to
the party that rode from Laville."

"How strong were they altogether, monsieur?"

"Sixty, sir."

"Then where did you join the force that, as we hear, cut up the
townspeople of Niort as they were massacring our people in the
villages round, and afterwards obtained from the town the freedom
of those who had been cast into prison, and permission for all
Huguenots to leave the town?"

"There was no other force, sir. We had just the sixty men from
Laville, commanded by my cousin Francois. When the news arrived of
the doings at Niort, there was no time to send round to gather our
friends; so we mounted the men-at-arms at the chateau and rode with
all speed, and were but just in time. Had we delayed another half
hour, to gather a larger force, we should have been too late."

"Tell us all about it," the prince said.

"This seems to have been a gallant and well-managed affair,
Admiral."

Philip related the whole circumstances of the affair; how the
townspeople had been heavily punished, and the chief men taken as
hostages, and the peasants compelled to assist to convey the
property of the Huguenots to Laville; also the subsequent
negotiations, and the escape of all the Huguenots from Niort; and
how the troop under him had smartly repulsed, with the loss of over
thirty men, the men-at-arms from the city.

"A gallant enterprise," the prince said. "What think you, Admiral?"

"I think, indeed, that this young gentleman and his cousin, the
young Count of Laville, have shown singular prudence and
forethought, as well as courage. The matter could not have been
better managed, had it been planned by any of our oldest heads.
That they should, at the head of their little bodies of
men-at-arms, have dispersed the cowardly mob of Niort, is what we
may believe that any brave gentleman would have done; but their
device of taking the priests and the other leaders as hostages,
their boldness in summoning the authorities of Niort, under the
threat of hanging the hostages and capturing the town, is indeed
most excellent and commendable. I heard that the number of
fugitives from Niort was nearly six hundred, and besides these
there were, I suppose, those from the villages."

"About two hundred set out from the villages, sir."

"Eight hundred souls. You hear that, gentlemen? Eight hundred souls
have been rescued, from torture and death, by the bravery and
prudence of these two young gentlemen, who are in years but youths.
Let it be a lesson, to us all, of what can be done by men engaged
in a good work, and placing their trust in God. There is not one of
us but might have felt proud to have been the means of doing so
great and good a work, with so small a force; and to have saved
eight hundred lives, without the loss of a single one; to say
nothing of the sharp lesson given to the city mobs, that the work
of massacre may sometimes recoil upon those who undertake it.

"Our good friend De la Noue has, more than once, spoken very highly
to the prince and myself respecting the young count, and this young
English gentleman; and they certainly have more than borne out his
commendations."

"And more than that," the prince put in, "I myself in no small
degree owe my life to them; for when I was pinned down by my horse,
at Saint Denis, they were among the foremost of those who rushed to
my rescue. Busy as I was, I had time to mark well how stoutly and
valiantly they fought.

"Moreover, Monsieur D'Arblay has spoken to me in the highest terms
of both of them, but especially of Monsieur Fletcher; who, as he
declared, saved his life and that of the Count de Laville, by
obtaining their release from the dungeons of Toulouse, by some such
device as that he has used at Niort.

"And now, gentlemen, supper is served. Let us go in at once. We
must have already tried the patience of our good hosts, who are
doing their best to entertain us right royally; and whom I hope to
relieve of part of the burden, in a very few days.

"Monsieur Fletcher, you shall sit between the Admiral and myself;
for you have told us your story but briefly, and afterwards I would
fain question you farther, as to that affair at Toulouse."

The two nobles, indeed, inquired very minutely into all the
incidents of the fight. By closely questioning him, they learned
that the idea of forcing the peasants to lend their horses and
carts, to convey the Huguenot villagers' goods to Laville, was his
own, and occurred to him just as he was about to start from the
first village he entered.

"The success of military operations," the Admiral said, "depends
greatly upon details. It is one thing to lay out a general plan;
another to think, amid the bustle and excitement of action, of the
details upon which success so largely depends; and your thought of
making the men, who were about to join in the slaughter of their
fellow villagers, the means of conveying their goods and chattels
to a place of safety, is one that shows that your head is cool, and
able to think and plan in moments when most men would be carried
away by the excitement of the occasion. I am pleased with you, sir;
and shall feel that, if I have any matter on hand demanding
discretion and prudence, as well as bravery, I can, in spite of
your years, confidently intrust you with it.

"Are you thinking of returning tomorrow to Laville?"

"I was intending to do so, sir. It may be that the people of Niort
may endeavour to revenge the stroke that we have dealt them, and
the forty men with me are necessary for the defence of the
chateau."

"I do not think there is any fear of an attack from Niort," the
Admiral said. "They will know, well enough, that our people are
flocking here from all parts; and will be thinking of defence,
rather than of attack, knowing that, while we are almost within
striking distance, the royal army is not in a condition, as yet, to
march from Paris.

"Where are you resting for the night?"

"My troops are down by the shore, sir. Seeing how full the town
was, I thought it was not worth while to look for quarters; and
intended to sleep down there among them, in readiness for an early
start."

"Then, after supper, I would that you go down to them, and tell
them not to be surprised if you do not join them till morning. Then
return hither for the night. It may be that we may want to speak to
you again."

Late in the evening a page came to Philip and, saying that the
prince wished to speak with him, conducted him to a small
apartment, where he found Conde and the Admiral.

"We have a mission with which we would intrust you, if you are
willing to undertake it," the Admiral said. "It is a dangerous one,
and demands prudence and resource, as well as courage. It seems to
the prince and myself that you possess these qualities; and your
youth may enable you to carry out the mission, perhaps, more easily
than another would do.

"It is no less than to carry a letter, from the prince and myself,
to the Queen of Navarre. She is at present at Nerac. Agents of
Catharine have been trying to persuade her to go with her son to
Paris; but fortunately, she discovered that there was a plot to
seize her, and the young prince her son, at the same time that we
were to be entrapped in Burgundy. De Lossy, who was charged with
the mission of seizing her at Tarbes, was fortunately taken ill;
and she has made her way safely up to Nerac.

"All Guyenne swarms with her enemies. D'Escars and four thousand
Catholics lie scattered along from Perigueux to Bordeaux, and other
bands lie between Perigueux and Tulle. If once past those dangers,
her course is barred at Angouleme, Cognac, and Saintes.

"I want her to know that I will meet her on the Charente. I do not
say that I shall be able to take those three towns, but I will
besiege them; and she will find me outside one of them, if I cannot
get inside. It is all important that she should know this, so that
she may judge whither to direct her course, when once safely across
the river Dronne and out of Guyenne.

"I dare not send a written despatch for, were it to fall into the
hands of the Catholics, they would at once strengthen the garrisons
of the town on the Charente; and would keep so keen a watch, in
that direction, that it would be impossible for the queen to pass.
I will give you a ring, a gift from the queen herself, in token
that you are my messenger, and that she can place every confidence
in you.

"I will leave to you the choice of how you will proceed. You can
take some of your men-at-arms with you, and try to make your way
through with a sudden dash; but as the bridges and fords will be
strongly watched, I think that it will be much wiser for you to go
in disguise, either with or without a companion. Certainty is of
more importance than speed. I found a communication here, sent by
the queen before she started to the authorities of the town, saying
that she should try to make her way to them; and she knew that the
prince and myself would also come here, if we found our personal
safety menaced in Burgundy. She foresaw that her difficulties would
be great; and requested that, if we arrived here, we would send her
word as to our movements, in order that she might accommodate hers
to them.

"I have chosen you for several reasons, one being, as I have told
you, that I see you are quick at forming a judgment, and cool in
danger. The second is that you will not be known to any of the
enemy whom you may meet on your way. Most of the Huguenots here
come from the neighbouring provinces, and would almost certainly be
recognized, by Catholics from the same neighbourhood. Of course you
understand that, if suspicion should fall upon you of being a
messenger from this place, you will have but a short shrift."

"I am quite ready to do my best, sir, to carry out your mission.
Personally I would rather ride fast, with half a dozen men-at-arms;
but doubtless, as you say, the other would be the surest way. I
will take with me my servant, who is shrewd and full of resources
and, being a native of these parts, could pass as a countryman
anywhere. My horses and my four men I will leave here, until my
return. The troop will, of course, start in the morning for
Laville."

"We have another destination for them," the prince said. "A
messenger rode yesterday to Laville, to bid the young count start,
the day after tomorrow, with every man he can raise, to join me
before Niort; for which place I set out, tomorrow at midday. Of
course we had no idea that he had already come to blows with that
city; but we resolved to make its capture our first enterprise,
seeing that it blocks the principal road from Paris hither, and is
indeed a natural outpost of La Rochelle. Niort taken, we shall push
on and capture Parthenay, which still further blocks the road, and
whose possession will keep a door open for our friends from
Brittany, Normandy, and the north. When those places are secured
and garrisoned, we can then set about clearing out the Catholics
from the towns to the south."

"Very well, sir. Then I will give orders to them that they are to
accompany your force tomorrow, and join the count before Niort."

"Here is a large map of the country you will have to traverse. You
had best take it into the next room, and study it carefully;
especially the course and direction of the rivers, and the points
of crossing. It would be shorter, perhaps, if you could have gone
by boat south to Arcachon and thence made your way to Nerac; but
there are wide dunes to be crossed, and pine forests to be
traversed, where a stranger might well die of hunger and thirst.
The people, too, are wild and savage, and look upon strangers with
great suspicion; and would probably have no compunction in cutting
your throat. Moreover, the Catholics have a flotilla at the mouth
of the Gironde, and there would be difficulty and danger in
passing.

"You will, of course, make all speed that you can. I shall
presently see some of the council of the town and, if they tell me
that a boat can take you down the coast as far as the Seudre, some
ten miles north of the mouth of the Gironde, you will avoid the
difficulty of crossing the Boutonne at Saint Jean d'Angely, and the
Charente at Saintes or Cognac. It would save you a quarter of your
journey. I expect them shortly, so that by the time you have
studied the map, I shall be able to tell you more."

An hour later, Philip was again summoned. To his surprise, he found
Maitre Bertram with the prince.

"Our good friend here tells me that he is already acquainted with
you, Monsieur Fletcher. He will house you for tonight, and at
daybreak put you on board a small coasting vessel, which will carry
you down to the mouth of the Seudre. He will also procure for you
whatever disguises you may require, for yourself and your
attendant.

"He has relations with traders in many of the towns. Some of these
are openly of our faith, others are time servers, or are not yet
sufficiently convinced to dare persecution and death for its sake.
He will give you the names of some of these; and you may, at a
push, be able to find shelter with them, obtain a guide, or receive
other assistance.

"Here is the ring. Hide it carefully on the way for, were you
searched, a ring of this value would be considered a proof that you
were not what you seemed.

"You quite understand my message. I pray the queen to trust to no
promises but, using all care to avoid those who would stop her, to
come north as speedily as possible, before the toils close round
her; and you will assure her that she will find me on the Charente,
and that I shall have either taken Cognac, or be occupied in
besieging it."

"If I fail, sir, it shall be from no lack of prudence on my part;
and I hope to prove myself worthy of the high honour that the
prince and yourself have done me, in selecting me for the mission."

"Farewell then," the Admiral said. "I trust that, in ten days'
time, I shall meet you at Cognac. I have arranged with Maitre
Bertram, who will furnish you with the funds necessary for your
expedition."

Philip bowed deeply to the two nobles, and retired with the
merchant. He had directed Pierre to remain among the lackeys at the
foot of the grand staircase, as he would be required presently; and
as he passed through, he beckoned to him to follow.

"You have seen my horses comfortably stabled, Pierre?"

"It was done an hour since, monsieur."

"And my four men understand that they are to remain here, in charge
of them, until I return?"

"Yes, sir. Their own horses are also bestowed here, and mine."

"Very well. We sleep tonight at Maitre Bertram's."

"I am right glad to hear it, sir; for truly this castle is full
from the top to the bottom, and I love not to sleep in a crowd."

"You still have Pierre with you?" the merchant said.

"Yes, and he has turned out an excellent servant. It was a
fortunate day, for me, when I insisted on taking him in spite of
your warning. He is a merry varlet, and yet knows when to joke, and
when to hold his peace. He is an excellent forager--"

"Ah! That I warrant he is," Maitre Bertram put in;

"--And can cook a dinner or a supper with any man in the army. I
would not part with him on any consideration."

"A fellow of that sort, Master Fletcher, is sure to turn out either
a rogue or a handy fellow. I am glad to hear that he has proved the
latter.

"Here we are at the house. At ordinary times we should all be abed
and asleep at this hour, but the place is turned upside down since
the prince and the Admiral arrived; for every citizen has taken in
as many men as his house will hold. I have four gentlemen and
twenty of their retainers lodging here; but I will take you to my
own den, where we can talk undisturbed; for there is much to say
and to arrange, as to this expedition of yours, in which there is
more peril than I should like to encounter. However, that is your
affair. You have undertaken it, and there is nought for me to do,
save to try and make it as successful as possible.

"You have already been studying the map, I hear, and know something
of the route. I have a good map myself, and we will follow the way
together upon it. It would be as well to see whether your rascal
knows anything of the country. In some of his wanderings, he may
have gone south."

"I will question him," Philip said and, reopening the door of the
room, he told Pierre, whom he had bidden follow him upstairs, to
enter.

"I am going down into Gascony, Pierre. It matters not, at present,
upon what venture. I am going to start tomorrow at daylight, in a
craft of Maitre Bertram's, which will land me ten miles this side
the mouth of the Gironde; by which, as you will see, I avoid having
to cross the Charente, where the bridges are all in the hands of
the Catholics. I am going in disguise, and I propose taking you
with me."

"It is all one to me, sir. Where you go, I am ready to follow you.
I have been at Bordeaux, but no farther south.

"I don't know whether you think that three would be too many. Your
men are all Gascons, and one or other of them might know the part
of the country you wish to travel."

"I had not thought of it," Philip said; "but the idea is a good
one. It would depend greatly upon our disguises."

"Do you travel as a man-at-arms, or as a countryman, or a pedlar,
or maybe as a priest, sir?"

"Not as a priest, assuredly," Philip laughed. "I am too young for
that."

"Too young to be in full orders, but not too young to be a
theological student: one going from a theological seminary, at
Bordeaux, to be initiated at Perigueux, or further south to Agen."

Philip shook his head.

"I should be found out by the first priest who questioned me."

"Then, sir, we might go with sacks of ware on our backs, as
travelling pedlars; or, on the other hand, we might be on our way
to take service under the Catholic leaders. If so, we might carry
steel caps and swords, which methinks would suit you better than
either a priest's cowl or a pedlar's pack.

"In that case there might well be three of us, or even four. Two of
your men-at-arms would go as old soldiers, and you and I as young
relations of theirs, anxious to turn our hands to soldiering. Once
in Gascony, their dialect would help us rarely, and our story
should pass without difficulty; and even on the way it would not be
without its use, for the story that they have been living near La
Rochelle but, owing to the concourse of Huguenots, could no longer
stay there; and were therefore making south to see, in the first
place, their friends at home; and then to take service, under some
Catholic lord, would sound likely enough."

"I don't know that we can contrive a better scheme than that,
Maitre Bertram. What do you think?"

"It promises well," the trader agreed.

"Do you know what part of Gascony these men come from, Pierre?"

"They come from near Dax."

"That matters little," Philip said, "seeing that it is only to the
south of Guyenne that we are bound. Still, they will probably have
traversed the province often; and in any case there should be no
trouble in finding our way, seeing that Agen lies on the Garonne,
and we shall only have to keep near the river, all the way from the
point where we are landed. Our great difficulty will be in crossing
the Dordogne, the Dronne, and the Lot, all of which we are likely
to find guarded."

"If you can manage to cross the Garonne here, near Langon," the
merchant said, placing his finger on the map, "you would avoid the
two last rivers and, by keeping west of Bazas, you would be able to
reach Nerac without difficulty. You have to cross somewhere, and it
might be as easy there as at Agen."

"That is so," Philip agreed. "At any rate, we will try there first.

"I don't know which of the men I had best take with me. They are
all shrewd fellows, as Gascons generally are, so I don't know how
to make my choice."

"I don't think there is much difference, sir," Pierre said. "I have
seen enough of them to know, at least, that they are all honest
fellows."

"I would let them decide the matter for themselves," Philip said.
"Some might like to go, and some to stay behind. If I chose two,
the others might consider themselves slighted.

"Do you know where they have bestowed themselves, Pierre?"

"Down in the stables with the horses, sir. I could pretty well put
my hand on them, in the dark."

"Well, go and fetch them hither, then. Say nothing about the
business on which they are required."

In a quarter of an hour Pierre returned, with the four men. Philip
explained to them, briefly, that he wanted two of them to journey
with him, on a mission of some danger, through Guyenne.

"I have sent for you all," he said, "in order that you might
arrange among yourselves which two shall go. Therefore do you
settle the matter, and if you cannot agree, then cast lots and
leave it to fortune. Only, as you are two sets of brothers, these
had best either go or stay together; therefore if you cast lots do
it not singly, but two against two."

"We may as well do it at once, Monsieur Philip," Eustace said. "I
know, beforehand, that we would all choose to follow you; therefore
if you will put two papers into my steel cap, one with my name, and
one with Jacques', Pierre shall draw. If he takes out the one with
my name, then I and Henri will go with you. If he draws Jacques,
then he and Roger shall go."

This was done, and Jacques and Roger won.

"You will have plenty to do, while we are away," Philip said to
Eustace. "There will be seven horses to look after, including my
chargers."

"How long are you likely to be away, sir?"

"I may return in ten days. I may be away three weeks. Should any
evil chance befall us, you will take the horses over to Laville and
hand them over to my cousin; who will, I am sure, gladly take you
and Henri into his service.

"As we leave here at daybreak, you, Jacques, and your brother Roger
had better wrap yourselves up in your cloaks, and lie down in the
hall below. I would that we could, in the morning, procure clothes
for you, older and more worn than those you have on. You are going
as men who have formerly served; but have since been living in a
village, tilling the land, just as you were when you first joined
me."

"Then we have the very clothes ready to hand," Jacques said. "When
we joined you, we left ours with a friend in the town, to hold for
us. There is no saying how long military service may last and, as
our clothes were serviceable, we laid them by. We can go round and
get them, the first thing in the morning; leaving these we wear in
his care, until we return."

"That will do well; but you must be up early, for it is important
we should make our start as soon as possible."

"I also have my old clothes held in keeping for me, by one who
worked in the stable with me," Pierre said. "A man who is going to
the war can always find others ready to take charge of whatever he
may leave behind, knowing full well that the chances are that he
will never return to claim them."

"That simplifies matters," Maitre Bertram said. "There remains only
your dress, Monsieur Philip; and I shall have no difficulty in
getting, from my own knaves, a doublet, cloak, and other things to
suit you. I have plenty of steel caps and swords, in my warehouse."

"You had best leave your breast pieces here," Philip said to the
men. "The number of those who carry them is small, and it will be
enough to have steel caps and swords. We are going to walk fast and
far, and the less weight we carry, the better."



Chapter 10: The Queen Of Navarre.


The sun had just risen when Maitre Bertram, accompanied by four men
in the attire of peasants, went down to the port. Two of them wore
steel caps, and had the appearance of discharged soldiers. The
other two looked like fresh countrymen, and wore the low caps in
use by the peasantry on their heads, carrying steel caps slung by
cords from their shoulder. All four had swords stuck into their
leathern belts. Similar groups might have been seen in hundreds,
all over France, making their way to join the forces of the
contending parties.

[Illustration: Philip and his followers embarking.]

The craft upon which the trader led them was a small one, of four
or five tons burden, manned by three men and a boy.

"You understand, Johan, if you meet with no interruption, you will
land your passengers at the mouth of the Seudre; but if you should
come across any of the craft that have been hovering about the
coast, and find that they are too fast for you, put them ashore
wherever they may direct. If you are too hotly chased to escape,
after landing them, you had best also disembark; and make your way
back by land, as best you can, leaving them to do what they will
with the boat. As like as not they would cut your throats, did they
take you; and if not, would want to know whom you had landed, and
other matters.

"I do not want to lose the craft, which has done me good service in
her time, and is a handy little coaster; but I would rather lose
it, than that you should fall into the hands of the Bordeaux boats
and get into trouble. The fact that you made for shore, to land
passengers, would be sufficient to show that those passengers were
of some importance.

"Now, good luck to you, Master Philip. I trust to see you back here
again, before long."

They kept straight out from La Rochelle to the Isle of Oleron, and
held along close to its shore, lest boats coming out from the
Charente might overhaul them. From the southern end of the island,
it was only a run of some eight miles into the mouth of the Seudre.
A brisk wind had blown, and they made the forty miles' voyage in
seven hours. They could see several white sails far to the south,
as they ran in; but had met with nothing to disquiet them, on the
way. They were rowed ashore in the little boat the craft carried,
and landed among some sand hills; among which they at once struck
off, and walked briskly for a mile inland, so as to avoid any
questionings, from persons they might meet, as to where they had
come from.

Jacques and his brother carried bags slung over their shoulders,
and in these was a store of food with which the merchant had
provided them, and two or three flasks of good wine; so that they
might make a day's journey, at least, without having to stop to
purchase food.

It was two o'clock when they landed, and they had therefore some
five hours of daylight; and before this had faded they had passed
Royan, situated on the Gironde. They did not approach the town but,
keeping behind it, came down upon the road running along the shore,
three miles beyond it; and walked along it until about ten o'clock,
by which time all were thoroughly tired with their unaccustomed
exercise. Leaving the road, they found a sheltered spot among the
sand hills, ate a hearty meal, and then lay down to sleep.

They were afoot again, at daylight. The country was sparsely
populated. They passed through a few small villages, but no place
of any importance until, late in the afternoon, they approached
Blaye, after a long day's tramp. As they thought that here they
might learn something, of the movements of the large body of
Catholic troops Philip had heard of as guarding the passages of the
Dordogne, they determined to enter the town.

They passed through the gates, half an hour before they were
closed, and entered a small cabaret. Here, calling for some bread
and common wine, they sat down in a corner, and listened to the
talk of the men who were drinking there. It was all about the
movements of troops, and the scraps of news that had come in from
all quarters.

"I don't know who they can be all arming against," one said. "The
Queen of Navarre has no troops and, even if a few hundreds of
Huguenots joined her, what could she do? As to Conde and the
Admiral, they have been hunted all over France, ever since they
left Noyers. They say they hadn't fifty men with them. It seems to
me they are making a great fuss about nothing."

"I have just heard a report," a man who had, two or three minutes
before, entered the room said, "to the effect that they arrived
four days since at La Rochelle, with some five or six hundred men,
who joined them on the way."

An exclamation of surprise broke from his hearers.

"Then we shall have trouble," one exclaimed. "La Rochelle is a hard
nut to crack, in itself; and if the prince and the Admiral have got
in, the Huguenots from all the country round will rally there, and
may give a good deal of trouble, after all. What can the Catholic
lords have been about, that they managed to let them slip through
their hands in that way? They must have seen, for some time, that
they were making for the one place where they would be safe; unless
indeed they were making down for Navarre. That would account for
the way in which all the bridges and fords across the rivers are
being watched."

"I expect they are watching both ways," another said. "These
Huguenots always seem to know what is going on, and it is likely
enough that, while our people all thought that Conde was making for
Germany, there was not a Huguenot throughout France who did not
know he was coming west to La Rochelle; and if so, they will be
moving in all directions to join him there, and that is why
D'Escars has got such a force at all the bridges. I heard, from a
man who came in yesterday, that the Lot is watched just as sharply,
from the Garonne through Cahors right on to Espalion; and he had
heard that at Agen, and along the Aveyron, the troops hold the
bridges and fords as if they expected an enemy.

"No doubt, as soon as they hear that Conde and his party are in La
Rochelle, they will close round them and catch them in a trap. That
will be as good as any other way, and save much trouble. It is a
long chase to catch a pack of wolves, scattered all over the
country; but one can make short work of them all, when you get them
penned up in an inclosure."

Philip cast a warning glance at his companions, for he felt so
inclined to retort, himself, that he feared they might give way to
a similar impulse. Jacques and his brother, however, were munching
their bread stolidly; while Pierre was looking at the speaker, with
a face so full of admiring assent to his remark, that Philip had to
struggle hard to repress a laugh.

"It must be owned," another of the group said, "that these wolves
bite hard. I was in Paris last year, with the Count de Caussac.
Well, we laughed when we saw the three parties of white wolves ride
out from Saint Denis; but I tell you, there was no laughing when
they got among us. We were in the Constable's troop; and though, as
far as I know, we were all pretty stout men-at-arms, and were four
to one against them at least, we had little to boast of when the
fight was over.

"At any rate, I got a mark of the wolves' teeth, which has put a
stop to my hunting, as you see," and he held out his arm. "I left
my right hand on the field of battle. It was in the fight round
Conde. A young Huguenot--for he was smooth faced, and but a
youth--shred it off with a sweeping backhanded blow, as if it had
been a twig. So there is no more wolf hunting for me; but even if I
had my right hand back again, I should not care for any more such
rough sport as that."

Philip congratulated himself that he was sitting with his back to
the speaker, for he remembered the incident well, and it was his
arm that had struck the blow. His visor had been up; but as his
face was shaded by the helmet and cheek pieces, and the man could
have obtained but a passing glance at him, he felt sure, on
reflection, that he would not be recognized.

"Ah, well, we shall do better this time," the first speaker said.
"We are better prepared than we were then and, except La Rochelle
and four or five small towns, every place in France is in our
hands. I expect the next news will be that the prince and Coligny,
and the others, have taken ship for England. Then, when that
pestilent Queen of Navarre and her boy are in our hands, the whole
thing will be over; and the last edict will be carried out, and
each Huguenot will have the choice between the mass and the
gallows.

"Well, I will have one more stoup of wine, and then I will be off,
for we march at daybreak."

"How many ride out with you?" the man who had lost his hand asked.

"A hundred. The town has voted the funds, and we march to join
D'Escars tomorrow. I believe we are not going to Perigueux, but are
to be stationed somewhere on the lower Dordogne, to prevent any of
the Huguenots from the south making their way towards La Rochelle."

The frequenters of the cabaret presently dropped off. Jacques, who
acted as spokesman, had on entering asked the landlord if they
could sleep there; and he said there was plenty of good hay, in the
loft over the stable. As his duties were now over, he came across
to them.

"Which way are you going, lads?" he asked. "Are you bound, like the
others, to join one of the lords on the Dordogne?"

"No," Jacques said, "we are bound for Agen. We come from near
there."

"I thought your tongue had a smack of Gascon in it."

"Yes, we come from across the border. We are tired of hard work in
the vineyards, and are going to take up with our own trade; for my
comrade, here, and I served under De Brissac, in Italy. We would
rather enlist under our own lord than under a stranger."

"Yes, that I can understand," the landlord said; "but you will find
it no easy work travelling, at present; when every bridge and ford
across the rivers is watched by armed men, and all who pass are
questioned, sharply, as to their business."

"Well, if they won't let us pass," Jacques said carelessly, "we
must join some leader here; though I should like to have had a few
days at home, first."

"Your best plan would have been to have gone by boat to Bordeaux.
There has been a strong wind from the west, for the last three
days, and it would save you many a mile of weary tramping."

"That it would," Jacques said; "but could one get a passage?"

"There will be no difficulty about that. There is not a day passes,
now that the wind is fair, that three or four boats do not go off
to Bordeaux, with produce from the farms and vineyards. Of course,
you wouldn't get up without paying; but I suppose you are not
without something in your pockets.

"There is a cousin of mine, a farmer, who is starting in the
morning, and has chartered a boat to carry his produce. If I say a
word to him, I have no doubt he would give the four of you a
passage, for a crown."

"What do you say, comrades?" Jacques said. "It would save us some
thirty or forty miles walking, and perhaps some expense for ferrys;
to say nought of trouble with the troops, who are apt enough,
moreover, to search the pockets of those who pass."

"I think it would be a good plan," his brother replied; and the
other two also assented.

"Very well then," the landlord said; "my cousin will be here in the
morning, for he is going to leave two or three barrels of last
year's vintage with me. By the way, I daresay he will be easy with
you as to the passage money, if you agree to help him carry up his
barrels to the magazine of the merchant he deals with, and aid him
with his other goods. It will save him from having to employ men
there, and those porters of Bordeaux know how to charge pretty high
for their services.

"I will make you up a basket for your journey. Shall I say a bottle
of wine each, and some bread, and a couple of dozen eggs, which I
will get boiled hard for you?"

"That will do well, landlord," Jacques said, "and we thank you, for
having put us in the way of saving our legs tomorrow. What time do
you think your cousin will be in?"

"He will have his carts at the gates by the time they open them. He
is not one to waste time; besides, every minute is of importance
for, with this wind, he may well hope to arrive at Bordeaux in time
to get his cargo discharged by nightfall."

"That was a lucky stroke, indeed," Philip said, when they had
gained the loft; and the landlord, having hung up a lantern, had
left them alone. "Half our difficulties will be over, when we get
to Bordeaux. I had began to fear, from what we heard of the watch
they are keeping at the bridges, that we should have found it a
very difficult matter crossing the rivers. Once out of Bordeaux the
Ciron is the only stream we shall have to cross, and that is but a
small river, and is not likely to be watched; for no one making his
way from the south to La Rochelle would keep to the west of the
Garonne."

They were downstairs by six, had a meal of bread and spiced wine;
and soon after seven there was a rumble of carts outside, and two
of them stopped at the cabaret. They were laden principally with
barrels of wine; but in one the farmer's wife was sitting,
surrounded by baskets of eggs, fowls, and ducks, and several casks
of butter.

Three of the casks of wine were taken down, and carried into the
house. The landlord had a chat apart with his cousin, who then came
forward to where they were sitting at a table.

"My cousin tells me you want to go to Bordeaux, and are willing to
help load my boat, and to carry the barrels to the warehouse at
Bordeaux, in return for a passage. Well, I agree to the bargain.
The warehouse is not very far from the wharf, but the men there
charge an extortionate price."

"We will do your work," Jacques said.

"But how am I to know that, when you land, you will not slip away
without fulfilling your share of the bargain?" the farmer asked.
"You look honest fellows, but soldiers are not gentry to be always
depended upon. I mean no offence, but business is business, you
know."

Jacques put his hand in his pocket.

"Here is a crown," he said. "I will hand it over to you, as
earnest. If we do not do your work, you can keep that to pay the
hire of the men to carry your barrels."

"That is fair enough," the farmer said, pocketing the coin. "Now,
let us go without delay."

The landlord had already been paid for the supper of the night
before, the lodging, and the contents of the basket; and without
more words, they set out with the cart to the riverside. Here the
boat was in waiting, and they at once set to work, with the drivers
of the two carts, to transfer their contents to it. As they were as
anxious as the farmer that no time should be lost, they worked
hard, and in a quarter of an hour all was on board.

They took their places in the bow; the farmer, his wife, and the
two boatmen being separated from them by the pile of barrels. The
sail was at once hoisted and, as the west wind was still blowing
strongly, Blaye was soon left behind.

"This is better than walking, by a long way," Philip said. "We are
out of practice, and my feet are tender from the tramp from the
coast. It would have taken us two days to get to Bordeaux, even if
we had no trouble in crossing the Dordogne, and every hour is of
importance. I hope we may get out of the city before the gates
close, then we shall be able to push on all night."

They passed several islands on their way and, after four hours'
run, saw the walls and spires of Bourg, where the Dordogne unites
with the Garonne to form the great estuary known as the Gironde.

At three o'clock they were alongside the wharves of Bordeaux. They
stowed away their steel caps and swords, and at once prepared to
carry up the barrels.

"Do you make an excuse to move off, master," Pierre said; "we three
will soon get these barrels into the store, and it is no fitting
work for you."

"Honest work is fitting work, Pierre, and methinks that my
shoulders are stronger than yours. I have had my sail, and I am
going to pay for it by my share of the work."

The store was nearer than Philip had expected to find it. A wide
road ran along by the river bank, and upon the other side of this
was a line of low warehouses, all occupied by the wine merchants;
who purchased the produce of their vineyards from the growers and,
after keeping it until it matured, supplied France and foreign
countries with it.

Several ships lay by the wharves. Some were bound for England,
others for Holland. Some were freighted for the northern ports of
France, and some, of smaller size, for Paris itself. Several men
came up to offer their services, as soon as the boat was alongside;
and these, when they saw that the owner of the wines had brought
men with them, who would transport the wine to the warehouses,
indulged in some rough jeers before moving away.

In the first place Philip and his companions, aided by the boatmen,
carried the cargo ashore; while the farmer crossed the road to the
merchant with whom he dealt. His store was not more than fifty
yards from the place of landing and, as soon as he returned, the
work began. In an hour and a half the whole of the barrels were
carried over. The farmer's wife had seen to the carriage of her
portion of the cargo to the inn her husband frequented on these
occasions. It was close to the marketplace, and there she would, as
soon as the market opened in the morning, dispose of them; and by
nine o'clock they would be on board again. When the last barrel was
carried into the store, the farmer handed Jacques the crown he had
taken, as pledge for the performance of the bargain.

"You are smart fellows," he said, "and nimble. The same number of
these towns fellows would have taken double the time that you have
done; and I must have had six, at least, to have got the wine
safely stored before nightfall."

"We are well contented with our bargain," Jacques said. "It is
better to work hard for two hours, than to walk for two days. So
good day to you, master, for we shall get on our way at once, and
do not want to spend our money in the wine shops here."

Possessing themselves of their steel caps and swords again, they
made their way through the busy town to the south gates; through
which a stream of peasants, with carts, horses, and donkeys was
passing out, having disposed of the produce they had brought in.

"Where are you bound to, you two with steel caps?" the officer at
the gate asked.

Jacques and his brother paused, while Philip and Pierre, who had
stowed their caps in the bundles they carried, went on without
stopping; as it had previously been agreed that, in case of one or
more of his followers being stopped, Philip should continue his
way; as it was urgent that he should not suffer anything to delay
him in the delivery of his message. He waited, however, a quarter
of a mile from the gates, and the two men then rejoined him.

"We had no difficulty, sir," Jacques said. "We said that we once
had served, and were going to do so again, having grown sick
working in the vineyards; and that we had come up from Blaye with a
cargo of wine, and had taken our discharge, and were now bound for
Agen to see our families, before joining the force that the
Viscount de Rouillac, under whom our father held a farm, would no
doubt be putting in the field. That was sufficient, and he let us
go on without further question; except that he said that we should
have done better by going up to Saintes, or Cognac, and taking
service with the force there, instead of making this long journey
up to Agen."

They walked steadily on until, when it was nearly midnight, they
arrived at a small village on the banks of the Ciron. As the
inhabitants would have been in bed, hours before, they made up
their minds not to attempt to find a shelter there; but to cross by
the bridge, and sleep in the first clump of trees they came to. As
they approached the bridge, however, they saw a fire burning in the
centre of the road. Two men were sitting beside it, and several
others lay round.

"Soldiers!" Philip said. "It would not do to try to cross, at this
time of night. We will retire beyond the village, and wait until
morning."

They turned off into a vineyard, as soon as they were outside the
village; and lay down among the vines that had, some weeks before,
been cleared of their grapes.

"How far does this river run before it becomes fordable, Jacques?"

"I do not know, sir. There are hills run along, in a line with the
Garonne, some ten or twelve miles back; and I should say that, when
we get there, we shall certainly find points at which we might
cross this stream."

"That would waste nearly a day, and time is too precious for that.
We will go straight on in the morning. Our story has been good
enough, thus far. There is no reason why it should not carry us
through."

Accordingly, as soon as the sun was up they entered the village,
and went into a cabaret and called for wine and bread.

"You are travelling early," the landlord said.

"Yes, we have a long tramp before us, so we thought we had better
perform part of it before breakfast."

"These are busy times. Folks are passing through, one way or the
other, all day. It is not for us innkeepers to grumble, but peace
and quiet are all we want, about here. These constant wars and
troubles are our ruin. The growers are all afraid to send their
wine to market; for many of these armed bands are no better than
brigands, and think much more of robbing, and plundering, than they
do of fighting. I suppose, by your looks, you are going to take
service with some lord or other?"

Jacques repeated the usual tale.

"Well, well, every man to his liking," the landlord said; "but for
my part, I can't think what Frenchmen want to fly at each others'
throats for. We have got thirty soldiers quartered in the village
now, though what they are doing here is more than I can imagine. We
shall be glad when they are gone; for they are a rough lot, and
their leader gives himself as many airs as if he had conquered the
place. I believe they belong to a force that is lying at Bazas,
some five leagues away. One would think that the Queen of Navarre
had got a big Huguenot army together, and was marching north."

"I should not think she could raise an army," Philip said
carelessly; "and if she is wise, she will stop quietly down in
Bearn."

"There is a rumour here," the landlord said, "that she is at Nerac,
with only a small party of gentlemen; and that she is on her way to
Paris, to assure the king that she has no part in these troubles. I
don't know whether that has anything to do with the troops; who, as
I hear, are swarming all over the country. They say that there are
fifteen hundred men at Agen."

"I am afraid we shall have trouble at this bridge," Philip said, as
the landlord left them. "They seem to be a rough lot, and this
truculent lieutenant may not be satisfied with a story that his
betters would accept, without question. We will ask our host if
there is any place where the river can be forded, without going too
far up. We can all swim and, as the river is no great width, we can
make a shift to get across, even if the ford is a bad one."

The landlord presently returned. Jacques put the question:

"By your account of those fellows at the bridge, we might have
trouble with them?"

"As like as not," the landlord said. "They worry and vex all who
come past, insult quiet people; and have seized several, who have
happened to have no papers of domicile about them, and sent them
off to Bazas. They killed a man who resented their rough usage, two
days ago. There has been a talk, in the village, of sending a
complaint of their conduct to the officer at Bazas; but perhaps he
might do nothing and, if he didn't, it would only make it the worse
for us, here."

"We don't want troubles," Jacques said, "and therefore, if we could
pass the river without having to make too wide a detour, we would
do so. Do you know of any fords?"

"Yes, there are two or three places where it can be crossed, when
the water is low; and as there has been no rain, for some weeks
past, you will be able to cross now, easily enough. There is one
four miles higher up. You will see a clump of willow trees, on this
side of the river; and there is a pile of stones, some five feet
high, on the other. You enter the river close by the trees, and
then keep straight for the pile of stones, which is some fifty
yards higher up, for the ford crosses the river at an angle."

"Well, we will take that way, then," Jacques said. "It is better to
lose an hour, than to have trouble here."

An hour later, the party arrived at the ford and crossed it without
difficulty, the water being little above their waists. Some miles
farther, they saw ahead of them the towers of Bazas; and struck off
from the road they were traversing, to pass to the east of it. They
presently came upon a wide road.

"This must be the road to Nerac," Philip said. "There are neither
rivers nor places of any size to be passed, now. The only danger is
from bodies of horse watching the road."

"And if I mistake not, sir, there is one of them approaching now,"
Pierre said, pointing ahead.

As he spoke, the heads and shoulders of a body of horsemen were
seen, as they rode up from a dip the road made into a hollow, half
a mile away.

Philip glanced round. The country was flat, and it was too late to
think of concealment.

"We will go quietly on," he said. "We must hope they will not
interfere with us."

The troop consisted of some twenty men, two gentlemen riding at
their head; and as they came up, they checked their horses.

"Whither come you, and where are you bound, my men?"

"We come from Bordeaux, sir, and we are bound for Agen," Jacques
replied. "My comrade and I served under De Brissac, when we were
mere lads, and we have a fancy to try the old trade again; and our
young cousins also want to try their metal."

"You are a Gascon, by your tongue?"

"That is so," Jacques said; "and it is for that reason we are going
south. We would rather fight in a company of our own people than
with strangers."

"Whom have you been serving at Bordeaux? I am from the city, and
know most of those in and round it."

"We have not been working there, sir. We come from near Blaye, and
made the journey thence to Bordeaux by a boat with our master,
Jacques Blazin, who was bringing to Bordeaux a cargo of his wines."

"Why waste time, Raoul?" the other gentleman said, impatiently.
"What matter if they came from Bordeaux or Blaye, these are not of
those whom we are here to arrest. Anyhow they are not Huguenot
lords, but look what they say they are; but whether men-at-arms, or
peasants, they concern us not. Maybe, while we are questioning
them, a party of those we are in search of may be traversing some
other road. Let us be riding forward."

He roughly pricked his horse with his spur, and the troop rode on.

"I think you are wrong to be so impatient, Louis," the one who had
acted as interrogator said. "Anyone could see, with half an eye,
that those two fellows were, as they said, old men-at-arms. There
is a straightness and a stiffness about men who have been under the
hands of the drill sergeant there is no mistaking; and I could
swear that fellow is a Gascon, as he said.

"But I am not so sure as to one of the young fellows with them. I
was about to question him, when you broke in. He did not look to me
like a young peasant, and I should not be at all surprised if he is
some Huguenot gentleman, making his way to Nerac with three of his
followers."

"Well, if it was so, Raoul, he will not swell the queen's army to
any dangerous extent. I am glad that you didn't ask him any
questions; for if he declared himself a Huguenot--and to do them
justice, the Huguenots will never deny their faith--I suppose it
would have been our duty to have fallen upon them and slaughtered
them; and though I am willing enough to draw, when numbers are
nearly equal and it is a fair fight, I will take no part in the
slaughter of men when we are twenty to one against them. Three or
four men, more or less, at Nerac will make no difference. The Queen
of Navarre has but some fifty men in all and, whenever the orders
come to seize her and her son, it may be done easily enough,
whether she has fifty or a hundred with her.

"War is all well enough, Raoul, but the slaughtering of solitary
men is not an occupation that suits me. I am a good Catholic, I
hope, but I abhor these massacres of defenceless people, only
because they want to worship in their own way. I look to the pope
as the head of my religion on earth, but why should I treat as a
mortal enemy a man who does not recognize the pope's authority?"

"That is dangerous doctrine, Louis."

"Yes, but why should it be? You and I were both at the colloquy at
Poissy, and we saw that the Cardinal of Lorraine, and all the
bishops, failed totally to answer the arguments of the Huguenot
minister Beza. The matter was utterly beyond me and, had Beza
argued ten times as strongly as he did, it would in no way have
shaken my faith; but I contend that if Lorraine himself and the
bishops could not show this man to be wrong, there can be nothing
in these people's interpretation of Scripture that can be so
terrible as to deserve death. If they become dangerous to the
state, I am ready to fight against them, as against any other
enemies of France; but I can see nothing that can excuse the
persecutions and massacres. And if these men be enemies of France,
of which as yet no proof has been shown, it is because they have
been driven to it, by persecution."

"Louis, my cousin," the other said, "it is dangerous, indeed, in
these days to form an opinion. You must remember our greatest
statesman, L'Hopital, has fallen into some disgrace, and has been
deprived of rank and dignity, because he has been an advocate of
toleration."

"I know that, Raoul; but I also know there are numbers of our
nobles and gentlemen who, although staunch Catholics, are sickened
at seeing the king acting as the tool of Philip of Spain and the
pope; and who shudder, as I do, at beholding France stained with
blood from end to end, simply because people choose to worship God
in their own way. You must remember that these people are not the
ignorant scum of our towns, but that among them are a large number
of our best and wisest heads. I shall fight no less staunchly, when
fighting has to be done, because I am convinced that it is all
wrong. If they are in arms against the king, I must be in arms for
him; but I hope none the less that, when arms are laid down, there
will be a cessation of persecution--at any rate, a cessation of
massacre. It is bringing disgrace on us in the eyes of all Europe,
and I trust that there may be a league made among us to withstand
the Guises; and to insist that there shall be, in France, no
repetition of the atrocities by which Philip of Spain, and the Duke
of Alva, are trying to stamp out the reformed religion in the
Netherlands."

"Well, I hope at any rate, Louis," his cousin said impatiently,
"that you will keep these opinions to yourself; for assuredly they
will bring you into disgrace, and may even cost you your
possessions and your head, if they are uttered in the presence of
any friend of the Guises."



Chapter 11: Jeanne Of Navarre.


"It is lucky," Philip said to Jacques, as they proceeded on their
way after the troop had ridden on, "that he did not think of asking
us if we were Huguenots."

"I was expecting it myself, sir," Jacques said; "and I was just
turning it over in my conscience, how I could answer."

"There could be but one answer, Jacques; though no doubt it would
have cost us our lives."

"I should not deny my faith, even to save my life, sir, if the
question were put to me: 'Are you a Huguenot?' But I think that
when four lives are at stake, it is lawful to take any opening
there may be to get out of it."

"But how would there have been an opening, Jacques?"

"Well, sir, you see, if he had asked, 'Are you Huguenots?' I think
I could have said 'No,' with a clear conscience, seeing that you
are an Englishman. Your religion may be like ours, but you are not
a Huguenot; and although Pierre does not seem to me to have quite
made up his mind as to what he is, assuredly I should not call him
a Huguenot. So you see, sir, that as only two out of the four are
Huguenots, there would have been no lie to my saying 'no' to that
question. But if he had said 'Are you Catholics?' I must have
answered 'No,' seeing that none of us go to mass."

"It is a nice question," Philip said; "but seeing that the
Catholics never keep their oaths and their promises to what they
call heretics, I think that one would be justified, not in telling
a lie, for nothing can justify that, but in availing one's self of
a loophole such as one would scorn to use, to others. I should be
sorry to have the question asked me, though seeing I am not myself
a Huguenot, although I am fighting with them, I think that I could
reply 'no;' especially as it is not a question of my own life only,
but one involving the whole cause of the Huguenots.

"If I were in your place, I don't know that I should do so; but as
you say that you could do it, without your conscience pricking you,
I certainly should not put pressure upon you to say 'yes.' However,
I hope you may never be asked the question, and that we shall meet
with no more interruptions until we get to Nerac There can be
little doubt that, at present, the Catholics have received no
orders to seize the queen and her son at Nerac; although they have
orders to prevent her, at all costs, from going forward to Paris
except under escort; and are keeping a sharp lookout, to prevent
her from being joined by parties of Huguenots who would render her
force formidable.

"I should hope that, by this time, we are past the last of their
bands. Those we met just now doubtless belonged to the force
gathered in Bazas; and it is in the direction of the north, rather
than the west, that the Catholics are most vigilant. If she
succeeds in making her way through them, it will be well nigh a
miracle.

"Now that we are well past Bazas, we will leave the road and make
our way across the fields; for it is upon the roads that any watch
there may be will be set."

It was a long day's journey, and at eight o'clock in the evening
they lay down in a wood, ten miles from Nerac; having walked fully
fifty miles since crossing the river Ciron.

"I am very glad, Monsieur Philip, that we were not here four hours
earlier."

"Why, Pierre?"

"Because, sir, in that case you would have insisted on pushing on
to Nerac, so as to enter it before the gate is closed; and in that
case I doubt whether, with the best will, I could have got that
far, and I am sure that Jacques and Roger could not have done so."

"No, indeed," Jacques said, "I have done my last inch. For the last
four hours I felt as if walking upon hot irons, so sore are my
feet; and indeed, I could not have travelled at all, if I had not
taken your advice and gone barefoot."

They had bought some wine and bread in a little village through
which they had passed and, as soon as they had finished their
supper, they lay down to sleep. They were up next morning long
before daybreak, and were at the gates of Nerac before they opened.
A group of countrymen were gathered there and, as soon as the
drawbridge was lowered, they entered the town with them. They
observed that there were sentries all round the walls, and that a
keen watch was kept. As Philip was aware, the majority of the
inhabitants there were Huguenots, and the governor was a nobleman
of Bearn; and it was doubtless for this reason that the Queen of
Navarre had halted there, as Nerac was a strong town, and not to be
taken without a regular siege.

They had no difficulty in ascertaining where the queen was lodged.
Early as it was, several Huguenot gentlemen, armed to the teeth,
were gathered round the door. Philip, leaving his companions behind
him, went up to the group and, addressing one of them, said:

"I am the bearer of a message for the queen. It is important. May I
pray you, sir, to cause this ring to be conveyed to her. It is a
token that she will recognize."

The gentleman glanced at the ring.

"She may well do that," he said, "seeing that it bears her own
cognizance. The queen is already up, and I will cause it to be sent
in to her, at once."

Two minutes later another gentleman came out.

"Her majesty will at once see the messenger who has brought the
ring," he said, and Philip at once followed him into the house.

He was conducted to a room where a lady was sitting whom he
recognized, by the descriptions he had read of her, as the Queen of
Navarre. Beside her stood a lad of fifteen.

"You come from the Admiral!" she said. "Have you despatches for
me?"

"I have a paper sewn up in my boot, your majesty; but it was read
over to me several times, in case either water or wear should
render it illegible."

"He has reached La Rochelle safely, as I heard three days since,"
the queen said, "with but a small following?"

"He and the prince had over five hundred with them, when they rode
in, your majesty; and parties were arriving, hourly, to swell his
force. On the day I left he was going out to attack Niort and, that
captured, he was going to move south. That was the message I was
charged to deliver. You will find him either in Cognac, or in front
of that town."

"That is good news, indeed," the queen said, "for I should have had
to make a wide detour to pass round the Charente, all the towns and
bridges being held by our enemies. It will be difficult enough to
cross the intervening rivers. Indeed, as the news that I had
started hence would arrive, long before I did myself, it would be
hopeless to elude their vigilance; and I should have had to make a
long bend to the east, and might well have been cut off before I
could reach him.

"And who are you, sir, that the Admiral should think fit to intrust
so important a message to you?"

"I am English born, madam, and my name is Philip Fletcher. My
mother was French, being the daughter of the Count de Moulins; and
she sent me over to reside with her sister, the Countess of
Laville, in order that I might fight for the cause of the religion,
by the side of my cousin Francois. I rode with him through the last
campaign, in the train of Francois de la Noue and, having had the
good fortune to attract the notice of the Prince of Conde and the
Admiral, they selected me to bear this message to you; thinking
that, being but a lad, I should better escape suspicion and
question than a French gentleman would do; especially as he would
risk being recognized, while my face would be altogether unknown.

"Now, if your majesty will permit me, I will open the lining of my
shoe. You will find, however, that the despatch contains but a few
words. At first the Admiral thought only to give me a message; but
he afterwards wrote what he had said, in order that, should any
evil befall me by the way, one of the three men who accompanied me
should take my shoe and bring it to your majesty."

By this time he had slit open the lining of his shoe with his
knife, and handed the little piece of paper to the queen. It
contained only the words:

"All goes well. Am hoping to see you. You will find me in or near
Cognac."

There was no signature.

"You have done good service to the cause, Monsieur Fletcher," the
queen said. "How did you manage to pass south, for I hear that
every bridge and ford is guarded by the Catholics?"

Philip gave a brief account of his journey.

"You have acted prudently and well, young sir; and fully justified
the Admiral's confidence in your prudence. What are your orders
now?"

"They are simply to accompany your majesty on your way north, if it
be your pleasure to permit me to ride in your train."

"I shall do that right willingly, sir; and it will be a pleasure
for my son to hear, from your lips, a full account of your journey
hither, and something of your native land, in which it may be that
he will be, some day, compelled to take refuge."

"You shall ride by my side, Monsieur Philip," the young prince
said. "You look as if you could laugh and joke. These Huguenot
lords are brave and faithful, but they have ever serious faces."

"Hush, Henri! It is not fitting to speak so. They are brave and
good men."

"They may be that, mother, but they weary me dreadfully; and I am
sure it would be much more cheerful having this English gentleman
as my companion."

The young prince was tall for his age, active and sinewy. His
mother had brought him up as if he had been a peasant boy. As a
child he had run about barefoot and, as he grew, had spent much of
his time among the mountains, sometimes with shepherds, sometimes
engaged in the chase. Jeanne herself had a horror of the corruption
of the French court, and strove to make her son hardy and robust,
with simple tastes and appetites; and preferring exercise, hard
work, and hunter's food to the life of the town. He had practised
constantly in arms, and his mother regretted nothing so much as the
fact that, next to the king and his brothers, he stood in
succession to the French throne; and would have been far happier
that he should rule, some day, over the simple and hardy people of
Navarre.

"The first thing to do, Monsieur Fletcher," the queen said, "is to
obtain more suitable garments for yourself and your followers. This
my chamberlain shall see about, without delay. I will then present
you to the gentlemen who accompany me. They are but a small party,
but we have received promises from many others, who will join us on
our way.

"I may tell you it is already arranged that I shall set forward
this evening. Monsieur D'Escars has, I hear, some four thousand
gentlemen under arms; but these are widely scattered, and I hope to
have a sufficient force to overcome them at any point we may make
for. Some friends have secretly collected two or three boats near
Tonneins, where there is but a small part of the Catholics
assembled. Once past the Garonne, we shall feel safe for a time."

"Would it please you that I should ride on first to Tonneins, your
majesty, and ascertain if the garrison there are not alert, and
have no suspicion that you are about to cross so close to them?
Being a stranger here I could pass unsuspected; while were any of
the gentlemen with you seen near Tonneins, it would create
suspicion that you, yourself, were about to cross in the
neighbourhood."

"I thank you for that offer," the queen said, "and will speak to
you about it, later on."

As Philip had been furnished with money, he did not trouble the
queen's chamberlain, but at once purchased clothes for himself and
his three followers, together with breast and back piece for
Jacques and Roger. On his return to the queen, after an hour's
absence, he was informed that Prince Henri had made inquiries for
him, and was shown into a room where the young prince was sitting
down to his breakfast, the queen being engaged in business with
some of her councillors.

"That is right, Monsieur Fletcher. I have been waiting breakfast
for you, for half an hour. Come, sit you down with me. I warrant
you have been too busy, since you arrived at Nerac, to think of a
meal."

"I don't think, Prince," Philip began, "that it would be seemly
that I--"

"Nonsense," the prince interrupted, "we are not at the court of
France, thank goodness, and we have no ceremony at Bearn. Besides,
a simple gentleman may dine with the king, any day. So sit down
without any more delay, and let me hear all your adventures."

Philip still hesitated, and the prince said:

"I told my mother that I was going to have you to breakfast with
me; and I believe she was well satisfied that I should, for a time,
be out of her way."

This removed any doubt from Philip's mind, and he at once sat down
with the prince and ate a hearty meal; after which he chatted with
him for an hour, telling him about the journey from La Rochelle,
the rescue of the Huguenots near Niort, and some of the adventures
in the last war.

"And you were with my cousin Conde, and the Admiral, in the battle
of Saint Denis. What luck you have had, Monsieur Fletcher. I hope
the day will come when I, too, shall take a part in war, and be a
great leader like the Admiral; but I would rather that it was
against Spaniards, or others, than against Frenchmen."

The door opened, and the queen entered. Philip rose hastily, but
she motioned him to be seated.

"No ceremony, I beg of you, Master Philip. I am glad to find you
here, with my son. I have spoken to some of my friends of your
offer to go to Tonneins, but they think not well of it. It is a
small place, and a stranger would be sure to be questioned; but it
was agreed that, if you would ride through Agen, you might do us
great service. Five leagues from Tonneins Fontarailles, the
seneschal of Armagnac, will be waiting for me, in the morning, with
a troop of horse and a regiment of infantry. If the governor of
Agen has news of his coming, he may send out a force to attack him
or, should he not feel strong enough for that, he may at least
think that I am intending to join the seneschal; and in that case
he may send out troops, to bar the roads leading thither from the
river. As many will be passing through Agen, on their way to join
D'Escars, the passage of a gentleman and two men-at-arms will
excite no attention; and if you put up for a short time at an inn,
you may be able to gather whether there has been any movement of
the troops, or whether there is any talk of the departure of any,
this evening.

"Should all be quiet, you can join me on the road; or ride direct
to the village of Villeneuve d'Agenois, where the seneschal will
arrive, some time tonight. If you should hear of any movements of
troops, ride down on the other side of the river till within two
miles of Tonneins; then, if you place your men at intervals of
three or four hundred yards apart, you will be sure to see us
cross, and can give us warning of danger, and such indications as
you may gather as to the points where the troops are likely to be
posted. We shall cross about midnight."

"I will gladly undertake the mission," Philip said. "I will go out
and procure some horses, at once."

"That is unnecessary," the queen said. "We have brought several
spare horses with us, and I have already ordered four to be saddled
for you. You have no armour, I see."

"I would rather ride without it, your majesty, especially on such a
mission as the present. Besides, if in full armour I might well be
accosted, and asked to whose party I belong; while riding in as I
am, unarmed, save for my sword, I should have the air of a
gentleman of the neighbourhood, who had merely ridden in on
business, or to learn the latest news."

The queen smiled approvingly.

"You see, Henri, this gentleman, although about to undertake a
dangerous business, does not proceed rashly or hastily, but thinks
coolly as to the most prudent course to pursue.

"You will understand, Monsieur Fletcher, that several of the
gentlemen with me have volunteered for this duty, and that we have
accepted your offer solely because they could scarcely enter Agen
without meeting some who know them; while you, being a stranger, do
not run this risk."

"Moreover, madam, I have another advantage. Were any of them
questioned, and asked directly, 'Are you a Huguenot?' they could
not but answer yes; whereas, were that question put to me I could
reply 'no,' seeing that I am an English Protestant, and in no way,
save in my sympathies, a Huguenot."

"That is an advantage, certainly; but it may be the question will
be put, 'Are you a Catholic?'"

"In that case, your majesty, I could only reply 'no;' but methinks
the other question is the most likely one."

"I wish I were going to ride with Monsieur Fletcher, mother."

"That is impossible, Henri; for scarce a Gascon gentleman but has
been down, at one time or other, to Bearn. Do not be anxious for
adventures. They will come in time, my son, and plenty of them.
Would that you could pass your life without one; but in these
troubled times, and with France divided against itself, that is too
much to hope.

"Should you by any chance, Monsieur Fletcher, fail to rejoin us at
Villeneuve d'Agenois, you may overtake us farther on. But run no
risk to do so. You know whither we are bound, and I trust that,
when we arrive there, we may find you before us. I myself will
retain the ring that you brought me, and will return it to the
Admiral; but wear this, in remembrance of one in whose service you
risked your life," and she handed him a diamond ring, which he knew
enough of gems to be aware was of considerable value.

"And take this dagger," the prince said, taking a small and
beautifully tempered weapon from his belt. "It is but a bodkin, but
it is of famous steel. It was sent me by Philip of Spain, at a time
when he was trying to cajole my mother, and is of the best
workmanship of Toledo."

Philip expressed his thanks for the gifts in suitable words; and
then, taking leave of the queen and prince, went down to the
courtyard. Here he found Pierre and the two men-at-arms, standing
at the head of three powerful horses; while one of the queen's
retainers held a very handsome animal in readiness for himself.

"Her majesty begs you to accept these horses, sir, as a slight
token of her goodwill."

In five minutes, the party had issued from Nerac; Pierre, as usual,
keeping close behind Philip, and the two men-at-arms riding a few
lengths behind.

"This is truly a change for the better, Monsieur Philip," Pierre
said. "We entered Nerac as tillers of the soil, we ride out in
knightly fashion."

"Yes, Pierre, it is good to be on the back of a fine horse again;
and this one I am riding is worthy of a place beside Victor and
Robin."

"Yes, he is as good as either of them, sir. I am not sure that he
is not better. We, too, are well content with the queen of
Navarre's generosity; for her steward gave us, before we started,
each a purse of twenty crowns, which has been a wonderful salve to
our sore feet. I trust there will be no more occasion to use them,
for a time."

"I hope not. It was a long journey, but it was fortunate that we
pushed on as we did; for had we been twelve hours later, we should
not have found the queen at Nerac."

"And why does not your honour stay to ride with her?" Pierre asked.

"I hope to join her again, tonight. We are going through Agen,
where I hope to gather such news, of the movements of the Catholic
troops, as may be of use to her."

Agen was about fifteen miles distance from Nerac, and as there was
no occasion for haste, and Philip did not wish the horses to have
the appearance of being ridden fast, they took three hours in
traversing the distance.

When they neared the town, he said to Pierre:

"I shall not take you with me. If there should be trouble--though I
do not see how this can well come about--four men could do no more
than one. Therefore, Pierre, do you follow me no nearer than is
sufficient to keep me in sight. The other two will follow you at an
equal distance, together or separately.

"Should any accident befall me, you are on no account to ride up,
or to meddle in the business. I have told you what my instructions
are, and it will be your duty to carry them out, if I am taken. You
will put up your horse and, mingling with the soldiers and
townspeople, find out if there is any movement in the wind, or
whether any troops have already gone forward. Jacques and Roger
will do the same, and you will meet and exchange news. If you find
that anything has been done, or is going to be done, towards
putting more guards on the river, or despatching a force that might
interfere with the passage of the queen from Tonneins to Villeneuve
d'Agenois, Roger and Jacques will ride to the point where I told
you the crossing is to be made, and will warn the queen of the
danger. I leave you free to ride with them, or to stay in the town
till you learn what has happened to me. If you should find that
there is no movement of troops, you and the others will be free
either to ride to Pontier, or to make your way back to Cognac; and
to join my cousin and give him news of what has happened to me. If
I am only held as a prisoner, the Admiral will doubtless exchange a
Catholic gentleman for me. He is sure to take many prisoners at the
capture of the towns."

He then called the two men-at-arms up, and repeated the
instructions relating to them.

"But may we not strike in, should you get into trouble, master?
Roger and I would far rather share whatever may befall you."

"No, Jacques, it would be worse in every way. Force could be of no
avail, and it would lessen my chance of escape, were you beside me.
Single handed I might get through, and trust to the speed of my
horse. If taken, I might plan some mode of escape. In either case
it would hamper me, were you there. Above all it is important that
my mission should be fulfilled, therefore my commands on that head
are strict. I do not apprehend trouble in any way; but if it should
occur, you will at once turn your horses down the first street you
come to, so that you may in no way be connected with me. Pierre
will, of course, turn first. You will follow him, see where he
stables his horse, then go on to some other cabaret and, having put
up your horses, go back to the place where he has stopped, wait
till he joins you outside, then arrange for the hour at which you
are to meet again, and then go off in different directions to
gather the news of which we are in search.

"Take no further thought about me, at all. Give your whole minds to
the safety of the queen. Upon that depends greatly the issue of
this war. Were she and her son to fall into the hands of the
Catholics, it would be a fatal blow to the cause."

So saying, he rode on again at the head of the party. When within a
quarter of a mile of the town, he again called Pierre up to him.

"Pierre, do you take this ring and dagger. Should I be taken, I
shall assuredly be searched to see whether I am the bearer of
despatches. I should grieve to lose these gifts, as much as I
should to fall into the hands of the Catholics. Keep them for me,
until you learn that there is no chance of my ever returning to
claim them; and then give them to my cousin, and beg him in my name
to return the ring to the Queen of Navarre, and the dagger to the
young prince."

"I like not all these provisions," Pierre said to himself.
"Hitherto the master has never, since I first knew him, given any
commands to me, as to what was to be done in case he were captured
or killed. It seems to me that the danger here is as nothing to
that he has often run before, and yet he must have some sort of
foreboding of evil. If I were not a Huguenot, I would vow a score
of pounds of candles, to be burnt at the shrine of the Holy Virgin,
if the master gets safe out of yonder town."

Philip rode on across the bridge, and entered the gates without
question. Up to this time, his followers had kept close behind him;
but now, in accordance with his instructions, they dropped behind.
He continued his way to the principal square, rode up to an inn,
entered the courtyard, and gave his horse to the stableman.

"Give it a feed," he said, "and put it in the stable. I shall not
require it until the afternoon."

Then he went into the public room, called for food and wine, and
sat down. The tables were well nigh full, for there were many
strangers in the town. After a first glance at the newcomer, none
paid him any attention. Pierre and the two men had, in accordance
with his instructions, passed the inn they had seen him enter, and
put up at other places.

There was a loud buzz of conversation, and Philip listened
attentively to that between four gentlemen who had just sat down at
the next table to him. Three of them had come in together, and the
fourth joined them, just as Philip's meal was brought to him.

"Well, have you heard any news at the governor's, Maignan?" one of
them asked the last comer.

"Bad news. Conde and the Admiral are not letting the grass grow
under their feet. They have captured not only Niort, as we heard
yesterday, but Parthenay."

"Peste! That is bad news, indeed. What a blunder it was to let them
slip through their fingers, when they might have seized them with
two or three hundred men, in Burgundy."

"It seems to me that they are making just the same mistake here,"
another put in. "As Jeanne of Navarre is well nigh as dangerous as
the Admiral himself, why don't they seize her and her cub, and
carry them to Paris?"

"Because they hope that she will go willingly, of her own accord,
Saint Amand. La Motte-Fenelon has been negotiating with her, for
the last fortnight, on behalf of the court. It is clearly far
better that she should go there of her own will, than that she
should be taken there a prisoner. Her doing so would seem a
desertion of the Huguenot cause, and would be a tremendous blow to
them.

"On the other hand, if she were taken there as a prisoner, it would
drive many a Huguenot to take up arms who is now content to rest
quiet. And moreover, the Protestant princes of Germany, and
Elizabeth of England would protest; for whatever the court may say
of the Admiral, they can hardly affirm that Jeanne of Navarre is
thinking of making war against Charles for any other reason than
the defence of her faith. Besides, she can do no harm at Nerac; and
we can always lay hands on her, when we like. At any rate, there is
no fear of her getting farther north. The rivers are too well
guarded for that."

"I don't know," another said, "after the way in which Conde and the
Admiral, though hampered with women and children, made their way
across France, I should never be surprised at anything. You see,
there is not a place where she has not friends. These pestilent
Huguenots are everywhere. She will get warning of danger, and
guides across the country--peasants who know every byroad through
the fields, and every shallow in the rivers. It would be far better
to make sure of her and her son, by seizing them at Nerac."

"Besides," Saint Amand said, "there are reports of movements of
Huguenots all over Guyenne; and I heard a rumour, last night, that
the Seneschal of Armagnac has got a considerable gathering
together. These Huguenots seem to spring out of the ground. Six
weeks ago, no one believed that there was a corner of France where
they could gather a hundred men together, and now they are
everywhere in arms."

"I think," Maignan said, "that you need not be uneasy about the
Queen of Navarre. I am not at liberty to say what I have heard; but
I fancy that, before many hours, she will be on her way to Paris,
willingly or unwillingly. As for the seneschal, he and the others
will be hunted down, as soon as this matter is settled. A day or
two, sooner or later, will make no difference there and, until the
queen is taken, the troops will have to stay in their present
stations.

"My only fear is that, seeing she can have no hope of making her
way north, she will slip away back to Navarre again. Once there,
she could not be taken without a deal of trouble. Whatever is to be
done must be done promptly. Without direct orders from the court,
no step can be taken in so important a matter. But the orders may
arrive any hour, and I think you will see that there will be no
loss of time in executing them."

"And Nerac could not stand a long siege, even if it were strongly
garrisoned; and the handful of men she has got with her could not
defend the walls for an hour. I hope she may not take the alarm too
soon; for as you say, once back in Navarre it would be difficult,
indeed, to take her. It is no joke hunting a bear among the
mountains; and as her people are devoted to her, she could play
hide and seek among the valleys and hills for weeks--ay, or
months--before she could be laid hold of.

"It is well for our cause, Maignan, that she is not a man. She
would be as formidable a foe as the Admiral himself. Huguenot as
she is, one can't help respecting her. Her husband was a poor
creature, beside her. He was ready to swallow any bait offered him;
while, even if it would seat her son on the throne of France, she
would not stir a hand's breadth from what she thinks right."

Philip finished his meal, and then went out into the square. The
news was satisfactory. No order had yet arrived for the seizure of
the queen; and though one was evidently looked for, to arrive in
the course of a few hours, it would then be too late to take any
steps until nightfall, at the earliest; and by nine o'clock the
queen would have left Nerac.

No movement was intended at present against the seneschal, nor did
the idea that the queen might attempt to join him seem to be
entertained. It was possible, however, that such a suspicion might
have occurred to the governor, and that some troops might secretly
be sent off, later. He must try to learn something more.

Confident that he could not be suspected of being ought but what he
appeared, a Catholic gentleman--for his garments were of much
brighter hue than those affected by the Huguenots--he strolled
quietly along, pausing and looking into shops when he happened to
pass near groups of soldiers or gentlemen talking together. So he
spent two or three hours. No word had reached his ear indicating
that any of the speakers were anticipating a sudden call to horse.

He saw that Pierre was following him, keeping at some distance
away, and pausing whenever he paused. He saw no signs of the other
two men, and doubted not that they were, as he had ordered,
spending their time in wine shops frequented by the soldiers, and
listening to their talk.

Feeling convinced that no orders had been given for the assembly of
any body of troops, he sat down for a time at a small table in
front of one of the principal wine shops, and called for a bottle
of the best wine; thinking that the fact that he was alone would be
less noticeable, so, than if he continued to walk the streets.
Presently a party of four or five gentlemen sat down at a table a
short distance off. He did not particularly notice them at first;
but presently, glancing that way, saw one of them looking hard at
him, and a thrill of dismay ran through him, as he recognized the
gentleman addressed as Raoul, the leader of the party that had
stopped him near Bazas. He had, however, presence of mind enough to
look indifferently at him, and then to continue sipping his wine.

The possibility that this gentleman, with his troop, should have
come to Agen had never entered his mind; and though the encounter
was a most unfortunate one, he trusted that the complete change in
his appearance would be sufficient to prevent recognition; although
it was evident, by the gaze fixed on him, that the gentleman had an
idea that his face was familiar. To move now would heighten
suspicion, if any existed; and he therefore sat quiet, watching the
people who passed in front of him, and revolving in his mind the
best course to be taken, should Raoul address him. The latter had
just spoken to his cousin, who was sitting next to him.

"Do you know that young gentleman, Louis?" he asked. "I seem to
know his face well; and yet he does not know me, for he just now
glanced at me, without recognizing me. You know most of the gentry
in this neighbourhood. Do you know him?"

"No, I cannot say that I do, Raoul; though I, too, seem to have a
recollection of his face. It is a sort of face one remembers, too.
I should think his family must belong to the north, for you do not
often see men of that complexion about here. He looks very young,
not above nineteen or twenty; but there is a look of earnestness
and resolution, about his face, that would point to his being some
years older."

Dismissing the matter from his mind, Raoul joined in the
conversation round him. Presently he grasped his cousin's arm.

"I know where we saw the face now, Louis. He was one of the four
fellows we stopped, two days since, near Bazas."

"Impossible, Raoul! Those men were peasants, though two of them had
served for a time in the army; the others--" and he stopped.

"You see it yourself, Louis. One of the others was a dark, active
man. The other was but a lad--a tall, well-built young fellow, with
fair complexion and gray eyes. I thought of it afterwards, and
wondered where he got that skin and hair from. I put it down that
it was a trace of English blood, of which there is a good deal
still left in Guyenne, and some of the other provinces they held,
long ago."

"I certainly see the likeness, now you mention it, Raoul; but it
can hardly be the same. This is a gentleman. He is certainly that,
whoever he may be. How could a gentleman be masquerading about as a
peasant?"

"That is what I am going to find out, Louis. He may have been a
Huguenot, making his way down to join the Queen of Navarre at Nerac
He may be one of her train there, who had gone out, in disguise, to
reconnoitre the country and see what forces of ours were in the
neighbourhood, and where posted. That may be his mission, here; but
this time he has chosen to come in his proper attire."

"That can hardly be his attire, if he is one of Jeanne of Navarre's
followers. He may have got a suit for the purpose, but assuredly
the colours are too gay for a Huguenot in her train. For my part, I
see nothing suspicious about his appearance. There, he is paying
his reckoning, and going."

"And I am going after him," Raoul said, rising. "There is something
strange about the affair, and there may be some plot. Do you come
with me, Louis.

"Monsieur D'Estanges, I have a little matter of business on hand.
Will you come with me?"



Chapter 12: An Escape From Prison.


Glancing half round, as he turned away from the wine shop, Philip
saw Raoul and two of his companions rising. He walked off in a
leisurely manner and, a few paces farther, turned down a side
street. He heard steps following him, and then a voice said:

"Hold, young sir. I would have a word with you."

Philip turned, with an expression of angry surprise.

"Are you addressing me, sir? I would have you know that am not
accustomed to be spoken to, in that fashion; and that I bear an
insult from no one."

Raoul laughed.

"Are you equally particular, sir, when you are going about in
peasant's clothes?"

"I am not good at riddles, sir," Philip said haughtily, "and can
only suppose that your object is to pick a quarrel with me; though
I am not conscious of having given you offence. However, that
matters little. I suppose you are one of those gallants who air
their bravery when they think they can do so, with impunity. On the
present occasion you may, perchance, find that you are mistaken. I
am a stranger here, and know of no place where this matter can be
settled, nor am I provided with a second; but I am quite content to
place myself in the hands of one of these gentlemen, if they will
act for me."

"I am sure, Raoul, there is some mistake," Louis began, putting his
hand on his cousin's shoulder.

But the other shook it off, angrily. He was of a passionate and
overbearing temper, and Philip's coolness, and the manner in which
he had turned the tables upon him and challenged him to a duel,
inflamed him to the utmost.

"Hands off, Louis," he said. "Do you think that I, Raoul de
Fontaine, am to be crowed over by this youth? He has challenged me
to fight, and fight he shall."

"You provoked him," Louis said firmly. "You gave him provocation
such as no gentleman of honour could suffer. It was not for this
that I came out with you, but because you said that you wished to
unravel what may be a plot."

"I will cut it, which will be easier than unravelling it," Raoul
replied. "It is shorter and easier work, to finish the matter with
a sword thrust, than to provide for his being swung at the end of a
rope."

"We had best waste no time in empty braggadocio," Philip said
coldly, "but proceed at once to some quiet spot, where this matter
can be settled, undisturbed."

"I think the young gentleman is right," Monsieur D'Estanges, a
gentleman of the court, said gravely. "The matter has gone too far
for anything else, now; and I am bound to say that your adversary,
of whose name I am ignorant, has borne himself in a manner to merit
my esteem; and that, as your cousin will of course act for you, I
shall be happy to place my services at his disposal."

"Let us get beyond the gates," Raoul said abruptly, turning on his
heel, and retracing his steps up the lane to the main street.

"I thank you, sir, for offering to stand by one of whose very name
you are ignorant," Philip said as, accompanied by Monsieur
D'Estanges, he followed the others. "It is, however, right that you
should know it. It is Philip Fletcher. On my father's side I am
English, on my mother's I am of noble French blood, being cousin to
Francois de Laville, whose mother and mine were daughters of the
Count de Moulins."

"Two distinguished families of Poitou," Monsieur D'Estanges said,
courteously. "It needed not that, to tell me that you were of good
blood. I regret much that this encounter is going to take place.
Monsieur Raoul de Fontaine was in the wrong, in so rudely hailing
you, and I cannot blame you for taking it up sharply; although,
seeing your age and his, and that he is a good swordsman, it might
have been more prudent to have overlooked his manner.

"Unless, indeed," and he smiled, "Monsieur Raoul was right, and
that you are engaged on some weighty matter here, and preferred to
run the risk of getting yourself killed rather than have it
inquired into. The Countess of Laville and her son are both staunch
Huguenots, and you may well be on business here that you would not
care to have investigated.

"You have not asked my name, sir. It is Charles D'Estanges. I am a
cousin of the Duc de Guise, and am naturally of the court party;
but I can esteem a brave enemy, and regret to see one engaged in an
encounter in which he must needs be overmatched."

"I am a fair swordsman, sir," Philip said; "though my arm may lack
somewhat of the strength it will have, a few years later. But had
it been otherwise, I should have still taken the course I have. I
do not say your conjecture is a correct one, but at any rate I
would prefer the most unequal fight to being seized and questioned.
One can but be killed once, and it were better that it should be by
a thrust in the open air than a long imprisonment, ending perhaps
with death at the stake."

Monsieur D'Estanges said no more. In spite of his relationship with
the Guises he, like many other French Catholic nobles, disapproved
of the persecutions of the Huguenots, and especially of the
massacres perpetrated by the lower orders in the towns, men for
whom he had the profoundest contempt. He felt sorry for his
companion, whose youth and fearless demeanour moved him in his
favour; and who, he doubted not, had come to Agen to confer with
some of the Huguenots, who were to be found in every town.

Issuing from the gates, they went for a quarter of a mile along the
road, and then Raoul led the way into a small wood. Here, without a
word being spoken, Raoul and Philip threw aside their cloaks and
doublets.

"Gentlemen," Monsieur D'Estanges said, "surely this quarrel might
be arranged without fighting. Monsieur de Fontaine addressed my
principal, doubtless under a misapprehension, with some roughness,
which was not unnaturally resented. If Monsieur de Fontaine will
express his regret, which he certainly could do without loss of
dignity, for the manner in which he spoke; my principal would, I am
sure, gladly accept his apology."

"That is my opinion also," Louis de Fontaine said, "and I have
already expressed it to my cousin."

"And I have already said that I will do nothing of the sort," Raoul
said. "I am fighting not only in my own quarrel, but in that of the
king; being well assured in my mind that this young man, whether he
be, as he now appears, a gentleman of birth, or whether, as I saw
him last, a peasant boy, is engaged in some plot hostile to his
majesty."

"Then there is nothing more to be said," Monsieur D'Estanges said
gravely; "but before you begin, I may tell you, Monsieur de
Fontaine, that this gentleman belongs to a family no less noble
than your own. He has confided to me his name and position, which I
think it as well not to divulge.

"Now, Louis, we may as well stand aside. We have done our best to
stop this quarrel, and to prevent what I cannot but consider a most
unequal contest from taking place."

The last words were galling, in the extreme, to Raoul de Fontaine.
Monsieur D'Estanges stood high at court, was a gentleman of
unblemished reputation, and often appealed to on questions of
honour; and this declaration that he considered the combat to be an
unequal one was the more irritating, since he was himself conscious
of the fact. However, he could not recoil now but, with an angry
expression of face, drew his sword and stood on guard.

Philip was no less ready. The easy attitude he assumed, with his
weight for the most part on his left leg, differed so widely from
the forward attitude then in fashion among French duellists, that
Monsieur D'Estanges, convinced that he knew nothing of swordplay,
shrugged his shoulders pityingly. The moment, however, that the
swords grated against each other; and Philip put aside, with a
sharp turn of the wrist, a lunge with which his opponent intended
at once to finish the combat, the expression of his face changed.

"The lad did not speak boastfully, when he said he was a fair
swordsman," he muttered to himself. "He does not fight in our
fashion, but at least he knows what he is about."

For some minutes the fight continued, Raoul's temper rising higher
and higher, as he found every attack baffled by a foe he had
despised, and who refused to fall back even an inch, however hotly
he pressed him. He had at first intended either to wound or disarm
him, but he soon fought to kill. At last there was a fierce rally,
ending by Philip parrying a home thrust and, returning it with
lightning swiftness, running Raoul de Fontaine through the body
with such force that the hilt of his sword struck against his
chest, and he sank lifeless to the ground.

"By our Lady, young gentleman," Monsieur D'Estanges exclaimed, "but
you have done well! You said that you were a fair swordsman. Truly
you are of the highest class. Raoul's temper has led him into many
a duel, and he has always wounded or killed his man. Who could have
thought that he would receive his death blow at the hands of a
youth?

"But whom have we here? Peste! This is awkward."

As he spoke, Count Darbois, the governor of Agen, with a body of
troopers, rode up. He had ridden to within a mile or two of Nerac
and, questioning persons from the town, learned that everything was
quiet there, and that no fresh body of Huguenots had arrived. He
was on his way back when, hearing the clash of swords, he had
ridden into the wood to inquire into its meaning.

"What is this?" he exclaimed.

"Why, what is this, Monsieur De Fontaine? Your cousin, Count Raoul,
dead!"

Louis, who was leaning over his cousin, looked up.

"Alas! I fear that it is so, Monsieur le Comte. My poor cousin has
fallen in a duel."

"What a misfortune, and at such a moment! Is it not scandalous
that, at a time like this, when every gentleman's sword is needed
in defence of our king and faith, they should indulge in private
quarrels?

"And is it you, Monsieur D'Estanges, who has done his majesty this
bad service?"

For by this time Philip had resumed his doublet and cloak.

"No. I only stood as second to his opponent, who has behaved fairly
and honourably in the matter, as I am sure Count Louis will
testify."

"Your word is quite sufficient, Monsieur D'Estanges. And who is
this gentleman, who has thus slain one who had no mean reputation
as a swordsman?"

"A young gentleman passing through Agen. The quarrel arose through
a rencontre in the street. Count Raoul was, as was his nature,
hasty, and put himself in the wrong. The gentleman resented his
language, and a meeting was at once arranged. Count Louis and
myself were with Raoul, and as his opponent was alone, and it was
not desirable to draw others into the matter, I offered to act as
his second; and he accepted it, at once. We came here. Count Louis
and I made a final effort to persuade Raoul to apologize for his
language. He refused to do so, and they fought, and you see the
consequence."

"But who is this stranger?" the governor asked again.

"Count Raoul did not feel it necessary to ask, count; and I think,
as he waived the point, and the affair is now terminated, it would
be well that his opponent should be permitted to withdraw without
questions."

"That is all very well for you, Monsieur D'Estanges, as a party in
a private quarrel; but as governor of Agen, it is my duty to
satisfy myself as to who this stranger, who has killed an officer
of the king, may be."

He turned his horse, and for the first time obtained a view of
Philip; who, seeing the impossibility of escape, had been standing
quietly by.

"Why, it is but a youth!" he exclaimed. "You say he slew Count
Raoul in fair fight, Monsieur D'Estanges?"

"In as fair a fight as ever I saw, Monsieur le Comte."

"Who are you, sir?" the governor asked Philip.

"I am a stranger, travelling through Agen on private business,"
Philip said quietly.

"But what is your name and family, sir?"

"I am English," Philip replied. "My name is Philip Fletcher."

"A Huguenot, I will be bound?" the governor said angrily.

"Not at all, count. I am of the religion of my nation--a
Protestant."

"It is the same thing," the governor said. "It is clear that, for
whatever purpose you may be in Agen, you are here for no good.

"This is a serious matter, Monsieur D'Estanges."

"As I have said, I know nothing of this gentleman, count. I saw him
for the first time a little over half an hour ago, and on every
account I wish that I had not seen him. He has killed my friend
Raoul, deprived his majesty of a staunch adherent, and has got
himself into trouble. But for all that, I am assured, by his
conduct and bearing in this business, that he is an honourable
gentleman; and I intreat you, as a personal favour, count, that you
allow him to go free."

"I would do much to oblige you, Monsieur D'Estanges; but he is an
Englishman and a Protestant, by his own confession, and therefore
can only be here to aid the men who have risen in rebellion, and to
conspire with the king's enemies. He will be placed in close charge
and, when the present pressing affairs have been put out of hand, I
doubt not we shall find means of learning a good deal more about
this mysterious person, who claims to be English, but who yet
speaks our language like a Frenchman."

"As to that matter, I can satisfy you at once," Philip said. "My
mother was a French lady, a daughter of the Count de Moulins of
Poitou."

"A Huguenot family, if I mistake not," the governor said, coldly.
"Well, we have other things to think of, now.

"Captain Carton, place two troopers one on each side of this
person. I authorize you to cut him down, if he tries to escape. Let
four others dismount, and carry the body of the Count de Fontaine
into the city.

"You will, of course, take the command of his troop, Count Louis;
seeing that, if I mistake not, you are his nearest relative, and
the heir to his possessions."

As Philip was led through the streets he caught sight of Pierre,
who made no sign of recognition as he passed. He was taken to the
castle, and confined in a room in a turret, looking down upon the
river. The window was closely barred, but otherwise the room,
though small, was not uncomfortable. It contained a chair, a table,
and a couch.

[Illustration: Philip in prison.]

When the door was barred and bolted behind him, Philip walked to
the window and stood looking out at the river. The prospect seemed
dark. The governor was unfavourably disposed towards him now; and
when the news came, on the morrow, that the Queen of Navarre had
slipped through his fingers, his exasperation would no doubt be
vented on him. What was now but a mere suspicion, would then become
almost a certainty; and it would, as a matter of course, be assumed
that he was there on matters connected with her flight. That he was
a Protestant was alone sufficient to condemn him to death, but his
connection with the queen's flight would, beyond all question, seal
his fate.

Pierre, he felt sure, would do all that he could for him; but that
could amount to almost nothing. Even if he had the means of filing
through or removing the bars, it would need a long stout rope to
enable him to descend to the water's edge, a hundred feet below
him; and that he could obtain possession of either file, or rope,
seemed to him as absolutely impossible.

"Nevertheless," he said to himself, "I will let Pierre know where I
am confined. I do not see that it can do any good. But he is a
fellow of resource. I have great faith in him and, though I can see
no possible plan of escape, he, being without, may try something.

"I have no doubt that his first endeavour will be to find out where
I am confined. I warrant he will know my cap, if he sees it. He has
an eye like a hawk and, if he sees anything outside one of the
windows, he will suspect at once that it is a signal; and when he
once looks closely at it, he will make out its orange tint and
these three long cock's feathers."

So saying, he thrust one of his arms through the bars with the cap,
which he allowed to hang down against the wall below. There he
stood for two hours, closely examining every boat that came along.
At last he saw one rowed by two men, with a third sitting in the
stern; and had no difficulty in making out, as it came closer, that
this was Pierre, who was gazing at the castle.

Presently he saw him suddenly clap his hands, and speak to the
rowers. These did not look up, but continued to row on in the same
leisurely way as before; nor did Pierre again glance at the castle.

Satisfied that his signal had been observed, Philip withdrew it,
but continued to watch the boat. It went half a mile higher up,
then turned and floated quietly down the stream again. When he had
seen it pass the bridge, he threw himself down on the couch.

"There is nothing more for me to do," he said. "The matter is in
Pierre's hands, now."

He listened for a time to the tramp of a sentry, backwards and
forwards outside his door; and then fell off to sleep, from which
he did not awake until he heard the bars withdrawn, and the key
turned in the lock. Then a man accompanied by two soldiers entered,
and placed a chicken, a bottle of wine, and a loaf of bread on the
table.

"Monsieur D'Estanges sends this, with his compliments," he said;
and then Philip was again left alone.

Two hours after it became dark he thought he heard a confused
sound, as of the trampling of a number of horsemen in the courtyard
of the castle. He went to the door and, placing his ear against it,
was convinced that he was not mistaken.

"That looks as if an expedition were about to start somewhere," he
said. "If they are bound for Nerac, they will arrive there too
late; for the queen will, by this time, be setting out. They cannot
intend to scale the walls tonight, and the gates will have been
shut long ago. They are probably going into ambush, somewhere near,
so as to ride in in the morning.

"I wish I could be certain they are bound in that direction. There
was certainly no idea of an expedition this morning, but it is
possible that the messenger with the order for the arrest of the
queen and prince may have arrived this afternoon, and the governor
is losing no time.

"I trust it is so, and not that news has come, from some spy at
Nerac, that she will leave the place tonight. If it is so, this
party may be setting out to strengthen the guards on the river; or
to occupy the roads by which she would travel, were her purpose to
join the seneschal.

"I trust that Pierre and the others are on the alert, and not
wasting their time in thinking about me; and that, if this troop
make along the river, they will ride to warn the queen in time.
Hearing nothing, she will assume that the road is clear, and that
she can go on fearlessly.

"It is enough to drive one mad, being cooped up here when the whole
success of the cause is at stake."

The character of the sentry's walk had changed. He had been
relieved some four hours before, and his walk at times ceased, as
if he were leaning against the wall to rest himself, while at times
he gave an impatient stamp with his feet.

"I expect they have forgotten to relieve him," Philip said to
himself. "If a strong body has gone out, that might very well be."

Another half hour passed, and then he heard steps ascending the
stone staircase, and the sentry exclaimed angrily:

"Sapristie, comrade, I began to think I was going to be kept all
night at my post, and that everyone had ridden out with that party
that started, half an hour ago.

"Now, then, the orders are: 'Permit no one to approach. Refuse even
to allow officers to visit the prisoner, without a special order of
the governor.' That is all.

"Now I am off for a tankard of spiced wine, which I think I have
earned well, for it is a good hour after my time of relief."

Then Philip heard his footsteps descending the stairs, while the
man who had relieved him walked briskly up and down in front of the
door. In a minute or two he stopped, then Philip turned with a
start from the window at which he was standing, as he heard through
the keyhole a loud whisper:

"Monsieur Philip, are you asleep? It is I!"

"Why, Pierre!" he exclaimed, running to the door and putting his
mouth to the keyhole; "how did you come here?"

"I will tell you that later, master. The thing is now to get you
out. The bolts here are easy enough to draw, but this lock puzzles
me. I have brought up two thin saws and an auger, and thought to
cut round it; but there is a plate of iron outside."

"And there is one inside too, Pierre. How about the hinges,
Pierre?"

"There is no doing anything with them, master. The ironwork goes
right across the door. There is nothing for it, but to cut right
round the iron plate."

"That won't take very long, if the saws are good, Pierre."

Philip heard a rasping sound and, in a short time, the auger passed
through the woodwork. Two other holes adjoining the first were soon
made, and then the end of a saw was pushed through.

"If you can make a hole large enough at the bottom of the plate,
Pierre, and pass me the other saw through, I can work that way to
meet you."

"It would take too long to make, sir. I have plenty of oil, and it
won't take me long to saw round the plate. I only brought the
second saw in case the first should break. But this oak is pretty
nearly as hard as iron."

It took over an hour's work before the cut was complete. When it
was nearly finished, Pierre said:

"Be ready to seize the piece that is cut out, as soon as I am
through with it, master; otherwise it may fall down, as the door
opens, and make a clatter that will be heard all over the castle."

As the last piece was sawn through Philip pressed the door and, as
it opened, seized the portion cut out, drew it backward, and laid
it gently on the stone floor. Then he rose, and grasped Pierre's
hand.

"My brave Pierre, you have accomplished what I thought was an
impossibility. Now, what is the next thing to be done?"

"The next thing is to unwind this rope from my body. It is lucky I
am so lean that it did not make me look bulky. It is not very
thick, but it is new and strong, and there are knots every two
feet. Roger is waiting for us below, in a boat."

"Where is Jacques?"

"Jacques has ridden off. He learned, before sunset, that orders had
been issued for the troops to assemble. He and Roger had taken the
four horses beyond the walls, an hour after you were arrested; and
had left them at a farmer's, a mile away. So he arranged with me
that he should follow the troop on foot; which he could do, as
there are footmen as well as horse in the party that has gone out.
Then, as soon as he discovered which way they were going, he would
slip off and make for the farmhouse and mount. If they were bound
for Nerac, he will wait for us at the point on the other side of
the river. If they follow the river down, he will ride at full
speed, make a circuit, and warn the queen of the danger. He will
have plenty of time to do that, as the column will have to move at
the pace of the infantry."

"That is a load off my mind, Pierre."

While they were speaking they had unwound the rope, fastened one
end to the battlement, and lowered the other down.

"I will go first, master. I am the lightest, and will steady the
rope for you, from below."

In two or three minutes Philip felt that the rope was no longer
tight, and at once swung himself over and lowered himself down. The
water washed the foot of the wall, and he stepped directly into the
boat; which Roger was keeping in its place with a pole, while
Pierre held the rope. An exclamation of thankfulness broke from the
two men, as his feet touched the gunwale of the boat; and then,
without a word, Roger began to pole the boat along against the
tide, keeping close to the foot of the wall.

Once fairly beyond the castle, the pole was laid in and the two men
took the oars, and the boat shot across the river. Then they rowed
up under the opposite bank, until a voice from above them said:

"Is all well--is Monsieur Philip with you?"

"All is well, Jacques," Philip exclaimed, delighted; for the fact
that his follower was there showed that the troops had gone in the
direction that did not threaten the safety of the queen.

They leapt ashore and pushed the boat off, to allow it to float
down with the stream.

It was a mile to the spot where the horses had been left. On the
way, Philip heard how his escape had been effected.

"I saw you go out from the town, monsieur; and could not, for the
life of me, make out what was going to happen. I did not know the
gentleman you were walking with, but I recognized the two in front
of you as the officers of the troop that had questioned us, near
Bazas. One of them was talking angrily to the other. As it seemed
to me that you were going willingly, and not as a prisoner; and
especially as you were going out of the town, I thought that it was
my business to wait until you returned.

"I saw, half an hour, later some horsemen coming up the street, and
someone said that it was the governor, who had been out with a
party. It gave me a bad turn, when I saw you walking as a prisoner
in the middle of them. I saw you glance at me, but of course made
no sign; and I followed until you entered the castle.

"When I was walking away, I saw a crowd. Pushing forward, I found
they were surrounding four soldiers who were carrying a body on
their shoulders, and made out at once it was the officer who had
been talking so angrily to his companion. Then I understood what
had puzzled me before, and what you had gone outside the walls for.

"The rest was easy to guess. The governor had come along, you had
been questioned, and had been arrested as a Huguenot. It was
evident that no time was to be lost and that, if you were to be got
out, it must be done quickly.

"I hurried away to the cabaret where Jacques and Roger were
drinking. We talked the matter over, and agreed that the first
thing was to get the four horses out of the town. So I went to the
inn where you had put up, said I was your servant, paid the
reckoning, and took away the horse. Then I got my own and joined
the other two, who were mounted and ready. They each took a horse
and rode off, settling to leave them at some farmhouse a short
distance away, explaining there that the town was so full they
could find no room for them.

"Directly they had started, I set off to have a look round the
castle. The great thing was to know where they had lodged you. If
it was in a cell looking outward, I thought that, knowing I should
be searching for you, you would make a signal. If I could see
nothing, I determined to accost some servant coming out from the
castle; to make acquaintance with him and, over a bottle of wine,
to find out in what part of the castle you were lodged.

"On the land side I could see nothing, and then went back and
waited till Jacques and Roger returned. Then we took a boat and, as
you know, rowed up; and I soon made out your cap outside the wall.

"Then, as we rowed back, we arranged matters. Jacques was to carry
out your former orders: find out about the movement of troops, and
warn the queen if danger threatened. Roger was to be at the foot of
the wall with a boat, as soon as it became dark. I was to undertake
to get you out.

"The first thing to do was to get a rope. This I carried to a quiet
place on the wall, knotted it, and put it round me under my
doublet. Then there was nothing to do but to wait. I went several
times to hear if Jacques had any news, and was glad when he told me
that most of the troops were ordered to be under arms, at eight
o'clock. This would make matters simpler for me for, with numbers
of people going in and coming out of the castle, it would be easy
to slip in unnoticed.

"As soon as it was dark, Jacques and I went down a lane; and he
gave me his steel cap and breast piece, and took my cap in
exchange. Then I went up towards the castle. The gates were open,
and I was told that they would not be closed until midnight; as so
many were coming out and going in, and there was no hostile force
anywhere in these parts. Presently, numbers of gentlemen began to
arrive with their retainers, and I soon went in with a party of
footmen.

"The courtyard was full of men, and I was not long before I found
the staircase leading up to the top of the wall, on the river side.
I went boldly up and, halfway, found a door partly open. Looking
in, I saw that it was evidently used by some gentlemen who had gone
down, in haste, to join the party below; so I shut the door and
waited. I heard the troops start and guessed, from the quiet that
followed, that the greater portion of the garrison had left.

"I felt pretty sure that there would be a sentry at your door, and
waited until the time I thought he would be expecting a relief.
Then I went up. He was in a mighty hurry to get down, and did not
stop to see who I was, or to ask any questions; which was well for
him, for I had my knife in my hand, and should have stabbed him
before he could utter a cry. Everything went off well, and you know
the rest, sir."

"You managed wonderfully, Pierre. I thought over every plan by
which you might aid me to escape, but I never thought of anything
so simple as this. Nor, indeed, did I see any possible way of your
freeing me.

"How are we going to get our horses? The farmer will think that we
are a party of thieves."

"They are in an open shed," Jacques said. "I told the farmer that
our reason for bringing them out of the town was that you might
have to start with orders, any time in the night; and that it would
be troublesome getting them out from town stables, and having the
gates opened for them to pass out; while, on foot, you could issue
from the postern without trouble. I paid him for the corn when I
left them."

The horses, indeed, were got out without any stir in the house
indicating that its occupants were awakened.

"Give me your sword, Pierre," Philip said, as he mounted. "I trust
that we shall meet with no enemies on the road; still we may do so,
and I should not like to be unarmed. You have your arquebus."

This had been brought in the boat by Roger, and on landing Pierre
had exchanged the steel cap and breast piece for his own cap.

The road to Villeneuve D'Agenois was a cross-country one, and would
be impossible to follow in the dark. Consequently, after keeping on
the main road for half an hour, they turned off a road to the
right, rode until they came to a wood, and there alighted.

"Shall I light a fire, sir?" Pierre asked.

"It is not worth while, Pierre. It must be getting on for midnight
now, and we must be in the saddle again, at daybreak. By this time
they have, no doubt, found that I have escaped. The first time they
send up a man to relieve you, the open door will be noticed. They
will certainly make no search tonight, and tomorrow they will have
something else to think about; for doubtless some spy at Nerac
will, as soon as the gates are open, take the news to the
governor's party that the queen has left."

Two hours' brisk ride, in the morning, took them within sight of
Villeneuve D'Agenois. Riding across the bridge over the river Lot,
he entered the town. The street was full of troops; and three
gentlemen, standing at the door of an inn, looked with suspicion on
the gay colouring of Philip's costume and, as he alighted, they
stepped forward to accost him.

"May I ask who you are, sir?" one said advancing; "and what is your
business here?"

"Certainly you may," Philip said, as he dismounted. "My name is
Philip Fletcher. I am here at the order of her majesty, the Queen
of Navarre; who, I trust, has arrived here safely."

"The queen arrived here three hours since, Monsieur Fletcher; and I
may say that she did you the honour to inquire, at once, if a
gentleman of your name had arrived."

"I should have met her at the river near Tonneins, but the governor
of Agen laid an embargo on me. Yet, thanks to these three faithful
fellows, I got safely out of his clutches."

"We shall march in an hour, Monsieur Fletcher and, as soon as the
queen is up, I will see that she is acquainted with your coming.

"Allow me to introduce myself, first--Gaston de Rebers. Breakfast
is ready in this cottage, and we were about to sit down when we saw
you riding up. I shall be glad if you will share it with us. These
are my comrades, Messieurs Duvivier, Harcourt, and Parolles."

He then called a sergeant.

"Sergeant, see that Monsieur Fletcher's servant and men-at-arms
have a good meal."

"I think they must want it," Philip said. "They have been so busy,
in my service, that I doubt if they have eaten since breakfast
yesterday. I myself supped well, thanks to the courtesy of Monsieur
D'Estanges, who was good enough to send up an excellent capon, and
a bottle of wine to my cell."

"You know Monsieur D'Estanges?" Gaston de Rebers asked courteously.
"He is a gentleman of high repute and, though connected with the
Guises, he is said to be opposed to them in their crusade against
us."

"I had only the honour of meeting him yesterday," Philip said, as
they sat down to table; "but he behaved like a true gentleman, and
did me the honour of being my second, in an unfortunate affair into
which I was forced."

"Who was your opponent, may I ask, sir?"

"Count Raoul de Fontaine."

"A doughty swordsman!" Gaston de Rebers exclaimed; "but one of our
bitterest opponents in this province. You are fortunate, indeed, to
have escaped without a serious wound; for he has been engaged in
many duels, and but few of his opponents have escaped with their
lives."

"He will neither persecute you, nor fight more duels," Philip said
quietly; "for I had the misfortune to kill him."

The others looked at him with astonishment.

"Do I understand rightly, Monsieur Fletcher, that you have slain
Raoul de Fontaine in a duel?"

"That is the case," Philip replied. "Monsieur D'Estanges, as I have
said, acted as my second. Count Louis de Fontaine acted for his
cousin."

"You will pardon my having asked you the question again," De Rebers
said; "but really, it seemed well-nigh impossible that a gentleman
who, as I take it, can yet be scarcely of age, should have slain
Raoul de Fontaine."

"I lack four years, yet, of being of age," Philip said; "for it
will be another month before I am seventeen. But I have had good
teachers, both English and French; and our games and exercises, at
school, naturally bring us forward, in point of strength and
stature, in comparison with your countrymen of the same age. Still,
doubtless, it was as much due to good fortune as to skill that I
gained my success.

"I assuredly had no desire to kill him; the less so because, to a
certain extent, the duel was of my making. There was, as it seemed
to me, no choice between fighting him, and being denounced by him
as a spy. Therefore when he accosted me roughly, I took the matter
up hotly, and there was nothing for it but an encounter. As I have
said, I meant only to wound him; but his skill and his impetuosity
were so great that I was forced, in self defence, to run him
through.

"After all, I gained nothing by the duel; for the governor, with a
troop of horse, came up just as it concluded, and as I could give
no satisfactory account of myself, I was hauled off a prisoner to
the castle."

"And how did you escape thence?" Gaston asked.

Philip gave an account of the manner in which his servant had
rescued him.

"Parbleu! You are fortunate in your servant! Would that so shrewd a
knave--

"But there, the trumpets are sounding. I will take you at once to
the queen, who is doubtless ready to mount."



Chapter 13: At Laville.


The queen was standing at the door of the house where she had lain
down for a few hours' rest, after her arrival. The prince was
standing beside her.

"Here is our English friend, mother," he exclaimed, running forward
to meet Philip.

"Welcome, Monsieur Fletcher. When we found that you were not here,
on our arrival last night, we feared that some evil had befallen
you."

"Monsieur Fletcher is well able to take care of himself, prince. He
has been having adventures enough," Gaston de Rebers said.

"You must tell me about them as we ride," the prince said. "I love
adventures, Monsieur Fletcher."

They had now reached the queen.

"I am glad to see you, Monsieur Fletcher. Of course, it was in one
way a relief to us, when we crossed the river and did not find you
there; for I was sure you would have been there to give us warning,
had there been danger on the way; but I thought you might come in
any case, and when we found that you had not arrived here before
us, I was afraid that something might have befallen you."

"I have had some slight troubles, your majesty; and to my great
regret, I was unable to meet you at the passage of the river. I
should have been here long before daylight, but we were unable to
find the road in the dark, and had to wait until we could inquire
the way."

"Monsieur Fletcher is pleased to say that he has had some slight
troubles, madame," Gaston said; "but as the troubles included the
slaying in a duel of Raoul de Fontaine, one of the bitterest
enemies of our faith, and moreover a noted duellist; and an escape
from the castle of Agen, where he was confined as a suspected
Huguenot and spy, the term slight does not very aptly describe
them."

"What!" A tall soldierly old man, standing next to the queen,
exclaimed. "Do you mean to say, De Rebers, that Monsieur Fletcher
has killed Raoul de Fontaine in a duel?

"If so, I congratulate your majesty. He was a bitter persecutor of
the Huguenots, and one of the hottest headed and most troublesome
nobles in the province. Moreover, he can put a hundred and fifty
men into the field; and although his cousin Louis, who is his heir,
is also Catholic, he is a man of very different kind, and is
honoured by Huguenot and Catholic alike. But how this gentleman
could have killed so notable a swordsman is more than I can
understand. He looks, if you will pardon my saying so, a mere
youth."

"He rode beside Francois de la Noue in the battle of Saint Denis,
seneschal," the queen said; "and as he was chosen by my cousin
Conde, and Admiral Coligny, for the difficult and dangerous
enterprise of carrying a communication to me, it is clear that,
whatever his years, he is well fitted to act a man's part."

"That is so," the seneschal said heartily. "I shall be glad to talk
to you again, sir; but at present, madame, it is time to mount. The
troops are mustering, and we have a long ride before us.

"If you will lead the way with the infantry at once, Monsieur de
Rebers, we will follow as soon as we are mounted. We must go your
pace, but as soon as we start I will send a party to ride a mile
ahead of you, and see that the roads are clear."

At starting, the queen rode with the prince and the seneschal at
the head of the mounted party, some two hundred and fifty strong;
and behind followed the noblemen and gentlemen who had come with
her, and those who had accompanied the seneschal. Philip, who knew
no one, rode near the rear of this train, behind which followed the
armed retainers.

In a short time a gentleman rode back through the party.

"Monsieur Fletcher," he said, when he reached Philip, "the prince
has asked me to say that it is his wish that you shall ride
forward, and accompany him."

Philip turned into the field, and rode to the head of the party.
The prince, who was looking round, at once reined in his horse and
took his place beside him.

"Now, Monsieur Philip, you must tell me all about it. I am tired of
hearing consultations about roads and Catholic forces. I want to
hear a full account of your adventures, just as you told me the
tale of your journey to Nerac."

During the course of the day, several parties of gentlemen joined
the little force. So well organized were the Huguenots that, during
the last two or three days, the news had passed from mouth to mouth
throughout the province for all to assemble, if possible, at points
indicated to them; and all knew the day on which the seneschal
would march north from Villeneuve. Yet so well was the secret kept,
that the Catholics remained in total ignorance of the movement.
Consequently, at every village there were accessions of force
awaiting the seneschal, and parties of from ten to a hundred rode
up and joined them on the march.

After marching twenty miles, they halted at the foot of a chain of
hills, their numbers having been increased during the day to over
twelve hundred men. The queen and her son found rough accommodation
in a small village, the rest bivouacked round it.

At midnight three hundred cavalry and two hundred footmen started
across the hills, so as to come down upon Bergerac and seize the
bridge across the Dordogne; then at daylight the rest of the force
marched. On reaching the river they found that the bridge had been
seized without resistance. Three hundred gentlemen and their
retainers, of the province of Perigord, had assembled within half a
mile of the other side of the bridge, and had joined the party as
they came down. A Catholic force of two hundred men, in the town,
had been taken by surprise and captured, for the most part in their
beds.

The queen had issued most stringent orders that there was to be no
unnecessary bloodshed; and the Catholic soldiers, having been
stripped of their arms and armour, which were divided among those
of the Huguenots who were ill provided, were allowed to depart
unharmed the next morning, some fifteen gentlemen being retained as
prisoners. Three hundred more Huguenots rode into Bergerac in the
course of the day.

The footmen marched forward in the afternoon, and were directed to
stop at a village, twelve miles on. As the next day's journey would
be a long one, the start was again made early; and late in the
afternoon the little army, which had been joined by two hundred
more in the course of the day, arrived within sight of Perigueux.
Five hundred horsemen had ridden forward, two hours before, to
secure the bridge.

The seneschal had, after occupying Bergerac, placed horsemen on all
the roads leading north, to prevent the news from spreading; and
Perigueux, a large and important town, was utterly unprepared for
the advent of an enemy. A few of the troops took up arms and made a
hasty resistance, but were speedily dispersed. The greater portion
fled, at the first alarm, to the castle, where D'Escars himself was
staying. He had, only two days before, sent off a despatch to the
court declaring that he had taken his measures so well that not a
Huguenot in the province would take up arms.

His force was still superior to that of the horsemen, but his
troops were disorganized; and many, in their flight, had left their
arms behind them, and he was therefore obliged to remain inactive
in the citadel; and his mortification and fury were complete, when
the seneschal's main body marched through the town and halted, for
the night, a league beyond it.

The next day they crossed the Dronne at Brantome, and then turned
to the west. The way was now open to them and, with two thousand
men, the seneschal felt capable of coping with any force that could
be got together to attack them. A halt was made for a day, to rest
the men and horses and, four days later, after crossing the
Perigord hills, and keeping ten miles south of Angouleme, they came
within sight of Cognac. Messages had already been sent on to
announce their coming and, five miles from the town, they were met
by the Prince of Conde and the Admiral.

"Your first message lifted a load from our minds, madame," the
Admiral said. "The last news I received of you was that you were
still at Nerac, and as an intercepted despatch informed us that
orders had been sent from the court for your immediate arrest, we
were in great uneasiness about you."

"We left Nerac just in time," the queen said; "for, as we have
learned, the governor of Agen, with a strong force, left that city
to effect our capture at the very hour that we started on our
flight."

"Did you know where you would find us, madame? We sent off a
message by trusty hands, but whether the gentleman reached you we
know not."

"Indeed he did, and has since rendered us good service; and Henri
here has taken so great a fancy to him that, since we left
Villeneuve, he has always ridden by his side."

After Conde had presented the gentlemen who had ridden out with him
to the queen, and the seneschal in turn had introduced the most
important nobles and gentlemen to the prince and Admiral, they
proceeded on their way.

"Have you taken Cognac, cousin?" the queen asked Conde.

"No, madame; the place still holds out. We have captured Saint Jean
d'Angely, but Cognac is obstinate, and we have no cannon with which
to batter its walls."

As soon, however, as the queen arrived at the camp, a summons was
sent in in her name and, influenced by this, and by the sight of
the reinforcements she had brought with her, Cognac at once
surrendered.

As soon as Philip rode into camp, he was greeted joyously by his
cousin Francois.

"We did not think, when we parted outside Niort, that we were going
to be separated so long," he said, after they had shaken hands
heartily. "I was astonished indeed when, two days later, I met the
Admiral outside the walls of the town again, to hear that you had
gone off to make your way through to Nerac.

"I want to hear all your adventures. We have not had much fighting.
Niort made but a poor resistance, and Parthenay surrendered without
striking a blow; then I went with the party that occupied Fontenay.
The Catholics fought stoutly there, but we were too strong for
them. Those three places have given La Rochelle three bulwarks to
the north.

"Then we started again from La Rochelle, and marched to Saint Jean
d'Angely, which we carried by storm. Then we came on here, and I
believe we shall have a try at Saintes or Angouleme. When we have
captured them, we shall have a complete cordon of strong places
round La Rochelle.

"We expect La Noue down from Brittany every hour, with a force he
has raised there and in Normandy; and we have heard that a large
force has gathered in Languedoc, and is advancing to join us; and
all is going so well that I fancy, if Monsieur d'Anjou does not
come to us before long, we shall set out in search of him.

"So much for our doings; now sit down comfortably in my tent, and
tell me all about your journey. I see you have brought Pierre and
your two men back with you."

"You would be nearer the truth, if you said that Pierre and the two
men had brought me back," Philip laughed; "for if it had not been
for them, I should probably have lost my head the day after the
queen left Nerac."

"That is a good beginning to the story, Philip; but tell me the
whole in proper order, as it happened."

Philip told his story at length, and his cousin was greatly pleased
at the manner in which he had got through his various dangers and
difficulties.

The queen remained but a few hours with the army, after Cognac had
opened its gates. After a long conference with the Prince of Conde,
the Admiral, and the other leaders, she left under a strong escort
for La Rochelle; leaving the young prince with the army, of which
he was given the nominal command, as his near connection with the
royal family, and the fact that he was there as the representative
of his mother, strengthened the Huguenot cause; which could no
longer be described, by the agents of the French court with foreign
powers, as a mere rising of slight importance, the work only of
Conde, Coligny, and a few other ambitious and turbulent nobles.

"I asked my mother to appoint you as one of the gentlemen who are
to ride with me, Monsieur Fletcher," the young prince said to
Philip, when he saw him on the day after the queen's departure;
"but she and the Admiral both said no. It is not because they do
not like you, you know; and the Admiral said that he could very
well trust me with you. But when my mother told him that I had
ridden with you for the last four days, he said that it would cause
jealousy, when there were so many young French nobles and gentlemen
in the camp, if I were to choose you in preference to them as my
companion; you being only French on your mother's side, and having
an English name. I begged them to let me tell you this, for I would
rather ride with you than with any of them; and I should not like
you to think that I did not care to have you with me, any more.

"I think it hard. They call me the commander of this army, and I
can't have my own way even in a little thing like this. Some day,
Monsieur Fletcher, I shall be able to do as I please, and then I
hope to have you near me."

"I am greatly obliged to your Highness," Philip said; "but I am
sure the counsel that has been given you is right, and that it is
far better for you to be in the company of French gentlemen. I have
come over here solely to do what little I can to aid my mother's
relations, and those oppressed for their faith; and though I am
flattered by your wish that I should be near you, I would rather be
taking an active share in the work that has to be done."

"Yes, the Admiral said that. He said that, while many a youth would
be most gratified at being selected to be my companion, he was sure
that you would far rather ride with your cousin, Monsieur De
Laville; and that it would be a pity to keep one, who bids fair to
be a great soldier, acting the part of nurse to me. It was not
quite civil of the Admiral; for I don't want a nurse of that kind,
and would a thousand times rather ride as an esquire to you, and
take share in your adventures. But the Admiral is always plain
spoken; still, as I know well that he is good and wise, and the
greatest soldier in France, I do not mind what he says."

Angouleme and Saintes were both captured without much difficulty;
and then, moving south from Angouleme, the army captured Pons and
Blaye, and thus possessed themselves of a complete semicircle of
towns round La Rochelle.

A short time afterwards, they were joined by a strong force of
Huguenots from Languedoc and Provence. These had marched north,
without meeting with any enemy strong enough to give them battle;
and when they joined the force under the Admiral, they raised its
strength to a total of three thousand cavalry, and twenty thousand
infantry.

By this time the royal army of the Prince d'Anjou, having united
with that raised by the Guises, had advanced to Poitiers. The
season was now far advanced. Indeed, winter had already set in.
Both armies were anxious to fight; but the royalist leaders,
bearing in mind the desperate valour that the Huguenots had
displayed at Saint Denis, were unwilling to give battle, unless in
a position that afforded them every advantage for the movements of
their cavalry, in which they were greatly superior in strength to
the Huguenots.

The Admiral was equally determined not to throw away the advantage
he possessed in his large force of infantry; and after being in
sight of each other for some time, and several skirmishes having
taken place, both armies fell back into winter quarters--the
severity of the weather being too great to keep the soldiers,
without tents or other shelter, in the field.

During these operations Philip and his cousin had again ridden with
Francois de la Noue, who had rejoined the army after a most
perilous march, in which he and the small body of troops he had
brought from Brittany had succeeded in making their way through the
hostile country, and in crossing the fords of the intervening
rivers, after hard fighting and considerable loss.

As soon as the intense cold had driven both armies to the shelter
of the towns, the count said to Francois:

"You and Philip had better march at once, with your troop, to
Laville. It will cost far less to maintain them at the chateau,
than elsewhere; indeed the men can, for the most part, return to
their farms.

"But you must be watchful, Francois, now that a portion of Anjou's
army is lying at Poitiers. They may, should the weather break, make
raids into our country; and as Laville is the nearest point to
Poitiers held for us, they might well make a dash at it."

The countess welcomed them back heartily, but expressed great
disappointment that the season should have passed without the
armies meeting.

"It was the same last time. It was the delay that ruined us. With
the best will in the world, there are few who can afford to keep
their retainers in the field for month after month; and the men,
themselves, are longing to be back to their farms and families.

"We shall have to keep a keen lookout, through the winter.
Fortunately our harvest here is a good one, and the granaries are
all full; so that we shall be able to keep the men-at-arms on
through the winter, without much expense. I feel more anxious about
the tenants than about ourselves."

"Yes, mother, there is no doubt there is considerable risk of the
enemy trying to beat us up; and we must arrange for signals, so
that our people may have time to fall back here. Philip and I will
think it over. We ought to be able to contrive some scheme between
us."

"Do so, Francois. I feel safe against surprise here; but I never
retire to rest, without wondering whether the night will pass
without the tenants' farms and stacks being set ablaze, and they
and their families slaughtered on their own hearth stones."

"I suppose, Francois," Philip said to him as they stood at the
lookout, next morning, "there is not much doubt which way they
would cross the hills, coming from Poitiers. They would be almost
sure to come by that road that we travelled by, when we went to
Chatillon. It comes down over the hills, two miles to the west.

"There it is, you see. You just catch sight of it, as it crosses
that shoulder. Your land does not go as far as that, does it?"

"No, it only extends a mile in that direction, and four miles in
the other, and five miles out into the plain."

"Are there many Huguenots on the other side of the hill?"

"Yes, there are some; but as you know, our strength is in the other
direction. What are you thinking of?"

"I was thinking that we might make an arrangement with someone, in
a village some seven or eight miles beyond the hills, to keep a boy
on watch night and day; so that, directly a body of Catholic troops
were seen coming along, he should start at full speed to some place
a quarter of a mile away, and there set light to a beacon piled in
readiness.

"We, on our part, would have a watch set on the top of this hill
behind us; at a spot where the hill on which the beacon was placed
would be visible. Then at night the fire, and by day the smoke
would serve as a warning. Our watchman would, at once, fire an
arquebus and light another beacon; which would be the signal for
all within reach to come here, as quickly as possible.

"At each farmhouse a lookout must, of course, be kept night and
day. I should advise the tenants to send up as much of their corn
and hay as possible, at once; and that the cattle should be driven
up close to the chateau, at night."

"I think that would be a very good plan, Philip. I am sure that
among our men-at-arms must be some who have acquaintances and
friends on the other side of the hill. It will be best that they
should make the arrangements for the firing of the signal beacon.
We might even station one of them in a village there, under the
pretence that he had been knocked up with the cold and hardship,
and was desirous of staying quietly with his friends. He would
watch at night and could sleep by day, as his friends would waken
him at once, if any troops passed along."

The same afternoon, one of the men-at-arms prepared to start for a
village, eight miles beyond the hill.

"There is no rising ground near it," he said to Francois, "that
could well be seen from the top of the hill here; but about half a
mile away from the village there is an old tower. It is in ruins,
and has been so ever since I can remember. I have often climbed to
its top, when I was a boy. At this time of year, there is no chance
of anyone visiting the place. I could collect wood and pile it,
ready for a fire, without any risk whatever. I can point out the
exact direction of the tower from the top of the hill, so that the
watchers would know where to keep their attention fixed."

"Well, you had better go up with us at once, then, so that I shall
be able to instruct the men who will keep watch. We will build a
hut up there for them, and keep three men on guard; so that they
will watch four hours apiece, day and night."

The distance was too great to make out the tower; but as the
soldier knew its exact position, he drove two stakes into the
ground, three feet apart.

"Now," he said, "a man, looking along the line of the tops of these
stakes, will be looking as near as may be at the tower."

The tenants were all visited, and were warned to keep a member of
their family always on the watch for fire, or smoke, from the
little hut at the top of the hill. As soon as the signal was seen,
night or day, they were to make their way to the chateau, driving
their horses and most valuable stock before them, and taking such
goods as they could remove.

"You had better let two horses remain with their harness on, night
and day; and have a cart in readiness, close to your house. Then,
when the signal is given, the women will only have to bundle their
goods and children into the cart; while the men get their arms, and
prepare to drive in their cattle.

"The Catholics will show no mercy to any of the faith they may
find; while as to the chateau, it can make a stout resistance, and
you may be sure that it will not be long before help arrives, from
Niort or La Rochelle."

Arrangements were also made, with the Huguenot gentry in the
neighbourhood, that they should keep a lookout for the signal; and
on observing it light other beacons, so that the news could be
spread rapidly over that part of the country. As soon as the fires
were seen, the women and children were to take to the hills, the
cattle to be driven off by the boys, and the men to arm themselves
and mount.

"Of course," the countess said, at a council where all these
arrangements were made, "we must be guided by the number sent
against us. If, by uniting your bands together, you think you can
raise the siege, we will sally out as soon as you attack and join
you; but do not attack, unless you think that our united forces can
defeat them. If we could defeat them, we should save your chateaux
and farms from fire and ruin.

"If you find they are too strong to attack, you might harass
parties sent out to plunder, and so save your houses, while you
despatch men to ask for help from the Admiral. If, however, they
are so strong in cavalry that you could not keep the field against
them, I should say it were best that you should ride away, and join
any party advancing to our assistance."

A month passed quietly. Every day, a soldier carrying wine and
provisions rode to the hut that had been built, on the crest of the
hill three miles away.

Eight o'clock one evening, towards the end of January, the alarm
bell rang from the lookout tower. Philip and his cousin ran up.

"There is the beacon alight at the hut, count," the lookout said.

"Light this bonfire then, Jules, and keep the alarm bell going.

"To horse, men!" he cried, looking over the parapet. "Bring out our
horses with your own."

The men had been previously told off in twos and threes to the
various farmhouses, to aid in driving in the cattle and, as soon as
they were mounted, each party dashed off to its destination. From
the watchtower four or five fires could be seen blazing in the
distance, showing that the lookouts had everywhere been vigilant,
and that the news had already been carried far and wide.

Francois and Philip rode up to the hut on the hill.

"There is no mistake, I hope," Francois said as, a quarter of a
mile before they reached it, they met the three men-at-arms coming
down.

"No, count, it was exactly in a line with the two stakes and, I
should think, about the distance away that you told us the tower
was. It has died down now."

The beacon fire near the hut had been placed fifty yards below the
crest of the hill, so that its flame should not be seen from the
other side. This had been at Philip's suggestion.

"If it is put where they can see it," he said, "they will feel sure
that it is in answer to that fire behind them, and will ride at
full speed, so as to get here before the news spreads. If they see
no answering fire, they may suppose that the first was but an
accident. They may even halt at the village, and send off some men
to see what has caused the fire; or if they ride straight through,
they will be at some little distance before Simon has got to the
fire and lighted it, and may not care to waste time sending back.
At any rate, it is better that they should see no flame up here."

They had often talked the matter over, and had agreed that, even if
the column was composed only of cavalry, it would be from an hour
and a half to two hours before it arrived at the chateau, as it
would doubtless have performed a long journey; while if there were
infantry with them, they would take double that time.

Directly an alarm had been given, two of the youngest and most
active of the men-at-arms had set off, to take post at the point
where the road crossed the hill. Their orders were to lie still
till all had passed, and then to make their way back along the
hill, at full speed, to inform the garrison of the strength and
composition of the attacking force.

When they returned to the chateau, people were already pouring in
from the neighbouring farms; the women staggering under heavy
burdens, and the men driving their cattle before them, or leading
strings of horses. The seneschal and the retainers were at work,
trying to keep some sort of order; directing the men to drive the
cattle into the countess's garden, and the women to put down their
belongings in the courtyard, where they would be out of the way;
while the countess saw that her maids spread rushes, thickly, along
by the walls of the rooms that were to be given up to the use of
the women and children.

Cressets had been lighted in the courtyard, but the bonfire was now
extinguished so that the enemy, on reaching the top of the hill,
should see nothing to lead them to suppose that their coming was
known. The alarm bell had ceased sending its loud summons into the
air; but there was still a variety of noises that were almost
deafening: the lowing of cattle, disturbed and angered at the
unaccustomed movement; mingled with the shouts of men, the barking
of dogs, and the crying of frightened children.

"I will aid the seneschal in getting things into order down here,
Francois," Philip said, "while you see to the defence of the walls,
posting the men, and getting everything in readiness to give them a
reception. I will look after the postern doors, and see that the
planks across the moats are removed, and the bolts and bars in
place."

Francois nodded and, bidding the men-at-arms, who had already
returned, stable their horses and follow him, he proceeded to the
walls.

"This is enough to make one weep," Pierre said, as the oxen poured
into the courtyard, and then through the archway that led to the
countess's garden.

"What is enough, Pierre? To see all these poor women and children,
who are likely to behold their homesteads in flames, before many
hours?"

"Well, I did not mean that, master; though I don't say that is not
sad enough, in its way; but that is the fortune of war, as it were.
I meant the countess's garden being destroyed. The beasts will
trample down all the shrubs and, in a week, it will be no better
than a farmyard."

Philip laughed.

"That is of very little consequence, Pierre. A week's work, with
plenty of hands, will set that right again. Still, no doubt it will
vex the countess, who is very fond of her garden."

"A week!" Pierre said. "Why, sir, it will take years and years
before those yew hedges grow again."

"Ah well, Pierre, if the countess keeps a roof over her head she
may be well content, in these stormy times. You had better go and
see if she and her maids have got those chambers ready for the
women. If they have, get them all in as quickly as you can. These
beasts come into the courtyard with such a rush that some of the
people will be trampled upon, if we do not get them out of the
way."

"Most of them have gone into the hall, sir. The countess gave
orders that all were to go in as they came; but I suppose the
servants have been too busy to tell the latecomers. I will get the
rest in, at once."

As soon as the farmers and their men had driven the animals into
the garden, they went up to the walls, all having brought their
arms in with them. The boys were left below, to look after the
cattle.

"Nothing can be done tonight," Philip said to some of the men. "The
cattle will come to no harm and, as the boys cannot keep them from
breaking down the shrubs, they had best leave them alone, or they
will run the risk of getting hurt. The boys will do more good by
taking charge of the more valuable horses, as they come in, and
fastening them up to the rings round the wall here. The cart horses
must go in with the cattle."

Several gentlemen, with their wives and families, came in among the
fugitives. Their houses were not in a condition to withstand a
siege, and it had long been settled that they should come into the
chateau, if danger threatened. The ladies were taken to the
countess's apartments, while the gentlemen went to aid Francois in
the defence.

An hour and a half after the lads returned to the castle, the
men-at-arms who had been sent to watch the road came in. They
reported that the column approaching consisted of about three
hundred mounted men, and fifteen hundred infantry.

Roger had, all this time, been standing by the side of his saddled
horse. Philip hurried to him, as soon as the men came in.

"Three hundred horsemen and fifteen hundred foot! Ride at full
speed to La Rochelle. Tell the Admiral the numbers, and request
him, in the name of the countess, to come to her assistance. Beg
him to use all speed, for no doubt they will attack hotly, knowing
that aid will soon be forthcoming to us."

Roger leapt to his saddle, and galloped out through the gate. A man
had been placed there to mark off the names of all who entered,
from the list that had been furnished him. Philip took it, and saw
that a cross had been placed against every name. He therefore went
up to the top of the wall.

"The tenants are all in, Francois!"

"Very well, then, I will have the drawbridge raised and the gates
closed. I am glad, indeed, that we have had time given us for them
all to enter. My mother would have been very grieved, if harm had
come to any of them.

"I have everything in readiness, here. I have posted men at every
window and loophole, where the house rises from the side of the
moat. All the rest are on the walls. I will take command here by
the gate and along the wall. Do you take charge of the defence of
the house, itself. However, you may as well stay here with me,
until we have had our first talk with them. Pass the word along the
walls for perfect silence."

In another half hour they heard a dull sound. Presently it became
louder, and they could distinguish, above the trampling of horses,
the clash of steel. It came nearer and nearer, until within two or
three hundred yards of the chateau, then it ceased. Presently a
figure could be made out, creeping quietly forward until it reached
the edge of the moat. It paused a moment, and then retired.

"He has been sent to find out whether the drawbridge is down,"
Francois whispered to Philip. "We shall see what they will do now."

There was a pause for ten minutes, then a heavy mass of men could
be seen approaching.

"Doubtless they will have planks with them, to push across the
moat," Philip said.

"We will let them come within twenty yards," Francois replied,
"then I think we shall astonish them."

Believing that all in the chateau were asleep, and that even the
precaution of keeping a watchman on the walls had been neglected,
the assailants advanced eagerly. Suddenly, the silence on the walls
was broken by a voice shouting, "Give fire!" And then, from along
the whole face of the battlements, deadly fire from arquebuses was
poured into them. A moment later half a dozen fireballs were flung
into the column, and a rain of crossbow bolts followed.

Shouts of astonishment, rage, and pain broke from the mass and,
breaking up, they recoiled in confusion; while the shouts of the
officers, urging them forward, could be heard. The heavy fire from
the walls was, however, too much for men who had expected no
resistance, but had moved forward believing that they had but to
sack and plunder; and in two or three minutes from the first shot
being fired, all who were able to do so had retired; though a
number of dark figures, dotting the ground, showed how deadly had
been the fire of the besieged.

"They will do nothing more tonight, I fancy," one of the Huguenot
gentlemen standing by the two friends remarked. "They expected to
take you entirely by surprise. Now that they have failed in doing
so, they will wait until morning to reconnoitre, and decide on the
best points of attack. Besides, no doubt they have marched far, and
are in need of rest before renewing the assault."

"Well, gentlemen," Francois said, "it would be needless for you all
to remain here; and when they once begin in earnest, there will be
but slight opportunity of rest until relief reaches us. Therefore,
I beg you to go below. You will find a table laid in the hall, and
two chambers roughly prepared for you; and you can get a few hours'
sleep.

"I myself, with my own men, will keep watch. Should they muster for
another attack, my horn will summon you again to the wall.

"Philip, will you go down and see that these gentlemen have all
that they require? You can dismiss all save our own men from guard,
on the other side of the house. The tenants and their men will all
sleep in the hall."

Philip went down, and presided at the long table. The gentlemen
were seated near him while, below them, the tenants and other
followers took their places. There was enough cold meat, game, and
pies for all; and when they had finished, the defenders of the wall
came down, half at a time, for a meal.

When the gentlemen had retired to their apartments, and the farmers
and their men had thrown themselves down upon the rushes strewn on
each side of the hall, Philip went up to join Francois.

"Any sign of them, Francois?"

"None at all. I expect they are thoroughly tired out, and are lying
down just as they halted. There is no fear that we shall hear any
more of them, tonight."



Chapter 14: The Assault On The Chateau.


The night passed quietly. Just as the sun rose a trumpet sounded,
calling for a truce; and two knights in armour rode forward,
followed by an esquire carrying a white flag. They halted thirty or
forty yards from the gate; and the countess herself came up on to
the wall, when the knight raised his vizor.

"Countess Amelie de Laville, I summon you, in the name of his
majesty the king, to surrender. I have with me an ample force to
overcome all resistance; but his gracious majesty, in his clemency,
has empowered me to offer to all within the walls their lives; save
only that you and your son shall accompany me to Paris, there to be
dealt with according to the law, under the accusation of having
taken up arms against his most sacred majesty."

"Methinks, sir," the countess said, in a loud clear voice, "that it
would have been better had you delayed until this morning, instead
of attempting, like a band of midnight thieves, to break into my
chateau. I fancy we should have heard but little of his majesty's
clemency, had you succeeded in your attempt. I am in arms, not
against the king, but against his evil counsellors; the men who
persuade him to break his pledged word, and to treat his
unoffending subjects as if they were the worst of malefactors.
Assuredly their royal highnesses, the Princes of Conde and Navarre,
have no thought of opposing his majesty; but desire, above all
things, that he should be able to act without pressure from
Lorraine or Guise, from pope or King of Spain; and when they lay
down their arms, I shall be glad to do so. Did I know that the king
himself, of his own mind, had sent you here to summons me, I would
willingly accompany you to Paris, to clear myself from any charges
brought against me; but as your base attempt, without summons or
demand, to break into my chateau last night shows that you can have
no authority from his majesty to enter here, I refuse to open my
gates; and shall defend this place until the last, against all who
may attack it."

The knights rode away. They had, after the rough reception on their
arrival, perceived that the countess was determined to defend the
chateau, and had only summoned her to surrender as a matter of
form.

"I would we had never entered upon this expedition, De Brissac.
They told us that the house was but poorly fortified, and we
thought we should assuredly carry it last night by surprise; and
that by taking this obstinate dame prisoner, burning her chateau,
and sweeping all the country round, we should give a much needed
lesson to the Huguenots of the district. One could not have
expected to find the place crowded with men, and everyone ready
with lighted matches and drawn crossbows to receive us. I believe
now that that fire we saw, two or three miles in our rear as we
came along, was a signal; but even if it were, one would not have
given them credit for gathering so promptly to withstand us.

"As for the place itself, it is, as we heard, of no great strength.
'Tis but a modern house, inclosed on three sides with a wall some
twenty feet high, and surrounded by a moat of the same width. With
our force we should carry it in half an hour. We know that the
garrison consists of only fifty men, besides a score or so of
grooms and servants."

"So we heard; but I am mistaken if there were not more than double
that number engaged on the wall. Still, as you say, there will be
no great difficulty in carrying the place. The ladders will be
ready in a couple of hours, and De Beauvoir will bring in, from the
farmhouses, plenty of planks and beams for throwing bridges across
the moat. It is two hours since he set out with the horsemen, so as
to catch the Huguenot farmers asleep."

As they returned to the spot where the men were engaged in cooking
their breakfast, while some were occupied in constructing ladders
from young trees that had been felled for the purpose, a gentleman
rode in.

"What is your news, De Villette?"

"The news is bad. De Beauvoir asked me to ride in to tell you that
we find the farmhouses completely deserted, and the whole of the
cattle and horses have disappeared, as well as the inhabitants.
Save for some pigs and poultry, we have not seen a living thing."

"Sapristie! The Huguenot dogs must have slept with one eye open.
Either they heard the firing last night, and at once made off; or
they must have learned we were coming, and must have gathered in
the chateau. Their measures must have been indeed well planned and
carried out, for them all to have got the alarm in time to gather
here before our arrival.

"I hope that is what they have done, for we reckoned upon carrying
off at least a thousand head of cattle, for the use of the army. It
was for that, as much as to capture the countess and strike a blow
at this hive of Huguenots, that the expedition was arranged.
However, if they are all in there, it will save us the trouble of
driving them in."

"In that case though, De Brissac, the fifty men will have been
reinforced by as many more, at least."

"Ay, maybe by a hundred and fifty, with the farmers and all their
hands; but what are a hundred and fifty rustics and fifty
men-at-arms, against our force?"

De Brissac had guessed pretty accurately the number of fighting men
that could be mustered among the tenants of the countess. The
training that they had undergone had, however, made them more
formidable opponents than he supposed; and each man was animated by
hatred of their persecutors, and a stern determination to fight
until the last, in defence of their lives and freedom of worship.
They had been mustered at the first dawn of day in the courtyard,
their arms inspected, and all deficiencies made up from the
armoury.

Fifty men were placed under Philip's orders, for the defence of
that portion of the house that rose directly from the edge of the
moat. The lower windows were small and strongly barred, and there
was little fear of an entrance being forced. The postern gate here
had, during the night, been strengthened with stones; and articles
of heavy furniture piled against it. A few men were placed at the
lower windows; the main body on the first floor, where the
casements were large; and the rest distributed at the upper
windows, to vex the enemy by their fire, as they approached.

Philip appointed Eustace to take the command of the men at the
lower windows; and Roger of those on the upper floor; he, with
Jacques, posting himself on the first floor, against which the
enemy would attempt to fix their ladders. Great fires were lighted
in all the rooms, and cauldrons of water placed over them; and boys
with pails stood by these, in readiness to bring boiling water to
the windows, when required.

The walls round the courtyard and garden were not of sufficient
thickness for fires to be lighted, along the narrow path on which
the defenders were posted; but fires were lighted in the courtyard,
and boiling water prepared there, in readiness to carry up when the
assault began. The Huguenot gentlemen were placed in command, at
the various points along the wall most likely to be assailed.

Had the besiegers been provided with cannon, the defence could not
have lasted long, for the walls would not have resisted battering
by shot; but cannon, in those times, were rare, and were too clumsy
and heavy to accompany an expedition requiring to move with speed.
For a time, the men-at-arms alone garrisoned the wall; the farmers
and their men being occupied in pumping water from the wells and
carrying it to the cattle, of which some eight hundred had been
driven in. The granaries were opened, and a plentiful supply of
food placed in large troughs.

At ten o'clock a trumpet called all the defenders to their posts.
The enemy were drawn up in order, and moved towards the house in
six columns; two taking their way towards the rear, to attack the
house on that side, while the others advanced toward different
points on the wall.

Ladders and long planks were carried at the head of each column. As
they approached the assailants halted, and the arquebusiers came
forward and took their post in line, to cover by their fire the
advance of the storming parties.

As soon as these advanced, a heavy fire was opened by the besieged
with crossbow and arquebus. The parapet was high and, while they
exposed only their heads to fire, and were altogether sheltered
while loading, the assailants were completely exposed. Orders were
given that the defenders should entirely disregard the fire of the
matchlock men, and should direct their aim upon the storming
parties. These suffered heavily but, urged forward by their
officers, they gained the edge of the moat, pushed the planks
across, and placed the ladders; but as fast as these were put into
position, they were hurled down again by the defenders who, with
long forked sticks, thrust them out from the wall and hurled them
backwards; sometimes allowing them to remain until a line of men
had climbed up, and then pouring a pail of boiling water over the
wall upon them.

The farmers vied with the men-at-arms in the steadiness of the
defence, being furious at the sight of columns of smoke which rose
in many directions, showing that the cavalry of the besiegers were
occupied in destroying their homesteads. Sometimes, when four or
five ladders were planted together, the assailants managed to climb
up to the level of the parapet; but only to be thrust backward with
pikes, and cut down with swords and axes. For two hours the assault
continued, and then De Brissac, seeing how heavy was the loss, and
how vain the efforts to scale the wall at any point, ordered the
trumpeters to sound the retreat; when the besiegers drew off,
galled by the fire of the defenders until they were out of range.

The attempts of the two columns which had attacked the house,
itself, were attended with no greater success than those of their
fellows; their efforts to gain a footing in any of the rooms on the
first floor having been defeated, with heavy loss.

The leaders of the assailants held a consultation, after their
troops had drawn off.

"It is of no use," De Brissac said, "to repeat the attack on the
walls. They are too stoutly defended. It is out of the question for
us to think of returning to Poitiers. We undertook to capture the
place, to harry the farms, to destroy all the Huguenots, and to
return driving in all the cattle for the use of the army. Of all
this we have only so far burned the farmhouses, and we have lost
something like a couple of hundred men.

"This time, we must try by fire. The men must gather bundles of
firewood, and must attack in three columns; the principal against
the great gate, the others against the two posterns; the one at the
back of the house itself, the other nearest the angle where the
wall joins it. If we had time to construct machines for battering
the walls, it would be an easy business; but that is out of the
question. In a couple of days, at the latest, we shall have them
coming out like a swarm of hornets from La Rochelle. It is not
likely, when they had all their measures so well prepared, that
they omitted to send off word at once to Coligny; and by tomorrow,
at noon, we may have Conde and the Admiral upon us. Therefore we
must make an end of this, by nightfall.

"Have you any better plans to suggest, gentlemen?"

There was no reply. Several of those present had been wounded, more
or less severely; and some terribly bruised, by being hurled back
from the ladders as they led the troops to the assault. Five or six
of the young nobles, who had joined what they regarded as an
expedition likely to meet with but slight resistance, had been
killed; and all regretted that they had embarked upon an affair
that could bring them but small credit, while they were unprovided
with the necessary means for attacking a place so stoutly defended.

De Brissac at once issued orders, and strong parties of soldiers
scattered and proceeded to cut down fences and bushes, and to form
large faggots. Their movements were observed by the men placed on
the summit of the tower, and no doubt was entertained of the
intentions of the enemy.

"What do you think we had better do, Philip?" Francois asked, as
they stood together at the top of the tower, watching the Catholics
at work. "We may shoot a number of them but, if they are
determined, they will certainly be able to lay their faggots; and
in that case we shall be open to attack at three points, and likely
enough they will at the same time renew their attack on the walls."

"That is the most dangerous part of it," Philip said. "We ought to
have no difficulty in holding the three entrances. The posterns are
narrow, and forty men at each should be able to keep back a host;
and this would leave you a hundred and twenty to hold the main
gates. But if we have to man the walls, too, the matter would be
serious.

"If we had time, we might pull down one of the outbuildings and
build a thick wall behind the gates; but in an hour they will be
attacking us again."

He stood thinking for a minute or two, and then exclaimed:

"I have it, Francois. Let us at once kill a number of the cattle,
and pile their carcasses up, two deep, against the gates. They may
burn them down if they like, then, but they can do nothing against
that pile of flesh; the weight of the carcasses will keep them in a
solid mass. At any rate, we might do that at the two posterns. The
great gates are, perhaps, too wide and lofty; but if we formed a
barricade inside them of, say, three bodies high, a hundred men
ought to be able to defend it; and that will leave a hundred for
the walls and house."

"That is a capital idea, Philip. We will not lose a moment in
carrying it out."

Two of the principal tenants were called up, and told to see to the
slaughtering, instantly, of sufficient cattle to pile two deep
against the posterns. Calling a number of men together, these at
once set about the business.

"We will see to the other barricade ourselves, Philip. That is
where the fighting will be."

The entrance behind the gateway was some twenty-five feet in width,
and as much in depth, before it entered the courtyard. The bullocks
were brought up to the spot, and slaughtered there. The first line
were about to be dragged into place, when Philip suggested that
they should be skinned.

"What on earth do you want to skin them for, Philip?" Francois
asked.

"When they are arranged in a row, I would throw the skins over them
again, inside out. The weight of the next row will keep the skins
in their places, and it will be impossible for anyone to obtain a
footing on that slippery surface, especially if we pour some blood
over it."

Francois at once saw the point of the suggestion.

"Excellent, Philip. I wish my brain was as full of ideas as yours
is."

The same course was pursued with the other two tiers of carcasses,
the hides of the upper row being firmly pegged into the flesh, to
prevent their being pulled off. The breastwork was about five feet
high, and was absolutely unclimbable.

"It could not be better," Francois said. "A solid work would not be
half so difficult to get over. Twenty men here could keep a host at
bay."

Another tier of unskinned carcasses was laid down behind the
breastwork, for the defenders to stand on; and earth was piled over
it, to afford a footing.

They had but just completed their preparations when the trumpet,
from above, sounded the signal that the enemy were approaching. All
took the posts that they had before occupied. The enemy approached
as they had expected, in three bodies; each preceded by a
detachment that carried in front of them great faggots, which
served as a protection against the missiles of the besieged. Among
them were men carrying sacks.

"What can they have there?" Philip asked one of the Huguenot
gentlemen.

"I should say it was earth," he replied

"Earth?" Philip repeated, puzzled. "What can they want that for?"

"I should think it is to cover the planks thickly, before they lay
down the faggots; otherwise the planks would burn, and perhaps fall
bodily in the water, before the fire had done its work on the
doors."

"No doubt that is it," Philip agreed. "I did not think of that
before."

As soon as the heads of the columns approached within a hundred
yards, the men with arquebuses opened fire; and those with
crossbows speedily followed suit. Four hundred men with arquebuses
at once ran forward, until within a short distance of the moat; and
opened so heavy a fire, against the defenders of the wall and
house, that these were compelled to stoop down under shelter. Some
of them would have still gone on firing from the windows, but
Philip ordered them to draw back.

"It is of no use throwing away life," he said. "We cannot hope to
prevent them planting their faggots, and firing them."

He himself went up into a small turret, partly overhanging the wall
and, through a loophole, watched the men at work. The contents of
the sacks were emptied out upon the planks, the latter having been
first soaked with water, drawn from the moat by a pail one of the
men carried. The earth was levelled a foot deep, and then a score
of buckets of water emptied over it. Then the faggots were piled
against the door. A torch was applied to them and, as soon as this
was done, the assailants fell back; the defenders plying them with
shot and cross bolts, as soon as they did so.

Philip now paid a hasty visit to the walls. Here the assailants had
suffered heavily, before they had planted their faggots; the
defenders being better able to return their fire than were those at
the windows. In both cases, however, they had succeeded in laying
and firing the faggots; although much hindered at the work, by
pails of boiling water emptied upon them.

Some ten of the defenders had been shot through the head, as they
stood up to fire. Attempts were made, by pouring water down upon
the faggots, to extinguish the flames; but the time taken, in
conveying the water up from the courtyard, enabled the fire to get
such hold that the attempt was abandoned.

"It is just as well," Francois said. "If we could extinguish the
fire, we should lose the benefit of the surprise we have prepared
for them."

In a quarter of an hour, light flames began to flicker up at the
edges of the great gates.

"Do you stay here with me, Philip," Francois said. "Our own band
will take post here. They are more accustomed to hand-to-hand
fighting. The tenants will guard the wall. Montpace will be in
command there.

"Beg De Riblemont to take command at the back of the house. Tell
him to send for aid to us, if he is pressed.

"I would put your own three men down in the postern there. I feel
sure they can never move that double row of bullocks, but it is as
well to make certain; and those three could hold the narrow
postern, till help reaches them. Place a boy with them to send off
for aid, if necessary.

"Bourdou is stationed behind the other postern, with three men. It
will be half an hour before the gates are down, yet."

The two together made a tour of the defences. All was in readiness.
The men, after their first success, felt confident that they should
beat off their assailants; and even the women, gathered round the
great fires in the house and courtyard, with pails in readiness to
carry boiling water to the threatened points, showed no signs of
anxiety; the younger ones laughing and chatting together, as if
engaged in ordinary work.

The countess went round, with her maids carrying flagons and cups,
and gave a draught of wine to each of the defenders. The minister
accompanied her. As yet there were no wounded needing their care,
for all who had been hit had been struck in the head; and death
had, in each case, been instantaneous.

At last the great gates fell with a crash, and a shout of
exultation arose from the Catholics; answered, by the Huguenots on
the wall, by one of defiance. In half an hour the assailants again
formed up. The strongest column advanced towards the great gate,
others against the posterns; and four separate bodies, with planks
and ladders, moved forward to bridge the moat and to attack at
other points.

The defenders on the walls and at the windows were soon at work,
and the assailants suffered heavily from the fire, as they
advanced. The fifty men-at-arms behind the barricade remained quiet
and silent, a dozen of them with arquebuses lining the barricade.
With loud shouts the Catholics came on, deeming the chateau as good
as won. The arquebusiers poured their fire into them as they
crossed the moat, and then fell back behind their comrades, who
were armed with pike and sword.

As they passed through the still smoking gateway the assailants saw
the barricade in front of them, but this did not appear formidable
and, led by a number of gentlemen in complete armour, they rushed
forward.

For a moment those in front recoiled, as they reached the wall of
slippery hides; then, pressed forward from behind, they made
desperate attempts to climb it. It would have been as easy to try
to mount a wall of ice. Their hands and feet alike failed to obtain
a hold, and from above the defenders, with pike and sword, thrust
and cut at them; while the arquebusiers, as fast as possible,
discharged their pieces into the crowd, loaded each time with three
or four balls.

For half an hour the efforts to force the barricade continued. So
many had fallen that the wall was now no higher than their waist;
but even this could not be surmounted, in face of the double line
of pikemen; and at last the assailants fell back, baffled.

At the two posterns, they had failed to make any impression upon
the carcasses that blocked their way. In vain they strove, by
striking the curved points of their halberts into the carcasses, to
drag them from their place; but the pressure of the weight above,
and of the interior line of carcasses that were piled on the legs
of the outside tiers, prevented the enemy from moving them in the
slightest degree. While so engaged, those at work were exposed to
the boiling water poured from above; and the soldiers standing
behind, in readiness to advance when the entrance was won, were
also exposed to the fire of the defenders.

The assaults on the walls, and at the windows, were far less
obstinate than those in the previous attack, as they were intended
only as diversions to the main assaults on the posterns and gate;
and when the assailants at these points fell back, the storming
parties also retreated. They had lost, in all, nearly four hundred
men in the second attack; of whom more than a hundred and fifty had
fallen in the assault upon the barricade.

The instant they retreated, Francois and Philip led out their men,
cleared the earth from the planks, and threw these into the water.
They were not a moment too soon for, just as they completed their
task, the Catholic cavalry thundered down to the edge of the moat;
regardless of the fire from the walls, which emptied many saddles.
Finding themselves unable to cross, they turned and galloped off
after the infantry.

"We were just in time, Philip," Francois said. "If they had crossed
the moat it would have gone hard with us; for, with that bank of
bodies lying against the breastwork, they might have been able to
leap it. At any rate, their long lances would have driven us back,
and some would have dismounted and climbed over.

"As it is, I think we have done with them. After two such repulses
as they have had, and losing pretty nearly half their infantry,
they will never get the men to try another attack."

An hour later, indeed, the whole Catholic force, horse and foot,
were seen to march away by the road along which they had come. As
soon as they did so, a trumpet summoned the defenders from the
walls and house. The women and children also poured out into the
courtyard and, the minister taking his place by the side of the
countess on the steps of the chateau, a solemn service of
thanksgiving to God, for their preservation from the danger that
had threatened them, was held.

It was now five o'clock, and the short winter day was nearly over.
Many of the tenants would have started off to their farms, but
Francois begged them to remain until next morning.

"The smoke told you what to expect," he said. "You will find
nothing but the ruins of your houses and, in this weather, it would
be madness to take your wives and families out. In the morning you
can go and view your homes. If there are still any sheds standing,
that you can turn into houses for the time, you can come back for
your wives and families. If not, they must remain here till you can
get up shelter for them. In this bitter cold weather, you could not
think of rebuilding your houses regularly; nor would it be any use
to do so, until we get to the end of these troubles. But you can
fell and saw wood, and erect cottages that will suffice for present
use, and serve as sheds when better times return.

"The first thing to do is to attend to those who have fallen. The
dead must be removed and buried; but there must be many wounded,
and these must be brought in and attended to. There is an empty
granary that we will convert into a hospital."

"Before we do anything else, Francois, we must fish the planks from
the moat, to serve until a fresh drawbridge is constructed.

"Eustace, do you get two heavy beams thrust over, and lay the
planks across them; then with Roger mount, cross the moat as soon
as it is bridged, and follow the road after the Catholics. They may
not have gone far, and might halt and return to attack us, when we
shall be off our guard.

"Follow them about five miles; then, if they are still marching,
you had both better come back to us. If they halt before that, do
you remain and watch them; and send Roger back with the news."

A hundred and thirty wounded men were brought in, some wounded by
shot or crossbow bolt, some terribly scalded, others with broken
limbs from being hurled backwards with the ladders. The countess,
with her maids and many of the women, attended to them as they were
brought in, and applied salves and bandages to the wounds. Among
the mass that had fallen inside the gate, seven gentlemen who still
lived were discovered. These were brought into the chateau, and
placed in a room together.

The task was carried on by torchlight, and occupied some hours.
Towards midnight, the trampling of a large body of horse was heard.
Arms were hastily snatched up and steel caps thrust on and, pike in
hand, they thronged to defend the entrance. Francois ran to the
battlements.

"Who comes there?" he shouted. "Halt and declare yourselves, or we
fire."

The horsemen halted, and a voice cried:

"Is that you, Francois?"

"Yes, it is I, De la Noue," Francois shouted back joyously.

"Is all well? Where are the enemy?" was asked, in the Admiral's
well-known voice.

"All is well, sir. They retreated just before nightfall, leaving
seven hundred of their infantry wounded or dead behind them."

A shout of satisfaction rose from the horsemen.

"Take torches across the bridge," Francois ordered. "It is the
Admiral, come to our rescue."

A minute later, the head of the column crossed the temporary
bridge. Francois had run down and received them in the gateway.

"What is this?" the Admiral asked. "Have they burnt your drawbridge
and gate?"

"Yes, sir."

"How was it, then, they did not succeed in capturing the place? Ah,
I see, you formed a barricade here."

Two or three of the carcasses had been dragged aside, to permit the
men carrying the wounded to enter.

"Why, what is it, Francois--skins of freshly slain oxen?"

"Yes, sir, and the barricade is formed of their bodies. We had
neither time nor materials at hand, and my cousin suggested
bringing the oxen up, and slaughtering them here. In that way we
soon made a barricade. But we should have had hard work in holding
it, against such numbers, had he not also suggested our skinning
them, and letting the hides hang as you see, with the raw sides
outwards. Then we smeared them thickly with blood and, though the
Catholics strove their hardest, not one of them managed to get a
footing on the top."

"A rare thought, indeed," the Admiral said warmly.

"De la Noue, these cousins of yours are truly apt scholars in war.
The oldest soldier could not have thought of a better device.

"And you say you killed seven hundred of them, Laville?"

"That is the number, sir, counting in a hundred and thirty wounded,
who are now lying in a granary here."

"They must have fought stoutly. But what was your strength?"

"We had fifty men-at-arms, sir, five or six Huguenot gentlemen with
their retainers, and a hundred and fifty men from our own estate;
all of whom fought as doughtily as old soldiers could have done.

"The enemy thought to take us by surprise, yesterday evening; but
we were ready for them, and our discharge killed over fifty. Then
they drew off, and left us until this morning. They made two great
attacks: the first by throwing planks across the moat, and placing
ladders at three places; the second by trying, again, to storm with
ladders, while other bands tried to force their way in at this
gateway, and at the two posterns.

"Of course they have burned all the farina to the ground, but the
cattle were all safely driven in here, before they arrived.

"Now if you will enter, sir, we will endeavour to provide for your
wants. No one is yet in bed. We have been too busy carrying out the
dead, and collecting the wounded, to think of sleep."

The countess was at the steps of the chateau, to receive the
Admiral as he dismounted.

"Accept my heartiest thanks for the speed with which you have come
to our aid, Admiral. We did not expect you before tomorrow morning,
at the earliest."

"It has been a long ride, truly," the Admiral said. "Your messenger
arrived at daybreak, having walked the last five miles, for his
horse had foundered. I flew to horse, the moment I received the
news; and with four hundred horsemen, for the most part Huguenot
gentlemen, we started at once. We halted for three hours in the
middle of the day to rest our horses, and again for an hour just
after nightfall. We feared that we should find your chateau in
flames for, although your messenger said that your son thought you
could hold out against all attacks for two days, it seemed to us
that so strong a force as was beleaguering you would carry the
place by storm, in a few hours. I have to congratulate you on the
gallant defence that you have made."

"I have had nothing to do with it," the countess replied; "but
indeed, all have fought well.

"Now, if you will follow me in, I will do my best to entertain you
and the brave gentlemen who have ridden so far to my rescue; but I
fear the accommodation will be of the roughest."

The horses were ranged in rows, in the courtyard, haltered to ropes
stretched across it; and an ample supply of food was given to each.
Some of the oxen that had done such good service were cut up, and
were soon roasting over great fires; while the women spread straw
thickly, in the largest apartments, for the newcomers to sleep on.

"Where are the Catholics?" the Admiral asked.

"They have halted at a village, some seven miles away," Francois
said. "We sent two mounted men after them, to make sure that they
had gone well away, and did not intend to try to take us by
surprise in the night. They returned some hours since with the
news."

"What do you say, De la Noue," the Admiral exclaimed; "shall we
beat them up tonight? They will not be expecting us and, after
their march here and their day's fighting, they will sleep
soundly."

"I should like nothing better, Admiral; but in truth, I doubt
whether our horses could carry us. They have already made a
twenty-league journey."

"We have at least two hundred horses here, Admiral," Francois said.
"We have those of my own troop, and fully a hundred and fifty that
were driven in by the tenants. My own troop will, of course, be
ready to go; and you could shift your saddles on to the other
horses. There is not one of our men who would not gladly march with
you, for although we have beaten the Catholics well, the tenants do
not forget that they are homeless; and will, I am sure, gladly
follow up the blow."

"Then so it shall be," the Admiral said. "A hundred and fifty of
the gentlemen who came with me shall ride with your troop. The rest
of us will march with your tenants.

"I think we are capable of doing that, even after our ride,
gentlemen?"

There was a chorus of assent from those standing round, and De la
Noue added:

"After supper, Admiral?"

"Certainly after supper," Coligny assented, with a smile. "Another
hour will make no difference. You may be sure they will not be
moving before daylight. If we start from here at three, we shall be
in ample time."

Philip at once went out, and ordered the attendants and men-at-arms
to lie down for two hours, as the Admiral was going to lead them to
attack the Catholics at their halting place--news which was
received with grim satisfaction. In the meantime, Francois gave a
detailed account of the events of the siege; and the Admiral
insisted upon going, at once, to inspect by torchlight the novel
manner in which the two posterns had been blocked up.

"Nothing could have been better, De Laville," he said. "Your
English cousin is, indeed, full of resources. Better material than
this, for blocking up a narrow gateway, could hardly be contrived.
Fire, as it was proved, was of no avail against it, for it would be
impossible to dislodge the carcasses by main force; and even if
they had cannon, the balls would not have penetrated this thickness
of flesh, which must have been torn to pieces before it yielded.
The idea of covering the carcasses at the gates with their own raw
hides was an equally happy one.

"Upon my word, De la Noue, I do not think that, if you or I had
been in command here, we could have done better than these two
young fellows."

At three o'clock all was ready for a start. De la Noue took the
command of the two hundred horsemen. The Admiral declined to ride,
and placed himself at the head of the column of infantry, which was
three hundred strong; thirty of the original defenders having been
either killed or disabled, and twenty being left as a guard at the
chateau.

The surprise of the Catholics was complete. Three hundred were
killed. Two hundred, including their commander, De Brissac, and
thirty other gentlemen, were made prisoners. The remaining six
hundred escaped in the darkness; their arms, armour, and the whole
of the horses falling into the hands of the victors, who halted at
the village until morning.

"Well, De Brissac," the Count de la Noue said, as they started on
their return, "the times have changed since you and I fought under
your father in Italy; and we little thought, then, that some day we
should be fighting on opposite sides."

"Still less that I should be your prisoner, De la Noue," the other
laughed. "Well, we have made a nice business of this. We thought to
surprise De Laville's chateau, without having to strike a blow; and
that we were going to return to Poitiers with at least a thousand
head of cattle. We were horribly beaten at the chateau, have now
been surprised ourselves, and you are carrying off our horses, to
say nothing of ourselves. We marched out with eighteen hundred men,
horse and foot; and I don't think more than five or six hundred, at
the outside, have got away--and that in the scantiest apparel.

"Anjou will be furious, when he hears the news. When I am
exchanged, I expect I shall be ordered to my estates. Had De
Laville some older heads to assist him?"

"No, he and that young cousin of his, riding next to him, acted
entirely by themselves; and the cousin, who is an English lad, is
the one who invented that barricade of bullocks that stopped you."

"That was a rare device," De Brissac said. "I fought my way to it,
once, but there was no possibility of climbing it. It is rather
mortifying to my pride, to have been so completely beaten by the
device of a lad like that. He ought to make a great soldier, some
day, De la Noue."



Chapter 15: The Battle Of Jarnac.


While the two armies were lying inactive through the winter, the
agents of both were endeavouring to interest other European powers
in the struggle. The pope and Philip of Spain assisted the Guises;
while the Duc de Deux-Ponts was preparing to lead an army to the
assistance of the Huguenots, from the Protestant states of Germany.
The Cardinal Chatillon was in England, eloquently supporting the
letters of the Queen of Navarre to Elizabeth, asking for aid and
munitions of war, men, and money--the latter being required,
especially, to fulfil the engagements made with the German
mercenaries.

Elizabeth listened favourably to these requests while, with her
usual duplicity, she gave the most solemn assurances to the court
of France that, so far from assisting the Huguenots, she held in
horror those who raised the standard of rebellion against their
sovereigns. She lent, however, 7000 pounds to the King of Navarre,
taking ample security in the way of jewels for the sum; and ordered
Admiral Winter to embark six cannons, three hundred barrels of
powder, and four thousand balls, and carry them to La Rochelle. The
admiral, well aware of the crooked policy of the queen, and her
readiness to sacrifice any of her subjects in order to justify
herself, absolutely refused to sail until he received an order
signed by the queen herself.

His caution was justified for, upon the French ambassador
remonstrating with her upon supplying the king's enemies, she
declared that the assistance was wholly involuntary; for that
Admiral Winter had entered the port of La Rochelle simply to
purchase wine, and other merchandise, for some ships that he was
convoying. The governor, however, had urged him so strongly to sell
to him some guns and ammunition that he, seeing that his ships were
commanded by the guns of the forts, felt himself obliged to comply
with the request. The court of France professed to be satisfied
with this statement, although perfectly aware of its absolute
untruth; but they did not wish, while engaged in the struggle with
the Huguenots, to be involved in open war with England.

As soon as spring commenced, both armies again prepared to take the
field. The position of the Huguenots was by no means so strong as
it had been, when winter set in. Considerable numbers had died from
disease; while large bodies had returned to their homes, the nobles
and citizens being alike unable to continue any longer in the
field, owing to the exhaustion of their resources. Upon the other
hand, although the army of Anjou had suffered equally from disease,
it had not been diminished by desertion, as the troops were paid
out of the royal treasury. Two thousand two hundred German
horsemen, a portion of the large force sent by the Catholic princes
of Germany, had joined him; and the Count de Tende had brought 3000
soldiers from the south of France. Other nobles came in, as the
winter broke, with bodies of their retainers.

The southern Huguenot leaders, known as the Viscounts, remained in
Guyenne to protect the Protestant districts. The plan of Conde and
the Admiral was to effect a junction with them, and then to march
and meet the army of the Duc de Deux-Ponts. They therefore left
Niort, which had for some time been their headquarters, and marched
south towards Cognac; while the Duc d'Anjou moved in the same
direction.

Both armies reached the river Charente at the same time, but upon
opposite sides. The Royalists seized the town of Chateau Neuf,
halfway between Jarnac and Cognac; and set to work to repair the
bridge, which had been broken down by the Huguenots. Their main
army marched down to Cognac, and made a pretence of attacking the
town.

The Huguenots were spread over a long line; and the Admiral, seeing
the danger of being attacked while so scattered, sent to Conde, who
commanded the most advanced part of the army opposite Chateau Neuf,
begging him to retire. Conde, however, with his usual rashness,
declined to fall back; exclaiming that a Bourbon never fled from a
foe.

The troop of Francois de Laville was with a large body of horse,
commanded by the Count de la Noue. Life had passed quietly at the
chateau, after the repulse of the attack; for the occupation of
Niort by a large force, under the Admiral, secured Laville from any
risk of a repetition of the attack.

The garrison and the whole of the tenantry, after they had erected
huts for their families, devoted themselves to the work of
strengthening the defences. Flanking towers were erected at the
angles of the walls. The moat was doubled in width, and a work
erected beyond it, to guard the approach across the drawbridge. The
windows on the unprotected side were all partially closed with
brickwork, leaving only loopholes through which the defenders could
fire. The battlements of the wall were raised two feet and pierced
with loopholes, so that the defenders would no longer be obliged to
raise their heads above its shelter to fire; and the narrow path
was widened by the erection of a platform, so as to give more room
for the men to use their weapons.

A garrison, composed of fifty of the younger men on the farms, took
the place of the troop when it rode away.

Anjou had prepared several bridges, and suddenly crossed the river
on the night of the 12th of March; the movement being so well
managed that even the Huguenot divisions in the neighbourhood were
unaware, until morning, of what was taking place. As soon as the
Admiral was informed that the enemy had crossed in great force,
messengers were sent off in all directions, to order the scattered
divisions to concentrate.

The operation was a slow one. Discipline was lax, and many of the
commanders, instead of occupying the positions assigned to them,
had taken up others where better accommodation could be obtained;
and much time was lost before the orders reached them. Even then
their movements were slow, and it was afternoon before those in the
neighbourhood were assembled, and the Admiral prepared to fall back
towards the main body of the army, which lay near the position
occupied by Conde.

But before this could be done, the whole Royalist army were upon
him. He had taken part at Bassac, a little village with an abbey,
with but De la Noue's cavalry and a small number of infantry with
him; and though the latter fought desperately, they could not check
the advance of the enemy.

"This is worse than Saint Denis, Francois," De la Noue said, as he
prepared to charge a vastly superior body of the enemy's cavalry,
advancing against the village. "However, it must be done; for
unless Anjou's advance is checked, the battle will be lost before
Conde can arrive. You and your cousin had best put yourself at the
head of your own troop."

On reaching his men Francois gave the order:

"Now, my men, is the time to show that you have profited by your
drill. Keep in a solid body. Do not break up and engage in single
conflicts for, if you do, we must be overpowered by numbers. Ride
boot to boot. Keep your eyes fixed on our plumes and, when we turn,
do you turn also, and follow us closely."

When De la Noue's trumpet sounded the charge, the band of horsemen
burst down upon the Catholic cavalry, broke their ranks, and
pierced far into them. Francois and Philip were but a horse's
length ahead of their men, and the pressure of the enemy soon drove
them back into their ranks. Keeping in a close and compact body,
they fought their way on until Francois perceived that they were
separated from the rest of the force. Then he put the horn that he
wore slung over his shoulder to his lips, and gave the command to
wheel round. It was obeyed, and the line, which was four deep,
fought their way round until facing the rear; and then, putting
spurs to their horses, they overthrew all opposition and cleft
their way out through the enemy, and then galloped back to Bassac.

The village was lost, and the defenders were falling back in
disorder upon D'Andelot; who, with his division, was just arriving
to their assistance. For a moment, the fugitive horse and foot
broke up his ranks. But he rallied his men and, advancing, drove
the Catholics out of the village and retook the abbey.

But as a whole army was opposed to him, the success was but brief.
After a desperate struggle the village was again lost, and the
Huguenots fell back, contesting every foot of the ground, along a
raised causeway.

The enemy were, however, fast outflanking them; and they were on
the point of destruction when Conde arrived, with three hundred
knights with whom he had ridden forward, leaving the infantry to
follow, as soon as Coligny's message for help had reached him.

He himself was in no condition for battle. His arm had been broken by
a cannon shot and, just as he reached the scene of battle, his hip
was fractured by the kick of a horse ridden by his brother-in-law,
La Rochefoucault. Nevertheless he did not hesitate but, calling on
his little band to follow him, rode full at a body of eight hundred
of the Catholic cavalry.

For a time the struggle was a desperate one. The Huguenots
performed prodigies of valour; but the Royalists were reinforced,
and the devoted band melted away. One Huguenot nobleman, named La
Vergne, fought surrounded by twenty-five of his kinsmen whom he
brought into the field. He himself, and fifteen of his followers,
fell in a circle. Most of the others were taken prisoners.

At last Conde's horse was killed under him and fell, pinning him to
the ground. Conde raised his visor, and surrendered to two knights
to whom he was known. They raised him from the ground respectfully;
but as they did so Montesquieu, captain of Anjou's guards, rode up
and, drawing a pistol, shot Conde in the back, killing him almost
instantaneously. Several other Huguenot nobles were killed in cold
blood, after they had surrendered.

But Conde's magnificent charge had not been without effect, for it
enabled the Admiral to draw off from the field, without further
loss. The accounts of the number of killed and wounded differ, but
numerically it was very small. The Huguenot infantry were not
engaged at all, with the exception of a small body of the regiment
of Plupiart. But of their cavalry nearly four hundred were killed
or taken prisoners, and of these a hundred and forty were nobles
and gentlemen, the flower of the Huguenot nobility. Among the
prisoners were La Noue, Soubise, La Loue, and many others of
distinction.

Coligny's retreat was not interfered with. The satisfaction of the
Catholics at the death of Conde was so great that they were
contented to rest upon their success. There were great rejoicings
throughout France, and the Catholic countries of Europe, over the
exaggerated accounts issued by Anjou of his victory; and it was
generally considered that the Huguenot cause was lost. However, out
of a hundred and twenty-eight troops of cavalry, only fifteen had
been engaged; and only six out of two hundred companies of
infantry.

The army retired to Cognac, where the brave Queen of Navarre at
once hurried, on hearing the intelligence, and herself addressed
the army; reminding them that though the Prince of Conde was dead,
the good cause was still alive, and that God would provide fresh
instruments for carrying on His work. She then hurried away to La
Rochelle, to make provision for the needs of the army.

The young Prince Henry was, at Conde's death, nominally placed in
command of the army as general-in-chief; and he was joined by his
cousin, the young Prince of Conde, a lad of about his own age.

D'Anjou, one of the most despicable of the princes of France, was
so intoxicated by the success that he had gained that, for a time,
he made no effort to follow up his advantage. He disgraced himself
by having the body of Conde stripped and carried on a donkey to
Jarnac, and there exposed for four days by the house where he
lodged; while he occupied himself in writing vainglorious
despatches to all the Catholic kings and princes.

At last he moved forward to the siege of Cognac. Seven thousand infantry,
for the most part new levies, had been placed here by Coligny; and these
received the royal army with great determination.  Not only were the
assaults upon the walls repulsed, with heavy loss; but the garrison made
many sallies and, after wasting a month before the town, Anjou,
despairing of its capture, drew off the army, which had suffered heavier
losses here than it had done in the battle of Jarnac.

He then besieged Saint Jean d'Angely, where the garrison, commanded
by Count Montgomery, also repulsed all attacks. Angouleme was
attacked with an equal want of success; but Mucidan, a town to the
southwest of Perigueux, was captured. The attack upon it, however,
cost the life of De Brissac, one of his best officers--a loss which
Anjou avenged by the murder, in cold blood, of the garrison; which
surrendered on condition that life and property should be spared.

As a set off to the success of the Huguenots, they suffered a heavy
blow in the death of the gallant D'Andelot, the Admiral's
brother--an officer of the highest ability, who had, before the
outbreak of the troubles, occupied the rank of colonel general of
the French infantry. His death was attributed by both parties to
poison, believed to have been administered by an emissary of
Catherine de Medici. The fact, however, was not clearly
established; and possibly he fell a victim to arduous and unceasing
toil and exertion.

Both Francois de Laville and Philip Fletcher had been severely
wounded in the battle of Jarnac, and some twenty of their troop had
fallen in the fight. They were able, however, to sit their horses
until they reached Cognac. The Admiral visited them, as soon as he
arrived there. He had noticed the little band, as it emerged
unbroken from the charge and, at once, ranged itself up to aid him
in retreating from the village of Bassac, until Conde's charge
enabled him to draw off. He praised the cousins highly for their
conduct and, as soon as they were able to be about again, he
bestowed on both the honour of knighthood; and then sent them to La
Rochelle, to remain there until perfectly cured.

The vacancies in the troop were filled up by young men from the
estate, who responded to the summons, of the countess, for men to
take the place of those who had fallen in her son's command.

The young Prince of Navarre had, while at Cognac, paid frequent
visits to Philip, for whom he had taken a great liking; and he
again begged Coligny to appoint him as one of the knights told off
as his special bodyguard. The Admiral, however, repeated the
arguments he had before used.

"He is very young, prince, though he has borne himself so well; and
it would create much jealousy among our young nobles, were I to
choose a foreigner for so honourable a post."

"But my councillors are all staid men, Admiral; and I want someone
I can talk to, without ceremony."

"There are plenty of young Frenchmen, prince. If you must choose
one, why not take the Count de Laville? You were saying, but
yesterday, that you liked him."

"Yes, he is something like his cousin. I think being together has
given him Philip's manner. If I cannot have Philip, I should like
to have him."

"He would doubtless feel it a great honour, prince; while I doubt,
were I to offer the post to the young Englishman, if he would
accept it. He has not come here to seek honour, but to fight for
our faith. I had a conversation with him, one day, and found that
it was with that simple purpose he came here; and however
honourable the post, I am sure he would prefer one that gave him
full opportunity for taking an active part.

"With De Laville it is different. He is a French noble; and maybe,
someday, you will be king of France. He is of a brave and
adventurous spirit; but methinks that the young Englishman has a
greater genius for war. His cousin, although older, I observe
generally appeals to him for his opinion; and has frankly and nobly
given him the chief credit, in the affairs in which he has been
engaged."

The Admiral was not mistaken. Francois, when asked if he would like
to be appointed as one of the gentlemen about the prince's person,
at once embraced the offer; which, as he saw, afforded him great
openings for advancement in the future. His only regret was that it
would separate him from Philip.

When he said as much to his cousin, on informing him of the
unexpected honour that had befallen him, Philip replied at once:

"Do not think of that, Francois. I shall of course be sorry; but I
shall see you often, and you would be wrong to refuse such an
offer. The King of France has no children. His two brothers are
unmarried. Anjou is, from all accounts, reckless and dissolute; and
Alencon is sickly. They alone stand between Henry of Navarre and
the throne of France and, should he succeed to it, his intimates
will gain honours, rank, and possessions. There is not a young
noble but would feel honoured by being selected for the post.

"As for fighting, no one can say how long these troubles may last;
and I am greatly mistaken if those round Henry of Navarre, when he
reaches manhood, will not have their full share of it."

Therefore, when the two newly-made young knights went to La
Rochelle, for quiet and sea air, it was with the understanding
that, as soon as their strength was thoroughly recovered, Francois
should resign the command of the troop to Philip, and would himself
ride with the Prince of Navarre and his cousin Conde. Francois had
at once written to his mother, with the news of his appointment
and, a few days after they reached La Rochelle, received an answer
expressing her gratification.

"I rejoice," she said, "not only because it is a post of high
honour, but because it will take you somewhat out of the heat of
the fray. I have not hesitated to let you risk your life in the
cause; but you are my only son and, were you slain, I should be
alone in the world; and the title would go to one of your cousins,
for whom I care nothing; and it will be a comfort for me to know,
in the future, you will not be running such fearful risks."

At La Rochelle they took up their abode at Maitre Bertram's, and
were most kindly received by him and his daughter.

"It is but two years since you landed here with madame, your
mother, Monsieur Fletcher. You were but a stripling then, though
you gave wonderful promise of size and strength. Now you are a man,
and have won the honour of knighthood; and methinks that, in thew
and sinew, there are not many in our army who would overmatch you."

"Oh, yes, there are, Maitre Bertram," Philip laughed. "I have a big
frame like my father's, I will admit; and to look at, it may be as
you say; but I shall want many another year over my head, before my
strength matches my size. I am but just eighteen, and men do not
come to their full strength till they are five-and-twenty."

"You are strong enough for anything, now," the merchant said; "and
I should not like to stand a downright blow from you, in the best
suit of armour ever forged.

"I was glad to see that rascal Pierre come back with you. He is a
merry fellow, though I fear that he causes idleness among my
servants, for all the grave looks he puts on as he waits on you at
dinner. Is he valiant?"

"He has had no great opportunity of showing valour," Philip
replied; "but he is cool, and not easily ruffled, and he fought
stoutly in the defence of the Count de Laville's chateau; but of
course, it is not his business to ride behind me in battle."

Philip had corresponded regularly with his parents, and had
received letters in reply from them, and also from his uncle and
aunt; though these of course came irregularly, as ships happened to
be sailing for La Rochelle. His father wrote but briefly, but his
letters expressed satisfaction.

"I am right glad," he said, "to think that a Fletcher is again
cracking the skulls of Frenchmen--I mean, of course, of Catholic
Frenchmen--for I regard the Huguenots, being of our religion, as
half English. I don't say take care of yourself, my lad--it is not
the way of Englishmen to do that, on the battlefield--but it would
be a grievous day for us all, here, if we heard that aught had
befallen you."

The letters of his mother and aunt were of a different character,
and dwelt strongly upon the sacred cause upon which he was engaged;
and both rejoiced greatly over the number of Huguenots he and
Francois had rescued, round Niort.

His uncle's letters were more worldly.

"Your aunt's letters to my wife," he said, "speak very warmly in
praise of you. She said you have distinguished yourself highly,
that you have attracted the attention of the Prince of Conde and
the Admiral, have rendered service to the Queen of Navarre and her
son, and have received tokens of their esteem; also that you stand
high in the regard of the Count de la Noue, who is in all respects
a most accomplished gentleman; and that he has told her that he
hopes, before long, you will receive the honour of knighthood.
Worldly honours, Philip, are not to be despised, especially when
they are won by worthy service; although I know that my wife and
your mother think but lightly of them, and that it is the fashion
of those of our faith to treat them with contempt. Such is not my
opinion. I am gratified to think that the money I have made in
trade will descend to one of whom I can be proud; and who, in this
country, may occupy the position that his ancestors on his mother's
side did in my own; and to me it will be a matter of extreme
gratification if I hear that you have won your spurs, especially at
the hand of so great a leader, and so worthy a one, as Admiral
Coligny. I promise you that there shall be feasting among the poor
of Canterbury, on the day when the news comes.

"Of late you have drawn but slightly upon me for, as you say, you
have few expenses save the pay of your five men, when staying at
Laville; but do not stint money, should there be an occasion."

Upon rejoining the camp, Philip found the time hang somewhat
heavily upon his hands. Francois was necessarily much with the
prince. Captain Montpace looked after the troop, and the Count de
la Noue was in captivity. A few days after he rejoined, however,
one of the Admiral's pages came to his tent, and requested him to
call upon Coligny.

"The camp will break up tomorrow, Chevalier Fletcher," the latter
said. "We are going down to join the Viscounts, and then march to
effect a junction with the Duc de Deux-Ponts, who we hear has now
fairly set out on his forward march. I wish to send a despatch to
him, and I know no one to whom I could better intrust it than
yourself. It is a mission of honour, but of danger. However, you
have already exhibited such tact and discretion, as well as
bravery, that I believe if anyone can reach the duke, through the
two royal armies that are trying to intercept him, you can do so.
Will you undertake the mission?"

"I am greatly honoured by your intrusting me with it, sir, and will
assuredly do my best."

"I do not propose that you should travel in disguise," the Admiral
said, "for disguise means slow motion, and there is need for
despatch. Therefore, I should say, take a small body of
well-mounted men with you, and ride as speedily as you can. How
many to take, I leave to your discretion. The despatches will be
ready for you, by ten o'clock tonight."

"I shall be ready to start at that hour, sir," and Philip returned
to his tent.

After sitting thinking for a few minutes he called to Pierre, who
was sitting outside.

"Pierre, I want your advice. I am about to start on a journey to
the east of France. I do not go this time in disguise, but ride
straight through. What think you? How many men shall I take with
me--one, or fifty?"

"Not fifty, certainly," Pierre said promptly. "There is mighty
trouble in feeding fifty men. Besides, you may have to pass as a
Royalist, and who can answer for the discretion of so many?
Besides, if we have to turn and double, there is no hiding fifty
men. If you ride through the smallest village at midnight, the
noise would wake the inhabitants; and when the enemy came up, they
would get news of your passage.

"I do not see that you can do better than take Eustace and Roger
and myself. Henri will not be fit to ride for weeks, yet; and
although Jacques is recovering from the loss of his bridle arm, you
settled that he was to go to Laville, where the countess would take
him into her service. Jarnac lessened your force by half; but I
think that two will be as good as four, on a journey like this.
Such a party can pass unnoticed. It is but a gentleman, with two
retainers behind him, from a neighbouring chateau."

"That is what I concluded myself, Pierre; but I thought I would ask
your opinion about it, for you have shown yourself a shrewd fellow.

"All your horses are in good condition, and it is well that I
exchanged those you rode before, for some of the best of the three
hundred we captured from the assailants of the chateau. Of course,
you will ride one of my horses; changing the saddle every day, as
your weight is so much less than mine.

"I shall not take armour with me. The extra weight tells heavily,
on a long journey; and besides, a knight in full armour would
attract more attention than one riding, as it would seem, for
pleasure.

"Let Eustace and Roger pick the two best horses."

"When do we start, sir?"

"We must be saddled, and ready to start, by ten tonight. See that a
bottle of wine, a cold fowl, and a portion of bread for each are
brought along with us. We shall have a long night's ride.

"We will carry no valises. They add to the weight, and look like
travelling. Let each man make a small canvas bag, and place in it a
change of linen. It can be rolled up in the cloak, and strapped
behind the saddle. A dozen charges, for each pistol, will be more
than we shall be likely to require. Tell them to take no more. They
must take their breast pieces and steel caps, of course. They can
leave the back pieces behind them.

"I will go round to the hospital, and say goodbye to Henri and
Jacques. They will feel being left behind, sorely."

After visiting his wounded followers, he went to the house occupied
by the Prince of Navarre, where Francois also was lodged.

"So I hear you are off again, Philip," the latter said; as his
cousin entered the salon where two or three of the prince's
companions were sitting. "I should feel envious of you, were it not
that we also are on the point of starting."

"How did you know I was going off, Francois?"

"The prince told me, half an hour since. He heard it from the
Admiral. He told me he wished he was going with you, instead of
with the army. He is always thirsting after adventure. He bade me
bring you in to him, if you came. I said you would be sure to do
so. It was useless my going out to look for you, as I could not
tell what you might have to do before starting."

The young prince threw aside the book he was reading, when they
entered.

"Ah, monsieur the Englishman," he said; "so you are off again, like
a veritable knight-errant of romance, in search of fresh
adventure."

"No, sir, my search will be to avoid adventure."

"Ah, well, you are sure to find some, whether or not. Sapristie,
but it is annoying to be born a prince."

"It has its advantages also, sir," Philip said, smiling.

The prince laughed merrily.

"So I suppose; but for my part, I have not discovered them, as yet.
I must hope for the future; but it appears to me, now, that it can
never be pleasant. One is obliged to do this, that, and the other
because one is a prince. One always has to have one's head full of
politics, to listen gravely to stupidities, to put up with tiresome
people, and never to have one's own way in anything. However, I
suppose my turn will come; but at present, I would rather be
hunting the wild goats in Navarre than pretending to be
general-in-chief of an army, when everyone knows that I am not even
as free to go my own way as a common soldier.

"I shall look to see you again, Chevalier Philip; and shall expect
you to have some more good stories to tell me."

Having handed him his despatches, the Admiral pointed out to him
the position, as far as he knew by recent report, of the forces
under the Dukes of Aumale and Nemours.

"Possibly there will be other enemies," the Admiral said; "for our
friends in Paris have sent me word that the Spanish ambassador has,
at the king's request, written to beg the Duke of Alva, and
Mansfeld, governor of Luxembourg, to send troops to aid in barring
the way to the Duc de Deux-Ponts. I hope Alva has his hands full
with his own troubles, in the Netherlands; and although Spain is
always lavish of promises, it gives but little real aid to the
king.

"Then again, on the road you may meet with bands of German
mercenaries, sent by the Catholic princes to join the royal forces.
As you see, the despatches are written small and, at your first
halt, it will be well if you sew them in the lining of your boot.
They will escape observation there, however closely you may be
searched; for they are but of little bulk, and I have written them
on the softest paper I could obtain, so that it will not crackle to
the touch.

"I leave it to yourself to choose the route; but I think that you
could not do better than take that one you before followed, when
you and Laville joined me at Chatillon. Thence keep well south
through Lorraine. The royal forces are at Metz. I can give you no
farther instructions; for I cannot say how rapidly Deux-Ponts may
move, or what route he may be obliged to take, to avoid the royal
forces.

"And now farewell, lad. Remember that it is an important service
you are rendering to our cause, and that much depends on your
reaching Deux-Ponts; for the despatches tell him the route by which
I intend to move, indicate that which he had best follow in order
that he may effect a junction, and give him many details as to
roads, fords, and bridges, that may be of vital importance to him."

Philip rode forty miles that night; and put up, just as daylight
was breaking, at the village of Auverge. There they rested for six
hours, and then rode on to Laville; where he was received with
great joy by his aunt, for whom he bore a letter from Francois.
After halting here for a few hours, they continued their journey.

So far they had been riding through a friendly country, but had now
to travel with due precautions; journeying fast, and yet taking
care that the horses should not be overworked, as sudden occasion
might arise for speed or endurance; and as the journey was some
eight hundred miles long, it behoved him to carefully husband the
strength of the animals.

After riding another fifteen miles, they stopped for the night at a
village, as Philip intended to journey by day; for his arrival at
inns, early in the morning, would excite comment. The three men had
been carefully instructed in the story they were to tell, at the
inns where they halted. Their master was Monsieur de Vibourg, whose
estate lay near the place at which they halted on the preceding
night; and who was going for a short visit, to friends, at the next
town at which they would arrive. If questioned as to his politics,
they were to say that he held aloof from the matter, for he
considered that undue violence was exercised towards the Huguenots;
who, he believed, if permitted to worship in their own way, would
be good and harmless citizens.

So day by day they journeyed along, avoiding all large towns, and
riding quietly through small ones, where their appearance attracted
no attention whatever. On the fourth day when, as usual, they had
halted to dine and give their horses a couple of hours' rest,
Philip heard the trampling of horses outside the inn. Going to the
window he saw two gentlemen, with eight armed retainers,
dismounting at the door. The gentlemen wore the Royalist colours.
At the same moment, Pierre came into the room.

"I have told Eustace and Roger to finish their meal quickly, and
then to get the horses saddled; to mount, and take ours quietly to
the end of the village, and wait for us there, sir; so that if
there should be trouble, we have but to leap through the casement,
and make a short run of it."

"That is very well done, Pierre," Philip said; reseating himself at
the table, while Pierre took his place behind his chair, as if
waiting upon him.

The door opened, and the two gentlemen entered. They did not, as
usual, remove their hats; but seated themselves at a table, and
began talking noisily. Presently one made a remark in a low tone to
the other, who turned round in his chair, and stared offensively at
Philip. The latter continued his meal, without paying any attention
to him.

"And who may you be, young sir?" the man said, rising and walking
across the room.

"I am not in the habit of answering questions addressed to me by
strangers," Philip said quietly.

"Parbleu, custom or no custom, you have to answer them, now. This
is not a time when men can go about unquestioned. You do not wear
the Royalist colours, and I demand to know who you are."

"I would wear the Royalist colours, if I were on the way to join
the Royalist army," Philip replied calmly; "as at present I am not
doing so, but am simply travelling as a private gentleman, I see no
occasion for putting on badges."

"You have not answered my question. Who are you?"

"I do not intend to answer the question. My name is a matter which
concerns myself only."

"You insolent young knave," the man said angrily, "I will crop your
ears for you."

Philip rose from the table; and the other was, for a moment,
surprised at the height and proportions of one whom he had taken
for a mere lad.

"I desire to have no words with you," Philip said. "Eat your dinner
in peace, and let me eat mine; for if it comes to cutting off ears,
you may find that you had better have left the matter alone."

[Illustration: Philip struck him full in the face.]

The gentleman put his hand to the hilt of his sword, and was in the
act of drawing it when Philip, making a step forward, struck him
full in the face with all his strength, knocking him backwards to
the ground. His companion leapt from his seat, drawing a pistol
from his belt as he did so; when Pierre sent a plate skimming
across the room with great force. It struck the man in the mouth,
cutting his lips and knocking out some of his front teeth. The
pistol exploded harmlessly in the air, while the sudden shock and
pain staggered and silenced him; and before he could recover
sufficiently to draw his sword or to shout, Philip and Pierre
leaped through the open casement, and ran down the street.



Chapter 16: A Huguenot Prayer Meeting.


"That was a good shot, Pierre," Philip said, as they ran; "and has
probably saved my life."

"I am accustomed to throw straight, sir. My dinner has frequently
depended on my knocking down a bird with a stone, and it was not
often that I had to go without it.

"They are making a rare hubbub, back at the inn."

Loud shouts were heard behind them.

"We have plenty of time," Philip said, as he moderated the pace at
which they had started. "The men will be confused at first, knowing
nothing of what it all means. Then they will have to get the horses
out of the stables."

"And then they will have trouble," Pierre added.

"What trouble, Pierre?"

"I gave a hint to Eustace," Pierre said with a laugh, "that it
would be just as well, before he mounted, to cut off all the
bridles at the rings. A nice way they will be in, when they go to
mount!"

"Did you cut their bridles for them, Eustace?" he asked, as they
came up to the others.

"Ay, and their stirrup leathers, too, Pierre."

"Good, indeed!" Philip exclaimed. "Without bridles or stirrup
leathers, they can scarce make a start; and it will take them some
minutes to patch them up. We will ride hard for a bit. That will
put us far enough ahead to be able to take any byroad, and throw
them off our traces. I have no fear of their catching us by
straight riding. The masters' horses may be as good as ours, but
those of the men can hardly be so. Still, they might come up to us
wherever we halted for the night."

They looked back, when they were some two miles from the village,
and along the long straight road could make out some figures that
they doubted not were horsemen, just starting in pursuit.

"They waited to mend their leathers," Pierre remarked.

"They were right, there," Philip said; "for a man can fight but
poorly, without bridle or stirrups. The horses will not have been
fed, so we have an advantage there. I do not think we need trouble
ourselves much more about them."

"There is one thing, sir. They won't mind foundering their horses,
and we have to be careful of ours."

"That is so, Pierre; and besides, at the first place they come to,
they may send others on in pursuit with fresh horses. No, we must
throw them off our track as soon as we can. There is a wood, a mile
or so ahead; we will leave the road there."

They were riding on the margin of turf, bordering the road on
either side, so as to avoid the dust that lay thick and white upon
it; and they held on at an easy canter, till they reached the
trees. Then, at Philip's order, they scattered and went at a walk;
so as to avoid leaving marks that could be seen, at once, by anyone
following them. A couple of hundred yards farther, they came upon a
stream running through a wood. It was but a few inches deep.

"This will do for us," Philip said. "Now, follow me in single file,
and see that your horses step always in the water."

He led them across the road, and on for half a mile. Then they left
the stream and, soon afterwards, emerged from the wood and struck
across the country.

"I should think they will have had pretty well enough of it, by the
time they get to the wood," Philip said; "and at any rate, will
lose a lot of time there. They will trace our tracks to the edge of
the stream, and will naturally suppose that we will follow it up,
as we struck it on the other side of the road. It is like enough
they will be half an hour searching, before they find where we left
the stream; and will know well enough, then, it will be hopeless
trying to catch us."

"They saw we had good horses," Eustace said; "for as we led them
out, one of them made the remark that they were as good looking a
lot of horses as you would often see together. No doubt, at first,
their leaders were so furious that they thought of nothing but
mending the leathers and getting off; but when they get a check, in
the wood, it is probable that someone will venture to tell them how
well we are mounted, and that pursuit will be hopeless."

"Nevertheless, I think they will pursue, Monsieur Philip," Pierre
said. "They did not look like men who would swallow an injury, and
think no more of it. As long as there remains a single chance of
discovering you, they will not give up pursuit. Of course, they
have no reason for suspicion that you are anything but what you
seem to be, a gentleman of the neighbourhood; and will consider
that, at one or other of the towns or villages ahead of us, they
are sure to hear of our passing through, and perhaps to learn who
you are and where you reside. Doubtless they asked at the inn,
before starting, whether you were known; and as soon as they find
they are not likely to catch us by hard riding, they will make
straight forward, dividing into several parties at the next place
they come to, and scattering in order to obtain news of us."

"Which they will not get," Philip said, "as we will take good care
to avoid passing through villages. For tonight we will sleep in the
woods, as the weather is warm and pleasant."

After riding another fifteen miles, they halted in a wood. They
always carried some food and wine with them, as circumstances might
at any time arise that would render it imprudent for them to put up
at an inn; and each also carried a feed of corn for his horse.

Leaving Pierre to unsaddle and rub down his horse, Philip walked to
the farther edge of the wood, to view the country beyond. They
were, he knew, not far from La Chatre; and he was not surprised to
see the town, lying in a valley, to which the ground sloped down
from the wood. It was about a mile and a half distant. Nearer the
wood, but half a mile to the west, the towers of a fortified
chateau rose from a clump of trees. The country was rich and well
cultivated, and everything had an aspect of peace and comfort.

"What a hideous thing it is," Philip said to himself, "that in so
fair a country people cannot live in peace together; and should fly
at each other's throats, simply because they cannot agree that each
shall worship God after his own fashion! It might be Canterbury,
with the hills rising round it and the little river, save that it
lacks the cathedral rising over it; and yet, I doubt not there are
many there who live in daily peril of their lives, for there is not
a town in France that has not its share of Huguenots, and they can
never tell when the storm of popular fury may burst upon them."

The shades of evening were beginning to fall, when he rejoined his
companions. They had already rubbed down their horses and replaced
the saddles, and the animals were contentedly eating their corn.

"They look well," Philip said, as he walked from one to the other.

"Yes, sir, they are none the worse for their travel so far, and
could carry us on a hard race for our lives. Shall we light a
fire?"

"I do not think it is worth while, Eustace. The evening is warm,
and we shall be off at daybreak. Someone passing through the wood
might see the flames, and carry the news down to La Chatre, which
is but a mile and a half away; and it is quite possible that those
fellows we had to do with today may be there, if they are
travelling the same way that we are, and may consider it likely we
shall halt there for the night. At any rate, as we do not need the
fire, we will run no risks."

They ate their supper and, an hour later, wrapped themselves in
their cloaks and lay down. Philip was just dropping off to sleep,
when Pierre touched him. He sat up with a start.

"There are some people in the wood," Pierre said.

Philip was wide awake now, and the sound of singing, at no great
distance, came to his ears.

"It is a Huguenot hymn," he exclaimed. "There must be a meeting in
the wood. No doubt it is some of the people from the town, who have
come out to hold a secret meeting here. I will go and see it.

"Come with me, Pierre. We will go very quietly, for it would scare
them terribly, did they hear anyone approaching."

Making their way noiselessly through the wood they came, after
walking about three hundred yards, to the edge of an open space
among the trees, where they halted. In the centre they could see,
in the moonlight, a body of some seventy or eighty people gathered.
Standing upon the trunk of a fallen tree was a minister who was
addressing them.

"My brethren," he was saying, when they could catch his words,
"this is the last time we shall meet here. We know that suspicions
have already arisen that we are holding meetings, and that we do so
at the peril of our lives. The search for me has been hot, for some
days; and though I am willing enough to give my life in the cause
of our Lord, I would not bring destruction upon you, at the present
moment. Were the prospects hopeless, I should say, 'let us continue
together here, till the last;' but the sky is clearing, and it may
be that, ere long, freedom of worship may be proclaimed throughout
France. Therefore it is better that, for a time, we should abstain
from gathering ourselves together. Even now, the persecutors may be
on our track."

"Pierre," Philip whispered, "do you go over in that direction,
until you come to the edge of the wood. If you see any signs of men
moving about, run quickly to the others, and bring the horses up
here."

"I had better go back there first, had I not, Monsieur Philip, and
bring the men and horses along with me to the edge of the wood? For
I might lose a quarter of an hour in searching for them."

"That would be the best plan, Pierre. Should you hear a sudden
noise here, hurry in this direction, and I will come to meet you.
It may well be that, guessing the Huguenots would place someone on
watch towards the town, the Catholics may, if they come, approach
from the other side. Should you see anyone coming, give a loud
shout, at once. It will act as a warning to these people, and
enable them to scatter and fly, before their foes arrive."

For an hour the preacher continued to address his hearers,
exhorting them to stand firm in the faith, and to await with
patience the coming of better days. They were not more than twenty
paces away from the spot where Philip was standing, and in the
moonlight he could clearly see the faces of the assembly, for the
preacher was standing with his back to him. From their dress, he
judged that most of them belonged to the poorer classes; though
three or four were evidently bourgeois of the well-to-do class.

Seated on the trunk on which the preacher was standing, and looking
up at him so that her profile was clearly visible to Philip, sat a
young girl, whose face struck Philip as of singular beauty. The
hood of the cloak in which she was wrapped had fallen back from her
head, and her hair looked golden in the moonlight. She was
listening with rapt attention. The moonlight glistened on a brooch,
which held the cloak together at her throat. A young woman stood by
her; and a man, in steel cap and with a sword at his side, stood a
pace behind her. Philip judged that she belonged to a rank
considerably above that of the rest of the gathering.

When the address had concluded, the preacher began a hymn in which
all joined. Just as they began, Philip heard the crack of a stick
among the trees. It was not on the side from which Pierre would be
coming. He listened attentively, but the singing was so loud that
he could hear nothing; except that once a clash, such as would be
made by a scabbard or piece of armour striking against a bough,
came to his ears.

Suddenly he heard a shout.

"That is Pierre!" he exclaimed to himself, and ran forward into the
circle.

There was a cry of alarm, and the singing suddenly stopped.

"I am a friend," he exclaimed. "I have come to warn you of danger.
There are men coming in this direction from the town."

"My brethren, we will separate," the minister said calmly. "But
first, I will pronounce the benediction."

This he did solemnly, and then said:

"Now, let all make through the wood and, issuing from the other
side, return by a circuit to the town.

"Mademoiselle Claire, I will accompany you to the chateau."

At this moment Philip heard horses approaching.

"This way, Pierre," he shouted, and ran to meet them.

Fifty yards away he came upon them, and leapt into his saddle.

"See to your weapons, lads," he said. "I believe there are others
in the wood already."

He was within twenty yards of the clearing when he heard a sudden
shout of:

"Down with the Huguenot dogs! Kill! Kill!"

He dashed forward, followed by his men. A mob of armed men, headed
by two or three horsemen, had burst from the opposite side of the
glade and were rushing upon the Huguenots, who had just broken up
into small groups.

They stood, as if paralysed, at this sudden attack. No cry or
scream broke from the women. Most of these threw themselves upon
their knees. A few of the men followed their example, and prepared
to die unresistingly. Some sprang away among the trees, and above
the din the preacher's voice was heard commencing a Huguenot hymn
beginning, "The gates of heaven are opened;" in which, without a
moment's hesitation, those who remained around him joined.

In a moment, with savage shouts and yells, their assailants were
upon them, smiting and thrusting. With a shout, Philip spurred
forward from the other side. He saw at once that, against such
numbers, he and his three followers could do nothing; but his rage
at this massacre of innocent people--a scene common enough in
France, but which he now for the first time witnessed--half
maddened him.

One of the horsemen, whom he recognized at once as the man Pierre
had knocked down with the plate, rode at the girl Philip had been
watching; and who was standing, with upturned face, joining in the
hymn. The man attending her drew his sword, and placed himself in
the way of the horseman; but the latter cut him down, and raised
the sword to strike full at the girl, when Philip shot him through
the head.

Instantly another horseman, with a shout of recognition, rode at
him. Philip thrust his still smoking pistol in his holster, and
drew his sword.

"This is more than I hoped for," his assailant said, as he dealt a
sweeping blow at him.

"Do not congratulate yourself too soon," Philip replied, as he
guarded the blow and, lunging in return, the point glided off his
adversary's armour.

He parried again; and then, with a back-handed sweep, he struck his
opponent on the neck with his whole force. Coming out to take part
in a Huguenot hunt, in which he expected no opposition, the knight
had left his helmet behind him; and fell from his horse, with his
head half severed from his body.

In the meantime the two men-at-arms and Pierre had driven back the
mob of townsmen; who, however, having massacred most of the
unresisting Huguenots, were surging up round them.

"Give me your hand, mademoiselle, and put your foot on mine,"
Philip exclaimed to the girl, who was still standing close to him.

"Pierre," he shouted as, bewildered by the uproar, the girl
instinctively obeyed the order, "take this woman up behind you."

Pierre made his horse plunge, and so freed himself from those
attacking him. Then, reining round, he rode to Philip's side, and
helped the companion of the young lady to the croup of his saddle;
Philip dashing forward, to free his two followers from their
numerous assailants.

"To the left, Eustace;" and, cutting their way through the crowd,
the three horsemen freed themselves and, as they dashed off, were
joined by Pierre.

"We must work back by the way we came, Monsieur Philip," Pierre
said. "There is another body coming up in front, to cut off
fugitives; and that was why I shouted to you."

In a minute or two they were out of the wood. Men were seen running
across the fields, but these they easily avoided.

"Now turn again, and make straight for La Chatre," Philip said. "We
can cross the bridge, and ride through the place without danger.
Those who would have interfered with us are all behind us."

As he had expected, the place was perfectly quiet. The better class
of the bourgeois were all asleep, either ignorant or disapproving
of the action of the mob. As soon as they were through the town,
Philip checked the speed of his horse.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "I am as yet in ignorance of your name. I
am the Chevalier Philip Fletcher, an English gentleman fighting for
the cause of the reformed religion, under Admiral Coligny. I am on
my way east, with important despatches; and I was bivouacking with
my three followers in the wood, when I was attracted by the
singing.

"Judging, from the words of the minister, that there was danger of
an attack, I put one of my men on the watch; while I myself
remained in the wood by your meeting place. Unfortunately, the
sound of the last hymn you sang drowned the noise made by the party
that assailed you. However, happily we were in time to save you and
your servant; and our sudden appearance doubtless enabled many to
escape, who would otherwise have been massacred."

The girl had burst into a fit of sobbing, as soon as the danger was
over; but she had now recovered.

"My name is Claire de Valecourt, monsieur," she said. "My father is
with the Admiral. He will be deeply grateful to you for saving my
life."

"I have the honour of knowing the Count de Valecourt, mademoiselle;
and am glad, indeed, that I have been able to be of service to his
daughter. The count is one of the gentlemen who act as guardians to
the Prince of Navarre, whom I have also the honour of knowing.

"And now, what are your wishes? It is not too late even now, should
you desire it, for me to take you back to the chateau."

"I should be defenceless there, sir," she said. "There are but a
score of men-at-arms and, though formerly a place of some strength,
it could not be defended now. See, sir, it is too late already."

Philip looked round, and saw a bright light suddenly rising from
the clump of trees on which the chateau stood. He gave an
exclamation of anger.

"It cannot be helped," she said quietly. "It is but a small place.
It was part of my mother's dower. Our estates, you know, are in
Provence. My father thought I should be safer, here, than remaining
there alone while he was away. We have always been on good terms
with the townspeople here, and they did not interfere with those of
our religion during the last war; so we thought that it would be
the same now. But of late some people have been here, stirring up
the townsmen; and some travelling friars preached in the
marketplace, not long since, upbraiding the people with their
slackness in not rooting us out altogether.

"A month ago, one of the persecuted ministers came to the chateau
at night, and has been concealed there since. Seeing that there
will be no minister here for some time, word was sent round
secretly, to those of our religion in the town, and twice a week we
have had meetings in the wood. Many of the servants of the chateau
are Catholics, and of the men-at-arms, the majority are not of our
faith. Therefore I used to steal out quietly with my attendant. We
heard, two days ago, that a rumour of the meetings had got about;
and tonight's was to have been the last of them."

"And now, mademoiselle, what are your wishes? Have you any friends
with whom I could place you, until you could rejoin your father?"

"None near here, monsieur. I have always lived in the south."

"I should not have taken you for a lady of Provence," Philip said.
"Your hair is fair, and you have rather the appearance of one of my
own countrywomen, than of one born in the south of France."

"I am partly of northern blood," she said. "My mother was the
daughter of Sir Allan Ramsay, a Scottish gentleman who took service
in France, being driven from home by the feuds that prevailed
there. I knew but little about her, for she died when I was a
child; and my father, who loved her greatly, seldom speaks to me of
her."

Philip rode for some time in silence.

"I feel that I am a terrible burden on your hands, monsieur," she
said quietly, at last; "but I will do anything that you think best.
If you set us down, we will try and find refuge in some peasant's
hut; or we can dress ourselves as countrywomen, and try to make our
way westward to La Rochelle."

"That is not to be thought of," he replied gravely. "Were it not
that my despatches may not be delayed, without great danger to our
cause, the matter would be of no inconvenience; but we must ride
fast and far. As to leaving you to shift for yourselves, it is
impossible; but if we could find a Huguenot family with whom I
could place you, it would be different. But unfortunately, we are
all strangers to the country."

"I can ride well," the girl said, "and if horses could be procured
would, with my maid, try to reach La Rochelle; travelling by night,
and hiding in the woods by day. We could carry food with us, so as
not to have to enter any place to purchase it."

Philip shook his head.

"We will halt at yonder clump of trees," he said. "It is not yet
midnight, and then we can talk the matter over further."

As soon as they halted, he unrolled his cloak.

"Do you, mademoiselle, and your attendant lie down here. We shall
be but a short distance away, and two of us will keep watch;
therefore you can sleep without fear of surprise."

"This is an unfortunate business, Pierre," he said, after the
latter had fastened the horses to the trees.

"I can understand that, monsieur. I have been talking to the maid,
and it seems that they have no friends in these parts."

"That is just it, Pierre. One thing is certain--they cannot ride on
with us. We must journey as fast as possible, and delicate women
could not support the fatigue; even were it seemly that a young
lady, of good family, should be galloping all over France with a
young man like myself."

"I should not trouble about that, monsieur. At ordinary times,
doubtless, it would cause a scandal; but in days like these, when
in all parts of France there are women and children hiding from the
persecution, or fleeing for their lives, one cannot stand upon
niceties. But doubtless, as you say, they would hinder our speed
and add to our dangers."

"I see but two plans, Pierre. The one is that they should journey
to La Rochelle, in charge of yourself and Eustace. We have now
twice crossed the country without difficulty and, as there would be
no need of especial speed, you could journey quietly; choosing
quiet and lonely places for your halts, such as farmhouses, or
groups of two or three cottages where there is a tiny inn."

"What is your other plan, sir?"

"The other plan is that you should start forward at once, so as to
enter Saint Amboise early. Stable your horse at an inn; and order
rooms, saying that you are expecting your master and a party, who
are on their way to join the army. You might also order a meal to
be cooked. Then you could enter into conversation with stablemen
and others, and find out whether there are any castles in the
neighbourhood held for us by Huguenot lords, or by their wives in
their absence. If not, if there are any Huguenot villages. In fact,
try and discover some place where we may leave the young lady in
safety. You can have three hours to make your inquiry.

"At the end of that time, whether successful or not, say that you
are going out to meet your master and lead him to the inn. Give the
host a crown, as an earnest of your return and on account of the
meal you have ordered, and then ride to meet us.

"We shall start from here at daybreak. If you succeed in hearing of
some place where, as it seems, she can be bestowed in safety, we
will take her there at once. If not, you and Eustace must start
back with them, travelling slowly. The horses will carry double,
easily enough.

"Do not forget to get a cold capon or two, some good wine, and a
supply of white bread, while you are waiting in the town."

"Which horse shall I take, sir?"

"You had best take Robin. He is the faster of the two, though not
quite so strong as Victor."

"I understand, monsieur, and will carry out your orders. If there
be a place within twenty miles--or within forty, if lying on the
right road--where the young lady can be left in safety, rely upon
it I will hear of it; for there is nought I would not do, rather
than turn back at the outset of our journey, while you have to
journey on with only Roger, who is a stout man-at-arms enough, but
would be of little use if you should find yourself in difficulties;
for his head is somewhat thick, and his wits slow."

Robin had already finished his scanty ration of food and, when
Pierre tightened the girths before mounting, looked round in mild
surprise at finding himself called upon to start, for the second
time, after he had thought that his work was done.

"You shall have a good feed at Saint Amboise," Pierre said, patting
its neck; "and beyond that, there will be no occasion, I hope, for
such another day's work."

After seeing Pierre start, Philip threw himself down for two hours'
sleep; and then went to relieve Eustace, who was keeping watch at
the edge of a clump of trees. As soon as it was broad daylight, he
went across to where Claire de Valecourt was lying down by the side
of her maid, with a cloak thrown over them. She sat up at once, as
his step approached.

"I am afraid you have not had much sleep, mademoiselle."

"No, indeed," she said. "I have scarce closed my eyes. It will be
long before I shall sleep quietly. That terrible scene of last
night will be before my eyes for a long time. Do you think that the
minister escaped, Monsieur Fletcher?"

"I fear that he did not. I saw him cut down, by the fellow I shot,
just before he turned to ride at you."

"How many do you think escaped?"

"A score perhaps, or it may be more. Some fled at once. Others I
noticed make off, as we rode forward."

"Did not one of your men ride off, last night, soon after we lay
down?"

"Yes, I sent off my servant."

And he told her the mission upon which Pierre had been despatched.

"That is a good plan," she said. "I would much rather hide
anywhere, than that you should go forward on your long journey with
but half your little force. Does it not seem strange, monsieur,
that while, but a few hours ago, I had never so much as heard your
name, now I owe my life to you, and feel that I have to trust to
you in everything? I am quite surprised, now I look at you--I
scarce saw your face, last night; and only noticed, as I sat in
front of you, that you seemed very big and strong. And as you
talked of what I must do, just as if you had been my father, I have
been thinking of you as a grave man, like him. Now I see you are
quite young, and that you don't look grave at all."

Philip laughed.

"I am young, and not very grave, mademoiselle. I am not at all fit
to be the protector of a young lady like yourself."

"There I am sure you are wronging yourself, Monsieur Fletcher. The
Admiral would never have sent you so far, with important
despatches, had he not full confidence that you were wise as well
as brave. And you said you were a chevalier, too. My cousin Antoine
looks ever so much older than you do, and he has not been knighted
yet. I know young gentlemen are not made knights, unless they have
done something particularly brave."

Philip smiled.

"I did not do anything particularly brave, mademoiselle; but what I
did do happened to attract the Admiral's attention.

"Now, here are the remains of a cold capon, some bread, and wine.
You and your attendant had better eat something, while we are
saddling the horses and preparing for a start."

Four hours later they halted, three miles from Saint Amboise;
taking refuge in a wood near the road, where they could see Pierre
as he returned. Half an hour later he rode up. Philip went down the
road to meet him.

"Well, Pierre, what success?"

"I have heard of a place where I think Mademoiselle de Valecourt
would be safe, for the present. It is the chateau of Monsieur de
Landres. It lies some five-and-twenty miles away, and is in the
forest, at a distance from any town or large village. It is a small
place, but is strong. Monsieur de Landres is with the army in the
west, but he has only taken a few of his men with him; and forty,
they say, have been left to guard the tower. As most of the
Catholics round here have obeyed the king's summons, and are either
with the royal army in the west, or with the two dukes at Metz,
there seems no chance of any attack being made upon Landres."

"That will do excellently, Pierre. No doubt the lady will be happy
to receive Mademoiselle de Valecourt, whose father is a well-known
nobleman and, at present, in the same army as the lady's husband.
At any rate, we will try that to begin with."

They started without delay and, riding briskly, reached Landres in
four hours; having had a good deal of difficulty in finding the
way. As soon as they issued from the forests into a cleared space,
half a mile across, in the centre of which stood the fortalice, a
horn was heard to sound, and the drawbridge was at once raised.
Philip saw, with satisfaction, that Pierre had not been
misinformed. The castle was an old one and had not been modernized
and, with its solid-looking walls and flanking towers, was capable
of standing a siege.

Halting the others, when halfway across to the tower, he rode on
alone. As he approached, a lady appeared on the battlements over
the gate; while the parapet was occupied with armed men, with
spears and crossbows. Philip removed his cap.

"Madame," he said, "I am a soldier belonging to the army of the
Prince of Navarre, and am riding on the business of Admiral
Coligny. On my way hither, I had the good fortune to save a
Huguenot congregation, and the daughter of the Count de Valecourt,
from massacre by the people of La Chatre. My business is urgent,
and I am unable to turn back to conduct her to her father, who is
with the army of the prince. Hearing that you are of the reformed
religion, I have ventured to crave your protection for the young
lady; until I can return to fetch her, or can notify to her father
where he may send for her."

"The lady is welcome," Madame de Landres said. "In such times as
these, it is the duty of all of our religion to assist each other;
and the daughter of the Count de Valecourt, whom I know by
reputation, will be specially welcomed."

Bowing to the lady, Philip rode back to his party.

"The matter is settled, mademoiselle. The chatelaine will be glad
to receive you."

By the time they reached the castle the drawbridge had been
lowered; and Madame de Landres stood at the gate, ready to receive
her guest. As Philip, leaping off, lifted the girl to the ground,
the lady embraced her kindly.

"I am truly glad to be able to offer you a shelter, for a time. You
are young, indeed, to be abroad without a natural protector; for as
I gather this gentleman, whose name I have not yet learned, rescued
you by chance from an attack by the Catholics."

"God sent him to my succour, as by a miracle," Claire said simply.
"The Chevalier Fletcher is known to my father. Had he arrived but
one minute later, I should be one among seventy or eighty who are
now lying dead in a wood, near La Chatre. My father had a chateau
close by, but it was fired after the massacre."

"And now, mademoiselle, with your permission, and that of Madame de
Landres, we will ride on at once. We must do another thirty miles
before sunset."

Madame de Landres, however, insisted on Philip and his men stopping
to partake of a meal before they rode on; and although they had
breakfasted heartily, four hours before, upon the provisions Pierre
had brought back with him from Amboise, their ride had given them
an appetite; and Philip did not refuse the invitation. Madame de
Landres expressed much satisfaction on hearing that the Huguenot
army was likely to pass somewhere near the neighbourhood of the
chateau, on its way to effect a junction with the Duc de
Deux-Ponts; and promised to send one of her retainers with a
message, to the count, that his daughter was in her keeping. The
meal was a short one; and Philip, after a halt of half an hour,
mounted and rode on again.

"My father will thank you, when you meet him, Monsieur Fletcher. As
for me, I cannot tell you what I feel, but I shall pray for you
always; and that God, who sent you to my aid, will watch over you
in all dangers," Claire de Valecourt had said, as she bade him
goodbye.

They halted that night at a small village and, as Philip was eating
his supper, Pierre came in.

"I think, monsieur, that it would be well for us to move on for a
few miles farther."

"Why, Pierre? We have done a long day's journey, and the horses had
but a short rest last night."

"I should like to rest just as well as the horses," Pierre said;
"but I doubt if we should rest well, here. I thought, when we drew
bridle, that the landlord eyed us curiously; and that the men who
sauntered up regarded us with more attention than they would
ordinary travellers. So I told Eustace and Roger, as they led the
horses to the stable, to keep the saddles on for the present; and I
slipped away round to the back of the house, and got my ear close
to the open window of the kitchen. I got there just as the landlord
came in, saying:"

[Illustration: Pierre listens at the open window of the inn.]

"'These are the people, wife, that we were told of three hours ago.
There are the same number of men, though they have no women with
them, as I was told might be the case. Their leader is a
fine-looking young fellow, and I am sorry for him, but that I can't
help. I was told that, if they came here, I was to send off a
messenger at once to Nevers; and that, if I failed to do so, my
house should be burnt over my head, and I should be hung from the
tree opposite, as a traitor to the king. Who he is I don't know,
but there can be no doubt he is a Huguenot, and that he has killed
two nobles. I daresay they deserved it if they were, as the men
said, engaged in what they call the good work of slaying Huguenots;
which is a kind of work with which I do not hold. But that is no
business of mine--I am not going to risk my life in the matter.

"'Besides, if I don't send off it will make no difference; for they
told half-a-dozen men, before they started, that they would give a
gold crown to the first who brought them news of the party; and it
is like enough someone has slipped off, already, to earn the money.
So I must make myself safe by sending off Jacques, at once. The men
said that their lords had powerful friends at Nevers, and I am not
going to embroil myself with them, for the sake of a stranger.'

"'We have nothing to do with the Huguenots, one way or other,' the
woman said. 'There are no Huguenots in this village, and it is
nothing to us what they do in other parts. Send off Jacques if you
like, and perhaps it will be best; but I don't want any fighting or
bloodshed here.'

"I slipped away then," continued Pierre, "as I thought the landlord
would be coming out to look for this Jacques. If it had not been
for what he said about the reward offered, and the likelihood that
others would already have started with the news, I should have
watched for the man and followed him when he started. I don't think
he would have carried his message far. As it was, I thought it best
to let you know at once; so that we could slip out of this trap, in
time."



Chapter 17: The Battle Of Moncontor.


When Pierre left him in order to look after the horses, Philip
continued his meal. There could be no hurry, for Nevers was twelve
miles away; and it would be four hours, at least, before a party
could arrive.

The landlady herself brought in the next course. After placing the
dish upon the table, she stood looking earnestly at him for a
minute, and then said:

"You spoke of stopping here tonight, sir. The accommodation is very
poor and, if you will take my advice, you will ride farther. There
have been some men along here this afternoon, inquiring for a party
like yours; and offering a reward to any who would carry the news
to them, should you pass through. Methinks their intentions were
not friendly."

"I thank you very much for your counsel," Philip said, "and will
take it. I know that there are some who would gladly hinder me, in
my journey; and if there is, as you say, a risk of their coming
here for me, it were as well that I rode farther, although I would
gladly have given my horses a night's rest. I thank you warmly for
having warned me."

"Do not let my husband know that I have spoken to you," she said.
"He is an honest man, but timid; and in these days 'tis safest not
to meddle with what does not concern one."

Philip waited for two hours, and then told Pierre to saddle the
horses, and tell the landlord that he wished to speak to him.

"I have changed my mind, landlord," he said, "and shall ride
forward. The horses will have rested now, and can very well do
another fifteen miles; so let me have your reckoning. You can
charge for my bedroom as, doubtless, it has been put in order for
me."

Philip saw that the landlord looked pleased, though he said
nothing; and in a few minutes the horses were brought round, the
bill paid, and they started. They struck off from the road, three
or four miles farther; and halted in a wood which they reached,
after half an hour's riding. The grain bags had been filled up
again, at the inn; but as the horses had eaten their fill, these
were not opened and, after loosening the girths and arranging the
order in which they should keep watch, the party threw themselves
on the ground.

Two hours after their arrival Eustace, who was on watch, heard the
distant sounds of a body of horsemen, galloping along the main road
in the direction of the village they had left.

In the morning at daybreak they started again, directing their way
to the southwest, and following the course of the Loire; which they
crossed at Estree, and so entered Burgundy. Crossing the great line
of hills, they came down on the Saone; which they crossed at a
ferry, fifteen miles below Dijon. They here obtained news of the
position of the Duc de Deux-Ponts, and finally rode into his camp,
near Vesoul. They had been fortunate in avoiding all questioning;
it being generally assumed, from their travelling without baggage,
that they belonged to the neighbourhood.

Riding into the camp, they were not long in discovering an officer
who spoke French and, upon Philip saying that he was the bearer of
despatches for the Duc from Admiral Coligny, he was at once
conducted to his pavilion. He had, when the camp was in sight and
all dangers at an end, taken his despatches from his boots; and
these he at once presented to the duke, who came to the door of his
tent, on hearing that a gentleman had arrived with letters from
Coligny, himself.

"I am glad to get some news direct, at last," the Duc said; "for I
have heard so many rumours, since I crossed the frontier, that I
know not whether the Admiral is a fugitive or at the head of a
great army. Which is nearest the truth?"

"The latter, assuredly, sir. The Admiral is at the head of as large
a body of men as that with which he offered battle to the Duc
d'Anjou, when winter first set in."

"Come in, monsieur, and sit down, while I read the despatches. How
many days have you taken in traversing France?"

"It is the tenth day since I left La Rochelle, sir."

"And have you ridden the same horses the whole way?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then they must be good beasts, for you must have done over forty
miles a day."

"We carried no baggage, sir and, as you see, no armour; and we have
husbanded our horses' strength, to the best of our power."

The duke sat down, and read the papers of which Philip was the
bearer.

"The Admiral speaks very highly of you, sir, both as regards
discretion and bravery; and mentions that he knighted you, himself,
for your conduct in the battle of Jarnac. He need not have said so
much, for the fact that he chose you to carry these despatches is
the highest proof of his confidence.

"And now, tell me all particulars of your journey; and what news
you have gathered, on your way, as to the movement and positions of
the forces of the royal dukes. This will supplement the Admiral's
despatches."

Philip gave a full report of his route, of the state of the roads,
the number of cattle in the country through which he had passed,
the accounts he had heard of the forces assembled in the cities,
and the preparations that had been made to guard the passages
across the rivers of Burgundy.

"I will travel by the route that the Admiral indicates, so far as I
can do so undisturbed by the armies of the two French dukes. I have
with me some good guides, as many French gentleman joined me, not
long since, with the Prince of Orange. I had already decided, by
their advice, upon following nearly the route commended by the
Admiral. I trust that you, sir, will ride among my friends; to whom
I will introduce you this evening, at supper."

The Duc's army amounted to some fifteen thousand men, of whom seven
thousand five hundred were horsemen from the states of Lower
Germany, and six thousand infantry from Upper Germany; the
remaining fifteen hundred being French and Flemish gentlemen, who
had joined him with the Prince of Orange. The armies under the
French dukes were, together, considerably superior in force to that
of Deux-Ponts; but singly they were not strong enough to attack
him, and the mutual jealousies of their commanders prevented their
acting in concert. Consequently, the German force moved across
Comte and on to Autun, in the west of Burgundy, without meeting
with any opposition. Then they marched rapidly down. The bridges
upon the Loire were all held; but one of the French officers, who
knew the country, discovered a ford by which a portion of the army
crossed. The main body laid siege to the town of La Chants, and
compelled it to surrender, thus gaining a bridge by which they
crossed the Loire.

As the enemy were now in great force, in front of them; they turned
to the southwest, several messengers being sent off to appoint a
fresh meeting place with Coligny; and skirting the hills of
Bourbonais, Auvergne, and Limousin, they at last arrived within a
day's march of Limoges; the journey of five hundred miles, through
a hostile country, being one of the most remarkable in military
history.

That evening Admiral Coligny and his staff rode into camp, having
arrived with his army at Limoges. The Duc had been for some time
suffering from fever; and had, for the last week, been carried in a
litter, being unable to sit his horse. He was, when the Admiral
arrived, unconscious; and died the next morning, being succeeded in
his command by the Count of Mansfeldt. Next day the two armies
joined, with great demonstrations of joy.

The Duc d'Anjou had been closely watching the army of Coligny, his
army being somewhat superior in force to that of the allies, who
now numbered some twenty-five thousand; for the duke had been
recently reinforced by five thousand papal troops, and twelve
hundred Florentines. A part of his force, under General Strozzi,
was at La Roche Abeille. They were attacked by the Huguenots. Four
hundred Royalists were killed, and many taken prisoners, among them
their general.

There was, for a time, a pause. The court entered into fresh
negotiations with the Admiral, being anxious to delay his
operations; as many of the nobles who were with the Duc D'Anjou,
wearied by the burdens imposed upon them, insisted upon returning
for a time to their homes. The Huguenots were, above all things,
anxious for peace; and allowed themselves to be detained, for
nearly a month, by these negotiations.

On the march down after the capture of La Charite, the German force
had passed within a few miles of the Chateau de Landres; and Philip
rode over to see whether Claire was still there. She received him
with the frank pleasure of a girl.

"We have heard very little of what is going on outside, Monsieur
Fletcher," Madame de Landres said, after the first greetings were
over; "though the air has been full of rumours. Again and again,
reports were brought in that the duke's army had been entirely
destroyed by the Royalist forces. Then, after a day or two, we
heard of it as still advancing; but in danger, hourly, of being
destroyed. Then came the news that every town commanding a bridge
across the Loire was being put in a state of defence, and strong
bodies of troops thrown into them; and we heard that, as soon as
the Germans reached the river, and farther advance was impossible,
they would be attacked by the armies of Nemours and Aumale. But by
this time we had become so accustomed to these tales that we were
not much alarmed.

"We were, however, surprised when we heard that a strong body of
the Germans had forded the river; and had blockaded La Charite on
this side, while it had been besieged on the other. I hear that a
strong garrison has been left there."

"Yes, madam. The place is of great importance, as it gives us a
means of crossing the Loire at any time. We find, too, that a large
part of the population are Huguenot; and the place will certainly
be held against any attack the Royalists may make against us."

"The news will be received with joy, indeed, by all of our religion
in this part of France. Hitherto we have had no place of refuge,
whatever. There was but the choice of dying in our own houses or
villages, or taking refuge in the woods until hunted down. It will
be, to us, what La Rochelle is to the Huguenots of the west.
Besides, the garrison there will make the Catholics very chary of
attacking us. Moreover, having now this passage across the Loire it
is likely that our party will largely use it on their marches, and
would be able to punish heavily any places at which there had been
massacres. It is by this way, too, the Germans are sure to return.
Therefore I feel that, for a time, my young charge will be
perfectly safe here.

"I sent off a messenger to our army, on the day you left us; but
have had no reply, and know not whether he reached it in safety. At
any rate, you cannot be very long before your force joins the
Admiral; and as we felt quite sure that you would come to see us,
as you passed, we have our letters ready to my husband and the
Count de Valecourt. You will, I am sure, deliver them as soon as
you join the Admiral."

"That I will assuredly do, madam. I expect that we shall meet him
near Limoges. That is the direction in which we are now marching."

The Count de Valecourt was one of the gentlemen who rode into the
Duc do Deux-Ponts' camp with the Admiral and, as soon as they
dismounted, and Coligny entered the tent of the dying general,
Philip made his way to his side.

"Ah! Monsieur Fletcher, I am glad to see you again. You
accomplished, then, your journey in safety. The Prince of Navarre
often spoke of you, and wondered how you were faring."

"I did very well, sir; but I have not thrust myself upon you, at
the moment of your arrival, to speak of my own journey; but to
deliver you a letter, which I have the honour of being the bearer,
from your daughter."

The count stepped backwards a pace, with a cry of astonishment and
pleasure.

"From my daughter! Is it possible, sir? How long is it since you
saw her?"

"It is nigh three weeks back, sir."

"The Lord be praised!" the count said solemnly, taking off his cap
and looking upwards. "He has shown me many mercies, but this is the
greatest. For the last two months I have mourned her as dead. News
was brought to me, by one of my retainers, that she was with a
congregation who were attacked by the people of La Chatre, and that
all had been massacred. My chateau near there was attacked and
burnt, and those of the men who were Huguenots slain, save the one
who brought me the news."

"You will see, sir, that your daughter escaped," Philip said,
handing him the letter. "She is now in the safe custody of Madame
de Landres."

The count tore open the letter, and he had read but a few lines
when he uttered an exclamation of surprise and, turning towards
Philip, who had moved a few paces away, ran to him and threw his
arms round his neck.

"It is you who have, with God's blessing, rescued my daughter from
death," he exclaimed. "She is my only child. Oh, monsieur, what joy
have you brought to me, what thankfulness do I feel, how deeply am
I indebted to you! I had thought that there remained to me but to
do my duty to God, and His cause; and then, if I lived to see the
end of the war, to live out my days a childless old man. Now I seem
to live again. Claire is alive; I have still something to love and
care for.

"I will first run through the rest of the letter; and then you
shall tell me, in full, all the story. But which is your tent? Pray
take me there. I would be alone, a little while, to thank God for
this great mercy."

Half an hour later, the count reappeared at the entrance of the
tent. Pierre had wine and refreshments ready and, placing them on a
box that served as a table, retired; leaving his master and the
count together.

"Now, tell me all about it," the count said. "Claire's description
is a very vague one, and she bids me get all the details from you.
She only knows that a man on horseback rode at her, with uplifted
sword. She commended her soul to God, and stood expecting the blow;
when there was a pistol shot, close to her, and the man fell from
his horse. Then another dashed forward; while you, on horseback,
threw yourself between her and him. There was a terrible clashing
of swords; and then he, too, fell. Then you lifted her on to your
horse, and for a short time there was a whirl of conflict. Then you
rode off with three men, behind one of whom her maid Annette was
sitting. That is all she knows of it, except what you told her,
yourself."

"That is nearly all there is to know, count. The fray lasted but
two minutes, in all; and my being upon the spot was due to no
forethought of mine, but was of the nature of a pure accident."

"Nay, sir, you should not say that; you were led there by the hand
of God. But tell me how you came to be in the wood, and pray omit
nothing."

Philip related the whole story, from the time of the incident at
the inn, to the time when he handed over Claire to the care of
Madame de Landres.

"It was well done, sir," the count said, laying his hand
affectionately on his shoulder, when he concluded. "The young
prince said you would have a story to tell him, when you came back;
but I little dreamt that it would be one in which I had such
interest.

"Well, Claire cannot do better than remain where she is, for the
present; until, at any rate, I can remove her to La Rochelle, which
is the only place where she can be said to be absolutely safe; but
so long as we hold La Charite there is, as you say, but slight fear
of any fresh trouble there. From all other parts of France, we hear
the same tales of cruel massacre and executions, by fire and
sword."

Francois de Laville was not with Coligny's army, as he was with the
Prince of Navarre, who had remained near La Rochelle; but he was
very pleased to find the Count de la Noue, who had just rejoined
the army; having been exchanged for a Royalist officer of rank, who
had fallen into the hands of the Huguenots.

"You have been doing great things, while I have been lying in prison,
Philip," the count said warmly. "I hear that the Admiral has made you
and my cousin knights; and more than that, I heard half an hour since
from De Valecourt that, while carrying despatches to the Germans, you
had time to do a little knight-errant's work, and had the good fortune
to save his daughter from being massacred by the Catholics. By my
faith, chevalier, there is no saying what you will come to, if you go
on thus."

"I don't want to come to anything, count," Philip said, laughing.
"I came over here to fight for the Huguenot cause, and with no
thought of gaining anything for myself. I am, of course, greatly
pleased to receive the honour of knighthood, and that at the hands
of so great and noble a general as Admiral Coligny. I have been
singularly fortunate, but I owe my good fortune in no small degree
to you; for I could have had no better introduction than to ride in
your train."

"You deserve all the credit you have obtained, Philip. You have
grasped every opportunity that was presented to you, and have
always acquitted yourself well. A young man does not gain the
esteem and approval of a Coligny, the gratitude of a Valecourt, and
the liking of all who know him--including the Queen of Navarre and
her son--unless by unusual merit. I am proud of you as a
connection, though distant, of my own; and I sincerely trust you
will, at the end of this sad business, return home to your friends
none the worse for the perils you have gone through."

At the end of a month the negotiations were broken off, for the
court had no real intention of granting any concessions. The
Huguenots again commenced hostilities. Two or three strong
fortresses were captured; and a force despatched south, under Count
Montgomery, who joined the army of the Viscounts, expelled the
Royalists from Bearn, and restored it to the Queen of Navarre.

There was a considerable division, among the Huguenot leaders, as
to the best course to be taken. The Admiral was in favour of
marching north and besieging Saumur, which would give them a free
passage across the lower Loire to the north of France, as the
possession of La Charite kept open for them a road to the west; but
the majority of the leaders were in favour of besieging Poitiers,
one of the richest and most important cities in France.
Unfortunately their opinion prevailed, and they marched against
Poitiers, of which the Count de Lude was the governor. Before they
arrived there Henry, Duke of Guise, with his brother the Duke of
Mayenne, and other officers, threw themselves into the town. A
desperate defence was made, and every assault by the Huguenots was
repulsed, with great loss. A dam was thrown across a small river by
the besieged, and its swollen waters inundated the Huguenot camp;
and their losses at the breaches were greatly augmented by the
ravages of disease.

After the siege had lasted for seven weeks, the Duc d'Anjou laid
siege to Chatelherault, which the Huguenots had lately captured;
and Coligny raised the siege, which had cost him two thousand men,
and marched to its assistance.

The disaster at Poitiers was balanced, to a certain extent, by a
similar repulse which a force of seven thousand Catholics had
sustained, at La Charite; which for four weeks successfully
repelled every assault, the assailants being obliged, at last, to
draw off from the place. In Paris, and other places, the murders of
Huguenots were of constant occurrence; and at Orleans two hundred
and eighty, who had been thrown into prison, were massacred in a
single day. The Parliament of Paris rendered itself infamous by
trying the Admiral, in his absence, for treason; hanging him in
effigy; and offering a reward, of fifty thousand gold crowns, to
anyone who should murder him.

But a serious battle was now on the eve of being fought. The Duc
d'Anjou had been largely reinforced, and his army amounted to nine
thousand cavalry and eighteen thousand infantry; while Coligny's
army had been weakened by his losses at Poitiers, and by the
retirement of many of the nobles, whose resources could no longer
bear the expense of keeping their retainers in the field. He had
now only some eleven thousand foot, and six thousand horse. He was
therefore anxious to avoid a battle until joined by Montgomery,
with the six thousand troops he had with him at Bearn.

His troops from the south, however, were impatient at the long
inaction, and anxious to return home; while the Germans threatened
to desert, unless they were either paid or led against the enemy.

La Noue, who commanded the advance guard, had captured the town of
Moncontour; and the Admiral, advancing in that direction, and
ignorant that the enemy were in the neighbourhood, moved towards
the town. When on the march, the rear was attacked by a heavy body
of the enemy. De Mouy, who commanded there, held them at bay until
the rest of the Huguenot army gained the other side of a marsh,
through which they were passing, and entered the town in safety.

The Admiral would now have retreated, seeing that the whole force
of the enemy were in front of him; but the Germans again mutinied,
and the delay before they could be pacified enabled the French army
to make a detour, and overtake the Huguenots soon after they left
Moncontour. The Admiral, who commanded the left wing of the
army--Count Louis of Nassau commanding the right--first met them,
and his cavalry charged that of the Catholics, which was commanded
by the German Rhinegrave. The latter rode well in advance of his
men, while Coligny was equally in front of the Protestants.

The two leaders therefore met. The conflict was a short one.
Coligny was severely wounded in the face, and the Rhinegrave was
killed.

While the cavalry on both sides fought desperately for victory, the
infantry was speedily engaged. The combat between the Huguenot
foot, and the Swiss infantry in the Royalist ranks, was long and
doubtful. The Duc d'Anjou displayed great courage in the fight;
while on the other side the Princes of Navarre and Conde, who had
that morning joined the army from Parthenay, fought bravely in the
front of the Huguenots. The Catholic line began to give way, in
spite of their superiority in numbers; when Marshal Cosse advanced
with fresh troops into the battle, and the Huguenots in turn were
driven back.

The German cavalry of the Huguenots, in spite of the valour of
their leader, Louis of Nassau, were seized with a panic and fled
from the field; shattering on their way the ranks of the German
infantry. Before the latter could recover their order, the Swiss
infantry poured in among them. Many threw down their arms and
shouted for quarter, while others defended themselves until the
last; but neither submission nor defence availed and, out of the
four thousand German infantry, but two hundred escaped.

Three thousand of the Huguenot infantry were cut off by Anjou's
cavalry. A thousand were killed, and the rest spared, at the Duc's
command. In all, two thousand Huguenot infantry and three hundred
knights perished on the field, besides the German infantry; while
on the Catholic side the loss was but a little over five hundred
men.

La Noue was again among those taken prisoner. Before the battle
began, he had requested Philip to join his cousin, who had come up
with the princes; and to attach himself to their bodyguard, during
the battle. They kept close to the princes during the fight, riding
far enough back for them to be seen by the Huguenots, and closing
round when the enemy poured down upon them. When the German
horsemen fled, and the infantry were enveloped by the Catholics,
they led Henri and Conde from the field; charging right through a
body of Catholic horse who had swept round to the rear, and
carrying them off to Parthenay.

Here they found the Admiral, who had been borne off the field,
grievously wounded. For a moment the lion-hearted general had felt
despondency at the crushing defeat, being sorely wounded and
weakened by loss of blood; but as he was carried off the field, his
litter came alongside one in which L'Estrange, a Huguenot
gentleman, also sorely wounded, was being borne. Doubtless the
Admiral's face expressed the deep depression of his spirit; and
L'Estrange, holding out his hand to him, said:

"Yet is God very gentle."

The words were an echo of those which formed the mainspring of the
Admiral's life. His face lit up, and he exclaimed:

"Thanks, comrade. Truly God is merciful, and we will trust him
always."

He was much pleased when the two young princes, both unhurt,
rejoined him. He issued orders to his officers to rally their
troops as they came in, to evacuate Parthenay, and march at once to
Niort.

The gallant De Mouy was appointed to command the city, and three or
four days were spent there in rallying the remains of the army.
Scarce had they reached Niort when the Queen of Navarre arrived
from La Rochelle, whence she had hastened, as soon as she had heard
the news of the defeat. The presence of this heroic woman speedily
dispelled the despondency among the Huguenots. Going about among
them, and addressing the groups of officers and soldiers, she
communicated to them her own fire and enthusiasm. Nothing was lost
yet, she said; the Germans had failed them, but their own valour
had been conspicuous, and with the blessing of God matters would
soon be restored. Already the delay of the Catholics in following
up their victory had given them time to rally, and they were now in
a position to give battle again.

Leaving a strong garrison at Niort, Coligny moved with a portion of
his army to Saintes; while the southern troops, from Dauphine and
Provence, marched to Angouleme. These troops were always difficult
to retain long in the field, as they were anxious for the safety of
their friends at home. They now clamoured for permission to depart,
urging that the news of the defeat of Moncontour would be the
signal for fresh persecutions and massacres, in the south. Finally
they marched away without Coligny's permission and, after some
fighting, reached Dauphine in safety.

In the meantime Niort had been attacked. De Mouy defended the place
stoutly, and sallied out and repulsed the enemy. His bravery,
however, was fatal to him. A Catholic named Maurevel, tempted by
the fifty thousand crowns that had been offered for the
assassination of Coligny, had entered the Protestant camp,
pretending that he had been badly treated by the Guises. No
opportunity for carrying out his design against the Admiral
presented itself, and he remained at Niort with De Mouy; who,
believing his protestations of attachment for the cause, had
treated him with great friendship. As the Huguenots were returning
after their successful sortie, he was riding in the rear with De
Mouy and, seizing his opportunity, he drew a pistol and shot the
Huguenot leader, mortally wounding him. He then galloped off and
rejoined the Catholics; and was rewarded, for the treacherous
murder, by receiving from the king the order of Saint Michael, and
a money reward from the city of Paris.

The garrison of Niort, disheartened at the death of their leader,
surrendered shortly after. Several other strong places fell, and
all the conquests the Protestants had made were wrested from their
hands. The battle of Moncontour was fought on October 3rd. On the
14th the southern troops marched away, and four days later Coligny,
with the remains of the army, started from Saintes. He had with him
but six thousand men, of whom three thousand were cavalry.

His plan was an extremely bold one. In the first place, he wished
to obtain money to pay the German horsemen, by the capture of some
of the rich Catholic cities in Guyenne; to form a junction with the
army of Montgomery; then to march across to the Rhone, and there to
meet the forces of the south, which would by that time be ready to
take the field again; then to march north to Lorraine, there to
gather in the Germans whom William of Orange would have collected
to meet him; and then to march upon Paris, and to end the war by
giving battle under its walls.

The Queen of Navarre was to remain in La Rochelle, which city was
placed under the command of La Rochefoucault; and the two young
princes were to accompany the army, where they were to have small
commands. They would thus become inured to the hardships of war,
and would win the affection of the soldiers.

Francois de Laville had, with his own troop, ridden off to his
chateau from Parthenay on the morning after the battle; Coligny
advising him to take his mother, at once, to La Rochelle, as the
chateau would speedily be attacked, in revenge for the sharp
repulse that the Catholics had suffered there. On his arrival the
countess at once summoned all the tenants, and invited those who
chose to accompany her; pointing out that the Catholics would
speedily ravage the land. Accordingly, the next day all the
valuables in the chateau were packed up in carts, and the place
entirely abandoned. The whole of the tenants accompanied her,
driving their herds before them, as they would find a market for
these in the city. As they moved along they were joined by large
numbers of other fugitives, as throughout the whole country the
Protestants were making for refuge to the city.

When the Admiral marched away, Philip rode with a young French
officer, for whom he had a warm friendship, named De Piles. The
latter had been appointed governor of Saint Jean d'Angely, which
was now the sole bulwark of La Rochelle; and he had specially
requested the Admiral to appoint Philip to accompany him. The place
was scarcely capable of defence, and the Admiral had only decided
to hold it in the hope that the Duc d'Anjou, instead of following
him with his whole army, would wait to besiege it.

This decision was, in fact, adopted by the Royalists, after much
discussion among the leaders. Several of them wished to press on at
once after Coligny, urging that the destruction of the remnant of
his army would be a fatal blow to the Huguenot cause. The majority,
however, were of opinion that it was of more importance to reduce
La Rochelle, the Huguenots' stronghold in the west, and in order to
do this Saint Jean d'Angely must first be captured. Their counsel
prevailed and, just as the siege of Poitiers had proved fatal to
the plans of Coligny, so that of Saint Jean d'Angely went far to
neutralize all the advantages gained by the Catholic victory at
Moncontour.

Scarcely had De Piles taken the command than the army of the Duc
d'Anjou appeared before the walls, and at once opened fire. The
garrison was a very small one, but it was aided by the whole of the
inhabitants; who were, like those of La Rochelle, zealous
Huguenots. Every assault upon the walls was repulsed, and at night
the breaches made by the cannon during the day were repaired; the
inhabitants, even the women and children, bringing stones to the
spot, and the soldiers doing the work of building.

On the 26th of October, after the siege had continued for a
fortnight, the king himself joined the Catholic army, and summoned
the place to surrender. De Piles replied that, although he
recognized the authority of the king, he was unable to obey his
orders; as he had been appointed to hold the city by the Prince of
Navarre, the royal governor of Guyenne, his feudal superior, and
could only surrender it on receiving his orders to do so. The
siege, therefore, recommenced.

The walls were so shaken that De Piles himself, after repulsing a
furious attack upon them, came to the conclusion that the next
assault would probably be successful; and he therefore caused a
breach to be made in the wall on the other side of the town, to
afford a means of retreat for his troops. His supply of ammunition,
too, was almost exhausted.

"What do you think, Fletcher?" he said gloomily. "If we could but
hold out for another ten days or so, the Admiral would have got so
fair a start that they would never overtake him. But I feel sure
that another twenty-four hours will see the end of it."

"We might gain some time," Philip replied, "by asking for an
armistice. They probably do not know the straits to which we are
reduced, and may grant us a few days."

"They might do so. At any rate, it is worth trying," De Piles
agreed; and an hour later Philip went, with a flag of truce, to the
royal camp. He was taken before the Duc d'Anjou.

"I am come with proposals from the governor," he said. "He will not
surrender the town without orders from the Prince of Navarre. But
if you will grant a fortnight's armistice, he will send a messenger
to the prince; and if no answer arrives, or if no succour reaches
him at the end of that time, he will surrender; on condition that
the garrison shall be permitted to retire, with their horses and
arms, and that religious liberty shall be granted to all the
inhabitants."

The Duc consulted with his generals. The losses in the attacks had
been extremely heavy, and disease was raging in the army and, to
Philip's inward surprise and delight, an answer was made that the
conditions would be granted, but that only ten days would be given.
He returned with the answer to De Piles, and the armistice was at
once agreed upon, six hostages for its proper observance being
given on both sides.

On the ninth day Saint Surin, with forty horsemen, dashed through
the enemy's lines and rode into the town; thus relieving De Piles
from the necessity of surrendering. The hostages were returned on
both sides, and the siege recommenced.

Attack after attack was repulsed, with heavy loss; several of the
bravest royalist officers, among them the governor of Brittany,
being killed. The town was valiantly defended until the 2nd of
December, when De Piles, satisfied with having detained the royal
army seven weeks before the walls, and seeing no hope of relief,
surrendered on the same conditions that had before been agreed on.
Its capture had cost the Duc d'Anjou 6000 men, about half of whom
had fallen by disease, the rest in the assaults; and the delay had
entirely defeated the object of the campaign.

The gates were opened, and the little body of defenders marched
out, with colours flying. One of the conditions of surrender had
been that they should not serve again during the war.

The Duc d'Aumale, and other officers, endeavoured to ensure the
observance of the condition of their safe conduct through the
Catholic lines; but the soldiers, furious at seeing the handful of
men who had inflicted such loss upon them going off in safety,
attacked them, and nearly a hundred were killed--a number equal to
the loss they had suffered throughout the whole siege. De Piles
with the rest were, by their own exertions and those of some of the
Catholic leaders, enabled to make their way through, and rode to
Angouleme.

There De Piles sent a letter demanding the severe punishment of
those who had broken the terms of the surrender; but, no attention
having been paid to his demand, he sent a herald to the king to
declare that, in consequence of the breach of the conditions, he
and those with him considered themselves absolved from their
undertaking not to carry arms during the war; and he then rode
away, with his followers, to join the Admiral.

The French army rapidly fell to pieces. With winter at hand, it was
in vain to attempt the siege of La Rochelle. Philip of Spain and
the pope ordered the troops they had supplied to return home,
alleging that the victory of Moncontour, of which they had received
the most exaggerated reports, had virtually terminated the war. The
German and Swiss troops were allowed to leave the service, and the
nobles and their retainers were granted permission to do the same,
until the spring. Thus the whole fruits of the victory of
Moncontour were annihilated by the heroic defence of Saint Jean
d'Angely.

In the meantime, the Admiral had been moving south. In order to cross
the rivers he had marched westward, and so made a circuit to Montauban,
the stronghold of the Huguenots in the south. Moving westward he joined
the Count of Montgomery at Aiguillon, and returned with him to Montauban,
where he received many reinforcements; until his army amounted to some
twenty-one thousand men, of whom six thousand were cavalry.

At the end of January they marched to Toulouse, a city with an evil
fame, as the centre of persecuting bigotry in the south of France.
It was too strong to be attacked; but the country round it was
ravaged, and all the country residences of the members of its
parliament destroyed. Then they marched westward to Nismes, sending
marauding expeditions into the Catholic districts, and even into
Spain, in revenge for the assistance the king had given the
Catholics. De Piles and his party had joined the Admiral at
Montauban, and the former commanded the force that penetrated into
Spain.

Coligny turned north, marched up the Rhone, surmounting every
obstacle of mountain and river; until he reached Burgundy, arriving
at Saint Etienne-sur-Loire on the 26th of May. Here they were met
by messengers from the court, which was in a state of consternation
at the steady approach of an enemy they had regarded as crushed;
and were ready, in their alarm, to promise anything. The Admiral
fell dangerously ill and, at the news, the king at once broke off
the negotiations. He recovered, however, and, advancing, met the
royal army, under Marshal Cosse, in the neighbourhood of the town
of Arnay de Duc.

Coligny's army had dwindled away during its terrible march, and it
consisted now of only two thousand horsemen and two thousand five
hundred arquebusiers, the cannon being all left behind. Cosse had
ten thousand infantry, of whom four thousand were Swiss; three
thousand cavalry, and twelve cannon. The armies took post on the
hills on opposite sides of a valley, through which ran a stream fed
by some small ponds. The Royalists commenced the attack but, after
fighting obstinately for seven hours, were compelled to fall back
with heavy loss.

A fresh body was then directed against an intrenchment the
Huguenots had thrown up, near the ponds. Here again the fighting
was long and obstinate, but at last the Catholics were repulsed.

The next morning both armies drew up in order of battle; but
neither would advance to the attack, as the ground offered such
advantages to those who stood on the defensive; and they
accordingly returned to their camps.

The Admiral, being unwilling to fight till he received
reinforcements, marched away to La Charite; where he was
reorganizing his force, when a truce of ten days was made. At the
end of that time he again marched north and, distributing his
soldiers in the neighbourhood of Montargis, took up his quarters at
his castle of Chatillon-sur-Loing, where he remained while
negotiations were going on.



Chapter 18: A Visit Home.


While Coligny had been accomplishing his wonderful march round
France, La Noue, who had been exchanged for Strozzi, had betaken
himself to La Rochelle. He forced the Catholics, who were still
languidly blockading that place, to fall back; defeated them near
Lucon, and recaptured Fontenay, Niort, the Isle of Oleron, Brouage,
and Saintes. At Fontenay, however, the brave Huguenot leader had
his left arm broken, and was obliged to have it amputated.

Negotiations were now being carried on in earnest. Charles the
Ninth was weary of a war that impoverished the state, diminished
his revenues, and forced him to rely upon the Guises, whom he
feared and disliked. Over and over again, he had been assured that
the war was practically at an end, and the Huguenots crushed; but
as often, fresh armies rose. The cities that had been taken with so
much difficulty had again fallen into their hands, and Paris itself
was menaced.

The princes of Germany wrote, begging him to make peace; and
although the terms fell far short of what the Huguenots hoped and
desired, the concessions were large and, could they have depended
upon the good faith of the court, their lives would have at least
been tolerable. A complete amnesty was granted, and a royal command
issued that the Protestants were to be exposed to neither insults
nor recriminations, and were to be at liberty to profess their
faith openly.

Freedom of worship was, however, restricted within very small
proportions. The nobles of high rank were permitted to name a
place, belonging to them, where religious services could be
performed. As long as they or their families were present, these
services could be attended by all persons in their jurisdiction.
Other nobles were allowed to have services, but only for their
families and friends, not exceeding twelve in number. Twenty-four
towns were named, two in each of the principal provinces, in which
Protestant services were allowed; the privilege being extended to
all the towns of which the Huguenots had possession, at the
signature of the truce.

All property, honours, and offices were restored, and judicial
decisions against their holders annulled. The four towns, La
Rochelle, Montauban, Cognac, and La Charite were, for two years, to
remain in the hands of the Huguenots, to serve as places of refuge.
The edict, in which the king promulgated the terms of peace, stated
the conditions to be perpetual and irrevocable.

The Huguenots had the more hope that the peace would be preserved,
since Montmorency, who was an opponent of the Guises, and had done
his best to bring about peace, was high in favour with the king;
and indeed, held the chief power in France.

There can be little doubt that, at the time, the king was in
earnest. He ordered the parliament of Paris to annul a declaration
they had made, declaring the Cardinal Chatillon, the Admiral's
brother, deprived of his bishopric; and as it hesitated, he ordered
its president to bring the records to him, and with his own hand
tore out the pages upon which the proceedings were entered.

The priests, throughout France, threw every obstacle in the way of
the recognition of the edict; and in several places there were
popular disturbances, and wholesale massacres. Paris, as usual, set
the example of turbulence and bigotry.

As soon as the peace was concluded, Philip prepared to return for a
while to England. In the three years which had elapsed since he
left home, he had greatly changed. He had been a lad of sixteen
when he landed in France. He was now a tall, powerful young fellow.
Although still scarcely beyond the age of boyhood, he had acquired
the bearing and manners of a man. He stood high in the confidence
of Coligny, and the other Huguenot leaders; was a special favourite
with the young Prince of Navarre, and his cousin Conde; and had
received the honour of knighthood, at the hands of one of the
greatest captains of his age.

"You had better stay, Philip," his cousin urged. "You may be sure
that this peace will be as hollow as those which preceded it. There
will never be a lasting one until we have taken Paris, and taught
the bloodthirsty mob there that it is not only women and children
who profess the reformed religion, but men who have swords in their
hands and can use them."

"If the troubles break out again, I shall hasten back, Francois;
indeed, I think that in any case I shall return for a while, ere
long. I do not see what I could do at home. My good uncle Gaspard
has been purchasing land for me, but I am too young to play the
country gentleman."

"Nonsense, Philip. There have been plenty of young nobles in our
ranks who, if your seniors in years, look no older than you do, and
are greatly your inferiors in strength. They are feudal lords on
their estates, and none deem them too young."

"Because they have always been feudal nobles, Francois. I go back
to a place where I was, but three years ago, a boy at school. My
comrades there are scarcely grown out of boyhood. It will seem to
them ridiculous that I should return Sir Philip Fletcher; and were
I to set up as a country squire, they would laugh in my face. Until
I am at least of age, I should not dream of this; and five-and-twenty
would indeed be quite time for me to settle down there.

"Here it is altogether different. I was introduced as your cousin,
and as a son of one of noble French family; and to our friends here
it is no more remarkable that I should ride behind Coligny, and
talk with the princes of Navarre and Conde, than that you should do
so. But at home it would be different; and I am sure that my father
and mother, my uncle and aunt will agree with me that it is best I
should not settle down, yet. Therefore I propose, in any case, to
return soon.

"I agree with you there will be troubles again here, before long.
If not, there is likely enough to be war with Spain, for they say
Philip is furious at toleration having been granted to the
Huguenots; and in that case there will be opportunities for us, and
it will be much pleasanter fighting against Spaniards than against
Frenchmen.

"If there are neither fresh troubles here, nor war with Spain, I
shall go and join the Dutch in their struggle against the
Spaniards. Prince Louis of Nassau told me that he would willingly
have me to ride behind him; and the Prince of Orange, to whom the
Admiral presented me, also spoke very kindly. They, like you, are
fighting for the reformed faith and freedom of worship and, cruel
as are the persecutions you have suffered in France, they are as
nothing to the wholesale massacres by Alva."

"In that case, Philip, I will not try to detain you; but at any
rate, wait a few months before you take service in Holland, and pay
us another visit before you decide upon doing so."

Philip journeyed quietly across the north of France, and took
passage to Dover for himself and his horses. Pierre accompanied
him, taking it so greatly to heart, when he spoke of leaving him,
behind that Philip consented to keep him; feeling, indeed, greatly
loath to part from one who had, for three years, served him so
well. The two men-at-arms were transferred to Francois' troop, both
being promised that, if Philip rode to the wars again in France,
they and their comrades now at Laville should accompany him.

From Dover Philip rode to Canterbury. He saw in the streets he
passed through many faces he knew, among them some of his former
schoolfellows; and he wondered to himself that these were so little
changed, while he was so altered that none recognized, in the
handsomely dressed young cavalier, the lad they had known; although
several stopped to look at, and remark on, the splendid horses
ridden by the gentleman and his attendant.

He drew rein in front of Gaspard Vaillant's large establishment
and, dismounting, gave his reins to Pierre and entered. He passed
straight through the shop into the merchant's counting house.

[Illustration: Gaspard Vaillant gets a surprise.]

Gaspard looked up in surprise, at the entry of a gentleman
unannounced; looked hard at his visitor, and then uttered his name
and, rushing forward, embraced him warmly.

"I can hardly believe it is you," he exclaimed, holding Philip at
arm's length and gazing up in his face. "Why, you have grown a
veritable giant; and as fine a man as your father was, when I first
knew him; and you have returned Sir Philip, too. I don't know that
I was ever so pleased as when you sent me the news. I gave a
holiday to all the workmen, and we had a great fete.

"But of course, you cannot stop now. You will be wanting to go up
to your father and mother. Run upstairs and embrace Marie. We will
not keep you at present, but in an hour we will be up with you."

In a minute or two Philip ran down again.

"Pardieu, but you are well mounted, Philip," the merchant said, as
he sprang into the saddle. "These are the two horses, I suppose,
you told us about in your letters.

"And is this Pierre, who saved your life when you were captured at
Agen?"

"And a good many other times, uncle, by always managing to get hold
of a fat pullet when we were pretty near starving. I was always
afraid that, sooner or later, I should lose him; and that I should
find him, some morning or other, dangling from a tree to which the
provost marshal had strung him up."

"Then I shall see you in an hour."

And Philip galloped off to the farm.

The delight of Philip's parents, as he rode up to the house, was
great indeed. Philip saw, before he had been at home an hour, that
they were animated by somewhat different feelings. His mother was
full of gratitude, at his preservation through many dangers; and
was glad that he had been able to do some service to her persecuted
co-religionists--the fact that he had won great personal credit,
and had received the honour of knighthood at the hands of Coligny
himself, weighed as nothing in her eyes. It was otherwise with his
father. He was very proud that his boy had turned out a worthy
descendant of the fighting Kentish stock; and that he had shown, in
half-a-dozen fights against heavy odds, a courage as staunch as
that which his forefathers had exhibited at Cressy, Poitiers, and
Agincourt.

"Good blood tells, my boy," he said; "and you must have shown them
a rare sample of what an Englishman can do, before they knighted
you. I would rather you had won it in an English battle, but all
admit that there is no more capable chief in Europe than the
Huguenot Admiral. Certainly there are no English commanders of fame
or repute to compare with him; though if we ever get to blows with
the Spanish, we shall soon find men, I warrant me, who will match
the best of them.

"There was a deal of talk in Canterbury, I can tell you, when the
news came home; and many refugees who came through the town
declared that they had heard your name among those of the nobles
who rode with the Admiral, and the brave La Noue. Indeed, there are
two families settled here who fled from Niort, and these have told
how you and your cousin saved them from the Catholics.

"I warrant you they have told the tale often enough since they have
come here; and it has made quite a stir in Canterbury, and there is
not a week passes without some of your old school friends, who used
to come up here with you, running up to ask the last news of you,
and to hear your letters read; and it has been a pleasure to me to
read them, lad, and to see how they opened their eyes when they
heard that the Queen of Navarre and her son had given you presents,
and that you often rode with the young prince, and his cousin
Conde.

"You have changed, Philip, mightily; not in your face, for I see
but little alteration there, but in your manner and air. The boys
did not seem to understand how you, whom they looked on as one of
themselves, could be riding to battle with nobles and talking with
princes; but I think they will understand better, when they see
you. You look almost too fine for such simple people as we are,
Philip; though I do not say your clothes are not of sombre hues, as
might be expected from one fighting in the Huguenot ranks."

"I am sure, father," Philip laughed, "there is nothing fine about
me. I have gained knighthood, it is true; but a poorer knight never
sat in saddle, seeing that I have neither a square yard of land nor
a penny piece of my own, owing everything to the kindness of my
good uncle, and yourself."

"I must go out tomorrow morning, Philip, and look at those horses
of yours. They must be rare beasts, from what you say of them."

"That are they, father. Methinks I like the one I bought at
Rochelle even better than that which the Queen of Navarre bestowed
upon me; but I grieved sorely over the death of Victor, the horse
Francois gave me. I was riding him at the fight of Moncontour, and
he was shot through the head with a ball from a German arquebus."

Pierre had, as soon as they arrived, been welcomed and made much of
by Philip's mother; and was speedily seated in the post of honour
in the kitchen, where he astonished the French servants with tales
of his master's adventures, with many surprising additions which
had but slight basis of fact.

Gaspard Vaillant and his wife thought that Philip's parents would
like to have him, for a time, to themselves; and did not come up
for two or three hours after he had arrived.

"You will admit, John, that my plan has acted rarely," the merchant
said, when he was seated; "and that, as I prophesied, it has made a
man of him. What would he have been, if he had stayed here?"

"He would, I hope, brother Gaspard," Lucie said gravely, "have been
what he is now--a gentleman."

"No doubt, Lucie. He promised as much as that, before he went; but
he is more than that now. He has been the companion of nobles, and
has held his own with them; and if he should go to court, now, he
would do honour to your family and his, though he rubbed shoulders
with the best of them.

"And now, what are you thinking of doing next, Philip? You will
hardly care to settle down among us here, after such a life as you
have led for the last three years."

Philip repeated the views he had expressed to Francois de Laville,
and his plans were warmly approved by his uncle and father; though
his mother folded her hands, and shook her head sadly.

"The lad is right, Lucie," the merchant said.

"He is lord now of the Holford estates--for the deeds are completed
and signed, Philip, making them over to you. But I agree heartily
with your feeling that you are too young, yet, to assume their
mastership. I have a good steward there looking after things,
seeing that all goes well, and that the house is kept in order. But
it is best, as you say, that a few years should pass before you go
to reside there. We need not settle, for a time, whether you shall
return to France, or go to see service with those sturdy Dutchmen
against the Spaniards. But I should say that it is best you should
go where you have already made a name, and gained many friends.

"There is no saying, yet, how matters will go there. Charles is but
a puppet in the hands of Catherine de Medici; and with the pope,
and Philip of Spain, and the Guises always pushing her on, she will
in time persuade the king, who at present earnestly wishes for
peace, to take fresh measures against the Huguenots. She is never
happy unless she is scheming, and you will see she will not be long
before she begins to make trouble, again."

The news spread quickly through Canterbury that Philip Fletcher had
returned, and the next day many of his old friends came up to see
him. At first they were a little awed by the change that had come
over him, and one or two of them even addressed him as Sir Philip.
But the shout of laughter, with which he received this well-meant
respect, showed them that he was their old schoolfellow still; and
soon set them at their ease with him.

"We didn't think, Philip," one of them said, "when you used to take
the lead in our fights with the boys of the town, that you would be
so soon fighting in earnest, in France; and that in three years you
would have gained knighthood."

"I did not think so myself, Archer. You used to call me Frenchie,
you know; but I did not think, at the time, that I was likely ever
to see France. I should like to have had my old band behind me, in
some of the fights we had there. I warrant you would have given as
hard knocks as you got, and would have held your own there, as well
as you did many a time in the fights in the Cloisters.

"Let us go and lie down under the shade of that tree, there. It
used to be our favourite bank, you know, in hot weather; and you
shall ask as many questions as you like, and I will answer as best
I can."

"And be sure, Philip, to bring all your friends in to supper," John
Fletcher said. "I warrant your mother will find plenty for them to
eat. She never used to have any difficulty about that, in the old
times; and I don't suppose their appetites are sharper, now, than
they were then."

Philip spent six months at home. A few days after his return many
of the country gentry, who had not known John Fletcher, called on
Philip, as one who had achieved a reputation that did honour to the
county--for every detail of the Huguenot struggle had been closely
followed, in England; and more than one report had been brought
over, by emigres, of the bravery of a young Englishman who was held
in marked consideration by Admiral Coligny, and had won a name for
himself, even among the nobles and gentlemen who rode with that
dashing officer De La Noue, whose fame was second only to that of
the Admiral. Walsingham, the English ambassador at Paris, had heard
of him from La Noue himself, when he was a prisoner there; and
mentioned him in one of his despatches, saying that it was this
gentleman who had been chosen, by Coligny, to carry important
despatches both to the Queen of Navarre and the Duc de Deux-Ponts,
and had succeeded admirably in both these perilous missions; and
that he had received knighthood, at the hands of the Admiral, for
the valour with which he had covered the retreat at the battle of
Jarnac.

Philip was, at first, disposed to meet these advances coldly.

"They have not recognized you or my mother, father, as being of
their own rank."

"Nor have we been, Philip. I am but a petty landowner, while it is
already known that you are the owner of a considerable estate; and
have gained consideration and credit, and as a knight have right to
precedence over many of them. If you had intended to settle in
France, you could do as you like as to accepting their courtesies;
but as it is, it is as well that you should make the acquaintance
of those with whom you will naturally associate, when you take up
your residence on the estate your uncle has bought for you.

"Had your mother and I a grievance against them, it might be
different; but we have none. We Fletchers have been yeomen here for
many generations. In our own rank, we esteem ourselves as good as
the best; but we never thought of pushing ourselves out of our own
station, and in the ordinary course of things you would have lived
and died as your fathers have done. The change has come about,
first through my marrying a French wife of noble blood, though with
but a small share of this world's goods; secondly through her
sister's husband making a large fortune in trade, and adopting you
as his heir; and thirdly, through your going out to your mother's
relations, and distinguishing yourself in the war. Thus you stand
in an altogether different position to that which I held.

"You are a man with an estate. You are noble, on your mother's
side. You are a knight, and have gained the approval of great
captains and princes. Therefore it is only meet and right that you
should take your place among the gentry; and it would be not only
churlish to refuse to accept their civilities now, but altogether
in opposition to the course which your uncle planned for you."

Philip therefore accepted the civilities offered to him, and was
invited to entertainments at many of the great houses in that part
of the county; where, indeed, he was made a good deal of--his fine
figure, the ease and courtesy of his bearing, and the reputation he
had gained for bravery, rendering him a general favourite.

At the end of six months he received a letter from his cousin,
urging him to return.

"Spring has now begun, Philip. At present things are going on
quietly, and the king seems determined that the peace shall be
kept. The Constable Montmorency is still very high in favour, and
the Guises are sulking on their estates. The Huguenot nobles are
all well received at court, where they go in numbers, to pay their
respect to the king and to assure him of their devotion. I have
been there with my mother, and the king was mightily civil, and
congratulated me on having been knighted by Coligny. We were
present at his majesty's marriage with the daughter of the Emperor
of Germany. The show was a very fine one, and everything pleasant.

"There is a report that, in order to put an end to all further
troubles, and to bind both parties in friendship, the king has
proposed a marriage between his sister Marguerite and Henry of
Navarre. We all trust that it will take place, for it will indeed
be a grand thing for us of the reformed faith.

"It is rumoured that Queen Jeanne is by no means eager for the
match, fearing that Henry, once at Paris, will abandon the simple
customs in which he has been brought up; and may even be led away,
by the influence of Marguerite and the court, to abandon his faith.
Her first fear, I think, is likely enough to be realized; for it
seems to me that he has been brought up somewhat too strictly, and
being, I am sure, naturally fond of pleasure, he is likely enough
to share in the gaieties of the court of Paris. As to her other
fear, I cannot think there is foundation for it. Henry is certainly
ambitious and very politic, and he has talked often and freely with
me, when we have been alone together. He has spoken, once or twice,
of his chances of succeeding to the throne of France. They are not
great, seeing that three lives stand between it and him and, now
that the king has married, they are more remote than before. Still
there is the chance; and he once said to me:

"'One thing seems to me to be certain, Francois: supposing Charles
of Valois and his two brothers died without leaving heirs, France
would not accept a Huguenot king. There would be the Guises, and
the priests, and the papacy, and Spain all thrown in the scale
against him.'

"'That is likely enough, prince,' I said; 'and methinks your lot
would be preferable, as King of Navarre, to that of King of France.
However, happily there is no reason for supposing that the king and
his two brothers will die without heirs.'

"He did not speak for some time, but sat there thinking. You know
the way he has. Methinks, Philip, that when he comes to man's
estate, and is King of Navarre, the Guises will find in him a very
different opponent to deal with than the leaders of the Huguenots
have been so far.

"The Admiral is so honest and loyal and truthful, himself, that he
is ill fitted to match the subtlety of the queen mother, or the
deceit and falsehood of the Guises. The Queen of Navarre is a
heroine and a saint but, although a wise woman, she is no match for
intriguers. Conde was a gallant soldier, but he hated politics.

"Henry of Navarre will be an opponent of another sort. When I first
knew him, I thought him the frankest and simplest of young princes;
and that is what most think him, still. But I am sure he is much
more than that. Having been about his person for months, and being
the youngest of his companions--most of whom were stern, earnest
Huguenot nobles--he was a great deal with me, and talked with me as
he did not with the others. It seems to me that he has two
characters: the one what he seems to be--light hearted, merry,
straightforward, and outspoken; the other thoughtful, astute,
ambitious, and politic, studying men closely, and adapting himself
to their moods.

"I don't pretend to understand him at all--he is altogether beyond
me; but I am sure he will be a great leader, some day. I think you
would understand him better than I should, and I know he thinks so,
too. Of course, you had your own duties all through the campaign,
and saw but little of him; but more than once he said:

"'I wish I had your English cousin with me. I like you much,
Laville; but your cousin is more like myself, and I should learn
much of him. You are brave and merry and good-tempered, and so is
he; but he has a longer head than you have,'--which I know is quite
true--'you would be quite content to spend your life at court,
Francois; where you would make a good figure, and would take things
as they come. He would not. If he did not like things he would
intrigue, he would look below the surface, he would join a party,
he would be capable of waiting, biding his time. I am only
seventeen, Francois; but it is of all things the most important for
a prince to learn to read men, and to study their characters, and I
am getting on.

"'Your cousin is not ambitious. He would never conspire for his own
advantage, but he would be an invaluable minister and adviser, to a
prince in difficulties. The Admiral meant well, but he was wrong in
refusing to let me have Philip Fletcher. When I am my own master I
will have him, if I can catch him; but I do not suppose that I
shall, because of that very fault of not being ambitious. He has
made his own plans, and is bent, as he told me, on returning to
England; and nothing that I can offer him will, I am sure, alter
his determination. But it is a pity, a great pity.'

"By all this you see, Philip, that those who think the Prince of
Navarre merely a merry, careless young fellow, who is likely to
rule his little kingdom in patriarchal fashion; and to trouble
himself with nothing outside, so long as his subjects are contented
and allowed to worship in their own way, are likely to find
themselves sorely mistaken. However, if you come over soon, you
will be able to judge for yourself.

"The Queen of Navarre saw a great deal of the countess, my mother,
when they were at La Rochelle together; and has invited her to pay
her a visit at Bearn, and the prince has requested me to accompany
her. Of course if you come over you will go with us, and will be
sure of a hearty welcome from Henry. We shall have some good
hunting, and there is no court grandeur, and certainly no more
state than we have at our chateau. In fact, my good mother is a
much more important personage, there, than is Jeanne of Navarre at
Bearn."

This letter hastened Philip's departure. The prospect of hunting in
the mountains of Navarre was a pleasant one. He liked the young
prince; and had, in the short time he had been his companion,
perceived that there was much more in him than appeared on the
surface; and that, beside his frank bonhomie manner, there was a
fund of shrewdness and common sense. Moreover, without being
ambitious, it is pleasant for a young man to know that one, who may
some day be a great prince, has conceived a good opinion of him.

He took Francois' letter down to his uncle Gaspard, and read
portions of it to him. Gaspard sat thoughtful, for some time, after
he had finished.

"It is new to me," he said at last. "I believed the general report
that Henry of Navarre was a frank, careless young fellow, fond of
the chase, and, like his mother, averse to all court ceremony;
likely enough to make a good soldier, but without ambition, and
without marked talent. If what Francois says is true--and it seems
that you are inclined to agree with him--it may make a great
difference in the future of France. The misfortune of the
Huguenots, hitherto, has been that they have been ready to fall
into any trap that the court of France might set for them and, on
the strength of a few hollow promises, to throw away all the
advantages they had gained by their efforts and courage, in spite
of their experience that those promises were always broken, as soon
as they laid down their arms.

"In such an unequal contest they must always be worsted and, honest
and straightforward themselves, they are no match for men who have
neither truth nor conscience. If they had but a leader as politic
and astute as the queen mother and the Guises, they might possibly
gain their ends. If Henry of Navarre turns out a wise and politic
prince, ready to match his foes with their own weapons, he may win
for the Huguenots what they will never gain with their own swords.

"But mind you, they will hardly thank him for it. My wife and your
mother would be horrified were I to say that, as a Catholic, Henry
of Navarre would be able to do vastly more, to heal the long open
sore and to secure freedom of worship for the Huguenots, than he
ever could do as a Huguenot. Indeed, I quite agree with what he
says, that as a Huguenot he can never hold the throne of France."

Philip uttered an exclamation of indignation.

"You cannot think, uncle, that he will ever change his religion?"

"I know nothing about him, beyond what you and your cousin say,
Philip. There are Huguenots, and Huguenots. There are men who would
die at the stake, rather than give up one iota of their faith.
There are men who think that the Reformed faith is better and purer
than the Catholic, but who nevertheless would be willing to make
considerable concessions, in the interest of peace. You must
remember that, when princes and princesses marry, they generally
embrace the faith of their husbands; and when, lately, Queen
Elizabeth was talking of marrying the Prince of Anjou, she made it
one of the conditions that he should turn Protestant, and the
demand was not considered to be insurmountable. It may be that the
time will come when Henry of Navarre may consider the throne of
France, freedom of worship, and a general peace, cheaply purchased
at the cost of attending mass. If he does so, doubtless the
Huguenots would be grieved and indignant; but so far as they are
concerned, it would be the best thing. But of course, we are only
talking now of what he might do, should nought but his religion
stand between him and the throne of France. As King of Navarre,
simply, his interest would be all the other way, and he would
doubtless remain a staunch Huguenot.

"Of course, Philip, I am speaking without knowing this young
prince. I am simply arguing as to what an astute and politic man,
in his position, not over earnest as to matters of faith, would be
likely to do."

Three days later, Philip rode to London with Pierre and embarked
for La Rochelle. His uncle had amply supplied him with funds, but
his father insisted upon his taking a handsome sum from him.

"Although you did not require much money before, Philip--and
Gaspard told me that you did not draw, from his agent at La
Rochelle, a third of the sum he had placed for you in his hands--it
will be different now. You had no expenses before, save the pay of
your men, and the cost of their food and your own; but in time of
peace there are many expenses, and I would not that you should be,
in any way, short of money. You can place the greater portion of it
in the hands of Maitre Bertram, and draw it as you require. At any
rate, it is better in your hands than lying in that chest in the
corner. Your mother and I have no need for it, and it would take
away half her pleasure in her work, were the earnings not used
partly for your advantage."

The ship made a quick run to La Rochelle, and the next morning
Philip rode for Laville. He had not been there since the battle of
Moncontour; and although he knew that it had been burnt by the
Royalists, shortly afterwards, it gave him a shock to see, as he
rode through the gate, how great a change had taken place. The
central portion had been repaired, but the walls were still
blackened with smoke. The wings stood empty and roofless, and the
ample stables, storehouses, and buildings for the retainers had
disappeared.

His aunt received him with great kindness, and Francois was
delighted to see him again.

"Yes, it is a change, Philip," the countess said, as she saw his
eyes glancing round the apartment. "However, I have grown
accustomed to it, and scarce notice it now. Fortunately I have
ample means for rebuilding the chateau, for I have led a quiet life
for some years; and as the count my husband, being a Huguenot, was
not near the court from the time the troubles began, our revenues
have for a long time been accumulating; and much of it has been
sent to my sister's husband, and has been invested by him in
England. There Francois agrees with me that it should remain.

"There is at present peace here, but who can say how long it will
last? One thing is certain, that should war break out again, it
will centre round La Rochelle; and I might be once more forced to
leave the chateau at the mercy of the Royalists. It would, then, be
folly to spend a crown upon doing more than is sufficient for our
necessities. We only keep such retainers as are absolutely
necessary for our service. There are but eight horses in the
stables, the rest are all out on the farms and, should the troubles
recommence, we shall soon find riders for them."

"You have just arrived in time, Philip," Francois said presently,
"for we start at the end of this week for Bearn and, although you
could have followed us, I am right glad that you have arrived in
time to ride with us. All your men are still here."

"I saw Eustace and Henri, as I rode in," Philip said.

"The other two work in the garden. Of course, their days for
fighting are over. They could doubtless strike a blow in defence of
the chateau, but they have not recovered sufficiently from their
wounds ever to ride as men-at-arms again. However, two will suffice
for your needs, at present.

"I shall take four of my own men, for the country is still far from
safe for travelling. Many of the disbanded soldiers have turned
robbers and, although the royal governors hunt down and string up
many, they are still so numerous that travellers from one town to
another always journey in strong parties, for protection.

"How did Pierre get on, in England?"

"He was glad to return here again, Francois; although he got on
well enough, as our house servants are French, as are also many of
those on the farm, and he became quite a favourite with every one.
But he is of a restless nature, and grew tired of idleness."

Three days later, the party set out from Laville. The countess rode
on horseback, and her female attendant en croupe behind one of the
troopers. They journeyed by easy stages, stopping sometimes at
hostelries in the towns, but more often at chateaux belonging to
gentlemen known to the countess or her son. They several times came
upon groups of rough-looking men; but the two gentlemen, their
servants, and the six fully-armed retainers were a force too
formidable to be meddled with, and they arrived safely at Bearn.

The royal abode was a modest building, far less stately than was
Laville, before its ruin. It stood a short distance out of the
town, where they had left the men-at-arms, with instructions to
find lodgings for themselves and their horses. As they arrived at
the entrance, Prince Henri himself ran down the steps, in a dress
as plain as that which would be worn by an ordinary citizen.

"Welcome to Bearn," he said. "It is a modest palace, countess; and
I am a much less important person, here, than when I was supposed
to be commanding our army."

He assisted her to alight, and then rang a bell. A man came round
from the back of the house, and took the horse from Pierre, who was
holding it; while Henri entered the house with the countess. A
minute later, he ran out from the house again.

"Now that I have handed over the countess to my mother, I can speak
to you both," he said heartily. "I am pleased to see you, Francois,
and you too, Monsieur Philip."

"My cousin insisted on my coming with him, prince, and assured me
that you would not be displeased at the liberty. But of course, I
intend to quarter myself in the town."

"You will do no such thing," the prince said. "We are poor in
Bearn, as poor as church mice; but not so poor that we cannot
entertain a friend. Your bedroom is prepared for you."

Philip looked surprised.

"You don't suppose," the prince said, laughing, "that people can
come and go, in this kingdom of ours, without being noticed. We are
weak, and for that very reason we must be on our guard. Half the
people who come here come for a purpose. They come from the king,
or from Philip of Spain, or from the Guises, and most of them mean
mischief of some sort. So you see, we like to know beforehand and,
unless they ride very fast, we are sure to get twenty-four hours'
notice before they arrive.

"Then, you see, if we want a little more time, a horse may cast its
shoe, or some of the baggage may be missing, or perhaps an
important paper somehow gets mislaid. It is curious how often these
things happen. Then, when they arrive here they find that I have,
as usual, gone off for a fortnight's hunting among the mountains;
and that, perhaps, my mother has started for Nerac.

"We heard yesterday morning that you had crossed the frontier, and
that the countess had with her her son, and a big young Englishman,
whose identity I had no difficulty in guessing."

"And we met with no misfortunes by the way, prince," Francois said,
smiling.

"No," the prince laughed, "these things do not happen always."

They had so far stood on the steps, chatting. The two servants had
followed the lackey, with their own and their masters' horses. The
prince led the way indoors, and they were heartily welcomed by the
queen, who kept no more state at Bearn than would be observed by
any petty nobleman in France.

On the following day, the two friends started with the prince for
the mountains; and were away for three weeks, during which time
they hunted the wild boar, killed several wolves, and shot five or
six wild goats. They were attended only by two or three huntsmen,
and their three personal servants. They slept sometimes in the huts
of shepherds, or charcoal burners; sometimes in the forest, in
spite of the cold, which was often severe.

"What do you say about this marriage which is being arranged for
me?" the prince asked suddenly, one night, as they were sitting by
a huge fire in the forest.

"It ought to be a great thing for the Reformed religion, if it is
agreeable to your highness," Francois said cautiously.

"A politic answer, Monsieur de Laville.

"What say you, Philip?"

"It is a matter too deep for me to venture an opinion," Philip
said. "There is doubtless much to be said, on both sides. For
example--you are a fisherman, prince?"

"Only moderately so, Philip; but what has that to do with it?"

"I would say, sir, that when a fisherman hooks an exceedingly large
fish, it is just possible that, instead of landing it, the fish may
pull him into the water."

The prince laughed.

"You have hit it exactly, Monsieur Philip. That is just the way I
look at it. Marguerite of Valois is, indeed, a very big fish
compared with the Prince of Bearn; and it is not only she who would
pull, but there are others, and even bigger fish, who would pull
with her. My good mother has fears that, if I once tasted the
gaieties of the court of France, I should be ruined, body and soul.

"Now I have rather an inclination for the said gaieties, and that
prospect does not terrify me as it does her. But there are things
which alarm me, more than gaieties. There is the king who, except
when he occasionally gets into a rage, and takes his own course, is
but a tool in the hands of Catharine de Medici. There is Anjou, who
made a jest of the dead body of my uncle Conde. There are Lorraine
and the Guises, there are the priests, and there is the turbulent
mob of Paris. It seems to me that, instead of being the fisherman,
I should be like a very small fish, enclosed in a very strong net."

And he looked thoughtfully into the fire.

"The king is, at present, with us; but his plighted word is worth
nothing."

"But once married," Francois said, "you would have the princess on
your side, and being then brother-in-law to the king, you would be
safe from attack."

"The king has no great love for his own brothers," Henri said; "but
I am not supposing that even Charles would lay hands on me, after
inviting me to his court to marry his sister. He would not venture
upon that, before the eyes of all Europe. It is the strain and the
pressure that I fear. A girl who is sent to a nunnery, however much
she may hate becoming a nun, can no more escape than a fly from the
meshes of a spider. I doubt not that it seems, to all the Huguenots
of France, that for me to marry Marguerite of Valois would be more
than a great victory won for their cause; but I have my doubts.
However, in a matter like this I am not a free agent.

"The Huguenot lords are all delighted at the prospect. My mother is
still undecided. You see, I am practically as much in a net, here,
as I shall be at Paris, if this marriage is made. I am rather glad
the decision does not rest with me. I shall simply go with the
stream; some day, perhaps, I shall be strong enough to swim against
it. I hope that, at any rate, if I ride to Paris to marry
Marguerite of Valois, you will both accompany me."



Chapter 19: In A Net.


After their return from hunting, they remained for another
fortnight at Bearn; and then started, the countess and Francois to
return home, and Philip to pay a visit to the Count de Valecourt,
at his chateau in Dauphiny, in accordance with the promise he had
given him to visit him on his return to France. Here he remained
for a month. The count treated him with the warmest hospitality,
and introduced him to all his friends as the saviour of his
daughter.

Claire had grown much since he had seen her, when he had ridden
over with her father to Landres, a year before. She was now nearly
sixteen, and was fast growing into womanhood.

Philip was already acquainted with many of the nobles and gentry of
Dauphiny who had joined the Admiral's army and, after leaving
Valecourt, he stayed for a short time at several of their chateaux;
and it was autumn before he joined Francois at Laville. The
inhabited portion of the chateau had been enlarged and made more
comfortable, for the king was still firm in his decision that peace
should be preserved, and showed marked favour to the section of the
court that opposed any persecution of the Huguenots. He had further
shown his desire for the friendship of the Protestant powers by the
negotiations that had been carried on for the marriage of the Duke
of Anjou to Queen Elizabeth.

"I have news for you," Francois said. "The king has invited the
Admiral to visit him. It has, of course, been a matter of great
debate whether Coligny should trust himself at court, many of his
friends strongly dissuading him; but he deems it best, in the
interests of our religion, that he should accept the invitation;
and he is going to set out next week for Blois, where the king now
is with the court. He will take only a few of his friends with him.
He is perfectly aware of the risk he runs but, to those who entreat
him not to trust himself at court, he says his going there may be a
benefit to the cause, and that his life is as nothing in the scale.
However, he has declined the offers that have been made by many
gentlemen to accompany him, and only three or four of his personal
friends ride with him."

"No doubt he acts wisely, there," Philip said. "It would be
well-nigh destruction to our cause, should anything befall him now;
and the fewer of our leaders in Charles's hands, the less
temptation to the court to seize them.

"But I do think it possible that good may come of Coligny, himself,
going there. He exercises wonderful influence over all who come in
contact with him, and he may be able to counterbalance the
intrigues of the Catholic party, and confirm the king in his
present good intentions towards us."

"I saw him two days ago, and offered to ride in his train,"
Francois said; "but he refused, decidedly, to let me.

"'The friends who will accompany me,' he said, 'have, like myself,
well-nigh done their work. The future is for you and those who are
young. I cannot dream that the king would do wrong to invited
guests; but should aught happen, the blow shall fall upon none of
those who should be the leaders of the next generation.'"

The news of the reception of the Admiral, at Blois, was anxiously
awaited by the Huguenots of the west; and there was great joy when
they heard that he had been received most graciously by the king,
who had embraced him, and protested that he regarded it as one of
the happiest days in his life; as he saw, in his return to his
side, the end of trouble and an assurance of future tranquillity.
Even Catharine de Medici received the Admiral with warmth. The king
presented him, from his private purse, with the large sum of a
hundred thousand livres; to make good some of the great losses he
had suffered in the war. He also ordered that he should receive,
for a year, the revenues of his brother the cardinal, who had
lately died; and appointed him guardian of one of the great
estates, during the minority of its heir--a post which brought with
it considerable profits.

At Coligny's suggestion, Charles wrote to the Duke of Savoy
interceding for the Waldenses, who were being persecuted cruelly
for having assisted the Huguenots of France.

So angered were the Guises, by the favour with which the king
treated the Admiral, that they retired from court; and the king was
thus left entirely to the influence of Montmorency and Coligny. The
ambassador of Spain, who was further angered by Charles granting
interviews to Louis of Nassau, and by his holding out hopes to the
Dutch of assistance in their struggle against Alva, also left
France in deep dudgeon, and with threats of war.

The result was, naturally, to cause a better state of feeling
throughout France. Persecutions everywhere ceased; and the
Huguenots, for the first time for many years, were able to live in
peace, and without fear of their neighbours.

The negotiations for the marriage between the Prince of Navarre and
Marguerite de Valois continued. The prince was now eighteen and a
half, and the princess twenty. The idea of a marriage between them
was of old standing, for it had been proposed by Henry the Second,
fifteen years before; but at the outbreak of the Huguenot troubles
it had been dropped. Marshal Biron was sent by the king with the
royal proposals to the Queen of Navarre, who was now at La
Rochelle. The queen expressed her gratitude for the honour offered
to her son, but prayed for time before giving a decided answer, in
order that she might consult the ministers of her religion as to
whether such a marriage might be entered into, by one of the
Reformed religion.

The news of the proposed marriage, and also of the negotiations
that had been opened for a marriage between Elizabeth of England
and the Duc d'Alencon, created the greatest alarm throughout the
Catholic world. A legate was sent to Charles by the pope, to
protest against it. Sebastian, King of Portugal, who had refused
the hand of Marguerite when it had before been offered to him,
reopened negotiations for it; while Philip of Spain did all in his
power to throw obstacles in the way of the match.

The ministers of the Reformed religion, consulted by the queen,
considered that the marriage of Henry to Marguerite would be of
vast benefit to the Huguenot cause; and declared that a mixed
marriage was lawful. The English ambassador gave his strongest
support to it, and the Queen of Navarre now entered upon the
negotiations in earnest, and went to Blois for the purpose.

The differences were entirely religious ones, the court insisting
that Henri, while living at Paris with his wife, should consent to
be deprived of all means of worshipping according to his own
religion; while Marguerite, while in Bearn, should be guaranteed
permission to have mass celebrated there. The king would have been
ready to waive both conditions; but Catherine who, after at first
favouring the match, now threw every obstacle in its way, was
opposed to any conclusion. She refused to permit the Queen of
Navarre to have any interview with either Charles or Marguerite,
unless she was also present; and hesitated at no falsehoods,
however outrageous, in order to thwart the efforts of Jeanne and
her friends.

The pious queen, however, was more troubled by the extreme and open
profligacy of the court than by the political difficulties she
encountered and, in her letters, implored her son to insist upon
residing at Bearn with his wife, and on no account to take up his
abode at Paris.

However, at last the difficulties were removed. The court abandoned
its demand that Marguerite should be allowed to attend mass at
Bearn; and the Queen of Navarre, on her part, consented that the
marriage should take place at Paris, instead of at Bearn as she had
before desired.

She then went to Paris to make preparations for the wedding. The
great anxiety she had gone through told heavily upon her, and a few
days after her arrival at the capital she was seized with a fever
which, in a very short time, terminated her life; not without
considerable suspicions being entertained that her illness and
death had been caused by poison, administered by an agent of
Catherine. She was, undoubtedly, one of the noblest women of her
own or any other time. She was deeply religious, ready to incur all
dangers for the sake of her faith, simple in her habits, pure in
her life, unconquerable in spirit, calm and confident in defeat and
danger, never doubting for a moment that God would give victory to
his cause, and capable of communicating her enthusiasm to all
around her--a Christian heroine, indeed. Her death was a terrible
blow to the Reformed religion. She died on the 9th of June, and the
marriage was, in consequence, deferred until August.

The Admiral had not been present at Blois during the negotiations
for the marriage, for after remaining there for three weeks he had
retired to his estate at Chatillon, where he occupied himself with
the work of restoring his ruined chateau.

The Countess Amelie had accompanied the Queen of Navarre to Blois,
and also to Paris, and had been with her at the time she died. She
had sent a message to Francois and Philip to join her there, when
she left Blois; accompanying her letter with a safe conduct signed
by the king. On the road they were met by the news of the death of
the Queen of Navarre. It was a severe blow to both of them, not
only from the effect it would have upon the Huguenot cause, but
from the affection they personally felt for her.

The king, being grievously harassed by the opposite counsels he
received, and his doubts as to which of his advisers were honest,
wrote to Coligny; begging him to come and aid him, with his counsel
and support.

The Admiral received many letters imploring him not to go to Paris;
where, even if the friendship of the king continued, he would be
exposed to the danger of poison, to which, it was generally
believed, his brothers and the Queen of Navarre had succumbed; but
although fully aware of the danger of the step, he did not
hesitate. To one of his advisers he wrote fearlessly:

"As a royal officer, I cannot in honour refuse to comply with the
summons of the king; but will commit myself to the providence of
Him who holds in His hands the hearts of kings and princes, and has
numbered my years, nay, the very hairs of my head."

One reason of the king's desire for the counsels of the Admiral was
that he had determined to carry out his advice, and that of Louis
of Nassau, to assist the Protestants of Holland, and to embark in a
struggle against the dangerous predominance of Spain. As a first
step, he had already permitted Louis of Nassau to recruit secretly,
in France, five hundred horse and a thousand infantry from among
his Huguenot friends, and to advance with them into the
Netherlands; and with these Louis had, on the 24th of May, captured
Mons, the capital of Hainault.

The Huguenot leaders did their best to persuade Charles to follow
up this stroke by declaring war against Spain; and the king would
have done so, had it not been that Elizabeth of England, who had
before urged him to this course, promising him her aid, now drew
back with her usual vacillation; wishing nothing better than to see
France and Spain engaged in hostilities from which she would,
without trouble or expense, gain advantage. Meanwhile Catharine,
Anjou and the Guise faction all did their best to counteract the
influence of the Huguenots.

Elizabeth's crafty and hesitating policy was largely responsible
for the terrible events that followed. Charles saw that she had
been fooling him, both in reference to his course towards Spain and
in her negotiations for a marriage with one or other of his
brothers. These matters were taken advantage of by his Catholic
advisers, and disposed him to doubt the wisdom of his having placed
himself in the hands of the Huguenots.

While Elizabeth was hesitating, a blow came that confirmed the king
in his doubts as to the prudence of the course he had taken. Alva
laid siege to Mons. A Huguenot force of some three thousand men,
led by the Sieur de Genlis, marched to its relief; but was
surprised, and utterly routed, within a short distance of the
town--1200 were killed on the field of battle, some 1900 fugitives
were slain by the peasantry, barely a hundred reached Mons.

Coligny, who was preparing a much larger force for the assistance
of Louis of Nassau, still strove to induce the king to throw
himself heart and soul into the struggle against Spain; and even
warned him that he would never be a true king, until he could free
himself from his mother's control and the influence of his brother
Anjou.

The queen mother, who had spies everywhere, was not long in
learning that Coligny had given this advice, and her hatred against
him was proportionately increased. She at once went in tears to
Charles, and pointed out to him that it was to her counsel and aid,
alone, that he had owed his success against the Huguenots; that
they were now obtaining all the advantages for which they had
fought, in vain; and that he was endangering the safety of his
throne by angering Spain, relying only on the empty promises of the
faithless Queen of England.

Charles, always weak and irresolute, succumbed at once to her tears
and entreaties, and gave himself up altogether to her pernicious
counsels.

After the death of the Queen of Navarre the countess travelled back
to Laville, escorted by her son and Philip. The young men made no
stay there, but returned at once to Paris where, now that Coligny
was in the king's counsels, there was no ground for fear, and the
approaching nuptials of the young King of Navarre would be attended
by large numbers of his adherents. They took a lodging near that
occupied by the Admiral.

De la Noue was not at court, he being shut up in Mons, having
accompanied Louis of Nassau in his expedition. The court was in
deep mourning for the Queen of Navarre, and there would be no
public gaieties until the wedding. Among the Huguenot lords who had
come to Paris were the Count de Valecourt and his daughter, who was
now seventeen, and had several suitors for her hand among the young
Huguenot nobles.

Francois and Philip were both presented to the king by the Admiral.
Charles received them graciously and, learning that they had been
stopping at Bearn with the Prince of Navarre, presented them to his
sister Margaret.

"These gentlemen, Margot, are friends of the King of Navarre, and
will be able to tell you more about him than these grave
politicians can do."

The princess, who was one of the most beautiful women of her time,
asked them many questions about her future husband, of whom she had
seen so little since his childhood, and about the place where she
was to live; and after that time, when they went to court with the
Admiral, who on such occasions was always accompanied by a number
of Huguenot gentlemen, the young princess always showed them marked
friendliness.

As the time for the marriage approached, the king became more and
more estranged from the Admiral. Queen Elizabeth, while professing
her friendship for the Netherlands, had forbidden English
volunteers to sail to the assistance of the Dutch; and had written
to Alva offering, in token of her friendship, to hand over Flushing
to the Spaniards. This proof of her duplicity, and of the
impossibility of trusting her as an ally, was made the most of by
Catherine; and she easily persuaded the weak-minded king that
hostilities with the Spaniards would be fatal to him, and that,
should he yield to the Admiral's entreaties, he would fall wholly
into the power of the Huguenots. The change in the king's
deportment was so visible that the Catholics did not conceal their
exultation, while a feeling of uneasiness spread among some of the
Huguenot gentlemen at Paris.

"What are you doing, Pierre!" Philip said one day, when he found
his servant occupied in cleaning up the two pairs of heavy pistols
they carried in their holsters.

"I am getting them ready for action, master. I always thought that
the Huguenots were fools to put their heads into this cage; and the
more I see of it, the less I like it."

"There can be no reason for uneasiness, Pierre. The king himself
has, over and over, declared his determination to maintain the
truce and, even did he harbour ill designs against us, he would not
mar his sister's marriage by fresh steps against the Huguenots.
What may follow, after we have all left Paris, I cannot say."

"Well, sir, I hope it may be all right, but since I got a sight of
the king's face the other day, I have no faith in him; he looks
like one worried until well nigh out of his senses--and no wonder.
These weak men, when they become desperate, are capable of the most
terrible actions. A month since he would have hung up his mother
and Anjou, had they ventured to oppose him; and there is no saying,
now, upon whom his wrath may fall.

"At any rate, sir, with your permission I mean to be prepared for
the worst; and the first work is to clean these pistols."

"There can be no harm in that anyhow, Pierre, but I have no shadow
of fear of any trouble occurring. The one thing I am afraid of is
that the king will keep Coligny near him, so that if war should
break out again, we shall not have him for our general. With the
Queen of Navarre dead, the Admiral a prisoner here, and De la Noue
a captive in the hands of Alva, we should fight under terrible
disadvantages; especially as La Rochelle, La Charite, and Montauban
have received royal governors, in accordance with the conditions of
the peace."

"Well, we shall see, master. I shall feel more comfortable if I
have got ready for the worst."

Although Philip laughed at the fears of Pierre, he was yet
impressed by what he had said; for he had come to rely very much
upon the shrewdness of observation of his follower. When, however,
he went that evening to the Count de Valecourt's, he saw that there
was no tinge of such feeling in the minds of the Huguenots present.
The only face that had an unusual look was that of Claire.
Apparently she was gayer than usual, and laughed and talked more
than was her wont; but Philip saw that this mood was not a natural
one, and felt sure that something had happened. Presently, when he
passed near her, she made room for him on the settee beside her.

[Illustration: You have not heard the news, Monsieur Philip?]

"You have not heard the news, Monsieur Philip?"

"No, mademoiselle, I have heard no particular news."

"I am glad of it. I would rather tell you myself. My father has,
today, laid his commands on me to marry the Sieur de Pascal."

Philip could not trust himself to speak. He had never acknowledged
to himself that he loved Claire de Valecourt; and had, over and
over again, endeavoured to impress upon his mind the fact that it
would be ridiculous for him even to think of her; for that her
father would never dream of giving her, a rich heiress, and the
last of one of the proudest families of Dauphiny, to a simple
English gentleman.

As he did not speak, the girl went on after a pause.

"It is not my wish, Monsieur Philip; but French girls do not choose
for themselves. My father stated his wishes to me three months ago,
in Dauphiny. I then asked for a little time, and now he has told me
that it is to be. He is wise and good, and I have nothing to say
against the Sieur de Pascal; who, as you know, is our near
neighbour, a brave gentleman, and one whom I have known since my
childhood. It is only that I do not love him. I have told my father
so, but he says that it is not to be expected that a young maid
should love, until after marriage."

"And you have promised?" Philip asked.

"Yes, I have promised," she said simply. "It is the duty of a
daughter to obey her father, especially when that father is as good
and kind as mine has always been to me.

"There, he is beckoning to me;" and, rising, she crossed the room.

Philip, a few minutes later, took his departure quietly. Francois
de Laville came in, an hour afterwards, to their lodgings.

"Well, Philip, I did not see you leave the count's. Did you hear
the news before you left? The count announced it shortly after you
had gone."

"His daughter told me herself," Philip said.

"I am sorry, Philip. I had thought, perhaps--but it is of no use
talking of that, now."

"Not the least in the world, Francois. It is natural that her
father should wish her to marry a noble of his own province. She
has consented, and there is no more to be said.

"When is Henri to arrive? We are all to ride out to meet him, and
to follow him into Paris. I hope that it will all pass off well."

"Why, of course it will. What is to prevent it? The wedding will be
the grandest ever known in Paris. I hear that Henri brings with him
seven hundred Huguenot gentlemen; and a hundred of us here will
join him, under the Admiral. It will be a brave sight."

"I wish it was all over."

"Why, it is not often you are in low spirits, Philip. Is it the
news that has upset you, or have you heard anything else?"

"No; but Pierre has been croaking and prophesying evil, and
although I in no way agree with him, it has still made me uneasy."

"Why, what is there to fear?" Francois said, laughing. "Not the mob
of Paris, surely. They would never venture to brave the king's
anger by marring the nuptials by disorder; and if they did,
methinks that eight hundred of us, with Coligny at our head, could
cut our way through the mob of Paris from one end of the city to
the other."

The entrance of the King of Navarre into Paris was, indeed, an
imposing sight. Coligny with his train had joined him outside the
town, and the Admiral rode on one side of the young king, and the
Prince of Conde on the other. With them rode the Dukes of Anjou and
Alencon, who had ridden out with a gay train of nobles to welcome
Henri in the king's name, and escort him into the city. The
Huguenots were still in mourning for the late queen; but the
sumptuous materials of their dress, set off by their gold chains
and ornaments, made a brave show even by the side of the gay
costumes of the prince's party.

The betrothal took place at the Louvre on the 17th of August, and
was followed by a supper and a ball. After the conclusion of the
festivities Marguerite was, in accordance with the custom of the
princesses of the blood, escorted by her brothers and a large
retinue to the Bishops' Palace adjoining the Cathedral, to pass the
night before her wedding there.

The ceremony upon the following day was a most gorgeous one. The
king, his two brothers, Henri of Navarre, and Conde were all
dressed alike in light yellow satin, embroidered with silver, and
enriched with precious stones. Marguerite was in a violet velvet
dress, embroidered with fleurs de lis, and she wore on her head a
crown glittering with gems. The queen and the queen mother were
dressed in cloth of gold.

Upon a lofty platform, in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame,
Henri of Navarre with his train of Protestant lords awaited the
coming of the bride; who was escorted by the king, and all the
members of his court. The ceremony was performed, in sight of an
enormous concourse of people, by the Cardinal Bourbon, who used a
form that had been previously agreed upon by both parties. Henri
then led his bride into the cathedral; and afterwards, with his
Protestant companions, retired to the Episcopal Palace while mass
was being said. When this was over, the whole party sat down to
dinner in the Episcopal Palace.

In the evening an entertainment was given, in the Louvre, to the
notabilities of Paris; and after supper there was a masque of the
most lavish magnificence. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday there
was a continuation of pageants and entertainments. During these
festivities the king had shown marked courtesy to the Admiral and
the Huguenot lords, and it seemed as if he had again emancipated
himself from his mother's influence; and the hopes of the
Protestants, that he would shortly declare war with Spain, were
raised to the highest point.

Although the question was greatly debated at the time, and the
belief that the massacre of the Protestants was deliberately
planned long beforehand by the king and queen-mother is still
generally entertained, the balance of evidence is strongly the
other way. What dark thoughts may have passed through the scheming
brain of Catharine de Medici none can say, but it would certainly
appear that it was not until after the marriage of Henri and
Marguerite that they took form. She was driven to bay. She saw
that, in the event of a war with Spain, the Huguenots would become
all powerful in France. Already the influence of the Admiral was
greater than her own, and it had become a battle of life and death
with her; for Coligny, in his fearless desire to do what was right,
and for the service of France, was imprudent enough over and over
again to warn the king against the evil influence of the queen
mother and the Duke d'Anjou; and Charles, in his fits of temper,
did not hesitate to divulge these counsels. The Duke d'Anjou and
his mother, therefore, came to the conclusion that Coligny must be
put out of the way.

The duke, afterwards, did not scruple to avow his share in the
preparations for the massacre of Saint Bartholomew. The Duchess of
Nemours, her son Henri of Guise, and her brother-in-law the Duc
d'Aumale were taken into their counsels, and the plan was speedily
settled.

Few as were the conspirators taken into the confidence of the queen
mother, mysterious rumours of danger reached the ears of the
Huguenots. Some of these, taking the alarm, left Paris and made for
their estates; but by far the greater portion refused to believe
that there could be danger to those whom the king had invited to be
present upon such an occasion. In another week, Coligny would be
leaving, having, as he hoped, brought the king entirely round to
his views; and the vast majority of the Huguenot gentlemen resolved
to stay until he left.

Pierre grew more and more serious. Francois had left the lodgings,
being one of the Huguenot gentlemen whom Henri of Navarre had
chosen to lodge with him at the Louvre.

"You are getting quite unbearable, Pierre, with your long face and
your grim looks," Philip said to him on the Friday morning, half in
joke and half in earnest. "Why, man, in another week we shall be
out of Paris, and on our way south."

"I hope so, Monsieur Philip, with all my heart I hope so; but I
feel just as I used to do when I was a boy living in the woods, and
I saw a thundercloud working up overhead. I cannot tell you why I
feel so. It is something in the air. I wish sir, oh, so much! that
you would leave at once."

"That I cannot do, Pierre. I have no estates that demand my
attention, no excuse whatever for going. I came here with my
cousin, and shall leave with him."

"Well, sir, if it must be, it must."

"But what is that you fear, Pierre?"

"When one is in a town, sir, with Catharine de Medici, and her son
Anjou, and the Guises, there is always something to fear. Guise is
the idol of the mob of Paris, who have always shown themselves
ready to attack the Huguenots. He has but to hold up his finger,
and they would be swarming on us like bees."

"But there are troops in the town, Pierre, and the king would
punish Paris heavily, were it to insult his guests."

"The king is a weathercock, and goes whichever way the wind blows,
monsieur--today he is with the Admiral, tomorrow he may be with the
Guises.

"At any rate, I have taken my precautions. I quite understand that,
if the danger is foreseen, you will all rally round the Admiral and
try to fight your way out of Paris. But if it comes suddenly there
will be no time for this. At any hour the mob may come surging up
the streets, shouting, as they have often shouted before, 'Death to
the Huguenots!' Then, monsieur, fighting would not avail you. You
would be unable to join your friends, and you would have to think
first of your own life.

"I have been examining the house, and I find that from an upper
window one can gain the roof. I got out yesterday evening, after it
was dark, and found that I could easily make my way along. The
tenth house from here is the one where the Count de Valecourt
lodges, and it is easy to gain access to it by a window in the
roof. There will be some of your friends there, at any rate. Or we
can pass down through any of the intervening houses. In the three
before we reach that of the count Huguenots are lodged. The others
belong to Catholics, but it might be possible to pass down through
them and to go into the street unobserved.

"I have bought for myself some rags, such as are worn by the lowest
of the mob; and for you a monk's gown and hood. These I have placed
securely against a chimney on our roof.

"I have also, monsieur," and Pierre's eyes twinkled, "bought the
dress of a woman of the lower class, thinking that there might be
some lady you might be desirous of saving."

"You frighten me, Pierre, with your roofs and your disguises,"
Philip said, looking with wonder at his follower. "Why, man, this
is a nightmare of your own imagination."

"It may be so, master. If it is, no harm is done. I have laid out a
few crowns uselessly, and there is an end of it. But if it should
not be a nightmare, but a real positive danger, you would at least
be prepared for it; and those few crowns may be the saving of our
lives."

Philip walked up and down the room for some time.

"At any rate, Pierre, you have acted wisely. As you say, the cost
is as nothing; and though my reason revolts against a belief in
this nightmare of yours, I am not such a fool as to refuse to pay
any attention to it. I know that you are no coward, and certainly
not one to indulge in wild fancies.

"Let us go a step farther. Suppose that all this should turn out
true, and that you, I, and--and some lady--are in disguise in the
midst of a howling mob shouting, 'Death to the Huguenots!' What
should we do next? Where should we go?

"It seems to me that your disguise for me is a badly chosen one. As
a monk, how could I keep with you as a beggar, still less with a
woman?"

"When I bought the monk's robe I had not thought of a woman,
monsieur. That was an afterthought. But what you say is just. I
must get you another disguise. You shall be dressed as a butcher,
or a smith."

"Let it be a smith, by all means, Pierre. Besides, it would be
safer. I would smear my face with dirt. I should get plenty on my
hands from climbing over the roofs.

"Let us suppose ourselves, then, in the mob. What should we do
next?"

"That would all depend, sir, whether the soldiers follow the Guises
and take part with the mob in their rising. If so, Paris would be
in a turmoil from end to end, and the gates closed. I have thought
it all over, again and again; and while your worship has been
attending the entertainments, I have been walking about Paris.

"If it is at night I should say we had best make for the river,
take a boat and drift down; or else make for the walls, and lower
ourselves by a rope from them. If it is in the day we could not do
that; and I have found a hovel, at present untenanted, close to the
walls, and we could wait there until night."

"You will end by making me believe this, Pierre," Philip said
angrily, as he again walked up and down the room, with impatient
steps. "If you had a shadow of foundation for what you say, even a
rumour that you had picked up in the street, I would go straight to
the Admiral. But how could I go and say:

"'My servant, who is a faithful fellow, has taken it into his head
that there is danger from an attack on us by the mob.'

"What think you the Admiral would say to that? He would say that it
was next door to treason to imagine such things, and that if men
were to act upon such fancies as these, they would be fit only for
hospitals for the insane. Moreover he would say that, even if you
had evidence, even if you had something to show that treachery was
meant, he would still, in the interest of France, stay at his post
of duty."

At this moment the door opened, and Francois de Laville entered
hurriedly.

"What is the matter, Francois?" Philip exclaimed, seeing that his
cousin looked pale and agitated.

"Have you not heard the news?"

"I have heard nothing. I have not been out this morning."

"The Admiral has been shot."

Philip uttered an exclamation of horror.

"Not killed, Francois; not killed, I trust?"

"No; two balls were fired, one took off a finger of his right hand,
and another has lodged in his left arm. He had just left the king,
who was playing at tennis, and was walking homewards with two or
three gentlemen, when an arquebus was fired from a house not far
from his own. Two of the gentlemen with him assisted him home,
while some of the others burst in the door of the house.

"They were too late. Only a woman and a manservant were found
there. The assassin had fled by the back of the house, where a
horse was standing in waiting. It is said that the house belongs to
the old Duchess of Guise.

"It is half an hour since the news reached the palace, and you may
imagine the consternation it excited. The king has shut himself up
in his room. Navarre and Conde are in deep grief, for they both
regard the Admiral almost as a father. As for the rest of us, we
are furious.

"There is a report that the man who was seen galloping away from
the house from which the shot was fired was that villain Maurevel,
who so treacherously shot De Mouy, and was rewarded by the king for
the deed. It is also said that a groom, in the livery of Guise, was
holding the horse when the assassin issued out.

"Navarre and Conde have gone to Coligny. The king's surgeon is
dressing his wounds."



Chapter 20: The Tocsin.


As soon as Francois had finished his account of the attempted
assassination of the Admiral, he and Philip sallied out, the latter
having hastily armed himself.

"I must go back to the Louvre," Francois said, "and take my place
by the King of Navarre. He is going to see the king, and to demand
permission to leave Paris at once. Conde and La Rochefoucault are
going to see the king, as soon as they return from the Admiral's,
for the same purpose; as it is evident their lives are not safe
here."

Philip made his way to the Admiral's house in the Rue de Bethisy.
Numbers of Huguenot gentlemen were hurrying in that direction; all,
like himself, armed, and deeply moved with grief and indignation;
for Coligny was regarded with a deep affection, as well as
reverence, by his followers. Each, as he overtook others, eagerly
inquired the news; for as yet most of them had learned nothing
beyond vague rumours of the affair.

Philip's account of it increased their indignation. So it was no
act of a mere fanatic, but the work of the Guises, and probably of
Catharine and Anjou.

In a short time between two and three hundred gentlemen were
gathered in the courtyard and antechamber of Coligny's house. Some
walked up and down, silent and stern. Others gathered in groups,
and passionately discussed the matter. This was an attack not only
upon the Admiral but upon the Huguenots in general. It was the work
of the Guises, ever the deadliest foes of the Reformed faith--the
authors of every measure taken against them, the cause of all the
blood that had been shed in the civil wars.

One thing was certain: all must leave Paris, and prepare for a
renewal of the war. But it was equally certain they could not leave
until the Admiral was fit to be moved.

"Truly he is a saint," said one of the gentlemen, who had come down
from the room where Coligny was lying. "He suffered atrociously in
the hands of the surgeon, for he had come without his instruments,
and amputated Coligny's fingers with a dagger so blunt that it was
only on the third attempt that he succeeded. Merlin, his minister,
was by his side, with several of his most intimate friends. We were
in tears at the sight of our noble chief thus traitorously struck
down. He turned to us and said calmly:

"'My friends, why do you weep? As for me, I deem myself happy at
having thus received wounds for the sake of God.'

"Then he said that, most sincerely, he forgave the man who wounded
him, and those who had instigated him to make the attack; knowing
for certain that it was beyond their power to hurt him for, even
should they kill him, death would be a certain passage to life."

An hour later Francois arrived.

"The prince has seen the king, Philip. He is furious, and has sworn
that he will inflict the most signal punishment upon the authors
and instigators of the crime: Coligny had received the wound, but
he himself most felt the smart. The King of Navarre told me he was
sure that Charles was deeply in earnest. He feels it in a threefold
sense: first, because it is the renewal of the troubles that he had
hoped had been put an end to; in the second place, because Coligny
is his guest; and lastly, because he has the greatest respect and
confidence in him, not only believing in his wisdom, but knowing
that his counsel is always sincere and disinterested.

"He is coming to visit the Admiral himself, this afternoon, Philip.
It is no use our staying here. There is nothing to be done, and no
prospect of seeing the Admiral."

As they moved towards the entrance to the courtyard, the Count de
Valecourt joined them.

"I have just left the Admiral," he said. "He is easier, and the
king's surgeon is of opinion that he will recover from his wounds,
and possibly may be fit to travel in a litter, in another week."

"That is good news, indeed," Francois said; "for the sooner we are
all out of Paris, the better."

"There is no doubt of that," the count agreed; "but as all say that
the king is furious at this attack upon the Admiral, I do not think
the Guises dare strike another blow for some time. Still, I shall
be glad, indeed, when we can set forth.

"It is certain we cannot leave the Admiral here. The villains who
are responsible for the attempt will be furious at its failure, and
next time they may use the weapon to which they are most
accustomed--poison. Even if the king himself begged him to stay at
the Louvre, until cured, Catharine de Medici is there; and I would
not trust him under the same roof with her, for all my estates.

"We have been talking it over, and all agree that we must wait
until he can be moved. Inconstant as Charles is, there can be no
fear of a change in his friendly intentions now. He has already
closed all the gates of Paris save two, and everyone who goes in or
out is closely questioned, and has to show his papers."

By this time, they had arrived at the door of the count's dwelling.

"Come in, monsieur," he said. "My daughter is terribly upset at
this attack upon the Admiral, for whom she has a profound reverence
and, were she a Catholic, would, I doubt not, make him her patron
saint."

"How is he, father?" Claire asked eagerly, as they entered the
room.

"He is better, Claire. The king's physician thinks he has every
chance of recovering."

"God be praised!" she said earnestly. "It would indeed have been a
terrible day for us all, had the assassin taken his life; and it
would have seemed a mark of Heaven's anger at this marriage of the
Protestant king with a Catholic princess. What says King Charles?"

"He is as angry as any of us; and declares that the assassin, and
those who abetted him, shall be punished in the severest manner. He
has visited the Admiral, and expressed his grief and indignation to
him."

"I shall be glad to be back in Dauphiny, father. This city, with
its wickedness and its violence, is hateful to me."

"We shall go soon, dear. The doctor hopes that, in a week, the
Admiral will be well enough to be moved in a litter; and we shall
all accompany him."

"A week is a long time, father. So much may happen in a week."

"There is no fear of anything happening, Claire. You must not let
this sad business affect your nerves. The anger of the king is so
great that you may be sure none will attempt to repeat this stroke.

"What think you, Monsieur de Laville?"

"I agree with you altogether, count."

"And you, Monsieur Philip?"

"I see no cause for fear, count; and yet, I feel sure that it would
be well to take every precaution. I acknowledge that I have no
grounds whatever for my fear. I have been infected by my lackey,
who is generally the lightest hearted and most reckless fellow; but
who has now turned croaker, and fears a sudden rising of the mob of
Paris, instigated thereto by the Guises."

"Has he heard anything to favour such an idea, or is it merely born
of today's outrage?"

"No, I think he has heard nothing specific, though he may have
caught up vague threats in wandering through the streets."

"Why, that is not like you," the count said, smiling, "who have
been through so many fights and dangerous adventures, to be alarmed
at a shadow."

"No, count, I do not think that I am given, any more than is my
lackey, to sombre thoughts; but I own that he has infected me, and
I would that some precautions could be taken."

"Precautions of what kind, Monsieur Philip?"

"I have not thought them out," Philip said; "but, were I the next
in rank to the Admiral, I would enjoin that a third of our number
should be under arms, night and day, and should at night patrol our
quarters; secondly, that a rallying place should be appointed, say
at the Admiral's, to which all should mount and ride, directly an
alarm is given."

"The first part could hardly be managed, here," the count said
gravely. "It would seem that we doubted the royal assurances of
good faith, and his promises of protection. We have enemies enough
about the king's ear, and such a proceeding would be surely
misrepresented to him. You know how wayward are his moods, and that
it would need but a slight thing to excite his irritation, and undo
all the good that the Admiral has effected."

Two or three other Huguenot gentlemen now entered, and a general
conversation on the state of affairs took place. Philip was
standing a little apart from the others, when Claire came up to
him.

"You really believe in danger, Monsieur Philip?"

"Frankly I do, mademoiselle. The population hate us. There have
been Huguenot massacres over and over again in Paris. The Guises
are doubtless the instigators of this attack on the Admiral. They
are the idols of the Paris mob and, if they gave the word, it would
at once rise against us. As I told your father, I have no real
reason for uneasiness, but nevertheless I am uneasy."

"Then the danger must be real," the girl said simply. "Have you any
advice to give me?"

"Only this. You have but a week to stay here in Paris. During that
time, make excuses so as not to stir abroad in the streets more
than you can help; and in the second place I would say, lie down in
your clothes at night, so as to be in readiness to rise,
instantly."

"I will do that," she said. "There is nothing else?"

"Nothing that I can think of. I hope and trust that the emergency
will not come; but at any rate, until it does come, we can do no
more."

A few minutes later, Philip and his cousin took their leave. The
former went back to his lodgings, the latter to the Louvre. Philip
was surprised at not finding Pierre, and sat up later than usual,
expecting his return; but it was not till he was rising next
morning that the man made his appearance.

"Why, where have you been all night?" Philip asked angrily. "This
is not the time for pleasure."

"I have been outside the walls, master," Pierre said.

"What in the world did you go there for, Pierre?"

"Well, sir, I was here when Monsieur de Laville brought in the news
of the shooting of the Admiral. This seemed, to me, to bear out all
that I have said to you. You hurried away without my having time to
speak to you, so I took it upon myself to act."

"In what way, Pierre?"

"I went straight to the stables, sir, and took one of your honour's
chargers and my horse and, riding one and leading the other, passed
out through the gate before the orders came about closing. I rode
them to a village, six miles away; and put them up at a small inn
there, and left them in the landlord's charge. I did not forget to
tell the stable boy that he should have a crown for himself if, on
my return, I found the horses in as good condition as I left them.

"Then I walked back to Paris, and found a crowd of people unable to
enter, and learned that the gates had been closed by the king's
order. I went off to Saint Denis, and there bought a long rope and
an iron hook; and at two in the morning, when I thought that any
sentries there might be on the walls would be drowsy, came back
again to Paris, threw up my hook, and climbed into one of the
bastions near the hut we had marked. There I slept until the
morning, and now you see me.

"I have taken out the horses so that, should you be obliged to fly,
there would be means of escape. One charger will suffice for your
wants here, and to ride away upon if you go out with the Huguenot
company, whether peacefully or by force of arms. As for me, I would
make my way there on foot, get the horses, and rejoin you."

"It was a good idea, Pierre, and promptly carried out. But no one
here has much thought of danger, and I feel ashamed of myself at
being the only one to feel uneasy."

"The wise man is uneasy while the fool sleeps," Pierre said. "If
the Prince of Conde had been uneasy, the night before Jarnac, he
would not have lost his life, and we should not have lost a battle.
No harm has been done. If danger does come, we at least are
prepared for it."

"You are quite right, Pierre. However surely he may count upon
victory, a good general always lays his plans in case of defeat. At
any rate, we have prepared for everything."

Pierre muttered something to himself.

"What do you say, Pierre?"

"I was only saying, master, that I should feel pretty confident of
our getting away, were there only our two selves to think of. What
with our disguises, and what with your honour's strong arm--and
what I can do to back you--and what with our being on our guard, it
would be hard if we did not make our way safe off. But I foresee
that, should there be trouble, it is not of your own safety you
will be thinking."

"Mademoiselle de Valecourt is engaged to the Sieur de Pascal,"
Philip said gravely.

"So I heard, from one of the count's lackeys; but there is many a
slip between the cup and the lip, and in such days as these there
is many an engagement that never becomes a marriage. I guessed how
it would be, that night after you had saved Mademoiselle Claire's
life; and I thought so, still more, when we were staying at
Valecourt."

"Then your thoughts ran too fast, Pierre. Mademoiselle de Valecourt
is a great heiress; and the count should, of course, give her in
marriage to one of his own rank."

Pierre shrugged his shoulders almost imperceptibly.

"Your honour is doubtless right," he said humbly; "and therefore,
seeing that she has her father and Monsieur de Pascal to protect
her, we need not trouble more about those articles of attire stowed
away on the roof above; but shall be able to concern ourselves
solely with our own safety, which puts a much better complexion on
the affair."

"The whole matter is ridiculous, Pierre," Philip said angrily, "and
I am a fool to have listened to you. There, go and see about
breakfast, or I shall lose my patience with you, altogether."

There were several consultations, during the day, between the
leading Huguenots. There was no apparent ground for suspicion that
the attack upon the Admiral had been a part of any general plot,
and it was believed that it was but the outcome of the animosity of
the Guises, and the queen mother, against a man who had long
withstood them, who was now higher than themselves in the king's
confidence, and who had persuaded him to undertake an enterprise
that would range France on the side of the Protestant powers. The
balance of evidence is all in favour of the truth of this
supposition, and to the effect that it was only upon the failure of
their scheme, against the Admiral, that the conspirators determined
upon a general massacre of the Huguenots.

They worked upon the weak king's mind, until they persuaded him
that Coligny was at the head of a plot against himself; and that
nothing short of his death, and those of his followers, could
procure peace and quiet for France. At last, in a sudden access of
fury, Charles not only ranged himself on their side, but astonished
Catharine, Anjou, and their companions by going even farther than
they had done, and declaring that every Huguenot should be killed.
This sudden change, and his subsequent conduct during the few
months that remained to him of life, seem to point to the fact that
this fresh access of trouble shattered his weak brain, and that he
was not fairly responsible for the events that followed--the guilt
of which rests wholly upon Catharine de Medici, Henry of Anjou, and
the leaders of the party of the Guises.

Philip spent a considerable portion of the day at the Louvre with
Henry of Navarre, Francois de Laville, and a few of the young
king's closest followers. There was no shadow of disquiet in the
minds of any of them. The doctors reported that the Admiral's state
was favourable; and although all would have been glad to be on
their way south, they regarded the detention of a few days as a
matter of little importance. Listening to their talk about the
court entertainments and pleasures, Philip quite shook off his
uneasiness, and was angry with himself for having listened to
Pierre's prognostications of evil.

"All these Huguenot lords know France and the Parisians better than
I do," he said to himself. "No thought of danger occurs to them. It
is not even thought necessary that a few of them should take up
their abode at the Admiral's. They have every faith in the king's
protestations and pledges for their safety."

Philip dined at the Louvre, and it was ten o'clock before he
returned to his lodging. He was in excellent spirits, and saluted
Pierre with the laughing inquiry:

"Well, bird of ill omen, what fresh plottings have you discovered?"

"You do not believe me, master, when I tell you," Pierre said
gravely.

"Oh, then, there is something new?" Philip said, seating himself on
a couch. "Let me hear all about it, Pierre, and I will try not to
laugh."

"Will you descend with me to the door, Monsieur Philip?"

"Assuredly I will, if it will please you; though what you are going
to show me there, I cannot imagine."

Pierre led the way downstairs and out through the door.

"Do you see that, sir?"

"Yes, I see that, Pierre."

"What do you take it to be, sir?"

"Well, it is not too dark to see what it is, Pierre. It is a small
white cross that some urchin has chalked on the door."

"Will you please to walk a little farther, sir? There is a cross on
this door. There is none here, neither on the next. Here you see
another, and then a door without one. Now, sir, does not that
strike you as curious?"

"Well, I don't know, Pierre. A boy might very well chalk some
doors, as he went along, and leave others untouched."

"Yes, sir. But there is one very remarkable thing. I have gone on
through several streets, and it has always been the same--so far as
I can discover by questioning the concierges--at every house in
which Huguenots are lodging, there is a white cross on the door. In
the houses that are not so marked, there are no Huguenots."

"That is strange, certainly, Pierre," Philip said, struck alike by
the fact and by the earnestness with which Pierre expressed it.
"Are you quite sure of what you say?"

"I am quite sure, sir. I returned here at nine o'clock, and saw
this mark on our door. I did not pay much heed to it, but went
upstairs. Then, as I thought it over, I said to myself, 'Is this a
freak of some passerby, or is it some sort of signal?' Then I
thought I would see whether our house alone was marked, or whether
there were crosses on other doors. I went to the houses of several
gentlemen of our party, and on each of their doors was a white
cross. Then I looked farther, and found that other houses were
unmarked. At some of these I knocked and asked for one or other of
your friends. In each case I heard that I was mistaken, for that no
Huguenots were lodging there."

[Illustration: That cross is placed there by design.]

"It is evident, sir, that this is not a thing of chance, but that
these crosses are placed there by design."

Philip went down the street, and satisfied himself that Pierre had
spoken correctly; and then returned to his lodgings, pausing,
however, before the house of the Count de Valecourt, and erasing
the cross upon it. He entered his own door without touching the
mark; but Pierre, who followed him in, rubbed the sleeve of his
doublet across it, unnoticed by his master, and then followed him
upstairs.

Philip seated himself thoughtfully.

"I like not these marks, Pierre. There may be nothing of importance
in them. Some fanatic may have taken the trouble to place these
crosses upon our doors, cursing us as he did so. But at the same
time, I cannot deny that they may have been placed there for some
set purpose, of which I am ignorant. Hitherto there has been
nothing, whatever, to give any foundation to your fancies; but here
is at least something tangible, whatever it may mean. What is your
own idea?"

"My own idea is, sir, that they intend to arrest all the Admiral's
followers; and that the king, while speaking us fair, is really
guided by Catharine, and has consented to her plans for the capture
of all the Huguenot lords who have come into this trap."

"I cannot believe that such an act of black treachery can be
contemplated, Pierre. All Europe would cry out against the king
who, inviting numbers of his nobles to the marriage of his sister,
seized that occasion for imprisoning them."

"It may not be done by him, sir. It may be the work of the Guises'
agents among the mob of Paris; and that they intend to massacre us,
as they did at Rouen and a score of other places, and as they have
done here in Paris more than once."

"That is as hard to believe as the other, Pierre. My own
supposition is by far the most probable, that it is the work of
some fanatic; but at any rate, we will be on the watch tonight. It
is too late to do anything else and, were I to go round to our
friends, they would mock at me for paying any attention to such a
trifle as a chalk mark on a door.

"I own that I think it serious, because I have come, in spite of my
reason, to believe somewhat in your forebodings; but no one else
seems to entertain any such fears."

Opening the casement, Philip seated himself there.

"Do you lie down, Pierre. At two o'clock I will call you, and you
shall take my place."

Pierre went out, but before lying down he again went quietly
downstairs and, with a wet cloth, entirely erased the mark from the
door; and then, placing his sword and his pistols ready at hand,
lay down on his pallet. At one o'clock Philip aroused him.

"There is something unusual going on, Pierre. I can see a light in
the sky, as of many torches; and can hear a confused sound, as of
the murmur of men. I will sally out and see what it is."

Placing his pistols in his belt and taking his sword, he wrapped
himself in his cloak and, followed by Pierre, also armed, went down
into the street. As he went along he overtook two men. As he passed
under a lamp, one of them exclaimed:

"Is that you, Monsieur Fletcher?"

He turned. It was the Sieur de Pascal.

"It is I, Monsieur de Pascal. I was going out to learn the meaning
of those lights over there."

"That is just what I am doing, myself. As the night is hot, I could
not sleep; so I threw open my window, and saw those lights, which
were, as it appeared to me, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the
Admiral's house; and I thought it was as well to see what they
meant."

As they went along, they came upon men with lighted torches; and
saw that, in several of the streets, groups of men with torches
were silently standing.

"What is taking place?" the Sieur de Pascal asked one of the men.

"There is going to be a night masque, and a mock combat at the
Louvre," the man said.

"It is strange. I heard nothing about it at the Louvre," Philip
said, as they proceeded on their way. "I was with the King of
Navarre up to ten o'clock and, had anything been known of it by him
or the gentlemen with him, I should have been sure to have heard of
it."

They were joined by two or three other Huguenot gentlemen, roused
by the unusual light and talking in the street; and they proceeded
together to the Louvre. Large numbers of torches were burning in
front of the palace, and a body of soldiers was drawn up there.

"The man was right," the Sieur de Pascal said. "There is evidently
some diversion going on here."

As they approached they saw a movement in front, and then three or
four men ran towards them.

"Why, De Vignes," De Pascal exclaimed, as the first ran up, "what
is the matter?"

"That I do not know," De Vignes said. "I was roused half an hour
ago by the lights and noise, and came down with De la Riviere,
Maurepas, Castellon, and De Vigors, who lodges with me, to see what
it was about. As we approached the soldiers, they began to jeer at
us in a most insolent manner. Naturally we replied, and threatened
to report them to their officers; when the insolent varlets drew
and ran at us. Maurepas has, as you see, been wounded by a halbert;
and as we five could not give battle to that crowd of soldiers, we
ran for it. I shall lay the matter before La Rochefoucauld, and
request him to make a complaint to the king. What can we do now,
gentlemen?"

"I see not that we can do anything," De Pascal said. "We have heard
that these torchlight gatherings are part of a plan for a sham
attack on a castle, or something of that sort, for the amusement of
the king. Doubtless the soldiers are gathered for that purpose. We
cannot arouse La Rochefoucauld, at this hour of the night, that is
certain; so I see nothing to do but to go home, and wait till
morning."

"You do not think," Philip said, "that there is any possibility of
a general attack upon us being intended?"

"What! An attack got up at the Louvre, under the very eyes of the
king, who is our firm friend? You are dreaming, Monsieur Fletcher."

"I have one suspicious fact to go upon," Philip said quietly, and
then related the discovery of the crosses upon the doors.

The others, however, were absolutely incredulous that any treachery
could be intended and, after talking for a short time, longer, they
returned to their lodgings.

"What is to be done now, Pierre?"

"I should say we had better search farther, sir. If there is any
harm intended, the mob of Paris will be stirring. Let us go down
towards the Hotel de Ville; that is always the centre of mischief.
If all is quiet there, it may be that this story is correct, and
that it is really only a court diversion. But that does not explain
why the streets should be lighted up near the Admiral's."

"It does not, Pierre."

After they had passed another group of men with torches, Pierre
said:

"Did you notice, sir, that each of those men had a piece of white
stuff bound round his arm, and that it was the same with those we
passed before? If there is any mischief intended, we should be more
likely to learn what it is if we were to put on the same badge."

"The idea is a good one, Pierre;" and Philip took out his
handkerchief, tore it in two and, handing half of it to Pierre,
fastened the other round his arm.

As they went along, they met men with torches or lanterns, moving
in the same direction as themselves. All wore white handkerchiefs
or scarves round their arms.

Philip became more and more anxious as they went on, and regretted
that he had not returned to his lodgings and renewed his watch
there. However, a few minutes' walking took them to the Hotel de
Ville. The square in front of the building was faintly illuminated
by a few torches, here and there, and by large cressets that blazed
in front of the Hotel. The light, however, was sufficient to show a
dense body of men drawn up in the square, and the ruddy light of
the flames flashed from helmet, lance point, and axe.

"What think you now, Monsieur Philip? There must be eight or ten
thousand men here. I should say all the city bands, under their
captains."

As they paused, a citizen officer came up to them.

"All is ready, your excellency. I do not think that a man is absent
from his post. The orders remain unchanged, I suppose?"

"Quite unchanged," Philip said briefly, seeing that in the faint
light he was mistaken for someone else.

"And the bell is to be the signal for beginning?"

"I believe there has been a change in that respect," Philip said;
"but you will hear that later on. I am only here to see that all is
in readiness."

"Everything has been done as ordered, your excellency. The gates
are closed, and will not be opened except to one bearing special
orders, under the king's own seal. The boats have all been removed
from the wharves. There will be no escape."

Philip repressed a strong impulse to run the man through the body,
and only said:

"Good. Your zeal will not be forgotten."

Then he turned and walked away. They had gone but a few paces when,
in the distance, the report of a pistol was heard.

"Too late!" he exclaimed, in passionate regret.

"Come, Pierre," and he broke into a rapid run.

Several times groups of men came out from bye-streets at the sound
of the rapid footsteps, but Philip exclaimed:

"Away there! I am on urgent business for Anjou and Guise."

The men fell back at once, in each case, not doubting from the
badges on the arms, which they could make out in the darkness, that
Philip was bearing some important order.

"To the Admiral's, first," he said to Pierre. "It is there they
will surely begin."

But as they entered the Rue de Bethisy, he saw a number of men
pouring out from the Admiral's house, with drawn swords and waving
their torches over their heads. By the light, Philip could make out
Henri of Guise and Henry of Valois, with their attendants and
soldiers.

"We are too late here, Pierre. The Admiral has doubtless been
murdered. His confidence in the king's word has undone him."

Coligny, indeed, had refused the offer of many Protestant gentlemen
to spend the night in the house; and even Teligny, his son-in-law,
had gone to his own lodgings a short distance away. He had with him
only his chaplain Merlin, the king's surgeon, three gentlemen and
four or five servants; while in the court below were five of the
King of Navarre's Swiss guards.

The Admiral had been awakened by the increasing noise without, but
entertained no alarm whatever. Suddenly a loud knocking was heard
at the outer gate, and a demand for entrance, in the king's name.

The Admiral directed one of the gentlemen, named Le Bonne, to go
down and unbar the gate. As he did so, Cosseins, an officer of
Anjou's household rushed in, followed by fifty soldiers, and
stabbed Le Bonne to the heart. The soldiers had been despatched by
the king, himself, under pretence of guarding the Huguenots; and
twelve hundred arquebusiers had also been posted, under the same
pretext, in the neighbourhood.

The faithful Swiss defended the inner door and, when driven back,
defended for a time a barricade hastily thrown up on the stairs.
One of the Huguenot gentlemen rushed into the Admiral's room, with
the news that the gate had been forced. The Admiral calmly replied:

"I have kept myself for a long time in readiness for death. Save
yourselves, if you can. It would be hopeless for you to attempt to
save my life."

In obedience to his orders, all who were with him, save a German
interpreter, fled to the roof and made their escape in the
darkness. The barricade was carried, and a German named Besme, a
follower of the Duke of Guise, was the first to rush into the
Admiral's room. Coligny was calmly seated in a chair, and Besme
struck him two blows with his sword, while those following
despatched him.

Guise was waiting in the courtyard below. When he heard that the
Admiral was killed, he ordered the body to be thrown out of the
window. When he recognized that it was indeed the body of the
Admiral, he gave it a brutal kick, while one of his followers cut
off the head; and then Guise called upon the soldiers to follow
him, saying:

"We have begun well. Let us now see to the others, for so the king
commands."

As Philip turned from the spot, the bell of the church of Saint
Germain l'Auxerrois peeled forth, and shouts instantly rose from
all quarters. As he reached the street in which he lodged, Philip
saw that it was already half full of armed men, who were shouting
"Death to the Huguenots!" and were hammering at many of the doors.

He fell at once into a walk, and made his way through them
unmolested, the white badge on his arm seeming to guarantee that he
was a friend. He passed his own door, and made for that of the
Count de Valecourt. A combat was going on in front of it and, by
the light of the torches, Philip saw De Pascal defending himself
bravely against a host of enemies. Sword in hand, Philip sprang
forward. But before he could make his way through the soldiers, a
musket shot rang out, and De Pascal fell dead.

Philip drew back.

"To our own house, Pierre," he exclaimed to his lackey, who was
keeping close behind him; "we can do nothing here, and the door may
resist for a few minutes."

There was no one in front of the entrance, though at all the doors
marked with a white cross the soldiers were hammering with the
butts of their arquebuses. They slipped in, pushed the bars across,
ran upstairs and made their way on to the roof, and climbed along
it until they reached the window of the house in which De Valecourt
lodged; felt their way across the room till they discovered the
door, issued out and, as soon as they found the staircase, ran
down.

Already there was a turmoil below. A light streamed out from a door
of the count's apartments on the first floor. Philip ran in. Claire
de Valecourt was standing with one hand resting on the table,
deadly pale, but quiet. She was fully dressed.

"Where is your father?" Philip exclaimed.

"He has gone down with the servants to hold the stairs."

"I will join him," Philip said. "Pierre will take care of you. He
knows what to do. We will follow you. Quick, for your own sake and
your father's."

"I cannot go and leave him."

"You will do him no good by staying, and delay may cost us all our
lives. You must go at once. If you do not, at the risk of your
displeasure, I must carry you."

"I will go," she said. "You saved me before, and I trust you."

"Trust Pierre as you would trust me," he said.

"Now, Pierre, take her hand and hurry her upstairs."

The clash of swords, mingled with shouts and oaths, were heard
below; and Philip, as he saw Pierre turn with Claire de Valecourt,
ran down. On the next landing the count, with four serving men, was
defending himself against the assault of a crowd of armed men, who
were pushing up the staircase. Others behind them held torches,
while some of those engaged in the fray held a torch in one hand,
and a sword in the other.

"Ah, is it you, Monsieur Fletcher?" the count said, as Philip
placed himself beside him, felling one of the foremost of the
assailants, as he did so, with a sweeping blow.

"It is I, count. My house is not attacked, and I have sent off your
daughter, in charge of my man, to gain it along the roofs. We will
follow them, as soon as we can beat back these villains."

"The king's troops must arrive shortly," the count said.

"The king's troops are here," Philip said. "This is done by his
orders, and all Paris is in arms. The Admiral has already been
murdered."

The count gave a cry of fury, and threw himself upon his
assailants. His companions did the same and, step by step, drove
them backward down the stairs.

There was a cry below of "Shoot them down!" and, a moment later,
three or four arquebuses flashed out from the hall. The count,
without a word, pitched forward among the soldiers; and two of the
retainers also fell. Then the crowd surged up again.

Philip fought desperately for a time. Another shot rang out, and he
felt a sudden smart across his cheek. He turned and bounded up the
stairs, paused a moment at the top, and discharged his two pistols
at the leaders of the assailants; pulled to the door of the count's
chamber, leaving the corridor in darkness, and then sprang up the
stairs. When he reached the door of the unused room by which they
had entered, he fastened it behind him, got through the window and
closed it after him, and then rapidly made his way along the roofs,
until he reached his own. Closing and fastening the casement, he
ran down to his room.

Claire was standing there, with Pierre by her side. She gave a low
cry as he entered, alone.

"My father!" she exclaimed.

"God has taken him," Philip said, "as He has taken many others
tonight. He died painlessly, mademoiselle, by a shot from below."

Claire sank into a chair, and covered her face with her hands.

"His will be done," she said, in a low but firm voice, as she
looked up a minute later. "We are all in His hands, and can die but
once. Will they soon come?"

"I trust not," Philip said. "They may follow along the roof, when
they cannot find us in any of the rooms; but they will have no clue
as to which house we have entered."

"I will remain here and wait for them," she said.

"Then, mademoiselle, you will sacrifice our lives, as well as your
own; for assuredly we shall not leave you. Thus far we have escaped
and, if you will follow my directions, we may all escape together.
Still, if you wish it, we can die here together."

"What is to be done?" she asked, standing up.

Pierre handed Philip a bundle.

"I brought them down as I passed," he said.

"This is a disguise," Philip said, handing it to the girl. "I pray
you to put it on, at once. We also have disguises, and will return
in them, in a few minutes."



Chapter 21: Escape.


"This is awful, Pierre," Philip said, as he hurriedly assumed the
disguise the latter had prepared.

The clamour outside was indeed terrible. The bell of Saint Germain
l'Auxerrois was still sounding its signal, but mingled with it were
a thousand sounds of combat and massacre, the battering of hammers
and axes upon doors, the discharges of arquebuses and pistols, the
shouts of men and the loud screams of women.

Pierre glanced out of the window. With the soldiers were mingled a
crowd from the slums of Paris; who, scenting carnage from the
movements of the citizen troops, had waited in readiness to gather
the spoil; and had arrived on the spot, as if by magic, as soon as
the first signal of alarm told them that the work of slaughter had
begun.

"Can we get out behind, think you, Pierre?" Philip asked, as he
joined him.

"I will see, sir. One could scarce sally out, here, without being
at once seized and questioned. Doubtless a watch was placed in the
rear, at first; but the soldiers would be likely to make off, to
join in the massacre and get their share of plunder, as soon as the
affair began.

"You will do, sir, as far as the dress goes; but you must smear
your face and arms. They are far too white, at present, and would
be instantly noticed."

Philip rubbed his hands, blackened by his passage across the roofs,
over his face and arms; and then joined Claire, who started, as he
entered.

"I did not know you," she said. "Come; are we ready? It were surely
better to die at once, than to listen to these dreadful sounds."

"One moment. Pierre will return directly. He has gone to see
whether the lane behind the houses is clear. Once fairly away, and
our course will be easier."

Pierre returned almost immediately.

"The way is clear."

"Let us go, then, mademoiselle."

"One moment, monsieur. Let us pray before we start. We may have no
time, there."

And, standing with upturned face, she prayed earnestly for
protection.

"Lead us, O God," she concluded, "through the strife and turmoil;
as Thou didst the holy men of old, through the dangers of the lions
and the furnace. But if it be Thy will that we should die, then do
we commend our souls to Thee; in the sure faith that we are but
passing through death into life.

"Now I am ready," she said, turning to Philip.

"You cannot go like this, Mademoiselle Claire," Pierre said
reverently. "Of what good would that disguise be to you, when your
face would betray you in the darkest street? You must ruffle your
hair, and pull that hood over your face, so as to hide it as much
as possible."

The girl walked across to a mirror.

[Illustration: Philip, Claire and Pierre disguise themselves.]

"I would I could take my sword, Pierre," said Philip.

"Take it, sir. Strap it boldly round your waist. If anyone remarks
on it, laugh, and say it was a Huguenot's half an hour ago. I will
carry mine stuck under my arm.

"Use as few words as may be, if you have to speak; and speak them
gruffly, or they will discover at once that you are no smith. I
fear not for ourselves. We can play our parts--fight or run for it.
It is that angel I fear for."

"God will protect her, Pierre. Ah! They are knocking at the door,
and the women of the house may be coming down to open it."

"Not they, sir. You may be sure they are half mad with terror. Not
one has shown herself, since the tumult began. The landlord and his
two sons are, doubtless, with the city bands. Like enough they have
led some of their fellows here, or why should they attack the door,
as it is unmarked?"

Claire joined them again. They hurried downstairs, and then out by
the back entrance into a narrow lane. Philip carried a heavy hammer
on his shoulder. Pierre had a large butcher's knife stuck
conspicuously in his girdle. He was bare headed and had dipped his
head in water, so that his hair fell matted across his face, which
was grimy and black.

Day was now breaking, but the light was as yet faint.

"Keep close to me, Claire," Philip said as they reached the street,
which was ablaze with torches. "Above all things do not shrink, or
seem as if you were afraid."

"I am not afraid," she said. "God saved me before from as great a
peril, and will save me again, if it seems good to Him."

"Keep your eyes fixed on me. Pay no attention to what is going on
around you."

"I will pray," she said simply.

Just as they entered the street the crowd separated, and the Duke
of Guise, followed by several nobles of his party, rode along,
shouting:

"Death to all Huguenots! It is the king's command."

"It is the command you and others have put into his mouth,
villain!" Philip muttered to himself.

A roar of ferocious assent rose from the crowd, which was composed
of citizen soldiers and the scum of Paris. They danced and yelled,
and uttered ferocious jests at the dead bodies lying in the road.

Here the work of slaughter was nearly complete. Few of the
Huguenots had offered any resistance, although some had fought
desperately to the last. Most of them, however, taken by surprise,
and seeing resistance useless, had thrown down their arms; and
either cried for quarter, or had submitted themselves calmly to
slaughter. Neither age nor sex had availed to save them. Women and
children, and even infants, had been slain without mercy.

The soldiers, provided with lists of the houses inhabited by
Huguenots, were going round to see that none had escaped attack.
Many in the crowd were attired in articles of dress that they had
gained in the plunder. Ragged beggars wore cloaks of velvet, or
plumed hats. Many had already been drinking heavily. Women mingled
in the crowd, as ferocious and merciless as the men.

"Break me in this door, friend," an officer, with a list in his
hand and several soldiers standing beside him, said to Philip.

The latter did not hesitate. To do so would have brought
destruction on himself and those with him; without averting, for
more than a minute or two, the fate of those within. Placing
himself in front of the door, he swung his heavy hammer and brought
it down upon the woodwork. A dozen blows, and the door began to
splinter.

The crack of a pistol sounded above, and the officer standing close
to him fell dead. Four or five shots were fired, by the soldiers,
at the window above. Another two or three blows, and the door gave
way.

Philip went aside as the soldiers, followed by a crowd, rushed in;
and returned to Claire, who was standing by the side of Pierre, a
few paces away.

"Let us go on," he said.

A few yards further they were at the entrance of a lane running
north. As Philip turned into it, a man caught him by the arm.

"Where are you going, comrade?" he said. "There is plenty of work
for your hammer, yet."

"I have a job elsewhere," Philip said.

"It is rare work, comrade. I have killed five of them with my own
hand, and I have got their purses, too," he chuckled.

"Hallo! Who is this girl you have with you?"

And he roughly caught hold of Claire.

Philip's pent-up rage found a vent. He sprang upon the man, seized
him by the throat, and hurled him with tremendous force against the
wall; whence he fell, a senseless mass, on to the ground.

"What is it?" cried half a dozen men, rushing up.

"A Huguenot in disguise," Philip said. "You will find his pockets
are full of gold."

They threw themselves upon the fallen man, fighting and cursing to
be the first to ransack his pockets; while Philip, with his two
companions, moved up the lane unnoticed.

Fifty yards farther Claire stumbled, and would have fallen had not
Philip caught her. Her head had fallen forward, and he felt at once
that she was insensible. He placed her on a doorstep, and supported
her in a sitting position, Pierre standing by. A minute later a
group of men came hurrying down the street.

"What is it?" one of the group asked, as he stopped for a moment.

"It is only a woman, squeamish," Pierre said in a rough voice. "She
would come with us, thinking she could pick up a trinket or two;
but, ma foi, it is hot down there, and she turned sick. So we are
taking her home."

Satisfied with the explanation, the men hurried on.

"Shall I carry her, Pierre? Her weight would be nothing."

"Better wait a few minutes, Monsieur Philip, and see if she comes
round. Our story is right enough, as long as we stop here; but
people might want to know more, if they were to meet you carrying a
woman."

Some minutes passed, and then, finding that Claire remained
unconscious, Philip lifted her on to his shoulder.

"We will risk it, Pierre. As long as we only meet them coming along
in twos or threes, we can go on safely; for if they are
inquisitive, I can set her down and speedily silence their
questioning. If we see a large body coming, we can either turn down
a side street or, if there is no turning at hand, can set her down
again and answer as before. Every step we get, farther away from
the quarter we have left, the better."

He had carried Claire but a few hundred yards, when he felt her
move. He at once set her down again, on a doorstep. In a few
minutes she was able to stand and, assisted by Philip, she
presently continued her course, at a slow pace. Gradually the
movement restored her strength, and she said, speaking for the
first time:

"I can walk alone."

An hour later they reached the hut that they had marked out as
their place of refuge. Pierre went to a corner and drew out, from
under a heap of rubbish, a large bundle.

"Here is your cloak and mine," he said, "and a change of clothes
for each of us. We could not wander about the country, in this
guise."

Philip laid the cloaks down to form a sort of couch; and placed the
bundle, with the rest of the things in, as a pillow.

"Now, mademoiselle," he said, "you will be safe here until
nightfall. First you must drink a glass of wine, and try and eat
something. Pierre brought some up here, two days ago. Then I hope
you will lie down. I will watch outside the door. Pierre will go
down into the town, to gather news."

"I will take something presently," she said. "I could eat nothing,
now."

But Pierre had already uncorked a bottle, and Philip advised her to
drink a little wine.

"You will need all your strength," he said, "for we have a long
journey before us."

She drank a few drops.

"Do not go yet," she said. "I must speak to you."

Philip nodded to Pierre, who left the hut. Claire sat on the cloaks
for some minutes, in silence.

"I have been thinking, Monsieur Philip," she said at last, "and it
seems to me that it would not be right for me to go with you. I am
the promised wife of the Sieur de Pascal, and that promise is all
the more sacred, since he to whom I gave it,"--and she paused--"is
gone. It would not be right for me to go with you. You shall take
me to the Louvre, where I will crave the protection of the King and
Queen of Navarre.

"Do not think me ungrateful for what you have done for me. Twice
now you have saved my life, and, and--you understand me, Philip?"

"I do," he said, "and honour your scruples. One of my objects, in
sending Pierre down into the town again, is to learn what has taken
place at the Louvre. It may be that this fiendish massacre has
extended there, and that even the King of Navarre, and the Huguenot
gentlemen with him, have shared the fate of the others. Should it
not be so, it would be best in every way that what you suggest
should be carried out.

"As for the Sieur de Pascal, it may be that the blow, that has
bereft you of your good father, may well have fallen upon him,
also."

"But many will surely escape, as we have done. It cannot be that
all our friends--all those who rode in with the princes--can have
been murdered."

"Some have doubtless escaped; but I fear that the massacre will be
almost universal, for it has evidently been carefully planned and,
once begun, will extend not only to the followers of Navarre, but
to all the Protestants within the walls of Paris."

"Do you know aught concerning the Sieur de Pascal?" Claire asked,
looking up.

Something in the tone of his voice struck her.

"I saw him fall, mademoiselle. He had made for the door of your
house, doubtless with the intention of joining your father in
defending it to the last; but the murderers were already there. He
was attacked on the doorstep, and was surrounded, and well-nigh
spent, when I saw him. I tried to reach him through the crowd but,
before I could do so, he fell.

"Then, seeing that it would be but throwing away my life, and
destroying all chance of saving yours, I hurried away to carry out
the plan I had before formed of making my way along the roofs, and
so entering your house.

"Monsieur de Pascal fell, mademoiselle, as a brave soldier,
fighting against a host of foes, and in defence of yourself and
your father. It was an unfortunate, though noble impulse, that led
him there; for I had rubbed out the mark upon your door that served
as a guide for the soldiers, and you and the count might have
escaped over the roof, before any attack was made, had not his
presence aroused their suspicions."

Claire had hidden her face in her hands, as he began to speak; and
he had kept on talking, in order to give her time to collect her
feelings; but as she was now crying unrestrainedly, he went quietly
out of the hut and left her to herself; glad that tears had come to
her relief, for the first time.

An hour later the door opened behind him, and Claire called him in.

"I am better now," she said, "I have been able to cry. It seemed
that my heart was frozen, and I was like one in a terrible
nightmare. Now I know that it is all true, and that my dear father
is dead.

"As for Monsieur de Pascal, I am sorry that a brave soldier has
been killed; but that is all. You know that I received him, as my
affianced husband, simply in obedience to my father's commands; and
that my heart had no part in it. God has broken the tie, and for
that, even in this time of sorrow, I cannot but feel relief."

At this moment there was a knock at the door. Then the latch was
lifted, and Pierre entered.

"What is the news, Pierre?"

"It is bad, sir. The king has, in truth, put himself at the head of
the massacre; and even in the Louvre, itself, several Huguenot
gentlemen have been slain, though I could not learn their names. It
is said that some of them were slain in the presence of the young
Queen of Navarre, in spite of her entreaties and cries. The young
king and his cousin Conde are close prisoners; and it is said that
they, too, will be slain, unless they embrace the Catholic faith.

"The massacre has spread to all parts of the town, and the
Huguenots are everywhere being dragged from their homes and killed,
together with their wives and children. It is said that the bodies
of Coligny, and other Huguenot leaders, have been taken to the
Louvre; and that the king and the queen mother and the ladies, as
well as the gentlemen of the court, have been down to view them and
make a jest of them.

"Truly, sir, Paris seems to have gone mad. It is said that orders
have been sent, to all parts of France, to exterminate the
Huguenots."

Philip made a sign to Pierre to leave the hut.

"This is terrible news," he said to Claire, "and it is now clear
that the Louvre will afford you no protection. In these days, no
more mercy is shown to women than to men; and at best, or at worst,
you could but save your life by renouncing your faith."

"I had already decided," she said quietly, "that I would not go to
the Louvre. The death of Monsieur de Pascal has altered everything.
As his affianced wife, with the consent of my father, the king
would hardly have interfered to have forced me into another
marriage; but, being now free, he would treat me as a ward of the
crown, and would hand me and my estates to one of his favourites.
Anything would be better than that.

"Now, of course, it is out of the question. Estates I have none;
for, with the extermination of our people, their estates will be
granted to others."

"As to that, mademoiselle, they have been trying to massacre the
Huguenots for years; and though, doubtless, in the towns many may
fall, they will not be taken so readily in the country; and may,
even yet, rally and make head again.

"Still, that does not alter the present circumstances; and I see no
other plan but that I had first formed, for you to accompany me and
my servant, in disguise."

The girl stood hesitating, twining her fingers over each other,
restlessly.

"It is so strange, so unmaidenly," she murmured.

"Then, Claire," Philip said, taking her hands in his, "you must
give me the right to protect you. It is strange to speak of love,
at such a time as this; but you know that I love you. As a rich
heiress, and altogether above my station, even had you been free I
might never have spoken; but now, standing as we do surrounded by
dangers, such distinctions are levelled. I love you with all my
heart, and it seems to me that God, himself, has brought us
together."

"It is surely so, Philip," she said, looking up into his face. "Has
not God sent you twice to save me? Some day I will tell you of my
heart, but not now, dear--not now. I am alone in the world, save
you. I am sure that my father, if he now sees us, must approve.
Therefore, Philip, henceforth I am your affianced wife, and am
ready to follow you to the end of the world."

Philip stooped down, and kissed her gently. Then he dropped her
hands, and she stood back a little apart from him.

"It were best that I called Pierre in," he said. "Even in this
lonely quarter some one might pass and, seeing him standing at the
door, wonder who he might be."

So saying, he opened the door and called Pierre in.

"Pierre," he said gravely, "Mademoiselle de Valecourt is now my
affianced wife."

"That is as it should be, master," Pierre said; and then, stepping
up to Claire, who held out her hand to him, he reverently pressed
it with his lips.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "my life will henceforth be at your
disposal, as at that of my master. We may have dangers to face, but
if anyone can get you through them, he can."

"Thank you, Pierre," the girl said. "It is well, indeed, that we
should have with us one so faithful and attached as yourself."

In the hours that passed before nightfall, Philip related to Claire
how Pierre's warnings had excited his uneasiness; and how the
discovery of the chalk marks, on the doors, had confirmed him in
his conviction that some evil was intended; and explained the steps
they had taken for providing for an escape from the city.

"I have been wondering vaguely, Philip," she said, when he had told
the story, "how it was that you should have appeared so suddenly,
and should have a disguise in readiness for me. But how could you
have guessed that I should be ready to go with you?"

And for the first time, a slight tinge of colour came into her
cheeks.

"It was scarcely a guess, Claire. It was rather a despairing hope.
It seemed to me that, amid all this terror and confusion, I might
in some way be able to rescue you; and I made the only preparation
that seemed possible.

"I knew that you were aware that I loved you. When you told me of
your engagement, I felt that you were saying farewell to me. When I
thought of saving you, it was for him and not for myself; for I
knew that you would never oppose your father's wishes. I did not
dream of such a general calamity as it has been. I thought only of
a rising of the mob of Paris, and that perhaps an hour or two in
disguise might be sufficient, until the king's troops restored
order."

"It is very wonderful," Claire said earnestly. "It seems, beyond
all doubt, that it is God Himself who has thus given me to you; and
I will not doubt that, great as the dangers may seem to be before
us, He will lead us safely through them.

"You will make for La Rochelle?"

"Yes. Once there we shall be safe. You may be sure that there, at
least, the cruel orders of the king will be wholly disregarded; as
we may hope they will be, in many other towns in which the
Huguenots are numerous; but at La Rochelle, certainly, were all the
rest of France in flames, the people would remain steadfast.

"But I do not believe that the power of the Huguenots will be
broken. It may be that, in the northern towns, the orders of the
king will be carried out; but from thence we have obtained no aid
in our former struggles. Our strength in the south will still
remain and, though the loss of so many leaders and nobles, here in
Paris, will be a heavy blow, I hope that the cause of the faith
will speedily rally from it and make head again; just as it did
when all seemed lost, after the battle of Moncontour."

So they talked until night fell, with Pierre sitting discreetly in
the corner, as far away as possible, apparently sleeping most of
the time. As soon as it became perfectly dark, the bundle of
clothes was taken from the hiding place and, going outside the hut,
Philip and Pierre put on their ordinary attire. Claire had simply
slipped on the dress prepared for her over her own, and had but to
lay it aside.

After partaking of a meal, they made their way to the nearest steps
leading to the top of the wall. One end of the rope was fastened to
the parapet, the other was tied round Claire, and she was carefully
lowered to the ground. Philip and Pierre slid down the rope after
her, and they at once started across the country.

After three hours' walking, they reached the farm where Pierre had
left the horses. They left Claire a short distance away. As Pierre
had seen the horses put into the stables, he knew exactly where
they were. He had, on leaving them there, paid for a week's keep;
saying that he might come for them in haste, and perhaps at night,
and if so he would saddle and take them off without waking the
farmer.

The horses whinnied with pleasure, when Philip spoke to them. The
saddles and bridles were found, hanging on a beam where Pierre had
placed them; and in two or three minutes the horses were led out,
ready to start. Philip had arranged his cloak behind his saddle,
for Claire to sit upon; and led the horse to the place where she
was awaiting them.

"All has passed off well," he said. "No one in the farmhouse seems
to have heard a sound."

He leapt into the saddle. Claire placed her foot on his, and he
swung her up behind him; and they then started at a brisk trot.

Avoiding all large towns, and stopping only at village inns, they
made their way south; making long journeys each day. In the
villages there was little of the religious rancour that animated
the people in the towns and, after the first two days, Philip found
that the news of what had occurred at Paris had not, as yet,
spread. Eager questions were asked Pierre as to the grand wedding
festivities at Paris; and there was, everywhere, a feeling of
satisfaction at a union that seemed to promise to give peace to
France.

Claire was generally supposed to be Philip's sister; and the
hostesses always did their best to make the girl, with her pale sad
face, as comfortable as possible.

Fearing that a watch might have been set at the bridges, they
avoided these, crossing either by ferry boats or at fords. The
Loire was passed above Orleans, and as that city, Blois, and Tours
all lay on the northern bank, they met with no large towns on their
way, until they approached Chatellerault. They bore to the south to
avoid that city and Poitiers and, on the eighth day after leaving
Paris, they reached the chateau of Laville, having travelled
upwards of two hundred miles.

As they crossed the drawbridge, Philip's four retainers met them at
the gate, and greeted him most warmly.

"Is the countess in?" he asked, as he alighted.

"She is, Monsieur Philip. She has been for some days at La
Rochelle, and returned yesterday. There are rumours, sir, that at
Poitiers and Niort the Catholics have again, in spite of the
edicts, fallen upon the Huguenots; and though the countess believes
not the tale, we had a guard posted at the gate last night."

"I am afraid it is true, Eustace," Philip said. "Take the horses
round to the stables, and see to them well. They have travelled
fast."

Taking Claire's hand, he led her up the steps; and just as he
entered the hall the countess, to whom the news of his approach had
been carried, met him.

"Aunt," he said, "I confide this lady to your loving care. It is
Mademoiselle de Valecourt, now my affianced wife. I have bad news
to tell you; but I pray you lead her first to a chamber, for she is
sore wearied and in much grief."

"Francois is not dead?" the countess exclaimed in a low voice,
paling to the lips.

"I trust not, aunt. I have no reason for believing that he is."

"I will wait here, Philip, with the countess's permission," Claire
said. "It is better that you should not keep her in suspense, even
for a moment, on my account."

"I thank you, mademoiselle," the countess said, as she led the girl
to a couch. "This is but a poor welcome that I am giving you; but I
will make amends for it, when I have heard what Philip has to tell
me.

"Now, Philip, tell me the worst, and let there be no concealment."

Philip related the whole story of the massacre, his tale being
interrupted by frequent exclamations of horror, by the countess.

"It seems incredible," she cried, "that a king of France should
thus dishonour himself, alike by breaking his vows, disregarding
his own safe conduct, and massacring those who had accepted his
hospitality.

"And Francois, you say, was at the Louvre with the King of Navarre
and Conde; and even there, within the walls of the royal palace,
some of the king's guests were murdered; but more than this you
know not?"

"That is the report that Pierre gathered in the street, aunt. It
may have been exaggerated. Everyone eagerly seized and retailed the
reports that were current. But even if true, it may well be that
Francois is not among those who fell. To a certain extent he was
warned, for I told him the suspicions and fears that I entertained;
and when he heard the tumult outside, he may have effected his
escape."

"I do not think so," the countess said, drawing herself up to her
full height. "My son was one of the prince's gentlemen of the
chamber, and he would have been unworthy of his name, had he
thought first of his personal safety and not of that of the young
king."

Philip knew that this was so; and the knowledge had, from the
first, prevented his entertaining any great hopes of his cousin's
safety. However, he said:

"As long as there was a hope of his being of service to the prince,
I am sure that Francois would not have left him. But from the
first, aunt, resistance was in vain, and would only have excited
the assailants. Pierre heard that in few cases was there any
resistance, whatever, to the murderers. The horror of the thing was
so great that even the bravest, awakened thus from their sleep,
either fell without drawing sword, or fled."

"What a day for France!" the countess exclaimed. "The Admiral, our
bravest soldier, our greatest leader, a Christian hero, slaughtered
as he lay wounded! And how many others of our noblest and best! And
you say orders have been sent, over all France, to repeat this
horrible massacre?

"But enough, for the present. I am forgetting my duties as hostess.
Mademoiselle de Valecourt, we are alike mourners--you for your
noble father, I for my son, both of us for France and for our
religion. Yet I welcome you to Laville. For you, brighter days may
be in store. My nephew is a gallant gentleman, and with him you may
find a home far away from this unhappy country. To me, if Francois
has gone, Philip will stand almost in the light of a son. Francois
loved him as a brother, and he has grown very dear to me, and
gladly shall I welcome you as his wife.

"Now, come with me.

"Philip, I leave it to you to send round the news to the tenants,
and to see that all preparations are made to leave the chateau,
once again, to the mercy of our foes; and to retire to La Rochelle,
where alone we can talk with safety. See that the bell is rung at
once. The tenants know the summons and, though little expecting
danger, will quickly rally here."

Philip at once went out into the courtyard, and in a minute the
sharp clanging of the bell told the country round that danger
threatened. The retainers of the chateau ran hastily out, arming
themselves as they went; and exclamations of horror and fury broke
from them, as Philip told them that the order for the massacre of
the Huguenots, throughout France, had gone forth; and that already,
most of those who rode to Paris with the King of Navarre had
fallen.

Then he repeated the countess's order that, upon the following
morning, the chateau should be abandoned and all should ride to La
Rochelle; and he despatched half a dozen mounted men, to warn all
the Huguenot gentry in the district.

In a few minutes the tenants began to flock in. Although the tale
that they heard involved the destruction of their newly-built
houses, and the loss of most of their property, this affected them
but slightly in comparison with the news of the murder of Coligny,
and of so many Huguenot leaders; and of the terrible fate that
would befall the Huguenots, in every town in France. Some wept,
others clenched their weapons in impotent rage. Some called down
the curses of Heaven upon the faithless king, while some stood as
if completely dazed at the terrible news.

Philip spoke a few cheering words to them.

"All is not lost yet, my friends. Heaven will raise up fresh
leaders for us. Many may fall, but the indignation and rage that
you feel will likewise animate all who, dwelling in the country,
may escape; so that, ere long, we shall have fresh armies in the
field. Doubtless the first blow will be struck at La Rochelle, and
there we will meet these murderers face to face; and will have the
opportunity of proving, to them, that the men of the Reformed
religion are yet a force capable of resisting oppression, and
revenging treachery. There is one thing: never again shall we make
the mistake of laying down our arms, confiding in the promises and
vows of this perjured king; never again shall we be cozened into
throwing away the results of our victories.

"Gather your horses and cattle, as you did before. Take your
household goods in carts and, at daybreak, send in here the waggons
that you have to provide, in case of necessity."

At noon the next day, the whole of the occupants of the chateau
started for La Rochelle. The tenants, with their cattle and horses
and all their portable property, had left at daybreak; and at
nightfall the countess and her party came up with them. The
encampment was a large one. The women and children slept under the
waggons. The men lay down by fires they had kindled, while a
portion were told off to keep watch over the animals.

The train had swollen considerably since they had started. Most of
the inhabitants of the villages were Huguenots and, as soon as
these heard of the massacres in Paris and elsewhere, they collected
their animals, loaded up their carts, and took the road to the city
of refuge.

After four days' travelling, they entered La Rochelle. The news had
arrived before them, being brought by some of those who had escaped
the massacre, by being lodged without the walls of Paris. The
countess and Claire were received at the house of Monsieur Bertram.
Philip found lodgings near them, and the whole of the inhabitants
vied with each other, in their hospitable reception of the mass of
fugitives.

Claire was completely prostrated by the events through which she
had passed, and Monsieur Bertram's daughter devoted herself to her,
tending her with unwearied care until, after a week in bed, she
began again to gather strength.

The time of the countess was entirely occupied in filling the part
that had, before, been played by Jeanne of Navarre: holding
consultations with the town councillors, going down to the walls
and encouraging the men who were labouring there, and urging on the
people to make every sacrifice in defence of their religion and
homes. She herself set the example, by pawning her jewels and
selling her horses, and devoting the proceeds to the funds raised
for the defence.

She worked with feverish activity, as if to give herself no time
for thought. She was still without news of Francois. Henry of
Navarre and the Prince of Conde had, as was soon known, been
compelled to abjure their religion as the price of their lives. She
was convinced that her son would have refused to buy his life, upon
such conditions. Philip, who had come to regard Francois as a
brother, was equally anxious and, two days after his arrival at the
city, he took Pierre aside.

"Pierre," he said, "I cannot rest here in ignorance of the fate of
my cousin."

"That I can see, master. You have eaten no food the last two days.
You walk about at night, instead of sleeping; and I have been
expecting, every hour, that you would say to me, 'Pierre, we must
go to Paris.'"

"Will you go with me, Pierre?"

"How can you ask such a question?" Pierre said, indignantly. "Of
course, if you go I go, too. There is not much danger in the
affair; and if there were, what then? We have gone through plenty
of it, together. It will not be, now, as when we made our escape.
Then they were hunting down the Huguenots like mad dogs. Now they
think they have exterminated them in Paris, and will no longer be
on the lookout for them. It will be easy enough to come and go,
without being observed; and if we find Monsieur Francois, we will
bring him out with us.

"The young count is not like you, monsieur. He is brave, and a
gallant gentleman, but he is not one to invent plans of escape; and
he will not get away, unless we go for him."

"That is what I think, Pierre. We will start at once, but we must
not let the countess know what we are going for. I will get the
chief of the council, openly, to charge me with a mission to the
south; while telling them, privately, where I am really going, and
with what object. I am known to most of them, and I doubt not they
will fall in with my plans.

"We will ride my two best horses, and lead a spare one. We will
leave them a few miles outside Paris, and then go in disguised as
countrymen. At any rate, we shall soon be able to learn if my
cousin is among those who fell. If not, he must be in hiding
somewhere. It will not be easy to discover him, but I trust to you
to find him."

Accordingly, the next day, the countess heard that Philip had been
requested by the council to proceed on a mission to the south,
where the Huguenots were everywhere in arms.



Chapter 22: Reunited.


Philip took clothes with him, in his saddlebags, of gayer colours
than those worn by the Huguenots; and as soon as they were beyond
the district where the Protestants were in the ascendant, he put
these on instead of those in which he had started. They rode fast
and, on the fifth day after leaving La Rochelle, they entered
Versailles. No questions had been asked them by the way, and they
rode into the courtyard of the principal inn, and there stabled
their horses.

"Your animals look as if they needed rest, sir," the landlord said,
as they dismounted.

"Yes, we have come from the south, and have pressed them too much.
I have business in Paris which will occupy me for a few days;
therefore I will leave them here, for a rest. I suppose you can
furnish me with two horses, to take me as far as Saint Cloud, and a
man to bring them back again."

"Certainly I can, sir, and your horses shall be well looked after,
here."

"Then we will go on, the first thing in the morning. Have the
horses ready by that time."

The next morning they rode to Saint Cloud, dismounted there, and
handed over the horses to the man who had ridden behind them. Then
they crossed by the bridge over the river and, entering the wood
that bordered the Seine, put on the disguises they had brought with
them--concealing their clothes among some thick bushes--and then
walked on into Paris.

They put up at a small inn and, as they partook of a meal, listened
to the talk of those around them. But it was not here that they
could expect to gather the news they required. They heard the names
of many of those who had been killed, but these were all leaders of
distinction; and as soon as they had finished their food, they
started for the Louvre.

"I don't see how we are to find out what we want, now we are here,
Pierre," Philip said, after they had stood for some time, looking
at the gate through which numbers of gentlemen entered or left the
palace.

"It will take some little time, sir," Pierre said. "I think the
best plan will be for me to purchase some clothes, suitable for the
lackey of a gentleman of rank. I can get them easily enough, for
the shops will be full of garments, bought of those who took part
in the massacre. Then I shall make acquaintance with one of the
lackeys of the court and, with plenty of good wine, I shall no
doubt be able to learn all that he knows as to what took place at
the Louvre."

At that moment a gentleman passed them.

"That is Count Louis de Fontaine, the cousin of the man I killed in
that duel. I am sure it is he. By what I saw of him, he is a
gentleman and a man of honour, and by no means ill disposed towards
us.

"I will speak to him. Do you stay here, till I return."

Pierre was about to protest, but Philip had already left him, and
was following the count. He waited until they were in a
comparatively quiet place, and then walked on and overtook him.

"Count Louis de Fontaine," he said.

The nobleman turned, in surprise, at being addressed by this big
countryman.

Philip went on:

"Our acquaintance was a short one, count. It was some four years
ago, at Agen, that I met you, and had the misfortune to have
trouble with your cousin, Count Raoul; but short as it was, it was
sufficient to show me that you were a gentleman of heart, and to
encourage me, now, to throw myself on your generosity."

"Are you the gentleman who fought my cousin, and afterwards escaped
from the castle?" the count asked, in surprise.

"I am, count. I am here upon no plot or conspiracy, but simply to
endeavour to ascertain the fate of my cousin, Francois de Laville,
who was with the King of Navarre on that fearful night, a fortnight
since. His mother is distracted at hearing no news of him, while to
me he is as a brother.

"I effected my own escape, and have, as you see, returned in
disguise to ascertain his fate. I am unable to obtain a list of
those who were murdered and, seeing you, I felt that it would be
safe to rely upon your honour, and to ask you to give me the news I
require. I will fall back now, for it might be thought strange that
a noble should be talking to a peasant; but I pray you to lead the
way to some quiet spot, where I can speak with you unnoticed."

"My lodging is in the next street. Follow me, and I will take you
up to my room."

As soon as they had entered the lodging, the count said:

"You are not deceived. I am incapable of betraying a trust imposed
upon me. I bear you no malice for the slaying of my cousin; for
indeed, the quarrel was not of your seeking. Still less do I feel
hostility towards you on the ground of your religion; for I doubt
not, from what you say, that you are of the Reformed faith. I
lament, most deeply and bitterly, the events that have taken
place--events which dishonour our nation in the eyes of all Europe.
I have not the pleasure of knowing your name."

"I am the Chevalier Philip Fletcher, an Englishman by birth, though
related on my mother's side to the family of the Count de Laville."

"I have heard your name, sir, as that of one of the bravest
gentlemen in the following of Admiral Coligny.

"Now, as to your cousin; his fate is uncertain. He was certainly
cut down by the hired wretches of the Guises. They passed on in
search of other victims, believing him to be dead; but his body was
not afterwards found, and the general opinion is that he either
recovered and crawled away, and is still in some hiding place, or
that he is concealed somewhere in the palace itself. Search was
made next day, but without success. Some think he may have reached
the streets, and been there killed; and his body, like so many
others, thrown into the Seine. I trust that this is not the case,
but I have no grounds for bidding you hope."

"At any rate, you have given me cause to hope, sir, and I thank you
heartily. It is something to know that he is not certainly dead.

"Can you tell me on which side of the palace was his chamber? I saw
him there frequently, but did not, on any occasion, go with him to
his room."

"It was on the side facing the river. It was near that of the King
of Navarre."

"Thank you, count. It is but a small clue with which to commence my
search, but it is at least something. You say that the palace
itself has been searched?"

"Yes. On the following morning it was thoroughly searched for
fugitives in hiding; but for all that he may be concealed there, by
some servant whose goodwill he had gained.

"Is there anything else that I can tell you? I may say that I have,
personally, no influence whatever at court. I have never failed to
express myself strongly, in reference to the policy of persecution;
and I am only here, now, in obedience to the royal orders to
present myself at court."

"There is nothing else, count. I thank you most sincerely, for
having thus respected my disguise, and for the news you have given
me."

Philip returned to the Louvre and joined Pierre, who was
impatiently waiting.

"I followed you for some distance, sir; but when I saw you address
the count, and then follow quietly behind him, I saw you were
right, and that he was to be trusted; and so returned to await your
coming. Have you obtained any sure news from him?"

Philip repeated his conversation with the count.

"I will wager he is hidden somewhere in the palace," Pierre said.
"Badly wounded as he must have been, he could not have hoped to
make his escape through the streets, knowing no one who would have
dared to give him refuge. It is far more likely that some of the
palace servants came upon him, just as he was recovering, and hid
him away. He was always bright and pleasant, fond of a jest, and it
may well be that some woman or other took pity on him. The question
is, how are we to find out who she is?"

"It is as likely to be a man as a woman, Pierre."

"No," Pierre said positively. "Women are wonderfully tender
hearted, and are not so afraid of consequences as men are. A man
might feel some pity, at seeing a gentleman so sorely wounded, but
he would not risk his own life to shelter him; while any woman
would do it, without hesitation. It may be a lady of noble family,
or a poor kitchen wench, but that it is a woman I would wager my
life."

"It seems hopeless to try to find out who it is," Philip said
despondently.

"Not hopeless, sir, though doubtless difficult. With your
permission, I will undertake this part of the task. I will get
myself up as a workman out of employment--and there are many
such--and will hang about near that little gate. It is the
servants' entrance, and I shall be able to watch every woman that
comes out."

"But what good will watching do?"

"It may do no good, sir, but yet it may help. A woman, with such a
secret as that on her mind, will surely show some signs of it upon
her face. She will either have a scared look, or an anxious look.
She will not walk with an easy step."

"Well, there is something in what you say, Pierre. At any rate, I
can think of nothing better."

The next morning Pierre took up his position opposite the gate, but
had no news that night to report to his master; nor had he on the
second or third; but on the fourth, he returned radiant.

"Good news, master. The count is alive, and I have found him."

Philip sprung from his settle, and grasped his faithful follower by
the hand.

"Thank God for the news, Pierre. I had almost given up hope. How
did you discover him?"

"Just as I expected, sir. I have seen, in the last three days,
scores of women come out; but none of them needed a second look.
Some were intent on their own finery, others were clearly bent on
shopping. Some looked up and down the street, for a lover who ought
to have been waiting for them. Not one of these had a secret of
life and death on her mind.

"But this afternoon there came out a young woman with a pale face,
and an anxious look. She glanced nervously up and down the street,
not as one expecting to meet a friend, but as if she feared an
enemy. After a moment's hesitation, she crossed the road and walked
along with an indecisive air; more than once glancing behind her,
as if afraid of being followed.

"'This is my lady,' I said to myself and, keeping some distance
behind and on the opposite side of the road, I followed her.

"She soon turned off into a side street. Once or twice she paused,
looked into a shop, hesitated, and then went on again. You may be
sure I marked the spots, and was not surprised to find that, in
each case, it was an apothecary's before which she had hesitated.

"At last, after looking round again timidly, she entered one; and
when I came up, I also went in. She gave a nervous start. I asked
to be supplied with a pot of salve for a wound, and the man helped
me from one he had just placed on the counter before him. I paid
for it, and left.

"Two or three minutes later, I saw her come out. Whatever she had
bought, she had hidden it under her cloak. Up to this time she had
walked fast, but she now loitered, and looked at the wares
displayed on the stalls.

"'You are in no hurry to go back,' I said to myself. 'You have got
what you wanted, and you do not wish to attract attention, by
returning to the palace after so short an absence.'

"At last, when she was in a quiet spot, I walked quickly up to her.

"'Mademoiselle,' I said, taking off my hat, 'I am a friend of the
gentleman for whom you have bought that salve, and other matters.'

"She became very white, but she said stoutly:

"'I don't know what you are talking about, sir; and if you molest a
modest young woman in the streets, I shall appeal to the town
constables for protection.'

"'I repeat,' I said, 'that I am a friend of the gentleman for whom
you have just bought the materials for dressing his wounds. I am
the servant of his cousin, the Chevalier Fletcher; and the name of
your patient is Count Francois de Laville.'

"She looked at me, stupefied with astonishment, and stammered:

"'How do you know that?'

"'It is enough, mademoiselle, that I know it,' I said. 'My master
and I have come to Paris, expressly to find Monsieur de Laville;
and when we have found him, to aid him to make his escape. Do not
hesitate to confide in me, for only so shall we succeed in the
object of our journey.'

"'What is your master's Christian name?' she asked, still doubtful.

"'It is Philip,' I said.

"She clasped her hands together.

"'The good God be praised!' she exclaimed. 'It was of Philip he
spoke, when he was so ill. He was unconscious. Surely it is He that
has sent you to me. It has been terrible for me to bear my secret,
alone.'

"'Let us walk farther,' I said, 'before you tell me more. There are
too many people passing here; and if they notice the tears on your
cheeks, they may suspect me of ill treating you, and may ask
troublesome questions.'

"After a few minutes' walk, we came to a quiet square.

"'Let us sit down on this stone seat,' I said. 'We can talk freely
here. Now, tell me all about it.'

"'I am one of the bedmakers of the palace, and it fell to me to
sweep the room occupied by the Count de Laville. Once or twice he
came in, while I was there, and spoke pleasantly; and I thought
what a handsome fellow he was, and said to myself what a pity it
was that he was a heretic. When that terrible night came, we were
all aroused from our sleep, and many of us ran down in a fright to
see what was the matter. We heard shouts, and cries, and the
clashing of swords.

"'As I passed Monsieur de Laville's room, the door was open. I
looked in. Three soldiers lay dead on the floor, and near them the
count, whom I thought was also dead. I ran to him, and lifted his
head, and sprinkled water on his face from a flagon on the table.
He opened his eyes, and made an effort to get to his feet. I was
frightened out of my life at it all, and I said to him:

"'"What does it all mean, monsieur?"

"'"It is a massacre," he said, faintly. "Do you not hear the firing
in the streets, and the din in the palace? They will return and
finish me. I thank you for what you have done, but it is useless."

"'Then I thought for a moment.

"'"Can you walk, monsieur?"

"'"Barely," he replied.

"'"Lean on my shoulder, monsieur," I said. "I will help you up the
stairs. I know of a place where you may lie concealed."

"'With great difficulty I helped him up a staircase that was but
little used, and got him to the top. Several times he said: "It is
of no use; I am wounded to death!" but he still held on.

"'I slept in a little garret in the roof, with two other servants,
and at the end of the passage was a large lumber store. It was into
this that I took him. Nobody ever went there, and it was safe,
except in case of special search. I laid him down, and then moved
some of the heavy cabinets and chests, at the farther end, a short
distance from the wall, so that there would be space enough for him
to lie behind them. Here I made a bed, with some old cushions from
the couches; got him into the place, first bandaging his wounds, as
well as I could in the faint light that came in through a dormer
window. I fetched a jug of water from my room, and placed it beside
him; and then moved the furniture, so as to close up the spot at
which he had entered. Against it I piled up tables and chairs; so
that, to anyone who did not examine it very closely, it would seem
that the heavy furniture was against the wall.

"'There he has been, ever since. Two or three times a day I have
managed to steal away from my work, to carry him water and food
that I brought from the kitchen, when we went down to our meals.
For a time, I thought he would die; for four days he did not know
me. He talked much to himself and, several times, he mentioned the
name of Philip, and called upon him to aid him against the
murderers. Fortunately he was so weak that he could not speak much
above a whisper, and there was no fear of his voice being heard.

"'The day after I hid him, the whole palace was searched to see if
any Huguenots were concealed. But up in the attics they searched
but carelessly, seeing that we slept three or four in each room,
and no one could well be hidden there without all knowing it. They
did enter the lumber room. But I had carefully washed the floor
where he had lain and, as I could not get out the stains of blood,
I pushed some heavy chests over them.

"'I was in my room when they searched the lumber room, and my heart
stood still until I heard them come out, and knew that they had
found nothing.

"'For the last ten days, the count has gained strength. His wounds
are still very sore and painful, but they are beginning to heal. I
have bought wine for him, and can always manage to conceal enough
food, from the table, to suffice for his wants. He can walk now,
though feebly; and spoke to me but today about making his escape.

"'It would be easy enough to get him out of the palace, if I had a
lackey's attire for him. I could lead him down private staircases
till near the door from which we come out of the palace. But I had
little money, for I had sent off most of my wages to my mother,
only a day or two before the royal wedding. Still, we might have
managed that; I could have borrowed some, on some pretence or
other.

"'He is, however, too weak to travel, and the effort to do so might
cause his wounds to burst out afresh; but now that his cousin has
come, all will be well.'

"'Where is he wounded?' I asked.

"'He has four wounds. One is on the head; another on the neck; one
is a stab in the body, that must have narrowly missed his heart;
and the other is a sword thrust, through his arm.

"'But how, monsieur, did you know,' she asked, 'that it is I who
have hidden the count?'

"I told her that I had been watching for four days, feeling sure
that the count was hidden in the palace; but hers was the first
face that showed anxiety, and that, when I saw her buying salve at
the apothecary's, I felt sure that it was she who was sheltering
the count."

"And have you arranged anything, Pierre?" Philip asked anxiously.

"Only this much, sir, that tomorrow evening, as soon as it is dark,
she will leave the palace with Monsieur Francois. That will give us
plenty of time to make our plans, which will be easy enough. We
have but to take an apartment, and bring him up into it. No one
need know that there are more than ourselves there, and we can
nurse him for a few days, until he is fit to ride.

"Then we have only to get him a disguise like that in which we
entered. We can hide him in the wood, go on to where we hid our
clothes, put them on instead of our disguises, enter Saint Cloud,
go on to Versailles, fetch the three horses, and return to
him--with, of course, a suit of clothes for himself."

There was no difficulty in hiring two rooms in a quiet street.
Suits of clothes suitable for a court lackey were purchased, and
these were given by Pierre to the girl, when she came out in the
afternoon. Philip had accompanied Pierre to meet her.

"My good girl," he said, "I cannot tell you how deeply I feel the
kindness that you have shown my cousin. You have risked your life to
save him; and that, I am sure, without the smallest thought of reward.
Still, so good an action must not pass without acknowledgment, though
no money can express the amount of our gratitude to you."

"I do not want to be paid, sir," she said. "I had no thought of
money."

"I know that," Philip replied; "but you must allow us to show our
gratitude, in the only way we can. In the first place, what is your
name?"

"Annette Riolt, sir."

"Well, Annette, here are fifty crowns in this purse. It is all that
I can spare, at present; but be assured the Countess de Laville
will send you, at the first opportunity, a sum that will be a good
dot for you, when you find a husband. If the messenger by whom it
is sent asks for you by your name, at the door of the palace by
which you usually leave it, will he obtain access to you?"

"Yes, sir. The porter at the door knows me; and if he should be
changed, whoever is there will inquire of the maids, if he asks for
Annette Riolt, one of the chamber women in the north wing of the
palace."

"Very well, Annette. You may rely that a messenger will come. I
cannot say how soon; that must depend on other circumstances. Where
do you come from?"

"From Poitiers, sir. My parents live on a little farm called La
Machoir, two miles north of the city."

"Then, Annette, the best thing for you to do is to leave your
present employment, and to journey down home. It will be easy to
send from La Rochelle to Poitiers, and unless the place is
besieged, as it is likely to be before long, you will soon hear
from us. Probably the messenger will have visited the farm before
you reach it."

"I will do that, sir," the girl said gratefully. "I never liked
this life, and since that terrible night I have scarcely had any
sleep. I seem to hear noises and cries, just as they say the king
does, and shall be indeed glad to be away.

"But I cannot come out with the count, this evening. We only get
out once in five days, and it was only as a special favour I have
been let out, now. I will come with him to the door, talking with
him as if he were a lackey of my acquaintance."

At the hour agreed upon Philip and Pierre, stationed a few yards
from the door, saw a man and woman appear. The girl made some
laughing remark, and then went back into the palace. The man came
out. He made two quick steps and then stumbled, and Philip ran
forward, and grasped him firmly under the arm.

"You were just in time, Philip," Francois said, with a feeble
laugh, "another step and I should have been down. I am weaker than
I thought I was, and the fresh air is well-nigh too much for me.

"I have had a close shave of it, Philip; and have been nearer
death, in that attic up there, than I ever was on a field of
battle. What a good little woman that was! I owe my life to her.

"It is good of you coming here to find me, old fellow. You are
always getting me out of scrapes. You remember that affair at
Toulouse.

"Thank you, Pierre, but mind, that arm you have got hold of is the
weak one.

"Now, how far have we got to go, Philip? For I warn you, I am
nearly at the end of my strength."

"We will get into a quiet street first, Francois, and there you
shall have a drink, from a flask of excellent wine I have here.
Then we will help you along. You can lean as heavily as you like
upon us. You are no great weight, now; and anyone who notices us
helping you will suppose that we are conveying a drunken comrade to
his home."

But in spite of all the assistance they could give him, Francois
was terribly exhausted when he reached the lodging. Here Philip and
Pierre bandaged his wounds, far more securely and firmly than his
nurse had been able to do; and the next morning, when he awoke, he
declared himself ready to start at once.

It was a week, however, before Philip would hear of his making such
an effort; but by that time, good eating and drinking had done so
much for him that he thought he would be able to stand the fatigue
of the journey, and the next morning they started. Disguised as
peasants, they passed out through the gates unquestioned. Francois
was left in the wood, with the clothes they had purchased for him.
The others then went on and found their bundles undisturbed,
obtained their three horses at Versailles and, riding back, soon
had Francois mounted.

The wound on his head was so far healed that it was no longer
necessary to bandage it, and although he looked pale and weak,
there was nothing about him to attract special notice. They
journeyed by easy stages south, lengthening the distances gradually
as Francois gained strength; and riding fast, towards the end, so
as to reach La Rochelle before an army, under Marshal Biron, sat
down before it.

It was evening when they arrived, and after putting up their horses
they made their way to Monsieur Bertram's. Philip mounted the
stairs, leaving Francois to follow him, slowly.

"I shall not take more than two or three minutes to break the news,
but I must prepare your mother a little, Francois. She has not said
much, but I know she had but little hope, though she bore up so
bravely."

The countess was sitting, with Claire and the merchant's daughter.
It was the first time Philip had seen Mademoiselle de Valecourt,
since they first arrived at La Rochelle. She was dressed now in
deep mourning. A flush of bright colour spread over her face, as
Philip entered.

As in duty bound, he turned first to the countess and saluted her
affectionately; and then turned to Claire, and would have kissed
her hand, but the countess said:

"Tut, tut, Philip, that is not the way to salute your betrothed."

And Philip, drawing her to him, kissed her for the first time since
they had betrothed themselves to each other in the hut in Paris;
and then saluted Mademoiselle Bertram.

"We have been under no uneasiness respecting you, Philip," the
countess said; "for Claire and myself both look upon you as having
a charmed life. Has your mission been successful?"

"It has, aunt, beyond my hopes. And first, I must ask your pardon
for having deceived you."

"Deceived me, Philip! In what way?"

"My mission was an assumed one," Philip said; "and in reality,
Pierre and I journeyed to Paris."

A cry broke from the countess's lips.

"To Paris, Philip! And your mission has been successful? You have
heard something?"

"I have done more, aunt, I have found him."

"The Lord be praised for all His mercies!" burst from the lips of
the countess, and she threw herself on Philip's neck, and burst
into a passion of tears, the first she had shed since he brought
the news from Paris.

"Courage, aunt," Philip whispered.

He glanced towards the door. Claire understood him, and ran to open
it. Francois came quietly in.

"Mother," he said, and the countess, with a cry of joy, ran into
his arms.

The French army appeared before the town on the following day, and
the siege was at once commenced. With Marshal Biron were the dukes
of Anjou and Alencon, the King of Navarre, and the Prince of Conde,
who had been compelled to accompany him.

The siege made little progress. The defences were strong, and the
Huguenots were not content only to repel assaults, but made fierce
sallies, causing a considerable loss to the besiegers.

To the surprise of the defenders, they heard that the Count de la
Noue had arrived in camp, with a mission from the king. He had
remained a captive, in the camp of the Duke of Alva, after the
surrender of Mons; and so had happily escaped the massacre of Saint
Bartholomew. He had then been released, and had gone to France to
arrange his ransom.

The king, who was now tormented with remorse, sent for him; and
entreated him, as a personal favour, to go as his Commissioner to
La Rochelle, and to endeavour to bring about a cessation of
hostilities, authorizing him to grant almost any terms. De la Noue
undertook the task unwillingly, and only upon condition that he
would be no party to inducing them to surrender, unless perfectly
satisfied with the guarantees for the observance of any treaty that
might be made.

When a flag of truce came forward, and announced that Monsieur de
la Noue had arrived on the part of the king, the news was at first
received with incredulity. Then there was a burst of indignation,
at what was considered the treachery of the count. He was refused
permission to enter the town but, after some parleying, a party
went out to have an interview with him outside the gate.

The meeting was unsatisfactory. Some of the citizens pretended that
they did not recognize De la Noue, saying that the person they knew
was a brave gentleman, faithful to his religion, and one who
certainly would not be found in a Catholic camp.

A few days later, however, the negotiations were renewed. The count
pointed out that they could not hope, finally, to resist the whole
force of France; and that it would be far better for them to make
terms, now, than when in an extremity. But he was able to give no
guarantees that were considered acceptable by the citizens.

De la Noue's position was exceedingly difficult. But at last the
citizens perceived that he was still loyal to the cause; and as he
had, beforehand, received the king's authority to accept the
governorship of the town, the people of La Rochelle agreed to
receive him in that position, provided that no troops entered with
him.

The negotiations fell through, and the siege was renewed with
vigour, De la Noue now taking the lead in the defence, his military
experience being of immense assistance. Very many of the nobles and
gentlemen in the Catholic army were present, as a matter of duty.
They fought with the usual gallantry of their race, but for the
most part abhorred the massacre of Saint Bartholomew; and were as
strongly of opinion as were the Huguenots of France, and the
Protestants throughout Europe, that it was an indelible disgrace
upon France.

Their feeling was shown in many ways. Among others, Maurevel, the
murderer of De Mouy, and the man who had attempted the assassination
of the Admiral, having accompanied the Duke of Anjou to the camp, no
one would associate with him or suffer him to encamp near, or even go
on guard with him into the trenches; and the duke was, in consequence,
obliged to appoint him to the command of a small fort which was
erected on the seashore.

Incessant fighting went on, but the position was a singular one.
The Duke of Alencon had been an unwilling spectator of the massacre
of Saint Bartholomew. He was jealous of Anjou, and restless and
discontented, and he contemplated going over to the Huguenots. The
King of Navarre and his cousin Conde, and the Huguenot gentlemen
with him, were equally anxious to leave the camp, where they were
closely watched; and De la Noue, while conducting the defence,
occasionally visited the royal camp and endeavoured to bring about
a reconciliation.

He was much rejoiced, on his first arrival at the city, to find
both Francois and Philip there; for he had believed that both had
fallen in the massacre. He took great interest in Philip's love
affair, and made inquiries in the royal camp; where he learned that
Mademoiselle de Valecourt was supposed to have perished with her
father, in the massacre; and that the estates had already been
bestowed, by the king, on one of his favourites.

"I should say that, if our cause should finally triumph, a portion
at least of her estates will be restored to her; but in that case
the king would certainly claim to dispose of her hand."

"I care nothing for the estates, nor does she," Philip said. "She
will go with me to England, as soon as the fighting here is over;
and if things look hopeless, we shall embark, and endeavour to
break through the blockade by the king's ships. Even had she the
estates, she would not remain in France, which has become hateful
to her. She is now fully restored to health, and we shall shortly
be married."

When De la Noue next went out to the French camp, he sent a
despatch to the king, saying that Mademoiselle de Valecourt had
escaped the massacre and was in La Rochelle. He pointed out that,
as long as she lived, the Huguenots would, if at any time they
became strong enough to make terms, insist upon the restoration of
her estates, as well as those of others that had been confiscated.
He said that he had had an interview with her, and had learned that
she intended, if a proper provision should be secured for her, to
retire to England. He therefore prayed his majesty, as a favour to
him and as an act of justice, to require the nobleman to whom he
had granted the estates to pay her a handsome sum, when she would
make a formal renunciation of the estates in his favour.

A month later he received the royal answer, saying that the king
had graciously taken the case of Mademoiselle de Valecourt into his
consideration, that he had spoken to the nobleman to whom he had
granted her estate, and to the Duke of Guise, whose near relative
he was; and that these noblemen had placed in his hands the sum of
ten thousand livres, for which was enclosed an order, payable by
the treasury of the army upon the signatures of Monsieur de la Noue
and Mademoiselle de Valecourt, and upon the handing over of the
document of renunciation signed by her.

Monsieur de la Noue had told Philip nothing of these negotiations
but, having obtained from Claire the necessary signature he, one
evening, on his return from the royal camp, came into the room
where they were sitting, followed by two servants carrying small,
but heavy bags.

"Mademoiselle," he said, when the servants had placed these on the
table and retired, "I have pleasure in handing you these.

"Philip, Mademoiselle de Valecourt will not come to you as a
dowerless bride, which indeed would be a shame for a daughter of so
old and noble a family. Mademoiselle has signed a formal
renunciation of her rights to the estates of her late father and,
by some slight good offices on my part, his majesty has obtained
for her, from the man to whom he has granted the estates of
Valecourt, the sum of ten thousand livres--a poor fraction, indeed,
of the estates she should have inherited; and yet a considerable
sum, in itself."

A week later, Sir Philip Fletcher and Claire de Valecourt were
married in the principal church of La Rochelle. The Count de la
Noue, as a friend and companion-in-arms of her father, gave her
away; and all the Huguenot noblemen and gentlemen in the town were
present. Three weeks later, a great assault upon the bastion of
L'Evangile having been repulsed, the siege languished; the
besieging army having suffered greatly, both from death in the
trenches and assaults, and by the attacks of fever.

The Count of Montgomery arrived from England, with some
reinforcements. De la Noue resigned to him the governorship, and
left the city. The Prince of Anjou, shortly afterwards, received
the crown of Poland; and left the camp, with a number of nobles, to
proceed to his new kingdom; and the army became so weakened that
the siege was practically discontinued and, the blockading fleet
being withdrawn, Philip and his wife took passage in a ship for
England, Pierre accompanying them.

"I may come some day with Francois, Philip," the countess said,
"but not till I see that the cause is altogether lost. Still I have
faith that we shall win tolerance. They say that the king is mad.
Anjou has gone to Poland. Alencon is still unmarried. I believe
that it is God's will that Henry of Navarre should come to the
throne of France, and if so, there will be peace and toleration in
France. So long as a Huguenot sword is unsheathed, I shall remain
here."

Philip had written to acquaint his father and mother of his
marriage, and his intention to return with his wife as soon as the
siege was over. There was therefore but little surprise, although
great joy, when he arrived. He had sent off Pierre on horseback, as
soon as the ship dropped anchor at Gravesend, and followed more
leisurely himself.

They were met, a few miles out of Canterbury, by a messenger from
his uncle; telling them to ride straight to his new estate, where
he would be met by his mother and father--the latter of whom had
started, the day before, in a litter for the house--and that his
uncle and aunt would also be there.

Upon Philip and Claire's arrival, they were received with much
rejoicing. Monsieur Vaillant had sent round messengers to all the
tenantry to assemble, and had taken over a number of his workmen,
who had decorated the avenue leading to the house with flags, and
thrown several arches across it.

"It is a small place in comparison to Valecourt, Claire," Philip
said, as they drove up to the house.

"It is a fine chateau, Philip; but now that I have you, it would
not matter to me were it but a hut.

"And oh, what happiness to think that we have done with persecution
and terror and war, and that I may worship God freely and openly!
He has been good to me, indeed; and if I were not perfectly happy,
I should be the most ungrateful of women."

Claire's dowry was spent in enlarging the estate, and Philip became
one of the largest landowners in the county. He went no more to the
wars, save that, when the Spanish armada threatened the religion
and freedom of England, he embarked as a volunteer in one of
Drake's ships, and took part in the fierce fighting that freed
England for ever from the yoke of Rome, and in no small degree
aided both in securing the independence of Protestant Holland, and
of seating Henry of Navarre firmly upon the throne of France.

Save to pay two or three visits to Philip and her sisters, the
Countess de Laville and her son did not come to England. Francois
fought at Ivry and the many other battles that took place, before
Henry of Navarre became undisputed King of France; and then became
one of the leading nobles of his court.

Philip settled a small pension on the four men-at-arms who had
followed his fortunes and shared his perils, and they returned to
their native Gascony; where they settled down, two being no longer
fit for service, and the others having had enough fighting for a
lifetime.

The countess had, soon after Francois returned to La Rochelle, sent
a sum of money, to the girl who had saved his life, that sufficed
to make her the wealthiest heiress in her native village in Poitou;
and she married a well-to-do farmer, the countess herself standing
as godmother to their first child, to their immeasurable pride and
gratification.

Pierre remained to the end of his life in Philip's service, taking
to himself an English wife, and being a great favourite with the
children of Philip and Claire, who were never tired of listening to
the adventures he had gone through, with their father and mother,
in the religious wars in France.





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